The War is (Never) Over
After twenty years wasted, many thousands of lives meaninglessly sacrificed, and trillions of dollars poured onto war merchants, the Afghanistan war has finally ended.
Except it hasn’t.
The Taliban has taken control, but they’ll still have to contend with rebel and terrorist factions in the country, ironically. Now Afghanistan is primed for civil war.
It’s more accurate to say that the United States’ involvement in the war has ended.
Except it hasn’t.
After the suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai Airport that left almost two hundred dead and more than two hundred injured, the US launched retaliatory drone strikes. That in itself is understandable. That’s what the US military does when desperate people detonate themselves, especially when the blasts kill Americans: they bomb the fuck out of some other desperate assholes in response.
The problem of course, for all the military’s and the government’s talk of having the best systems and hardware in the world, and their far less truthful claims about the accuracy of their weapons and their commitment to only hit targets and not civilians, is that they always kill civilians.
One might think that they’d have gotten the hang of remotely bombing people by now, that they’d have learned how to only bomb the people they’re meant to bomb, and that the bombs have very contained explosions that don’t kill other people, but one would have to be pretty naive to think that.
Once again, while meant to be bombing a single person who was decided by some analyst to be a high value target in some way responsible for the airport bombing or a future theoretical bombing, at least ten civilians were killed, several of them children.
That’s the history of the Afghanistan War and the history of the US’s global drone warfare program in a nutshell. As American hero Daniel Hale revealed in 2015, almost 90% of those killed by drone strikes have been civilians rather than the intended targets. One would have to be incredibly naive to believe it’s possible to only kill the right people when some operator at a computer has a drone lob a Hellfire missile in a populated area that it’s only going to kill one person, or only bad people, or that good people can be party to this form of warfare. It was the case throughout the Afghanistan war that an inexcusably large number of civilians were killed by drone strikes, because that’s what happens when you shoot missiles from an aircraft thousands of feet away, from a base thousands of miles away.
Not only that, many of those meant to be targeted were not actually guilty of any offense. Many were flagged by Afghans, often neighbors and rivals, who accused them of being in the Taliban or Al Qaeda when they weren’t, when they were nobody, using the credulous US soldiers and the callous US military apparatus to launch a drone strike on them to settle a personal grudge.
Twenty years, and we’re still murdering the wrong people on our way out.
However, this retaliatory strike is not necessarily our last fuckup. It’s not a signal that our involvement in Afghanistan is over. We’re moving our troops out, but that doesn’t mean much these days, when we can assassinate whole city blocks remotely. While understandable that we’d bomb a target after our people have been attacked, not taking into account whether it’s “right” or that it was a botched operation that killed many more innocents than enemies, it’s a signal that this isn’t over.
What’s happened once can and probably will happen again. It may not be because of US citizens killed on the ground. It doesn’t have to be. We bomb people all the time all over the world without that pretext. The doctrine of US imperialism doesn’t require much justification, little more than platitudes about “defending our interests.”
‘Tempting as it might be to see this moment as a reason for relief, a chance to breathe, it’s not the end. Covert operations and remote bombings will continue. This war is not truly over, and there will be more wars. Whether official invasions of specific countries or scattershot bombings anywhere some threat can be imagined or invented, the death machine will go on. War is the driving business of this country. There’s too much money in it to end.