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Montana Politics Ryan Zinke

Why is Big, Bad Ryan Zinke Such a Coward?

Representative Ryan Zinke wants us all to know how brave he is. His press office in the Congress seems primarily devoted to reminding people that he served in the military and offering vague descriptions of the duties he undertook during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s so committed to promoting the narrative about his military prowess and personal bravery that, in one of his latest press releases, ostensibly about President Obama’s plan to allow some Syrian refugees to come to the United States, he even saw fit to include this very Congressional line about himself:

Commander Zinke is credited with 72 confirmed captures or kills of enemy insurgents.

He’s such a heroic leader that he’s calling for the US military to ignore schools and hospitals when it bravely bombs enemies in the Middle East.

A real badass, right? A bona fide American hero who would never let yellow, craven fear dictate his position on the issues, right?

Not so much.

It seems Congressman Zinke is so afraid of refugees coming to the United States that he’s spent the past few days since the Paris attacks distorting the evidence and mewling that a relatively tiny commitment to giving aid to refugees who would be thoroughly vetted somehow threatens our national security. Our brave Congressman is so afraid of letting a tiny number of refugees escape a brutal war that he’s shown himself willing to lie and demagogue to keep them from our shores.

Zinke claims, for instance, that the process to vet potential refugees is risky. But, as NPR reports, the reality is that the process is lengthy and demanding:

As you might imagine, all of the vetting, from interviews to fingerprinting, takes a while. On average, officials say it’s 18 to 24 months before a refugee is approved for admission to the U.S.

Zinke also claims that the real danger of allowing refugees to come to the United States is that “most of them are male, most of them are of military age.”

The reality, according to NPR, is entirely at odds with Zinke’s claim. They report:

The administration says half of those who have been admitted are children and about a quarter of them are adults over 60. Officials say 2 percent are single males of combat age.

And, as the Huffington Post notes:

Among the people fleeing Syria, it’s about a 50-50 split between male and female refugees. Almost 40 percent of all Syrian refugees are under the age of 11, and more than half of them are under age 17. About 22 percent are men between the ages of 18 and 59.

So when President Obama argues that Republicans are terrified of widows and orphans, he’s not far off the mark.

It’s also worth noting what France, the nation that faced the latest ISIS attack and a nation often the target of conservative scorn, did, in the wake of the Paris tragedy. It increased its commitment to taking in refugees:

French President Francois Hollande promised to honor his commitment to take in tens of thousands of refugees on Wednesday. He said France would do so despite concerns raised by ultra-right nationalist leaders that refugees might pose a security threat to the country.

“Some people say the tragic events of the last few days have sown doubts in their minds,” Hollande said, but added that it is a “humanitarian duty” to help the throngs of refugees who have landed on European shores after fleeing conflict and hardship in countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

Republicans like Congressman Zinke spend a great deal of their time bloviating on Fox News about the weakness of President Obama, but it’s hard to take such claims seriously when these politicians are cravenly caving into the terror that ISIS wants to generate. ISIS wants the West to turn its back on the Syrian refugees, to terrify us into running from values that should guide us, and to create more hatred and division.

And that’s the real cowardice on display here. The United States, a nation built in part by refugees fleeing political and religious prosecution, a nation that aspires in its rhetoric to be a country that defends human life and freedom, and a nation with a shameful past that includes allowing religious bias and fear of infiltrators to justify turning away refugees facing genocide, surely cannot allow fear mongering and politically expedient ethnocentrism to once again trump our moral obligation to other human beings.

And it’s especially disappointing from Congressman Zinke, who is so devoted to the construction of a narrative about his own personal bravery that he seems unwilling to believe that his fellow Americans have the courage and decency he is so evidently missing.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Instead of all the histrionics and polemics being bandied about, step back and consider history. There are holes in the process where it defaults to “good” when data is missing.

    The real terrorists are not coming this way. It is a major mistake for politicos to focus on the refugees. It was Bullock who recently said his top priority was keeping Montanans safe. Just what is HIS plan and process to do so?

          • Call them “jerks” if you will but they aren’t the problem. Until such time as the Obama administration calms the fears of the American public with a forthright, straightforward settlement plan, the politicos will block measures they deem that fail to respect the depth of feeling behind those fears. Calling political representatives “cowards” and “jerks” only polarizes and distracts from serious discussion, but then again such outrage is more about politics than substance or helping refugees caught in the middle.

          • Do you support accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S., Craig?
            Anyway, I call ’em like I see ’em. Example: “Freshman Rep. Brad Ashford, D-Neb., who faces a tough re-election fight … supported the bill.” (From an AP story, emphasis mine.) That would be my definition of a coward and a jerk (along with Rep. Zinke). And from the same story: ” … the legislation would bring an end to an already highly regulated refugee program while doing nothing to enhance national security.”

          • Pete, I am amazed at the shallowness of your question. What do my views have to do with anything that matters? That being said just what is the plan to bring Syrian refugees to Montana? Are they just “dumped” or is there is thoughtful integration plan? Or, are they merely dumped off on Central Ave. in Great Falls? How do they survive in an extremely cultural different environment? Without extensive social support and help, settling them in Montana seems cruel and doomed for failure. It takes more than moral piety, bumper stickers, and playing king of the moral hill. It takes real effort, not ad hominem name calling of “cowards,” “jerks” and such Just what is Bullocks plan to keep these refugees from failing if they come to Montana? In other words don’t claim moral superiority by suggesting these people bail out over Montana without a parachute.

            • Craig,

              It took less than 15 seconds using Google to find the answers to the questions I think you are somewhat disingenuously posing. No, refugees are not dropped off in some town without assistance. They do have to pay for their own plane fare, but there are settlement programs in place, programs that have helped 3 million refugees settle in the US already.

