Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Squad and the Afghan Interpreters Bill

For obvious reasons, the past few days have seen a lot of people making hay over the fact that "the Squad" voted against a recent bill which, among other things, funded an emergency visa program for Afghan interpreters to come to the United States. Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jamal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) were the only Democrats to vote against the law, joined by five Republicans (Chip Roy (R-TX), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Bob Good (R-VA), Tom McClintock, (R-CA), and Ralph Norman (R-SC)).

I imagine it is probable that the Squad voted against the bill to make some sort of statement against the increased appropriations for Capitol security (which was the primary purpose of the law), not because of anything to do with the Afghan interpreters. That doesn't mean I feel especial sympathy for them taking bad press today -- they were clearly engaging a protest vote and, well, live by political theater, die by political theater -- but I am curious what exact point they were trying to make. Was it a "defund the police" bit -- opposing responding to the January 6 insurrection by funneling more money into security programs? Or else what?

In the meantime, I get the idea that America couldn't stay in Afghanistan forever even as the exact moment we left would always be wrenching. But the absolute least America can do for the people we're leaving behind -- not just the interpreters, but basically anyone associated with and friendly towards the American presence -- is to ensure our doors are open to Afghan refugees. Remonstrations about leaving or about having stayed too long can have their moment, but they need to take a back seat to a far more urgent need.

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