Monthly Archives: September 2021

My Allegiance: To the Union, Free and Undivided with Liberty for All

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I have been too busy to post the last week or so I am kind of catching up. Things are going well but I have been incredibly busy working in the house, working with authors and those reading my book manuscript. Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond, with the intent of writing blurbs for it.

Many have responded and are in the process of doing this, four have already submitted their blurbs, and I am honored. Here are the ones that have already gone to the publisher. Another dozen or so are in process and they include some big names.

Pulitzer Prize winning historian James McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom wrote “ A richly documented history of the ideology of racism that manifested itself in slavery, the Confederacy, the overthrow of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the myth of the Lost Cause that glorified the Old South and the Confederacy.”  

Dr. Charles Dew, Ephraim Williams Professor of History at Williams College and author of Apostles of Disunion: The Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War wrote:  “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a book for our time. Steven L. Dundas has skillfully woven slavery, race, racism, politics, and religion into a single entity in telling this country’s complex story. Every American would profit from what he is telling us.” 

Dr. Lloyd “Vic” Hackley, military civil rights pioneer and Vietnam War hero before becoming President of the North Carolina Community College System, Vice President of the University of North Carolina System, and Chancellor of North Carolina A & T University wrote, “Steve Dundas has written the definitive account of America’s onerous history with African Americans. A must read to fully understand, teach or discuss the institution of slavery, racism, religion and their current impacts. Every school library should have a copy.”

Joe Levin, Co-Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Commission wrote, “Commander Dundas not only brings us a powerful history of slavery but, more importantly, the consequence of untruths and how twisted religious beliefs shaped America. All educators should read it and ensure that its message is delivered to their students.”

I cannot wait to get the others. I hope that it becomes a best seller and in the process help persuade people sitting on the fence.

Our Guest Room

We have been working hard in the house and have never taken more satisfaction with the work of my hands in transforming this house as a place of rest, study and peace. But it is also a place of where I will plant my flag in opposition to the White Nationalists, Neo-Confederates, Neo-Nazis, Christian Nationalists, and every potential secessionist or insurrectionist know where I stand. So I have posted my flags on our forever home in the historic, heavily African American neighborhood in Norfolk.

I posted this on Facebook this evening.

“To any secessionists or insurgents out there, know that I am a Union man dedicated to the words of the Declaration that “All men are equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Likewise the words of the Constitution echoed by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, that we commit ourselves to “building a more perfect Union.” This applies to all Americans and those who want to be, who come here many times giving up all. It is an ever expanding liberty and cannot be allowed to be denied or rolled back like it was during Jim Crow and other unfortunate times in our history.

My ancestors on both sides of my family fought for the Confederacy,even though their neighbors in Cabell County Virginia voted not to secede and instead with the rest of Wets Virginia seceded from Virginia and joined the Union. Of course they owned slaves and much land, so they turned their backs on their neighbors. Had I been alive back then I would have probably already have joined the Army because I never could just sit back and stay in one place all my life, and my choices would have been more centered around my oath,my life in the Army and loyalty to the Union like George Thomas and John Buford, more than to family members bent on destroying the country for the sake of slavery and profit.

The flags displayed are the 34 star Circle Union flag, the regimental guidon of the 6th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, with the Circle Union circling it’s 1st Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac with Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg on its stripes. The flag of the gallant 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry most famous for its stand at Little Round Top, and finally the flag of the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry of the legendary Irish Brigade, many of whose soldiers were recent immigrants fighting for a country where many people treated them like dirt.

Joshua Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine remarked, “But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought wider… That thought was our power.” It still is.

We fight today with our voices, ballots, and even peaceful protests for that freedom that those men fought and died fir their descendants and all to have. Here stand I, I can do no other, so help me God.”

I will speak the truth, write the truth, and lay my life down for the truth. I fight for the truth that these people try to co-opt as being patriotic turn to myth and use to support flagrant policies of authoritarianism and race hatred that go so deep that I have a hard even fathoming as to how they can get there if they were honest in the myths that they claim to be historical facts were true.

With the resurgence of these heavily armed and violent nationalists and Nazis I expect that when Mine Eyes Have Seen They Glory is published, and if it becomes the best seller that I expect that it will become, that I will be a potential target of violence. Hell, I started receiving death threat over a decade ago, and I am in too deep to back down now.

So until tomorry.


