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I Need Your Help to Make This Work
30 March 2015 - 5:05pm
“Not Every Problem in the World Has a Military ‘Solution’”
30 March 2015 - 11:27am
The Price That You Pay For Rocking The Boat
27 March 2015 - 3:12pm
The ISIS War Authorization: A Blank Check
26 February 2015 - 12:42pm
Perpetual War
24 February 2015 - 12:44pm
I Need Your Help to Make This Work
30 March 2015 - 5:05pm

It’s not the end of the quarter. That’s tomorrow, silly. 

Tomorrow marks 98 years since the U.S. acquisition of the Danish West Indies, which we renamed the U.S. Virgin Islands. Just sayin’. 

And tomorrow, just like every March 31, just like every June 30, September 30 and December 31, is a cut-off date for a report that our campaign must make to the Federal Election Commission. We have to disclose our support.

Here’s an interesting question – why should that matter to you? Why should you care about that? 

Fair question. Let’s discuss it. 

In a nutshell, I’m trying to do some things that are very unusual, very special, very important, and I need your help to do them. 

I’m trying to build a national progressive grassroots network. As part of that effort, I wrote a petition against “any and every” cut in Social Security and Medicare benefits that drew almost 3,000,000 signatures. We defeated the “chained CPI” proposal. For that to happen, I needed 3,000,000 people to join me. 

I’m trying to show that even with the Republicans in charge of both the House and the Senate, there is a path to victory for progressive proposals and programs. As part of that effort, I passed 31 progressive amendments on the Floor of the House during 2013 and 2014, more than any Democrat and any Republican. And during December alone, fifteen progressive Grayson bills were incorporated in three larger bills that passed the House, passed the Senate and were signed into law by the President of the United States. For that to happen, I needed your support. 

I’m trying to show that it’s possible to finance a 21st Century congressional campaign without selling your soul to the millionaires and the billionaires and the multinational corporations and the lobbyists. As part of that effort, I was the only Member of the U.S. House of Representatives who financed most of his 2012 campaign with small contributions of less than $200 – and then I did it again last year. For that to happen, I needed your support. 

The common factor here is not just me, it’s you. If the special interests held the first mortgage on my rear-end, then none of this would be possible. Thanks to you, I am unbought and unbossed. I fight for the common good. I owe nothing to anyone but the voters. 

So that’s why an obscure quarterly deadline at an obscure federal agency might matter to you: because it means that it’s time for you to stand up and be counted, by contributing to our campaign. 

And in return, you get a Congressman with temerity. A Congressman with audacity. A Congressman with spine, nerve, backbone and cojones

A Congressman with Guts. 

I need to show the political establishment that there is an alternative to raising $100,000 each from 50 millionaires, or billionaires, or multinational corporations. Instead, we can raise $50 each from 100,000 decent human beings, who want the greatest good for the greatest number. Just plain folks like you. 

I need your help to make this work. Are you with me? Yes? Then show it, by clicking here. 

Courage, 

Rep. Alan Grayson 

“Not Every Problem in the World Has a Military ‘Solution’”
30 March 2015 - 11:27am

Last week, Congressman Grayson joined the inaugural installment of "Watching the Hawks," a new national cable news show. In a far-ranging interview, he discussed what is wrong with Congress, why even many Democrats are afraid to take on the military-industrial complex, whether military spending actually creates jobs, the division of authority between the President and Congress regarding military action, the likelihood of more infrastructure spending, and more. Enjoy: 

Tyrell Ventura: "Whether you love him or hate him, the Representative from Florida's 9th District definitely isn't afraid to speak his mind. Congressman Grayson, thank you for joining us today, and stepping into the Hawk's Nest, on our inaugural show. Thank you, sir." 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "You're welcome. I'm hoping that by the end of the show, you'll all love me." 

