GOP debate Civil? Candidates urged torture, child-murder, backing bloody Dictatorships

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The headlines Friday about the GOP debate in Miami stressed how relatively civil it was, with less name-calling and pissing matches among the remaining candidates.

Those editors have a weird definition of civility.

So here is Marco Rubio:

“Let me give you an example of a Muslim for example, we ought to be standing with, President el-Sisi of Egypt, a president of a Muslim country who is targeting radical…


… Islamic terrorist. HEWITT: Senator Rubio.

CRUZ: He’s hunting them down and stomping them.”

Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took advantage of massive popular demonstrations against Muslim Brotherhood leader and elected Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in summer of 2013 to make a brutal military coup. His soldiers used unnecessary force to clear largely peaceful Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins, killing hundreds with live ammunition. Al-Sisi then declared the former ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization and had his corrupt judiciary sentence thousands of its members and leaders to death. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood renounced violence in the 1970s, and while I am critical of the way it tried to rule Egypt in 2012-2013, I consider painting it as a terrorist organization to be mere propaganda.

It is not only the Muslim Brotherhood that has suffered. The al-Sisi military junta is now the world’s second-biggest jailer of journalists for doing their job. Peaceful civil society movements such as April 6 have been forcibly disbanded and banned. Activists like Ahmad Maher, Mahinour al-Masri and Alaa Abdel Fattah, heroes of the 2011 youth protests, are behind bars being mistreated. Egypt’s newspapers are assiduously self-censoring. The country is a political and intellectual dead zone, with creepy secret police spying on everyone who makes a peep.

Even foreign academic researchers are not safe, with a young Italian academic at Cambridge, Giulio Regeni, having been kidnapped, tortured and his burned body dumped in the desert. Observers say these are the hallmarks of the secret police. The European Parliament has just urged the EU to cease military cooperation with Egypt over the young man’s murder:

So let’s get this straight. The European Parliament is so disturbed at the human rights situation that it has urged an EU cut off of military cooperation with the Egypt of Gen. al-Sisi. But this is the regime that Marco Rubio demands we admire and support.

Ironically, Rubio’s family fled a similar right wing military dictatorship, that of Fulgencio Batista, in Cuba in 1956. Batista abrogated the 1940 constitution and ruled ruthlessly, as al-Sisi does. To now have Rubio pimp for a regime just like the one his family ran away from in the 1950s is surely among the most disgusting displays in a political season full of disgusting displays.

Then there was the nauseating display of far rightwing propaganda against the poor Palestinians, many of whom were ethnically cleansed from their homes in what is now Israel by Zionist forces in 1948 and again in 1967. They have been deprived of their property and any claim to the rights of citizenship in a state by ongoing Israeli theft and confined to cantons that best resemble those imposed by Apartheid South Africa. All resistance they offer to Israeli military rule and Israeli further encroachments on what little they have left is assiduously branded as terrorism. Anyone who so much as sympathizes with the plight of the world’s largest group of stateless people is branded an inciter to terrorism. Actual terrorism (violence committed by an organized non-state group against innocent civilians for political purposes) is always wrong, and some desperate Palestinians have engaged in it (as have Israeli Jews). But people do have a right to resist occupation, and you would think from the GOP debate that it was the Palestinians who were in power and oppressing the Israelis rather than the other way around.

Rubio again attacked Donald Trump for saying he wanted to restart a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and that he would try to be neutral, i.e. a good faith mediator:

“The policy Donald has outlined, I don’t know if he realizes, is an anti-Israeli policy. Maybe that’s not your intent but here’s why it is an anti-Israeli policy. There is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment. There just isn’t.”

Rubio is of course being told to say this by wealthy far-right Jewish donors to his campaign. The idea that Palestinians should just be left under military rule or under blockade, and should continue to have their territory stolen from them by the Israelis, and that all this is their own fault, is just obscurantism in the service of the Israeli expansionists on the far right. It will one day explode on Israel with extremely unpleasant consequences, and people like Rubio will bear a good deal of the blame.

