The coalition is comprised of 124 American Christians and Jews that aims “to engage public officials and spread news of persecution” at the grassroots.
“He is, by all accounts, a devout Muslim. As Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, will he speak out and act for the religious freedom of non-Muslims in Shariah states who are discriminated against according to Shariah provisions? The establishment media will never ask him. So Save the Persecuted Christians has done so,” Spencer said.
The open letter pointed out some unaddressed areas on Hussain’s nomination to the post of Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. The coalition raised the said areas out of its desire that clarity be made on the matter prior to Hussain receiving the United States Senate’s vote on his nomination.
Save The Persecuted Christians’ letter pointed out that one of the areas that were not addressed was Hussain’s beliefs on “certain tenets of Islamic Law.” One of the said tenets pertain to Islam having a “supremacist position” over other religions. This tenet compels Muslims adherance to the treatment of “infidels” or those who are non-Muslims as “inferior” to them such that they have limited rights and are subject to “severe punishment.”
Another tenet involves considering converts as “apostates” subject to death penalty. While another considers Muslims with a different interpretation of Islam as “apostates” who are similarly subjected to the same punishment as converts.
“As a committed Muslim, in the execution of your office as AAL, will you be able to consider members of all faiths or of no faith equally worthy of U.S. protection from persecution by state and non-state actors?” Save The Persecuted Christians said.
“In light of differences in the understanding of personal rights and freedoms under Sharia rules versus those protected under international laws concerning human rights and religious freedom, what standard would you advocate for when issues arise affecting the freedom of non-Muslims to practice their faith–especially in Muslim-majority nations–if confirmed as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom?” they added.
The letter also sought clarity in 17 other areas on Hussein’s history, ideologies, and statements, such as using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as his guide in implementing his role. The coalition said that this differs significantly” from the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights that was used by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to which Hussein was appointed to by former President Barack Obama as a Special Envoy.
The difference lies in the “legal and practical implications of its caveat that all human rights are to be observed only to the extent they are consistent with Sharia,” which is the Arabic name for the Islamic Law.
The coalition particularly cited that as OIC Special Envoy, Hussein was one of those who promoted a false narrative that a jihadist attack in Benghazi was “spontaneous” instead of it being “murderous and pre-planned.” The said attack actually led to the death of a U.S. Ambassador to Lydia among others. The coalition asked Hussein if he still holds the same position today.
The group also cited several instances that Hussein acted against justice by defending Muslims even though it was not the truth such as silencing those who spoke against persecution done by Islamic groups as “Islamophobic” during his stint as OIC Special Envoy.
Perhaps I was naïve, but when Brandeis University offered me an honorary degree in 2014, I accepted it in good faith. Brandeis’s motto, after all, is “Truth, even unto its innermost parts”. Yet what followed proved the very opposite: that, at Brandeis, the innermost parts of truth don’t count.
After a bit of encouragement from my usual critics, the Council of Islamic Relations, followed by a petition from a motley array of faculty members, Brandeis rescinded their offer. Frederick Lawrence, who was then the university’s president, rang me just hours before the university issued a public statement.
At the time, I dismissed it as a one-off incident; an anomaly that could simply be brushed off. How wrong I was. That same year, a group of Muslim students tried to cancel my study group on the political theory of Islam at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, part of the Kennedy School. First, they complained to the university’s administration. When that didn’t work, they sent a letter to the funders of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative. Then they suggested that I should install an imam in my class to counter my arguments. Unlike at Brandeis, the university authorities didn’t capitulate.
In both incidents, the challenge to academic freedom and free speech was posed by Islamists. But that didn’t disturb me: as an apostate who has spent many years criticising them, and received death threats in return, I was used to their antipathy.
Fast forward to 2021, however, and it seems I was wrong to dismiss this censorious attitude as an Islamist impulse. Hardly a week goes by without reports of a professor being protested, disciplined, and sometimes fired for violating the new and stringent norms of academic discourse. We read of scholars such as Kathleen Stock being driven to resign from their positions after constant hounding and threats. We read of a lecturer being no-platformed for daring to suggest that evaluations should be based on academic merit. We read of a Native American student being forced to apologise by a Yale University diversity tsar for making a harmless joke in an email.
