Tragedy brings out the best in the best people and the worst in the worst people. Therefore it is no surprise that the Islamist terrorist attacks in Brussels earlier this week have exposed some of the worst aspects of the attitudes of the two leading candidates to be the GOP’s presidential nominee. (Their third remaining candidate, John Kasich, has responded well, though I don’t agree with his opinion that Obama should return to the United States.)
Perhaps seeing the success Donald Trump has had with appealing to anti-Muslim fervour, Ted Cruz has joined the populism band-wagon. He made two statements in particular that need to be exposed.
Firstly, on 22 March he reiterated something he’s said several times before: that he would carpet-bomb [DAESH] into oblivion.
Let’s be clear what this means. It is not, as Dr Charles Krauthammer tries to portray it, simply an increase in the bombing that’s already occurring. What Cruz in proposing is indiscriminate bombing in the area where DAESH members are living. That means the death not only of 30,000 terrorists, but the willful murder of millions of civilians, including people like the thousands of Yazidi women being kept as sex slaves. What Cruz is proposing, in his effort to appear strong and commanding, is a war crime. He wants to do one of the things former president of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić, has just been imprisoned for.
Secondly, on the same day he said:
We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighbourhoods before they become radicalized.
Trump, of course, even in the midst of the ridiculous battle over their wives and whether Cruz is having an affair, supports Cruz’s call to patrol Muslim neighbourhoods, calling it, “A good idea.”
To be fair, Krauthammer did condemn Cruz’s statement about patrolling neighbourhoods, although he said the reason Cruz was wrong was that the US was “much better than any other Western democracy by far at assimilating Muslims” into the country. Well, no. The US is very good at it, and better than Europe, but they’re not the only ones. Canada is better than they are and so is New Zealand. Australia is equally as good as the US and while Great Britain may not do quite such a good job at assimilation, you’ll also find a much smaller proportion of the population demanding things like the banning of Muslims.
In response, President Obama pointed out that Cruz’s father escaped from exactly that sort of policing when he left Cuba.
Hillary Clinton’s response was:
When political candidates like Ted Cruz call for treating American Muslims like criminals, and for racially profiling predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods, it’s wrong, it’s counter-productive, it’s dangerous.
Apart from the fact that it’s not racial profiling, it’s religious profiling, she’s right. Cruz couldn’t back down of course. He hit back:
With all respect, people are fed up with the political correctness of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
A more reasoned response came from NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, who said:
We focus on individuals who are committing, or are about to commit, a crime. We don’t focus on a whole community. We don’t focus on a whole religion. And if [Cruz] is that short-sighted … the American public will repudiate his efforts to lead this great country because he is undervaluing the values upon which we base our security, our safety, and our democracy.
The reactions of Cruz and Trump to the tragedy in Brussels plays right into the hands of DAESH. In the last year, DAESH has lost at least 20% of their territory and about 20,000 fighters. Yesterday we got the news that the Syrian government, with the help of Russian air support, took the city of historic city of Palmyra back from them. There is no doubt many people have suffered and died at the hands of DAESH, but their attrition rate has been exceptionally high. In addition, they do not have the money they used to. That’s set to get worse too with the news this week (25th March) that the US has taken out the organization’s second in command (who had finance responsibilities) and their chief finance officer was killed on 10 December 2015. There have been other things that are damaging their financial capacity too such as a drop in the price of oil, a reduction in available markets, and not conquering new territory meaning not being able to steal assets. They are losing.
For DAESH, the terrorist attacks have two main purposes:
1. To make it look like they are successful, which makes them both a more attractive option to potential recruits and more believable as the saviour of Islam;
2. To create anti-Muslim sentiment which, especially in tough economic times, creates a wedge between the Muslim community and the rest of society. This will cause more young Muslim men in particular to be vulnerable to be radicalized and therefore attracted to DAESH’s message.
