Category Archives: War in Iraq

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:

Okay. We Gotta Do This Again.

Fine. FINE, fuckers.

God, this is exhausting, at least with Vietnam they bothered to lie convincingly.

But if we gotta do this again, we gotta do it again. Like I said on Tuesday night, bite down on a stick and get ready to play hurt because that’s all we ever do. The Iraq war was a series of fights against not only the horrific GOP but the shitsack spineless Democrats who thought the only way to escape Republican wrath was to give Republicans literally anything they wanted. SPOILER ALERT IT DIDN’T WORK SO GOOD.

I’d like to think the Dems learned something, but one of my resolutions from like eleventy-fuck years ago was to stop deluding myself. They ain’t learned shit. They’ve spent the last two days online and on TV hedging their bets like “I’m glad this bad guy is dead BUT” instead of saying something along the lines of I DON’T CARE WHO THE DEAD GUY WAS THE PRESIDENT IS DONALD TRUMP AND WE’RE IMPEACHING HIM RIGHT NOW FOR BEING TOO DUMB NOT TO CONFESS TO CRIMES ON TV.

I sympathize, somewhat, in that carrying out ill-thought-out assassinations, nominating frathouse rapists to the courts, deporting anything that bugs him, and being a racist prick were pretty much explicitly what Trump ran for president on, so how dare we like, act surprised by literally anything. But it’s not acting surprised to say something other than what every Democratic senator besides Russ Feingold said in 2002 which was “I promise I will be very good, sir, and I trust you not to hit me.” That our national original sin is baked into our Constitution doesn’t make it okay if we continue to sin; there’s a reason confessions end with the exhortation to go forth and knocketh that shit right the fuck off. The lack of will to end shit in 2004 doesn’t make anything happening now okay.

It just means we have to have the same fight again. Fine. We’ll have it again. Disillusionment isn’t an excuse for apathy; if we know we can’t stop it, if we even doubt our ability to slow it down, then at the very least we aren’t starting from zero this time.

We know now that debunking lies is useless and even pointing them out is pointless and the only thing that works is changing the subject. Voting the fuckers out. Registering new Democratic voters, getting the ones we have to show up in November and in every local election from now until then and riding for whatever pathetic half-a-loaf compromise bullshit the Dems nominate as if that person is the second coming of Christ Jesus because we know from bitter experience that’s the only way out of this mess. I will be at every protest just like I have been since this shit started but at least now we know there’s no way out but through.

fightemtilwecan't

A.

 

It’s A Plame Shame

The MSM is full of former Bushies trying to convince the public that President Beavis was a prince among men compared to the Current Occupant. While it’s true that Dubya had better table manners, it should not be forgotten that the Beavis-Duce administration was almost as fond of smear tactics as the Trump regime.

According to Team Bush-Cheney, those of us who opposed the Mess in Mesopotamia were soft on terrorism at best, traitors at worst. The difference between Bushies and Trumpers is that most of the time Dubya let others do the lying and smearing on his behalf.  Genuine upper-class twits swells let the help do the dirty work for them: Poppy had Lee Atwater; Junior had Karl Rove. The Insult Comedian enjoys wallowing in the mud alongside Gym Jordan, Devin Nunes, and John Neely Kennedy. More about the latter next week at the Bayou Brief.

That brings us to two people the Bush administration gleefully smeared: the late Ambassador Joe Wilson and his then CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame. Scooter Libby was convicted of disclosing Plame’s identity: his sentence was commuted by Bush; Trump pardoned him in 2018. Karl Rove escaped indictment by the skin of his teeth; surviving to take up residence as a Fox News pundit. Robert Novak the right-wing columnist who published the story was not indicted either, but the man known as the Prince of Darkness finally went to hell in 2009. It’s unclear if he went there in a bucket: 

I think of Valerie Plame with each Republican demand that the Ukraine scandal whistleblower be outed. Here’s what the spy who was forced out of the cold has to say about it:

“I feel personally for this whistleblower. I know what he’s going through,” says Plame. “His career is over. His world, it’s already been upended. I don’t think he’ll remain anonymous for long.”

