If We Lose Afghanistan, You’re to Blame

W.J. Astore

In my CNN news feed for today, I came across a warning from Army General Austin Scott Miller about Taliban advances in Afghanistan as U.S. troop withdrawals proceed. Conditions are deteriorating (not for the Taliban, obviously) and CNN cautioned that the Biden administration has yet to put together a plan to pursue terrorists in Afghanistan after the troop pullout is completed.

And I thought to myself: yet more evidence of the U.S. military covering its collective ass, for when the Taliban does take over, which it has been doing over the last decade, America’s generals can say, See, we told you so. We told you not to pullout too quickly. We told you this would happen, despite all those hard-fought gains we’d secured (always “fragile” and “reversible,” though, in the words of General David Petraeus). So when the “loss” does come (Afghanistan was never ours to “win” to begin with), it’ll be Biden’s fault, not ours.

In short, if we lose Afghanistan, we in the military are not to blame. You’re to blame.

Of course, this is patently ridiculous for so many reasons. I’ve written a lot about the Afghan war, and read more, so in a nutshell here’s why General Miller and Company are full of it:

  1. The U.S. military had nearly 20 years and billions and billions in resources to train, equip, and field an Afghan military, yet all those efforts gained little.
  2. The U.S. military had nearly 20 years and a trillion dollars in resources yet failed to defeat the Taliban.
  3. Before Biden ordered the troop pullout, the Taliban had already secured most of the country. This was also true when Trump as president considered withdrawing but was talked out of it by his generals.

As the saying goes in Afghanistan, the Americans have the fancy watches but the Afghan people have the time. Afghanistan never was America’s to win. And with respect to terrorism, the presence of U.S. and allied troops there only served to exacerbate the conflict. More and more military hammer blows only shattered the country further, causing more devastation, more desperation, and more extremism. The U.S. military seemed to specialize in killing the second- or third-ranked “terrorist” leader, over and over again, only to see a generally younger, more extreme leader rise to take his place. It was a terrific tactic for perpetual war, but it was hardly one suited to producing victory, whatever that might look like.

So American troops are leaving places like Bagram like thieves in the night, leaving behind lots of junk and a legacy of violence and destruction. If one photo can serve to sum up our withdrawal, consider this one of an Afghan girl at work carrying scrap metal (Made in USA!) for money:

In this picture taken on June 17, 2021, a girl carries a metal box she collected from a junkyard near the Bagram Air Base in Bagram. – The Pentagon is evacuating Bagram airbase as part of its plan to withdraw all forces by this year’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the US, taking military gear home or given to Afghan security forces, but tons of civilian equipment must be left behind. (Photo by Adek BERRY / AFP) / TO GO WITH ‘Afghanistan-USA-conflict-Bagram’ FOCUS by Anne CHAON and Mushtaq MOJADDIDI

Well, that makes me proud to be an American.

Update (7/9/21):

Biden’s speech yesterday on Afghanistan was the usual claptrap. He claimed the U.S. didn’t go to Afghanistan to nation-build, even though the Afghan surge was all about defeating the Taliban while installing a “government in a box” for the Afghan people. All that effort by so many agencies to create an Afghan justice system, security forces, and so on so as to create the fundamentals of a government — all forgotten now because they failed. Meanwhile, the Afghan forces the U.S. military “trained” are folding quickly, flooding Afghanistan with even more weaponry.

I got this in my news feed from the New York Times: 

In Forceful Defense of Afghan Withdrawal, Biden Says U.S. Achieved Its Objectives

By Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger and Thomas Gibbons-Neff
The president insisted that the United States had done more than enough to empower the Afghan police and military to secure the future of their people.

Look at the way this is structured. First the lie that we achieved our objectives. Then the idea that the way to “secure the future” is to create strong police and military forces. That is surely an idea that’s made in militarist America — that you secure the future through strong police and military forces. It’s the very opposite of what a democratic society would argue. But it is the approach of an authoritarian empire.

64 thoughts on “If We Lose Afghanistan, You’re to Blame

  1. I think we’ll see much more of the modern “Lost Cause” – with generals and politicians – of both parties -continuing to write away any responsibility for the failures in Afghanistan, while proclaiming how noble an effort it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nobility in war is rare indeed. And Afghanistan was lost the moment the U.S. decided to stay and take sides.

      Meanwhile, a war on terror managed only to spread terror further.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope I’m wrong, but I expect the Taliban to take over Afghanistan very soon after US leaves. I sure don’t know the answer for this dilemna.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Same imperial/militarist power-grab we see at the beginning of every “new” U.S. administration. For the downward-dropping working-class taxpayers, another debacle. For the transnational corporate oligarchy:

    A Dreadful Success
    (with thanks to Michael Parenti for the accurate terminology)

    In two-thousand-nine, he got rolled right away
    Another new President easy to sway.
    Without thinking much or too long or too deep
    He fell for the generals’ choice: mission-creep.

    He had many “options” from which he could choose
    Which all added up to just one: Do not “lose,”
    Which they’d say he did if he wisely withdrew
    So he caved in with only one turn of the screw.

    Except that the screwing, once started, goes on
    From morning till sundown; from dusk until dawn,
    For days, weeks, and months stretching into long years
    Then two terms speed past bathed in blood, sweat, and tears.

    And now a successor Commander-in-Brief
    (A waste of good skin and an oxygen thief)
    Gets his turn to fold at the start of the game
    Letting “experts at war” sell him more of the same,

    Who haven’t a clue after seventeen years
    Except that the budget once more disappears,
    With none to account for where everything went
    While the world stands outside pissing into the tent.

    It ought to have dawned on someone before now
    That thieves know their business: the when, where, and how
    Of letting the brass have a taste of the cake
    Then calling their lost wars a “tragic mistake.”

