The Washington Post reports: The top U.S. general in Iraq on Monday addressed recent political rhetoric in the presidential campaign that the United States should “carpet-bomb” the Islamic State, saying that the Pentagon is bound by the laws of armed conflict and does nt indiscriminately bomb civilian areas.
“We’re the United States of America, and we have a set of guiding principles and those affect the way we as professional soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines, conduct ourselves on the battlefield,” MacFarland said. “So indiscriminate bombing, where we don’t care if we’re killing innocents or combatants, is just inconsistent with our values. And it’s what the Russians have been accused of doing in parts of northwest Syria. Right now we have the moral high ground, and I think that’s where we need to stay.”
The comments came in response to a question from CNN’s Barbara Starr during a Pentagon news conference. The general was asked why the military isn’t engaged in “so-called carpet-bombing,” a phrase that has been used often by presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Tex.). [Continue reading…]
Fred Kaplan writes: hursday night’s Trump-less debate was less blustery than the Republicans’ previous spectacles, but on foreign policy issues, the Donald’s absence didn’t make it less slight, cynical, or shruggingly uninformed.
Earlier in the week, Robert Gates — a lifelong Republican who has served as secretary of defense and CIA director — said the GOP candidates’ discussion of national security issues “would embarrass a middle schooler.” If Gates tuned in Thursday night, he would have had no cause to revise his assessment.
Sen. Marco Rubio started off by promising that, if — or, rather, when — he’s elected president, “We are going to rebuild our intelligence capabilities, and they’re going to tell us where the terrorists are.” Rubio seems unaware that President Obama has vastly boosted spending on intelligence and that the spy agencies’ No. 1 priority is to find terrorists. But Rubio went further: Under his administration, he said, “If we capture terrorists, they’re going to Guantánamo, and we will find out everything they know.” I think this means that he would bring back torture — a technique that George W. Bush ended in 2006. None of the other candidates, or the questioners, seemed to mind. [Continue reading…]
Dana Milbank writes: Late Thursday night, National Review, the storied conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley, published an issue denouncing Donald Trump.
“Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones,” the editors wrote. “Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.”
The Republican National Committee reacted swiftly — immediately revoking the permission it had given National Review to host a Republican presidential debate next month. “Tonight, a top official with the RNC called me to say that National Review was being disinvited,” the magazine’s publisher wrote online. “The reason: Our ‘Against Trump’ editorial.”
That soft flapping sound you hear is the Grand Old Party waving the flag of surrender to Trump. Party elites — what’s left of the now-derided “establishment” — are acquiescing to the once inconceivable: that a xenophobic and bigoted showman is now the face of the Republican Party and of American conservatism.
In recent days, influential Republicans including Bob Dole, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Rupert Murdoch and, as my Post colleagues reported, Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) have made noises about being able to stomach Trump. Republican donors are trying to insinuate themselves in the billionaire’s orbit. Trump himself said Thursday: “I have received so many phone calls from people that you would call ‘establishment,’ from people — generally speaking, conservatives, Republicans — that want to come onto our team.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial page had long criticized Trump’s candidacy, publishing an editorial in July arguing that the conservative media who applaud Trump “are hurting the cause.” The editors opined: “If Donald Trump becomes the voice of conservatives, conservatism will implode along with him.”
A week ago, the Journal reversed course. “Mr. Trump is a better politician than we ever imagined, and he is becoming a better candidate,” the editorialists wrote, speculating that “he might possibly be able to appeal to a larger set of voters than he has so far.” [Continue reading…]
Official statement from the Trump campaign: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Here’s Marvin Gaye’s answer: “What’s Going On”
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on
Richard Maass writes: Since the Nov. 13 attacks on Paris, many U.S. leaders have unleashed discriminatory rhetoric in the name of counterterrorism. Thirty-one governors said that Syrian refugees were not welcome in their states. Jeb Bush suggested that refugees should be allowed into the United States if “you can prove you’re a Christian.” Donald Trump said that he would “strongly consider” shutting down American mosques and that he wants “surveillance of certain mosques if that’s okay.” Claiming “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror,” Ted Cruz criticized the Obama administration “because they pretend as if there is no religious aspect to this.”
