I was in the supermarket a few weeks ago when Rick Howell walked up to me and introduced himself as the author of “The Liberal Agenda,” a regular column in our sister publication, The Bedford Bulletin.
“I’m the most hated man in Bedford,” he said. “You’re the most hated man Roanoke.”
At first I thought, ‘Me? Hated?’
But you’ve got to admit, there are certain marketing advantages to Rick’s slant on it. ‘Love’ can mean a lot of things; there’s a lot more certainty to ‘hate.’ Which is kind of sad when you think about it.
Unfortunately you can’t simply go to the Bedford Bulletin site and read Rick’s stuff. They don’t give their stuff away for free online — you have to subscribe, or register (free) for a limited-access online account, which I would urge you to do if you want to read more of his columns.
Rick sent me his most recent offering, about this country’s involvement in Afghanistan, which you can read after the jump.
War’s end should be quicker
The Liberal Agenda
By Rick Howell
Now that the real reason for going into Afghanistan is behind us, it should only be logical to escalate our exit from a war that 60 percent of Americans no longer support anyway.
The Obama Administration had already planned to begin withdrawing troops this July, with plans to be out entirely by 2014.
But with Al-Qaeda’s symbolic and – apparently, still active leader, according to the evidence pulled from the compound – now dead, there is no real reason not to expedite our pullout from that ungovernable country.
Had the previous president not been unreasonably obsessed with invading Iraq and “getting” Saddam Hussein, we might actually have gotten Osama bin Laden a long time ago, and would almost certainly not still be in Afghanistan.
In a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that, yes, troops might come home from Afghanistan sooner and in larger numbers now that the bin Laden raid was successful.
Gates, who has served eight presidents and been a leader in calling for defense spending cuts, also called Obama’s decision to approve the raid “one of the most courageous I’ve ever seen.” Just in case you were wondering who deserves the credit.
So, not only is Bin Laden out of the picture, but the Afghan war could end even sooner than expected, and we could finally all agree that the “war on terror” (I prefer to reject the Bush-era political slogan and think of it as a global struggle) must be fought with police work, intelligence gathering, and not through military invasions of other countries.
Also, those who would champion torture as something the United States must do continue to be wrong, and should not take heart that somehow it led to the demise of Bin Laden.
Apparently, the use of water-boarding – called, I believe, “enhanced interrogation techniques” by its misguided supporters, was used at some point on the individual who gave up the name of the courier traced to Bin Laden’s compound.
This has caused pro-torture types (give me a better description if you have one) to say that water-boarding is justified. But as the New York Times reported, that specific act could not be traced directly to giving up the name.
This administration is right to insist that torture – and that’s what water-boarding is – not be practiced by this country. Obama is against this for the same reason he didn’t release Bin Laden’s death photos: Because that’s not who we are.
Sen. John McCain deserves much credit in continuing to make the best case why we must demonstrate that, as a nation, we’re better than what other countries do. If we resort to the torture techniques used by most other Arab nations, how can we insist that we hold a moral superiority? The answer is…we can’t.
And if there’s anyone on the planet who knows about torture, it’s John McCain. I suggested in a previous column many months ago that anyone who doesn’t think water-boarding is torture should subject themselves to it and see what they think.
I didn’t get any takers then, and somehow I don’t think I will now. Just as Jimmy Carter established a “human rights” priority in foreign policy, Barack Obama has added a “no torture” component, and he should certainly stick to it.
The first major villain of the 21st century is dead. Now it’s time to end the longest war of the new century, and the longest war of this country’s history.
We must be victorious in any fight that’s brought to us, as terrorism was, but how we do it is just as important.