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“America Needs To Get A Grip”: Don’t Listen To This Garbage, Conservatives Are Explosively Soiling Themselves In Panic

The Paris attacks have brought back the dark shadow of America’s Bush-era anti-terror politics. Conservatives are demanding repression and violence, while many Democrats are running scared. They are enabled in this by mainstream journalists like The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza, who breezily declares that barring refugees is “smart politics” because conservatives are worried about Islamic extremism; or Slate‘s William Saletan, who argues that our late period of libertarian isolationism (???) is simply going to have to end.

My fellow Americans: Don’t listen to this garbage. Let’s take a deep breath and get a grip.

First of all, Islamist terrorism is a fairly minor threat. Yes, the Paris attacks (like 9/11, Madrid, Mumbai, and countless atrocities in Iraq and Syria) were a terrible tragedy. But we need to be realistic about how strong ISIS really is. It’s true that decently organized young men with simple explosives and cheap automatic weapons can easily massacre hundreds of civilians and terrorize millions. But that is not even close to a “an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization,” as Jeb Bush ludicrously claimed. Compared to Nazi Germany, or the Soviets with their hundreds of long-range nukes, ISIS is pathetically weak.

Indeed, as Derek Davison argues, ISIS’s recent al Qaeda-like focus on international terrorism is very likely a result of months of defeats on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Only the day before the Paris attacks, Kurdish and Yazidi forces routed ISIS fighters in the city of Sinjar, cutting off a major supply route from Raqqa (ISIS’s major stronghold) to Ramadi. Unable to make progress towards their “caliphate” on the ground, they are lashing out at soft targets in an attempt to restore their old aura of invincibility and progress, and likely to try to reinforce the idea that Islam and the West are irreconcilable.

The truth is that while ISIS’s deranged brand of faux-Muslim extremism has proven durable enough to construct a wobbly little proto-state (and attract a smattering of bored idiot Europeans thirsty for adventure), it is completely doomed in the long run. Every single one of ISIS’s predecessors has died the exact same death: by enraging a powerful nation and getting pounded into smithereens. ISIS only survives today on the political chaos left behind by the bungled invasion of Iraq (half the leadership are former Baath Party) and the crumbling of the Assad dictatorship.

It may take some time for ISIS to completely die off, and the succession of state failures may not be over — Saudi Arabia is looking none too healthy these days — but sooner or later, things will settle down. The Thirty Years’ War can match anything happening in Syria for atrocities, and that was still getting started 12 years in.

Furthermore, sheltering refugees is an obvious way to attack ISIS’s ideological legitimacy. They are really sensitive about the refugee issue, because it puts the lie to their self-image as the holy land for all Islam. When about every Muslim who possibly can is running for their lives, it tends to draw attention to the fact that ISIS is full of mass-murdering child rapists who kill far more Muslims than they do any other religious group. Conversely, assisting desperate people fleeing persecution is a powerful statement that the West will live up to its values of openness and tolerance, and not turn away tens of thousands of innocent people because we might overlook a couple extremists in their midst.

It’s also, you know, the right thing to do. Would Jesus Christ send a 3-year-old orphan back to be butchered by evil fanatics? I think not.

Refugees are a very low risk for terrorism. It is excruciatingly difficult to get refugee status — especially since the process has recently become so Byzantine and paranoid that it’s next to impossible for anyone to actually make it through the application. But here’s the bottom line: Since 9/11, the U.S. has accepted some 784,000 refugees. None have committed any acts of terrorism in the U.S. — and only three have ever been arrested for terror-related crimes, two for sending money to al Qaeda in Iraq and one whose plot was totally preposterous. Similarly, all the Paris attackers firmly identified so far have been EU nationals, not Syrian refugees.

