The Surge Fallacy

Having misunderstood the Iraq War, U.S. Republicans are taking a dangerously hawkish turn on foreign policy.

Source: Portside

Author:

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: the decision to withdraw troops from Iraq was made in 2008, by the Bush administration).

Over the past decade, the foreign-policy debate in Washington has turned upside down. As George W. Bush’s administration drew to an end, the brand of ambitious, expensive, Manichaean, militaristic foreign policy commonly dubbed “neoconservative” seemed on the verge of collapse. In December 2006, the Iraq Study Group, which included such Republican eminences as James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger, Ed Meese, and Alan Simpson, repudiated Bush’s core approach to the Middle East. The group not only called for the withdrawal from Iraq by early 2008 of all U.S. combat troops not necessary for force protection. It also proposed that the United States begin a “diplomatic dialogue, without preconditions,” with the government of Iran, which Bush had included in his “axis of evil,” and that it make the Arab-Israeli peace process, long scorned by hawks, a priority. Other prominent Republicans defected too. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon called the president’s Iraq policy “absurd” if not “criminal.” George Will, the dean of conservative columnists, deemed neoconservatism a “spectacularly misnamed radicalism” that true conservatives should disdain.

That was then. Today, hawkishness is the hottest thing on the American right. With the exception of Rand Paul, the GOP presidential contenders are vying to take the most aggressive stance against Iran and the Islamic State, or ISIS. The most celebrated freshman Republican senator is Tom Cotton, who gained fame with a letter to Iran’s leaders warning that the United States might not abide by a nuclear deal. According to recent polls, GOP voters now see national security as more important than either cultural issues or the economy. More than three-quarters of Republicans want American ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq, and a plurality says that stopping Iran’s nuclear program requires an immediate military strike.

What explains the change? Above all, it’s the legend of the surge. The legend goes something like this: By sending more troops to Iraq in 2007, George W. Bush finally won the Iraq War. Then Barack Obama, by withdrawing U.S. troops, lost it. Because of Obama’s troop withdrawal, and his general refusal to exercise American power, Iraq collapsed, ISIS rose, and the Middle East fell apart. “We had it won, thanks to the surge,” Senator John McCain declared last September. “The problems we face in Iraq today,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal argued in May, “I don’t think were because of President Bush’s strength, but rather have come about because of President Obama’s weakness.”

For today’s GOP leaders, this story line has squelched the doubts about the Iraq invasion that a decade ago threatened to transform conservative foreign policy. The legend of the surge has become this era’s equivalent of the legend that America was winning in Vietnam until, in the words of Richard Nixon’s former defense secretary Melvin Laird, “Congress snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting off funding for our ally in 1975.” In the late 1970s, the legend of the congressional cutoff—and it was a legend; Congress reduced but never cut off South Vietnam’s aid—spurred the hawkish revival that helped elect Ronald Reagan. As we approach 2016, the legend of the surge is playing a similar role. Which is why it’s so important to understand that the legend is wrong.

By 2006, three years after American troops deposed Saddam Hussein, the situation in Iraq had grown terrifying. Violence had begun with a largely Sunni insurgency against the American occupiers and the Shia Muslims they had brought to power. But after Sunni jihadists bombed a famous Shia mosque in Samarra that February, Shia militias retaliated, sparking wholesale slaughter across the sectarian divide. The Tigris River became so clogged with human corpses that some Iraqis stopped eating its fish, believing their taste had changed.

In January 2007, Bush responded to these horrors not by withdrawing U.S. troops, but by sending 30,000 more. He also redirected U.S. military strategy. Under the leadership of General David Petraeus, U.S. troops began focusing less on killing insurgents and more on protecting Iraqi civilians, in hopes of reducing the insecurity that allowed the insurgency to thrive. American troops, working alongside Iraqi ones, went to live among the Iraqi people.

Fortuitously, these changes coincided with a shift among some Sunni leaders. By 2007, many had grown alienated by the harsh fanaticism of the al-Qaeda jihadists who had taken up residence in their midst. More important, some Sunni leaders realized that they could not defeat the more numerous Shia. Driven out of large sections of Baghdad, they came to see American troops as the only force capable of saving them.

In a daring about-face, Petraeus’s forces began paying the very Sunnis who had once fought Americans to fight al-Qaeda instead. That August, seeing a drop in Sunni attacks, the Shia militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr agreed to a cease-fire. The decline in violence was astonishing: In 2007, the war took the lives of 26,000 Iraqi civilians. In 2008, that number fell to just over 10,000. By 2009, it was down to about 5,000. When Republicans today claim that the surge succeeded—and that with it Bush won the war—this is what they mean.

But they forget something crucial. The surge was not intended merely to reduce violence. Reducing violence was a means to a larger goal: political reconciliation. Only when Iraq’s Sunni and Shia Arabs and its Kurds all felt represented by the government would the country be safe from civil war. As a senior administration official told journalists the day Bush announced the surge, “The purpose of all this is to get the violence in Baghdad down, get control of the situation and the sectarian violence, because now, without it, the reconciliation that everybody knows in the long term is the key to getting security in the country—the reconciliation will not happen.”

But although the violence went down, the reconciliation never occurred. According to the legend of the surge, Iraq’s collapse stems from Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops at the end of 2011. “If we’d had a residual force of 10,000 to 12,000,” Senator Lindsey Graham said last year, “I am totally convinced there would not have been a rise of al-Qaeda.” In reality, the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, began persecuting the Sunnis—thus laying the groundwork for their embrace of ISIS—long before American troops departed the country. As early as 2007, writes Emma Sky, who advised both Petraeus and his successor, General Ray Odierno, “the U.S. military was frustrated by what they viewed as the schemes of Maliki and his inner circle to actively sabotage our efforts to draw Sunnis out of the insurgency.” In August 2008, Shawn Brimley and Colin Kahl, then affiliated with the Center for a New American Security, warned:

There is a gathering storm on Iraq’s horizon. Over the last several weeks, its central government has embarked on what appears to be an effort to arrest, drive away or otherwise intimidate tens of thousands of Sunni security volunteers … If Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his advisors persist in this sectarian agenda, the country may spiral back into chaos.