    But profits piled up for a fabulous few
    While everyone else gets to dine on shit stew
    Looks nothing at all, to the rich, like a mess
    But, rather, a well-thought-out, class-war success.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2019

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  3. With the Treaty of Versailles (1919 edition) Clemenceau and Lloyd-George declared WWI would be “the war to end all wars” and sought to turn black the clock to the late 19th Century (no, I’m not forgetting Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, but the Europeans regarded him much as Europeans still regard America’s “leaders”: Colonial rubes who lack tact, insight, are Provincial with a Capital P, and for all the money and military might at their disposal, are as predictable and trustworthy as a wolverine on acid.

    Since the fall of Saigon, every US military “intervention” has been prefaced with “this won’t be another Vietnam.” And yet, after two decades in Afghanistan, amid the familiar cries of betrayal, we’re saying goodbye to yet another country whose leaders – despite the investment of American lives and dollars* – still couldn’t organize a game of strip poker in a Turkish brothel. A country whose “security forces” – despite being trained and armed by the US – aren’t wasting any time in either surrendering or making themselves scarce. And of course, because support back in the USA wasn’t all that it could have been, the military is hardly to blame.
    I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like Vietnam all over again to me.

    *I haven’t mentioned civilian losses because just as the aforementioned Afghani “leadership” doesn’t seem to care much about them (apart for photo-op purposes), I don’t much care either. My compassion is great, but not boundless. There’s plenty “at home” that could have benefited from the billions spent in Afghanistan. The place is a perennial war zone. Being a non-combatant doesn’t stop bullets and “smart” bombs don’t discriminate. I have never been in the military, have never been under fire, but I have read enough history to know all wars are “total wars” and that in real time, “The Rules of War” only apply in Risk and Stratego.
    In closing this is the 21st Century. Your head would have to be in some 18th Century tribal culture if you don’t understand “American involvement” means widespread death & devastation followed by a “see ya later.” Oh. Wait a minute …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. All admiration for your analysis aside (today’s alliteration), I love your metaphors! “Wolverine on acid” is incomparable.

      I have to agree with your comment regarding limits on compassion. Sooner or later, the U.S. has to accept three facts: 1) we have no right to tell any other country how it should govern itself; 2) as a corollary, not every other country has to be a representative democracy; and 3) we can’t fix all the world’s internal problems, nor should we try.

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  4. On CNN I saw there were more than 150 gun deaths over the July 4th holiday weekend. Why do we send troops overseas to fight wars? There’s plenty of death and violence right here in the US of A.

    It’s truly astonishing how the world’s self-professed democracy has become the world’s foremost warmonger and weapons exporter.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Chicago newspaper headline today: over the weekend in the city, 99 shootings, 17 deaths, 11 kids and 2 cops hit.

      This is a record, but the shootings have been going on for decades. Is America reeling over it? No, it is routine. We could and should have left Afghanistan long ago, leaving aside if we should have gone there at all. For the shootings in Chicago, there is no escape and no solution on offer, but we stayed on the case in Afghanistan for two decades, implying that it was a very important effort. As far as I know, the Chicago shootings don’t get any attention. This says to me that some Americans are disposable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. Disposable Americans. At least 600,000 died from Covid-19. Perhaps as many as 900,000 have died. And few seem to care how badly our government reacted to the pandemic.

        Gun violence too is viral. Deaths approach 40,000 a year.

        But, you know, we need to worry about Afghanistan or Iran or China …

        Liked by 2 people

  5. “US forces shut off the Bagram airfield’s electricity supply and did not notify the base’s senior Afghan officer when they departed on Friday, prompting puzzlement and anger among Afghan soldiers there.

    The airfield’s new commander, Gen Mir Asadullah Kohistani, only discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, he said on Monday.

    The fresh details of the American forces’ stealthy nighttime withdrawal from the sprawling base near Kabul, where they had spent two decades, underlined the uneasiness with which US forces sometimes regarded their Afghan partners.”

    “Stealthy” is one word for it? And “partners”? After 20 years, we built no trust and had to leave like thieves in the night.

    I recall something similar for when U.S. troops left Iraq. “Stealthy” retreats in the middle of the night. You know, for force security or something.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/06/afghan-anger-over-uss-sudden-silent-bagram-departure

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Above all things: No photographs or videos of Afghans jeering and throwing rotten vegetables at the detested American occupiers as they haul ass leaving their trash behind them. This from RT.com:

      “One Afghan soldier by the name of Naematullah told the AP the Americans had ‘lost all the good will of 20 years by leaving the way they did, in the night, without telling the Afghan soldiers who were outside patrolling the area.’ Switching off the lights suddenly was ‘like a signal to the looters,’ Raouf agreed.”

      So, the (ready and waiting) looters saw the lights go off, but the Afghan soldiers “patrolling” outside didn’t? This does not bode well for the “U.S. trained and equipped” Afghan National Army. Definitely reminds me of the demoralizing, desultory 18 months I spent helping to “equip and train” the brown water naval forces of the now-defunct Republic of South Vietnam.

      Of course, on the bright side, we sophisticated American “trainers” did have our Sunday afternoon entertainment watching a shipmate’s pet Burmese python take an hour to leisurely crush and swallow a petrified duck.

      The end of American military meddling in the world simply cannot come soon enough.

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  6. The latest post on Tom Dispatch discussed the failure of the war on drugs, tomdispatch.com

    The obsession some people have with war, or violence, in the face of disastrous results makes me wonder if was, or violence, can be addictive. Or maybe its the illusion of power that violence gives to the primate brain.

