Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.
Reactions to Obama’s speech
From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.
President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.
In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.
“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.
But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.
All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”
The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.
In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.
Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.
“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”
In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.
Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.
According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.
Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.
Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.
In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.
At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.
Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.
It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
A couple more interesting stories to check out:
Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.
Violence Against Women News
I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.
The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”
Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter. The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.
In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.
“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.
She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.
On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.
The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.
That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.
The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”
Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.
The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.
I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.
ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.
Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. TMZSports.com released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.
One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.
“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.
The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.
“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,'” one staffer said.
“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,'” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”
There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.
A few more links:
NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?
Other News, Links Only
The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.
Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.
Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.
That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.
“My whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. In the picture I am painting — which I shall call Guernica — I am expressing my horror of the military caste which is now plundering Spain into an ocean of misery and death.” — Pablo Picasso
I’m experiencing some kind of paralysis today, so I don’t know what this post is going to consist of. I’m just going to take it moment to moment. First thing this morning, I read List of X’s long comment on Dakinikat’s Friday reads. I hope everyone will go read it. I think that could lead to our having a serious, productive discussion on Israel/Palestine. For now, I’m just going to put up the latest stories I can find on the conflict.
NPR: Gaza Update: Fate Of Israeli Soldier Unknown; Death Toll Surpasses 2009 Level, by Bill Chappell.
A day after they were to begin a cease-fire, Israel and Hamas are still firing at one another, in a conflict that has killed at least 1,650 Gazans, 63 Israeli soldiers and 3 Israeli civilians, according to tallies from the respective sides.
Those numbers surpass the estimated fatalities from the last major Gaza conflict, which raged for around three weeks from 2008-2009.
Hamas, which has been condemned for breaking a temporary peace and capturing an Israeli soldier, said Saturday that it has lost contact with the group that conducted the ambush that killed two soldiers and resulted in Lt. Hadar Goldin’s capture.
The military wing of Hamas released a statement today, NPR’s Emily Harris reports, in which it said that after an Israeli bombardment, “the Hamas fighters are believed to be dead and if there was a soldier with them, he probably is too.”
At the link, read a brief synopsis of events in the conflict as of this morning. Other headlines:
Haaretz: Israel seeks to end Gaza operation unilaterally, by Barak Ravid.
Israel’s security cabinet decided after a five-hour meeting Friday night that Israel will no longer seek a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip via negotiations with Hamas, senior Israeli officials said. Therefore, Israel does not intend to send a delegation to the Cairo truce talks as previously agreed in the course of the last cease-fire, before it was violated by Hamas.
The senior officials said that ministers were unanimous in the cabinet meeting in their position that there is no point in pursuing cease-fire negotiations after Hamas violated the previous one by capturing an IDF soldier on Friday. According to the officials, the ministers also agreed that the captured soldier will not change Israel’s overall strategy. In other words, the IDF will continue its operations to destroy the tunnels and the ground operation will not be significantly expanded at this stage.
The cabinet also decided that instead of efforts to reach a cease-fire through negotiations, Israel will focus on restoring Israel’s deterrence against Hamas. The senior officials said that in light of the failed cease-fire efforts, Israel will consider ending the operation and unilaterally leaving Gaza, relying on deterrence.
“We think there is still enough international legitimacy for an operation in Gaza,” said a senior Israeli official. “In the coming days the destruction of the tunnels will be complete, and then a decision will be made as to how to continue from there.” The official added that “if we feel that deterrence has been restored, we will leave the [Gaza] Strip on the basis of the ‘quiet for quiet’ principle. If we feel deterrence has not yet been achieved, we will continue the operation inside the Gaza Strip or exit and continue with the aerial bombardment.”
The Washington Post: A view of Gaza from the sea: How Israel’s navy patrols the coast, by Ruth Eglash.
For the war-weary group of international journalists struggling to find their sea legs, the patrol offered a rare insight into Israel’s navy, which over the past four weeks has acted as a strategic support to Israel’s ongoing military operation against Hamas in Gaza and served as a deterrent against militants attempting to infiltrate Israel via the sea.
“We were not surprised by Hamas’s attempt to infiltrate into Israel from the sea. They have used many different measures to attack us,” said Cmdr. Z, one of the Keshet’s two commanders who spoke on the condition of anonymity in accord with standard Israeli military protocol.
He was referring to an incident on July 8 when members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, attempted to attack an Israeli military base that sits on the coast just north of the Gaza Strip.Israeli surveillance cameras picked up on the infiltration early, and five Hamas militants were subsequently killed in the attack. Hamas later revealed that it had been training a naval commando unit for sea-related combat.
The Christian Science Monitor: What could be done to break the Israeli-Palestinian revenge cycle?, by Kristen Chick, correspondent, and Christa Case Bryant, staff writer.
GAZA CITY, GAZA AND KFAR AZA, ISRAEL — In the battered Gazaneighborhood of Shejaiya, Ataf Ettish surveys what was once her home. An Israeli bomb ripped off the outside of the three-story building, exposing the blue and pink inner walls of her daughter’s bedroom.
The building next door is gone, replaced by a crater, the 80-year-old owner buried beneath the rubble. Ms. Ettish now lives in a United Nations shelter, sharing a single toilet with 1,000 people.
“This is not a war – this is destruction of humanity,” she says. “I’ve lived through two previous wars here, but this is the worst.”
In the Israeli kibbutz of Kfar Aza, just across the border but a world away, Mark Joffe agrees it’s getting worse.
“Each time it happens … the rockets are bigger, the threats are bigger,” says Mr. Joffe, who says residents fear Hamas will infiltrate the border community (“Aza” is the Hebrew word for “Gaza”). “If we’d done the right thing five to six years ago, it would have been a lot less costly.”
Now many Israelis’ belief that an extended, harsh crackdown on Hamas will bring lasting peace is being put to the test. On Friday, a conflict that has cost 1,600 Palestinian lives and seen a quarter of Gaza’s population displaced from their homes looked set to enter a dangerous new phase after an apparent Hamas capture of an Israeli soldier.
Read the rest at the link.
Would this work?
Back in Washington DC, another intractable conflict continues in Congress between crazy ultra-right-wing Republicans and semi-sane right wing Republicans. Here are the latest stories about that.
Reuters: U.S. House passes border-security funding bill to speed deportations, by David Lawder and Richard Cowan.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday to crack down on Central American migrants, including unaccompanied children, who are flooding to the U.S. border with Mexico, as lawmakers passed a $694 million border security bill.
The 223-189 vote came one day after conservative Republicans balked at an earlier version of the measure, exposing a deep rift between Tea Party activists and more mainstream Republicans.
In passing the retooled bill, the Republican-led House ignored a veto threat from the White House. But with the Senate already on a five-week summer recess, this measure will advance no further at least until September.
Isn’t that just ducky? And this will lead to suffering for real people, not that most people in DC really give a sh*t.
House Democrats complained that the legislation would too speedily return children to dangerous conditions in their home countries. President Barack Obama called the Republican bill “extreme” and “unworkable.”
Later on Friday, the House also passed a separate bill reversing Obama’s 2012 policy suspending deportations of some undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children years ago by their parents.
The measure also would bar Obama from expanding this policy, possibly to parents of children who already qualify.
The tougher language in the twin bills would make it easier to deport migrant children and add money to deploy National Guard troops at the border with Mexico.
Dana Milbank opines: An upending of reason in the House.
After conservatives on Thursday brought down House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to address the border crisis, the new House Republican leadership team issued a joint statement declaring that President Obama should fix the problem himself.
“There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” the leadership quartet proclaimed, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.” ….
Just the day before, House Republicans had voted to sue Obama for using his executive authority. They called him lawless, a usurper, a monarch, a tyrant — all for postponing deadlines in the implementation of Obamacare. Now they were begging him to take executive action to compensate for their own inability to act — even though, in this case, accelerating the deportation of thousands of unaccompanied children coming from Central America would likely require Obama to ignore a 2008 law.
This was not a momentary lapse but a wholesale upending of reason.
Read the rest at the Washington Post.
(Ed. note: after he rudely insults her.)
In an unusual breach of decorum, even for the divided Congress, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chased Rep. Tom Marino across the House floor, taking offense at comments by the Pennsylvania Republican during debate on the border funding bill Friday night.
“We don’t have law and order,” Marino began as he wrapped up his comments on the border supplemental. “My colleagues on the other side don’t want to do anything about it.”
“You know something that I find quite interesting about the other side? Under the leadership of the former Speaker [Pelosi], and under the leadership of their former leader [Rep. Steny Hoyer], when in 2009 and 2010, they had the House, the Senate and the White House, and they knew this problem existed,” he continued. “They didn’t have the strength to go after it back then. But now are trying to make a political issue out of it now.”
Off-mic, Pelosi then approached Marino, crossing the aisle in view of cameras, and apparently challenged Marino’s assertion that Democrats did not do anything about the issue when they had majority control.
“Yes it is true,” Marino replied directly to Pelosi, who was House speaker in those years. “I did the research on it. You might want to try it. You might want to try it, Madam Leader. Do the research on it. Do the research. I did it. That’s one thing that you don’t do.”
John Parkinson of ABC apparently had no issues with what Marino said, just shock that Pelosi responded.
After Marino concluded his remarks and as many Republicans applauded their colleague, Pelosi crossed the chamber again in view of cameras, enraged, pointing and sticking her finger at Marino.
She then followed Marino up a Republican aisle, gesturing and arguing with him. Lawmakers on the GOP side gathered in dismay as one spoke out to tell the chair that the House was not in order, in an effort to halt the bickering.
H/T to Fannie for this video:
What sane person could blame her? But sanity is at a premium in U.S. politics and journalism today.
Other News Stories of Possible Interest
No one else her probably cares except Pat, but the last-place Red Sox completely blew up the team and then they beat the Yankees last night.
Boston Globe: New-look Red Sox drop Yankees.
Christian Science Monitor: Why 400,000 people in Ohio can’t drink the water.
I hope you’ll share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.