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Ron Radosh

The Democratic Party no longer fights for actual civil rights for African Americans. It has become beholden to race hustlers and demagogues, those who inflame passions based on memories of the real racism that existed decades ago but which is no longer relevant to the present-day American experience.

You will find no better evidence for this assertion than the news last week, as reported in the Washington Post and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Missouri paper explains:

The official autopsy on Michael Brown shows that he was shot in the hand at close range, according to an analysis of the findings by two experts not involved directly in the case.

The accompanying toxicology report shows he had been using marijuana.

Those documents, prepared by the St. Louis County medical examiner and obtained by the Post-Dispatch, provide the most detailed description to date of the wounds Brown sustained in a confrontation Aug. 9 with Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson. 

Evidence shows that Brown was struggling to get officer Wilson’s pistol inside Wilson’s car, which is why Brown’s blood was found in the car. Moreover, eyewitnesses also testify to seeing that fight. Judy Melinek, a forensics expert in San Francisco, explains:

The autopsy did not support witnesses who have claimed Brown was shot while running away from Wilson, or with his hands up. [Melinek] said Brown was facing Wilson when Brown took a shot to the forehead, two shots to the chest and a shot to the upper right arm. The wound to the top of Brown’s head would indicate he was falling forward or in a lunging position toward the shooter; the shot was instantly fatal.

What will happen when a grand jury concludes there should be no indictment of Officer Wilson? The scores of protestors in Ferguson have been demanding an indictment, arguing that he represented white racism at its worst, having murdered an innocent young black man in cold blood. Now that claim has been crushed.

The Left has started to challenge the new facts. In Slate, Jamelle Bouie writes a particularly lame and unconvincing retort claiming that the autopsy report only “seemed to support” the account that Wilson was innocent. As he sees it, we still have conflicting reports that prove nothing at all. Predicting “a new round of protests” if the grand jury does not indict, Bouie adds that this explains why the governor has ordered a commission to study “the social and economic conditions that led to the initial August protests.”

The real bug in the ointment, however, is our leading rabble rouser, Reverend Al Sharpton. In this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute has a devastating takedown exposing the real facts about the good reverend. (Subscription required — but I strongly urge readers to pay for the article. It’s that important.) Titled “The Democratic Embrace of Al Sharpton,” the article traces how the man who was kept at arm’s length during Obama’s 2008 campaign, isolated as unrepresentative of the black community’s views, has now become the single would-be “civil-rights leader.” Sharpton is now the person to whom all Democrats, centrist and liberal alike, kowtow and from whom they seek to gain support and endorsement. Once he “inflamed racial hatred and courted violence,” Mac Donald writes. Now, “he has been rehabilitated into the Democratic Party’s civil-rights leader of choice.”

Rather than keep him out of his circle, Obama himself has embraced him — most likely on the advice of Valerie Jarrett, who conferred with Sharpton after the Ferguson shooting. Also joining in the praise of Sharpton is Governor Andrew Cuomo, Hillary Clinton, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and Reps. Charles Rangel and Jerry Nadler, both from New York City and mainstays of the liberal/left.

As Mac Donald notes, New York City’s left-wing mayor, Bill de Blasio, set in motion the effort to remake Sharpton as a national leader. “The mayor’s alliance with the racial provocateur,” she writes, “is now creating the biggest crisis of his mayoralty.” De Blasio’s own words praising Sharpton are so over the top that they exceed that of any other public figure who is rushing to make him relevant.

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Obama’s Path to an Imperial Presidency

October 20th, 2014 - 2:54 pm

President Barack Obama has just taken another giant step towards implementing his imperial presidency.

The announcement in yesterday’s New York Times that he will seek an Iran deal “that will avoid Congress” reveals his utter contempt for the American people. Moreover, it shows us that what clearly will be a very, very bad deal is one he hopes to portray as proof that he has brought stability to the Middle East, and that — just as he had argued — Iran has shown that it is cooperative, is under “moderate” leadership, and has proved that it wants peace and can be a partner of the United States.

