“In 2001 when the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan in retaliation for the 9/11 terror attacks …” So begins Sandip Roy’s August 25th report on “Women of Afghanistan” on National Public Radio. We invaded in retaliation for the 9/11 terror attacks. Of course, it seems logical and almost like common sense; they attacked and we invaded. There’s just one problem; no Afghans attacked us. Neither the citizens, nor the government of Afghanistan played any part in the 9/11 attacks. The US has never said otherwise. And yet we invaded, and have occupied, Afghanistan for 20 years.
Our reason for going to war was that the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden. Actually, the Taliban asked for some evidence of bin Laden’s participation in 9/11 before handing him over. We had none; there is no evidence. The FBI never charged bin Laden with any crime. There was no warrant issued for his arrest because there was no evidence linking him to 9/11.
In fact, bin Laden denied repeatedly that he had anything to do with 9/11:
“In a statement issued to the Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, bin Laden said, “The U.S. government has consistently blamed me for being behind every occasion its enemies attack it. I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons,” bin Laden’s statement said (as reported by CNN in 2001). We might have been able to question him about it but the person purported to be Osama bin Laden was killed in his home in Pakistan by Navy SEALS and the body dumped into the ocean at night.
Twenty years later we are no further along. “A Taliban spokesperson has claimed there is no evidence that the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks against the United States. Zabihullah Mujahid made the claim during an interview with NBC Nightly News. There is no evidence. Even after 20 years of war, we have no proof he was involved,” (Newsweek, September 2021)
So, not only is Afghanistan not implicated in 9/11, it can’t even be established that Osama bin Laden was involved. No matter that bin Laden wasn’t ever found in Afghanistan and likely wasn’t there within weeks of our invading. We made war on the people and country of Afghanistan for the next 20 years.
And we invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Money that could have been used to create infrastructure, jobs and a better educated and healthier America went, instead, to the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us against. Hundreds of billions of dollars that should have gone to meet the needs of the American people disappeared in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2016, 57% of the federal budget was spent on the Department of Defense, wars and weapons programs, according to the American Friends Service Committee; 6% was spent on education.
A federal report from 2011 shows $60 billion lost to war zone contractor waste and fraud alone. Disabled and traumatized veterans return home and don’t get the support or treatment they need. Homelessness and opioid addiction is the result. “About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively,” – National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
The prison-industrial complex, where corporations run prisons for profit and poor people and people of color are the main “clients” makes it even harder for those on the margins to maintain homes and get jobs. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. The self-serving actions of bankers and government officials during the housing crisis complete the picture of the looting of America’s tax revenues and the eviction of people from their homes.
According to Forbes magazine “The Special Inspector General for the Toxic Assets Recovery Program (TARP) summary of the bailout says that the total commitment of government is $16.8 trillion dollars with $4.6 trillion already paid out.” That was in 2016. The banks got the money and have grown even larger but the regular wage earner can’t get financing for a home purchase. With easier credit after 2008, people would be in houses now, not out on the street. The taxpayer’s money bailed out the big banks. Nobody could get a home loan while the banks bought back their stock, bought other banks, and bought the houses they foreclosed on. Does anyone think that might have something to do with the current housing crisis?
The federal minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. California’s minimum wage is $10.50 an hour. “Experts estimate that still buys only about half of what a minimum wage did in 1980,” – San Francisco Chronicle.
The leading cause of bankruptcy is medical expenses. Single payer universal health care would cost less and provide better care than a system that is drowning in paperwork and regulation. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq marked the beginning of the privatization of military services and supplies. The contract to build Guantanamo went to Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s old company.) An unintended irony of the so-called war on terror: the inmates of Guantanamo get better medical services than most Americans, as Michael Moore shows in his film, “Sicko.”
“U.S. spending on the Afghanistan nation-building project over the last dozen years now exceeds $104 billion, surpassing the $103.4 billion current-dollar value of Marshall Plan expenditures, which helped rebuild European nations after World War II”(“U.S. aid to Afghanistan exceeds Marshall Plan in costs” San Francisco Chronicle, August 2014). Imagine if $104 billion had been invested in preschools, education, job training, and social services in the US? Helping individual homeless people is important, but if you really want to change people’s lives for the better, take a look at where our tax dollars are going and imagine where they could be going.
Pulling down statues doesn’t feed the hungry or house the homeless. In fact, cleaning up the mess made by the black-clad mob at the Concourse in Golden Gate Park will cost the City money that could have been spent helping people. What is the significance of defacing the monument to Cervantes? What is accomplished by pulling down and defacing statues? The City voluntarily took down the statue of Columbus at Coit Tower. The black-shirts could have asked the City to take down the statues they didn’t like. Who are these guys anyway? And where were the police while this was going on? Golden Gate Park is a haven for families and children, a peaceful refuge, especially at this time. It is not the place for a disruptive, destructive political action. Are the black-shirts willing to pay to have the statues removed? Just how deep is their commitment to social justice?