The No Surprises Taliban

It didn’t start with imaginary WMDs (weapons of mass destruction). Our national war of insanity began years earlier.

The Supreme Court decision following the 2000 election was led by Republican Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who stopped the vote count in Florida. He disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters and gave the election and the presidency to the candidate who actually lost the state by 537 votes and who would have come in second in the Electoral College vote had all Florida votes been counted.

That got us the silver spoon cowboy, an illegitimate president. He was the same guy who managed to avoid service in Viet Nam by joining the Texas Air National Guard. He spent his active duty having a good time flying jets around Texas. Nobody ever shot at him, so he didn’t know the first thing about the horrors of combat. He later declare that he wanted “to be a wartime president,” as though war s just a toy for his self-aggrandizement.

I don’t recall Bush ever expressing a believable concern for those who would prosecute his wars, leaving us to speculate that he saw it like a movie, where everyone goes home after a day’s shoot or like a video game and it’s just pretend. But it doesn’t work that way in real wars.

He went on to ignore warnings of 9/11 and then, having failed that national security test, declared he’d get the varmint what done us wrong.

After 9/11 the CIA had Osama bin Laden bottled up in the caves at Tora Bora and asked for additional resources to smoke him out, but Bush refused. The Taliban offered to arrest bin Laden and turn him over to the U.S., but once again Bush refused. Instead, he lied to Congress and the American people. He asked for and received the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which amounted to Congress ducking its Constitutional responsibility regarding declaring war. They chickened out and gave that power to Bush, exactly as the Founders DID NOT intend, because they knew full well what such power could lead to.

Bush got his authority and sent American troops to invade Afghanistan to capture or kill bin Laden and his band of terrorists. He managed to disrupt al Qaeda, but never got bin Laden. Bush could have ended the invasion then, but, of course, he didn’t.

The goal in Afghanistan was changed to eliminating the Taliban, not bin Laden. Bush failed at that, too. Later the goal of that war was to set up a central government and modern democracy – nation building – something we had failed at again and again elsewhere. We used to say that the goalposts kept getting moved, but it’s probably more likely that there never were any goalposts.

A strong central government and democracy are things the Afghans had never had, didn’t understand and were culturally unable to accept, so there was never even a remote possibility of creating a modern democracy in that place where empires go to die. All the world knew that except Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. But the failure of that unwinnable war is what all the lies about that war and the one in Iraq, the hypocritical Mission Accomplished banner and all the pseudo-patriotic chest thumping got us. There was just war so that a cowboy could be a wartime president.

The one positive outcome of the Viet Nam war was Colin Powell’s Powell Doctrine. According to the doctrine, all of these questions must be answered in the affirmative before going off to war.

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

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Decide for yourself whether any thought was given to any of those questions before sending our military into harm’s way.

We spent 20 years, thousands of American lives, trillions of American dollars and an unknowable number of Afghan lives pursuing that no-goalpost war. We were lied to for 20 years about what was really going on there, as we refused to heed the obvious and painful lessons from our debacle in Viet Nam.

To be clear, we got bin Laden, but that had nothing to do with our war in Afghanistan.

A year and a half ago Trump cut a deal with the Taliban that said that we would leave Afghanistan. All the Taliban had to do was to promise to not attack U.S. troops as they depart and not allow al Qaeda or other extremist groups to operate in Taliban controlled territory.

Trump left the Afghan government completely out of the discussions and kept them out of the deal. The message to the Afghan security forces was clear: the Taliban now had tacit approval from the U.S. government to take over the country. Plus the Taliban almost immediately began to assassinate Afghan provincial leaders.

As bad, we have absolutely no way to ensure the Taliban won’t let al Qaeda ramp up again in Afghanistan, leaving us exactly where we were on September 10, 2001. The common notion among our talking heads and many politicians seems to be that this end was unforeseeable.


We saw this exact thing happen in Viet Nam, another unwinnable war and failed nation building, and there was yet more foreseeable evidence.

The speed that the Taliban would retake that country was clear from the moment Trump announced we’d be out by May 2021. Were you in the Afghan military, what would you do, as leaders of province after province cut deals with the Taliban or just cut and ran? The central government dissolved in hours and fighters trained by us shed their military garb, hoping to look like civilians. The Taliban overran what was left of the Afghan security forces and secured all the major cities in that country in just days.

As of this writing the process of evacuation continues. We can hope that we didn’t manage to drag feet long enough to avoid keeping our word to those to whom we pledged our undying loyalty and our sacred promise of protection. The fate of any Afghan who collaborated in any way with western forces, be they interpreters, workers with NGO agencies or anything else will be death. The fate of women who had the audacity to become educated or who educated their daughters will be cruel, dehumanizing and eventually lethal.

Survivors will be relegated to a medieval life in the tribal feudalism the area has always known. Its main export will still be opium. In the end our efforts will have accomplished nothing but death and destruction. We knew all of this because that is what the Taliban did in the 1990s before we showed up to make war under false pretenses.

