The Flight of the Human-Rights Warriors From Afghanistan and Iran
JNS.org – I had already started writing this article when I stumbled upon an article in The Atlantic, “The Week the Left Stopped Caring About Human Rights. It’s remarkable how quickly liberals abandoned the women of Afghanistan.” The initial impetus was US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks earlier this year when he said the “administration will stand against human-rights abuses wherever they occur, regardless of whether the perpetrators are adversaries or partners.”
It needs to be pointed out that The Atlantic is not some right-wing outlet but a leading light for the Democrat Party. So kudos to them for publishing this article.
“Get the hell out has … been the liberal position for two decades, until about 72 hours ago, when Democrats suddenly became so concerned about the fate of Afghanistan. … You can call for American troop withdrawal for 20 years. … But you need to be ready to take it on the chin when you get what you ask for, and the inevitable happens: girls being forced into child marriage and forbidden to go to school or to leave the house without a male relative. Is your conscience prickling? … It’s remarkable how quickly the left took up the cold calculus of realpolitik. How quickly it forgot its love for Malala, the young Pakistani girl who survived a Taliban bullet to the head, her only crime getting an education and trying to help other girls get one too. The White House must have known she’d give Biden a bad news cycle or two, and indeed, she appealed to the president to take ‘a bold step’ to stave off disaster.”
Anyone who has paid attention to Afghanistan over the last 20 years knows that the Taliban are horrific abusers of women, minorities and anyone else who stands in their way. They also knew that millions of those people’s lives were profoundly changed for the better after the Taliban were supposedly defeated by the United States 20 years ago.
Yet the leading proponents of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan were liberals and progressives, including supposed interventionists like Joe Biden.
Republican isolationists like Rand Paul also represent a minority viewpoint to end all American entanglements, caring little for the well-being of anyone beyond American borders. I wish my fellow ophthalmologist had a bit of compassion for the other and realized that history proves more times than not that American withdrawals lead to harmful consequences at home as well as abroad. America’s retreat after World War I was one of the reasons for World War II and the rise of fascism.
But liberal Democrats, unlike many non-isolationist Republicans, have championed the complete American withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan while paying lip service condemning human-rights abuses. They didn’t want to have any more skin in the game but still wanted to virtue signal their fight against misogyny and genocide.
Biden’s old boss also talked the talk on human rights but often didn’t walk the walk. One example was when his Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power revealed in her 2019 memoir that she defied his orders and blocked Russia from joining the UN human rights council. Power, who made a name for herself with her book on genocide, couldn’t stomach voting for a regime that directly helped Syria’s genocidal dictator Bashar Assad.
So let’s be honest: Biden helped cause a human-rights disaster in Afghanistan, weakened America’s ability to prevent the next 9/11 and feels little regret about the move. As a candidate in 2020, when asked whether the United States had a responsibility to Afghan women and girls in light of a possible Taliban takeover, he said: “No, I don’t!” So much for his trumpeted empathy. The emperor has no clothes and makes no bones about it.
As Peter Baker of The New York Times wrote: “The president who won the White House on a promise of competence and compassion has had trouble demonstrating much of either … seemingly more intent on washing his hands of Afghanistan than expressing concern over the humanitarian tragedy unfolding on the ground.”
This brings us to Biden’s next Middle East foreign-policy decision, involving human rights and realpolitik. The decision to appease Iranian misogynists, terrorists and human-rights abuses with enough cash so they will want to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal.
Biden is still gung-ho and happy to engage the revolutionary anti-Western despots in Iran, despite ignoring that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has nominated former Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi to become Iran’s next interior minister. Vahidi has an outstanding warrant for his arrest by Interpol for his role in bombing the AMIA Jewish Center in Argentina in 1994. Not a peep of condemnation from the administration, yet they rightly condemned former President Donald Trump for engaging with the Taliban two years ago in its negotiations in Doha.
The Iranian apologists from pro-peace organizations remain mute on calling out the actual war crimes committed by Iranians. There has been no public censure from the administration about Iran’s new president—a man responsible for the deaths of thousands. Not even a call to demand that a killer president elected in a rigged election be denied a visa to attend the United Nations General Assembly. Raisi’s previous position was as the head of Iran’s judiciary; it’s not every day that do you see a war criminal as a nation’s chief justice.
Yet Biden was willing to meet with Raisi, which would have offered a form of legitimization. Raisi saved Biden when he refused to meet with him. According to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, “The president’s view … is that the decision leader is the Supreme Leader.” Memo to the White House: Khamenei oversees the apparatus that tortures, imprisons and kills gays, journalists, minorities and opposition members.
As for Afghanistan, Michael O’Hanlon, writing for the Brookings Institute, said: “The decision to leave when we had a reasonably stable if indefinite presence of only 3,000 or so U.S. troops was a poor strategic calculation. … The uncertain status of so many friends of the United States who are still stuck in Afghanistan brings a poignant human-rights dimension to the miscalculation as well.”
America cannot intervene in every humanitarian crisis, but this was one of our making, and we should be ashamed of how we left.
Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the U.S. Senate, House and their foreign-policy advisers. He is a columnist for “The Jerusalem Post” and a contributor to i24TV, “The Hill,” JTA and “The Forward.”