Category Archives: War in Afghanistan

9/11:  History in a Vacuum

I never watch any 9/11 anniversary television coverage. I was in DC on 9/11 and for all of the months after it. I watched the Pentagon burn from the roof of my office building, just a few blocks from the White House. It was a terrifying day and I’m not here to relive it.

But Americans love to relive it. And somehow the round number of 20 has ramped up coverage to take over this entire week. We should absolutely remember those who died and the bravery and selflessness of the first responders who risked and gave their lives so others could live. We should remember the family members left behind.

The 9/11 commemorations always happen in a vacuum. One moment the United States is minding their own business going about a Tuesday, and the next moment the nation is under attack. It’s treated as if the country were sucker punched on the street for no discernible reason.

When you remove 9/11 from its previous context it becomes a cheap way for people who never put their lives on the line, ever, to spend the run up to it and the day itself policing how people feel about it and making it into some kind of patriotic holiday. But it’s the removal of the post 9/11 context that does the most damage.

9/11 was the result of complete carelessness by the Bush administration which was tight with the Bin Laden family to the point of getting them out of the country to shield them from having to provide necessary information. It was the excuse for the Bush administration to launch a war in Afghanistan so they and their cronies could make billions, and then to launch another, even more pointless war in Iraq, to further enrich people like Eric Prince, where the United States committed war crimes.

And it was all sold to us as a triumphant exercise of democracy, and if you opposed it you were asked “what is wrong with you?” I just got asked this question yesterday when someone asked me about 9/11 and I told them the stuff I’ve written here.

Well fuck all that. 9/11 should be a day of introspection and apology to the first responders left without medical care. It should be a day of thanks and asking forgiveness of the men and women who went to Afghanistan and Iraq and came back with mental and physical injuries. It should be a day to apologize to the families who lost people, in the towers, the Pentagon, in PA, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and who were left to fend with cancer and other illnesses after their service and sacrifice. It should be a day to castigate those member of Congress who refused to fund healthcare for first responders.

And it should be a day to do some serious work on beating our swords into plowshares.

Afghanistan: The Media Tantrum Continues

Image via learnin.grow.com

The MSM continues to pitch a fit about something that’s going about as well possible: the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. A retreat by a losing army is always chaotic. Repeat after me: our side lost the war.

As of this writing, over 80,000 people have been airlifted out of Kabul.

Thus far, there have been no American casualties since the Afghan government collapsed. None, zero, zilch.

The MSM’s accusations that Team Biden is detached from the reality on the ground amount to projection. Someone else is into projection and pitching fits until he gets his way:

I didn’t know that Garbage Pail Kids were around in 2016. It works in 2021 as well. Topps is the top as Cole Porter would have surely said at this point.

The MSM’s creepy attachment to Trump is behind the tantrum. It’s a sick S&M relationship. During the Trump regime, the MSM were the masochists, now they’re the sadists inflicting pain on Team Biden for not being like cruel, criminal, and cretinous Trumpers. It’s all summed up in this song by The Tubes:

Ouch.

One could even call the MSM Trump fetishists.

Speaking of great music from the 1970’s, this Kinks song sung from the perspective of a twisted headmaster who enjoys spanking students works as well.

Sometimes being old comes in handy.

I, for one, am appalled by this OTT display of displaced rage. The media’s clicks are down because the Kaiser of Chaos is no longer in office. They’ve opted to punish President Biden for something that was inevitable unless we stayed forever. Repeat after me: our side lost the war.

Don’t trust me, listen to a disabled Afghanistan veteran, Dan Berschinski:

When the twin towers fell, I was a high school senior deep in college applications. The United States Military Academy topped my list. Watching the devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, unfold, I knew the Army would be part of the response, though I figured that response would be over by the time I graduated from West Point. Never did I imagine that, eight years later, I would be leading soldiers in a war provoked by that one terrible day.

Yet lead them I did, across Afghanistan, witnessing horrors and enduring losses I still struggle to describe. What I saw there convinced me that the awful scenes we are now witnessing were inevitable — and that President Biden deserves credit for nonetheless braving the fallout to do the right thing by our troops.

I saw early warning signs as a U.S. Army infantry platoon leader on my first mission in Kandahar in 2009. In my very first conversation with a local, a shopkeeper told me: “Lieutenant, I met the previous American lieutenant 12 months prior, I will meet another American lieutenant in 12 months when you leave.” He did not like the Taliban, the shopkeeper told me, but it would be in Afghanistan long after I would — and so he had no choice but to deal with it.

It’s their country, not ours. It certainly doesn’t belong to the tantrum throwing American media who pine for worse times under the Impeached Insult Comedian. Think about that: they want things to be worse so they can have higher ratings and more clicks.

Even some of the military brass who oversaw our Afghan misadventure have seen the light:

Then-Vice President Joe Biden was right when he urged then-President Barack Obama to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Sunday, adding that the US could have left Afghanistan earlier.

“I thought we could turn it around, obviously, I was wrong,” Mullen, who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, told ABC News on “This Week.”

Mullen also said that the US should have withdrawn its troops after the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Who are we going to listen to: the MSM and former Bush officials or Mike Mullen?

Joe Biden was right from the start.

Being loud does not make you right. Some of us learned that from the Trump regime. The MSM has not.

We all threw tantrums when we were children. My mother would let me cry it out, especially if it was an unreasonable tantrum. That’s all we can do with this ongoing tantrum by the MSM. Unfortunately, this tantrum will have unpleasant and even dire consequences.

If only it were possible to put the MSM into a time-out. They’ve clearly lost their minds. The last word is a chill pill from Steely Dan.

The Katrina-Kabul Connection

One reason I’m feeling so cantankerous of late is that it’s August. Everyone in New Orleans gets tetchy at this time of year as the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent Federal Flood approaches. It’s been 16 years since the most important moment of my life. You might not be reading this if not for that epic disaster. It’s why I became an internet writer or blogger as we used to call ourselves.

