Our Refusal to Learn the Lessons of History…

        South Vietnamese Fleeing the Fall of Saigon in 1975

 Dooms us to Repeating Costly Mistakes

After carefully surveying the human saga, Dr. George Santayana, a professor of Philosophy at Harvard, observed: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”  There has never been a nation for whom this axiom is more appropriate that the USA.  As I write the big story of the moment is the fall of Kabul, the capitol of Afghanistan, as the Taliban takes over the country.

One need only listen to President Biden’s speech at the beginning of the final , assuring us that the US retreat from Afghanistan would bear no resemblance to our retreat from Vietnam in 1975, to recognize that the US has learned nothing from history.  For even Stevie Wonder can see it’s SOS…same old shit!   Just look at the film…the South Vietnamese who had sided with the Americans in the war were storming the American embarkation point, holding onto the blades of helicopters as they ferried US personnel away, and crowds of Afghans are now holding onto US transport planes as the try to take off on the runways, in a desperate last ditch effort to escape the fate that awaits them at the hands of the Taliban.

When the persistent question arises, “how could this happen?” the routine answer is that there was “an intelligence failure.”  Of this there can be no denial.  However, the problem with this explanation is that few seem to recognize it is an intelligence failure that began over 60 years ago and has persisted ebbing and flowing like an ocean tide, with military conflicts returning in intervals like the theme of a bad song.  Alas, the US government, high on self-righteous hubris and fired up on the dangerous destructive fiction of “American Exceptionalism,” the misbegotten belief that “America is the essential nation” graced by God and destined to lead the world, traverses the globe attempting to pound the non-believers, the evil heretics, into submission.

It is this set of beliefs, which also holds the interests of US multi-national corporations sacred, requiring a pro-capitalist posture on the part of other nations, that has been the raison d’ etre for the continuous foreign wars that stains our history with the blood of peoples around the world who have suffered American interventions.  Hence the present disaster in Afghanistan cannot be understood apart from the history of US foreign interventions since the end of World War II, when the USA emerged as the most powerful nation in the world.

Armed with the awesome power of atomic bombs, a newly invented weapon whose unprecedented capacity for widescale destruction had been recently demonstrated by the horrible bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – which many observers regard as a war crime since it was an indiscriminate attack on civilians – along with the most developed and productive economy in the world, the US elite set out to realize Henry Luce’s earlier prediction that the 20th century would be “The American Century.”

In order to achieve this Pax Americana, a post war world order where all roads would lead to America, just as they had once led to Rome under the ancient Pax-Romana, there was first the matter of nullifying the influence of Communism, which placed the US in direct conflict with Soviet Russia, who had been a critical US ally in the war against the fascist axis powers of Italy, Nazi Germany and the Japanese “Empire of the Rising Sun,” which sought to unite all of Asia under Japanese leadership. “Asia for the Asians” they cried, even as they raped the Chinese city of Nanking with unprecedented cruelty, while invading Korea and Vietnam.

Having defeated the Fascist powers in a grand alliance with the Soviet Union, in which the Russians had lost 27 million people, the United States now considered them the paramount obstacle to American global ambitions, keeping the world safe for US capitalism.  Hence the policy of “Containment” was hatched by US foreign policy wonks such as George Kennan, and put into practice by American statesman and bureaucrats led by the Dullies brothers, Allen and John Foster, who served as CIA Director and Secretary Of State during the crucial years of the 1950’s when the Cold War began.

Watching the world they were making, Dr. WEB DuBois, the most prescient American social scientist/ historian/activist of the 20th century, observed: “If the Dullies brother are wise men then God save our fools!” History verifies the gravity of Dr. DuBois’s remarks because the policies initiated by the Dullies Brothers led to Korea, Vietnam, the overthrow of Iranian democracy in 1953, the genocidal repression in Guatemala, support for right wing dictators all over the Americas and the world, from the murderous Sukarno in Indonesia, the Cuban strongman Fulgencio Batista, a corrupt American puppet whose oppressive regime led to a popular people’s revolution led by Fidel Castro – young idealistic middle-class lawyer who was radicalized by Batista’s nullification of an election won by progressives dedicated to ushering in a more equitable society that overthrew him, nationalized the vast tracks of land owned by the US based United Fruit Company which paid starvation wages, and began to build a socialist society in Cuba.

