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May 26th, 2017

Insight

Rand Paul vs. current assaults on monstrous ISIS

Nat Hentoff

By Nat Hentoff

Published Oct. 8, 2014

On Sept. 18, Rand Paul's foreign policy address to the Senate ended with:

"ISIS is now a threat. Let's get on with destroying them" ("Remarks Prepared for Delivery: Sen. Paul Delivers Foreign Policy Address," paul.senate.gov, Sept. 18).

That should have been the first sentence of the speech, because until then he emphasized how chaotic the attempts to disable the expanding murderous regime of ISIS have been and how little we know about the rebels we are assisting:

"The idea that these rebels haven't been armed before is ludicrous on its face. It is also ludicrous to believe that we know where all of the money, arms and ammunition will end up, or who will end up benefitting from these shipments ...

"We don't know for sure who the groups all are. Even when we think we do, loyalties shift and groups become amorphous, with alleged moderates lining up with jihadists.

"And finally, moderate groups have often sold their weapons or had them seized by the jihadist elements led by ISIS."

Paul's press release continues: "The German ambassador to the U.S. has fully admitted what our State Department tries to hide -- that we can't fully control the final destination of these arms."

In this digital age, many Americans of both parties read speedily to cope with the torrent of news, views, debates, et al, and once they feel they grasp the overall message, they may not bother to finish the rest.

For those fast readers, the overall misapprehension of the bulk of Paul's Senate address is that he is an isolationist in crucial foreign affairs -- crises in which the U.S. should not intervene.

However, more careful readers of this revealing Senate address by Paul will find otherwise: "It's not that I am against all intervention. I favor striking ISIS. I supported the decision to go to war with Afghanistan after our nation was attacked on 9/11. There are valid reasons for war. And importantly, there are ways to do it and ways not to do it."

Early in his remarks, he explains his concerns with the methods used thus far in this particular intervention: "ISIS has grabbed up U.S., Saudi, Qatari weapons by the truckload, and we are now forced to fight against our own weapons ... Reports show that the CIA, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have supplied roughly 600 tons of weapons to the militants in Syria in 2013 alone."

He cites sources that show other countries are also sending weaponry to militants in Syria. But how much do we actually know about the nature and alliances of all the rebels in Syria?

Paul says: "Kuwaitis, a Sunni majority country bordering Iraq, have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to a wide range of opposition forces both in Iraq and Syria, according to reports by the Brookings Institute ... New York Times reports also detailed ... huge arms and financial transfers from Qatar to the Syrian rebels, beginning as early as 2011.

"No one really knows where all that ended up: Jane's Terrorism Center noted the transfer of Qatari arms to targeted groups has the same practical effect as shipping them to al-Nusra, a violent jihadi force."

There's more. Rand Paul moves on to President Obama's perplexed approach to ISIS:

"Our Founding Fathers understood that the executive branch was the most prone to war, and so with due deliberation they gave the power to declare war to the legislative branch.

"President Obama's new position, though, is that while he requests congressional input, he doesn't necessarily need Congress' approval."

What? Obama has publicly repeated that he has a pen and he can act on his own.

Thankfully, Rand Paul reminds us what the reality is: "Even if Congress votes against it, the president still believes that he reserves the right to involve our soldiers in a war unilaterally."

We know that Rand Paul will follow the Constitution if he's our next president. In last month's address to the Senate, he specifically reminds the rest of Congress: "Article l, Section 8, Clause 11 gives Congress -- and Congress alone -- the power to declare war. If Congress does not approve the military action, the president must abide by that decision." Hear that, Mr. Obama?

I keep calling for the due process impeachment of the president for this and the many other reasons I have documented in previous columns. But everyone I ask, including those who agree with me, assure me that it's not going to happen.

Obviously, therefore, while the president now sounds more "militant" against ISIS (without our "putting boots on the ground"), the dismal likelihood is that the hideous reign of ISIS and its increasingly eager progeny will continue until the next president and Congress move decisively -- forget the gossamer United Nations -- to restore the possibility of human rights prevailing on this planet.

Rand Paul summarizes: "We will fight ISIS, a war I accept as necessary, largely because our own arms and the arms of our allies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have enabled our new enemy ISIS. Will we ever learn? ...

"We must protect ourselves from radical Islam, but we should never, ever have armed radical Islam, and we could make it worse by arming it more today!

"We have enabled the enemy we must now confront."

I have frequently demonstrated that of all probable candidates for the presidency, Rand Paul is the most deeply knowledgeable inhabitant of our Constitution.

He is also, potentially, one of the most effective enemies of ISIS.

So it's up to us to decide what will become of America and the rest of the world in the 2016 elections -- including who'll eventually be on the Supreme Court and whether our kids will learn how to be Americans according to this thing called the Constitution.

And it's up to Rand Paul to get his messages and warnings across more decisively. A lot of us need to be awakened as to why we are here.

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Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of several books, including his current work, "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance".

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