As the Times story by David E. Sanger puts it: “President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.” He will do it with a sleight-of-hand semantic trick which involves removing sanctions on Iran without Congressional approval, which a Treasury Department study evidently argues that he can do. By calling it simply an “agreement” and not a treaty, Obama thinks he can accept a bad deal and legally not have to obtain a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

The reason he wants to do this is obvious: even if the Democrats control the Senate, he would not have enough votes for a treaty to pass.

We have known for a long time that the Obama administration has decided that Iran can have a bomb and still act responsibly, despite its proven support of international terrorism and its promise to destroy Israel. In the mind of the administration’s so-called “realists,” letting Iran have a bomb will make it an equal player among the world’s nuclear powers. Then, the old doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (appropriately dubbed MAD) will be honored by the Ayatollahs, just as the Soviet Union worked with its main antagonist, the United States, to carry on its conflict without using the atomic weapons they possessed.

Of course, the apparatchiks of the Kremlin subscribed to the materialist Marxist-Leninist theory. Unlike the religious zealotry of the commissars, the Mullahs subscribe to a reading of Islam that demands the eventual triumph of the Caliphate that will make Iran a leading world power, and a perch from which Sharia law will be the law of the land wherever it attains hegemony.

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The death July 1 of David Greenglass, one of the last survivors among those who played a role in the Rosenberg case, was only made public yesterday. Greenglass’s testimony was the most important part of the prosecution’s case, and led to the Rosenberg’s conviction for giving the Soviets atomic secrets. His passing has produced lengthy obituaries in major newspapers — all either incomplete, misleading, or sometimes just wrong.

In a ghastly development, moreover, Greenglass’s death is providing an occasion for the Rosenberg’s two sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol, to renew their proclamations of their parents’ innocence. In the past years, both have acknowledged that their father (but not their mother) was working for the Soviets. Now, they have evidently gone back to their claim that the Rosenbergs were not guilty at all.

David and Ruth Greenglass, the Meeropols are quoted in the obituary in the Guardian as saying, were “the only ones who passed atomic secrets on to the Soviets, then ‘pinned what they did on our parents — a calculated ploy to save themselves by fingering our parents as the scapegoats the government demanded.’”The brothers know well that most people respond to them with sympathy, and are not aware of the overwhelming amount of material proving the Rosenbergs’ guilt that appeared in the Venona decrypts as well as in KGB files provided in Britain by Alexander Vassiliev, a former KGB agent who defected and had smuggled in to Britain all the files he had meticulously copied over the years. It is no wonder that they regularly ignore real hard evidence and neglect to inform their audiences about its existence.

Read the rest in Ron’s article at the New York Sun.

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Look whose photo graces the campus of UCLA, meant to be an inspiration to incoming students. The woman in the photo is standing above the slogan: “We Question.” On the right-hand side, in small letters, students are informed that they are “the optimists.”

This banner adds to the shadow that today is cast over so many of our major universities.

For those who can’t identify her, the photo depicts Angela Davis, the notorious former Communist Party USA leader who, beginning in the ’60s, molded together black nationalism with Marxism-Leninism. She created a heady brew for recruiting new cadre into the CP and the original Black Panther Party of Huey Newton.

Some optimist! Davis believed in the triumph of Communism.

For her loyalty to the Soviet Union and its foreign policies, in 1972 she was awarded a Lenin Centenary Medal in the Soviet Union, after which she spoke to thousands at an outdoor rally in Moscow. Next, speaking at a factory in Kirov, Davis praised the workers for not using “products of labor [to fuel] the irrational drive for capitalist profits as it is used in our country.”

As she left Moscow and went up the stairs to enter her plane, she yelled out with a clenched fist: “Long live the science of Marxism-Leninism.” There is not an iota of evidence that she questioned anything about the dreary reality in the Soviet Union and their Eastern European client states.

