The Afghanistan Papers
December 9, 2019 8:25 AM   Subscribe

From 2014 to 2018, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction conducted a deep investigation into the failures of the US war in Afghanistan, entitled "Lessons Learned". The investigation included candid interviews with more than 600 people with firsthand experience in the war. After multiple FOIA suits, the Washington Post has now published those interviews, revealing that the public was consistently lied to about the state of the war from its inception. posted by jedicus (53 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
 
But don't worry, the next invasion the NYT tells you is urgent and necessary will be good.
posted by Reyturner at 8:29 AM on December 9, 2019 [27 favorites]


I know why he's not but it always astonishes me that George W. Bush is not in prison.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:36 AM on December 9, 2019 [17 favorites]


Surely this ....
posted by The Whelk at 8:54 AM on December 9, 2019 [9 favorites]


Very interesting, thank you!

President is a horrible job. I make management and strategic cock-ups like this in my small company. None cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, but the difficulties are the same - balancing actions against costs, morality, politics, insufficient information and experience...
posted by alasdair at 9:01 AM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


I know why he's not but it always astonishes me that George W. Bush is not in prison.

At least Bush generally has the decency to stay out of the spotlight. Condoleezza Rice serves as the provost for Stanford University, for crying out loud, not to mention making bank on the speaker circuit.

If memory serves me correctly, Henry Kissinger doesn't dare travel overseas due to (entirely justified) fears of being arrested for war crimes. The top members of the Bush Administration should have the same fear of traveling outside of, say, Wyoming.
posted by Gelatin at 9:33 AM on December 9, 2019 [21 favorites]


There a fair bit of reporting that goes along with these that their format doesn't make easy to follow, parts 1 & 2 are linked in the FPP but there are six in total:

AT WAR WITH THE TRUTH - U.S. officials constantly said they were making progress. They were not, and they knew it.

STRANDED WITHOUT A STRATEGY - Bush and Obama had polar-opposite plans to win the war. Both were destined to fail.

BUILT TO FAIL - Despite vows the U.S. wouldn’t get mired in ‘nation-building,’ it’s wasted billions doing just that

CONSUMED BY CORRUPTION - The U.S. flooded the country with money — then turned a blind eye to the graft it fueled

UNGUARDED NATION - Afghan security forces, despite years of training, were dogged by incompetence and corruption

OVERWHELMED BY OPIUM - The U.S. war on drugs in Afghanistan has imploded at nearly every turn
posted by peeedro at 9:56 AM on December 9, 2019 [18 favorites]


Surely...One of the classic blunders.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:59 AM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


Tell me again how heartwarming it is when Michelle Obama hugs W at some event.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:10 AM on December 9, 2019 [15 favorites]


Zia Haider Rahman's 2014 novel In the Light of What We Know did a good job portraying the decadence of what Naeem Mohaiemen in his review calls "one of the less discussed phenomena of the war-on-terror, the ascendancy of the NGO-industrial complex":
One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. [...] The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.
posted by dmh at 10:12 AM on December 9, 2019 [4 favorites]


I know why he's not but it always astonishes me that George W. Bush is not in prison.

I used to believe that the Bush administration was not held to account for its crimes against humanity out of a desire by the new administration to avoid conflict and to move forward. I now think that it was to avoid precedent.
posted by Rust Moranis at 10:21 AM on December 9, 2019 [19 favorites]


Also a reminder that incognito or private browsing mode bypasses the WaPo's paywall. Here's a bullet point summary from WaPo's James Hohmann, The Afghanistan Papers show the corrosive consequences of letting corruption go unchecked.

The Guardian's Peter Beaumont is summarizing the reporting: Afghanistan papers reveal US public were misled about unwinnable war and US lies and deception spelled out in Afghanistan papers' shocking detail.
posted by peeedro at 10:24 AM on December 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also a reminder that incognito or private browsing mode bypasses the WaPo's paywall.

That hasn't been true for a while now: "We noticed you’re browsing in private mode. Private browsing is permitted exclusively for our subscribers. Turn off private browsing to keep reading this story, or subscribe to use this feature, plus get unlimited digital access. "
posted by solotoro at 10:26 AM on December 9, 2019 [12 favorites]


I have a number of friends who are Afghanistan vets whose days are mental health struggles because of their experiences there (including the friends they lost in horrible ways). I pray this news does not lead to a spike in suicides with those who served.
posted by Silvery Fish at 10:31 AM on December 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


And Pelosi was just bragging she knew W was lying about Iraq. BUT WHAT ARE YA GONNA DO, IMPEACH HIM? HA!
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:32 AM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. [...] The gusher of aid that Washington spent on Afghanistan also gave rise to historic levels of corruption.

That gusher of aid helped corruption but it absolutely saved lives. There is remarkably compelling empirical support for this.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:37 AM on December 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


President is a horrible job. I make management and strategic cock-ups like this in my small company. None cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, but the difficulties are the same - balancing actions against costs, morality, politics, insufficient information and experience...

Since you are saying it just perfectly normal management problems and a matter of scale can we assume you kill dozens and spend thousands?
posted by srboisvert at 10:40 AM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


Afghanistan is sort of the forgotten war. It was (and clearly still is) bundled up with the more obvious deceptions/war crimes that went on with the invasion of Iraq, even though at the outset the missions were so different. I don't know how much new stuff is actually revealed in these papers - just reading part one, a lot of the external failures in Afghanistan have been known and reported on many times over the past 20 years, the internal politics maybe not so much. But they are a good top-level reminder.

I was a senior in high school on Sept. 11. Many of my classmates served in Afghanistan (...have to stop myself from saying "Iraq and Afghanistan").
posted by muddgirl at 10:56 AM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


Afghanistan is such a tragedy. Remembering Afghanistan’s Golden Age
Afghans and Americans alike describe the country in those days as a poor nation, but one that built national roads, stood up an army and defended its borders. As a monarchy and then a constitutional monarchy, there was relative stability and by the 1960s a brief era of modernity and democratic reform. Afghan women not only attended Kabul University, they did so in miniskirts. Visitors — tourists, hippies, Indians, Pakistanis, adventurers — were stunned by the beauty of the city’s gardens and the snow-capped mountains that surround the capital.
Afghanistan in the 1950s and ’60s
Fractured by internal conflict and foreign intervention for centuries, Afghanistan made several tentative steps toward modernization in the mid-20th century. In the 1950s and 1960s, some of the biggest strides were made toward a more liberal and westernized lifestyle, while trying to maintain a respect for more conservative factions...This time was a brief, relatively peaceful era, when modern buildings were constructed in Kabul alongside older traditional mud structures, when burqas became optional for a time, and the country appeared to be on a path toward a more open, prosperous society.
46 Fascinating Photos Of 1960s Afghanistan Before The Taliban

But then the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski started a proxy war to give the Soviet Union their own Vietnam War and backed the mujahideen, some of whom later became al Qaeda and the Taliban. (Even James Bond and Rambo backed the mujahideen.)

After the 9/11 attacks the Taliban offered to turn bin Laden over if the US provided evidence he was behind the attacks, but the Bush administration refused to negotiate.

Then the US invaded Afghanistan, let bin Laden get away because he took his eye off the ball to focus on invading Iraq on false pretenses, and we've been half-assing it in Afghanistan ever since.

Bush should've led a multinational Marshall Plan-style program to rebuild and stabilize Afghanistan. We owed that to them after contributing to decades of warfare there, it could have taken away a sanctuary for terrorists, and would have provided an example of a modern democracy in an Islamic country. But the Bush administration's hard-on for invading Iraq and contempt for diplomacy made them the least likely people to even try.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:59 AM on December 9, 2019 [19 favorites]




Afghanistan is such a tragedy overlapping series of war crimes
posted by lalochezia at 11:03 AM on December 9, 2019 [3 favorites]


That gusher of aid helped corruption but it absolutely saved lives. There is remarkably compelling empirical support for this.

Would be interested to learn more about that, but it occurs to me that the benefits of aid, such as they were, came at the cost of an destructive, expensive, and largely failed military invasion. No aid, but also no invasion, would, I think, have been a better outcome.
posted by dmh at 11:06 AM on December 9, 2019 [6 favorites]


"Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action"
posted by doctornemo at 11:17 AM on December 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is this a new Pentagon Papers?

"With most speaking on the assumption that their remarks would not become public, U.S. officials acknowledged that their warfighting strategies were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted enormous sums of money trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern nation."
posted by doctornemo at 11:18 AM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


I note there are 611 documents listed on the Washington Post website, all available individually but not in batch. Anyone know of a torrent or zip of the collection available for download?
posted by Ahmad Khani at 11:20 AM on December 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


Is this a new Pentagon Papers?

Only in the sense that it is a stark indictment of shocking incompetence, waste and graft that has accomplished nothing but the murder and maiming of hundreds of thousands of people.

