Presidential Candidates, Media Duck Tough War/Peace Issues


With the presidential debates scheduled to resume Jan. 14 after holiday recess, voters are running out of chances to hear sustained discussion of the most difficult foreign policy issues before the first voter selections.

So far, candidates have almost entirely avoided meaningful comment, particularly before the smaller and more interactive audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire. These smaller states enable more candid exchanges about some of the hardest war-related choices the next administration will face. When campaigns move to larger states candidates have far less hazard of encountering tough questions from unvetted, independent sources, such as individual voters and donors, and local journalists.

Three examples below show the problem, including dangerous shared assumptions between candidates, the mainstream media, and the major corporations that control them both.

Dana Bash Carly Fiorina CNN  Jan. 3, 2016On CNN’s “State of the Nation” Sunday interview show, for example, substitute host Dana Bash (shown at left) questioned GOP candidate Carly Fiorina Jan. 3 about her Middle Eastern foreign policy.

Bash asked Fiorina about Saudi Arabia’s execution of a Shia cleric, thus antagonizing Iran and leading to severed relations before scheduled peace talks later this month. Fiorina's extended response included the following, according to a CNN transcript:

“….when Russia and Iran combine together in an unholy alliance, we cannot, as, for example, Donald Trump suggests, outsource leadership, our leadership in the Middle East, to Russia or to Iran. They're not our allies. They are our adversaries.”

Fiorina, a former high-tech CEO who led the CIA's external advisory board from 2007 to 2009, repeated several times her language about “allies” and “adversaries.”

But she failed to describe what shared interests should constitute on alliance or what the United States should do about actions by "allies" that undercut this country's announced foreign policies on, for example, thwarting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia, for example, funded accused 9/11 hijackers according to widespread reports, and is heavily implicated along with U.S. ally Turkey in enabling the ISIS/ISIL terrorists based in Syria and Iraq.

The exchange on CNN typified other vapid interviews there and elsewhere sidestepping vital topics apparently too sensitive for in-depth treatment.

Softball Questions?

CNN's reporter asked seemingly neutral questions that provided the candidate a soapbox to launch into campaign talking points without confronting questions that might be truly difficult to answer, such as why the United States is so firmly wedded as an ally to such a demonstrated human rights violator as the Saudis or Turks.

Bash also questioned the candidate on why she told Iowa voters she was rooting for the University of Iowa in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl football game against her own undergraduate college, Stanford University. Fiorina, 61 and with a reported net worth of nearly $60 million with her husband, repeated several times "Can't a girl have fun?"

Here are two other examples regarding topics that remain frequently in the news on largely superficial levels, but without questions that challenge the candidates in meaningful ways:

Does No-Fly Zone Constitute 'War'?

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Fiorina and all other leading GOP candidates with the exception of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul apparently want the United States and its allies to impose a “no-fly zone” to protect rebel operations in parts of Syria.  

Republican presidential candidates, from left, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)Yet the candidates -- none of whom have active duty military experience -- are virtually never asked how they would respond in detail to a likely military responses by Russia, which has moved highly advanced weapons into Syria at the request of Syria’s government, as we reported here last month in an overview of major developments on the battlefield, Obama Revises Disastrous ISIS.

More than two years ago, Atlantic Magazine staff writer Conor Friedersdorf predicted the problem with a piece entitled,  Let's Be Clear: Establishing a 'No-Fly Zone' Is an Act of War. The subtitle was: The term is a euphemism that obscures the gravity of what its advocates are suggesting -- a U.S. air attack on Syria. 

He predicted what would happen if war-mongering politicians told the public in blunt terms the implications of imposing an air embargo against Syria's government. This was at a time when the country's skies weren't also being protected by, as now, highly advanced Russian airplanes, anti-aircraft weaponry, including a system that purportedly knocks out satellite, aircraft and other electronic capabilities of opponents for a region said to extend over much of Western Syria.

The Atlantic's writer described popular reaction to blunt talk this way:

I trust "start a war against Syria" would poll poorly.

That's why advocates of that course hide the consequences of what they propose behind a euphemism. If only there were a deliberative body that the Constitution charged with declaring war, so that it would be impossible to start any wars of choice without the voice of the people being heard.

