Iron Man is dead*

Sometimes you do the boom, and sometimes the boom does you.

Another superhero adventure is coming to a messy ending.

The Military-Industrial Complex’s Cinematic Universe isn’t as orderly as Marvel’s, probably because the writers aren’t as good. Neither are the reviews. But hey, that’s show business for you.

It seemed like such a simple story, too. United States is attacked. United States fights back. Boffo box office!

But some nimrod thinking sequels, spinoffs, and merchandise resurrected an old character called “Mission Creep.” The story went sideways but we kept buying the tickets, taking the ride.

“Look, there’s Stan Lee!”

“No, that’s Robert McNamara.”

Remember the old joke about the driver heading up an off ramp by mistake? “What the hell, you’ve come this far. …”

Well, 20 years later, here we are, upside down in the ditch, watching Mission Creep, Captain REMF, and The Incredible Schmuck posturing for the cameras in an endgame that isn’t one. Avengers Dissemble!

* Of course he’s not dead. We’ll keep trotting him out as long as there’s a buck in it.

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38 Responses to “Iron Man is dead*”

  1. Dale Says:

    Twenty years of blood and money and false hope that THIS Afganistan adventure have a different outcome than all of the earlier Afganistan adventures. We probably could have spent another 20 years there and reached the same end.
    I hope we get our folks out and all of the Afganis who risked it all to work with us.

  2. khal spencer Says:

    We are leaving quite the fucking mess behind and I’d sure hate to be a fifteen year old Afghan girl right now about to get forcibly porked by some Taliban fighter.

    Oh, and its not been twenty years. Try close to forty, as we started dicking around there in earnest after the Soviet invasion as part of the cold war proxy war bullshit. Read on:

    This is one of those days when its embarrassing to be an American.

    • Dale Says:

      Thanks for the reminder that we had been supporting some of the people that we have been fighting back when the USSR was in the country. The Soviets left and and opened Afganistan to the next invader.
      Perhaps I should research the last time Afganistan had a stable government.

      • Patrick O'Grady Says:

        One of the gentlemen said to be helping manage the “peaceful transfer of power” is former President Hamid Karzai, once famously derided as “the mayor of Kabul” because that was the only part of the country in which his words carried any weight.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      As Charles Pierce is fond of noting, no American president could’ve survived not retaliating after 9/11. But once we’d tipped over the furniture, broken some crockery, achieved some small measure of justice/vengeance, there was no sane reason to stick around. Here’s Chazbo:

      We had one specific purpose in mind — to bring to justice, one way or another, the people who had committed atrocities in this country on September 11, 2001. That we could do. That we did. And then some think-tank cowboys and honorarium-fattened hyenas decided to lie the country into an invasion of Iraq before our work in Afghanistan, whatever it was supposed to be, was done. Soon, we had two slow-rolling calamities on our hands, and Iraq shuffled Afghanistan off the main stage. This was another terrible idea. History shows that Afghanistan is a marvelous environment for those. There’s a limit to the crops you can grow there, but it’s a highly fertile place for Great Power foolishness.

    • Patricio Says:

      Like the CIA supporting BinLaden. You know, like they supported Ho Chi Min.

      Getting tired of typing whole name.

    • SAO' Says:

      To strap-hang off a Colin Powell riff, it’s like we were the holiday help at Pottery Barn for twenty years, quietly putting nicknacks on the wrong shelf and scanning the wrong SKU, then the manager quit and we slid her nametag into our green apron and start bossing around the rest of the staff. All that matters is, we were the ones holding the clipboard when the store caught on fire.

    • SAO' Says:

      // SIXTEEN years have passed since the CIA began providing weapons and funds — eventually totaling more than $3 billion — to a fratricidal alliance of seven Afghan resistance groups, none of whose leaders are by nature democratic, and all of which are fundamentalist in religion to some extent, autocratic in politics, and venomously anti-American. //

      Give me $3 million in Levis, Marlboros, Jack Daniels, and Arnold Schwarzenegger DVDs to air-drop all over the country, and I would have gotten 1000x the results.

      I totally get the desire to either make the world a better place or to be the brilliant mind that solves a complex problem. And I can see how becoming a “foreign policy expert” would satisfy either itch. But if any of them had half a brain, they’d realize that all you’re doing is flipping a coin, and there’s more personal integrity in digging ditches, handing out juice boxes in a K-5 cafeteria, or any thousands of other jobs.

      They write papers advocating for a certain course of action, then divorce themselves from the havoc that follows.

      Even worse, though, are the institutions that continually reward them for their navel gazing. Media, universities, and any government office that contracts out to think-tanks can all go to hell for their part in providing paychecks to these folks.

  3. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Completely predictable. And all the people criticizing the action have no solutions. Good on Joe!

    Helicopter on embassy roof look familiar?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      “If only we had stayed another [insert your entirely ridiculous time period here].” It was always going to end this way. Just ask the Russians, the Brits, Alexander the Great. …

      Meanwhile, from The Guardian:

      A Taliban official says the group will soon declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace in the capital, Kabul.

