8 Years of Big Lies on Afghanistan

And so now the Pentagon and the White House are going to tell the truth about Afghanistan?


Here’s my 2 cents on the issue – distributed by the Future of Freedom Foundation and also appearing on Counterpunch today.

** I have a ‘reader survey’ question at the bottom regarding a specific line in the piece.


by James Bovard

It seems like only yesterday that President George W. Bush was bragging about having given “freedom and democracy” to 25 million Afghans. This was a key theme of his second inaugural address, and it helped Bush preen as the conqueror of the world.

For 8 years, the American people have been fed one big lie after another regarding Afghanistan. Now, when the Pentagon is saber-rattling to vastly increase the number of U.S. troops sent there, a refresher course on the Biggest Lies is in order.

In his State of the Union address on January 29, 2002, Bush frightened Americans with a bogus nuclear threat: “Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears. . . . We have found diagrams of American nuclear power plants and public water facilities” in caves used by Al Qaeda.

Senior CIA and FBI officials followed up with “background” briefings to the media, revving up the threat that Afghan-based Al Qaeda fighters were targeting U.S. nuclear power facilities. This made the terrorist threat far more ominous and spurred support for Bush’s preemptive war policy against Iraq.

Two years later, Bush administration officials admitted that the president’s statement was completely false and that no nuclear power plant diagrams had been discovered in Afghanistan. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Edward McGaffigan, who had testified in 2002 on this falsehood at closed hearings on Capitol Hill, commented that Bush was “poorly served by a speechwriter.” This was a farce – as if the deceit stemmed from some speechwriter’s poetic fancy – as opposed to the conniving of a phalanx of high-ranking officials.

Pat Tillman was a star defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals who, in the wake of 9/11, turned down a multimillion dollar contract extension to enlist as an Army Ranger. Tillman was the highest profile military recruit of the Bush era.

Tillman was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Within minutes of his demise, it was clear he had been slain by fellow soldiers. The Pentagon responded with an information lockdown -cutting off all communication to the military base where Tillman had been stationed.

A week after Tillman’s death, Maj. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then a top commander in Afghanistan, notified the White House that Tillman was killed by U.S. troops: “I felt that it was essential that you received this information as soon as we detected it to preclude any unknowing statements by our country’s leaders that might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of CPL Tillman’s death become public.” The same day McChrystal sent his memo, the Pentagon announced that Tillman had received a posthumous Silver Star and was killed while leading an attack on Al Qaeda forces. Pentagon emails referred to the “Silver Star Game Plan” (to distract attention from the “friendly fire” killing).

On May 1, 2004, Bush exploited Tillman’s death for the finale of his speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner. The Pentagon and White House delayed admitting that Tillman had been killed by Americans until after a high-profile memorial service rallied public support for the war and Bush’s policies.

The Bush administration perennially claimed that the U.S. invasion in 2001 resulted in “freedom” for Afghan women. But women in many parts of Afghanistan continue to be oppressed even worse than characters in American country music songs. Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently approved a new law in August that entitles a husband to starve his wife if she refuses his sexual demands.

Both Bush and Obama touted the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan as promoting democracy. But the election in August showed Afghan democracy as an onion-layer of frauds. Peter Galbraith, a top United Nations official in Afghanistan, estimated that a third of Karzai’s votes may have been bogus. (He was fired after he refused to muzzle himself).

Some Obama administration officials probably cringed at the scale of Karzai’s conniving. But it is only a question of time until we are again told about our duty to defend democracy in Kabul. The elections did not fool the Afghan people: they know Karzai is an American puppet. But the election may help the U.S. government con slow-witted Americans into believing the war has a redeeming purpose.

There are other perennial four-star howlers – the claims that the U.S. is speedily building up the Afghan army, that the U.S. is striving to make sure Afghan opium no longer floods the world, that U.S. experts are helping the Afghan government become non-corrupt…..

There is no reason to expect the U.S. government to ever become trustworthy on Afghanistan. At best, Washington will rotate its lies, the same way it rotates the National Guard units sent to the Afghan badlands. Americans need to recognize that, once their government commences warring, truth will be target number one.

Tagline: James Bovard serves as a policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation and is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books.

Reader survey: One editor said that the following line was in bad taste: ” But women in many parts of Afghanistan continue to be oppressed even worse than characters in American country music songs.”

I disagree.

Your verdict?


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8 Responses to 8 Years of Big Lies on Afghanistan

  1. Tom Blanton October 10, 2009 at 7:53 am #

    Jim, I’m afraid that editor is correct. That sentence is extremely offensive. For example, if I was an inbred fan of David Allan Coe and was all wound up on moonshine and meth, I’d be kicking your ass if you showed up at my trailer park. That’s because real Americans that love country music treat their old ladies real good, unless they start acting up and need slapping around some.

    On the other hand, if you were to give up all this anti-war stuff, you might be able to score the next time you go to a Code Pink meeting looking for a hook-up if you drop that line on them. Heck, you might even get a three-some going. Those chicks seem to hate these Taliban dudes even more than old Cheney. Just don’t suggest any role playing games where the chicks wear burkas.

    By the way, did that editor think the lies you reference were in bad taste?

  2. Dirk W. Sabin October 10, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    Heaven forfend that we might somehow insult the lofty demographics of the vast Reglar Guyetariet and their bleary music. Editors these days are a combination of Emily Post and a quivering beaten dog.

    Still though, as an advanced society and unlike the bad taste of the Aztecs, we don’t throw carcasses down the temple steps near City Hall, we make sure we display our human sacrifices on another continent and in another time zone so all the placid manners and happy-faced benignance of the American Editors Utopia is uninterrupted. I hope you advised the editor to change their Depends.

  3. Bill Jones October 10, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    That country line works for me.

    BTW can you think of anyone who has slaughtered more people than the Obomber in the last 9 months?

    The Nobel peace prize has just been awarded to this years killingest man on the planet.

  4. Jim October 10, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Tom – thanks for your comment.

    I’ve always wondered why folks intuitively associated country music with inbreeding, but maybe you and the Greaseman are onto something.

    That’s a hoot about the Code Pink women. I appreciate(d) their activism but… A Code Pink threesome? I expect they might be very talkative.

  5. Jim October 10, 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    Dirk – the editor who raised this point is actually a good guy.

    Humor makes some folks jumpy, I reckon.

  6. Dirk W. Sabin October 13, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    One wonders if its the humor that makes them jumpy or the wispy swells in the Publishers Suites. Meeting a disgruntled Military Contractor at a weekend golfing event is so gauche.

  7. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobit October 13, 2009 at 4:14 pm #

    I’m pretty confident that the demographic at issue is not one that regularly visits here. 😀

  8. Butler T. Reynolds October 14, 2009 at 7:32 am #

    The way women are regarded in rap lyrics is probably works better.