The World and Everything in It - May 25, 2022
On Washington Wednesday, the special inspector general’s report on Afghanistan; on World Tour, the latest international news; and abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention. Plus: commentary from Joel Belz, and the Wednesday morning news.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!
A new report assesses what happened in Afghanistan, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That’s ahead Washington Wednesday.
Also today, World Tour.
Plus allegations of abuse within the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.
And WORLD founder Joel Belz on the theological foundations of our approach to journalism.
REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, May 25th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Now the news with Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Texas governor: 15 killed in school shooting; gunman dead » An 18-year-old gunman opened fire Tuesday at a Texas elementary school, killing 14 children, one teacher and injuring others.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said of the gunman …
ABBOTT: He himself is deceased, and it is believed that responding officers killed him.
It was the deadliest shooting at a U.S. grade school since the shocking attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, almost a decade ago.
Abbot said the gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde with a handgun and possibly a rifle. The shooter was identified as Salvador Ramos. Police say he acted alone.
Uvalde is a town of about 16,000 people 85 miles west of San Antonio.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told reporters…
PAXTON: We have a crime victims assistance group that we’re sending down to Uvalde. That’s the first step for us is to take care of these families, take care of their medical needs, take care of their psychological needs, just try to help them. Second, we need to continue to try to focus on preventing this.
It was the deadliest school shooting in Texas history. It occurred four years after a gunman fatally shot 10 people at Santa Fe High School in the Houston area.
Ukraine: 200 bodies found in basement in Mariupol's ruins » In Ukraine, workers digging through the rubble of an apartment building in Mariupol made a gruesome discovery. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown has more.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: Ukrainian authorities said more horrors come to light in the ruined city when they discovered about 200 bodies in the basement of a bombed out building.
The number of victims makes it one of the deadliest known attacks of the war.
Moscow’s forces relentlessly pounded Mariupol during a nearly three-month siege that ended last week with the surrender of some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters.
Russian troops already held the rest of the city, where an estimated 100,000 civilians remain—many of them trapped with little food, water, or power.
Ukraine says Russia is trying to cover up its war crimes in the city by bringing in mobile cremation equipment and burying the dead in mass graves.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
Stoltenberg: Freedom is more important than trade » The head of NATO, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told global leaders that when it comes to business with authoritarian countries...
STOLTENBERG: Freedom is more important than free trade. The protection of our values is more important than profit.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Tuesday, he said it’s critically important to maintain strong sanctions against Russia. He also expressed regret over Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.
But he said valuing freedom over profit isn’t just about Moscow.
STOLTENBERG: This is about Russia, but also about China, another authoritarian regime that does not share our values and that undermines the rules-based international order.
China is a global leader in the 5G data race, though former President Trump made it a top goal of the United States to catch up to Beijing.
Stoltenberg said he’s in no way urging NATO countries to sever economic ties with China, but rather to ensure we don’t sacrifice our values or security in the name of trade.
U.S. births rose last year but still less than before pandemic » It wasn’t quite a baby boom, but the U.S. birth rate did rise last year for the first time in seven years. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The U.S. government reports that about 3.7 million babies were born last year, a 1 percent increase from 2020.
Despite the increase, still about 86,000 fewer babies were born than in 2019 before COVID-19 disrupted life across the globe.
In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the United States saw the biggest one-year drop in births in nearly 50 years.
And even before that, U.S. births had declined for more than a decade before the virus struck.
Officials think last year's uptick reflects births from pregnancies put off during the uncertain early days of the pandemic. Deliveries were way down in January 2021, but picked up as the year went on.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: the fallout from Afghanistan.
Plus, WORLD’s one-room mission.
This is The World and Everything in It.
NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Wednesday, the 25th of May, 2022.
Thank you for listening to today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up first: what went wrong in Afghanistan?
We all remember the heartbreaking images from the pullout—Afghans so desperate to escape that they died trying to cling to the outside of U.S. military planes as they took off. The Taliban quickly seized control of the country faster than U.S. forces could get out.
EICHER: So what happened?
Well, the most recent report from a top U.S. watchdog offers some answers. It’s the report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
Joining us now to talk about the report is Bill Roggio. He is a U.S. Army veteran who was embedded with the U.S. Marine Corps, Army, and Iraqi forces in Iraq as well as the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in the early 2000s.
REICHARD: Bill, good morning!