TV: "Well, Congressman, recently we've see some pretty amazing stories of alleged corruption coming out of Congress, from the Wall Street Journal announcing today that federal investigators are possibly preparing criminal charges against [Sen.] Robert Menendez of New Jersey, to the wild tales of [Rep.] Aaron Schock, and his somewhat hilarious and, well, shocking political expenditures. You know, with congressional approval at this all-time low, and people looking at Congress and saying, 'You guys can't get along, and now you're using your campaign money and everything else for fraud,' how can Congress start cleaning up these messes?" 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "Let's look at the system. The system is that we have a lot of career politicians, who move up the ladder, one rung after another. If they get the nomination of their party, and they are in a district where 60 percent of the voters are from their party, they're going to get to the next rung. That's the system that we have. It doesn't bring us the best or the brightest. It brings us the hacks. And some of those hacks turn out to be corrupt hacks. That's the fundamental problem. We have many, many districts that are not competitive. And we have many voters who don't have the time or the interest to learn about the candidates. They simply vote their party. The result of that, with the gerrymandering and the unlimited supply of money that the Republican Party has today, is what you see, which is a Republican-controlled Congress full of hacks." 

Tabetha Wallace: [Discussing the military industrial complex, and referring to the fact that many liberals are afraid to take on the military industrial complex because they will be attacked as being weak on defense, what Congressman Grayson called the "blood libel."] "As a Democratic member of Congress, how prevalent is this fear, and how does it play into decision-making when it comes to the defense budget?" 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "It's crucial. We have Democrats who have been running scared of the idea that their weak on defense since at least McGovern [running for President in 1972]. And you remember how hard President Kennedy had to overcome that stigma in the 1960 election. So it's been a real problem for us, ever since the Communists lived under our beds each night, and came out each night aroundthree o'clock in the morning. This is a chronic problem, and we have to get past it by realizing that not every problem in the world has a military solution. Sometimes the military makes things worse. For instance, let's take Iraq. That's a good example of that. Things are far worse today than they were under Saddam Hussein's regime. It's not even a close question. Ordinary people are living lives of utter depredation and fear every day. We didn't solve that problem. And we just have to get over this idea that every time we see something in the world that we don't like, we bomb it." 

TV: "Some defend military spending, by justifying the jobs it produces. So how do separate job cuts from military spending?" 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "Well, there is a simple answer to that, and I'm speaking as a former economist. I was an economist for almost four years, and the only member of Congress who can actually say that.When you put people to work making bombs, what you end up with is bombs. When you put people to work making bridges, what you end up with is bridges. When you put people to work making schools, you end up with educated children. Military spending to create employment is an utter dead end. You might as well have half the population digging ditches, and the other half filling them in. The important thing is to unleash people's work, their time, their creativity, what they have to offer, so that they can serve others." 

Sean Stone: [Detailing misspent military spending on weaponry, and further questionable military actions.] "What's happening in Syria now? Is this being done with the oversight of Congress?" [Asking what Congress can do to stop the president's unilateral action there.] 

Rep. Alan Grayson : "Well at this level, frankly, the President often acts unilaterally. But we do have to authorize wars. And the President has been edging up into [Congressional constitutional] territory now for several years. Somehow or other people, have gotten comfortable with the idea of drone strikes in areas where we are not at war, like a place like Yemen. We have not declared war against anyone in Yemen. And yet people seem to think that it's okay for us not only for us to arm one side or the other, but actually to launch weapons of destruction from U.S. drone planes. We kill many people, including at this point a list of over 200 children, available on the Internet. So, in fact, a lot of these situations are ones where the President is going right up to the very edge of what he can call his constitutional power, and often making mistakes. Because. frankly, the rest of the world is playing chess and we're playing checkers. I was one of the few people who recognized two years ago that if we went to war against Syria, and we destroyed the command and control structure of the chemical weapons being held by the Assad regime in Syria, they would fall into other hands. So if that had actually happened, that misguided misconception that by bombing we'd make things better, if that had actually happened, then today we wouldn't be watching ISIS beheading people on our TVs, we'd be watching them gas people." 

