Afghanistan and the Racism of Imperial Progress

In case you haven’t noticed, the shit has kind of hit the fucking fan in Kabul. If you haven’t noticed, you must be Amish and I envy you because the banshees of cable news have been screaming about that god forsaken city nonstop since it fell to the Taliban last week. They’ve been screaming about the thousands of refugees flooding the airport and packing military transport planes like sardines around the clock. They’ve been screaming about the plight of Afghan women back under the tutelage of the bearded barbarians our benevolent occupation shielded them from. And they’ve been screaming bloody fucking murder about the shame our glorious empire now faces before the international community for botching the exit of that twenty year occupation so heinously.

Of coarse much of this is true, but like usual, the bloodsucking vampires of the mainstream media have only covered the parts of the story convenient to their imperial narrative. They conveniently leave out the fact that this sudden collapse was precipitated by an offensive that the Taliban began in May when Biden first violated the peace deal carefully inked by the Trump Administration by pushing back the militaries departure date by five months. They leave out the fact that the Taliban managed to take most of the country with minimal bloodshed and Kabul without even firing a goddamn shot because most Afghanis actually prefer these homegrown despots to the obscenely corrupt Vichy state that we’ve been propping up superficially for decades. They leave out the fact that most of the refugees packing our transport planes are as frightened of their own neighbors who might seek revenge against them for collaborating with a foreign occupier as they are of the actual Taliban. And they leave out the fact that the Taliban’s brutally sexist style of governance is basically identical to that of the wealthy Gulf states that they tolerate and our nation’s tax dollars covetously prop up.

One thing those vampires are right about is that the Biden Administration definitely should have seen this disaster coming because plenty of others did. The Afghanis sure as fuck saw it coming. They’ve done this a few times before, including once against the Soviet Union with our help. Every empire since Alexander the Great has stubbornly learned the hard way that the buck really stops at the Hindu Kush with a people who just as stubbornly refuse to be governed by any force but their own. Our own sacred heroes in the military brass had to have seen this coming too. Washington’s confidence in the abilities of the Pentagon’s Potemkin paladins in the Afghan Army comes straight from the assurances by the corrupt officer class that the trillions in tax dollars we squandered on their twisted little adventure wouldn’t be in vain. In many ways, we didn’t just witness the collapse of Afghanistan last week, we witnessed the epic collapse of the American military machine itself which has become too corrupt and greedy even for their own masters to control.

The hardest truth about Afghanistan is that we never should have came there in the first place. As sick as the Taliban’s misinterpretations about Islamic law are, they were never really terrorists in the international sense of the word. They are stone cold quietists who want absolutely nothing to do with the outside world. They were apposed to the 9/11 attacks and were more than willing to hand us over the Taliban on a silver platter provided that Bush made them an offer that they could save face with among the local tribes. But America was never particularly interested in actually capturing Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. We made that pretty clear when we let them slip away to Pakistan through the caves of Tora Bora and we continue to make that perfectly clear when we shield Al-Qaeda’s real 9/11 collaborators in Saudi Arabia from anything resembling justice. America was much more interested in their bipartisan experiments in imperial nation building.

In many ways Afghanistan is far from unique. There are hundreds of Afghanistans scattered across the Third World. Complex indigenous tribal societies that America and its other enlightened allies in the First World insist on violently stuffing into the neoliberal Jello mold of the Westphalian nation state. We rely on a network of dictators, quislings, and corrupt local plutocrats to manage this collection of neo-colonialist ant farms, a network that is every bit as brutal and cruel as the terrorists and fundamentalists constructed indigenously to fight them and at least twice as greedy. These western concubine states don’t give a flying fuck about feminism or social progress, that’s just propaganda used to justify their errant existence to foolish middle class liberals back at home. The people who can’t be sold on imperialism by the overt racism of ‘We need to get em over there before they get us back here’ are sold on the more covert racism of curing the savages of their wicked ways with the wonders of western social progress.

Afghanistan is now run by a horde of bloodthirsty bearded barbarians, but at least they are their bloodthirsty bearded barbarians. As much as my heart may desire rights for women, children, and Queer people in that region of the world, I am not foolish and racist enough to believe that I can give it to them, especially not from the barrel of a drone. The Afghan people have to want it for themselves. They have to develop their own forms of progress based on their own complex indigenous customs that westerners can’t begin to comprehend. But this kind of progress will never occur as long as Afghanis across the globe continue to struggle beneath the boot of western imperialism.

Nicky Reid is an agoraphobic anarcho-genderqueer gonzo blogger from Central Pennsylvania and assistant editor for Attack the System. You can find her online at Exile in Happy Valley.