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A Great Day: Obama Ends The War In Iraq

This afternoon President Obama announced that at the end of this year, America will withdraw all  U.S. forces from Iraq.

Obama began his campaign for president by forcefully, clearly promising to end that war.  This afternoon he delivered on that promise.

The timing of his announcement could not have been more symbolically powerful. It comes just a day after the successful conclusion of the operation in Libya — an operation that stands in stark contrast to the disastrous War in Iraq.

The War in Iraq was the product of “bull in the china closet” Neo-Con unilateralism.  The war cost a trillion dollars.  Nobel prize-winning economist George Stieglitz estimates that after all of the indirect costs to our economy are in — including the care of the over 33,000 wounded and disabled — its ultimate cost to the American economy will be three times that.

It has cost 4,600 American lives, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.  It created millions of refugees — both inside Iraq and those who fled to other countries.

The war decimated America’s reputation in the world and legitimated al Qaeda’s narrative that the West was involved in a new Crusade to take over Muslim lands.  Images of Abu Ghraib created a powerful recruiting poster for terrorists around the world.

The War stretched America’s military power and weakened our ability to respond to potential threats.  It diverted resources from the War in Afghanistan. It empowered Iran.

The War in Iraq not only destroyed America’s reputation, but also American credibility.  Who can forget the embarrassing image of General Colin Powell testifying before the United Nations Security Council that the U.S. had incontrovertible evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction?

Contrast that to yesterday’s conclusion of the successful operation in Libya. That operation is emblematic of an entirely different approach.

Since he took office, Obama has fundamentally reshaped American foreign policy.  In place of “bull in the china closet” unilateralism he has initiated a cooperative, multilateral approach to the rest of the world.   The fruits of that approach are obvious in the Libyan operation where:

  • The Libyans themselves overthrew a dictator;
  • America spent a billion dollars — not a trillion dollars, as we have in Iraq;
  • America did not lose one soldier in Libya;
  • We accomplished our mission after eight months, not eight years;
  • Most importantly, America worked cooperatively with our European allies, the Arab League and the Libyan people to achieve a more democratic Middle East.

Obama’s policy toward the Middle East is aimed at helping to empower everyday people in the Muslim world — it is a policy built on respect, not Neo-Con fantasies of imperial power.  And it works.

Last month, I spent several weeks in Europe and met with a number of people from our State Department and other foreign policy experts from Europe, the Middle East and the United States.   Everyone tells the same story.  Since President Obama took office, support for the United States and its policies has massively increased throughout Europe and much of the world.

The BBC conducts a major poll of world public opinion.  In March of this year it released its latest report.

Views of the U.S. continued their overall improvement in 2011, according to the annual BBC World Service Country Rating Poll of 27 countries around the world.

Of the countries surveyed, 18 hold predominantly positive views of the U.S., seven hold negative views and two are divided. On average, 49 percent of people have positive views of U.S. influence in the world — up four points from 2010 — and 31 per cent hold negative views. The poll, conducted by GlobeScan/PIPA, asked a total of 28,619 people to rate the influence in the world of 16 major nations, plus the European Union.

In 2007 a slight majority (54%) had a negative view of the United States and only close to three in ten (28%) had a positive view….

In other words, positive opinion of the U.S. had increased by 21% since 2007 – it has almost doubled.

Obama understands that in an increasingly democratic world, the opinions of our fellow human beings matter.  They affect America’s ability to achieve America’s goals.

And Obama understands that it matters that young people in the Middle East, who are struggling to create meaningful lives, think of America as a leader they respect, rather than as a power with imperial designs on their land and their lives.

But, at the same time, there is no question that President Obama is not afraid to act — to take risks to advance American interests.  The operation that got Bin Laden was a bold move.  It was very well planned — but not without risks.

Obama is a leader who makes cold, hard calculations about how to achieve his goals.  He plans carefully and then doesn’t hesitate to act decisively.  And as it turns out, he usually succeeds. Ask Bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Gaddafi.

Obama received a good deal of criticism from the Republicans for his operation in Libya.  But by taking action, he first prevented Benghazi from becoming another Rwanda — and then supported a movement that ended the reign of a tyrant who had dominated the Libyan people for 42 years and had personally ordered the destruction of an American airliner.

For the vast number of Americas who ultimately opposed the War in Iraq, today should be at day of celebration.  And it is a day of vindication for the courageous public officials who opposed the war from the start.  That includes the 60% of House Democrats who voted against the resolution to support Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

It is also a day when someone ought to have the decency to tell the Republican chorus of Obama foreign policy critics that it’s time to stop embarrassing themselves.

From the first day of the Obama Presidency, former Vice President Dick Cheney has accused President Obama of “dithering” — “afraid to make a decision” — of “endangering American security.”

Even after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, Senator Lindsey Graham criticized the president for “leading from behind.”

You’d think that a guy who two years ago traveled to Libya to meet and make nice with Gaddafi would want to keep a low profile, now that the revolution Obama supported there has been successful at toppling this dictator who ordered the downing of American airliner.

