How 59 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles Saved The World—And Made Tr-mp A Hero

I listened to thousands and thousands of words from hosts and guests on MSNBC this morning. There was Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Bob Woodward, George Will, John McCain, Marco Rubio, David Ignatius and numerous other voices. Here is what I learned after all the talk from politicians and “experts”:

1. Tr-mp is now a hero among our Sunni “allies” like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

2. Tr-mp’s domestic poll numbers will certainly go up now—but that had absolutely nothing at all to do with his decision to bomb Syria and possibly start yet another U.S. war in the Middle East. Oh, no. Tr-mp had a genuine change of heart after seeing those pictures of poisoned kids. This had nothing to do with his historically low approval numbers. And Tr-mp has a new-found strength. He can “reset” his administration. He now has a chance to win the hearts of the American people. Those 59 cruise missiles not only blew up an airfield, they apparently destroyed our memories of just how deranged Tr-mp is and how the Russians helped put him in power. Can’t wait for the next poll to come out and see how much damage those missiles did to our collective brain.

3. By bombing one airfield in Syria, Tr-mp fixed all the problems Obama created with his failure to bomb Syria after all that “red line” talk in 2013 and all of his reluctance to get us caught up in another war. By God, the world will change now that Tr-mp has fired off 59 cruise missiles. China will respect us. North Korea will take notice. Russia’s Putin, who we were told by John McCain, respects “power” and is a “pragmatist,” will begin to look at the United States differently now. Barack Obama, who apparently is responsible for every bad thing that has happened in the world since Moses was a baby, is gone and “there’s a new sheriff in town.” And this new sheriff has cruise missiles and he ain’t afraid to use ’em.

4. Speaking of McCain, apparently Tr-mp’s national security team is McCain’s dream team because he gets to talk with them all the time and they listen. Which means, of course, that John McCain may get to be POTUS after all and he may get his war with Syria that both he and Lindsey Graham have wanted for some time now. McCain characterized last night’s bombing as “the end of the beginning.” More tough action must follow. He never told us, though, just how many Americans should die in the war he’s been aching to fight for years. Or how long we would be there fighting that war. Or how much it might cost. Or whether Congress should, uh, authorize such a war.

5. Bob Woodward, whose mind has deteriorated with age I suppose, used the opportunity this morning to tell us how engaged Tr-mp has been (!) with states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and so on. It is part of Tr-mp’s broad strategy (!), Woodward suggested, to change the dynamics of the Middle East mess (again, that Obama created with his fecklessness). Woodward and others on the panel this morning believe this Tr-mpian strategy (!) and the bombing last night will give new confidence to the Sunni players that the U.S. can be a “reliable partner” and they may now be willing to “step up” and get involved in the mess.

6. Meanwhile, there’s “the mess” in the Middle East. I heard thousands and thousands and thousands of words this morning—praise of Tr-mp, speculation, more praise of Tr-mp, analysis, more praise of Tr-mp—all based, as I said, on the unchallenged premise that Barack Obama’s weakness did much damage to the world and that Tr-mp’s bombing Image result for tomahawk missilesof Syria, his willingness to show that when he says someone has crossed a line, by God, they will pay a price for it. All those words I heard in some form or another, but, amazingly, I did not hear one word, not one single word, about the one action that helped, more than any other thing, get us into this mess in the first place. In all the talk about a “destabilized” Middle East, in all the talk about an emboldened and powerful Iran, there was not one mention of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney starting, on false pretenses, a war with Iraq, a war which did much of the destabilizing and caused many of the problems we see today. Not a word. Nothing. Again, it is as if those 59 cruise missiles destroyed significant parts of our collective memory. “The mess” is all Obama’s fault and Tr-mp is now the man who has gone a long way in fixing it by lobbing a few missiles at Shayrat Air Base in Syria.

7. Finally, just to clear things up, let’s talk about that 2013 decision by Obama—mentioned countless times last night and this morning on all the cable news shows—not to bomb Syria, not to do what Tr-mp did last night without congressional approval. First, things are a lot different today than they were then. A lot has happened in those four years, including hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees (which Tr-mp still doesn’t want to bring to the U.S.). Second, there is Congress. As Sebastian Murdock reminded us this morning, all the giddy congressman and Senators praising Tr-mp’s actions last night had their chance to weigh in when it mattered in 2013, after President Obama decided not to take unilateral action himself and instead wanted Congress to also own what might have happened if he had bombed Syria. Murdock wrote:

In 2013, when a sarin nerve gas attack left more than 1,400 dead outside Damascus, President Barack Obama went to Congress to get approval to strike.

In a whip count from ThinkProgress, 183 Republicans were against bombing the country. Only 12 Republicans, including then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), sided with the president to launch a strike. Ultimately, Congress did not appear to approve the strike, with 243 Congressional members swaying towards voting “No.” Obama ultimately decided to postpone the vote.

Murdock also reminded us of how Tr-mp, the Woodwardian strategic genius he is, felt about the matter in 2013. In August, Tr-mp tweeted:

What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.

Well, there obviously was no prior approval from Congress to bomb Syria last night. But there is plenty of praise today, especially from those who didn’t want any part of the decision four years ago. Murdock included this gem:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was one of the members of Congress who was against Obama’s plan. But he didn’t seem to have much to say in response to the news of Trump’s strike:

chaffeetz tweet on bombing

It’s amazing how the world works. Or how it doesn’t.

“We Want War!” Say Republicans And, Sadly, A Few Democrats

It’s a strange world in which two Fox “News” hosts are more critical of Speaker John Boehner’s unseemly invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu than is President Obama’s Chief of Staff.

Last week, the Speaker, against protocol and against decency and against our national interests, invited the Israeli Prime Minister to soon address Congress about what both Boehner and Netanyahu see as a misguided attempt to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions. The Speaker never told the White House in advance, and Netanyahu, up for reelection at home, didn’t bother to notify the State Department that he would accept the invitation. Boehner and Netanyahu are essentially undermining the efforts of the Obama administration to keep us out of another war. For most Republicans, Israeli interests appear to be more important than our own.

Worse than that, a few Democrats are also trying to get us into an honest-to-goodness war. Last week, after Obama’s State of the Union address, in which the President clearly stated that he would veto any legislation designed to interfere with his delicate negotiations with Iran (Republicans and some Democrats want to pile on additional sanctions), Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said,

The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.

I want to remind you: that wasn’t said by a creepy, crazy-eyed Fox “News” host. It was uttered by a Democrat. In the U.S. Senate.

It isn’t clear to me exactly why that reckless statement would exit the lips of a Democrat, while President Obama and John Kerry are trying to bring a peaceful end to a crisis involving Iran, Israel, and nuclear weapons. But it is a foolish and dangerous statement that is made more foolish and dangerous by the fact that Republicans, who most certainly trust Netanyahu more than the President of the United States, are in charge of Congress and won’t hesitate to do all they can to get us involved in a hot war with Iran, all on the advice of the Israeli Prime Minister.

