Afghanistan swept under rug

Romney: No mention of war.
Romney: No mention of war.

Parties virtually mum on war

Posted: September 05, 2012

SINCE THE 2012 political conventions kicked off last week, you've heard all about a young mayor named Julian Castro, an old ex-mayor named Clint Eastwood, an empty chair named Imaginary Barack Obama - plus a lot of cross-talk about whether you did or didn't build that.

You didn't hear anything about Christopher J. Birdwell, Mabry J. Anders, Jessica M. Wing, Jonathan P. Schmidt, Jeremie S. Border or Kyle R. Rookey. They are the six American soldiers who've died since the first gavel dropped in Tampa, Fla., while they were serving in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, at 11 years and counting.

"Don't mention the war" was the catchphrase in an iconic episode of the John Cleese sitcom "Fawlty Towers," but it also could have been a theme night at either convention. Save for one line in first lady Michelle Obama's speech Tuesday, a nation at war has managed to stage its two major political confabs with none of the trappings of a nation at war - either in high-profile tributes to the fighting men and women, or any serious policy debate about why we fight . . . still, more than a decade later.

Last week's high-profile acceptance speech by Republican nominee Mitt Romney was remarkable in that it made no mention of Afghanistan or even "war," other than a passing reference to prosperity after World War II. Such an omission hasn't happened in 60 years.

That may have created an opening for President Obama. But it's a safe bet that the commander in chief and his surrogates will be highly selective in what they talk about - i.e. Osama bin Laden - and in what they don't talk about, including civilian-killing, terrorist-inspiring drone strikes.

Neither party is eagerly going to answer the one question a war-weary nation would like answered: When will it end?

"Politically, Afghanistan is difficult to discuss," Boston University international-relations professor Andrew Bacevich - retired colonel, Vietnam vet and critic of U.S. miltary policy - told me by email Tuesday.

"The war is clearly not being won," Bacevich continued. "Yet neither party will say that it's being lost. That might imply that the troops are somehow at fault. By and large, the attention of a war-weary and cash-strapped electorate lies elsewhere. Keeping mum on the subject is the expedient way to go."

Perhaps so. In a couple of days, the Democrats, their glitzy stage and 15,000 reporters will be leaving Charlotte in a hurry. But just under 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan will still be coming home in agonizingly slow motion.


Contact Will Bunch at bunchw@phillynews.com or 215-854-2957. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Bunch. Read his blog at Attytood.com.

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