Appreciating a POTUS who stays out of the way

The coronavirus pandemic has gripped two presidencies hard, which brings me to this thought.

The first president snagged by the pandemic, No. 45, kept stepping into the spotlight and talked over the advice we were getting from the experts he had brought in ostensibly to “assist” him in fighting the killer virus.

He hired a first-rate team. Then he refused to let them do their job, which was brief the public on what they know and how to advise us on dealing with the peril.

The next president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., aka No. 46, has stayed the hell out of the way. He kept a couple of his predecessor’s key medical advisers. President Biden has brought in some experts of his choosing.

The refreshing and, frankly, encouraging aspect of the current president’s modus operandi is that he is letting the experts talk directly to us. He isn’t stepping on their lines. He is not contradicting them. Biden is not hurling epithets, such as “idiot” and “loser” at them.

Yes, we are experiencing a surge in infection. A variant has emerged that has dodged its way out of medicine’s best strategies to deal with it. Children have become a major concern.

However, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, is letting the experts do what they do better than anyone else, which is convey information we need and provide counsel to the nation in need of some level of expertise.

Recalling an expert on Afghanistan

Charles Nesbitt Wilson’s name isn’t likely to pique many people’s interest.

If you say “Good Time Charlie,” or just plain ol’ “Charlie Wilson,” then we’re talking. I am thinking of Charlie Wilson today as the nation watches its longest war end in Afghanistan.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson was a Texas Democrat and a bona fide expert on Afghanistan, its politics, its people and its struggles against foreign powers. He died in February 2010 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

I knew Wilson because of my work from 1984 until 1995 as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise. Wilson represented the Second Congressional District, which at the time included vast stretches of Deep East Texas territory where the newspaper circulated. Thus, he was one of our sources for issues relating to Congress. He and I knew each other well. I respected him greatly; I hope he thought well of the work I did on behalf of our readers.

Before he died, and before he retired from Congress in 1996, Wilson spent much of his career in public life seeking federal assistance to fighters seeking to rid themselves of Soviet domination of Afghanistan.

Wilson rode donkeys through the Khyber Pass with fighters who — regrettably — became the precursors to al-Qaeda. They were called the mujahadeen. They wrote a book and later produced a film called “Charlie Wilson’s War”; indeed, Wilson told me he was thrilled to be portrayed by Tom Hanks in the title role.

In the days after 9/11, I called Wilson at his East Texas home to get his reaction to what happened to us on that terrible day. We spoke for a long time over the phone and Wilson warned me at the time that we were in for the fight of our lives if we chose to go to war in Afghanistan. He knew of which he spoke. He sought congressional aid for the fighters doing battle against Soviet soldiers who invaded their country to prop up the Marxist government.

What might he say about the end of our war in Afghanistan? I am guessing he wouldn’t be shy about saying something like: I told you so. I told you it would be a hard fight. I told you that the Taliban wouldn’t just surrender and disappear from face of the planet.

Charlie Wilson wasn’t particularly bashful about imparting the knowledge he accrued over his years in Congress. I bear him no ill will. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, Rep. Wilson earned the right to rub our noses in it.

It’s over … finally!

Say whatever you wish about the end of the Afghan War.

That we can declare an end to our fighting there is in itself a moment worth saluting. Our longest war came to an end this morning when the last C-17 transport jet took off from Kabul airport, cleared Afghan air space and we declared an end to our evacuation of all U.S. citizens and allies who wanted out.

I have said since we went to war in Afghanistan 20 years ago that there could be no way for us to “declare victory” in the way we were able to do, say, at the end of World War II. Our military brass accepted the terms of surrender of enemy forces in 1945; the fighting stopped and we danced in the streets from coast to coast.

There would be no such celebration after the Korean War, certainly not after the Vietnam War, nor after this war.

Indeed, our war against terrorism is likely to persist, but without the hackneyed “boots on the ground” fighting a cunning enemy.