Ted Cruz menaced us with a non-existent Iranian nuclear weapons program. Any old demon will do.

Trump again defended his plans to torture prisoners and to murder their women and children.

The candidates didn’t talk so much last night about the four new wars they had proposed last week.

The poor CNN moderators were often visibly uncomfortable with the bizarre and bloodthirsty answers they got to their sober foreign policy questions.


Related Video:

CCTV Africa: “European Parliament passes resolution to suspend military cooperation with Egypt”

19 Responses

  1. It was amazing to watch the love fest for Israel. It was surreal to hear them make Israel into a victim (anyone know of other occupiers that were victims?), and that they had to defend themselves from attacks, and that poor Israel had offered the Palestinians so many chances for peace, but had turned it all down. They must love being occupied.
    So many inaccuracies and hasbara propaganda on stage last night.

    Again, like so many pro Israeli devotees in the US, no mention that maybe ending the occupation, and halting the illegal settlements just may end any violence coming from the other side. The poor Palestinian people was once again thrown under the bus, all because of those shekels.

  2. The primitivism of the Repubs not surprisingly includes the warmongering that tyrants need to pose as protectors and accuse opponents of disloyalty, as Aristotle warned.

    It includes all of the elements of fascism: the claim that their group is superior to others, the claim that any criticism of any group member is an attack on the whole group, the demand for special benefits for their group, the efforts to seize resources from other groups to distribute as rewards, the claim of ethnic/religious faults in other groups, the attempts to blame problems of their group on others.

    Often fascism is a reaction to discrimination against a group, as in 1930s Germany, including ironically discrimination by fascists, as in modern Jewish fascism. And due to the irony, no one more vociferously denies it than the Jewish fascist, using all of the above defining means. But in fact it is present in any large group, and does all groups harm.

    US citizens as a group do nothing to deserve the economic benefits the US derives from natural resources, isolation, size, and history. If it had spent on humanitarian programs the funds wasted on warmongering exploits under false pretenses since WWII, it would not have killed six million innocents, and would have built the roads, schools, and hospitals of the developing world, lifting half the world from poverty, and would have no organized enemies.

    Instead the US continues to to listen to warmonger tyrants, even after exposure of their deceptions and secret wars that led to its murderous rampages around the world since WWII.

    This descent into medieval tyranny is the result of control of the institutions of democracy by economic concentrations that did not exits when the Constitution was written. Money controls the tools of democracy, the mass media and elections, and democracy cannot be restored without them.

  3. Prof. Cole….Thank you for watching so we don’t have to.

    I just read this morning what a devout Catholic Rubio proclaims to be. Last week Cruz’s father told of how the Cruz family stayed on their knees for hours asking God for a sign as to whether Ted should run for the GOP nomination. Surprise!!…God told him to run.

    Now these holy men are tripping over each other as they deny “The least of these” Palestinians basic human rights while Ted vows to make the sand glow in the middle east from carpet bombing. It seems paradoxical to profess to be servants of God while rejecting biblical text such as…Blessed are the peacemakers.

    Regretfully, Hillary possesses the same bloody vampire fangs as the GOP candidates. I think we are going to miss Mr. Obama.

  4. I fully agree with your comments on the “civility” of the Republican candidates, and as always admire and am grateful for the clarity of your analysis. Lest one become distracted by the incivility of the Republicans — PLEASE bring your unsurpassed knowledge of the Middle East (past and current), analytic clarity, and decency to bear on this, from the man whose “natural heir” Hillary Clinton admits (oops, sorry, claims) she is: link to

  5. It may surprise some GOP candidates that the federal government does not have any warmaking powers. Its military powers are limited to “suppressing insurrections” and “repelling invasions.” This is not an accident or a variant interpretation: staying out of foreign wars was a key principal of the Constitutional Convention. So was avoiding the warmongering of tyrants against which Aristotle warned. So it is tantamount to treason to advocate that the US should start wars for any cause.

