Sunday, April 15, 2018

If the United States HAD a sane Syria policy...what would it be..?

I had a bit of a laugh this morning reading Matt Taibbi's rant about Trump and Syria. Taibbi writes well even when I don't agree with what he says, and it was worth the popcorn for stuff like this:
"The fate of humanity now rests in the hands of this Twitter-obsessed dingbat executive and his new national security adviser, John Bolton – one of the most deranged people to have ever served in the United States government, a man who makes Jeane Kirkpatrick look like Florence Nightingale.

With these two at the helm, we are now facing the imminent possibility of direct military conflict with a nuclear enemy. No one in the popular press is saying it, but there could easily be Russian casualties in Trump’s inevitable bombing campaign. Which will then put the onus on a third lunatic, Vladimir Putin, to respond with appropriate restraint."
But as I read Taibbi's polemic, I kept thinking...OK, very stable genius, if you were NSA and you had the chance to whisper into Orange Foolius' tangerine-hued ear, what would you advise? What would you suggest as an approach to the Syrian civil war that might be genuinely productive?
Option 1: A Grand Concert of the Middle East In which Trump is Metternich (which would make Pompeo Tallyrand or something I hesitate to speculate about) and through a combination of persuasion, bribery, discrete threats, and veiled force manages to pull all the stakeholders in the Levant region to a conference where the issues behind the current wave of instability are wrestled to the mat and choked out. This is something Pat Lang used to promote a lot (although even he seems to have given up on the idea more recently). The intended result would be some sort of "Treaty of Beirut" in which everybody agrees to some things they don't like - like co-existing with groups of people they'd rather exterminate - in return for a Great-Power-backed enforcement of some things they DO like, like peace and economic well-being.

Is it sane? Would it work? It's eminently sane. Making it work would would be fiendishly difficult for the REAL Metternich, let alone the sort of mooks and bozos that infest the Trump Administration. I think the single biggest problems would be that 1) SO many Middle Eastern wells are poisoned; just trying to get the Muslim residents of Gaza and the West Bank to forgive and forget 40 years of violent apartheid, or trying to get Israel to pony up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to expose and condemn the architects of that apartheid fills me with existential dread, and 2) SO many groups and polities in the Middle East are unwilling to abandon their hopes of maximal outcomes. Just in Syria alone can you imagine the difficulty of trying to get a former Assad government, a former congeries of salafi jihadis, and former Kurdish YPP fighters to trust each other enough to work out a functional government? The whole point of the civil war was they they couldn't, and they all wanted to either defeat the others outright or, in the case of the Kurds, win independence.

In particular, to be seen as an honest broker of this concert, the United States would have to renounce its unreserved support for the State of Israel and treat it was just another party to the conflict, and I don't see that as possible domestically. This is one of those ideas that would seem possible but that founders on too much reality. I'd love to see a U.S. Administration actually commit to trying this, but I can't see a way this overcomes the structural issues now embedded in the Middle East as well as global geopolitical conflicts. I'd love for someone to argue me wrong.

Option 2: Operation Desert Stormy Working off the premise that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is not the definition of insanity, the U.S. gins up a coalition of the willing-ish, invades Syria and occupies the place, installs a pliant government, and hangs about bashing wogs until the new "government" is firmly in the saddle.

Is it sane? Would it work? Hell, no. Ohfuckno. What didn't work in Afghanistan (due to social and political dysfunction largely produced by a generation of war, as well as choosing proxies poorly that included smaller tribes like the Hazaras that were traditionally booted around by the Pashtun that included a lot of the Talibs) and Iraq (due to a failure to understand the toxicity of the Sunni-Shia divide that had been suppressed by Tikriti despotism as well as a series of boneheaded mistakes like deBaathification and the disbanding of the Army) would work worse in Syria, where the sectarian and tribal toxicity is already an order of magnitude worse and the existing government rules only by a combination of brute force and the loathing of much of the Syrian population for the fanaticism of the jihadi rebels.

