No Katrina Pierson, Obama Did Not Bring the United States into Afghanistan

It is not always easy to keep facts straight when one is thinking on his or her feet.  As someone who does a fair share of public speaking, I understand this.  Recently on CNN, Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson got herself tangled up with some historical facts.


As I watch Pierson completely change the timeline of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan (and this is not the first time this has happened), I am concerned.  Yes, she is wrong about her history and has manipulated the past for her (and Trump’s) political purposes. But what bothers me more is that many of Trump’s followers won’t care. The goal is to get Trump elected, whether what Pierson says is true or not. In other words, facts don’t matter.  I am guessing that the idea of checking a reputable source to see if what Pierson has said is true rarely crosses the minds of those who consume cable news.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on the average American, but historical thinking, as Sam Wineburg reminds us in this post, is evidence-based thinking.  We have reached a point in our democracy in which this kind of basic stuff needs to be said over and over again.

8 thoughts on “No Katrina Pierson, Obama Did Not Bring the United States into Afghanistan

  1. Surely you’ve noticed that when historians make factual errors in their books [and few don’t commit at least a few errors], if the reviewer is friendly to the POV, they make short note of them. If hostile, they use them to impeach the overall thesis.


  2. I don’t think you’d have approved the last comment if it weren’t you making it. 😉

    And I do think “Afghanistan” was a mental typo. Like Obama’s “57 states.”


  3. See my post on the differences between historical thinking and history (Sam Wineburg). It seems to me that historians engage in both. Oh, and by the way, I think the next time I grade one of my history student’s papers I should grade it based on the “underlying” truth of the paper and not on the accurate use of the past, the presentation, etc.


  4. Again, playing gotcha with the [admittedly lightweight] surrogate of a political enemy is not “doing history” if it obscures the greater truth. In this instance, although she screwed up the timeline in favor of an inept shot at Trump’s “Gold Star” attacker, the greater truth that should be discussed but is not is

    Shades of Vietnam: Spike in U.S. troop deaths tied to stricter rules of engagement

    That’s pretty serious business and it bears directly on this election.

    Trying to get at Trump via his surrogate and ignoring what she was trying to say makes no principled sense to me. Yes, she was in error, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an underlying truth to her blathering.

    And the more I think of the “Afghanistan” blunder, the more I believe the charitable and indeed more likely explanation is that because of the earpiece noise and getting flustered by the interviewer’s prosecutorial demeanor, saying “Afghanistan” was a mental typo, where she meant to say Libya–since that’s what she was talking about, that’s what she meant by “Obama’s war,’ and it’s true that ISIS was not active there until Obama [and Hillary] took Gaddafi out–which is the important part, not whether or not she bungled a factoid.


  5. This is the same Ms. Pierson who claimed a couple weeks ago “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagement that probably cost his life,” referring to Army Capt. Humayun Khan (who was killed in 2004). Rather than expending energies weaving creative excuses, perhaps it would be more elegant to simply acknowledge that this individual maintains a rather casual relationship with the facts.


  6. This is no more or less than what you see every day per Sayre’s Law.

    I cannot imagine a voter’s meter so small it could be moved by this passing [idiotic] remark by a Trump surrogate on the low-rated CNN while being interviewed by someone named Victor Blackwell at 9 o’clock in the morning.

    Further, I after suffering through the video, I do believe she was having trouble in her earpiece with a fair but still semi-hostile interviewer. Her reference to “Obama’s war” was to Libya, not Afghanistan. Her argument wasn’t about Afghanistan atall, it was about abandoning Iraq to ISIS and creating a similar mess in Libya, which indeed was Obama’s [and Hillary’s] War.

    It’s possible, let’s say even likely that she was ignorant of the details of Afghanistan, but it had nothing to do with her core argument. Again, getting gotchas on unessential details is not “critical thinking” or “historical thinking” or anything of the sort. The search for error and not truth is sophistry; it is concerned only with winning. If this is about “history,” it’s per the current bane of the liberal arts and social science, as bloodsport, not the search for understanding. Pierson spent hundreds of words on Iraq and Iran, next to none on Afghanistan, yet here we are.

    If all this were about the what, I still have not seen any major record-straightening [including on this very blog via David Brooks] of the apparently false allegation [but now common knowledge!]that Trump threw a baby out of his rally, which actually, I can imagine moving certain meters: Invading Afghanistan is one thing but hating babies is unforgivable.

    If he who controls the past controls the future, he who controls the present does both. You historians really need to keep a better eye on the journalists, and not just in what they tell us, but what they leave out. That’s where you can be most valuable to the citizens of this republic: We know the politicians are all lying, conniving, predatory wolves. It’s the journalists who dress in the sheep’s clothing of “neutrality” we need help with.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?


  7. OK, your historian-ish nit-picking is duly noted.

    You people really are persnickety about dates and facts and truth and stuff, aren’t you?

    But surely we can all agree that whatever good has come of the Afghanistan War we can credit to President Bush, and whatever bad has happened we can all blame on the Kenyan anti-colonialist?


    So, in a poetic sort of way, isn’t she right?


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