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“Its Not Just About Bombing ISIS”: Organizing Global Action Related To Financing Of Terrorism

I’ve written previously about the strategy behind President Obama’s containment policy with regards to ISIS.

Its [U.S.] containment policy, Watts explained, is designed to wall ISIS into increasingly restricted territory and letting it fail due to its own mismanagement, economic problems, and internal discord, rather than because of the actions of a foreign oppressor.

If you want to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and engage in an apocalyptic battle with the West, you need financial resources to do so. Hence, the United States has been pursuing a financial as well as military containment policy.

But those efforts won’t succeed unless the countries of the world join us in both abandoning any financial transactions with ISIS and policing private entities within their own borders who might attempt to do so. That’s why, as U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power wrote, last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew took on the role of foreign diplomat.

…to defeat these terrorist groups — as we must and will do — the United Nations must reach beyond the expertise of foreign ministries, and our traditional means of countering State aggression.

Instead, we must look to the policymakers who are developing innovative tactics to fight these groups, from strengthening border security and countering violent extremism in communities to choking off various sources of ISIL’s financing.

On Thursday, Secretary Lew is chairing the first-ever meeting of U.N. Security Council finance ministers to intensify international efforts on combating terrorist financing. We recognize that if we want to cut off ISIL’s access to the international financial system and prevent it from raising, transferring and using funds, we need other countries on board.

That is an innovative approach to how the U.N. might function in a world of asymmetrical threats. The idea that it is not simply a place for foreign ministers to discuss state-on-state military matters, but is also a place to organize global action related to terrorism financing means that it can be a vehicle for strategies that address 21st century challenges.

I am reminded of the approach a lot of Republicans have taken to the United Nations – from former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton’s casual reference to “losing 10 stories” of their building in NYC to continuous efforts by Congressional Republicans to defund it.

What we have seen from the Obama administration is a strengthening of the United Nations (and other coalitions like NATO) as a way to establish the kinds of partnerships that are necessary to accomplish everything from a global climate accord to a plan to end the Syrian civil war to cutting off the flow of financial resources to ISIS.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | ISIS, Republicans, Terrorism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When War Is The Only Option We All Lose”: GOP Plunging Blindly Into Reckless Politicization Of The Issues Of War And Peace

It is very rare where I get angry from the outbursts that emanate from my television screen but yesterday was an exception. That it would come from a protégé of Dick Cheney is neither surprising nor excusable. On Hardball with Chris Matthews Ron Christie uttered some of the most nonsensical, insensitive, and factually dubious comments I have heard in a while. Mounting an attack against the recently completed framework for Iranian nuclear containment he likened President Obama’s efforts to those of Neville Chamberlain in 1938. Aside from the cheap and tawdry nature of the accusation, it is intellectually bankrupt and petty.

In the eyes of the lunatic fringe evidently Obama is not only a Muslim, Kenyan, and Socialist but also a Nazi sympathizer. The childishness of the accusations is only eclipsed by the vapidity with which they are dispensed. Dick Cheney should be in Guantanamo serving a life sentence for the damage he has wrought on the battlefield and in the arena of American national security interest. He is a lunatic, a dangerous one at that and he continues to this day to spread his hate-mongering to any audience that is desperate enough to have him.

Ron Christie was an advisor to Cheney and his baseless political hucksterism does not qualify him for prison but certainly does bring into question his value as a commentator. Reading from a prepared script does not qualify anyone to be taken seriously, particularly when it is devoid of substantive considerations. He is purely and simply a political hack.

The conservative Republican talking points memo on Iran was drafted long before even the faintest outlines of a framework were discussed. It is extremely hard to take seriously the opposition position that renders the mere act of negotiating an agreement a non-starter. The position that negotiation has no place in disposition of the serious issues involved when it comes to nuclear capacity in Iran is as deceitful as it is dangerous. Have these neoconservative nincompoops not done enough damage already?

To be clear their opposition is not to the construct of an agreement as much as it is a statement that anything short of war should be on the table. The same neocon thinking that led us to the most strategically disastrous blunder in American history, namely the invasion of Iraq and subsequent execution of a governmental purge known as deBathification is very much alive in the comments of noted failures such as Cheney, Bolton, and now this mouthpiece Ron Christie.

