When Is A 'War' A War?

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • THE 'W' WORD: When does a sustained, open-ended military campaign become a "war"? It's a weighty question drawing much debate online and in the political world, ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes. The White House claims the anti-ISIS strategy President Obama announced this week does not amount to a war. President Obama never used the word, instead calling his plan a "counter-terrorism campaign." Secretary Kerry told ABC's ALEX MARQUARDT yesterday that the US is not "at war" with ISIS. "No," Kerry said. "We're engaged in a counterterrorism operation of a significant order. And counterterrorism operations can take a long time, they go on. I think 'war' is the wrong reference term with respect to that." Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Susan Rice told CNN: "There will not be boots on the ground, which is what Americans think of when they think of a war…"
  • BUT THERE WILL BE BOOTS ON THE GROUND … even if not combat ones. And the open-ended campaign will be violent and dangerous. Republicans have been pointing out the costs and risks, accusing the president of distorting what this operation in fact is: A new dimension to the "war on terror" initiated after 9/11. Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge: "This is not a counter-terrorism operation! It's a big deal," he told CNN. "It's disingenuous to say that the men and women we're going to send to Iraq are not in harm's way. They're not wearing sneakers. …No commander in chief wants to send men and women into harm's way, but don't pretend those military personnel, these brave men and women are not going to be caught up in the middle of a violent battle with a violent, medieval barbaric organization. It's fiction. They're in harm's way. There are boots on the ground." Sen. John McCain: "Tell the American people the truth, Mr. President. These young men and women are going there, and they're going to be in harm's way, and they're going to be exposed to combat."
  • HAPPENING TODAY: President Obama joins forces with Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush today to commemorate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, ABC's MARY BRUCE notes. This morning, President Obama delivers remarks at an AmeriCorps pledge ceremony on the South Lawn. He will be joined by President Clinton. Bush 41 participates remotely from Kennebunkport and Bush 43 has recorded a video to be played at pledge ceremonies around the country.


ABC'S JEFF ZELENY: Throw the familiar partisan lines out the window for the ISIS debate on Capitol Hill. Speaker Boehner gave his blessing to the plan to arm and train the Syrian rebels, saying: "Frankly, we ought to give the president what he's asking for." Some of his fellow House Republicans sounded less certain, but the measure is still expected to pass next week. The deep skepticism is coming from President Obama's own party. One Senate Democrat after another yesterday raised questions about the wisdom of giving weapons and training to rebel fighters whose loyalties are far from certain. It's a weighty debate, but it will be a quick one. Congress is still on track to pack its bags by the end of next week, unlikely to return to Washington until after the election.

ABC's RICK KLEIN: Hillary will be the main event, of course, will her appearance at the final Harkin Steak Fry figuring to draw thousands of Iowa Democrats on Sunday - and some 200-plus reporters. But the story will be more than billboards and buses for a non-candidate. News that Vice President Joe Biden will be in the state 72 hours later adds an intra-party twist, given the inevitable comparisons in style and substance. And Sen. Bernie Sanders will be popping up in the state over the weekend for a series of far more modest events than anything Clinton or Biden is likely to see for some time. The issues or broad, but given the news cycle … it won't take much to revive memories of how a war in Iraq dragged Clinton down in Iowa once before.


BEHIND THE MATH: WHY FIVETHIRTYEIGHT PREDICTS A GOP TAKEOVER IN THE SENATE. Republicans are likely to win control of the Senate in November's midterm elections, according to projections by the statistical prognosticators at FiveThirtyEight. "We're currently projecting that Republicans have a better chance than Democrats to control the Senate, but it's still up for grabs," FiveThirtyEight political analyst Harry Enten said. "The current number that we're going for is a 62.2 percent chance that Republicans will take control of the United States Senate in November." Enten sat down with "Top Line" to discuss FiveThirtyEight's Senate forecast, which has been updated since this interview's taping Wednesday, and explained why it tells a story of GOP victory. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1xSQ3YJ


SARAH PALIN'S FAMILY ALLEGEDLY IN ALASKA HOUSE PARTY BRAWL. Sarah Palin and her family were at the center of a lively party last weekend that erupted into a fight, with daughter Bristol Palin allegedly throwing a right hook, a man who says he was a guest at the party told ABC News. "She was punching him [another man] in the face like six times; it was an assault if I've ever seen one," Eric Thompson said, adding that he was among 70 guests at the birthday party in Anchorage Saturday. "It wasn't a light punch either she really hitting him I'm surprised he just sat there and took it." Political blogger Amanda Coyne reported that Sarah Palin, along with husband Todd and kids Bristol, Willow and Track, arrived in a stretch Hummer and that the fighting started as the beer started flowing. http://abcn.ws/1qrlkxU



WHAT 475 NEW US TROOPS HEADED TO IRAQ WILL - AND WON'T - DO. ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ reports the 475 additional U.S. military personnel headed to Iraq this week will assist Iraqi security forces as they take the offensive against ISIS fighters. They will be posted at Iraqi military headquarters to help coordinate military planning but will not see front-line action, according to U.S. officials. The new deployment to Iraq announced by President Obama Wednesday night will increase the number of U.S. military forces in that country to about 1,600. The new troops will arrive over the coming week to carry out a three-part mission: advising and assisting Iraq's security forces, supporting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights from Erbil in northern Iraq, and staffing a headquarters to coordinate U.S. military activities throughout Iraq. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Wednesday that 150 advisors and support personnel will form a dozen teams that will embed with Iraqi security forces at the brigade level and above. They will not be involved in frontline combat situations. Another 125 personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights from Erbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. http://abcn.ws/1nO0Nhh

