Even though most congressmen spend relatively little time on foreign policy, the most important issue confronting any elected official is that of war or peace. The Iraq War, which was based on lies, killed tens or possibly even hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 Americans. By one estimate, it will cost $5 trillion before all the bills are paid and it had a devastating effect on the economy in general as well as on the national debt. And the results were terrible with Iraq currently dissolving into chaos and a bloodthirsty radical Islamic regime poised to pick up many of the pieces.
The upcoming November midterm congressional elections are a good opportunity to begin to look at candidates in terms of whether they are likely to continue the ugly national predisposition in place since 9/11 to use military force rather than to try to resolve international problems by other means. Here in Virginia my congressman Frank Wolf is retiring and I have been following closely the race to replace him. Wolf certainly had his faults, most notably his jumping on the band wagon in 2009 to derail the nomination of Chas Freeman as head of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman, who has been suspicious of America’s unnecessary wars would have been a breath of fresh air in examining disastrous foreign related policies, but he failed to obtain the seal of approval from the Israel Lobby and Wolf and others pounced. Wolf to his credit did propose and serve on the commission set up by the Iraq Study Group in 2006, which recommended withdrawing US ground troops from Iraq and negotiating with both Syria and Iran. The White House ignored the recommendations.
It would be hyperbolic to suggest that any of the five Republican candidates to succeed Wolf might in any way have been promoting an antiwar or even a non-interventionist agenda, but the winnowing process resulted in the selection of the candidate most strongly promoted by the GOP establishment, Barbara Comstock. Comstock, to give her her due, is probably on balance little better or worse than most other candidates for office. Inevitably a lawyer, relentlessly ambitious and absolutely loyal to her party, she reportedly has a formidable work ethic and has been described as having a “wonderfully devious mind” in connection with her involvement in various investigative committees, most notably in pursuit of the Clintons. Her website pushes all the obligatory GOP buttons, that she is a “common sense” pragmatic conservative, self-made, a working mom, against abortion, pro-gun, in favor of offshore drilling, and anti-Obamacare. It is the conventional resume for a Republican, though it omits that she worked as a Capitol Hill lobbyist, acting inter alia on behalf of the notorious contract security company Blackwater when it was being investigated for killing Iraqi citizens.
Comstock’s website doesn’t tell one much beyond the sound bites. I looked in vain for her views on foreign policy and found only “Protect our national security and protect our defense and national security infrastructure as well as the salaries and retirement of our dedicated military.” Presumably the buzzwords “infrastructure” and “salaries” are intended to send the message that she will not support any cuts in the government programs and jobs that fuel the northern Virginia economy, nor will she support any adjustments in the salaries and perks of active duty and retired military personnel, a substantial percentage of the voters in her district.
On the stump Comstock reportedly has been talking up doing something about Benghazi if she is elected, another Republican wedge issue as it not only discomfits Obama it also brings into the discussion Hillary Clinton, the possible Democratic Party presidential candidate in 2016. I must confess that I am somewhat perplexed by the GOP obsession with Benghazi as, having myself served in a national security role in government, I understand how there is a great deal of confusion as incidents are developing, particularly when information is poor or contradictory and options are hard to define, as was the case in Libya. Be that as it may, it appears that Comstock, like many other Republicans, would like to see the White House and State Department somehow blamed for the deaths of four Americans.
Nevertheless, I am sure Comstock understands that a serious Benghazi investigation would appear unlikely as no one in government has been personally held accountable for anything since 9/11. But agreeing with her in principle, I personally would like to see the White House of George W. Bush held responsible for the unnecessary deaths of nearly 6,800 US military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somehow I don’t think that Comstock will be heading in that direction.
There are also some other red flags in what Comstock appears to represent, namely that her party loyalty appears to trump all other considerations. One critic asks “Does she believe in any definition of right and wrong outside of partisan politics? Or does she believe that her side is always right, even when they break the law?”which leads one to suspect that her actual interest in national security may be more partisan than real. In 2005 she resigned from a senior position with the Justice Department to head the defense fund for Scooter Libby, a White House aide later convicted of perjury and other crimes over his involvement in the outing of clandestine CIA officer Valerie Plame. Plame was under cover, a felony offense.
Comstock appeared to be heedless of the damage Libby had done in connection with the exposure of Plame to punish her husband for debunking the tale that African uranium may have gone to Iraq to construct a nuclear weapon, which was one of the lies the Bush administration was using to justify war. Comstock has since argued that Libby deserved a fair hearing, but voluntarily taking on the task of raising money for a White House apparatchik who did grave damage to national security suggests that Comstock placed party above country. Valerie Plame’s career was destroyed and the exposure of the costly CIA cover mechanism damaged efforts to find and neutralize nuclear proliferators, a major national strategic interest. Other clandestine CIA officers using the same cover were also placed in jeopardy.
Comstock will also almost certainly be a fan of the seemingly endless war on terror. When she was seeking the GOP nomination her website boasted of the many endorsements she had from national Republican figures, though her honor roll of friends has mysteriously disappeared from the current site. The list included John Bolton, Eric Cantor, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. Levin, a talk radio bigot, is a deep political thinker who believes that Jews who support President Obama are “self haters” and “despise their own country.”
All Comstock’s endorsees are hawks and all of them have promoted more wars in the Middle East, notably to include either US “preemptive” military action against Iran or supporting Israel automatically if it chooses to do the same. As Comstock promises to deliver knee jerk jingoism, it is perhaps time for voters in my district and others who are confronted with a similar continuation of the status quo to cast a vote against the party that seems to produce candidates that are addicted to war. Admittedly there are plenty of Democratic hawks, but there is a qualitative difference with the GOP in that war as a substitute for foreign policy is in its DNA. That means in practice that one should hold one’s nose and generally speaking vote for anyone who is not a Republican. Here at home in Virginia there will be a Democrat running who might have more moderate views on US foreign policy and I believe there will also be a libertarian candidate. Or I can always write in “Ron Paul.”