Rhetorical Terror: GOP Candidates Pledge War Crimes, Carpet-Bombing, Asian Land Wars

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

At the Trumpless GOP debate Thursday evening, the candidates once again promised to bankrupt us with military and intelligence spending and to commit vast war crimes with reckless disregard for the lives of women, children and non-combatant men, of the sort not openly plotted since the demise of the Axis powers in 1943-45.

Sen. Marco Rubio seemed to imply that we don’t know where the terrorists are because our intelligence agencies have somehow been insufficiently funded or supported. But the National Intelligence budget rose from $26.6 billion in fiscal year 1997 to $47.5 billion in FY 2008 (Bush’s last year), and then rose again to $53.9 bn in FY 2012.

That’s about a 12% increase in Barack Obama’s first term and a nearly 200% increase since the late Bill Clinton period.

So Rubio’s implication that intelligence spending has been gutted is not only false, it is the opposite of reality. Why would more such spending work since Rubio maintains that the vast increases in the past decade and a half haven’t done the trick?

Moreover, I thought conservatism was about small government and cutting budgets? Why is Rubio saying he wants to be more of a spendthrift than Barack Obama in this sector?

“BAIER: Senator Rubio?

RUBIO: . . .

But I want to be frank about what I stand for. I believe the world is a safer and a better place when America is the strongest power in the world. And I believe only with a strong America will we defeat this radical group, this apocalyptic group called ISIS.

That’s why when I’m president we are going to rebuild our intelligence capabilities. And they’re going to tell us where the terrorists are. And a rebuilt U.S. military is going to destroy these terrorists.

And if we capture any of these ISIS killers alive, they are going to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and we’re going to find out everything they know, because when I’m president, unlike Barack Obama, we will keep this country safe.”

Moreover, Rubio’s implication that the US doesn’t know where the terrorists are is odd. Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) is different from other terrorist groups precisely in trying to hold recognized territory, so we know exactly where they are.

Finally, here’s the tally for keeping America safe on American soil:

# Americans killed by terrorism under last GOP administration: over 3,000

# Americans killed by terrorism under Obama: 88

So by the same argument used in the second Bush term, Obama has done a rather good job of keeping the US safe. (The 88 figure, by the way, includes both radical Muslim and white terrorist attacks).

As for global terrorism, it did go up from 2003. Billmon tweeted in response to Rubio,

His point was that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq appears to have kicked off the rise in terrorist attacks. Rubio promises more such adventurism and war crimes, so the idea that he would reduce terrorism is to say the least implausible.

Senator Rand Paul also let Rubio have it with regard to NSA warrantless snooping, which is clearly unconstitutional:

“The bulk collection of your phone data, the invasion of your privacy did not stop one terrorist attack. I don’t think you have to give up your liberty for a false sense of security.

When we look at this bulk collection, the court has looked at this. Even the court declared it to be illegal. If we want to collect the records of terrorists, let’s do it the old fashioned way. Let’s use the Fourth Amendment. Let’s put a name on a warrant, let’s ask a judge for it. Let’s respect the history of our country.

John Adams said that we fought a War for Independence because we wanted to fight against generalized warrants. Let’s don’t forget that. ”

Ben Carson said unintelligible things and added, “The American people are terrified. That’s why we have this abnormal situation going on right now.”

There isn’t any reason for the American people to be terrified except that the Republican presidential candidates have been trying to make them terrified so as to herd them into the voting booth on their side. The US has no major geopolitical adversaries that might attack it (we do have a big nuclear arsenal and the best-equipped military in the world). You are much more likely to die from being struck by lighting than to die of terrorism, and if you were to die of terrorism it would more likely be at the hands of radicalized white people than at the hands of a Muslim radical. I remember the Cuban missile crisis. Now that was scary. Nowadays there isn’t any menace like that. Chill, Ben.

