Another viewpoint: Cleaning up after our failures


Los Angeles Times

It was easy to open our doors to Afghan refugees 40 years ago because they were fleeing our adversaries, the Soviets. This time around it may be tempting to forget the Afghans because, after all, those of us not from military families had the luxury of rarely thinking about Afghanistan despite our nearly 20-year war there.

But to forget would punctuate the end of that war with lasting shame and dishonor for the United States. Having failed at a goal of nation-building in Afghanistan that was never realistic to begin with, the least we can do is welcome Afghan refugees to the United States.

The first step should be straightforward: The United States must offer refuge to any Afghan national who directly assisted this nation in the fight against the Taliban.

President Joe Biden must also push back forcefully against xenophobes and Islamophobes (including former President Trump) who see refugees as a security risk. He should remind Americans that these Afghans in fact helped us fight Islamist militants and extremists.

The second step is a more vexing dilemma: What of the Afghan journalists, teachers, professionals and tradespeople who opposed the Taliban and supported the American presence or the national government, at great risk to their own lives and their families’?

The U.S. should not limit its help to Afghans who were on the U.S. payroll and are now eligible for special immigrant visas. It should actively aid, evacuate and help resettle Afghans trying to escape from the Taliban regime. It should grant temporary protected status to Afghans, as it has done with nationals of more than 20 other troubled nations, including Venezuela, Syria and Somalia.

The U.S. cannot resettle every woman in every nation who is denied the right to an education, or every person whose treatment falls short of what can reasonably be deemed acceptable. We went into Afghanistan to remove the Taliban and stayed in the misguided notion that we could bestow on others the freedom and abundance with which we have been blessed. We have learned, and unlearned, and learned again that we cannot save the world with military invasion. The best we can do is to clean up after our failures, and that includes taking in not merely those who helped us — again, that’s the easy part — but those in the most immediate danger in those nations where we failed.

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