An outraged Matthews did everything he could to ridicule Christie short of cutting off his microphone. I would offer that Christie’s performance should foreclose the option of him ever being invited to appear on any program designed to discuss serious issues involving international affairs. He obviously takes his cue from the attack first and ask questions later crowd and if there is need for discussion of whether war or peace is an appropriate response to issues in tinderbox areas of the world such as the Middle East then maybe there is consideration of his opinion. However, on issues of substance he is ill equipped to participate in the discussion.

The Republicans have got this one wrong and will not be supported by the American public at large. They have overplayed their hand by plunging blindly into reckless politicization of the issues of war and peace and if they succeed in derailing an attempt to peacefully settle the issue at hand will drive a wedge into the heart of American public opinion unlike any seen since the dark days surrounding our involvement in Vietnam.

 

By: Lance Simmens, Author, The Evolution of a Revolution; The Blog, The Huffington Post, April 4, 2015

April 5, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Iran, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Catastrophe Bibi Is Courting”: Bolstering His Re-Election And Pushing For War, He Should Be Careful What You Wishes For

So Bibi Netanyahu did not back down, and he’s here now in the United States, and he’s giving the speech Tuesday. In doing so, he has forced a true low point in U.S.-Israel relations. As has been often observed, he’s turning Israel into a partisan issue—up to somewhere around a quarter of congressional Democrats are refusing to attend the speech. That’s a crack, a big one. If he remains prime minister after the March 17 elections, the fissures between Netanyahu’s government and Barack Obama and the Democrats will only widen.

Congressional support for Israel is due for a reconsideration. As Scott McConnell wrote last month in The American Conservative (an anti-neocon magazine), Congress “does not come close to representing the views of the American people” on Israel, either with respect to Iran or the occupation. McConnell cites all the requisite poll numbers that make the case.

Now, Congress can go a long time without representing American public opinion. On certain big-money issues like banking, that’s all Congress does. But on most issues, Congress at least has to act like it’s listening to the American people, and on foreign policy questions in particular, Congress, and for that matter the president, can’t usually go where the American people don’t want to go. Obama probably wanted to drop a smattering of bombs on Syria in 2013, but public opinion was dead set against it. And remember how the Bush administration had to work public opinion in 2002 and 2003 to make sure the lies about Saddam Husssein’s nuclear ambitions got support levels up to 60 percent or so before it launched the war.

So one of these days, in two years or five or six, congressional fealty to Israel will cease being so bipartisan and reflexive—and that will be entirely an outcome of Netanyahu (and John Boehner’s and Ron Dermer’s and AIPAC’s) making.

But all that is just politics. Netanyahu is creating a much bigger problem here. Ultimately, he wants war with Iran. And American neoconservatives want it, too.  Few of them will say so (although some do—see below). But that’s what they want, and we need to be clear about it.

Think about it. What is the alternative to negotiating with Iran? Well, there is only one: not negotiating with Iran. And what are the possible courses of action under that option? At the end of the day, there are two. Number one, let Iran do what it wants. Number two, ultimately, be willing to start a war to block Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Knowing the neocons’ world view as I’m sure you do, how willing do you think they’d be to let Iran do what it wants? Correct. Not very. That leaves war. There is the step of tougher sanctions as a middle course, but sanctions, even crippling ones, don’t usually change a regime’s behavior. So the clear implication of the anti-negotiation position is war—with a country of 77 million people, a huge army, and formidable wealth. As a point of comparison, Iraq in 2003 had about a third of Iran’s population.

As noted above, not many on the right are going to be honest enough to speak openly of war. The Republican presidential candidates, for example, don’t want the American public to think they’re crazy, so they won’t admit this—although interestingly, Rick Santorum became, I believe, the first Republican candidate to call for up to 10,000 U.S. combat troops on the ground to fight the so-called Islamic State.

With regard to Iran, the candidates hide behind the usual euphemisms. But a few war-makers are coming out of the closet. Matt Welch of Reason noted last week that on a panel at CPAC, both John Bolton and new Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton spoke openly of the desire for regime change in Iran. Bolton said U.S. policy toward Iran should be “overthrow of the ayatollahs.” Cotton added that we need regime change and “replacement with a pro-Western regime.”

