I wanted to share some thoughts with you on Afghanistan, as it sits atop the rubble of another indifferent imperial folly with the dread of once again living under a fundamentalist authoritarian regime on the horizon. And especially on the American public’s disconnect from its own government’s culpability in spreading misery there and throughout the Global South. I wanted to talk about reflection too.
I wanted to talk about twenty years of drone bombing civilians, like a grandmother picking okra in her field, incinerating people, even in hospital, of Marine night raids on terrified civilians, including women and children. kicking in doors, torching villages. Twenty years supporting and propping up a corrupt Afghan proxy government despite US intelligence agencies being informed countless times of their corruption. Even though the Taliban will likely be worse, let’s not pretend that these last 20 years under American occupation has been a bucolic 4th of July picnic for the Afghan people.
I wanted to talk about what happened prior to these last 20 years. About the long covert war the US engaged in. You see, the Afghan people had suffered from endless wars between regional tribes and fiefdoms throughout its long, colossal history. They endured imperial incursions into their territory by Czarist Russia and then the British Empire. But through the tumultuous decades of the 20th century they began to modernize, and largely with the help of the USSR. And then, for a brief time, they experienced a surge in freedom and democratic reforms. It was under the socialists that illiteracy was virtually erased, infrastructure built, women’s equality enshrined, and healthcare and education guaranteed to all regardless of class or gender. But the US could not abide by any of that because of its obsession with the Soviets and communism. After suffering a humiliating defeat in Vietnam and inflicting untold horror there, American warhawks sought to ensnare the USSR in its own Vietnam as a way to bring it closer to collapse. Casualties, costs, democracy and civilians, be damned.
So, in 1979 President Jimmy Carter, under the guidance of that infamous ghoul of war Zbigniew Brzezinski, threw US support behind a loose band of criminals known as the Mujahideen. The CIA knew that this bunch of violent, religious fanatics, based mostly in Northern Pakistan, had no use for education or women’s liberation or anything secular, but they funded and armed them anyway. In fact, it was the Mujahideen’s bloodthirsty qualities that made them a more appealing choice to inflict terror on the Soviet forces and locals alike. The USSR, which was riddled with its own faults and problems, foolishly took the bait and suffered irrevocably because of it. They withdrew. Chaos ensued. And the Taliban we know today was born. A ragtag, theocratic junta with a penchant for cruelty, especially against women and minorities like the Hazara, and a vehement hatred of anything that might smack of human joy.
Today’s Afghanistan is the result of your own governments interference in another nation, going back at least 40 years, and all because of an endless lust for dominance on the world stage. Now it should go without saying that the US should have pulled out of Afghanistan. It should have done so years ago. But the hard truth to swallow for so many of you is that it should have never been there in the first place. Not twenty years ago. Not forty years ago. Not ever. And the same can be said for any unwanted imperial incursion.
So please stop acting like all of this just happened. Stop acting like all of a sudden you care about plight of Afghan women or LGBTQ people without recognizing the enormous role your government has played in assisting in their repression and persecution for the last few decades. Stop lionizing the military industrial complex that committed heinous war crimes with impunity and treats its veterans like refuse once their usefulness is over. Stop listening to the very people who got us all into this mess or obfuscated the facts causing untold misery for the Afghans (and Iraqis, and Libyans, and Yemenis, and Palestinians, and Vietnamese, and Hondurans, and Chileans, and Indonesians, and everywhere else in the world where the US stuck its noxious nose). Stop invoking the memory of 9/11 to justify the mountains of corpses the American Empire has under its boots. Stop giving a pass to the arms industry that rakes in trillions of dollars in profits from each military foray the American Empire takes.
Take this time to do some hard reflecting. Reflect on your own homeland. On how the world’s wealthiest nation has shantytowns growing expansively within and around almost every major city, or how stressed average workers are being forced to provide their time and labor for slave wages, struggling to pay student debt, rent, mortgages, car insurance, healthcare and childcare costs, while the richest of the rich pay less and less in taxes. Reflect on how the lack of universal healthcare causes so many, including veterans of America’s endless wars, to forgo vital treatment and medication. On why your country has the highest amount of incarcerated people in the world, or why the police can continue to kill the poor with impunity. Reflect on why the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in a nation awash in vaccines that the Global South can only dream of. Reflect on how even as the west dries up and burns and the south and mid-west are inundated in flood waters that your lawmakers would rather steer policy away from anything “radical” that might stem or ameliorate the effects of climate catastrophe. Reflect on how most of your elected officials are in the service of the wealthiest 1% and the war and surveillance industry and how so many of them are millionaires themselves. On how at least half of your population still supports the proto-fascist who last held office. Reflect on why your nation has over 800 military bases and facilities scattered around the whole planet, and how your military sector easily gets hundreds of billions of dollars every year from both ruling parties, dwarfing the budgets of other nations, including China and Russia.
Please, once and for all, break the collective amnesia that has you ensnared, or we will be doomed to go through this again and again until the entire house of cards, including our fragile ecosphere and any decent vestige of society, collapses from the seemingly endless punishment it has received from the richest and most powerful empire humanity has ever known.
Sincerely, just some nobody at the margins of empire.
Kenn Orphan August 2021
*Title image is Women attending a rally in Kabul in the late 1970s. Source: Imgur via Pinterest
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