Chris Wallace pointed out to Ted Cruz that he keeps voting against the defense budget while demanding bigger defense budgets. Cruz said,

“You know, you claim it is tough talk to discuss carpet bombing. It is not tough talk. It is a different, fundamental military strategy than what we’ve seen from Barack Obama. Barack Obama right now, number one, over seven years, has dramatically degraded our military. You know, just two weeks ago was the 25th anniversary of the first Persian Gulf war. When that war began, we had 8,000 planes. Today, we have about 4,000. When that war began, we had 529 ships. Today, we have 272.

You want to know what carpet bombing is? It’s what we did in the first Persian Gulf war; 1,100 air attacks a day, saturation bombing that utterly destroyed the enemy. Right now, Barack Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. He’s not arming the Kurds. We need to define the enemy. We need to rebuild the military to defeat the enemy. And we need to be focused and lift the rules of engagement so we’re not sending our fighting men and women into combat with their arms tied behind their backs.”

Cruz is a smart man with Ivy League degrees but he becomes remarkably stupid whenever he talks about military affairs. Carpet bombing failed in the Vietnam War. Intensive bombing could be deployed in the Gulf War because the tanks of the Iraqi Occupation of Kuwait were spread along the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia out in the desert. We couldn’t have carpet bombed the forces in Kuwait City itself without destroying the country we were trying to save.

Daesh doesn’t have many tanks and it is ensconced in cities with civilian populations like Mosul. Carpet bombing Mosul (pre-Daesh pop. 2 mn., i.e. Houston) would not harm Daesh but it would kill a lot of Mosulis. I doubt Cruz could find Mosul on a map or tell you who lives there, so why is he speaking in public about carpet bombing it?

By the way, Daesh is what is called Salafi, or hyper-Sunni Muslim. It is the opposite of Shiite Islam. Somehow the candidates seemed to be confused about this:

As for the weapons reductions, the fact is that our planes are twice as good now. And, in 1990 we were still in a cold war with the Soviet Union. We don’t have any significant geopolitical rivals at the moment, so why should we maintain an enormous conventional arsenal? The Founding Fathers thought a standing army incompatible with democracy. Can’t we at least scale back when we are at peace? (The GWOT is not a conventional war.)

Putting captives at Guantanamo is just a way to try to avoid operating within the US Constitution and the framework of international law. No one would want to do that who isn’t a lawless sadist.

Then Rubio said,

“ISIS is the most dangerous jihadist group in the history of mankind. ISIS is now found in affiliates in over a dozen countries. ISIS is a group that burns people alive in cages; that sells off little girls as brides. ISIS is a group that wants to trigger an apocalyptic showdown in the city of Dabiq — not the city of Dubuque; I mis-said — mis-said that wrong once (inaudible) time — the city of Dabiq in Syria. They want to trigger an apocalyptic Armageddon showdown.

RUBIO: This group needs to be confronted and defeated. They are not going to go away on their own. They’re not going to turn into stockbrokers overnight or open up a chain of car washes. They need to be defeated militarily, and that will take overwhelming U.S. force. ”

It just floors me that US politicians fearmonger in such a strident and extreme manner off of Daesh. It is like 30,000 scruffy fighters with light and medium weaponry and no air capability. While it is brutal and creates horror spectacles, it hasn’t yet scaled the heights of brutality of the Khmer Rouge, who polished off a million out of 6 million Cambodians.

I think if Rubio would actually, like, read a book about Middle Eastern history, he’d find that there were past radical movements rather more impressive than Daesh (just as there were in Christian Europe).

The overwhelming deployment of US military force in Iraq in 2003-2011 created Daesh in the first place, so why Rubio thinks doing it again will work differently this time is mysterious. But then Rubio is a chickenhawk who has no idea about even recent military history and is just preening in his high heels.

JEB! gave his own prescription:

“The caliphate of ISIS has to be destroyed, which means we need to arm directly to Kurds, imbed our troops with the Iraqi military, re engage with the Sunni tribal leaders.”