    It may also surprise the Republican candidates that the executive branch does not have any policymaking powers. The powers of the president are purely administrative. He exercises military power only within the military powers of the federal government, and only because reactions to invasions or insurrections must be faster than Congress can act.

    Most candidates from both parties clearly have not read the Constitution and do not understand or care about the structure of US government.

    • Since the days of Washington the President has had policy making powers. It comes from the interpretation of how to administer the laws passed by Congress. As regards the military, the Framers intended that there would be no standing army, that in case of invasion the country would be protected by the state militias. Hence the language of the 2nd Amendment. Historian Gary Wills has written about this. Pretty hard to invade another country with state militias. However, even in the early 1800’s, the urge to invade was there and filibusters were conducted by a number of Americans in order to try and take over small countries to the south. And, in the War of 1812 a goal of the US was to annex Canada to free it from the “yoke of British imperialism”, which the Canadians didn’t really mind much.

      • Administrative power is distinct from policymaking. The executive branch fills in the details in administering laws, but it may not fill in between laws or make them. There is no high level policymaking in administration.

        Presidents have gradually seized policymaking power from the legislative branch. “Checks and balances” has never worked, because it was designed as a first approximation suitable to the small government of the early federal era. Not only are there no checks at all upon the judicial branch (it was thought to be too few in number to misbehave), but also the other branches have no internal checks and are fundamentally unable to balance each other because their powers are completely different. The executive branch has always had all of the physical power (army, national guard, secret agencies, DOJ and marshals, etc.) as well as real control of the economic power (treasury, IRS, budget management, etc.). So the executive has gradually taken what it pleases. The judicial branch now rejects by subterfuge both constitutional rights and democracy itself, as in Citizens United. All branches are owned by the bribes of economic concentrations: if any branch represented the people, the conflicts between them would be immediate.

        The solution is to implement checks and balances within each branch (and add checks upon the judiciary). When factions control one of its components, the others check its power. That requires redundant control within each branch, just like the redundant processors in high-reliability control systems (aircraft autopilots, large memory systems, etc.). When one disagrees, the votes of the other two decide the action taken.

        • I don’t want to get into a long philosophical discussion on this, but it sounds like your disagreement with me is semantic. When the Congress passes a law, like the one setting up the EPA and gives it the power to regulate pollution, but leaves out a lot of detail, the administration has a lot of leeway in determining what is a pollutant and how to regulate it. As modern life has gotten more complicated, this has become more and more common, in part because Congress cannot foresee all eventualities. Maybe you don’t call this type of activity policy making, but it sure looks like it to outsiders. This is why Federal regulations, drawn up by the executive branch, run to thousands of pages. In my career in local government I both wrote laws and regulations and had to enforce them. Even in my little corner of the world you could see how significant interpretation in administration could become.

  6. Rubio has spoken about his father being tortured in Cuba. I assumed he meant this was done by the Castro regime.

    Now we learn that this crime was committed by the right-wing dictator Batista, who was overthrown by Castro.

    It’s disgusting that Rubio would so mislead the public, implying that his father escaped abuse by the left, Castro’s regime, rather than abuse by the right, (that good old buddy of the USA) Batista.

    • I believe Rubio’s father fought against Batista but parted with Castro’s turn towards communism. Or is that Cruz?

  7. So let’s get this straight. The European Parliament is so disturbed at the human rights situation that it has urged an EU cut off of military cooperation with the Egypt of Gen. al-Sisi. But this is the regime that Marco Rubio demands we admire and support.

    Not to worry, General al-Sisi. Hillary will make up the difference.

  8. The poor CNN moderators were often visibly uncomfortable with the bizarre and bloodthirsty answers they got to their sober foreign policy questions.

    Perhaps if the moderators hadn’t sold out to the corporate media they would have had the integrity to call the candidates on their repugnant positions.

