Thursday, December 27, 2018

Making Iraq Great Again

Let me start with this; regardless of the why, the simple fact that the current Chief Executive did a meet-and-greet with his subordinates in Iraq is just fine. It's goes with the job of "commander-in-chief", especially given the standards we've set for our imperial wars. You get the job, you do the work, and that includes some facetime with the people you order into harm's way. If the current idiot had to be shamed into doing it? Well, he's been shamed on a whole bunch of things, like sucking up to Nazis and not, y'know, being a racist, and those haven't worked.

So if he got shamed into going to an airbase in Iraq he's done part of what's the bare minimum for a respectable annual review. So, fine.

Of course, being who he is, he's already getting slammed. The biggest howl appears to be about OPSEC violations, specifically, releasing pictures of Himself with a USN special operations outfit which was on a classified deployment.
IMO, this is the one thing about this junket that can't be laid on the guy. I agree that this was careless (especially for a politician that made a big fat hairy deal about how Obummer was giving the "enemy" all sorts of information about who was going to deploy when and where) but despite his title the POTUS is not an actual serviceman. He's not required to understand OPSEC, neither is he responsible for it personally nor in his entourage.

Nope, the people who should be getting fried for this are the unit and installation commanders. THEY should have known that this was a photo-op and kept the guys whose presence there was supposed to be a deep, dark, secret far away from someone known for using every opportunity to fluff himself and his rep as a bad-ass deal-making shrewdie. Special operations people and Trump? They should have known he was no more likely to have resisted the impulse to show himself hanging with the tough guys than a dog can resist licking his butt.

And the MAGA hats and the Trump banners, turning this into a Trump campaign rally? That's on the commanders, too. They know the rules about using GIs as political props, or letting GIs in uniform, in a military workplace, act as political partisans. The fact that they let this stuff go is entirely on them, and entirely unacceptable. If I were their theater commander I'd be on them like the wrath of God.

Still...this IS Trump, who seems to have a kind of reverse-Midas political touch, so he did manage to turn what should have been a nice little press-the-flesh-with-Our-Troops into a goddamn goat rodeo. Specifically;

1. Somehow he and his entourage (I can't bring myself to call it a "staff", since that implies some sort of planning and organization) couldn't be arsed to check in with, y'know, the "host nation" government about what the Iraqis expected and wanted.

Turns out they expected a visiting head of state to treat the host nation head of state as, well, a head of state. Meaning a face-to-face with the Iraqi PM and all the bog-standard political niceties. Of course Trump, who could give a rat's ass about shithole countries, cut it to a phone call and blew off the locals. This pissed off the Iraqi pols who, while IMO being as much of a fairly-worthless bunch as most Arab pols, are understandably touchy about Americans treating Iraq like a conquered province. The result was an angry shout to vote the Yanquis out. Whether or not that will happen, it was ridiculously needless and a boneheaded oxygen-thief-level fuckup by the POTUS and his groupies.

Trump and his GOP pals love to complain about Iran and the supposed Iranian meddling in the Middle East. But doing dumb shit - unnecessarily dumb shit - like this is how Iran makes bank off of these dodos and gets results from their meddling. Obama's supposed foreign policy mantra was "Don't do stupid shit"; Trump's appears to be "Stupid shit? What's that? Let's do some!"

2. And - although this isn't surprising, given the source - the little speech he then blarted out to the assembled joes and mollies was ridiculously inappropriate. Instead of the "Thanks boys and girls you're the awesomest, hooah!" he gave a full-on campaign speech full of political poison about Democratic immigration treason and larded with ridiculous lies. My least-favorite was his whopper about how he, he, the Grinch, carved the 10% pay-raise-roast-beast. Seriously? What, you're now Caesar in an orange skinsuit, giving donatives to your loyal legionaries? I mean, I know the guy pretty much sees the Constitution as an asswipe, but that's ridiculous. Here's the exact quote:

"You haven’t gotten [a raise] in more than ten years. More than ten years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one."

