Congresswoman Omar Did Not Say Something Anti-Semitic Last Night

Earlier today Jonathan Chait wrote something particularly stupid. It wasn’t particularly stupid because he wrote it. Rather, it was particularly stupid because it is based on misreading someone else’s reporting. Here’s what Chait wrote:

But at an event last night, Omar went much farther, reports Laura Kelly. After an audience member shouted out, “It’s all about the Benjamins,” at which, according to Kelly’s reporting, she smiled. (Jeremy Slevin, Omar’s press secretary and strategist, denies she acknowledged that line from the audience.) Later she stated, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

This is much worse. Accusing Jews of “allegiance to a foreign country” is a historically classic way of delegitimizing their participation in the political system. Whether or not the foreign policy agenda endorsed by American supporters of Israel is wise or humane, it is a legitimate expression of their political rights as American citizens. To believe in a strong American alliance with Israel (or Canada, or the United Kingdom, or any other country) is not the same thing as giving one’s allegiance to that country. Omar is directly invoking the hoary myth of dual loyalty, in which the Americanness of Jews is inherently suspect, and their political participation must be contingent upon proving their patriotism.

Here’s what Laura Kelly actually reported from the event (emphasis mine):

“It is about the Benjamins,” shouted one audience member to laughter and acclaim, referencing Rep. Omar’s now-deleted tweet linking Congressional support for Israel to Jewish influence and lobbying. To this, Reps. Omar and Tlaib both smiled along furtively.

Rep. Omar elaborated that when she hears her Jewish constituents offer criticisms of Palestinians, she doesn’t automatically equate them as Islamophobic but  is “fearful” that people are painting her as anti-Semitic because she is a Muslim. Omar continued, “What I’m fearful of — because Rashida and I are Muslim — that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim,” she explained.

“To me, it’s something that becomes designed to end the debate because you get in this space of – yes, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says, ‘The words you used Ilhan, are resemblance of intolerance.’ And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that. But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say…we get to be labeled something. And that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine.”

So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” Rep. Omar exclaimed, seeming to suggest, as Tlaib had in a tweet of her own, dual loyalty among a particular group of Americans. Loud rounds of applause and shouts of affirmation punctuated the event’s heavy focus on Israel.

You notice the nuance, I’m not even sure it’s nuance to be honest, that Chait either missed or elided? First, Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib smiled furtively when someone interrupted and shouted “all about the Benjamins” at them. My read of that is that they smiled awkwardly because they knew exactly what would happen when it was reported. Second, do you notice that Congresswoman Omar didn’t state any specific group of people pushing for allegiance to a foreign country. Is it possible that she’s talking about Jewish Americans? Sure, it’s possible. But given that the largest American demographic in support of Israel is actually the Evangelical Christians referred to as Christian Zionists*, she could have been referring to them. Or she could have been referring to both. Or just to anyone who thinks that whatever Israel’s leadership says should be done in the Middle East is what the US should do. You know, like every Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016none of whom were Jewish! In fact I briefed the command group and senior staff of III Corps at FT Hood on the Middle East the day after the 16 January 2012 GOP primary debate and one of the colonels actually asked me, during the Q&A, about Governor Perry’s response to a question about what he’d do to respond to a crisis in the Middle East at the debate the night before. Perry answered the question by stating that before he took action on any problem in the Middle East, he’d ask Bibi Netanyahu what to do and then just do that. It also wouldn’t surprise me if she was just referring to the Republican caucuses in the House and the Senate, who are overwhelmingly, to the point of unanimity, supportive of whatever the Israeli government does, despite not having a single American Jew in the Republican Senate caucus and only two in the Republican House caucus.

This may shock some people, but Congresswoman Omar has a point. There are Americans, some Christian, some Jewish, who are so attached to Israel that they’ve made it into a political fetish object. And Netanyahu has certainly gone out of his way to turn Israel into a major political and religious issue in the US beyond just the American Jewish community and then into a partisan issue. It is not an accident that Ron Dermer, the American born, former Republican political operative from south Florida, is now Israel’s ambassador to the US, nor was it an accident when he served as Israel’s economic envoy from 2005-2008. Bibi’s appointments of Dermer were done specifically to weaponize Israel as a partisan issue. And, to be perfectly honest, this is ultimately going to come back to bite Israel on the tuchas.