So, you can stop listening to anyone who says that the disaster at the end of our 20-year invasion and occupation of that country was unforeseeable. Anyone with two eyes and a memory has known all along that this is exactly what would happen. The Taliban holds no surprises

Once again, the only surprise is our boundless and willful ignorance.

Something Special For Our Partisan Critics

This is from Professor Heather Cox Richardson:

Some of the same people worrying about the slowness of our evacuation of our Afghan allies voted just last month against providing more visas for them, and others seemed to worry very little about our utter abandonment of our Kurdish allies when we withdrew from northern Syria in 2019. And those worrying about democracy in Afghanistan seem to be largely unconcerned about protecting voting rights here at home.

Most notably to me, some of the same people who are now focusing on keeping troops in Afghanistan to protect Americans seem uninterested in stopping the spread of a disease that has already killed more than 620,000 of us and that is, once again, raging.


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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
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Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

How It Works

In the first Star Wars movie there is a scene with Darth Vader and the officers of the Imperial star ship. The commander says,


“The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the old republic have been swept away  .  .  .  Fear will keep the local systems in line.”

That’s pretty much how Hitler did it. He didn’t actually make the Reichstag go away. He just neutered it into becoming a lap dog by means of The Enabling Act of 1933, which the council members passed due to fear for their lives.

It’s pretty much the same in Putin’s Russia, Erdoğan’s Turkey, Xi’s China and Duterte’s Phillippines. Eliminating legislative oversight is what authoritarians do to hoard all power for themselves. Most often it’s done with thug tactics. Just ask Putin opponent Alexei Navalny about his experience with Putin’s nerve poison. The message is always to do what the leader wants or be killed.

Shift to January 6, 2021, Washington, DC. It was a violent mob dispatched by Trump, a riot of Jesus-bannered, cross carrying thugs, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other militia hoodlums. They were there to overthrow the government – to eliminate Congress – so that Trump could take over the country.

Does that sound so extreme as to be preposterous? If so, you need to pay closer attention, because that’s exactly what those thugs said they were there to do, all at Trump’s bidding. They were there to murder any House or Senate members they found. They brought a noose to lynch Mike Pence. Those aren’t things people do in order to preserve their government.

Capitol Officer Brian Sicknick

And killing Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick isn’t what people do to protect and defend the Constitution.

Sicknick died defending 535 members of Congress and the symbol of America that is the Capitol Building. He was killed by Bible-thumping American terrorists, who most certainly weren’t promoting law and order or doing what Jesus would do.

Honoring Officer Brian Sicknick

Both before and since the insurrection, members of Congress have received death threats* to themselves and to their family members. As that is happening, Trump and 140 Representatives, 45 Senators, right-wing blatherers and all of those extreme hate groups are continuing to promote the Big Lie to overthrow the will of the people; i.e. to put a stake through the heart of democracy.

For any remaining skeptics: If not to overthrow the will of the people and democracy, what do you think that election fraud Big Lie is about? Surely, you don’t think those rioters are play acting when they attempt kill those in Congress. Surely, you don’t think they believe in democracy when they attempt to trash the votes of millions of Americans.

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This is how democracies die. A cult leader exhorts fanatics, the thugs terrorize all opposition and incrementally people surrender to death threats and violence. And that’s advanced when 199 of our legislators give a standing ovation to the Qanon conspiracy nut case spewing fascist hatred. Yes, fascism can happen here in America.

I’ve exhorted readers to see what Vice President Wallace had to say about fascism in America. If you believe in democracy and have not yet read his essay, please read it now.

These violent, angry thugs won’t simply melt away if Trump disappears or if this current insurrection fails – and no, it isn’t over yet. You can expect acts of terrorism, including mass shootings and bombings and perhaps political assassinations over the coming years, as highly armed, angry, hateful, bigoted, self-righteous thugs continue their war against America.

Note that violence is only being conducted by right wing fanatics. Any attempt at “whataboutism,” any attack on the center or left to somehow justify this terrorism isn’t only a false equivalency; it’s a religiously bigoted  threat to the life and safety of every American and it is an assault on our democracy.

There have been ongoing efforts to bridge our massive national divide. The truth is that I haven’t a clue how to make piece with the guys wearing Auschwitz t-shirts or the Naples, FL supermarket owner who claims 400,000 deaths are a lie and that the pandemic is “total hogwash.”** Perhaps worse, I don’t feel compelled to make peace with them.

Their baseless certainties represent the kind of reality denial that drives American terrorists to violence. Besides, the supermarket guy is allowing his mask-free store to be a super spreader center for Covid-19 infection. That’s another act of American violence.

I’m all for our learning to talk with one another constructively, to make peace, perhaps to have a truth and reconciliation commission. But that can only happen after violence is no longer a threat and democracy is secure. Reference: South Africa.

Now it’s time for all of us to stand and be counted in support of the FBI and whatever resources they need to stop the barbarians, including identifying the January 6 criminals. It’s imperative that we eliminate the clear and present danger that these home grown killers and desecrators are.

The terrorists have already breached the gates of democracy and are buoyed by their treasonous actions because they see January 6 as a victory for themselves. If we are to continue our bold experiment in self-rule, we better get some victories notched against the barbarians damned fast.