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  7. Another Odious Occupation Implodes

    This recent January marks the date
    When I came home some fifty years ago
    From Vietnam to realize my fate:
    Forever after I would truly know
    How shallow, base, and stupid were the men
    And women of my government, how prone
    To leap with vain alacrity each time
    The siren silhouette of Folly shone,
    Its dim outline inviting once again
    A blunder? No, much worse: a venal crime.

    Enraptured by possession of the keys
    To power and the wealth that from it grows
    Their Midas minds set out to grasp and seize
    Each gainful opportunity that flows
    And ebbs with time and tides. Let none pass by
    Without some speculator selling short,
    Or politician groveling for bribes,
    Or lobbyist rewriting laws for sport
    Deciding who will live while others die
    In wars against the world’s least favored tribes.

    Possessed of weaponry and willing hands
    To wield it on command, their hubris grows.
    Upon benighted, backward, peasant lands
    The leaders of the U. S. A. propose
    To bomb obedience into the awed
    And shocked survivors of explosive love
    Administered by lethal robot drones
    That target heat and movement from above.
    Back home, the body counts our rubes applaud
    Whom we have spared the shrieks and cries and moans.

    And now once more our vanquished legions leave
    In dark of night so none can photograph
    Their vanishing: a transient reprieve;
    A mound of trash their tawdry epitaph.
    Ten years ago, Obama also claimed
    To have withdrawn our forces from Iraq,
    As Biden promises the Taliban.
    Yet in Iraq our troops have wandered back
    To pad the totals of the killed and maimed.
    A tale not lost upon Afghanistan?

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2021

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    1. “A mound of trash their tawdry epitaph.” Just so.

      We left behind some vehicles and small arms too, Mike, so that the Afghan people can imitate Americans by driving around and shooting things up.

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      1. Yes, Bill, our Vaunted Visigoths did leave behind an assortment of vehicles — only without any keys to start the engines. Not to worry, though. The Chinese should arrive soon with new stuff that works.

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  8. My far-more-knowledgeable fellow Vietnam veteran, Daniel Ellsberg, explained this collapsing proxy/puppet-government thing back in 2009 during an interview with Paul Jay of the Real News Network entitled Ellsberg – From Vietnam to Afghanistan. The heart of the matter:
    . . .
    JAY: “. . . Your experiences in Vietnam, what you knew of the whole counterinsurgency planning and efforts, tie that together with what’s going on in Afghanistan.

    ELLSBERG: My experience in Vietnam, two years, going through 38 of the 43 provinces in Vietnam over a period of two years, looking at pacification, writing doctrine for pacification – actually, for what’s now called “counterinsurgency” – taught me that we were not going to succeed in Vietnam, not by what we were doing and really, eventually I realized, not by anything that anyone had proposed. There was no prospect for victory in Vietnam, only endless, bloody stalemate that was likely to escalate as it did not only under Johnson but under Nixon as well – in the air [emphasis added].

    JAY: And why? . . .

    ELLSBERG: For the same reason it was in Afghanistan. Let me repeat the same words, just change the place names. That’s what I could do with the papers I wrote 30 years ago and they would apply now. No victory lies ahead in Afghanistan, no success of any sort that will be lasting once American troops leave. American troops short of hundreds of thousands will not achieve anything that could be called success in Afghanistan. And I’m sure, by the way, that President Obama is being told that, just as President Johnson was and President Nixon. I don’t believe that there’s one official, like my former colleagues in the Pentagon, one official in Washington or in Afghanistan who believes that 40,000 additional troops, which is the minimum request by General McChrystal, will achieve any kind of success in Afghanistan or will be enough. I don’t believe there is one official, civil or military, who believes that 80,000 more troops will achieve any kind of success. Nothing short of hundreds of thousands of combined Afghanistan and American troops would, even in their own terms, by their own calculations, be successful. I believe they’re wrong about that, too. Either way, they’re not going to get effective operation out of the Afghan troops from any number of more years. We’ve been training them for eight years. Eight more years, 80 more years will not provide foreign troops the motivation to fight offensively against their own countrymen, against the independence of their own country, for a foreign power – and we are a foreign power in Afghanistan. That may seem like a truism, but it’s very hard for Americans to really internalize the meaning of that.

    That does about cover it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ellsberg nailed it in 2009. Yet, 12 years of failure later, the U.S. military will still argue that victory was in sight, just around that turned corner, or maybe at the end of that tunnel over there …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash — as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot — it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking.” George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

        “You don’t understand the beauty of the destruction of words. … Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it. … Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?” George Orwell, 1984

        In other words:

        Official Semantic Spaghetti
        (a sonnet in the style of Edmund Spencer’s Amoretti)

        The fabled Fascist octopus has not
        its swan-song sung, nor has the brownshirt thug
        his jackboot thrown into the melting pot.
        Instead, with shoulders to the wheel they shrug
        and disconnect the dots so as to mug
        the truth, dispensing drivel by design:
        mixed-metaphors a feature, not a bug.
        For, given their longstanding plan malign,
        the wealthy pigs can call the people swine
        who fear the very shadow that they cast
        on cloudy days. They see the darkness shine
        who have no recollection of the past.
        So tipping-points will turn the corner till
        the tunnel at Light’s end has Time to kill.

        Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2012

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      2. For a wide ranging, if not comprehensive, analysis of the rapidly collapsing U.S. military position in Afghanistan — one I have rarely seen acknowledged by any U.S. government agency or major media outlet — see As Afghanistan falls into Taliban hands, will the US really pull out?, by Alex Christoforou and Alexander Mercouris, the Duran (July 7, 2021). For those interested I have made a transcript of the video here. A sample excerpt:

        [8:31] Alexander Mercouris: “. . . one of the reasons why the Afghan military has been exposed as so hollow, is because there was never any real attempt to actually build it up, despite all the money that was being spent on it. Because building it up and creating a viable army in Afghanistan would have created a situation where the US military could leave. And what the neocons want is that they don’t want the US military to leave anywhere it gets stationed. They wanted to stay. So they didn’t want a strong Afghan army that could stand by itself. They wanted a weak Afghan army that couldn’t stand by itself so that it would collapse at the first sign of pressure as it is now doing and so justify keeping the US troops there. And keeping them there indefinitely. And I have no doubt that those people at the moment are feverishly lobbying behind the scenes trying to get the administration to change policy and to reverse the withdrawal. And we will see whether they succeed.”

        Chris Hedges in his book Death of the Liberal Class (2010) has a similar analysis:

        “The real purpose of American advisers assigned to ANA units, however, is not ultimately to train Afghans but rather to function as liaisons between Afghan units and American firepower and logistics. The ANA is unable to integrate ground units with artillery and air support. It has no functioning supply system. It depends on the U.S. military to do basic tasks. The United States even pays the bulk of ANA salaries.”

        In other words, the U.S. military has produced in Afghanistan — as it did in Vietnam — a dependent, domesticated military farce that exists only in the imagination of U.S. political and military (pardon the redundancy) “leaders.” As Barbara Tuchman said about the failed U.S. attempt to intervene in the Chinese Civil War (1945-49): “In the end China went her own way, as if the Americans had never come.” Ditto for Vietnam. Ditto for Afghanistan. And one can only hope that the “ditto”s keep coming in Iraq, Syria, and Libya — just for starters.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Interesting point. A dependent Afghan military, not an independent one. Dependent (and therefore subordinate) to the U.S. military, and permanently.

          Some of this is simply opportunism on both sides. We pretend to train you, and you pretend to care. “Our” troops are often desperate men motivated by money; the Taliban actually has a motivating cause, a vision, a belief. Well, an idea is more powerful than money, especially when the money brokers get up and leave.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Floating gun ships that can deliver punishment from the exosphere, Hypersonic weapons, bombers that can circle the globe, and UAVs (drones) make boots on the ground and expensive military bases obsolete. That’s the real paradigm shift here. Death from above is cheaper, faster.

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  10. As a Vietnam Combat Infantry Veteran in 1970-71 (Draftee Type) and a Spec 4 rank , i realized early on the ARVN would cave – in as soon as the last US Troops left. We were lavishly equipped with various types of fire power, and mobility. We trained the ARVN in our methods of fighting. The other problem was the ARVN divisions were not mobile. Their families were located where they were deployed.

    We gave the Afghans our training and weapons. So it is not surprising to see the Taliban isolating government units in the rural areas.

    As Mao said: “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea.” “When the enemy advances, withdraw; when he stops, harass; when he tires, strike; when he retreats, pursue.” “Be resolute, fear no sacrifice, and surmount every difficulty to win victory.”

    Who lost Afghanistan may be the Who Lost China of the 21st Century.

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  11. I used to have some respect for Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society and author of several books on engineering and space exploration, but no more. He just can’t refrain from tweeting lurid, hysterical propaganda, shamelessly shilling for US-centered imperial militarism. An example from today:

    Robert Zubrin
    @robert_zubrin

    Young Afghans are trying to flee Biden’s massacre.
    Dear Dems: Betraying Afghans was Trump’s putrid idea.
    But you are the ones who are doing it.
    You will get the blame.
    You will get the shame.
    The voters will damn you for your crime.

    This in response to a Wall Street Journal article entitled: “A Generation of Afghan Professionals Flees Ahead of Taliban Advance. Many of Afghanistan’s most successful men and women in careers that flourished under the protection of the U.S. military see their lives in peril.”

    To which I replied: “Time to haul ass and join their US taxpayer dollars in Dubai, London, New York, and Switzerland. I never thought I’d say it but: ‘You Go, Joe!’ “

    Like

    1. A professional class that’s totally dependent on U.S. occupation isn’t much of a “successful” society.

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  12. Here’s an excerpt from the article in the Guardian I saw today. The link to the story is below. I’m sure the manuscripts for our “independent” media personnel is busy being created with optics; just so we get to know and learn the “real” truth about our 20 year labor of whatever they want it to be and believed.

    “The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard defined hyperreality as a state in which you cannot tell the difference between reality and a simulation of reality. In 1991, at the time of the first Gulf war, he wrote three essays touching on this theme, later published together as The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Baudrillard argued that the relevant events in the first couple of months of 1991 were not really a war, in the sense that “war” was commonly understood: they were a simulation of a war.

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    There were two reasons for this. First, the events were carefully choreographed through the media: the coalition military controlled which images could be shown, and which journalists were allowed to report. The television-watching public audience in the west was shown non-stop video footage of firework-like bombings, and point-of-view shots of missiles heading to their targets.

    The effect was that of playing a computer game: clean, surgical, without consequences. Second, Baudrillard argued, the outcome of the war was never really in doubt: it was “won in advance”. The coalition was always going to win, and Saddam, for all his posturing, was in no position to fight back. This simulated war was “stripped of its passions, its phantasms, its finery, its veils, its violence, its images: war stripped bare by its technicians even, and then reclothed by them with all the artifices of electronics, as though with a second skin”.

