This story was excerpted from the July 28 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
Does truth even matter anymore?
That question lies at the core of the House Select Committee investigation on the January 6 insurrection that just opened on Capitol Hill with searing testimony from police officers beaten by the mob Donald Trump incited. It took six months for the House to probe the sacking of the citadel of US democracy because Trump’s tame Republicans and fellow election fraud liars made extraordinary efforts to stifle an accounting for history.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made repeated concessions in getting a deal for a nonpartisan, independent commission composed of nonpoliticians to investigate one of the darkest chapters in US history. But after Trump publicly criticized it, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy helped scupper the deal agreed to by his own side. When Pelosi blocked two of McCarthy’s picks for the select committee she set up instead – both of them promote Trump’s false claims of vote fraud – he boycotted the panel entirely.
There are two Republicans on the committee – Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming (yes, that Cheney family) and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois – who are likely sacrificing their promising careers to stand up to Trump’s demagoguery. Cheney is one of the most conservative Republicans in the House, but she argued that the principles at stake justified her joining Democrats on the committee.
“If those responsible are not held accountable and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic, undermining the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democratic system,” she said on Tuesday. “We will face the threat of more violence in the months to come and another January 6 every four years.”
But there is no hope that the committee will change America’s political dynamic. McCarthy and his fellow Trump cult members are actually blaming Pelosi for the invasion of the Capitol – saying she failed to provide sufficient security – even though such responsibilities are beyond her purview. Let’s remember the truth: A sitting President lied about his fair election defeat, called a crowd to Washington, told it to “fight like hell” and watched as it smashed its way into Congress to disrupt its certification of Joe Biden’s presidency.
The opening of the select committee’s probe underscored that the most important division in US politics these days is not between conservatives and liberals. It’s between those who guard democracy and those who would destroy it for power.
Is it, finally, mission accomplished?
Three days after the September 11 attacks 20 years ago, President George W. Bush declared a war on terror from a pulpit in Washington’s National Cathedral.
“This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing,” Bush said.
That hour is now.
President Joe Biden announced he will end the US combat mission in Iraq before the end of the year after also halting America’s involvement in its longest war, in Afghanistan. Both wars, the one in Iraq most controversially, spun out of 9/11 and Bush’s launching of a global war on terrorism and those who harbor terrorists, and to prevent radical Islamic groups getting weapons of mass destruction. The fact that WMDs were never found in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq helped make the war one of the worst US foreign policy failures.
Biden’s Iraq move is largely semantic. Much of the US mission there is already confined to an advisory, intelligence and training role – designed to stem any large-scale return of ISIS. But the announcement, twinned with the Afghan decision, is important nonetheless because it represents the shifting of an era in foreign policy.
Bush and his fellow hawks defined the fight against radical Islamic terrorism as the dominant battle of the epoch. Yet 20 years later, the picture has shifted. America now sees its biggest threat coming from China.Washington hopes to keep the lid on global terrorism with arms-length operations and air and drone strikes in any number of countries without getting bogged down in wars that last several decades. Sending hundreds of thousands of troops to the Middle East, many to die or be maimed, now seems, from the perspective of time, to have been an approach always destined to fail.
But the other lesson from the first 20 years of the 21st century is that decisions made by foreign policy sages in Washington can no longer impose America’s will on the world. Just like Biden, US enemies set their own hours of choosing too.