Mr. Taibbi is incorrect -- the politicians learned their lessons well. They made a fortune on the Afghani occupation, a war otherwise of so little importance to Congress that they never bothered, as the Constitution requires, to declare war, but allowed president after president to use the military like a play toy. And nobody cared.

Even after they were all caught out for lying to the public for YEARS about the war (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/) nobody at all, no politician, no general, no lobbyist, lost any of their money, reputation or power but continued on all the same. The voting mob couldn't have cared less.

So will it happen again. You bet ya!

Expand full comment

I support the withdrawal. But it's hard not to see the way it was done as a foreign policy disaster.

Isn't the basic rule to pull out the soft targets first and the troops last?

Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, I think we can all agree that the U.S. has created a humanitarian shitstorm in Afghanistan.

Expand full comment

The CIA partnering with the military to keep their jobs going infinitely along with enrichment to oil companies, arms dealers, Raytheon, Boeing, et al, keeps me wondering why I keep wanting to be proud of the USA. Why should I be patriotic to the cabal in this country that’s run by the NSA, CIA, FBI, warlord companies, the crooked media, and all the rest of the tyrants who have shit on the Constitution? I’m so over what we have become. The darkness of this debacle is the last straw. The government and the military have screwed our troops, screwed all the young men and women who serve and sacrifice their lives. It’s devastating.

Expand full comment

"The Taliban just rescued Afghanistan from a regime that forces people to cover their faces, topples statues, and endorses genital mutilation."

I had to post this joke because the irony was startling and did make me pause.

Expand full comment

I'm even more cynical than Matt. I prefer the theory that at least some of our foreign policy elites in Washington knew very well what was going down, and their "surprise" is nothing but theater, meant to conceal from the public how utterly conceited and mercenary they are.

The reason they hated Donald Trump so much was because he not only tried to make decisions that they didn't approve of (like pulling the US military out of Syria and Afghanistan), but he exposed them every time they resisted him. This also underlines the reason so many Americans voted for him: They were sick and tired of the way the DC 'shadow government' has been running foreign policy for the last few decades. If open borders, immoral wars, and unfair trade agreements are not in the interest of the great majority of Americans, then whose interests are these so-called 'experts' representing?

Expand full comment

Complete and utter failure of leadership.

But they all still have their jobs, their mansions, their pensions, and their healthcare.

Stunning how well incompetence pays, as long as you go with the flow. We are surrounded and governed by too many "yes men".

Expand full comment

SSDD. over and over and over.. ad nauseum. Stand up a boogey man, pimp endless propaganda, enroll the plebians, invade, secure the resources sought by oligarchs, prop up a "western friendly" puppet regime, bail. and the let the rent flow to the oligarchs, bought with the plebeians blood. so "patriotic", so "proud". rich man's games. as if any R or D ever gave a fu&k.

Expand full comment

As a poster on another blog recently noted:

"The United States did an excellent job of installing a government in Afghanistan that's a mirror image of our own: brazenly corrupt, abjectly incompetent, overrun by psychofascist religious fanatics, and on the brink of collapse."

Expand full comment

Near the top of the long list of things that both saddens and sickens me about the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan is that a lot of people got very, very rich by keeping the "war" going for 20 years.

Expand full comment

can we be perfectly clear? who "won"? Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, and lets not forget their "shareholders" (70%+ of "shareholders" are just wall st scumbags, btw). trying paint this as a d or r thing, or any celebrity political inbred, exposes a deficit of critical thinking in any reader or poster. THIS is what murica does best. destroy everything based on lies, for a the profit of a few inbreds.

Expand full comment

It's something to realize that you've lived through two decades of the steady collapse of the legitimacy of America's elite to rule over its people. The argument in a liberal democracy is that we are to be ruled (via elections) by honest and capable people, and in the modern liberal democratic context, a knowledgeable class of the best and brightest experts.

Well, that legitimacy has been shot to pieces so many times across all sectors of American society, from politics to education/higher education, culture, religion/faith, finance, corporate, you name it. There is a rottenness at the heart of America's ruling class and that rottenness has been made worse by the increasingly blatant realization that America's ruling classes really doesn't, deep inside, care about America or even think America as a force is special or unique.

I hate to bring up Donald Trump, given how polarizing his name is, but one can trace the visceral hatred and reaction the American establishment had to Trump was that he effectively called out them for what they were, shallow and contemptuous, morally bankrupt and not governing for the best of America but for special interest groups, often sharply aligned to their own financial and personal interests. In what previous generation could a prominent politician call wide swathes of American people names like deplorables and with all the implications that they were not fellow countrymen but a different species they not only didn't really understand, but didn't really want to be bothered with?

