Washout: Hillary’s foreign policy experience does her no favors

HillaryCaricature

Hillary Clinton and her backers figure she’s got at least one advantage, public trust in her foreign policy experience and judgment.

Hillary tried to highlight that factor when she told a questioner at a recent New Hampshire town hall meeting, “When you vote for someone for president, you’re also voting for a commander in chief.”

But why, exactly, does Hillary, or anybody else, think her foreign policy experience is a plus when you review her screw-ups.

Consider:

Libya

Then: Hillary Clinton urged President Obama to back a military campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, over the opposition of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and other national security experts.

Now: Libya has deteriorated into a virtual failed state run by hundreds of private militias. Eighteen months after the initial airstrikes, U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in attacks by militants on a U.S. diplomatic post and a nearby CIA site in Benghazi. The North African nation has become a primary outpost for the Islamic State, which has exploited the chaos to take territory, train soldiers and prove its strength outside Syria and Iraq. Washington Post, Feb. 3, 2016

Iraq

Then: On voting in favor of a resolution to take military action against Iraq in the face of Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, “I believe the facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt,” Clinton said in a Senate speech the day before the vote. “It is with conviction that I support this resolution as being in the best interests of our nation…It is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein — this is your last chance. Disarm or be disarmed.”

“We’ve ended the war in Iraq,” Obama said on June 25, 2012, at a New Hampshire rally in New Hampshire. “I’ve kept the commitments that I’ve made,” he said in Iowa on Oct. 24, 2012. “I told you we’d end the war in Iraq. We did.”

Now:

Although the Iraq war has technically been over for more than four years, Iraqis are still dying in large numbers. The number of Iraqis seeking refuge in other countries has risen considerably as the conflict between the Islamic State and the Iraqi government and associated forces continues. The U.N. has described the violence as “staggering” and noted the Islamic State may be guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.

A Jan. 2016 report by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq also accuses ISIS of holding an estimated 3500 people as slaves across Iraqi territory, using many as human shields, and pressing 800-900 children into military service for the conflict.

Meanwhile, animosity Between Sunnis and Shiites is threatening the Iraq’s stability. Neighboring Iran, home to the world’s largest Shia population, is behind the country’s support for Iraq’s Shia-dominated government.

Syria

Then: Hillary Clinton joined President Obama in declaring that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces would cross a “Red Line” if they used chemical weapons. On Aug. 11, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Istanbul that it’s clear to the Assad regime the use of chemical weapons is “a red line for the world.” On Aug. 20, 2012, Obama said that the use or movement of chemical weapons by the Assad regime is a red line. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” Obama said. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Now:

Under the banner of fighting international terrorism, President Vladimir Putin has reversed the fortunes of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which were rapidly losing ground last year to moderate and Islamist rebel forces in the country’s five-year-old crisis. Washington Post, Feb. 3, 2016

Today, 4.6 million Syrians are refugees and 6.6 million are displaced within Syria; half are children. World Vision

Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — have been killed or forced to flee their homes. Mercy Corps

The conflict is now more than just a battle between those for or against President Bashar al-Assad. It has acquired sectarian overtones, pitching the country’s Sunni majority against the president’s Shia Alewite sect, and drawn in regional and world powers. The rise of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) has added a further dimension. BBC

Russia

Then: In March 2009, Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red button with the Russian text “перегрузка”, which was intended to be the Russian word for “reset”. Clinton explained that she wanted to reset relations between Russia and the United States, to spur a new era of better ties. “The reset worked,” Clinton told CNN in August 2014.

Now: In March 2014, Russia decided “To hell with the reset” and annexed Crimea. This led to the installation of a pro-Russian government in Crimea, the holding of a disputed, unconstitutional referendum and the declaration of Crimea’s independence.

 Russia subsequently:

  • blocked a U.N. Security Council resolution on Crimea’s referendum
  • provided a Russian-made Buk missle to Ukrainian rebels who used it to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board
  • granted asylum to Edward Snowden, who’s wanted in the United States for leaking information about National Security Agency surveillance practices.
  • Provided military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hillary, a tested,  brilliant, strategic foreign policy expert the American people can trust? I don’t think so.

 

 

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The San Bernardino massacre and the failed U.S. visa system

(Addendum: Dec. 10, ABC News, http://abcn.ws/1QfISlG)

Farook and Malik’s marriage isn’t the only one garnering suspicion. In the midst of the investigation into Farook’s family, new details have emerged about the use and possible abuse of the government marriage citizenship program involving Enrique Marquez, the man who officials told ABC News originally bought two of the weapons used in the San Bernardino attack and was married to Mariya Chernykh, who moved from Russia to the United States in 2009.

——

(Addendum: Dec. 9, NY Times ,http://nyti.ms/1NcHEUE)

James+Comey+Jr+Senate

“The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said Wednesday that the couple who waged a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, Calif., last week had been talking of an attack as far back as two years ago, before the United States gave the woman approval to enter the country…The disclosure raised the possibility that American immigration and law enforcement authorities missed something in the woman’s background when they granted her the approval.”) I’ll say.

