Extraordinary Edition story by Collin Friday, May 7
See also: "Number of Soldiers Seeking Opiate Abuse Treatment Skyrockets" by Judson Berger for FOX News; American Addiction by Noam Chomsky, AK Press audio, 2001; Gabriel Kolko for Counterpunch May 2, "Why the U.S. still doesn't get the message: 35 years since the fall of Saigon"
The more time passes in Afghanistan, the more it's resembling Vietnam. Let's just say I grew up with a Vietnam historian around the house. I used to haul a lot of firewood for him. He would tell me how marijuana grew wild in Vietnam, plus it was the '60s so all kinds of soldiers (poor kids) were experimenting. Even some of your all-American athlete types.
Having nothing to do with wild herb, but everything to do with openness to experimentation he said everywhere soldiers off duty, at a base were taking LSD together. Having nothing to do with getting treatment for opiate addiction, groups of soldiers would drop acid. In the jungle on a hot, wet and otherwise eventless evening followed the next day by the work of war and terror of uncertainty. Paradise; escape from battlefield stress and homesickness, right? Then mortars would come from the jungle.
My dad experienced this firsthand, of course. The soldiers who dropped acid together would huddle close to each other because they didn't experience an alert response to the mortar attack and scatter to prevent being targeted and engage a strategy to beat the odds and stay alive. My dad was at the base when a whole tent filled with soldiers on acid were killed together by mortar fire.
Vietnam was pointless. Not an exercise in the expansion of democracy. Just destroying the lives of everyone in Southeast Asia as an experiment in aiming the U.S. war machine at something on the edge of the Soviet Empire to see what was possible. Afghanistan is pointless. In Iraq at least the empire is stealing petroleum rights and export dollars. Pernicious, illegal, but it's a purpose. Machiavelli wasn't a nihilist: act to achieve gain in the face of a morality imposed by outside sources. Afghanistan is strategic presence of empire in the Middle East and the creation and development of some post-Cold War specter to chase (see: Gore Vidal, George Orwell) and at which to aim the apparatus of empire, like in Vietnam. Enormous shares of Western resources devoted to the frontier of empire in the form of prolonged military action.
The best thing the economic crisis has demonstrated is to starkly underline how stupid this is. We're participating in the destruction of the quality of life here and abroad simultaneously while absurdly pretending the opposite is developing before our eyes so long as we are patient enough to watch the benefits of consolidated private wealth reach those, in a cruel paradox (and a dubious swindle), it will never reach.
Is the addiction to narcotics any different from addiction to petroleum in the developed nations? Is the role of driving and access to industrial products in the fight against climate change any different whatsoever from the role addiction plays in the refusal to alter course in order to achieve preferable ends? Are any of us capable of breaking the cycle without being completely cut off from the object of obsession?
The end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan will be a victory for rank-and-file soldiers (who can just as easily be paid to provide domestic defense or take a job in an expanding economy where military expenditure is returned to communities at home), for rank-and-file workers and for development of infrastructure and fewer reasons for the inhabitants of Afghanistan and Pakistan to turn against each other.
The end of the U.S. war in Iraq is an issue of justice unrelated to the prosecution of war in Afghanistan except for the convenient location of U.S. military resources in the Middle East. The lies that led U.S. military resources there were illegal. To their credit, it is incredible how people who made these decisions and told lies that destroyed other societies with U.S. capital have completely avoided accountability and justice. The path of history we're seeing play out with the current economic crisis and mythology of "Too Big to Fail" is synonymous, and what we can expect when we refuse to defend ourselves against mortal enemies who call themselves our friends with a smile and a handshake.
As for opiate addiction and recovery, scholars like Noam Chomsky have maintained for more than a decade these economies are rooted in serious substance abuse problems in the centers of developed nations. Treatment at home equates to the end of the drug trade in colonized regions where the drugs are produced industrially. The fatigued War on Drugs has essentially served as a means to ignore what research has demonstrated consistently. The solution to problems of violence and endemic corruption resulting from illegal trade lies in treating the addictions that breathe life into those problems.
Meanwhile, to trust the U.S. military, the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon to solve the situation in Afghanistan is near the decision to help an addict kick by handing him $400 cash. To hope it will solve itself organically by the time scheduled for withdrawal (pardon the dark pun) is akin to a decision to use echinacea, goldenseal, zinc and vitamin C to treat heroin addiction.
Warfare continues to become more professional and dehumanized every day.
The purpose of Extraordinary Edition is being revisited for winter, headed into 2013. U.S. foreign policy, Central Asia and the Middle East remain key focal points. Economics and culture on your front doorstep are coming into focus here.