Every once in a long while, I manage to have an encounter with the film producer Albert S. Ruddy. It’s always—what?
Funny? Fascinating? Enlightening? Unexpected?
I think I’ll go with amazing.
It’s certainly amazing to see Al Ruddy, at the age of 91, credited as a producer of Cry Macho, which is set for release by Warner Bros. and HBO Max on Sept. 17–and not just because the movie is directed by and stars Clint Eastwood, who is also 91. To put things in perspective, Ruddy has been trying to get the picture made since I was an struggling doctoral student of Modern European History, which would be 46 years ago, give or take. Once, the film seems to have started, with Roy Scheider, in Mexico. (That would be somewhere among iterations that involved Burt Lancaster and Pierce Brosnan.) But something happened, and the plug got pulled. By then, Eastwood had already been in and out of the project. He put it aside to do The Dead Pool, which was released in 1988–a long time ago, when cop movies were still popular.
I think Clint's a first rate director. His movies are always interesting and worth viewing even the ones that I like less than others. Here are my 10 favorite Clint Eastwood directed films.
10) PLAY MISTY FOR ME
8) MYSTIC RIVER
7) MIDNIGHT N THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL
6) A PERFECT WROLD
5) ABSOLUTE POWER
3) RICHARD JEWELL
2) MILLION DOLLAR BABY
1) THE MULE
Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, September 1, 2021. Joe Biden announces the end of the Afghanistan War, Bill Van Auken, the Green Party and Richard Becker are among the ones responding, we look at how homophobia has no place on the US left, and much more.
We'll start with Glenn Greenwald so I can get him off the list. I usually have some things the day prior to a snapshot that I think I'll work in and then I wake up the next morning and am scanning the news while I'm on the treadmill or the stepper and dictating the snapshot and any plans fall apart. David Sirota had a great Tweet about Afghanistan, for example, and for a week I thought each morning that I'd work it in but never was able to.
Glenn Greenwald is a journalist. That's what he is -- that should pop up later in this discussion, so it's important that we get that fact established. Glenn's not above criticism, no one is (including me). And since we're not prefect, we're all deserving of negative criticism. Negative criticism can be a true analysis of the work (in a calm manner, in a wildly passionate manner, in any way at all) or it can just be bitchy.
Either can be good. A well thought out criticism can expand our knowledge. Good bitchy can make us laugh. Ava and I did pretty much nothing but bitchy at THIRD the first year or so. We didn't want to do cover TV to begin with. The first pieces (two? three?) were group efforts but what the readers enjoyed were Ava and I being snide. So Jim, Dona, Ty and Jess turned the TV pieces over to us. And it was fun being bitchy and it contained trueisms in the bitchy. SUPERNATURAL spawned an industry of fan fiction known as WINCEST -- where the two lead character (brothers) had sex with one another. That never surprised us because Ava and I noted whent he show debuted that watching it was like watching porn where the actors were too stupid to take off their clothes.
But, cautionary note, bitchy done well is one thing, bitchy that's tired and blah is really kind of embarrassing. It's like an old woman whose body has gone who thinks she's entertaining people around her by being mean and what she doesn't grasp is that, forty years ago, when she was in her 20s, it was cute to see an innocent looking, beautiful young woman making these comments but now it really wasn't funny. She'd aged out of it.
Glenn is not perfect. Glenn is not always right. He was wrong about the Iraq War, for example, and didn't get right about it until well after it had started. Glenn does important work and that's one reason we highlight him. The other is I'm not into dog piles. He is one of many currently being targeted repeatedly for a dog pile. Glenn's one of the many that it's become popular to attack. By attack, I mean smear. There's YOUTUBER who needs to learn what make up is but instead spends her time distorting what Glenn says and trying to turn the world against him.
Ken Silverstein was Glenn. He made some brave calls and ended up being targeted. I defended him for years and years and this site has always been supportive of him. I'm sad that he didn't take a moment to crow loudly, "I was right!" Because he was right about the Sothern Poverty Center. He wrote an important expose years ago and he was right. But he was targeted and attacked for that piece. So he doesn't like Glenn. He may have good reason. He may not. I don't know.
And what's really sad there is that I don't know and that's after reading a three-part series on how awful Glenn is written by Ken and others at his website WASHINGTON BABLYON.
Search it on GOOGLE for the link. A woman named Emma wrote the public e-mail account (email@example.com) about the series and how I must love it because I hate Glenn. I don't hate Glenn. But I did take the time to read it. It was embarrassing.
Not every piece of writing can be good -- forget great. But this is three bad pieces, not one of which deserved to be published. They're not writing, they're pitches -- proposals that haven't been fleshed out. Ken writes that he feels Glenn has fooled people about the real Glenn. Okay? That might make for an interesting read -- how Glenn has done that. But Ken doesn't really get to that.