    The hyperreality of the Gulf war that Baudrillard described caught the imaginations of writers, artists and film-makers. It looked ever more prescient as the internet began to connect the world. Excitement and anxieties about real versus virtual experiences grew. A hyperreal war was played out in the 1997 political comedy film Wag the Dog (loosely based on a 1993 novel), in which an American president creates a fictional war abroad to distract from a sex scandal at home. Hyperreality was the basis of the 1999 action science-fiction blockbuster The Matrix. The character Morpheus is quoting Baudrillard when he says: “Welcome to the desert of the real.” “

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/08/toppling-saddam-hussein-statue-iraq-us-victory-myth?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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    1. “Let us get nearer to the fire, so that we can see what we are saying — The Bubis of Fernando Po” (epigram from Chapter One of The Meaning of Meaning, by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards)

      “…the most notable trait common to members of [primitive aboriginal] communities is a certain amiable inefficiency when confronted with force or fraud.” Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class

      The Boobies of Fernando Po
      (from “Fernando Po, U.S.A., America’s post-literate retreat to Plato’s Cave”)

      The Island of Fernando Po
      Once knew a fleeting fame
      As home to aborigines
      The Boobies were their name
      Who — legend has it — only spoke
      By light of fire’s flame

      Their basic primate language showed
      That Boobies had devolved:
      Whatever they had figured out
      They also had unsolved,
      Reverting to forgetfulness
      And culture long dissolved

      They had the means of making noise
      As all rude peoples do
      And yet just like the deaf and mute
      They had to see words, too,
      Or else they could not cogitate
      Or any thoughts construe

      The Boobies of Fernando Po
      Could neither read nor write,
      Instead, they “acted out” their speech,
      “Performing” it despite
      Unconsciousness of language arts
      Of which they’d long lost sight

      Their spoken tongue made little use
      Of sentences and words,
      Thus they communicated like
      A flock of chirping birds
      Or else like fattened cows content
      To graze within their herds

      Dependence on the visual
      Constrained their use of sound
      To something less than merely noise
      Unorganized and bound
      To grotesque facial grimaces
      And gestures unprofound

      They’d slap their foreheads; roll their eyes;
      In slack-jawed pantomime
      Of something they’d done yesterday
      While only killing time
      In mindless mimicry that had
      No reason and no rhyme

      “I’m all like going ‘duh’,” they’d say,
      Which usage left aghast
      Their teachers who had worked so hard
      But realized at last
      That Boobies couldn’t separate
      The present from the past

      In cultures that have languages
      Like Chinese, French, and Basque
      Linguistic tools like verbs and nouns
      Perform the needed task
      Of formulating answers to
      The questions Boobies ask

      But Boobies need their hands and feet
      To illustrate their themes
      They “point” and “walk” and “pose” because
      They’ve no semantic memes
      To pass among themselves for use
      As metaphoric schemes

      They live imprisoned in the Now,
      All Boobies preordained
      To do the things their parents did,
      Each generation chained
      To labor on a treadmill
      Giving up what they had gained

      The rooster crowed; the sun came up
      Which taught them quite a lot
      The cows came home; the sun went down
      Which didn’t teach them squat
      At sunrise they began to learn
      At sundown they forgot

      They could not tell this day from that
      They had no memory
      Each moment died at birth and left
      No known posterity
      The Boobies had no ancestors,
      No living history

      They could not tell where they had been
      They knew not where they went
      As far as they could figure out
      Each thought came to them sent
      Prefabricated “up above”
      From “Heaven’s” firmament

      This made them existentialists
      A philosophic breed
      Who dealt in isolated facts
      And never saw the need
      To add their observations up
      Into a larger creed

      Yet starting at the other end
      As Plato chose to do
      With abstract “essences” and spooks
      And “gods” not real or few
      Would only have made matters worse
      By proving falsehood true

      The Boobies just threw up their hands
      And thought whichever way
      Which made it easy for the priest
      To hold them in his sway
      Performing magic rites that made
      The sun come up each day

      The Boobies let their children grow
      As they themselves had done
      By joining dots with crayon lines
      And having lots of fun
      While limiting arithmetic
      To just the number one

      “It’s all the same!” the Boobies cried;
      And they believed it, too;
      Which made their basic monism
      So easy to imbue.
      “If everything is One,” they said
      “Who needs the number `two’?”

      And so the Boobies on this isle
      Endured the Dumb disease:
      A simple, savage livelihood
      That mainly served to please
      The tribal chief and witch doctor
      In their concerted ease

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2005

      Like

    2. I was a medical intern during the first Gulf war. I didn’t watch any of the war footage. Even the thought of doing so sickened me. I am not a pacifist, but I was trained never to take pleasure in destroying an enemy. Death is a tragedy, even the death of an enemy. The gloating tone in the media about other human beings being killed was blasphemous.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Biden’s speech yesterday on Afghanistan was the usual claptrap. He claimed the U.S. didn’t go to Afghanistan to nation-build, even though the Afghan surge was all about defeating the Taliban while installing a “government in a box” for the Afghan people. All that effort by so many agencies to create an Afghan justice system, security forces, and so on so as to create the fundamentals of a government — all forgotten now because they failed. Meanwhile, the Afghan forces the U.S. military “trained” are folding quickly, flooding Afghanistan with even more weaponry.

    I got this in my news feed from the New York Times:

    In Forceful Defense of Afghan Withdrawal, Biden Says U.S. Achieved Its Objectives

    By Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger and Thomas Gibbons-Neff
    The president insisted that the United States had done more than enough to empower the Afghan police and military to secure the future of their people.

    Look at the way this is structured. First the lie that we achieved our objectives. Then the idea that the way to “secure the future” is to create strong police and military forces. That is surely an idea that’s made in militarist America — that you secure the future through strong police and military forces. It’s the very opposite of what a democratic society would argue. But it is the approach of an authoritarian empire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Far be it from me to support either Biden or the military, but in context, Biden’s comment about securing the Afghans’ future is correct. That is, we’ve provided tools and training to rebuff the Taliban and establish an independent government. In that sense only, the future should be secured. That it’s not is the fault of….who? I’m not knowledgeable enough about Afghan culture to know, though I suspect the U.S. is well-nigh irrelevant in that scenario. But Biden is right in that we’ve been there much too long and never should have attempted nation building. I give him credit for at least acknowledging that fact, and for having sustained that position for years, his unfortunate and foolish devotion to the military notwithstanding.

