Voice The Best Worst Quotes of 2014

Posted: December 31, 2014 by gamegetterII in Uncategorized

The top 20 bloviations, lies, and just plain dumb lines from U.S. government officials and politicians this year.

The Best Worst Quotes of 2014

What a year it’s been. In 2014, we discovered new purported threats (Ebola/Islamic State), militarily intervened in yet another country (Syria), and got reacquainted with old interventions (extending combat operations in Afghanistan and redeploying troops to Iraq). In thousands of press conferences, congressional hearings, speeches, and news reports, officials and policymakers offered some especially hypocritical, factually wrong, puzzling, depressing, or revealing statements about U.S. foreign-policy conduct.

In chronological order, here are the top 20 notable foreign-policy comments from U.S. government officials and politicians in 2014. Each comes with some editorial context and elucidation — or a punch line. (Oh, and if you’re looking to fact-check the historical record or see just how inaccurate officials routinely are, check out the top quotes from 2011, 2012, and 2013.)

  1. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “The world is literally about to blow up.” (“Graham Says World ‘Literally About to Blow Up’,” Roll Call, January 28, 2014.)

“Literally.”

  1. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.): “I’m obviously not very happy with what’s happening in Iraq, and I’ve been very clear that I thought the withdrawal from Iraq was one of the biggest mistakes, I think, historically that’ll be shown that the United States has made in modern foreign policy.” (“Al-Qaeda’s Resurgence in Iraq: A Threat to U.S. Interests,” House Foreign Affairs Committee, February 5, 2014.)

The representative from Illinois is partially correct, in that one of the biggest mistakes in foreign-policy history did involve Iraq, an estimated 140,000 Iraqi and 4,425 U.S. troops’ lives lost, and $815 billion in direct taxpayer costs (and counting).

  1. Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs: “But let me stress that Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon is an existential threat to us and it’s an existential threat to, critically, Iran’s neighbors.” (“United States Security Policy and Defense Posture in the Middle East,” House Armed Services Committee, February 11, 2014.)

For God’s sake, let’s be clear what “existential” means: the ability to survive as a country. This conventional wisdom must be countered every time a senior official makes it: While a nuclear Iran could pose an existential threat to Israel, it simply is not to the United States — which is 6,500 miles away, and has an estimated 4,650 nuclear warheads.

  1. Secretary of State John Kerry: “You just don’t, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text.” (“Face the Nation,” CBS, March 2, 2014.)

Hear, hear. And surely any country that behaved in such a fashion, in the 21st century (let’s say, starting on March 21, 2003) would have the self-awareness to acknowledge that it violated precisely the same norm that it now demands others adhere to. Right?

  1. CIA Director John Brennan: “As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth.” (“CIA Director Brennan Denies Hacking Allegations,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 11, 2014.)

Ahem. An investigation by the CIA’s inspector general found that five agency officers had, in fact, hacked into a computer network used by Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staffers while they were researching and writing the study of the agency’s detention and interrogation program — the so-called Torture Report. However, a review panel — appointed by Brennan and composed of three CIA officers and two external members — recommended that the officers responsible not be punished, claiming that their actions were lawful and at the request of Brennan in some cases.

  1. President Barack Obama: “When a typhoon hits the Philippines or school girls are kidnapped in Nigeria or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help. The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. It has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.” (Remarks by the President at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony, White House, May 28, 2014.)

This was the year that Obama wholeheartedly adopted this rhetoric, despite all evidence to the contrary. Let’s be clear: America is the world’s indispensable nation only when it is in America’s narrow national interests to act as such, which is extremely selectively and rarely, making the concept meaningless. By December, he would even claim, “Even our critics, when they get into trouble they’re calling us.”

  1. Marie Harf, State Department spokeswoman: “We don’t keep people detained in this country for years on end without trial or release. That’s just not how we do things.” (Daily Press Briefing, U.S. Department of State, June 9, 2014.)

Actually, that is precisely how we do things. As of December 23, 2014, there are 127 detainees at Guantanamo, some of whom have been there for as long as 13 years.

  1. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “We are now facing an existential threat [in Iraq and Syria] to the security of the United States of America…. This has turned into one of the most serious threats to American security in recent history.” (“Morning Joe,” MSNBC, June 13, 2014.)

Yes, the Islamic State are some bad dudes, but they are, of course, not an existential threat to the United States. Rather, to quote former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates from a May interview: “The greatest national security threat to this country is the two square miles that encompasses the Capitol and the White House.”

  1. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.): “People from Yemen, Iran, Iraq and other terrorist nations are making their way up through America’s southern border because they see that it’s a green light…. Not only people with potentially terrorist activities, but also very dangerous weapons are going to cross our border in addition to very dangerous drugs, and also life-threatening diseases, potentially including Ebola and other diseases like that.” (“Michele Bachmann on the Direction of the Nation and Andrew McCarthy on Why the President Should Be Impeached,” Ohio Christian University’s School of Business and Government and Dave Garrison, “The Faith and Liberty Talk Show,” July 23, 2014.)

We will all miss Rep. Bachmann. Among other things, she once claimed that “there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” Now, she will have time to read them. When asked about this purported cross-border threat during a Sept. 10 congressional hearing, Francis X. Taylor, undersecretary for intelligence and analysis in the Department of Homeland Security, stated that he was “unaware of any specific credible threat to the U.S. homeland.”

  1. President Barack Obama: “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.” (Press Conference by the President, White House, August 1, 2014.)

During a Dec. 9 interview, Obama stated, “Some of the tactics that were written about in the Senate Intelligence Report were brutal and, as I’ve said before, constituted torture in my mind.” The following day, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest responded to a question about whether Obama accepts the Department of Justice’s finding that no prosecutable crimes had been committed by the CIA, by stating: “That is the way that our criminal justice system works.” So, in sum: Yeah, we did illegal things, but no one is going to jail for it.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/12/31/the-best-worst-quotes-of-2014-lies-from-government-officials-and-politicians/

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