Marine Dad Arrested After Heckling Biden at SOTU

The father of a Marine killed in the Kabul airport bombing during the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal in August 2021 was arrested after heckling President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address on Thursday night. Steve Nikoui, 51, shouted “Abbey Gate!” and “Second Battalion, First Marines!” from the chamber’s balcony, interrupting Biden’s speech.

Nikoui’s son, Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, was one of 13 US service members killed by a suicide bomber while processing evacuees during the Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who invited Nikoui to the State of the Union, helped coordinate his release from custody after he was charged with a misdemeanor for disrupting Congress.

Mast criticized the arrest, stating that Nikoui had lost one son due to “Joe Biden’s incompetence” and another to grief over his brother’s death. Other Gold Star fathers, including Mark Schmitz, whose son Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz was also killed in the Kabul blast, expressed their frustration with the administration’s handling of the withdrawal and the lack of accountability for the deaths of their loved ones.

Two federal reports have faulted the Biden administration for its “abrupt and uncoordinated” pullout, which gave the impression that the US was “simply handing Afghanistan over to a Taliban government-in-waiting.” The reports, however, failed to assign responsibility for the service members’ deaths, leaving Gold Star families disappointed and seeking answers.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) revealed that he had offered private meetings between the White House and several Gold Star families, but his requests were rebuffed. The Afghanistan withdrawal, which led to a dip in Biden’s approval rating, continues to haunt the administration as grieving families demand explanations and apologies.

Despite the hopes of some representatives that Biden would address the concerns of the Gold Star families during his speech, the president did not refer to the Afghanistan pullout at any point during his 68-minute address. The arrest of Steve Nikoui and the ongoing frustration of the fallen service members’ families highlight the unresolved issues surrounding the controversial withdrawal and its lasting impact on those who lost loved ones.

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