Alone on the Hill
September 23, 2014 8:28 AM   Subscribe

Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Lee's story is how little credit she or her constituents receive for what they got right. Even though a majority now considers the war most understood the AUMF to authorize to be a mistake; even though it has been used to justify military interventions that no one conceived of on September 14, 2001; even though there's no proof that any war-making of the last 13 years has have made us safer; even though many more Americans have died in wars of choice than have been killed in terrorist attacks; even though Lee and many of her constituents were amenable to capturing or killing the 9/11 perpetrators, not pacifists intent on ruling out any use of force; despite all of that, Representative Lee is still thought of as a fringe peacenik representing naive East Bay hippies who could never be trusted to guide U.S. foreign policy. And the people who utterly failed to anticipate the trajectory of the War on Terrorism? Even those who later voted for a war in Iraq that turned out to be among the most catastrophic in U.S. history are considered sober, trustworthy experts.
posted by the man of twists and turns (109 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
The only member of congress that deserves the seat.
posted by absalom at 8:30 AM on September 23, 2014 [48 favorites]


It's kindof unbelievable how little care is being paid to this whole event.
posted by odinsdream at 8:36 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I could not ignore that it provided explicit authority, under the War Powers Resolution and the Constitution, to go to war. It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events—anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit.
I was under the impression it was unanimous. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 8:41 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


oh hey! Tagging works, in the only other instance of the 'barbaralee' tag: Has Rep. Barbara Lee just destroyed her political career?, from September 14, 2001. Betteridge's Law in action.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:41 AM on September 23, 2014 [23 favorites]


It's kindof unbelievable how little care is being paid to this whole event.

Which event? Is there a new event in the post I didn't see, or is this comment in the wrong thread?
posted by Ickster at 8:43 AM on September 23, 2014


Yet another reason why the Iraq War resembles Mr. Show's "Let's Blow Up The Moon" skit.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:44 AM on September 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


The only vote that should have taken place in the days following 9/11 was a vote to impeach a president who spent his first 8 months in office abdicating his #1 responsibility.
posted by any major dude at 8:45 AM on September 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm glad there was at least one person in congress who was willing to vote using a brain and a conscience. I'd estimate about 2/3 saw absolutely no problem with the AUMF, and the rest (Lee excepted) were simply too craven to vote against something for which the political winds were clear.
posted by Ickster at 8:45 AM on September 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


We are spending however much dropping Freedom Bombs on Syria today.

You'll note the deafening silence on the part of the Very Serious "What about the Deficitz!" People in Washington.

One might get the cynical impression that so much of the talk about the deficit is really just a cudgel to end spending on the poors and the olds.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:47 AM on September 23, 2014 [61 favorites]


The only vote that should have taken place in the days following 9/11 was a vote to impeach a president who spent his first 8 months in office abdicating his #1 responsibility.

Give me a break. Continuing to blame Bush for 9/11 is as stupid as blaming Obama for Benghazi. Bush did plenty of things for which he should go down in history as one of our most reprehensible presidents, but failure to stop the 9/11 attacks is not one of them.
posted by Ickster at 8:49 AM on September 23, 2014 [16 favorites]


Even though a majority now considers the war most understood the AUMF to authorize to be a mistake

This needs to be pulled apart a little bit. Is he saying that most consider operations against al Qaeda in Afghanistan a mistake? Or how the war was conducted? Or is he talking about Iraq here? Later in that pull quote paragraph is he conflates voting for the AUMF and supporting Iraq.

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

I wish that it specifically said "al Qaeda and affiliates"; but:

I could not ignore that it provided explicit authority, under the War Powers Resolution and the Constitution, to go to war. It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events

I don't think you're going to find a majority of Americans having a problem with that. I believe we should have been at war with those involved in 9/11. Her next line of criticism is, in my view, far more important:

and without time limit

The AUMF should have been given a termination point, which is the real difference between the AUMF and, say, the war resolution against Germany in 1941:

"employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination"

Whereas the AUMF authorizes the President to prevent any future terrorist attacks:

in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism

It's hard to say when a couple of people can no longer commit terrorism when you can do it with box cutters.

Still, there was a separate vote on Iraq. Voting for the AUMF doesn't make one complicit in the Iraqi disaster.
posted by spaltavian at 8:49 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


From MoJo, above, Sept. 20, 2001:
MJ: Do you think that our civil liberties are in danger in the aftermath of this tragedy? There's talk, for example, of changing the wiretap laws.

Lee: I think that there's going to be a rush to judgment on civil liberties, and a clamping down, a suspension of our democratic rights. And I believe that those who are good Americans would want to see this not happen and that we debate how to find a balance between the public safety and the protection of civil liberties. But if you have a five-hour debate, a rush to judgment, on a bill that Attorney General [John] Ashcroft puts forward, and you don't give the Congress any political support to oppose that or to provide ways to ensure this balance, you're in for a very scary period. We've got to be vigilant.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:50 AM on September 23, 2014 [24 favorites]


I've been watching a documentary focusing on victims of 9/11 who fell from the towers (strong, strong PTSD trigger warnings are necessary here) and I think sometimes it's hard to remember, especially as someone who was only 17 years old and living all the way on the other coast, how immediately terrifying and angering that day was. That doesn't justify the, at best incredibly shortsighted and careless actions of the federal government (at worst, criminal), but I think it does explain to some extent the reactions of the American public.

On the other side, I think it is incredibly important to highlight the voices that disagreed with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq from the start, to combat the revisionist history that "we couldn't have known" that old-guard republicans are attempting to spin nowadays.

This needs to be pulled apart a little bit. Is he saying that most consider operations against al Qaeda in Afghanistan a mistake?

As early as late September and early October, international peace protests were calling for justice, not war. I don't think anyone was arguing that we should just let Al Qaeda go. The call was for criminal acts to be dealt with by criminal courts, not by costly and potentially futile land wars. Potentially futile because we've known since at least the end of European colonialism that military colonization fuels terrorism.
posted by muddgirl at 8:57 AM on September 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


Is he saying that most consider operations against al Qaeda in Afghanistan a mistake?

Yup. It needed a clear scope and objective - without it, it wound up being a complete quagmire, failing utterly in its mission. It was the CIA's investigative work and a precise special forces operation that wound up getting Bin Laden, remember, not an invasion and occupation of Afghanistan - the war was a costly distraction that got in the way of national security.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:59 AM on September 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


The only member of congress that deserves the seat.

My Congressman is similarly awesome.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:00 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


As early as late September and early October, international peace protests were calling for justice, not war.

And I should add that, in the United States at least, they were called traitors for saying so.
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on September 23, 2014 [30 favorites]


Every prediction made by Anti war people turned out to be 100% right, and every one made by pro war/intervention types have turned out to be 100% wrong, about everything, since 2001. This article is a good example of why it's important to repeatedly and relentlessly point this out, as pro war belligerents are so fond of donning the Very Serious Person cap when in fact they're about as sober and intelligent as a bag of wet hammers
posted by mrbigmuscles at 9:04 AM on September 23, 2014 [94 favorites]


This needs to be pulled apart a little bit. Is he saying that most consider operations against al Qaeda in Afghanistan a mistake?

