The families of 13 brave young men and women are just a few moments into a grieving process that will last the rest of their days, after an ISIS-K suicide bomber stole the lives of these American service members and 170 civilians in Afghanistan last week. On Sunday, President Joe Biden met with the families of these fallen heroes at Dover Air Force Base as flag-draped caskets descended from the plane where their beaming children in uniform should have been.
Those meetings reportedly didn’t go very well. Although the family of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum — a young man just 20 years old who died in Kabul last week — went to Delaware, his two sisters and father left the room before the president came in. They didn’t want to talk to the man they blamed for their brother and son’s death.
“You can’t f-ck up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry,” one sister said of Biden, adding that his empty condolences represented a “total disregard to the loss of our Marine.” “This did not need to happen, and every life is on his hands.” McCollum’s grieving mother also blamed “feckless, dementia-ridden piece of crap” Biden for her son’s death.
Only McCollum’s wife stayed, along with the life inside her: the couple’s unborn child who is due at the end of September and who will never know his or her brave daddy. The meeting was “scripted and shallow, a conversation that lasted only a couple of minutes,” the Washington Post reported.
For the widow, the disappointing meeting with Biden was salt in the wound. She said he talked about Beau, recounting his son’s military tenure and later death from cancer.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the president reference Beau Biden in the context of the deadly Afghanistan disaster, so it’s unsurprising that the McCollum family would describe the Delaware meeting as “scripted.” In the president’s much-anticipated speech last Thursday, hours after the infamous blast, he compared the loss of his son to brain cancer with the loss of more than a dozen U.S. service members under his leadership.
“We have some sense,” Biden said, “of what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki repeated the line during Monday’s press briefing when discussing Biden’s visit to Delaware. “He of course was deeply impacted. He knows firsthand that there is nothing you can say to a family member. There is nothing you can say to someone who loses a child that is going to fill the black hole,” she said, referring to Beau.
Death is sad and scary, and the death of a loved one is a heartwrenching pain. Even more, the death of a child is an acute tragedy only those who have experienced its throes can know.
This is a pain Joe Biden knows well, having lost his first wife and baby daughter in a car accident almost 50 years ago and more recently his son to brain cancer when Beau was just 46 years old. That’s a pain many can’t understand, and it’s a loss that enabled Biden to empathize with others in their grief. Cancer regrettably snuffs out the lives of those we love far too soon and far too often. Biden could relate to that.
But the soldiers who died in Afghanistan aren’t like Beau Biden. The violent death of one’s child overseas at the hands of terrorists is a league of grief all its own. To make matters worse, the families of these slain heroes are left with the sinking reality that these deaths — of their children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and grandchildren — could have been avoided.
The fact is that while the War in Afghanistan was a two-decade-long and bipartisan disaster, it was the failures of the current administration — the lack of planning, the misplaced priorities, the arbitrary attempt to accomplish a symbolic withdrawal by Sept. 11 so Biden could take a victory lap, the failure to protect American lives in the evacuation, and the cruel indifference and inability to be honest about the situation — that led to the sudden loss of so many innocent lives and the subsequent grief and turmoil.
Although the body count might not yet be complete, Thursday was still the deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan in a decade, and it was the first time since February 2020 that any U.S. service members have died in action there. That’s on Biden, who, as The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson wrote, “has been derelict in his duty, he is unfit to lead, and he should be impeached.”
“Twenty years and six months old, getting ready to come home from frickin’ Jordan to be with his wife to watch the birth of his son, and that feckless, dementia-ridden piece of crap just sent my son to die,” an indignant McCollum told a radio show over the weekend. “I wanted my son to represent our country, to fight for my country, but I never thought that a feckless piece of crap would send him to his death and smirk on television while he’s talking about people dying with his nasty smirk.”
“This was an unnecessary debacle that could have been handled properly,” she added.
Beneath all McCallum’s raw emotion, that mother is right. She’s justified in blaming the current administration for her loss, for the empty chair at her holiday table this year, for the upcoming sleepless nights, and for her fatherless grandbaby.
That’s why, when Joe Biden redirects the conversation to Beau, he isn’t trying to produce empathy for the grieving families of Afghanistan’s fallen. He’s talking about Beau to conjure up sympathy for himself. It’s easier to manufacture relatability than it is to take responsibility.
But cancer isn’t a suicide bomber whose opportunity was made possible by failed leadership, and Joe Biden’s personal and irrelevant anecdotes aren’t going to bring these young heroes home.