There is one president I blame for Afghanistan. And it isn’t Trump.
Christopher Reeves , Daily Kos Staff , Monday August 16, 2021 · 11:05 AM PDT
(Interjection: I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY with this article! Neither Bush nor Cheney looked at Iraq’s or Afghanistan’ s history, or culture, just as NOBODY looked at Vietnam’s history or culture before jumping into war there. ~ Don Chapin)
Today, there will be stories comparing the fall of Afghanistan to the U.S. exit from Vietnam, and others by armchair quarterbacks of what should be done and what we should avoid. While the Twitter universe will focus on the actions of Donald J. Trump—like his decision to release 5,000 Taliban members just last year—the truth is it wasn’t the Trump administration that got us into this mess or made the problem a disaster. A large slice of the American population doesn’t even remember September 11th. In the twenty years since then, we’ve been in a constant, ongoing war with a significant cost to human lives and incalculable injury to Afghans and U.S. troops.
What happened? How did we get here? Afghanistan wasn’t really on the target list for the U.S. post the attack on the twin towers, for those who forget. No, we were after specific terrorists, and then the field kept expanding. Without any provable link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, U.S. troops swept into the country and began a military adventure without end.
I tend to work by the “you break it, you bought it” rule. George W. Bush broke this one — and he bought it. The Bush administration treated lives and the truth haphazardly, and as time went on, that problem compounded. It began with a big lie — that there was a huge connection in the middle east, and it continued to expand. In 2009, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace pointed out that by the time the George W. Bush administration ended, one thing was certain: the Taliban had spread throughout the country, had built a shadow government, and was unlikely to be defeated as their strength was becoming baked into the culture.
On-the-ground observations and reliable evidence suggest that the Taliban have an efficient leadership, are learning from their mistakes, and are quick to exploit the weaknesses of their adversaries. They are building a parallel administration, have nationwide logistics, and already manage an impressive intelligence network.
As this continued, the support for the U.S. continued to fall.
Civilian casualties from IC military strikes and arbitrary arrests by the IC have been highly alienating. The cases of torture on Bagram Air Base during the first years of the war and reports of mistreatment of prisoners are widely known to the population. The 600 prisoners detained at Bagram Air Base are still off limits for the ICRC and subject to indefinite detention without charge. Even if they are Afghan citizens (as almost all are) Afghan laws do not apply.Popular support for the U.S. presence among the Pashtuns is very low. In fact, the IC has transitioned from “guest” to “enemy” (mehman to dushman)in Afghan cultural categories.
Special Forces operations, even if technically successful, are generally a political disaster. In Logar province, where theTaliban are strong, Special Forces have allegedly killed innocent people
We spent more than 1 TRILLION dollars on a war that killed nearly half a million humans that we are aware of.
Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic member of the Senate subcommittee on foreign operations, told the Guardian that prisoners in Afghanistan “were subjected to cruel and degrading treatment, and some died from it”.
“These abuses were part of a wider pattern stemming from a White House attitude that ‘anything goes’ in the war against terrorism, even if it crosses the line of illegality.”
Syed Nabi Siddiqi, a former police officer, said he was beaten and stripped. “They took off my uniform. I showed them my identity card from the government… Then they asked me which of those animals – they made the noise of goats, sheep, dogs, cows – have you had sexual activities with?”
The Abu Ghraib scandal was put aside by Americans who forgot—or missed the news by being born too late—but it became part of how the Afghanistan people viewed us.
In 2004, when the Abu Ghraib scandal first emerged, former President Bush responded saying that, “Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonoured our country and disregarded our values …”
Bush’s statement unveils a particular logic of the war on terror that continues to justify abuses to the present – moral equivalencies, and in particular, the US’s perceived moral superiority of itself in the way it fights war. That’s why prisoner abuse under Saddam was torture, but under the US it is simply “disgraceful conduct”. That’s also why Bush can talk about “our values”, despite knowing that a series of torture memos essentially provided the rationale to abuse prisoners – that anything short of organ failure or death would, according to his administration’s new definition of torture, fall short of it.
The 9/11 Commission told us that the funding for terrorism wasn’t coming from poor Afghan communities, something we could have guessed easily. Going after banks and oil barons wasn’t as fun as deploying a ton of troops.
I will not be able to forget September 11th, 2001. I was a manager at a job in my first few months. I had family in the military who (I believe) at that point was serving in the Pentagon—it’s hard to keep track of every assignment my brother had—and that day, several people I knew in my life who were in the military would find everything change.
When my brother first went to the Middle East, he was a young(er) man. Now, he has children who are in the military. This war has become generational, and the losses are generational as well.
The U.S. history in Afghanistan is not defined by today.
George W. Bush started us on a war without a plan, without any goal, and without an exit strategy at all. A commitment to a war without end. We spiraled out of control, from Abu Ghraib to unknown terrors. George W. Bush started this war. His administration fueled it repeatedly. It endorsed a policy of torture. It grew terrorists as it went. How things could have been different. Imagine, for just one second, if instead of bombs and troops, we had engaged bank seizures and put the funders in jails around the globe. Neh. Just too difficult.