5 Quick Political Facts for Today (3/2/15)

Can’t avoid the impending Iran deal and the circus now around it but more good news on gay marriage.

  • Climate change was a contributing factor to the war inside SyriaThis has been suggested before but now a team of scientists put together a report explaining this fact for the world to understand.  They also mention refugees arriving from Iraq as a contributing factor (who caused that again?).  But it’s cool everybody because all we have to do is send senile Senator Inhofe over to Syria with a few snowballs and this whole mess will be cleared up quickly.  Peace is on the way!
  • Netanyahu’s lies are starting to sink him.  A great video on AJA appeared today giving you 5 things he will refuse to admit when he testifies to Congress and is worth watching to give you a quick version of why we should barely pay attention to him.  The Intercept also put together a good piece pointing out the many times he has “cried wolf” over the years.  Both pieces mention his testimony to Congress about Iraq’s advanced nuclear technology in 2002.  Listening to Netanyahu about other country’s nuclear ambitions is like listening to idiot preachers continually predicting the end of the world.  No matter how many times these tools are wrong, the foolish still think they speak the truth.

    See this 90%? That’s the percentage of things I say about Iran that are utter lies. The 10% that is truthful is when I say the name of the country correctly.
  • John Boehner is one of the foolish and can’t hide it.  Boehner defended his invite to Netanyahu by stating “Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say”.   Yes, because Bibi has no way of transmitting his message to Congress in any other way than to give a speech there during an Israeli election year.  No one will put a camera on him or a microphone in front of his mouth.  Poor fella.  It was like he was a ghost prior to giving his speech.  By the way, Mr. Speaker.  What is the cost of this versus, say, a conference call with Bibi?  I mean, you guys are fiscal conservatives so this is the cheaper route, correct?
  • Iran is and has been a rational actor throughout all of this and there is no evidence they are pursuing a nuclear weapon.  An excellent read from The Atlantic focusing on this reality but one section is worth quoting here and should be constantly noted about the situation:

That’s why the Bush administration’s 2007 National Intelligence Estimate said Iran is “guided by a cost-benefit approach.” It’s why Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in 2012 that “we are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor.” It’s why Benny Gantz, then head of the Israel Defense Forces, declared the same year that “the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.” It’s why Meir Dagan, the longtime head of Israel’s intelligence agency, called the Iranian regime “rational” in an interview with 60 Minutes. And it’s why Ron Burgess, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.” Could all these men, who analyze intelligence about Iran for a living, be wrong?

  • Nebraska’s ban on gay marriage has been struck down by the courts.  Another state is added to the ranks of those on the right side of history.  I guess they wanted to be able to say they legalized gay marriage prior to the Supreme Court legalizing it across the nation this coming June.  No reason, at this point, to be a state that has to be drug kicking and screaming across the finish line by the federal government.

“Radicalization”

 

FIGHTER-1-tmagSFDouglas McAuthur McCain, and American Islamic State (IS) fighter, was reportedly killed by the Free Syrian Army on August 25, 2014. He is the first reported American killed in the line of fire with IS (also known as ISIS, or ISIL), not just fighting with rebels against Syrian dictator Bashaar al-Assad. According to a report in the NYT, it seems that Mr. McCain lost his way as a young man and turned strong religious beliefs and convictions to give himself purpose and stability.

On the SITE (or SITE Intelligence Group) blog, a group that tracks radical Islamic websites and other traffic, I found an article on Mr. McCain’s Twitter activity over the last few years. It quoted tweets and included some screenshots of them from December 2010 – January 2013. It had some observations I found interesting. Two quotes pertain here. Namely:

Notably, though, activity on his Twitter account spanning from December 2012 to January 2013 indicates his radicalization likely happened much later in his life.

And:

When exactly McCain left for Syria to fight with IS was never indicated on his Twitter. However, the year-and-a-half-long gap between his casual tweets in January 2013 and his returning May 14, 2014 tweet—in which he endorses IS and claims that “we will soon be 1″—may indicate a span of time in which McCain became radicalized and immigrated to Syria.

What is “radicalization”?

Wikipedia’s entry on “radicalization” is a good place to start in it’s completeness and depth:

Radicalization (or radicalisation) is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that (1) reject or undermine the status quo[1] or (2) reject and/or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice. For example, radicalism can originate from a broad social consensus against progressive changes in society. Radicalization can be both violent and nonviolent, although most academic literature focuses on radicalization into violent extremism (RVE).[2] There are multiple pathways that constitute the process of radicalization, which can be independent but are usually mutually reinforcing.[3][4]

I may have been radicalized in most people’s eyes. I became interested in Marx in my undergrad years, reading websites and books while taking sociology classes, all the whilst thinking a utopian world could be won by the proletariat. I’m not saying that it will never happen, but as my academic journey continued into grad school, I became, as am now, a Democratic Socialist.