The tragedy of post-surge Iraq has its roots in America’s failure to make the Iraqi government more inclusive—a failure that began under Bush and deepened under Obama. In 2010, Sunnis, who had largely boycotted Iraq’s 2005 elections, helped give a mixed Shia-Sunni bloc called Iraqiya two more seats in parliament than Maliki’s party won. But the Obama administration helped Maliki retain power. And Obama publicly praised him for “ensuring a strong, prosperous, inclusive, and democratic Iraq” even after he tried to arrest his vice president and other prominent Sunni leaders.

These errors came well before Obama’s decision to remove American troops at the end of 2011. The fact is, the U.S. failed to stop Maliki’s slide into sectarian tyranny even when it still had 100,000 troops patrolling Iraqi soil. That’s because America had already lost much of its leverage. Once the surge succeeded in reducing violence, Maliki no longer needed American troops to keep him in power. By 2010, U.S. aid to Iraq had dropped dramatically. Iraq was buying American weapons, but had the oil revenue to buy them elsewhere if America stopped selling. And the Obama administration could not pressure Maliki by threatening to withdraw U.S. troops, because Maliki wanted them gone. So did most of the Iraqi people.

The problem with the legend of the surge is that it reproduces the very hubris that led America into Iraq in the first place. In 2003, the Bush administration believed it could shatter the Iraqi state and then quickly and cheaply construct a new one that was stable, liberal, democratic, and loyal to the United States. By 2006, many conservatives had realized that was a fantasy. They had massively overestimated America’s wisdom and power, and so they began groping for a new approach to the world. But then, in 2007 and 2008, through a series of bold innovations, the United States military bribed, cajoled, and bludgeoned Iraqis into multiple cease-fires. The Iraqi state was still broken; its new ruling elite showed little of the political magnanimity necessary to reconstruct it in an inclusive fashion. And the Band-Aids that Petraeus and his troops had courageously affixed began peeling off almost immediately. Nonetheless, Republicans today say the Iraq War was won, and would have remained won, had the U.S. left 10,000 troops in the country after 2011.

How much damage will the GOP’s revived hubris do? Inconceivable as it would have seemed a few years ago, Graham, who is now a Republican presidential hopeful, has suggested sending 10,000 American ground troops back into Iraq. (His GOP rivals generally support this idea but have not proposed exact troop numbers.) The U.S. is unlikely to send a sizable American ground force back into Iraq. But this line of thinking is troubling nonetheless, because the same wild overestimation of American power that fueled the war in Iraq now fuels the right’s opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran. To hear hawks tell it, the United States can scuttle the current deal, intensify sanctions, threaten war, and—presto—Tehran will capitulate. But Iranians have been living under the threat of attacks from America or Israel for more than a decade now. And British and German diplomats have warned that if the U.S. Congress torpedoes the agreement, sanctions pressure on Iran will go not up but down, as countries that have lost billions by limiting their trade with Tehran stop doing so.

One day, Republicans will resume the painful work they began in 2006—the work of reconciling conservative attitudes with the limits of American power. Let’s hope they don’t do too much damage before that day comes.

Peter Beinart is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and National Journal, an associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York, and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

See:

A Fraternity of Failure: Paul Krugman On How Neocon Ideology Rewards Being Wrong

The only “experts” left standing are those who made all the approved mistakes.

source: AlterNet

author: Adam Johnson

Emphasis Mine

Friday morning, Paul Krugman looked past the 24-hour 2016 media cycle to examine the true mechanisms behind Jeb Bush’s week of backtracking and Iraq War revisionism. Krugman argues, quite convincingly, that Bush’s inability to articulate a coherent position on Iraq – or the economy – is due to the fact that the GOP establishment, still held captive by the neoconservative clergy class, are constantly trying to fit a rigid ideological square peg into the round hole of reality.

W’s Iraq War was a categorical and unquestionable failure in every sense. Moral, strategic, legal, political: the wrongheadedness of the 2003 invasion isbroadly seen as one of the few black and whites in contemporary politics, despite recent attempts to “rebrand” the Bush presidency as anything other than a total disaster. Nevertheless, here we are. Little brother must at once acknowledge that the Iraq War was a bad idea while simultaneously not rejecting the American Enterprise Institute orthodoxy that makes up his inner circle and their entire foreign policy ethos. Krugman would call it what it was, total sleaze:

Then he tried to walk it back. He “interpreted the question wrong,” and isn’t interested in engaging “hypotheticals.” Anyway, “going back in time” is a “disservice” to those who served in the war.

Take a moment to savor the cowardice and vileness of that last remark. And, no, that’s not hyperbole. Mr. Bush is trying to hide behind the troops, pretending that any criticism of political leaders — especially, of course, his brother, the commander in chief — is an attack on the courage and patriotism of those who paid the price for their superiors’ mistakes. That’s sinking very low, and it tells us a lot more about the candidate’s character than any number of up-close-and-personal interviews.

Wait, there’s more: Incredibly, Mr. Bush resorted to the old passive-voice dodge, admitting only that “mistakes were made.” Indeed. By whom? Well, earlier this year Mr. Bush released a list of his chief advisers on foreign policy, and it was a who’s-who of mistake-makers, people who played essential roles in the Iraq disaster and other debacles.

Seriously, consider that list, which includes such luminaries as Paul Wolfowitz, who insisted that we would be welcomed as liberators and that the war would cost almost nothing, and Michael Chertoff, who as director of the Department of Homeland Security during Hurricane Katrina was unaware of the thousands of people stranded at the New Orleans convention center without food and water.

But this unchecked hubris wouldn’t be limited to just foreign policy. As Krugman would explain:

Take my usual focus, economic policy. If you look at the list of economists who appear to have significant influence on Republican leaders, including the likely presidential candidates, you find that nearly all of them agreed, back during the “Bush boom,” that there was no housing bubble and the American economic future was bright; that nearly all of them predicted that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to fight the economic crisis that developed when that nonexistent bubble popped would lead to severe inflation; and that nearly all of them predicted that Obamacare, which went fully into effect in 2014, would be a huge job-killer.

Given how badly these predictions turned out — we had the biggest housing bust in history, inflation paranoia has been wrong for six years and counting, and 2014 delivered the best job growth since 1999 — you might think that there would be some room in the G.O.P. for economists who didn’t get everything wrong. But there isn’t. Having been completely wrong about the economy, like having been completely wrong about Iraq, seems to be a required credential.

