Waiting For A Break: Obama on ‘Strategic Patience’ In Foreign Policy – Steve Inskeep DECEMBER 31, 2014 5:00 AM ET

President Obama has two more years in office to match his grand ambitions to the grim realities in foreign policy.

He spoke of his plans in a year-end interview with NPR, shortly before leaving Washington for the holidays. Obama defended his strategy and vision, despite continued chaos in the Middle East and Russia’s defiance of the West regarding Ukraine.

The president’s challenge is to make good on goals he has pursued for years. When we spoke, he had just restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, bypassing critics who said he was rewarding a despotic regime.

This made me curious about a still more provocative step: normalization with Iran.

Administration officials speak optimistically about reaching a final nuclear deal with Iran, though a negotiating deadline has twice been extended.

The President said that if Iran only would seize its chance to make a deal, the Islamic republic could emerge as a “very successful regional power” — an outcome that, the President knows, would dismay most of our Middle Eastern allies and many of his critics in the U.S.

Iran talks are part of Obama’s long-running effort to approach the Middle East in a fresh way. His strategy is radically different from that of his predecessor, President Bush, but their efforts have had something in common: unintended consequences.

Obama came into office criticizing the invasion of Iraq, but his more limited interventions in Libya and Syria have failed to prevent chaos. Shouldn’t the U.S. have done more?

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President George W Bush ‘knew everything’ about CIA interrogation 11 December 2014 Last updated at 03:50 ET

Former US President George W Bush was “fully informed” about CIA interrogation techniques condemned in a Senate report, his vice-president says.

US President George W Bush speaks to Vice President Dick Cheney by phone aboard Air Force One in 2001

President George W Bush wrote about CIA interrogation techniques in his memoir

Speaking to Fox News, Dick Cheney said Mr Bush “knew everything he needed to know” about the programme, and the report was “full of crap”.

The CIA has defended its use of methods such as waterboarding on terror suspects after the 9/11 attacks.

The Senate report said the agency misled politicians about the programme.

But the former Republican vice-president dismissed this, saying: “The notion that the committee is trying to peddle that somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis and that we weren’t being told – that the president wasn’t being told – is a flat-out lie.”

In the interview on Thursday, Mr Cheney said the report was “deeply flawed” and a “terrible piece of work”, although he admitted he had not read the whole document.

President Bush “knew everything he needed to know, and wanted to know” about CIA interrogation, he said. “He knew the techniques… there was no effort on my part to keep it from him.

“He was fully informed.”

US Vice President Dick Cheney in 2007

Fomer US Vice President Dick Cheney said the Senate report was “deeply flawed”

The story of the report – in numbers

Mr Bush led the charge against the report ahead of its release on Tuesday, defending the CIA on US TV.

“We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf,” he told CNN on Sunday.

A summary of the larger classified report says that the CIA carried out “brutal” and “ineffective” interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US and misled other officials about what it was doing.

The information the CIA collected using “enhanced interrogation techniques” failed to secure information that foiled any threats, the report said.

But Mr Cheney said the interrogation programme saved lives, and that the agency deserved “credit not condemnation”.

“It did in fact produce actionable intelligence that was vital in the success of keeping the country safe from further attacks,” he said.

The UN and human rights groups have called for the prosecution of US officials involved in the 2001-2007 programme.

“As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, said in a statement made from Geneva.

He said there had been a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level”.

Correspondents say that the chances of prosecuting members of the Bush administration are unlikely, not least because the US justice department has said that it has already pursued two investigations into mistreatment of detainees since 2000 and concluded that the evidence was not sufficient to obtain a conviction.

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America’s modern political nightmare: Two electorates, separate and unequal – JOAN WALSH FRIDAY, OCT 24, 2014 4:09 PM UTC

America’s modern political nightmare: Two electorates, separate and unequal

When I first heard President Obama’s remarks on the 2014 midterms to Rev. Al Sharpton on Politics Nation Monday — insisting he’s fine with the red state Democrats who are distancing themselves from him because they “are all folks who vote with me” — I had two contradictory thoughts. Either Obama was being awfully gracious, or else he was mad as hell, and happy to bear-hug cowardly red state Democrats so hard it might hurt them.

Republicans certainly thought they hit political gold. Right away Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus Tweeted gleefully: “All of the Dem candidates running from Obama ‘are all folks who vote with’ & ‘have supported’ his agenda.” The mud-slinging right-wing Washington Free Beacon pounced: “President Obama dealt another blow to red state Democrats on Al Sharpton’s radio show Monday.”

