Thursday, September 16, 2021

CYPRUS - Anti-Terror Drill


"US Navy SEALs, Cyprus Special Forces Hold Anti-Terror Drill" Military.com (AP), 09/11/2021

LIMASSOL, Cyprus (AP) — Members of the U.S. Navy’s elite special forces SEAL unit joined Cypriot underwater demolition soldiers on Friday in a joint drill to hone skills in countering terrorist hijackings at sea.

The exercise involved teams of U.S. and Cypriot special forces re-taking a ship controlled by terrorists.

Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides said after the drill that Cyprus and the U.S. are on the same “strategic path” to ensure security and stability in a turbulent region.

He said close cooperation between the two countries’ special forces in the past two years aims to achieve peak preparedness in order to deal with “asymmetrical threats and emerging crises.”

U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Judith Garber said more joint drills will follow in the near future.

The U.S. decided for the first time last year to provide military education and training funding to Cyprus following Congressional approval as part of Washington’s [DC] push to enhance ties with countries in the region in order to boost security.

The funding is part of the Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act that U.S. legislators approved in 2019.  The legislation underscores U.S. support for a partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel founded on recently discovered offshore gas deposits in the region.

The Act also partially lifts a 1987 U.S. arms embargo on Cyprus that was imposed to prevent an arms race that could hamper efforts to reunify the ethnically divided island nation.




Monday, September 13, 2021

OPINION - Brooks and Capehart 9/10/2021

"Brooks and Capehart on the anniversary of 9/11, the politics of vaccinationsPBS NewsHour 9/10/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join John Yang to discuss the week in politics, including the anniversary of 9/11, the politics of vaccinations and California's recall election.

John Yang (NewsHour):  On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the deadliest terror attack in the country, we are in the midst of another calamity, COVID-19.

Here to break down the political aspects of all this, the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.  That's New York Times columnist David Brooks, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post.

Gentlemen, we just heard Judy lead a discussion about the foreign policy aspects of all of this.  And, certainly I can — looking back on 9/11, I remember how we felt changed from this.  But, looking back, looking backward at it, how did we change?  Are we changed as a people, as a nation, as a political system?

David, what's your take?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Well, as a globe.

I mean, it was the first act of the 21st century.  And so I was a foreign correspondent in the 1990s.  I covered nothing but good news.  I covered the end of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mandela coming an end of apartheid, the Oslo Peace Process.

And the theme of the '90s was convergence.  China was liberalizing.  We were becoming more like each other and more communication with each other.  We thought the Internet was a good thing back then.

And 9/11 happens, and a group of terrorists said, no, we don't want to be like you.  We reject you.

And so that was a shock.  And then you have other shocks.  The Chinese stops liberalizing.  We don't want to be like you.  Russia goes to Putin.  We don't want to be like that.

So the 21st century has been the re-erection of barriers.  And 9/11 was a first shocking foretaste of a much tougher world.

John Yang:  Jonathan, as I recall, you were in New York.  You were working for Michael Bloomberg.

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post:  Right.  Right.  I was working on his first of three mayoral campaigns in New York City, and it was primary day.

And I remember waking up.  I lived in a high-rise, so I had a perfect view of the city.  It was a crystal-clear day.  I remember walking to the voting place, looking up at the sky and thinking, this is a spectacular day.  And still to this day, that is — I'd never seen a day like that in New York City.

And all hell broke loose later, about 90 minutes later, later that morning.  Lots of things changed that day.  We were in the middle of a mayoral campaign.  The campaign stopped.

At one point while we're watching the coverage on television, someone just asks out loud, has anyone heard from the mayor, meaning Rudy Giuliani at the time, who, on primary day, everyone in New York was looking forward to turning the page from Rudy Giuliani's mayoralty.

And the rest, we know, is history.

I think that, in these 20 years, just to add on to what David was just talking about, we have seen a lot of what I think of as one step — one giant step forward, and then two giant steps back.  One giant step forward was the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, first Black President.

But a huge step back was the election of Donald Trump as President.  Another huge, huge step forward, the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States.  Another huge step forward, marriage equality.  But another huge step back, to my mind, one was the fact that, even though Donald Trump lost the election, he got 15 — 12 million more votes than he did in 2016.  So it just highlights the divisions within the country.

And then the ultimate step back, January 6.  My colleague Carlos Lozada said this morning on television that how ironic it is that, on September 11, there were reports that the plane that went down in Shanksville was headed to the Capitol, headed to crash into the Capitol.  And yet, at almost 20 years later, the Capitol was ransacked by domestic terrorists who lay siege to the U.S. Capitol at a time when the members of — Congress was certifying the last election.

That was, to my mind, the ultimate step back.  And to your point about the world turning away from democracy, we have that issue here at home right now.

John Yang:  So, Jonathan, you see it — what I hear you saying is that other forces have changed politics more since 9/11 than 9/11.

Jonathan Capehart:  Oh, I think so.

I think MAGA and the domestic terror threat is much more worrisome than any foreign threat we could face.

John Yang:  David.

David Brooks:  Yes, I would agree.

I think we had — we thought we had some debates settled.  And the settlement was liberal pluralism, democratic capitalism, and the world is sort of evolving away from some sort of primitivism.  And then, suddenly, 9/11 happens, and Afghanistan and al-Qaida, and then ISIS.

So, apparently, we're not evolving away from that.  And then — and then capitalism, well, 2008, that sort of disillusions that.  And then, oh, we're a more diverse nation, Barack Obama.  2016 disillusions that.

COVID, we can't function as a people.  We have lost faith in each other.  And so it's been a sad epoch of disillusionment, not without good things, as Jonathan said, but the — just look at the dumb figure, do you trust your neighbors?  Do you trust the people around you?

Anyway generation ago, 50, 60 percent.  Now it's 30 percent, 19 percent of millennials.  And this is the world they have known.  And their distrust is an earned distrust.  And so this is the legacy of what we have faced in the past two decades.

John Yang:  And we are in the midst of another calamity, the pandemic.

And as we have been focusing on 9/11 this week, it struck me.  Someone pointed out to me that, every two days this week, with COVID deaths, we have essentially had another 9/11 and also had another 20-year Afghan war in terms of the Americans who've died.

This week — or, yesterday, the President tried, after resisting mandates, has ordered mandates.

David, what do you make of that shift?  And do you think this is going to work?

