Thursday, February 22, 2007

20 Reasons Why We Should Not Have Invaded Afghanistan

1. It’s Afghanistan.

2. The Taliban had no involvement with 9/11. Toppling that government because of 9/11 was one of the first examples of the blurring of distinctions among 9/11 conspirators, jihadists generally, jihadist sympathizers, terrorists generally, Islamists, Muslims, Arabs, and anyone the Bush Administration happens not to like.

3. It’s Afghanistan.

4. It was an act of war. War is generally a bad idea. It is a negative sum game, and there is an absolute guarantee that innocent people will be killed. When the primary grievance was the loss of innocent lives on 9/11, a response that costs more innocent lives calls into question the moral basis of that response.

5. The Guantánamo Bay detainment camp.

6. The Taliban Government of Afghanistan, however repellent it might have seemed to various observers, was the legitimate government of Afghanistan, and was recognized as such by the U.S. The United States therefore undertook to topple a sovereign government whose transgression was harboring a fugitive, a fugitive who, it should be noted, had never set foot in the U.S., nor ever been indicted for the 9/11 attacks (although there are prior U.S. indictments dating back to 1998). In any event, it is not clear that the Taliban could have delivered bin Laden even if they so desired, and sans extradition treaties, it’s not entirely clear what the legal basis would have been for doing so.

7. The “no land wars in Asia” thing.

8. There is every reason to believe that the invasion of Afghanistan was a result that was not only expected by bin Laden and company, but one that was actively desired. The occupation of Afghanistan played a major role in breaking the Soviet Union, and the possibility of doing the same to the U.S. cannot have been discounted by the planners of 9/11. The idea that the invasion caught al-Qaeda by surprise is preposterous, and any comment along the lines of “We could have caught him in Tora Bora,” should be followed with something like “if only the Fuhrer had listened to me,” or “if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids and their stupid dog.”

9. There is a children’s game in Afghanistan where a group of young boys tie up one of the group, push him down in the dirt, and then kick more dirt on him until he manages to spit on one of the other boys, who then gets tied up etc. You have trouble spitting if you are either angry or afraid.

10. The United States supplied a substantial amount of ordinance to the Afghani mujahadeen during the Soviet Occupation. An unknown, but probably substantial amount of this ordinance still exists, ready for use in IEDs.

11. It’s Afghanistan!

12. War is an action between sovereign states. A military response to terrorism itself validates terrorism, by conveying the status of sovereignty to terrorists, magnifying their perceived importance in their own eyes and those of their followers. Bin Laden is now perceived by some more as a head-of-state-in-exile than a criminal.

13. Helicopters crash more frequently in mountainous territory.

14. The creation of a large number of refugees, who then fled to Pakistan, running the risk of destabilizing a country with a large Islamist population and nuclear weapons.

15. A military response to terrorism makes it much more difficult, even impossible, to later invoke the criminal justice system. This further undercuts the rule of law, which is another terrorist objective.

16. The story goes that some Afghani mountain tribesmen pass the winter months with a bar of steel and a file. By the time spring comes, they have made a rifle.

17. Opium production in Afghanistan was nearly eliminated in 2001; in 2006 it was estimated at nearly 6000 metric tons. However one feels about drug laws, the illegal drug trade is a source of violence and corruption wherever it exists.

18. The Taliban was the product of a generation traumatized by the warfare of the 1970s and 1980s. Upon taking power, their first actions were extreme, but there are arguments that they had begun to moderate by the late 1990s, owing to the inevitable practical compromises that come with actually having to rule. The latest foreign occupation has traumatized a new generation, and we can expect the same aftermath and blowback if, as seems likely, they eventually return to power.

19. Whether or not the invasion of Afghanistan was primarily based on racism and militarism, it certainly gave aid and comfort to racists and militarists in the United States and elsewhere.



Movie Guy said...


You stated: "The Taliban Government of Afghanistan, however repellent it might have seemed to various observers, was the legitimate government of Afghanistan, and was recognized as such by the U.S."

Do you have a reference for this statement?

I disagree that the United States of American ever gave formal recognition to the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. Moreover, neither did the vast majority of nations on the planet.

Only three nations formally recognized the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan, and the Government of the United States of America was not one of the three.

Moreover, the Taliban government was never allowed to seat a representative in the United Nations.

One of my references:

CRS Report RL30588
U.S. Department of State

"The United States withheld recognition of Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, formally recognizing no faction as the government. Because of the lack of broad international recognition, the United Nations seated representatives of the ousted Rabbani government, not the Taliban."

"By the time of the September 11 attacks, the Taliban controlled at least 75% of the country, including almost all major provincial capitals. The Northern Alliance suffered a major setback on September 9, 2001, two days before the September 11 attacks, when Ahmad Shah Masud was assassinated by alleged Al Qaeda suicide bombers posing as journalists. He was succeeded by his intelligence chief, Muhammad Fahim, a veteran figure but who lacked Masud’s charisma or undisputed authority."

"After the September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration decided to militarily overthrow the Taliban when it refused to extradite bin Laden. The Administration decided that a friendly regime in Kabul was needed to create the conditions under which U.S. forces could capture Al Qaeda activists there. In Congress, S.J.Res. 23 (passed 98-0 in the Senate and with no objections in the House, P.L. 107-40) authorized: all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such organizations or persons."

I suggest that you have engaged in revisionist history unless your mistake was an innocent error.

James Killus said...

I should perhaps have used the words "de facto" rather than "legitimate," but that's not the real issue here. The real weasel word is "recognized."

"Diplomatic recognition" is not at all the same as "recognition." The former is akin to pretending not to notice that someone is talking to you at a party because you are mad at them. The latter is dealing with the reality of a situation, not the Bush Adminstration's strong suit, but still.

Nevertheless the U.S. had plenty of dealings with the Taliban Government. For example, it gave them money for their progress in eradicating opium growing:

The U.S. (plus various oil companies) also negotiated with the Taliban Government over putting an oil pipeline through Afghanistan:

Then there's the simple fact that the U.S. demanded that the Taliban extradict bin Laden, a demand that makes no legal sense unless it is made of a government.

Or, if you wish, you may consider the entire matter as yet another example of the Bush Administration's contempt and abandonment of the rule of law. Either way, it means that the Taliban was perceived by the people of Afghanistan as being more legitimate than the U.S. occupation and the current U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan.

Movie Guy said...

I don't have any general disagreement with your clarification.

Both the Clinton Administration and the Bush II Administration dealt with the Taliban. True enough. As did some corporate interests.

But, the fact remains that the Taliban never controlled the entire country. Close, but no cigar. As for the Taliban representing the legitimate government of Afghanistan, I would have to see a good definition of what that term means within geopolitics or governmental law. I raised that question to my landlord in Germany one time as he was the nation's lead governmental attorney. He asked me how many hours did I have in order to listen to a proper answer. Instead, we played a few chess games.

By the way, there are two accounts that bin Laden entered the United States during 1978 to have his son cared for medically. Neither have been confirmed by the U.S. Department of State to my knowledge.

I would also point out that if one were attempting to conduct negotiations with some countries, it is not uncommon to solicit support from the element that controls a given region.

If bin Laden was back in Somolia, what entity should the United States or United Nations approach for his surrender to lawful authorities? Would that not depend on which entity was providing him general or territorial protection? I expect so.

But, I agree with your point that the U.S. did seek the surrender of bin Laden from the Taliban. Not sure, though, what other entity offered bin Laden similar protecions in Afghanistan. I don't recall any.

Appreciate the response.

Interesting post.

James Killus said...

I'll also agree that the Taliban did not control all of Afghanistan. I don't think anyone has actually been in control of all of Afghanistan for at least the past 2000 years, probably longer. That's part of the "It's Afghanistan!" thing.

Thanks for the comments. Those things did need clarification.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

They also underestimated China...getting in their and securing major mining contracts for decades to come.

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