In the airport in Atlanta yesterday, I happened to be standing next to some American soldiers, wearing camouflage, on their way to Afghanistan. They knew the name of the province that they were going to, but they were arguing over what part of the country that province is in. One said the east. One said the south. One said the west. One of them thought that their destination was near Kandahar, but then they started arguing over where Kandahar is located.
I hope that they get it all sorted out before the shooting starts.
If they don’t know what part of the country that they’re going to, then what are the chances that they speak the local language? (There are 48 different native languages in Afghanistan.) What are the chances that they know anything about Islam? (Which is practiced by more than 99 percent of all Afghans, language differences notwithstanding.)
To little fanfare, President Obama announced last week that he signed an agreement to extend the US military occupation of Afghanistan for twelve more years. No one noted the irony of this, since under our Constitution, President Obama can be president for no more than another four and a half years.
Also under our Constitution, a treaty requires the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senate. (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2). No one in the Obama administration even took a stab at explaining why this agreement with a foreign power was not being submitted to the Senate for concurrence. But the reason is obvious: the Senate would not concur.
Also under our Constitution, you will search in vain for any provision that authorizes a lengthy military occupation of a foreign country. In fact, the Constitution does not authorize a standing Army, much less an Army standing in Kabul. In the Bizarro world in which we live, we have 27 attorneys general challenging the constitutionality of 35 million Americans getting health coverage, but no one challenges the constitutionality of an undeclared war (see Article I, Section 8 on that) that has now entered its second decade.
Presidential candidates Obama and Clinton obviously were separated by race and gender, but one of the few things that separated them on policy was Clinton’s vote in favor of the war in Iraq, contrasted with Obama’s 2002 statement that the war in Iraq was “dumb.” This is what State Sen. Barack Obama said, in October 2002, in the Federal Plaza in Chicago:
I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
Obama was talking about the war in Iraq. But let’s be honest. At this point, after 11 years of pointless, fruitless, endless war, doesn’t all of that apply equally to the war in Afghanistan?
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