“You break it, you own it.” – Former US secretary of state Colin Powell American punditry will now endlessly dissect the many ways in which the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam are alike or dissimilar. They will argue about military plans, political goals and exit strategies, how they could have been won or ended up a lot worse, and the sacrifice of American blood, resources and credibility. One is America’s longest war (20 years), the other, second longest (19 years). They will avoid stating the obvious: the enemy has won. In both cases, an undertrained and ill-equipped enemy that was outnumbered, outpowered and out-resourced prevailed over the mightiest war machine in human history. It would be a pyrrhic victory, though, as the enemy would inherit a wasteland, their country ravaged by the most advanced and destructive weapons humankind has ever seen. Since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began collecting data in 2009, it has documented about 111,000 Afghan civilian casualties, including more than 35,500 deaths. But the war, of course, began in 2001. The Afghan war is only part of the so-called war on terror. Within that bigger general picture, the civilian costs have been even more horrific. According to the Costs of War Project under the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, at least 800,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan. One Project study reported: “The US post-9/11 wars have forcibly displaced at least 37 million people in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya and Syria. This number exceeds the total displaced by every war since 1900, except World War II.” By comparison, fewer than 3,000 people died in the September 11 terrorist attacks. As a result, all those countries have been experiencing humanitarian crises, some more catastrophic than others. The Taliban will retake the country under their crazy version of Islam, just as the North Vietnamese unified theirs under communism. Like the Vietnam war, the 20-year war in Afghanistan accomplished nothing American leaders had planned for it, other than causing unimaginable bloodshed and costing an estimated US$6.4 trillion, equivalent to almost a quarter of the US national debt. Neither did the war on terror in the Middle East, other than creating even more turmoil in an already volatile region; and creating an opening for Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, which now have to be rolled back, hence Syria, Libya and Yemen. Life is full of uncertainties. We can’t predict what will happen to all those poor countries. But we can know for certain that no American leaders will ever be held responsible for their crimes against humanity.