Latest installments of the Afghan-disaster chronicles this Friday afternoon, and how fast the week when shit happens. A cascade of events, going from reality to denial.
One note of the extreme measures of getting to the airport — via the Guardian‘s live blog this afternoon:
The Pentagon said on Friday that the US used three military helicopters to bring 169 Americans to the Kabul airport from a building that was just 200m (656ft) away.
John Kirby, the defense department spokesman, said a decision was made to use the helicopters on Thursday because the Americans were unable to get to the gate of the airport. They were picked up from the nearby Hotel Baron, Reuters reported.
Kirby said these were the 169 Americans rescued that Joe Biden mentioned in his speech earlier on Friday.
Kirby, the Associated Press reported, said the helicopters took no hostile fire.
He added that the Americans initially were going to walk the short distance from the hotel to an airport gate, but a crowd outside the gate changed the plan.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden on TV again this afternoon attempting to explain how fucked the situation became, but while at the same time project purpose and stability of the effort. He did a seemingly decent job with the materials he had on hand. As he said Wednesday, there was no real way to get out of Afghanistan “without chaos ensuing,” no matter how or when.
Today, he laid the basis for our historic involvement in Afghanistan — 9/11.
On that speech, Adam L. Silverman at Balloon Juice this afternoon had the way-best, must-read take on it. Silverman writes that Biden was spot-on in the placement of Afghanistan in context to history — this from Biden’s speech:
“Look, let’s put things in perspective here. What interests do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone? We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as, as well as getting Osama bin Laden. And we did. Imagine, just imagine, if that attack, if bin Laden had decided with al Qaeda to have launched an attack from Yemen, would we have ever gone to Afghanistan? Would there ever be any reason we’d be in an Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban? What is the national interest of the United States in that circumstance?”
This is the clearest and most concise strategic assessment of the US’s interests both against al Qaeda and in Afghanistan that I’ve seen any senior elected or appointed official articulate since September 2001.
And the answers to his questions, which are obvious, is that the US would never have begun Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan if bin Laden hadn’t used it as a base of operations to attack the US on 9-11.
Absent that, the US has no national interests in Afghanistan.
It is long past time that an American leader — elected, appointed, uniformed — stated this clearly. Good on President Biden for doing so.
Yet the MSM is missing that fact:
Why is NBC's Chief Foreign Correspondent doing unabashed, rightwing political commentary? And what point does he think he is making, exactly – should the president not be in contact with the ruling regime of a country he wishes to evacuate U.S. citizens from? https://t.co/WptBafff5A
— Eric Levitz (@EricLevitz) August 20, 2021
Levitz at New York Magazine yesterday on how the media’s twist on history (or the lack of contextual history) is allowing Republican war hawks to win the moment, despite the reality. Levitz writes:
Unfortunately, we are currently hurtling toward that latter outcome. In recent days, much of the mainstream media has comported itself as the Pentagon’s Pravda.
Reporters have indignantly asked the White House how it could say that America doesn’t have a vital national security interest in maintaining a military presence near Tajikistan.
NBC’s Richard Engel has devoted his Twitter feed to scolding Biden for suggesting that America’s nation-building project in Afghanistan was always hopeless, and that the Kabul government was “basically a failed state.”
CNN’s Jim Sciutto lamented on Twitter Wednesday, “Too many times, I’ve witnessed the US military attempt to dutifully carry out difficult & dangerous missions left to them by the miscalculations of civilian leaders.”
This sentiment is disconcerting in the abstract, since it seems to suggest that civilian control of the military may be unwise. But it’s even stranger in context.
As we learned just two years ago, American military leaders in Kabul systematically lied to the public about how well the war against the Taliban was going, so as to insulate their preferred foreign policy from democratic contestation.
Twenty years ago, we didn’t have cable and the only TV-news networks available were NBC News and NPR. So during the Afghan invasion, and then the Iraqi war, we had only those news sources, especially NBC with war coverage.
Richard Engel was seen a lot. He’d get into some shitty, scary situations in Iraq, and I’d worry about the boy, dreading having to see he’d been IEDed, or something. However, he survived the war and many other escapades, including a 2012 kidnapping in Syria.
Although he’s still really good with war, up-close-and-personal, lately he seems to be getting testy about shit.
Finally, saw this on a Twitter feed and wanted to scream WTF! — Florida foolishness:
The city of Orlando is asking residents to reduce water consumption IMMEDIATELY. Liquid oxygen used to treat water is being diverted to the hospitals to treat COVID patients. They believe if water consumption doesn’t change, water treatment could hit a critical point in a week.
— Dave Puglisi (@DavePuglisiTV) August 20, 2021
In a nutshell — DeathSantis…
(Illustration out front: Pablo Picasso’s ‘The Weeping Woman [La Femme qui pleure],’ found here)