Sestak: Wrong on Afghanistan

In the race to appeal to the Democratic base, Arlen Specter takes the lead.

By Brendan Skwire
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Dec. 6, 2009

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I hope you're having fun
Where's your uniform? Where's your gun?
Better rub up that suntan oil
'Cause you'll be fighting in the desert sun
It's not Vietnam
Just another oil company scam
Better salute that flag for Uncle Sam
Get your money out place your bets
It's Afghanistan!

Circle Jerks, "Paid Vacation," 1980

 Afghanistan is on the table. Again.

I supported the initial invasion into that country, with serious reservations. The Taliban had sheltered Osama bin Laden, and the killer was hiding in Tora Bora. But as the war dragged on and led to revelations that bin Laden escaped to Pakistan (a claim Pakistan denies), that Afghan President Karzai stole the recent election (which President Obama reluctantly acknowledged in last week's speech committing troops), that Karzai's brother is a heroin trafficker on the CIA's payroll, and that President Karzai maintains close ties to the very warlords who have helped tear Afghanistan's society to bloody shreds, my support has dropped.

My taxes are going to pay for 30,000 troops to prop up a corrupt dictator? To fight the 100 or so al Qaeda members that remain in that shattered country? We're spending blood and treasure to back a guy whose power stops at the Kabul city line? What gives?

Politicians like to say what a difficult decision it is to go to war, but really we're always fighting someone, whether it's hot wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, the Cold War that took up most of my childhood, covert wars like our excursions into El Salvador and Nicaragua, wars for political reward like Panama and Grenada, and even figurative wars like the War on Drugs. That's why our military budget is bigger than the rest of the entire world, combined! We love wars. We're the most war-making nation on Earth. We love wars like children love chocolate ice cream!

So I wasn't surprised when I got Joe Sestak's response to President Obama's speech last week:

President Obama has presented a plan that will allow us to finally complete a mission that is as indispensable today as it was eight years ago: the elimination of the Al Qaeda terrorists who struck us on 9/11," said Joe Sestak. "It is a difficult decision. After years of war and with economic challenges at home, the American people are justified in their concern about an increased commitment in Afghanistan. But the President has made the right call. If we leave Al Qaeda behind in a safe haven and are struck again, what can we ever say to those we swore to protect?

What DID surprise me was Arlen Specter's response:

While Sestak voiced support for the president’s plan, albeit with a desire to hear more details, Specter opposed it outright, bucking a White House that has thrown its political weight behind his reelection.

“I oppose sending 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan because I am not persuaded that it is indispensable in our fight against Al Qaeda,” Specter said in a statement. “If it was, I would support an increase because we have to do whatever it takes to defeat Al Qaeda since they’re out to annihilate us. But if Al Qaeda can operate out of Yemen or Somalia, why fight in Afghanistan where no one has succeeded?”

Specter added: “I disagree with the President’s two key assumptions: that we can transfer responsibility to Afghanistan after 18 months and that our NATO allies will make a significant contribution. It is unrealistic to expect the United States to be out in 18 months so there is really no exit strategy. This venture is not worth so many American lives or the billions it will add to our deficit."

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Tom O'Drain said... on Dec 6, 2009 at 09:06PM

“I could not agree with you more. I think that is a war that can't be won, just ask the russians.”

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2. Jeff said... on Dec 7, 2009 at 02:31AM

“Agree w the article... this is an economic blunder as well as a military one. Glad Specter is taking the lead on this for us progressive dems. One correction... now its clear snarlin Arlen is definitely Democrat :) We need to kick Lieberman out. Sestak's true colors are those of a hawk.”

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3. David said... on Dec 7, 2009 at 03:09AM

“"and more so that Joe Sestak's voting to continue a mission only a jackass could embrace."
Sestak's got that qualification down pat. :-)
Jeff, I agree that this hawk is showing his true feathers.

I'm willing to give Obama some leeway here, because I trust that this is a decision he did not come to lightly and that he asked all the right//tough questions, unlike Bush. I agree that setting timetables is probably a better strategy to prevent the Afghans and other allies from putting things off till the last minute. Sestak spent the entire 2006 election talking about timetables (before abandoning them in 2007 to vote for Iraq War funding).