TW: "Is there any talk in Congress of addressing crumbling infrastructure needs with job creation?" 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "Yes. In fact, this week you will see the Progressive Caucus's budget voted on, and it will draw its usual 100 votes, out of 435 of us. But the Progressive Caucus budget does exactly that: It puts people back to work in America not making bombs, or as Eisenhower said, robbing from children (that's what Eisenhower called military spending: robbing from children) but instead puts them to work meeting human needs. Whether it's taking care of seniors, whether it's rebuilding our bridges and our schools (the way we promised to do in Afghanistan), whatever it might be, whether it's health needs, education needs -- whatever it might be. It's an honest budget that takes the unemployed and puts them back to work doing things that are useful and beneficial to all of us, meeting our human needs." 

TW: "What should the average American know about how their Congress works, and what they can do to make it work for them?" 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "The answer is that the one or two people at the top determine the entire agenda. When Nancy Pelosi was in charge here in the House, every week we had a major bill that actually was going to pass the Senate, going to be signed by the President, and would make a difference in the lives of ordinary people. She always believed that if you improve people's lives, you'll get more votes. You do it on its own merit, but in fact, you'll get more votes. That's the way this place was organized by the people at the top then. Since John Boehner took over, it's been one wasted week after another, putting out "messaging" bills. Whether it's repealing Obamacare, whether it's authorizing the Keystone Pipeline for the 35th time, whatever it might be, it's basically just trying to placate the baying wolves of the right wing , rather than doing anything constructive or anything that might actually become law. We've almost reached the point where we have forgotten that we are legislators, that we're supposed legislate, we are supposed to make laws, not send messages." 

SS: "Why did so few lawmakers show up for the 2013 drone strike victim hearing?" [Only five Members of Congress joined Rep. Grayson for his ad hoc hearing on drone strikes.] 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "I think people try to avoid the things that are unpleasant. In fact, a great deal of self-deception takes place in everyone's lives, and not just people up here in Washington D.C. If it's a bad thing, and we don't think we have a solution for it, we simply stop thinking about it -- unless of course it's ISIS, and then we can't stop thinking about it. But the fact is that it's sad. It's sad that I had to do that [myself], because every committee in Congress completely ignored all the drone wars that we were conducting in one country after another (some of which is classified and I'm not even allowed to tell you about it). A high U.S. official said that for every single person whom we kill with a drone strike, all these intended victims, the ones who are these "insurgents" (or whatever they're calling them these days), for every single one of them, we make 50 more enemies that join these forces against us. Think about that. Does that seem like a good ratio? Does that seem like a winning strategy?" 

[Hosts discuss this] 

TV: "One last question: Have you made a decision about running for the Senate?" 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "No I haven't. I'm waiting to see what The People want." 

TW: "I think that The People would be very pleased to see you [in the Senate]." 

Rep. Alan Grayson: "You move to Florida; I want your vote. [Smiling.] It's a great show, thank you very much." 

To see the video, or contribute to Congressman Grayson's campaign, click here and now.

The Price That You Pay For Rocking The Boat
27 March 2015 - 3:12pm

Last month, I gave this tribute to Aaron Swartz, an internet activist, when I hosted a special Capitol Hill showing of the documentary Killswitch. Aaron was targeted for prosecution for his political views and, facing decades in prison, he killed himself. The documentary not only demonstrates how modern technology threatens our privacy and freedom, but it also recognizes the sacrifices that Aaron Swartz and Edward Snowden made on behalf of those fundamental principles. Aaron used to work for me. So when I introduced the film, I had a few personal things to say:

I’d like to begin by sharing my war experience with you. I remember when I was under fire ... Confederate fire. And Oliver Wendell Homes turned to me, and he said to me, “Get down, you fool.”

