[There was a transcription error in the earlier presentation here – corrected now]
…[T]he invasion was not undertaken to overthrow the Taliban. That was an afterthought, added after three weeks of bombing. A [main thing to consider], is that the invasion was undertaken with the recognition that it might drive literally millions of people to starvation and death, which makes it a major war crime.
The fact that the worst didn’t happen has nothing to do with the justification for the actions, clearly. Actions are evaluated on the basis of likely consequences, not whatever may have happened. We don’t go out on the streets praising Khrushchev every October because the missiles he put in Cuba did not lead to a nuclear war, as was not unlikely (and came close to happening), and deterred a further US invasion of Cuba. Nor do we celebrate Pearl Harbor Day because the effect was to drive the Western powers out of Asia (which is why Japan received plenty of local support), saving uncountable millions of lives and making it possible for the region to resume economic development after the imperial powers were kicked out. An additional reason for opposing the invasion at the time was given by anti-Taliban Afghans, very vociferously, including US favorites: the US was carrying it out just to "show its muscle" and intimidate the world, and the invasion was undermining their own efforts to overthrow the Taliban from within, which they were confident they could do (and in retrospect looks possible). There is actually a parallel in this respect with Iraq. The US seriously undermined popular Iraqi efforts to overthrow Saddam from within, insisting either on a military coup by its friends or outright invasion (that included two huge crimes: supporting Saddam’s crushing of the Shi’ite uprising in 1991, with probably tens of thousands of deaths, and the murderous sanctions regime, with hundreds of thousands killed and the society devastated). In both Afghanistan and Iraq, evaluation of choices has to at least compare invasion with permitting internal popular overthrow of a hated regime.
We understand such things very well when others carry out violent acts, but there are next to undiscussable about ourselves.
All that aside, insofar as its population feels that they are better off, we should all be grateful, and should be calling for massive reparations for Afghanistan from the countries that devastated it for the past 25 years, primarily Russia and the US.