Chris Hedges Forever Wars Original

Hedges: The Collective Suicide Machine and the Fall of Kabul

The return of the Taliban to power will be one more signpost of the end of the American empire — and nobody will be held accountable.
Original illustration by Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

The debacle in Afghanistan, which will unravel into chaos with lightning speed over the next few weeks and ensure the return of the Taliban to power, is one more signpost of the end of the American empire. The two decades of combat, the one trillion dollars we spent, the 100,000 troops deployed to subdue Afghanistan, the high-tech gadgets, artificial intelligence, cyberwarfare, Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs and the Global Hawk drones with high-resolution cameras, Special Operations Command composed of elite rangers, SEALs and air commandos, black sites, torture, electronic surveillance, satellites, attack aircraft, mercenary armies, infusions of millions of dollars to buy off and bribe the local elites and train an Afghan army of 350,000 that has never exhibited the will to fight, failed to defeat a guerrilla army of 60,000 that funded itself through opium production and extortion in one of the poorest countries on earth. 

Like any empire in terminal decay, no one will be held accountable for the debacle or for the other debacles in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen or anywhere else. Not the generals. Not the politicians. Not the CIA and intelligence agencies. Not the diplomats. Not the obsequious courtiers in the press who serve as cheerleaders for war. Not the compliant academics and area specialists. Not the defense industry. Empires at the end are collective suicide machines. The military becomes in late empire unmanageable, unaccountable, and endlessly self-perpetuating, no matter how many fiascos, blunders and defeats it visits upon the carcass of the nation, or how much money it plunders, impoverishing the citizenry and leaving governing institutions and the physical infrastructure decayed. 

The human tragedy — at least 801,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan and 37 million have been displaced in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria according to The Watson Institute at Brown University — is reduced to a neglected footnote. 

Nearly all the roughly 70 empires during the last four thousand years, including the Greek, Roman, Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, imperial German, imperial Japanese, British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Soviet empires, collapsed in the same orgy of military folly. The Roman Republic, at its height, only lasted two centuries. We are set to disintegrate in roughly the same time. This is why, at the start of World War I in Germany, Karl Liebknecht called the German military, which imprisoned and later assassinated him, “the enemy from within.”

Mark Twain, who was a fierce opponent of the efforts to plant the seeds of empire in Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, wrote an imagined history of America in the twentieth-century where its “lust for conquest” had destroyed “the Great Republic…[because] trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake.” 

Twain knew that foreign occupations, designed to enrich the ruling elites, use occupied populations as laboratory rats to perfect techniques of control that soon migrate back to the homeland. It was the brutal colonial policing practices in the Philippines, which included a vast spy network along with routine beatings, torture, and executions, which became the model for centralized domestic policing and intelligence gathering in the United States. Israeli’s arms, surveillance and drone  industries test their products on the Palestinians.

It is one of the dark ironies that it was the American empire, led by Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, which spawned the mess in Afghanistan. Brzezinski oversaw a multibillion-dollar CIA covert operation to arm, train and equip the Taliban to fight the Soviets. This clandestine effort sidelined the secular, democratic opposition and assured the ascendancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan, along with the spread of its radical Islam into Soviet Central Asia, once Soviet forces withdrew. The American empire would, years later, find itself desperately trying to destroy its own creation. In April 2017, in a classic example of this kind of absurd blowback, the United States dropped the “mother of all bombs” — the most powerful conventional bomb in the American arsenal — on an Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan that the CIA had invested millions in building and fortifying.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were not an existential threat to the United States. They were not politically significant. They did not disrupt the balance of global power. They were not an act of war. They were acts of nihilistic terror. 

The only way to fight terrorists is to isolate them within their own societies. I was in the Middle East for The New York Times after the attacks. Most of the Muslim world was appalled and revolted at the crimes against humanity that had been carried out in the name of Islam. If we had the courage to be vulnerable, to grasp that this was an intelligence war, not a conventional war, we would be far safer and secure today. These wars in the shadows, as the Israelis illustrated when they tracked down the assassins of their athletes in the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, take months, even years of work. 

But the attacks gave the ruling elites, lusting for control of the Middle East, especially Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks, the excuse to carry out the greatest strategic blunder in American history — the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war, including then Senator Joe Biden, knew little about the countries being invaded, did not grasp the limits of industrial and technocratic war or the inevitable blowback that would see the United States reviled throughout the Muslim world. They believed they could implant client regimes by force throughout the region, use the oil revenues in Iraq, since the war in Afghanistan would be over in a matter of weeks, to cover the cost of reconstruction and magically restore American global hegemony. It did the opposite. 

Invading Iraq and Afghanistan, dropping iron fragmentation bombs on villages and towns, kidnapping, torturing and imprisoning tens of thousands of people, using drones to sow terror from the skies, resurrected the discredited radical jihadists and was a potent recruiting tool in the fight against U.S. and NATO forces. We were the best thing that ever happened to the Taliban and al Qaeda. 

There was little objection within the power structures to these invasions. The congressional vote was 518 to one in favor of empowering President George W. Bush to launch a war, Rep. Barbara Lee being the lone dissenter. Those of us who spoke out against the idiocy of the looming bloodlust were slandered, denied media platforms, and cast into the wilderness, where most of us remain. Those who sold us the war kept their megaphones, a reward for their service to empire and the military-industrial complex. It did not matter how cynical or foolish they were.

Historians call the self-defeating military adventurism of late empires “micro-militarism.” During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) the Athenians invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain attacked Egypt in 1956 in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and was humiliated when it had to withdraw its forces, bolstering the status of Arab nationalists such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. 

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” the historian Alfred McCoy writes “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.” “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

The death blow to the American empire will, as McCoy writes, be the loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This loss will plunge the United States into a crippling, and prolonged depression. It will force a massive contraction of the global military footprint.

