The Tragic March of 2021: Will It Ever End Well?
WASHINGTON -- The year 2021 is so far framed by the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot and the Aug. 15 fall of Afghanistan without firing a shot.
In a momentous march of malady, misfortune and strife, we also witnessed a second presidential impeachment trial; the comeback of COVID-19; the collapse of a condominium high-rise in Florida; a New York governor rightfully forced out of office; the climate crisis declared to be here to stay and getting worse; a devastating earthquake in Haiti, with a hurricane closing in; and then desperate chaos in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city, as the Taliban moved in and we moved out after 20 years.
Just for the record, July was the hottest month ever recorded on our planet Earth.
You add it all up, and it equals an epoch, a sad season beyond belief. Such a tragic year stays encoded in people's minds and memories over time. The dark year of the deadly plague and Great Fire in London, 1666, is still remembered.
Let's look at some of the days we've just lived through. The sight of Afghan civilians fleeing toward a cargo plane, and the hasty evacuation of American embassy staff, was a rude shock. Not a good look.
President Joe Biden's ringing defense of his decision to leave a quagmire begun by former President George W. Bush was fair enough. But I know it's heartbreaking for the military who served there to think of the translators and other friends left to the ruthless Taliban. Women and girls may return to an enslaved status, no different than 20 years ago.
One more lost war, after Vietnam. A veteran diplomat, the late Richard Holbrooke, warned former President Barack Obama that Afghanistan was beginning to look a lot like Vietnam. This was a dozen years ago. Obama literally laughed at him and started a surge.
But more American soldiers were never going to turn the useless Afghan army and police into a fighting force, we know now. All the gleaming weapons the United States gave away now belong to the Taliban, firmly in control of the reclaimed country.
How humiliating, an epic failure by the generals, three presidents and all the foreign policy experts who spun a fiction about how things were going on the ground. Suddenly, there's no story left to tell except the truth.
Two trillion dollars later, Bush spends time on his Texas ranch painting portraits of injured soldiers among thousands of casualties on the rugged land of mountains and caves. A kind of penance.