Of course, most religions — including Christianity — have been manipulated to inspire or excuse terrorism. And people of most nationalities — including Americans — have committed terrorist acts. So the critical question is not whether the Islamic State has a national or religious aspect; a great deal of terrorism does. The question is: Will policies that discriminate against people on the basis of nationality or religion help or hurt efforts to counter the Islamic State’s terrorist threat?
Many excellent scholars — both before and since 9/11 — have produced research that tells us about the relationship between discrimination and counterterrorism.
Here’s what we know. To be most effective, counterterrorism policies need to make an explicit distinction between the individuals who genuinely threaten others with terrorism, on the one hand, and on the other, the broader populations those terrorists claim to represent. Counterterrorism efforts — especially using force — should narrowly target only the former, as much as possible. [Continue reading…]
Nicholas Kristof writes: Ben Carson has compared Syrian refugees to rabid dogs. Donald Trump says that he would send them back.
Who are these Syrian refugee monsters who terrify American politicians?
Meet Heba, a frightened, desperate 20-year-old woman who dreams of being an artist and has just made a perilous escape from territory controlled by the Islamic State in northern Syria.
She was detained two months ago with her sister by Islamic State enforcers because her sister’s baby girl had too short a skirt — even though the baby was just 3 months old.
“That was crazy,” Heba said, shaking her head. “This was an infant!”
Heba says she and her sister argued that infant girls should have a little leeway in showing skin, and eventually the family was let off with a warning.
But Heba, strong-willed and self-confident, perhaps had been too outspoken or too sarcastic, and the police then cast a critical eye on her clothing. She was covering even her hands and face, but the authorities complained that her abaya cloak wasn’t loose enough to turn her into a black puff that concealed her form. The police detained her for hours until her family bailed her out by paying a $10 fine.
Heba was lucky, for other women have been flogged for violating clothing rules. Her sister saw a woman stoned to death after being accused of adultery.
“If I were wearing this,” Heba told me, pointing down at the tight jeans she was wearing as we spoke, “my head would come off.” She offered a hollow laugh.
I spoke to her after she left her mother and siblings behind in Syria (her father died years ago of natural causes) and fled with a handful of relatives on a perilous journey to Turkey, then on a dangerously overcrowded boat to this Greek island. I took Heba and her relatives to a dinner of pizza — Western food is banned by the Islamic State — and as we walked to the pizzeria she made a game of pointing out all the passers-by who would be decapitated by ISIS for improper dress, consorting with the opposite sex or sundry other offenses.
“It’s a million percent difference,” she exulted of life in the West. “Once you leave that area, you feel so good. Your whole body relaxes.”
Americans are understandably afraid of terrorism after the Paris attacks, and that fear is channeled at Syrian refugees. So pandering politicians portray the refugees as menaces whom the vetting process is unable to screen out, and Americans by nearly two to one oppose President Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrians over a year.
In fact, despite the impressions left by American politicians and by the Islamic State, Syrians are in general more educated and middle class than many other people in the region, and the women more empowered. Heba’s aspirations to be an artist aren’t unusual. [Continue reading…]
A demagogue /ˈdɛməɡɒɡ/ (from French “demagogue”, derived in turn from the Greek “demos” = people/folk and the verb “ago” = carry/manipulate thus “people’s manipulator”) or rabble-rouser is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, fears, prejudices, and ignorance of the lower socioeconomic classes in order to gain power and promote political motives. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness. Demagogues have appeared in democracies since ancient Athens. They exploit a fundamental weakness in democracy: because ultimate power is held by the people, nothing stops the people from giving that power to someone who appeals to the lowest common denominator of a large segment of the population.
