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Monday, April 10, 2017

Throwing Bombs

[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem
-- Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address

Let's see…

Fifty-nine Tomahawk cruise missiles.

At approximately $1,410,000 each for the Navy TLAM variant depending on configuration.

That comes to $83,000,000 and change.

Divide that by the price of a basic model 32Gb iPhone 7, carry the 1, and you get 128,181 Republican healthcare plans…

 

What?

 

Oh, I see.

You don’t think I should be making jokes out of a US missile strike?

Fair enough.

But consider this: The Secretary of State is America’s chief diplomat, responsible for preventing war.

The Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, the guy who up until three months ago was the CEO of ExxonMobil and who still holds billions in oil industry stock.

Last week, following a major US military strike on Syria and announcement that the US would not be seeking diplomatic solutions to either Syria or North Korea, oil prices on the global market surged up.

Potentially earning Rex Tillerson thousands, maybe millions – depending on how long this goes on.

Let that sink in.

Take all the time you need.

And then you tell me how this isn’t some sick fucking joke.

 

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I think Donald Trump became President of the United States last night.

Donald Trump. Became president of the United States [Friday] night. After bombing Syria.

You ever wonder why the pundits say this? He truly became president when he ordered that military strike. Oh yes, indeed, he truly became president.

Because that’s how we Americans see it, right? Commander in Chief. A man isn’t truly president until he bombs some people, until he orders the military into action, until he commands America in war. That’s what we mean when we say “became president.”

You ever ask yourself why one doesn’t “become president” by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or healing the sick?

I mean, in a supposed Christian nation doesn’t that seem ass-backward to you?

No?

Well, maybe it’s just me.

I guess what gets me most two days later isn’t that we bombed Syria per se. No, given the amount of war and destruction over there, nerve gas and falling bombs, shattered buildings, genocide, mass murder, what’s a few more dead kids at this point? I mean really, right?

No. It’s the hypocrisy.

Sean Hannity in September of 2013 talking about President Obama:

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He wasn’t alone in his condemnation of Obama’s action in Syria.

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The part that really sells it for me is the subtitle: “President commits impeachable offense.”

Impeachable offense.

Impeachable.

But then that was 2013 and the president was a black liberal, so, yes, I suppose it was indeed an impeachable offense because, really, what wasn’t an impeachable offense back then, amiright?

I digress.

Sean Hannity and Alex Jones, the two sources which most often seem to shape Donald Trump’s viewpoint.

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What I’m saying is stay out of Syria.

We should stay out of Syria and stay home, work on our own country.

Don’t attack Syria, that’s nothing but trouble.

No upside to attacking Syria. No, Sir. Nothing but trouble.

And besides, you have to get permission from Congress. Boy oh boy, big mistake if you don’t, Folks. Big mistake.

 

Big mistake.

 

Funny how four years changes your perspective, isn’t it?

Sean Hannity yesterday, when somebody mentioned his 2013 comment.

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This is beyond dumb. Let me guess, you loved Obama.

That’s hilarious. And it’s not an actual answer. Why is it beyond dumb? Why is it brilliant strategy for one president and the height of arrogant folly for another? Essentially Hannity just said, it’s okay if Trump does it, but for Obama it’s an impeachable offense.

Don’t get me wrong here, it does make a difference why a president takes a certain action and the same decision can indeed be folly for one and genius for another. We’ll come back to that later. And that’s not what Hannity is saying here. Instead he calls his critic dumb without explanation.

I leave it up to you to figure out why that might be.

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Trump strikes Syrian base. But, let’s wait and see. No impeachable offense subtitles here either. Just “analysis.”

Yes, indeed, funny how perspectives change.

 

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In September of 2013, Paul Ryan was staunchly opposed to any action against Syria and he wasn’t shy about saying so.

About the only guy who hasn’t changed positions is Senator John McCain.

He’s just grateful we finally got to blow up some Syrians. 

He gets cranky when we’re not bombing people…

 

You again? What now?

 

I see.

Okay. Fine.

Enough snark.  People are dying, I should be serious. Fair enough.

Then let us be serious.

Here’s the thing: We do need to take action in Syria.

The world needs to take action.

This atrocity has gone on long enough.  More than long enough. The Syrian regime, backed by the Russians, has been killing its own people for as long as I can remember. As far back as when I was a junior Navy intelligence operator patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean, 30 years ago, and long before that.

So we do need to something. We’re all agreed on that.

Aren’t we?

Okay, well, maybe we’re not unanimous after all, but enough people agree on intervention that the guy in the White House, whoever he or she might be, feels pressure to do … something.

Politically, a politician in that position, be it Obama or Trump, has to do something.

Obama tried, despite the unpopularity of yet another war, despite the unwillingness of Republicans then (as opposed to Republicans now). But he made the mistake of asking Congress for permission.

Oh, it was the right thing to do, the Constitutional thing to do, asking Congress for permission.

But it was still a mistake.

Congress washed its bloody red hands of Syria. It’s not our problem they said, Syria hasn’t attacked us. Republicans were more concerned with sticking it to Obama than they were the slaughter of innocents. So they tried to tie Obama’s hands and then mocked him for his supposed inaction. And if that wasn’t enough, conservatives then tried to fence in those innocents being slaughtered in Syria, the ones who were trying to escape the horror which we allow to go unchecked, and then crowed about their supposed morality. Got to keep America safe they said.

So, in retrospect, it would be easy to say Obama didn’t do enough.

