The Overview - August 23, 2021

The Overview is a weekly roundup of eclectic content in-between essay newsletters & 'Conversations' podcast episodes to scratch your brain's curiosity itch.

Hello Eclectic Spacewalkers,

I wish that you and your family are safe and healthy wherever you are in the world. :)

Check out the previous The Overview - August 16, 2021: HERE

Read our latest essay - Technopoly: HERE

Watch/listen to our ‘Conversation with Ashley Colby’: HERE

Get our E-Book for free by using ‘substack’: HERE

Below are some eclectic links for the week of August 23, 2021.

Enjoy, share, and subscribe!

Table of Contents

Theme & Topics: Afghanistan, Defense Contractors, Forever War, ‘Pro-War' Media, Military, and the failed “War on Terror”

  • Articles/Essays - What good friends left behind by @JohnPilger in @guardian in 2003!!!; McChrystal: ‘Impossible to Argue’ War on Terror Was Worth It; How the War on Terror Undermined American Democracy via @PatrickIber in @newrepublic; The legacy of 9/11 via @stephenwertheim in @prospect_uk; Against National Security via @attackerman; ‘We cannot have long-term peace while American troops are here,’ says celebrated Afghan activist @malalaijoya_dc; Three major networks devoted a full five minutes to Afghanistan in 2020 via @LobeLog in @RStatecraft; These machines were supposed to help win the war in Afghanistan. What happened? Via @AthertonKD; The Taliban Have Seized U.S. Military Biometrics Devices via @kenklippenstein & @SaraLSirota; Afghanistan Meant Nothing via @LauraJedeed; “Antiwar Sentiment in the Military Is Stronger Than Ever.” - A Conversation with @meaganmday & @MikePrysner in @jacobin; UK Universities Received At Least £190 Million from Major Arms ManufacturersIn Past Eight Years by @BylineTimes

  • Books - How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon - @brooks_rosa; Humane via @samuelmoyn; War is a Racket by Major General Smedley Butler (The only US soldier to be a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor TWICE & most decorated US soldier in history)

  • Documentaries - Breaking The Silence: Truth And Lies In The War On Terror via @JohnPilger - FROM 2003!!!; Afghanistan - Land of endless war | DW Documentary; Truth, War and Consequences (full documentary) | @frontlinepbs

  • Lectures - Trial & Error: The Strategic Failures of America’s War in Afghanistan via @SteveCollNY; Lecture 15: Demise of the Neoconservative Dream From Afghanistan to Iraq via; Eva Sajoo: A brief history of Afghanistan via @CS_SFU

  • Paper - Killer Robots and Their Compliance with the Principles of Law of War

  • Podcasts - Currents 042: @johnrobb on Afghanistan Withdrawal via @jim_rutt; BLOWBACK: Season 1; Introducing "The Line"; RP DAILY: Graveyard of good intentions

  • TED Talks - Books Over Bombs: How Education Saved My Life | Aida Sanjush | TEDxBearCreekPark; Ashraf Ghani: How to fix broken states; A vision for the future of Afghanistan | Ashraf Ghani (Insult to injury that this is from just a year ago.)

  • Twittersphere - The point of US military occupation; Julian Assange speaking in 2011 on the goal of Afghanistan; Defense stocks during the Afghanistan War; massive thread on Afghanistan and imperialism; Foreign Policy Moral High Ground; The CIA created the Taliban; Casualties in Afghanistan; America’s standing in the world; Raytheon & Human Rights; Biometric Data in Afghanistan; US Military jargon; Afghanistan gym contracts; Abdul Latif Nasser released from Guantanamo Bay; $1 trillion worth of minerals; RIP Senator Mike Gravel

  • Videos (Short) - Afghanistan: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO); Leaving Afghanistan (full documentary) | @frontlinepbs; Video shows 22 Afghan commandos executed by the Taliban

  • Website - Documents that Changed the World



What good friends left behind by @JohnPilger in @guardian in 2003!!!

“Two years ago, as the bombs began to drop, George Bush promised Afghanistan 'the generosity of America and its allies'. Now, the familiar old warlords are regaining power, religious fundamentalism is renewing its grip and military skirmishes continue routinely. What was the purpose? John Pilger reports

For 17 years, Washington poured $4bn into the pockets of some of the most brutal men on earth - with the overall aim of exhausting and ultimately destroying the Soviet Union in a futile war. One of them, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord particularly favoured by the CIA, received tens of millions of dollars. His speciality was trafficking opium and throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. In 1994, he agreed to stop attacking Kabul on condition that he was made primeminister - which he was.

Eight years earlier, CIA director William Casey had given his backing to a plan put forward by Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. More than 100,000 Islamic militants were trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992, in camps overseen by the CIA and MI6, with the SAS training future al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other black arts. Their leaders were trained at a CIA camp in Virginia. This was called Operation Cyclone and continued long after the Soviets had withdrawn in 1989.”