That sounds to me like exactly what Obama is doing. The US helped the Kurds take back Sinjar in Iraq. It helped them defend Kobane. It is embedding US troops with the Kurds in eastern Syria and has a command in Iraq. The US military and intelligence is reaching out to Syrian Sunnis in the northeast and getting them to fight alongside the Kurds. Sunni tribal levies helped retake Ramadi.

JEB! is just advocating the current policy and pretending that he is saying something different. It is weird.

Then he said we should get the lawyers off the back of the US military. I take it he means by that we should toss overboard the Geneva Conventions, which were crafted to prohibit the kind of behavior that made the Nazis notorious during WW II.

We’ve been trying to outlaw war crimes since then, but the US Republican Party seems to admire the tactics of the Axis and to regret their having fallen into disrepute.

JEB! also went on about San Bernardino, which was the work of a couple of unbalanced people who shot up their workplace and murdered co-workers, a place of no security significance whatsoever, and they began plotting violence before Daesh even existed. JEB! and the others had nothing to say about Dylann Roof or killigs at Planned Parenthood, which exemplify the kind of terrorism that is much more common in the US than a vague Daesh menace.

Meanwhile, Donald J. Trump used the poor veterans as camouflage for his inability to share a stage with other egos and was slammed by veterans for this ploy:

“The chairman of VoteVets.org was more pointed, saying Trump was “a loser, … a third-rate politician, who clearly doesn’t understand issues, and is so scared of Megyn Kelly exposing it, that you’re looking to use veterans to protect you from facing her questions.”

Trump has had a rocky relationship with veterans after he made comments about Sen. John McCain, saying he wasn’t a hero because he was captured during the Vietnam War.”

It was an evening of third-rate politicians who don’t understand the issues.


Related video:

Fox News: “A look at who succeeded, suffered at 7th GOP debate”

28 Responses

  1. “Why would more such spending work since Rubio maintains that the vast increases in the past decade and a half haven’t done the trick?”

    Mind if I take a crack at answering that one?

    Would it be because Marco Rubio is an idiot?

    That whole crowd is apparently so reality-challenged I’m surprised they can dress themselves in the morning w/out help… everything they wear must have velcro sewn into it.

    • It’s not because he’s an idiot. The Right is trying to destroy all the parts of government it hates by terrifying the public into shifting spending to the parts of government it loves. But the GOP base shares that hatred. It would gladly lie and exaggerate about threats IF that kept the poor from getting any of the tax dollars of “real” Americans. Their belief is that a reign of terror against “bad” Americans will somehow do something to them that will make all the country’s problems go away. The vagueness about what that something is probably should scare the hell out of us.

      Our motto: “Billions for bombing ni**er babies abroad, not one cent left for feeding ni**er babies at home.”

  2. Thanks for the comparison of Daesh barbarity with the Khmer Rouge.

    I studied this all at the time, but now it’s growing faded, isn’t it true, if I recall correctly, that the Reagan and Bush I administrations diplomatically supported the remains of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in all world forums, as part of a strategic alliance with China and against Russia & Vietnam? I won’t claim to be an expert here.

    • Yes, see Chandler’s Brother Number One, a political biography of Pol Pot done for the govt of Australia.

  3. Thanks for this review. I don’t have cable, so need to depend on others to report it. Frankly, from what you say, it seems that I’m better off without cable.

  4. we leveled tikrit not long before ramadi. fallujah and baiji are probably pretty wrecked. next up mosul. but ted cruz wants to carpet bomb. what? the desert?

  5. pars Republicanorum iure et legibus ac consulto publico delenda est!

    (Cato the Elder speak for “The GOP, legally and by public legislation, must be destroyed” – hey conservatives, how do you like this version of Cato now!!!!! You might, um, want to think about renaming that institute after another Roman – maybe Nero, Caligula, Commodus or Heliogabalus; that will better suit your party’s temperament.)

