What Does Afghanistan Mean For Our Military – With Senator Brian Birdwell – It’s been almost 20 years since 9/11. Has the United States been successful in our mission to hinder terrorists? What does it take to keep a nation free? Today we have a very special guest, Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell, who’s life was forever changed after surviving the attack on the Pentagon. Tune in for a perspective you don’t want to miss!

Air Date: 08/24/2021

Guest: Senator Brian Birdwell

On-air Personalities: David Barton, Rick Green, and Tim Barton


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Transcription note:  As a courtesy for our listeners’ enjoyment, we are providing a transcription of this podcast. Transcription will be released shortly. However, as this is transcribed from a live talk show, words and sentence structure were not altered to fit grammatical, written norms in order to preserve the integrity of the actual dialogue between the speakers. Additionally, names may be misspelled or we might use an asterisk to indicate a missing word because of the difficulty in understanding the speaker at times. We apologize in advance.

Faith and the Culture


Welcome to the intersection of faith and the culture. It’s WallBuilders Live. So glad you’re with us today to talk about the hot topics of the day, from a biblical, historical, and constitutional perspective. 

We’re here with David Barton. He’s America’s premier historian and our founder at WallBuilders, and Tim Barton, national speaker and pastor and president of WallBuilders, and my name is Rick Green, I’m a former Texas legislator and America’s Constitution coach.

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Alright, David and Tim, we’ve got Brian Birdwell with us. When we come back from the break of course, Colonel Birdwell, Senator Birdwell, great friend of this program, has been on many times over the years a great friend of the Barton’s and the Green’s, we love him. And it’s just the right time to have him on. 

The 20th Anniversary

We’re approaching the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and, of course, Brian, actually the closest survivor to the point of impact at the Pentagon, incredible story, miraculous story. And in fact, his story, even after all the pain and everything he went through became such a blessing to other people, such a ministry for him to be able to minister to burn victims, but also how many times did he speak at our pastors conferences and other things where he could share that story and share what God had done in his life? Just a fantastic guy, looking forward to having him on today.


Yeah, the first time I met him was really interesting in the way that occurred. I was on the National Advisory Board for the National Day of Prayer. And national prayer occurs the first week of May.

And so I was there for what was happening with the National Day of Prayer festivities, activities, the President, etc. And as I was there the night before at the banquet in the dinner that we had, a military guy came to me and he approached me, he had a headband on, he looked like he had been playing basketball except he was in uniform. And he came over and said, hey, I’m Brian Birdwell, etc.

And so he knew me. I didn’t know him at the time. We got to talk, and I had no clue that that had been was there to hold skin on his forehead where they had done another surgery, had grafted his skin on. And when I shook hands with him, he had gloves on, I thought that’s really interesting. What’s that about? I had no idea what his story was.

And so here we’re talking about essentially in the vicinity of about eight months later, he was now able to walk again, he was now able to do things. And I went to the Pentagon with him, and as we’re walking to the Pentagon, he’s got an umbrella out and he’s walking under umbrella.

And it’s a nice sunny day, and it’s like, what’s the umbrella for? And it’s because he has really no pigmentation left in his skin. There’s nothing to keep the sun from just absolutely blistering his skin, it all been burned off.

The Plane Hit the Pentagon

So when the plane hit the Pentagon, he was covered with the jet fuel instead of blaze, he was that close to the plane. It blew up, and when it blew up all that jet fuel on him, he burned as well. So he survived.

He’s made it out. But I’ve learned a lot from him. And as he looks back, he didn’t want to get burned, no way. But he does not regret what happened after 9/11, where we went in, and we started cleaning out the Middle East.

And he explained it to me. He took me back and said, look at all the terrorist attacks we’ve had for 20 years. Look at what happened to the embassies in Nigeria.

Look at what happened to the USS Cole. Look at what happened with the World Trade Center years before, nearly a decade before the big World Trade Center attack. Look at all this and he counted up all the number of Americans that had lost their lives and all those terrorist attacks.

He said, you know, you get to the point where that when you have mosquitoes coming out of the swamp, you’re either going to have to learn to live with the mosquitoes or you’re going to have to go into the swamp and drain the swamp.

He said what we did when we went into Iraq and Afghanistan was we decided to drain the swamp. We’re going into the terrorist hotbed, we’re going to drain that swamp so those mosquitoes won’t keep coming out of there. Because if we don’t do that, we’re going to keep losing American lives.