Well, as least Graham isn’t saddled with having tweeted fawningly like his fellow traveler, John McCain, who upon visiting Gaddafi wrote: “Late evening with Col. Qadhafi at his “ranch” in Libya — interesting meeting with an interesting man.”

Let’s face it, with the death of Gaddafi, the knee-jerk Republican critics of his Libya policy basically look like fools.

Mitt Romney in the early months of the effort: “It is apparent that our military is engaged in much more than enforcing a no-fly zone. What we are watching in real time is another example of mission creep and mission muddle.”

Republican Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann: “President Obama’s policy of leading from behind is an outrage and people should be outraged at the foolishness of the President’s decision” and also asking “what in the world are we doing in Libya if we don’t know what our military goal is?”

Of course, the very idea that Dick Cheney is given any credibility at all by the media is really outrageous.

Here is a guy who made some of the most disastrous foreign policy mistakes in American history. He has the gall to criticize Obama’s clear foreign policy successes? Those successes allowed America to recover much stature and power in the world that were squandered by Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. Someone needs to ask, what is anyone thinking who takes this guy the least bit seriously?

Someone needs to remind him and his Neo-con friends that:

  • The worst attack on American soil took place on their watch;
  • They failed to stop Osama bin Laden;
  • They began two massive land wars in the Middle East that have drained massive sums from our economy, killed thousands of Americans and wounded tens of thousands of others;
  • They underfunded an effort in Afghanistan so they could begin their War in Iraq that had nothing whatsoever to do with the terrorist threat from Al Qaeda;
  • They brought U.S. credibility in the world to a new low by lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, violating our core human rights principles and acting unilaterally without any concern for the opinions or needs of other nations;
  • Through their War in Iraq they legitimated Al Qaeda’s narrative that the United States was waging a crusade to take over Muslim lands – and with their policies at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, they created recruiting posters for Al Qaeda that did enormous harm to American security;
  • Through their recklessness and incompetence they stretched American military resources and weakened our ability to respond to crises;
  • When they left office, American credibility and our support in the world had fallen to new lows.

Republicans in Congress supported all of this like robots.

With a record like this, you’d think they would want to slink off into a closet and hope that people just forget.

But Americans won’t forget.  History won’t forget.

And generations from now, Americans will thank Barack Obama for restoring American leadership — for once again making our country a leader in the struggle to create a world where war is a relic of the past and everyone on our small planet can aspire to a future full of possibility and hope.

By: Robert Creamer, Huffington Post, October 21, 2011

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Elections, GOP, Human Rights, Ideologues, Lindsey Graham, Media, Military Intervention, Public Opinion, Right Wing, Teaparty, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What To Love About The Republican Presidential Debates

“I disagree in some respects with Congressman Paul, who says the country is founded on the individual. The basic  building block of a society is not an individual. It’s the family. That’s the  basic unit of society.” Former Sen. Rick  Santorum, at Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas.

“Well, I would like to explain that rights don’t come in bunches. Rights come as individuals, they come from a God, and they come as each individual has a right to life and liberty.” Rep. Ron Paul, in reply to Santorum.

Many observers of these primary debates find them pointlessly repetitive; they can’t wait until the field is winnowed to one or two viable contenders.

For my money, I’m glad for this period of wide-open, freewheeling, occasionally ridiculous discourse. Sure, you have to wade through the vacuous nonsense of Rep. Michele Bachmann (“Hold on, moms   out there!”); the vainglorious opportunism of former Rep. Newt Gingrich (yeah, I supported an individual mandate—but it was in opposition to  Hillarycare!); the charming ignorance of Herman Cain; the slimy evasiveness of former Gov. Mitt Romney; the deer-in-headlights ineptitude of Gov. Rick Perry.

But then you get a gem such as the above exchange between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

It gets right to the heart of the  matter—to the eternally unresolved tensions within conservatism.

In many ways, Representative Paul has been an indispensable voice in these debates. As Ross Douthat notes, he’s the only candidate who answers each question with “perfect unblinking honesty.”

I love it when he skewers bedrock Republican assumptions about terror suspects (“You haven’t convicted them of  anything!”), the bloated Pentagon budget (“You can’t cut a penny?”), and even the lately dominant and tiresome “class warfare” trope (“A lot of people aren’t paying any taxes, and I like that.”).

As refreshingly iconoclastic as he can be, though, Paul is the archetype of the kind of rightist I like least—the arid rationalist. He’s what poet-historian Peter Viereck called “the  unadjusted man” or an “apriorist.” He’s filled with tidy abstractions about how the world works. He’s perfectly secure in his convictions and, like every ideologue, he will backfill every hole that the real world presents to those convictions.

Viereck identified this mentality precisely for what it is—radical:

Old Guard doctrinaires of Adam Smith apriorism, though dressed up in their Sunday best (like any Jacobin gone smug and  successful), are applying the same arbitrary, violent wrench, the same  discontinuity with the living past, the same spirit of  rootless abstractions that characterized the French Revolution.