Foreign Policy Magazine amplified the implications last fall for Clinton's proposal in Democrats Aren’t on Board With Hillary’s No-Fly Zone Plan. Author Dan De Luce reported, "Democrats in Congress see a no-fly zone as a risky step that could draw the United States into a large-scale military commitment and possibly into direct conflict with Russia, which has launched an air war against rebels opposing the Assad regime."

Legal Authority For War

Finally, and perhaps most importantly in our survey of neglected issues, the legal basis of a U.S.-imposed no-fly-zone or other military action against Russia, Syria and their allies within Syria remains highly questionable except in those circles where it is assumed the United States can take any action throughout the world irrespective of international law. A "war of aggression" is a war crime under longstanding principles administered at the Nuremberg trials, with some exceptions arising under recent United Nations principles for a so-called "right to protect" in certain instances.

The United States has been fighting in Iraq under congressional authorizations more than a decade to fight 9/11 perpetrators, which presumably include Al Qaeda terrorists and potentially ISIS/Islamic State jihadists.

Mitchell_McConnellBut congress has declined to act on the Obama White House proposal early last year to authorize an expanded war against Islamic jihadists whose ISIS organization did not exist during the 9/11 era. Additionally, many of the rebel fighters who would be protected by a “safe zone” are non-Syrian jihadists (including Al Qaeda) who entered Syria from an estimated 70+ nations with the complicity of Turkey, which operates as both a U.S. ally and an enabler of ISIS fighter, oil and other smuggling.

In a Jan. 10 interview on ABC-TV, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (shown in an official photo) said he would not allow a vote on any legislation to authorize force against ISIS, as reported by the Huffington Post in Mitch McConnell Makes Clear That He Won't Authorize War Under Obama.

There are always exceptions to the norm, however. CNN's "State of the Nation" host Jake Tapper repeatedly tried unsuccessfully Jan. 10 to box in GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz on a commitment to have "door-to-door" deportation raids to enforce his policies. Cruz declined the obvious trap, pointing out that strong enforcement comes from efficient procedures at the workplace and similar venues, not police state methods.

With such exceptions to the norm of a deferential corporate media, voters need a working theory to place varied occurrences into an understandable framework. We have sought to do so here in many ways, including our 30-part series "Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination" and, separately, in this editor's book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. Each shows that all of the presidential candidates and the major corporate media have similar financial backers and thus controlling influences.

To examine just CNN, for example, its long-prominent anchor and foreign affairs specialist Wolf Blitzer got his career start as communications director for AIPAC, the American Israel Political Action Committee, one of America's most prominent lobbying groups. That history is seldom noted, even as Blitzer won deserved praise for his undoubted skills in moderating the last presidential debate. Another of the network's prominent hosts, Anderson Cooper, is a Yale-educated heir to the Vanderbilt fortune who began his career with two summer internships at the CIA.

David Talbot "The Devil's Chessboard" Dulles Book coverApologists for the power structure would dismiss such early relationships as unimportant. Yet one must wonder about why such ties are so pervasive, including among those of more modest family and work backgrounds who attained eminence extending to the present after delivering obviously flawed and otherwise biased reports on the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.

More currently, President Obama's key strategist and speechwriter Ben Rhodes achieved a career breakthrough by helping draft the 9/11 Commission's recommendations at an early age. His brother David Rhodes is the president of CBS News. Washington Post owner Jeffery Bezos bought the paper for $250 million arising from his fortune founding, which obtained a $600 million contract from the CIA shortly after Bezos purchased the Post. And so forth, on and on in a pattern of providential relationships between powerful interests, political figures and the media. 

Timid Corporate Media

Meanwhile, the corporate media avoid for the most part treating discussions of such relationships.

Only a few of the major media, aside C-SPAN for example, have reviewed Salon founder and best-selling author David Talbot's book last fall The Devil's Chessboard published by the major outlet HarperCollins. That silence has been occasionally broken by such rare voices as C-SPAN's "Book Notes" program cablecast on Jan. 11.