The ugly, squalid face of empire, with the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency, will become familiar at home. The bleak economic landscape, with its decay and hopelessness, will accelerate an array of violent and self-destructive pathologies including mass shootings, hate crimes, opioid and heroin overdoses, morbid obesity, suicides, gambling, and alcoholism. The state will increasingly dispense with the fiction of the rule of law to rely exclusively on militarized police, essentially internal armies of occupation, and the prisons and jails, which already hold 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States represents less than 5 percent of global population. 

Our demise will probably come more swiftly than we imagine. When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, empires become “brittle.” An economy heavily dependent on massive government subsidies to produce primarily weapons and munitions, as well as fund military adventurism, will go into a tailspin with a heavily depreciated dollar, falling to perhaps a third of its former value. Prices will dramatically rise because of the steep increase in the cost of imports. Wages in real terms will decline. The devaluation of Treasury bonds will make paying for our massive deficits onerous, perhaps impossible. The unemployment level will climb to depression era levels. Social assistance programs, because of a contracting budget, will be sharply curtailed or eliminated. This dystopian world will fuel the rage and hyper nationalism that put Donald Trump in the White House. It will spawn an authoritarian state to keep order and, I expect, a Christianized fascism. 

The tools of control on the outer reaches of empire, already part of our existence, will become ubiquitous. The wholesale surveillance, the abolition of basic civil liberties, militarized police authorized to use indiscriminate lethal force, the use of drones and satellites to keep us monitored and fearful, along with the censorship of the press and social media, familiar to Iraqis or Afghans, will define America. We are not the first empire to suffer this fate. It is a familiar ending. Imperialism and militarism are poisons that eradicate the separation of powers, designed to prevent tyranny, and extinguish democracy. If those who orchestrated these crimes are not held accountable, and this means organizing sustained mass resistance, we will pay the price, and we may pay it soon, for their hubris and greed. 

[Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost. Click here to sign up for email alerts.]

Chris Hedges
Chris HedgesChris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

Copyright 2021 Chris Hedges


  1. Thank you once again, Chris Hedges, for this dose of very strong medicine, so imperative at this time of multiple crises. Please also write an article addressing the “Roman circus” presented by Bezos, Musk & Branson with their outrageous egomania, greed, harm to the environment as they attempt to divert attention from our world in turmoil.

    1. So true; Chris Hedges does not mince words! I’d also like to hear Chris’ take on Bezos, Musk, Branson – and other rich, egomaniacal fools that seem to have captured the attention and rapture of the masses.

    2. I for one am sick and tired of people going on about how hopeless our situation is while ignoring the source of the problem, the global monetary system, a human innovation for distributing the wealth in the human economy that has been privatized for profit and kept from the people. Instead it is used to enslave the people as it destroys the world. If we want to clean up this mess we first have to turn off the faucet. TIME TO FOCUS ON THE SYSTEM!

    3. Nicely describe as “dose of very strong medicine” but I am not sure will it fight chronic disease of military imperialism or not which is spearing like Covid-19 in many Asian , African and Latin American countries like Burma and Pakistan.

  2. You always get it right, Chris. To put a spin on what God said to Jesus, “This is My beloved son, hear ye Him”! As one crying in the wilderness.

    1. His analysis is almost right.
      He says the US gave the Taliban a huge boost in their recruitment by their actions. This follows the belief the West has that the Taliban started off as an army looking for recruits to fight the West.
      When the Western coalition invaded Afghanistan for no reason and over-threw their government, besides causing untold misery, instead of rolling over the Taliban fought back.
      This portrayal of the Taliban as savages is typical demonisation.
      They may wear simple clothes and have beards according to sunnah, but there are thousands of highly educated professionals, doctors, engineers, scientists, teachers, clerics, all defending their way of life as their religion teaches.
      This is missing in every Western commentary.

      1. That’s part of the problem : American arrogance and ignorance of other people’s cultures.They just go and carpet bomb.
        It started with the native Indians ,the Slavery ,the Mexican Invasions,the Philippines ,Central America ….Then came the terrible defeat in Vietnam.That wasn’t enough and was followed by Somalia, Afghanistan,Irak, Libya,Syria.All defeats.
        Israel will definitely wage a new war and America will be called to finish it at its expensive by another humiliation.

  3. Chris Hedge’s comments on our past, present, and future are dismaying, although undoubtedly accurate. He did get one bit wrong about 1980s Afghanistan–the Taliban did not exist then. I don’t know about “democratic secular opposition” in Afghanistan that the CIA co-opted by funding the mujahideen, but Kabul was definitely undergoing a progressive modernization which was opposed by religious traditionalists that the CIA juiced.

    1. Not a lot of “Christian” fascists involved in Afghanistan, the CIA, Osama bin Laden, the think tanks, nor the State Department in the whole fiasco, nominal nor otherwise. They are Hedges’ bogeymen.
      Afghanistan was a secular, Westernized BUT Soviet satellite (like their neighbors) in the ’60s and ’70s; women and girls had schooling and job opportunities. But the Carter administration couldn’t have that, and the US was intent of destroying that world and replacing it with Wahhabi Sunni fundamentalists. “Mission accomplished”. 40 years later no one even knows where all that money went.

      1. The two Mike’s – Pompeo and Pence – could be characterized as Christian fascists and, between the two of them, have thus far occupied upper-tier positions in the C.I.A., State Department, and Oval Office. As phantasma of Hedge’s imagination they’ve done well for themselves – and they are a sinister lot, as the recent and thankfully quashed coup in Bolivia illustrates.

  4. Biden & co. were in possession of extensive knowledge of Afghanistan & Iraq when they gave Bush & co the green light to invade. Then, as now the Power that was wagging the dog was the zionazi neocons … cheered on by the nat’l sec. establishment eager test their wares, and, of course, the merchants of death.

    1. A comment that hijacks history for unrelated rhetorical points.
      We went into Afghanistan with national- and international- support after 9/11.
      You should remember the events of 9/11 and remember as well the role of the Taliban in shielding OBL. The reasons for invasion were sound, the reasons for staying were deeply flawed.

