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U.S. Defeat in Afghanistan: Worse even than Vietnam. Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires…Again

August 15, 2021

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But regardless, either way, in Afghanistan the United States has just suffered a political/military defeat on a grand scale, nothing less. This twenty year war against Afghanistan was a mistake from the get-go and in fact, the war, supposed revenge for the al Qaeda 9-11 attacks on New York City and Washington DC, this war really had nothing to do with Afghanistan or the Taliban. It was instead used as a springboard for Washington to launch a series of wars along the “arch of instability” – from Afghanistan to Morocco – for Washington to play the only card left in its deck – the military card. In an inept face saving comment, Biden insisted that there is no comparison between the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. Up to a certain point, he is correct, only in the sense that the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan is worse!

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1.

During a press conference a month ago, our president, Joe Biden argued the following points concerning the future of Afghanistan:

∙ that a Taliban seizure of power was not inevitable
∙ that the Afghan army, trained and armed by the United States and backed by the presence of tens of thousand troops – with more than 300,000 personnel in their ranks and with a military air force of 75,000 – was as good as any in the world and could defend the Kabul government against a Taliban take over
∙ Biden denied then what is happening before our eyes today – that the Afghan government is collapsing. He based this comment on the analysis of U.S. intelligence, one of the most well informed, if not THE most well informed in the world.
∙ Biden vociferously denied that there is any comparison between the U.S. historic defeat in Vietnam and the current situation in Afghanistan. In fact the Vietnam-Afghanistan comparison upset him greatly. “No, no, no. Zero. Then the opponent made his way through the gate of our embassy. Six teams, if I remember correctly. Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. They don’t even have such opportunities. You won’t see people being removed from the roof of the US Embassy in Afghanistan. These are incomparable situations

Today’s events reflect the shallowness and mendacity of these comments –  all of them.  Events have revealed just how far off they are off the mark.

There will be no transition government in which the Ghani government shares power with the Taliban. By yesterday (August 14) most Afghanistan’s provincial capitals had fallen to the Taliban. The high trained 300,000 Afghan army with its additional 75,000 Air Force personnel that Biden and the U.S. media so highly tauted when phfff, collaped overnight and this morning it was announced that President Ashraf Ghani efforts to form some kind of coalition government, to rally those forces still faithful to Kabul, had completely failed. That was yesterday. Today, Ghani himself and a small entourage fled the country to the safety of Tajikistan.

2.

There is a pay wall for most articles from Asia Times but it seems to have been lifted for this piece by Brazil’s version of Hunter Thompson, Pepe Escobar. If you can access it, all the better. If not, I’ll reproduce its essence below. He aptly entitles it “A Saigon moment looms in Kabul”, making the obvious and pertinent link between the two colossal – an adjectivel carefully chosen – defeats for the United States in the Global South over the past half century. Escobar’s article opens with the following commentary:

August 12, 2021. History will register it as the day the Taliban, nearly 20 years after 9/11 and the subsequent toppling of their 1996-2001 reign by American bombing, struck the decisive blow against the central government in Kabul.

In a coordinated blitzkrieg, the Taliban all but captured three crucial hubs: Ghazni and Kandahar in the center, and Herat in the west. They had already captured most of the north. As it stands, the Taliban control 14 (italics mine) provincial capitals and counting.

The long article ends with the following explanation for the collapse of the U.S. propped Ghani government:

Apart from the military onslaught, the Taliban seem to be winning the domestic PR battle because of a simple equation: they portray Ghani as a NATO and US puppet, the lackey of foreign invaders.

And to make that distinction in the graveyard of empires has always been a winning proposition.

Of course I expect that given the nature of the events, expect a slew of articles, commentaries of a similar bent, the message being the same, be it either trumpeted loudly from the more anti-Imperialist elements or in more muffled tones from the humanitarian interventionalist/neo-con elements: The United States, the world’s most powerful and still most technically advanced nation with the strongest military lost a war to an Islamic guerilla movement that had suffered – if you count the Soviet invasion of 1979 – from 42 years of non-stop war.

