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POINTING FINGERS: Who’s really to blame for the Afghanistan fiasco? Comment on this post ↓
August 28th, 2021 by Warren Swil

Cheney, Rumsfeld enabled

disastrous Taliban takeover

Rummy spurned ‘total surrender’

In the historical context, the sometimes venomous criticism being aimed at President Joe Biden for recent events in Afghanistan is grossly misdirected.

SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, chief architect of the Afghanistan disaster.

SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, chief architect of the Afghanistan disaster.

The seeds of the current disaster were sown almost 20 years ago by the hubris and malfeasance of then-Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Without their mistakes and arrogance, the Taliban would have been consigned to the dustbin of history decades ago.
You might include President George W. Bush on this list, but we all know who really was running the country in 2002.
Americans’ historical amnesia is showing. We would do well to remember the past so we can avoid repeating it.

A timely reminder came Aug. 23 in The New York Times article Did the War in Afghanistan Have to Happen? in which Alissa J. Rubin reported that as early as Nov. 2001 the Taliban were ready for unconditional surrender.

The New York Times provided a timely reminder of how Rummy and others screwed up Afghanistan.

The New York Times provided a timely reminder of how Rummy and others screwed up Afghanistan.

The man who would soon become Afghanistan’s new president Hamid Karzai “envisioned a Taliban surrender that would keep the militants from playing any significant role in the country’s future,” Rubin reported.
But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was having none of it.
“The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders,” Rumsfeld said in a news conference at the time. The United States wanted him captured or dead, Rummy said.
Gosh, who is surrendering now?
Rubin continues: “Now, with the Taliban back in power, some … are looking back at a missed chance by the United States, all those years ago, to pursue a Taliban surrender that could have halted America’s longest war in its infancy, or shortened it considerably, sparing many lives.”
Bingo!
Furthermore, who can forget the infamous meeting with the Pentagon chiefs Rumsfeld had on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001. The Guardian later reported “On the afternoon of 9/11, according to contemporaneous notes, Secretary Rumsfeld instructed General Myers [the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] to obtain quickly as much information as possible. The secretary said his instinct was to hit Saddam Hussein at the same time, not only Bin Laden.

The infamous "notes" from 9/11.

The infamous “notes” from 9/11.

“Best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit SH at same time – not only UBL [Pentagon shorthand for Usama/Osama bin Laden],” the notes say. (See fuzzy image at right.)

And thus began what is arguably THE WORST foreign policy blunder in American history – the pivot from Afghanistan to Iraq.
By early 2002, then-Vice President Cheney was leading the ‘amen chorus’ as the clamor for invading Iraq began.
In his August speech to the national convention of the VFW, he said: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction; there is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”
He was infamously echoed by National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice who said on Sept. 8, 2002: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
PullquoteBarely six months later, the US invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam.
Forgotten in the fog of war was that the job in Afghanistan was far from done. The Taliban had retreated to Pakistan, where a decade later President Barack Obama would find Osama bin Laden hiding and kill him.
To those Monday-morning quarterbacks directing their ire at President Biden over the near miraculous evacuation of more than 110,000 people from Afghanistan in just two weeks: remember your history!
This did not have to happen at all. It was not pre-ordained. It could all have been avoided if Bush, Cheney and their neocon cohorts had toned down their Saddam rhetoric and kept their focus on the Taliban.
History is an unforgiving mistress!

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2 Responses  
  • Roger Mahrine writes:
    August 28th, 2021

    I had a chance to speak with an ex-Marine recently whose wife is also an ex-Marine. He comes from a military family, so he is well versed in the patriotic service ideology. I asked him his thoughts on Afghanistan and the withdrawal. He noted some of the same issues Warren raises–SHussein had no weapons of mass destruction and had nothing to do with 9/11. In my view those two lies are worse than the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” which was used to rationalize US escalation in Vietnam. This marine also noted the sadness he feels for those who served and lost a buddy, or were injured etc. He did not really have any insight into the suffering of the Afghan people–that was too big of a leap for him. Still, if veterans and soldiers begin to challenge the imperial agenda, that is a terrific thing.
    Thank you Warren for your insightful blog!

  • Bjorn Palenius writes:
    August 29th, 2021

    Well, yes, of COURSE it could have been dealt with years ago, but the mess TODAY with Biden who’s simply too old and spaced out to do this right, could have chosen to plan it better! NO, anyone who thinks Biden did a good job on this, needs to have their head examined! He just wanted to do ANYTHING against Trump’s better executed plan for this!


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