I’m sorry, no, that wasn’t me; that was actually Abraham Lincoln. I’ll confess: I’m not Abraham Lincoln, nor am I Bill O’Reilly. But the nice thing about living at this point in time, in the early 21st Century, is that you can actually check my story, right? You can go on the Internet, and find out whether Oliver Wendell Holmes actually ever said that to me. (By the way, he did say it to Lincoln.)

We need to do what we can to preserve that freedom, the freedom to find things out. The freedom to have that magical machine that people started to write about in the mid-20th Century, that magical computer where you could ask any question you wanted, and out came the answer.

That’s a magnificent accomplishment for humanity. But there is another even more important, magnificent accomplishment, which is that the Internet lets us find each other. Not just find out facts, not just find out numbers, but find other spirits, other souls who, in some way that matters to us, are like us. Kindred spirits. That’s a space humanity has created for itself now, that never existed before. It lets you connect with somebody in Bombay, or Tokyo, on very deep levels, when just a short time ago, they were not even a part of your imagination. And that’s something that we have to work hard to protect, because it will always be the case that selfish interests -- whether it’s multinational corporations, the military-industrial complex, the spying-industrial complex, whoever it might be -- they will try to take that freedom away from us. It’s happening right now. That’s what you’re about to see [in this documentary].

Now, we’re going to hear about two people. I never met Edward Snowden, but I did know quite a bit about Aaron Swartz. In fact, he worked for me, for a period of time, a few years ago. And he was brilliant, as you’ll see for yourself. I’m sure that whatever this film may say about him, it can barely do justice to what a special human being he was.

There were a couple of things about Aaron that, I have to tell you honestly, I found disconcerting. One this was that Aaron would always come up better assignments than any assignments that I could come up with. I’d tell Aaron, “Would you please do this?” And Aaron would say, “Well, sure, but do you mind if I also do that?” And always, ‘that’ turned out to be much more important than ‘this.’ Every single time.

Another interesting thing that disturbed me about Aaron was that he really got things done. [Laughter.] Now here, in Washington D.C., that’s a lost art. People really don’t know how to do that anymore. Time after time, after time, we wait ‘til the very last minute, and we somehow manage, often but not always, to somehow get through it, without actually accomplishing anything, but actually just barely avoiding disaster. Aaron wasn’t like that at all. Aaron would think of this amazing thing -- I was stunned by his audacity that he’d even think of it -- and then a few weeks later, it’d be done. He was magnificent that way.

And over time I realized that my reluctance that I had, my frustration that I couldn’t give him assignments that were better than what he’d come up himself, it really reflected more on me than on him. So I stopped thinking about it, entirely.

Now he had a very special quality, which some of you may have, yourselves. Aaron liked to rock the boat. He didn’t mind rocking the boat. And that’s a unique quality in human beings. All over the world, I think, you’ll find that there’s a deep resistance and hesitation to rocking the boat. I’ve said that there are roughly 2,000 human languages on this planet, and I would venture to say that in every single one of those languages, there’s an idiom for the phrase: “Don’t rock the boat.” Well, he rocked the boat. Not only by creating Reddit at the age of 19, something which by itself would have given him the freedom to stay in bed for the rest of his life, and order in pizzas, to be delivered, never having to move beyond the bathroom. He could have had that life. But instead he wanted more. He wanted to go out and, as you’ll see, he wanted to imprint on the world his own sense of freedom -- the freedom I just talked to you about -- the freedom to be able to connect with other people.

Now, here’s the funny thing about what happens when you rock the boat. Sometimes when you rock the boat, the boat rocks you. It rocks back. And Aaron actually understood that, and he took it in good spirits. You have to pay a price for orienting your life in that manner. For some of us who try to rock the boat, we lose our family. For some of us who try to rock the boat, we lose our property. Some of us go to prison. In Aaron’s case, he lost his life. But he always understood that that’s the price that sometimes you must pay if you were that kind of person; if you have the impulse to go ahead and make a difference.