And in fact, plenty of people are saying exactly that. Such as an article yesterday in the New York Post by Michael Goodwin which details Obama’s complete and total failure to act in Syria.

[A]s measured by the loss of life and global impact, nothing compares with Obama’s failure in Syria. His refusal to lift a finger opened the door to perhaps the largest humanitarian crises since World War II.

The scope of Goodwin’s judgement is educational. As measured by the loss of life and global impact, nothing compares with Obama’s failure in Syria? Really? Nothing? Not even the failures of the guy who started a war based on false intelligence and had no plan for what happened after he ousted Saddam and which eventually gave rise to ISIS itself? What about 70 years of failed Middle Eastern foreign policy beginning with a newly minted CIA who in 1953 toppled the elected government of Iran and put the Shah on his throne and which led directly and inevitably to where we are today? It seems to me there’s enough blame to go around.

His refusal to lift a finger, says Goodwin.

Implying that Obama should have defied Congress and taken action, risking impeachment if necessary. He didn’t, and that part is on him. Right?

Except … that’s exactly what he did.

Obama did defy Congress and acted to the limits of his authority at the risk of impeachment.

In fact, the last year Barack Obama was president, his administration dropped an estimated twenty-six thousand bombs on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq and the CIA spent roughly a billion dollars training Syrian rebels. Which is why a lot of the wacky far Left (along with the Right) called Obama a warmonger and why they were afraid Hillary Clinton would be too and thus they refused to vote for her.  Far right Trump supporters and far left liberals alike seized on Clinton’s supposed hawkishness and declared with all due horror that if she was elected, she’d start a war in the first month of her presidency – and they called me a son of bitch right here on Stonekettle Station and on my various social media sites for suggesting Trump would be worse.

You all remember this, right?

Trump promised he’d come up with a plan for defeating ISIS. Great plan, Folks, gonna be so great.

“We are going to convene my top generals and give them a simple instruction. They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS. We have no choice.”

Sure, you remember that, right?

Now how, exactly, Trump plans on defeating the Islamic State without a war is utterly beyond me, but then he’s the guy who knows more about ISIS than the generals and I’m not.

And Trump made good on that promise.

Yes he did.

He didn’t promise to defeat ISIS in the first 30 days, he promised to convene the generals within 30 days and order them to come up with a plan.

And he did.

Or close enough.

On January 28, 2017,  eight days after assuming office, Trump signed a presidential memorandum ordering “within 30 days, a preliminary draft of the Plan to defeat ISIS shall be submitted to the president by the secretary of defense.”

And 30 days later, on February 27th, 2017, The Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, along with the nation’s “top generals” met with Trump to discuss a preliminary plan.

The next day, Trump addressed Congress,

"As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS, a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians and men, and women and children of all faiths and all beliefs. We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet."

Now, the particulars of the plan are naturally classified and nobody really knows what it is, other than Trump’s promise it’ll be great, Folks, just great. But given the primary architect is General James Mattis and the “top generals” one could reasonably assume it’ll be a military solution and not a diplomatic one.

You don’t want to call that war?

Fine by me. We called 58,000 dead American servicemen and 20 years in Vietnam a police action, so why not?

In the meantime, look around. Notice anything missing?

It’s been three days since the US fired 59 missiles at Syria.

What haven’t you seen?

The United States attacked a foreign country.

We attacked a sovereign nation without provocation.

Yes, we did.

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That’s the President of the United States, the guy who ordered the attack.

Syria attack.

It’s right there. Those are his words.

Attack. We attacked Syria. That’s what President Donald Trump said . We attacked Syria.

Not in self defense.

Not in defense of our allies.

Not a reprisal for an attack on our nation or people.

Not a response to some transgression against our national security.

Not part of a larger international mission in support of those caught in the middle. 

Not an action sanctioned by the United Nations or a coalition forged to end the violence.

This wasn’t a single missile lobbed at a chemical weapons factory. This was an attack, a barrage of missiles fired in force at a sovereign country from US warships.

Attack.

According to international law, an attack is an act of war.

The president of the United State just admitted to an act of war … via Twitter.

Words matter.

So, it’s been three days, Citizen. What haven’t you seen?

I asked that question on Twitter and it took more than a hundred responses before somebody figured it out.

Before somebody finally realized that the President has yet to formally address the nation.

I mean, we attacked another country, don't you find it odd that the guy who gave the order hasn't explained why to the American people?

 

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Oh, sure, he informed Congress via memo and gave a brief prepared public statement from the golf course at Mar-a-Lago on the night of the attack:

My fellow Americans: On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.

Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.

It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.

There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.

Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.

We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail. Goodnight. And God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.

But that’s not an explanation.

It sort of sounds like an explanation, but it’s not.

Let’s take it apart:

1. Trump says there is “no dispute” Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on “beautiful babies” and the children of God.

Actually, while there’s little disputing chemical weapons were used, there is some questions as to its origin. It’s possible that it didn’t come from the Assad regime.

Now, the odds are pretty high Assad did indeed use nerve gas on his own people, but Trump says there’s “no dispute.”  No question.

Now, given that Donald Trump has a history of making definitive statements that later turn out to be somewhat less than evidence based, and given that he ordered an attack on a foreign nation based on this supposed non-disputed information, and given that attacking a Middle Eastern country tends to result in unexpected side effects (all bad) and increased terrorism in response – a consequence we might all have to suffer – and given that this might lead to war, don’t you think the President owes us a detailed explanation of this supposed evidence?