David Brooks:  First, I'm reminded, in — September 22, 2001, George Bush had a 90 percent approval rating.  We were a unified country.

We're not that anymore.  I — with the Biden mandates, I think the government has an absolute right to do this.  Public health and the air we breathe is a common good.  I nonetheless think it's a mistake.

If you go around, as I did, and we all do as reporters, you go to a town, McCook, Nebraska; Wilkes, North Carolina; and Chicago, you say, who's trusted here, in every neighborhood, people will give you names.  And they're always the same names.  Everybody knows who the nodes of community is in their community.

And I thought it was public health 101 that you go at the grassroots level to who's trusted in each neighborhood, and you try to get them to influence people to uptake vaccines and do anything else.

Having a top-down, highly partisan process from the part of government that is disliked the most, the politics that is distrusted the most seems to be the wrong way to go.  And it seems to me it's going to create a backlash, where a lot of people that don't like Joe Biden are going to say, hell no, I'm definitely not taking the vaccines now.

And so I think it's — the way we have done it is counterproductive.

John Yang:  Jonathan?

Jonathan Capehart:  I just — I hear you, David, but I just don't think, in this day and age, the grassroots aren't working.  From the bottom up, it's not working.

The President has resisted doing what he did yesterday for the longest time, facing enormous criticism from lots of people, asking, why isn't Washington [DC], why isn't the President doing something, exercising all the power that he has to do something, hoping that neighbors would trust neighbors, people would listen to health professionals?

And it's not happening.  And the anger in the country at the unvaccinated is palpable.  I am one of those people.  Howard Stern is out there cursing at people to get vaccinated because he — quote — "He wants his freedom back."

Millions of Americans, a majority of Americans want their freedom back.  And I think that the President was channeling that anger, and for — on behalf of the majority of the American people who just want their neighbors and friends and co-workers who are resisting getting the vaccine, or even putting on a mask, just do these two simple things, and we would be clear of this faster than then we could imagine.

But folks aren't doing it.  And so if they're not going to do it voluntarily, then the President decided, I'm going to click some levers to make it happen a little more quickly.

I don't think it's going to backfire on him.

John Yang:  But, as David pointed out, I mean, this is generating a huge amount of anger from people who don't like Joe Biden to begin with.

And the Republican governors going to — say they're going to go to court about this.  I mean, are — is this going to be — is it going to backfire?

Jonathan Capehart:  John, it was bound to happen.

Republican governors were bound to be against anything that the President proposed.  And, quite frankly, Republican governors, especially the governor of Texas, don't want to hear anything from him, given that Texas abortion law he signed — bill he signed into law.

David Brooks:  Yes, I would say a government doesn't even know how to do grassroots.  We don't have — in Washington [DC], people think top down.  They think, oh, let's get some celebrities.  That will persuade them.  It's just lame.

But if you — if — in every church, if every pastor, or in softball leagues, if people, if neighbors got together among the avenues of trust that already exist, and say, sorry, you can't play in the softball league unless you get the shots, to me, that's neighbor talking to neighbor.

It's less political.  It's less partisan.  And it doesn't happen on its own.  You — I mean, we're in a sophisticated economy where people know how to create swarms of activity across networks.  And yet government is incapable of thinking that way.

And so we are where we are.

John Yang:  But are the Republicans going to use this as a cudgel against the President, against the Democrats in the midterms and in '24?

David Brooks:  Oh, absolutely.

I mean, they had trouble trying to figure out how to attack Joe Biden.  But now, as a friend of mine e-mailed me today, now they have their line, unconstitutional, incompetent, running your life.  That's a Republican — that's a line Republicans know how to use.

And so I think they will use that.  And I don't want to associate myself with them.  I think they're being crazy.  But we should all be vaccinated.  But that's a pretty politically effective line, I think.

John Yang:  Well, there's another Democratic leader who got into trouble a little bit because of COVID and the reaction to his — what he was doing, Governor Gavin Newsom of California.

There's a recall election coming up.  There are 46 — count them — 46 candidates running to replace him if he is recalled.

What are your thoughts on that, Jonathan?

Jonathan Capehart:  This is insane that the governor of California, who has a high approval rating — his approval rating is a high 50s, low 60s.

And he is facing a recall simply because people don't want to wait until the next election to exact whatever revenge or to hold him accountable.  And so they're going to attempt to get rid of a popular governor.

And then, due to maybe apathy and low turnout, he could get recalled.  And then, yes, there are 46 candidates, but the one leading person, Larry Elder, is somebody who is — I mean, he's from the Trump — the Trump school and Trump wing of the Republican Party.

He is also African American.  And I — I'm almost speechless, because I cannot believe California is in this mess.  And yet, if Democrats don't come out and vote and don't return those ballots — I think the election is next week, if not next week, the week after — Governor Newsom could be history.

But I don't think that's going to happen.  But the fact that we're talking about this just demonstrates how crazy our politics are now.

John Yang:  David?

David Brooks:  The patterns is, in the referendum, the no's tend to rise at the end.  So, if there's going to be momentum, it will probably be on the Newsom side.

But I love democracy, but not direct democracy.

(LAUGHTER)

David Brooks:  And California over does it with the referendum and they overdo it with this.

We elect people for terms for a reason.  And that reason is, sometimes, they have to do unpleasant things that are going to make them unpopular.  And we — if you can be recalled at a moment's notice, it — then they're not going to do those things.

It's not like the ratings on TV, where you cancel the show if it has a bad season.  We have — we go through ups and downs with our politicians, and they should be unpopular.

John Yang:  David Brooks, Jonathan Capehart, thank you very much.

Jonathan Capehart:  Thanks, John.



THE ATF - Leaderless, the Republican/Trump/NRA Legacy

"Why the ATF is often leaderless and how it affects the agency’s workPBS NewsHour 9/9/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Back in April, the President nominated David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).  After retiring from the agency, Chipman advised gun control advocacy groups like Everytown and Giffords — a problem for Senate republicans and some moderate democrats.  Now, President Biden must find a new candidate.  William Brangham discusses with Alain Stephens of The Trace.



CALIFORNIA - Republican Takeover Attempt

COMMENTS:  I am a Californian in San Diego.  In 2000 I was a registered (moderate) Republican by default because my parents were Republicans and I was (now retired) in the U.S. Navy and military tended to be Republican and even voted for H.W. Bush.