Aside from being, well, an utter lie, Tangerinius Caesar here couldn't "get them a big one"; he doesn't have the "power of the purse". I wouldn't expect GIs to know that - I did, but I'd taken "US Government" and con law in college - so it's utterly vile for him to try and buy loyalty with that lie.

Of course, there was more of the Trumpkin usual, for example, military policy as protection racket:

"If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price and sometimes that’s also a monetary price so we’re not the suckers of the world. We’re no longer the suckers, folks. And people aren’t looking at us as suckers"

No, dummy. They're looking at you.

They're looking at us as the poor dumb bastards ruled by the sucker.


  1. Elections have consequences.

    Alas, our politicians are busy trying to apply the lessons of the tiny fingered one to Canada. I.e. they are busy shouting "fake news" and dehumanising the Prime Minister or Leader of the Loyal Opposition - depending on whatever partisan hue they profess loyalty towards.

  2. What's frustrating, tho, Ael, is that the behavior of those elected SHOULD have consequences. The GOP in general and Trump in particular have shown what they are as clear as can be since 2016; unless you love stupidity, racism, xenophobia, plutocracy and theocracy there shouldn't be any reason to support them.

    And yet the "base" is still with Trump to 90%, his overall "approval" ratings are still in the 40% range, and even on this junket supposedly there were more than enough GIs thronging to get their MAGA hats signed to make for a dandy photo-op.

    So it appears that you can be an ignorant ass as a national politician and suffer no consequences whatsoever...

  3. This building of two new bases in Iraq smalls like Bolton's dirty hands at work. He convinced the Dufus-in-Chief to pull out of Syria to keep Turkey in NATO and yet build bases in Iraq to overwatch Iran and block the Tehran-Damascus truck route. Dufus Donny jumped on it thinking it a two-fer: one a gift fer Kuchner, Netanyahu, and NeoConistan; and two a political gift fer himself for bringing troops home.

    But it is already backfiring. The Iraqi Shias know what he is about. Shortly after his speech there were threats of eviction from the Iraqi Parliament, and threats of kinetic retribution from IRGC-backed militias.

  4. Oh boy, the stupid, it hurts.

    Good post Chief, a few random thoughts of my own:

    - It's not even clear these guys are SEALs. They're wearing older-generation NVG's for one thing.

    - Whoever they were, they were not "covert." After two decades of forever war, journalists covering the military are still clueless about very basic shit.

    - These guys were dressed up for this event. You'll notice that their uniforms are scrubbed of the usual stuff an actual field uniform would have. To get these guys kitted while sanitizing the uniforms for the cameras is not something that just happens. Except one guy is wearing the US Army 3rd ID insignia....

    - The Chaplain that self-identified as being the Chaplain for SEAL Team 5 - that appeared in the press pool report and he was photographed by the press! I suspect that Chaplain will be on a plane home very soon - at least in the old days he would be.

    - The military generally practices shitty opsec compared to when you were in and when I first joined up. In my last two deployments, the media was invited to our send-off. Sure, the exact location wasn't given, but it wasn't exactly hard to deduce.

    I guess what's most infuriating is the press itself which seems so opposed to Trump that they consistently latch onto anything possibly derogatory, even mostly BS stuff like this. All it does is reduce their own credibility and put people like me (and you in this post) in the unwanted position of pushing back against the stupidity and thereby "defending" Trump.

    1. I don't particularly blame the pressies, because;

      1. First, the initial video came from Trump's account. He got one of his dogrobbers to take it and then broadcast it. That, as I've said, wasn't a "Trump problem" but an issue with the PAO on the scene and the local commanders. But it wasn't the pressies that did the initial broadcast.

      2. And, second, the larger problem with the press is that we (GIs, that is) are still paying for the sins of our fathers in Vietnam as well as our own duplicity. In the Sixties we lied and spun and bullshitted the journos and got caught at it. That poisoned the well that is still not a good place to drink from. And we haven't adjusted to the stenographic nature of the current 24-hour-cable-news cycle, which is that if it happens, the journos will show it without context or thinking about it. So if we fuck up and try and cover it up it's likely that some footage of the fuckup exists, some journo will show it, and we'll get caught and look either stupid or duplicitous.

