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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

It's over. Donald the Dealmaker says that he has ended America's long nightmare in Afghanistan, finally terminating 18-plus years of grinding war (the longest in U.S. history). After more than 2,400 Americans killed (another 20,000 wounded), more than 100,000 Afghan citizens killed (countless more maimed) and roughly $2 trillion wasted, Trump is crowing that he's negotiated an end to the ridiculously expensive and pointless military adventure.

Only … he hasn't. His flimsy four-page document, signed with a group of Taliban officials on Feb. 29, is not an end to hostilities and does not require disarmament or even a cease-fire. It's just a cynical, face-saving device so Trump can withdraw a few troops and then claim in his reelection campaign that he's fulfilling his 2016 promise to end "endless wars." This so-called Afghan peace accord merely asks Taliban warlords to agree to — get this — a seven-day "reduction in violence." There's not even a clear statement on what constitutes a reduction or violence, much less any agreement on steps toward achieving real peace.

The deal is so weak that Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, could muster nothing but weasel words to describe it. "We are now on the cusp of having an opportunity which may not succeed," he mumbled. Taliban leaders, however, were not at all wishy-washy about signing, boldly staging a victory parade just before the ceremony and hailing the event as "a day of pride" for their win over "invader Americans." Few U.S. military leaders think the deal will stick, privately saying they doubt it'll even survive until our November election. Even as it was being signed, Pentagon chief Mark Esper emphasized that the U.S. "would not hesitate to nullify the agreement" and resume the war if the regional warlords act up, which some almost certainly will.

Oops … some already have. The seven-day hiatus in hostilities promised by Trump's peace ploy was violated just three days after it was signed! On March 3, the Taliban mounted 43 attacks on security checkpoints run by the U.S.-backed Afghan military, killing at least 25 of our allied soldiers. This was followed the next day by our own drone attack on the Taliban fighters. Embarrassingly, this sudden re-eruption of outright war came only a few hours after Trump bragged to reporters that he had telephoned the Taliban's chief peace negotiator, who had assured him that Taliban leaders "don't want violence." Our wheeler-dealer-in-chief called it "a very good talk."

Talk aside, war is real, and it's not ended by a presidential PR job. Far from withdrawing from Afghanistan, Trump's hoked-up agreement actually creates conditions for more U.S. involvement, including his concession to release 5,000 Taliban fighters from Afghan prisons, summarily reversing military gains that Americans and allies died to make. Moreover, the deal extends U.S. entanglement by specifically committing our troops and taxpayers to continue backing and financing the weak Afghan military indefinitely — while also pledging to continue paying for and propping up this wobbly nation's notoriously corrupt, deeply divided and hopelessly incompetent government.

In short, as usual in a Trump deal, this one is all about him — far from extricating the U.S., it's an escape clause written for his political advantage.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Taliban is an inordinately complex and perplexing collection of regional warlords who resist all central governmental authorities. Not for nothing is this violent, inhospitable land of rural mountain wilderness known as the "graveyard of empires." While its tribalism and religious fundamentalism are repressive and primitive, its people have repeatedly outfoxed and outlasted such "conquering" powers as imperial England and the Soviet Union.

In dealing with them, poor Donald is simply in over his head, and as we know, he doesn't listen to advisors who might be smarter than he is about the treacherous nature of fighting the Taliban. Indeed, while Trump referred to the guy he telephoned on March 3 as "the leader of the Taliban," he's not. He's Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who's not an honored warrior but a career Taliban politician. As pointed out by the CIA's former chief of counterterrorism for Afghanistan, the mullah's contingent of dealmakers "are largely disconnected from and disrespected by the Taliban's senior leadership." Perhaps that's why our president's negotiated peace deal lasted three days.

The larger lesson, though, is that brute military force by an outside power — whether in Afghanistan, Vietnam or wherever next — is not a path to victory, much less peace. For years, even as former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Trump and their political enablers (generals, Congress and the media) were bragging that they were bringing democracy to Afghanistan, they were jiving and outright lying. As one strategic planner, Army Gen. Douglas Lute, admitted in 2015, "We didn't know what we were doing."

Tell that to the thousands who've died from the ignorance and lies of our so-called leaders.

Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes "The Hightower Lowdown," a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.

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If you missed the retraction from the right-wing online magazine The American Thinker, it's one for the ages. Noting that they had received a warning from lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems, the editors admitted that they had published pieces that "relied on discredited sources who have peddled debunked theories ... These statements are completely false and have no basis in fact. ... We apologize to Dominion for all of the harm this caused them and their employees. We also apologize to our readers for abandoning 9 journalistic principles and misrepresenting Dominion's track record and its limited role in tabulating votes for the November 2020 election. We regret this grave error."

Fox News has issued similar retractions. This is the beginning, not the end, of the story. Dominion has sent letters to 20 other entities and individuals, including One American News Network, Newsmax, Lin Wood, White House Counsel Pat Cippolone and Rudy Giuliani. Sidney Powell, the "Kraken" lawyer in Donald Trump's orbit, got more than a warning. She was slapped with a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit for her outrageous and outlandish claims including that Dominion's voting machines were designed by Hugo Chavez to help him rig elections; that the machines contained secret algorithms to change Donald Trump votes into Joe Biden votes; that Dominion had bribed Georgia officials to obtain its contract with the state; and that she had a video showing the company's founder bragging that his system "could easily change a million votes, no problem."

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