Just How dangerous is Sen. Tom Cotton, Iran Letter Crackpot? You’d be Surprised

By Medea Benjamin and Nalini Ramachandran | (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Hailing from Arkansas, 37-year-old Senator Cotton boasts the title of being the youngest member of the Senate, but he spouts the same old warmongering rhetoric of 78-year-old Senator John McCain.

From Guantanamo to Iran, food stamps to women’s rights, here are 10 reasons why Tom Cotton is a dangerous dude.

1. He penned an underhanded letter to the leaders of Iran that sparked the trending hashtag #47Traitors. On March 9th, Cotton and 46 of his Republican colleagues went behind President Obama’s back by signing an “informative” letter to Iran, saying that a nuclear deal would not last because the next president could reverse it.

Secretary of State John Kerry, one of the lead negotiators in the talks, called the letter “utterly disgusting” and “irresponsible.” Two dozen editorial boards slammed the letter and over 200,000 people signed a petition asking the senators to be charged for violating the Logan Act, a law which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

2. He said the only problem with Guantanamo is that “there are too many empty beds.” Ignoring waterboarding, indefinite detention, forced feeding, and other torturous acts, Tom Cotton insists that the United States should be “proud” of how it treats the “savages” detained in Gitmo. As far as Cotton is concerned, the prisoners “can rot in hell. But as long as they don’t do that, then they can rot in Guantanamo Bay.”

This is counter to the position of many other senators and President Obama, who has promised time and time again to close the prison. There are still dozens of men held at Gitmo who have been cleared for release, but that doesn’t seem to bother Senator They-Can-Rot-in-Hell.

3. He’s compared international negotiations with Iran to the “appeasement of Nazi Germany.” This accusation is ridiculous. Hassan Rouhani’s Iran is not Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Despite Cotton’s claims that “there are nothing but hardliners in Tehran,” Rouhani is a reformist, someone we need to work with to defeat the Islamic State. And the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran are a far better –– and safer –– approach than pushing Iran to the brink of war with the United States (and Israel). For once, there is actually hope for a peaceful solution, something that certainly was not an option with Nazi Germany.

4. He thinks the use of killer drones should be expanded. Killer drones have resulted in thousands of civilian deaths in countries we’re not even at war with, like Pakistan and Yemen, and have led to an expansion of extremist groups. Senator Cotton makes the argument of many other pro-droners: that drone pilots are safer than air pilots, and casualties are reduced.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Drone pilots still suffer the psychological trauma associated with attacks, and the “collateral damage” of drone strikes means that families and children lose their lives along with the targeted terrorists. (Note: only 2 percent of all people killed by drone strikes have been confirmed “high-value” targets.) The last thing we need is the expansion of drone warfare, Tom.

5. He claims that “bombing makes us safer.” While in some masochistic, twisted logic that might make sense in the short term, historically speaking U.S. military intervention has led to more extremism –– as with the formation of the Islamic State after the invasion of Iraq –– and turned local populations against the United States. Ultimately, bombing other countries just fosters more hate and anti-American sentiment.

Bombing might not make us safer, but it certainly makes Tom Cotton’s friends in the defense industry a whole lot richer. Just 24 hours after his notorious letter to Iran became public, Cotton was the guest of honor at an event hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for military contractors.

6. He uses fear-mongering to call for a crackdown on immigrants and a clampdown on the Mexican border. Senator Cotton says drug cartels in Mexico are ready to expand into human trafficking and even terrorism, and could infiltrate our southern border and “attack it right here in places like Arkansas.” He’s made the wild accusation that Hezbollah is collaborating with locals in Mexico to “cross our borders and attack us here.”

Ignoring the fences, drones, cameras and patrols that constantly survey the border, he maintains that the border is wide open. “As long as our border is open and it’s defenseless, then it’s not just an immigration issue, it’s a national security issue.” Be afraid, says Cotton, very afraid –– so I can keep feeding the national security state!