And that’s just in the past month. We have reached a point where grace and forgiveness are extinct on American campuses; where reputations built over decades can be destroyed in a week. Some people still describe the phenomenon as “political correctness”. But this is much more like a religious movement. It’s hardly surprising that the Islamists’ opportunity to piggyback on existing illiberal and intolerant forces is now even greater.
Social justice, critical race theory, diversity, equality and inclusion — such terms are difficult to object to when taken at face value. And as a consequence, they have grown and spread like weeds in almost every institution. By the time we recognised the deeply illiberal notions that lurked behind these bland phrases, it was too late; they had already taken over whole departments, embedding their extensive roots into the fabric of academic institutions.
I didn’t see this coming. Seven years ago, I considered those who sounded the alarm to be engaged in histrionics. But today it is impossible to deny that the alarmists were right.
After the Brandeis cancellation, I published my intended remarks, stating that “we need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged”. At the time, I was hopeful. Yet every passing year, free discourse increasingly became the exception in academic settings.
And while countless academics have been crucified for daring to speak out, it is ultimately their students who have suffered most in this tragedy. Our education system is failing them: rather than being a place of learning, universities have transformed into a place of fear. They demand safe spaces and a life free from all forms of aggressions: micro and macro. They graduate ill-prepared for the future, no longer equipped with the critical skills needed to thrive in a society where safe spaces, trigger warnings and preferred pronouns are not the norm. Their lives as students have been stripped of opportunities to overcome challenges and adversity, to develop inner-strength and confidence.
Faced with such a toxic climate, riddled with the weeds of intolerance, one might think the solution is to simply give up. But to do so is not only cowardly; it ignores the fact that there is cause for optimism in the future. There are seedlings sprouting that point to renewal.
This is partly because America’s markets remain strong and reactive, bringing supply to wherever there is demand. The American market is hungry for a new approach to education. Demand is high for a university that delivers on academic freedom, merit-based recruitment of students, and is a safe space for people to learn and exchange ideas, not imagined injuries. And the supply is coming.
This week, I joined an intellectually diverse and curious group of professors and scholars in launching the University of Austin (UATX). It is an institution that stands, above all, for the pursuit of truth. It will offer a rigorous, liberal education from leading experts in their fields; a place that will teach students how to think, not what to think; a place where they will be intellectually challenged and, at times, made to feel uncomfortable.
Professors will be able to explore ideas and topics that are taboo elsewhere, without threats to their reputation, livelihoods or well-being. Unlike nearly a fifth of universities, we will not require statements of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. All we are looking for is a commitment to learning. And that doesn’t seem to be in short supply: within 12 hours of announcing the University of Austin, more than 900 academics submitted inquiries seeking a position.
Their students, once applications open, will be accepted on the basis of merit, based on an admissions exam. The university states: “UATX will not arbitrarily factor in race, gender, class or any other form of identity into its decisions. UATX stands firmly against that sort of discrimination in admissions.” Of course, none of this matters if spaces are only reserved for a wealthy elite. So we are working on a financial model that will help lower tuition costs and provide scholarships or bursaries, providing an equal opportunity for students, regardless of their financial background.
Starting a new university will no doubt be challenging, but the truth is that this is only the beginning — the first of many new educational institutions. American parents all over the country are in revolt against the increasingly divisive educational opportunities available to their children (witness the results of the Virginian gubernatorial elections). In the coming decade, it is not inconceivable that the market will deliver new grade-school opportunities for students, as well as other new institutions of higher education.
There are those who fear that the political extremes of the Left and Right may one day destroy the republic. But the only way to destroy America is to destroy our market system. As long as individuals have choice and the market self-corrects, we will continue to thrive. Where there is demand — and the result in Virginia prove there is demand — the supply will follow.
This is what the University of Austin symbolises: a new choice for all those disillusioned with the established institutions. For too long we have looked on as universities have been disfigured, blissfully unaware that all we needed to do was create our own. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new Renaissance.
I was a defiant little girl. One afternoon, I came home with my nails painted — a grave sin. My mother took one look and told me to get the filth off of my nails before she chopped off each finger.
My mother could be fierce and she punished me frequently, but even then I knew that her threat was bluster. She might smack me, but she wasn’t going to take off any digits.