And speaking of war and misguided Democrats, on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday Diane Feinstein essentially joined warmonger John McCain in calling for more “special operations” troops on the ground in, uh, Yemen. Yes, Yemen. She thinks we need “more than just advisers” there. That’s called panic, folks. Feinstein also hinted that more troops may be needed in other hot spots:

BOB SCHIEFFER: And then, to go back to the Middle East just quickly, do you envision we might have to put more ground troops — or have to put ground troops back into the Middle East?

FEINSTEIN: Well, this is one thing that I have tried to follow carefully, particularly with respect to Syria.

And I don’t see what we’re doing making a difference. So, I think we need to relook at this. And if we are going to tolerate Assad, as McCain said — and I tend to agree — looks like is the case, that’s a problem.

Let me remind you what “McCain said” just before Feinstein appeared on the program. He began by saying that President Obama and his Chief of Staff Denis McDonough “have lost touch with reality.” Then he got to the point of his gazillionth appearance on Sunday television:

MCCAIN: I agree with the director of British intelligence, MI5, who gave a speech last week saying that these young people mainly from other countries that are now in Iraq and Syria will — are a direct threat to the United States of America and Great Britain.

So there is no strategy. It is delusional for them to think that what they’re doing is succeeding. And we need more boots on the ground. I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn’t mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence and it means other capabilities.

And for them to say we expect them to do it on their own, they’re not doing it on their own. And they are losing.

In case you missed his point, he later reiterated:

In the Middle East, we have got to have boots on the ground.

Whenever you hear someone say that, you are hearing the tempered version of, “Let’s get this war party started!”

While we all should be concerned about what is happening in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere in the region, and while we all should acknowledge that Israel has reason to worry about an existential threat from Iran, we have to keep our wits about us and not panic and jump, boots first, into two more bleeping wars. Our air attacks on ISIL fighters are helping to keep them in check, whether right-wingers in Congress or war-hungry pundits blabbing on TV want to admit it. And it is unclear what will happen in Yemen, since the Shiite rebels—who apparently don’t want to take over the country—aren’t exactly al Qaeda supporters. In fact, we just killed three more al Qaeda terrorists with drone strikes in Yemen today. Yes. I said today, after all the panic on Sunday’s talk shows.

As a much more sober Fareed Zakaria pointed out on Sunday, we have to keep all of this in perspective. He showed this graphic, based on data from the Global Terrorism Database:

Fareed Zacharia and CNN graphic

Now, if that isn’t enough, look at this graphic, which I pulled from the Global Terrorism Database website:

global terrorism database

Those colored beams represent the number of terrorist attacks in 2013 and the relative deaths associated with them. Look at us and look at other places around the world. We should keep all of this in mind, even as we understand that we are not isolated from what is going on elsewhere. We do have to pay attention to what is happening around the world and do what we can to fight terrorism, Islamist or otherwise. But boots-on-the-ground warfare should be the last resort, not the first.

Thankfully, John McCain lost the election in 2008. Thankfully, Bob Menendez and Dianne Feinstein are in the Senate and not the White House. Thankfully, Republicans only control Congress and can only throw rhetorical rocks at President Obama. And, thankfully, we have a man at the helm who doesn’t tend to panic and get nervous and want to start putting American troops on the ground everywhere, when things start to look a little scary.

And, more important, President Obama understands that there is a big difference between American foreign policy and the foreign policy of a right-wing prime minister of Israel, who seems hell-bent on getting the United States involved in a war with Iran, before all the attempts at diplomacy have played out.

The What If Game

counterfactual

1. (Logic) expressing what has not happened but could, would, or might under differing conditions

—from the Free Dictionary

Leon Panetta, who has served his country marvelously well, is now out selling books. That means he is required to go to reputable places like 60 Minutes, as well as to cognitive sewers like Bill O’Reilly’s show. All in a day’s work, I suppose.

What you are not likely to hear discussed, especially if you watch a lot of cable television news, is the following, which is found in Panetta’s book, Worthy Fights:

President Obama revamped a nearly broken economy, waged an aggressive campaign against terrorism, extricated the United States from two wars, and refocused the mission of our military; the result is a safer nation and a more prosperous one.

Nope. You’re not likely to see much about that glowing assessment of the Obama presidency. What you will most likely see are interviewers and pundits obsessed with these two questions:

1. Did Obama make a grave mistake in 2011 by not leaving troops in Iraq? 

2. Did Obama make a grave mistake in 2012 by not arming the so-called “moderate Syrians”?

I have become sickened by the amount of bad-mouthing and second-guessing and ass-covering that has gone on relative to those two issues. Don’t get me wrong. I expect right-wingers to bad-mouth and second-guess President Obama. You can make a fine living in the conservative media world doing that. What I am a little surprised at, though, is the amount of ass-covering that has gone on among former Obama officials, including former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, as well as Hillary Clinton and now Leon Panetta.

So, let’s deal with the two main issues one at a time:

1. Did Obama make a grave mistake in 2011 by not leaving troops in Iraq? 

We all should remember that back in 2011 the biggest fear associated with not leaving troops in Iraq had little to do with the potential spillover from the budding conflict in Syria, which at the time had not turned into the completely chaotic mess it is today. The biggest worry was over whether our military departure would strengthen the hand of Iran, not only in Iraq but across the region. Keep that in mind as you hear all the know-it-alls today talk with certainty about what we should or shouldn’t have done in 2011. In our bombing of ISIL, both Syria and Iran are on our side. That’s how screwed up the whole thing is and I don’t know of anyone who predicted such a thing.

On this particular issue, Hillary Clinton, who was there at the time, had the president’s back. When asked about it in June, she said:

Let me say on Iraq, because it’s in the news and it’s a dreadful deteriorating situation, the deadline on Iraq was set – was set by the prior administration, that if there were not a status-of-forces agreement, which is the agreement under which American military forces can be positioned in a country to provide services that are agreed to or asked for by the host country … there would not be American troops.

And when President Obama came in, he was obviously not an enthusiast about the Iraq war from the very beginning, very strong critic of it, both its initiation and its handling. There was a lot of effort to work through with the Maliki government what such a status-of-forces agreement would look like.

At the end of the day, the Maliki government would not agree. So the decision was made, in effect. There could not be American troops left, without such an agreement.

On this point, Panetta, echoing criticism from Republicans, says that Obama should have pushed harder against the former prime minister of Iraq because keeping 10,000 troops there would have given us “leverage on Maliki to keep them in the right place.” I guess it never occurred to Panetta that the reason Maliki did not want to be pushed is because he did not want us around to keep them in the right place. That was sort of Maliki’s whole point.

