The phrase “Never Forget” is often associated with the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But what does this phrase mean for U.S. students who are too young to remember? What are they being asked to never forget? As education researchers in curriculum and instruction, we have studied since 2002 how the events of 9/11 and the global war on terror are integrated into secondary level U.S. classrooms and curricula. What we have found is a relatively consistent narrative that focuses on 9/11 as an unprecedented and shocking attack, the heroism of the firefighters and other first responders and a global community that stood behind the U.S. in its pursuit of terrorists.
The US’ invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, beginning in 2001 and enduring until 2021, left a lingering but familiar aftermath. The nationwide destruction Afghanistan suffered and the ongoing instability that persists to this day following the US’ withdrawal is reminiscent of the devastation and destitution that followed after the US’ withdrawal from Southeast Asia in the 1970s after nearly two decades of war there. Even long after the US withdrew from Afghanistan, the country continues to struggle to pick up the broken pieces left behind. This is partly due to the immense loss of life and destruction caused by the US, but also owed to very deliberate and malicious efforts by Washington who refuses to allow the Afghan people to finally move on with their lives, their nation, and their resources as they themselves determine. Even long after the US withdrew from Afghanistan, the country continues to struggle to pick up the broken pieces left behind. This is partly due to the immense loss of life and destruction caused by the US, but also owed to very deliberate and malicious efforts by Washington who refuses to allow the Afghan people to finally move on with their lives, their nation, and their resources as they themselves determine.
The Taliban government in Afghanistan – the nation that until recently produced 90% of the world’s heroin – has drastically reduced opium cultivation across the country. Western sources estimate an up to 99% reduction in some provinces. This raises serious questions about the seriousness of U.S. drug eradication efforts in the country over the past 20 years. And, as global heroin supplies dry up, experts tell MintPress News that they fear this could spark the growing use of fentanyl – a drug dozens of times stronger than heroin that already kills more than 100,000 Americans yearly.
While the United States, along with its allies, left Afghanistan in August 2021 in spectacularly humiliating circumstances, the departure was never entirely complete, nor bound to be permanent. Since then, Washington has led the charge in handicapping those who, with a fraction of the resources, defeated a superpower and prevailed in two decades of conflict. In a fit of wounded pride, the United States has, in turn, sought to strangulate and asphyxiate the Taliban regime, citing human rights and security concerns. The Taliban’s Interim Foreign Minister, Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, makes the not unreasonable point that “the ongoing crisis is the imposition of sanctions and banking restrictions by the United States.”
The New Delhi Declaration was adopted on Tuesday, July 4, after a virtual meeting of the leaders of the nine-member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The declaration underlined the need for stronger and more effective international regimes and vowed to work for a more “just, democratic and multipolar world order.” The 23rd meeting of the Council of Head of States was hosted by India virtually. Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the meeting along with leaders from Central Asian countries.
The playbook the pimps of war use to lure us into one military fiasco after another, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine, does not change. Freedom and democracy are threatened. Evil must be vanquished. Human rights must be protected. The fate of Europe and NATO, along with a “rules based international order” is at stake. Victory is assured. The results are also the same. The justifications and narratives are exposed as lies. The cheery prognosis is false. Those on whose behalf we are supposedly fighting are as venal as those we are fighting against.
Little more than a century ago, British and Indian archaeologists began excavating the remains of what they soon realized was a previously unknown civilization in the Indus Valley. Straddling parts of Pakistan and India and reaching into Afghanistan, the culture these explorers unearthed had existed at the same time as those of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and covered a much larger area. It was also astonishingly advanced: sophisticated and complex, boasting large, carefully laid out cities, a relatively affluent population, writing, plumbing and baths, wide trade connections, and even standardized weights and measures.
