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Edited by Eric Zuesse
Presented here will be, in condensed form, perspectives from the U.S. Deep State (as represented by the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations), and then from critics of the U.S. Deep State (as represented by the Russia-based Strategic Culture Foundation). Then will be presented, in full, the perspective from myself, who am sometimes (presumably when they agree with an article that I have written) published by the Strategic Culture Foundation. I have no affiliation with that or any organization or publisher, and represent only myself. (My publishers range from progressive to libertarian, but I consider myself to be 100% progressive. I have therefore never been published by, nor in any other way associated with, the CFR, which I have consistently criticized, because the CFR is 100% anti-progressive, pro-aristocracy, and that means pro-imperialism. Whereas I respect SCF, I despise CFR. Consequently, my article here is consistent with SCF’s, but not with CFR’s. It supplements SCF’s article, but, in some ways contradicts CFR’s article.)
Interview with the President of the CFR, Richard N. Haass
“Perspective on Afghanistan” (published by CFR on 19 August 2021)
The war began as a direct response to the 9/11 attacks, and the Taliban’s refusal to hand over the members of Al Qaeda that perpetrated them. … We were 100% right to go into it, and, we didn’t want to do it. We gave the Taliban a choice. The Taliban made the wrong choice, a fateful choice for them. 3,000 people have died in our country in a day. But also the precedent. We thought it was critical to set the international norm that we wouldn’t distinguish between terrorists and those who supported them. So I think that was 100% right. We hadn’t thought through, a whole lot, what we would do afterwards. We didn’t know how long this would take. But then again I think we made the right decision to help the Afghans forge their own government. The feeling was if we did too much, it would lack legitimacy. We thought it was important to come up with an Afghan leader, also who was Pashtun. …
SIERRA [the interviewer]:
So, how did our reason for being in Afghanistan change through the years? You know, what were the competing views on what should be done after the initial phase?
It’s the most important question and I’m glad you asked it. Because it’s something that comes back to haunt us in many ways. So we had successfully worked with our Afghan partners, removed the old authority, we had helped bring about a new authority, led by Mr. Karzai. And then the question was, well what do you do at that point? …
We were building up the Afghans at I think a terribly slow rate, but the Taliban was rebuilding and reconstituting at a pretty good clip.
Why? Because they had set up shop in Pakistan. …
So we had two dynamics, a very slow dynamic of building up government capacity, and a rather healthy dynamic or fast dynamic, which was unhealthy, of the Taliban reconstituting itself.
In part because the US military had failed to stop them from escaping, and then we kind of took our eye off the ball and Pakistan went ahead and allowed the Taliban to regroup and rebuild. So that’s where we ended up. …
I guess that brings me to a question of does nation building ever work?
Sure. I mean the most famous successes are places like Germany and Japan after World War II. …
I was excoriated, I think is not too strong of a word. Hammered, might be another word by a prominent former policy maker on the basis of, I was selling people short in the Middle East. And I was actually accused of a kind of racism, that not everybody was ready for democracy. And I said I wasn’t making a statement about individuals. I was making a statement about cultures and societies. And you know, I’d studied enough anthropology and sociology and enough about the Middle East in particular where one had to be aware of pre-conditions and resistance to certain types of traditions. … If the Taliban wants to impose Sharia Law, wants to make, wants to force women to wear a niqab, full covering. I don’t think we’re gonna be in a position to stop it. …
Yeah. It just feels sometimes like a very fair weather argument where, you know, people have used that defense to stay in Afghanistan in the past, and now we can get up and leave and abandon everybody.
Well, it will have consequences. … This was not a peace agreement. This was an American withdrawal agreement. I thought the Trump administration was dead wrong to do it. I thought Mr. Biden, who’s had no trouble distancing himself from other things he inherited from Mr. Trump on Iran, on climate change, on the World Health Organization, should have distanced himself from this, but he didn’t. Essentially, [he] followed it. …
If you look at the history of the last 20 years, you could almost form two columns, the times we have overreached in Afghanistan, and the times we have under-reached. And the last couple of, I’d say the last 18 months, there’s been a lot of under-reaching.
“Editorial: Another One Bites the Dust. Geopolitical Fallout from U.S.-Afghan Failure” (published by SCF on 20 August 2021)
The American empire and its lackeys are going down, as we have mentioned many times before. Afghanistan is another nail in the coffin.
Every day can be said to be history-making. But this week saw a watershed event with huge historical ramifications: the final collapse of the United States’ and NATO’s military occupation of Afghanistan.
America’s longest war has come to a close after 20 years of futile fighting, destruction and suffering. The Taliban militants whom the U.S. ousted in an invasion back in October 2001 are now back as the governing power in Afghanistan. And a regime that Washington propped up with billions of dollars folded like a house of cards as the Taliban took control of the capital, Kabul, on August 15.