7. He received $700,000 for his senate campaign from the neoconservative Emergency Committee for Israel. That’s correct –– $700,000! Such an exorbitant amount of money ensures that Cotton is one of the most pro-Israel senators in Congress. During the 2014 Israeli invasion of Gaza, when over 500 Palestinian children were killed, Cotton called the Israeli defense force “the most moral, humanitarian fighting force in the world.” In December he said Congress should consider supplying Israel with B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs for a possible strike against Iran.

8. As an Army lieutenant in 2006, Cotton called for the prosecution of two New York Times journalists for espionage. From his early days, Cotton has not been a fan of expository journalism. When The New York Times published an article about how the government was tracking terrorist financing, Cotton called for the journalists to be imprisoned. This news story got a lot of heat from various conservative outlets, but before he was even running for office, Cotton took it upon himself to publicize his grievances in a sarcastic letter to journalists Eric Lichtblau and James Risen. It seems that Cotton’s letter to Iran a few days ago was not the first of its kind.

9. He thinks food-stamp recipients are “addicts.” Senator Cotton hates food stamps. In his own words, he thinks the system is “riddled with fraud and abuse” and “has resulted in long-term dependency.” This is coming from the senator of Arkansas, which ranked number one in the number of residents who suffer from food insecurity. If Cotton had his way, there would be much harsher restrictions on food stamps, and the overall budget for welfare would be cut severely.

Considering the high level of poverty in Arkansas, Cotton is actually voting against the interests of the people he is supposed to represent. If he’s concerned that the system is “riddled with fraud and abuse,” an audit of the Pentagon should be at the top of his to-do list.

10. He’s opposed legislation to expand women’s rights. Senator Cotton voted against equal pay legislation and the Violence Against Women Act. While Senator Cotton’s website will say that the vote was taken out of context, and that the Senator supports harsh punishment for sexual assault, a vote is a vote. If that’s the case, then why would he vote against an act that would give women more resources in the case of abuse or assault? And why would he vote against legislation that would push for equivalent pay? No matter what defense Cotton’s team comes up with, there’s really no logic or excuse to vote against women’s rights.

Rep. Alan Grayson says Sen. Cotton is “already on his way to marking himself as the premiere warmonger of the 114th Congress.” Heather Digby Parton from Salon called him “Ted Cruz with a war record, Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree, Chris Christie with a Southern accent.”

Whatever your characterization, this much is clear: this freshman senator is an arrogant bully and needs a time out.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. Nalini Ramachandran is a student at Northeastern University studying International Affairs and Middle East Studies. She’s currently working in the CODEPINK Washington, DC office.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus


Related video added by Juan Cole:

The Young Turks: “Traitor Senator Taking Money from Defense Industry”

15 Responses

  1. Maybe I’m being too Machiavellian, but is it possible that Cotton tried to be too clever, rather than being too crackpot?

    Think about it: the prevailing wisdom everywhere outside the Beltway is that if the USA imposes impossible demands then not only will Iran walk, but much of the P5+1 will walk out with them.

    End result: the existing sanctions regime bites the dust, without the Mullah’s having to concede anything.

    So maybe Cotton was attempting to goad the Iranians into calculating (incorrectly) that this letter alone would give them the opportunity to bolt for the door while shouting “Who else is with me???”.

    If they made that calculation then Cotton would have cried “Ahah! Gotcha!” and blamed them for not acting in good faith.

    Except…. they haven’t bolted for the door.

    They’ve simply called him out for being Too Clever By Half.

  2. There is nothing as dangerous as a mindless puppet, that has been paid nearly a MILLION dollars, by an alien group, Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel, who has had his weaknesses taken advantage of, to be controlled by this alien group. He must have been hand picked to do their bidding, willing to go against his President, the Presidency, and his nation. This man, and others like him, are a disgrace to our nation, and should be called unpatriotic fools.
    We should add Bill Kristol to that list too.

  3. Who did he address or deliver the letter to and what did he think the reaction was going to be? (I would like to hear him answer that question.) I know he doesn’t make distinctions, but he should have had the letter delivered directly to the “really” hard liners in the Iranian government, his natural allies.

