War in Afghanistan:

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“It’s clear that U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan are digging in for the long haul,” says journalist Mark MacKinnon. “The two main coalition military bases in the country are growing, not shrinking.”

Yet, it’s not clear what they’re digging in for.

The Pentagon says it’s engaged in mopping up operations.

So why do “the sounds of saws and hammers compete with the whirring helicopters overhead as U.S. engineers erect new offices for the officers and amenities for the rank and file”? If this is truly a mopping up operation, shouldn’t US troops be thinking of leaving, not settling in for the long haul?

Prior to Sept. 11, 60,000 US troops were engaged in operations in 100 countries. Add another country and thousands more troops. In for the long haul.

And don’t forget the other bases the Pentagon has established throughout Central Asia, the US military advisors that have recently been sent to the former Soviet Georgia, and to the Philippines.

And don’t forget Camp Bondsteel, the massive US military base in Kosovo. Three years after Yugoslav forces withdrew from the Serb province, three years after the KLA began its purge of Serbs, Roma and Jews, and with Yugoslavia now dismembered, Slobodan Milosevic in jail, and Serbia under the control of a Western-friendly, and largely US installed government, the US military has dug in. For what? Mopping up operations?

The ancient Roman Empire appointed proconsuls, military commanders, to rule the lands it had conquered. It’s no surprise that a country that has troops flung wide across the globe that have a habit of “digging in for the long haul” should have proconsuls itself, the name the Pentagon confers on US generals who head the US military commands Washington has carved the world into.

US proconsuls for places like Europe. And Asia.

MacKinnon says, “The Pentagon has told U.S. lawmakers that $12-billion has been spent on the “war on terrorism” since last December. Another $2-billion has been committed, and President George W. Bush has asked for another $14-billion to see the war through the end of its first year.”

That’s $28 billion for 2002 alone. What are these billions netting? Not Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

According to MacKinnon, “One major mission — Operation Torii…came to a close this week with no hostile contact.”

“Another, the British-led Operation Snipe, involving more than 1,000 troops, has been under way for more than a week. Total enemy encountered: zero al-Qaeda, zero Taliban.”

So who’s happy? Not the troops. “I can’t wait to get out of here,” one told MacKinnon.

But the Pentagon is happy. It’s getting bigger.

Military contractors are happy. Their bottom lines are getting fatter.

And oil and pipeline companies are happy. They’ll have access to a stable, US dominated, Central Asia, teaming with oil and natural gas.

As for US taxpayers, $28 billion of their own money is about to be spent making the military and the industry that gets fat off it, fatter still.

Capitalist bandits, or ancient Rome redivivus? Or both?

In 1919 Joseph Schumpteter described ancient Rome in a way that sounds eerily like the United States in 2002.

“There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome’s allies; and if Rome had no allies, the allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest — why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbours…The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies, it was manifestly Rome’s duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs.”

Ring any bells?

“There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack.” Is there any known corner of the world the United States does not claim to have a vital strategic interest in, which it must aggressively safeguard?

“Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbours.” And the United States, Washington assures us, is always under threat from evil-minded countries. Today, the threat is said to come from “the axis of evil.”

As in ancient Rome, it’s a fraud, a hobgoblin to menace the population into supporting more money for more wars of conquest.

Smedley Butler, a US Marine General, said of war, “The nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few é the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.”

This year, the general public could shoulder a $28 billion bill for Afghanistan alone.

Butler, who retired in 1931, said war is a racket. That sounds eerily up-to-date

Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.

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