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Reflections of a Northern Californian on Afghanistan

Who didn’t see it coming? The Taliban take-over of Afghanistan. Maybe not as fast and as dramatic as it happened. But anyone without blinders had to have seen it coming from a long way off. The British were defeated in Afghanistan and so were the Russians. Why did Americans at the centers of what passes for power think that U.S. troops would be able to prevail when troops from other nations were pushed out. Reading the news from Kabul and looking at the images I couldn’t help but be reminded of the U.S. withdrawal from Saigon, the helicopters hovering above “our” embassy and the images of the Vietnamese desperate to get out before their city was “liberated” by the Viet Cong. Someone once said to me “What’s so intelligent about the Central Intelligence Agency?” The obvious answer is very little if anything. The CIA has missed most of the big events of the past sixty years and so has American journalism which has marched in step too often to the drum beat of the generals in the military. I am not cheering for the victory of the Taliban. What I feel now is a great sadness and sense of grief about the loss of Afghani and American lives. Sadness and grief for the ancient nation, wedged between Iran, Pakistan and the other “stands,” thousands of miles away from California, New York and Texas bombed and battered, its citizens tortured, betrayed and lied to again and again. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this now, but I will say it anyway. War crimes have been committed, perhaps by all sides; the war criminals are perhaps everywhere. They have been in the White House—Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld—the State Department, the Pentagon and beyond. I have friends who served in Afghanistan. I love them dearly. I remember women students in my classes at Sonoma State University whose husbands were in uniform in Afghanistan and who told me again and again they were against the war and for the soldiers. How can you not be for the soldiers? American men and women sent overseas to shed their blood and surrender their limbs and their lives to prop up an Empire, which all the evidence suggests, is slowly crumbling before our very eyes. What imperial hubris! Will the architects of invasions, occupations and genocide never learn? It would seem so, even at this late date. The New York Times calls Afghanistan “a tragedy.” It is that. It is also yet another colossal stain on our nation that was born of blood and slavery, conquest and extermination. Could we have our eyes wide open and not lie to ourselves as we move into the future?

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