Iraq

The Jeb Bush Show (The Iraq Shadow)

Jeb Bush refuses to answer Q about committing troops to Iraq, says he’s not running for president yetAmanda Terkel of Huffington Post:

Jeb Bush refuses to answer Q about committing troops to Iraq, says he’s not running for president yet

Uh huh. That’s right.

This is still going on.

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Terkel, Amanda. “Jeb Bush refuses to answer Q about committing troops to Iraq”. Twitter. 19 May 2015.

The Jeb Bush Show (Cryin’ Tryin’ Shame)

Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush waits for his introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 7 March 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

You know, there’s still time to screw this up even worse.

For those keeping track at home:

On Monday, “If you knew in 2003 what we know now, would you have launched the war in Iraq?” Bush said he would have launched the war anyway.

On Tuesday: “If you knew in 2003 what we know now, would you have launched the war in Iraq?” Bush said he doesn’t know what he would have done.

On Wednesday: “If you knew in 2003 what we know now, would you have launched the war in Iraq?” Bush said he doesn’t even want to answer the question at all, because a response would be a “disservice” to U.S. troops.

And on Thursday: “If you knew in 2003 what we know now, would you have launched the war in Iraq?” Bush said he wouldn’t have launched the war.

(Benen)

After all, the week isn’t over yet.

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Image note: Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush awaits introduction at the Iowa Agriculture Summit in Des Moines, Iowa, 7 March, 2015. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “Fourth time’s the charm?” msnbc. 14 May 2015.

Iran and the Obvious Question

In this picture released by an official website at the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sits under a portrait fo the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini prior to his speech in a meeting with Iranian ambassadors in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.  Khamenei on Wednesday dismissed the value of direct talks with the U.S., his first comments touching on meetings that officials from the Islamic Republic had with Americans dating back to secret talks that began in 2012.  (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

There is, of course, much going on with the P5+1 that really doesn’t have anything to do with the #GOP47 except for their determination to meddle and even tank the deal. That said, the larger American discourse can be a bit thin on details.

I think a realignment is happening in Iranian politics. The 2000s were a period of right wing populism under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Khamenei had his hands burned by the Ahmadinejad faction of hard line populists. They provoked all that trouble in 2009, and mismanaged the economy with massive subsidies. By 2012 Khamenei was openly slapping Ahmadinejad down. Then the US kicked Iran off the bank exchanges and took Iran oil exports down from 2.5 mn b/d to 1.5 mn b/d. Since prices were high, it didn’t hurt the regime that much, but must have been concerning given what was done to Mosaddegh in 1953, when similar int’l oil sanctions prepared the way for a CIA coup.

Khamenei hates the reform camp but seems to have realized that he can’t count on simply being able to crush them. He can, in contrast, live with a centrist like Rouhani. Domestically, Rouhani is his way of deflecting what’s left of the Green Movement (which really shook Khamenei, perhaps even moreso after Mubarak et al were toppled by the Arab youth 18 months later). Internationally, Rouhani holds out the possibility of escaping the severe sanctions but keeping the nuclear energy program, which is Khamenei’s baby and which he sees as a guarantee that Iran can’t be held hostage by the international energy markets and great powers. But deploying Rouhani means slapping down Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) hard liners, which he did in February.

Hard liners are jumping up and down mad about what Rouhani & Zarif are alleged to have given away to the West, and my suspicion is that Khamenei’s demand for immediate end of sanctions is a way of tossing them a bone for the moment. If you read the whole speech he comes back and is still supportive of the process at the end, saying he is not for or against the deal since there really is no deal yet, just a framework agreement for negotiating the deal. But then that means he did not, contrary to the headlines, come out against the deal today.

(Cole)

In those brief paragraphs, Juan Cole gives basic questions about the Iranian perspective more consideration than most Americans would think to give. To the other, one such analysis is hardly definitive.

