Nel's New Day

November 18, 2015

Ryan Abandons Promises, Moves Bill against Syrian Refugees

Filed under: Immigration — trp2011 @ 10:00 PM
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ryan

How long does it take for the new House Speaker to break his promises? It depends on how long Congress is in recess. In this case, Paul Ryan (R-WI) started his job by leading a fairly quiet session for the first week of November. Dana Milbank wrote, “It was nice while it lasted.” I’m now at the place where I appreciate recesses because the GOP seems to cause less damage when they wandering around trying to look important rather than making stupid decisions.

While campaigning for the job that Ryan said he didn’t want, Ryan promised “regular order”: the House of Representatives would operate by deliberation rather than fiat, and the House members could amend and shape legislation. Ryan said, “The committees should retake the lead in drafting all major legislation…. When we rush to pass bills, a lot of us do not understand we are not doing our job.”

After a week off, the members returned day before yesterday. Last night Ryan put a “rush job” onto a bill to keep Syrian refugees out of the United States.   At 10:15 pm, House leaders presented a brand new piece of legislation, written during the day, to rewrite mandates for the U.S. refugees from Syria and Iraq. No hearings, no expert testimony, no consultation with any agencies, no committee action, no amendments, nothing. The vote is planned for tomorrow.

In his first address as speaker, Ryan said:

“The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. … We are supposed to study up and do the homework that [the people] cannot do. So when we do not follow regular order—when we rush to pass bills a lot of us do not understand– we are not doing our job. Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people.”

H.R. 4038, the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act” (SAFE Act because the GOP loves to give things the opposite name of what they mean) may make people feel “safe” because of new vetting requirements. Yet current rules demand an 18-to-24 month rigorous examination of refugees to certify that they are not security threats. Is the new one better? No one knows because there have been no hearings. The new bureaucracy of the proposed SAFE Act , however, shuts down the refugee program for years. This from the party that hates federal intervention.

President Obama has promised to veto the bill, which would first need to survive the Senate, so the GOP “emergency” is simply to get push more Republicans into getting elected in 2016. Ryan refused to allow a vote on an alternative Syrian refugee bill.

Today House and Senate negotiators gathered together to somewhat harmoniously blend their versions of a transportation bill. The bill had cleared the House by a large majority during Ryan’s first week when he permitted over 100 amendments. Actually compromising on bills with amendments and hard work is exhausting, which may be why Ryan made the Syrian refugee bill the 45th “closed rule” of the year, establishing a record for the number of bills on the House floor without the possibility of amendment.

Ryan is following the leadership style of former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who resigned as of Halloween. Boehner’s promises of “regular order” also began with allowing over 100 amendments on a bill before he broke this promise of “openness.” Ryan made promises to get his job—such as refusing to work with the president on immigration reform—but his only vision was what he wouldn’t do. On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Ryan what the one thing he could accomplish in six months. Ryan detoured the question by talking about working families falling behind and the disaster of “Obamacare.”

One thing Ryan did accomplish: he gets to go home every weekend to be with his family instead of doing the Speaker’s job of fundraising and campaigning for GOP congressional candidates. Family values are important to Ryan unless they include paid child care, sick leave, and maternity/paternity care for people in the United States, one of just three countries–out of 185—without guaranteed paid maternity leave. Amanda Marcotte wrote that Ryan “sees a family life as a privilege for the elite, instead of a right for all.” Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, who expressed herself as a feminist in her book Lean In, praised Ryan for his desire to parent. Only the wealthy deserve such advantages as family time, according to the powerful.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., arrives at a news conference following a House Republican meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Ryan told GOP lawmakers that he will run for speaker, but only if they embrace him by week's end as their consensus candidate, an ambitious bid to impose unity on a disordered and divided House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Not every GOP House member was pleased with Ryan’s demands. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) compared Ryan to a maid applying for a job who says “I don’t clean windows, I don’t do floors, I don’t do beds, these are the hours I’ll work.”  For many years, the Speaker was a prestigious job; now it’s comparable to being a “maid.”

Before the faux crisis of the Syrian refugees, the House had passed another partial repeal of The Affordable Care Act, but the Senate has had to shelve it because he may not be able to get even 51 necessary signatures. Of the 54 GOP Senators, three of them may refuse to vote against it because the House bill defunds Planned Parenthood, and other object because it doesn’t repeal the entire law. Even the House members who voted in favor of the bill are having buyers’ remorse because it repeals only six of the 419 provisions—1.4 percent of the law.

Next year, Congress will have less time to mess up: they’ve assigned themselves a two-day work week with only 111 days in session. That’s over $1,500 a day for all those GOP legislators who think that $15 an hour is too much for hard work. The GOP must become the “proposition” party; it’s not enough to be an opposition party, said the new speaker. He’s found his vision and “proposition” in trying to keep all desperate Syrian refugees out of the United States. And he may get the bill passed in two days, leaving him another 109 days to save the United States.