Santorum, virtually alone in the Republican field, gives full-throated voice to the notion of a “living past”—of individuals  situated in and nourished by families and communities, by  Burke’s  “little platoons.” But then Santorum engages in some apriorism of his own. Glimpsing the possible disquiet within his own worldview, he rejects the idea that the United States was founded on individual  rights (clearly it was)  and says “the family” is the “basic unit of  society” (clearly it is). It’s “the  courts” and “government” that are burdening the family—no one or nothing else. He brushes his hands and continues merrily on his way.

The guy seems intrinsically incapable of even entertaining notions outside of the box of stale fusionist conservatism. The late  Burkean conservative Robert Nisbet, who, in The  Quest for Community, saw  the “centralized territorial state” and industrial capitalism working in tandem to create “atomized masses of insecure  individuals,” is there waiting for someone with Santorum’s sound and humane instincts:

In the history of modern capitalism we can see essentially the same diminution of communal conceptions of effort and the same tendency toward the release of increasing numbers of   individuals from the confinements of guild and village community. As Protestantism sought to reassimilate men in the invisible community of  God, capitalism sought to reassimilate them in the impersonal and rational framework of the free market. As in Protestantism, the individual, rather than the group,  becomes the central unit. But instead of pure faith, individual profit becomes the mainspring of activity. In both spheres there is a manifest decline of custom and tradition and a general disengagement of purpose from the contexts  of  community.

Santorum’s mind just won’t go there.

And neither, it seems, will his  party.

 

By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, October 20, 2011

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Class Warfare, Congress, Democracy, GOP, Government, Ideology, Middle Class, Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making The Court A Priority For Progressives

This week the U.S. Supreme Court opened a new term, for the first time in Barack Obama’s presidency without a new Justice joining the high court. Also this week, two of the Justices testified before Congress in an historic hearing on the role of judges under the U.S. Constitution. A new national conversation about the third branch and the Constitution is gaining the attention of more Americans every day, and it’s one all of us should join.

History shows that nearly every major political issue ends up in the  courts.  Our nation’s federal courts are where social security appeals are heard, employment cases decided, immigration issues settled, and where Americans vindicate their most cherished Constitutional rights. This year is no different.

This Supreme Court term, lasting through June 2012, promises to be a  significant one, with decisions affecting every American. The cases  the court will decide this term alone highlight what’s really at stake for all Americans, far beyond any single election or individual term in office.

Consider these important questions the Court is poised to decide: the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s landmark health care reform legislation; the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance of Americans using GPS tracking devices; the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial racial profiling immigration law;  questions relating to the Family and Medical Leave Act; the constitutionality of  religious organizations discriminating in hiring decisions; constitutional questions about the reliability of eyewitness testimony  in criminal cases (a key issue in the recent Georgia execution of Troy  Davis).

This is a veritable hit parade of issues progressives, independents—indeed all Americans—care deeply about.

Until recently, the courts were generally friendly to progressive public policies.  Indeed the federal courts helped to enable the social  and economic progress that has made our country stronger and more  inclusive over time. Courts were able to do so by adhering to the text and history of the U.S. Constitution and its amendments, and applying  the Constitution’s core principles and values to questions of the day.

Conservatives, unhappy with idea that the Constitution guarantees more opportunity all our citizens instead of just for the  already privileged few, have in recent years mounted a concerted political effort to remake the federal judiciary in their image: to be more activist and more closely aligned with their political views. Americans used to be able to sleep at night knowing the federal courts  were good guardians of our most cherished constitutional principles.   Now, the rights many Americans take for granted, like equal access at  the voting booth and the ability to challenge discrimination at work, increasingly find a hostile and activist audience in the nation’s courts.

But progressives have a chance to turn the tide. Today, there are a  record number of vacancies in our federal courtrooms, as a new Center for American Progress study  released this week shows. Unprecedented obstruction by conservative  U.S. Senators has led to an abysmal rate of judicial confirmations. This has left a level of empty judgeships not seen at any time under any  president in U.S. history. Fully two thirds of the country is living  in a jurisdiction without enough judges for the cases that are piling up. It means less access to justice and longer delays in court for the American worker and small business owner.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Progressives need to work together  to support making our judiciary more progressive—and to support the  confirmation of President Obama’s nominees. It’s time for the  judiciary to be a priority for progressives.

The judges progressives want on the bench are judges for all Americans—judges who follow the text and history of the Constitution and apply it faithfully to the questions before them. At a time when  the Tea Party is cherry-picking select provisions of the Constitution and discarding others to win short-term political arguments, we need the  federal judiciary to be a strong guardian of all of our Constitution’s provisions and amendments for the long-term. With increasingly conservative state legislatures rolling back gains progressives have  championed for decades, we need our courts to protect our Constitutional  values from the political winds of the moment.  These values—liberty, freedom, equality—have driven America’s progress since its  founding, and are what make America exceptional around the world today.

Our courts matter for all Americans. And who is on the courts should  matter to anyone who cares about the Constitution and the opportunities and protections it promises. It’s time for progressives to unite and  support getting more progressive judges on the federal bench. Nothing  less than the long term health of our democracy depends on it.

 

By: Andrew Blotky, Center for American Progress, Originally Published in Huffington Post, October 20, 2011

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Health Reform, Ideology, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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