O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? – Matthew 12:34
People need to understand something about Afghanistan, and the debacle we’re witnessing there. America’s involvement in Afghanistan didn’t begin in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. It began in the last years of the Carter Administration, when he and his advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski set out to “give the Soviets their own Vietnam.” They did this by funding and arming an international cohort of violent fundamentalist extremists and training them in terror tactics. (Osama bin Laden was one of those who joined this jihad army supported by the US, Saudia Arabia and Pakistan.)
At that time, there was a modern, secular regime in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a paradise. It was ridden by internal factionalism, sometimes violent. It was supported by the Soviet Union. It was beset by fundamentalist extremists. It had repressive features. But it was a secular regime. Women were emancipated; many held high positions. Children, including girls, were educated. Science was honored and promoted. Religion was tolerated, albeit uneasily.
Carter and Brzezinski decided to empower the extremist militias attacking the regime, hoping to induce so much chaos that the Soviets would intervene militarily to help their client state. Again, as Brzezinski himself put it, they wanted to give the USSR “its own Vietnam.”
Think about this for a moment. What Carter and Brzezinski wanted was to subject the Afghan people to the years of suffering and death that the Vietnamese had experienced. They WANTED Afghanistan to suffer this fate, and they ACTED to make sure it happened. And it did. If you like, it was one of the great successes of US foreign policy in the post-war period. They deliberately plunged Afghanistan into blood-soaked chaos; and the Soviets – after fierce debate in the Politburo – did send in troops to try to stabilize the country. What followed was year after year after year of horror and death. Again, please note: this was the stated INTENTION of US policy: mass death, terrorism and suffering.
When Carter lost in 1980, Reagan took up his policy in Afghanistan and magnified it. More arms and money to religious extremists. More terrorist training, with CIA manuals. The US even produced textbooks for Afghan children lauding fundamentalist extremism and jihad terror. (All of this was reported in the Washington Post and other mainstream outlets.) Reagan invited the precursors of the Taliban to the White House, where he called them the “moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers” and “freedom fighters.” These men were dedicated to undoing the emancipation of women, destroying all vestiges of secular society and imposing the most harsh and hidebound fundamentalist strictures imaginable.
These were the people who were armed, trained, funded, lauded and supported by the United States government for years on end. The Taliban would not exist if not for these long-running, bipartisan policies of the United States.
At last, the Soviets were bled dry, as Carter and Reagan intended, and pulled out of Afghanistan, leaving ruin and chaos behind. There followed years of civil war between atrocious warlords who tortured and looted the Afghan people. The Taliban arose from the midst of the extremists backed by the United States. They managed to take over the country in the early 1990s. They were then supported by the United States once again. Taliban members came to Texas seeking business deals under then-Governor George W. Bush. They sent representatives to Washington, meeting mostly with Republican leaders. When Bush was president, he hooked up with the Taliban in drug eradication efforts.
As noted, Osama bin Laden had been part of the US-backed extremist jihad against the secular regime. However, when the US stationed troops in his homeland of Saudi Arabia during the first Iraq War, he and other fundamentalists regarded this as a profanation of the holy land and vowed to drive American troops from Saudi Arabia. This was the main purpose behind al-Qaeda’s terror attacks, which culminated on 9/11: an attack carried out almost entirely by Saudi nationals, with no involvement of the Taliban or any Afghan citizens.
Bin Laden, a hero of the extremists’ triumph over the USSR, was by now back in Afghanistan. After the 9/11 attacks – which the US itself has said occurred without any foreknowledge by the Taliban – the Taliban offered several times to turn Bin Laden over to international justice in some accredited forum. Bush adamantly refused to even entertain the offer, and launched a full-scale military invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.
As is well known, just after the attack, the Bush Administration launched a frantic, extraordinary effort to spirit many top Saudi figures out of the United States. It could be noted here that the Bush family had long-standing business ties with the Saudis, including the Bin Laden family. (Indeed, Osama bin Laden’s father died in a plane crash in Texas while doing business there.)
In any case, the war was on. Although bin Laden and his forces were seemingly trapped in their mountain fortress early on, somehow they managed to escape to Pakistan, where bin Laden lived untroubled for many years.
By 2002, the Taliban regime had fallen. But the “nation-building” efforts of the United States very soon took a backseat to the goal that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (and Jeb Bush, among others) had publicly announced before Dubya’s election: war on Iraq. A Cheney-Rumsfeld group called “Project for the New American Century” laid out its plans before the 2000 election, calling for massive new military expenditures, extensive new military operations overseas and war on Iraq. The PNAC document clearly stated that they realized it would be very difficult to achieve this wholesale militarization of US society and policy, unless – their words, in 2000 – the American people were “catalyzed” by a “new Pearl Harbor.”
In 2003, massive military resources and political attention were shifted from Afghanistan to the real war that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted: Iraq. It would be tedious to recite all the deceptions they practiced to perpetrate their deliberate, knowing lie about “Iraqi WMDs” or the collusion of Democrats like Biden in furthering the war fever. The war came and we all know what happened. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died, the whole region became destablized, thousands became radicalized by the death and torture visited upon their lands, and vast, almost incomprehensible levels of corruption attended every aspect of the long, bloody American occupation.
