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US Election 2020 | Donald Trump and Joe Biden to square off in first Presidential debate, why foreign policy is not on the agenda

The impact the US foreign policy has had on West Asia is unfathomable and with good reason. If you want to know more about the conflict in West Asia, then here's why the US is uncomfortable discussing it in public

July 02, 2022 / 04:39 AM IST
Joe Biden (Left) and Donald Trump

Joe Biden (Left) and Donald Trump

As the date for the 59th Presidential Election in the US heads ever so close, we wanted to take the time to talk about the most significant topic that isn't present on the agenda for the first presidential debate.

The first debate will be moderated by Fox News' Chris Wallace. The debate commission announced that the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden would focus on topics, including the record of both candidates, the integrity of the election, race and violence in American cities, the economy, and COVID-19.

And while these are some of the most pressing concerns for the citizens of the US, one key topic didn't make it to the agenda, US Foreign Policy. While foreign policy hasn't been a pressing concern for a vast majority of Americans, it is for the rest of the world, particularly in Asia, where the US has carried out some of its most brutal atrocities.

The new deal that never was

Today, the war economy has become an integral part of the US Empire. However, this wasn't always the case, there was a time when the US yearned for economic freedom and liberty for all countries. At a time when the entire world was at war and the fascist German Empire spearheaded by Hitler was on the rise, President Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, often referred to by his initials FDR, saw an opportunity, not only to defeat the Germans but to put an end to tyrannical empires all around the world.


At the heart of Roosevelt's vision to aid the British in World War II was the premise that political freedom meant economic freedom, a vision that was in stark contrast with the British Empire's rationale of keeping the colonies poor and dependent on London. Roosevelt's global New Deal was one that would allow the colonies to develop. Roosevelt made clear that the price of American aid to the Allied forces would be the world after the Germans were defeated.

And thus, the Atlantic Charter was formed, outlining the aims of the world's superpowers post World War II.  The adherents to the Atlantic Charter signed the Declaration by United Nations on 1 January 1942, which became the basis for the modern United Nations. However, since Roosevelt's death in 1945, no country has strayed farther away from his vision than the US.

A Democracy that never was

In the aftermath of World War II, the US grew into the most powerful nation in the world with a booming economy, at the heart of which was war. Post World War II, America's regime-change wars in West Asia can be dated back to the 1950s when the CIA and MI6 orchestrated a coup to oust Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

Mosaddegh was regarded as the leading champion of secular democracy and resistance to foreign domination in Iran's modern history. Mosaddegh's administration introduced nationwide social reform in Iran. However, the British turned to the CIA for aid when Mosaddegh nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. He believed that the Iranians were the rightful owners of all the oil in Iran and pointed out that the country was in dire need of oil to build its economy.

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But once Mosaddegh was overthrown, the US and Britain then proceeded to instil a puppet leader in the form of the Shah, who reached an agreement with the oil companies, with the primary benefactors being the US and Great Britain. In return, the Shah was heavily funded by the US government. Mohammad Reza Shah and his government were ousted in 1979 in what would come to be known as the Iranian Revolution. However, the coup orchestrated by the US and Great Britain sowed the seeds for the country's downfall and permanently changed the trajectory of Iran, going from a Social Democracy to the Islamic Republic it is today.

Today, Iran once again finds itself in the crosshairs of the American Empire, with the Trump administration restoring all United Nations sanctions on the Iranian people. The crippling sanctions have seen Iran's currency fall to its lowest levels ever against the US dollar, sparking outrage among the global community. But the conflict in West Asia has been brewing for a while now, and Iran is just the latest victim of the Empire.

The US Empire operates on the simple premise that we are the world's largest superpower, we have been victorious in all our endeavours, and thus our cause is righteous. Here is a Fox News compilation of Americans talking about bombing Iran, courtesy of Kyle Kulinski from Secular Talk.

Real Cost of War

Since the US undertook its self-proclaimed global crusade against terror in 2001 as many as 59 million people have been displaced, according to a recent report released by Brown University. Here's now-deceased British politician Tony Benn appealing to the Parliament to vote against the bombing of innocent people in Iraq in 1998.

Back to the report, which is labelled the "Costs of War Project", says between 37 million and 59 million people in eight countries in Africa, Asia and West Asia have fled their homes since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It is further estimated that anywhere between 500,000 to two million people have been killed throughout the region, most of which were civilians since the US first began its bloody campaign in Afghanistan in 2001.

The United Nations calls the indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations a 'War Crime', the US calls it 'Collateral Damage'. Collateral Damage is still in use today and is the current justification used by the US to drop bombs on civilian populations in these regions with complete impunity.