In any case, all of that speculation makes for good Monday-morning commanding, but it is gross speculation. People should remember that when we were negotiating with Maliki about leaving troops there, we were talking about a residual force of some 3,000 to 5,000 to 10,000—depending on your source—which, in Panetta’s words, “could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.” Get that? After more than a decade in Iraq, it was still necessary to train and secure Iraq’s military as sort of a counterterrorism insurance policy. Exactly how long were we supposed to keep doing that? How long were we supposed to keep paying the premiums?

But beyond that, I will ask a better question—since I have yet to hear one journalist ask it—of all those who claim, either with certainty or something less, that we should have left thousands of troops in Iraq: What would have happened when ISIL came across the border? Where would we have gone to get our counterterrorism insurance check?

I’m listening.

Oh, some will say that if we had kept thousands of troops in Iraq that ISIL wouldn’t have dared come there to fight and to conquer in the name of Allah. You know, all that “peace-through-strength” stuff, the kind of stuff that only works to deter rational people. ISIL leaders, who use beheadings to send messages to Westerners, hardly qualify as rational people. They really do want to set up an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere, and the presence of U.S. troops would likely have made their resolve stronger not weaker.

That leaves us with the likelihood that had we left troops there in 2011, they would today be engaged in on-the-ground battles with ISIL. They would be fighting and dying. And there would likely be many thousands more U.S. troops there to fight and die with them. Is that what Obama’s critics really want? Huh? If they do, they should say so.

Finally, as I said, I have never heard a single journalist ask anyone, anyone who claims we should have left a residual force in Iraq,  just what that force would have done when ISIL invaded. Please tell us. What?  Panetta wrote in his book:

To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.

On what evidence can he base his belief? We already know that many non-Kurdish Iraqi military forces left the battlefield—and left a lot of our equipment behind for ISIL to use later. Is it conceivable that a few thousand U.S. troops could have stiffened their spines? And would ten thousand troops wearing American flags have been able to tame sectarian violence that has been a feature of life in the Middle East since 632 A.D.? Is there even a shred of evidence to support such a claim?

If President Obama had done what Panetta and others asked him to do, if he had insisted on leaving thousands of our soldiers in Iraq, we would probably now be involved in a war that no one would have to go to the trouble of parsing. As it is, we are only using airstrikes to attack ISIL, and somebody else, somebody who has much more at stake at the moment, is doing the hard fighting and dying. From an American perspective, that doesn’t exactly sound like a grave mistake to me.

2. Did Obama make a grave mistake in 2012 by not arming the so-called “moderate Syrians”?

This one drives me out of my mind.

Hillary Clinton recently went out of her way to let the world know she was in favor of arming those mystical moderates in Syria, suggesting, but not insisting, that had Obama done so things would look a lot different now. But if you read the actual interview she did with Jeffrey Goldberg (misleadingly titled, “Hillary Clinton: ‘Failure’ to Help Syrian Rebels Led to the Rise of ISIS”), she actually said something very sensible. Goldberg had asked her if she agreed with former ambassador Robert Ford’s contention “that we are at fault for not doing enough to build up a credible Syrian opposition when we could have.” At the end of her reply she said:

I totally understand the cautions that we had to contend with, but we’ll never know. And I don’t think we can claim to know.

No. We will never ever know. And we sure as hell can’t claim to know. But there are a lot of people who, now that things have gone really, really badly, do claim they know. Leon Panetta has added some fuel to that mostly right-wing fire of certainty on this point by saying to 60 Minutes:

Scott Pelley: In retrospect now, was not arming the rebels at that time a mistake?

Leon Panetta: I think that would’ve helped. And I think in part, we paid the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS.

Maybe we did pay a price for not doing something. Maybe ISIS would not have grown so strong if we had flooded the battlefield with our weapons. But we will never know what kind of price we would have paid for doing something, for doing what Panetta thought, in good faith, we should have done. That’s what makes all this stuff so hard for leaders and so easy for after-the-fact critics. Panetta slapped President Obama on this issue by saying in his book:

Hesitation and half steps have consequences as well—and those remain to be determined.

Let me say here that Panetta is right to say that hesitation and half steps do certainly have consequences. Just like rushing in and taking full steps. That’s not exactly a profound claim. Both action and inaction have consequences that cannot be confidently known in advance. But if you listen to some folks talk today, they claim to have known exactly what the consequences of Obama’s hesitation to arm some Syrian rebels would turn out to be. Hooey.

The truth is that, forgetting what little we knew two years ago, we still don’t know today if there are really any Western-style moderates on the Syrian battlefield. We only know that, given what has developed, we have to take our chances and hope that the ones we think might be moderates don’t end up turning against us at some future point. It has come to that in Syria and Iraq. But we don’t know if it would have been better or worse if we had taken another course of action in 2012. One can easily imagine any number of scenarios, including one in which ISIL ends up with tons of American weapons that we shipped into Syria. Imagine how Fox “News” would have reported that, even as that network is fast to condemn Obama for his “dithering.”

To all this, I will here cite the words of our wise, if freethinking, Vice President:

We Americans think, in every country in transition, there’s a Thomas Jefferson hiding behind some rock or a James Madison beyond one sand dune. 

Given what has happened across the Middle East over the past two years or so, given how Islamic belief systems in the region are mostly incompatible with our idea of democracy and our expansive conception of human rights, any Jeffersons or Madisons over there are more likely to be beheaded than to lead a revolution that ends with a secular republic.

And that should make everyone at least a little sober in their judgments.

__________________________________

[Getty UN photo; Haider Al-Assadee/EPA Iraq photo]

What Some Liberals Get Wrong About The Fight Against ISIL

Whenever I want to check out what anti-Obama lefties are saying about anything, I first go to Firedoglake. There you will find some committed, if sometimes immature, left-wingers assailing the President and his administration for all kinds of failures to live up to the purity of liberalism, at least as it is defined by Firedoglake contributors.

After today’s announcement of the necessary and justified attacks on the Islamist murderers in Iraq and Syria, I turned to Firedoglake for a quick look. Here’s a little of what I found:

Yesterday the US began bombing yet another country in the Middle East with strikes targeting ISIS forces in Syria…The most obvious beneficiary of the new strikes is Syrian President Bashar Assad who has been locked in a struggle with ISIS and other rebels for control of Syria…Given the flexible and congealing nature of ISIS it is highly questionable as to whether the militant group can ever really be destroyed as long as Iraq and Syria remain war zones. Though that is of no apparent concern to the Obama Administration which has launched America into another war in the Middle East that even officials admit will take several years.

In another post by the same author, DSWright, we find this ominous opening:

Remember when the reason for expanding this military campaign from Iraq into Syria was because ISIS was in both countries? It wasn’t so long ago. Well, now President Obama has announced that he also targeted a non-ISIS group in Syria. Mission creep in real time.