Had the US government stood up for democracy in Batista’s Cuba, there might never have been a revolution.  And had they embraced the revolution instead of automatically resorting to the “Containment” policy Castro would not have been driven into the waiting arms of the Soviet Union in an alliance for national survival.  If President Kennedy had not decided to try and overthrow the Cuban Revolution by supporting the corrupt racist white Cuban exiles in the misbegotten “Bay of Pigs” invasion, the history of US Cuban relations could have been entirely different and mutually beneficial, positive and productive rather than negative and destructive, as would the history of all the Americas over the last half century.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the last decade of the 20th century – the reasons for which are too complex to dissect here, but Vladimir Putin has called it “the greatest tragedy” of the last century – the world looked forward to a period of planetary peace free of constant wars and rumors of wars, with the horrible specter of nuclear annihilation ever hovering in the shadows.

Americans especially were giddy at the prospect of a “peace dividend” where the billions being squandered on maintaining a warfare state would be put to good use solving the myriad problems confronting American society.  And the military-industrial complex – a voracious monster consuming a large proportion of American treasure and intellectual talent, an unholy alliance between industry and the military that President Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Allied forces in Europe that defeated the Nazi’s, warned against at its inception –  would be put in check and eventually dismantled.

But this promise of a future free of perpetual wars proved to be a short- lived illusion.  For the policy of containing communism would soon be reincarnated as the “War on Terror,” an American effort to contain the spread of radical Islamic theology, whose growth was largely a response to odious American policies in Islamic countries that produced both the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the terrorist attack by Islamic Jihadist on America of 9/11.

Hence the present debacle in Afghanistan has deep roots in decades of American foreign policy that has kept the US mired in the muck of constant military conflicts, large and small, overt and covert, since the end of World War II.  The intellectual roots of the Afghan war can be found in the machinations of the policy wonks of the Project for a New American Century, that were installed in the American national security apparatus after Dirty Dick Cheney – Liz Cheney’s daddy – brought them into the administration of George W. Bush.

After the disastrous attack by Islamic Jihadist on 9/11, their hawkish theories became official US foreign policy, effectively replacing the more cautious counsel  of Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice with the reckless imperialist vision of the likes of  warmongering wonks such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, et al.

It was a view premised on the vision of a unipolar world with the US reigning as the only global superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where the US could successfully pursue a policy of Pax-Americana – a new world order based on the prolific use of military power in pursuit of American objectives around the world – with Israel and Saudi Arabia playing pivotal roles in the containment of militant Islam.  The thinking that led us into the present hot mess in Afghanistan, a defeat more inglorious than Vietnam, can be clearly seen in a policy paper formulated in the Project for a New American Century.” 

Titled “Redesigning America’s Defenses,” it was a plan in search of a President foolish enough to implement it – I have published an extensive analysis elsewhere titled “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank.” It will soon be available online.   They tried to introduce it during the Administration of George The First, Bush the Elder, but as a former head of the CIA, he understood too much about the realities of the world to embark on such a reckless adventure.  Cheyney and Donald Rumsfeld made their pitch for the ideas that would later appear in the PNAC policy paper when Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Operation Desert Storm, whose mission was to drive the invading armies of Saddam Hussein out of oil rich Kuwait.

Cheney and Rumsfeld, both prominent members of the Bush Administration, wanted to use the conflict to topple Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, but General Powell put the brakes on this blatant attempt at mission creep and uttered the now famous advice to President George HW Bush. Invoking the Pottery Barn Rule, he said: ”If you break it you own it.”  Pointing out that if the US took down Saddam, we would be responsible for putting Iraq back together again.  Wisely, President Bush listened to General Powell, rejecting the advice of the future founders of The Project for a New American Century, whom he and General Powell routinely called “The Crazies” behind their backs.