  4. Yeah, well . . . so much for young people being more “liberal”. But it was inevitable. A full generation has been raised under the shadow of Reaganism and crack-pot-crank-gas-bag-“think”(HA!)-tank punditry, whose fumes now pervade our political discourse like a rotting corpse. What alternative will younger people know?

    Look, for forty years hate radio and conservative organizations have ruined the social infrastructure of our country in a vendetta campaign against – I shit you not – Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, and now Barack Hussein Obama the Black. They are enraged against, well, everyone: Gays, Mexicans, the New Dealers, unions, the Union (for defeat of the Confederacy), intellectuals, the “liberal” media (ha! that’s a real fucking joke!), people of color, Hillary (for being Hillary), and Obama (for which, I suspect, they now hate the entire country – “How dare the unreal America of the cities send this Black Muslim Socialist to take away our guns and give us health care in rural communities plagued by meth and domestic violence!”)

    So many of our children who have grown up in this festering stew are at this late date little more than frogs in a slowly heated pot – and now they are cooked (politically, spiritually, environmentally, and economically): They will debate the merits of war, torture, and destruction of the social safety net, because they have been studiously inculcated by nincompoop parents who have listened themselves to assorted nabobs such as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Bill O’Reilly (who in fairness is the veteran of many imaginary wars). So don’t you know McCarthy was scapegoated for being a patriotic commie hunter? Are you aware that Nixon was just the victim of the liberal media? Did you know that Lincoln violated the most cherished laws of the free market by his violation of southern property rights? (That that property was human chattel is no cause for embarrassment). Naturally FDR’s New Deal prolonged, in fact, the Great Depression. And of course the Clintons killed Vince Foster in the Oval office and had George Stephanopolis (aka “the guy shocked by blowjobs”) get rid of the corpse.

    The emergence of young-ish creatures such as Cotton (or Paul, or Cruz, or Rubio, or Walker, or take your pick) is not surprising, although it makes their emergence – like maggots from the corpse of what’s now left of the Republic – no less nauseating or depressing.

  5. As an addendum to my previous post. Everyone with me, to the tune of the Adams Family:

    “They’re icky and they’re gooky, they’re really very spooky,
    They’re always kinda kooky, the Young Republicans,
    Badabadeep, “snap snap”.

  6. In red state America—and I am sorry to say that Arkansas is now an official Red State—a good politician appeals to his constituents as if speaking to 11 year old boys:
    Cotton likes God.
    Cotton does not like homosexuals.
    Cotton likes guns.
    Cotton does not want to take your money from you.
    Cotton hates bad, evil people.

  7. The Senate was created by the Framers to be the body of Wise Men, Statesmen, and senior leaders. Today’s Senate falls far short of the Framers intent. What does it say about Republicans that they would allow themselves to be led by a junior flip who has zero foreign policy experience? Instead of a Caucas they acted like rabble, a mob, a leaderless organization. I’m not sure most who signed it even read the letter.

    As for Cotton he did not honor that time honored tradition from the US Cavalry for new Lieutenants assigned to the Western Posts. They were all told: “Ride at the Back of the Column, and Keep Your Mouth Closed”.

    Democrats need to begin right now collecting data and showing the citizens of AL that he is a puppet of the military industrial complex, which brings no benefit to AK. They can also begin grooming an opponent. Cotton is a prime example of why vets running for office should face extra scrunity because the ranks of the Officer Corps is filled with war mongers and Neo Cons.

  8. I meant the citizens of AK. If Senator Cotton has his way he sees war as the solution to every problem in the Middle East.

  9. please sign.
    Subpoena Senator Tom Cotton Concerning All Private and Official Correspondence Related to His Atrocious Letter to Iran
    link to petitions.whitehouse.gov

    Tom Cotton has a simple message for Barack Obama: You’re doing it all wrong.

    The Arkansas Republican took to the Senate floor Monday — the ink barely dry on his controversial open letter to Iran — to advocate dramatic increases in defense spending, citing the rise of “Islamic terrorism, Iranian aggression, Russian revisionism, and Chinese adventurism” on the president’s watch.

    Read more: link to politico.com

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