McChrystal: ‘Impossible to Argue’ War on Terror Was Worth It

(NBD just General Stanley McChrystal the former Joint Special Operations Command and Afghanistan War commander)

“The effect was to create a patriotic veil of unreality to conceal the damage done to American exceptionalism—particularly the self-inflicted damage. Long before Trump, the War on Terror revealed how the manipulation of reality and the normalization of atrocity would proceed. Trump brought aspects of the war home, but fundamentally the war was always home. For the 9/11 generation, the first generation to be extremely online, the War on Terror was an early red pill, releasing an omnidirectional, violent nihilism that viewed itself as the only rational, sophisticated, honorable, and even civilized option. Its culture was one of outrage, self-congratulation, and obedience to authority that convinced itself it was transgressive. I have to admit that after 9/11 I swallowed that red pill myself. Even after I thought I spat it out over the carnage of Iraq, it took me years to recognize its lingering effects. In retrospect, any failure—especially by the war’s architects, stewards, and chroniclers—to see that the War on Terror was seeding the ground for a figure like Trump testifies to the power of American exceptionalism, which is nothing more than white innocence applied globally…

​​The War on Terror was by no means the only factor enabling Trump’s rise. But it was a path to power for the others. It revitalized the most barbarous currents in American history, gave them renewed purpose, and set them on the march, an army in search of its general. This book tells the story of that campaign. It is the story of a compounded and often improvised tragedy, rather than an intentional conspiracy, that implicates an entire generation of American leaders through either action or acquiescence. Their central blind spot emerged from the American exceptionalism at the heart of the War on Terror: to believe that the damage they inflicted abroad would not damage their own country. In that they followed a historical pattern. “People are surprised, they become indignant,” Aimé Césaire observed in 1950:

“They say: ‘How strange! But never mind—it’s Nazism, it will pass!’ And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.”

Trump and MAGA, for now, are out of power. The War on Terror is not. Left alone, it will continue to produce neither peace nor victory; it will remain the soil from which to cultivate more and worse Trumps. Of all the endless costs of terrorism, the most important is the least tallied: what fighting it has cost our democracy. How like America it is not to recognize that the true threat was counterterrorism, not terrorism.

In 2020, I asked Stanley McChrystal, the former Joint Special Operations Command and Afghanistan War commander, if the War on Terror had been worth it. “It would be impossible to argue that it was,” he answered. “The outcome just hasn’t been positive enough to argue that. I think that we can never know a counterfactual, we can never know what would have happened if we’d gone in and done things differently, so I can’t argue it automatically would have been different. I think the things that were done with good intentions, mostly. But no. We just made so many fundamental mistakes in how we approached it that the question is, which again, you and I can’t answer, had we gone in with a different mindset, a totally different approach, which would have been more of a counterinsurgency approach, building through the state, would it have worked? I can’t say it would’ve, but I think it would have been a better approach.”

Until the entire War on Terror is abolished—not only the foreign military deployments, but the broader entrenched architecture of surveillance, detention, immigration suppression, and the rest—it will propel itself toward greater domestic destabilization. Inertia alone is sufficient to power it. We should not assume the Forever War has reached its final form. If the United States is ever to recover from the destruction it unleashed not only on the world but on itself, and primarily on its most vulnerable, it must first understand the post-9/11 era as nothing other than a reign of terror.”

How the War on Terror Undermined American Democracy via @PatrickIber in @newrepublic

“Ackerman’s book lands at a pivotal moment. Like many ideas once dismissed as implausibly left-wing, antiwar views now have more solid representation in politics and media. The entire Democratic field in 2020 spoke out against “endless wars,” and even Trump clashed with his more hawkish advisers like John Bolton. A critique of the “Forever Wars” and arguments in favor of a more restrained foreign policy posture for the United States have taken institutional form in the Quincy Institute, which brings together left-wing and conservative thinkers with funding from George Soros and Charles Koch. President Joe Biden plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan on or before September 11, 2021.

These are all positive developments; bringing an end to the ill-conceived War on Terror is the right thing to do for the United States and the world. “Of all the endless costs of terrorism,” writes Ackerman cogently, “the most important is the least tallied: what fighting it has cost our democracy.” If the War on Terror brought the United States to its current democratic crisis, it might logically follow that stepping away from it now can repair the damage done. But this is far less clear. Shifts in the balance of power in the Republican Party cannot be so easily unwound, the market demand for extreme views remains strong and untethered from real problems. Democrats, for their part, still fear the political consequences of rethinking public safety, internationally and domestically.

The legacy of 9/11 via @stephenwertheim in @prospect_uk

“For all the solemn odes to the day’s significance that will be heard on its looming 20th anniversary, the truth remains: September 11 did not, as it turned out, inaugurate a new age of massive terrorist attacks in the United States. Even the initially unimaginable scale of the attacks themselves has slowly come to look less shocking. The 2,977 souls lost now rank alongside the successive tolls of Hurricane Katrina and the coronavirus pandemic. The latter has claimed well over half a million American lives already. According to official statistics, on 38 individual days of the pandemic more Americans died from Covid-19 than perished on 9/11…

If America was indispensable, why was its power so resisted? And why were its options so limited, forcing it into what many began to call “endless wars”? Obama denied that charge but confirmed it in deed, and not only in Afghanistan. Instead of contracting the global war on terror, he rebranded it as a campaign to “counter violent extremism,” even though violent extremism is a permanent feature of world history. He ramped up the use of drone strikes, ordering more than 500 of them. In the last year of a president who had arrived as the peace candidate, the United States dropped an estimated 26,172 bombs on seven countries. As well as ceaseless, the fighting often seemed aimless. America did damage al-Qaeda and rout its offshoot, Islamic State. But the interventions could be so disconnected from 9/11 that in Libya, Syria and Yemen the United States sometimes found itself in alignment with al-Qaeda militants. If America was indispensable, why were its actions inexplicable?...

