In 2020, the three major TV networks, CBS, ABC, and NBC, devoted only five minutes to Afghanistan, according to the Tyndall Report. Major news organizations have pretty much ignored the war in Afghanistan.
“Ask yourself how often Afghanistan has been a lead story for the last twenty years,” Oliver Willis of the progressive watchdog Media Matters for America recently remarked. “American media is putrid at covering the world and it directly leads to a public constantly surprised by topics and issues.”
New York Times reporter Liam Stack tweeted, “There will be many partisan efforts to spin the Fall of Afghanistan, but after 20 years and four presidents from two parties, the entire U.S. governing class is implicated in this. Every official or DC think tanker or cable news talking head you see on TV today.”
As the war ends, Joe Biden is being lambasted by the entire Republican party, a certain number of prominent Democrats, and many in the Beltway chattering class for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Architects of “the war on terror” crawled out from under their rocks to growl. Tony Blair said Biden was “imbecilic.” Even Henry Kissinger emerged from his crypt. Nobody mentioned George W. Bush and how he changed his focus from Afghanistan to attacking Iraq. Nobody mentioned his “weapons of mass destruction” lies.
In a Times op-ed, Ryan C. Crocker, who was Obama’s ambassador to Afghanistan and has worked for administrations of both parties, complained that Biden hasn’t shown the “strategic patience” of the kind that has kept American troops in South Korea for more than seven decades.
He says, “Mr. Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces destroyed an affordable status quo that could have lasted indefinitely at a minimum cost in blood and treasure.”
That is absurd. Unlike South Korea, Germany and Japan (countries with a seemingly permanent U.S. military presence), Afghanistan has never been stable since the U.S. invasion and has been in the middle of a brutal civil war.
The chairs of the Senate’s leading foreign policy committees (who are all Democrats) are calling for an investigation of how Biden handled the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
That’s good. However, we need a thorough investigation of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan for the last 20 years. No, for the last 40 years. Let’s examine the decisions by the Carter and Reagan administrations to arm and train Afghan mujahadeen against the Soviets.
Unfortunately, in December 2019, there wasn’t a push to investigate the revelations in the “Afghanistan Papers” published in the Washington Post. Using the Freedom of Information Act (after a three year court battle) reporter Craig Whitlock obtained more than 2,000 pages of interviews with more than 400 key insiders — senior generals, Afghan governors, diplomats, aid officials, and policy advisers — conducted during a federal review of the “Lessons Learned” in Afghanistan.
John Sopko, who leads the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which conducted the review, admitted to the Post that the records show the American people “have constantly been lied to.”
Peter Beaumont of the Guardian says the papers tell a story of “how successive presidents from Bush through Obama to Donald Trump, publicly rejected ‘nation-building’ but created a violent, corrupt and dysfunctional state only barely propped up by U.S. arms.”
In one interview, Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs between 2006 and 2009, said America’s mission was incoherent and contradictory. He explained;
“If we think our exit strategy is to either beat the Taliban – which can’t be done given the local, regional, and cross border circumstances – or to establish an Afghan government that is capable of delivering good government to its citizens using American tools and methods, then we do not have an exit strategy because both of those are impossible.”
Daniel Ellsberg said the “Afghanistan Papers” are similar to the “Pentagon Papers” (a secret history of the Vietnam war by the Defense Department) which he leaked. Both papers showed how the government intentionally and systematically misled the American people. He remarked, “The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.”
Joe Biden promised to end America’s longest war. He did it. He didn’t promise a happy ending.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.