Where is Netanyahu on this? Every indication he’s given us is that he’s on the Bolton-Cotton team. I don’t doubt that the prime minister sincerely believes that a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic would be catastrophic for Israel, and we should not dismiss that concern. No opponent of the neoconservative approach should be foolish enough to think that we can trust Iran. Israel has good reason to be worried. (I will, however, mention here Israel’s own 100-odd nuclear warheads, just on principle, because they always go unmentioned in columns like these.)

So Netanyahu wants, at the very least, a bombing campaign. But you know as well as I do that most of the leading experts say Iran’s centrifuge capacities are now too numerous and too geographically disparate for a bombing campaign of the usual scope to be very effective. That means a bombing campaign of unusual scope.

Do Netanyahu and Bolton really expect that Iran would not retaliate in such a case? Of course it would retaliate. And far more likely against Israel than against the United States. But the United States would be dragged into it, which is exactly what Bolton and Cotton told CPAC we should all want.

It seems to be what Netanyahu wants, too. It’s what he wanted back in 2002, when—then as a private citizen—he went to Congress and made the case for war against Iraq. As Josh Marshall noted last week, some of his words from back then are enough to make you shudder: “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”

It had the opposite effect, of course. It strengthened Iran and gave us ISIS. And now we’re supposed to make up for that huge mistake by trusting Netanyahu and the neocons again?

I’m sure Netanyahu’s words will be measured Tuesday. He wants Israel’s levels of support in America to be high, and he wants to win re-election. But don’t be fooled. He and his Republican backers are leading us down a potentially catastrophic path. And catastrophic not least for Israel itself: If this path someday reaches its logical end point, it won’t be only liberal Democrats in America who’ll conclude that we should just let Israel fight its own battles.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 2, 2015

March 3, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Congress, Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From Warmongers To Conspiracy Theorists”: CPAC 2015 Wants You To Know: You Are In Terrible Danger

Welcome to the Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day-long performance from an improv troupe whose hat has only one statement in it: you’re in terrible danger. But that doesn’t mean you’re in terrible danger right now. Right now, there are seminars. About the danger. I have been to them, as part of my quest to be America’s Most Impervious Man. I don’t even care to what.

After a lunch consisting of a bowl of nails and a mean old dog, I attend the “America at Risk” seminar featuring speakers “Callista Gingrich” and “Newt Gingrich.” Technically, this statement is true, because they speak, and their words come out of speakers. Unfortunately, neither are here. Instead, after spending approximately one jillion dollars to attend CPAC, everyone in the Gaylord Hotel’s Chesapeake Rooms 4-6 gets to watch a $9.99 DVD. From 2010.

“America at Risk” is a well-shot piece of propaganda, with appropriately sinister documentary music and Ken Burns-esque pans across pictures of bad people. At one point, we are informed that, in 2009, “There were over a dozen terrorist cases in the United States.” The vague wording really works for me. I immediately wonder which of the dozen involved that white Nazi from Maine trying to build a dirty bomb or the white Nazi patriot shooting people at the Holocaust museum. Then I realize that these terrorist “cases” probably did not include white people, militias, separatists or sovereign citizens, since the number would probably be off by an order of magnitude.

Still, I enjoy seeing Marc Theissen claim that waterboarding works, that the Muslim Brotherhood controls one third of all mosques in America, and listening to a man explaining that we are currently experiencing Islam’s “third great jihad.”

Of course, what I enjoy is irrelevant. What the audience revel in is hooting at the screen whenever Barack Obama says anything divergent from what they agree with. “Islam has a proud history of tolerance”, Obama says in 2009. “Yeah where?” answers the audience, who call him an “idiot” and “liar,” before subsiding with a lot of sheeshes and head-shaking. “We see it in Andalusia, during the Inquisition,” Obama goes on to say. “Yeah, when they killed everyone” adds someone who does not seem to be aware that neither history books, the Muslims of Cordoba or Barack Obama can hear him.

