Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Weekly Commentary | Chicago Sun-Times
By doubling down on his vile slur on President Obama’s love for his country,
ex New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani created the media frenzy that he craved. He
also set up an easy test of decency for Republican presidential contenders: who
has the sense to disavow Giuliani’s poison? Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio
passed the admittedly low bar; Governors Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal failed
ignominiously: Governor Rick Perry pretzeled his way through it.
If Republicans wonder why 95% of African Americans and 70% of Latinos will
likely end up voting for Democrats in 2016, they should look in the mirror.
Virtually every African American will see this attack on President Obama as
racist, something that would not be occur were Obama white. Silence in the face
of the attack will be seen as proof that the Republican race-based politics of
division remains in force. In his decision to weaken the Voting Rights Act
Shelby v. Holder, Justice Roberts wrote that “this country has changed.”
Giuliani’s insult ratifies the wisdom of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s ringing
dissent, that while progress has been made, the Congress surely was right in
deciding we still have far to go.
Giuliani’s rant echoes the new hysteria that Republicans are trying to
stoke: that Obama is “withdrawing” from the world, and thereby weakening
America. A parade of horrors – Russia in Ukraine, ISIS in Syria and Iraq,
negotiations over nukes with Iran, terrorist violence in Paris – is summoned up
and blamed on the president.
Recently, Obama made the simple and common sense observation that we are not
at war with Islam, but with terrorist extremists who want to hijack the religion
for their own ends. His statement was similar to that repeated frequently by
George W. Bush when he was president. Any future president from either party
will make similar statements – both to reflect reality and to keep the
fear-mongers from fanning hatred here at home. Yet the president’s comments
sparked hysterical comments from across the right-wing noise machine as if
common sense were somehow heresy.
This clamor is feeding a mindless war fever. Do we want to have an armed
confrontation with Russia over Ukraine? Not really, the macho hawks basically
want to fight to the last Ukrainian. Do we want to put troops back into Iraq?
Not really, although as President Obama has escalated the US response to ISIS,
the armchair hawks have moved to more muscular positions, now even mumbling
about “boots on the ground.” We are fighting wars in Afghanistan, providing
troops and arms and bombs against ISIS, running drone attacks in nearly a dozen
countries, dispatching special forces to 120 countries. And somehow this is
scorned as withdrawal from the world.
Missing in the hysteria and the vile attacks on patriotism is a sensible
policy debate – and a sensible reckoning of how we got to where we are. The
reality is that excessive belief in military force has done more than anything
to cause this mess. The catastrophic invasion of Iraq is the worst foreign
policy debacle since Vietnam. The decision not simply to go after Bin Laden and
al Qaeda, but to wage a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan and “rebuild” that
nation has led to the longest war in our history that shows no sign of ending.
The “humanitarian intervention” in Libya has left chaos and violence in its
wake. The US invasion of Iraq turned the country over to Shiite rule,
ironically empowering Iran. ISIS comes out of the Sunni reaction to that
reality. Meanwhile we’ve only begun to pay the $3 trillion tab for Bush’s Iraq
War, even as our own roads, rail, sewage and water systems grow ever more
dangerous for lack of investment.
Those who mindlessly call the president weak, impugn his patriotism, and
accuse him of withdrawing from the world ought to be called to account. Enough
with the rhetoric, the posturing, and the poison. What is the policy that they
want? Let us hear them explain how they will drive a confrontation with Russia
in Ukraine, while fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and
The only way Americans will accept this nonsense is if they are scared out of
their wits. Sadly, that seems to be the intent of the fear mongers, who need to
be challenged before they frighten us into yet another costly debacle.