Because of the actions of G.W. Bush in 2000, and a review of the GOP Plank, I realized that the GOP was not what I thought it was.  Therefore I changed to "Unaffiliated" which is non-partisan in California.

The GOP worships money.  They behave as if the poor or middle-class are not worth spending any money on.  They will only spend money on Big Business and The Rich, and both do not need the tax brakes nor cash input from government.  When do you think a family/person with a 6-figure yearly income has had to worry about loosing the home they live in, or living day-to-day worrying about paying bills?

The bottom line is today's GOP does not care about the poor or middle-class.

The issue in California IS about Newsom refusing to follow the lead of governors of Texas or Florida and fully open California with the COVID-19 Pandemic in full effect.  They wanted Newsom to risk the lives of Californians for money.  They count small business closures due to Newsom following the science and experts' mandates, which is correct to protect people AND because small business (aka mom & pop) are not the ones who hire large numbers of employees.  The same for shutting down schools because of COVID-19, again Republicans what to risk the lives of children.  Republicans lie about school funding, ignoring that Trump and his Republican henchmen cut federal school subsidies to Democratic states but not Republican states and we have been dealing with a shortfall every year since.

This is a Trump/GOP revenge attack based on exaggerations and lies.

"Why is Newsom facing recall?  Here’s what you need to know about California’s politicsPBS NewsHour 9/8/2021

PS-  My "NO" mail-in ballot has be received and counted (got both text messages).

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Should he stay or should he go?  That's the big question facing California's 22 million voters about their Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election next Tuesday.  To sort out what's at stake for Newsom and the 46 candidates vying to replace him, Judy Woodruff turns to Scott Shafer, the politics and government editor for public media station KQED in San Francisco.



AFGHANISTAN - Taliban Rule Week 9/6/2021

"Taliban takeover threatens Afghan agriculture as farmers fear being forced to grow poppyPBS NewsHour 9/6/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  As Afghans figure out how to get on with their lives, fears abound that the new Taliban government will crack down on local business and commerce.  The Taliban takeover could cripple Afghan farmers in the middle of their harvest, in a country where agriculture is the lifeblood of rural communities and is Afghanistan’s largest export business.  Special correspondent Mike Cerre reports.

 

 

"Taliban gain control of Panjshir Valley but are yet to form an official governmentPBS NewsHour 9/6/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A senior State Department official confirmed the United States evacuated four Americans from Afghanistan and relocated them to a nearby country in the first known U.S. overland extraction since the August 31 withdrawal deadline.  As Ali Rogin reports, that comes as Taliban fighters claim to have seized the country's last pocket of resistance.

 

 

"What we know about the Taliban men who will form Afghanistan’s interim governmentPBS NewsHour 9/7/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan continues as the group announced leaders of a "caretaker" government Tuesday.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Secretaries of State and defense were in the Gulf region, in Qatar, where the American evacuation mission is headquartered, and the White House requested $6.4 billion for both the evacuation and resettlement of Afghan refugees.  Yamiche Alcindor reports.

 

 

"Two experts on Afghanistan’s ‘caretaker’ government and its ties to other terrorist groupsPBS NewsHour 9/7/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  To learn more about the men leading the new Taliban government in Afghanistan, Judy Woodruff speaks to Ahmed Rashid a journalist and author of "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia," and Douglas London who had a 34-year CIA career and authored the new book “The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence.”

 

 

"Many Afghans haven’t eaten in weeks as Taliban rule triggers humanitarian crisisPBS NewsHour 9/9/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  An international commercial flight took off from the Kabul airport Thursday for the first since the Taliban seized the country.  On the evacuation flight were 200 foreigners, among them Americans.  But they leave behind a country in a humanitarian crisis.  Ali Rogin has the story.



20th ANNIVERSARY - 9/11 Attack on America


"American Muslims remember how 9/11 changed America as they knew itPBS NewsHour 9/6/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  This week, the PBS NewsHour is marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with stories examining some of the ways that day transformed the nation and the world.  Amna Nawaz begins our coverage with a look at the effect on millions of American Muslims.

 

 

"Middletown lost the most residents on 9/11 after NYC.  Here’s how the community is healingPBS NewsHour 9/7/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Ali Rogin returns to Middletown, a New Jersey town where she grew up that was disproportionately affected by the 9/11 attacks in 2001, to see how residents and neighbors coped over the past two decades.


"Remembering the 40 heroes aboard Flight 93 and how they thwarted 9/11 hijackersPBS NewsHour 9/8/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Since 2001, a great deal of attention has been paid to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and The PentagonBut less so for Flight 93.  The U.S. Capitol was the likely target of where hijackers had planned to crash the plane.  Instead, passengers and crew forced the plane down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania — now an important touchstone site in the community.  William Brangham reports.


 

"How 9/11 weighs heavy on the generation born after the 2001 attacksPBS NewsHour 9/8/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  PBS NewsHour's Student Reporting Labs network of high school journalism programs across the country gathered the reflections of teenagers to explore the legacy of 9/11 on their generation.  They present the voices of young Americans who were born after Sept. 11, 2001, and reveal how their lives were shaped by it.

 

 

"New York’s 9/11 first responders are battling a new kind of mass traumaPBS NewsHour 9/9/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  For our endeavor to mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, John Yang spoke to first responders and medical workers who have lived and worked through both the attacks and have also more recently seen the mass trauma from COVID-19 in the city that was the epicenter of both: New York.

 

 

"Flight 77 crashed just below Robert Hogue’s Pentagon office.  Here’s his storyPBS NewsHour 9/9/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  PBS NewsHour's broadcast studio is just a few miles from the Pentagon here in Washington [DC].  On 9/11, that iconic structure designed to project American military might was struck clear out of the blue, just like the twin towers.  184 people died both in the building and on American Flight 77, excluding the hijackers.  But many more escaped.  We hear from Robert Hogue, one of the people who made it out.

 

 

"How the attacks of 9/11 reshaped America’s role in the worldPBS NewsHour 9/10/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  This week PBS NewsHour has been marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by exploring how they have impacted the U.S. at home and abroad.  Judy Woodruff leads our latest conversation on the ways the 9/11 attacks shaped American foreign policy over the last two decades.

 

 

"A photographer’s view of 9/11 from across the riverPBS NewsHour 9/11/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  On the morning of September 11th, photojournalist Jennifer Brown raced down to the waterfront in her town of Jersey City, NJ.  Directly across the river from the World Trade Center, Brown photographed the attacks for the former Star-Ledger, now NJ Advance Media.  She spoke to Hari Sreenivasan about the sights, sounds and emotions from her vantage point, and what it was like to capture a moment that changed history.

 

 

"20 years after 9/11, Dearborn market helps unify Arab communityPBS NewsHour 9/11/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The attacks of 9/11 fueled Islamophobia, and increased incidents of hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs.  NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker reports on how the events of 9/11 were a catalyst for an Arab community in metropolitan Detroit to unite and combat stereotypes by building a stronger cultural identity through food.

 

 

"20 years later, a remembrance for the NYFD’s fallen chaplainPBS NewsHour 9/12/2021

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  When the two towers fell and the New York Fire Department rushed in to save victims, Father Mychal Judge, chaplain of the NYFD, entered the burning buildings, too: he prayed in the lobby for victims and first responders. One of the many searing images from 9/11 is Father Judge's body being carried out of the rubble. In remembrance, this animated segment from our partners at StoryCorps is told by his close friend, Father Michael Duffy.



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

AFGHANISTAN WAR - The Last Day


"Final Troops Withdraw from Afghanistan, Ending Evacuation -- and the War" by Stephen Losey and Steve Beynon, Military.com 8/30/2021

The U.S. military's evacuation from the main airport in Kabul has ended -- along with the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.

U.S. Central Command head Gen. Frank McKenzie said Monday the last C-17 Globemaster III took off minutes before midnight Kabul time -- the beginning of Aug. 31, which was the United States' deadline for withdrawal.  For the first time since late 2001, weeks after the Sept.  11 attacks, there are now no U.S. service members in Afghanistan.

"There's a lot of heartbreak associated with this departure," McKenzie said.  "We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out, but I think if we'd stayed another 10 days, we wouldn't have gotten everybody out that we wanted to get out."

Reports of celebratory gunfire from the Taliban surfaced online after the final C-17 took off from Kabul.

The final weeks of the war were among the military's hardest, as thousands of troops rushed in to hold Hamid Karzai International Airport as the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed with shocking speed and the Taliban rapidly filled the void.

The unprecedented airlift effort to rush to safety Americans and Afghan allies -- the largest noncombatant evacuation operation in U.S. military history -- saw some 123,000 people evacuated in all.  Since Aug. 14, more than 79,000 civilians were ferried out by the U.S. military on one flight after another -- primarily C-17s, their massive cargo bays at times packed with hundreds of refugees.

The evacuation effort saw the last flag-draped coffins from the war arrive at Dover Air Force Base in DelawareThe final U.S. casualties came Aug. 26, when a suicide bomber struck at the airport's Abbey Gate, packed with U.S. troops and many Afghans trying to get through.  The bomber killed 13 troops -- 11 Marines, a sailor and a soldier, wounded more than 20 other troops, and killed or wounded hundreds of Afghans.

It marked one of the deadliest days of the war for the U.S., with less than a week to go, and brought the final toll of service members killed there to 2,461.  There were also more than 20,000 troops wounded in Afghanistan.

"My heart is broken over the losses we sustained three days ago," McKenzie said.

The Islamic State's Afghanistan branch, ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the attack.  The U.S. responded with two drone strikes: one on Friday that killed two people the military claimed were ISIS organizers, and one on Sunday it said targeted a car in Kabul carrying explosive material intended for another attack.  The latter airstrike may have resulted in up to 10 civilian casualties, according to reporting by The New York Times that was not immediately disputed by the Pentagon.

ISIS-K and the Taliban are in the midst of their own war, prompting a pseudo-alliance between the U.S. and the Taliban, who have been killing one another for 20 years.  McKenzie described the Taliban as "pragmatic," saying the terror group had a vested interest in the U.S. leaving quickly, thus motivating it to try and facilitate a smooth withdrawal by securing areas outside of the airport.

He added that diplomatic efforts to help remaining U.S. citizens and eligible Afghans who want to leave will continue, though the military's role in the evacuation process is done.

Just as the evacuation began, the desperation of some Afghans hoping to escape impending Taliban rule caused an accident that pushed the White House to send in more troops to secure the airfield.  On Aug. 16, many desperate Afghans ran onto the airport's grounds and surrounded a C-17 that had just landed to unload equipment.  The C-17's crew, concerned about the crowd of people approaching the aircraft, opted to take off again.  Afghans ran alongside the plane and clung to its sides, some falling to their deaths, and the body of one Afghan was later found in the aircraft's landing gear.

Maj. Gen. Chris Donahue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson were among the last U.S. officials to leave Afghanistan.  They departed on the final C-17 flight, covered by what McKenzie described as "overwhelming U.S. airpower overhead, should there have been any challenge to our departure."

At the peak of the airlift last week, C-17s were taking off roughly every 45 minutes, and more than 19,000 people were flown out on a single day.  On average, the military evacuated more than 7,500 civilians per day, McKenzie said.

The U.S. military evacuated more than 6,000 American civilians, which the Pentagon said represented the majority of those who wanted to leave.  The military estimated that only a few hundred wishing to leave remain.

McKenzie said the civilian evacuation ended about 12 hours before the final withdrawal.  Some equipment was brought out on the final flights, but other equipment -- such as the Counter Rocket Artillery and Mortar, or C-RAM, system and various aircraft and vehicles -- was left behind permanently disabled.

The sudden collapse of Afghanistan's American-backed government, and the emergency evacuation triggered by the deteriorating security situation, have drawn both political attacks for opponents of the Biden administration, and finger-pointing within.  Roughly 2,500 U.S. troops had remained in Afghanistan when the Trump administration left office, a number the Biden administration reduced to about 650 before the Taliban easily conquered Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden quickly mobilized 6,000 troops, including the 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne Division, to secure the airport and aid in the evacuation that followed.

"No words from me could possibly capture the full measure of sacrifices and accomplishments of those who serve, nor the emotions they're feeling at this moment," McKenzie said.  "But I will say that I'm proud that both my son and I have been a part of it."



Tuesday, August 24, 2021

MILITARY.COM - Afghan War, Green Beret Ryan Hendrickson


"Afghanistan: The War That Made War Normal" by Stephen Losey, Military.com 8/23/2021

Green Beret Ryan Hendrickson didn't see any massive fireball from the improvised explosive device that nearly took his right leg during his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2010.

