#1438 Afghanistan: Where We Go From Here (Transcript)

 

[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: During today's episode, I'm going to be telling you about a podcast I think you should be checking out. It's called Un-F*ing the Republic, and you'll even get to hear a clip of the show. So keep an ear out mid-episode when I tell you all about it.

And now, welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall take a look at our departure from Afghanistan, how the decisions were made to leave in this fashion, and what we should do going forward to prevent similar foreign escapades in the future. Clips [00:00:30] today are from the Intercept, CounterSpin, The Brian Lehrer Show, Fresh Air, Un-F*ing the Republic, Democracy Now!, and The Majority Report.

[00:00:40] ANDREW QUILTY: It's about 1 AM on Aug. 17, 36 hours since the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital Kabul in a surprisingly peaceful transition of power with the Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani.

[00:00:56] MURTAZA HUSSAIN: That's Andrew Quilty, a photographer and writer based in Kabul. [00:01:00]

[00:01:00] ANDREW QUILTY: The remaining 15 or so provincial capitals fell to the Taliban in a matter of days, bringing the then-insurgent group to the gates of Kabul late on the night of Aug. 14. It was a sleepless night that night for Kabul’s residents, who were anticipating the next day to begin violently. It was only a hastily cobbled-together agreement between [00:01:30] the government and the Taliban that would see a peaceful transition of power.

[00:01:37] MURTAZA HUSSAIN: In just a short time, we saw the Taliban take over Afghanistan.

[00:01:41] ABC NEWS: The Taliban’s seizing back power nearly two decades after 9/11, taking over the capital of Kabul in just a matter of days.

The Afghan president has fled the country and US troops have taken control of the city's airport, where thousands of Afghans are also desperate to leave the country.

[00:01:56] BBC NEWS: US and UK troops are engaged in evacuating their citizens [00:02:00] while the international community tries to define its response to the Taliban's lightning-speed victory.

[00:02:05] PRESEIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN: If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.

American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.

[00:02:27] ANDREW QUILTY: When the agreement was made [00:02:30] that would see the government fold, most of the Afghan security forces shed their uniforms and left their posts across the city. Former members of the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police could be seen walking from military infrastructure around the city, carrying sacks of belongings. And within a matter of hours, a security vacuum developed in the city. Looting began [00:03:00] thieves dressed up to look like Taliban robbed people on the street. And within a matter of another few hours, the Taliban made a hasty decision to send their fighters into the city to fill the vacuum left by the retreating, disappearing Afghan security forces.

[00:03:22] MURTAZA HUSSAIN: We'll be hearing more from Andrew in a few minutes.

The two-decade-long US war in Afghanistan has come to a conclusion with the U.S. having suffered what [00:03:30] appears to be a stunning. defeat. After spending over $1 trillion and fighting a war that resulted in thousands of US casualties and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, the U.S. is leaving the country with the Taliban firmly in power.

Vanessa Gezari, national security editor for the Intercept, has spent years reporting in Afghanistan after the U.S. launched the war. Vanessa shared her reflections with us on the U.S. government's longest war, and what the recent developments mean for Afghanistan:

[00:03:58] VANESSA GEZARI: One thing I've been struck by [00:04:00] watching what's happening now, is that the videos we're seeing now come out of Afghanistan of men with RPGs on the streets of major cities and the streets empty and gunfire ricocheting around.

[Sounds of gunfire and citizens yelling.]

 And refugees in Kabul, in parks, where a lot of us spent time [00:04:30] picnicking or with friends, I'm just struck by how much it looks the way it did 20 years ago, when the U.S. first got involved in the war. It's really striking and surreal how 20 years of our engagement there seems to just have been erased in a few days. But you also have to remember that tens of thousands of people have lost their children, husbands, brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters, to this war, [00:05:00] Afghans, Americans, Europeans, and many others. In Afghanistan alone, according to the Cost of War Project at Brown, the total dead since October, 2001 are 157,000 of whom the vast majority are Afghan civilians, security forces and opposition fighters.

And for all those people and many others who have been there in this period these years won't be erased ever. They'll [00:05:30] never forget what happened in this period. And while our war may be ending, maybe, the war is not ending for Afghans. And it's probably going to continue for a long time.

For a generation of Afghans and Americans, this war was a very strange beast. It was a tapestry of cultural marvels, dark stories, death, destruction, beauty, suffering, friendship, [00:06:00] regret, guilt, and official lies. The biggest lie has been about America, about what this country is in the world and about what we can and cannot do as the world's sole superpower.

American exceptionalism has now been shown in so many ways to be a bankrupt concept. We are not strong. We are not capable. We are not principled. And so I'm thinking a lot right now about the possibilities for moral recovery as a [00:06:30] nation, given the last 20 years of our history and what we're seeing now in Afghanistan.

[00:06:35] PHYLLIS BENNIS: It's very important that we recognize the significance of pulling out U.S. troops, and the limitation of pulling out U.S. troops.

The significance is, that this was a war that never should have been waged; the horrific crimes of 9/11 should have been dealt with as international horrific crimes, and not as the beginning of a global war, in which the U S. interests [00:07:00] would be asserted as taking precedence over the interest of every other country, every other people in the world.

And, once it started, it should have ended. Once it was going for a year, it should have ended; once it went for 10 years, it should have ended. It's finally ending now, almost 20 years on. That's way too late, but it's important that it is ending the U.S. role.

The limitation of that, is that, this does not end the struggle, and potentially even war, in [00:07:30] Afghanistan. The war is going to be very different without the United States, but people in Afghanistan have a very difficult time ahead.

 Certainly, the people who are afraid of what Taliban control could mean for them and their families personally, because of either their real or perceived connections to the U. S. military, to U.S. intelligence, and to [00:08:00] other-- perceived and accurately known as-- Western institutions, whether it's journalists, whether it's non-governmental organizations, all kinds of people; women who fought for women's rights over these last 20 years, many of them are very afraid of being linked to the U. S. Occupation and targeted for that, as well as being targeted for being strong women, with an independent streak, at all.

So, there's a lot of problems ahead for Afghans. [00:08:30] Pulling out the U. S. troops, I think, was the most important part of it.

[00:08:35] JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: It's been odd to see some in the U. S. news media lay the entire state of affairs at Biden's feet, as though everything was going great, somehow, until he mucked it up.

But you explained in The Nation that there are things that we can, and should, be demanding of the U. S. Government now. We can't undo what the U. S. military did to [00:09:00] the Afghan people, but there are things that we can be talking about, right now, in terms of accountability.

[00:09:07] PHYLLIS BENNIS: Absolutely. And I think accountability to the people of Afghanistan should remain our focal point for this next period. First, the number of refugees, asylum seekers, should be massively expanded. We have to expand the categories of people who are allowed in. And crucially, we have to make it easier, make it possible, for people to [00:09:30] apply for, and get, that protection.

It's a huge challenge now, because people that are not already in Kabul may not be able to get to Kabul anytime soon. People in Kabul may have trouble getting to the airport. But it's also made harder because the United States, unlike every other country, is not simply opening their borders to people who clearly need protection. They're demanding that people still fill out all kinds of paperwork that may not be possible right now.

[00:10:00] So we need to demand that they make it easier, that they make it possible, for people to apply for asylum, for refugee status, for protection, in any way that it becomes necessary.

Second, we need to be sure that the bombing raids, both of planes, including B-52s and drones, that have been carried out in recent weeks, have stopped, and that the end of those bombing rates is permanent.

The same for the CIA squads that are running death squads [00:10:30] throughout Afghanistan. That should be permanently ended, not just at this moment, ready to come back from over the horizon.

Third, we need to be supporting UN, and whatever other international efforts emerge, to create defend a humanitarian corridor guaranteeing safe passage for humanitarian workers, to get people in, and to get access to water, food, shelter, medicine, for people living now [00:11:00] in Kabul, and other places, who have been displaced from their homes, can't get to their homes, and are stuck wherever they are, in desperate need.

That has to include funding a massive program for COVID assistance. We've all seen the videos, the photographs, of people crowded together, living on streets in Kabul, et cetera. And these people are smack in the middle of a rising number of COVID cases already. This could become another disaster facing [00:11:30] people in Afghanistan.

And finally, Janine, I think it's so crucial that, even though it will be a long process, to assess what was wrong about this war from the beginning, why it was so easy for people to support this war, and why people in positions of power consistently supported it, with so few exceptions like that of the heroic congressional representative from California, Barbara Lee, who was the only member of Congress to vote [00:12:00] against the authorization for this war.

That's going to be a long process. But in the meantime, we need to begin the process of acknowledging U. S. responsibility for the impact of the war, the devastation that the war brought, to the people of Afghanistan. We can work on that for years, the issues of reparations and compensation, questions of apology.

But right now, we need to move towards acknowledgement that there was a U. S. responsibility [00:12:30] for what faced the people of Afghanistan during these 20 years.

[00:12:33] JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Let me just ask you, finally; media have a lot to account for, I think, here. News media just have a war frame of mind, if you put it that way. Diplomacy, it seems, is almost treated as a weakness. And that's exactly the kind of conversation we need to be having.

But I fear that folks are going to be poorly served if we're looking for that kind of healthy conversation about the [00:13:00] future for the Afghan people in mainstream news media.

[00:13:04] PHYLLIS BENNIS: I think you're right, that the news media, the mainstream news media, needs to have some serious conversations, and we, in the public, need to demand those answers for the role that the media played for 20 years, from the moment of the 9/11 attacks, assuming the legitimacy of war as an answer.

I do have a small hint of optimism, based on the coverage of the last few days, [00:13:30] because there has already started to be some looking back. There's been a couple of articles, not a lot, but you do see hints in the Washington Post, and the New York Times, and on NPR. Not enough, not nearly enough, but the beginnings of a more self-critical look, not necessarily at the media itself, but at the assumptions that were at the root of how the media covered all this, which comes back to the question of the legitimacy of [00:14:00] war as the dominant component of how U. S. influence around the world is expressed.

And to the degree that we can force that conversation to go further, that will be one of the key things to prevent something like this horrific invasion, occupation, 20-year-oppression of Afghanistan that our country was involved with from ever happening again.

[00:14:24] NANCY SOLOMON: Now, the roots of this crisis go back to the Trump administration's negotiations with the [00:14:30] Taliban, that left out the Afghanistan government. The analysis has been that that signaled to the army that they were being abandoned by the US, and that's what led to the collapse two weeks ago.

How might have Biden dealt with this hand of cards that he inherited from Trump differently?

[00:14:50] SUSAN PAGE: Of course, that's true, every president decries the mess that the previous president left for him to deal with. [00:15:00] Although, on this issue, President Trump and President Biden had the same fundamental view, that it was time for this war of 20 years to end.

With the benefit of a little bit of hindsight, we have a lot of hindsight now and there's going to be a lot examination of what went wrong in these last few weeks. But, with the benefit of a little bit of hindsight, the idea has... said... that President Biden said on August 31, deadline-- first, September 11, and then August 31 deadline withdrawal-- lots of questions about that. [00:15:30]

Just yesterday, the president said that might be extended. All of the Taliban have said that they have pushed back against the idea that they are willing to see American forces there past that August 31 deadline.

Clearly we should have begun evacuation efforts earlier and with more vigor we did. Because, I think, whatever your views on the war in Afghanistan, whether it was worth it, there is almost united American view that we have an obligation to [00:16:00] those who served us, as translators, and in other roles during this war.

And we see this mob at the Kabul airport and worry about the cost that those people are going to be paying.

[00:16:16] NANCY SOLOMON: The response in the Sunday news shows, from the Biden administration yesterday, to this particular criticism, of not getting enough people out, before they pulled out the [00:16:30] military; administration officials, including Jake Sullivan, made the case that they got a lot of people out, and that they couldn't have foreseen just how swiftly the Taliban-- and, we've heard this a lot over the last couple of weeks-- how swiftly the Taliban would take control.

It's hard to believe that, though, right? Because, how do they not have CIA intelligence telling them what the Taliban is up to, in the weeks before this happens, and the fact that they're sweeping through, and getting... meeting with [00:17:00] tribal leaders, and forcing people involved in the military to commit to laying down their arms and melting away, as what then transpired.

Has there been any analysis of why this misstep occured?

[00:17:13] SUSAN PAGE: It was either a failure of intelligence, or a failure to heed intelligence. Those are two different things. The President and some of his top aides said it was a surprise that Afghanistan, basically, fell in 11 days. And that is a [00:17:30] speedy collapse, that is catastrophic and truly surprising.

But the idea that we didn't have much time, that just fits the common sense test of what was going to happen in Afghanistan once U.S. Forces withdrew.

One of the tough questions that Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, had to face yesterday, in the appearance he did on Fox News Sunday, was his handling of a memo through, what they call, the descent [00:18:00] channel from some U.S. Diplomats in the region, warning that they were sitting on the edge of a catastrophe. Secretary Blinken acknowledged that he had seen that memo, and responded to it, in these internal State Department channels. But it took a while for the US policy to catch up with that warning.

[00:18:22] NANCY SOLOMON: You mentioned the Sunday shows. Republicans were having a field day yesterday with these missteps. On Face The Nation, Nikki Haley [00:18:30] defended the deal Trump made with the Taliban, but then blamed Biden for pulling out. Some Republicans have accused Biden of negotiating with terrorists because the State Department is communicating with the Taliban about evacuation efforts in Kabul. But Nikki Haley took a different tack.

[00:18:48] NIKKI HALEY: They're not negotiating with the Taliban. They've completely surrendered to the Taliban. They surrendered Bagram Air Force Base, which was a major NATO hub. They surrendered $85 billion worth of equipment and [00:19:00] weapons that we should have gotten out of there.

They have surrendered the American people, and, actually, withdrew our troops before they withdrew the American people. And they've abandoned our Afghan allies, who kept people like my husband safe while they were overseas deploying. No, there was no negotiating. This was a complete and total surrender and embarrassing failure.

[00:19:23] NANCY SOLOMON: What do you think, Susan, is that a fair criticism?

