If it was humility or remorse that Congress expected on Afghanistan, they got neither. In two days of grilling from both sides, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sat through hours of criticism eerily unphased. Even when the embarrassment of the last several weeks was laid out in all of its unflattering glory, Blinken was surprisingly unemotional. The withdrawal, he insisted, was a success. The loss of life, loss of American credibility, and loss of order in the Middle East were just unfortunate side effects of what he calls "the right decision." And the scariest part, Michael Goodwin shakes his head, is that he believes it.
If that's the case, then he and his White House are the only ones. Even Democrats were uncharacteristically stinging in their rebuke of the administration. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was blunt: "The execution of the U.S. withdrawal was clearly and fatally flawed," he argued. "This committee expects to receive a full explanation of the administration's decisions on Afghanistan since coming into office last January. There has to be accountability." Did he support the goal of leaving the country? Absolutely. "I have long maintained, however, that how the United States left mattered. Doing the right thing in the wrong way can end up being the wrong thing."
When pressed, Blinken resorted to the Democrats' default: blame Trump. "We inherited a deadline," he said flatly, "not a plan." Give me a break, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said later. "[The administration] was warned repeatedly that this could spiral very quickly and without warning, and they ignored it, because he wanted a big ceremony on September 11th to brag about how he got us out of the war on the 20th anniversary. And that's what he did." Now, retired General Scott Perry (R-Pa.) insists, they have "blood on their hands" -- the blood of Americans, the blood of our allies, and the blood of Afghans, who are at this moment being hunted down, tortured, and killed.
"I don't accept the excuse," Perry argued on "Washington Watch." "I don't accept their blame on President Trump." They keep saying they didn't have any choice, he went on. And yet, "they changed the Mexico City policy. They changed our policy on the southern border. They changed our policy [on] the Paris climate accord. They're trying to change the policy regarding the Iran nuclear deal. They change the policy on Nord Stream two, and the Keystone Pipeline. They've been able to change every single policy they wanted to. But somehow this one is all of the fault of President Trump. I'm not buying any of it."
Neither are a growing number of Democrats, who are desperate to put some distance between themselves and the humiliating failures of Biden. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) insisted she would call for "an independent investigation [into] U.S. involvement in Afghanistan over the last 20 years." Her Connecticut colleague, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D), who's been openly outraged about the mess, reiterated that he was "deeply disappointed that there seems to be no plan that matches the urgency and danger of this moment to U.S. citizens and Afghan allies who put their lives on the line for us."
Some of the biggest blowback came from Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who served with Blinken at Obama's State Department. In an emotional moment, he said the Biden administration "sacrificed everything that was right with Afghanistan." And that sacrifice, he insisted, "is profound." "An extremely important counterterrorism partnership was lost, and a terrorism state is now upon us. Enormous gains for women, for the rule of law, for democracy, for human rights. Mass displacement. The Afghans remade their society," he insisted. "... [But] it was our withdrawal, I'm afraid that has unmade their society."
And for what, Perry wanted to know? America is more vulnerable now than it was 20 years ago. And the only solution we have to all of this is "we're going to try to work with the Taliban -- and essentially legitimize them?" As we speak, he went on, millions of your hard-earned tax dollars are being sent "to Afghanistan to the terrorists we just surrendered to." "We just spent 20 years, trillions of dollars, thousands of lives. We left them a billion-dollar embassy and tens of billions of dollars in the most advanced military hardware on the planet. And it's still not enough. It's unbelievable."
For now, anyone hoping for answers on the worst foreign policy disaster in a half-century will have to wait. The only thing we know for sure after this week's hearings is that "we have a very poor excuse for a Secretary of State," Perry said, "and an even worse one as president."