Calling the fallout from the Afghan withdrawal “enormous” and saying the consequences “will reverberate for decades,” nearly 90 retired generals and admirals issued a statement this week calling for the resignations of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the military’s joint chiefs of staff over the disastrous operation.
The move came amid controversy over President Joe Biden’s treatment of Gold Star families of those who died in the Kabul airport bombing last week, with several accusing Biden of behaving disrespectfully.
In the Monday news release from Flag Officers 4 America — which describes itself on its website as a group of “retired military leaders who pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” — the group said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley should resign “based on their key roles involving events surrounding the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. “
“The hasty retreat has left an unknown number of Americans stranded in dangerous areas controlled by a brutal enemy along with Afghans who supported American forces,” the letter declared.
Given their position as the top military advisers to President Biden, the group argued, Austin and Milley “were the two top military officials in a position to recommend against the dangerous withdrawal in the strongest possible terms.”
“If they did everything within their authority to stop the hasty withdrawal and the President did not accept their recommendations, then knowing the disastrous consequences looming, the retired flag officer signers believe these top military advisors should have resigned as a matter of conscience and public statement,” the news release stated.
In addition, the group noted “death and torture” inflicted upon Afghans by the Taliban and the loss of advanced weapons and other equipment abandoned when military left Afghanistan, estimated to be in the billions.
The group added that “our adversaries are emboldened to move against America due to the weakness displayed in Afghanistan.”
“China benefits the most followed by Russia, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and others,” the news release stated. “Terrorists around the world are energized and can pass freely into our Country through our open border with Mexico and among the inadequately vetted Afghan refugees.”
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Because of this, the group demanded Austin and Milley resign: “A fundamental principle in the military is holding those in charge responsible and accountable for their actions or inactions,” they wrote. “There must be accountability at all levels for this tragic and avoidable debacle.”
The letter was signed by 87 retired generals and admirals from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard.
It was similar in content to the news release, although it also noted “there are leadership, training, and morale reasons for resignations.”
“In interviews, congressional testimony, and public statements it has become clear that top leaders in our military are placing mandatory emphasis on PC ‘wokeness’ related training which is extremely divisive and harmful to unit cohesion, readiness, and war fighting capability,” the letter stated.
Among the most notable signatories was Vice Adm. John Poindexter, who served as national security advisor during President Ronald Reagan’s second term.
“The consequences of this disaster are enormous and will reverberate for decades beginning with the safety of Americans and Afghans who are unable to move safely to evacuation points; therefore, being de facto hostages of the Taliban,” the letter stated.
“The death and torture of Afghans has already begun and will result in a human tragedy of major proportions. The loss of billions of dollars in advanced military equipment and supplies falling into the hands of our enemies is catastrophic. The damage to the reputation of the United States is indescribable.
“We are now seen, and will be seen for many years, as an unreliable partner in any multinational agreement or operation. Trust in the United States is irreparably damaged.”
While the group is of a conservative bent, as you might imagine from the language of the news release, the Flag Officers 4 America letter comes as the Biden administration is grappling with a series of public relations disasters with the military — most of them caused by Biden himself.
During the transfer of remains ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday for the 13 American service members who died in Thursday’s attacks in Kabul, the president appeared to check his watch, a gesture that didn’t go unnoticed on social media.
Biden appears to check his watch during the dignified transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base. pic.twitter.com/oMsBefnmfS
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 29, 2021
Many of us remember Pres Bush 41 checking his watch during a debate and how awful it looked (even though we all felt same way about that debate.) But this is shocking and will be remembered. https://t.co/sFfW032JNm
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) August 29, 2021
The president took more heat after reports of his meetings with the families of the dead service members began to emerge.
Multiple accounts had Biden bringing up the death of his son Beau, an Army National Guard lawyer was deployed in Iraq but who died of brain cancer at home, surrounded by his family.
The sister-in-law of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum said the president used the Beau story when talking to the Marine’s widow and engaged in a conversation which “struck the family as scripted and shallow,” The Washington Post reported.
“You can’t f*** up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry,” Roice McCollum, the dead man’s sister, told the Post. “This did not need to happen, and every life is on his hands.”
Shana Chappell, mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Kikoui, wrote in a Facebook post that Biden “tried to interrupt” with his own “sob story” and that she had to tell him “that this isn’t about you so don’t make it about you.”
Chappell said that when she told the president “you do not have the right to tell me you know how i feel,” Biden “rolled your f***ing eyes in your head like you were annoyed with me.” (She didn’t use asterisks in the post.)
Mark Schmitz, who lost his 20-year-old son, Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, in the explosion, also told The Washington Post that Biden used Beau’s story during his meeting and said the president snapped when Schmitz brought out a picture of Jared.
“I said, ‘Don’t you ever forget that name. Don’t you ever forget that face. Don’t you ever forget the names of the other 12,’ ” Schmitz told the Post. “ ‘And take some time to learn their stories.’”
“I do know their stories,” Biden shot back, apparently unhappy at Schmitz’s request.
Taken in isolation, any of these things might be easy enough to brush off. Taken in concert, they paint a picture of an administration that has lost considerable face with the men and women who defend this nation — and the families some have left behind — due to the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Perhaps more disturbingly, they don’t seem to care enough to take responsibility for it.