Friday, December 3

What we have lost in Afghanistan | Ideas


A Red Cross worker with an Afghan child in a refugee camp in Avezzano, Italy, on Aug. 31.
A Red Cross worker with an Afghan child in a refugee camp in Avezzano, Italy, on Aug. 31.Andrew Medichini / AP Photo

In the battle of Solferino, on June 24, 1859, two relevant things happened. One, which was the last in history in which the sovereigns of each side participated in person: Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, who lost, to Napoleon III, of France, and Victor Emmanuel II, of the kingdom of Sardinia, the germ of the future Italy. Then the killing was delegated, although there would still be a lot of blood in Europe, and today we would prefer that if possible drones solve it. The second thing that passed by was a Swiss gentleman, Henry Dunant, who was horrified by the routine spectacle of the butcher shops of that time, thousands of corpses. He thought that this could not be and founded the Red Cross. Thus was born the scandal in the face of war violence and the attempt to appease it. To the point that we already talked about humanitarian wars, peace interventions and whatever happened in Afghanistan.

I wanted to write about Afghanistan, because I am concerned, with the serious drawback for myself, and much more for potential readers, that I have no idea about Afghanistan. Yes, I have read books, I have spoken with people, but in each article I discover something that I did not know, and I feel that I should keep reading and quiet. And that’s how I would never write anything, although I’ve already had a paragraph and a half. But Afghanistan distresses us, you notice it in conversations with acquaintances who are not to comment on the current situation at meals. The kind who have no idea about Afghanistan. Why has it affected us so much? Perhaps because, after the pandemic, it is another thing that does not end like in the movies. The bad guys have won and will establish a crazy medieval state. In part the fright is due, I think, to the fact that people have no idea what is going on outside, and everything takes them by surprise. Actually, it is less and less interesting what happens in the world, we live a strange combination of hyperconnectivity and self-absorption. Then thousands of poor people and refugees come out of nowhere, and some even believe that they are lazy and crooks. But even those of us who don’t know anything about Afghanistan knew that this was going to end like this. It was said from day one. What’s more, looking at other withdrawals from Afghanistan, this is not the worst. In 1842, British General Elphinstone left Kabul with 16,000 people, most of them civilians. Only one was saved, the others were massacred.

The truth is that massacres, botched withdrawals, poorly fought wars, and for banal reasons, pandemics, conspiracy theories, horror in general, it is something old like the world, and that right here it was normal until the 1940s. Then we entered a sweet and unusual period of peace and prosperity in which everything terrible was already happening elsewhere (except anachronisms like ETA). But out there everything is still anachronistic. According to our watch, of course. For tourism it is fine, it is more authentic, as long as it is safe. Every time something like from another time happens, it amazes us, we thought that in ours it no longer happened. But what we call our age does not exist. After the US invasion, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, said: “You have the clock, but we have the time.” Wise words, 20 years is nothing (although in the meantime he clapped).

On Across the river and between the trees, by Hemingway, the life of a soldier changes the day he is seriously wounded, and it is not the same again: “It must have been due to the loss of immortality. In a sense it is a great loss ”.

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