The good news is that Valerie Plame survived the Bush smear campaign, moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and started a new chapter in her life. After a tough year in which her father and husband died, she’s landed on her feet again. She’s the subject of a flattering profile in the WaPo and is running as a Democrat for a House seat in New Mexico. This ad is a knockout:

The Plame-Wilson affair was such a cause celebre that a movie based on their respective memoirs was made in 2010, Fair Game. Naomi Watts and Sean Penn played the couple. It’s the rare case in which the real people were more attractive than the actors portraying them. It’s a good movie, check it out if you haven’t seen it.

There was also this song by The Decemberists:

The next time a Bush acolyte tries to tell you that their guy is a much better man than President* Pennywise, remember the smear campaign against Valerie Plame. Dubya just knows what fork to use and would have had the good sense to stay off social media. Otherwise, he set the table for the Insult Comedian’s smear tactics.

I couldn’t resist a rock and roll pun in the post title, so the last word goes to Peter Frampton:

(War) Party Like It’s 2002

You know things are bad when you wish Steve Bannon was still a member of Trump’s inner circle. I cannot believe that I just wrote that sentence but I mean every word of it. Bannon’s sole redeeming characteristic is that he’s on the dovish side and was not a fan of the Iraq War. Trump’s ultra-hawkish national security team is ready for a sequel to the Mess In Mesopotamia: war with Iran.

I was worried about this when John Bolton and his mustache of war joined Team Trump. Bolton is the ultimate chickenhawk: a man who loves war but has never fought except with his mouth. His flashback to his bureaucratic glory days is giving many whiplash:

With the Trump administration slipping onto war footing with Iran, there are growing fears inside Washington that John Bolton, the president’s hawkish national-security adviser, is plagiarizing his own Iraq war playbook. “Everyone feels the shadow of 2002–2003: The administration seems determined to find a cause for conflict; allies are aghast; the public seems disengaged,” a former senior U.S. official told me, shortly after The New York Times reported that administration officials had begun drawing up plans to send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East. “It’s hard for anyone to fathom why [Donald Trump] would think a war of choice is a good idea, given what he’s said in the past about Iraq and Afghanistan.”

As we saw at the dawn of the 21st Century, war plans have a momentum of their own. Bolton may be a cartoon militarist BUT he’s one of the few members of Team Trump who is not a blithering idiot. He’s also a skillful bureaucrat who knows how to manipulate the levers of power.

Bolton has been dreaming of war with Iran for years. He thinks his time has come: he works for a president* who makes Dubya look savvy and well-informed. The axis of assholes is down with some sort of attack on Iran: Bibi and Mister Bone Saw would love to trick a gullible American president* into another Middle Eastern misadventure. Strike the word misadventure, a ground war with Iran would be a catastrophe. It has the potential to make Iraq look like the “cakewalk” of the neo-cons fever dreams.

If a story in the WaPo is to be believed, the Insult Comedian may be dubious of Bolton’s bolt to war:

But President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders.

I hope the story is right but the thought of relying on Trump’s gut instinct gives me indigestion. I’m also leery of counting on his desire to keep a campaign promise. He can always change his story and lie about his previous views. He does it on a daily basis.

The last thing we need is a sequel to the Mess In Mesopotamia. We’ve seen this movie before and it’s bound to end badly.

The last word goes to XTC:

Remembering the War

It’s been a particularly infuriating week, what with pardoning Dick Cheney’s chief of staff and resurrecting the entirety of the monsters’ ball that was the Bush administration to comment on it. We’ve forgotten, people my age say to people younger, what the beginning of the war was. We joke about the memory hole like it’s something new, like Henry Kissinger isn’t our National Foreign Policy Grandpa, like any mention of the antiwar movement doesn’t come with a dozen qualifications.

There’s a reason we don’t remember the war.

We can’t remember it.

It isn’t over.

And it isn’t over because to this day, the only person to face any kind of real consequences for the war (now that Scooter Libby’s been pardoned) was Lynndie England.

