What If the US Had Fought the Saudis Instead of the Taliban?


Our twenty year occupation of Afghanistan is ending in humiliating fashion. Jim and I are thinking about re-running every one of his posts cataloging the failures of training Afghans who would — and now have — changed sides when necessary or convenient.

While I’ve got burning questions about how Trump and his hand-picked Acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, made this defeat more certain, I’m going to hold off on recriminations for a bit. After all, we have two decades of accountability to demand.

I am, however, interested in how the way in which we’re fleeing Afghanistan will influence how President Biden responds to a demand from the families of the 9/11 victims to declassify more intelligence from the investigation. They have said Biden is not welcome at the memorial if he does not respond to their demand.

Families of 9/11 victims say an FBI offer to release some documents from its investigation into the attack has not gone far enough, and are demanding a comprehensive declassification review of all relevant material, particularly on Saudi Arabia’s role.

The FBI offer on Monday followed a call by some victims’ families and first responders for Joe Biden to stay away from ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of the attack next month, if the president failed to honour a campaign pledge to lift the secrecy surrounding the multi-agency investigations.

The families want information on who financed and supported the attacks, and are currently suing the Saudi Arabian government in a federal court in New York. As part of that case, three former Saudi officials were questioned in June by the plaintiffs’ lawyers about their links with two of the 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, who spent several months in southern California before the attack. Their testimony cannot be shared with the families under secrecy rules.

Of course, if Biden does respond fully, it will demonstrate that, rather than occupying Afghanistan for two decades, we should have been fighting the Saudis.

And yet, we remained allies with the Saudis, continuing to let Saudis like Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani enter the US without adequate vetting, allowing yet another Saudi-linked terrorist attack on US soil.

We have hidden the role that our “allies” the Saudis had in 9/11 for two decades because if we actually held them accountable, rather than inflicting our need for revenge on the Taliban, their oil could no longer be a cornerstone to our  empire.

We could not hold the Saudis accountable because if we did, we would have had to stop burning oil.

We would have had to replace Saudi oil with renewables, a more modest way of life, and some humility.

We would have, out of necessity, done something about climate change.

We have plenty of time for recriminations about our failures in Afghanistan. But we have no time left to make up for the twenty years we might have spent addressing climate change instead.

150 replies
  1. harpie says:

    But we have no time left to make up for the twenty years we might have spent addressing climate change instead.

    I am thinking about how George W. Bush became President of the United States…
    I am thinking about Bush v. Gore.

  2. harpie says:

    But we have no time left to make up for the twenty years we might have spent addressing climate change instead.

    I am thinking about how George W. Bush became President of the United States…

    I am thinking about Bush v. Gore.

    • harpie says:

      Similar allegations about black people voting in Broward and Miami/Dade as we’re seeing now.
      Brooks Brothers riot, hanging chads.
      [Oil man] Bush v. [“An Inconvenient Truth”] Gore.

      • JohnJ says:

        I see a lot in all the immediate responses to the election loss by TFG’s people as an attempt to recreate the “Brooks brothers riot”.

        Giuliani and the “Kraken” were all scattered trying crate their “hanging chads” lawsuit somewhere, anywhere, but unlike 2000, the vote tallying had been improved precisely to avoid that chad problem, and they couldn’t hold up the count. In 2000, they had a plausible argument because of the chads. This time they are all getting sanctioned.

        How many times in the thick of all this did we hear one of them say “we gotta get this to the SCOTUS”. I know Giuliani said it several times.

        Stone and his ilk got lucky in 2000 and declared themselves master tacticians.
        Sometimes you just can’t recreate luck.

    • Greg Hunter says:

      If only….

      Hillary Clinton had not run for NY Senate in 2000; and,
      Janet Reno had not gone into FLA guns up to send Elian Gonzalez back then there would have been no Bush or Bush V Gore.

      Its a funny and ironic world.

        • Judy says:

          I’m not sure about Greg’s reference to Hillary Clinton but the Elian Gonzalez custody battle between his father in Cuba and his relatives in Florida was big. Janet Reno stepped in and said that the Florida relatives had to take the case to a federal court. they also raided where he was staying to take custody of him. I don’t remember much more than Elian was returned to Cuba and his father. Here’s more, all? of the story
          I believe this event angered the Cubans in Florida and maybe sent their votes to Bush.

          • Greg Hunter says:

            Judy Thank you and that is correct on Elian as the Fiasco Podcast Series on the 2000 Election starts its first episode with this story. Fiasco has been very good at telling recent historical events. They just finished one on Benghazi.

            What is overlooked is that as Gore is running for President, Hillary is running for NY Senate. That is very important in the story as you have to ask – Why did Clinton’s DOJ authorize this action with Elian Gonzalez?

            • ernesto1581 says:

              “What is overlooked…”
              could you flesh this out a little? not putting Gore/Clinton DOJ/Gonzalez/Hillary v Lazio together and coming up with breakfast right off the bat.

            • P J Evans says:

              And this has what to do with Afghanistan? (Remember, competent presidents do more than one thing at a time, don’t micromanage the departments, and don’t do things just for TV. Clinton was competent.)

        • Frank Anon says:

          Gore’s homestate was for all intents and purposes DC. Trump lost his home state in 2016 and won, moved to Florida, won his home state and then lost.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Charles Wolf: Have you ever visited Tennessee, outside the cities? Do you know anyone from rural Tennessee? Before you blame Gore for losing his “home state,” you ought to educate yourself about what kind of home it was for him.

        • Duke says:


          Why didn’t every other individual think of BLAME IT ON. . . Hillary!

          OMFG, bet you someone like Trump could get elected President in America.

          Afghanistan’s problems were only delayed and surely is what will happen here if the Evangelist Grifters party are allowed in charge in any capacity.

          Religion and Politics means no freedoms unless the chosen few allow.

    • silcominc says:

      The five Republicans on the Supreme Ct. stopped a legitimate recount of ballots in Florida in 2000 with unprecedented speed because they knew that if the statewide recount of ballots that was underway in the state on that Saturday morning would continue, it would have given Gore more than enough votes to become president. Their putting Bush in charge of the government meant not only a loss of twenty years on climate change but total privatization of our military support services to companies such as Halliburton and others, and as you point out, total cover for the Saudi’s.