As early as late September and early October, international peace protests were calling for justice, not war. I don't think anyone was arguing that we should just let Al Qaeda go. The call was for criminal acts to be dealt with by criminal courts, not by costly and potentially futile land wars.


That's not my question. I'm well aware of this line of critique. He's saying that must people consider the war launched by the AUMF a mistake, but it's not clear what he means by that, since he conflates support for the AUMF with support for Iraq and if it's about Afghanistan, doesn't go into if he's talking about support for ending the war sooner, conducting the war differently, or not going to war to being with.

I'm not accusing anyone of saying "we should just let Al Qaeda go", nor did my comment imply anything like that, so let's that sidetrack go. I personally would be suprised if a majority of Americans would agree that a war against al Qaeda should not be conducted, though I think a strong majority would disapprove of the way it was conducted, it's length, that we are still there, and Iraq entirely.

Is he saying that most consider operations against al Qaeda in Afghanistan a mistake?

Yup. It needed a clear scope and objective - without it, it wound up being a complete quagmire, failing utterly in its mission. It was the CIA's investigative work and a precise special forces operation that wound up getting Bin Laden, remember, not an invasion and occupation of Afghanistan - the war was a costly distraction that got in the way of national security

Again, my question was not about the critique itself but what exactly he means by his comment about the majority thinking the war was a mistake.
posted by spaltavian at 9:05 AM on September 23, 2014


Radiolab had a great anger-making hour on the AUMF and Barbara Lee: 60 Words.
posted by Freyja at 9:07 AM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


It seems the qualification for guiding our foreign policies is being spectacularly incompetent. The more wrong you get things, the more you will be listened to. That is the only explanation for how it is that we can go ahead with horrifically wrong-headed plans of action, like the invasion of Iraq, despite people outside of the "decision makers" having screamed and pleaded and outlined in great detail what the consequences would be. And when events inevitably confirmed all those predicted consequences - inevitably, because they were so strikingly obvious - those who were right, were immediately dismissed from further discussion, and those who got it fantastically wrong, were promoted and lionized as the only ones worthy of being listened to.

Over and over again, you see the same folks who have an uncanny ability to always pick the very worst course of action, being interviewed on TV and in the media, giving opinions and being listened to, and never ever contradicted or asked by our 'journalists' about their previous failed predictions. Soon enough, we see the very same failed policies pushed, whether it be Libya or Syria, or Iraq (again!), with the same bombing raids and training/arming/financing of "rebels" and "freedom fighters", down to the very same actors again (AQ-affiliated rebels in Syria).

And the same self-congratulatory reports that sound so familiar to anyone who remembers Vietnam. Just yesterday, we had our top generals report on the fabulous bombing raids, the rockets and cruise missiles fired from all and sundry places, ships, planes and ground. They apparently "hit all targets". The targets being places where our fantastic intelligence services - the very same services who pulled out all the stops in trying to find Foley before he was executed, and failed miserably - now confidently determined these locations were used by the "bad rebels" (as opposed to our AQ-affiliated "good rebels").

The extremely mobile rebels who also read the papers wherein we have been saber-rattling and promising exactly these bombings - apparently we think those rebels don't have the brains to leave their present positions with the prospect of imminent bombings, but stay cemented in place like a modern version of the Maginot line, immobile and trusting. Who knows, maybe we have some great tech that bewitches and hypnotizes them into staying in place so they can be bombed. Of course, we can't even keep our stories straight as just recently we were told by our top strategic geniuses that the rebels have in fact quickly adjusted and melted into the populace in response to our bombings.

And with our experience of having thoroughly defeated the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan through these kind of bombings and cruise missiles, we are quite sure that this time it will finally work.

That's how we had a massive orgy of flying objects, and the confident proclamations of great success from our carpet bombing of Cambodia - oops got stuff mixed up - I mean Syria, and all will be well, and the newly armed trained and financed South Vietnamese forces - oops, I mean 'good rebels against ISIS' are within moments of achieving final victory.

But why reach so far into the past? Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iraq again, Syria again, and more Syria - the same parade of uniformed and newly out of uniform and those never in uniform, but all uninformed telling us how very smart and successful we've been again, and how we achieved success, except we strangely despite that success need to keep repeating the same actions over and over again as if we achieved no success. But those are details, mere details, and besides, our economy will be stimulated when we have to produce more cruise missiles at an affordable cost of $1.5 million each, because each missile having unerringly reached its target needs to have another one follow up just to make sure the dust bounces.

Since we are bent on failure, it is only logical that we should listen to those who have failed before, as they are such reliable failure producers. Thus the mystery is solved as to why we listen to those who failed and ignore those who were accurate.
posted by VikingSword at 9:07 AM on September 23, 2014 [48 favorites]




I think sometimes it's hard to remember, especially as someone who was only 17 years old and living all the way on the other coast, how immediately terrifying and angering that day was. That doesn't justify the, at best incredibly shortsighted and careless actions of the federal government (at worst, criminal), but I think it does explain to some extent the reactions of the American public.
I think this whole narrative needs to be challenged.

I can understand somebody 17 years old being shocked and terrified... but I cannot understand or accept somebody who's supposed to be a mature adult in a leadership position reacting like a frightened monkey... and leading others to do the same.

First of all, nothing that happened should have been surprising. I was 38 on September 11, 2001, and I was surprised NOT AT ALL by those attacks, because I'd been paying at least some minimal amount of attention to the world around me. I was surprised that they got so lucky as to do that much damage with one attack, but not that they tried it or that they got some success.

... and I believe that the media and political leaders of the US did everybody an enormous disservice by immediately starting to bleat about how the whole world had changed. If anything changed the world, it was their doing that, not the attacks themselves.

I said then, and say now, that the response should have been business as usual, law enforcement, and some well-reasoned improvements in security protocols.

Instead, the incident was used to settle grudges, profiteer, start stupid wars for grandstanding purposes, build a whole new fear-based way of doing politics, and push through a whole laundry list of horrible legislation that law enforcement interests had been trying to figure out how to get for ages. There was a reason that they were able to put together the PATRIOT act so quickly... it was basically their preexisting wish list.

Sorry, no. That's not excusable. And neither is letting yourself be railroaded into enabling it.
posted by Hizonner at 9:11 AM on September 23, 2014 [84 favorites]


This says more about nuts-and-bolts politics than anything else. It seems that Rep. Lee is "alone on the hill" because she's unable to actually do the work on the hill. And that work means making friends, building coalitions, giving and taking. You know, politics.

I suggest this because...

Representative Lee is still thought of as a fringe peacenik representing naive East Bay hippies who could never be trusted to guide U.S. foreign policy.

And yet Nancy Pelosi -- who opposed BOTH the first Gulf War and the 2002 Iraq Resolution -- was Speaker of the House representing "naive San Francisco hippies" just across the water.

