The organized acts of violence committed by the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan do not constitute a war. The accepted definition of war is armed conflict between or among states or nations. The armed conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan involves a military alliance of nations, on one side, and, on the other, an unknown number of armed individuals acting on behalf of no nation, and neither sanctioned nor sponsored by any nation.
Most of these individuals are ordinary people who have taken up arms against soldiers they see as invaders. Many are members of local militias, some pressed into service at gunpoint, and some are common criminals. The application of US armed force to restrain, capture or kill such individuals may look like war, involving, as it does, the destruction of life and property, but it fits no commonly understood definition of war, as we accept that term to justify killing. If the killing is not war and has been executed without due process of law, it cannot be justified, and it is unlawful.
In our government of laws, war is a legal term. Article One of the Constitution is clear. Congress has the authority to declare war. If there is no declaration, there is no war. Ours is a government of enumerated powers, and under such government, a common solder or a president who kills without a declaration of war is killing without legal justification. The fact that the judiciary has so far declined to intervene to curb instances of illegal killing by US forces is more a reflection of the cowardice of lawyers and judges than the state of the law. The Constitution remains the supreme law of the land, and the Constitution requires a congressional declaration for killing to be justified as warfare. The killing in Afghanistan by our armed forces is murder.
The basis for the US and NATO mobilization was a tissue of lies. There is no evidence that anyone in Afghanistan or Pakistan, certainly not any of those killed or made homeless by our bullets and missiles, had any hand whatsoever in the events of September 11, 2001, and there is no evidence—none—t hat there is an imminent threat to us from that part of the world. The men who are alleged to have hijacked the crashed airplanes were Arabs, not Afghans, and most of their training and preparation was undertaken, not in Afghanistan, but in Florida. Retribution against Afghanistan proceeded without due process of law and without reasoned debate. There never was and there is not now a risk to us from Afghanistan sufficient to justify violent armed force, the occupation of cities by our soldiers, the assassination of individuals, the installment of warlords in government posts, and the payment of bribes and blood money. If the actions undertaken by our armed forces in Afghanistan were committed against people in the USA, they would certainly be crimes. They are no less criminal for having been committed against dark-skinned, illiterate foreigners.
The conflict in Afghanistan is a racket. It fits the criteria of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and the organizers of the effort would certainly be prosecuted under RICO if they were not US government officials. The crimes committed by our officials are patent—torture, murder, bribery, extortion, obstruction of justice—and, like most criminal enterprises, this one’s been a money-maker, for government officials and for their patrons and contractors. Some of the crimes have been altogether public—the fabrication of a coverup of Pat Tillman’s murder, for example—but most lie buried in shallow graves. That the generals and civilian authorities have used the cloak of military protocol to hide their crimes would, in a government of laws, be deemed to compound their culpability.
All law, even the rule of law itself, is undermined by government illegality. If the US government can kill without legal authority, so can any gang, any mob, any self-appointed posse or militia. Decent, loyal, law-abiding Americans would be well advised to repudiate—with extreme prejudice—the criminals that govern this nation before it collapses around us.