      Like

    1. That means that a decade or so from now I can write a new article: “If we lose Africa, you’re to blame.”

      Like

  14. I can’t help feeling compassion for the Afghans, especially those who risked their lives helping the US and NATO forces for so many years. I have little to no respect for the Taliban, or any movement that espouses religious rule, but they never had any interests outside their own country. It seems we go into a country ruled by someone we don’t like, overthrow that government, install one we like, and label anyone who disagrees an insurgent or terrorist.

    We I was a young super patriotic Marine, I remember seeing the stories of old opposing warriors meeting years later on some on battlefield and shaking hands, smiling, crying, remembering. German, Japanese, and after my service, the Vietnamese. It struck as odd and touching and made me think differently about what I was doing. We are now friendly with all these (and making sure to supply them with the latest weapons). I wonder if someday some old US warriors will be meeting and remembering with Taliban and Al Qaeda soldiers. And what will they think about the blood and treasure long gone?

    Liked by 2 people

  15. The fires of panic have been lit:
    Stories are now showing up (in The Guardian and other reactionary rags) that Russia and Iran are meeting even as I tap this out to come to an agreement on “filling the vacuum” created by Amerika’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. No matter what they decide, do they figure the locals will welcome them with open arms and that the Taliban will beat feat back to … wherever? Or that they’ll do things differently this time and get the job done in record time?
    After nearly thirty years of successfully dealing with foreign invaders, I’d say the Taliban isn’t afraid of anyone foolish enough to move into that miserable patch of ground.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Iran?? That doesn’t make sense. The Taliban are Sunni, or that was what I thought. Iran is Shia. They would make strange allies. I have a lot of distrust in stories about them allying.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it might make sense if viewed as a grab for territory to be partitioned afterward rather than a “Take my hand, brother…” move which, as you’ve pointed out, wouldn’t make sense. But Russia + Iran against the Taliban? The article I read didn’t say there was any Afghan participation in the talks. No one missed Poland when it was wiped from the map in the dim & misted, and I don’t expect anyone would miss Afghanistan (places are given new names on a fairly regular basis).

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  16. Will the U.S. finally – in the words of Major Kong – “… go head to head with the Rooskies”? That’s a fight The Pentagon has been spoiling for since V-E Day.
    Patton was right: we should have settled their hash before the smoke cleared over Berlin.

    Like

    1. Huh? Surely you jest.

      The Red Army in 1945 would have settled Patton’s hash without breaking a sweat. Which accounts for the U.S. government wisely removing the loud-mouth Patton from any further military command and agreeing to partition Germany (who had just killed 22 million Russians). Most of America’s military at the time, including my Father and Uncle, simply wanted to go home and resume a normal, peaceful life. Fuck “Georgie” Patton and his private polo ponies.

      As for the ticket-punching, kiss-up/kick-down, fuck-up-and-move-up Pentagram today: Way past time to defund, disarm, and demobilize the useless parasites. Couldn’t even defend America from Timothy McVeigh and his fertilizer truck bomb or 19 unarmed Saudi Arabians learning to fly U.S. commercial jet airliners at U.S. flight simulator schools. Talk about a “hash” that requires settling. Fifty state militias and a Coast Guard — along with Canada, Mexico and the fish in two oceans — ought to do the “defend America” thing just fine. Perhaps a few dozen nukes. And if America would stop trying to play Omnipotent Idiot Empire with everybody else, then we might not even need so many of those.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, Michael, it’s far too easy for a geezer like me to play armchair general at 3 AM. Especially when living in a country where the main objection to a Covid-19 vaccination is that they are all filled “with nanobots and trackers” which will “rewrite our DNA, RNA, TRNA and MDNA and “will be used to control us.” (Huh? Guess I need to go back and read up on biology & genetics).
        But The Great Awakening is coming (I haven’t been filled in on this beyond it will clear out the media, politicians, the oligarchs, and “the bosses.”).
        There are times I swear I can feel my brain dribbling out of my ears.
        As for The Pentagon, I’m confident whatever decisions that come out of there will continue to be ungodly expensive, tremendously deadly and destructive on an Old Testament scale.
        It’s too bad Abbie Hoffman and his bunch were unsuccessful in raising and banishing the place from this plane of existence. Of course, he still made out pretty well before it was all over.
        Thanks for bringing me back to Earth.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I recall a pamphlet I had about America’s “90 division gamble” during World War II. Basically, we didn’t raise as many Army divisions as we could and should have. We preferred to be “the arsenal of democracy” and to fight Germany to the death of the last Russian soldier.

        I think the Russians lost as many men taking Berlin in 1945 as we lost in the entire war (combat deaths of roughly 300K). Even after D-Day in 1944, the Soviet Union was still fighting about 70-75% of the German military.

        These numbers are from early morning memory BC (before coffee), so please feel free to check them. But I think they’re in the ballpark.

        The Soviet military in 1945 was a juggernaut. Patton, at least the movie version of him, was deluded.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. My father worked in Patton’s HQ, and he always said Patton was right that the U.S. and British forces should have driven straight through to Moscow. “Should have taken those Russians, too, while we were over there.” All this to say that, given your figures about the strength of the Soviet army, Patton must have been deluded in real life, too.

          Like

          1. British Field Marshal Montgomery once laid down the Three Rules of War: #1 Do not invade Russia. #2 Do not get drawn into a land war in Asia. #3 Do not invade Russia.

