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August 18, 2021 12:05 pm

We Must Hasten the Rescue of Afghan Refugees

avatar by Harold Ohayon


Evacuees crowd the interior of a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying some 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021. Courtesy of Defense One/via REUTERS

The United States of America has long served as a beacon of hope for those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Since the 1800s, millions of people have fled persecution, war, and famine to make America their home. When pogroms spread across the Pale of Settlement, countless Jews made the arduous journey to the New World. When famine devastated Ireland, millions came to the shores of the United States. America at its best is truly amazing, welcoming those that seek a better existence. America, too, has had her faults, such as the shunning of Jews fleeing the imminent death sentence crafted by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.

As Afghanistan collapses into anarchy, and the Islamists of the Taliban solidify their control, it is imperative that America shows what she truly stands for by ensuring that those Afghan allies who helped our coalition are rescued promptly and securely.

Political malfeasance and incompetence have wrought nothing but chaos in Kabul. What should have been a timely and well-organized retreat, has turned into a nightmarish debacle.

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The Afghan president fled and left the people to fend for themselves, while the Afghan army disappeared as if it never existed. As fear gripped the populace, they fled to the only escape route left. The images of thousands of people chasing after planes taking off from Hamid Karzai International Airport will forever haunt our memories.

And most heartbreaking of all, is that those who stood nobly and honorably beside us in our struggle to rebuild the Afghan nation and fight terrorism are being left behind. Despite having promises and assurances from the US government, red tape and bureaucracy have slowed down the rescue of these brave Afghans. Thus far, only around 2,000 have been evacuated from the country. This is utterly shameful and unacceptable, as there are tens of thousands of Afghan heroes in need. Failure to bring these Afghans to the United States or third party countries would certainly sign their death warrants, as history has shown that the Taliban is quite brutal when dealing with those they deem as “traitors.”

While standing back and watching our allies being massacred is bad enough, the message that such a catastrophe would send would be eternally damaging to the reputation of the United States. Why should countries ally themselves with the United States if we leave our friends to be massacred? Why would Israel and the Gulf States trust the United States to handle the Iranian threat? Why would Taiwan look to America for support in pushing against the totalitarians in Beijing? Why would Ukraine expect America to help stave off Russian aggression?

We must show the world that America stands by her allies, and truly stands up for the ideals our country holds dear to.

As American Jews, we must join in this endeavor and stand up for those that seek refuge in this country. The Founding Fathers were well versed in the Old Testament, and many of the values that have become synonymous with America are in fact heavily influenced by the Bible. Scattered throughout the Old Testament are numerous reminders of our exile in Egypt, paired with reminders that we should always look kindly on the refugee, for we were once refugees ourselves.

Now, as the Afghan people scramble to escape from the venomous tentacles of a fanatical regime, we must remember that we are truly our brother’s keeper.

The hasty retreat from the country will haunt America for years to come. The political ramifications of it have already been making waves around the country. But now is not the time to blame sides. The primary focus must be on rescuing Afghans. Failure to do so will stain the legacy of this country, just as FDR’s rejection of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe still haunts us today.

This is not the time to bicker. Now is the time to stand up and live up to the ideals of our country and religion.

The author is an educator and pro-Israel advocate based in Japan.

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