No one loved us while we were there (for two decades), but they simply cannot stand us leaving. Mission-creep. Would you call it a blatantly badly planned war, or simply charge it off to mission creep?
Be patient. This is a long article. It was a long war, run by amateurs, unburdened by morals and masters of disinformation. The strongest military in the world, defeated by a foe imbedded in the civilian population with an unending willingness to die. How could it possibly not have gone wrong?
Across the world, the knee-jerk reaction has been to vilify the United States for leaving, usually from the comfort of a safe-haven. I might remind them that the knee-jerk is an involuntary movement used by doctors to determine the integrity of the neurological function. It’s not of much use to determine the integrity of those who promote wars.
And with that brief prologue, let the games begin.
Think about this
Following 9-11, the original plan was to do a massive strike against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the announced terrorist organization that attacked the World Trade Center hoping to kill its founder, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban then controlled Afghanistan and protected both bin Laden and his training camps. It was to be in-and-out, quick, deadly and punishing.
The airstrike failed. Bin Laden escaped into the mountains, along with those parts of al Qaeda that hadn’t high-tailed it into Pakistan.
President George Bush doubled down and committed the U.S. to the longest war in American history. Two decades and three presidencies later, President Biden is in the process of pulling us out. And get this, as the Taliban retakes Afghanistan, the Biden government is begging them not to destroy the American Embassy.
Then consider this
Since 2002 there has been an organization known as the International Criminal Court. The ICC was founded to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide“, when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.
‘When national courts are unable or unwilling to do so’ is at the heart of the matter, as well as the dividing-line between nations that live under law and those that do not. 123 nations are members of the ICC and the United States was once among them, as Bill Clinton signed the statute in 2000. Ah yes, but the Devil is in the details, and Bill failed to submit it to the Senate for ratification.
Those were the good old days, those gallant yester-years when America prided itself on being a nation of law. Maybe Clinton sniffed something in the political air. Maybe not. But signing the statute and simultaneously keeping it away from the Senate was a smooth move, by a smooth operator.
So, Bush both doubled-down and conveniently opted out
In an unprecedented diplomatic maneuver, Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman announced that the Bush administration “does not consider itself bound by President Clinton’s December 31, 2000 signature on the treaty to create a permanent war crimes tribunal.”
According to Human Rights Watch, “All of Western Europe and virtually every major U.S. ally are strong supporters of the court. The only states still actively opposing the court (as of May, 2002) are the United States and Libya.”
Birds of a feather– Muammar Gaddafi and George W. Bush.
Gaddafi and Bush shared a taste for torture
Or at least Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld did, which was good enough. Personally, I have always felt that Bush was simply far too easily managed, something he had in common with Ronald Reagan that allowed both administrations to register at the top of Your Hit Parade of criminal indictments.
The world—and Americans as well—stood aghast as revelations of torture were revealed at abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
(Wikipedia) “During the early stages of the Iraq War, members of the United States Army and the CIA committed a series of human rights violations and war crimes against detainees in the abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, including physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and the killing of Manadel al-Jamadi. The abuses came to public attention with the publication of photographs of the abuse by CBS News in April 2004. The incidents caused shock and outrage, receiving widespread condemnation within the United States and internationally.
“The George W. Bush administration claimed that the abuses at abu Ghraib were isolated incidents and not indicative of U.S. policy. This was disputed by humanitarian organizations including the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch; these organizations stated that the abuses at abu Ghraib were part of a wider pattern of torture and brutal treatment at American overseas detention centers, including those in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay.
“Documents popularly known as the Torture Memos came to light a few years later. These documents, prepared in the months leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States Department of Justice, authorized certain enhanced interrogation techniques (generally held to involve torture) of foreign detainees.
“The memoranda also argued that international humanitarian laws, such as the Geneva Conventions, did not apply to American interrogators overseas. Several subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), have overturned Bush administration policy, ruling that the Geneva Conventions do apply.”
Bush administration indictments for war crimes
In what is the first ever conviction of its kind anywhere in the world, the former US President and seven key members of his administration were… found guilty of war crimes. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo were tried in absentia in Malaysia…At the end of the week-long hearing, the five-panel tribunal unanimously delivered guilty verdicts against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their key legal advisors who were all convicted as war criminals for torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Full transcripts of the charges, witness statements and other relevant material will now be sent to the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as the United Nations and the Security Council.
All of which is background to why we’re leaving
The fact is, we cannot win and have known that for a long time. But America has trouble admitting its mistakes. We get into wars far too easily and stay in them too long out of nothing more than hubris. We are very poor losers, regardless of our history of continuing losses.
Who can forget Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” message to the troops in Afghanistan at Camp As Sayliyah on June 5, 2003 – about a month after his aircraft carrier speech and with 18 years left in Afghanistan? “America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished.”
Yeah, George and you have the bare-assed nerve to criticize Joe Biden for getting us out of a war you began under false pretenses, a war that broke every international standard of decency, leaving you and your tribe denounced as international war criminals. No accident that you took us out of the International Criminal Court.
We are not alone. Throughout history, no outside force has conquered Afghanistan, including the Maurya Empire, the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great of Macedon, Rashidun Caliphate, the Mongol Empire led by Genghis Khan, the Timurid Empire of Timur, the Mughal Empire, various Persian Empires, the Sikh Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Union and, most recently, a coalition force of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops, its majority from the United States.
Rudyard Kipling caught the flavor of Afghan combat perfectly in the final stanza of his epic poem, The Young British Soldier:
When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
and the women come out to cut up what remains,
jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
an’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.
It’s wise to know your history and set aside your ego in a jar in the window of the Oval Office before you send a generation of young men into a war that cannot be won.
The world can complain we left too soon, but the truth is we left twenty years too late.
Image Credit: Deccan Herald