      That was the name of the country under the Taliban government ousted by U.S.-led forces after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

      “Mission accomplished,” to coin a phrase.

      • SAO' Says:

        We’ve got one chance with the Taliban. Send in envoys from Nike, McDonalds, and Gator-ade, telling the leaders we’re here to help stand up their Paris 2024 team. Hand them suitcases of cash, and 40 ft shipping containers of soccer balls, skateboards, and BMX bikes. Let them do whatever they want with the money. And then in a couple of months, show up with the next installment, but then drop the bomb that we’ve got a little PR problem with some of their politics.

  4. khal spencer Says:

    I have a friend, who currently lives in Honolulu, who toured Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion. Said it was a beautiful place and he bought some great hashish there, too.

    I have no idea if the fundamentalist lunatics would have come to power in present form had the USSR, its Communist lackeys in Kabul, and then the USA decided to put the geopolitical imprint on the country.

    Oh, and the fat lady just sang.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I miss hashish. I bet there’s still some in the dropped ceiling of Coronado Hall in Alamosa. My roommates and I were ripped to the tits when we hid it up there back in 1971 and never could find it again.

      Afghanistan sounds like a failed pitch for an HBO Max series to me. Imagine a combination of “Breaking Bad,” “The Sopranos,” and “The Wire,” set in Reno, Las Vegas, and Carson City, with bands of armed fundamentalists prowling the countryside and an alphabet soup of out-of-state law-enforcement agencies popping in one by one to try to impose their random notions of order upon the place as the cast of “Farm Kings” tries to grow a little opium for sale to keep Hector Salamanca, Uncle Junior, and Stringer Bell from foreclosing on the old home place. Hilarity ensues. Maybe not.

      • khal spencer Says:

        Heh. Was 1972-73 for me. Freshman year in college and a friend of mine scored some of what was advertised as Afghan Black Hash. It was black and viscous and mysterious. I pitched in and bought a little pipe. We were soaring above the clouds on that stuff. Never had it again after that.

        That hash pipe followed me around for a long time although I never used it again after that first year; I found that surviving college and doing on the side organic chemistry experiments was not working out well, as the letter from the Dean of Arts and Sciences made clear, so I had to clean up my act, well, sorta.

        Finally when we moved to New Mexico I decided it was probably not a great idea to pack it and keep it as a keepsake, so out to the trash it went. When the Feds asked me about whether I ever inhaled, I was quite honest, and the lady doing the interview gave me this “he’s gotta be jiving me” look. You gave up dope to race bicycles and get a Ph.D.? Yes, ma’am…I get my high on sew-ups!

  5. Stan Thomas Says:

    It is worth remembering that: *
    1) Bin Laden was a Saudi.
    2) when Al-Qaeda were traced to Afganistan the Taliban invited the US to present evidence to their court with a view to those involved in 911 being extradited. This was never pursued and instead Dubya and Blair sent in the troups.
    3) Bin Landen was finally found in Pakistan.

    The Taliban have laws and abide by them. Harsh medieval laws which seem barbaric to us, but laws nonetheless. If you are a woman in Afganistan, particularly one who has embraced a liberal, western lifestyle, like going to school, working in an office, eschewing the hijab, then you are rightly concerned. But the laws are clear and applied openly. In many ways they are no worse then several middle-eastern countries that the West is very happy to embrace . Above all, the Taliban have no territorial ambitions outside Afganistan.

    What the Taliban want is international acceptance. And my suggestion for Biden et al (not that any of them are listening) is to:
    1) Promptly recognise the Taliban as the Afgan government.
    2) Assist any request to track and return funds spirited out of the country by former Afgan officials.
    3) Lay off the threats and be patient while things settle.

    * some of these mutterings originate with Noam Chomsky.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      I like number 3. The rest, not so much. The funds taken out were most likely US tax dollars. Good luck on getting those back. Let the Chinese and Iran deal with the Taliban. Sunni fundamentalists know one thing, don’t fuck with Shia militias or Kurds.

    • SAO' Says:

      // The Taliban have laws and abide by them. Harsh medieval laws which seem barbaric to us, but laws nonetheless. //

      Yeah, no. They don’t abide by them. They hide under them only as long they are useful in maintaining power. No different than any other culture. Western Christians have had trouble with the adultery and thou shalt not kill parts of their religion forever. The US embassies in Kuwait and Iraq have maps in their welcome packets showing how to get to the speak-easies, despite local bans on booze. And the accepted interpretation on the Quran’s instructions on intoxicants cover not just use but the production and distribution of them, but they have no problem with the $3B a year in opium money.

      I get it that there’s a lot going on there that is hard to understand through a set of western peepers. But the “they got laws and abide by them” doesn’t pass the sniff test. Power corrupts ever government in proportion to the amount of force required to stay in power.

      • B Lester Says:

        This morning NPR put on their former Afghan correspondent who spent 10 years on the ground beginning in 2002. She said that the Taliban weren’t a homegrown group, but a product of the Pakistani ISI that even market tested the name “Taliban”.