Empty threats are used as leverage to entice certain behaviour. But what if the threats are real? For the girls living under Taliban control in Afghanistan, threats are not theatre: they are promises. Even for transgressions as small as painting their fingernails, they face real consequences.
Saturday marks 20 years since the fall of the World Trade Center, a day that brought unimaginable devastation, heartbreak and loss to America. But if there was one glimmer of hope that came from that tragic moment, it was for the women and girls of Afghanistan. After 9/11, and the conflict that followed, a level of freedom unknown to previous generations came to their country.
I remember watching the planes crash on television. I was at work in the Netherlands at the time, and sat, horrified, with my colleagues. As we watched, we wondered how the world’s superpower would respond to such an evil attack on the American homeland. They certainly had the power, resources and reason to go and obliterate their newfound enemy. Sitting there, we could never have guessed that this tragedy would end up bringing more rights and freedoms to women in Afghanistan.
The United States could have gone into Afghanistan, taken its revenge and left. President Biden’s continual defence over the past weeks has been that he was following the original plan. “We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.”
But this is not where the legacy of 9/11 ends. It was not all necessary revenge and retaliation. Instead, we offered to help rebuild and provide hope to those who had not had it before. Together with our Afghan allies, we built a more inclusive society for women and girls, in the belief that precisely this kind of modernisation would reduce the danger of a Taliban restoration.
As Adam Tooze explains in his brilliant Substack, from 2003 to 2018, the number of women enrolled in university rose from 7,200 to 49,000. Female life expectancy increased by almost 10 years from 2001-2019. “Whereas in 2000,” Tooze explains, “Afghan men lived longer than women, now Afghanistan has the normal pattern of women outliving their menfolk.” Rates of literacy among females more than doubled between 2000-2018.
Their successes were awe-inspiring. They were also a source of pride for Americans. They were, in part, America’s girls — girls raised to know a certain level of freedom, with their rights secure and protected, thanks to the U.S.-led intervention prompted by 9/11.
In 2002, the United Nations Development Programme produced the Arab Human Development Report, aimed at providing a path for growth and opportunity in the Arab world. The report concluded that three factors contribute to the constraints of human development in the Arab world: “freedom, empowerment of women, and knowledge”. Individuals needed to be educated beyond religious ideology, their human rights respected and women’s rights expanded. And for the last 20 years, the United States has supported women and these goals through the US Agency for International Development and State Department-funded programmes, as well as encouraging women’s participation in government and the private sector.
But now women’s rights are being ripped away. Biden’s betrayal reverberates sharply across the country. He offered a false dichotomy to the American people: either pull all troops out or go back to fighting an “endless war”. Pulling out the remaining US troops initiated the swift collapse of the Afghan government, will result in Afghanistan returning to a terrorist safe haven and removed the shield protecting women’s rights in the country. Surely this is not the legacy that Americans want to leave behind on the 20th anniversary of 9/11?
The effects of Taliban control are already being felt by women. The Taliban have announced that women must cover their faces to attend university and genders must segregate, both in class and while entering and exiting the building. They are banned from sports, considered by the Taliban’s cultural commission as “neither appropriate nor necessary” for women. Women can no longer hold ministerial positions. There are no women included in the new administration. Some are being told not to go to work, allegedly a temporary change while the Taliban draw up new “women related procedures”. They face real violence if they disobey. Those speaking out against the Taliban are being deemed “agents of America” and accused of “not being true Muslims”. They are being erased from the public square. And the Taliban haven’t been in control for a full month yet.
What will happen to America’s Afghan girls? The ones born and raised since 2001. The girls inspired by the allure of freedom, liberalism, and chasing their own dreams. Those who have, until now, not known the crushing burdens and barriers of life under the Taliban. What will become of the defiant girls, who speak up for their rights? The ones who question the religious fundamentalism of the Taliban?
Many will suffer severe punishments. Violence will be unleashed against them in a magnitude that those in the West do not comprehend. Body parts will be chopped off. Sexual harassment, rapes, honour violence and murders will become the norm.
But, unlike before, this time is different. The women of Afghanistan will fight back. They’ve already begun. Protests are erupting across the country. Women of all ages are standing firm against the Taliban. In Kabul, women attempted to march to the presidential palace, “demanding the right to work and to be included in government”. They were attacked for it, with videos and photos revealing the bloody violence they faced at the hands of the Taliban. At a subsequent protest in Kabul, one woman stated: “We don’t care if they beat us or even shoot us. We want to defend our rights. We will continue our protests even if we get killed.”
