“Why should our soldiers be fighting radicals in a civil war in Afghanistan? We’ve got our own on Capitol Hill,” Colbert said during his show on Monday night, showing the photos of the January riot that Democrats like him insist was an “insurrection” against Our Democracy.
While the line got a laugh from the studio audience in New York, it was not really a joke – but a way to amplify the talking points put forth by Washington. After a weekend of watching in stunned silence as the US-backed Afghan government collapsed even before Western troops, diplomats and NGO staff could leave the country – resulting in harrowing images of stampedes at the Kabul airport – President Joe Biden returned to DC on Monday and tried to change the narrative.
Instead of addressing the downfall and the way it caught the US unprepared, Biden talked about the merits of leaving – a straw man issue, since the overwhelming majority of Americans actually agree.The ones that don’t are the neocon hawks like Bill Kristol, the Cheney-Kinzinger ‘Republicans’ and the Lincoln Project types, all of whom backed Biden in 2020.
Taking credit for ending the war and arguing US troops shouldn’t be fighting a civil war in Afghanistan, Biden left without taking questions from the media. His mission was accomplished: he had served up a new narrative to fill the void created by the Taliban’s reality bomb.
That certainly appears to be the context for the first half of Colbert’s “joke.” As for the second, it caught the attention of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who warned back in January that Washington was itching to turn the powers of the national security state against domestic political opponents.
“While Colbert’s commentary, as usual, is just warmed-over Pelosi-speak with an invisible veneer of ‘comedy,’ it’s also revealing about liberalism,” Greenwald tweeted. “They do believe the War on Terror should not end but be transferred to domestic politics, with Trump voters treated like Al-Qaeda.”
Indicating that Greenwald might be onto something, Democrat activists quickly rallied around the comparison between Trump voters and the Taliban.
“Their Taliban, our Taliban, everybody’s got a Taliban. They’re at their best when they confiscate the halls of power,” tweeted documentarist Michael Moore. He wasn’t the only one, either.
It is tempting to dismiss this as a stupid comparison, coming from people too thick to understand it doesn’t even make sense. After all, if Trump voters are the Taliban, would this make Democrats the Afghan National Army that just surrendered without a fight? Or could this be confession through projection by the “fortifiers” of 2020?
Whatever the case may be, the intent is crystal clear: demonize the political opposition as fanatics and terrorists. Again, don’t bother pointing out that this is the same ‘loserthink’ that got the US mired in Afghanistan for 20 years. They need a new narrative to cope with the images coming from Kabul, and this is obviously the one they settled on, logic be damned.
Circling back to Greenwald’s observation about Colbert delivering “warmed-over” Democrat talking points, it’s worth noting that comedy has long been a major vector of manufacturing consent in the US. Colbert himself spent the better part of the 2000s role-playing a caricature of a Republican, first for Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and then his own spinoff, The Colbert Report. During the Trump presidency, he and other late-night hosts provided easy headline fodder for the morning papers by serving up anti-Trump tirades.
Though the people involved now claim it was satire, back in 2001 ‘Saturday Night Live’ even had New York liberals dancing and singing about the Taliban being driven out of Kandahar. Oddly enough, there was no such skit 20 years later, when the Taliban retook Kandahar – and Kabul, and all of Afghanistan – despite 20 years of US “nation-building” and “fortifying” Afghan democracy. Or would that be because of?
Asking such questions simply won’t do. A failed foreign war must be brought back home, in the name of Our Democracy. The Narrative must be preserved. Otherwise someone might be forced to do some soul-searching, and if there’s one thing the US establishment fears, it’s the abyss that awaits there.
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