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“A Victim Of The True Intent Of Terror”: How Lindsey Graham Succumbed To The Tactics Of Terror And Embarrassed His Nation

If the objective of  terrorism is to create fear in the minds and hearts of those who once walked the earth secure in the belief that their government will protect them from evil, Senator Lindsey Graham must now be presented as Exhibit A in the case to be made that the terrorists have, at least in the matter of Senator Graham, won.

Appearing on Fox in June of this year, Graham made the argument that America’s willingness to take on the ISIL challenge with a military response wld help head off another 9/11 style attack—not an irrational point of view at a time when we were coming to grips with the arrival of this new, well-funded and well-organized enemy.

A short time later, Graham was back on TV raising the ante.

As Simon Maloy points out over at Salon.com, “In August, Graham was invited to Fox News Sunday to talk terrorism, and upped the Islamic State’s fantasy body count to an entire city’s worth. “

Said Graham, “When I look at the map that Gen. Keane described, I think of the United States. I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists’ ability to operate in Syria and Iraq.”

Somehow, in just a matter of weeks, Graham’s fears had escalated from concern over a 9/11 style attack to an entire American city going up in smoke at the hands of the ISIL forces. A bit much, in my opinion, but at least one could make a somewhat credible argument that terrorists seeking to destroy an American city might have the means to accomplish such an objective.

But that was nothing when compared to what was to come.

This past Sunday, Graham was making another of his seemingly never-ending appearances on Sunday morning TV when he looked at the camera, eyes ablaze in a fashion that brought to mind the frantic visage of Howard Beale, and exposed for all to see the terror that had come to grip his soul—

“This is a war we’re fighting! It is not a counterterrorism operation. This is not Somalia. This is not Yemen. This is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.

I can agree with the Senator on his assertion that the battle to be fought in Northern Iraq and Syria is not akin to our experiences in either Somalia or Yemen. Like Graham, I thought the President was off-base when he sought to use our experiences in Yemen and Somalia as a point of comparison when describing what we might expect in the battles to be waged against the Islamic State.

I can also agree that this is, indeed, a war that we are now fighting, despite the huge amount of wasted ink and airtime that has been dedicated to useless discussions over those in the administration willing to use the word ‘war’ versus those who chose, initially, not to do so.

Sadly, I would also have to agree that Graham may be right about one more thing—this may indeed be a turning point in the war against terror, but certainly not the turning point Graham has in mind.

When a United States Senator appears before the world and reveals that he has grown positively unhinged and fully terrified at the prospects of our entire American population being wiped out by an organization infused and infected with a poisonous and murderous ideology, the terrorists have most assuredly succeeded in their efforts to terrorize Senator Lindsey Graham.

It is that fact that I now fear could be the turning point in the war against terror as it is now a United States Senator who seeks to put terror into the hearts of his countrymen where those committed to using that particular weapon of war have largely failed in their efforts.

One can only imagine the satisfaction terrorists around the world must have experienced at that moment when Lindsey Graham displayed how the latest example of a vicious terror campaign had, indeed, succeeded in infecting the mind and heart of someone who sits at the very highest levels of the United States government.

That feeling of inevitable satisfaction on the part of those who wish the world pain and evil comes at the expense of my own profound embarrassment that one of our nation’s leaders—and I could not care less which party that leader represents— would get in front of a camera and expose himself as a victim of the true intent of terror.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, September 16, 2014

September 17, 2014 Posted by | ISIS, Lindsey Graham, Terrorism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The New Campaign Theme: Fear”: Republican Candidates Are Rediscovering How To Use Fear In Campaigning

There’s a new narrative emerging about the midterm elections. After months in which political reporters essentially wrote the same stories over and over with only small variations — it’ll be a good year for Republicans; the Affordable Care Act is a disaster for Democrats; oh, wait, maybe not — we now have a brand-spanking new storyline to play with.

Now, the elections are all about security and terrorism and foreign policy.

Fear is back! Which, of course, is great for the GOP.

There is some evidence that the elections may be shifting on to these topics. But like the threat from the Islamic State, it may be being overhyped by a news media eager for excitement.

One of my theories about the ebb and flow of political coverage is that any new development that promises change is unusually attractive to political reporters. Polls that never change are boring. And if America is about to embark on a new military adventure, then change must surely be in the air.

So we’re seeing a whole raft of articles claiming that the election is now all about security, like this one and this one and this one.

Yes, the news has been dominated by the Islamic State question for the past couple of weeks, and people respond to what’s in the news when they’re asked what they care about (this is called agenda-setting). There is some public opinion data showing more people expressing concern about terrorism.

But the question is: Is there any clear evidence that the public is actually gripped by terror, that the elections are going to look any different next month than they did last month?

If the public were actually terrified, that would almost certainly be good for the GOP. Research has shown that if you make people afraid or remind them of their own mortality, a significant number will gravitate toward Republican candidates. A lot of news stories about shadowy foreign terrorist groups could be enough to do the trick.