And that gave me a real different perspective on what happened with the 9/11 and the war on terror and what came after. Was I hadn’t realized that for 20 years, we’ve been having attrition through terrorist attack after terrorist attack against Americans all over the world. I guess it just hadn’t noticed it in the news, or maybe the news didn’t report it.

But when he laid it all out, it made perfect sense why we went there and he said, look, none of us want to die. But it’s a whole lot better that soldiers died than the civilians died. That’s what we’re trying to do, is defend everyone else.

Terror Attacks


What’s also interesting that looking at the embassy attacks back in 1998, or when you look at the attack on the ship, I think, Cole in 2000, what’s interesting is Bin Laden was behind both of those attacks as well. And in the midst of this, the US government was still thinking, hey, you know, this is a one off, it’s fine. And then when I mean, not, not like fine, like it’s really okay.

Okay, but in the sense of, they were willing to live with it on some level, because as you mentioned, it’s almost like a pesky mosquito, you just kind of swatting at it. But once it happened more on the home soil inside the connected 48 states, that’s when it really woke Americans up to go, wait a second, what is happening right now, who are these people? What is its ideology?

And as we’re looking now, I mean, we’re getting close to the anniversary of September 11. And this is something very significant, especially considering that Afghanistan is where troops deployed to go to try to end this evil and terrorism to keep America safe, to keep Americans safe. We know that you can look at Iran or Pakistan, and even Saudi Arabia with some of their funding and hiding Bin Laden early on. There were other nations involved in this, but Afghanistan was the hotbed for terrorism.

And so this is where when you’re looking at what was happening in this war on terror, so to speak, or this Operation Enduring Freedom that took place, there were a lot of American soldiers going over to Afghanistan. And so not only is it significant now to talk to formerly Lieutenant Colonel Brian Birdwell, right now, Senator Birdwell, but not only is important to talk to Brian, because of recognizing the anniversary of September 11, but also getting perspective on what’s happening in Afghanistan.

Because this is something that certainly, if you’re looking at military veterans who have spent time over in Afghanistan, actually, many of them lost friends in Afghanistan, some of them are wounded in Afghanistan, now that we are giving up Afghanistan it really makes you wonder, what is life like for them in their mind right now?


Yeah. Yeah.

Mighty Oaks


How are they processing? You know, okay, so my friend goes over and dies, and President Biden just gives Afghanistan back to the Taliban? It’s very interesting, trying to figure out how are we going to negotiate this going forward? And what does it even mean for the military?

And what can we even do to show support for a military now that some of this is unfolding? And so this is where Brian can give us insight not only to September 11, but also what’s happening in Afghanistan? And maybe what does that mean? What does that look like? And what should we be doing as Americans?


And by the way, just a quick shout out to Chad Robichaux here because Brian Birdwell, Chad Robichaux both have been right in the center of the war on terror in a very real way. There’s a lot of spiritual and emotional psychological stuff that happens. And Tim, as you mentioned, a lot of guys who went through Afghanistan lost buddies.

They’re saying, we’re giving it back. What was it all for? What did I lose my buddies?

If there’s anyone who’s dealing or struggling with that, make sure you send those folks to Mighty Oaks Warrior Foundation. They give a spiritual perspective that gets you grounded, help you understand it was not wasted, it was not in vain. There are things that were definitely worthwhile.

And so for those that are struggling right now, as a result of what they’re seeing with giving away Afghanistan, make sure you get connected with spiritual groups like Brian Birdwell, and like Mighty Oaks Warrior Foundation.


Yeah, that’s mightyoaksprograms.org, is where they can find that. Definitely, we’d encourage people to go there, encourage the military mightyoaksprograms.org.

You Can Help!


And we’ll have a link to that at our website wallbuilderslive.com today. Also, as we’re going to break guys, just a reminder from yesterday with Rudy Atallah, the place to go to donate to the effort to rescue Christians out of Afghanistan right now.


Yeah, go to wallbuilders.com/contribute. You can scroll down and there’s a place for rescuing people in the Middle East, rescuing Christians in the Middle East. So wallbuilders.com/contribute or just go to wallbuilders.com, click on the contribute tab, scroll down and you’ll see a section for Christians in the Middle East and everything you donate, 100% is going downrange to help rescue, remove, and then relocate those individuals being targeted by the Taliban.


