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“Jeb Bush, Like Many Republicans, Wants A War With Iran”: That’s The ‘Pretty Good Deal’ Republicans Have In Mind

Like all Republican presidential candidates, Jeb Bush is opposed to the world powers nuclear agreement with Iran, and has denounced it in withering terms as a “bad,” “horrific” deal. Late last week, he offered some valuable perspective on what counts in his mind as a “good deal” in global affairs, when, speaking at a foreign policy forum in Iowa, he argued, “I’ll tell you, taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal.”

Because almost nobody in America thinks the Iraq War was a particularly good deal, the political media is holding his comment up as a gaffe. But against the backdrop of GOP opposition to the Iran agreement, it’s much more revelatory than that. It crystallizes the increasingly open secret in the world of foreign affairs that the “pretty good deal” we got in Iraq and the “better deal” Iran foes allude to so frequently are actually the same deal. Not in every particular—nobody of any prominence on the right is currently arguing for a wholesale invasion and occupation of Iran. But forced regime change was what we got in Iraq, and it’s what the supporters of the war there ultimately want in Iran.

There’s a danger whenever Bush is asked to comment about national security or Middle East policy that his comments will stem less from any considered position than from the poisoned soils of family loyalty and legacy redemption. For precisely that reason, it took him a week this past spring to make the easy migration from outright support for the Iraq invasion to conditional opposition (“knowing what we know now”).

But Bush has now rolled out, and adhered to, a tangle of views that could be mistaken for his brother’s—void the Iran agreement and possibly attack Iran, rescind President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order banning torture, and possibly send thousands of U.S. troops back into Iraq—and none of them is even remotely controversial among his co-partisans.

Republicans of a neoconservative bent grow prickly when accused of promising a “better deal” in bad faith, or of harboring ulterior motives, and they became especially prickly when Obama points it out, as he did in a resolute speech at American University earlier this month. What makes their thin skin so odd is that these motives aren’t even really ulterior. They’re articulated unabashedly by many, many conservatives all the time. Republican presidential candidates, including Bush, have expressed interest in military strikes to set back Iran’s nuclear activities. Conservative writer Norman Podhoretz has been arguing for them for years.

That this view is widely shared on the right emerges as well from the cold logic of the multilateral negotiations themselves, and from the growing consensus among Republicans that the next U.S. president should walk away from the agreement as a first order of business.

This matrix is slightly oversimplified, but only slightly. Thanks to the agreement, there’s a decent chance that Iran won’t produce a nuclear weapon for many years. If the agreement collapses, the diplomatic channel will essentially be closed, Iran will probably manufacture a weapon, and the drumbeat for airstrikes will intensify. That’s a cardinal truth, no matter who violates the agreement. The ancillary benefit for hawkish Iran foes is that if Iran breaches the deal, it will provide U.S. policymakers with a robust rhetorical foundation for demanding the reimposition of sanctions, and coordinated airstrikes. Republicans are effectively saying that this isn’t good enough, and that we should void the deal ourselves—sacrifice all of that good will—to precipitate the crisis more rapidly.

That’s what Jeb Bush meant, in his foreign policy address last week, when he said, “If the Congress does not reject this deal, then the damage must be undone by the next president—and it will be my intention to begin that process immediately.” Ripping up the global powers agreement is the predicate for the “pretty good deal” Republicans have in mind. It’s the whole show.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 17, 2015

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Iran Nuclear Agreement, Iraq War, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Jeb’s New Iraq Stance”: My Brother’s ‘Mission Was Accomplished’

In the early months of his candidacy, Jeb Bush fumbled whenever he faced extremely predictable questions about his brother’s foreign policy. When asked about Iraq again at last week’s debate, he said that, knowing what we know now, “it was a mistake,” then inelegantly pivoted from praising veterans to blaming Obama for the current situation in the Middle East. This week Bush debuted a new stance: Whatever mistakes President George W. Bush made along the way, the Iraq War ultimately turned out for the best (at least until President Obama and Hillary Clinton messed it all up).

