President Joe Biden addressed the nation Monday about the events unfolding in Afghanistan.
Biden says he takes "my share of responsibly" for what is happening Afghanistan: "I'm deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision… I cannot and will not ask our troops to fight on endlessly in another country's civil war." https://t.co/almuVAk3AW pic.twitter.com/xJicyWQTTu
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 16, 2021
No sooner did Taliban forces begin overrunning the beleaguered Middle Eastern country when critics both left and right of the political spectrum started their predictable admonitions.
Biden acknowledged the chaos set in “more quickly than we had anticipated,” and explained why the evacuation of the American embassy in Kabul was not as organized as it could have been or conducted earlier.
While the blame for the fall of Kabul inevitably falls on Biden since he is the current Commander-in-Chief who approved the military withdrawal, we must not ignore how we got to this point.
We spent 20 years in Afghanistan–longer than any other military conflict–because former president George W. Bush wanted to be a “war president,” thus securing the re-election his father, POTUS 41, failed to achieve after his “little war” in Iraq in 1991.
That all started in 1999 when Bush was still governor of Texas and flirting with a run for the White House.
He reported to journalist Mickey Herskowitz, hired to write the first draft of Bush’s autobiography, A Charge To Keep:
“One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief…My father [former president George H.W. Bush] had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it…If I have a chance to invade…if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
Then came September 11, 2001, after Bush ignored repeated intelligence warnings Osama bin Laden was intent on attacking the United States.
“Suddenly, he’s at 91 percent in the polls, and he’d barely crawled out of the bunker.”
The Reagan/Bush Sr. administration spent $3 billion on bin Laden when he was our ally against the Soviet Union.
But it was our imperialism and perceived decadence that turned him against us and set the stage for 19 jihadist hijackers–15 of which were Saudis, like bin Ladin–to commit the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.
Bin Ladin did not participate in the attacks himself.
According to CBS News, he wasn’t even in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan receiving medical treatment thanks to help from whom?–none other than the United States military.
But Bush couldn’t attack our ally Pakistan.
He had to do something lest he appear more illegitimate than he already was thanks to the United States Supreme Court installing him in office.
Neighboring Afghanistan was the second-poorest country in the world at the time.
Bin Ladin had run terrorist training camps there.
Besides, his vice president, Dick Cheney, was the former CEO of Halliburton, the multibillion-dollar oil-field-services company, that was in financial dire straits.
A war with no-bid defense contracts would certainly turn things around.
There was another issue to consider.
After 9/11 the Taliban offered to arrest Bin Laden and to turn him over to a neutral third country.
This would not achieve the lofty goal of becoming a “wartime president” with a “successful presidency,” however.
So Bush refused the Taliban’s offer.
Invading Afghanistan was the path they trod.
Two years later the United States invaded Iraq, a country that also had no hand in the fateful attacks, and posed no existential threat to our nation’s sovereignty.
After being re-elected in 2004, Bush stood before the American people talking about earning some “political capital” he intended to use. That “political capital” was privatization of Social Security and other republican agenda items.
Fast forward through the Obama presidency, which carried out Osama bin Ladin’s assassination.
Donald Trump, another unpopular republican president, has been in office nearly four years and facing re-election.
Early in 2020, over the Afghan government’s opposition, Trump signed a deal with the Taliban that handed the terror network basically everything it asked for–power, legitimacy, and the release of 5,000 of its worst offenders.
”The relationship I have with the Mullah is very good.”
That mullah is Abdul Ghani Baradar, a former US-released prisoner, who just this week declared himself the new president of Afghanistan.
UK Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, is placing what is happening today in Afghanistan at Donald Trump’s feet.
He told the BBC:
“The die was cast when the deal was done by Donald Trump if you want my observation.
“President Biden inherited a momentum, a momentum that had been given to the Taliban because they felt they had now won, he’d also inherited a momentum of troop withdrawal from the international community, the US.
“So I think in that sense, the seeds of what we’re seeing today were before president Biden took office.
“The seeds were a peace deal that was [effectively] rushed, that wasn’t done in collaboration properly with the international community and then a dividend taken out incredibly quickly.”
Initially hailing Trump’s accord with the Taliban to finally bring the war to an end, the republican party is now scrambling to distance itself in an attempt to excoriate President Biden.
New: Republican Party has removed a page from their website bragging about Trump’s deal with the Taliban that committed Biden to withdraw 5,000 US troops from Afghanistan — and led to the fall of Kabul today.
— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) August 15, 2021
You cannot make this stuff up. Scrubbing the website as if the entire internet doesn't still exist. pic.twitter.com/iVkEG4puc2
— KD (@Fly_Sistah) August 15, 2021
How quickly can the politics around Afghanistan change? Here's a section on the RNC's website in June; click it now and you get a 404 error. (Rest of page was about Kosovo/Israel-Arab deals.) https://t.co/kDJo95QfiF pic.twitter.com/HkZok9mgJW
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) August 15, 2021
While President Biden heaped blame on the Afghan military for not living up to now-former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s promise “to fight their civil wars after the U.S. military departed,” he did not explain why the Afghan forces on which we spent two decades and over a trillion dollars laid down its arms as soon as American forces left.
That goes back to Trump again.
As the New York Times reported:
“When the Taliban started building momentum after the United States’ announcement of withdrawal, it only increased the belief that fighting in the security forces—fighting for President Ashraf Ghani’s government—wasn’t worth dying for. In interview after interview, soldiers and police officers described moments of despair and feelings of abandonment.
“The Taliban capitalized on the uncertainty caused by the [Trump] February 2020 agreement reached in Doha, Qatar, between the militant group and the United States calling for a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some Afghan forces realized they would soon no longer be able to count on American air power and other crucial battlefield support and grew receptive to the Taliban’s approaches.”
As Jon Perr reported in The Daily Kos, Taliban leaders naturally voiced support for Trump.
But does that mean the Biden administration is absolved of all blame for what is transpiring?
As author and progressive radio talk show host on Sirius XM‘s “Progress” channel, Thom Hartmann, recently wrote:
“Trump’s sabotage notwithstanding, President Biden, the State Department and the Pentagon should have anticipated this week’s debacle in Afghanistan. The fact that they didn’t speaks volumes about how four administrations, the Pentagon and our defense contractors covered up how poorly the Ashraf Ghani government was doing there. Just like they did with Vietnam. It’s on all of them.”
“America has been lied into too many wars. It’s cost us too much in money, credibility and blood. We must remember the lies.
“When President Ford withdrew US forces from Vietnam (I remember it well), there was barely a mention of McNamara’s and LBJ’s lies that got us into that war. Similarly, today’s reporting on the chaos in Afghanistan almost never mentions Bush’s and Cheney’s lies and ulterior motives in getting us into that war in the first place.
“We can’t afford to let this one go down the memory hole, too. We must learn from our mistakes.”
Could Joe Biden have cancelled the Trump-negotiated peace deal?
But as Biden said in his speech on Monday:
“The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season. There would have been no cease-fire after May 1. There was no agreement protecting our forces after May 1. There was no status quo of stability without American casualties after May 1. There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, and lurching into the third decade of conflict.”
Albeit messy, Biden chose peace.
He ended the endless war President Bush recklessly committed us to 20 years ago.
Criticisms will abound.
But no longer will American servicemen and women be sent to die for Afghanistan’s decades-long failed internal conflict.
Now let’s turn our compassion toward the refugees and let them embrace this country as their own.
Image credit: Mohammad Rahmani via Unsplash