Still, though, the problem facing the American discourse is that so few acknowledge Iran’s reasons for distrusting our government, and there is also a larger question about the implications of what we have done. Jon Schwarz offers a look into some of the―well, this is the part where we are supposed to say “complicated”, but that really is a way of euphemizing―insidious history of how the United States and other Western nations have gotten along with Iran over the years.

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The Warmongers’ Drum Circle

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.  (Photo: Dennis Cook/AP)

With so many complaints about President Obama and foreign policy, we might take a moment to consider what Matt Yglesias describes as “perhaps the greatest memo ever written”. And it seems true enough that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “asked Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith to solve all the problems”.

April 7, 2003 11:46 AM

TO: Doug Feith

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

SUBJECT: Issues w/Various Countries

We need more coercive diplomacy with respect to Syria and Libya, and we need it fast. If they mess up Iraq, it will delay bringing our troops home.

We also need to solve the Pakistan problem.

And Korea doesn’t seem to be going well.

Are you coming up with proposals for me to send around?

Memorandum from Donald Rumsfeld to Doug Feith, 7 April 2003Thanks.

DHR:dh

040703-26

Please respond by_____________________

And, yes, it is in fact a real memo.

Sometimes it pays to listen to the criticism, and actually consider whence it comes and what it looks toward. And as Congressional Republicans aim to wreck American foreign policy in order to restart the New American Century, this is the sort of competence they are hoping to achieve. You know, while sending troops to war in Iran.

And with Sen. Schumer (D-NY) ascending, it turns out the GOP might have enough support to pull this off; there are several centrist Democrats who seem to really, really want a war, as well.

Apparently, peace is too scary a prospect.

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Yglesias, Matthew. “12 years ago today, Donald Rumsfeld sent the greatest memo of all time”. Vox. 7 April 2015.

Rumsfeld, Donald. “Issues w/Various Countries”. 7 April 2003.

Strobel, Warren. “Republicans push demand for a vote on Iran nuclear deal”. Reuters. 5 April 2015.

A Reminder: There’s a War On

Barack Obama

Damn it.

Okay, look, it’s a standard local Republican comedy of the macabre: State senator posts stupid, racist meme on Facebook, deletes it, apologizes, acknowledges “error in judgment”.

Steve Mistler offers the detail for the Portland Press Herald:

State Sen. Michael Willette apologized Monday for sharing a Facebook post criticizing President Obama’s handling of the terrorist group ISIS and suggesting that its members are family members of the president.

Maine State Sen. Michael Willette (R-Presque Isle).Willette, a Republican from Presque Isle, posted a photo from Conservative News Daily that depicted Obama with the caption, “Why haven’t I done anything about ISIS? Because I’ll deal with them at the family reunion.” The post is designed to be humorous, but stokes long-harbored suspicions among some conservatives that the president is a Muslim extremist and not born in America. It also implies that the president and his family are kin with the same terrorist organizations known for beheading foreign aid workers and journalists ....

.... When asked to explain the rationale for the post, Willette issued a written statement in which he apologized for sharing the photo publicly. However, he did not apologize for the message the post conveyed.

“I apologize for posting this on Facebook. Like too many people these days, I fell into the trap of posting something first and then thinking later. It was an error in judgment,” he said.

Sounds about right. No, really, how outraged are we going to get this time?

Because, you know, what’s all this about not doing anything about Daa’ish?

There’s a war on, after all, or hadn’t you heard?

Twenty-two hundred airstrikes? Over 2,800 personnel in the theatre?

Oh, right: It’s not a big enough war.

No, seriously, what’s all this about not doing anything?

Syria? Iraq? Iran? Just how big a war are Republicans after?

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Mistler, Steve. “Maine state Senator apologizes for Facebook post saying Obama’s family tied to ISIS”. Portland Press Herald. 9 March 2015.

Bibi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu salutes an AIPAC policy conference in March, 2012.  (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Ouch.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran, calling it as wrongheaded as the prime minister’s backing of the Iraq War.

“Israel is safer today with the added time we have given and the stoppage of the advances in the nuclear program than they were before we got that agreement, which by the way the prime minister opposed,” Kerry said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “He was wrong” ....

