It’s infuriating watching the same people who got us into this quagmire in Afghanistan cry that Biden has blood on his hands trying to put an end to America’s longest war. Yes, I’m talking to you Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. And any Republican that has been in political life since 2001.
There’s been a lot of talk about who should take the most blame for this debacle. As I mentioned before, everyone. Including, and maybe most especially in a way because they were the only ones who could’ve stopped it before it happened, the spineless Democrats who voted for the Authorization of Military Force (AMUF) in 2001. And the same goes for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq of 2002. The latter is the bill that gave W. Bush the pre-authorized right to invade Iraq. He posed it as a bargaining chip to prevent a war in Iraq but guess what he did as soon as he got it without ever negotiating with Iraq again? Yes, you’re right, he invaded Iraq. Who woulda thought. I’d like to point out that congress never voted to go to war in Iraq, they voted to let W. Bush decide when to go to war if he so chose. Both of these bills took the decision for war out of the hands of congress and handed them to the Presidency.
It was a spineless political calculation to look strong on defense that both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden embraced. I think they thought that they would look strong and Bush would be held responsible for the debacle. Ha ha, great plan. Some standouts who voted against this were Bernie Sanders, Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold. Only Barbara Lee voted against both of these and the invasion of Afghanistan, as she didn’t think it presented clear enough goals.
So there is enough blame to go around but there is one stand out group. Can you guess who I’m talking about? Yes, you’re right, it’s the entire Bush Administration. Now I know you hear this a lot so give this a quick follow. As most people understand now we were intentionally lied into Iraq by the Bush administration. But I don’t think everyone understands what that meant for Afghanistan and why Afghanistan became the quagmire that it is.
In order to invade Iraq, Afghanistan needed to remain an unresolved conflict. Let me repeat that. In order to invade Iraq, Afghanistan needed to remain an unresolved conflict. We invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001. We didn’t invade Iraq until March of 2003. If we had resolved Afghanistan before March of 2003 it would have been a major blow to the campaign to attack Iraq, and consequently the entire War on Terror. For those who remember, the drumbeat to war started in early 2002 and was met by huge skepticism and eventually the largest anti war movement since Viet Nam.
To sell this thing the Bush administration, with a huge amount of help from talk radio and Fox News, had to perform a superhuman level of focus to shovel the shear amount of bullshit necessary to pull this thing off. At one point they called raq, Iran and North Korea the Axis of Evil. It was an analogy pulled out of a comic book that landed well with 40% of America but made the rest of us, and Europe, say “hey wait a minute, those guys don’t even talk to each other”. But after months of yellow cake, aluminum tubes, secret meetings, mushroom clouds, freedom fries and a lot of screaming about 60% of Americans, and 99.9999976% of Republicans, thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.
And the effect that had on Afghanistan was that it fell to the wayside, on purpose. The focus from the top down became Iraq, and I would argue that to sell Iraq the last thing the Bush administration wanted was for people to think we got the guys who did this to us. They never could have sold Iraq if they got in and out of Afghanistan fast. I don’t think there is any way they could have intentionally prevented any boots on the ground missions from catching Bin Laden, but they publicly, and officially, shifted focus to Iraq in early 2002. But a number of things happened that was under their control. It’s hard to mention some of these things because there are so many crazy conspiracy theories out there that this just sounds crazy. But there’s a reason for this. It is crazy, not like you’re crazy to believe it. No, It’s just crazy that this actually happened.
Before the land invasion was fully engaged we had an extensive air campaign coupled with special forces on the ground scouring the Tora Bora region to prevent Bin Laden from escaping to Pakistan. The CIA lead in those forces, Gary Berntsen, has said in 2005 memoir Jawbreaker, named after the Tora Bora operation he led, that the mission was undermined by lack of resources. He asked for up to a thousand men, but it was denied by the Bush administration who countered that if Osama had escaped the Pakastini’s would turn him over. Let’s just say that they were alone in that reasoning.
The Taliban offered to turn over Bin Laden
Yep, does anyone remember this? As we are bombing the Taliban from the stone age back into the prehistoric period they actually offered to turn over Bin Laden and asked for talks as to how to do that. Bush famously said there’s nothing to talk about and kept bombing. We were bombing them to get Bin Laden, and then when they offered to give us Bin Laden we were like never mind we;re just going to keep bombing you.
Bush famously said he wasn’t worried about Bin Laden
Yep again. In early 2002, as he was starting the drumbeat for war against Iraq he was asked about Bin Laden. His answer was basically, I don’t give him much thought. It was clear from that point on that his focus was on Saddam.
Harmad Karzi wanted to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban in 2002
Harmid Karzai had accepted the surrender of the Taliban in exchange for amnesty and proposed that we hold peace talks that included the Taliban. It was an effort to forge alliances around the country that could last and possibly result in a US military drawdown sooner rather than later. Donald Rumsfeld wouldn’t allow it. So starting in 2002 attacks from the Taliban restarted. It was essentially the same thing we would do later in Iraq by sending the Baathists home with all of their guns. It set the stage for the coming insurgency.
So we could have been in and out of Afghanistan quickly. We could have gone after the financing that flowed to Al Qaeda. We could have focused on pressuring Pakistan, the Saudi’s and the new Afghan government to help us hunt down Bin Laden. And there never had to be a War on Terror. But I would argue that creating the War on Terror was the Bush administration’s main goal. The stated goal of the neocons in his administration was that we needed a reason to massively increase our military budget in order to maintain America’s preeminent military force. Which we did, we doubled it in under a decade. And with that came all of the war profiteering that goes with it. Attacking Iraq became pivotal to that success. And attacking Iraq never would have happened if we resolved Afghanistan quickly. And 20 years later here we are.
One last thing. In 2001, when we were attacked, it was estimated that maybe there were terrorists on level with Al Qaeda that numbered in the thousands, maybe tens of thousands. 7 Trillion dollars later, thousands of Americans dead, hundreds of thousands of middle eastern dead, all of this trauma later and we’re being told it’s worse than ever.
The War on Terror. It’s a cash cow.