At another protest in Herat, calling for girls’ education, one of the organisers, Basira Taheri, explained: “The women of this land are informed and educated. We are not afraid, we are united.” Pashtana Durrani, the Executive Director of Learn Afghanistan, a bulwark for Afghan women’s rights, said; “We are going to make sure [girls] get to go to school, they get to go to work. If not on the terms that we want in public, we’re going to make it happen anyways.”
As the saying, often attributed to Thomas Carlyle, goes: “Once the mind has been expanded by a big idea, it will never go back to its original state.” The Taliban cannot undo the last 20 years. These women and girls are refusing to submit to a new Dark Age. That glimmer of hope, sparked after 9/11, has not been extinguished. Even with the Taliban in control, America’s girls aren’t going to give up.
And now the world is watching. Before 9/11, the atrocities committed by the Taliban on the women of Afghanistan received very little coverage in the West. Now, everyone knows names like Malala and Bibi Aisha. And we will come to know more names, like Basira Taheri’s, as we cheer them on. Two decades on, these women may be the most enduring achievement of the American intervention that followed 9/11.
They are defiant. And, as a former defiant girl, I can say with conviction that they can’t beat or cut that defiance out of you.
Before the events of this month, the First Anglo-Afghan War was arguably the greatest military humiliation ever suffered by the West in the East. Britain’s entanglement with Afghanistan between 1839-42 was catastrophic, costly and entirely avoidable. Nothing until the fall of Singapore in 1942 was so disastrous for Britain.
The most infamous incident of the war was the retreat from Kabul, which began on the 6th January 1842. An entire army — 18,500 men — left the British cantonment, only to be annihilated by scantly-equipped tribesmen. In the myth of the war, only one British citizen, the surgeon Dr Brydon, made it through to Jalalabad six days later.
Brydon’s desperate escape on a collapsing nag became one of the era’s most famous images, in Lady Butler’s oil Remnants of an Army. Likewise, William Barnes Wollen’s celebrated painting of the Last Stand of the 44th Foot — a group of ragged but doggedly determined soldiers on the hilltop of Gandamak standing encircled behind a thin line of bayonets, as the Pashtun tribesmen close in — drummed home the terrible truth of the war. The world’s premier military nation had been brought low, it’s armies massacred or enslaved.
Defeat cast a long shadow. Perhaps it was that image of a desperate Brydon, half-alive outside the gates of Jalalabad, that deterred British policy-makers from further adventures.
Writing just before Britain blundered into the Second Anglo-Afghan War 30 years later, George Lawrence, a veteran of the first conflict wrote, “a new generation has arisen which, instead of profiting from the solemn lessons of the past, is willing and eager to embroil us in the affairs of that turbulent and unhappy country . . . Although military disasters may be avoided, an advance now, however successful in a military point of view, would not fail to turn out to be as politically useless . . . The disaster of the Retreat from Kabul should stand forever as a warning to the Statesmen of the future not to repeat the policies that bore such bitter fruit in 1839–42.”
Lawrence’s warning was still echoing when Harold Macmillan told his successor Alec Douglas-Home “as long as you don’t invade Afghanistan you’ll be absolutely fine.” Sadly, by the time John Major was handing over 10 Downing Street to Tony Blair, Afghanistan was a distant memory. In 2001, soon after the catastrophe of 9/11 Blair signed up with Bush to invade Afghanistan yet again. What followed was a textbook case of Aldous Huxley’s adage that the only thing you learn from history is that no one learns from history.
Britain’s Fourth Afghan War was to an extraordinary, near-absurd extent, a replay of the first. The parallels between the two invasions were not just anecdotal, they were substantive. The same group rivalries and the same battles were fought out in the same places 170 years later under the guise of new banners, new beliefs and new political orchestrators. The same cities were occupied by troops speaking the same languages, and they were attacked again from the same high passes. In both cases, the invaders thought they could walk in, perform regime change, and be out in a couple of years. Ultimately, in both cases they were unable to prevent themselves being pulled into a much wider, bloodier conflict.
