Venting My Spleen About the Afghanistan Lies and Terrible Loss of Life

The British Military Cemetery in Habbinyah Iraq, 2008

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have been doing a lot of work around the house because it has to be done and because t keeps me from getting sucked in to the nonstop blame game going on regarding the recent events relates to our withdrawal from Afghanistan. I posted this on my Facebook timeline tonight. It went rather long so I decided to post it here exactly as it appeared on Facebook.

Have a good night.


Padre Steve+

I am so freaking tired of the bullshit that I see being promoted by some people of Facebook about what is going on in Afghanistan, including by an active duty Marine nephew of mine. I am tired of seeing the bullshit. If people don’t like it screw your and drop me. I am angry about what is going on but to blame Biden for everything and “losing Afghanistan” is pure lies. He has resposbilty for the way the evacuation was conducted, but he didn’t lose a 20 year long war. Bush, Obama, Trump, most of Congress, the defense contractors and many in the military and intelligence establishment are also at fault, and probably more so. Then there are us, the citizens who really never cared because most of us had no investment in the war. I did and didn’t turn my back those 20 years. I have lost too many friends dead, maimed, or broken psychologically, physically, and spiritually to do so. Among all, the cheerleaders of ware and those who nodded their heads and looked the other way while their guy was in the White House are the most guilty. Think about it hard. That is the truth. I no longer care if people like me or not. This is about truth and it is about those who gave their all in a doomed war. When you point the finger of blame Biden or any other single President take a look in the mirror, four are pointed at you.

Our policies though described as noble by Presidents going back long before 9-11-2001 have often, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been considered as war crimes had we been the Germans at Nuremberg. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, who served as the chief US prosecutor at the major war crimes trials said as the rules for the trials were developed said: “If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”

Marine Corps Major General and two,time Medal of Honor recipient Smedley Butler wrote of the soldiers going to fight in WWI “Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. The was the “war to end wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one told them that dollars and cents were the real reason. No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here…”

The military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower described before he left office is alive and well, now joined by a professional propaganda network or war cheerleaders who cannot justify their lives without promoting endless war. When the Cold War ended they found new enemies, and they are now strengthened by a Taliban-like version of a Christian Nationalism that is devoid of the teachings of Jesus as are the Taliban and ISIS devoid of the teachings of Mohammed.

As was written of the British Invasion and intervention in the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1839-1842 “WITH THE BENEFIT of hindsight, among the more important lessons the British should have learned from the First Afghan War were many that resonate today. Their leaders were not honest with themselves or their public about their motivation, providing partial and misleading information to both Parliament and public. In their own minds they exaggerated the threats to their position in India and exaggerated the power of their available troops to cope with the demands an Afghan campaign would make on them. The British entered Afghanistan without clear objectives or a defined exit strategy or timetable. In what could be termed regime change, they endeavored to impose on the country a ruler unpopular with his people. The Duke of Wellington correctly prophesied that Britain’s difficulties would begin when its military success ended. These successes led them into an open-ended commitment to a ruler whom they had not chosen well and, when they realized this, hesitated to different from each other and speaking mutually incomprehensible languages. They did not understand that these tribes united only rarely and that when they did so it was against a foreign invader such as themselves…. In general, British troops struggled to distinguish between hostile and peaceful Afghans, both in Kabul and in the countryside, even when, as was not always the case, they tried hard to make such distinctions. As a consequence innocent civilians were punished and killed, and even more of the population were turned into ready recruits for the enemy. The British and the Afghans alike had problems in understanding each other’s cultures and characters. The British stereotyped the Afghans as cunning, corrupt and deceitful and thus found it difficult to believe in the motives of those who were in fact well disposed toward them. The Afghans accepted British protestations of their reputation for straight dealing at face value and were thus the more let down when the British proved duplicitous and Machiavellian.26 The Afghan propensity for assassination as well as the taking and subsequent trading between themselves of hostages initially appalled the British, but later they at times found themselves complicit in plans for targeted assassination as the easiest way to rid themselves of troublesome opponents. The attitudes and ambitions of Persia and the passage of forces and weapons across the Helmand River as well as the porous, imprecise border complicated British policies. Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism.27 Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism.27 Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more Changes of government in Britain changed policy in Afghanistan. Politicians—even those who favored the intervention—were concerned about cost as timescales extended, preferring to take the short rather than the long-term view. In Kabul, too, British civilian officials and military commanders bickered about the division of responsibilities between them. Civilian officials such as Macnaghten, whose careers depended on the success of the mission, created a conspiracy of optimism. Generals protested in vain against withdrawal of forces to a level that led to an overstretching of resources and a consequent inability to control more than a few strategic outposts outside Kabul, rather than the whole countryside. Sometimes even these outposts were overrun. The British found it easier to purchase acquiescence to their own and Shah Shuja’s activities than to win over Afghan hearts and minds. Therefore, perhaps the biggest British miscalculation was—in response to cost-cutting pressures from home—unilaterally to reduce some of the subsidies paid to Afghan tribal chiefs. Their economy measure was immediately followed by an Afghan rising.

