Friday, September 12, 2014

Left Behind

Whatever President Obama's rationale for ramping up American military involvement in Iraq/Syria, and not withstanding the myriad of reasons Obama gave on Wednesday night, the Chief Executive knows that public support for an aggressive policy relies primarily on one factor: fear.

That has been in play for some time now on Fox News and may have been best demonstrated when a month ago one American asserted (video, below)

I think of an American city in flames because of the terrorists' ability to operate in Syria and Iraq,,, I'm saying that Iraq and Syria combined represent a direct threat to our homeland.   His responsibility as president is to defend this nation. If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL -- whatever you want to call these guys -- they are coming here!

The comment was not made by a tea party activist, Rush Limbaugh, or Laura Ingraham. It was uttered by a sitting United States Senator, one oft-praised and even revered by the mainstream media for being a moderate Republican.

At the time, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham added to GOP TV's Chris Wallace "It is about our homeland, and if we get attacked because he has no strategy to protect us then he will have committed a blunder for the ages."

But no matter of propaganda  spread by Graham, other conservatives, and Fox News will have the desired effect without suitable video, in this case of the horrific execution of two American journalists,.   President Obama, though not exploiting these incidents in his speech Wednesday, did state

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners. They kill children. They enslave, rape and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Americans were outraged by these incidents but back the President's aggressive strategy because they are, as ISIS intended by the beheadings, terrified.  For a recent CNN/ORC poll (below) clearly not designed by a linguist, respondents were asked whether they found the threat from ISIS "very serious," "fairly serious," somewhat serious," or "not serious." Fully two-thirds of the respondents opted for one of the first two choices and more than twice as many chose "very serious" as "fairly serious" (whatever the latter category means).

By contrast, last week the outgoing director of the National Counterterrorism Center

played down the risk of a spectacular al-Qaida-style attack in a major US or even European city, adding: “There is no credible information that [Isis] is planning to attack the United States”. He added there was “no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States – full stop”.

The leading counterterrorism expert said said it was “spot on” to conclude that Isis is significantly more limited than al-Qaida was, for example, in the run-up to 9/11, when it had underground cells across Europe and the US. “We certainly aren’t there,” Olsen said. “[Isis] is not al-Qaida pre-9/11”.

Still, viewing an American or two having his head separated from the rest of his body focuses the mind.   But the role of the U.S. government in attempting to rescue the two journalists has come into question. Politico reports that on September 9

The mother of slain American journalist James Foley is harshly criticizing the U.S. government for its handling of her son’s hostage situation.

“I really, really feel that our country let Jim down,” Diane Foley said during a Thursday night interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Foley made clear that she didn’t want to blame specific people and said that there were many government officials who genuinely wanted to help. But she reserved significant criticism for the U.S. government in general, which she felt failed to help her family or James while he was held by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant captors.

“As an American, I was embarrassed and appalled. I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance” to the government, she said. Foley added that James “believed until the end” that the government would come to his rescue.

Foley also said that the government told her family members that they could be “prosecuted” if they tried to raise ransom to secure his release. “I was horrified,” she said, when informed....

Diane Foley on Thursday evening acknowledged the attempted rescue mission but said it was a “very late” try, suggesting the government knew about her son’s location for a long time and failed to move in.

When asked Thursday evening whether she felt if the U.S. government was there for her and her family, she said, “not at all.”

The previous day, a spokesperson for the Sotloff family spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper. Barak

Barfi said Sotloff had just crossed the Syrian border when his group was stopped by rebels who were “supposedly moderate.” However, the rebels kidnapped and sold the 31-year-old journalist to ISIS for $25,000 to $50,000, Barfi said sources on the ground told the family.

In the months that followed, a “strained” relationship developed between the administration and the family, Barfi continued. Contrary to official statements, the family did not regularly receive information, he said, and officials declined to accommodate a family request. Citing the safety of other hostages, he would not say what the request was.

“They could have helped us,” he said.

Instead, he said Sotloff and fellow hostage James Foley, who was executed in a similar fashion last month, were pawns amid infighting between various branches of the government.

“They said that these hostages were moved frequently. We know that for most of the beginning of part of this year they were stationary,” Barfi said. “We know that the intelligence community and the White House are enmeshed in a larger game of bureaucratic infighting and Jim [Foley] and Steve are pawns in that game and that’s not fair.”

Given the role of the murders of these two individuals in shaping public opinion- hence, public policy- on fighting in the region, the comments from their people are intriguing and bear further investigation. That means, of course, Republicans will ignore them.

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