A complicating factor, however, is that Congress is pretty much abdicating its responsibility for oversight over the escalation. What’s more, Republican candidates don’t have much to say about what’s going on in the Middle East, as GOP strategists admit:

For candidates, there’s a difficult balance to strike between using the issue to beat the drum against Obama and getting too far in the weeds on actual strategy proposals. Most GOP strategists agree that the way to talk about foreign policy this fall is to make it a broad argument about leadership and stay out of such details as whether or not the U.S. should put troops on the ground.

“I don’t think that many Republicans are going to rush out there with detailed foreign policy initiatives in their own campaigns,” said GOP pollster Wes Anderson. “I don’t think there’s any market for it — what voters want to hear is that somebody is going to take initiative and show leadership.”

Having no actual ideas hasn’t historically stopped Republicans from exploiting an issue, of course. And there are some signs that Republican candidates are rediscovering how to use fear in campaigning (see here or here), which is its own story worthy of examination.

But House Republicans are actually showing surprising unity with Obama on how to respond to ISIS. The disagreements among Republicans over how to proceed seem procedural more than anything else, and they are likely to give him what he wants in terms of training the Syrian rebels, which could undercut efforts by GOP candidates to use this against Democrats. On balance, it’s probably too early to say that the election has been transformed.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 12, 2014

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Middle East, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rubio Says Defeating ISIS Has Been ‘Achieved’ In The Past”: Inadvertently Helped Prove Just How Difficult The Current Challenge Is

The debate over U.S. counter-terrorism policy is obviously complex, and in the wake of President Obama’s speech this week, there are no easy answers. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), perhaps inadvertently, helped prove just how difficult the current challenge is.

As Amanda Terkel noted, the Florida Republican has been urging President Obama to be even more aggressive in confronting the Islamic State – beyond the 150+ airstrikes the president has already ordered – but in an NPR interview, Rubio seemed to stumble onto the broader problem.

“Absolutely it’s a realistic goal. It’s been achieved in the past,” said the senator when asked by “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep whether “defeat” was truly possible. “This very same insurgency was defeated during the Awakening in Iraq. This is the same group that was driven out by Sunnis, who then reconstituted itself in Syria when that became an unstable and ungoverned space. … But no matter how long it takes, we need to do it.”

As Simon Maloy explained in response, “There you have it. According to Rubio, we can absolutely defeat a terrorist insurgency because we have already defeated the same insurgency that we now have to defeat. Again.”

Right.

The point wasn’t lost on NPR’s Inskeep. “There are connections between this group and earlier extremist groups in Iraq,” the host told the senator. “They were battled for years and pushed back, but here they are years later. This could just be something that goes on and on, couldn’t it?”

Rubio replied, “It could, but that’s not – I mean, that’s just reality.”

Well, yes, I suppose it is, but the point is reality isn’t as easy as simply deploying the U.S. military to take out bad guys. On the one hand, Rubio believes it’s “absolutely” realistic to think we can “defeat” ISIS terrorists. On the other hand, Rubio also appreciates the fact that “reality” tells us violent radicals like these can be squashed temporarily, only to return.

I’m not trying to pick on Rubio, per se, but rather, his rhetoric is a helpful example of the underlying tension in the broader discussion. The Florida Republican is confident that fully defeating ISIS is “a realistic goal,” even while the senator realizes that it’s “just reality” to acknowledge a complete ISIS defeat may not be possible.

Rubio added that the U.S. mission against Islamic State must continue, “no matter what it takes” and “no matter how long it takes.”

And under Rubio’s vision, that would almost certainly be a very long time, pursuing an endpoint that remains on a perpetual horizon.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 12, 2014

September 13, 2014 Posted by | ISIS, Marco Rubio, Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bin Laden Death Photo Coverage Is Media’s New Birther Moment

On Tuesday morning, counterterrorism official John Brennan was interviewed by NPR’s Steve Inskeep  about the death of Osama bin Laden. For about eight minutes, listeners were  treated to a serious and in-depth exploration of the circumstances surrounding  bin Laden’s discovery and demise.

But then, right at the  end, Inskeep couldn’t help himself. “In a few seconds, Mr. Brennan, why haven’t  you released photos of Osama bin Laden?” Inskeep asked. Over the final  minute of the interview, he repeated that important question four times.

And you couldn’t help  thinking: Here we go again.

Wasn’t it just, like,  hours ago that the media had assumed a posture of deep introspection about  their role in fueling outlandish conspiracy theories?

On one hand, there were  people like Shepard Smith of Fox News urging the media to “look in the mirror”  because questions about President Obama’s birthplace were “a load of crap” and  journalists “knew it from the very beginning.” (Amen.) On the other, there  was Bob Garfield of NPR’s On the Media arguing that the attention paid  by the media to Donald Trump’s birther claims was necessary to help the public  distinguish between a “carnival barker” and a “responsible leader.” (Oh, I get  it: Loons raise loony questions, the media repeats them over and over  again, and, in so doing, exposes them to an audience far larger than the loons  ever could have dreamed of reaching on their own, and thus we need the media to  help us identify the loons. Wow, what an indispensible service.) No consensus,  perhaps, but at least they were grappling with the question.

Not anymore, evidently.

