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“The Right Policies For America”: Progressives Should Stand With The President To Oppose Genocide

One of the reasons I supported Barack Obama for President in 2008 was his pledge to end the war in Iraq. I have been a vocal opponent of that war since George W. Bush proposed the invasion in 2002.

I strongly believe that the actions President Obama announced in Iraq last night deserve progressive support.

First and foremost, the president announced that America must act to prevent genocide on a mountain in Iraq. ISIS has herded 30,000 to 40,000 people from the Yazidis sect onto a mountain where they are dying of starvation and dehydration. ISIS has said that the Yazidis must either renounce their religion or they will be massacred. That is simply unacceptable in a civilized world. We cannot stand by idly and watch ISIS commit genocide.

The United States has already completed an air drop of supplies to those besieged people. And the president has made clear that if the siege of that mountain is not relieved, he has authorized airstrikes to break that siege.

The president also authorized airstrikes if ISIS advances on the Kurdish city of Erbil, where America has a consulate and a number of American personnel.

Just as important, he has also pledged that the United States will never again put combat personnel on the ground in Iraq.

Progressives should oppose any new long-term military engagement in the Middle East. The problems in Iraq will not yield to American military intervention today any more than they did over the last 12 years. Political reconciliation is the only effective solution to the current ethnic civil war in Iraq — and that requires a government that is inclusive of the legitimate aspirations of every faction in Iraq — not the sectarian al-Maliki regime.

But we cannot stand by idly and watch ISIS commit genocide on that mountain. Nor can we fail to act to prevent a vicious organization like ISIS — a group so violent that it has even been disowned by Al Qaeda — from capturing or killing Americans in Erbil and engaging in genocidal action against the Kurds in Erbil.

American airpower can help prevent these outcomes and the threat of airpower is the military option that the president has chosen to use, much as he did successfully in Libya.

Progressives oppose genocide and the murder of innocent civilians — especially the murder of children. President Obama’s actions in this respect clearly deserve progressive support.

But we should remember the roots of the horrible sectarian strife exploding in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

George W. Bush kicked over the sectarian hornets’ nest in Iraq and the Middle East when he invaded and occupied Iraq. He destroyed any basis for Sunni power in Iraq and installed the sectarian Shiite government in Baghdad.

Colin Powell warned that invading countries were subject to the “Pottery Barn” rule: “You break it, you own it.” For the last five and a half years, President Obama has been cleaning up the horrific mess George W. Bush made of American foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular.

Now America must navigate a very difficult course. We must resist Neo-Con calls for long-term military engagement, occupation or “nation building.” At the same time, we must step up to our humanitarian responsibility to prevent genocide and help stabilize the violent situation that those Neo-Con policies helped make possible through their reckless invasion.

It isn’t that easy. President Obama is taking the same kind of clear-eyed, confident, measured approach to Iraq that allowed him to find and eliminate Osama Bin Laden and has massively increased the respect for America throughout the world.

His actions will not satisfy the swaggering, bull-in-the-china-shop Neo-Cons that got us into Iraq in the first place and demanded that American troops remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Nor will those actions likely satisfy those who believe America can shrink from its engagement from the world or have no responsibility for our fellow human beings on this small planet. But they are the right policies for America and they deserve our support.


By: Robert Creamer, Political Organizer, Strategist, Author; Partner Democracy Partners; The Huffington Post Blog, August 8, 2014

August 10, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, Progressives | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What The Republicans Failed To Accomplish”: Vital Tasks The House Did Not Address Before Taking An Unnecessary Recess

Many House members were at the airport yesterday, desperate to begin their five-week vacation, when the chamber’s leadership called them back. An emergency bill to provide money for the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border had earlier been pulled from the floor because of objections from the hard right; now some Republicans wanted to try again.

“You can’t go home!” Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas said, according to the Washington Post. That would send a terrible message to President Obama: “You’re right, we’re a do-nothing Congress.”

Sorry, congressman. That message had already been broadcast long before the House tripped over its own divisions on the border bill. The failure of this Congress (principally the House) to perform the most basic tasks of governing is breathtakingly broad. Though members did manage to pass a bill overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs, here is a catalog of the vital tasks the House was unable to accomplish before taking an unnecessary recess:

But there is one thing House Republicans did enthusiastically before packing their bags: They voted to sue the president for taking executive actions they disliked — actions that were necessary because Republicans failed to do their jobs.


