Showing posts with label Juan Cole on Afghanistan & US Troops. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Juan Cole on Afghanistan & US Troops. Show all posts

Monday, June 29, 2020

The United States of America Is Skating On Thin and Melting Ice - Tamara Pearson On Mexicali - Juan Cole on Afghanistan & US Troops

I'm back...but don't know for how long. It has been hectic around here preparing for Mike's surgery and his staying home afterwards for up to three weeks. I've managed to be able to briefly check out the news, which you all know by now, has not been fact, it has been downright scary.

Always a fave to bring us somewhat up to date:

Obviously Too Many Big Macs Binges - let's just call him "'ole bubble butt' !!!

 ~ From CNN:

As The Pandemic Rages, Trump Indulges His Obsessions
Analysis  by, Stephen Collinson

"With the pandemic exploding and setting record infection rates, President Donald Trump spent the weekend on his own often divisive obsessions, piling up new evidence for detractors who say he's not fit for office.

The President largely ignored the implications of the disastrous US government response to the worst public health crisis in 100 years, even though it emerged late on Friday in CNN reporting that the White House is taking vigorous efforts to protect him from infection at rallies that contravene social distancing and masking guidelines, and that put even his own supporters at risk of getting sick.

Trump did, however, find time to defend a statue of former President Andrew Jackson, who retired to his slave plantation in 1837, and to retweet a video in which a supporter chanted "white power."

Trump denied reports that he was briefed that Russia offered a bounty for the killings of US and UK soldiers by the Taliban -- but didn't say how he would respond and stand up for American troops if the story was true.

 And Trump, who lambasted his predecessor Barack Obama for his less prolific golf hobby, made two trips to his Virginia course, despite boasting that he canceled a weekend trip to his New Jersey resort to make sure "law and order is enforced" in Washington, DC.

Trump's weekend represented yet another sign that he has moved on from a pandemic, which has killed more than 125,000 Americans and threatens to claim tens of thousands more, that he initially ignored, then mismanaged and politicized and has now has grown tired of talking about as his reelection fight looms.

His negligence came despite his Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar delivering an alarming warning on CNN that appeared to contradict Vice President Mike Pence's claim of "truly remarkable progress" in the battle against coronavirus and false statements that the US had "flattened the curve."

"This is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control," Azar told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." But like other members of the administration, Azar insisted that the story of the pandemic is one of great success, in terms of making hospital beds, protective equipment and testing more available than they were two months ago.

Since Pence spoke on Friday, the United States racked up record numbers of new coronavirus infections, with more than 40,000 on Friday and more than 42,000 on Saturday. States like Florida, Texas and Arizona, which embraced Trump's demands for a swift economic opening and failed to satisfy the administration's own benchmarks to do so safely, are discovering that the virus is rampant.

New cases are now rising in 36 states, are steady in 12 and are going down in just two, suggesting that the pandemic is close to raging out of control -- even as some US counterparts, like the European Union and Asian countries have been far more successful in reducing the virus.

Pence denies early opening caused resurgence

The Vice President traveled to Texas on Sunday and appeared alongside Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, and appeared to make a significant shift -- calling on Americans to wear masks if they cannot observe social distancing guidelines -- a step that Trump, who refuses to wear a mask and says that those who do are trying to hurt him politically, refuses to take.

"Wearing a mask is just a good idea and it will, we know, from experience, will slow the spread of the coronavirus," Pence said.

The vice president's comments, however painstakingly he tried to avoid putting Trump in a difficult position, will hike political pressure on the President to publicly call on Americans to cover their faces and to model a face mask himself. That political heat had intensified that morning when Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, effectively called on Trump to show leadership on the issue.

"If wearing masks is important, and all the health experts tell us that it is in containing the disease in 2020, it would help if from time to time the President would wear one to help us get rid of this political debate that says if you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask, if you're against Trump, you do," the Tennessee Republican said on CNN's "Inside Politics."