Let me quickly address the concerns in these two articles (and something Glenn Greenwald wrote, which I will get to later), concerns that I have heard expressed elsewhere by left-leaning folks:

1. “The most obvious beneficiary of the new strikes is Syrian President Bashar Assad…”

Yes, I hear that a lot. And it may be obvious. It certainly seemed obvious to Assad, who welcomed our attacks by doing nothing to stop them. And it may seem obvious to us, even if we don’t want to say so out loud. But so what? The mission is not to aid Assad but to send as many ISIL fighters on a one-way visit to Allah as our air strikes can facilitate. If doing so actually helps Assad in the short-term, then so be it. In fact, it could be argued that it is only a short-term help for the Syrian dictator. It could be, somewhere down the road, that weakening ISIL enough to make it vulnerable to other groups in Syria opposed to both Assad and ISIL means that Assad’s short-term gain will turn into a long-term loss. In any case, ISIL needs our attention and to stand paralyzed for fear we will help a man whose country is disintegrating before his eyes would be foolish and short-sighted.

2. “Given the flexible and congealing nature of ISIS it is highly questionable as to whether the militant group can ever really be destroyed as long as Iraq and Syria remain war zones.”

This one is easy. It may be questionable, it may even be “highly questionable,” if we can really destroy ISIL under the present circumstances, but it is a near certainty that we will never destroy ISIL if we sit and wait for Iraq and Syria to become something other than war zones. Those who oppose what Obama is doing never address that reality. Sitting and waiting for peace to break out in the region, while ISIL gains power and territory, and while killing untold numbers of innocents, would be not only strategically unwise, but a moral outrage. And besides that, it isn’t that questionable whether ISIL can be defeated in Iraq. In time that is likely to happen with U.S. support, if Iraqis have the will to make it happen. In Syria, of course that is much more difficult. But doing nothing makes it not only more difficult still, but quite likely impossible. Is that what liberals want? Huh?

3. “…the Obama Administration…has launched America into another war in the Middle East that even officials admit will take several years.

Not really. Yes, it will take a long time, maybe even “several years,” to reduce ISIL to a relatively inconsequential player in the region, but Obama hasn’t really “launched America into another war in the Middle East.” Part of what he is doing is continuing a war against terrorist groups that began in earnest after 9/11. The other part of what he is doing, which some folks seem to have forgotten, is attempting to clean up a mess that neoconservatives in the Bush administration began with the colossally stupid invasion of Iraq in 2003. Yes, it is too bad that we once again have to aggressively attack another terrorist group in the Middle East. We all wish it weren’t the case. But it is a legitimate and moral use of American power, even if it is largely made necessary by a once-illegitimate use of American power.

4. “President Obama has announced that he also targeted a non-ISIS group in Syria. Mission creep in real time.”

I get real creeped out by the overuse of the phrase “mission creep.” For some journalists it has become something they inject into their reporting to make it clear they have learned their lesson from the disastrous, media-championed Iraq invasion in 2003 and will not be duped again by an administration wanting to drop bombs and fire missiles it has no business dropping and firing, even in the name of fighting terrorists.

The problem is that some missions need to creep, as the attack on the al Qaeda-related Khorasan Group demonstrates. If liberals won’t support an attack on a group of terrorists—whose existence is dedicated to developing creative and undetectable ways to kill Americans using airplanes—then it is hard to understand what use liberals will ever have for the U.S. military.

“Mission creep” claims, which normally are necessary and proper to consider, are in this case simply one way for people queasy about the general use of military force to fight terrorists to say that this specific mission is, as DSWright claimed using italics (and contradicting his claim in his other article; see 3. above), the opening “of another front in the perpetual War on Terror.Some of us agree that we shouldn’t call what we have done and are doing a War on Terror. We should simply say, when the need arises, that we are fighting terrorists, those who have essentially declared war on America. But leaving aside the semantics, using mission creep worries as an excuse to do nothing, or next to it, in Iraq and Syria means—let’s be honest about it—ISIL will continue to conquer and kill.

Related to this point is a particularly reprehensible article by Glenn Greenwald, who has become quite famous on the left for championing Edward Snowden’s illegal leaking of sensitive information that hasn’t made it any easier to track terrorists. The article was titled, “SYRIA BECOMES THE 7TH PREDOMINANTLY MUSLIM COUNTRY BOMBED BY 2009 NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE,” and in it Greenwald, conspiracist to the core, makes a claim that others on the left make: we are only producing more terrorists by fighting ISIL. Except Greenwald makes the point with a nice little twist:

Six weeks of bombing hasn’t budged ISIS in Iraq, but it has caused ISIS recruitment to soar. That’s all predictable: the U.S. has known for years that what fuels and strengthens anti-American sentiment (and thus anti-American extremism) is exactly what they keep doing: aggression in that region. If you know that, then they know that. At this point, it’s more rational to say they do all of this not despite triggering those outcomes, but because of it. Continuously creating and strengthening enemies is a feature, not a bug. It is what justifies the ongoing greasing of the profitable and power-vesting machine of Endless War.

He ends his blame-America-first piece with this:

…the U.S. does not bomb countries for humanitarian objectives. Humanitarianism is the pretense, not the purpose.

It is hard to contain one’s anger at such conspiratorial nonsense. According to Greenwald, the entire effort to stop anti-American terrorism, an effort that began after essentially ignoring terrorism resulted in the deaths of 3,000 Americans on 9/11, is just a way for the defense industry to make a buck. Just a way for America, pretending to care about the deaths of innocents slaughtered by jihadist killers, to keep the “machine of Endless War” going. America, in Greenwald’s eyes, is nothing more than a nation run by greedy imperialists. That’s all we are. Obama is no different from Dick Cheney. Our attack on ISIL is no different from the invasion of Iraq. There’s no room in Greenwald’s conspiracy-poisoned mind to entertain the idea that, despite plenty of monumental mistakes in the past that have actually strengthened anti-American sentiment, the present situation calls for what most Americans see as legitimate and moral action.

Meanwhile, Greenwald offers us nothing condemning ISIL or explaining what he would do about the bloodthirsty bastards in Iraq and Syria who would, if they had the chance, saw off Glenn Greenwald’s head as quickly and brutally as they sawed off the heads of other journalists. The only difference would be that the ISIL bastards wouldn’t have to write an anti-American script for Greenwald. They could just make him read his latest article.

Having said all that, there are legitimate questions about the constitutional propriety of President Obama’s actions in Syria, as he continues to authorize attacks on ISIL with neither the permission of the Syrian government nor the official permission of Congress. Those questions have been raised by various congressional voices, including Democratic voices, and it is obvious that if there were a will in Congress to stop what is going on, those voices would be turned into legislative language constitutionally tying the hands of the president. For now it appears all that is being offered is an official authorization of what Obama has already started, with some restrictions placed on its scope, and the requirement to come to Congress periodically to defend continuing the effort against ISIL—and whoever else decides that Allah is on the side of psychopaths waving black flags and beheading innocents, including innocent Americans.

Syria, Spookhousing, And A Scary Stroll Through The Neoconservative Mind

It was inevitable, of course. No, I’m not talking about the Obama-Kerry agreement with the Russians on what to do with Syria’s chemical weapons. I’m talking about the subsequent criticism and hysteria coming from the shoot-first-negotiate-later crowd.

