Pentagon: Let's focus on racial disparity in the military ... what Afghanistan disaster?

AP Photo/Manish Swarup

Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks has an op-ed published in The Hill titled “Addressing Racial Disparities in the Military Justice System” last night. The level of tone-deafness coming for the Biden administration cannot be understated. The only reason for such timing for a piece like this from the Pentagon right now is to serve as a distraction from the reporting on the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal. It is shameful.

Yesterday Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley finally stood together and held a joint press briefing. It was a complete waste of time. You can read the transcript here. It comes from the Defense Department so I can’t vouch for its complete accuracy. The White House, as we know, sometimes edits transcripts to favor Biden and I don’t know if the Defense Department does the same. The real question is why did it take so long for them to do a press briefing? The Biden administration has a real bunker mentality and that has come to light across the board. Up until yesterday’s briefing, the only person we heard from each day was Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The generals took three questions from the press. Three. The first question had to do with their ability to work with the Taliban and the possibility of coordination in counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K in Afghanistan. The second question was from Helene Cooper with the New York Times. She made a point of blaming the Trump administration for slowing the SIV process, referring to it as a “hurdle” the Biden administration had to handle. The third one came from CNN’s Barbara Starr, a longtime Pentagon reporter, and her question was all about feelings. She wanted to know about their feelings of pain and anger that they referenced in their statements.

Thank you, sir. I — while your messages today from both of you, your messages of compassion and gratitude are certainly understood, in the last several days, both of you have — multiple times have issued these kinds of messages and statements.

And what I’m curious about is what do you see in the country, with troops, with veterans, that makes you, you know, you — it’s a rare thing that makes you feel these messages must continue? And you — you have put — put out so many in the last few days.

And General Milley, I was very struck — you used the word “pain” and “anger,” and that you understood that was out there. So as a combat veteran yourself of Afghanistan, can you help people understand that? Where does your pain and anger come from? If you could both answer your views on this.

Excuse me, but, who cares? The focus should be on those left behind, Gold Star families, veterans, the troops involved in the last days of our military’s presence in Afghanistan. Barbara Starr sounded like Barbara Walters – what kind of tree would you be, General? It was infuriating. Defense Secretary Austin used a list of pre-selected journalists to call on, just like Joe Biden does. FNC’s Jen Griffin wasn’t on the list. She tried to ask a pertinent question about Biden’s phone conversation with Afghan President Ghani and she was ignored.

Clearly, the intention now is to distract from the Afghanistan withdrawal. Pelosi is trying to move on to the $3.5T infrastructure bill, Joe Biden will travel to Louisiana tomorrow to visit New Orleans to see Hurricane Ida’s damage, who knows where Kamala is these days, and apparently, Pentagon officials think this is a good time to talk about racial disparity in the military. Remember, we’ve been assured that the military leadership is focusing solely on Afghanistan and getting out those thousands of people Joe Biden left behind. When John Kirby tweeted out the link to Deputy Secretary of Defense Hicks’ op-ed, well, it didn’t go so well in the Twitterverse.

The boneheaded decision to try to distract so quickly after the initial shocking defeat in Afghanistan was noted.

Reactions haven’t gotten any better this morning.

Secretary Hicks opines about racial disparity in the military justice system. That would be fine under different circumstances. She’d be free to do some navel-gazing and commission reports about social justice issues all day long. Now, however, is not the time to dwell on anything other than Afghanistan, our failure there, and most importantly, the Americans and Afghan helpers left behind. That includes the service dogs, too.

Earlier this year, I had a number of discussions with members of Congress and key stakeholders about reforms to our military justice system. We also have heard from service members about painful experiences that are unacceptable in the military or any justice system.

Most recently, a 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office highlighted that members of color were more likely to be tried in a court martial proceeding, but going back decades studies have highlighted this problem.

The men and women who risk their lives in defense of the United States deserve better, and we are committed to change. Leveraging evidence-based best practices, we will drive meaningful and lasting progress. And while driving change across one of the world’s largest enterprises is never easy, this challenge demands we do so quickly and methodically.

She even talks about root causes, you know, like Kamala does when she talks about the Biden border crisis. The Biden administration definitely has its own talking points. The generals both talked about the historic airlift and the thousands of people they rescued. That historic airlift wouldn’t have been necessary if the Biden administration had evacuated competently, but, never mind.

To hold ourselves accountable, and consistent with congressional intent, we have also launched an independent assessment of the root causes of racial disparities in the military justice system. As that assessment completes in mid-2022, we will ensure the findings and any recommendations are incorporated into our action plans

We are committed to identifying solutions fitted to this problem with detailed attention and careful implementation. That will require commitment and action from all leaders in the department and at all levels. But it is way past time. Rapid action now will help us achieve sustained progress in the years to come. Our people deserve nothing less.

Americans are holding the Biden administration, including the military leadership and the State Department accountable. Criticism has been from all sides. Joe Biden united Americans by his stunningly incompetent handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He spoke to the Afghan president months ago acknowledging it would go badly and tried to get him to lie about the operation. Biden should be impeached for that alone – he claims they had no way of knowing the Afghan government would collapse so quickly – but he won’t be. Democrats are in control and they were only interested in phone calls when Trump was in office.

The strategy now is to pivot away from Afghanistan as quickly as possible. The Biden administration is counting on Americans having short memory spans and indifference to Afghanistan. The mid-term elections are going to be interesting.