DAESH calls their on-line magazine Dabiq. Dabiq is the Muslim equivalent of the Christian Armageddon – the location of the End Times (Yawm al-Qīyāmah) battle. It is the pre-cursor to the worldwide caliphate that Mohammed predicted. Mohammed said that Islam would be divided into seventy-three sects, but that only one, the true one, would survive and go on to form the worldwide caliphate. DAESH presents themselves as that one true form of Islam. If it becomes obvious that they are losing, it becomes hard for them to claim that they are the prophesized future of Islam.
In an interview with Bloomberg Politics, Trump said we have to “get Muslims to respect us.” He went on to say:
ISIS is a [sic] enemy. … I don’t rule out anything. I would say definitely nuclear weapons are a last resort.
That was, of course, the same interview where he said NATO was “obsolete” and “doesn’t really help us,” then went on to complain about “defending … South Korea.” I wonder if he understands what would happen on the Korean peninsula if the US pulled out.
On the same day Trump told NBC:
Waterboarding would be fine, and if they could expand on those [laws] I would do a lot more than waterboarding. You have to get the information from these people. I am in the camp where you have to get the information. You have to get it rapidly.
Trump’s advocacy of torture is one that has been a mark of his campaign. I clearly recall Trump’s words in one of the debates when asked about waterboarding. He said:
Torture works, believe me. Believe me. Believe me.
I want to know how he knows that. Do we have a potential president with first-hand experience of torture?
Like Cruz, Trump is advocating war crimes. Even if he manages to change US law, he can’t change international law and the Geneva Convention.
Personally, I find the readiness of so many to embrace torture in response to the terrorist threat a disturbing one. The reasoning is usually two-fold – firstly that torture works, and secondly that they are doing it to us so we can do it to them.
The idea that torture works comes from TV and movies. It’s like believing in ghosts because of ‘Sixth Sense‘. The real world evidence is very different.
As for torturing people because they tortured you first, I guess that’s exactly the sort of thing I’d expect from a party that endorses the death penalty. It’s not justice, it’s vengeance. If we in the West want to hold up our way of life as better, then we have to walk the walk. That means, among other things, not torturing people. Torture is wrong, and therefore we shouldn’t do it. Whether others do it is not the point. It’s about proving that our way of life, our system of government, is the right way. We can’t do that if we’re ready to abandon our principles at any setback.
As for the Brussels attacks, why do USians always think everything is about them?
Devin Nunes (Republican, California), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, thinks that the attacks were directed at US citizens because the airport bombs went off near the check-in lines of United, Delta and American Airlines, and the subway bomb went off near the US embassy stop (which sounds to me like there’s another stop closer to the embassy):
I think it’s possible that it was a proxy [for attacking the US]. Keep in mind that a lot more is going to come available in the coming days, but the locations to me clearly are where Americans would be.
Fox New reporter and anchor (one of their good ones) Shepherd Smith, who is in Brussels debunked that theory, but others on Fox continue to give it credence. He noted that Belgian authorities are certain that the bombers chose the airport check-in location, for example, because that’s where the lines were longest.
Fox has also found multiple people to criticize President Obama for not cutting short his trip to Cuba and Argentina and returning to the US. While there are some valid criticisms of the tone of the president, to suggest he return to the United States because of the Brussels attacks is ridiculous. There have been several other terrorist attacks around the world in the last month – none of them inspired his critics to say he should postpone his trip in the first place. Cutting his trip short, or even failing to attend a baseball game on that trip, would be an announcement that DAESH had won and that they were important.
Sebastian Gorka of Marine Corps University made some of the more revolting comments I heard. In response to Sandra Smith of Fox News asking him whether Obama should have returned home:
Gorka: Well, you just quoted a career air force general, head of the CIA, and I tend to agree with General Haydn. The statements made by the president smack of the Marie Antoinette-ish attitude “Let the people eat cake.” Terrorism seems to be a distraction from his life of being a celebrity. He wants to be hanging out with communist dictators and going to ball games. ISIS is simply not treated as a threat by the president, or at least he doesn’t give the impression that he really cares about our allies and the Americans that were wounded.
