Daily Beast's Chris Dickey:
Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute Doha Center and working in the Middle East is reporting credible sources have declared ISIS' battle for Baghdad has begun. Lister is working to confirm source statements.
@intelwire Don’t take as fact yet, but it’s spreading fast. Reports of several car bombs, poss. clashes nr airport. No confirmation though.— Charles Lister (@Charles_Lister) August 11, 2014
ISIS is approaching Baghdad from the south as the city struggles to maintain order. Prime Minister Maliki is scheduled to be replaced with Haider al-Abadi and last night Maliki's special forces were deployed as he refused to step down from power and announced plans to sue Iraqi President Fuad Masum.
NBC's Middle Easter reporter, Martin Fletcher in Tel Aviv:
Frankly, I’m not really sure why he even suggested this in the first place. Virtually everyone agrees that the president deserves -- and is entitled to -- a vacation, even if a sitting president is never really, so to speak, “off the clock.”
Nevertheless, back in 2008, that’s exactly what then-Senator Obama did: he essentially pledged, if elected president, to forgo the finer things in life (including generous vacation time) to devote himself entirely to the political office for which he was running.
For my part, I don’t begrudge the president for taking long vacations. After all, he can fulfill many if not all of his presidential responsibilities from pretty much anywhere. But it is amusing that a president who is often criticized for vacationing too much -- and at too high a cost -- actually said this on the campaign trail in 2008 (via Weasel Zippers).
“You give me this office and, in turn, my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure is gone. I am giving myself to you."
However, on Saturday, President Obama left Washington for a two-week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.
Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) has a bit of an unhealthy obsession. By the looks of her supporter emails, it seems she can’t get two people out of her head: the Koch brothers. In fact, 19 of her campaign’s last 21 emails have mentioned those mean old, rich Kochs.
It started with this alarming message in July:
Most people pay attention to politics in a Presidential election year. But let me tell you, folks: This year’s midterm elections are just as important as any Presidential year. And I’m not just saying that because I’m one of the Senators up for re-election.
It's clear that the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, and the special interests want to get more of their allies elected to Congress. Special interest groups have already spent more than $17 million to defeat me. And to Karl Rove and the Kochs, I’m their top target.
The urgent email came a few months after Americans for Prosperity, a group co-founded by the Kochs, spent $8.2 million on TV, radio and digital ads against Hagan, slamming the senator for her cozy camaraderie with the president.
These ads are not without due cause. As the videos mention, Hagan votes with the president 96 percent of the time and has been a vocal supporter of his disastrous health care law, even as recent as this past May.
It’s not just in the cyber world Hagan has barked at the Koch ads. In an interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, she insisted North Carolinians aren’t buying the Kochs' claims:
“The people of North Carolina are not going to let the Koch brothers buy this seat. My state is being flooded with millions of dollars from this outside interest group.”
In more recent emails, Hagan lambasted the Kochs for giving her Republican opponent Thom Tillis the maximum amount allowed under federal law.
"The Kochs are trying hard to make this election about who they want to be our next Senator. But North Carolinians get to decide this race -- not the Kochs."
Hagan should be careful what she wishes for. The poll tracker on the Huffington Post shows an increasingly close contest, with Tillis gaining steadily on Hagan.
The Kochs know a thing or two about being targeted. Critics routinely lambast them for their wealth and power. The studio Brave New Films even made a movie about them, "Koch Brothers Exposed," to paint them as the “poster boys for the 1 percent” and accusing them of “fueling inequality in America.”
Should the Kochs be ashamed of their wealth? Of course not. Contrary to liberal beliefs, the Kochs did not get rich on the backs of the poor. The American Conservative offers a comprehensive history of how the brothers went from mending fences and being treated like “lowly cowhands” on their father’s ranches to eventually become the successful businessmen they are today.
You won’t get those details in a Kay Hagan email.
Instead of talking incessantly about the Koch brothers, why doesn’t Hagan focus on her policy achievements or plans for the future?
On second thought, maybe her initial tactic isn't such a bad idea after all.
Over the weekend, President Obama announced he had authorized additional and targeted air strikes in northern Iraq, and would continue providing humanitarian relief. Both efforts, he argued, were necessary to protect the region’s ethnic minority population from being massacred or succumbing to the elements.
And yet, in the long-term, perhaps the most effective strategy to stem the tide of bloodshed in northern Iraq (save from putting American boots on the ground) is to provide the Kurds with the arms and weapons necessary to turn the tide of the war. And that, in turn, is exactly what the US is reportedly now doing:
The United States is sending weapons to Kurdish forces in Iraq who have begun to roll back gains made by Sunni militants, a senior U.S. official confirmed to Fox News.
