Welcome to the August 2021 edition of our Cosmic Weather Forecast by Curtis Lang and Jane Sherry. This week we celebrate a second Full Moon in Aquarius, aka a Blue Moon, which will rise in the east alongside Jupiter, creating an auspicious stellar alignment easily visible to city dwellers.
It's searing hot and steamy in Jane's garden. Daily evening thunderstorms create a soggy mess in the garden, but the insects seem to love it. Now's the time to harvest whatever you can before it's too late. We are preparing for a new planting season in late August through late September.
Last month, I said that "Astrological aspects indicate an incandescent Leo Solar Festival that will usher in a month only a drama queen or king could love." Little did I know how over the top the August news cycle would be!
Unprecedented, uncontrolled wildfires and a 1000 year drought in the West, a surge of new Covid cases, and the shocking summer Taliban blitzkrieg that defeated the American puppet regime in Afghanistan all contributed to an apocalyptic vibe that has jolted America's collective consciousness.
There is a queasy feeling in the American heartland that these hammer blows to the Empire are a mere foreshadowing of environmental, political, and public health tragedies yet to unfold on the world stage.
Delta Covid cases are spiking in North Carolina, and throughout the Americas, Europe, and the Western Pacific.
Here in Winston, Covid hospitalizations are now six to seven times higher than they were a month and a half ago, and local major health provider Novant reports that 97% of intensive care beds are full. Local health officials report that 91% of those hospitalizations are unvaccinated people.
This Friday Winston joins most other North Carolina cities by declaring masks are once again mandatory in both indoor and outdoor public places.
Everyone is bummed.
Satellite photo of Oregon and California wildfires spreading east
by NASA’s GOES 17 at 6:41 p.m. PDT Aug 16, 2021.
Scientists report that current temperatures are well above the 50 year trend in global warming we have already experienced.
Planetary heating is accelerating.
And as global warming accelerates, wildfire season in the Western US is becoming longer and more devastating than ever before. So far this year, over 39,000 wildfires have burned over 3.5 million acres since the start of fire season last month. Smoke from the fires has spread across the Plains states and much of Canada all the way to New York and the rest of the East Coast.
It is hard to imagine, but the scope of these apocalyptic wildfires is dwarfed by the immensity of the wildfires burning in Russia this year. Over 4,000,000 acres of land in Russia are burning, a new record, according to a report in Moscow Times.
A vast, thick, and acrid blanket of smoke emitted from hundreds of forest fires covered most of Russia on August 6, 2021. The smoke, which was so thick that most of the land below was obscured from view, stretches about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) from east to west and 2,500 miles (4,000 km) from south to north—but it captures only a small part of the smoke from the Russian fires. This week, wildfire smoke has travelled more than 3,000 km (1,864 mi) from Yakutia to reach the North Pole.
Image courtesy of MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
Methane is a greenhouse gas with 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. Climate scientists call the potential release billions of tons of Siberian and Arctic methane as a result of global warming the methane time bomb. The release of methane in the Arctic is accelerating much faster than scientists have predicted, in large part due to wildfires and increasingly hot temperatures year around. As global warming and methane releases spike up, arctic sea ice dwindles rapidly, which accelerates global climate change in unpredictable, complex ways.
"Nearly 100 of these fires are located in the republic of Sakha (Yakutia) in northeastern Siberia, the country’s largest and coldest region — the largest of which is on track to become the largest single wildfire ever recorded in human history," the Moscow Times reports. "Siberia's wildfires alone are now larger than the rest of the world's blazes combined."
The Siberian wildfires could vastly accelerate climate change by accelerating the thawing of frozen tundra, releasing enormous quantities of methane trapped in the frigid ground for uncounted millennia and destroying Russia's vast boreal forests, which absorb huge amounts of carbon from the Earth's atmosphere.
Monthly averages Arctic Sea Ice from January 1979 - January 2014.
Data source via the Polar Science Center (University of Washington).
Andy Lee Robinson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
"Scientists have been shocked that the warm weather conducive to permafrost thawing is occurring roughly 70 years ahead of model projections,” the Climate Crisis Advisory Group (CCAG) warns. It also points out that the Arctic could lose 89 percent of its permafrost by 2100, the Moscow Times reports.
As tundra thaws and arctic ice melts, tens to hundreds of billions of tons of carbon dioxide and methane will be released into the atmosphere over the next few decades, contributing to global warming, raising sea levels, accelerating climate change and dislocating atmospheric and oceanic currents that maintain the stability of the Earth's ecosystem.
