The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: afghanistan

The Five Biggest Events To Go Down In 2021

If you turn on the news or visit your social media apps, the world looks a lot like 2020 still. Of course, the one massively sobering difference is Americans are no longer forced to live under a washed-up game show host turned cosplay fascist, treating democracy and the norms of governance like they were occurring in his tawdry casinos. It could be argued that we've been living in a simulation since the onset of the pandemic in 2020 and have yet to find the exit. In any case, 2021 brought some glimmers of hope amid bouts of destructive political partisanship and getting our fractured nation to come to grips with reality amid a never-ending pandemic.

1. January 6th Attack On the Capitol

Capitol Jan 6 | Blink O'fanaye | Flickr

Image via Flickr|Blink O' Fanaye

Saying this year began with chaos would be the understatement of the century. The biggest and most shocking event of our democracy happened less than a week into 2021. Hordes of irate MAGA cultists invaded the Capitol like the barbarians invaded Rome, right as Congress was at work certifying President Biden's unequivocally legitimate election victory in the Electoral College over now-former President Trump, forcing their evacuation. We watched images pour across our screens of defenseless Capitol Police officers trying to thwart this angry mob of Trumpist fanatics, with many of them facing injuries and one officer, Brian Sicknick, suffering a deadly stroke as a result of the chaos. You've got to hand it to the "bLuE LiVeS MaTtEr" crowd for striking an officer with a pole bearing a U.S. flag and dragging an officer down the stairs under the Capitol Dome. The unfolding drama and horror have resulted in lawmakers forming a select committee to investigate what led to the violence of that day, as well as what direct role former President Trump played. Not to mention the hundreds of arrests and prosecutions of the mob participants.

2. A Never-ending Pandemic

Fauci remains optimistic about near-end to pandemic in 2021 - Medill  Reports Chicago

Image via Northwestern University

While most of us thought the world would be welcoming the new year with celebratory events and massive crowds of jovial party goers, the highly contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19 all but killed those plans. Americans thought they'd be back to the daily grind of their lives and, most importantly, be able to be with their friends and families without having to don a biohazard suit. The fallout from Omicron complicates the promise of a president who vowed to get the pandemic under control. While President Biden acted valiantly and did much to mitigate the pandemic, plague fatigue and a large chunk of the citizenry stupidly devoted to refusing the vaccine and embracing baseless conspiracies will challenge the president and Democrats in the upcoming midterms.

3. The US Exit From Afghanistan

Soldiers assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force 76 are shown exiting a CH-47 Chinook

Image via US National Archives

An amazing thing happened over the summer: Millions of average Americans suddenly went from being infectious disease experts to foreign policy experts. Indeed, President Biden's smart decision to finally end our involvement in a 20-year war was met with a flurry of unfounded criticism from would-be experts, especially given the rather chaotic execution of the departure. The majority of Americans wanted out of Afghanistan and former President Trump had laid plans to exit the war-torn country even earlier than Biden did. However, the planning and timing of the exit didn't exactly proceed with flying colors.

The Biden administration had thought the U.S.-backed Afghan government would hold on to power for at least six months. However, the Taliban had taken over the country before the final U.S. troops were out of the airport. It represented a major blow for Biden, who had promised weeks earlier that withdrawing from Afghanistan would not lead to a Saigon-like fall. Instead, Biden was forced to watch videos of desperate people fleeing to the airport, with a few plunging to their deaths as they clung to U.S. planes.

4. The Vaccination Fight

File:Anti Vax or mask IMG 3966 (51380804053).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Nothing has shown how unbelievably selfish and despicably partisan our nation has become than the fight to get our population vaccinated. In what can best be described as one part Idiocracy and one part Simpsons episode, we've watched far-right Republicans and deranged conspiracy theorists spout utter nonsense about the vaccine, the CDC, Dr Anthony Fauci, and members of the medical community just trying to do their damn jobs. A year after the miraculous development of effective COVID-19 vaccines, only 61 percent of the nation’s population is vaccinated, which clearly represents the danger of misinformation (Horse dewormer, anyone?) that infects social media like Covid itself.