Remember Lynndie? Here she is.

Here she is: 

In an attempt to explain her post-traumatic stress disorder, England recounted, “Somebody dropped something off the [store] shelf and I freaked out. It was two aisles down. They dropped something on the floor and made a big bang and I was like, ‘Ah!’ “

On the back of this woman, who seems not very nice but also not very bright, we’ve put the only blame we’ve been able, as a country, to mete out for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, for the destabilization of an entire region of the world, for the betrayal of trust that now spans a generation.

Do you find that photo, up there, sickening? I do. She had no humanity, in that moment and not much since, and that’s what war does. That’s all it does. That’s what torture does, to the torturers.

The people in charge knew that, had every way to know that, had access to the whole of American history and Shakespeare besides, and they still put people like her in a fucking torture prison and said go for it. She went for it, and that’s on her. But they built that prison, and here they are, writing op-eds for Fox News and dancing with talk show hosts and making bank on #NeverTrump, like their lying murdering torturing spying bombing had value because they weren’t eating KFC with a fork.

In a just world, the hierarchy of blame would go something like this: Everyone in the White House from 2000-2008, who either directly promoted this or didn’t throw their bodies on the wheels to stop it. Then every chickenass Democrat up to and including Barack Obama who said we would look forward, not back, and not only didn’t Nuremberg Trial this nonsense but didn’t even bother to censure anyone, such that there’s no historical record and these vampires can claw their way out of the dirt again, like Judith Miller up there who should be breaking rocks in a yard.

THEN everyone who treated it like a video game, and gibbered about it on TV, like Chris Matthews and Brian Williams and Katie Couric. Then our Very Serious Op Ed pundits and Warbloggers, many of whom are now In The Resistance because again, Trump is RUDE about his warmongering and we can’t have that.

Then after we’re done with everybody who knew better but looked at the spreadsheet and said fuck it, after we’re done with power and done with money and done with might, we can get to Lynndie England.

Because she did what she did.

Which is apparently all we can remember.

A.

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.

Speaking Of Dictators

It’s no secret that Donald Trump loves dictators. He’s a Putin praisin’ motherfucker and yesterday he batted his beady, rat-like eyes at a dead dictator. You know, the guy that tried to have Poppy Bush whacked:

“Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. Right? He was a bad guy, really bad guy,” Trump offered as a disclaimer. “But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights—they didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over.”

It’s a classic Insult Comedian formulation: a disclaimer followed by the crazy. I realize that he’s not a fan of due process under the law but the only possible good thing to say about Saddam Hussein is that, in between going to war with Iran and Kuwait, he was kinda sorta a force for regional stability. So sad to say that. So sad.

I’m not sure what audience Trump is trying to appeal to here. The neo-cons like torture but hate Saddam Hussein and the so-called Republican neo-doves aren’t crazy about either. It’s just the sort of dick waving that appeals to GOP primary voters but bombs in the general election. Repeat after me: so much for the Trump pivot.

In other Trump loves dictators news, there’s a fine piece by Franklin Foer at Slate about the Donald’s interactions with the Russians over the years. The title, Putin’s Puppet, is a bit hysterical but the content and analysis are rock solid. The Russians have been flattering Trump for years and Putin, as a good KGB man, has been doing likewise. It turns out that he’s supporting a bunch of right-wing nationalists throughout Europe. His goal is to undermine the EU and NATO as well as the US in order to increase Russian influence. During the Cold War, the KGB subsidized left-wingers but as we all know the line between far left and far right can be a thin and frayed one.

The most interesting section concerns the ties between Team Trump and Russian oligarchs:

While Putin hasn’t dirtied his hands in American elections, the Russians have cultivated Washington—hiring fancy firms to craft strategy, donating money to think tanks, building a small coterie of wonks sympathetic to their leader’s view of the world. The Trump campaign is the unlikely culmination of this effort. It has been a magnet for like-minded fans of Putin. Fans might not be quite the right term, since so many of these advisers have profited from proxies of the Russian state.