While heatwaves, fires, and floods produce warnings that "we are living in a climate emergency, here and now," on August 5, a scientific study published in the journal Nature Climate Change suggested that a crucial Atlantic Ocean current system, including the Gulf Stream, could collapse, which "would have severe impacts on the global climate system."
The collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Ocean Currents "would have catastrophic consequences around the world, severely disrupting the rains that billions of people depend on for food in India, South America, and West Africa; increasing storms and lowering temperatures in Europe; and pushing up the sea level in the eastern U.S. It would also further endanger the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets," The Guardian's Damian Carrington reports.
Topographic map of the Nordic Seas and subpolar basins with schematic circulation of surface currents (solid curves) and deep currents (dashed curves) that form a portion of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. Colors of curves indicate approximate temperatures.
R. Curry, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution/Science/USGCRP.,
CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The complexity of this system of Atlantic Ocean currents and uncertainty over levels of future global warming make it impossible for scientists to forecast the date of any collapse with certainty. It could be within a decade or two, or several centuries away.
We are racing blindly toward ecosystem tipping points that could destabilize the Earth's ecosystem and trigger runaway climate change that would render most of the planet uninhabitable.
We have ignored the evidence for fifty years and failed to make the kind of transformative changes required to maintain our Goldilocks environment. Now it appears those tipping points are no longer in the far distance. We can see the edge of the cliff with our headlights, just ahead.
On August 9, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a mammoth new climate report that flashed a Code Red for humanity. Climate scientists reported that "the rate of sea level rise was twice as fast between 2006 and 2018 than it was between 1971 to 2006, and three times as fast as between 1901 and 1971, according to a summary by the Environmental Defense Fund. "Current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are the highest in at least 2 million years and the last time the ocean warmed this quickly was when the last Ice Age ended."
The international target of 1.5 degrees Centigrade of global temperature rise set by the Paris accord will be exceeded sometime in the next twenty years, according to the new IPCC Code Red Report.
In fact, we could see global temperatures twice as high as that within forty years, or even higher, if consumption of fossil fuels continues on present trends. It is very possible we could see global temperatures 3-4° higher than pre-Industrial Age measurements well before the year 2100.
The World Bank issued a report in 2012 warning of a 4 degree Centigrade rise in global temperatures as early as the 2060s under a business as usual scenario. Such a world would produce “unprecedented heatwaves, severe drought and major floods in many regions”. The Earth would heat unevenly, land masses would be 10-12° warmer and that would mean that people could no longer live in the temperate regions of the world. Most of the US, Europe and Asia would become uninhabitable desert. Billions of people would die from lack of water and food.
Tipping Points in the Earth's Climate System
CodeOne, DeWikiMan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
And yet, there is no sense of urgency among world leaders, who still place their trust in technological solutions like carbon capture and fusion energy, which have not yet been proven to work at any scale that is useful. Any realistic timeline for the global rollout of these technologies at scale is decades away at a minimum, and by that time, global environmental tipping points may have launched us inevitably into a world that is mainly unfit for human habitation.
Two months ago, in our June 2021 Cosmic Weather Forecast, I pointed out that over the last seventeen years the rate of consumption of fossil fuels around the world has dramatically increased. Global environmental accords, electric cars, and a proliferation of renewable energy companies and sources have done absolutely nothing to slow down this runaway acceleration of fossil fuel use. And of course, global warming is accelerating as extreme weather events multiply everywhere.
This is particularly disappointing to environmentalists who supported President Joe Biden.
Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the Moving America Forward Forum at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America,
CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
"Some signs from Biden the candidate last year were encouraging," reported Wenonah Huter in The Guardian. "His promise to ban new drilling and fracking on federal lands – an action that would be a simple, decisive first step in curtailing new fossil fuel extraction – was unequivocal: 'No more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period.'"
". . .Yet since taking office, Biden’s interior department has approved more than 2,000 new permits for drilling and fracking on federal land. In May, it appealed a federal court order that had paused fracking in Wayne national forest. In June, it advanced a proposal for new oil and gas exploration at Dinosaur national monument – a proposal the Trump administration had actually suspended under immense pressure from activists."
"There are other similar disappointments – from the shocking approval of Trump’s plan to open Alaska’s North Slope to new oil drilling to the approval of the infamous Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline. At precisely the moment when we must be forcefully rejecting new drilling, fracking and pipeline infrastructure, Biden isn’t just tolerating fossil fuels – he’s uplifting them."
Nor is Biden an outlier among world leaders.
A recent report by BloombergNEF and Bloomberg Philanthropies found that the twenty rich countries who are members of the G20, an intergovernmental economic forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union have, in the past five years, paid $3.3 trillion to subsidize fossil fuel production and consumption.