On Thursday in Iowa, he even used one of the most notorious lines from his brother’s presidency. “I’ve been critical and I think people have every right to be critical of decisions that were made,” Bush said at a Q&A hosted by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security. “In 2009, Iraq was fragile but secure. [The] mission was accomplished in the way that there was security there and it was because of the heroic efforts of the men and women in the United States military that it was so.”

Bush also declared, “Taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal.” He said it was a mistake to stop the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ metadata because there’s no evidence that “civil liberties were violated, that people’s privacy was violated.” He defended the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, saying he’s been there and “this is not a torture chamber.”

Torture is one point where Jeb slightly disagrees with W. He thinks “torture is not appropriate,” and he credited his brother with ending enhanced interrogation techniques (which the George W. Bush administration initially authorized). “The change of policy that my brother did and then was put into executive order form by [President Obama] was the proper thing to do,” he explained. But Bush wouldn’t commit to keeping that executive order in place, saying, “I don’t want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement.”

In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Tuesday, Bush argued that President Obama and Hillary Clinton should be blamed for the current situation in Iraq, not his brother. “Why was the success of the [2007 troop] surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?” Bush said. “And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away.”

Trying to turn one of his biggest liabilities into a problem for Clinton is a bold strategy, but so far there isn’t much evidence that it’s working. Following Bush’s remarks, a number of people pointed out that the withdrawal was his brother’s idea. “I remind everybody that us leaving at the end of 2011 was negotiated in 2008 by the Bush administration. That was always the plan, we had promised them that we would respect their sovereignty,” said U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno, an architect of the surge.

And TheNew Yorker‘s Dexter Filkins argued that, while Clinton “played a supporting role in a disastrously managed withdrawal,” that stemmed from a “disastrously managed war itself.” Plus, she wanted to leave some troops in Iraq:

By all accounts, she was one of the people inside the Administration who advocated for keeping a residual force in Iraq. “Hillary very much wanted to keep troops in the country,” James Jeffrey, the American Ambassador to Iraq at the time, told me. This does not amount, in Jeb’s words, to “standing by” while Iraq burned.

When asked about that point on Thursday, Bush called it an “aggressive effort to rewrite history,” saying it was obvious that Obama needed to renegotiate the Bush administration’s agreement.

Bush’s nuanced (or rather, factually shaky) argument may win over some Republicans, but convincing America that Obama and Clinton deserve more blame for the Iraq War fallout than the president who started it is a tall order. It seems the only mission Jeb accomplished this week was providing sound bites for attack ads linking him to his brother.

 

By: Margaret Hartmann, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, August 14, 2015

August 16, 2015 Posted by | George W Bush, Iraq War, Jeb Bush, Mission Accomplished, Status of Forces Agreement | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“False And Foolish Prophets”: Iran Deal; Why Would We Heed The Same Voices That Are Always Wrong?

Nobody was surprised by Benjamin Netanyahu’s immediate denunciation of the Iran nuclear agreement as “a historic mistake for the world.” Echoing the Israeli prime minister’s reaction were all the usual suspects in this country — a panoply of pundits and politicians from Weekly Standard editor William Kristol and Fox News Channel analyst Charles Krauthammer to MNSBC host Joe Scarborough.

Focusing on the alleged pitfalls of the deal between Iran and the world powers, these critics elide provisions that would allow economic sanctions to “snap back” quickly if Iran violates its promises, and greatly increase the Islamic Republic’s difficulty in building an undetected bomb. They don’t explain that if the United States had walked away, the result would have been disintegration of international sanctions, a rapid buildup of Iran’s nuclear capability,  and the likelihood of war – not just bombs, but “boots on the ground.”

What everyone should remember about the agreement’s prominent foes is something they will never mention: their own shameful record in promoting our very worst foreign policy mistake since Vietnam.