Following one of Donald Trump’s latest examples of blatant lying — through a sixfold exaggeration of the likelihood that a white person gets murdered by a black person — Daniel W. Drezner writes: Now we’re at the point in this campaign when Trump’s defense for this — and those of his supporters — will be predictable. Trump was just RTing someone else’s lie, so it’s not really his fault. Trump’s MO on this ever since he’s become a candidate has been a simple five-step plan:
- Say/tweet/retweet outrageous thing;
- Dominate the next news cycle;
- Bully the media that focus on the outrageous statement;
- Backtrack/claim misinterpretation;
- Sustain polling advantage.
Michael Tesler writes: Political commentators have asserted for months that Donald Trump’s dominance of the Republican presidential field is fueled by his anti-immigrant rhetoric. As Thomas Edsall put it:
Donald Trump’s success is no surprise. The public and the press have focused on his defiant rejection of mannerly rhetoric, his putting into words of what others think privately. But the more important truth is that a half-century of Republican policies on race and immigration have made the party the home of an often angry and resentful white constituency — a constituency that is now politically mobilized in the face of demographic upheaval.
This is a very plausible hypothesis, but one with little comprehensive evidence to date. Now, thanks to a collection of survey data from YouGov, we can show how, and how much, voters’ concern about immigration has helped Trump. [Continue reading…]
The Daily Beast reports: It seemed likely that after Donald Trump lied about the residents of Jersey City’s behavior on Sept. 11, 2001 — claiming they cheered the attacks across the river in New York City — Chris Christie, New Jersey’s governor, would be first in line to repudiate him.
That was a naive assumption. It turns out a Republican presidential candidate would sooner slow-dance with Hillary Clinton than criticize the party’s frontrunner in defense of American Muslims.
At a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday, Trump said, “Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down, and I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering!”
This is, of course, incorrect. The New York Times reported that rumors of Muslims cheering in New Jersey were “discounted by police officials at the time.”
Trump then claimed on Sunday on ABC’s This Week that he had seen footage of the thousands of people cheering on TV — but no such footage seems to exist.
A request for comment from Christie, sent at around 10:30 Sunday morning, went ignored all day by his campaign. Which was curious, since the governor’s tough talk against “crazies” fear-mongering about Muslims — never mind his constant talk about the 9/11 attacks throughout the course of his presidential campaign — has been a defining aspect of his governorship.
In 2011, Christie nominated Sohail Mohammed as a Superior Court judge. When rumors began to circulate on the Internet that Mohammed was tied to terrorism and sympathetic to Sharia, Christie came to his aid.
“This Sharia law business is crap,” he said. “It’s just crazy and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post spoke to Jerry Speziale, the police commissioner of Paterson, N.J., for his response to Trump’s claims and he said: “That is totally false. That is patently false. That never happened. There were no flags burning, no one was dancing. That is bullshit.”
Speziale’s statement might not be completely accurate because as Jim Galloway, a journalist at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, noted yesterday: “As the towers came down, some people indeed saw a group of five — not thousands, but five — Middle Eastern men clowning around and photographing themselves in front of the burning towers from the New Jersey waterfront. They weren’t Arabs, and they weren’t Muslims.”
At that time, an FBI bulletin was issued warning law enforcement officers across the New York-New Jersey area to watch for a “vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack”:
White, 2000 Chevrolet van with ‘Urban Moving Systems’ sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.
Twenty-five minutes after the alert had been sent out, the van was stopped by officers with the East Rutherford Police Department who arrested its five occupants who all turned out to be Israelis.
Christopher Ketcham later investigated the story in detail and published his findings in a 2007 report, “What did Israel know in advance of the 9/11 attacks?”
I have reposted that report and an accompanying article, “The Kuala Lumpur deceit.”