      1. Rob,
        This comment is late. But you are incorrect about the US’s “sound invasion” reasons. The Taliban offered Bin Laden to the US, Bush refused. You can google this information. The Guardian wrote an article about it, as did CNN, the Washington Post, and more. Maybe having complete information would help you in your future assessments of the US’s so-called “valid reasons.”

      2. “The only way to fight terrorists is to isolate them within their own societies. I was in the Middle East for The New York Times after the attacks. Most of the Muslim world was appalled and revolted at the crimes against humanity that had been carried out in the name of Islam. If we had the courage to be vulnerable, to grasp that this was an intelligence war, not a conventional war, we would be far safer and secure today. These wars in the shadows, as the Israelis illustrated when they tracked down the assassins of their athletes in the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, take months, even years of work. ” – Hedges

        @ Rob Goodell: The invasion was not sound, and could’ve been handled differently. See above.

      3. Neither the Taliban nor the people of Afghanistan were responsible for 9/11. Chomsky said it best – 9/11 was a crime, requiring a criminal justice solution, not a war. Bombing Afghanistan back to the stone age was never going to accomplish any worthwhile objective, only the objective is was actually designed to meet – perpetuation of the corrupt empire and war machinery that sustains it.

  5. Thank you for your work. I always search for your essays and look forward to listening to you on YouTube. Do you have any suggestions outsiders could do to help? I am a Canadian living a short drive from the Canada/ US border. Your insight is much appreciated.
    PS. I’m a great Dostoyevsky admirer like you.

  6. “…failed to defeat a guerrilla army of 60,000 that funded itself through opium production and extortion in one of the poorest countries on earth.”

    Dear Chris,

    That’s Earth with a Capital “E” !

    You know, like Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

    1. You found this necessary to point out ? Want a pat on the back ? Please.

  7. Thank you, Mr. Hedges. Your voice of truth has been a source of comfort to many people like me who feel constantly disoriented and off-balance from the continuous gaslighting from the corporate media.
    The truth in front of us is very ugly, but paradoxically, it isn’t anywhere nearly as painful as walking around in a state of delusion about our empire.
    I pray that people will wake up to the myriad disasters that urgently need to be addressed, but if your voice never penetrates through to the mainstream, your work as a source of comfort to the heartbroken is deeply appreciated.

  8. Thank you for saying in one clear essay the whole Decline and Fall. I wish I knew how to turn the Titanic, but the hull is already lacerated.

  9. Dear Chris Hedges, as I can say with the familiarity born of having bought several of your books now, I think you need to start a political party named The American Government in Exile.
    For this you may need to design a new government for America. I suggest hypothecating taxes, where everyone selects what proportions of their taxes should be spent on a menu of competing needs, this then aggregated to national level, should level out some characterological flaws in the national psyche, admittedly still leaving the questions of how much tax to raise and of where to put the computer for the counting of the percentages. But this question is not beyond your great brain. In Norway, traffic violation fines apparently vary in value with income; this kind of approach also needs to be implemented.
    It will be an internal exile for a while, until you get very popular, after which you can flee and stay like a modern day Bonnie Prince Charlie in relative metadata poverty with your many friends around the world, plotting your return. It worked for Khomeini; what’s not to like?

  10. Chris Hedges is a great journalist/public speaker and I’m 100% sympathetic with his angry condemnation of America’s decades-long hypocrisy. The USA propagandizes itself as the good guys – democratic, moral, land of the free, brave, noble, etc – where in reality the US is the latest in a long history of violent hegemons, exploiting its military-economic power at home and abroad to enrich a lineage ruling class. What I don’t see in such clear, hopeful terms as CH is his certainty of the impending breakdown of American hegemony. The caricature of the past few thousand years of empires rising and falling is also ahistorical, misleading.

    It feels like these articles are more about keeping the anti-empire brand alive than anything like new insight. Wishful thinking at best.

  11. Chris:

    My understanding is one of the main reasons the US military is active in so many countries, is not just for resources like oil, but to ensure local dictators use the US dollar for their reserves. I remember reading that Muammar Gaddafi wanted a Pan African currency, and this was part of the reason for overthrowing Libya.

    I’ve also read that during the 2008 housing crisis, many investors moved into the US dollar, rather than away from it. The US, however imperfect, is seen as too big to fail by much of the world. If China can create alternative exchanges, perhaps over time they could eclipse the US as the international currency. However, China owns so much US debt, and wants to keep its exports cheap, so they don’t want a sharp drop in the US dollar, either.

    It does make a twisted kind of sense that the US would be saber-rattling at China, trying to get them to slow down their plans to create alternatives to US commodities exchanges. I would appreciate anyone really knowledgeable at finance to confirm or explain this in better detail. Could Scheerpost do an article about the future of the US dollar with an economist like Michael Hudson?

    1. Excellent point. I’ve observed that every time the leader of another country discusses moving to another currency (even the Euro) he’s demonized, labeled a “dictator” and a “terrorist”, sanctioned, and often assassinated. I don’t think the world will ever “drop the US Dollar as the reserve currency” because the US dollar is “backed” by the guarantee of a US military “intervention”.

      1. After the second world war the United States was able to assist Germany and Japan in rebuilding their infrastructure and economies; benefiting the American economy. Now the U.S. simply destroys countries like Libya that show a glimmer of intention to be independent of the hegemony of the world’s reserve currency ( do the open-air slave markets use American dollars? ) I’m no economist, but it seems unlikely that with internal economic collapse the U.S. dollar can forever be foisted upon the world at the end of a gun. When our allies stop returning our calls it will be over.

      2. Dollar days are numbered with the massive money printing and piling of national debt.In 10-15 years the Yuan will reach parity with dollar, then overtake it.
        China has no external debt ,has $ 3 trillions reserves ,its defense budget is 1/3 of Pentagon’s.All Afghan mineral resources will fall in Silk Road initiative.

  12. I wish that the caustic precision with which Mark Twain disected empire and foretold it’s ghastly death throws was a fiction. I wish Chris Hedge’s dystopian vision of a near- future United States was hysterical rubbish – which, no doubt, mainstream media
    stenographers would obediently deem it to be.
    But the American empire – the American people – at this stage can only expect palliative care; the disease is too advanced. A neoliberal mediocrity with a “D” after his name is not going to F.D.R. us out of this.

