Monday, August 16, 2021

It was always going to end like this

In July, the US officially ended the occupation of Afghanistan, slinking away in the middle of the night and not even telling their Afghan "allies" to avoid the bad PR of footage of them leaving. And since then, the Taliban - who the US ousted back in 2001, but who never went away - have been rolling up the country. And last night, it came to a head when they reached Kabul. The US re-enacted Saigon, ferrying Americans from the roof of its embassy. And the Afghan president fled into exile, probably with a container load or two of US dollars. And so the war in Afghanistan is finally over after twenty years. And the Taliban won.

It was always going to end like this. Armies can smash a country and overthrow a government and install a puppet regime, but they can't make people love that regime or fight for it. Unless underlying differences are settled - a big ask in Afghanistan - then the people you ousted, or their successors, will be waiting to take power the moment you leave. You have to leave sometime - people eventually get sick of spending billions of dollars a year and seeing their kids come back in bits to murder people on the other side of the world for no apparent purpose - and so here we are. All the money the US spent - nearly a trillion dollars, at last estimate - all the lives that were lost, all the people that were maimed or broken on both sides, all of it was for nothing. The only people who benefited from this obscene war were the arms companies and their shareholders, who made out like bandits. War really is a racket.

Aotearoa spent $300 million and ten lives sucking up to the US in Afghanistan. That was also wasted. Our involvement was a mistake from start to finish. But while we were there, we encouraged people to collaborate with us, and so endangered their lives. We have a moral obligation to those people, and a duty to evacuate them, and to resettle them in New Zealand if that's what they want. And it is utterly shameful that the government has resisted recognising that duty for so long.