Iraq

Unsurprising Cowardice (Leadership)

The shadow over Congress, and Mitch McConnell.

In February, Republicans said no to an Authorization for Use of Military Force specifically crafted to address Daa’ish because it wasn’t a big enough war. And while Republican presidential candidates might be lining up to take it out on Syrian refugees and Muslims both at home and around the world, the one thing they won’t do, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is grant an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Daa’ish.

“The president obviously feels he has the authority now to do what he’s doing,” McConnell said. “And the discussions with Democrats on AUMF make it clear that the only kind of AUMF they would support is one that would include such micromanagement of the military exercise as how many troops you could have, how long they could stay, and all of this.

“I would not want to saddle the next president with a prescriptive AUMF. We’re going to have a new president a year from now,” McConnell continued. “He or she may have a different view about the way to deal with ISIS and that part of the world. I don’t think we ought to be passing an AUMF as the president exits the stage when he already thinks he has the authority to do what he’s willing to do now.”

(Lesniewski)

This is a weird back and forth; as near as anyone can tell, the Obama administration is operating in the Levantine Theatre under the auspices of the same post-9/11 AUMF that saw President Bush invade Iraq. We are, essentially, living in the time of perpetual warfare authorized fourteen years ago.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Aid and Comfort)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015. (AP Photo)

“George W. Bush said America was at war with an ideology that had ‘hijacked Islam’ in the same way Nazism had hijacked Germany or communism had hijacked Russia. Barack Obama has argued that even this assessment gives violent jihadists a stature they don’t deserve. Rubio, by contrast, is going far beyond Bush. And he’s doing exactly what the Islamic State wants: He’s equating ISIS with Islam itself.”

Peter Beinart

There really is nothing like giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Or, rather, this is how you run for president in 2016 if you are a Republican.

Peter Beinart of The Atlantic dissects the Florida junior’s remarks regarding the Paris terror, a case study in getting everything wrong while running for president.

One would think the general threat Daa’ish presents against humanity would suffice, but for Republicans that isn’t good enough. In February, Congressional Republicans refused a specific authorization for use of military force against Daa’ish because it wouldn’t have been a big enough war for their satisfaction. Meanwhile, Sen. Rubio, whose campaign slogan is itself a war cry, has shown himself something of a dim bulb in questions of foreign policy. Steve Benen notes, “the Republican field is dominated by candidates with no meaningful experience in or understanding of foreign affairs”, and at some point along the way this ought to become a relevant consideration. Whether it means anything to Republican voters at present remains to be seen; whether it means anything when voting starts is an unresolved question. Still, though, the seeming now-more-than-everism among warmongering Republicans is a bit unsettling; if they intend to keep it up through the general, we might also hope they will at some point find a clue. Otherwise, it is all noise and fury, and not even a spark of useful thought.

Something goes here about the soft bigotry of low expectations, and the devastating toll it can incur.

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Image note: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015. (AP Photo)

Beinart, Peter. “​ISIS Is Not Waging a War Against Western Civilization”. The Atlantic. 15 November 2015.

Benen, Steve. “GOP offers a lesson on how not to respond to terrorism”. msnbc. 16 November 2015.

The Depth of Sickness

Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, August 14, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)

That we do not dispute this or, really, any other aspect of David Frankfurter’s analysis only adds to our horror:

The social context may be just as important for understanding this new policy of sexual enslavement. One thing learned from the study of the small religious movements that have sprung up in the West over the past few centuries is the systematic restructuring of sexual relations that leaders have often demanded at an early point in the movement. This may involve group celibacy or polygamy, the exclusive sexual rights of the leader, or free sexual relations. It can often mean dissolution of prior marriages.

From the Jewish Frankists to the Mormons, the Shakers, the Branch Davidians and others, there is a pattern of inverting or eliminating prior sexual and emotional bonds to establish a new order, administered through the leader and his acolytes at the most intimate level.

This could easily apply to Islamic State’s sexual enslavement policies. The group is declaring its own institutional domination over both the bodies of women it has captured and the sexual gratification of its recruits — as an explicit feature of its new religious utopia.

This is why.

The thing is that this isn’t just Daa’ish or Boko Haram; they are just particularly ugly, heavily-armed manifestations of a terrifying proposition―deliberate conditioning of females for sexual abuse. I wonder if they would put down their rifles in exchange for a reality television show: 3,000 Slaves and Counting.