But the reaction to Obama’s remarks, as well as to his earlier comment that “my policies are on the ballot” in November, underscored the extent to which we now have two electorates, separate and very unequal. The Republican Party is relying on Obama-hate to turn out its 96-percent-white, middle-class-to-wealthy base, while the Democrats, still trying to be a multi-racial party in a multi-racial country, are trying to court voters of every race and class. It can be a tough sell.

It’s amazing the extent to which the mainstream media accepts that the GOP’s personalized, deeply disparaging campaign against Obama is just politics as usual – even as reporters note that the campaign is tailored to reach white voters, including white red state Democrats. Southern white Democrats have particularly turned on the party under Obama: In 2012 Obama lost 40 percent of the white vote Al Gore won in the South 12 years earlier.

While it’s true that dissatisfaction with President Bush helped Democrats ride back to controlling Congress in 2006, I’m hard-pressed to remember examples of Democrats campaigning against Bush so personally and gleefully. Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Virginia’s Jim Webb and Montana’s Jon Tester, three Democratic Senate victors that year, weren’t exactly wild-eyed lefties relying on Bush Derangement Syndrome to reach voters.

It’s also beyond a doubt that Democrats were running on a platform of winding down the Iraq war and fixing the increasingly broken, pro-rich Bush economy, as the housing bubble was just starting to burst. Unlike the 2014 GOP, they campaigned on actual policies. It’s one thing to run against Bush’s war, and another to run against Obama’s America.

There’s another big difference: Republicans who fled the embrace of their unpopular president in 2006 weren’t hampered by any perceived need to balance criticism of Bush with efforts to keep favor with his most loyal supporters, as red-state Democrats are when it comes to black voters and Obama. It was a painful irony when the New York Times announced Kentucky is one state where Democrats’ hopes may hinge on black voter turnout, just as Mitch McConnell opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes was working overtime to avoid saying whether she voted for our first black president.

Lovers of false equivalence will say that Democrats work hard to turn out black voters, so why complain that the GOP is concentrating on whites? There’s really no comparison between the two strategies. Democrats rely on the fact that black voters overwhelmingly support the policies they promote, while Republicans still rely on white fear, if not white racism, as they promote a generalized Obama-phobia rather than specific counter-policies. Large majorities of Republicans back an increase in the minimum wage and paid family leave, policies that are mostly supported by Democrats. A slight majority of Republicans even say they trust the federal government to handle the Ebola challenge – only Tea Party and rural voters say they don’t.

And Democrats haven’t written off white voters, not even in the South. That’s what’s behind the sometimes craven efforts of red state Democrats to distance themselves from our first black president – with said president’s blessing, however ambivalent he may be.

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U.S. Troops Were Injured by Old WMDs in Iraq, Which Doesn’t Mean Bush Was Right – By Margaret Hartmann October 15, 2014 4:18 a.m

Photo: MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images

In a bombshell report on Tuesday night, the New York Times‘ C. J. Chivers revealed the existence of a “largely secret chapter” in the Iraq War. Between 2004 and 2011, American troops and Iraqi police officers repeatedly found chemical weapons produced by Saddam Hussein’s regime before 1991, and at least 17 U.S. service members were wounded by deteriorating shells filled with nerve or mustard agents. The men suffered burns, severe blisters, respiratory problems, and other long-lasting health problems, but the U.S. government prevented the troops from receiving medical care, and refused to recognize that they had been wounded in the line of duty. And to make matters worse, ISIS now controls the area where most of the weapons were found.

There’s a lot of infuriating information in the 10,000-word report and accompanying documentary. Instead, conservatives quickly pounced on one point that isn’t even true:  U.S. troops found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so President Bush was right to invade.

It’s well known that Saddam Hussein produced chemical weapons in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, and by 2003 the shells and rockets were so old and damaged that they could not be used as designed. The Times report makes it abundantly clear that these were not the WMDs the Bush administration was referring to in the lead up to the war. This is the tenth paragraph:

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

A few paragraphs down, Chivers makes the point even more explicitly:

The discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush insisted that Mr. Hussein was hiding an active weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of international will and at the world’s risk. United Nations inspectors said they could not find evidence for these claims.

The Times reports that “American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs,” which is far more than previously reported, but it’s been known for the past decade that old chemical weapons were found in Iraq.

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