TOKYO — This is not what Olivia Smoliga expected to be doing here. After helping the United States secure a spot in the women’s 400-meter freestyle relay final, the Glenview, Ill., native was not selected for the medal race Sunday morning, bringing an abrupt end to her Olympic competition. She was replaced by teammate Simone Manuel for the medal race. The United States won the bronze, finishing third behind Australia — which set a world record by finishing in 3 minutes, 29.69 seconds — and Canada, which edged the U.S for the silver. Smoliga received a medal because of her participation in the ...
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The car used by Taliban founder Mullah Omar to escape being targeted by US forces after the 9/11 attacks has been excavated in eastern Afghanistan, where it lay buried for more than two decades, officials said.
The white Toyota Corolla was buried in a village garden in Zabul province by former Taliban official Abdul Jabbar Omari, who ordered it to be dug up this week.
"It is still in good condition, only its front is a bit damaged," Rahmatullah Hammad, the director of information and culture of Zabul province, told AFP.
"This vehicle was buried by the mujahideen as a memorial to Omar in 2001 to avoid it being lost," he said.
Taliban media officials published pictures of the car being dug from its vehicular grave by men using hand shovels.
The Taliban want the car to be displayed in the capital's national museum as a "great historical monument", Hammad added.
The Taliban were formed in Kandahar by Mullah Omar, who led the hardline Islamist movement to power in 1996 after a bloody civil war, and imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law on the country.
Afghanistan then became a sanctuary for jihadist groups, including Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, the architects of the September 11 attacks.
When the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden, the US and its allies launched air strikes on Afghanistan, before invading, removing the Taliban from power and installing a new government.
Taliban officials said this week that Mullah Omar made his getaway from Kandahar in the Toyota Corolla.
He died in hiding in 2013, although officials kept his death secret for several years.
After two decades of attempting to hold back a bloody insurgency, Washington withdrew the last of its troops last year as the Taliban swept across the country, seized Kabul and returned to power.
It’s not the senator’s first visit to Iowa this year. It’s his eighth since 2019. And while Cotton said his visits to Iowa are to help elect Republicans in November, Iowa Republicans are well aware of why political figures flock to their state.
“So we have Senator Cotton, Tom and his, wife, Anna, come out and join us because there’s a lot of people here in Iowa who like your leadership,” Nunn said. “And oh, I like to think that people come here and support Kelly and me, but it just so happens that Iowa’s 3rd (District) happens to be on the pathway to a certain house somewhere down the road.”
Less than two years out from the next Iowa caucuses, Republican politicians are coming to campaign in support of GOP candidates as they feel out a potential presidential candidacy.
But it’s still early for candidates to officially throw their hat into the ring. Cotton said he was in Iowa because it holds important races for Republicans’ goal to win back the House and Senate, like electing Nunn and re-electing U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley.
“This is a very critical election,” Cotton told reporters. “So I’m gonna keep my eyes on the election ahead of us and we’ll decide about future elections in the future.”
Republicans take first steps in Iowa
Cotton isn’t the only one making up his mind on running. Last week, Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley made her way around Iowa, joining Republican U.S. House candidates on the campaign trail and speaking at a private fundraiser for Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Haley, a former governor of South Carolina, has not officially entered the presidential race, but told reporters at an event supporting U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra that she plans to defend America in whatever role she can.
“If it looks like there’s a place for me next year, I’ve never lost a race,” Haley said, according to the Des Moines Register. “I’m not going to start now. I’ll put 1,000% in and I’ll finish it. If there’s not a place for me, I will fight for this country until my last breath.”
Some Republicans who ran for the 2016 presidential nomination are also making their way back to Iowa. U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have both made stops in the state after former President Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020. Cruz, who won the 2016 Iowa caucuses, came in August 2021 to support U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson’s campaign, and promised America’s “revival is coming.”
Rubio also visited in August 2021. He said he is focused on his own re-election in Florida for 2022, but spoke about maintaining friendships in Iowa.
Trump looms large
But the 2024 Republican caucuses may not be a free-for-all like the Democratic caucuses were in 2020. Trump lost to President Joe Biden in 2020, but still holds major sway over both the Republican party and GOP voters.
Trump brought in a huge crowd at his Des Moines rally in October 2021, where he endorsed Grassley and reiterated his claims that he won the 2020 election.
But the former president has not officially said whether he plans to run again. A Democratic super PAC filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission in March, alleging he violated campaign finance laws by spending his PAC money on events without declaring his intent to run again as a presidential candidate.
“I mean, I know what I’m going to do, but we’re not supposed to be talking about it yet from the standpoint of campaign finance laws,” Trump told reporters in September, when asked about the next presidential campaign cycle.
Trump has a 53% approval rating in Iowa, according to an October 2021 Des Moines Register/Iowa Poll. But some Republicans say there’s enough room for other candidates to win the caucuses, should the former president run again.
Those other candidates may include Trump administration alumni. Besides Haley, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited Iowa three times since the last presidential election, and talking about foreign policy and American security. In June, he launched ads in Iowa and South Carolina praising religious freedom wins in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Former Vice President Mike Pence is also visiting Iowa ahead of any 2024 announcements. His candidacy could draw ire of Trump supporters among the Republican base. But conservatives extended Pence a warm welcome in Carroll this April, where he spoke in support of re-electing Iowa Republicans and criticized Biden’s tenure as president.