Chait’s analysis and criticism of Congresswoman Omar’s response to a member of the audience’s shout and to her remarks is disingenuous. He assumes intentionality that cannot be determined from the primary reporting. And he asserts in the absence of evidence specifying who she is talking about, that Congresswoman Omar was obviously talking about Jewish Americans, despite more American Evangelical Christians being supportive of Israel than American Jews. If the concerns about Congresswoman Omar being anti-Semitic are actually founded, it will become obvious soon enough. But her remarks last night, specifically where she made clear she’s not trying to just bash Israel, but to raise the issues pertaining to the treatment of the Palestinians, were not anti-Semitic. Whether they are actually the beginning of a long overdue expansion of the narrow limits that American domestic politics places on our discussion of issues pertaining to Israel and the Palestinians is something yet to be seen. And only time will tell whether Congresswoman Omar is able to thread the needle to actually open up the space to begin a broader, deeper, and more nuanced discussion. But the current relationship between the US and Israel is not good for either state. It is co-dependent, it is abusive, and having it turned into just another partisan issue is ultimately dangerous for the long term viability of Israel.

* Full disclosure: Liz Oldmixon, who is interviewed by Sean Illing here, is an old – as in we went to grad school together – friend. She’s an excellent political scientist and a wonderful person. I highly recommend her scholarly work for anyone interested in that sort of thing.

More full disclosure: I served as a Subject Matter Expert with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Security Dialogue and Middle East Peace assigned to US Army Europe from June through August 2014 and served as the Cultural Advisor (Temporary Assigned Control) to the Commanding General of US Army Europe from December 2013 through June 2014 to assist US Army Europe with issues pertaining to the US’s 2014 Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.

Michael Cohen’s House Oversight Committee Testimony Live Stream

Great googly-moogly!

Open thread!

War on the Sub-Continent! The Indian Air Force Has Attacked Across the Line of Control

(Line of Control Separating India and Pakistan)

While this specific response may not have been what was anticipated, those of us who follow security measures on the sub-continent have been expecting India to retaliate for a Jaish e Mohammed attack against Indian police officers earlier this month.

India said a Pakistan based militant group, Jaish-e Mohammed carried out Thursday’s deadly attack on an Indian police convoy in disputed Kashmir, and demanded that its neighbor act against militant groups operating from its soil.

A car laden with explosives slammed into the convoy, killing at least 44 soldiers in the deadliest attack on security forces in decades in the region, raising tensions with Pakistan which claims the territory.

“We demand that Pakistan stop supporting terrorists and terror groups operating from their territory and dismantle the infrastructure operated by terrorist outfits to launch attacks in other countries,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

While The Reuters reporting states the Indian casualties were soldiers, subsequent reporting clarified they were police officers.

As of right now we know that the Indian Air Force (IAF) struck well past the Line of Control. Everyone is now waiting on Islamabad’s response. Apparently, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has their F-16s on combat air patrol (CAP) over Islamabad, which is to be expected.

The spokesman for the Pakistan Armed Forces is making the following statements about the attack, which contradicts some of the reporting above:

And this reporting from NDTV:

As of right now, there is nothing posted by either the Indian Ministry of Defense or the Indian Air Force on social media about the attack. Though both the Congress Party and Rahul Ghandi have responded:

Something that is important to keep in mind, just as in the case in the Levant, because of the geography of the region, where basing is located, and the capabilities of modern fighter jets, time to station for either the IAF or the PAF is well below the ability of the other side to respond to a quick strike. I would expect that right now the Pakistani Prime Minister Imram Khan is being pulled in at least three different directions: one by his civilian advisors, one by he military, and one by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

According to NDTV’s live feed:

Feb 26, 2019
10:04 (IST)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is meeting with top ministers in the cabinet committee on security at his home in Delhi to take stock of the situation.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other top officials of the government are attending the meeting.

Feb 26, 2019
09:55 (IST)
Indian Air Force has put on high alert all air defence systems along the International Border and Line of Control, reports news agency ANI.

Now we have to wait and see what happens. India’s response to the 11 February 2019 attack on its paramilitary police is unprecedented. As Ankit Panda indicates below, no nuclear weapons state has used conventional air power to attack another nuclear weapons state’s territory before.

All we can do now is wait for Pakistan’s response and then India’s response to that if any.

Open thread!

This Week in the Promotion of Stochastic Domestic Right Wing Terrorism: NRA, Seb Gorka, and Joe DiGenova Edition

The FBI did a great job in recently taking down a white supremacist, anti-Semitic, MAGA-Dope, US Coast Guard Lieutenant into custody before he could actually act on his plans to kill a large number of Democratic elected officials, news reporters and commentators who are all regularly attacked by the President and his surrogates, and, of course, George Soros. Unfortunately other MAGA-Dopers within the President’s orbit have decided to ramp up either visual imagery targeting Democratic elected officials or talk of civil war.

