Discussion Of Saddam and Iraq Return To British And American Politics

John-Chilcot-the-Chairman-of-the-Iraq-Inquiry\

The Iraq war was the subject of news today both in the UK, with the release of the Chilcot inquiry, and in the US  with news reports of Donald Trump praising Saddam. David Weigel made a point that the media’s coverage of Trump’s statements appeared timed to help Hillary Clinton after the Clinton campaign used them to distract from James Comey’s statement which accused Clinton of being extremely careless with classified information, and demonstrated that she has lied to the public on several key points regarding the email controversy. Missing from the mainstream media coverage was Clinton’s support for the Iraq war based upon false claims.

A seven-year official inquiry in Great Britain on the Iraq war was finally released and repeats what many critics of the Iraq war were saying from the start, including that the reports of WMD were based upon faulty intelligence and non-military responses were not exhausted. CNN reports:

A  long-awaited official inquiry delivered a devastating indictment of Britain’s decision to invade Iraq Wednesday, finding that the war was based on flawed intelligence and had been launched before diplomatic options were exhausted.

The findings of the 2.6 million-word Iraq Inquiry — seven years in the making — were released following a statement by probe chairman John Chilcot in London.

The former civil servant said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” when the U.S-led invasion was launched in March 2003, and that while military action against him “might have been necessary at some point,” the “strategy of containment” could have continued for some time.

Chilcot said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was warned of the risks of regional instability and the rise of terrorism before the invasion of Iraq, but pressed on regardless.

BBC News sums up two key points:

Chairman Sir John Chilcot said the 2003 invasion was not the “last resort” action presented to MPs and the public.

There was no “imminent threat” from Saddam – and the intelligence case was “not justified”, he said.

The Guardian called the war an “appalling mistake” and began their editorial in looking at the victims:

As always in matters of military aggression, the humane perspective has to start with the victims. Since the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of the lives lost to violence vary from a quarter of a million to 600,000. The number of injured will surely be several times that, and the number of men, women and children displaced from their homes is put at between 3.5 and 5 million, somewhere between one in 10 and one in six of the population.

There is no disputing the vicious brutality of the regime that ran the country before, but there is no serious disputing, either, that the suffering captured in these statistics of war are of another order to anything that would be endured in even tyrannical times of peace. Thirteen years on, as the deadly blast in Baghdad last weekend illustrated afresh, the predicament of the Iraqi people remains misery without end. The topsy-turvy post-9/11 rationalisation for regime change from the chauvinist, parochial and sometimes proudly ignorant George W Bush White House produced predictably topsy-turvy results. Jihadi forces that Saddam Hussein had contained were not discouraged by his ousting, but greatly emboldened. In sum, failures do not come any more abject than Iraq, nor catastrophes any less pure.

George Bush’s communication director responded to BBC News with a rationalization based upon Saddam’s actions: “Despite the intelligence failures and other mistakes he has acknowledged previously, President Bush continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

Donald Trump has expressed a different viewpoint on Saddam throughout the campaign. CNN reports:

While acknowledging that Saddam Hussein “was a bad guy,” Trump praised the former Iraqi dictator’s efficient killing of “terrorists” — despite the fact that Iraq was listed as a state sponsor of terrorism during Hussein’s time in power.

Trump, who supported the Iraq War before the invasion and in the early months of the war, said the U.S. “shouldn’t have destabilized” Iraq before pivoting to praising Hussein.

“He was a bad guy — really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism,” Trump said.

While Trump’s praise of Saddam is rather foolish (and debunked by The Guardian), David Weigel has a point that this is something which Trump has been saying on the stump throughout the campaign, with news media reports of Trump praising Saddam coming after the Clinton campaign made a point of it. Weigel wrote, “whaling on Trump gave the campaign a chance to pivot on a day when the director of the FBI held an unusual and damaging news conference saying that the Democratic candidate, whom most voters consider untrustworthy, had behaved recklessly with classified email. The media went along with this by noting the irony, and remarking that Trump stepped on what could have been a good news cycle.” Weigel further wrote:

The point is that Trump has been saying, for quite some time, that the United States should not have gone to war in Iraq, and that it should side with dictators as long as they “kill terrorists.” The Republican primary electorate endorsed that view. Clinton, as a senator and then as secretary of state, took another view, and backed the use of American power to remove both Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi. There’s video of Clinton gleefully saying “We came, we saw, he died” upon learning that Gaddafi had been torn apart by his own people. This has never been treated like a gaffe; but Trump’s “Saddam killed terrorists” riff suddenly is.

By consistently covering Trump’s argument over time, and by following up on it, media outlets did their job to inform voters. That was why Tuesday night’s collective Captain Renault moment was so strange, and so demonstrative of why many media consumers are skeptical of what they’re hearing. Instead of a debate on the facts — should Hussein have been removed? Did he “kill terrorists,” in a contradiction of what Americans were told before the war? — there was manufactured outrage, straight from a rival campaign.

The media coverage certainly has helped Clinton, in both stressing the worst aspects of Trump’s views and in totally ignoring how strong a supporter of the war Clinton was. Not only did Clinton support the war based upon the faulty intelligence cited in the report, she went beyond the claims of many supporters of the war in falsely claiming there were ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s support of neoconservative regime change has been a disaster. However Trump also has himself to blame. As on so many matters, even in criticizing Clinton where she deserves criticism, Trump has failed to make a consistent coherent argument against her, with the media further assisting Clinton.

Debunking the Ralph Nader Scare Tactics For Supporting The Lesser Evil

Trump Clinton Illusion Free Choice

Many of us have principles and will not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many Clinton supporters have shown no understanding of the basic democratic principle that we have the right to support or not support whichever candidates we choose. They make bogus claims that not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump. If true, the opposite would also have to be true–our decision to not vote for Trump by their logic would be a vote for Hillary.