Smith: … President Obama’s response to that is that we let the terrorists win if we all stay home and don’t go about our daily business, and he said today that ISIS is his number one, that it is his top priority. Why is there a disconnect in what we feel versus what we see?
Gorka: Well these are just empty words. He said we have to unite to defeat a terrorist, but how? How are we going to defeat a terrorist while he’s watching a ball game and giving interviews to ESPN. The fact is that we have to do something concrete. And also, it is the duty of the Commander-in-Chief to rally the people, to send a message that we will fight and will destroy this evil scourge that is global jihadism. It’s not enough to say, “Oh, we’re on top of it.” …
Gorka also managed to get a plug in for his book (Defeating Jihad), saying the president ought to read it as it would tell him how to win the war against ISIS. He also made reference to a paper he and his wife published that would apparently help the president too. Whenever I see Gorka interviewed, he appears to me to be self-serving in the extreme and so determined to criticize the president in any way be can he is incapable of providing a balanced analysis.
DAESH are not an existential threat to the United States. As awful as the attacks they perpetrate are, far more people are killed every day in the country by Christians with illegal guns. One of the criticisms I’ve heard of Obama’s attitude is that he seems to accept that we have to accept that there will be terrorist attacks from time to time. I don’t think that’s what he thinks, but it is what many say is the price the country has to pay for maintaining the Second Amendment rights of all citizens – that mass shootings are going to continue to occur regularly. And a lot more innocent people are killed that way than by Islamist terrorists.
I’ve just seen an interesting series of interviews by CNN International correspondant Nima Elbagir. In one she asked a young man whose brothers had left Belgium to join DAESH why he thought they went. His response:
Honestly, I always asked them, but I never understood why. What it is, is that they felt rejected.
Another young man and his friends appear to have been arrested simply as a result of racial profiling – assuming that their North African heritage made them Islamist extremists.
Elbagir also spoke to Belgian Iman Sulyman Van Ael who has to travel everywhere with a bodyguard. He says that those who speak out against DAESH and Islamist imams like him are risking their lives.
Belgium has the highest proportion of its population joining Islamist terrorist groups, and it’s getting worse. In 2013 conservative estimates are that around 300 went; in 2015 it was up to 440. As evidenced by video, radicalizing imams in tell young people that they will never be truly accepted by Belgian society, that the only place they can find a true home is with them. The message is a powerful one, but also shows the way to solve the problem. It’s about assimilation.
“He wants to do one of the things former president of Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić, has just been imprisoned for.”
“There have been several other terrorist attacks around the world in the last month – none of them inspired his critics to say he should postpone his trip in the first place.”
Yes, if he had have been in Cuba when three was an attack in Turkey, all these people would have done is get distracted by thoughts about Thanksgiving.
I’ve probably said it before on here, but all those who are griping about the dangers of refugees and immigrants being terrorists ignore the far larger proportion of Europeans who go to Syria to join ISIS.
I think you’re right about the problem being Europeans who join the terrorists. For a start it indicates a problem in European society that it’s not meeting the needs of all its people. Secondly, when they come back they can blend in easily. They know how things work, how to act etc. New refugees stick out like a sore thumb because they are rarely fluent in the local language and even if they are, they don’t get the societal nuances. Then there’re things like renting a property or vehicle, obtaining weaponry/bomb ingredients, simple shopping, and hundreds of other things. People from Europe are comfortable in the environment so they blend in.
I don’t understand how people still believe torture works when it has been proven time and time again that it doesn’t. Why is it so hard to put oneself in the place of a torture victim and not see that you would say anything to make it stop?
Trump and Cruz are both monsters of the worst kind: authoritarian, violent, liars, immoral and utter phonies. The worst part of their personalities is they actually believe the sh*t that spews from their mouths. Believe me. Believe me. I believe the exact opposite of what these tragic front-runners say.
I hope the Republican party falls like the house of cards it presently is. An Eisenhower or Teddy Roosevelt republican would greatly help our Democracy. No true statesman exist in that party anymore though. A pity.
