COLUMN – Nero fiddled while Rome burned
Published 10:00 am Thursday, September 2, 2021
I have no animosity towards President Biden; I wish him well. We disagree on most public policy issues, but I have no reason to believe he is not a gentleman. I can easily envision him standing at a doorway encouraging another person to go first. The subordinate, understanding protocol, would encourage the president to go first. As they go back and forth trying to see who can be more polite, everyone behind them is blocked from getting through the door. I expect that this is the type of problem with our disaster in Afghanistan.
Biden has absolutely no experience in an executive position. His entire career has been in the legislative branch of government except for his years as vice president. There he still had some legislative responsibilities, but, for the most part, his role as vice president was to give speeches and attend funerals that the president did not want to attend.
During those 40 years in Washington, his staff was managed by a chief of staff. Therefore, when he was elected president, he quickly surrounded himself with people that he knew and got along with. Anyone that runs a business knows that it is far wiser to not select subordinates on a basis of friendship but rather on their knowledge of the job that needs to be done. This means people that will not be “yes” men or women but rather those who are willing to challenge your decisions.
If Biden had chosen secretaries of defense and state, a chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and other key advisors that were not “yes” men, I believe they would have pushed back when he decided to close the premier airbase and, instead, operate the evacuation from an airfield which was impossible to defend. I believe that a more capable secretary of state would have insisted on developing a plan to determine how many American citizens were in the country and require an exit strategy plan before any announcements were made. Likewise, a secretary of defense who would demand the same for our troops to safely exit.
Instead, the pollsters that direct the president decided at the last minute, for optic purposes, that we be out prior to the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
We have found that we do have heroes in this mess. First were the front line troops who knew that they could be attacked by snipers as they worked to assist women and children. They were warned that a bombing was planned, but they continued their work to help folks trying to exit. So far, thirteen troops have been lost with many others seriously wounded. They died in service to our nation and to the good people that likely would face death at the hands of the Taliban. Likewise, many Afghans were left maimed or dead, some were children, but others had worked with America to make it better for their fellow citizens.
Another group of heroes are those veterans that did what they were taught to do in their training. They saw military leaders that were hamstrung into inaction in Washington. They risked their lives by returning to Afghanistan and working in secrecy to get as many as 14,000 safely out of the country.
According to one report, our veteran Special Forces have “secretly rescued” hundreds of members of Afghanistan’s Special Forces and their families who had been “left for dead” by the Biden administration. Code named “Pineapple Express,” they were inspired to take matters into their own hands. They first devised a system with U.S. troops at the airport where they sent their comrades to a gate and told them to identify themselves with the password “pineapple” to be flown out.
After getting their former colleagues out, they began venturing outside the U.S. military perimeter around the airport. This was done by defying the Biden administration’s restrictions to rescue colleagues trapped in Kabul city. Moving after nightfall in darkness and dangerous conditions, the group worked unofficially in tandem with the U.S. military and embassy to move people, sometimes one person at a time or in small groups, inside Karzai Airport.
Thankfully, we still have citizens who understand that doing the right thing is the right thing, especially when leadership is stymied and afraid to make decisions.
FRANK RUFF JR. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen. Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.