He was a person of enormous talent. And sometimes we are very hard on people with enormous talent. At a memorial service for Aaron, I mentioned Alan Turing, whose story since has become famous in a Hollywood movie. I think that there is a very deep and important point in talking about Aaron, in talking about Alan Turing, in talking about Oscar Wilde, who suffered for his greatness, too. In talking [about such people] all the way back to Socrates. These are people whom we made to pay a price because they were so good at what they did that it disturbed us, it got under our skin. We look at them with some degree of, I don’t know, maybe you could call it guilt. Maybe you’d call it jealousy. But we took their lives, and we crushed them. They became human sacrifices, as you are about to see [in the documentary].

And that’s a pity, because people of talent make our lives better. And although we may think that we have to protect ourselves from them, in reality, it’s they who need protection from us, as we’ll see in this movie. And far from our needing protection from them, they’re the ones who make our lives better. If Alan Turing had lived, he would have won two or three Nobel Prizes after cracking the Nazi codes, and inventing the Turing machine, which is the basis for all of modern computing. If Oscar Wilde had lived, we’d not be enjoying only three or four major plays, we would be enjoying ten, or twelve or fifteen of them. And of course if Socrates had lived, then Plato wouldn’t have been such a bad guy after all.

So we have to learn to cherish those people who stand out; not to hate them, not to be jealous of them, not to punish them, not to ridicule them; and for sure, not to kill them. But rather to understand that the things that make us special are in fact the things that make us different, not the things that make us the same. And that any well-organized society takes advantage of our differences; doesn’t try to undermine them or hide them; doesn’t try to get over them, or overcome them; but rather seeks to cherish them. And make sure, in any event, that the prosecution that Aaron faced doesn’t become a persecution for the way he was.

Because, as Margaret Meade said, it’s people like that, those few people who can organize, who can assert themselves, who actually achieve advancement for all us, the entire human race. It’s the only thing that ever has.

So with that, I’d like to turn you over to the film. I would like to mention that you’ll be enjoying a Q&A after the film with Professor Lessig. Professor Lessig actually joined me in that memoriam for Aaron Swartz a few years ago. Here’s a couple things you may not know about Prof. Lessig. Unaccountably, Christopher Lloyd once depicted him in a film, but not me. I don’t know why. It seems that he’d be a natural to [portray] me, but that’s never happened yet. Professor Lessig is also the sixth most famous former University of Chicago law school professor. Who can name some of the others? Anybody? [Audience responds.]. Barack Obama, yes. Barack Obama, three Supreme Court justices and Judge Douglas Ginsburg – my thesis advisor at Harvard – who somehow neglected to invite me to any of his pot parties. I feel very bitter about that to this day, obviously.

Anyway, understand that the film that you are about to see, which focuses on two incredible people, focuses not only on their personal bravery and the sacrifices they made, but also is a hallmark for our time. It is a landmark, on the road to either heaven or hell. And that decision is ours. Thank you very much.

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

To see the video, click here.

The ISIS War Authorization: A Blank Check
26 February 2015 - 12:42pm

So we had a hearing a week ago on ISIS (“we” being the House Foreign Affairs Committee), and the witnesses were three experts on U.S. policy in the Middle East, all dues-paying members of the Military-Industrial Complex. They were James Jeffrey, who was Deputy Chief of Mission at our embassy in Iraq; Rick Brennan, a political scientist at the Rand Corp.; and Dafna Rand, who was on the National Security Council staff. The White House had just released the President’s draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS, and I felt that I needed a good translator, so I asked them what the ISIS war authorization meant. Their answers were chilling: the ISIS war authorization means whatever the President wants it to mean. If you don’t believe me, just listen to them: 

GRAYSON: Section 2(c) of the President’s draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force reads as follows: “The authority granted in subsection A [to make war on ISIS and forces ‘alongside’ ISIS] does not authorize the use of US armed forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.” Ambassador Jeffrey, what does ‘enduring’ mean?