BILL ROGGIO, GUEST: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
REICHARD: Both Presidents Biden and Trump have pointed fingers at one another over the Afghanistan disaster. But the IG report says both administrations share blame here. I want to start with something he said, and I’m quoting here, “There was a red light blinking on Afghanistan for years saying ‘watch out.” It added that “Once the morale collapsed, that was it.” What did he mean by that?
ROGGIO: I would add the Obama administration as well, their culpability in this. The situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating long before President Trump signed the deal with the Taliban. And the Obama administration set that in motion by opening negotiations with the Taliban. To President Obama's credit, he didn't cut a deal with them. So this is a problem that was spanning well over a decade. The U.S. surge offensively failed. I created a map of Afghanistan. You probably saw it over the summer as you watched Afghanistan deteriorate. I recognized in 2014 that our counterinsurgency strategy was flawed, that there were serious problems with the Afghan government and Afghan military and began documenting the Taliban strategy and how they were gaining ground in the rural areas and took the fight to the urban areas. This is all interrelated. This was a decade plus of failures. But President Biden should not be pointing the finger at President Trump. President Trump shouldn't be pointing the finger at President Biden. They should be pointing the fingers at each other as well as themselves. Because this is a foreign policy failure that was a decade plus in the making.
REICHARD: Talk about the U.S. agreement with the Taliban under President Trump, which the report says devastated the morale of Afghan forces. Remind us how that came about and what they actually agreed to.
ROGGIO: Yeah, President Trump was hellbent on ending the so-called Forever wars or ending the endless wars. It's a talking point that has been taken up by both the isolationist right and much of the left as well. There was a bipartisan desire to leave Afghanistan. President Trump thought that he could cut a deal with the Taliban. That deal was supposed to have the Taliban denounce or not have a relationship with al Qaeda. They would respect women's rights. They would negotiate in good faith with the Afghan government. But the Afghan government was cut out of the talks. The U.S. negotiated directly with the Taliban. The Taliban always said that it would not talk to the Afghan government because it knew the Afghan government as a puppet, a pawn of the West and President Trump's negotiations proved the Taliban’s point. The Afghan government, when it felt it was cut out from this deal and the military, once this deal was signed, it was a deal between the U.S. government and the Taliban, the Afghan government had no buy in - they were forced to release prisoners under pressure from the U.S. The Special Investigator General Report, really, just reinforced what we all knew that that was the beginning of the end of Afghanistan. Me and my colleagues at the World War Journal and FDD, we were...against this deal. We spoke out against it at the time. We predicted this would be the end of the Afghan government. And President Biden with his precipitous withdrawal, that was just merely the nail in the coffin, the final nail in the coffin.
REICHARD: Bill, as you mentioned, the report said the Afghan government was left in the dark about details of the agreement and that the Taliban “weaponized” that lack of communication. They claimed to have a secret deal “for certain districts or provinces to be surrendered to them.” And that led to many police officers and soldiers abandoning their posts. Is that how you read it?
ROGGIO: Yeah, absolutely. That deal was three and a third pages long. And much of the text was like 19 lines in it, where the U.S. referred to the Taliban, but wouldn't recognize the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. That's what the Taliban wanted to call us. Probably about a quarter of the text was the U.S. denying that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was the Taliban. I’ve signed car agreements that were far longer, car loan agreements and insurance documents. There was nothing in this deal that was ever, and there was no talk of enforcement, of how you can – what would happen if the Taliban didn't, you know, walk back on the agreement. And then the Taliban, they used that as propaganda, saying the U.S. is leaving. They took this deal to Afghan commanders and politicians at the local level and at the provincial level, and said, Look, they're leaving, you're gonna have to fight us to the death. We're willing to fight to the death. Or you could surrender, or you can walk away. And that really killed the morale of the Afghan security forces in particular.
REICHARD: The report also talked about the reduction of U.S. airstrikes in support of Afghan forces. That happened well before the pullout. What happened there and what was the impact?
ROGGIO: The U.S. promised the Taliban that, you know – and again, this was just a terrible deal. And part of that was the U.S. would stop attacking the Taliban, except in cases where we'll be defending either Afghan forces at bases or U.S. forces from attack. But it wasn't just the air support. It was—particularly during the withdrawal—when the U.S., they cut off not only the airstrikes, but the logistics, medical evacuations, all of the things. The entire Afghan security forces was predicated on U.S. air and logistical support. And once that was withdrawn, once it began declining, and then fully withdrawn when President Biden announced the withdrawal in mid-April, you know, again, it was just a foregone conclusion that we built the Afghan security forces to rely on the U.S. military, and then we yanked the rug out from under them. And then we expected the Afghan security forces – and then the Biden administration had the audacity to say that the Afghan military wasn't willing to fight. They were willing to fight, but we trained them to fight in a certain way and then we told them, oh, you can't fight that way. Now you're on your own.