No matter how things turned out, no matter what decision the President made, no matter whether we dropped bombs or didn’t drop bombs, shot missiles or didn’t shoot missiles, we could have expected this headline:

John McCain, Lindsey Graham Criticize Syria Deal: ‘An Act Of Provocative Weakness’

You have to admit that is a clever phrase: “Provocative weakness.” But what does it mean? McCain and Graham try to explain:

What concerns us most is that our friends and enemies will take the same lessons from this agreement: They see it as an act of provocative weakness on America’s part, We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapon.

Let me see here. If seeking and perhaps finding a non-bomb way out of an international dispute, while keeping the threat of bombs on the table, represents a weakness that will provoke our enemies, then it is not hard to fathom what is the right thing to do for McCain and Graham and others today criticizing the President’s attempt to find a peaceful way out of a crisis: bomb the hell out of your enemies even if your enemies are willing to give you what you want! Because, apparently, getting what you want without dropping bombs is not a sign of strength and success but a sign of weakness and failure.

Even though it is sometimes necessary, I don’t like spending much time rummaging around in the spook-filled heads of people who think like that, who refuse to take yes for an answer while there are still plenty of cruise missiles to launch. Trying to figure out what makes people like McCain and Graham tick, what makes them long for and lead cheers for warfare even when, at least right now, it isn’t necessary to accomplish our stated limited goal, is not likely to bear much fruit.

But one thing is very clear: McCain’s and Graham’s goal in Syria is not limited. It is much more ambitious than stopping a dictator from using chemical weapons that the world long ago agreed were too horrendous to countenance. Obviously, these two and others on the right are eager to jump into every fire in the Middle East, no matter how many times we get burned, because, well, otherwise we look weak. It is much, much better to get burned to a crisp, or burn others to a crisp, than to appear weak to some warmongering conservatives. Never mind that we have spent a decade at war in at least two countries in the region and we don’t appear all that strong. In fact, a good case can be made that protracted warfare has genuinely weakened us in the eyes of the world.

As I say, I don’t want to spend much time spookhousing, trying to figure out what makes people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham think and act the way they do. Suffice it to say that today we should all give thanks that the band doesn’t play “Hail To The Chief” when John McCain walks into a room, and that the weight of his opinions on our international dos and don’ts is felt mainly on television talk shows, on which he appears almost daily and on which he is rarely if ever aggressively challenged.

Don Knotts searches for spooks in Ghost ProtocolIn any case, speaking of strange thinking, speaking of spookhouse-minds to explore, perhaps this is a good time to mention one of the craziest things I have read in a major publication in a long time. It comes via the Wall Street Journal and an article authored by Norman Podhoretz, an old neoconservative who is widely respected—and I mean widely respected: George W. Bush handed him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 for being “at the forefront of American intellectual thought for the last half-century.” Keep that in mind as we go on: “intellectual thought.”

There are at least three more things you need to know about Norman Podhoretz before we get to his article:

♦ He suggested in 1980 we might lose the Cold War with the Soviets and even believed Ronald Reagan wasn’t tough enough on the commies, saying in 1984 that the Gipper was “following a strategy of helping the Soviet Union stabilize its empire, rather than a strategy aimed at encouraging the breakup of that empire from within.” A mere five years later the Soviet Union began to dissolve. Yikes, Norman!

♦ Not only was he a cheerleader for the 2003 Iraq War, he was a cheerleader for attacking Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the 1990s. Yikes again, Norman!

♦ In 2007—in 2007!— he called for and prayed for George W. Bush to bomb the hell out of Iran because time was running out. He answered critics of his scheme, who warned of the dangerous repercussions involved, by citing, who else, John McCain:

Nevertheless, there is a good response to them, and it is the one given by John McCain. The only thing worse than bombing Iran, McCain has declared, is allowing Iran to get the bomb.

Yikes once more, Norm! That’s three yikes! and Podhoretz should be out, but nope, he’s still in the game. His latest article, weirdly but strategically titled, “Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure,” is perhaps this old right-winger’s finest moment in right-wing intellectual nuttery.

Podhoretz believes that not only is the President’s leadership leading to national decline and an “erosion of American power,” it is not happening because Obama is “incompetent,” “bungling,” “feckless,” “amateurish,” and “in over his head.” No, no, no. The President is none of those things, says this respected neocon. You see, Obama means to lead the United States into decline. Obama wants to undermine American strength, but he has to hide his motives:

His foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish. The accomplishment would not have been possible if the intention had been too obvious. The skill lies in how effectively he has used rhetorical tricks to disguise it.

Referencing Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky—the unholy trinity in the liturgy that informs right-wing conspiracists in the First Church of Obama-Haters—Podhoretz says Obama is a “left-wing radical” who believes “that the United States had almost always been a retrograde and destructive force in world affairs” and, thus, the President wants to fundamentally transform the United States by reducing “the country’s power and influence.”

Obama is so crafty in pursuing this diabolical goal, that all this apparent incompetence, fecklessness and amateurism is just a cover. And the President, Podhoretz tells us, doesn’t really care that people see him that way:

For this fulfillment of his dearest political wishes, Mr. Obama is evidently willing to pay the price of a sullied reputation. In that sense, he is by his own lights sacrificing himself for what he imagines is the good of the nation of which he is the president, and also to the benefit of the world, of which he loves proclaiming himself a citizen.

You see? President Obama is willing to sacrifice his own reputation in order to weaken the country so that we will all live happily ever after as world citizens. Got it? Spooky, ain’t it?

Journeying through the ghoulish mind of Norman Podhoretz—again, a man well-respected as an “intellectual” on the right—makes one long for a respite in the little-less-scary and the lot-less-intellectual noggin of John McCain. Why? Because for all his militaristic bravado and chronic interventionism, I think John McCain really does believe President Obama is merely incompetent, amateurish, and in over his head, as opposed to believing that our Commander-in-Chief is skillfully misleading us all as he purposely engineers the decline of America.

No matter what, though, the neoconservative mind, represented either by John McCain or Norman Podhoretz, should send shivers down your spine.

An Attack On American Exceptionalism By An Unexceptional Russian

I have tried to defend the concept of American exceptionalism on liberal grounds, as we debate what to do about Syria’s use of chemical weapons. And now, published late on Wednesday night on The New York Times website, comes a strange op-ed by none other than Vladimir Putin, a weird and, well, creepy president of Russia, who, among other things, explicitly challenges the notion of American exceptionalism on a platform provided by America’s preeminent newspaper.

I won’t go into how Putin’s piece sounds so much like what a lot of liberal Democrats and libertarian-conservative Republicans, who oppose American strikes against Assad’s regime, are saying. I won’t go into that because I don’t for a minute take this God-loving former KGB officer turned authoritarian-peacenik seriously at this point. Time will tell how many choruses of Kumbaya Putin will sing before he either makes good on his peace-promoting proposals or he blames any failure on American recalcitrance and imperialism.