Changing America’s larger global role will be far more difficult. But restoring old ways seems unlikely, too. By staking the legitimacy of US global supremacy on their ultimately disastrous response to 9/11, successive leaders tarnished the “indispensable nation” project among Americans themselves. International trends, meanwhile, will force choices. A rising China is becoming a formidable rival against which the United States could make itself indispensable. Yet America would have to pay the price of restricting its leadership to the anti-China portion of the world, not to mention risking major war. Planetary threats, namely climate change and pandemic disease, would remove geographic constraints on America’s scope for leadership, giving the country plenty to do if it were serious about saving the world. But these offer none of the frisson of having enemies to subdue.

Something really has changed since 9/11, but only gradually. It is now—just about—possible to see how the United States might find its way to becoming a nation among nations, no longer dominant but no longer minding. On such a view, the US government would remain literally indispensable to the people of one country: its own. It would do its part in the world precisely by declining to stand above it. In another two decades from now, the legacy of 9/11 and especially the wars in its wake might be easier to spot. Both America and the world as a whole would be better for taking the opportunity to change.”

Against National Security via @attackerman

Forever Wars
Against National Security
Edited by Sam Thielman…
Read more

“For nearly 20 years, I’ve been a “national security” reporter. I hate that term. Here’s why I won’t use it anymore.

To Haines and Cornyn, national security is “great power competition” – imperial struggle – against China. Averting imperial struggle is, by this definition, contrary to national security. But, as Sen. Bernie Sanders writes, the emerging Washington consensus that the U.S. must confront China economically and militarily “will create a political environment in which the cooperation that the world desperately needs will be increasingly difficult to achieve.” National security, in the end, is about denying the truth of international solidarity – the truth that the real interests, needs and security of people, which is to say their class interests, are not found between governments and do not correspond to lines on a map. As Sanders puts it, “Creating true security and prosperity for working people in the United States and China alike demands building a more equitable global system that prioritizes human needs over corporate greed and militarism.”

I’ve been a national security journalist for my whole almost-20-year career. For most of that time, I never questioned the term. It was just what my peers called the beat. I reported the beat, so that’s it – national security reporter. There were times when, consciously or otherwise, something would strike me as so obviously outside national security that I wouldn’t think to cover it, such as immigration. It took me far too long to realize how absurd that was, given how extensively the machinery of national security was concerned with immigrants and migration.

So let’s get rid of the term. Here, where we have the power to abandon it. What I cover isn’t “national security;” it’s the Security State, its interactions with mainstream politics, its interactions with people, and what results from them. Even if you see me use the term “national security” in a context that can’t allow for a deconstruction of the term, please know this is what I mean.”

“National security” is a euphemism. We mean surveillance and surveillance capitalism; detention; deportation; war; hegemony.

Let’s use those terms instead – terms with the benefit of specificity and fixed meanings, not ones that treat the most repressive elements of America as de facto legitimate. The purpose of journalism, I believe, is to expose, delegitimize, confront and dethrone them.”

‘We cannot have long-term peace while American troops are here,’ says celebrated Afghan activist @malalaijoya_dc

“Has there been any positive element about the US military presence – for instance, the expansion of education for women and girls?

“For [the] justification of the occupation, they did some humanitarian projects, especially in big cities like Herat, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad… they built some schools, some hospitals, some roads. But it was for justification of their occupation,” she says. “And in rural areas and most part of Afghanistan, they did almost nothing.”

She says the US also oversaw the installation of a corrupt “puppet” system, which resulted in “artificial schools” that did not exist and where the money set aside for such projects went to “the pocket of the corrupt warlords”.

“Millions of dollars comes under the name of women’s rights projects, [the] reconstruction of Afghanistan, [and] education,” she says. “But most of this money goes to the pockets of corrupt people.””

Three major networks devoted a full five minutes to Afghanistan in 2020 via @LobeLog in @RStatecraft

“It should be no surprise then, that Americans are shocked at the images of violence and the grim political situation on the ground today.

If the U.S. government was caught up short by the dramatic denouement of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, viewers of the three major networks must have been taken entirely by surprise.

Out of a combined 14,000-plus minutes of the national evening news broadcast on CBS, ABC, and NBC last year, a grand total of five minutes were devoted to Afghanistan, according to Andrew Tyndall, editor of the authoritative Tyndall Report, which has monitored and coded the networks’ nightly news each weekday since 1988. 

Those five minutes, which covered the February 2020 Doha agreement between the United States and the Taliban, marked a 19-year low for Afghanistan coverage on the three networks’ newscasts. They compared to a high of 940 minutes the networks devoted to Afghanistan in 2001, all of it following 9/11 and the subsequent U.S. intervention, as shown below.”

These machines were supposed to help win the war in Afghanistan. What happened? Via @AthertonKD

“In 2002, PopSci explored the tech the US was deploying in the conflict's early days. Here's what to know about these airborne tools of war, past and present.