I will stand with President Biden’s decision to end this war. He knew what his three presidential predecessors — George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump — couldn’t understand. It was time to end a war that had gone badly not long after it started in the wake of the 9/11 attack.

President Bush went to war after 9/11 intending to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban government. He succeeded. He vowed to get the men responsible for the attack on New York and Washington. That task fell eventually to Obama’s national security team that killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Trump’s team got the leader of the Islamic State.

One thing remained constant. The Afghan War kept on going.

Joe Biden took over in January. He assessed the return on the investment we were getting in Afghanistan and determined it was time to end it. Now! So … he did.

Those who write the history of this big day will need time to evaluate all the nuance attached to it. I am going venture out on that limb and presume that history will look more kindly than President Biden’s critics are viewing this landmark day in real time.

It’s over. Thank God in heaven!

Biden deserves credit, not blame

“America’s longest war has been by any measure a costly failure, and the errors in managing the conflict deserve scrutiny in the years to come. But Joe Biden doesn’t “own” the mayhem on the ground right now. What we’re seeing is the culmination of 20 years of bad decisions by U.S. political and military leaders. If anything, Americans should feel proud of what the U.S. government and military have accomplished in these past two weeks. President Biden deserves credit, not blame.”

So says, David Rothkopf, a former senior government official and a writer in an essay published in Atlantic.

Biden Deserves Credit, Not Blame, for Afghanistan – The Atlantic

I happen to agree with him. That’s no surprise, right?

What I want to underscore, though, is that despite the mistakes and the seemingly stumble-bum effort that began the evacuation, the administration, the Pentagon, the CIA have been flying evacuees out of Afghanistan by the thousands. They are holding them in safe places and are processing the evacuees.

None of this will stop the critics from yapping and yammering about the president and his national security team. Has it gone flawlessly? No. Then again, must we expect flawless execution of a withdrawal from a war that was flawed almost from its outset?

City hall project put on ice

Every now and then you see evidence of local government listening to and acting on what it hears from the constituency it serves.

So it happened up yonder in Amarillo, where the city council has postponed any action on relocating its City Hall.

According to a statement published on Amarillo Matters’ site:

After listening to feedback from Amarillo residents, the City Council voted 4 to 1 to withdraw their intent to issue $35 million in certificates of obligation for a City Hall project. In the meeting, Mayor Ginger Nelson said, “There were enough citizens who reached out to say I still have questions.” Nelson added that, “We can take time; I do think it is diligent for us to take more time and spend time answering those questions…I think it’s important for us to listen to what the citizens are telling us and figure out what the best approach is.” In a flip-flop from his earlier vote, Councilmember Cole Stanley was the lone vote to continue the issuance of certificates of obligation and the project.

How about that?

The council had floated a notion of relocating its City Hall. The idea, as I understand it, took more than one form. There was talk about adding it to a bond issue proposal that included renovating the Civic Center. Then the council thought it would issue the COs, which do not require a citywide vote.

Now it has backed off altogether. I guess the current City Hall will have to serve the residents for the time being while the council wrestles with what to do, where to go … and how to pay for it.

That’s a satisfactory, if only temporary, outcome.

Vaccine deniers are falling

Marc Bernier, 65, died over the weekend of COVID-19 complications.

Who was this fellow? He was a conservative Daytona, Fla., radio talker who, um, denied vehemently the effectiveness of the vaccines that are saving millions of Americans’ lives from the killer virus. He refused to be vaccinated.

He is reportedly the third such conservative blowhard to die from the disease.

3rd conservative radio host who condemned vaccines dies of CovidPOLITICOSearchSearchClose

I won’t pile on. I wish his family well as they grapple with the grief of losing a loved one.

There is a profound life lesson to be learned from this fellow’s death. It is that vaccines that have been certified as safe and effective by federal public health officials are worth taking. They will save your life. They also will protect your loved ones and others close to you from exposure to deadly disease.

I have to ask: Do you think Marc Bernier would be alive today had he exercised common sense and stayed away from the right-wing “fake news” propaganda?

