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Just finished watching the BBC program “Escape From Kabul,” on HBO. Obviously it was a documentary. So there is the presumption of it being accurate. Yes, produced by western sources, but there was reporting by Afghan and American military on the ground along with civilian Afghans.

A hard to watch program. It recounts the difficulties leading up to the final day of U.S. and western presence in the country. Lots of suffering. Lots of tragic events were shown and described, where people are desperately trying to flee the country with their families, and the America military, primarily Marines, trying to manage what has to be acknowledged was a last minute and messing exit.

We all know that many people, Afghans, were left, who expected, hoped, prayed, and needed to flee the country expecting what we now know was going to happen. People died in the evacuation process and people have died since our forces left.

Women were head from who had enjoyed a measure of freedom from persecution. They had the opportunity to come out from behind their mandated face and body covering (hijabs). They had some freedom to attend schools, work at jobs, speak for their interests and concerns, escape forced marriage and second class status. Not completely, but to a greater degree than in decades of oppressive government control by the Taliban.

Unfortunately, in a matter of days everything fell apart and the country and all its people, who were not males, not Taliban or Isis, were returned to a life of suffering and oppression again.

On the ground in Afghanistan at the read compartment of our Russian helicopter

In the early years of the war I was there as a part of the America presence. I saw little girls, newly dressed in school uniforms being allowed to attend schools and learn. I saw people working to build homes, jobs, families and a semblance of civilized life. Don’t get me wrong. It was still a time of war, a time of danger, violence and death.

The place, the country, was a mess. No technology, bombed out structures and dirt roads. No lights at night. No power. No sanitation. The air was brown with dirt, feces and who knows what. It was estimated that the air was 70% polluted with human and animal feces…all the time. There was danger everywhere. The things you were taught to watch out for as threats, like roadside bombs, IEDs, and ambush indicators, were everywhere, they were the normal environment of the place.

There was poverty everywhere. Not the kind of poverty we see here in the modern cities of the west. I’m talking poverty that was seemingly unlivable. Without seeing it for yourself you cannot appreciate it. But they lived in it. Dead animal meat, intended for human consumption, hung from hooks out in the hot son (90~100 was normal) unprotected or covered, flies living on the meat, sitting for days waiting for someone to buy it. The smell, combined with the other elements I have described was…well, lets just say it redefined sickening.

Seeing this program brought back these and many more unpleasant memories. Most profound was the suffering of the people, and the different way in which these people existed.

We left a mess, we left in shame, we left with a mission, though corrupted from its origins, has to be seen a failure.

We left people, friends, collaborators and victims at risk either in waiting, in progress or already realized.

We left weapons, tools and technology. We left a measure of infrastructure in progress and/or completed, for the very people we were fighting to walk in and take over…not in a good way. All the good that was done, presuming there was good, was undone.

Wars are not good. Sometimes conditions, people, make them necessary or unavoidable. But governments, ours and others around the world, made up of imperfect people, fail at their job of making the world a better place. And we the people, fail at managing our governments and those leaders.