But not in the sense that it will matter or change anything or result in any consequences for anyone responsible or even be remembered in six months.
posted by Reyturner at 11:24 AM on December 9, 2019 [13 favorites]


The United States has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II.
From the At War With the Truth article.
posted by zenon at 11:27 AM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


Bush should've led a multinational Marshall Plan-style program to rebuild and stabilize Afghanistan. We owed that to them after contributing to decades of warfare there, it could have taken away a sanctuary for terrorists, and would have provided an example of a modern democracy in an Islamic country. But the Bush administration's hard-on for invading Iraq and contempt for diplomacy made them the least likely people to even try.

Personally, I blame Ayn Rand.

You see the things that Afghanistan needed were state institutions, authority and social programs like health care, education and justice. All things the modern conservatives under the sway of Randian libertarianism have come to absolutely oppose. That Bush & Co. couldn't create a functioning state from a failed state using the new conservative first principles is 100% unsurprising. Hell, even at home they are trying, and partially succeeding, to turn a functioning state into a failed state.
posted by srboisvert at 11:31 AM on December 9, 2019 [28 favorites]


This is merely anecdote, but while I was there, our unit was on a FOB outside Sharan, the provincial capital of Paktika province.

In Sharan there was an orphanage. A lot of donations came through for it. Books, school supplies, clothes. Every VIP who came through got taken to visit.

One day, towards the end of the tour, a group went down there with some VIPs and there weren't any kids.

"Where are the kids?" they asked the locals.

"You have to let us know you're coming," they answered.
posted by atchafalaya at 11:32 AM on December 9, 2019 [29 favorites]


You see the things that Afghanistan needed were state institutions, authority and social programs like health care, education and justice. All things the modern conservatives under the sway of Randian libertarianism have come to absolutely oppose. That Bush & Co. couldn't create a functioning state from a failed state using the new conservative first principles is 100% unsurprising.

Sorry Ayn Rand was nutso and full of evil ideas but to blame this entirely on Republicans, to hand-wave away the fundamental difficult of statebuilding, and to ignore the massive amounts of dollars spent on building schools, hospitals, and disbursing civilian aid in Afghanistan all in this service of a single bugbear is silly.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:35 AM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


The fact that the neocon ghouls never got their big NATO war or the chance to invade Iran is the slimmest of Silver Linings to all this
posted by The Whelk at 11:47 AM on December 9, 2019 [3 favorites]


blame this entirely on Republicans

it’s totally their fault. they lied to get us in, and the lies told after wouldn’t have happened if those first ones hadn’t been told. War criminal party, ought to be hounded out of office and jailed. I grant that the institutional leadership of the Democratic party is wildly complicit, choosing not to prosecute, for example, and failing to withdraw. But without the evil shitheads around Bush II American responses to 9/11 might possibly not have included the last twenty years of militarized fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a very large number of people born in those countries would possibly not have died in militarized violence.
posted by mwhybark at 11:59 AM on December 9, 2019 [14 favorites]


Well, if we blame only the Republicans in the U.S. we also have to blame the governments of Canada, U.K. etc, who joined in the invasion of Afghanistan (Iraq is its own set of hellish concerns).

It seemed to me at the time that: the U.S. is going to engage in bloodthirsty revenge of some kind, even though Afghanistan was guilty of...what, allowing military training to occur? I was certainly afraid that the impulse toward revenge would be even worse than invading Afghanistan at the time...
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 12:17 PM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


At the start we weren't supposed to be punishing Afghanistan, we were dismantling Al Quada, which we did. But the beauty of Bush's "War on Terror," as many interviewees highlighted, is that it lives on even if your supposed enemy is effectively dismantled. You never have to stop the money flowing from US citizens to military contractors because there is always the threat of a lone suicide bomber or hijacker.
posted by muddgirl at 12:30 PM on December 9, 2019 [9 favorites]


I'm still convinced someone in the wings of power real excited about acces the global heroin supply by invading Afghanistan, french connection style
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 PM on December 9, 2019 [6 favorites]


not in the sense that it will matter or change anything or result in any consequences for anyone responsible or even be remembered in six months.
That's what I fear.

blame this entirely on Republicans
it’s totally their fault


The WaPo report takes pains to see these problems under all three administrations.
posted by doctornemo at 12:42 PM on December 9, 2019 [3 favorites]


The Whelk this is a really fascinating read if you don't already know about it.