Apart from his remarks on masks, Pence heaped praise on the "leadership" of Trump and everyone involved in a misfiring government effort and made a new attempt to argue that the state openings had nothing to do with a rise in infections.

"About two weeks ago, something changed," Pence said, seeking to portray the Texas reopening plan before that date as a massive success.

Medical experts, however, say that states experiencing a spike in infections are now paying the price for a lax opening.

"If I were to give a grade for all of us, except maybe from a few states like, New York, Washington state, New Jersey, I would say we are getting mostly an 'F', right at the moment, going from the first part of May until we reopened until now," Dr. Michael Saag, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told CNN on Sunday.

 A new Russia storm
Reports that Moscow's GRU military intelligence agency put a bounty on US and UK troops in Afghanistan whipped up a new Russia storm for the White House.

The New York Times first cited unnamed officials as saying that Trump and Pence were briefed about the affair but had so far taken no action.

A US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN's Barbara Starr on Sunday that the US received intelligence several months ago that the GRU reached out to militias linked to the Taliban and offered money to target US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. The official said it was not clear how verified the intelligence was or who exactly the Russian representatives approached.

The Washington Post reported Sunday night that the bounties are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several American troops, citing US intelligence gathered from military interrogations. A European Intelligence official told CNN's Nick Paton Walsh on Saturday that the incentives offered by the Russians had, in their assessment, led to Coalition casualties.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that "everybody has been denying it & there have not been many attacks on us," but the President, who has consistently undermined efforts by his own administration to get tough on Russia, did not vow to defend American troops come what may or to get to the bottom of the report.

If the plot is genuine and Trump knew about it but did not act, he could be considered negligent in his duty to defend Americans and there would be new questions about his strange deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

If he was not informed, his entire national security process will be exposed.

Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, publicizing a book deeply critical of the President, said Sunday Trump's defense of himself exemplified his unfitness for office.

"The fact that the President feels compelled to tweet about the news story here shows that what his fundamental focus is, is not the security of our forces, but whether he looks like he wasn't paying attention. So he's saying, 'well nobody told me therefore you can't blame me,'" Bolton said on "State of the Union."

Trump retweets 'white power' chant


  The President had his own definition of leadership on his mind for much of the weekend.

In one shocking moment, he thanked "great people" in a Florida retirement community for their support, retweeting a video showing a man in a golf court emblazoned with "Trump" banners chanting "white power."

Trump later deleted the retweet with one of his spokesmen, Judd Deere, insisting that he "did not hear the one statement made on the video." Earlier, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican senator, said that the video was offensive and "indefensible."

Bolton told CNN's "Jake Tapper" that "not paying attention" would be typical of Trump. But it was only the latest occasion that the President has retweeted an item that tore at the nation's racial divides. Normal minimum standards of presidential conduct might suggest a commander-in-chief would check content before tweeting it to millions of supporters.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted about an attempt to take down the statue of Jackson in Lafayette Park across from the White House last week, after signing an executive order that appeared merely to require his government to enforce the law protecting federally-owned monuments, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for desecration. But Trump claimed credit anyway for stopping attacks on icons of Civil War generals and figures from America's history who have links to slavery or racial records newly exposed by a national reckoning after the death of George Floyd in police custody.

"Since imposing a very powerful 10 year prison sentence on those that Vandalize Monuments, Statues etc., with many people being arrested all over our Country, the Vandalism has completely stopped. Thank you!" Trump tweeted on Sunday.

By ignoring the pandemic but spending his time defending monuments and base names honoring Confederate generals, the President is actively using darker moments of America's history to try to stir up a culture war furor to solidify his political support as he lags behind Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden.

His use of the word "heritage" invokes the suggestion that a traditional, White American culture is under siege from non-White protesters and radicals. He appears to be making a bet that such tactics, assurances that the coronavirus fight is over when it's not, and an assault on Biden's mental capacity will carry him over the line to reelection.