Just  hours after President Obama addressed the nation, no less than J. Michael Waller  posted a blog entry opining that bin Laden should be displayed naked in lower  Manhattan, then chopped into bits and dumped into the New York City  sewers because while he may be dead “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Who’s J. Michael Waller you ask? Who cares! Questions have been raised!  The public needs help identifying the carnival barkers! Summon the media!

So, there was Inskeep  pressing Brennan. The Chicago Sun Times editorialized that a photo should  be released to stop the conspiracy theories. The Associated Press moved a  story headlined “Wanted: Visual Proof that the U.S. got him.” (Though you might  reasonably ask why, given that the proof detailed in the story included DNA  evidence, photographic identification, bin Laden’s wife apparently calling out  to him by name during the firefight, and “[t]ellingly” an al Qaeda spokesman  calling bin Laden “a martyr” and offering “no challenge to the U.S. account of  his death.” Mighty suspicious!)

In fairness, there are  differences between the birther stories and whether the United States should release a  photo of bin Laden. To be sure, the latter has actual foreign policy and  national security implications, and, now that the administration has decided not  to release a photo, it may be that serious issues, rather than the increasingly  hairbrained ideas of conspiracy theorists, will drive the media’s coverage  but … I’ll believe it when I see it.

If the media would like us  to believe it has serious, as opposed to sensationalistic, intentions when it  covers a story like this, the nature of the coverage has to change.  Raising a baseless charge again and again, day after day, and concluding that  you’ve done your job if “both sides” of the story are represented does everyone  a remarkable disservice. The reason: It gives the media’s imprimatur of  legitimacy to a charge that is baseless, and it leaves the impression that  there are two sides to an issue that is, in fact, indisputably settled.

Instead, if the media is  going to give such issues any coverage at all, it should turn its camera in the  opposite direction, focusing on the people who cling to preposterous beliefs  and asking what that tells us about them, our culture, and our country.  That may be a worthy journalistic pursuit, but we’ve seen very little of it.

Of course, there may be a  bright side to all of this: The secret to getting media coverage has been  revealed.

Therefore, I would like to  announce the following: I believe the moon is made of elephants.

Media: Come and get me.

By: Anson Kaye, U.S. News and World Report, May 5, 2011

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security, Journalists, Media, National Security, Politics, President Obama, Press, Pundits, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Crowing” And The Torture Apologists

The killing of Osama bin Laden provoked a host of reactions from Americans: celebration, triumph, relief, closure and renewed grief. One reaction, however, was both cynical and disturbing: crowing by the apologists and practitioners of torture that Bin Laden’s death vindicated their immoral and illegal behavior after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Jose Rodriguez Jr. was the leader of counterterrorism for the C.I.A. from 2002-2005 when Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other Al Qaeda leaders were captured. He told Time magazine that the recent events show that President Obama should not have banned so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. (Mr. Rodriguez, you may remember, ordered the destruction of interrogation videos.)

John Yoo, the former Bush Justice Department lawyer who twisted the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions into an unrecognizable mess to excuse torture, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the killing of Bin Laden proved that waterboarding and other abuses were proper. Donald Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, said at first that no coerced evidence played a role in tracking down Bin Laden, but by Tuesday he was reciting the talking points about the virtues of prisoner abuse.

There is no final answer to whether any of the prisoners tortured in President George W. Bush’s illegal camps gave up information that eventually proved useful in finding Bin Laden. A detailed account in The Times on Wednesday by Scott Shane and Charlie Savage concluded that torture “played a small role at most” in the years and years of painstaking intelligence and detective work that led a Navy Seals team to Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan.

That squares with the frequent testimony over the past decade from many other interrogators and officials. They have said repeatedly, and said again this week, that the best information came from prisoners who were not tortured. The Times article said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times, fed false information to his captors during torture.

Even if it were true that some tidbit was blurted out by a prisoner while being tormented by C.I.A. interrogators, that does not remotely justify President Bush’s decision to violate the law and any acceptable moral standard.

This was not the “ticking time bomb” scenario that Bush-era officials often invoked to rationalize abusive interrogations. If, as Representative Peter King, the Long Island Republican, said, information from abused prisoners “directly led” to the redoubt, why didn’t the Bush administration follow that trail years ago?

There are many arguments against torture. It is immoral and illegal and counterproductive. The Bush administration’s abuses — and ends justify the means arguments — did huge damage to this country’s standing and gave its enemies succor and comfort. If that isn’t enough, there is also the pragmatic argument that most experienced interrogators think that the same information, or better, can be obtained through legal and humane means.

No matter what Mr. Yoo and friends may claim, the real lesson of the Bin Laden operation is that it demonstrated what can be done with focused intelligence work and persistence.

The battered intelligence community should now be basking in the glory of a successful operation. It should not be dragged back into the muck and murk by political figures whose sole agenda seems to be to rationalize actions that cost this country dearly — in our inability to hold credible trials for very bad men and in the continued damage to our reputation.

By: Editorial Board, The New York Times, May 4, 2011

May 4, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Foreign Policy, GITMO, GOP, Homeland Security, National Security, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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