In the days of my youth, when video games were in their infancy and not yet poisoning the impressionable minds of youngsters with the glorification of violence, the glorified violence was accessed by the more imaginative (read: nerdy) kids for entertainment purposes through role playing games, i.e. Dungeons and Dragons. Played entirely with pencils and paper, along with a healthy imagination, role playing games also used dice to represent an element of chance when your character fights a dragon. Rolling a one meant that your luck ran out. Rolling a one meant that no matter how well prepared or equipped you were for a challenge, you had failed it; you had not just failed it, but failed it monumentally. This week, President Joe Biden rolled a one on Afghanistan.
This is the first week of what will probably be a short and brutal period of revenge killings and massacres as the Taliban sorts out the traitors from the faithful of those collaborators left behind by the United States. Not since the aftermath of the Civil War’s first Battle of Bull Run, what came to be known as “The Great Skedaddle,” have the United States Army and curious civilian onlookers been chased off a battlefield by unsophisticated rednecks with such haste. All the while Biden stood unmoved, reminiscent of the more pejorative origin of the Nom De Guere applied to Thomas Jonathan Jackson at Bull Run, like a damned stone wall.
As I saw the horrible footage of Afghanis clinging to aircraft in their desperation to leave before the outhouse goes up in flames I thought about those people left behind in Afghanistan who, while living in what we would consider dangerous and unacceptable conditions, tasted what was for them the good life before the Taliban returns and burns it all down. I thought of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, when Mr. Taggart and Headley Lamar are planning to run the citizens out of the Town of Rock Ridge. “I’ve got it,” Taggart said. “We’ll work up a Number Six on them.” Not familiar with a “Number Six” Lamar asks for an explanation. “That’s where we go riding into town wapping and whomping every living thing in sight within an inch of its life.” Taggart explained. Except the women, who are beaten and raped at the Number Six Dance later on. That brought to mind for me another more depressing western, Welcome to Hard Times.
For politicos, pundits, and heartless calculators who no longer play D&D but like to watch politics for the perverse, barbaric enjoyment of it all, the question becomes, does this hurt Biden in his re-election? Maybe. Biden saw a precipitous drop in his approval ratings beginning Monday. Donald Trump called for Biden to resign, which tells us nothing if not that Trump would rather run against Kamala Harris than Joe Biden in 2024. The current majority-Democrat makeup of the House of Representatives has been known to impeach a president for lesser offenses than Biden’s disorganized withdrawal of Afghanistan. After all, refusing to hold the Afghan National Army’s hand, when you know they will crumble if you don't, is at the very least an indirect, if not a direct, attack on democracy even more so than Trump’s “incitement” of the January 6 debacle. Certainly in terms of body count there have already been more lives lost by Biden’s choice to withdraw from Afghanistan, than Trump’s choice to watch the January 6th riots on TV.
On the other hand the American public is fickle, susceptible to distraction and especially impressionable around October during presidential election years.
There have been many comparisons between what is happening this week and the fall of Saigon. Now for those of you who were born after 1975, can you name who was President of the United States in 1975 without Googling it? Have you been raised learning to curse the name of the president who “lost” Vietnam? Probably not. Whatever political blowback hits Biden from this botched operation, which his generals and other advisors warned him not to do, will probably wash out just as easily as Biden’s joint cream.