The problem with the twenty-four hour news cycle is that everything being reported comes and goes too quickly to connect the dots. I noted a number of stories during the past several weeks that should have raised all kinds of red flags, particularly if considered together, but they frequently received such limited media coverage and were gone so quickly that there was hardly any reaction to them, which is precisely what the government relies on. People concerned about the state of permanent war overseas coupled with the decline of civil liberties within the United States should be looking at how the National Security State is evolving as it is happening right out in the open. But they should also be concerned about the collusion of the media with the government propaganda organs to shape a narrative designed to have a short shelf life, knowing that the story will quickly disappear and there will be little or no feedback.
There were a large number of stories relating to reported Russian support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. For those who have not been following it, Moscow has begun airlifting what it initially described as humanitarian supplies to a military airfield it prepared in Latakia, near its naval base at Tartus. The materiel in question inevitably included some military equipment together with advisers, but the underlying assumption made by both Washington and the compliant media was that the Russian involvement in Syria constituted some kind of “threat.” That assessment was based on the presumption that the United States has a right to do whatever it wishes to overthrow Syria’s government while the Russians have no right whatsoever to attempt to support it.
Syria is not exactly on Russia’s doorstep but it is not that far away from Russia’s troubled Central Asian region while Damascus and Moscow have had treaty arrangements going back many years. After the initial “how dare they” shock, insider reports emanating from the White House suggested that there was a battle going on internally between those in the National Security Council who wanted to tighten the screws on the Russians to force them to back down and those who wanted to take advantage of Moscow’s initiative to seek a negotiated settlement that would permit Bashar al-Assad to gracefully retire to Dubai and create a unity government of sorts that could resist the real bad guys represented by ISIS and al-Qaeda. That would mean that Russia might be presenting not a threat but rather an opportunity, offering Washington a way out of the quagmire just as it did back in 2013 when it brokered an arrangement to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapon stockpile. A negotiated agreement would be the sensible thing to do and would be regarded as such if sense were all that common in the White House.
Eventually the push to cooperate with the Russians gained substantial momentum when it was revealed that back in 2012 Moscow was floating a proposal for a negotiated deal that would have include Bashar al-Assad stepping down, an initiative which could have saved many tens of thousands of lives and might have spared Europe its current refugee crisis. But the proposal was turned down by Obama and other western leaders, apparently because they believed incorrectly that the Syrian government was about to fall anyway.
Characteristically, the White House has now decided to talk and possibly even work with the Russians while also doubling down on supporting more of the so-called insurgents. It has finally conceded that its hugely expensive Pentagon program to train the “moderate” rebels has resulted in only four or five actual combatants on the ground. But it will press ahead with supplying new weapons, even while admitting that it doesn’t know exactly whom it will be arming. That is a lose-lose strategy as it puts more weapons on the ground where recent developments tell us that they will eventually wind up in the hands of the most radical elements and it creates a situation in which regime supporters will believe that they must fight even harder to avoid being betrayed by Washington and swallowed by ISIS. A new wave of refugees is already reported to be gathering. Meanwhile, the media story has shifted to the refugees themselves and any introspection regarding the inept policies that caused the catastrophe has faded from view.
President Obama probably has good reason to believe that he can muddle along in Syria and Iraq until he leaves office, kicking the can down the road for Hillary to complete the devastation. In reality, his handling of a situation that required some finesse as well as sensitivity has been an abject failure, largely because he refused to recognize who represented the actual potential threat to the United States. Hint: it was not Bashar al-Assad.
The solution to the real though grossly overstated ISIS threat is in reality quite simple and consists of working with, not around, the people in the region who are most affected and have a stake in the game, which means Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. A modicum of United States leadership might well have enabled the participants to put aside political differences and create a broad coalition with a simple objective – to destroy ISIS. But the opportunity was wasted while the White House played with various unworkable scenarios that required getting rid of al-Assad while propping up Baghdad, coddling Erdogan in Turkey and keeping Iran out of it, which narrowed the actual options to zero. In the final analysis, the Administration has decided to go with the “war without end” route so the eventual Democratic candidate will not look “weak on security” in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
Another recent story gains particular importance if it is connected to the stories about Syria. It details how the intelligence community has again become the whipping boy for a lot of clueless politicians and the parasites who work so hard to please them. Fifty-two military intelligence analysts at Central Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency have filed an inspector general complaint against their bosses, claiming that intelligence on ISIS has been cooked to make it appear that the United States and its good friend the terminally corrupt Iraqi government are actually winning. The point being that they are not winning and everyone at the working level seems to know it.