Clinton supporters raise Ralph Nader and the 2000 election, but this is wrong for so many reasons:

This assumes that the Democrats are entitled to our vote, and that if there weren’t third party candidates running, those on the left would automatically vote for the Democrat. Wrong. Many would stay home, or leave the presidential spot empty, if there was no other choice.

Most of us do not live in battleground states, leaving us free to vote our convictions without affecting the outcome. Plus Clinton is pulling away in the battleground states and Nate Silver reassures us that Clinton will win anyways. Considering what an inept campaign Trump has waged since clinching the nomination, he is probably right (although Quinnipiac does show them deadlocked).

Hillary Clinton is not Al Gore. She is far closer to George Bush. We were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

If you think having George Bush elected in 2000 was a terrible thing (and it was), it makes no sense to argue that Hillary Clinton should be president when she supports so much of what made Bush such a terrible president.

If anything, Nader has been proven right by the Democrats nominating a corrupt warmonger such as Clinton. This clearly shows the dangers of “lesser evilism.”

When does the “lesser evilism” stop? We are warned about what happened when Bush beat Gore and told me must support Clinton because of Trump, but Clinton has supported most of the evil done by Bush. Next election will the Democrats nominate someone like Trump and will we be told we must support him if the Republicans nominate someone even more evil?

Some Clinton supporters have been rather bad winners, attacking those who disagree with them on social media for expressing our opinions. Life is more than a binary choice between the limited options provided by the major parties. It even might be argued that a function of the major parties is to limit debate to the limited issues where their candidates disagree.

In reality, Clinton and Trump are both in the authoritarian right segment of the political spectrum, not differing by as much as supporters of either would admit. Those of us who hold opposing views are going to continue to express our views on the issue, regardless of whether we have a presidential candidate who is likely to win. We will continue to oppose oligarchy, neoconservative military interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, the corrupting role of money in politics, destruction of the environment for profit, and an increased role of religion in public policy–even if the Democratic nominee is on the wrong side of each of these issues.

Voters Still Don’t Like or Trust Trump & Clinton, But See Sanders Favorably

Trumps and Clintons

Despite running what is probably the most inept campaign ever by a major party candidate, Donald Trump remains within five points of Hillary Clinton in the latest CNN/ORC Poll. The fact remains that most people, for good reason, do not like either candidate. As CNN put it, “When asked whether they would be excited by a Trump or Clinton presidency, fewer than 3-in-10 muster that level of enthusiasm for either.” Bernie Sanders is seen favorably by 59 percent, compared with 41 percent for Clinton and 38 percent for Trump.

While Clinton hopes her attacks on Trump’s economic views will change things, a majority believe Trump could handle the economy better than Clinton. Clinton is seen as stronger on foreign policy, but Trump is seen as stronger on terrorism. Neither is seen as honest, but more see Clinton as dishonest than Trump:

The poll finds Clinton widely viewed as having the better temperament for the presidency (56% say so vs. 32% who feel Trump is temperamentally better-suited for the White House), while Trump has picked up some ground over Clinton when voters are asked who is more honest and trustworthy (45% say Trump, 37% Clinton, a near reversal since March). But still, 17% say they see neither candidate as honest and trustworthy.

Trump has problems related to his racism and xenophobia, while 59 percent see Clinton’s violations of policy and dishonesty surrounding her private email server when Secretary of State as a negative indicator of her character and ability to serve as president:

About two-thirds say the way Trump talks about race and ethnicity is an important indicator of his character and ability to serve as president. On Clinton’s handling of her email as secretary of state, about two-thirds now say she did something wrong by using a personal email address and home-based server to handle her communications, up from about half in March of last year when the story first came to light. Likewise, 6-in-10 now say they see her handling of email as an indicator of her character and ability to serve as president, up from about half in March of last year.

As I noted above, Bernie Sanders is seen in the most favorable light, far surpassing Clinton and Trump. The major third party candidates are receiving some support but remain far behind in the poll, with Gary Johnson, now the Libertarian Party official nominee, at nine percent and presumptive Green Party nominee at seven percent.

If Donald Trump can remain within five points of Clinton despite all his recent blunders and the lack of a real campaign structure, his election remains a real possibility should Clinton be hurt by further bad news or legal action. Democrats who are making so much noise about how we must fall in line behind Clinton due to the horrors of a Trump presidency should be pushing for Sanders to be the nominee if they are really sincere in desiring to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t become president.

Both Clinton and Trump Ignore Civil Liberties In Response To Terrorism

bill of rights

While Donald Trump’s disregard for civil liberties in response to terrorism has been rather obvious, one sad fact about the 2016 election is that Hillary Clinton isn’t much better. Mediaite points out a serious flaw in her views in response to a tweet from Clinton from earlier today: “If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked.”

Clinton’s proposal and others like it have met with criticism from civil libertarians and legal scholars, who argue that you cannot constitutionally deny citizens their rights without proving that they are guilty in a trial. “We generally don’t take away rights based on suspicion” is how UCLA law professor and blogger Eugene Volokh puts it.

Clinton evidently disagrees, likely believing that we as a society ought to be wary of anyone being investigated by the feds, even in the absence of a conviction. At the very least, she seems to think we should ask pointed questions of those the federal government believes put the national security of the United States at risk through their actions.

Of course, Clinton’s comments come after the Orlando shooting Sunday morning, carried out by a perpetrator who was investigated by federal authorities but then removed from watch lists. So even if the federal government stops investigating a suspect, we may have to act on the assumption they broke the law anyway.

Mark Joseph Stern also discussed this at Slate:

America has an appalling, unconscionable, and unparalleled gun violence problem. The federal government has proven able in the past to pass gun safety laws—like rigorous licensing requirements and comprehensive backgrounds checks—that have proven to be quite effective at reducing gun violence. Much, much more can and should be done. For example, the federal government should also promptly repeal the outrageously unjust law that protects gun sellers across the country from legal liability when they negligently sell firearms to unqualified purchasers. And Congress should forbid manufacturers from selling weapons of war—guns that have no plausible purpose other than to slaughter vast numbers of humans in as short a time as possible.

 What Congress, or the next president, should not do, however, is forbid individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms. The problem here is largely one of precedent: The Supreme Court has said private gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. It has also ruled that the right to bear arms is a “fundamental right” under the 14th Amendment as a component of the “liberty” protected by the due process clause. As I explained in December:

The Supreme Court’s ahistorical, atextual reading of the Second and 14th Amendments as guarantors of an individual right to bear arms may be deeply flawed. But limiting any right, no matter how specious, based on undisclosed, mistake-ridden lists is even more unsound. The Constitution is anchored by the promise of due process; so long as gun ownership is considered an aspect of liberty, the government must not revoke it unilaterally, with no opportunity for appeal. Civil libertarians should push to abolish the terror watch lists, not expand their reach.

If the government can revoke your right to access firearms simply because it has decided to place you on a secret, notoriously inaccurate list, it could presumably restrict your other rights in a similar manner. You could be forbidden from advocating for causes you believe in, or associating with like-minded activists; your right against intrusive, unreasonable searches could be suspended. And you would have no recourse: The government could simply declare that, as a name on a covert list, you are owed no due process at all.

This is hardly the only civil liberties problem with regards to Hillary Clinton. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign. She introduced legislation to make flag burning in protest a felony while in the Senate, and has used language quite similar to Donald Trump in showing a lack of respect for freedom of speech.

There is a special irony with Clinton equating being under FBI investigation with guilt here, considering that Clinton herself is under FBI investigation on other matters. By this logic, Clinton being under investigation should by itself be sufficient grounds to deny her the Democratic nomination. Of course it is much more reasonable to deny someone the nomination to be president than to deny civil liberties to large numbers of people. There has already been plenty revealed about her actions as Secretary of State which should disqualify her from consideration.

Donald Trump Playing Into The Hands of ISIS

maddow_trump

The conventional wisdom has been that Donald Trump would benefit in the presidential race were there were to be a terrorist attack or economic downturn. In the aftermath of the attack in Orlando, that will probably be revised. Trump might still benefit from economic problems, with a majority trusting Trump over Clinton on the economy. It is too soon to have any polling, but it is hard to see Trump benefiting from his post-Orlando comments, including his speech today, which sounds much better in the original German.

Trump was already doing poorly since he clinched the nomination, with his campaign limited to attacks on other Republicans and racist attacks on judges. His statements over the last couple of days might have doomed him to a landslide loss. I fear that when Trump said, “The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here” he really does see every Muslim immigrant as being a future terrorist.

Trump has tried to place the blame on both Obama and Clinton for the attack. He is correct in criticizing Clinton’s Libya policy for the spread of terrorism in the region, and her views on Syria were almost as insane as Trump’s foreign policy. However, Trump is being selective in looking at Libya and Syria, while ignoring Iraq, where both the Republicans and Clinton were wrong. While these policies did make matters worse in the middle east, it is premature to connect this to the lone terrorist in Orlando without clearer knowledge of his views and motivation.

More importantly, while again he is right to condemn Clinton’s Libya and Syria positions, he has hardly been consistent, and Trump’s position here is also quite dangerous. As David Ignatius and William Saleton have pointed out, Trump’s attack on Islam plays right into the hands of terrorists–as George Bush did when he attacked Iraq. From Saleton’s article:

Trump also reinforces ISIS’s message that the campaign against it is a war against Islam. His ban on entry to the United States would apply to all Muslims, not just to radicals or supporters of terrorism. Three months ago, Trump declared that “Islam hates us” and refused to distinguish radical Muslims from Muslims in general, arguing that “it’s very hard to separate because you don’t know who is who.” On Friday, just before the Orlando attack, he told an audience of conservative Christians that he would “defend Christian Americans” and clamp down on the influx of “Syrian refugees.”

n short, Trump would undercut everything that’s working against ISIS: Muslim governments that have joined our military campaign, clerics who are articulating moderate Islam, ministries and activists who are working online to discredit jihadism. He would help ISIS obtain the weapons it needs most: overseas recruits who are willing to kill people in their own countries. He would make another Orlando more likely.

Trump thinks his policy of “vigilance” against domestic Muslims would protect us. But that, too, serves the enemy’s agenda. In its Ramadan message, ISIS urged its sympathizers in the West to wage jihad in their own countries, “to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” That’s the purpose of the attacks in Fort Hood, Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando: to terrorize us, to polarize us, to make every neighbor fear his neighbor.

So far, the terrorists haven’t succeeded. But Trump might.

I continue to fear how a war monger like Hillary Clinton might respond to a terrorist attack as president. There is also the question of how significant it is that Hillary Clinton has taken another step to the right of Barack Obama, at least in her terminology. In other words, Hillary Clinton is the neocon in this race, and is the candidate representing the usual Republican view. Donald Trump is looking like something even scarier.

Bernie Sanders had a more sensible response, which also demonstrated the limitations to Chuck Todd’s world view. While not very likely, I am still holding out hope that both parties come to their senses at their conventions, as opposed to leaving us with what might be the worst election choice ever.

Bernie Sanders Is The Only Candidate To Consider Defending Civil Liberties Following Terrorist Attack

Sanders Passion Civil Liberties

There’s nothing like a terrorist attack to bring out the craziness in Republicans. The terrorist attacks in Brussels resulted in some rather absurd recommendations from the two leading Republican candidates.  Donald Trump called for more torture and closing the borders.

Ted Cruz, who sometimes pretends to be somewhat libertarian, called for a police state, complete with police patrols of Muslim neighborhoods. He also calls for securing the border, despite the Department of Homeland Security having frequently debunked Republican claims of ISIS infiltrating the United States by crossing the border.

The Democratic candidates showed greater sanity. Clinton called closing the borders unrealistic.  Sanders, as usual, took this further than Clinton, seeing the big issue beyond whether matters are realistic. He responding to Cruz by saying, “That would be unconstitutional, it would be wrong.” While I am glad to see that Clinton does not believe that it is realistic to close the borders, she has also sounded alarmingly close to Donald Trump when it comes to the civil liberties issues involved in responding to terrorism, as in this recnt statement:

You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating. It’s more complicated with some of what they do on encrypted apps, and I’m well aware of that, and that requires even more thinking about how to do it.