  13. The truth of this analysis can already be seen domestically. The need to cover deep feelings of helplessness and fear with public displays of pretend personal might by camo wearing mini saber rattlers. No one secure in their own sense of worth would bother. The 1%ers benefit from this behavior, encouraged by the Rs. It’s not the trickle-up econ system and Ike’s famous military-industrial complex; it’s The Government. And Those Others who got what you should have had. The RW, that dank combo of empire politics and unholy religion, “market” themselves like any other disgusting product. Able to make it all better…if you ignore the nasty side effects and believe hard enough.

    The 20%er upper middle class administrators benefit, too. Revolting peasants, with their declasse appearance and crude behavior, “prove” that working class people are to blame and therefore deserve nothing. Which is what they’ve gotten from the D neolibs for 30 years. A viewpoint reinforced by smug liberal media, who somehow fail to mention how the suburbanites D centrists have been trying to woo during that same 30 years are the actual Trump cadres. And fail to mention that their cheerleading for morally reprehensible and grotesquely expensive wars, along with their not at all benign neglect of domestic needs, have proven the bloodless wonks wrong. Worse yet, this American Vichy, while ensuring that their own lives remain comfortable, enabled the domestic and overseas would-be empire builders.

    Blow-back it is. Not only as political redound, but physically–nation and world awash on one side and afire on the other.

    1. Corporate money controlling the media Congrèss,the electoral process . Israeli lobby (Wolfowitz,Feith,Abrams , Lieberman,Adel man ….)got its wishes in Irak and wants to start a major war with Iran and American boys and girls will be called to finish this adventure that will seal the end of the Empire and that of the Colonial Apartheid entity in Palestine.

  14. The current form of corporate contaminated, entrenched, bureaucratic, hierarchical government is causing destruction on multiple fronts and it continues to sanction killing. And not just humans. I recently went to the APHIS Wildlife Services website and discovered that in 2020 this agency killed 1,508,896 birds and mammals in the U.S. Species like morning doves (26,173), cliff swallows (2,537), killdeer plovers (3,560), American beavers (25,400) and even 3 endangered trumpeter swans. This is just the tip of the ice berg. Killing for dollars is the metaphor rationalized by some foggy benefit to society. Yeah, sure. We all know how dangerous plovers and swallows can be. It is hypocrisy on steroids.

    The governments current thinking may be wrapped in different’ packaging material’ but it still the same type thinking that caused the problems in the first place. The populous better get its act together to take back its government or the whole planet will be toast.

  15. We need to reduce the huge amounts of money wasted by what is one of worlds biggest militaries and we need to start investing into a huge program to control and reverse aging as basic research in this field is actually mostly in the US universities and industry like google’s big longevity research program. A great deal of basic research world wide is funded by the US’s war machine. For all the thousands of billions of dollars spent in the last 40 years on many wars and the money that is spent on new war technology and new missles, planes, subs, cruise missles, satellites, new prototype combat laser, microwave systems, new material sciences, new quantum computer science, new biotechnology repair tech etc.

    If you want to create, not bombs, but new aging repair technology, then those countries that do will make many times the profits of the computer and the internet revolutions. So, would you rather blow up other people in other countries or would you sell them the technology to fix themselves. Good sites for information on the exploding field of longevity research you could check out sites like https::// the mprize and any videos of Aubrey de Grey (he has been on the show 60 min years ago), next year there is going to be a big conference in Berlin on longevity advances.

    1. Great article. But why mention the Soviet Empire and not mention the Russian Empire before it? The tsar had an empire too … And that empire collapsed largely due to its participation in World War I and the ensuing revolution that sparked in its own land.

      Don’t think you can definitively say the Soviet Empire collapsed in a blaze of military adventurism. First of all, Russia got involved in Afghanistan because the US goaded it into doing that. Afghanistan bordered on the Soviet Union and the US goaded them into war there. Secondly, there was another huge factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union — namely, that the West was imposing sanctions, etc., much as they are doing against Russia today. You cannot look at one country in isolation from everything else going on in the world.

      Still, I admire Chris for writing his truth and making people think about all these issues. He is a very good man and his articles provide much food for thought. And force people to look at the relationship of forces in the world.

      1. Russia Afghan invasion plus Reagan Starwars and 50% defense budget increase ,sanctions imposed to let 1million Russians emigrate to Palestine, gerontocracy,very bad demographics (Vodka and infant mortality).

  16. The scene is set.
    Paramilitary police.
    Patriot Act.
    Three hundred million guns.
    Social media censorship.
    Covid laws and restrictions.
    Increasing climate catastrophes.
    But wait _ _ _ _ when it hits the fan where will the money go?
    To safe havens offshore of course, and that will only increase the chaos.
    If they made a movie about this people would scoff.

  17. Chris you’re right 9/11 was an act of “nihilistic terror”, but it was also simply speaking a crime. For a moment, before plunging into war in Afghanistan, America had the opportunity of taking and retaining the moral high ground, by announcing that it would seek international help to legally bring to justice the perpetrators of the crime using existing means, not warfare.

    By doing this America would shown its moral and political maturity and superiority. But of course Bush Jr would have been incapable of persuading and holding back American outrage at the time, even if he had wanted to do so.

    Whole situation of course wasn’t helped by the fact that America has always refused to sign up to the International Court in the Hague; a very obviously imperial stand to take, over against the rest of the world. But then, as you say, imperialists always understand themselves to be superior.

    1. “always refused to sign up to the International Court in the Hague”

      Is this a joke ? The US elites are so chalk a block full of dastardly war criminals and profiteers, active and retired, starting with Kissinger and on and on, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc, the International Court would literally be overwhelmed. But then again war criminals by definition only exist on the losing side.
      Also Exxon and other oil company corporate executives have committed such monstrous unpardonable crimes against humanity (that the above pales in comparison) and should, if there were any justice in the world, be dragged into the ICC and put on trial as they are on par with mass murderers and genocidal war criminals for willfully suppressing dire and alarming warnings from their own scientists since the 80s then to add insult to injury spending 100s of millions pushing the opposite. But then again the US shielded, protected and co-opted the most monstrous genocidal war criminals like Japanese biological warfare perps who got a kick out of performing live human vivesections, jaw dropping reading: “Pardoning Devils: The American Cover Up of Imperial Japanese Unit 731 By Ian Schneier, as well as feeding, nurturing and “rehabilitating” hundreds of Nazi war criminals, like von Braun, Klaus Barbie and countless others, thinking it is just fine and dandy to work along side Nazi murderers, sadists and genocidal monsters and to reward and elevate them as the US has done (look up operation “Paper Clip” if you have never heard of it) to our everlasting shame.).

  18. 1. Chris, you always do great work. Much appreciated.

    2. Britain, Italy, France, Holland, etc. are all to this day in existence and much more democratic, peaceful and humane societies. While the end of empire is unlikely to be a pleasant experience, perhaps it is a necessary phase in our education and evolution. You know, in order to advance to Humanity 201 you first need to graduate from Empire 101.

    3. I’m in total agreement with the ‘we reap what we sow’ argument; however, I would submit that we still have the power to change course. Unfortunately, it requires people to stop voting for the same old same old, but that’s scary, and we are a very scared society.

  19. The problem with Afghanistan historically — and its a problem for the wet but life for Afghanis — is that the people don’t give a shit about what kind of nation outsiders want Afghanistan to be. This has been so for centuries. More recently, what America wants has no resonance for the people of the nation.
    The closest thing to a legitimate reason for our invasion — and it’s an insufficient reason — was to rid Afghanistan from anti-west terrorists. Given that said terrorists are also located in western Pakistan, allegedly with the Pakistani government’s support, and our state’s basically doing nothing much about is a huge tell that our Afghan adventure is bullshit. (This, of course, elides whether the concern re terrorists is even legitimate or, well, a concern such as to require an invasion and military commitment nor the military-industrial complexes need to show off their wares for business purposes.)

    1. (In reply to Hart Liss) The Pakistani military & secret service was supported and funded by the US for decades so that it would be a bulwark against socialist India in 1960’s to the 1980’s. The funding for the Taliban went through Pakistan.

    2. Don’t forget, Afghanistan has vast mineral resources: “trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves..previously unknown deposits including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium…An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium”.

      Besidess sheer rapaciousness, the main excuse for the 20 year long Afghan fiasco is to provide an obscene excuse for the US to continue spending ever greater vast sums of money on the military-industrial complex while the US is hollowed out from the inside (crumbling infrastructure, rapidly deteriorating standard of living etc…). Guess we need to keep spending to replace the vast amount of military hardware we bequeathed to the Taliban (the current Afghan government were just temporary caretakers of this huge bounty till the Taliban could take possession). We seem to have an uncanny talent for arming our enemies against us as happened in Iraq as well….

  20. A wonderful and insightful article. Wish more people would read it and understand it. Pity, few will even care. Apathy is part of the problem

  21. “If those who orchestrated these crimes are not held accountable, and this means organizing sustained mass resistance, we will pay the price, and we may pay it soon, for their hubris and greed. ”

    True. So, what are we going to do about it? It appears to me that so many writers are restating the obvious over and over and over again, but no one suggests “HOW”.

    The efforts I’ve taken in the past to organize, amounted to nothing. The organizations I’ve supported often turned into scams run by the kind of Oligarch (or toady) that Hedges is warning us against. Does America need its own Castro, its own Chavez, its own Ghandi to motivate us to rebel? And if we do rebel will we, as a nation, end up as impotent and victimized as the nations these leaders tried to “free” did?

  22. Old wine for new wars. I remember proverbial refrains on the debacles of war from when ‘we’ ‘lost’ the war in Vietnam (and Southeast Asia). I’m sure all those in that part of the Third World War then and since suffering upon wastelands of ‘peace’ might have some grounds for doubting ‘they’ ‘won’.

    This exercise in opinion making echoes the kind of boilerplate which professional class critics get paid for, managing dissent for the sake of consent to larger lies of empire. Like how all those means of waging war, apparently in vain when it comes to ‘defeating’ the ‘enemy’, are enriching and empowering the MIC and corporate state. Or how ‘withdrawal’ can mean no more than change of strategy, replacing conventional troops with private mercenaries and special ops within a fuller spectrum of dominance from the sky and space.

    The terrorism tropes would have us subscribe to the official conspiracy theory of 9/11 promoted by the War on (of) Terror’s beneficiaries, rather than the coup they hid in plain sight with such mind control narrative as to persuade people to deny both common sense and the laws of physics. All prelude to the global coup now rolling out under cover of a false flag flu, to which this propagandist would also have us subscribe.

    ‘We the people’ – over there as well as here – are always the real losers of wars, declared by and fought for our real enemies, the ruling elites and social systems of class war constantly waged against us. That’s the war we need to fight, now more than ever as the empire strikes back against us with a coup de grace to consign us to depopulation and digital dictatorship. If Twain were alive today, he’d say rumors of the death of empire are greatly exaggerated.

  23. Chris Hedges and Alfred McCoy are very good guys but what they don’t know about economics would fill a book. Not surprising in a world with decades of increasing economic ignorance and most “mainstream” “economists” spreading negative knowledge, since the fall of the [far superior] Keynesian consensus 50 years ago. The US is not in danger of losing reserve currency status. It may slowly dissipate, but that is a drawn-out process. The Second World War made the pound’s decline inevitable, and de facto the dollar was the reserve currency by the end of the war, but the pound, not the dollar was the most widely held currency, the reserve currency by some definitions, until the 1960s.