Padre Steve+


Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

Somberly Remembering 9-11-2001 and its lasting Consequences

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

September 11th is a day that always makes me more introspective. It brings back so many memories, some that I wish I could forget; but I cannot get the images of that day out of my mind. The burning towers, the people jumping to their deaths to escape the flames, and the scenes of devastation. I have decided to take the time tonight to share that day and what followed in my life and with the people that I served, including those who died.

I knew one of the victims in the attack on the Pentagon, an Army Lieutenant Colonel, Karen Wagner who commanded a Medical training company at Fort Sam Houston where I was serving as the Brigade Adjutant in 1987 and 1988. She was a very nice person, very gracious and decent, admired by everyone who knew her; I was shocked to see her name on the casualty list after the attack.

Lieutenant Colonel Karen Wagner, Medical Service Corps, US Army

The emotions that I feel on the anniversary of these terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of so many innocent people, and which devastated so many families, still haunts me, and my subsequent service, especially in Iraq has changed me. Years after he returned from his time in the Middle East, T.E. Lawrence; the immortal Lawrence of Arabia wrote to a friend, “You wonder what I am doing? Well, so do I, in truth. Days seem to dawn, suns to shine, evenings to follow, and then I sleep. What I have done, what I am doing, what I am going to do, puzzle and bewilder me. Have you ever been a leaf and fallen from your tree in autumn and been really puzzled about it? That’s the feeling.” I often feel that way.

Nineteen years ago I was getting ready to go to the French Creek Gym at Camp Le Jeune North Carolina where I was serving as the Chaplain of Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division. I had returned from a deployment to Okinawa, Mainland Japan and Korea just two months before with 3rd Battalion 8th Marines.

Staff Sergeant Ergin Osman, US Army, former US Marine, KIA, Afghanistan 26 May 2011

One of the Marines I got to know well at 3/8 was Corporal Ergin Osman. He eventually left the Marines enlisted in the Army and was serving with the 101st Airborne Division when he and 6 members of his platoon were killed on May 26th 2011 by an Improvised Explosive Device, while hunting down a Taliban leader.

Father (Chaplain) Tim Vakoc

Another man I knew was Father Timothy Vakoc, an Army Chaplain I knew when he was a seminarian going through the Army Chaplain Officer Basic Course with in 1990. He was horribly wounded by an IED when traveling in a HUMMV to say mass for his troops near Mosul, Iraq in 2004. At the time he was a Major in the Chaplain Corps. He never made a full recovery from his wounds but was inspirational to all he met and served until he died in 2009 after having eithe been dropped, or fallen in a nursing home.

On the morning of 9-11-2001 I was preparing to transfer to the USS Hue City, a guided missile cruiser stationed in Mayport, Florida, to deploy in January 2002 to support operations against the Taliban and take part in the UN Oil Embargo against Iraq.

At the time of the attack I had already been in the military for over 20 years and I had actually taken a reduction in rank to transfer from the Army, where I was a Major in the reserves, to the Navy to serve on active duty. In those previous 20 years I had served overseas during the Cold War along the Fulda Gap. I had been mobilized to support the Bosnia mission in 1996, and I had just missed being mobilized for Operation Desert Storm as my unit was awaiting its mobilization orders when the war ended. I had done other missions as well as the deployment to the Far East that returned from in July 2001; but nothing prepared me for that day. Like other career military officers I expected that we would be at war again and thought it might be back in the Middle East, and probably a result of some fool’s miscalculations; but like the American officers who were serving at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, I never expected what happened that morning.

Tuesday, September 11th 2001 had started like so many days in my career. Routine office work, a couple of counseling cases and what I thought would be a good PT session. I was about to close out my computer browser when I saw a little headline on Yahoo News that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I paid little attention and figured that a private plane, something like a Cessna piloted by an incompetent pilot had inadvertently flown into the building.

9-11 jumpers

That delusion lasted about two minutes. I got in my car and the radio, tuned to an AM talk station had a host calling the play by play. He started screaming “oh my God another airliner flew into the other tower.” Seeking to see what was happening I went to the gym where there were many televisions. I got there and saw the towers burning, with stunned Marines and Sailors watching silently, some in tears. I went back out, drove to my office and got into uniform. After checking in with my colonel a made a quick trip to my house for my sea bags and some extra underwear, and personal hygiene items.

