Susan Collins and the Precautionary Principle
Susan Collins is a U.S. senator. She is a Republican. She represents the people of Maine.
Senator Collins gets a lot of big things very wrong. Lots of people die because of Senator Collins.
She voted for the invasion of Iraq.
She voted for the invasion of Afghanistan.
Lots of people are dead. Because of her.
In 2007, four years into the Iraq War, when at least 100,000 Iraqis had been killed and the hunt for Saddam’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction had been called off, Senator Collins nonetheless voted to extend the war.
She had another chance in 2008. Voted the same way. More deaths followed.
Late last year, one or two million dead civilians later, most U.S. occupation troops finally pulled out of Iraq. Remember the main argument for staying there, that we were fighting “them” over “there” to avoid having to fight them in the streets of American cities? It’s only been a few months, and anything can happen, but no one—not even Republicans like Senator Collins—seems worried about hordes of Iraqi jihadis rampaging through Baltimore. Obviously they were wrong.
The danger was false. Thus the war was unjustified.
What happens to Senator Collins after signing off on the mass murder of more than a million innocent people? Nothing. She’s planning a wedding.
Now she’s backing away from her other war.
“Despite the extraordinary heroism of our troops and the brilliance of our military leaders,” she wrote in a March 13th letter, “one has to wonder whether the corrupt central government [of Hamid Karzai] and with the history of Afghanistan, whether we can truly achieve the goal of a secure country.” The letter called for a speedier withdrawal than President Obama has announced.
Finally. Right about something.
Intelligence is the best wedding present ever!
Too bad it comes a decade late for the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq. Who should, at bare minimum, enjoy the satisfaction of putting Senator Susan Collins (and those like her) on trial for waging wars of aggression and genocide.
Why am I picking on Collins? If there’s anything more appalling than unleashing death upon the innocent, recasting yourself as a “moderate” after your war sours in the polls is a major contender.
Back in 2001, when she cast votes in favor of dropping cluster bombs, full of brightly colored canisters designed to attract and blow up curious Afghan girls and boys, by the thousands and thousands, Senator Collins had a choice.
She could have listened to the experts. People who had been to Afghanistan. People on the Left.
There are two kinds of foreign policy analysts in the U.S. The right-wingers get interviewed and appointed to blue-ribbon presidential committees and are invariably wrong. The lefties, who more often than not turn out to be correct, get ignored.
After 9/11 the Left was against invading Afghanistan. (The Left doesn’t include Democrats, who were so disgustingly eager to be seen as “tough” on terrorism that they willingly went along with a war against a nation that had nothing to do with the attacks.)
No one likes invaders, but leftist analysts pointed out that Afghanistan’s history of slaughtering invading armies was unparalleled. U.S. forces, we warned, would face the usual Afghan reception. First the fighters would vanish into the population or into the mountains. They’d study us. Then they’d start picking us off two or three at a time. It’s what they did to the English (three times) and the Russians (once). We’d win every battle but it wouldn’t matter. They’d bleed us of young men and young women and political will.
Senator Collins could have read our essays and our books. If she did read them, she could have taken heed. She decided not to.
And so many people died.
After the Taliban were driven into the mountains and/or melted into the population, Republicans like Senator Collins thought they’d been vindicated. The Taliban are not really gone, we on the Left said. They’re just waiting. We’d been vindicated. The Right couldn’t see that. They wouldn’t listen.
Then the U.S. installed Hamid Karzai.
Those of us on the Left, who had actually been to Afghanistan and talked to actual Afghans, warned that Karzai had no political base. That his regime was hopelessly corrupt. That he was putting warlords, who ought to have been in prison for crimes they committed during the civil war, into positions of power and influence. That his government was universally despised.
We said that stuff ten years ago. So it’s a little galling to hear warmongers like Susan Collins talk about Karzai’s corruption and Afghanistan’s unique history. As if she were reporting information that came to light recently.
Senator Collins violated the precautionary principle—a precept enshrined in the law of various countries, including in Europe. A politician who proposes an action that might cause harm is obligated to present concrete evidence that it won’t cause harm. If she fails to meet that burden of proof, the proposal is rejected.
In the case of Collins and the other Republican and Democratic legislators, as well as the pundits and journalists who enabled them, all the evidence they needed that the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq would do more harm than good was as close as their computer or nearest bookstore.
Susan Collins ought to cancel the wedding and surrender at The Hague.
Failing that, the least she could do is shut up.
(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 22. His website is tedrall.com.)