And if you missed yesterday’s program, it’s available right now at wallbuilderslive.com, click on the archives and then grab the Rudy Atallah program from yesterday, you can get up to speed on that. Stay with us, we’ll be right back with Brian Birdwell. You’re listening to WallBuilders Live.


Have you ever wanted to learn more about the United States Constitution, but just felt like man, the classes are boring, or it’s just that old language from 200 years ago, or I don’t know where to start? People want to know, but it gets frustrating because you don’t know where to look for truth about the constitution either.

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It’s called Constitution Alive! With David Barton and Rick Green. You can find out more information on our website now at wallbuilders.com.


Welcome back to WallBuilders Live. Thanks for staying with us. Great to have back our good friend senator Brian Birdwell. Colonel, good to have you back, sir.


Rick, it is great to be with you as always. It’s a treat that it’s been too long since we visited, but our schedules have been busy and it’s great to catch up with you now.

Service to Texas


Well, we always love having you on. And of course, over the years, man, we’ve had you on to talk about everything from of course, 9/11, which we’ll talk about today on the 20th anniversary, but also, I mean, Constitution issues, state issues, the proper role of government, what the Bible says about all these things, wealth of information, and we love having you on.

And so let me just start by saying thank you both for your service to the country, but also for your service to the state of Texas, and frankly, just your fight for freedom. And you’re one of those guys that says, I’m not done till I’m six feet under and I love that about you.


Well, thank you. At state level, we’ve got challenges that we’ve got to do. This past legislative session, I was working on rebalancing the relationship between the executive and the legislative branch, and reaffirming the legislative branches role in a number of things. And we’ll continue to do those things.

And we love Texas, and we love our country. And you know, talked about me being a wealth of knowledge, it’s because you and David and Tim, they’ve all taught me well. So let that not go on acknowledged. You all know the reason I am, you know, quote, smart quote.


Well, definitely an iron sharpening iron relationship without doubt. Listen, man, we’ve of course, told your story on the program before, but we get a ton of new listeners every week, and so a lot of our listeners may not be familiar. And so first few minutes, let’s kind of go back to that.

Refined by Fire

And then all three of us, David, and Tim, and I just been talking about we’d love to hear your thoughts on 20 years later, the things we’ve done since then, how are we doing in stopping terrorism these days, we’ll get into all that too. But let’s just back up a little bit.

And by the way, I want to encourage people to pick up your book “Refined by Fire”, they can get it Amazon and bookstores everywhere. But your story, your survival, the miracles that took place in your recovery after the attack on the Pentagon, you were the closest survivor to the point of impact at the Pentagon, most of your body burned, you know, 60% I believe it was, four years of surgery and recovery. And I’m not even sure that’s fair to say four years, because I’m sure there’s things you have to deal with 20 years later.


Well, there are because of my the baggage I carry from that day, there are parts of my body that I mean, I’ve had back surgery, not because September 11th specifically, but because of I really have had 10 years taken off my life, things that we would normally do about 10 years from now was cataract, back surgery, I’ve had shoulder surgery, things have been happening sooner. But the Lord is our assignments officer and he’s not done with me yet. And my appointed day has not yet arrived, and until then we’re told to occupy and we’ll keep moving.


Amen. Amen. So good. And I want to encourage people, we’ll have a link today at wallbuilderslive.com to the episode of “Chasing American Legends” where Colonel Birdwell actually flew out to DC, and took my kids and showed us around, we got to do some really cool history and have some great conversations with him, and actually took us to the Pentagon Memorial there at Arlington Cemetery, and of course, the Audie Murphy story that you were able to share with the kids was awesome. Anyway, so we’ll have a link to that and that’ll get folks…

The Southern Border


Yeah, that was fun, I remember that.


That was a great time, man. It was a great time. So anyway, that’ll be at the website, folks, so you can go and you’ll learn more and get to see more of Brian’s story as well. But Colonel, as someone that obviously was so impacted by the attacks on 9/11, you and your family, it’s obviously more personal for you than the 99.9999% of people.

But I also know you as just simply a patriot, just someone that loves the country, loves freedom, understands the importance of defending freedom, that it’s not free, all of those things. And so speak to that a little bit, just the impact of 9/11 on America’s view of freedom, and the necessity to do the things that we have done, you know, a lot of debate right now, the whole Afghanistan thing and all of that. And so just hit kind of that point of how 9/11 affected our understanding of what it takes to keep a nation free.