Two years ago, Bashar al-Assad said this:
President al-Assad: Terrorism will not stop here, it will export itself through illegal immigration into Europe. pic.twitter.com/iZjHFdw6yV
— Syrian Presidency (@Presidency_Sy) June 17, 2013
Some observers — especially those currently promoting fear of Syrian refugees — might think this was a prescient warning, but what Assad’s tweet actually expressed was the consistency with which he has stayed on message in his contrived “war on terrorism” and the fact that the flow of refugees would undermine the future of Syria.
Throughout the war, Assad has insisted that his adversaries are all “terrorists.” He wants the continuation of his rule to be perceived as a way of insuring that the threat of terrorism does not grow. Yet anyone who believes this propaganda is willfully ignoring the reality that far from combating the expansion of ISIS, Assad essentially provided an incubator in which it could grow. ISIS and Assad have a symbiotic relationship.
At the same time, as Syrians fled Assad’s barrel bombs, taking refuge in neighboring countries, the regime was prescient in this sense: once the regime’s own supporters lost faith in Syria’s future, taking advantage of their greater resources they would likely head for Europe with little likelihood of returning. As the New York Times reported in September, “Now those departing include more middle-class or wealthy people, more supporters of the government, and more residents of areas that were initially safe.”
Thus, even before the westward flow had begun, Assad wanted to sow fear in the minds of those who would likely offer refuge to people the regime can ill afford to lose. And what better way of exploiting European xenophobia than by referring to such fleeing Syrians as “illegal immigrants” — evidence, I might suggest, that Assad has his own Western media advisers.
(It shouldn’t need saying but I’ll say it anyway: Refugee status must never be made contingent on political affiliations. Syrians fleeing the war, deserve help — irrespective of their religion, sect, or ethnicity.)
The U.S. Congress and the GOP have now become megaphones of Islamophobic fear, portraying Syrian refugees as potential terrorists rather than what they really are — victims of tyranny and terrorism.
In conjunction with this deranged hysteria which across the U.S. is twisting perceptions of Syria, the argument that Assad is the “lesser evil” goes from strength to strength.
Just as Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the 9/11 attacks, saying they were “very good” because they would unite the U.S. and Israel and “strengthen the bond between our two peoples,” Assad must have taken satisfaction in the slaughter in Paris, knowing that it would buttress his argument that he, his allies and the West face a common enemy.
Likewise, as The Guardian notes, the attacks strengthen Iran’s position in Syria:
Ali Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, said: “President François Hollande, who cannot count on Washington deploying ground forces in Syria, is now reaching out to Iran and Russia to form an alliance in the fight against Daesh [Isis].
“This in turn legitimises Iran’s military engagement in Syria, which Washington considers as one of the root causes of emergence of Daesh in that country. In that sense, the terrorist attacks in Paris came as manna from heaven for Tehran.”
So many commentators have joined in the chorus that warns against the risk of playing into the hands of ISIS, saying that we must avoid rising to provocation and giving the terrorists what they want, and yet at the same time, with barely any protest and plenty of nods of approval, we now move in the direction of giving Assad exactly what he wants.
Reuters reports: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Thursday likened refugees fleeing violence in Syria to “rabid dogs,” and said that allowing them into the United States would put Americans at risk.
“If there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog,” Carson, a front-runner in some opinion polls, said Thursday at a campaign event in Mobile, Alabama.
“By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly,” the retired neurosurgeon said, criticizing President Barack Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees within a year. [Continue reading…]
Dean Obeidallah writes: “We have no earthly way to know who they are,” exclaimed Republican Congressman Michael Burgess while speaking about the Syrian refugees on MSNBC Monday night. “The FBI doesn’t even have a database.”
But there’s one man who can sort it all out. A special dude from Texas, by way of Canada, who has the ability to decide which refugees are good and which are bad. And that person is Ted Cruz: The Muslim Hunter.
You see, Cruz, as opposed to Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, who oppose any Syrian refugees being admitted into the United States, has a more creative way to deal with this human catastrophe. He’s announced plans to introduce federal legislation to ban the Muslim refugees, but accept the Christian ones.