I’m struck by the similarity of the MSM’s coverage of Katrina’s aftermath and the collapse of the Afghan government. The words that come to mind are shrill, hyperbolic, and over the top. To watch CNN after the storm was to believe there was widespread looting, arson, and mayhem. The looped footage typically included people clinging to rooftops, stealing teevees, and images of the Beer Looter Dude. Over and over again.

In August and September of 2005, the MSM floated unsupported rumors of murders at evacuation sites such as the Super Dome and Convention Center. Over and over again.

I recall watching a reporter do a standup in front of some burning houses and proclaiming that the “Garden District is on fire.” It was not. The burning houses were on Napoleon Avenue, which is not in the Garden District. The looped footage and misattribution continued. Over and over again.

There *was* chaos in New Orleans after Katrina and the Federal Flood but it was not as widespread as the MSM coverage would have you believe. That coverage inspired my skepticism of all on-the-fly live reporting from a disaster area or war zone.

In 2021, the MSM is whipping up hysteria over events in Afghanistan by looping footage of children being lifted over razor wire and desperate people hanging onto airplanes. Over and over again.

There *is* some chaos after the fall of Kabul. Losing armies tend to collapse at the end of a losing war. Make no mistake about it: the side we backed lost this war. Much of the MSM, however, seems disinterested in reporting items such as this:

As always, Chris Wallace is willing to sail against the prevailing winds of his own network.

As for the lemmings of the MSM, they prefer headlines like the “Calamity Plane” headline in the feature image. It’s a good pun but an inaccurate headline.

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The Last Sane Person On Cable News

I’ve been harshly critical of the MSM’s coverage of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan here, here, and here. Cable news has been particularly shrill and sensational. They’re up to their old trick of looping footage. In this case of the woman handing a child over barbed wire at the Kabul airport. It’s given me Katrina coverage flashbacks. I’ll have more about that next week.

The coverage has largely ignored the three Americans most responsible for bogging us down in this 20-year quagmire: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld. They started the war, then moved on to another disaster: Iraq.

Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo deserve their share of the blame. They strengthened the Taliban and pressured the Pakistanis to release the man who now is the leader of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar,

Joe Biden is taking all the blame. He agrees that the buck stops with him but, he issued the order, and the military was in charge of implementing the withdrawal. There’s lots of blame to go around.

In the end, we were on the losing side of a 40+ year civil war. There’s no tidy way to exit as those of us old enough to have lived through the fall of Saigon know first-hand.

That brings me to the last sane person on cable news: MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell.  As his colleagues have overdramatized events in Afghanistan by focusing on the trees, not the forest. Lawrence has kept his eye on the big picture.

(The post title is, of course, my version of the hyperbole being peddled by an overwrought MSM. Nothing wrong with a bit of hyperbole among friends.)

Last night, Lawrence opened The Last Word with a brilliant essay about the withdrawal.  I quote extensively from it after the break.

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The Ne(x)t War

Hacker at Computer

Everyone here at First Draft has been expounding on the events in Afghanistan this past week or so. If, dear reader, you are so inclined (and I highly recommend it) take a look at Cassandra’s post or Adrastos or my brother Michael, Michael F. All are excellent reads worthy of your time.

I am, like President Joey B. Shark, moving on.

I want to talk about the next war, mostly because it’s already underway.

In case you haven’t noticed, there are nearly constant attacks against Western citizens and companies via the internet. Just today T-Mobile had to admit they had been hacked to the tune of 40 million people having their personal info, including addresses and Social Security numbers, stolen. But they are not the only ones and are far from being the first. Hell, go back far enough and you might discover that this war has been going on longer than the one in Afghanistan.

And it’s not going to end any time soon.

One of the problems is that we first have to admit that it IS a war. You may think that these hacks are being done by some Incel in his parent’s basement as Donald Trump claimed about the DNC hack, but I’m here to tell you it’s pretty obvious that backdoor cyber attacks by individuals or even groups of non governmental individuals are unlikely. Contrary to the myth Hollywood has created, little Matthew Broderick can’t hack into NORAD from his Commodore 64. Nor can any of the individuals, fictional or not, who have tried to ransomware a hacked system. They may have started out as lone wolves, but as the targets became more complicated the individual pirate became a band of pirates and then, just like England in the age of Elizabeth, the pirates went to work for governments. These attacks are coming from well funded government led operations, the kind that, were they in the physical world, would be called guerilla warfare. So first we have to come to the realization that we are in a war and call it that, not cybercrime.

Power grids get hacked. Military computers get hacked. The systems controlling air traffic and even traffic lights get hacked. Elections get hacked. As Deep Throat would say (no not “follow the money”) who benefits? You are talking about a gradual even long term series of attacks on various but vital aspects of everyday life in the West. Tell me, what would cause more deaths, the bombing of one building or the sudden take down of the air traffic control system? 3000 people versus who knows how many of the average of 1.2 million people on flights at any given moment? Think about this, even the most Luddite, living off the grid, burying their money in cans out in the backyard, Survivalist nut case still has to drive a car. That becomes more difficult with no gas because the pipelines have been shut down and more dangerous because the traffic lights are completely turned off. Everyone would be affected. If you wanted to bring rioting and civil unrest to a country this would be the modern way of doing it. Especially if you have a coordinated fifth column of citizens living in the country who would be welcoming the arrival of your “peacekeepers” with rose petals and open arms, all covered live by their favorite faux news network.

Not to mention if you add in a natural disaster like an earthquake or an unchecked forest fire or a pandemic you could bring an entire nation to it’s knees without firing a single shot.

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Righteous Indigination

I’ve been angry all week. It’s not the ranting, raving, and yelling kind of anger. It’s more of a slow burn over the egregious stupidity and malakatude in the news. I dislike feeling this angry, I prefer to be detached from the news of the day, ice it down with sarcasm, and dismiss it with mockery. I used to compare my style with Athenae’s by calling her fire and me ice. I’m feeling fiery this week, but at least it’s with righteous indignation.