[00:19:25] SUSAN PAGE: Let's remember that Nikki Haley was UN Ambassador for President Trump. It was President [00:19:30] Trump who not only negotiated with the Taliban, but was prepared to invite Taliban leaders to Camp David, a huge global prize to get an invitation like that, and not have the Taliban [ie, Afghanistan] government along for those negotiations.

Now, that ended up not happening, but not because President Trump didn't want it to happen.

One of the things, I think, drives Americans crazy about politics is when they see politicians flip positions based [00:20:00] on who's making the argument. Even Republicans who defended President Trump's willingness to negotiate with the Taliban now criticize President Biden's attempts to do the same. And Democrats do this too. But at the moment, it's Republicans who often seem to have very short memories about the positions they were taking a year ago.

[00:20:20] NANCY SOLOMON: I find it quite annoying.

Now, to this point about surrendering $85 billion worth of equipment and weapons, [00:20:30] there's also been a lot of different numbers thrown around about how many Afghans and/or U.S. Citizens are still in the country. Can you clarify any of that in terms of, what the situation is on the ground?

[00:20:43] SUSAN PAGE: I cannot. I think the situation is pretty murky; in some ways, murky because the situation is chaotic; in some ways, perhaps, murky for strategic reasons, to not put Americans, who may still be trapped somewhere other than the airport, as we tried to evacuate them. [00:21:00] That goes also for Afghan allies.

The latest number I've heard is that 37,000 people have been evacuated in evacuations facilitated by the United States. That is a lot of people. But we know there are at least some people who are still there and still in harm's way.

It's going to take a while for this situation to sort itself out. The situation gets much more difficult after August 31st, which is the deadline that we have set, for us to be out of there.[00:21:30] It complicates our mission, when we said we were going to leave. This is one reason that diplomats and strategists sometimes urge politicians not to set deadlines, because those dates come up, and you don't know quite what your situation is going to be there. So, this is going to be a very perilous situation for at least the next couple of weeks.

[00:21:53] AL JAZEERA: After 18 months of talks and nearly [00:22:00] two decades of war, the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban have just signed a long-awaited deal aimed at paving the way to peace and the departure of foreign troops.

[00:22:08] SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: Just as any worthy journey begins, it is a first step. And we know exactly who we're dealing with. If the Taliban do not uphold their commitments, president Trump and his team will not hesitate to do what we must do to protect American lives.

[00:22:23] VANESSA GEZARI: The United States has been really appalling in how it's [00:22:30] handled the negotiation with the Taliban. I think the agreement that was crafted under the Trump administration was not a good one. The United States negotiated -- put those in air quotes -- an agreement under Donald Trump that seemed to basically be centered on the fact that the United States did not want to be in Afghanistan anymore, which is not really the greatest [00:23:00] way to negotiate your exit.

So if you're broadcasting that you want to leave and the Taliban know that you want to leave, and you're just looking for a way out, then you're going to take an agreement that is not going to be a good one for most of the Afghans who are still living in this country, I think, or the chances are much greater that you're going to do that. That [00:23:30] is what happened with the agreement. Then Biden inherited this agreement, and I think Biden just wants to pull off the band-aid, honestly. I think Biden has not wanted to be in Afghanistan for a very long time.

[00:23:44] PRESEIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN: That's why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was vice president.

And that's why as president I'm adamant. We focus on the threats we face today in 2021, not yesterday’s threats.

[00:23:59] VANESSA GEZARI: [00:24:00] There are no good options at this point in terms of policy there. So anybody who thinks that there's really a great way to leave? I don't think so. I don't think there have been good options for us in Afghanistan since the very early days and years after the war. We're left with this.

The Afghan people are very tough, but they're also exhausted. This has been an [00:24:30] extremely difficult period in one way or another for almost everyone in Afghanistan. And even the people who have benefited the most in this period have lived with a level of fear and anxiety.

I can't be very optimistic about how this is going to feel to people. I saw a story in the Times, they had a picture of a car full of children evacuating their homes in [00:25:00] one of the big cities in Northern Afghanistan that was taken by the Taliban. And you just look in the eyes of these children and they're terrified. And anybody can think about what it would be like to have to pick up your kids.

[00:25:26] DAVE DAVIES - HOST, FRESH AIR: We've read a lot about how much the rights and opportunities [00:25:30] of women changed in the last 20 years. Women began getting educations, including advanced educations, were starting businesses, serving in parliament.

And I'm wondering to what extent -- this may be hard to answer or measure -- that these new roles, responsibilities and contributions change the thinking of the men in their lives, including men in very religious families?

[00:25:53] STEVE COLL: I think the history of women in Afghanistan is a rich and complex one even before the U.S. intervention [00:26:00] in 2001. And, they have had powerful roles in both urban and rural Afghan society going back, some time. The Soviet intervention was based also on an ideology of women's place in the workforce. And so in cities, if you visited Afghanistan during the 80s, the ministries, there were thousands of women in Kabul getting on the bus each morning and going to work and earning independent salaries.

[00:26:30] So this dynamic has been a part of Afghanistan throughout the 20th century. If you look back at the photographs of Afghanistan when it was at peace with itself and its neighbors and still a poor country, but a modernizing society in the 1960s, you'll see photographs of laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote farming in southern Afghanistan, where there are women in lab coats working alongside men. So this is a history that predates the American involvement. But what [00:27:00] happened after 2001 was that the U.S., Europe and other industrialized economies invested enormously in NGOs and in a new government that had a mandate to include women, to a degree that the Taliban had not only never permitted, but actively had suppressed.

And so [00:27:30] across the board, women had new opportunities in Afghanistan's cities after 2001. They could enter higher education, obtain university educations. They could enter the media. They were broadcasters, they were reporters on the street. They formed their own NGOs. They won scholarships to go abroad to further their education. So it was a new world. There was a generation that grew up in Afghanistan's cities protected by NATO's security, the likes of which Afghanistan has never known. [00:28:00] They all had cell phones. They were all on the web. They were all on Facebook. They became creatures of global culture to a degree. And women were very much a part of that.

[00:28:10] DAVE DAVIES - HOST, FRESH AIR: There was also a lot of investment into building schools and hospitals and roads and bridges and that, and the new opportunities that women experienced, I'm just wondering, as we look at this collapse of the government, why those projects and those changes somehow didn't have more [00:28:30] currency in limiting the appeal of the Taliban and their effectiveness.

[00:28:33] STEVE COLL: I think they were -- look, all aid projects where you try to advance a prostrate political economy like Afghanistan's was in 2001 very rapidly with massive investments, that is always going to be a rocky road. We've seen it again and again, around the world. Corruption is a factor, the inefficiency of outsiders [00:29:00] trying to choose what projects to fund is a factor.

Afghans have long complained since 2001 that they weren't consulted enough in the design of these development ambitions that the west brought in. And so that is one source of weakness that the foundations of this kind of reconstruction were flawed.

And yet at the same time, I think it's important to recognize today that Afghans believe [00:29:30] and appreciate that their country is not what it was in 2001, that it does have an infrastructure, communications infrastructure, physical infrastructure, institutions that all Afghans want to preserve. And a lot of the message to the Taliban as they have taken over the country this summer has been OK, we understand you've won the war, [00:30:00] but don't tear down the progress that we've made.

[00:30:04] CO-HOST, UNF*CKING THE REPUBLIC: Last year, representative Barbara Lee of California, the only fucking member of Congress to vote against the war in Afghanistan, mind you, Introduced house Resolution 1003 with 24 Democratic co-sponsors. While largely symbolic, at least someone is thinking about this shit, and introducing it into the public record.

Here's the summary of the resolution: "This resolution expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that Congress supports [00:30:30] 1) reducing waste at the Department of Defense 2) making cuts to the DOD budget while simultaneously improving support for members of the armed forces 3) exercising aggressive oversight over DOD 4) eliminating the overseas contingency operations account; and 5) reallocating certain defense funds to instead support U. S. diplomacy and domestic programs.

The preamble to the resolution says it all: "Whereas [00:31:00] Pentagon spending, adjusted for inflation, since9/11 has increased 50%"

I'll link the PDF in show notes, because the rest outlines the waste and mismanagement that comes when you're forced to spend more money than you asked for, or you know what to do with.

And that's precisely what has happened for the past 20 years.

When I was putting together this show, my mind was going in so many directions, unfuckers. And when I was reviewing Bernie's out-year projections in the quickie last week, my blood was fucking boiling. Why are we just assuming [00:31:30] that these budgets will continue?

But this kind of non-inflationary spending isn't what tweaks me, even if it's demonstrably offensive, evil, and irresponsible. It's the fact that we've normalized this level of spending on industrial militarization, surveillance, and dirty wars, to such an extent that it's not even news when we simultaneously pull out of our longest war and propose a budget that increases spending for the next 10 years.

From 300 billion per year to 750 billion and growing? Despite the fact that we aren't at war? [00:32:00] What are we doing?

Are there really only 20-odd members of Congress that see this fucking bullshit? And why aren't they holding a press conference every day, or a vigil, a fucking hunger strike, anything?

The resolution pointed out a handful of deficiencies to illustrate the point that, maybe, just maybe, the DOD has more money than it knows what to do with. This one: the Pentagon awarded a $7 million cloud computing contract to a one-person company.

Or the defense logistics agency lost track of 800 [00:32:30] million in construction projects.

How about this: last year, the Pentagon spent $4.6 million on crab and lobster in an end-of-the-year spree. Or how the Pentagon had no way to track replacement parts for the 1.4 trillion F-35 joint-strike fighter program. Or how the military budget accounts for more than half of all discretionary spending.

It's almost a bad joke at this point. The problem with the Democrats' messaging is that they always have to offset it with what else it [00:33:00] could cure. You ever seen a Republican do that? "We need to go to war, so we're going to pull money from here to..." No, They know they just fucking go to war and spend the money.

But the Democrats are like, "If we take $10 from the war budget, we can put $10 in the fucking food stamps." Just fucking put the money where we need it! We have it! Take a fucking economics class!

The war machine isn't stupid, by the way. Military contractors are located mostly in Republican districts, which are largely Republican because the districts have been so gerrymandered. And they're funding the political machine to ensure the [00:33:30] Republicans maintain control of state legislatures and give themselves an advantage in congressional elections.

The answers are right in front of the Democrats right now. But you're witnessing deliberate inaction that ensures nothing will change. We're going to talk about this next week, Unfuckers, but the path is incredibly clear.

The new voting rights act, HR-1 For The People, would take back control of our election system, and ensure total participation, and reduce the influence of special interests. [00:34:00]

With the new census data in hand, the Democrats should be working overtime to draw realistic district maps that deliver true representation.

The filibuster has to go, because the things we need to accomplish won't always get done through reconciliation. And Congress could use this brief window, with literally no foreign entanglements, to repatriate federal or military funds and personnel to deliver on the promise of a Green New Deal.

Which would convert the domestic industrial military supply [00:34:30] chain to create a manufacturing revolution that could help convert the nation's energy and transportation infrastructure to a clean energy economy.

If only we approach this with war time speed and efficiency. But, as I've said before, if all you have is a hammer, then the whole world is a nail. The military industrial complex has only one incentive, and that is to generate conflicts abroad in order to sustain its largesse in the world.

Just like the private prison system, when we [00:35:00] went over that, right? If your clients are prisoners, if you literally call your prisoners customers, you need more of them in order to grow when you are a private company. We have a pretty big privatized military industrial complex, at this point, that needs more customers. And where do you get them? You start a fucking war. That's just how it works.

There is officially now zero reason to maintain a budget this extraordinary. We have the satellite technology to surveil every inch of the planet and targeted [00:35:30] purported enemy of the state and the backseat of a fucking car, thousands of miles away. We see all and know all.

So even if you truly believe that there was an imminent threat on U. S. soil, we have the power to snuff it out at a moment's notice. We're not fighting China over nukes and acts of aggression. We're fighting them over patents and intellectual property.

We're not fighting the Russians over territory in some country that ends in "-Stan." we're fighting cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.

And yet, we maintain a military [00:36:00] apparatus that stands at the ready to deploy troops, carriers, and fighter jets, for conflicts that simply don't exist. Unless, we make them up.

And that's the danger. That's always been the danger: that we will "will" ourselves into battle and convince our neighbors and allies like Canada and the UK to join us, so we can spread the blame and responsibility.

The Tyson principle, Unfuckers, is self-revelatory, and we have precious little time to act on it. No third-party [00:36:30] tilting-at-windmills; there's no time for that. It's up to us to lift up the voices of the progressive caucus and vocally support those who are raising these issues and concerns.

There are currently a 100 out of 535 representatives who have joined the progressive caucus. It's not enough. We need numbers and mobilization and pressure on sitting Democrats to align with them on procedural matters, such as voting access, ending the filibuster, and controlling the redistricting process.

The Republicans will be coming [00:37:00] fast and furious for all of us at the midterms. And if you're paying attention to our current leadership, 78 year old Joe Biden, 70 year old Chuck Schumer, and 81 year old Nancy Pelosi, it should be apparent that they're not the ones that are going to make this happen. And if that sounds ageist, it is, because they're part of yesterday.

We need a groundswell of support for the likes of Ayanna Presley, AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Pramila Jayapal. They need numbers.

And that's where we come in. [00:37:30] Follow these reps on social media, let them know that you're here for them, contact their offices and ask how you can canvas for support in battleground districts that have a chance of going progressive.

Stay positive, but get noisy.

[00:37:42] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: As we continue to look at the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ending of America's longest war with leading antiwar activist, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink. For decades. she has been dragged out of congressional hearings, presidential speeches, political [00:38:00] conventions, by security, as she and others have called for peace.

President Biden wants to end evacuations in Afghanistan by the August 31st deadline. but faces pressure to stay longer. Medea, if you can start there, to talk about your response to the focus of all the media on what is absolutely the chaos and catastrophe at this point in Kabul for so many Afghans. But [00:38:30] You have always widened the lens. For decades you have been protesting the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Is this how you think it should end?

[00:38:42] MEDEA BENJAMIN: Of course, we didn't want it to end like this. And there should have been better planning in terms of getting people out of the country. But we were very clear, we never wanted the U.S. to go in to begin with. And every single year we kept saying, get out.

