Statemenent by Socialist Organizer on Biden’s Speech Regarding the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan

(September 6, 2021)

Over the past 20 years, U.S. working people and youth — especially the activists who for decades opposed U.S. imperialist wars and interventions from Vietnam to Iraq — have been calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Opposition to the U.S. war in Afghanistan was fueled by the countless lies put forth by four different administrations — all in the name of the phony “war on terror” — to justify the slaughter for which the U.S. government bears sole responsibility.

Gene Bruskin, co-founder of US Labor Against the War, summarized the overall cost of the war as follows:

“The calculus of 20 years of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is tragic: massive suffering, death, impoverishment and displacement for millions of Afghans the U.S. allegedly was fighting for; hundreds of billions of dollars shifted to the coffers of the war industry; billions of dollars lost to corrupt U.S. contractors and Afghan leaders; thousands of deaths and injuries of U.S. soldiers, mostly working class, and an incalculable amount of damage to those suffering PTSD.”

Is the war really over?

In his August 31 speech to the nation on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden affirmed, “Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan.”

But is this war really over? The answer is “no”; it’s just going to be a different kind of war.

Biden made this clear: “We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it. We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground, very few if needed.”

The over-the-horizon capabilities include deadly armed drones, many errant and misguided, that have killed tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, 40% of them children. An op-ed article in the September 2 Los Angeles Times noted, pointedly: “To Afghans terrorized by continued U.S. drone strikes, this war isn’t over.”

U.S. imperialism’s over-arching military objectives in Afghanistan and Central Asia, as well as throughout the Middle East, have not changed, just the forms have been modified. “Moving on from that mind-set and those kinds of large-scale troop deployments,” Biden noted, “will make us stronger and more effective.”

Democratic nation-building?

Listening to Biden’s speech, one could be led to believe that the U.S. objective in Afghanistan has been to promote democracy and national sovereignty.

Biden stated, hypocritically: “We saw a mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan, getting the terrorists to stop the attacks, morph into a counterinsurgency, nation building, trying to create a democratic, cohesive and united Afghanistan.”

What kind of a democratic and united Afghanistan could possibly emerge from a puppet regime beholden to U.S. imperialist interests — a regime that has trampled on the democratic aspirations of the Afghan people and pursued a war “Made in the USA,” a war that killed more than 240,000 Afghans?

Did a democratic and united Libya emerge after the U.S.-NATO bombing and war in Libya? No! A nation was decimated, leaving rival armed forces vying for power. Do the U.S. sanctions against nations the world over promote nation-building and democracy? No! The opposite is true; these policies destroy nations, forcing millions of people into exile.

The same is true of the U.S.-imposed “free trade” agreements, another form of warfare; they dismantle the industrial and agricultural fabric in country after country to benefit U.S. corporate interests.

At no time have the U.S. wars and occupations promoted democracy, peace, or the sovereignty of nations.

Biden, in fact, doesn’t hide this fact when he acknowledges later in his speech that the United States must be guided by only one thing: promoting “the fundamental security interests of America.” This is the very same formulation that was used to justify the U.S. wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

Pivoting toward confrontation with China

Biden highlighted the “changing world” in which China, in particular, has become a “new threat” to the United States. He added:

“We’re engaged in a serious competition with China. We’re dealing with the challenges on multiple fronts with Russia. We’re confronted with cyberattacks and nuclear proliferation. We have to shore up American competitiveness to meet these new challenges and the competition for the 21st century.”

The goal is clear: U.S. capitalists need to conquer new markets to offset capitalism’s declining rate of profit— and toward that end, they must overturn socialized property relations in China, which, despite the inroads of capitalism, remain a major obstacle to the global system based on the private ownership of the means of production.

Biden explained that the United States could no longer remain in Afghanistan because China and Russia would take advantage of the fact that the U.S. was stuck in the Afghanistan quagmire when it needed to concentrate its efforts responding to the Russian and Chinese “threats.”

Biden did the math, stating that more than $2 trillion had been spent in Afghanistan. “Yes,” Biden noted, “over $300 million a day for two decades.”

Who will benefit?

Toward what ends will the $2 trillion in “savings” from the war in Afghanistan be earmarked by the Biden administration?

Will it go toward funding a Medicare for All healthcare system, or shoring up workers’ pension funds? Will it go toward securing a union job at a living wage for all workers, beginning with an increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour? Will it go toward preserving and improving public education Kindergarten through college, or building social housing on a mass scale?