This week the new rulers declared the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. America’s avowed starry-eyed project of “nation-building” and “Western-style democracy” lies in ruins. Fittingly, this week also marks the centennial anniversary of the liberation of Afghanistan from British colonial rule in 1919. Another one bites the dust.
The desperate, chaotic scenes of the U.S. and its NATO allies evacuating from Afghanistan speak volumes. The pretensions of Washington and its Western partners have fallen to Earth with a crash – like the bodies of poor Afghans who clung to U.S. military cargo planes as they took off from Kabul airport. What the world witnessed was the shameful, diabolical end to a two-decade criminal occupation of Afghanistan that has wrought nothing but destruction and grief. And the Afghan people have been abandoned to their fate.
This was never about the alleged 9/11 terror attacks in 2001 or the so-called “global war on terror”. Just weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Biden administration is pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in what can only be described as an ignominious retreat. It is grotesque to “justify” the two-decade-old war in the Central Asian country as somehow a kind of retribution for the murky events of 9/11 which involved no Afghans.
America’s war in Afghanistan was just one chapter in a period of presumed unipolar dominance. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Washington moved quickly to demonstrate geopolitical power with a litany of illegal wars and military interventions. It became known in Neoconservative parlance as “full-spectrum dominance”. We also saw Neoliberal narratives for imperial power under the rubric of “humanitarian wars”. But basically, the underlying rationale was the same: unilateral military force to assert U.S. global hegemony. …
One thing seems clear. Western powers and their “rules-based order” of imperialist intervention have nothing to offer Afghanistan – or any other nation for that matter. …
Amusingly, the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell remarked that NATO’s failure in Afghanistan must not become an opportunity for China or Russia. Is that all he cares about amid the disaster?
Eurasian co-development and partnership as promulgated by China and Russia make sense for Afghanistan’s future. The Taliban’s Islamist form of government is not unfeasible. If it can be inclusive and uphold a national consensus, not based on repression, and excluding extremism while maintaining regional stability, then there are grounds for a better future.
The ultimate losers are not the Afghan people. The ultimate losers are the charlatans and war criminals of the U.S. and NATO who stand exposed more than ever in the eyes of the world as a threat to international security and peace.
Eric Zuesse (published by SCF on 21 August 2021)
The prominent philosopher Slavoj Zizek stated the question well at RT, on August 17th:
The Taliban’s 80,000 troops have retaken Afghanistan with cities falling like dominos while the 300,000-strong government forces, better equipped and trained, mostly melted and surrendered with no will to fight. Why did it happen?
The Western media tell us there can be several explanations for that. …
However, all these explanations seem to avoid a basic fact that is traumatic for the liberal Western view. That is the Taliban’s disregard for survival and the readiness of its fighters to assume “martyrdom,” to die not just in a battle but even in suicidal acts.
He compared this to the Marxists who were willing to risk their lives in order to conquer the ruling aristocratic regime in Russia a hundred years ago and succeeded against enormous odds. But, then, Zizek said “it is doubtful that traditional Marxism can provide a convincing account of the success of Taliban.” Philosophers (including not only the anti-Marxist philosopher Zizek but Marx himself) always have been and are accustomed to contradicting themselves like that, without even noticing that they are. Even self-contradiction is accepted by them, because — as a profession — they have no consistent epistemological standard that they’re required to meet. Instead, Zizek blithely assumed that Russia’s Revolutionists hadn’t won for the very same reason the Taliban did — they were willing to die for their cause, while the opposing soldiers were not. He simply assumed that because the Taliban fought for a different god, they didn’t win for the same reason that those Marxist ‘atheists’ did.
However, the question still remains open, and must be addressed, in the most general sense:
Why did the Taliban win against the Americans in Afghanistan?
Why did the communists win against the Americans in Vietnam?
Why did the communists win against the capitalists in the Russian Revolution?
Why did the American Revolutionists win against the British Empire?
