It received little notice in the local Tucson media last week, but Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s regular radio address on Saturday. The topic was fighting ISIS.
Currently there are 80 Members in the U.S. House of Representatives who are Veterans. Veterans in Congress (114th). Somehow, Rep. McSally deems herself a “national security expert” based upon her service as an A-10 pilot in the Air Force. If previous military service is all it takes to be deemed a “national security expert,” then the other 79 members of Congress who are veterans, and millions of veterans who are not members of Congress, are equally “national security experts.” This notion is absurd.
Let’s break down what Rep. McSally had to say. Rep. Martha McSally Urges Obama Administration to ‘Step Up’ in Fight Against ISIS in Weekly Republican Address:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris as they recover from last week’s horrific terrorist attacks. While we mourn this tragedy, let us be reminded those attacks could have happened here. This is not to instill fear, but to remind us to be vigilant. That’s why we’re calling on the administration to step up, provide global leadership, and put together a coherent and aggressive strategy to defeat ISIS.
“I need no reminders about the threats we face. Before being elected to Congress, I served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a full colonel. I was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat and the first to command a fighter squadron in combat in U.S. history. In my career, I flew 2,600 flight hours, including over 325 combat hours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I deployed to the Middle East and Afghanistan six times, serving in leadership positions for the initial air campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and counter-terrorism ops in Africa.
There is literally no article written about Rep. McSally that does not include this boilerplate paragraph. I am surprised that she left out the story she repeats ad nauseam, about how she fearlessly stood up to her employer, the Pentagon — “Really, it was just me, all by myself” — over having to wear a headscarf out of respect for local culture and custom while serving in a Muslim country. McSally’s prejudice was not universally shared by her fellow female officers in the Air Force. Lt. Col. Cheryl Garner, USAF Best Defense guest columnist for Foreign Policy (March 2011) wrote Hey, it should be our choice – The Best Defense – Foreign Policy.
“After I was elected, I had the privilege to be appointed to a task force on combating terrorist and foreign fighter travel. For six months, our bipartisan task force looked at this very threat. What we discovered is that 30,000 individuals have traveled from over 100 countries to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS. We know about 4,500 are from Western and visa-waiver countries. And 250 of them are from America. Those are the ones that we know. We realize there are probably so many that we don’t know.
“In addition, law enforcement has ISIS-related investigations in every single state right now, with cases increasing at an alarming rate. And ISIS is employing a sophisticated and unprecedented propaganda, recruitment, and social-media campaign. They use it to inspire or direct people to travel to ISIS-controlled areas to join the fight or remain where they are and commit terrorist attacks at home.
“There’s an estimated 200,000 pro-ISIS social-media posts per day. They are acting at the speed of broadband, while we are acting at the speed of bureaucracy.
First of all, if the “task force on combating terrorist and foreign fighter travel” on which you serve is supposed to deter Americans specifically from joining ISIS, doesn’t the fact that some 250 Americans have joined ISIS as you assert demonstrate that your committee is an utter failure?
And social media is what you are concerned about? What happened to George W. Bush’s massive NSA warrantless surveillance of electronic communications? Are you claiming that the billions of tax dollars that we have spent on surveillance and spying is failing to get the job done? Shouldn’t you be calling for an oversight hearing of the NSA and other spy agencies to find out why the taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth after having surrendered their civil liberties to the Big Brother “bureaucracy” of the surveillance society?
“After our six-month investigation, the task force laid out 32 key findings and made over 50 recommendations in the report that we released in September.
“And the number one finding—the most glaring weakness of all—is that this administration does not have a strategy to combat this dangerous threat. I have been focused on national security for over 30 years, and I can tell you that ISIS is the most potent terrorist movement we have faced. They showed this month the apparent capability to take down the first airplane since 9/11 and conduct the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II. France and Russia have shown resolve in response, but the world is waiting for America’s resolve and leadership—and a comprehensive strategy to win.