It's a horrible series and -- the reason I'm addressing it here -- it's a homophobic series. Ken's not the only writer of it. And his name isn't on the piece that reeks of homophobia but it's part of the series and Ken is responsible for all the original content that goes up at his site.
"Gay husband." Glenn's husband is David Miranda. This isn't a secret. Many have noted him (Glenn's noted him and Glenn and David aren't in the closet). David's a hottie and it's amusing when some who really hate Glenn try to make a deal about that. Are they jealous that Glenn landed a hottie? Are these presumably straight men realizing that they come off like they're sort of lusting after David? Who knows? But Glenn and David are parents and they have beautiful children.
Now in everything I wrote -- not quoted -- in the above I'm talking about Glenn and I'm noting his husband and their children and that they are parents, etc.
I'm not saying "gay parents." I'm not saying "gay husband."
I'm confused as to why -- in an attack on Glenn in 2021 from a supposed leftist outlet -- WASHINGTON BABLYON feels the need to write about Glenn's "gay husband"? Glenn's husband -- two terms that make it clear that Glenn is married to a man -- seem sufficient. The term "gay husband" -- in an attack article -- reeks of homophobia.
Also of ignorance. The series wants you to know Glenn isn't a journalist -- he is -- and that he has no journalistic training. Hmm. I seem to recall statements Ken has made about so-called professional journalists and their training. If you want to accuse Glenn of being self-taught, go for it. But he does have training. Ken's convinced Glenn approaches it as an attorney and to Ken that's not journalism. Glenn's a columnist. Glenn's doing what columnists do. Ken's all over the place in his critique of Glenn but never further from the shore then when he's trying to discredit Glenn's title as journalist.
The three-part series reads like a listacle -- only with even less thought behind it. And in terms of good bitchy it never arrives at that. It's tired and it's homophobic.
When we're angry, we often say things we wouldn't normally say. And I hope anger is the excuse for Ken being part of a series that looks homophobic. I hope that in a calm moment, Ken would grasp that his attack series looks like one of the reasons Glenn's being attacked is because of who he loves. And I hope Ken, in a calm moment, can grasp that is unacceptable.
Glenn and David have two children. Glenn and David are adults and can deal with it. And Glenn's personality is such that he dismisses homophobic attacks aimed at him as though they don't matter. (That has to do with his college days.) But we owe it to future generations -- including David and Glenn's children -- to make clear that this is unacceptable. It never should have been acceptable to begin with.
When Glenn was in high school, for example, it shouldn't have been acceptable for principals to openly ridicule or threaten male students because they were gay or to encourage students to harass gay students. But that is what happened. Over and over. And it was okay back then for many. Glenn had to grow up in that time period. It wasn't okay. We should all be embarrassed and ashamed by the way our country treated the entire LGBTQ community in the past. We made people live in fear, we made their lives miserable, we physically assaulted them. And more often than not, if this was met by more than a shrug, it was met with delight.
We need to acknowledge the very real scars that we put on an entire community because we couldn't accept that love is love or because we afraid of desires within ourselves that we couldn't cop to.
"Gay husband." Glenn's a man. He's married to David. David's a man. I'm not seeing why WASHINGTON BABYLON felt the need for "gay husband." "Glenn's husband David" isn't confusing. It tells you Glenn is married to a man. "Gay husband" seems a very real attempt to mock Glenn and to 'other' him.
I'm not a good person. I don't claim to be and I've noted that here many times. In school, I sent a kid off to a bad attempt at suicide. I doubt it was real attempt but I honestly don't care.
There was a boy and we'll call him Charles. He acted in a way that made people assume he was gay. (He would later in life come out.) Another guy who will call David picked on Charles. David was popular because his father had a lot of money. David was not an attractive boy. He had no real sense of humor. He didn't get great grades. But -- or maybe because of that -- he thought he could demonstrate he was better than Charles by attacking him. I'd hear people laugh about how David had done this or that to Charles but I didn't pay much attention. Even then I was tunnel vision on whatever I was focused on at the time. But then one day, I witnessed what David was doing when I saw both at the lockers. I walked up and stopped him and told him, "David, it stops now."
After that, David didn't pull the crap if I was anywhere near but it turns out that he continued to pull it and made Charles' life a living hell. So I made David's life a living hell. I burned down his playhouse. In two weeks, he went from popular to no friends at all. He found out just how easy it was to turn someone into a joke and an object of ridicule (and, unlike David, I didn't have to use homophobia to do it). He got very upset and tried to kill himself. (It was not a for real attempt.) When he found that wasn't going to make things go back to the way they were, he had to adjust to a new life where he wasn't popular and people didn't live in fear of him.
