There’s an unhappy photo on the Associated Press of what appears to be a CH-47 Chinook hovering over Kabul evacuating diplomats. It looks distressingly like an iconic photograph of a Huey hovering over a U.S. office building to evacuate employees during the fall of Saigon 45 years earlier.
The U.S. spends a decade propping up a corrupt, ineffectual government fighting a war-hardened, determined enemy. Then, when we finally have had enough, we pull out. Within weeks or days of the beginning of the final assault, the government supported by the U.S. implodes.
I was incensed when Bush ordered the attack on Afghanistan. The Taliban wanted evidence that Bin Laden was the mastermind for 9/11 before turning him over to the U.S. Bush ignored this offer and invaded. The rest is history, despite the lesson not learned in Vietnam. LBJ summed up the wisdom entirely: “We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” Unfortunately, he was sucked into an Asian quagmire. Afghanistan was so much worse than a place to start a land war in Asia: land-locked, mountainous, and deeply backward. What fool would think that democracy would work there?
The country was in great shape as Clinton left office: a good economy, a budget surplus, and the world's respect. Bush was systematically erasing all this while an unconscious American public was on its daily oblivious grind. I remember seeing a teary-eyed Boston White Sox fan lamenting her team’s loss on the news. I was disgusted. A friend who, just six months previously, had admonished me for my time in the Marines, remarked that maybe the invasion was the best thing to do, considering how the Taliban treated women. Despite the death in Central Asia, a relative sent me a humorous chain email. I did something I try to never do: flame someone on a digital platform.
The headlines are reporting that the Afghan president has fled the country. Ten years. 212,191 dead. The tragedy is that 47, 245 of those deaths are civilians.
All for nothing except the whim of an American President who wanted to show how tough he was.