On April 14, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden announced that, beginning May 1, the United States would begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. The project to extract the Yankee Empire from many other empires’ graveyard will finish, according to the American President, on September 11, 2021—twenty years to the day after a ragtag group of mujahedeen provided Washington with the excuse it had long been looking for to destroy the last vestiges of Constitutional liberty in the United States. Neat trick—Biden’s former boss gets credit for killing Osama bin Laden, and Biden himself gets credit for ending the war which had long since stopped serving its purpose (in the Covid Era, we have no civil liberties left to lose). So long, in other words, to the Yankees’ forever war.
In the years leading up to Biden’s Richard Nixon moment—for the modern American president, every defeat is victory, every surrender is triumph—it had become fashionable among the punditry to refer to Afghanistan as America’s “forever war”. The proving ground of the American war machine had become a millstone around Washington’s neck.
The forever war started big, of course. Many Americans, like myself, were “shocked and awed” twenty years ago, by massive airstrikes against erstwhile “allies” in caves in the middle of nowhere, into believing that evangelical democrats such as George W. Bush were “conservatives” defending the United States. But I was hardly the only former gung-ho Republican to do a lot of re-thinking of American foreign policy these past two decades, while Afghanistan (and its sister quagmire, Iraq) bled us dry and crippled and maimed a generation of soldiers. Given the evaporation of support for the “forever war” and the political costs to even hidebound Washington neo-cons who still think of the American national interest in terms of barrels of napalm and incinerated villagers, it was inevitable that Biden should have cut the Yankee Empire’s losses in Afghanistan. The “forever war” was becoming an unanswerable political meme, and Biden deftly read the windsock and adjusted course.
But in the post-mortem for the Yankee Empire’s adventurism in Afghanistan and its multi-trillion-dollar assassination mission against a Saudi national (who, along with his minions, killed about as many Americans on September 11, 2001, as abortionists do on any given workday), let us not forget that the Yankee Empire’s longest war is not its shoelaces-tied-together debacle in Central Asia. Nor is it the Yankee Empire’s war on unborn children, which revved up with the Supreme Court’s blessing in 1973. Nor is it even the Yankee Empire’s meddling in old Mesopotamia during the delicate business of inheriting the pieces of the British Empire as it splintered during World War II. The Yankee Empire’s longest war, far longer than any of these, is Reconstruction.
“Reconstruction” is typically taken to refer to the period after the War of Northern Aggression when benevolent Yankee re-educationists—sated with raping Southern women, shooting freedmen, and carrying off as much Southern property as the Federal baggage train could handle—executed a psy-ops campaign against the South. The aim was the same as the Occupation of Japan sixty years later: to convince a population, which the Yankees had terrorized, into accepting both the responsibility for the Yankees’ war crimes and the slogans of the Yankees’ rapacity: “freedom,” “democracy,” “equality,” and so forth. What the Yankees always “reconstruct” is not a war-torn landscape, but the minds of the defeated. A Yankee likes nothing more than to see a prostrate ruin and to imagine the defeated remade in his own exalted image.
However, this post-Civil War program of political evangelism, of self-righteous slaughter and psychological conquest, was not a creature of Appomattox, but of Ripon, Wisconsin. The founding of the Republican Party in 1854 carried inside it the seeds of Sherman and Sumner, of Vicksburg, Atlanta, and the planned intergenerational impoverishment of the South. The Republican Party and Reconstruction began at the same hour of the same day. At the latest, we must date Reconstruction to the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln to the presidency in 1860. From that moment, the die was cast, and the flames of Northern “progress” engulfing the South were already leaping in the new president’s eyes.
We must never forget just who, in American history, has been making war on whom. America’s longest forever war turns one hundred and sixty-one this year. Afghanistan, at twenty years of Yankee re-education and scorched-earth benevolence, was but one-eighth the age of the Radical Republicans’ war against the half of the country which dared to defy the Republicans’ second American revolution.
The Yankee Empire is unraveling. More forever wars will surely come undone by the by. We can expect to see more declarations of victory from the Rose Garden and the Oval Office as Deep State Hessians—the Janissaries which we still glibly refer to as the “American” military—pull out of other unwinnable wars, “conflicts,” and “kinetic engagements” across the rest of the imperial array.
With each new retreat, the rhetorical ligature of “forever wars” will be pulled taut again. We will be invited to index American decline against the two-decade blind-man’s-bluff in Kandahar and Helmand. The violins will play, our television screens will darken, and the journo-propagandists in our “free press” will suggest that we observe a moment of silence for some other Afghanistan, some other broken imperial dream.
As for me, I will be whistling “Dixie” while the Yankees mourn. The Yankee Empire’s first and longest war was against my homeland. The original forever war is the Yankee takeover of the American South.