Davis also received the International Lenin Peace Prize — formerly called the Stalin Peace Prize — from the STASI state of East Germany in 1979. She was awarded it for supposedly strengthening “peace among peoples,” but it was actually for her continued fidelity to the Soviet bloc, which to her represented the future of humanity.

Not only did she not “question” authority, Davis openly defended the repressive measures of the Communist states by endorsing their imprisonment of dissident intellectuals. When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the movement for “socialism with a human face” that the citizens of the country believed they could pull off without Soviet intervention, Davis strenuously supported the invasion that was forthcoming.

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Why do left-wing Jews who claim to support Israel have such trouble defending the real country of Israel? That question emerges from Todd Gitlin’s essay in Tablet  magazine with the provocative title, “How My Father’s Problem With Blacks Mirrors the Left’s Problem With Jews.”

The Left certainly does have a problem with both Jews and Israel. We have seen this displayed most recently by the leftist academic petition in defense of Hamas; scores of Gitlin’s left-wing academic colleagues signed it. It is clear that many of Gitlin’s left-wing academic colleagues continually illustrate their support for Israel’s enemies.

Gitlin himself is not part of our country’s amorphous but large major leftist community. He hails not from that sectarian, far-left group of ideologues, but from what even conservative writer David Horowitz acknowledges is a “decent left,” the democratic socialist and social-democratic editors of Dissent magazine. Yet, in reviewing the past, Gitlin still stands by what was then the position of the hard totalitarian left.

Today, as I hope to show, Gitlin is clearly afraid of being seen as too pro-Zionist, a stance that would quickly alienate him from many of his leftist comrades and would mean abandonment of his belief in universalism, although everywhere it has proved to be a failure.

Let us look first at Gitlin’s problem with his father’s attitude towards African-Americans. He starts by bringing up the famous New York City teachers’ strike led by Al Shanker that took place in 1968. That, along with the left’s opposition to the Vietnam War, is what Gitlin says led his father to become “sourly tribal” and to “sour on all the left’s colorations.” He explains:

As a teacher and administrator in the largest high school in East Harlem, he had felt pincered. Just as New York Jews were increasing their power in the school system, digging out from under the city’s Protestant and Irish- and Italian-Catholic elites, here came the dark-skinned people demanding control— and power over Jewish teachers, whom they saw as white interlopers in their communities. No wonder New York Jews went wild, in 1968-69, charging the community control movement with harboring anti-Semitism — and the teachers went on strike.

Gitlin, like the author of the article he cites in The Nation, believes that the effort for “community control” and the removal of Jewish teachers from predominantly African-American schools was understandable. His father did not. He writes “New York Jews went wild,” a giveaway description that trivializes and ridicules the serious reasons the union called a strike. Clearly, Gitlin’s account of these events reflects his own inability to clearly assess what happened in that historic strike. He ignores the support of the strike by many black teachers who taught in schools other than the ones in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, as well as the leading role in the strike played by Bayard Rustin, the social-democratic civil rights leader. In the book by Daniel Hiram Perlstein, portions of which are available online (pp.82-84), Perlstein tells the story of how Rustin, an advocate of a civil rights-labor coalition, fought against the extremist black nationalism that Todd Gitlin thinks his father should have supported.

As the black nationalist community supported by the Ford Foundation and Mayor John Lindsay was doing its best to fire teachers for no other reason than that they were white, Shanker and A. Philip Randolph broke with the new nationalist sentiment. Shanker decided to call out the UFT membership on strike, which Randolph supported. Rustin argued that so-called community control was the equivalent of the old Southern belief in the pre-Civil War period of “states’ rights” and meant an abandonment of politics to end segregation and a racially based exclusion that fed right into the hands of blacks’ real opponents.

