For a brief and shining moment, well more or less just July 1 & 2, a major mainstream political leader told the truth everyone knows about Afghanistan: it’s unwinnable. And he even held his ground for, like, a day. As a consequence, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele was attacked without mercy by both parties and all of official Washington. That’s even though we all know Steele is right, and we all know our first priority, saving Afghan lives, and second priority, saving foreign soldier lives, mean we need to get international military forces quickly removed from Afghanistan. Here’s Steele, taboo busting:
This was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in. . . .
It was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.
Wow, refreshing, a normal person might at first react. Admittedly, you could question the beginning of the statement, since we all know Bush started the Afghan war; but it is also true that after deposing the Taliban Bush kept the war on low or simmer for the rest of his time in office. And Obama has turned the heat way up, doubling the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan (and unleashing McChrystal’s assassination squads there, btw). In that reasonable benefit-of-the-doubt context, Steele’s first two sentences above are accurate. But oh, what a second paragraph: right on Mr. Steele, and take that, warmongers!
As you’d expect, military-industrial complex and warmonger Republicans are on the anti-Steele warpath. And the other war party, the Democrats, are also attacking Steele, nearly accusing him of treason (yup, that sounds Bush-era familiar). As if we haven’t known it for awhile, the party and President swooped into office by peacenik votes is also the other ‘support the war or it’ll make the troops feel bad’ party:
Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse ripped Steele for calling the war in Afghanistan unwinnable.
"The American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party . . . is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan," Woodhouse said.
"It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences."
Chuck Hagel, Vietnam vet and former U.S. Senator from Nebraska, had a response for this kind of extreme rhetoric back in 2005, standing up to a Bush administration that attacked the patriotism of those who questioned or opposed the Iraq war:
Hagel [said] in a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that the Vietnam War "was a national tragedy partly because members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the administrations in power until it was too late."
"To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel said, arguing that 58,000 troops died in Vietnam because of silence by political leaders. "America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."
But, yeah, of course, a day after those quotes were revealed Steele got his warhawk garb back on, and he’s now back dutifully talking soldier-and-civilian-killing nonsense about Afghanistan. Official Washington has calmed, though Steele may still be punished for breaking an official taboo (reminds me of the one about German imperialism broken recently by its now former President, Horst Köhler), but hey, he’s back on board, and what a relief for imperial war and pointless death:
During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now, as President, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy. And, for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.
As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus’ confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.
Truth about Afghanistan still strictly verboten in the two party duopoly. And I expect official Washington will be very unforgiving to Mr. Steele the taboo breaker. On the other hand, Obama’s doubling the intensity of the war in Afghanistan and the resulting increased slaughter? NOT a problem for the powers that be. Slaughter in Afghanistan, by the way, looks a little bit like this: