Viewpoint: Biden ends Bush’s failed Afghan war

Karen Rubin, Columnist

The end of America’s longest war in Afghanistan coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the heinous Sep. 11, 2001 terror attack that triggered it should have brought dancing in the streets. Instead, it brought new condemnation – as if there was a hunger for more dead Americans, who could then be used to demean and attack and ultimately remove this president, the first with the courage to end the war.

For what purpose? Because blood lust for revenge has never been extinguished and never will be.

On this, the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, it is time for some truth telling.

Here’s the nexus between our war in Afghanistan and the most tragic debacle in Iraq and the biggest bungle in American history, Sept. 11, 2001.

The attacks marked the biggest failure of any administration, but the Bush administration saw a way to deflect attention by turning 9/11 into this noble, clarion call to patriots to unleash a War on Terror to fight Islamic terrorists and take revenge.

Instead of anyone questioning why intelligence warning about the Sept. 11 terror attack that arrived Sept. 10 (on top of other warnings, including foiling a similar attack against the G-7) was not read until after Sept. 12 (gay translators had been fired), or how four commercial airplanes could be hijacked and flown around for two hours without being challenged by the U.S. military, though passengers had time to make frantic calls to their relatives, our nation’s attention and anger was focused on Afghanistan.  And  too soon the focus was on Iraq (based on lies that Saddam Hussein had some involvement with 9/11 and had WMDs).

Sept. 11 victims – the 3,000, including 344 from Nassau County – have been lionized, canonized each year, with a ritualized reading of the names. No one asks why Rudy Giuliani, the New York City mayor at the time who became “America’s Mayor” and a millionaire because of 9/11, had placed emergency operations in the World Trade Center, even though it had already been a terror target (in 1993), or why emergency responders had different radios and radios that didn’t function to call them back down from the towers.

George W. Bush was not chastised for these gross failures that resulted in 3,000 dead – as Biden is now being attacked for the first few days of chaos in the Afghanistan evacuation with calls (get this) from Trump, who negotiated to abject retreat, for Biden to resign. Trump had no plan for evacuation and, in fact, shut down the visa process for Afghan allies to escape. And instead of Bush being seen as inept, he was able to turn himself into a macho war president with a bullhorn and war powers (Patriot Act, torture, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, FBI sting ops to ensnare “terrorists” for headlines) to win re-election.

Sept. 11 provided Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and the neo-conservative Project for the New American Century (dedicated to “promoting American global leadership”) with the Pearl Harbor debacle they needed to galvanize Americans who would not or could not question government actions for fear of going afoul of patriotic fervor.

But now, as Biden has finally put an end to this “forever war,” The New York Times reported that the Taliban wanted to surrender as early as November 2001, but Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to “negotiate surrender.”

I recall a front-page New York Times article that said Saddam Hussein was working with back channels to inform Bush he was willing to let U.S. inspectors in to see that he did not have the weapons of mass destruction to stop the the United States from attacking. Bush ignored this so he could launch his “shock and awe” campaign in March 2003 that killed 200,000 Iraqis. Why? Bush told us why: the battle in Afghanistan was not conducive to dramatic TV news as a battle against an actual Iraq army would be.

Also, Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew Card, said that Bush had to invade Iraq (but not in August, when no one was paying attention), so not to be seen as a “paper tiger.” The reality was “Wag the Dog.”

Instead of being a celebration of the end of a futile war, people wonder, “what were the 2400 dead, the 20,000 injured, the $2 trillion spent all for” as if more American dead are needed to provide that justification.

Did we invade Afghanistan to win rights for Afghanistan’s women and girls? Laughable, especially when the same war mongers are stripping women of rights here in the United States.

Surely it was not to bring democracy and voting rights to Afghans when we are losing both here in the USA.

We invaded Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from harboring Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda (which was, in fact, being harbored by Pakistan), and now there is the same concern that Afghanistan will become ground zero for new terrorists. But as Biden demonstrated, former President Obama brought justice to bin Laden 10 years ago, and we can still monitor and attack terrorists.  Frankly, the terror threat has metastasized, but we don’t have boots on the ground in all those places.

But while 2,400 American soldiers have been killed in the course of this war, 66,000 Afghan soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed, thousands by American bombs. Remember when 40 guests at a wedding were killed by a U.S. drone strike? How is killing Afghan civilians because of Sept. 11 even remotely justified? The terror Afghans lived under was from the hum of a drone above.

Instead of bequeathing Afghanistan a functioning democracy, we gave them horrendous corruption and a nonfunctioning government that fled.

So, yes, we do have an obligation for the tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the United States, NATO and our allies, or who tried to rebuild the nation along our Western model, and who now are marked for death by the Taliban.

On this, the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, instead of re-reading the 3,000 names of those lost, it might be more constructive to read the Executive Summary of the 9/11 Commission Report:

“The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were far more elaborate, precise, and destructive than any of these earlier assaults. But by September 2001, the executive branch of the U.S. government, the Congress, the news media, and the American public had received clear warning that Islamist terrorists meant to kill Americans in high numbers.” (

About the author

Karen Rubin

Share this Article