In an interview with The Daily Forward, Shanker’s biographer, Richard Kahlenberg, explains the strike’s legacy:

One of the legacies was an acceptance of the idea of color-conscious hiring and firing. What happened in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, what precipitated the strikes, was really quite extraordinary. You had the community control board in the African-American ghetto of Ocean Hill-Brownsville firing a number of white teachers without cause. Moreover, the local superintendent, Rhody McCoy, had as an end goal an all-black teaching force. This was a huge departure from the classical liberal position, which was that hiring and firing ought to be based on merit and be colorblind. But what happened in Ocean Hill-Brownsville is that large numbers of liberals — white liberals, including many members of the upper-middle class — went along and supported this new notion of color-conscious firing and hiring. And so, in a sense, you had the acceptance of racial preferences, which we continue to live with today.

Does Todd Gitlin really believe that black nationalist leader Rhody McCoy’s attempt to make acceptance of black nationalism an appropriate standard for hiring teachers was correct? Was it really because of “Jewish tribalism” that Al Shanker responded to the racist actions of McCoy by standing up to it? As a supporter of unionism, I think had Gitlin taken the time to rethink his position, he might have reconsidered whether or not he really was on the right side.

As for anti-Semitism, there was much evidence of it among the black radical leaders at Ocean Hill-Brownsville. As John Kifner reported in the New York Times in a 1996 article:

Anti-Semitism surfaced when a black teacher, Leslie Campbell, read a girl’s poem that included a slur toward Jews. (The school system’s underpaid staff was 90 percent white and heavily Jewish.) The United Federation of Teachers reproduced and distributed anti-Semitic leaflets it said were circulating in the schools.

That poem, read on the air in the city’s left-wing radio station WBAI on Julius Lester’s  show by black nationalist Leslie Campbell, featured the opening line: “Hey, Jew boy, with that Yamaka on your head,” and went on from there. I remember listening to Lester’s program when it aired, and being shocked. How did this widely known event slip Todd Gitlin’s mind? Sure, the poem was written by a 15-year-old student. But it was read and endorsed by Campbell, who also was proud of the backing of firings of white teachers offered by the Black Panther Party and other radical black nationalist groups.

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We now have the latest obscenity in the war against Israel. It comes from three sources — Al Jazeera television, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine held in London, and the German newspaper Deutsche Welle. These are all enemies of Israel who wish nothing less than its destruction.

Their new propaganda tactic is to equate Israel — which they now refer to as JSIL (the Jewish State of Israel in the Levant) — with ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

According to them, like ISIL in Iraq and Syria, Israel is a terrorist military entity which seeks to recruit foreign fighters into their armed forces, to convert or murder infidels, and to destroy the Palestinians.

Here’s the first paragraph of the the article in Deutshe Welle:

Young Americans are opting out of the U.S. military and joining foreign forces. The Israeli army recruited over 100 Americans during the war against Hamas, while others are being lured to join extremist groups.

The article profiles two American Jews who went to Israel: 22-year-old Jason Kraizler from New Jersey, who willingly offers his support to Israel’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas; and Eli Ezer First from New York, who believes that “extreme Islam” is a danger and has to be stopped.

Accusing these Jewish Americans of war crimes comes at a time when Americans are in the spotlight for joining extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials say there are nearly three times more Americans fighting in extremist groups than originally estimated.

The article concludes by comparing American jihadists and Americans who try to help Israel defend itself as one and the same, since “Americans are turning to foreign soil to fight, finding meaning, belonging and acceptance.” Not once does the article differentiate between those who seek to fight on behalf of fanatical Islamists who are trying to create a new caliphate, and those who are trying to help a beleaguered democracy, whose citizens share the values of Western societies, defend itself.

The Al Jazeera story also links to this new left-wing activist campaign, and notes how popular it is on Twitter:

The Jewish State of Israel in the Levant: that’s what a group of pro-Palestine activists are now calling Israel, in a play on words on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The hashtag #JSIL has been tweeted more than 5,200 times as Twitter users protest Israel’s actions.

Activist Max Blumenthal first made the comparison between ISIL and Israel during the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. For those who do not know what the Russell Tribunal is, Wikipedia explains its origins in the anti-war movement of the 1960s, when Bertrand Russell organized a tribunal to investigate the United States for alleged war crimes against the Vietnamese. Now, its descendants have brought it up to date, using the old format to investigate and find Israel guilty as they judged the United States to be during the Vietnam War. As expected, the tribunal convened a special session on September 24, and found Israel guilty, as the anti-Israel site Mondoweiss reports, of “war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.”

Here you will find Max Blumenthal, dubbed by Nation columnist Eric Alterman as one who might as well have had his recent book published by “the Friends of Hamas,” make the case for the comparison between ISIS and Israel. He calls it “the ethnically cleansing Jewish state and its project of dispossession of the Palestinian people.” (Video here.) In his testimony, Blumenthal says:

The atrocities formed an undeniable pattern, suggesting that the crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge were the product of stated military policies, or at least rules of engagement that enabled massacres, summary executions, wholesale residential destruction, the use of civilians as human shields, and abductions. I will describe these atrocities in as much detail as possible and allow the members of the jury to judge for themselves.

As any sane person knows, Hamas used human shields in Gaza to cynically create civilian casualties which have served them very well in the propaganda war against Israel. You will not find one word about any of the horrors committed by Hamas aired at the Russell Tribunal. The “trial” copies the Stalin purge trials of the 1930s in that the verdict was known at the start, and the trial was a sham meant to serve the purposes of propaganda.

In his closing words, Blumenthal echoes the Arab and old Soviet propaganda against Israel, first made by the Soviets in the period after the 1967 war. Blumenthal concludes:

I want to close with two points: First, we cannot address the crimes that occurred in Gaza this summer without examining the historical and political context of Operation Protective Edge. The unprecedented levels of violence wielded against residents of Gaza reflect the trajectory of Zionism and are required by its logical imperatives. Zionism is a settler-colonial movement that demanded the mass expulsion of Palestinians from what is now Israel and their permanent ghettoization in the Gaza Strip, where 80 percent of the population are refugees, in order to consolidate Israel’s ethnic purity. The longer the ghettoized population resists this system of demographic engineering, the more malevolent its occupier becomes. So the horrors we just witnessed in Gaza did not occur in a vacuum. They are reflections of the historical trajectory of Zionism.

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Is Obama Striking an Alliance with Iran?

September 26th, 2014 - 3:48 pm

Two new issues have emerged regarding the Obama administration’s policy towards ISIS, which was announced last week in President Obama’s speech to the nation. Both are connected to Iran: (a) the positions the administration will take regarding cooperation with it in fighting ISIS and (b) in negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.

Should the United States accept Iran as a partner in its fight to “degrade and destroy” ISIS? Already, many self-proclaimed “realists” have argued for its necessity.

In today’s Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria states:

If President Obama truly wants to degrade and destroy the Islamic State, he must find a way to collaborate with Iran — the one great power in the Middle East with which the United States is still at odds. Engagement with Iran – while hard and complicated — would be a strategic game-changer, with benefits spreading from Iraq to Syria to Afghanistan.

To defeat ISIS, he argues, one must influence the Sunnis, something the Shia-dominated Iraq government has not been able to accomplish. Since that regime has been funded by Iran for many years, Iran alone has the power to force them to be more inclusive, and to commit to seriously forging a fighting force against ISIS. Iran’s help, he says, is “invaluable, perhaps vital.” Zakaria also thinks a power-sharing government be built in Syria, in which Assad will stay in power. Iran too, he notes, can help with this.

What he argues for is nothing less than the imperative of aligning with tyrants that have waged terrorism abroad as well as against their own people, all for the goal of defeating ISIS — which both Iran and the United States favor for different reasons. He ignores that Iran poses a very real threat to world stability, especially in the Middle East. As they have shown in the ongoing nuclear talks, Iran has shrewdly used such claims to stand firm in its goal of building a nuclear weapon, confident that its ability to play the United States will continue.