Not surprisingly, the majority of the anti-vaxx noise is coming from far-right and GOP circles, thus proving the Republican party has become a death cult. Things have gotten so utterly insane that many of Trump's loudest cult members are raging against their own cult leader for his embrace of the vaccine, booing him at events and going after him on social media. At this point, it almost seems fitting to build a wall around the anti-vax crowd and make Fox News pay for it. But seriously, the CDC points out that vaccinated people are 14 times more likely to die from COVID-19 complications. Biden has done all he could to convince these selfishly stupid (and they are stupid) Americans to get vaccinated, but it's up to Darwin now.

5. Inflation

Forecasts Archives - PIDE Blog

Image via Pakistan Institute for the Development of Economics

Shutting down the world economy for nearly a year has had devastating impacts on the price of goods, especially as everything opened up all at once. Prices in 2021 rose at the fastest rate in 40 years, creating enormous problems for President Biden and his agenda. Government stimulus checks and other measures were desperately needed during a raging pandemic, but the rapid printing of money has spaned hyperinflation. It was a catch 22, but one that could not be avoided.

A shortage of workers contributed to wage gains, but more price hikes at restaurants and hotels. Notwithstanding these setbacks to the economy, the stats show the recovery is going well and Biden's economy has seen huge gains.

Obviously so much more happened in 2021, but those events got the most national attention and news time. Let's hope 2022 is far less chaotic.

Michael Hayne is a comedian, writer, voice artist, podcaster, and impressionist. Follow his work on Facebook and TikTok


Right-Wing Media Won’t Stop Lying About Afghan ‘Hanged’ From Chopper


Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Multiple right-wing media figures, outlets, and social media users falsely claimed that a viral video showing a man in Afghanistan suspended from a helicopter was an execution by the Taliban. Other footage of the flight showed the man alive and well, and reportedly he was attempting to fix a flag.

This narrative is just one example of multiple falsehoods spread by conservatives to attack President Joe Biden following his decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.

As Media Matters previously wrote, Fox News host Sean Hannity aired the footage on the August 31 edition of Fox News' Hannity, falsely claiming it showed the Taliban dangling a hanged man from a Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan. But Hannity's claim had been debunked before his show aired.

Conservative media personalities and politicians — including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) — also repeated the false claim on Twitter, using it to criticize the Biden administration's decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Cruz later deleted his tweet, writing that the information in it "may be inaccurate."

A tweet by Rep. Jason Smith that reads "On the day that we see innocent people hanging from an American helicopter, the Biden Administration decides to pull out early leaving behind hundreds of Americans and even more innocents to die at the hands of the Taliban. It's unacceptable and heartbreaking."

A Fox anchor along with multiple contributors and guests have also engaged with the false claim, as have other right-wing cable channels like One America News Network and Newsmax, other media organizations and users on fringe social media platforms.

Fox News and Fox Business

  • On August 30, a day before Hannity himself pushed this lie, Hannity guest Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said that "we had a video today of one of our Blackhawk helicopters with somebody hanging from it as it moves through the sky."
  • Also on August 30, guest Elliot Ackerman said on The Ingraham Angle that "we just saw the Taliban flying a Blackhawk helicopter above Kandahar with a dead body hanging from its bottom."
  • On August 30, Fox Business guest Stephen Yates said: "We have today the Taliban hanging someone from a helicopter."
  • On August 31, Fox Business guest Sam Brown said, "We're seeing the reality of the Taliban now flying Blackhawk helicopters over Kabul, hanging their enemy."
  • Later the same day, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich said on The Five, "They are hanging people from our helicopters." Pavlich repeated this later in the show, saying the Taliban have "been using" weapons left behind "to execute our allies who helped us on the ground. … They hung a guy with a helicopter."
  • That evening, Fox Business anchor David Asman was discussing the helicopters U.S. forces left behind and said: "At least one was used yesterday in horrific fashion to hang a human being. We don't know the circumstances of that. We don't know who that person was that was hanging from the helicopter. But in one of the typically sick dimension of the way that these -- the Taliban think, or whoever was piloting that helicopter, that's how they used it."
  • And on September 1, Fox News contributor Charles Hurt said on Fox Business, "The image of our Blackhawk helicopter flying around Kabul with the body of what appears to be a dead person hanging from the bottom of it -- those images get seared into people's minds, and they never forget it."