Let’s begin at the top. Trump’s campaign manager is a wizened operative named Paul Manafort. It’s true that Manafort is a mercenary by trade. His old Washington consulting firm pioneered the practice of representing the dictators of the world, no matter their grim record. (I profiled his authoritarian ambit earlier this year.) Late in his career, however, Manafort dedicated himself to working on behalf of clients close to the Kremlin. His grand achievement was reviving the doomed career of the anti-charismatic politician Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort’s image-crafting and shrewd strategy culminated in Yanukovych’s election to Ukraine’s presidency in 2010. Thanks to Manafort’s handiwork, Ukraine pulled into Putin’s sphere of influence. Unlike other American consultants who flitted in and out of Kiev, Manafort set up camp there. He became an essential adviser to the president—his tennis partner even.

If Manafort were the only Kremlin connection in the Trump campaign, his presence might signify nothing. But he’s hardly isolated. Many pundits have scoffed at the idea that Trump has a circle of foreign policy advisers given that his initial list of gurus emerged abruptly in March and included names unknown to most experts. Yet the list suggests certain tendencies. One of the supposed Trump whisperers was an investment banker named Carter Page. During a stint in Moscow in the 2000s, he advised the state-controlled natural gas giant, Gazprom and helped it attract Western investors.  (In March, Page told Bloomberg that he continues to own shares in the company.) Page has defended Russia with relish. He wrote a column explicitly comparing the Obama administration’s Russia policy to chattel slavery in the American South. His reasoning: “Numerous quotes from the February 2015 National Security Strategy closely parallel an 1850 publication that offered guidance to slaveholders on how to produce the ‘ideal slave.’ ”

That’s some nice company the Insult Comedian keeps. Foer’s article rises above its click-baity headline to pose some serious questions. Check it out.

Speaking of people who moved from the far left to the far right, I watched a thing about Mussolini at Amazon the other day. It’s a British series called History’s Verdict that takes a historiological look at various participants in World War II. The episode about Il Duce featured some pictures that may have inspired Putin’s shirtless exploits. I give you the Vlad and Benito show:

Putin comp.preview

Putin-Mussolini

I hope Trump has no plans for any beefcake shots. The mere thought could gag a maggot.

That is all.

 

Ahmad Chalabi & The Politics Of Exile

newsweek

I have long been fascinated by political exiles and their outsized dreams and intrigues. Some of them will say or do anything to return home in glory. Ahmad Chalabi was such an exile. He died yesterday at the age of 71.

Chalabi is best known as the Iraqi exile leader who talked the neo-cons into ousting Saddam Hussein by hook or crook; primarily by the latter. Chalabi was a silver-tongued opportunist who started whispering in the ears of official Washington not long after the first Gulf War. His goal was to return to Baghdad accompanied by the American military. As we all know, his dream was realized. It was followed by a nightmare for Iraqis and Americans alike. Things didn’t go as planned for Chalabi. His political career laid an egg: he was largely unknown in Iraq and regarded as an American catspaw by those in the know. They were wrong: he duped the so-called tough guys and hard men of the United States national security apparatus.

Chalabi was a skilled con man and fabricator of “evidence,” which is, perhaps, one reason I find him so appallingly fascinating. He understood his American audience and played to their fears and delusions. To Cheney, it was finish the job you started in 1990. To W, it was avenge your father, Saddam tried to have him whacked. To Rummy, time to show up Poppy Bush for the feckless fool you believe him to be. Con men know what buttons to push and what marks to target: Paul Wolfowitz was born to be conned by Chalabi. Wolfy’s unholy blend of arrogance and gullibility made him the perfect sucker for the likes of Chalabi. As recently as 2014, Wolfy thought his boy Ahmad would be a fine Iraqi Prime Minister even though he’d been playing footsie with Iran for years.

Despite Chalabi’s lies and Machiavellian maneuverings, I don’t blame him for Bush, Cheney, and Rummy’s Iraq misadventure. He was doing what exile politicians do: lying, selling, and exaggerating for his cause. The Bush administration was ostensibly made up of grown-ups who could have said no to the wily con man. They did not: widespread death and destruction ensued. It’s still going on.

