"I think that's the wrong terminology. What we are doing is engaging in a very significant counter-terrorism operation, and it's going to go on for some period of time. If someone wants to think about it as being a war on ISIL, they can do so, but the fact is, it’s a major counter-terrorism operation that will have many different moving parts."
Susan Rice -- not exactly Ms. Credibility by any stretch of the imagination -- is playing the same semantics game. The renewed and expanded war in Iraq and now Syria is not a war. Neither was the "kinetic military action" in Libya (which has since imploded). The smoking gun Benghazi emails weren't about Benghazi. The Fort Hood massacre was "workplace violence." The Boston bombings were not acts of terrorism. And the Islamic State is not Islamic. Words have meanings, and the American people shouldn't tolerate being treated like imbeciles. The newly-announced operation is aimed at degrading and destroying an enemy. It entails heavy, sustained airstrikes. It involves hundreds of additional pairs of "boots on the ground," even if they're in a non-combat role. And officials warn that it will be a lengthy endeavor. That's a war. It may be a substantively different sort of war than one involving a large-scale ground invasion, but it's a war nonetheless. Most voters are mature enough to understand this. The administration seems intent on belaboring these trifling distinctions for the purposes of political insulation (most Americans, especially in the Democratic base, oppose ground troops), and as legal cover. Just last year, President Obama called for the phase out and repeal of a 2001 AUMF upon which the administration is now relying as a legal basis for carrying out this new mission. A number of scholars have argued the terms of that 13-year old Congressional resolution does not pertain to the operation against ISIS.
Let me stipulate that I favor much of the president's four-point plan outlined Wednesday night, with some caveats: It seems to me that he ought to seek -- and receive -- an updated Congressional authorization for the anti-ISIS campaign, the scope of which continues to widen, and arming the 'moderate' rebels in Syria appears to be a risky and quite possibly quixotic proposition. I'm also concerned that the president reportedly discarded the military's advice on achieving victory; plus, the direct line connecting the president's studied indifference to the burgeoning ISIS threat and the current crisis cannot be ignored. But now that action is finally being taken, Americans should support the fight against this unspeakably brutal and frighteningly well-resourced army of up to 32,000 radical jihadists. That being said, this scenario still presents an object lesson in the incoherence of his foreign policy. One year ago, Obama delivered a prime time address calling for airstrikes against the Assad regime in Syria. We are now bombing Assad's primary enemy in Syria, and Assad is offering his assistance. Several months ago, Obama dismissed ISIS as a "JV" team. Now he calls them a "cancer" that will take years to defeat. And four weeks ago, the president ridiculed the prospect of arming "moderate" rebels inside Syria, saying the idea "has always been a fantasy." Today, it's step two in his own four-step strategy. No wonder "smart power" is in the dumpster:
Katie wrote the other day about Planned Parenthood's perplexing-but-not opposition to allowing oral contraception to be sold over the counter (OTC) without a prescription. (Read: $$$$$) Today, Planned Parenthood doubled down on their opposition to OTC birth control and released an ad criticizing two Republican politicians who support expanding access to birth control...because somehow they are also limiting access to birth control.
The ad depicts a terrible reality where birth control pills are treated just like those incredibly scarce and expensive drugs Advil and Benadryl.
As Ben Domenech sums up quite nicely in The Federalist, it's glaringly obvious that Planned Parenthood is more concerned with receiving taxpayer money than for actually helping women: (emphasis added)
Now you can understand why they wouldn’t want potential customers to be free to go to CVS or Walgreens or Rite Aid instead of heading to Planned Parenthood – providing those and other services is worth a lot of taxpayer money, $540 million in FY 2012 alone. And if you don’t provide those services, you can’t bill the taxpayers for them.
Polls have indicated that a large majority of Americans support OTC access to birth control.
Over the past few weeks, but more specifically since President Obama spoke to the country Wednesday evening about how he will "degrade and destroy" ISIS, Americans are asking one question: Are we at war with these people?
Up until now, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said the answer is no. Today White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said while the United States isn't at war with ISIS, the United States is at war with the terror army in the same way we're at war with al Qaeda.
"In the same way the United States is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates around the world, the United States is at war with ISIL," Earnest said. "But make no mistake, I'm not just talking about the United States, I'm talking about a broader coalition of international partners."
"I'll leave it to others to determine what the legal, academic definition of war may be," Earnest said.
For some reason, the National Institutes of Health believes it’s a good idea to study the effects of monkeys getting hammered using taxpayer dollars. What redeeming quality or benefit this might have to the public is beyond me, but at the very least, it must be mildly entertaining -- and fun -- to participate in such edifying studies (via the Washington Times):
There’s a whole lot of drinking going on in the name of government science, and some watchdogs think it’s the American taxpayer who is getting hammered. Right now the National Institutes of Health is spending $3.2 million to get monkeys to drink alcohol excessively to determine what effect it has long term on their body tissue.
