The truth died in Afghanistan

The Washington Post published US government papers about the 18-year war in Afghanistan. CNN's Jim Sciutto takes a closer look.

Posted: Dec 10, 2019 1:45 PM
Updated: Dec 10, 2019 5:00 PM


Many of those opposed to President Donald Trump's self-created political fictions might say that the truth died with the Trump administration.

This is not true -- as thousands of previously classified documents obtained by the Washington Post and released on Monday testify, the practice of telling the American public the truth was abandoned at least 18 years ago. According to the documents obtained after a three-year battle between the Post and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, three Presidents and their respective administrations all misled the American public about how the war in Afghanistan was going.

These lies have spun tales and spanned depths of false narrative. From the progress of nation-building to the conquest of the inveterate and ever-wily Taliban, US officials followed the same talking points, emphasizing how they were making progress even if the war was going badly.

Metrics were 'manipulated for the duration of the war,' according to a source quoted by the Post. Suicide bombings in Kabul, for instance, were portrayed as proof of the Taliban's desperation and their distaste for direct combat, even if in truth they represented US failures. Officials reportedly spent an inordinate amount of time printing color-coded charts that touted their fictive victories and statistics, which left out both the ballooning cost of the war and the impossibility of imposing a modern state on a tribal society unused to centralized government, the Post said.

These documents debunk the idea that invading and occupying Afghanistan would ever make Americans safer at home. As the documents and interviews in the Post's trove attest, the initial goal of the Afghan escapade was to strike back against al-Qaeda and prevent another September 11. This quickly morphed into the Afghan campaign becoming whatever a given administration or official wanted it to be. For some, the goal was to fashion Afghanistan into a democracy; for others, a means to transform the country's culture and promote women's rights, while still others wanted to recalibrate regional power dynamics in South Asia.

This expansion of objectives served American interests -- not by making Americans safer, but by feeding the seemingly insatiable terror-industrial complex that arose as a result of the war. It was the politics of fear, of the possibility of another attack, that allowed nearly one trillion dollars to be disbursed toward what was the signature campaign of the War on Terror. Politicians and presidents alike wanted to be seen as 'doing something' to protect the American people, and continuing the war in Afghanistan was an easy answer to what that something would be.

Lying to the public has already had consequences beyond waste and graft. In 2016, as the war dragged into its 15th year, Americans elected a President who made ending the war one of his campaign promises. Even though the definitive proof provided by the Post was not then available, many Americans likely suspected that the foreign policy establishment, with its Donald Rumsfelds (Bush's Secretary of Defense), was pulling a fast one on them.

The venue for their revolt was the ballot box, where they elected an isolationist President who wanted to pull funds and handshakes away from NATO and who translated making America safe as imposing travel bans on several countries.

To many, the election of Trump, whose foreign policy appears haphazard and whimsical at best, is an extreme. Acknowledging that the US foreign policy establishment failed both Americans and Afghans need not mean a complete rejection of a foreign policy altogether.

Provoked perhaps by the realization that this may well be the way things go without an intervention, billionaire philanthropist Charles Koch's foundation and George Soros' Open Society Foundations have recently put their backing into a new venture called the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. The Institute, whose avowed mission is to 'move US foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace,' seeks to distance itself from debacles like Afghanistan without plunging into the virulent dislike of all foreign policy elites espoused by the Trump administration.

It is questionable whether a middling measure like the Quincy Institute will succeed in reviving faith in a rewired American foreign policy shorn of its penchant for endless war. The grim reality is that slightly less than half of a divided nation follows a President who places little or no faith in the words of career foreign service professionals. Even as Democrats have heaped praise on the likes of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Ambassador Bill Taylor, George Kent and others, Republicans in the House (and likely around the country) refuse to believe anything they have to say.