REICHARD: Final question here: What do we know about the Taliban’s relationship with al-Queda now and any possible gathering threats in Afghanistan?
ROGGIO: Yeah, the Taliban relationship with al Qaeda remains as strong as ever. The two fought together as allies for 20 years against the U.S. invaders. Al Qaeda leaders have returned to Afghanistan. The U.S. intelligence estimates there's about 200 al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan. That's a stale number that they've recirculated for well over six, seven years. And their previous estimate of 50 to 100 al Qaeda is something I documented over the years were wildly flawed before that. The U.S. has next to no visibility. General McKenzie, the previous commander, said the U.S. has 1-2% of visibility and intelligence in Afghanistan prior, that number compared to when U.S. had forces there. There has been zero strikes against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew at the end of August. There's numerous reports out there that there's foreign fighters flocking there. And the Taliban, they deny that there's any foreign fighters there. And yet we know they're there. So, you know, this is part of the big lie of the Taliban. They say that al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups aren't there, but we all know they are. And the U.S. has zero ability to enforce that part of the agreement because the distances to conduct strikes from Doha to Afghanistan, it’s 10 hour flight to and from with only 10 hours about and loiter time. It's just not enough time to gather enough intelligence and get strikes. And we have zero intelligence assets on the ground as well. So it's a disaster. Afghanistan has become a safe haven for al Qaeda and other allied terror groups, and the U.S. is basically pretending that it's not a problem.
REICHARD: Bill Roggio is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Bill, thanks so much!
ROGGIO: Thanks. It was a pleasure.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with our reporter in Africa, Onize Ohikere.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: German chancellor visits Africa—Today’s World Tour kicks off in Senegal, where German Chancellor Olaf Scholz began his African tour on Sunday.
AUDIO: [Delegates arriving for meeting]
The trip is Scholz’ first to the continent since becoming chancellor nearly six months ago. His visit focused on the geopolitical implications of the war in Ukraine.
Senegal has significant deposits of natural gas along its border with Mauritania.
SALL: [Speaking in French]
President Macky Sall said his country is ready to supply liquid natural gas to Europe at a time when Germany and other European countries are trying to end their dependence on Russian energy.
Sall said he also plans to visit Moscow and Kyiv in the coming weeks as chair of the African Union bloc.
Scholz’ three-nation visit took him next to Niger, where he vowed to support the fight against Islamic militants. He wrapped up his trip in South Africa.
Monkeypox spreads across non-endemic countries—Next, we go to the United Kingdom … where health officials have detected several additional cases of monkeypox. That raises the country’s total to 57.
Dr. Rosamund Lewis is with the World Health Organization’s Emergencies Program.
LEWIS: We've seen a few cases in Europe over the last five years, just in travelers, but this is the first time we're seeing cases across many countries at the same time in people who have not traveled to the endemic regions in Africa.
The rare virus causes a rash and fever and is endemic to remote parts of Central and West Africa. Health experts are calling the current outbreak the largest outside Africa in 50 years. The World Health Organization has recorded more than 90 cases in a dozen countries. Israel confirmed its first case late on Saturday and Denmark on Monday.
Health officials insist the virus has shown no sign of a mutation and remains an overall low risk. Monkeypox does not usually spread easily between people, but it can be passed on through close person-to-person contact.
Australia elects a new prime minister—Now we head over to Australia, where a Labor Party victory ends nearly a decade of conservative leadership.
AUDIO: [Sound of cheering]
During a victory party in Sydney, new prime minister Anthony Albanese said it was an “extraordinary honor” to lead the country. Albanese said his humble beginning as the son of a single mother living in social housing reflects a change in the country.
ALBANESE: My Labour team will work every day to bring Australians together. And I will lead a government worthy of the people of Australia, a government as courageous and hardworking and caring as the Australian people are themselves.
Analysts say the result signals a rejection of how his predecessor’s administration handled several issues, including the pandemic, women’s rights, and natural disasters.
Shortly after he was sworn in on Monday, Albanese flew to Tokyo to attend the Quad summit meeting with President Joe Biden and leaders from Japan and India.
Bangladesh flooding—And finally, we end today in Bangladesh.
