How the Right is Using Afghanistan to Start a New Culture War.
Sunday evening, hours after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, former Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller was on message. “It is becoming increasingly clear that Biden and his radical MPs will use their catastrophic debacle in Afghanistan as a pretext to do to America what Angela Merkel did to Germany and Europe,” he said. he writes, referring to the resettlement of Syrian refugees. He added that “Team Biden” wants to increase the number of refugees “to several hundred thousand”. As journalist Spencer Ackerman noted, Miller “invents this figure as propaganda.”
For Miller, whose morning routine involves sipping coffee and scanning U.S. birth certificates overnight to check if Caucasians are hanging out, the botched withdrawal of the Biden administration is just another opportunity to spread anti-immigrant rhetoric. But he also paved the way for withdrawal-friendly Republicans who would otherwise face a messaging crisis: Biden did something they wanted, and it earned him the harshest criticisms of his presidency. How can they have fun without being too much openly hypocritical?
The answer is to shift the conversation from foreign policy to the war ground of nativist culture, sowing fear about the acceptance of Afghan refugees.
The most pro-Trump Republicans in Congress, concentrated in the House Freedom Caucus, backed the former president’s calls to withdraw from Afghanistan, a framework Trump negotiated with the Taliban for in 2020. On the contrary, their Biden’s criticism earlier this year was that he wasn’t pulling back fast enough.
After the Biden administration suggested in February that it might miss the May 1 deadline negotiated by Trump to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, Arizona Representative Andy Biggs, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus who had urged Trump in 2020 to “end the interminable wars,” wrote a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to step up the pace.
“I respectfully urge you to continue to withdraw the US military from Afghanistan in the weeks to come,” Biggs said. wrote, “In order to ensure all our brave men and women in uniform return from the theater before May. The Afghanistan Task Force’s “call for more time,” he writes, “is an all-too-familiar slippery slope.” Colorado rep Lauren Boebert, meanwhile, tweeted with dismay that “we have been in Afghanistan more than half of my life”.
“We must end endless wars,” she wrote.
But now that Biden has put an end to the never-ending, the message is changing, as members of the Freedom Caucus and other opportunistic Republicans seek to turn ordinary Afghans who had been our allies into dangerous infiltrators.
The seeds of this debate, which I fear will only get worse as right-wing commentators snuggle up in their anti-immigrant BarcaLoungers, were visible in Congress a few weeks ago. House and Senate leaders were trying to pass a Capitol Security Funding Bill in which they had put $ 1.1 billion for aid to Afghan refugees and the creation of 8,000 new visas special programs for Afghan immigrants, aimed at evacuating Afghan allies who would be particularly at risk of reprisals from the Taliban. When asked about the provision, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul told reporters he didn’t like it.
“I think those who speak English and are our friends should stay and fight for their country,” said Paul. “I think if they all leave, we’ll have a better chance of seeing the Taliban take over.” The Senate was able to pass the bill unanimously, but only after overcoming delays in seven Republican senators who had problems with the Afghan SIV. A week earlier, when the House voted on Afghanistan’s SIV legislation as a stand-alone bill, 16 Republicans, almost fully members of the Freedom Caucus, including Biggs and Boebert, voted against.
Now that the pullout has taken place, anti-refugee Republicans are ready with their talking points. “This withdrawal was gravely and catastrophically mismanaged, but that does not change the fundamental fact that this was the right decision, adopted by both President Trump and Biden, and which I have long publicly supported.” Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale said. On Monday. But then: “The chaos we are witnessing is no excuse to flood our country with refugees from Afghanistan.
JD Vance, who was your typical cosmopolitan and amateur venture capitalist until he decided he wanted to win an Ohio Republican Senate primary in 2022, also said he “sincerely believed[s] that it is time for us to leave Afghanistan. But we must not, he said, listen to those “who want the American people to accept thousands of unchecked people from Afghanistan into our country.”
“While a lot of Afghanistan are good people,” he said. wrote, “There are also bad guys who don’t like Americans or our Western way of life. Resettling them in the United States so that our country becomes a refugee camp is not the solution.
Monday night was Fox News’ official prime-time post, with even scarier footage.
“If history is a guide – and it still is a guide – we will see many Afghan refugees resettle in our country in the coming months, probably in your neighborhood,” Tucker Carlson said. “And over the next decade, that number could grow into the millions. So first we invade, and then we are invaded. It’s always the same.”
“Is this really our responsibility to welcome thousands of potentially uncontrolled refugees from Afghanistan? Laura Ingraham demand. “All day long we have heard phrases like ‘We promised them’. Well who did? Do you have? “
Right now, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, I suppose, that the end of a 20-year military engagement with heavy global implications is just another chance for the far right to shout CARAVAN. But in a fairer world, protect those Afghans who risk their lives to help the United States should to be somewhat of a personal obligation for the pundits and right-wing politicians who, despite their anti-war bends in recent years, have used their platforms to propagate “eternal wars” when they were just wars emerging after September 11. These pundits and politicians are in a hurry here, trying to squeeze into Joe Biden’s best stack of the season when they don’t have a ticket. They decided to do what they do best: sow the next war of nativist cultures.
For more on what went wrong for the US effort in Afghanistan, listen to this episode of What Next.