            Napoleon and Hitler did not think these rules applied to them and their great armies, which they led into disaster “marching straight through to Moscow” (as if vast Russia began and ended in that one city). George Patton didn’t think those rules applied to him and his little army, either. Lost his job because he couldn’t keep his big mouth shut. Same with MacArthur, who didn’t think Rule # 2 applied to him. I have heard that they teach history at America’s military academies. From what I have seen of the U.S. military in my 73 years of life, it doesn’t appear that much learning about history takes place there.

            Bankrupt America: the Land that Forgot Time.

            Like

  17. As Monotonous Languor says above (July 7, 2021 at 6:16 PM ): “Who lost Afghanistan may be the Who Lost China of the 21st Century.”

    Perhaps. Perhaps not. As a Vietnam Veteran Against The War — the U.S. Totalitarian Permanent War — I understand the history behind this comment which compares the nature and dismal prospects of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to those of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), an apt comparison indeed. The comparison also notes — again, correctly — the significance of the Chinese Communist Party’s revolutionary “people’s war” doctrine and tactics, ultimately successful in China, then Vietnam, and as it appears, soon in Afghanistan as well. So far, so good.

    But the “Who lost China” narrative involved — in addition to its purely military aspects — a virulent U.S. domestic political witch hunt which the Republicans used to — successfully — smear and intimidate the Democrats for a generation or two. “Who Lost Vietnam,” on the other hand, had a little of the same domestic political fall out, but not much, since the “fall” (i.e., “liberation”) of Saigon in 1975 occurred on the watch of a Republican President, Gerald Ford. Congress just cut off the funding; the American people breathed a collective sigh of relief; and the world went about its business as if Vietnam had never happened.

    So now we hear the same old hysterical shrieking about “shamefully losing American credibility” and “betraying trusting allies,” that sort of rubbish. With a “Democrat” (i.e., junior varsity Republican) in the White House, this domestic political scapegoating might have at least some traction among the D.C. “ruling elites.” But as in the case of Vietnam, most Americans have far more pressing problems on their minds than whatever transpires in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. So the public response to yet another maniacal invocation of the “Who Lost [unknown Country-X]” — in this case “Afghanistan” — mantra may very well — as it ought to — come in the form of a bored and uninterested query: “What is an Afghanistan?” And if the U.S. Congress does not cut off all funding for any more of this corrupt, criminal nonsense, then it has no reason to exist and should face summary expulsion from any and every public office that it currently infests.

    Like

  18. About that whole “Who Lost …” thing. Not even a question, but an implied accusation. Get ready for the next one, which I already dispensed with 15 years ago:

    “Who killed Davey Moore?
    Why? And what’s the reason for?” — Bob Dylan

    Who Lost Iraq
    (after the Bob Dylan song, “Who killed Davey Moore?”)

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t me,” said the President,
    With his hard head stuck in its hard cement.
    “I just start fires in the minds of men;
    Pour gas on the flames every now and then.
    I accomplished my mission when I robbed the store,
    Then to cover up the crime I went and started a war.
    In a few more years someone else will want the fun;
    I’ll give the mess to them; then I’ll say that I won!
    They’ll lose Iraq
    Who couldn’t see me handing them the sack.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t us,” cried the military brass.
    “We just saluted Rumsfeld and kissed his senile ass.
    We long ago swore not to think too hard or much;
    Just do as we’re told and to use that as a crutch;
    So when the hopes go wrong and the shit hits the fan,
    We can always just say: ‘We took our orders from the man.’
    With our medals and our pensions and our private jumbo jets
    ’It’s the only war we’ve got’ and that’s as good as it gets.
    They lost Iraq:
    The suits who tied our hands behind our back.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t me,” said the rapping Secretary
    Talking too dense and sounding real scary.
    “We know we don’t know what we don’t know we know
    But we do know how to stage a little dog-and-pony show.
    The Senators and Congressmen whose districts get the pork
    Think the meat’s well done, so they stick in a fork.
    The army’s not the one we want, but let me tell you what:
    We have to go to war with it or see our funding cut.
    They lost Iraq
    Who wouldn’t cut me some semantic slack.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “Who the hell cares,” shrugs the televangelist
    Preaching at his pulpit and pounding with his fist
    “I tell folks: ‘vote Republican if you don’t want to die’
    (Watching cable television; lapping up the lie).
    I feed the rubes on fantasies of Armageddon Day,
    When Jesus in his spaceship comes to take them all away.
    I scare ‘em and they love it and they come back for more
    To vote for someone else’s kid to fight in their war.
    They lost Iraq
    Who wouldn’t stop me selling Crusade crack.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “We had to hit someone,” said the jaded journalist
    Thumbing through his Rolodex and making up a list
    Of contacts in the government who leak the names of spies
    Whose husbands tell the truth sometimes, instead of packaged lies.
    “My name is Tom Friedman and ‘the world is flat;’
    That shit about a globe you heard just isn’t where it’s at.
    I cheered for Dubya’s war just like the chicken hawk I am
    And then when things went south I blamed a Lebanese imam.
    They lost Iraq:
    Who wouldn’t buy my books from off the rack.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “I’ve explained it all,” said the White House mouthpiece man
    Mumbling in mantras with shameless élan.
    “Our zigzag course takes us straight through the plots
    If you just fit the curve to the scatter of dots.
    In the sovereign state of the occupied town
    We could “stand ’em all up” if they’d quit falling down.
    But no matter what the carnage or the number who grieve
    Just remember “Stay the Course” means we’ll never leave.”
    They lost Iraq
    Who hired as spokesman some tired FOX NEWS flack.