2.  Trump ordered a military strike. He said it was “in the vital national interest of the United States” to deter and prevent the “spread” of chemical weapons.

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So if disabling the airfield wasn’t the objective, then what was?

Look here, I don’t disagree that it’s in our national interest to deter the spread of chemical weapons. But we’ve been down this road before – I know, I was there when we invaded Iraq to prevent the use and spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Remember how that turned out? So I don’t think it unreasonable to expect the President to explain to the American people how exactly firing 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase that was warned in advance and essentially deserted and left undamaged and remains fully operational, how does that achieve this objective?  

Honestly, how was this attack supposed to prevent the “spread” of chemical weapons?

And since the attack appears to be a wash, what now?

No, really, what now?

I mean, isn’t it still in our vital national interest to prevent the use and spread of WMDs?

So, if the attack failed to achieve that objective, then what do we do next?

And if somehow, despite reports, the attack did achieve the objective, well, isn’t that a victory for Trump and freedom and national security and shouldn’t we know?

Again, don’t you think we as Americans are entitled to know?

3.  He called on other nations to – all “civilized” nations – to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.

What’s that mean?

No, really, what does that mean?

Because it sounds an awful lot like a coalition. Like the kind we formed to invade Afghanistan and Iraq – especially when he followed it with that “may God have mercy on our souls” bit there at the end like Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact explaining how the mission to blow up the asteroid had failed and that we were all basically doomed – and given that Mad Dog Mattis is in charge of the plan, well, I think maybe some additional explanation is in order, don’t you?

I deliberately waited three days to write this, waiting to see if there was some detailed explanation forthcoming.

A Tweet or two doesn’t cut it.

Because we have been down this road, over and over and over.

You can’t drop democracy on people with a B-52.

We tried. We’ve been lobbing missiles or dropping bombs on Third World countries for 70 years now. Conservative presidents do it. Liberal Presidents do it. It’s not part of some larger long-term strategy to bring peace and freedom to the world, it might have been at one time but it sure isn’t now.   It doesn’t work. It never works. But we keep doing it. Because we have the power and we don’t know what else to do.

And it’s getting worse.

Back in Korea and Vietnam, there was this nebulous strategy of “Containment.”

We had to contain the communists, lest the dominos fall and the Marxists take over the world.

We still had this vague idea that winning meant the conflict ended. Somebody, hopefully us, won.

But with every year that passed those already ambiguous objectives became even less defined until they were literally indeterminate.

And today we fight this endless, undefined, unending Global War on Terrorism that seemingly has no plan, no defined objectives, and no end point. It’s impossible to win. We lob missiles into other countries without even caring if they hit anything, because we can, because we don’t know what else to do, and a certain segment of our population cheers this as strength.

There’s no plan.

Oh, there are short term military goals. Sure. But there’s no larger strategic vision – not even one as simplistic as “contain the commies.”

Iraq is a perfect example of this.

We, the military, we did our duty.

We did our job with distinction.

We were in Baghdad in 28 days. We won the war and they did indeed cheer us in the streets.

And then it all went to hell.

Because there was no plan for after. There was no plan for peace. There was no plan for civilization. There was no plan for nation building. And so it all fell apart. You can’t just blow up a civilization, burn it to rubble, and expect liberty and stable government to spring from the ashes. But that’s exactly what we did expect.

And now things are worse.

And as a direct result, we’re looking at another war in Syria.

 

That’s the problem with revolutionaries, you know.

 

It’s easier to punch people in the face than to compromise with somebody you hate.

You ever ask yourself why one doesn’t “become president” by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or healing the sick?

You ever wonder why a man only “becomes president” by commanding the military into action?

I mean, war is easy.

It’s always easier to go to war than not.

War is always easier than diplomacy.

Burning it down is easy.

Destruction is easy.

Revolution is easy.

It’s far easier to be an arsonist than an architect.

It’s what comes after that’s hard. It’s feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, healing the sick that’s the hard part. And yet, that’s the part which makes war unnecessary in the first place.

Ironic, isn’t it? Trump invoked the Christian God of his followers as justification for a military strike.

“No child of God should ever suffer such horror […] We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed”

Ironic, isn’t it, that so many of the conservative Christians Trump is specifically addressing with those comments seem to miss that their God had to send his only begotten Son down here to teach that lesson, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, heal the sick, because that’s the hard part. War? Destruction? We didn’t need any almighty deity in the sky to teach us about that. This god Trump speaks of as justification, that god didn’t send down the Archangel Gabriel to teach the generals how to war. Any mortal could figure that out. No, it was the other part, the part that comes after, that is so difficult it supposedly took direct intervention from God.

That’s the difference between Trump and the men who founded this country.

Trump is certainly no George Washington, no Thomas Jefferson (and please, no Benedict Arnold comments).

Hell, he’s not even Ronald Reagan. But that’s who they’re comparing him to today.

All I can say about this president is he has the instincts of Ronald Reagan in many ways. He’s an emotional man, but he’s also a very smart man.
-- Senator Lindsey Graham, to reporters following the Syria strike

And that’s the whole problem.

Trump has the instinct of Reagan coupled to the emotion of a revolutionary.

That quote, the one from Reagan at the top of this piece? Government is not the solution to our problem: government is the problem. That one?

Government is the problem.

That’s Trump. That’s the people who elected him. They invoke Reagan as justification for burning down government and lobbing missiles into the Middle East.

Except that’s not what Reagan said.

Well, it is, but that’s not all he said. You see, the entire quote goes like this:

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem

In this present crisis.

