The Gabfest on a Possible Third(!) Iraq War

Slate's weekly political roundtable.
June 20 2014 1:06 PM

The “I Don’t Have a Title for This Show” Edition

Listen to Slate's show about Iraq’s sectarian violence, the capture of alleged Benghazi terrorist Ahmed Abu Khattala, and the Facebook threat case that’s headed to the Supreme Court.


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On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and Will Dobson discuss the causes and consequences of the sectarian violence in Iraq, Obama’s foreign policy doctrine and the ramifications of an alleged Benghazi terrorist’s capture, and a Supreme Court case about the legality of threats made on Facebook.

Here are some of the links and references mentioned during this week's show:

  • President Obama authorized the deployment of 300 military advisers to assist Iraqi forces combating members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Obama emphasized that the U.S. will not provide substantive military support to the Iraqi government unless it agrees to be more politically inclusive of Sunni minorities.
  • The Kurds have gained the most from the current disorder, seizing the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
  • In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, former congressional candidate Liz Cheney, blamed Obama for the current crisis in Iraq.
  • Co-writing his own op-ed with Leslie Gelb, then-Sen. Biden argued in 2006 that Iraq should be split into three virtually autonomous regions to prevent future unrest and sectarian violence.
  • U.S. special forces captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged ringleader of terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. He’s now being held on a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean, and will most likely be charged in U.S. civilian court.
  • The L.A. Times reported that Khattala was questioned aboard the ship, then read his Miranda rights. The Obama administration has questioned other alleged terrorists such as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev before reading them their Miranda rights, invoking the law’s public safety exemption.
  • Will compared Khattala to the character Fredo Corleone from The Godfather.
  • Both Khattala’s capture after tracking him for a year and the hesitance to use military force in Iraq are the latest signs of Obama’s cautious foreign policy doctrine, which White House officials have repeatedly referred to simply as “Don’t do stupid shit.”
  • The Supreme Court will hear a case about graphic threats made on Facebook by Anthony Elonis toward children, co-workers, and his wife.
  • Elonis claimed that since many of his posts were appropriated Eminem lyrics or meta-references to the legality of online threats, they should not be considered legitimate. His wife testified that she felt like she was being stalked, and that the threats were terrifying.
  • Violent rap lyrics have been used against hundreds of defendants as evidence of guilt.
  • The most recent precedent is Virginia v. Black, a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that cross burning could not be banned, as it does not always signify a violent intent.

Will chatters about the Roads and Kingdoms Twitter coverage of the World Cup.

Emily chatters about “Rolling Nowhere,” a piece that documents Ted Conover’s freight-train hopping journey with his son.

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest. The email address for the Political Gabfest is (Email may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Mike Vuolo. Links compiled by Max Tani.

Emily Bazelon was a Slate senior editor from 2005 to 2014. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk.

William J. Dobson is Slate’s politics and foreign affairs editor and the author of The Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy.


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