Unfortunately, that’s not simply a crass joke.

Neither is the common bond between Western purity cult and Daa’ish; assertions of moral and, in some aspects literal, ownership of females is not some random phenomenon that happened within the Daa’ish experience, but, rather, a driving purpose of patriarchal societies. In the end, it is very possibly the reason why.

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Image note: Women and children from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, August 14, 2014. (Photo: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal)

Frankfurter, David. “The true motives behind Islamic State’s use of sexual slavery”. Reuters. 8 September 2015.

The Marco Rubio Show (Fadeout)

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) listens to a question at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, 13 May 2015. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

One of the interesting things about the Trumpapalooza going on in the GOP nomination contest has to do with the cover lesser candidates are getting. Then again, this is the GOP nomination contest, so taking cover from seemingly inevitable flak has its drawbacks; rhetorical martyrdom is the way to score points with the conservative base, so perhaps Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was hoping for louder criticism:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio sounded the alarm about the state of U.S. armed forces in a foreign-policy speech today. But his claims and campaign promises don’t account for the impact of improvements in U.S. military technology or in some cases their production schedule.

Rubio, a Florida senator, said the U.S. Navy is “now smaller than at any time since before World War I” and the Air Force “has the smallest and oldest combat force in its history.”

Yet the numbers of ships and planes don’t define U.S. military capabilities.

Mike Dorning and John Walcott of Bloomberg Politics consider the issue, and let us simply pause for a moment to appreciate the magnitude of Mr. Rubio’s utter stupidity.

When Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made the same argument — that the U.S. Navy is smaller than at any time since 1917 — during a 2012 campaign debate, President Barack Obama responded with a mocking rejoinder.

“We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” Obama said. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

Yes, really. Mr. Rubio hoped to get attention by recycling a damaging argumentative failure from Mitt Romney’s disastrous 2012 presidential campaign.

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The Jeb Bush Show (Berlin Blitz)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) is 'seriously considering' running for president, according to his nephew, George P. Bush.

“Having Jeb Bush come to Berlin to argue on behalf of US foreign policy in Europe is a bit like sending Edward Snowden to give a speech on NSA reform to the Republican National Committee.”

Max Fisher

If that version doesn’t work well for you, well, it’s the sort of simile one works and polishes. Max Fisher of Vox also tried the joke on Twitter.

It’s a tough joke. That’s the thing. Or maybe the Serious Clown is just not conducive to cheap, overwrought punch lines.

More substantially, Fisher notes:

Bush has come up in nearly every conversation I’ve had here since arriving, and always with a warning: that skepticism of the US is already high here, that the German public’s support of tough policies toward Russia is tenuous, and that the mere sight of a Bush makes Germans want to run in the opposite direction of US foreign policy.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Flying Spaghetti Something)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, heads to the Senate floor for a vote on July 9, 2014. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

This is a stupid joke: I almost thought Mr. Rubio was an atheist until the flying spaghetti hit the wall.

What? I said it was stupid, but when it comes to rhetorical innovation, randomly sticking clauses together with no regard for their functional compatibility is also pretty damn stupid.

Ladies and gentlemen, Marco Rubio.

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Walker, Hunter. “Marco Rubio just made another confusing comment about his Middle East policy”. Business Insider. 4 June 2015.

Madness for a New American Century

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015.  (AP Photo)

Trevor Timm for The Guardian:

The New York Times detailed many of the Republican candidates’ nebulous “criticisms” of the Obama administration, most of which assume a fantasy world in which Obama is not sending the US military to fight Isis at all, even though he’s authorized thousands of airstrikes per month in both Iraq and Syria. Most of the candidates, while competing with each other over who can sound more “muscular” and “tough”, are too cowardly to overtly call for what they likely actually want: another ground war in the Middle East involving tens of thousands of US troops.Project for the New American Century

The vague, bullshitt-y statements made by Republican candidates would be hilarious if it wasn’t possible that they’ll lead to more American soldiers dying in the coming years. “Restrain them, tighten the noose, and then taking them out is the strategy” is Jeb Bush’s hot take on Isis. Thanks, Jeb – I can’t believe the Obama administration hasn’t thought of that! Marco Rubio’s “solution” is even more embarrassing: according to The Times, he responded to a question about what he would do differently – and this is real – by quoting from the movie Taken: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Rubio has also called for “strategic overhaul”, but his radical plan seems to be virtually indistinguishable from what the Obama administration is actually doing – yet another sign that Republicans tend to live in a fantasy land where Obama is an anti-war president rather than someone who has bombed more countries than his Republican predecessor. (That is not a compliment, by the way.)

