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The White House Hopes We Can All Forget Afghanistan (And The Press Will Help)

President Joe Biden departs the South Lawn of the White House in Marine One on June 29, 2021. Official White House Photo/Erin Scott/Flickr.

“Look, we’ve closed the chapter on Afghanistan. And now we’re committed to America. We want to put the past behind us and are committed to build back better and infrastructure.”

“We want to focus on people, on jobs, on working-class Americans struggling to pay the bills.”

“We’re not dwelling on the past.”

None of these are quotes — yet. Already by the time you read this, that might have changed.

Because even while the frantic Kabul evacuation effort was ongoing the White House preferred to talk about anything at all other than their deadly and disastrous retreat. And we all heard Tuesday afternoon’s angry, 20-minute speech by the president: The retreat was a great success, a real Joe-Eagle example of this administration keeping its promises — and it’s all the fault of that dastardly Donald Trump and the cowardly Afghan government.

The White House will face some obstacles in changing the narrative. This, for instance, is the first story since Super Tuesday that’s seen a largely complicit corporate media really go after the administration for any of its numerous and demonstrable failures.

It’s the first story that’s seen the same corporate media that virtually propped up now-President Joe Biden’s limp and barely responsive person begin to wonder aloud if his public mental decay might be a sign of — shock — mental decay.

Finally, there are still hundreds of Americans and many more American-aligned Afghans stranded in the country — and likely hostages of a vengeful and merciless foe.

But in the end, there’s a high chance it will work.

Why? Let’s start with ability: The White House Press Corps, for instance, is largely made up of camera-ready vanity projects more interested in their Instagram followers and TV outfits than holding to account an administration they’re politically aligned with.

The brief glimpses the public was treated to over the past two weeks of, say, the Pentagon reporters asking real questions and demanding answers might have been an impetus to improve if the average pretty face at the White House had either the shame or the ability to do so. But they don’t, and they won’t.

Can’t be too hard on the White House press corps, though, they’re just doing their jobs, and despite what they might claim, for most that job is really just looking good on TV, making friends, and, when the cameras were rolling, yelling at Trump while he colored Easter eggs with little kids.

In reality, a lot of people in Washington and New York are just doing their jobs. Take the average news anchor — first in line to defend the tenacity of her journalism, to trumpet the sacred nature of his career. Their job isn’t easy — they have to read off a teleprompter for hours on end in between questioning random faces popping up on a screen for two minutes at a time — but it’s not exactly shoe-leather journalism.

Can’t be too hard on them, either: They’re far from the only ones. What do you think is going to happen to the editors of The New York Times if the Biden loyalists who make up their readership think they’ve focused a bit too long on those American hostages in Afghanistan? What do you think is going to happen if a Republican is elected because of it? We know what happened last time they felt responsible: A lot of long public confessions; a lot of tears; a lot of feelings.

Readers aside, it wouldn’t sit too well with the reporters editors answer to these days either. Those reporters, after all, have friendships to maintain, and above and beyond that, self-worth to uphold. When you don’t have religion, your status in the Resistance is nearly as crucial as your sexual identity in assessing your self-worth. What will your wife’s boyfriend think of you?

Laughs aside, this isn’t a joke: The American corporate press isn’t broken in the normal sense, it’s simply and grotesquely changed: It isn’t seeking truth, but views and clicks and, above even that, approval from the right people.

Those right people, in corporate media and elsewhere, want to see this administration get back to the things they elected them to do — and so they’re going to, and it’s as simple as that. The White House is so confident in this, they’ve already laid out their plan to Politico.

“The path forward for them in the fall remains Covid and infrastructure,” a chosen outside source explained. “The most important facts about Afghanistan remain that he got the U.S. out, in terms of what the public cares about.”

The administration — and its media friends — are going to do their best to make sure that happens. Nevermind the hundreds of Americans confirmed left behind. It’s essentially their own fault: you heard the president say it. And if the Taliban doesn’t start filming beheadings, it might even stay as quiet as the White House hopes.

When the Vietnam War ended, America was desperate to move on. The tumult at home, the dead abroad, the first real defeat in American history — all weighed on us, but rather than confront why we fought, how we fought — or even any of the people responsible for so much death and turmoil — we chose to forget.

There were casualties in this. The returning American G.I. was left alone and forsaken. Just as the military veteran suicide hotlines have been flooded these past two weeks, these men struggled desperately for closure and meaning in a country that seemed hellbent on denying them any.

Even more than those who came home, those who flew home to be buried or were left behind in rice paddies were forsaken by an America that chose willfully to forget. These men had answered, but back at home when we heard the call to simply clear our eyes, learn from our mistakes, and honor their sacrifice as we moved forward, we instead let its sound linger for decades.

We’d rather make movies about what a waste it all was; we called that real. And we made sure to thank every veteran who returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. How nice. If we really want to thank them, we’ll answer some hard questions.

Alex Plitsas is a decorated Army combat and intelligence veteran who, as a civilian in the final days of evacuation, worked day and night to help get as many Americans and green-card holders out of that country as he could. “This,” he wrote Monday, “is the question I keep getting from those who remain stranded in Afghanistan, ‘What’s next?'”

Sadly, we know what they want to come next.

“Look, we’ve closed the chapter on Afghanistan. And now we’re committed to America. We want to put the past behind us and are committed to build back better and infrastructure.”

“We want to focus on people, on jobs, on working-class Americans struggling to pay the bills.”

“We’re not dwelling on the past.”

They’ll almost sound patriotic.