Ryan called the attacks in Paris “an act of war” and said that the annual National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday requires the president to have a plan to defeat ISIS. The U.S. Constitution requires Congress to authorize the president to engage in war, something that this Congress has avoided for over a year. If the House can put together a bill to stop Syrian refugees from coming into the country in less than a week, they have time to work on a plan of “war.”

In the past, the Speaker of the House of Representatives sometimes served all the people in the United States, not the GOP. It’s time to return to that practice. Ryan is right: the House is broken. And with Ryan at the helm, it’s still broken.

November 16, 2015

How the World Got ISIS

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 8:46 PM
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The U.S. war hawks are picking the bones of the nation’s involvement in the Middle East after the tragedy in Paris, hoping that the fear that they engender can get them elected. For those who blame the current administration for the mess in the Middle East, here’s a little background.

Although Middle East problems go back a century because of our drive to take oil out of the region, it was largely contained until the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush to the presidency. In 2012, Kurt Eichenwald wrote about the August 6, 2001, daily brief with the headline, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S,” given to Bush, 36 days before 19 terrorists attacked the United States. The Bush White House claimed that it wasn’t a warning, but other documents prove them wrong.

Warnings began earlier, on May 1, and another daily brief on June 22 reported that the strikes could be “imminent.” The CIA analysis pleaded with the White House to accept the danger that they reported, and more warnings were issued during that summer. On July 1, the brief to Bush stated that the operation “will occur soon.” Bush officials tried to justify not paying attention because the warnings didn’t give them the exact place and date. During this time two co-conspirators were stopped coming into the U.S. or arrested.

Recently, former CIA Director George Tenet and counter-terrorism chief Cofer Black confirmed that the Bush administration ignored warnings in May 2001 about an imminent terrorist attack. Tenet said that the CIA presented a plan, the “Blue Sky” paper, to deal with these threats and was told to shelve the plans and hide the paper trail proving the warnings to the Bush administration. Cofer said that the information about the terrorist attack in the U.S. from the CIA’s Al Qaeda unit was “absolutely compelling [and] multiple sourced”—and was ignored.  Nineteen volunteers and a budget of $500,000 destroyed the World Trade Centers, killed thousands of people in the U.S., and cost U.S. taxpayers trillions of dollars in two wars that have led to increased terrorism in the Middle East.

Bush’s advisors had long wanted to take over leadership of countries in the Middle East, as far back as 1992, and their fixation on this approach led them to ignore the warnings. Even after 9/11, they could not believe that terrorists could operate without government sanction, leading them to start a war in Afghanistan and then Iraq although the latter country had no relationship to 9/11. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers on that date were Saudi Arabia citizens, yet Bush allowed Saudis in the United States to leave the country while all other flights were grounded. Osama bin Laden, blamed for perpetrating the attacks in the U.S., wasn’t killed until May 2011, during President Obama’s first term.

Emails released because of the Benghazi investigation show that Bush plotted with then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to invade Iraq in April 2002, almost a year before the actual invasion. Blair also colluded with the Bush administration to fabricate and sell “evidence” of the non-existent weapons of mass destruction and false plans to strike the United States. Bush also used spies in the British Labor Party to manipulate public opinion in favor of the war.

Bush’s decision to attack Iraq in March 2003 and kill Saddam Hussein led to a power vacuum in the Middle East that was filled by terrorists. The U.S. installation of Ahmed Chalabi, considered a “Western stooge” by his constituents, was a failure, and U.S. appointed head of Iraq, Paul Bremer, passed the de-Baathification law, barring 400,000 Iraqi members from government employment and driving them into becoming insurgents and terrorists. The training that they received and the guns that they were allowed to keep made them deadly. Almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi officers, and they also bring the smuggling networks from avoiding sanctions in the 1990s to now facilitating the group’s illicit oil trading.

As far back as 2006, the media reported that Bush’s wars were recruitment vehicles for terrorists with numbers increasing faster than the rest of the world could reduce the threat. A National Intelligence Estimate cites the Iraqi invasion as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks united by an anti-Western agenda. The situation in Iraq worsened the U.S. position. NIE issued the report at the same time that Bush bragged about how he “removed terrorist sanctuaries … and stopped new attacks.” The terrorist networks spread and decentralized because U.S. invasion and torture alienated possible allies and led to radicalizing Muslims.

In this clip from the last June’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart shows why the growth of ISIS is not the fault of President Obama. He also shows how the president’s failure to arm Syrian rebels kept U.S. arms from the terrorists.

