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“Problematic Unhinged Rhetoric”: John McCain; President Obama Is ‘Directly Responsible’ For Orlando

When Donald Trump said yesterday that President Obama was “directly responsible” for the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, it was the latest evidence of a candidate who’s abandoned any sense of propriety or decency.

Wait, did I say Donald Trump? I meant John McCain.

Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 club goers.

He said the president is “directly responsible for it because” of his “utter failures” in Iraq.

“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to audio obtained by NBC News.

The senator added, “So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.”

It wasn’t long before McCain realized this kind of unhinged rhetoric might be problematic, so the senator soon after issued a follow-up statement saying he “misspoke.”

That’s probably not the right word. When someone says “Iraq” when they meant “Iran,” that’s misspeaking. When the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee delivers a 65-word rant blaming the president for a mass murder, that’s more than a slip of the tongue.

McCain added, by way of a “clarification,” that he was blaming the president’s “national security decisions” for the rise of ISIS, “not the president himself.”

How gracious of him.

The clumsy walk-back notwithstanding, what’s wrong with McCain’s argument? Everything.

Right off the bat, let’s not forget that the lunatic responsible for the Orlando massacre was not a member of ISIS. He may have been inspired in some way by the terrorists, and he may have pledged some kind of allegiance to them, but there’s no evidence at all that ISIS was somehow involved in planning and/or executing this attack.

It may be politically convenient to blame a foreign foe for an American buying guns in America and then killing Americans on American soil, but giving ISIS more credit than it deserves is a mistake.

Second, McCain’s broader point is hard to take seriously. Here’s the senator’s logic: Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2010, which eventually and indirectly led to the creation of ISIS, which eventually led lunatics to identify with ISIS, which eventually led to the Orlando mass-shooting.

Even putting aside the bizarre leaps of logic necessarily to adopt such a thesis, McCain is overlooking the fact that (a) he celebrated Obama’s troop withdrawal in 2010; (b) the troop withdrawal was the result of a U.S./Iraq Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush/Cheney administration; and (c) by the senator’s own reasoning, given his enthusiastic support for the war in Iraq, McCain would have to hold himself “directly responsible” for the Orlando slayings, too.

Look, I’m aware of the broader circumstances. McCain is facing a tough re-election fight in Arizona, including a competitive Republican primary. He has an incentive to say ridiculous and irresponsible things about the president, and perhaps even try to exploit a tragedy for partisan ends.

But if these are the final months of McCain’s lengthy congressional career, is this really how he wants to go out? Using the kind of rhetoric more closely associated with Trump than an ostensible Republican statesman?

Postscript: Earlier this month, a college in Pennsylvania awarded McCain a “civility” prize. Perhaps college administrators can ask for it back?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, John McCain, Orlando Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Terrorism By Any Other Name”:The Armed Domestic Terrorists In Oregon Should Be Treated Just As ISIS Terrorists Would Be

The big story of the day is the armed seizure of an empty federal building in rural Oregon by a group of domestic terrorists, some of whom are the sons of federal tax cheat and freeloader Cliven Bundy.

They’re apparently upset at the conviction and upcoming jail sentences of a couple of fellow domestic terrorists for arson. They believe that the federal government has no constitutional authority to own land, that national parks are essentially illegal, and that men like them have a God-given right to mine, log and otherwise destroy whatever forest land they want. (It remains unclear whether they would condone Native Americans for “standing their ground” and responding with force to their trespass on the same lands that God clearly gave to them first.)

I don’t want to dwell too much on the rationales and motivations for these domestic terrorists any more than I would for the people who fight for ISIS or Al Qaeda. It’s always the same thing: a group of armed, angry men believe that the Big Bad Western Government is infringing on their right to do whatever it is they very well please–whether it’s to the environment, or to minorities, women, people of different religious groups, etc. Undereducated, armed angry men are often upset at Western governments for upsetting their private power apple carts because in their small, solipsistic worlds they’re very used to being lords of their manors and local enforcers of bigoted frontier justice. That’s as true of Afghan militants in the Taliban as it is of rural Montana militiamen. The only difference is in the trappings, the external presence of the rule of law and the degree of violence involved.

