Editor’s Note: The following statement comes from William J. Ostan, retired Army Major and the recipient of two bronze stars. He is a Pepperdine Law & SPP alumnus (’05) and he is the founder and CEO of Arc of Justice, a nonprofit organization that advocates for wounded warriors. Will is the co-author of the Wounded Warrior Bill of Rights, which is bipartisan legislation being considered in Congress. You can find out more about his story at www.arcofjusticeusa.org.
Major Ostan wrote this statement following the Afghanistan withdrawal over one year ago. The video included here aired recently at the one year anniversary of the evacuation. The YouTube statement has nearly 60 thousand views.Of particular note: his thoughts on Russia and China come before events such as the war in Ukraine and heightened tensions between China and Taiwan.
One of the greatest honors in my life has been to serve alongside of Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets as part of a Special Operations Task Force based out of Kandahar, Afghanistan. We took the fight to the enemy for several months in 2012 and 2013. Some of my brothers and sisters were killed in action or severely injured. I also paid a personal price from this deployment by being exposed to an environmental toxin that led to a debilitating auto-immune illness which forced me into a premature and unjust medical separation process.
Because of the sacrifices I experienced first-hand over there, the unfolding events from the past several months have been gut wrenching to behold. As a combat veteran, watching the images of American citizens and our Afghan allies being callously left behind has been emotionally devastating and infuriating. After taking a few months to ponder and process the end of 20 years of combat operations, below are my thoughts.
Before I share them in full, here are two brief prefaces which are important to provide context:
First, I hold no animus in my heart toward President Biden. While I do not agree with a vast majority of his policies and decisions, I never make ad hominem attacks against the President. I always seek to default to honor because he is in a position of authority.1 My aim is to set the azimuth of my heart along the same lines as David did with King Saul. Also, whether I like his policies or not, I’m commanded to pray for him according to the Apostle Paul’s instructions to Timothy.2
Second, we live in an age of exaggeration where the 24/7 news cycle bombards our brains with non-stop exclamations that our leaders’ respective actions were either the greatest or worst in history. Hyperbole is commonplace and desensitizes us to truly extraordinary moments.
With the above framework in mind, the following conclusory statement is not written from a place of misplaced anger or thoughtless misrepresentation:
I believe President Biden’s disordered withdrawal from Afghanistan will go down in history as one of the most tragic failures of leadership ever committed by an American President.
In my opinion, his pathetic insouciance was a criminal act of gross negligence at best and manslaughter at worst. If some of the reports about giving the information about American citizens to the Taliban are true, then treason was committed on his watch. Some may call this a harsh judgment, but I believe President Biden’s appeasement and acquiescence in the face of the enemy will constitute one of the greatest acts of treachery against the American citizenry in the history of our great nation.
This verdict will stand the test of time due to the following 4 reasons:
1) President Biden dishonored the many sacrifices made by every combat veteran who set foot in Afghanistan. He completely disregarded the memory of those killed in action, who Lincoln said, “gave the last full measure of devotion.”
I’ll never forget the memorial services at Kandahar Airfield. During a combat deployment, whenever a warrior is killed in action, a “ramp ceremony” is held, no matter the time of day or night that the death occurs. When the call goes out across the base, everybody drops whatever they’re doing and attends the service, even if they haven’t slept in days and it is zero dark thirty.3 We celebrate that warrior’s life, and we salute the coffin as it’s conveyed up the ramp into the C 130 aircraft that will take the deceased home for his or her final flight.4 It is an act of remembrance full of honor.
President Biden’s single cowardly act dishonored each one of the 2,461 ramp ceremonies that have taken place in Afghanistan since 2001.5
2) He violated the military’s longstanding promise to “never leave a fallen comrade.” This is a very simple, but powerful tenet of the Army’s Warrior Ethos.6 The military should be the last to leave, not the first, whenever American citizens are in harm’s way around the world. It is why the United States Marines bravely guard our international embassies. After sending all civilians to safety, their boots are the last thing to touch the ground during a perilous evacuation. That’s not what happened here. The president left thousands of American citizens behind, all of them in imminent danger of being tortured or killed by enemy forces.