I appreciate Specter's caution,honest disagreement with Obama and independence. I don't respect that Sestak is against the timetable aspect and is talking about 3-5 time frames.”

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4. Mary said... on Dec 8, 2009 at 10:02AM

“You say "isn't Sestak undermining his own case against Specter and his own rational for election?" You mean by standing up for what he believes,
even if you may disagree and it isn't the politically convenient position?
It seems to me one of the strongest cases to support Sestak is that he actually has personal convictions and knows where he stands-which is as
a progressive on most issues. I never want to see any Americans, much
less 30,000 more, be sent into a sitaution like this war. It makes this
me sick, though , to watch Specter, who voted for Iraq and supported the
surge, take a position on a war based purely on politics. The guy has been
a Republican for 50 years and said he only switched because of a poll.
He'll be less reliable than Leiberman if he gets another term.”

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5. brendancalling said... on Dec 8, 2009 at 12:54PM

“"standing up for what he believes in" is a good thing or bad thing depending on the belief. But i don't give him a pass for their sincerity when I disagree with the belief.

For example, Sestak ALSO stood up for warrantless wiretapping, and a number of sources who have spoken personally with him tell me he really believes it's necessary. So he's standing up for what he believes in, but what he believes in is "the Forth Amendment is obsolete." is that a good or bad thing?

Bart Stupak, to take another example, sincerely believes that abortion should be outlawed, 100%. In fact, if the language in his amendment to health care passes (and by the way, bob casey co-sponsored the Senate's version of Stupak), women will be prohibited from obtaining abortion coverage even if they pay for it with their own money. Sincere? yes. Politically inconvenient? yes. Does Stupak get a pass? Not if you're pro-choice.

of course specter's position is political. he's a POLITICIAN. it's what they do.”

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6. Anonymous said... on Dec 9, 2009 at 02:27AM

“Brendan says:
"women will be prohibited from obtaining abortion coverage even if they pay for it with their own money. "
Not exactly accurate. The plan, if passed, would allow people to purchase their own insurance, but with government assistance. That is not exactly paying for it themselves. Taxpayers will be contributing to the plan.”

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7. Anonymous said... on Dec 10, 2009 at 06:04AM

“@ Mary
People like Brendan are not concerned about "convictions".

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8. brendancalling said... on Dec 10, 2009 at 11:45AM


I call bullshit:

"The Stupak-Pitts Amendment severely limits private plans’ ability to cover abortions. The Stupak-Pitts Amendment would prohibit any abortions beyond the Hyde exceptions within the public option and any plans sold in the Exchange to individuals who receive affordability credits. Although insurance companies are permitted to offer plans that cover abortion to individuals who do not receive affordability credits, they would only be able to do so if they offered two nearly identical plans with the only difference being coverage and exclusion of abortion services. Furthermore health insurance companies would be unlikely to even offer a plan that does receive any funding from affordability credits because the risk pool would be too small. In effect, this ensures there will not be any private plans covering abortion available to individuals and small businesses tha”

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9. Jeff said... on Dec 10, 2009 at 10:03PM

“hello friends, good point about the warrantless wiretapping, thats the biggest civil liberties issue there is and specter has been a strong protector of it, whereas sestak approved the warrantless wiretapping program. But this Afghnistan... man this is something i cant get over.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Dec 11, 2009 at 05:25PM

“the war should end now.”

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11. RichardKanePhillyPA said... on Dec 13, 2009 at 01:29PM

“Update on Specter & Sestak in the Huffington Post, Robert Naiman & Just Foreign Policy which clearly states how important this race is to the future peace movement. Google him at Huffington Post’s websight

Also what the Obama administration publicly states may not be what is really important. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, and Shibil Siddiq there are behind the scenes negotiations with the Taliban. It seems to have something to do with wanting the entire Taliban to renounce al Qaeda, not just the bought off sections of it,
It’s the first story at the FOIF websight.

After Obama works America into war frenzy, the American people will be very upset if Sharia Law being imposed in Kabul is part of the peace agreement.

The troop level has been steadily rising without the surge speech. Obama is impressing the Taliban to demand less, but the worked up American people will be very unhappy to learn how little all the fighting gained if the war ends.

Specter is the best hope.

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12. Anonymous said... on Dec 16, 2009 at 06:26PM

“I have supported Sestak in the past.

I think this ends that.”


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