What’s more interesting to focus on is the response to the incident so far. As with ISIS, the Bundy clowns are actively seeking a confrontation with the big bad wolf of Big Western Government. They believe that an active confrontation will spark a movement that will lead to the overthrow of Big Brother. So far, especially after the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, American leaders have been disinclined to give those opportunities to the domestic militiaman terrorists. Cliven Bundy and his miscreants got away with a wide range of crimes due to the forbearance of federal officials.

But the problem with taking that hands-off approach is that the treatment of left-leaning protesters is far different. Occupiers and Black Lives Matter protesters aren’t met with hand wringing and gentle admonishments. They’re met with batons and tear gas. If Black Lives Matter or Occupy protesters started arming themselves and taking over federal buildings, you can guarantee that police would start using live ammunition and people would die.

So on the one hand it’s understandable that federal officials would not want to make martyrs of the right-wing domestic terrorists who are actively seeking to engage in a confrontation and make themselves appear to be downtrodden victims of the federal beast. But on the other hand, it’s infuriating that they receive special kid glove treatment that would not be afforded to minority and liberal activists.

Personally, I feel that if ISIS fighters want a grand confrontation with the West on an open battlefield, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to give them one. The outcome of that battle would not be in doubt. Similarly, I feel that if Bundy’s little crew wants to occupy a federal building and assert that they’ll use deadly violence against any police who try to extract them, then they should get what they’re asking for just as surely Islamist terrorists would if they did likewise.

As much as restraint is the better part of valor when dealing with entitled conservative crazies, principles of basic justice and fair play also need to apply. What’s good for one type of terrorist must also be good for another.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthy, January 3, 2016

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Domestic Terrorism, Montana Militia | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Ted Cruz’s Plan For ISIS Is Disastrously Inhumane”: The Scary Thing Is That Cruz Might Actually Believe His Campaign Rhetoric

Ted Cruz never says anything good just once — when he finds a line or a joke that gets applause, he repeats it over and over. And one of his big crowd-pleasers at the moment is this little ditty about the Islamic State: “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out!”

In front of audiences that want to know who’s going to be most ruthless in fighting those terrible terrorists that are terrifying us, it never fails. And it reflects prevailing Republican sentiment, which says that ISIS hasn’t been defeated only because Barack Obama is weak, and with the application of enough force, this problem can be solved.

Just last week, I praised Cruz for being nearly alone among the Republican candidates (Rand Paul joins him in this) in realizing the pitfalls of nation-building. He has said repeatedly that it’s a bad idea for us to go in and occupy a place like Syria in the hopes that we can create a thriving and peaceful democracy there, and that if we were to depose Bashar al-Assad, the vacuum created by his departure would likely be filled by a theocratic regime. But Cruz’s apparent willingness to entertain the idea of unintended consequences obviously has its limits.

Does Cruz actually want to drop nuclear weapons on places where ISIS is operating? That’s what’s implied by the bit about sand glowing in the dark, but he’d never cop to that. How about carpet-bombing? After all, part of the difficulty with fighting ISIS from the air is that they control cities full of civilians. The American military doesn’t lack for ordnance; we could level those cities if we wanted. But doing so would mean thousands and thousands of civilian casualties, killing the very people we’d be claiming to want to save. That’s not only morally abhorrent, it would be extremely likely to produce the kind of hatred towards America that helped Al Qaeda thrive, helped ISIS replace Al Qaeda, and would help the next terrorist group take ISIS’s place.