  3. Peterr says:

    The COVID pandemic has revealed the fact that too many journalists have a tough time communicating science-based news. “First you said ‘no masks’ then you said ‘masks’ then you said ‘no masks’ and now you say ‘masks’ again. Whatever happened to letting science dictate policy? Why can’t you make up your minds?”


    Climate change reporting is going to need journalists who are good at that. Really really good.

    • Raven Eye says:

      Back in the day, major newspapers could (and did) designate science reporters. That might have been their entire beat, or at least an identifiable portion of their reporting. Of course, in the post-WW2 period, there were a lot of big projects that relied on emerging science — and a there was a certain amount of technological hubris in those days.

      Decades later we wake up to the fact that we were ignorant of — or ignored — warning signs (I’ve been to Love Canal and have seen the technicolor ooze). Simultaneously, advertising revenue plunged just when we need an even higher standard of science reporting. Science reporting takes money, and the bean counters and hedge fund managers don’t see the ROI.

      One publication that has kept me a little more sane is the New Scientist. It is a British weekly and I’d recommend a trial subscription. The subscription gets you print and online, so you can access their archives

      • BobCon says:

        A number of publications and networks have decent science reporters.

        But there is a huge amount of stovepiping which means that there is no pressure from editors on the political and economics reporters to reach across the boundaries within the newsroom and think about assumptions, facts, and conclusions.

        Unfortunately, isolated political reporters dominate newsrooms, and their narrow focus drives headlines.

        Part of it the economics of the news business — it’s faster to publish a narrowly framed horserace article on a climate or covid debate than take time to get feedback from anyone besides the usual gang of political consultants.

        But there are also major institutional biases in favor of horserace and bothsides reporting.Covid can kill well over half a million in the US, and all most editors and producers want to think about is who “wins” some short term fight over masks.

        • Peterr says:

          The UK’s Guardian has made exactly the kind of pivots in their climate reporting that more media outlets need to make.

          In 2019, the Guardian made a pledge in service of the planet. We declared that the escalating climate crisis was the defining issue of our lifetime, and that quality, trustworthy reporting on the environment was an important tool to confront it. We promised to provide journalism that shows leadership, urgency, authority and gives the climate emergency the sustained attention and prominence it demands.

          We also vowed to practise what we preach, striving to green our operations as a global news organisation and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

          So much for promises. Here, we document the progress we have made over the past 12 months. . . .

          Some of the changes were to the stories they choose to cover, and how they cover them, but they also made changes on the business side, including moving toward net-zero emissions by 2030 and deciding to stop accepting advertising from fossil fuel extractive companies.

          More like this, please.

          • Chuck M. says:

            I subscribe to my hometown paper, and The Guardian.
            That’s all I need.
            (and emptywheel for sanity)

      • P J Evans says:

        In the US, there’s Science News. It has a website with current stories, and you can also subscribe.

  4. klynn says:

    If you rerun Jim’s posts they would be more powerful with links to parallel analysis about the Soviet occupation.

    I have asked myself why in the world we ever went, with all our intel from the Soviet failure, we knew better than to go.

    • prostratedragon says:

      Best I can do is note that under the recent unpleasantness we have forgotten just how woodenheaded (/TM Tuchman) the GWBush administration was. There is no cunning plan that could overcome the stupidity.

      • Leoghann says:

        Woodenheaded, yes. Shrub is a nice enough guy, but no one ever accused him of being smart. But the other part of that is that grifter Cheney played Shrub for his own hand-picked fool.

      • P J Evans says:

        IIRC, the British lost two armies there, one with few survivors.

        Alexander only got out by marrying, and having his senior officers marry, local women.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        Not to mention Kipling:

        “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
        And the women come out to cut up what remains,
        Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
        An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.”

  5. Bobby Gladd says:

    Here we go…

    “KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters entered Kabul on Sunday and sought the unconditional surrender of the central government, officials said, as Afghans and foreigners alike raced for the exit, signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.

    The beleaguered Afghan government, meanwhile, hoped for an interim administration, but increasingly had few cards to play. Civilians fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings.

    Helicopters buzzed overhead to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy, while smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.

    In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces. Just days earlier, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.”

    • Chuck M. says:

      Some were not so stunned, and assured the audience surprise was a facade:

      NBC’s Richard Engel Says He’s Not Surprised by How Quickly Taliban Is Taking Over: ‘Was Quite Clear That It Was Going to Come to This’

      “Last time I was here I spoke to Afghan government officials, to Afghan military officials. It was well-known that the security services were collapsing a month, two months ago, three months ago. So this feigned surprise that — maybe it’s genuine surprise, but if it is, I don’t understand what it’s based on. It was quite clear that it was going to come to this, when you started to see the Taliban take territory without having to fight months ago.”

  6. OldTulsaDude says:

    Afghanistan is what happens when arrogant but small people do not comprehend the size of the world compared to their importance within it. ” ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

    No, you don’t.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      I remember that quote…

      It made me blanche when I first heard it back then, and it makes me blanche when I hear it now…

      I saw some pictures online yesterday, of Taliban fighters sitting around inside the abandoned home of some Afghani general (Dostum?) who had already fled the country… Jesus, the place looked like something Trump would approve of, only cheaper…

      if this is what their leaders were/are like, no wonder the Afghani army, which we wasted tens of billions of dollars on, is folding up faster than a cheap suitcase…

      Seeing how easily the Taliban is overrunning the country, I’d say the government they’re chasing out of the country had next to no meaningful support w/in the country… I feel sorry for anyone who trusted us and worked with us, and is getting left behind.