The Politics of Heroin Alfred McCoy
posted by supermedusa at 12:48 PM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


> That gusher of aid helped corruption but it absolutely saved lives. There is remarkably compelling empirical support for this.

The argument they are making in the article is not that aid was not helpful or that some level and type of aid could have been (and was) extremely beneficial, but rather that the scope of aid in monetary terms was orders of magnitude larger than could possibly have been absorbed beneficially by the country in its current state, and the strategy or objectives behind the aid were unfocused and in many cases counterproductive.

Furthermore the large amounts of aid money sloshing around inevitably led to massive systemic government corruption. This undermined the government in a fundamental way and gave the Taliban the opportunity it needed to reestablish itself and become stronger than ever.

Overall, the negative effects of the corruption, loss of faith in the federal government, and unintended support for the rebirth of the Taliban likely overwhelmed the positive benefit of the aid.

I know a lot of people can't get to the paywalled article and my incognito mode is working for today, so here are some excerpts from At War With the Truth:
One unidentified contractor told government interviewers he was expected to dole out $3 million daily for projects in a single Afghan district roughly the size of a U.S. county. He once asked a visiting congressman whether the lawmaker could responsibly spend that kind of money back home: “He said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’ ” . . .
Christopher Kolenda, an Army colonel who deployed to Afghanistan several times and advised three U.S. generals in charge of the war, said that the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai had “self-organized into a kleptocracy” by 2006 — and that U.S. officials failed to recognize the lethal threat it posed to their strategy. . . . “Kleptocracy, however, is like brain cancer; it’s fatal.” . . .
By allowing corruption to fester, U.S. officials told interviewers, they helped destroy the popular legitimacy of the wobbly Afghan government they were fighting to prop up. With judges and police chiefs and bureaucrats extorting bribes, many Afghans soured on democracy and turned to the Taliban to enforce order.

“Our biggest single project, sadly and inadvertently, of course, may have been the development of mass corruption.”
It's worth remember that if you took candid private interviews with key participants in most any project, no matter how successful, you would undoubtedly find a great deal of juicy dirt and negative statements about various aspects of the program or individuals. These would undoubtedly be at odds with official public statements about the project.

So that is going on here, but it sure seems like a lot more than that as well.

Fundamentally this was unwinnable from that start, but we poured 160,000 lives (plus probably 20X that in serious/debilitating injuries) and trillion dollars into a project that never had any real chance of success when approached that way.

It might have been possible to come up with a strategy that spent, say, 1% or 5% or 10% of that in lives and dollars yet had a longterm beneficial effect on the country and the region.

But that's not grandiose enough for us, I guess.
posted by flug at 12:59 PM on December 9, 2019 [13 favorites]


The United States has allocated more than $133 billion to build up Afghanistan — more than it spent, adjusted for inflation, to revive the whole of Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II.

flug brings up one of the two major differences between the Marshall Plan and U.S. efforts in Afghanistan: you cannot simply dump money on a problem. The other major difference is that the Marshall Plan was a plan. There has never been a consistent plan in Afghanistan since day one of the American invasion and occupation. There has never been -- not for one single, solitary day -- a consistent plan from the White House, nor from the Pentagon, nor from any of the many commanding generals who had authority over U.S. operations across Afghanistan, nor in any of the subordinate command sectors. There was never an endpoint that was any better than "...and then we go home."

And a big part of that problem is that the military has never stepped back. Not really. Even the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (a position held by a civilian) works under the auspices of the military, to the point that its website is sigar.mil. George Marshall was Secretary of State when he implemented the European Recovery Program. There's a reason for that.

I say all this not only as a former U.S. Army officer, nor as an amateur student of military history, but as the person who administered reconstruction efforts in southern Iraq for a chunk of OIF, where we had the same problem. I have a bottomless well of stories about dumb, pointless, and actively harmful decisions and initiatives, and that doesn't even count the ones where the punchline is "And then the next unit came in. My successor later told me that they stopped that initiative because their commander wanted to do something 'new'."
posted by Etrigan at 1:04 PM on December 9, 2019 [37 favorites]




Ertigan, just to caveat off what you said, I also saw tons of money being thrown at obviously unworkable ideas.

It was pretty clear to me that no matter what ethical sense or cultural values a person had going in, nobody in Afghanistan was equipped to withstand the temptation of the firehose of money that was being blasted at them.
posted by atchafalaya at 2:44 PM on December 9, 2019 [6 favorites]


The Bush administration scrapped the State Department's Future of Iraq project, which planned for setting up a stable country post-invasion.
And the idea behind it?