Others have claimed aligning with Iran is no different than aligning with the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler during World War II. As Gary Schmitt and David Adesnik point out at Fox News: “Our partnership with Stalin during World War II was one that arose from desperation.” Moreover, Stalin’s troops suffered the most and did most of the worst fighting, and Soviet armed forces died in the thousands, saving the lives of American GIs who otherwise would have had the job done by the Russians. As Churchill well put it, he would sign a pact with the Devil if it guaranteed the defeat of the Nazis.

In today’s world, to ennoble one terrorist regime to help gain its goals in order to defeat a non-state terrorist group simply makes no sense whatsoever. The West might eventually have to use combat forces in some areas to make air strikes work. But to depend on Iran to do that, which it may very well be willing to do, will further destabilize the region and enhance its power throughout the Middle East.

The desire of many, including some in the Obama administration, to align with Iran leads one to suspect that a deal might be accepted that allows Iran to keep its centrifuges at a level close to completion. Would the U.S. sign such a deal and claim that it is a path to real disarmament? Many factors indicate that is the case.

The Times of Israel reports that the United States is considering “softening present demands that Iran gut its uranium enrichment program in favor of a new proposal that would allow Tehran to keep nearly half of the project intact while placing other constraints on its possible use as a path to nuclear weapons.” If true, it indicates that giving in to Iran is something the United States might do in exchange for Iran remaining cooperative in fighting ISIS.

Diplomats tell the paper that it envisages letting Iran keep 4500 centrifuges while reducing its stock of uranium gas so that it would take Iran only one year, not weeks or months, to create material to build a nuclear bomb. Negotiators believe Iran can claim they have not given in nor ended their enrichment capabilities, while the U.S. could argue it succeeded in forcing them to downgrade their original aims for a year.

Israel, according to its intelligence minister, “strongly opposes leaving thousands of centrifuges active in Iran,” an act which he said is “reminiscent of the failed deal reached in 2007 with North Korea, which now possesses ten nuclear warheads.”

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Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel has just announced that he plans on dying at age 75  and implies that the rest of us should work toward achieving this too. His article  is perhaps the single most outrageous and despicable screed written this entire year. One must also consider that this proposal is not being made by just any medical doctor. Dr. Emanuel, brother of Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, is a major advocate of universal health care and was a key advisor to the president on formulating the Affordable Care Act, or as we know it, Obamacare.

Indeed, a few years ago, Emanuel was accused by Betsy McCaughey and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, among others, of favoring euthanasia and death panels for individuals. Dr. Emanuel argued that in fact he is a well-known opponent of euthanasia, and that, as the details in his Wikipedia entry  note, his talk about “rationing” medical treatment concerned only the “allocation of very scarce medical interventions such as organs and vaccines,” not preventing the elderly who want medical treatment for illnesses from getting what they need. Emanuel said he was angry that what he wrote was taken out of context: “I find it a little dispiriting, after a whole career’s worth of work dedicated to improving care for people at the end of life, that now I’m ‘advocating euthanasia panels.’”

There is a serious discussion about how much treatment should be given at the very end of life, especially if a terminally ill patient would be worse off as a result. But in his Atlantic article, Dr. Emanuel makes us revisit the charges made against him some years ago and reevaluate whether his critics were not so far off in their claims.

Here is his argument neatly summed up at the start of his lengthy essay:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

And later:

I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75. Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.

If young Zeke wants to stop living at 75, that’s fine with me. But the arguments he lays out are not really meant to be just about himself. He argues that essentially, one should stop living after he or she has led a complete life. According to him, by 75, people have passed their creative peaks. It is all downhill from there. They are being kept alive by the likes of flu and pneumonia shots, vaccines, antibiotics, and better medical care, which keeps them going instead of allowing nature to take its course. That is why, he says at one point, he does not believe people should get flu shots in their 60s: because each one taken by an elderly person is depriving a younger person who needs it to live a full life from having access to it. (He does not explain why both cannot get them.)

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In his Wednesday evening speech to the nation, President Barack Obama told Americans that he would consult with Congress about his new strategic plans to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He did not say, however, that he would go to Congress and ask them for a declaration of war. The Constitution, which he is pledged to uphold and defend, gives the right to declare war to the people’s representatives in Congress, not to the commander-in-chief.

Yet the question must be raised, and undoubtedly will be by more than a few members of Congress: Does Obama have the untrammeled right to declare war without their consent? Last week, former Senator Joseph Lieberman argued in the Wall Street Journal that he in fact can do so. The tension between the two branches of government, Lieberman argued, has always been “resolved in favor of presidential authority.” Congress can declare war, the senator says, but the president has “the inherent power to make war.”

The problem, however, is a serious one for Barack Obama, particularly because when he was in the Senate, he and other Democrats argued that the Bush intervention in Iraq was illegal and immoral and should quickly be brought to an end. We all remember the chant, “No Blood for Oil.” When Bush changed course and announced the surge, Obama unsuccessfully introduced the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007” in the Senate, seeking to deny the additional troops that Bush had requested and demanding that American troops be redeployed from Iraq by 2008.  Under Obama’s bill, Congress would have held oversight over the president, who would have to report to them every 90 days. In a statement at the time, Obama argued that “no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else’s civil war.”

Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama also told the Boston Globe the following in a 2007 interview:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. . . . In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

Obama won the White House promising to extract Americans from other nations’ civil wars. Last May, he said in a speech at the National Defense University, “I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal” the 2001 law’s mandate that Congress passed to give the Bush administration the power to go into Iraq. He added, “I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further,” before insisting that “history” and “democracy” demand that “this war, like all wars, must end.”

How times have changed. Now Obama finds himself in the position of asking the American people to do just the opposite, by way of an extended “counter-terrorism operation” — as John Kerry called Obama’s war plans — without formal congressional approval or action. As Howie Carr asks so mockingly: “Whatever happened to Cindy Sheehan? Where is Code Pink? I haven’t seen an ‘Endless War’ bumper sticker in years, since 2009 to be exact.”

Obama’s spokesmen claim that the authority Congress gave George W. Bush in 2001 to move militarily against any country or force responsible for the 9/11 attacks is applicable to the present situation. As press secretary Josh Earnest argued, the president believes that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) “continues to apply to this terrorist organization that is operating in Iraq and Syria.”

There is more than one problem with this analogy. Al-Qaeda attacked the United States directly, and America’s military reaction was a response to that specific act of war. ISIS has taken possession of an area surrounding Iraq and Syria larger than the state of Maryland, and has now some 30,000 troops on the march and ready for further battles. They also have American weaponry, a disciplined armed force, and a (short) record of functioning as an actual state in the territory they now possess. But they have not, as yet, attacked the United States itself. So by Obama’s own previous statement, fighting ISIS is not at present a response to an imminent danger or a matter of self-defense.

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Dressed marvelously in a tan suit, Obama confessed at a recent press conference that “we don’t have a strategy” for dealing with ISIS/ISIL.  Now he appears to have come up with one. As a New York Times report by Helene Cooper explains:

President Obama escalated the American response to the marauding Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Friday, recruiting at least nine allies to help crush the organization and offering the outlines of a coordinated military strategy that echoes the war on terror developed by his predecessor, George W. Bush, more than a decade ago….Mr. Obama said the effort would rely on American airstrikes against its leaders and positions, strengthen the moderate Syrian rebel groups to reclaim ground lost to ISIS, and enlist friendly governments in the region to join the fight.