While Clinton remains the lesser evil in comparison to the Republican candidates, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to stress civil liberties issues. This is crucial considering the degree to which conservatives (including Clinton) have been quick to abandon civil liberties in response to terrorist threats.

Update: CNN reports, Clinton calls for more surveillance, police after Brussels attacks

Nomination Of Sanders Essential To Prevent Clinton’s Neocon Policies

Sanders On Iraq Vote

While foreign policy has frequently been pushed behind economics in this election, largely due to the emphasis placed on this by her major challenger, Bernie Sanders, foreign policy remains a major reason for opposition to Clinton on the left. Sanders showed the contrast in their views in the last Democratic debate, while the Republicans showed why they cannot be trusted on foreign policy their debate.  In an interview with The Guardian, Sanders  discussed how Clinton’s pursuit of “regime change” in Libya helped rise of Isis:

Speaking to the Guardian in an extensive pre-debate interview, the senator from Vermont criticised Clinton for carelessly fomenting regime change in Libya “without worrying” about the ensuing instability that has helped Islamic State forces take hold in the country.

“Regime change without worrying about what happens the day after you get rid of the dictator does not make a lot of sense,” Sanders said.

“I voted against the war in Iraq … Secretary Clinton voted for that war. She was proud to have been involved in regime change in Libya, with [Muammar] Gaddafi, without worrying, I think, about what happened the day after and the kind of instability and the rise of Isis that we have seen in Libya.”

Foreign policy has recieved far more emphasis in the liberal media compared to the rest of the campaign coverage. I have looked at Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative and hawkish views multiple times.  At Salon, Paul Rosenberg recently described how Clinton has been a neoconservative hawk, concentrating on her mistakes on Iraq and showing how she made similar mistakes in her failed policy in Libya. The foreign policy views she has held in the past should be taken as a warning of what to expect should Clinton be elected. As Secretary of State her more interventionist advice was overruled by more sensible people in the Obama administration. There will be no such restraints on Clinton’s militarism should she be elected.

Rosenberg looked at how Clinton justified the invasion of Iraq in her Senate speech. He discussed how Clinton failed to show understanding of the problems which the war would inevitably result in, including the increase in extremism and terrorism. He next discussed her fundamental errors in repeating the false claims of a threat of WMD in Iraq, first quoting from Clinton:

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

Now this much is undisputed.

Rosenberg responded:

We now know unequivocally that Iraq did not rebuild its WMD capacities, as Clinton had claimed. There were already ample reasons to doubt it at the time, so she was clearly lying when she said “this much is undisputed.” But she was also expressing a common elite consensus view. And her stress on elite consensus was another troubling aspect of her speech for us to consider—which we’ll return to below. First, however, we need to focus on Clinton’s claim that Saddam had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.”

Of course, Saddam, as secular dictator, had no reason at all to behave as Clinton described. He and bin Laden were bitter ideological enemies, and the only thing that could bring them together was necessity and a common enemy they hated and feared more than each other. That would be us. And although both Saddam and bin Laden are dead, their followers have joined together to fight us. That is, in fact, the origin story of ISIS—or at least a crucial part of it, as counter-terrorism expert Malcolm Nance has explained, talking to William Arkin, for example.

There is more worth reading on how the invasion of Iraq led to the later threat from ISIS.

Rosenberg next criticized how, “Clinton went on to craft an equally misleading picture of the policy options,” leading to her support for the war. Clinton has called this a mistake, but we saw that as as Secretary of State she had not learned from this mistake:

After all, Clinton herself pushed hard for a similarly flawed regime change strategy in Libya—Conor Friedersdorf even compared her role in Libya to Cheney’s in Iraq. Hyperbolic? Yes. But he did have a point. As summarized by Joel Gillin at the New Republic, she did get carried away with questionable intelligence, over-focused on deposing a long-time U.S. bogeyman, and failed to give sufficient consideration to the depths of difficulties that would follow afterwards. All of which allowed the broader jihadi threat increased opportunity to spread.

In particular, the key claim that something genocidal was about to unfold was entirely unfounded, according to a lengthy review of the Libya intervention at the London Review of Books, which noted that “in retaking the towns that the uprising had briefly wrested from the government’s control, Gaddafi’s forces had committed no massacres at all; the fighting had been bitter and bloody, but there had been nothing remotely resembling the slaughter at Srebrenica, let alone in Rwanda.” Given that Libya had normalized relations with the West in 2003/2004, renouncing its former international outlaw role, including an active WMD program, it was strikingly counterproductive to turn on Gaddafi like that, if you want to coax other “rogue states” into the community of nations.

Rosenberg concluded:

The last 14 years have seen America completely lose track of what its own core ideological strengths are. If “they hate us for our freedoms,” then fine, we’ll get rid of them. That’s been our response in a nutshell. We’ve been taken so far out of touch with our own values that it might seem like a pipe dream to turn the tables on ISIS and exploit their contradictions. But that’s exactly what we need to do. And nothing in Hillary Clinton’s record shows any capacity for engaging ISIS on those terms.

To the contrary, Clinton’s just like Bush and the neocons in fighting the last century’s wars. She’s much smarter about it, in theory at least. But we’re in a whole different ballgame now, and none of our foreign policy elites seem to have a clue about that, despite a growing choru

In a normal election year, Clinton’s failures as Secretary of State would be a major election issue. We are now seeing the same mistakes with Clinton’s views on Syria. However, Clinton benefits from a double standard in which many Democrats feel that it is somehow unfair that Clinton be criticized or held accountable for her views, and the many mistakes which have characterized her career. Some claim that criticism of Clinton is a right wing plot, when they are the ones backing right wing policies in defending Clinton’s record. Criticism of Clinton is written off as Clinton Derangement Syndrome, with the conservative Democrats who make this argument echoing both the words of those who defended George W. Bush with cries of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and as a result pushing for what would amount to a third term for George Bush’s policies (with the ethics of Richard Nixon).

While Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has a realistic chance of providing an alternative to the neoconservative views of Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidates, another candidate has also criticized Clinton’s foreign policy views. Jim Webb, who has kept open the possibility of a third party run, has criticized Clinton for her “inept leadership” on Libya in a Facebook post found via The Hill:

Our next commander in chief must define a strategic vision for the country and accept accountability for past actions. Hillary Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya, and the power vacuums that resulted in the rest of the region. She’ll need better answers than the recent nonsensical comment that she advocated taking out Muammar Qadaffi in Libya in order to avert a situation like Syria. The predictable chaos in Libya was bad enough, but it also helped bring about the disaster in Syria. Who is taking her to task for this? http://read.bi/1SbMG7h

She said, “If we had not joined with our European partners and our Arab partners to assist the people in Libya, you would be looking at Syria.” In reality that is what we are looking at. As the Harvard (Kennedy School) Lessons from Libya study of 2013 found, “The biggest misconception about NATO’s intervention is that it saved lives and benefited Libya and its neighbors.” Radical Islamist groups, suppressed under Qaddafi, emerged as the fiercest rebels during the war, highlighted by the September 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues.

Clinton talked at this last DNC debate about her failure as Secretary of State as if she was successful. While she held that office, the U.S. spent about $2 billion backing the Libyan uprising against Qadaffi. The uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring, led directly to Qaddafi being removed from power and killed by rebel forces in 2011. Now some 2,000 ISIS terrorists have established a foothold in Libya. Sophisticated weapons from Qaddafi’s arsenal—including up to 15,000 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles have apparently fallen into the hands of radical Islamists throughout the region. For a Secretary of State (and a Presidential administration) this is foreign policy leadership at its worst.

The first rule of wing-walking (and regime change) is never let go of what you have until you have a firm grasp on where you are going.

Clinton lacks any real grasp of the dangers of interventionism, repeatedly making the same mistake she made in supporting the Iraq war. Her mistakes on policy, including but not limited to foreign policy, are far more important than the mistakes she has made campaigning this year which the media is more likely to discuss.

Third Democratic Debate Showed Sanders’ Strength On Foreign Policy, Health Care, And Social Justice

Third Democratic Debate ABC News

The third Democratic Debate (transcript here) was most significant for Sanders doing his best job yet in the debates of taking on Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. Unfortunately, with the debate airing on the Saturday night before Christmas, The Guardian might have it right in this headline: Sanders outshone Clinton on foreign policy at the debate. But who watched? Both Sanders and O’Malley were also critical of Clinton’s Wall Street ties and economic views. During much of the evening I felt like I was watching a debate between two Democrats and a Republican.

While Sanders was prepared to take on Clinton’s foreign policy views, he did begin with his usual themes in his opening statement:

I am running for president of the United States because it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. I’m running for president because our economy is rigged because working people are working longer hours for lower wages and almost all of new wealth and income being created is going to the top one percent. I’m running for president because I’m going to create an economy that works for working families not just billionaires.

I’m running for president because we have a campaign finance system which is corrupt, where billionaires are spending hundreds of millionaires of dollars to buy candidates who will represent their interests rather than the middle class and working families. I’m running because we need to address the planetary crisis of climate change and take on the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

I’m running for president because I want a new foreign policy; one that takes on Isis, one that destroys ISIS, but one that does not get us involved in perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East but rather works around a major coalition of wealthy and powerful nations supporting Muslim troops on the ground. That’s the kind of coalition we need and that’s the kind of coalition I will put together.

The breech in security on the DNC’s voter data base came up. Sanders explained the situation, including an open admission of what staffers had done wrong, and then was asked if Clinton deserved an apology:

Not only — not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton — and I hope we can work together on an independent investigation from day one — I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the type of campaign that we run.

And if I find anybody else involved in this, they will also be fired.

Clinton appeared shocked, as if she didn’t see this coming. Such an honest response to a scandal is so foreign to her.

It didn’t take long for the debate to turn to foreign policy. Sanders criticized Clinton’s interventionist foreign policy views and support for regime change. There was a detour on gun control when Clinton was asked, ” Secretary Clinton, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, you all emphasized gun control. But our latest poll shows that more Americans believe arming people, not stricter gun laws, is the best defense against terrorism. Are they wrong?”

Clinton stumbled in answering but I do think she was trying to say the right thing here. She finally did say, “Guns, in and of themselves, in my opinion, will not make Americans safer.”

O’Malley took advantage of this to attack the records of both Clinton and Sanders on guns. He is right, as I have discussed here, that Clinton changes her position on this every election year. He is also right that Sanders has had some votes which gun control advocates could rightly criticize, but as has generally been the case when this issue has come up, Sanders’ general history of support for gun control was distorted. Among the issues was that O’Malley raised was that, “Senator Sanders voted against even research dollars to look into this public health issue.”

The problem with citing a single vote against any Senator is that bills contain multiple items, and it is possible that Sanders voted against the amendment based upon details unrelated to the general issue. This vote took place in 1996 and in more recent interviews Sanders has not been able to recall the specifics of why he voted against this at the time. More importantly, Sanders now favors funding for this research. All three candidates are strongly promoting gun control.

Hillary Clinton often seemed to deflect from questions by bringing up criticisms of Donald Trump. Most were valid, but Clinton was wrong on one point:

And we also need to make sure that the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don’t fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists. So I want to explain why this is not in America’s interest to react with this kind of fear and respond to this sort of bigotry.

The fact check sites, including Factcheck.org, states that no such video exists. This is apparently as fictitious as the videos which Carly Fiorina claimed to have seen regarding Planned Parenthood at the second Republican debate.