Ahmad Chalabi thought he was playing a long con that would make him the ruler of Iraq. Things obviously didn’t turn out as planned. It was, however, a successful short con on terms that only an exile could understand: his target was overthrown and executed.

Wishful thinking and the dreams of exile politicians are a poor basis for policy making. It remains astonishing to me that the Bushies not only followed Chalabi into the rabbit hole, they led the way. The next time an exile tries to sell us a used war, we should pass.

On Disqualification

Everybody is just so shocked and horrified that someone would say something mean about a veteran who served bravely and was hurt in the war: 

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says Donald Trump’s comment that Sen. John McCain is not a war hero should disqualify him from the 2016 presidential race.

“It’s not just absurd, it’s offensive. It’s ridiculous. And I do think it’s a disqualifier as commander-in-chief,” Rubio said in an interview Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

The Florida senator was the latest Republican White House contender to hit Trump after the real estate mogul said Saturday that McCain “is not a war hero” because he was captured and held prisoner in Vietnam.

“He is a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said. “I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”

Since we seem to have an epidemic of historical illiteracy going around these days, here are things that outraged no Republicans whatsoever in 2004 (except, after too much time had passed for it to do any good, John McCain):

PHbdaid

fucktheseassholes

kerrycartoon

kerryfondafake

None of these things bothered the leading lights of the Republican party. None of these seemed to them to be beyond the pale. None of these were worthy of a blistering response, probably because they were useful to the man Kerry was trying to un-seat. This is how that man treated war heroes:

iraq war cemetary

None of his handiwork with regard to veterans bothered Republicans either.

A.

ps. I seem to be turning this into the Defend Donald Trump blog of late, and it’s not intentional, except that watching people act like he’s not saying what they’re thinking is gross and unfair. I do not like the dude, but I like even less the shit people are trying to get away with around him.

 

Charles Kennedy, R.I.P.

Charles Kennedy,  the leader of the British Liberal Democrats from 1999-2007, died today at the age of 55. He was far from perfect: he recently lost his  parliamentary seat in the SNP tsunami and lost his leadership post because of a serious drinking problem. But Kennedy stood tall when it most mattered in his political career and opposed the UK’s entry into the Iraq War:

Doubtless it will be his decision to oppose the war in Iraq for which he will be defined as a politician. He described it as the biggest British foreign policy mistake since Suez, and told parliament in the critical debate: “The case has not yet been made for military action. The evidence has not been clearly assembled. Public opinion in this country is profoundly opposed to unilateral action by US and British forces without a UN mandate and without clear evidence of the need for war.”

It was a brave move since he respected much of Blair’s domestic policy and came under pressure from the prime minister not to oppose him. Leading a political party in opposing military action by UK troops is not easy and quickly led to allegations of appeasement. Kennedy found himself as the highest ranking politician to join an anti-war march in Hyde Park, London. And he did not abandon the issue after the invasion, insisting that the continued occupation of Iraq “contributes to the insurgency and attracts those from abroad who see the opportunity to spread violent fundamentalism”.

As Blair moved right into the arms of Bush and Cheney, Kennedy positioned the Lib Dems to the left of the New Labour government on many  issues. In 2005, Kennedy led his party to its best electoral showing since the days of Asquith and Lloyd George. He was ousted in 2007 and eventually succeeded by Nick Clegg who moved the party right into the arms of Cameron and Osborne and the political catastrophe of the 2015 election. Kennedy opposed going into government with the Tories and eventually lost his seat because his warnings were not heeded. Anyone detect a pattern?

Charles Kennedy was a kind, compassionate, witty, and articulate man. He wore his failings with grace and dignity. It’s appropriate that this Scotsman shared a last name with John F. Kennedy. His political career was genuinely a profile in courage.

Tagged , , ,

‘What’s my job, right?’ On the CIA, False Intelligence, and Other Obligations

What was your job? 