So, which is it? Are you ineffective because your constituency is (wrongly) perceived as being out of touch? Or are you just ineffective, period?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:14 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was the CIA's investigative work and a precise special forces operation that wound up getting Bin Laden, remember, not an invasion and occupation of Afghanistan

I had argued at the time that Bush was fantastically weak on terror because he didn't understand it: he conducting a traditional ground campagin and, at least according to reporting in 2004, didn't have anyone in Tora Bora for two weeks.

I felt we should have special forces strike against bin Laden and senior leadership once we had actionable intel. However, I have dealt with several people on MetaFilter who argued that we would have required an AUMF for that, or that would have been a mistake and/or war crime.
posted by spaltavian at 9:16 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]






It's funny, because my spouse, who opposed all intervention in Iraq (we live in Manhattan, FWIW), believes we have a moral imperative to attack ISIS in Syria and Iraq now. I don't know if it's because of the change in the presidency, or the fact that we are a little more sure that ISIS are atrocious terrorists, but he's much more on board with this than he was a decade ago.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:21 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ask Barbara Lee's constituents whether they think she does a good job -- they do seem to keep reelecting her.

That she could not change a policy outcome that literally every other rep was on the other side of should not count against her.

That she is not as powerful as Nancy Pelosi -- one of the most powerful Reps -- also should not count against her. And although Pelosi represents a liberal district and has some good votes, I would not hold her up as a model. She is waist-deep in the post-9/11 spying expansion and the intelligence community's best Democratic whip.
posted by grobstein at 9:22 AM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


See also: Jeannette Rankin
(She might already be discussed in the links, haven't read them all yet.)
posted by entropicamericana at 9:22 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bush did plenty of things for which he should go down in history as one of our most reprehensible presidents, but failure to stop the 9/11 attacks is not one of them.

I don't blame him for failing to stop the attacks, I blame him for failing to LIFT A SINGLE FINGER to address the very real threat of terrorism only months after the Cole bombing and after he was briefed by the Clinton administration that it should be his #1 priority. Please enlighten me Ickster, if you have any evidence that Bush took the terrorist threat seriously prior to 9/11 I would be very interested to read about it.
posted by any major dude at 9:28 AM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ask Barbara Lee's constituents whether they think she does a good job -- they do seem to keep reelecting her.

Most voters re-elect their own district's incumbent period, unless the incumbent's egregiously bad.
posted by blucevalo at 9:28 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's funny, because my spouse, who opposed all intervention in Iraq (we live in Manhattan, FWIW), believes we have a moral imperative to attack ISIS in Syria and Iraq now. I don't know if it's because of the change in the presidency, or the fact that we are a little more sure that ISIS are atrocious terrorists, but he's much more on board with this than he was a decade ago.

I would much rather lobby my elected representative to pressure Turkey, a NATO member and supposed ally, to close its borders against the jihadis pouring into Syria from that country. Or maybe ask Israel nicely to lob some artillery rounds at the ISIS-related factions camped out under the shadow of the Golan Heights... Or maybe ask our friends in the Gulf states to clamp down on angel investors sending money to ISIS. Bombing seems to be the wrong way to go, although it must be loved by the television networks and Tomahawk missile manufacturers.
posted by Nevin at 9:35 AM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


I remember the climate back then and want to say I can't blame people for not committing political suicide and voting against this, but no. I can blame the fuck out of them. They didn't hand the keys to just anyone, either--they handed them to GWB.

my spouse, who opposed all intervention in Iraq (we live in Manhattan, FWIW), believes we have a moral imperative to attack ISIS in Syria and Iraq now

I'm the same on this one. I'm not even against Canada being involved in this. I know a lot of people here can, but I can't separate what's happening now with ISIS from the US invasion and aftermath. Being against the initial invasion doesn't mean that once it happened we have to be against getting things as right as we can.
posted by Hoopo at 9:36 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


A profile in political courage.

It's important to remember that Barbara Lee wasn't the only person in Congress with these opinions and predictions. She was, however, the only Congressperson to state them publicly and back them up with a vote.

I've always thought it worse to be correct and refuse to do the right thing than to be wholeheartedly wrong.
posted by willie11 at 9:43 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


ISIS is thriving in that region because, to a certain extent, they're able to do something to make it seem like a functioning third world nation as opposed to a lawless hole in the map. We're apparently not interested in actual nation building as part of a solution so I'm expecting everything we do until nation building to be a complete, costly, and war-crimes-filled failure.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:45 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Barbara Lee Speaks For Me. Ron Dellums wishes he was half the politician Barbara Lee is. She wins while she loses.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2014


roomthreeseventeen: "It's funny, because my spouse, who opposed all intervention in Iraq (we live in Manhattan, FWIW), believes we have a moral imperative to attack ISIS in Syria and Iraq now. I don't know if it's because of the change in the presidency, or the fact that we are a little more sure that ISIS are atrocious terrorists, but he's much more on board with this than he was a decade ago."

I don't have well thought out reasoning, but my reaction is the exact opposite. I was two blocks away from the Trade Center when the planes hit and the buildings collapsed. Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time I was all for a swift and massive retaliation. I wanted retribution for the murders, several of the people who I knew well.

Now, after seeing how ineffective those bombings were and the civilian death and destruction, I would rather play defense than a scatter shot offense. Part of it is the President and his lack of conviction. Part of it is that I have a son at one of the military academies. Part is that I am just sick and tired of war for war sake.
posted by 724A at 9:48 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


so I'm expecting everything we do until nation building to be a complete, costly, and war-crimes-filled failure.

Don't be ridiculous, our nation building is just as much of a complete, costly, and war-crimes-filled failure as everything else.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:51 AM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


If only somebody had given Bush a memo called "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside US."

Oh wait...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:55 AM on September 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


What a courageous, smart, prescient person. Her short speech on the floor was terrifically delivered and probably very scary to make in the political climate directly following September 11th.
posted by threeants at 9:55 AM on September 23, 2014


Someone should write a book: Stuff That Doesn't Work, a comprehensive bipartisan list of government policies that have failed every time they are attempted, with a list of references.

You could gift it to every incoming legislator.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:56 AM on September 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


That's how we had a massive orgy of flying objects, and the confident proclamations of great success from our carpet bombing of Cambodia - oops got stuff mixed up - I mean Syria, and all will be well, and the newly armed trained and financed South Vietnamese forces - oops, I mean 'good rebels against ISIS' are within moments of achieving final victory.

Of all the unstable places around the world where we've gotten involved in recent history, aren't the only ones that have stabilized at all in the intervening years those like Vietnam, where we got out and pretty much just stayed out?

I don't know, but I think if you looked at the data, you might find a pretty clear pattern: when we keep interfering in guilty or self-interested efforts to repair the harm from our previous mistakes, things just keep churning, with new destabilizing forces coming into play one after the other endlessly. Part of the problem is that movements and processes that are stabilizing in the longer term can have massive destabilizing effects in the shorter term. Revolutions and political movements that eventually yield stable, democratic societies (or even undemocratic stable societies) often begin in brutality and chaos. It's not possible to tell in advance whether destabilizing events will be in the best or worst long-term US interests, so whenever they occur anywhere in the world, we inevitably get frightened and political pressure builds for someone to do something. And when there are costs in human lives, it's understandable people do want to get involved.