An invasion would probably work militarily - although likely with more losses than the 2003 invasion of Iraq simply because of the already-treacherously-chaotic environment in Syria - but an occupation would be horrific militarily, politically, and socially. Any "occupation" that had any hope of working - i.e. one that included a massively-larger-then-post-WW2-European-level infusion of civil government, economic, social, and political rebuilding, and straightforward cash injection - would inevitably founder on the damage inflicted on Syrian society. Post WW2 Europe was, at least, socially and politically intact. Syria is hopelessly shattered. As Lord Chesterfield is supposed to said about keeping a mistress, the pleasure would be transient, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.
So, no. This one is right out.

Option 3: Same Shit Different Day Keep on doing what the U.S. has been doing; inject small troop units and airpower, use proxies like the Syrian or Iraqi Kurds as footsoldiers, use political pressure on regional and local powers whenever possible. Attempt to "influence" events with aerial high explosive.

Is it sane? Would it work? Fuck, it's not working now.

Option 4: Just Walk Away, Renee Conclude that there are no national interests in the Middle East worth spilling blood - American or anyone else's - and treasure on. Pull the military missions out, cut off the arms supplies, reduce the American footprint to a minimal scattering of embassies and consulates, and let the occupants of the region go their own way to the degree that they don't directly impinge on the U.S. or U.S. allies.

Is it sane? Would it work? This seems to me to be eminently sane, largely because I don't think that the U.S. has a ton of "national interests" in the Middle East. I've said this before, but IMO the U.S. has three major "interests" in that troubled region; a regular supply of petroleum products, passage through the Suez/Red Sea chokepoint, and a relative degree of regional calm that will dampen the production of violent people with a grudge against the United States.

With the current prognosis for anthropogenic global warming I'd even kick loose the first "interest". I think that the United States should be committed to reducing, not securing, its need for petroleum. Let the Iraqis and Saudis sell the stuff to the Philippines. The sooner the U.S. becomes independent of the need for fossil fuels, the better.

But would it work? I'm not sure it would "work" completely. For one thing, the United States has spent much of the last half-century fucking up and pissing people off in the Middle East - see the timeline at the top of the page - going back to the Mossadegh coup in the Fifties. There's a lot of deeply-ingrained hatred (and a lot of that pretty well justified, I'm ashamed to admit...) there.

But old grudges do eventually die, and I think there's a hope that a United States that transitions to a genuinely neutrally disinterested party might eventually benefit from a lack of animus in the region.

I think the real problem with this would be U.S. domestic politics. For one thing, the American "conservative" (i.e. radical reactionary) movement is entirely committed to an unquestioning embrace of Israel and a reflexive hate and fear of political Islam. No contemporary Republican, and even some right-leaning Democrats, would forego Islamophobia, and tongue-bathing Israel is a bipartisan reflex. I don't think there is a Republican that could convince his or her party to abandon the former, and both parties seem incapable of releasing the latter.

One 9/11-type incident and the rage and fear that created the current disasters that are Afghanistan and the Fertile Crescent would come roaring back.

Add to that all but the furthest fringes of the U.S. political Left retain a Cold War sort of fear of Great Power insignificance in the global hustings. To put it bluntly, few Americans - politicians or ordinary citizens - would be able to sit back and accept "We're NOT Number One!" in the less-paved parts of the globe. Were Russian or Chinese - or both - influence begin to grow in a post-U.S.-involved Middle East I find it highly likely that the cries to return to the region in force would be irresistible. I think the instincts of American hegemony are too strong; otherwise the PNAC "New American Century" nonsense would have collapsed from pure derision and scorn, instead of, as it has, finding one of the most strident America-Firsters elevated to the point of advising on "national security".

My unfortunate conclusion is that the domestically-do-able policies for Syria - and, by inference, the greater Middle East - are neither sane nor workable, and the sane-and-workable policies are not politically do-able...without a massive and thoroughgoing reconstruction of the United States political order.

In other words, the problem here isn't the Middle East, as troubled as that region may be. The problem is that the current political (and social) tenor of the United States won't allow a U.S. government to make a sensibly sane and workable policy towards the Middle East.

