August 19th 2021
It’s hard not to feel horror at the events this week in Afghanistan. The awful scenes of panicking Afghanis clinging to the side of a C-19 as it took off and falling to their deaths would shake anyone up. Rachel Maddow was reduced to tears recounting the incredible tale of the efforts to get a translator (one of thousands) out of the country with his family. The only other time that happened was when the story broke of what the Trump administration was doing to refugee children.
But Afghanistan was always going to end this way. It didn’t matter if it was now, or 2020, or 2002. The end of the American occupation of Afghanistan was always going to be bloody and painful, because that’s how occupations almost always end. That’s why they are against international law.
And make no mistake—this was never “a war in Afghanistan” as people who should know better keep calling it. It was an occupation.
Remember how it began? Nine Eleven had just happened, and the Bush administration decided that Osama bin Laden was the mastermind behind it. Osama was hiding in Afghanistan (and he probably was) with the connivance of the Taliban government (probably not the case). So the US sent troops into Afghanistan to find and arrest him.
Even I didn’t have any problem with that. ObL was an obvious suspect because of his role in the previous attack on the Twin Towers, and I hated and despised the Taliban, cruel, corrupt and often insane, like all authoritarian religious regimes. If they were hiding Osama, then fuck them. Go in, get him, and get out.
Only it became obvious within weeks that Osama was long gone, flown the coop to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, two countries the US didn’t invade searching for him. Instead, the US stayed in Afghanistan, setting up a puppet regime and pouring billions into the place. Supposedly the US was going to rebuild Afghanistan, new roads, new schools, new infrastructure, all the shit the government wasn’t doing in America. In reality, the money covered the costs of occupying the country, billions in bribes to the local warlords not to cause trouble, and maybe 5% which actually went to “rebuilding”. All told, some two trillion dollars got poured down a rat hole, nearly all of it wasted and in the pockets of people we didn’t want to help.
The US paid people to be their friends there, and that went about as well as paying people to be your friend usually goes. And Bush and Obama didn’t have a clue how to end it, especially since the neo-liberals who engineered the disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq were ready to pounce, and declare any administration willing to pull out “soft on terrorism.”
The US occupied Iraq on the insanely stupid excuse that Saddam Hussein, mortal enemy to the Taliban and Iran, was secretly helping them. They managed to end that one by surrendering well in advance and letting the Iraqis choose their own government first. So the people didn’t have to overthrow a puppet regime.
Remember “Vietnamization”? Nixon figured, correctly, that if they let the Vietnamese people choose their government, there would be less unrest when the Americans left. Only the people in North Vietnam didn’t get to vote, and so they considered the Saigon government a puppet regime. Weeks later, it was gone, and Saigon was now Ho Chi Minh City.
In Iraq, they surrendered to the people they invaded Iraq to rid the country of first, and then left.
Trump actually tried to do something like this, releasing some five thousand political prisoners, including much of the new government in Kabul and a lot of warlords who didn’t toe the line, in hopes that there wouldn’t be a bloody dumping of the Vichy regime in Kabul when US troops were pulled out, originally slated for May 1st 2021. But the planned talks at Camp David never happened, and Biden had too much on his plate to take it up. So there remained a puppet regime in Kabul, which lasted nearly a week.
The Taliban moved fast, and swept into power. But a lot of people hate and fear them, and not just American puppets and lackeys. As mentioned, they are a theocracy, the most vicious and hateful form of government known to man, and women and anyone who don’t want strict adherence to Sharia Law (which would be most Muslims) have every reason to fear them. Expect Afghanistan to be a bloody mess for some time to come.
To Republicans who say this is Biden’s fault: Fuck you. Bush began the occupation, and Trump set things up so it would end as badly as possible. For the human sewage who are shouting they don’t want Biden dumping refugees on them from Afghanistan: double fuck you. Biden should offer to trade you and your family to the Taliban for every decent person and his family in Afghanistan who tried to help and now needs to get out. America is far better off with them and without you.
Still, the US is out of there, and the hemorrhaging of money has slowed. Maybe some of you will learn from this—occupations are a waste of time and money and usually end with many people getting hurt. The only way an occupation will work is through centuries of attrition (the Norman invasion of England) or genocide (the Americas by Europe). As foreign policy, they never work and usually backfire. Don’t do it.
I doubt it will work. The UK, the USSR and the US have both tried occupying Afghanistan and all left weaker and poorer for it. The USSR tried occupying eastern Europe. History is full of failed occupations, or ones that ended in mass murder and social destruction.
For people who think America had any friends in Afghanistan, don’t be an ass. Most of the flunkies were paid, and America is doing a marvelous job of screwing over the few who honestly liked the Americans now. Like the Fox News/GOP filth who are saying NIMBY to refugees from Afghanistan.
Stop trying to run other people’s countries. They don’t like you and your values for pretty much the same reason you don’t like theirs, and you’re no better than them. Stay inside your own borders, and work on making life better for your own people. That will attract better responses from other countries than all the occupations in the world.