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t us,” cried the frightened Democrats,
    As much an opposition as a dozen gnats.
    “We voted for King George’s war and never blushed.
    With just a hint of nastiness, he left us hushed.
    We bought into the syndrome of the sycophant
    Who’d gladly ditch the donkey for the elephant.
    But now that all our compromise has come to nought,
    We’re too ashamed to do the things we truly ought.
    We love Iraq
    And only wished to help Chalabi’s claque.”

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “Don’t look at us,” moaned the undecided block.
    Reliable consumers of a total crock.
    We love it when the government makes up those lies
    And sells them to us like McDonald’s greasy fries.
    Just show us a commercial made by Thomas Hobbes
    About our nasty, brutish lives with few good jobs.
    Then scare us half to death with tales of married queers.
    We’ll swallow anything just like our lousy beers.
    What is Iraq?
    Is it a toothpaste that gets rid of plaque?”

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “It wasn’t me,” said Saddam Hussein,
    Sitting in his court cage, shouting his refrain:
    “I ran things better and we had a state;
    Now we only have Maliki, an invertebrate
    Who does the step-and-fetch-it as his daily toil
    For Dubya and his crony friends who steal our oil.
    But Mad Dog and his Englishman have come undone,
    Parading ’round in circles in the noonday sun.
    Bush lost Iraq
    When he and Blair launched their unwise attack.”

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “Who the hell do you think?” said Ehud Olmert.
    “You mean you didn’t know Israelis just don’t care?
    A busted, broken Arab land fits in quite nice
    With Zionist delusions of a Paradise
    Where Arab refugees profess to love the Jews
    And swear to every statement made by Karen Hughes.
    The goyim in America will foot the bill
    Providing all the weaponry we need to kill.
    Forget Iraq;
    And take your marching orders from AIPAC.”

    Who Lost Iraq?
    Where did it go, and how to get it back?

    “Who talks of loss at all?” ask the Mullahs in Iran.
    As far as we’re concerned George Bush is just The Man.
    He stumbles and he bumbles then he gives away
    For nothing everything for which we’d gladly pay.
    Dick Cheney writes the crap for him to catapult
    Who never met a thought that he could not insult
    The Shiites in Iraq will get our help, indeed,
    To end the occupation that they do not need.
    We won Iraq
    Who let Bush do the work while we sat back.”

    Who lost Iraq?
    Where did it go and how to get it back?

    “Who said you ever owned us?” cried the people of Iraq.
    “Who asked you for your bloody war and unprovoked attack?
    You seemed to think that killing us and wrecking all we had
    Could win elections for George Bush and make him look less bad.
    Our oil we’ll sell to whom we please. Why don’t you find your own?
    And get yourselves a president at least a little grown.
    In case you haven’t noticed, he’s the one that you should fear
    Whose words smell like the noisome gas escaping from his rear.
    Please leave Iraq
    Then see if you can win your own souls back.”

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006

    Like

      1. As you know, Bill, a rhetorical question does not ask for information but instead makes a statement containing an implicit, assumed conclusion. In other words: “Who lost …?” in fact states that “You lost …”, with “you” meaning “Democrats”: the classic Red-baiting slur that Republicans have used to lasting political effect against their feckless “opposition” starting from the Truman administration and continuing thru subsequent Democratic Party administrations right up to the present.

        For their part, the Democrats — especially owing to the Clintons and Obamas — have responded by eagerly personifying Oscar Wilde’s famous remark about their timid type: namely, that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”. Especially since 2016 and the election of Donald Trump, watching the Democrats trying to out-Red-bait the Republicans with their pathetic Russophobic scapegoating reminds me of that restaurant scene in the movie Love at First Bite, where New York psychiatrist Jeffrey Rosenberg tries to impress his girlfriend by hypnotizing her new flame, Vladimir Dracula. Replied the Count with a sneer: “Do not teach your grandmother to suck eggs.”

        http://www.themisfortuneteller.com/images/Screenshot%20from%202021-07-03 18-49-42.png

        You lost America, America. Too bad that some barely armed goat herders and poppy farmers in Afghanistan had to teach you this lesson: one that you keep having to learn again and again but never do. Where next to double-down on Dumb?

        Like

      1. You know the infamous saying from Vietnam: We had to destroy the village to save it.

        Today’s version: We had to destroy the village to build a Potemkin one.

        And, like anything made out of straw and similarly weak materials: “I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your Potemkin village down.” And so the big bad Taliban wolf is doing across Afghanistan.

        Let me know when the USA finally builds something lasting in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria …

        Like

  19. Caitlin Johnstone — as always — simplifies things considerably:

    “We haven’t talked enough about how the US military not only lied for twenty years about their stated goals in Afghanistan nearly being accomplished, but it turns out they were also lying about doing anything during that time that could possibly have led to their stated goals being accomplished.”

    “Seeing the “Afghan government” just melting under the Taliban after the US pretended to spend twenty years building it up is like paying someone billions of dollars to build a palace and then after twenty years checking it out and realizing the whole thing is a stage play set made of cardboard.”

    “A military which can afford to spend trillions on a twenty-year war which accomplished literally nothing besides making horrible people wealthy is a military that needs its budget slashed to ribbons [emphasis added].”

    Like

  20. For those who still think that Americans live in a true “democracy,” I recommend a good 40+ minutes watching:

    “Dr Sheldon Wolin on Totalitarian America, in Willits CA, 2003”
    Video of Speech delivered to Willits Methodist Church (May 29, 2003)

    For those who just want to read what Dr Wolin had to say, I have produced a transcript here.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the link. Wow. Almost 20 years of “progress” by the U.S. military. Well, if this is what “progress” looks like …

      Like

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