On a lighter note, I was pleased that Sanders won three more states yesterday. If he actually wins the nomination, no republican will stand a chance against him (at least that’s what the present polls say). There is some optimism in that fact. I’d love to see Bernie debate any of the republican bozos. That would be a hoot. Actually, Hillary would do a good job against them too…especially Trump.
It’s so bad for democracy that one of the two main parties is so dysfunctional.
It’s good to see Sanders do well, but I personally think he would make a better VP than Pres. The job of president is foreign policy, and I don’t think he would be so good at that. I wonder what the chances of a Clinton/Sanders or a Sanders/Clinton tick are? I think that would be hard to beat.
I completely agree with your “monsters” paragraph. Fox did a poll last week. 49% of the electorate would be “scared” in Trump was president. (Democrats 73%, Independents 47%, Republicans 25%) Unfortunately, they’re not quite as wary of Ted Cruz. He’s at 21% scared (Dems 36%, Ind 18%, Reps 8%).
I think you’re right re. Bernie and foreign policy. I don’t think he’d suck at it, but I have more confidence in the highly experienced Secretary of State. Clinton/Sanders or visa versa would certainly be hard to beat. I don’t think either one would want to be the other’s VP though. Also, Sanders might be more effective in the Senate than as a VP if he doesn’t get nominated. But if Clinton is nominated, it would be a good strategy for her to get those people who are “Bernie or nothing”.
Re. the Cruz stats. I wonder how many people know he’s a “hard” dominionist. If he gets the nomination (gag) I hope Clinton/Sanders really expose what this befuddled human believes. There are very revealing clips of his father anointing his son as King of Earth…economically and spiritually. Apparently, Raphael Cruz thinks his son is the harbinger of the 2nd coming. Ironically, he’s more like the fabled anti-christ.
Yeah, I posted a YouTube video about his father a few weeks ago. Here’s another older one – Chris Matthews et al: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFKMBFkbnTM
There’s a long one about his dominionism (1hr 18) that I’m going to listen to to learn more about it because it’s not something I know a lot about. However, Cruz clearly isn’t going away and I feel I need to educate myself. I agree he’s more like the anti-Christ, in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve said that myself as well before.
After watching that horrible clip, I also saw this clip from 2013 about Cruz himself, saying that the senate needs a 100 white supremacists.
Also here in Germany, the Muslimophobe lunatic party (the AfD) seem to have been encouraged by Trump and Cruz and are calling for Germany to close all mosques. People all around the world are paying for this current bout of Republican insanity.
Unbelievable. I’d heard he’d said that, but I never followed it up because I didn’t believe it could be true. Since the comment came from you, I’ve now followed it up. The more I learn about Cruz, the worse it gets. It’s particularly worrying because I think there will be a contested convention, and I think Cruz has the best chance of winning the nomination in that circumstance. He also has a better chance of winning the presidency than Trump. Cruz is a real threat to the future of the world.
What on Earth are you guys thinking? Experience does not equal acceptability. Hillary’s likely foreign policy is one of the biggest reasons that I would never vote for her. The hawks love her because she is completely in the pockets of both Israel and the military industrial complex. If she is elected, we can expect more misery in the ME and elsewhere. We need someone who will continue to change US foreign policy, not reinforce the worst of it. Bernie ain’t perfect, but he is at least his own man and has been mostly on the right side of history with his Congressional voting record for decades. I would enthusiastically trust him over Hillary any day of the week. I’m sorry, this is a no-brainer.
As I see it, Ken, there’s a time for standing up for your principles, and a time for compromising. Politics only functions with compromise. Only. Failure to do so results in pathetic disasters like the way the Palestinian political leaders have conducted negotiations over the years. They lose everything by insisting on playing for all-or-nothing stakes.
Clinton might not be ideal, but compared to Cruz or Trump or absolutely any other Republican, as far as I can see, she would be more than acceptable. Simply refusing to vote at all if she wins the nomination would be simply to toss a vote into the Cruz/Trump/Popeye bucket.