There is probably only one way that the runaway train of climate change will be slowed in the coming years. That is through the complete repudiation of the religion of endless economic growth and consumption that has characterized all of Earth's successful political systems throughout the industrial revolution, from the time of the first steam engines to the advent of the Iphone 13.
That includes the global system of capital intensive economic growth that characterizes Anglo-Saxon laissez-faire neoliberal capitalism, Eurocentric capitalism with a human face, Chinese authoritarian capitalism with socialist characteristics, and all other political systems that prioritize endless growth and consumption and private profits over the health of our precious ecosystem.
The Code Red warning has been issued. Now is the time for radical action. There is not a single sovereign nation on Earth that has made the transition to a sustainable, equitable economic system.
Our leaders will not save us. They are focused on increasing their wealth, playing power games with competitor companies and nations, building bunkers in New Zealand, and grandstanding in outer space.
Incremental reforms will not be enough to avoid apocalyptic outcomes. Advocates of The Green New Deal and other reformist political platforms fail to address the most important and least palatable measures we can take to combat climate change. Any serious program to confront and contain runaway climate change must center upon radical conservation, a program of economic de-growth and eventually, energy rationing.
It's ancient history now, and seems utterly alien to the 21st Century neoliberal individualistic me-first, war-of-all-against-all mindset, but in the Nineteen Seventies Energy Crisis, when OPEC hiked energy prices into the stratosphere, there was a concerted effort to discourage energy use.
President Jimmy Carter and Congressman John Lewis
Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Thermometers were set to 77 degrees to reduce air conditioning. President Carter wore a sweater in the Oval Office in winter to reduce heating. Speed limits were set at 55 miles per hour to conserve gasoline. Commuter ride-sharing was encouraged.
No high ranking public official in Washington, Beijing or Brussels would dare to engage in such conservation theatrics today. They would be laughed out of office.
But we are not in a temporary energy crunch caused by a temporary spike in cartelized fossil fuel prices. We are in an existential crisis on a global scale.
As the dire effects of global warming multiply over the next two decades, food production will dwindle, water will become a scarce, valuable resource, hundreds of millions of climate refugees will swarm across borders, and many oceanfront urban centers will have to be abandoned as their infrastructure is increasingly exposed to seawater from higher tides and from saline groundwater infiltration into underground utility systems.
Melbourne Global climate strike on Sep 20, 2019
had well over 100,000 people attending in Treasury Gardens
Takver from Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
There will be de facto rationing of food, water and shelter, not to mention energy, as prices will rise exponentially.
Energy pipelines and international shipping will be unable to function normally. Supply chains will fail, as during the Covid crisis, but the failures will be catastrophic and persistent. Resource wars writ large and small will break out in huge swaths of the world where desertification spreads, and where cities and river deltas flood uncontainably.
If the present political and economic systems remain in place, the necessities of life will be rationed according to the ideology of free market capitalism and according to the political connections that are so important in both capitalist and socialist economies.
Those who have money and are adjacent to power will be able to purchase the necessities of life at increasingly higher prices, and those without money will have to do without, at the cost of their health and their lives.
Arrival of refugees from the Austrian/German border
at the station of Cologe/Bonn airport.
© Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)
In that event, consumer demand will crater, financial markets will implode, the global banking system will collapse and the result will be unimaginable human suffering.
In May 2019, Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told The Guardian that in a 4°C-warmer world, which we are on track to see before the year 2100: “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that… There will be a rich minority of people who survive with modern lifestyles, no doubt, but it will be a turbulent, conflict-ridden world.”
One alternative is to create a society that would socialize key industries including the fossil fuel industry, the banking industry, water and power utilities, water systems, and more.
Think of this as reconfiguring society in accordance with the demands of a true Code Red emergency, similar to what the United States and other countries did during World War II.
"During the Second World War, the United States had a centrally planned economy," explains J. W. Mason in his analysis of the United States' Economy during Wartime in Dissent Magazine. "Strategic resources were produced in quantities set in Washington, and allocated among end users by the public officials sitting on the War Production Board. Key prices and wages were administered, not left to markets. The large majority of investment was directed, financed, and, in most cases, owned by the federal government."
Montgomery Ward repeatedly refused to comply with an order by the National War Labor Board to recognize the workers’ union, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the Army National Guard to seize the company’s property in Chicago and remove its chairman, Sewell Avery.
"Thousands of private businesses that failed to comply with the planners’ instructions were simply taken over by the government—including some of the country’s largest corporations, like Montgomery Ward. For millions of Americans, the photograph of Ward’s adamantly anti-Roosevelt chairman Sewell Avery being carried from his headquarters by a squad of soldiers crystallized the new relationship between government and capital."
