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Biden's Line in July About Saigon Is Back to Haunt Him

One critic calls the withdrawal 'Saigon on steroids'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 16, 2021 8:45 AM CDT
US: 'This Is Not Saigon' Critic: It's 'Saigon on Steroids'
A US Chinook helicopter flies over the US embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday. Helicopters were landing at the embassy to get staffers out and to the airport.   (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

(Newser) – The White House is working very hard to tamp down comparisons of what's happening in Kabul to what happened in Saigon in 1975. But for now, a statement that President Biden made only last month doesn't appear to be aging well:

  • July 8: "There's going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the—of the United States from Afghanistan," Biden said on that date, per Newsweek. "It is not at all comparable." He added: “The likelihood there’s going to be one unified government in Afghanistan controlling the whole country is highly unlikely.”

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  • Over the weekend: Images of US military helicopters evacuating American staffers from the embassy in Kabul (though they didn't land on the roof) quickly brought the comparison to mind. "Isn’t that exactly what we’re seeing now?" Jonathan Karl of ABC News asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday. "I mean, even the images are evocative of what happened in Vietnam."
  • Blinken, I: "This is manifestly not Saigon," Blinken responded. "The fact of the matter is this: We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission in mind, and that was to deal the people who attacked us on 9/11. And that mission has been successful." (See his full remarks via a State Department transcript.)
  • Blinken, II: The secretary of state got a similar question from Jake Tapper at CNN, who wondered if we were "in the midst of a Saigon moment." Blinken gave a similar response: "No, we’re not. Remember, this is not Saigon. We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission, and that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11. And we have succeeded in that mission." (That transcript is here.)
  • Critics: They don't seem to be buying the White House line. "This is President Biden's Saigon moment and unfortunately it was very predictable," GOP House Whip Steve Scalise said on CBS News Sunday, per the Hill. Human rights attorney Kimberley Motley, currently struggling to get Afghan civilians out of the country, goes one better: "This is Saigon on steroids," she tells the Wall Street Journal.
(Read more Antony Blinken stories.)

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