Suddenly, Obama appears in Afghanistan…

I was just this minute repeating to one of my ADCO colleagues my oft-state theory about how Bush was Sonny Corleone, and Obama is Michael. Bush was the blusterer who telegraphed his moves and failed to get his enemies. Michael’s the nice, reasonable, I-want-to-negotiate, blood-is-a-big-expense guy who turns out actually to be far more aggressive than his predecessor. Just when you think he’s totally absorbed in domestic policy (the equivalent of the old Don puttering about in his tomato garden), WHAM!, he whacks some guy in a country where you didn’t even know the U.S. was operating. No seeking permission from the U.N. No paving the way rhetorically. Just bada-BING! and we get another terrorist’s brains all over our nice Ivy League suit.

Anyway, I had just been saying all that, and my iPhone buzzed, and I got this headline:

Obama in Afghanistan to sign security pact

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — In an unannounced trip, President Barack Obama has arrived in Afghanistan to sign an agreement cementing the U.S. role in the country after the war ends in 2014….

He’s like the Spanish Inquisition! Nobody expects him; he just turns up!

Right now, he’s probably sitting down with some Taliban leader who think’s he’s safe because his bodyguard is a police captain, and the Taliban guy is saying, “Try the veal; it’s the best in Kandahar.” And Obama is excusing himself to go to the men’s room, where they’ve got one of those old-fashioned toilets — you know, the kind with the chain…

29 thoughts on “Suddenly, Obama appears in Afghanistan…

  1. Steven Davis II

    I hear the Navy SEAL community is just loving the fact that Obama is taking the credit for killing Bin Laden.

    Obama: “Go ahead, guys. I’ll be sitting here cracking jokes and singing with the press for a couple hours and then sitting in an underground, fortified room complete with armed guards watching on a computer monitor when you guys get on the ground.”

    Obama: “I killed Bin Laden.”
    Gore: “When I invented the internet.”

  2. Bryan Caskey

    Well played. Double bonus points for referencing “The Godfather” and Monty Python in the same post.

    The kernel of truth in your theory is that Obama has realized that it is in his political interest to be a hawk when it comes to foreign policy. Predator drones, keeping Gitmo open, not trying KSM in a civilian court, and hitting Kaddafi are all examples.

    If he hits Iran and Syria, all rest of the heads of the five families will be wiped out.

    I like to think that after the raid to get Bin Laden was over, and Biden had been the only voice against it, we could have had this:

    “Joe, you’re my older VP, and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever.”

  3. `Kathryn Fenner

    I was astonished that Karzai insisted that the Leader of the Free World sign the giveaway pact on Afghan turf. Seriously?

  4. Phillip

    Just so nobody gets the wrong idea: the bumper sticker you picture above is a joke, and is NOT something officially connected with the Obama campaign. And I think putting that on one’s car would lower oneself to the level of, oh I dunno, a George W. Bush or Dick Cheney supporter. And I agree with Arianna Huffington in her editorial today: I don’t like that “would Romney have ordered the raid” ad. That’s positively Rove-like.

    Brad, you can cherish this Godfather metaphor all you want, about the “surprise” attacks, or Bryan, you can suppose that Obama is positioning himself politically as a hawk now, but all I can say is that Obama is not doing anything he didn’t promise he was going to do, MONTHS before he was elected President:

    It’s not about being a hawk vs. not-a-hawk. It’s not about being more or less “aggressive.” It’s simply about being not-an-idiot (Obama) vs. being-an-idiot (Bush) influenced by a war criminal (Cheney). It’s about doing the things we thought we were supposed to be doing anyway after 9/11 (attacking Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Bin Laden) vs. using 9/11 as an excuse to do something entirely unrelated. Bush could and would have done the same thing Obama did, years ago, if he had actually cared about the Al-Qaeda threat as much as he cared (or was convinced to care) about the neoconservative agenda.

  5. bud

    I love it that the successful Bin Laden mission occurred on May 1, the same date (8 years later) as the comical “Mission Accomplished” speech by GWB on the USS Lincoln. Grand irony that.

  6. bud

    My opinion of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney is probably about the same as Brad’s opinion of John Edwards. But ok let’s move on. No one’s opinion will change, certainly not mine, no matter how much Brad protests.

    Is Obama “spiking the ball” on this anniversary of the successful Bin Laden mission? Hell Yes! Is that good for the country? Probably not. The mission did, afterall, result in the death of a human being. And it seems unseemly to celebrate that. I’d prefer we look on that as a solemn occasion that essentially ended the era of 9-11.

    But that’s not what politicians do. And don’t think for one nano second that the GOP wouldn’t have done the same if GWB had captured/killed Bin Laden. Me thinks the Republicans protest too much.

  7. Brad


    OK, a couple of things: First, the only “comical” thing about the “Mission Accomplished” speech was the president choosing to use a crew that had done its job and was returning home as a backdrop for political theater. And actually, that’s not funny.

