"Afghanistan: We Never Learn"
by Matt Taibbi
Substack (August 16, 2021)

As the Taliban waltzes into Kabul, the look of surprise on the faces of top officials should frighten us most of all

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, when asked months ago about the possibility that there might be a “significant deterioration” of the security picture in Afghanistan once the United States withdrew its forces, said, “I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.”

Blinken’s Nostradamus moment was somehow one-upped by that of his boss, Joe Biden, who on July 8th had the following exchange with press:

Down to their own stunningly (perfectly?) inaccurate mis-predictions of what would take place once our military forces left the country, Biden administration officials could not have scripted a worse ending to the twenty-year disaster that has been our occupation of Afghanistan.

Every image coming out of Afghanistan this past weekend was an advertisement for the incompetence, arrogance, and double-dealing nature of American foreign policy leaders. Scenes of military dogs being evacuated while our troops fire weapons in the air to disperse humans desperate for a seat out of the country will force every theoretical future ally to think twice about partnering with us:

News that the military was forced to re-deploy troops to Afghanistan in order to ensure an “orderly and safe” withdrawal is being met with justifiable eye-rolling worldwide. It’s a little late for that:

The pattern is always the same. We go to places we’re not welcome, tell the public a confounding political problem can be solved militarily, and lie about our motives in occupying the country to boot. Then we pick a local civilian political authority to back that inevitably proves to be corrupt and repressive, increasing local antagonism toward the American presence.

In response to those increasing levels of antagonism, we then ramp up our financial, political, and military commitment to the mission, which in turn heightens the level of resistance, leading to greater losses in lives and treasure. As the cycle worsens, the government systematically accelerates the lies to the public about our level of “progress.”

Throughout, we make false assurances of security that are believed by significant numbers of local civilians, guaranteeing they will later either become refugees or targets for retribution as collaborators. Meanwhile, financial incentives for contractors, along with political disincentives to admission of failure, prolong the mission.

This all goes on for so long that the lies become institutionalized, believed not only by press contracted to deliver the propaganda (CBS’s David Martin this weekend saying with a straight face, “Everybody is surprised by the speed of this collapse” was typical), but even by the bureaucrats who concocted the deceptions in the first place.

The look of genuine shock on the face of Tony Blinken this weekend as he jousted with Jake Tapper about Biden’s comments from July should tell people around the world something important about the United States: in addition to all the other things about us that are dangerous, we lack self-knowledge.

Even deep inside the machine of American power, where everyone paying even a modicum of attention over the last twenty years should have known Kabul would fall in a heartbeat, they still believe their own legends. Which means this will happen again, and probably sooner rather than later.


Horatio Flemm
9 hr ago

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!

michael t nola
2 hr ago

If you can show me any concrete examples of their trying to spread their beliefs around the world, I will change my mind.

The planning for 9-11 was done in San Diego, Miami and Germany; Hamburg, if I remember correctly, and not a single Afghan or Taliban was involved, though a shit load of Saudis were, not that seems to matter to our political elites. If AQ does reassemble in Afghanistan, I cannot think or a safer place for us to have them; a landlocked country with few outlets to the world [bold font for emphasis added].

If Islamic terrorism is so great a threat, then why have so few here been killed by it? Are you telling me a Muslim couldn't just buy a gun here and blast away, like we do to each other on the regular?

Take a look at the number of Americans killed by drunk drivers, plain old murders, work place accidents, or even our horrible junk food diet and then try telling me our reaction to 9-11, one where we didn't even try to get bin Laden, the supposed mastermind, wasn't a complete bait and switch, the ultimate winners being the MIC and their political pimps [bold font for emphasis added].

If you feel so strongly, take your second amendment implements over there and go at it, but give me a heads up, and I'll give you some of the tips I learned in Vietnam decades ago. And while you're over there, just think back to how this all started with our aiding these people, who eventually morphed into the Taliban, in our desire to play The Great Game, all to give the USSR its own Vietnam. There was a movie about it, Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hanks, if I remember correctly, so it must have been the right thing to do, consequences be damned.