The premier establishment newspaper is allowing discussion of the folly of imperialist war, writes Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
An extraordinary news analysis in The New York Times on Saturday called the U.S. war in Afghanistan a “neocolonialist adventure.”
The admission is startling for the establishment newspaper, which is usually in the business of covering up or justifying U.S. military interventions around the world.
The piece, by Times reporter Adam Nossiter, the Kabul bureau chief, said:
“The war the Americans thought they were fighting against the Taliban was not the war their Afghan allies were fighting. That made the American war, like other such neocolonialist adventures, most likely doomed from the start. Recent history shows it is foolish for Western powers to fight wars in other people’s lands, despite the temptations.”
The piece even quotes Mao Tse-Tung, and not only identifies the U.S.’s two-decade intervention in Afghanistan as a lost cause “doomed to fail” from the start, but goes on to criticize imperialist war in general:
“When it comes to guerrilla war, Mao once described the relationship that should exist between a people and troops. ‘The former may be likened to water,’ he wrote, ‘the latter to the fish who inhabit it.’ And when it came to Afghanistan, the Americans were a fish out of water.”
Just as the Russians had been in the 1980s. Just as the Americans were in Vietnam in the 1960s. And as the French were in Algeria in the 1950s. And the Portuguese during their futile attempts to keep their African colonies in the ’60s and ’70s. And the Israelis during their occupation of southern Lebanon in the ’80s.”
That a Times reporter might privately harbor these thoughts is not out of the ordinary. But that the paper would allow him to print such a thing is.
Notably, the piece was labelled a news analysis, and not an opinion piece, putting the Times news department behind it.
De Gaulle’s Warning
The piece notes that French President Charles de Gaulle tried to convince President John Kennedy not to get the U.S. involved in Vietnam, after France’s failed colonialist war there:
“Long before, at the very beginning of the ‘misadventure,’ in 1961, President John F. Kennedy had been warned off Vietnam by no less an authority than Charles de Gaulle. ‘I predict that you will sink step by step into a bottomless military and political quagmire, however much you spend in men and money,’ de Gaulle, the French president, later recalled telling Kennedy.
The American ignored him. In words that foreshadowed both the Vietnam and Afghan debacles, de Gaulle warned Kennedy: ‘Even if you find local leaders who in their own interests are prepared to obey you, the people will not agree to it, and indeed do not want you.’”
That is the lesson learned by de Gaulle in Vietnam and Algeria that the U.S. did not understand and led them foolishly to believe that spending $83 billion to train and equip a 330,000-Afghan army would hold off the Taliban.
The Times analysis said the U.S. “defeat” in Afghanistan was all the more surprising because “the decades preceding the millennium had been suffused with talk of the supposed ‘lessons’ of Vietnam.”
It quotes the late Senator Mike Mansfield in the late 1970s who told a radio interviewer about Vietnam: “The cost was 55,000 dead, 303,000 wounded, $150 billion. It was unnecessary, uncalled-for, it wasn’t tied to our security or a vital interest. It was just a misadventure in a part of the world which we should have kept our nose out of.”
The defeat in Vietnam, the Watergate scandal and the revelations about U.S. intelligence misdeeds and corruption in the Church Committee and other congressional investigations in the 1970s put American militarists on their heels.
It would not be until 1991, 16 years after defeat in Southeast Asia, that the U.S. was confident enough to launch a large-scale invasion of a foreign nation. At the time of the First Gulf War President George H.W. Bush declared that the “Vietnam syndrome” was defeated.
He said: “The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula…. By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” The “syndrome” was the crisis among American rulers of their imperial project derailed by defeat in Vietnam.
Given that most of corporate media is decrying the latest U.S. defeat, it is way too early, based on this one Times article, to say the newspaper channeling America’s ruling class interests is turning against U.S. imperial adventures. That it acknowledges Afghanistan was indeed an imperial adventure, and not a justified war to bring democracy, is significant.