Now Democratic Socialists are considered of the far/radical left while Mr. McCain subscribed to a perverted form of Islam with violence as morals, value, and custom. Rather, I believe that substantial social/economic change should be accomplished through democratic measures. Are we the same? No.

Keep this all in mind when contemplating issues of “radicalization” and before putting a negative tinge to it.

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IWikipedia: The letter I is a vowel and used in most words.

Have to Admit, Sometimes Russia is Painfully Correct

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had some comments for the United States government regarding Syria and the Islamic State that deserve acknowledgement.  While the future of this situation can be debated, the past cannot.  And the truth sometimes hurts.
“I think Western politicians are already realising the growing and fast-spreading threat of terrorism,” Lavrov said, referring to Islamic State advances in Syria and Iraq.
“And they will soon have to choose what is more important, a [Syrian] regime change to satisfy personal antipathies, risking deterioration of the situation beyond any control, or finding pragmatic ways to unite efforts against the common threat.”

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov
In comments likely to irritate Washington, Lavrov said the US had made the same mistake with Islamic State as it had with al-Qaeda, which emerged in the 1980s when US-backed Islamist insurgents were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. (Emphasis added)
“At the start the Americans and some Europeans rather welcomed [Islamic State] on the basis it was fighting against Bashar al-Assad. They welcomed it as they welcomed the mujahideen who later created al-Qaeda, and then al-Qaeda struck like a boomerang on September 11, 2001,” Lavrov said.
“The same thing is happening now.”
We have to accept, for the moment, there is no perfect solution from the U.S. government’s perspective where both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State can be ousted from the situation immediately.  At this point, the best case scenario is to only have to deal with one or the other while trying to push for the quelling of one.
And the lesser of two evils is without a doubt the Assad regime in Syria.  This, of course, means working as a partner with Russia in order to exert as much pressure as possible on Assad to hope for eventual regime change while making sure the Syrian government is stabilized enough to fight the Islamic State.
In fact, hindsight being 20/20, one has to wonder if working with Russia from the beginning on Syria would have been the better solution for the Syrian people.  While living under Assad has certainly been no picnic, it’s very likely the casualties from the fighting, now closing in on 200,000, would have been significantly less had a heavy UN peacekeeping presence been placed in the country when the violence broke out.  And in order to have done this, the U.S. would have had to accept not initially ousting Assad, with the hope change could have come later and more peacefully.
We’ll never know whether that solution would have turned out better.  One thing, however, is clear: not choosing that path has been an absolute disaster.

Florida Teen Suicide Bomber

31bomber_inline-blog427Linked here is an edited version of a 31 min. video message from Mohammad Abusalha, a 22-year-old suicide bomber from Florida who attacked in Syria, who was raised in a gated community, and was once described as a “basketball-obsessed teen.” Abusalha used this testimonial to explain why he left home to live as a Mujahedin in the civil war against Bashaar Al-Assad.

I got this video from an NYT article focused on the fact that after Abusalha initially trained in Syria as a Mujahedin, he came home undetected by the authorities for several months before leaving again for the last time. But that is not the point here.

What I took away from this piece is the contents of the video and the troubled young man it portrayed. He expresses rage against the West and it even includes a teary-eyed expression of love for his mother. It made me just want to scream aloud, “What happened here?!”

I almost did not post this video here and have been saving it since July 30, 2014, gripped by indecision. I was afraid of seeming too sensationalist, or even being perceived as pro-terror. Yet I am posting it now for I believe that it needs to be seen for it shows how an American kid can end up a suicide bomber manipulated by the Islamist fighters who found him.

I leave it to your interpretation. Find it here.

 

 

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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.

Iraq and How It’s Going So Bad

IRAQ-3-articleLargeWith the troubling news coming out of Iraq these past few days I can only think what a waste the War was. We lost over 4500 service men and women and hundreds of billions of dollars, not to mention the fact that we were led into the conflict under false pretenses regarding WMDs. We were then sold a moralistic argument that we removed of a brutal dictator from power that Donald Rumsfeld, former Sec. of Defense, met and shook hands with in the 1980’s during the Iraq/Iran War.

Now the jihadi, Sunni-led ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is spilling out of Syria’s bloody civil war and invading Iraq at an alarming speed, taking city after city. They are now heading to Baghdad to settle old scores with Prime Minister Nurem Maliki, a Shiite, who has excluded Sunni’s from the government. Even former Baath Party members (the ruling Party of the Hussein Sunni era) are joining with ISIS in the goal of establishing a Islamic caliphate practicing Sharia law. Maliki now wants help from the U.S. in the form of airstrikes with jet fighters and drones, which according to sources reporting to the NYT seems very unlikely.

