The war in Afghanistan was mentioned, in passing, just four times in hours of speeches comprising tens of thousands of words at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney, the nominee, avoided any mention at all. Not even a shout-out to the troops.
Thank you, Clint Eastwood. At least you went there.
OK, sure, your thoughts didn’t neatly track from one to the next, to put it mildly. You’re now officially the nation’s crazy uncle, due to that rambling, imaginary talk you had with your invisible friend … I mean, president.
But you said it. You said the word lost down the national memory hole: “Afghanistan.”
When state Sen. Michael Baumgartner told me a week ago that he expected to hear “close to zero” talk at the Republican convention about how we’re bogged down in the longest war in our history, I figured he was exaggerating.
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There would be a forum or a protest or something. There’d at least be countless nods to the sacrifices of the troops.
Nope. The war was mentioned, in passing, just four times in hours of speeches comprising tens of thousands of words.
For the first time since 1952, the AP reported, Mitt Romney accepted a Republican nomination for president without mentioning the topic of war at all. Not the cost of war, which seems relevant. Nothing about what the mission is. No suggestion of what we might do.
Afghanistan was so out-of-mind Romney didn’t even give a standard shout-out to the troops (roughly 80,000 of whom are still over there fighting — and probably wondering if they’ve been marooned).
Even some Romney backers were bewildered.
“Has it ever happened that we’ve been at war and a presidential nominee has ignored, in this kind of major and formal speech, the war and our warriors?” asked William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and an advocate for both this war and the war in Iraq.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice devoted most of her convention speech to the subject of foreign policy. It somehow got rave reviews — though it skipped, completely, that there’s a major war going on. A war she helped start.
I’m guessing as an architect of this war she has thoughts on how it’s going, how to end it, whether it was worth it? If she does she kept them to herself.
I doubt this week’s Democratic convention will be any more forthcoming. I covered the 2008 convention, when Democrats were in denial that President Bush’s Iraq surge they opposed had appeared to work. Now they are in denial that President Obama’s Afghanistan surge they supported appears to be failing.
It’s enough to make you start talking to empty chairs.
At least Eastwood brought it up. So did the other crazy uncle, Ron Paul. He was considered so batty they exiled him to an arena he rented across town.
This all reminds me of the old movie “King of Hearts,” in which a soldier is dispatched to a war-ravaged town that’s now inhabited by asylum inmates. He ends up quitting the war and joining the asylum, after realizing it’s not the insane people who are truly insane.
On the convention’s final night, I missed the live broadcast because I was at the Seahawks game. During a break in the game, a family stood in the end zone to be honored because the father was serving in Afghanistan.
He appeared on the scoreboard screen, in fatigues, talking briefly about the war and wondering when he might be home. After the video ended, though, in a surprise he sprinted onto the field and into the arms of his wife and daughters.
The camera zoomed close onto one of his daughters. She was ecstatically happy for the reunion, and the crowd cheered more wildly than it had for the game. But then she sagged into tears, pain on her face. Maybe it was too much — too many months of tension and doubt, then too much release.
In war even the good news feels bittersweet.
What I’m saying is there was a thousand times more honesty about the war during a timeout at a Seahawks game than there was at the entire Republican convention. There’s something seriously crazy about that.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.