August 22, 2021

The War of The Absurd: Afghanistan 20 Years After 9/11

In Afghanistan America won the war of hearts and minds. What it did not do is win the war for cities and villages.

"Previously held certainties have dissolved, the firmest foundations for hope and optimism have collapsed. Suddenly man sees himself faced with a universe that is both frightening and illogical - in a word, absurd. All assurances of hope, all explanations of ultimate meaning have suddenly been unmasked as nonsensical illusions, empty chatter, whistling in the dark. If we try to imagine such a situation in ordinary life, this might amount to our suddenly ceasing to understand the conversation in a room full of people; what made sense at one moment has, at the next, become an obscure babble of voices in a foreign language. At once the comforting, familiar scene would turn into one of nightmare and horror. With the loss of the means of communication we should be compelled to view that world with the eyes of total outsiders as a succession of frightening images." - Martin Esslin.

"Throughout my deployment, time and again, our kills outnumbered theirs, they lost ground, and we won. This happened so regularly that I began developing a sense of déjà vu. This feeling isn’t uncommon when you’re deployed; you see the same people, follow the same schedule, and do the same activities day in and day out. But I wasn’t imagining it. We really were flying the same missions, in the same places, re-liberating the same villages we had fought in three years ago. I was listening to the same bullshitting, the same pep talks, and the same planning, often by the same men, that I’d heard before." - Ian Fritz, "What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban" The Atlantic.

"That tribalism and perpetual war have contributed to the culture of violence in Afghanistan few would deny, but that is not the entire story, at least not for Joseph. “The whole time we were there, I don’t think we had a meaningful discussion. You could see this from the discussions between Biden and Karzai down to the average company commander and village leader—we could never discuss anything touching on reason or faith, anything that makes life intelligible. Never have two cultures collided that understood each other less,” he says.

“When Columbus stepped off the Santa Maria and met a bunch of naked natives, it’s possible that they understood each other better. And why is that? One day we’ll leave and it’ll be like we were never there.”

. . . .“We were there writing checks and shooting people,” says Joseph. “It was as incoherent to me as it was to the Afghans. But building a soccer field isn’t building a civilization. The foundations for civilization, for reason, for the common good, for law, for science—all of it was missing. It’s still missing and no one seems to have a sense of how to build it.” - Andrew Doran, "Absurd In Afghanistan" The American Conservative, September 9, 2014.

"War," wrote James Madison, "should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits."

Any commentary on the war in Afghanistan must begin with the fact that it was justified on false grounds. But, then again, what war isn't? 

Throughout history governments have resorted to lies and false flags to marshal public support for war. 

War has always been a money maker. It can cement kings or make new ones. New regimes especially love war because they can use it to quell popular unrest and redirect awakened public energies for their own ends.

But empires love war most of all. 

The war industry in the United States benefited immensely from the trillions of dollars that were stripped away from American taxpayers for the last two decades.

All that money, all that time, and all it produced was wealth for a rotten few. Nothing of consequence was built in Afghanistan. 

And the heads on a spike that Washington can point to in order to legitimize their endeavor died of natural causes so what really was accomplished in 20 years of war? 

Bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, were not hunted down and brought before an international court to defend themselves. No, that would make sense. They weren't even assassinated. They were left to die in some hut as if they were a couple of nobodies.

Businessmen and lawyers, not warriors, prosecuted this so-called "war." So words, not actions, are what will be remembered. Images, not truth. 

Bush, Obama, and Trump, three men who never served, led America during its longest war in its history. That alone should tell us something.

It tells me there was no real impetus to fight this nonsensical war. That America's presence in Afghanistan ended with a whimper is about the only thing that makes sense.

But not fighting an enemy in a war of choice and betraying your ally are two separate things. There was a better way to leave. 

The consequences of the American exit from Afghanistan will be felt beyond its borders and for many years into the future. 

Handing a vengeful terrorist group hundreds of billions of dollars in military hardware when it is already backed by a crazy nuclear-armed state does not bode well for regional stability and world peace.