He didn't even really hear an explosion -- just a "pop" in his damaged ears.

But there was one thing he could hear, loud and clear, as he lay on the ground in a cloud of ammonia and with bones sticking out of his shattered leg: The Taliban, celebrating and congratulating one another over intercepted radio traffic, on what they thought was the death of an American soldier.

The memory of their laughter drove Hendrickson over the following 18 months, as he defied the odds to save his leg, recover both physically and emotionally, and then in 2012 return to Afghanistan for several more deployments, eventually earning a Silver Star.

"My mindset was, you bloodied me up, and you hurt me, but you didn't beat me," Hendrickson, who retired as a sergeant first class in 2020, said in an August interview.  "And I'm coming back."

Hendrickson was just one of many who experienced trauma, but he signed up to head back into a campaign still going years after his injury in what became a new normal -- 20 years of constant war.

The war in Afghanistan -- by far the longest in U.S. history -- is all but over, aside from the frantic evacuation of tens of thousands of Americans, Afghans and other civilians from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

But it has changed the U.S. military, in ways that will linger.  Those who saw the war up close -- including veterans of Afghanistan and current and retired generals and senior officials -- agree that the war didn't break the military.  But it did bend it, testing the men and women sent to fight, and the weapons and hardware they relied upon to survive in Afghanistan's harsh regions.

Retired Gen. Joe Votel, who headed both U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command, saw "the fraying of the force" that resulted from the numerous deployments special operators shouldered.

After the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, continual war became a regular part of life for the military, even normalized, in a way it never had before -- or was meant to.  When death, trauma, family separations and other sufferings inherent to conflict became part of the day-to-day, the effects on the military extended to everything from family strife to physical and mental wounds.  In some rare cases, most notoriously Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales' 2012 massacre of 16 Afghan civilians, that shift to the mundane included a blurring of morality and the lines separating the good guys from the bad.

It led the military to refine the ways it fights and resulted in unprecedented advancements in tactics, technology, medical treatments and equipment.

But it also took a significant toll on the force.  There were 2,448 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan, and at least 20,722 wounded, some of whom will deal with those injuries for the rest of their lives.  For some of the troops who deployed, it led to trauma, struggles with mental health and moral injuries, and strained family lives.

That is a price the military has not yet fully reckoned with; it is still struggling to figure out how to do so.

"When you deploy people into continuous combat operations, they're going back to Afghanistan, or back to Iraq, or they've been there multiple times, sometimes they have a tendency to develop the attitude that, 'I have done this before, I know what I'm doing,'" Votel said.  "And so they become a little bit detached from the situation.  And that's where you begin to have some of these challenges.  People forget about the human aspect of this.  ...  They forget that they're dealing with people on the ground."

The act of taking a life, or firing weapons where civilians are nearby -- the sorts of moral decisions that can be incredibly difficult -- became normal.

"The things that aren't supposed to be routine, become routine, and then you begin to think of them as routine," Votel said.  "That's something you really have to guard against."

The Toll of the Conflict

The war exposed some of the military's vulnerabilities, including the alarming growth in deaths by suicide, which have claimed more than four times as many troops and veterans post-9/11 than actual combat -- and how special operators' long and repeated deployments affected them and their families.

In January 2020, in the wake of multiple troubling and embarrassing incidents, Special Operations Command released a "comprehensive review" of its force that concluded the community had grown a culture that prioritized deployments and getting the job done above all else, leading to an environment where ethical lapses could happen.

Votel said the Ranger Regiment dealt with this problem by more aggressively telling Rangers to "sit this one out."

It's often not easy for them to receive the message that they should skip a mission.

"That's why these people join; that's what they want to do," Votel said.

Russell Parker, a Marine Raider who repeatedly deployed to Afghanistan and retired as a lieutenant colonel in June, said there's no question deployments take a toll on families.  He was in Afghanistan nearly 11 years ago when his daughter was born, while a family friend was by his wife's side.  He met his daughter after he got home, but then left again on another deployment just after her third birthday -- and he said his deployment burdens were light compared to others he served with.

"If you're a guy or gal who's deployed every 12 or even 24 months, for six to 12 months, that's a whole lot of missed birthdays," Parker said.  "Which leads to a huge burden on the stay-at-home spouse.  ...  And either the family can absorb that, or over time, they decide we just can't [and] they have to move on without you."

It was the special operations community and the Air Force that were most consistently called upon to fight on Afghanistan's rocky, dusty terrain, and in the skies above.  The cost of that near-constant combat added up.

Aside from the initial invasion of Afghanistan and periodic surges, such as former President Barack Obama's surge that began in 2009 and relied heavily upon conventional forces, special operations troops bore the heaviest burden of the war, said Wesley Morgan, journalist and author of "The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan's Pech Valley."

The reliance on special operations forces in Afghanistan was, in many ways, a double-edged sword, Morgan said.  It dealt a significant amount of wear and tear on them, physically and mentally.

But Afghanistan was also a crucible for special operations, in which forces like the Rangers grew in size, responsibilities and capabilities.

The special operations force is "simply unrecognizable from what it was before," Morgan said.  "It's so much larger, its capabilities are so much greater.  Its combat experience is so much greater, by orders of magnitude, than anything that was there before.  And by the same token, of course, the wear and tear is greater as well."

Special operators were in Afghanistan practically constantly from 2001, training Afghan troops, building relationships with village leaders, and going on missions against everyone from the Taliban to al-Qaida to the Islamic State offshoot ISIS-Khorasan.

That "never say no" mindset carried a significant price, in deaths, woundings and the mental toll of deployment after deployment.

The military didn't see "complete, total meltdowns" in special operations organizations due to the high pace of deployments, Votel said -- partly because it recognized the stress it was placing on troops and took steps to better control deployments.

"Maybe we should have done that earlier, a little bit more effectively early on," Votel said.  "But I don't think we brought organizations to their knees."

For decades, the military culture had been reluctant at best to encourage troops to look after their mental health properly.  Parker said the tremendous mental health needs caused by the war in Afghanistan -- along with shifting generational attitudes toward mental health -- forced a sea change in how the military addresses it.

Programs such as Preservation of the Force and Families -- which brought psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals into direct contact with special operators to help them deal with the pressures of deployment and the injuries they sustained -- helped, Parker said.