I am going off on a tangent somewhat from the fall of Afghanistan, but that the speed apparently caught the American intelligence and political leaders completely off guard and clearly without serious plans for the long term safe evacuation of people and supporters before any handover, is only yet another exhibit in the long term collapse of the capabilities and moral authority of America's ruling classes, both elected and non-elected. So that is why I am hardly surprised. I wasn't surprised because I knew it would end in this quagmire, 20 years ago, when Bush II first launched the invasion of Afghanistan. How or why would he succeed when the Russians and British had failed? I watched for 20 years as trillions were poured into the country ostensibly to rebuild its infrastructure, all by people and designed by people who fully believed that it was only a matter of time before the Taliban returned. It was always a lie, it was a lie everyone understood for a long time, but that we persisted with this lie for so long is only a testament to the failures of America's ruling classes. Yet again.

Expand full comment

This is all obviously one guy's fault. And the identity of that one guy depends on your party affiliation.

Expand full comment

As someone who lived through the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, almost 20 years ago I told my uber-patriotic 'we are the United States of America, we can do whatever the hell we want' friends, this what it would end up like. One thing I was wrong about - I thought it would happen much sooner than 20 years.

Afghanistan - the place that empires go to die.

Expand full comment

Ending wars is always a lot tougher than starting them. As bad as we are at ending them, one would think we would try harder to avoid them.

Expand full comment

1. Our Foreign Policy Establishment needs to be gutted and filled with people who have common sense, humility and some sense of honor.

2. Our Intel Community needs to be gutted and better regulated and kept on a tight leash. Everything they say needs to be taken with a very serious grain of salt. They are better at spying on us than gaining intel from across the globe.

3. We need to really really rein in the military industrial complex and its influence on our politicians.

4. Our civilian leaders need to be more like Lincoln and challenge our military leaders. Congress needs to stop cozzying up to generals and colonels and start demanding honest answers and then they need to listen to those honest answers.

5. We need to find some way of cutting off the rotating of intel and defense personnel from government service to corporations and then back again.

Expand full comment

Last week, for no particular reason, I google mapped A Shau valley, the site of my last operation in Vietnam in late summer 1968 with the 101st, called "Summerset Plain."

We were on a firebase on the east rim of the valley at least two weeks before the ground assault began, one company of infantry, one battery of artillery and me as the artillery spotter. There were nearly daily B-52 runs, fire from 16" guns off the coast of Hue, Puff the Magic Dragon paid nightly visits and the whole valley floor was basically bomb crater inside bomb crater, and while we did get artillery fire from the NVA and occasional ground probes, it was obvious they saw what was coming and were leaving for the time being, being content to fuck with us as they felt like it, dawn revealing their favorite trick; our claymores turned 180, now facing us.

It was their country, and eventually, they knew we would leave.

So, looking at the valley today, the first thing I said out loud, was, "That's not the A Shau", because what I saw was roads, villages, and restaurants, hotels, markets, etc. all with reviews, and even a tourist site for Hamburger Hill, another pointless battle fought a couple years after I left, and not a single sign of the destruction we had brought to it.

How could this be, I thought, it must be wrong, and then I backed out of the valley, going east and sure enough, there was the ocean, there was Hue, and my dumb American brain finally saw the truth; that was the A Shau, the illusion was us there 52 years ago, the Vietnamese were the reality, just as surely as we are our own reality in this country, a place we should stay and tend to its many serious problems.

Anyone who was in real combat in Vietnam and was honest about what they experienced, knew this would happen; we would eventually lose because the government we were backing was corrupt and had no real support, that trying to defeat a force composed of people who live there and who have some level of support greater than that of the government, and who would fight us where and when and even if they wanted, could not lose, because at some time, either now or 5 years or 500, we would leave and they would remain, and when that happened, the advocates of the war would rush in and blame everyone but themselves for it, and be given endless air time by our worthless media. Once again, the lives of US military, and especially of the people in those countries we invaded, would become political footballs, useful only for scoring points.

We have been done in by our own hubris and lack of accountability. After Gulf War I, the US loudly proclaimed we had discovered the secret to winning wars lickety split; the combination of high technology, maximum firepower effectively concentrated and rapid speed was the answer, we were told, but the reality was we had met an enemy stupid enough to be positioned in open desert, in static positions, with no air cover. To find such an enemy a second time is beyond being lucky, as the last 19 1/2 years of utter futility have shown.

It's too bad Donald Rumsfeld didn't live to see this, but it's comforting to know those two Vietnam draft dodgers, one of them now a hero to the establishment Dems, who started these wars and the rest of the D.C. elite are still alive to do so. My hope is the Taliban erects a Mission Accomplished banner in Kabul; that would be a fitting end to these last nearly 20 years of utter stupidity and venality.

How fitting that all this can be traced to our 1980's attempt to give the USSR its own Vietnam in Afghanistan and did so, only to culminate in giving us our second.

Can we please throw all the bums out and start voting for parties that do not give us one catastrophe after another?

Expand full comment