As we witnessed the incendiary congressional hearings over the past two days, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) invited Pop Smoke Media to discuss his opinions on the conduct, and potential outcomes of those hearings.
The interview took place in between sessions, after Rep. Wittman asked Pentagon officials his initial questions. The topics covered mistakes made during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the complicated state of how service is perceived in America.
What should’ve been known
One of our first questions posed to Rep. Wittman was, “So what questions do you think that the American people, particularly the veterans who served in this conflict, and their family members, deserve to have answered?”
“I think they want to know… How did we end up with this massive failure?” Besides trying to shed light on public opinion, Wittman also offered some insightful connections between the Afghanistan withdrawal and the one that occurred in Iraq in 2011.
On these parallels, Congressman Wittman said, “I think all of these things are joined, because we saw that withdrawal in Iraq, we saw we had to go back because ISIS emerged there as this extremist organization. I think we see many of the same things happening there in Afghanistan. And anybody that served there, looks at this and says, you know, ‘Why? Why do we withdraw in this way?’ I think many said, you know, ‘there is a time for us to get out.’ The question is, though, ‘What did we leave behind?’ ‘Is that area of the world less safe?’ And I would argue that it is. We have no human intelligence on the ground. Now we have no signal intelligence on the ground… the over the horizon capability is way over the horizon.”
Rep. Wittman on the perception of service
Slightly shifting gears, Rep. Wittman was asked, “Do you think that the military will owe us, and other Americans, if we continue to give our sons and daughters to the military, that we won’t have another conflict like Afghanistan or Vietnam, where the military never lost a single major battle, but yet, had an unceremonious exit?”
“I think that the way you instill the sense that if somebody chooses to serve this nation in uniform, that the military and the nation are going to have their back. And I would say that this is shaking that confidence because of what was sacrificed there in Afghanistan. And I believe, going forward, that it’s incredibly important for the Congress to hold this administration accountable for how decisions are being made. We know that it’s a civilian-run military, we know that the military gave certain decision making may proceeds [sic] to the administration as far as what they should do and what the outcome would be, and they did not.” Wittman began.
Stretching this thought further, the representative stated, “My only concern is that, did they express that strongly enough? Was there enough push back to the Biden administration to say this is wrong, what you’re doing. And then understanding too, where did the other secretaries make their play and influence the decision. Specifically, Secretary Blinken, because I do believe that it was a Secretary Blinken/President Biden decision, based [not] on a sound military decision, but based on a political decision. Because they were looking at 9/11 as the time to tout the withdrawal. So, I don’t think that it was a conditions-based withdrawal, it was a politically-based withdrawal.”
After surmising a purely-political basis for the withdrawal, Rep. Wittman said, “If people believe that decisions are going to be made based on political outcomes, and not based on strategic outcomes and tactical outcomes, you’re right. You’re going to shake the foundation of faith that individuals have in the military, and then also, what they’re fighting for.”
The future of the military, in the context of the past
The final question given to Rep. Wittman was, “Do you have any words of advice for the people who are currently serving in the military, want to serve in the military, or the Veterans who have served before?”
In a notable shift towards solemnity, Wittman said, “It takes a special person to raise their right hand to support and defend our constitution. And also, to be willing to die for that. That is an incredibly, incredibly significant commitment that somebody makes to this country. And very, very few people are willing to make that. So for those folks currently serving, a tremendous amount of thanks. For those that have served, the Veterans, who have made that commitment, who have served their nation, thank you.”
“And just as you point out, we owe them everything to make sure we take care of them. So, exposures there to toxic substances, and whether it’s places like Camp Lejeune, or whether it’s places like Afghanistan, or Iraq, with burn pits, you know, we owe it to them to take care of them. Especially since these instances were the result of their service to the country. We owe it to them.” Wittman continued.
Concluding the his previous remarks, Wittman said, “For those contemplating serving, this is still a nation based on an idea. It is unlike any other idea in the history of mankind, and that is that: we are all as individuals born with unalienable rights given to us by our creator. And these rights are to be protected by a government, and there are people who go into harm’s way to protect those rights. And that’s what this government is base upon: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And it is still an idea worth fighting for. We are still working each and every day to form a more perfect union. Even with all of the imperfections we see, even with the questioning of how decisions were being made, we are still the greatest nation the world’s ever known.”