Again, was to have Iraqis ready to essentially take over their own country as soon as possible. ... There were a lot of people at State working on it, largely working out of the Middle East bureau. They had set up these working groups, or sub-groups, on virtually every technical question that was likely to arise in running this society called Iraq, once Saddam Hussein was gone. ... Policing. Justice. Macro-economic policy. Constitutions. Elections. Again, if you were going to set down on a piece of paper what were likely to be the 10, or 14, or 20, or 25 things Iraqis would have to get right, virtually each one of them was the subject of a sub-group or working group.

I spoke to General Garner. He told me that he was instructed by Secretary Rumsfeld to shelve the Future of Iraq Project.

I can't speak to that. I don't know what sort of instructions or communications went on within the Pentagon. I would just simply hope it's not true, because I thought a lot of good work went into that project.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:58 PM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


"Since 2001, more than 775,000 U.S. troops have deployed to Afghanistan, many repeatedly. Of those, 2,300 died there and 20,589 were wounded in action"

(not directed at poster ) - And how many died after they got home, by their own hand or through illness and addiction trying to cope with the aftermath? But they don't count the same, right? No flyovers or crazy-aunt Facebook posts about them.

Republicans are responsible but everyone else is complicit. The American public held no one accountable for the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, the lies leading to invading Iraq, the bungling of that aftermath and ongoing with the war in Afghanistan.

So the right-wing fanatics roll on, with the American voters as the battered spouse who comes to the door with a black eye and says everything's fine, Baby Jesus says this is my place and I'll get rewarded in heaven.

At some point the cops just leave a card and go back to drug confiscation.
posted by lon_star at 3:38 PM on December 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


Maybe along with "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" a bit of geography to point out that Afghanistan can be considered part of Asia.
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n24/james-meek/worse-than-a-defeat
For the UK - a bit of history would have helped - from the lrb article

"Hostility towards the British among the Pashto-speaking Pashtun tribes of Helmand goes back to the early 19th century... the British first invaded in 1839 [and] were eventually driven out and slaughtered and Dost’s rule restored, but the resentment towards them remained. After Britain invaded again in 1878, they were attacked at Gereshk by an Alizai army. Although Britain tried to use Barakzai proxies against them, the two tribes formed a brief one-off alliance and defeated Britain at the Battle of Maiwand, in 1880."
"The reaction to the British arrival was one of astonishment. Fairweather quotes Ashraf Ghani, now the country’s president, who predicted: ‘If there’s one country that should not be involved in southern Afghanistan, it is the United Kingdom. There will be a bloodbath.’"
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 3:43 PM on December 9, 2019 [3 favorites]


But don't worry, the next invasion the NYT tells you is urgent and necessary will be good.

Sadly I think that's gonna be a bit more uh civil.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 4:11 PM on December 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


But not in the sense that it will matter or change anything or result in any consequences for anyone responsible or even be remembered in six months.

Don't be so sure.

Donald Trump ran, in part, on an anti-war/anti-intervention message. His response to Jeb! at the one debate about his brother and his brother's war sure seems to have put an end to Jeb! with the few days later "please clap" line seeming to be the final nail in the Jeb! VS Hillary matchup that was expected.

Other parts of his postions are I did a thing Obama didn't and the lowering the water level in uncultivated ground. And changing the topic from Impeachment is something he would like to see happen I'd guess.

The report gives Donald Trump a chance to complain about the swamp, Obama failing to do the thing and be remembered for being the guy to pull out of Afghanistan all the while flipping the table. And it would mean less attention on impeachment.

And if enough Republicans vote to impeach he can claim it was because he made the announcement of the end of the Afghanistan conflict. He can even "own the libs" by saying “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
posted by rough ashlar at 4:46 PM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


The American public held no one accountable for the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11

errr, exactly HOW was that supposed to be done? The public used to be able to submit to federal grand juries but that was killed after 1945. Vote for people who said they would use the power to hold people accountable? Ok - how does that handful of people DO that?

How did that work out for Ron Paul?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:53 PM on December 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


exactly HOW was that supposed to be done?

The electorate having a longer memory might have helped - lotta familiar faces from that era still in the senate or retired in the later Obama years (or went straight to the wingnut welfare circuit a a la Condi).
posted by aspersioncast at 5:24 AM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


errr, exactly HOW was that supposed to be done?