  9. The pullback on grotesque personal attacks at this debate was because they’re all starting to realize that they can’t play on Trump’s turf. It might do him some short-term damage, but he always bounces back in a couple of weeks, maybe because in the long run it favors him to have GOP discourse reduced to pro wrestling. And maybe some of these men are preparing themselves for lives in Trump’s revised GOP and want to get off his enemies list, which must be thicker than the phone book.

  10. Hi Juan. Let me second some commentators here and say thanks for watching last night so we did not have to! A random thought about the brutality that has been a hallmark feature of these horror shows parading as GOP debates: Trump often goes on at great length about beheadings by ISIS and how we need to go “all Medieval” on their ass. We would do well to remember that we, too, have a tendency to the barbaric. Case in point: my father censored mail in WWII. He would open letters to make sure no unseemly pictures were sent home that could compromise the narrative of “the good war”. Pics of GIs with trophy heads, sometimes lined up in a row on the ground, were not uncommon. One day a soldier in his unit who had been on patrol (in the Philippines) brought a pair of ears to him, proudly displaying them as a trophy. My father asked how he knew the ears were from a Japanese soldier. The soldier then produced an earless head.

    Now, let us have done with finger wagging about comparing the GOP to Nazis. When you have the glorification of violence or incitement to it, when you have race-baiting and calls for ethnic cleansing, when you beat up protestors and sucker punch people of color for exercising their first amendment rights, when you extol military power and build your foundation on it, you are there. Tu es Schicklegruber et in ista merda partem construam! (“Thou art Schicklegruber and on such shit shall I build my party”). There is a deep deep danger here – we should all be aware the Nazis were a democratically elected party that enabled Hitler to gain supreme power, and that fascist regimes and the countries they take over don’t usually end at all well. And no, this is not panic, this is prudence.


    • Just to be clear, the Nazi Party never got more than 33% of the vote. Hitler gained power because the rest of the vote was splintered and Franz von Papen thought Hitler could be controlled and persuaded Hindenburg, the old an dottering president, to allow him to form a government. Kind of like how the GOP is splintering in the face of a minority supported Trump. As for US soldiers, until Malmedy, troops treated Germans fairly civilly. After Malmedy the US often did not take prisoners. The Pacific was different because the Japanese fought to the death and fought in a way considered treacherous– pretending to surrender and then opening fire, playing dead and then ambushing, etc. It was a true culture clash in the Pacific where both sides didn’t understand the other and often hated one another.

  11. Politics in this country, especially on the right, has gotten surreal. I feel like I’m living in a Dali painting. The latest headline I saw was that Rubio says that the violence at Trump rallies is due to Obama. Sometimes it is enough to make you feel hopeless. If facts, reason, logic and rationality make no difference, what hope is there for us?

  12. “…the society with which he deals has an unstructured brutality and a violence never far from release…”–John Russell

    Sadism is the operative force driving both the Cruz and Trump phenomena. It is a sadism born of an atmosphere of generalized nihilism and anomie in an America increasingly characterized by a deep sense of confusion, disorientation, and dislocation regarding the nature and even existence of society’s shared values and goals. Said confusion is perceived as extending to and/or emanating from the authority of a government that either cannot defend essential forms of social, economic, biological, and spiritual existence, or that in fact has, at least partially, midwifed the very destruction of these vital forms and thus provoked the anomie that now marks their decline/haunts their disappearance.

    As Dostoevsky has demonstrated nihilism in its most extreme forms readily leads to sadism or self-murder. Since the latter is the most absolute and redundant form of political self-extinction, only sadism remains in the existential arsenal of the subject so afflicted. Despairing of a neoliberally captured government’s ability to achieve even a modest rebalancing of politico-economic power in their, i.e. national labor’s, favor (or even more myopically “philosophically” incredulous as to its ability tout court and/or doubtful of the very justice of the notion), they instead predictably precipitate into neurotic (thus of course unconscious), unprogrammatic (distracted/impeded as they are from any authentically alleviative economic project), and ultimately hysteric (“nothing short of Trump shooting my daughter in the street and my grandchildren [would stop her from supporting him]”) forms of political and existential fervor. Thus awakening among a subspecies of the servitors of the powerful an opportunistic and, of course, exploitative desire to capture them anew in the net of an individually psycho-economically redemptive and/or religiously prophetic and hermetic übermenschlich figure: a literal ‘demagogos’-cum-’eupompos’ or fortunate guide to the insecure masses, from whom, as explains psychologist Benjamin Wolman, the “powerless individual strives to attain [psychologically educative and emulative] power by introjecting the powerful figures or a part of them or being incorporated by them.”

