As inevitable waves of criticism pounded from every quarter, for both the withdrawal and how it was carried out, President Biden ended one of America’s forever wars. The President’s levies seem to be holding. The US carried out an historic airlift of over 122,000 Americans, vulnerable Afghans, and Special Immigrant Visa applicants. My son-in-law, who served a tour in Afghanistan as a US Army medic, refers to those invaluable Afghan interpreters as “terps.”
While the United States may have withdrawn, I have some assurance that the Afghanistan forever war continues to haunt its soldiers and their families. Among those who survived, the number of physically and mentally harmed and with permanent disabilties is astonishing. During his speech on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Biden repeated the disturbing statistic that every day a combined 18 US soldiers and veterans end their lives.
Do the math.
In a single year, that’s more than double the number of people killed on 9/11 and approaching triple the number of US soldiers killed during the 20 years in Afghanistan.
Untitled, Pencil on Paper, 18" x 20", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
History will judge whether the Biden Administration made mistakes in planning and executing the withdrawal. Admittedly, it has considerable work left to do. Unfortunately, that work includes disarming and dismantling landmines Trump set to thwart the new administration from succeeding, including to prevent Afghans who provided vital aid to the US military from immigrating to and assimilating in the United States. In the minds of Trump and Steven Miller, they are the wrong kind – and color – of religious extremists. They’d probably even vote for Democrats if they had the chance.
It’s not inconceivable that Sydney Powell told at least one judge they already did.
We don’t know the outcome of different decisions, ones President Biden didn’t make. With past as prologue, however, Mr. Trump’s record – disastrous incompetence, dishonesty, destruction and death, self-absorption, and consorting with demagogues, authoritarians, and even enemies of the United States – should reasonably assure every fair-minded person that the Afghanistan withdrawal was a finely tuned, well-oiled machine compared to what it would have been under Trump. And under Trump, into the millions more Americans would be dead from COVID and its vaccine-resistant variants, as Trump would continue gaslighting the gullible, the stupid, that his string of continuing failures was nothing short of the greatest successes in the history of successes.
Speaking of gullible and stupid, Jake Tapper recently scolded President Biden for scolding the unvaccinated. Tapper extended them absolution because they were lied to. That they were lied to gives them zero excuse from personal responsibility for vetting the information they choose to consume, one spoonful at a time. No one can reasonably conclude that chance is why roughly 99% of the growing number of COVID deaths are among unvaccinated people. No one can rationally believe it a coincidence that unvaccinated people in the counties where Trump won by the biggest margins are the counties with the highest number of COVID deaths. But for super-spreaders, viral mutations into vaccine-resistant variants, and the overconsumption of increaasingly scarce health care resources, I’d say the problem is solving itself. Looks like the pandemic, now endemic, has become its own forever war, as has our battle with stupidity, selfishness, and hubris.
Yes, I'm angry.
I work in a law firm, among very thoughtful and intelligent people. One of my partners, a conservative, is familiar with my politics, that I write a left-of-center blog, and that I sit on the board of the local ACLU affilite. Every now and again, when he has an opening (or thinks he does), he takes a swipe. One during Trump had to do with NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem. I wrote a post about it, Maybe More of Us Should be Taking a Knee
Recently, my friend commented on what he believed to be President Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Assuring me his comments were not political, he said he’s concerned the US is now more vulnerable than ever to extremist terrorism. Presumably, he had in mind only the foreign kind. I didn’t ask whether he thought the US should invade and occupy all the countries that dislike the United States and could harbor extremist groups. That’s quite a few.
I have reflected on several subjects my friend has chosen not to discuss with me. They include:
• During Trump, or ever for that matter, my friend has never mentioned to me his concern over the not infrequent police killings of unarmed Black men.
• During Trump, or ever, my friend never mentioned anything about Trump’s blatant bribery and extortion of Ukraine to cheat – to help him create a false narrative about Mr. Biden in the leadup to the 2020 election.
• During Trump, or ever for that matter, my friend never mentioned Trump and the GOPs pre- and post-election scheme to undermine election integrity and advance the Big Lie, despite the scores of failed lawsuits and Barr’s concession that any election fraud was on such a small scale it would have made no difference in the outcome.
• During Trump, or ever, my friend never commented on the attacks on liberal democracy, the assault on the Capitol, the insurrectionist behavior of the January 6 mob, Trump’s and his loyalists’ role in its planning, instigation, and execution, or the 639 and counting federal indictments and criminal complaints against Trump supporters and loyalists.
• During Trump, or ever, my friend has never mentioned the growing division in the country fueled by racism and bigotry, or Trump’s express and implicit endorsement of extremist groups that support white nationalism and supremacy, those who believe and advocate for a civil war as necessary and imminent to preserve their racist view of the American way of life.
• My friend failed to mention homegrown terrorists such as Christopher Paul Hasson, an extremist who is alleged to have planned to murder civilians “on a scale rarely seen in this country,” and had a hit list of prominent Democratic politicians and CNN and MSNBC journalists. He wasn’t just planning to start a race war on American soil to establish a “white homeland.” He was thinking of murder and destruction on a massive scale. "Much blood will have to be spilled to get whitey off the couch. . . . They will die as will the traitors who actively work toward our demise." Hasson’s stash of pristine, fully functional killing machines, displayed below, was, of course, legal for him to possess and own.
My son-in-law took this next photo during his tour in Afghanistan, a cache of seized weapons and gear. Both photos are of weapons meant to kill Americans.
• My friend failed to mention Cesar Sayok, the guy who sent 16 pipe bombs to people Trump had publicly declared were his enemies and enemies of the United States, the guy who pleaded guilty to 65 counts for federal crimes which included using a weapon of mass destruction, interstate transportation of an explosive, making threatening interstate communications, illegally mailing explosives, and using an explosive to commit a felony. See “Stand Back and Stand By”
• My friend has never mentioned, at least to me, the conspiracy to kidnap and murder the Governor of Michigan Gretchen Whitmer.
• My friend has never mentioned, at least to me, that Utah's Attorney General took it upon himself, without consulting his client, to join the State of Utah in a facially frivolous lawsuit to disenfranchise millions of voters, another subject of my blog. See Shame on Lawyers and Attorneys General the Likes of Sean Reyes
I have every reason to believe foreign enemies of the United States and extremist factions would repeat the events of 9/11, or worse, if they could.
My greater and more immediate concern, however, is of the homegrown kind, the growing number of domestic terrorists, the ones fomented, encouraged, and legitimized by Trump. I did not expect it but was pleasantly surprised by former President George W. Bush’s comments during the 9/11 ceremonies yesterday. He was spot on, comparing domestic terrorists to those who carried out the 9/11 attacks:
“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. . . . But their disdain for pluralism, in their regard for human life, in their determination to defile nation symbols – they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”
I have said before, domestifc terrorism is more insidious than the foreign kind. Why? "The country cannot unite against a common enemy but instead divides against itself. Moreover, those of Trump’s followers who were, and continue to be, willing, if not eager, to commit acts of domestic terror when they do not get their way did just that based on the false and seditious claims of those who say and repeat the Big Lie — that the election was rigged and must be overturned."
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. Rob’s second novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming, and Norway, dropped on November 17, 2020. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Bookstore and your favorite local bookshop, this novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community. I have read the novel and listened to the audio version twice. It is a literary masterpiece. The Contortionists is not, however, for the faint of heart.
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in many traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his artwork. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers.