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Shaving the truth | Book Review — The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War by Craig Whitlock

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The unalloyed story of the US war in Afghanistan is recounted with journalistic rigour and the diligence of a committed researcher in the book (AP Photo)The unalloyed story of the US battle in Afghanistan is recounted with journalistic rigour and the diligence of a dedicated researcher within the e-book (AP Photograph)

Reality, it’s typically averred, is the primary casualty in battle, and this phrase has a particular resonance in relation to the US-led world battle on terror (GWOT) that formally concluded in August 2021. The picture of an American Marine common—the final US soldier to exit Afghanistan— wearily strolling up the ramp of a transport plane symbolised the shambolic withdrawal of the lone superpower from one of many world’s poorest nations, having expended huge quantities of treasure in waging a battle that was ill-conceived and swaddled in layers of falsehood and make-believe. The battle in Afghanistan that was triggered by the enormity of 9/11 might effectively go down in historical past as a macabre Barmecidal ‘feast’, whereby US taxpayer cash was ostensibly spent to wage battle in a distant land, even whereas most of it was ploughed again by way of contractors to an opaque army industrial complicated. The tragedy that warrants the macabre tag is that in lots of instances, US taxpayer cash was expended by way of an online of deceit and lies to not directly arm the adversary to kill American troops.

The reality and battle linkage goes again to the 18th century, and English essayist Samuel Johnson (1709-84) is deemed to have the copyright on this tenet when he noticed in 1758: “Among the many calamities of battle could also be collectively numbered the diminution of the love of reality, by the falsehoods which curiosity dictates and credulity encourages.” The intersection of sectarian curiosity and collective credulity was nurtured in a fertile American ecosystem for nearly 20 years, the place the reality was buried in layer after layer of falsehoods even because the calamities of the Afghanistan battle mounted.

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The narrative of the US battle on terror that started in 2001 was rigorously embroidered by successive incumbents within the White Home starting with President George Bush and it was left to President Joe Biden to declare closure in 2021. He pronounced that the unique US goal was achieved—to destroy the Al-Qaeda’s stronghold in Afghanistan.

Was this the reality or was there extra to the US-led GWOT that’s estimated to have exceeded one trillion {dollars} in war-related bills and hundreds killed on all sides?

It’s to the credit score of Craig Whitlock, an investigative reporter with the Washington Put up, that the unalloyed story of the US battle in Afghanistan is recounted with journalistic rigour (based mostly on interviews with greater than 1,000 individuals instantly concerned within the battle) and the diligence of the dedicated researcher (270 finish notes unfold over 38 pages). The writer is to be recommended for the timing of ‘the Afghanistan Papers’ which hit the stands even because the US was withdrawing from Kabul in August.

In his foreword, Whitlock clarifies that his e-book isn’t a piece of army historical past that dwells on fight operations however “an try to elucidate what went incorrect and the way three consecutive presidents and their administrations failed to inform the reality.” (emphasis added)

In 21 brief chapters, the creator offers a compelling account of how the battle in Afghanistan started and victory was quickly declared by the Bush workforce with US protection secretary Donald Rumsfeld as the important thing cupboard member. Narratives about battle—typically informed from the angle of the victor—are a vital factor of human historical past and within the first iteration, they’re formed/distorted/fabricated to advance the curiosity of the dominant energy cluster. The Afghan story with its myriad actors and kaleidoscopic views is detailed meticulously by Whitlock and his prose is a mixture of seasoned journalism—telling the story in a fashion that the reader is hooked—and but including that little bit of understated editorial remark.

The diploma of falsehood and sophistry that was intentionally resorted to is mind-boggling and the informal method during which assets—fiscal and materials have been expended in a battle that seemingly had no cogent technique or objective is staggering. The US give attention to the battle in Afghanistan was quickly blurred by the monumental blunder of lunging into Iraq and there’s a weird dialog the place the US President didn’t even recognise the title of his high common waging the Afghan battle and was not involved in assembly him.

The numerous sides of Donald Rumsfeld from swagger to devious to sinister have been subtly introduced by Whitlock and the position of a ‘fawning’ US media within the image-building train has many correspondences with the present Indian expertise. The overbearing protection secretary typically bullied his generals into meek submission and took seen pleasure in lowering the US high brass to ‘jelly’, as recounted by a British officer witness to such encounters.

Pakistan’s duplicity within the battle on terror is touched upon and it’s instructive that Rumsfeld reviewed a 40-page SECRET report that detailed the Pakistan ISI perfidy—nevertheless it was buried as an ‘fascinating report’.
Rumsfeld was as soon as requested by a TV anchor if he was ever tempted to lie concerning the battle in Afghanistan throughout his frequent press conferences and this alternate is import-laden and encompasses the multi-layered tragedy of the GWOT. The anchor asks: “How typically are you compelled to shave the reality in that briefing room, as a result of American lives are at stake?” The earnest Rumsfeld replied: “I simply don’t. I feel our credibility is a lot extra vital than shaving the reality.”

That credibility lies in tatters and Craig Whitlock is to be recommended for his tenacity in searching for the reality concerning the battle in Afghanistan from unadulterated details. Hopefully this materials will probably be used within the acceptable method by analysts and teachers to burnish this primary draft of America’s longest battle.

C Uday Bhaskar is director, Society for Coverage Research

E book particulars
The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret Historical past of the Warfare
Craig Whitlock
Simon & Schuster
Pp 346; $30

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