Twenty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson’s former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara admitted that the administration had known as early as 1967 that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable. “We were wrong, terribly wrong,” McNamara said in a mea culpa in 1995.
Vietnam veteran John McCain responded, “I think it’s about 25 years too late to save those Americans who would be alive if he hadn’t pursued a policy that was doomed to failure.”
McCain made an important point (one the senator has routinely ignored since): why would the U.S. ever risk American lives pursuing policies that don’t work?
In the second presidential debate Sunday, Donald Trump said of Hillary Clinton, “Unlike her, who voted for the war […] I would not have had people in Iraq, because Iraq was a disaster.” Trump was referencing Clinton’s vote for the Iraq war (which the Republican did oppose, despite the Clinton camps claims to the contrary).
“So he would be alive today,” Trump added. Trump was talking about Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004. Khan’s family have been outspoken Hillary Clinton supporters who have criticized Trump for his proposed Muslim ban and anti-Islamic demagoguery. The Khan family have a point about the GOP nominee’s rhetoric.
But Donald Trump has a point too.
Captain Humayun Khan and nearly 5,000 of other American men and women of the U.S. armed forces would likely be alive today if not for the Iraq War started by the George W. Bush administration and supported by Senator Hillary Clinton.
If Khan’s death is going to be politicized by his family, Trump is not wrong to also make the political point that it was Clinton’s vote decision that played a role in his eventual death. It’s a sensitive subject for sure, and being delicate is not Trump’s forte, but it is also beyond mere manners to say that such warnings shouldn’t be pronounced publicly, loudly and often, before America gets involved in another similar conflict. In fact, this should happen so often and forcefully that a President Hillary Clinton should be afraid to start another war over the political backlash alone.
After all, it wasn’t so long ago that prominent Democrats were blaming George W. Bush for the loss of U.S. lives in Iraq — and they were right to do so.
Clinton has repeatedly apologized for her Iraq War vote, but since then has also showed an eagerness — left wing publication Mother Jones has even said Hillary “loves” war — to engage militarily abroad. She has shown a preference for foreign intervention over restraint her entire career.
When most people admit mistakes, it means they have learned something from them. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state didn’t reflect this, and in fact, many of the same Republican architects of the Iraq War, many of whom are unrepentant, have signed on with or are supporting Clinton in this election precisely because of her foreign policy.
“It sure would have been helpful in May of 1967, when I volunteered for Vietnam, if he had said then that the war was unwinnable,”said Max Cleland, later head of the Veterans Administration who lost both legs in Vietnam, of Robert McNamara,
McNamara was promoting a book when he made his controversial comments in 1995. “The title of his book should be ‘Sorry About That,’” Cleland added.
Sorry indeed. It would be good to know if Hillary Clinton has any intention of getting the U.S. involved in any more mistaken wars that might cost American lives needlessly, as even many on the left seem to think she inevitably will.
Consciously or not, merely defensively or not, this is the valid concern Donald Trump raises when he notes the death of Captain Humayun Khan within the context of Sen. Clinton’s tangential complicity in his demise. He’s right to do so.