In their effort to place blame for the rise of ISIS during and after the Iraq War on the Democrats, Republicans are intent on accusing President Obama of withdrawing the troops too soon. The current president took office on January 20, 2009, 37 days after George W. Bush signed the Status of Forces Agreement requiring that “all the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.” In her 2011 book, No Higher Honor, Condoleezza Rice wrote that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki insisted on “the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the end of 2011.” Bush agreed. Negotiations to change the agreement broke down in October 2011 over whether U.S. troops would be shielded from criminal prosecution by Iraqi authorities.

Republicans ignore the U.S. Constitution that makes Congress, not the president, responsible for authorizing war. GOP congressional members continually dodge their responsibility. Their last vote in this issue was last June when a House committee passed a measure stating that “Congress has a constitutional duty to debate and determine whether or not to authorize the use of military force” against ISIS. Twenty-two  Republicans voted against the nonbinding amendment. There has been no debate. President Obama’s airstrikes are done under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. After lawmakers disputed the point, the president sent them a proposal last February—nine months ago—and asked for a vote on it. Then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) ignored the proposal.

While the GOP avoids their responsibilities, they protest any Syrian refugees being allowed in the U.S. Ghaled, a 22-year-old dentistry student forced to flee to Germany, gave a perspective from the refugees about the tragedy in Paris. “We are with them right now, just to help them with this crisis. What’s happening to them is happening every day in Syria, 100 times per day for five years, so we know what that means.” The Syrian refugee, who walked for 17 days to escape his country, was talking about the 210,060 people, an average of 144 people each day, who died in Syria since the beginning of its civil war four years ago, at least half of them civilians.

In a poll taken last weekend after attacks in Paris, 65 percent of people in the United States oppose sending troops to the Middle East.

GOP presidential candidates are following Jeb Bush’s declaration on Meet the Press when he said, “You destroy ISIS.” They just don’t say how. They pretend that ISIS is a country and not a terrorist group found around the world. Keep Syrian refugees out of the U.S., they cry because the terrorists left a Syrian passport, perhaps on purpose, near one of the bomb strikes. Three of the seven perpetrators were French nationals, and others came from Belgium. Ben Carson called for a coalition to fight ISIS, but he couldn’t name even one ally when Chris Wallace pressed him for specifics during the interview on Fox network. Carson admitted that Hillary Clinton had the experience to keep the people in the U.S. safe.

Those who believe that ISIS attacked Paris think that the reason was France’s interference in the Middle East. Marco Rubio says that ISIS hates us because women can drive cars and because we are “tolerant.” (That last part is subject to disagreement.) Peter Beinart wrote, “Women drive in Costa Rica too, but the Islamic State is unlikely to attack it, because Costa Rica is not contesting ISIS’s control of the Middle East.” ISIS isn’t jealous of the U.S.; it just wants us out of the Middle East. Congress might want to stop trying to stop Planned Parenthood and start trying to stop ISIS.

As neocons continue to call for expulsion of Muslims to the Middle East and refuse to accept refugees who are running from ISIS, they create hundreds and thousands of more ISIS members. The past 15 years give a history to why ISIS has bloomed. If we ignore this history, we are doomed to face even greater devastation to the world.

November 14, 2015

Fear, Hatred Make People Victims of Terrorism

Filed under: Terrorism — trp2011 @ 8:43 PM
Tags: , , ,

People around the world are still reeling from yesterday’s attack on Paris that killed at least 129 people in a coordinated attack on several targets including a musical performance, a soccer game, and restaurants. Juan Cole writes that a surviving radio and television professional reported that he heard the attackers say to the hostages, “It is [President Francois] Hollande’s fault, it is the fault of your president, he should not have intervened in Syria.” They also spoke of Iraq. ISIS, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq, has already taken responsibility for the attacks. Another possibility is the Support Front (al-Jabha al-Nusra) in Syria, but it does not have territory in Iraq, and France has not specifically targeted it in the west of Syria. Cole wrote:

“When I was in France in mid-October, I was told by a former diplomat that President Hollande had decided to begin flying missions against ISIL in Raqqa, Syria, last September because French intelligence had learned that ISIL was planning to hit France. It is estimated that there are some 3,000 radical French Muslims fighting in ISIL (though remember that this number is proportionally tiny, since there are on the order of 3 million French Muslims, some 5% of the population– and the majority of them is not religious)….

“The French air force has been inflicting substantial damage on ISIL in Raqqa and its hinterlands. On Tuesday, AFP reported that France launched a fourth wave of airstrikes on Daesh targets in Syria, targeting the oil infrastructure that is a source of much of ISIL’s budget.”