Meanwhile, the “backwater” of Afghanistan became little more than a long exercise in war profiteering. The “government” installed by the Americans looted the country on an almost incomprehensible scale. American and Afghan officials colluded with the Taliban to ship drugs and money out of the country. At one point, US and NATO officials were actually paying the Taliban to allow shipments of supplies through their checkpoints. Bombings went on, drone strikes went on, civilians were slaughtered by both the occupiers and the Taliban: a long, pointless hell that so radicalized the populace that in the end, as we saw this week, there was no longer any resistance to the Taliban and the order they promised – however harsh and brutal it will be.
The “Afghanistan Papers” of official US documents leaked a few years ago showed that the top US military and political officials had no idea what they were doing in Afghanistan. There was no real mission, no focus, no goal; it was essentially just a perpetual motion machine of death, suffering, procurement, profiteering and corruption. The Taliban had long since regained control of most of the country. The Afghans, which down through the centuries had defeated Alexander the Great, the British Empire and the Soviet Union has now defeated the United States as well.
But again we must go back to the beginning of the current situation. It started when the United States and its allies created an army of Islamic extremists in order to impose years of Vietnam-style hell on the Afghan people – as part of the “Great Game” of geopolitics, which uses innocent lives, and whole nations, as dispensable pieces on a chessboard. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan WANTED to create vast, hellish civil war in Afghanistan to ensnare the Soviets; that was their stated goal, and they spent vast amounts of US taxpayer to money to make it happen. They WANTED thousands of people to die in horrific conditions – Afghan civilians, Soviet conscripts, anyone, they didn’t care – as long as the Soviets “got their own Vietnam.” To me, this is a monstrous crime of near-demonic proportions: to deliberately work to create such an outcome. But they did work at it. And they succeeded.
Later, George W. Bush decided to throw the lives of US soldiers into the mix by invading a country that nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, as he well knew. Obama, with the eternal anxiety of Democrats not to look “weak” in the eyes of the morally depraved “foreign policy establishment,” then launched a pointless “surge” in Afghanistan that killed many more thousands of people (including US and allied soldiers). Again, as the “Afghanistan Papers” showed, all this was done with no real plan or aim, and with rampant corruption at every turn.
After this, the US largely stepped back from direct actions on the ground, and let the Afghan army do the dying, while the US concentrated on bombing and droning. Yet still the war went on, year after year, as tens of thousands were radicalized by their suffering and joined or supported the Taliban, which controlled most of the country outside the major cities. Finally Trump decided to cut a hasty and ill-thought out deal with the Taliban that ensured they would take over the country the moment the Americans pulled out – which immediately leeched away any remaining support for the corrupt and inept American-installed government. (Of course, if that government had promised to build a big Trump hotel in Baghdad, he probably would’ve sent in 30 divisions to keep it in power until he got his loot.)
This was the deal Biden inherited. But instead of treating it as what it really was – the inevitable handover of Afghanistan to the only local force capable of forming a government – Biden pretended that the Potemkin state installed by the Americans could somehow survive after the American withdrawal … at least long enough to save some face. Instead of spending six months in a negotiated, orderly transfer of power, the US simply kept up the 20-year farce for a time then bugged out, literally in the dead of night, in most cases without even telling the Afghan forces what was happening.
The Afghan forces knew the jig was up last year when Trump freed the co-founder of the Taliban, who then duly appeared with Mike Pompeo for a cozy photo-op. The Afghan soldiers knew it was only a matter of time before the Taliban was in power again. So when the Americans bugged out, the Afghan army began negotiating with the Taliban to avoid needless destruction and bloodshed. Thus city after city was surrendered without a pointless fight: a grim but humane course taken by Afghan soldiers in these dire circumstances.
But Joe Biden, seeking to avoid blame for his vastly inept mishandling of the inevitable takeover by the Taliban, is now blaming the Afghan people themselves, and the Afghan military forces in particular, for not wanting to “fight for their country.” This is a moral obscenity. Although he, like Trump, was absolutely correct in saying that the woebegone US occupation of Afghanistan had to end, he would not acknowledge the truth of how we got to this point, or why the Taliban even exists in the first place: because of deliberate US policy choices going back more than 40 years, all the way to the “original sin” by Carter and Brzezinski of empowering a global network of religious extremists that has given rise to the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS and others.
In none of these policies – from Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Trump and Biden – has concern for the lives and welfare of the Afghan people played the slightest part. The good Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter WANTED to create hell on earth like Vietnam in Afghanistan. He WANTED thousands upon thousands of innocent people to die, so that the Soviet Union could be “bled dry” in a geopolitical game. I know it’s hard to get one’s head around this, that this gentle, soft-spoken old man, who lives frugally, built houses for the poor and fought for free elections in other countrie ,etc., made the deliberate choice to inflict unimaginable grief, pain and suffering on multitudes of innocent people. But he did. This is what actually happened in our history.
Ronald Reagan extended this policy (which he also practiced in Central America, aiding the mass slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent people by the repressive regimes he supported and armed.) George W. Bush then plunged American forces directly into the fray, stupidly, callously and corruptly replicating “Russia’s own Vietnam” of endless warfare against an extremist insurgency, while tens of thousands innocent civilians died at the hands of all the forces involved.
Now this 40-year chapter of American involvement has come to an end. But unless we actually know how we got here – and the absolutely fundamental role the US has played in these decades of death, destruction and radicalization – we will simply be waiting for the next monstrous, long-running atrocity to arise, with the same horseshit rationalizations (“Liberty! Freedom! Emancipation!”) that our leaders – all of them, every one – have used to cover up their deliberate policies of mass murder, war profiteering and corruption.