WHY OBAMA INSISTS HIS ISIS STRATEGY IS LEGAL. According to ABC's MARY BRUCE and STEVEN PORTNOY the White House says President Obama does not need Congressional approval for expanded strikes against ISIS in Iraq and possibly Syria because he already has the authority he needs based under the 2001 Authorization for Military Force against Al Qaeda and its affiliates that was passed by Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. While ISIS and Al Qaeda were previously affiliated - ISIS is an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq - they officially split earlier this year after disputes over control. And legal experts question whether a measure authorizing force against those who struck the U.S. on 9/11 should be applied in the case of a group that, no matter how bad they may be, ostensibly had nothing to do with the 2001 attacks. The White House made it clear that, legally speaking, the president considers the two groups to be the same given their past shared history. "It is the view of this administration that the 2001 AUMF continues to apply to ISIL," Press Secretary Josh Earnest told ABC at the daily briefing. http://abcn.ws/YB7Dkx

OBAMA ON 9/11 ANNIVERSARY: 'THEY SOUGHT TO BREAK OUR SPIRIT… AMERICA PROVED THEM WRONG'. Marking the 13th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, President Obama paid tribute Thursday morning to the lives lost and the power of the American spirit, reports ABC's MARY BRUCE. "Thirteen years after small and hateful minds conspired to break us, America stands tall and America stands proud," the president told survivors and victims' families at a ceremony at the Pentagon. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/YAx59R

NOTED: BUSH PRESS SECRETARY REMEMBERS 9/11 WITH DAY OF TWEETS. On Sept. 11, 2001, then-president George W. Bush was reading The Pet Goat to a classroom of second graders at Emma T. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, when a whispered word in his ear rocked his young presidency - and the images of burning towers on TV screens across the nation changed the country and the world. Bush's then-press secretary, Ari Fleischer, was with the president on that fateful day, from the moment Bush learned about the attacks to his fly around the country on Air Force One to his return to Washington to address the nation that night. ABC's ERIN DOOLEY reports that Fleischer relived the minute-by-minute details of 9/11 live on Twitter yesterday, and added some of his own reflections 13 years later. http://abcn.ws/1pSL8wB

REPUBLICANS PREPARE CAMPAIGN WAR CHEST FOR 'OVERTIME' IN LOUISIANA SENATE RACE. If you think election season doesn't go on for long enough as it is, get ready for some overtime. Television viewers across most of the country can take comfort knowing that political TV ads will pass with Election Day on Nov. 4. But that's not the case for Louisiana, where people can expect the airwaves to be pounded with aggressive political advertising for a full month after November's Election Day, according to ABC's JORDYN PHELPS. The outcome of the Louisiana Senate race may not be known until December thanks to the state's unique jungle primary system. In a race that could determine control of the Senate, incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu is locked in a tough bid for reelection against two Republican challengers and is expected to go to a runoff against her leading Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy. Republicans are actively bracing for the likely scenario by setting aside money in their war chest to be used during the period after the general election in the lead-up to the runoff, ABC News has learned. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has already reserved nearly $3.4 million to spend on the political TV ads between Nov. 6 and Dec. 6, an NRSC official confirmed. http://abcn.ws/1uxJPbN


THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COULD VOTE AS SOON AS SEPT. 16 to authorize President Obama's request to arm and train Syrian rebels, the office of the House Majority Leader announced Thursday. ABC'S JOHN PARKINSON and CHRIS GOOD report House Speaker John Boehner said Obama "made a compelling case for action" during his primetime address to the nation, but questioned whether the mission the president laid out is aggressive enough to reverse the Islamic State's momentum. Harry Reid offered support for Obama's plan and predicted easy approval of authority to train Syrian rebels. "I expect this proposal to pass Congress with broad, bipartisan support," Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters at a news conference yesterday flanked by Sens. Dick Durbin, Patty Murray, and Chuck Schumer, each of whom offered their full support for the president. http://abcn.ws/1whwkxd


TWO SENATORS ASK TO BE STRANDED TOGETHER ON DESERTED ISLAND - AND LIVE TO TELL ABOUT IT. Congressmen from opposing parties have a hard time getting along sometimes. Here's one way to solve that: abandon them on a deserted island. From the people who brought you "Naked and Afraid" comes Discovery Channel's "Rival Survival," where two politicians are forced to set aside their political differences and work together for six days on an uninhabited island in order to survive. According to ABC's KIRSTEN APPLETON, "Rival Survival" will feature Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, on the remote island of Eru, which is known for its shark-infested waters, kind of like Congress. A Discovery Channel official told ABC News that the show was the senators' idea. T "Both of us know just how frustrated people are with Washington right now. We can both attest that no one is more frustrated than those of us trying to get things done in this environment," Flake and Heinrich said. "We recognize how difficult it can be to cut through the partisanship. So we decided to do something completely out of the ordinary and frankly a little extreme to show the world and our colleagues that even if you have serious differences, if you want to survive you have to work together." "Rival Survival" premieres on Discovery Channel Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 10 p.m. - one week before Election Day. http://abcn.ws/1up50hh


@kurtbardella: #westwing reunion for a special cause - @AllisonBJanney @NellyMoloney @maffyfitz THIS Sunday at the #WarnerTheatre - http://www.justiceaid.org

@samsteinhp: i know it's been jokingly floated before, but Romney as next NFL commish….. discuss

@NydiaVelazquez: Tomorrow marks 20 years since Violence Against Women Act became law. We must all continue working to end domestic violence. #VAWA #Not1More!

@mviser: In today's Globe: Rand Paul putting early emphasis on NH, calling into talk radio, talking to activists, hiring staff http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2014/09/11/randpaul/MaEjghUYwQhAp1QkVlOupM/story.html …

@marcorubio: Wish Senate had spent this week on issues real people are focused on. Like jobs, low wages & threats to our security. http://youtu.be/yXjyJxsbTuY