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It Doesn’t Pay to Be Right About America’s Wars

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I waited almost three months for some acknowledgement, but it never came. Not a bottle of champagne. Not a congratulatory note. Not an e-mail of acknowledgement. Not one media request.

Authors wait their whole lives for I-told-you-so moments like these. But mine passed without accolades, awards, or adulation.

Being way ahead of the pack is supposed to bring honors and rewards, isn’t it? Imagine the response if, for example, a writer had predicted the 9/11 attacks.

In fact, one more or less did. “I conceived of Blowback—written in 1999, published in 2000—as a warning to the American public. It was: you should expect retaliation from the people on the receiving end of now innumerable clandestine activities,” TomDispatch regular Chalmers Johnson recalled of his blockbuster book in a 2004 interview. “The warning was not heeded.… But then after 9/11, when, all of a sudden, inattentive Americans were mobilized to seek, at least on an emergency basis, some understanding of what they were into, it became a bestseller.”

Johnson had been ahead of the game by a year and was celebrated for it. In 2010, I published The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan, a collection of essays and articles highlighting the futility of that conflict and the need to end America’s involvement there. This summer, the arguments that other contributors (including Johnson) and I made finally carried the day. “Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan,” President Joe Biden announced on August 31st. “I give you my word: With all of my heart, I believe this is the right decision, a wise decision, and the best decision for America.”

It may have been the best idea, but it wasn’t an original one. And yet, Biden never mentioned my book. Or offered me cursory acknowledgement. Or admitted that he was at least a decade behind the curve.

Of course, I understood the reasons. If I were him, I’d want to keep my failings quiet, too. So, I waited for the cable news networks to take note. I kept checking my phone as the war in Afghanistan careened to its close. I could almost imagine the way the interview would go.

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