Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Operation Decisive Strike

September 26th marks four and a half years of the Saudi and Emirati war in Yemen.  With US support!  Below is a link to a piece from April 2015, a month after that intervention started.  Titled US generals: Saudi intervention in Yemen ‘a bad idea’.  Some flag officers at CENTCOM and at Special Ops argued strenuously against supporting the Saudi-led intervention because the "Houthi movement has been an effective counter to Al-Qaeda."  Those Special Ops guys were also clairvoyant in noting that Saudi/UAE intervention was doomed – even as the Saudis were saying it would take a few weeks.  Supposedly some in SOCOM still “favor the Houthis, as they have been successful in rolling back AQ and IS.”  
The Saudis labeled it 'Operation Decisive Strike', a criminal misnomer IMO.  There are 91,000+ dead Yemenis many of them civilians, hundreds of thousands devastated by cholera and malnutrition, three million displaced, 54 months of indiscriminate bombing of marketplaces & funerals & weddings et al, and billions of dollars down the toilet.  Just glad it is Saudi and Emirati dollars, except for the million or two US $$ for refueling flights.  But it looks like the T-Rump is going to increase that by an order of magnitude with this new force package he is sending to protect the House of Saud and their pinheaded prince.

And recently in Aden some Saudi supported factions and Emirati supported factions started killing each other.  Yemen is now looking worse than the goat-rope in Syria.  There are at least five different wars-within-war going on there:  

1] Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their minions against the Houthis and their tribal allies. The minions later included some help from Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.  This is the main fight, and was meant to restore the propped up president, Abdrabbuh Manṣūr Hādī (who like an absentee landlord lives in luxury in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)  -  and thrash the Houthis who they consider heretical and convert them to a creed more in line with Wahhabi thinking.  

2] Add in Iran support to the Houthis.  Although I don’t believe they were ever outright proxies of Tehran.  Reportedly Iran advised the Houthis NOT to take over the Yemen capitol of Sana’a back four and a half years ago.   But they did anyway.  And after the bombing campaign started Iran gave what support they could.  Undoubtedly there is funding and IRGC connivance in weapons supply.  And probably targeting intel within KSA via the Saudi Shia resistance, which is infiltrated by Iran.  But bin-Salman and bin-Zayed and our neocons seem to believe the entire Houthi movement started at the behest of the Ayatollahs.  I object, but those guys get paid much more than I. .

3] Another conflict is the battle for influence and control between the Saudis and Emiratis.  Both back factions opposed to one another.  Current shoot-em-ups are between the Saudi-supported Yemeni government in exile (Hadi) and southern separatists backed by the UAE (the STC or Southern Transitional Council).  The STC wants a two state Yemen like it was during the period from the early 1960s up until unification in 1990.

4] The fourth war pits al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and/or Ansar al-Sharia against everybody else.  With a few US drone strikes against known or supposed hi-value AQ targets.

5] This one is kinda like the fourth, but it is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Yemen Province (ISIL-YP) instead of AQ.

As of July.  Houthis in green, Saudi backed govt in exile in pink, UAE backed STC in khaki, AQ in white, IS in gray

Numbers 3, 4, and 5 have been mostly underreported, if reported at all in the western media.   

Monday, September 16, 2019

Do real men still want to go to Tehran..?

I've beat this drum before, but one of the really infuriating - and more than a little unnerving - things about the Trump Administration is that you can't be sure which of its lies are lies, which are damned lies, which are statistics, and which may, just possibly, be truths.

Case in point.
The Saudis apparently want the hell out of this to be Iran's doing. That makes geopolitical sense. The Saudis can't do anything to the Yemenis they're not doing already, they are regional power rivals to the Persians to the north, but they'll need some U.S. help to take a slap at the Iranians without getting slapped pretty hard in return.

If they can get the Yankees to buy it who sent the drone airmail doesn't really matter; they'll have their Gulf of Persia Resolution and it's Bombs Away! over Tehran.

What's less explicable is the intentions of this government as expressed by the various spokescritters within the Trump Administration.

Since the Saturday strike on the Saudi refinery at Abqaiq everybody and their dog (and Mikey Pompeo, but I repeat myself) has blamed the tricksy Iranian devils. Pompeo practically busted a nut on Twitter fulminating about the wascally Iwanian wabbits:

Thing is, there can't really be much doubt if there's physical evidence. There will be bits and pieces of the aircraft as well as the ordnance. There is likely to have been ground-to-air tracking of the UAVs in flight.

Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the U.S. doesn't 1) know where Iran's cruise missile launch sites are located, and 2) monitor the hell out of them, Iranian communications, and, especially, their aerial attack capabilities.