First up is the NRA, which decided that this was a good way to frame an article about the new Democratic House majority’s pursuit of gun safety and control legislation. From the latest issue of the NRA’s American Rifleman.

Here’s the picture on the right for a better look. There’s Speaker Pelosi and former Congresswoman and attempted assassination survivor Gabbi Giffords right next to the headline “Target Practice”.

I get that the NRA doesn’t want to see any new firearms legislation pass Congress that isn’t in line with their, their members, and their business donors views of the 2nd Amendment. That part is fine. The actual messaging that is being conveyed here is not. Either the editors at the NRA’s The American Rifleman are so deeply entrenched within 2nd Amendment absolutism that they can’t see why this might be perceived as problematic or they understand it and approved it any way. Either way, it further sets the conditions for someone like Chris Hasson or Caesar Sayoc to take matters into their own hands and go on a domestic terrorist spree against their perceived enemies.

Next up is former US Attorney, Fox News legal analyst and political commenter, and one time potential personal attorney for the President in regard to the Special Counsel’s investigation Joe DiGenova. DiGenova decided to take his paranoia out for a walk this week, both on Fox News and then on Seb Gorka’s radio show.

Hey Joe: let me know when the news media are all appointed to local, state, and/or Federal judgeships, elected or appointed as District or States Attorneys or US Attorneys or hired as prosecutors in their offices. Until then, the news media, regardless of its members ideological views, is not in control of the US criminal justice system!

And that brings us to the Blue Footed Boobie of Budapest, daily carrier of two full size service weapons in two different calibers from two different manufacturers with two different manuals of arms, parallel parking scofflaw, McLovin cosplay aficionado, and NAZI appreciation society legacy inductee member Sebastien “Seb” Gorka. Gorka, who once tried to badger me into paying to take his course on Information Operations and Information Warfare by stating: “So I can presume you do not work IO or IW?”, decided that he’d host DiGenova, as well as four other MAGA-Dopes who wouldn’t know a civil war if it walked up and bit them on his radio show to discuss the matter.

And before anyone asks, I did not actually listen to that equine and canine extravaganza. I also agree with Tamara Cofman Wittes that it is dangerous. And it is dangerous for the same reason that I wrote about when that other exemplar of mendacious mediocrity Megan McArdle took this idiocy out for a walk as part of her performance art celebration of Memorial Day 2018: (author’s note, the excerpt below has been edited today to add DiGenova and Gorka to McArdle, as well as a couple of other small revisions and additions so it makes sense in the context of today’s post)

Specifically that the US has never actually fought a civil war. A civil war refers to a form of low intensity warfare – as in less than interstate war* -where the supporters of two or more claimants to power fight for control of the state. The claimants may have either de jure (legal) or de facto (extant) claims to control the state. This is not what happened in the US in the 1860s. Rather, what we call the US Civil War was actually a rebellion in support of secession from the state in the attempt to set up a new one. There was no dispute as to the legitimacy of the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. What was in dispute is that the southern states that would become the Confederacy refused to accept the election’s outcome and sought to break away and form their own nation-state.

Had supporters of Secretary Clinton, including Democratic elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, refused to accept the President’s election as legitimate and contested his inauguration, including violently, once they learned that the US intelligence community had determined that the Russians had interfered in the US election with the specific objective of electing the President, then we’d be talking about a civil war. That did not happen despite some of the comments posted here over the past 18 months or so…

What McArdle, as well as DiGenova and Gorka doesn’t understand, because they know nothing about war – theoretically, conceptually, and/or experientially – is that there has been a low level insurgency in the US going back decades. We sometimes call this the culture war. Sometimes it’s referred to as the Southern Strategy, but it involves one of the two major political parties and its supporting movements, including religious movements, in the US refusing to accept the legitimacy of any other ones. It includes frequent use of dehumanizing language and threats of violence ranging from legislatively and regulatorily directing the power of the state, utilizing lawfare, and actually threatening and sometimes undertaking violence against their opponents or the objects of their dehumanization campaigns when the insurgents don’t get their way. And these people – elected, appointed, voters, supporters, pundits, etc – are McArdle’s, as well as DiGenova’s and Gorka’s fellow travelers! They are part of the larger political, ideological, dogmatic religious, and sub-cultural groups and movements that McArdle, DiGenova, and Gorka have been marinating in since she was an undergraduate.