      • P J Evans says:

        We knew the rulers were corrupt when we went in; that’s where a lot of the money was spent. It’s never been a nation in any sense more recent than the medieval German lordships.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          IMHO, we should have never gone in, in the first place…

          And the same for Iraq…

          That should have been obvious right from the start, and apparently was not, to those who made those disastrous decisions…

          I thought Afghanis were organized on more of a tribal basis than medieval fiefdoms…

          Certain scenes from the last part of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ come to mind…

          Somehow, the line ‘He may be a bastard but he’s our bastard’ also seems apropos…

          • P J Evans says:

            You got *that* right. (Medieval Germany was the closest European analog I could come up with. Fiefdoms, yeah, with a nominal emperor who couldn’t count on support from anyone much outside his own circle. Early medieval is probably much closer.)

            • TooLoose LeTruck says:

              Now that you mention it, the memory gets jogged and I recall something about the Germanic TRIBES from the Gallic Wars… so it’s probably a safe assumption to say the German fiefdoms that eventually became the 2nd Reich were the descendants of those tribes.

            • rip says:

              I always harken back to Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror”. Still reflecting well from the 14th into the 21st century.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      It’s impossible to describe how stupid the Neocon view of military reality is. I will thus make two observations then stop:

      First, a well-run guerilla movement makes peaceful occupation impossible. (How stupid our leaders were to imagine that someone with a little money to spend couldn’t do to us what we did to the Russians in Afghanistan beggars disbelief.)

      Second, barring a truly radical departure from all current technology, any rifle which is technically advanced to the point where it can mount a banana clip is sufficient to sustain a guerrilla movement. The rifles don’t have to be fully-automatic and need not be sophisticated in any sense. Cheap copies of an AK-47 are sufficient.

      That’s really all a politician who wishes to make war needs to know.

      • LargeMoose says:

        Well, it does seem to prove the point of the 2nd Amendment crowd. You really can fight off a modern army with just small arms if you really want to. What the 2A crowd is actually fighting for is another question. The irony is, of course, that guns do nothing to stop the kind of takeover we are currently being subjected to, unless things devolve into civil war. …

        • bmaz says:

          You have to be kidding. Seriously? This does not have squat to do with the Second Amendment and “small arms”. That is ludicrous. And, if you think “small arms” is all the Taliban operates with, you are pathetically uninformed. Also, what is the “takeover” who is the “we” are being being subjected to?? You should realize that this was a stipulated agreement entered into by the US a year and a half ago, and that there has been no assault in this evacuation on the US. Should you return here, try to do better.

          • LargeMoose says:

            I realize my post is somewhat off topic, but I was mainly responding to Troutwaxer’s comment about the use of small arms to stall a modern army. OK, they had some larger pieces, but I thought they mainly had small arms. I actually don’t know:

            “First, a well-run guerilla movement makes peaceful occupation impossible. …”.

            This statement implied that the guerillas would be able to keep it up, and not be crushed right away.

            And, where he himself emphasized small arms:

            “Second, barring a truly radical departure from all current technology, any rifle which is technically advanced to the point where it can mount a banana clip is sufficient to sustain a guerrilla movement. The rifles don’t have to be fully-automatic and need not be sophisticated in any sense. Cheap copies of an AK-47 are sufficient.”.

            He said himself that a rifle … was sufficient. I was trying to join these observations to an argument I had heard debating whether small arms in the hands of civilians could in fact fend off a modern army. This is what the 2nd Amendment people are always on about. I take no stand, because I don’t have expertise to know whether it’s possible. I tried to point out that it looked like an indication that maybe it could be done to some degree.

            And: Frankly, I have read your many unpleasant responses to others over time, but I thought that your responses were more temperate lately, so I took a chance, and posted. Is it so hard for you to disagree with me, or point out my shortcomings without taking such a nasty tone? You make yourself sound like a real jerk. I’m sorry for you. I hope you get better some day. Many very intelligent programmers seem to have this problem too, whatever that’s worth.

            As for my statement “The irony is, of course, that guns do nothing to stop the kind of takeover we are currently being subjected to, unless things devolve into civil war. …”, I meant the domestic problems with the far-right militias, et al here in the U.S. You misunderstood my point, perhaps because I didn’t put “domestic” in there somewhere.

            Finally: If you are a person in charge of this site, and want to make it into an abusive, exclusive clique, I probably won’t return. Marcy does herself a disservice putting up with your abusive manner. Other than that, I enjoy the site.

            • bmaz says:

              Yes, I guess it must be “unpleasant” to have your comment analyzed and discussed, which is all that was done. And, yes, the 2nd Amend bit is still baffling, and saying the Taliban are evidence for it is a bizarre claim. And here you are still trying to buck that up. And still failing to understand or admit what all serious equipment the Taliban has collected up from the ANA over a long time now. But no animosity intended, you have a nice night now.

                • bmaz says:

                  I tried to be nice and respond to your badgering. You are clearly not interested in detailed discussion and just want to carp at me. I don’t know you from Adam. You have four comments in your day long history here, three of which seem to be hell bent on attacking me. I do not need your editorial assistance, and neither does anybody else here.

            • Rayne says:

              1) As you noted, your reply was “somewhat off topic.” Don’t expect moderation to treat your comment as if it were on topic, then.

              2) As soon as you bring up 2A when discussing internecine warfare in another country, you’re dead in the water. 2A is a uniquely American domestic issue not applicable to warfare on foreign soil under the US military’s limited terms of engagement.

              3) There’s a reason we have a “grizzly bear” on the mod team – we get quite a few trolls who feel they can DDoS comment threads. Poke the bear and you’ll be grizzled. Need more guidance? See #commentpolicy

              • LargeMoose says:

                Thank you very much for the time and effort you put in to make such a thoughtful reply. I realize you have a river of stuff to deal with and your time is precious, so I really appreciate it.

                Having read the community guidelines, I see I’ve violated a few, to my chagrin. The combination of my hastily posted, poorly composed statements, which were easy to misunderstand, combined with a highly charged (and off-topic) topic, made for a bad first impression. I’ll make sure to be more careful so as to make my intent in future posts clear. If I had it to do over, I’d’ve posed it as a question. Best regards to all.

        • Troutwaxer says:

          You can’t fight off an army with small arms. That’s silly. What you can do is make it too expensive/painful to continue occupying your country, which is a completely different issue and may take decades. (You can also use your small arms to get big arms, either via criminal methods or demonstrating enough guerrilla warfare knowledge that someone else will pay to equip you with the good stuff.) None of this is easy or safe, and it doesn’t have Second Amendment implications.