When I got back the headquarters we went into a meeting, and the base went on lock down mode. The gates were closed and additional checkpoints, and roadblocks established on base. Marines in full battle-rattle patrolled the perimeter and along the waterfront. I did not leave the base until the night of the 15th when things began to settle down and we all went into contingency planning mode for any military response to the attacks.

My wife, who as waiting for a doctor’s appointment with a friend saw the attacks on live television and knew when the first plane struck she told her friend that it was terrorism. Her friend responded “that damned Saddam Hussein.” Like so many of us who initially thought this, my wife’s friend was wrong.


Those were tumultuous days, so much fear; so much paranoia; and so much bad information as to who committed the attacks and what was going to happen next. One thing that I do remember that for a brief moment in time we were united as Americans. Say what you want about him now and his later decisions which proved deceitful, unwise and embroiled us in a military conflict and failed attempt to build a nation in our image in a land that never accepted foreign models of government. But on the ruins of the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush was inspirational in the days after the attack. He rallied us and led us in our grief in a way that former President Trump, who lied and continues to lie about what he saw and did that day, never could.

The fact that in February of 2020 President Trump made a peace agreement that sold out the government of Afghanistan, recognized the Taliban, forced the Afghans and others to release 5,000 Taliban fighters, including leaders who were wanted by the U.S. Government on charges of terrorism, murder, and crimes against humanity. He reduced American intelligence and air support to Afghan forces and reduced the amount of U.S. ground forces from over 7,000 to 2,500 by the end of his term. He also reduced the number contractors that the Afghan military needed desperately to maintain its fleet of U.S. weapons, vehicles, and aircraft. The deal put the official seal of defeat on the U.S. and NATO effort to stabilize the country after the withdraw. When President Biden announced to finally pullout the military moved so fast that it left the Afghans, NATO and our own State Department reeling. The military withdraw, and that of our contractors amounted to a ”skeedaddle” opening the way for the Taliban to overrun the country in under two weeks. President Biden owns the chaos of the withdrawal and the numerous failures in planning by every agency involved. at least the military was able to implement a contingency airlift that got 125,000 people out of the country in less than two weeks. it was an amazing feat, but many more could have escaped between 2018 and 2021 had not Trump and his senior advisor, Stephen Miller not slowed the pace of admitting Afghans who helped us to a crawl. The effects of that are still being felt.

hue city boarding party

A few months later I deployed aboard Hue City to the Middle East where we supported the air operations in Afghanistan, anti-terrorist operations off the Horn of Africa and in Operation Southern Watch and the U.N. Oil Embargo against Iraq.

I then did three years with Marine Security Forces, traveling around the world to support Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team companies. For three years I was on the road one to three weeks a month traveling to the Middle East, Europe, the Pacific and many parts of the United States.

In 2008 I was promoted and transferred to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Two, from which I was deployed with my assistant to Iraq, where we served as members of the Iraq Assistance Group in all Al Anbar Province supporting small teams of Marine Corps, Army and Joint Force adviser teams to the Iraqi Army, Border troops, Port of Entry police, police and highway patrol.


When I returned from Iraq I was a changed man and while I am proud of my service I am haunted by my experiences. One cannot go to war, see its devastation, see the wounded and dead, as well as the innocents traumatized by it. One cannot get shot at, or be in enclosed rooms, meeting with people that might be friends, or might be enemies, and while everyone else is armed, you are not.

War changed me, and my homecoming was more difficult than I could have imagined. I never felt so cut off from my country, my society, my church, or even other chaplains. My experience is not uncommon among those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or for that matter those who have served in almost any modern war. Erich Maria Remarque in his classic All Quite on the Western Front who wrote:

“I imagined leave would be different from this. Indeed, it was different a year ago. It is I of course that have changed in the interval. There lies a gulf between that time and today. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had been only in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world.”

That being said I would not trade my experience for anything. The experience of PTSD and other war related afflictions has been a blessing as well as a curse. They have changed my world view and made me much more emphatic to the suffering and afflictions of others, as well when they are abused, mistreated, terrorized and discriminated against. These experiences along with my training as a historian, theologian, and hospital chaplain clinician before and after my tour have given me a lot bigger perspective than I had before.

But I have to live with all of the memories. Guy Sajer wrote in his book The Forgotten Soldier“Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.”General Gouverneur Warren, a hero of many Civil War battles including Gettysburg wrote to his wife after the war “I wish I did not dream so much. They make me sometimes to dread to go to sleep. Scenes from the war, are so constantly recalled, with bitter feelings I wish never to experience again. Lies, vanity, treachery, and carnage.”

