Tag: War

Mixed Emotions

I am happy that Donald Trump has not initiated military strikes against Iran in response to the shoot-down of Droney McDroneface, but the fact that he called for them, and then reversed himself, is not reassuring:

President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.

Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.

The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.


The retaliation plan was intended as a response to the shooting down of the unmanned, $130 million surveillance drone, which was struck Thursday morning by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, according to a senior administration official who was briefed on the military planning and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential plans.

The strike was set to take place just before dawn Friday in Iran to minimize risk to the Iranian military and civilians.

My thought go out to the grieving family of Droney, but the air-strike was a bad idea to begin with, and my guess is that it came from the fevered brain of NSC Chairman John Bolton, who would do or say anything to get his war on.

This Should Have Happened 4 Years Ago

The Senate voted to block the sale of billions of dollars of munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, in a sharp and bipartisan rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to circumvent Congress to allow the exports by declaring an emergency over Iran.

In three back-to-back votes, Republicans joined Democrats to register their growing anger with the administration’s use of emergency power to cut lawmakers out of national security decisions, as well as the White House’s unflagging support for the Saudis despite congressional pressure to punish Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the killing in October of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A United Nations report released Wednesday made the most authoritative case to date that responsibility for the killing and its cover-up lies at the highest levels of the Saudi royal court.

No other foreign policy issue has created as large a rift between President Trump and Congress, and the vote to block the arms sales deepens the divide. It is the second time in just a few months that members of Mr. Trump’s party have publicly opposed his foreign policy, with both the House and Senate approving bipartisan legislation this spring to cut off military assistance to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen using the 1973 War Powers Act, only to see it vetoed.


The vote came the same day that Britain announced it would temporarily suspend approval of any new licenses to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, after an unexpected court ruling that ministers had acted unlawfully in allowing the sale of weapons when there was a clear possibility they might be used in violation of international humanitarian law in Yemen.

This war, and the criminal brutality, has been going on for far too long.

The Columbia Journalism Review States the Obvious

With every day that passes, the drumbeat of war echoes a little more loudly through our media. Yesterday, officials in Iran said that the country will soon have produced and stockpiled more low-enriched uranium—of the type used in power plants—than it is permitted to possess under the 2015 nuclear deal, which the US ditched last year. In Washington, the Trump administration moved to dispatch 1,000 American troops to the Middle East, adding to the 1,500-strong deployment it sent last month. Tensions between the US and Iran, we are told, are rising.


Yesterday, the Trump administration declassified images it says back up its case that Iran was behind the tanker attacks. Many outlets relayed administration claims about the images in headlines; in a tweet, Politico said that, per the Pentagon, “the images provide ironclad evidence Iran was responsible.” The third paragraph of Politico’s linked story, however, notes that “nothing in the photos or accompanying documents reveal evidence of the placement of the magnetic mines on the ship.” Hardly “ironclad,” then. Last night, in an article for Task & Purpose, a military news site, Jeff Schogol argued that “not a single US official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.” Without air-tight evidence, news outlets really should not air administration claims without a heavy dose of context. “Pompeo/Bolton/Shanahan said” is not enough.

Again, it’s hard to generalize, but US coverage of the latest Iran episode seems to be falling into some old, bad habits. In recent coverage, “the media has generally been better at treating unproven accusations by the Trump administration as just that—accusations, and not facts,” Trita Parsi, a researcher and founder of the National Iranian American Council, told me last night in an email. “Yet, on numerous occasions, there has either been a failure to push back against blatantly false assertions by Trump officials, or Trump accusations have been presented as proven facts.” The problem is especially acute in headlines and tweets, Parsi notes.

I have lived though journalistic fails of this sort my entire life.

I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the press gets this right in my lifetime.

This is Not Going to End Well………

One of the problems with cyber-weaponry is that any time you use it, you are giving the detailed plans of that weapon, and the means to produce that weapon to use against you.

One needs only to look at the history of Stuxnet, where, once it was out in the wild, it was repeatedly repurposed in other attacks.

Needless to say, the permanent war crowd in the seems to think that whatever they do to someone else will never reflect back upon them.

So it comes as no surprise that we now have reports that the United States is launching attacks on the Russian power grid.

Not only are we giving the Russians these cyber weapons, but we have just validated attacks on our infrastructure every state and non-state actor so inclined:

The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said.

In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections.

Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.