I remain vexed and worse by the MSM coverage of Afghanistan:

In its desperation to nail Biden, the DC MSM has neglected to mention the creeps who got us into the Afghan mess:

Cable news is full of former Bush officials attacking the withdrawal. The worst are the Never Trumpers who are showing their true colors by waving their neo-con freak flags. Imagine if Biden had stayed with the small force bequeathed to him by Trump. The Taliban was still likely to make their move and 2,500 soldiers could not have defeated them. That would have led to a genuine bloodbath.

Speaking of former President* Pennywise, there’s a conspiracy theory that he set a trap for Biden with last year’s deal with the Taliban. While it may have turned into a trap, I’m skeptical that it was planned. For one thing, Trump never looks more than a week down the road. For another, he expected to win the election and still believes he did. I think he could pass a polygraph test about the “rigged election.” Believe me.

One more tweet from someone else on how Democrats *should* be reacting:

I for one refuse to give an inch and be reasonable. Any withdrawal was going to be messy. It’s what happens when you lose a war.

Stick to your guns, Mr. President. The war was wrong to begin with. It’s time for it to end.

Also inspiring my righteous indignation are the Covid deniers and mask warriors. Anyone surprised?

Freedom, man.

Yesterday, a friend reported about going to his local CVS. It was jam packed with people buying a new home COVID test in order to comply with the city’s vaccination/test mandate. The tests are five bucks a pop and only valid for 72 hours. It would be much easier and cheaper to get jabbed but that would violate their rights or some such shit.

Freedom, man.

I wrote about wingnut preacher Tony Spell for Bayou Brief last year. He flooded a state education board meeting with his unmasked parishioners forcing them to stop debating whether or not school kids should mask up. Governor Edwards thinks so and so do all rational people. Freedom. man.

We’re all sick and tired of being sick and tired of the anti-mask and anti-vaxx crowd. The burden of everything COVID related is being placed on those of us doing the right thing. I hate wearing a mask, but I do it. Adults do things they don’t like because they’re the right thing to do. Something the Covid deniers will never understand. Hence my righteous indignation.

Freedom, man.

The last word goes to Ron Sexsmith with a song whose title is a play on the word indignation.

 I Won’t Forget

Our fearless leader has written 2 thorough and excellent pieces about the Afghanistan War and how we got where we are. If you haven’t read them, please do:  here and here. I have some thoughts, too.

There sure are a lot of familiar faces on the TeeVee over the last few days, blathering on about Afghanistan and tut-tutting over President Biden’s decision to get the hell out of, well, hell. They seem to think they have a blank slate for selling their snake oil. Well, I remember who they are and what they did.

In 1990, Iraq annexed Kuwait and we were supposed to feel it was justified because Kuwaiti women weren’t allowed to drive. Hey, it was going to be awesome! The US was going to beat back these sexist bullies and Kuwaiti women would be able to drive!

In reality there was no reason for the US to go to war with Iraq. But there was plenty of incentive for the Saudi-loving Bush family to protect their monster friends’ oilfields which were close enough for the invading Iraq army to take over. And so the propaganda machine took over. A DC public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, funded by the Kuwaiti government, began pumping out disinformation to convince Congress to authorize war.

The nadir of the lying was the Congressional testimony of a nurse who said she saw Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators and throw them on the floor. This was all it took to convince Congress to go to war. The truth was that she was a member of the Kuwaiti royal family lying and playing a role. But the damage was done.

George H.W. Bush set a deadline of midnight January 16, 1991 for US demands to be met. On the evening of January 16 I attended an interfaith peace service at National Cathedral that culminated in a silent candlelit protest walk to the White House. Houses along Massachusetts Avenue had candles in their windows, and residents stood in their front yards holding candles in solidarity. Of course it didn’t work. But I won’t forget what happened.

The Iraq War was advanced by even more egregious lies and a news media drunk on ratings. Taking their cue from CNN’s non-stop coverage of the Gulf War, this time all of the networks threw in big time. And the Republicans had upped their propaganda approach:  instead of a Kuwaiti royal playacting to tug on the heartstrings of unsophisticated rubes, this time the government made sure reporters got to go play soldier, complete with flak jackets and Jeep rides with the troops. War was exciting! There were big guns!

I didn’t buy any of it. Just like in 1991, I wholly opposed this war because it was all fake news. I took a lot of crap for telling the truth then but the Iraq War was wrong. It was founded on lies related to the 9/11 attacks and it was sustained by media outlets who put profit over truth. And eventually the whole house of cards collapsed.

Now that Biden has taken the steps to end 30 fucking years of wars built on lies, fought by other people’s sons and daughters and designed to make money for people who are already obscenely wealthy, all sorts of stuck pigs are squealing. A bunch of cowards who won’t make their names public are whispering to reporters at the outlets that are the most complicit in repeating the propaganda of rich people with power—CNN, Politico, Axios—about how it’s not their fault. Multiple sources looking to cover their asses after they put their fingerprints all over the Afghanistan fiasco are now bleating self-interested lies to organizations that love to uncritically print pre-digested GOP talking points.

People who perpetuate lies are always angry when their lies are uncovered and they will scramble to drown out the truth by making more noise. I’ll let Jack Mirkinson have the last paragraph as he excoriates some of the worst people liberals made heroes by not thinking critically enough during the Trump years:

But too many in our media cannot seem to admit this, and too many outlets are rolling out the red carpet for the usual gallery of unrepentant hawks. In the Washington Post, Max Boot called the withdrawal “the worst U.S. foreign policy failure since the fall of Saigon in 1975,” which would be news to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the Iraq War, and wondered (yet again) why the U.S. couldn’t just keep troops in Afghanistan forever. NPR decided it was a good idea to ask John Bolton what he thought. In the Atlantic, Tom Nichols told readers, “Afghanistan is your fault,” castigating the American people for demanding an end to the war:

Biden was right, in the end, to bite the bullet and refuse to pass this conflict on to yet another president. His execution of this resolve, however, looks to be a tragic and shameful mess and will likely be a case study in policy schools for years to come. But there was no version of “Stop the forever war” that didn’t end with the fall of Kabul. We believed otherwise, as a nation, because we wanted to believe it. And because we had shopping to do and television to watch and arguments to be had on social media.

