Twenty years after the 9⁄11 attacks, the so-called War on Terror — initiated by George W. Bush and continued by successive administrations since — has turned the whole world into a potential battlefield, forging a path of ruin across many countries, most horrifically Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Biden administration has (rightfully) withdrawn from Afghanistan, the open-ended and nebulous War on Terror continues, from drone strikes in Somalia to bombings in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, there is a growing bipartisan push for the U.S. to take a more confrontational posture toward China, one that is already resulting in the increased militarization of the Indo-Pacific region.
The staff of In These Times has spent the lead-up to this grim anniversary writing about why the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan should be defended, and why America’s perpetual war footing must be abandoned.
At the dawn of the new millennium, we directed our national resources in the exact wrong direction. But it’s not too late to turn things around.
In an interview, Reign of Terror author Spencer Ackerman explains how the brutal legacy of America’s post‑9/11 wars has reshaped U.S. society, revealed the complicity of liberal elites and led to our era of authoritarian demagoguery.
Now our obligation is to those Afghans living with the consequences of our four decades of intervention.
What CACI reveals about the feedback loop between military contractors and think tanks.
“This was a stupid occupation and invasion where nobody received anything,” says Afghan activist Nematullah Ahangosh.
Economic punishment is taking a brutal toll during the pandemic.
Major press outlets are trying to goad Biden into staying in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan withdrawal reteaches an old lesson about blowback to American intervention.
Twenty years ago, Naomi Klein wrote that 9⁄11 shattered Americans’ “illusion of war without casualties.” Now, after combat troops have been pulled out of Afghanistan, is it really “game over”?
The U.S. architects of the ruinous war are getting the last word on its “lessons.”
We also want to spotlight some of our earlier coverage. Readers of In These Times’ investigative reporting over the years have seen that the reality on the ground in Afghanistan was far from the military propaganda echoed on America’s cable news.
“The West’s talk of women’s rights in terms of jobs, education and not enforcing the veil is mostly lost on the women trapped in never-ending war,” wrote Anna Badhken in a lyrical 2012 report from Balkh Province, where she spent weeks with the women of Pashtun farming village. For them, the “defining event of the war” was a U.S.-backed raid in the fall of 2001 in which they were orphaned, widowed and raped by a local warlord’s militia. While their urban, educated counterparts feared the Taliban’s return, the rural women remembered the reign of the Taliban as a relatively peaceful interlude, and just wanted an end to the privations of war: enough food, working infrastructure, protection from raids.
A 2017 piece by Afghanistan-based reporter May Jeong, “The U.S.-Trained Warlords Committing Atrocities in Afghanistan,” supported by the Leonard C. Goodman Institute for Investigative Reporting, showed that that first 2001 raid was no fluke. Jeong meticulously documented villagers’ accounts of a massacre in 2009 in which a warlord hunting for Taliban, accompanied by U.S. advisors, gunned down seven men working in the fields. Despite voluminous reports by human rights groups of such violations over the years, Jeong wrote, the U.S. was continuing to rely on Afghan militias, who cost a quarter of the price of U.S. troops.
Together, Badhken and Jeong’s accounts intimately acquaint us with the people who must live with the hubris and devastation of U.S. imperialism — topics In These Times is dedicated to covering unsparingly.