    • ernesto1581 says:

      re: “Afghanistan is what happens…”

      see: Chalmers Johnson
      Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire, Nemesis.
      (a trilogy for our exceptional American Century.)

      Foreign policy, military intelligence, leadership accountability, truth in advertising??

      heard david petareus on the radio the other day. “We did more than any other nation…Remember, I was in charge over ten years ago…”
      made me want to throw up.

        • subtropolis says:

          That’s long been on my ever-expanding list of books that I too rarely get around to reading.

          Another that I can recommend is Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars.

      • rip says:

        Problem is that none of the neocons or lobbyists for the MIC will read (or admit they did) books that look at history.

        It’s always “we are new, we are the empire, we can dictate facts.”

        And it works for the MICs making the big bucks. It fails for everyone else.

        Waiting for the next nation-building intervention in….

  7. jaango1 says:

    When Cheney and Bush announced their formal pursuit of capitalism in the form and function of the AUMF Resolution, three political elements surfaced in the form of the prevailing politics animated by the Neo-Conservatives.

    1. The invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq was in the forefront of these politics for the Right.

    2. 90% of whites favored the resulting consequence of such a two-nation invasion. In contrast,90% of Racial and Ethnics were amply in opposition to this two-nation invasion.

    3. And Chicano and Native American military vets are moving their politics into establishing another arena, that being the establishment of the National Monument for Criminal Stupidity. And this typical politics, continues to this day. As such, the ‘victorious’ historians will be writing the history that has occurred over the past twenty years and is sure as hell won’t be pretty. Thus, a critique of today’s 20,000 credentialed journalists, will be on the forefront of this political, economic and military fiasco.

    In closing, the more attuned ‘opinion-makers’ will continue making the case for our national behavior that included “lending” our national Constitution for a lengthy period, perhaps for 30 years, and where the clear conclusion that 52% of the Muslim women would have a enjoyed a life full of Health, Happiness and which would have perpetuated a self-empowerment for Decency Personified.

  8. praxEs says:

    These are the questions the answers to which seem to me at the root of the most unfortunate theme of US foreign policy stretching back much before the period you have sketched here now. Particularly trenchant for me is your eagerness to identify the opportunity that arises from the possibility/pretext of answering the questions put be these families.

    Did I misinterpret what appeared to be Biden’s refusal to sidle up to the Saudi’s as he indicated publicly which Muslim states in the region he was eager to show the world he wished to consider allies? For reasons that are not entirely worthy, I was pleased that Jorden appeared in some fashion to ‘replace’ Saudi Arabia, symbolically at least, in my humble interpretation.

    It happened that my daughter counted Abdullah II as an acquaintance during part of their common high school years. Abdullah, an older than grade level student at the time, completed his residential middle and high school studies in the Connecticut Valley. Then Headmaster, Eric Widmer, later accepted an offer from Abdullah to create a prep school in Jordan and he succeeded. I found all this intriguing and have paid a bit more attention to Jordan than I otherwise might have since that time.

    For all the reforms that Abdullah has introduced, there are huge and almost insurmountable challenges remaining for Jorden that exceed the King’s reach absent a very strong alley in the region and in the world all in my inexpert opinion.

  9. Raven Eye says:

    In the mid-nineties a Navy Reserve captain we were working with recommended to me Peter Hopkirk’s “The Great Game”. That was about seven years before 9/11 and even then it seemed to be a huge cautionary tale. With every “new” development it’s déjà vu all over again.

    Oh, the horse went around
    With his foot off the ground.
    Same song, second verse,

    A little bit faster
    And a little bit worse!

  10. Charles Wolf says:


    Then we would be praising W as a great president.
    … and Jamal Khashoggi would still be alive.

    • robb rogers says:

      In what world would W/Cheney ever have been a great administration.

      Any answer including “war,” automatically fails.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Afghanistan was always a way station en route to somewhere else in the American empire. It was other things, too: a staging ground for attacks on Iraq or Iran – for guys who knew fuck all about the ME except that it had oil. It was a way to best the Russians and Brits, who failed there repeatedly, and a way to invent the new reality that BushCheney morons claimed to have mastered. What they really mastered, like Trump, is the long con, high oil prices, and a Niagara of cash spent on accountability-free government contractors.

    That the American presence is dissolving in the first wave is testament to our having built no more than a sand castle of false hopes. We’ve achieved little for the Afghans except misery. Why extend it another twenty years to achieve the same outcome?

    If we want to achieve substantive gains for Iraqi women and others, we’ll have to build them with something other than rifle barrels. Opening our immigration gates would be a good start – if we really want to do those things.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The Brits, in contrast, are doing what they always do in the face of failed imperial ambitions: closing their doors to people of color. That includes withdrawing student scholarships already granted to Afghanis, who may soon have no country to call home. Can’t risk them outstaying their welcome.

    • timbo says:

      The Bush administration also used this as a way to attempt to isolate Chinese economic expansion and political ties into Central Asia. Guess that failed as well pretty much.

  12. Feminist homemaker says:

    Unfortunately, since 2012 the USA had our own oil boom from the Shale Revolution and by 2018 we were importing only 10% of our oil from the Saudis. It went down even more after that. So it does not really follow that we would have been forced into clean energy and climate change policies. We would have poured more resources into the shale exploration to make it happen sooner and faster, perhaps. Even now when for the first time in December 2020 we went a week without importing any of their oil it has been and still is difficult to get political will to change our policies on fossil fuels and clean energy. But perhaps, if we had done right from the get go and held them responsible as soon as we knew they were, our country would have rallied around that possibility. We might have Sacrificed to make it possible. But by the Shale Revolution here in 2012, it was still fossil fuel glory, with companies proud they were weaning us off of imported oil so that we could use our own. By 2016 the Eagle Ford Shale was going so strong people assumed Saudi imports were not that important. Yet Trump made no effort to change course and in fact cozied up even more with the Saudis. Whether or not we could have weaned ourselves earlier from their imports, they should have been held accountable and if ending a horrible war with humiliation and releasing classified papers showing their involvement in 9/11 is the only way left to do it, I am all for it.