The First Afghan War was waged on the basis of doctored intelligence about a virtually non-existent threat: information about a single Russian envoy to Kabul was exaggerated and manipulated by a group of ambitious and ideologically-driven hawks to create a scare — in this case, about a phantom Russian invasion. As John MacNeill, the Russophobe British ambassador wrote from Tehran: “we should declare that he who is not with us is against us… We must secure Afghanistan.” Thus was brought about an avoidable war with all its astonishing resonances with our situation today.
Take the puppet ruler — Shah Shuja ul-Mulk — the British tried to install in 1839. He was from the same Popalzai sub-tribe as Hamid Karzai. His bitterest opponents? The Ghilzais, who today are the mainstay of the Taliban’s forces. Taliban leader Mullah Omar was the chief of the Hotaki Ghilzai, just like Mohammad Shah Khan, the warrior who supervised the destruction of the British army in 1841. These parallels were largely invisible to Westerners, but frequently pointed out by the Taliban: “Everyone knows how Karzai was brought to Kabul and how he was seated on the defenceless throne of Shah Shuja” they announced in a press release soon after he came to power.
We in the West may have forgotten the details of this history that did so much to mould the Afghans’ hatred of foreign rule, but Afghans never did. In particular Shah Shuja remains a symbol of quisling treachery in Afghanistan: in 2001, the Taliban asked their young men, ‘Do you want to be remembered as a son of Shah Shuja or as a son of Dost Mohammad?’ As he rose to power, Mullah Omar deliberately modelled himself on the deposed Emir, Dost Mohammad, and like him removed the Holy Cloak of the Prophet Mohammad from its shrine in Kandahar and wrapped himself in it, declaring himself like his model Amir al-Muminin, the Leader of the Faithful, a deliberate and direct re-enactment of the events of First Afghan War, whose resonance was immediately understood by all Afghans.
Hamid Karzai was particularly sensitive to these parallels. When I first published my book the First Anglo-Afghan War, Return of a King, in 2012, he called me to Kabul. Karzai quizzed me on the details over several dinners at his palace about the lessons this history can teach us. His view was that the US were doing to him what the British had done to Shah Shuja 170 years ago: “The lies Lord Auckland told Dost Mohammad Khan, that we don’t want to interfere with your country, that’s exactly what they tell us today, the Americans and all the others,” he told me. “Our so-called current allies behave to us just as the British did to Shah Shuja. They have squandered the opportunity given to them by the Afghan people. They tried to do exactly as they did in the 19th century.”
Karzai made it clear that he thought Shah Shuja didn’t stress his independence enough, and said he was never going to allow himself to be remembered as anyone’s puppet. After reading Return of a King, he substantially altered his policies to make sure he never repeated his forbear Shah Shuja’s mistakes. Hilary Clinton blamed his reading of my book for a chilling of relations between Kabul and the White House during the Obama years — according to a leaked email published in the New York Times after Wikileaks.
Ashraf Ghani, Karzai’s successor, was a noted academic anthropologist and economist. He’d stood on the TED stage in Berkeley, California and co-authored a well-received book on fixing “failed states”. Sadly he learned nothing from the lessons of history. Karzai was a skilful diplomat and an operator; Ghani was rude, lofty, impatient and arrogant. He pushed away tribal leaders with his lack of charm and politeness. He would tell clan elders who had trekked across Afghanistan to see him that they had “ten minutes” and he would take off his shoes, put his feet up on a stool and point them at petitioners — an act of huge rudeness in Indian and Afghan society. As we have seen, in the end, few were willing to die to keep Ghani in power.
For the Afghans, the First Afghan War changed their state forever: on his return in 1842, Emir Dost Mohammad inherited the reforms made by the British and these helped him consolidate an Afghanistan that was much more clearly defined than it was before the war. Indeed Shuja and most of his contemporaries never used the word “Afghanistan” — for him, there was a Kingdom of Kabul which was the last surviving fragment of the Durrani Empire and which lay on the edge of a geographical space he described as Khurasan. Yet within a generation the phrase Afghanistan existed widely on maps both in and outside the country and the people within that space were beginning to describe themselves as Afghans. The return of Shah Shuja and the failed colonial expedition which was mounted to reinstate him finally destroyed the power of the Sadozai dynasty and ended the last memories of the Durrani Empire that they had founded. In this way the war did much to define the modern boundaries of the Afghan state, and consolidated once and for all the idea of a country called Afghanistan.