In February 2002, PopSci took a look at the machinery of the US war in Afghanistan. Titled “War Report,” it was written as “troops were on the ground and phase 1 of the war was ending.”

As the likely last phase of the US role in the war in Afghanistan draws to a close, it is time to revisit those weapons. The story of the war is much more than the machines used in fighting it—wars are prosecuted by people, of course—but the machines matter because they are a broader part of that process. Looking at how the weapons were used and heralded on their first use in the war in 2001 offers some insight into what changed, and what didn’t, in the intervening decades of combat.

Five aircraft were featured prominently in “War Report” for their role in the dawn of the war. Many of them are still flying today, at the sunset of the war.”

The Taliban Have Seized U.S. Military Biometrics Devices via @kenklippenstein & @SaraLSirota

Biometric collection and identification devices were seized last week during the Taliban’s offensive.

The Defense Department has also sought to share the biometrics data collected by HIIDE with other government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office criticized the Pentagon for not doing enough to ensure these other surveillance agencies had easy access to the information, warning that the military “limits its federal partners’ ability to identify potential criminals or terrorists.”

But the U.S. didn’t only collect information about criminals and terrorists; the government appears to also have been collecting biometrics from Afghans assisting diplomatic efforts, in addition to those working with the military. For example, a recent job posting by a State Department contractor sought to recruit a biometric technician with experience using HIIDE and other similar equipment to help vet personnel and enroll local Afghans seeking employment at U.S. embassies and consulates.

The federal government has collected biometric data from Afghans despite knowing the risks entailed by maintaining large databases of personal information, especially given recent cyberattacks on government agencies and private companies. These efforts are continuing to expand.

Afghanistan Meant Nothing via @LauraJedeed

“A Veteran Reflects on 20 Wasted Years

And so I sit here, reading these sad fucking articles and these horrified social media posts about the suffering in Afghanistan and the horror of the encroaching Taliban and how awful it is that this is happening but I can’t stop feeling this grim happiness, like, finally, you fuckers, finally you have to face the thing Afghanistan has always been. You can’t keep lying to yourself about what you sent us into.

No more blown up soldiers. No more Bollywood videos on phones whose owners are getting shipped god knows where. No more hypocrisy.

No more pretending it meant anything. It didn’t.

It didn’t mean a goddamn thing.”

“Antiwar Sentiment in the Military Is Stronger Than Ever.” - A Conversation with @meaganmday & @MikePrysner in @jacobin

“You’ve had a front-row view of the US antiwar movement for a long time. Do you feel hopeful that antiwar sentiment is growing among the American populace? What do we need to do to build an effective domestic movement that can end the forever wars?


After fifteen years in the antiwar struggle, I’m actually more optimistic than I’ve ever been. We don’t have a mass antiwar protest like we did during the height of the Iraq War, but I think antiwar sentiment is more widespread and mainstream because of people’s experiences with Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that there’s an end cap on Afghanistan, I think we can look back in the rearview mirror of history and see what it really was.

After fifteen years in the antiwar struggle, I’m actually more optimistic than I’ve ever been.

In particular, I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made a major impact on working-class Americans. Any poor person in this country knows someone who was in the military in the past twenty years, which means they likely know someone who went to Iraq or Afghanistan came back a different person, or came back to a life harder than the one they joined the military trying to escape. I think this has had a deep impact on the American working-class psyche.

But the main reason for my optimism is what I’ve seen from within the ranks of active-duty service members in my work organizing war resisters. Throughout my time doing this, we’ve always been able to find people who wanted to speak out against the war or resist orders. There were always discontented people, and even a few willing to make a courageous stand, but it was a tiny minority.

I think it’s grown. In fact, I think antiwar sentiment in the military is stronger than ever. For example, when Trump assassinated Qassim Suleimani and it looked like we were going to go to war with Iran, I was contacted constantly for that one-week period by people in active duty who told me that they would under no circumstances go fight a war with Iran. I had never experienced anything like that, including at the peak of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, when people knew that if they went over there it was definitely possible they wouldn’t come back in one piece. That represented something really significant for me.

Consciousness in the military is reflective of consciousness in society in general.

Consciousness in the military is reflective of consciousness in society in general. I think all the big shocks — the Occupy movement, the Bernie Sanders movement, the George Floyd movement — have had reverberations among active-duty soldiers. And in the same way that we see so much more potential for movement building and social change in the United States, that’s there in the military as well. Bernie Sanders got more donations from active-duty troops than all the other Democratic presidential primary candidates combined, plus Donald Trump, during the primary. That says something about the sentiment that’s bubbling underneath the surface in the military.

As for what we do to build a strong antiwar movement at home, we need to be doing the principled work of building that sector of our struggle and linking it to the other important issues that working-class people deal with every day, so that when the next pivotal moment happens, we’re ready to keep up movement pressure and change the outcome.

There’s not always going to be hundreds of thousands of people flooding the streets like they did at the start of the Iraq War, but we can’t anticipate when that kind of moment will come again. What we do know is that there is always going to be a new escalation. There is always going to be a new target of US imperial aggression, and we need to be ready to engage in the day-to-day work of international solidarity.