If this was as unequivocally an Iranian op I have to think that the U.S. intelligence services already know that.

Now...there may be an good reason to keep the intelligence sources on the downlow - tho the Boss doesn't seem to have problems with tweeting out classified reconnaissance photos - and there may be a reason (likely something to do with fire control problems at the Abqaiq facility that are delaying crater analyses and other on-the-ground intel collection that needs to be done to nail down the exact means and methods used) for playing cagey about whodunnit.

But if that's the case, why jump in with the scary ooga-booga "We Know You Did It!" stuff so soon?

I mean, in a tweet he fired off yesterday Trump appeared to say that all he needed was the go-ahead from his pal MBS to nuke those meddlesome Persians:
(As an aside, remember when Republicans used to go nuts about how Obama was just a cat's-paw of everyone who wanted him to use American force to meddle in foreign business? IIRC that was the point of denying him use of force in Syria regardless of red lines here and there; because we are Amurrikuns, gawddamnit, and we don't bow the knee to no furriners. Ah, yes, those were the days...)

However, at the latest White House presser Trump wouldn't directly say that.
"A reporter off-camera asked, "Could you clarify Mr. President? You said you think Iran is responsible for the attack, do you think --- "

"I didn't say that." "Why do you say that?" he asked. "I said we think we know who it was, but I didn't say anybody but ... Certainly it would look to most like it was Iran but I did not say it the way you said it."
So in classic Trumpenstyle the Orange One has managed to 1) make it seem like he's waffling around waiting for his Saudi pals to tell him what to do, and in so doing 2) irk the living shit out of a bunch of people in D.C. by opening his piehole before thinking about it.

Tulsi Gabbard's response “Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia's bitch is not ‘America First,’”may the juiciest, if not the most informative, but pretty much sums up the general enthusiasm for whatever-the-hell-the-Trumpkins-are-up-to.

But what's kind of weird about this is that if the Iranians DID blow the hell out of this Saudi refinery it's either an Iranian-Saudi problem (and only a US problem if we make it one, so why shout and make a fuss until we decide to do that?), or a "global oil supply" problem and thus an attack on everyone who depends on that supply, including the US - which means that we either take some action, or not; again, fulminating on Twitter seems a very odd way of re-envisioning the Ems Telegram.

Anyway, here's my take.

The bottom lines on this one are;

1) I have no idea who really blew up this Saudi refinery, and I could care less. The Houthis certainly had a good reason. But, frankly, with sanctions squeezing their own petroleum sales the Quds Force might well be disposed to remind their neighborhood sheiks that their own lifestyles aren't out of reach if they get too bitchy. Hell, it could have been the Saudis themselves trying to fool their Uncle Sammy and Tangerine Tiberius to launch a Operation Persian Pacification,

2) As a U.S. citizen, please tell me why I should care, or want to help the Saudis in any way? As far as petroleum goes, gas made from Iranian crude drives the ol' Subaru as far as Saudi, and as far as Islamic despotisms go I'd say the difference between the two gas-pump polities is "pick 'em". I don't have a dog in the Shia-Sunni fight, and the best thing my nation can get from Middle Eastern politics is "out", and

2) I'd be a lot less nervous about some moron starting Gulf War IV if I had a higher opinion of the grade of moron currently running things in the Fraudulency Administration, and this nonsense doesn't reassure me in any way. I think that there are still a lot of Bush Era ne'redowells in this Administration that still Want to Go To Tehran, and I don't trust the real-estate-grifter-in-chief to either recognize that or keep those damn gomers' hands off the bomb release levers.


We'll have to wait and see, unfortunately.

Update 9/18: There seems to be an increasing consensus that some Iranian organization(s) was/were involved in this attack. The only real question at this point is whether Trump will take his marching orders from his Saudi bros.

What makes this even more frustrating is that Trump's bobo, Pompeo, is straight-up confessing that this is all because his boss blew up the JCPOA:
“There is this theme that some suggest that the president’s strategy that we allowed isn’t working. I would argue just the converse of that. I would argue that what you are seeing here is a direct result of us reversing the enormous failure of the JCPOA,”
When you edit this for Trumpian Newspeak you get the gist that the problems Iran is involved in - whether caused by or not - are the direct result of some idiot blowing up the diplomatic agreement that was actually working and replacing it with nothing but Tweets-o-War and bombast.

The notion that people are going to die because Donald Trump's ego is chafed by the impudent Negro who twitted him at a dinner meeting years ago just reminds me of the scene in Shaw's Devil's Disciple where Richard Dudgeon objects to paying taxes to King George. GEN Burgoyne answers that a gentleman's part is to fulfill his obligations, regardless of their distastefulness, to which Dudgeon responds that it's not the money, it's being swindled by a pigheaded lunatic like George Hanover.