To change our skies, then, we would have to change ourselves. Are We the People capable of doing that?
I'd like to believe so. But having observed American political life for forty years...I am not optimistic.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Doing the Right Thing the Wrong Way, or the Wrong Thing the Right Way, or Something - (Now With More Explosions!!)

So the latest foreign policy surprise from the Fraudulency Administration - if you can call anything a "surprise" when it emerges as some sort of mouth- or brain-fart from a man whose cognitive functions appear to work in a similar fashion to the human colon - is the supposedly-soon and supposedly-total withdrawal of all U.S. armed forces from within the Syrian borders.

Now...you know my opinion on the whole "Hillary the Hawk, Donald the Dove" nonsense. So I think the thing to look at isn't the "why". The "why" is the same "why" Trump does anything; because he heard it on "Fox and Friends", because he thinks it'll bump the audience share (if you haven't figured out that this is the first Reality Show Presidency, hello), because it has to do with smelly foreigners and Trump hates smelly foreigners. I doubt very much whether Trump knows, or cares, about anything in Syria, including the GIs there.

No. The thing to look at is the "what happens now" and "how is this a potentially positive development?"

And I think the linked articles cover the possibilities pretty well.

First, the single "positive" thing I can think of off the top of my head is that the guys in the special operations outfits can un-ass that chaotic AO. That is good thing, in that if they don't, sooner or later the American guys in Manbij are going to have to fight Turks, our supposed NATO allies, and that won't be good for anyone. Add to that the simple reality that Syria is a dog's breakfast right now. Nothing, including the nonsensical plan to form some sort of Kurdish "Ever Victorious Army" to keep a boot on the neck of the Sunni salafis who signed up for the Islamic State, probably for the retirement benefits, is going to make the place logical and comprehensible. It's a goddamn mess, a Hobbsean war of all against all, and the only thing a GI is going to get out of it, if he's unlucky enough, is dead.

Adnd from there everything pretty much goes downhill.

The Kurds, poor suffering bastards, get hung out to dry like they have by every foreign (and most domestic) adventurers since Saladin. Between the Assad regime and the Turks and the Saudi-bankrolled salafi jihadis the Kurds are going to be tossed into the shark tank. That sucks, to me, anyway, because the Kurds seems like a decent bunch in general, and I have a soft sport for the underdogs. But, like most underdogs, they're gonna find what the smallest dog in the dog pound always finds out; if you stand still they fuck you, and if you run they bite you on the ass.

The other thing I see is that this is unlikely to do anything to lessen the troubles that the Middle East is likely to bring to the United States. That well has been so long and so deeply poisoned that it is too late for the US to simply pull every swinging richard out and hope that the locals will forget the ferenghi and start killing each other. Well, they WILL kill each other, but they will also have time and energy to figure out how to kill the Yankees, if they can. The legacy of the US in the Middle East is a long and disastrous one, going back well into the Fifties. If you're interested, I wrote a lighthearted summation over at Graphic Firing Table in four parts; here, here, here, and here (with a rumination on the potentially ruinous consequence of prolonged war with the Muslim peoples of the Middle East here).

Cole points out that the worst possible outcome of this will be the Saudis' move into the power vacuum with more support for their loathsome fundamentalist proxies. Ugh. Just what the Middle East needs; MORE religious nuts.

The bottom line is that the Middle East is a nearly impossible problem for a U.S. government to solve due to a number of fixed points in history that constrain the government's actions today. To change that would mean trying to change both history and an inertial mass of special interests that are completely unwilling to allow that change to happen.

For my Army brothers I hope Trump's government does manage to yank them out of Syria.

For the rest of us? Let's not kid ourselves. That won't help the cesspit of ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision that is the modern Middle East. And it doesn't mean that the Orange King thinks of himself as a Prince of Peace. Greg Jaffe at the Post has a good piece that limns the sort of viciousness that is at the heart of Trump's character. He's a bully. He likes to hurt and kill people if it doesn't mean he has to risk himself. When he talks about ending wars he's talking about a Roman ending; making a wasteland.