But what if periods of scary destabilization always precede longer term stabilization? Our interference might do more harm than good in the longer term anyway. By interfering in these historical processes deliberately, maybe we only drag out the pain and suffering required for long-term cultural and social wounds to heal. Can nations that haven't even stabilized themselves into nations yet really be major imperialistic threats, regardless of what their rhetoric or longer-term ambitions might be?

I don't know. But I'm increasingly dubious we really should play anything more than a very junior, supporting role in most world conflicts, and not by reflexively supporting establishment political leaders around the world merely to promote stability, as we've tended to do in the recent past. Stability's usually an illusion anyway, if history's any guide.

Not sure about the current actions. I agree we're morally culpable in Iraq and Syria. But I'm just not sure there is any chance of getting it right, in which case, our response might turn out to be a mistake that we'll see in hindsight couldn't have helped but complicate the situation further and cost extra lives, simply due to the practical, physical realities of military operations and the unpredictable consequences of spreading more weaponry and militancy within a population.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Someone should write a book: Stuff That Doesn't Work, a comprehensive bipartisan list of government policies that have failed every time they are attempted, with a list of references.

You could gift it to every incoming legislator.


I'm not sure that much of Congress is interested in evidence-based policies. Or even in crafting good public policy.

I think they're just interested in re-election.
posted by entropone at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


I blame every single yea vote. I was a politically conservative teenager with a retributive streak who knew people killed in the attacks and I still saw AUMF clearly. I felt like I was surrounded by vampires, there was so much blood lust in the air in the weeks immediately following 9/11.
posted by sallybrown at 10:11 AM on September 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


Ah, the fall of 2001. I watched with horror as Congress marched steadfastly toward freedom from choice for all. I have very clear memories of Lee's courageous actions and I'm glad that others haven't forgotten either.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:15 AM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


And yes, I think this decision reflects uniquely on Congresswoman Lee's character. Her East Bay district is far from the only one in the country that leans heavily left, but none of those other districts' congresspeople dared stand up in opposition.
posted by threeants at 10:16 AM on September 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


Bush did plenty of things for which he should go down in history as one of our most reprehensible presidents, but failure to stop the 9/11 attacks is not one of them.

How about using 9/11 to start an unrelated war against a country that had nothing to do with it, while allowing his our good friends the Saudis, who funded and executed the attacks, to escape unharmed?

We don't even have to mention the August memo to get to impeachable offenses.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:21 AM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


"Homeland". Everything you need to know about the mindset of this country and its leaders is summed up in that one word, one I'm still astonished to find as the official government label.

The thing about the places I call and have called home is not that I'm not fond of them, but how thoroughly I know just how messed up those places are, and how indistinguishable they are from everywhere else.

In conclusion, Barbara Lee is awesome.
posted by maxwelton at 10:24 AM on September 23, 2014 [12 favorites]


I was two blocks away from the Trade Center when the planes hit and the buildings collapsed. Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time I was all for a swift and massive retaliation.

Against Iraq, though?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:25 AM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


To wit: If you burn with a passion for your "homeland" or believe that it's a mythical place which cannot be allowed to be sullied or touched*, you might want to work on that, it's insanity peeking its head out.

* Corporations polluting and residents dying from neglect in it excepted, of course.
posted by maxwelton at 10:27 AM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


I was two blocks away from the Trade Center when the planes hit and the buildings collapsed. Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time I was all for a swift and massive retaliation. I wanted retribution for the murders, several of the people who I knew well.

With respect, were you a member of the US congress at the time? We pay these people handsomely to think through matters of policy with clear heads. I think it's fair to hold them to a higher standard.
posted by threeants at 10:29 AM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


I've been involved recently in a string of woodworking projects, where I did all the design and execution. Despite the best laid plans, there are always complications and unexpected setbacks. Throughout, not an hour goes by, wherein I don't appreciate the old carpenter's adage "measure twice, cut once".

Then I look at the debates - or the lack of - involved in our foreign adventures. And I see a world that's the inverse of my infinitely simpler woodworking projects - a world where despite incalculable outcomes, we plunge merrily ahead, ignore all prior experience and dedicate ourselves to the principle of "cut everywhere and everything and measure nothing".

What our policy makers - with rare exceptions, such as Barbara Lee - lack, is the one quality that should be a prerequisite of such positions of power: wisdom.
posted by VikingSword at 10:30 AM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Give me a break. Continuing to blame Bush for 9/11 is as stupid as blaming Obama for Benghazi.

Bush dropped the focus on terrorism prevention that was the hallmark of the late Clinton administration in favour of playing outdated Cold Warrior games with China, ignored countless warnings that an attack was in the making and at the very least was incredibly incompetent in not preventing 9/11, then immediately started using it to further his own foreign police goals, culminating in the War on Iraq.

Slightly different from Benghazi.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:36 AM on September 23, 2014 [15 favorites]


There's a lot of history conflation here.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force that Lee was solely opposed was passed in the week following 9/11 and was pretty much understood about going into Afghanistan and did not have anything to do with Iraq. It was a very, very short piece of legislation.

There was an entirely separate Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that was longer and aimed specifically at Iraq for a number of reasons, only part of which had to do with terrorists. This was much more contested and dealt with the Iraq war. By its existence it was necessary precisely because the original AUMF did not authorize going into Iraq for violations of UN resolutions, which was part of the justification of going into Iraq.

It's important to have clarity in this because there was a very different calculus going on between the two and painting with a broad brush leads to unfairly implying those who supported the AUMF necessarily approved of the Iraq invasion a year later. That is not correct and should not be claimed.
posted by dios at 10:41 AM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


I was two blocks away from the Trade Center when the planes hit and the buildings collapsed. Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time I was all for a swift and massive retaliation.

Against Iraq, though?


A congressman voting for the AUMF in 2001 wasn't voting for war against Iraq. This is why I'm saying the framing of the pull quote/FPP is weird, the people voting for the AUMF are getting hit for Iraq. But these two conflicts are being conflated; to say the AUMF necessarily put us on the road to Iraq misses that there was later a vote on the Iraq War itself.

And I see the author later clarifies his statement about the majority opposing the war at the bottom of page 4; but it's not made clear earlier.
posted by spaltavian at 10:43 AM on September 23, 2014


my spouse, who opposed all intervention in Iraq (we live in Manhattan, FWIW), believes we have a moral imperative to attack ISIS in Syria and Iraq now

Then they're idiots, because clearly the thing to no do is trying the same thing that didn't work the last ten times we've tried it in the past century.

WWI meddling gave us the modern Middle East
Post WWII Cold War meddling gave us a hostile Iraq and Iran
Gulf War I gave us Bin Laden and 9/11
9/11 gave us the War on Iraq and international exporting of Al Quiada
The War on Iraq gave us an ethnically cleansed Iraq with a resurgent Al Quiada
From there we got civil war in Lybia, the trading of one dictator in Egypt to a more militant dicatorship there, civil war in Syria and finally ISIS

More fighting, more destabilising, more American and European bombs making Arab and Kurdish victims, surely this time it'll work.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Then they're idiots, because clearly the thing to no do is trying the same thing that didn't work the last ten times we've tried it in the past century.

Well, I don't think my husband is an idiot. But we went into Iraq for completely bullshit reasons, and while there's certainly money to be had in the Middle East, still, ISIS are legitimately f'ed up people.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:45 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


threeants: "I was two blocks away from the Trade Center when the planes hit and the buildings collapsed. Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time I was all for a swift and massive retaliation. I wanted retribution for the murders, several of the people who I knew well.

With respect, were you a member of the US congress at the time? We pay these people handsomely to think through matters of policy with clear heads. I think it's fair to hold them to a higher standard.
"

No I am not now nor have I ever been a member of congress. I am just one of those people who votes and gets to second guess everything the members of congress do. One of the things I have never quite gotten a handle on is whether we elect members of congress to reflect the majority in their district or State, or if we elect them to use their good judgement and vote as they see appropriate. I lean to the good judgement theory, not, as JFK put it, the weather vane theory, but it seems to me that if a member of congress wants to get re-elected, they need to vote the constituent's leanings, not just what they themselves think best.

That to me is why Lee's vote is so impressive. Not because she voted against authorizing the use of military force, but that the voted her conscious not what her electorate necessarily wanted.
posted by 724A at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's important to have clarity in this because there was a very different calculus going on between the two and painting with a broad brush leads to unfairly implying those who supported the AUMF necessarily approved of the Iraq invasion a year later. That is not correct and should not be claimed.

Let's be honest though, very few of those baying for the blood of Afghanistanis the year before were smart or moral enough to see through the scam that was the War on Iraq: most of those who voted for the original war had no qualms extending it, both inside and outside Congress.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Authorization for Use of Military Force that Lee was solely opposed was passed in the week following 9/11 and was pretty much understood about going into Afghanistan and did not have anything to do with Iraq. It was a very, very short piece of legislation.

However, it has since morphed into a Blanket Authorization for the ongoing Global War on Terror, anywhere, everywhere, and was the explicit basis for the Obama administration's claimed authority to act in Syria.

Congress hasn't voted on a new AUMF for ISIS, they just authorized money to be spent by the administration before skipping town.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:48 AM on September 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


You know MartinWisse there may actually be lessons to learn from failures that don't amount to "failure is certain and anything we do is going to make things worse because laundry list with no further scrutiny or context"
posted by Hoopo at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


ISIS are legitimately f'ed up people.

And Saddam was a bad man.

Neither was sufficient reason for the US and Europe to start dropping bombs. It won't help, it can't help, it can only make things worse and if we want to take our responsibility, we don't do anything.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:49 AM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


You know MartinWisse there may actually be lessons to learn from failures that don't amount to "failure is certain and anything we do is going to make things worse because laundry list with no further scrutiny or context"

Yes, that's called actually paying attention to recent history, America's track record with driving change in the Middle East and realising that how much your hindbrain might like to bomb the bad people, doing so has not worked so far and in fact made things worse with ever iteration.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:51 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


MartinWisse: It's important to have clarity in this because there was a very different calculus going on between the two and painting with a broad brush leads to unfairly implying those who supported the AUMF necessarily approved of the Iraq invasion a year later. That is not correct and should not be claimed.

Let's be honest though, very few of those baying for the blood of Afghanistanis the year before were smart or moral enough to see through the scam that was the War on Iraq: most of those who voted for the original war had no qualms extending it, both inside and outside Congress.


There was one vote against the AUMF in 2001. The AUMF in 2002 had 133 nay votes in the House (30.6%) and 23 nay votes in the Senate. There was no intervening election, so it was the same Congress; so plenty of elected officials say the votes differently.

So did many, many Americans. I didn't oppose military actions in Afghanistan against al Qaeda (though I certainly disagreed with how they were conducted). I opposed the War in Iraq from the first moment I became aware of the notion. I have never brayed for Afghanistani or Iraqi blood.
posted by spaltavian at 10:53 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


but it seems to me that if a member of congress wants to get re-elected, they need to vote the constituent's leanings, not just what they themselves think best.
This ignores the fact that what the political class says and does actually influences constituents' leanings. It's not a one-way process. I'm not big on the whole leadership thing, but I do recognize that it exists.

Also, should you vote for what your constituents want this minute, or for what they're going to want when they calm down (especially if you help to calm them down, rather than whipping them up more)?

... and at some point, you have to give up on being re-elected and do what's right. The customer isn't always right.
posted by Hizonner at 11:00 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know MartinWisse there may actually be lessons to learn from failures that don't amount to "failure is certain and anything we do is going to make things worse because laundry list with no further scrutiny or context"

But what he gave there isn't a list of failures - many of those actions accomplished their claimed goals. Whether or not we should take military action against ISIS, and whether or not we succeed in "degrading" them, there's about a 110% chance the region is going to be more fucked up by the end of it all.
posted by XMLicious at 11:01 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


However, it has since morphed into a Blanket Authorization for the ongoing Global War on Terror, anywhere, everywhere, and was the explicit basis for the Obama administration's claimed authority to act in Syria.

True! And there is much room for criticism there, both in the Executive's extension of that and for Congress allowing such Executive action. If you read my comment to imply that the AUMF was not been extended beyond its original intent, my apologies for not being clearer. My only point was to hopefully note that the sloppiness in the original article and in many comments here implying that the vote had anything to do with the Iraq war was not fair. They were different and had different AUMFs because of different reasons and purposes. Acting as voting for the AUMF was a vote for the Iraq war is not appropriate; criticizing the AUMF for its own faults is entirely appropriate.
posted by dios at 11:04 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I hope America is not at some stage where as a nation we are choosing not to speak about September 11 and the days following. For most of us, our stories pale in comparison to those who watched the tragedy with their own eyes. I cannot fathom their pain. But for those who were not close, or knew no one who was in harm's way at the time to close their mouths and agree to allow memory to fade into some new action is outrageous. The key part of Barbara Lee's speech is at the beginning: the president does not need this resolution to use military action. AUMF was a loyalty oath, one that has covered a lot of spilling of blood and treasure. I am a constituent of Barbara Lee and she has always had my vote.
posted by parmanparman at 11:05 AM on September 23, 2014


I was two blocks away from the Trade Center when the planes hit and the buildings collapsed. Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time I was all for a swift and massive retaliation.

Well, I was close enough to the Trade Center to hear the impact of the planes as they hit and was very nearly IN the Trade Center when it happened (if I'd called my temp agency back in time on the 10th, I probably would have been) - and even then I didn't want us to retaliate with violence because I was looking at first-hand evidence that violence doesn't do jack shit.

You and I don't get any lock on how "correct" our opinions were just because we were there. Nor does our being there mean we both would have agreed on the proper way to proceed, either then OR now.

