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McCain and Corker Need a Geography Lesson

Supporters of the Saudi arms sale made [1] many bad arguments yesterday before the vote, but this may have been the most laughable mistake:

Two longtime senators leaned on questionable geographic analysis Wednesday as part of their successful defense of a $1.15 billion proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

The Strait of Hormuz would be threatened if Houthi rebels had taken over all of Yemen before Saudi Arabia launched a military intervention last year, they agreed before leading colleagues to shoot down a bid to block the arms sale.

But the shipping bottleneck actually separates Iran and an Omani peninsula hundreds of miles north of Yemen, where Shiite rebels and backers of a deposed and formerly U.S.-supported strongman are resisting a Saudi-led campaign that has killed many civilians.

McCain and Corker’s error would almost be funny if it didn’t reflect their poor understanding of the region and the conflict they want the U.S. to continue fueling. Corker is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, so one would think he would have better familiarity with the geography of a part of the world where he wants the U.S. to be so involved. McCain is famously treated as a foreign policy “expert” despite a long record of horrible judgments, so his screw-up is even more ridiculous. Their error is significant not only for betraying their ignorance about basic geography, but also for showing how desperate they are to make Iran a major player in the conflict when its role is actually limited and not very significant. When Corker answers McCain’s question, he says that “it puts more of that in Iranian hands,” and that is based on the lie that Iran has any control in any part of Yemen. This matters because McCain and other backers of the Saudi-led war are determined to portray the war as “self-defense” against expanding Iranian influence, but neither of those things is true. It’s hard to see why anyone should take McCain and Corker’s views on the conflict seriously when they can’t even be trusted to read a map correctly.

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14 Comments To "McCain and Corker Need a Geography Lesson"

#1 Comment By SDS On September 22, 2016 @ 2:42 pm

For McCain and Corker, et. al; they could just as easily say with a straight face that the Potomac River is threatened by the Houthis…They really don’t care what argument they give as long as they can make sure their masters Saudi Arabia and Israel get whatever they want….

#2 Comment By Chris Chuba On September 22, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

The answer is simple. To them, anyone who is on even slightly friendly towards Iran is worthy of death. Isn’t that reasonable?

#3 Comment By Uncle Billy On September 22, 2016 @ 3:23 pm

The Saudis want to crush the Houthis because they are Shiites, as are the Iranians. The Houthis are not a threat to the US, and for the US to assist the Saudis in murdering thousands of people in Yemen is not going to make us any safer.

I wish McCain and Corker would ask the Saudis some hard questions about Saudi involvement in 9/11.

#4 Comment By stand down On September 22, 2016 @ 4:58 pm

At the moment the Yemenis can’t rely on the conscience of America to save them from KSA’s genocidal campaign. Their only hope is that the Israelis and Saudis have a falling out and/or that the Iranians and Saudis warm up to each other.

Neither seems very likely in the short term, but if Israel and Saudi Arabia fall out or SA and Iran warm to each other, we’ll hear a very different tune from the US politicians who rely on Israel money, at which point the US arms and intel flow to SA may end. And of course a KSA cured of its Iran paranoia might decide to break off the campaign of its own accord.

#5 Comment By CharleyCarp On September 22, 2016 @ 5:04 pm

Whoever came up with the talking point probably meant the [2], but staffers playing telephone, and ignorant of everything, changed it to the one they knew.

I’m glad to see Sen. Tester on the right side of this one. One can hope that in the next Congress forces of restraint will be empowered.

#6 Comment By MountainSon On September 22, 2016 @ 6:37 pm

Here’s a case where “irredeemable” actually applies.

Time for some new blood, voters.

#7 Comment By Chris Chuba On September 23, 2016 @ 8:31 am

MountainSon, I agree. It is time for new blood. I am a Republican and I don’t care if they lose the Senate. Any Republican or Democrat who votes for the continued savaging of Yemen, especially with such perverse logic of committing genocide to prevent genocide, needs to be voted out.

BTW I live in NJ and I am voting for the Democrat rep Booker because he voted for the Iranian nuclear agreement and he voted against the Saudi Arms sale. Is he perfect? No, but at least he is not a genocidal maniac. Sadly, that is asking too much for most of these self-righteous candidates.