Now if someone is in trouble, he said, "it's all hands on deck.  I've got a military family life coordinator, I've got a social worker, I've got a psychologist, I've got a chaplain, I've got an MD -- pick a modality of treatment, and I've either got them sitting around the table with me to advise me on that person right now ... or I have the ability to reach out and find the discipline I need.

"We saved lives with that," Parker said.  "We literally arrested suicide[s], right before they happened by getting these reviews done."

War as Opportunity

Perpetual combat wore on both man and machine, but it also served as an unprecedented testing ground.  The conflict spurred extraordinary advancements in many elements of fighting war -- everything from tactics and technology, to how the military talks about and treats both mental health and physical wounds, which helped save Hendrickson's leg and allow him to return to the battlefield.

"I don't think there's any question that tactical-level, individual soldier, Marine, sailor, airman, skills are light years beyond where they were when I joined the Marine Corps in 1994," Parker said.  "The advances in equipment, the advances in capabilities, the advances in tactics, techniques and procedures ...  you almost can't discuss them in the same conversation."

Things like drones went from military afterthought to critical hardware.

"Look at drone technology and where we [were] in 2001, and where we've ended up," Votel said.  "You see more and more effort now, of people reaching out and really grabbing onto technology and helping them leverage our ability to pursue our national security objectives."

Over the years in Afghanistan, the Air Force refined its process for delivering airstrikes, with munitions guided to their targets by troops on the ground.  Scores of Air Force award citations since 2001 describe the heroism of airmen under heavy fire, simultaneously calling in airstrikes while firing back at Taliban or other foes, sometimes as they helped wounded teammates or while they themselves were injured.

Morgan said the growth of a generation of Army soldiers who came in shortly before or after 9/11, many of whom deployed repeatedly to Afghanistan, has resulted in a cadre of battle-tested leaders, the likes of which have not been seen since Vietnam.

"Afghanistan comes up over and over and over and over again," Morgan said.  "The sheer length of experience that certain parts of the Army, in particular light infantry units and the Rangers, have had in Afghanistan really means that for all of these senior leaders, for the infantry in particular, Afghanistan has been a formative experience at many points in their careers and lives.  ...  If you have stayed in the Army, you've done Afghanistan."

Hendrickson points to the considerable strides made in medical care -- particularly in treating trauma and saving severely damaged limbs -- that resulted from the war, and saved his own leg.

After his teammates rescued him -- and after hearing the Taliban's rejoicing at his wounding -- Hendrickson flew to the hospital at Landstuhl Air Base in Germany.

When they transferred him to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, he was warned he likely would lose his leg.

"I just had a chunk of meatloaf down there," Hendrickson said, not to mention E-coli from the Helmand RiverHe tried to prepare himself emotionally for life with one leg by placing his undamaged left leg outside his hospital bed covers, and hiding his right leg up to the knee with the blanket.

His right leg will never again be what it once was.  But the Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis, or IDEO -- a brace that provides more support to his damaged leg -- allows him to run, carry heavy loads of gear on a march, or drag wounded teammates out of the line of fire.  Without that brace, which he wore on his deployments beginning in 2012, he might have had to have his leg amputated if he wanted to do much beyond walking around the house.

"So many people are getting a second chance at saving a limb," he said.

Flying Aircraft to the Edge

The strain of the war also began to materialize on the Air Force in recent years, as airframes showed their age and airmen found it harder and harder to keep them flying.

The B-1B Lancer bomber in particular, which now has an average age of more than 33 years, became "overextended" in the Middle East, Air Force Global Strike Command head Gen. Timothy Ray said in 2019.

"We saw issues in the B-1 because we're just beating the heck out of them, deploying them, deploying them," Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten told lawmakers during his nomination hearing in August 2019.  At that time, Hyten said, just six B-1s out of the fleet of 62 were fully mission-capable.

Though those numbers recovered somewhat, they were still far from where they should be.  In 2019 -- the latest year for which statistics are available -- the Air Force recorded a 46% mission-capable rate for the B-1, meaning at any given time, less than half of the fleet was ready to fly and carry out missions.

While that problem may not have been as severe in other airframes, it was a common issue throughout the fleet in recent years as the Air Force conducted a sustained air war, Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, who was head of Air Combat Command until his retirement in 2017, said in a July interview.  Fighters, bombers, surveillance aircraft, tankers -- practically no type of aircraft was unaffected.

"We flew the wings off of every platform, whether it was AWACS, or JSTARS, or Rivet Joints, or F-15s and F-16s, or B-52s, or KC-135s and KC-10s," Carlisle said.  "Did we run them ragged in the Middle East?  Yeah.  Did they step up?  More than you can ever imagine.  What our young women and men did in uniform across all the services is extraordinary."

In an Aug. 13 interview, Ray acknowledged the toll so much air combat has taken on his bombers -- but said it's what they were meant to do.

"The safest place for an airplane to be is parked, but that's not why we have them," he said.  "It's a very old fleet.  What really should impress you is that the team can keep it going, when I think this challenge would have crushed any other Air Force.  ...  It was difficult, [but] we saved American lives."

Ray said that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown has taken significant steps to balance how the service uses its aircraft by better prioritizing missions.

"We can do anything; we just can't do everything," Ray said.

But the military's continual need for surveillance in the Middle East led the Air Force to make trade-offs on modernization that might not be what's necessary in a war against a major power, Carlisle said.

With the U.S. military's primary foes in the late 2000s being the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents, he said, there was little need for an advanced fighter with stealth capability -- but a tremendous need for drones that could linger over areas and either watch or strike.

"Every corner of the Iraq and Afghanistan and Syria campaign wanted a Reaper overhead to give him the ...  'unblinking eye,'" said Carlisle, who after retiring became president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association, which counts defense contractors among its members and describes itself as a nonprofit group looking to educate the public on aspects of national security.

So in 2011, the F-22 Raptor fighter was canceled, with only 186 of the originally proposed 750 stealth aircraft now in the fleet.  Meanwhile, the Air Force set a punishing pace for airmen to fly MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones, which in 2015 briefly hit a high of 65 combat air patrols per day -- a crushing operations tempo, and a significant investment in resources and manpower.