    • P J Evans says:

      I assume you mean the fracking boom – that’s kind of the last-ditch extraction method for oil and gas, and it ruins aquifers.

      • Feminist homemaker says:

        No, I meant Shale Revolution. Fracking is a very old technique originating in the 1950’s but it was not used consistently in shales until about 2002. It was the Shale Revolution, the recognition that shales could actually be reservoirs instead of seals to hydrocarbon traps, that brought on the boom in fracking with horizontal drilling. This boom lowered our dependency on Saudi Oil, a phenomenon recognized and proudly celebrated by oil companies starting back in 2012. The point being—reducing Saudi oil dependency, even ending it, would not have necessarily ushered in clean energy focus and forced us to create climate change solutions as this post imagined. A small point that seemed erroneous to me in an otherwise insightful post.

      • Leoghann says:

        Fracking is what facilitates recovery of oil from shale formations, where deposits are trapped in pockets between layers of impermeable shale. In the southeastern part of Texas’ Permian Basin, there was an area of shale that had been known since the Fifties contained well over a billion barrels of quality crude. But it was generally considered unreachable until some new fracking techniques, accompanied by directional drilling, were tried by one particular wildcatter. That happened not long before 2010, and the Permian Basin has been booming ever since then, at least until 45 couldn’t choose between his two best buddies, MBS and Putin, and allowed them to get into a price war at the beginning of 2020, right at the beginning of a pandemic.

        • Geoguy says:

          A banker friend suggested that Trump wouldn’t and couldn’t do anything about a price war. He thinks SA and Russia conspired to drive down prices, endure low prices when demand is low anyway, squeeze out the expensive US frackers, and then with the frackers out of the way, ramp up prices when demand increases. Fracked wells are expensive, built on debt, have a short lifespan, and can’t be turned off and on like a conventional oil well.

    • timbo says:

      Pretty sure this policy was to break our dependency on Saudi Oil indirectly. The US went back to being a net exporter of fuel oil as a result of this push…leaving China more at the mercy of access to middle east oil than we and are allies had been. Of course, the Europeans are still dependent on Russian natural gas now but less so than they would be without the US expansion in production that took place under Obama. That makes none of this smart policy in the long term, of course, just that there was a justification in place that made some sense to some at the time.

  13. Troutwaxer says:

    It was obvious within a week of 9/11 that the Saudis were at fault, with a little help from Pakistan’s ISI. It didn’t take much longer to understand that the driver for all of this was Wahabi Islam. Dropping a couple high-powered bombs into any/all ISI facilities, confiscating all the Saudi money in the U.S. and tracing out the funding and personnel who were spreading Wahabism to the rest of the world then shooting the right mullahs would have been a good, cheap solution – and the governments of any number of Muslim countries would have thanked us (assuming we were discreet in taking out the Wahabist missionaries.)

    • skua says:

      Muammar Gaddafi for one would have been delighted.
      His government was bankrolling major Islamic charities that acted to inhibit the spread of Wahabism.
      Out of a sense of self-preservation as Gaddafi’s form of Islam was unappreciated by Wahabists.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        One of the weirdest things to me after 9/11 was the complete lack of understanding that our strategic picture had changed, and that we had the chance to re-align ourselves with other countries that might have POVs we preferred to Wahabism… One freaking weirdo actually told me, after 9/11 that the Saudis were allies and we couldn’t betray them.

        Hello! Hey Stupid! They’re not allies any more!

    • dude says:

      This morning Sarah Chayes was on NPR talking about her years of reporting in Afghanistan post 2001 and she explained the Taliban themselves were a creation of the Pakistani ISI, and that it was common knowledge there among the tribes. They even test-marketed the name ‘Taliban’.

    • madwand says:

      One of the solutions offered at the time was to put a 100 million bounty on Bin Laden and forget the rest of it which if successful might have prevented the massive debacles in the ME in both lives and treasure. Shortly after the Afghan invasion the Taliban made an offer for peace rejected by Bush and Rumsfield. We’ve been categorizing the Taliban as terrorists ever since (not entirely undeserved and Bush didn’t want to blame the Saudis did he?) and hunting them down at every opportunity. We should expect no mercy in return and I have serious concerns about the 3000 plus soldiers and unknown number of American civilians trying to make their way to the military half of Kabul airport. This doesn’t take into account SIVs and other Afghans loyal to US who most likely are fucked as the Taliban occupy the civilian side of the same airport and all the roads leading up to it on all sides. Hopefully the Taliban will see it in their interest to allow the evacuation, but I’m sure there is an argument to shell the military side of the airport into dust. Time will tell.

      • MissingGeorgeCarlin says:

        IIRC, I believe “we” put up a $25M bounty for Bin Laden’s head on a platter. Which I found odd, considering NFL quarterback Peyton Manning had just signed a new deal w/the Colts including a $36M payment to start the contract.

        I thought: “Hmmm, a guy who slings a piece of pigskin full of air is more valuable by HALF then the supposed world’s “greatest terrorist.”

        Added to the long list of shyte that makes no sense to me……

  14. gmoke says:

    After 9/11 (which I still believe would be better as “911,” the emergency call we never answered), I thought we might begin by rethinking the oil economy but it was all “Go shopping” instead of “Solar IS Civil Defense.”

    However, I’m old enough to remember Jimmy Carter’s 1979 energy plan which called for 20% of our energy from renewables by the year 2000 (we’re just about there now) and insulating 90% of our homes to a higher standard by 1985 (more ambitious than anything in the Green New Deal or Biden’s energy plan). Reagan came into office and tried to suppress even the publication of that plan, as I recall, which is one reason why I say, too often for comfort, “Reagan killed us.”

    We’ve had many, many chances to step away from climate chaos but I fear the death wish is too strong, the addiction to cheap energy too ingrained, and the willful ignorance too comfortinng ever to do so. Too bad as there are ecological ways to change our course (geotherapy not geoengineering please) which can lead us to a much healthier life and economy than what we have now.