      The press has stopped actually trying to analyze what's put before them. I mean, look at the way every ridiculous utterance and tweet that Trump farts out gets repeated without context rather than (as they should be and would be in any sort of reflective reporting environment...) ignored unless they actually meant anything.

      A smart producer would have 1) known Trump's predilection for stupid press antics, 2) known what the patches on the squids' tunics implied, and 2) checked with her or his PAO "hey, these guys look like they might be part of a SEAL team...are you sure you want me to show this?", and 4) the two between them (with input from the unit commander) could have made an intelligent choice whether to show it, or to comment on Trump's showing it.

      I agree that the current "news" situation is a dumpster fire. But more because of the larger problems with the lack of editorial judgement of the journos rather than any sort of political bias or lack of military familiarity.

    2. I'm not blaming the press for reporting on it, I'm blaming them for reporting on terribly and stupidly.

      I honestly don't think Vietnam has much to do with it today. Hardly anyone in the media is around from that time and the "news" business is fundamentally different and is driven by different incentives. There's real competition now which hasn't been good for truth or accuracy since clicks and eyeballs seem to be the most important metrics outside of a few stalwarts like AP and Reuters.

      I agree the press has stopped analyzing and I share your frustration with mindless "reporting" Trump tweets. The press no longer performs its basic function to be smarter than the public - report the facts and then get to the truth. But that's the way the business works now - at least here in the US.

      I gave up on US TV news and most US media years ago. France24, the wire services and NPR (though they are descending into advocacy and POV journalism) are my primary sources. It's a huge, interesting contrast to see the same story on France24 or Al Jazeera vs CNBC, Fox or CNN. Night and day.

    3. What I was trying to get to (in a clumsy way) is that the whole "press pool" style of military reportage is a sort of hangover from Vietnam, where the press was pretty much allowed to roam free, ended up reporting a lot of stuff the Army (in particular) got burned for, and produced a generation of Army officers who, when they became senior officers, said "We're gonna manage these bastards better this time".

      That, in turn, set up the current system. But, at the same time, the "press" was losing whatever analytical capacity it had. Instead of "reporting" - that is, recording whatever was happening and then trying to make sense of it, applying context to it, assessing the value of whatever-it-was before deciding whether to air it and how (if it was aired)to present it - you get what is effectively stenography. The major news conglomerates simply pass through whatever footage they get without really trying to put it in context or assess it.

      So you get a perfect storm; the DoD/DA PAOs treat the press gaggle like malleable idiots to get the bland, friendly coverage they want, while the journos don't even try to do any sort of "reporting", but just pass on whatever they're pointed towards.

      And then the pack mentality takes over. Someone, somewhere views this drivel and cries "OPSEC violation!" (in this case) and he news pack simply repeats it in the same mindless way it repeated the original PAO-directed story.

      In a functional society enough people would be frustrated and angry enough about this idiocy to hit the news corporations in the wallet hard enough to change that business model. But we're in the society that made the Kardashians rich and famous, so that ain't gonna happen...

    4. Ah, thanks for the clarification, that makes total sense. Agree completely.

    5. IIRC the "press pool" style of managing reporters was introduced in force in ODS.

    6. The '91 war (the Second Gulf War) was the first big press management operation that the Vietnam-era guys were senior officers. So, yes; that was their first chance to put their ideas into action.

  5. But, again...this really is a command issue.

    Which leads me back the MAGA hats and the Trump flag. That's really what galls me about this.

    There's no excuse for that. For all the fixation on the supposed OPSEC violation I don't think the newsies have been critical enough of the political nonsense going on here.

    If there should be ANY critical standard for us as GIs, it's that we do not act in any sort of partisan way while on duty. We serve the nation, not any particular faction. And, frankly, all the MAGA stuff on display here should frighten and worry conservatives as much or more than liberals. If Trump, why not Sanders? Revolutions don't happen when the sans-culottes or the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square challenge the national government. They happen when the government's armed forces choose to either side with the rebels or, at least, not to oppose them. The whole point of "civilian control" of the armed forces depends on them not picking one set of civilians over another.

