A few links I read this morning over coffee:
“The Believer,” a short essay on how Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi became leader of the Islamic State. Lots of insight here, but I”d like to highlight this passage:
Many of the ex-Baathists at Bucca, some of whom Baghdadi befriended, would later rise with him through the ranks of the Islamic State. “If there was no American prison in Iraq, there would be no [Islamic State] now,” recalled the inmate interviewed by TheGuardian. “Bucca was a factory. It made us all. It built our ideology.” The prisoners dubbed the camp “The Academy,” and during his ten months in residence, Baghdadi was one of its faculty members.
It appears that the US invasion of Iraq not only created the power vacuum that helped create the conditions for the rise of ISIS, our treatment of civilians radicalized some and provided the schoolhouse prison that helped them prepare their leadership. Another data point suggesting that George W. Bush, a Republican and neoconservative, made the US less safe.
Speaking of W., this Salon article about the 2000 election reminds that in fact Americans almost certainly elected Al Gore President that year though the Electoral College did not reflect this intent. Though we have no way to know how differently events might have unfolded under President Gore, it’s a good bet that his administration would have paid more attention to the Bin Laden threat in 2001, and would not have responded to a terrorist attack by invading Iraq. Whether or not this would mean a world without ISIS…
A recent New Yorker article, “The Siege of Miami,” highlights another issue President Gore might have formulated a policy to address: climate change. I”m not a scientist, but it seems straightforward enough to me that venting all manner of pollutants and other crap into Earth’s atmosphere and water has to have some effect. In any event, the scientific consensus seems pretty solid that human activity has at least helped to warm the planet. Perhaps we can innovate our way out of this mess, but we won’t if our political leaders keep sticking their fingers in their ears singing “la, la, la, I can’t hear you.”
Last night’s Democratic Primary debate of course touched on terrorism, and once again the Democratic candidates provided a much more nuanced discussion than what we’ve heard from the GOP field. Bernie Sanders, for example, in a poke at Donald Trump’s bigotry, hinted that conservatives wish to inspire fear of terrorism in voters as a way to distract them from corporate threats to US economic health and the Middle Class.
The tone this campaign has taken fascinates me. Republicans repeatedly argue that the US is going to hell in a hand basket – debased culture, corrupt government, feminized men – in a way that makes me wonder why they hate America. In today’s conservative world, Americans – except wealthy ones – get nothing right. How in the world does this resonate with voters?