To which Burgoyne admits is another matter entirely...

Saturday, September 14, 2019

An open letter to my fellow U.S. citizens

I'm sitting in the dark house on a pre-dawn Saturday morning, sipping my coffee and watching Newcastle United look like boys against men in Liverpool, but - seeing how piss-poor the Lads are playing - I'm also parsing my Facebook feed and reading comments about the ill-advised recruiting stunt the Portland MEPs guys and the Thorns Front Office pulled last Wednesday (you can read about it here).

One of the comments is from another GI who talks about how emotional an occasion it is to swear to defend the people of the United States.

And it occurs to me that the Oath of Enlistment says nothing about "defending the people".

The exact wording is: " and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

Domestic enemies?

That would be..."the people" sometimes, right?


Which is why past presidents have used us GIs to do things like shoot and kill striking workers, and ol' Dugout Doug MacArthur could use us to attack the Bonus Army of our fellow GIs and their families. If the Constitution in the form of the president or Congress tells us that some portion of We the People are a "domestic enemy"?

We as soldiers are obligated by that oath to use whatever means we are ordered to use to "defend the Constitution".

Kinda scary, innit?

Think about that next time you see one of those "Land of the Free Because of the Brave" bumper stickers, hmmm..?

As GIs you, my fellow citizens, give us a lot of tongue-bathing. You're constantly told to "support the troops". You get a crap-ton of military PR shoved at you, like the recruiting stunt at the Thorns match. And in general that's lovely. We all like to get some love.

But maybe - just maybe - as "citizens" you might want to be a trifle less credulous about all this "support the troops" stuff.

Because it usually takes troops to make "citizens" into "subjects".

Maybe I'm just being a cynical old sergeant. Sergeants are notorious pessimists, the Eeyores of the Army. We always look for the flaws in the officers' plans so we can head them off. And I'm certainly not telling you that my fellow GIs would agree to do that, or would blindly follow orders to herd you into a camp, or shoot you down when you take to the streets if, say, a President were to refuse to accept the result of an election and not yield his power to his elected sucessor. might want to think about what you're being told.
Just sayin'.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Mike just reminded us that about four years after the Day that Will Live in Infamy the United States as part of an alliance signed the victorious articles of surrender over the last of the fascist powers that had begun the war.

On this day eighteen years ago today another war began, a war that continues to this day, a war that was, eventually subsumed and engorged by lies and fear, driven by greed and stupidity and hubris, and that ended up covering the bodies piled up here - in New York City and Washington D.C. and a field in Pennsylvania - with piles and heaps and mountains of bodies; bodies of innocent women, of small children, of innocents without so much as a drop of blood on their hands, with young men and women sent to fight and kill and die for those lies and that fear.

And those who shed that blood and took those lives?
"Don't you wonder if they ever pause on September 11 every year and ponder how they all used the dead of that awful day for their own purposes, to fulfill their long-held desires for empire-building in the countries of oil, to use other people's children in service of their profane desires? Don't you wonder if they ever pause on September 11 and ponder how they'd all screwed up so badly throughout the summer of 2001 when, as Richard Clarke recalled, "all the lights were blinking red"? Do you wonder if they make the connection, in the softening dark of the early morning, between their own incompetence and the use they ultimately made of it?

Of course, you don't wonder. Because they don't. Introspection was never a priority with this crew. And as we see so many of them on television today, deeply troubled by the actions of another underprepared, incompetent president*, and using the dead of 9/11 as protective camouflage for all their deception and bloody blundering that occurred beginning that very morning, we should all take time to mourn the dead of that day, and all the days thereafter, and, yes, say, Never Again."
The country we live in today; the country of security gates and drones and surveillance and national security letters and yellow-ribbon patriotism was built, bloody brick by bloody brick, from the foundation these people laid on that day.

THAT's what we should never forget, on this day, every year.

Damn them.

Damn them all to Hell.

Update 9/15: Charlie Pierce (as usual) continues the discussion better than I can:

"Right now, in the 18th year of our war on terror, American troops are engaged in making war in a number of places, including Afghanistan, where they have been engaged in making war the longest. American soldiers have died in Niger and in Mali in Africa, where hardly anyone in this country knew they were deployed. Navy SEALS have fought in Somalia and in Yemen. After four American soldiers were killed by militants in Niger, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and nobody’s idea of a peacenik, told NBC News:

I didn’t know there was 1,000 troops in Niger. This is an endless war without boundaries, no limitation on time or geography. We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing.