Reagan was speaking to a specific problem, that is the economic malaise of his time. He was talking specifically about the economic philosophy of what would become known as Reaganomics. And while he was certainly a proponent of the traditional conservative principles of free markets and small government, he believed in good government as a fundamental foundation stone of civilization.

Reagan, whatever his flaws, wanted to be a nation builder and when he fired missiles into Libya, it was as part of a larger, well thought out strategy with specific objectives. Reagan, again whatever his flaws and agree with his methods or not, set in motion the process which led directly to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Reagan, whatever his failings, had a powerful and cohesive vision.

Yes, unfortunately, side effects of Reagan’s strategy are many of the problems we face today in the Middle East. I’m not arguing that, or putting Reagan on a pedestal. Good or bad, what I’m saying is that Ronald Reagan was trying to build a better world for all – even if you and I might not agree with his vision, he had one.

Trump has none of Reagan’s vision and certainly none of the Founders’ intellect.

All he has is instinct.

And emotion.

Reagan fired missiles. So, Trump fires missiles and has no real understanding of why. And the proof is that he hasn’t even tried to explain his actions, because he himself doesn’t really understand why he did it or what it was supposed to accomplish.

Trump builds casinos, not nations.

And he’s largely surrounded himself with others who are similarly limited in vision and in intellect, all they have is an instinct for destruction.

It’s a council of bomb throwers.

For the Revolutionaries who forged America, war was a means to an end. And that end was a new and better nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the principle … well, maybe they fell a little short back then but, yeah, that. They were nation builders.

Two and half centuries later, we have become a nation of bomb throwers. Literally and figuratively.

For us, war is no longer a means to an end, it is the end. It’s what we do, endlessly.

We no longer even expect our leaders to explain why in any detail.

This is the natural end result of a mentality which believes

I think Donald Trump became President of the United States last night.

And the worst part is that Trump’s Syria attack is a metaphor for everything else.

97 comments:

  1. Excellent essay as usual, Chief.

    One typo: ruble should be rubble.

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    1. Thinking of the Russian connection, apparently.

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    2. I kind of hoped that was on purpose with all the Russian influences

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    3. Actually one more I saw, Least should have been lest. Excellent essay as you said.

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    4. I agree, another excellent essay.

      I believe it should be 'lest the dominoes fall'

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    5. I agree, another excellent essay.

      I believe it should read 'lest the dominoes fall'

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    6. Got it. Fixed. Thanks // Jim

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    7. Right now I feel like finding a cave in a primitive land and hiding out. "Clowns to the right of me, jokers to the left" and no relief in sight.
      Barbara Price

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    8. Imagine how different our world would be if building things up were more profitable than blowing things up!

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  2. You ask many of the same questions I have been asking (and many more I never thought of!). And yet, even if I convince both my Senator and Congressperson that this man needs to be impeached or otherwise prevented from doing further damage to this country, they'll both be overridden by the Republican mob that is rewriting the rules in their favor.
    We need your voice and others like it to convince these 'leaders' that they need to lead before Trump et al can reduce us to a powerful irrelevancy that needs to be appeased.

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  3. Thank you for your continued sane commentary on an altogether insane situation, fuelled by fear,division and hatred. Your essays give me hope that this too, some day, will pass.

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  4. Thank you Jim for your essays, your perspective gives me hope that sanity will eventually prevail, the USA will awake, and this nightmare will eventually be over. Let's hope that this to...shall pass.

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  5. This Administration is showing us how to self-immolate on the altar of stupidity... And Jim Wright is the chronicler of the deed.
    Good job Sir!

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  6. You have to get out of my head, you're making me nervous Dear Sir!

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  7. Very well stated. I have continued to study the history of our nation and all the social challenges we have had since we were still just colonizing our nation. We have constantly had segments of our population hell bent on supporting those ideas that directly impact us negatively. We support de-funding of social services that we rely on. We support statesmen who have no understanding of their constituents needs. We support causes that are not in our best interest. And then we blame them for the fallout. "If they could only see what we see"...but of course they don't. Kill more people - and justify it because they killed people. It's an oddity to me. I don't think it will ever make sense.

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  8. So my answer was wrong lol. This is why I precede every retweet of a stonkettle link with "What HE said" 😁

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  9. I was tempted to rate this an "I hate you" because you make me hate my government.

    Kidding. I've hated my government for years.

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  10. Sigh... I only hope these essays survive after the collapse of civilization to show whoever is left the WHY of their world... Nicely written.

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    1. Yes, we need the monesteries back to provide a refuge of sanity and a record from the "Dark Ages" so hopefully in hundreds of years we will reenter the Enlightenment again.

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  11. This is a good read for all Americans. I teach world history, and it had become increasingly difficult to remind my students that America can be seen as a beacon of hope and freedom. They see too many "bomb throwers" in our history, in the media, and in the White House.

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  12. Even a week before this attack, the administration was saying that Syria would need to sort out its problems on its own. I don't care for the Syrian regime, but I do give them enough credit to think strategically, and to unleash a chemical attack would have brought the world down on them. The world has pretty well proven it won't act if Assad stays with conventional weapons. The chemical weapons attack may have been Assad, it may have been an insurgent's dump that was released. I feel we are rushing to another war without thoroughly examining the evidence.

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  13. What Jim Wright Said.

    Beyond that, the best thing we could do for Syria right now is take in the refugees, exactly the thing that Trump has committed us not to do. Taking in the refugees would enormously reduce the possibility of a vast atrocity in Syria, that I see coming like an on-coming train.

