There is so much spin and rewriting of history this morning that my head is ready to explode. I think it’s time for a quick refresher on what lead us up to this victorious point today, including how the Republican presidential candidate in 2008 went after then candidate Obama when it came of Osama bin Laden.
The following is from the transcript of the October 7, 2008 debate between John McCain and Barack Obama in Nashville.
QUESTION: Should the United States respect Pakistani sovereignty and not pursue al Qaeda terrorists who maintain bases there, or should we ignore their borders and pursue our enemies like we did in Cambodia during the Vietnam War?
But I do believe that we have to change our policies with Pakistan. We can’t coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars and then he’s making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants.
What I’ve said is we’re going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants.
And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
The response John McCain gave to this was:
MCCAIN: You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt used to say walk softly — talk softly, but carry a big stick. Senator Obama likes to talk loudly.
In fact, he said he wants to announce that he’s going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable.
You know, if you are a country and you’re trying to gain the support of another country, then you want to do everything you can that they would act in a cooperative fashion.
When you announce that you’re going to launch an attack into another country, it’s pretty obvious that you have the effect that it had in Pakistan: It turns public opinion against us.
Barack Obama then reminded us of this:
OBAMA: Senator McCain, this is the guy who sang, “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,” who called for the annihilation of North Korea. That I don’t think is an example of “speaking softly.”
This is the person who, after we had — we hadn’t even finished Afghanistan, where he said, “Next up, Baghdad.”
McCain did anything but “talk softly”. That’s really interesting considering where we are today. President Obama did exactly what he said and now Osama bin Laden is dead. Would a President McCain have done the same thing? If going by his answers in that debate, I would have to say no.
But it doesn’t end there. As the old adage goes “history repeats itself”, and nothing could be truer. But look what else John McCain said in that debate:
Now, let me just go back with you very briefly. We drove the Russians out with — the Afghan freedom fighters drove the Russians out of Afghanistan, and then we made a most serious mistake. We washed our hands of Afghanistan. The Taliban came back in, Al Qaida, we then had the situation that required us to conduct the Afghan war.
And who were these “freedom fighters” John McCain is speaking of?
After leaving college in 1979 bin Laden joined Abdullah Azzam to fight the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and lived for a time in Peshawar. From 1979 through 1989 under U.S. Presidents Carter and Reagan, the United States Central Intelligence Agency provided overt and covert financial aid, arms and training to Osama’s Islamic Jihad Mujahideen through Operation Cyclone, and the Reagan Doctrine. President Reagan often praised the Mujahideen as Afghanistan’s “Freedom Fighters.”
By 1984, with Azzam, bin Laden established Maktab al-Khadamat, which funneled money, arms and Muslim fighters from around the Arabic world into the Afghan war. Through al-Khadamat, bin Laden’s inherited family fortune paid for air tickets and accommodation, dealt with paperwork with Pakistani authorities and provided other such services for the jihad fighters. Osama established a camp in Afghanistan, and with other volunteers fought the Soviets.
It was during his time in Peshawar that he began wearing camouflage-print jackets and carrying a captured Soviet assault rifle, which urban legends claimed he had obtained by killing a Russian soldier with his bare hands.
Yes we all know, but it does bear repeating, especially with John McCain making this statement just four days ago:
“The United States needs to recognise the TNC as France and Italy have done. They need to get supplies and equipment into the liberation forces, and we need to get American air power back into the fight,” he said.
He confirmed that these supplies should include weapons, but suggested that these not be directly supplied by the United States.
“I think we could do the same thing that we did in the Afghan struggle against the Russians. There are ways to get weapons in without direct US supplying,” he said, referring to US covert action in the 1980s.
Again – the exact same thing that caused the formation of al Qaeda.
Now I will give McCain credit in that he said in 2008 that we did screw up by basically using these people then not sticking around to help them rebuild. Would the same happen again today? Most likely. Rebuilding would start being seen as a huge financial burden and funding would get cut, then we would risk the rise of a new Osama or al Qaeda.
The simple fact is that history teaches us that these type of covert ops don’t end up working out well. They might get the immediate results, but the long term ramifications sure do outweigh those results. Sadly many on the right refuse to acknowledge this fact and want to keep trying the same failed tactics over and over again.
The man might be dead, but his spirit will live on. The terrorists will now consider Osama a martyr and the fight against terrorism is far from over. Can we put partisanship aside and focus on this fight? Can we learn from history, especially the very deadly lessons that gave us Osama bin Laden, and refuse to engage in those same tactics and risk a new terrorist rise? The victory in our fight against this type of extremism depends on it.