Winners & Losers

Ali Haider Zaidi
Sunday, Oct 10, 2021

I spent a major part of my life between 1990-2018 doing business in the US and have very fond memories. I befriended many Americans as close friends and we have constantly stayed in touch till date. I found Americans to be straight forward, extremely friendly and compassionate. But sadly sometimes, I also found them to be very gullible. Therefore, I somewhat sympathize with how they have been fooled by their own for over two decades. Believe it or not, the Americans have been on losing end as well.

Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi.
Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi.

War is very unforgiving. Many a parent in the US lost their young ones, fooled by warmongers, into believing that they are going to liberate the Afghan people. Many children lost parents and many lost their siblings. Besides, the physical cost of the war reflected in terms of U.S troop casualties, the American people also suffered a huge economic loss during the twenty year conflict.

The U.S. government spent around $2.26 trillion over twenty years or $300 million per day and still ended up withdrawing from Afghanistan without achieving a tangible victory.

Imagine, if $2.26 trillion were either spent on the American people instead of feeding the military- industrial complex, on revamping the depleting physical infrastructure, on universal healthcare, on resolving the housing crisis, on education or even paying down student debt. But sadly, it appeared that the American people were not the top priority of their political leadership. It was unbelievable to see some members of the U.S. Congress reluctant to spend on “COVID Aid Cheques” but had no issues with doling out cash on an un-winnable war in Afghanistan.

War is a lucrative business for the elite. Therefore, in reality, the real beneficiary of the Afghan war has been the American military-industrial complex. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had warned about the military industrial complex in his farewell address of January 17, 1961.

The U.S. Congress gave $2 trillion to five defence contractors during the twenty years of the Afghanistan war. Shareholders of these defence contractors saw their share value surge. If an investor had held $10,000 in stocks of some of the major U.S. defence contractors back in 2001, the investment value would have multiplied by 10 times as of today. Meanwhile, the lay man got nothing.

Another interesting fact regarding American defence contractors is the number of retired military personnel serving on their board of directors. Many appear on the media or are employed in think tanks as analysts while handful end up in high offices, such as Secretary of Defense. It clearly shows the influence the military-industrial complex possesses in policymaking and driving the narrative for war.

The American people also had to experience deception and lies. The mainstream US media acted as a mouthpiece of the political and military establishment and forgot its role as a watchdog on behalf of the public.

Senator Edward Kennedy said, “Integrity is the lifeblood of democracy. Deceit is a poison in its veins.”

The release of the Afghanistan Papers by the Washington Post in December 2019 should be a huge revelation for the American people as to how they were deceived for twenty years by their government and military. The Afghanistan Papers reveal that U.S. political and military leadership, starting from the George W. Bush to Trump generally, held the opinion that the war was not winnable, but continued to mislead the American public on the success of the war. This level of dishonesty by elected leaders usually results in a deep mistrust in democracy.

In an interview with CNN, Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, the former supreme commander of NATO in Europe, categorically said that the current crisis in Afghanistan was the result of "20 years of American misjudgments, poor prioritisation and failed policies."

Jeffrey Eggers, a former US Navy Seal and staffer on the National Security Council in the George Bush and Obama administrations, questioned the futility of making the Taliban the enemy while it was Al-Qaeda that attacked America.

Two-time U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker pointed out that the insurgency didn’t defeat the Americans in Afghanistan but rather “the weight of endemic corruption.”

I remembered accompanying our current Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan in a meeting with several U.S. Senators in Washington D.C. in Jan of 2008. The current US President Joe Biden also attended the meeting and he was the then Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the US Senate. Imran Khan was as clear in his message as he is today. In fact, he has maintained from day one that the war is not the solution, rather it creates further chaos. Despite being constantly taunted as “Taliban Khan” by some Pakistani and international media, time has vindicated his twenty-year stance yet once again.

Being a frontline state, Pakistan endured the loss of 83,000 lives during the war on terror. Although, Human Life cannot be compensated or valued in dollars and cents but in addition to the loss of life, Pakistan also suffered an economic loss of around $150 billion. Pakistan has also become a home to three million plus Afghan refugees causing additional economic and societal strains. Despite all of the above, the international propagandists believed that we were the reason behind the US defeat in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, no Pakistani was involved in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Numerous revelations of the Afghanistan Papers don’t subscribe to the false propaganda, but who’s reading?

The reality is that Afghanistan was the biggest victim of the Global War on terror. The Afghan honor code of “Pashtunwali” cost them over 175,000 casualties. According to the Pashtunwali code, hosts show unconditional hospitality to guests and protect them with their lives. Guests should neither be harmed nor surrendered to an outsider. The U.S. imposed a war upon Afghanistan because the Taliban government of that time was reluctant to hand over Osama bin Laden, who was a guest of the Afghan people. The Americans without credible evidence of his complicity in the terror attacks, demanded Osama at gunpoint even though the Afghan government was willing to hand over bin Laden to a third country for trial.

Interestingly, no Afghani was directly involved in the 9/11.

World’s two billion Muslims have been another huge victims of the war on terror. During the last twenty years, Muslims around the globe experienced the rise of Islamophobia. This sadly included desecration of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and our faith. Muslim communities around the world were meted out by strict surveillance by various intelligence and security agencies. Civil rights were curtailed by the sudden enactment of draconian laws like the PATRIOT Act in the U.S. Hate crimes became a common phenomenon. Who can forget the attack on the Army Public School in December 2014, when little angels and their teachers were slaughtered at the hands of barbarians or the brutal attack in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 when 51 innocent worshipers were shot down in the mosque. Such sad incidents shook the world more than once, but the war mongers kept using these to their advantage.

The question arises where we go from here? If the world fails to engage in humanitarian aid for the Afghan people, establish people-to-people contact, politically guide them out of this colossal mess, I’m afraid, it will be very difficult to rid ourselves of prejudices and misunderstandings.

We must be partners in peace and development, not in war.

The world and its inhabitants have much to learn from history and each other.

The author is Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs and can be reached out at @AliHZaidiPTI