By Doug Porter
Haven’t we learned anything?
A bunch of terrorists–funded by our so-called allies and birthed by the failure of previous attempts at military solutions in the middle east–have managed to get the attention of the nation’s war mongering set.
In a matter of weeks a group that our government can’t even figure what to call has gone from “freedom fighter” status to massing at the US border, poised to attack. Senator Lindsey Graham went on Fox news to warn the country “This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.” Aren’t you terrified yet?
The major news media have obsessed with ISIS/ISIL/IS beheadings, even as they have ignored the savagery of the Shia militias in Iraq and the Sunni death machine in Saudi Arabia. Boom! Bang! Blood! Guts! Be Afraid! …Film at 11!
Congress is outraged, of course, but couldn’t be bothered to actually hold hearings, ask questions or give their opinion on the subject. They need their rest, y’know. Everybody “knew” the only solution would be bombs, it was just a matter of timing.
The lack of Congressional authorization is what troubles the editorial board at the New York Times:
It is puzzling that Mr. Obama would address the nation on a terrorist threat and not mention the group that officials now say poses an imminent threat to the United States, which ISIS does not. They say they kept details about Khorasan secret so the group would not know it was being tracked. But past threats, including Osama bin Laden, were discussed openly even as they were tracked.
These incongruities — two enemies now, instead of one — call into question whatever sense of purpose and planning the administration hopes to project. Mr. Obama has said airstrikes alone are not enough, and native ground troops in both Iraq and Syria will be relied on after the bombings. But it will be months before Americans can turn the mainstream opposition into a fighting force; in Iraq, after six weeks of American airstrikes, Iraqi Army troops have scarcely budged ISIS from its strongholds.
Finally, there is the question of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The Obama administration says it can counter him by building up the moderate opposition. They also make the odd point that allied military action by five Arab partners — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan — is a slap in the face to Mr. Assad. But, of course, he welcomes the airstrikes on ISIS.
With so much at stake and so much unknown, before he gets any further into this operation, Mr. Obama needs to get Congress’s approval and prove that he has fully accounted for the consequences of this foray into Syria.
At the Washington Post, pundit Greg Sargent was outraged with administration, Congress, and the Republicans–who will soon bringing fear and more fear to a screen near you.
The Obama administration has not made an even remotely credible case for undertaking this escalation without Congressional authorization, and Congress’ refusal to hold a vote on it remains an outrageous abdication of responsibility. One also hopes the administration’s claims about terror threats are subjected to intense scrutiny. But we aren’t going to get any serious Congressional debate about any of this until after the election.
However, one place all of this will be debated is in the context of the Senate races. Republicans have cheerfully suggested to the press that the politics of national security will again shower them with political riches, and they are running multiple ads replete with the grainy terror footage they used to such great effect back in 2002 and 2004, which is to say, at least a decade ago.
All of this hand-wringing misses the point.
Bomb ISIS/ISIL/IS and Al Qaeda benefits. Bomb Al Qaeda and a brutal dictator willing to use chemical weapons on his own population has the advantage. Some say Syrian strongman Bashar Hafez al-Assad set the stage with this scenario in mind.
Old Habits Are Hard to Break
Meanwhile, endless war.
Glen Greenwald set the bar high for outrage over this latest foreign policy adventure:
The U.S. today began bombing targets inside Syria, in concert with its lovely and inspiring group of five allied regimes: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Jordan.
…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.
We’ve Been Here Before…
Peter Van Buren, the ex-State Department official who penned the book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People has an essay published at Toms Dispatch (and other places) entitled Apocalypse Now, Iraq Edition that explains the absolute foolishness of the current efforts
If there is just time for you to read one voice speaking out against what is going on in the Middle East, Van Buren’s is the one you should chose.
