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Reporter’s Pocket book: US Capitol flag at half-staff speaks volumes about Afghanistan horror

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The American flag fluttered excessive atop its workers on the base of the Dome on the West Entrance of the U.S. Capitol once I arrived there Thursday morning.

Once I departed Thursday night, the flag hung limp, lowered to half-staff.

At the least 13 U.S. service members perished in Afghanistan throughout my time contained in the constructing. At the least 13 lives and households, shattered, all in a matter of hours — in service to the USA and the worldwide neighborhood. 

Those that toil contained in the Capitol didn’t fairly know what to do with the information of the assaults. The politics of the bloodbath are sophisticated. Bipartisan-minded lawmakers referred to as for the Biden administration to increase the U.S. mission in Afghanistan past subsequent Tuesday. 

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However that would expose the U.S. to different disasters. Truncate the mission, and the U.S. appears to be like weak. A number of Democrats who supported ending the mission in Afghanistan discovered themselves calling for an extension of the mission. Republicans who embraced the choice of former President Trump to go away Afghanistan now criticized President Biden for yanking the troops. 

Some Republicans retreated to acquainted quarters, upbraiding the president and questioning his health to serve. Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., demanded that Biden resign. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, referred to as for impeachment. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., recommended the cupboard invoke the twenty fifth Modification to the Structure to take away Biden from workplace. 

Democrats walked a superb line. Whereas they seethed inside, they have been cautious to deal with the tragedy of the American losses and the mounting humanitarian disaster in Kabul – relatively than publicly problem Biden. 

Temperature climbing

Lawmakers and congressional aides may really feel the temperature climbing in Afghanistan, days in the past, even a half-world away. 

And but, there wasn’t lots that individuals on the Capitol may do when issues went to hell in Kabul. 

The sting was particularly brutal for lawmakers and workers who scrambled for days to extract Individuals – in addition to Afghans who assisted the U.S. from Afghanistan. 


The telephones exploded. E-mail erupted. They have been on Sign. WhatsApp. They used each mode of communication besides ship-to-shore and semaphore to find people, get paperwork so as, and hustle them to the Abbey Gate at Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport.

The disaster consumed Congress – principally as a result of individuals sensed that one thing like Thursday’s bombings was about to occur. It was a race in opposition to the clock. And lawmakers and workers cobbled collectively advert hoc networks to maneuver individuals out of Afghanistan.

Freelance expeditions

Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Peter Meijer, R-Mich., sprung into motion. They flew to Afghanistan for a couple of hours to see the scenario for themselves — after which thumbed a trip out. 

That maneuver prompted a stern rebuke from Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In a letter to all lawmakers, Pelosi mentioned touring to Afghanistan “would unnecessarily divert wanted sources from the precedence mission of safely and expeditiously evacuating Individuals and Afghans.” She famous that extracting individuals in danger “requires the complete forces and a spotlight of the U.S. army and diplomatic groups on the bottom.” 

U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Mich., is seen on the Home steps of the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 4, 2021. (Getty Photos)

Lawmakers journey internationally on official enterprise. However one wants clearance from congressional leaders first. The lawmakers normally fly on army air. Committee chairs should typically bless these journeys. 

However nobody signed off on the expeditions of Moulton and Meijer.

“It’s not the time to go,” mentioned Home International Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. “It’s selfishness to attempt to get some consideration for your self and it doesn’t assist the those that we wish to be serving to proper now.”


“That is lethal severe. We don’t want members to go,” Pelosi mentioned. 

Begging for assist

However the telephones nonetheless rang on Capitol Hill with constituents begging for assist. Aides struggled to navigate bureaucracies to evacuate these in want. 

It raised the query in regards to the confidence lawmakers might have within the Biden administration in pulling this off. 

Yours actually requested Pelosi if lawmakers like Moulton and Meijer might not have felt compelled to take issues into their very own palms if they’d extra confidence within the Biden administration.

“They wish to freelance on their very own,” Pelosi replied. “I’d not make something greater of this.” 

But it surely wasn’t simply Pelosi who tried to tamp down members from heading to Afghanistan.

“I defined to them that I do not suppose they need to (go),” mentioned Home Minority Chief Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “I believe it creates a better danger. You have bought sufficient Individuals over there. They’d be held hostage. They make some extent out of a member of Congress.” 

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 22, 2021. (Associated Press)

Home GOP Chief Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 22, 2021. (Related Press)

Fox discovered that there have been a number of different lawmakers who hoped to hitch a trip to Afghanistan when phrase trickled out about Moulton and Meijer. However those that have been crafting itineraries ditched their plans after admonitions from congressional leaders, the Pentagon and the State Division.

Meijer took situation with those that criticized him and Moulton.


“The opprobrium from the Protection Division, from the White Home, from the State Division, is frankly laughable,” Meijer instructed Fox Information’ Bret Baier. “Proper now, they’ve executed all the things to hinder the scenario.” 

After the assault, the State Division reached out to congressional workers with an pressing message. Diplomats begged congressional workers to halt efforts to direct individuals to the airport in Kabul. Fox Information was instructed that Capitol Hill workers have been nonetheless sending these messages to individuals making an attempt to flee Kabul on Thursday morning.

“All workers partaking in this kind of uncoordinated messaging to individuals on the bottom should stop as a result of safety scenario,” mentioned the message from the State Division.

However many workplaces ignored the directive.

“We’ve come too far,” one congressional aide instructed Fox Information. “We’ve to do all we will do to get individuals out of there.”

That mentioned, the Biden administration had efficiently evacuated near 100,000 individuals from Afghanistan.

At nighttime for hours

It was even onerous to for lawmakers and workers to cull info out of Afghanistan following the assault. Data was fragmentary. Many discovered themselves in the dead of night for hours, frantically dialing up contacts abroad or phoning Foggy Backside for nuggets. 

McCarthy demanded the Home return to session for briefings. Congress doesn’t have to be in session for briefings. But it surely was onerous for anybody to get super-sensitive info since few have been in Washington. Lawmakers lacked entry to particular rooms on the Capitol geared up to obtain such important intelligence. 

However maybe nobody wanted particular conclaves in safe rooms of the Capitol to actually grasp what unfolded Thursday.


There was just one message value digesting.

It stood there in plain sight. Displayed, in the most straightforward, but compelling of manners.

All one wanted to do was take a look at the American flag flying atop the Capitol on Thursday morning. 

And take a look at it once more on Thursday night time. 

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