(I was in a lot of the anti-war marches in the days leading up to attacking Afghanistan. The sign that I saw over and over, that resonated with me the most, was "Our grief is not a cry for war." It can't be.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on September 23, 2014 [27 favorites]


Hit "post" too soon - my point being, that whether or not you were a hawk or a dove in those days has less to do than you may think with where you were on the day of the attacks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Any international conflict we get involved in inevitably becomes a de facto proxy war with other outside interests that want to see the US fail. As much as we want to stabilize all those conflicts, other outside interests want to see them churn on endlessly to hurt the US once we get involved. When we even so much as take a side in a regional conflict, we're putting that region directly in the line of fire of anyone in the world with an agenda against the US. Thrusting the countries we want to help into the middle of complex international power struggles they can't hope to fully understand or directly influence might not be doing them such a big favor in the long run.

Then again, we've already taken sides where these particular countries are concerned and people already view these conflicts as America's problem, so I'm not sure where we go from here that eventually leads to peace and prosperity. It'll be many, many years from now, if ever, regardless of what we do.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:11 AM on September 23, 2014


Is he saying that most consider operations against al Qaeda in Afghanistan a mistake?

26 JUL 2013: Afghan War Fatigue Hits New High, Matching Levels Last Seen in Iraq
30 DEC 2013: CNN Poll: Afghanistan war arguably most unpopular in U.S. history
19 FEB 2014: More Americans Now View Afghanistan War as a Mistake
NBC News / Wall Street Journal Survey [PDF] Jun 11-14 2014, via
When it comes to Afghanistan, do you think the war was worth it or not worth it?
Worth it: 27
Not worth it: 65
I made some formatting changes.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:13 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


VikingSword: It seems the qualification for guiding our foreign policies is being spectacularly incompetent. The more wrong you get things, the more you will be listened to. That is the only explanation for how it is that we can go ahead with horrifically wrong-headed plans of action, like the invasion of Iraq, despite people outside of the "decision makers" having screamed and pleaded and outlined in great detail what the consequences would be. And when events inevitably confirmed all those predicted consequences - inevitably, because they were so strikingly obvious - those who were right, were immediately dismissed from further discussion, and those who got it fantastically wrong, were promoted and lionized as the only ones worthy of being listened to.
Perhaps. Perhaps we're just not using the right criteria for judging success and failure. If the decision-makers' true goal is merely the international projection of military force, for the purpose of strengthening and perpetuating their own hegemony here at home as much as for any other reason, then every American military operation of the 21st century has been a success.

I know this is, in internet terms, a century old now, but I only just read it, and I think this bit is very apropos:
...just as in so many previous empires, the Deep State is populated with those whose instinctive reaction to the failure of their policies is to double down on those very policies in the future. Iraq was a failure briefly camouflaged by the wholly propagandistic success of the so-called surge; this legerdemain allowed for the surge in Afghanistan, which equally came to naught. Undeterred by that failure, the functionaries of the Deep State plunged into Libya; the smoking rubble of the Benghazi consulate, rather than discouraging further misadventure, seemed merely to incite the itch to bomb Syria. Will the Deep State ride on the back of the American people from failure to failure until the country itself, despite its huge reserves of human and material capital, is slowly exhausted? The dusty road of empire is strewn with the bones of former great powers that exhausted themselves in like manner.

-- Mike Lofgren, Anatomy of the Deep State
The people in charge aren't inept, so much as the immense, tangled, entrenched machine they inhabit isn't capable of flexibility. Its solution to every problem is "send the military," and its only other skill is protecting itself from anything that might change that. Success for an individual inside the machine comes not from making good plans or predictions, not from acknowledging any unpleasant realities, but from lubricating the gears the machine uses to forget how terrible it is.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:13 AM on September 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "Hit "post" too soon - my point being, that whether or not you were a hawk or a dove in those days has less to do than you may think with where you were on the day of the attacks."

I have no idea whether someone else's location on the day of the attack has or had anything to do with their position on whether to or how to prosecute those responsible. I just know that for me, seeing it up close and personal affected my opinion.

My opinion is just that, my opinion. I don't seek to impose it on anyone. As I wrote, I was for retribution which I am not saying or implying was rational, just that my reaction to watching people jump out of the Towers, to seeing the South Tower collapse, and knowing several victims well, was to strike back at anyone and everyone who might be involved. I no longer feel that way. Or, rather, I think that bombing is not the best or most appropriate way to get retribution. We can and should learn from our past.
posted by 724A at 11:18 AM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


My apologies, 724. I think I've just developed a knee-jerk reaction after seeing other people who have indeed used their proximity to the attacks to sort of claim a moral authority and claim to Speak On Behalf Of All Of Us New Yorkers (exhibit A - Rudy Muthafuckin' Giuliani) so I can get a bit testy sometimes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was in high school at the time, and I wasn't following the news particularly closely, just skimming through Newsweek every week and sometimes catching the Daily Show. My main impression during the weeks following 9/11 was how fast everything was moving on very little information. I never heard about Barbara Lee, but I'm glad she was there.

ISIS is a mess of our own making, and if we knew how to clean it up we wouldn't have made it in the first place.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:49 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is there any strand of American opinion which says, "We did do the right thing then, but it ended up being a mistake because the people we went to help failed in their part of the task"? I.e. the US did the right thing, and it was the Iraqi and Afghani people who failed?

(As for my own opinion on that day: I didn't feel surprised, given the history of US violence in the Middle East. When I found out that nearly all the attackers were from countries with governments friendly to the US, I was willing to predict that creating more "friendly" governments via invasion would only lead to more of the same.)
posted by clawsoon at 11:54 AM on September 23, 2014


This article still frames the issue as a tiny "enclave" of isolated antiwar liberals vs The People. This is incorrect, antiwar sentiment was very strong, it was just suppressed, like this:

"The middle part of the country—the great red zone that voted for Bush—is clearly ready for war," Andrew Sullivan wrote that week in a Sunday newspaper column. "The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead—and may well mount a fifth column."

This is why Sullivan should never be allowed to appear on TV or in print again, no matter how much he apologizes. He should be exiled to Iraq for the rest of his life, to see firsthand what he has done.

Even to this day, his "apology" is all about Andrew Sullivan and how he was duped. It was merely an error in judgment, not a lapse in his fundamental morality. He never even acknowledges that thousands of people have died for the mistake he promoted so vehemently. He failed to acknowledge the lasting effects of his accusations against liberals, who he expects to embrace him now. Sullivan avoids responsibility for his own decisions, claiming he misunderstood Bush's sense of morality. Maybe he should have been looking for his own morality, before accusing antiwar activists of being traitors.