With the election of George Bush Jr. aka “Clueless George,” the Crazies got the opportunity they had been waiting for.  Dick Cheney, a founder of the Neo-Con think tank, was now Vice President of the United States, and placed in charge of choosing key personnel in the national security apparatus.  And, predictably, Cheyney chose policy wonks from his think tank PNAC.  After the 9/11 Jihadist terror attack on the US, Clueless George panicked and turned to them for guidance – effectively sidelining Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.  And this resulted in the invasions that launched the wars in which we are finally ending in humiliating defeat a generation later!  Alas, looking at the photos of Afghans holding onto departing American military planes in 2021, is indeed like watching a rerun of the US departure from Vietnam in 1975.

            Attempting to Flee Afghanistan with Americans

A Defeated America Retreats 2021

 So, yes there was indeed an intelligence failure that led to our debacle in Afghanistan, but it began in the middle of the last century, when the American government began to believe that they could shape the nations of the world to conform to American desires through containment of undesirable movements, covert political subversion, and armed intervention into the affairs of other nations. There is a straight line from those decisions to now, albeit with some bizarre twists turns and cul de sacs.

Hence when the question of where things went wrong in Afghanistan comes up, the “intelligence failure” that led to the present disaster, I am reminded of a conversation between the great pugilist Sugar Ray Robinson and the Judge conducting an inquest after Robinson accidently beat an opponent to death in the ring.  “When did you know your opponent was in trouble Mr. Robinson,” asked the Judge.  To wit Sugar replied: “I knew he was in trouble when he signed the contract your honor.”

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

8/17/2021

 

 

THE TRIUMPH OF THE TALIBAN IN AFGHANISTAN….

Taliban Leaders in the Afghan President’s Office
It Was All Predictable: A Classic Case of American Folly!

Over a quarter century ago, when the US government thought it was a good Idea to arm the radical Islamic fundamentalists with advanced US weaponry, I thought it was a grave mistake and said so in a “Commentary on the Times,” which was then a series broadcast over WBAI fm radio in New York City, where the Commentaries series was created nearly 40 years ago. At the time, the Islamic Jihadists were called the “Mujahadeen,” and we were told they were righteous “freedom fighters.” Our government bequeathed this honorific on these soldiers of Allah because at the time their Jihad was aimed at the Soviet Union, their communist neighbor, with whom the USA had been embroiled in a “Cold War” since the middle of the 20th century.

In their struggle for world supremacy the white American elite formed alliances with all sorts of smarmy characters. Right-wing dictators were a favorite in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the islands of the seven seas. Hence today we see the US in bed with the murderous theiving Saudi Royal Family and the Brazilian fascist Bolsonaro, while still trying to reverse the peoples revolution of Cuba – where low life lying scoundrels and political reactionaries like Republican Governor de Santis, and Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz would be preferable as leaders on the island.

It was this kind of twisted thinking that led to the argument that we should support and promote Islamic fundamentalism because as “people of the book,” all believers in the great “Abrahamic religions” – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – we have much more in common with them than the communist atheist of Soviet Russia.

Guided by this flawed logic the US government dispatched the CIA – “Community Improvement Association” in the view of deluded “American Exceptionalist” – who proceeded to arm and train the Islamic Jihadist in league with the military intelligence services of Pakistan, a nuclear armed nation whose government and military is riddled with Muslim fundamentalist. And we were assured these Muslim militants were “freedom fighters” who stood with us against the advance of communism in the Islamic world.

Alas, history has shown they created a hydra headed monster that begin with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, which morphed into ISIS! Once the Russians were driven from Afghanistan these forces turned against “The Great Satan,” the enabler of the Zionist in Israel, and Christian “Crusaders.” Who have been enemies of Allah since the days of the Crusades during Medieval times.

It was a classic case of folly, as defined by the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning historian Barbra Tuckman in her path-breaking book “The March of Folly.” Simply put, “Folly” occurs when a nation pursues a policy despite the fact that all the historical and contemporary evidence presages disaster!

Hence if the results were not so tragic for the innocent citizens of Afghanistan seeking to live free in the modern world- especially the women and girls – it would be hella funny watching all the know-it-all white pundits wringing their hands and wondering WTF happened? Alas, one need not possess the prescience of the Prophet in order to have predicted this disaster.   I will soon post an extended analysis on this question.

