The terrible images of the abandonment of Kabul, with its groups of desperate Afghans clinging to the cabin of an American military plane ready to take off without them, will never stop haunting us. They confirm, twenty years after 9/11, that no lesson can be drawn from history, contrary to what has been preached on all the airwaves, all the platforms. Faced with Islamism, which, from Nice and Saint-Etienne-du Rouvray to Kunduz and Kandahar, slits the throats of both near and far, the “Never again” preachers, under their false airs of optimism, are nothing but pledges of resignation.
Never again the betrayal of the Eastern peoples by those who claimed to be their Western protectors, really? Never again will Afghan women be handed over to their executioners, really? No more students of the religion of crime to fly the flag of Islamic totalitarianism over an American embassy, really? No more compromises with the turbans of blood, really?
On the contrary, it is this compromise, officially rejected, unofficially adopted, that has been weaving the web of the great renunciation for years. The condemnation of the Afghan people was negotiated and signed in Qatar, the miniature but effective nuclear heart of the obscurantist international. The expected discreet “transition” has turned into a spectacular catastrophe because of the American inability to understand local realities, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, that shattered country that the last GIs must also leave next December.
We have experienced first-hand a global ideological defeat: the West has still not understood anything about Islamism. The “reconstruction” of the countries where the Pentagon has ventured has never been possible because of this major intellectual failure. It would be dishonest to blame it on all of them: the Americans, but also the British and French who found themselves on the ground. Most of them did a remarkable job – teachers, instructors, NGO staff – in a context that was impossible to control, plagued by corruption and insecurity. Thousands of Westerners lost their lives. But the ideological paralysis from above has sterilised their efforts and the hopes of the Afghans: women educated again, children with a bright future, at least in the big cities and the capital. The politics of compromise, based not on pragmatism but on blindness, has just closed it.
While millions of people find themselves hostages of the Taliban, in a terrifying return to square one (and to the starting cage), the great deception of “never again” is thus displayed in its obscene cruelty. And it is to the prophets of doom that we must now turn, despite the detestable reputation they have acquired. In the biblical tradition, only their imprecations, interspersed with calls for justice and solidarity, opened the door to resistance in the name of right against the violation of rights by tyranny.
Today, when prophets of doom raise their voices in tortured lands, they are usually imprisoned and murdered. The echo of their words tries in vain to break through the wall of indifference and stupidity. How can we not hear, in the voice of Afghan women in 2021 recounting on the telephone their flight from cache to cache through Kabul, the voice of Algerian women fleeing the GIA in 1994, of Iraqi women under the terror of Daech in 2014? Perhaps also the voice of Tunisian women demanding, since 25 July (with the decisions of President Kaïs Saied supported by the population) to take back their destiny in hand against the aims of the Ennahdha party, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is also supported by Doha.
And behind the scenes, by Washington. It is the breath of the fears and abandonments of the last quarter century that we breathe through the screen that broadcasts images of Afghan pain. It is also what has hit us and will hit us again. Because there is never a “Never again”.
* Journalist and essayist, editor in chief at weekly magazine Marianne, specialist in Islamism and Middle-East affairs.