.... “The prime minister was profoundly forward-leaning and outspoken about the importance of invading Iraq under George W. Bush,” Kerry replied. “We all know what happened with that decision.”

(Thompson)

No, I mean, like, really. Ouch.

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Image note: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu salutes an AIPAC policy conference in March, 2012. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Thompson, Catherine. “Kerry Blasts Netanyahu: He’s ‘Wrong’ On Iran Deal Like He Was On Iraq War”. Talking Points Memo. 25 February 2015.

Another Beltway Day

Barack Obama

I wonder if this would have been yesterday’s Lede of the Day had I noticed at the time:

President Barack Obama should be asking for more power to wage war against Islamic State extremists, some Republicans on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs committee said.

If Kathleen Miller’s lede for Bloomberg seems strange, well, you wouldn’t be the only one to think so. To the other, though, remember, this is war, and this is President Obama, so naturally Republicans would object that he isn’t asking to kill enough people. Besides, the GOP has a plethora of reasons―current potential candidate field notwithstanding―to think maybe 2016 will be their year. And, well, you know, since they expect one of theirs to take the White House before this AUMF expires, they want to make sure the next Republican president has as much legal backing as possible in order to kill as many nonwhites around the world as possible.

Plenty will note that the GOP has apparently rolled on executive authority, but these are Republicans, and this is war, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised.

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Miller, Kathleen. “For Once Obama Should Have More Power, House Republicans Say”. Bloomberg. 12 February 2015.

Benen, Steve. “GOP flips the script, endorses executive overreach”. msnbc. 13 February 2015.

A Modicum of Derisive Laughter

Detail of 'Tom the Dancing Bug' by Ruben Bolling, 12 February 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.All I’m gonna say is that Cartoon Brian Williams has a point.

Detail of Tom the Dancing Bug, by Ruben Bolling, 12 February 2015; via Daily Kos Comics.

Your Congress at War … With Itself … Again

Detail: Morning rises over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., 11 March 2014.  Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

The setup: Remember how Republicans used to denounce President Obama as a “king” and lamented his unprecedented executive power?

Can we try laying on thick? Remember how Republicans and Democrats alike handed President Bush what essentially amounted to perpetual war powers?

Now, remember: President Obama is currently operating in the Iraqi-Syrian theatre, against Daa’ish, under authority granted by the Authorization for Use of Military Force granted President Bush in 2001 to fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and, apparently, everyone else in Iraq.

We might also remember some back and forth in there about the fact that it is Congress who grants war powers to the president, yet it was also Congress who wanted President Obama to march down to Capitol Hill with a plan that satisfies their desire to send our troops to war.

So President Obama did just that. Well, at least, the marching down with a plan part.

And of course, Republicans are upset that he did so.

Steve Benen tries to explain an emerging, familiar theme―

In terms of the politics of the AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force), the president’s language was not well received on Capitol Hill – many Democrats said the resolution, as written, is too broad and includes too few restrictions, while most Republicans said it’s too narrow and includes too many restrictions. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), demonstrating his trademark wit, called the proposed language “utterly stupid.”

The dynamic has annoying familiarity to it:

1. Congress demanded to President Obama, “Send us a resolution!”

2. President Obama responded, “Fine, here’s proposed language.”

3. Congress then declared, “We don’t like this resolution!”

Perhaps now would be a good time to remind lawmakers that they could have – at some point over the last six months – worked on writing their own language to consider. Perhaps “legislators writing legislative language” would have been too obvious.

―except this time there is a twist:

… pay particular attention to the detail about Obama putting an expiration date on the resolution – something that didn’t happen in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

As near as anyone can tell, Republicans appear to be upset that the war powers request is mission-specific and has an expiration date requiring renewal after three years. Benen points to his msnbc colleague David Taintor:

Former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, who is eyeing a White House bid in 2016, criticized Obama’s resolution as too limited.

