This week, if you read one thing, it should be George Packer’s “The Betrayal.”
In excruciating detail, Packer lays out the political malpractice (if not worse), bureaucratic missteps and sheer desperation that led to the chaotic scenes in Kabul we all watched with horror last August. Yes, 124,000 people were airlifted out of Afghanistan. But thousands were left behind: U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, Afghans who served alongside our troops, fought for human rights. And, now the United Nations has received “credible reports” that more than 100 Afghans connected to the former U.S.-backed government have been killed since August.
Based on years of interviews with Biden, Packer understood that one of the president’s political superpowers was his empathy. But, as Packer wrote, “The fierce attachments of ‘Middle-Class Joe’ are parochial. They come from personal ties, not universal concerns: his family, his hometown, his longtime advisers, his country, its troops.”
In other words, Packer offered, “The Green Beret [Afghan] interpreter and the girl in the unfinished schoolroom now stood outside the circle of empathy.”
In reality, Biden pushed someone else out of his circle of empathy. Someone who admired Biden for his patriotism and honor. For his support of the troops.
By ignoring the plight of the Afghan allies – and their communities – who supported our armed forces, Biden pushed the U.S. soldiers whose lives depended on them outside his circle of empathy.
These are soldiers who came to know Afghans and Afghanistan in deeply personal ways. The Internet extended the bonds of war beyond the typical parochialism of American empathy. Relationships forged on the battlefield in Afghanistan became deep friendships where, just like anyone else, milestones were celebrated, memories cherished.
With those friendships came loyalty.
So when a chaotic withdrawal takes place and the stories of killings and torture grow, the pain is felt by the veterans who served in Afghanistan. The ones who feel this deep sense of responsibility.
Matt Carpenter is one of them.
After digesting Packer’s piece, he tweeted, “Reading this hurt so badly.”
“While the news cycle moves on,” Matt continued, “please don’t forget the thousands of our friends and allies that have been left behind to face a living hell. We owe it to these people and their families to do everything possible to support them, as they supported us ”
I first talked to Matt Carpenter and Rick Stockburger, veterans of the war in Afghanistan, for an episode of Only in America.
Rick told me that Afghan interpreters, “Fought alongside of us. They talked besides us.”
And, just as importantly, he said, “When we were in combat, there was an interpreter who believed in what America had to offer next to me.”
When chaos broke out in Afghanistan last summer, Rick, Matt, Ivett Zsuro, Imogen Canavan and others came together to help former combat interpreters escape Kabul. Through Facebook, WhatsApp, Signal and other platforms, they created an organizing infrastructure, developed standard operating procedures for families in need, advised foreign legal groups working with prosecutors, judges, and human rights defenders left behind.
Ultimately, they helped approximately 200 Afghans find safety outside the country.
For the Afghans who made it out, the evacuation was freedom. But for Matt, Rick and others, the evacuation was honor and healing.
The evacuation is not done. Nor is the healing.
The team recently launched Veterans Enduring Freedom to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghan friends and allies, as well as others that may be in need of support.
They have developed partnerships with governments to help facilitate exits from Afghanistan. And, for those who are stuck, hoping to cross a border a safety, they organize food and support, and have helped several who were victims of kidnappings and even those who survived gang-rape situations and needed discreet, emergency medical care.
Please take a minute to support their work here.
It costs them roughly $300 per month to help one family. I’m pitching in today to help one family. Please join me.
But we have forgotten about those who are still in danger. Whether it be fear of the Taliban or fear of starvation.
The president may have cast Afghans – and the Americans they served alongside – from his circle of empathy.
We can bring them back in.