  • Author Twitter Thread: Mine-resistant vehicles cost about $1 million a pop. Great for the private corporations that made them, since a steady stream were sent to be blown up everyday on pointless patrols. Generals who cut the deals retired & went straight to the same corporate boards w/ lavish salaries -

UK Universities Received At Least £190 Million from Major Arms ManufacturersIn Past Eight Years by @BylineTimes

“Academic Complicity?

The huge quantities of funding pouring into UK universities from major arms manufacturers highlights how leading British academics, researchers and institutions may be – inadvertently or otherwise – creating and developing technologies which wage war and bring about human rights abuses the world over.

A 2019 report by Amnesty International stated that of the 22 arms manufacturers they contacted – including BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce – not one could demonstrate how they met their human rights responsibilities.  

Last year, it was also revealed that BAE Systems had sold over £15 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of their assault on Yemen. The company’s chairman, Roger Carr, admitted in 2018 that the company “does not know” if its weapons are used in war crimes, demonstrating a worrying lack of accountability and little regard for moral perspectives.

A spokesperson for Rolls Royce told The Byline Times: “The university work we sponsor is focused on fundamental science, which is reflected in the fact that the vast majority ends up in peer-reviewed publications. It supports the improved efficiency of our products, which is vital to help us reach our ambitious target to hit net zero carbon by 2050. In terms of what our products are: we are not an ‘arms manufacturing company’, we make engines and power/propulsion systems for a wide range of vehicles: from commercial airliners, helicopters and business jets to agricultural vehicles, ferries, yachts and trains, as well as for power generation. Our defence business – which is one of our three business units – sells these engines and propulsion systems for use in military vehicles. However, it is our Civil Aerospace business, which provides jet engines for commercial aviation, that is by far the largest ‘sponsor’ of university research.”


How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon - @brooks_rosa

The first serious book to examine what happens when the ancient boundary between war and peace is erased.

Once, war was a temporary state of affairs—a violent but brief interlude between times of peace. Today, America’s wars are everywhere and forever: our enemies change constantly and rarely wear uniforms, and virtually anything can become a weapon. As war expands, so does the role of the US military. Today, military personnel don’t just “kill people and break stuff.” Instead, they analyze computer code, train Afghan judges, build Ebola isolation wards, eavesdrop on electronic communications, develop soap operas, and patrol for pirates. You name it, the military does it.

Rosa Brooks traces this seismic shift in how America wages war from an unconventional perspective—that of a former top Pentagon official who is the daughter of two anti-war protesters and a human rights activist married to an Army Green Beret. Her experiences lead her to an urgent warning: When the boundaries around war disappear, we risk destroying America’s founding values and the laws and institutions we’ve built—and undermining the international rules and organizations that keep our world from sliding towards chaos. If Russia and China have recently grown bolder in their foreign adventures, it’s no accident; US precedents have paved the way for the increasingly unconstrained use of military power by states around the globe. Meanwhile, we continue to pile new tasks onto the military, making it increasingly ill-prepared for the threats America will face in the years to come.

By turns a memoir, a work of journalism, a scholarly exploration into history, anthropology and law, and a rallying cry, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything transforms the familiar into the alien, showing us that the culture we inhabit is reshaping us in ways we may suspect, but don’t really understand. It’s the kind of book that will leave you moved, astonished, and profoundly disturbed, for the world around us is quietly changing beyond recognition—and time is running out to make things right.”

Humane via @samuelmoyn

“How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War

A prominent historian exposes the dark side of making war more humane

In the years since 9/11, we have entered an age of endless war. With little debate or discussion, the United States carries out military operations around the globe. It hardly matters who’s president or whether liberals or conservatives operate the levers of power. The United States exercises dominion everywhere.

In Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, Samuel Moyn asks a troubling but urgent question: What if efforts to make war more ethical—to ban torture and limit civilian casualties—have only shored up the military enterprise and made it sturdier? To advance this case, Moyn looks back at a century and a half of passionate arguments about the ethics of using force. In the nineteenth century, the founders of the Red Cross struggled mightily to make war less lethal even as they acknowledged its inevitability. Leo Tolstoy prominently opposed their efforts, reasoning that war needed to be abolished, not reformed—and over the subsequent century, a popular movement to abolish war flourished on both sides of the Atlantic. Eventually, however, reformers shifted their attention from opposing the crime of war to opposing war crimes, with fateful consequences.

The ramifications of this shift became apparent in the post-9/11 era. By that time, the US military had embraced the agenda of humane war, driven both by the availability of precision weaponry and the need to protect its image. The battle shifted from the streets to the courtroom, where the tactics of the war on terror were litigated but its foundational assumptions went without serious challenge. These trends only accelerated during the Obama and Trump presidencies. Even as the two administrations spoke of American power and morality in radically different tones, they ushered in the second decade of the “forever” war.

Humane is the story of how America went off to fight and never came back, and how armed combat was transformed from an imperfect tool for resolving disputes into an integral component of the modern condition. As American wars have become more humane, they have also become endless. This provocative book argues that this development might not represent progress at all.”

War is a Racket by Major General Smedley Butler (The only US soldier to be a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor TWICE & most decorated US soldier in history)

“Major General Smedley D. Butler was a military hero of the first rank, the winner of two Medals of Honour, a true 'fighting marine' whose courage and patriotism could not be doubted. Yet he came to believe that the wars in which he and his men had fought and bled and died were all pre-planned conflicts, designed not so much to defend America as to bloat the balance sheets of US banks and corporations.

