The Right's Anti-Refugee Jihad

Plus: The MAGA memory hole

Afghan people sit along the tarmac as they wait to leave the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021. (Photo by Wakil Kohsar / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

President Biden’s failure to get more of our allies — including military translators and their families — out of Afghanistan before this week’s catastrophic collapse has drawn withering (and completely justified) criticism.

Promises were made, and are, apparently, about to be broken.

Make sure you read our interview with an Afghan pilot who fought with the U.S., and is now left behind.

There are a lot of Afghans who trusted the United States. Not just translators. Not just civil society activists, but also Afghan soldiers. We loved fighting alongside Americans.

Please don’t leave us behind. Please. We will be great Americans.

For much of the world, this is a fundamental test of our national honor and decency. In the Atlantic, George Packer writes that our “abandonment of the Afghans who helped us, counted on us, and staked their lives on us is a final, gratuitous shame that we could have avoided.”

It is, he wrote, a moment that will live in infamy.

But for the MAGA right, it is a moment of opportunity — a chance to return to a by-now familiar playbook of xenophobia, outrage, and fear.

Here’s Charlie Kirk claiming that Biden intentionally let Afghanistan fall because he "wants a couple hundred thousand more Ilhan Omars to come into America to change the body politic permanently.” (Omar is Somali, not Afghan, but they’re all pretty much the same to Kirk.)

But Kirk’s blend of pure stupidity and raw bigotry was not a one-off. Trump’s anti-immigration homunculus, Stephen Miller essentially made the same point, raising fears of caravan-like hordes of refugees inundating our streets.


And, to the surprise of no one, Fox News hosts took up the cry.

Even as desperate allies were trying to flee the on-rushing Taliban, Tucker Carlson labeled them “invaders,” who will probably be coming to “your neighborhood.”


“What promises?” asks Laura Ingraham.


GOP politicians have been quick to seize on the new anti-refugee line.

Eager to burnish his America First cred, J.D. Vance was also quick to turn against the Afghani refugees. While conceding that many of them “were good people,” he said in a statement, “there are bad ones too who do not like Americans or our Western way of life.” He warned: “Resettling them in the United States so that our country becomes a refugee camp is not the answer.”

Vance doubled down by retweeting the Pizzagate conspiracy theorist — and erroneously suggesting that the military was in charge of vetting.


On Monday, the Biden Administration hastily authorized $500 million in aid to support refugees and others “at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan.”

But given the right’s backlash, it is still unclear how hard the administration is prepared to lean into the resettlement of large numbers of refugees at the same time it faces an immigration crisis at the southern border. Politico Playbook reports this morning that those anxieties may have slowed Biden’s response.

Others in the administration say that the White House let political fear of GOP attacks make them act too cautiously on relocating Afghans to the U.S.

As one administration official put it: “It’s like they want the credit from liberals for ending the Trump cruelty to immigrants and refugees but they also don’t want the political backlash that comes from actual refugees arriving in America in any sort of large numbers.”


For a moment yesterday, it appeared that Donald J. Trump was endorsing admitting a large number of refugees from Afghanistan, whom he described as “civilians and others who have been good to our Country and who should be allowed to seek refuge.”

But this was merely a head-fake: Trump will (as he always does) surely follow the lead of his followers.

So heads up: This is the next big fight, although it’s really just a continuation of the old one that Trump launched when he came down the escalator and talked about Mexican rapists. It’s the same fight about “invaders” and caravans and walls, and disease-infested migrants, who are the real culprits in the spread of the pandemic.

This time, though, the right is targeting our allies in Afghanistan, and demanding that we break our promise to them.

Because American Greatness is now more about ethnic purity than keeping our word.

The MAGA Memory Hole

Before the history is completely retconned:


This has already been scrubbed from the RNC website:


David French wrote of the Trump-Taliban deal back in 2019:

There is a difference between peace and retreat. The Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban represents a full retreat. It’s an agreement that most Republicans would deplore if a Democrat president made the deal, and they’d be right to be angry. ..


Don’t forget the plans for a secret meeting with the Taliban at Camp David.


And this from April, when Trump said that Biden should get out of Afghanistan even earlier.


ICYMI: Trump’s demands for immediate withdrawal preceded his presidency.

Exit take:

"I think absolutely President Biden bears responsibility for making this decision.

"But there is no question that President Trump, his administration and Secretary [Mike Pompeo], they bear very significant responsibility for this.
"They walked down this path of legitimizing the Taliban, of perpetuating this fantasy, telling the American people that the Taliban were a partner for peace.

"President Trump told us that the Taliban was going to fight terror. Secretary Pompeo told us that the Taliban was going to renounce Al Qaeda. None of that has happened. None of it has happened."

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