5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/15/15)

  • John Boehner apparently has no idea what goes on in Congress despite being the Speaker.  Boehner stated it was important to investigate Benghazi again because some questions haven’t been answered, like these:

“Why wasn’t the security for our embassy in Libya given to our ambassador after repeated requests the night of the event,” Boehner continued. “Why didn’t we attempt to rescue the people that were there? Why were the people there told not to get involved?”

All of those questions have already been answered and answered multiple times by the Congress Boehner allegedly leads.  Maybe he didn’t notice the last report since the Republicans strategically released it on a Friday late in the day so the news cycle wouldn’t pick it up.  This was done, of course, since it debunked every argument they’ve made about questions still existing about the attack.  Regardless, the propaganda machine continues…

  • Republicans further show their immoral and disgraceful position on hard-working immigrants.  The GOP is out to stop immigrants with children who have worked jobs and paid taxes to the government for years from getting proper benefits for their contributions.  And it should be noted that many illegals have paid taxes and been a boost to federal tax coffers, particularly since they get little out of federal programs.  Some other commonly believed myths are busted in the article and should always be pointed out when discussing the issue:

Over the past decade, immigrants in the U.S. illegally have paid an estimated $100 billion in Social Security payroll taxes, even though few will ever be able to collect benefits…At least half are paying income and payroll taxes…Even if these immigrants pay taxes, they are ineligible for most federal programs. They cannot legally get food stamps, unemployment benefits, Pell grants or federal student loans. They cannot get Medicaid, except for emergency medical services, and are ineligible for subsidies under Obama’s health law.

  • Shiites are now reacting to ISIS brutality with brutality of their own, which has been going on since “Mission Accomplished”.  If people chose to ignore the fact that Shiite death squads were executing Sunnis in Iraq as soon as Saddam Hussein was out of power, that’s their choice to be ignorant.  But violence begets violence and that situation forced people to turn to more violent groups like ISIS so they could take revenge for the countless murders of their friends and families.  This isn’t to say it was/is right for anyone to join an extremist group or death squad.  But it does show how horrible the U.S. plan for post-invasion Iraq was just an absolute disaster and there is little that can be done by the U.S. to fix this bloody situation now.  And with this vicious reaction by Shiites against Sunnis, this situation is continuing to get worse.
  • The West is still disgracefully and inexplicably supporting the brutal monarchy in Bahrain.  Great piece by one of the activists for change in Bahrain who recently had his citizenship taken away from him after years of punishment, including torture, for expressing his opinion and calling for a better government in his home country.  It is a very reasonable question to ask why the West continues to display such hypocrisy on democracy when it comes to certain areas of the world.  (Spoiler alert: it’s oil.)
  • Egypt purchases military planes from France at the expense of its people.  I mentioned the purchase of the Rafale fighters a few days ago but this article points out two further realities of the purchase.  First, it’s not needed: “One thing is very clear,” says (Jon) Alterman (senior vice president and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies). “On the basis of national priorities there is no military urgency to buy more combat aircraft.”  Second, by spending the money on the military instead of infrastructure or social programs (clearly taking a cue from the U.S., unfortunately), this means the spending won’t go to put Egypt’s unemployed to work, which includes more than half of its citizens under the age of 25.  Stupid priorities now will equal a bad situation in the future.

Republicans Bury 7th Benghazi Investigation Results Because It Debunks Their Arguments, Just Like the Other Six

One of the tried-and-true tactics that both political parties use to bury news they don’t really want getting to the public is the release of information late in the day before the weekend starts.  This catches the public when their attention on political matters is waning for the week and doesn’t allow for the information to be debated in the usual news cycle like it normally would. 

Last Friday was no different when the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, headed by Republicans, released its findings on the 7th investigation into the attacks on Benghazi, Libya, late in the afternoon.  And the reason they released it then: it debunks most of their common arguments about the attacks, particularly their attacks on the Obama administration.

So, since they buried it on Friday, it’s worth bringing attention back to it on Monday.  Here’s a summary of the main highlights.  The quotes are directly taken from the report.

