by Joe Shea
February 23, 2015
THE G.O.P. HAS TURNED ON PANDORA'S MICROPHONE
BRADENTON, Fla., Feb. 23, 2015 -- Back when Republicans were still patriots, Members of Congress and the U.S. Senate had an inviolable rule: You don't criticize the President on matters of war and foreign policy. You have his back, as our gangster-talk children say.
But that was a long time ago, before the Republicans - inspired by the latent racism that bubbled up from the sewers when a black man became President - enjoyed occasional trips to the White House and even sat behind the desk in the Oval Office.
In those days we had some truly distinguished Republican men like Dwight D. Eisenhower, and truly able if flawed men like Richard Nixon, and truly sincere if hapless Republican men like Gerald Ford.
Now their would-be successors and their allies are inviting heads of state to speak to Congress without the normal deference shown to the President and State Department. Little does it matter to us that we don't want the Israelis telling our legislators how to deal with Iran, since they never have, or how to engage ISIS on the battlefield, which they never will.
Hopefully, one day these treacherous Republicans will even go so far as to enlist in the Army, and go themselves to fight the wars they are so fond of, making up policy and strategy in their foxholes and bunkers until they are finally tried and hanged.
Now, though, they're insisting that President Obama must brand Islam and all 1.6 billion Muslims on earth with the label "terrorism" and "extremist." The President believes that is unfair because it so vastly distant from the place most Muslims inhabit on the line between faith and heresy - and the truth.
We note with irony that during the 300 years of battle between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, no one ever referred to "Protestant extremism" or "Catholic terrorism," probably because most of our nation's elected officials are one or the other.
Nor did they refer to the Irgun, before the Israeli people legitimized them by becoming a nation, as "Jewish extremists" and "Jewish terrorists," even though the Irish Catholics and Protestants and guerilla Jews killed thousands of innocent people in their search for recognition and legitimacy.
Israel, in fact, elected a man whom the British would certainly have deemed a "Jewish terrorist," Yitzhak Rabin, as Prime Minister, and allowed him to serve until he was assassinated by a Hassidic Jew in Tel Aviv.
To elect Rabin was a little like our electing Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederacy, as President after Lincoln's assassination. The difference was that by then Rabin was a war hero, not a dissident. Once legitimized, that's all water over the dam, gone and forgotten.
But the constant criticism of President Obama's war against ISIS, and the GOP's deep meddling in American military strategy, is not without effect. It has allowed ISIS to see us not as a united foe intent on destroying them, but as a divided nation that is too weak to make firm decisions. Fox News, in particular, loves that theme, however false.
We make plenty of firm decisions, but the Republicans and ISIS ignore those well-considered steps, even at the peril of our troops. Making political points has become far more important to Republicans than winning this complex and faraway war.
That was never more clearly illustrated than when Italian presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said of President Obama, "I don't think he loves America." Think? Rudy?
Can you imagine saying the same about FDR or LBJ, when they were fighting their awful wars? In fact, even though no one used those words about LBJ, the criticism of him by the American people vastly emboldened the North Vietnamese as they pressed toward Saigon, and it was a not-so-hidden high card in their hand as they faced Henry Kissinger at the negotiating table in Paris.
ISIS, unlike the NVA, has no broader constituency that we are aware of, and it will only be with the consolidation of several countries - Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq, for instance - that their proclaimed caliphate will become a true state with which negotiation might be possible. We and several of our Middle East partners are doing everything we can to frustrate that possibility, and there is really no sign that we are not succeeding.
Nonethless, we must always and foremost remember that in ISIS we are fighting an idea, however bloody and brutal its manifestations, and that only another idea, or a genuine mirror in which they can see themselves, can defeat it.
Ideas sometimes have the knack of instantly gelling among tens or hundreds of millions of people - they go viral, as we say now. That's what happened when Martin Luther posted his thoughts on a German wall, creating Protestantism, and when Martin Luther King, Jr., told the world, "I have a dream."
That viral consensus only takes what the late Dick Gregory called "a shift in the wind" to suddenly turn an entire nation or nations to a single way of thinking. That happened in our own times with the Beatles; suddenly, the wind shifted and they were everywhere and everything. Elvis Presley accomplished the same feat. Lady Gaga, with her soaring rendition of "Climb Every Mountain," may have done it last night at the Oscars. In the Middle East, the people themselves, united in the ISIS idea, would suddenly start seeing themselves as citizens of the Fifth Caliphate, not as Iraqis or Syrians or Yemenis or whatever. That would be a sort of logical finish for the Arab Spring, which seized millions of Middle Eastern imaginations even in oppressed, crusty Egypt, ousting one dictator, then another and almost Gen. Sisi, a third.
In the latter case, the option of building a "mirror" army, we would have to field a genuine guerilla army with a better idea, and fight them just as they fight us, complete with men beheaded or burned alive in cages. We are not yet so bold. Information becomes the artillery of such a war, and social media becomes its battlefield. Only the deaths are real. Ideas are mighty powerful.
In the meantime, by going before the microphones of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's EIB and the rest of those deskbound traitors to our cause, America's Republicans, conservatives and ill-informed Libertarians have turned the Pandora's Box metaphor upside down and dumped out Pandora's Microphone and Pandora's Camera.
The illness of racism and official treason may introduce deep stains into our social fabric, but time can wear those out.
What we cannot wear out or put back in the microphone or erase from the video is the rampant disrespect for the office of President, for our President (they even say, "He's not my President," as though they are citizens of a foreign country), and the singularly dangerous habit of having minor elected officials meddling in foreign policy, military strategy and the conduct of war.
That won't stop, even in the unlikely event Republicans of this century ever again win the White House. It's become accepted as a reflex, a habit, you see, and habits are damnably hard to break.
Joe Shea is Editor-in-chief of The American Reporter, which celebrates its 20th Anniversary on April 10, 2015. He is the author of "The War Against the Caliphate," which was published in The American Reporter on Nov. 30, 2009, and widely republished in several languages.