    Next, Phillip. When you say Obama has done nothing he didn’t say he’d do, you’re saying what I’ve said many times. Barack was always the tough guy, even when people pegged his as otherwise. I wrote about that as early as 2007. But not everyone zeroed in on that.

    Finally, my friends: We could have much more civil conversations about these things if we would drop the total delegitimization of those with whom we disagree. It is completely beyond the pale to call the former vice president of the United States a “war criminal.” It’s on the level of the old New Left calling everyone with whom it disagreed a “fascist.” Actually, it’s worse. One could be a fascist without being a war criminal.

    I put the casual assertions that “Bush lied” in the same category. Nobody lied (except maybe Greg Kinnear in “Green Zone” — oh, wait; that was fiction). Nobody was a war criminal. These are simply people with whom you disagree; people who believed things that you do not believe (and in one case, believed something that turned out spectacularly to be wrong).

    Isn’t it enough just to disagree? Can’t you support your position without trying to disqualify your opponents from consideration?

  8. David

    I’d prefer we look on that as a solemn occasion that essentially ended the era of 9-11.

    Well that’s an absurd claim.

  9. David

    It is completely beyond the pale to call the former vice president of the United States a “war criminal.”

    Why? Because he was the Vice President? It’d be one thing if there were no justification for the use of that term. But why can’t the criminality of some the former vice president’s actions be one of those things upon which reasonable people disagree?

  10. Steven Davis II

    “Barack was always the tough guy”

    Obama isn’t even the tough guy on the school playground. I seriously doubt that any leader in this world looks at him and has a sense of fear overwhelm them. Well maybe France…

  11. Steven Davis II

    @bud – “Is that good for the country? Probably not. The mission did, afterall, result in the death of a human being.”

    So. Do you pity people who abuse animals and children as well? Do you pity Timothy McVey for killing all of those kids in daycare? Sometimes there is a need for “justifiable homicide”… some people just need killin’.

  12. bud

    David, not sure I follow. I think that in large part Bin Laden was both the inspirational and intellectual leader of Al Qaeda and with his passing the 9-11 era is largely a thing of the past. Only time will tell for sure but right now I feel confident that the worst of the terrorist acts are behind us.

  13. bud

    Wow, classic taking out of context. Good job SD II. You should get a job working for Karl Rove. I’m not suggesting it was “probably not good for the country” that Bin Laden was taken out. I’m saying it’s not good for the country to gloat about it. I can’t even get credit from conservatives when I’m critical of the president.

  14. Steve Gordy

    If France has gotten a little tired of war, SDII, maybe it’s because they lost as many people in WWI as we’ve lost in all our wars. BTW, some of my retired military friends have expressed the belief that messing around in areas which France considers vital to its own interests is a good way to wind up dead.

  15. `Kathryn Fenner

    Because it’s not like the Republicans are calling Democrats Communists or promulgating pictures of the President modified to resemble Hitler….

    Professor Fenner is mulling around a piece about how game theory proves that when one side consistently plays the “nasty” card–the non-cooperation card–it is foolish for the other side to continue to play the nice card–to cooperate. It’s the Prisoner’s Dilemma–except you know your co-conspirator is going to rat you out every time.

  16. Phillip

    You are correct that Cheney is not a convicted war criminal as of this writing, so I will amend my characterization of him to “quite possibly a war criminal.” Obviously I don’t use that term to delegitimize somebody with whom I disagree. As you know, I disagree frequently with many people in office, of both parties. I don’t call them war criminals. “Possible war criminal” is reserved for those who, much evidence suggests, possibly involved with violations of the Geneva Conventions, human rights violations, international law, and other such provisions that we as a nation generally insist must be observed by civilized nation-states worldwide.

    David made an excellent point. Of course we cannot definitively say from a legal standpoint that Cheney is a war criminal. The criminality of Cheney’s actions is worthy of debate; it’s certainly not “beyond the pale.”

    Sometimes it surprises me, for someone who is so frequently passionate about what it is that makes this nation special, how low you sometimes set the bar of expectations for your country.

  17. Brad

    You’ve got it backwards, Phillip. I set the bar high for terms like “war criminal.”

    William Calley was a war criminal. Those who took the 50 Allied prisoners out and shot them (or were involved in the decision to do so) after the Great Escape were war criminals. It is a designation I would put way, way out there at the far extremities of human activity. Like being a sexual molester of children.

    It seems to me that it would be practically impossible for a vice president of the United States to be a war criminal. To begin with, he has no statutory or constitutional authority, beyond breaking ties in the Senate — or replacing the president if it comes to that. If the entire nation were engaged in war crimes — if it were the stated policy of the United States to systematically violate every limitation in the Geneva Convention — probably the last person in the executive branch whom you could point to and say “HE’s responsible” would be the vice president, whoever the vice president happened to be.