It was fascinating listening to Bilal and him talking about all [00:39:00] of the corruption inside Afghanistan. And I just kept thinking of this cash cow that has been the war in Afghanistan that we have been fighting against all these years. We also got dragged out of meetings of shareholders from Halliburton to General Dynamics. To think of all the companies that profited from this war and how they have been the ones who have kept the war going by putting their money into lobby groups. You just look [00:39:30] at General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon, and their spending of $34 million in this year alone on lobbying our government. We have to find a way, Amy, that we reflect on what happened over these 20 years and look at these contractors that provide all of the logistics and have privatized the U.S. military.

In fact, we have had more US contractors in Afghanistan [00:40:00] at many times during these 20 years, than US soldiers. I think there's a lot of reckoning to be done. And I hope that we will be able once this phase is over, which is chaotic and horrific, we will be able to look at who actually profited? Where did all this money go? Why did it happen? And how are we going to stop it from happening again?

[00:40:20] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Afghanistan has something like a trillion dollars worth of minerals. And there is a global fight now, for countries to position [00:40:30] themselves. You have been warning about the US beefing up their anti-China rhetoric, something that's not getting a lot of attention right now is Vice President Harris is on a south Asian trip. She was just in Singapore. then she flew to Vietnam. She has warned about China in the south China sea. Can you talk about the U.S.-China brinksmanship that's going on right now?

[00:40:58] MEDEA BENJAMIN: The [00:41:00] tragedy is that the US leaving Afghanistan, for the Biden administration, is a chance to focus on what they call our main adversary, which is China. It justifies this continual gargantuan Pentagon budget that eats up so much of our resources. And it is a delusional idea that we should be focusing on China as an enemy. It's a country of [00:41:30] over a billion people. It's a nuclear country. Especially at a time when we need to work with China to deal with issues like the climate, like the pandemic, like global poverty. China is going into Afghanistan and will work with the new Afghan government to build up the infrastructure. Where is all that infrastructure, that the U.S. didn't do for the last 20 years? Why have they left Afghanistan, having been occupied by one of the richest countries in the world, us, the United States, [00:42:00] to be one of the most impoverished countries in the world? The U.S. should actually learn from China that instead of going into countries with bombs and bullets, it should go into countries to figure out how to help build the infrastructure and build the economy that would be a win-win situation.

[00:42:20] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: What do you feel the U.S. owes to the people of Afghanistan?

[00:42:26] MEDEA BENJAMIN: We feel that the U.S. owes a tremendous [00:42:30] responsibility, not only for getting the Afghans out as we're trying to do now, but for the millions of Afghans who are left behind in terrible dire situations from this 20 years of war. You had a great program on yesterday, Amy, about the humanitarian crisis. We feel like the US is now going to use Its economic warfare against Afghanistan to increase that humanitarian crisis by withholding $9 billion that belongs to [00:43:00] Afghanistan in US banks, by working with other countries in Europe and the IMF to withhold funding. We don't have to be friends with the Taliban, but we can't be the enemies either. Because the victims will be the Afghan people. We need to let go of their funds. We need to provide generous humanitarian support. In fact, the U.S. should fund the entire $350 million urgent request made by the [00:43:30] UNHCR, the refugee agency, because that's equivalent to just one-and-a-half days of war in Afghanistan.

We owe a lot to the people whose lives that we have helped destroy over these last 20 years.

[00:43:41] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: As the battles rage in Congress over spending, you've got the massive infrastructure bill that the house just passed the framework of $3.5 trillion. But there's also the Pentagon budget. Can you end there by talking about what you think needs to happen and the [00:44:00] lessons of Afghanistan?

[00:44:02] MEDEA BENJAMIN: This is exactly where we need to go as a people in the United States to say that this epic failure in Afghanistan shows us that militarism is not the right way to respond to problems, that we have to cut the Pentagon budget in half, like Barbara Lee has suggested, freeing up $350 billion to be used to confront the real crisis of climate, of poverty, the infrastructure that we need, and [00:44:30] to help countries around the world and our own country to deal with the pandemic and to get us a decent healthcare system.

And I encourage all of the supporters of Democracy Now! to join us in this call to say to all our members of Congress and to the White House, cut the military budget in half. That is the most responsible way to respond to this tragedy of 20 years of colossal failure in Afghanistan.

[00:44:55] DAVE DAVIES - HOST, FRESH AIR: Let's talk about what's ahead for the country now. Obviously the picture is far from clear. [00:45:00] Do we know if this Taliban is different from the one that ruled the country until 2001 in terms of its composition, its outlook?

[00:45:08] STEVE COLL: There's some ways that they're different. They have different leadership. the Emir of the previous Taliban government, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is deceased. And while there are prominent political and spiritual figures in the new Taliban leadership, it's not clear how they will organize the government that they're now forming in Kabul. [00:45:30] So there's new leadership.

Secondly, the Taliban are a more international organization than they ever were during the 1990s. They have a political office in Doha, Qatar, and they have a profile of diplomacy, traveling around and delegations to Moscow and Beijing and other places that they didn't visit very often if at all, when they were in power before.

So now what does that mean? Do they have a more [00:46:00] sophisticated understanding of the world? I'm sure it's a mixed picture within their councils.

And the third thing that's notable, before we get to the really important stuff about living under their rule, but the one thing that has clearly changed, is that they are wired. They use social media, they have a propaganda communications arm that incorporates technologies that they used to reject as forbidden under their interpretation of Islam. When they marched into cities this [00:46:30] summer, they often had somebody at the front of the vanguard holding cell phones in the air, taking videos, showing themselves in power and using that to send a psychological message around the country that their revolution was victorious. So they have a media operation that's much more sophisticated and technological than it used to be.

So those are the things that I think are different. The things that we don't know about are how they intend to govern. And the [00:47:00] things that we do know about involve their record of assassination, arrest, repression, and suppression of women's access to education. I don't see anything in the record to suggest that those elements of their previous rule have changed.

[00:47:15] DAVE DAVIES - HOST, FRESH AIR: A Taliban spokesman had, a fairly lengthy interview Wednesday morning with Steve Inskeep of NPR, and made some very explicit promises. He said, yeah, women will be able to work. They will be able to continue their education and there will be [00:47:30] no retribution enforced on people who worked with foreign forces. I believe he used the phrase "amnesty." What do you think? Based on the experiences of what's happened in areas where the Taliban now run things, what do you make of that?

[00:47:46] STEVE COLL: I think the evidence from the areas where the Taliban now run things is not encouraging. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have already documented disappearances and executions in territory like Spin [00:48:00] Boldak that the Taliban took over earlier this summer. The Taliban has controlled rural areas of Afghanistan for years now. And the Afghans who live there report a very oppressive environment, certainly not one that is empowering to women.

So I hear what the Taliban's spokespeople are saying. I recognize that they have a strong interest in sending these signals to the international community. But I think we also have to look at their record, [00:48:30] and until that changes, greet these promises with a great deal of skepticism.

[00:48:35] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The death toll from the twin suicide bombings outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan has reached at least 108. The Associated Press reports at least 95 Afghans have died, as well as 13 US troops. Thursday was the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan in a decade.

The suicide bomber struck near the crowded gates of the [00:49:00] airport, where thousands of Afghans had gathered and attempt to flee the country before the withdrawal of US troops August 31st. Survivors described a horrific scene.

[00:49:10] TRANSLATOR: [Translation] My dear brother, where we were at, there was suddenly an explosion. We climbed out of the water and saw that there were many affected. At the explosion, people were hurled everywhere, their brains scattered.

There were also foreign forces who are fallen. People started running away, [00:49:30] and we got out. I saw at least 400 to 500 people there. The explosion was really powerful. Half were hurled into the water, others on the ground outside. We carried the wounded here on stretchers. And here, my clothes are completely bloodied.

[00:49:46] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The militant group, ISIS-K, which is an arch enemy of the Taliban, claimed responsibility. In an address to the United States, President Biden defended his decision to abide by the Trump administration's agreement with the [00:50:00] Taliban to withdraw US troops, but he vowed to take revenge against the perpetrators of Thursday's attack.

[00:50:05] PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: So those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this, we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay. I'll defend our interests and our people with every [00:50:30] measure at my command.

[00:50:32] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Evacuations from the airport were halted Thursday after the attack, but they've resumed, though many European countries already ended flights out of Kabul. The United States says it has now helped over a hundred thousand people leave Afghanistan since August 14th.

We go now to Kabul where we're joined by Ali Latifi, Afghan journalist based in Kabul, a correspondent for Al Jazeera English. Ali, thanks so much for joining us once again. Talk about what happened yesterday [00:51:00] and the ISIS-K's claim of responsibility.

[00:51:03] ALI LATIFI: So I spoke to several victims over the last day who had basically described the scene of panic after the bomb went off. Because over the last week, the areas around the airport had become inundated with thousands of people, entire families who were essentially squatting in this squalor of a land hoping that they could somehow gain the [00:51:30] attention of foreign forces or someone else who would let them into the airport and eventually onto a flight to get out of the country. So when the bomb went off, it was literally, they said, people walking on top of one of another, people just scrambling and rushing through hordes of thousands of people.

I spoke to one family whose daughter went missing trying to escape the bombing. Because she was younger, she was trying to lead the charge, go ahead of the rest of the family. [00:52:00] At some point, by the time she turned around, her family was missing. And her family has spent much of last night and early this morning continuing to look for her, going from hospital to hospital, trying to see if they can find her, to find out hopefully she's just injured and hasn't been killed as a part of the stampede or the subsequent bombing.

But that's the state of it is that basically it was, [00:52:30] as they described it, mayhem. Because as soon as the bomb went off, you had thousands of people who had been there for hours, in some cases days, running to get out as quickly as they possibly could. So that's really the situation at the airport.

[00:52:47] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: And then word is, and of course we can't confirm this, that it was at least one suicide bomber from Logar. He'd already been checked actually by perhaps US military. This happened at the Abbey [00:53:00] gate and also near the was at the Baron Hotel, which is the base of operations for the British, who were ending their evacuation where they had already planned to today.

[00:53:10] ALI LATIFI: Exactly. And the issue is that outside the gates of the airport, there are Taliban stationed and the CIA-backed former intelligence forces, both of whom are known for their hostility. And they were basically given the orders to keep people away from the [00:53:30] airport. And the way both groups have responded is by shooting into the air, chasing after people with hoses, making sure nobody gets too close. Nobody lingers. And so there really was no -- it's not as if there was any sort of thorough security check before they got to the gate.

And even when they did get inside the gate, because according to CENTCOM, the bomber detonated inside the gate, if I understood correctly. But even by the time he got inside the gate, he hadn't been thoroughly checked. [00:54:00] And again, even in that crowd, there were hundreds, maybe even thousands of people there.

So getting to check him properly would have been almost impossible at that point, because as I said, the security outside the gates of the airport is very haphazard. It's very violent. It's conducted by the Taliban. And it's conducted by the CIA-backed forces who are known for their brutality and their rights abuses, when they were famous for conducting night raids in this country.

That is how you end up with that kind of situation.

[00:54:28] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Taliban official Thursday [00:54:30] called the attacks on Kabul's airport, an act of terrorism, adding the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan are to blame. Can you talk about that?

[00:54:42] ALI LATIFI: It's ironic, isn't it, coming from them. And if the presence of foreign forces is to blame, all the foreign forces are leaving in four days. And the Taliban had been working with those foreign forces to take control of the airport, to essentially help them evacuate people, make it possible for them to evacuate [00:55:00] people.

On the one hand, they're blaming the foreign forces, which fine, but they're also working with those horn forces. And they themselves made a deal with Washington for the withdrawal. So the entire thing is ironic coming from them.

[00:55:12] EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT W/ SAM SEDER: Biden announced that we'd no longer be in a combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year. Talk about that announcement, and I guess in conjunction with the wind down in Afghanistan and what these things just truly mean.

[00:55:28] JACOB SILVERMAN: Sure. To talk [00:55:30] about Iraq, it is supposedly a change in status that will require some moving of US troops out of Iraq, where they're supposedly about 2,500 there now.

So one thing I would note is that often those numbers aren't very accurate. They can be straight up lied about, or they're often the situation is that you have various soldiers, intelligence officers, people operating under intelligence authorities in which they don't really have to be -- their presence doesn't have to be reported.

So in terms of what might happen soon, I think you'll see a few [00:56:00] soldiers, maybe they'll say a few hundred, we'll leave of the 2,500. And then they'll say that most people are shifting to non-combat roles, which means things like training, but also providing intelligence, operating drones, surveillance, sort of scouting the airspace.

And I think what ends up happening is whether it's in Iraq or even some of these other places we're already seeing it, is that the US claims to be doing this sort of assistant and advising role in which we're mostly training and perhaps providing some intelligence. But that quickly morphs into something more, whether [00:56:30] it's accompanying people on raids or even just something like providing close air support, which is something that's happening still in Afghanistan, where we're pulling out of Afghanistan, allegedly. But that is continuing a process that Donald Trump started. But really we're already providing the existing Afghan government, the pretty beleaguered Afghan government, with an air force and bombing various Taliban positions to try to slow the advance of the Taliban. So there's a way in which, even as we claim we're changing status or even [00:57:00] pulling out in Afghanistan to a significant degree, the actions we're taking, or as you said earlier on, the things we're really doing when it comes down to day-to-day fighting, don't necessarily change them.

[00:57:09] EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT W/ SAM SEDER: So much of this I think is a PR exercise for the people involved and the media really, because of many things. One is just a belief in the American project, the empire, the hegemonic nature of American foreign policy. There's that. Two, a lack of curiosity about these kinds of topics. And three, a [00:57:30] gutting of international offices by mainstream publications, where there's not necessarily an understanding outside of what the Pentagon tells you or desire to understand via investigative journalism where they just regurgitate these things. So it's quite easy for PR purposes for a Donald Trump or a Joe Biden to say, oh, I'm doing this full withdrawal, because it's framed from the perspective of US troops. We are withdrawing US troops, combat Americans. [00:58:00] They're not going to be in danger when, as progressives, or at least part of my project is, I don't want anybody in danger. I don't want our foreign policy assisting in the killing of anybody, no matter what nationality they are. And framing our foreign policy in a way that maximizes that ideal.