And I won’t now go into how insulting it is, for those who not only know some Russian history* but contemporary Russian policy,** for a Russian authoritarian to lecture Americans, via The New York Times, on how, “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” Yeah, right.

What I will briefly address is this statement by Putin:

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

It is not, of course, “dangerous” for American folks to “see themselves as exceptional,” as long as at the core of that exceptionalism is the notion that we stand for the civilizing principle that all people ought to, if they want to, enjoy the blessings of liberty and representative government. And standing on that civilizing principle, as the unmistakable leaders of the free world, we should also stand ready to befriend, and in some cases defend, others around the world who also want to enjoy those blessings.

For a former KGB man to tell Americans, who live under a philosophical experiment of freedom and self-governance, that it is extremely dangerous for us to see our democratic experiment as exceptional, while Putin is attempting to squash freedom and real democracy in his own country—Google search “Pussy Riot” for confirmation or see an article in the New York Times on the last presidential election in Russia—is more than off-putting and offensive. It suggests an ulterior motive, which will likely become clear over time.

I hope I’m wrong about that. I hope that Obama and Kerry are able to work something out on the Syrian chemical conundrum, something positive and effective. But we should remember, even if a Russian leader wants us to forget, that if something peaceful and positive does come from our confrontation with Syria’s regime, it is because of the threat of American military power.

And that threat comes from a view of American exceptionalism that, in this case, includes making sure that thugs in strange places aren’t free to weaponize banned chemical compounds and use them to gas to death in their sleep innocent civilians, at least some of whom yearned to breathe the air of freedom.

[Bassam Khableh/Reuters]

_______________________________________________

* From a paper published in 2005 by the Government Department of Wesleyan University:

Russia lacks nearly all the usual prerequisites for a successful transition to democracy. In its long
history there is no experience of democracy, nor cultivation of civil society, to draw on. Two
centuries of the Mongol yoke were followed by 500 years of the most oppressive autocratic rule
in Europe, followed by 75 years of Soviet totalitarianism: the most innovative and deep-rooted
system of authoritarian rule the world had ever seen.

** From a neo-conservative writer, James Kirchick:

Meanwhile, Russia continues to be marked by domestic authoritarianism and aggression beyond its borders. The harassment and murder of journalists and human rights advocates continues unabated. Press freedom has declined precipitously since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to power 10 years ago. Baton-wielding riot police regularly break up peaceful demonstrations.

The Reality Of American Exceptionalism

It didn’t take long, but President Obama made the case for American exceptionalism, and why that exceptionalism requires us to bear exceptional burdens, much to the chagrin of many liberals, who need a dose of reality, and many right-wingers, who have long severed ties with reality.

Here is the part of the President’s address to the nation, absent from any network or cable news boilerplate commentary, that should ring in the ears of doubters who don’t believe that congressional authorization of American action is wise:

My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security.  This has meant doing more than forging international agreements — it has meant enforcing them.  The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them. 

And so, to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.  To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor.  For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.

Indeed, I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask:  What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?

Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.”  Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.

America is not the world’s policeman.  Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong.  But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.  That’s what makes America different.  That’s what makes us exceptional.  With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth. 

We Americans, I believe and have argued, represent something exceptional. There is an “essential truth” at stake here: America is the “anchor of global security,” like it or not. And “enforcing” international agreements is sometimes one of the burdens of being that anchor. And the world is a much better place because, historically, America has often borne the burden of enforcement.

This is no time to retreat, especially since American presidential resolve and the threat of American military power has apparently, though not yet decisively, caused Russia and Syria to seek refuge in compliance with international norms. Congress should see the reality before it and, when the time comes, authorize the President, within the reasonable limitations it sets, to pursue the burdens of moral leadership.

Sean Hannity: A Piece Of Shit Who Believes Putin And Assad Over Obama And Kerry

I write this just after I visited the Sean Hannity show on Monday night and watched the last of a segment featuring Pat Buchanan, an old champion of isolationist Republicans, and Democratic strategist Mark Hannah, who worked on the Kerry and Obama presidential campaigns.

I want to say now, while my emotions are hot and before discretion knocks the edges off my commentary, that if you didn’t think so before, Sean Hannity is a slimy slice of extraordinarily foul excrement. Or, to put it in more gritty language: Sean Hannity is a greasy and stenchy piece of shit.

Got that? Sean Hannity, who has a ton of ignorant and bigoted and fact-ignoring viewers, who faithfully watch him do his Obama-hate dance each night (not to mention the gullible who listen to his radio show each day), is a worthless chunk of stool waste. An unpatriotic, un-American hunk of turd who, if there were a God of Justice overseeing the world, would be right now hopelessly swimming his way through the darkest, dankest stretch of sewer pipe in wealthy Centre Island, New York, having been flushed away by his outraged, God-fearing neighbors.

Why?

Because Hannity, sporting an American flag lapel pin, got in a love-bed with Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad, one a former Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB and the other a brutal dictator whose regime gassed women and children in their sleep, that’s why. Because Hannity hates President Obama and John Kerry so much that he would rather get down on his knees and pleasure god-awful authoritarians than acknowledge that Democrats have legitimacy as representatives of the American people and as human beings with a conscience.

Hannity was criticizing John Kerry’s statement that the attack on Syria would be “unbelievably small,” with “no boots on the ground,” and asked Mark Hannah this question:

HANNITY: What do you expect to accomplish? What’s the point?

HANNAH: Can you imagine the devastation that could be wrought against the Assad regime— 

HANNITY: No.

HANNAH : —in a couple of days—

HANNITY: No.

HANNAH: —of American fighters—

HANNITY: No.

HANNAH: —flying into Syria—

HANNITY: No.

HANNAH: —and dropping bombs, and, listen, this would  absolutely accomplish the mission that the President was very specific about, degrading the chemical weapons capacity, deterring…[crosstalk from Hannity and Buchanan]

Then after that revelation of Hannity’s skepticism of American military power, we had this revealing question from the Democrat:

HANNAH: You’re gonna believe Assad, Sean? You’re gonna believe Putin over the word of John Kerry?

HANNITY: Yes. 

Yes, he said that. A man who brags about his love for America, a man who pretends he is God’s gift to American patriotic punditry, said that he would take the word of a horrific dictator and a certified authoritarian over an American diplomat who, no matter what you think of the proposed policy, is trying to defend the integrity of American values.

Then soon followed this:

HANNITY: Mark just asked me who I believed more, Putin or Kerry. Vladimir Putin called Kerry a liar because Kerry was advancing the notion that there are far more moderates than people are seeing here. Now, I think he’s talking about the Free Syrian Army, and that’s the very same military leader that is saying that Israel is an “enemy country.” That doesn’t seem moderate to me. Who do you believe? I believe Putin.