MATTHEWS: You’re the briefer for the president on intelligence, you’re the top person to go in and tell him what’s going on. You see Cheney make this charge he’s got a nuclear bomb and then they make subsequent charges he knew how to deliver it…and nobody raised their hand and said, “No that’s not what we told him.”

MORELL: Chris, Chris Chris, what’s my job, right? My job—

MATTHEWS: To tell the truth.

MORELL: My job—no, as the briefer? As the briefer?

MATTHEWS: Okay, go ahead.

MORELL: As the briefer, my job is to carry CIA’s best information and best analysis to the president of the United States and make sure he understands it. My job is to not watch what they’re saying on TV.

I’ll tell you what your job was. Your job was the same as anybody else’s in the entire fucking White House, the entire government of the United Goddamn States, is today: To keep as many Americans alive as humanly possible for as long as you could. That is the job of the president, his entire staff, every agency established by the government in the history of this country. That is the job. Keep as damn near close to everybody alive as you can. Keep them from dying. That is your  basic obligation. That’s it.

Everything else is just smoke-filled coffeehouse crap. The government runs to make sure that people can live. That’s the point. So if you think your job is to push paper or print agendas or make things efficient or do what the president wants, I have news for you: It’s not more important than that basic obligation. That basic obligation is why you are there. Your paychecks may be signed by your boss or your agency director or whoever, but your purpose is something else.

And in this particular case, Mr. Morell, you watched on TV as the president and vice president said shit you knew wasn’t true, and at the time you said nothing.

And thousands of Americans died in the sand.

As they were dying, you still said nothing.

Year after year after year.

So now you come to us with this revelation and expect, what? To be treated gently? To be patted on the head and comforted, as if you were the victim of a terrible crime?

Have you lost your fucking mind? I don’t love Chris Matthews, okay, and he was as guilty as anyone of weaseling around taking a stand on the war one way or the other, but in this case? He’s righter as a human being than you ever were. You were still a human being with an immortal soul, by the way, while you were a CIA briefer, and taking care for that soul’s disposition was your job as well.

You said nothing. Back when you could have stopped it, you said nothing. People were putting their bodies in the streets and getting fired left and right for saying based on their best guess what you could have said with certainty, with force, with full faith and credit. You could have called someone, anyone, even some filthy hippie blogger, and said this isn’t right. They’re lying. And you could have stopped it, or at least done what you could under your obligation as a human being.

What was your job? What was your JOB? What was your life? Two third of all the evil in the world comes from convincing ourselves we are powerless. Nobody could have stopped it, you’d say. Maybe so. But your job was to keep everyone alive. Your job was to try.

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.

Make Room, Judith Miller

There’s really only one question she should be asked. 

Where are the profits from your book going?

Are they being given to charities that make prosthetic limbs for the soldiers returning from the war?

Are they being given to an Iraqi family that is homeless? To a child that is orphaned? To a city or town bombed or burned or overrun?

Are they being used to dig wells, to buy generators, to lay sewer pipes? Are they purchasing back the cultural heritage looted in the chaos following the war about which you were “proved fucking right?”

If they are not, then get the fuck out of the green room, you goddamn ghoul. Make room on the couch for somebody, anybody, who was right about the war you were so staggeringly wrong about.

Make room for Joe Wilson, for Valerie Plame, for Cindy Sheehan, for Howard Dean, for every one of a hundred thousand people who shut down the goddamn streets back in 2002 so that we maybe might not do this. Make room for any one of the 156 members of Congress who were not chickenshit, who did not fail in their duty, who were not interested in sucking up or knuckling under.

Make room for the reporters who weren’t jerking themselves off about their access at a party. Make room for the bloggers and the writers and the artists and the singers who were told to shut up and sit down if they didn’t want to wave flags around and yell. Make room for the smelliest hippie with the rudest T-shirt you can think of, the one with the book about Che in his Army surplus backpack, because he has more to say about this than you ever should.