War Is a Racket is the title of two works, a speech and a booklet, by retired United States Marine Corps Major General and two time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley D. Butler. In them, Butler frankly discusses from his experience as a career military officer how business interests commercially benefit from warfare.

After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Gen. Butler made a nationwide tour in the early 1930s giving his speech "War is a Racket". The speech was so well received that he wrote a longer version as a small book with the same title that was published in 1935 by Round Table Press, Inc., of New York. The booklet was also condensed in Reader's Digest as a book supplement which helped popularize his message. In an introduction to the Reader's Digest version, Lowell Thomas, the "as told to" author of Butler's oral autobiographical adventures, praised Butler's "moral as well as physical courage"


Breaking The Silence: Truth And Lies In The War On Terror via @JohnPilger - FROM 2003!!!

'“Six months after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and two years after the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, John Pilger’s documentary Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror highlighted the hypocrisy and double standards of the American and British adventures of 2001-3, which led to the deaths of more than a million people.

The film opens with a series of haunting war photographs. Over the carnage, George W Bush says, ‘The United States will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies, and freedom.’ His voice dissolves into the high-pitch of his co-conspirator, Tony Blair, who exalts his actions as ‘a fight for freedom’ and ‘a fight for justice’.

Pilger asks, ‘What are the real aims of this war and who are the most threatening terrorists?' In a remote village in Afghanistan, he interviews Orifa, who lost eight members of her family, including six children, when an American plane dropped a 500-pound bomb on her mud-brick home. This is juxtaposed with Bush telling Congress that the United States is ‘a friend to the Afghan people’. Few countries have been helped less by the United States – less than three per cent of all aid to Afghanistan is for reconstruction from war damage.

Kabul, the capital, is a maze of destruction, with cluster bombs not cleared from the city centre and families living in abandoned buildings. ‘I’ve spent much of my life in places of upheaval, but I’ve rarely seen such a ruined city as Kabul,’ says Pilger, standing in a shoe factory where the populations of two villages have squatted, destitute.

Most of the damage was inflicted not by the ‘official enemy’, the Taliban, but by warlords backed, trained and funded by the United States, who restored the poppy harvests and opium trade, which the Taliban had banned.

Recalling the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pilger reveals that President Jimmy Carter signed a secret presidential decree authorising the bank-rolling of the warlords, known as the mujahedin, to fight the Red Army. Among them, the CIA and Britain's MI6 trained Islamic extremists, including Osama bin Laden, as part of what was called Operation Cyclone. From this, says Pilger, ‘came the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and [the attacks of] September 11th’.

The Taliban were also the United States's secret friends. Shortly after they took power in Afghanistan, they were offered a bribe by the administration of President Bill Clinton if they backed a plan for an oil pipeline from central Asia through Afghanistan. However, when George W Bush became President, the connection between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban was an embarrassment, and the tie was cut.

Pilger's interviews with administration officials – described by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern as ‘the crazies’ – are perhaps the highlight of a film made when 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq were raw. He interviews Under Secretary of State John Bolton, who is today Donald Trump's National Security Adviser. Bolton tells Pilger that the United States has done more ‘to create conditions in which individuals can be free around the world than any other country’. When Pilger points to the US record of bombing countries into submission, Bolton says, ‘Are you a Labour Party member… or a Communist Party member?’ When Pilger replies that Tony Blair's Labour Party are his allies, he says, ‘Oh, really?’

Of all Pilger's films about American foreign policy, Breaking the Silence achieved something of a ‘cult’ status as counter-history and was shown across the United States – thanks in part to Ray McGovern, who took the film on a tour of campuses and small towns. ‘We warn people,’ he said, ‘about the crazies.’ Nothing, he might add today, has changed.

Afghanistan - Land of endless war | DW Documentary

“On August 15, 2021, the Taliban seize power in Kabul, Afghanistan. 20 years after their defeat, they triumph and the West is shocked. This film was produced in 2019. Six Afghan women share their hopes and memories that connect them to their country.

Afghanistan has been in a state of emergency for four decades. Women in particular suffer as a result, becoming pawns in ideological conflicts. This film depicts their suffering – but also their courage, and determination to control their fate.

The documentary begins in the 1960s, in the peaceful Kingdom of Afghanistan. When communists take power, a war begins that will change the face of the country. Women become pawns in ideological battles. After September 11, 2001, Afghan women hope peace may return. They want to determine their own fate. But the spiral of violence continues to this day.

In a first, this film is told exclusively from the point of view of Afghan women, who talk about how their lives have changed. Six women, including the former "Miss Afghanistan 1972" and the current minister for human rights, take the audience on a journey through the splendor and misery of the country. They show the tangible effects of endless war, and how women in particular have become victims of violent politics. But they also show how much courage Afghan women have. Using mostly unseen archival footage, the film shows how girls grew up, went to school and were socially engaged in the vibrant Kabul of the 1960s. But this "golden age" ended when the monarchy was overthrown and ideological battlelines were drawn between communists and Islamists. Even the Soviet Union could not maintain control, its mighty army falling to Islamist forces, who eventually took control of Kabul. Thus began a downward spiral that darkened the lives of Afghan women. 20 years ago, the fall of the Taliban seemed to open a path to a more promising future. For two decades, women and girls in Afghanistan were able to envisage and live a life in which they could decide their fate, in a country that provided ample choices and chances for them. They wanted their country back, the country they once knew. With the Taliban’s swift coup to seize power in just a few weeks, the women’s dreams seem more unattainable than ever.”

