“The cries that blame contend with a wailing that cannot be comforted.”

My friend who lives near a country highway in southern Wisconsin recently said those words after watching as caravans of buses headed north, carrying refugees from Afghanistan to Fort McCoy. While there, the refugees will wait for more permanent placements with the aid of resettlement agencies. The White House insists all of those coming into the country have gone through security vetting.

"We saw what makes our country so great; we saw our troops here providing comfort and aid to individuals who escaped from Afghanistan," one Wisconsin member of the U.S. House of Representatives said after briefly touring Fort McCoy and talking with government officials in charge of the intake program.

The notion of “what makes our country so great” might be up for grabs.

“The cries that blame contend with a wailing that cannot be comforted.”

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There is plenty of blame to go around, and while politicians are consumed with blaming each other, our friends in Afghanistan suffer, thousands now in fear of their lives. In exchange for America’s promise of safety in the event that their lives and the lives of their loved ones might eventually be endangered, some 300,000 Afghans assisted our diplomats and troops in many and various ways, including serving as interpreters and cluing us in on local conditions. These friends saved countless American lives. Now those left behind are in danger of atrocities that can hardly be imagined. The Taliban have a track record.

We have seen their faces. We have heard their cries. A now-iconic scene seen across the globe was that of an infant being lifted from the mass of Afghan people desperate to get across the barrier into the airport in Kabul. Was it a parent offering their child to an unknown soldier, offered up to an unknown future, knowing only that whatever the child’s future, it would be better than to remain in Afghanistan? Our hearts break.

These Afghanis deserve more than our sympathy. After Saigon fell, the United States received more than 1 million Vietnamese. Aside from having done the morally appropriate thing, our country has benefited from these newcomers and their offspring. My wife and I received a family of seven “boat people” from Vietnam into our home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for a week while our congregation prepared the house we rented for them. We know firsthand the rich benefits of welcome.

There is plenty of blame to go around.

"Can anyone imagine taking out our military before evacuating civilians and others who have been good to our country and who should be allowed to seek refuge?" The previous occupant of the White House, who spoke those words, perhaps forgets the thousands of friends “who have been good to our country” whom he left behind for slaughter in Syria after our sudden and unannounced pullout from that country. The previous administration negotiated with the Taliban, agreeing to troop reductions without exacting concessions from the Taliban, and supporting the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners, leaving the Afghan government out of the conversation.

“The cries that blame contend with a wailing that cannot be comforted.”

My friend who watched the caravan of buses heading north to Fort McCoy grieves over “a wailing that cannot be comforted.” We should all be grieved. But beyond being grieved, we must act boldly and decisively to expedite welcoming as many Afghan refugees as possible, as many as are in fear of their lives because of our 20-year war. The notion of “what makes our country so great” depends on our welcome. The verdict is still out.

The Rev. David Tryggestad of Duluth is a retired pastor and a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page.