The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which resulted in a humiliating military defeat by the Taliban, is an open wound for the nation. However, no defeat is remotely comparable to the pain being felt right now by the parents of the Marines killed in Kabul.
These parents are not only dealing with the tragedy of losing a child in combat, but they must also deal with a terrible burden: the sense that they could have done better to avoid the logistical disaster of a crisis in Kabul and a terrorist attack that took the lives of their sons.
As the man primarily responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Kabul, which generated the worst foreign policy crisis in decades for the United States, President Joe Biden was on a mission to comfort the parents of the brave soldiers who died in the ISIS terrorist attack.
According to accounts reported by The Washington Post, the meetings were rough and Biden did not go over well with the parents, appearing at times to be disrespectfully out of place for talking about the loss of their son Beau or for appearing indifferent by making the ugly gesture of glancing at his watch several times. One father even said that the president was haughty on occasion when he showed him his son’s picture and asked him to remember him and the other twelve soldiers.
Mark Schmitz on the meeting: “It didn’t go well”
“President Biden made his way on Sunday around a quiet room at Dover Air Force Base, a chamber filled with couches and chairs, with dignitaries and grieving families huddling together as the president came to speak to them privately, one family at a time… Mark Schmitz had told a military officer the night before that he wasn’t much interested in speaking to a president he did not vote for, one whose execution of the Afghan pullout he disdains — and one he now blames for the death of his 20-year-old son Jared.”
At one point in the conversation, the man pulled out a photo of Jared, and told the president, “‘Don’t you ever forget that name. Don’t you ever forget that face. Don’t you ever forget the names of the other 12,” adding, “Take some time to get to know their stories.”
According to the newspaper, “Biden did not seem to like that, Schmitz recalled, and he bristled, offering a blunt response: “I do know their stories.'”
It wasn’t all bad between Schmitz and Biden, there was a moment where the president pulled out a sort of card where he had written down the number of fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the end of the card, a “plus 13” appeared at the bottom, a gesture that was approved by Schmitz. “I know it’s just a number, but it was a simple reflective thing that he looks at. I’ll give him kudos there.”
Schmitz admitted that the president was in a difficult situation when deciding whether to withdraw the troops and that it was even worse to be in his shoes when talking to the parents of the deceased, but in both cases Biden could have done better. Or at least that’s the feeling that remains. “When he just kept talking about his son so much it was just — my interest was lost in that. I was more focused on my own son than what happened with him and his son,” Schmitz said. “I’m not trying to insult the president, but it just didn’t seem that appropriate to spend that much time on his own son.”
In an interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity, Jared’s own father said he initially didn’t want to meet with Biden “but then I felt I owed it to my son to at least have some words with him about how I felt and it didn’t go well,” Mark Schmitz argued.
The harsh treatment of the parents of the slain Marines
Biden tried to play his cards by appearing close and expressing that he understood the pain. Perhaps in an effort to appear empathetic and say he was sorry, the president overreacted and made a negative impression on the parents.
For example, Shana Chappell, mother of Marine Kareem Nikoui (20 years old), dedicated a rather strong post against Biden where she criticized the president for trying to make the meeting about him and not about Kareem.
“President Joe Biden This message is for you! I know my face is etched into your brain! I was able to look you straight in the eyes yesterday and have words with you,” Mrs. Chappell said.
“After I lay my son to rest you will be seeing me again! Remember I am the one who stood 5 inches from your face and was letting you know I would never get to hug my son again, hear his laugh and then you tried to interrupt me and give me your own sob story and I had to tell you ‘that this isn’t about you so don’t make it about you!!!’ You then said you just wanted me to know that you know how I feel and I let you know that you don’t know how I feel and you do not have the right to tell me you know how I feel,” she stated.
Other family members were tremendously disappointed by Joe Biden’s treatment during the encounters.
“The family of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, too, had mixed emotions when it came time to decide whether to talk with the president. McCollum’s sisters and father joined his widow, Jiennah McCollum, on the trip to Dover — but when it came time to meet Biden, only Jiennah went in,” the Washington Post reads. “Afterward, one of the sisters, Roice McCollum, said Jiennah felt the president’s words were scripted and shallow, a conversation that lasted only a couple minutes in ‘total disregard to the loss of our Marine — our brother, son, husband and father.'”
Rylee’s case is even more heartbreaking considering that Jiennah, known as Gigi, is expecting a child. Rylee’s mother and Giga’s mother-in-law, Kathy MccCollum, sharply criticized Biden for his foreign policy toward the Taliban in a call to local radio.
“I woke up at 4 o’clock this morning. Two Marines at my door telling me that my son was dead,” the mother said before criticizing Biden for using “diplomacy” to deal “with terrorists like the Taliban.”
Tempers continued to flare until the last second. Making it clear that the meetings between Biden and the parents of the slain Marines were not good. “As the families began loading back onto their bus, one woman grew emotional and began screaming in Biden’s direction across the tarmac,” the paper reflects. “I hope you burn in hell! That was my brother.”