On Aug. 17, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) tweeted that, “What's happened in Afghanistan over the last few days is tragic and was totally avoidable,” and one can hardly disagree with Cotton on this front.
However, with such a complicated issue that has roots spanning administrations, one cannot place full blame on President Joe Biden. Nonetheless, his decision to create an arbitrary timeline for withdrawal was unwise, and his administration, the military and the Afghans would have been far better off if Biden elected for a conditions-based withdrawal instead.
One would think that based on his sentiments, Sen. Cotton would be among the loudest of those in the Senate aiming to help as many Afghan refugees through this crisis as possible. Instead, he and his Republican colleagues in the Senate have done the exact opposite.
Sen. Cotton and 49 other Republican senators led a vote to cut off aid for housing, food and medical benefits for Afghan refugees by 2023. They similarly sought to cut wording from the bill that would have made it easier for refugees to get driver’s licenses or identification cards. This resolution was stopped only because of the 50 opposing Democratic votes.
One can justly place some blame — even a lot of blame — on President Biden for how the situation unfolded. Yet one might take comfort in knowing that Biden and his party have genuinely committed to bettering refugees’ lives, rather than using them as political props.
This situation highlights the depressing state of American politics. Instead of productively assisting the people of Afghanistan through this tragic situation, Republicans decided that their sole purpose would be to make President Biden look bad.
The rhetoric of the Republican party is so predictable at this point. If one programmed a computer A.I. to mimic a Republican reaction to any controversy that arises, it wouldn’t be far from how this one was handled. Step one is to blame Democrats for what happened and proclaim how much better a job they could have done. Step two is to offer solutions — or sometimes not — that would in actuality make the crisis worse.
Even Cotton’s position is tame compared to that of former President Trump. If the decision was in Trump’s hands, America — the land built on refugees — would take in none at all. To incite irrational fears in support of his position, Trump said in a recent statement that there could be terrorists within the nation.
Of course, claiming things without evidence or reason isn’t exactly new for former President Trump. But considering he’s wasted no time in lambasting Biden for the withdrawal while opposing work to help those affected, his position is cruel and hypocritical. Trump’s position is so extreme that even some Republicans have condemned it, including Sen. Thom Thillis (R-NC).
In all fairness, some moderate Republicans have stepped up to the plate in terms of trying to help refugees. Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) and Charlie Baker (R-MA) , for example, have offered their states as sanctuaries to refugees. Governors, like such — no matter their political affiliation — should be recognized and praised.
Still, it must be said that the Republicans, who are the loudest voices when it comes to criticizing President Biden’s mishap in Afghanistan, are the same ones who would do the least to help those affected.
The United States went into Afghanistan under the pretense of overthrowing the Taliban regime that harbored the Al Qaeda terrorist group responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. They set out to create a new, stable government that would protect the rights of civilians.
The United States took it upon itself to attempt nation-building in Afghanistan. It is profoundly hypocritical that the United States would even consider leaving the people behind who were promised protection from tyranny just because it's no longer as politically convenient for the United States as it once was.
Further, the claim that there may be terrorists among the Afghanistan refugees is nothing more than the fear mongering that has forever been the banal strategy of former President Trump and other far-right Republicans. To this day, not a single person who works in the American homeland security apparatus has warned of an imminent terroristic threat from bringing in refugees. In fact, since 9/11, no lethal jihadist terrorist has been born in Afhganistan.
When this situation started to unfold, one could plausibly conclude that Afghanistan refugees — who have much reason to fear the despotic Taliban — would be welcome here. Instead, large sects of the Republican party seem to believe that the best course of action is to propagate disinformation about the threat of terror attacks and to break the oath we swore to the people of Afghanistan when we invaded twenty years ago.
President Biden — along with other Democrats and Republicans who haven’t completely lost a sense of commitment to people we pledged to help — must work to welcome as many Afghan refugees as the country can logistically handle. The United States already failed the people of Afghanistan by allowing the country to fall back into the hands of the Taliban. The least we can do is give Afghanistan refugees a helping hand when their lives are at stake.
Benjamin Baharlias is a sophomore studying political science. Do you agree that the United States should take in Afghanistan refugees? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org