Steele blames Obama for Afghanistan, Defends Iraq War

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele has provoked a furor by remarks he made on President Obama’s Afghanistan policy at a GOP fundraiser in Noank, Ct. (where he mumbled on for all the world like a third-rate lounge lizard at an off-off the Strip Vegas discount casino before an audience mesmerized into zombiehood by its subsidized lunch buffet). The speech appears to have been secretly recorded, and is now on the Web. Geo at the Right Vs. Left blog put up a transcript of Steele’s comments.

The Republican line on the Afghanistan War is apparently that it is a good war, well-fought, but has the misfortune to be overseen by Obama, who, despite personally ordering all the elements of the war that the GOP praises, is nevertheless somehow an inappropriate leader of it.

Self-contradiction poses no conundrum for politicians as long as the public does not notice it. That it is illogical to denigrate Obama as leader while praising the troop surge and the counter-insurgency strategy that he authorized appears not to occur to anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line. Conservatives (with the exception of Libertarians) can embrace this paradox because they hold twin premises. The first is that the United States should always be at war and all of its wars are glorious, righteous and beneficial to all concerned, even the enemy. The second is that a Democratic president is sort of like gay marriage; it is against nature and intrinsically wrong, and while it may actually exist in some times and places, it must be vigorously ignored until it can be undone and safely forgotten about. With a Democratic president in the White House, the munificent War must resemble the virgin birth, having no human author and yet bestowing infinite grace on all.

Steele violated this both-sides-of-the-mouth absurd discourse every which way from Sunday. He attributed the war to Obama, restoring him as commander-in-chief, a presidential epithet applicable only to GOP heads of state. Steele said that Afghanistan “was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

Steele seems to have missed the part where the Bush administration gradually committed the US to war-fighting in Afghanistan. He has paid no attention to what has been going on in Afghanistan since the Taliban were overthrown or at least sidelined in 2001. He does not seem to realize that the NATO and US troops were doing active war-fighting in Afghanistan all through 2008. , when 159 Americans gave their lives and nearly that number again of NATO and allied troops also died.

Then Steele openly said that the war, far from being magnificent and beneficent, is actually a Major Mistake and almost certain to End Badly. He said that if Obama

“is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Alright, because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed, and there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan…”

(I would argue that it is actually only since Afghans began learning how to manufacture [in artisan style] hand-held firearms that they have become truly formidable, i.e. from the late 1600s.)

Steele’s remarks on Afghanistan can be distinguished from those of Denis Kucinich only insofar as the RNC chairman complained about Obama’s ‘demonization’ of the Iraq War (as if it had actually gone very well and been unproblematic, deserving none of the opprobrium heaped upon it by mere reality). Steele said, “But it was the President who was trying to be cute by half by building a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should in Afghanistan.” Other than his attachment to a war launched in impudent violation of the United Nations charter and all subsequent international law, which killed perhaps a million persons, wounded 3 million and displaced and made homeless another 4 million… Steele sounded like a left-wing Democrat. He seems to have been reading Ann Jones at Tomdispatch (would that more GOP officials did).

Here is the video; turn the audio way up:

Having delivered himself of the only principled and sensible arguments he has put forward since the Good Old-boy Party humorlessly made him its public face, Steele now faces demands by the hounds of the Right that he resign in ignominy. When Bill Kristol, who has notoriously been Wrong about Everything, demands that an RNC chairman resign, it can only mean that the party has a choice between reviving Neoconservatism– which is pernicious but creepily coherent as a nihilist ideology of perduring destruction– and muddling along with no positive message at all.

24 Responses

  1. Your take on the Conservatives’ twin premises is wickedly accurate!
    Very Jonathan Swift.

  2. Michaele Steel aside, I don’t see any difference between Bush’s and Republicans’ imperial policies and Obama’s and Democrats’ imperial policies.

    Sure Obama can give better speeches of hope and “yes we can”, and even get a Nobel Peace Prize. But what difference does it make when Afghan and Pakistani civilians are being killed by drone attacks, and by the black ops and special ops soldiers. Even after Obama “brought back transparency in our Government” we have no idea what is being done in our name, and with our tax dollars in those countries. Are we doing the bombings in Pakistan? link to news.antiwar.com

    Just like under Bush and Republicans we keep on bankrupting our future by bombing and killing people in other countries (and paying money to private war contractors) and what do Obama/Democrats do? The same.