A senior State Department official told The Associated Press that the Kurds are "getting arms from various sources. They are being rearmed."
Providing weapons to Kurdish forces is a reversal of U.S. policy, which previously had only allowed for selling arms directly to the Iraqi government. In recent days, the U.S. military has been helping facilitate weapons deliveries from the Iraqis to the Kurds, providing logistical assistance and transportation to the north.
Sources say the weapons from the U.S. will not be provided directly from the Pentagon. Officials wouldn't say which agency is spearheading the effort, though the CIA historically has done similar arming operations.
The situation in Iraq, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly more complicated given the nation’s political instability. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, for his part, is unwilling to relinquish the reins of power, or so it seems, taking steps to bolster and solidify his position in what many are now describing as a political coup. As alarming as that prospect might sound, however, it may, in a sense, be welcome news in Washington:
A coup in Iraq would make things easy for the U.S. Abandon Maliki and deal with the Kurds exclusively from now on— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) August 10, 2014
But it isn't enough to merely "abandon Maliki." The U.S. must also stand firmly behind the country’s newly elected president to begin loosening ISIS' foothold in Iraq -- which, as it happens, is exactly what the State Department is already doing (via Ed Morrissey):
Masum's election on Thursday is another step towards forming a government which could see the embattled Maliki replaced as prime minister, even though his party won the largest bloc in April parliamentary elections.
"We stand absolutely squarely behind President Masum (who) has the responsibility for upholding the constitution of Iraq," Kerry said in Sydney, where he will attend annual US-Australia military talks.
"He is the elected president and at this moment Iraq clearly made a statement that they are looking for change."
Maliki, who has been under huge pressure to give up his bid for a third term in office, announced his plans to file a complaint to the federal court in a surprise address at 2100 GMT Sunday.
On Sunday, the Kurds pushed back ISIS militants a few dozen miles from the city of Irbil, and recaptured two towns in Northern Iraq. Thus, U.S. strategic and military efforts seem, at least for the moment, to be making an impact.
Some pundits, like Vox's Ezra Klein, believe that if Congress refuses to vote an any issue a president deems important, then the president is then empowered to make new law on that issue.
This is, of course, completely false. But The New York Times embraced that position Sunday with an editorial calling on President Obama to grant temporary amnesty to up to 5 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States today. Below is a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the Times's editorial:
We don’t know the details. Mr. Obama and the Department of Homeland Security have not yet supplied the who, what, when or even, officially, whether. But Mr. Obama has promised to respond to Congress’s refusal to act on immigration reform. And the most obvious thing is to lift the threat of deportation from immigrants who should be the lowest priority for removal: those with citizen children, jobs, clean records and strong community ties. Some reports put the size of that group at four million to five million.
First of all, as noted above, the fact that Congress has not acted on an issue does not provide any justification for a president to act on his own.
Secondly, The Democrats controlled Congress for the first two years of Obama's presidency, and all they managed to pass was a lame duck version of the DREAM Act through the House. The Democrats failed to deal with the same 5 million Obama wants to grant amnesty to now. Why didn't Democratic inaction in 2009-2010 justify unilateral inaction then?
Third, the June 2011 Morton Memo, written by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, already accomplished everything the NYT says is needed. That memo already directed all ICE personnel not to deport otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants. And it worked! Former-ICE acting director John Sandweg even told The Los Angeles Times, "If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero - it's just highly unlikely to happen."
But that still isn't good enough for the NYT. They think Obama should be allowed to do more.
In truth, Mr. Obama is well within his authority to madden the right. His power to conduct immigration policy is vast. Congress has given the president broad flexibility and discretion to enforce immigration law. It has also given him the resources to deport about 350,000 to 400,000 people a year, as Mr. Obama has done, relentlessly. It could have given him billions more to deport everyone, but it has not.
First, "deferred action," the power Obama cited to create his June 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and is expected to cite when he temporarily legalizes another 5 million this month, is not a Congressional grant of power. There is no deferred action statute. Obama is claiming this power as an inherent power of the president.
Second, not only is the amount of money Congress has appropriated for deportations irrelevant to the scope of Obama's powers, but the size of appropriations for deportations has not significantly changed since Obama became president. If the size of the appropriation hasn't changed, neither has the scope of Obama's executive power.
Third, Obama's "relentless" deportations are a complete myth. In reality, interior deportations are down 40 percent since Obama took office. Obama created the "relentless" deportation myth by cooking the books on what qualifies as a deportation.
The NYT continues:
For Mr. Obama to use the tools at hand to focus on high-priority targets — felons, violent criminals, public-safety and national-security threats — and to let many others alone would be a rational and entirely lawful exercise of discretion. It is the kind of thing prosecutors, police and other law-enforcement and regulatory agencies do every day. And with the authority to defer deportations of certain immigrants comes the authority, clearly spelled out in federal statute, to give them permission to work.