By: David Firestone, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Congress, House Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another ‘Do Nothing’ Embarrassment”: House Fails To Pass Immigration Bill, Asks Obama To Act Alone

House Republicans pulled their embattled immigration legislation on Thursday, after failing to find enough Republicans to vote for the pared-down funding bill. The embarrassing defeat for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) greatly increases the odds that the House will not do anything to act on the border crisis before leaving Washington for its August recess.

The Republican majority will hold a conference meeting at 3pm EST, after which House leaders will announce whether they will try again to hold a vote.

The House had planned to vote on two separate measures before leaving town: A $659 million funding bill to respond to the humanitarian crisis at the border, and a bill that would bar President Obama from expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants temporary work permits and relief from deportation for some young immigrants. But House leaders failed to gather the 218 votes needed to move forward.

Ironically, Speaker Boehner — who, one day earlier, advanced his plan to sue President Obama for allegedly exceeding his authority with executive orders — urged President Obama to act alone on securing the border. In a statement, Boehner and fellow House leaders Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), said:

This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.

The House’s failure to gather enough votes for the bill represents a huge defeat in the first legislative test for McCarthy, the new majority leader, and Scalise, the new whip. The pair were apparently outmaneuvered by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who reportedly met with more than a dozen House Republicans on Wednesday night to press them to oppose leadership’s bill.

Even if the House had passed either bill, neither would have had any chance of becoming law. The $659 million in the House bill fell far short of the $3.7 billion President Obama had requested to confront the the growing funding crisis at the border, as well as the $2.7 billion in the bill advanced by the Senate on Wednesday. Additionally, as David Rogers pointed out in Politico, the bill contained very little money for hiring additional immigration judges, and no money for legal representation for the children at the border. Instead, it focused on expediting the deportation process by mandating that children coming from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala face a court hearing within a week of being screened by child welfare officials, and that the judge make a ruling within 72 hours of the end of the hearing.

The White House had vowed that President Obama would veto the House bill if it somehow reached his desk, saying in a statement that it “could make the situation worse, not better.”

The second bill, which would have barred President Obama from taking an executive action expanding DACA, existed purely to placate Tea Party conservatives who did not want to vote for leadership’s funding bill. As a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent before the vote, “If the House passed the DACA provision, it would go straight into the trash and never get a vote.”


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Epic Incompetence”: Border Failure Rocks House GOP Leadership

It’s hard to overstate what a humiliating failure this is for the House Republican leadership team, especially House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

House Republican efforts to build support among their more conservative members collapsed Thursday as Congress prepares to cut town for a month-long recess without first passing a funding bill to address the thousands of unaccompanied minors being detained at the U.S. border.

Confronted with the Republican leadership’s inability to shore up enough votes, House Speaker John Boehner pulled the doomed legislation, which would have provided $659 million in emergency aid to the U.S. border.

Congress is still prepared to leave town tonight for a five-week break, but lawmakers will leave having accomplished nothing in response to the humanitarian crisis along the U.S./Mexico border.

There’s still a small chance the House GOP will figure something out – there will reportedly be an emergency meeting within the hour, though it’s unclear what good it will do – but after exhaustive efforts, it appears House Republicans have killed their own party’s policy.

It was the first real test for the new House Republican leadership team and they appear to have failed miserably.

In a statement, Boehner blamed President Obama for Republicans’ inability to pass their own legislation and urged the president to take unilateral action regardless of Congress. The timing is breathtaking: literally yesterday, GOP lawmakers voted to sue Obama for circumventing Congress, and less than 24 hours later, Boehner is publicly urging Obama to circumvent Congress.

The resulting image is a helpless party, lacking leaders, direction, and purpose. House Republicans were desperate to prove they’re capable of being a governing party, and in the process, they’ve proven the opposite.

To be sure, the GOP border bill was, on a substantive level, pathetic. It would have done very little to address the problem, and its demise is a positive development for the country.

But the real story today is one of epic incompetence and a party that’s practically developed an allergy to completing the basic tasks of government.

This is, of course, great news for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who now appears to have more influence over what happens in the House than the actual House Republican leadership team.

