As Afghanistan Collapses, a Lament for ‘Repeating the Same Mistakes’

As Afghanistan Collapses, a Lament for ‘Repeating the Same Mistakes’

Shifting objectives led to the expansion of a war that dragged on for almost two decades, and is ending in chaos.

Few people in Congress have stood as alone as Representative Barbara Lee did on Sept. 14, 2001. Three days earlier, the United States had endured the most devastating attack ever on its soil. Now Congress was called on to authorize the unleashing of American military power against Al Qaeda and its Taliban enablers in Afghanistan who were held responsible for what has eternally come to be called 9/11.

In the House, 420 members voted to give the president that authority. The Senate agreed, 98-0. Only one lawmaker said no: Ms. Lee, a Democrat representing a district centered on Oakland and Berkeley, Calif. Her vote brought angry denunciations and even physical threats.

“People were calling me a traitor — ‘she’s got to go,’ ” she told Retro Report. “But I knew then that it was going to set the stage for perpetual war.”

That is exactly what it did.

But after 20 years, that perpetual war has finally ended. With the United States-supported Afghan government gone and the Taliban once again in control, Ms. Lee is no longer a lonely skeptical voice in Washington, doubting America’s capacity to reshape a distant and often hostile land. Lessons from the Afghanistan experience form the core of the accompanying video from Retro Report, whose mission is to examine the enduring impact of past events on present policies.

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