Afghanistan: Where Empires Go to Die

July 1, 2009

Focus_July1By Tom Engelhardt

Excerpt: “…had they not been so blinded by triumphalism, Bush’s people really wouldn’t have needed to know much to avoid catastrophe. This wasn’t atomic science or brain surgery. They needn’t have been experts on Central Asia, or mastered Pashto or Dari, or recalled the history of the anti-Soviet War that had ended barely a decade earlier, or even read the prophetic November 2001 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine, “Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires,” by former CIA station chief in Pakistan Milton Bearden, which concluded: “The United States must proceed with caution — or end up on the ash heap of Afghan history.”

They could simply have visited a local Barnes & Noble, grabbed a paperback copy of George MacDonald Fraser’s rollicking novel Flashman, and followed his blackguard of anti-hero an through England’s disastrous Afghan War breitenbush340of 1839-1842 from which only one Englishman returned alive. In addition to a night’s reading pleasure, that would have provided any neo-con national security manager with all he needed to know when it came to getting in and out of Afghanistan fast.

Or subsequently, they could have spent a little time with the Russian ambassador to Kabul, a KGB veteran of the Soviet Union’s Afghan catastrophe. He complained to John Burns of the New York Times last year that neither Americans nor NATO representatives were willing to listen to him, even though the U.S. had repeated “all of our mistakes,” which he carefully enumerated. “Now,” he added, “they’re making mistakes of their own, ones for which we do not own the copyright.”

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