Truth, War and Consequences (full documentary) | @frontlinepbs

“Did America rush into a war in Iraq for which it was unprepared? In this 2003 documentary, FRONTLINE examines why the U.S. went to war in Iraq, what went wrong in the planning for the postwar occupation, and what was at stake for both the U.S. and for Iraqis.”


Trial & Error: The Strategic Failures of America’s War in Afghanistan via @SteveCollNY

“Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll lays out a compelling case for the long-term costs of America's war in Afghanistan. What does the United States have to show for its 17-year long occupation lasting through three presidential administrations? Coll draws on material from his most recent work, Directorate S: The CIA and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to portray in vivid detail key factors that have rendered futile America's search for effective policies to bring the conflict to a close.”

Lecture 15: Demise of the Neoconservative Dream From Afghanistan to Iraq via

“In this lecture, Prof. Ian Shapiro discusses when the End of History ended for the US and the Neoconservative Dream as well as provides a background to Iraq since 1991, and the costs of the Iraq war.”

Eva Sajoo: A brief history of Afghanistan via @CS_SFU

“The Seniors Program is pleased to present this lecture as part of a series of informative lectures on topics of general interest to the public. Each forum is about 45-50 minutes long, followed by a question and answer session.”


Killer Robots and Their Compliance with the Principles of Law of War

“Abstract: Robots are no longer fictional as they used to be years ago. Technological advancements and developments in artificial intelligence (AI) development have allowed innovation of robots that carry out diverse functions. Among these are robot innovations aimed at replacing soldiers in battle fields. These robots have been argued to be more ethical and clinical than human soldiers by some scholars. Others have argued that the increasing level of autonomy in these robots leading to innovation of fully autonomous weapons should be banned. They argue that the ability of these weapons to differentiate between civilians and combatants and thus may cause unnecessary death of civilians. This paper discusses how difficult it is for the law of war (international humanitarian law ) to be applied by the algorithm by discussing how killer robots (also known as autonomous weapons system) cannot comply to the basic law of war principles like distinction, proportionality and precaution. These principles call for unquantifiable decisions which need human-like characters which killer robots do not possess. The paper also argues how humanitarian law accepts responsibility for a human agency, making it difficult to determine responsibility in cases involving killer robots. Qualitative research methodology has been applied to the following article.”


Currents 042: @johnrobb on Afghanistan Withdrawal via @jim_rutt

John Robb & Jim meet for a timely discussion about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the current mess at the Kabul airport, how the Taliban are controlling the flow of evacuations, likely backroom negotiations, dynamics of the intelligence and command failures that led us here, the U.S.’s failure to switch from guerilla warfare to maneuver warfare, the overreliance on diplomacy, OODA loops & shears, tempo change, how the Taliban could force the U.S. into an overland retreat & whether they will, the brutality of nation-building, Afghanistan & Iraq as foreign-policy distractions, further examples & consequences of “assumption rot”, and more.”

BLOWBACK: Season 1

“The invasion of Iraq in 2003 constitutes the greatest crime of the 21st century. The war killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and the country plunged into a cycle of violence and misery that endures today.

Blowback is a 10-part investigation into the war. Co-hosts Brendan James and Noah Kulwin examine the decades of policies that culminated in America’s attack on Saddam Hussein's government and the aftermath of the invasion.”

Introducing "The Line"

“Explore the impact of the forever wars on the U.S. Navy SEALs through the lens of the Eddie Gallagher case.”

RP DAILY: Graveyard of good intentions

TED Talks

Books Over Bombs: How Education Saved My Life | @AidaSanjush | TEDxBearCreekPark

“Afghanistan is considered the most dangerous country in the world, putting Syria second, according to the Global Peace Index 2020. War is one of the biggest contributors to why Afghan girls can’t get an education. Aida Sanjush, a 19-year-old Afghan youth activist is a living example of this. Aida shares her story on how education changed her life and through this, she raises awareness about the importance of women’s education, especially in Afghanistan. Aida Sanjush, a 19-year old Afghan youth activist, advocates for females and immigrants and lobbies for everyone’s right to an education.”

Ashraf Ghani: How to fix broken states

(Narrator: The state was indeed NOT fixed.)

“Ashraf Ghani's passionate and powerful 10-minute talk, emphasizing the necessity of both economic investment and design ingenuity to rebuild broken states, is followed by a conversation with TED curator Chris Anderson on the future of Afghanistan.”

A vision for the future of Afghanistan | Ashraf Ghani

(Insult to injury that this is from just a year ago.)

“Offering a vision of Afghanistan that goes beyond what's often depicted in the media, President Ashraf Ghani shares his thoughts on peacemaking, the true cost of war, the nation's COVID-19 response strategy and the sweeping economic and social reforms happening throughout the country. "The ultimate goal is a sovereign, democratic, united Afghanistan at peace with itself and the world," he says. (This virtual conversation, hosted by head of TED Chris Anderson, was recorded June 16, 2020.)”


