Syndicated Ted Rall Column: So Much Stupidity on Afghanistan

Democrats, Republicans Equally Dumb

As I pack for my return trip to Afghanistan next month, many people are asking me: Why are we losing? What should we do there?

The short answer is simple: Afghan resistance forces live there. We don’t. Sooner or later, U.S. troops will depart. All the Afghan resistance has to do is wear us down and wait us out. As I have pointed out before, no nation has successfully invaded and occupied any other nation since the 19th century. All occupations ultimately fail.

For those who prefer their punditry longwinded, here’s a longer answer.

Even taking historical precedent into account, America’s post-9/11 occupation of Afghanistan—its longest war ever—has been notably disastrous. Wonder why? Everything you need to know was contained in this week’s war of words between the chairmen of the two major political parties.

The Afghan War kerfuffle that revealed the boundless stupidity of our national political leadership began on July 1st. Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele told GOP donors in Connecticut that the war in Afghanistan could not be won and should never have been fought: “If [Obama is] such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right? Because everyone who’s tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed,” Steele said.

Steele’s main point is beyond dispute. There’s a reason Afghanistan is known as “the graveyard of empires,” as opposed to as, say, the “number one producer of tasty, nutritious pomegranates.”

Steele’s all too typical ahistoricity is in the details. Which he gets wrong.

Would-be conquerors have had trouble with Afghanistan not for over 1,000 years, but for 2,000 years. Alexander the Great sent supplies through the Khyber Pass in 327 BCE in an attempt to subjugate the Konar Valley. Characteristically, the locals waged a ferocious resistance. The Macedonian conqueror, nearly killed by an Afghan arrow, beat a retreat to the Indus River and withdrew.

But it’s Steele’s “land war” qualifier that really gets me. According to the GOP chairman, the British Army might have spared itself total annihilation in 1842 if it had conducted an air war instead. Using what—hot air balloons?

Then things got really weird.

“This was a war of Obama’s choosing,” Steele said.

Huh?
True, Obama made the Afghan war his own by sending in more troops. But Bush started this mess. Doesn’t Steele remember that? Or—this thought is even more frightening—does he really think WE forgot?

“This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in,” he continued. This surely comes as welcome news to the tens of thousands of Afghans killed by tens of thousands of American bombs. Chin up. Imagine how many more would have died if the U.S. had “actively prosecuted” this fiasco!

Not to be outdone in the moronitude department,

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse retorted that “we are there because we were attacked by terrorists on 9-11.”

Um…We were attacked by Saudis and Egyptians. Who were trained and funded by Pakistanis. None of the major figures linked to 9/11—including Osama bin Laden—were in Afghanistan on 9/11. (Bin Laden was in a Pakistani military hospital in Islamabad.) By 9/11, both Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan had been closed. Al Qaeda’s operations were based entirely in Pakistan.

Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11.

Nothing.

None of the Afghans I interviewed in November and December of 2001 had even heard of 9/11. None had heard of Al Qaeda. Other journalists reported the same thing.

As far as I can tell, we attacked Afghanistan for fun. To disrupt Iran and India. To test weapons that would be used against Iraq. To test the resolve of the American antiwar movement. And to build an oil and gas pipeline between Central and South Asia.

Not because of 9/11.

Woodhouse continued: “It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences.”

Dubya—is that you?

Can we even tell which party is which anymore?

No wonder we’re losing. The parties have forgotten what they stand for—and they never learned the history of the countries they invade.

(Ted Rall’s “The Anti-American Manifesto” will be published in September. He will return to Afghanistan in August.)

COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL

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About the Author

Ted Rall
Ted Rall
Setting himself apart from the herd with a unique drawing style and a take-no-prisoners approach, Ted Rall began editorial cartooning in the 1980s with a handful of alternative weekly newspapers whose editors saw his photocopied work hanging from lampposts in New York City. In 1991 San Francisco Chronicle Features began syndicating Rall’s three-times-a-week editorial cartoons syndication with newspapers including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Des Moines Register and Philadelphia Daily News.

Universal Press Syndicate picked up Rall’s cartoons in 1996. Today the man often called “the most controversial cartoonist in America” appears in more than 100 newspapers throughout the United States, ranging from the Washington Post to the Village Voice.

His trademark “Generalissimo El Busho” is an iconic caricature of President Bush. It has drawn criticism from conservatives. He was called “treasonous” by the right-wing Weekly Standard and “anti-American” by the Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page. The Right Wing News website named him 2003’s “Most Annoying Liberal” and was named number 15 in Bernard Goldberg’s book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. He has received numerous death threats.

Rall has also won awards, including the 1995 and 2000 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards for Outstanding Coverage of the Problems of the Disadvantaged. In 1996 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Rall also draws non-political strips for MAD magazine and cartoon journalism for EurasiaNet, a news website about the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

"Editorial cartooning is an intrinsically negative medium,” Rall says, “but I’m an optimistic person. My hope is that, by calling attention to hypocrisy in our government and the inward focus of American culture in an amusing way, things will change for the better.”

Four collections of Rall’s cartoons have been published: Waking Up In America, All The Rules Have Changed, Search and Destroy, and America Gone Wild, as well as three award-winning graphic novels, My War With Brian, Real Americans Admit: The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done! and 2024, a parody of Orwell’s 1984. He edited an influential three-volume anthology of edgy alternative weekly political cartoons, Attitude. He wrote the bestselling 1998 “generational manifesto” Revenge of the Latchkey Kids.

Rall covered the war in Afghanistan in cartoon form, where his harrowing experience—3 of the 44 journalists with whom he traveled were killed—led to the critically acclaimed book To Afghanistan and Back. He released two books of prose during 2004, Wake Up, You’re Liberal: How We Can Take America Back From the Right and Generalissimo El Busho.

Rall’s most recent book is Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?, a detailed analysis of the region in prose and cartoons.

See his books from NBM!

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