This is one of those things where we won’t be able to say we weren’t warned. Consider that Mr. Rubio’s campaign slogan is “A New American Century”.

Just think about that for a moment.

They really are promising us a war.

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Image Note: Top ― Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announces his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on 13 April 2015. (AP Photo) Right ― Logo of the Project for the New American Century.

Timm, Trevor. “Republicans’ ‘plans’ for Isis would drag us into Iraq for another ground war”. The Guardian. 27 May 2015.

SourceWatch. “Project for the New American Century”. 19 February 2012.

The Jeb Bush Show (Anticlimatic)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush waits backstage before speaking at the Iowa Agriculture Summit, March 7, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

“The climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it even.”

Jeb Bush

Could someone remind me again, just why did we think Jeb Bush would be the “serious” candidate?

The Washington Post account of a New Hampshire fundraiser really does make the former Florida governor sound petulant:

The issue of climate change came up as the host of the house party asked Bush to comment on a speech given Wednesday by President Obama, who said that climate change is a “serious threat” to national security.

“Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security,” Obama told Coast Guard graduates in their dress white uniforms at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, “and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act— and we need to act now.”

In response, Bush said that climate change should be just “part of, a small part of prioritization of our foreign policy.” He suggested that the United States should encourage countries that have higher carbon emissions rates to reduce them.

But, he added, “We’ve had a pretty significant decrease and we’ll continue on, not because of Barack Obama, but because of the energy revolution.” He credited hydraulic fracking, horizontal drilling and an increased use of natural gas for helping cut American carbon emissions.

Just a hint for the Most Serious Clown in the Car: Pulling it out of the ground has nothing to do with reducing the exhaust.

Kind of like the whole Underpants Gnomes thing:

Step One: Get more oil and natural gas out of the ground.

Step Two: [???]

Step Three: Reduce carbon emissions.

And that’s what we get from the (ahem!) “serious” clown.

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The Point of the Day (Dissonance)

President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, in this May 1, 2003 file photo. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Steve Benen gets our nod for the Point of the Day:

When Republicans aren’t blaming intelligence agencies for what transpired in 2003, they’re blaming President Obama – the one who was right about Iraq from the start – for the war they apparently find tough to defend.

Reality paints a very different picture. Bush/Cheney lied the nation into a disastrous war, mismanaged it in every way possible, strengthened U.S. foes, and destabilized the entire region. All of this transpired, of course, before Obama even launched his national campaign. Indeed, the catastrophe began unfolding when Obama was still a state senator.

The crux of the bizarre talking point is that the Democratic president withdrew U.S. forces in Iraq, consistent with the Status of Forces Agreement reached between the two countries. And which bleeding-heart pacifist thought it’d be a good idea to endorse this withdrawal plan? That would be George W. Bush, who negotiated the SOFA in 2008.

But there’s no reason to accept the premise – the Status of Forces Agreement was not responsible for creating a disaster in Iraq. Invading the country in the first place created a disaster in Iraq.

We might also take a moment to note a point about sources; Mr. Benen might be an msnbc producer and blogger, but set that aside for a moment and tell me he’s wrong.

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Gohmertology

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, joins House Republicans to speak during a news conference in opposition to the Supreme Court's Defense of Marrriage Act (DOMA) decision on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The note at the outset: This is Louie Gohmert we’re talking about.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Tuesday said that former President George W. Bush (R) may have gone about the Iraq invasion differently if he had known he would be succeeded in the White House by President Obama.

“Everybody else wants to ask that question about, ‘Gee, would you have gone into Iraq, you know, knowing what you know now?’ And I think if President Bush had known that he would have a total incompetent follow him — that would not even be able to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, that would start helping our enemies and just totally put the Middle East in chaos — then he would have to think twice about doing anything if he had known he would have such a total incompetent leader take over after him. That should be the question,” Gohmert said in an interview with radio host John Fredericks, according to an audio clip highlighted by Right Wing Watch.

(MacNeal)

Those who remember the old Doonesbury joke about “future presidents” can try out their best fourth-frame smile; this is what it comes to. Nonetheless, we should recognize that the distinguished gentleman from Texas’ First Congressional District, Mr. Gohmert, is at the very least a team player.

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