The Mess We Left Behind

As we focus on Syria and Egypt and Afghanistan, let’s not forget the mess we left behind in Iraq, where Sunni-Shiite violence just gets more intense.

There have been almost 3,000 deaths from sectarian attacks this year, with more than 500 so far this month.  This weekend, car bombs in Baghdad have killed almost 40 people.

Not to mention the rapprochement between Iraq and Iran that we created, which is a strategic disaster for us.

I hope that as Bush 43 assumes more of a public profile again, and as Dick Cheney campaigns for his daughter Liz in Wyoming, they will get asked, “WTF?”

Ultimate Government Waste

The military is destroying $7 billion worth of equipment in Afghanistan rather than ship it home.  I’m just glad we’re finally getting the hell out of there, but still, this seems like incredible waste.

Meanwhile the GOP is obsessed with cutting food stamps.  Any society that can blithely throw away $7 billion in military gear can afford to see that its kids get enough to eat.

Deja Vu All Over Again?

There are reports that President Obama is moving closer to arming the Syrian rebels.  Thus far we have provided only non-lethal aid.  The problem is that there aren’t really any secular rebels who have a shot at replacing Assad.  The most successful and powerful rebel groups are all Islamist, with some now pledging loyalty to Al Qaeda.

We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t in Syria.  Awful as Assad is, the viable alternatives seem as bad or worse.

Remember how we helped the Taliban fight the Russians in Afghanistan?  That didn’t turn out too well for us.

The GOP is setting up the Prez to fail whatever he does.  They are all over him for not taking immediate action in response to reports of use of sarin.  But if Syria falls into the hands of radical Islamists, they’ll curse him for that too, as they regularly do for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  And some of the potential leaders in Syria would make Mohammed Morsi look like Thomas Jefferson.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

The NYT reports today* that for more than ten years, the CIA has dropped off monthly bags of cash to Hamid Karzai’s office in Kabul.  We’re talking tens of millions of dollars.  That’s a lot of silk capes and lambskin hats, people.

Asked about the story, Jay Carney at the White House had no comment, so I’ll take that as an “abso-fucking-lutely.”  It really is time to get the hell out of Afghanistan.

*  “With Bags of Cash, CIA Seeks Influence in Afghanistan,” Matthew Rosenberg

Who Is Misha?

From “Boston Bombing Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev Influenced by Mysterious Radical,” Adam Goldman, Eric Tucker & Matt Apuzzo, The Associated Press:

In the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.

Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.

“Somehow, he just took his brain,” said Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni….

They [Tamerlan and Dzhokhar] were raised in a home that followed Sunni Islam, the religion’s largest sect. They were not regulars at the mosque and rarely discussed religion, Khozhugov [the Tsarnaev brothers’ ex-brother-in-law] said.

 

Then, in 2008 or 2009, Tamerlan met Misha, a slightly older, heavyset bald man with a long reddish beard. Khozhugov didn’t know where they’d met but believed they attended a Boston-area mosque together. Misha was an Armenian native and a convert to Islam and quickly began influencing his new friend, family members said.

 

 

 

As time went on, Tamerlan and his father argued about the young man’s new beliefs.

 

“When Misha would start talking, Tamerlan would stop talking and listen. It upset his father because Tamerlan wouldn’t listen to him as much,” Khozhugov said. “He would listen to this guy from the mosque who was preaching to him.”

 

Anzor [the father] became so concerned that he called his brother, worried about Misha’s effects.

 

“I heard about nobody else but this convert,” Tsarni said. “The seed for changing his views was planted right there in Cambridge.”

 

Khozhugov said Tamerlan did not know much about Islam beyond what he found online or what he heard from Misha.

 

 

 

 

The Great GOP Unraveling

No sooner was John McCain faced with Jeb Bush’s challenge on immigration from his right, as Jeb did an about-face on his past support for a path to citizenship, when he had to pivot and face Rand Paul’s challenge on drone policy from his left, as Paul filibustered John Brennan’s CIA nomination because he feared Obama was about to launch drone strikes on Americans sitting in cafes in San Francisco.

Today, McCain called Paul a “wacko bird,” along with his pals Ted Cruz and Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.

Now you can say that John McCain is 76 and on his way out, but remember that his little sidekick Lindsey “Butters” Graham is 57, and their new amiga, Kelly Ayotte, who replaced Joe Lieberman, is only 44.

This isn’t a John McCain problem, this is a GOP problem.

The libertarian wing of the Republican Party has now latched on to the Tea Party element, strengthening both.  Paul and Cruz are both Tea Party guys and libertarians.

The GOP has taken up the Tea Party cry to cut government spending, while trying to protect defense spending.  But the Tea Party/libertarian types don’t want to spare defense any more than they want to spare social programs.  They want to cut the whole damn thing, which makes it impossible for them to co-exist with the neo-cons.

Interestingly, neither McCain nor Paul reflects where the country is.  Since we’re war weary, we’re not with McCain that we should have stayed longer in Iraq and should stay in Afghanistan forever.  But since we’re war weary, we like the drones, which keep the terrorists at bay, while allowing our guys to go safely home at night to their families after they’ve taken out a bad guy.  And while Rand Paul isn’t as extreme on foreign policy as his dad Ron, his lack of concern about Iran’s going nuclear isn’t where the country is either.  So in Goldilocks terms, neither McCain nor Paul is just right for the country, one is too hard and the other is too soft.  If the country is sick of the neo-cons, they don’t want them replaced by neo-isolationists.

Adding to the mix — and the mess — you’ve got the primaries of 2014 and 2016.  Immigration and drones are two very different issues, but having gotten blindsided by Jebbie, Marco Rubio felt he had to support Paul on the filibuster to placate the Tea Party people he will need for a 2016 run.  Similarly, Mitch McConnell felt compelled to praise Paul because he fears a Tea Party primary in 2014.

Then there’s  the money.  The Koch Brothers are libertarians first and Republicans second.  Their financial support will redound to those who spout the libertarian line.  By contrast, Sheldon Adelson, who basically bought Newtie a campaign in 2012, has said that he doesn’t care about gay marriage or abortion, he just cares about Israel.  So his money will go to those who toe the neo-con line.

The GOP is trying to accommodate some very strange bedfellows — and it looks as if no one will get a good night’s sleep anytime soon.

GOP Holds Up Hagel

Claiming that they want more information from Chuck Hagel about his past and from the White House about Benghazi, GOP senators are maneuvering to ensure his nomination doesn’t get an up or down vote tomorrow.  With the Senate then on recess next week, the earliest he could be confirmed would be February 25.

Meanwhile, NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels next week, with Afghanistan prominently on the agenda, and of course President Obama wants Hagel to be there.  The GOP seems to have a weird fondness for empty chairs.  The Clint Eastwood convention stunt was just pathetic, but a NATO meeting is a BFD.

All 55 Senate Dems will vote for Hagel and 2 Republicans have said they will too, so the Administration has more than the simple majority it needs for the nomination itself.  What it doesn’t have are the 60 votes needed for cloture to end debate and bring the nomination to the floor.

Some GOP senators have said that while they will vote against Hagel, they don’t support the filibuster to prevent that vote, but it looks as if some of these senators don’t want to buck their party to end the filibuster tomorrow.