BUCHANAN: First, first, I would not call the Secretary of State a liar, and I would defend the Secretary of State against that…

Thank God that even Pat Buchanan’s dislike for Democrats has limits, even if Sean Hannity’s hatred doesn’t. Let the everlasting record show that Sean Hannity said, “I believe Putin.” All of you Hannity fans out there, all of you who hang on his every word, all of you who nightly suck sweat from his butt crack with a short straw, let those words sink in.

Just a bit later, Sean was suggesting that if we want to be “serious,” we should attack Iran and their “nukes” because they are “the real threat to the world,” by which he means one country, the state of Israel. Buchanan, who famously is not a fan of Israel, would have none of that, saying that Congress should authorize any attack on Iran. Then Sean said Putin filled the “leadership gap” because Obama and Kerry could not make up their minds. Admirably, Mark Hannah followed with this:

HANNAH: You’re listening to Assad and you’re taking their word for it. You’re listening to Putin instead of your own president….you can broadcast this show from Moscow, Sean, how about that?

Yes, how about that? Sean Hannity one night reporting live from the Kremlin and another night reporting from the presidential palace of the trustworthy Bashar al-Assad, both of them now his newest Obama-hating heroes.

Piece of shit.

hannity buchanan and hannah

A Final Attempt At Making A Liberal-Progressive Case For The Rational Use Of Force Against Assad

One of my recent posts was a response to “Bill,” a commenter who had referred to me as a “supposed liberal” for “advocating war” by taking a position in support of President Obama’s desire to attack Bashar al-Assad’s regime for its use of chemical weapons.

I find it only fair to publish here Bill’s response to what I wrote, which demonstrates exactly how we liberals ought to treat each other when we disagree on an issue so untidy as what to do about Syria:

Ok, note to self: don’t do drive-by comments on the Erstwhile Conservative. :)

I regret my use of the word “supposed.” I have no reason to doubt your liberal credentials, and obviously the left is divided on this issue (as is the right). I happened to read the post while feeling a great deal of frustration at seeing so many Democrats teaming up with John McCain and his gang of neo-con warmongers. But still, it was wrong of me to use that word. My apologies.

My principal objection to your post was the American exceptionalism in it. I’m going to guess that if some right-wing warmonger referred to America as “the only true enforcer of international law, the keeper of the flame of a progressive world civilization” you’d find that disturbing. I certainly would.

I am strongly opposed to authorizing an attack on Syria. I’ll spare you my rationale, while acknowledging that principled people of all political stripes can reasonably disagree on this one.

peace

I found something in Bill’s response that I thought deserved some further attention, so I answered him this way:

Peace to you, too, Bill. I appreciate your clarification and the way you expressed it.

This is a difficult issue, and I understand your “frustration at seeing so many Democrats teaming up with John McCain and his gang of neo-con warmongers.” It is just as frustrating for me as I watch a lot of my liberal friends climb into political bed with Rand Paul and his gang of libertarian-conservatives. Let’s hope that no matter what happens, we liberals can live with ourselves in the morning, despite the beds we are sleeping in tonight.

If you will permit me to do so, I would like to respond at length to something you said, as I will attempt, likely for the last time, to present a liberal-progressive case for the rational use of military force against Assad. You wrote:

My principal objection to your post was the American exceptionalism in it. I’m going to guess that if some right-wing warmonger referred to America as “the only true enforcer of international law, the keeper of the flame of a progressive world civilization” you’d find that disturbing. I certainly would.

I confess I believe in American exceptionalism, except I don’t believe in it the way right-wing warmongers do. I would very much be disturbed by a right-winger saying what I said because I can’t imagine a single one of them saying it. I would think they had been smoking something dangerously potent. The point is, Bill, that those folks don’t believe in “progressive world civilization,” and they certainly don’t believe the United States has any business promoting it around the world.

America’s exceptionalism today is, among other things, found in our embrace of the principles of freedom and representative government and our unmistakable ability to defend those principles. But more than that, our exceptionalism is found in our willingness to use our power to defend those principles—which are really principles of progressive civilization—even if they are not directly threatened here at home. I say that even though I am acutely aware of how many times we have miserably and shamefully—and I mean miserably and shamefully—failed to live up to our principles in our past dealings with other nations.

I want to remind you that it was a liberal—Abraham Lincoln was a liberal in the context of his times—who believed it was vital to protect, even if it meant civil war, our nation and what it stood for, a nation that he said was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” And he said those words at the dedication of a national cemetery in Gettysburg where somewhere around 50,000 soldiers from both sides died in three days of fighting.

In talking about those “brave men, living and dead” who “struggled” at Gettysburg and who fought hard for and “nobly advanced” the cause—the cause being that our “nation might live”—Lincoln noted that they left “unfinished work” (the war would go on another 17 months or so), namely to ensure,

that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Whether one agrees with how he proceeded, in Lincoln’s mind, what we stood for as a nation was worth preserving, even at the cost of using military force, even at the cost of many American lives. And if the way Lincoln defined what America stood for isn’t also a definition of American exceptionalism, then I don’t know what you might call it, and it was beautifully articulated by a man who would, if he were in office today, get called unflattering names by Tea Party Republicans.

I said all that to say this, Bill: Even if one doesn’t believe the Civil War was necessary, even if one believes it would have been better to simply keep the “peace” with rebellious Southerners, going to war was at least rational in the mind of Lincoln and obviously many others who gave their lives for the cause. By appealing to the “liberal” Lincoln, I am simply arguing that there is a place for the rational use of military power that a progressive can defend on liberal grounds.

And there are things worth defending, even if all the variables can’t be finally plugged neatly into the equation, even if the ending can’t be predicted with certainty. Lincoln didn’t know how the Civil War would unfold, and of course he didn’t know with certainty what the outcome of the war would be. But he thought it was worth the risk for the principles at stake and I think it is fair to argue, as I have done, that he acted rationally and with an eye toward a compelling vision of American exceptionalism.

Today we are talking about a limited American military engagement—emphatically not involving troops on the ground—to uphold a principle of international law against the use of chemical weapons, weapons that may one day be used against American troops somewhere. Outside of our own self-defense, if there ever was a strong case to be made for the rational use for good of our exceptional military power, it is now. In doing so, we will not only have attempted to enforce the international prohibition against the use of specific and horrific weapons, we will, to borrow from Lincoln, have “nobly advanced” the cause of what I have called a “progressive world civilization.”

Duane

Pundits, Pesticide, And The President

This morning, after the President’s press conference in Russia, I watched a few liberal pundits on MSNBC criticize Obama’s demeanor during his exchange with reporters, including his lack of enthusiasm, and so on. The idea was that the President doesn’t seem all that convinced about his own decision to attack Syria. Presumably for these folks, the President’s leadership style is much too thoughtful and not forceful or decisive enough for their tastes. He’s too professorial, don’t you know. He should be the cheerleader-in-chief.