Will it go toward ensuring that we get a fully funded infrastructure bill and Green New Deal? Will it go toward reversing the privatization onslaught that is dismantling our public services — especially our U.S. Postal Service? Will it go toward reparations for the victims of slavery and their progeny?

We all know the answer: No, the $300 million per day spent in Afghanistan will NOT be redirected toward any of these vital programs in the interest of working people and the oppressed — though some funding may trickle-down here and there to make it appear that something is being done!

The funds freed from the U.S. war in Afghanistan will only serve two purposes: On the one hand, they will go toward preparing new wars, for example, against China or other peoples, which is why the U.S. military budget is constantly being ramped up. (A House panel has just asked for an additional $3.7 billion for the military, on top of the $753 billion requested by Biden for the fiscal year 2022.)

On the other hand, the funds will be used to continue aiding and financing the capitalists, ostensibly for “recovery,” but in reality to shore up the profit margins of the Wall Street banksters.

End the war at home and abroad! Open the door to the refugees from Afghanistan!

On all foreign policy matters — from the Russian and Chinese “threats,” to the so-called “war on terror” in the Middle East, to the barely veiled occupation of Haiti, to the longstanding sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, among others — Biden has continued, in some cases, accelerated, the U.S. war on workers and oppressed peoples the world over. 

This is no less true of the war at home against workers and the oppressed.

We hear a lot about Biden’s support for the PRO-Act (a good piece of legislation that would finally facilitate the right to organize into a union). We hear about an infrastructure bill, and the fight against climate change. We hear about the need to uphold immigrant rights. But what is the reality behind all this rhetoric?

Biden could end the filibuster and lean on the “moderate” Democrats in the Senate (Krysten Sinema and Joe Manchin, in particular) to enact all these specific pieces of legislation. Instead, Biden is sheltering behind the filibuster and his recalcitrant allies, arguing that ending the filibuster would create an “institutional crisis” that could cause great harm to the country. A very convenient excuse. Hence, little or nothing gets done.

Biden could process all the asylum claims and enact a Papers For All law to provide citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows across the United States, while still paying taxes. Instead, he is continuing to cage immigrant children and refusing to address the humanitarian crisis at the border — following in the footsteps of Donald Trump.

This raises the question of the hundreds of thousands of refugees from Afghanistan.

It is shameful that the leaders of the labor movement are silent on the fate of the Afghan refugees. All are simply tail-ending Biden.

On August 26, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA, the sole member of Congress to vote against the war in Afghanistan), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) issued a Letter to President Biden calling for an increase in the cap on refugee admissions into the United States. It’s a letter that points in the right direction, though the bar has been set way too low. The letter to Biden calls for increasing the total number of refugees into the U.S. from all countries for the upcoming year to no less than 200,000. The Trump administration lowered refugee caps to a historic low of 15,000. During his campaign for president, Biden committed to “set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000.”

This is what the legislators wrote in their letter to Biden:

“As the people of Afghanistan face an unfolding tragedy, the United States must open its doors to refugees fleeing the devastating consequences of a 20-year U.S. military occupation and 40 years of U.S.-fueled war.

“After decades of disastrous U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, one thing is clear: we have a moral responsibility to provide safe harbor and refuge for the Afghan people. Now, the growing humanitarian crisis is further exposing the horrific costs of our endless wars. The United States must do everything in its power to protect those who have borne the brunt of this decades-long conflict, especially Afghans who are at increased risk of persecution or death by the Taliban.”

In a separate interview Rep. Ocasio-Cortez stated:

“The role of the United States in this crisis is indisputable. We must spare neither our time nor our money to help the refugees leave Afghanistan safely. We must immediately welcome them to the United States and give them all the support they need to rebuild their lives.”

We say to the leaders of the labor movement: Support the call by Reps. Lee and Ocasio-Cortez; stop kowtowing to the Democratic Party! Welcome ALL the refugees from Afghanistan and all other countries torn apart by U.S. wars and occupations!

The time to save lives is now!

• Open the Doors to All Afghan Refugees!

• Redirect the Billions from the War to Jobs, Public Services, Social Housing, Quality Public Education K-College, Fighting Climate Change, and Medicare for All!

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In March 2021 we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Socialist Organizer and of our publication: The Organizer Newspaper (now a weekly newsletter because of COVID-19 restrictions).

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