Hold on there, Rep. McSally. If you want to talk about a lack of strategy and a lack of resolve, then we need to talk about the Tea-Publican controlled Congress, because Congress possesses the prerogative to declare war under the Constitution, a power that this Congress has completely abdicated in favor of a strategy of a partisan political blame game.
President Obama requested an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Syria for its use of chemical weapons in August of 2013. Text of Obama’s draft legislation. The Tea-Publican Congress not only failed to vote on the request, they did not even debate it. It was Secretary of State John Kerry, working with his Russian counterpart, who negotiated an agreement for the destruction of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stockpile, Eliminating Chemical Weapons in Syria – US Department of State, with no thanks to the U.S. Congress.
A year later on August 7, 2014, President Obama ordered air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. Statement by the President. In his Sept. 10, 2014 address to the nation laying out his strategy, President Obama said “Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these [Syrian opposition] fighters” (that would be Sen. John McCain’s “friends” we are talking about, above).
More to the point, the President said:
My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.
The Tea-Publican controlled Congress failed to act on “additional authorities,” i.e. a new AUMF to fight ISIS. Partisan electioneering in the midterm election was far more important to them.
When the new 114th Congress convened earlier this year — in which Rep. McSally is now a member — President Obama formally requested an AUMF to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Letter from the President — Authorization for the Use of United States Armed Forces in connection with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Tea-Publican controlled Congress has failed to debate the President’s request, and has a partisan political strategy not to vote on a new war authorization. They do not want a “buy in” on this war and to present a united front to the world. They prefer their partisan political blame game of Obama Derangement Syndrome while President Obama is forced to conduct what is, in fact, an illegal war not authorized by Congress, because this Tea-Publican Congress has completely abdicated its responsibility under the Constitution.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine have been trying for months to get the Senate to debate a new AUMF to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. They recently wrote an opinion in Time magazine taking their colleagues to task for their abdication of their constitutional responsibility over war. Senators Kaine and Flake: Congress Has Been Too Silent on ISIS:
In the aftermath of the horrible Friday the 13th attacks in Paris, many members of Congress quickly took the opportunity to blast the Obama administration’s failure to appropriately counter ISIS in Iraq, Syria and beyond. It is fair game to challenge the administration’s strategy, but these critiques miss an important point: Congress has abdicated its fundamental duty to debate, vote on and shape the extent of the current war on ISIS. Our post-Paris discussion about what more the U.S. should do must include Congress taking responsibility for our involvement, rather than trying to duck accountability. [That remark resembles you, Rep. McSally.]
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Congress has been strangely silent about the war. We criticize the President, but won’t vote to authorize, stop or refine what he is doing. Congressional silence sends a message. Our allies wonder whether we have the resolve to work with them to stop this threat. ISIS must take comfort in the seeming ambivalence of Congress. Most damning, our troops—ordered to risk their lives thousands of miles from home—wonder whether Congress even supports the dangerous missions they must carry out every day.
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[W]e were not elected to the U.S. Senate to take votes on what’s easy and avoid votes on issues that are hard. It is our responsibility to weigh in on this grave matter of foreign policy.
A Congressional debate, at long last, about this war on ISIS will educate the American public about the stakes involved. It will force the administration to give thought to, and lay out a clear strategy that encompasses military and non-military dimensions—including diplomatic and humanitarian measures—for degrading and ultimately destroying ISIS, and for U.S. involvement with other nations in this struggle. It should let our troops, our allies and our adversaries know of our unity and resolve. Finally, it will vindicate the Constitutional role of Congress in making the sober decision about when military force is necessary.
Rep. McSally is not interested in performing her constitutional duty. She was hired to play the GOP’s partisan blame game of Obama Derangement Syndrome:
“The administration has been leading from behind. In the military, we would call that following. Their reluctant approach is only emboldening ISIS to recruit more fighters as they claim they have been attacked by U.S. airpower for 15 months, yet the momentum is theirs.