But it also carries significant risk of escalating the daily digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

Gee, you think?


But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.

The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, has been outspoken about the need to “defend forward” deep in an adversary’s networks to demonstrate that the United States will respond to the barrage of online attacks aimed at it. 

Again, if your opponent discovers this, they have the same tech that you do, as well as the means to manufacture and deliver the payload.

This is shortsighted and dangerous.

But there is also something even scarier:


Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place “implants” — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.

Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

It appears that the only thing scarier than Trump being in charge is Trump NOT being in charge.

The idea that military and intelligence authorities could initiate attacks on a potential adversary without any sort of authorization from civilian authorities is profoundly terrifying

He Should Not Apologize

Lately, Bernie Sanders has been criticized for his opposition to the Vietnam War, the invasion or Iraq, and a potential invasion of Iran.

He has refused to apologize, and he should continue to refuse, because he was, and is, right, and his critics are, and were, wrong:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took aim at calls for him to “apologize” for his refusal to support U.S. armed conflicts in the Middle East, saying Friday that he was “right” about past U.S. wars and would continue to advocate against war with Iran.

In a tweet, Sanders wrote that he will “apologize to no one” for supporting peaceful diplomatic efforts over armed conflict with Iran, citing U.S. wars in Iraq and Vietnam as examples of past U.S. armed responses that resulted in long-running and exhausting wars.

“I was right about Vietnam. I was right about Iraq. I will do everything in my power to prevent a war with Iran. I apologize to no one,” the senator tweeted, along with a video explaining his stance against war with the country.

I was right about Vietnam.

I was right about Iraq.

I will do everything in my power to prevent a war with Iran.

I apologize to no one. pic.twitter.com/Lna3oBZMKB

— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 24, 2019

In the topsy-turvy world inside the Beltway, being right is somehow indicates that he is not “serious” about foreign policy.

Needless to say, this is complete bullsh%$.

So, the Trump Administration is Pro Rape as a Weapon of War

It appears that the whole, “Shining city upon the hill,” thing is now inoperative:

A German-drafted resolution was adopted after a reference was cut referring to the need for U.N. bodies and donors to give timely “sexual and reproductive health” assistance to survivors of sexual violence in conflict.

The U.S. veto threat was the latest in a string of policy reversals that some U.N. diplomats say has been driven by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who staunchly opposes abortion rights.


Acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen did not speak after the council vote.

After the vote French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told the 15-member body: “It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict – and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant – should have the right to terminate their pregnancy.”

The language promoting sexual and reproductive health is long-agreed internationally, including in resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2009 and 2013 and several resolutions adopted annually by the 193-member General Assembly.

The text adopted on Tuesday simply reaffirms the council’s commitment to the 2009 and 2013 resolutions. A reference to the work of the International Criminal Court in fighting the most serious crimes against women and girls was also watered-down to win over Washington, which is not a member of the institution.

This is beyond contempt.

Yemen War Powers Resolution Passes House

Trump has strongly opposed this, so a veto is likely, but the War Powers Act resolution requiring a US withdrawal from Yemen is the proverbial big f%$#ing deal:

The effort was a top priority for House Democrats after they took control in January amid a worsening humanitarian crisis on the ground in Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have sought to overthrow the country’s government, prompting a Saudi bombing campaign that has lasted nearly four years.

It also reflects broad dissatisfaction on Capitol Hill with Trump’s foreign policy — in particular, his posture toward Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“The president will have to face the reality that Congress is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations when it comes to foreign policy,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The situation in Yemen is appalling, and the actions, politics, and ideology of our erstwhile ally, the House of Saud, is even more appalling.

Our continued support for the maniacs in Riyadh serves no one but a handful of psychopathic royals.

A Victory for Human Decency

Thanks, Bernie

For the first time in longer than I can remember, The Senate has voted to stop US involvement in the war in Yemen:

The Senate on Wednesday again rebuked President Trump for his continued defense of Saudi Arabia after the killing of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, voting for a second time to end American military assistance for the kingdom’s war in Yemen and to curtail presidential war powers.

The 54-to-46 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and inflicted a devastating famine, sets the foundation for what could become Mr. Trump’s first presidential veto, with the House expected to overwhelmingly pass the measure, possibly this month. The vote also might be the opening salvo in a week where Senate Republicans have the opportunity to hit back at the president’s aggressive use of executive power. On Thursday, the chamber will vote on a resolution that would overturn Mr. Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure funding for his border wall.