Does that mean it’s totally impossible for some ISIS killer to sneak in with the refugees? Of course not. But tourist, student, and business visas are far easier to get than refugee status, if you’ve got the cash. That’s how every single one of the 9/11 hijackers got into the country. If we were really concerned about ISIS infiltration, that would be the first route to worry about. (Even more important would be sorting out the outrageous disaster zone that is the American security apparatus, but that’s another story.)

The fact that conservatives who are explosively soiling themselves in panic immediately jumped to bar the door to refugees, while barely even mentioning the fact that half of Europe has a visa waiver agreement with the U.S., is stark evidence that it’s anti-Islamic bigotry, not sensible security precautions, driving this attitude. Many conservatives are basically open about this.

So chill, America. This is a great big powerful country, armed to the teeth, with strong institutions and a rich economy. If we can muster the courage to stand with our better angels, ISIS will eventually crumble.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, November 18, 2015

November 20, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, ISIS, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GTFO”: Congress To Refugees; You Don’t Have To Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here

“Can you name for me – or identify for me – a suicidal terrorist who hasn’t been Muslim?” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez at a hearing on Thursday.

“I’m not even going to answer that question, congressman,” a stunned Rodriguez replied just hours before the House overwhelmingly passed a bill to keep Syrians out of the U.S.

“Why can’t you answer that question?” King goaded.

“What I can say is that we do our job,” Rodriguez said. “If terrorists are attempting to gain admission to the United States then we do our job to prevent them from doing so.”

“You’re telling me that you’re doing a thorough vetting process, but you aren’t able to tell me that you specifically ask them what their religion is?” King said as Democrats shuddered. “And if you don’t specifically ask them than neither are you able to quantify the risk to the American society?”

So began the day that the U.S. House may have handed ISIS a huge gift when it voted to erect new hurdles to keep Syrian refugees out of the country.

Newly-minted Speaker Paul Ryan tried to assure reporters early in the week that the bill – hastily assembled in the wake of the attacks in Paris – wasn’t about keeping Muslims out of the country, but other Republicans didn’t listen to their party’s standard-bearer. Instead, they unleashed borderline (and beyond) Islamophobic rhetoric to all who would listen.

It’s not just Steve King. Throughout the week 30 Republican governors (and one Democrat) went further than the House as they rushed to close their borders to all Syrians (even though they can’t legally do it), including GOP presidential candidates Chris Christie (NJ) and John Kasich (Ohio). Donald Trump called for closing mosques. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) readied legislation to ban Muslim Syrians from entering the U.S.

And local Republican leaders garnered national headlines for arguing everything from interning Syrian refugees to activating the National Guard to keep Syrians from crossing state lines.

The debate about Syrian refugees came less than a week after terrorist attacks rocked Paris, and it was centered more on unknowns and potentialities than on any tangible threats to the homeland from ISIS, also known as Daesh in the Arab world.

Democrats were appalled, but none more than the only two Muslims in Congress (the first and the second ever elected): Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Andre Carson.

“The language we use reinforces them. Daesh is trying to make a case that the West is at war with Islam,” Ellison (D-Minn.) told The Daily Beast. “They’re trying to say they’re the ones defending themselves. The truth is, that’s a lie; that’s completely untrue. But when we say ‘we’re only going to take in Christian refugees, Daesh gets up and says, ‘Told ya. The Crusaders are looking out for the Crusaders.”

Carson said the language was hurtful.

“It’s sad. It’s unacceptable,” Carson told The Daily Beast as he grimaced. “We have to be careful that we’re not making statements for what we perceive to be political gain that at the same time undermines our values.”

Carson said his fear is the heated charges against Muslims play into the strategy of Daesh.

“Young people are very vulnerable. [Daesh] is operating the way, a lot of sociologists have noted, that cults behaved in the 70s, 80s and even 90s. They are capitalizing off of disillusionment,” he said, adding that Congress ought to be engaging people from other countries; not alienating them.