‘Over the horizon’ reach? Is it enough?

Although I stand firmly behind President Biden’s decision to end our military involvement in Afghanistan — despite the horrifying rollout of the evacuation plan — I remain concerned about one aspect of our post-Afghan policy and posture.

It’s that “over the horizon” strategy the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence community plan to employ to protect us from terrorists.

We went to war in Afghanistan 20 years ago to rid the nation of the Taliban hosts who gave al-Qaeda safe haven from which to plan and then launch an attack on 9/11. We rid the government of the Taliban. Now we’re giving it back to them. Wise call? Ultimately, it will save us lives, heartache, misery … not to mention money.

How do we plan to conduct intelligence-gathering in Afghanistan with no physical presence on the ground? President Biden assures us we have assets and know-how and resources to confront terrorists if they emerge to pose threats to us.

Thirteen of our military personnel died in that horrific suicide blast the other day. Joe Biden pledged to make ISIS “pay” for its act of terror. We struck ISIS with a drone strike, killing a couple of terrorist planners. Americans should applaud that effort. However, we still have human beings on the ground there.

In just a couple of days our presence will be gone.

What happens then? I know we have the best intelligence gatherers on Earth. Our director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, is among the best of the best at what she does. I retain faith in her ability and in those at the top of the Pentagon chain of command.

They will have to be on top of their game 24/7 … likely forever, if we’re going to remain safe from terrorists intent on doing bringing harm and misery to our shores.

I just hope they can do so “over the horizon.”

Pledge for the ages

Rhetoric uttered in anger and pain, while we are grieving, does at times develop a certain staying power.

Right after 9/11, President Bush stood amid the rubble of what once were the Twin Towers in New York City, draped his arm around a firefighter and told the world through a bullhorn: “I hear you and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

Twenty years later, 13 American servicemen and women died when an Islamic State suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at Kabul airport where the United States has been conducting an evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

President Biden looked sternly straight ahead and said: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

And so, there you have yet another statement for the ages born out of extreme anguish and pain.

Evac strategy is working

I want to share something on this blog that I just saw on another social media platform. It comes from someone who professes to have some knowledge about aviation-related matters.

This person writes:

I want people to think about this for a minute:
Pentagon: U.S. can get up to 30 C-17 evacuation flights out of Afghanistan each day.
16,000 people evacuated in the last 24 hours, about 11,000 of those on military flights.
Have you ever seen a C-17? I know most of my fellow aviation nuts have, but for my friends/family who have not, that is a HUGE aircraft. Absolutely immense. And the USAF is cranking out a full C-17 flight from Kabul every 45 minutes, using a SINGLE runway in enemy-controlled territory, non stop, 24 hours a day right now. This has literally never been done before in the entire history of aviation… the USAF is literally making history. They evacuated more than twice as many people YESTERDAY as we did in the entirety of the Saigon evacuation in 1975.
Anyone who wants to pop off about this being a failure needs to shut their piehole unless it’s to commend the incredibly hard working men and women of the US Air Force, and the ground forces supporting their mission. It started rough, no denying that, but in less than a week, the situation has been stabilized and the mission exponentially increased to a tempo never before seen, not even during WW2. The part that gets me is the logistics of supporting this mission – the ground crews are going full throttle right now, bringing in fuel, oil, fluids and servicing the aircraft as best and as fast as they can. What they are achieving right now is nothing short of incredible.
Thoughts to ponder. Yes?

Listen up, numbskulls

Memo to the numbskulls out there who have resisted taking proven vaccines to guard against the COVID-19 pandemic that is still killing us … I have a message.

If you have declined to take the vaccine but decided to take a whirl with that de-wormer drug, Ivermectin, which is used on livestock — such as horses and cattle and sheep — you are certifiably insane. You need to be committed. You need to have your noggin examined.

Moreover, you won’t get a single moment of sympathy, empathy, sorrow or understanding from me if you suffer any negative side effects from that drug.

There. You’ve been warned.