Auckland, a pleasant character, had proved a good administrator in less demanding posts in the government in London. However, even if the post of governor-general was slightly less powerful than that of Roman emperor, he was insufficiently strong a character or leader when placed in supreme command of policy in India, thousands of miles and many weeks in terms of communication away from London, to withstand either the conspiracy of optimism generated by Macnaghten from Kabul or pressures from home both to economize and to expedite success and withdrawal. It was not that he was a complete failure—he did restrain some of Macnaghten’s plans for operations beyond Afghan borders—but that he was not equipped temperamentally or intellectually to dominate the situation. He preferred to acquiesce in his subordinates’ plans to continue existing policies when they began to go awry, rather than ordering either a halt or a thorough review. Chief among Auckland’s subordinates was Macnaghten. Though an undoubtedly clever man, he was out of both his milieu and his depth in Afghanistan. Nearly all his career had been spent in the secretariat in Calcutta, and he had little experience of independent command. His ingrained optimism led him throughout to minimize or ignore difficulties. He underestimated the military capabilities of the Afghans and overestimated those of the British and Indian troops, leaving him both to accept troop reductions and deployments when he should not have and to propose grandiose operations beyond Shah Shuja’s borders—for example, against Herat—which were entirely unfeasible. Though he understood the importance of making it appear to the Afghan population that Shah Shuja was a true king and thus ensured that his troops led the army on its marches and made the first ceremonial entries into cities, in promoting the invasion and Shah Shuja himself, he was far too optimistic in his assessment of Shah Shuja’s abilities and of the ease with which the diverse and stubborn Afghans could be induced to accept as a ruler a man they considered to have an aura of ill fortune.”

Back in Britain, politicians and others concentrated on the political and moral aspects, both more subjective and more difficult to analyze. Sir John Kaye, the historian who collected many of the primary documents and indeed published in full those that had been expurgated or omitted from the government’s publication justifying the war in 1839, saw the hand of God in the outcome: “The calamity of 1842 was retribution sufficient … to stamp in indelible characters upon the page of history, the great truth that the policy which was pursued in Afghanistan was unjust, and that, therefore, it was signally disastrous. It was … an unrighteous usurpation, and the curse of God was on it from the first. Our successes at the outset were a part of the curse. They lapped us in false security, and deluded us to our overthrow. This is the great lesson … ‘The Lord God of recompenses shall surely requite.’ ”