Make room for people, even, who admitted their mistakes and tried to fix them. Make room for people who tried, too late, to stop things from getting worse. Make room for John Kerry and John Edwards and everybody who turned around on Bush not in 2005 when it was convenient but in 2003 when nobody could be bothered.

Make room for those still fighting the war. Make room for a soldier or a sailor or a Marine. Make room for somebody who faced actual consequences, whose family might miss a meal, as a result of world events. Make room for somebody who was in danger of something more drastic than mean things being said about them on the Internet. Make room for somebody who didn’t just tour the war zone. Make room for the first guy into the war and the last guy out. Make room for somebody whose boots have dust on them, because he or she will have more to say than you.

Make room for her. And him. And him. And her. Make room for them. For these people. These. And these.

Make room for people who can talk like grown-ups. Your book should be one sentence long. It should say, “I am sorry about all the dead people.”

Have the good sense to say that and go the fuck away, and make room for somebody who matters.

A.

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.

 

Brian Williams’ Consequences are Severe

Oh, for fuck’s sake: 

“This has been a painful period for all concerned and we appreciate your patience while we gathered the available facts. By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News. His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate. Brian’s life’s work is delivering the news. I know Brian loves his country, NBC News and his colleagues. He deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him. Brian has shared his deep remorse with me and he is committed to winning back everyone’s trust.”

Eat a dick. Perhaps the $7 million Brian Williams will not make during this six-month suspension can be used to fund TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY THREE REPORTING POSITIONS at $30,000 each, for a year. You can’t convince me this is about anything but money, and you know why?

Because I know reporters without any.

This goddamn anchor drama is about somebody who makes a squillion bucks doing less work on his busiest day than any courthouse stringer does on her laziest, so spare me the Wagnerian language and prostrations. It’s embarrassing.

I mean come on. Consequences? This isn’t even a bruise, except to Brian Williams’ ego, which is NOT A REAL THING. Brian Williams’ self-esteem is not of any concern to anyone other than Brian Williams and possibly his wife. The rest of us know how this is going to go. He’s going to spend his suspension writing a book. Call it What I Have Learned, or some shit like that. It will be published by an NBC-affiliated publisher.

He will emerge from his suspension with a round of penitential interviews on NBC-owned properties, and we will be subjected to endless thinkpieces about how Brian Williams is our new sacrificial goat or something Biblical like that, as if that’s not self-indulgent in the extreme.

When he returns to TV he will do so in a ratings bonanza, benefitting NBC and its advertisers immensely and convincing the public for ten seconds that anyone outside of the studio gives a shit about the myth of the network anchor.

A year from now, no one will remember any of it at all.

During all of this, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld will remain free men, and walk the earth untroubled by the slightest cruel word. And as for men like these? 

Rosacker graduated from Junipero Serra High School in San Diego in 2000. He joined the Marines to “do something for his country,” his father said.

“He was an all-around good student and athlete,” said Donna Somerville, principal of his high school. “His coaches all speak highly of his dedication to sports. And his English teacher told me that he used to write essays about becoming a Marine. Some of the senior students remember him, and there’s a lot of grief here.”

Rosacker is survived by his wife of two years, Brooke, who lives in San Diego, his parents, and two younger sisters, Samantha and Antoinette, also of Bremerton.

It will be as if all of this has never happened. The trajectory is nothing if not predictable.

A.

Iraq War Facts: American Sniper and What We Verify

The Rude Pundit, being not rude but merely awake: 

Through it all, all the people he shoots (and, truly, Bradley Cooper seems like he’s acting in a different, much deeper film), all the scenes of him watching fellows soldiers get killed and wounded, all the psychological damage he does to his poor wife when he calls her during firefights, Kyle maintains a pathetic belief in the good of his mission and in the protection of his “brothers.” It has an effect on him – he suffers from PTSD – but the film wants us to believe that it was necessary.