I guess just talk about that dynamic a little bit, how easy it is to say we're withdrawing from a place when we're not doing [00:58:30] so. And how that's basically taken at face value by much of our media.

[00:58:33] JACOB SILVERMAN: I think it is very much a product of sort of semantics and bureaucratic classification. We we are not leaving. To say that we are, it is an overstatement.

Afghanistan is the closest one that we have to where we actually are withdrawing some significant forces, but --

[00:58:48] EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT W/ SAM SEDER: And we're hearing just -- sorry to interrupt you -- we're hearing just the constant framing about it. The Taliban is going to take over. What about the women and girls? The closest we're getting, we're already hearing that anxiety [00:59:00] from the press and from the powers that be.

[00:59:02] JACOB SILVERMAN: Yeah. And I think the press has definitely complicit in not asking these questions about what does that mean to withdraw? In Afghanistan, for example, yes, we are withdrawing from places like Bagram, the center of operations, but there's already reports that we're going to be having bases set up in some of the surrounding central Asian countries, that there's been talk with Russia about renting Russian military bases in Tajikistan, so that we can actually do what Biden has talked about for years, more sort of counter-terrorism and clandestine [00:59:30] approach to continuing the war on terror, really. So that we'd have Navy Seals and other special operations units going into Afghanistan with secret air support and things like that. But they would be based in a country adjacent, so it wouldn't really count.

And then you have things like in Iraq, I think one of the main differences is, again, we're not really leaving. We're mostly confining people to bases. And what we've already seen is that American soldiers now represent a target for these often Iranian-aligned militias and Iran of course, [01:00:00] is gaining influence in Iraq.

So you have people who are doing nothing or just assisting kind of feckless Iraqi government. And then there are targets for Iranian militias who occasionally send, launch a drone strike or a few missiles, and they do sometimes hurt or even kill people. But then what you have is the US says, we have to respond in the interest of collective self-defense or to protect our soldiers. And suddenly you have this escalating cycle of violence again, or reason to recommit ourselves to the region.

 So I think the point [01:00:30] is not only should we not be assisting and killing anyone, we really probably shouldn't be there at all, at least in a military capacity, because there is so much easy mission creep and sort of exacerbating the cycle of violence.

[01:00:41] EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT W/ SAM SEDER: But also, the undercurrent that is not going to be said for that PR project that I'm talking about, is that we are trying to curb the spread of Iranian influence as a part of our ongoing relationship with Saudi Arabia and with Israel. That doesn't sound as sexy to people in America [01:01:00] whose sons or daughters or cousins might be over there dying for some of these causes. Just talk about the geopolitical kind of proxy implications of much of our true presence and that underlying effort.

[01:01:14] JACOB SILVERMAN: Sure. We, ever since 9/11, we've disastrously handled our relationship and our rivalries, so to speak, with Iran. It's been way over-hyped, the threat from Iran. And we had at least a nuclear agreement under the Obama administration that obviously the Trump administration pulled out of. And [01:01:30] now Biden's trying to restore to some degree. But still is maintaining punishing sanctions against the Iranian people, which I think are cruel and counterproductive.

And the biggest mistake among all the many mistakes, probably the United States has made since 9/11, was invading Iraq, which besides being a humanitarian disaster and illegal, gave all this influence and power to Iran to influence the region, from Iraq to Syria, to Lebanon and elsewhere. And [01:02:00] we're really dealing with the consequences of that now.

For me, I don't feel a lot of investment if Iran exerts some influence in its immediate geographic sphere, but of course this has become a reason to perpetually be engaged in the area. And also the other side of that is what you were referring to, which is this sort of Sunni-Israeli axis that is formed between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel with occasional participation from othercountries. And it's had a devastating impact across the middle [01:02:30] east. It's why we're involved in the war in Yemen, which is probably the world's biggest humanitarian disaster. And it's why we probably stay as involved in Iraq as we do. It's again, to just counter this Iranian influence.

It's hard to overstate, I think, how much that close US relationship with Israel and Saudi Arabia has kept us committed to this sort of path of conflict with Iran, which is a country that's by no means our friend, but certainly we have a lot of points of interest and could have a lot of things to cooperate on. [01:03:00] And even after 9/11, Iran offered a lot of cooperation to the US.

But David Frum, who I'm sure were both great fans of, ruin that by including Iran and the axis of evil speech. But there were times after 9/11 when Iran was offering the Bush administration cooperation on counter-terrorism, Afghanistan, other matters. And we basically said no, and it's been a disastrous relationship ever since.

[01:03:24] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with the Intercept sharing first person reporting on the American withdrawal. [01:03:30] CounterSpin discussed the big picture of ending the war too late and the ongoing responsibilities we have to the Afghan people. The Brian Lehrer Show analyzed Biden's decisions to end the war and the impact of the policy left behind by Trump. The Intercept also looked at Biden's decisions to ultimately pull the bandaid off. Fresh Air discuss the rights of women and the infrastructure that has been built in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. Un-F*cking the Republic looked at the Pentagon budget. And [01:04:00] Democracy Now! Explained the cost and consequences of military contractors profiting from war.

That's what everyone heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Fresh Air discussing how the Taliban is and isn't different from the last time they were in power 20 years ago. Democracy Now! reported on the suicide bombing of the Kabul airport. And The Majority Report discussed the ways in which the US tends to withdraw from conflict in name only while keeping military in place or [01:04:30] nearby conflict zones in perpetuity.

So to hear that and all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted. No questions asked.

And now, we'll hear from you.

[01:04:55] VOICEMAILER: BUD FROM BOISE: Hi, Jay!, this is Bud from Idaho. I heard your podcast on [01:05:00] bipartisanship the other day. It was real good, real good, real informative. Your comments at the end mentioned term limits. That's always something as a knee jerk that I thought was a great idea. Although I do have some slight reservations about it.

One of my friends was dead set against it. He says it's not democratic. One could argue it's just semantics. And basically what he meant by that was that if you have someone who's been in for a few terms who you like and who's been doing well, [01:05:30] it's unfortunate that you no longer have him to select from.

And I guess I would argue also that constant turnover would mean inexperienced people, which could be an issue.

My biggest issue with it is just how it's structured. Like I say, I tend to lean towards it, but I do worry that the revolving doors between government and corporations will begin to spin fast enough to substitute as a fan. I just had this [01:06:00] picture in my mind of someone being a Senator for six years and then whatever committee they were on getting a job, maybe even a no-show job at their chosen industry, and then show up again some years later to be in a powerful place in the Senate again.

So I guess my main concern is, you know, if we had term limits, that's probably fine. But does that mean they could never be in that position again? Or does it just mean that they couldn't [01:06:30] hold consecutive terms, is what I'm getting after.

So term limits, not a bad idea, but it must be thought out if we were to enact something like that. I have a hunch it'd be pretty hard to get through because people like holding those positions of power for a long time. And it's hard to conceive that they might change the rules so that they themselves won't hold power.

Keep doing what you're doing. Stay awesome. Thanks.

[01:06:55] JEFF FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA: Hey Jay!, this is Jeff from the mountains of California. Really been [01:07:00] enjoying your shows lately. I just learned to piggyback on what you responded to the environmental questions, as far as individual actions and all that. I absolutely agree this is so far past individual actions, this is a a collective shift in how we view the world.

 One thing that's often lost, I think in left-wing responses, is the sacredness of the earth. And how many times do you hear in environmental discussions and such, "we need to give thanks to the [01:07:30] earth. We need to honor the earth."? When you come to a stream and do you think the water? Et cetera, et cetera.

Obviously this is heavily influenced by Native philosophies and that's where we have to be. This is so far past recycling. I remember Winona LaDuke saying that one time at a speech I saw, she's just, this is so far past that. This is about ceremony and getting back to this and learning it in the first place.

And I just wanted to throw that in there. I think it's [01:08:00] really crucial for lefties to start thinking about that and saying it openly at every possible opportunity. This is about ceremony and giving thanks. Right on. Thank you, Jay!.

[01:08:12] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at (202) 999-3991, or write me a message to [email protected] [01:08:30]

Now, quite candidly, we have not been getting a lot of voicemails recently, this has been an ongoing topic of occasional discussion over the last few years. Ten years ago, I'd have a half dozen calls per episode, now, not so much. I think people just don't like using the phone anymore. Maybe some other reasons too. And so to have two good calls to respond to it's a embarrassment of riches.

So first, Bud on term limits, I feel sort of similarly. It's one of [01:09:00] those issues that instinctually feels like a good idea, but he brings up very important points that need to be addressed. Number one, you couldn't possibly have term limits without also having very strong rules against the revolving door issue. Politicians becoming lobbyists, and maybe coming back and being politicians again. So the way those rules are structured is going to be really impactful for how that policy actually plays out.

And then the second is about [01:09:30] experience versus the threat of inexperience, which would make me tend towards believing that if term limits are going to be part of the system that's probably okay, but they probably shouldn't be too restrictive. Just throwing it out there, I hadn't looked up anyone's proposals or anything, but five terms in the House or three terms in the Senate. So in the House, that would be 10 years of service. In in the Senate, you could say [01:10:00] two terms, that would be 12 years, senate's a little different, maybe letting them have 18 is appropriate, maybe it's too long, I don't know. This is not my area of expertise, but the point being, you probably don't want Congress run by a bunch of amateurs.

And again, speculating sort of wildly, but based on a lot of experience and a pretty strong understanding of how these kinds of things work, my guess, knowing that term limits [01:10:30] is an issue that conservative leaning, political people gravitate towards a lot and talk about a lot, makes me think that they are being catered to, that they're being encouraged to believe in that policy, and the way this very often works is that there is some sort of power structure involved helping encourage belief systems. [01:11:00] Across the board, but particularly among conservatives, that happens quite a lot. And so it feels to me like powerful corporate interests may very well be pushing the idea of term limits, because they know that it sounds appealing, just instinctually it sounds appealing, but they know that one of the knock-on effects of having term limits would be a greater number of inexperienced legislators.

And the [01:11:30] way this could benefit them could happen a couple of different ways. Maybe just legislators being more inexperienced would make them easier to lobby, easier to cajole into the way of thinking that the corporations want - possibly. More likely though, I think it would just help create a faster moving pipeline of new politicians, and it's not really so much when politicians are already in office [01:12:00] that corporations are able to get in and purchase those politicians. There are some ways, that the promising jobs after the fact - that's a big one - but one of the best ways to control politicians is just to control which one's managed to get elected.

So you find the politicians that are most in your corner already as a corporate interest, fund their campaigns, their primary campaigns [01:12:30] and their general campaigns before they've won office, and then they win and they are going to support you and your corporate interests without you even having to spend lots of money lobbying them, because they just actually believe in what you believe in. So th that's the best, most effective way I think. And if you have term limits, that creates more churn in Congress, and more churn in Congress means more opportunities [01:13:00] to get new, fresh-blood candidates in who the corporations can hand pick and fund their campaigns to get them into office, knowing that they will support the corporate interest.

So those are some thoughts on term limits, why people may be in favor of them, and especially why it's being pushed as a good reform measure. Everyone [01:13:30] knows that we need reforms, but some reforms are a lot more corporate friendly than others, and term limits seems like it is probably one of those, but I'd be open to hearing arguments from the other side as well.

Secondly, I thought Jeff's voicemail was really interesting and I don't want to respond to it too much because I just have a bit of a follow-up question. I want to know how we turn the ceremony mentality that Jeff was talking about into [01:14:00] public policy, because Jeff agrees, as he said, that we're way beyond individual actions. We need to get deep into structural society-wide change, and then he talks about it in terms of being grateful and thankful to the earth and having a ceremony mindset, and so I think, okay, great, what public policy is that? How do we turn that mindset into [01:14:30] policy, or how do we get people to have that mindset so that they create better policy that's in line with that way of thinking? Members who will be hearing a bonus episode that we've recorded, but I haven't quite gotten edited and published yet, they will be hearing my theory, not on this in particular because this voicemail came in after we recorded, but there's one idea I have about how to get people into a ceremony mindset. The ethics of it... [01:15:00] dubious, but members tune into the bonus show to hear what that's going to be. I think you'll know what I'm talking about.

And then the last thing I'll just say in response to Jeff's message, in addition to asking for more of his thoughts on that, is it's really important to know your audience. So, I don't personally speak in terms of ceremonies and thanking the land and all that, but that resonates with me, I'm I'm on board with that. I don't scoff at that [01:15:30] idea. It doesn't make me laugh under my breath that, "oh, isn't that silly or quaint," none of that. That really does resonate with me, but it's not going to for a lot of people. And so when Jeff says, this is what progressives need to start saying loudly and more boldly, yes and no. It's going to resonate really well with some people and it's going to really, really, really turn some other people off, and that is just the nature of it.

And I'm a big [01:16:00] believer in meeting people where they are. Not as a moderating, let's not try to make too much progress because we might scare people sort of way, but in a, if you try to overstep where people are ready to go, especially with terminology and how you frame things, then you're going to scare them away more than attract them in. And so for a certain segment of progressives talking about [01:16:30] ceremonies is going to be not just adequate, but great. For other people, you're going to be better off talking about how using resources damages the environment, using resources also costs money, so why are you spending extra money to do extra harm? Let's save money and do less harm to the environment. For some people that kind of way of thinking is just gonna resonate more. [01:17:00] So I would just argue, know your audience and speak to them.

As always keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991, or by emailing me to [email protected] That's going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic, Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Scott for their volunteer work, helping [01:17:30] put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support or from right inside the Apple Podcast app if that's your style.

Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good bonus episodes, which is where I also talk about how you might be able to get people into a [01:18:00] ceremony mindset, not in those words, but you'll know what I mean. And in addition, there is also bonus content and no ads in all of our regular episodes, so you get all of that just for signing up for a membership.

For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on our website and likely right on the device you're using to listen.

So coming to from far outside, the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, [01:18:30] and this has been the best of left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely. To the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com

[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: During today's episode, I'm going to be telling you about a podcast I think you should be checking out. It's called Un-F*ing the Republic, and you'll even get to hear a clip of the show. So keep an ear out mid-episode when I tell you all about it.