    People who subscribe to this meme tend to see Cheney as a sort of Rasputin — not a part of the actual chain of command, but a sort of kitchen-Cabinet type of great personal political power that belied his statutory impotence.

    To even consider the possibility of his being in the same universe as that of war criminals, I’d need to know what actions within his power to commit you believe he committed. What would the indictment say? What action X that led to result Y?

    Because without that, I’m left with the fact that “war criminal” or “possible war criminal” seems to arise out of a general perceived miasma of evil, and that seems connected to the fact that he simply had influence upon the president in trying to achieve certain foreign policy goals that a lot of people regard as anathema.

    Here’s the thing — I agree with some of those policy goals embraced by him and Wolfowitz and others. Such as, for instance, that taking down Saddam Hussein was a worthwhile national security policy goal in and of itself, and worth pursuing if the opportunity arose.

    So, if his thinking THAT, and pushing that view within the administration, is what made him a “possible war criminal,” then am I one, too?

    Or what?

  18. Steven Davis II

    @bud – “I can’t even get credit from conservatives when I’m critical of the president.”

    Because like Obamy you don’t deserve it.

  19. David

    So Cheney had no authority to authorize the torture of detainees, and therefore cannot be held responsible as a war criminal. Ok, that’s fine — a fair point. But he was still a big supporter of it and signed off on it.

    So he just shares moral responsibility for war crimes then? Are we getting anywhere?

  20. David

    David, not sure I follow. I think that in large part Bin Laden was both the inspirational and intellectual leader of Al Qaeda and with his passing the 9-11 era is largely a thing of the past

    Bud, I take it back. “Absurd” was over the top. The killing of Bin Laden was of course a big moment for this country. But that moment did not mark some receding point of the post-9/11 War on Terror or anything — not that it necessarily should or shouldn’t. That was the thought I was clumsily trying to convey.

  21. Phillip

    There’s a school of thought that would include the Iraq invasion as a “war crime,” either on the technicality grounds of whether another UN authorization was needed at the time to initiate an attack, or the larger moral sense of who is answerable for that “worthwhile national security policy” turning out to be 150,000 innocent civilians killed and millions more displaced, not to mention the strategic costs in the aftermath (a strengthened Iran, etc.)

    But perhaps these are the larger judgments that history will make, in the fullness of time. My reference to war crimes is far narrower, and has nothing to do in fact with the Iraq war per se. It has to do with the issues covered in, among others, the July 2011 report by Human Rights Watch that urges the US to pursue criminal investigation against not just Cheney, but Bush, Rumsfeld, and a few others for, and I quote “for ordering practices such as “waterboarding,” the use of secret CIA prisons, and the transfer of detainees to countries where they were tortured.”

    There’s sufficient evidence as to the chain of command for each of these individuals in authorizing various acts along these lines. What HRW is saying is that at the very least, the amount of evidence is such to warrant a deeper investigation that could compel the release of further documentation relating to their involvement, to the truth of the matter. Obama may rather “look to the future rather than past” which is all very admirable and likely what we’ll have to accept, but (again, as HRW points out) let’s be clear about this: It’s a legal obligation under international law in cases of substantial evidence of war crimes and violations of the Geneva Convention etc. for the country in question to pursue a fully investigate these acts and the chain of responsibility therein.

    About Cheney as Rasputin: given Bush’s own pre-9/11 not-so-neocon worldview, as well as his documented RELUCTANCE to share his senior advisors’ enthusiasm for linking Iraq to 9/11, there’s an ample record indicating that in the first term anyway, Cheney was the driving force behind much of foreign policy. It’s true that if I am to be consistent, I should probably refer to W and Rumsfeld and a few others as “quite possibly war criminals,” but the reason I hold Cheney in a special place is because to this day he is positively boastful about his role in approving waterboarding and rendition, knowing that he’s almost certainly not going to face criminal investigation (except when he slipped up and almost traveled to Canada recently, then thought better of it).

    So, just to be clear: when I use that phrase “war criminal” it is not about “certain foreign policy goals that a lot of people regard as anathema.” It’s not about Iraq, at least not to me. It’s about very specific violations of international law in the pursuit of the GWOT that undermined and made a mockery of the very principles we send young men and women overseas to risk their lives and sometimes die for. So when Dick Cheney smugly avers his pride in his role vis-a-vis waterboarding in network TV interviews, to me it’s like he’s spitting on the grave of every American soldier that’s given his life to defend our nation and our principles.

  22. bud

    Cheney advocated for torture, a clear violation of international law. Perhaps because he lacked the authority to authorize the practice he could not be prosecuted as a war criminal. But because he had a great deal of persuasive power and political ties he was able to gain enough support to make it happen. I find it splitting hairs to say he was not a war criminal simply because he lacked the ultimate authority to order the crime in question. To me he will always be a war criminal.


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