Again, the Morton Memos already set a policy of focussing on "high-priority targets." But the June 2012 DACA program, and the imminent DACA expansion, do far more than that. They allow illegal immigrants to affirmatively apply for temporary legal status and then apply for work permits, Social Security numbers, and drivers licenses. This is not how every day prosecutorial discretion practiced by "prosecutors, police, and other law enforcement" agencies works. Did you ever get a speeding ticket and get a warning instead? That is prosecutorial discretion. DACA goes far far beyond that.
The NYT continues:
Despite the shrill alarms, deferring deportation is not the dreaded “amnesty” that Republicans made a dirty word. It is temporary and revocable. It is not legalization; it is not a path to citizenship; and it permanently fixes nothing.
The NYT is correct that a grant of deferred action status "is not legalization; it is not a path to citizenship; and it permanently fixes nothing." But it absolutely is amnesty, although admittedly a temporary one. But that only makes the policy rationale behind the program even worse. It injects more uncertainty into our immigration system and signals to future illegal immigrants that if they get to the United States and mange to evade law enforcement long enough, they too will be granted legal status.
More from the NYT:
But there is clearly a value to a program, however limited, that tells the enshadowed population: Come out, give us your names; keep working and paying taxes, supporting your families and staying off the dole.
Here is where the NYT gives away the game. If the June 2011 Morton Memo is a valid, but unwise, use of prosecutorial discretion, Obama's June 2012 creation of the DACA "program" is a clear abuse of that power. Before DACA, illegal immigrants could not "come out, give us your names; keep working and paying taxes." After DACA, and Obama's imminent DACA expansion, many millions of them will be able to do exactly that. If that is not a change in "legal status" then the phrase has no meaning.
Back to the NYT:
And the national interest goes well beyond such practical benefits. Consider the cost, in lawlessness and squandered resources, of indiscriminate immigration enforcement. The wastefulness of chasing millions who pose no threat but keep the economy afloat. The crime and exploitation that flourish wherever the undocumented remain hidden and vulnerable. The rampant wage-and-hour violations that off-the-books workers endure in silence. The civil-rights abuses when cops commit racial profiling, when racist sheriffs stage “crime suppression” patrols to sweep up those with brown skin. The cost to all workers when unscrupulous employers push pay and working conditions to rock-bottom levels. The ripe conditions for crime in communities where vulnerable immigrants fear and avoid the police.
Again, the June 2011 Morton Memo already prioritized the Obama administration's immigration enforcement priorities. Any "indiscriminate enforcement" or "wastefulness of chasing millions who pose no threat" was already addressed by that memo.
But DACA did more than that and at a very clear cost to the nation's other existing priorities. The NYT's own news division reported that the administrative burdens of administering DACA (it takes resources to administer an amnesty program) made it harder for legal immigrants to their green cards.
In other words, instead of ensuring that limited resources were saved so that the DHS could better enforce other immigration laws, Obama's DACA program shifted resources away from those programs thus degrading DHS's immigration law enforcement capabilities.
Finally, the NYT concludes:
Mr. Obama’s critics in Congress belong to a branch of government that has chosen to do nothing constructive about immigration — not even to resolve this summer’s crisis of migrant children at the border, which they looked at and punted on, before going on vacation. This is, after all, an election year. They have abandoned a difficult job to the care of Mr. Obama. They are in no position to complain when he does it.
This is just plain false. The Republican-controlled House did pass legislation addressing the child migrant crisis. It was the Democrat-controlled Senate that failed to pass a bill before they went on vacation.
Is the House Republican border bill the legislation Obama wanted? No. But just because Obama fails to get Congress to pass the exact legislation he wants, when he wants it, does not empower him to create brand new government programs on his own.
S.E. Cupp: “Any time it is omitted that Hamas also wants the annihilation of the Jews and the destruction of Israel, that is an omission that has serious consequences." She adds that this, "creates a false sense of moral equivalency.”
In 2008 then Senator Obama campaigned on the promise of ending the war in Iraq and bringing combat troops home. In 2012, Obama touted that promise as complete (one of the only campaign promises he actually kept) and critics warned leaving Iraq without a residual U.S. force would result in a power vacuum and vulnerable state. Now as the country falls apart and the radical Islamic State army continues its march unchallenged in Iraq, Obama is claiming he wasn't the one who made the decision to pull U.S. combat troops out of the country and that claims to the contrary are "bogus and wrong."
Q Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S. -- is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT: What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.