But in the meantime, John Boehner’s Speakership is turning into something of a tragedy. How many times has he put together a bill, only to be betrayed by his own followers? A Democratic source on Capitol Hill recently sent around a brutal collection of bills Boehner asked his members to support, only to see his own House GOP conference reject his appeals: a grand bargain, a debt-ceiling bill in 2011, a payroll tax extension, a transportation bill, a farm bill, one fiscal-cliff bill, another fiscal-cliff bill, another farm bill, and then yesterday. I think my source might have even missed a couple, including the collapse of Boehner’s debt-ceiling bill in February 2014.We’ll have more on this later, but for now Boehner has to be asking himself about the value of a leader with no followers. As if we needed additional evidence, he remains the Speaker In Name Only.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ted Cruz Leads GOP To Disaster (Again)”: Marketing And Posturing To Drive The Base Crazier Than Usual:

Ted Cruz (R-TX), cast in the mold of a spotlight-grabbing Sarah Palin on the way to a reality show, was accurately described by Rachel Maddow as a “brand on legs.” This explains why he has gone after the most uncontroversial program Obama passed unilaterally in wake of the failure of legislation to pass; that is, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

As far as ethics goes, using asylum-seeking children “warehoused” in facilities that look like part Katrina shelter/part dog kennel, as an excuse to attack DACA, falls somewhere between heartlessly passing by the desperate victim robbed in The Good Samaritan, and Frank Underwood sociopathically throwing a reporter in front of a subway car… if both victims were dehydrated little girls desperately trying to escape sex traffickers.

Women and children fleeing violence is nothing new: while some of the stories of how my family came here are likely tall tales, the truth seems to be that my great, great grandmother and great grandfather came here, fleeing Northern Ireland. I had family on both sides of the Ulster Plantation divide, which meant my cousins were likely killing each other in alleys: a condition that would continue for years to come.

When my Protestant great, great grandfather disappeared one day, my Catholic great, great grandmother and my then-12-year-old great grandfather were left to both go through Ellis Island, and find jobs in a New York City that was not happy with it’s current influx of immigrants: they faced openly-bigoted laws and hiring practices. The headwinds they faced, however, seem modest compared to what the border children face today.

The child refugees and asylum-seekers of today, unfortunately, fall perfectly into a difficult, complicated and heated political narrative at a time when everyone is already at each other’s throats: after much delay, Obama finally announced that he would be giving additional unilateral relief around the end of the summer. Everything we see now from Ted Cruz is just marketing and posturing to drive the base crazier than usual:

“The staggering conditions that children are being subjected to are a direct result of the amnesty that President Obama illegally and unilaterally enacted in 2012 [DACA],” said Cruz.

It is hard to believe an Ivy-League Senator would be so ignorant, so I really do think he’s simply knowingly lying: the influx is caused by the highest murder rate in the world in these Central American countries, where people flee areas where gangs murder and rape with impunity; the DACA program will not benefit a single child at the border because you must have been in the country continuously since 2007 to qualify; a president’s administration is not responsible for the lies told by the drug cartels often murdering and raping the desperate children they lure into the desert like a giant windowless van full of candy; they aren’t being drawn by the American Dream, they’re fleeing the Central American nightmare as best they can, and other countries have seen large increases in asylum applications as those fleeing Guatamala, Honduras and El Salvador jump up as much as 700 percent.

While the anger on the Left has been slow in coming, it is still coming: the visuals of children in those horrible shelters aren’t leaving any time soon. The harsh rhetoric around this issue is more of the short-sighted politics we have come to expect of the GOP — they do whatever they can to get through the week, and a lot of it makes absolutely no sense from the outside, i.e. the government shutdown.

The big problem that the GOP either isn’t registering, or it’s very independently-minded characters like Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert (R-TX) don’t care about, is that the GOP brand is being burned to the ground for them to send out another fundraising letter, or for Rick Perry to take another Putin-esque photo op at the border — with many Latinos believing “there but for the grace of God goes me” as the immigration narrative is very much a Latino one, both in popular perceptions as well as in the surge of asylum-seekers, saying things that boil down to “these kennels are too good for these people” isn’t the way to go.

While the course that the Ted Cruz-controlled portion of the GOP is heading down toward is a predictable one, the results are not. During the last big controversy, he led the GOP-controlled House into the street and encouraged them to play in traffic, and I expect more of the same. What kind of car will blindside the more ambitious, less savvy members of the House is anyone’s guess.


By: Ryan Campbell, The Huffington Post Blog, July 28, 2014



July 29, 2014 Posted by | Immigrants, Refugees, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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