Like his admirers here, Netanyahu was a fervent proselytizer for war against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. He appeared before the United States Congress in 2002 to frighten Americans and whip up belligerence. “There is no question whatsoever” – mark those words – “that Saddam is seeking, is working, is advancing toward the development of nuclear weapons,” he intoned, restating the “mushroom cloud” rhetoric of national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and vice president Dick Cheney, among others.

Around the same time, Krauthammer declared: “Time is running short. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. He is working on nuclear weapons. And he has every incentive to pass them on to terrorists who will use them against us.” As the vote on Bush’s war resolution approached that fall, he warned that “we must remove from power an irrational dictator who…is developing weapons of mass destruction that could kill millions of Americans in a day.”

And we heard the same endless, hysterical exhortations from Kristol, Scarborough, and the entire cohort that had been pushing for war in Iraq ever since 9/11. No doubt they wish we would forget they ever uttered such nonsense. But at the time they argued that not only would Saddam’s overthrow mean “the end of his weapons of mass destruction,” as Scarborough once gloated, but the democratic ouster of all our enemies in the Mideast.

On that claim, Netanyahu was unwavering and absolute. “If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime,” he told Congress, “I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region. And I think that people sitting right next door in Iran, young people, and many others, will say the time of such regimes, of such despots is gone.”

Of course, Bibi’s “guarantee” was worth less than the pitch of any used-car salesmen. So was Kristol’s blithering reassurance that Iraq’s Shi’a and the Sunni communities felt no enmity that would disrupt the bright future post-Saddam.

As Netanyahu noted not long ago – while arguing, ironically, against negotiations with Iran – the mullahs in Tehran now have far greater influence than we do over the Iraqi government in Baghdad, because both are dominated by Shi’a parties. (He failed to recall his own wrong predictions.) So we wasted blood and treasure to throw out Saddam and empower the Iranian mullahs in his place. And now the same figures responsible for that policy disaster demand that the United States turn away from the prospect of a peaceful resolution with Iran, and toward still another armed conflict.

The fundamental truth, recognized by Republican idol Ronald Reagan, is that negotiations are always preferable to war. Yet many on the American right have often preferred war, including the utterly insane risk of nuclear war, to dealing with our enemies. Earlier this year, Scarborough suggested that even if the Iran deal looked better than expected, he disdains peace talks on principle – as do the neoconservatives, who rose to prominence lobbying against strategic arms negotiations with the Soviet Union.

“I never trusted the Soviets,” said Scarborough. “I never wanted Reagan to make deals with the Soviets in the late ‘80s. It turned out well, but I was always against détente and against dealing with communists. And right now, I’m against dealing with a country whose Supreme Leader calls us the devil, who says death to America at the same time he’s negotiating this deal.”

“It turned out well” is to put it very mildly. Not only was President Reagan’s reputation enhanced, but owing to decades of negotiation, we avoided a nuclear conflict that would have ended life on this planet. Yet Scarborough and his ilk reject the idea of talking with our enemies – although any negotiation over matters of war and peace will always require that distasteful necessity.

Twelve years ago, we made the historic mistake of listening to all these false and foolish prophets. There is no excuse to repeat that tragic error.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, July 14, 2015

July 15, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Neo-Cons | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Politics Of War”: We Endanger The Peace And Confuse All Issues When We Obscure The Truth

This Memorial Day the nation remembers all those people who died while serving in the American armed forces. More than 1,316,000 military personnel have died during military conflicts in this nation’s history.

The mission of the U.S. military is to fight and win our nation’s wars. The U.S. has the most powerful military in the history of the world, but it should not be utilized as a political tool, or for retribution. The government and its leaders must do their best to make the right decisions, to be truthful with the American people, and to provide all the necessary support needed to fulfill the military’s mission. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case.

Following the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush began to plan a response. Vice President Dick Cheney and neo-con members of the administration, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, immediately set their sites on Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s tyrannical ruler. They were disappointed that Hussein had not been toppled during the first Gulf War in 1991. Soon the administration made the claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that Hussein was linked to the terrorist group al-Qaeda.