    The dollar’s strength is not backed by our insane foreign / military interventions, but diminished by it. It’s tough news to break to people, but the US economy is not going to collapse. The only real threats are things like the pandemic – which is being surmounted, and longer term, climate change. Real things, not financial, social things. And they aren’t threats to the US in particular. What backs the US dollar is our willingness to let others use it as a reserve currency, a very long history of maintaining its value and behind that, the great productive capacity of the US economy and its workers.

    Anyone who forecasts drastic inflation or depreciation of the US dollar – is a fool who like such fools over the past decades would quickly lose their money if they put it where their mouth is. McCoy & Hedges just repeat thoughtless, popular illusions that much of the Left laps up because they fits in with childish apocalyptic ideology. It ain’t that simple.

    1. Evidently, you haven’t been paying attention. The dollar is dead. In fact, it was intentionally killed. In the process, there has been a massive transfer of wealth upwards over the last few years. Perhaps you’ve read about it.

      Viruses do not destroy economies, unless enabled to do so. In this case, it was an orchestration. Never let a good disaster go to waste, remember!? The middle class has been hollowed out. Except for the ruling elites, we are fast becoming a classless society. Totalitarian systems require it.

      Totalitarian systems also require mechanisms of control. A digital currency will provide that. Much has been reported on it.

      Such a change requires sufficient cover. An economic collapse of some sort would provide that. Shock therapy, remember!?

      I suspect that Hedges knows some of this, but prefers a more historical context. In addition, to do so would require an acknowledgement of the great fraud of the so-called Pandemic, something the left seems unable to do.

  24. There are many questions concerning 9/11, such as WTC7 Building which, according to the University of Alaska did not come down due to a pathetic “office fire”. WTC7 building is not even mentioned in the 9/11 report. Many people today don’t realise there was a third building that came down announced 20 mins before time by the BBC. The investigation into short selling of share of the airlines involved in the attacks, the refusal to release video from some 80 sights around the Pentagon of the “aircraft” that hit it. Chris Hedges and others seem to accept that Osama Bin Laden organised this attack from a cave in Afghanistan and was conveniently killed so that no trial was necessary. As usual no proof was provided.

  25. all true and all but the biggest imperialist crime is as usual not tackled: why should US be the one who makes those decisions regarding the handling of (military) organizations -who do not threaten it anyway? why shouldn’t a consortium of nations make a *democratic* decision regarding this? why even this so-called harsh critic of US imperialism doesn’t see how imperialist is the notion that US can decide on its own how to violate states sovereignty and single-handedly almost strut and kick its way everywhere in the world? is it this anglo-american subconscience schizophrenia?

  26. Old wine for new wars. I remember proverbial refrains on the debacles of war from when ‘we’ ‘lost’ the war in Vietnam (and Southeast Asia). I’m sure all those in that part of the Third World War then and since suffering upon wastelands of ‘peace’ might have some grounds for doubting ‘they’ ‘won’.

    This exercise in opinion making echoes the kind of boilerplate which professional class critics get paid for, managing dissent for the sake of consent to larger lies of empire. Like how all those means of waging war, apparently in vain when it comes to ‘defeating’ the ‘enemy’, are enriching and empowering the MIC and corporate state. Or how ‘withdrawal’ can mean no more than change of strategy, replacing conventional troops with private mercenaries and special ops within a fuller spectrum of dominance from the sky and space.

    The terrorism tropes would have us subscribe to the official conspiracy theory of 9/11 promoted by the War on (of) Terror’s beneficiaries, rather than the coup they hid in plain sight with such mind control narrative as to persuade people to deny both common sense and the laws of physics. All prelude to the global coup now rolling out under cover of a false flag flu, to which this propagandist would also have us subscribe.

    ‘We the people’ – over there as well as here – are always the real losers of wars, declared by and fought for our real enemies, the ruling elites and social systems of class war constantly waged against us. That’s the war we need to fight, now more than ever as the empire strikes back against us with a coup de grace to consign us to depopulation and digital dictatorship. If Twain were alive today, he’d say rumors of the death of empire are greatly exaggerated.

  27. I expect events to unfold much as Chris has indicated. Including the formation of a fascist state, designed to maintain control of a fearful, dumbed-down and grossly dysfunctional society. The problem is that this would be a fascist state in control of nuclear devices designed for mass destruction. That prospect fills me with horror and foreboding, because it greatly raises the prospect of a devastating nuclear war affecting the continents of North America, Asia and Europe. It would be accompanied by radioactive poisoning of the entire northern hemisphere. Maybe even a nuclear winter for a few years, whose overall impact would be mass extinctions, including the extinction of homo sapiens.

  28. “The attacks of September 11, 2001 were not an existential threat to the United States. They were not politically significant. They did not disrupt the balance of global power. They were not an act of war. They were acts of nihilistic terror.”
    Agreed, they did not disrupt the balance of global power, however they did disrupt the balance of power between the government and the governed via the patriot act et al.
    “They were not an act of war.” is also correct in the sense of a foreign state not being responsible, it may however be considered a false flag act of psychological warfare against the populace, allowing for a wholesale loss of personal and political freedoms illegitimately amending and curtailing constitutional rights.
    Abundant academically supported evidence demonstrating that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’ available here :-

  29. Good article, but I have a few quibbles. The 9/11 attacks were planned by the U.S., just as the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was egged on by the U .S. The response to the attacks in Munich took innocent lives in its vengeance. Golda Meir was a bloodthirsty leader who once declared that Palestine was “a land with no people”, meaning that Arab Palestinians were not people. And the Soviet Union was handed over by Gorbachev and the Stalinists. They in fact waved a white flag and sold out the Revolution, as Trotsky alone predicted that they would.

  30. It’s only natural that many will resent Pax Americana. Every top dog is envied and resented. But those like Chris Hedges, and others who have commented below, should reflect on what is the alternative. The comparison of the Israelis hunting down the assassins of the Munich Olympics with the US reaction to 9/11 is not apt. If one throws a stone at a cat, it runs away. Throw a stone at a lion and see what happens!

    Does Hedges et al want to see the withdrawal/downfall of US dominance? Would that lead to everything being fine and dandy? Would they rather have a world order overseen by Sir Putin – sorry, Xi-Putin?