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A NOTE TO THE SEEKER OF WISDOM AND TRUTH: In trying to see things clearly, it helps immeasurably if your head is not stuck up yo ass!!!!!

Playthell George Benjamin
Harlem, New York
August 29, 2021

 

A Suicide Bombing in Kabul!

It Was Bound to Happen…

Chaos reigns at the Kabul airport while gunfire, and two blasts from suicide bombers, blow people apart as they desperately struggle to make their way into the building and onto planes parked on the tarmac, fleeing the ensuing terror and slaughters that will surely follow the American retreat and the collapse of the Afghan government and national army.

While we do not yet have an accurate account of the casualties, which are still being tallied as I write, thus far over 40 deaths and hundreds of wounded have been accounted for. And observers on the ground speak of “piles of mangled bodies” on the street, unfortunately several are of US Troops according to the Pentagon.

In a country teeming with Islamic zealots, each convinced that they are serving the will of Allah and dying for the cause is viewed as a glorious act, a suicide bombing should surprise no one who has been paying attention to the modern Islamic Jihad. It is a movement splintered by theology and ideology, and these differences have led to deadly confrontations between contending factions.

Aside from the deep historic theological difference between the Sunni and Shia adherents to Islamic dogma, there are fractures between the  heavily armed Jihadist: Isis, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban.  While the Jihadist movement is often treated as a monolith by western policy makers, in truth they are sleeping in the same bed but dreaming different dreams. Which appears to be the source of the present attacks at the airport.

Yet despite these internecine conflicts in the Jihadist movement, the sunni Islamic Caliphate of Afghanistan will now take its place beside the shite Islamic Republic of Iran as the world’s second nation to come under the rule of Islamic theocrats.  A country where Sharia, a crude medieval religious code, crafted before the age of Enlightenment in the west, will become the fundamental law of the land.  And if history as well as recent experience serves as a guide, it will be enforced with the fervor of religious fanatics certain that only they know the real-truth, Allah’s Divine plan for man.

Certainly, that is what a wide swarth of Afghan society believes, especially the urban intellectual and scientific elite, which is why they are hurriedly voting with their feet, as they hasten to the Kabul airport trying to hop a flight to anywhere in the west.  This is why the Taliban leadership, as backward and deluded as they are, insist that there is no need for the best and brightest Afghanis to flee, trying to plug the brain drain by pledging to respect human rights and protect the rights of women.

They argue that instead of being afraid the Afghan people should be proud of the brave Taliban warriors, who just fought a 20-year protracted war against the world’s most powerful nation and drove the foreign infidels from the mountains and fields of their beloved country.

However, as has been often noted: The devil is in the details.  And when we consider the fact that “Taliban” means “Seminarian,” or students of the Koran,  their claim that women will be treated justly under the strictures of “Sharia Law,” must be viewed with a jaundiced eye.  Alas, there are few citizens of the US who claim to be devout Christians, that are willing to live under a strict fundamentalist interpretation of biblical injunctions.

Who among us are prepared to take literally the Old Testament injunction to take “an eye for and eye, a tooth for a tooth”?  Or that women found guilty of committing adulty should be publicly stoned.  But that is just what the Taliban is doing in their interpretation of the commandments of the Koran and the admonitions of Sharia.

As the incidents of deadly violence increases, it is clear that the American retreat from Afghanistan is a hot mess; the cure for which nobody has an answer.  One need only listen to the mindless prattle of General H.R. Macmaster, Donald Trump’s second National Security Advisor, who was a field commander in two Gulf Wars, sounds really silly with his butt hurt  blather about how this is the moment that the US should go for the win, the kill, taking advantage of the disorganized state of the Taliban.

One does not have to be a learned military strategist, as Macmaster claims to be alas, in order to know that a recommitment of US armed forces in Afghanistan with the objective of “winning” a military victory, is the definition of Mighty Whitey madness!

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Playthell George Benjamin

Harlem, New York

August 29, 2021