By Eric Margolis


Santayana’s famous dictum about those who forget history being condemned to relieve it is nowhere better observed than in the mountains of Afghanistan.

One of my favorite artists was the superb Victorian painter Lady Jane Butler who captured in oil the military triumphs and tragedies of the British Empire.

Her haunting painting, “The Retreat from Kabul, (also known as “Remnants of an Army,”) shows the sole survivor of a British army of 16,500 during the first Anglo-Afghan War in 1842, Dr. William Brydon, struggling out of Afghanistan. All the rest of the British occupation force were killed by Afghan tribesmen after a futile attempt to garrison Kabul.

This gripping painting should have hung over the NATO summit meeting last week in Chicago to remind the US and its allies that Afghanistan remains “the graveyard of empires.”

The western forces that occupied Afghanistan in 2001 have failed to achieve their military or political objectives and are now sounding the retreat.

All the empty oratory in Chicago about “transition,” Afghan self-reliance, and growing security could not conceal the truth that the mighty US and its dragooned western allies have been bested in Afghanistan by a bunch of mountain warriors from the 12th Century.

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