In Praise of Joe Biden

Never thought I’d put that in a title.

I don’t like Joe Biden. I think his working class shtick is as phony as a street corner Rolex. He’s a liar. He’s a corporate sycophant. He’s a masher creep around women and girls. And he’s kind of an asshole in general (I know, takes one to know one). His political record is one long disaster. But . . .

. . . Joe Biden did not fuck up with Afghanistan. He made the cleanest getaway possible, and this was altogether the right thing to do, no matter the fallout. There was no other way. For twenty years, we’ve been “turning the corner” in Afghanistan. It may not have occurred to many Americans — immersed as we are in militarism and American exceptionalism — that the American/NATO presence in Afghanistan was making things worse for Afghanis and more dangerous for the world.

The fallout — those dramatic images we are seeing of the Taliban re-establishing its authority — was built into the whole enterprise. Those who are chagrined by the Taliban takeover may not realize that ever since the US took over, the country has been run by thieves and a potpourri of militias. The ordering principle of the whole occupation has been a great river of US cash flowing through Kabul and out to America’s Afghan clients. Without that flow, the whole thing collapses . . . has collapsed. The Taliban will reassert control, because they always had control and popular support or it wouldn’t have been that easy, and Afghanistan’s state of struggle — a constant for a good long while — will shift from the foreign occupier to an internal ordering which none of us can yet see . . . and which is not the privilege or responsibility of the US to decide.

This is still better than the alternative — the US stays for another twenty years waiting to turn that damn corner — a Betty Crocker recipe for perpetuating war. You know why some of us oldsters know this? We remember Vietnam. We’d seen this movie.

The US is not morally, socially, or politically fit to run the affairs of people halfway around the world. Forgotten — in the plethora of images being pumped into the fires of public outrage by the military-industrial-media complex — are the atrocities of “our side,” of the state of extreme exception that has been normalized since 2001, of the expansion of the war into seven countries by Obama, of the torture and execution black sites, the drone strikes against civilians, and the fascist Patriot Act. Unreported were the day-to-day humiliations and abuses that are committed by ALL occupying forces everywhere and throughout history.

I’ll tell you who made out like bandits, though. War industries and their politicians. Mercenary “contractors.” Cable news.

I completely understand, even if I disagree with, the sentiment of veterans and military families: “Can this all be for nothing? Did all those people spend all that time and effort, some losing life, limb, or eyesight . . . was all that treasure spent ($2.26 trillion conservatively) . . . for nothing?”

It’s an important question, because its the question that will become a campaign slogan soon enough, even though the answer is far less satisfying and politically effective than attacking Joe Biden for this affront to the nation’s masculinity. To those veterans and military families — from a retired Army veteran who belongs to a very military family — I say, yes, it was all for nothing . . . like a tragic accident, only one that someone did on purpose. It was all for nothing . . . if we let it be; that is, if we fail to learn from this. That’s how we make it “worth it,” as if such an accounting weren’t part of the bodyguard of lies that accompanies all wars.

I’m praising Joe Biden. This departure took guts. It takes guts in a culture so steeped in simulacra, manufactured myth, and incessant political maneuvering to do a thing that’s simultaneously necessary and sure to produce unsavory results. Whatever else Biden does that pisses me off in the future — and that’s a sure thing — he deserves credit, not all this hand-wringing and blame. He has confronted the Archons of the military-industrial-media complex, who are writhing and raging now across the screens of cable news — an industry taken over by the same ideology that got us into Afghanistan in the first place: neoconservatism, an arrogant and clueless late imperial ideology now spouted on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC.

Biden is not to blame for a “debacle” in Afghanistan.

This exercise in mortal stupidity started with George W. Bush, and cheered on by the media. It was extended and expanded by Bush II (Obama). It was denounced by Trump, but allowed to go on, because even Trump didn’t have the guts to risk a hit to the very performative masculinity that fueled his popular appeal. The occupation was not wine, improving with age. It was a wound festering to gangrene, and now there had to be an amputation. And none of them, not Bush, not Obama, not Trump, had the guts to say, “Stop!” Only Biden, at long last. Praise be!

Politicians won’t be kind to Biden. His fellow Democrats are exhibiting a craven cowardice as this is written, piling on the bash-Biden train while that sense of a wounded national masculinity is inflamed by the bellows of cable news and their weapons manufacturing sponsors. Remember them. Republicans — who would have backed Trump if he’d have had the courage to leave Afghanistan — are already sharpening their knives for 2022. Remember their chicken-livered, opportunistic asses, too. History will pour shit over their memories long after they have their little opportunistic day. Biden will be remembered — in spite of his many character defects and his sordid political history — as the President who had the guts to confront them all.

I remember 2001, right after the September 11 attacks. The national hysteria was at a peak, the thirst for Muslim blood palpable in the street. Black people I knew who never flew US flags in their yards felt intimidated into displaying them as a defense against the surge of bloodthirsty patriotism. A few of us — on the left, naturally — opposed the imminent invasion of Afghanistan. I was part of a panel at UNC that opposed it; and we were put on Lynne Cheney’s little “enemies list.” Throughout the population at large, around five percent would go on record in those days just after the attacks and say they opposed an invasion. We were isolated, just as Joe Biden is isolated today, but we established an island of resistance where more and more people could take refuge from the delirium.

Now, twenty years hence, we are seeing the end of that war. And again, we are hidden in the fog of manufactured outrage for a time. Please join us again — this time to defend Joe Biden’s withdrawal. Establish an outpost of sense for the days to come, from where we can resist the cable-news sirens, and from where we have to begin pushing back on these well-financed narratives of America’s “emasculation,” of American exceptionalism, and of yet another “stabbed-in-the-back-by-politicians” fascist myth.

I don’t like Joe Biden. I think his working class shtick is as phony as a street corner Rolex. He’s a liar. He’s a corporate sycophant. He’s a masher creep around women and girls. And he’s kind of an asshole in general (I know, takes one to know one). His political record is one long disaster. But . . .

God bless Joe Biden for ending this obscenity.

Stan Goff retired from the US Army in February 1996. He is a veteran of the US occupation of Vietnam, and seven other conflict areas. His books include Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull Press), Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century (Soft Skull Books), Borderline: Reflections on War, Sex, and Church (Cascade Books), Mammon’s Ecology: Metaphysic of the Empty Sign (Cascade Books), Tough Gynes: Violent Women in Film as Honorary Men (Cascade Books), and Smitten Gate (a novel about Afghanistan, from Club Orlov Press).