Clinton was confronted with the contradictions in her statements on Syria by Martha Raddatz, who tried to force Clinton to defend her foreign policy failures several times during the debate:

Secretary Clinton, you too have ruled out a large U.S. combat force, yet you support sending in special operations forces to Syria, and sending those 100 to 200 troops to Iraq to do exploitation kill raids.

We’ve already lost one Delta Force member in a raid. It has looked very much to me like we’re already in ground combat on frequent trips I’ve made there.

After a weak answer from Clinton, Raddatz followed up:

Secretary Clinton, I want — I want to follow up on that. You do support sending special operations forces there. You support what the president has done already. One of the lessons people draw from Vietnam and war since is that a little force can turn into a little more and a little more. President Obama certainly didn’t expect to be sending 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan the first year of his presidency.

Are you prepared to run the risk of a bigger war to achieve your goals to destroy ISIS, or are you prepared to give up on those goals if it requires a larger force?

Clinton continued to struggle to defend her foreign policy views. After Clinton mentioned her support for a no-fly zone in Syria, Raddatz asked, “Secretary Clinton, I’d like to go back to that if I could. ISIS doesn’t have aircraft, Al Qaida doesn’t have aircraft. So would you shoot down a Syrian military aircraft or a Russian airplane?”

Both O’Malley and Sanders criticized Clinton’s views, with Sanders putting it all in perspective:

I have a difference of opinion with Secretary Clinton on this. Our differences are fairly deep on this issue. We disagreed on the war in Iraq. We both listened to the information from Bush and Cheney. I voted against the war.

But I think — and I say this with due respect — that I worry too much that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.

Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that destabilized the entire region. Yes, we could get rid of Gadhafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS. So I think, yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you’ve got to think about what happens the day after. And in my view, what we need to do is put together broad coalitions to understand that we’re not going to have a political vacuum filled by terrorists, that, in fact, we are going to move steadily — and maybe slowly — toward democratic societies, in terms of Assad, a terrible dictator. But I think in Syria the primary focus now must be on destroying ISIS and working over the years to get rid of Assad. That’s the secondary issue.

With Clinton lacking any arguments of substance to defend her views, Clinton resorted to her usual tactic of deception. She tried to deflect from such criticism, and deny the substantial difference in their views, by distorting  Sanders’ record in saying, “With all due respect, senator, you voted for regime change with respect to Libya. you joined the Senate in voting to get rid of Qaddafi.” As Politico pointed out after the debate, the vote referred to a nonbinding resolution he voted for, which asked the dictator to “desist from further violence, recognize the Libyan people’s demand for democratic change, [and] resign his position.” This was hardly comparable to the removal of Qaddafi by force which Clinton backed.

O’Malley criticized Clinton’s antiqued thinking, with this not being the only time he contrasted his age to his two older opponents:

During the Cold War — during the Cold War, we got into a bad habit of always looking to see who was wearing the jersey of the communists, and who was wearing the U.S. jersey. We got into a bad habit of creating big bureaucracies, old methodologies, to undermine regimes that were not friendly to the United States. Look what we did in Iran with Mosaddegh. And look at the results that we’re still dealing with because of that. I would suggest to you that we need to leave the Cold War behind us, and we need to put together new alliances and new approaches to dealing with this, and we need to restrain ourselves.

I mean, I know Secretary Clinton was gleeful when Gadhafi was torn apart. And the world, no doubt is a better place without him. But look, we didn’t know what was happening next. And we fell into the same trap with Assad, saying — as if it’s our job to say, Assad must go.

We have a role to play in this world. But we need to leave the Cold War and that sort of antiquated thinking behind.

O’Malley was strong in criticizing Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and pointed how in the second debate she “very shamefully, she tried to hide her cozy relationship with Wall Street big banks by invoking the attacks of 9/11.” Clinton down played her contributions from Wall Street by ignoring her super PAC contributions, while Sanders pointed out, “Secretary Clinton, I don’t have a super PAC. I don’t get any money from Wall Street.” I am even more concerned about the corrupting effects of the contributions to the Foundation and unprecedented speaking fees paid to her husband.

The debate moved to health care with Sanders repeating his support for Medicare for All and Clinton objecting based upon the tax increases this would require. Sanders defended his proposal from Clinton’s attacks:

But Secretary Clinton is wrong.

As you know, because I know you know a lot about health care. You know that the United States per capita pays far and away more than other country. And it is unfair simply to say how much more the program will cost without making sure that people know that, we are doing away with cost of private insurance and that the middle class will be paying substantially less for health care on the single payer than on the Secretary’s Clinton proposal.

Clinton continued to channel right wing attacks on progressive programs by concentrating on their costs while ignoring their benefits in saying, “I don’t think we should be imposing new big programs that are going to raise middle class families’ taxes.”

Sanders responded by once again showing how he supports the economic policies of FDR and LBJ:

Number one, most important economic reality of today is that over the last 30 years, there has been a transfer of trillions of dollars from the middle class to the top one-tenth of one percent who are seeing a doubling of the percentage of wealth that they own.

Now, when Secretary Clinton says, “I’m not going raise taxes on the middle class,” let me tell you what she is saying. She is disagreeing with FDR on Social Security, LBJ on Medicare and with the vast majority of progressive Democrats in the House and the Senate, who today are fighting to end the disgrace of the United States being the only major country on Earth that doesn’t provide paid family and medical leave.

Sanders was the strongest candidate in speaking out for social justice:

Well, this whole issue concerns me. And I agree with much of what the secretary and the governor have said. But let’s be clear. Today in America we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, 2.2 million people. Predominantly African-American and Hispanic.

We are spending $80 billion a year locking up our fellow Americans. I think, and this is not easy, but I think we need to make wage a major effort, to come together as a country and end institutional racism. We need major, major reforms of a very broken criminal justice system. Now, what does that mean?

Well, for a start it means that police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African-Americans.

It means that we have to rethink the so-called war on drugs which has destroyed the lives of millions of people, which is why I have taken marijuana out of the Controlled Substance Act. So that it will not be a federal crime.That is why we need to make police — and I speak as a former mayor. I was a mayor for eight years, worked very closely with a great police department. And what we did is try to move that department toward community policing, so that the police officers become part of the community and not, as we see, in some cities an oppressive force.