'Can you avoid being drawn into a Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan?' one prescient reporter asked President George W. Bush in October 2001. Notwithstanding Bush's response then (that we 'learned some very important lessons in Vietnam'), America was drawn into just that same kind of quagmire. As Daniel Ellsberg--the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the lies that sustained America's involvement in Vietnam -- told CNN, the comparison is horrifically apt. And it's come not just at the cost of thousands of American lives, over a hundred thousand Afghan lives and a trillion dollars, but also of the ordinary Americans' faith in both facts and a foreign policy based on what actually keeps them safe and free.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 749097

Reported Deaths: 13745
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1030271775
Lake554211006
Allen41613691
St. Joseph36933564
Hamilton36505416
Elkhart29347459
Tippecanoe22849225
Vanderburgh22540400
Porter19313325
Johnson18386387
Hendricks17583317
Clark13190193
Madison13111344
Vigo12602253
LaPorte12385221
Monroe12152175
Delaware10947197
Howard10250225
Kosciusko9609119
Hancock8541144
Bartholomew8158157
Warrick7854156
Floyd7763180
Grant7227179
Wayne7154201
Boone6911103
Morgan6735141
Dubois6211118
Marshall6205116
Cass5989108
Henry5893108
Dearborn588878
Noble579786
Jackson508374
Shelby500697
Lawrence4727121
Gibson444093
Harrison440473
Clinton439855
DeKalb438585
Montgomery433890
Whitley405642
Huntington402181
Steuben398659
Miami392568
Jasper386254
Knox375690
Putnam371860
Wabash360583
Ripley346470
Adams344955
Jefferson335685
White329753
Daviess3028100
Wells294881
Decatur289992
Greene286385
Fayette284664
Posey273735
LaGrange272872
Scott269855
Clay265448
Randolph244683
Washington244534
Jennings235149
Spencer234131
Starke227558
Fountain218347
Sullivan213943
Owen210858
Fulton201542
Jay200832
Carroll193420
Orange188055
Perry186937
Rush175626
Vermillion173544
Franklin170135
Tipton165746
Parke148916
Pike137934
Blackford136032
Pulaski120047
Newton112636
Brown103943
Crawford102316
Benton100814
Martin91415
Warren83515
Switzerland8098
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0421

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1106796

Reported Deaths: 20091
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1284601459
Cuyahoga1155792204
Hamilton812751245
Montgomery524631040
Summit48327999
Lucas43289817
Butler38886603
Stark33275929
Lorain25631502
Warren24554303
Mahoning22327601
Lake21133385
Clermont20095252
Delaware18815135
Licking16643222
Fairfield16552204
Trumbull16520479
Medina15592270
Greene15246246
Clark14216306
Wood13276197
Portage13226214
Allen11904239
Richland11596211
Miami10832223
Wayne9112222
Columbiana9016230
Muskingum8889135
Pickaway8646122
Marion8633138
Tuscarawas8633247
Erie8049164
Ashtabula7136179
Hancock6995131
Ross6932161
Geauga6831150
Scioto6525104
Belmont6148174
Union583549
Lawrence5722102
Jefferson5669158
Huron5539122
Sandusky5433125
Darke5414129
Seneca5342126
Washington5307109
Athens523360
Auglaize501587
Mercer487385
Shelby476195
Knox4567112
Madison443665
Ashland435097
Putnam4333103
Fulton431871
Defiance431798
Crawford4031110
Brown401861
Logan387177
Preble3847103
Clinton378166
Ottawa372581
Highland359165
Williams347578
Champaign343558
Guernsey324153
Jackson317254
Perry297150
Morrow291240
Fayette285450
Hardin274865
Henry273267
Holmes2697101
Coshocton268359
Van Wert247264
Adams242856
Pike242735
Gallia240450
Wyandot234556
Hocking220062
Carroll196648
Paulding176342
Meigs148240
Monroe136144
Noble135739
Harrison113638
Morgan109624
Vinton85417
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 61°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 61°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 59°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 61°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 62°
Mostly sunny skies dominate on Monday. A weak cold front may cause a handful of showers to pop up after noon.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events