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Joe Biden and the death of American empathy

Do not underestimate Joe Biden's decisions over the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan - he knows what he is doing.

Joe Biden gestures during a White House address in which he defended his decisions in Afghanistan. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Two comments on Twitter appeared a few days ago, in relation to Afghan refugees, both tweeted by former Trump enablers:

“Raise your hand if you want this plane landing in your town. America paid unimaginable costs in Afghanistan because of uniparty globalists who dominated the Bush & Obama administrations. No more…”; and…

“It is becoming increasingly clear that Biden & his radical deputies will use their catastrophic debacle in Afghanistan as a pretext for doing to America what Angela Merkel did to Germany & Europe.”

The first tweet was from self-styled, in the 2016 presidential campaign ‘Latino For Trump’, Steve Cortes – by the way, a south side of Chicago homeboy of mine.

Cortes’ father arrived from Colombia to study. That makes him an immigrant, not a refugee. A big distinction in the US, a nation never big on refugees. The US turned down the family of Anne Frank in their attempt to escape Nazi Germany in the late thirties. Because the German quota was already full.

There are things that Americans fear about refugees: that they might be sleepers ready to attack the homeland; and contagion.

Cortes’ tweet illustrated a photo of that American military transport that airlifted over 600 people out of Kabul. The “raise your hand” part of his tweet was about that plane landing at an airport in Illinois; Indiana; etc.
He struck a nerve and he knew it.

The latter tweet was from Stephen Miller, referred to by one commentator on the platform as the “Santa Monica Goebbels”.

Miller is the author of Trump’s child separation policy at the Mexican border. The fascinating part about this is that Miller may not be alive today if his maternal great grandparents, Wolf Lieb Glotzer and his wife Bessie had not escaped the Russian pogroms of 1903. His great grandmother arrived not speaking a word of English.

Mehdi Hassan said on his MSNBC show that Miller’s statement was hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is when you know something is untrue, but pretend that it is true.

Miller and Cortes are born Americans. Americans don’t do hypocrisy. They do belief.

Americans are fine with immigration, even romantic about it. But many do not like refugees and when asked if they want them resettled in their area, that is always a big thumbs down. 

Yet, at some levels, the Afghan catastrophe is becoming an exception to this as more and more Afghanis appear in the media begging for help and more stories and pictures emerge.

The possible plight of women and girls is also of grave concern. And just in general, Americans do not like what the withdrawal looks like.

For those alive at the time, it is too much of a reminder of Saigon, 1975, with helicopters taking off from the roof of the American embassy and the crash of the baby airlift, full of children born to US servicemen and Vietnamese women.

America’s adventure in Afghanistan began with the entire Congress, except one woman, Barbara Lee of California, voting for war. This vote included a “yes” from both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

The US went into the country known as the Graveyard of Empires with the battle-cry from Texas-born George W Bush to “smoke ’em out!” A big US TV franchise, NCIS emerged from this ethos, featuring Navy Seals dealing with terrorism. Americans were all in.

But, for a few years now, polls show that folks in the US believe increasingly that the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting. And many on the far right and the far left agree with this.

Trump ran in 2016 on the right’s mantra that the Democrats were about “forever wars”. He did a deal with the Taliban in Doha before he was voted out of office.

It was he who began the significant drawdown of US troops, and if he had been re-elected would have left, more like John Wayne, pistols drawn and backing out of town towards his waiting getaway horse.

Therefore the Afghan tragedy/fiasco has many daddies, led by POTUS 43, 44, 45 and now 46.

But it is Biden, echoing Truman’s words: “The buck stops here”, who will have the legacy. The horrible images. The complete tragic fiasco of the whole thing.

Many are wondering what has happened to the trademark Biden “empathy”, to the guy who hugs and kisses and cries over the plight of others.

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, a city he always references. This was coal country, now a healthcare and manufacturing hub. It is one of the Ground Zeros of what Americans call the working class – the middle class.

Democrats knew in 2019 that to beat Trump they needed a man from MAGA Land, who understood it and knew how to talk to it. Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania in 2016 and she knew that she had then lost the general election.

Trump won the state by a razor-thin 0.72%. Biden won in 2020 by 1.17%.
All those on the right accusing Biden of being “feeble”, and those on the left who call the guy “evil”, need to understand that this man is a consummate politician.

Plus he has also been a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for decades. Even its chair. He knows the lay of the land.

Biden knew and knows what he is doing. He opted for realpolitik, and the bet that the world will move on.

His focus is on the pandemic and US infrastructure. The homeland
Because what Americans call “overseas” always was and still is truly foreign to them.

We can sometimes be like the title of that novel by Milan Kundera: The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting.

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