The 686-page book examines the CIA's role as the operational arm of the Wall Street establishment during the heyday of its longest-serving director, Dulles, a prominent Wall Street lawyer operating for foreign policy purposes at the behest of those at the Harriman and Rockefeller level, not just presidents. Indeed, Dulles, the most active and otherwise important member of the Warren Commission reporting on Kennedy's assassination in 1964, played a key role in helping cover up such key facts as accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's ties with intelligence, law enforcement and military personnel.

As a remarkable new development, independent blogger, author and political commentator Wayne Madsen published a column Jan. 11 The coming war over Hagia Sophia in effect predicting the fatal terrorist bombing that occurred less than 24 hours later in Turkey's main religious-oriented tourist district.

Recep Tayyip ErdoganThe former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst ascribed the coming conflict to pro-Islam, pro-ISIS, anti-Christian views of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (shown at left), who leads a nation that is ostensibly a U.S. and NATO ally. Madsen, once a national security expert commentator on virtually all major U.S. broadcast and cable news channels, has been banished in recent years to other media, including 13 books, his subscription website The Wayne Madsen Report, frequent radio broadcasts on foreign and alternative stations, and opeds that have appeared hundreds of times in small and mid-size U.S. newspapers. Corporate news managers at the major networks, however, regard his views as too critical of Washington's bipartisan foreign policy agenda of helping Turkey, Israel, and the Persian Gulf monarchies.  

Even without reading the works of dissident U.S. authors and other experts, however, the public appears to sense during the current election cycle that establishment voices who are invited to describe public affairs deserve extra scrutiny if not distrust. Hence the strong popularity in recent polls of those candidates most visibly attacking the nation's political, financial, and media establishment.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump repeatedly denounced his rivals as "puppets" during the first presidential debate last summer and thereafter. Cruz and, until recently, Ben Carson have also done well on the Republican side by attacking the establishment. So has Democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders, especially in recent Iowa and New Hampshire polling and large rallies. Even these relative "outsiders," however, are rarely challenged on their instinctive reliance on such "allies" as Saudi Arabia and Turkey to solve America's Middle Eastern problems.

In a separate sign of the times, New Republic owner Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, announced to staff Jan. 11 that he is selling the century-old publication most famous in recent years for seeking to main a "liberal" image while advocating for such neo-conservative foreign policies as an invasion of Iraq in 2003. Most staff resigned during $20 million in Hughes transformations, most notably his effort to transform the focus from print to digital.

To be charitable and otherwise fair, it's not as if all the officials and media are intentionally adhering to a few approved directions and scripts. It's a more subtle process for the most part whereby those with the right backgrounds, attitudes and skills advance, talk with each other, and in many instances become multi-millionaires with little time or incentive to explore new perspectives except on superficial levels.

Nonetheless, on-camera television talent and officials alike are thoroughly comfortable using make-up, light and in effect scripts (or at least thorough pre-planning that can include instructions dictated to on-camera interviewers via hidden earpieces) even in what are apparently unscripted reports.

Media Stenographers Take Dictation, Call It 'News'

Similarly, print journalists from all of the major news organizations routinely quote officials anonymously on foreign affairs stories. Why? Not to protect sources from official reprisal. Instead, it's to protect official propagandists from accountability if and when their comments are proven to be wrong.

Also, foreign affairs reporters routinely cite intelligence-created front organizations as neutral sources of information rather than inform readers of the propaganda technique at work. This is especially common these days with major news services and wire reporters who cite the one-man, Great Britain-based "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" for on-the-ground information about developments in Syria.

Such practices are not limited to foreign affairs, of course, as political blogger and media critic argued in Cooper pretends to stage town hall forum!, a Jan. 11 column targeting Anderson Cooper and NBC "Meet the Press Host" Chuck Todd for undertaking "pseudo-questioning" of President Obama and Donald Trump, respectively. Somerby's column is excerpted below.

Bottom line: The United States is fighting a war without congressional authorization, just as it is waging an election campaign with a minimum of tough questions and follow up for candidates from a timid and captive mainstream media.