Pence has faced backlash for his break with Trump on the validity of 2020 election results. But Pence still aligned himself with the former president on conservative victories from their tenure, like the many conservative appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts. Pence said he hopes for more conservative wins in Iowa, and nationwide.
“The good news is, despite all the setbacks we’ve seen in the last year and a half, the Republican Party is fighting back all across America and all across Iowa,” Pence said.
The field is still open
While many Republicans have visited Iowa ahead of the November election, other conservative favorites have yet to stop in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Polling compiled by FiveThirtyEight shows Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis often comes in second behind Trump among voter rankings of potential candidates. DeSantis has yet to visit Iowa.
Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and presidential candidate, has also stayed away from Iowa ahead of the midterms despite speculation of another presidential run. U.S. Sens. Josh Hawley and Ben Sasse are in the same boat.
Conservative politicians who are not on the national radar may also decide to enter the race in the coming year.
Brad Whitmore, a veteran who attended the Zach Nunn campaign event, said he thinks Cotton would be a good candidate for president. But he added, “Well, I think (Iowa Sen.) Joni Ernst is a possible candidate, too. She’d make a good president.”
— Kathie Obradovich contributed to this report.
Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.
Joe Biden is probably the least militaristic president of the last 40 years. He has ended a major foreign war and reduced American involvement in overseas interventions across the board.
Yet Biden has gotten little credit for his antiwar efforts. That’s a problem for those hoping to see less military violence in the world.
When a president or any politician does not get credit for their accomplishments, they have little incentive to build on them.
Biden has ramped down conflict, but leading antiwar voices have continued to attack him on the issue. Future presidents may reasonably conclude that the antiwar lobby is fickle, unreasonable and confused – that there’s not much point in catering to them.
Biden’s main accomplishment is showing restraint in Afghanistan.
Critics blamed Biden for the ugly spectacle of the Taliban overrunning the country following withdrawal. But such criticism was going to be leveled at any president who ended the conflict.
When you lose a war, you’re forced to watch enemies win. The US had a choice: stay in Afghanistan forever or acknowledge we lost. Biden was the first president to choose the second and pull out.
Also, Biden has drastically reduced the scale of the drone war.
Barack Obama rightly faced outrage for using of drone strikes in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Somalia. They often killed civilians.
Less reported was that Donald Trump substantially increased drone strikes and virtually ended required reporting and transparency.
Trump launched over 40 in Somalia in 2020; George W. Bush and Obama conducted over 40 strikes over nine years in the country.
Foreign Policy’s Kelsey D. Atherton looked at Trump’s almost invisible, escalating drone violence to conclude that “unaccountable machinery will continue to wage war in relative obscurity. Forever.”
Yet unaccountable machinery has largely been halted.
Biden instituted policies that require White House approval for all drone strikes outside of active war zones. Now that the Afghan war is ended, that means approval is required practically everywhere.
Trump oversaw some 1,600 air strikes in Iraq and Syria in his first 11 months in office. Biden had four in his first year. In Trump’s last year, there were 75 drone strikes in Somalia. In Biden’s first there were 10, with no civilian casualties. In Yemen, strikes dropped from 18 to 4.
An international monitoring group concluded that strikes fell 54 percent in Biden’s first year compared to Trump’s last one. Most of those were in Afghanistan before the US withdrawal. Outside of Afghanistan, the US carried out only 67 strikes altogether.
Antiwar activists could argue that 67 strikes is 67 too many. Biden’s also been rightly criticized for a horrific mistaken drone strike in August 2021 that killed 10 civilians, including seven children.
However, it is indisputable that Biden, personally, has massively reduced reliance on drone warfare and has increased accountability.
Biden listened to critics and took them to heart. As a result, his administration has seen less violence and less death worldwide.
But instead of praising Biden for tamping down violence, longtime critics of the drone war have largely ignored his accomplishments.
Glenn Greenwald, an unrelenting critic of Obama’s drone war, has not written about Biden’s reduction in the drone war that I can find.
The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, another long-time drone-war critic, does little better. He does mention Biden’s accomplishment — once, in a single sentence, linking to someone else’s article.
Biden’s successful, admirable restraint of the drone war has largely been drowned out by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has been criticized by some antiwar voices (like Greenwald) for involving the US in it. But his response has again been remarkable for its restraint.
Biden helped organize and implement a sweeping series of global sanctions to target Russia’s economy. He’s provided billions in aid for Ukraine’s military. He has refused to send US troops into the conflict. He’s refused to establish a no-fly zone. And he has been careful to avoid situations in which US and Russia forces might collide. He’s clearly and consistently avoided escalation of this global conflict.
What’s indisputable, though, is that Biden did not start the war, and has worked to keep US troops out of it.
During his term, Biden has ended one major war, vastly reduced US involvement in others, and worked actively to prevent a regional imperial war of aggression from metastasizing into a global conflict. He has reduced airstrikes, civilian deaths, and US military deaths.
There is no other president in the past 40 years, or arguably the past 70, with a better record on restraining military involvement.
Whether or not you like Biden, if you care about reducing war and violence, it’s important to acknowledge these accomplishments.
If antiwar voices don’t seem to notice, or care when wars end, politicians are reasonably going to conclude that their concerns about violence aren’t serious, principled, or informed. If there is no political benefit to restraint, politicians will not engage in restraint.
Biden has given the antiwar movement a series of solid victories. People who care about reducing military violence need to take yes for an answer. If they don’t, it is likely that they will go back to hearing a series of “nos.” And that means more people around the globe will needlessly die.