“Our strategy must include utilizing all elements of national power. We must unleash American air power to destroy their leadership, command and control, logistics, and their means of financing their terror.
“For 17 months, ISIS has been exporting black-market oil to fund their operations, and we just finally started striking the fuel trucks with the mighty A-10 warthog, the airplane I flew. The aircrews have been doing the best they can under overly restricted rules of engagement. We need to take the gloves off, let them do their jobs now to destroy ISIS capabilities in Iraq and Syria.
I agree with the point about taking out fuel trucks. What has her precious Air Force been bombing? But when McSally says “we must unleash American air power” and “take the gloves off,” what exactly does she mean?
We do not fight air wars like we did in World War II, with little concern for civilian populations. The U.S. could fly round-the-clock missions against Raqqa, Syria, the purported capitol of ISIS, with B-1 bombers out of Germany and B-52 bombers out of Diego Garcia. Does McSally want to carpet bomb or to fire bomb Raqqa like we did to Dresden, Germany and Japanese cities? The “collateral damage” to captive civilian populations would only be a recruiting tool for ISIS. Is this what you want, Rep. McSally?
And does anyone think that the Russians operating inside Syria are going to stand by and allow this? This could lead to an escalation into a super-power conflict out of what is a proxy war. Tough talk is cheap, Rep. McSally, what exactly is your air power plan? I want to know specifics. And if you have a plan, why have you not shared your supposed insight with the president?
“Next, we need to show leadership again in the broader Middle East. Our close ally Israel and our Sunni Arab allies are rightfully confused and dismayed by this administration’s myopic focus on a nuclear deal with the Shia state sponsor of terror and their biggest security threat, Iran. The strategy must ensure actions against ISIS don’t strengthen Iran. A broader strategy includes partnering with the nearly 20 countries that have an ISIS presence to deny safe haven and counter the extremism ideology.
Our Sunni Arab allies — specifically Saudi Arabia — are the ones who support the Sunni ISIS. Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country; How Saudi Wahhabism Is the Fountainhead of Islamist Terrorism. Siding with the Saudis means siding with ISIS, is that what you want? There are no “good guys” in this Sunni-Shia divide that has existed for centuries. But you are a “national security expert,” so you should know this, Rep. McSally.
“It must step up our efforts working with our allies, especially in Europe, to share information and close loopholes that facilitate terrorist travel.
“And it means countering the radical extremism that we’re seeing in our own neighborhoods. We have around two dozen people focused on countering violent extremism in the federal government. But we have roughly 10,000 IRS agents making sure you don’t take an improper charity deduction. Where we are putting our resources simply does not match up with the threats we are facing.
McSally is really pleased with this GOP talking point and has repeated it in subsequent statements. PolitiFact fact checked this GOP talking point and rated is “mostly false.” 10000 IRS agents but only 2 dozen people focused on ‘violent extremism’?
“This week, we sent the president’s desk a national defense bill, for the second time. It requires the president to put together a real strategy to defeat ISIS. We also give him all the tools he will need to execute that strategy. [B.S. It does not include an AUMF, so it continues the illegal status of military operations against ISIS in Iraq in Syria.]
Second, we passed a bill calling for a new standard of verification for those fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq to ensure ISIS isn’t posing as innocent victims, as they said they would. This is the first step to close one gap highlighted by the FBI director and our own security officials, and there are many other vulnerabilities we have identified that must be urgently addressed. [This is a reference to the Syrian refugee bill that would effectively shut down the refugee program fueled by irrational fear and religious bigotry.]
“In short, we’re telling the administration to step up. Take this terrorist threat seriously. The fight against ISIS is a generational conflict, and we must lead now more than ever. Thank you.”
I would argue that it is you, Rep. McSally, and your Tea-Publican colleagues in Congress who need to take this terrorist threat seriously and “step up,” and to cease this partisan political blame game. Your Obama Derangement Syndrome is sad and pathetic. You represent me in Congress and I am disgusted with your behavior and your failure to perform your constitutional duty.