    Regarding the term Übermensch, scholars affirm: “Nietzsche derives [said] term…from Lucian of Samosata’s hyperanthropos.” Lucian’s satire Kataplous e turannos, ‘The Descent or The Tyrant,’ “offers the account of the tyrant as “overman,” that is: as a superior man of wealth and power who in this worldly life towers above others regarded in this same life as inferior or “lesser” [i.e. literally and figuratively “lower”] human beings…Lucian’s parody transposes the same putatively “higher” man, the hyperanthropos, escorted by Hermes and ferried by Charon or Death into the afterlife of the Greek underworld.”

    Another terminologically and conceptually elucidative classical example is the Sophoclean tragedy ‘Oedipus Tyrannus,’ which begins not altogether unpromisingly–(“You set my beloved land on a fair straight course when it was storm-tossed in troubles, and now may you be its fortunate guide [eupompos]”)–. However, as is famously known, fate and (political) hubris had other designs, namely, tyranny, madness, and tragedy (hubris, as an authority described, is that “arrogant disregard for laws and other moral constraints,” which is both seed and fruit of the “excessive acts committed by the powerful against the less powerful,” and which in turn “breeds the tyrant” [hubris phuteuei turannon]). Of course it is precisely Trump, among the Republican candidates, who most self-consciously presents himself as an ‘eupompos’ (i.e. as a literally most “fortunate” self-avowed “guide” to individual secular self-redemption), but who by hubristically promising to supersede the laws of national constitution, in the name of mass popular will and personal power, reveals himself an ultimately unapologetic ‘demagogos,’ itself the traditional ‘anteactus’ of the ‘tyrannus.’

    Clearly then a form of neurotic-reactive magical thinking (though one no longer entirely captive to neoliberal false consciousness) is motivating a significant number within the so-called neoliberal “precariat” to not simply stand openly manifest of (heretofore repressed) tendencies regarding their long-fantasized sado-nihilistic views on the purposes of the instrumentalization of U.S. state (super) power, but to, in fact, develop a new, transformative and englobing orientation or Weltanschauung that universally (and not just politically) obsessively seeks what it perceives to be guiding magnifications or modelic concentrations (i.e. “emanative” reservoirs) of psychological power and impregnability (with outward and reflective manifestations of impressive and imposing material attainment)–and it is in this alternatingly shallow and profound (but never undynamic) sense that the psychological übermenschlich type of political leader serves a positive function to those he inherently attracts.

    However, in pragmatic political, legislative (and even avowedly extra-judicial) terms, for the aforesaid reasons of plutocratic constitutional foreclosure, not even the leader’s übermenschlich “personological” capacities (“He shall be greatest who…is overrich in will. Precisely this shall be called greatness: being capable of being as manifold as whole, as ample as full”–Nietzsche), however, can be expected to translate into more than an essentially negative governing principle (i.e. determinatively, programmatically denegative, denialist, nihilist). For this is precisely where the nihilist-derived ubermenschlich fantasy accedes and surrenders to the banality of neoliberal denialism–the snake’s rebellious tail is rewound back into the ouroboric hold of its possessor’s befanged trap-like mouth. : i.e. a governmental repercussive effect of necessarily even greater negative potentiality: more aggressive, incarcerative, punitive, reactive, relegative, obstructive, secretive, suppressive, violative, and violent*–in short one that is ultimately even more foreclosive to popular positive politico-egalitarian change. And all under the color of retro-political revanchism, regression, discrimination, intimidation, and suppression.