So if Trump is "getting out" of Syria, don't fool yourself; this simply means that he will take his vicious egotism somewhere else.

We are so, so, SO fucked.

Update 4/12: Maybe more fucked that we thought. Here's Fred Kaplan on what now appears to be an inescapable attack on Syria:
"...Russia and Iran, not wanting to lose their most valued ally and foothold in the region, would come to Assad’s rescue, repairing the damage, replacing the planes, and possibly escalating the conflict. (Trump) can’t launch an all-out attack on Syria’s air force without also attacking Russia, and he can’t do that without risking a very dangerous new war."
Will Le Roi L'Orange be willing to begin that war? Are We the People willing to do nothing if he does?

It seems that we are about to find out.

Update 4/14: And so we have.

The "Western allies" - the U.S., Great Britain, and France - delivered some munitions to Syria late Friday night. The attack was described as "limited", and is supposed to have been directed specifically at Assad's checmical munitions capabilities.

Fred Kaplan claims the the bombing was primarily a "win" for SecDef Mattis and CJCS Dunford, whose main concern was to 1) not get the U.S. mired deeper in yet another hopeless Middle Eastern civil war, while 2) not gin up a shooting war with Russia.

Supposedly Carpenter Trump and his Walrus pal Bolton wanted to go in chocks-away and take those chances.

The frustrating thing about this - for me, anyway - is the degree to which it shows how hopeless the United States "national security" edifice has become at actually thinking about "national security".

Technically you can "make a case" for using lethal force against the Assad regime in Syria on the grounds of its use of chemical munitions. Chemicals are in the group of especially "horrible weapons" that are routinely banned by treaty and condemned in public. And the Assad regime is certainly among the genuinely loathsome of the Earth, a pure semi-Stalinist dictatorship that has long lost any pretension of governing rather than simply reigning.

But this reality-show violence is worthless, and shows the degree to which the U.S. government, in particular, has lost any genuine capacity to think outside the narrow range of kinetic action it has limited itself.

The Assad regime is playing the Game of Thrones, where to lose is to die. It will happily absorb whatever death and destruction this attack will cause in return for successfully using chemicals to crush the Army of Islam rebels in East Ghouta. The cost is well worth it, for Assad, and that the Trump Administration can't think of a better way to get him to reconsider that calculation...well, it will be no surprise to know that the Trumpkins aren't the nicest, newest, or smartest cruise missile in the launcher.

But in the broader view, how much more handless are the minions of Orange Foolius than those of Obama, who was likewise unable to "solve" the problem of sending U.S. armed force haring off across the globe chasing raggedy local rebels and wannabe jihadi franchisees? Or Dubya, who broke the despotic bottle that contained Iraq and was unable to deal with the chaos? Or Clinton, whose random spasms of intervention ranged from laughable to - as in the case of Somalia - tragic? Or Poppy Bush, who sent his military careering around Eurasia and Central America "solving" problems his predecessor Reagan had largely created? Or Reagan himself, whose Charley Wilsons helped create the mujaheddin monster that struck it's creator decades later?

Our friend seydlitz, when he forayed here, used to complain bitterly about the United States' utter inability to think strategically, to define clear national geopolitical interests and then make rational choices about how to address them.

What ultimately so pathetic about this latest round of let's-bomb-something-because-we-have-to-"send-a-message" is how it starkly illustrates how right seydlitz is; how completely and utterly captive to its own incapacity, delusion, sterility, and hubris the American political and military establishment is.

As one of my former recruit privates would have described it, "That's fuckin' magically delicious, man!"

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ruptured Duck

Our old pal Phil Carter has a thoughtful (as is his wont) piece at Slate discussing the latest of "all the best people" to work for The Fraudulency Administration; the new head of the Veteran's Administration, long-time White House physician Ron Jackson.
I've been lucky. I made it out of the service with little more than some sore knees (which were, apparently, a congentital problem that my entrance physical should have caught and 4F-ed me; I saw a doc at the Portland Knee Clinic back in the Nineties who had been a draft board physio during the end of the draft years who said that he'd have rejected me out of hand) and have had employer-based (meaning, no more than normally-shitty) medical benefits my entire working life.