 The President's constant rebellion against his own government's advice on the pandemic -- for instance, the wearing of masks -- is part of the same approach designed to appeal to voters who long ago soured on what they see as liberal, elite values and the establishment's version of truth.
Biden on Sunday laid into the President in a tweet.

"Today the President shared a video of people shouting 'white power' and said they were 'great.' Just like he did after Charlottesville," Biden wrote.
"We're in a battle for the soul of the nation — and the President has picked a side. But make no mistake: it's a battle we will win."


You've probably all read about the removal of the "social distancing" tape at the Tulsa Trump rally; here it is with video.


 BTW, I have a question: why is AMLO even considering a visit to the White House and the Fat Blob Trump this upcoming month? anyone ? anyone ?  I don't think it has anything to do with the conditions in Mexicali.

Do You ? I am notorious for not covering Mexicali, however if you read Zeta/La Jornada you can keep up on some of the particulars. The only thing I think Ms. Pearson left out is that Mexicali was ranked third in the world  for toxic pollution created by the Maqs a few years back, then ranked last January as thee most polluted municipality in all of Mexico beating out Mexico City.  Despite bi-national think tanks the pollution is still horribly out of control.  Does she actually live down here, because wow, that was ballsy...damn.


Here's another analysis for you, link includes videos:

 ~ From CNN:
The US is More Alone Than Ever, Just at the Moment The World Needs Its Leadership 
Analysis by, Nic Robertson


Waiting on Foreign Policy for their take,however here's the boss:

 ~ From Informed Comment:

Trump Likely Did Throw US Troops in Afghanistan Under The Bus, But Why Would The Russians Have Targeted Them?
by, Juan Cole
"Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Charlie Savage; Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz at the New York Times broke the blockbuster story on Friday that GRU 29155, a violent unit of Russian military intelligence accused of poisoning a double agent in Britain in 2018, had offered militants and criminals a bounty if they killed coalition forces (US, British and other NATO troops) in Afghanistan. Only 4 US personnel have been killed in Afghanistan this year, all before a February agreement with the Taliban, but in 2019 some 20 were killed.
Moreover, the NYT said its sources in US intelligence alleged that Trump was briefed on this intelligence in March and that a menu of options was presented to him, from lodging a diplomatic complaint to specific sanctions (presumably in GRU commanders).
The intelligence was gleaned by the US military and the CIA from interrogations of captured criminals and militants in Afghanistan. There were indications that some bounties had been paid, which means that the GRU had US troops killed.
Nick Paton Walsh, Veronica Stracqualursi and Radina Gigova CNN report that Director of National Security John Ratcliffe, a strong Trump supporter who is a political appointee rather than an intelligence professional, denied the report that Trump was briefed on the GRU instigation.
I’ll say right away that I don’t find Ratcliffe’s denial plausible. If the intelligence were gathered, it would have been briefed to the president.
Both Russia and the Taliban are denying the story.
In Washington, a leak like this makes you ask questions. Who leaked the information and why? Then, US intelligence has had major failures, such as the supposed biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq in 2003, and you wonder how solid this information tortured out of criminals and militants is.
Also, in intelligence work there is always a problem of false flag tradecraft. Anyone could pretend to be GRU as a cover for such an operation. It worries me that the intelligence seems to be from the ground up, rather than the result of a penetration of the GRU itself.
Another question is why the GRU would have done this.
 You could see a program to increase US troop casualties as an attempt to demoralize Washington and speed the US departure from Afghanistan. 
The problems with that theory are many. First, there isn’t a need to give Trump a reason to leave. Trump has long wanted to withdraw all US troops from that country. He believes that the white working class resents spending blood and treasure there after all these years. He thinks he can run on getting out of Afghanistan as an accomplishment. High US government officials are trying to convince Trump to leave at least 1,500 US troops in country to gather intelligence. He seems to want zero troops there.
Second, it isn’t clear that Russia wants the US out of Afghanistan. In fact, when President Obama was preparing to pull out early in his second term, Russian president Vladimir Putin pleaded with him not to do it.
Things could have changed, since the US pushed back against the Russian annexation of Crimea and since Russia came to be at loggerheads with fundamentalist US proxies in Syria and Libya.
But the place to start would be with what Russian observers actually say about Afghanistan. And I fear that almost no one in the newspapers of record will ask this question. So let me take a stab at it here:
Russian analysts and media are deeply afraid of the Taliban and of the small ISIL cells in Afghanistan.
BBC Monitoring for May 15 said that on 7 May, Aleksey Bychkov, a Russian political scientist, warned on Sputnik’s Uzbek service that ISIL, having been defeated in the Middle East, could well head to Central Asia. He saw Tajikistan as especially vulnerable, given the “Islamization” of its population in recent years. He urged Uzbekistan to reinforce its border against Tajikistan.
BBC Monitoring for May 20 reported that the Kyrgyz Sputnik service carried an analysis by pundit Aleksandr Khrolenko warning that Trump’s peace plan with the Taliban was foredoomed to failure and that a wave of fundamentalist Muslim terrorism could wash over nearby or neighboring Central Asian countries from there, such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. A cross-country regional “Islamic emirate” might try to establish itself in the region he said. He seems to have been making an analogy to the ISIL emirate in Iraq and Syria.
BBC Monitoring for May 21 reported that Tass was carrying the news that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had broken up a heroin smuggling ring based in Afghanistan, seizing 48 kgs of product. Putin is desperately afraid that Afghan heroin will turn Russian youth into zombies and sap national strength. It was one of the reasons he had wanted Obama to stay in Afghanistan, to block the drug trade.
On June 15, BBC Monitoring reported that Sputnik’s Uzbek service warned that the US-Taliban peace deal had failed and that the failure would create a crisis in the region. It spoke of a “farcical fraternization” of the US military with the Taliban. It expected that radical fighters would come out of Afghanistan into the Central Asian republics. In contrast, Russia had contributed mightily to Central Asian security, it said. In preparation for the coming meltdown of security, Russia, it said, is lending aid to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to reinforce their border security. It urged, in light of the instability in Afghanistan, that Uzbekistan and the others come into a closer relationship with the Russian-lead Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).
Given the Russian line on the dangers of a flimsy US-Taliban peace deal that would leave Afghanistan and Central Asia (Russia’s soft underbelly) vulnerable to renewed Muslim fundamentalist militancy, you might argue that if the GRU did want US troops killed by criminals and terrorists, it was to get American officials’ backs up and change their minds about leaving the country precipitously.
The problem is that not enough troops were killed to produce that or any other reaction. Most Americans barely know we are fighting a war in Afghanistan.
Some have suggested that the move was just a petty lower-level GRU tit-for-tat for the US killing of Russian mercenaries in Syria. But then why not target US troops in Syria, who are small in number and quite vulnerable? Seems like a long way to go around, and not a good way to send a message.
So I have to say that the entire scenario is baffling. The most plausible thing in the story is that Trump would have been told that the Russians had harmed US troops, and that Trump should have ignored it and gone on pursuing his creepy friendship with Vladimir Putin.
And, yes, you could imagine US military and intelligence analysts seeing that happen and being so frustrated that they risked their careers and possibly their freedom in order to blow the whistle."
UPDATEY/EDIT :  Here's the latest from Foreign Policy:

Ole Bubble Butt Has A Lot of Splainin' To Do or...Maybe  The Lincoln Project Will Be Able to Increase Their Membership Roll Call...and yes Politico, after this for sure, they will easily be able to sway voters. Don't get me wrong bros, even if we are able to dump the fat toad, the USA will still be in a world of shit. 

Republicans Demand Trump Answer on Alleged Russian Bounties
by, Robbie Gamer, Jack Detsche & Amy MacKinnon
I'll try to get back with the stats, no son buenos. Go here for the works:

Democracy Now!
Stay Safe ya'll.