Thursday, July 11, 2024

the last book I ever read (The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, excerpt four)

from The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future by Franklin Foer:

Afghanistan was a collective trauma for the administration, especially the State Department. When Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state, went to check in with members of a task force working on the evacuation, she found grizzled diplomats in tears. She estimated that a quarter of the State Department’s personnel had served in Afghanistan, at one point or another. They felt a connection with the country, an emotional entanglement. Fielding an overwhelming volume of emails describing hardship cases, they had an easy time imaging the faces of refugees. Even in the seat of American power, they felt the shame and anger that comes with the inability to help. To deal with trauma, the State Department brought a therapy dog into the building with the hope that it might help ease the staff’s pain.

In the crisis, the State Department redirected the attention of its sprawling apparatus to Afghanistan. Embassies in Mexico City and New Delhi became call centers. Staff in those distant capitals assumed the role of caseworkers, assigned to stay in touch with the remaining American citizens in Afghanistan. They tracked their flights and helped counsel them through the terrifying weeks.

Sherman sent her Afghan-born chief of staff, Mustafa Popal, to Hamid Karzai International Airport to support John Bass. All day long, she responded to pleas for help: from foreign governments, who joined a daily video conference she hosted; from Yo-Yo Ma, who kept writing on behalf of an orchestra; from members of Congress. There was a moment in the midst of the crush when Sherman felt compelled to travel down to the first floor, to spend fifteen escapist minutes cuddling with the therapy dog.

No comments:

Post a Comment