And now, welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall take a look at our departure from Afghanistan, how the decisions were made to leave in this fashion, and what we should do going forward to prevent similar foreign escapades in the future. Clips [00:00:30] today are from the Intercept, CounterSpin, The Brian Lehrer Show, Fresh Air, Un-F*ing the Republic, Democracy Now!, and The Majority Report.

[00:00:40] ANDREW QUILTY: It's about 1 AM on Aug. 17, 36 hours since the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital Kabul in a surprisingly peaceful transition of power with the Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani.

[00:00:56] MURTAZA HUSSAIN: That's Andrew Quilty, a photographer and writer based in Kabul. [00:01:00]

[00:01:00] ANDREW QUILTY: The remaining 15 or so provincial capitals fell to the Taliban in a matter of days, bringing the then-insurgent group to the gates of Kabul late on the night of Aug. 14. It was a sleepless night that night for Kabul’s residents, who were anticipating the next day to begin violently. It was only a hastily cobbled-together agreement between [00:01:30] the government and the Taliban that would see a peaceful transition of power.

[00:01:37] MURTAZA HUSSAIN: In just a short time, we saw the Taliban take over Afghanistan.

[00:01:41] ABC NEWS: The Taliban’s seizing back power nearly two decades after 9/11, taking over the capital of Kabul in just a matter of days.

The Afghan president has fled the country and US troops have taken control of the city's airport, where thousands of Afghans are also desperate to leave the country.

[00:01:56] BBC NEWS: US and UK troops are engaged in evacuating their citizens [00:02:00] while the international community tries to define its response to the Taliban's lightning-speed victory.

[00:02:05] PRESEIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN: If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending US military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.

American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves.

[00:02:27] ANDREW QUILTY: When the agreement was made [00:02:30] that would see the government fold, most of the Afghan security forces shed their uniforms and left their posts across the city. Former members of the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police could be seen walking from military infrastructure around the city, carrying sacks of belongings. And within a matter of hours, a security vacuum developed in the city. Looting began [00:03:00] thieves dressed up to look like Taliban robbed people on the street. And within a matter of another few hours, the Taliban made a hasty decision to send their fighters into the city to fill the vacuum left by the retreating, disappearing Afghan security forces.

[00:03:22] MURTAZA HUSSAIN: We'll be hearing more from Andrew in a few minutes.

The two-decade-long US war in Afghanistan has come to a conclusion with the U.S. having suffered what [00:03:30] appears to be a stunning. defeat. After spending over $1 trillion and fighting a war that resulted in thousands of US casualties and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, the U.S. is leaving the country with the Taliban firmly in power.

Vanessa Gezari, national security editor for the Intercept, has spent years reporting in Afghanistan after the U.S. launched the war. Vanessa shared her reflections with us on the U.S. government's longest war, and what the recent developments mean for Afghanistan:

[00:03:58] VANESSA GEZARI: One thing I've been struck by [00:04:00] watching what's happening now, is that the videos we're seeing now come out of Afghanistan of men with RPGs on the streets of major cities and the streets empty and gunfire ricocheting around.

[Sounds of gunfire and citizens yelling.]

 And refugees in Kabul, in parks, where a lot of us spent time [00:04:30] picnicking or with friends, I'm just struck by how much it looks the way it did 20 years ago, when the U.S. first got involved in the war. It's really striking and surreal how 20 years of our engagement there seems to just have been erased in a few days. But you also have to remember that tens of thousands of people have lost their children, husbands, brothers, mothers, fathers, sisters, to this war, [00:05:00] Afghans, Americans, Europeans, and many others. In Afghanistan alone, according to the Cost of War Project at Brown, the total dead since October, 2001 are 157,000 of whom the vast majority are Afghan civilians, security forces and opposition fighters.

And for all those people and many others who have been there in this period these years won't be erased ever. They'll [00:05:30] never forget what happened in this period. And while our war may be ending, maybe, the war is not ending for Afghans. And it's probably going to continue for a long time.

For a generation of Afghans and Americans, this war was a very strange beast. It was a tapestry of cultural marvels, dark stories, death, destruction, beauty, suffering, friendship, [00:06:00] regret, guilt, and official lies. The biggest lie has been about America, about what this country is in the world and about what we can and cannot do as the world's sole superpower.

American exceptionalism has now been shown in so many ways to be a bankrupt concept. We are not strong. We are not capable. We are not principled. And so I'm thinking a lot right now about the possibilities for moral recovery as a [00:06:30] nation, given the last 20 years of our history and what we're seeing now in Afghanistan.

[00:06:35] PHYLLIS BENNIS: It's very important that we recognize the significance of pulling out U.S. troops, and the limitation of pulling out U.S. troops.

The significance is, that this was a war that never should have been waged; the horrific crimes of 9/11 should have been dealt with as international horrific crimes, and not as the beginning of a global war, in which the U S. interests [00:07:00] would be asserted as taking precedence over the interest of every other country, every other people in the world.

And, once it started, it should have ended. Once it was going for a year, it should have ended; once it went for 10 years, it should have ended. It's finally ending now, almost 20 years on. That's way too late, but it's important that it is ending the U.S. role.

The limitation of that, is that, this does not end the struggle, and potentially even war, in [00:07:30] Afghanistan. The war is going to be very different without the United States, but people in Afghanistan have a very difficult time ahead.

 Certainly, the people who are afraid of what Taliban control could mean for them and their families personally, because of either their real or perceived connections to the U. S. military, to U.S. intelligence, and to [00:08:00] other-- perceived and accurately known as-- Western institutions, whether it's journalists, whether it's non-governmental organizations, all kinds of people; women who fought for women's rights over these last 20 years, many of them are very afraid of being linked to the U. S. Occupation and targeted for that, as well as being targeted for being strong women, with an independent streak, at all.

So, there's a lot of problems ahead for Afghans. [00:08:30] Pulling out the U. S. troops, I think, was the most important part of it.

[00:08:35] JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: It's been odd to see some in the U. S. news media lay the entire state of affairs at Biden's feet, as though everything was going great, somehow, until he mucked it up.

But you explained in The Nation that there are things that we can, and should, be demanding of the U. S. Government now. We can't undo what the U. S. military did to [00:09:00] the Afghan people, but there are things that we can be talking about, right now, in terms of accountability.

[00:09:07] PHYLLIS BENNIS: Absolutely. And I think accountability to the people of Afghanistan should remain our focal point for this next period. First, the number of refugees, asylum seekers, should be massively expanded. We have to expand the categories of people who are allowed in. And crucially, we have to make it easier, make it possible, for people to [00:09:30] apply for, and get, that protection.

It's a huge challenge now, because people that are not already in Kabul may not be able to get to Kabul anytime soon. People in Kabul may have trouble getting to the airport. But it's also made harder because the United States, unlike every other country, is not simply opening their borders to people who clearly need protection. They're demanding that people still fill out all kinds of paperwork that may not be possible right now.

[00:10:00] So we need to demand that they make it easier, that they make it possible, for people to apply for asylum, for refugee status, for protection, in any way that it becomes necessary.

Second, we need to be sure that the bombing raids, both of planes, including B-52s and drones, that have been carried out in recent weeks, have stopped, and that the end of those bombing rates is permanent.

The same for the CIA squads that are running death squads [00:10:30] throughout Afghanistan. That should be permanently ended, not just at this moment, ready to come back from over the horizon.

Third, we need to be supporting UN, and whatever other international efforts emerge, to create defend a humanitarian corridor guaranteeing safe passage for humanitarian workers, to get people in, and to get access to water, food, shelter, medicine, for people living now [00:11:00] in Kabul, and other places, who have been displaced from their homes, can't get to their homes, and are stuck wherever they are, in desperate need.

That has to include funding a massive program for COVID assistance. We've all seen the videos, the photographs, of people crowded together, living on streets in Kabul, et cetera. And these people are smack in the middle of a rising number of COVID cases already. This could become another disaster facing [00:11:30] people in Afghanistan.

And finally, Janine, I think it's so crucial that, even though it will be a long process, to assess what was wrong about this war from the beginning, why it was so easy for people to support this war, and why people in positions of power consistently supported it, with so few exceptions like that of the heroic congressional representative from California, Barbara Lee, who was the only member of Congress to vote [00:12:00] against the authorization for this war.

That's going to be a long process. But in the meantime, we need to begin the process of acknowledging U. S. responsibility for the impact of the war, the devastation that the war brought, to the people of Afghanistan. We can work on that for years, the issues of reparations and compensation, questions of apology.

But right now, we need to move towards acknowledgement that there was a U. S. responsibility [00:12:30] for what faced the people of Afghanistan during these 20 years.

[00:12:33] JANINE JACKSON - HOST, COUNTERSPIN: Let me just ask you, finally; media have a lot to account for, I think, here. News media just have a war frame of mind, if you put it that way. Diplomacy, it seems, is almost treated as a weakness. And that's exactly the kind of conversation we need to be having.

But I fear that folks are going to be poorly served if we're looking for that kind of healthy conversation about the [00:13:00] future for the Afghan people in mainstream news media.

[00:13:04] PHYLLIS BENNIS: I think you're right, that the news media, the mainstream news media, needs to have some serious conversations, and we, in the public, need to demand those answers for the role that the media played for 20 years, from the moment of the 9/11 attacks, assuming the legitimacy of war as an answer.

I do have a small hint of optimism, based on the coverage of the last few days, [00:13:30] because there has already started to be some looking back. There's been a couple of articles, not a lot, but you do see hints in the Washington Post, and the New York Times, and on NPR. Not enough, not nearly enough, but the beginnings of a more self-critical look, not necessarily at the media itself, but at the assumptions that were at the root of how the media covered all this, which comes back to the question of the legitimacy of [00:14:00] war as the dominant component of how U. S. influence around the world is expressed.

And to the degree that we can force that conversation to go further, that will be one of the key things to prevent something like this horrific invasion, occupation, 20-year-oppression of Afghanistan that our country was involved with from ever happening again.

[00:14:24] NANCY SOLOMON: Now, the roots of this crisis go back to the Trump administration's negotiations with the [00:14:30] Taliban, that left out the Afghanistan government. The analysis has been that that signaled to the army that they were being abandoned by the US, and that's what led to the collapse two weeks ago.

How might have Biden dealt with this hand of cards that he inherited from Trump differently?

[00:14:50] SUSAN PAGE: Of course, that's true, every president decries the mess that the previous president left for him to deal with. [00:15:00] Although, on this issue, President Trump and President Biden had the same fundamental view, that it was time for this war of 20 years to end.

With the benefit of a little bit of hindsight, we have a lot of hindsight now and there's going to be a lot examination of what went wrong in these last few weeks. But, with the benefit of a little bit of hindsight, the idea has... said... that President Biden said on August 31, deadline-- first, September 11, and then August 31 deadline withdrawal-- lots of questions about that. [00:15:30]

Just yesterday, the president said that might be extended. All of the Taliban have said that they have pushed back against the idea that they are willing to see American forces there past that August 31 deadline.

Clearly we should have begun evacuation efforts earlier and with more vigor we did. Because, I think, whatever your views on the war in Afghanistan, whether it was worth it, there is almost united American view that we have an obligation to [00:16:00] those who served us, as translators, and in other roles during this war.

And we see this mob at the Kabul airport and worry about the cost that those people are going to be paying.

[00:16:16] NANCY SOLOMON: The response in the Sunday news shows, from the Biden administration yesterday, to this particular criticism, of not getting enough people out, before they pulled out the [00:16:30] military; administration officials, including Jake Sullivan, made the case that they got a lot of people out, and that they couldn't have foreseen just how swiftly the Taliban-- and, we've heard this a lot over the last couple of weeks-- how swiftly the Taliban would take control.

It's hard to believe that, though, right? Because, how do they not have CIA intelligence telling them what the Taliban is up to, in the weeks before this happens, and the fact that they're sweeping through, and getting... meeting with [00:17:00] tribal leaders, and forcing people involved in the military to commit to laying down their arms and melting away, as what then transpired.

Has there been any analysis of why this misstep occured?

[00:17:13] SUSAN PAGE: It was either a failure of intelligence, or a failure to heed intelligence. Those are two different things. The President and some of his top aides said it was a surprise that Afghanistan, basically, fell in 11 days. And that is a [00:17:30] speedy collapse, that is catastrophic and truly surprising.

But the idea that we didn't have much time, that just fits the common sense test of what was going to happen in Afghanistan once U.S. Forces withdrew.

One of the tough questions that Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, had to face yesterday, in the appearance he did on Fox News Sunday, was his handling of a memo through, what they call, the descent [00:18:00] channel from some U.S. Diplomats in the region, warning that they were sitting on the edge of a catastrophe. Secretary Blinken acknowledged that he had seen that memo, and responded to it, in these internal State Department channels. But it took a while for the US policy to catch up with that warning.

[00:18:22] NANCY SOLOMON: You mentioned the Sunday shows. Republicans were having a field day yesterday with these missteps. On Face The Nation, Nikki Haley [00:18:30] defended the deal Trump made with the Taliban, but then blamed Biden for pulling out. Some Republicans have accused Biden of negotiating with terrorists because the State Department is communicating with the Taliban about evacuation efforts in Kabul. But Nikki Haley took a different tack.

[00:18:48] NIKKI HALEY: They're not negotiating with the Taliban. They've completely surrendered to the Taliban. They surrendered Bagram Air Force Base, which was a major NATO hub. They surrendered $85 billion worth of equipment and [00:19:00] weapons that we should have gotten out of there.

They have surrendered the American people, and, actually, withdrew our troops before they withdrew the American people. And they've abandoned our Afghan allies, who kept people like my husband safe while they were overseas deploying. No, there was no negotiating. This was a complete and total surrender and embarrassing failure.

[00:19:23] NANCY SOLOMON: What do you think, Susan, is that a fair criticism?