Vote for what you want, and if the voters had wanted an anti-terror approach that treated terror like a criminal problem to be solved in concert with international law enforcement instead of what they actually responded to (spoiler alert: yes, it's Team America World Police and boy do they swear and have puppet sex), they would have voted for the candidates who supported that.

Clearly they did not and as a whole (yes, special woke snowflakes are special and a vast minority) the baby boomers who helped turn against the Vietnam War as unjustified murder in the 1960s and the Gen Xers who claimed to be so, like, independent howled for Muslim blood.

That's why the only person fired over 9/11 was Bill Maher and all Congress did was sing God Bless America on the steps of the Capitol and then write a blank check for the President to terminate with extreme prejudice.

A few years later, they held toothless truth-and-reconciliation hearings where everyone in power agreed boy did we blow that one and then went back to arguing about flags and bathrooms.

The voters (yes, woke people are still woke and very special and completely ineffective on the whole) don't vote on much more than fanatical partisanship and telecharisma, and so this is what we earned - piling up debt for endless wars and welfare for the rich.
posted by lon_star at 7:02 AM on December 10, 2019


Wow. This is a set of documents that's pretty hard to believe. I mean, we knew some of this and suspected even more, but here it all is laid out neatly and we can see the awful mindset of the insiders.

We're so close to it now that I don't think many of us can appreciate the full dimensions of the story, but it seems pretty likely that when/if the dispassionate history of the early 21st century is written, the defeat of the USA at the hands of terrorists who successfully induced the country to pile maximum treasure at the altar of a quagmire war without meaning or possible victory will play prominently, potentially as an inflection point that began the motion away from the position at the head of the post-WW2 world order, a motion which was accelerated dramatically by the recent rapid dismantling of as many of the institutions of that power as possible at the direction of foreign power.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:34 AM on December 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


if the voters had wanted an anti-terror approach that treated terror like a criminal problem to be solved in concert with international law enforcement instead of what they actually responded to

This was an explicit issue in the 2004 presidential election, with Kerry advocating police and intelligence work against al Qaeda over military invasions. I think he was right.

The 2004 election was the second-most disappointing election in the 2000s to me. By then we knew Bush had lied us into the Iraq war and the election should have been a rebuke. (2016 was the most disappointing. Trump shouldn't have even been the nominee, much less won.)
posted by kirkaracha at 8:43 AM on December 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


Lately I've begun to feel like the die was cast when the Allies were not held to account for their atrocities after World War 2. In the United States, instead of prosecuting people who committed prima facie war crimes, we put them in charge.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:54 AM on December 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


What I find most sad here is not that, with the benefit of hindsight, one can say that catastrophic mistakes were made. The saddest thing is that the mistakes were telegraphed a mile out almost from the start:

"We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy. [...]

All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations," bin Laden said."

CNN, November 2004

"We didn’t need to respond to 9/11 by trying to reshape the entire Middle East, but we’re a superpower, and we think on that scale. We didn’t need to respond to failed attempts to smuggle bombs onto airplanes through shoes and shampoo bottles by screening all footwear and banning large shampoo bottles, but we’re a superpower, and our tolerance for risk is extremely low. His greatest achievement was getting our psychology at least somewhat right.

In the end, of course, bin Laden was just another bag of meat and bones, hiding in a walled compound in Pakistan, so deeply afraid of death that he tried to use his wife as a shield when the special forces came for him. But he understood the mind of the superpower well enough to use our capabilities against us. He may not have won, but he did succeed, at least partially."

Ezra Klein for WP, May 2011

That was 8 years ago. Now the US is led by a madman and US life expectancy is on the decline. Where next?
posted by dmh at 4:52 PM on December 10, 2019 [4 favorites]




Followup reactions, 'We Were Right': They experienced the war in Afghanistan on the ground. Here’s what they had to say.
posted by peeedro at 12:32 PM on December 20, 2019


Impressive reporting from the USA Today, Inside the U.S. military's raid against its own security guards that left dozens of Afghan children dead:
U.S. military officials publicly touted the August 22, 2008, Azizabad raid – Operation Commando Riot – as a victory. A high-value Taliban target had been killed; the collateral damage was minimal; the village was grateful.

None of it was true.

The Taliban commander escaped. Dozens of civilians were dead in the rubble, including as many as 60 children. The local population rioted.

It remains one of the deadliest civilian casualty events of the Afghan campaign. But the story of how the operation turned tragic has been largely hidden from the public.
posted by peeedro at 11:35 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


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