We need to make police departments look like the communities they serve in terms of diversity. We need to end minimal sentencing. We need, basically, to pledge that we’re going to invest in this country, in jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration.

Towards the end, Martha Raddatz returned to Clinton’s failed policy on Libya, which Clinton has received considerable criticism for:

Secretary Clinton, I want to circle back to something that your opponents here have brought up. Libya is falling apart. The country is a haven for ISIS and jihadists with an estimated 2,000 ISIS fighters there today. You advocated for that 2011 intervention and called it smart power at its best. And yet, even President Obama said the U.S. should have done more to fill the leadership vacuum left behind. How much responsibility do you bear for the chaos that followed elections?

Clinton tried to deflect and Raddatz followed up:

Secretary Clinton, I want to go back. That — government lacked institutions and experience. It had been a family business for 40 years. On the security side, we offered only a modest training effort and a very limited arms buy-back program. Let me ask you the question again. How much responsibility do you bear for the chaos that followed those elections?

Sanders also showed his disagreements with Clinton on regime change:

SANDERS: Look, the secretary is right. This is a terribly complicated issue. There are no simple solutions. But where we have a disagreement is that I think if you look at the history of regime changes, you go back to Mossaddegh (ph) in Iran, you go back to Salvador Allende who we overthrew in Chile, you go back to overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, you go back to where we are today in Syria with a dictator named Assad.

The truth is it is relatively easy for a powerful nation like America to overthrow a dictator but it is very hard to predict the unintended consequences and the turmoil and the instability that follows after you overthrow that dictator.

So I think secretary Clinton and I have a fundamental disagreement. I’m not quite the fan of regime change that I believe she is.

After many questions of substance, the final questions were rather lame regarding the role of the president’s spouse. The candidates then gave their closing statements, with Clinton going last and concluding, “Thank you, good night and may the force be with you.”

The force was strong in Bernie Sanders, while Hillary Clinton (and Debbie Wasserman Schultz) have been taken away by the dark side.

Debate Shows Why Republicans Cannot Be Trusted On Foreign Policy

Republican Debate Los Vegas

The Republican debate (transcript here) showed once again that most of the GOP candidates have not learned a thing from the mistakes made by George W. Bush. The debate did play towards Rand Paul’s areas of sanity in opposing military interventionism and infringements on civil liberties, and did not include the many other areas where Paul is no better than the others in his parties. Jeb Bush, whose candidacy was derailed partially due to attacks from Donald Trump of being low energy, did manage some good counter-attacks on Trump. Chris Christie, back from the kiddie table debate, showed moments of strength, for better or worse.

As Esquire pointed out, Rand Paul didn’t win the debate (primarily because most Republican voters would not go along with his views) but did raise the important questions.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, was getting rid of Saddam Hussein a pretty good deal?

PAUL: These are the fundamental questions of our time, these foreign policy questions, whether or not regime change is a good idea or a bad idea. I don’t think because I think the regime change was a bad idea it means that Hussein was necessarily a good idea.

There is often variations of evil on both sides of the war. What we have to decide is whether or not regime change is a good idea. It’s what the neoconservatives have wanted. It’s what the vast majority of those on the stage want.

They still want regime change. They want it in Syria. They wanted it in Iraq. They want it in Libya. It has not worked.

Out of regime change you get chaos. From the chaos you have seen repeatedly the rise of radical Islam. So we get this profession of, oh, my goodness, they want to do something about terrorism and yet they’re the problem because they allow terrorism to arise out of that chaos.

Ted Cruz said he wanted to “carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,” and to have”sand can glow in the dark.”When asked about killing civilians, Cruz replied, “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is, not a city, but the location of the troops.” But ISIS is in cities. does he think they are just sitting targets out in the desert, away from civilians, waiting to be bombed?

Ben Carson bragged about being tough enough to kill children:

HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian? It’s like…

CARSON: You got it. You got it.

Donald Trump both spoke of closing portions of the Internet and killing the families of terrorists. Rand Paul responded:

I’d like to also go back to, though, another question, which is, is Donald Trump a serious candidate? The reason I ask this is, if you’re going to close the Internet, realize, America, what that entails. That entails getting rid of the First amendment, OK? It’s no small feat.

If you are going to kill the families of terrorists, realize that there’s something called the Geneva Convention we’re going to have to pull out of. It would defy every norm that is America. So when you ask yourself, whoever you are, that think you’re going to support Donald Trump, think, do you believe in the Constitution? Are you going to change the Constitution?

Carly Fiorina pointed out that, “Hillary Clinton has gotten every foreign policy challenge wrong.” That is generally true, as she has the same neoconservative views as most of the Republicans, who are no better.

Chris Christie did sound strong when he mocked Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz when they argued.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it’s like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who’ve never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position.

But being tough does not necessarily mean being wise, and Christie showed a quite foolish attitude towards Russia. Again Rand Paul displayed a sense of reality lacking in both other Republican candidates, as well as Hillary Clinton, in their support of the no fly zone:

BLITZER: Governor Christie, if the U.S. imposed a no-fly zone over Syria and a Russian plane encroached, invaded that no-fly zone, would you be prepared to shoot down that Russian plane and risk war with Russia?

CHRISTIE: Not only would I be prepared to do it, I would do it. A no-fly zone means a no-fly zone, Wolf. That’s what it means.

See, maybe — maybe because I’m from New Jersey, I just have this kind of plain language hangup. But I would make very clear — I would not talk to Vladimir Putin. In fact, I would talk to Vladimir Putin a lot. But I’d say to him, “Listen, Mr. President, there’s a no-fly zone in Syria; you fly in, it applies to you.” And yes, we would shoot down the planes of Russian pilots if in fact they were stupid enough to think that this president was the same feckless weakling that the president we have in the Oval Office is right now.

