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KT McFarland: Biden's Afghanistan speech was a chance to speak to a nation in pain. It utterly failed

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Tuesday President Joe Biden made the most important speech of his presidency. Americans and the world watched as he threw away his one chance to rise above his tragic withdrawal from Afghanistan and bring Americans together after 20 years of war. 

No one expected him to be Winston Churchill rallying the British after Dunkirk nor Abraham Lincoln consoling the nation after the slaughter at Gettysburg, nor did anyone expect something like Ronald Reagan’s eulogy at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier a decade after the tragic Vietnam War. But he could have at least been straight with us.

Instead of speaking to a nation in pain, President Biden made this speech all about himself. He dodged and weaved, blamed others, and even claimed our evacuation from Afghanistan was a great success, while most everyone else saw it as an unmitigated disaster.

He should have left that kind of speech for another time and place. There will be investigations, finger pointing, and recriminations in the days ahead.  Hopefully those responsible for how the administration ended the last 20 years of American involvement in Afghanistan will be held responsible and made to account for their actions.

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But on this day we needed our president to rise above the petty politics of Washington’s “swamp” and speak directly to the men and women who fought and bled in Afghanistan, to the gold star families whose loved ones gave their lives, and to the world bracing for what will come next in Afghanistan and the region. 

We needed him to reassure us that their sacrifices were not in vain. The failures in Afghanistan were not of their making, but due to the deliberate and inadvertent mistakes of our senior military and political leaders.

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We needed President Biden to admit defeat. We failed to build a modern democracy in Afghanistan. Despite our efforts, we failed to destroy Islamic extremism, or even al Qaeda’s heirs.

We needed him to rise to the power and majesty of his office and confer on our men and women the blessing of a grateful nation. 

He did not.  

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President Biden may not have intended to, but his remarks personified the failures of 20 years of the war in Afghanistan. Our leaders made mistakes that cost people their lives, but those leaders were never held accountable. 

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They were never straight with us. They cared more about their legacies, their reputations, their personal popularity, than they cared about the American people.  

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The men and women who served in Afghanistan deserved better than this. So did the American people. 

May the Good Lord bless the sacrifices of our men and women who fought, bled and died in Afghanistan—because our president did not.

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