American Soldiers Died for a Lie — Period

The tragedy isn’t that we “abandoned” Afghanistan — it’s that we ever thought bombs and bullets were tools of salvation

Tim Wise
6 min readSep 7, 2021


Image: Bamiyan, Central Afghanistan, Jono Photography, Shutterstock, standard license, purchased by author

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a culture enthralled by the magical power of the gun — an artificial phallus if ever there were one — would fail to appreciate how impotent it is.

Never have a people felt themselves more invincible than Americans when headed off to war. The hubris never dwindles, no matter how Quixotic the quest.

We convince ourselves that, of course, we’ll defeat the enemy because we have a bigger arsenal, the best-trained fighters, and that can-do attitude that manifested on the shores of Normandy and in all the John Wayne films.

And that’s what matters, or so we always think.

Like the song says, “We’ll put a boot in your ass; it’s the American way.”

And we do — in both Vietnam and Afghanistan our troops won nearly every major battle.

Yet, we lost the war in both cases because, oddly enough, Toby Keith is no expert on foreign policy, combat, or those into whose posteriors he would have us deposit our boots.

Which is why he didn’t foresee their reply to his bombastic lyrical threat, back when he issued it safely from the confines of some air-conditioned Nashville recording studio:

We’ll see your boot, cowboy, and raise you with patience.

Apparently, some folks didn’t get the memo: nations are no longer defeated — certainly political and ideological movements are not — by force of arms alone.

Those of us on the left told you this was a mistake. We even told you why.

We told you the world is different than when those soldiers hoisted the flag on Iwo Jima. We told you al-Qaeda was a different kind of enemy. Even if we defeated them — and it was inevitable we would, militarily — the ideology they represented would come back. Enter ISIS right on time, which not only filled the fundamentalist vacuum left by the defeat of bin Laden but which did the same after the defeat of Saddam Hussein in Iraq — replacing bad with much, much worse.



Tim Wise

Anti-racism educator and author of 9 books, including White Like Me and, most recently, Dispatches from the Race War (City Lights, December 2020)