“All options need to be on the table in combating this Radical Islamic threat,” Santorum said in a statement distributed by his Patriot Voices PAC. “We need to take the fight to our enemy without the constraints this Administration is proactively placing upon itself and this President’s successor. The next President needs to be able to have all the tools at their disposal to not just conduct military operations, but win this war.”

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is also considering a White House bid, said Obama’s war proposal need only be one sentence. “I would say there is a pretty simple authorization he could ask for, and it would read one sentence. And that is: ‘We authorize the President to defeat and destroy ISIL, period.’ And that’s, I think, what we need to do,” Rubio said Wednesday in a speech on the Senate floor.

Those who preach that there is no difference between the parties should take a moment to explain this one: Democrats are concerned that the AUMF request is too vague and will license widespread warfare. Republicans are upset that the AUMF fails to demand either widespread or perpetual warfare.

No difference at all, there, eh?

Here we go. Iiiiiiiiiiit’s wartiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!

(Those who might remind as we did above that our troops are already engaged in this war might also wish to take a note; previously, the U.S. was merely fighting this war, and now we are preparing to officially commit to it. And given that our response to 9/11 and its connections to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen was to invade Iraq, one wonders if maybe Republicans might actually be hoping for another petition to perpetual warfare. After all, in matters of war and peace, or life and death, it’s important to keep the really important things in mind, like posturing for the 2016 election. No, seriously, just think about what’s happening; a president with a Nobel Peace Prize is asking to go to war and Republicans are pitching a fit because it’s not a big enough war.)

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Benen, Steve. “Congress balks at war resolution it didn’t want to write”. msnbc. 12 February 2015.

Taintor, David. “Obama asks for new war powers: ISIS is ‘going to lose'”. msnbc. 11 February 2015.

The Headline

The weird thing about feelgood headlines is that they often require us to feel good about someone else’s suffering. To wit, Washington Post wants us to know that “The Islamic State is failing at being a state”.

It used to be that when we taught young Americans to read, the critical thinking skills required to distill such information for oneself was intended to be part of the instruction. Perhaps it is arguable that people need the news so distilled these days, but nothing about such a notion should be comforting.

Still, though, it is a grim picture Liz Sly paints for WaPo:

Map showing approximate extent of Daa'ish authority in Iraq and Syria; via Washington Post, 25 December 2014.The Islamic State’s vaunted exercise in state-building appears to be crumbling as living conditions deteriorate across the territories under its control, exposing the shortcomings of a group that devotes most of its energies to fighting battles and enforcing strict rules.

Services are collapsing, prices are soaring, and medicines are scarce in towns and cities across the “caliphate” proclaimed in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State, residents say, belying the group’s boasts that it is delivering a model form of governance for Muslims.

Slick Islamic State videos depicting functioning government offices and the distribution of aid do not match the reality of growing deprivation and disorganized, erratic leadership, the residents say. A trumpeted Islamic State currency has not materialized, nor have the passports the group promised. Schools barely function, doctors are few, and disease is on the rise.

In the Iraqi city of Mosul, the water has become undrinkable because supplies of chlorine have dried up, said a journalist living there, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his safety. Hepatitis is spreading, and flour is becoming scarce, he said. “Life in the city is nearly dead, and it is as though we are living in a giant prison,” he said.

Basic Freudianism prescribes the idea that many enter certain professions, or undertake particular endeavors, as a way of sublimating otherwise unacceptable influences. Some doctors, by that outlook, become surgeons simply because they like to cut; and while this seems an utterly simplistic notion we might also try it as a springboard, because it is also clear that there exists a societal question about doctors who “play god”, which would probably be a more common sublimation than the need to slice and dice one’s fellow human being. The boxer? That part is obvious; by basic Freudianism many pugilists just like being in fights, and this is one acceptable way to spend one’s life doing just that. The police officer? Indeed, Americans are grappling with related questions in recent months, but comparatively what is happening in the Middle East is a naked, exponential caricature of any question we might ask about our own governance.

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