Henry Lushington, another commentator, wrote in a book-long analysis of the conflict in 1844: “We entered Afghanistan to effect a change of dynasty—we withdrew from it professing our readiness to acknowledge any government which the Afghans may themselves think fit to establish. We entered it above all to establish a government friendly to ourselves. Are the Afghans our friends now?… Except for the anarchy we have left in the place of order, the hatred in the place of kindness, all is as it was before … The received code of international morality is not even in the nineteenth century very strict. One principle however seems to be admitted in the theory, if not the practice of civilised men, that an aggressive war—a war undertaken against unoffending parties with a view to our own benefit only—is unjust, and conversely that a war to be just must partake the character of a defensive war. It may be defensive in various ways … either preventing an injury which it is attempted to inflict, or of exacting reparation for one inflicted, and taking the necessary security against its future infliction but in one way or other defensive it must be.” He could find no justification for the campaign being a defensive war since “the Afghans had not injured us either nationally or individually.” He believed that individuals could not place the blame for the war solely on the government: “The crime … is one of which the responsibility is shared by every Englishman. It is no new thing to say that a nation and especially a free nation is generally accountable for the conduct of its government.” Lushington placed particular emphasis on the impact of misjudgment. “The great error of Sir William Macnaghten,” he wrote, “appears to us to have been the attempt to bestow too soon and without sufficient means of coercing those who had hitherto lived at the expense of their weaker neighbours, the unappreciated blessings of an organised and powerful government upon the people of Afghanistan.

We have received a severe lesson which we may make a useful one if we choose to learn from it well, if not we shall perpetrate injustices again and again.” A report produced while the war was still in progress by one of the committees of the East India Company, which, as Hobhouse had confessed, had been largely ignored in the conduct of the war, stated, “This war of robbery is waged by the English government through the intervention of the government of India without the knowledge of England or of Parliament … and therefore evading the check placed by the constitution on the exercise of the prerogative of the crown in declaring war. It presents, therefore, a new crime in the annals of nations—a secret war. It had been made by a people without their knowledge, against another people who had committed no offence. Effects …: loss of England’s character for fair dealing; loss of her character of success; the Mussulman population is rendered hostile.” The Times in May 1842 commented, “This nation spent £15 million on a less than profitable effort after self-aggrandisement in Afghanistan, and spends £30,000 a year on a system of education satisfactory to nobody.” However, calls for a full parliamentary inquiry into the background to the war and into the doctoring of the government papers, led by, among others, a newly elected Tory member of Parliament named Benjamin Disraeli, came to nothing.

Outside Britain there was general satisfaction at Britain’s unexpected reverses in Afghanistan. In the United States the Afghan War took up numerous column inches in the nation’s newspapers, large and small. Outrage at the “odium” and “wickedness” of the British intervention and admiration for the “indomitable love of independence” of the Afghans were almost universal. Atrocities committed by the British as they sought retribution were equally condemned. Afghanistan became somewhat of an issue in the 1842 congressional elections with British attitudes and actions being seen as emblematic of behavior America should avoid….”

“Now was the time for analysis and blame-sharing. Sir Jasper Nicolls, commander in chief in India, wrote to Ellenborough, succinctly listing eight reasons for the campaign’s failure.

1st: Making war with a peace establishment. 2nd: Making war without a safe base of operations. 3rd: Carrying our native army … into a strange and cold climate, where they and we were foreigners, and both considered as infidels. 4th: Invading a poor country, and one unequal to supply our wants, especially our large establishment of cattle. 5th: Giving undue power to political agents. 6th: Want of forethought and undue confidence in the Afghans on the part of Sir William Macnaghten. 7th: Placing our magazines, even our treasure, in indefensible places. 8th: Great military neglect and mismanagement after the outbreak.

The Afghans regardless of tribe or branch of Islam have long memories.

“The Afghans see the last two centuries of interaction with the European powers and the United States as one continuum. A British officer reported recently how an Afghan government minister had reproached him that the British had burned down the covered market in Kabul. Fearing some hasty action by his nation’s troops, he eventually discovered that the remark had referred to the burning of the bazaar by the British at the end of the First Afghan War. Along the route of the catastrophic retreat Afghans today show coins seized from the British baggage train, which have passed down their families, and recount the deeds of their ancestors in slaying the infidel British, while pointing to the sites of the battles. Invoking events long past, a recent Taliban recruiting slogan asked Afghans, “Do you want to be remembered as a son of Dost Mohammed or a son of Shah Shuja?”