That balancing act made sense at the time but might not pay off in a war against China, Carlisle said.  The Predators are now retired, and Reapers -- though capable drones -- would be slow and easy pickings for Chinese radar and anti-aircraft systems.  Meanwhile, an F-22 restart is not in the cards.

A Second Chance in a Long War

After Hendrickson nearly lost his leg, he made jokes about being a pirate with a peg leg the following Halloween.  But underneath, he was wracked with guilt and feelings that he had let his brothers in arms down by not being there anymore.  The chances of him walking unassisted again were against him, let alone serving as a Green Beret in combat.  He began replaying in his mind his steps before the explosion, Monday-morning quarterbacking, and filled up with self-directed anger.

On the ninth anniversary of 9/11, Hendrickson and his unit launched a mission to clear the Chutu Valley in Uruzgan province, along the Helmand River.  Early on the next day, as the sky began to lighten, his team moved toward its first set of compounds, which were known to be used by the Taliban.

The team's interpreter had exposed himself to danger, so Hendrickson went over to the compound to pull him back.  Something moved fast and caught Hendrickson's eye -- he wasn't sure if it was an animal or a person running -- and he took a step forward in the entryway to see what it was.

His right foot stepped on a pressure plate, and the IED detonated.

He didn't feel anything -- not at first.  He hit the ground and couldn't figure out what had happened.  The dust and ammonia from the explosive swirled and made it impossible to breathe.  If he didn't stand up and get out of there, he thought, he would suffocate to death.

"My brief time on an ODA [Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha] was cut short because I decided to peek around that corner, like an idiot," Hendrickson said.  "Then rage sets in -- 'I'm so stupid, why did I do that.'"

Depression set in, and at times, thoughts of suicide even crossed his mind.

But he pushed through his depression, and spent all of 2011 rehabilitating, motivated in part by his memory of the Taliban celebrating, and a question his dad asked him: When he is an old man and looks back, will he be ashamed because he allowed the injury to define him?  Or will he be proud because he used the challenge to make himself stronger?

He returned to Afghanistan alongside his fellow Green Berets -- with his leg in his IDEO brace -- in March 2012.  On another deployment in February 2016, he rallied his team and fought back against a heavy Taliban ambush in Baghlan Province, through machine-gun, rocket-propelled grenade, sniper and mortar fire, ultimately receiving the Silver Star for his bravery.

Hendrickson first joined the Navy four years before 9/11.  He deployed to the Persian Gulf, and later moved to the Air Force and deployed to Iraq.  He finally transferred to the Army, became a Green Beret, and deployed to Afghanistan for the first time with the Seventh Special Forces Group in May 2010, during the surge.  He continued with deployments to Afghanistan after nearly losing his leg, with the war still going while he rehabbed, and he wore the uniform until January 2020.  In his more than 22 years of service, 18 came during years of war.

Like many service members, Hendrickson doesn't describe his combat experience, or even his injury, in terms of shock.  They're points that are part of his long history serving in the military, the sorts of experiences that could be recounted by numerous other service members forged in a generation of combat.

They're the new normal.

And Hendrickson views even the near-loss of a limb as having a silver lining.

"Getting blown up was one of the best things that's happened to me," he said.  "I used it [the leg situation] to my benefit.  Yeah, I got some cool scars and whatnot.  But I've become a better man because of the situation I went through."



Monday, August 23, 2021

OPINION - Gerson and Capehart 8/20/2021

"Gerson and Capehart on Afghanistan, school mask mandatesPBS NewsHour 8/20/2021

SUMMARY:  Washington Post columnists Jonathan Capehart and Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the politicization of mask mandates in Florida’s schools, and around the country.

Judy Woodruff (PBS NewsHour):  Americans watched this week as troubling scenes unfolded in Afghanistan and the Delta variant continued its deadly sweep across the country.

Here to talk about the implications of this are Jonathan Capehart and Michael Gerson.  That is Jonathan Capehart and Michael Gerson, both columnists — I had to repeat myself — both columnists for The Washington Post.

(LAUGHTER)

Judy Woodruff:  It's very good to have both of you.  David Brooks, we should say, is away.

Welcome to you, Michael.

Michael Gerson, Washington Post:  Thanks.

Judy Woodruff:  But, Jonathan, let me start with you.

Afghanistan all over the news this week.  We just keep watching these heartbreaking, disturbing pictures of people outside the Kabul Airport.  We have now heard from the President several times this week.  What do you make at this point of how the President and his team are handling this?

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post:  It seems as though the President and his team are trying to do a better job of explaining and also a better job of explaining and handling the situation in Kabul than they did in the opening hours of this.

It is horrifying to see people so desperate that they would hang on to a roaring Air Force jet down the runway.  The video I woke up to this morning of I guess it was a Marine pulling a baby out of the crowd and over the barbed wire, heart-wrenching.

But I think what we saw on Monday with the President's speech, what we saw today in the East Room with the President's remarks and taking questions from the press is a President who is resolute in the decision that he made, the horrifying images and the news that we keep getting notwithstanding.

And when I look at the President and listen to him, two things come to mind.  One is, he is where the American — unfortunately, he is where the American public is and has been for years, which is, they have long wanted the United States out of Iraq, despite polling…

Judy Woodruff:  Out of Afghanistan.

Jonathan Capehart:  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  Out of — yes, thank you, Judy.  ....Out of Afghanistan.

So that's one.

Two, when he speaks as — about this issue, most people look at him as a commander — the commander in chief.  But when I look at him, I see a commander in chief who is the father of late service member.  So this is not foreign to him.  He has a child who went to war.  And, as commander in chief, he has to send men and women, sons and daughters, into war.

And the last point I will make on this, that's important, because only 1 percent of the U.S. population is involved in some way in the military.  This is something that former Secretary of Defense Bob [Robert] Gates used to hammer away at…

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Jonathan Capehart:  … that we — more people need to be involved in defending this country.

And so I put all of that out there as a way of trying to at least, in some way, put the President's — I call it resoluteness — I think a lot of other people might call it stubbornness — on this issue into some context.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you piece together what you see this week?

Michael Gerson:  Well, I was kind of collecting the historical analogies that people were using this week.

And you had the Bay of Pigs by Leon Panetta, the former head of — White House Chief of Staff.  I heard the fall of Saigon, obviously, Dunkirk, which would be a little better outcome.  Also, from the British, the Suez crisis, in which Eisenhower really abandoned his allies.