JEFFREY: My answer would be a somewhat sarcastic one: “Whatever the Executive at the time defines ‘enduring’ as.” And I have a real problem with that. 

GRAYSON: Dr. Brennan? 

BRENNAN: I have real problems with that also. I don’t know what it means. I can just see the lawyers fighting over the meaning of this. But more importantly, if you’re looking at committing forces for something that you are saying is either [a] vital or important interest of the United States, and you get in the middle of a battle, and all of a sudden, are you on offense, or are you on defense? What happens if neighbors cause problems? Wars never end the way that they were envisioned. And so I think that that’s maybe a terrible mistake to put in the AUMF. 

GRAYSON: Dr. Rand? 

RAND: Enduring, in my mind, specifies an open-endedness, it specifies lack of clarity on the particular objective at hand. 

GRAYSON: Dr. Rand, is two weeks ‘enduring’? 

RAND: I would leave that to the lawyers to determine exactly. 

GRAYSON: So your answer is [that] you don’t know, right? How about two months? 

RAND: I don’t know. Again, I think it would depend on the particular objective, ‘enduring’ in my mind is not having a particular military objective in mind. 

GRAYSON: So you don’t really know what it means. Is that a fair statement? 

RAND: ‘Enduring,’ in my mind, means open-ended. 

GRAYSON: All right — Section Five of the draft of the Authorization of the Use of Military Force reads as follows: “In this resolution, the term ‘associated persons or forces’ means individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” Ambassador Jeffrey, what does “alongside ISIL” mean? 

JEFFREY: I didn’t draft this thing. 

GRAYSON: Nor did I. 

JEFFREY: Nor did you, but I would have put that in there if I had been drafting it, and the reason is, I think they went back to 2001, of course this is the authorization we’re still using, along with the 2002 one for this campaign, and these things morph. For example, we’ve had a debate over whether ISIS is really an element of Al Qaeda; it certainly was when I knew it as Al Qaeda in Iraq in 2010 to 2012, and these semantic arguments confuse us and confuse our people on the ground, in trying to deal with these folks. You’ll know it when you see it, if it’s ISIS or it’s an ally of ISIS. 

GRAYSON: How about the Free Syrian Army, are they fighting alongside ISIL in Syria? 

JEFFREY: No, they’re not fighting alongside ISIL, in fact often they’re fighting against ISIL, and ISIL against them in particular. 

GRAYSON: What about Assad, is he fighting “alongside” or against? It’s kind of hard to tell without a scorecard, isn’t it?

JEFFREY: It sure is. 

GRAYSON: Yes. What about you, Dr. Brennan, can you tell me what “alongside ISIL” means? 

BRENNAN: No, I really couldn’t. I think that, what, you know, it might be. The 9/11 Commission uses the phrase “radical islamist organizations.” I think maybe if we went to a wording like that, it includes all those 52 groups that adhere to this type of ideology, that threaten the United States. But we’re putting ourselves in boxes and as you said Senator – Congressman — I’m trying to understand what that means, what the limits are … who we’re dealing with, and it’s very confusing.

GRAYSON: Dr. Rand? 

RAND: Well, first of all, I believe that the confusion is probably a function of the fact that this is an unclassified document, so it’s not going to specify exactly which groups are considered associates; that would be for a classified setting. But second, as I said in the testimony, the nature of the alliances within ISIL are changing and are fluid, and those who are targeting, the military experts, know exactly who is a derivative or an associate or an ally of ISIS, at any given moment. 

GRAYSON: Why are you so confident of that? It seems to me that it’s a matter of terminology, not a matter of ascertainable fact. 

RAND: Based on my public service, I’ve seen some of the lawyers, and some of the methodologies, and … . 