This was escalated with the introduction of Drone Warfare under the Bush administration, and further expanded under the Obama and Trump administrations. In 2015, the International Business Times reported that during a five-month period, "nearly 90 percent of those killed by US Drones were not intended targets".

Afghanistan, the Graveyard

While the US might have you believe terrorism originated in Afghanistan with groups like the Mujahideen, Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and ISI, it is easy to forget that the Mujahideen were once the greatest allies of the West. The group, which lives on the Taliban today, was once funded by the CIA. After the Soviet-backed People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) gained power in the Saur Revolution, radical Islamic terrorists were pushed to the sidelines.

The socialist government in Afghanistan initiated land reform, equality for women, the legalisation of trade unions, and a sweeping literacy campaign. However, the PDPA's Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin had little patience for dissent, cracking down on protestors and opposition. The PDPA President Nur Muhammad Taraki turned to the Soviets for aid in combating PM Amin in secret.

After finding out about Taraki dissent, Amin had him assassinated and took over the presidency, further destabilising the government. Now, after several appeals for Soviet intervention and the assassination of one of their biggest ally in Afghanistan, the Soviets were finally ready to intervene. While many in the West and the warlord and radical Islamists considered this an invasion,  not intervening would push Afghanistan down the same Islamic Republic path as Iran. And threaten all social gains made by the Afghan people.

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However, there was one country that didn't see it that way, the US. The US saw the spread of communism in the region as a farce. After all billions of dollars were spent on combating in the past decades combating a communist boogeyman that didn't exist. To that end, the CIA helped organise and arm the old landlord class and conservative religious groups into an armed militia, with the aim of overthrowing the PDPA.

The Mujahideen had been funded by the CIA from 1979 to 1989 in Operation Cyclone to fight the Soviet Union. The US saw an enemy in the communists and an ally in radical Islamic fundamentalist. As a result, the CIA provided weapons to the Mujahideen with the aid of Pakistan and the aim to destabilise the Soviet presence in the region.

However, the Mujahideen's call for a Jihad saw many Muslims from other countries assemble in  Afghanistan to take on the Soviets. One such man was Osama Bin Laden, the architect of 9/11. Bin Laden was a  Saudi recruit who left his home country to fight against the Soviet-backed leadership in Afghanistan. Throughout most of the 1990s until 2001, the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. During the Reagan administration alone, the United States billed the taxpayers an estimated $3 billion to fund the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

Today, Afghanistan is still in turmoil and is currently an enemy of the US. Despite being a nation rich in natural resources, Afghanistan is currently one of the poorest countries in the world and has been bombed into the Dark Ages by the US. While most people call Afghanistan the Graveyard of Empires, in 2020, it is far from the truth. The US may have not achieved total victory in the country but defence contractors and politicians who have supported the war in the US have won the lottery, making millions at the cost of the Afghan people.

The Real WMDs 

Saddam Hussein was on trial for crimes he committed in 1982. He was charged with killing or signing the death warrant on over 100 Shiites involved in an uprising. At the time, this was hardly cause for concern in Washington as Hussein was one of America's biggest allies in the region.

In the 1980s, the then President of the US Ronald Reagan dropped Iraq from a list of countries supporting terrorism. This gave the US the means to provide Saddam with extensive aid, including military aid and the means to develop biological and chemical weapons. The agreement was cosigned by Donald Rumsfeld, who would later come to be known as the architect of the Iraq invasion.

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Saddam's regime also oversaw the Kurdish massacres, like the one in Halabja. However, there was no interjection by the US; Reagan's administration blocked efforts in Congress to protest against the massacres. The administration increased its support for Saddam during this period. Iraqi jets accidentally fired two missiles at the American frigate USS Stark on May 17, 1987, killing a total of 37 US Navy personnel. But support for Saddam did not dwindle.

Prominent philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, and political activist Noam Chomsky recalls a time in 1989 where Iraqi nuclear engineers were invited to the US to take part in a conference where they were trained on how to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). At the time, Bush Senior outlined the importance of supporting Saddam.

Throughout all of Saddam's horrible atrocities and war crimes, he received unwavering support from the US. It was only until the goals of the US didn't align with Saddam's Iraq was he declared a mortal threat to the world. In 2003, the US, led by George W Bush invaded Iraq, claiming it to be a hub for terrorism. While protests broke out around the world against the invasion, officials in the Bush administration lied to the American people, media outlets, and the United Nations about WMDs in Iraq to justify an invasion of a sovereign nation.

After hundreds of thousands of causalities, the US ousted the secular Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and installed a puppet government. However, with the dictator gone and US troops withdrawing from the region, yet another radical Ismalic group, ISIS, gained prominence in the region and embarked on a Jihad of its own, only this time with ambitions outside the country of its origin.