But I have friends who have ended up in the VA, and their care has ranged from outstanding to horrific. Apparently the just-canned VA chief spent a ton of time fighting with the GOP who, as the GOP does, want to ensure that tax money goes to pay defense contractors to gold-plate weapons (which, admittedly, is a Democratic failing, too) and not to pay for medicine for sick people, even sick soldiers (which is NOT a Democratic failing).

As Carter points out, this new Trump hire, unlike most of the Trump cabinet hires who are chosen to simply destroy the parts of their agencies they can't loot, is simply unprepared for the hellfire he's going to encounter:
"These are hard policy questions; they are made more difficult by political conflicts within the Trump administration, disagreements between the administration and Congress, and tensions across the broader veteran community as well. Shulkin battled daily with Trump’s partisans; their relations deteriorated so badly that Shulkin reportedly barred several appointees’ access to the VA’s executive suite, and the White House barred Shulkin’s access to the press. Neither the White House nor Congress nor leading veterans organizations agree on how to resolve any of the policy dilemmas facing the VA. Jackson will walk into this crossfire—and do so during a contentious midterm election year."
One of the most ridiculous conceits of the American public is the notion that governing is easy, that anyone can do it, and that any sturdy yeoman can be elected to office and simply take charge and succeed (the other is the notion that, in a public democracy "government is the problem"; in a republic the government is YOU, dummy - if it's a problem it's because you need to be better citizens...). This idiot notion explains why a lot of people voted for a real-estate shyster who promised to run the country like a business.

Well, okay, not like HIS businesses, which went bankrupt numerous times, but, like, a business-business. Or something.

But, of course, government is NOT a business, and what makes businesses successful may be ineffective, or problematic, or even criminal, when applied to governance. And what makes you a good officer, or a good doctor, may not make you a good administrator of a huge, complex, medical and social welfare organization.

Not that our current Chief Executive would know that. Or care; it's all about the brand, baby; it's all about raking in the bucks for the Trump Organization. THAT's the only organization set up to profit from our present regime.

As we're all discovering.

Friday, March 23, 2018

And speaking of Dick n' Dubya's Big Middle East Adventure...

...lookie at the latest "all the best people" our Napoleorange has brought back into the corridors of power:
Yep. John "Give War A Chance" Bolton.

The Economist - hardly a bastion of cuddly liberal peaceniks - had this to say about him over a decade ago:
"Mr Bolton had already made a name for himself as an arch-conservative and fierce patriot. He believed “multilateralism” was a dirty word, treaties were not worth the paper they were written on and American might was right. Diplomacy, he told Mr Bush, was “advocacy, advocacy for America”.
And:
"But in an organisation where nothing gets done without a readiness to make friends, form coalitions and accept compromises, Mr Bolton put almost everyone's back up."
Which is a way for polite British Tories to drawl "I say, what an enormous asshole..."

Remember "Hillary the Hawk, Donald the Dove"? Remember that? Well, if you're still kidding yourself that Trump is some sort of populist iconoclast who is going to break the neocon headlock on the GOP's foreign policy that pretty much begins and ends with "bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran" then look around the table.

Nobody else is the sucker, so...

I swear. Every time I think this chump has driven my country as deep into the Big Hole of Stupid as possible...

Update 3/26: Doanvo adds another layer of stupidity to the stupidity of this appointment; Bolton is a spectacularly prolific and remarkably pinheaded liar.
“Bolton seemed to be troubled because INR was not telling him what he wanted to hear.” He soon “surrounded himself with a hand-chosen group of loyalists” to analyze raw intelligence on Iraq without input from the intelligence community itself.

Bolton later allegedly blocked Secretary of State Colin Powell from receiving vital information on Iran in 2003.