In the 21st Century a true Green New Deal would require the government to re-allocate resources from fossil fuel production and consumption to emerging green energies, and to direct the financial system to support that vast undertaking. Agriculture would be reconfigured away from industrial mega-farms and toward local, organic production. America's trillion dollar a year military budget would be diverted to the creation of sustainable and resilient communities within this country.
Panorama of Members of the North Carolina Civilian Conservation Corps
From the Anthony Troy Elliott Photograph Collection,
PhC.113. State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC,
No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons
Both US military personnel and young people enrolled in a 21st century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps would be engaged in retrofitting existing structures to conserve energy, fighting wildfires, helping coastal cities in the process of planned retreat from rising sea levels and superstorms, planting urban and suburban gardens and restoring forests, greenlands and croplands to remove carbon from the atmosphere and return it to the Earth.
In such an economy there would certainly be a collision between the demand of consumers and the parameters of a Green production system, and this could result in runaway inflation unless government also restricted and regulated the distribution of goods and services as was done in World War II, when it was called rationing.
This would be a temporary measure, and government would also have to take steps to insure fair share rationing was not completely undermined by the privileges of wealth and political connections.
The experience of the United States in World War II indicates that such radical restructuring of the commanding heights of the economy can be achieved and managed successfully in times of emergency.
Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, with Earth in background. "Starman" mannequin wearing SpaceX Spacesuit in driving seat. Camera mounted on external boom.
This file was donated to the public domain by SpaceX.
We are in a time of global emergency. Our leaders are psychopaths. They are drunk with demonic delusions, as the Buddhists say. Neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump nor Elon Musk nor Jeff Bezos can be trusted to craft a new Green revolution or to usher in a new post-Carbon civilization. They will only do what is best for them, and for them alone.
If we want an alternative to the current ideology that creates a war of all against all, and prioritizes survival of the richest, it is up to us to dream a different dream and to take steps to make that Green dream come true.
Of course, a Green Revolution in America would result in an apocalyptic conflict between existing elites, like Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and their allies, in both the Democratic and Republican parties, against all the rest of us.
Conflict is escalating in American politics, and has been for years, so conflict is a fact of life, nothing to fear, and a necessary element of the much hoped for transformation of the 20th Century oil and gas fueled American Empire into a renewed and resilient 21st Century Green Republic.
There is no reason to believe that America's status quo is immutable, set in stone. There is every reason to believe that a sea change is coming as America's Century recedes into our rear view mirrors, climate change accelerates exponentially, and the ability of the American Empire to bend other nations to our will begins to visibly decline.
Collage of four photos of the Afghanistan War
Youngottoman, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
This last month, in the interval between two Aquarius full moons as Americans grappled with the unexpected resurgence of the Covid pandemic, and sweltered under hazy skies while the Western US burned, the Taliban swept across Afghanistan and took power without breaking a sweat.
The Afghan army put up virtually no resistance, throughout the Taliban's lightning advance. American leaders seemed unable to accept that they were about to lose control of the entire country so rapidly.
As late as August 15, the Voice of America posted the map seen below, indicating that the Taliban controlled 98% of the country, with American forces still in control in the capital of Kabul and the surrounding region.
Map of Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan
VOA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
On August 18, the President of Afghanistan fled the country in a helicopter loaded with $169 million in cash. American forces rushed pell mell for the exits, American diplomats caught off guard after an eighteen year war that cost over 2 trillion dollars. Swarms of America's Afghani allies swarmed the Kabul airport, many attempting to climb onto the fuselage of departing aircraft in a scene of panic as dramatic as any seen at the time of the fall of Hanoi at the end of the Vietnam war.
The American press is full of recriminations, blaming President Biden for losing the war, and highlighting the corruption among America's Afghani allies and surrogates as a secondary causal factor in what appears to be a crushing defeat for the Global Hydrocarbon Empire.
President Biden no doubt regrets his very public July 8 comments on the Afghanistan withdrawal when he said “There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable [to Vietnam].”
“The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” Biden added.
In all fairness, Biden made clear in his speech that he expects Afghanistan to be in a state of simmering civil war with various factions fighting for control in various parts of the country, as has been the case in Iraq, Syria and Libya, other countries targeted in America's endless War on Terror. That assessment, bleak as it is, was far too rosy.
Aerial view of CIA headquarters
Pi.1415926535, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Overall, the President appears to have been ill advised by America's sprawling international intelligence apparatus, which cost taxpayers $80 billion last year, or he would not have appeared so sanguine about the outcome of the American withdrawal.