If he had tried to kill himself for real, it really wouldn't have bothered me. Again, I'm not a nice person. And the reason I wouldn't have given a damn is because he went out of his way to make Charles' life miserable. Charles was a nice kid, he was cute, he was kind to everyone. But David didn't like him because he might have been gay so David terrorized him daily. In classes, in gym, in the halls, in the bathrooms. Three was no safe space for Charles and no educator -- supposed adults -- were doing a damn thing to stop David or to help Charles.
This was considered acceptable in the US. And it shouldn't have been. And for many LGBTQ teenagers, this was their life. That is unacceptable.
In 2021, we thankfully have marriage equality. We have protection rights in most workplaces. We are moving towards a better society. I would love it if Ken Silverstein would read over that piece -- which he didn't write himself -- and tell me how "gay husband" is a term that helps us progress to a better place and helps us redeem ourselves from our hateful past?
Turning to Afghanistan . . .
Yesterday US President Joe Biden addressed the nation. From the White House transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan — the longest war in American history.
We completed one of the biggest airlifts in history, with more than 120,000 people evacuated to safety. That number is more than double what most experts thought were possible. No nation — no nation has ever done anything like it in all of history. Only the United States had the capacity and the will and the ability to do it, and we did it today.
The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery, and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals.
For weeks, they risked their lives to get American citizens, Afghans who helped us, citizens of our Allies and partners, and others onboard planes and out of the country. And they did it facing a crush of enormous crowds seeking to leave the country. And they did it knowing ISIS-K terrorists — sworn enemies of the Taliban — were lurking in the midst of those crowds.
And still, the men and women of the United States military, our diplomatic corps, and intelligence professionals did their job and did it well, risking their lives not for professional gains but to serve others; not in a mission of war but in a mission of mercy. Twenty servicemembers were wounded in the service of this mission. Thirteen heroes gave their lives.
I was just at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay but we should never, ever, ever forget.
In April, I made the decision to end this war. As part of that decision, we set the date of August 31st for American troops to withdraw. The assumption was that more than 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces that we had trained over the past two decades and equipped would be a strong adversary in their civil wars with the Taliban.
That assumption — that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown — turned out not to be accurate.
But I still instructed our national security team to prepare for every eventuality — even that one. And that’s what we did.
So, we were ready when the Afghan Security Forces — after two decades of fighting for their country and losing thousands of their own — did not hold on as long as anyone expected.
We were ready when they and the people of Afghanistan watched their own government collapse and their president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance, handing over the country to their enemy, the Taliban, and significantly increasing the risk to U.S. personnel and our Allies.
As a result, to safely extract American citizens before August 31st — as well as embassy personnel, Allies and partners, and those Afghans who had worked with us and fought alongside of us for 20 years — I had authorized 6,000 troops — American troops — to Kabul to help secure the airport.
As General McKenzie said, this is the way the mission was designed. It was designed to operate under severe stress and attack. And that’s what it did.
Since March, we reached out 19 times to Americans in Afghanistan, with multiple warnings and offers to help them leave Afghanistan — all the way back as far as March. After we started the evacuation 17 days ago, we did initial outreach and analysis and identified around 5,000 Americans who had decided earlier to stay in Afghanistan but now wanted to leave.
Allied Rescue [Allies Refuge] ended up getting
more than 5,500 Americans out. We got out thousands of citizens and
diplomats from those countries that went into Afghanistan with us to get
bin Laden. We got out locally employed staff of the United States
Embassy and their families, totaling roughly 2,500 people. We got
thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters and others, who
supported the United States, out as well.
Now we believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave. Most of those who remain are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.
The bottom line:
Ninety [Ninety-eight] percent of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave.
And for those remaining Americans, there is no deadline. We remain committed to get them out if they want to come out. Secretary of State Blinken is leading the continued diplomatic efforts to ensure a safe passage for any American, Afghan partner, or foreign national who wants to leave Afghanistan.
In fact, just yesterday, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that sent a clear message about what the international community expects the Taliban to deliver on moving forward, notably freedom of travel, freedom to leave. And together, we are joined by over 100 countries that are determined to make sure the Taliban upholds those commitments.
It will include ongoing efforts in Afghanistan to reopen the airport, as well as overland routes, allowing for continued departure to those who want to leave and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
The Taliban has made public commitments, broadcast on television and radio across Afghanistan, on safe passage for anyone wanting to leave, including those who worked alongside Americans. We don’t take them by their word alone but by their actions, and we have leverage to make sure those commitments are met.
Let me be clear: Leaving August the 31st is not due to an arbitrary deadline; it was designed to save American lives.
My predecessor, the former President, signed an agreement with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops by May the 1st, just months after I was inaugurated. It included no requirement that the Taliban work out a cooperative governing arrangement with the Afghan government, but it did authorize the release of 5,000 prisoners last year, including some of the Taliban’s top war commanders, among those who just took control of Afghanistan.
