I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again.

Fifteen years ago this week, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, spoke at the United Nations to sell pre-emptive war with Iraq. As his chief of staff, I helped Secretary Powell paint a clear picture that war was the only choice, that when “we confront a regime that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present. And unless we act, we are confronting an even more frightening future.”.

.. President George W. Bush would have ordered the war even without the United Nations presentation, or if Secretary Powell had failed miserably in giving it. But the secretary’s gravitas was a significant part of the two-year-long effort by the Bush administration to get Americans on the war wagon.

.. the Trump administration is using much the same playbook to create a false impression that war is the only way to address the threats posed by Iran.

.. Nikki Haley, said that the administration had “undeniable” evidence that Iran was not complying with Security Council resolutions regarding its ballistic missile program and Yemen.

.. It’s astonishing how similar that moment was to Mr. Powell’s 2003 presentation on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction — and how the Trump administration’s methods overall match those of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

.. Iran, a country of almost 80 million people whose vast strategic depth and difficult terrain make it a far greater challenge than Iraq, would be 10 to 15 times worse than the Iraq war in terms of casualties and costs.

.. The strategy positions Iran as one of the greatest threats America faces, much the same way President Bush framed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

With China, Russia and North Korea all presenting vastly more formidable challenges to America and its allies than Iran, one has to wonder where the Trump team gets its ideas.

..  a campaign built on the politicization of intelligence and shortsighted policy decisions to make the case for war.

.. It harks back to the C.I.A. director George Tenet’s assurances to Mr. Powell that the connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was ironclad in the lead-up to his United Nations presentation. Today, we know how terribly wrong Mr. Tenet was.

.. Today, the analysts claiming close ties between Al Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime changein Iran.

.. It seems not to matter that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis and none were Iranians. Or that, according to the United States intelligence community, of the groups listed as actively hostile to the United States, only one is loosely affiliated with Iran, and Hezbollah doesn’t make the cut.

.. the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans that pushed falsehoods in support of waging war with Iraq.

.. these seemingly disconnected events serve to create a narrative in which war with Iran is the only viable policy.

.. it didn’t seem to matter to us that we used shoddy or cherry-picked intelligence; that it was unrealistic to argue that the war would “pay for itself,” rather than cost trillions of dollars; that we might be hopelessly naïve in thinking that the war would lead to democracy instead of pushing the region into a downward spiral.

White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You

For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity.

They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character—all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.

And through it all, White Evangelicals—you never once suggested that God placed him where he was,
you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family,
you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities,
you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance,
you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy,
your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership,
your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him,
you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.

You violently opposed him at every single turn—without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.

And yet today, you openly give a “mulligan” to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth—that the mind boggles.

And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold: a being born again.

With him, you suddenly find religion.
With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution.
With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.
With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.
With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement.
With him, you see only Providence.

They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities.
They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus.
They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.
They see that all you’re really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it.
They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus—not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

And I know you don’t realize it, but you’re digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition.

Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power—but you’ve lost a whole lot more.

You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness.
You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation.
You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness.
You’ve lost the plot.
And most of all you’ve lost your soul.

Paul Ryan, John McCain break with Trump on Arpaio pardon

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan opposes President Trump’s pardoning of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an aide said Saturday, joining Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain in criticizing the decision.

“The speaker does not agree with this decision,” said Doug Andres, a spokesman for Ryan. “Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”

.. “The president has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions,” McCain said after the Friday pardon announcement.

.. “While no one can dispute Manning acted to undermine our country’s national security, Joe Arpaio has spent a lifetime trying to maintain it. … It is easy to discern that Arpaio is a patriot, while Manning is a traitor.”

.. The White House said Friday that the 85-year-old Arpaio was a “worthy candidate” for the pardon, citing his “life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”

.. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey said Arpaio should be given credit for his crime-fighting efforts and allowed to “move on” and enjoy his retirement.

Jeff Flake Plants a Flag

Do you ever get the feeling we’re all going to be judged for this moment? Historians, our grandkids and we ourselves will look and ask: What did you do as the Trump/Scaramucci/Bannon administration dropped a nuclear bomb on the basic standards of decency in public life? What did you do as the American Congress ceased to function? What positions did you take as America teetered toward national decline?

.. When I had coffee with Flake this week, he spoke about the philosophical and political corruption of the DeLay era with uncharacteristic contempt.

.. In 2016 the Republican Party, Flake argues in the book, lost its manners. “It seems it is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.” And it lost its philosophy. “We become so estranged from our principles that we no longer recognize what principle is.”

Flake told me he doesn’t want his book to be seen simply as a broadside against Trump. The rot set in long before, but Trump takes the decay to a new level.

.. betrayed the Goldwater Creed:

“Is it conservative to praise dictators as ‘strong leaders,’ to speak fondly of countries that crush dissent and murder political opponents …? Is it conservative to demonize and vilify and mischaracterize religious and ethnic minorities …? Is it conservative to be an ethno-nationalist? Is it conservative to embrace as fact things that are demonstrably untrue?”

.. Frankly, I think Flake’s libertarian version of conservatism paved the way for Trump. People are being barraged by technology-driven unemployment, wage stagnation, the breakdown of neighborhoods and families. Goldwater-style conservatism says: “Congratulations! You’re on your own!” During the campaign, Trump seemed to be offering something more.

Bungled Collusion Is Still Collusion

Donald Trump Jr.’s e-mails discredit the ‘nothingburger’ argument the president’s supporters have been advancing for months.

.. You don’t have to go back to the ’40s and ’50s when the CIA intervened in France and Italy to keep the Communists from coming to power. What about the Obama administration’s blatant interference to try to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu in the latest Israeli election?

.. One might even add the work of groups supported by the U.S. during Russian parliamentary elections — the very origin of Vladimir Putin’s deep animus toward Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, whom he accuses of having orchestrated the opposition.

.. This defense is pathetic for two reasons. First, have the Trumpites not been telling us for six months that no collusion ever happened? And now they say: Sure it happened. So what? Everyone does it.

.. Second, no, not everyone does it. It’s one thing to be open to opposition research dug up in Indiana. But not dirt from Russia, a hostile foreign power that has repeatedly invaded its neighbors (Georgia, Crimea, Eastern Ukraine), that buzzes our planes and ships in international waters, that opposes our every move and objective around the globe. Just last week the Kremlin killed additional U.N. sanctions we were looking to impose on North Korea for its ICBM test.

McConnell’s Calculation May Be That He Still Wins by Losing

When it comes to managing Republicans’ best interests, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, rarely loses. So it is possible that Mr. McConnell views the potential failure of a hastily written health care bill as an eventual boon.

.. As Democrats immediately took to the Senate floor to excoriate the bill and the secretive process in which it was put together, few Republicans, even those involved in crafting it, came to defend it.

.. Four others went further. Senators

  1. Ted Cruz of Texas,
  2. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin,
  3. Mike Lee of Utah and
  4. Rand Paul of Kentucky

all said they would not vote for the bill as currently proposed.

.. Mr. McConnell and many of his aides are also eager to get to the business of changing the tax code, which they view as less difficult than health care, and have been working with the White House behind the scenes to get that effort started. For Mr. McConnell, cutting taxes is a much higher priority than health care