GRAYSON: Okay. Here’s the $64 billion question for you, Ambassador Jeffrey, and if we have time, for you others. If you can’t tell us — you three experts can’t tell us — what these words mean, what does that tell us? Ambassador Jeffrey? 

JEFFREY: That it’s very difficult to be using a tool basically designed to declare war or something like war on a nation-state, which has a fixed definition, against a group that morphs, that changes its name, that has allies, and other things. Do we not fight it? We have to fight it. Are we having a hard time defining it? You bet. 

GRAYSON: Dr. Brennan? 

BRENNAN: I’d agree with the ambassador. I think the issue we that need to be looking at is trying to broaden terminology and understand that it is a tenet, or organizations and groups that adhere to this ideology, and make it broad enough that if one pops up in a different country that is doing the same thing, that is a sister of this organization, the President has the authority to act. 

GRAYSON: Dr. Brennan, I think that you just described a blank check, which I’m not willing to give to the President or anybody else. But thank you for your time. 

So that’s what the experts had to say. Now I have a question for you: How do you spell the word “quagmire”? Answer: I-S-L-A-M-I-C S-T-A-T-E. 

Courage, 

Rep. Alan Grayson 

“’When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” 

- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass ch. 6 (1871). 

Perpetual War
24 February 2015 - 12:44pm

A week ago, I was on national TV, discussing President Obama’s draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS. Here is what I said:

Thom Hartmann: Joining me now to talk more about the President’s proposed authorization is Congressman Alan Grayson, who represents Florida’s 9th [congressional] district, and does so brilliantly, I might add. Congressman Grayson, it’s always great to see you. Thank you for joining us tonight.

Alan Grayson: Thank you, Thom.

TH: I wanted to get your take on the President’s proposal, but first can you explain something for our audience: If we’re just now getting authorization for the ISIS fight, what authority have we been acting under since August?

AG: Well, the President claims authority as Commander in Chief, which is generally interpreted as defensive -- and also very short-term. And the President has also made it clear that he thinks he has the authority [to attack ISIS], even today, under the 2001 authorization to use military force. That’s counterintuitive, because ISIS didn’t even exist in 2001, or in 2005, or in 2010. But that, in fact, is what the President is claiming as a legal basis. A lot of people like me are skeptical.

TH: And to that, to that new AUMF, the major criticism we’re hearing is that it’s too vague. Do you agree with that criticism? And what do you see as the major problems with the President’s plan?

AG: Well as you said [earlier in the show], this AUMF is a recipe for perpetual war. But I think the problems actually go deeper than that. When I look at something like this, I say to myself, ‘I’m not just voting for a bunch of words here.’ If I vote for an AUMF, I’m voting for war. And there are far deeper questions that we need to address, that seem to have no good answers in this circumstance. The first question is: Is there actually a threat to U.S. people or U.S. property? Does ISIS represent a threat, a substantial threat, to U.S. people and U.S. property? We could answer that question well [if we] were talking about the Nazis or Soviet Union. I think the answer with regard to ISIS is clear: We have the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans that protect us -- our greatest allies, by the way. And the fact is that ISIS is a very limited force that doesn’t even come close to having the military capability of any actual country in that region, even a weak country like Yemen. So there are actually no direct threats, even to U.S. property, like for instance U.S. embassies that are nearby. And the fact that they have been able to pick off four U.S. citizens, who frankly put themselves in a dangerous place, does not mean that they represent a significant threat to U.S. persons or U.S. properties on any major level. The second question to ask is: If they did – which they don’t – then would our response be commensurate? Would it be proportionate? And there again, we completely fail that common-sense test. We are going into perpetual war, involving literally thousands and thousands of sorties and air strikes against ISIS, on the basis, frankly, of their having killed four Americans. [They] also committed atrocities, which are unfortunate, and have stunk up our TVs and our Internet access, and it’s offended us on some deep level. But nevertheless, we have to get past the point that every time we see something on our computer screens that we don’t like, we go ahead and bomb it. That is a recipe for national bankruptcy, as well moral bankruptcy. And the third question that I think needs to be asked is this: If this were actually a threat to the United States, and if our response were proportionate, do we have a path to victory? And the answer, here again, is “no.” I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I listen to a lot of briefings, and I will tell you that I haven’t heard the Administration come with anything resembling a sensible proposal to remove ISIS from Syria. Now Iraq is something of a closer case. There are people on both sides of that argument. But I know a bit about that [country] (I prosecuted war profiteers in Iraq), and I don’t think the Administration has a credible war plan to remove ISIS from Iraq either. So on every conceivable basis, every rational basis, this is what a great State Senator 13 years ago referred to as a “dumb war,” [State Sen. Barack Obama – ed.] and we should stay out of it.