AUDIO: [Sound of rain, bike passing]
The country’s northeast region is still recovering from its worst flooding in nearly two decades. Authorities say at least 60 people died and rescue workers are still struggling to assist the 2 million affected people.
AUDIO: [Woman speaking in Bengali]
This woman said the floodwaters ruined her home and still remain at knee-deep levels.
In neighboring northeast India, days of flooding and landslides killed about 50 people and sent nearly 100,000 others to relief camps. National forces joined state rescue workers to clear roads, help the stranded, and distribute clean water and food to the affected communities.
That’s this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 25th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: dealing with abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.
A quick warning to families listening with small children. You may want to hit the pause button and come back to this story later.
REICHARD: This past Sunday, investigators at the independent consulting firm Guidepost Solutions released their 288-page report. It looks in to how leaders of the SBC, the Southern Baptist Convention, handled sexual abuse allegations. The team of investigators spoke with more than 300 people, collecting the stories of about two dozen survivors of sexual abuse over the last two decades.
EICHER: WORLD Digital Editor Lynde Langdon has been following this story for months and brings our story.
LYNDE LANGDON, NEWS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: On May 10th, Pastor Mike Keahbone gathered with a select group of Southern Baptist Convention leaders for a highly sensitive mission. In a private room at SBC headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, under the supervision of Guidepost attorneys, they reviewed and fact-checked parts of the investigation’s draft report.
In the process, Mike Keahbone got a first look at some of the devastating findings.
KEAHBONE: This is just a different ballgame. With what we knew, or with the information that we had, we just didn't think it was that big a deal. And the reality was, it was way bigger than anybody knew.
Most people in SBC churches did not know the extent of the abuse crisis until a 2018 report in the Houston Chronicle brought hundreds of allegations to light. That led more survivors to speak up, and eventually to Southern Baptists demanding this outside investigation.
The investigation found evidence that top leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention ignored abuse and mistreated survivors who came forward with their stories. Adam Blosser is pastor of Goshen Baptist Church in Spotsylvania, Virginia, and a messenger—or delegate—at SBC annual meetings.
BLOSSER: It's traumatic enough that they had these experiences to begin with, but then the way that they've been, in some instances vilified, is it's heartbreaking, it's, it's infuriating. It's something that has to stop.
Because of their involvement in SBC policymaking, Keahbone and Blosser have paid close attention to the sexual abuse crisis. Their challenge—and the challenge of many pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention—how to convey to ordinary Baptists the significance of this bombshell report. Also, to wrestle with what it means for their local churches. And what God might be calling them to do as a result.
CRINER: There's been a sense where we’ve been trying to be engaged and informed of all these things since it’s begun….
Pastor Michael Criner leads Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, Texas. He too is an SBC pastor. He’s followed the developments in the denomination’s sexual abuse scandal for more than a decade. But many of the folks in his flock have not.
CRINER: There's varying degrees of engagement. And I think that's true in a lot of churches.
With this week’s top-to-bottom coverage of the SBC investigation in every major news outlet, more Southern Baptists are paying attention. The headlines are sensational and the facts are distressing.
They include a new accusation of sexual assault against a former president of the denomination, Johnny Hunt. He’s denied all allegations of abuse. The report also says SBC lawyers kept a secret list of 585 suspected abusers. But they never shared that information with congregations or even members of the denomination’s own elected Executive Committee. Even though that committee is charged with managing SBC business.
CRINER: Anybody who reads this report or sees this news, they should be asking themselves at their church, what is my church doing to protect the vulnerable?
Pastor Mike Keahbone has issued the same challenge to his congregation.
KEAHBONE: As a pastor, that's a primary job for me is to make sure that my congregation is protected and make sure that I protect my staff and make sure that we've got policies in place and those kinds of things. So, so we're reevaluating everything.
In its report, Guidepost recommended changes the SBC could make to better prevent sexual abuse in churches. That includes providing local churches with sample policies, protocols and training, setting up a code of conduct for ministers, and keeping a database of people credibly accused of abuse in churches.
Then there’s the matter of getting justice for survivors. What that looks like, and how it will affect the SBC, will be a major focus of the denomination’s upcoming annual meeting. Thousands of delegates are gathering in Anaheim, California from June 12th through the 15th. Pastors Keahbone, Blosser, and Criner will be there. Criner believes this report will give the messengers the resolve they need to not just hold the Executive Committee accountable—but to promote healing for victims.