So Biden was right to end the war but Americans are still the villains because we care about shopping. Makes sense. Maybe what is happening is the fault of the people who have presided over this calamity for 20 years?

The last word goes to Depeche Mode:

Another Bright Shining Lie

I’ve often written that Watergate was my formative political experience. I hereby amend that to primary formative political experience. Recent events have reminded me that the Vietnam War also shaped my worldview. It’s the ultimate cautionary tale: wars should only be fought in the national interest and should not be entered into lightly. That was the original sin of the Afghanistan War: we intervened in a hurry without thinking things through. The bill finally came due in 2021.

My family was divided during the Vietnam conflict. My father was a hawk. My mother was a dove. She wasn’t crazy about the hippie protestors as they offended her Scandinavian sense of order and decorum, but she still quietly supported the anti-warriors.

I recall a fierce argument between my parents over one of mom’s bridge playing buddies. Betty was a Quaker and a pacifist. She strenuously objected to all wars but once Richard Nixon, who was raised a Quaker, was president she became an anti-war activist because of his blatant hypocrisy.

My memory is hazy, but I recall that Betty and her fellow Friends staged a sit-in at a military installation somewhere in the Bay Area. They were arrested. Betty was the spokesperson for the group and appeared on the local news. My father thought this was a bridge too far and demanded that my mother bar Betty from their home. He argued that it would be bad for her real estate business to associate with a radical peacenik. Mom stood her ground and refused to go along. Her dovish hippie wannabe son was proud of her.

That brings me to the post title. Last night, Lawrence O’Donnell opened The Last Word with a segment comparing Vietnam and Afghanistan. He lamented that his dream guests, David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan were no longer alive. They wrote the best two books about the American misadventure in Vietnam. Sheehan’s book, A Bright Shining Lie inspired the title of this post. I only steal from the best.

A Bright Shining Lie told the story of American counter-insurgency guru John Paul Vann who was a true believer in the Vietnam mission. Vann loved the country and its people and became frustrated with the military brass who saw them as pieces to be moved around as if in a game of Risk. Hence the featured image.

The bright shining lie told to the American people during Vietnam was that the war was winnable and worth the sacrifice. The same lies were repeated by the Bush-Cheney administration and their supporters in the media about Afghanistan and Iraq. In the aftermath of 9/11, the Washington Post and New York Times became cheerleaders and apologists for Team Bush’s mendacious war effort. The past is prologue as both news organizations dusted off their pom-poms and went into action over the Afghanistan mishigas without, of course, mentioning their complicity in the initiation of our endless wars. Why ruin a sensational story with the facts?

The collapse of the Afghan government and army confirms the truth of a phrase attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “”Events are in the saddle and ride mankind.”

That’s truer now than in Emerson’s day. They didn’t have to deal with hot takes on the Tweeter Tube.

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The Inevitable Ending

19th Century Map Of Afghanistan.

The images from Afghanistan are terrible as is the media coverage. The MSM is venting its pent-up anger at the Biden administration for being dull and not as much fun to cover as the Trump regime. I wish I were making this up, but I am not.

I used a 19th Century map of Afghanistan to illustrate the folly of nation building in such a mountainous and primitive nation. The US is merely the latest foreign power to fail in Afghanistan. The British Empire and Tsarist Russia played the so-called Great Game over it for nearly a century; neither prevailed. In the 20th Century, the Soviet Union destroyed itself in its failed attempt to prop up an unpopular Communist government in Afghanistan.

As a history buff, I was always dubious of the American adventure in Afghanistan. It began as an exercise in revenge against Osama Bin Laden that morphed into nation building. It was mission creep at its creepiest.

History also teaches us that the most passionate side usually wins a Civil War. The late Afghan government resembled that of South Vietnam before the fall. It was corrupt, incompetent, and did not control most of the country. In both cases, American blood, treasure, and wishful thinking propped up feeble regimes. When that support was pulled, collapse was inevitable.

I am shocked that people are so shocked. A happy ending was never possible in Afghanistan. The only alternative was to muddle through as we had for the last 20 years. Were we supposed to keep doing the same thing for another 20 years? 50 years? A century?

President Obama was elected on a pledge to end the endless wars. He delivered in Iraq, but the chances of a Ba’ath Party restoration were slim. He was rolled by the military over an Afghan withdrawal because the Taliban were in the mountains shooting at the government. The Taliban are genuinely evil, BUT there are always rebels in the mountains shooting at the government in Afghanistan.

Joe Biden was among those on Team Obama who wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan early on. He had always doubted the wisdom of nation building in a tribal society, but lost that argument to Bob Gates, Hillary Clinton, and the military.

President Biden made the right decision 6 weeks ago. It was based on the best-case scenario: that the government could at least hold Kabul. Instead, the worst-case scenario, a rapid Taliban takeover has occurred. That illustrates the failure of 20 years of nation building, not an “intelligence failure.” Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Biden should stick to his guns.

I heard Biden described as “naive” to withdraw from Afghanistan. Wrong. This was a cold-blooded, clear-eyed example of realpolitik. It *may* have served the national interest to be there 20 years ago, but the world has changed. This tragic ending was inevitable. The only way it could have been altered was to continue what Gore Vidal called “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

Washington insiders are doing what they do best: playing the blame game. There’s a lot of blame to go around, but it was hubris to assume that the United States could succeed at something that every other great power had failed at. That was our approach in Vietnam, but we tried it again in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re slow learners.

Both the blame game and the great game are exercises in futility, folly, and failure.

The last word goes to Todd Rundgren’s Utopia:

Finally

On October 7, 2001, President George W. Bush announced the start of American military operations in Afghanistan.

