The Cost of Warfare

 ‘What do you make of the chaotic mess in Afghanistan?’ I asked Camp who was busy reading off his new smart phone. 

            ‘It’s a humanitarian disaster of an epic scale and the world’s leaders spout grandiose sentiments and wag fingers but nobody is doing much of anything to help. This is surely Biden’s largest miscalculation. Mind you he supported both Bush’s wars in Iraq. Instead of listening to the experts as he did with regards to the pandemic, he let political optics guide his ill-fated decision. Throwing millions of women and children under the bus. For what? Twenty years of occupation and military deployment, trillions of dollars spent, 3500 US and allied soldiers killed, 3800 civilian US contractors killed, 66’000 Afghan military and police and over 47’000 Afghan civilians dead, against 51’000 Taliban. And now this chaotic withdrawal and collapse of the Afghan regime. How many people died in the twin towers on 9/11?’

            ‘The pictures are reminiscent of the last days in Saigon. How could such stone age Islamists like the Taliban take over a country? Who supports them?’ I said.

            ‘Mostly poppy cultivation. Estimates put the Afghan opium production at 80% of the world’s supply. The estimated all-time high was set in 2017 at 9’900 tons, worth some $ 1.4 billion, a number that is now bound to grow with the Taliban takeover.’

            ‘How do they get the stuff out across the border? There are not many roads into the country.’

            ‘Have you ever heard of Qala-e-Biwaha, the village of widows?’ Camp asked. ‘Most of the men have been killed while trying to smuggle opium across the desolate frontier into Iran. The area is so destitute that men have two choices: smuggle drugs – opium, heroin and amphetamines – or join the Taliban. They even have primitive catapults to sling the drugs across the border but smuggling is a high-risk occupation. Arrest and execution at the hands of the Iranian courts or just being shot by Iranian border guards.’

            ‘And nobody could stop these misogynists and now it’s too late. I remember when somebody suggested, it might have been Stephen Lewis, that the UN should buy up all the opium and distribute it to the many countries that are chronically short of opioid drugs for pain control, thereby legalizing the production and taking away the criminal element. As it stands now it’s the usual equation: drugs for arms,’ I said.

            We drank our beers and contemplated the ailing world. Yes, we live like royalty, and complain like peasants. Yet, the world is burning and here in BC we have 300 wildfires ravaging the province with over 10’000 square kilometers reduced to cinder and ashes and thousands under evacuation orders or alerts. And in all this Trudeau calls for a federal election, a month away. Rather myopic and self-serving.

            ‘Is this a good time for Trudeau to go to the polls?’ I asked Camp.

            ‘As good as any, I suppose. He will run on his pandemic record which was pretty shoddy. First, he backed the Chinese vaccine and when they pulled out, he had to scramble and overpay for vaccines and his travel and quarantine policies were an expensive publicity stunt that punished the wrong people. Mind you, he has done away with the playoff beard and covid hair and the vaccination rollout was one of the world’s best. He also counts on a tired electorate which doesn’t want to change horses in midstream.’

            When Vicky came around with two fresh pints, I asked her what she thought of the Taliban. 

            ‘Psychopathic men, all of them. Here they would all be in jail for wife beating, forced confinement, kidnapping and murder of women and children. A total disaster and the result of old white men’s power games in suits and uniforms.’

            We both nodded mutely and sipped our beers.

            ‘Don’t take it personally,’ Vicky said. ‘You may be two old, white men but you have no power to change anything.’

            ‘Thanks Vicky, just don’t tell our wives.’

            ‘Don’t worry dears, they already know.’  

At first they clung desperately to the plane, then they found a place for 640 Afghan civilians in a C-17 Globemaster III of the US Air Force. (August 16, 2021) Photo: US Defense Departament

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