From Morgan Freeman as Judge Leonard White in the closing scene of the 1990 film, The Bonfire of the Vanities:


“I’ll tell you what justice is. Justice is the law. And the law is man’s feeble attempt to set down the principles of decency. Decency!

“And decency is not a deal. It isn’t an angle or a contract or a hustle. Decency – decency is what your grandmother taught you. It’s in your bones.

“Now, you go home. Go home and be decent people. Be decent.”


*For spewers of death threats, we all know that your anonymous threatening  brands you a coward. It’s the act of people with such low self-esteem and sense of impotence that it’s the only thing they can find to help them feel powerful. With that in mind, I offer you a wish:

I wish you a pony in your back yard and a new bike to replace the one you ruined. I wish you unicorns crossing your path and pink, heart-shaped candies on Valentine’s Day.

Then, when you’re feeling all sweet from the candy, my real wish is for you to call or write those you threatened, apologize to them and beg for forgiveness as an act of contrition. It will be your first step back into the embrace of democracy.


**That isn’t a hypothetical example; it’s what the guy said.

In fact, many people are claiming that Covid-19 is a hoax, even as they see death all around and see our over-maxed hospitals with exhausted, weeping staff and even as these deniers themselves gasp their last breath. I don’t understand that and have asked for an explanation, but none has been offered, so I’m asking again. If you can explain that, please do so in the Comments section below to help us all to understand.


Ed. note: We need to spread the word so that we make a critical difference, so,

  1. Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe and pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!) Use the simple form above on the right.
  2. Engage in the Comments section below to help us all to be better informed.


The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Said John Maynard Keynes, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” So, educate me and all of us. That’s what the Comments section is for.
  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  4. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.


Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Friends – Or Not

Reading time – 2:50; Viewing time – 4:56  .  .  .

A key reason that many divorces are so bitter, so vitriolic and often find people doing self-destructive things only because doing so will harm the other person, too, is a profound sense of betrayal. It’s the same reason that we treat traitors far more harshly than we treat criminals. A betrayal by someone we trusted is, indeed, a bitter thing and their saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t magically restore trust. That has consequences on the world stage.

Imagine you’re an Israeli Mossad counter-terrorism operative and you’ve spent years building relationships that have put you in a vital position with key ISIS people where you can collect critical information about ISIS terror campaigns. You listen, you learn, and then when you can manage to get word to your superiors, you tell them of ISIS plans for attacks on the west. You constantly guard against even a whiff of suspicion about your double agent status among ISIS sympathizers, because that suspicion alone would likely result in your death.

And then, on an otherwise ordinary day and in one blistering moment of betrayal, the President of the United States blows your cover.

If you’re lucky, you find a way to disappear before ISIS thugs can grab you. If not, you’re already dead.

That’s the likely short version of the current experience of one Mossad agent and that story reverberates throughout the Israeli intelligence community, as they have lost a critical source of information for the safety of their country and perhaps lost a colleague and friend as well. How do you suppose those folks feel right now about sharing intelligence with the United States?

“‘We will think twice before conveying very sensitive information,” said Danny Yatom, Israel’s former head of Mossad.

Further, Yatom said, “If Monday night’s Washington Post report that US President Donald Trump recently revealed classified information to Russia is true, it would be a grave violation of intelligence sharing protocol and could lead to harm to the source  .  .  .” [i.e. the Mossad agent].

But that’s just one Israeli talking, right? Turns out there are many more people with something to say about this:

In an interview with ABC News, Dan Shapiro, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel called the president and his team “careless,” saying that the reported disclosures demonstrate a “poor understanding of how to guard sensitive information.”

“The real risk is not just this source,” said Matt Olsen, the former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center .  .  . “but future sources of information about plots against us.”

The immediate danger due to President Trump’s breathtakingly hazardous revelation to the Russians is the life of a Mossad agent. The long term and potentially far more destructive danger is the future lack of intelligence cooperation we can expect, not just from Israel, but from other allies as well, as they focus on the needs of their own countries, realizing that they cannot trust the United States of America to consistently act with their welfare in mind. Such is the peril brought about by President Trump’s betrayal of a close ally without any concern for consequences.

Following a betrayal – especially one as public as this – it’s very difficult to restore trust. Think about the president who made that happen the next time you board an airplane for an international flight home, or go to a nightclub anywhere or just send your kids to school, knowing that our allies are not helping to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Friends don’t betray friends.


James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” tweeted President Trump on May 12 regarding their meeting on January 27, when the president is said to have asked for Comey’s loyalty to him and Comey reportedly pledged only his honesty.

“Tapes” is an archaic term now, as nearly all recording is digital. Sadly, even those calling for the release of recordings of Trump’s Oval Office conversations are using the word “tapes”. I can easily imagine Trump weaseling around a demand for voice recordings if he has them, because he can truthfully say that there are no tapes.

Memo to everyone: Stop using the word “tapes”. A catchall like “audio recordings” will be much more useful and far less likely to invite intentional misleading.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2021 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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