Why the distinction? Well, the Muslim Hunter tends to believe that any Muslim might be evil. In contrast, he declared that “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Ooops, looks like Cruz never heard of Christian terrorists like Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, the killer of “abortion doctor” George Tiller, Robert Doggart (the Christian minister on trial for plotting terrorist attack to kill Muslims in New York State) the KKK, Timothy McVeigh, etc.
With that aside, Cruz’s plan raises a few questions. For example, how do you accurately determine a refugee’s religion? I would imagine many would be willing to claim they are Christian in order to save their families and start a new life in America.
Have no fear because The Muslim Hunter undoubtedly will come up with some tests to sniff out those stealth Muslims. Maybe the refugees will be required to eat a bacon cheeseburger while drinking Jagermeister. Or perhaps each refugee will be shown a photo of Bill Maher—if they reflexively recoil, it’s no USA for them. Possibly Cruz will employ a subtler test like asking them which way is Mecca? If the refugee quickly points in the right direction, he’s got ’em! [Continue reading…]
CNN reports: Two of the country’s largest and most influential religious groups, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, are urging the United States not to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees after the deadly terrorist attack in Paris last Friday.
“Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS,” Leith Anderson, NAE president, said on Tuesday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has called for a “pause” in the U.S. program accepting Syrian refugees and 27 governors have said they will not welcome them, though they have little legal authority to bar the federal government from settling refugees in their states. [Continue reading…]
Jason Zengerle writes: In a few weeks, when the nuclear deal Barack Obama negotiated with Iran comes before Congress, it’s all but certain that not a single Republican will vote in support of it. With the possible exception of Maine’s Susan Collins, who has yet to reveal her position, each of the 246 Republicans in the House and 53 Republicans in the Senate has indicated his or her opposition to the deal. Not that a mere vote could possibly express the intensity of even that unanimous opposition — or the fervid support for Israel that lies behind it. “It is a fundamental betrayal of the security of the United States and of our closest allies, first and foremost Israel,” Texas senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz has said. Cruz’s 16 Republican-primary opponents have denounced the deal in similar terms. One of them, Mike Huckabee, has gone so far as to argue that Obama “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
American Jews are not hard-liners on Israel. Obama won 69 percent of Jewish voters in 2012, even as American conservatives accused him of purposefully undermining the country’s security and status in the region. Indeed, according to a 2013 Pew study, only one in three American Jews feel a strong emotional attachment to the Jewish state. But over the past 30 years, and especially in the last decade, the GOP’s attachment to Israel has become remarkably fierce, to an extent that is basically unprecedented in modern American politics. On issue after issue — from military aid to settlement policy — the GOP now offers Israel unconditional and unquestioning support, so much so that some Republicans now liken the country to America’s “51st state.” The person most responsible for this development is the multibillionaire casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Republican presidential candidates have banked millions of dollars in donations from a small number of mega-rich individuals and corporations with close ties to the fossil fuel industries that stand to lose the most from the fight against climate change.
Eight out of the 17 GOP figures currently jostling for their party’s presidential nomination have between them attracted a bonanza of at least $62m so far this year from sources either directly involved in polluting industries or with close financial ties to them. Three Republican contenders stand out as recipients of this fossil fuel largesse: the Republican climate change denier-in-chief, Ted Cruz; the party establishment favorite Jeb Bush; and the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry.
The funds have come from just 17 billionaires or businesses that have pumped enormous sums – in one case $15m for a single candidate – into the support groups or Super Pacs that work alongside the official campaigns yet are free to attract unlimited contributions. The $62m forms a substantial chunk of almost $400m that has been given to presidential contenders from both main parties in 2015, raising questions about the leverage that fossil fuel interests might seek to exert over the next occupant of the White House at a critical time for the battle against climate change. [Continue reading…]