Years ago, I was running operations in an Asian country and trying to get a handle on the status of a particular nation’s effort to develop a new tank. After a decade of effort and massive expenditures, this country was no closer to having a working domestically-produced main battle tank than when it started. It seemed a colossal failure.
Then I realized I did not understand what was going on at all. I thought the goal was to produce an armored vehicle that could win wars and that the nation in question was failing miserably to achieve that goal. I was wrong. The goal was to make money, and at that, the military-industrial complex of this nation was succeeding brilliantly.
No tanks that could win a war had been produced. It was unclear if or when they ever would be. But a lot of people and very powerful corporations had made billions and were going to make billions more.
I had wondered how long this could go on. The answer was – forever.
All over America, people are dealing with the fallout from Afghanistan. They are wondering what it was all about. They are thinking of lost loved ones, shattered lives and mangled bodies and thinking – never again. We are collectively awash in a powerful mix of emotions, regret, anger, grief.
Not so in the halls of power where the uniformed bureaucrats and the leaders of the most powerful defense contractors on the planet decide the fate of young men and women who aspire to serve their nation and protect their fellow citizens.
You may think the lesson learned from Afghanistan is “never again.” They don’t think any such thing.
Afghanistan was a bonanza for American defense contractors. If you purchased $10,000 worth of stock on one of the top defense contractors right after 9/11 and held on to it, you would be looking at close to $100,000 today. That is a much greater return on investment than you would have realized from investments in the market as a whole. In fact, during the Afghanistan War, defense stocks outperformed the stock market overall by 58 percent.
You think we failed in Afghanistan. From the perspective of the boards of directors of the nation’s biggest defense contractors, which are full of retired senior military officers, the Afghanistan War was a massive success. They made a “killing.”
The United States of American spent $2.6 trillion in Afghanistan. A massive proportion of that money went straight into the coffers of defense contractors who fundamentally don’t care whether we won or lost or ever even knew what we were doing. They will build you a runway on the dark side of the Moon for the right price.
The spending in Afghanistan was only a small piece of a broader “war on terror” effort. The U.S. military has spent over $14 trillion since 9/11. Half of that has gone to defense contractors.
The world’s largest defense contractors, of which the vast majority are American, and their hirelings have no intention of living without that kind of cash. They will find a way to continue the spending and maintain the giant “self-licking ice cream cone” that is the military-industrial complex.
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