Air Force suspends 20-year-long ethics course that used The Bible to Train Missile Launch Officers |
For 20 years, chaplains at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California have used a PowerPoint presentation designed to help teach those in missile launch training the reasons behind “why we’re doing what we’re doing.” In what trainees called the “Jesus loves Nukes speech,” chaplains present religious figures including Abraham, John the Baptist, and Saint Augustine along with “many examples of believers engaged in wars in the Old Testament.” The presentation also states that there is “no pacifistic sentiment in mainstream Jewish history.” But, after TruthOut got a hold of a copy, the Air Force is now dumping the material. “Senior leadership looked at [the material for the course] and said, no, we could do better than this,” stated Air Force Air Education and Training Command spokesman David Smith.
I’ve noted in the past that taking advice on Middle East policy from neoconservative stalwart Elliott Abrams is like taking advice on offshore drilling from BP. It won’t always be wrong, necessarily, but there’s a clear past record of catastrophe that you really want to keep in mind.
Abrams has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal with lots of advice for the Obama administration on Syria, some of it sensible, some of it already being done, and some of it simply evidence of the curious neoconservative belief in magic foreign policy wands.
As my colleagues and I wrote back in June, the U.S. has a hugely important role to play in marshaling the international community, in a number of multilalteral venues, against the Assad regime’s abuses. Blake Hounshell and Josh Rogin have a great, informative piece on the state of play in Syria, and the rather narrow range of U.S. policy options for influencing it, as does Hussein Ibish.
But as you read Abrams’ fulminating against the Assad “mafia,” do remember that back in 2002, when he handled Middle East affairs for the National Security Council under the George W. Bush administration, the United States rendered an innocent Canadian citizen, Maher Arrar, to this same “mafia,” who tortured Arrar repeatedly.
Lindsey Graham: Can’t Cut Defense Spending Because Of Threats I Can’t Tell You About |
Appearing on Fox News last night, pre-eminent hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argued that the worst thing about the deal struck between the White House and Republicans to avert a U.S. default was the looming cuts to defense spending. Though details in the actual bill are sketchy, a failure to meet prescribed cuts would trigger larger defense cuts (the percentage of these triggered cuts that come from defense spending are also disputed and the cuts are “security” cuts, not all from the Department of Defense). Graham said the cuts were untenable because the U.S. “faces threats I can’t even tell you about in detail.” Watch the video:
This afternoon, the Senate approved the debt deal that the House of Representatives passed last night. The deal will raise the debt ceiling $2.3 trillion and in exchange will cut and cap federal spending in ways largely considered to be deleterious to the economy.
However, the deal does contain possible defense cuts. The Obama administration claims the deal would reduce defense spending by $350 billion over ten years, and a trigger mechanism and super committee contained within the deal may bring about greater cuts.
Yet a number of leading defense and foreign policy experts are now expressing skepticism about the actual size of these cuts, suggesting they may be much smaller than at first claimed.
The Straus Military Reform Project’s Winslow Wheeler argues that the method used for calculating the $350 billion number is untrustworthy and that the final amount that will be cut will “be decided by Congress in the future”:
There are numerous misleading and misinformed assertions being made about the defense spending parts of the debt deal. [...] The $350 billion in defense savings that the White House declares apparently uses a different “baseline” (basis of comparison) and pretends that a two year cap the bill establishes on “security” spending will extend to ten years.
Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin notes that the bill uses a wide definition of “security” spending and could allow cuts to come down in non-Department of Defense areas to be defined as defense spending, including even in foreign aid:
But if you look at the text of the bill, there is simply no language on how much the defense budget will actually be cut. What the bill does is set spending caps for “security” spending, which the administration defines as defense, homeland security, intelligence, nuclear weapons, diplomacy, and foreign aid. There’s no breakdown that defines which of these agencies get what, so there’s no way to be sure that all the cuts would come from “defense.”
The Center for International Policy’s William Hartung notes that the cuts may reduce projected Pentagon spending “by less than one percent“:
In the short-term, the budget deal crafted by the president and the congressional leadership gives the Pentagon virtually a free ride. It reduces projected Pentagon spending by less than one percent. [...] Real cuts in Pentagon expenditures can be imposed without reducing our security. Any longer-term deal should reflect this reality.
Going forward, advocates for defense cuts will have to be wary about the sort of reductions that can actually be made under this framework. Of course, Congress is always free to reduce defense expenditures independent of this deal.
While anti-Muslim advocates like Frank Gaffney, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) have been outspoken advocates of the theory that radical Islamists are infiltrating the U.S., a poll released today by the Abu Dhabi Gallup center shows that American Muslims are the religious group in America most likely to reject violence against civilians.
