As we delve into the shattered remains of the archive, Brettkelly builds a ghost-mosaic of Afghan history, from the monarchs who oversaw the gradual liberalisation of the country through most of the 20th century (and introduced cinema), to the successive revolutions and civil wars that left the country in chaos. Film, it becomes clear, has a special role here: as repository of history and culture that the Taliban’s year-zero mentality aimed to abolish. Even as the political situation becomes more volatile in the run-up to elections – prompting Arify to hastily leave the country – the remaining archives head out into outlying provinces to enable screenings of old films for a population that has grown up largely in ignorance of such things. This is moving, powerful stuff.
Under the auspices of the NeoCons, Bush and Obama, the record in Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires, has been an unmitigated FUBAR, just as the rest of US foreign policy has been for the entire world, where ideology has triumphed over common sense and reality, with a minimum cost of 4 trillion and rising, the displacement of millions of people including the immigration nightmare of Europe, the death and injury of thousands of US troops and the destruction of 4 countries including Afghanistan (Iraq, Syria, Libya), a topic covered in exquisite detail by Seymour Hersh, one of the very few who can truthfully be called a reporter of the first order.
McChrystal was cashiered in June 2010, after he and his aides were quoted in Rolling Stone making a series of derogatory remarks about the president and others in the White House. According to one of McChrystal’s advisors, he thought an early face-to-face meeting with the president was inconsequential and trivial—little more than a “10-minute photo op.” By then, there was much concern about a major aspect of McChrystal’s approach to the war, which was to find and kill the Taliban. I was visited that June by a senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross whose humanitarian mission is to monitor, in secret, the conditions of civilians and prisoners of war in an effort to insure compliance with the 1949 Geneva Conventions. The ICRC was even granted limited access to the prison at Guatánamo, among other facilities in the war on terror, with the understanding that its findings were not to be made public. The official who sought me out did not want to discuss the prison system in Afghanistan, about which there have been many public revelations. His issue was the Obama administration’s overall conduct of the war. He had come to Washington in the hope of seeing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior State Department officials, but had been shunted aside. His message was blunt: McChrystal’s men were killing the wrong people. “Our inspectors are the only visitors from a secular institution who are tolerated by the Taliban leadership, and you Americans are killing those who support our activity,” he said. “You are killing those Taliban who are not jihadists—who don’t want to die and don’t give a shit about bombing Times Square. They have no grudge against America.” The indiscriminate targeting of all who are Taliban, he said, “is reaching a point of no return, and the more radical and extreme elements are picking up momentum.”
It gets better.
A longtime consultant to the special operations community depicted the mindless killing in Afghanistan as a “symptom of the weakness in the U.S. policy for combatting terrorism: It’s all about tactics and nobody, Republican or Democrat, has advanced a strategic vision. The special-ops guys are simply carrying out orders, like a dog eager to get off the leash and run in the woods—and not think about where it is going. We’ve had an abject failure of military and political leadership.”