TH: Wow. Do you think there are enough restrictions contained in this AUMF to prevent another ground war in the Middle East, to prevent a metastasis of this beyond or outside of ISIL?

AG: Not in the least. In fact I think the AUMF is deliberately — deliberately — drafted in a bad way. It doesn’t give us anything resembling an actual military plan: Who we’re attacking; when we’re attacking them; how we’re attacking them. It doesn’t have any geographical limitation whatsoever. The President literally could use this AUMF to justify military action within the United States, or Canada, or Belgium, or any number of other places. . . . The only specific limitation is that it says the President won’t employ U.S. ground forces in offensive capacity in an “enduring” manner. Now, to give you an example of how much leeway that gives him: Operation Enduring Freedom is now in its fourteenth year, with no end in sight; so much for “enduring.”

TH: There are some who are suggesting that ISIL was funded by Saudi Arabia, in part anyway, [and it] was created by Saudi Arabia. Bernie Sanders yesterday was saying this is their [Saudi Arabia’s] fight, going back to Prince Bandar: Was it prescient or beyond the pale?

AG: Well it actually is disturbing to me to see how the Administration has botched anything resembling a decent war plan here [involving Saudi Arabian ground forces], because of its obsession to prop up the state of Iraq, the so-called central government of Iraq. Secretary Kerry told me last year that he had not even bothered to ask the other countries in the Middle East to provide ground forces to fight ISIS. So I went ahead and asked. And I found that the answer was ‘yes’ for the UAE. The answer was ‘yes’ for Egypt, if the U.N. authorized it, which it has. And now we find out the answer is also ‘yes’ for Jordan. I think if we wanted to win the war [against ISIS], we would put together an international fighting force, either under U.N. auspices, or under Arab League auspices, which would take advantage of the fact the Saudis spend a fortune on their so-called defense. The Saudis are actually very unhappy with ISIS. I can tell you that for a fact. And what we would do is put together a force that spoke the local language, that looked like the local people, and that understood the local customs – unlike our young men and women, whom we send over there with nothing resembling those advantages, to do the same kind of fighting, and the same kind of dying.

TH: That’s essentially what Dana Rohrabacher said . . . . He said ‘I see no reason why we shouldn’t enlist Assad in the fight against ISIS.’

AG: We don’t need to do that. There is a basic misconception here. As Leader Pelosi often says, ‘Everyone thinks that one more act of violence will end violence for all time, and it never does.’ In fact, there is no way to win this that is something that we would regard as even acceptable to us on a moral level. Of course we have the ability to go ahead and destroy ISIS – we could turn Iraq and Syria into molten glass. But that’s something that’s beneath us. That’s something that shows that the terrorists would have won, because at that point, we would be them. So the answer is, are we willing to involve ourselves in a 1,200-year civil war to the point where we win for one side or the other, or do we simply say, ‘It’s not our problem?’

TH: Very well said. Congressman Grayson, you’re brilliant. Thanks you so much for being with us.

AG: Thank you, Thom.

“Perpetual war?” I’m against it.

Courage,

Rep. Alan Grayson

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“We, the People, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

- President Barack Obama, Second Inaugural Address (2013).

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