History has already made its judgment and it is clear who was a traitor to American principles and who made a stand to uphold those principles. We know who has blood on their hands, and that it will never wash out.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:17 PM on September 23, 2014 [17 favorites]


IMHO, if the U.S. continues to engage the world as the "indispensible nation" and in particular the guardian of Middle Eastern oil for the West & Japan, a policy carried over from the Cold War, circumstances more or less compel our military engagement with ISIS. President Obama's obvious ambivilance, I believe, arises from his realization of that fact, despite that he does not want to. He's trying to cut it both ways by ruling out "boots on the ground." One would think that his previous attempts to do so in Syria would cure him of that, but apparently not; it will make it worse for himself both politically and substantively.

His fundamental mistake, and the mistake of Washington in general, is our failure to rethink our posture vis-a-vis the world. Of course, there are powerful interests in Washington that have a stake in the status quo. Nonetheless, it does seem obvious that we will continue to face these situations until we implement a new framework for our foreign policy.

What should thay be? I don't know. I studied foreign in college 20 years ago, give or take, but that's not my line of work now. I would ask that it be humanist, empirical & non-dogmatic, and consequentialist.
posted by JKevinKing at 12:34 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


With ISIS and Libya both, the US was in a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-dont situation. Intervening probably won't make things much better, or possibly worse, in the long run. Not intervening means a lot of suffering and killing is inflicted by ISIS or Qaddafi in the short to medium term.

I don't envy the choices available to Obama. I'm sure it's not just the sordid history of the post 9/11 years which has an influence. It's also the long shadows of Rwanda and Bosnia where little was done until it was too late.
posted by honestcoyote at 12:55 PM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Funny how those long shadows didn't result in military intervention (or even discussion of it?) in Congo or Sudan.
posted by XMLicious at 1:25 PM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


What should thay be? I don't know. I studied foreign in college 20 years ago, give or take, but that's not my line of work now. I would ask that it be humanist, empirical & non-dogmatic, and consequentialist.

The thing that stands out to me about post-Cold War US foreign policy is how much blood the foreign policy "liberals" have on their hands. America has largely embraced a "world police" theory of its role, so that our wars are about arguing that very bad things are happening somewhere, and something must be done. So one of the leading warmakers in the current administration rose to prominence because she wrote a book about how bad genocide is (Samantha Power). (Imagine if a different genocide book made the splash and we got the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Bomber.)

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were actually promoted on these grounds ("he gassed his own people!"), although there were other and probably more consequential reasons presented.

The "realists," with their relentless focus on national interests, have come to seem like humanitarians simply because they are reluctant to go to war every time there's bodies on TV.

I'm far from expert on these matters but this piece by Mearsheimer (primarily about Ukraine and NATO expansion) made a big impact on me.
posted by grobstein at 1:54 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]




America has largely embraced a "world police" theory of its role, so that our wars are about arguing that very bad things are happening somewhere, and something must be done.

I've never been convinced that the "something must be done" rationale was ever anything more than cover for the continual need for re-fighting WWII and the Cold War to maintain American access to gulf oil. "Something must be done" only when unrest in the Middle East threatens oil shipping lanes or American interests in control over the world oil market, never in Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia, East Timor, Congo, etc, etc...
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:15 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, a list of Very Unserious People.

This was published in September of 2002 and point #4 is the only one they got wrong. Points #3 and #5 are the massive crushers that we are dealing with right now in both Afghanistan and Iraq/Syria. And are any of those people on Sunday morning bobblehead TV? Of course not, but this guy is.
posted by NoMich at 2:20 PM on September 23, 2014


For that matter, Boko Haram in Nigeria has also declared a caliphate and war on the US, and poses about the same current operational threat to the US mainland as ISIS, yet no bombing campaign. Because Boko Haram doesn't sit right on top of the world's oil supply, so it doesn't rise to the level of "something must be done".
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:23 PM on September 23, 2014 [8 favorites]


and here we go again.
posted by ivandnav at 2:44 PM on September 23, 2014


@NoMich: even point #4 is only partially wrong – we didn't see chemical or biological weapons but American veterans and taxpayers will be paying for that urban combat for the next few generations.
posted by adamsc at 3:23 PM on September 23, 2014


You'll note the deafening silence on the part of the Very Serious "What about the Deficitz!" People in Washington.

Does The GOP Really Give A Shit About The Debt?
posted by kliuless at 3:27 PM on September 23, 2014


Funny how those long shadows didn't result in military intervention (or even discussion of it?) in Congo or Sudan.

Or Liberia.

Because Boko Haram doesn't sit right on top of the world's oil supply, so it doesn't rise to the level of "something must be done".

There's oil in Nigeria, though. I'd say that the West's complete indifference to African turmoil (France aside) is more of a racist tendency to write off the continent as one of endless violence.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:00 PM on September 23, 2014


Bush did plenty of things for which he should go down in history as one of our most reprehensible presidents, but failure to stop the 9/11 attacks is not one of them.

Except that he and his staff were warned about impending attacks and ignored them. Whose fault is that?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:11 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I remember clear as day being opposed to the war and thinking how Americans had completely lost their minds. Being anti-war was not about being a bleeding-heart liberal but just a person who thought: "This is a really really stupid idea. It's not going to work. What, we're just going to march in there and everything will be hunky dory?" There was no clear plan - it seemed like the American government and military were playing the entire invasion and occupation by ear, which is insane. And I remember watching the first "Shock and Awe" attack on TV, Iraq at night being lit up by green streaks of light from missiles and other artillery, and my father saying we need to support our country and me telling him, no, this is bad and the feeling of my heart sinking. You could sense the dark days ahead.
posted by ChuckRamone at 5:32 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Lee's 2001 vote may well have been a act of conscience but it was hardly an act of political courage. With a constituency divided between radicals for whom patriotism is embarrassing, and low-income people focused on other elements of her political platform, she knew she was free of any accountability.

The 2001 AUMF should not be tarred with the brush of the 2002 AUMF (used for the Iraq invasion). 2001 was initially used to dislodge the Taliban in a brief, no-conventional-ground-forces campaign which was both necessary and sensible. Its subsequent use, through and including today, to constrain and degrade the leadership of Al Qaeda in the subcontinent, Middle East and Africa has been effective, including degrading bin Laden to his watery grave. The Afghanistan military assistance mission has been an expensive in lives and treasure, but it has achieved its basic strategic objectives, and has rarely been tainted by the absurdities of magical thinking that characterized the occupation of Iraq.
posted by MattD at 5:58 PM on September 23, 2014


The extremely mobile rebels who also read the papers wherein we have been saber-rattling and promising exactly these bombings - apparently we think those rebels don't have the brains to leave their present positions with the prospect of imminent bombings, but stay cemented in place like a modern version of the Maginot line, immobile and trusting.

And right on schedule, we have this: the effect of the U.S. bombing has been civilian casualties in the dozens, sympathy rising for ISIS, and meanwhile the ISIS guys whom we targeted, of course moved away, so we merely killed the civilians - as I linked to in another thread:

Syrians say civilians killed in U.S. airstrikes

"Omar Zafer, a resident of Dair Alzour, in eastern Syria, said Islamic State militants evacuated their bases before the strikes and most casualties were among the civilian population.