The poll, an aggregate of Gallup polls conducted between January 1, 2008 and April 9, 2011, finds that 78 percent of Muslim Americans said military attacks against civilians are never justified, compared to 58 percent of protestants and Catholics, 52 percent of Jewish respondents and 33 percent of Mormons.
By contrast, West, for example, has said that Islam is incompatible with American values:
We already have a 5th column that is already infiltrating into our colleges, into our universities, into our high schools, into our religious aspect, our cultural aspect, our financial, our political systems in this country. And that enemy represents something called Islam and Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals that stand up and say that.”
The poll finds:
Muslim Americans are most likely (89 percent) to reject violent attacks by individuals or small groups on civilians versus any other U.S. religious group.
Nearly all Muslim Americans (92 percent) have no sympathy for al-Qaeda.
Muslim Americans are the most likely (65 percent) to see U.S. actions as causing unfavorable views of U.S. in Muslim countries versus any other U.S. religious group.
While King’s hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims might indicate that Muslims are less loyal to the U.S. than other religious groups, the polling data suggests exactly the opposite:
Muslim Americans are as likely as other major faith communities to have confidence in the country’s judicial system and the media.
Muslim Americans overwhelmingly (93 percent) believe their co-faithful are loyal to America.
Perhaps most interestingly, the poll found that the political and social views expressed by Muslims are often closest to Jewish Americans. Including:
Eighty-one-percent of Muslim Americans and 78 percent of Jewish Americans support a future in which an independent Palestinian state would coexist alongside of Israel.
While anti-Muslim pundits and politicians will continue to insist the Muslims Americans are easily radicalized against the U.S. and hold animosity toward Israel, the data provided in the Gallup poll suggests that these positions are simply not grounded in reality.
This past April, right-wing war hawk John Bolton suggested during an interview on Fox News that the United States should cut Social Security and Medicare to finance the defense budget.
During debate over the debt deal today on the Senate floor, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) appeared to endorse this call. Lieberman explained that he is working with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on a Social Security spending reduction plan and that “we can’t protect these entitlements and also have the national defense…to protect us…with Islamist extremists”:
LIEBERMAN: I want to indicate today to my colleagues that Senator Coburn and I are working again on a bipartisan proposal to secure Social Security over the long term, we hope to have that done in time. To also forward to the special committee for their consideration. So, bottom line, we can’t protect these entitlements and also have the national defense we need to protect us in a dangerous world while we’re at war with Islamist extremists who attacked us on 9/11 and will be for a long time to come.
As ThinkProgress’s Ben Armbruster notes, the Bolton-Lieberman plan is “is basically a reverse Robin Hood scheme: robbing the poor to pay the rich, or really, the Military Industrial Complex on steroids.” As Ambruster points out, a “recent Reuters poll found that Americans would rather cut defense spending than raid social services in order to solve the debt and deficit problems.” Americans do not appear to have the priorities of these two war hawks.
Al Qaeda-Linked Somali Terrorists Buying U.S. Weapons |
Wired reports that according to “controversial war correspondent Robert Young Pelton at his new Somalia Report website,” the United States has been indirectly supplying the al Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab in Somalia with weapons and ammunition. “Half of the U.S.-supplied weaponry that enables cash-strapped Ugandan and Burundian troops to fight Somalia’s al-Shabab terror group is winding up in al-Shabab’s hands,” Wired’s David Axe writes. “The kicker,” Axe says, “it’s the cash-strapped Ugandans who are selling the weapons to the insurgents.” Read more here.
ThinkProgress filed this report from the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, CO.
Last week, Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain met with Muslim leaders outside Washington, DC in a laudable attempt to make amends for the Islamophobic positions that had come to characterize his candidacy. Cain had previously declared he will not appoint Muslims in his administration — he later backtracked and said he would only require a special loyalty oath from Muslim appointees — and argued that Americans have the right to ban mosques.
However, not everyone was pleased with the former pizza executive’s recent move.
Last weekend, ThinkProgress spoke with Frank Gaffney, a conservative conspiracy theorist who nevertheless enjoys outsized influence on the right. The Center for Security Policy president had a unique take on the matter: Herman Cain had actually been meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Gaffney, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, where Cain met with Muslim leaders last Wednesday, is “a prominent Muslim Brotherhood apparatus in Washington DC.” The Center’s Imam, Mohamed Magid, is actually, says Gaffney, “the president of the largest Muslim Brotherhood front in the United States”:
KEYES: Where would you say Herman Cain’s at now?
GAFFNEY: I only saw one press report of it, and it sounded as if some of what you just described was said by people, Muslim Brotherhood people frankly, with whom he was meeting rather than the candidate himself. [...]
