On Afghanistan and Empire

While Afghanistan has been in a state of chaos since the Taliban occupied Kabul on August 15th, its fall has been a tragedy unfolding in slow-motion for decades. Yet, as the American media class riles with indignation at Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from the country, one can only feel a deep sense of delusion as the narrative switches rapidly from we must protect our Afghan allies, to what of the women and children, to we must protect Afghanistan’s large mineral reserves from falling into the hands of the Chinese, to now we need to support the Taliban to destroy the new bad guy ISIS. Of course, the last point on ISIS is about the suicide bombing carried out by ISIS outside Kabul airport, which claimed dozens of innocent lives.

Following the bombing, the punditry began to show its true nature as rhetoric shifted from imperial benevolence to unhinged sadism calling for swift retributive violence. One such example was Fox News contributor Todd Starnes stating, “For every American who is killed, a city in Afghanistan should be wiped off the face of the Earth.” Not ISIS, not the Taliban, but entire cities of Afghan civilians. The ones we have been told incessantly that our troops must remain to protect. While this specific commentary is uniquely vicious, it does not differ in essence from the mainstream.

What is being displayed today is the same orientalist notion of a distant subhuman other that justified decades of intense warfare in Afghanistan and the middle-east in the first place. To be clear, the United States destroyed an entire region of the world multiple times over. Our imperial hubris had rained death upon millions and has displaced tens of millions more. That’s not to mention our intentional destruction of social and cultural institutions, public infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and industry, such to the extent that we have driven multiple countries to a state of hell on earth. A rational observer could only look at the ramifications of American military conquest and weep, for how could such utter evil be allowed to take place and go unpunished. But the American media and public at large have proven to be incapable of such reflection. The people of Afghanistan, like those of Iraq, Libya, and Syria, are not victims worthy of sympathy but rather a distant monolithic enemy in the eyes of the west. Only through this delusion can we maintain a straight face as we talk of the need for further and further destruction to a country whose social fabric we have already torn to shreds.

In the few instances where the crimes and brutality of US empire become too much to bear and begin to permeate the public consciousness, there is often much browbeating about mistakes and miscalculations. We acted with the best intentions, but everyone makes mistakes, such is the unfortunate price we must pay for our role as peacekeepers in the world. There are no mistakes; the United States operates like a well-oiled machine, and the ugly outcomes it begets are a logical conclusion.