I always vote and Bernie is already a compromise of my principles.
The problem with blaming me as the voter rather than Hillary for being unworthy, is that it is very short term logic that misses the bigger picture. Yes, individual elections matter, but if you tell a party you will always vote for their candidates just so long as they are a bit less corrupt than the other party’s, then that is what the party will give you forever, only steadily getting even worse over time.
If that weren’t reason enough not to do it, the real insidious effect is that generations come to believe that politics is fixed, that there is nothing in it for them, and so disconnect completely. You can argue with me because I’m a voter willing to engage. You can’t even make your argument to millions who have already checked out of the system, because they aren’t listening any more. This is the real failure and we’re all responsible for fixing it.
There is simply no escaping that candidates should need to earn their votes. Otherwise the whole system withers. Withholding our votes is our only real tool to make change inside a party. We doom ourselves in the long term if we refuse to use it.
Thanks for responding, Ken.
If I think of how I would be feeling about politics if I were still living in Australia (instead of Germany) it would be quite similar to what you are saying. I watched the Labor Party creep over to the right and beg the super rich to buy them out cheaply, and then collapse in a spineless heap of corruption, pettiness and vacuousness. They weren’t even capable of blind ruthless self interest in the end, just squabbling over who gets to sit in which chair. That was entirely without any pressure from outside or difficult issues. I would be throwing bricks through the window of my local MP if I was there.
But looking from Germany, all I can think about the US is that if the Republicans win they will start long chain reaction of international catastrophes that will take a few generations to put right, assuming civilization still exists.
I agree completely about long term change, but in this case, with the Republican Party hell bent on causing so much damage within and without the US, I would be wondering if now is the time to be setting more short term goals, like stopping Trump/Cruz — assuming one of them will be nominated.
Yakaru, I totally get your concerns and share them. The reason it is so bad now is that we did nothing to stop the trend towards craziness decades ago. The exact same argument is made every four years. I heard it twice with Reagan and twice with Bush. It never changes. Now is always the worst time to start fixing the system. Meanwhile, Reagan now looks left of Hillary. How did that happen? It is already the case that a few generations will be needed to fix what’s broken. It will be the same or worse in four or eight years when we have this debate again. And in sixteen years after that…
I think the way the system works in the US is a big part of the problem. Its binary nature encourages the kind of politics we see there. Germany and NZ’s systems encourage more political parties so that people can vote closer to their beliefs and in turn, there are much more cooperative governments. If I was in the US, I would vote who I thought was the best candidate in the primary – I wouldn’t be doing the strategic voting that people on both sides are talking about – but when it came time for the general election, I’d re-assess things if the person I wanted wasn’t the candidate. The way things are in the US at the moment, I’d be voting for Clinton in the general election because to not vote is simply too dangerous. Whatever her faults, she is enormously better than Trump or Cruz.
And ever downward we spiral.
Anyone think Hillary’s latest brilliant strategy to “Disqualify him, defeat him, and unify the party later” is going to help her?
She can’t compete on policy and certainly not on who has the least political baggage, so she’s getting personal. I think it will only help Trump.
It just sounds to me like politics as usual. This article is written by a Sanders supporter so takes his pov. There are genuine criticisms to be made of Sanders’ policies, and he did stuff up when trying to describe how he would break up the banks – whether that was because he didn’t know or was having a bad day is another question. He’s also been going around saying Clinton isn’t qualified to be president, and had to walk that back today. All in all, I think both the Dems have kept it pretty reasonable.
Yes, that’s the point, they have kept it reasonable until now. This intention to end that comes from the Clinton camp; it’s not an invention of Sanders’. If true, it shows desperation on Hillary’s part that could make it more difficult later for whoever is the nominee. Bernie rowed back on the “not qualified” crap right away. Will Hillary follow or keep going? She is worried because her lead in PA and CA is now only 6% and in NY has dropped from 48% to 18% in a month. I think if she loses her current home state of NY, it’s likely all over as the momentum will really go Bernie’s way. So I detect panic that could see her go very negative if that gap closes any further.
