There’s a gruesome neat symmetry to the 9/11 Falling Man imagery and the doom-scrolling of the Kabul debacle; as people fall off planes leaving the airport. Remember it was the 9/11 attack was the pretext to entering Afghanistan – a war that has killed between 171,000 to 174,000 people and cost over $2 trillion – and at the time the US was boastful of its supremacy talking of “we will never forget nor forgive and will act at the time of our choosing”.
We’ve seen this movie before. This is Suez for the West. This is not just a military defeat it is a defeat for the notion of international ‘order’, progress and universal rights.
As Tariq Ali writes: “The fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 15 August 2021 is a major political and ideological defeat for the American Empire. The crowded helicopters carrying US Embassy staff to Kabul airport were startlingly reminiscent of the scenes in Saigon – now Ho Chi Minh City – in April 1975. The speed with which Taliban forces stormed the country was astonishing; their strategic acumen remarkable. A week-long offensive ended triumphantly in Kabul. The 300,000-strong Afghan army crumbled. Many refused to fight. In fact, thousands of them went over to the Taliban, who immediately demanded the unconditional surrender of the puppet government. President Ashraf Ghani, a favourite of the US media, fled the country and sought refuge in Oman. The flag of the revived Emirate is now fluttering over his Presidential palace. In some respects, the closest analogy is not Saigon but nineteenth-century Sudan, when the forces of the Mahdi swept into Khartoum and martyred General Gordon. William Morris celebrated the Mahdi’s victory as a setback for the British Empire. Yet while the Sudanese insurgents killed an entire garrison, Kabul changed hands with little bloodshed. The Taliban did not even attempt to take the US embassy, let alone target American personnel.”
Talk of a different, more progressive Taliban regime is more liberal framing. An “inclusive” Taliban regime with better social media comms is like a medieval regime with brighter flags.
Media-friendly spook Rory Stewart, piped into your streams as the acceptable face of Toryism says: “He (Biden) embraced a policy largely indistinguishable from former president Donald Trump’s isolationism, leaving with no adequate transition in place, apparently indifferent to the horror in its wake.”
While that’s true it seemingly absolves the entire cadre of politicians that endorsed and pursued this policy for twenty years.
The chaos of the Afghan regime represents not just a military failure of NATO it’s a failure of Western imperialism and a complete failure of the “special relationship”. It collapses the distinction between neoliberal expansionism and liberal expansionism. It’s an epic humiliation and completely inevitable. But if the debacle is a moral failure it is also a security and intelligence failure of massive proportions. Tory ministers expressing “surprise” today is bizarre. As they line up to cry – as if some kind of performative act of male expressiveness counters your geopolitical imperialism – you are left shuddering with the level of dysfunctional stupidity of these people.
In the Green Zone
Now, in the next stage of brutality, the west is joining hands to exclude the people dispossessed by their actions:
On the same day that Afghans died clinging to planes, Macron says “We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows”.
What kind of leader vows to set up a system to keep Afghan refugees out of the EU completely.
— Claudia Webbe MP (@ClaudiaWebbe) August 16, 2021
Open Democracy reveals: “The UK government has rejected more than 32,000 Afghan asylum seekers since the Western invasion of the country in 2001”.
The entire escapade is like a metaphor for western failure.
Tariq Ali again: “The brilliantly lit Green Zone was always surrounded by a darkness that the Zoners could not fathom. In one of the poorest countries of the world, billions were spent annually on air-conditioning the barracks that housed US soldiers and officers, while food and clothing were regularly flown in from bases in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It was hardly a surprise that a huge slum grew on the fringes of Kabul, as the poor assembled to search for pickings in dustbins.”
Remember too this is a NATO project. For all the blaming and shaming that should be remembered. This is the NATO project the SNP are committed to. We should reject everything about it.
This sense of cycles of tyranny and imperialism is palpable – with nothing but a forthcoming film proposal to act as remembrance. In the film the American’s will no doubt be both the victims and the heroes.
Little of this is new. Way back in November 2001 Alan McCombes reported for Scottish Socialist Voice from the Afghan exile communities and refugee camps just over the border in the North West Frontier Province:
“This was a journey from the Third World to the Fourth World, from the poverty-ridden slums of Peshawar in the heart of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province to the desolation of the Afghan refugee camps an hour’s drive away. I set out from a sparsely furnished house in the backstreet slums of this teeming city. Half the population of Peshawar are Afghan refugees. Millions fled the country during the Soviet occupation. More ed in the 1990s when the warring mujahideen ripped Afghanistan apart. Then came the Taliban in 1996, and a new wave of refugees flooded across the border.
“Phil Woolas provoked fury yesterday by claiming British troops are fighting in Afghanistan in part to keep immigration under control. The gaffe-prone Home Office Minister told MPs the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK would ‘significantly increase’ if troops were withdrawn.The Taliban would take over and large numbers of Afghans would flee to Britain to claim refugee status, he said.
During a meeting of the home affairs select committee, Mr Woolas said: ‘If this country and others were to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan and the Taliban were able to take control of Afghanistan our evidence is that the number of asylum seekers coming to the EU would significantly increase.”
Idrees Ahmad has noted that “as long as the west’s engagement with the Muslim world is defined exclusively in terms of threats—specifically migration and terrorism—it will merely perpetuate the crises by ignoring people in favour of crisis managers. In two statements, the perennially tone deaf Emmanuel Macron illustrates the problem: 1) By seeing Afghanistan exclusively as a security problem 2) By treating ordinary Afghans as a threat. This is why after 20 years and billions of dollars, the west failed to generate any goodwill.”
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