One might hope that though the “lessons of Vietnam” were ignored, the “lessons of Afghanistan” will be learned and an Afghan Syndrome might last longer. At the very least, those notions are being allowed to be discussed.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional work as a stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe
I sure hope that the Taliban doesn’t reneg on its promises and start staging weekly public executions for “crimes” such as apostasy or homosexuality, like our trusted allies the Saudis
The NY Times article is like the one they wrote about Bernie Sanders showing all his legislative achievements. This came after their onslaught of anti-Bernie propaganda. Then they continued to lie about Sanders. As soon as the next profitable war is apparent, the NY Times will very likely become a cheerleader for waging it. The NY Times is the enemy of all that is decent. But most of all it is the greatest enemy of the truth in the media, as it scrambles to hide behind half-truths and an occasional story like this one. The owners, editors, and so many of their reporters (really their stenographers and puppets) must clutch their ill-gotten prestige to assuage the great shame they must feel. It is good that in an ocean of its lies the NY Times feels impelled to publish a mostly useful article.
I believe that the NYT remains 100% on board with ongoing respective slaughters in Syria and Yemen
Firstly let me state that I live in china and consortium is the few websites that has escaped censorship in china, even with VPN I cannot access that column by the New York Times , largely the Chinese media have been celebrating the humiliation of the U.S in Afghanistan , what they recognize though is that the Americans will never learn and those troops will be diverted elsewhere, where exactly matters most to the Chinese , they understand that imperialism wants more blood, jumping from one corner of the planet to another. The Europeans largely have no Independent foreign policy and will yapp what the Americans say, also what should be recognized is that china is helping millions of its citizens out of poverty, while the opposite is happening in the United States , people are sliding back into poverty yet their government can afford to waste trillions of dollars in un endless wars and military adventurism that is destroying the livelihoods of their own people, the irony of capitalism is that they need to help corporations at the behest of their own people .
Too bad the NYT didn’t notice the war was neocolonial 20 years ago, when it might have done some good.
The US and UK will now proceed to engage in open-ended economic warfare against Afghanistan and to covertly arm and fund any group that will oppose the Taliban.
NYT meanwhile continues to promote the genocidal, illegal wars in Yemen and Syria, and provocations against Russia and China under the aegis of the imaginary “rules based international order”
Notice that none of the “leaders” commenting care at all about the massive damage , death and destruction of the actual country on which the USA was getting it revenge. Many people realize that this was done on purpose from the time of Carter, Brzezninski, Reagan, and the “9?11 attack” was just an excuse to invade and take over.
Despite the fact that there will continue to be significant resistance, the leading faction of the US foreign policy establishment is opting to disengage from the endless wars of the Middle-East in order to focus its resources and energy on confronting China. However, despite Putin’s attempts at a positive relationship, the United States’ continuing hostility toward Russia has driven that nation into alliance with China, creating a Eurasian power economic, military and diplomatic power led by China, in union with Russia, the likes of which it has never seen. The end of forty years of war in Afghanistan does present an opportunity for the United States to break with the disastrous geopolitical doctrine of the last sixty years, a return to “peaceful coexistence” and the joint economic reconstruction of Central Asia.
It may be that the power elite are so well-connected and empowered globally that they no longer have need for any nation state sovereignty. Perhaps they now can decry imperial wars because they are moving forward with The Great Reset at lightning speed. Who knows who made what deal with the Taliban. A big question is who will control and profit from Afghanistan’s immense mineral and rare earth resources. That is the hand to watch, no matter the headlines or even the fine print.
That article from the NYT is a good sign. But what of the fact that they included it in their Saturday edition? Isn’t that the least read edition? If so, were they trying to bury it?
Los que han ganado miles de millones de dólares son las industrias de la muerte bélicas que surte tolo que consumió en este caso las tropas en Afganistán.
Yeah, but this is like closing the barn door after the horses are gone. I honestly don’t think it’s all that significant. If they allowed writers to write that stuff back when the public needed to hear it, in 2001, and 2003, it might have made some difference. It’s too late now.
It is significant at any time given the self-censorship imposed on mainstream reporters.
Mansfield didn’t mention the more than three million Vietnamese dead, though, did he?
War is so profitable for certain parties that it is hard to imagine that they will cease dredging up imaginary villains and existential threats. However, one can hope that the American public’s willingness to go along with so-called “humanitarian” wars will be lessened, at least for a while. One thing is certain: Henceforth, no one, neither friend nor foe, will believe in the invincibility of the American military–the “greatest fighting force in the history of the world.”
I quit reading the NYT around 1985. They then disgraced themselves for all time to come by their failure to investigate honestly the facts during W’s push to war with Iraq.
How can anyone believe JFK would have pulled out of Vietnam. He was a good looking man but short on character and not a particularly talented politician. Don’t know how a President afraid to push Congress on Civil Rights legislation would have handled the s storm from Republicans and Southern Democrats as Uncle Ho’s Commie hordes dominoed South to Saigon in 1965.