BLITZER: Senator Paul — Senator Paul, I want you to respond to what we just heard from Governor Christie. If there was a no-fly zone, you say that potentially could lead to World War III. Why?

PAUL: Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate. You know, here’s the thing. My goodness, what we want in a leader is someone with judgment, not someone who is so reckless as to stand on the stage and say, “Yes, I’m jumping up and down; I’m going to shoot down Russian planes.” Russia already flies in that airspace. It may not be something we’re in love with the fact that they’re there, but they were invited by Iraq and by Syria to fly in that airspace.

And so if we announce we’re going to have a no-fly zone, and others have said this. Hillary Clinton is also for it. It is a recipe for disaster. It’s a recipe for World War III. We need to confront Russia from a position of strength, but we don’t need to confront Russia from a point of recklessness that would lead to war.

This is something — this type of judgment, you know, it’s having that kind of judgment; who you would appoint and how you’re going to conduct affairs, that is incredibly important.

I mean, I think when we think about the judgment of someone who might want World War III, we might think about someone who might shut down a bridge because they don’t like their friends; they don’t want to — you know, they want to (inaudible) a Democrat.

So I think we need to be very careful.

Jeb Bush didn’t have much of consequence to say on policy, but he did do a good job of responding to Donald Trump’s antics. He told Trump, “Donald, you’re not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency. That’s not going to happen.” He summed up Trump here:

So Donald, you know, is great at — at the one-liners, but he’s a chaos candidate. And he’d be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.

He also questioned Trump’s source of information, referring back to a previous statement from Donald Trump that he obtained information on foreign policy from television shows:

HEWITT: Governor Bush, a commander-in-chief question. You’ve said that Mr. Trump is not qualified to be president because he’s not qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin. Why are you better qualified to deal with Vladimir Putin than Mr. Trump?

BUSH: Because I — first of all, I know what I don’t know. I know what I don’t know. I would seek out, as I have, the best advice that exists. I won’t get my information from the shows. I don’t know if that’s Saturday morning or Sunday morning. I don’t know which one.

None of the candidates was remotely qualified to be president. (While Rand Paul was generally right in this debate, his economic views and opposition to reproductive rights, which did not come up in this debate would disqualify him.) Unfortunately the Democratic front runner holds essentially the same views, even if Clinton uses different rhetoric in appealing to Democratic as opposed to Republican primary voters. Bernie Sanders represents our best hope to both have a president who has not made the errors which destabilized the region, and who can inspire voters to turn out to defeat the Republicans in a general election.

Avoiding Past Mistakes And Another American War Against Evil

Einstein Insanity

The fear of terror, exacerbated by recent episodes in both France and the United States, is leading politicians of both parties to repeat the mistakes of the past. Ira Chernus warns of, Oh, no! Not another American war against evil! His post begins:

This time, it’s the Islamic State (IS). After the attacks in Paris, Barack Obama, spokesman-in-chief for the United States of America, called that crew “the face of evil.” Shades of George W. Bush. The “evildoers” are back. And from every mountaintop, it seems, America now rings with calls to ramp up its war machine.

By the way, George W., how did that last war against the “evildoers” work out for you? Not quite the way you expected, right? I bet you didn’t imagine that your Global War on Terror would plant the seeds of an Islamic State and turn significant stretches of Iraq (and Syria) into fertile soil in which IS would grow into a brand new, even more frightening enemy.

But that’s the way wars against evil always seem to work.

Pardon me if I vent my exasperation with all the Washington policymakers, past and present, surrounded by their so-called experts and those war-drum-beating pundits in the media. I know I shouldn’t be shocked anymore. I’ve seen it often enough as a historian studying wars against evil in the past — ever since biblical times, in fact — and as a citizen watching wars in my own lifetime, ever since the one that tore Vietnam (and, incidentally, America) apart.

Still, it drives me crazy to watch policymakers and experts making the same dumb mistakes time after time, several mistakes, actually, which synergistically add up to one self-defeating blunder after another.

What’s worse, the dominant trend in public opinion is so often on the side of just those mistakes. You’d think someone would learn something. And in that someone I include “we, the people,” the nation as a whole.

Yet now, facing the Islamic State, you guessed it: we’re doing it all over again.

He then described six mistakes being made. All are worth reading, but this is most important:

Mistake Number Three: Call it blotting out history. We lose the ability to really understand the enemy because we ignore the actual history of how that enemy came to be, of how a network of relationships grew up in which we played, and continue to play, a central role.

The historical record is clear for all who care to look: The U.S. (the CIA in particular) was a key to the creation, funding, and arming of the mujahidin, the rebel fighters in Afghanistan who took on the Soviet army there in the 1980s, the men (often extreme Islamists) whom President Ronald Reagan compared to our founding fathers. From that situation came al-Qaeda.

George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq cracked the region open and paved the way for the Islamic State. The Bush administration tore Iraq to shreds and then demobilized Saddam Hussein’s army and dispatched its members to the unemployment lines of a wrecked country.

One of those shreds, al-Qaeda in Iraq, populated by disaffected officers from that disbanded army, would later transform itself into the nucleus of the new Islamic State movement. Indeed the U.S. nurtured the present leadership of that movement in American military prisons in Iraq, where we introduced them to each other, so to speak. The process was at least hastened, and perhaps ultimately caused, by the vehement anti-Sunni bias of the Shi’ite Iraqi government, which the U.S. installed in power and also nurtured.

To sustain our image of ourselves as innocents in the whole affair, we have to blot out this empirical history and replace it with a myth (not so surprising, given that any war against evil is a mythic enterprise). That’s not to say that we deny all the facts. We just pick and choose the ones that fit our myth best.

Hillary Clinton along with the Republican candidates with a chance of winning all look like they will repeat the same mistakes if elected. Only Bernie Sanders looks at the situation any differently, and he would rather not change the focus of his campaign from the economy to foreign policy. Time will tell whether this is a mistake politically or part of a brilliant political strategy in focusing on the economy.