If, ultimately, the Vietnam War lost J. William Fulbright because its purpose and goals had ceased to make any kind of sense, it seems more than past time to apply that same kind of merciless scrutiny to the endless “war” on terror and on its most conspicuous manifestation: the continued deployment of American troops in Afghanistan. Does it make sense to stay there because we’ve been there for 18 years? If, upon our departure, the people of Afghanistan descend to slaughter again, is that reason enough to maintain a permanent military presence in the middle of a society that’s been torn by war since the days of Alexander The Great? Where are we in the world militarily, and what are we doing, anyway?

Good questions, and no less important because they remain largely unasked."

Monday, September 2, 2019

VJ Day

Officially it was 2 September 1945 in a formal setting on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay with the famous photo of Dugout Doug MacArthur lording it over the ceremony.   It was about three weeks earlier on 10 August that the Swiss Embassy in Washington notified US Secretary of State James F Byrnes of Japan's intention to accept unconditional surrender.  There was just one small proviso, that Emperor Hirohito be permitted to remain in place.  Truman accepted.  Actual surrender was acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration just past noon of 15 August in Japan.  Because of time zone differences it was about 11 PM on 14 August in Washington DC.

The photo on the right was taken 19 August with MacArthur on the balcony of Manila City Hall.  Mac and the GIs and Filipinos below him are waiting for the Japanese delegation coming to accept the orders to surrender and return them to Tokyo.  City Hall, one of few buildings left standing, was still pockmarked by bullets from the Battle of Manila six months earlier which had resulted in the death of 1000 American GIs, 16,500+ Japanese, and 100,000 Filipinos. 

That Japanese delegation to Manila had flown from Tokyo to Sata Misaki on the southern tip of Kyushu and from there to Ie Shima , an island just off the western edge of Okinawa.

They flew in two twin-engined Mitsubishi G4M1 aircraft, AKA Bettys.  They had been stripped of all weapons and were painted white with green cross markings instead of the red meatball.   Partway to Ie Shima they were escorted by B-25 Mitchells and P-38 Lightnings, just in case some bushido fanatic tried to stop the peace talks (That was not paranoia on the part of the Americans on Ie Shima.  On 15/16 August on hearing of the surrender Japanese guards murdered over 100 American POWs.  Many Australian and British prisoners of war were murdered at Ranau and Sandakan in Borneo.  Plus at Batu Lintang in Borneo, death orders were proposed to murder some 2,000 POWs and civilian internees but the camp was liberated before they could be carried out.).   From Ie Shima they were put on a Douglas C54 Skymaster to proceed to Manila and meet Mac to accept the surrender orders.

Ie Shima or Ie Island, known as Iejima to the Japanese, is a very tiny island of about 23 square kilometers or less than nine square miles.  At that time it had one of the largest airfields in the Pacific.  Which is why it was selected for the changeover.  It is where Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent Ernie Pyle, was killed by machine gun fire when he was covering the 77th Division liberation of the island and airfield. Every April there is a memorial service there for him.

 It's a beautiful place today. Covered in gardens of vegetables and flowers.  Every April, in addition to the Ernie Pyle memorial, the island hosts the Iejima Island Lily Festival featuring acreage that looks like gigantic carpets of snow white lilys.

At MacArthur's dog and pony show on the 2nd (i.e. the formal surrender ceremony), the Japanese delegation was led by Mamoru Shigemitsu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and General Yoshijirō Umezu Chief of the IJA General Staff.  Mac's staff had specified all the details of the ceremony.  So was it a slap in the face to Admiral Nimitz that Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Chief of the IJN General Staff was not among them?  Some thought so at the time.  Both Shigemitsu and Umezu were later convicted at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.  Umezu certainly deserved it for his time in China as CG of the Japanese 1st Army and later CinC of the Kwantung Army.  Umezu died in prison four years after the surrender.  Shigemitsu, known as Shiggy to the American press, got a raw deal and never should have been convicted.  He had opposed militarism his entire career in the diplomatic corps, had opposed the war, and he had "argued that the success of the proposed Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere depended on the equal treatment of China and other Asian nations with Japan."  It was Stalin that wanted him on trial.  He had been ambassador in Moscow in 1938, so he must have stepped on some toes there during the Japanese/Soviet border conflicts.  Despite depositions from both American and British diplomats about Shigemitsu's opposition to the war, MacArthur caved to the Soviets.  Or maybe it was Truman?   But Shiggy was released from prison in 1950 he eventually went into politics becoming a member of the Diet in 1952 and Deputy Prime Minister in 1954.