  • There was not an intelligence failure.  Specifically, the Intelligence Community “did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks”.
  • All U.S. personnel involved did their jobs correctly and no stand down order was ever given.  “Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support”.
  • Al Qaeda was involved but not the only persons/groups committing the attacks. (Remember, there were two different attacks at two different sites.)
  • Susan Rice didn’t lie and, therein, neither did the administration about the protest.  Period.  “The CIA only changed its initial assessment about a protest on September 24, 2012, when closed caption television footage became available on September 18, 2012 (two days after Ambassador Susan Rice spoke), and after the FBI began publishing its interviews with U.S. officials on the ground on September 22, 2012”.

Embarrassingly Stupid Attack by Boehner’s Gov Page on Obama’s Foreign Policy

John Boehner’s government page decided to continue the attacks on President Obama’s alleged foreign policy failures by using a curious strategy: showing how much of an idiot Boehner, himself, is on foreign policy.

Let’s address the lunacy included in the post:

When Libya became leaderless, America infamously led from behind – then our posts in Benghazi were attacked.

I’m assuming Boehner wanted an American invasion to sort things out in Libya, which I’m sure would have been wildly popular among the voters (not really).  If only we had invaded to install a leader the U.S. liked and approved, everything would have been peaceful forever, just like in Iraq (not really).  The post also fails to mention the reason Libya became leaderless was because of Obama approving airstrikes that helped oust Gaddafi.  As for Benghazi, I’ll get to that.BO

The reset button with Russia was an embarrassing failure, underscored when a hot mic caught President Obama’s assurances to Vladimir Putin that he’d have “more flexibility” after the 2012 election. In Syria, the president didn’t bother to enforce the red line he established, and then turned to Russia for a political lifeline. Emboldened, Putin muscled his way into Ukraine.

First off, concerning Russia, the “flexibility” statement was technically made to Medvedev, not Putin.  Splitting hairs a bit but factually inaccurate.

Secondly, the Cold War ended a couple decades ago, a fact that the warfare queens on the right still ignore much of the time.  The statement was regarding missile defense and taking steps away from that whole “mutually assured destruction” thing, something we should all crave from our leaders.

Thirdly, Boehner chooses to completely ignore something else that probably emboldened the Russians even more: the feeble reaction of the U.S. government to Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  Why would he not include that?  Maybe because it happened three months before Obama was elected president and five months before he took the Oath of Office.

Then there is Syria.  I’m assuming Boehner is ignoring the explosive Seymour Hersh article detailing why the U.S. did not attack Syria.  In fact, if he wants to prove the Hersh points wrong and show we should have attacked Syria over the use of chemical weapons, he should be calling for the release of all documents showing what the CIA was doing in Benghazi prior to the attack.

The post also fails to point out the Syrian regime did give up its chemical weapons under threat of increased international intervention.

Then President Obama set five elite terrorist commanders free from U.S. custody.

Zero mention of getting a tortured American home for this exchange.  Zero mention of the Afghanistan war coming to an end and trading prisoners at the end of wars.  Zero mention they were released to the custody of Qatar, not immediately set free.  And if these five were so “elite”, why not ask for them to be put on trial to show how provable their elite abilities are in a court of law?

Then there is the point of ISIS gaining ground in Iraq.  The criticism of the decision by the Bush administration to invade Iraq on false pretenses is obviously ignored here but something else should be asked.  What exactly was being done about the Shiite death squads and brutal suppression of the Sunnis in Iraq by the previous administration after the invasion?  It’s as if that has nothing to do with what is happening now.

Sometimes, it’s just amazing what ridiculous claims the right will make.

Benghazi Report: Obama White House Didn’t Lie

Benghazi AttackA bipartisan Senate report on the Benghazi attacks came out with some scathing accusations against the State Dept. and the intelligence community today. But the big revelation is that the White House did not willfully put forth misinformation regarding the attacks despite GOP allegations.

Read Here.

More Evidence Benghazi Attack Was Revenge Killing

One of the most surprising (or least depending on your level of cynicism, admittedly me) aspects of the Benghazi attack is the notion it took place because of a need for revenge by the attackers.  We might now have more evidence that notion is true.

CNN is reporting the number of CIA agents around at the time was in the dozens and the possible reasons they were around support the idea of a revenge attack when coupled with some other info.  From the article:

Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.

What’s the real story?