But regardless, either way, in Afghanistan the United States has just suffered a political/military defeat on a grand scale, nothing less. This twenty year war against Afghanistan was a mistake from the get-go and in fact the war, supposed revenge for the al Qaeda 9-11 attacks on New York City and Washington DC, this war really had nothing to do with Afghanistan or the Taliban. It was instead used as a springboard for Washington to launch a series of wars along the “arch of instability” – from Afghanistan to Moroccos – for Washington to play the only card left in its deck – the military card. In an inept face saving comment, Biden insisted that there is no comparison between the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. Up to a certain point, he is correct, only in the sense that the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan is worse!

On the heels of the Afghanistan invasion, Iraq followed supposed linking the secular Saddam Hussein with Osama bin Laden – a connection that never existed in the same vein as Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction; a little later on – Syria, Libya, Yemen followed suit either under the cover of NATO or with the participation of regional allies – a bunch of political scumbags be they Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, Egypt – doing Washington’s dirty work. The “tail” actually never wagged the dog… it was always Washington in command “leading from behind” providing Washington with “plausible deniability”- clever – actually not so clever – fronts for “same old, same old” – U.S. Imperialistic policy.

There are some who are suggesting that the parallels between the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the current one in Afghanistan are either weak or non-existent. In the end, as the saying goes, these pundits cannot distinguish the forest from the trees. Of course there are differences, Vietnamese Communists have a different worldview than Afghan Talibanis. The caveat: although there is a 46 year interval, once again, the strongest military power in the world, the United States, with the most technically sophisticated weapons and communications systems in world history has been defeated by what is essentially a guerilla movement and as with Vietnam, the global impact of this defeat will reverberate for decades, marking yet another landmark in the slow but steady decline of U.S. power that started already in the early 1970s.

In both cases, the price paid for both the Vietnamese and Afghan victories is so steep that it is almost impossible to quantify. I once asked a scholar on Vietnam here in Colorado, according to his knowledge, how many Vietnamese died at the hands of the U.S. military. At first he said probably three million. Then he hesitated and corrected himself, “No, easily more than four million all told.” We hear ad nauseum about the 58,000 American military members killed in Vietnam (not counting those who committed suicide afterwards) and how “they protected our freedoms” at home.  But that is propaganda, pure and simple. Those Americans were little more than cannon fodder. for global capitalism, for oil and gas companies, big banks. And the deaths, as hefty a number as they are, do not do justice to the social and psychological violence the  U.S. war against Afghanistan has wreaked upon the people of Afghanistan.

As so it goes with Afghanistan with the death toll in the millions and virtually every structure of any size or significance bombed to smitherines.

This morning, my wife Nancy and I, were recalling a conversation with a close friend. He was quite enthusiastic about the U.S. war against Afghanistan from the start, at the end of 2001, the beginning of 2002. He went on about how a U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan would “make America safer,” “was good for democracy worldwide” and more American exceptionalist bullshit. The pretext for invading Afghanistan – never much of a convincing rationale – was that it would make the world and the United States safe from al Qaeda (and like) terrorism. Afghanistan, he argued, was “a just war” in contrast to the American war in Vietnam. He kind of lost it when I responded that it was just another imperialist war sugar coated with the slogans he clung to and that it would be a springboard to an even more militarized U.S. foreign policy. Predictably he also supported the U.S. led invasion of Iraq which followed on the heels of the Afghan misadventure.

As U.S. influence in Afghanistan shrinks to next to naught, the questions remain – what now for Afghanistan, and for the entire politically sensitive region. More on this subject in the future.

A Saigon moment looms in Kabul

One Comment leave one →
  1. William Watts permalink
    August 15, 2021 4:59 pm

    🥲🥲🥲🥲

    On Sunday, August 15, 2021, View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince’s Blog wrote:

    > Rob Prince posted: ” ______________________________ > _________________________________ But regardless, either way, in > Afghanistan the United States has just suffered a political/military defeat > on a grand scale, nothing less. This twenty year war against Afghanistan > wa” >

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