The Republican National Committee has for some time now made itself the mouthpiece for extreme pro-war rhetoric, despite the fact that substantial numbers of Republicans – some of whom sit in Congress – oppose the Bush-Cheney administration’s misguided approach to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. In this context, the RNC spends most of its time attacking Democrats who express sentiments no more radical than those mentioned by mainstream Republicans.
The current target of the RNC’s comically over-the-top wrath is U.S. Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The RNC is furious with Obama for pointing out the obvious with regard to the worst excesses of the Afghanistan occupation.
Obama recently said of that occupation: “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.”
This is hardly a militant viewpoint. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly expressed shock and anger at the U.S. bombing of villages and the killing of civilians. “While the people of Afghanistan stand firmly with the international community in their effort to defeat terrorism,” Karzai said after one particularly horrific incident in which 16 civilians were killed and dozens or women and children were injured, “it must be ensured that civilians are not affected during the operations.”
Karzai has gone so far as to summon the commander of the coalition forces in Afghanistan to his office in order to deliver a demand that “incidents (bombing raids that kill civilians) must not be repeated.”
Unfortunately, as Karzai made clear during his recent visit to the U.S., the crisis continues. And, as a result, resentment regarding the U.S. occupation is rising among the people of Afghanistan. That creates even greater danger for U.S. troops on the ground.
Obama is highlighting this very real concern at a time when it may still be possible to take steps to address it. He may not be arguing for the best approach – wiser analysts of the turbulent region dispute the notion that sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan is the answer – but there is no question that his references to air-raiding villages and killing civilians comes in the context of an ongoing and important diplomatic discussion.
No reasonable observer could miss Obama’s point: That the United States government should be concerned about the mounting civilian death toll in Afghanistan — and about the sense on the part of Afghan leaders and citizens that more could be done by our military to prevent those deaths — for both humanitarian and political reasons.
Yet, the RNC has ginned up its considerable propaganda machine – with predictable echoes from party apparatchiks in the media – to suggest that Obama’s statement is at best naïve and at worst an affront to U.S. troops and the war or terror.
“Obama’s Assessment Of U.S Troop Efforts In War On Terror Demonstrates His Extreme Careless And Inexperienced Nature,” screams the latest of several memos attacking the senator that have been distributed to major media outlets under the guise of an “RNC Research Briefing.”
The “briefing” complains that: “Inexperienced Obama Fails To Acknowledge Major Accomplishments In Afghanistan.”
Suggesting that a well-regarded member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has lived abroad, earned international acclaim for his writing and speaking on global issues and traveled extensively in regions of the world rarely visited by presidential candidates is “inexperienced” is ridiculous rhetoric on the part of the RNC. But the Republican briefers are right about one thing: Obama did fail to acknowledge all the “accomplishments” of the Bush-Cheney administration in Afghanistan.
The Illinois senator made no mention, for instance, of the friendly-fire killing U.S. Army Corporal Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the ambitious efforts of military commanders and their civilian counterparts to portray that death as the result of an enemy attack – in an apparent effort to use the former pro-football player’s service to gin up support for the occupation and to encourage military recruitment efforts.
This “accomplishment” is now the subject of a congressional inquiry that recently heard Tillman’s brother, Kevin, himself a veteran, say of the cover-up: “The deception surrounding this case was an insult to the family: but more importantly, its primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation.”
As the RNC attacks on Obama illustrate, efforts to deceive the whole nation continue.
John Nichols’ new book is