  • Compartmentalize much?

    U.S. bombs and weapons created, and perpetuate, this war, causing refugees to flee their homeland. How many years now? We invaded another sovereign nation on the flimsiest of constitutional authority, and weakest of ethical and moral excuses.

    Stop the war. Stop the bombing. Stop selling and giving weapons to Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Defund ISIS. Close the Turkish border to oil tankers, mercinaries and weapons. Pretty soon, Syrians could return home.

    • Oh, right. I forgot to consult the foreign policy expert before posting.

      Just out of curiosity how do we “close the Turkish border” and “stop the war” at the same time? By asking nicely?

    • Steve, you suffer the same illusion as the “look here not there” crowd. Precisely what do you expect to happen with these refugees while this seismic shift in foreign policy happens? A) there is no support for such change among the very people refusing to be brave in the face of needy children. B) Don can’t perform these miracle policy cures, but you hold him accountable. You can’t perform them either, but you give yourself a pass because your heart is in the right place while you’re pointing fingers. C) You never answered Don’s question. He asked “How”. You replied with a magic laundry list of things that somehow will alleviate a growing crisis of refugee movement, if only the Underpants Gnomes steal more underpants (if you don’t get the reference, then look it up.)

      So I’m still curious for an answer. How do “WE” accomplish these magical feats? See, I voted for a guy who, in my name, has voted to repeal the provisions of the MCA giving the President unlimited war powers. You and many of yours just tantrum that that guy is an environmental traitor, and will be voted out in 2018. Fine. Still, I’m waiting on your answer with baited breath. Unfortunately, so are a bunch of Syrians and Iraqis who probably don’t care all that much for an academic exercise in possible foreign policy outcomes.

      (I’d say ‘excuse the sarcasm’, but nah., Your level of smug condescension pretty well deserves it.)

      • I’m going to buy me a larger flag, and a Harley, drink more beer and watch more football. I like Oakland. Promise. And chant “boots on the ground.” I’m sure that will fix it.

        • Ooh, cultural stereotyping. That’s surely an effective policy strategy.

          While you and the Chomsky Kidz! over at that other nonsensical blog swap links from bloggers thousands of miles from the conflict zone in the Middle East who have, somehow, uncovered grand conspiracies and actually dismiss the plight of dying human beings as a distraction, you’re unable to actually articulate solutions.

          But that isn’t what matters to you. It’s the feeling of moral superiority that matters. That must be enormously gratifying.

          • Oh, let’s repeat this here since there’s no real difference between this and what you said over at Reptile Disfunction.

            You said:
            Don Pogreba (@dpogreba) says:
            November 21, 2015 at 7:57 am
            Great idea. Let’s do what you say, and stop creating refugees, stop propping up authoritarian regimes, stop creating humanitarian disasters. Of course our foreign policy is responsible for some of the great horrors of the 20th and 21st centuries and needs to change.

            But if your position is that the United States is responsible for the Syrian refugee crisis, how can it be moral to argue that we should ignore it? That it is, as this post suggests, a distraction? That we should “take care of our own”? If you believe the US is responsible for the flood of migrants, isn’t it an awfully important question whether or not we should help alleviate their suffering by taking in some as refugees?

            I said:
            01stevekelly says:
            November 21, 2015 at 9:47 am
            You can take all the refugees you like.

            I will continue to do what I choose. I choose to be as aware as I can of what causes these problems. At the source. When I think I can share what I have learned, I do so. We obviously have different priorities.

            I am, however, in no way preventing you from your preference: talking about refugees, in this instance. I encourage you to speak freely and support your constitutional right to speak freely.

            But that is not enough for you. You want me to conform to your priorities. That Pavlovian response you so want/demand, of course, won’t happen. This, apparently, upsets you. Try not to let your mind control you. Those little stories rattling around in your head are not real. Take charge of you. Feel free to be you. Allow me the same. I think you will feel better in no time.

            “Mass delusion is an important tool of oppressors because they can’t survive free expression. That’s why the First Amendment’s a target.” – Stella Morabito

            • 1. You should probably read about Pavlov. You have no idea what you’re talking about, just as you don’t seem to about the Patriot Act.

              2. It’s a convenient set of blinders you wear. There’s no cost to moral smugness. There’s no impact to it, either. You can believe and write whatever the hell you want. It’s just sad that you won’t actually have a discussion about it. The four of you over at that site endlessly, smugly condemn anyone who doesn’t share your vision for the world. I guess that must be satisfying, but do you really believe it matters more than those of us who talk about policy and politics? You keep suggesting and even saying that it does, but how?

              3. When you accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being victim to “mass delusion,” have you ever considered that you’re the one who can’t handle people with different opinions? I know you believe your insight is somehow the result of critical thinking while the rest of us blindly follow the herd, but maybe you’re wrong? In fact, those who never admit even the possibility they might be wrong are probably more likely to be delusional.

              Just some thoughts.

  • All I had to do was read the title of this post to start laughing – a mediocre school teacher, who’s never picked up a weapon, calling a Navy Seal a coward. Too funny.

    Tell us about your bravery Pogie – some tales from the faculty lounge perhaps….

  • While Pogie is mostly right for once, his argument is a Strawman/Ad hominem. Just don’t question Zinke’s military service considering you haven’t served. It makes you look like a pansie/asshole.

    • 1. In general, it’s a poor strategy to critique logical fallacies if you equate two that don’t mean the same thing.

      2. It’s also a poor strategy to call someone out for an ad hominem argument before using one yourself.

      3. You may want to work on your reading comprehension. There’s no questioning of his military service anywhere in this post. I would also argue that a person certainly can question someone’s military service without serving. To suggest that one cannot is absurd in a democratic society.

      Thanks for commenting, though.

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