I eventually leave the room and start heading to the other side of the Gaylord, where former UN Ambassador John Bolton, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Montana Representative Ryan Zinke answer the question: “When Should America Go to War?” And, folks, lemme tell you, it is all the dang time.

Watching these guys is amazing. Bolton, inventor of FreeRepublic.com’s mandatory mustache, opened early with, “We should have stopped Hitler at the Rhineland in 1936.” Cotton says, “If any state in the west had stood up to Adolf Hitler,” then sort of trails off into nothingness, perhaps remembering 1939-1945. When talking about how extreme force acts as a deterrent, Cotton says, “America is like Rome,” without mentioning Rome’s unnecessary wars of profit that served as a distraction from domestic political unrest. Churchill’s name comes up twice.

Bolton’s core thesis is that, “American strength is not provocative. American weakness is provocative”. Hence the allusion to Rome and the old Roman expression, Si vis pacem, para bellum. He then says that, “This is not a debate between interventionism versus non-interventionism, or between unilateralism or multi-lateralism,” which seems fairly obvious as soon as he starts talking about unilaterally going to war to stop anything he can think of. Cotton adds that the world has to know that we are willing to go to war to defend our national security interests, especially against trans-national terrorist groups. In a span of only few words, he has defined US interests as “everything everywhere.”

When asked if he would have supported the Iraq War, Cotton says he would have agreed with “Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who made the right decision to support president George W. Bush.” This audience hoots, too. That is, until Zinke says that he would not have supported the 2003 invasion. The comment stings, since Zinke was a Navy SEAL and also opened his comments moments earlier by noting that he’d been to more funerals than there were people in the packed room. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

Somewhere after the actual veteran has Debbie-Dowernered things, the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano tells the assembled crowd that “we need to get back into the missile defense business in a big way.” What a funny way of phrasing that.

Still Bolton is on his game. You don’t get to be the Ur-Stache by being a slouch. “The war was correct,” he says, saying that Saddam would have had uranium-enriching centrifuges up and running immediately. “This saved the world from a nuclear disaster,” he says, which is a good job, considering all the other disasters just around the corner.

He then goes on to explain that we should have spent the last ten years better integrating the Baltic states into NATO, to discourage further Russian expansion.

“We’re past that,” he says, sadly. “That’s why we’re in such danger.”

 

By: Jeb Lund, The Guardian, February 28, 2015

March 1, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, CPAC, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Neocons’ Ferguson Freakout”: Why Their Latest Attack On Obama Makes Them Look So Silly

Near the very end of his Wednesday speech to the U.N. General Assembly — a speech that pundits described as “Wilsonian” and “the most liberal foreign policy address” of his career — President Obama acknowledged that despite its claim of global leadership, the United States sometimes falls short of living up to its self-professed values. “I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals,” Obama said. “In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri,” Obama continued, “where a young man was killed, and a community was divided.”

This was the geopolitical equivalent of a boss trying to prove to her employees she’s relatable by noting that even she sometimes makes mistakes. And if they noticed this moment at all, most people likely saw it for what it was: a harmless act of genuflection, delivered by a U.S. president in service of his ultimate goal, rallying global opinion behind another American war in the Middle East. In other words, nothing to see here, folks; keep it movin’.

But as we now know all too well, neoconservatives are not like most people; their response to Obama’s Ferguson remark was nothing short of apoplectic.

“I was stunned,” neocon hero and former Vice President Dick Cheney said of the Ferguson reference during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show later that night. The president’s rhetorical pairing of the turmoil in Ukraine and the Levant with that in Ferguson, Cheney said, was simply unacceptable. “In one case, you’ve got a police officer involved in a shooting, there may be questions about it to be sorted out by the legal process, but there’s no comparison to that with what ISIS is doing to thousands of people throughout the Middle East,” Cheney said, before huffing: “To compare the two as though there’s moral equivalence there, I think, is outrageous.”

Washington Post columnist and fellow neoconservative Charles Krauthammer hit a similar note in his response (also delivered on Fox News, naturally) by dusting off a circa 2009 anti-Obama talking point and describing the speech as “a continuation of the apology tour.” Echoing Cheney, Krauthammer declared Obama “intended [to draw] a moral equivalence” between ISIS and America. He then snarked about the silver lining of having Obama “talking about our sins” at the U.N. in New York City, rather than doing so while on foreign soil. (Like, say, Montreal, where Krauthammer spent his childhood.)