But the Bush administration was cherry picking raw intelligence, much of which was unverified. The “evidence” against Hussein was presented to Congress, which on October 11, 2002, passed the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Forces Against Iraq. In early 2003, the British and Spanish governments proposed a U.N. resolution that gave Iraq a deadline for compliance with previous resolutions on WMDs or face military actions. The resolution was withdrawn because France, Germany, Canada and Russia were opposed to military action; instead they called for further diplomacy. In early March, Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix said that progress had been made with the inspections and no WMD’s had been found in Iraq.

The administration, which rejected Blix’s assessment, began making the case for war to the American people. In February, President Bush conducted a series of interviews with news organizations, including the Spanish language channel Telemundo. I was the head of news for Telemundo at that time, and I was present for our session. The president told Telemundo’s Pedro Sevcec that he had not made a decision to go to war. Following the interview, I asked the president, “What about Jacques Chirac,” referring to the French president. President Bush swatted me on the shoulder with the back of his hand and said dismissively, “Oh, he’ll come around.” “We’re going to war,” I thought.

The American invasion of Iraq began on March 20. Vice President Cheney had predicted we would be greeted as liberators. He was wrong. The Iraqi forces were quickly defeated but the administration mismanaged the occupation. The Ba’athist government had collapsed, Hussein’s military was disarmed, and a power vacuum ensued. Sectarian violence broke out between the Shias and the Sunnis. U.S. backed Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, became Prime Minister in 2006, but his government alienated the country’s Sunni minority.

In 2007, President Bush implemented a troop surge in Iraq. By adding 20,000 additional U.S. troops, primarily in capital city Baghdad, the president hoped to buy time for reconciliation among the factions. The situation on the ground stabilized, but Sunnis still distrusted the Maliki government.

In 2008, the Bush administration negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq granting U.S. troops in the country legal immunities with the understanding the troops would be withdrawn by 2012. When negotiations began to extend U.S. military presence, only a smaller number, Maliki and various Iraqi party leaders agreed to the extended troop deployment, but did not want to continue the legal immunities. These immunities are a condition everywhere U.S. troops are based.

Some critics said President Barack Obama could have done more to secure the legal immunities, but that is debatable. In an interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation Sunday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) once again claimed an agreement could have been reached with Maliki through negotiations. Nonetheless, President Obama withdrew American combat troops and fulfilled a campaign promise.

The Maliki government collapsed in 2014. In the summer of 2014, ISIS, an Islamic terrorist group that had been incubating for more than a decade in Syria, launched a military offensive in Northern Iraq and declared an Islamic caliphate. ISIS, which is Sunni, has slaughtered thousands of people in its expansion in the region. But many Iraqi Sunnis find ISIS preferable to the Shiite government in Baghdad.

Iraq under Hussein had served as a counter balance against Iran, its bitter enemy. With Hussein gone, Iran, a Shiite country, began working closely with the Shiite government in Baghdad. Iran’s influence in the region has grown, especially with the spread of ISIS. Iraq is in turmoil and it is unlikely all of the factions, including the Kurds in the north, will come together again.

The Iraq War has been costly. More than 4,500 members of the U.S military have been killed since the invasion. Hundreds of thousands of casualties have been suffered by Iraqis. Two years ago the “Costs of Wars” project, part of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, estimated that the Iraq War had already cost America more than $2 trillion. And many veterans of Iraq, who have returned home, are unemployed, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, or have committed suicide.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and many Republican presidential candidates blame President Obama for today’s chaos in Iraq and the region. Yet these candidates do not offer a plan or a solution. In fact, former Senator Rick Santorum recently said, “If these folks (ISIS) want to return to a 7th-century version of Islam, then let’s load up our bombers and bomb them back to the 7th century.” ISIS and Iraq have turned into political fodder for the Republican base.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq, and subsequent mismanagement by the Bush administration, is the biggest mistake the U.S. has made since Vietnam. It has led to a series of unintended and disastrous consequences. And there is no light at the end of this tunnel for America.