In an interview Wednesday with NPR, Cruz got asked about this problem, and put his finely honed evasion skills to work. Asked by host Steve Inskeep whether he wanted to “flatten” cities where ISIS is located, Cruz said, “I think we need to use every military tool at our disposal to defeat ISIS.” Inskeep pressed him: “You can flatten a city. Do you want to do that?” Cruz responded, “The problem with what President Obama is doing” is that he’s too soft, noting that in World War II we didn’t worry about the welfare of the German people, we just fought. “FDR carpet-bombed cities,” Inskeep noted. “Is that what you want to do?” Cruz answered, “I want to carpet-bomb ISIS.”

Now perhaps President Cruz’s powers of persuasion would be so extraordinary that he could convince ISIS to leave the cities it controls, where its members sit amongst the innocent civilians it’s oppressing, and march out to the desert so we could more efficiently carpet-bomb them. But I doubt it.

Of course, Cruz is hardly the only presidential candidate offering absurdly simplistic ideas about how to solve this problem. But one might think that the destruction we could wreak upon civilian populations in the Middle East would be a matter of particular concern given our recent history. Estimates of the civilian casualties in the Iraq War range somewhere between 165,000 and 500,000, but conservatives seem convinced that all that suffering and death had nothing to do with the rise of ISIS, and repeating it would be regrettable but not produce any blowback. It appears to be gospel on the right that the people in countries we’ve invaded or bombed are so understanding and forgiving that none of that matters to them; those who become radicalized only “hate us for our freedoms.” Which doesn’t explain why ISIS doesn’t hate Japan or Costa Rica or Switzerland just as much, since in those countries they also have freedoms.

Perhaps we have trouble understanding what it’s like to have a foreign army bombing or occupying your country because it’s been so long. We haven’t had such an army on our soil since the War of 1812, and though we were attacked at Pearl Harbor and then 60 years later on 9/11, those were events confined to a single day. So we can’t seem to grasp the kind of resentment and even hatred that an extended military campaign can foster, no matter how noble the ideals of the country that sent the army carrying it out. When the Bush administration assumed we’d be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq (as Dick Cheney put it), they simply couldn’t contemplate that Iraqis might not be excited to see us rain down bombs, destroy their infrastructure, and then occupy their country, even if they didn’t like the dictator they were living under.

Grasping that requires empathy and a little imagination, neither of which is in good supply in the GOP these days, let alone among its presidential candidates. It’s the luxury of running for office that you can make all problems sound simple, pretend that you can carpet-bomb a city and kill only the bad guys and not the people living there, and act as though strength and resolve are all you need to solve problems. The scary thing to contemplate is that someone like Ted Cruz might actually believe his campaign rhetoric, and put it into action if he became president.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, December 10, 2015

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, ISIS, Terrorists | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Strategic Vision Of The Jihadist Leadership”: ISIS Assumes We’re Stupid — And Our Useful Idiots Keep Proving It

To the delight of ISIS propagandists, our homegrown useful idiots never stop being usefully idiotic. Today, the Center for American Progress posted a bracing column by Sally Steenland and Ken Gude that demonstrates politely but unmistakably how anti-Muslim and anti-refugee conduct by Western politicians fits into the strategic vision of the jihadist leadership.

The enemy has showed us quite clearly what not to do, expecting that we will continue to do it anyway because we’re bigoted and stupid. So far, they’ve been proved right.

Given the recent video threats by ISIS against New York City and Washington, the following is especially timely, especially concerning the foiled plot to detonate a car bomb in Times Square several years ago. But the entire column by Steenland and Gude is well worth reading — and sharing with your elected representatives:

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, is pursuing a strategy explicitly designed to provoke hostility toward innocent Muslims in Western society in order to radicalize these communities and recruit them to their cause. Listening to the American political debate in the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, that strategy may be working. Islamophobic rants are both morally offensive and factually inaccurate and play right into the hands of our terrorist enemies.