Fast forward to the 2016 election, and Bolton’s assertions have become even more unhinged, leaning further into absurdity than the most volatile pundits will venture. In December 2016, he called Russia’s election interference a “false flag” operation conducted by the Obama administration."
As a prolific and remarkably pinheaded liar himself Trump needs as many rational people around him as possible. Adding this jamoke, between his ridiculous warmongering, insane worldview, and facile lying, is like giving a chimp a live grenade. In an Administration full of bad appointments this is a really, really, really, REALLY bad appointment.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

20 March 2003

15 years since the imbecilic invasion of Iraq by Bush Junior and Deadeye Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld.

It led to the rise of the head-chopping and liver-eating Daesh (AKA Islamic State) and 15 years later we are still there in Iraq and also in Syria, but the war has a different name.

It led to the shameful legalization, albeit temporarily, of torture.  Destroying the reputation of my country in the minds of much of the rest of the world.  Changing the name of Uncle Sugar to Uncle Sadism or Uncle Swine perhaps.

$2 trillion in initial costs!  That will rise to $6-trillion due to healthcare costs and compound interest according to Brown University studies.  Those figures do not include the current costs of the ongoing war against Daesh.  My latest great-grandbaby will be still paying off that debt when she is my age.

The gallons of blood on all sides, military and civilian, that have been and are still being shed there is uncountable and a bit hard to conceive in the 21st century.

And yet:

Rumsfeld received the <i>'Defender of the Constitution Award'</i> after he retired:

Cheney was recently honored with a bust in the US Capitol building:

Junior Bush received the <i>'Thayer Award'</i> from West Point last October:
https://www.army.mil/article/195682/george_w_bush_receives_west_points_thayer_award

UPDATE

As pointed out to me, the invasion of Iraq also:

helped al-Qaeda to become stronger

helped Iran to become more influential

helped China to become a superpower

helped Vladimir Putin look like a Statesman





Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fruit of the Poison Tree

See, here's the thing.

Torture corrupts.

Call it what you want; "enhanced interrogation", "extraordinary measures", "psikhushka". The systematic infliction of suffering is inherently corrupting to the people who administer it and the organizations that employ it.

Because torture is not interrogation.

Interrogation is intended to gain information.

Torture is intended to gain confessions. Confessions that the torturers want to hear.

A person that uses torture to gain confessions becomes useless as an interrogator and deaf to information. The agonized babble of a person suffering beyond coherence quickly becomes meaningless noise. If you are tortured you will say anything, everything, to make the torture stop. If you are the torturer you lose the ability to find the truth amid the pain and fear.

An organization that employs torture and torturers quickly becomes a servant of the propaganda that the torture is meant to support and the presumptions that the torture is designed to confirm.

Armies that use torture begin to become instruments of that propaganda rather than instruments of policy. Intelligence agencies that use torture begin to become guardians of the secrets of and defenders of the barbarities of torture rather than cold instruments of state. Nations that use torture quickly find how useful it is in generating results that they want in the short term. And the spiral of torture, and lying to hide the torture, and lying to excuse the torture, and lying to hide and excuse the lies, works deeper and deeper into the culture of the army, and the intelligence agency, and the nation.

Until first the torturers end up running the intelligence agency.

And then the torturers become the generals.

And, finally, the torturers become the presidents and prime ministers.

The toxic "war on terror" has been the ground that has nursed this poison tree, and has given it the night and fog it needed to grow. To our shame We the People have never insisted on throwing open the doors, letting in the light that would have killed this noxious weed, never dug deep and uprooted and thrown it and the torturers on the fire. In our fear and hate we have let it grow.

If shame were still a permissible public emotion we should be ashamed of ourselves.

But we will not.

And, instead, we will nurture the fruit of that poison tree in our hands and our hearts.
Update 3/16: Here's a perfect example of what I'm talking about, little Richie Lowry from the National Review, with my annotations:
"The enhanced interrogations were brutal. Zubaydah was struck, placed in stress positions, confined in small boxes and repeatedly waterboarded. During one session, he became unresponsive. By any standard, this was extreme and right up to the legal line." ("Up to the legal line? Seriously? "Unresponsive" means "barely functioning, i.e. close to death" If that's your "legal line" you're working in fucking Lublyanka Prison, not for the supposedly-rule-of-law U.S. government.)

