Forever Wars Matt Taibbi

The Most Terrifying Part of the Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan

As the Taliban waltzes into Kabul, the look of surprise on the faces of top officials should frighten us most of all.
[Screen shot / YouTube]

By Matt Taibbi

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, when asked months ago about the possibility that there might be a “significant deterioration” of the security picture in Afghanistan once the United States withdrew its forces, said, “I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.”

Blinken’s Nostradamus moment was somehow one-upped by that of his boss, Joe Biden, who on July 8th had the following exchange with press:

Q: Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.

BIDEN: That is not true, they did not reach that conclusion… There is going to be no circumstance where you see people lifted off the roof of an embassy… The likelihood that you’re going to see the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.

Down to their own stunningly (perfectly?) inaccurate mis-predictions of what would take place once our military forces left the country, Biden administration officials could not have scripted a worse ending to the twenty-year disaster that has been our occupation of Afghanistan.

Every image coming out of Afghanistan this past weekend was an advertisement for the incompetence, arrogance, and double-dealing nature of American foreign policy leaders. Scenes of military dogs being evacuated while our troops fire weapons in the air to disperse humans desperate for a seat out of the country will force every theoretical future ally to think twice about partnering with us:

News that the military was forced to re-deploy troops to Afghanistan in order to ensure an “orderly and safe” withdrawal is being met with justifiable eye-rolling worldwide. It’s a little late for that:

The pattern is always the same. We go to places we’re not welcome, tell the public a confounding political problem can be solved militarily, and lie about our motives in occupying the country to boot. Then we pick a local civilian political authority to back that inevitably proves to be corrupt and repressive, increasing local antagonism toward the American presence.

In response to those increasing levels of antagonism, we then ramp up our financial, political, and military commitment to the mission, which in turn heightens the level of resistance, leading to greater losses in lives and treasure. As the cycle worsens, the government systematically accelerates the lies to the public about our level of “progress.”

Throughout, we make false assurances of security that are believed by significant numbers of local civilians, guaranteeing they will later either become refugees or targets for retribution as collaborators. Meanwhile, financial incentives for contractors, along with political disincentives to admission of failure, prolong the mission.

This all goes on for so long that the lies become institutionalized, believed not only by press contracted to deliver the propaganda (CBS’s David Martin this weekend saying with a straight face, “Everybody is surprised by the speed of this collapse” was typical), but even by the bureaucrats who concocted the deceptions in the first place.

The look of genuine shock on the face of Tony Blinken this weekend as he jousted with Jake Tapper about Biden’s comments from July should tell people around the world something important about the United States: in addition to all the other things about us that are dangerous, we lack self-knowledge.

Even deep inside the machine of American power, where everyone paying even a modicum of attention over the last twenty years should have known Kabul would fall in a heartbeat, they still believe their own legends. Which means this will happen again, and probably sooner rather than later.


  1. They have to lie and counsel cheery news. This is part of the job. The U.S. military has been dangerous and incompetent since Korea. It is not going to change without a complete economic and political overhaul of the U.S. The problem is Silicon Valley, Wall Street, private military contractors, domestic security companies and our immense arms industry all financially gain from war, occupation, jails, detention and arms sales. It is now built into the capitalist economy, which is why they can’t stop it… and won’t.

  2. American triumphalism has gone the way of the American dream – you have to be asleep to believe it. The question is how much longer will the world have to pay for our denial.

  3. All this political, military, and media hypocrisy would be “funny” if it weren’t for the tens of million killed, maimed, and displaced throughout the world as a result of US “foreign policy” since WW2. It’s impossible to overstate how psychopathic, sadistic, murderous, and undemocratic our “elected representatives” have acted in the name of their constituents without our approval. Ditto for our “domestic policy” of wealth inequality and police brutality.