Newsmax

  • On the August 31 edition of the morning show Wake Up America, Newsmax's Alex Kraemer showed and read a tweet claiming that the Taliban "are now hanging innocent civilians from [helicopters] for the world to see." Later in the show, co-host Rob Finnertysaid: "We saw someone hanging from a helicopter on video. This person was dead."
  • During Newsmax's August 31 midday show John Bachman Now, the host said there are "U.S. Blackhawks reportedly being flown by the Taliban with people hanging from them."
  • Later that day on American Agenda, Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield said the Taliban were "flying people hanging from Blackhawk helicopters yesterday." Later in the show, former Trump spokesperson Jason Miller referenced people in Kabul risking being "flown around the city hanging by their neck off of a helicopter."
  • On September 1, Finnerty repeated this lie on Wake Up America, saying: "We saw somebody hanging from a U.S. military helicopter over Kabul just a couple of days ago."

One America News Network

  • On August 31, the host of OAN's In Focus with Stephanie Hamill said: "There's video circulating online of them in an American helicopter with a man hanging by his neck off of the helicopter." Her guest, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), replied: "That's sick. That is sick."
  • Later on Real America, host Dan Ball previewed the video he claimed shows "the Taliban flying one of our Blackhawk choppers in Kandahar with a body hanging from it" with a long-winded warning about graphic content. He added: "Now, have we vetted it all out? Can I confirm it happened yesterday? I don't know when it happened. It's all over the web. It's from Kandahar. I can't read what that says, but we're getting this from multiple sources of folks that were there on the ground. They confirm it's one of our choppers, they confirm it's from Afghanistan. I don't know who's hanging there, but -- you want to see this stuff come over here? And I'm not trying to fearmonger one bit. I'm keeping it real, folks."

Other right-wing outlets and social media

  • On August 30, Gateway Pundit shared a screenshot of the video on its website along with tweets containing versions of the video, incorrectly claiming that "today the Islamists used US helicopters to hang 'traitors' in Kandahar Afghanistan" and argued that the Taliban was "openly mocking" the U.S.
  • On August 31, the New York Post published the video on its website along with an article that said "it is not immediately clear exactly how [the person in the video] is attached or if he is alive." The piece then quoted "some journalists" who it says "insisted that it showed someone who had been hanged — and then paraded in the skies."
  • The video of the helicopter and screenshots from the video also spread on several fringe right-wing social media platforms between August 30 and September 1, including Gab, 4chan, and Patriots.win. This content was also shared widely among right-wing users on the messaging app Telegram. Many of these posts criticized the Biden administration, with one Patriots.win user claiming, falsely, that the Taliban was "flying [a] Biden-provided Blackhawk helicopter…while hanging someone from it." This post quoted a tweet stating that "it's an absolute shitfest to see the Taliban now actually flying US BlackHawk helicopters, hanging people by the throat from them!! The American President will never be forgiven for this!!"
Research contributions from Leo Fernandez and Bobby Lewis

With Afghan Pullout, US Ends Its 'Forever Wars'

Washington (AFP) - Joe Biden's pullout from Afghanistan has stunned with its speed, but Washington already decided four years ago that it was fed up with “forever wars” and turned its attention to traditional great power competition with China and Russia. Fighting stateless terror groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State consumed the US security establishment, and trillions of dollars, since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Biden predecessor Donald Trump came to office in 2017 promising to quit Afghanistan, calling the war there a "mess" and a "waste." The conflicts there and in Iraq had come to ...

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Bipartisan Legislators Urge Biden To Evacuate Imperiled Afghan Allies

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A bipartisan coalition of House members that includes U.S. military veterans is continuing to call on the Biden administration to quickly evacuate Afghan allies ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan in September, writing in a follow-up letter to President Joe Biden that "[o]ur Afghan friends and allies are at greater risk than ever before."