(From “The Dark Defile: Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan” by Diana Preston, 2012.)

T.E. Lawrence wrote of the British intervention and occupation of Iraq following the First World War: “The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.”

British military historian and theorist B.H. Liddell-Hart wrote in his book “Why Don’t We Learn from History”:

“We learn from history that in every age and every clime the majority of people have resented what seems in retrospect to have been purely matter-of-fact comment on their institutions. We learn too that nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth when it was disturbing to their comfortable assurance. Always the tendency continues to be shocked by natural comment and to hold certain things too “sacred” to think about…

The most dangerous of all delusions are those that arise from the adulteration of history in the imagined interests of national and military morale…

We learn from history that men have constantly echoed the remark ascribed to Pontius Pilate: “What is truth?” And often in circumstances that make us wonder why. It is repeatedly used as a smoke screen to mask a manoeuvre, personal or political, and to cover an evasion of the issue. It may be a justifiable question in the deepest sense. Yet the longer I watch current events, the more I have come to see how many of our troubles arise from the habit, on all sides, of suppressing or distorting what we know quite well is the truth, out of devotion to a cause, an ambition, or an institution; at bottom, this devotion being inspired by our own interest.”

That is where we are after 20 years of folly. Young Marines who were babies when Al Qaida attacked the Twin Towers and Pentagon on 9/11/2001 are dying to rescue people who put their trust in us. Unfortunately, four Administrations have proved that we used them to further our strategic interests with little regard for them.

There. I have said my peace. I have not made this political because there is enough blame to go around to implicate every President, most members of the House and Senate, professional and appointed officials in DOD, State, CIA, FBI, NSA, the media, DOD contractors and the defense industry, church leaders, and the endless supply of talking heads on every cable news channel justifying their actions or blaming others to go around.

So if you have any sense stop getting your news from Facebook and Twitter memes, half truths and complete falsehoods put out from every part of the political spectrum and start learning history or shut your damned mouths. Don’t like me saying that then go fornicate yourself.

A Gravestone at Habbinyah


Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

9 responses to “Venting My Spleen About the Afghanistan Lies and Terrible Loss of Life

  1. Great post. Will truth matter when all is said and done?

  2. Reading your post the song of Jackson Brownie comes to mind.

    The text is timeless and true.

    I would place a link where he sings the song but often it doesn’t work as it should.

    Instead I place here the text:

    “Lives In The Balance”

    I’ve been waiting for something to happen
    For a week or a month or a year
    With the blood in the ink of the headlines
    And the sound of the crowd in my ear
    You might ask what it takes to remember
    When you know that you’ve seen it before
    Where a government lies to a people
    And a country is drifting to war

    And there’s a shadow on the faces
    Of the men who send the guns
    To the wars that are fought in places
    Where their business interest runs

    On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
    You hear one thing again and again
    How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
    And we come to the aid of a friend
    But who are the ones that we call our friends
    These governments killing their own?
    Or the people who finally can’t take any more
    And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
    There are lives in the balance
    There are people under fire
    There are children at the cannons
    And there is blood on the wire

    There’s a shadow on the faces
    Of the men who fan the flames
    Of the wars that are fought in places
    Where we can’t even say the names

    They sell us the President the same way
    They sell us our clothes and our cars
    They sell us every thing from youth to religion
    The same time they sell us our wars
    I want to know who the men in the shadows are
    I want to hear somebody asking them why
    They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
    But they’re never the ones to fight or to die
    And there are lives in the balance
    There are people under fire
    There are children at the cannons
    And there is blood on the wire

  3. Jerry

    We have a unique opportunity at this point in history to say, “no more”.
    In order to prevent this from happening again, we have to remove the profit motive. Anyone, regardless of party or religious affiliation, who has profiteered from this war should be exposed. Start with incumbents in Congress who have accepted campaign “donations” or invested in any company who’s business model is based on making/selling war materials.
    After that, pass legislation that bans former government employees, elected, military or civilian, from working for any company over which they had oversight while working for the government – in perpetuity.

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