CRINER: I should treat a survivor and want justice for that survivor just like if they were my sister, or even my daughter, that's the level of which I think we need to to take action. And so I think there's a lot of listening that needs to be done. But we're at a point now also, there's there's going to be some, there needs to be some action.
The Executive Committee met Tuesday to discuss the report. Its members approved an official apology for past statements made by an Executive Committee staff member who said he didn’t want to hear any more from abuse survivors. And they agreed to release a list of names of known abusers.
Christa Brown is a survivor and advocate who has called for reforms in the SBC for more than a decade. On Tuesday, she praised the Executive Committee for its initial steps, saying, “It is one very small step, and so much more is needed, but I hope that this may be the start of a new era in how the [committee] relates to SBC clergy sex abuse survivors.”
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lynde Langdon.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 25th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. WORLD founder Joel Belz is opening up an all-new commentary series today.
What he’ll be doing periodically is reprising some of his classic columns written over his many decades of service here at WORLD.
EICHER: Right, and so this first one Joel wrote goes back more than 35 years. What you’ll hear next is Joel introducing the project, followed by an old recording we have of Joel in his younger years reading that column from April 14th, 1986. In it, he discusses the theological underpinnings of his journalistic approach.
JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Surely you can forgive an octogenarian some moments of reflection.
My brother Andrew constructed a wonderful wall display in our WORLD offices that shows all the covers of every issue of WORLD magazine we’ve ever published. I overheard him tell a group of readers who were visiting, “This took weeks of work!”
I thought, “Took me decades.”
Looking at it, I found myself drawn to the year 1986, our sputtering start, when we published the first 13 issues before taking a break and relaunching relatively stronger and wiser the next year.
I’m also going back and re-reading. My colleagues are reading with me, and we all think some of our old work together deserves a second life. So together, we’re choosing some of my old columns we’ve agreed are worth sharing again here.
For the first in what I hope will be a helpful series, I’d like to go back to that momentous year of 1986 and reintroduce a piece I wrote that sought to explain the worldview that has animated this project we know as WORLD.
Let’s listen to a much-younger me.
An atrium is one of my favorite architectural distinctives.
There’s something about getting rid of the ceiling and lifting my eyes that prompts my heart to soar. Some people like wide open spaces. I like wide open entryways and tall hotel lobbies.
To some people, of course, an atrium is a waste. Just think of all the square feet of space that could be used or rented out if it hadn’t been squandered on a high ceiling.
I am thankful—and I believe all Christians should be thankful—that the late Francis A. Schaeffer didn’t think that way. Although I never talked to him about the subject, I have a hunch Francis Schaeffer probably liked atriums.
For, you see, Schaeffer spent a great deal of his life as a one-man wrecking crew, tearing out the ceiling that had existed over the room where most Christians lived when he was young. By tearing out that ceiling, Schaefer enlarged the room in significant ways. He stretched the vision of thousands of Christians.
Schaeffer’s ideas were by no means brand new. But he stated them at a time when a student generation was ready to hear them. And, especially when you consider how complex a man Schaeffer was, he stated the ideas with remarkable simplicity and clarity.
Schaeffer explained that for the Christian there is no “upstairs” and no “downstairs.” We don’t deal with God in a loft at the top of a ladder, and then come down to deal with the real world. For Schaeffer, it was all one room. And the God Schaeffer served and witnessed to filled that room.
That concept, of course, is central to the mission of WORLD. Some people wonder: Is this magazine secular or spiritual? Can’t it decide which side it wants to come down on? The best answer is that I have decided—or perhaps I’ve de-sided - there aren’t two sides. Just as there aren’t two floors. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
So what is this awkwardness our readers feel? Let me confess: I feel it too. It’s one thing to say that it’s all one room. But when we’ve been taught otherwise by centuries of tradition, habit, and practice, we don’t immediately know how to treat world news as if it all belonged to the Lord. We can’t, for example, afford to have the philosophers and the theologians upstairs while the scientists and math people gather in little groups below.
Developing a Christian worldview is hard work, and never an all at once achievement. We need each other to do it well—a getting-acquainted process that is made easier when we all are in one room.
[This column was published in WORLD, April 14, 1986, “Schaeffer: A One Man Wrecking Crew”]
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: urban farms. We’ll visit a unique operation in the dense population of northern Virginia.
And, instruments of praise. We’ll meet a luthier—and learn what a luthier is—as he passes on to the next generation his craft of making musical instruments.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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The Psalmist wrote: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139: 23-24 ESV)
Go now in grace and peace.
WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.