    I’ve had enough of both imperial parties. If we don’t massively stop voting for either of these two parties then we are complicit in everything that is going wrong in our country,

    • “Michaele Steel aside, I don’t see any difference between Bush’s and Republicans’ imperial policies and Obama’s and Democrats’ imperial policies. :
      It’s easy to be frustrated and disappointed because Obama has not closed Guantanamo, put Bush & Cheney on trial, passed significant immigration reform and real health care reform, put a sane energy policy in place, etc., etc. But if you’re thinking about staying home or voting for a third-party candidate, I have two words for you: Supreme Court. If you don’t want more John Robertses and Samuel Alitos, it’s necessary to keep the Republicans out of the Presidency. Otherwise we will surely have more decisions giving corporations free rein to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections, weakening civil rights and gun restrictions, and ultimately reversing Roe v. Wade.

      • Yeah, the Supreme Court appointment argument’s been shown to be quite hollow with Kagan’s nomination.

  3. The point is that we need to leave Afghanistan immediately and this is Obama’s war now and it is a needless and so immoral war. We must leave Afghanistan immediately, and I will never vote for any Democrat who not not support stopping this terrible war. President Obama has chosen this war and should be criticized.

  4. “Self-contradiction poses no conundrum for politicians as long as the public does not notice it. That it is illogical to denigrate Obama as leader while praising the troop surge and the counter-insurgency strategy that he authorized appears not to occur to anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line…The second is that a Democratic president is sort of like gay marriage; it is against nature and intrinsically wrong, and while it may actually exist in some times and places, it must be vigorously ignored [and opposed--Phud1] until it can be undone and safely forgotten about. ”
    Well said. Other examples of GOP self-contradiction are:
    - The stimulus has failed, Obama has failed to end the recession, “Where are the jobs?”; and yet, unemployment insurance does not need to be extended because it only encourages the unemployed to stay on the dole rather than go to work.
    - Budget deficits are terrible (at least those incurred by a Democratic president), yet tax increases (or even expiration of unwise tax cuts) are to be avoided at all costs.

  5. [...] of haircut, when Republican Chairman criticizes the Presidents conduct of the war in Afghanistan. Juan Cole observes: Self-contradiction poses no conundrum for politicians as long as the public does not [...]

  6. Unlike the Democratic Party, with its prescription of Imperial War abroad and police state at home…

    … but yes, a Dem apologist must take every chance to bash the GOP, otherwise folks might notice the stench coming from the Dems…

  7. ltr, you are absolutely right!

    As a lifelong Democrat, I, too, refuse to vote for any candidate, regardless of party, who does not work to end the horrific acts of self-destructive waste being perpetrated in our name in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  8. I want to read more about your research in off-off the Strip Vegas discount casinos. Is this something you do by yourself, or do you take along Bill Bennett?

  9. Did everyone forget that Obama wasnt the one who started this war it was Bush.
    And we all know that once you start a war you cant just pull out, just like that. Obama had made a promised before he got elected that he would end this war once and for all. Until he found out the facts and what a wrong move it would be to just pull troops out just like that. If anything Bush should be held accountable for even starting this nonsense war. A war that made no sense whatsoever from the beginning. A war that has claimed thousands and thousands of live for nothing. But its to late, we have to finish what was started. Its just to bad Obama has to come in and try and clean up bush s entire mess he made but yet he gets not credit whatsoever. He was brave enough to even get involved in this horrible mess Bush has left us. Cut him some slack.

    • You’re right, Catherine.
      This is America’s “longest war” so we can’t “pull troops out just like that”.
      This is “a nonsense war. This is a war that made no sense whatsoever from the beginning. A war that has claimed thousands and thousands of live for nothing.”
      That’s obviously why we need to keep fighting this war. To fulfill our mission. Which is to be at war. We can’t stop now. “We have to finish what was started”. No matter how illegal, immoral, or lethal.

    • Catherine Pena: “If anything Bush should be held accountable for even starting this nonsense war”

      Well, who should hold Bush accountable? Obviously the current administration. Ooops, that would be Obama and the Democrats. And not only for starting this war, but also for starting Iraq war, for torturing prisoners, for war crimes, for shredding our constitution ….. Ooops again. Not only has Obama ruled out holding anyone accountable, in fact the Democrats were complicit in each and every one of those crimes.

