So damn sad. That’s the one and maybe only observation on which we can all agree about the suicide bombing outside Kabul airport Thursday that killed 13 U.S. Servicemen among more than 170 people – with another 200-plus wounded.
It was of course a tragedy, but one that has only been made worse by the inevitable partisan bickering and finger-pointing. Just look at these lead editorials published Friday in two of America’s leading newspapers: The Wall Street Journal called it a “massacre,” while The Los Angeles Times referred to it as a “tragedy”
It was both. Things are not so black and white. Or red and blue.
The journal wrote: “The jihadist attack that everyone feared finally happened… President Biden spoke for the country Thursday in his expression of empathy and loss, but he can’t duck responsibility for the failure to provide enough force to execute a safe evacuation.”
My question: would any amount of force, given the positioning and nature of the Kabul airport, have enabled the safe evacuation of everybody?
The journal continues: “What a position for the U.S. to be in: relying on the victorious enemy that has spent years trying to kill Americans to detect jihadists bent on killing Americans.
That’s a pretty stunning – and true – statement, but: what is the alternative? We are committed to leaving, we are more concerned about ISIS-K, therefore we buddied up with the Taliban based on the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The editorial concludes by saying the massacre “compounds the botched withdrawal” and jihadists are on the attack, and not only in Afghanistan. Well, I hope there’s no truth in that – but say that there is. What was the alternative? Staying longer, defying the agreement, and putting more lives at risk.
Now to the LA Times: “The attacks are not, however, the work of the Taliban… nor are the attacks a sign of failure by the Biden administration, as a host of armchair critics, Washington commentators and Republican cynics have suggested. We support Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Aug. 31, and his insistence on sticking to that deadline.”
The Times pointed out: We got 100,000 people out, an incredibly complex logistical undertaking. The Afghans were unwilling to fight for themselves.
Two key lines: “no war ends with a completely smooth, bloodless withdrawal,” and “isn’t this a god-awful tragedy? Yes. Also an inevitable one.”
I buy into the inevitability argument, but still…doesn’t President Biden own the way the evacuation was handled?
To that point, I found his exchange Thursday with Peter Doocy of Fox News to be revealing.
Doocy: “Mr. President, there had not been a U.S. Service member killed in combat in Afghanistan since February of 2020. You set a deadline, you pulled troops out, you sent troops back in, and now 12 marines are dead. You said the buck stops with you. Do you bear any responsibility for the way that things have unfolded in the last two weeks?”
Biden: “I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened of late, but here’s the deal. You know, I wish you would one day say these things, you know as well as I do, that the former president made a deal with the Taliban that he would get all American forces out of Afghanistan by May 1. In return the commitment was made – and that was a year before. In return, he was given a commitment that the Taliban would continue to attack others but would not attack any American forces.”
The president was trying to have it both ways. First saying he bears responsibility but in the next sentence pointing a finger at Donald Trump.
As the National Review’s Charles B. Cooke tweeted: “Biden’s position is that this sort of thing was always going to happen, which is why it caught us by surprise, which underscores why we’re leaving, and that’s why we need to strike back, so the mission will go on.”
Thursday night on Fox News, President Trump placed the blame squarely on Biden.: “This tragedy should never have taken place. It should never have happened. And it would not have happened if I were your president.”
Like I said, I believe in inevitability, so I can’t accept what Trump said either.
I’m sure there were better ways to stage this withdrawal. But I’m also pleased we’re getting out. If I sound like I’m speaking in circles, maybe I am. But I prefer to call that nuance.
To me, the situation is best summarized by a caller to my radio show Friday – Don in Salt Lake City – who is the father of a marine currently stationed in Afghanistan.
“We just want to get all the Americans and those who helped us out, and he says “I’ll stay if it even takes my life.” and I’m as an American parent, I say hey, everybody needs to stop tearing this country apart, let’s hang together, let’s stop quarterbacking on what we think should have happened. What’s happened has happened, there’s no way of going back… And I hear people call in and they just want to trash Republicans or ‘Democrats are a joke,’ and it’s just a continuation of this hate we have for one another, when there are people on the ground trying to save America’s interests, and Americans, it just drives me fucking nuts.”
He’s right of course. Like I said….The only thing certain is that: “It’s just so damn sad.”
Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.