Come from the Shadows

Come from the Shadows: part 2

From Terry Glavin’s book Come from the Shadows: The Long and Lonely Struggle for Peace in Afghanistan, pages 10 and 11:

[L]et’s try a little thought experiment. It will take the form of an account of Afghanistan’s story that situates September 11, 2001, at its heart. It will take up only two paragraphs. You could quibble with it according to your political sensibilities, but you won’t be presented with the lunatic belief that September 11 was an inside job, or that it’s all about oil, or that we’re all engaged in an illegal and imperialist war in the country. No Zionists enter into it, either. It may even be the least contentious way of talking about Afghanistan. It goes like this:

After Soviet troops poured into Afghanistan in the late 1970s, the United States opened up a decisive front in the Cold War by arming and training anti-Soviet mujahideen in order to overthrow Afghanistan’s communist government and drive out the Russians. U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s mujahideen forces were victorious, but they then turned on one another in a long and horrific civil war that ended only in 1996, when the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban seized control of the country. At first welcomed by war-weary Afghans, the Taliban soon imposed an oppressive and brutal order derived from a strict interpretation of the Quran. The Taliban ended the anarchy of the warlord years, halted opium production and tackled corruption, but in a classic case of foreign-policy “blowback,” America’s former anti·Soviet allies became America’s sworn enemies. Owing to the strict Afghan tribal code of Pashtunwali, which demands that Afghans protect their guests, the Taliban continued to provide shelter to Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida terrorist network had targeted the United States.

In response to the catastrophe of September 11, the White House rallied America’s NATO partners to a “war on terror” coalition that invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban government. But it wasn’t long before the NATO coalition was sinking into a quagmire of Afghan hostility. Resentment of the U.S. occupation soon evolved into defiance of Hamid Karzai’s corrupt government and a dramatic upsurge in popular support for the Taliban insurgency. The ambitions of the U.S.-led mission failed to take into account the deeply rooted religious traditions the Taliban represented in Afghan culture. While they are Muslim extremists, the Taliban have no ambitions for global terrorism, and Afghanistan is chronically plagued by insurgencies. Afghan society is conservative and profoundly misogynistic, and Afghans are fiercely independent and quick to take up arms against any foreign intervention. This is why the West has failed in its efforts to impose democracy on Afghanistan at the point of a gun.


You could tell that story just about anywhere. You could tell it during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, at a union meeting in Manchester, in a Toronto Star column, or in a lecture at a university symposium in California. Nevertheless, each sentence in those two paragraphs contains an outright falsehood, Most contain at least two.

The book proceeds to identify and explain these falsehoods, one by one.