Friday, June 27, 2014

The Eeyore Republicans

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Eeyore is alive and well and working for the Republican Party.

You remember Eeyore, the perpetually gloomy donkey from the Winnie the Pooh stories. Nothing was ever good news for him, from finding his lost tail (“Most likely lose it again anyway”) to someone wishing him good morning (“If it is a good morning, which I doubt.”)
I’m convinced Eeyore is running the right-wing press operation. As blogger Steve Benen pointed out last week, nothing makes these people happy — “An American POW goes free? Complain that he didn’t deserve it. Unemployment rate drops? Complain that the White House has orchestrated a conspiracy to manipulate data. A strike takes out Osama bin Laden? Complain that Bush and Cheney aren’t getting enough credit.”
The latest dark clouds effused by the right-wing gloom machine came in response to the capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the accused ringleader of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Now, you’d think that catching a murderous terrorist who orchestrated an attack on our people would be something everyone would cheer about. You’d think even the Republicans would be happy, since their current PR strategy has consisted of, to paraphrase Uncle Joe Biden, “a noun, a verb, and Benghazi.”
You’d think that, that is, if you weren’t familiar with the Eeyore Republicans. They’ve really outdone themselves with their creativity in finding something to kvetch about.
One of the most common gripes was that it took too long. After all, some said, Khattala had been giving televised interviews from cafes in Libya, so why wasn’t he caught then?
Some people apparently believe that a special forces operation is as simple as seeing someone on screen, immediately identifying the locale, putting together a team on the fly, entering a turbulent and chaotic country, and bagging the quarry within the 60-minute time frame of an episode of “24.” I may not be a military expert, but unlike some people, I do know that life is not like TV.
Some claimed that the capture was orchestrated to coincide with Hillary Clinton’s book tour. No, really — they’ve actually said this.
“In the midst of Mrs. Clinton’s failed book tour and failed book roll-out,” Rush Limbaugh sarcastically observed, “all of a sudden we capture the militia leader who led the attack. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Fox News host “Kennedy” claimed that she thought “this is convenient for [Clinton ] to shift the talking points from some of the things that she’s been discussing.”  
Thankfully, not everyone on Fox was so cynical as to suggest that this was all about Clinton’s book tour. No, to them, Obama put American troops in harm’s way to promote Clinton’s interview on Fox.
“The timing on this stinks,” right-wing radio host Larry O’Connor told the network.
For the very first time, he claimed, Clinton was going to get some tough questions about Benghazi, and the triumph of Khattalla’s capture would distract from those. In other words, we captured the ringleader of the attacks on Benghazi to distract attention from questions about Benghazi.
Meanwhile, other right-wingers were taking up the old familiar cry that sure, we have a terrorist in custody, but big whoop. The real question is, are we being brutal enough to him?
New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte bitterly complained that the administration was  “rushing to read [Khattala] his Miranda rights and telling him he has the right to remain silent,” even though regular criminal procedure hasn’t stood in the way of convicting and imprisoning dozens of other terrorist suspects.  
John McCain (who was a POW) continued to wage his bitter war of words with none other than John McCain, griping that Khatalla should have been imprisoned in the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay — a facility whose closure he’d called for in 2008.
But, hey, who cares about consistency? Or for that matter, sanity? If there’s one thing the last few years have proven, it’s that accusations of inconsistency or pure silliness have stopped meaning anything to these people. They just don’t care about those things, because the only thing that matters to the right wing is their hate.
They hate President Obama, for a variety of reasons: racism for some, tribalism for others, partisanship gone mad, whatever. Ergo, anything Obama does is wrong, anything that goes wrong anywhere in the world is entirely his fault, and there is no plot too outlandish to be beneath the man who is, in their minds, both a fiendishly cunning supervillain and too dumb to speak without a teleprompter.
Sorry, Eeyores, but when you can’t celebrate ANYTHING as good news for America because the president you hate may get some small amount of credit for it, then it has to be said: Maybe you hate your president more than you love your country.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Through the Mideast Looking Glass

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends: the eternal and ceaselessly bloody drama that is the Middle East.
A Sunni militia calling itself “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (or ISIS) has routed the Iraqi military forces we spent years and billions training and arming. They have seized the cities of Mosul, Tikrit and Tal Afar, and immediately began doing what they do best: slaughtering their countrymen for being the wrong kind of Muslim.
Faced with a looming humanitarian crisis in Iraq, patriots like John McCain know exactly what to do: play politics by blaming the current president, and not the one who stupidly invaded the country without a clue about what to do after we beat the Iraqi Army, deposed the dictator, and took the lid off of the boiling pot of religious and ethnic hatreds that is Iraq.
“All the success we had,” McCain claimed on the Senate floor, “is torn asunder because of a policy of withdrawal without victory.”
Keep in mind, however, that McCain is also on record as saying other things, like: “the people of Iraq will absolutely treat us as liberators”; “it will be brief and we will find massive evidence of weapons of mass destruction”; “post-Saddam-Hussein Iraq is going to be paid for by the Iraqis”; and the ever-popular “there’s not a history of violent clashes between Sunnis and Shias, so I think they can get along.”
McCain also seems to have forgotten that the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, that set the timetable for our withdrawal was negotiated by Obama’s predecessor, the President Who Must Not Be Named. He’s also forgotten that he took to Twitter to celebrate the last American combat troops leaving Iraq, claiming, “President Bush deserves credit for victory.” You can look it up.

And yet John McCain, along with a plethora of others who were ceaselessly and consistently wrong about Iraq, remain the go-to guys for your so-called liberal media for commentary on the current crisis. People like Doug Feith (whom Gen. Tommy Franks of Central Command called “the dumbest [bad word] on the planet),” Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney are all too willing to take to the airwaves and assure us that all of this could have been averted if we’d just stayed in Iraq. And stayed. And stayed, while the body bags and maimed soldiers kept coming back.
The chutzpah of the people whose arrogance and hubris led us into the Iraq debacle in the first place is truly breathtaking. Frankly, the only question a competent media, let alone a liberal one, should be asking any of these clowns is, “Why aren’t you in prison in the Hague?”
We could have kept troops in Iraq for a hundred years (a time frame McCain said wouldn’t bother him), and the Sunnis and Shiites would still hate and be trying to kill each other while the Kurds would just want to be rid of the whole insane lot of them.
Actually, it may be the Kurds who came out as the only winners in this thing. They finally got the Turks over their paranoia at the prospect of an independent Kurdistan, largely by building a pipeline and selling them lots and lots of oil. As the rest of Iraq falls apart, their Pesh Merga militias have taken control of their strategic city of Kirkuk. At least the Kurds still like us, right?
Now we’ve learned that the Syrian government is attacking ISIS bases in the north and northeast of Iraq. They’re responding to the fact that ISIS is using tanks captured from the Iraqi military to attack Syrian forces.
So the Syrian military (which we oppose) is attacking ISIS in Iraq (who we also oppose) because ISIS has been attacking Syrian government troops (an action we also support.)
It seems that the enemy of our enemy is our friend, except sometimes they’re also our enemy. Oh, and we’ll probably be entering talks with Shiite Iran (also an enemy) to help deal with the Sunni ISIS.
Are we far enough through the looking glass yet? This is what we get for sticking our noses in what are, at their root, sectarian religious conflicts in the Middle East.