Tag Archives: Sharia

SYNDICATED COLUMN: “Ask the Pundit”: What Should the U.S. Do About ISIS?

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Reader Brian McManus asks:

“Just wondering if you can find time to post a piece on what the U.S. should do (or not do) regarding the current situation with ISIS in Iraq. Not so much on how the situation got to be where it is, but what the U.S. and/or other nations should do in situations like this. Would appreciate your thoughts on the issue.”

Thanks for writing, Brian.

Americans are “can do” people. Optimism is an appealing national personality trait but it comes with the unfortunate tendency to overestimate what can be done and its more dangerous corollary, the will to act when doing nothing would be preferable.

We saw the pitfalls of can-do following 9/11. Initial reactions to the attacks were shock and confusion. Traditional ideological divides were blurred, but in those early days one could still discern the pre-GWOT liberal tendency toward treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue, versus the old hawkish rightist desire to lash out militarily. Then the Right trotted out a line that resonated across the spectrum and caused the antiwar left to dissolve as into mist:

We have to do something.

In the United States, “something” means military action.

The thing we “have” to do “something” about always refers to foreign policy.

Americans don’t feel that “have to do something” about domestic problems. Poverty? No need to act. Corrupt bankers? Inaction is fine. But if a crisis flares up overseas (a civil war as in Syria or Libya, a siege of civilians as in Sarajevo or Iraqi Kurdistan, cross-border encroachment as in ex-Soviet Georgia or Crimea), and especially if it involves opponents the media categorizes as “bad guys” (regional economic rivals such as Iran, China or Russia, radical Islamists who may or may not have gotten their guns from us), “we” “have” “to” “do” “something” (military action).

This is not true.

There are always alternatives to military action. The success of the formerly Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria insurgency, which controls half of both countries, is no exception. Half-measures come in both military (money and weapons) and non-military (political advisors) forms.

We can do nothing.

Albania is doing nothing in Iraq. Cuba is doing nothing in Iraq. Vietnam is doing nothing in Iraq. These countries have not been harmed by their refusal to intervene militarily in Iraq.

As I see it, Brian, whatever appetite ordinary Americans have for Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS and other attempts to prop up the current regime in Baghdad stems from the investment of lives and treasure the U.S. has made since the 2003 invasion.

“To be sure, the cost was high,” then-Secretary of State Leon Panetta said when Obama ordered the main troop withdrawal from Iraq. “But those lives were not lost in vain. They gave birth to an independent, free, and sovereign Iraq.”

If ISIS captures Baghdad and establishes Taliban-style Sharia law throughout Iraq, complete with amputations of accused thieves and stonings of wayward women — leaving Iraq, already in worse shape than it was under Saddam, an unequivocal nightmare for its people and a base for radical jihadis out to overthrow U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia — Panetta’s statement will have been belied.

The war will have been exposed as a total waste.

Which it was. Every American who lost a life or a limb in Iraq was sacrificed stupidly, predictably, in a war that never could have been won even had the generals and politicians in charge of it weren’t idiots.

The attempt to salvage Iraq by saving the rump Iraqi state inside the Green Zone is a refusal to accept defeat. But that doesn’t change reality.

We lost the Iraq War years ago. The sooner we accept that there is nothing to be saved there and move on, the better off we’ll be.

Undeniably and regrettably, washing our hands of Iraq — aside from leaving ISIS alone, we ought to evacuate the embassy and other government personnel Obama says we need to “protect” — will result in awful consequences. Whether or not ISIS can close the deal by capturing Baghdad, the sectarian conflict will escalate. Areas within ISIS control will be lost for the foreseeable future. More civilians will die, many as the result of “ethnic cleansing.”

We know these things will happen because we’ve lost wars before. The U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam created the “boat people” crisis, opened space for wars between Vietnam and its neighbors China and Cambodia, and permitted a communist regime hostile to U.S. interests to consolidate power, and exclude American business for decades.

But consider the alternative.

Remaining in Vietnam would have required pouring more money and more soldiers down a hole, and slaughtering countless more Vietnamese. We still would have lost. All that post-withdrawal stuff — the civil conflicts, reprisals against our former local collaborators — would still have happened. It just would have happened later.

After we accepted defeat and walked away from Vietnam, on the other hand, things eventually worked out. Vietnam is now a major U.S. trading partner; nearly half a million American tourists visit Vietnam each year.

