McPain Smear-athon Debunked, 1: Afghanistan Slander

I’ll just let Spencer Ackerman debunk this one – why re-invent the wheel? (although I should add that the second slander in the ad, that “Congressional liberals voted to cut off funding for our troops” – is just as true about McCain if it’s true at all:  some Democrats voted against funding THE WAR without conditions or timelines, just as some Republicans including McCain voted against funding bills that included conditions and timelines.  Some, such as myself, would consider insisting on conditions and timelines to be “supporting the troops.”)

So here it comes:  The Scary Black Man who wants to kill U. S. Troops…  Not a word of this is true, obviously. It’s basically self-refuting to see the McCain campaign clip off Obama’s full Afghanistan comments from August — “We’ve got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we’re not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems there” — which is an obvious call to bolster troop levels. The concern about civilian casualties were echoed by such America-haters as Hamid Karzai and George Bush, as even this Nedra Pickler factcheck points out.

And to their ranks, let’s add Gen. McClellan McKiernan, from his press conference at the Newseum last week, when he discussed the counterproductivity of civilian casualties to counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. This is a transcript from my voice recorder:

[Shows a slide of himself at a meeting of Afghan villagers] The picture in the bottom center, if I could dwell on that for just a second, yes, that’s myself with my back turned to you, at a province that doesn’t need to be named, and it has to do with civilian casualties. It’s an episode — and I’d like to dwell on civilian casualties with you for a minute. We take great measures to try to avoid civilian casualties. But when a mistake is made and inadvertently there is a loss of civilian life unintentionally, we try to make sure that we get out with the truth as quickly as we can. We have a hard time beating the insurgent to the story because he’s not concerned with the truth. But in this particular case I went to this location and talked with a group of tribal elders in an area where we think we inadvertently caused some civilian casualties. And to tell you what an incredible sort of population lives in Afghanistan, that fellow sitting in the middle of the picture there, he lost seven members of his family. Yet he came and talked to me that day, allowed me to apologize to him, allowed us to have a shura, allowed us to talk, and at the end of the day he professed that he did not want the Taliban back in power, that he supported the presence of international forces. I don’t think that would happen in our country, in the United States of America. I don’t think someone that lost seven members of their family would come sit down with somebody in the military and even have a discussion. But it tells you about the resiliency of that population. But I hope you ask me something else about civilian casualties, because that’s something we try to go to great lengths to avoid in that country. …

[Reporter asks question about civilian casualties]… First of all, it’s important that ISAF, that the military, try to come out with the truth as quickly as possible. But we inherently play catch-up to anybody that reports a number or an event. We do try at least to get a truthful accounting in the media. It’s very difficult to come up with numbers in Afghanistan after there’s been a military operation. A lot of that’s cultural, because people generally are taken away and buried quite quickly in that culture, so it’s not like you can exploit a site for a period of time and come up with an accurate number, so a lot of it’s based on estimates. And then finally I won’t go into specifics on rules of engagement, but I’ll say that principles such as positive identification of targets to the best of our ability, the concept of proportionality, precise planning considerations on type of weapons and use of weapons — all of that is factored in, all of that is attempted to be disciplined in units before they even come to the theater. But when you fight a counterinsurgency, by the nature of an insurgency, where the enemy mixes in with the population, it is virtually impossible to completely avoid civilian casualties in that kind of environment.

McCain’s new slogan really ought to be Dishonor Before Death.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.