Last — and considering this is the man who helped organize the smear campaign against Bowe Bergdahl — very much least, there was Richard Grenell, former top aide to every neoconservative’s fantasy presidential candidate, ex-U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.  Writing at, yes, Fox News’ website, Grenell argued the president’s mentioning Ferguson was “a big mistake.” Grenell conceded that “humility and self-reflection are admirable leadership qualities” but nevertheless warned how Obama’s speech “gives foreign diplomats from Arab countries and Russia the excuse they need to dismiss America’s condemnation of their actions.” Because they were otherwise so primed for genuine cooperation…

To state the obvious, it is not surprising to find neoconservatives blasting the president, even if he’s currently launching a war against ISIS that, in significant respects, justifies itself intellectually through neoconservative-friendly arguments. Dedicated neoconservatives tend to be rigid partisans when it comes to politics, uninterested in compromise and focused primarily on controlling U.S. military power.  What’s striking about the neocon attack isn’t its churlishness, therefore, but rather its transparency. Think of the characteristic emotional tics of neoconservatism — its paranoia, its insecurity, its obsessive fear of looking weak — and look back again at the words of the president’s neocon critics. They’re all there.

An example: For Cheney, Krauthammer and Grenell, the obvious but unstated assumption is that an American president addressing the United Nations must do so as if he has something to hide. Obama’s attempt to emphasize the U.S.’s role as both leader and member of the international order — to approach the world as an eager partner instead of  an overbearing hegemon — is offensive to them because it treats the idea of a global community as an aspiration instead of a nuisance. Most neoconservatives, as Grenell’s old boss Bolton infamously made plain, aren’t much interested in the idea of a U.N. Since the U.S. can militarily do almost whatever it wants, they don’t see the purpose.

Along the same lines, the response from all three men included expressions of outrage at the president’s supposedly drawing a moral equivalence between ISIS and Ferguson’s police. The fear of the pernicious results of moral equivalency can be found throughout the right, but in the realm of foreign policy, it’s most pronounced among neoconservatives, for whom any recognition of the most basic shared humanity between the U.S. and its foes — and I’m talking basic, here; like the capacity to make mistakes — is tantamount to swearing off any claim to moral legitimacy. The fact that the United States is a more humane, responsible and decent global citizen than the genocidal ISIS is obvious enough to most of us (and not saying much, either). But, again, the neocons are the exception.

Finally, the neocon pushback also highlights what is to my mind one of their most distinctive and revealing features — their utter lack of interest in domestic policy. Neo-imperialists that they are, neocons often see domestic politics solely through the lens of foreign affairs. And because they’re so zeroed-in on what they imagine the world’s perception of the U.S. is (as well as what it should be), they’ll not infrequently analyze domestic events with a kind of myopia that prioritizes the U.S. #brand above all else. Richard Grenell doesn’t know enough about the goings on in Ferguson to understand that Michael Brown’s killing had nothing to do with his alleged robbery, which officer Darren Wilson did not know of when he came into conflict with the teen. He refers to it as a “burglary-turned-shooting.” (I suppose we could chalk Grenell’s mistake up to laziness and/or a desire to mislead, but I’m feeling generous.)

At this point, nearly 13 years after they set up shop in the White House and spent years directing and discrediting U.S. foreign policy, I’d forgive you for wanting a break from having to transport yourself into the gloomy world of the neocons’ minds. But as the ongoing war with ISIS and the aforementioned freakout over Bowe Bergdahl have recently made clear, neoconservatism still has an outsized influence in Washington, if nowhere else. That’s partially because any theory justifying neo-imperialism is bound to have nine lives among the D.C. elite. But it’s also in part the consequence of too many analysts and observers coming across statements like those of Cheney, Krauthammer and Grenell and declining to cut through the bullshit and acknowledge the truth — namely, that these men are very, very silly.

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, September 25, 2014

 

September 27, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Ferguson Missouri, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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