On April 14, 2021, President Joe Biden announced US withdrawal from Afghanistan effective September 11, 2021. He delivered his exit address in the same place in the White House that Bush kicked off what Biden called the “forever war.”

After nearly 20 years, our longest war is about to end. Finally.

American objectives were achieved in 2011 with the death of Osama Bin Laden but we stayed and stayed and stayed.

The military has a term for what happened in Afghanistan: Mission Creep. We moved from fighting terrorists to nation building. We haven’t been adept at nation building since the Marshall Plan. It did not go well in Afghanistan.

Biden was one of the dovish members of the Obama administration when it came to Afghanistan. He favored withdrawal after Bin Laden’s death. We stayed, we surged, we stayed.

No foreign power has ever won a war in Afghanistan. Its mountainous terrain means that there will always be insurgents in the mountains shooting at the government. Same as it ever was.

In the 19th Century great power tussling over Afghanistan was called “the great game.” It was strictly for losers. The Soviet Union learned that the hard way between 1979-1989.

The Taliban are horrible but American military might was only able to hold them at bay. It’s an unwinnable war.

Here’s how President Biden summed up the reasoning behind his decision:

I know there are many who will loudly insist that diplomacy cannot succeed without a robust US military presence to stand as leverage. We gave that argument a decade. It’s never proved effective, not when we had 98,000 troops in Afghanistan and not when we were down to a few thousand. Our diplomacy does not hinge on having boots in harm’s way, US boots on the ground. We have to change that thinking. American troops shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries. That’s nothing more than a recipe for keeping American troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.

I also know there are many who’ll argue that we should stay, stay fighting in Afghanistan because withdrawal would damage America’s credibility and weaken America’s influence in the world. I believe the exact opposite is true. We went to Afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. That cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021.

Finally some finality.

The last word goes to Yes:

 

Bountygate Nouveau

I suspect that the original Bountygate is forgotten everywhere but in New Orleans. It was the accusation that there was a bounty system on the New Orleans Saints for hits against opposing players. The NFL came down hard on the “implicated” coaches and players including head coach Sean Payton who was suspended for a year. It turned out to be sound and fury signifying nothing after further investigation. That’s a fancy way of saying that it was bullshit.

Bountygate Noveau is infinitely more serious:

American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.

<SNIP>

The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.

The Trump regime is tripping over itself to explain away the latest foreign policy scandal. My favorite excuse is that the Impeached Insult Comedian didn’t read the briefing papers. That’s the presidential* equivalent of that old standby “the dog ate my homework.” Trump, of course, hates dogs. I wonder when they’ll move on to “my grandmother died.” That won’t work either: his grandparents are long dead.

Shortly after the meeting cited by the NYT, President* Pennywise resumed his push to restore Russia to the G-7. How dare Obama ban Putin for attacking and conquering the Crimea? They were just taking it back. #sarcasm. Of course, Trump doesn’t know it used to be part of the Soviet Union and Russian Empire. All he knows is that Putin is a tough guy, not a fake tough guy like himself.

Joe Biden pounced on the latest Trump-Putin scandal:

“Not only has he failed to sanction and impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law, Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin,” the former vice president said.

Biden called it a “betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation — to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.”

FYI, the featured image shows the aftermath of Putin throwing the ball and Trump fetching it like a good dog. It’s unclear if Putin scratched his head or gave him a treat as a reward. Good boy, Donald.

On a more serious note, this is NOT the first time that a Republican president has endangered the lives of our soldiers. In its rush to war, the Bush-Cheney administration failed to give the troops proper equipment such as body armor. Like W, President* Pennywise can’t be bothered with the details. So much for caring about the military.

I called this post Bountygate Nouveau because it’s a fresh scandal but reminiscent of past scandals. If it were a wine, it would be Beaujolais Nouveau, which a friend of mine insists on calling Boojelly. I’m not sure if the wine image works but I’m not a sommelier. There ain’t no cure for the sommelier blues

The last word goes to the Lincoln Project with an instant response ad to this newly vinted (decanted?) scandal:

The Boy Ain’t Right: Taliban, Ho

When Trump tweeted about the peace conference with the Taliban, I assumed he was lying. Meeting at Camp David with the terrorist group that sheltered Osama Bin-Laden this close to the 18th anniversary of 9/11 made no sense. Additionally, I assumed that even the Insult Comedian knew it was idiotic to leak news of a failure. I was wrong. It’s true and Trump *is* stupid and delusional enough to tweet about a failure.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

Here’s the deal: to make peace, one has to negotiate with one’s enemies. The Oslo talks between Israel and the PLO are the best example I can think of. But the leaders at the top of the food chain were not involved until a deal was sealed by their subordinates. Being a narcissist, Trump wanted to be the closer, which is one of many reasons this deal collapsed.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

A signing ceremony this close to 9/11 would allow President* Pennywise to make that solemn anniversary about him, not those who died in the attacks.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

The collapse of the negotiations and Trump’s leak make success less likely. I think we should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible BUT Trump has made that much harder. He’s not only discredited himself, he’s discredited peacemaking for the time being. Heckuva job, Trumpy.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

I never thought I’d say anything nice about Dick Cheney’s horrible spawn but at least Liz Cheney had the guts to criticize this move from the right. You know the world is upside down when I say anything nice about any Cheney.

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

I wish I could figure out how to make lemonade out of this lemon of a deal. The best I can do is to give The Police the last word with a song that works even better now than it did when it was released in 1980:

Repeat after me: THE BOY AIN’T RIGHT.

MOAB DICK

Call me Ishmael. Call me anything; just don’t call me late when supper’s ready.

Last week’s astonishing series of Trump administration* foreign policy u-turns and flip flops convinced some in the MSM that the long-awaited PIVOT had come. The Insult Comedian actually got some positive press as the media drooled over the “beautiful” missiles that struck Syria. Lyin’ Brian actually out malaproped Gum Spice on that one. Instead of gushing over Trumpian manliness, the MSM should be worried about the erratic course this incompetent and incoherent administration* is steering. 

