SocraticGadfly: My thoughts on the withdrawal from Afghanistan

August 25, 2021

My thoughts on the withdrawal from Afghanistan

A good starting point is last Friday's "Roaming Charges" scattershooting column by Counterpunch's Jeff St. Clair. A few takeaways.

First, for L/libertarians now fellating Ron Paul? St. Clair reminds us that Paul voted FOR the Authorization to Use Military Force. Oops!

Second, for the Berners, while he opposed invading Iraq from the start, he supported invading Afghanistan from the start.

Third, we're reminded that the late drunken Snitchens, aka Christopher Hitchens, enthusiastically supported both wars from the start.

Now, me.

I supported the invasion at the start. But not with huge enthusiasm, and with caveats, the second of which I publicly spoke about in a newspaper column.

Had I known at the time about the Taliban willing to (allegedly, but hold that thought) talk about expelling al-Qaeda, and maybe even handing over Osama bin Laden, I wouldn't have supported the war.

OK, more on the "hold that thought." We now know that the Taliban was ... "talking turkey." We still don't know how sincere they were, what details they had attached to an expulsion, let alone a handover, and whether those details were unacceptable not only to the Bill Clinton-Democratic foreign policy establishment, let alone the more neocon Bush-Republican foreign policy establishment, but to people outside the foreign policy establishment box, as I was just starting to become at that time. There might have been real and legitimate sticking points. Or, the Taliban might have been stalling. I am not saying either WAS the case; I am saying either COULD HAVE BEEN the case. I've called out Howie Hawkins, Margaret Flowers and the late Kevin Zeese for playing twosiderism with Xi Jinping; we don't need twosiderism with the Taliban, either. (That said, the Taliban offered a deal again after the war started. Part of that was an amnesty request for then; in our hubris, we said no. That piece also makes the no-brainer observation that we could have left after nailing bin Laden's hide to the wall.)

Update: Here's another good big picture timeline of US involvement. That said, from all we know from stuff like this, Counterpunch's claim, via an Afghan informant, that the Taliban was ready to hand over bin Laden pre-9/11, with few strings attached, seems ... uh, not likely. And, Mohabbit may have had some axes to grind. In addition, the interview was by Alex Cockburn, who may have been committing one of the two sins that led me to de-blogroll Counterpunch for a number of years. That sin? It's the same as today's allegedly outside the box stenos like Max Blumenthal and Aaron Maté — a reflexive anti-Americanism that engages in twosiderism and says that everything the bipartisan foreign policy establishment gets wrong must therefore be right. (Xi Jinping and the Uyghurs is today's obvious example, whether seemingly a sincere belief from the likes of Aaron, or presumable grift/PR flak from the likes of Max.) 

Sidebar: Alex's other sin was, IMO, pushing the envelope of anti-Zionism into antisemitism. Now, my knowledge of how much and how readily the cudgel of conflating these two is used by Zionists has grown a lot since then. But .... within leftism and left-liberalism, other people raised an eyebrow at times about him.

Second, had I known at the time what eventually became evident, that even as the Afghanistan invasion was being launched, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld planned a "pivot" to Iraq, which meant scraping up a thin global coalition of troops plus not always reliable Afghan allies to supplement the thin American troops that wouldn't be augmented, I wouldn't have supported the war.

Per what St. Clair says much later in the piece, any idiot is capable of knowing that the vaunted "boots on the ground" are needed for actual occupation; bombs don't occupy anything. And, under "lessons not learned from Vietnam," the U.S. military still over-values bombing. 

A second good read is from John Pilger, who reminds us that we're reaping what we sowed with our coup in the late 1970s after the overthrow of King Zahir Shah. Behind the US-backed coup? Zbigniew Brzezinski, the biggest Darth Vader of US foreign policy this side of Kissinger. More here on Carter-era meddling, and picking the wrong side when we did. And, more yet on how Carter also intervened in an inter-Yemen war when there were two of them, also prompted in part by Zbig. (Blue Anon leaders like Josh Marshall don't want to go back this far.)

Nor, per one tweet of a Friday thread of mine about this issue, do we need conspiracy theories.

First, for my thoughts on conspiracy theories vs. actual conspiracies in general, go here.

Second, in general, one factor on conspiracy theories vs. actual conspiracies is a, roughly, 20-year lifespan for evidence. If actual evidence supporting a theory doesn't pop up within 20 years, it almost certainly never will, and we can increase our assuredness that it is a conspiracy theory, not a conspiracy.

Take the late 1970s House Select Committee on  Assassinations. It found no major new evidence about JFK, RFK or MLK assassinations, and certainly nothing that would support actual conspiracy.

With that in mind, we're approaching the 20-year mark on Pat Tillman. I've seen nothing new to convince me, or even come close to convincing me, he was fragged. If he had been, surely somebody would have leaked a discussion by now.

His planned meeting with Noam Chomsky? Maybe known to a few military friends, but almost certainly NOT to high brass. And, in any case, we don't know exactly what Tillman planned to talk about.

How close the range was when he was shot? Well, even in modern war, sadly, the "fog of war" is real. 


Back to St. Clair, and other things.

Jeff wonders, of the many Afghan interpreters we're trying to fly out, how many participated in translations of torture sessions. To further his thought, how many deliberately misinterpreted them, just like some of our informants who were settling old grudges?

Didn't the neocons "own themselves" on this war 40 years ago?

If the Mujahideen were the “moral equivalent of the founding fathers” of Afghanistan, as some in the Reagan years proclaimed, then the Taliban must be the Afghan version of the Federalist Society, intent on enforcing an originalist interpretation of Sharia Law. The Taliban session at the next CPAC will be must-see streaming.


St. Clair mentions Ted Rall. His infamous "sap and sucker" cartoon, with words like that on the white crosses of a U.S. military cemetery, looks even more disgusting with nearly 20 years of hindsight. AFAIK, Rall never discussed the economic necessity that drove many people into military enlistment in our all-volunteer army, despite being an alleged leftist-leaner of some sort.


Biden did fuck up the Afghanistan withdrawal, starting from the premise that he should have known Trump's original withdrawal timetable and plan had no actual plan. Nonetheless, we needed to withdraw and it was right. Why doesn't the MSM interview people like me, Popular Info asks. Besides, we knew a whole decade ago how corrupt Afghan officialdom was, Mondoweiss reports.


Beyond rejecting Pat Tillman conspiracy theories, I also reject those by Craig Unger, Michael Moore et al that Afghanistan was "all about the oil," or "oil pipelines," or whatever. Yes, US goverments and US and multinational companies had held talks about pipelines — and even more, discussed possible mining for heavy metals — in years before the invasion, but the relative lack of troops, even in the early days, puts the kibosh to that idea being serious as well. And, since the invasion, other ways to move oil from Central Asia have been developed. Besides, on the pipeline issue, Afghanistan's largely mountainous terrain says that's not realistic, not for major pipelines.

Yeah, the idea sounded tempting about 2003 or so. That's why Moore's problematic movie was such a hit with the people who are today's #BlueAnon. But, while Moore is a great polemicist, and a great auteur, he's not always so great with command of facts.

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