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'Chairman Steele, Afghanistan truth is taboo!'

by fairleft Sat Jul 3rd, 2010 at 10:30:48 PM EST

For a brief and shining moment, well more or less just July 1 & 2, a major mainstream U.S. 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 his statements 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.
So be reassured, truth about Afghanistan is still strictly verboten in the two war party duopoly. And I expect official Washington will be very unforgiving to Mr. Steele, taboo buster. On the other hand, Obama's doubling the intensity of the war in Afghanistan and the resulting increased slaughter? NOT at all a problem for the powers that be. Slaughter in Afghanistan, by the way, looks a little bit like this: Photobucket

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In political terms, Steele is the token black (sorry, African American) in the GOP leadership whose job it is to raise funds and faithfully repeat GOP talking points.  He thought he was being smart by trying to pin Afghanistan - an increasingly unpopular war - entirely on Obama and forgot that the GOP base is even more heavily invested in the WAR ON TERROR.

So the fact that half of the USA thinks what he said is irrelevant, as is the Truth.  What matters is that the war effort continues and imperial credibility is not undermined.  

Obama, as you said, whether for tactical reasons or stupidity, has chosen not to challenge the neo-con consensus on this - perhaps thinking he has enough other fish to fry.  Perhaps he made the same mistake as Kennedy and believed the Military when they said he could have a quick victory there if only he gave them a free hand.

Now he's stuck in Johnson mode.  I hope it doesn't take another Nixon to manage the defeat.  Oh yea - remember Nixon?  What a moderate he was compared to today's GOP neo-cons and "centrist Democrats".

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 10:55:45 AM EST
'4' (but prevented from rating by the ET good ol' boys.)

I'd only disagree with your guesswork about Obama's reasons for plunging into the Afghanistan quagmire. My guess is that Steele is probably close to the truth: it was one of those too clever by half things, which Prof. Obama seems drawn to by personal and political nature. Little geopolitical strategy, it was just campaign rhetoric that struck a very cool note back in '08 with the 'right' people but that now Obama is stuck with. If he backs out of Afghanistan now, even though that is now readily apparent common sense from almost any angle, the powers that be will label him a whimp/waffler, and that would just be unbearable to a DLC/'centrist' Democrat.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 11:59:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"'4' (but prevented from rating by the ET good ol' boys.)"???

I suspect Obama will use his oratorical skills to declare VIA (Victory in Afghanistan) fairly soon and withdraw after the midterms...  Reality be damned

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 01:23:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
See here.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 02:01:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I missed that diary and thread.

Having seen SA rail/road and other infrastructure at first hand when I lived there for 6 months 10 years ago I can certainly attest that the underinvestment for township infrastructure is massive and the Gautrain (regardless of whether or not it is much more than a commuter line by European standards) is a massive white elephant project when compared to the almost complete lack of public transport infrastructure for townships in general.

South Africa has huge potential for the development of its rail infrastructure because of the huge distances between densely populated townships often with only dirt track roads.  Most of the railways seem to have been designed for the mining industry and goods freight rather than passenger traffic.  

Private minibus taxis (often hiace vans) are hugely overloaded and unsafe.  Public buses are scarce and often 20 years old and prone to breakdown. People walk 15 miles to work every day and what few passenger trains there are are falling apart.  Good roads are almost the preserve of predominantly white area.  In that context, the Gautrain seems like an Apartheid era project for the relatively wealthy (Sandton is perhaps the most affluent suburb in SA) and the airport is primarily for tourist and business travellers.

In that context it is perhaps inappropriate to apply EU or US technical standards to a third world project and it's a pity the larger point may have gotten lost in increasingly testy exchanges.  The money spent on Gautrain most definitely does detract from investment for train infrastructure elsewhere which could be much better targeted.

No doubt there will be tourist/economic spin-offs from a successful world cup hosting experience but it is at least arguable that some of the money invested in new stadia or the Gautrain could have been better targeted elsewhere.

 

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 03:00:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Back on the Afghanistan topic (and I see I have rating privileges restored), I'm very happy my diary (over at firedoglake) inspired this letter to DNC chair Woodhouse:

Thanks.

