As the last American troops have left Afghanistan, figures from all sides of the political spectrum will attempt to characterize our 20 years there. Journalists and late-night hosts have commentated and – sometimes insensitively – made jokes about the situation in Afghanistan and are telling Americans what our time in Afghanistan meant. Some justify our military action by citing the increase in female education in Afghanistan during our time there, while others warn of the terrorism that could-have-been had we not intervened.
Whatever the American public uses to cope with the horrors of war, the only truth is this: wars are for politicians to gain while young men and women die.
The practice of post-war justification began centuries ago, but its effects are still felt today. A clear example of this is the American Civil War. Many people claim that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves, but this is simply not true. Slavery caused the main issues, but the North was just as racist as the South and was indifferent to centuries of Black suffering. The Civil War was fought for purely political reasons, as all are: namely, states’ rights to dictate their laws on slavery and the fight over westward expansion of slavery into new states. After the war, the Lost Cause ideology pushed this states’ rights narrative but in a way that portrayed slaves as content and joyful in servitude, which was obviously not the case, yet is still seen in Mississippi today. The North, however, crafted their own narrative: one of a righteous brigade against the enslaved, helpless victims of human rights abuses.
While one of these narratives is much more harmful than the other (hint: it’s the Lost Cause), both have consequences that still affect American politics to this day. The South is regarded as the racist haven in the United States, while the North does not have the capacity to be racist. In reality, Northerners and Southerners have an equal possibility of being racist and minorities across the country face instances of racism from both sides.
A similar crafted narrative can be found after World War II. Many people justified the war by the many Jewish lives saved by the American victory over Germany. This, however, was not the U.S.’s reason for war, nor was it an Allied priority throughout the war. Of course, the Jewish lives saved are invaluable and can offset the cost of war to an extent, but it should not be retroactively assigned as the main cause of the war, nor has the U.S. taken direct action as Jews are one of the most targeted groups by hate crimes on American soil.
Whatever politicians and the media try to tell the American public what Afghanistan was about, please remember what this war was truly about. The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden after the Taliban refused to hand him over. We did not invade to make Afghani lives better, and we did not leave after we knew bin Laden was gone. We stayed in a country 20 years after our objective left the country and ten years after he died. Even though terrorism may have been stopped by our presence and Afghani women did have more freedoms during our time there, that was never our goal.
Londyn Lorenz is the opinion editor from Perryville, Missouri, majoring in Arabic and international studies.