As hard as this has been these are good things, and as I go on I wonder what will happen next. I do not think that the wars and conflicts which have followed in the wake of the 9-11 attacks will be over for years, maybe even decades. I pray for peace, but too many people, some even in this country seem to live for the bloodlust of war. One can only hope and as my Iraqi friends say, Inshallah, (إن شاء الله) God willing…

I wonder too, if the words of T.E. Lawrence reflecting on his service in the Arab Revolt are not as applicable to me and others who came back from Iraq, “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.” I have lost too many friends in these wars, including men who could not readjust to home, many like me. I have seen the men and women, broken in body, mind and spirit and I wonder if any of it was worth it, and if in some of our response, especially the invasion of Iraq has not made a bad situation even worse, and turned the war into a generational conflict.

As for me, I am now retired after 39 years, 4 months and 6 days of military service. Yesterday I was given the honor of giving the invocation and benediction at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Though retired I am part of the shipyard family, and get invited back for events like this. It was more somber, reflective and less vindictive than in the past. I think that it will take a long time for us to digest the attacks of 9-11-2001 and their aftermath, especially our defeat in Afghanistan.

But that being said there are still U.S. Military personnel in harm’s way in many places around the world. I wish I could say that they will be safe and that there will be no more killed or wounded, but I know that will not be the case. Now we have young men and women serving in wars that began before they were born, but now Afghanistan is not among them. We have to now ask if it was worth it and

Yesterday and today there were many ceremonies and services to remember the victims of the attacks. I think that is fitting. As I said, I gave the invocation and benediction at one of those events. As I gave them I could feel the emotions, see the faces, and remember all the people I knew and served alongside who died that day or in the following wars.

So please, have a good day and whatever you do do not forget those whose lives were forever changed by those dastardly attacks and all that has transpired in the years since. I do hope that things will get better and that some semblance of peace will return to the world, and even more importantly that amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic and the damnable political division and violence in our country, much of it brought on by the President and some of his White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi followers, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and Christian theocrats whose message and goal is little different than the people who attacked us twenty years ago. Under the direction of former President Trump these people attempted to overthrow the United States in a way that no foreign enemy could ever attempt. They conducted an armed insurrection and attempt to capture the Capitol in order to prevent the Congress from fulfilling its Constitutional duty to certify the vote of the Electoral College in hopes that Trump, who lost the election could illegally remain in power.

Sadly, they pose more of a threat to our Republic and democracy than Osama Bin Laden, A Qaida, or the Taliban ever could.

Since my retirement we have moved to our forever home in a historic neighborhood in Norfolk. I am now teaching and writing, and my book Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond which will be published by Potomac Books of University of Nebraska Press next year. We have made the transition to civilian life with our four Papillon babies, Izzy, Pierre, Maddy Lyn, and our newest a rescue named Sunny Dae who was rescued from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

That is all for the night.

Peace, Shalom, and blessings,

Inshallah, (إن شاء الله) God willing…


Padre Steve+


Filed under Loose thoughts and musings

The End In Afghanistan: A Misbegotten Campaign Without a Strategy

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have resisted writing or commenting much on the final defeat of the United States on Afghanistan’s Street Without Joy. It has been a disaster 20 years in the making, 40 if you include the initial U.S. support to the Mujahideen resisting the Soviet invasion and intervention in Afghanistan. Please note, this article has no political animus. The disaster in Afghanistan was presided over by two Republican and Two Democratic Administrations, as well as the previous Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations, which though connected are a separate subject.

As I said there are four Democratic and four Republican administrations that are complicit in what happened over the past 40 years in Afghanistan. Four administrations, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton were the prologue to the disaster. The following four, the Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden administrations the principal culprits.

Since I was a Republican from 1976 until 2008 and a Democrat since I try to be honest about all of them. I write from the point of view of history, policy and strategy, not my allegiance to any President or Party. Thus you will see criticisms of President George W. Bush who I voted for twice, Barack Obama who I also voted for twice, and Joe Biden for whom I also voted.

I do not neglect the responsibility of Republican and Democrat controlled Congresses who did not exercise their duty to declare war or enforce the War Powers Act. Instead they passed legislation that passed the buck to the President on foreign and domestic military and security policy in a broad Authorization of the Use of Force, and Patriot Act of 2001. Both were passed by large bipartisan majorities signaling the mood of the time to “get something done.” They were signed by a “Who’s Who” of leading Democrats and Republicans and out of 535 Senators and Congressmen and women, only Representative Shiela Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas, voted against the amorphous Authoritarian of Use of Force. Her arguments on the House floor were sound, but she was called a traitor and sympathizer with our enemies. As far as the Patriot Act, only Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin voted against it along with 62 Democrats and 3 Republicans in the House.

Now many people on the extremes of the political right and left are consumed in the search for blame, something that runs deep in American history. Lost in this search for blame was the fact that our military and those of our NATO allies evacuated almost 125,000 people by air from a landlocked land, in a contested and chaotic environment in just 10 days. Nothing like this has ever been done before. The evacuation, despite the failures in planning was a miracle brought about by the skill and bravery of our military that executed it.

Unfortunately the American and NATO war in Afghanistan never had a consistent strategy that military or civilian leaders could articulate to the public, explain to the troops, or convince the world of its rightness. This does not diminish the valor, courage or honor of most of our soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen and CIA officers, and our allies who served in the field. Unfortunately we had who’s actions resulted in war crimes that harmed our cause and national reputation. These actions added to a list of actions by the United States Government government, particularly the ambush administrations in Afghanistan and Iraq that would have met many of the criteria that we tried the Germans for war crimes at Nuremberg.

The problem was that after the heinous attacks and mass murder on American soil by Al Qaida on 9-11-2001 our nation momentarily came together to punish those who did this. The Bush administration rapidly decided to not deal with this as a terrorist attack by a non-state actor, but as something akin to Pearl Harbor, an attack by a nation state. The Bush administration would continue to use that reasoning to attack Iraq which had not been a participant in the attacks of 9-11-2001, but identified as part of an “Axis of Evil” along with Iran, which condemned the attacks and at that time, as well as North Korea. The propaganda was initially successful, but once the American people got bored and realized they actually were not going to be asked to make any sacrifices because the burden they lost interest. Thus the war, which required the utmost support of the people was placed on the volunteer military which including reserves and national guard forces numbered under 1% of the population. Evidence and intelligence to the contrary was ignored or dismissed, with devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, we, as we most always do did not take the time to learn the lessons of history. The fact is that every foreign power that has ever invaded and tried to occupy Afghanistan all failed, often at great cost. The Greeks under Alexander the Great, the Persians, the Indians, the British on more than one occasion, and the Soviet Union all failed miserably. The truth is that Afghanistan cannot be ruled by foreigners, or even Afghan tribal leaders who refuse to make alliances with other tribal leaders, even ancient enemies, and appointing a national leader that they agreed upon. So long as that King did not ally himself with foreigners, offend Islam, or betray his supporters Afghanistan retained some stability, even though it was not a true nation in our understanding. Afghan history has been dictated by mix of Sunni, Shia, and Sufi Muslims who did not war against each other based on their sect of Islam, but on family and tribal grievances. We never understood this, despite the vast amount of literature left by those we followed into the deadly abyss. That willful ignorance of history was perhaps the most significant factor in our failed adventure on our own “Street Without Joy.” (The Street Without Joy” was a highway in French Indochina upon which many French, French Foreign Legion, Vietnamese and North African “Colonials” fought and died, and is the title of a book by French Journalist Bernard Fall who was killed by an IED while accompanying a patrol of U.S. Marines during our Vietnam War. Fall died in 1967, and Commentary Magazine wrote of him I. 1968:

“Intellectually an American pragmatist with a French sense of irony, Fall did not take a doctrinaire stance against American intervention in South Vietnam. On the other hand, he made two general criticisms of the U.S. Indochina policy: first, that it lacked a coherent frame of reference and second, that, based on theories unrelated to the local situation, it lacked flexibility. Though Fall continued to hope for improvement, his description of U.S. policy in Vietnam points to a long case history behind its now-apparent symptoms Of schizophrenia.”

The same could be said of the American invasion and attempt at nation building in Afghanistan.

Israeli Historian and former Ambassador to the United Staes, Michael Oren, wrote in his book “Faith Power and Fantasy: American and the Middle East from 1776 to the Present” regarding how President Bush took the US to war in Afghanistan and Iraq:

“Not inadvertently did Bush describe the struggle against Islamic terror as a “crusade to rid the world of evildoers.” Along with this religious zeal, however, the president espoused the secular fervor of the neoconservatives…who preached the Middle East’s redemption through democracy. The merging of the sacred and the civic missions in Bush’s mind placed him firmly in the Wilsonian tradition. But the same faith that deflected Wilson from entering hostilities in the Middle East spurred Bush in favor of war.”

