By David William Pear

The US and NATO lowered their flags on December 28, 2014 in Afghanistan and turned over the responsibility for security to Afghan forces. Nobody is seriously talking about winning or peace with honor.  The US is just trying to stop the bleeding…its own bleeding.  The Afghan people will continue to bleed for a long time.  This is another lesson that wars are much easier to start than they are to end.  It is a lesson that the US just will not learn.

It was less than a year ago that President Obama told the graduation class of 2014 at West Point that they need not worry about dying in Iraq or Afghanistan:

“You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan”, said Obama then.  [1]

In case any of the cadets were worried about not earning a Purple Heart posthumously, they needn’t be.  They will still have their chance in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  If not there, Obama seems to have the will to find other battlefields for them to die on.  As Obama reportedly once said, it turns out he is good at killing.  [2]

When NATO lowered its flag in December, Obama had little to say.  He took a few minutes out of his Hawaii Christmas vacation to casually drop in on some troops.  His words sounded hollow:

“Tomorrow, we will mark an important milestone in our country’s history: After more than 13 years of war, our combat mission in Afghanistan is coming to a responsible end.” [3]

It seems that only the New York Times still believes Obama’s speeches.  Their headline screamed:   “U.S. and NATO Formally End War in Afghanistan.”  Not so fast.  The US plans on leaving at least 10,000 pairs of US boots on the ground, more boots in the sky and plenty of US paid mercenaries.  And the US will be doing combat missions, despite Obama’s earlier promise that they would just be doing training and advising.  If there is anything we should have learned about Obama it is to remain flexible on what he says.

A good indication of how badly the war in Afghanistan has gone in the past 13 years is that there was no big celebration in downtown Kabul.  For security reasons, the time and place of the flag lowering ceremony was kept confidential.  Maybe that is why President Obama chose to give his “victory” speech at the 19th hole in Kaneohe, Hawaii.

Now that the war in Afghanistan is sort-of over, but not really over, it might be a good time to reflect back on how the US got into the Afghanistan War.

One myth about the war against the Taliban is that it was responsible for the attacks on the US of September 11, 2001.  No.  The US did not accuse the Taliban of 9-11.  The US did accuse al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden with responsibility for 9-11, but not the Taliban.

The gripe the US said it had against the Taliban was that the US did demand that the Taliban turn over Osama bin Laden and they refused.  As the de facto, if unrecognized government of Afghanistan, the US blamed it for harboring Osama bin Laden.

The Taliban did imply before that they would turn Osama over to the US if it provided them with proof that he was responsible for 9-11.  According to the Los Angeles Times of September 22, 2001 the Taliban said:

“If there is no evidence and proof, we’re not prepared to give up Osama bin Laden“.  [4]

The US refused to provide proof that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9-11, with Bush saying:

“There’s no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he’s guilty”. [5]

Still, there are reports that privately the Taliban was in negotiations with the US, both before 9-11 and after 9-11, to turn over Osama to the US.  Osama had been on the FBI’s “10 Most Wanted” list since he was implicated in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa.  He was also wanted by the FBI for the attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 crew members and injured 39 others in 2000.  [6]

The Taliban reportedly said even before 9-11:  “You can have him (Osama bin Laden) whenever the Americans are ready. Name us a country and we will extradite him”. [7]

If reports are correct, then President Bush missed several opportunities to negotiate a deal for Osama bin Laden. [8]   Strangely though, only six months after 9-11 Bush had lost interest in Osama bin Laden.  In March of 2002, President Bush so in a news conference:

“…the idea of focusing on one person is — really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission.” [9]

By then the “scope of the mission” had changed.  The scope was invading Iraq and Bush was already gearing up for it in December 2001.  [10]   Osama had not yet been captured or killed and there was still al Qaeda to deal with then.  Instead, Bush focused his attention on Iraq.

The US invasion of Afghanistan had quickly routed the Taliban government out of Kabul.  The Northern Alliance puppet government was put in charge with the vital aid of US dominated NATO forces.  [11]   Pakistan was unhappy about that.  They thought that the US had promised them that their ally the Taliban would not be overthrown.