If the First Afghan War helped consolidate the Afghan State, the question now is whether our current failed Western intervention will contribute to its demise. Afghanistan has changed beyond all recognition in the last twenty years. The cities have grown, people travel much more widely, thousands of women have been educated. Television, the internet and an ebullient media have opened many minds. It is impossible in such circumstances to predict the fate of the divided state of Afghanistan under renewed Taliban rule, even as the resistance begins to organise itself in the Panjshir Valley under the leadership of my old friend Amrullah Saleh, formerly the head of the NSD. But what the Afghan historian Mirza ‘Ata wrote after 1842 remains equally true today: ‘It is certainly no easy thing to invade or govern the Kingdom of Khurasan.’
For the truth is that in the last millennia there had been only very brief moments of strong central control when the different Afghan tribes have acknowledged the authority of a single ruler, and still briefer moments of anything approaching a unified political system. Afghanistan has always been less a state than a kaleidoscope of competing tribal principalities governed through maliks or vakils, in each of which allegiance was entirely personal, to be negotiated and won over rather than taken for granted.
The tribes’ traditions have always been egalitarian and independent, and they have only ever submitted to authority on their own terms. Financial rewards might bring about cooperation, but rarely ensured loyalty: the individual Afghan soldier owed his allegiance first to the local chieftain who raised and paid him, not to the shahs or Kings or Presidents in faraway Kabul. Yet even the tribal leaders had frequently been unable to guarantee obedience, for tribal authority was itself so elusive and diffuse. As the saying went: Behind every hillock there sits an emperor — pusht-e har teppe, yek padishah neshast (or alternatively: Every man is a khan — har saray khan deh). In such a world, the state never had a monopoly on power, but was just one among a number of competing claimants on allegiance. “An Afghan Amir sleeps upon an ant heap,” went the proverb.
The first British historian of Afghanistan, Mountstuart Elphinstone, grasped this as he watched Shah Shuja’s rule disintegrate around him. “The internal government of the tribes answers its ends so well”, he wrote, “that the utmost disorders of the royal government never derange its operations, nor disturb the lives of its people.” No wonder that Afghans proudly thought of their mountains as Yaghistan — the Land of Rebellion.
This is now the problem facing the Taliban. As the Taliban transforms its military command into a government for Afghanistan, alliances and tribal configurations that kept two rival Taliban factions together in recent years are already being tested. Factional divisions began to emerge between the Quetta Shura and militant commanders farther east on the ground after the death of Mullah Omar in 2013. The result was a far-reaching realignment among Taliban factions — particularly between hard-line groups like the Haqqani network that wanted to escalate fighting and more moderate Taliban leaders who sought accommodation with Kabul and Islamabad.
It is too early to see if, and how, the different Taliban commanders from East and West Afghanistan, the Quetta shura and the Taliban political wing manage in Doha manage to settle their differences and succeed in control Afghanistan’s naturally centrifugal polity — certainly the recent campaign appears to have had far more disciplined and coherent coordination than any of us expected. Only time will tell if the movement remains united or splinters into regional Taliban fiefdoms.
What is the longer-term strategic picture now? Few will now trust American or NATO promises and we have handed a major propaganda victory to our enemies everywhere. India has lost a leading regional ally and Pakistan’s ISI believe they have won a major victory — Imran Khan went as far as saying that the Taliban victory meant the freeing of the Afghans from the “shackles of slavery”. Meanwhile China has announced it will do business with the Taliban regime, and reopen the Mes Aynak copper mine which lies beneath a major Buddhist Silk Road archaeological site. The direction the winds are blowing in is clear.
Britain’s Fourth Afghan War has ended, like the First, in ignominy and defeat. There is no Lady Butler or William Barnes Wollen around today to paint the explosions outside Kabul airport, or the desperate crush around American C-130 transport planes inside its perimeter. A Butler or a Wollen is not needed — images of both have already travelled halfway around the world on social media. The words of the First Afghan War’s first historian, Rev. G.R. Glieg, are as hauntingly apt in 2021 as they were in 1843: “Not one benefit, political or military, has been acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated.”