Likewise, we built a military to fight peer competitors, not insurgents. We have never succeeded in any “small war” that we have ever engaged, even if we won the military actions. When we left we sowed seeds of distrust and hatred, and the feeling that we did not uphold the values espoused in our founding documents. As Mark Twain wrote concerning the American War against the Philippines after we took them over following the Spanish-American War:

“There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land. . .”

But the Afghan war was left to a small professional military and Federal law enforcement agencies to fight, while Bush in the aftermath of 9-11 told people to “go shopping” and to resume normal lives. We were led into these wars based on the false premise that we could remake the Middle East in our image. Lie after lie, from every administration from Bush to Biden assured us that things were going well against all evidence to the contrary.

It began with the Bush Administration which led us into the quagmire, followed by the Obama administration, which afraid to oppose General Stanley McCrystal’s urge for a major surge halfheartedly acquiesced because Afghanistan was the “good war.” After meeting some of the military objectives we began a withdraw after killing Osama Bin Laden in 2011. The surge resulted in the highest numbers of US casualties during the war and only temporarily hindered the Taliban. Like the Bush and Obama administration’s conduct of the war the Trump Administration did not tell the truth about their intentions in Afghanistan which differed from Bush and Obama. As early as 2013 Trump said that the war was lost, announced his decision to withdraw if he became President, praised the Taliban and took cheap shots at the US military, its leadership and even the troops. However, he did not fully withdraw during his term, and negotiated the withdraw with the Taliban and excluded the Afghan government from those negotiations. At that point the moral of the Afghan military which had been increasing in effectiveness collapsed. They had often fought valiantly and at great cost, they could fight and even defeat Taliban forces, but Trump’s betrayal of them cost us their support. Had they been included in the Trump-Taliban negotiations and treated and supported as they should have been, they might have met or exceeded the expectations that we based our assessment of their strength and resilience upon and been able to support our withdraw so long as the contractors who maintained their advanced weapons, a certain amount of former military trainers and advisors remained, and were provided needed air support from ships and bases outside Afghanistan. Trump’s deal was a disaster for the Afghans and ensured that no-matter how it was done a certain amount of chaos would affect our withdraw.

President Biden, has responsibility for the mistakes made in the withdraw. That is in his wheelhouse, but he did tell the truth and kept the promise to end this war, despite the political cost. He has been heavily criticized for this, but Trump would have done the same, after all he negotiated the withdraw with the Taliban that excluded the Afghan government from those negotiations. His actions set the stage for the collapse of the Afghan military and government.

The Afghan Army, especially their highly trained Special Forces had often fought valiantly and at great cost, they could fight and even defeat Taliban forces, but Trump’s betrayal of them cost us their support. This was much the fault of DOD and NSC leadership who should have fought harder to maintain full support support to them until our withdraw was safety accomplished.

Taliban leaders understood this and made deals with local tribal leaders/ warlords, governors, local officials, police,and military commanders. These deals ensured that when the Taliban launched their final offensive when the bulk of American military forced withdrew, that those leaders mostly surrendered and allowed the Taliban to advance. The Afghan soldiers knew that they had no chance after the May 2020 agreement between Trump and the Taliban, they wanted to fight and win but knew that they had been betrayed.

In today’s blame game people criticize not starting the withdraw earlier and there is truth to this, but that being said, had we started earlier the panic would have began then. There is criticism of handing Bagram Air Base to the Afghans in early July, but we had already removed the troops needed to guard it because DOD pulled out as fast as it could leaving State, CIA, and everyone else out to fend for themselves. State should have gotten approval early to begin processing our Afghan friends and scheduling flights out from Kabul and Kandahar well before the final collapse of the Afghan government, military and security forced began. The Afghans knew in 2020 that we had abandoned them, and the rush by DOD to get our troops and contractors out hindered everything else that happened.

Unfortunately, Biden required nothing of the Taliban, just as Trump had not. Afghan soldiers who would have fought to the death were left to their fate, having no logistical support, no air support, being cut off from their supply lines, and serving a corrupt government that often refused to pay them or protect their families.

Biden could have prevented the rout of Afghan forces by not allowing DOD and the contractors to withdraw so fast which would have made the withdraw less chaotic. His decision to,withdraw was correct but could have been accomplished much better as I will explain.

