"The war is over! It's safe to go home now!"But I exaggerate. To be honest, not everyone was saying it. I wasn't saying anything.
As it turned out, the war was not over. The draft had been terminated but the war continued in a different manner until April of 1975.
I don't know how many of my compatriots ever knew that. It wouldn't surprise me if none of them ever found out. After all, they didn't know when or how the war had started. Why should they know whether or not it had ended?
If you detect a hint of disdain in my voice, there's a reason. The expat community "thought" just like the "anti-war movement" back home. They were mostly worried about being drafted; they didn't mind being complicit in horrible crimes.
And if you detect an echo of Afghanistan in the air, there's a reason for that, too. Don't believe anyone who says, "The war in Afghanistan is over." It's not. It's just being continued in a different manner.
Also, and very important: don't believe anyone who says "The war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, in response to the 9/11 attacks." That's not true either.
The United States has been meddling in Afghanistan since 1979. And when I say "meddling", I mean "trying to create hell on earth".
We all need to learn about the pre-9/11 history of the war in Afghanistan. And Chris Floyd has written about it recently, eloquently as ever. Although I could quibble with Chris on a few points, I can't argue with him when he says:
People need to understand something about Afghanistan, and the debacle we’re witnessing there. America’s involvement in Afghanistan didn’t begin in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks. It began in the last years of the Carter Administration, when he and his advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski set out to “give the Soviets their own Vietnam.” They did this by funding and arming an international cohort of violent fundamentalist extremists and training them in terror tactics. (Osama bin Laden was one of those who joined this jihad army supported by the US, Saudia Arabia and Pakistan.)Later in the piece, after he recounts some of the more modern history, Chris writes:
At that time, there was a modern, secular regime in Afghanistan. It wasn’t a paradise. It was ridden by internal factionalism, sometimes violent. It was supported by the Soviet Union. It was beset by fundamentalist extremists. It had repressive features. But it was a secular regime. Women were emancipated; many held high positions. Children, including girls, were educated. Science was honored and promoted. Religion was tolerated, albeit uneasily.
Carter and Brzezinski decided to empower the extremist militias attacking the regime, hoping to induce so much chaos that the Soviets would intervene militarily to help their client state. Again, as Brzezinski himself put it, they wanted to give the USSR “its own Vietnam.”
Think about this for a moment. What Carter and Brzezinski wanted was to subject the Afghan people to the years of suffering and death that the Vietnamese had experienced. They WANTED Afghanistan to suffer this fate, and they ACTED to make sure it happened. And it did. If you like, it was one of the great successes of US foreign policy in the post-war period. They deliberately plunged Afghanistan into blood-soaked chaos; and the Soviets – after fierce debate in the Politburo – did send in troops to try to stabilize the country. What followed was year after year after year of horror and death. Again, please note: this was the stated INTENTION of US policy: mass death, terrorism and suffering.
When Carter lost in 1980, Reagan took up his policy in Afghanistan and magnified it. More arms and money to religious extremists. More terrorist training, with CIA manuals. The US even produced textbooks for Afghan children lauding fundamentalist extremism and jihad terror. (All of this was reported in the Washington Post and other mainstream outlets.) Reagan invited the precursors of the Taliban to the White House, where he called them the “moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers” and “freedom fighters.” These men were dedicated to undoing the emancipation of women, destroying all vestiges of secular society and imposing the most harsh and hidebound fundamentalist strictures imaginable.
These were the people who were armed, trained, funded, lauded and supported by the United States government for years on end. The Taliban would not exist if not for these long-running, bipartisan policies of the United States.
In none of these policies – from Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Trump and Biden – has concern for the lives and welfare of the Afghan people played the slightest part. The good Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter WANTED to create hell on earth like Vietnam in Afghanistan. He WANTED thousands upon thousands of innocent people to die, so that the Soviet Union could be “bled dry” in a geopolitical game. I know it’s hard to get one’s head around this, that this gentle, soft-spoken old man, who lives frugally, built houses for the poor and fought for free elections in other countries, etc., made the deliberate choice to inflict unimaginable grief, pain and suffering on multitudes of innocent people. But he did. This is what actually happened in our history.And I don't disagree with any of that either.
Ronald Reagan extended this policy (which he also practiced in Central America, aiding the mass slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent people by the repressive regimes he supported and armed.) George W. Bush then plunged American forces directly into the fray, stupidly, callously and corruptly replicating “Russia’s own Vietnam” of endless warfare against an extremist insurgency, while tens of thousands innocent civilians died at the hands of all the forces involved.
I do disagree with Chris on the role played by Osama bin Laden (I think he was a controlled scapegoat), including when and where he died (I think he was dead and buried months before he was allegedly chased out of Pakistan, and many years before he was allegedly captured and killed there). I also disagree with Chris' statement that
Now this 40-year chapter of American involvement has come to an end.As I understand it, the war has been reclassfied from "infantry" to "drone". The chapter hasn't ended; we're simply on a new page now.
Of course the public has been told the war is over, and most of them believe it, because they don't know any better. As far as I can tell, most of them only care about whether American soldiers are getting killed, and hardly anybody cares about how many foreigners get killed. Chris Floyd is definitely not one of the people I am describing here.
And it's OK if we disagree; I don't know anybody who agrees with me about everything.
If I were in the mood to quibble, I could also quibble with the title of his piece: Generation of Vipers: The Original Sin and Continuous Crimes of America’s Involvement in Afghanistan, because it's been two generations, and we're still counting. But I get that, too. He's tying it in with the verse that goes:
"O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?" – Matthew 12:34which, to be fair, is an insult to vipers.
Speaking of "fairness", it was probably unfair of me to put all my critical comments at the end of this piece. I don't want to leave you with the wrong impression of how I see Chris Floyd and his work.
He's been a huge influence and a powerful role model and a good friend over many years; his body of work is unsurpassed as far as I know; and I think this is more important than whether I disagree with him on a detail here or there. And besides, he disagrees with me too sometimes. And it's all OK! Neither of us gets offended. Nobody tries to silence anybody else. Nobody feels as if his existence had been invalidated. Maybe we're just not woke enough to be that stupid. But there's still time.
And no, I haven't forgotten: I started with two strands and I've left one hanging.
My fellow young expats thought the war was over, but I knew it wasn't over. They also thought it was safe to go home, but I knew it wasn't safe.
I was waiting for a different kind of news, like maybe:
"The government has been overthrown! It's safe to go home now!"But I didn't have any hope that it would ever happen. And it hasn't.
The clowns in the front window have been changed every now and then. But the monsters in the back room have settled down for a long stay.
In my opinion, they've been there far too long. And nobody can do anything about it except us -- you and me and Freddy over there.
I know what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it. But I don't know about you. That's why I've been asking: What are you going to do about it?