There's a deep feeling of abandonment.  So, it's not a — when you have those examples, it's not a great week.  And some of the attributes, the best things about who this President is, his empathy, his competence, his way with our allies, seemed inoperative at the first part of this week.

In fact, I think that there's some damage done here to the President's reputation, basically because he was elected as a steady hand.  The purpose was to be a contrast to the constant drama of the Trump years.  These were people that are supposed to be a highly professional team, highly effective group of people.

And when you squander something that's central to your public identity, I think that it hurts.

Judy Woodruff:  And no question what you're saying about the President.

At the same time, Jonathan, as we heard from Sarah Chayes in her interview a few minutes ago with William Brangham, there's a lot more to this story.  There's a lot of history here.  We're going to be dissecting this for a long time.

And yet we still have to explain to ourselves, how did it happen?  How did it happen?

Jonathan Capehart:  Right.  How did it happen?

Craig Whitlock, our colleague at The Washington Post, in 2009 wrote a story that's now a book called "The Afghanistan Papers," where he happened upon transcripts of a series of interviews that were done with service members with the — I think it was the Office of Inspector General, where they never — they weren't talking to a reporter.

They were talking to colleagues, where they were perfectly blunt about the mismanagement, how horrible things were going, how the generals were saying one thing to the American public, a rosy picture, painting a rosy picture, and yet what was happening on the ground was the complete — was the complete opposite.

What we're finding out today, The Wall Street Journal had a story about this cable that came from State Department employees in Kabul saying directly, in the dissent channel, hey, this is not going well.  The situation is deteriorating.

And the State Department spokesperson said, yes, the secretary of state saw it.  He took it under advisement.  He may have made comments on it.

So the idea that they did not see this coming, I think to Michael's point….

Judy Woodruff:  Yes.

Jonathan Capehart:  …..  really dings the President on the competence issue, on the experience issue.

How could someone running for President on the record that Biden — that the President has, botch something like this so royally?

Judy Woodruff:  And picking up on that, Michael, I mean, Congress is going to be asking those questions, we think, as early as next week.

Michael Gerson:  No, that's absolutely true.  I think there are going to be a lot of questions about the how we got here, because this was a fiasco of planning.  And there were unforeseen elements here.

I would say one thing, though, having been in the White House in some moments like this, that I would like to maybe push back a little bit.  It's hard.  When you're in one of these moments — I saw in the interview with Stephanopoulos this week, where that…

Judy Woodruff:  With the President.

Michael Gerson:  Right — mentioned the example of the plane that you were talking about, the image.

And the President's response was, that was four or five days ago.  It was two days ago.  But it feels like four or five when you're in that kind of environment.

You have limited information, have to make real-time decisions.  So I respect people that do this job as well.  It's not — it's not hard — it's not easy.

Judy Woodruff:  There's going to be a lot of dissecting and questions asked and demanding of answers.

I also want to turn to the story that we just saw John Yang reporting on, Jonathan.  And that's this raging debate around the country about mask mandates.  You have got the Delta variant out there.  You have got parents worried, educators worried about teachers and students.  You have got a number of governors, Republican governors, who are starting to impose mandates.

But then you have got governors in Florida and Texas, Arizona, Republicans, saying no.  And they're getting into fights with school boards.

Explain the arguments here.  I mean, who's got the right argument at this point?

(LAUGHTER)

Jonathan Capehart:  I think that's a leading question.

(LAUGHTER)

Jonathan Capehart:  Look, the Republican governors, Governor Abbott [Texas] and Governor DeSantis in Florida, should be ashamed of themselves, what they are doing.

They are playing with people's lives.  They are playing politics with people's lives.  When you have teachers saying, please let us make the decision, don't stop us from making — requiring children to wear masks, it's not a matter of just the children's health.  It's the teachers' health as well.  It's the health of the school community.

And the idea that these governors are actually getting in the way, and the President not naming them, but saying, if you're not going to do the right thing, then at least get out of the way.  And, instead, they are hurling themselves in the middle of this, playing politics.  Maybe there's 2024 ambitions out there, but while they're playing politics with the lives of the people in their states and with children's lives, and it's outrageous.

Judy Woodruff:  And you do have parents, as we heard in John Yang's report, Michael, who are resisting.

Michael Gerson:  No, I think that's true.

I mean, Republicans have a very difficult circumstance here.  Basic public health measures, things like masking and this — vaccine requirements, these are not absurd or great violations of individual liberty — they're just the normal way that you oppose disease — have become deeply controversial in a significant portion of the Republican coalition.

It's as though you have — an important part of your coalition is just saying, well, we think that trash collection is a socialist plot, and, therefore, we oppose it.

It's a an extraordinary circumstance.  These people are responding to very weak real social pressures, the Republican governors, or political pressures.  They're making absolutely terrible decisions.  But I think the Republican coalition has some serious issues here, when that's what your demand is, that it's treated like a culture war issue, when in fact it's a public health issue.

Judy Woodruff:  And you do have Republican governors, Jonathan, like, what, Asa Hutchinson

Jonathan Capehart:  Right.

Judy Woodruff:  … in Arkansas, who has changed his mind.  I mean, he's openly said I should have done this sooner.

Jonathan Capehart:  Right.

And he's the only one really we can name, when it should be more than just Governor Hutchinson.  It should be — President, former President Trump should come out there and say, get the vaccine, wear a mask.  If you love me, I need you to hang around for whatever I might do, but at least to be a part of the solution, and not continue to be the problem, because one of the reasons why masks have become such an issue, vaccine — getting the vaccine has become such an issue, is because Donald Trump made it a political issue.

Judy Woodruff:  And then you have members of Congress, Michael, who have made a big deal out of the fact they have been required in the House of Representatives to wear masks.

And a number of them are saying:  I won't do it.

You now have senators, prominent — three prominent — well, they're all prominent.

(LAUGHTER)

Judy Woodruff:  All three — but three United States senators have — who have been vaccinated have come down with breakthrough infections.

Michael Gerson:  I think some of it is a fundamental misunderstanding of what public health is.

I mean, this is the kind of issue where we all succeed or fail together.  You know, the goal here is the aggregate good.  And talking about rights-based language in this context is really a misunderstanding of what the issue is.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, it's hard to believe some of what we're seeing out there.

Michael Gerson, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

Jonathan Capehart:  Thanks, Judy.

Michael Gerson:  Sure.  Thank you.