Tuesday, July 6, 2010

GOP chairman can’t win with criticism of Obama over war in Afghanistan

If it weren’t so real, it would be funny – the criticism Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is getting these days from his own would-be partisan colleagues for being critical of President Barack Obama.

Party chairmen are supposed to coordinate efforts to rally the troops on behalf of their side. When the president is of the opposing political party, it is natural that much of his public comment is going to be critical.

SO WHY DO Republicans have a hangup these days that Steele is trashing Obama?

It is because Steele got a little too personal to their interests when criticizing Obama with regards to the federal government and the handling of war in Afghanistan.

Steele last week made comments during a Connecticut fundraiser that said the presence of U.S. troops in that impoverished nation is one of his “choosing.”

It may well be a war that was started by Obama’s successor, George W. Bush. It most definitely is something that we are stuck in until the bloody end, no matter how much we’d like to come home.

BUT STEELE IS trying to peddle the idea that Obama could end the war, if he wanted to. By not doing so, any flaws or errors or bloodshed are his problem, and not something caused by the last Republican president.

My guess is that Steele has fantasies that the people will someday see this ongoing military action as one that didn’t have a single creator. Therefore, those GOP partisans can erase from the mental collective the idea that it was their side that was so eager to get into Afghanistan in the first place.

Such thoughts could help stir up resentment among many Democratic partisans, a significant segment of whom voted for Obama in ’08 because they naively thought he would bring an immediate end to what they want to think of as “George Bush’s War.” If it were that simple, then Steele would be receiving praise from his colleagues for creating resentment on the other side.

Instead, he’s reminding too many people that these military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were the creation of Republican partisans – many of whom don’t want any type of criticism attached to them because they interpret that as criticism toward themselves.


That is why Steele had to spend his Independence Day holiday weekend listening to senators such as John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Jim DeMint say he should be pushed out as head of the Republican National Committee.

Saying that Obama is at fault for continuing this war effort means that the war effort itself is flawed – to which McCain used the weekend interview programs out of Washington to say, “I believe we have to win.”

Steele, in his efforts to create dissention among Democrats seems to have stirred up trash talk from Republicans.

THE SAD THING is that Steele wasn’t completely wrong in his comments last week, when he said, “if (Obama is) such a student of history, has he not understood that … that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Everyone who has tried, over 1,000 years of history, has failed.”

Afghanistan was a mistake, but one that we are now so deeply embedded in that we couldn’t walk away even if we were willing to accept defeat? To use a cliché, we broke it, so now we bought it.

That wasn’t the way the conservative ideologues saw things when they pushed for U.S. troops in Afghanistan nearly a decade ago (we’ve been there longer than the U.S. military presence was in the Second World War).

After all, we were somehow convinced that Afghanistan was offering aid and comfort to the political extremists who use a warped interpretation of Islam to justify their own acts of violence against the Western world.

WHICH MEANS THAT the old administration of Bush the younger was going to send troops there, regardless of whether or not there was a legitimate reason to do so. As cynical as this thought will seem, it was the reason I never got so worked up with anti-war thoughts in the months following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.

I knew that the election of Bush in 2000 had given support to those people who would be eager to have a war in that region of the world. A part of me honestly believes that even if the World Trade Center were still standing and Sept. 11, 2001 had never occurred, we still would have found a reason to get into a war in the Middle East. Perhaps we’d still be at war there.

Steele, by bringing up Afghanistan, has managed to put his foot in a pile of politically partisan dog doo because realistically, there is no way that the stench of this situation can be put on a single official or a single political party.

They all share in it. By trying to trash Obama, he’s reminding some of the bigger war-mongers of their own stupid actions of the past – which is the last thing they want people to think about as we move closer to the Nov. 2 elections.


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