(Bloomberg opinion) – One of the most worrying aspects of Thursday’s terrorist atrocities at Kabul airport is the reaction that it failed to evoke. This act of breathtaking depravity should have reminded Americans that what they have in common as civilized people is far more important than what divides them. There is little evidence of it.
The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is approaching and you think back to how people dealt with it. The idea that Americans and their friends around the world should come together to face evil found overwhelming support. The actions that stem from this conviction have been rash at times and, in the case of Iraq, disastrous; A purpose forged under such circumstances is not necessarily wise. Still, the feeling of standing together was an integral part of spiritual recovery from a devastating blow. As a Briton living in London at the time, I vividly remember being trapped in and comforted by it.
What happened 20 years ago was, of course, far more shocking than the bombing of Kabul. Nevertheless, one would have expected that the cruelty of this attack – US soldiers trying to escape and retreating – would have aroused opinion. Instead, it was just fodder for the land’s endless and exhausting divisions. Republican: This is the biden we told you about. Democrats: Withdrawal was never easy (and Trump put politics on us anyway). For Americans invested in politics, the main question seems to be what impact, if any, this carnage will have on the midterm elections. In short, hardly a moment’s deviation from business as usual.
A point of utter absurdity is reached when the mutual loathing of the political parties is not diminished by their agreement, as in this case, on basic politics. Former President Donald Trump has signed an agreement with the Taliban to allow a quick American withdrawal, regardless of the wishes of the Afghan government and US NATO partners. President Joe Biden and the Democrats welcomed this approach (including his disdain for allies and much of the ruthless “America First” rhetoric that went with it). Whatever the right or wrong of choice, Democrats and Republicans agreed on the main thing. However, there is no trace of an admission of responsibility for the consequences.
Republicans urge voters to believe that Trump implemented the policy more effectively, and the Democrats that it was actually implemented well under the circumstances. The claims are ridiculous as well, but what the heck? Political advantage is at stake. At a time like this, the only thing that matters is denouncing the enemy – fellow Americans.
The best case for Biden to be elected president was that he could start repairing a bitterly divided country. He didn’t even try. His defense of the Kabul debacle was fully worthy of Trump in his narcissistic refusal to admit mistakes and be ready to blame others. The Republican leaders, still intrigued by the fraud that hijacked their party, have nothing of value to say. Your only role is to make matters worse. Someone once said that a nation divided against itself cannot stand. When such heinous opponents as the perpetrators of the atrocities in Kabul cannot unite this country, one begins to despair of its future.
This column does not necessarily represent the views of the editors or Bloomberg LP or their owners.
Clive Crook is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and writes editorials on business, finance and politics. He was the chief commentator in Washington for the Financial Times, a correspondent and editor for The Economist, and a senior editor for Atlantic.