Apart from the msm it is well known that JFK intended to pull out of Vietnam.His withdrawal plan was already signed as NSAM 263, but for political reasons he didn’t intend to announce it until after his reelection. hXXps://www.maryferrell.org/pages/1963_Vietnam_Withdrawal_Plans.html
We may see some limited debate about imperial tactics, but one thing Americans will never see is a real debate about abandoning our far-flung empire and all the easy, dirty money it provides. I.e., easy money for plutocrats and some of their minions, poverty and misery for everyone else.
You can’t cure an illness if you can’t define what it is. This isn’t actually a full definition of America’s sickness but it’s a start.
First, let me state that I have been reading Consortium News now for nearly a decade. I had great admiration for the late Robert Parry, whom I actually met once briefly at a conference in D.C., and I am thankful to the current editorial staff for continuing to publish good quality independent analysis. And it would be superfluous to point out that your herculean efforts with respect to the Julian Assange case deserve the highest praise.
I therefore hesitated to reply to this piece, not only for this reason, but also because I do not (and will not) subscribe to the NYT and have not read the original article. But after mulling it over a bit more, I felt compelled, notwithstanding, to at least voice my opinion. Perhaps I am the only one to think this, and perhaps I am wrong.
I am not inclined to interpret this article as any kind of authentic volte face for the NYT; in fact, given their record, I place absolutely no stock in their authority to speak on neocolonialist wars. If what is reported here does indeed represent the gist of the article, then it seems to me that the reason for its publication is hidden in plain sight:
“The American ignored him.”
I have always felt this retrospective narrative by De Gaulle about how he “warned” Kennedy to be self-serving, since it was JFK who was his voice of conscience on Algeria. JFK did not really need De Gaulle’s advice on Vietnam: he was told the same thing by Edmund Gullion on his visit to Vietnam as congressman in 1951, advice which largely echoed the same philosophy this journalist cites from Mao Tse-Tung. JFK indeed took this to heart, as his letter in May of 1953 to John Foster Dulles, his Senate speech on Algeria in 1957, and in general his attitude towards involvement in Vietnam throughout his presidency betrays. After the famous week-long debate in November of 1961 when only he and the attorney general held the line on introducing combat troops, JFK sent John Kenneth Galbraith on a fact-finding mission to Vietnam. He returned in February of 1962 with information confirming what Kennedy suspected, and the president instructed him to convey his report to McNamara. It was thus in early 1962 that plans for withdrawal began. I will not go into this whole story yet again; it has become something of a dead horse that we seem to have to beat whenever mainstream media (and many alternate outlets as well) write or speak the two words “Kennedy” and “Vietnam” together. But I can point your readers to John Newman’s groundbreaking work from 1992, «JFK and Vietnam», recently updated and republished in 2017, for the particulars. They might also want to consult James Blight’s «Virtual JFK», Gordon Goldstein’s «Lessons in Disaster», and even David Kaiser’s «American Tragedy», as well as the host of articles by James DiEugenio, a frequent past contributor to Consortium News, on this subject.
The Times continues to push this threadbare and now largely discredited story that JFK got us into Vietnam, as if the Dulles brothers, Eisenhower, Nixon and Lansdale before him, and then LBJ after him, had nothing to do with it. Consortium News recently published a tribute to Mike Gravel (hXXps://consortiumnews.com/2021/06/27/what-mike-gravel-meant). Let us not forget that it was thanks to his edition of the Pentagon Papers, and not the one published by the Times, that we have the fuller record which includes a chapter (omitted by the Times) in volume 2 entitled “Phased Withdrawal of US Forces, 1962-64” (pp. 160-200).
If there has ever been a President opposed to neocolonialism, it was JFK. In fact, one could say that if anyone attempted to carry forward the spirit of The Atlantic Charter, it was he. [See: Richard D. Mahoney, «JFK: Ordeal in Africa» (New York, Oxford: Oxford University, 1983); Philip E. Muehlenbeck, «Betting on the Africans: John F. Kennedy’s Courting of African Nationalist Leaders» (Oxford, New York: Oxford University, 2012); Robert B. Rakove, «Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World» (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University, 2013); Greg Poulgrain, JFK vs Allen Dulles: Battleground Indonesia (New York, Skyhorse: 2020)].