They also make the mistake that they are the only ones that get to define patriotism and to actually care about the US and its ideals. They have convinced themselves that they are the only ones who can properly interpret the Constitution when in fact they are the poorest of linguistic and political historians of the late 18th Century, which leads to constantly misunderstanding and misapplying the Constitution. And they have deluded themselves into thinking that because their opponents believe in civility that their opponents are also unwilling to actually defend themselves in the political, ideological, social, religious, economic, and/or legal arenas. And those delusions include the mistaken belief that they don’t have the means to do so.

Right now the US is experiencing one of its periodic bouts of growing pains. As was the case in the 1780s and 1790s, the 1830s and 1840s, the 1860s, the late 1870s through the 1890s, during WW I, in the mid to late 1930s, and in the middle 1960s through the early 1970s, a period of imperfect progress is being met with a backlash against it. It is ugly. It is unpleasant. It is damaging. People who do not deserve to be hurt are being hurt. The real question that McArdle, DiGenova, Gorka, and those promoting this civil war garbage should have asked, yet are incapable of doing so because they are as the one who does not know how to ask, is what does it really mean to form a more perfect Union? And what are the best ways to go about perfecting the Union? Those are the real questions of American civic life. Not whether Democrats in urban areas know how to use guns. Or whether a second civil war is underway and the victims are the President, his supporters, and Republicans and conservatives in general.

And in case McArdle, DiGenova, Gorka, and/or any of their followers sees their names in the post title on Cole’s twitter feed and decides to pop over and ask who am I to question their expertise in regard to war, here’s my abbreviated professional bio:

Adam L. Silverman is a consulting national security subject matter expert. He delivered the keynote address at the US Army Psychological Operations Regiment’s 100th anniversary regimental dinner in November 2018. In 2016 he assisted XVIII Airborne Corps in their strategic assessment of the Iraqi and Syrian Operating Environment for their deployment as the command element of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. In 2015 he served as a Senior Fellow at SOCOM’s Center for Special Operations Studies and Research. Prior to that he served as a Subject Matter Expert with the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Security Dialogue and US Army Europe from June through August 2014. From July 2010 through June 2014, he was the Cultural Advisor and Professor of National Security and Strategy at the US Army War College. In June 2014 he was awarded the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal by MG Anthony A. Cucolo, III.

Dr. Silverman has advised and provided support to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Security Dialogue, US Central Command, US European Command, US Special Operations Command, US Army Europe, the US Army Institute for NCO Professional Development, the US Army Sergeants Major Academy, US Army Special Operations Command, US Army Central, the US Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal General and US Army Corrections Command, I Corps, III Corps, XVIII Airborne Corps, 1st Armored Division, the 101st Airborne Division, the Department of State’s Near East and South Asia Desk, and JIEDDO’s Science Directorate. From NOV 2013 to AUG 2014 he served as the Cultural Advisor to the Commanding General of US Army Europe on temporary assignment. From OCT 2012 to NOV 2013 Dr. Silverman served as the Cultural Advisor to the Civil Affairs Branch Chief on temporary assignment. During 2012 Dr. Silverman served as the Cultural Advisor to the Commanding General of III Corps on temporary assignment from JAN through AUG. In 2010 he was the external subject matter expert on temporary assigned control to US Army Civil Affairs Branch’s Capability Based Assessment and then through JUN 2011 to the US Special Operations Command’s Joint Civil Information Management Test Development program. He previously served as the Cultural Advisor to the Commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team/1st Armored Division from OCT 2007 through OCT 2008 and was deployed with the brigade in Iraq in 2008. Upon returning from Iraq he served as a social science advisor in US Army Training and Doctrine Command’s G2 (2009). He routinely provides operational support to a number of US Army, DOD, and other US Government elements. Dr. Silverman holds a doctorate in political science and criminology from the University of Florida, as well as masters’ degrees in comparative religion and international security.

* An interstate war involves two or more sovereign states whose militaries are fighting in uniform under their states’ flags with a minimum of a thousand battlefield deaths. Interstate wars will often include types of low intensity warfare, such as rebellions, revolutions, insurgencies, and terror campaigns on one or more sides of the conflict.