Last week, Beijing hosted the first-ever tripartite security dialogue between Iran, Pakistan, and China. The gathering took place against the backdrop of recent border skirmishes between Iran and Afghanistan, and the Taliban government’s reluctance to crack down on militant groups operating within its borders. While Pakistani officials insist that the dialogue is intended to address local security issues and not act as an “an Afghan affairs watchdog” to fill the void left by the 2021 US troop withdrawal, geopolitical analysts say the talks will shape a new regional security and trade paradigm involving China, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
In February, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published an extensive investigation into the spectacular collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ (ANDSF), which the U.S. spent two decades and $90 billion building. In common with previous SIGAR reports, it offers a remarkably uncompromising, no-punches-pulled assessment, exposing corruption, incompetence, lies, and delusion every step of the way. At the report’s core is a highly detailed timeline of the ANDSF’s – and, therefore, the Afghan government’s – disintegration. That SIGAR was able to construct such a painstaking obituary is nothing short of miraculous, for the Special Inspector General was stonewalled and obstructed at every turn by the agencies it is officially charged with scrutinizing.
In 2019, reporter Lynzy Billing returned to Afghanistan to research the murders of her mother and sister nearly 30 years earlier. Instead, in the country’s remote reaches, she stumbled upon the CIA-backed Zero Units, who conducted night raids — quick, brutal operations designed to have resounding psychological impacts while ostensibly removing high-priority enemy targets. So, Billing attempted to catalog the scale of civilian deaths left behind by just one of four Zero Units, known as the 02, over a four year period. The resulting report represents an effort no one else has done or will ever be able to do again. With a forensic pathologist, Billing drove hundreds of miles across some of the country’s most volatile areas — visiting the sites of more than 30 raids, interviewing witnesses, survivors, family members, doctors and village elders.
Days after a U.S. warplane bombed a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing forty-two people, twenty-four of them patients, the international president of MSF, Dr. Joanne Liu walked through the wreckage and prepared to deliver condolences to family members of those who had been killed. A brief video, taped in October, 2015, captures her nearly unutterable sadness as she speaks about a family who, the day before the bombing, had been prepared to bring their daughter home. Doctors had helped the young girl recover, but because war was raging outside the hospital, administrators recommended that the family come the next day. “She’s safer here,” they said.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 and, in response, Europe, the United Arab Emirates and the United States froze the Afghan central bank’s roughly $9 billion in foreign assets — $7 billion of which was under control of the United States. Without access to these funds — alongside a lattice of sanctions, a decline in humanitarian aid and harsh political turmoil under Taliban rule — Afghanistan has been led into an economic collapse with a dramatic uptick in poverty; 6 million Afghans are facing the immediate risk of starvation. According to calculations from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a left-leaning think tank, U.S. sanctions on Afghanistan (including the freezing of these central bank assets) could kill more people than 20 years of U.S. war and occupation.
More than a year after it froze $7 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves in the wake of the Taliban’s military victory, the US has announced it will use half the money to establish a fund at a Swiss bank to help stabilize the cratering Afghan economy. President Joe Biden’s refusal over the past year to allow the Afghan central bank access to its own reserves has caused an economic crisis that has pushed most of the population into extreme poverty and malnutrition. Moreover, in February, Biden announced that he was reserving half of Afghanistan’s money for families of 9/11 victims, sparking international outrage—and yawns from TV news outlets (FAIR.org, 2/15/22). The establishment of the “Afghan Fund” is a half measure that, while almost certain to provide some much needed relief, continues both the unjust theft of half the funds and the hobbling of the country’s recovery by undermining the central bank.
The US government announced on 13 September that it would release a significant portion of the $7 billion stolen Afghan central bank funds to a bank of international settlements in Basel, Switzerland. The trusteeship will help the US to oversee the disbursements of the funds in order to bypass the Taliban government in Kabul. Washington withdrew its financial support for Afghanistan, following the Taliban victory against the US-trained army in 2021. Besides harsh economic sanctions, the US government also froze the funds of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, causing a widespread humanitarian crisis in the country. However, the Taliban rejects the plan of the US to transfer the funds to a Bank of international settlements, arguing that “the [Da Afghanistan Bank] funds belong to DAB and should be returned to Afghanistan,” according to Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban.
NPR ran several stories on Afghanistan to mark the anniversary of the August 2021 US withdrawal, even sending host Steve Inskeep to the country to produce a series of pieces. His visit happened to coincide with Biden’s claimed assassination of Ayman al-Zawahiri; Inskeep says that he and his team were staying in close proximity to the Al Qaeda leader. With the anniversary and assassination providing a renewed focus on Afghanistan, NPR could have used this opportunity to call attention to the US policy of starving Afghanistan by restricting its international trade activity and seizing its central banking reserves.