So, there was a likely relationship between the CIA and the groups in Libya.  Some more info from a Democracy Now! interview with former elite members of the U.S. military:

JACK MURPHY: Sure. There’s a number of different contributing factors that led to these attacks. When we start to talk about the blowback effect, we do also have to understand that this was a group of people, the Ansar al-Sharia militia, that wasn’t particularly fond of Americans to begin with. There was a large number of foreign fighters, these international jihadists, who were amongst that group the night of the attack. But what hasn’t been talked about very much in the media is that there were covert operations being run inside Libya, targeted killings against militia members, al-Qaeda-affiliated personnel, also involving securing weapons that had fallen into the militia hands, that we didn’t want them to have in the post-war Libya that was destabilizing the Libyan transitional government. But there were a series of operations over the course of the summer and even that week of September in the run-up to the attack.

AMY GOODMAN: U.S. government allies were also assassinated, were killed…

JACK MURPHY: Well, allegedly, there was even a CIA asset that was targeted and killed in that first week of September prior to the attack.

AMY GOODMAN: By who? Killed by?

JACK MURPHY: By the United States military, by special operations personnel.

AMY GOODMAN: A CIA asset killed by U.S. personnel.

JACK MURPHY: Allegedly. And this phenomena has happened previously in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to prove for certain that this individual was an asset, but you can only imagine what’s going through the heads of the militia members as they feel that they’re working hand in hand with the Americans and then all of a sudden the Americans kill one of their people. And this was—this was definitely one of the events that led to the special operations forces actually kicking up the hornets’ nest in Libya, and it was a contributing factor that led to the attack in Benghazi. (Emphasis mine)

Add all that to the reality that members of Ansar al-Sharia are fighting in Syria and the picture becomes potentially quite nefarious.

It is still a rather loose connection but it seems possible the CIA was dealing weapons to these militias for use in Syria, for reasons unknown killed one of the people they were dealing with, and the militia reacted very violently when they were betrayed.

We may never know if this is true since the government would have to acknowledge a very explosive action it was involved in to confirm this possibility.  But the evidence emerging is beginning to suggest this could be reality.

In Light of the Reaction to Anti-Islamic Film, Where Should We Draw the Line on Censorship?

As the protests overseas continue to grow over a film trailer and violence has turned the demonstrations horribly ugly, a question is raised by the entire situation from a domestic perspective.  An article in the CSM points to the question:

The difficult legal question involving free speech is whether the offensive video in this case amounts to what US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1919 called a “clear and present danger” akin to someone “falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

The FBI has now spoken to the filmmaker but should he be implicated for the reaction to his video?  The obvious Constitutional answer is no.  But the fact he has been, at the very least, contacted by a federal law enforcement agency suggests the answer is not that obvious.

This question is provocative and has many debatable points but, for this post, let’s just focus on the idea of whether a negative depiction of a culture is akin to yelling fire in a theater.  The idea behind yelling fire in a theater is the knowledge a panic will erupt and people could get hurt in the ensuing chaos.  But when negatively portraying something in a film that is near and dear to another person’s heart, where should the line be drawn?

Anything can be taken as offensive and potentially enrage people sensitive to the subject being ridiculed or criticized.  But in a country where free speech is king, how do we judge what is okay and what is dangerous?  Take the upcoming release of the film Red Dawn, for example.  In this remake, the bad guys are the invading North Korean army.  How can we be sure there will be no violent reaction in North Korea to this movie?  We simply can’t.

Let’s take another example more relevant to the recent protests: the Kevin Smith comedy relating to Christianity, Dogma.  Protests occurred and people were angry at the movie but no embassies were attacked.  No one that I’m aware of was killed despite the anger.  But how did we know for sure nothing would happen prior to the release of this film?  We didn’t know but allowed the release anyway.

And for these reasons, the filmmaker of the anti-Islamic trailer should not be prosecuted.  It is a difficult balance to reach, particularly on the subject of religion and also after lives have been lost, but we cannot know the reaction of the public when a movie, a piece of artwork, a song, or anything else that could be offensive is released.  Prosecuting this filmmaker would be no different than prosecuting the makers of the Dark Knight for the proceeding shooting in Aurora, Colorado.  Some may see this as the lesser of two evils but there is no doubt it is in the interest of freedom of expression in the long run.