These chuckleheads need to get a grip. And they need to tone it down. They need to do so because they have no actual idea of what they’re talking about. And they need to tone it down because what they’re talking about, promoting on their TV and radio shows and appearances, and, as in the case of the NRA, in their magazines, all set the conditions for stochastic terrorism perpetrated by people like Hanson and Sayoc and Bowers who get the messages being transmitted, messages that justify taking matters into their own hands, and then go out and either try to or actually kill people.

* Finally, in case some lunkhead shows up in the comments and says “what about James Hodgkinson who shot up the Republicans softball practice?”, that wasn’t acceptable either. And it also isn’t comparable unless you can show me a Democratic elected or appointed official, or major center left to left of center, liberal to progressive organization, elite, and/or notable who has been calling for Democrats, center left to left of center and liberal to progressive Americans to go out and start targeting Republican elected and appointed officials, as well as prominent conservatives as part of some imaginary civil war.


Andrew McCabe Broke Some News Today

Apparently a lot of news! McCabe did an extended interview with Nicolle Wallace this afternoon. I’d like to highlight a couple of important items that were revealed.

The question that didn’t get asked, and even if it did, I’m not sure McCabe would have answered it, is whether he’s got a copy of the four page draft that the President wrote to justify firing Comey? If McCabe has a copy, that’s going to make his lawsuit much, much easier. And if he doesn’t, the discovery is going to be amazing.

McCabe apparently made some other news in his chats with the former DOJ and FBI officials who Wallace had booked as her contributing commentators for the remainder of the segment.

According to Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for National Security (that’s the counterintelligence and counter-terrorism division), McCabe related to Figliuzzi and former DOJ spokesman Matt Miller in the green room before the show that he didn’t open new investigations into the President. Rather, he added the President to the existing and ongoing counterintelligence investigation into the Russian active measures campaign against the US. Figliuzzi also related that McCabe informed them that he also added the obstruction of justice investigation into the President’s actions to that ongoing investigation into the Russian active measures campaign against the US. It is this counterintelligence investigation that Robert Mueller inherited when he was appointed as the special counsel.

I know everyone is stressed right now, especially given CNN’s somewhat credulous reporting and The Washington Post‘s much tighter reporting that the Special Counsel is winding down his investigation. And what that may or may not mean. I know others are still angry that no one was doing anything to stop this from happening as it was happening. What was revealed today, however, confirms what we knew: that something was, indeed, happening. Specifically a counterintelligence investigation had been opened into the President’s campaign, his business, a number of people within the President’s orbit, and then ultimately the President in regard to the Russian active measures campaign against the US.

I have no idea what next week is going to bring, let alone March, but I do know something about counterintelligence and counterintelligence investigations. And that something includes that these things are designed to be completely compartmented, not to leak, and to take as long as they take. Because the purpose of them is to identify, delineate, and then stop the threat to US national security. Sometimes this means prosecutions. A lot of times it doesn’t. The Venona counterintelligence investigation lasted from 1943 until 1980 and the materials it produced weren’t declassified until 1993!

At this point we don’t really know whether the Special Counsel is, indeed, finishing up. Or whether he’s just streamlining for the next phase of the investigation he’s pursuing. Or if he’s just handing everything off to the career prosecutors in the appropriate Federal districts, as well as the appropriate state (New York and Maryland) and local (Washington DC) prosecutors who will bring the rest of the indictments and carry out the rest of the prosecutions based on the work that the Special Counsel’s Office has been conducting for the past two years. But we do know that some people, even as we’ve discovered that they are flawed, working in Federal institutions that don’t always get it right, stood up and made difficult decisions to ensure that the appropriate investigations were opened and situated in a way that they could be conducted.

I’m going to leave the last word here to former US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Joyce Vance:

Everybody take a deep breath and cut yourselves and everyone else a little slack. This is a marathon, not a sprint. And as BettyC has highlighted for us all, there’s a new sheriff in DC and she takes her responsibilities as the leader of the co-equal legislative branch of government very seriously. As do her deputies.

Open thread!

PS: I fully expect that if Attorney General Barr tries to bury Special Counsel’s work so it never sees the light of day that it will leak. And before that happens, as was the case with Jeff Sessions and Matt Whitaker, I expect information to leak about Barr and his past actions and activities. As was the case with the leak about Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak that forced his recusal and the leak that the company that Whitaker had been involved with was under Federal investigation, something will be leaked about Barr as a warning shot across the bow. Sessions was smart enough to get the message. I’m not sure if Whitaker was, but it really didn’t seem to matter. We’ll have to wait and see if Barr is as smart as Sessions.