What Happens

A “litmus test” on Afghanistan:

Reaction to the Time cover has become something of an Internet litmus
test about attitudes toward the war, and what America’s responsibility
is in Afghanistan. Critics of the American presence in Afghanistan call
it “emotional blackmail” and even “war porn,” while those who fear the
consequences of abandoning Afghanistan see it as a powerful appeal to

The debate was fueled in part by the language that
Time chose to accompany the photograph: “What Happens if We Leave
Afghanistan,” pointedly without a question mark.

That is exactly
what will happen,” said Manizha Naderi, referring to Aisha and cases
like hers. An Afghan-American whose group, Women for Afghan Women, runs
the shelter where Aisha stayed, Ms. Naderi said, “People need to see
this and know what the cost will be to abandon this country.”

Ms. Naderi would be the first to concede, however, things are already
bad enough for women in Afghanistan without a return to a government
run by the Taliban.

So far, we’ve already abandoned that country twice. Once, when we held a little useless proxy war there and used it to get our national rocks off and then fucked off and left it, and twice, when our glorious War Preznit decided Iraq would be way more fun to blow up becauseit just would so shut up. So to act like now, now we’re going to huff off into the sunset and that will be somethingnew for us is just stupid. Afghanistan and its people have had plenty of practice being abandoned by us (and by other countries whose examples of nation-building ADD we failed to heed).

I said during the campaign and I said when Obama announced his Afghanistan troop increase that everybody was looking for a way out of Afghanistan that didn’t make us the asshole. That didn’t make us the latest in a long line of countries that came in with great speeches and big guns and slouched out with a halfhearted “sorry we blew some of your relatives up, guys, our bad” parade. All we’re doing now is trying to find something to drape some bunting over, to find a way to say, no, we’re notthose douchebags, we’re a good country and we did this better than everybody else did.

It’s a desperate search for pundit-meaning, a way to make David Brooks and David Broder feel good about themselves, a way for Joe Klein to write columns that don’t make him feel like a dirty, anti-military, America-hating hippie. It’s a way for Obama and his advisors to say they unfucked the dog George W. Bush fucked, did the warright, and made everything better. It’s a passion play for the benefit of the American people, and I would be a little more tolerant of it as a piece of masturbatory theater if the benefit to our national psyche wasn’t offset by LOTS AND LOTS OF DEAD PEOPLE.

I’m not discounting the plight of women in Afghanistan. Plenty of DFHs were all about kicking Taliban ass long before 9/11 focused the rest of the world on how much things fucking sucked over there. But I have a major problem fetishizing one particular group of women when a staggering portion of the world treats women like dogs or worse and does so without Time magazine using the victims of religious and political violence as arguments for prolonging war. We can hold in our minds at once the concept that what happened to Bibi Aisha is cruel and horrible, and that it does not obligate us to continue to wage a war that didn’t stop her mutilation in the first place.

There’s no “litmus test” here.



7 thoughts on “What Happens

  1. This further serves the meme created to justify the continuance of the war, way back in 2002. It was in March of that year, IIRC, that Little Boots announced that he “wasn’t that concerned” about bin Laden, or about catching him and his leadership, for that matter.
    At that moment, a new justification–to keep the war going–had to be created, and it became, in large part, preventing the Taliban from abusing Afghan women, inexactly the way that a justification for an attack on Iraq had to be created out of whole cloth. (Does anyone recall, btw, that the Bush administration failed to request even a penny in its fy 2003 budget for humanitarian aid to or reconstruction work in Afghanistan?)
    This has always been a ruse, a pretense, let alone an ill-executed motivating impulse, if only because in supporting the so-called Northern Alliance, we were directly or indirectly supporting the likes of war lords such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose record on human rights is even worse than that of Taliban.
    Even if our sole motivations were to protect women in Afghanistan from the Taliban’s religious extremism and “export democracy” to that country, we still open ourselves to charges of extreme hypocrisy given the tolerance we show toward our erstwhile allies operating despotic monarchies where religious police terrorize their populations and women get their heads hacked off for adultery.
    We learned all we need to know about this country’s foreign policy when Madeleine Albright said that sanctions– intended to create revolution in Iraq and regime change conducive to US interests, and which did not succeed–killed half a million innocent people “were worth it.”
    That’s who we really are.Time‘s latest propaganda, as always, is simply an attempt to divert our attention from any discussion of who we really are and what we are actually doing in Afghanistan.

  2. Yes, what Montag said. The alleged point of going to Afghanistan in the first place was to catch Bin Laden and whatever of Al Qaeda that was ostensibly there (I never actually believed Bin Laden was really there; I suspect he’s actually in Monte Carlo or someplace, personally).
    That failed, partly because Bush said he wasn’t interested, for whatever opaque reason.
    So, since the point of going to Afghanistan wasnever supposed to be about taking sides in a civil war for allegedly humanitarian reasons and wasalways supposed to be about misusing the military to do an international policing operation against terrorists, which operationfailed, why are we all still in Afghanistan?
    Thing is, I don’t believe that civil wars, military coups, or externally-imposed “regime changes” are actually conducive to improving the civil and human rights record of a country. (They need twenty years of peace, lots of appropriate-technology development specialists, and a battallion of Canadian civil servants, I think.)
    For what it’s worth, people like me were saying, “Uh, what about the fact that the Taliban treats women like shit?” back when the Taliban was the US’ bestest friend in the area, back in the late 1990s (remember that?) because they were “helping win the War on Drugs” by being sufficiently anti-opium. That was back when Dana Rohrabacher (R-California 46) was hanging out with the Taliban and gettingsouvenir photos taken with them.
    Frankly, after that kind of stuff, the US administration suddenly deciding that the Taliban is Satan with buttercream-evil frosting stinks of hypocrisy, not unlike the way it has the last ten times the US has done something similar (Saddam Hussein springs to mind).

  3. America exporting democracy is like Saudi Arabia exporting Christianity. We dislike democracy so intently here that we refuse to even try it, in our election of Congress, of the President, in the way the Senate passes bills, or, in California, the way the state legislature works. Democracy is something we think is good for everyone else, but that isn’t an export industry as much as a meddlesome export.

  4. There is an answer. It is the answer to the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is the answer to the Janjaweed in Darfur. It is the answer to “honor killings.” It is the answer to the motorcycle thugs throwing acid on schoolgirls in Iraq.
    But there’s nothing pretty about this answer, and to be effective it must leave no survivors.

  5. hoppy: “Democracy is something we think is good for everyone else”
    Except in places like Gaza or Lebanon, when they vote in the “wrong” people.
    C’mon, you think you can put limits on american hypocrisy? HA!
    All of those “we can’t pull out of Afganistan” rhetoric is just lightly-reprocessed crap that was previously used to justify staying in Vietnam.
    Maybe we can pay the Vietnamese to take over the US afgan mission. Worth a try; yeah, they’d ask for a lot of money, but it costs plenty anyway.

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