The latest revelation in the never ending war on everything is that Russians have been offering bounties to Taliban soldiers for every American soldier they kill. I don’t know what everyone else thinks about this. Clearly, many people believe it but, frankly, I’m not convinced of the veracity of this claim. So the question is, is it believable?
“Why not?” you might ask. At this point, I have to admit that I don’t know what to believe, the reason being that we have been lied to so much and so often by so many that I’m not willing to accept what I read or hear simply on the basis that it was “reported by” so and so.
Lies, lies and more lies. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was staged to justify the use of American troops in combat in Vietnam. “We are winning the war in Vietnam” (right up to the last helicopter evacuation from Saigon). Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein is supporting Al Qaeda. We are winning the war in Afghanistan. Our Secretary of State who was previously CIA Director openly admitted the CIA lies all the time1, and to top it off, we have a president who lies to us daily2. The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, John Sopko, reported to Congress “…that U.S. officials have routinely lied to the public during the 18-year war by exaggerating progress reports and inflating statistics to create a false appearance of success”.
In trying to ascertain the truth, I look for evidence. I also take the old-fashioned detective’s approach of looking for means, motive and opportunity. So far, I have been shown no evidence. Zero. Nada. All we have are allegations. As for the detective approach, it is easy to establish means and opportunity for the Russians to offer bounties to the Taliban or anyone else for that matter. But motive? Why would the Russians offer money to people for doing what they want to do anyway3? That seems to be a little pointless. Do the Russians want the U.S. out of Afghanistan? I’m sure they do – but is that going to help them? We’re losing anyway, so why bother? Is Putin seeking revenge or does he just want to harass us? He might – but offering bounties on American soldiers killed carries an extremely high risk of blowback, and he stands to lose much more than he can possibly gain. The whole idea is really childish and stupid – and whatever you think about Putin, he is not stupid. As a result, I see a very high risk with no tangible gain for Putin. So there goes the motive. Without a good and well thought out motive, I find it hard to believe Putin would engage in such foolishness.
So what about these revelations? All we know is that they are “leaks” from sources “who must remain anonymous because they are not authorized to speak publicly”. Who are these people? Why are they “leaking” this information to the public and what do they hope to achieve by doing so? Is this really a “leak” or is it a “plant” deliberately given to the media for some ulterior motive? What do they want the public to do with this information? Protest? Write our Congressmen? Demand we expand the war? Demand we end the war? Or is it possibly just a distraction from more important issues?
Also, if the Russians did offer bounties to the Taliban, who delivered the money and who authorized it (name, rank, serial number)? How far up the chain of command were the bounties authorized? Did anyone in the Kremlin authorize them? Did Putin know about it? Who received the money? How much did they receive? What did they do with the money?
I don’t know the answers to these questions but what I do know is that I am witnessing another Gish gallop, like the allegations of weapons of mass destruction4 that were repeated so many times in so many ways by so many people in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. I also know that there are many people in and around our administration who advocate for expanding the war in Afghanistan in spite of the fact that we have been losing continuously for nearly 20 years5 6. I also know that war makes huge profits for those who make the weapons of war, that the sale of weapons and munitions domestically as well as abroad is a major industry in our country, and that the weapons makers wield disproportionate influence over the policy makers in our government.
Once again, looking for means, motive and opportunity, whoever “leaked” the revelations of Russian bounties on American soldiers clearly had the means and opportunity as they have succeeded in doing so. As for motive? If these “leaks” are intended to gain public support for continuing and/or expanding the war, there is a clear profit motive.
Bottom line: I don’t know what to believe, but I have every reason to be skeptical. I see no intelligent motive for the Russians to offer the Taliban bounties for killing American soldiers, but I see a profit motive for someone to falsely claim they are doing so, just as they did with the weapons of mass destruction. We have been lied to so often by so many that there is little reason to believe anything, especially when allegations are unsubstantiated and logic argues that they make no sense7.
1 “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses,” Mike Pompeo, at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, April 15, 2019.
2 The Washington Post fact check’s Trumps statements and has reported that he gives an average of 15 lies or misleading statements daily. (Since the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has risen.)
3 That’s like offering money to the man sleeping with your wife to sleep with your wife.
4 The Gish gallop is a technique used during debating in which a debater overwhelms his opponent with rapid fire arguments without regard for truth, accuracy or strength of the arguments.
Whenever I read or hear a Gish gallop, I automatically become suspicious.
5 Furthermore, the Afghan war is a civil war that’s been going on since long before our involvement and we should have learned the lesson long ago that you never win when you insert yourself in another nation’s civil war. (Old Chinese proverb: man who gets in middle of pissing contest gets pissed on.)
6 Some of those same people would have us engage in war with Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
7 Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. (Try it the thousandth time – you think I’m stupid?)