Despite all this, President Biden deserves congratulations for doing what previous Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump failed to do. Biden finally brought an end to America's failed forever war in the graveyard of Empires, as Afghanistan is known to military analysts.
America's military engagement with Afghanistan began in the Nineteen Seventies, when geo-strategic grand chess master Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor convinced the President to use Afghanistan as a pawn in the Cold War Great Game.
Brzezinski convinced Carter to create black ops back channels to aid, arm, fund and supply Wahabi Islamic fundamentalists, called the mujahideen, to conduct a guerrilla war against the Soviets and their Socialist allies who controlled Afghanistan at that time.
The idea was to suck the Soviets into a long drawn out conflict that would weaken them militarily and politically, and eventually to install Islamists in power, who would be America's allies in the Cold War. Carter, a devout Christian said at the time that at least the mujahideen believed in God, unlike the atheistic Russian Communists, so they would be better for the Afghani people.
The Russians paid dearly for their war in Afghanistan against the Saudi Arabia backed mujahideen, which dragged on until 1989.
"Deprived of Soviet troops to support it, the Soviet-backed Najibullah regime in Kabul finally fell in April 1992," historian Peter Dale Scott explains in an article on our website entitle The Road to 9/11: The CIA, Big Oil and Al Qaeda. It appeared that Carter's gambit had paid off.
"Under pressure from America, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, the new interim president of Afghanistan, Mojaddedi, announced that the Arab Afghans should leave," Scott recounts. "In January 1993 Pakistan followed suit, closed the offices of all mujahedin in its country, and ordered the deportation of all Arab Afghans."
Arab fighters entered the Muslim Soviet Republics of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, destabilizing this vast swath of the Soviet Union, which was an explicit goal of the Reagan era US government.
"The United States was concerned to hasten the break-up of the Soviet Union, and increasingly to gain access to the petroleum reserves of the Caspian Basin, which at that time were still estimated to be 'the largest known reserves of unexploited fuel in the planet,'” Scott says.
By 1993, the mujihadeen were conducting jihad in Azerbaijan and other Caspian adjacent countries, with an eye on the oil prize. "At stake was an $8 billion oil contract with a consortium of western oil companies headed by BP," Scott continues. "Part of the contract would be a pipeline which would, for the first time, not pass through Russian-controlled territory when exporting oil from the Caspian basin to Turkey."
"To this end, as the 9/11 Report notes, the bin Laden organization established an NGO in Baku, [the capital of Azerbaijan] which became a base for terrorism elsewhere," Scott relates. "It also became a transshipment point for Afghan heroin to the Chechen mafia, whose branches 'extended not only to the London arms market, but also throughout continental Europe and North America. The Arab Afghans’ Azeri operations were financed in part with Afghan heroin.'”
Pakistan's secret service, the ISI, along with Saudi allies, helped the bin Laden financial network arm and train Arab fighters in Afghanistan who were ultimately destined to confront Russian forces in Chechnya.
Flag of Taliban, courtesy Wikimedia
Around the same time, a group of militant jihadis emerged from the madrassas or religious schools of the Pashtun regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They called themselves students, the Taliban. By 1995 they had established a foothold in Afghanistan, and by 1996 they ruled the country.
Security analysts agree that the role of Pakistan's ISI was crucial during the rise of the Taliban. Pakistan acted as America had acted in the Eighties, utilizing black ops back channels overseen by its secret service to funnel money and mujihadeen fighters to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Taliban also relied on a small cadre of fighters led by Osama bin Laden in their longstanding confrontation with Ahmad Shah Musud, a warlord originally backed by the Americans in their fight with the Russians, who stubbornly held out long after the Taliban had taken over the rest of Afghanistan. This alliance accounts for bin Laden's presence in Afghanistan during the late 1990s.
Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Attack on Twin Towers
National Park Service, Courtesy Wikimedia
Osama bin Laden's attack on Manhattan's Twin Towers triggered a paroxysm of war fever across America, and it was widely known that bin Laden was sheltered by his Taliban allies in Afghanistan.
The George W. Bush administration made it a priority to attack Afghanistan, remove the Taliban from power, and capture or kill bin Laden. This was always understood to be a mere prelude to the main event, which was to be the invasion of Iraq, Bush's highest priority.
"Those in the know, in the three-letter agencies and the DC elite, knew Afghanistan was hopeless," says journalist Gary Brecher. "They knew this because the Taliban, officially the enemy in Afghanistan, was sponsored and protected by the Pakistani armed forces. And Pakistan was never going to hand over Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, to the Americans. The Pakistani intel elite, one of the scariest, murkiest groups in the world, cherished its pet jihadis as its one reliable weapon against the hated Indians. It was never going to help destroy them, or even cooperate in any serious pruning operation."