      Don’t get me wrong. I used to be a Democrat until 2008. But I saw the light after I started rationally thinking about what’s going on in our country since the 90s.

      • Don’t forget that Obama’s on record saying that anyone violating immigration laws should be held accountable, despite the fact that he refuses to hold those responsible for torture, invasion, etc. accountable.

  10. The elephant under the rug is that Cheney and Bush et al have not been charged with war crimes. Until the criminal leadership is brought to justice, How can the situation be righted? The damage done by the former administration and the continuation of a destructive belief system is beyond the pale–the war…environment… human rights. It’s suicidal. So many of our fellows are confused and damaged. Ironically, the most harmed seem to follow the Republican Party leadership. Where is the sanity?

  11. There are “Buchananite” traditional conservatives, Prof. Cole, whom however do not qualify as ‘libertarians,” who do not hold the “twin premises” you depict above.
    As a matter of fact, when one subtracts the neocons and overt neocon fellow travelers, I’m not sure the traditional conservatives (some call themselves paleocons) who are not the majority of actual conservatives, even though relatively powerless at this time.

  12. Who attacked WHO? Taliban supported who? get the hell out, and go back if Taliban or Bin becomes a threat! The money and lives we have spent over nine years we could have gone and come a dozen times!

  13. RE: “the party has a choice between reviving Neoconservatism– which is pernicious but creepily coherent as a nihilist ideology of perduring destruction– and muddling along with no positive message at all.” – Juan Cole
    MY COMMENT: Sounds like a ‘no brainer’ to me!

  14. Contrary to those who profess complete American impotence when it comes to terminating stupid and counter-productive wars, the United States of America certainly can cease and desist from continuing any war “just like that” — and the sooner the better. As with America’s disastrous and stupid War on Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), the old slogan still holds true for Iraq and Afghanistan: namely, “We lost the day we started and we win the day we quit.” When you find yourself doing something contrary to your country’s own self interest — if not bat-shit insane — then you can do nothing better for yourself than quitting “just like that.”

    I realize that this common-sense truism flies in the face of what passes in America for “conventional wisdom” (meaning, a consensus of widely held error), expressed most commonly as: “our friends will not respect us and our enemies will not fear us if we stop acting so bloody stupid.” This presumes, of course, that our friends respect our stupidity and our enemies fear it — absolutely contrary to fact and logic. In the real world, both America and Southeast Asia started getting better right away, just as soon as America stopped its un-called-for belligerence against some third-world peasant nations that had never done anything to harm America. In the same way, Iraq and Afghanistan — not to mention America — will start getting better right away the moment America ceases its un-called-for belligerence against these third-world countries that never did anything to harm America.

    Really. Americans ought to mind their own damn business and try winning their own hearts and minds for a change, assuming that Americans have either.

  15. If the purpose of the article was to demonstrate the totally ridiculous state of the Republican Party, or the political right, I get it. I also get it from the moronic thinking of some of the right wing respondents to the article.

    The war in Afghanistan was started by the Bush administration with the whole hearted support of the Democrats. Including me. I would do the same thing again.

    The way the war in Afghanistan has played out is probably not the fault of anyone. Wars have a mind and will of their own. Most of the messes Obama is trying to deal with were inherited from previous administrations. (Plural). I’m surprised that Bush seems to have had more support from the US public than Obama does. But then small, evil little people always make a lot more noise than good people. That is the way of the world.

    As for this site in particular, I would be a lot less knowledgeable about the mess in the Mid East if it were not for the information I get on this site.

  16. There is a small element of truth in what Steele is saying. This war started as Bush’s war, but Obama made it his own now by refusing to end it despite being in office for so long. Obama easily could have withdrawn all our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by now, from a logistical perspective.

    Of course, the other nutty stuff that Steele mixes in undermines the credibility of what he is saying.

    • Steele may be a nut. But where is the nutty-ness in his comment cited above? This idiot-savant struck the golden truth by accident.

  17. House Republican Leader John Boehner has openly called for cutting of Social Security to pay for the war in Afghanistan. He was interviewed by the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. At least they have their priorities straight. Front page news, right? right.

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