    • harpie says:

      Reagan came into office and tried to suppress even the publication of that plan, as I recall, which is one reason why I say, too often for comfort, “Reagan killed us.”

      …and what ENTITIES were behind Carter’s defeat and Reagan’s assent into office and the squelching of that plan?

    • Stacey says:

      Thank you for pointing out the “911” emergency call aspect of that date reference, as I saw it that way from the beginning! I kept waiting for the media to latch onto that meaning of the date, but it never happened. I regularly notice how un-conscious our language choices can be while, to my mind, pointing red flares at what we SHOULD be seeing in that language.

      To me, in the ‘novel’ that is our collective life, “911” was telling us our own house was on fire and we needed to urgently address the matter of our blowback-causing behavior in the world! But as is often the case, however you might alter the emergency that 911 was a call to action about, it is inescapable that we were/are unprepared to just notice what the accidental language all around us is asking us to notice.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Even worse, I always felt, was canonization of Bush’s phrase “September the Eleventh,” which made it sound holy. But that period reeked with propaganda, like “Homeland Security,” normalized into current usage. We no longer question its origins in Hitler’s Fatherland and other rhetorical campaigns. Orwell warned us. Those in power overrode those of us who tried to resist.

        And yes, Reagan did kill us, in the sense that his presidencies normalized and accrued institutional power around what was actually an anti-democratic oligarchy. It’s no coincidence that so many came out of that era proclaiming “Greed is good.”

        • P J Evans says:

          I’d like to demilitarize the US government, including undoing DHS and putting all its components back where they were.

  15. BobCon says:

    In a lot of ways the whole issue of who to fight represents a false dilemma, although I realize an Afghanistan-style military intervention against the Saudis isn’t an actual proposal here.

    The underlying problem is the Neocon (and Paleocon) hatred of diplomacy, and the insane belief in autocratically imposed US solutions on the world.

    In the wake of 9/11 there was a genuine opportunity for negotiations throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. The Taliban were willing to go to the table. Saddam Hussein was willing to allow serious weapons programs inspections and monitoring. Iran was open to talks.

    But Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the rest saw the inherent messiness and uncertainties behind diplomacy with paranoid autocrats and decided that meant that military might was somehow a magic wand that had no mess and uncertainty of its own.

    Adding to the problem was a press that was deeply biased toward the Neocon perspective and, just like now, institutionally unwilling to put any serious thought into developing meaningful frameworks for the news they chose to report.

    Any serious thinker who spent an hour probing the strategic foundations of someone like Paul Wolfowitz would have understood just how much gangrene was already infecting the Neocon mind. But the institutions of DC — the press, the national security think tank set, the contractors who carried out a lot of the work — simply could not accept that any member of the club was just making things up out of thin air and handwaving away any problems. And they still really can’t.

    • Silly but True says:

      With combatants on both sides not having been born yet when 9/11 happened, it’s time to note or recall several things:
      1) the Taliban offered to turn bin Laden over to neutral third-party country for trial and was rejected. Doing so would have established truth and justice as supposedly symbolized by the US over world perception of US hypocrisy. Neocons obliterated the chance for Bush to truly make new world order. How much different would things be had US proved bin Laden’s crimes in a world court
      2) in waging war without end, we cannot be surprised at the likes of Eddie Gallagher who served six consecutive combat tours of duty and the problems associated with such experiences.
      3) War Lite: After heavy air bombardment, US’ initiated boots on the ground in November 2001 with just 1,300 troops. Oct. 2001 thru Dec. 2002, US maintained less than 10,000 troops in any given month. The war’s whole next year saw US end 2003 with addition of 3000 troops at 13,000. 2004, the war’s third year saw levels double to just 20,000, the level maintained in 2005 & 2006. 2007 added 5,000 more troops increasing to 25,000 a level maintained for another year. After 8 years of war, fighting becomes more intense and US doubles to 50,000 by May 2009. Raised again to 63,000 by end of 2009. The U.S. force reaches 100,000 by August 2010 and stays there through May 2011 when Bin Laden is found hiding in neighboring Pakistan and killed. Starting June 2011 through 2014, US draws down to about 15,000. Levels reduce to less than 10,000 in 2015, and 5,500 in 2016. The war was mismanaged, nearly from start to finish.

  16. Sharyn Smith says:

    Thanks for saying this. Long overdue. Everything comes back to the Saudis. Biden must release those redacted pages and give the public and 9/11 families the truth.

  17. LaMissy says:

    Imagine you’d accepted a year’s tour for the State Department in Afghanistan in April of 2016 as a means to paying off your student loans, assuming a Clinton presidency. Then you depart in January of 2017 under Trump, and your portfolio is Girls and Women in Civil Society. You work with local women, giving out grants to encourage mostly young women to step into leadership roles, encouraging participation via the arts.

    For the last couple of weeks, they’re messaging you with more urgency daily. There is nothing you can to help. Nothing. Today, the messages are to say goodbye. You know you have painted targets on their backs.

    That’s the cost of our invasion to the real humans who trusted this country.


  18. Savage Librarian says:

    Don’t forget about the vast mineral resources in Afghanistan. And the ambitious Belt & Road Initiative. Now China has more incentive to work with the Taliban.

    “Afghanistan Wanted Chinese Mining Investment. It Got a Chinese Spy Ring Instead” – Lynne O’Donnell, 1/27/21
    “Afghan government officials said that the country has terminated oil and gas contracts with China and is seeking to renegotiate the terms of a massive mining concession that has been nearly dormant since it was inked by China more than a decade ago.”
    “Afghanistan has vast mineral deposits, including coal, copper and iron ore, talc, lithium and uranium, as well as gold, precious stones, oil and gas…”
    “Meanwhile, looking ahead to a time when the United States no longer has any presence in Afghanistan, China has reportedly been negotiating infrastructure contracts with the Taliban leadership, with whom ties go back to its 1996-2001 regime.”


  19. rip says:

    Aren’t we all forgetting about the huge arm sales that we make to SA? This is probably the main reason we send them US tax dollars – so they can pay the US contractors without having any US accountability (remember the last DoD audit? No, neither do I.) Money laundering along with death and destruction.