“There is a tendency, or a human impulse, in the midst of these kinds of incidents for elected officials to live in absolutes,” Carson said. “To live in an absolute without noting the nuance that is there, that you have good Muslims who are working in their intelligence agencies and law enforcement communities to keep their countries safe, really does a disservice to all the contributions that Muslims are making.”

The legislation the House passed requires the heads of some of the nation’s top security agencies to personally certify that anyone from Syria or Iraq seeking refuge in the U.S. is “not a threat to the security of the United States.”

Experts argued about worst case scenarios but, on Thursday, their objections seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“No terrorist in his right mind would use the refuge program as a way to enter the United States,” Immigration Services Director Rodriguez said. “They may find other channels; it’s not going to be through the refuge program. It’s too intrusive. It’s too invasive. It’s too thorough in the security checks that it does.”

The government estimates there are more than 19 million refugees displaced across the globe – the most in history – and roughly a quarter of them are from Syria. The Obama administration maintains they’re trying to attract the most vulnerable to the United States.

“We are looking at people who have been tortured,” testified Anne C. Richard, the Assistant Secretary of Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the State Department.

She then continued the gruesome list of asylum seekers. “Burn victims from barrel bombs, people who are widows and children, but also the elderly, families that have been ripped apart as members have been murdered in front of their eyes.”

King was unmoved.

“We’re talking about a huge haystack of humanity,” King chided the witnesses. “And that hay is benign, relatively speaking, but in that haystack are the needles called terrorists.”

 

By: Matt Laslo, The Daily Beast, November 19, 2015

November 20, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Steve King, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Paul Ryan Stumbles Over ‘Leadership’ Test”: Republicans Have A Problem With The Vetting Process, But They Have No Idea Why

Press a Republican politician on his or her opposition to Syrian refugees, and they’ll eventually point to the vetting process that’s currently in place. Most GOP lawmakers, governors, and candidates have no interest in endorsing explicit bigotry, instead saying they have concerns about the rigor of the screening process refugees must go through. Some on the right like to pretend the process doesn’t even exist.

The trouble comes when pressed for policy details or any kind of substantive analysis. The New York Times reported today:

When pressed, most Republicans could not specify which aspects of the rigorous refugee vetting program that they found inadequate. [House Speaker Paul Ryan’s] staff members cited a Bloomberg poll of 1,002 adults released on Wednesday, conducted by Selzer & Company, that found that 53 percent of those surveyed said the resettlement program should be halted.

Of all the domestic coverage I’ve seen this week about U.S. politicians and their reactions to Paris, this might be my favorite paragraph to date. Republicans know they have a problem with the vetting process, but they have no idea why.

And when House Speaker Paul Ryan – a celebrated “wonk,” according to much of the media – was asked about his concerns, his office pointed to, of all things, a poll.

In other words, Americans who have no real understanding of the rigorous refugee vetting program are leading elected policymakers, whose job it is to know better. The new Republican Speaker can’t identify actual problems with the vetting system, but Ryan can stick his finger in the air, read a poll, put together a meaningless “task force,” and tell his party to ride the wave of panic whether it makes sense or not.

Talking to reporters this week about the terrorism in Paris, the Wisconsin lawmaker argued, “It’s clear this was an act of war, and that the world needs American leadership.”

It is, to be sure, a nice sentiment, but what the Speaker didn’t say is what he thinks “American leadership” looks like in this situation. Does it mean Congress voting to authorize a military offensive against ISIS? For the last year and a half, the answer has been no. Does it mean Congress voting this afternoon on an anti-refugee bill, which is exactly what ISIS wants to see? According to Paul Ryan, the answer is yes.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the picture is equally discouraging. The Huffington Post reported yesterday:

In the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks, Senate Democrats on Wednesday criticized Republicans for blocking national security nominees who would help fight terrorism and track Islamic State militants. […]

Adam Szubin, who has bipartisan support, has been waiting more than 200 days to be confirmed as the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes. The job involves tracking terrorists to prevent them from raising money on the black market and elsewhere.