NIH also has handed out $69,459 to the University of Missouri to study whether text messaging college students before they attend pre-football game tailgates will encourage them to drink less and “reduce harmful effects related to alcohol consumption.” And the government’s premier research arm has doled out money in recent years for research on binge-drinking mice, inebriated gamblers and pilots seeking the sensation of flying drunk — on a simulator of course.
Veryyyyyy important stuff. And yet there’s apparently a case to be made for why such "research projects" are important:
NIH defends such expenditures on the grounds that these research projects help those they fund improve their “potential to develop into a productive, independent research scientist.” In an email to The Washington Times, the NIH pointed out that the goal of the Missouri text message project wasn’t just to save the lives of coeds but also to empower “promising predoctoral students to obtain individualized, mentored research training from outstanding faculty sponsors while conducting dissertation research in scientific health-related fields relevant to the missions of the participating NIH Institutes and Centers.”
That is to say, it’s a form of training, I suppose. Hence, it doesn’t matter what these researchers study, so long as they are studying something, and therefore honing new skills that will ultimately make them useful in their respective fields. Frankly, that rationale sounds…utterly ridiculous to me, but on the plus side, such wastefulness has not gone unnoticed: The NIH has earned itself one the Times’ most coveted and prestigious awards:
For its use of American tax dollars to study inebriated pilots, mice, monkeys and students, the NIH wins this week’s Golden Hammer, a weekly award from The Times aimed at highlighting examples of questionable or wasteful spending.
I thought welfare recipients using EBT cards to purchase porn and booze was bad enough. This, however, takes things to a whole new level.
Speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest reconfirmed President Obama will make an announcement and take executive action on illegal immigration by the end of the year, adding that the "bulk of the work" on the issue already done.
"We're in a position where a vast majority of the work has been done," Earnest said in response to a question from TIME's Zeke Miller. "The bulk of the work has been done."
"That [remaining] work will be done in sufficient time for the President to make an announcement before the end of the year," he added. "There are still some additional decisions that need to made."
Earnest also said President Obama has been working with Attorney General Eric Holder at the Justice Department and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson "for months" to form decisions about what action to take on the issue. He has also been taking suggestions from outside groups.
Last week the White House announced President Obama will delay executive action on illegal immigration until after the 2014 midterm elections in an effort to save vulnerable Democrats from voters. Obama had originally promised to use executive action on the issue by the end of the summer.
This post has been updated.
Sixty-two percent of Americans are ‘very concerned’ about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world, according to the Pew Research Center. This is the highest number ever recorded in the study.
The escalating percentage should come as little surprise, particularly considering the recent discovery that ISIS has at least tripled in size since its original estimate. It is now believed that more than 30,000 ISIS fighters exist. There are also reports about individuals from around the world continuing to join the terrorist group.
The Daily Mail reported that two girls (aged just 15 and 16) fled from Australia to Syria to join the jihadist group. More than 100 Australians are believed have gone abroad to join ISIS, the article stated. We also know that dozens of Americans as well as citizens of other Western countries such as Britain and Canada have joined ISIS.
The founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, Imam Syed Soharwardy, explained to Business Insider:
"I cannot believe that there is no one from ISIS on the ground here in Canada or the U.S. or Europe. They are now recruiting, so they are absolutely here,” he told IBTimes. “IS people, those who are very rigid fanatics, they do live in this country, they do recruit. They do facilitate in recruitment.”
The mentor-recruit relationship often begins through religious seminars, community activities or classes that might look normal to the average Westerner, Soharwardy said. Of the five known foreign fighters in Syria from Calgary, Alberta, three attended the same mosque, Soharwardy said.
ISIS is also likely recruiting in colleges and high schools under the cover of student groups, Soharwardy said. Recruits are seeking camaraderie, and they often know someone who has joined a militant group beforehand. For example, after U.S. citizen Douglas McCain from California went to fight with ISIS in Syria, it was later discovered that he had lived in the same building as a classmate who joined al-Shabab, the Somali militant group with ties to al-Qaeda.
To the 14 percent of Americans who stated they are ‘not at all’ concerned about Islamic extremism, you should be.
The international community is slowly if hesitantly coming around to joining the global fight on terror. Last week, for example, the Arab League tepidly endorsed a joint resolution to fight the terrorist organization ISIS. At minimum, this was a formal recognition that the Arab League and the United States have mutually beneficial interests and goals in seeing this army of murderers wiped off the face of the earth.
At the same time, Secretary of State John Kerry has been in the Middle East attempting to galvanize international support for the president’s 4-pronged strategy to combat ISIS, which was outlined Wednesday night in a primetime television address. To that end, he recently met with foreign ministers from nearly a dozen Arab nations, all of whom (except Turkey) signed a communiqué to “do their share” in vanquishing this threat, according to the New York Times:
Arab nations vowed on Thursday to “do their share” to confront and ultimately destroy the Sunni extremist group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The promise came after the nations’ foreign ministers met here behind closed doors with Secretary of State John Kerry. A joint communiqué issued by the United States and 10 Arab states endorsed a broad strategy to stop the flow of volunteers to ISIS, curtail its financing and provide aid to communities that had been “brutalized” by the militants.
