Bush’s War?

VDH refreshes our collective memory regarding the Iraq War:

So who lost Iraq?

The blame game mostly fingers incompetent Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Or is Barack Obama culpable for pulling out all American troops monitoring the success of the 2007–08 surge?

Some still blame George W. Bush for going into Iraq in 2003 in the first place to remove Saddam Hussein.

One can blame almost anyone, but one must not invent facts to support an argument.

Do we remember that Bill Clinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 that supported regime change in Iraq? He gave an eloquent speech on the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

In 2002, both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly to pass a resolution authorizing the removal of Saddam Hussein by force. Senators such as Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Harry Reid offered moving arguments on the Senate floor why we should depose Saddam in a post-9/11 climate.

Democratic stalwarts such as Senator Jay Rockefeller and Representative Nancy Pelosi lectured us about the dangers of Saddam’s stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. They drew on the same classified domestic- and foreign-intelligence reports that had led Bush to call for Saddam’s forcible removal.

The Bush administration, like members of Congress, underestimated the costs of the war and erred in focusing almost exclusively on Saddam’s supposed stockpiles of weapons. But otherwise, the war was legally authorized on 23 writs. Most of them had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction and were unaffected by the later mysterious absence of such weapons — which is all the more mysterious given that troves of WMD have turned up in nearby Syria and more recently in Iraqi bunkers overrun by Islamic militants.

Legally, the U.S. went to war against Saddam because he had done things such as committing genocide against the Kurds, Shiites, and the Marsh Arabs, and attacking four of his neighbors. He had tried to arrange the assassination of a former U.S. president, George H. W. Bush. He had paid bounties for suicide bombers on the West Bank and was harboring the worst of global terrorists. Saddam also offered refuge to at least one of the architects of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and violated U.N.-authorized no-fly zones.

A number of prominent columnists, Right and Left — from George Will, David Brooks, and William F. Buckley to Fareed Zakaria, David Ignatius, and Thomas Friedman — supported Saddam’s forcible removal. When his statue fell in 2003, most polls showed that over 70 percent of Americans agreed with the war.

What changed public opinion and caused radical about-faces among the war’s most ardent supporters were the subsequent postwar violence and insurgency between 2004 and 2007 and the concurrent domestic elections and rising antiwar movement. Thousands of American troops were killed or wounded in mostly failed efforts to stem the Sunni–Shiite savagery.

The 2007–08 surge engineered by General David Petraeus ended much of the violence. By Obama’s second year in office, American fatalities had been reduced to far below the monthly accident rate in the U.S. military. “An extraordinary achievement,” Obama said of the “stable” and “self-reliant” Iraq that he inherited — and left.

Prior to our invasion, the Kurds were a persecuted people who had been gassed, slaughtered, and robbed of all rights by Saddam. In contrast, today a semi-autonomous Kurdistan is a free-market, consensual society of tolerance that, along with Israel, is one of the few humane places in the Middle East.

In 2003, the New York Times estimated that Saddam Hussein had killed perhaps about 1 million of his own people. That translated into about 40,000 deaths for each year he led Iraq.

A Saddam-led Iraq over the last decade would not have been a peaceable place.

We can also imagine that Saddam would not have sat idly by the last decade as Pakistan and North Korea openly sold their nuclear expertise, and as rival Iran pressed ahead with its nuclear enrichment program.

Nor should we forget that the U.S. military decimated al-Qaeda in Iraq. Tens of thousands of foreign terrorists flocked to Anbar Province and there met their deaths. When Obama later declared that al-Qaeda was “on the run,” it was largely because it had been nearly obliterated in Iraq.

Launching a costly campaign to remove Saddam may or may not have been a wise move. But it is historically inaccurate to suggest that the Iraq War was cooked up by George W. Bush alone — or that it did not do enormous damage to al-Qaeda, bring salvation for the Kurds, and by 2009 provide a rare chance for the now-bickering Iraqis to make something out of what Saddam had tried to destroy.

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A Terminal Case of Frivolity

From Thomas Sowell:

People are arguing about what the United States got out of the deal that swapped five top level terrorist leaders for one American soldier who was, at best, absent from his post in a war zone. Soldiers who served in the same unit with him call him a deserter. The key to this deal, however, is less likely to be what the United States got out of the deal than it is about what Barack Obama got out of the deal. If nothing else, it instantly got the veterans’ hospitals scandals off the front pages of newspapers and pushed these scandals aside on television news programs.

It was a clear winner for Barack Obama. And that may be all that matters to Barack Obama.

People who are questioning the president’s competence seem not to want to believe that any President of the United States would knowingly damage this country’s interests.

One of the problems of many fundamentally decent people is that they find it hard to understand people who are not fundamentally decent, or whose moral compass points in a different direction from theirs.

Many people who are painfully disappointed with President Obama have no real reason to be. The man’s whole previous history, from childhood on, was shaped by a whole series of people, beginning with his mother, whose vision of America was very much like that of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose church Barack Obama belonged to for 20 long years.

Obama is not a stupid man. There is no way that he could have sat in that church all that time without knowing how Jeremiah Wright hated America, and how his vision of the world was one in which “white folks’ greed runs a world in need.”

Even if the Reverend Wright had been the only such person in Barack Obama’s life — and he was not — it should have been enough to keep him out of the White House.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is a good rule in a court of law, which has the power to deprive a defendant of liberty or life. But it is mindless and dangerous nonsense to apply that standard outside that context — especially when choosing a President of the United States, who holds in his hands the liberty and lives of millions of Americans.

People who are disappointed with Barack Obama have no right to be. It is they whom others have a right to be disappointed with. Instead of taking their role as citizens seriously, they chose to vote on the basis of racial symbolism, glib rhetoric and wishful thinking.

Moreover, many are already talking about choosing the next President of the United States on the basis of demographic symbolism — to have “the first woman president.” And if she is elected on that basis, will any criticism of what she does in the White House be denounced as based on anti-woman bias, as criticisms of President Obama have been repeatedly denounced as racism?

And what if we have the first Hispanic president or the first Jewish president? Will any criticism of their actions in the White House be silenced by accusations of prejudice?

We may yet become the first nation to die from a terminal case of frivolity. Other great nations in history have been threatened by barbarians at the gates. We may be the first to be threatened by self-indulgent silliness inside the gates.

As for Barack Obama, you cannot judge any President’s competence by the results of his policies, without first knowing what he was trying to achieve.

Many wise and decent people assume automatically that President Obama was trying to serve the interests of America. From that standpoint, he has failed abysmally, both at home and abroad. And that should legitimately call his competence into question.

But what if his vision of the world is one in which the wealth and power of those at the top, whether at home or internationally, are deeply resented, and have been throughout his life, under the tutelage of a whole series of resenters? And what if his goal is to redress that imbalance?

Who can say that he has failed, when the fundamental institutions of this country have been successfully and perhaps irretrievably undermined, and when the positions of America and its allies on the world stage have been similarly, and even more dangerously, undermined around the world?

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President Barack “Constitutional Law Professor” Obama Violates the Constitution, Again

From The Wall Street Journal:

“ObamaCare” is useful shorthand for the Affordable Care Act not least because the law increasingly means whatever President Obama says it does on any given day. His latest lawless rewrite arrived on Monday as the White House decided to delay the law’s employer mandate for another year and in some cases maybe forever.

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Our Lawless Constitutional Law Professor

“I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.”
Barack Obama, March 30, 2007

From CNSNews:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopolous” that President Barack Obama’s presidency is becoming “increasingly lawless,” because the president is “actually contradicting law” or “proposing new laws without going through Congress.”

“We have an increasingly lawless presidency,” said Ryan.

“We have an increasingly lawless presidency where he is actually doing the job of Congress, writing new policies and new laws without going through Congress,” Ryan said. “Presidents don’t write laws. Congress does, and when he does things like he did in health care – delaying mandates that the law said was supposed to occur when they were supposed to occur, that’s not his job.”

“The job of Congress is to change laws if he doesn’t like them – not the presidency. So executive orders are one thing, but executive orders that actually change the statute, that’s totally different,” Ryan said.

Stephanopolous asked Ryan if he really thought Obama’s proposals are unconstitutional, pointing out that the rate of the president’s executive orders is far behind Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

According to the National Archives Federal Register, Obama has signed 167 executive orders as of Dec. 23, 2013. President George W. Bush signed 291 executive orders, and his father, President George H.W. Bush signed 166 executive orders. President Bill Clinton signed 364 executive orders.

“It’s not the number of executive orders. It’s the scope of the executive orders,” said Ryan. “It’s the fact that he’s actually contradicting law like in the health care case, or proposing new laws without going through Congress, George. That’s the issue. So this is a big concern. We have an increasingly lawless presidency.”

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It Depends

VDH explains how noble lies become truth to followers of Leftism:

All presidents have, at one time or another, fudged on the truth. Most politicians pad their résumés and airbrush away their sins. But what is new about political lying is the present notion that lies are not necessarily lies anymore — a reflection of the relativism that infects our entire culture.

Postmodernism (the cultural fad “after modernism”) went well beyond questioning norms and rules. It attacked the very idea of having any rules at all. Postmodernist relativists claimed that things like “truth” were mere fictions to preserve elite privilege. Unfortunately, bad ideas like that have a habit of poisoning an entire society — and now they have.

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis was recently caught fabricating her own autobiography. She exaggerated her earlier ordeals, lied about the age at which she divorced, and was untruthful about how she paid for her Harvard Law School education.

When caught, Davis did not apologize for lying. Instead, she lamely offered that “my language should be tighter.” Apparently, only old fogies still believe in truth and falsehood — period. In contrast, Davis knows that promoting a progressive feminist agenda is “truth,” and she only needs to be “tighter” about her fabrications to neutralize her reactionary critics.

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren for years falsely claimed that she was a Native American. That fabricated ancestry proved useful in upping her career trajectory. When pressed about her racial background during her 2012 campaign, the Harvard law professor denied any deliberate misrepresentation and went on to be elected. Such progressive crusaders assume that they serve the greater truth of social change.

In the gospel of postmodern relativism, what did it matter if the president of the United States promised that Obamacare would not alter existing health-care plans when it was clear that it would? Instead, the good intentions of universal health care are the only truth that matters.

For that matter, the “law” that requires a president to enforce legislation passed by Congress is likewise a construct. If ignoring bothersome laws — whether the individual mandate and timetable of Obamacare, or federal immigration law — serves a greater social justice, then such dereliction also becomes “truth.” Blindly enforcing legalistic details of the law that are deemed no longer in the interest of the people would be the real lie, or so the reasoning goes.

Without notions of objective truth there can never be lies, just competing narratives and discourses. Stories that supposedly serve the noble majority are true; those that supposedly don’t become lies — the facts are irrelevant. When Senator Hillary Clinton in 2007 heard the factual details of the successful Iraq surge as related by General David Petraeus, she said they required a “suspension of disbelief.” In her postmodern sensibility, fighting an unpopular war was a lie, but opposing it was the truth — and the actual metrics for whether the surge was working or not were simply an irrelevant narrative.

Later, as secretary of state, Clinton dismissed the circumstances surrounding the murders in Benghazi with the callous exclamation, “What difference does it make?” She had a postmodern point. If President Obama, then–United Nations ambassador Susan Rice, and Clinton herself all wrongly and deliberately assured the nation that a politically incorrect video had triggered the attacks in Benghazi, were they not on the right side of opposing religious bias and helping a progressive president to be reelected? How could that good intention be a lie?

If Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied under oath to Congress that the National Security Agency does not snoop on American citizens, how can that be perjury if Clapper’s goal was to silence Obama’s right-wing critics? For that matter, if Clapper wanted to show tolerance for Islamists, how could it be a lie when he testified earlier that the radical Muslim Brotherhood was “largely secular”?

By what arbitrary rules can one claim that “Piss Christ” or other provocative anti-Christian art is blasphemous or inferior if its apparent purpose is to lessen the influence of a purportedly pernicious religion? Was Obama’s autobiography truth or fiction, or something in between — as hinted by the president himself when he was caught in untruths and then backed away from some of his stories, claiming they were now just “composites”?

Part of old America still abides by absolute truth and falsity. A door is either hung plumb or not. The calibrations of the Atlas rocket either are accurate and it takes off or inaccurate and it blows up. Noble intentions cannot make prime numbers like five or seven divisible.

But outside of math and science, whose natural truth man so far cannot impugn, almost everything else in America has become “it depends.” Admissions, hiring, evaluations, autobiographies, and the statements of politicians and government officials all become truthful if they serve the correct cause — and damn any reactionary discrepancies.

To paraphrase George Orwell, everything is relative, but some things are more relative than others.

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Ovation for Lawlessness

Allen West with a way to trim some fat from the federal leviathan:

I have an idea to cut government spending immediately. Every Member of Congress who stood and applauded when Obama said he can take steps without legislation can be immediately fired since they agree they are irrelevant — including their staff. Their constituents can then live under the rule of edict instead of the rule of law. I think that would save us a whole bunch of money — including their congressional pensions since they abandoned their duties.

Not to mention that they should be fired for giving an ovation to Obama’s boastful threat to continue violating the Constitution by bypassing Congress — something that specifically contradicts their Oath of Office.

Embarrassment

It infuriates me that Barack Obama, our supposedly responsible, supposedly honorable leader, stands in front of the country and repeats, with histrionic assuredness, the widely discredited pablum that women earn 3/4 of what men earn for the same work:

“You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”

No, Mr. Obama, you are an embarrassment.

Our Imperial President

Ted Cruz on the brazen lawlessness of Barack Obama:

Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the president’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat. On Monday, Mr. Obama acted unilaterally to raise the minimum wage paid by federal contracts, the first of many executive actions the White House promised would be a theme of his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

The president’s taste for unilateral action to circumvent Congress should concern every citizen, regardless of party or ideology. The great 18th-century political philosopher Montesquieu observed: “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates.” America’s Founding Fathers took this warning to heart, and we should too.

Rule of law doesn’t simply mean that society has laws; dictatorships are often characterized by an abundance of laws. Rather, rule of law means that we are a nation ruled by laws, not men. That no one—and especially not the president—is above the law. For that reason, the U.S. Constitution imposes on every president the express duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Yet rather than honor this duty, President Obama has openly defied it by repeatedly suspending, delaying and waiving portions of the laws he is charged to enforce. When Mr. Obama disagreed with federal immigration laws, he instructed the Justice Department to cease enforcing the laws. He did the same thing with federal welfare law, drug laws and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

On many of those policy issues, reasonable minds can disagree. Mr. Obama may be right that some of those laws should be changed. But the typical way to voice that policy disagreement, for the preceding 43 presidents, has been to work with Congress to change the law. If the president cannot persuade Congress, then the next step is to take the case to the American people. As President Reagan put it: “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat” of electoral accountability.

President Obama has a different approach. As he said recently, describing his executive powers: “I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” Under the Constitution, that is not the way federal law is supposed to work.

The Obama administration has been so brazen in its attempts to expand federal power that the Supreme Court has unanimously rejected the Justice Department’s efforts to expand federal power nine times since January 2012.

There is no example of lawlessness more egregious than the enforcement—or nonenforcement—of the president’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Obama has repeatedly declared that “it’s the law of the land.” Yet he has repeatedly violated ObamaCare’s statutory text.

The law says that businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will face the employer mandate on Jan. 1, 2014. President Obama changed that, granting a one-year waiver to employers. How did he do so? Not by going to Congress to change the text of the law, but through a blog post by an assistant secretary at Treasury announcing the change.

The law says that only Americans who have access to state-run exchanges will be subject to employer penalties and may obtain ObamaCare premium subsidies. This was done to entice the states to create exchanges. But, when 34 states decided not to establish state-run exchanges, the Obama administration announced that the statutory words “established by State” would also mean “established by the federal government.”

The law says that members of Congress and their staffs’ health coverage must be an ObamaCare exchange plan, which would prevent them from receiving their current federal-employee health subsidies, just like millions of Americans who can’t receive such benefits. At the behest of Senate Democrats, the Obama administration instead granted a special exemption (deeming “individual” plans to be “group” plans) to members of Congress and their staffs so they could keep their pre-existing health subsidies.

Most strikingly, when over five million Americans found their health insurance plans canceled because ObamaCare made their plans illegal—despite the president’s promise “if you like your plan, you can keep it”—President Obama simply held a news conference where he told private insurance companies to disobey the law and issue plans that ObamaCare regulated out of existence.

In other words, rather than go to Congress and try to provide relief to the millions who are hurting because of the “train wreck” of ObamaCare (as one Senate Democrat put it), the president instructed private companies to violate the law and said he would in effect give them a get-out-of-jail-free card—for one year, and one year only. Moreover, in a move reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s looking-glass world, President Obama simultaneously issued a veto threat if Congress passed legislation doing what he was then ordering.

In the more than two centuries of our nation’s history, there is simply no precedent for the White House wantonly ignoring federal law and asking private companies to do the same. As my colleague Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa asked, “This was the law. How can they change the law?”

Similarly, 11 state attorneys general recently wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius saying that the continuing changes to ObamaCare are “flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law.” The attorneys general correctly observed that “the only way to fix this problem-ridden law is to enact changes lawfully: through Congressional action.”

In the past, when Republican presidents abused their power, many Republicans—and the press—rightly called them to account. Today many in Congress—and the press—have chosen to give President Obama a pass on his pattern of lawlessness, perhaps letting partisan loyalty to the man supersede their fidelity to the law.

But this should not be a partisan issue. In time, the country will have another president from another party. For all those who are silent now: What would they think of a Republican president who announced that he was going to ignore the law, or unilaterally change the law? Imagine a future president setting aside environmental laws, or tax laws, or labor laws, or tort laws with which he or she disagreed.

That would be wrong—and it is the Obama precedent that is opening the door for future lawlessness. As Montesquieu knew, an imperial presidency threatens the liberty of every citizen. Because when a president can pick and choose which laws to follow and which to ignore, he is no longer a president.

And the citizenry yawns.

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