Is There A Lesson To Be Learned From Afghanistan?
In the late 1970’s, elements in the U.S. government decided it would be a good idea to support Islamic fundamentalists and foreign fighters in Afghanistan in order to create for the Soviet Union something akin to what the U.S. experienced in Vietnam. Apparently, they did not see fit to consider the suffering they had inflicted on the Vietnamese, or they would have realized what prolonged bloodshed they were about to inflict upon the Afghan people.
Now, Afghanistan was a far from perfect nation. Such a thing does not exist outside the narratives of propagandists. Much of it was still quite backward and most definitely treated women very poorly. Nevertheless, in many urban areas, women dressed in contemporary western clothing and were able to do most things men did. As Afghanistan had a socialist government, and as socialist governments outpaced capitalist governments in promoting women’s rights, women were encouraged to become educated and even become doctors. This attitude was being spread outwards from the major cities as the socialist government sought to drag the country into modern ways of thinking.
The people the U.S. decided to send Stinger missiles to were not so enlightened when it came to women’s rights. No matter, they were fighting for freedom.
The word was sent out to the media that the people we were arming were the good guys and soon the populous was besieged with the message that they were freedom fighters on par with — as Ronald Reagan famously said — our founding fathers.
The entire plot of the movie Rambo 3 was based around Rambo helping the Mujahideen in their struggle for liberation against Soviet tyranny which threatened to spread across the globe. The American public was united in their support of these mountain warriors and foreign mercenaries, so much so that if you dared point out their cruel practices and repressive religious dictates, your fellow Americans would give you a look of contempt that contained within it a thinly veiled threat of violence. If you’ve ever experienced the ”shut up or I’ll be forced to punch you” look, you know what I mean.
The Soviet Union was set to host the Summer Olympics in 1980, those international games in which the entire world set aside their differences in order to come together in the spirit of fostering “cooperation and friendship between the nations of the world”. But the United States thought it would be a wonderful idea to lead a boycott of those games as a way to punish the Soviet Union for their involvement in Afghanistan, a rather unprecedented action. Muhammed Ali was sent by the U.S. to Africa to garner support for the boycott. Unfortunately for the U.S., African leaders were able to convince Ali not to support the boycott, and not the other way around.
As hoped for, the Soviet Union’s involvement in Afghanistan did become a prolonged affair, which drained the USSR of resources that could have been better used elsewhere. It was also a tremendous P.R. win for the United States. Depending on whom you ask, it was U.S. involvement in Afghanistan that helped to put an end to the Soviet Union, which officially dissolved a couple of years after withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan.
Fortunately, with the Soviet Union — the professed great threat to peace on the planet — vanished from the map, the United States was able to provide more practical support for the suffering Afghani people. Spared the cost of spending hundreds of billions of dollars defending the world from Soviet aggression, we immediately flew aid to the people who suffered and died in the war we had helped inflame. Our earnest concern for the Afghani people and for the innocent women and children was soon a bright example in an often times dark human history, one of the “thousand points of light” referred to by President George Bush. Women’s rights were restored, democracy was installed, and the people of Afghanistan lived happily ever after.
Except we all know that didn’t happen, did it? Shortly after Afghanistan endured a nearly decade-long proxy war on our behalf, we no longer cared for the people who lived there, as we once professed to. It was almost as if we never really cared for them at all, as if our whole support for the Afghani people was merely a cynical ploy to advance our own geo-strategic interests. The newspapers called it “a lack of resolve” and “good intentions not followed through”, but if you strip it of all the spin you could say we just didn’t give a f*ck.
The story of Afghanistan did not end with the demise of the Soviet Union. There followed a rather lengthy and bloody civil war, followed by one of the more repressive and ugly regimes known in recent history. Still we did not care. Not until what the CIA refers to “blowback” happened did the U.S. show much concern about Afghanistan at all. The blowback, in this instance, was 9/11.
So after a decade of fighting the Soviets and another decade of fighting each other and living under a most repressive regime, Afghanistan was thrust into a two decade war against the United States. And after those two decades, after Trump subjected them to the “Mother Of All Bombs”, the United States withdrew, and within a week the country had fallen to the very forces which we had spent decades fighting in an attempt to spread democracy and freedom. Half the $7 billion the U.S. seized from the Afghan bank following our invasion was designated to be used for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Currently Afghanis are facing cold and facing starvation, while the country suffers under U.S. sanctions.
Is there anything to be learned from this? I’m not one to draw historic parallels to current events, but while I’m not sure history always repeats itself, it does tend to stutter. If in fact history does repeat itself, and if it repeats itself to those who refuse to learn from it, perhaps then it is useful to make some observations:
-The United States is willing to create a proxy war for those we deem to be our competitors on the world stage. We will flood a third nation with weaponry and then sit back and see what happens.
-When we fight a proxy war, as we did in Afghanistan, the people suffer. In the case of the people of Afghanistan, they’ve been suffering for four decades, and the worst seems poised to come.
-When we fight a proxy war, we don’t care about the people we use to fight the proxy war, nor the nation in which the proxy war is fought. AT ALL. It is hard to imagine caring less about a people than we did the Afghanistan people. It is hard to imagine a worse-case scenario for the Afghani people, hard to imagine how our not being involved could have possibly made things worse.
-When we engage in proxy wars, we are willing to support the very worst people on the planet, because they are the most effective at fighting our enemies. And when I say support, I mean give them sophisticated weaponry and military intelligence. These are people who are not restrained by international norms and can stoop to any level of violence in order to achieve their aims.
-The U.S. media will never say anything negative about the people we are using in our proxy war, will paint them as freedom fighters without flaw or sin. You will never see who is on the other end of the bullets and the bombs they unleash.
-If you dare try to provide context or ask questions, you will be vilified by the press and feel very isolated. The fear of speaking out will be immense, so that most of those who do not march lock-step with the official narrative will keep quiet. Those who speak out will mostly lose whatever reputation they have in the mainstream press. They will lose whatever place of power or influence they have to shape policies or perception for the rest of their lives.
-The moment our aims are achieved (i.e., inflicting maximum damage upon our enemy), our concern for the welfare of the people we claimed to care about will be utterly abandoned.
-Undesired consequences of supporting violent and unsavory groups will occur. We believe these people are our allies but in truth they are being every bit as opportunistic as we are and are willing to work with what is in their minds unsavory people (us) in order to achieve their own goals. These violent rebels consider the west to be decadent, effeminate, and ultimately impotent. Once our violent proxy fighters have achieved their mutual aims with us, they will turn on us.
I’ve managed to write an entire article without drawing direct comparisons to any current situation, but many can be made. Should anyone request I do so, that will be the impetus for a future article.