Politics & Policy

Funding Jihadists while Denying Military Benefits

We can fund al-Qaeda but we can’t fund the families of our war dead?

Here is where we’re at: The Republican establishment — the guys who told us that for a trillion dollars and several thousand American casualties, we could build “Islamic democracies” that would be reliable U.S. allies in the War on Terror — say it is Ted Cruz who is “delusional” and the effort to stave off Obamacare that is “unattainable.”

These self-appointed sages are, of course, the same guys who told us the way to “stabilize” and “democratize” Libya was to help jihadists topple and kill the resident dictator — who, at the time, was a U.S. ally, providing intelligence about the jihadists using his eastern badlands as a springboard for the anti-American terror insurgency in Iraq. That’s probably worth remembering this week, during which some of our new “allies” abducted Libya’s president while others car-bombed Sweden’s consulate in Benghazi — site of the still unavenged terrorist massacre of American ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. officials 13 months ago.#ad#

Not to worry, though. So successful do they figure the Libyan escapade was, GOP leaders are backing a reprise in Syria. It is there, we learn from a Human Rights Watch report issued this week, that our new “allies,” the al-Qaeda-rife “rebels,” executed a savage atrocity just two months ago. Sweeping into the coastal village of Latakia, the jihadists slaughtered 190 minority Alawites. As the New York Times details, “at least 67 of the dead appeared to have been shot or stabbed while unarmed or fleeing, including 48 women and 11 children.” More than 200 other civilians were captured and are still being held hostage.

So that’s going well.

And, you’ll be pleased to know, supporting the Syrian “rebels” is a high enough priority that it’s not part of the 17 percent of the federal government affected by the “shutdown.” America’s enemies are still receiving taxpayer-funded weapons, so that they can fight America’s other enemies, the Assad regime, to what Washington hopes will be a resounding victory. Er . . . check that — to what the administration hopes will be . . . a tie. The administration also let slip this week that it is arming our preferred jihadists so they can grind to a stalemate with Russia’s preferred jihadists — after all, we wouldn’t want to upset Iran’s ruling jihadists after they’ve just finally deigned to take, yes, a phone call from our pleading president after blowing him off in New York.

So support for the Syrian jihad remains unaffected by the shutdown, just like the Capitol Hill gym and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” website. Obama did manage, however, to cut off death benefits for the families of American troops killed fighting for our country. Or at least our conniving Alinsky-in-chief thought he’d succeeded in cutting off the military death benefits — along with forcible closures of war-hero cemeteries, national monuments, private homes, and the ocean.

It turned out he’d miscalculated.

President I Will Not Negotiate ended up negotiating, and then quietly paying bereaved military families, because he discovered, to his astonishment, that the public would hold him, not Republicans, responsible for this unspeakable breach of faith. He’d thought he had that covered. After all, as the Republican establishment repeatedly tells us, Obama’s media always blame the GOP — thus making it “delusional” for the GOP to stand up and fight about anything.

The president was caught by the strategy devised by the delusional rubes who want to exercise Congress’s prerogative not to fund Obamacare — a purportedly unattainable goal, notwithstanding that the prerogative is rooted in the Constitution, in marked contrast to Obama’s own selective waivers of Obamacare, which are apparently rooted in . . . Obama.

See, in order to demonstrate beyond cavil that they were being reasonable, notwithstanding huge objections to the current unsustainable $3.6 trillion trough of federal spending, conservatives volunteered to fund everything the government does except Obamacare. The administration and its scribes shrieked, of course, but there is nothing illegal or unusual about withholding appropriations for federal programs. The government does it every year. Obama himself does it, not just in refusing to enforce the federal immigration laws (to take just one example) but in refusing to execute aspects of Obamacare that harm preferred corporations, union cronies, and Congress.

As expected, our petulant president refused the deal, directing his minions to forge ahead full-speed on his signature socialization of health care — never mind its unpopularity, unconstitutionality, and unreadiness for implementation. Meantime, he schemed to make the shutdown he was forcing as painful as possible. The mainstream-media division of the White House press operation would then, he figured, dutifully blame Republicans for the inevitable public outcry, and the GOP would instantly unfurl its ever-ready white flag.

But instead of waving the flag, House conservatives decided to wave a series of appropriations bills: bite-size portions of the mega-funding the president had already refused — a page out of the Left’s book, offering heartstring-tugging dollars for Head Start, disadvantaged women and children, cancer patients, emergency responders, national-parks operation, city services for Washington residents, etc. Obama thumbed his nose at these House overtures, banked on the press’s refusal to cover them, and went merrily about the business of scalding Republicans over a government shutdown that he was actually causing.

Except Obama let one bill get by: the House’s Pay Our Military Act (POMA). Why? Because Obama needs to hold Senate Democrats in lockstep “no” mode, but even they would not sign on to refusing to pay our troops in wartime. So the bill was passed — proving that, as the delusional Ted Cruz maintains, Democrats can be moved if unified Republicans make the pressure intense enough.#page#

Obama signed POMA even though it cut sharply against his Maximum Pain strategy, but that was because he had his usual Plan B: ignore federal law. As Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky explained on the Corner, administration lawyers issued tortuous guidance, twisting a statute that directs the payment of death benefits into a prohibition against the payment of death benefits. The idea was to add POMA to the community organizer’s propaganda campaign: to show that the Republicans would betray even our fallen heroes if that’s what it took to deny health care to millions of Americans.

But the president who slept through the Benghazi massacre once again forgot that our military is not just an agitprop. Our soldiers really do put their lives on the line, and lose them — as did the one marine and four soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan last weekend. That made it all too real. When bereaved families were suddenly denied death benefits by our government, there was no hiding the fact that the commander-in-chief had, yet again, abandoned those who’d made the ultimate patriotic sacrifice. What’s more, this dereliction was nothing more than crass political calculation — or, as it turned out, miscalculation.#ad#

Public anger erupted and even the Associated Press courtiers were reduced to reporting a sharp drop in the president’s approval rating. Congressional Democrats scrambled and a superfluous, face-saving death-benefits law was enacted so the White House could try to pretend the president now had payment authority he’d previously lacked. Administration lawyers continue to mumble about how, though Obama felt really terrible about it, the perfectly clear POMA had been “too vague” to help military families in their time of need.

You know, there’s also a 1996 law on the federal books that makes it a felony to provide material support to terrorists. It’s not vague. In fact, it’s clear as a bell, according to the many federal courts that have applied it in sentencing scores of jihadist-abettors to hundreds of years in prison.

Don’t you find it strange, don’t you think the public at large would find it strange, that in a shutdown Obama has instigated in order to enforce the Obamacare law Americans don’t want, he so skews the rest of our law that his administration says we can fund al-Qaeda but we can’t fund the families of our war dead?

What a great argument that would be for Republicans . . . if only they were on the right side of it. But they’re not. So let’s roll over on Obamacare, get behind the Syrian jihadists, and make sure everyone knows Ted Cruz is the delusional one around here.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy.

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