    And then maybe we can figure out a geopolitical solution. Syria is the focus of a multilateral conflict. Without the skills of some great leader, there is no way a military intervention can be successful, let along nation-building.

    I would like to write a hopeful conclusion but, well, my cynical self has trouble believing in one. Maybe some great leader will.

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  14. Best dissection yet on the gagglefu$k that occurred.

    Bombs thrown, Bubba yells "Hell, yeah!", puffs chest in pride in electing a REAL American, and I watch with trepidation the Carl Vinson strike group and another, presumably, easy out that'll bolster Bubba AND poll numbers.

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  15. Assuming the area AROUND an airfield was the target and that leaving Assad in full control of his entire military capability was the goal, then what was the POINT? I am terribly afraid that Trump thinks this is his "Mission Accomplished" and he can dust his hands, count his profits, and go on with the business of destroying the economy.

    What I am hoping is that, rather than being a distraction from his Russian problem, this will intensify the scrutiny - but at the moment it isn't looking good. I am already so tired of the stoopid and we aren't even three months in.

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    1. And yet, Mattis has claimed that the missile strike took out 20% of Assad's air forces... Now, I' not intel analyst. But looking at the one after-strike pic of the attacked airfield I thought the damage such as it was was relatively light. Reports say the airfield was back in service within hours after the attack. And I do realize that 20% or nothing is still nothing. So which 20% exactly did we destroy and for how long? I looked up some numbers. Assad in 2013 had some 460 military aircraft with 165 being fighters. None of the supposed news articles on this strike contained even this much context. So, not much scrutiny I' sorry to say.

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    2. Judy, it was really nothing more than a profit motive, for the military-industrial complex, and for Trump (as he owns stock in those companies). That, and a publicity stunt meant to distract us from the real issues.

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  16. It is entirely possible that this attack had nothing at all to do with chemical weapons, regime change, nation building, or ending terrorism. Given what we have seen of this president so far, this may have simply been a convenient excuse to divert attention from other issues and to bolster the president's poll numbers and also just happened to have some advantageous economic results for the president and some around him.

    It would be nice if that were an unthinkable possibility. It is not.

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    1. That is a very plausible reason. And I, too, wish it were not.

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    2. It sure silenced the talk about the Russian connection for a few days.

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    3. Willowbrook, the dust had hardly settled in Syria before I was saying the same thing. AND it shows that indeed he HAS no "Russian Connection". (Eric Trump said as much). So yeah, sometimes a Trump family member will accidentally tell the truth.

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    4. No Russian connection. Except for the money invested in his companies from sources which might have links to the Russian Mob.

      I have a feeling that Trump is going to make Nixon look honest, by the time he's kicked out.

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  17. Rubble has two b's. Otherwise, fandamntastic as always.

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    1. I was apparently thinking "rubles" for some reason

      :)

      Thanks, it's fixed along with worse/worst in the last line. Ouch.

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  18. I saw one Trumpette actually make the argument that the nerve gas and other weaponry used by Assad or whoever actually did it are the WMDs that we never found in Iraq. The stupid is daunting.

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    1. Bush and his minions did make that contention when none were found.

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  19. Thank you for another excellent essay, Jim. Today's situation sometimes makes me glad to know I won't live more than another decade or so. Then, I think about my children and grandchildren and all the children and grandchildren in the world and I am just so god damned angry. What right do governments have to deprive us of a hopeful future? What right to wage wars for profit? To destroy the environment? To make us fearful?
    There are times when it seems hopeless. When all the energy is gone and I want to give up. Then, I grag my ass off the ground and get moving and motivated again. If I can't do anything else I can damned sure let the "power" know that I am pissed off and I'm not going to take it anymore.

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    1. Turned Sixty last week, I feel exactly the same. Well said Bill and Jim.

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  20. Also, I think you wanted 'lest' rather than 'least'.

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  21. I consider myself mostly a pacifist, but I'm a pragmatist as well. I believe in using our military as sparingly as possible, with great thought and due diligence going into any decision to use force. Also, once that decision is made, by god make it decisive. The lobbing of 59 missiles fails in every regard. It is really difficult not to think it was a Wag the Dog operation and shamefully the media is by and large falling for it.

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  22. Fuckin' A, Jim. The dimwit in the Whitehouse has no more concept of how to conduct a war, or how to avoid a war, than I know how to calculate the trajectory of a Mars probe. However, his little Tomahawk tossing escapade did accomplish one thing. The conversation and investigation into the Russia-Trump connections has fallen to the level of background noise while the butt-kissing sycophants who claim to be journalists, blubber about how "Presidential" Trump has become.

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    1. The thing is, you know that you can learn how to calculate the trajectory of a Mars probe and that it would be a very important thing to know before launching said probe.

      Delete
  23. Thanks, Jim!

    Reading this (as usual, when I visit this blog) raises my blood pressure bigly. Yuge. And yet I still come back for more of your brilliance. What's wrong with me... :)

    Some fixes for you - first one should replace "by" with "be":

    > Don’t get me wrong here, it does make a difference why a president takes a certain action and the same decision can indeed "by" folly for one and genius for another.

    I know it probably wasn't intentional of you, but you spelled the name "Saddamn" more properly than his father did. You'll find it... :) Maybe you'll leave that one as is...

    This should be singular:
    there is some questions (question would be better)

    And you probably meant to say "lest"
    We had to contain the communists, least the dominos fall and the Marxists take over the world.

    It's an honor to help out here when I can. I love the way you write. I believe we can all hear your voice here loud and clear as we read every word.

    Thanks so much for this - another great, (albeit frustrating) entry!

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  24. I struggle so hard to understand how he gets away with all of this. I believe it is a diversion tactic to disrupt the Russia questions. I don't know how targets are lined up but one would think there was more than one person involved who wondered why they were not hitting anything of importance. Anything that may stop more chemical attacks.
    I have been told, more than once, that as a Canadian this is not my business. That I should worry about my own government.
    But war will affect all of us. If this were to escalate my sons would be of a draft age. His lying and cheating affects my stock portfolio. His bad decisions will affect the air I breathe and the waters I drink.
    Every day I hope for something to stop him. Some way to impeach his sorry ass. Something that people will stand up for. Something.

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  25. Just spent a couple of hours discussing this cluster with my Trump supporting brother. Finally I had to just walk away before I said or did something I might later regret. Sent him the link to this essay though. My intellect and 26 years military service apparently mean nothing to him regarding this subject but, as you are a man, he might actually consider your opinions, even though you've said much the same as I did. One can always hope! Thank you for another excellent essay.

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    1. Well, we all know now why your brother supported Trump! So sorry! Happens in all kinds of families, and "patronizing white guy syndrome" is VERY common where I live!

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  26. Very detailed and insightful analysis of murky minds trying to build something with their Legos that will look "really great." I would prefer to see Morgan Freeman in charge. Or even Alec Baldwin. We rejected Douglas MacArthur as a candidate and I know we both believe in civilian control of a formidable military. We should only use it with the support of the country or at least the best minds we have. If the buck stops with Bannon/Kushner and McCain/Gardner are the smallest people in the room then woe is us! Again, an intelligent essay with a lot to chew on. WW I offers some lessons in dumb steps to a great fall. We got to learn a few lessons, one day, Lawd Willing as he said.

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  27. pundits need to die in a pile of their own excrement.

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  28. It seems to me that if Trump wanted to interdict an airfield, the way to do it would be to fire one Tomahawk a day, set to a ground penetrating burst.

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  29. I believe there is a missing "ly" in the following:
    Trump has none of Reagan’s vision and certain none of the Founders’ intellect.

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    1. I think you guys are starting to enjoy this

      It's fixed. Thanks // Jim

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  30. I am more worried about the naval carrier and others stationed next to N.Korea. too tempting a target for their little evil guy. I honestly don't think that to Trump this is real, it's a neat made for TV movie. God help us and our people on the line.

    Barbara Price

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    1. A made for TV movie? Nope.

      You forget Trump's prior claim to fame here, it is "reality" but a show - a scripted, unreal "Reality TV" show where he gets to play the big tough boss and have everyone slobber over his power and feed his bloated to bursting ego all the time.

      Before that Trump did "build" casinos - and sent them bankrupt &, of course, at the very beginning Trump inherited his wealth and much of his power from being born into it.

      Delete
  31. You raise a good point about the lack of a formal address to the nation after the bombing. He made no time for that. He had time to smirk and gloat this morning as if he had pulled off the seating of Neil Gorsuch single-handedly (my practice in spelling "Backpfeifengesicht" is getting a workout). No time for explanation or elaboration after the throwing of the bombs, though. Just that shit-eating, Shkrelian smirk.

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  32. Excellent essay. As a former infantryman, I always get leery when someone says, "We need to DO SOMETHING!" I've heard reports that 6 Syrian soldiers were killed by those bombs. They probably had little to do with the gas attack... more likely they were recruits too new to avoid graveyard shift guard duty. So we killed 6 guys, and a bunch of chickenhawks can pat themselves on the back and grab their crotches and whoop about, "How we showed them!". Six grunts get sent home to momma in body bags. The people responsible for the gas attack skate. No follow up plan. Syria can now play it safe and go back to barrel-bombs to kill children. Guess we showed them.

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  33. Trump is not my Commander in Chief, and I say this not because I despise him (though I do). I say it because I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the US military. That this has become a very common substitute for "President" has disturbed me for years, implying, as it does, that we are the President's subjects to command, and/or that it is the military aspect of the presidency that is the important one. This is not healthy. This is part of what made Trump president*.

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  34. I think the most important thing is the notifying Russia before hand. They tell Syria, Assad moves his forces. We attacked an abandoned airfield. The runway was swept and jets were back flying against the same neighborhood in 24 hours.
    How is this NOT to be taken as political kabuki theater? Accuse the Russians, Tillerson goes to Moscow, we negotiate bigly, and the Russian sanctions go away so Putin can cash his half trillion dollar check from ExxonMobil?
    The swamp stinks worse now.

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  35. A few minor corrections as of my most recent refresh:

    "...the same decision can indeed BE folly for one..." (not "by")

    Morgan FREEMAN (not Freedom - but it's almost a Freudian slip.)

    "So, [t]rump fires missiles" (need to capitalize the T).
    ---
    As always - thanks for making sense. I have a little less reason to go crazy now. (Maybe later.)

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  36. Excellent essay - thought-provoking, powerful and true. Shared. Thankyou.

    Only one very minor nit here, I wish you'd added a link to your previous 'Red lines" essay on Syria there and noted how little has actually changed from then to now - aside from the US presidency natch :

    http://www.stonekettle.com/2013/08/red-lines.html

    I'll also note you called it right back then :

    "We could launch a few cruise missiles from Navy ships patrolling offshore, something I have a bit of experience with. And likely this is indeed what will happen. It’s a little better than nothing, honor is satisfied, no Americans get hurt, we blow up a “baby milk factory” or an “orphanage,” the Navy crew gets a ribbon, and America rolls over and goes back to watching the game.

