By Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams
Amid the lightning collapse of Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government and the all-but-certain return of Taliban rule, anti-war activists on Monday stressed that diplomacy, not bombs or the military-industrial complex, is the only path to lasting peace.
The stunning but predictable Taliban reconquest of Afghanistan marks the end of the nearly 20-year U.S.-led war that cost the lives of more than 200,000 Afghans, displaced over five million more, and diverted at least $2 trillion in American taxpayer funds that progressive critics said could have been better spent on programs of domestic and international social uplift and well-being.
As the war ends where it began—with the Taliban in control of most of Afghanistan—the prospect of the country becoming a so-called “failed state” and haven for militant groups like al-Qaeda has prompted numerous observers to speculate that U.S. troops will return, and not just in the “over-the-horizon” operational capacity touted by President Joe Biden and Pentagon brass.
Peace advocates, however, emphasized the imperative to pursue diplomatic over military solutions to regional problems, with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)—the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 authorization for the invasion of Afghanistan and so-called War on Terror—asserting that “there has never been, and will never be, a U.S. military solution in Afghanistan.”
Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War, said in a weekend statement that “the United States can best help mitigate violence today not with bombs, but with diplomacy, and by supporting efforts to build peace.”
“Nearly two decades of military intervention and occupation did not build lasting peace,” said Miles. “No number of bombs dropped, no length of time occupied, would have.”
“Our responsibility toward Afghanistan does not end with the end of our military occupation,” Miles added. “Just the opposite: Only now that we may finally recognize the failure of the war-first approach can we fully start down the long, difficult path of peace.”
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group CodePink, demanded accountability for “those responsible for 20 years of epic failure,” while warning that “now we have to stop the military-industrial complex from dragging us into new wars.”
Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore echoed Benjamin’s call to slash U.S. military spending, tweeting: “Defund the military-industrial complex (increase funding for veterans!), defund the NSA, defund Homeland Security.”
Warren Gunnels, staff director for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), argued that “the only thing that we ‘accomplished’ by going into Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan was to put trillions of taxpayer dollars into the military-industrial complex and destroy millions of lives—period, full stop.”
“It’s time to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again,” Gunnels asserted.
Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director of the racial and economic justice group Project South, tweeted that it “should be clear by this point that the only ones who benefited from the U.S. war on Afghanistan were war-profiteering politicians and corporations while countless lives were destroyed.”
“Remember this,” added Shahshahani, “the next time the U.S. war machine is pushing for yet another invasion.”