There aren’t too many people in government who are happy with Reps. Seth Moulton and Peter Meijer’s unapproved trip to the Kabul airport during dangerous and chaotic evacuation efforts. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy condemned the stunt, and the pair have felt obliged to offer up defenses trying to assure the public that it was both justified and necessary.
Now there are a few new wrinkles, none of them good. The Washington Post is reporting that two more lawmakers had already landed in Europe in an attempt to get to Kabul, and that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin won’t be approving any such visits. The military doesn’t want American VIPs to pop over, and will not be happy about being forced to provide protection to any that sneak in.
The second tidbit is the apparent method Moulton and Meijer may have used to get to Kabul to begin with. The pair somehow managed to get onto an allied military flight after traveling to Qatar commercially, but the Post cited an unnamed official who claims the administration had “troubling reports” that the lawmakers “were not honest about their identities on the manifest of the aircraft.”
Now I’m no crack military security specialist, but an incident in which two ex-military Americans dodging questions about their identity can talk their way onto a military aircraft headed into a terrorism-riddled war zone seems like something that would raise a whole mess of new security questions. People can do that? Really?
In any event, once the pair landed in the evacuation zone they did let the military know who they were. They were allegedly given a tour by staff members who were just lying around not doing anything, saw the crowds the rest of us did, flew back out on a plane on crew seats they claim wouldn’t have been used by anyone else if they weren’t using them, and here we are.
Not a whole lot of their colleagues seem to be buying any of that, and hopefully we’ll find out Real Soon Now which other lawmakers saw the fiasco unfold and bought tickets to Europe to be the next ones in on it.
There’s no plausible argument here that having to provide protection for unauthorized, unannounced, unprotected lawmakers wandering into a military evacuation operation under constant threat of terrorism is not a military distraction from the task on hand. Members of the House appearing in Kabul will immediately be considered top targets for any terrorist who has an inkling of who they are, and any attack on a U.S. representative is likely to escalate matters further. Moulton and Meijer may claim they minimized the impact their visit would have, but it still had one. Unless U.S. military forces are willing to let them wander around the place with no protection or even guidance, there was an impact.
And so far, at least, there hasn’t been anything the two lawmakers were able to “learn” from their trip that they couldn’t have learned at home. It all smells like a publicity move than a fact-finding one, like a politician showing up after a national disaster to be photographed handing out water bottles for 10 minutes while an assemblage of staff clutters up the place and other volunteers look on blankly, waiting for their own work to resume.
If any other lawmakers make the attempt, military police should zip-tie them and put them right back on a plane.
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