The borders of Iraq were set up by colonialists in the 19th century with no bearing or regard for lumping together people of different tribes, and now the current borders are being threatened by sectarian violence. It seems to me, more now then ever, that the Iraq War was a tragic waste.

 

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Why We Didn’t Attack Syria: Highlights of Sy Hersh’s Investigation

Last year, the U.S. came very close to involving itself in another unpopular war in the Middle East by attacking Syria over its government’s reported use of sarin gas on its people and the rebels it was fighting.  And, just like Iraq, had we attacked we would have later found out the justification would have been a lie and one that we knew about.

Legendary reporter Seymour Hersh investigated the situation and found what is probably shocking revelations to many.  Here are some of the highlights.

The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’…

…the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo…the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’

This information came out rather quickly last year but was mostly ignored in the rhetoric by U.S. officials since they had to maintain their tough stance for image reasons, which is ridiculous when you think about it.

It should be noted that both Russia and the Syrian government were helping to clear things up during this period as well, which is why engaging other countries in a logical and more empathetic way actually works:syria

Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence…Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.’

The most damaging revelation in Hersh’s report is the role of Turkey and how they helped the rebels make and use the sarin gas that was found to have killed so many.  Turkey wanted the U.S. to attack and did what they could to make sure it happened by driving Obama over his “red line”.  The problem for Turkey is that the U.S. figured this out before firing the first shot.

The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’

As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts.

Hersh’s report contains a lot more information and is well worth the read for anyone wanting to know a lot more of this story.  Stellar reporting on his part as usual.

Syria Continues to Suffer

syrianrefugee_promo-thumbWideA great NYT piece on how an UN Panel Report states that fighting and general violence in Syria is on the rise, including crimes against humanity. And what is at most is that the peace process stands still for the members of the UN Security Council back differing warring parties.

So now the reported crimes get buried beneath the latest, mostly inconsequential, reports making up the 24-hour news cycle for their is no foreseeable movement regarding peace for the Syrian people.

The article is also worth reading for the included video presentation outlining and explaining the different fighting forces in the Syrian territory that fight the ruling regime and each other.

Read Here.

 

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John Kerry Shows off U.S. Hypocrisy on Foreign Policy

As the situation in the Ukraine continues to rear its ugly head, Secretary of State John Kerry had some tough words for Russia: stay out or we might do bad stuff to you.

Kerry said that he spoke Saturday with foreign ministers from the G-8 and other nations and that “every single one of them are prepared to go to the hilt in order to isolate Russia.”

“They’re prepared to put sanctions in place,” he said. “They’re prepared to isolate Russia economically. The ruble is already going down. Russia has major economic challenges. I can’t imagine that an occupation of another country is something that appeals to a people who are trying to reach out to the world, and particularly if it involves violence.”

Do as we say, not as we do.

In other words, Russia should not use its military power to intervene in escalated situations where it sees fit no matter what the case.  In fact, as Kerry Tweeted today, invasion is an act of weakness:

Invasion is not the act of someone who is strong. It is the act of someone who is weak.

Interesting assessment.  Just one thing: John Kerry from today, I’d like you to meet John Kerry from four days ago.

While commenting on the situation in Syria, Kerry took this position:

Kerry inveighed against what he sees as a tendency within the United States to retreat from the world.

“There’s a new isolationism…We are beginning to behave like a poor nation,” he added, saying some Americans do not perceive the connection between U.S. engagement abroad and the U.S. economy, their own jobs and wider U.S. interests.

Remember, acts of war mean jobs at home.  Never forget that piece of propaganda and never think we could spend that money on any other venture to create jobs, America.  Continuing:

“Look at our budget. Look at our efforts to get the president’s military force decision on Syria backed up on (Capitol Hill). Look at the House of Representatives with respect to the military and the budget,” Kerry said.

“All of those things diminish our ability to do things.”

So, if we read this correctly, here is the U.S. logic for the week on foreign policy:

Since the U.S. is a rich nation, we must use our military to intervene in international situations or we look poor and weak (forget the idea that we could help nations through means other than dropping bombs and shooting people, by the way).

Since Russia is a rich nation, they must NOT use their military to intervene in international situations or they look poor and weak.

Sound correct, Sec. Kerry?

Rising Islamic Groups Raise Concern in Syria

I have made no secret here that I fully support the liberation groups in Syria courageously trying to overthrow both pro-Assad forces and Hezbollah. But according to this article in The Guardian, Islamic-fundamentalist groups are on the rise and they cannot be funded by outside groups when they have links to Al-Quaida and other terrorist-affiliated groups.

Read Here.