“The point of US military occupations is to open markets for global capital, steal natural resources, create geopolitical positioning for global dominance, obstruct/destroy socialist movements (ie. self-determination), and boost arms industry profits...”

“Once you realize this, you realize that all such occupations are incredibly successful to the capitalist ruling class who orchestrate them. Mass death, destruction, and displacement are acceptable trade-offs, if not mere afterthoughts, for this success.”

“Julian Assange speaking in 2011: "The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war" #Afghanistan”

“Defense stocks during the Afghanistan War:

Lockheed Martin: 1,236% return

Northrop Grumman: 1,196% return

Boeing: 975% return

General Dynamics: 625% return

Raytheon: 331% return

The military-industrial complex got exactly what it wanted out of this war.”

“OK a massive thread with some stuff about Afghanistan and imperialism that you may not have heard despite all that you have heard. It's going to be long, I'll just say that in advance.”

“americans love to pretend our foreign policy gives us moral high ground over russia and elsewhere — we’re not cold-hearted realists; we care! in reality, justifications for intervention from folks like samantha power et al. was just window dressing for lining these guy’s pockets.”

“Knowing Is Half The Battle thread”

“looking only at US casualties in Afghanistan gives a highly distorted view of the level of death & violence that was ongoing & increasing throughout the occupation”

“For those who say that what has happened in the last week will permanently damage America's standing in the world, a short list of reasons why, bad as it was, it won't even make the top 30 things that have really harmed our standing.”

“this press release is so funny. @HRC gives Raytheon a diversity award they can use to launder their image after yrs of reports Raytheon missiles literally blow up school buses in Yemen. Then it casually mentions Raytheon will also be giving HRC a huge donation––what a coincidence”

“This horrifying story abt biometric data in Afghanistan has an uncanny past-is-prologue component w the famous Nat Geo "Afghan Girl" photo. They (...) claimed to id the much older adult by her iris patterns.”

“Another fun fact about U.S. military jargon from the data: Right now, there are more words in U.S. military terminology (~26,500) than in the average native English speaker’s active vocabulary (20,000). Milspeak is literally its own language.”

“Here's a $760,000 contract for gym equipment in Afghanistan

Here's another for $169,298:

another for $115,260:

 $45k for Afghan treadmills

Twitter avatar for @lhfangLee Fang @lhfang
Here's a $760,000 contract for gym equipment in Afghanistan… another for $169,298… another for $115,260… $45k for Afghan treadmills…

Mulhak ملحق 🇱🇧 @Mulhak

عناصر "#طالبان" يمارسون الرياضة في قاعة جيم بالقصر الرئاسي في #كابل

“I’ve been waiting years to write this tweet. Here goes:

BREAKING NEWS: He’s out! Abdul Latif Nasser (aka #TheOtherLatif) has been RELEASED from #Guantanamo, and just landed in his home country of Morocco.

Listen (or re-listen) to his odyssey at”


“Senator Mike Gravel devoted his life to ending the violence that America had unleashed across the world. Here, in his own words, is what that struggle meant to him.”


Afghanistan: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) 

“John Oliver discusses the end of America’s war with Afghanistan, and the humanitarian crisis being left behind.”

As Taliban Sweeps Into Power, Look Back at How the U.S.-led War Began | @frontlinepbs

“As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan and the Taliban seizes control of the country, an excerpt from FRONTLINE’s upcoming film “America After 9/11” reveals how the roots of defeat go back two decades.”

Leaving Afghanistan (full documentary) | @frontlinepbs

As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war, what is America leaving behind? An on-the-ground report from Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi on the Taliban’s advance, fears of civil war, and Iran’s growing influence.

Video shows 22 Afghan commandos executed by the Taliban (H/T: @Rashidajourno)

“CNN's Anna Coren is in Kabul with new evidence of the atrocities committed by the Taliban as video emerged of Afghan commandos being shot dead after an apparent surrender. The Taliban rejects the video, saying it's fabricated.”


Documents that Changed the World: Joseph McCarthy’s ‘list,’ 1950 (H/T: @SethCotlar)

“Sometimes a document can be devastating — can ruin lives and change history — even if it doesn’t really exist.

Previous installments of the “Documents that Changed the World” series

  • Series introduction/President Obama’s Birth Certificate

  • The Nineteenth Amendment

  • John Snow’s cholera map, 1854

  • Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’

  • The Internet Protocol, 1981

  • The AIDS Memorial Quilt

  • An 18 1/2-minute presidential mystery

  • Gutenberg indulgence, 1454

  • ‘Robert’s Rules of Order’

  • The fraudulent ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’

  • A papal resignation

  • The ‘Casablanca’ letters of transit

  • ‘What is the Third Estate?’ 1789

  • Alfred Binet’s IQ test, 1905

  • Einstein’s letter to FDR, 1939

  • The Riot Act, 1714

  • The Rosetta Stone

  • The Zapruder film, Nov. 22, 1963

  • The Book of Mormon

  • The DSM, 1952.

  • Airline ‘black box’ flight data recorder, 1958

  • Alaska Purchase Check, 1868

  • Zimmerman Telegram, 1917

  • Rules of Association Football (Soccer), 1863

  • The Star Spangled Banner, 1814”

Full List:

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