The craven team that made up W’s White House sits in waiting. Backed by the same toxic mix of free-market ideologues, religious extremists, and pseudo-centrist apologists, Jeb is trying the same lay low strategy his brother did in 2000. The only problem, politically, is that he must carry the baggage of a Presidency so inept and corrupt it’s become shorthand for what one doesn’t want in a President. Americans notoriously have short memories, but, as Bush is finding out, there are limits to our collective amnesia. As Krugman would note:

What’s going on here? My best explanation is that we’re witnessing the effects of extreme tribalism. On the modern right, everything is a political litmus test. Anyone who tried to think through the pros and cons of the Iraq war was, by definition, an enemy of President George W. Bush and probably hated America; anyone who questioned whether the Federal Reserve was really debasing the currency was surely an enemy of capitalism and freedom.

It doesn’t matter that the skeptics have been proved right. Simply raising questions about the orthodoxies of the moment leads to excommunication, from which there is no coming back. So the only “experts” left standing are those who made all the approved mistakes. It’s kind of a fraternity of failure: men and women united by a shared history of getting everything wrong, and refusing to admit it. Will they get the chance to add more chapters to their reign of error? Krugman hits the nail right on the head. The same arrogance and rigidity that refused for years to change course when it was clear Iraq was a lost cause are plaguing Jeb’s campaign, already. How to acknowledge you’re wrong without ever doing so? How to acknowledge you’ve made a mistake when you’re surrounded by people who think their brand of colonial adventurism is, quite literally, handed down by God? You can’t. The scars of Iraq are too deep. The pieces still being picked up. The PR strategists behind the Bush family’s latest attempt at the White House were counting on the American public to be ignorant of history. But with the ever-present war against ISIS that resulted from a chaos they helped create, it appears Bush’s team may have underestimated how deep the wounds they inflicted upon the body politic really are.

 

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/fraternity-failure-paul-krugman-how-neocon-ideology-rewards-always-being-wrong?akid=13108.123424.4PbJjl&rd=1&src=newsletter1036419&t=11

Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit

Source: Consortium news, via RSN

Author: Robert Parry

“You might think that policymakers with so many bloody fiascos on their résumés as the U.S. neocons, including the catastrophic Iraq War, would admit their incompetence and return home to sell insurance or maybe work in a fast-food restaurant. Anything but directing the geopolitical decisions of the world’s leading superpower.

But Official Washington’s neocons are nothing if not relentless and resilient. They are also well-funded and well-connected. So they won’t do the honorable thing and disappear. They keep hatching new schemes and strategies to keep the world stirred up and to keep their vision of world domination – and particularly “regime change” in the Middle East – alive.

Now, the neocons have stoked a confrontation over Ukraine, involving two nuclear-armed states, the United States and Russia. But – even if nuclear weapons don’t come into play – the neocons have succeeded in estranging U.S. President Barack Obama from Russian President Vladimir Putin and sabotaging the pair’s crucial cooperation on Iran and Syria, which may have been the point all along.

Though the Ukraine crisis has roots going back decades, the chronology of the recent uprising — and the neocon interest in it – meshes neatly with neocon fury over Obama and Putin working together to avert a U.S. military strike against Syria last summer and then brokering an interim nuclear agreement with Iran last fall that effectively took a U.S. bombing campaign against Iran off the table.

With those two top Israeli priorities – U.S. military attacks on Syria and Iran – sidetracked, the American neocons began activating their influential media and political networks to counteract the Obama-Putin teamwork. The neocon wedge to splinter Obama away from Putin was driven into Ukraine.

Operating out of neocon enclaves in the U.S. State Department and at U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations, led by the National Endowment for Democracy, neocon operatives targeted Ukraine even before the recent political unrest began shaking apart the country’s fragile ethnic and ideological cohesion.

Last September, as the prospects for a U.S. military strike against Syria were fading thanks to Putin, NED president Carl Gershman, who is something of a neocon paymaster controlling more than $100 million in congressionally approved funding each year, took to the pages of the neocon-flagship Washington Post and wrote that Ukraine was now “the biggest prize.”

But Gershman added that Ukraine was really only an interim step to an even bigger prize, the removal of the strong-willed and independent-minded Putin, who, Gershman added, “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad [i.e. Ukraine] but within Russia itself.” In other words, the new hope was for “regime change” in Kiev and Moscow.

Putin had made himself a major annoyance in Neocon World, particularly with his diplomacy on Syria that defused a crisis over a Sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. Despite the attack’s mysterious origins – and the absence of any clear evidence proving the Syrian government’s guilt – the U.S. State Department and the U.S. news media rushed to the judgment that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did it.

Politicians and pundits baited Obama with claims that Assad had brazenly crossed Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons and that U.S. “credibility” now demanded military retaliation. A longtime Israeli/neocon goal, “regime change” in Syria, seemed within reach.

But Putin brokered a deal in which Assad agreed to surrender Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal (even as he continued to deny any role in the Sarin attack). The arrangement was a huge letdown for the neocons and Israeli officials who had been drooling over the prospect that a U.S. bombing campaign would bring Assad to his knees and deliver a strategic blow against Iran, Israel’s current chief enemy.

Putin then further offended the neocons and the Israeli government by helping to facilitate an interim nuclear deal with Iran, making another neocon/Israeli priority, a U.S. war against Iran, less likely.

Putting Putin in Play

So, the troublesome Putin had to be put in play. And, NED’s Gershman was quick to note a key Russian vulnerability, neighboring Ukraine, where a democratically elected but corrupt president, Viktor Yanukovych, was struggling with a terrible economy and weighing whether to accept a European aid offer, which came with many austerity strings attached, or work out a more generous deal with Russia.

There was already a strong U.S.-organized political/media apparatus in place for destabilizing Ukraine’s government. Gershman’s NED had 65 projects operating in the country – training “activists,” supporting “journalists” and organizing business groups, according to its latest report. (NED was created in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA had long done in secret, nurture pro-U.S. operatives under the umbrella of “promoting democracy.”)

So, when Yanukovych opted for Russia’s more generous $15 billion aid package, the roof fell in on him. In a speech to Ukrainian business leaders last December, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover and the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, reminded the group that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in Ukraine’s “European aspirations.”

Then, urged on by Nuland and neocon Sen. John McCain, protests in the capital of Kiev turned increasingly violent with neo-Nazi militias moving to the fore. Unidentified snipers opened fire on protesters and police, touching off fiery clashes that killed some 80 people (including about a dozen police officers).

On Feb. 21, in a desperate attempt to tamp down the violence, Yanukovych signed an agreement brokered by European countries. He agreed to surrender many of his powers, to hold early elections (so he could be voted out of office), and pull back the police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to overrun government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.

With these modern-day storm troopers controlling key buildings – and brutalizing Yanukovych supporters – a rump Ukrainian parliament voted, in an extra-constitutional fashion, to remove Yanukovych from office. This coup-installed regime, with far-right parties controlling four ministries including defense, received immediate U.S. and European Union recognition as Ukraine’s “legitimate” government.

As remarkable – and newsworthy – as it was that a government on the European continent included Nazis in the executive branch for the first time since World War II, the U.S. news media performed as it did before the Iraq War and during various other international crises. It essentially presented the neocon-preferred narrative and treated the presence of the neo-Nazis as some kind of urban legend.

Virtually across the board, from Fox News to MSNBC, from the Washington Post to the New York Times, the U.S. press corps fell in line, painting Yanukovych and Putin as the “black-hat” villains and the coup regime as the “white-hat” good guys, which required, of course, whiting out the neo-Nazi “brown shirts.”

Neocon Expediency

Some neocon defenders have challenged my reporting that U.S. neocons played a significant role in the Ukrainian putsch. One argument is that the neocons, who regard the U.S.-Israeli bond as inviolable, would not knowingly collaborate with neo-Nazis given the history of the Holocaust (and indeed the role of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators in extermination campaigns against Poles and Jews).

But the neocons have frequently struck alliances of convenience with some of the most unsavory – and indeed anti-Semitic – forces on earth, dating back to the Reagan administration and its collaboration with Latin American “death squad” regimes, including work with the World Anti-Communist League that included not only neo-Nazis but aging real Nazis.

More recently in Syria, U.S. neocons (and Israeli leaders) are so focused on ousting Assad, an ally of hated Iran, that they have cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni monarchy (known for its gross anti-Semitism). Israeli officials have even expressed a preference for Saudi-backed Sunni extremists winning in Syria if that is the only way to get rid of Assad and hurt his allies in Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Last September, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel so wanted Assad out and his Iranian backers weakened, that Israel would accept al-Qaeda operatives taking power in Syria.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in the interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”

Oren said that was Israel’s view even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Oren, who was Israel’s point man in dealing with Official Washington’s neocons, is considered very close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reflects his views. For decades, U.S. neocons have supported Netanyahu and his hardline Likud Party, including as strategists on his 1996 campaign for prime minister when neocons such as Richard Perle and Douglas Feith developed the original “regime change” strategy. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

In other words, Israel and its U.S. neocon supporters have been willing to collaborate with extreme right-wing and even anti-Semitic forces if that advances their key geopolitical goals, such as maneuvering the U.S. government into military confrontations with Syria and Iran.

So, while it may be fair to assume that neocons like Nuland and McCain would have preferred that the Ukraine coup had been spearheaded by militants who weren’t neo-Nazis – or, for that matter, that the Syrian rebels were not so dominated by al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists – the neocons (and their Israeli allies) see these tactical collaborations as sometimes necessary to achieve overarching strategic priorities.

And, since their current strategic necessity is to scuttle the fragile negotiations over Syria and Iran, which otherwise might negate the possibility of U.S. military strikes against those two countries, the Putin-Obama collaboration had to go.

By spurring on the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president, the neocons helped touch off a cascade of events – now including Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and its annexation by Russia – that have raised tensions and provoked Western retaliation against Russia. The crisis also has made the continued Obama-Putin teamwork on Syria and Iran extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Like other neocon-engineered schemes, there will surely be much collateral damage in this latest one. For instance, if the tit-for-tat economic retaliations escalate – and Russian gas supplies are disrupted – Europe’s fragile recovery could be tipped back into recession, with harmful consequences for the U.S. economy, too.

There’s also the certainty that congressional war hawks and neocon pundits will press for increased U.S. military spending and aggressive tactics elsewhere in the world to punish Putin, meaning even less money and attention for domestic programs or deficit reduction. Obama’s “nation-building at home” will be forgotten.

But the neocons have long made it clear that their vision for the world – one of America’s “full-spectrum dominance” and “regime change” in Middle Eastern countries opposed to Israel – overrides all other national priorities. And as long as the neocons face no accountability for the havoc that they wreak, they will continue working Washington’s corridors of power, not selling insurance or flipping hamburgers.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/22671-focus-neocons-ukraine-syria-iran-gambit

We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

“I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Written in 2004.

How did the Party of Lincoln and Liberty transmogrify into the party of Newt Gingrich’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk?

By GARRISON KEILLOR

Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach. The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics. “Bipartisanship is another term of date rape,” says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP. “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” The boy has Oedipal problems and government is his daddy.

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, shriekChristians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shreiking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Rich ironies abound! Lies pop up like toadstools in the forest! Wild swine crowd round the public trough! Outrageous gerrymandering! Pocket lining on a massive scale! Paid lobbyists sit in committee rooms and write legislation to alleviate the suffering of billionaires! Hypocrisies shine like cat turds in the moonlight! O Mark Twain, where art thou at this hour? Arise and behold the Gilded Age reincarnated gaudier than ever, upholding great wealth as the sure sign of Divine Grace.

Here in 2004, George W. Bush is running for reelection on a platform of tragedy—the single greatest failure of national defense in our history, the attacks of 9/11 in which 19 men with box cutters put this nation into a tailspin, a failure the details of which the White House fought to keep secret even as it ran the country into hock up to the hubcaps, thanks to generous tax cuts for the well-fixed, hoping to lead us into a box canyon of debt that will render government impotent, even as we engage in a war against a small country that was undertaken for the president’s personal satisfaction but sold to the American public on the basis of brazen misinformation, a war whose purpose is to distract us from an enormous transfer of wealth taking place in this country, flowing upward, and the deception is working beautifully.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of democracy. No republic in the history of humanity has survived this. The election of 2004 will say something about what happens to ours. The omens are not good.

Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

There is a stink drifting through this election year. It isn’t the Florida recount or the Supreme Court decision. No, it’s 9/11 that we keep coming back to. It wasn’t the “end of innocence,” or a turning point in our history, or a cosmic occurrence, it was an event, a lapse of security. And patriotism shouldn’t prevent people from asking hard questions of the man who was purportedly in charge of national security at the time.

Whenever I think of those New Yorkers hurrying along Park Place or getting off the No.1 Broadway local, hustling toward their office on the 90th floor, the morning paper under their arms, I think of that non-reader George W. Bush and how he hopes to exploit those people with a little economic uptick, maybe the capture of Osama, cruise to victory in November and proceed to get some serious nation-changing done in his second term.

This year, as in the past, Republicans will portray us Democrats as embittered academics, desiccated Unitarians, whacked-out hippies and communards, people who talk to telephone poles, the party of the Deadheads. They will wave enormous flags and wow over and over the footage of firemen in the wreckage of the World Trade Center and bodies being carried out and they will lie about their economic policies with astonishing enthusiasm.

The Union is what needs defending this year. Government of Enron and by Halliburton and for the Southern Baptists is not the same as what Lincoln spoke of. This gang of Pithecanthropus Republicanii has humbugged us to death on terrorism and tax cuts for the comfy and school prayer and flag burning and claimed the right to know what books we read and to dump their sewage upstream from the town and clear-cut the forests and gut the IRS and mark up the constitution on behalf of intolerance and promote the corporate takeover of the public airwaves and to hell with anybody who opposes them.

This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger.

Dante said that the hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in time of crisis remain neutral, so I have spoken my piece, and thank you, dear reader. It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.

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Garrison Keillor is the host and writer of A Prairie Home Companion, now in its 34th year on the air and a syndicated newspaper columnist.

Emphasis Mine.

see:http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/72-72/7193-were-not-in-lake-wobegon-anymore

GOP’s Debt Solution: Soak the Poor

A single mother struggling to keep a roof over her child’s head would probably love to trade places with a six-figure earner and bear the burden of paying federal income tax on a comfortable salary.

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

magine a bulky schoolyard bully routinely holding you and your classmates upside-down by your shoes and pocketing the money that falls out, using the amount gained from his extortion to buy a new bike at the end of each semester. Now imagine enduring this process every day, all year, throughout each grade of school.

What if one day, the bully actually complained that you weren’t bringing enough lunch money to school because he wanted a nicer bike? Would you comply and let him rob you of a larger amount, or would you and your fellow classmates surround the teacher and demand the bully return the money he stole?

Despite billionaire Warren Buffett‘s pleas to reduce the deficit by shifting the tax burden to the super-rich, Republican members of Congress have officially come out in favor of raising taxes on the poor, while fiercely protecting trillions in tax handouts for billionairesbig oil and corporate jet owners. Right-wing politicians and corporate-media pundits have now set their sights on “lucky duckies,” or the bottom half of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes. As law professor Edward Kleinbard noted, this statement is misleading and ignores the need for meaningful reform of our tax code.

Jon Stewart creatively dismantled the poor-people-don’t-pay-taxes argument on The Daily Show, highlighting conservatives who dismissed the $700 billion in revenue gained from ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in 2010. According to Stewart’s calculations, taking exactly half of everything owned by the bottom 50% of Americans would also generate $700 billion, exactly as much revenue as increasing the tax rate for the richest Americans by a modest 3%. Stewart sarcastically suggested Republicans trim the deficit by seizing all assets owned by the bottom half of Americans.

It’s incredibly audacious for the rich to ask the poor to pay more in taxes in order to protect theirbudget-busting tax breaks, especially considering America’s wealth disparity. The gap between the richest and everyone else has grown to levels even greater than on the eve of the crash that triggered the great depression, with the top .001% of Americans now owning 976 times more than the bottom 90%. In 1928, the richest only owned 892 times more than the bottom 90%.

And of course, those accusing the working poor of freeloading ignore the fact that 1 in 4 American jobs don’t even pay poverty wages, or that the federal income tax is inherently designed to avoid hitting the poor, the elderly and working families with children. Such bold accusations also ignore the reality that all of the aforementioned groups still pay roughly one-third of their income in sales, property, payroll and excise taxes.

A single mother struggling to keep a roof over her child’s head would probably love to trade places with a six-figure earner and bear the burden of paying federal income tax on a comfortable salary. But would a six-figure earner be willing to work three part-time minimum wage jobs and still worry about how the rent is going to be paid at the end of the month? Would he really be eager to forgo paying federal income tax if it meant he had to scrape quarters together to buy beans, lentils and ramen noodles for dinner?

Big oil doesn’t need $4 billion per year in taxpayer subsidies – they’re making record profits. Excessive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires won’t create jobs – the unemployment rate doubledafter ten years of the Bush tax cuts. And corporate jet owners don’t need a tax break while public employees nationwide are losing their jobs to budget cuts.

America needs to surround our teacher before recess and make a strong statement together – the bullies don’t need to rob us of our lunch money to continue their excessive lifestyles. Let’s stop subsidizing wealth for the sake of wealth, and leave struggling middle-class families alone.


Carl Gibson, 24, of Lexington, Kentucky, is a spokesman and organizer for US Uncut, a nonviolent, creative direct-action movement to stop budget cuts by getting corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. He graduated from Morehead State University in 2009 with a B.A. in Journalism before starting the first US Uncut group in Jackson, Mississippi, in February of 2011. Since then, over 20,000 US Uncut activists have carried out more than 300 actions in over 100 cities nationwide. You may contact Carl at carl@rsnorg.org.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/279-82/7202-gops-debt-solution-soak-the-poor

Why the Mainstream Media Are Clueless About the Religious Right

Though it has shaped American politics for the last 40 years, the religious right still baffles reporters.

N.B.: Keep Separation of religion and government.

From AlterNet, by Adele M. Stan

“Every four years, just as a presidential campaign kicks up, legions of media types who make their living outside the right-wing echo chamber emerge as a militia of Margaret Meads, descending on flyover country, trying to make sense of that exotic phenomenon, the religious right. In the end, those who actually get it are few.
From the attitudes shown by media toward the religious right, you’d never know that more than one-quarter of the U.S. population identify as evangelicals, according to a 2007 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and among white self-identified evangelicals, 62 percent told Pew in 2006 that they believe the Bible to be the literal word of God.

These, by and large, are the people who determine the outcome of the Republican presidential primary, thanks to the early stacking of states heavily populated by evangelicals, and the propensity of most evangelicals to align with the Republican Party. And yet, we who cover these races often know very little about the voters whose person-on-the-street interviews they’re recording, except to know that these people are very different from us in their view of the world. So as everyday doctrines come to light in one or another campaign incident, the media either find themselves aghast at the implications, or simply choose to ignore them.

Surprise

Take, for instance, Rep. Michele Bachmann‘s profession of the doctrine of “wifely submission.” When a 2006 video of Bachmann surfaced showing her at a church gathering professing her submission to her husband, media types grew quite excited. At the Fox News debate in Ames, Iowa, last week, Washington Examiner columnist Byron York asked Bachmann, “As president, would you be submissive to your husband?” Before Bachmann could speak, York’s question was met with a round of boos and hisses from the audience, whose members likely heard in his question a challenge to one of their fundamental doctrines. (Bachmann, aware that she was playing to a national television audience, dodged the question, saying that she and her husband respected each other.)

The doctrine of wifely submission is common to a number of evangelical faiths, espoused by faithful who range from dour fundamentalists who forbid dancing to writhing, tongues-speaking Pentecostals. The largest among these denominations is the Southern Baptist Convention, the second largest religious body in the United States. York was certainly entitled to his question, and the people of the United States were entitled to a better reply than that which Bachmann gave them. But what we in the media are not entitled to is any sense of shock that a conservative Christian such as Bachmann believes such things. Such surprise simply means we haven’t been paying attention.

Denial

When media types aren’t expressing surprise at the everyday beliefs of the ordinary Americans who comprise the Republican primary electorate, they often turn to denial. Take the curious case of Rep. Ron Paul, Texas, who came within 200 votes of Michele Bachmann’s first-place finish in the Ames, Iowa, straw poll. Paul’s perennial, quixotic presidential campaign (the 2012 contest marks his third run for the nomination) has clearly had a profound impact on the ideology expressed by all of the GOP presidential candidates, but Paul, even after winning the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference for a second year in a row, is just another Rodney Dangerfield to the media. The man just can’t get no respect.

Yet, in consistently putting forward themes derived directly and indirectly from the doctrines of Christian Reconstructionists and the John Birch Society, Paul has made it safe for Texas Gov. Rick Perry to name as “treason” the printing of money by Fed, for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to spout off about states’ rights and the 10th amendment, and for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum to espouse a no-exceptions anti-abortion position.

While mainstream media dismiss Paul as a quirky, secular libertarian, progressive reporters sometimes express a certain affection for Paul because of his anti-war stance. But Paul’s anti-war position stems from his far-right isolationist views, as expressed in such documents as the Institutes of Biblical Law, by Christian Reconstructionist founder Rousas John Rushdoony, and the platform of the Constitution Party, which, despite its secular-sounding name, seeks to implement “God’s law” in the United States. (Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips is a follower of the late Rushdoony.)

Paul’s 2008 shadow convention to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis featured Phillips and John Birch Society President John McManusas speakers, and Paul is part Phillips’ coalition against the non-existent North American Union (one of the far right’s favorite conspiracy theories).

The fact is, if you lift up the covers on Ron Paul’s beliefs and associates, it’s all a bit creepy. Paul’s ideology and apparent theological links to Reconstructionism represent nothing new in American politics; the ideology can be traced back to the backers of 1964 campaign of Barry Goldwater. But you’d never know that from reading the mainstream media.

The mainstream media — and to an extent, the progressive media, as well — are made up of elites, people who went to good schools, most of them raised on either the east or west coasts. To these elites, the thought of someone espousing the sort of frightening beliefs that Paul embodies having a serious impact on American politics is just too much to bear, so denial becomes the default position. It’s not conscious — not a deliberate attempt to cover something up, just something too weird and awful to be true, so the notion is simply dismissed. Yet if you look at Paul’s positions and look at how successive GOP fields have moved closer to them (with the exception of the anti-war stance) over the last three election cycles, his impact is clear.

And the notion that regular Americans would buy into an ideology that seeks to implement biblical law as the law of the land really shouldn’t come as a surprise to reporters. The Pew 2006 survey found that nearly one-third of Americans said they felt the law of the Bible should outweigh citizen preferences in the formation of civil law.

Differences Blurred

To mainstream reporters, Rick Perry’s big prayer rally in Houston earlier this month looked like just another religious-right gathering. To their eyes, what made it unusual was that a sitting governor had used his official gubernatorial letterhead and Web site to promote it.

The greater departure, however, was the way in which the gathering represented a coming together of the New Apostolic Reformation, a far-right charismatic movement that seeks to defeat what its followers believe to be real-life demons located in certain geographical areas with the old-line organizations of the religious right, such as the American Family Association. Even James Dobson, the Focus on the Family founder who rarely makes public appearances anymore, appeared on Perry’s stage, lending credence and political power to the demon-chasers. (If mainstream reporters view the doctrine of wifely submission with incredulity and surprise, the NAR doctrine, as described for AlterNet by Rachel Tabachnik, could cause apoplexy.)

In the New York Times‘ coverage of the rally, the name, New Apostolic Reformation, never appeared, even though one of the movement’s more controversial organizations, the International House of Prayer, was among the event’s organizers. (Although IHOP was named as an organizer by reporter Manny Fernandez, nothing about its place in the NAR was mentioned in the article. To his credit, though, Fernandez did note that the American Family Association has been named an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.) But this enlargement of the religious-right coalition to include elements once deemed “fringe” even by fellow evangelicals is a major story, especially given the 50-state, cell-based “prayer networks” that are part of the NAR infrastructure.

Meanwhile, at the Washington Post, Jacques Berlinerblau, writing in the paper’s “On Faith” section, tsk-tsk’d Perry for talking about Jesus too much, reading too much scripture and generally being unecumenical.

“If he intends on using the religion card effectively beyond the Iowa and South Carolina caucuses and primaries,” wrote Berlinerblau, “Governor Perry will have to come up with something more inclusive than this.”

Yes, but first he has to win the nomination — and that will require the votes of millions of Americans who believe that biblical law should supplant the will of the people, and who think the Bible is the literal truth. Right now, they’re the ones who matter. And no reporter should be surprised by that.

As a nation, we’ve been headed down this path for more than 40 years. As the economic fortunes of the U.S. turn downward, we should expect the attraction of right-wing religion, especially its more charismatic and viscerally-felt forms, to expand. Anyone who doesn’t just hasn’t been paying attention.”

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter:www.twitter.com/addiestan

emphasis mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/story/152053/why_the_mainstream_media_are_clueless_about_the_religious_right?akid=7419.123424.qJ7Z66&rd=1&t=5

How the Political Right Bullied the US Government Into Ignoring the Threat of Right-Wing Extremism

After right-wingers freaked out about a report detailing the rise in right-wing extremism, Homeland Security effectively dismantled a unit tasked with tracking it.

From AlterNet, by Rania Khalek

“In the wake of the terrorist attack in Norway by right-wing Christian extremist Anders Breivik, conservative media pundits rushed to vilify anyone who brought up the underlying far-right ideology that fueled Breivik’s violence.

The uproar that follows any suggestion that right-wing extremism is on the rise works to silence the conversation about the danger of right-wing militancy. According to disturbing revelations by a former Homeland Security Intelligence Analyst, the consequences of this dynamic extend to the highest branches of the US government.

For six years, Darryl Johnson headed a Department of Homeland Security team tracking domestic extremist groups. Now Johnson, who is no longer with DHS, says that conservative furor over the report’s findings pressured Homeland Security to abandon reporting on and monitoring the rising threat of right-wing extremism for the past two years.

In April 2009, DHS issued an intelligence assessment, co-authored by Johnson, titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” The document was one of many threat assessments shared between DHS and state and local law enforcement agencies to keep them apprised of potential and looming threats, and warned of a surge in right-wing extremism due to the election of the country’s first black president and the economic recession.

Although the report was intended only for distribution to law enforcement agencies, it was immediately leaked to the media causing a political firestorm among conservativepundits, who wrongly suggested that it labeled all conservatives as potential terrorists.

DHS initially defended the report, but within days caved to political pressure and practically disowned it, with Secretary Napolitano apologizing to the American Legion for the report’s mention of military veterans. But DHS did more than just publicly buckle under the political weight of conservative critics. According to Johnson, the department effectively dismantled his intelligence team following the right’s uproar.

In an in-depth interview published in the Southern Poverty Law Center’sIntelligence Report, Johnson reveals the level of sway the political right had in thwarting intelligence work on right-wing extremism. He says DHS deliberately mischaracterized the report as unauthorized, even though it had passed through proper channels and instituted restrictive policies that brought the important work of his unit to a virtual standstill. As a result, Johnson left DHS in dismay and was followed by almost all the members of his team, leaving a single analyst where there had been six. In comparison, there are at least 25 analysts devoted to tracking Islamic terrorism.

When questioned about Johnson’s claims — which have been confirmed by current and former department officials in the Washington Post – DHS officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have repeatedly disputed his account and insist that the level of activity by right-wing extremist groups has remained consistent over the past few years. In addition, they claim the perception of increased extremist activity may be due to increased awareness of the threat by the government and the public. But the numbers beg to differ.

Right Wing Extremism on the Rise

Johnson’s report was consistent with data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which finds that hate groups topped 1,000 for the first time since SPLC began counting such groups in the 1980s. The most dramatic growth was seen in antigovernment “Patriot” groups — militias and other extremist organizations that see the federal government as their enemy — which came roaring back to life over the past year after more than a decade out of the limelight. SPLC’s Intelligence Project identified 824 anti-government “Patriot” groups that were active in 2010, up from just 149 in 2008.

According to Mark Potok, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, these groups are driven by resentment over changing racial demographics, which he describes as, “The idea that the country is becoming less white every day and in fact the prediction by the census bureau that whites will lose their majority about the year 2050 in the United States is very important. Virtually every white supremacist in America knows that date.” Other drivers include frustration over the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and propaganda aimed at various minorities.

Potok told AlterNet that events following the 2009 DHS report have proved it to be prescient. 

In May 2009, just one month after the report’s release, an anti-abortion zealot murdered Dr. George Tiller in Kansas. In June 2009, neo-Nazi James von Brunn murdered a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In March 2010, nine members of a Michigan militia were charged with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction in connection with an alleged plot to murder police officers.

On May 20, 2010, two West Memphis Arkansas police officers were shot to death during a routine traffic stop by a father-son duo of “sovereign citizens,” a group of US residents who believe the government has no authority over them. West Memphis Police Chief Bob Paudert, whose son was one of the officers killed, told me that prior to the loss of his son, he had never heard of sovereign citizens, nor had any other law enforcement officials he spoke to about the matter. After some digging and research he discovered that his son’s murder was not an isolated incident, and in fact sovereign citizens were responsible fordozens of police officer deaths around the country.

Paudert was particularly surprised to learn that the Sovereign movement is estimated at 300,000 people strong and growing, which is why he was disappointed in the federal government’s failure to alert state and local law enforcement that such a threat existed. Paudert says he is absolutely positive that had they been alerted and trained to recognize sovereign citizens, “my son would still be alive today.”

Conservatives Throw a Temper Tantrum

The loudest outcry came from the right-wing shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh, who claimed that Janet Napolitano and Barack Obama were “portraying standard, ordinary, everyday conservatives as posing a bigger threat to this country than al-Qaeda terrorists or genuine enemies of this country like Kim Jong-Il.”  Sean Hannity warned his Fox News viewers that “if you have a pro-life bumper sticker on your car, if you have an ‘America is overtaxed’ bumper sticker, if you have a pro-Second Amendment bumper sticker, they’re viewing you potentially as a radical.”

In possibly the most deranged interpretation, conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote that the report was a “hit job on conservatives” and “one of the most embarrassingly shoddy pieces of propaganda I’d ever read out of DHS. I couldn’t believe it was real….the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives.”

In a sad sort of irony, Johnson told SPLC that the conservative media personalities who misinterpreted and attacked his report “would have been shocked to know that I personify conservatism. I’m an Eagle Scout. I’m a registered Republican. I’m Mormon. In fact, I was helping the Boy Scouts with a fundraiser when I heard the report being attacked on the news.”

Outrage over the report’s findings quickly spread to Congress, where several conservative lawmakers demanded the ouster of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Among them was Rep. John Carter, R-Tex., who remarked, “We shouldn’t even give her the respect of letting her resign. She should be fired by the administration for accusing honest, American citizens — because of their political beliefs — of being domestic terrorists.”

The self-described conservative and Christian non-profit Thomas More Law Center went even further and filed a lawsuit against Secretary Napolitano on behalf a Michigan-based anti-abortion group, claiming the DHS report was all part of a conspiracy between the Obama administration and liberal groups to violate their constitutional rights.

The section of the report that stirred the most controversy referred to “disgruntled military veterans” and cautioned that “rightwing extremists would attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans to boost their violent capabilities.”

This did not sit well with David Rehbein, the commander of the veterans’ organization American Legion, who wrote in a letter to Secretary Napolitano, “To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical disgruntled military veteran is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam.” Had Rehbein actually read the full report he would have discovered that this specific concern was based on factual data collected by the FBI.

The DHS assessment cited a July 2008 report by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division under the Bush administration, titled “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11.” Based on its findings the 2008 FBI report observed that “some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups,” and that “military experience is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement as the result of recruitment campaigns by extremist groups and self-recruitment by veterans sympathetic to white supremacist causes.” Furthermore, based on analysis of FBI case files from October 2001 to May 2008, the report identified 203 military personnel or veterans who were active members in white supremacist organizations during that period.

It’s not surprising that conservatives threw a fit. What’s disturbing is that these conservative complaints prompted DHS to withdraw the report.

Pretending the Threat Doesn’t Exist

I spoke with Johnson, who has been following right-wing extremism in a professional capacity since the early ‘90s. Upon the Democratic nomination for president of then Senator Obama, Johnson says that based on his experience and expertise, he immediately recognized that “this would be a huge recruiting tool for groups like white supremacists, militia extremists, sovereign citizen extremists, those extremists groups that are on the fringes of the right of the political spectrum, which we refer to as right-wing extremists in the counterterrorism community.”

When it was clear that Barack Obama would win, Johnson became worried about the “potential radicalization factor” that would ensue following the election of America’s first black president. “It would agitate people to go beyond their mainstream and law-abiding protest activity to more criminal activity and violence because people would see that these ‘enemies’ so to speak, these minorities in America are actually integrated in society and they’re actually fulfilling the American dream.”

All of this prompted the drafting of the report in the early months of the Obama administration.

He chose to go public because “the conditions that existed back in 2008 and 2009 when we drafted this document still persist today….the climate in this country from a political standpoint and economic standpoint has not changed. The economy is still sluggish, unemployment’s still flirting with 10 percent, and there’s this anti-government sentiment and agitation out there in this country. That’s one thing that concerns me is that we’ve had two years now where these people have been boiling in this environment that could possibly agitate somebody to carry out a violent act.” 

Mark Potok told AlterNet that DHS’s handling of the report’s criticism was “nothing more than an act of political cowardice,” but it doesn’t change the report’s disturbing accuracy.

The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps a detailed and unsettling list of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right in the years since Oklahoma City, a pattern Potok says continues to this day. That prompted SPLC’s president, J. Richard Cohen, to send a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano two months ago, urging her to reassess the level of resources that DHS is devoting to the threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism.

The letter highlights several recent examples of thwarted attacks, one of which occurred this past January, when a neo-Nazi activist was arrested for planting a bomb along an MLK Day parade route in Spokane, Washington. That same month, another neo-Nazi was arrested on his way to the Arizona-Mexico border and later charged with possessing explosive devices packed with ball bearings – to “maximize human carnage,” as a federal prosecutor put it. In March, authorities arrested five members of a militia in Alaska and charged them with plotting to murder or kidnap police officers and judges if their leader, who was then fleeing prosecution on weapons charges, were arrested or killed. Unfortunately, Secretary Napolitano has yet to respond to SPLC’s letter.

That the right’s outrage over the report managed to influence the Department of Homeland Security should raise alarm bells for anyone who is concerned about homegrown extremism. It’s frightening that the US government bowed to political pressure. The atrocity that took place in Norway is a reminder of the brutality that ideological extremists are capable of dishing out.

According to Johnson, Anders Breivik “was under the radar, he acquired relatively unsophisticated weaponry and was able to go and target people that he opposed because of his ideology and beliefs and was able to kill close to 80 people, and it was done effortlessly. He didn’t go to some place in Pakistan and learn how to build a bomb.  He learned how to do this on the Internet, and he was able to acquire these materials legally. And I know for a fact that that is going on here in this country, people are stockpiling weaponry.”

Potok believes the right’s ability to silence the conversation about right-wing extremism will have fatal consequences, warning, “The danger of pretending this movement doesn’t exist is that it will grow more and more deeply entrenched in our society and more dangerous. There’s an immediate criminal danger. Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 men women and children in 15 seconds. It absolutely could happen again. It hasn’t because we are lucky and because law enforcement has done a fine job overall.”

Similarly, Daryl Johnson fears that, “These incidents are starting to add up. Yet our legislators, politicians and national leaders don’t appear too concerned about this. So my greatest fear is that domestic terrorists in this country will somehow become emboldened to the point of carrying out a mass-casualty attack, because they perceive that no one is being vigilant about the threat from within. This is what keeps me up at night.”

Rania Khalek is a progressive activist. Check out her blog Missing Pieces or follow her on Twitter @Rania_ak. You can contact her at raniakhalek@gmail.com.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152033/how_the_political_right_bullied_the_us_government_into_ignoring_the_threat_of_right-wing_extremism?akid=7406.123424.6GLo_-&rd=1&t=5