    They want/need to appear intimidating since they are really just a 3rd-rate country with a very lazy upper class. They import weaponry and specialists based on their oil revenues. Not sure how long that will last.

  20. d4v1d says:

    recriminations about iraqistan? in had pre-criminations enough, and criminations a-plenty. Not going back again.

  21. Marinela says:

    As long as there is an alliance between Israel and SA, United States will never attack SA or hold SA accountable.

  22. Molly Pitcher says:

    From the Washington Post: Afghanistan’s military collapse: Illicit deals and mass desertions


    The article states that from the time the Doha deal was signed in February of 2020, the Taliban started working on military and Government people in the smallest provinces. One policeman said they hadn’t been paid in 6-9 months and they were being offered money to hand over their weapons. Knowing the US was going to leave, they chose to back the winners.

    “The deals, initially offered early last year, were often described by Afghan officials as cease-fires, but Taliban leaders were in fact offering money in exchange for government forces to hand over their weapons, according to an Afghan officer and a U.S. official.

    Over the next year and a half, the meetings advanced to the district level and then rapidly on to provincial capitals, culminating in a breathtaking series of negotiated surrenders by government forces, according to interviews with more than a dozen Afghan officers, police, special operations troops and other soldiers.”….”During the past week, more than a dozen provincial capitals have fallen to Taliban forces with little or no resistance. Early Sunday morning, the government-held city of Jalalabad surrendered to the militants without a shot fired, and security forces in the districts ringing Kabul simply melted away. Within hours, Taliban forces reached the Afghan capital’s four main entrances unopposed.”

    Nothing personal, it’s just business.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      From the Daily Beast:

      “We are betrayed by everyone, by the world, by our leaders and soldiers, we lost everything.”
      — Female Afghan TV presenter Khadija Amin”


      “A source in Kabul told The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity that the Taliban is asking for a peaceful transfer of power without fighting. They also revealed that Ali Ahmad, the former minister of interior, will likely be made the head of a caretaker setup.”

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        I hope for the sake of many, many Afghanis that this is true (a peaceful transfer of power) and honestly, I won’t be holding my breath.

        Just once, when something like this is happening, I’d really like to see the victorious side actually prove to be magnanimous and forgiving, and take the high road.

        I’d be delighted to be surprised here.

    • Robert I says:

      This seems quite believable.The sudden collapse of a military force that, on paper, seemed substantial, suggests that it must have been hollowed out by many such deals and desertions. Many of the Taliban apparently had US weapons that must have been acquired from government forces.

      Evidently the US and NATO were oblivious to what was going on. I suspect this reflects that the Taliban had learned from bitter experience to severely limit their use of radios and cell phones, thus negating the usefulness of SIGINT.

      • Zeke says:

        I am not an expert by any means, but I spent seven years in Afghanistan and can confidently say that neither the US nor NATO were oblivious to what was going on. This was always going to be the result, whether it happened 10 years ago or 10 years from now. (HOW they are leaving is another matter, however).

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Colonial wars are always ugly. But this debacle reflects a Rumsfeldian lack of planning and of ignorance and incompetence. Or lack of purpose. If the US had intended not to evacuate the tens of thousands of Afghans who aided America’s two-decades long war there, it could not have done a better job.

    The new Afghan government could poke its former colonizers in the eye – and save itself future trouble – if it declared an amnesty and gave those who wanted to leave the country sixty days to do so. That is, so long as the US, the Brits, and others in their coalition flew them out and gave them new homes. The result would be long remembered – and would quickly distinguish between those willing to walk the talk and those who prefer cheap talk.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I realize that had Trump executed this withdrawal, it would have been more catastrophic for Afghans. And I realize that executing an evacuation plan – an overt admission of defeat – can doom it to accelerated failure. But that’s no excuse, after twenty years, for not having credible mass evacuation plans, as seems evident here. The military’s mythical response, “we don’t plan for failure,” has never been realistic, any more than it was in the Eiger Sanction.

      • Marinela says:

        “I realize that had Trump executed this withdrawal, it would have been more catastrophic for Afghans.”

        So true. Except no Republican will acknowledge this fact.

      • P J Evans says:

        The hero in Cherryh’s “The Paladin” said, training a girl who’s out for revenge, “Always have a plan for after”. I expect the Pentagon to be able to plan that far ahead, including for “after we get the cr*p beaten out of us”..

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Wasn’t that – lack of an exit plan – also one of the major failures of the Bushanistas when they went into Iraq?

        Again, w/ catastrophic consequences for all involved…

        First Afghanistan, then Iraq…

        The worst one-two foreign policy decisions in the history of the country…

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      I think that the lack of advance action in moving out the Afghans who had helped us was deliberate, not poor planning. I do not believe that we were not aware of the Taliban buying off the Afghan troops; if the Daily Beast found out about it, I’m pretty sure intelligence did too. You have to accept the fact that a percentage of the translators, drivers and other Afghans helping the US, were also spies, or at least informants.

      If you will remember, early on we were having US military killed by the Afghan soldiers we were training. Expediting the process of evacuating Afghan nationals would have invited the Taliban to make the transition in a much bloodier fashion than what was just done.

      There was no way this was going to end well. I don’t believe anyone who says we could have extracted tens of thousands of Afghans and shaken hands with fully functioning Afghan leadership as we walked out the door. There is too much corruption in the Middle East to ever assume people will do what they say.

    • timbo says:

      It’s pretty clear that Tom Cotton would not have left Afghanistan much more than a burning ruin. Sadly, there will be other people on the right who are for just that. Someone should ask Tim Cotton how he would have handled Vietnam better. Also if Tim Cotton thinks we should have invaded Iraq at all in 2002-03 at all.

  24. Marinela says:

    So why spend so much of US tax payers money to train the Afghan forces, and the result is the Afghan forces capitulated to Taliban without fighting? I am for peaceful transfer of power, except the power transfer went the wrong direction.
    Most of US tax payers money went to contractors, so we should remember to stop spending this way, it proves it doesn’t work.
    Another country doomed by it’s mineral resources.