And by the time I came to office, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country.
The previous administration’s agreement said that if we stuck to the May 1st deadline that they had signed on to leave by, the Taliban wouldn’t attack any American forces, but if we stayed, all bets were off.
So we were left with a simple decision: Either follow through on the commitment made by the last administration and leave Afghanistan, or say we weren’t leaving and commit another tens of thousands more troops going back to war.
That was the choice — the real choice — between leaving or escalating.
I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit. The decision to end the military airlift operations at Kabul airport was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisors — the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all the service chiefs, and the commanders in the field.
Their recommendation was that the safest way to secure the passage of the remaining Americans and others out of the country was not to continue with 6,000 troops on the ground in harm’s way in Kabul, but rather to get them out through non-military means.
In the 17 days that we operated in Kabul after the Taliban seized power, we engaged in an around-the-clock effort to provide every American the opportunity to leave. Our State Department was working 24/7 contacting and talking, and in some cases, walking Americans into the airport.
Again, more than 5,500 Americans were airlifted out. And for those who remain, we will make arrangements to get them out if they so choose.
As for the Afghans, we and our partners have airlifted 100,000 of them. No country in history has done more to airlift out the residents of another country than we have done. We will continue to work to help more people leave the country who are at risk. And we’re far from done.
For now, I urge all Americans to join me in grateful prayer for our
troops and diplomats and intelligence officers who carried out this
mission of mercy in Kabul and at tremendous risk with such unparalleled
results: an airma- — an airlift that evacuated tens of thousands to a
network of volunteers and veterans who helped
identifies [identify] those needing evacuation, guide them to the airport, and provided them for their support along the way.
We’re going to continue to need their help. We need your help. And I’m looking forward to meeting with you.
And to everyone who is now offering or who will offer to welcome Afghan allies to their homes around the world, including in America: We thank you.
I take responsibility for the decision. Now, some say we should have started mass evacuations sooner and “Couldn’t this have be done — have been done in a more orderly manner?” I respectfully disagree.
Imagine if we had begun evacuations in June or July, bringing in thousands of American troops and evacuating more than 120,000 people in the middle of a civil war. There still would have been a rush to the airport, a breakdown in confidence and control of the government, and it still would have been a very difficult and dangerous mission.
The bottom line is: There is no evacuatio- — evacuation from the end of a war that you can run without the kinds of complexities, challenges, and threats we faced. None.
There are those who would say we should have stayed indefinitely for years on end. They ask, “Why don’t we just keep doing what we were doing? Why did we have to change anything?”
The fact is: Everything had changed. My predecessor had made a deal with the Taliban. When I came into office, we faced a deadline — May 1. The Taliban onslaught was coming.
We faced one of two choices: Follow the agreement of the previous administration and extend it to have — or extend to more time for people to get out; or send in thousands of more troops and escalate the war.
To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask: What is the vital national interest? In my view, we only have one: to make sure Afghanistan can never be used again to launch an attack on our homeland.
Remember why we went to Afghanistan in the first place? Because we were attacked by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda on September 11th, 2001, and they were based in Afghanistan.
We delivered justice to bin Laden on May 2nd, 2011 — over a decade ago. Al Qaeda was decimated.
I respectfully suggest you ask yourself this question: If we had been attacked on September 11, 2001, from Yemen instead of Afghanistan, would we have ever gone to war in Afghanistan — even though the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in 2001? I believe the honest answer is “no.” That’s because we had no vital national interest in Afghanistan other than to prevent an attack on America’s homeland and their fr- — our friends. And that’s true today.
We succeeded in what we set out to do in Afghanistan over a decade ago. Then we stayed for another decade. It was time to end this war.
This is a new world. The terror threat has metastasized across the
world, well beyond Afghanistan. We face threats from al-Shabaab in
Somalia; al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and the Arabian Peninsula; and
ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and
establishing affiliates across Africa and Asia.
The fundamental obligation of a President, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America — not against threats of 2001, but against the threats of 2021 and tomorrow.
That is the guiding principle behind my decisions about Afghanistan. I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan.
But I also know that the threat from terrorism continues in its pernicious and evil nature. But it’s changed, expanded to other countries. Our strategy has to change too.
We will maintain the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other countries. We just don’t need to fight a ground war to do it. We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground — or very few, if needed.
We’ve shown that capacity just in the last week. We struck ISIS-K remotely, days after they murdered 13 of our servicemembers and dozens of innocent Afghans.
And to ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet.
As Commander-in-Chief, I firmly believe the best path to guard our safety and our security lies in a tough, unforgiving, targeted, precise strategy that goes after terror where it is today, not where it was two decades ago. That’s what’s in our national interest.
