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“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

“The United States Is Not Omnipotent”: Republicans Need To Stop Childishly Pretending That American Power Is Limitless

When President Obama almost taunted critics of the Iranian nuclear deal by challenging them to describe their alternative, it was hardly a surprise that no detailed plans were forthcoming. Even the most hawkish Republican knows it would be politically disastrous to say that what we need is to launch another war in the Middle East. But there isn’t another readily available course for handling this situation if you reject what the administration negotiated.

Indeed, what infuriates Republicans as much as anything is that Obama took the country down diplomacy’s path — a path that accepts from the outset that compromise is inevitable.

More than ever, compromise seems outside the worldview of the GOP. You can see it in Congress, where the party’s base has elected more and more representatives who would rather have a noble, even disastrous failure than a partial success — if success means coming to an agreement with a president they despise. No matter how many times conservatives attempt to shut down the government and wind up with an ignominious defeat, they continue to believe that next time will be different — that Obama will surrender, and all their goals will be achieved.

You can see it in how hawkish Republicans have thought about Iran for years. Republicans were smitten by Benjamin Netanyahu’s fantasy vision of a “better deal” with Iran, which involved Iran ending its nuclear program, giving up support for Hezbollah and every other terrorist organization, becoming a force for peace in the region, and maybe also baking Netanyahu a delicious pie, all while asking for nothing in return. If you actually thought that was possible, then of course the deal that was negotiated looks like a capitulation. As Peter Beinart recently wrote, “When critics focus incessantly on the gap between the present deal and a perfect one, what they’re really doing is blaming Obama for the fact that the United States is not omnipotent.”

That fact is the assumption underlying diplomatic negotiation: If we were omnipotent, then we wouldn’t have to negotiate. We could just impose our will. Republicans find President Obama’s willingness to acknowledge that America is not omnipotent to be utterly maddening.

When you listen to them talk about foreign affairs, what comes through clearly is that they believe that if America is not omnipotent, this is merely a temporary situation that can be remedied with more military spending, a stiffening of the spine, and a Republican in the White House. There is no situation that cannot be resolved with precisely the outcome we want, if only we are sufficiently strong and tough. For instance, here’s how Mike Huckabee describes the world he would create if he were to become president:

“And here is what we have to do: America has to have the most formidable, fierce military in the history of mankind,” stated Huckabee.

“So when we have a threat, whether it is ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranians, whatever it is, we make it very clear that we plan to push back and destroy that threat to us. And we won’t take 10 years doing it, we hopefully won’t even take 10 months, it will be like a 10-day exercise, because the fierceness of our forces would mean that we can absolutely guarantee the outcome of this film. That’s how America needs to operate in the world of foreign affairs, and foreign policy.” [Huckabee, via BuzzFeed]

Since one of my rules for campaign coverage is to assume unless you have countervailing evidence that politicians are sincere in what they say, I’ll assume that Huckabee genuinely believes that a complex problem like ISIS could be solved in 10 days, if only we were fierce enough. While his opponents might not go quite that far, with the exception of Rand Paul they all believe that the reason there are unsolved problems in the world is that we haven’t been strong enough. They quote action movie lines and say that increasing the size of the military will give us the strength we need to bend every country and non-state actor to our will.

Huckabee may not realize this, but we already have the strongest military in the history of mankind. Could it be even stronger? Sure. We could shut down Social Security and use the money to double the size of the military (a plan I think more than a few Republicans would embrace). But even that military would confront some problems it couldn’t solve, because that’s just how the world is.

What may be most remarkable is that it was George W. Bush — who, you may remember, was not given to nuanced thinking, worrying about unintended consequences, or talk of compromise with “evildoers” — who brought us the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, Republicans say (though obviously not in so many words) that if only we could be more like Bush, our foreign policy would be an unending string of unequivocal triumphs, as every danger to ourselves or our friends evaporated before our terrifying might.

It’s an inspiring vision, one in which perfect outcomes are not only possible but relatively easy to obtain. It’s also an outlook more appropriate for children who have no experience to learn from, than for a party asking to be given control of the world’s last superpower.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, July 20, 2015

July 22, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, U. S. Military, War Hawks | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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