    • timbo says:

      The US trained them to be dependent on air power but didn’t give them any capabilities to maintain that air power. The situation is somewhat different in Iraq where, as long as they have oil dollars, they can buy our services and equipment from us. The Afghan government and military had no oil money to buy this stuff from the US… making US policy there doomed from the beginning.

  25. drouse says:

    I’m waiting to see just how long it takes for the stabbed in the back narrative to rear its ugly head. Where we had the Will to see things through and prevail but couldn’t because we were betrayed. Saw a lot of that crap post Vietnam. Mostly from officers and senior non-coms whose roles kept them from having to dodge bullets.

    • madwand says:

      Most vets will ask the same question I asked April 30 1975 and that is a variation of “what was it all for, what purpose was it for, what did we accomplish, why?” Waking up Sunday morning to the news I thought I was transported back to that date in 1975. I thought it was deja vu. Everything seemed the same the rapid advance, the US frantically trying to evacuate the embassy by helicopter, the mobs of indigenous people trying to get a visa, the surreal slow realization of defeat, the realization that things had gone through a momentous change.

      The only blame I’ve ever come up with in the years since is that perhaps we should have listened to the naysayers and not fought these wars in the first place.

  26. skua says:

    ***Term report August 2021***

    Over all Sam is doing well very. Sam’s self-esteem is very high and Sam’s confidence in a future, in which Sam continues to live in the manner that Sam feels Sam deserves, exceeds expectations.

    There is an area or two in which a little more application by Sam’s teachers will pay off handsomely.

    Sam is failing in civics with over 30% of his eligible voters actively supporting a NY con-artist, and another 30% not voting.
    In PolSci Sam is failing too, with one of Sam’s binary parties acting strongly to “prevent an excess of democracy” by disenfranchising adult citizens, whereas the other party has targeted for punishment whistleblowers of government malfeasance and looked the other way while all citizens were spied on by their government. The mismatch between Sam’s proportion of the global human population (4%) and Sam’s proportion of the global prison population (21%) will need to be worked on over the Christmas break. Sam’s private gun ownership levels are the highest in the world which has the citizenary well placed to defend themselves against the threat of being asked to vaccinate. Or being asked to respect the rule of law and allow a peaceful transistion of power.
    Sam’s military leaders have, after being placed in an impossible situation by Sam’s politicians over decades, been shown to be corrupt, with frequent claims of on-going successes being followed by utter defeat and failure.
    Public health isn’t Sam’s strong point either. Sam has let a evolving pandemic run with serious consequences so far.
    In EcoSci Sam is on target for a 1.5 degree Celcius increase in global average temperatures by 2030.
    Sam has done well in sport with millions watching the Olympics.
    Sam has done well with the stock market, with market indexes reaching record levels even as millions of the population suffer severe financial stress due to failures around the pandemic. This is most impressive.

    Sam remains an exceptional student and will continue to succeed.

        • skua says:

          Apologies for my display of paranoia – there are reasons for it, the kinds of reasons we’ve all got in these times of increased troubles.

          And thanks to harpie for straightening me out.
          I’m glad you and harpie enjoyed the term report.

          • Ginevra diBenci says:

            skua: Shout out to you for taking the risk to jump on an original idea and pursue it all the way! I know how hard that is, and how you brace yourself after submitting it to public view. I’m psyched to find this here. I’m sure many others will be too, even if they don’t have time to say so.

  27. P J Evans says:

    The GQP are whining this weekend about Biden going to Camp David for a couple of days. Apparently they’ve forgotten that it’s fully equipped for presidential business.

  28. Hug h says:

    Families of 9/11 Victims disinvited Biden to the Memorial Event in Manhattan on 9/11 unless he releases intelligence which very likely implicates the Saudi’s for the attacks.

    Given the unfolding Afghan collapse now is the PERFECT time to tear off the BANDAID Charade of Saudi/American Petro/Klepto politics. Saudi Wahhabism was a driving force for 9/11 and radical Islam in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia etc. etc. It’s time for the chickens to come home to roost for the Royal Family.

    Once the truth came out the US/Saudi schism would cause a short term EXPLOSION of oil prices, not long afterwards I’m convinced prices would collapse. Biden could drive a wooden stake into the heart of Wahhabism, crush Radical Islam Funding/brainwashing, seriously impair the GOP by exposing the false pretenses of Iraq war… added benefit would be a massive disruption of Russia /Putin which completely depends on OIL dollars.

    • Silly but True says:

      Osama bin Laden claimed for first time in October 2004 responsibility for 9-11.

      What did US know by October 2001 start of Afghanistan invasion air strikes? George Tenant identified Osama by 9:30pm on 9/11 to Bush — apparently based on intercepted foreign communication by NSA and German intel.

      The problem then is whether justice dictated that nearly 7,000 Americans (2,500 soldiers + 3,800 military contractors), an additional 1,100 NATO & coalition allies, over 100,000 Afghanis (66,000 police & military + 47,000 civilians), and 51,000 Taliban had to die, and Americans pony up $2T in direct cash with as much as $6.5T in debt interest — to support the neocon whim that “We will make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them.”

      That single defining decision was not rooted in justice, but misguided sense of expediency driven by vengeance.

      Hopefully, there is no next time, but if there is that we learn to do better.

      • timbo says:

        Yes, that’s obvious by the way in which the US executed Bin Laden extra-judicially and dumped his body in the ocean. A similar thing happened to Hussein in Iraq. This wasn’t about the rule of law but about vengeance and raw power. Blowback is in the cards. And the debacle in Afghanistan is just one example of it.

  29. Maureen A Donnelly says:

    20 years of killing in Afghanistan
    2 years going with a losing war on COVID-19

    sadly, i am pretty certain we will never manage the reality of the climate crisis. many positive feedback loops are operating and slowing/stopping them is difficult. nobody wants to give up anything. the earth doesn’t care if it harbors biota or not–it will still spin.

  30. Jenny says:

    20 years in Afghanistan, prior to that invaders – Genghis Kahn, British and Russia.
    When will we ever learn …

    If it’s natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?
    Joan Baez

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