    That the commanders of this installation and the unit commanders let this turn into a MAGA flea-circus in public view is outright dangerous, showing the joes and mollies that it's okay for them to be soldiers for a partisan cause rather than emphasizing that while soldiering they are explicitly NON-partisan, and accustoming the public to seeing troopers being politically partisan.

    That's how national armies become Republican Guards, or any number of other caudillo thug armies. I don't honestly think that we're in danger of anything like that at the moment. But, frankly, I didn't think we were at risk of some sort of caudill0-ism when Orange Foolius was elected, but he's showing a LOT of the sorts of per-cancerous markers associated with autocracy.

    1. Oh, I agree it's a Command problem, I was just pointing out how deliberate much of it is. You don't get a bunch of guys in carefully sanitized tactical-looking uniforms to stand in front of cameras with the President by accident.


      I don't agree with USAFE's stance - this may not be a technical violation, but this is about perceptions, which matter a lot more.

    3. Ohhellyeah. The perception of political neutrality is essential for the U.S. armed forces. To NOT see this as - at the very least - damn bad optics is shortsighted and stupid on the USAFE's part.

      I wonder how much of this is similar to the public emergence of "very good people" on the alt-right recently? There's always been a strong strain of pretty "conservative" thinking in most of the services; that's pretty much to be expected absent a draft. You don't find your free-thinking, hippy-dippy, pachouli-scented lefty signing up for a uniformed service on a whim.

      But for all that I used to be the only one arguing the "Leon Trotsky" side of the barracks arguments on economics and politics, my officers in the 80s and 90s (and Oughts) were scrupulously neutral, at least in public and on duty.

      But if there's one thing where "Trumpism" seems to differ from the earlier strains of "conservatism", it's being willing to say the quiet parts loud. So I wonder if some of the more out-there right-leaning officers are willing to let their MAGA freak-flag fly?

    4. I don't know. I've been out for two years now, but partisan politics was mostly absent from military life in my experience. I think the older people (from my generation and older) probably still adhere to the norms for the most part. But I wonder about future generations and if our young leaders will enforce the same standards.

    5. Don't put all the blame on local commanders. I suspect they surprised and had no inkling at what Commander Bone-Spurs was up to until it happened.

      As for Trump, a draft dodger like him has no concept of honor and integrity.

    6. I don't think all the MAGA shit just appeared out of nowhere, mike. And Trumpy Bear's predilection for turning every public appearance into a Trump campaign rally is well known. If the unit and installation commanders weren't at 100% security for something like this they should have been.

      I think it's peculiar to Fred Trump's kid that he can turn damn near anything into a shitshow, though.

      Bill Clinton dodged the draft with his academic deferment(s) but as President seemed to "get" the conventional behavior expected of the Chief Executive during grip-and-grins with servicepeople.

      So in this case I don't think it's a factor of draft dodging. It's the uniquely awful person inside the Trump skinsuit.

  6. Guys, you're being too hard on Trump this time. He just did us a great favor by successfully uniting the Iraqi Parliament to vote the US out of Iraq, thus fulfilling his campaign pledge to be a "uniter not a divider."

    It appears that Trump's biggest problem is that he's attempting to rule the wrong country. Near as I can tell, he's got the soul of an Iraqi, not a US citizen. This is both totally unexpected and completely logical at the same time.

    1. What I'm getting from the press reports is that the full Iraqi government knows how dependent it is on getting air and logistical support from the gringos. The pols who were raging were largely from the hardcore Shia militia parties. And, yeah, those folks were pretty damn pissed off, but I don't think they have enough support to win a full vote in the Iraqi legislature.

      But...yeah. Trumpy is a sort of Third World type; the corrupt oligarch. I think that's why he fits in so well with Putin. They're both cut from the same roll of...well, not so much cloth as asswipe.