Yeah. Well, as technology has advanced, the two oceans that generally protected us from the challenges of the rest of the world, as technology has advanced in sense of transportation, you know, air travel, all those things, they have made the ability of people to come into the country that mean us harm much easier. Our current disaster at the southern border is continued evidence of that challenge. You know, I wear the scars of not knowing who’s in this country that came lawfully, overstayed their visas, and then acted hostile to the country that they’d come into under a false pretense.

You know, when Pearl Harbor happened, it was an American territory, and Americans were killed. And that animated our anger at the Empire of Japan, and knowing that we had to get into to engage in the next essential world crisis called World War II. And so now in today’s environment, not just with the freedom of movement, but the speed of communication, internet, cell phones, I mean, again, without boring you, yesterday, my office got his first call, and we knew it was coming. We didn’t know when, but the first call from a constituent with knowledge of an interpreter in Afghanistan.

Definition of Success

And I mean, it’s just amazing that you’ve got somebody in Afghanistan texting a constituent in Senate District 22. And then I was able to get them to Senator Cruz’s office to pull it into the State Department for those things, because it’s a federal responsibility, but the speed at which we can communicate with the other side of the world changes the dynamics of the threats that we face: oceans no longer protect you. And look, I very much think President Trump was right to bring our presence in Afghanistan downs, because generally, we stabilized Afghanistan to what it was ever going to be able to be.

You know, what’s the definition of success? What’s the definition of when? The war on terror wasn’t going to have a signing ceremony on a battleship. And so what’s happened now…


Let me just take you down one rabbit hole there on the definition of success, because, you know, it seems to me that part of the reason this thing has become a debacle on how Afghanistan was handled by the Biden administration is the perception of and definition of success. I felt like and for marketing purposes, and to keep every Muslim country from coming after us, we create this image of where we’re taking care of the people in this country. But the real goal, if we’re really honest, was to go take out terrorist, right?

That’s why we were there. We were there to protect American interest and take out terrorists. But we don’t say that.

And if we’d had that as the definition of success, it’d been a lot easier to draw down, of course, I think we should have kept the Bagram Air Force, but the base there, I think we did a lot of things that weren’t required. But tell me about that, just the whole definition of success?

The Home Team on 9/11


Well, I think the initial definition of objective that I think we had met probably within two years, was destroying Al-Qaeda’s ability to use Afghanistan. And look, enemies don’t capitulate because of what you’ve done, but what they believe you’re willing to do. And we demonstrated that we’re willing to go after them where they live, we weren’t going to treat terrorism as a crime anymore, like we did in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

You know, we sent the FBI and ATF to go investigate, same thing with things that have happened stateside. But many of the overseas events that occurred before September 11th, the bombing of the US’s Cole, because we’re at war with an ideology, not just a criminal faction, and treat something that’s act of war as a criminal act was no longer satisfactory.

And so in going there, remember, I always tell people when you when you hear the phrase, “bring everybody home and we’re tired of, of overseas wars”, I always go back to, as Texans, you know, we love football. I always go back to that everybody loves their home football game. You know, whether it’s high school college pros, everybody loves their home football game. Did you like being the home team on September 11th?

I might love to be the home team and whatever your favorite sporting event is. But when it comes to national security, I don’t ever want to be the home team. I always want to be the visitor. Now the question then becomes, choose your battles carefully.

Where do you think you need the soft power of diplomacy or the soft power of intelligence gathering or economic hard power, or military hard power? They’re all the elements of national power. Which ones do you bring to bear in which one has primacy?

Because of what happened out of Afghanistan, and look, the primary reason we are there is really let’s revisit history. A week after September 11th, when President Bush went to the Congress, he told the Taliban give us Bin Laden or face the consequences. Now, I think we all knew the Taliban weren’t going to give us Bin Laden. But had they given us Bin Laden, would we have been in Afghanistan?

Bin Laden

There’s reason to say maybe, maybe not, had they given us Bin Laden. Because they didn’t, we went in to go destroy those entities. Your enemies get a vote, your enemies get a decision.

But we had essentially had brought Afghanistan to a reasonable expectation of stability in the Afghan mind, I believe, and the Americans wanting to come home and not be there forever. And then the manner in which this is occurred is just, Rick, how do I say I mean, in competence, at least means you’re trying to get it right, you’re just not capable. I don’t even know that they were trying to get this right. So this is worse than the competence.


