# Afghanistan



On double standards and State of the Union addresses

Political reactions to a president’s State of the Union address are as ritualized as the speech itself. Elected officials typically have nothing but praise when the president belongs to their own party, while finding much to criticize about a leader from the other party.

If President Joe Biden’s remarks to this year’s joint session of Congress are remembered for anything, it will probably be the segment where he turned Republican heckling to his advantage, promising to defend Medicare and Social Security from cuts.

In their public statements about the speech, Iowa’s all-Republican delegation criticized what Biden didn’t say about some of their priorities. It’s clear those standards apply only to Democratic presidents.

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The lie wasn't the worst thing Ernst said about Biden, Afghanistan

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst became fodder for fact-checkers last week when she wrongly said of President Joe Biden, “Not once has he expressed empathy and gratitude to the men and women who have put the uniform on and have fought so bravely overseas the last 20 years to keep our homeland safe. And I feel that by not acknowledging his gratitude for them, he’s diminishing their service.”

Before demolishing Ernst’s claim as “plain false,” CNN’s Daniel Dale pointed out that Ernst had pushed the same talking point on Fox News in August, “saying Biden has ‘yet to fully, fully thank the men and women that have served in the global war on terrorism” and declaring that ‘Joe Biden is a disgrace not to thank these men and women that have protected us.'” Dale found six examples of Biden publicly expressing his gratitude to military service members just in the past five months.

As shameful as it is for Iowa’s junior senator to lie repeatedly about the president, another part of Ernst’s short September 1 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper was arguably more dangerous.

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Quick hits on issues of the day

Herb Strentz on Afghanistan, what it means to be free, and a counter-intuitive place to look for hope and optimism.

One way to cope with overwhelming issues and events of the day is to hide someplace, until the storms blow over.

But of course, they won’t blow over. And even if we think they will, it’s better to try to understand what is happening and what we might do about it.

To that end, here is some brief food for thought on issues of the day.

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Republicans send Trump's Afghanistan policy down memory hole

As the Taliban took full control of Afghanistan in recent days, every Iowa Republican in Congress condemned President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out the last remaining U.S. military personnel.

None acknowledged that former President Donald Trump committed to a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops when his administration signed a deal with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, in February 2020. In fact, Baradar–the next leader of Afghanistan–was released from a jail in Pakistan in 2018 “at the request of the Trump administration as part of their ongoing negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, on the understanding that he could help broker peace.”

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Photojournalist: U.S. errors long preceded Afghanistan withdrawal

Fabrice Moussus covered warfare and unrest in the Middle East for decades, working as the go-to videographer for ABC-TV and other news networks.

I went to Afghanistan in 1996, when the Taliban had taken over most of the country for the first time. I went back a few times and again in 2002, after the U.S. had taken over and chased out the Taliban.

President George W. Bush overreacted after 2001, in my opinion. He and the U.S. allies never stated what their long term objective was. They thought the military would solve the problem. But as in many of these countries, the problem was multi layered.

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Ernst, Grassley silent on reported bounty on U.S. troops in Afghanistan

As Donald Trump’s presidency continues to spawn scandals that would seem farfetched as a movie plot, top Iowa Republicans remain silent whenever possible on news that reflects poorly on their party’s standard-bearer.

The latest shameful example: U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have said nothing in public about reports indicating a “Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.”

Ernst’s silence is particularly striking, since she built her political brand on (and still frequently invokes) her career of service in the Iowa National Guard.

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