    **(And with more than a scattered dose of the antinomian in the case of Trump: e.g. the military is “not gonna refuse [my illegal orders]…Believe me”).

    Hence the subconscious source of both the “Cruzian”/”Trumpite” animation and vehemence for the rescission of the protections or even the outright attack of those seen as more vulnerable than they. Recourse to conceptualizations of parasitism come easily/are readily at hand (the cruelties, injustices, and stigmata of history ironically and inversely proffer it to them), previous and ongoing vulnerabilities become suggestive ellipses and directional shorthands (formulae) for future “historical” sadistic punishment. The implicit targets of today were the explicit ones of yesterday: African Americans; other historically defeated/super-exploited ethnicities; undocumented immigrants (for the same); homosexuals (the very ahistoricity of their granted protections mark them as specious, unmerited mercies, and therefore “naturally,” inclinatively revocable); those with even light and superficial criminal records (pariahic by definition); geopolitically obstreperous foreign individuals, groupings, and nations “selectively” and contradictorily (i.e. hypocritically) designated “pariah states” by the United States (and thus made so through the circuitous ‘totalitarian logic’ whereby naming–by the powerful–is perilously, potentially existentially, experienced as being by the less powerful [”the Jew is an ‘undesirable’, therefore he is…to be extirminated”; “the Mexican is a ‘rapist’, therefore he is…”]). Such a psychology, in short, evinces a generalized and expansive manic and sadic subconscious pre- or proto-fascist Weltanschauung which I think the following quotes do much to elucidate:

    “[I]f the body social remains unconscious of [the need of suffering] or imagines that the need can be ridiculed…the mind proceeds to invent in the guise of acts of cruelty the sufferings it has forbidden the heart to undergo…their fancies lose all vital touch and all capacity for being in sympathy.” (Denis de Rougemont, ‘Love in the Western World’)

    *”[I]f life and created nature are but dark wickedness and cruelty, it becomes necessary to obtain release from them by exceeding this cruelty and wickedness. And there is but the alternative to be cruel either to ourselves or to others.” (idem)

    “’What! An ambitious sovereign shall be able to destroy as he likes and without scruple the foes that hamper the execution of his schemes for achieving greatness! Cruel, arbitrary and imperious laws shall likewise murder in every century millions of human beings! And yet weak and unfortunate private persons such as ourselves shall not be allowed to sacrifice a single being to our revenge or to our caprice? Could anything be more barbarous or more ridiculously queer? And should we not, under cover of the most profound mystery, avenge ourselves abundantly for this absurdity?’–D.A.F. de Sade, ‘La Philosophie du boudoir’ (as quoted by de Rougemont in idem)

    ‘Donald, “I’ve learned from my experiences. As a safety factor, I very often see other people as a revolver that could be pointed at me. They are the gun. I, however, am the trigger…We never know what will trigger another person’s killer instinct. It can be something that happened when they were five years old. So avoid being the trigger, and the revolver will not be a threat.”’–Trump: How to Get Rich

    Feeling the psychic armor of asympathy and general psychological inurement (i.e. indifference) reflected back onto their persons by the profoundly exemplary and educative discourses of sadism embodied respectively by a bombastic and anti-apologetic Trump, and by the hermetic captiousness of Cruz, their ‘awakened’ (read: disturbed) supporters are, in the aggregate, asserting to the wider world their own psycho-specific–and this is of course the very point–yet imperiously aggressive and expansive Weltanschauung: in essence, a recurrence of the same dark neurotic fantasies that alimented the fascism of the early twentieth century, and which now manifests one of its principal ‘movemental’ epicenters in the United States (itself doubtless an effect not unrelated to over a decade of essentially uninterrupted blatantly aggressive foreign wars, and ones stereotyped by a ‘foreign’ sectarian-ness to boot).

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