Yeah. Well, the description that you were just giving about the priorities realized, and in some places, you can use soft power, and I mean, the clarity with which you just described even that, I haven’t heard statements like that from any of the military brass, certainly not from the president, can’t understand anything he says and certainly not from the vice president who’s in hiding at this point to not be associated with this debacle, I guess.

I mean, a Secretary of Defense Birdwell, you would have laid this stuff out, because that’s what you were taught to do. I’m like, where are the leaders that understand that and then operate in that in that logical fashion that you just described?


Well, part of what I think you’re seeing right now, just my informed analysis, not then anybody’s in the administration is talking to me, look, the first and foremost requirement of anybody in uniform is to obey the lawful orders of the President of the United States. And if the President gave this decision, no matter what counseled SecDef, Chairman of joint chiefs, service secretaries, service chiefs gave to the President, if he made the decision, their duty is to carry it out. Now, if they were so adamant that this was the wrong way to go, where are the resignations from being told to do this this way?

A Big Difference


Interesting. Yeah.


And so, of course, I find myself incredulous that in the current administration you don’t see any of those resignations, while in the Trump administration, you saw people actively working against it. The Secretary of the Navy as it related to the navy seal that was being prosecuted, that two star Admiral that refused to give up, when President Trump tells him stop prosecuting the guy, you know…


Yeah. There’s a big difference.


There’s a big difference of how the bureaucracy and that’s too broad of a generalization, and I don’t mean it as a pejorative. But how the professional federal employee that is not elected, some nominated and confirmed others just simply employed and promoted over the years, a sense of whether or not they will obey the lawful orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me, that was clearly in question during the Trump administration. It’s not in question now.

And look I was having a conversation, gosh, I didn’t mean for it to just simply be all this, Rick. But I was having a conversation with one of my fellow state senators yesterday and if you remember in that scene in the movie Patton, where he’s turned Third Army north to go to Bastogne, the weather’s terrible.

His G3, his Operations Officer, the Brigadier General that’s his Operations Officer, sir, you know, the weather’s so bad when we have to hold up and wait till the weather gets better to go relieve the guys of Bastogne. And Patton, you know, in the move, George Scott’s, there’s men up there that need to be rescued. We’re going to attack all night, we’re going to attack all morning, and if we are not victorious, let none of us come back.

Now, where’s that statement from the chairman of joint chiefs and the SecDef? Because for every plane going into Afghanistan right now, it should be offloading people that are going to go get our Americans as it’s loading people to go home.


Yeah. Amen.

What Does Afghanistan Mean For Our Military – With Senator Brian Birdwell


I mean, as Texans let me give your listeners the ability to understand this. This is an Alamo esque situation, where we’re surrounded, the 80 seconds ready brigades there, other assets are going to come in. But it is we have the military side of the airport, the Taliban has the civilian side of the airport. When planes come in, I mean they are not sitting on the ground, and they’re not getting refueled on the ground. There’s a flying gas station up there that refuels them because they do not want to spend time on the ground. Okay?

And so it’s like listeners in Dallas have been picky. It’s like the 82nd airborne is got the military side of Love Field, the Taliban has the other side of the Love Field, and the 4-5 million people a Dallas County is controlled by the Taliban, and you got to go get 10,000 people out of that 4 million in Kabul. And this makes me Iranian hostage situation look like child’s play. And the only thing this enemy understands is violence.


Yeah. Yeah, that’s exactly the right description of what we face. We’re out of time for today. Folks, we’re going to pick up with Colonel Brian Birdwell tomorrow, you don’t want to miss that. We’re going to dive a lot deeper into this and just honored to be able to have him. So don’t miss tomorrow’s program right here on WallBuilders Live. Be sure to check out our website today at wallbuilderslive.com.

And also be sure to check out biblicalcitizens.com because you can sign up right now for the new national biblical citizenship class taking place on Monday nights and you can be a part of that national class. We have guests like David Barton and Tim Barton, come on live.

We take your questions, we watch the videos from the class, and then we have discussion about it. It’s a great way to connect with other biblical citizens around the nation and for you to realize how easy it is to host your own class. But for this one, you can just come participate with us on Monday nights. Get signed up right now at biblicalcitizens.com because it starts next Monday.

Thanks so much for listening. You’ve been listening to WallBuilders Live.