"The CIA didn’t learn of any planned attack in the U.S."(No shit. Because Zubaydah didn't know anything to begin with.); it did become confident that Zubaydah wasn’t holding back anything about one (Why? Because he refused to scream out some lie that matched the torturer's hypothesis to stop the torture? That's the problem with torture - you can't be sure if the screamer is telling something he actually know,s or just something you want to hear, or whether the pain has simply driven him mad and he's screaming anything to make the pain stop.). "From his capture to his transfer to the Department of Defense on September 5, 2006, information from him produced 766 intelligence reports."(That's nice. I can fill more than 700 "intelligence reports" with all sorts of stuff, from trivia to genuine intelligence to complete nonsense. The sheer volume that came from this poor bastard's piehole means exactly nothing other than if you torture someone he or she will scream lots of stuff.)

"In the cold light of day, we would have handled all of this differently. The Bush administration shouldn’t have been as aggressive in its legal interpretations. We should have realized that we had more time to play with, and that the program itself would become a black mark on our reputation overseas and such a domestic flashpoint that we would basically lose all ability to interrogate detainees (droning became the preferred alternative)." (This is to suggest that the "problem" with this was purely political, or organizational, and not moral. This is the language of the corporate torturers of the KGB or the Gestapo and now the CIA; the problem isn't that we're monsters, the problem is that being monsters hampers our messaging. That, in itself, is monstrous. If your problem with atrocity isn't the atrocity itself but how you think it's perceived you ARE a monster.)
There it is. Lowry, comfortably ensconced in his office at NR, can blithely complain that the problem wasn't that agents of his government used pain, fear, and suffering to torment some poor random schulb, but that the torment has bad optics and that we shouldn't cold-shoulder the torturers just because torture looks bad on its' face.

If Lowry were to be snatched up and taken to some nameless place in Central Asia and tortured mercilessly he would be the first to scream out any and everything his tormentors asked of him. So would you. So would I. And yet, he finds that perfectly okay...so long as the person being tortured is NOT him.

There's a place for that sort of person.

And it's labeled: "Here be monsters".

Update 3/16 pm: So now we learn that Ms. Haspel was not in charge of the dungeon where Mr. Zubaydah was tortured when he was tortured by other Americans. No. She was, instead, in charge of the dungeon during the time other people were tortured. And then, like any good little torturer, she beavered away hiding and destroying the evidence of the crimes she and her minions committed.

Here's the important thing to remember about all this.

Every American intelligence official of the War on Terror Generation; Ms. Haspel, every field officer, every first-line supervisor in the CIA (and, presumably, the DIA, and many of the other related intelligence agencies) is tarred with torture. If they didn't torture they knew those who did. Or they received "intelligence" derived from torture. Or they suspected the torture, or should have, and kept silent and thus complicit in the torture.

There are no clean hands here. Not all the way up to the Oval Office, where the Commander-in-Chief, like any other commander, may delegate authority but not responsibility. We the People are responsible, and worse, in that now knowing we have most of us chosen to remain silent and imply our consent.

We are none us innocent of this.

Now we have the choice, whether we sit idly by and let the Orange Fool place a torturer at the head of one of our "intelligence" agencies, or whether we choose to let the punishment for these crimes begin here.

We are either torturers, or we are not.

We are either citizens of a free nation.

Or we are monsters.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Yountville



Jennifer Gonzales, Christine Loeber and Jennifer Golick:  may they rest in peace.  All three of these intelligent, talented and warmhearted women had a passion for helping our veterans.  They have been described as wonderful people who <i>"lived their lives selflessly to serve others"</i>.   They brought energy, vitality, and personality to their jobs.

All were in the prime of their life and one of them, Jennifer Gonzales, was newly married and pregnant with her first child.  I'm in Southern Cal now but hope to make a small detour to the Yountville Veterans Home and leave some flowers on my way back to the northwest.  Not that flowers will help.  It did not help after Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and did not help after Sandy Hook, and neither did it help at Columbine nor any of the other mass murders.