——

Not to worry, says the U.S. government. Immigration law is strictly enforced.

Except that it isn’t.

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Tashfeen Malik, who pledged her fealty to ISIS and joined with her husband to brutally slaughter 14 people in San Bernardino, came to the United States on a “fiancée visa”, otherwise known as a K-1 visa.

Tashfeen Malik

Tashfeen Malik

Under the law, the spouse-to-be from a foreign country is allowed to enter the United States for 90 days so that the marriage ceremony can take place. Once the marriage takes place, the spouse may apply for permanent residence and remain in the United States while U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services processes the application.

The government says the fiancée visa system is very rigorous and strictly enforced. If the foreigner doesn’t follow the law, they have to go home.

The problem is violations of U.S. visa law are routinely ignored.

The fact is that about 40% of the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States aren’t low-income people from Mexico and Central America. Instead, they are foreigners who arrived legally, often on fiancée, tourist or education visas, and just never left. They became what are simply labeled “overstayers”.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the government doesn’t even compile information on the millions of overstayers, leaving it to others to piece together a snapshot of who they are and where in the U.S. they live.

So much for homeland security.

 

The faux fight against ISIS

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ISIS is on the run. Just read the headlines.

Official: local ISIS leader killed in western Mosul, Sept. 2015; US Airstrikes In Iraq Kill Three Senior ISIS Leaders, Including Baghdadi’s Key Aide, Sept. 2015; White House confirms key ISIS leader killed in US air strike, Aug. 21, 2015; Afghan agency: ISIS leader killed in drone strike, July 2015; U.S.: ISIS No. 2 killed in U.S. drone strike in Iraq, Aug. 2015; Pentagon officials: Prominent ISIS recruiter killed in airstrike, Aug. 2015; Top ISIS leader killed in coalition airstrike, July 2015; ISIS Leader Killed in Airstrike in Syria, June 2015; ISIS hacking leader killed by drone strike, Aug. 2015; Senior ISIS leader killed in extremist-held Hawija, July 2015; ISIS leader confirmed killed by U.S. forces, May 2015; Special Ops Kill ISIS Commander, Free His Family Slave, May 2015; Senior ISIS leader killed during raid, May 2015; Senior ISIS leader killed in U.S. raid in Syria, May 2015; U.S. special forces storm Syria’s Deir ez-Zor, kill senior ISIS commander, May 2015; Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ‘seriously wounded in air strike’, April 2015; CNN: US Has Secret ‘Kill List’ of Top ISIS Leaders, Feb. 2015; Iraqi police: new ISIS commander in Anbar killed, Jan. 2015; U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces that Iraq and the U.S.-led coalition have killed 50 percent of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) top commanders, Jan. 2015.

HAVE WE WON YET?

Things fall apart

I was enjoying a coffee and pastry at a Starbucks this morning when a man sitting next to me checking his smartphone and reading the paper turned and said, “It looks like the rebels or the Russians might have shot down a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying 300 people. Do you get the feeling everything is just unraveling?”

Yes.

A plan to transport three busloads of Central American families through San Diego for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol station took an unexpected turn when scores of protesters blocked the buses from entering.

A plan to transport three busloads of Central American families through San Diego for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol station took an unexpected turn when scores of protesters blocked the buses from entering.

Tens of thousands of children of all ages, most unaccompanied by adults, are flowing across the U.S. Southwest border. Frustration and anger is bubbling up all over the country. Some people are arguing that President Obama has encouraged the stream of immigrants and that strong steps need to be taken to control the U.S. border and send the immigrants home. Others argue the immigrants need to be treated with compassion and welcomed to America with open arms in the spirit of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Whichever side you are on, and just about everybody seems to have taken sides, just 28% of the public approves of the way President Obama is handling the surge of children from Central America, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center or the People & the Press.

Meanwhile, violence is spreading in Gaza and Israel after the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank set off a new cycle of violence in the region.

While Hamas militants and Israel exchange rocket fire, stories multiply of civilian deaths, including a story today reporting that four boys, ages 9 to 11, were killed on a beach west of Gaza City.

A boy on a Gaza beach killed in an Israeli attack is carried away.

A boy on a Gaza beach killed in an Israeli attack is carried away.

Of course, the only reason similar horrifying stories of civilian killings by the Hamas militants haven’t surfaced in Israel is because of its effective anti-rocket defenses.

In Ukraine, tension continues as Russia threatens the country, pro-Russian militants fight the government’s forces and, as noted earlier, rumors swirl that a Malaysian Airlines plane with 295 on board, including some Americans, that crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border was deliberately shot down. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in Kiev asserted that the “the airplane was shot down by the Russian Buk missile system.”

wreckage of Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine

wreckage of Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine

In Egypt, after a popular uprising resulted in the first democratically-elected Islamic president in Egypt’s history, forces led by Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew the fledgling president and instigated an unforgiving campaign of retaliation against the Muslim Brotherhood and regime critics that continues to this day.

