The footage of Barbara Lee was an excerpt from the â€œWar Made Easyâ€ documentary film (based on my book of the same name). As she appeared on a TV monitor, I glanced out the picture window. The glowing blue sky and streaky clouds above the Hill looked postcard-serene.
But the silence now enveloping the political non-response to plans for the Afghanistan war is a message of acquiescence that echoes what happened when the escalation of the Vietnam War gathered momentum.
During the mid-1960s, the conventional wisdom was what everyone with a modicum of smarts kept saying: higher U.S. troop levels in Vietnam were absolutely necessary. Today, the conventional wisdom is that higher U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan are absolutely necessary.
Many people who think otherwise â€” including, Iâ€™d guess, quite a few members of Congress â€” are keeping their thoughts to themselves, heads down and mouths shut, for roughly the same reasons that so many remained quiet as the deployment numbers rolled upward like an odometer of political mileage on the road to death in Vietnam.
Right now, the basic ingredients of further Afghan disasters are in place â€” including, pivotally, a dire lack of wide-ranging debate over Washingtonâ€™s options. In an atmosphere reminiscent of 1965, when almost all of the esteemed public voices concurred with the decision by newly elected President Lyndon Johnson to deploy more troops to Vietnam, the tenet that the United States must send additional troops to Afghanistan is axiomatic in U.S. news media, on Capitol Hill and â€” as far as can be discerned â€” at the top of the incoming administration.
But the problem with such a foreign-policy â€œno brainerâ€ is that the parameters of thinking have already been put in the rough equivalent of a lockbox. Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara and Lyndon Johnson approached Vietnam policy options no more rigidly than Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and Barack Obama appear poised to pursue Afghanistan policy options.
I was thinking about this when I left the C-SPAN building in the full light of day. The morning glow made the Capitol look majestic. Yet it was almost possible to see, streaked across the dome, an invisible new stain of blood and shattered bones.
Along with the grim patterns, thereâ€™s a tradition of brave dissent on Capitol Hill. Itâ€™s epitomized by Barbara Leeâ€™s prophetic statement just after 9/11 â€” and by an earlier kindred spirit, the fierce Vietnam War opponent Senator Wayne Morse. If youâ€™d like to see historic footage of them, retrieved from the nationâ€™s Orwellian memory hole, watch the â€œWashington Journalâ€ segment by clicking here.
This morning, USA Today reports that the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan â€œhas asked the Pentagon for more than 20,000 soldiers, Marines and airmenâ€ to raise the U.S. troop level in Afghanistan to 55,000 or 60,000. General David McKiernan says that is â€œneeded until we get to this tipping point where the Afghan army and the Afghan police have both the capacity and capability to provide security for their people.â€ Such a tipping point â€œis at least three or four more years away,â€ the general explained. So, â€œif we put these additional forces in here, itâ€™s going to be for the next few years. Itâ€™s not a temporary increase of combat strength.â€
Is Afghanistan the same as Vietnam? Of course, competent geographers would say no. But the United States is the United States â€” with domestic continuity between two eras of military intervention, spanning five decades, much more significant than we might think.
Bedrock faith in the Pentagonâ€™s massive capacity for inflicting violence is implicit in the nostrums from anointed foreign-policy experts. The echo chamber is echoing: the Afghanistan war is worth the cost that others will pay.
Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Information about the documentary film â€œWar Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Deathâ€ is posted at www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org. To view the C-SPAN â€œWashington Journalâ€ interview that included excerpts from the film, go to: http://www.cspan.org/Watch/watch.aspx?MediaId=HP-A-13214