And here’s a critical thing to understand: The world is changing. We’re engaged in a serious competition with China. We’re dealing with the challenges on multiple fronts with Russia. We’re confronted with cyberattacks and nuclear proliferation.
We have to shore up America’s competitive[ness] to meet these new challenges in the competition for the 21st century. And we can do both: fight terrorism and take on new threats that are here now and will continue to be here in the future.
And there’s nothing China or Russia would rather have, would want more in this competition than the United States to be bogged down another decade in Afghanistan.
As we turn the page on the foreign policy that has guided our nat- — our nation the last two decades, we’ve got to learn from our mistakes.
To me, there are two that are paramount. First, we must set missions with clear, achievable goals — not ones we’ll never reach. And second, we must stay clearly focused on the fundamental national security interest of the United States of America.
This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries.
We saw a mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan — getting the terrorists and stopping attacks — morph into a counterinsurgency, nation building — trying to create a democratic, cohesive, and unified Afghanistan -– something that has never been done over the many centuries of
Afghans’ [Afghanistan’s] history.
Moving on from that mindset and those kind of large-scale troop deployments will make us stronger and more effective and safer at home.
And for anyone who gets the wrong idea, let me say it clearly. To those who wish America harm, to those that engage in terrorism against us and our allies, know this: The United States will never rest. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth, and we will — you will pay the ultimate price.
And let me be clear: We will continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence, and humanitarian aid. We’ll continue to push for regional diplomacy and engagement to prevent violence and instability. We’ll continue to speak out for basic rights of the Afghan people, especially women and girls, as we speak out for women and girls all around the globe. And I’ve been clear that human rights will be the center of our foreign policy.
But the way to do that is not through endless military deployments, but through diplomacy, economic tools, and rallying the rest of the world for support.
My fellow Americans, the war in Afghanistan is now over. I’m the fourth President who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war. When I was running for President, I made a commitment to the American people that I would end this war. And today, I’ve honored that commitment. It was time to be honest with the American people again. We no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission in Afghanistan.
After 20 years of war in Afghanistan, I refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.
After more than $2 trillion spent in Afghanistan — a cost that researchers at Brown University estimated would be over $300 million a day for 20 years in Afghanistan — for two decades — yes, the American people should hear this: $300 million a day for two decades.
If you take the number of $1 trillion, as many say, that’s still $150 million a day for two decades. And what have we lost as a consequence in terms of opportunities? I refused to continue in a war that was no longer in the service of the vital national interest of our people.
And most of all, after 800,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan — I’ve traveled that whole country — brave and honorable service; after 20,744 American servicemen and women injured, and the loss of 2,461 American personnel, including 13 lives lost just this week, I refused to open another decade of warfare in Afghanistan.
We’ve been a nation too long at war. If you’re 20 years old today, you have never known an America at peace.
So, when I hear that we could’ve, should’ve continued the so-called low-grade effort in Afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low cost, I don’t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1 percent of this country who put that uniform on, who are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation.
Maybe it’s because my deceased son, Beau, served in Iraq for a full year, before that. Well, maybe it’s because of what I’ve seen over the years as senator, vice president, and president traveling these countries.
A lot of our veterans and their families have gone through hell — deployment after deployment, months and years away from their families; missed birthdays, anniversaries; empty chairs at holidays; financial struggles; divorces; loss of limbs; traumatic brain injury; posttraumatic stress.
We see it in the struggles many have when they come home. We see it in the strain on their families and caregivers. We see it in the strain of their families when they’re not there. We see it in the grief borne by their survivors. The cost of war they will carry with them their whole lives.
Most tragically, we see it in the shocking and stunning statistic that should give pause to anyone who thinks war can ever be low-grade, low-risk, or low-cost: 18 veterans, on average, who die by suicide every single day in America — not in a far-off place, but right here in America.
There’s nothing low-grade or low-risk or low-cost about any war. It’s time to end the war in Afghanistan.
As we close 20 years of war and strife and pain and sacrifice, it’s time to look to the future, not the past — to a future that’s safer, to a future that’s more secure, to a future that honors those who served and all those who gave what President Lincoln called their “last full measure of devotion.”
I give you my word: With all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America.
Thank you. Thank you. And may God bless you all. And may God protect our troops.
Bill Van Auken (WSWS) responds to the above speech with the following:
Coming the day after a C-17 military transport plane flew the last US troops out of Kabul and in the midst of celebrations in the streets of Afghanistan of the end of US occupation, Biden’s speech included statements never before heard from the White House, acknowledging the devastating costs of a war that ended in a humiliating debacle.
The defeat suffered by the United States at the hands of the Taliban insurgency exposes the failure of not just the policies pursued in Afghanistan but the entire strategy that has guided the actions of US imperialism both at home and abroad for decades.