    It’s precisely because the US, together with the western European countries, dominate that there is freedom, with all its warts. The article reads like a death wish.

    1. The vast majority of people living on planet Earth no longer wish to be exploited or murdered in order for a sociopathic 1percent of the population in those”western European countries” and the US to be free. And the rest of the people in the “western European countries” and the US need to realize how precarious their own positions are when their societies are being run by sociopaths who ONLY care about money and power and maintaining that at the exclusion of all else. Please just look at the ridiculous and absurd way this pandemic is exposing the true concerns of these so called leaders.

      1. silly to cite this as an example of neoliberal capitalist insanity, it pales in comparison to the fact that for 70+ years now we are doing nothing of any merit whatsoever besides providing lip service to prevent our near term extinction from our relentless environmental degradation compounded with unforgiving climate change.

  31. Sad that few read this. Sad that as the empire implodes we forget (intentionally) who created this destruction.
    Chris, thank you for your constant reminders.

  32. The root of the collapse is that we have created and propped up a sham, token regime of grifters that is rotten and corrupt to the core (one only wonders the number of fat cats we have greased over the years that will soon be exiting the country to luxuriate on their Swiss bank accounts courtesy of the US tax payer). Of course no one really cares that the US has wasted ~ 2 trillion $ in this colossal farce, literally whos only purpose is to justify gorging the insatiable corrupt military-industrial complex for 20 years. Its amusing to see long convoys of Taliban fighters parading around in our humvees, gradually soaking up all the US military equipment we left, we armed them once before (to the chagrin of russkies) why not again, the US is a very generous country. We spent 20 years funding “ghost” soldiers in the Afghan army, its time to extend our largesse. For 50+ years now the US military has left behind a sad history of disastrous, sordid, destructive, counter-productive military fiascos, wasting almost unimaginable sums of money, I guess this all justifies shoving ever more vast sums into its insatiable gullet, Afghanistan was just one more excuse for military brass to be lauded and decorated and praised for their great achievements (lets not forget the retinue of brilliant advisors and functionaries helping to conduct this war).

  33. Anyone having minimal knowledge of the situation in Afghanistan would be surprised if the Taliban had not taken over with lightening speed and the Afghan army did not just melt away. The Afghan army has one of the highest desertion rates of any “army” in the world, the vast majority of recruits were poor hapless peasants signing up for a desperately needed paycheck. It has been rife with Taliban infiltrators to the point where US personnel were paranoid, keeping arms at hand at all times (insider attacks — when security forces are targeted by Taliban infiltrators within their ranks — jumped 82%, and casualties from them doubled). Corruption to the nth degree among the grifting Afghan officer core and leadership was endemic and rampant, milking the US tax payer for every dime they could get their hands on: “The breathtaking failure to mold a cohesive and independent Afghan fighting force can be traced to years of overly optimistic assessments from U.S. officials that obscured — and in some cases, purposely hid — evidence of deep-rooted corruption, low morale, and even “ghost soldiers and police” who existed merely on the payrolls”…But the countervailing evidence that government forces were ill-prepared to take on any sustained conflict was often left out of public testimony or simply classified as secret.
    Beginning in 2015, the Pentagon started shielding some data on the Afghan forces from the public, in a move that the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction at the time called “unprecedented.”
    This compounded with the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians by massive bombing and drones, participating in brutal murder and torture, massacres and death squads ( executions, mutilations, forced disappearances, attacks on medical facilities, and airstrikes targeting structures known to house civilians), all under the watchful encouraging eye of the ghoulish unaccountable CIA running rampant as usual, starting up the opium trade again to support corrupt murdering war lords after the Taliban had suppressed it.

    The simple facts are that opium production was high under the US influenced government of Afghanistan of the 1970s, decreased 10-fold by 2001 under the Taliban, and then increased 30-fold and more under the US to the same level as in the 1970s…The Taliban eventually emerged as the dominant force in the country and attempted to gain international legitimacy by stamping out the trade.
    The heroin trade implicated virtually everyone in power, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali, among the biggest and most notorious drug kingpins in the south of the country, a man widely understood to be in the pay of the CIA.
    The effect on the Afghan population has been nothing short of a disaster. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of adult drug users jumped from 900,000 to 2.4 million
    Only contributing further to the despair has been 20 years of war and U.S. occupation. The number of Afghans living in poverty rose from 9.1 million in 2007 to 19.3 million in 2016
    Geopolitics, profit, and poppies: how the CIA turned Afghanistan into a failed narco-state

    1. The Afghanistan War started in 1978 or ’79 to overthrow the Soviet-supported government, using Saudis and other Sunni militants from all over the Arab world. When the Soviet Union withdrew across the Afghan border and collapsed, civil war continued until after the Saudis and CIA pulled off 9/11, when the US directed its war on terror to get Osama bin Laden, a rich Saudi jihadist in Pakistan (almost as big a US ally as Saudi Arabia and Israel). Afghanistan should have never been a target for war. The local police would probably have been more helpful, but then there would have been no $trillions for the Elites? Somehow if the Afghan war really ends, there will surely be another to keep the money flowing.

  34. How can I, a young individual with no influence, prepare for the near inevitable collapse of all that is normal in the United States?

    The only thing I can think of at this time is to purchase a farm, focus on self-sustenance and build a community with similar goals. But such a goal, with land, housing, and rent prices how they are, is years off for me. With any luck, the swift empire collapse alluded to in the article is at least a decade away, but we know how quickly the political climate can shift, and how volatile our world can quickly become.

    Besides saving money for this self-sustaining farm, what else is there to do to prepare?