  6. Rand Paul did inject some sanity about cutting back funding from the military and not getting in more wars. It’s a pity he drank so much Ayn Rand Kool-Aid in his formative years so that he now talks so much meretricious nonsense about miniscule government.

  7. “We need to identify the enemy.”

    Boy, Cruz finally told the truth about something. Because ever since our alliance with the Saudis to create a network of Islamist militants began, we’ve been completely wrong about whom our enemies and friends are. The defining of enemies has become about every agenda but the truth.

  8. Perhaps it should rather be more emphasized what to my mind, and it seems to those of many others, seems obvious: all the known (i.e. televised) American presidential candidates have far more in common politically and economically than they do differences, and far more differences than they do commonalities to the majority of Americans: for surely none among them is expecting to retire or has retired with no less than a few millions in ‘the bank’ (and likely much more)…more importantly, none of the Democrats, and none but perhaps one of the Republicans is proposing anything that is contrary to more hegemonic interventionism in the Middle East and beyond. There are no true (i.e. inimical to the political regime) leftists allowed even remotely near the physical proximity of the politically debased debates, only servitors, in one form or another, of American private corporatism, public-private militarism-cum-interventionism, or international ‘Wall Streetism’–all permutations of a highly perverse form of inegalitarian capitalism (one still hardly seen in Western Europe) that engenders a far stronger and more virulent orientation towards civic and economic separatism/’segregationism’ among the rich and upper middle class than is currently the case in ‘socialist’ Western Europe. And yet not every homme or femme moyenne is a non-intellectual loser or toxic personality type, meriting nothing more from the likes of Cruz or the Clintons than transparently veiled distaste, disdain, and seigneurial noblesse oblige of the, to be sure!, meritocratic sort.

    Since its foundations the U.S. was designed as a polity of and for the protestant merchant rich and this has extended to the present in its seemingly galactic (“too big to fail”) iteration of Wall Streetism, which is proceeding at a whirlwind pace to undo the egalitarian and democratic advances of the postwar years (the ascent of political correctness notwithstanding) and permanently restore the ancien régime of the American Gilded Age under the guise of meritocratic new age utopianism: i.e. a utopianism built on, over, and to conceal the ever-extending derelictive or intentional ‘gutterization’ of America created by its expressly and intrinsically unequal model of monetarily-convertible capital generation, separation, and accumulation–the rest is the self-serving and systemic propaganda of the Clintonian or Cruzian variety to justify this massively expropriative and marginalizing for the majority (again “too big to fail” and the ensuing oligarchist coup de main bailout [and jail-in of the economic system]) and hyper-iniquitous system this perfidy augurs as the permanent end (of democratic political and economic) history for all but the one percent (and their ten percent servitors) of Americans. And ultimately why? Because power is not power if it is diffuse, indeed it is diffused in its effects, and societal confusion allegedly asserts itself as in the ’60s and ’70s “crisis of democracy,” when the U.S. polity was alleged by ‘very serious’ anti-Communist personages to have been suffering from a pernicious “excess” of the same. Wall Streetism is there to Trumpishly wall off that parlous fate from ever befalling the U.S. again.

    • Wow, this may be the densest thing (not dense as the slang meaning of dumb, but in crowding a lot of complex ideas together in a long narrative) I’ve read since I read an article many years ago by sociologist Robert K. Merton. Some of your generalizations need work.

  9. I find it interesting and a bit embarrassing to watch neocon Republican chickenhawks, like Rubio, pounding their chest like alpha males as they call for airstrikes that target Arab homes and Toyota trucks.

    I fear that President Rambo Rubio would have a rude awakening if he ordered strikes against Iran.

    • Any of the presidential Rambos will be shocked at how quickly our very, very expensive war toys blow up.

      Something for them to think about , , , Even though Saddam had all the USA weapons he could ever want, including illegal chemical weapons, and Iran was not supplied weapons by anyone, Iran STILL defeated Saddam. Since then, Iran has developed a very, very good weapons infrastructure.