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Related News Coverage

Actions of U.S. "Allies" 

The Atlantic, Counting the Dead in Syria, Micah Zenko (of the Council on Foreign Relations), Sept. 15, 2015. In considering possible responses to the bloodletting, what matters is not just how many are dying, but how.  On Monday, The New York Times published an infographic, “Death in Syria,” that presents the more than 200,000 combatants and noncombatants who have been killed in the four-and-a-half-year Syrian civil war.  These fatality estimates should be viewed with an understanding of the inherent difficulties of reporting from within Syria, and the conscious or unconscious biases often found within NGOs. The VDC categorization and numbers conflict significantly with those published by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a human-rights NGO based in London—as you can see from the comparison below. Even the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights decided to stop providing public estimates of casualties in January 2014, because it could no longer guarantee that the source material for its estimates was accurate.

The Times’s presentation of the VDC data is illuminating for policy discussions about whether and how to intervene militarily in Syria. Consistent with earlier analyses, most people who have tragically lost their lives in Syria are not civilians, but rather active combatants. This is worth bearing in mind when U.S. senators repeat the inaccurate statement that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has “massacred” 200,000 of his own people. The Syrian security forces under Assad’s authority have perpetrated an untold number of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and as the head of state he must be held accountable by a post-conflict special tribunal for Syria. However, those advocating the use of force to protect civilians should recognize that there first must be an end to the fighting between the combatants, within which civilians have suffered and died on a tremendous scale.

Washington Post, Deadly suicide blast hits Istanbul tourist area; Officials claim Islamic State links, Erin Cunningham and Brian Murphy, Jan. 12, 2016. A Syrian suicide bomber believed linked to the Islamic State set Flag of Turkeyoff a powerful blast Tuesday in the heart of one of Istanbul’s main tourist districts, officials said, killing at least 10 people and injuring 15 with reports citing Germans as among the main casualties.The attack was a further sign of the country’s deepening instability in a region wracked by war and the widening reach of groups such as the Islamic State. The blast also struck directly at a hub of Istanbul’s important tourism trade, reflecting similar tactics used by militants against popular internationally known sites in countries including Tunisia and Egypt.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Bomb blast near Hagia Sophia in Istanbul targets Western tourists, Wayne Madsen (former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst shown below), Jan. 12, 2016 Wayne Madsen(Subscription required for reading. Excerpt used with permission). A jihadist suicide bomber struck with deadly results a group of Western tourists near the Hagia Sophia cathedral in Constantinople (what the Muslims now call "Istanbul").

The Hagia Sophia is the one-time seat of Eastern Christianity and it is the target of the Islamist government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be re-converted into an active mosque.

The suicide bomber is claimed to have been a Syrian, one of thousands of jihadists armed and supported by the Erdogan government in its attempt to overthrow Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

The bombing occurred less than 24 hours after WMR reported [in Monday's WMR column, The coming war over Hagia Sophia] that there is a coming war between Turkey and Eastern Christian Orthodoxy over Erdogan's plans to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Saud

Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (shown at right, with the Saudi flag underneath)

Independent, Prince Mohammed bin Salman: Naive, arrogant Saudi prince is playing with fire, Patrick Cockburn, Jan. 10, 2016. German intelligence memo shows the threat from the kingdom’s headstrong defense minister. At the end of last year the BND, the German intelligence agency, published a remarkable one-and-a-half-page memo saying that Saudi Arabia had adopted “an impulsive policy of intervention.” It portrayed Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the powerful 29-year-old favorite son of the aging King Salman, who is suffering from dementia – as a political gambler who is destabilizing the Arab world through proxy wars in Yemen and Syria.

The BND lists the areas in which Saudi Arabia is adopting a more aggressive and warlike policy. The overreaching gets worse by the day. At every stage in the confrontation with Iran over the past week Riyadh has raised the stakes. The attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad might not have been expected but the Saudis did not have to break off diplomatic relations. Then there was the air strike that the Iranians allege damaged their embassy in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

Agence France Press via Yahoo News, Al-Qaeda abducts media activists from Syria rebel town, Staff report, Jan. 10, 2016. Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate abducted two of the country's most prominent media activists from a radio station in the northwestern Idlib province on Sunday, opposition officials told AFP. "Al-Nusra Front kidnapped activists Hadi al-Abdallah and Raed Fares in the offices of Fresh FM where they work and live in Kafranbel," said Soner Taleb, head of media at the Syrian National Coalition. Fares, Fresh FM's director, has previously been detained by Al-Nusra fighters, who disapprove of what they term the station's "secular tendency and support of apostates," Taleb said.