  4. I agree that the USA has had a horrible foreign policy re so-called nation-building for probably its entire existence, but think all animals on earth, including humans and dogs and wildlife, equally deserve to be treated with compassion. I am referring to Mr. Taibbi’s implying that the evacuation of military dogs and the dispersing of humans desperate for evacuation were odious. Both the humans desperate for evacuation and the dogs deserve to be evacuated. And dogs are innocent creatures. Only humans are odious. Shooting to disperse humans is odious, but I personally will always give precedence to animals over human beings. ( I have never been in a position, for instance, where I have been forced to chose between my safety and the safety of my own dogs, however. I hope never to be in that position). But I am sick of newspeople’s never mentioning (to my knowledge), for instance, the toll that the USA’s current wildfires in the west are taking on wildlife and livestock. I do remember that that coverage was given to Australia’s wildlife during destructive wildfires there.

  5. The arrogance of those in charge is only surpassed by their hubris and incompetence….

  6. Sadly, the bulk of the people clamoring to get out are the very ones that have benefited the most from the Afghan scam. The average Afghan is powerless. Those at the airport are the ones that were largely at the feeding trough. I assume we will be offering refuge to the military officers and government officials and employees who were raking off the money intended for the Afghan troops. And I saw it first hand as a soldier in Afghanistan.

  7. If we had dumped the money we spent in Afghanistan into Mexico and Latin America we wouldn’t have the border problem we have.
    Oh sheesh. Silly me. We would’ve screwed that up too. US contractors and corrupt country officials would take most of the money off the top.

  8. I recall the day before Kabul fell and the Taliban walked into a city of 5 million unimpeded, that the mainstream press was spouting: “Not before 90 days”. andsoitgoes… American citizens are becoming complacent as well as complicit, by not resisting and rising up in protest towards all these incursions and lies.

  9. Anyone old enough to remember Popeye knows that each time he was on the verge of defeat during a brutal assault by the enormous bully Bluto he would pull a can of spinach from under his shirt and POW! One would think Bluto would have learned his lesson given the inevitability of the outcome but self reflection was never his strong suit. Hmm. Leads one to think spinach must be wildly popular in poor third world countries such as North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc.

  10. American militaristic foreign policy is counter productive to our national interests, severely weakens the US, wasting vast amounts of resources and is assinine almost beyond belief, but of course that does not matter a whit, not a whit, literally the only thing that matters is that we do whatever it takes so that the MIC can keep reaping billions upon billions in profit every year. That
    is why military (and civilian leaders) are the moral equivalent of old time carpetbaggers, self-serving careerists, unscrupulous yes men that will lie, deceive, and obfuscate as much as it takes as their prime directive is to advance their career and do whatever it takes to get into that revolving door of ending up on a corporate board to do their part in feeding the vast pig trough of corruption. That is why US generals that lose wars through sheer stupidity and mismanagement and blatently losing strategies (or on top of that are even guilty of divulging secrets and getting in bed with “biographers”, conduct unbecoming…?) are celebrated, eulogized heros (incompetent buffoons like McChrystal, Petraeus) paraded on corporate media like Sun Tzu sages of war or brilliant commanders following in the footsteps of Clausewitz. A far cry from honorable Japanese commanders committing Seppuku when losing a battle or war. As long as they can keep conjuring up new conflicts, new enemies, new “threats”, more nations in dire need of “nation building” or just needing to be whipped into line for defying US economic interests, in other words to keep concocting endless “justifications” for spending more on the military and private mercenary armies then the next 10 or so nations combined, ensuring that taxpayer money keeps flowing down the endless trough. The sad fact is we dont care a hoot about learning from past mistakes, Vietnam, Afghanistan etc in fact that might be threatening and be anathema if it meant there was less incentive to invade, interfere and wreak havoc in other nations, justifying the continued ever more vast cannibalizing of US resources for military armament. Really now, ask yourself honestly who really gives a damn that we wasted 2+ trillion $ in Afghanistan over 20 futile years or bequeathed billions upon billions in military equipment to the Taliban, just another excuse to churn out more ad infinitum….

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