Looking like oversized versions of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Generals Lloyd Austin and Mark Milley lumbered onto the stage for a press conference a couple of days after the U.S. military debacle brought the 20 years’ war in Afghanistan to an ignominious end.
In girth, they might be considered imposing figures. General Austin seems perpetually clothed in black, which has become the fashion statement for the Biden-Harris administration. General Mark “Thoroughly Unmodern” Milley all but bursts out of his old khaki-colored uniform, festooned with row upon row of military ribbons that add even more weight to his persona. Big bags under his piercing eyes give him an ominous appearance.
Shambling General Austin — or let’s just call him “General,” as Biden does — seems to be lower-key, answering questions with what appears to be a sense of weariness. In sum, both brass bigwigs come across as a tad tarnished and unfit for duty — as though the last battle they waged took place, say, during the War of 1812.
Far be it from me, perhaps, to criticize men who have served their country as a career. On the other hand, far be it from them to feel themselves above criticism by those who have not.
The pair’s main message at their press conference was that war is hell. Anything can happen, and, unfortunately, in Kabul, it did. In an earlier address to the nation, secretary of state Antony Blinken — of the triumvirate “Winkin’ (Kamala), Blinkin’, and Nod (Joe Biden)” — put it even more simple-mindedly by calling withdrawals from foreign countries like Afghanistan “messy,” as though they were finger-painting sessions. I suppose what really got “messy” were Blinken’s vacation plans in the Hamptons, since it’s doubtful that he had a black suit with him at his beach retreat when all Hell broke loose.
The first postmortem order of duty was for those who hadn’t taken command to eulogize those who lost their lives because of it. Not enough could be said for their bravery, their devotion to duty, and our everlasting gratitude for how they made the rest of us safer. But it all came out canned. And, unfortunately, the rest of us do not feel at all safer now, knowing that the “concluded” war in Afghanistan could reignite elsewhere, perhaps even in the form of another 9/11-style attack on American soil.
General Milley lectured us on how tough it is to be a military leader, how others had died or been damaged — some of them under his command — in this score-of-years conflict. He assured us, however, that none of them had died or been wounded in vain. But it is hard to swallow his high-flown rhetoric when, in effect, America hurried from its latest mission with its tail between it legs.
Like Bill Clinton, the culpable players in the Biden administration are now trying to assure everyone that they “feel your pain.” Instead, they come across as old -time schoolmasters who pull down the trousers of an errant student while assuring him that the punishment will hurt them more than it will him. We’re all in this terrible thing together, after all, as we were with COVID-19.
Several of the grieving parents who met with President Biden remarked that he spent more time talking about the tribulations of his own son, Beau, than he did of their Marine children who had just perished in the line of duty at the Kabul airport.
We’ve all heard the Beau story many times before. The last time the president mentioned it, he could not recall whether Beau had served in the Army or Navy, in Iraq of Afghanistan. In fact, Beau Biden, a politician, lawyer, member of the Delaware National Guard, and major in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, was deployed to Iraq in October 2008, the day after his father condescendingly faced Sarah Palin in the only V.P. debate of that election.
Ironically, Joe is on record as saying at the time, “I don’t want him going. But I tell you what. I don’t want my grandson or granddaughters going in fifteen years, and so how we leave makes a big difference.” Ultimately, he did not live up to his words.
Beau Biden spent a year’s deployment in Iraq fulfilling his active-duty stint and at the same time serving as Delaware’s attorney general. His tragic, untimely death a half-dozen years later was from a brain tumor, which then–vice president Joe Biden suspected was caused by his son’s exposure to the burn pits or other toxins while serving overseas, although this has never been proven.
However sincere Joe Biden may have sounded about saving future generations from involvement in needless foreign wars, his hasty, humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan does little to assure this, and perhaps much to make it more likely.
One worrisome can of worms pried open by this debacle is whether America’s fighting force, generally recognized as the greatest force on Earth, can be entrusted to our current political and military leadership. Despite the fact that we apparently had in place in Afghanistan and on the home front thousands of intelligence specialists, informants, translators, and cooperative Afghans, none of them, presumably, was aware of an insurgent army marching across the country and heading with speed for Kabul. Or if they were, nobody in authority bothered to listen.
In fact, there are other things that Americans are finding hard to wrap their minds around, like why the more convenient allies-controlled airport near Kabul was abandoned by our military, why our troops were evacuated before civilians were, and why millions of dollars of military equipment was left behind for our enemy to use against our allies or sell to our adversaries. And perhaps most appalling of all — how Western camouflage uniforms are now being worn by Taliban soldiers, grinning in triumph behind their bushy beards.
But nobody in “authority” will admit incompetence, much less resign. No heads will roll. Fingers may be pointed from bureaucrat to bureaucrat, but in the end, they will all be given the thumbs-up.
John Kirby, spokesman for the Pentagon, assures us that “nobody” could have seen what was coming, “nobody” could have imagined the rapidity with which a raggle-taggle terrorist force could sweep in and occupy the major city in Afghanistan. For that matter, “nobody” could have supposed that the well trained Afghan military force, which outnumbered the invaders in spades, would, in the end, cut and run!
In the end, the buck stops nowhere.
There is evidence now of Biden’s “colluding” with the then soon-to-flee Afghanistan president, Ashraf Ghani, in an attempt to change the “perception” of what was going on. But no Democrat members of Congress are likely to attend any hearings regarding that. They are too busy still trying to tie Trump to an “insurrection” staged by a hapless group of unarmed protesters — “domestic terrorists,” they called them — whose misbegotten goal had less to do with revolution than with relevance.
There are so-called “leaders” in this country who have let us down. They may act solemn and knowing. They may tell us we will “learn” from our experience in Afghanistan and “make sure” it will never happen again. But they cannot hide their present incompetence under a bushel of military ribbons awarded for their service in the past.
Image: PBS NewsHour via YouTube.
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