Donald Trump would like to brag to the American people that he ended the war in Afghanistan—the longest-running war in US history. He has repeatedly said he wants all American troops out of Afghanistan before the November 3 elections. Such a pullout might provide an “October Surprise” to win over voters, especially the independents in swing states who will decide the election.
All of the many published accounts by ex-White House insiders agree that Trump sincerely wants to leave Afghanistan, but has been stymied by opposition from advisors and military leaders. The latest revelations to that effect came in ex-national security adviser John Bolton’s new book The Room Where It Happened, which recounts how on November 8, 2018 Trump lashed out at James “Mad Dog” Mattis: “I gave you what you asked for. Unlimited authority, no holds barred. You’re losing. You’re getting your ass kicked. You failed.”
Trump was referring to the uselessness of dropping MOABs (Massive Ordnance Air Blast, or mother of all bombs) on eastern Afghanistan. The American cowards pulverized large swathes of Afghanistan and killed untold numbers of innocent people by dropping MOABs from planes flying at a safe height. Such despicable actions underlined the pusillanimity of American airmen and drone operators—who don’t mind killing huge numbers of innocent brown-skinned people but are terrified of putting their own lilly-white rear ends in the line of fire—but had no tactical or strategic effect on the war. (Trump himself, a notorious physical coward, lied about a nonexistent bone spur on his foot to get out of serving in Vietnam, according to sources including Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen.)
Bolton’s book casts the so-called peace negotiations as a complete farce. According to Bolton, Trump called his own lead negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, a “con man,” while repeatedly confusing current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with ex-President Hamid Karzai. (Apparently all Afghans, maybe even all Muslims, look alike to Trump.)
But Bolton is not an impartial observer. He fiercely opposed negotiations with the Taliban, which he considered tantamount to admitting defeat. Bolton, who never met a war he didn’t like, apparently is perfectly happy with the bloody and futile status quo in Afghanistan. Perhaps he has invested in heroin trafficking there, which is the main reason—some say the only reason—the US continues to maintain a presence. (Indeed, the main reason the US-puppet “Afghan government” of druglords has been working overtime to sabotage the so-called peace negotiations, from which they were pointedly sidelined, is their desire to protect their dominant and extremely lucrative position in the heroin industry.)
Not only warmongering civilian advisors like Bolton, but also more experienced military leaders, have consistently pushed back against Trump’s insistence that he wants the US out of Afghanistan. As I wrote in this magazine almost two years ago: “Bob Woodward’s book Fear notes that both Tillerson’s ‘moron’ remark, and Mattis’s ‘sixth-grader’ assessment, were responses to Trump’s rejection of American imperialist exceptionalism at a January 19, 2018 National Security Council meeting in the Situation Room. That meeting had been arranged by deep-state denizens John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Tillerson, and Mattis for the specific purpose of brainwashing Trump into accepting their ‘we must police the world’ outlook. Trump belligerently refused. His final remark was, ‘We [have] spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. We can’t even muster $1 trillion for domestic infrastructure.’ Over and over, throughout Woodward’s book, we see Trump trying to pull US forces out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Korea… and his deep state aides panicking and sabotaging his efforts.”
Trump’s oft-stated desire to pull out of Afghanistan ahead of the November elections may be a major factor driving the chorus of current and former military leaders denouncing Trump for his handling of the Black Lives Matter protests. Former military and intelligence leaders James Mattis, John Kelly, John Allen, Mike Mullen, Richard Meyers, Martin Dempsey, William Perry, William McRaven, James Stavridis, Ramond Thomas, and Mike Hayden all spoke out against Trump’s clumsy and Constitutionally-dubious threats to send the military to fight protesters. Current leaders who explicitly or implicitly flouted Trump’s approach included Army Chief of Staff General James McConville, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday, Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein, National Guard Bureau Chief General Joseph Lengyel, and of course Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, who pointedly regretted his participation in Trump’s botched photo op during the height of the protests.
Are all of those military leaders sincere anti-racists? Some, perhaps…though if so, one wonders why they have been willing to participate in the post-9/11 holocaust of 27 million mostly brown-skinned Muslim people. In any case, Trump’s insistence on leaving Afghanistan and other “forever wars” may be the most important reason that the duly elected (more or less) US president has lost the confidence of top military brass. The good news is that by alienating the generals, Trump has made it harder for himself to pose as the heroic defender of law and order who will restore normalcy by cracking down on Black Lives Matter protests, and the riots and autonomous zones they and/or their infiltrators have spawned. The bad news is that Trump’s political weakness may prevent him from pulling out of Afghanistan. In a worst case scenario, if the US started melting down into widespread riots and near-civil-war, Trump could make a deal with the generals: I’ll let you stay in Afghanistan, and wherever else you like, if you support my crackdown. Such a deal with the devil, if it included such measures as postponing or canceling the election, could doom what is left of the American Republic, paving the way for the president to become a lifelong military dictator.
Such a scenario is not as farfetched as it seems. Throughout history, republics have morphed into imperial dictatorships almost overnight. Well known examples include Caesar’s famous crossing of the Rubicon in 49 BC, which effectively ended the 500-year-old Roman republic; Napoleon’s self-coronation as Emperor in 1804; and Hitler’s overthrow of the Weimar Republic via the false flag Reichstag Fire in 1933.
Though Trump fancies himself the equal of Caesar and Napoleon, and is said to favor Hitler’s speeches as bedtime reading, it seems unlikely that he will convince anyone but himself that he is the Great Man destined to lead America into a new era. But there is at least a chance he will go down in history as the president who finally got America out of Afghanistan, the proverbial graveyard of empires. A more likely possibility is that he will be seen as the president who couldn’t get out of Afghanistan, and who, through sheer incompetence compounded by repulsive narcissism, did more than any other to put the US empire in its well-deserved grave.