The immediate political purpose of Biden’s speech was to defend his administration from ferocious criticism of its handling of the chaotic 17-day evacuation that followed the overrunning of the country by the Taliban and the precipitous collapse of the Kabul puppet regime and its US-trained security forces. Thirteen US military personnel lost their lives in the operation, while another 20 were wounded.
The attacks have come not only from Republicans but also a wide layer of Democratic officials. The media, having “embedded” itself within the US military and serving as an unflagging cheerleader for US wars, has responded with particularly bitter hostility.
The Washington Post’s editorial Tuesday described the Kabul evacuation as “a moral disaster, one attributable not to the actions of military and diplomatic personnel in Kabul … but to mistakes, strategic and tactical, by Mr. Biden and his administration.” For good measure, it published a column by Michael Gerson, the former senior aide and speechwriter for George W. Bush, who shares political responsibility for the criminal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, condemning “the Biden administration’s panicky, slapdash, humiliating exit from Afghanistan—dependent on the kindness of the Taliban and commemorated by indelible images of chaos and betrayal.”
Such super-heated rhetoric reflects the savage divisions and recriminations within the US ruling establishment and its military and intelligence apparatus over the Afghanistan debacle.
While shot through with contradictions, evasions and historical falsifications, Biden’s speech was directed at least in part at appealing to the broad anti-war sentiments within the American population.
Richard Becker (LIBERATION) notes the long history of war on Afghanistan:
The U.S. war in Afghanistan began not twenty, but more than forty years ago. Except for the towering arrogance of the leaders in Washington, it could have ended in November 2001 when the Taliban offered to surrender.
The earlier phase, which lasted from 1979 to 1989, is excluded from nearly any mention by the mainstream capitalist media today. But without understanding what happened back then, it is impossible to comprehend the current catastrophic situation for the people of that country.
In 1978, the Saur (April) Revolution, a seeming bolt from the blue, shocked the country and the world. Led by the Marxist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), it overthrew a reactionary government and began to implement a program of radical reforms in one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries on Earth.
More than 90% of the population was illiterate. Eighty-five percent of the land was owned by big landlords and the masses of peasants lived under semi-feudal conditions of debt slavery. Women had no rights in most of the country, and much of the population went through life without ever seeing a doctor or a school. Malnutrition and disease were widespread. One of every three children died in infancy.
The new revolutionary government brought schools and clinics to areas where they had never existed. It declared the cancellation of the debts of small tenant farmers to the landlords. The PDPA government called for equal rights for women and an end to child marriage.
Within a short time, there was armed resistance by the counter-revolutionary opposition calling themselves the Mujahadeen, who claimed to fight in the name of Islam, but really were seeking to roll back the reforms in the interests of the landlord class.
The PDPA was based in the small urban working class and youth, the middle class and the military. It was the pro-PDPA military that overthrew the old government when the latter rounded up the PDPA leaders in late April 1978. While the revolutionary government’s land reform policies were aimed at winning over oppressed peasants, it had little base in the vast countryside where about 80% of the population lived.
CIA wreaks havoc
Afghanistan has a huge border with Pakistan and the reactionary opposition had the support of Pakistan’s right-wing military and intelligence services. By early 1979, a serious counterrevolutionary war was underway.
Then came what would turn out to be the biggest CIA operation in history.
There is a long propagated myth here that the United States intervened in Afghanistan as a response to intervention by the Soviet Union. But that story was exposed as the fiction it was by none other than U.S. policy makers, though of course not until many years later.
In 1998, Zbignew Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser in 1979, gave a boastful interview to the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, which read in part:
Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs that the American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahiddin in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. Is this period, you were the national securty advisor to President Carter. You therefore played a key role in this affair. Is this correct?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahideen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979, that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Q : When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret US involvement in Afghanistan , nobody believed them. However, there was an element of truth in this. You don’t regret any of this today?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, essentially: “We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war
Q: And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?
B : What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?
In his supreme arrogance, Brzezinski revealed not only that the massive U.S. intervention starting with Carter’s secret order to send $500 million ($1.8 billion in 2021 dollars) preceded the Soviet intervention, but also utter disregard for the people of Afghanistan. The U.S. war in Vietnam left more than four million dead, millions more wounded and widespread destruction. For a top official to hope for another such war makes clear the ruthlessness of imperialism.
Over the next decade, the CIA poured billions more into arming, training and funding the war in conjunction with its reactionary allies from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies, individuals like Osama bin Laden, and most importantly, Pakistan. The war left hundreds of thousands dead and wounded, millions in exile and much of the country in ruins. The so-called “freedom fighters” sought to destroy all the progressive reforms and institutions created by the revolution.