I shall here propose an answer to all of them, because that answer applies to all such cases, as I shall explain:
When an imperialistic society is as corrupt as Britain has been since the creation of the British East India Company in the year 1600, and as America has been since the end of World War II in 1945, with its takeover and control by the MIC (military-industrial complex), which has inevitably produced the cancerous growth of America’s permanent-warfare state, what, then, is a reason to continue living by remaining merely as a colonist or vassal-regime (or even as the imperialist regime itself), which means — when the imposed regime is so profoundly corrupt as any imperialist power necessarily is — to accept such corruption, as this? There’s something that is worse than dying, and it is to continue living under a regime that one utterly despises. That’s a dragged-out death, instead of a quick death. A regime which is as corrupt as any imperialistic regime inevitably is, will be intolerable for a significant number of the residents in any one of its vassal-nations or “colonies.” Death, for them, isn’t such a bad choice, if it means that they will go down fighting to overthrow it. They are driven by the motivation, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” This is a motivation that few, if any, of the imperialistic regime’s hired soldiers (regardless of whether conscripted or not) can match. And when they are foreigners who are fighting on a foreign soil (instead of locals who are defending their land’s own locally determined rulers), they especially and certainly cannot match such motivation, because only the locals can be fighting with a patriotic spirit. This is an intrinsic weakness in any empire. And imperialist leaders tend to ignore it, because they don’t want to understand how repulsive they are to virtually anyone but their own boot-lickers.
Ultimately, the demoralization of a hired soldier’s continuing to place his very existence in jeopardy so as to continue the war to enslave and control the resisting local subject-population will mount high enough to produce self-contempt, desertion, and sometimes even suicide, in the oppressing power’s forces, especially if that’s a foreign power. No longer will the rationalizations (that “We are protecting the residents here”) be able to continue fooling the invading-force’s soldier, and the imposed stooge-regime’s soldier. They both (the foreign regime, and its imposed local stooge-government or colony) are there really in order to control the local subject-population; and, ultimately, enough of the oppressor’s forces will know this so as to cause the imposed stooge-government to become conquered by the indigenous residents there — people who will be remembered as heroes by the other residents there. This is an advantage which any revolutionists have, against the imposed regime.
This is the real meaning of “martyrs,” in the deeper sense than merely of a religious type — it is instead of the patriotic type; it concerns the land, and not necessarily any religion, such as Christianity, Islam, or Marxism. Their loyalty is to Afghanistan; or it is to Vietnam; or it is to Russia; or it is to China; or (before America became imperialistic) it was to America. And so forth. It is to the local land, not to any dictators. It is to the country that the foreign invader’s forces are occupying. The invader’s forces and their imposed stooge-regimes can’t match this motivation.
Similarly, when the American invaders were conquered by the residents of Vietnam, the winners were the Vietnamese, not really the communists; and, in fact, the Marxist philosophy (or ‘religion’) subsequently has waned there. America, in Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, was the invader, in a land which had not invaded their own. That similar situation exists in Afghanistan. The Sauds had invaded America on 9/11, with the assistance of G.W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and perhaps others in the Administration. And so, the U.S.-imposed soldiers in Afghanistan couldn’t even possibly have been fighting against Afghanistan for any authentically patriotic real (factually true) reason, at all. Therefore, lies were constantly needed by the U.S. regime — not only against Iraq, but even against Afghanistan. (Furthermore, if Bush’s objective had really been to identify whom and how was actually behind the 9/11 attacks, then he would have pursued that at the U.N. Security Council and would have gotten unanimous backing for it, which would quickly have isolated and led to the destruction of Al Qaeda. It could all have been done without any war between nations, and also fully in accord with international law. To the extent that 9/11 was state-sponsored terrorism, it was actually being sponsored by the Governments of U.S. and Saudi Arabia. George W. Bush, who was buddy-close with the Sauds, used 9/11 as an excuse to trash both the U.S. Constitution and international law so as to hoist yet higher his own tyranny, his own power — not only internationally but also within his own nation. An imperialist would, of course, like to trash both, and to hoist his personal power as high as possible. And GWB had the boldness to do it, and — because America has been imperialistic ever since 1945 (i.e., international aggressions have been America’s culture since 1945) — he has been able to enjoy the success of getting away with doing it. However, everyone else, and especially outside America’s MIC, suffers from it.
What have the mere soldiers of invading and occupying imperialist powers actually earned by having placed their own lives at risk? Maybe a tombstone back home, in the country that had invaded and occupied that colony.
By contrast, even if a defending soldier has died as a hero among the locals in a failed revolution against the imperialist power, any tombstone will be unnecessary to be that person’s memorial, because the true memorial is in the heart, and in the mind, of the locals there, not in anything that is in the land of the invading foreign power.
And, so, I propose that the answer, to the question here, is that, whereas America’s Founders were waging war as heroes (because their war was just), today’s Americans are waging war as villains (because our wars are unjust — imperialistic aggressions, instead of heroic defenses against an aggressor). Between America’s founding and the present time, America has switched from doing war against military occupiers, to doing war as military occupiers.
And this, I maintain, is the reason why: “The Taliban’s 80,000 troops have retaken Afghanistan with cities falling like dominos while the 300,000-strong government forces, better equipped and trained, mostly melted and surrendered with no will to fight.”