There would be no way America could win a long drawn out war in Afghanistan, even after removing the Taliban from power, because the long porous border with Pakistan allowed the Taliban to move back and forth at will between Pakistani safe havens and Afghani bases. They had the help of the Pakistani ISI and could conduct heroin and arms smuggling operations that would continue to fuel their guerrilla war.
Director of the CIA David Petraeus, courtesy Wikimedia, Official Photo
General David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA, who presided over America's wars in Iraq and then in Afghanistan for many years, said as much on NPR this week, as Kabul fell.
This raises an important question. America had removed the Taliban from power by 2003-2004, which was their stated goal. In order to find Osama bin Laden Americans would have to search both Afghanistan and Pakistan for years, finally finding and killing him in 2011 in Pakistan, in a safe house in close proximity to a Pakistani army base. So why did America pursue a war its intelligence community and its generals knew they could not win for nearly twenty years?
Journalists and historians will spend years researching that question, and many books will be written on the topic.
What we can say today with certainty is that the long drawn out war in Afghanistan played out a lot like what Osama bin Laden had hoped for when he attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11.
In 2004, bin Laden released a video explaining much of his strategy in attacking Manhattan.
Afghan mujahideen in Kunar during the Soviet-Afghan War, 1987.
erwinlux, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
"We, alongside the mujahideen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat," bin Laden said. "All that we have to do is to send two mujihadeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden continued.
Somehow American military and intelligence officers allowed themselves to be sucked into the same drawn out war against jihadis that destabilized the Soviet Union.
As a result, America suffered an eighteen year bout of what intelligence operatives call blowback, when the unintentional consequences of past black intelligence operations inflict damage on friendly forces. America's decision to use the mujihadeen to fight the Soviets created a fearsome force for global terror that could also be used as a tool of the Islamist Pakistani intelligence agencies to wage dirty wars against American occupation forces in Afghanistan, to attack targets in India, and to fuel jihad worldwide.
The self-inflicted defeat in Afghanistan was not just a result of American ignorance or geo-strategic miscalculation, poor intelligence or hubris.
"A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post [in 2019] reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable."
"The documents were generated by a federal project examining the root failures of the longest armed conflict in U.S. history," according to the Washington Post. "They include more than 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials."
The documents were part of a landmark study by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction [SIGAR]. The study found that as in Vietnam, metrics were altered to give the appearance of progress in the war, in nation building, and in curtailing the opium trade in Afghanistan on a regular basis.
“Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers," as quoted in The Washington Post.
The SIGAR study discovered that under Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, there was not even any agreement among military commanders and intelligence experts about the identity of the enemy.
"Was al-Qaeda the enemy, or the Taliban?" asked The Washington Post. "Was Pakistan a friend or an adversary? What about the Islamic State and the bewildering array of foreign jihadists, let alone the warlords on the CIA’s payroll? According to the documents, the U.S. government never settled on an answer."
"As a result, in the field, U.S. troops often couldn’t tell friend from foe," The Washington Post concluded.
Fundamental strategic and tactical failures were routinely covered up and the American public was fed lies continuously during this eighteen year disaster by the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Worst of all, military and civilian leaders concealed the fact that they all knew the Afghan war was unwinnable and that creating a viable strong centralized government in that country would take up to 100 years.
As a former journalist, I am trained to ask, cui bono? Who benefits?
Rococo staicase in Gruber Mansion (Ljubljana, Slovenia).
Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The talking heads in Washington and New York blame America's Afghani allies for corruption so deep and complete it undermined America's noble mission during the long war, but a closer look at the numbers reveals that although it is true that the President fled with a helicopter full of cash and many warlords favored by the US lived in palaces replete with gold fixtures, fitted up in rococo oligarch chic, the Afghani opportunists were simply taking a cue from their American overlords, who were clearly taking every opportunity to rake in as much profit as they could during this 20 year long debacle.
Estimated Cost of Afghan War
Adjusted for inflation, far more money was spent by US taxpayers on nation building in Afghanistan than America spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.
As you can see from the chart above, the vast majority of the $2+ trillion spent on the Afghan war was not actually invested in that country's infrastructure or military, but went instead to defense contractors, private military contractors providing boots on the ground, Wall Street bankers and wealthy investors who finance America's debt.
"IF YOU PURCHASED $10,000 of stock evenly divided among America’s top five defense contractors on September 18, 2001 — the day President George W. Bush signed the Authorization for Use of Military Force in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks — and faithfully reinvested all dividends, it would now be worth $97,295," reports Jon Schwarz in The Intercept.
"This is a far greater return than was available in the overall stock market over the same period. $10,000 invested in an S&P 500 index fund on September 18, 2001, would now be worth $61,613," Schwarz explains.
"That is, defense stocks outperformed the stock market overall by 58 percent during the Afghanistan War," Schwarz concludes.
Osama bin Laden sits with his adviser Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir.
Hamid Mir, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, cropped and filtered
As Osama bin Laden predicted, America's top defense contractors, whose Boards are filled with former high ranking military officers, have been the major benefactors of the government's forever war in Afghanistan.
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex," warned President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1961. "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
Unfortunately, America's political and military elites are perhaps really not fully engaged with the world outside their own portfolios, offices and mansions.
Lobby Card for The Great Gatsby
Paramount Pictures, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
As F. Scott Fitzgerald said of the upper class characters at the center of his novel The Great Gatsby, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
Now it is up to Afghanistan's neighbors, China, Russia, and Iran, in particular, to clean up the mess in their backyard.
Given the long history of Presidential deception during the Afghanistan war, which has seen three Presidents refuse to face reality and continue a senseless, futile, unwinnable war with no real strategic vision or clearly defined goals, President Biden must be congratulated for his willingness to confront the anger of elites in both parties and of US military commanders.
Biden continues to defend his decision to withdraw as being in the long term best interests of both America and Afghanistan, and reiterated that he was against the 2009 surge in Afghanistan ordered by Obama and administered by Director of Central Intelligence Petraeus. History will vindicate Biden's principled opposition to the Obama-Petraeus surge, and his decision to withdraw.
As climate change accelerates and the planet nears ominous tipping points that could trigger runaway global warming, the United States has spent $6 trillion dollars on futile wars of choice in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Middle East over the last twenty years.
Meanwhile, China has invested in scientific research and development, which has made China a leader in new technologies such as 5G. China has made massive investments in bullet trains, smart infrastructure, and in visionary, gorgeous, colossal permaculture projects in coastal and riparian mega-cities to mitigate flooding caused by climate change. China calls this the Sponge Cities project.
Click to view the Sponge Cities Video on YouTube
The multi-trillion dollar cost of the American Empire and its war machine is a major factor preventing the US from investing in new infrastructure, climate change mitigation, a new smart grid that would work with renewable technologies, and so much more. Perhaps it's time for the American people to choose investment in their future over investment in a futile attempt to control the planet militarily.
Cosmic Weather Forecast
Sunday, August 22 at 8:02 AM Eastern daylight time we celebrate the Full Moon positioned at 29°37’ Aquarius, right on the Pisces cusp. The Sun is at 29°37’ Leo, but enters Virgo at 5:35 PM EDT on Sunday, and we celebrate the Virgo Solar Festival.
Johannes Hevelius's 17th century chart of Aquarius and surrounding constellations,
from his highly important Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia.
Jupiter conjoins the rising Aquarian moon in the East, an aspect associated with good fortune, material abundance, emotional well being and especially spiritual advancement. At the same time Jupiter opposes the Sun, traditionally associated with festivals and optimism among the general public.
At the same time as the Full Moon, Mars in Virgo trines newly retrograde Uranus in Taurus, indicating the potential for surprising new positive social connections, and an opportunity to forge new plans that can help us move forward in areas of life where we have been immobilized.
We may all feel thwarted at the moment of this August Blue Moon in Aquarius at the Pisces cusp.
But this is a Turning Point Blue Moon. We are given the opportunity to review the events of the last month, between the two Aquarius Full Moons, to integrate these experiences into our collective consciousness, and to find a new path forward, grounded and centered in the wisdom that we have gained from some difficult, even harsh experiences of frustration and futility.
Seven of Swords, Futility, Moon in Aquarius, Thoth Tarot
The Aquarius Full Moon is associated with the seven of swords in the Thoth Tarot deck, named Futility. This card depicts a large sword, the sword of the Individual Will, shattered by the encroachment of six smaller swords.
The conventional interpretation of the 7 of swords is that one's will, the large single sword, is being thwarted by external influences. People, things in general, astrological aspects, karma, and blind bad luck seem to conspire to prevent us from moving forward on our perceived path to our spiritual and material goals.
We are at the end of a period between two Aquarius Full Moons, and it is not surprising that the entire world shares a sense of futility in the face of accelerating climate change and a resurgence of the Covid pandemic.
For the occupiers of Afghanistan, this last month has also revealed the futility of America's eighteen years of war in the graveyard of Empires, the country that previously defeated the British and Russian Empires in prolonged fierce battles.
Fortunately, study of the Kabbalah and the Tarot indicates that there is a spiritual antidote to this feeling of futility that is so depressing, enervating and frustrating.