In 1988-89, the Soviet Union, then in a deepening crisis, withdrew its military while continuing to provide vital assistance to the revolutionary government. Contrary to many expectations, the socialist government did not fall when the Soviet troops left.
The US Green Party issued the following:
The Green Party of the United States deplores the waste of lives and treasure involved in America’s longest overseas war. Nearly 200,000 Afghans dead, almost 2,500 U.S. servicemen and women killed, trillions of dollars in American taxpayers’ money and twenty years of lost opportunities for building a more equitable and just society at home – all for nothing. Predictably, the mainstream media is having a field day with the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan over the past week, but there’s one fact you’ll never, ever hear from them. The Green Party of the United States, back in 2001, got it right: we said no to war.
The twenty-year conflict should be called “The Big Lie.” One of the most outrageous falsehoods the government and its media allies have constantly peddled is the American government is the arch-enemy of terrorism. Yet from 1979 to 1989, the CIA’s Cold War project Operation Cyclone armed and funded the Mujahideen to overthrow the Afghan government and, later, to also drive out the USSR military intervention. Many members of the Mujahideen, a predominantly fundamentalist movement, would later join the Taliban. The U.S. Government later provided $43 million to the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan government as part of the "War on Drugs": Robert Scheer wrote about it four months before 9/11 happened. To the U.S. military, terrorism is a good thing – as long as its targets are Washington’s perceived enemies.
Another lie is that the U.S. government has been a stalwart defender of human rights, when in fact it has consistently violated human rights, both by instigating a war of aggression in the first place and by its actions throughout the occupation. We know it was a war of aggression in the case of Afghanistan because, before the first bombs fell, the Taliban offered to turn Osama bin Laden over to the U.S. if Washington provided proof of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Although the U.S. government provided this proof to other NATO countries, it refused to give it to the Taliban. Even after the bombing started, the Taliban offered to turn over Bin Laden to a third country for trial. President Bush “sternly” rejected this offer, and so what should have been the prosecution of a criminal matter led to war, occupation and innumerable deaths, including civilians slaughtered at weddings and other public celebrations.
One of the worst atrocities of all was the horrendous bombing by a U.S. gunship, in the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz in October 2015, of a trauma center run by the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders. In this unprovoked attack – a war crime – a total of 42 doctors, staff members and patients were killed and dozens injured. The U.S. military, after initially claiming the Afghan army had requested the airstrike, suddenly changed its story, falsely blaming the attack on multiple leadership and communications failures, even though the hospital gave the coalition its location only a few days before.
One of the main pretexts for the war that the government has constantly cited is that the U.S. presence was necessary to defend Afghan civilians, particularly women and girls, from the misogynistic, tyrannical Taliban. Putting aside the fact that it was for Afghanistan’s rich resources (as even the mainstream media sometimes admits), rather than to “save” Afghan women, that the U.S. government chose to invade in the first place, there’s no question that for some women, particularly those in cities, life under U.S. occupation was somewhat safer than it had been under Taliban rule. However, gains for women during the last twenty years were consistently and wildly exaggerated. In 2011 – the midpoint of the occupation – a poll of over 200 human rights workers revealed Afghanistan was still the worst place in the world to be a woman. At that time (as cited in the same article), 87 percent of Afghan women were still illiterate, and more women faced the risk of violence than anywhere else on earth, including threats for going to work or school, rape, domestic violence, “honor” killings and child marriages at a rate of 70 to 80 percent of the young female population.
Throughout the war, the U.S. military consistently turned a blind eye to Afghan officials and warlords who sexually abused civilians, including underage girls and boys – and the military punished those in its ranks who acted or spoke out against the abusers. Nor was the U.S.-supported Afghan government of any help. In a number of cases, when young women, citing a 2009 law outlawing violence against women, brought charges against Afghan men who raped them, the victims were forced by mediators to marry their rapists.
Finally, a direct result of the twenty-year war and the overall “War on Terror” that the conflict sparked has been an unprecedented erosion of civil liberties here at home. Before 9/11, most Americans would never have dreamt they would ever be subject to 24/7 surveillance by their government, something that previously only internal spying agencies of overtly autocratic governments, like the East German Stasi, had been accused of doing. But after the revelations of Edward Snowden – who said the NSA “are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them” – we discovered such surveillance was not only possible, but an accomplished fact.
The war was a bipartisan project. Only one person of either mainstream party in both houses of Congress, U.S. House Representative Barbara Lee, voted against the original authorization for war. (Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both voted with the rest, in favor of it.) If Green Party politicians had been in Congress at that time, there would have been an entire party standing for peace and against the invasion, rather than just a single dissenting figure within one of the two War Parties.