According to a statement published by Fresh FM, Al-Nusra fighters stormed the radio station and confiscated its broadcasting and technical equipment as well as its electricity generators. Al-Nusra is part of a powerful alliance known as the Army of Conquest that captured Idlib earlier this year, and it has a strong presence in other parts of the country.

Saudi Arabian flagThe Guardian, ISIS 'ran sophisticated immigration operation' on Turkey-Syria border, Shiv Malik, Alice Ross, Mona Mahmood and Ewen MacAskill, Jan. 10, 2016. Exclusive: Passenger manifests seized by Kurdish forces at Tel Abyad have same stamp marks as other Isis documents the Guardian has been able to verify.

Atlantic Council via Newsweek, Christians Face Total Purge From Syria, Flavius Mihaies, Jan. 10, 2016. Flavius Mihaies is a consultant at the World Bank and a journalist. In May and August 2015 he traveled to Syria, where he visited Damascus, Homs and the Kurdish-controlled region in northwest Syria. Syrian Christians face the difficult question of how to preserve their communities. ISIS and other Islamist groups target Christians for a variety of reasons, including to gain credibility as the implementers of “true” Islam and for economic reasons, forcing Christians to pay higher taxes (Jizya), seizing their property and even capturing Christians as slaves. Christians in regime territories are safe from immediate danger, but struggle to keep their communities together.

No-Fly Zone

Atlantic, Let's Be Clear: Establishing a 'No-Fly Zone' Is an Act of War, Conor Friedersdorf, May 29, 2013. The term is a euphemism that obscures the gravity of what its advocates are suggesting -- a U.S. air attack on Syria. Kudos to Josh Rogin for breaking the news that "the White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria." But wouldn't it be a more powerful story without the euphemism? Relying on the term "no-fly zone" is typical in journalism. But that is a mistake. It obscures the gravity of the news.

Here's how an alternative version of the story might look: "The White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for bombing multiple targets inside Syria, constantly surveilling Syrian airspace alongside U.S. allies, and shooting down Syrian war planes and helicopters that try to fly around, perhaps for months."

The term "no-fly-zone" isn't analytically useless. It's just that folks using it as shorthand should make sure everyone reading understands that, as Daniel Larison put it right up in a headline, "Imposing a No-Fly-Zone in Syria Requires Starting a New War." That becomes clearer some paragraphs later in Rogin's article, when he discussed Senator John McCain's advocacy for a "no-fly-zone." "McCain said a realistic plan for a no-fly zone would include hundreds of planes, and would be most effective if it included destroying Syrian airplanes on runways, bombing those runways, and moving U.S. Patriot missile batteries in Turkey close to the border so they could protect airspace inside northern Syria," he wrote.

The article also quotes Robert Zarate, policy director at the hawkish Foreign Policy Initiative. His euphemisms of choice: "No doubt, the United States and its like-minded allies and partners are fully capable, without the use of ground troops, of obviating the Assad regime's degraded, fixed, and mobile air defenses and suppressing the regime's use of airpower."

Does anyone think he'd describe Syrian planes bombing a U.S. aircraft carrier as "obviating" our naval assets? The question before us is whether America should wage war in Syria by bombing its weapons, maintaining a presence in its airspace, and shooting at its pilots if they take off. On hearing the phrase "no-fly-zone," how many Americans would realize all that is involved?

Foreign Policy, Democrats Aren’t on Board With Hillary’s No-Fly Zone Plan, Dan De Luce, Oct. 28, 2015. Hillary Clinton is trying to distance herself from Obama on Syria, but members of her own party oppose Democratic Debate 12-19-15greater U.S. military involvement. Hillary Clinton has a plan for how to save hundreds of thousands of Syrians from Bashar al-Assad’s war machine. Unfortunately for the Democratic presidential front-runner, leaders of her own party don’t like it. On the campaign trail, in interviews, and in the first Democratic debate, Clinton has called for the establishment of a “no-fly zone” in Syria which would be patrolled by American warplanes tasked with preventing Assad from using his helicopter gunships and jets to bomb his own people. If necessary, the U.S. warplanes would have the authority to shoot down Syrian aircraft.

“I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air,” Clinton said this month.

Politically, calling for a no-fly zone allows Clinton (shown in the second debate in December) to distance herself from President Barack Obama, who has faced growing criticism from members of both parties for his inability to craft a strategy for either defeating the Islamic State or ousting Assad. Clinton has labeled the administration’s effort to train Syrian rebels to battle the Islamic State a “failed policy.” Publicly breaking with Obama over Syria also allows her to push back against Republican accusations that a Clinton presidency would effectively mark Obama’s third term.

Clinton’s tougher line, however, also sets up a potential public feud with party heavyweight Joe Biden. The vice president recently ruled out a possible bid for the Democratic nomination, but Biden has vowed to speak out in defense of the administration’s policies, and Clinton’s criticism of the White House’s handling of Syria could prompt him to fire back.

It also leaves her clearly at odds with many of the Democratic lawmakers she’d rely on for support during the primaries this fall and the actual presidential vote in a year’s time. Some lawmakers worry that U.S. pilots would eventually find themselves squaring off against Russian fighter jets over Syria.

Congressional Refusal To Debate, Authorize Anti-ISIS War

Huffington Post, Mitch McConnell Makes Clear That He Won't Authorize War Under Obama, Sam Stein, Jan. 10, 2016. The next president, he says, deserves his own authorization. It's been well over a year Mitchell_McConnellsince the Obama administration began its bombing campaign against the Islamic State. But beyond the occasional pining from some members of Congress, there has been little indication that lawmakers will vote on legislation formally authorizing what is objectively viewed as an act of war.

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made the prospects of passing an Authorization for Use of Military Force even more remote when he said he had no interest in doing so with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. From his interview with ABC's "This Week" (emphasis ours):

Well, the problem with what the president submitted for authorization to use military force restricted what he could do. I can't imagine that I would be voting for an authorization for the use of military force that Barack Obama would sign because the one he submitted for us to take a look at restricted his activities, what he could do based upon conditions on the ground.

What this means, effectively, is that U.S. operations will continue in western Iraq and Syria for at least another year before the Senate actually votes to support or oppose it. The administration says it has the legal authority to do this, based on the 2001 AUMF to go after those who committed the 9/11 terror attacks or harbored the terrorists. And though that argument has been criticized as dubious, it hasn't been challenged seriously enough to impede our campaign against ISIS. Still, the White House has submitted a new AUMF for that specific campaign, in part to have firmer legal ground and in part to put Congress on record in support of the operation. McConnell has now effectively said he won't give them either., 35 House War Opponents Push for Vote on ISIS War, Jason Ditz, Nov. 6, 2015. New Letter Cites Syria Deployment as a 'Significant Escalation.'  A bipartisan group of U.S. Rep. Walter Jonesmembers of the House of Representatives have issued an open letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R – WI), calling for a vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS, citing “deepening entanglement” in the conflict by President Obama. Under the War Powers Act, the president must seek Congressional approval for any overseas military operation within 60 days. The launching of the war against ISIS in summer of 2014 put that vote in the middle of a mid-term election, and most Congressional leaders on both sides simply chose to ignore the law. Over a year later, the president made only one token effort to get an AUMF through, and that died when the White House openly bragged they made the wording so vague it would allow them to do basically anything they wanted. Without an authorization the war should’ve ended, instead it escalated.

One of the letter-signers is U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (shown in an official photo), a senior Republican representing the North Carolina district that is home to Fort Bragg.