The analysts are conscious of and reacting to the corruption of intelligence under George W. Bush and his baseball trivia aficionado buddy George Tenet in 2002-3, which led to the production of dodgy assessments that supported the false claims being made by the White House over Iraqi WMDs and led to war. Now that the story of the analysts’ revolt has lost its legs, nothing substantive will be done but the rebels will in all likelihood be forced to resign or otherwise punished.
A final pair of stories includes a new death list and someone in the government actually being held accountable for something. Or was he? They both come from the Department of Defense. One concerns the new rules of engagement issued by the Pentagon in its revised “DOD Law of War Manual” which defines who can be killed and under what circumstances when Washington resorts to using armed force overseas. The manual replaces George Bush’s “unlawful enemy combatant” with the catchy new label “unprivileged belligerent” and in so doing hugely expands the possible targets to include journalists. Michael Rubin of the neocon American Enterprise Institutes supports the changes and explains “It’s a realization that not everyone abides by the same standards we do.” Rubin certainly gets that right but not in the way he thinks as few other governments are suggesting to their soldiers that journalists are from now on fair game.
The other tale is about a law professor at West Point named William Bradford. Bradford eschews the new “unprivileged belligerent” moniker and instead prefers to focus on a “clique of about 40” fellow law professors who he still considers to be Bushian “unlawful enemy combatants” due to their affiliation with “Islamist” groups. Bradford considers them to be guilty of treason, which carries the death penalty. He has also advocated U.S. bombing of Islamic holy sites. Conceding that there would be an enormous number of civilian deaths, Bradford nevertheless advocates killing as many Muslims as it takes to make Islamic jihad collapse.
Bradford resigned recently from West Point to avoid being fired, but not for his unconventional views. He reportedly faked key elements in his resume to include his alleged military service and his academic credentials.
The point here is that the United States can be clearly perceived as plummeting over a cliff Lemming-like when all of these developments are viewed collectively. The Obama White House enabled a war to bring about regime change in Syria, thereby unleashing a monster named ISIS and is now failing utterly in either of it stated objectives to replace the al-Assad government or defeat the terrorists. It now needs Russian help desperately to extricate itself but it may turn out to be too hubristic to do what needs to be done.
Meanwhile, the government is resorting to cooking intelligence and is prepared to shoot journalists to make its failures go away while a professor at the prestigious United States Military Academy publicly advocates genocide and is given a senior level teaching position off a fake resume.
And don’t forget the other stories that have disappeared down the memory hole. Washington continues to be simultaneously mired in Afghanistan, which will be another disaster whether we eventually pull out next year, the following year or even in 2020. The timetable makes no difference.
Failure in Afghanistan has not impeded the persistent moves by the neoconservatives and democracy promoters in the Obama administration to also confront Russia over Ukraine, which serves no American interest whatsoever. It comes at a time when Washington is “pivoting” to Asia, strategically speaking, which has meant in practice antagonizing China. The end result has been to bind natural antagonists Russia and China closer together.
We have only ourselves to blame for winding up in the God-awful situation that prevails currently as we have voted miscreants into office time and again in spite of the inanities they spout and the clear signs that the only thing most of them care about is power and money. It is no wonder that younger Americans have little or no interest in politics, which they see as corrupt from top to bottom. And they are right. They understand that lying and dissimulation have become givens whenever a government spokesman or congressman opens his or her mouth so they tune the entire process out. Samuel Johnson called “patriotism” the last refuge of a scoundrel but if he had thought carefully about the entire political process he would have likely discerned that the scoundrel’s first refuge is to become a politician.