What today’s Taliban are to today’s Afghanistan is therefore what the 1776 American Revolutionists were to the America of that era. It’s not the ideology; it is the love of that land there, which has motivated the residents’ forces to victory, against the forces of the invading-and-occupying foreign power. This can happen in any land, at any time.
America went into Vietnam focused on the “body counts.” That’s how stupid America’s imperialistic leaders were, back then. The only motivation they really understood was fear: “body counts.” They’ve evidently learned nothing since. That is how corrupt America is.
Right now in America, the ‘debate’ about Afghanistan is about Joe Biden, who is basically irrelevant. He wanted to end America’s military occupation there, just as Trump did, and just as Obama did. He acted on it, whereas they did not — they didn’t want to be accused by their political opponents of having ‘lost Afghanistan on their watch’, but Biden was evidently willing to risk it. His only failure in the matter is that he kept lying to the American people (and probably also to himself) about how chaotic the evacuation would inevitably be, and about how collapsed Afghanistan is and has been ever since the Soviets invaded there in 1979. Throughout America’s imperialistic era, the U.S. Government has routinely been lying to the American people. Imperialism isn’t as bad for the imperialistic nation’s public as it is for the conquered land’s people, but it is very bad, even for them. The only people who benefit from it are the billionaires, who control companies such as Lockheed Martin, and ExxonMobil, and Amazon. Those are the people (the owners) who hire the leading politicians, including the members of Congress, and the Presidents, to spread their empire, and their control. They also hire the ‘journalists’ who shape their nation’s public to support these invasions and military occupations. The Government officials of an imperialistic regime represent not the nation’s public, but its aristocracy, who hire and appoint millions of the rest, the many agents (employees, etc.) of the few billionaires. The billionaires really control their country. After all: America is a thoroughly corrupt country, just as any imperialistic country is. (All imperialistic countries are controlled by their aristocracy. And every aristocracy is corrupt.) The public in Afghanistan have long known this fact about America — that it is corrupt. And this is the main reason why the Taliban now rule that country. They represent that land. Not this land. It’s a different culture, and a different place. To most Afghans, America represents only corruption. There is nothing unique about what is now happening in Afghanistan. It has been happening for thousands of years, and it’s just replaying an ancient script, but in that particular location.
However, instead, the U.S.-and-allied media are focusing on Biden’s bit part (which was always in a supporting role) in America’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. So, probably nothing will be learned from America’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, just as nothing was learned from America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, and from America’s invasion and occupation of Vietnam, and from the many other such post-WW-II American foreign disasters. For America’s billionaires, these have all been great successes (very profitable); and, so, probably nothing that’s useful to the American people will be learned from history; and, instead, the myths will continue that have caused “The Military” to be either the highest-respected or the second-highest-respected of all of the 19 named institutions in America — the world’s permanent-warfare state. The American military wastes the most money and the most blood of any institution in America, but Americans nonetheless respect it enormously. That, too, is a mark of an imperialistic country. The way to control a public is to sustain the myths. U.S.-and-allied billionaires make sure that it is done — however much it costs.
As regards the future of Afghanistan itself: On August 19th, the most reliable geostrategic reporter and analyst, Alexander Mercouris, headlined at The Duran, “US Freezes Afghanistan Reserves, Threatens Economic Crisis. Russia Works to Establish New Government”, and he explained why the Taliban will either cooperate with Russia, China, and Iran, or else will degenerate yet further into a failed state, especially because the U.S. and its allies will do everything possible to strangle the fully looted Government of Afghanistan — the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. So: even after the U.S. and its allies have all left that land, the war against the people there will continue, in full force, from the same people, though with different methods.
PS: The philosopher Zizek headlined at RT on August 20th, “The true enemy for Islamists is not the West’s neocolonialism or military aggression, but our ‘immoral’ culture”, and he said “it was not neocons who boosted Islamic fundamentalism, this fundamentalism grew up in a reaction to the influence of Western liberal secularism and individualism.” He did not understand that though religious fundamentalists (including the Taliban) focus especially on sexual and gender issues, a person didn’t have to be at all religious in order to consider the financial and economic corruption of the imperialists and of their stooges to be disgusting. Americans didn’t invade and occupy Afghanistan in order to spread “liberal secularism and individualism,” but in order for U.S.-and-allied billionaires to expand their wealth, their empire, and their global control. Even if the Taliban and other religious persons might object only (or even just mainly) to the sexual and gender issues, a broader segment of the Afghan population were repelled by the rampant financial and economic corruption of the imperialists, and of their stooge-rulers. This was not a defeat for “secularism and individualism.” It was a rejection of imperialism — a rejection of it even by people who don’t understand what “imperialism” means.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.