“The United States Congress is going to reassert its constitutional responsibility over issues of war that have been abdicated for presidents, Democrats and Republicans, for too many years,” said Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont.


Supporters of the Yemen resolution have faced a long and grueling road to get the legislation onto the president’s desk. The Senate — led by the resolution’s authors, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Lee — first passed the measure 56 to 41 in December, but Paul D. Ryan, the House speaker at the time, refused to take up the resolution.


The resolution is a rare use of the 1973 War Powers Act, which gave Congress the ability to compel the removal of military forces absent a formal declaration of war. Those powers, created after the Vietnam War, have almost never been used, as lawmakers have demurred from intervening in politically delicate matters of war, peace and support for the troops.

Bernie Sanders has been the a point man on this, and he has been relentless.

He gets sh%$ done.

They Make a Desert and Call It Peace

By extension, it is an indictment of how the various colonial wars that the US has engaged in over the past 30 or so years.

Undoubtedly, the punishment for telling the truth will be swift and severe:

A senior French officer involved in the fight against Islamic State in Syria faces punishment after launching a scathing attack on the U.S.-led coalition’s methods to defeat the group in its remaining stronghold of Hajin, the army said on Saturday.

Colonel Francois-Regis Legrier, who has been in charge of directing French artillery supporting Kurdish-led groups in Syria since October, said the coalition’s focus had been on limiting its own risks and this had greatly increased the death toll among civilians and the levels of destruction.

“Yes, the Battle of Hajin was won, at least on the ground but by refusing ground engagement, we unnecessarily prolonged the conflict and thus contributed to increasing the number of casualties in the population,” Legrier wrote in an article in the National Defence Review.

We have massively destroyed the infrastructure and given the population a disgusting image of what may be a Western-style liberation leaving behind the seeds of an imminent resurgence of a new adversary,” he said, in rare public criticism by a serving officer.

The coalition could have got rid of just 2,000 militant fighters – who lacked air support or modern technological equipment – much more quickly and effectively by sending in just 1,000 troops, he argued.


Legrier’s article has embarrassed French authorities just hours before the coalition is expected to announce the defeat of the hardline Islamist group.

“A punishment is being considered,” French army spokesman Patrick Steiger said in a text message.

The article was removed from the review’s website on Saturday.

I wholeheartedly agree with Colonel Legrier, and I expect that his career is over.

Kind of Like West Side Story, With Nukes

In the most ominous military confrontation between India and Pakistan since both tested nuclear weapons two decades ago, Pakistan said it shot down two Indian military aircraft over its territory Wednesday and launched strikes in Indian-controlled Kashmir, while India claimed it shot down a Pakistani fighter jet in the “aerial encounter.”

An especially volatile aspect of the confrontation was Pakistan’s capture of an Indian fighter pilot. Pakistani military officials posted a photo of him on Twitter sitting in a room, and they said he was being treated “per norms of military ethics.”

But Pakistani television showed a video of the pilot, blindfolded and apparently with blood on his face. India’s Foreign Ministry said it “strongly objected to Pakistan’s vulgar display of an injured personnel” and expected “his immediate and safe return.”

While experts warned that the clash could easily escalate out of control, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan told his nation Wednesday that he wanted to avoid war with India, saying, “Let’s settle this with talks.” There was no public statement, however, by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  

I really hope that this does not get out of hand, because there are no good dance numbers involving nuclear weapons.

Quote of the Day

Congress long ago abdicated its constitutional authority to declare war, but demands veto over withdrawals: column https://t.co/MgdwxejWMW

— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) February 1, 2019

We truly live in Bizarro world

Matt Taibbi takes a very jaundiced view toward the permanent war party in Washington.

I wholeheartedly agree:

On the surface, it was a truly bipartisan defeat of Trump. A full 22 of those 68 yeas were Democrats.

But every Senate Democrat who’s even rumored to be running for president voted nay. The list included Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Jeff Merkley. Sherrod Brown did not vote.

Was it possible that their reluctance was connected to the fact that survey after survey shows the public has lost appetite for our Middle East wars, especially in Afghanistan?

The “stinging rebuke” in the Senate that has Washington buzzing was a graphic example of how out of touch the capital is with the rest of the country, which would like more of a say in when, where and why we go to war.


