“For all this talk of chaos, I just didn’t see it. Not from my perch.”
— John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council
At the recommendation of Bill Roggio of FDD’s Long War Journal, I fired up Frontline’s new doco America and the Taliban. It’s three hours of excellent reporting, and I’m not sorry I watched it — but, man, it is painful viewing. I think every American should watch it, but it won’t make you feel proud.
Americas’s war in Afghanistan was a war of frontier & empire, and not the first fought in that rugged land, which has earned its sobriquet Graveyard of Empires over centuries. It’s impossible to unwind our two decades of engagement there and see a different outcome — although the documentary identifies inflection points where things might have gone differently. But that could only have happened if we were honest about what we were doing there, what we wanted to achieve, and whether we were succeeding. And we never were honest. Never.
The most maddening thing about the whole mess — besides the waste of blood and treasure and the horrible outcome for people who put their faith in us — is that the war was a bipartisan carnival of bullshit through every single administration from Bush to Biden. The documentary evidence for that is readily found in The Afghanistan Papers, and it is vividly brought to life here. John Kirby’s WTF-inducing “Chaos? What chaos? I don’t see any chaos?” is a breathtakingly on-point example of the official line of crap that would have us deny the evidence of our own eyes. There’s a LOT of that going around in 21st Century America. It doesn’t bode well.
Many American service members and civilians did hard and good work in Afghanistan. We put the hurt on al Qaeda, and ran out a vicious gang of religious fanatics who routinely stoned women to death. For a moment, life had promise for women and those who wanted to breathe free. But we have to recognize that, in the end, it was all in vain. As retired Army Lt. Colonel Jason Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan, says at the end of the film:
“Let’s not say, ‘Oh, well, at the end of the day, it was worth it. ’It wasn’t. It was not worth it. We wasted tons, billions upon billions of dollars, thousands of lives, both ours and Afghans, and we did not achieve what we wanted to achieve. And let’s not pretend otherwise.”
This documentary ain’t playing pretend — it is a hard look at uncomfortable truths, and it is worth your time.