If the Times could find a believable way of blaming Afghanistan on Kennedy, they would.
“The Afro-Asian revolution of nationalism, the revolt against colonialism, the determination of people to control their national destinies … in my opinion the tragic failure of both Republican and Democratic administrations since World War II to comprehend the nature of this revolution, and its potentialities for good and evil, has reaped a bitter harvest today—and it is by rights and by necessity a major foreign policy campaign issue that has nothing to do with anti-communism.” – from a speech John Kennedy gave during the Stevenson campaign, 1956)
Thank you for your comment and the evidence you laid out about Kennedy’s position on Vietnam and colonialism. The Times piece did get that partially wrong. However, neither the Times article nor Consortium News’ was about Kennedy. It is tangential to the main point. And before he wanted to get out. JFK did get more involved so he did ignore de Gaulle at first.
If you didn’t read the damned article, then we don’t need your novel about it. For an in-depth, on-the-spot report on Vietnam, read Daniel Ellsberg’s “Secrets”, which I am halfway through at the moment. I remember the 1960s very well, thank you, given my age.
It was an interesting comment, even if tangential. Why be so rude?
I agree wholeheartedly. The NYT should be the site of mass protests for their role in promoting “neo colonial” wars. They should be paying reparations to the survivors. It is part of a criminal conspiracy. No one should support this propaganda by contributing in the form of a subscription to this ruling class rag! If you must read it, find it for free and contribute the $ saved to consortiumnews.com.
You left out us Brits – We had wars in Afghanistan in 1838, 1878 and 1919, and lost the lot! It seems strange that the US didn’t take this into account when they launched their own misguided misadventure. Such is the nature of hubris.
Could not find Adam’s piece in the New England Saturday 8-21-21 print edition NYT fyi!
The link to the online version of the article is in the article above.
Thanks, Joe, for pointing this “opening”, including the astute observation that the article was “news analysis” and not an opinion piece.
On de Gaulle’s Viet Nam advice to President Kennedy, while JFK may not have heeded it at the time, perhaps it was in the back of his mind, for two years later, JFK’s foreign policy inclinations was shifting toward fostering a more peaceful world. Remember his seminal commencement speech at American University, June10, 1963, and there was considerable secret correspondence with Krushchev. And so it is not surprising that at the time of his assassination, he was planning withdrawal from Viet Nam.
I agree. That was one reason why Kennedy was assassinated.
Well, this is a most interesting development and, as you say, Joe, certain “notions” may now be permitted discussion.
Certainly, this article in the Times might simply be nothing more than the first fig leaf designed and deployed to cover up any exposure of certain other “notions”.
First is the truth that, despite the decision to use the military, for the crimes of 9/11, the Afghan people were innocent of ANY involvement in those crimes.
That means that “WE” (meaning the Big Boys and Girls, the “deciders”) killed a hundred thousand-plus human beings who, however “good” or “bad” as human beings, they have been by “our” (lower case denotes we, the people) lights, killed, as they were in “our” names, had NOTHING whatever to do with the crimes used to justifying killing them, wounding them, and then running rough-shod over their nation and society for twenty years.
Bearing in mind, of course, that WE had lured the Soviet Union into war, previously, with Afghanistan.
WE have been messing with the Afghan people for quite a considerable time.
Then we (lower case), must consider the lies used to not only start the war but to keep it going when those doing the lying, knew it was a lost (though continuingly highly profitable) cause.
Now, it may well be, that we (lc) simply cannot muster the gumption to hold certain of THEM (uc) to task or consequence for such deceits.
Which simply means that deceit will not only remain but will expand exponentially.
Then, there is the matter of torture, as well as the other wars and excesses of the “war on terror”.
Torture, for example.
Apparently, we were/are not sufficiently appalled in large enough numbers (or noise) to make clear that those who made torture a policy, designed the “program” and engaged in the antics require considerable consequence.
Not just the little scapegoats (the proverbial “bad apples”, but THOSE who
instigated, approved, or knew of the torture (Congress, looking at YOU).
Lying this nation into war, time and again, really ought be considered unacceptable, if the pretense of democracy is to be retained.
The pretense may no longer be considered necessary, of course, as the hard times ahead, domestically, may require that we, whatever we are deemed reluctant about, might be instructed through privation, or even starvation, to “get back to work” as the financial class returns to “God’s work” and lifts all boats to prosperity and perpetual profit expansion, as the rentier class claims THEIRS.