Perhaps the architects of the Iraq War should have heeded the counsel of their spiritual leader, President Ronald Reagan. In a 1985 Veterans Day speech he said, “We endanger the peace and confuse all issues when we obscure the truth.”

 

By: Joe Peyronnin, Hofstra Journalism Professor; The Blog, The Huffington Post, May 24, 2015

May 25, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, Memorial Day, U. S. Military | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Errors And Lies”: The Iraq War Wasn’t An Innocent Mistake; The Bush Administration Wanted A War

Surprise! It turns out that there’s something to be said for having the brother of a failed president make his own run for the White House. Thanks to Jeb Bush, we may finally have the frank discussion of the Iraq invasion we should have had a decade ago.

But many influential people — not just Mr. Bush — would prefer that we not have that discussion. There’s a palpable sense right now of the political and media elite trying to draw a line under the subject. Yes, the narrative goes, we now know that invading Iraq was a terrible mistake, and it’s about time that everyone admits it. Now let’s move on.

Well, let’s not — because that’s a false narrative, and everyone who was involved in the debate over the war knows that it’s false. The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war.

The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time: the ever-shifting arguments for an unchanging goal were a dead giveaway. So were the word games — the talk about W.M.D that conflated chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) with nukes, the constant insinuations that Iraq was somehow behind 9/11.

And at this point we have plenty of evidence to confirm everything the war’s opponents were saying. We now know, for example, that on 9/11 itself — literally before the dust had settled — Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, was already plotting war against a regime that had nothing to do with the terrorist attack. “Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] …sweep it all up things related and not”; so read notes taken by Mr. Rumsfeld’s aide.

This was, in short, a war the White House wanted, and all of the supposed mistakes that, as Jeb puts it, “were made” by someone unnamed actually flowed from this underlying desire. Did the intelligence agencies wrongly conclude that Iraq had chemical weapons and a nuclear program? That’s because they were under intense pressure to justify the war. Did prewar assessments vastly understate the difficulty and cost of occupation? That’s because the war party didn’t want to hear anything that might raise doubts about the rush to invade. Indeed, the Army’s chief of staff was effectively fired for questioning claims that the occupation phase would be cheap and easy.

Why did they want a war? That’s a harder question to answer. Some of the warmongers believed that deploying shock and awe in Iraq would enhance American power and influence around the world. Some saw Iraq as a sort of pilot project, preparation for a series of regime changes. And it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that there was a strong element of wagging the dog, of using military triumph to strengthen the Republican brand at home.

Whatever the precise motives, the result was a very dark chapter in American history. Once again: We were lied into war.

Now, you can understand why many political and media figures would prefer not to talk about any of this. Some of them, I suppose, may have been duped: may have fallen for the obvious lies, which doesn’t say much about their judgment. More, I suspect, were complicit: they realized that the official case for war was a pretext, but had their own reasons for wanting a war, or, alternatively, allowed themselves to be intimidated into going along. For there was a definite climate of fear among politicians and pundits in 2002 and 2003, one in which criticizing the push for war looked very much like a career killer.

On top of these personal motives, our news media in general have a hard time coping with policy dishonesty. Reporters are reluctant to call politicians on their lies, even when these involve mundane issues like budget numbers, for fear of seeming partisan. In fact, the bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud, the more hesitant the reporting. And it doesn’t get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war.

But truth matters, and not just because those who refuse to learn from history are doomed in some general sense to repeat it. The campaign of lies that took us into Iraq was recent enough that it’s still important to hold the guilty individuals accountable. Never mind Jeb Bush’s verbal stumbles. Think, instead, about his foreign-policy team, led by people who were directly involved in concocting a false case for war.

So let’s get the Iraq story right. Yes, from a national point of view the invasion was a mistake. But (with apologies to Talleyrand) it was worse than a mistake, it was a crime.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 18, 2015

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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