Having ineptly handled  his earlier press conference, the president clearly wants to be viewed as being at the top of his game by leading a new international effort to confront these radical Islamists. His goal now is “to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL,” in the same manner as the U.S. had gone after al-Qaeda. This, he says, can be accomplished without the use of U.S. combat troops.

The strategy is based on expanded air power and bombings, while trying to help the anti-ISIS forces on the ground composed of elements of the supposed “moderate” Free Syrian Army, Iraqi government and Shia military forces opposed to the Sunni extremists, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, while avoiding having U.S. armed troops fighting on the ground. Among his coalition partners would not only be the Western powers, but Jordan, the Gulf States and the Saudis who would finance it. The administration’s offer of $500 million to train and support supposedly vetted moderates from the Free Syrian Army seems rather paltry and hardly sufficient for the necessary tasks ahead. Also problematic is the administration’s belief that there are any truly moderate anti-Islamist groups large and strong enough to  make a difference.

Writing in the Washington Post, Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general and commander of the U.S. Army War College, argues that the newly advanced strategy is not sufficient to do the job of destroying ISIS. Scales argues for the need to adopt the strategy introduced in Iraq by the former chief of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, General Stanley McChrystal. It is based on “substituting skill, information and precision for mass, maneuver and weight of shell.” It was first used after Sept. 11, 2001, when Special Forces units worked with the Afghan Northern Alliance to fight the Taliban with precision air strikes overhead teamed with trained and proven ground fighters who would kill “much larger aggregations of enemy” while minimizing the death of friendly forces and civilians.

The opposite of “shock and awe” used at the start of the war against Saddam Hussein by Donald Rumsfeld, it is based on hard intelligence from informants, NSA surveillance, and careful planning and rehearsals for military action. By using intelligence to assist the troops doing the fighting, and armed and unarmed drones, they can, as Scales writes, “obliterate the enemy in the dead of night.”

But, he writes,  Obama is not yet willing to undertake a “scaling-up of the method, never attempted before.” As of now, ISIS is well-armed, controls a huge amount of territory, and we do not have ready the men and military equipment that can do the job, including an enlarged group of fighters, advanced and superior equipment available only to the Special Operations Command, and many more drones.

His main point is correct:

The Islamic State cannot be defeated by diplomacy, sanctions, coalitions or political maneuverings. Its fighters must eventually be killed in large numbers, and Americans will never allow large conventional military forces to take them on. The butcher’s bill would simply be too large. The only sure means for defeating the group is with a renewed, expanded and overwhelming legion of capable special fighters who have learned through painful trial and error how to do the job.

Will Obama do what is necessary? And if he finally decides that he must undertake a vast expansion of the war against ISIS, will he do it without a congressional resolution supporting U.S. escalation, which many in Congress are demanding? The argument for congressional authorization stems from the early days of the Vietnam War’s expansion, when without such a declaration, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution authorizing a response to an attack on U.S. ships from North Vietnamese boats was used by LBJ as an excuse for massive U.S. escalation.

Former Senator Joseph Lieberman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argues that such a resolution is not necessary. The Constitution, as he reads it, gives the commander-in-chief the “inherent power to make war,” especially since the enemy is not waiting to advance and fight.

Harry S. Truman, when using the cloak of a UN “police action,” brought the U.S. into action against the North Korean forces seeking to overthrow the U.S. ally South Korea. The old-Right Republicans, led by Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft (“Mr. Republican”), opposed Truman for not going to Congress and asking for a declaration of war, and condemned his ordering American troops to fight in Korea. Taft said that Truman’s intervention “violated all the precedents which have been established as to the limitations of the President’s power to make war,” and was “an absolute usurpation of authority by the President.”

The similarity between Taft’s position and that taken today by Rand Paul, as well as many libertarians and the paleoconservatives at The American Conservative magazine, is worth noting. No wonder the self-proclaimed non-interventionists at antiwar.com, like Justin Raimondo, who calls the recent events a “manufactured conflict,” are furious at an important article by Sebastian Payne and Robert Costa.

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