The attacks may be an attempt to replicate the 2004 Madrid train bombings which also aimed at “soft targets” and persuaded Spain to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Attackers tend to perform their acts for a goal, not just from generalized anger. The “war on terror” has made little distinction between noncombatants and alleged militants with a shrug of the perpetrators toward “collateral damage,” killing hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

The GOP has reacted to the attacks by peddling more fear and hatred. The right-wing media latched onto the jihadists’ action by claiming that all Muslims are responsible for last night’s atrocities. In tonight’s Democratic presidential debate, all three candidates agreed that they would not use the term “radical Islam” because it insinuates that all 1.7 billion Muslims in the world are affiliated with these violent groups. Hillary Clinton said, “We are not at war with Islam or Muslims. We are at war with violent extremism.” Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley argued a better term would be “radical jihadists.”

President Barack Obama said last February that he refuses to say “radical Islam” because the term grants them a religious legitimacy they don’t deserve.

“They are not religious leaders; they are terrorists. We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is “desperate” to portray itself as a group of holy warriors defending Islam. It uses to recruit and radicalize young people. He added:

“They no more represent Islam than any madman who kills in the name of Christianity or Judaism or Buddhism or Hinduism. No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for violence and terrorism.”

GOP presidential candidates called the Democrats’ positions one of “weakness.” [As you read the following comments, please note that President Obama said that he wanted his team to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in the upcoming fiscal year. He did suggest 83,000 refugees, but most of these would be from other countries. The numbers over 200,000 Syrian refugees came from a right-wing parody news website. “RealNewsRightNow”–not to be confused with the respected TheRealNews.com–is not at all “real.”]

Donald Trump: “It was just reported, one [attacker was] from Syria. Our president wants to take in 250,000 from Syria.

Rick Santorum: “ISIS is a creation of a political decision by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to abandon Iraq — against all of our generals’ recommendations, against all of the policy recommendations.” [Actually, George W. Bush made the arrangements to leave—or “abandon”—Iraq.)

Carly Fiorina: “I am outraged because the murder, the mayhem, the danger, the tragedy we see unfolding in Paris, throughout the Middle East, around the world, and too often in our own homeland are the direct consequence of this administration’s policies.”

Mike Huckabee: “During the debate last week, I stated that we should not admit those claiming to be Syrian refugees and was condemned by the left for that position. I was right, and the events in Paris affirm that …. It’s time for a President who will act to protect Americans, not just talk and protect the image of Islam.”

Ted Cruz:  “I call on Congress to pass the Expatriate Terrorist Act. We should not allow jihadists to come back to America using U.S. passports to murder innocent men and women. We are at war.” “We need to immediately declare a halt to any plans to bring refugees that may have been infiltrated by ISIS to the United States.” [That to Cruz is probably all of them.] He also wants to kill more civilians: “The radical Islamism … will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties, when the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent life.”

Ben Carson: “I think America’s involvement should be trying to eliminate them, completely, destroy them. Boots on the ground would probably be important.” “If we’re going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region—if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn’t infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice.”

Jeb Bush: “This is an organized effort to destroy Western civilization [and the U.S. should] re-garner the alliances, fortify those alliances, reconnect with our counterintelligence and intelligence capabilities with our European allies, and engage in the Middle East to take out ISIS.”

Marco Rubio: “We must increase our efforts at home and abroad to improve our defenses, destroy terrorist networks, and deprive them of the space from which to operate.”

John Kasich: “You know, our thoughts and our prayers go to the people of France but that’s not enough. Action is required. Time is of the essence. Negotiation, ambivalence, or delay, are not acceptable,” he said in a speech that focused entirely on the terror attacks.”

Eschewing the hateful feedback from GOP presidential candidates, including immediately blocking the Iran agreement, President Rhouhanni of Iran sent this message to France:

“In the name of the Iranian people, who have themselves been victims of terrorism, I strongly condemn these crimes against humanity and offer my condolences to the grieving French people and government.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari declared that the extremist death cult does not “believe in ethical principles” and is “not loyal to any type of divine religions — including Islam.” Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo called for International cooperation to fight terrorism, and the leaders of Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia called the attacks “heinous” and “criminal.” They called for an end to the “plague” of terrorism.

Conservatives delight in their misrepresentation of President Obama’s statement about having “contained” Isis, but he mean that the terrorist group had not gained ground in Iraq. Donald Trump doubled down on his position, which he first stated in January after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, that gun control doesn’t prevent the violence. Yet one suicide bomber stopped by guards at the stadium location turned away before he detonated his bomb.

On Fox, people like Bill O’Reilly and Brian Kilmeade push the myth that  “all terrorists are Muslims.” Terrorists in the U.S. are usually Christians, but Fox fails to identify them as such.

People need to deny that the attacks are related to religion. Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorism has no religion. We need to repeat this over and over. If we let unreasonable hatred take over our lives, then we are the victims of the attackers.

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