As to the withdraw, our interagency planning sucked. With the deadline of 31 August DOD, State, the NSC, CIA, and NATO should have met and settled on a plan to determine what had to be done to ensure a safe and successful evacuation by early April at the latest. That is something that Biden should have ensured and placed a single individual in charge of a joint, interagency and international effort to safely evacuate all the people we could. To my knowledge hat wasn’t done before everything started going to shit, then we acted with speed but in crisis mode.

Despite all of our mistakes, poor planning, lack of coordination, and our over optimistic estimation of the Afghan military and government strength and resilience, the evacuation should be considered like Dunkirk. Dunkirk was not a victory, but it was miraculous.

The fact is that no-matter when we began we were not going to get everyone out. In 1940 the French very much resented that more French were not evacuated from a Dunkirk, Calais, or Cherbourg, and that following their surrender to the a Germans the British Royal Navy attacked French Navy units who had been their allies days before sinking several battleships and cruisers, seizing French ships in British ports, and killing many French sailors.

However, like then when the British and French high commands did not coordinate their efforts we didn’t coordinate ours. We also ignored intelligence and put our bets the the rosy assessments about the capability and resilience of the Afghan government and military. This meant in July when things started falling apart we were caught flat footed, just like when the Germans broke through the Ardennes, crossed the Meuse River, outflanked the Maginot Line and made for the English Channel, and like a scythe cut off the best French armies and the British Expeditionary Force. Likewise, the British and French did not expect that the King of Belgium would without warning surrender his army, which still had a lot of capability to fight. The Belgian surrender opened a massive hole in the defense that could not be plugged.

I think that the Battle of France the example to best explain what happened in Afghanistan, not South Vietnam or Beirut.

There is another similarity, many French had not desire for war after the bloodletting of the First World War. Likewise conservative French politicians, generals and admirals hated the Third Republic and as General Weygand, the last commander before the French surrender said, “I didn’t get the Boches but I got the Republic.” Their country had been tearing itself apart as the left and right battled to rule the country. I wonder how much of this is true of Americans today. There are certainly many on the political right praising the Taliban and encouraging the overthrow of or government and system of government for an authoritarian and theocratic regime. Most of those advocating this, in and out of government are fanatical Fundamentalist Christians.

We can easily pass the blame for what happened to the President’s, Congresses, and Courts who initiated policies, launched wars, passed legislation which was mostly upheld by Courts, including the Supreme Court. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought but less than 1% of our population, all volunteers. With not skin in the game most Americans became cheerleaders for or against the wars, voting for politicians without regard for policy. Policy and strategy was what mattered most and we never had one.

I emailed the late great Catholic Priest, theologian, sociologist and political commentator Andrew Greeley from Iraq in 2007. My concern was what would happen to the Iraqi people. He emailed me back and said, “Sadly, Father, most Americans don’t care about the Iraqis.”

Likewise, most of us did not care about the Afghan people unless it suited our domestic political ends and the leaders that we backed. Morality, faith, and ethics were damned, we just didn’t care.

I lost too many friends to let things remain this way. The truth matters. Our Declaration and Constitution matter, our form of government maters, our respect for our laws and international law matter. The same is true of the people in lands we attack, invade or occupy matter, as do those of the nations who stand by us as allies.

Finally our freedoms here matter, especially the freedom of speech, association and the right to call our government into account for what it does or does not do, regardless of what political party has power. These rights are being eroded across our country, even as we seek to impose them on others. However, if we trample them why should anyone in any other country believe us.

As a nation we left Afghanistan with a stain on our national honor. Like T. E. Lawrence wrote about the British occupation of Iraq following the First World War:

“The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Bagdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster.

Well, we experienced a disaster 20 years in the making. However, that does nothing to detract from the military, CIA and State Department personnel who evacuated 120,000 souls in less than two weeks by air in a landlocked land under intense military and terrorist pressure. Call it the “Miracle of Kabul” for lack of a better name. God bless the men and women of these air crews and the men and women on the ground who provided security to get so many people out. They are heroes.

Our war in Afghanistan is over, despite the words of those so addicted to war that they insist that we will have to go back in, but like in 2001 they have no strategy, or no logical explanation of just what they expect the military to accomplish in another campaign to eradicate terrorists based in Afghanistan.

So until the next time,


Padre Steve+


Filed under Loose thoughts and musings