The neocons have two plumb lines on the war: one, celebration that the Taliban is overthrown, and, two, fury at the perception that the war should therefore end.
On the first plumb line, observe that the Taliban was not behind September 11, and nobody claims otherwise, so to celebrate its overthrow is to define the problem backwards in light of events. Also, remember that the Northern Alliance marched into Kabul against the demands of the Bush administration: "We will encourage our friends to head south, but not into the city of Kabul itself," said Bush on November 10.
The second plumb line is more interesting. Knowing of the American public's propensity to quickly tire of war, they worry that Americans of short attention span will now demand dreaded isolation, especially with the holidays coming up. They hoped this would be the war that permanently unleashed the US imperial state, but now it threatens to be an example of precisely why such a thing is not needed: no ground troops, no draft, no home-front sacrifice, no state funerals, no hunkering down for the long term.
"President Bush promised that this would not be another bloodless, push-button war, but that is precisely what it has been," an angry Max Boot writes in the WSJ. "We have not shown a willingness to conduct ground operations in earnest. Our bombing campaign reveals great technical and logistical prowess, but it does not show that we have the determination to stick a bayonet in the guts of our enemy.... if we do not show soon that American soldiers can wage sustained ground combat — that we can practice the cruel art of warfare as relentlessly as our ancestors did — we may pay a heavy price later on."
Meanwhile, the US media continue to portray the Afghan operation as an extension of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. US war propaganda picked up the theme and ran with it. An astute observation from Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com: "It's interesting, too, how the rhetoric of the Afghan ‘liberators' and their Western supporters so closely resembles that of the Soviets at the time of the Russian invasion. The Russians claimed that they were liberating women, bringing education, and Western enlightenment to Afghanistan's medieval darkness: they, too, claimed to be agents of modernity..."
If you read Antiwar.com you would have seen the following from yesterday's newspapers, and please note the contrast with the silly network spin that the liberation of Afghanistan is all about rock music, shaved chins, and short dresses.
Reports The Times: "Northern Alliance forces have threatened to massacre up to 6,000 foreigners fighting with the Taliban in the besieged province of Kunduz. Local fighters would be given a chance to surrender, but Alliance commanders said they had given their troops explicit orders to shoot every foreign fundamentalist — including a handful of British Muslims — among the enemy ranks."
We learn from this Scottish story that "A leading Afghan refugee has called on Britain and America to save his homeland from the ‘rapists and gangsters who have stormed to power in his home country. Mohammad Narveen Asif, who fled Afghanistan two years ago for refuge in Glasgow, voiced concern that one evil has gone and another evil has come to take its place'. ... ‘I think almost every Afghan is happy to see women throwing off the burqa and the Taliban driven out, but the country has now fallen to a bunch of rapists and gangsters.'"
Another Times story reports that the Northern Alliance trapped 700 Taliban men in a school and crushed them with tanks. "Three days later Red Cross workers were still in the ruins taking out bodies."
Finally, it appears that the US campaign in Afghanistan has effectively restored some of the most feared warlords, including known communist murderers, anti-Western Islamic maniacs, and even bin Laden supporters.
To quote from the AP backgrounder:
KABUL: Burhanuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan's president from 1992-96, is titular head of the northern alliance, and he may be seeking his old job back. His Jamiat-i-Islami faction is the largest component of the alliance, which returned to the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Tuesday as the Taliban evacuated the city. There's speculation that Rabbani plans to return soon to Kabul. During his previous tenure, rival factions destroyed much of Kabul and killed an estimated 50,000 people, mostly civilians.
MAZAR-E-SHARIF: Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek and former general in the communist Afghan army, ran his fiefdom in northern Afghanistan out of Mazar-e-Sharif from 1992-97. Dostum's troops rolled into Mazar-e-Sharif on Friday as the northern alliance scored its first major victory, which turned into a rout in the northern half of the country. Dostum's men have a reputation for looting and pillaging, and the United Nations, without citing any group by name, has reported killings and lootings since the northern alliance took over.
JALALABAD: Yunus Khalis was a prominent guerrilla commander against the Soviets in the 1980s and was aligned with the Rabbani government from 1992 until its fall in 1996. He always maintained his distance from the regime, and when the Taliban took over in 1996, Khalis, a Muslim cleric, allied himself with the Taliban in Jalalabad. He never joined the movement. The Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, fought briefly with Khalis' party against the former Soviet Union. He appears to have negotiated a deal with the Taliban to hand over the city to him in return for allowing them to leave with their weapons. Khalis has declared himself independent of both the Taliban and the northern alliance. Khalis is anti-Western, deeply conservative and a friend to Arab militants, who has given refuge to many in the past. Even more significant for the United States is Khalis' support of bin Laden's Arab followers. Residents who live near Khalis farm in Farmada, barely 12 miles outside Jalalabad, said more than 1,000 Arab warriors lived at his farm. That was earlier this year. It's believed most of them have relocated to other camps, but still in Nangarhar province at locations like Darunta and Tora Bora.
As for American media culture, and the neocon plumb liners, none of this matters, because, of course, the fate of Afghanistan is the last thing on anyone's mind right now. Yes, we'll send some billions in foreign aid for rebuilding what we just destroyed, provided the right people get the contracts. But the main thing is we've got a victory to celebrate, and the threat of isolationist sentiment to crush.
November 17, 2001
Copyright © 2001 LewRockwell.com