A guy named Barack Obama once summarized his foreign policy as “Don’t do stupid stuff” like invading Iraq in the first place. Hillary’s jibes and Obama’s actions aside, it’s good advice. To which I’ll add Ho Chi Minh’s legendary order to his general Vo Nguyen Giap, who was planning the decisive 1954 battle that would expel France from Indochina: “If victory is certain, then you are to attack. If victory is not certain, then you must resolutely refrain from attacking.”

            Victory against ISIS is anything but certain. Therefore, in this and similar situations, I would refrain from attacking.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan,” out Sept. 2. Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: End the Death Penalty. Allow Vigilantism.

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To the State of Ohio, Dennis McGuire was a human guinea pig — the first inmate executed using an experimental mix of poisons cobbled together because the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals used in older, proven cocktails refuse to continue supplying them for anti-medical purposes. For 25 agonizing minutes, McGuire thrashed against his restraints, choked and gasped for air before finally succumbing to death. “He started making all these horrible, horrible noises, and at that point, that’s when I covered my eyes and my ears,” said his daughter Amber McGuire, who witnessed the state killing at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, near Lucasville.

Unsurprisingly, the family of the woman McGuire raped and murdered was unmoved by McGuire’s suffering. “As I recall the events preceding her death, forcing her from the car, attempting to rape her vaginally, sodomizing her, choking her, stabbing her, I know she suffered terror and pain. He is being treated far more humanely than he treated her,” said a statement issued by Joy Stewart’s survivors.

Ohio doesn’t have an awesome track record with killing killers. In 2009, the state unsuccessfully tried to kill Romell Broom — who did his best to help his would-be executioners. “For more than two hours,” reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “the team attempted to insert two shunts into a vein of the compliant Broom, who tried several times to assist his executioners by shifting positions, rubbing his arm and pointing out possible usable veins…At one point, Broom, 53, lay back on his bed, covered his face with his hands, and cried. Another time, while sitting up, he was seen grimacing as the execution team appeared to seek a vein around his ankles.”

In 2007 prison staff tried to find a usable vein in the arms of an obese inmate, Christopher Newton, for nearly two hours. “The execution team stuck him at least 10 times with needles to get in place the shunts where the needles are injected” before finally managing to kill him, according to the AP.

Given the finality of capital punishment, proof that one innocent person has ever been executed is enough for me to find the practice abhorrent. The fact, is numerous innocents have died in American death chambers.

Most of the world agrees. Only 21 out of the world’s 195 nations carried out any executions last year.

But I keep coming back to the angry statement issued by Joy Stewart’s survivors. They have every right to their rage. If some monster took away someone I loved like that, I would want to kill him too.

But I would want to do it myself.

Assuming that the guilt of death row prisoners like Dennis McGuire could be ascertained with absolute certainty — which is impossible in 100% of capital cases — I would be fine if Stewart’s grieving relatives shot him or garroted or beat him to death. Whatever makes them feel better.

Revenge is fine. Routine murder is not.

I can’t get past the gruesome bureaucratic spectacle of government workers executing people like McGuire (or trying to execute people like Broom) bloodlessly, motivated solely by a paycheck. As a society, we shouldn’t demand that state workers expose themselves to psychic trauma. As a system of justice, the death penalty is dishonest because it masks its true purpose: vengeance.

The purpose certainly isn’t deterrence. Year after year, states with capital punishment have significantly higher murder rates than those without it.

Some countries — nations most people would not look up to — nevertheless manage an interesting compromise: the authorities carry out the death penalty, but only if the aggrieved parties agree to it. In some executions carried out under Sharia law in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan under Taliban control, the crimes are read out to a crowd of witnesses. Judges ask the victim’s family whether they want the execution carried out or, instead, prefer to offer mercy. (Mercy can vary between outright release to a harsh punishment short of death, for example, an amputation. In a surprising number of cases, families choose forced labor on their farms.)

Here in the United States, on the other hand, executions are often carried out against the wishes of the victims’ families. What’s the point of that?

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COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

Afghanistan Redux

Free Syrian Army rebels, supported with money and arms by the United States, are establishing Taliban-style sharia law in the areas they control. Here we go again, replacing secular socialist governments with Islamist fanatics poised to become our future enemies.