KEYES: Those were Muslim Brotherhood people that he was meeting with?
GAFFNEY: Oh yeah. The ADAMS Center is a prominent Muslim Brotherhood apparatus in Washington DC. It’s one of the most aggressive proponents of its agenda in the city. [...] Specifically, meeting with Mohamed Magid who is the president of the largest Muslim Brotherhood front in the United States, who happens also to be the Imam at the ADAMS Center. It’s one of those things, it’s a very problematic departure from what I think had been a generally sensible… I don’t agree everything he has said and some of the positions he has taken, but I think generally speaking he’s been forthright in raising a concern that I think is warranted. And if in fact he’s now changed his position in ways that are being reported, that’s even more troubling than if he was spending time with Muslim Brothers.
Such a charge would be shocking, were it not made by a man who says the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the federal government and CIA chief David Petraeus is submissive to Sharia law.
Despite Gaffney’s outlandish beliefs, he remains an extraordinarily influential figure on the right. Members of Congress regularly appear on his radio show, Secure Freedom Radio. He is an advisor and close friend to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. And along with a small group of like-minded conservatives, Gaffney has turned Islamophobia into an industry.
With his latest accusation against Herman Cain, Gaffney is well on his way to becoming the 2011 version of Rudy Giuliani. Gaffney’s every utterance now boils down to “a noun, a verb, and ‘Muslim Brotherhood.’”
Bush administration ambassador to the U.N. and AEI fellow John Bolton has spent the past several weeks positioning for a presidential run. His candidacy, should he choose to run, will in all likelihood hinge on national security and challenging the Obama administration’s handling of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and U.S. – Israel relations. But while Bolton is making his presidential ambitions increasingly obvious, he has been quiet about his ties to right-wing, anti-Muslim bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.
Spencer and Geller, who appear to have ideologically inspired Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik and received 174 combined citations in his manifesto, have a long history with Bolton going back as far as 2005 when Geller endorsed George W. Bush’s nomination of Bolton as U.N. ambassador.
Since then, Bolton has sat for multiple interviews with Geller and even wrote the foreword for Spencer and Geller’s 2010 book “The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America.” Bolton heartily endorsed their book, writing:
This book carries forward the ongoing and increasingly widespread critique of Barack Obama as our first post-American president. What it recounts is disturbing, and its broader implications are more disturbing still. MostAmericans believe they elect a president who will vigorously represent their global interest, rather than electing a Platonic guardian who defends them only when they comport with his grander visions of a just world. Foreign leaders, whether friend or foe, expect the same. If, by contrast, Obama continues to behave as a post-American president, our adversaries will know exactly what to do.
Spencer and Geller, in a passage eerilysimilar to Breivik’s manifesto, wrote:
Transformational issues facing this nation and the world at large—the world at war, creeping Sharia, the perversion of the rights of free men—hang in the balance during the Obama administration as never before. The stakes could not be higher. On foreign policy, Europe has lain down. The political elites have capitulated to Islamists and to multiculturalists. Europe is committing slow cultural and demographic suicide. It seems unclear that they could hold up their end even if America did the heavy lifting.
Most recently, Geller endorsed Bolton’s candidacy for president, writing:
I can think of no one more qualified for the office of the President. The depth and breadth of his knowledge and experience is the antidote to the sick, debilitated state of the country which Obama has inflicted upon us. We need extraordinary in the extraordinary times. We need gravitas.
Now that Geller and Spencer are widely understood to have inspired Breivik’s attack — The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement characterizing them as “promot[ing] a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the pretext of fighting radical Islam” and observed that Breivik was influenced by ideology “both in Europe and the United States, which views Islam as an existential threat to the world and sees leaders and governments as collaborators in allowing Islam to ‘infiltrate’ the West.” Bolton has yet to publicly denounce his blogger allies, but if he runs for president, he should explain whether he still endorses their views.
– The Dec. 31 scheduled departure of U.S. troops from northern Iraq may lead to violence between Arabs and Kurds says a new Rand Corporation report which analyzes the effects of a power vacuum on the region.
– Any agreement to keep U.S. forces in Iraq beyond the end of the year must include a guarantee of legal immunity for U.S. forces said Joint Chiefs of Staff head Adm. Mike Mullen.
– The U.N.’s humanitarian aid chief said yesterday that famine in the Horn of Africa is spreading and may soon engulf as many as six more regions of the lawless nation of Somalia.
– The al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, “is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory.”
– Some of the generally conservative population of Egypt sided with the army as they followed orders to clear Cairo’s Tahrir Square of protesters associated with the nation’s liberal streak, an unorganized movement that nevertheless helped lead demonstrations that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak.