Graveyard of Empires

I remember those days like a nightmare that you can’t seem to escape. I was walking to work from my remote parking space. I had been loaned out as a draftsman to another firm while working for Graeber, Simmons and Cowan back in 2001. I don’t recall the name of the firm, but I can point you to the building it was in on Congress Avenue if I happen to be driving with you downtown.

A plane had struck the North tower of the World Trade Center at some point during my drive to work that morning. I was late to work as usual when I was under a deadline and working late nights. The second plane struck not too long after we had all settled down to work that day, and I believe we were dismissed early because there was no use in pretending we were going to get anything done on the project with the kinds of things that were happening in the world that day.

I remember the second plane strike most vividly because it was one of the first times that I was forced to use the internet to get essential news updates, there being no television in the office I was working at. We watched the video of the crash over and over that morning, before leaving to go home and contemplate what we had just witnessed.

When the Travis County Libertarians convened later that week to try to pass an antiwar resolution, declaring that Travis County Libertarians were opposed to the war in Afghanistan that the President was proposing, I motioned to table the declaration. With a second and a majority vote, we did table it. The majority of us at that meeting that day knew that blood called out for blood. It was inevitable and probably right for the United States to seek vengeance against the instigators of the plot that destroyed those towers in New York City. I don’t regret doing that; even today, twenty years later I don’t regret it. I regret that we violated parliamentary procedure to get the resolution tabled, but not that we refused to say that the United States had no right to seek vengeance. Blood called out for blood.

By October 7, 2001, when the war against the Taliban started:

The U.S. military, with British support, begins a bombing campaign against Taliban forces, officially launching Operation Enduring Freedom. Canada, Australia, Germany, and France pledge future support. The wars early phase [PDF] mainly involves U.S. air strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban forces that are assisted by a partnership of about one thousand U.S. special forces, the Northern Alliance, and ethnic Pashtun anti-Taliban forces. The first wave of conventional ground forces arrives twelve days later. Most of the ground combat is between the Taliban and its Afghan opponents.

cfr.org

I was actively planning to go overseas to help rebuild Afghanistan. They needed engineers and experienced construction personnel, and I wanted to put my money where my mouth was, my expertise to work at something that would hopefully inspire a lasting change in the country that had fostered so much hatred for the United States. This was a radical change from the teenager I had been a scant decade earlier. I was ready to go to jail rather than even register for the draft when I turned 18 in 1980. I was that opposed to war.

I knew that if we wanted to avoid a quagmire in Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires, it was going to take finesse and a deft hand on the tiller, and I hoped that the former Texas Governor was up to the job that he had signed himself up to perform as President of the United States. I wanted to be part of the success of that effort. I wanted the cycle we were caught in to end.

My hopes were soon dashed, though. By the middle of 2002, before I had made any headway in deciding if it would be smart to involve myself in Bush II’s ill-begotten war on terrorism, he was already taking his eye off the ball and had begun flirting with conducting a war against his daddy’s nemesis, Saddam Hussein:

There’s an old line: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And so it was with the Iraq war. Bush and Clinton and Powell and Blair knew quite a bit that wasn’t true. As Robert Draper shows in his book “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq,” they were certain Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Only he didn’t. They were also certain, based on decades of testimony from Iraqi expats, that Americans would be welcomed as liberators.

nytimes.com

We ultimately squandered the opportunity handed to us by our allies in Afghanistan. Instead of pursuing a limited campaign that would destroy Al Qaeda and kill Osama Bin Laden, George W. Bush betrayed the needs of the nation and instead pursued imperial goals, trying to bring more countries under the direct control of the United States military through a permanent troop presence and a widening field of battle that essentially encompassed the entire globe, much less all of Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden left Afghanistan while we were distracted and took up residence under the protection of one of our purported allies, Pakistan. He lived in hiding there for another decade while our President’s dreams of empire were pursued at our nation’s expense. At the cost of nearly a million lives. Iraq’s government was destroyed and the entire region was destabilized because of the War on Terror. President Bush played right into OBL’s hands and attempted to colonize not just Afghanistan but Iraq as well.

We betrayed our allies, the Northern Alliance, the people who should have been the tip of the spear in everything we did in Afghanistan so as to keep our footprint in the country to a minimum, and instead tried to occupy the country. Time and again it was shown to us that this effort was doomed, and yet we kept doubling down on the investment of blood and treasure, with no one in leadership willing to admit that we were never going to be able to leave the country that we stupidly thought we could control.

We know now what that error has cost us. Has cost the people of Afghanistan. Twenty years later, the United States lead war in Afghanistan has finally come to an end, and the war between conservative governing factions in Afghanistan is set to begin. No one knows how long that war will rage, or what the ultimate outcome will be, but there is little doubt that the next war in Afghanistan is about to begin. Begin without our presence for the first time in a generation.

Donald Trump, the only president in history worse that George W. Bush, was left in charge of the United States when it came time to cut a deal to get us out of Afghanistan. President Obama could have done it, should have done it, but he thought he could turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse (the same hope of every leader left in charge of a debacle in the making) and kept us fighting an unwinnable war for the entire eight years of his Presidency.

Barack Obama, to his credit, did finally see to the death of the architect of the attacks on our country, but he failed to realize that with the death of OBL we no longer had a reason to stay in Afghanistan. We should have gotten out then, at least. Instead we kept lying to ourselves about what the ultimate outcome of the boondoggle would be. Another ten years went by.

Donald Trump, in his infinite lack of wisdom, decided the smart thing to do was hand the country of Afghanistan back over to the people we had fought for twenty years. He released the prisoners of war that we had captured and had them sign his peace deal, tying the hands of Joe Biden to the August 31st deadline that we have just gone through.

The Ezra Klein ShowThe Foreign Policy Conversation Washington Doesn’t Want to Have

Make no mistake, Joe Biden understood what needed to be done when he was Barack Obama’s Vice President. He opposed the surge. He wanted us to get out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. As Ezra sums up in his article in the NY Times, it was always going to end this way. President Biden knew this just as well as Ezra’s guest in the podcast embedded above knows this.

There was never going to be a time when the coddled, corrupt Afghan puppet that we installed as leader of the country was going to be willing to risk his life for the country that we created. The same clearly went for all of the military personnel that we meticulously trained alongside us for twenty years in-country. Without leadership that would stand firm beside them they would melt away, leaving all the technology we had left in their hands in the hands of the enemies that Donald Trump put in charge with a stroke of his pen.

The Northern Alliance might have been up to the task if we had allowed them to lead, to put their blood and treasure on the line as the cost of not supporting the central government in Kabul. We’ll never know, because that eventuality never occurred. Instead we colonized and set up a puppet government just like we did in Vietnam; and the entire façade collapsed without our constant support, also just like Vietnam.

Now. Now we need to be working with Afghanistan’s neighbors to insure that it doesn’t devolve into the hellhole the Taliban made of it before. If we don’t do this work then we will find ourselves once again drawn into conflict there sometime in the future. Drawn into conflict or attacked by terrorists that found safe harbor there just as they did before. This outcome can’t be allowed to occur; and the only way to stop it is to help make Afghanistan the place it should have been all those years ago when we decided to continue being an empire instead of being a republic of fellow humans that needed to see past wrongs righted and the guilty brought to justice.

How can we, the country that still can’t come to peace with its own slave history, its own genocide of the original population of the land our country was founded on, how can we hope to ever show others how they can move past the point were blood calls out for blood? Who else is there that will do this work if we don’t?

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Featured image from: warfarehistorynetwork.com

MAGA: Rising Gas Prices

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Dear wannbe Governor,

I would have sworn that everyone was onboard with oil prices rising so as to save the oil industry? That seemed to be the mantra under the last president. I mean, the oil industry collapsed under Trump and the glut of gasoline that his pandemic failure caused drove oil down into unheard of negative prices per barrel last summer. Republicans were crying left and right for someone to do something to prop up the price of oil. You can’t sell gasoline if no one is driving, and no one was driving last summer or all of last year. This summer, now that people are driving again, there isn’t enough gasoline to go around. Hence the price rise. This is not rocket science, nor does it have a single thing to do with President Biden.

If you want to thank President Biden for something, thank him for the infrastructure bill that he helped guide through congress with bipartisan support. He’s easily been more of a president in his first six months in office than Trump was at any point in his entire four years in the office. I’ll bet Biden won’t be impeached even one time during his presidency. He’s hands down better than the last guy, but probably not better than what might have been if the woman had won in 2016. What was her name again?

President Biden has been good for the country, in any case. There is no point in trying to throw shade at him for the elevated gasoline prices, which are ridiculous right now. Who’s going to disagree with that? Would you like him to institute price controls so that the cost to the consumer doesn’t go up? No? Then what action by the executive will change the price of gas? Nothing. Nothing that the executive branch can do will reduce the price of gasoline at the pump right now aside from that action.

Joe Biden has not been bad for the country. It floors me that Republican hopefuls think that trashing President Biden will earn them points. If anything, Biden and the Democrats should be doing even more than they’ve already done. They should have already killed the filibuster and passed voter protection laws:

They should have passed the bigger infrastructure bill.

Afghanistan? You want to blame Joe Biden for Afghanistan? Obama should have pulled us out of Afghanistan eight years ago instead of waiting for Trump to make a deal with the Taliban to take over when we left. The only thing that would have been better than that is if Bush II hadn’t been dumb enough to try to colonize Afghanistan in the first place (Graveyard of Empires? Hello?) The bullshit coming off the current crop of Republicans is the same odiferous stuff that Trump was shoveling for the last four years. The people who smell what is coming off the Biden administration and think that what they smell is bad for us should remember that. If what is coming out of the White House smells bad, it’s because the staff there haven’t gotten all the bullshit that Trump left in the White House out of it yet. You can take that observation to the bank.

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