Who knew that a member of the House of Representatives conducting oversight over the executive branch in the middle of a historic military catastrophe was … controversial? For some reason, Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Pete Meijer (R-MI) thought oversight was part of their constitutional responsibilities. Moulton fired back at Nancy Pelosi and anonymous fellow Democrats in an interview with the Boston Globe, where he also revealed that his trip to Afghanistan had a more pressing and acute mission:
Representative Seth Moulton said he decided to make a surprise, unauthorized trip to Afghanistan after a sleepless night last weekend when he attempted to get four Afghan families on flights out of Kabul through a series of frantic texts and calls.
In the end, only one family escaped. But the experience launched Moulton on the brief visit to Kabul on Tuesday with Republican Representative Peter Meijer that has drawn criticism from the Pentagon, the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as some of his congressional colleagues, all of whom slammed it as an unwelcome distraction from the troops’ mission of evacuating US citizens and Afghans. …
“I don’t care one bit about anonymous quotes from Washington when I’m saving the lives of our allies,” Moulton said in a telephone interview from Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday, where he visited Afghan refugees housed at a US airbase on his way back to the United States. …
“I got several not just families but groups through the gates,” Moulton said of his time in Kabul. “It’s amazing that people think this is about politics when it’s about innocent lives and saving people who have given everything to us from torture and death. Every single person that we can get through the gates who is one of our allies, that is the difference between freedom and death.”
Both Moulton and Meijer served in Iraq, and Meijer also worked with aid organizations in Afghanistan, so neither are cocktail-circuit dilettantes. If Congress is to fulfill its oversight responsibilities in the Afghanistan debacle, Moulton and Meijer are perhaps the best-positioned members in either chamber to conduct it. So why are both Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy clucking their tongues at this fact-finding mission?
Meijer doesn’t know either, but he’s just as defiant as Moulton. In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Bret Baier, the House Republican calls the criticism from the Departments of State and Defense “frankly laughable,” and accused both and the White House of lying to the public about the catastrophe unfolding in Kabul:
“The opprobrium from the Defense Department, from the White House, from the State Department is frankly laughable,” Meijer said during an interview on Fox News’s “Special Report with Bret Baier” on Wednesday. …
Meijer said the two did not fly into Afghanistan on a military plane but left on a military plane at the “encouragement of individuals who were there.” He added that they waited for a plane with open seats to ensure that they weren’t taking them away from anyone who needed them.
Meijer said he and Moulton took the trip because they “had to know” what was going on in Kabul.
“We had to know what was going on on the ground in Kabul,” Meijer said. “We have not had information we need from the administration and realized that we were being lied to up and down, and we needed to see for ourselves.”
Was it dangerous? Yes, but that’s precisely why oversight is so important at this juncture, too. No one ordered Moulton and Meijer to fly into the collapsing perimeter of the US’ final position in Afghanistan — the two volunteered for the duty, and did what they could to minimize their impact on operations.
Both Moulton and Meijer insist that the trip was necessary for Congress to learn the correct lessons from the Afghanistan collapse. Apparently, one of the biggest lessons Congress has to learn is to do its job when it comes to oversight in military operations, and to demand accountability from the start. Congress, under the leadership of both parties, has been far too complicit in creating an imperial presidency and abdicating their responsibilities in almost every area of governance, with the benefit of not having to cast tough votes.
The example set by Moulton and Meijer should embarrass that leadership caste into asserting Congress’ proper constitutional role. For now, we’ll just have to be happy that they’re embarrassed at all.