I didn’t serve in the military, mostly because I lacked courage and questioned authority (a lot). But, like every Montana kid, I was uniquely aware that our state has one of the highest populations of veterans in the nation. This is no surprise: Montanans, by and large, believe in honor, duty, and loyalty, three characteristics that create a strong military. We expect those representing Montana in Congress to have these qualities as well.
When President Joe Biden decided to pull our troops from Afghanistan, most of us breathed a sigh of relief, followed by a sense of impending doom for the good people in that country that we are leaving behind. Over the last 20 years, the United States military has worked exhaustively to bring about political stability to Afghanistan, developing strong relations with the Afghan people to prevent the rise of the Taliban. Unfortunately, the Taliban is gaining ground. When the president chose to announce the military withdrawal, every Afghan who helped America — and their respective families — became a target of the Taliban. These men and women have, at significant personal risk, helped keep our military personnel safe. They are our comrades in arms, and we have an obligation to save their lives as they saved many of ours. How America honors this obligation was put to the test in Congress last week when the House voted to expand a visa program for Afghans who helped American troops and diplomats. Not surprisingly, all of the Democratic and Republican military veterans in the House voted for the bill, and it passed by an overwhelming margin. But Congressman Matt Rosendale, who is not a veteran but is supposed to represent Montana, voted against the bill.
Rosendale was one of 16 House members claiming to be Republican whose ignorance led them to the conclusion that the bill did not contain strong enough vetting for the Afghans who helped American troops and expanded immigration at a time when Congress should be more strictly limiting immigration. But this wasn’t a general immigration bill; it was a bill for those who risked their lives to help us. Moreover, as Republican Congressman, former Green Beret, and current National Guard Colonel Michael Waltz pointed out: these Afghans were heavily vetted before the military started using them and have already proven their loyalty to us. Rosendale either lacks the intelligence or the desire to think critically. But a military background is not required to understand and apply the principle “leave no one behind.” In voting against protecting our comrades in arms, Rosendale once again defied the Republican platform and brought shame to Montana and her veterans, dishonoring the office he holds. Worse, he made clear to our allies a segment of our government places political points before country, jeopardizing the lives of current and future Montana servicemen and women.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney, former mayor of Kalispell, and host of Montana Values Podcast.
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