There is legitimate criticism emanating from liberal circles regarding the timing and execution of this country’s departure from Afghanistan, a country which the vast majority of Americans have more or less ignored for well over a decade. Yes, losing a war seldom provides an endearing legacy of photographic moments. That’s why George W. Bush kicked the can down the road when the time came to declare our mission accomplished in a war he didn't bother to figure out how to end; that’s why President Barack Obama also kicked the can down the road, and why Donald Trump kicked the same can. No one wanted to be left standing when the music stopped in this 20-year version of presidential musical chairs.
But of President Joe Biden’s three predecessors, Trump was unique in that he really wouldn’t have risked a single vote from his base, even had the scenes in Afghanistan today been twice as brutal if our departure happened during his administration. Had babies been impaled with bayonets by Taliban soldiers in 2019, or had public beheadings or mass rapes occurred then and been broadcast on YouTube in tandem with scenes of American servicemen and women frantically fleeing for the exits, it wouldn’t have made one bit of difference to Trump voters in 2020.
Nor would it have made any difference to the opportunistic Republican elected officials now rending their garments over their supposed regard for the Afghan people. We know how the story would have played then: Fox News would have placed the blame entirely on Obama. Trump would have been hailed as a tough-minded hero, and all of the objections and outcry from the intelligentsia, The New York Times, and The Washington Post would have been dismissed as liberal noise. By now, we are quite familiar with the way the right-wing playbook works.
So we should view any Republican criticism of Biden’s actions or inactions not only with contempt but with something even more appropriate: utter disregard. The “opinions” of Republican officials—and the vast majority of their voters—toward Biden’s actions to finally extract ourselves from Afghanistan are less than irrelevant.
Put simply, neither Republicans nor the majority of their voters really have any standing to criticize anything Biden does in Afghanistan. They forfeited that right when they willingly lined up in 2020 to vote again for someone whose very obvious, very public, and very malevolent disregard led to the unnecessary deaths of some 400,000 Americans—approximately the same number killed in World War II. They also looked the other way, again and again ignoring hard evidence that Trump and his cronies conspired with security forces under the direction of Vladimir Putin to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. They blinked and found something else to do when news about his corrupt payoffs to women he’d slept with during his marriage and before his election came to light. They winked when all his loathsome family and business cronies looted the American taxpayers’ treasury through his federal agencies and appointments. They laughed at all his nastiness and cruelty towards immigrants. He was Their Guy, and they wanted some more of that.
They liked it when he dissed our NATO allies, insulted our largest trading partner, and generally ran a foreign policy concocted to please white Evangelicals, such as the religiously fanatic founders and owners of Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A. One that heaped slavish praise on corrupt, brutal thugs like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Mohammed bin-Salman. This was all a-okay with them—not a peep of protest from any Republican who mattered.
But it got worse. When Trump conjured up a baldfaced lie about election fraud, they put the country through months of frivolous attempts to intimidate and cajole various states into lying about their results. They organized protests, sometimes violent, at his behest, threatening election officials, the same way they organized and inspired violent protests against states’ attempts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. They found common cause with America’s most despicable specimens: neo-Nazis and white supremacists, all of whom eagerly joined in, basking in the limelight of their newfound approval. Meanwhile, they blocked the transition to the election’s rightful winner, all out of spite and contrived lies.
And then, they stood idly by—elected officials and Republican voters alike—when Trump instigated a violent insurrection on the Capitol, killing outright or leading to the deaths of multiple police officers. In the aftermath, most of them stayed silent, implicitly or explicitly condoning the violence and, in many cases, actively supporting it, with most of them (Republicans in the House, in particular) perfectly willing to decertify the results of a legitimate American election.
Such un-American behavior hadn’t been seen or condoned by so many in this country since the Civil War. It’s almost as if a light bulb went off in millions of Republicans’ heads. They woke up one morning, looked in their bathroom mirrors, and said, Hell, why not betray my country some more? Especially since the election hadn’t gone the way they wanted.
Afterward, they seized on that same lie to institute a coordinated and ongoing attack on our elections for the sole purpose of keeping themselves in power by disenfranchising Democratic voters. Talk about un-American: It’s practically the definition of the word.
And now these same people have the temerity—the gall, in fact—to criticize President Biden for doing what their own hero Trump didn’t have the cojones to do? Something that, if he’d done it, they’d have found some way to exalt him for? As if these Republicans have any right or legitimacy to weigh in on anything affecting America’s standing or its legacy?
Sorry, but these people have no standing to criticize Biden on anything, least of all Afghanistan (a war started and needlessly perpetuated by a Republican president), even if and when he makes an error in planning and finalizing our exit from that war. They lost that right when they turned their backs on the country and every decent thing it ever stood for. If Trump had done the same thing, they would have found a way to rationalize it, approve it, and lionize him for it. There is no “loyal opposition” when the opposition is fundamentally disloyal to any semblance of American principles to begin with.
So their criticisms should be given as much consideration as they deserve.