Szubin’s nomination got a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Sept. 17, and Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) praised his past work in countering terrorist financing during his time with both Republican and Democratic administrations…. But Szubin’s nomination hasn’t moved since. There’s no clear reason why, beyond trying to make it difficult for President Barack Obama to fill administration posts.

Republicans have also slow-walked qualified nominees to serve as Secretary of the Army and the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, not because GOP senators have concerns about the officials up for confirmation, but rather because Republicans reflexively object to President Obama’s nominees for anything.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 19, 2015

November 20, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Paul Ryan, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Rather Difficult To Find”: Wanted; A GOP Presidential Candidate Who Is Actually Serious About Foreign Policy

Today, Jeb Bush will give a speech at the Citadel in South Carolina on defense policy, where he’ll argue that in order to defeat ISIS we need a bigger military than the one we have. From this, I conclude that one of two things must be true: Either he is an ignoramus of Trumpian proportions, or he thinks Republican primary voters are idiots.

Here’s what we know based on the excerpts of the speech his campaign has released:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is calling for a broad military buildup and says the U.S. armed forces have been left ill-prepared to defeat the Islamic State, blamed for the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 and wounded hundreds more.

The former Florida governor is projecting himself as a potential commander in chief able to handle such challenges, as his presidential bid tries to gain traction in a primary campaign likely to be shaken up after the Paris attacks.

“The brutal savagery is a reminder of what is at stake in this election,” Bush says in excerpts of a speech he plans to deliver Wednesday at The Military College of South Carolina, known as The Citadel.

“We are choosing the leader of the free world,” he said, according to passages provided to The Associated Press in advance. “And if these attacks remind us of anything, it’s that we are living in serious times that require serious leadership.”

Ah yes, serious leadership. So what about Bush’s idea that fighting terrorism means we need a bigger military? That’s simply ridiculous. Yes, there are certain resources that need to be used to fight ISIS, but is there any evidence that the problem we have in meeting this challenge is insufficient personnel and materiel? Of course not. We could invade Syria and Iraq tomorrow if we wanted, and roll over ISIS and Bashar Assad’s government. But we don’t want to, because recent experience has taught us that doing that would cause more problems than it would solve, including, in all likelihood, giving rise to terrorist groups we haven’t yet imagined (don’t forget that ISIS grew out of the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq).

You don’t have to be the reincarnation of Carl von Clausewitz to grasp that, and people within the military are now expressing concerns that too many people have already forgotten the complications that come with a large-scale military operation in the Middle East. Like most of the Republican candidates for president, when Bush is asked what he’d actually do to fight ISIS, he offers a combination of things the Obama administration is already doing (Engage with our Arab allies! Use our air power!) and meaningless generalities (America has to lead!). None of it requires a dramatically larger military.

While Republicans always want the military to be bigger than whatever it happens to be at any moment, I don’t think even they believe that its size is really the problem. It isn’t as though ISIS’ leaders are saying, “The United States military is down below 15,000 war planes! If they had 20,000, we could never oppose them, but this is our chance!” No, Republicans believe the problem is will. They think Barack Obama is weak and unwilling to use the military he has with sufficient enthusiasm. They think our enemies don’t fear us enough, not because they aren’t intimidated by American weaponry, but because they aren’t intimidated by the man in the Oval Office.

If Jeb Bush wants to argue that what we really need to prepare for is a land war in Europe against the Russian army, a conflict for which the sheer size of our military might make a difference, then he can go ahead and make that case. But he isn’t. Instead, he’s taking the pre-existing belief all Republicans share — the military should always be bigger — and grafting it on to the thing Americans are afraid of at the moment, which is ISIS.

