The Birds Remember

As I sit here writing this, the Taliban have overtaken the majority of provincial capitals in Afghanistan and are in the process of overrunning Kabul, the capital of the country. The shocking collapse occurred shortly after President Biden insisted that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was not “inevitable.” He pushed back against journalist’s questions that noted intelligence indicated that the U.S.-backed Afghan government would fall within a relatively short period of time. “I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more—more competent in terms of conducting war,” Biden said at the time.

In reality, President Biden’s pathetic attempt to mimic President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” moment has resulted in a disastrous collapse that provided Taliban militants with enough weapons, ammunition, and machinery to continue violence in the region for the next 100 years. Just look…

Early in our deployment to Marjah, we were alerted to render aid to a village elder who had been crucified to the ground. His shoulders were grotesquely dislocated and his legs had been spun 360 degrees until they hung and flopped like wet noodles. This wasn’t an accident, but done manually by hand. The work of the Taliban.

Later in our deployment, we encountered a pair of twin boys, probably aged 10 years old, who had their eyes gouged out. This was done, we learned, because their father wouldn’t provide aid to the local Taliban leader. Of course, we put these kids on helicopters to receive the best medical care in the world, but the damage was obviously irreparable.

Medevac for those kids

Then there were the girls who had their throats slit by the Taliban for talking to us. They had tried to surrender, but had been caught by their father and brothers. The punishment for trying to escape such a vile hell and seeking a better life from that madness: death. I don’t have any pictures of those girls. Everything happened so fast that day. But I’ll always remember them.

And there we were, a gang of US Marines- the baddest men on the planet, ready to go to war and give these Taliban pieces of shit what they deserved. And we did. I’ll never forget our final patrol on Christmas Day 2010, not a shot fired, not a single IED. We even passed a group of kids coming home from school- boys and girls together with brand new school materials. Can you even imagine the level of satisfaction having done such good work together with your best friends to make the world a better place? It’s something I’ve sought ever since, a job with such a righteous mission. Maybe I won’t find that feeling again, but I’m certainly lucky to have had it for the time I did.

Perhaps the most damning moment for Biden were his own words at a July 8 news conference, when he explicitly declared there would be no parallels between the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the fall of Saigon, when military helicopters took part in an urgent evacuation in the final days of the Vietnam War. “The Taliban is not the south—the North Vietnamese army. They’re not—they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a(sic) embassy in the—of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable,” Biden insisted during a July 8 press conference.

For those who don’t understand the meaning of this piece’s title: in the US military, helicopters are frequently referred to as “birds”. The attached photos include a bird that had been used to evacuate US diplomats from Vietnam, loyally serving again decades later to evacuate US personnel from Afghanistan. Now, it will be left like so much detritus – to be forgotten and consumed by the sands of time in a place no one will remember. And so will the warriors who rode them and never came home. Sure, their families and brothers in arms will remember. But the electorate who sent them there will continue on their merry way, ignorant to the past, present, and without a doubt, the future.

I find myself conflicted as ever over this situation. The mission of the Marine Corps Rifle Squad is to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, and to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. As a Marine, I want to fight and destroy my nation’s enemies. This makes me happy. On the other hand, as a citizen, I want my country to be free from endless conflicts that have ever changing victory conditions and no realized benefit to anyone involved. I don’t want my brothers’ lives used up in vain.

What a difficult position it is to hold these two conflicting ideas in my mind simultaneously. And yet, I can’t help but feel that if you step in shit, you have to own it. After 20 years of fighting, we were kingmakers in Afghanistan. It was our job to make it right, or at the very least, not make it worse.

This will be our legacy…

Our exit should have been a carefully planned withdrawal that left nothing in the hands of our enemies and provided sanctuary to those locals who supported us. Instead, it has become something more closely resembling a humanitarian disaster as innocent civilians desperately try to avoid the coming slaughter. When we left Vietnam, I bet it looked something like this.

I wonder if President Bush had any indication that the war had barely even begun when he proclaimed “Mission Accomplished” and landed on that aircraft carrier back in 2003? I wonder if President Obama had any clue that his order to leave Iraq would cause the rise of the Islamic State and all of the horrific atrocities that came with it? And now, you have to wonder if anyone in the White House has even considered what will happen in Afghanistan over the next decade. It already isn’t looking good.

I’m sad for my family; for my brothers and sisters that didn’t return from Afghanistan. And everyone else that returned with their lives forever changed from the things they saw and did. So much toil, all of the blood and treasure spent over the last 20 years. For what? My heart aches over the sad state of affairs that’s led us to repeat our timid and cowardly evacuation of Vietnam some 46 years ago. We did our job, served honorably, and believed in our mission. And while our leaders and the people forget… my brothers and the birds remember. Truly, our government doesn’t deserve us.

Anyways, because this a blog about gear, here are some pics of weapons we used in Afghanistan.

War is a racket.

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