ISIS is not hiding its objectives. In its publications, it talks of forcing the world into two camps by “destroy[ing] the grayzone” between itself and the forces aligned against it. For ISIS, the grayzone is inhabited by those who have yet to commit to one side in its clash of civilizations. In the February edition of its official magazine Dabiq, an ISIS writer outlined a plan to compel “the crusaders [the West] to actively destroy the grayzone themselves” by generating anti-Muslim hysteria in the wake of terrorism. Attacks such as those in Paris are designed to get Western governments to alienate their Muslim populations and push them toward ISIS….

Here is the truth: Rather than being a threat to national security, Muslim American communities have helped prevent more than one-third of Al Qaeda terrorist plots in the United States since 9/11. The most famous case is that of the 2010 plot to bomb Times Square in which Alioune Niass identified the car bomb and alerted police. In 2003, tips from the local Muslim community led the FBI to arrest a group that was conducting military-style training in northern Virginia.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 19, 2015

November 20, 2015 Posted by | ISIS, National Security, Syrian Refugees, Terrorists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“America Is Not A Brave Nation”: Once Again, Fear Has Made Us Our Own Worst Enemy, Has Made Us Stupid

America is not a brave nation.

Yes, that’s a heretical thing to say. Yes, our military is the world’s finest and our servicewomen and men provide daily examples of incontestable courage. Yes, police officers brave bullets, firefighters rush into burning buildings and ordinary Janes stand in harm’s way to save complete strangers on a routine basis. Yes, there are brave people all over this country, people who put self second every day.

But courage is not only about putting self second. Courage is also about who you are in stressful times, about the ability to not be rattled, to act with sound judgment, to keep your head when those about you are, as Rudyard Kipling put it, “losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

And by that standard, no. There are many words you might use to describe the character of this country, but brave isn’t one of them. Rather, we are fraidy-cats and cowards.

We’ve proven this many times since that Tuesday morning in September of 2001 when Islamic extremists kidnapped four planeloads of our fellow citizens and turned them into guided missiles in an attack that ripped away our illusions of security.

We proved it by bungling into a needless war chasing terrorists who were not there, by burning mosques and criminalizing Islam, by compromising basic civil rights for the Great Pumpkin of security.

And we proved it again last Monday when Ahmed was arrested for bringing a clock to school.

Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old ninth grader from MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, had built the digital clock at home and was eager to show it to his engineering teacher, who liked it. When his English teacher saw it, however, she thought it looked like a bomb. Next thing he knew, the teenage tinkerer, who wants to be an engineer when he grows up, was under arrest.

There’s a picture of him online that’s heartbreaking: It shows a slight, brown-skinned boy in glasses, looking frightened and confused. He’s wearing a NASA T-shirt. He is also wearing handcuffs.

Ahmed says police told him he was being charged with building a hoax bomb. James McLellan, a spokesman for the Irving police, told local station WFAA, “We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only tell us that it was a clock.”

That, of course, is because it was a clock.

Eventually, whoever has custody of the brain at the Irving PD must have recognized this for the Islamophobic idiocy it was. Ahmed was released. No charges will be filed.

Word of all this set Twitter ablaze. Ahmed has received supportive tweets from Arianna Huffington and Hillary Clinton. Mark Zuckerberg invited him to Facebook. President Obama invited him to the White House. And his ordeal inspired a trending hashtag: #IStandWithAhmed.

Which is good. But one hopes it will also inspire a little soul-searching for this country, which would be better.

Because once again, fear has made us our own worst enemy, has made us stupid. The fact that a bright kid — a kid with initiative, a kid who only wanted to make his teacher proud, a kid who, by all appearances, is precisely what we wish more kids would be — was hauled away in handcuffs for those very attributes ought to make us sober and reflective about the nation we have become in the years since Sept. 11.

One is reminded of the time President George W. Bush strode out on an aircraft carrier beneath a celebratory banner proclaiming “Mission Accomplished.” But given that the primary goal of terrorism is to make people afraid, maybe somebody should find that banner and ship it to al Qaeda.

Judging from what happened to Ahmed, they deserve it more than we ever did.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, September 21, 2014

September 27, 2015 Posted by | 9-11, Fearmongering, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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