And the Iraqi government, based on its political considerations, in part because Iraqis were tired of a U.S. occupation, declined to provide us those assurances. And on that basis, we left. We had offered to leave additional troops. So when you hear people say, do you regret, Mr. President, not leaving more troops, that presupposes that I would have overridden this sovereign government that we had turned the keys back over to and said, you know what, you’re democratic, you’re sovereign, except if I decide that it’s good for you to keep 10,000 or 15,000 or 25,000 Marines in your country, you don’t have a choice -- which would have kind of run contrary to the entire argument we were making about turning over the country back to Iraqis, an argument not just made by me, but made by the previous administration.
So let’s just be clear: The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis were -- a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq.
Having said all that, if in fact the Iraqi government behaved the way it did over the last five, six years, where it failed to pass legislation that would reincorporate Sunnis and give them a sense of ownership; if it had targeted certain Sunni leaders and jailed them; if it had alienated some of the Sunni tribes that we had brought back in during the so-called Awakening that helped us turn the tide in 2006 -- if they had done all those things and we had had troops there, the country wouldn’t be holding together either. The only difference would be we’d have a bunch of troops on the ground that would be vulnerable. And however many troops we had, we would have to now be reinforcing, I’d have to be protecting them, and we’d have a much bigger job. And probably, we would end up having to go up again in terms of the number of grounds troops to make sure that those forces were not vulnerable.
So that entire analysis is bogus and is wrong. But it gets frequently peddled around here by folks who oftentimes are trying to defend previous policies that they themselves made.
Right, pulling all U.S. troops from Iraq had nothing to do with Obama's political aspirations and promises. Pretty incredible. On the issue of Obama claiming the Iraqi's and Maliki "not wanting U.S. troops there," and "wouldn't agree to a status of forces agreement," Obama hardly tried to get an agreement done in the first place. Obama took the easy way out on the agreement in order to fulfill a campaign promise and to satisfy his base.
Here's a flashback from 2010, when Obama took credit for the troop pull-out in Iraq.
Weird.. He took credit for that decision in an Oval Office address in 2010. pic.twitter.com/L5v5Z40G4F— S.M (@redsteeze) August 9, 2014
But, the idea that Obama had anything to do with the troop pullout is totally bogus right?
And another from 2011:
President Obama wants to be responsible for what makes him look good in a short term moment and conveniently shoves off the bad and real decision making on everything and everyone else.
As the extremely radical terror group the Islamic State, better known as ISIS, continues its march on Iraq and mass slaughter of Christians, many are asking the question: Will ISIS strike inside the United States?
According to experts, and ISIS itself, it's a possibility and steps must be taken immediately to prevent it. More from CNN:
Within hours of U.S. military jets and drones conducting a strike on ISIS artillery that had been used against Kurdish forces defending Irbil, ISIS supporters called for retaliatory attacks against the United States.
"It is a clear message that the war is against Islam and the mujahideen. The mujahideen must strive and seek to execute proactive operations in their own home, America, to discipline America and its criminal soldiers," Abu al-Ayna al-Khorasani, an administrator of Shumukh al-Islam, the top-tier forum for ISIS propaganda, wrote on his account Friday, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence group.
Other ISIS supporters railed against the United States using the Twitter handle #AmessagefromISIStoUS, posting images of the wreckage of the twin towers. "Don't forget 11 Sept .. Maybe US citizens want more like that," one extremist tweeted. In June after ISIS captured Mosul, its supporters had warned against strikes in a Twitter campaign #CalamityWillBefallUS.
One major concern is homegrown U.S. fighters currently overseas in Syria of Iraq coming back home on U.S. passports to carry out attacks. Just two weeks ago we saw American Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha of Florida carry out a suicide attack in Syria after first returning home to the U.S. for a visit. Before executing his suicide mission overseas, he directly threatened the U.S. and said, "We are coming for you."
A new video released by Al Qaeda-linked fighters in Syria allegedly shows 22-year-old Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha ripping up his American passport and chewing parts of it before setting it on fire.
In May, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha became the first known American to carry out a suicide bomb attack in Syria's civil war when he detonated a truckload of explosives in an effort to kill Syrian troops.
And before he blew himself up, Abu-Salha had returned to the United States for months following training with Syrian Islamic militants.
Meanwhile, pro-ISIS allies are taunting President Obama directly and apparently hung this flag outside of the White House late last week.
Last week, an ISIS leader proclaimed to VICE News the terror group will raise the "flag of Allah" above the White House and called the United States cowards for sending drones instead of soldiers to fight them.
"I say to America that the Islamic Caliphate has been established. And we will not stop. Don’t be cowards and attack us with drones. Instead send your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq. We will humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House," said in a video report by VICE.
ISIS has quickly and forcefully proven they are not the "JV team" the White House recently classified them to be.
Currently, there are no updated terror alters from Homeland Security's National Terrorism Advisory System.