        She said for years she had delegations of locals knocking on her door to tell her how the Government people in US provided uniforms shook them down during the daytime and the Talibs shook them down at night.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      The forces we propped up for so many years are roundly dismissed as incompetent chickenshits who shed their uniforms and abandon their equipment if a Taliban farts 20 klicks away. But the Taliban seem plenty fierce. What’s the difference between the two?

      I’m completely ignorant on the topic, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because the Taliban’s grunts believe in something. Even if it’s only “I believe these dudes are going to pay me, feed me, and keep me supplied.”

  6. carl duellman Says:

    well, maybe we’ve learned a valuable lesson. ha!

  7. Dale Says:

    Many books will be written, to be sure. All of them will have a political point-of-view. My money is on the horse that is named “We’ll Do It Again Somewhere Else Sometime” because it’ll turn out better.

  8. Pat O’Brien Says:

    Just watched Biden’s speech. It was well written and delivered, and I agree with every word.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      “Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country,” [Biden] said, accusing the military of laying down their arms after two decades of U.S. training and hundreds of billions of dollars in equipment and resources. “If anything, the developments of the past week reinforce that ending us military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”

      I figure God must be equally disappointed with His attempt to create us in His own image. He’s had more time to think about it, though.

    • Pat O’Brien Says:

      The man has grit. And, I bet it got the attention of the autocrats and dictators in the world that this guy isn’t a orange buffoon like the last one.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      It took stones, for sure. Someone was gonna take the hit sooner or later, and he stepped up.

      Over at The Atlantic, Tom Nichols says — as did Bill Munny in “Unforgiven” — that we all had it coming.

      But as comforting as it would be to blame Obama and Trump, we must look inward and admit that we told our elected leaders—of both parties—that they were facing a no-win political test. If they chose to leave, they would be cowards who abandoned Afghanistan. If they chose to stay, they were warmongers intent on pursuing “forever war.” And so here we are, in the place we were destined to be: resting on 20 years of safety from another 9/11, but with Afghanistan again in the hands of the Taliban.

  9. Hurben Says:

    I’ve wanted to stay out of this, especially since this has happened before in Viet Nam, but I seriously feel for the families of these New Zealanders.

    NZDF’s contribution to Afghanistan

    • Ten soldiers died in Afghanistan: Lieutenant Tim O’Donnell; Private Kirifi Mila, Corporal Douglas Hughes, Lance Corporal Pralli Durrer, Lance Corporal Rory Malone, Corporal Luke Tamatea, Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker and Private Richard Harris all died in Bamiyan Province. Corporal Douglas Grant and Lance Corporal Leon Smith from NZSAS died in Kabul.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Is it just beyond the average civilian’s understanding, that people get killed and maimed in these adventures of ours? That these people have families, friends, neighbors? The ripples spread out, but apparently not far enough. The wiseguys over here say Afghanistan hasn’t moved the electoral needle one way or another for years.

      • SAO' Says:

        Well, about half the country thinks its no big deal if your granny gets croaked from COVID, that’s just the price of FREEDUMB! So, yeah, these overseas deaths are no bigger deal than the ones they see when they play Mortal Kombat in their mom’s basement.

      • Pat O'Brien Says:

        We called each other “buddy” when I was in the Army. I assume the NZDF have a similar custom, perhaps mate? But, one thing is for sure, their buddies will never forget them or their sacrifice. And, Hurben did not forget them either. Way to go Buddy!

        You are right Patrick, many of our citizens are apathetic about many things. They don’t have to send their sons and daughters off to war. If a draft became necessary to continue the Afghanistan crap, it would have been over long ago. It pisses me off that the politicians use soldiers and their duty as a tool in their never ending bullshit, but they let them fight for 17 years with no clear mission. Only one stood up, political heat be damned, and did the right thing when the power was theirs to use. Joe.

        • Shawn Says:

          Yep. A mandatory draft for all men and women ages 18 to 49. Yes, 49. That way a whole lot more citizens would take aggressive non-defensive military actions more seriously. In my case, they could extend my age requirement a few years more. I’m capable of digging latrines, washing dishes and carrying a heavy pack day in and day out. Somebody has to be the whiner of the squad. “Oh the blisters…”

          • Dale Says:

            Don’t worry about blisters. All that work is done by contractors now. They build the barracks, mess halls. and latrines. They do lots of other stuff because war is a business, and a very profitable one at that.

        • Patrick O'Grady Says:

          I’m behind Jim Harrison’s proposal for national service, first expressed in “Wolf”:

          I’ve always felt that the draft should begin with fifty-year-old men and descend in age. Give young men a chance to live a little, taste things, before they get their asses shot off in Asia. Also draft at least 25 percent of Congress. Let them draw straws for front line duty. I suspect then that the vote for entering a war would be a trifle more cautious. Any fifty-year-old that can play eighteen holes of golf can certainly use his weak forefinger to pull a trigger and his chubby legs to hike through swamps. … Give the young a chance to eat and fuck and drink and love and travel and have children. If they’re not effective, we’ll send more of these pot bellies.

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