"Everyone is against the airstrikes and there is sympathy toward ISIS," he said, using one of the acronyms for Islamic State.
"

So mission is being accomplished: bombing that's not only ineffective against ISIS, but kills civilians and counterproductively strengthens ISIS. The more things change. Who could have ever foreseen that?
posted by VikingSword at 6:22 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, if in the absence of intervention, ISIS continued to strengthen in power and clout, would they not win more recruits from those rallying to their seemingly successful cause? Seems like a no-win situation. What I'm describing is literally what has happened in the past few years in Syria anyway.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:26 PM on September 23, 2014


On the other hand, if in the absence of intervention, ISIS continued to strengthen in power and clout, would they not win more recruits from those rallying to their seemingly successful cause?

I think the idea is that ISIS is essentially a foreign force - radicals from all over the Arab (Sunni) world (and even the West), gathering opportunistically in this lawless area of conflict. Their effectiveness rests greatly on the support of local aggrieved Sunnis, both in Iraq and in Syria (against Assad). Their success, yes, gets them more of those foreign recruits. However - and this is where the rubber hits the road - ISIS is an extremist and viciously violent movement. They will wear out their welcome among the Sunnis, when they institute their version of Sharia Law and persecute everyone in sight. At that point, internal conflict arises, and the Sunnis eject ISIS, and ISIS cannot survive without local support. Yes, it takes some time, and blood will be spilled. But blood will be spilled regardless. The trick is not to obstruct the natural falling out of the local Sunnis and ISIS - by bombing and civilian casualties, we strengthen the bond between ISIS and the Sunnis, as has happened everywhere where we've droned and bombed - Afghanistan, Pakistan etc..

Seems like a no-win situation.

Well, not for us. We don't have a "win" situation - militarily. Our best move is not to interfere militarily. We can only make the situation worse by military attacks.

It's a civil war. We need to stay out of it. We should only provide humanitarian aid (under the UN), and longer term economic aid and engagement.
posted by VikingSword at 6:37 PM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Lee's 2001 vote may well have been a act of conscience but it was hardly an act of political courage. With a constituency divided between radicals for whom patriotism is embarrassing, and low-income people focused on other elements of her political platform, she knew she was free of any accountability.

Except for being literally the only politician willing to go on the record as saying NO when everyone who was saying no was being branded as traitors, sure, no courage... wait no.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:00 PM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


“Blasts From the Past,” Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog, 23 September 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 8:12 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Continuing to blame Bush for 9/11 is as stupid as blaming Obama for Benghazi.

You do realize that he and his crony/shadow president Dick Cheney take full credit for the lack of attacks after 9/11, don't you? Let me know when Obama starts to crow about keeping our embassies safe, will you?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:54 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


MattD: The 2001 AUMF should not be tarred with the brush of the 2002 AUMF (used for the Iraq invasion). 2001 was initially used to dislodge the Taliban in a brief, no-conventional-ground-forces campaign which was both necessary and sensible. Its subsequent use, through and including today, to constrain and degrade the leadership of Al Qaeda in the subcontinent, Middle East and Africa has been effective, including degrading bin Laden to his watery grave. The Afghanistan military assistance mission has been an expensive in lives and treasure, but it has achieved its basic strategic objectives, and has rarely been tainted by the absurdities of magical thinking that characterized the occupation of Iraq.

This is about the most asinine statement I've seen all day. There is a reason that President Hamid Karzai is known as the mayor of Kabul -- that's about all the country that he controls. The rest is split up between the Northern Alliance and, yes, the Taliban, with as strong a hold as ever. So your first criterion, the dislodgement of the Taliban, has been a miserable failure. As for the death of Bin Laden, that took place in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is so reviled in the country, that Karzai, even at great personal risk, forced them to leave. Absurdities of magical thinking? You have aptly demonstrated that such thinking is alive and well.
posted by JackFlash at 9:38 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Radiolab had a great anger-making hour on the AUMF and Barbara Lee: 60 Words.

This is well worth listening to. Her speech before congress while placing her sole no vote, literally brought a tear to my eye. She quotes from Bishop Nathan Baxter's sermon from just after 9/11, "as we act let us not become the evil we deplore."
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:53 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


The strategic objective of the Afgjanistan operation was to neutralize Afghanistan as a base for foreign terrorism, not to create any particular government. Karzai's effective remit hardly matters in that -- he's been a NATO instrumentality all along, and NATO controls everywhere it concentrate forces -- which can't be everywhere, admittedly, but also doesn't have to be to suffice to keep Afgjanistan from being a base for foreign terror.

All our kinetic operations in Pakistan (and Yemen, etc) are under the 2001 AUMF which was global in scope.
posted by MattD at 5:21 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Barbara.
posted by schmod at 6:22 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you give the Pentagon a cookie
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:43 AM on September 24, 2014


The strategic objective of the Afgjanistan operation was to neutralize Afghanistan as a base for foreign terrorism

Okay. So what was the purpose of invading Iraq? WMDs didn't exist, and even if they did, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Why not Saudi Arabia?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:45 AM on September 24, 2014


Continuing to blame Bush for 9/11 is as stupid as blaming Obama for Benghazi.

If it ultimately results in punitive action against the man, I wouldn't care if we found a way to blame Bush Jr. for the collapse of the Roman Empire.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on September 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: The strategic objective of the Afgjanistan operation was to neutralize Afghanistan as a base for foreign terrorism

Okay. So what was the purpose of invading Iraq? WMDs didn't exist, and even if they did, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Why not Saudi Arabia?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering


Are you purposely ignoring his point now?

MattD: The 2001 AUMF should not be tarred with the brush of the 2002 AUMF (used for the Iraq invasion)... The Afghanistan military assistance mission has been an expensive in lives and treasure, but it has achieved its basic strategic objectives, and has rarely been tainted by the absurdities of magical thinking that characterized the occupation of Iraq.

One more time: The 2001 AUMF did not authroize the Iraq War. Why are you demaning an explanation for Iraq from someone who specifically doesn't support it?
posted by spaltavian at 10:43 AM on September 24, 2014


The trick is not to obstruct the natural falling out of the local Sunnis and ISIS - by bombing and civilian casualties, we strengthen the bond between ISIS and the Sunnis, as has happened everywhere where we've droned and bombed - Afghanistan, Pakistan etc..

"Although IS has been engaged in deadly battles with rebel groups in Syria who reject its extremism, some fear that by creating a common enemy the US may yet unite them."

"Manveen Rana spoke to Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi for BBC Radio 4's World at One programme"

""Islamic State want these air strikes," he says, "because they know if it's just air strikes without forces on the ground, they will not fall down, and a lot of fighters will join them to fight the Americans.""

"Although Raqqa residents do not think IS can be defeated without ground troops, that also seems to be something to which they are mostly opposed.

"Our city will be destroyed, we will pay with our blood," Abu Ibrahim says. "It will be a very big war, and in big wars, the civilian will pay."
"
posted by VikingSword at 4:43 PM on September 24, 2014


Rand Paul and I Told You So: Chekhov's AUMF
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:11 PM on September 28, 2014


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