  7. I may have to rethink my former opinion of General McChrystal. He calls Trump immoral, dishonest, and not representative of American values.

    1. Mike, you're not thinking this one through at a deep enough level.

      First of all, descending to child status about McChrystal's sudden identification of Trump, "Takes one to know one!"

      On a slightly more mature level, I had modestly high hopes for McChrystal and he shattered them in record time.

      It is far more likely that McChrystal had a sudden realization that he could amaze the money-baggers (like carpetbaggers only heavier) of the Republican party with his amazing combat record and predictive powers for the 2020 campaigns, either as a candidate or as an EXTREMELY well-paid advisor.

  8. What frustrates me, tho, mike, is what I've been harping on here; Trump's 90-something approval rating among self-identified Republicans. So for 35-45% of our fellow citizens Trump IS the highest representative of what they see as "American values".

    That's a level of moral and intellectual failure so deep I can barely understand it. And one that has little room for the classical ideal of the American Experiment.

    1. They know Trump is an A-hole. But he is their A-hole. They just hate the rest of us enough to keep kissing his ring.

    2. I think we like to believe that, because it would absolve his party and partisans from being as garbage humans beings as he is. But I'm not so sure. A hell of a lot of Trumpkin energy seems to come from all the hate and bile and cruelty. I don't like to believe it, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of alternatives. Any bog-standard Republican will give them all the same policy stuff. Only it'll come with less vile baggage. Trumpy's appeal seems to be the vileness.

      It's worth noting here, too, that there is no "Donald the Dove". The man isn't interested in forging a new policy to void the Bushies "war on terror". He's simply stupid (so he doesn't understand complexity or have any ideas beyond "faster pussycat kill kill") and impatient (so he doesn't want engagement and diplomacy and subtlety and strategic creativity. Killing? Fine, just make it quick and easy...) so he wants out of the legacy wars he neither understands nor cares about. They're not HIS wars, so he could give a shit.

      Not that there is any power base in DC that seems to provide a better geopolitical answer, mind. But to look to Trump to revamp U.S. foreign policy away from mindless warring - as I recall reading here two years ago as well as since - is utterly unsupportable by the events of the past two years or, indeed, an objective assessment of the man himself...

  9. I certainly do NOT absolve them.

    All I am arguing against is your thought that '...for 35-45% of our fellow citizens Trump IS the highest representative of what they see as "American values".'

    No way that is true. Just listen to what Liberty U Jerry Falwell Junior has to say about President Spankie:

    Money quote: "He told the Post that there is nothing Trump could do that would endanger his support." He is not alone.

    I do agree with your 'no donald dove' comment.

    1. Frankly, how is that different? "He's a worthless gorbag but he imprisons dusky toddlers and hands the public weal over to looters and thieves, so I luuuurve him!" seems functionally indistinguishable from seeing Trump as the embodiment of what is good for America. They don't have to see him AS a hero, just as doing the work of a hero. It seems to me a distinction that makes no difference.

  10. How can seeing Trump as 'a worthless gorbag' equate to your previous assessment where he is 'the highest representative of what they see as "American values".' I don't follow that logic?

    I suppose there are some that like his style and equate his arrogant bragging and ranting as "American values". But only a few IMO. Those few give a shit less about his wall, know it is worthless, but cheer it on because they want to see him shove it up Chuck and Nancy where the sun don't shine. Politics as sport.

    In your latest example there are different audiences. Both see him as a "worthless gorbag". One group loves the dusky toddlers being locked up or tear gassed, so ignores, or is deliberately ignorant of, the looting of the treasury. The other group may be discouraged with the toddler business but not enough to stop taking his graft from the public trough. And there are other segments of his base that are there for different reasons. Take Falwell or Romney for instance, they hold their nose against the Trump stink, but are loving the packing of the courts with radicals and reactionaries.

    His so-called base is NOT some rigidly fixed uniformity, like some monolithic concrete wall. They support him for different reasons. Single issue voters of a hundred and one dissimilar motives. But as you mention above it IS a major moral failure, regardless of reason.