      The Persian Gulf is protected by multiple layers of subs, swift boats and anti-ship missiles. USA ships can not operate in the Persian gulf once the shooting starts (and neither can any other ship).

      Iran has a wide variety of attack missiles, such that most USA, Israeli and Saudi land based war infrastructure is extremely vulnerable and would likely be destroyed fairly quickly. Once the Saudi oil infrastructure is destroyed, Saudi Arabia will have little to no cash flow for at least a year.

      Flying over Iran, no matter how “stealthy” an aircraft is supposed to be, is very deadly. Iran has a multi-layer air defense network. S-400 clones provide 200 miles interception range. This is backed up by shorter range BUK clones and older short range anti-aircraft system.

      The bottom line is while Iran can not directly attack he USA homeland, anyone attacking Iran will suffer LOTS of death and destruction.

      Iranian leaders are somewhat paranoid and have been anticipating a massive USA attack for over 35 years, so during that time they have carefully researched how to defeat the USA and made very innovative solutions to making the lives of USA attackers very BAD.

      A USA attack on Iran will be much worse for the USA than Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq2.

      • Ah, but the US weapons manufacturers / military contractors (Merchants of Death) WANT all the weapons to blow up. So that they can sell more weapons.

        The Merchants of Death have an agenda totally at odds with the people of the US… and at odds with all people of good will in the world. But the Merchants of Death do spend a lot of money lobbying Congress!

  10. As long as the money doesn’t go to social stuff. Bankrupting this country is the only way to save it from democracy.
    I mean socialism.

  11. Just in case any of you were still operating under the childish illusion that the U.S. has a free press, It is mind boggling that R. Gates’ comments on the GOP presidential field (at a talk in DC, no less) appeared only in the British Guardian (plus a small blurb on MSNBC.com).
    Now I am no fan of Gates at all, but this is NEWS.
    So tell me about that “liberal media” again?
    link to theguardian.com

  12. Thank you Professor Cole for doing the dirty job of actually listening to this parade of fools and idiots. Whenever I try I can’t take it for more than a few minutes or I would be running out of the room screaming. Having followed politics closely since about 1960 and studied it extensively, I cannot think of a time when our country has been so off the rails politically with a major party. It is truly scary that a party nominee will actually come from this group of nincompoops and that millions of people actually support them. If a Republican wins I may have to look into moving to Australia since it is far, far away. Any one of them could do a great job of ruining this country, finishing the job that Bush started. God help us all.

    • The Whigs were this off the rails immediately preceding the US Civil War. The party actually *disintegrated*, of course, *and* the country ended up in the bloodiest war (from a US point of view) that the US has ever known.

      • It is my understanding that the Whigs were torn apart by the slavery issue. Their policies were not necessarily far out of the mainstream of politics of the time. The current Republican nominees are a radical departure from any candidates from the GOP since about forever. While Bush turned out to be very right wing, he campaigned as a centrist. Only Kasich among this group comes close to being a centrist. This is what I am talking about.

  13. I think if Rubio would actually, like, read a book about Middle Eastern history, he’d find that there were past radical movements rather more impressive than Daesh (just as there were in Christian Europe).

    Rubio is probably too busy reading instructions from Sheldon Adelson and his other puppet masters to read books.

  14. Ivan G.Goldman

    @ARTSYJUDITH Hillary seeks Syria no-fly zone, meaning she wants to shoot down Russian planes. Beat that, other warmongers

  15. Ever wondered how Hitler managed to win elections?

    Because the guys competing with him fell into two categories:
    (1) Socialists, who the aristocracy was terrified of and demonized
    (2) Guys like the lunatics at this debate (Rand Paul excepted, since he actually talked some sense).

    Trump is blatantly a fascist, and he’s actually, objectively, *better* than nearly all of these guys. Think about what that means. This is how fascists win.

    For the love of all that is holy, VOTE FOR BERNIE SANDERS. Vote for the socialist, because socialism is the only real alternative to fascism.

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