George Graham

Building Fortunes on the Bodies of the War Dead

“Oh, oh, now we’ll never get out of Afghanistan,” Sandra exclaimed as she read the headline in the newspaper this morning:


Our local paper is prone to this kind of quaint language. What the headline writer was trying to say was that someone had leaked a huge cache of secret U.S. military files, and they made the Afghan War look like a losing proposition.

You might think that Americans would read the sad story and demand immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. But you would be misjudging the American psyche. U.S. mythology is big on “winning.” Americans don’t “cut and run.”

It’s “cheer, cheer for the home team!”

“Remember the Alamo!”

“From the halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli…”

“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.”

And so on.

The leaked files make the home team look pretty shoddy.

Here’s how the UK Guardian describes it:

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US naval personnel captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

The war logs also detail:

• How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.

• How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.

• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

Notice how quickly President Obama’s name crops up? Obviously, it’s all his fault – despite the fact that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009. That’s the way things are for the president these days. Whatever goes wrong, or went wrong in the past, he gets the blame.

No one knows who leaked the files or why they picked this time to do it. It might have something to do with the fact that the House and Senate are working on a huge funding bill for the war. The legislation faced opposition from some Democrats who demanded a timetable for withdrawal. But they got nowhere.

Will the disclosure of the war’s pitiful progress help those who want America to stay in Afghanistan? Possibly.

So many people stand to gain by sending American (and Canadian, British, etc.) men and women to risk their lives in a remote hell hole. The military industrial complex. The crooks who cash in on the flood of defense dollars that slip between the cracks. Contractors who supply mercenaries and so much else to the troops. Politicians who rant about patriotism and America’s “special” status in the world. And, of course, the media.

War sells. It builds television and web audiences, and newspaper circulation. Peace is boring. And, of course, there’s the fact that media outlets are owned by corporations that profit – directly and indirectly – from the war.

It’s unlikely that the majority of Americans – or the media – will interpret the mess exposed by the leaked files as a compelling reason to get out of Afghanistan. They weren’t all that impressed by a recent Congressional study disclosing that the United States military is financing both sides of the war.

Here’s an excerpt from the ABC World News report:

The United States military is helping fund both sides of the war in Afghanistan, knowingly financing a mafia-like collection of warlords and some of the very insurgents American troops are battling, according to Afghan and American officials and a new Congressional study released today.

The military has turned to private trucking companies to transport the vast majority of materiel it needs to fight the war (photo above) – everything from bullets to Gatorade, gas to sandbags – and in turn, the companies are using American money to pay, among others, the Taliban to try to guarantee the trucks’ safe passage, the reports charge.

And I heard no public outcry when the Wall Street Journal revealed that more than $3 billion in cash has been openly flown out of Kabul International Airport in the past three years, “a sum so large that U.S. investigators believe top Afghan officials and their associates are sending billions of diverted U.S. aid and logistics dollars and drug money to financial safe havens abroad.”

Look, I could go on and on about this crazy “war,” but it wouldn’t do any good. There are too many axes to grind, too many pockets to line, too many agendas to advance.

As Sandra says, we’ll never get out of Afghanistan.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for