How Did We Mess Up So Badly?

My apologies for the delay in writing to you this week. Like many of you, I watched in horror as images of Afghanistan flooded our television screens and social media feeds. I was heartbroken by so many stories that we heard and our collective complicity in creating this tragic moment. I decided to take a few days to think about what this means for us as a global community and where we might go from here.

The tension this week for me, and perhaps you, is that I agree that leaving Afghanistan and ending this “forever war “was the right leadership decision. Nothing about the dynamics of that engagement suggested that our staying longer would have changed the outcome that we see today.

What seems unconscionable to me is how we executed our departure. How could we have messed this up so badly?

The questions for me now are: What have we learned? How will this change our future approach to conflict?

Eudora Welty once said, “My continuing passion would be… to part a curtain, that invisible shadow that falls between people, the veil of indifference to each other’s presence, each other’s wonder, each other’s human plight.”

I suppose this, too, is my hope. I hope the lesson we learn is that human life is sacred—every life. When we see our country approach yet another “forever war,” I pray we rise up in the streets to resist making this mistake again. Our leadership going forward must center human thriving and planetary sustainability. Otherwise, we continue to play power games of domination, intimidation, and control. In this way, the US is no different from any oppressors of history. We will be destined to create terrible destruction every time.

We did hear at least one story that inspires hope that we are learning a better way. On Sunday, as Afghans frantically flooded the airport in Kabul, some began climbing aboard the open ramp of a US Airforce C-17A Globemaster III cargo plane. Normally, the US air force transporter seats 134 on its sidewall seats.

The crew made a fateful decision. Believing their first objective and priority was to save human lives, they broke every protocol imaginable and filled that plane with 640 passengers. In an interview, one of the crew later said that they decided they would figure out what to do with all these people once they were safely in the air.

The crew never should’ve been in that position. Afghan civilians should never have been in that position. None of this should’ve ever happened. But it gives me great hope to see that even in these trying conditions, human goodness prevailed.

If we learn anything as a country, as a global community, I hope we learn our human plights are connected. In a small world, we are each other’s keepers. We must take particular care of one another. Peace will only be achieved when we finally accept that has always been so.

We are in this together,


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