Now, I’m used to hearing those criticisms from right-wingers, who seem to value more “manly” decision-making, which to them requires less thought and more knee-jerking. But I never thought I would live long enough to hear liberals implicitly long for Bush-like decisiveness, which decisiveness was pregnant with a false but, apparently for some, comforting certainty.

Such decisiveness and certainty resulted in things like, say, the attacking, defeating, and occupying of Iraq, which we were told with utter certainty was not only necessary (turns out it wasn’t), but would bring us much good will in the Middle East (turns out it didn’t). Even though the Iraq war, from its pretenses to its promises, was a colossal mistake, at least, dammit, Bush was certain and decisive and forceful!

When it comes to making decisions on the use of force, I’ll take the thoughtful, get-it-right-the-first-time style of Barack Obama, no matter how much it irritates people on the right—or left. Thus, fed up with listening to liberals whine about the President’s leadership style, I thought I would at least get a taste of the big league whiners. So, while on my way to Fox, I stopped by CNN and found a Tea Party town hall being conducted by the one and only Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who represents Old South Alabama in the U.S. Senate. He was trying to explain, to hard-headed teapartiers like himself, the dynamics of what is going on in Syria and Congress. And, of course, it is all President Obama’s fault because he is a weak leader:

If President Bush had told Bashir Assad, “You don’t use those chemical weapons or you gonna be sorry, we’re coming after you, this will be a consequence you will not want to bear,” I don’t believe he would have used them (raucous applause)…People didn’t see strength in the President’s red line…

Sessions, echoing what I heard liberals on MSNBC say minutes before, called Obama an “uncertain trumpet.” Well, if it is certainty that people want, they should go to a once-saved-always-saved, Bible-believing Baptist church and confess their faith in Jesus and live happily ever after, however long the after is. Then they can say things like the following, which was said by a town hall teapartier immediately following Jeff Sessions’ put down of Obama and his praise for the leadership qualities of George W. Bush:

I stand here and I listen to you and, uh, and I sure hope that in those secret meetings that you have good intelligence…but…I’m not sure it was a chemical weapons attack. I think it was a pesticide attack. I think that the al Qaeda could get a hold of pesticides. It was not consistent with a chemical weapons attack. The emergency people came in there too quickly. They would not come into an area with poison gas residue all over the place. I read a very interesting analysis of this, and I think it was setup to get the United States to come in there and do al Qaeda ‘s dirty work.

But here’s my question: You have something that none of us here have. You have a megaphone. You have a platform. You have a microphone. But my question to you is I’ve seen this president…crossing one red line after another, you know, fraudulent birth certificate—everybody knows that his documents are a fraud, everything about this man is secret, nobody knows anything about Obama, nothing! Gays in the military, gun-smuggling to the Mexicans, getting Mexicans killed, getting Americans killed…He violates the Constitution in that he has a duty as the President of the United States to enforce the laws of the United States. He’s refused to enforce the immigration laws. He’s refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by Bill Clinton for heaven sake’s [sic]. This man has violated so many, he’s crossed so many red lines, and now Syria.

And my question [sic] is, What do you think is the red line for Barack Obama? When is the United States Senate, when are our representatives going to say that he’s gone too far and stop this man? As a U.S. Senator, do you feel like you personally are incapable of doing anything to stop him? Or do you feel like you’re capable of doing something to stop him, and if so what is that? Thank you very much (loud applause).

To which Jeff Sessions replied:

It is sad that…such a large number of people have lost confidence in the President, his integrity or his willingness to lead…

Yes, it is sad. And what is sadder is that a United States Senator is part of the problem, part of the reason that ignorant and ill-informed and conspiracy-crazed Americans, like that poor Tea Party fool in Alabama, can feel comfortable in standing up and saying such stupid things and expect only the mildest of rebukes from a Senator who has so much to say about leadership:

But you know I can’t agree with all of those things. I don’t think they’re probably factually correct, all of them. I just don’t think that’s true, some of them. I do believe that from the day we saw his Supreme Court nominations, his own statement that, uh, he wanted judges to do “empathy,” and basically that’s saying you want judges not to follow the law but to do whatever feels good at the time…They do not respect the rule of law as the President of the United States should…[blah, blah, blah]

Jeff Sessions had been criticizing President Obama’s leadership style, he had been talking about how weak Obama is, how that leadership weakness allows bad things to happen. Yet the Senator couldn’t stand up to a freak at his town hall freak show and say to him, “Look, pal, what you said was crazy. It was nuts. You’re an embarrassment to the Republican Party. Stop reading those wacky right-wing conspiracy websites and stop spreading this crap at my town halls.” Now that would have been real leadership.

The “pesticide” conspiracy theory espoused by that Tea Party nut was undoubtedly related to the larger conspiracy going around—promoted by Rush Limbaugh and others using the writings of an Israeli-American political scientist named Yossef Bodansky—that President Obama may have helped plan the chemical attack on civilians in Syria on behalf of al-Qaeda rebels. Here is a typical headline from a true-believing, Christian website called Sword At-The-Ready:

Obama Regime Armed Al Qaeda-Rebels To Use Chemical Weapons In Syria

Now, it appears to me that the pathetic, brainsick individual at Sessions’ town hall was trying to imply what that headline states outright and what the accompanying article articulates:

Obama has been and is engaged in arming Jihadists in the Middle East, our avowed enemies. Evidence is mounting that not only did Obama arm the Jihadists in Syria with heavy weapons from Benghazi, the Obama regime helped plan the chemical weapons attack near Damascus.  A tactic the Bosnian Muslims utilized in their civil war to get the UN to bomb the Serbs.

In the process of helping radical Islam in raising up the black flag over secular dictatorships, Obama emasculates the United States and destroys it’s reputation among the world’s nations.

If you consider Obama’s agenda is to destroy the country and raise up his utopia over our ashes – much of what Obama has been doing and demands to do – makes sense.

It’s not incompetence, this is all deliberate.

Sword At-The-Ready says it is,

dedicated to the presentation and discussion of Conservative American Principles in light of the Scriptures, Our True History, Culture and Politics.

You get it: there is a culture war/civil war going on between people of fundamentalist-quality faith and everyone else, especially our diabolical leader, Barack Hussein Obama.

It’s too bad that among the nuts, even though he isn’t quite as nutty as the nutty people attracted to one of his town halls in Wetumpka, Alabama, is Jeff Sessions. This man sits in, uh, the world’s greatest deliberative body but he couldn’t bother to—or worse, didn’t want to—call out someone who doesn’t believe the President is a citizen and who suggested that he is involved in a pro-al Qaeda plot in Syria.

So much for leadership.

For the record, CNN cut away from the town hall shortly after Sessions began his reply to the gullible Tea Party conspiracist guy. And later in a story reporting on what happened at the Sessions town hall, the gullible Tea Party conspiracist guy wasn’t mentioned, nor was Jeff Sessions’ inadequate, leadership-less response. Thanks, CNN.

jeff sessions townhall

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