3 October, 2023


Here Lies America – Naked & Exposed

By Sanmugam Kanaga-Ratnam

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.“- Warren Buffett

Amidst the horror from the scene at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Americans felt a sense of shame about how naked and exposed they are in the eyes of the world.

Arguably Biden’s decision may have been the right one to pull U.S. troops entirely out of Afghanistan. But the optics of the Kabul Airport chaos will go down in Biden’s term as president, an indelible blemish and disgrace for years to come.

How did the U.S. get here?

When President Biden announced the final pull out of our troops on July 8, 2021, he was confident that “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

When asked, some Vietnam veterans see echoes of their experience in this withdrawal in Afghanistan; President’s response was a definitive “None whatsoever.” 

Through the Vietnam war experience, the U.S. citizens learned about the “fog of war, ” the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by soldiers in military operations. William Westmoreland, commander of the U.S. forces in Vietnam, allegedly understated the strength and capability of the Vietcong to U.S. congress and caused intelligence officers to suppress facts. The defense secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Robert McNamara, laid out eleven lessons from Vietnam. But unfortunately, history tells us the U.S. did not learn anything from McNamara. 

In today’s dollars cost of the Vietnam war was $ 1 trillion.

President George W. Bush took the U.S. to war in Iraq in 2003 on a concocted story of ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ hoarded by Saddam Hussein – and the U.S. mission was “war on terror.” Yet, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), in its report, cited intelligence failures on the part of the CIA and the FBI that could have prevented the attack and did not establish any connection between Saddam Hussein and the 911 attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001. Through the Iraq experience, the U.S. citizens learned terms like “shock and awe” (dazzle your unmatched enemy with massive firepower), “enhanced interrogation technique” (torture), and “extraordinary rendition” (kidnap suspects and take them to third countries where the due process and human rights do not apply).

According to a report from Brown University, the financial cost of the Iraq war is more than $2 trillion.

In Afghanistan, various rebel groups fought against the invaders from time to time, the Soviets being the most recent invader, The Mujahadeen being the dominant group. After the Mujahadeen splintered into minor rebel groups in 1995, The Taliban emerged as a powerful Islamic militia with fundamental Islamic values and gained the support of the Afghan people. U.S. officials believed Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile hiding in Afghanistan, was the prime suspect in the September 11, 2001, attack on World Trade Center Towers in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field, killing thousands. 

The U.S. entered Afghanistan in October 2001, after the Taliban refused to hand over al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in Afghanistan. The objective of the mission was to neutralize al-Qaeda and to capture or kill Osama bin Ladin.

On May 11, 2011, U.S. special forces entered his compound in Abbottabad, a military garrison town in Pakistan, killed Osama bin Laden.

That is when the U.S. should have declared “mission accomplished” and left Afghanistan.

Instead, the U.S. citizens learned another term, “mission creep” – a gradual shift in objectives during a military campaign that invariably results in unplanned long-term commitment. Hence, according to President Biden, the Afghanistan campaign’s financial cost to date is more than $2 trillion.

That is how the U.S. got here.

Looking back at the U.S. wars in the last 50 years, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan – we see a clear pattern and a common thread that runs through each of them.

In every one of these conflicts, the U.S. had intelligence failures, military commanders’ untruthful reports to the legislature and the executive, involvement of defense contractors, and underlying financial interest in prosecuting the wars in territories where drug trade was rampant.

One must marvel at the genius of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who warned sixty years ago to guard against the influence wielded by the military-industrial complex.

As the U.S. stands naked and exposed in front of the world today, it needs to pay attention to the words of President Eisenhower, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals.”

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Latest comments

  • 2

    one needs to understand the military-industrial complex to understand the reluctance to leave. and as bad as the optics of the withdrawal who can withdraw from a lost war with grace ? Ask the British the Russians or anybody.

    The issue is more than anything the press. They still have not got their head around to the fact that the war that they never cared about or covered is lost. The keyword here is “lost”

  • 15

    It is interesting to read the various criticisms of USA from around the world especially from Sri Lankans .

    It is obvious that the task of creating a State and a good society is very difficult. No country is perfect. When a country is the most powerful country in the world , its existence is very very difficult. Every other country is depending on it and also expects a lot from it.

    Yet, it is the dream of every human being to become a citizen of the US, study there and get aid from USA. Even our so called first family ,the Rajapakses, are citizens of USA

    Since these critics of USA are having so mush wisdom, what have they done in their own countries ?

    Would yous say your governments are following perfect policies in every thing ?

    Are countries like China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka more enlightened and better countries ?

    Don’t make me laugh !

    • 3

      “Yet, it is the dream of every human being to become a citizen of the US, study there and get aid from USA.”
      Not mine though.
      There are a few more I guess.

      • 2

        “Not mine though.”

        That’s something I admire! …….. Something, I cannot admire myself for! :))

        I’m reading your book: it’s a long time since I read anything ….. reading feels like a new experience ……. most of it flies over my head ……..

    • 3

      What you say is true ……cannot fault a single word you have written ……

      “dream of every human”

      But would you like to elaborate on a typical/average Lankan’s experience as a citizen of the US? …… Well, the experience of a short dark very Lankan-looking Lankan with a “Paki” accent?

      Sweet dreams are made of this
      Who am I to disagree?
      I’ve traveled the world and the seven seas
      Everybody’s lookin’ for something

      No subject is taboo, eh? ……… I hope.

      • 0

        The above was for deepthi silva

  • 2

    “U.S. officials believed Osama bin Laden…was the prime suspect in the September 11, 2001, attack….
    “The U.S. entered Afghanistan in October 2001, after the Taliban refused to hand over al-Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in Afghanistan. The objective of the mission was to neutralize al-Qaeda and to capture or kill Osama bin Ladin.”
    Taliban refusal was based on lack of evidence.
    The US intention was not just to “neutralize al-Qaeda and to capture or kill Osama bin Laden”.
    I wanted returns for its investment in Afghanistan. Taliban was not obliging.

  • 0

    The US has its own strategy to leave the place Resources capabilities that were sunk into it over the past 20 years, installed in favor of them if any geopolitical struggles in this area as that happened in the history US is able allies Sanctuary for operations. It is long time plan what is happening is negotiated, presently it looks like surprises move

    • 1

      It is pretty hard to decode your sentence.
      But somehow it does not sound right.

  • 3

    The United States is full of itself and will probably never realise as a nation that its influence on the rest of the world is catastrophically destructive, and has been so, for several generations. Anyone who has read about American involvement and perpetual wars in poor countries will know that millions upon millions of people are killed, merely to keep American egos aloft, if not for profits and lucre. The US manipulates its mainstream media to condition people on manufactured evidence that its foreign policy is in the best interests of the countries targetted. However, it keeps falling flat on its nose, as the brave Vietnamese showed the world in no uncertain terms. The US remains the only nation that keeps 800 military bases straddling the globe, spends more on offence than all other countries combined, and protects crimes against humanity and genocide by its allies (ie Israel). As Iranians aptly call it, the US is Satan incarnate.

    • 1

      Dear Lasantha Pethiyagoda,
      Seldom do I get the need to disagree with you. But, here I am.
      Tell me which nation takes a benevolent interest in the well-being of a third country. Russia? China? Why single out US.
      As for, ‘The US manipulates its mainstream media’, I dissent. In US the media thinks like US! It is in SL that the media is manipulated by the State. That is where the truth lies.

      • 0

        Examine the conduct and you will see the difference.

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