An old friend died some months ago. He was a good man, husband, father, retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer and decorated Vietnam veteran. His passing was not altogether surprising. We are both within that graying demographic, where death seems to be always loitering nearby. At our age — over 65 — we begin to lose friends and family that we have known, and in some cases loved, for much of our lives.
The terrible losses accumulate over time, reminding us of just how fleeting life can be, and not to take any day for granted. I have never gotten angry about such losses. After all, we are fragile. Automobile accidents, diseases afflicting the aged, strokes, heart attacks and much more can end our existence in a moment. However, this time I did get mad. My old friend died after contracting COVID-19.
The fact is that many of the deaths associated with the coronavirus in America were simply unnecessary. We will never know for certain how many could have been spared. The reality is inescapable for the more than 581,000 who have already perished — and their still grieving families. Death comes for us all. However, refusing to take appropriate action to thwart unnecessary death — preventable death — foreseeable death, is considered a crime under both criminal and civil statutes in those cases where someone occupying a responsible position of authority fails to act in the event of a clear and present danger.
We saw this coronavirus disaster coming from a long way off. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Central Intelligence Agency reported the verified danger to our national leadership in early 2020. Our national leadership of that time failed to take appropriate and necessary mitigating action. Our national leadership of that time set no positive example for citizens. Our national leadership of that time developed no centralized program to face the soon-to-be-raging worldwide pandemic: the only developed nation in the world to refuse to do so.
Our national leadership of that time left state governors to shift for themselves, knowing that they lacked the necessary resources to mitigate the burgeoning risk to citizens. These unfeeling and careless decisions led inevitably to 50 different responses to the exact same peril presented by a mindless micro-biotic adversary that never respected state borders in the first place.
I have no desire to politicize my friend’s demise — quite the opposite. It is also not my intent to add to the polarization between the political right and left in our country. My crucially important objective is to point out that the real issue here is about right and wrong. The former administration was wrong. We are still paying the cost in blood and tears. Although attenuated because of vaccinations, the death toll continues to rise.
It was Republicans within the administration and Congress that remained all-too-quiet on these pressing matters last year, and in so doing became complicit with their leader, the former president. In the main, they as a body remained subservient to a wholly uncaring and incompetent White House, while hundreds of thousands of Americans died. The GOP’s leadership demonstrated outrageous callousness, while cynically betraying their oaths of office. Although a life-long political conservative, I am unlikely to ever vote Republican again. I refuse to become complicit with them. My old friend died, but perhaps he didn’t have to.
Robert Bruce Adolph is the author of “Surviving the United Nations: The Unexpected Challenge.” He is a former senior Army Special Forces soldier and United Nations security chief, who holds graduate degrees in both international affairs and strategy.