According to the Guardian (Nov 14, 2001):

Pakistan, America’s new ally in the war against terrorism, had extracted a promise that the Northern Alliance — which represents groups inimical to the southern Afghan Pashtun tribes supported by Islamabad — would not be allowed to take over the capital, and thus the government of Afghanistan.” [12]

Pakistan was worried about its own national security vis-a-vis hostilities with India.  Pakistan and the Taliban were allies.  Pakistan and the US had helped put the Taliban in power in the mid-1990’s.  Pakistan needed friendly relations with the Taliban’s Pashtun tribes in eastern Afghanistan so that it could have room to maneuver in case war broke out with its enemy India.  [13]

The Taliban is largely made up of Pashtun Islamic fundamentalist fighters.  The US had covertly backed the Pashtuns to fight against the Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989.  Along with non-Afghan Arab fighters and Pashtuns, the US with the direct participation of Pakistan, helped in the founding of the Mujahedeen of Islamic fundamentalist guerillas that succeeded in ousting the Soviets.  Osama bin Laden and his Arab legion was among those that the US supported against the Soviets.

The source of America’s current misery in Afghanistan goes back to the early 1970’s.  Keep in mind that the US and the Soviet Union were fiercely engaged in the Cold War then.  During the Cold War there were several hot proxy wars, with the US backing one side and the Soviets backing the other side.  The most painful proxy war for the US was the Vietnam War.

The US withdrew from Vietnam in 1975 was a humiliating defeat in a long, bloody and costly war.  The psychological scars from that war would persist and affect US foreign policy up to the present.

In the later 1970’s the US saw in Afghanistan what it thought would be a chance to pay back the Soviet Union for its support of North Vietnam against the US.  The US also hoped in Afghanistan it could make strategic gains against the Soviet Union in their own back yard.

Prior to 1973 Afghanistan was a monarchy ruled by King Mohammed Zahir Shah.  Officially the King had close ties with the Soviet Union but maintained enough neutrality to play the Cold Warriors against each other for his and Afghanistan’s benefit.

In 1973 the King was overthrown by his cousin and former Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud Khan.  President Khan’s government was secular, progressive, encouraged the advancement of women’s rights and maintained neutrality between the US and the Soviet Union.    Khan was the self-declared president until his assassination in 1978 in what is known as the Saur Revolution.  [14]

The Saur Revolution ushered in a faction of the Communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).  That faction was in turn overthrown by another faction of the communist PDPA in 1979.  Regardless of which faction of the PDPA was in charge they had strong ties to the Soviet Union and promoted socialist ideologies.

Of particular interest, the communists PDPA promoted equality for women which angered Islamic fundamentalists.  It was this anger and rebellion against the equality of the sexes, as well as “godless communism”, that the US exploited for its own purposes.  Despite what the US says is its concern for women’s rights,  the US sided with the anti-feminists Islamic fundamentalists for geopolitical reasons.  A chance to cause trouble for the Soviet Union was just too tempting for the US to let go to waste.  It proved to be a chance to pay the Soviet Union back for Vietnam.

President Carter, with the advice from his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, launched a secret operation called “Operation Cyclone” to overthrow the communist government in Afghanistan.  This was before, not after, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 24, 1979.  Once the Soviets invaded, Brzezinski says that he sent a memo to President Carter saying that:

“We have the chance to give the Soviets their Vietnam”.

Whether or not the US intentionally drew the Soviets into a trap is controversial.  In a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski reportedly said that he and Carter did.  In answer to one question from Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski reportedly said:

“…it was July 3, 1979 (before the Soviet invasion) that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.” [15]

Brzezinski denies the accuracy of the Le Nouvel Observateur quote saying that he sent a memo to Carter about the chance to give the Soviets their “Vietnam” before the Soviets invaded, but he does admit that aid to the Mujahedeen started before the Soviet invasion, and not after.  He also admits that after the Soviet invasion he sent a memo to President Carter saying that:

We have the chance to give the Soviets their Vietnam”.  [16]

Whether or not Brzezinski said what he said before or after the Soviet invasion is not as important as that the US did intentionally give the Soviets there Vietnam.  Whether or not that was such a good idea is looking more and more dubious.  By giving the Soviets their “Vietnam” the US inadvertently got itself stuck in a quagmire of another “Vietnam” in Afghanistan itself and in the Global War on Terror.

In that same Le Nouvel Observateur interview Brzezinski also reportedly said:

“It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn’t a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.”

So Brzezinski said in 1998 that there isn’t a global Islam.  That to say so was “nonsense” and “stupid”.  That was before 9-11.  That was before the Global War on Terror.  That was before Bush said everybody is either “for us or against us”.  That was before GITMO.  That was before Abu Ghraib.  That was before Koran burnings.  That was before the US support of Israel bombing Gaza.  That was before everyone had to have their genitals scanned before getting on an airplane.  That was before NSA spying on everybody.  That was before the Boston Marathon Bombing.  That was before Charlie Hebdo.  That was before kids almost old enough today to join the military were even born.  That was before demagoguery and emotion ran rampant with Islamophobia.  That was before the US angered the “Muslim World” with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.  And that was before the US started droning wedding parties and funerals.

