A Lie from the Start
It should be clear by now that the War in Afghanistan was a lie from the very beginning. The U.S. ostensibly went in to clear out that nation as a haven for Al Qaeda. If that was the true reason for going in, then we should have left by late 2001 or early 2002, at the latest. War proponents will argue that we needed to stay there to make sure Al Qaeda did not reform and threaten us again. The ease with which we disrupted Afghanistan and made it inhospitable to terrorists would indicate that it would have been more rational to implement surgical strikes if needed. This assumes that Al Qaeda was the big bad that the U.S. government claimed (not an assumption I am willing to grant).
The United States went into Afghanistan to create a vassal state from which the United States could use as a regional base to further its imperial aims. It was the projection of imperial power that drove this action as it drives almost all other U.S. foreign policy activities.
The U.S. certainly did not go into Afghanistan to defend the human rights of their population. If there was some marginal improvement, that was accidental, though even that is debatable by the way the central government in Kabul so systematically abused the rights of Afghanis. What is clear is that the U.S. clearly has no qualms about supporting abusive governments like Saudi Arabia (where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from) and a host of other repressive regimes around the globe. We never instituted any real democracy, we never cared about that. All the U.S. ever wants from client states is compliance.
Getting that compliance was more difficult than an arrogant U.S. military command thought. The U.S. got bogged down, as the USSR and Britain before and for much the same reasons; they did understand a damn thing about the cultural, tribal, and historical dynamics at play in a nation far more diverse than they thought.
This led to a 20-year series of lies that the situation was getting better, and that victory was very close indeed. That this was systematically untrue is detailed in this Washington Post article from 2019. However, even the U.S. military knew the truth as this paper details. The Afghan government was a corrupt kleptocracy hellbent on lining its own pockets and anyone with any access to U.S. funds was doing the same. This extended down to the Afghan military, who took U.S. money based on phantom soldiers as this report from 2017 outlines. No welfare queen has ever had anything on this group of parasites.
So, if it was a lie from the beginning and turned quickly into a series of ongoing lies, who benefitted to the point of making the lies profitable? First, the government benefitted because by going into Afghanistan immediately after 9/11 they were seen as “doing something”. Even if that “something” had more to do with extending U.S. power than catching the terrorists.
Next in the benefits line were defense contractors. Extended periods of peace are simply not good for business. Nothing helps spur blood profits like the spilling of blood. Weapons get used, small arms need to be replaced and bigger items are ordered in greater quantity. How long the gravy train of the War on Terror is, can be seen in the dark comedy based on a real story in the movie War Dogs.
The third leg of this unholy triad that benefitted from the bleeding of Afghanistan was the corrupt elements within Afghanistan itself. They postured, preened, and spat out all the pro-democracy bromides that the U.S. wanted to hear, only to stuff as much money into their pockets as they possibly could.
There are of course minor beneficiaries in all this sordid mess; the ideologically pre-disposed to warfare, the corporate media (who only with Biden’s completion of the withdrawal have begun to turn on him), as well as some of our foreign allies who wish the U.S. to carry on its imperial operations.
The Wages of (Lying) Sin
The first problem with all this lying is that it is patently immoral. No, not that lying itself is necessarily immoral. I would lie in a heartbeat to a Nazi looking for Jews in the attic. No, the problem is the purposes to which these lies were put. They were put toward a policy that debased human life and human rights and treated children of God as grist for an imperial mill. We killed, stole, and abused an entire nation of innocent people simply to aggrandize the worldwide power of the U.S. Empire. None of this is in any way consistent with even a heathen “just war” theory, much less the Christian standard of peace as given to us in the Gospels.
The second problem with these lies is that they, as almost always happens, produced very damaging outcomes. Trillions of dollars spent, close to 200,000 total casualties and an Afghanistan right back to where it started in 2001. This is not even counting the long-term costs that we will be paying until the end of this century and beyond. This nation is no safer than it was before we entered this war. The airways became safer from terrorists by the fact that cockpit doors are now locked and travelers stand ready to beat the shit out of anyone trying to hijack a plane, as the shoe bomber discovered, not because of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Additionally, the power of the government over our lives has continued to grow unabated because of the War on Terror and our debt has grown exponentially as well. As per usual, the immoral and the impractical walk hand in hand.
On to The Next Lie
Some will argue that we should give Joe Biden some credit for pulling out of Afghanistan. But on second thought, why. I mean he was part and parcel of the original lie from the beginning, both as Senator and as Vice President. In any event the pullout from Afghanistan simply means the U.S. can move forces to others locales in the region, and there are a lot of choices, choices that do not have any of the downsides of Afghanistan, but fuel U.S. empire all the same.
One could also argue that Mr. Biden was unusually forthright in admitting what when wrong with U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Well, I will interpret this as simply what a good liar does. Joe Biden was always a far better liar then Donald Trump. When a good liar is faced with the exposure of his obviously bullshit story unravelling, he simply admits it and moves on to the next lie. Poor liars like Mr. Trump spin more lies until one’s head explodes trying to keep it all straight and they lose all credibility.
Joe Biden is well on his way to the next big foreign policy lie. This is that the U.S. can be made safer by more aggressively confronting a nuclear armed China and Russia. And so, the clock ticks a little closer to midnight. It is possible (though I think not likely) that we will long for something as “simple” as an Afghanistan war before we are through.
For now, let us be grateful that no more U.S. bombs will kill Afghanis and no more soldiers will be killed or maimed there. We should pray for the Afghan people and the harsh rule they are likely to endure (though not that much worse than they have been suffering all along). In the end, these people must chart their own path to modernity and a better future. If we learn one thing from the exposure of this lie, it should be that this is always the case. Best to start working our own way to a more civilized future instead of holding others back. (see Matt 7:5)
Praise Be to God