In Syria, after Obama insisted that use of chemical weapons by the the Assad regime would be “a red line for us,” Obama dithered and the civil war escalated, creating a country scarred with destruction and pushing out hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring counries.

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In Afghanistan, scene of what Obama called “the good war” that needed to be fought, chaos has ensued since the U.S. precipitously withdrew its troops.

In Iraq, after thousands of American soldiers gave their lives in an effort to create a sustainable peace, the U.S.-backed Shia-led government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki initiated a cleansing of the Sunni minority. Now we have a violent struggle going on in Iraq with mostly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

A file image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province (AFP Photo / HO)

A file image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province (AFP Photo / HO)

Meanwhile, despite a roaring stock market, economic insecurity reigns. Just 19% of those surveyed by Pew say economic conditions in the U.S. are excellent or good while 81% rate conditions as only fair or poor. About six-in-ten (62%) still say jobs are difficult to find locally.

Detroit Area Economy Worsens As Big Three Automakers Face Dire Crisis

Obama’s rating for handling the economy also has stayed negative, with 56% disapproving of the way Obama is handling the economy, according to the Pew survey. In fact, Obama’s job rating on the economy has been around 40% for most of the past five years.

Meanwhile, Obama, “a restless president weary of the obligations of the White House,” as the New York Times puts it, jets around the world for fundraisers and dinners with celebrities and wealthy supporters, taking as many breaks as he can for golf.

Barack Obama

Unravelling? You bet.

Who lost Iraq? China Redux.

In the years following Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime’s loss to the Chinese Communists in 1949, when U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy let loose his ill-founded accusations of communist infiltration in the United States, the country, eager to blame somebody, was wracked with questions about, “Who lost China”?

Senator Joseph McCarthy

Senator Joseph McCarthy

In the 1950’s, U.S. Senate committees studied what was seen as the failure of American foreign policy to prevent the Chinese Communist takeover.  McCarthyism is remembered today as a broad attack on presumed communists and sympathizers in the U.S., but it was also a targeted attack on the State Department’s experts on China, the so-called China Hands, who had told the truth as they saw it. A broad swath of these experts were either forced out the Foreign Service or had their careers completely derailed.

If Iraq falls to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS, after the loss of thousands of American lives and the expenditure of  billions of American dollars, there’s little doubt that a new rallying cry will arise, “Who lost Iraq?”

Sgt. Timothy Davis of San Diego places American flags before the gravestones of those buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Sgt. Timothy Davis of San Diego places American flags before the gravestones of those buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Potential targets are legion, which may well lead to a convulsive period in American domestic and foreign policy.

The blame game is, in fact, already underway.

On June 12, Fareed Zakaria wrote a column in the Washington Post titled, “Who lost Iraq? The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush”. The Iraqi government is “corrupt, inefficient and weak, unable to be inclusive (of the Sunnis) and unwilling to fight with the dedication of their opponents,” just like the Chinese nationalists were, Zakaria said.

So Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is the one who lost Iraq. But he came to power as a result of “a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration,” Zakaria said, so Bush lost Iraq.

But wait a minute. Things were much more settled in Iraq when Obama became president and his foreign policy team was hailing the country’s prosperity, embrace of democracy and relative quiet compared with earlier years. In 2010, Vice President Biden called Iraq one of Obama’s “great achievements”. In 2011, President Obama told troops at Fort Bragg, “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.”

Wasn’t it the Obama Administration that made a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, encouraging adversaries and leaving the country’s elected government weaker in the face of continuing threats?

Or maybe it was the Obama Administration’s feckless foreign policy in dealing with Syria, with Obama insisting in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad would cross a “red line for us” and might trigger a U.S. military response, followed by Obama’s failure to follow through.

Perhaps that emboldened not only Assad, but also ISIS, which is already perilously close to Baghdad.

The city of Mosul in Iraq, which ISIS soldiers have taken over.

The city of Mosul in Iraq, which ISIS soldiers have taken over.

Gary Alan Fine and Bin Xu, in “Honest Brokers: The Politics of Expertise in the “Who Lost China?” Debate”, note that much blame has been placed on the advice of a group of men and women labeled neoconservatives who got the U.S. embroiled in Iraq in the first place. “These policy experts have been targeted,” they say. “But more than just being wrong in their expectations, some critics, such as Seymour Hersh, suggest that these policy experts constituted a “cult,” and others allege that they were a group that placed the interests of the Bush administration, the Republican Party, or the state of Israel above that of the United States.”

Regardless of who made the decisions that have led to the current mess, hold on, because the atmosphere is going to get turbulent and all of America is going to feel it.