The new letter particularly draws attention to the recent White House announcement of ground troops being deployed to Syria, something previous AUMF attempts explicitly ruled out, saying this is a “significant escalation” of the war and proof that Congress needs to at some point vote on the matter., Obama Puts US Boots in Syria – Where is Congress?  Daniel McAdams, Oct. 31, 2015. “I will not put US boots on the ground in Syria.” That was President Obama’s unequivocal statement to the American people just two years ago when he first planned to bomb Syria. He has repeated the statement several times, as he has also repeated his promise that he “will not pursue a long air campaign” in Syria and Iraq. Obama lied. And he lied again. And he lied again yesterday, when it was announced that he was putting US boots on the ground in Syria. This move encapsulates neocon-occupied Washington’s response to foreign policy failure: if an intervention is failing, escalate.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues


Daily Howler, Cooper pretends to stage town hall forum!  Bob Somerby, Jan. 11, 2016. Todd pretends to interview Trump. As the week begins, let's focus on the horrid performance staged by Anderson Cooper last Thursday night. Cooper pretended to stage a "town hall meeting" on the subject of guns, with MSNBC offering its latest dosage of live fresh Trump, cast as the bait in its corporate counter-programming. That "town hall meeting" on CNN was as bad a cable event as we've ever seen.

First, though, a quick review of yesterday's Meet the Press, where Chuck Todd once again pretended to interview Candidate Trump. That was imitation questioning, in which Todd conducted a string of superficial pseudo-exchanges on an endless range of topics. 

Trump wants to fix our health care system, which is going to fail very soon. But how would he fix our health care system? Needless to say, Trump wasn't asked. At the point shown above, Todd simply scattershot his way ahead to the next superficial pseudo-exchange. Todd always "interviews" Trump this way, presumably for business reasons.

As the lengthy pseudo-session ended, Todd cheerfully said this:  "All right. Mr. Trump. Until we meet again." By all accounts, an appearance by Candidate Trump swells a TV show's ratings. This helps a program make money. Highly paid corporate "interviewers" want Trump coming back again.

Daily Howler, What our own liberal dumbness hath enabled or wrought! Bob Somerby, Jan. 12, 2016. We liberals have a very hard time observing a basic part of our world. This afternoon, we'll start exploring that dumbness as it affects the ongoing White House race, which Candidate Trump could very well win. For now, let's consider the gruesome "town hall" Anderson Cooper conducted last Thursday night.  The event occurred on CNN, with Barack Obama condemned to the role of Cooper's guest of honor. It was one of the dumbest, most dispiriting events we've ever seen on "cable news." 

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: Associated Press reporter Matt Lee, portrayed in the video clip above on his beat covering the U.S. Department of State, often provides challenging questions for State Department officials, as indicated by the video and news column about it below.

RealClear Politics, AP's Matt Lee vs. State Department: Has Iran "Come Clean" On Past Nuclear Programs?; State: "We Didn't Need Them To," Staff report, Jan. 11, 2016. Associated Press reporter Matt Lee takes on State Department spokesman Ret. Admiral John Kirby to answer if the administration was able to get Iran to "come clean" on their past nuclear actions. Kirby said the United States didn't need Iran to "come clean" because the government had already made their judgment.

    MATT LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: For years and years the demand had been for Iranians to "come clean." Using those words -- to "come clean" on its past nuclear work, weapons or otherwise. Have they done that in your estimation?

    KIRBY: Have they done what?

    LEE: Have they come clean on their past work?

    KIRBY: We would just point you to what the IAEA found.

    LEE: The IAEA is not Iran.

OpEdNews, The Proof Is In: The US Government Is The Most Complete Criminal Organization In Human History, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 10, 2016. Unique among the countries on earth, the US government insists that its laws and dictates take precedence over the sovereignty of nations. Washington asserts the power of US courts over foreign nationals and claims extra-territorial jurisdiction of US courts over foreign activities of which Washington or American interest groups disapprove. Perhaps the worst results of Washington's disregard for the sovereignty of countries is the power Washington has exercised over foreign nationals solely on the basis of terrorism charges devoid of any evidence. Consider a few examples. Try to imagine a world in which every country asserted the extra-territoriality of its law. The planet would be in permanent chaos with world GDP expended in legal and military battles. 

Yesterday Fayez Mohammed Ahmed Al-Kandari was released after 14 years of torture by "freedom and democracy America." The United States military officer, Col. Barry Wingard, who represented Al-Kandari said that "there simply is no evidence other than he is a Muslim in Afghanistan at the wrong time, other than double and triple hearsay statements, something I have never seen as justification for incarceration." Much less, said Col. Wingard, was there cause for a litany of multi-year torture in an effort to force a confession to the alleged offenses. Do not expect the Western prostitute media to report these facts to you.