[00:19:25] SUSAN PAGE: Let's remember that Nikki Haley was UN Ambassador for President Trump. It was President [00:19:30] Trump who not only negotiated with the Taliban, but was prepared to invite Taliban leaders to Camp David, a huge global prize to get an invitation like that, and not have the Taliban [ie, Afghanistan] government along for those negotiations.

Now, that ended up not happening, but not because President Trump didn't want it to happen.

One of the things, I think, drives Americans crazy about politics is when they see politicians flip positions based [00:20:00] on who's making the argument. Even Republicans who defended President Trump's willingness to negotiate with the Taliban now criticize President Biden's attempts to do the same. And Democrats do this too. But at the moment, it's Republicans who often seem to have very short memories about the positions they were taking a year ago.

[00:20:20] NANCY SOLOMON: I find it quite annoying.

Now, to this point about surrendering $85 billion worth of equipment and weapons, [00:20:30] there's also been a lot of different numbers thrown around about how many Afghans and/or U.S. Citizens are still in the country. Can you clarify any of that in terms of, what the situation is on the ground?

[00:20:43] SUSAN PAGE: I cannot. I think the situation is pretty murky; in some ways, murky because the situation is chaotic; in some ways, perhaps, murky for strategic reasons, to not put Americans, who may still be trapped somewhere other than the airport, as we tried to evacuate them. [00:21:00] That goes also for Afghan allies.

The latest number I've heard is that 37,000 people have been evacuated in evacuations facilitated by the United States. That is a lot of people. But we know there are at least some people who are still there and still in harm's way.

It's going to take a while for this situation to sort itself out. The situation gets much more difficult after August 31st, which is the deadline that we have set, for us to be out of there.[00:21:30] It complicates our mission, when we said we were going to leave. This is one reason that diplomats and strategists sometimes urge politicians not to set deadlines, because those dates come up, and you don't know quite what your situation is going to be there. So, this is going to be a very perilous situation for at least the next couple of weeks.

[00:21:53] AL JAZEERA: After 18 months of talks and nearly [00:22:00] two decades of war, the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban have just signed a long-awaited deal aimed at paving the way to peace and the departure of foreign troops.

[00:22:08] SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: Just as any worthy journey begins, it is a first step. And we know exactly who we're dealing with. If the Taliban do not uphold their commitments, president Trump and his team will not hesitate to do what we must do to protect American lives.

[00:22:23] VANESSA GEZARI: The United States has been really appalling in how it's [00:22:30] handled the negotiation with the Taliban. I think the agreement that was crafted under the Trump administration was not a good one. The United States negotiated -- put those in air quotes -- an agreement under Donald Trump that seemed to basically be centered on the fact that the United States did not want to be in Afghanistan anymore, which is not really the greatest [00:23:00] way to negotiate your exit.

So if you're broadcasting that you want to leave and the Taliban know that you want to leave, and you're just looking for a way out, then you're going to take an agreement that is not going to be a good one for most of the Afghans who are still living in this country, I think, or the chances are much greater that you're going to do that. That [00:23:30] is what happened with the agreement. Then Biden inherited this agreement, and I think Biden just wants to pull off the band-aid, honestly. I think Biden has not wanted to be in Afghanistan for a very long time.

[00:23:44] PRESEIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN: That's why I opposed the surge when it was proposed in 2009 when I was vice president.

And that's why as president I'm adamant. We focus on the threats we face today in 2021, not yesterday’s threats.

[00:23:59] VANESSA GEZARI: [00:24:00] There are no good options at this point in terms of policy there. So anybody who thinks that there's really a great way to leave? I don't think so. I don't think there have been good options for us in Afghanistan since the very early days and years after the war. We're left with this.

The Afghan people are very tough, but they're also exhausted. This has been an [00:24:30] extremely difficult period in one way or another for almost everyone in Afghanistan. And even the people who have benefited the most in this period have lived with a level of fear and anxiety.

I can't be very optimistic about how this is going to feel to people. I saw a story in the Times, they had a picture of a car full of children evacuating their homes in [00:25:00] one of the big cities in Northern Afghanistan that was taken by the Taliban. And you just look in the eyes of these children and they're terrified. And anybody can think about what it would be like to have to pick up your kids.

[00:25:26] DAVE DAVIES - HOST, FRESH AIR: We've read a lot about how much the rights and opportunities [00:25:30] of women changed in the last 20 years. Women began getting educations, including advanced educations, were starting businesses, serving in parliament.

And I'm wondering to what extent -- this may be hard to answer or measure -- that these new roles, responsibilities and contributions change the thinking of the men in their lives, including men in very religious families?

[00:25:53] STEVE COLL: I think the history of women in Afghanistan is a rich and complex one even before the U.S. intervention [00:26:00] in 2001. And, they have had powerful roles in both urban and rural Afghan society going back, some time. The Soviet intervention was based also on an ideology of women's place in the workforce. And so in cities, if you visited Afghanistan during the 80s, the ministries, there were thousands of women in Kabul getting on the bus each morning and going to work and earning independent salaries.

[00:26:30] So this dynamic has been a part of Afghanistan throughout the 20th century. If you look back at the photographs of Afghanistan when it was at peace with itself and its neighbors and still a poor country, but a modernizing society in the 1960s, you'll see photographs of laboratories funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to promote farming in southern Afghanistan, where there are women in lab coats working alongside men. So this is a history that predates the American involvement. But what [00:27:00] happened after 2001 was that the U.S., Europe and other industrialized economies invested enormously in NGOs and in a new government that had a mandate to include women, to a degree that the Taliban had not only never permitted, but actively had suppressed.

And so [00:27:30] across the board, women had new opportunities in Afghanistan's cities after 2001. They could enter higher education, obtain university educations. They could enter the media. They were broadcasters, they were reporters on the street. They formed their own NGOs. They won scholarships to go abroad to further their education. So it was a new world. There was a generation that grew up in Afghanistan's cities protected by NATO's security, the likes of which Afghanistan has never known. [00:28:00] They all had cell phones. They were all on the web. They were all on Facebook. They became creatures of global culture to a degree. And women were very much a part of that.

[00:28:10] DAVE DAVIES - HOST, FRESH AIR: There was also a lot of investment into building schools and hospitals and roads and bridges and that, and the new opportunities that women experienced, I'm just wondering, as we look at this collapse of the government, why those projects and those changes somehow didn't have more [00:28:30] currency in limiting the appeal of the Taliban and their effectiveness.

[00:28:33] STEVE COLL: I think they were -- look, all aid projects where you try to advance a prostrate political economy like Afghanistan's was in 2001 very rapidly with massive investments, that is always going to be a rocky road. We've seen it again and again, around the world. Corruption is a factor, the inefficiency of outsiders [00:29:00] trying to choose what projects to fund is a factor.

Afghans have long complained since 2001 that they weren't consulted enough in the design of these development ambitions that the west brought in. And so that is one source of weakness that the foundations of this kind of reconstruction were flawed.

And yet at the same time, I think it's important to recognize today that Afghans believe [00:29:30] and appreciate that their country is not what it was in 2001, that it does have an infrastructure, communications infrastructure, physical infrastructure, institutions that all Afghans want to preserve. And a lot of the message to the Taliban as they have taken over the country this summer has been OK, we understand you've won the war, [00:30:00] but don't tear down the progress that we've made.

[00:30:04] CO-HOST, UNF*CKING THE REPUBLIC: Last year, representative Barbara Lee of California, the only fucking member of Congress to vote against the war in Afghanistan, mind you, Introduced house Resolution 1003 with 24 Democratic co-sponsors. While largely symbolic, at least someone is thinking about this shit, and introducing it into the public record.

Here's the summary of the resolution: "This resolution expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that Congress supports [00:30:30] 1) reducing waste at the Department of Defense 2) making cuts to the DOD budget while simultaneously improving support for members of the armed forces 3) exercising aggressive oversight over DOD 4) eliminating the overseas contingency operations account; and 5) reallocating certain defense funds to instead support U. S. diplomacy and domestic programs.

The preamble to the resolution says it all: "Whereas [00:31:00] Pentagon spending, adjusted for inflation, since9/11 has increased 50%"

I'll link the PDF in show notes, because the rest outlines the waste and mismanagement that comes when you're forced to spend more money than you asked for, or you know what to do with.

And that's precisely what has happened for the past 20 years.

When I was putting together this show, my mind was going in so many directions, unfuckers. And when I was reviewing Bernie's out-year projections in the quickie last week, my blood was fucking boiling. Why are we just assuming [00:31:30] that these budgets will continue?

But this kind of non-inflationary spending isn't what tweaks me, even if it's demonstrably offensive, evil, and irresponsible. It's the fact that we've normalized this level of spending on industrial militarization, surveillance, and dirty wars, to such an extent that it's not even news when we simultaneously pull out of our longest war and propose a budget that increases spending for the next 10 years.

From 300 billion per year to 750 billion and growing? Despite the fact that we aren't at war? [00:32:00] What are we doing?

Are there really only 20-odd members of Congress that see this fucking bullshit? And why aren't they holding a press conference every day, or a vigil, a fucking hunger strike, anything?

The resolution pointed out a handful of deficiencies to illustrate the point that, maybe, just maybe, the DOD has more money than it knows what to do with. This one: the Pentagon awarded a $7 million cloud computing contract to a one-person company.

Or the defense logistics agency lost track of 800 [00:32:30] million in construction projects.

How about this: last year, the Pentagon spent $4.6 million on crab and lobster in an end-of-the-year spree. Or how the Pentagon had no way to track replacement parts for the 1.4 trillion F-35 joint-strike fighter program. Or how the military budget accounts for more than half of all discretionary spending.

It's almost a bad joke at this point. The problem with the Democrats' messaging is that they always have to offset it with what else it [00:33:00] could cure. You ever seen a Republican do that? "We need to go to war, so we're going to pull money from here to..." No, They know they just fucking go to war and spend the money.

But the Democrats are like, "If we take $10 from the war budget, we can put $10 in the fucking food stamps." Just fucking put the money where we need it! We have it! Take a fucking economics class!

The war machine isn't stupid, by the way. Military contractors are located mostly in Republican districts, which are largely Republican because the districts have been so gerrymandered. And they're funding the political machine to ensure the [00:33:30] Republicans maintain control of state legislatures and give themselves an advantage in congressional elections.

The answers are right in front of the Democrats right now. But you're witnessing deliberate inaction that ensures nothing will change. We're going to talk about this next week, Unfuckers, but the path is incredibly clear.

The new voting rights act, HR-1 For The People, would take back control of our election system, and ensure total participation, and reduce the influence of special interests. [00:34:00]

With the new census data in hand, the Democrats should be working overtime to draw realistic district maps that deliver true representation.

The filibuster has to go, because the things we need to accomplish won't always get done through reconciliation. And Congress could use this brief window, with literally no foreign entanglements, to repatriate federal or military funds and personnel to deliver on the promise of a Green New Deal.

Which would convert the domestic industrial military supply [00:34:30] chain to create a manufacturing revolution that could help convert the nation's energy and transportation infrastructure to a clean energy economy.

If only we approach this with war time speed and efficiency. But, as I've said before, if all you have is a hammer, then the whole world is a nail. The military industrial complex has only one incentive, and that is to generate conflicts abroad in order to sustain its largesse in the world.

Just like the private prison system, when we [00:35:00] went over that, right? If your clients are prisoners, if you literally call your prisoners customers, you need more of them in order to grow when you are a private company. We have a pretty big privatized military industrial complex, at this point, that needs more customers. And where do you get them? You start a fucking war. That's just how it works.

There is officially now zero reason to maintain a budget this extraordinary. We have the satellite technology to surveil every inch of the planet and targeted [00:35:30] purported enemy of the state and the backseat of a fucking car, thousands of miles away. We see all and know all.

So even if you truly believe that there was an imminent threat on U. S. soil, we have the power to snuff it out at a moment's notice. We're not fighting China over nukes and acts of aggression. We're fighting them over patents and intellectual property.

We're not fighting the Russians over territory in some country that ends in "-Stan." we're fighting cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns.

And yet, we maintain a military [00:36:00] apparatus that stands at the ready to deploy troops, carriers, and fighter jets, for conflicts that simply don't exist. Unless, we make them up.

And that's the danger. That's always been the danger: that we will "will" ourselves into battle and convince our neighbors and allies like Canada and the UK to join us, so we can spread the blame and responsibility.

The Tyson principle, Unfuckers, is self-revelatory, and we have precious little time to act on it. No third-party [00:36:30] tilting-at-windmills; there's no time for that. It's up to us to lift up the voices of the progressive caucus and vocally support those who are raising these issues and concerns.

There are currently a 100 out of 535 representatives who have joined the progressive caucus. It's not enough. We need numbers and mobilization and pressure on sitting Democrats to align with them on procedural matters, such as voting access, ending the filibuster, and controlling the redistricting process.

The Republicans will be coming [00:37:00] fast and furious for all of us at the midterms. And if you're paying attention to our current leadership, 78 year old Joe Biden, 70 year old Chuck Schumer, and 81 year old Nancy Pelosi, it should be apparent that they're not the ones that are going to make this happen. And if that sounds ageist, it is, because they're part of yesterday.

We need a groundswell of support for the likes of Ayanna Presley, AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Pramila Jayapal. They need numbers.

And that's where we come in. [00:37:30] Follow these reps on social media, let them know that you're here for them, contact their offices and ask how you can canvas for support in battleground districts that have a chance of going progressive.

Stay positive, but get noisy.

[00:37:42] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: As we continue to look at the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ending of America's longest war with leading antiwar activist, Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink. For decades. she has been dragged out of congressional hearings, presidential speeches, political [00:38:00] conventions, by security, as she and others have called for peace.

President Biden wants to end evacuations in Afghanistan by the August 31st deadline. but faces pressure to stay longer. Medea, if you can start there, to talk about your response to the focus of all the media on what is absolutely the chaos and catastrophe at this point in Kabul for so many Afghans. But [00:38:30] You have always widened the lens. For decades you have been protesting the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Is this how you think it should end?

[00:38:42] MEDEA BENJAMIN: Of course, we didn't want it to end like this. And there should have been better planning in terms of getting people out of the country. But we were very clear, we never wanted the U.S. to go in to begin with. And every single year we kept saying, get out.

