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Much of America's Wealth, Honor and Respect - Lies Buried in the "Graveyard of Empires"

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The war-weary people of America watch as the war in Afghanistan slowly winds down, heading toward a complete withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops by the end of 2014, hopefully sooner. One might say that in 2001, when the U.S. invaded and occupied that nation, an irresistible force, America, met an immovable object, Afghanistan. And now the irresistible force is trying to figure out how it can extricate itself from that graveyard of empires with some degree of honor and respect in this world.

The invasion and occupation by a foreign military power are certainly nothing new to the Afghan people; many military empires have, over centuries, tried to subdue and pacify that country and its people. And every one from Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., followed by the Mongols, the British on two separate occasions, and the Russians in the 1980's, was defeated and expelled; and now it is America's turn.

After more than ten years America's plans to establish a strong military presence in resource-rich Central Asia have been met with a giant obstacle. History quite likely will record the first decade of the 21st century as the point at which America took a sharp turn in a direction leading to nowhere, onto an endless one way street.   The U.S. government, with the Bush/Cheney administration calling the shots, made the grievous mistake of invading and occupying Afghanistan and now America will have to pay the price for these reckless, misguided actions.

At that time, when this nation badly needed the best and the brightest to lead it into the future, they had been had become so disillusioned and frustrated that they wanted no part of government service. Instead America had the terrible misfortune to watch as the Republican-controlled Supreme Court selected G.W. Bush as its hand-picked president. And, from that point on, this country has never been the same. It did not take long for the Bush/Cheney administration and its associated war hawks to launch an attack on Afghanistan; little did they know, at the time, that they were purchasing a plot in its graveyard of empires.

On the subject of war, former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, could not have said it any better. As he approached his retirement, he said that "any American leader who would again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined." Amen and amen; those words of wisdom should be carved into the façade of the White House and the U.S. Congress so the leaders of this nation will never, ever forget the bitter lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But even before the withdrawal of U.S. troops can gather momentum the situation in Afghanistan continues to rapidly deteriorate. America is spending many billions of dollars to train as many as 200,000 Afghans to take over the security of that nation; U.S. troops have been training many of these Afghans who, when they see the opportunity, will turn on their mentors when it is least expected and exact their revenge in bloody acts of retribution. And, as we have seen recently, such acts of revenge are becoming all too common as both U.S. and NATO troops continue to be killed by supposedly friendly Afghan personnel.

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This is no longer just a war between two opposing forces in that barren country. It has now turned into an ongoing stream of atrocities. The incident of an American sergeant killing 17 Afghan civilians is just the latest of many such tragedies. And the acts of revenge committed by Afghans are also escalating. As the number of U.S. troops significantly declines, those still remaining in that country will come under more and more attacks which will not stop until the withdrawal is concluded.

For America, after failing to subdue and pacify its designated enemies in wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, none of which should have been fought, this government may have finally learned a painful lesson. If they finally have they should know that it's time to stop trying to dominate regions of the world by military force; it has not worked and it will not work. This government should realize that every major empire in history has ruled over nations of the world over a period of time and then its reign came to an end. America's military empire has lasted from the end of World War II into the beginning of the 21st century and now it is coming to an end. All empires end, and so shall America's.

There are two overriding reasons why America, when it finally leaves Afghanistan, should completely overhaul and transform its military policies and objectives. The amount of its national treasure that has been buried in the graveyard of empires, Afghanistan, as well as in the war in Iraq and military operations in Pakistan is absolutely staggering. Check out this article by Bill Moyers which reports on a research project carried out by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies that involved more than 20 economists, political scientists, lawyers, anthropologists and humanitarian personnel.

The stats are more than shocking and the question for all of us is this: were these military actions worth the loss of 224,475 lives, 365,383 wounded, 7,815,000 refugees and internally displaced people, and a cost to the U.S. taxpayer that will reach at least $3.7 trillion and could be as high as $4.4 trillion by the time that the U.S. ends its occupation of Afghanistan? I have one answer to that question and it is hell no!

In addition to those monumental costs, a large portion of which is obtained through governmental borrowing, there is another reason why America should begin the process of dismantling its world wide empire. While it is rarely if ever discussed in the national media, America's endless wars and its military outreach across all the regions of the world are generating more and more enemies while, at the same time, causing many other nations to begin to band together to distance themselves from America at every opportunity. China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran and other countries have been forming strategic trading alliances that use their own currencies to the exclusion of the dollar.

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America keeps arriving at the same fork in the road and continues going in the wrong direction. It needs to decide, as it goes into the future, what it really wants to be. It can continue to try to dominate the world with its military power which, in the longer run, will take it to the point of financial collapse. Or it can face reality and accept the fact that the days of empire are over and move on to the huge task of rebuilding the foundations of our country.

To expedite this process, America must conclude a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving no troops behind; a withdrawal with no conditions attached. Next, this president must make it very clear to Israel that the constant drumbeat to go to war against Iran will be replaced by the U.S. taking the lead role in diplomatic negotiations designed to cool down and resolve the issues between all parties. He should also tell Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu that the continued oppression of the people of Palestine must stop and peace negotiations leading to a two-state solution must be initiated.  

This could be a brilliant opportunity for this nation to look deeply within and cleanse itself of the scourge of war and empire. It's an opportunity that this nation must seize, a pivotal time in American history, one that if not taken may never come our way again.

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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense (more...)

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