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Even RNC chief doubts Afghanistan

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By Rick Howell

    It’s not easy for anyone to be the head of either the Republican or Democratic national committee when your party is out of power at all levels in Washington. For Michael Steele, it’s always been a bumpy ride.

    Steele was battling a buzz saw last week after some less than enthusiastic comments about the war in Afghanistan, a war that conservative Republicans are required to support.

    Steele referred to Afghanistan as “Obama’s war,” and said it looked “unwinnable” to him. Those comments would certainly reflect the opinions of many Americans, most Democrats, and even some Republicans. But such is the reverence for All Things Military in the GOP, that its national chair is not allowed to utter them.

    Why conservative Republicans love war so much is probably a psychological question that can’t be answered here. But, indeed, many of them - in their rush to support any and every war in a knee-jerk way - seem to forget what it all comes down to: young men and women sacrificing their lives at the behest of old men, often for no good reason at all.

    Neither George W. Bush nor Dick Cheney ever experienced the sensation of having a bullet whiz past their heads in the heat of combat; yet they sent young Americans off to die in a country that hadn’t threatened or attacked us. There is no greater issue in life than war and peace, and those two got it wrong, to their eternal shame.

The current president was supported, and elected, largely on his opposition to that war, but ironically, he has embraced “the other war” that Bush and Cheney launched, the one that did, at least for a while, make sense.

    In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, we knew Osama bin Laden, his organization, and the Taliban government that hosted them were all in Afghanistan. So it made sense to invade. But even then, Bush probably waited too long. His obsession with Iraq was already evident, even though he’d been told that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks.

    Bin Laden got away. But his organization has been effectively routed since then, with most of its leaders dead. Those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001, died that very day. It is not logical to think that what’s left of al-Qaeda could pull off what it pulled off then.

    The war in Afghanistan has now become America’s longest, and our death toll has passed 1,000. The government we’re supposed to be protecting is corrupt, and the Afghan president acts like he doesn’t even want us there.

    Michael Steele referred to history in his remarks, and he’s right. History shows that every self-important empire that ever stumbled into Afghanistan has had to stumble out later, sadder but wiser.

    The president appears to believe his own rhetoric about the war, and he’s entitled to that. But he has said U.S. troops will begin to come out next summer, and he needs to stick to that. Perhaps by then, we’ll have a more favorable situation. But if we don’t, no one should be surprised.

    Whatever terrorists are left in the world, they’ll find a “base” somewhere. We can’t invade every country that we think might give them such a base; that would be absurd. Nor can we buy into the kind of pro-war mentality that caused John McCain to fantasize about “one hundred years in Iraq.”

    Michael Steele is in a party that doesn’t allow dissent. But he’s wondering what a lot of us are wondering about the long war in Afghanistan.

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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.

Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com