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Sarah Palin, the Neocons and Howard Dean Love the War in Afghanistan

The neoconservative Project for a New American Century laid much of the groundwork for the foreign policy of the Bush administration. Its members received important postings in the White House, Department of Defense and other institutions. But what is seldom mentioned is that PNAC achieved its first great political victory during the Clinton administration when PNAC pushed Clinton to sign the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. In January 1998, the group wrote to Clinton: “[Y]ou have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power.” The Iraq Liberation Act, backed overwhelmingly by Democrats and Republicans and signed by Clinton, made regime change in Iraq official US policy and set the course for the eventual invasion and occupation.

PNAC recently re-branded itself under the new name of the Foreign Policy Initiative. The three major figures behind FPI are well-known neocons William Kristol, Robert Kagan and Dan Senor. “The United States remains the world’s indispensable nation,” the group’s mission statement reads—“indispensable to international peace, security, and stability, and indispensable to safe-guarding and advancing the ideals and principles we hold dear.”

On September 7, the FPI sent a letter to President Obama about Afghanistan, eerily similar to the one PNAC sent Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq in 1998. It praises Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan before calling on him to expand the war even further:

You’ve called Afghanistan an “international security challenge of the highest order, ” and stated that “the safety of people around the world is at stake.”  Last month you told a convention of veterans, “Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

We fully agree with those sentiments. We congratulate you on the leadership you demonstrated earlier this year when you decided to deploy approximately 21,000 additional troops and several thousand civilian experts…

Since the announcement of your administration’s new strategy, we have been troubled by calls for a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan and a growing sense of defeatism about the war… There is no middle course. Incrementally committing fewer troops than required would be a grave mistake and may well lead to American defeat.  We will not support half-measures that repeat the errors of the past.

The list of signators to the FPI letter is a predictable cast of neocon characters who somehow make a living showing how little they know about so much. But there are some new names. Perhaps most comical among them: Sarah Palin, that famed foreign policy visionary. If Palin could see Russia from her backyard, she clearly missed the part where the Red Army got chased back to the Motherland after being defeated in Afghanistan.

With recent polls indicating that the American people are increasingly questioning the US presence in Afghanistan and leading conservatives like George Will saying it’s “time to get out of Afghanistan,” the White House is desperate to find support for its deteriorating war. What is emerging is a sort of neocon alliance with some partisan Democrats backing the White House. The Center for American Progress has teamed up with neocons at public forums supporting the war (and FPI has promoted these events) and has put out pro-war reportsFox News Sunday—hosted by Dick Cheney’s little BFF, Chris Wallace—Howard Dean fumbled his way through a defense of Obama’s Afghan war policy (and went so low as to use neocon talking points about the war being for women’s rights) and found himself in agreement with a table of discredited right-wingers, including Newt Gingrich: supporting the surge in Afghanistan. On

WALLACE: All right. Let me get into one more subject.

Governor Dean, the president will reportedly decide in the next few weeks whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan. As a leader of the anti-war movement when it came to Iraq, will the liberal wing of the Democratic Party — will you — support the president if he deepens our commitment in that war?

DEAN: I’m not so sure I’m the liberal wing, but I guess I’m the — I’m appointed by you the head of the liberal wing or whatever. No, I — look, I’ve supported the president on this one. I think this is different than Iraq. I think there are people who mean the United States harm over there.

I think — I was very pleased to say the — hear the president a few months ago say, “Look, we can’t win this war militarily.” He gets what we have to do here. And it is true that American public opinion is not supportive of the war effort anymore.

I think this does have something to do with security to the United States. I do believe it has something to do with the role of women in these kinds of societies. I think we ought to be supportive of the role of women and their ability to get an education and things like that. I don’t think that’s the only reason we’re there.

But I’m supportive of the president, and I’m going to continue to be supportive of the president on Afghanistan.

WALLACE: Well, I’m glad we were able to reach these cross-party…

DEAN: Yeah.

WALLACE: … and intra-party divide.

DEAN: You see, it can work. It can work.

WALLACE: I brought — I helped bring you all together.

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Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept

Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill is an investigative reporter, war correspondent, co-founder of The Intercept, and author of the international bestselling books Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield and Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.  He has reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere across the globe. Scahill has served as the national security correspondent for The Nation and Democracy Now!, and in 2014 co-founded The Intercept with fellow journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and investor Pierre Omidyar. Follow him on Twitter: @jeremyscahill

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