    But in reality, those missile strikes do nothing. Who do you aim them at? What are the targets? The country is blown to hell already, what exactly will a few more explosions do? The Assad government is against the wall, they win or they die."
    -Jim Wright, Wednesday, August 28, 2013.

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  37. I don't really even blame Trump or his administration for this ongoing nightmare of incompetence. I mean, if you put a chimpanzee in charge of flying a 747, don't act surprised when the damn thing goes down in flames.

    And you certainly can't blame the chimp.

    I blame those who thought a blustering orangutan (along with his shit-flinging buddies) was at all capable of actually successfully running our country.

    And now I blame those in the media who apparently are experiencing bombgasmic ejaculations over the fact that we bombed the shit out of some concrete and a few planes. We certainly need more like you, Jim, who continue to hold his feet to the flames and call bullshit when we see it. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty much constant stream.

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  38. I don't need him to explain it to me. It wouldn't make any sense if he tried. Still, he should try and he should seek congresses approval. Don't hold your breath waiting for it. Likewise, don't expect conservatives to hold Trump to any of the measures they held President Obama or President Clinton to.

    The one good thing about Trump? He even makes W. look good in perspective, and that is saying a lot more than it appears to say on it's surface. Yes, I know you've expressed similar feelings.

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    1. Right, (congress). I don't have a problem with the bombing. My question is "What's next?". I think one thing Trump could do is go to congress and get permission to bomb again if Assad uses gas again. Not a big deal but it would give him a "win" in congress.

      It's nice to see that Bannon appears to be losing influence.

      Delete
  39. "You can’t drop democracy on people with a B-52."

    Love it!

    -

    Typo here?

    "He’s just grateful we finally go(sic) to blow up some Syrians."

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  40. During the elections US media seemed to hype up all scandals related to Clinton, even with 25+ years of evidence free shit slinging, and propping up Trump by covering every single utterance and even his podiums way in advance, with nary a critical word, and I despaired.
    After the election, media has gotten more critical, and hope was rekindled, that maybe they'd get around to their responsibility.

    Then President Trump drops a fart in a deadly hurricane that has raged for 7 years, and the media wants to take said fart home and have sex with it.

    I am terrified that my own government should be remotely influenced by this madness.

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  41. "Which is why a lot the wacky far Left (along with the Right) called Obama a warmonger and why the they were afraid Hillary Clinton would be too and thus they refused to vote for her."

    Redundant "the" in this sentence.

    I know this isn't an original thought but your writing puts into focus that George Orwell was extremely prescient in 1984. Between the ideas of doublethink and the scenario where constant external war is maintained as tool to keep the population in line it all begins to look horribly familiar.

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    1. Ian, what you bring up is the very reason I worry for the future of the country. Not normally a conspiracy theorist or fatalist, but I suspect we are looking at the downward slide of our once beautiful nation. My friends overseas can't believe what is happening over here.

      Off topic: Are related to a Nancy Tunnacliffe?

      Delete
  42. There's a directly relevant scene in The American President. The President, played by Michael Douglas, has just ordered a strike on a building, and a staff member says it's the "most presidential thing" he's done. The President talks about how it's the middle of the night, and the bad guys are gone, and there's a janitor cleaning up who's about to die. "This is the least Presidential thing I do."

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  43. I'm seeing people arguing about whether there were any material results to the Tomahawk strike -- blowing up infrastructure, destroying a handful of MiGs, etc. As if the tactical results of the attack make any goddam difference whatsoever. But it is a nice way of avoiding the strategic issues, the policy issues, which nobody in government or media seems to want to look at.

    Why doesn't one "become President" by improving the world, indeed. Probably because it is too hard a job, and doesn't look as "beautiful" on video as blowing up somebody's shit.

    -- EMH

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  44. I’m not arguing that, or putting Reagan on a pedestal. Good or bad, what I’m saying is that Ronald Reagan was trying to build a better world for all – even if you and I might not agree with his vision, he had one.

    [Insert customized Big Lebowski quote here]

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    1. Unfortunately, Reagan's endgame was the very situation we're in now: a kleptocracy bent on stealing every possible taxpayer dime possible, with the Shitgibbon-In-Chief leading the robbery crew--or, providing the distractions.

      The American economy is run by a bunch of psychopaths, with the most megalomaniacal one wagging the dog. And they will continue to profit off death and destruction as long as we let them.

      Delete
  45. Friendly proofreading assist:

    "We had to contain the communists, least the dominos fall"

    I think maybe you meant "lest the dominos fall"?

    "You can’t just blow up a civilization, burn it to ruble"

    I think that's supposed to be "burn it to rubble", but maybe with the Russians involved it was intentional?

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  46. I have only one recommended change in the entire piece: Where you write, "Trump has the instinct of Reagan coupled to the emotion of a revolutionary." I would have preferred the more accurate "Trump has the instinct of Reagan coupled to the anger of a horny young-teens boy who's just been rebuffed by a female for his coarse language."

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    1. Well, nothing is stopping you from starting your own blog and writing your own analysis.

      Delete
  47. Damnn, once again you've shown us the hypocrisy of this current conservative mindset. Screw the poor, make all the money you can by killing the world, anarchy for all, let the rich dominate the increasing poor. Better to call it the "all for me" party against the "lets make it better for all" party instead of Republicans and Democrats.