    1. My only advice is to educate yourself and your family. A society so sick, hypocritical, and corrupt can only be maintained by keeping the vast population of exploited workers in a fantasy reality. The U.S. and western Europe are the islands of freedom in a scary evil world of terrorists and degenerates that are jealous of “our” freedom won through hard work and the will of god. It’s been pumped into young American minds since birth and as absurd as it is many people willfully submit to that fantasy even when the reality is staring them in the face. The fact that you are on this site is a win . Watch in the next few months how the mainstream media spins this disaster. Reach out to legit sources of information SHARE with people you care about, always challenge the official narrative . Compare and contrast different sources of information. Corrupt societies are maintained by keeping the people off balance arguing culture wars , celebrity drama, ethnic divisions, all basically keeping the most powerful force in societies, the working class, infighting and not focusing on the reality. Self sustaining communities should definitely be our ultimate goal but it must have a solid foundation built on enabling regular people to realize who is really doing the exploiting here and how that is maintained. It’s a gigantic task you’re definitely on the right track but we must have solidarity with working, exploited people in every country we’re all in this together.

    2. John H:

      I don’t know if you’ll ever see this, but I sometimes re-read older articles and caught your comment by chance.

      Speaking partly about myself, any large change to one’s life can be very difficult. It helps to be as healthy as possible in mind, body and spirit. Networking and building a support network as you venture out (including friends and family), is vital. Whether it is visiting organic farms and communities with a reputation for sustainable living (Salt Spring Island comes to mind), or using the internet and sites such as Reddit to ask questions, you may find info or support in unexpected ways.

      WWOOF (world wide opportunities on Organic farms) is great for someone young, without attachments, to spend time on an organic farm that hosts visitors. The idea is that you work and the host provides food, lodging and you just have to pay for your travel, so great for students. WWOOF has lists of farms all over the world! From my experience, I’d try to ask the host what they are looking for, and tell them your hopes for your stay, because some hosts are more about getting a volunteer laborer than educating about sustainability.

      In reference to your mention of lacking influence, I wanted to offer that as you get older, more established in a profession, it can be harder to make changes to be more sustainable. Yes, you are capable of doing more, but you can also be more invested in the status quo and have more responsibilities (mortgage, children, affluent lifestyle, etc).

      Something that has helped with my own changes in life, are the philosophies of Stoicism (Epictetus) and Buddhism. Stoicism is a kind of Western mindfulness, and while it is thought to sometimes miss compassion, I think Epictetus’ The Discourses blends the two ideas well. Chapter 1.29 “On Steadfastness” is a favorite passage and all one needs to get a good sense of the philosophy.

      I wish you well on your journey!

    3. move to a civilized nation—the exodus of those renouncing citizenship is increasing each year

  35. Unbelievable, the Taliban is now just giving us a breather to get out and close our embassy with our tails between our legs, they are already in the outskirts of the city, have encircled the city and cut off all land exits, have released thousands of Al Queda and ISIS prisoners from multiple prisons to run loose again and plot against the US, the Afghan president has flown out (with his billions in grift I presume as we were kind enough to fill his pockets), police officers are shedding their uniforms for traditional garb, Afghan security forces have completely collapsed. Of course just as with Vietnam it is very unlikely that the US will learn from the monumental fiasco and will continue to extol, glorify and praise the engineers of this disaster like Petraeus (if there were any justice he should be in prison for mishandling classified material, once described as “was the revered “thinking man’s general”: honorable, visionary, charismatic”, now he is just a rodeo clown having the gall to spout endless crap to justify his track record and miserable failures)

  36. The media is now overflowing with pathetic hand wringing, retrospection, recriminations and self-flagellation about what we could have done better in Afghanistan, about how westernized women and newly minted Afghan neoliberals are now going to horribly suffer and maybe die under the iron fist of the “medieval Taliban (demonized of course)…etc. But I see very little expose about how we pissed ( this is a euphemism or gross understatement, eg, pissed is not the right word I should say firehosed…) away hundreds of billions of dollars all flowing directly into the hands of a fantastically corrupt kleptocracy. For 20 years we institutionalized supercharged corruption reaching mind boggling off the chart new heights (at every level of society corruption completely permeated the Afghan government from low level officers to top dogs in the government all ravenously eating through our largesse), all the while the average standard of living of Afghans just continued to deteriorate miserably. And we act dumbfounded and perplexed that Afghans were not particulary motivated to fight for this kleptocracy of super grifters, they now have all fled or should I say absconded with their ill gotten fortunes safely tucked away in Swiss bank accounts courtesy of US tax payers. Not to mention the hundreds of billions in military hardware we have now bequeathed to the Taliban. No, the media is pretty much being mum on this phantasmagorical waste of US taxpayer money while children go hungry in the US. At least a few in the media make mention of this as Maddow did giving us a lovely tour of Afghanistan’s version of “Richestan” touring a charming neighborhood of insanely opulent gold plated palaces all thanks to the US taxpayer being kind enough to cough up the dough for these moguls to erect their monuments to corruption.

  37. “and nobody will be held accountable.”

    That is a view that can be extrapolated with some probability from the past, and some “strategists” are immersed in such misguided methods.

    However some may suggest that scenarios were encouraged to render such preference less “highly likely”.

    As has been the case since Jamestown in 1620, in hope of increasing probabilities of sustainability, myriad attempts at encouraging restriction of perception within the linear binary spectrum from “the evilness of the other” to “the exceptionalism of Us” have been evangelised.

    In present context the frustration of “the exceptionalism of Us” has been shown to be unexceptional, and this perception by others requires obfuscation, particularly others who ponder “What are the United States of America and how are they facilitated?”

    Consequently it is highly likely that the many presently deemed to be exceptional organisations and persons complicit in facilitating the frustration of “the exceptionalism of Us” will “blame” one another, hence limiting analysis thereby facilitating the further frustration of “the exceptionalism of Us” which many presently deemed to be unexceptional would welcome.

  38. Excellent piece indeed. Whole truth so eloquently detailed. Many Thanks Chris Hedges.

  39. nothing was learned in Korea, Vietnam etc; why will anybody believe anything will be learned from the Afghanistan failure?

  40. What a huge shame for USA. They don’t need to prove anything anymore. Just roll back your lethal desire to dominate others and secure your own viable existence in coming precious a few years. Let good sense prevail.

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