3) He committed an unforgettable breach of faith with our NATO and Afghan allies. One Afghan Air Force Captain who piloted C-208 airplanes recently spoke to a New York Times reporter from a safehouse in Kabul and said, “I stood shoulder to shoulder with my American allies for five years – but now they have forgotten us.”7 The immediate consequence is a significant loss of trust in the international community. This will also have inestimable negative repercussions for the wars to come. Potential future allies will not forget the abysmal end to a 20-year war.
4) His foolhardy decisions destabilize a dangerous geographic region and emboldens the enemies of freedom around the world. A worse attack than September 11th is now possible if not probable. The Taliban became more powerful on 9-11-21 than they were on 9-11-01. Furthermore, a much greater threat is China, Russia, and Iran are newly baptized with confidence. God forbid, if a near peer World War III scenario ever unfolds, these countries now believe they can win. In their minds, America is weaker than ever before as Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength” is no longer a guiding principle.
So where is hope to be found after this unmitigated disaster? This may sound strange, but I find hope in the opportunity for greatness President Biden’s failures have given to us. Nature teaches that it’s always darkest before the dawn. The end of the book of Daniel provides a blueprint for us by showing that amid overwhelmingly difficult circumstances “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”8 Army Special Forces doctrine includes a directive that all Green Berets are charged to “wade into uncertainty and prevail.” My friends, this epitomizes our spiritual DNA. We are overcomers and were born for battle. Let us never quit until we have, like King David of old, “fulfilled the purposes of God in his generation.”9
Heavenly Father – you have seen every single sacrifice in war torn Afghanistan. Every man. Every woman. Every child. Every casualty over the last 20 years. Not one moment in battle has escaped your attention. We ask you to forgive President Biden for the blood on his hands. Please help us to forgive him. Lord, please bring every American and ally home safely. Please restore the fractured places in our military community, heal every broken heart, and bring restoration to the land of Afghanistan as only You can.
In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.
I decree that the lives of our American warriors and Afghan allies were not lost in vain. There will be a renewal of honor in our military.
1 Millions of American citizens believe that Biden is not a true President because he gained the position fraudulently. However, in the context of this devotional, I’m not here to relitigate that point since Biden has been formally installed as the President and is making daily decisions with the full weight and authority of that office.
2 1 Timothy 2:1-4. I pray regularly for President Biden as I did for Trump, Obama, and Bush. Every American Christian should be doing the same. It is possible to criticize and advocate against a leader’s policies in the public square while still praying for the leader. This can be a difficult needle to thread, but it is what we are commanded by God’s Word to do. The Holy Spirit will empower us to obey this command with excellence like Daniel did in Babylon.
3 This is the military colloquialism for 30 minutes past midnight. The special operations community say they “own the night” due to their superior night-vision technology and training. Most capture/kill missions occur after the sun goes down.
4 The bodies of all deceased warriors go through a solemn intake process full of honor at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
5 https://www.defense.gov/casualty.pdf These numbers reflect the fallen from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel as of 10 a.m. EST on November 8th, 2021.
6 The United States Army’s Warrior Ethos states, “I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, and I will never leave a fallen comrade.” The Army has worked to instill the Warrior Ethos in all its Soldiers by the way they train, live, and fight. To have the Commander-In-Chief violate one of the sacred tenets of this ethos is shocking. Technically no fallen Servicemembers were left behind, but he did abandon American citizens whom the military’s job is to protect so I think the Warrior Ethos is applicable since left behind civilians are in danger of torture and/or execution by the Taliban, ISIS, or other terrorist elements.
7 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/07/world/asia/afghan-pilots-taliban us.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%2011.08.2021&utm_term=Editorial%2 0-%20Military%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief Accessed on November 8th, 2021.
William J. Ostan (JD/SPP '05) is a retired Army Major and the recipient of two bronze stars. He is the founder and CEO of Arc of Justice, a nonprofit organization that advocates for wounded warriors. Will is the co-author of the Wounded Warrior Bill of Rights, which is bipartisan legislation being considered in Congress. You can find out more about his story at www.arcofjusticeusa.org.