Numerology, a major component of the wisdom school teachings of the Kabbalah and the Tarot, tells us that in each of the four suits of the Tarot, each of the cards, numbered from one to ten, has a polar opposite. The one is equal and opposite the ten. Two = Nine. Three = Eight. Four = Seven. Three = Eight. Two = Nine.
When confronted with an undesirable card, corresponding to a negative state of consciousness, we can focus attention on the opposite card in the same suit, and there we will find the key to ameliorating or transcending the negative impact of the undesirable card.
The opposite of the 7 of swords is the 4 of swords, called Truce.
Four of Swords, Truce, Waite Tarot Deck
We can turn this time of seeming futility, this anxious anticipation, this burning feeling of being thwarted, this exasperation with the interminable progress of the pandemic, and the agony of climate change and America's failed military adventurism into a moment of positive potential this Full Moon, simply by adjusting our view of the situation.
Since patience is very much required, we would do well to redirect the energy we are pouring into regrets of recent or current wasted opportunities, now past.
When we have no desires, no lust of result, Futility, the 7 of Swords is transfigured, and becomes the 4 of Swords, or Truce. The present moment becomes not a restriction but rather a doorway, a turning point, a crossroads and an antechamber that represents the penultimate point in our quest to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Higher Consciousness, where we can receive the intuitive guidance that will lead us forward on new better pathways leading to the attainment of our spiritual and material goals.
In the Waite Tarot, the 4 of Swords, pictured above, shows a knight shed of armor reclining on a casket, head on a pillow, and hands upraised from heart in prayer position. Above his head are three swords on the wall, points downward. The three swords are black and white images, indicating they are merely a mental construct of some kind.
Three of Swords, Melancholy, Waite Rider Tarot
The knight is in meditation, lying upon a casket, symbolic of death, and also symbolic of the metaphorical death of the ego. He is meditating upon the Three of Swords, which is melancholy, the Cosmic Sorrow that arises from awareness of the impermanence of all that exists within the space-time continuum, and the ubiquity of death and suffering.
This is all in accordance with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. All things tend toward disorder. The Second Law states that "As one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any isolated or closed system will always increase (or at least stay the same)."
The counter to the mental agony the knight suffers from is to connect with the individual's favored Spiritual Guide and Teacher, whether it be Christ, Vishnu, Isis or the Great Mother. To the left of the swords, a stained glass window portrays a standing figure, who perhaps has a halo, extending grace, alms, or a blessing to a supplicant. This figure represents the knight's Spiritual Guide or Teacher.
The knight connects through his meditation to Higher Mind, and to the energy signature of the spiritual lineage to which he belongs, and to his own Spiritual Teachers and Guides.
Having made the connection to Source, the knight perceives that the awareness of sorrow that has arisen in him, and the fact that he is in a static consciousness, free of the lust of result, free of the desire for material gain or spiritual conquest, are ideal conditions for productive meditation practice.
And so the knight is blessed.
Jane and I pray that you all can achieve the state of equilibrium pictured in the 4 of Swords, and that that equipoise can be a state of consciousness that generates new insights, new spiritual awareness, intuitive guidance and genuine emotional releasing of toxic emotions in preparation for a new Solar cycle as the Sun enters the sign of Virgo Sunday evening.
September is a month of fresh starts. With Sun and Mars in Virgo, we can expect to get a better sense of what needs to be done and get traction as we begin to manifest all that is new in our lives.
Jane and I pray that you receive the grace and guidance you require to achieve your loftiest spiritual and material goals during this Virgo interval of the yearly seasonal cycle.
Meditation Moment: Nothing Wants to Suffer by Danusha Laméris
Milky Way Galaxy, seen from Nepal
Pravin Mishra, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Nothing wants to suffer. Not the wind
as it scrapes itself against the cliff. Not the cliff
being eaten, slowly, by the sea. The earth does not want
to suffer the rough tread of those who do not notice it.
The trees do not want to suffer the axe, nor see
their sisters felled by root rot, mildew, rust.
The coyote in its den. The puma stalking its prey.
These, too, want ease and a tender animal in the mouth
to take their hunger. An offering, one hopes,
made quickly, and without much suffering.
The chair mourns an angry sitter. The lamp, a scalded moth.
A table, the weight of years of argument.
We know this, though we forget.
Not the shark nor the tiger, fanged as they are.
Nor the worm, content in its windowless world
of soil and stone. Not the stone, resting in its riverbed.
The riverbed, gazing up at the stars.
Least of all, the stars, ensconced in their canopy,
looking down at all of us— their offspring—
scattered so far beyond reach.