I was dismayed to see that Rep. Jason Chaffetz voted against further funding for the war in Afghanistan.
Perhaps, Rep. Chaffetz's needs to be reminded that it is the president who has directed American troops to engage in combat in Afghanistan, and Congress has served as the authorizing agency. Our troops are in contact with the enemy and are paying an awful price. They are being killed and maimed on a daily basis. The American people, through our elected representatives, have sent our forces into this war, and we are obligated to support them to the fullest as long as they are there.
Our strategy for the war in Afghanistan is evolving as we have a new commander on the ground. Members of Congress, to include Rep. Chaffetz, are completely justified in asking to review that strategy when it is developed and to present their views to the secretary of defense and the president. We expect Congress to be judicious as it allocates precious resources to fund any war effort. But, in the end, it is the president, the commander-in-chief, who is ultimately responsible for the strategy and its implementation. If Rep. Chaffetz wants an expedited strategy, perhaps he should start with the administration.
Rep. Chaffetz justified his vote by calling three families who have lost loved ones in the war to explain his action. Rep. Chaffetz should also call three mothers and fathers who have sons and daughters in Afghanistan and ask them how they would feel if only every other soldier was given a gun. Let's only send half boxes of ammo instead of full boxes, and provide combat rations to eat three times a week instead of every day. In a very real sense, that is what Chaffetz voted to do.
Congress has a constitutional right to declare war. If members do not agree with the war, they can pass legislation prohibiting its conduct. But it is morally reprehensible to permit the conduct of the war and not provide the support to those who are asked to fight it. By making a personal statement by way of voting to withhold funds to support the men and women we have sent into combat is a sophomoric, political stunt that sends a strong negative message to our troops, their families and our valued coalition partners.
Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop get it. They understand where legitimate debate ends and necessary support for our troops begins. They also understand the distinction between academic rhetoric and "inside-the-beltway" posturing. Most important, their respective positions on the Intelligence Committee and the House Armed Services Committee gives them insight to the real world life and death struggles facing the troops we have sent to Afghanistan.
In Southeast Asia, in the 1960s and 1970s, our nation made the mistake of blaming the military for a war that our politicians could not find the courage to fully confront. We cannot make that mistake again! Rep. Chaffetz's action was a vote to abandon our troops, and a misguided attempt to shift the burden for Congress' lack of conviction on waging the war to the brave men and women in combat today. It was a classless act of cowardice that serves to aid and comfort our enemies, and sends a mixed signal to the coalition forces we plead with to provide more financial and troop support in Afghanistan. It was and is an insult to our fighting forces and their families. Utah deserves better.
Vickie McCall is past president of the Utah Defense Alliance.