#8 Comment By More Lies? On September 23, 2016 @ 8:40 am

I don’t buy the assumption that this was just another stupid mistake.

McCain and Corker have spent a great deal of time poring over maps of the Middle East – indeed, they’re both noted for spending more time meddling in the Middle East than looking out for the interests of the American people.
There’s every reason to think that they and their staffs are intimately familiar with the basic geography – Corker’s the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for God’s sake, and McCain must have blown tens of millions of dollars over the years having himself flown around the region on military jets.

Keeping in mind that the warhawks lied us into Iraq, lying us into helping Saudi Arabia continue its war on Yemen would seem to be no great leap.

In sum, there is strong reason to think that McCain and Corker just lied to the American people from the Senate floor.

#9 Comment By Farrago On September 23, 2016 @ 9:17 am

@More Lies? : “In sum, there is strong reason to think that McCain and Corker just lied to the American people from the Senate floor.”

If so, it seems likely that they colluded in doing so. One such mistake might be dismissed as an unfortunate blunder. Two is enemy action.

And keep in mind that they weren’t just speaking to “the American people”. They were speaking to other Senators about a salient point in the debate preceding a vote. It’s analogous to Colin Powell’s infamous statement to the UN about Iraq’s non-existent WMDs.

#10 Comment By Rossbach On September 23, 2016 @ 10:07 am

Saudi Arabia may have its reasons for wanting to crush Yemen, but I don’t see why it is in the interest of the US to provide either funding or political cover for this effort.

Defense dollars should be spent protecting Americans, not Middle East potentates.

#11 Comment By Eileen Kuch On September 23, 2016 @ 5:25 pm

Indeed, Farrago, you’re quite correct. If McCain and Corker just lied to the American people from the Senate floor, it seems likely that they colluded in doing so. As you said, one such mistake might well be dismissed as an unfortunate blunder, but two is enemy action.
And, as you also said, keep in mind that they were not just speaking to “the American people”; they were speaking to other Senators about a salient point in the debate preceding a vote. It’s analogous to Colin Powell’s infamous statement to the UN General Assembly about Iraq’s non-existent WMDs. Brilliantly said.

#12 Comment By where it’s at On September 23, 2016 @ 5:31 pm

If they’re reduced to lying about geography we’re in real trouble. There are enough quarrels over borders and territorial rights as it is.

If McCain and Corker start systematically lying about where things are physically located, which ought to be a matter of simple, provable fact, then the number of violent disputes around the world is going to increase pretty fast. Someone needs to take them aside and tell them that lying about geography is out of bounds.

#13 Comment By Julia On September 23, 2016 @ 5:57 pm

I think it’s a mistake to blame their poor understanding of geography or conflict in the region for their support for continued Saudi arms sale. They may indeed have a poor understanding of both, but that is not likely their motivation. Continued arms sales is support of the status quo, MIC jobs program.

The other 75 people who voted to table the measure likely had the same motivation. After all, pork is their bread and butter so to speak.

Wolff Blitzer of CNN brought up this issue when interviewing the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rand Paul who was trying to make a point of whether it is even constitutionally authorized to sell offensive the arms to SA.

What about the jobs that would be lost, asks Blitzer?

[3]

#14 Comment By Let’s Re-draw The Map – In Our Minds! On September 24, 2016 @ 9:59 am

Corker – ““It creates greater instability in a region that already has had tremendous amounts of it. But no question, I mean, it [Yemen] borders the strait [of Hormuz] and again it puts more of that in Iranian hands.””

Yemen borders the Straits of Hormuz in the same sense that Denmark borders the Irish Sea. And has roughly the same chance of seizing control of it.

These are our foreign policy “experts”? The ones who spent the primary season loudly sneering at Trump’s ignorance?

One might have thought McCain and Corker would be concerned about controlling our all-too-real border with Mexico, but McCain spends so much time fretting about what’s going on half way around the world that he seems not to have noticed that hundreds of thousands of illegals have inundated his own state.