Those who lie to us, about virtually everything, will THEY now demand a shrinking military budget, with a capable, genuine not for profit,health care (not insurance)?
What would such a change do to the U$ military mission of “Full Spectrum Dominance” and would such a change reduce lying?
Lessened “learned” might suggest that, had the U$ behaved differently for the last seventy-five years, this might well be a very different, less hostile and terrified world.
Yet, we now observe a political class making every possible effort to turn us(lc) against each other, to undermine trust among the people even as trust between the people and the government continues to shrink, and as many perceive the media’s long role of propagandist for wealth, power, and privilege, witness the growing two-tiered legal system excuse the Sacklers (of opioid deaths fame), hold no one to aacount for economic mayhem, declare that money is speech, and corporations “people”, while corporations are but fronts for individuals, WHOSE wrongdoing is shielded from consequence, on a personal level, simply by having the corporation “fined” for any destructive behavior.
Yes, the U$ has behaved like the colonial/military empire that it is.
But, the “accepted” predation at home (in the “Homeland”) is equally destructive and, as yet, little remarked upon.
Just suppose that the Times had not pushed out Chris Hedges, had instead highlighted his sensibilities and perception?
Suppose, that for the last seven and a half decades, that the U$ had fielded a diplomatic corp who were fully appreciative of the history, culture, and language of other nations and societies, rather than seeking to control and dominate them, stealing their resources and cleverly burdening such societies with debt such that those societies were reduced to mere vassalage or worse.
Until we deal with deceit, delusion, greed, and military and economic violence will continue to be waged in our(lc) names.
However, perhaps a new (non fig) leaf has been turned.
Call it light at the end of the tunnel, or the crucial “corner”, turned.
Time will tell.
With consequence it will reveal one thing, without consequence, quite another.
Interesting to hear that there is finally one article in the NYT talking sense. But I don’t plan to renew my subscription which expired around five years ago. Maybe they should do some soul-searching over there as to why they “manufactured consent” for all the “never-ending wars” of the last generation.
Very good that Joe Lauria mentions the great Charles de Gaulle – whose prescience with respect to Vietnam and other matters was truly extraordinary. His highly courageous decision to withdraw French troops from Algeria – which was even tougher than Biden’s likewise courageous decision to leave Afghanistan, given the large number of French settlers in Algeria – should be a template for America. Also, as Diana Johnstone has pointed out, de Gaulle was one of only two postwar European leaders (the other being Olaf Palme) who had the courage to embark on a foreign policy independent of the expansionist “Pax Americana.”
Certainly the prescience and wisdom of de Gaulle were informed by his having been “on the other side of the fence,” as the de facto leader of the French resistance in World War II – his having been in a similar position as the Vietnamese, Algerian, Afghan and other insurgents fighting against collaborationist regimes imposed by foreign imperialists – in his case, against the Pétain/Laval government collaborating with Nazi Germany.
Instead, the USA – imbued with what Senator J. William Fulbright called the “Arrogance of Power” – has repeatedly fallen into the same interventionist follies, learning nothing and forgetting nothing.
And not realizing that “enemies” like the Viet Cong and Taliban were not in fact fighting for some world-conquering philosophy like Communism or Radical Islam (which the USA itself was doing, in a quasi-Trotskyist missionary campaign to impose its hegemony and ideas of “democracy” and “human rights” globally) but rather for nationalism, the right to be left alone, manage one’s own affairs, and not kow-tow to foreign invaders.
Superb comment, PEG.
Now that the NYT has named the US neocolonialist war on Afghanistan it might publish another article calling for the immediate release of Julian Assange, imprisoned by the UK/USA for exposing US crimes in that war, and subsequently their illegal war upon Iraq, launched to find WMD that they knew did not exist but declared were in “the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” (Donald Rumsfeld – U.S. Department of Defense release, March 30, 2003).
Perfect remark on The Times and Assange, Mikael! But that would also require the editors/writers to connect dots, even dots staring them in the face.
Remarkable from NYT!
One can hope that we will now have the Afghan Syndrome to last!
Yes, and in addition to the “failures” we have great “successes” for the interests of the Military/Security/Surveillance/Espionage complex: they made a “killing”.
In the last 20 years alone, many hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions even, have passed from the federal govt. into the coffers of the likes of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Triple Canopy, Dyncorp etc. etc. The corruption and conflicts of interest here are notorious, War is indeed a racket.