― Donovan, "There Is a Mountain"
For the past two weeks Afghanistan has loomed like a mountain in the American consciousness. But prior to the fall of Kabul on August 15 and the subsequent nonstop images of the storming of the Kabul airport by more than a hundred thousand desperate people trying to escape, when did any of us last give a thought to Afghanistan? A year and a half ago when Donald Trump ceded to the Taliban and promised to remove all American troops from Afghanistan by May of 2021? Last May when one Afghan military post after another began surrendering to Taliban forces, villages and towns along the way falling like dominoes?
Or wasn't the last time Afghanistan was a mountain in our national mentality actually twenty years ago, after our country was attacked by Al Qaeda, which operated out of Afghanistan?
After 9/11 Afghanistan was huge, news of it was constantly in our eyes and ears. We thought about it, we talked about it. Then a year and a half later the United States invaded Iraq and Iraq became the mountain, while Afghanistan disappeared even though our military continued waging a simmering war there for the better part of two decades.
Until two weeks ago. Now Afghanistan is a mountain again, but America's war there ended yesterday and so it may not be long before Afghanistan disappears again.
Oh, and does anyone know where Iraq went?