Juan Williams: GOP dishonesty on ISIS and Iraq

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As Islamic State terrorists captured a key Iraqi city last week, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gave voice to Republican indignation by blasting President Obama for not having “an over-arching [military] strategy to deal with this growing terrorist threat.” 

Then the Speaker announced he would not allow a House vote on the authorization for the use of military force to fight Islamic terrorists, despite it having been requested by the White House nearly six months ago. 

{mosads}Boehner said then, and says now, that the Obama administration’s request does not go far enough because the document bans “enduring offensive ground combat operations.”

Okay. So, let’s see how serious the Speaker and his House Republicans are about sending U.S. troops into combat against the Islamic State terrorists.

The answer? They’re not. The Speaker is not willing to commit to paper the details of a more aggressive plan for the U.S. military to fight terrorists. 

Instead, Boehner is hiding behind a demand for the White House to withdraw its proposal and “start over.” That position is opposed by 62 percent of Americans who told McClatchy/Marist pollsters in March they want their “member of Congress to vote for President Obama’s proposal to use military forces against ISIS.”

Logic dictates that if Republicans prefer using more force over a longer period than outlined by the White House, they ought to first give the president the limited power he is requesting and then hold him accountable.

The continued House Republican refusal to do more than rant at Obama led Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, to say the Speaker has “abdicated responsibility,” and allowed Congress’ role in authorizing war to “atrophy beyond recognition.” 

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was even more dismissive: “The Speaker’s plea for the president to submit a new authorization is clearly an admission that the House cannot initiate discussion of an issue of this magnitude.”

On the GOP campaign trail, there is a similar failure to say how far most candidates will go, in terms of U.S. action against Islamic State. Instead, the candidates are fighting the last war.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, tripped up on the question of whether he would have gone to war in Iraq, knowing what he knows now. 

At first he incredibly said “yes”; only several days later did he get to “no.” 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) fell down the same hole. He tried to brush the question aside by wrongly saying that even President George W. Bush has said he would not have gone to war if he had known there were no weapons of mass destruction. 

The Washington Post’s “FactChecker” column found him in error: “The former president has never suggested he would not have invaded Iraq if he had known there were no weapons of mass destruction; instead, as recently as 2014, he has insisted his decision to invade was correct.”

The GOP’s angry, defensive posture on the war in Iraq also includes blaming Obama for not keeping a large U.S. military force in the Middle East to prevent the rise of the Islamic State. 

But when Jeb Bush adopted that stance, he was taken to task by a student. She told Bush that his older brother’s decision, while president, to disband Iraq’s military created the Islamic State by leaving former soldiers with weapons, sharp sectarian divisions and no jobs. 

Jeb Bush’s claim to the student that Obama failed to execute a deal his brother had made to keep 10,000 troops in Iraq was rated as “mostly false” by PolitiFact.

The GOP debating position is in tatters. And, in any event, it does not fit with the American public’s opinion of the war in Iraq. An October NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 66 percent of Americans say the Iraq war was “not worth it.” Last week, a Rasmussen poll found 61 percent agreeing that the legacy of the war is “failure.”

Yet Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another possible candidate for the GOP nomination, has moved past debate. He just declares the need to immediately send “thousands of American soldiers over there to protect millions of us back here at home.” 

Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, went on offense with a tweet demanding the press ask Democrats: “Knowing what we know now, would you still have abandoned Iraq?”

Her response was indicative of a reflexive Republican response to any question about the failure of the Iraq war. They point out that Congressional Democrats, including former Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), voted to authorize the war in the first place.

But Clinton has admitted her error in backing a war which cost the lives of more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers, wounded more than 30,000 and has already cost the nation $1.7 trillion.

Republican leaders refuse to admit that a Republican president made a terrible mistake in starting the war in Iraq. This sad political reality is a reflection of a culture of political polarization which has left much of the GOP base with their own set of beliefs, regardless of the objective facts. 

As a result, Republican politicians are casting for votes from Republican voters who tell pollsters that fear of terrorism tops all their concerns for the nation. They also blame Obama. 

Will fear drive the U.S. into yet another war?

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.

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