"In the past month, we have been closely following your developing withdrawal plans," members of the Honoring Our Promises Working Group write. "We appreciate the complexity of ending the War in Afghanistan, but we are increasingly concerned that you have not yet directed the Department of Defense be mobilized as part of a concrete and workable whole of government plan to protect our Afghan partners."

While the working group was created earlier this year with a goal of expanding the special visa program benefiting Afghans who assisted U.S. military, they say the approaching withdrawal deadline necessitates immediate action from the Biden administration. "The current SIV process will not work. It takes an average of 800+ days, and we plan to withdraw in less than 100 days." That timeline threatens to leave behind thousands of applicants who put their lives at risk to aid our military, lawmakers say.

"After examining this situation through multiple hearings, briefings, and our own offices' research and outreach, our bipartisan working group has concluded that we must evacuate our Afghan friends and allies immediately," they write. "No U.S. entity—to include the Department of Defense, Department of State, USAID, et al.—has the ability or authority to protect them in Afghanistan after our withdrawal. It would be a moral failure to transfer the responsibility to protect our Afghan partners onto the shoulders of the Afghan Government. The time is now to honor our promise and evacuate Afghan SIV applicants."

Like veterans groups and refugee resettlement groups, the working group noted the U.S. has evacuated a large number of vulnerable people in the past, and has the capability to do so again. "The United States has conducted evacuations at a far greater scale before," legislators write, including the evacuation of roughly 130,000 Vietnamese refugees during the Ford administration. Smaller evacuations also occurred during the Clinton administration, including 20,000 Kosovar Albanians in 1999. "We have experience with this type of evacuation in times of crisis, and the current environment in Afghanistan clearly merits such action," legislators said.

"If we fail to protect our allies in Afghanistan, it will have a lasting impact on our future partnerships and global reputation, which will then be a great detriment to our troops and the future of our national security," legislators tell the Biden administration. "Veterans in Congress understand this firsthand: when we recruited our Afghan friends, we promised to have their backs. The Honoring Our Promises Working Group stands ready to provide support and oversight for this critical mission." A full list of working group members is available here.

In its letter to the Biden administration last month, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) said "the U.S. must fulfill its commitments to our Afghan allies and work urgently to ensure their and their families' safety. Veterans' groups, national security experts, and legislators agree that we must honor this commitment. Our allies put their lives on the line to support our troops because they believed in the U.S. mission. We must show Afghans and the rest of the world that the U.S. will follow through on our word."

"Through their allegiance and faithful service, these wartime allies and their families have long been the targets of anti-American violence and persecution," LIRS President Krish O'Mara Vignarajah warned in her recent op-ed in The Washington Post. "The omnipresent threat of retribution, tragically, has only grown in the face of imminent U.S. withdrawal."

Obama’s Afghan Failure Underlines Biden’s Hard Choices Now

Shortly before becoming vice president, Joe Biden traveled to Afghanistan in his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. When he returned, he had a succinct assessment of the situation there: "a real mess."

When he takes the presidential oath on Jan. 20, Biden will find not much has changed. He will find himself saddled with a host of serious problems — a raging pandemic, a struggling economy, a toxic political environment — that are largely the fault of Donald Trump. But the blame for being stuck in Afghanistan lies mostly with Barack Obama.

Read Now Show less

Will Biden End Wars That Trump Prolonged?

If you listened long enough to Donald Trump during his first presidential campaign, you could find grounds to hope that he would make some badly needed changes in American foreign policy. After the catastrophe of the Iraq War and the dismal slog of Afghanistan, Trump promised a different approach.

"We're getting out of the nation-building business and instead focusing on creating stability in the world," he said. "We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about," he vowed, promising "a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy."

Read Now Show less

International Criminal Court Condemns Trump’s ‘Unacceptable Attempt To Interfere’ With Prosecutions

The International Criminal Court has condemned the Trump administration's decision to authorize sanctions against court staff, saying it amounted to "an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court's judicial proceedings."

An executive order by Donald Trump announced Thursday authorizes sanctions against ICC staff investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Read Now Show less