While many in the MSM became tumescent over Donald’s dick waving, those of us who do satire searched (groped?) for the right analogy. As you can see above, Dr. Strangelove references are popular with the madcap zanies at Wonkette. They got there first so that’s Slim Pickens for me. That’s when a military acronym exploded in my head: MOAB.

MOAB is, of course, military speak for the mother of all bombs. They’ve been around for a while but neither Bush nor Obama wanted to drop the very big one. The Donald is made of stupider stuff: how could he resist dropping the biggest non-nuclear bomb in history? It’s like being Dirk Diggler for a day. y’all. It *almost* made us forget his teeny, tiny hands. Almost.

MOAB was tailor-made for Trump. He’s just another boomer chicken hawk whose manhood is linked in his own mind with weaponry. Bombs are glimmering phalluses hence MOAB Dick. I have the feeling that the Insult Comedian never finished Moby Dick, so he might want to pick up one of these nifty comix. Cliff’s Notes are so un-presidential.

It’s from 1942, so it’s older and rarer than Trump-hab. His white whale was the White House, which has become such an Albatross that he spends every weekend at Mar-A-Lugee. We’re also treated to endless stories of the struggle between Bannon and young Jared as they vie to be Ishmael to Trump’s Ahab. The Melville character was the sole survivor of the Pequod and narrated Moby Dick. My money is on Jared. He married the boss’ daughter and gave the president* grandchirren. All Bannon gave him was the White House. Jared is blood. Blood trumps everything in Trump World: “Call me Jared. I survived.” He *is* a two-legged cockroach, after all.

Back to the dangerous situation caused by Trump’s face off with pipsqueak North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. They’re actually peas in a very crazy pod. Both will do *anything* for attention, which is why the Obama administration’s policy of’ “strategic patience” was a wise one. When a toddler pitches a tantrum at the dinner table, one can either ignore them or go the time-out route. Never give them what they want: attention and approval. That’s what the world needs to do with both of these baby men: put them in time-out.

Our Asian allies are noticeably unenthusiastic about toddler tantrum as policy:

Those in the US&A who would like a manly “preemptive strike” on North Korea forget the fact that it’s the Republic of Korea that will suffer the consequences. It’s a friendly nation, and has become a democracy during my lifetime. South Korea is going through a painful political scandal and has no appetite for Trumper dick waving. I wonder if he even knows about the impeachment and indictment of former President Park Guen-hye

The Darnold is a profoundly, indeed militantly, ignorant man. He was convinced until recently that China could order North Korea to knock it off.  Wrong.The Kim family dynasty have long been China’s crazy communist cousin. The PRC has influence but Kim Jong-un and his generals run the show in Pyongyang. I’m waiting for another overgrown toddler, Dennis Rodman, to revive wormplomacy and offer to serve as an intermediary.  The Insult Comedian might take him up on it: Rodman appeared on Celebrity Apprentice twice. I hear the ratings were better than on Arnold’s watch. Believe me.

Another thing strikes me about Trump’s new role as MOAB Dick to the world. He’s facing off with two family dynasties in Syria and North Korea. Perhaps that’s why he thinks he can solve these problems: he learned about dynastic power at Fred Trump’s dinner table. The Assads and the Kims, however, put the nasty in dynasty. They’re not going anywhere even though we all wish they would. It’s much harder than dealing with other developers, gangsters, Ed Koch, and Gary Busey. Believe me.

Team Trump’s effort in wagging the dog and distracting attention from their scandals has been surprisingly effective. It’s the only thing they’ve gotten right thus far, but the act isn’t going over very well in Seoul and Tokyo. It’s time for them to put the MOAB Dick back in their pants and zip it about North Korea. Twitplomacy won’t work any better than wormplomacy despite Rodman’s tremendous tattoos. Believe me.

I didn’t plan to write such a long post. I guess the Melville geist has taken hold. It’s time to meet Bartleby the Scrivener for coffee. I hope he doesn’t consider me the Melvillain of the piece…

Save One

We are arguing about how much of the house is on fire, with the refugee/immigrant ban. We are arguing closet versus attic versus living room, instead of picking up a damn bucket and putting the fire out:

President Trump and his aides love to cite a small number and a big number in order to minimize the impact of the president’s executive order suspending the visas of citizens of seven countries.

But these figures are incredibly misleading, so let’s go through the math.

Let’s not, because it doesn’t fucking matter. I don’t care if this executive order affected one person.  I don’t care if this hadn’t affected ANYONE yet. In no possible world are any of our laws tested constitutionally based on how many people they affect. That’s not the measurement. That’s not the qualifier. You don’t get to say well, we only screwed over a dozen immigrant kids, so until we get to triple digits we’re cool. That’s not how any of this works.

Our laws were not designed to save as many as possible. Our laws were designed to save us all, and that means saving one. One person. One child. One family. One mother or father or brother or sister. Our laws were designed to weigh us all, one against the other, and say no one of us is worth more than any of the others.

It’s why our presidents, our congressmen, are subject to our laws. It’s why you can bring suit against those holding the highest offices in the land. It’s why you and I can — or should be able to — avail ourselves of the same legal system as someone who got here last week.

And that includes potential terrorists, for all the wingnuts in the cheap seats. I know you all think life is a nonstop episode of 24 and if President Trump doesn’t personally electrode a Syrian dude’s balls in the Roosevelt Room then we’ll all die in a nuclear attack, but a) that is not how anything is going to happen and b) at no point would such a scenario be endangered by said Syrian dude invoking a right to counsel. If Trump is hooking jumper cables to his nethers he’s already figured out that nobody can hear him scream.

Meanwhile, the non-terrorist families that just want to come here, get jobs, spend money at the local Wal-Mart and watch American TV are going to get handcuffed and deported back to the places we explicitly encouraged them to flee, and you’ll pardon me if I don’t want to wait until they’re a certain percentage of travelers or if they’re especially promising at geometry or any of the other bullshit narratives that have sprung up in the past 72 (holy shit, only 72) hours.