It also called for a coordinated military campaign in which nations would contribute “as appropriate.” Mr. Kerry, who was the only Western foreign minister at the meetings here, sought to use the talks to mobilize support against ISIS, a day after President Obama declared that the United States was prepared to carry out airstrikes in Syria in an effort to degrade and eventually defeat the Sunni militants. None of the Arab participants said precisely what they would do, and it remained unclear whether any would join the United States in mounting the airstrikes.
As outlined by the president on Wednesday night, the United States will not commit ground troops to the region. The president is thus relying on the peshmerga and other ground forces to take the fight to ISIS. But what role, it's worth asking, will Arab nations have in this joint undertaking? More details from the communiqué:
The communiqué said that the participants had discussed a strategy to “destroy” ISIS “wherever it is, including in both Iraq and Syria.”
It said steps would be taken to stop the flow of foreign fighters and money to ISIS, repudiate the group’s “hateful ideology” and provide aid to rebuild affected communities.
The communiqué made no explicit mention of training Syrian rebels; rather, it said that the signatories would join “in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign.”
Even if the Arab world does not commit wholesale to this fight, stopping the flow of arms, personnel, and cash to ISIS terrorists is essential -- and not unrelated -- to defeating them. After all, we learned just today that ISIS’ ranks have swelled to perhaps as many as 31,500, way above the initial estimates the intelligence community first furnished us with.
Having these nation states on board, then, is a small yet significant step towards cutting off and ostracizing these butchers. Put simply, as the president keeps reminding us, their cooperation will go a long way.
The frustration and disappointment in the U.S. government expressed by Diane Foley, the mother of beheaded American journalist, James Foley, is an outcry for the desperate need to defeat ISIS.
Diane Foley sat down with CNN's Anderson Cooper:
"As an American I was embarrassed and appalled," said Diane Foley.
Foley believes that the family's desperate plea to get James back was an "annoyance" to the U.S. government and the capture of James was not in the strategic interest of the military.
Diane Foley said:
"Jim would have been saddened. Jim believe till the end that his country would come to their aid."
The government gave several demands to the family including to refrain from going to the media and even threatened the family with charges if they attempted to raise funds to pay the $132 million ransom demanded by ISIS.
James' family could do nothing to save him. They had to have complete confidence that the government would rescue him.
Diane Foley said:
"[We were asked] to just trust that it would be taken care of...we were just told to trust that he would be freed somehow miraculously...and he wasn't was he?"
Diane elaborates on how she believes America's response has only "increased the hate" ISIS has for Americans. She calls for the American government "to learn from the mistakes that were made" and "acknowledge that there are better ways for Americans to be treated."
President Obama will travel to Baltimore Friday to attend a fundraiser hosted by Howard E. Friedman, described by the Baltimore Sun as "one of the nation's foremost advocates for Israel." Those hoping to attend the event will have to fork over a hefty fee:
Howard E. Friedman, a former president of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and a leading patron of Jewish political causes, will host Obama for a dinner that will cost guests up to $32,400 — the maximum an individual may give to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the calendar year.
Friedman, who has served as chairman of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and as president of the Baltimore Jewish Council, has a lot of political clout in Washington. Since 2009, he's given nearly $100,000 in contributions, mostly to Democrats.
The fundraiser comes in the midst of Israel's struggle with the terror group Hamas. The conflict raging on the Gaza Strip is currently in a ceasefire, but judging from past ceasefire attempts, it's perhaps only a matter of time before Hamas breaks the agreement.
Many have questioned the Obama administration's support of Israel. During the crisis that has unfolded in the Middle East, the White House decided to send a $47 million aid package to Gaza, which legislators like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned would go straight into the hands of Hamas. Others accused the administration of aiding Israel's enemy after banning flights to Israel. What's more, instead of defending Israel in its attempt to respond to the Hamas threat, Secretary of State John Kerry tried to reach out to Qatar and Turkey for a possible ceasefire. Qatar is known to be one of Hamas' biggest supporters. Still others criticize Obama for having an unnecessarily tenuous relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The president may have to do more than attend a pricey fundraiser to quell some of these criticisms and prove he truly does stand with Israel.
Recent polling suggests that Democratic incumbent Mark Udall holds a narrow lead over Republican Cory Gardner in Colorado's US Senate race. But the race is firmly in the 'toss-up' catregory; President Obama is deeply unpopular in the state, and Gardner is running a strong, disciplined campaign. When the two nominees met up for an in-person (un-televised) debate last weekend, neutral observers chalked the exchange up as a Gardner win. Udall's performance was characterized by long, awkward pauses and statements for which he was later forced to apologize. Perhaps it's no wonder, then, that Udall has decided that his schedule won't allow for a televised debate on any of Colorado's major network affiliates. Denver's CBS News affiliate took Udall to the woodshed for this 'duck and cover' strategy in a remarkably unsparing on-air segment. Words, not minced:
"For the first time in CBS 4 history, an incumbent US Senator has declined to debate his opponent live on our air. In fact, Sen. Mark Udall is not doing a debate on any of the four major network television stations...