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  48. I think that one of the most alarming things about this is that Trump has discovered how easy it is to derail his critics by dropping bombs and possibly starting a war - the ultimate in distractions. And the fawning media went right along with it because, finally, this was something they understood.

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  49. Very erudite article, Jim! Thanks for your sanity in a world of insane wackadoodles!

    You need to change "reasonable" to "reasonably," though. I hate nitpicking, but your essay is so important that I know you were thinking faster than you type and I know you type really fast!

    It was in the paragraph: But given the primary architect is General James Mattis and the “top generals” one could reasonable assume it’ll be a military solution and not a diplomatic one.

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  50. Again succinct and spot on, again, thanks for your various writings, here and elsewhere.

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  51. Great blog. But where did you get all these followers that appear to be frustrated English teachers?

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    1. Readers are encouraged to point out errors, so that they can be corrected. // Jim

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  52. "The Syrian regime, backed by the Russians, has been killing its own people for as long as I can remember." Sorry to disagree but many countries that the US, who installed puppet Gvts to do their dirty work, including killing their own people have been happening for as long as I can remember. And before that. The whole gas thing, media jumping on the bandwagon, war drums beating. You are ex military - you of all people should know there's underlying and subversive reasons for military expansion and bombings. Think about it - people supposedly gassed, pictures, reports plastered all over the news, US bombs the next day. Seriously, Why doesn't the media/people ask more questions first. I may be preaching the choir here, but why does it take weeks/months for the US to investigate killing of civilians including children in Yemmen, yet bomb the next day another country due to pictures. Shouldn't the UN maybe send in some ME's to do a few autopsy's to determine if these unfortunate people really died from gas or chemicals? Then further the investigation into the who/why/ and then formulate a strategy? We pick and choose who and where we want to war and bomb. We want something from/in Syria. There is much more to this than what we're told.

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  53. "It’s far easier to be an arsonist than an architect." Excellent. Keep it up.

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  54. Man o man....you've delivered another slamdunk, Jim. A fantastic essay. Thank you for penning this.

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  55. What was left of USoAmerica's foreign polcy's respectability & reliability is bombed out.
    What we see is an incalculable character in the possession of weapons of mass destruction.
    And this time it is no lie.
    You invaded for less, didn't you ?

    On comes Mr Kim, and the fun begins.

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  56. "War is always easier than diplomacy.
    ...
    It’s what comes after that’s hard. It’s feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, healing the sick that’s the hard part."

    (I am listening to "Jesus Christ, Superstar" on Good Friday while writing this, so I am fond of this last quote ...)

    Perhaps we should learn from history (what a concept).

    In May 1945 the Allies won the Second World War (well within the living memory of my parents). Now this could well have ended with millions of Nazis spread all over Europe (yes, even an older brother-in-law of my grandfather) filled with resentment to this loss (after all, WW I ended in the "Dolchstosslegende").

    What it is necessary is a *plan* for nation rebuilding - so the Allies found Adenauer to lead the rebuilding of Germany, and 6 years later the process was started in Europe to *prevent* wars with the European Community of Steal and Coal - the precursor of the EU.

    What we need is not more warfare in the "Middle East" - we need community building between former enemies. Start with removing the Colonial Designation "Middle East" and start calling it the West Asian Union.

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  57. One quibble: you cannot deter the spread of chemical weapons, especially in the Middle East.

    The Green Revolution of the 1970's has made the Middle East intractably dependent on organophosphates for agriculture: for pesticides and fertilizers. All Syrians still in the war zone are just a half hour's drive from a supply of chemical weapon precursors, and turning them into weapons is arguably easier than cooking meth. The only way to prevent that is to make them all starve.

    The US may be able to deter further USE of chemical weapons. But given the short amount of time from a commander in Syria saying "fuck it, gas'em" and a canister of sarin dropping in a village somewhere, it's a difficult thing to accomplish.

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  58. This essay on the subject in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is really worth the short time it will take to read:

    http://thebulletin.org/sarin-and-sentimentality-trump-and-assad%E2%80%99s-emotional-chemistry10681

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  59. Few things are more dangerous than a literate man with a functioning MEMORY. Great essay Sir!

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  60. "It doesn’t work. It never works. But we keep doing it. Because we have the power and we don’t know what else to do."

    We know what to do: put the warmongers out of jobs, stop interfering where we are not asked to, stop trying to be the world police. As long as the military-industrial complex is interested in only ProfitÜberAlles, this shit WILL NOT STOP.

    We The People must insist on peace first. Life first. Human Rights first.

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  61. A small bit of information worthy of more research on your part but away from your main point.
    The Reagan October Surprise is identical to Nixon's reelection team negotiating with the enemy during the campaign to get elected and has about as much evidence.
    Several individuals—most notably former Iranian President Abulhassan Banisadr, former Naval intelligence officer and U.S. National Security Council member Gary Sick; and former Reagan/Bush campaign staffer and White House analyst Barbara Honegger — have stood by the allegations.

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  62. I would consider Trump far more presidential if he did what he claims he does. Build things. Bridges, hospitals, mental health facilities, community centers, meeting halls. Encourage Americans to devote themselves to building up the lives of others, and through this activity improve themselves. I wouldn't hold my breath on the narcissist having that much social insight.

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  63. You write a great analysis, and how do people respond? By pointing out typos. This is when we need Tomahawk missiles.

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  64. Great stuff as always.

    "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

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