Can we trust Congress to set politics aside and do the right thing?
I get that question from a lot of veterans and military family members.
I will testify on Wednesday as one of the initial witnesses for the long-awaited House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing that will re-visit the botched Afghan withdrawal by discussing the Afghanistan collapse and the impact it’s had on our nation, the Afghan people, and our veterans.
The theme for my testimony is simple.
The U. S. government may not have had the backs of our Afghan Allies, but our veterans did.
For as long as we’ve been a nation, our veterans have been a moral compass for doing the right thing, especially in hard times. When Kabul collapsed on August 15, 2021, thousands of veterans across the country watched the Taliban take back Afghanistan.
Most of these men and women veterans had paid their dues and moved on with their lives. Jumping back into the quagmire of Afghanistan was certainly not part of their military retirement plans.
Yet they did just that, and in a big way. Because they weren’t willing to break a promise that every warrior lives by: “I have your back.”
This hearing on Wednesday will be the first time that the voices of these volunteer veterans will be heard in this kind of public forum.
It’s possible that the whole thing might quickly spiral into the polarized political grandstanding most of us have come to expect.
Even so, a few of us are going to walk in there, take that oath, and speak our truth on the off chance that our political system still honors its social contract with its veterans.
For my part, I intend to drive home the fact that right now, veterans are still holding the line for our Afghan Allies. We are banding together, pooling our resources, and sharing information about best practices on safe passage and resettlement issues. We’re advocating for our Afghan partners.
Because veterans know something about the impact of the Afghan withdrawal that our country seems oblivious to: we might be done with Afghanistan, but it’s not done with us.
As Afghanistan re-emerges as a terrorist safe haven, our national security risk is higher than even pre-911 levels. And no one is talking about it.
Formerly, one of the most-trusted institutions in our civil society, public trust in the military was crushed by the Afghanistan abandonment, dropping from the mid-70s to 56 percent.
Consequently, this has impacted military recruiting and retention. Many recruits come from military families and many veterans. I’ve spoken with dozens of iconic veterans across America, who are advising their loved ones to think twice about joining up.
Humanitarian atrocities that go against every American value of human decency are happening against Afghan women, children, ethnic minorities, and at-risk members of Afghan society in broad daylight, while our government claims to stand for women and other under-represented voices.
Our government left our allies on the side of the road to be killed and then turned the page like it never happened. There have been no efforts to take responsibility for this abandonment or to evacuate the most at-risk Afghans, such as the commandos who fought side-by-side with American troops.
As a result of this moral injury, a violation of what one knows to be right, veteran mental health is plummeting, with an 81% spike in calls to the VA suicide line one year after the withdrawal.
This is not a Democrat issue. It’s not a Republican issue. It’s an American issue.
There is deep responsibility on both sides of the Congressional aisle to set politics aside and act responsibly for accountability and change.
Testimony by a few veterans won’t be enough. If you care about this issue, please contact the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and demand action.
If Congress doesn’t step up in this hearing, this war will follow us home and haunt our society for decades.
Congress, your veterans are watching. Do what’s right.