Joe Biden delivers remarks on the worsening crisis in Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Populist, unrepentant, loose with the facts.
No, we’re not talking about Donald Trump, but rather his successor in the Oval Office.
The utter lack of empathy for Afghan civilians caught up in the unfolding chaos was quite shocking to hear, from a politician who’s previously been called the “emoter-in-chief”, from the man who has cultivated the image of sweet ol’ grandpa Joe over the years.
But what about the substance of his speech? Let’s pick out one of his main arguments:
“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralised democracy. Our only vital national interests in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American Homeland. I’ve argued for many years that our mission should be narrowly focused on counter terrorism, not counterinsurgency or nation building.”
Here’s what Biden himself said back in 2001, when the war broke out: “Our hope is that we will see a relatively stable government in Afghanistan.”
Two years later, in 2003, he laid out this position in starker terms: “The alternative to nation building is chaos, a chaos that churns out blood-thirsty warlords, drug traffickers and terrorists.”
Biden tried to shift blame for the abrupt withdrawal of troops to the deal that Trump struck with the Taliban. But as late as April this year, his vice president Kamala Harris praised her boss’s “courage” for forging ahead with the 11 September timetable, calling it “the right thing to do”.
Biden tried to paint his decision as a binary choice: “The choice I had to make as your president was either to follow through on that agreement, or be prepared to go back to fighting the Taliban in the middle of the spring fighting season.”
But again, earlier this year Biden was presented with the option of maintaining 4,500 US troops in the country to keep the peace and support the training of the Afghan military and police. He rejected this.
The only concession in his statement was that the Taliban takeover “unfolded more quickly than we had anticipated”.
It was a brief glimmer of accuracy and humility in a statement which was laced with hypocrisy, arrogance and a deliberate distortion of the truth.
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