Still what Brzezinski said was true in 1998 is true today.  There is no monolithic Islam of 1.5 billion Muslims.  Muslims are as diverse today as they were in 1998.  It is still “nonsense and stupid” to talk about Global Islam.  We still need to be rational and stop looking at the world’s leading religion with demagoguery and emotion.  [17]

There should be no room in America for prejudice, scapegoating, racial profiling and discrimination against Muslims.  Otherwise the USA is repeating the same mistakes it made in the past against Japanese-Americans in World War 2, the same mistakes it made against African-Americans during slavery and Jim Crow segregation, the same mistake it made in the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Native-Americans, the same mistakes it made against LBGT, the same mistakes it made against women and the same mistakes it has made by demonizing, stereotyping and discriminating against other groups.

America needs to remember what the country went through during the witch-hunts of McCarthyism and the “Red Scare” about communists.  People were ostracized, blackballed from their profession, imprisoned and even executed just on a rumor that they were a communist.  Anyone who ever belonged to the communist party, and many did especially during the Great Depression, were denied their Constitutional Rights for the rest of their life.

The communists that people thought were under every bed were not there, and neither are the Muslim terrorists today.  A person has a higher chance of being struck by lightning or drowning in their bathtub than being killed by a terrorist.  The US government and the main stream media have become fear mongers.  They have turned America into a nation of scaredy-cats.  Muslims have become the new “communists”.

Many of our wounds and scars from the War on Terror have been self-induced, as I have tried to show with this short review of the Afghanistan War.  The US has often been the perpetrator instead of a victim of terrorism.  Droning wedding parties and funerals is terrorism.  Night raids are terrorism.  Torture is terrorism.  Indefinite detention is terrorism.  The War on Terror is terrorism.  America and its allies do not have clean hands when condemning Muslims, Islam and Arabs as backward, barbaric, disrespectful of human rights, intolerant and prone to violence.

Someday the War on Terror will be over.  How will history judge it?

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Links:

[1]  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/28/remarks-president-united-states-military-academy-commencement-ceremony

[2]  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/4/obama-brag-new-book-im-really-good-killing-drones/

[3]  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/12/27/christmas-day-president-obama-thanks-troops-hawaii-their-extraordinary-service

[4]  http://articles.latimes.com/2001/sep/22/news/mn-48537

[5]  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/oct/14/afghanistan.terrorism5

[6]  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/27/AR2006082700687.html

[7]  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2004-06-05/taliban-told-us-it-would-give-up-osama-report/1987480

[8]  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/27/AR2006082700687.html

[9] http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/03/20020313-8.html

[10]  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17347-2004Apr16.html

[11]  http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20011114wednesday.html

[12]  http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20011114wednesday.html

[13]  https://www.google.com/maps/place/Pakistan/@30.3894007,69.3532207,5z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x38db52d2f8fd751f:0x46b7a1f7e614925c

[14]  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saur_Revolution

[15]  http://www.proxsa.org/resources/9-11/Brzezinski-980115-interview.htm

[16] http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=4716

[17]    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=12506

David William Pear

David is a progressive columnist writing on economic, political and social issues. His articles have been published by OpEdNews, The Greanville Post, The Real News Network, Truth Out, Consortium News, Global Research, and many other publications.   David is active in social issues relating to peace, race relations and religious freedom, homelessness and equal justice. David is a member of Veterans for Peace, Saint Pete for Peace, CodePink, and International Solidarity Movement.

In 2017 David spent 3 weeks in South Korea researching the Korean War of 1950 to 1953. In 2016 David spent 10 weeks in Palestine with the Palestinian lead non-violent resistance group International Solidarity Movement. In February of 2015 he was part of a people-to-people delegation to Cuba with CodePink. In November of 2015 he was a delegate with CodePink to Palestine to show solidarity with Palestinians. David frequently makes people-to-people trips to Russia as a private citizen. David returned to Palestine for 10 days in March 2018.

David has a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the University of Maryland and attended classes at George Washington University for a degree as a Certified Financial Planner. He is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania program for a degree as a Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA).

David resides in Clearwater Beach, Florida. His hobbies include boating, fishing, RV’ing and motorcycle touring. He is also a licensed skydiver (USPA-inactive).]