“We are the only party that advocates non-violence as a core value, in our Ten Key Values, enumerated in our platform,” said Edwin DeJesus, Green Party candidate for New York City Council. “This means that the Greens are fully committed to finding creative ways to resolve international conflicts peacefully. It also means Green politicians, unlike both Republicans and Democrats, are not in the pockets of military contractors like Raytheon – the only real winners of this war – because we refuse all campaign contributions from them, or from corporate donors of any kind.”
The most frightening aspect of the events of the past week is the U.S. government has learned nothing from this disaster. In recent years, the Pentagon has been clearly planning to go to war eventually with Iran, with North Korea, or even with China or Russia (or both together) – this, despite the fact that the most clear-cut victory the American military achieved in the last hundred years was at the end of World War II. After the defeat in Afghanistan, such irresponsible talk will surely not only continue, but will likely increase in volume and aggression. In such an insane political culture, a party that consistently advocates for peace – for sanity and humanity – is absolutely necessary.
Most importantly, the American people need a party that will put human needs, not corporate profits, first. Over the past twenty years, while the American political establishment has obsessed over external foes like the Taliban, the greatest threat to human life and civilization, climate change, has been allowed to proceed unchecked. Our survival depends on disrupting the rule of institutions like the Democratic and Republican parties, which have proven time and again they can’t be trusted. It depends, above all, on a total paradigm shift that values the health and integrity of communities over the will of wealthy and powerful individuals.
It’s time for the Green Party.
Meanwhile, the war in Iraq and the occupation of Iraq continues. Kaleem Hawa (NEW YORK MAGAZINE) writes:
America illegally invaded Iraq in 2003, occupied and destabilized and flattened it, and then never left. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, and millions more have been made refugees or internally displaced persons. The consequences for the population are almost beyond comprehension: After decades of conflict, more than 2 million Iraqis are disabled, while the PTSD is inescapable. Entire generations have been left unable to look at the sky the same way.
The Iraqi people must be added, alongside the American dead and their families, to the register of 9/11’s victims, after that day’s events were used as a justification for war. The atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison, the bombardment of Fallujah, the attack on civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square by the military contractor Blackwater — these events are a small part of a long list, made exceptional not by the character of their violence but by their outsize impact on the collective psychology. America trained, funded, and commanded Iraqi Interior Ministry special police forces to run a network of torture centers across the nation. Parts of Iraq are now rubble, a ruin-monument to western folly. One hundred military orders were signed into law by the U.S.-backed Coalition Provisional Authority to privatize state-run companies and amend the tax laws to facilitate foreign ownership.
America’s engagements in Iraq can best be described as a multidecade colonization — a complete alteration of the country across military, sociopolitical, and economic domains in campaigns that stretch back at least to 1991. Since then, America has used every coercive measure in its arsenal: sanctions, de-Baathification, aerial bombardment, targeted assassinations, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. And now, after six presidents at war with the country, the current administration has promised to “withdraw” U.S. forces by the end of the year — which is to say, trade green fatigues for gray, leaving intact a military-intelligence apparatus composed of scores of contractors and consultants that will prop up chosen chieftains and bureaucrats.
Iraq’s people are among the many targeted by the global war on terror. As Americans sat enraptured by the disasters unfolding in Afghanistan this August, I was left with a pit in my stomach. The attention being paid to Afghanistan, after years of neglect, clearly had more to do with the spectacle of American defeat than any genuine care for the lives of the Afghan people. Anniversaries like 9/11 are often treated as opportunities to navel-gaze about American grief, but the Arab and Muslim victims of the war on terror are not interested in what the U.S. has “learned” from its catastrophes or in an American redemption arc. In the case of Iraq, there is little new to be said that has not already been said by Iraqis: All America can do is honor its obligations to truth, justice, and reparation so that Iraqis can live full lives.
He writes . . . he just doesn't appear to think.
"Check please"? Is that what this is? Ask for the check so you can pay and leave?
Pay off your guilt and go?
Reparations made be needed (I would argue that they are). But how do you make them today?
You fork over money to the corrupt government that's stolen millions each year?
How do you currently get it to the people?
They are the ones who suffered. Nouri al-Maliki has been a two time prime minister since the start of the war. He managed to steal enough so that his whole family is set up. He went from a struggling income to a prime minister whose son had 'pads' all over the world and numerous sports cars. Meanwhile, the Iraqi people lived in poverty.
THIRD? I thought this past weekend was going to be a full edition. Ava and I wrote our piece ("Media: Connections or the lack of them") on Sunday. We waited until last night to post it. It was the only completed piece. THIRD's really become this beast that needs to be fed. I'm just not in the mood, on Wednesday or Thursday, to get together and try to do an editorial or this or that feature. That's on me and I take the blame for it. But Ava and I are tasked with the media coverage and we did what we were supposed to. Don't know what else to say there.
The following sites updated: