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Afghanistan: At the Very Least, There Should Be Extensive Congressional Hearings

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Nine years and 1000+ US deaths later, with declining public support, should we not have extensive Congressional hearings on Afghanistan, covered gavel-to-gavel by the media?

Congress and the press swallowed the Bush Administration's lies, and did not demand answers to obvious questions prior to our launching the Iraq War. Indeed, we still do not have answers to simple questions such as "how did Saddam Hussein become an existential threat in 2002, when in 2001--after 9/11--Dick Cheney said on Meet the Press that Iraq was 'contained'?"

Those who opposed the Iraq War from the outset, and those who realized later they had allowed themselves to be had, both in the Congress and the press, vowed that that--the absence of scrutiny--would never happen again.

But, it is happening. On our watch. Again.

The country needs, the American people deserve, full, open hearings. It should not matter that it is the same political party controlling the Congress and the White House. If there is a good, cogent case to be made for the current policy, the White House should welcome the opportunity to do it. I, for one, want to learn more, and have an open mind.

It would be a mistake to minimize the threat from Afghanistan/Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. A resurgent, unpressured Taliban/al-Qaeda alliance might be able to get fissile material from Pakistan and put it into very dangerous hands.

Unlike Iraq, and certainly unlike Vietnam, about which the government raised false fears about an attack on the US if we had not invaded those countries, non-state groups in Af-Pak really DO want to attack the US. Neither Saddam Hussein nor Ho Chi Minh ever, to my knowledge, proposed attacking the United States. Al-Qaeda has done it.

So, I would like to rout the Taliban, defeat al-Qaeda, establish at least a semi-democracy in Afghanistan with full rights and protections for girls and women, allow the Afghanis to reap the benefits from mining their precious and industrial metals without ruining the environment, eliminate the opium trade and reduce corruption.

I would also like to shoot the winning three-pointer at the buzzer in the final game of the NBA championships. I could. It is possible. But, how likely? And, at what cost to the team who would have had me on the roster in place of a better player?

Osama bin Laden played George Bush and Dick Cheney, and thus the United States, for fools in Iraq. By reinforcing Bush/Cheney's false mantra that "Iraq is the major battlefield in the war against terrorism", bin Laden kept the pressure off himself and al-Qaeda.

Now, we have the chance to determine what our strategy should be in Af-Pak. We should define the issue(s) clearly. Exactly what needs to be accomplished, and why? We should be open to alternative strategies to achieve agreed upon goals. We should be open to a conclusion, if that is what is reached, that without a several decade major presence, we cannot achieve our goals.

We ought to be asking whether, under any circumstances, our goals are achievable; if so, at what cost in lives (US, NATO and Afghan civilian), money, unaddressed problems elsewhere, recruitment of terrorists elsewhere? What are the true costs of leaving? Will the US's power fall or rise by leaving? Are there other, less costly, strategies with equal or better chances of success?

Is it truly possible that the national security of the United States depends upon 'standing up' an Afghan military and police, loyal to a central government, who will keep the Taliban at bay? That is, if cannot get them to do what we want them to do--that they may not care about at all--is it all over for the United States and the West?

For those who believe the Afghanistan war must continue to be prosecuted, hearings would be a chance to make that point, show that it can withstand scrutiny, and bolster support for the war among the American people.

Many questions. These, and many others, deserve to be fully aired and addressed. A confirmation hearing for General Petraeus is insufficient and inadequate. We had more publicized hearings on steroid abuse among professional athletes than we have had on Af-Pak.

As Senator Joe Biden repeatedly stated: "no war can be successfully prosecuted without the full, informed consent of the American people".

Does Vice-President Joe Biden believe differently?

War is indeed a "big, f**kg deal".

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