With four more of our bravest Americans down on the battlefield, 2009 is officially the bloodiest yet of fighting in Afghanistan. My prayers go out to all of them, to all of their families, and to all of those still fighting overseas and their support system here at home.
My question, though, is about the opposition to the war. Where are the rallies? Where are the protests? Where are the anti-war groups? If they’re not out there, why? If they are out there, why aren’t they being covered?
Obviously, the answer is easy. We all know it. It’s the same reason that we’re not seeing photographs of flag-draped coffins at airports despite such a ban being lifted, even though the media fought endlessly for that ban to be lifted during the Bush Administration. It’s the same reason that the president’s vacation with his family and family dog lead the nightly newscasts instead of the daily body count from overseas. “If it bleeds, it leads” only applies when the mainstream press feels an obligation to countermand the policies of a president they don’t much like.
What will be interesting to watch, though, will be the reaction among politicians and media types when President Obama announces for Afghanistan the equivalent of the Petraeus “surge” which was so successful in Iraq. Military officials have been saying, for some time now, that such an increase is essential. At the time the Iraqi “surge” was announced, however, Obama himself was among a sea of Democratic Party doubters.
Obama, during an interview with Larry King aired immediately after Bush announced the surge, explained to the ageless, suspendered wonder that there is no “evidence that an additional 15,000 to 20,000 more U.S. troops is going to make a significant dent in the sectarian violence that’s taking place there.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, in the official Democratic party response to the announcement of the troop surge in Iraq, stated emphatically that “escalation of this war is not the change the American people called for in the last election . . . the president’s plan moves the American commitment in the wrong direction.”
Then Sen. Hillary Clinton told The New York Times that President Bush “simply has not gotten the message sent loudly and clearly by the American people, that we desperately need a new course [Wow, couldn't the same be said about Obama and health care? -- Jeff],” and that “the president has not offered a new direction, instead he will continue to take us down the wrong road, only faster.” Later, she explained her position to Fox News Channel’s Greta van Susteren: “I opposed it, based on what I knew of the situation before I went, and I’m even more strongly against it now because I think the chances of success are limited at best.” And then, of course, she essentially called Gen. David Petraeus a liar:
Rep. Joe Sestak–my representative, whom I do like despite his political leanings–explained that “we’re doubling down on a bad military bet. A surge hasn’t worked and it won’t work again.”
Rep. Ike Shelton, of the Armed Services Committee, said that “our experience has shown that a limited infusion of troops will not necessarily produce the improvement to Iraqi security we had hoped. I remain to be convinced that increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq will have a measurable affect on the security situation in Iraq.”
Nancy Pelosi, through her representative, stated that the troops in Iraq at the time would in fact be funded–oh, how nice of her–but cautioned that “any escalation of troops we will subject to scrutiny. We will have hearings, and we will set benchmarks that the president must meet to obtain the money.”
Even Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel deemed the plan a “dangerously wrongheaded strategy that will drive America into an unwinnable swamp at a great cost,” and maintained that “[i]t is wrong to place American troops in the middle of Iraq’s civil war.”
And then, of course, there were the advertisements and other measures undertaken by the anti-war left, most notable among them the September 2007 full-page advertisement taken out in the New York Times by the people at MoveOn.org for a generous $65,000. The advertisement mirrors much of the perspectives taken by Democrats on Capitol Hill at the time, and while it didn’t necessarily mention the words “suspension of disbelief,” it did accuse Petraeus of “cooking the books” for the Bush White House, arguing that the four-star general was “a military man constantly at war with the facts.”
Democrats at the time refused to condemn the advertisement, offering only that it was “not helpful” because it permitted their Republican counterparts across the aisle to avoid talking about supposed lack of political progress on the ground in Iraq. Sen. Harry Reid only said that the ad gave Republicans “a new talking point.”
Republicans went out of their way to condemn it. Sen. John McCain called it a “McCarthylike attack on an American patriot.” Mitt Romney wrote, at National Review Online, that Petraeus, “[l]ike the men he commands . . . is risking his life to protect our freedoms here at home ” and that “[w]e should not prejudge him or his testimony, or give him anything less than the full respect he deserves.”
When Barack Obama returns from his Martha’s Vineyard vacation and announces that troop levels in Afghanistan must be increased in order to secure victory (only I wouldn’t expect him to use the dreaded “V” word), essentially a new “surge” for the war in Afghanistan, what will be the reaction among the same people on the left? Somehow, I don’t expect that this president’s decision to send more brave Americans into the thick of battle overseas will be questioned quite the same.