Here’s how he wraps it up:
America’s wars in the Middle East exist in a hallucinatory space where reality is of little import, so if you think you heard all this before, between 2003 and 2010, you did. But for those of us of a certain age, the echoes go back much further. I recently joined a discussion on Dutch television where former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra made a telling slip of the tongue. As we spoke about ISIS, Hoekstra insisted that the U.S. needed to deny them “sanctuary in Cambodia.” He quickly corrected himself to say “Syria,” but the point was made.
We’ve been here before, as the failures of American policy and strategy in Vietnam metastasized into war in Cambodia and Laos to deny sanctuary to North Vietnamese forces. As with ISIS, we were told that they were barbarians who sought to impose an evil philosophy across an entire region. They, too, famously needed to be fought “over there” to prevent them from attacking us here. We didn’t say “the Homeland” back then, but you get the picture.
As the similarities with Vietnam are telling, so is the difference. When the reality of America’s failure in Vietnam finally became so clear that there was no one left to lie to, America’s war there ended and the troops came home. They never went back. America is now fighting the Iraq War for the third time, somehow madly expecting different results, while guaranteeing only failure. To paraphrase a young John Kerry, himself back from Vietnam, who’ll be the last to die for that endless mistake? It seems as if it will be many years before we know.
As Van Buren points out, the only way to “win” is not to play. I wish our President could tear himself away from his coterie of military advisers long enough to even consider that option. And I know there is no Republican out there with the willpower to just say no. Endless war is, sadly, a truly bi-partisan obsession.
On to other (more local) news….
He Only Lies When His Lips Are Moving
Jason Roe, the GOP shill who fronts for the Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Coalition, tells UT-San Diego today he’s confident his petition for a referendum on raising the minimum wage will make the signature threshold needed to get on the ballot.
Well, duh, at $12 per signature and using people flown in from the midwest, I’d hope a professional canvassing contractor could get 33,800 signatures out of 657,054 registered voters. Roe ran a masterful campaign of deceit and deception, one that proves the adage that if you tell lies often and loud enough, they’ll become believed as truth.
What was exceptional about this latest round of dialing for dollars democracy is that people took offense at the tactics being used. It’s a start, and it ain’t the end of this story. We still have an election to go through.
From UT-San Diego:
Roe said the 2,699 withdrawal requests ultimately submitted was weak based on such aggressive efforts.
“That’s an embarrassingly low number for all the money, harassment and effort they put in,” he said.
City Clerk Elizabeth Maland said the 2,699 withdrawal requests was far above any city petition drive since at least 2008. In the last six years, Maland said the highest number of such requests was 35 for a 2011 charter amendment effort related to city employee pensions.
They Like it When You Don’t Vote
Did you miss the parades yesterday? It was National Voter Registration Day. Nobody sent me a card. Or a press release, for that matter.
Here in San Diego, voting is apparently not all that important. The county sponsors ad campaigns for things like San Diego Youth Combat 420 ‘National Weed Day,’ but ignores voting. After all, the less people vote, the better it is for those entrenched in power.
Statewide, 1 in 4 eligible voters are not registered. (And when they do register, they often confuse the xenophobic American Independent Party with being non-partisan.)
In the last election, less than 3 in 10 San Diegans turned out to vote, one of lowest turnouts ever for a regularly scheduled election. A recent survey of neighborhoods with a poor record for voter turnout found that only slightly more than 1 in 4 people were even aware of the upcoming November election.
Alliance San Diego held a press conference yesterday to announce an effort to encourage 50,000 people to register and vote. The VoteforSD.org website serves as a source for online voter registration and encourages San Diegans to become permanent vote-by-mail voters to make voting as easy and as convenient as possible.
Registering to vote is as easy as clicking. One person casting a ballot won’t solve much. Everybody voting is an entirely different story.
(PS- They’re hiring.) (PPS-I’ve worked on previous get out the vote campaigns: it’s totally worth it.)
On This Day: 1918 – Canada declared the Wobblies (IWW) illegal 1957 – President Eisenhower sent federal troops to Little Rock, AR, to enforce school integration. 1977 – The first Elvis Presley convention took place in Memphis, TN.
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