They’re human beings, and we are America. Let’s not go through the math.

A.

The Fog Of History: Last Days In Vietnam

Last night we watched the American Experience documentary Last Days In Vietnam. It’s quite simply an amazing film, and one doesn’t have to have supported that war to be moved by the tales of heroism by Americans and Vietnamese alike. It all happened 40 years ago, but director Rory Kennedy and some of the most interesting talking heads I’ve ever seen in a documentary make it come alive as if it happened the other day.

There were vast swaths of the film that played like a thriller; the stories of individual bravery and moral courage. We all know the big picture: the North Vietnamese invaded in March and the corrupt and feeble South Vietnamese government folded like a poker player with a pair of deuces. The US Congress, quite rightly, refused to throw good money after bad and didn’t grant the Ford-Kissinger request for more funds to be stolen by Generals Thieu, Ky and their cronies. The worst talking head is, unsurprisingly, Henry Kissinger who recycles the same lies that he’s been peddling for the last 40 years: Nixon good, liberals bad. So it goes.

One of the most compelling American talking heads is Richard Armitage. Yes, *that* Richard Armitage of Colin Powell and Valerie Plame fame. He was a bona fide hero of the evacuation, choosing to disregard orders in favor of saving the lives of Vietnamese who might have faced death at the hands of the Communists. As I listened to Armitage’s tales of derring-do, I couldn’t help thinking of his role in W’s Iraq War. Both Armitage and his close friend and associate General Powell were opposed to the war and convinced it would lead to disaster. They were right but lacked the individual bravery and moral courage Armitage showed in 1975 and did not resign.

I wish we had more of a tradition of public officials resigning over matters of principle and policy. The Johnson administration was honeycombed with senior officials opposed to the Vietnam War. None of them resigned and went public with their criticism. Hell, even President Johnson had serious doubts about his war policy but he stumbled ahead out of fear of being called weak. Truman was accused of “losing China” and LBJ didn’t want to be the first President to lose a war. Instead, he lost the American people and damaged his place in history. The war itself was lost in 1975. So much for Nixonian “peace with honor.”

Sipping a Maker’s Mark on the rocks later in the evening, I contemplated our two great recent foreign policy disasters and what they did to the country. Vietnam had a more searing impact on the national psyche because *everyone* alive at the time knew someone who served in Vietnam. Presidents had always lied but LBJ and Tricky Dick were exposed telling some major whoppers and people haven’t trusted the government ever since. Their mendacity gave a boost to the Reaganite credo “guvmint isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.”

Bush, Cheney, and Rummy’s Iraq fiasco is turning out to be a bigger geopolitical disaster than Vietnam. The Obama presidency has been, in part, devoted to cleaning up their mess but the rampant instability and violence in the Middle East is Bush’s gift to a war weary nation. The Bushies also lied their way into war, but after Vietnam it was assumed that governments did that so the stench has slowly worn off in many quarters.

The general public is more isolated from the personal side of the Iraq-Afghanistan War experiences: most Americans do not know people who served. They “support the troops” but they’ve never met them. That makes it easier to support the next conflict. I’m not going to advocate restoring the draft since I’m old enough to have contemplated it and to have been relieved when it was ended by my old pal Tricky Dick. There is something to be said for a Citizen army though.

Back to Last Days In Vietnam. It got me thinking of a Vietnamese gentleman I got to know when I was a college student. He had been a Colonel in the Vietnamese Army and was running a liquor store when we met. I was fascinated by his stories of the War and how he and his family fled the country in the nick of time. This fine documentary is full of similar stories, which makes it must-see teevee. It’s also a cautionary tale about the folly of going to war in a country whose culture and history one is unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, we made many of the same mistakes in Iraq. Here’s hoping we can avoid them in the future but history has a nasty habit of repeating.

Remembering the War the Way We Have To

This is the one I think of: 

Washington (CNN)One former employee of the private Blackwater Worldwide security company was sentenced Monday to life in prison and three others to 30 years each behind bars for their roles in a 2007 mass shooting in Baghdad that left 17 people dead.

A federal jury convicted the four in October after a lengthy trial that saw some 30 witnesses travel from Iraq to testify against the security contractors. Prosecutors accused the men of illegally unleashed “powerful sniper fire, machine guns and grenade launchers on innocent men, women and children.”

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth sentenced Blackwater sniper Nicholas Slatten to a term of life in prison, mandatory for his first-degree murder conviction. Blackwater workers Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard were sentenced to 30 year each, plus one day.

Remember the reasonable debate we had about the proper role of civilian contractors in a war zone?

Yeah. Me too. 

A.

The Past Isn’t Even Past

Fuck Jeb and his entire family sideways with a rake: 

“I won’t talk about the past,” Bush said on Friday when a reporter asked him about an upcoming foreign policy speech in Chicago, according to Bloomberg Politics. “I’ll talk about the future. If I’m in the process of considering the possibility of running, it’s not about re-litigating anything in the past. It’s about trying to create a set of ideas and principles that will help us move forward.”

The past. Because nobody died today.  Nobody will die tomorrow. It’s the past.

You sick bastard. The bombs and guns and bullets your brother sent over there are still killing people every single day. The soldiers who come home are still dying, years later, some by inches and some by their own hands. And the politics you people poisoned are still burning through this country’s veins, and the way I know that is that you are showing your face in public and no one is throwing rotten fruit.

The past. How nice it must be to be able to shrug it off like that. How nice it must be to wake up free of nightmares, with all your limbs attached. How nice it must be to sleep beside your wife and children, all of whom are alive, beneath a roof without holes in it, in a house with running water, without fear of being fucking BEHEADED by the monsters your actions loosed. It’s the past, for you. How nice. How peaceful. How normal.

How convenient, you fucking horror show. How easy. How small. How mean.

A.

