EASTSIDER - Almost everyone witnessed the news media attacks on Joe Biden as he sought to end the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
They were relentless and nasty, and the sniping continues on. I think it is because the news media had become invested in the continuation of that war, courtesy of a crazy notion called “Nation Building.”
So why did the media do this and what does it tell us about what currently passes for “news” in the U.S.? Remember, back in the day of print media if it was in print it had to be fact checked beforehand. It is a great check and balance against going for sensationalism at the expense of objective reality. Well, in the world of instant electronic media that concept is no more.
War is nothing new for Afghanistan. Check this historical note from Wikipedia:
“The Afghanistan conflict is a series of wars fought in Afghanistan from 1978 through to the present day. Afghanistan has been in a continuous state of civil war since the Soviet invasion in 1979. Previously, the Kingdom of Afghanistan was overthrown in the relatively bloodless 1973 Afghan coup d'état, which brought the monarch Mohammed Zahir Shah’s 39-year reign to an end, and ended Afghanistan’s relatively peaceful period in modern history. Starting with the Saur Revolution military coup, an almost continuous series of armed conflicts has dominated and afflicted Afghanistan, including a Soviet invasion, a series of civil wars between mujahideen groups, notably the Taliban, a NATO invasion, a Taliban insurgency, and fighting between the Taliban and the Islamic State – Khorasan Province.”
Highlights go from the Saur Revolution in 1978, when the Communists overthrew the Republic of Afghanistan, led by President Mohammed Daoud Khan (and backed by Russia).The Russians got mired in this mess until around 1992, when Kabul fell, and the insurgents created the Islamic State of Afghanistan. As a footnote, the U.S. and its allies backed the insurgents against Russia, thereby inadvertently or on purpose helping the establishment of an Islamic State.
Ultimately, on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s watch (as well as NATO), Al-Qaeda launched a series of terrorist attacks culminating in the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. targets.
Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. then got busy with an invasion of Afghanistan, designed to take out Osama bin Laden and those Al-Qaeda extremists who were behind the Word Trade Center (and Pentagon) bombings.
After a protracted, expensive, and going nowhere war in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden was finally killed at his compound in Pakistan in 2011. Note that was 10 years after the World Trade Center bombings. As I recall, Bin Laden’s death was the initial goal after the World Trade Center disaster, yet the war continued.
Truth is, the war in Afghanistan never really ended, under Bush (2001-2009), Obama (2009-2017), and Trump (2007-2021). That’s 20 years, folks.
In a backwards nation with innate tribalism, once the U.S. invaded, the lure of nation building in the middle of nowhere reared its ugly head. Here’s a link to the Washington Post’s “The Afghanistan Papers,” which you can also find in book form.
“Since 2001, Washington has spent more on nation-building in Afghanistan than in any country ever, allocating $133 billion for reconstruction, aid programs and the Afghan security forces.
Adjusted for inflation, that is more than the United States spent in Western Europe with the Marshall Plan after World War II.
Unlike the Marshall Plan, however, the exorbitant nation-building project for Afghanistan went awry from the start and grew worse as the war dragged on, according to a trove of confidential government interviews with diplomats, military officials and aid workers who played a direct role in the conflict.”
Their conclusion was that:
"Speaking candidly on the assumption that most of their remarks would not be made public, those interviewed said Washington foolishly tried to reinvent Afghanistan in its own image by imposing a centralized democracy and a free-market economy on an ancient, tribal society that was unsuited for either.”
That’s nation building, and it never works. Check out Vietnam.
The Withdrawal and the Media Frenzy
It was against this background that President Biden decided enough was enough and determined to end the farce. Knowing that is was going to be ugly, yet knowing that it was a waste of human and financial resources which would never get better.
So, we pulled out, with the corrupt government taking their bags of cash and either fleeing in U.S. helicopters or cutting a deal with the Taliban. And the Afghan military rolled over instantly too, handing the Taliban a nice amount of U.S. armaments to use. A surprise? C’mon.
The news media, of course, had a hissy fit. As the Washington Monthly reported:
“Since the withdrawal of American citizens and at-risk Afghans began in earnest on August 14, the U.S. and global media have had a field day portraying the evacuation as President Joe Biden’s ‘Saigon’ moment—a fiasco for the administration, the nation, and the world.
The New York Times’ David Sanger wrote the pullout was “a humiliating final act in the American experiment in Afghanistan.” CNN’s Peter Bergen said that “Biden is presiding over a debacle entirely of his own making.” Tucker Carlson of Fox News opined that Biden is “not capable of running the country.”
For those of us who were watching the daily briefings plus the press conferences Biden held, let’s just say it was not the media’s best moment. The usually levelheaded talking heads at CNN and MSNBC were hurling accusations that somehow Biden was personally responsible for the collapse of the corrupt regime the U.S. had been supporting for almost 20 years, or somehow had a hand in the Afghan President filling his helicopter full of cash and beating it out of the country.
On the side of balance, again look at the Washington Monthly article:
“Biden came into office with more foreign policy experience than any president in three decades. In some ways, that experience might have worked against him. His absolute confidence in the rightness of his decision to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan may have clouded his judgment on planning the execution of that exit more wisely, deliberately, and carefully. But, in other and perhaps more profound ways, that experience has served him well, helping him to take the long view and ignore the inevitable backlash that would come from ending a war that much of the American political establishment has had a stake in for years.
“Biden was right to call an end to the deployment in Afghanistan. It has cost the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. military members and trillions of taxpayer dollars. The U.S. should have started a pullout after completing the original mission to attack and degrade Al Qaeda and eliminate Osama Bin Laden. Nearly 20 years after the September 11 attacks, Biden showed courage in choosing not to pass the decision to end the war on to the next president and avoid international controversy.”
Further, and totally ignored by the media, was the reality that most of the do-gooder NGOs were making good money with the unproven assumption that somehow, they were going to convert Afghanistan into a version of the United States. With no concept of what would happen to their people when the U.S. left.
Interpreters being given safe passage to the States I understand. They had a direct role with the military occupation. Why the U.S. is somehow responsible for all the women that NGOs were remaking in the image their counterparts in the United States is a different matter altogether. The NGOs need to look into themselves and see the ultimate result of their attempts.
I’m old enough to remember the Vietnam war. If you think this ending in Afghanistan was horrific, you don’t remember or are too young to have been around during that debacle. Check out the Fall of Saigon. So let’s not forget the real stakes here.
Let’s go back to the 2020 election for a minute. If you pore through the data, it is reasonably clear that if anyone other than Joe Biden had been the Democratic candidate for President, Donald Trump would still be in office. Think about that for a minute. Even as the media seems hell bent on taking him down.
Biden, faced with bare or no working majorities at all, is trying to steer the Congress forward, and is doing the best that he can. So even though I’m a confessed Bernie guy, I burn incense that Biden stays healthy until the 2024 election cycle.
Part of this I blame squarely on the electronic media as opposed to print media. Remember, when a newspaper puts out a paper, they have to fact check it and will be held accountable. When CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and the like stick the microphone under the President’s face and scream out their gotcha questions, all they are really doing is looking for ratings and maybe a personal promotion. Not the same at all, and shame on them.
So let’s all take a chill pill and see if we can hold this democracy of ours together with Joe Biden until 2024.
(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Photo image: Fox News. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.