The forever enemy

Even if you believe this to be a harsh criticism of the US that may be based on falsehoods, I implore you to examine history. Remember the world's communism menace, for decades, the US-led its people to believe that it had to maintain massive military bases all around the world because the Soviet Union was the greatest threat to democracy. The Red Scare was used as a means for governments to justify the need for massive military budgets to the taxpayers.

History had proved that it was nothing more than a fear tactic because in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse the US military budget climbed at a higher rate than ever before, higher than at any point during the Cold War. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the US went on to build even more military bases, while retaining a vast majority of the previous ones. Perhaps, the worst thing the Soviet Union did to the US was to leave it without an enemy.

Today, the US has replaced the 'Communist Boogeyman' with that of 'Terrorism'. And now as support for the Terrorism boogeyman continues to vain among the US people, the Empire has turned its sights on the Communist threat of China, going back full circle.  The impact of past and present US foreign policies in several countries in Latin America, Africa, and even in parts of Eastern Europe cannot be ignored and is the driving factor behind the immigrant crisis. 'Regime Change' war has been a staple of the US Empire, despite its impact on the people.

Real victors of wars 

To many, it might be pleasing to hear that the US almost never wins, most invasions end in public humiliation for the Empire. But in victory or defeat, the US military-industrial complex has always won, no matter the war or invasion. Private industry be it oil or defence, has gained the most out of America's never-ending conflicts.

In turn, these industries spend millions of dollars in lobbying politicians across either side of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans. Dick Cheney served as the head of Halliburton for six years before he became Vice President to the second Bush. Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, then went on to win a $7 billion 'no-bid' contract known as Restore Iraqi Oil, or RIO, during his tenure as VP.

The US citizens are strongly opposed to the country's war in West Asia. Both Barack Obama and Donald Trump campaigned on bringing US troops home and while the former did end the occupation of Iraq, the latter's promises with Afghanistan fell flat. Obama's drone programme saw a vast number of civilian casualties, including children, yet he was awarded the Noble Peace Prize. Though Trump ran on an anti-war campaign, as of 2019, the US had around 15,000 troops in Afghanistan. The number was around 8,000 when Obama left office.

Furthermore, in 2018 and 2019, the US dropped more bombs on Afghanistan since the invasion commenced in 2001. The Trump administration also saw the US drop the largest non-nuclear bomb, nicknamed the "mother of all bombs". It is worth noting that every bomb dropped equals millions of dollars in the pockets of the private defence contractors, who in turn fund political campaigns and promise coveted positions.

Even today, the US military-industrial complex has a strangled hold over most politicians in Washington. The defence budget has ballooned from more than $400 billion in the late 90s to over $740 billion today and that's after accounting for inflation, a figure which is more than that of the next 10 countries combined. Republican President Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex in his farewell address and its influence over politics.

More recently, 139 Democrats sided with Republicans to block a House vote to cut the Pentagon budget by just 10 percent. This comes at a time when the country is experiencing record levels of unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, while millions of Americans have lost access to healthcare.

American exceptionalism leaves no room for American accountability 

And now, on the eve of the first Presidential debate, in what happens to be one of the most polarised in American history, there will be no talk about the actions foreign policy has played in destabilising countries and destroying lives. American presidents and presidential candidates very rarely mourn the loss of non-white civilian casualties in the destabilised regions.

You might think the accusation of racism is silly, but there's a reason that civilian casualties of drones aren't covered in the same way suicide bombers are. What the people of the US must demand is an answer to the endless war campaigns because the Empire doesn't seem to care about the rest of the world's opinion.

Michael Parenti once said in reference to the third world, "There are very few poor countries in this world, most countries are rich. The capitalist European and North American countries have drained these nations of all their natural resources, these countries are not underdeveloped, they are overexploited."

However, if the topics of the debate have made one thing clear, it is that neither Trump nor Biden are going to be held accountable for past and current actions. Neither is going to have to answer the difficult questions of US Imperialism. For now, America seems content dealing with its own internal issues rather than the external ones it has created all over the globe.

I hope this article provides some insight into the workings of the US Empire and how it has contributed to this migrant crisis we are seeing in Europe and North America. While I've only covered a few countries here, CIA-backed coups, election interference, funding dictators, and military invasions are the main themes of US Foreign Policy and have affected countries all over the globe. Neoliberalism is the way of the United States and most non-white countries that have not followed this doctrine have found themselves on the receiving end of disastrous US Foreign Policy.
Carlsen Martin
first published: Sep 29, 2020 10:12 pm
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