So, in the end, American Sniper is the story of a dumb man who wrecked himself for a worthless cause and about all the young men (and it is all, mostly white, men in it) who were sacrificed for nothing. It’s not the film that tells us it’s nothing. We know it was for nothing. We know that one of the great crimes of the new century is the invasion of Iraq for absolutely no rational, demonstrable reason. We know that all those “savages,” as Kyle calls the Iraqis, that we killed were for nothing. We know that all those Americans who died lost their lives for nothing. Our military was protecting us from nothing. Our freedoms weren’t at risk from Iraq.

And the lie many soldiers from Iraq cling to and the lie we tell ourselves, and the lie that so many have worked so hard to maintain, is that as long as we don’t discuss that it was for nothing, as long as we pretend that the fact that soldiers fought when they were told to fight and, mostly, did so nobly, we don’t have to face the truly gut-wrenching reality of our national complicity in the crime.

We are spending far more ink and airtime fact-checking this guy’s movie, this guy’s book, this guy’s own personal hell and the stories he told about it to stay alive afterward, than we will ever spend fact-checking anything Dick Cheney has ever said. Than we will ever spend fact-checking anything Donald Rumsfeld has ever said. Than we will ever spend pretending George W. Bush is anything other than our National Fuckup Cousin Who Has Recently Left Rehab.

We are acting like this film about the war must be either Good or Bad, either a Glorification or a Condemnation, and completely ignoring the fact that this film about the war shouldn’t even BE, because there was no reason for the war to even EXIST.

By making Chris Kyle — who by all accounts saw some pretty horrific shit he shouldn’t have had to see and did some pretty horrific things he shouldn’t have had to do and told some pretty impressive stories about it all afterward which may or may not have been true — into some kind of stand-in for our feelings about the war, we are doing exactly what the architects of that war want.

We are arguing about our feelings about the war, and not about the war at all. We are taking this guy and making his truths or untruths stand trial for the crimes of Bush and Cheney and everybody who didn’t try hard enough to stop it, the same way we took Lynndie England and made her stand trial for the abuses of Abu Ghraib. We are copy-editing the soldier instead of fact-checking the war. We are arguing about the number and caliber of the bullets, and ignoring the gun.

A.

Deep State Visit Thought

French President Francois Hollande is here on a state visit.To my dismay, non-Fox MSM outlets are trotting out Bush-Cheney era cliches about the French. Yup, they’re on about “cheese eating surrender monkeys,” “freedom fries” and the rest of that shit. Hardy, har, har. Guess what: THE FRENCH WERE RIGHT ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR.

I had many arguments with people at the time. A real friend tells you the truth instead of what you want to hear. If President Beavis had listened to Jacques Chirac instead of Tony Blair we’d be a helluva lot better off. Hell, Chirac was a center right pol but Bush majored in wishful thinking at Yale so he listened to Vice President Duce and the voices in his head.

Vive La France.

Deep State Visit Thought

French President Francois Hollande is here on a state visit.To my dismay, non-Fox MSM outlets are trotting out Bush-Cheney era cliches about the French. Yup, they’re on about “cheese eating surrender monkeys,” “freedom fries” and the rest of that shit. Hardy, har, har. Guess what: THE FRENCH WERE RIGHT ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR.

I had many arguments with people at the time. A real friend tells you the truth instead of what you want to hear. If President Beavis had listened to Jacques Chirac instead of Tony Blair we’d be a helluva lot better off. Hell, Chirac was a center right pol but Bush majored in wishful thinking at Yale so he listened to Vice President Duce and the voices in his head.

Vive La France.

Deep State Visit Thought

French President Francois Hollande is here on a state visit.To my dismay, non-Fox MSM outlets are trotting out Bush-Cheney era cliches about the French. Yup, they’re on about “cheese eating surrender monkeys,” “freedom fries” and the rest of that shit. Hardy, har, har. Guess what: THE FRENCH WERE RIGHT ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR.

I had many arguments with people at the time. A real friend tells you the truth instead of what you want to hear. If President Beavis had listened to Jacques Chirac instead of Tony Blair we’d be a helluva lot better off. Hell, Chirac was a center right pol but Bush majored in wishful thinking at Yale so he listened to Vice President Duce and the voices in his head.

Vive La France.