CNN and Fox are both saying in what I’ve seen so far today that both are dialling it back. Bill has apologized for his tirade against the BLM people yesterday too, it seems at Hillary’s instigation. Even though Sanders is doing much better than her lately in both votes and money raising, I’m still not sure she has much to worry about. The super-delegates will be pretty loyal because she’s been loyal to them over the years – campaigning and raising money for other candidates for years. Unless a lot of them flip, he can’t catch her. Sanders has been an independent until this election, so doesn’t have the same party support to call on. There’s much about Sanders’ campaign to be positive about, but he’ll have to do more before I’ll start believing he can win the nomination.
I said the other day there were only two possible ways the Reps could win this year, but this is a third. If Hillary loses the popular vote, but is selected as the nominee by the Dem establishment anyway, then all bets are off. The Dems would be saddling themselves with the same problem the Reps have if Trump wins. The super-delegates know this and are unlikely to hamper their nominee and Dems across the country in this way no matter how much they owe Hillary.
Hillary’s lead in regular delegates hit a high of 319, but has since dropped to 250. With about 1900 delegates still up for grabs, the advantage is still hers, but Bernie is totally in it. Hillary’s advantage has been that she is so well known, while Bernie was not, but as this changes, he does better. I read where the difference in several of the states that he lost was due to early voting only, that Bernie won among those who voted on the day, but not among those who voted before he’d been campaigning in the state. If all remaining states voted tomorrow, Hillary would win, but time is her real enemy here.
I agree with that – it Bernie wins the popular vote I think the super delegates would flip to him because it would tear the party apart if they didn’t.
Update: The most recent NY poll shows Bernie now 6% behind Hillary, 53-47%. This is down from an 18% gap ten days ago. Probably not enough time left to close it fully given there’s only two days left to the primary, and his campaign is positioning itself for a close loss. Looks like Hillary will live to fight another day. California looms ever larger.
Yeah, he’s doing well. He’s going to have to do a lot better though to get the nomination. The process of the Dems is much more representative than the GOP, which means he doesn’t just have to beat Clinton, he has to beat her by heaps. Trump’s complaining about the unfairness of the process, but as you know he doesn’t have to get much more than 50% of the votes to get all the delegates. Even if Sanders gets a win, he won’t catch up much on delegates.
No, but as I said the other day, losing her home state by any amount would be a huge blow, more significant than the change in her delegate lead. And Bernie has been beating Hillary by heaps, more than what is needed to overtake her, though that doesn’t mean he can keep that up. But it doesn’t look like she’ll lose NY, so she’s really dodging a bullet.
(Regarding torture not working)– I agree… There might even be the odd case where it could bring positive results, but such hypotheticals need to be weighed against the costs. If that terrorist who was arrested shortly before the Brussels attacks had have been tortured, would he have given reliable information, or false information and just sat there grinning while the police are mobilized to the wrong locations?
An article on the backgrounds of recent terrorists suggests they are more disaffected street thugs than religious zealots. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/new-isis-recruits-have-deep-criminal-roots/2016/03/23/89b2e590-f12e-11e5-a61f-e9c95c06edca_story.html?tid=a_inl
I can’t read the article without subscribing – you only get a certain number of WP articles a month before you have to.
However, I’m not sure you can phrase the conclusion the way you have. It’s true that DAESH has been focusing on recruiting criminals. That does not mean that the criminals haven’t found religion, and indeed the indications are that part of what’s happening is that they are atoning for a former life of crime. It takes quite a commitment to blow yourself up for a cause and, I suspect, a lot of guilt. People who have committed criminal acts in the past are more likely to be able to be persuaded into committing criminals acts again. In fact, to be able to direct their “skills” to what they feel is a bigger purpose probably helps them feel good about what they’ve done in the past and what they’re doing. They can be convinced that Allah put them on this path – that they became criminals so they could help realize the world-wide caliphate.