Using http://my.democrats.org/page/s/contactissues, I just sent this to the amnesiac Brad Woodhouse:

Dear Mr. Woodhouse:

In your capacity as spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, you reportedly said recently:

"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."

One night in the early 1980s, I sat in the front row of a theater in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, with a dozen other American tourists attending the ballet. 17 and 18-year-old kids in Russian army uniforms had been trucked in and filled the other 350 or so seats in the house. They were on their way to Afghanistan.

You might want to check out what happened to them there. The same thing is happening now to our troops. Until we get our troops out, it will keep happening.

You might also want to check your recent history. When, pray tell, did Afghanistan attack the U.S.? When did Congress, as the Constitution requires, declare war on Afghanistan?

Michael Steele is usually good for a laugh. In this, though, he is simply right. You are not.

I'm a lifelong Democrat, a member of my Town Democratic Committee, and utterly disgusted with the Democratic Party.

Your parroting of support for the financially disastrous U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan typifies my reasons.

Sincerely, s

I slotted it under "Honest Leadership."

http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/58287#comment-217162

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 03:31:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's FDL like?  Whenever I post on DKOS I generally get minimal response (or abuse if I am critical of Obama.  There seems little interest in anything that is not directly related to Dem party concerns. Is FDL any better?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 03:44:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think FDL is anti-Obama. Or at least they were anti-health-care-reform.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 04:21:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FDL -- i.e., Jane Hamsher -- has mixed feelings about Obama, but pretty strong feelings, based on expertise and friends who're being gouged by drug companies in exchange for anti-cancer drugs or something, about the inadequacies of Obama's health care reform. A lot of the people at the site came there to join Hamsher's initially strong battle for 'single payer'.

She faded on that, but there's still a lot of disillusioned 'single payer' people there. Many became disillusioned with the site, too, because Hamsher's main health care reform reporter was pretty much in the tank for Obama and his health care bill. . . .

So, there you go: a mixed bag, and who really knows what her bottom-line feelings are? She connected, used to be a Hollywood producer, and she does get interviewed on MSNBC pretty regularly, and is knowledgeable and says the right lefty things usually, I think. She's definitely not into Obama-bashing, but open enough to the 'same old whimpy sold-out DLC Democrat' anti-Obama rant to allow it complete freedom on 'The Seminal', which is FDL's 'free blog' for the rest of us. People at Seminal are generally receptive to that basic stance. 'Same old whimpy DLC Democrat' is after all what so many of her regulars, single payer advocates, learned from the health care bill experience.

On the other hand, overall I think you get more comments at ET, and they're more 'intuhlekshewal' than the ones you get at 'The Seminal'.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 08:05:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.  Any good US foreign policy blogs?  (The US healthcare debate is pretty antediluvian as far as most yurpians are concerned...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 07:27:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not as far as I know. Nothing better than here, where it's not the focus. So many potentially good sites are dominated by 'elect Dems' and the corollary, 'defend Obama'.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 01:14:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Returning the war to simmer, like Biden wants to do, makes sense, and doing it sooner rather than in mid 2011. Obama likely plans to foist big cuts to Social Security on us immediately after the midterms, so a big de-escalation announcement could provide cover for that. Then, the war will recede into the background,  the Taliban will quietly be 're-named', and then brought into a coalition govt.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 03:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
fairleft:
the Taliban will quietly be 're-named'

It's all about the branding...

"partners for peace" has a ring to it. We'll let you run the country if you don't flog or execute women in public...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 03:46:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Just do it like the Saudis do," will be the easy compromise we'll ask of the Taliban or the coalition govt. The U.S. can and does get along with misogyny Saudi Arabia style.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Sun Jul 4th, 2010 at 08:10:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Basing an argument on Michael Steele is never a good idea, as you then have to distinguish what Steele said one day from the next. Here's the latest from him.
"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."
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 06:26:23 AM EST
This happens all the time with Republican politicians.  They speak their minds and then have to backtrack when they realize how unpopular their words are.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Jul 5th, 2010 at 07:07:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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