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Sunday July 03, 2022

The Afghan war

October 04, 2018

We expect 17-year-olds to have learned a great deal starting from infancy, and yet full-grown adults have proven incapable of knowing anything about Afghanistan during the course of 17 years of US-NATO war. Despite war famously being the means of Americans learning geography, few can even identify Afghanistan on a map. What else have we failed to learn?

There are, as far as I know, no polls on the percentage of people in the United States who know that the war is still going on, but it seems to be pretty low. Polling Report lists no polls at all on Afghanistan in the past three years. For longer than most wars have lasted in total, this one has gone on with no public discussion of whether or not it should, just annual testimony before Congress that this next year is going to really be the charm. Things people don’t know are happening are not polled about, which contributes to nobody knowing they are happening.

Possible reasons for such ignorance include: there have been too many wars spawned by this one to keep track of them all; President Obama claimed to have ‘ended’ the war while explicitly and actually not ending it, and pointing this out could be impolite; a war embraced by multiple presidents and both big political parties is not a useful topic for partisan politics; very few of the people suffering and dying are from the United States; very similar stories bore journalists and editors after 17 years of regurgitating them; when the war on Iraq became too unpopular in the United States, the war on Afghanistan was fashioned into a “good war” so that people could oppose one war while making clear their support for war in general, and it would be inconvenient to raise too many questions about the good war; it’s hard to tell the story of permanent imperial occupation without it sounding a little bit like permanent imperial occupation; and the only other story that could be developed would be the ending of the war – which nobody in power is proposing and which could raise the embarrassing question of why it wasn’t done 5, 10, or 17 years ago.

Among those who know the war exists, a group I take to include disproportionately those involved in fighting it and those trying to end it, a popular claim is that it is the longest US war ever. But the United States has not formally declared a war since 1941. How one picks where a war starts and stops is controversial. There is certainly a strong case to be made that the never-ending war-sanctions/bombings-war assault on Iraq has been longer than the war on Afghanistan.

There’s a stronger case that the US war on Vietnam was also longer, depending on when you decide it began. The war on North (and South) Korea has yet to be ended, and ending it is the top demand of a united Korean people to their Western occupiers. The centuries-long war on the indigenous peoples of North America is generally ignored, I believe, principally because those people are not legally or politically thought of as actual real people. And yet it is important for us to recognize that none of the wars taught in US school texts took even a tiny fraction of this length of time.

This article has been excerpted from: ‘17 Years of Getting Afghanistan Completely Wrong’.

Courtesy: Counterpunch.org

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