It was fascinating listening to Bilal and him talking about all [00:39:00] of the corruption inside Afghanistan. And I just kept thinking of this cash cow that has been the war in Afghanistan that we have been fighting against all these years. We also got dragged out of meetings of shareholders from Halliburton to General Dynamics. To think of all the companies that profited from this war and how they have been the ones who have kept the war going by putting their money into lobby groups. You just look [00:39:30] at General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon, and their spending of $34 million in this year alone on lobbying our government. We have to find a way, Amy, that we reflect on what happened over these 20 years and look at these contractors that provide all of the logistics and have privatized the U.S. military.

In fact, we have had more US contractors in Afghanistan [00:40:00] at many times during these 20 years, than US soldiers. I think there's a lot of reckoning to be done. And I hope that we will be able once this phase is over, which is chaotic and horrific, we will be able to look at who actually profited? Where did all this money go? Why did it happen? And how are we going to stop it from happening again?

[00:40:20] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Afghanistan has something like a trillion dollars worth of minerals. And there is a global fight now, for countries to position [00:40:30] themselves. You have been warning about the US beefing up their anti-China rhetoric, something that's not getting a lot of attention right now is Vice President Harris is on a south Asian trip. She was just in Singapore. then she flew to Vietnam. She has warned about China in the south China sea. Can you talk about the U.S.-China brinksmanship that's going on right now?

[00:40:58] MEDEA BENJAMIN: The [00:41:00] tragedy is that the US leaving Afghanistan, for the Biden administration, is a chance to focus on what they call our main adversary, which is China. It justifies this continual gargantuan Pentagon budget that eats up so much of our resources. And it is a delusional idea that we should be focusing on China as an enemy. It's a country of [00:41:30] over a billion people. It's a nuclear country. Especially at a time when we need to work with China to deal with issues like the climate, like the pandemic, like global poverty. China is going into Afghanistan and will work with the new Afghan government to build up the infrastructure. Where is all that infrastructure, that the U.S. didn't do for the last 20 years? Why have they left Afghanistan, having been occupied by one of the richest countries in the world, us, the United States, [00:42:00] to be one of the most impoverished countries in the world? The U.S. should actually learn from China that instead of going into countries with bombs and bullets, it should go into countries to figure out how to help build the infrastructure and build the economy that would be a win-win situation.

[00:42:20] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: What do you feel the U.S. owes to the people of Afghanistan?

[00:42:26] MEDEA BENJAMIN: We feel that the U.S. owes a tremendous [00:42:30] responsibility, not only for getting the Afghans out as we're trying to do now, but for the millions of Afghans who are left behind in terrible dire situations from this 20 years of war. You had a great program on yesterday, Amy, about the humanitarian crisis. We feel like the US is now going to use Its economic warfare against Afghanistan to increase that humanitarian crisis by withholding $9 billion that belongs to [00:43:00] Afghanistan in US banks, by working with other countries in Europe and the IMF to withhold funding. We don't have to be friends with the Taliban, but we can't be the enemies either. Because the victims will be the Afghan people. We need to let go of their funds. We need to provide generous humanitarian support. In fact, the U.S. should fund the entire $350 million urgent request made by the [00:43:30] UNHCR, the refugee agency, because that's equivalent to just one-and-a-half days of war in Afghanistan.

We owe a lot to the people whose lives that we have helped destroy over these last 20 years.

[00:43:41] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: As the battles rage in Congress over spending, you've got the massive infrastructure bill that the house just passed the framework of $3.5 trillion. But there's also the Pentagon budget. Can you end there by talking about what you think needs to happen and the [00:44:00] lessons of Afghanistan?

[00:44:02] MEDEA BENJAMIN: This is exactly where we need to go as a people in the United States to say that this epic failure in Afghanistan shows us that militarism is not the right way to respond to problems, that we have to cut the Pentagon budget in half, like Barbara Lee has suggested, freeing up $350 billion to be used to confront the real crisis of climate, of poverty, the infrastructure that we need, and [00:44:30] to help countries around the world and our own country to deal with the pandemic and to get us a decent healthcare system.

And I encourage all of the supporters of Democracy Now! to join us in this call to say to all our members of Congress and to the White House, cut the military budget in half. That is the most responsible way to respond to this tragedy of 20 years of colossal failure in Afghanistan.

[00:44:55] DAVE DAVIES - HOST, FRESH AIR: Let's talk about what's ahead for the country now. Obviously the picture is far from clear. [00:45:00] Do we know if this Taliban is different from the one that ruled the country until 2001 in terms of its composition, its outlook?

[00:45:08] STEVE COLL: There's some ways that they're different. They have different leadership. the Emir of the previous Taliban government, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is deceased. And while there are prominent political and spiritual figures in the new Taliban leadership, it's not clear how they will organize the government that they're now forming in Kabul. [00:45:30] So there's new leadership.

Secondly, the Taliban are a more international organization than they ever were during the 1990s. They have a political office in Doha, Qatar, and they have a profile of diplomacy, traveling around and delegations to Moscow and Beijing and other places that they didn't visit very often if at all, when they were in power before.

So now what does that mean? Do they have a more [00:46:00] sophisticated understanding of the world? I'm sure it's a mixed picture within their councils.

And the third thing that's notable, before we get to the really important stuff about living under their rule, but the one thing that has clearly changed, is that they are wired. They use social media, they have a propaganda communications arm that incorporates technologies that they used to reject as forbidden under their interpretation of Islam. When they marched into cities this [00:46:30] summer, they often had somebody at the front of the vanguard holding cell phones in the air, taking videos, showing themselves in power and using that to send a psychological message around the country that their revolution was victorious. So they have a media operation that's much more sophisticated and technological than it used to be.

So those are the things that I think are different. The things that we don't know about are how they intend to govern. And the [00:47:00] things that we do know about involve their record of assassination, arrest, repression, and suppression of women's access to education. I don't see anything in the record to suggest that those elements of their previous rule have changed.

[00:47:15] DAVE DAVIES - HOST, FRESH AIR: A Taliban spokesman had, a fairly lengthy interview Wednesday morning with Steve Inskeep of NPR, and made some very explicit promises. He said, yeah, women will be able to work. They will be able to continue their education and there will be [00:47:30] no retribution enforced on people who worked with foreign forces. I believe he used the phrase "amnesty." What do you think? Based on the experiences of what's happened in areas where the Taliban now run things, what do you make of that?

[00:47:46] STEVE COLL: I think the evidence from the areas where the Taliban now run things is not encouraging. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have already documented disappearances and executions in territory like Spin [00:48:00] Boldak that the Taliban took over earlier this summer. The Taliban has controlled rural areas of Afghanistan for years now. And the Afghans who live there report a very oppressive environment, certainly not one that is empowering to women.

So I hear what the Taliban's spokespeople are saying. I recognize that they have a strong interest in sending these signals to the international community. But I think we also have to look at their record, [00:48:30] and until that changes, greet these promises with a great deal of skepticism.

[00:48:35] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The death toll from the twin suicide bombings outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan has reached at least 108. The Associated Press reports at least 95 Afghans have died, as well as 13 US troops. Thursday was the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan in a decade.

The suicide bomber struck near the crowded gates of the [00:49:00] airport, where thousands of Afghans had gathered and attempt to flee the country before the withdrawal of US troops August 31st. Survivors described a horrific scene.

[00:49:10] TRANSLATOR: [Translation] My dear brother, where we were at, there was suddenly an explosion. We climbed out of the water and saw that there were many affected. At the explosion, people were hurled everywhere, their brains scattered.

There were also foreign forces who are fallen. People started running away, [00:49:30] and we got out. I saw at least 400 to 500 people there. The explosion was really powerful. Half were hurled into the water, others on the ground outside. We carried the wounded here on stretchers. And here, my clothes are completely bloodied.

[00:49:46] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The militant group, ISIS-K, which is an arch enemy of the Taliban, claimed responsibility. In an address to the United States, President Biden defended his decision to abide by the Trump administration's agreement with the [00:50:00] Taliban to withdraw US troops, but he vowed to take revenge against the perpetrators of Thursday's attack.

[00:50:05] PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: So those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this, we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay. I'll defend our interests and our people with every [00:50:30] measure at my command.

[00:50:32] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Evacuations from the airport were halted Thursday after the attack, but they've resumed, though many European countries already ended flights out of Kabul. The United States says it has now helped over a hundred thousand people leave Afghanistan since August 14th.

We go now to Kabul where we're joined by Ali Latifi, Afghan journalist based in Kabul, a correspondent for Al Jazeera English. Ali, thanks so much for joining us once again. Talk about what happened yesterday [00:51:00] and the ISIS-K's claim of responsibility.

[00:51:03] ALI LATIFI: So I spoke to several victims over the last day who had basically described the scene of panic after the bomb went off. Because over the last week, the areas around the airport had become inundated with thousands of people, entire families who were essentially squatting in this squalor of a land hoping that they could somehow gain the [00:51:30] attention of foreign forces or someone else who would let them into the airport and eventually onto a flight to get out of the country. So when the bomb went off, it was literally, they said, people walking on top of one of another, people just scrambling and rushing through hordes of thousands of people.

I spoke to one family whose daughter went missing trying to escape the bombing. Because she was younger, she was trying to lead the charge, go ahead of the rest of the family. [00:52:00] At some point, by the time she turned around, her family was missing. And her family has spent much of last night and early this morning continuing to look for her, going from hospital to hospital, trying to see if they can find her, to find out hopefully she's just injured and hasn't been killed as a part of the stampede or the subsequent bombing.

But that's the state of it is that basically it was, [00:52:30] as they described it, mayhem. Because as soon as the bomb went off, you had thousands of people who had been there for hours, in some cases days, running to get out as quickly as they possibly could. So that's really the situation at the airport.

[00:52:47] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: And then word is, and of course we can't confirm this, that it was at least one suicide bomber from Logar. He'd already been checked actually by perhaps US military. This happened at the Abbey [00:53:00] gate and also near the was at the Baron Hotel, which is the base of operations for the British, who were ending their evacuation where they had already planned to today.

[00:53:10] ALI LATIFI: Exactly. And the issue is that outside the gates of the airport, there are Taliban stationed and the CIA-backed former intelligence forces, both of whom are known for their hostility. And they were basically given the orders to keep people away from the [00:53:30] airport. And the way both groups have responded is by shooting into the air, chasing after people with hoses, making sure nobody gets too close. Nobody lingers. And so there really was no -- it's not as if there was any sort of thorough security check before they got to the gate.

And even when they did get inside the gate, because according to CENTCOM, the bomber detonated inside the gate, if I understood correctly. But even by the time he got inside the gate, he hadn't been thoroughly checked. [00:54:00] And again, even in that crowd, there were hundreds, maybe even thousands of people there.

So getting to check him properly would have been almost impossible at that point, because as I said, the security outside the gates of the airport is very haphazard. It's very violent. It's conducted by the Taliban. And it's conducted by the CIA-backed forces who are known for their brutality and their rights abuses, when they were famous for conducting night raids in this country.

That is how you end up with that kind of situation.

[00:54:28] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Taliban official Thursday [00:54:30] called the attacks on Kabul's airport, an act of terrorism, adding the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan are to blame. Can you talk about that?

[00:54:42] ALI LATIFI: It's ironic, isn't it, coming from them. And if the presence of foreign forces is to blame, all the foreign forces are leaving in four days. And the Taliban had been working with those foreign forces to take control of the airport, to essentially help them evacuate people, make it possible for them to evacuate [00:55:00] people.

On the one hand, they're blaming the foreign forces, which fine, but they're also working with those horn forces. And they themselves made a deal with Washington for the withdrawal. So the entire thing is ironic coming from them.

[00:55:12] EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT W/ SAM SEDER: Biden announced that we'd no longer be in a combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year. Talk about that announcement, and I guess in conjunction with the wind down in Afghanistan and what these things just truly mean.

[00:55:28] JACOB SILVERMAN: Sure. To talk [00:55:30] about Iraq, it is supposedly a change in status that will require some moving of US troops out of Iraq, where they're supposedly about 2,500 there now.

So one thing I would note is that often those numbers aren't very accurate. They can be straight up lied about, or they're often the situation is that you have various soldiers, intelligence officers, people operating under intelligence authorities in which they don't really have to be -- their presence doesn't have to be reported.

So in terms of what might happen soon, I think you'll see a few [00:56:00] soldiers, maybe they'll say a few hundred, we'll leave of the 2,500. And then they'll say that most people are shifting to non-combat roles, which means things like training, but also providing intelligence, operating drones, surveillance, sort of scouting the airspace.

And I think what ends up happening is whether it's in Iraq or even some of these other places we're already seeing it, is that the US claims to be doing this sort of assistant and advising role in which we're mostly training and perhaps providing some intelligence. But that quickly morphs into something more, whether [00:56:30] it's accompanying people on raids or even just something like providing close air support, which is something that's happening still in Afghanistan, where we're pulling out of Afghanistan, allegedly. But that is continuing a process that Donald Trump started. But really we're already providing the existing Afghan government, the pretty beleaguered Afghan government, with an air force and bombing various Taliban positions to try to slow the advance of the Taliban. So there's a way in which, even as we claim we're changing status or even [00:57:00] pulling out in Afghanistan to a significant degree, the actions we're taking, or as you said earlier on, the things we're really doing when it comes down to day-to-day fighting, don't necessarily change them.

[00:57:09] EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT W/ SAM SEDER: So much of this I think is a PR exercise for the people involved and the media really, because of many things. One is just a belief in the American project, the empire, the hegemonic nature of American foreign policy. There's that. Two, a lack of curiosity about these kinds of topics. And three, a [00:57:30] gutting of international offices by mainstream publications, where there's not necessarily an understanding outside of what the Pentagon tells you or desire to understand via investigative journalism where they just regurgitate these things. So it's quite easy for PR purposes for a Donald Trump or a Joe Biden to say, oh, I'm doing this full withdrawal, because it's framed from the perspective of US troops. We are withdrawing US troops, combat Americans. [00:58:00] They're not going to be in danger when, as progressives, or at least part of my project is, I don't want anybody in danger. I don't want our foreign policy assisting in the killing of anybody, no matter what nationality they are. And framing our foreign policy in a way that maximizes that ideal.

