The U.S. can achieve absolutely nothing militarily in Iraq or Syria. We cannot post a soldier in every dingy run-down bedroom of every shack in the desert where people might be conspiring against the U.S.  I'm confident the president is willing to take the political hit of being labeled “weak” in exchange for not sacrificing potentially thousands of lives to protect his legacy. I pray that he sticks by his guns rather than fire them. Obama’s true enemy, both here and abroad, is ignorance itself.

Damned If He Does

President Barack Obama had a very bad 2013. Unfortunately, 2014 is not looking much better. I can’t help but to have enormous empathy for our president, whose political fate seems destined to always be in the hands of idiots; idiots in Congress to be sure, but also the irrational acts of agents of chaos in Europe, the Middle East and developing Third World nations as well as manipulative egoists like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The president’s threats are not taken seriously, hence his own Congress’s failure to pass even the most reasonable and modest gun reform legislation in the wake of twenty six and seven-year olds shot repeatedly at close range by an assault rifle at Sandy Hook, Bashar al-Assad’s all but ignoring Obama’s so-called “Red Line,” and Putin’s annexation of Crimea. The president’s posturing is globally viewed as all hot air and he is seen as impotent if not feckless to effect real change either here at home or abroad. Transparently self-serving provable liars like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham rush out of important national security briefings in order to get their deeply disrespectful empty-headed, underinformed and extremely childish comments on the nightly newscasts, often complaining about not having been briefed about whatever they were being briefed about when they ran out to the cameras. They don’t care one whit about being briefed; they just want to get in their nightly shot against the president, whom they will openly criticize no matter what he does.

This president personifies the idea of damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t. Throughout his presidency he has had, on his desk, nothing but a selection of bad choices and worse choices. Elected on a platform of ending the expensive, endless and tragically pointless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the president has discovered how difficult ending either actually is. Mere days after announcing a formal day and date for American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq virtually fell apart when a relative handful of mostly foreign Islamic extremists engaged an Iraqi army presence of 30,000 troops at Mosul and those troops turned and ran. Outnumbered 30-to-1, a militant Jihadist organization active in Iraq and Syria known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, fought so fiercely that Iraqi troops—extensively trained and expensively equipped by U.S. tax dollars—did what they have historically done when confronted with an actual fight: they turned and ran, stripping off their U.S.-bought Iraqi uniforms as they did so.

Now, of course, here comes Speaker of the House John Boehner, orange-faced with anger, blaming this mess on President Obama (“He’s out taking a walk”). Republicans will doubtless spend the weekend hammering Obama for pulling the troops out of Iraq too soon, which misses entirely the point that Obama did not pull the troops out—Bush did. Obama was fighting to keep them in. The American troop withdrawal timetable was set by President George W. Bush. President Barack Obama was trying very hard to work out a status of forces agreement with Iraqi puppet president Nouri al-Maliiki which would allow for a Korea-style ongoing military presence in the region to guard against the very thing that is now occurring. Republicans know this, but they will spend the weekend lying, anyway. There it is, on every channel, some worried, typically elderly white woman muttering on about how Obama pulled out the troops too soon. This misses the obvious point that, had the president kept troops in Iraq, the very same woman would be muttering about how Obama dragged his heels on his promise to bring the troops home.

Our president’s misstep in his empty “red line” threat against Assad has certainly created an impression of impotence on the part of our president as global extremists know America has absolutely no stomach for war. We’ve had enough of pointless, useless, misadventures in the sand; so much so that the American public can no longer tell the difference between a hopeless, tragically wrongheaded military incursion and a legitimate looming threat that demands action. Barack Obama is caught up in the switches, knowing it is much easier to go in and bomb the hell out of ISIS than it is to get out after having done so. If he bombs ISIS he will surely kill Iraqi civilians, and there will John McCain be, bloviating on Meet The Press, criticizing the president’s reckless military action in Iraq. With a still-fragile economy, a nation deeply suspicious of war hawk politicians, and a comically ruthless, mustache-twirling Republican party actively disseminating disinformation for political gain, the sheer tonnage of possible consequences of action or inaction has likely snapped the president’s spine. No matter what he does, the Republicans will flap their gums and undermine their own president during a time of war. They have absolutely no soul, no dignity. They will lie and lie and lie and distort and lie some more just to jockey for Congressional seats this fall, and they’ll likely win. If the Democrats lose the Senate, the president, long hindered by Republican obstruction, will be rendered completely irrelevant, his second term brought to a halt at the close of his second year.

Appeasing these win-at-all-costs-even-if-it-harms-the American-people zealots is a terrible idea: the GOP will jam Obama no matter what he does or does not do. In many ways, we are likely looking at the closing days of the Obama administration, as Hillary Clinton’s all but certain presidential announcement after the midterms will suck all the oxygen out of the room as the new battle lines are drawn, and the president will face the typical struggle of all outgoing U.S. presidents to compete for headlines.

Honoring Our War Dead

The GOP right-wing smear machine has the president totally boxed in. They will politicize absolutely everything, exploit absolutely everyone in a most heinous fashion, just to damage Obama (and, by proxy, Hillary Clinton) in some way. Had Obama gone into Syria to depose Assad, they’d have hammered him for immersing the U.S. in yet another war. Now they blame him for not going in, making it somehow Obama’s fault that 30,000 well-armed Iraqi troops, in tanks and armored Humvees, turned and ran from 1,000 guys in Ford pickups. Obama’s fault. Had Obama left Bowe Bergdahl to die in the hands of the Taliban, the GOP would have hanged him for that. Instead, Obama gets Bowe Bergdahl back, and gets hanged anyway.

We cannot, must not, run over and fight for people unwilling to fight for themselves. I don’t see any other nations doing that. Where are the French battalions? The German armies? Why is it always us? Why is Obama taking all the heat for this mess? Nobody is criticizing German Chancellor Angela Merkel or hanging Canadian President Stephen Harper for the fall of Iraq. The entire planet looks to the U.S. and, more specifically, to Barack Obama to see which way the wind is blowing.

This is where the irrational Obama hysteria is most patently manufactured: the notion that, in order to honor our war dead, we must create many more war dead defending a nation of cowards. America has spent hundreds of billions arming, training and equipping men who turn and run. There is absolutely no sane justification for going back in, yet the Republicans are painting Obama as an ersatz Jimmy Carter for refusing to do so. Iraq and Syria will become a safe haven for terrorists, they holler, these groups working together to plot against America. The truth is, Republicans don’t want to go back in to Iraq any more than Obama does. A Republican president would be politically hanged if he did, and despite their saber rattling, Congressional Republicans would investigate if not impeach the president if he actually sent troops back to Baghdad. They’re just doing what they always do: politicize matters of national security for their own selfish reasons.

We cannot post a soldier in every dingy run-down bedroom of every shack in the desert where people might be conspiring against the U.S. I have to imagine untold thousands of men are conspiring against the U.S., thanks largely to George W. Bush’s madman’s folly where he goes in and orphans likely one hundred thousand children in his pointless Iraq adventure. Bush is responsible for, easily, thirty times as many deaths as we suffered here on 9/11, and he has created tens of thousands of bin Ladens waiting their opportunity, as they grow from boys to men, to do us harm. The insane notion that President Obama should commit ground troops to restore order in Iraq less some of these guys plot an attack against the American Homeland is ludicrous. I assure you, in Iraq, out of Iraq, at Disneyworld—there are people plotting against us all the time, whether there’s a soldier on their street corner or not.

It is my prayer that the president does not crack under pressure and rush in militarily without a clear achievable objective and exit strategy, two things Iraq has never had. I believe this president knows the U.S. can achieve absolutely nothing militarily in Iraq or Syria and is willing to take the political hit of being labeled “weak” in exchange for not sacrificing potentially thousands of lives to protect his legacy. I pray that he sticks by his guns rather than fire them, as true courage is to not knuckling under to the ravings of political extremists just egging you to get a rise out of you. That’s the backfire of the Republican strategy: they’ve been so comically relentless in their heckling of this president that he knows he has absolutely nothing to gain by giving them what they want: they’ll attack him no matter what decision he makes. So he may as well take is time and do what feels right to him. I’m confident any idea the president ultimately comes up with will be the “adult” idea as compared to the moronic senators and congressmen butching up for the nearest camera.

Phony Shock and Awe: Of course we knew this would happen. The collape of US gains in Iraq and Afghanistan was an obvious, predestined event (reference: the Vietnam War), which is why those wars were so wrongheaded. Everybody knew this would happen, that America's great saccrifice was a potentially futile one. Blaming Obama for this is just about politics.

Man of The House

Obama’s true enemy is ignorance itself, both here and abroad. Human waves of Mexican children, refugees of Mexican drug gang violence and many of them unescorted, are flooding America's southern border. This, too, is being blamed on the president for issuing an executive order stating his administration would stop deporting young illegal aliens who match certain criteria previously proposed under the DREAM Act. Impoverished Mexican mothers, many of them living in a virtual war zone, have misconstrued the DREAM Act criteria, wrongly thinking the U.S. will not depose their children.

Both sides of the epic drug violence in Mexico and other parts of Latin America are being directly financed by the U.S. We are the largest consumers of those drugs and we annual spend tens of billions on ultimately useless crime-fighting while doing virtually nothing to decrease demand for these drugs. This so-called war was declared by President Richard Nixon. It has solved virtually nothing and cost countless lives and billions of dollars. Is this the president's fault?

What does this mean for Obama now? Like most of these Wyle E. Coyote Republicans, I have frequently misread this president. I am certainly confident he is well aware that he will be soundly thumped no matter what choices he makes. Irrational tribalists, whether race-obsessed Tea Party extremists or Southern Baptists of lunatic dictators like Assad and Putin or simple-minded barely literate Islamic fundamentalists, many of whom could not tell you where the Holy Quran endorses their genocidal, hateful and patently evil behavior if you held a gun to their head.

Assad gasses his own people in defiance of Obama’s “red line,” Obama does nothing. Syria falls apart as factions compete with Assad’s armies and with one another, Obama does nothing. Twenty six and seven year-old children are gunned down in an upper-middle class suburban Connecticut neighborhood, Republicans block Obama from doing anything. Vladimir Putin invades and annexes The Crimea, Obama does nothing. Islamic extremists kidnap 206 schoolgirls, Obama does nothing. The Taliban hold U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl captive—Obama does something, and is castigated for it.

There is a pattern here. There is a message here. A lot of the blame certainly goes to the whack-job extremists, both foreign and domestic. The bigger problem is Obama himself: not that he does or does not do something but that he fails to create the illusion of action and, worse, fails to efficiently communicate what he is doing or not doing and why. As I’ve often said, the White House Communications Office is a joke. Blame for this can and likely should reside with the president himself. For more than six years, now, all we hear, clearly if not thunderously, is the bloated disinformation of the Republican extreme. The White House is simply inept at capturing our attention or our imagination and, therefore, fails to build trust between the American people and our president. Issuing dull press briefings is not the White House Communications Office’s job. Their job is customer satisfaction: to trumpet the president’s successes and spin the failures. Their number one priority is to maintain and increase the confidence the American people have in their leader, a job at which they are failing miserably. Whether or not this is by design—Obama reluctant to take a bow—or by simple ineptitude really does not matter. The American people need a leader. The president’s admirable modesty notwithstanding, part of the job is to inspire confidence in our leader, something that’s terribly difficult to do when there’s practically no energy or coherent messaging coming out of the House he lives in.

Christopher J. Priest
14 June 2014

No. 420  |  June 2014   Study   Faith 101   The Church   POLITICS   Life   Sisters   A Preacher's Confession   Keeping It Real   Zion   Donate