I remember when 9/11 hit. I remember that Tuesday morning: the confusion, the fear, the astonishment. I remember the public’s demand for answers, then the demand for revenge. Shear revenge. Utter, complete, and blinding revenge.
Anyone who stood against that lust for blood was a “traitor” and a “terrorist sympathizer”. I remember vividly how hard it was to even suggest that we don’t jump into another war quagmire and repeat our failure in Vietnam. Everyone was on board for war. Intellectuals intellectualized it in their opinion columns. Even liberal-leaning media outlets spared no time or respect for people who called for levelheadedness, for a simple pause, for counting to 10, for not acting on anger.
And that’s exactly what we embarked on: an angry war. Not a war that came after failed diplomacy or a war we tried to avoid but couldn’t. No. It was a war we wanted and wanted nothing else because we were angry. We were mad as hell. All we did beforehand was say to the Taliban: “You give us Bin Laden or we’ll carpet bomb you to the stone ages”, as if that would persuade the Taliban to give in. Of course it didn’t, and we knew it wouldn’t. We wanted them to refuse. We had our impressive new military toys and we wanted to unleash all our might onto these terrorists and teach them a lesson. We thought it was going to be a cake walk.
Everything about how we fought that war was soaked in anger. We bombed weddings. We bombed funerals. We urinated on bodies. We bombed schools. We killed and refused to count. We killed and refused to acknowledge (and still do). We killed and bombed and pillaged and hired mercenaries to kill and bomb and pillage. We can deny this all we want and we can fool many people with our denial, but we won’t fool the Afghan people. They know. They saw it all first hand. They are the ones who chose the Taliban over us and made them win.
We didn’t fight like a superpower. We fought like a toddler having a tantrum with drones at his disposal. And even now, 20 years later, we’re still so choke-full of spite. Did the Taliban do 9/11? Did they ever kill one of us on US soil throughout the 20 years we were bombing their civilians? No, but we just can’t stop hating them on a level deeper than any intellect can rein in. We hear the word Taliban and we instantly lose all sense of decency. Suddenly everything is fair game. Our media’s full spectrum cannot acknowledge one single good thing about the Taliban or even venture into trying to understand why Afghans chose them over us. When Mike Pompeo signed the treaty with the Taliban, he sat silent as everyone cheered the end of a 20 year war. Shortly afterwards we bombed them again and killed a bunch of civilians. It’s just weird how blinding our anger is.
And now, as just another extension of that anger; that childish, primitive, incapacitating spite, we give them rulership over Afghanistan but steal their money. It’s like we’ve become numb toward our own smallness when it comes to the Taliban. I bet they can count on the predictability of our lack of honor by now. It probably helps them make political decisions when they know how we will respond: with the least possible decency, that is.
Give them their money. Acknowledge the damage we’ve done. Acknowledge the killing we concealed. Start a new page. Be a better nation.