I guess just talk about that dynamic a little bit, how easy it is to say we're withdrawing from a place when we're not doing [00:58:30] so. And how that's basically taken at face value by much of our media.

[00:58:33] JACOB SILVERMAN: I think it is very much a product of sort of semantics and bureaucratic classification. We we are not leaving. To say that we are, it is an overstatement.

Afghanistan is the closest one that we have to where we actually are withdrawing some significant forces, but --

[00:58:48] EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT W/ SAM SEDER: And we're hearing just -- sorry to interrupt you -- we're hearing just the constant framing about it. The Taliban is going to take over. What about the women and girls? The closest we're getting, we're already hearing that anxiety [00:59:00] from the press and from the powers that be.

[00:59:02] JACOB SILVERMAN: Yeah. And I think the press has definitely complicit in not asking these questions about what does that mean to withdraw? In Afghanistan, for example, yes, we are withdrawing from places like Bagram, the center of operations, but there's already reports that we're going to be having bases set up in some of the surrounding central Asian countries, that there's been talk with Russia about renting Russian military bases in Tajikistan, so that we can actually do what Biden has talked about for years, more sort of counter-terrorism and clandestine [00:59:30] approach to continuing the war on terror, really. So that we'd have Navy Seals and other special operations units going into Afghanistan with secret air support and things like that. But they would be based in a country adjacent, so it wouldn't really count.

And then you have things like in Iraq, I think one of the main differences is, again, we're not really leaving. We're mostly confining people to bases. And what we've already seen is that American soldiers now represent a target for these often Iranian-aligned militias and Iran of course, [01:00:00] is gaining influence in Iraq.

So you have people who are doing nothing or just assisting kind of feckless Iraqi government. And then there are targets for Iranian militias who occasionally send, launch a drone strike or a few missiles, and they do sometimes hurt or even kill people. But then what you have is the US says, we have to respond in the interest of collective self-defense or to protect our soldiers. And suddenly you have this escalating cycle of violence again, or reason to recommit ourselves to the region.

 So I think the point [01:00:30] is not only should we not be assisting and killing anyone, we really probably shouldn't be there at all, at least in a military capacity, because there is so much easy mission creep and sort of exacerbating the cycle of violence.

[01:00:41] EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT W/ SAM SEDER: But also, the undercurrent that is not going to be said for that PR project that I'm talking about, is that we are trying to curb the spread of Iranian influence as a part of our ongoing relationship with Saudi Arabia and with Israel. That doesn't sound as sexy to people in America [01:01:00] whose sons or daughters or cousins might be over there dying for some of these causes. Just talk about the geopolitical kind of proxy implications of much of our true presence and that underlying effort.

[01:01:14] JACOB SILVERMAN: Sure. We, ever since 9/11, we've disastrously handled our relationship and our rivalries, so to speak, with Iran. It's been way over-hyped, the threat from Iran. And we had at least a nuclear agreement under the Obama administration that obviously the Trump administration pulled out of. And [01:01:30] now Biden's trying to restore to some degree. But still is maintaining punishing sanctions against the Iranian people, which I think are cruel and counterproductive.

And the biggest mistake among all the many mistakes, probably the United States has made since 9/11, was invading Iraq, which besides being a humanitarian disaster and illegal, gave all this influence and power to Iran to influence the region, from Iraq to Syria, to Lebanon and elsewhere. And [01:02:00] we're really dealing with the consequences of that now.

For me, I don't feel a lot of investment if Iran exerts some influence in its immediate geographic sphere, but of course this has become a reason to perpetually be engaged in the area. And also the other side of that is what you were referring to, which is this sort of Sunni-Israeli axis that is formed between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Israel with occasional participation from othercountries. And it's had a devastating impact across the middle [01:02:30] east. It's why we're involved in the war in Yemen, which is probably the world's biggest humanitarian disaster. And it's why we probably stay as involved in Iraq as we do. It's again, to just counter this Iranian influence.

It's hard to overstate, I think, how much that close US relationship with Israel and Saudi Arabia has kept us committed to this sort of path of conflict with Iran, which is a country that's by no means our friend, but certainly we have a lot of points of interest and could have a lot of things to cooperate on. [01:03:00] And even after 9/11, Iran offered a lot of cooperation to the US.

But David Frum, who I'm sure were both great fans of, ruin that by including Iran and the axis of evil speech. But there were times after 9/11 when Iran was offering the Bush administration cooperation on counter-terrorism, Afghanistan, other matters. And we basically said no, and it's been a disastrous relationship ever since.

[01:03:24] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with the Intercept sharing first person reporting on the American withdrawal. [01:03:30] CounterSpin discussed the big picture of ending the war too late and the ongoing responsibilities we have to the Afghan people. The Brian Lehrer Show analyzed Biden's decisions to end the war and the impact of the policy left behind by Trump. The Intercept also looked at Biden's decisions to ultimately pull the bandaid off. Fresh Air discuss the rights of women and the infrastructure that has been built in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. Un-F*cking the Republic looked at the Pentagon budget. And [01:04:00] Democracy Now! Explained the cost and consequences of military contractors profiting from war.

That's what everyone heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Fresh Air discussing how the Taliban is and isn't different from the last time they were in power 20 years ago. Democracy Now! reported on the suicide bombing of the Kabul airport. And The Majority Report discussed the ways in which the US tends to withdraw from conflict in name only while keeping military in place or [01:04:30] nearby conflict zones in perpetuity.

So to hear that and all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted. No questions asked.

And now, we'll hear from you.

[01:04:55] VOICEMAILER: BUD FROM BOISE: Hi, Jay!, this is Bud from Idaho. I heard your podcast on [01:05:00] bipartisanship the other day. It was real good, real good, real informative. Your comments at the end mentioned term limits. That's always something as a knee jerk that I thought was a great idea. Although I do have some slight reservations about it.

One of my friends was dead set against it. He says it's not democratic. One could argue it's just semantics. And basically what he meant by that was that if you have someone who's been in for a few terms who you like and who's been doing well, [01:05:30] it's unfortunate that you no longer have him to select from.

And I guess I would argue also that constant turnover would mean inexperienced people, which could be an issue.

My biggest issue with it is just how it's structured. Like I say, I tend to lean towards it, but I do worry that the revolving doors between government and corporations will begin to spin fast enough to substitute as a fan. I just had this [01:06:00] picture in my mind of someone being a Senator for six years and then whatever committee they were on getting a job, maybe even a no-show job at their chosen industry, and then show up again some years later to be in a powerful place in the Senate again.

So I guess my main concern is, you know, if we had term limits, that's probably fine. But does that mean they could never be in that position again? Or does it just mean that they couldn't [01:06:30] hold consecutive terms, is what I'm getting after.

So term limits, not a bad idea, but it must be thought out if we were to enact something like that. I have a hunch it'd be pretty hard to get through because people like holding those positions of power for a long time. And it's hard to conceive that they might change the rules so that they themselves won't hold power.

Keep doing what you're doing. Stay awesome. Thanks.

[01:06:55] JEFF FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA: Hey Jay!, this is Jeff from the mountains of California. Really been [01:07:00] enjoying your shows lately. I just learned to piggyback on what you responded to the environmental questions, as far as individual actions and all that. I absolutely agree this is so far past individual actions, this is a a collective shift in how we view the world.

 One thing that's often lost, I think in left-wing responses, is the sacredness of the earth. And how many times do you hear in environmental discussions and such, "we need to give thanks to the [01:07:30] earth. We need to honor the earth."? When you come to a stream and do you think the water? Et cetera, et cetera.

Obviously this is heavily influenced by Native philosophies and that's where we have to be. This is so far past recycling. I remember Winona LaDuke saying that one time at a speech I saw, she's just, this is so far past that. This is about ceremony and getting back to this and learning it in the first place.

And I just wanted to throw that in there. I think it's [01:08:00] really crucial for lefties to start thinking about that and saying it openly at every possible opportunity. This is about ceremony and giving thanks. Right on. Thank you, Jay!.

[01:08:12] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at (202) 999-3991, or write me a message to [email protected] [01:08:30]

Now, quite candidly, we have not been getting a lot of voicemails recently, this has been an ongoing topic of occasional discussion over the last few years. Ten years ago, I'd have a half dozen calls per episode, now, not so much. I think people just don't like using the phone anymore. Maybe some other reasons too. And so to have two good calls to respond to it's a embarrassment of riches.

So first, Bud on term limits, I feel sort of similarly. It's one of [01:09:00] those issues that instinctually feels like a good idea, but he brings up very important points that need to be addressed. Number one, you couldn't possibly have term limits without also having very strong rules against the revolving door issue. Politicians becoming lobbyists, and maybe coming back and being politicians again. So the way those rules are structured is going to be really impactful for how that policy actually plays out.

And then the second is about [01:09:30] experience versus the threat of inexperience, which would make me tend towards believing that if term limits are going to be part of the system that's probably okay, but they probably shouldn't be too restrictive. Just throwing it out there, I hadn't looked up anyone's proposals or anything, but five terms in the House or three terms in the Senate. So in the House, that would be 10 years of service. In in the Senate, you could say [01:10:00] two terms, that would be 12 years, senate's a little different, maybe letting them have 18 is appropriate, maybe it's too long, I don't know. This is not my area of expertise, but the point being, you probably don't want Congress run by a bunch of amateurs.

And again, speculating sort of wildly, but based on a lot of experience and a pretty strong understanding of how these kinds of things work, my guess, knowing that term limits [01:10:30] is an issue that conservative leaning, political people gravitate towards a lot and talk about a lot, makes me think that they are being catered to, that they're being encouraged to believe in that policy, and the way this very often works is that there is some sort of power structure involved helping encourage belief systems. [01:11:00] Across the board, but particularly among conservatives, that happens quite a lot. And so it feels to me like powerful corporate interests may very well be pushing the idea of term limits, because they know that it sounds appealing, just instinctually it sounds appealing, but they know that one of the knock-on effects of having term limits would be a greater number of inexperienced legislators.

And the [01:11:30] way this could benefit them could happen a couple of different ways. Maybe just legislators being more inexperienced would make them easier to lobby, easier to cajole into the way of thinking that the corporations want - possibly. More likely though, I think it would just help create a faster moving pipeline of new politicians, and it's not really so much when politicians are already in office [01:12:00] that corporations are able to get in and purchase those politicians. There are some ways, that the promising jobs after the fact - that's a big one - but one of the best ways to control politicians is just to control which one's managed to get elected.

So you find the politicians that are most in your corner already as a corporate interest, fund their campaigns, their primary campaigns [01:12:30] and their general campaigns before they've won office, and then they win and they are going to support you and your corporate interests without you even having to spend lots of money lobbying them, because they just actually believe in what you believe in. So th that's the best, most effective way I think. And if you have term limits, that creates more churn in Congress, and more churn in Congress means more opportunities [01:13:00] to get new, fresh-blood candidates in who the corporations can hand pick and fund their campaigns to get them into office, knowing that they will support the corporate interest.

So those are some thoughts on term limits, why people may be in favor of them, and especially why it's being pushed as a good reform measure. Everyone [01:13:30] knows that we need reforms, but some reforms are a lot more corporate friendly than others, and term limits seems like it is probably one of those, but I'd be open to hearing arguments from the other side as well.

Secondly, I thought Jeff's voicemail was really interesting and I don't want to respond to it too much because I just have a bit of a follow-up question. I want to know how we turn the ceremony mentality that Jeff was talking about into [01:14:00] public policy, because Jeff agrees, as he said, that we're way beyond individual actions. We need to get deep into structural society-wide change, and then he talks about it in terms of being grateful and thankful to the earth and having a ceremony mindset, and so I think, okay, great, what public policy is that? How do we turn that mindset into [01:14:30] policy, or how do we get people to have that mindset so that they create better policy that's in line with that way of thinking? Members who will be hearing a bonus episode that we've recorded, but I haven't quite gotten edited and published yet, they will be hearing my theory, not on this in particular because this voicemail came in after we recorded, but there's one idea I have about how to get people into a ceremony mindset. The ethics of it... [01:15:00] dubious, but members tune into the bonus show to hear what that's going to be. I think you'll know what I'm talking about.

And then the last thing I'll just say in response to Jeff's message, in addition to asking for more of his thoughts on that, is it's really important to know your audience. So, I don't personally speak in terms of ceremonies and thanking the land and all that, but that resonates with me, I'm I'm on board with that. I don't scoff at that [01:15:30] idea. It doesn't make me laugh under my breath that, "oh, isn't that silly or quaint," none of that. That really does resonate with me, but it's not going to for a lot of people. And so when Jeff says, this is what progressives need to start saying loudly and more boldly, yes and no. It's going to resonate really well with some people and it's going to really, really, really turn some other people off, and that is just the nature of it.

And I'm a big [01:16:00] believer in meeting people where they are. Not as a moderating, let's not try to make too much progress because we might scare people sort of way, but in a, if you try to overstep where people are ready to go, especially with terminology and how you frame things, then you're going to scare them away more than attract them in. And so for a certain segment of progressives talking about [01:16:30] ceremonies is going to be not just adequate, but great. For other people, you're going to be better off talking about how using resources damages the environment, using resources also costs money, so why are you spending extra money to do extra harm? Let's save money and do less harm to the environment. For some people that kind of way of thinking is just gonna resonate more. [01:17:00] So I would just argue, know your audience and speak to them.

As always keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991, or by emailing me to [email protected] That's going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic, Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Scott for their volunteer work, helping [01:17:30] put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support or from right inside the Apple Podcast app if that's your style.

Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good bonus episodes, which is where I also talk about how you might be able to get people into a [01:18:00] ceremony mindset, not in those words, but you'll know what I mean. And in addition, there is also bonus content and no ads in all of our regular episodes, so you get all of that just for signing up for a membership.

For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on our website and likely right on the device you're using to listen.

So coming to from far outside, the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, [01:18:30] and this has been the best of left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely. To the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com


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  • Jay Tomlinson
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