Having been told off by the Trump team, the Senate meekly got together to craft a new AUMF. The proposal among other things would trigger a 60-day review period by lawmakers, in the highly probable event a president decided to make war against a new country.

But nobody on the Senate Foreign Relations committee believed they could get the measure passed. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to get to the finish line on this,” predicted Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD). So even that pathetic ask for a fig leaf of congressional authority for future wars went nowhere.


Yet when Trump decided he was going to withdraw forces from Syria and Afghanistan, suddenly it was We Are The World time on the Hill. Republicans and the non-presidential candidates on the Democrat side joined hands to renounce the executive branch for daring to withdraw troops from somewhere without permission.

The constitutional idea that Congress does the declaring of wars, while presidents only command them, is designed to give voters extra input on this most crucial of decisions, i.e. when we’re going to risk American lives (to say nothing of foreign ones).

But Congress has been abdicating that responsibility for a while now. Two successive presidents made a joke of it, expanding limited authorization to go after 9/11 terrorists into nearly two decades of open-ended Middle East missions. We were bombing seven countries when Trump took office, and probably 99 percent of voters couldn’t have named them.

When Trump tried to withdraw troops from two countries, what happened? Congress, snoring on this issue since at least 2001, threw a fit that the president was acting unilaterally.

Seriously, if we were to replace every member of Congress with Big Mouth Billy Bass plaques, we would probably have a more meaningful discussion regarding war and peace.

Great. The Syrian War is Going to Run Into Netanyahu’s Electoral Ambitions

A Snowboarder Caught this On Tape

We now have a report that Iranian forces fired a rocket at Israel, and Israel responded with air-strikes:

Israeli forces bombed targets belonging to Iran inside Syria early Monday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement, as tensions on the northern border continued to skyrocket.

The Israeli army said at 1:30 a.m. it was “now striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” and warned Syrian forces not to intervene.


The attack came less than a day after Israel reportedly carried out a rare daylight strike on targets near Damascus, after which Iranian forces in Syria fired a retaliatory missile at Israel, according to the IDF. The exchanges ratcheted up concerns of a wider confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria. The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Monday that the Iranian missile, intercepted en route to the Golan by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, carried a nearly half-ton warhead.

I do not think that this is unrelated to the fact that Knesset elections will be in less than 3 months.

Say what you will about Binyamin Netanyahu, but he has an almost preternatural knack for tapping into the Israeli electorate fears to further his own political career..

For the New Year, I’ll Be Rooting for the Isolationist Right

Not the “Right” part, I remain a pinko, but the “Isolationist” part.

These days, the only people who seem to be opposing the the US archipelago of wars around the world are the isolationist right, as shown by this essay in American Conservative.

Unfortunately, the (very) few mainstream anti-War voices on the left are largely silent these days, because of the fear of being seen as supporting Trump, but we do have meaningful movement supporting a reduction of America’s imperial ambitions on the right:

The mainstream media has attacked President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as impulsive, blindsiding his own national security team. But detailed, published accounts of the policy process over the course of the year tell a very different story. They show that senior national security officials and self-interested institutions have been playing a complicated political game for months aimed at keeping Trump from wavering on our indefinite presence on the ground in Syria.

The entire episode thus represents a new variant of a familiar pattern dating back to Vietnam in which national security advisors put pressure on reluctant presidents to go along with existing or proposed military deployments in a war zone. The difference here is that Trump, by publicly choosing a different policy, has blown up their transparent schemes and offered the country a new course, one that does not involve a permanent war state.

The article is worth a read, as well as some serious consideration for the upcoming year.

Another Reason to Hate Netanyahu

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attempted to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to start a conflict with Hamas in Gaza as part of a plan to divert attention from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sources inside Saudi Arabia have told Middle East Eye.

A war in Gaza was among a range of measures and scenarios proposed by an emergency task force set up to counter increasingly damaging leaks about Khashoggi’s murder coming from Turkish authorities, according to sources with knowledge of the group’s activities.

The task force, which is composed of officials from the royal court, the foreign and defence ministries, and the intelligence service, briefs the the crown prince every six hours, MEE was told.

It advised bin Salman that a war in Gaza would distract Trump’s attention and refocus Washington’s attention on the role Saudi Arabia plays in bolstering Israeli strategic interests.

The fact that this plan was even discussed says a lot about the relationship between the Israeli PM and the prodigal son of the House of Saud says a lot about the dysfunction of the current Israeli leadership.