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Afghanistan’s fall, a harbinger of US empire’s decline?

THE World Trade Center attack that occurred 20 years ago, commemorated on Thursday in the US, still stands as the worst act of terrorism ever, with 3,000, mostly New Yorkers, killed.

But the US revenge for the attack – its wars against Afghanistan, Iraq and four Middle Eastern countries – is now being viewed as the most irrational, hubris-driven and even crime-laden violence inflicted by one country against another, in fact against six nations.

The 9/11 wars are the most shameful wars the US has waged because they were driven by bloodlust, revenge which US President George W. Bush either whipped up or to which he just let himself join the mob – for the sake of re-election. Indeed, there was no logic to invading an entire country, Afghanistan, to hunt for the 9/11 perpetrators.

Afghanistan is a collection of tribes living in valleys surrounded by mountains. Coming from bases in Pakistan, US Special Forces could just have hunted for Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 architect and financier, and carpet-bombed by B-52 an area like the Tora Bora caves where Bin Laden had hidden. But no, that would not have satisfied US voters shrieking for blood. And where was Bin Laden found and killed in 2011? In Abbottabad, Pakistan, near a military camp.

Two years after 9/11, and with Afghanistan under American rule, Bush still couldn’t satisfy the American peoples’ demand for revenge. After all, the Taliban simply faded into the mountains. TV viewers could not be awed by spectacular battles of GI Joes killing those strange, bearded men in white robes. And the 2004 elections were drawing near.


And then, voila, the US intelligence community claimed that Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein was in league with Osama bin Laden, never mind that the former was a Shiite and the latter a Sunni, the two Muslim factions that hated each other. When that claim didn’t gain traction, the US military-industrial complex found a better reason to buy and test their new arms: Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. He was a threat to all mankind, and Captain America had to kill him. The US invasion of Iraq has indeed been one of the most spectacular demonstrations of US military might. It was even broadcast live on TV as bombs and missiles fell on the hapless ancient city of Baghdad. “Shock and awe” indeed. “We’ll bomb them back to the stone age,” the Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf revealed Bush told him.

However, after several years wrecking the entire social, economic and political structure of an ancient civilization, the US couldn’t find Saddam or his WMDs. How much did these (including the “collateral” wars in Yemen, Syria and Pakistan) all cost? The following:*

– 335,000 citizens of these countries killed

– 73,253 of these countries’ police and military killed

– 5,000 US military and servicemen killed in action

– 30,177 committing suicide

– $8 trillion of US money from 2011 through fiscal year 2022.

Yes, this is the country that accuses its rivals China and Russia as not complying with the international rule of law and condemning developing countries (like ours) as violators of human rights and undertaking extrajudicial killings.

All these to avenge 3,000 Americans killed in 9/11.

What the US did is savagery of the ancient kind. When small kingdoms challenged empires, the retaliation was always swift and ferocious: after Jericho’s walls fell, the Bible reports, the Israelites, with God’s permission even, killed every man and woman there; the Romans burned Jerusalem with most of the men, women and children killed and some sold to slavery; and in our case, after the Balangiga patriots ambushed a US cavalry unit, all towns in Samar province were razed to the ground, killing over 200 Filipinos.

Turning point

A widely acclaimed documentary on 9/11 (showing on Netflix) and its aftermath is entitled “Turning Point.” While it obviously refers to 9/11, it isn’t categorical about what the attack was turning to.

My interpretation is that the documentary was implicitly concluding that 9/11 is the turning point for the beginning of the end of the US decline. In fact, one episode was titled “Graveyard of Empires.” That sobriquet actually referred to the fact that several empires, the most recent being the British, the USSR and then the US, were eventually driven out of Afghanistan. Yet the sobriquet could also mean that such defeats, at least in the British and Soviet cases, presaged the decline of their empires.

There is nothing metaphysical about that idea. The start of most empires’ decline throughout history is signaled when a peripheral territory manages to defy the empire, cracking its image as an undefeatable colossus, thus encouraging other areas to rebel. Britain was pushed to a precipitous fall when it had to give up its biggest colony, the British Raj in India, in 1947; France’s empire crumbled after the Vietminh defeated it in the battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

The fall of Kabul could presage the final fall of the US empire. Its de facto colony, Japan, has started to move out of the US’ orbit, with leaders moving toward changing its constitution so it can organize its own army, thereby liberating itself from the US defense umbrella. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 didn’t lead, as had been expected then, to its members becoming American satellites in Eastern Europe, although several did, notably Ukraine. But what’s called the imperial core of the USSR survived and has become stronger to the point of being a rival of the US.

And China? That ship has long sailed. As historian Peter Turchin in his recent book War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires pointed out:

“Between 1978, when the Chinese leadership began implementing economic reforms, and 2003, China has quadrupled its gross domestic product and is now the second largest economy in the world (measured on a purchasing power basis). If China can maintain economic growth at the same rate for another decade, it will surpass the US and become the largest world economy. Economic power inevitably brings in its wake political and military power. If current trends continue, China will become the next world hegemon – a prospect that must be of concern to the American political and military establishment.”

Whether they like it or not, that’s something the likes of Sinophobes Antonio Carpio and Albert del Rosario should start mulling over.

*Source: Brown University’s Costs of War (https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/)

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Dorina Rojas

    And there they are, doing hate crimes against Asians and calling us, especially the Chinese, as mediocres, or Filipinos as domestics, or nannies, but during the pandemic, their governments are even requesting that we send nurses, caregivers, etc. because they are not capable of such “lowly” chores. US and Europe are inviting workers from countries like the Philippines whom they accuse of being violators of human rights. Their legislators even support the ICC investigation and US senators’ resolution to stop giving “military aid” to the Philippines because we are not supposed to fight an anti-illegal drug war in our own country? Really? Seriously? Military aid to a country they deliberately destroyed so they could have a war venue against their enemies? No anti-illegal drug war because they embarassingly failed in their own country? Ha ha ha ha

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