Right after the Paris attacks, many old-line Republicans expressed the hope that now, in the face of such a grim reality, primary voters would end their dalliance with silly inexperienced candidates and turn back to the serious, seasoned potential presidents. There were two problems with that hope. The first is that there was no reason to believe it would happen; if anything, with their fear elevated the voters will likely lean toward the candidates offering the most simplistic, bellicose answers. The second is that, as Jeb Bush is showing, serious Republican presidential candidates are rather difficult to find.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, November 18, 2015

November 20, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, GOP Presidential Candidates, ISIS, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“John Kasich And Matthew 25, Revisited”: We’re All Just One Big Freedom-Loving Family In The West

This is Republican Gov. John Kasich explaining in March why he expanded coverage for Ohio’s Medicaid recipients:

The conservative movement — a big chunk of which is faith-based — seems to have never read Matthew 25. … There’s so much we have to do to clean ourselves up. … So instead of getting into the judgment, why don’t we get into the feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and helping the imprisoned and helping the lonely? That’s what we’re commanded to do.

This is Republican presidential candidate John Kasich explaining on Tuesday why he has joined more than two dozen governors who say they’ll refuse to accept any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees, many of them widows and children, to arrive in the U.S. in the next fiscal year:

“We understand these people are in trouble, but think about … us putting somebody on our street, in our town or in our country who (means) us harm. … We just got to be very careful for our friends, our neighbors, our families and our country. … Until we get a handle on where we are, we need to stop. And once we have a rational program and we can determine who it is that’s coming, then it’s another story. But for this point in time, in light of what we’re seeing in the world, it’s reasonable to stop.”

What happened to Matthew 25?

Pfft. So pre-primary.

I listen to these governors — all of whom know they have no power to defy the president and close their borders — and marvel at how readily they pander to the worst among us. I don’t know what version of the Bible they’re thumping, but I sure would like a cloud-side seat on that storied day when they try to explain themselves to you-know-who.

For me, the joking ends here.

Just a few short weeks ago, we reeled at the sight of a little boy named Aylan Kurdi. The 3-year-old Syrian Kurd tried to flee with his family from Turkey to Europe. Their boat capsized, and Aylan’s lifeless body washed ashore. His 5-year-old brother and mother drowned, too, but it is Aylan we remember because of the photographs of him that were published online and in newspapers around the world.

In the pictures, he is wearing a red shirt and shorts, lying on his stomach. His face is turned ever so slightly to his left, his arms resting palms up by his side. His was the universal pose of a busy little boy surrendering to a nap. Maybe that’s why he got to us. He was every child we’ve ever known.

On the same day that Kasich said Syrian refugees are not welcome in the state he has abandoned for his presidential race, he announced his nifty idea to fight the Islamic State group: a new agency to impose “the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.” He would target China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East.

“We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic,” he said in an interview with NBC News. “It means freedom. It means opportunity. It means respect for women.”

Let’s stop right there.

Respect for women? This, from the governor who has championed some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the country.

And what about this notion of a universal set of Judeo-Christian values in the Western world?

On Wednesday, I spoke to Colin Swearingen, an assistant professor of political science at John Carroll University, near Cleveland, to talk about Kasich’s theory that we’re all just one big freedom-loving family in the West.

“The Declaration of Independence centered on liberty,” Swearingen said. “A lot of Western civilization focuses more on equality. This is a significant difference in how you set up government.”

So what does he make of Kasich’s idea?

“Well, the establishment clause certainly jumps out at you,” he said. “Was it a slip-up, or is he trying to reach out to the Iowa caucuses? In 2012, 57 percent of them were evangelicals. Maybe this is some sort of coherent strategy where Kasich sees an opening in Iowa.”

I have searched and searched my Bible, and I cannot find any holy dispensation for presidential candidates who turn away widows and orphans to help their poll numbers with people who like that sort of thing. I did, however, find last month’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Kasich trailing far behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson in his own state.

Overall, we’re seeing some interesting timing from Kasich, don’t you think?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this new interpretation of Matthew 25 works out for him.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist: The National Memo, November 19, 2015

November 20, 2015 Posted by | ISIS, John Kasich, Syrian Refugees | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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