The Riot of January 6, 2021

Busloads in Kabul, 1973

Some have been referring to the January 6 events at the capitol building as an “attempted coup.”  This is not an accurate characterization of the rioting and looting by the politically naive wannabe fascists who overran the understaffed police lines, vandalized the building, terrorized our senators, representatives, and their staff, and killed at least one police officer and injured many more. Defecating in the halls, breaking windows, looting and trashing offices while taking selfies does not constitute an attempted coup.

A coup needs the cooperation and active aid of the military, or at least a reasonably disciplined organized military force, and is usually planned in detail. Spontaneous risings or enraged mob actions have historically led to revolution, but that’s a different animal, and usually involves a fair proportion of the population, not the small numbers that participated in the January 6 debacle.

In 1973, while I was a Peace Corps trainee in Afghanistan, there was a successful coup. Fighter planes flew at rooftop level, armed soldiers and tanks were in the intersections. The Kabul airport was shut down. Roads were barricaded and guarded. These were not just a bunch of deluded and privileged folks wandering around in a government building, destroying whatever they could while posting photos on facebook. In stark contrast, the armed forces in the Kabul area abandoned the reigning king, Zahir Shah, who was out of the country, and took the side of the leader of the coup, Sardar Mohammed Daoud.

My recently published novel, The Kabul Conscript, was inspired by my time in Peace Corps, and is set during the time of the 1973 coup.  If you want to get an idea of what that experience was like—at least from the point of a foreigner in Kabul—as well as some historical background of how General Daoud, a much brighter man than Mr. Trump, organized and carried out his overnight takeover of the country, read the Kabul Conscript.

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