 

lest you be taken in

By the right’s newfound concern for reporters’ lives:

Whatever” seems to be President No Strategy’s standard operating procedure. What now, Obama? As Twitchy reported, horrifying news is coming out Tuesday afternoon. It is being reported that another journalist, Steven Sotloff, has been beheaded by the barbaric savages known as ISIS.

Let’s not forget this.

Note that even after her release, Carroll maintained that she had been treated well by her captors—so it would appear that this journalist for the Christian Science Monitor made these anti-American comments voluntarily.

Or this.

One member of the Pulitzer-winning AP team was AP stringer Bilal Hussein. Hussein’s photos have raised seriouspersistent questions about his relationship with terrorists in Iraq and whether his photos were/are staged in collusion with the enemy.

Or this.

It’s official: Treason is cool and traitors are acceptable sources for journalists. The Pulitzer Prize says so.

Or this.

Every time a journalist dies in horrid agony, the Baby Jesus smiles and shakes his rattle.

Let’s not forget Ann Coulter saying the only problem she had with Timothy McVeigh was that he didn’t drive to the New York Times building.

Let’s not forget Rope. Tree. Journalist.

When a group becomes so dangerous to America as “news” sources, like the Associated Press is, it becomes time to seriously consider the idea that EXTREME FUCKING MEASURES need to be taken.

Let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh mocking reporters detained in the Middle East: 

“It is being breathlessly reported that the Egyptian army . . . is rounding up foreign journalists. I mean even two New York Times reporters were detained. Now this is supposed to make us feel what exactly? . . . Are we supposed to feel outrage – I don’t feel any outrage over it. Are we supposed to feel anger – I don’t feel any anger over this. Do we feel happy? Well – do we feel kinda going like [taunting sound]“

Let’s not forget the last 25 years of attacking the press for anything reported that contradicted their point of view on abortion, war and the second amendment. And then let’s not forget the decade during which the journalists under attack by these freaks sucked up to them and pretended they weren’t serious about having reporters killed: 

When I spoke with her friend Miguel Estrada, an attorney and onetime White House nominee for a judgeship (Estrada asked President Bush to withdraw his name in 2003 after a Democratic filibuster targeted Estrada’s conservatism), he said Coulter’s appeal 15 years ago, when they met, was “the same as it is today. She was lively and funny and engaging and boisterous and outrageous and a little bit of a polemicist … Most of the time, people miss her humor and satire and take her way too literally.”

I began to wonder, in a moistly liberal formulation, whether Ann Coulter might be … misunderstood?

They are not interested in reporters’ lives. They never have been and they never will be. If this wasn’t an opportunity to attack Obama, if this wasn’t a chance to argue for more freedom bombs and more endless war, if this wasn’t their shot to once more be relevant to the public conversation in the eyes of the Stockholmed media executives who are seeing their profits vanish before them, they wouldn’t be saying dick.

This is a way to score points. That’s all this is. They do not love press freedom or the idea of an independent and courageous Fourth Estate.

If this was happening under a Republican president, they’d be making pious noises about the inevitable costs of war and the sacrifices required. Or they’d be intimating that somehow Foley and Sotloff were asking for it, not being embedded with contemptuous troop contingents in the Green Zone somewhere. Or both.

And the way I know that is that when this did happen under a Republican president, this was the response: 

For some reason, Daniel Pearl’s murder has been elevated above those of 3,000 Americans murdered on 9/11, even though the 3,000 were innocent victims on American soil minding their own business. Pearl, on the other hand, was an extremely left-wing, nominal Jew whose reporting repeatedly gave exposure to and legitimization of Islamic terrorists.

Daniel Pearl was killed not minding his own business on an airplane or in an office building, but putting himself at risk chasing more Islamic terrorists to tell their story. But he was a mainstream media reporter–and for one of America’s most prestigious newspapers–so his life, in the mainstream media’s eyes, is far more important than common-folk Americans who conduct America’s commerce and raise families.

And Judea Pearl–in the seven years since his son’s death–has sought to legitimize this same legitimization and appeasement of terrorists, even if he won’t admit it.

They have no shame, they do not care, and their opinions on the brutal murder of a man who by all accounts was a decent person trying to shed some light on one of the most lightless places in the world are worth no more than the wind that howls between their ears.

So when one of them demands action from Obama in the name of the journalist whose barbaric killing so outraged them, ask them if they’d have preferred the rope and the tree, even if some assembly was required.

A.

Obama Enters week one of presidency

It’s about fucking time: 

He said service members leaving the military who are being treated for mental health conditions would now be automatically enrolled in a program in which mental health professionals help them move to VA care.

Currently, service members must be specifically referred to the program by their Defense Department providers or seek out the program on their own.

“Additionally, VA will implement a new policy to ensure that recently discharged service members enrolling in the VA health care system maintain access to mental health medication prescribed by an authorized DoD provider regardless of whether the medication is currently on VA’s formulary,” the White House said.

Did anybody not know the VA was fucked up? I mean, we might not have known how fucked up, but if you talk to any six vets they’ll tell you sixteen horror stories, and given the state of mental health coverage for rich people (it still sucks) with private insurance, does it take a major genius to figure out this was going on?

A.

Rumsfeld Isn’t Sorry

Not that it would matter if he was:

Rumsfeld and McNamara seem to be very different kinds of people.

They couldn’t be more different. But they presided over disastrous wars. That’s not OK. You can be reflective, you can be remorseful, you can be really engaged by the tales of what you have done and haven’t done. And McNamara realized this. There’s no magic slate for any of us; we can’t just pull up the acetate and it all goes away.

McNamara at least had some regrets that he was willing to share.

Rumsfeld is also willing to share the fact that he has no regrets, isn’t sorry, sees nothing wrong with what he’s done. In fact, he’s proud of it.

Well, and I’m not sure it matters either way. If he’s sorry, then fuck him. If he’s not sorry, fuck him. The dead are dead. The wounded are wounded. There aren’t degrees here, where if you’re sorry you go to a slightly higher level of hell. Nobody cares about their immortal souls but them. To the rest of us, all that matters are the results.

A.