aid and comfort

I haven’t read the book. I mean, it hasn’t even been released yet. But like a lot of news enthusiasts (that sounds a lot nicer than ‘news junkie’) I’ve heard a lot about Peril, the new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. One of the book’s revelations is that General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was so concerned about Comrade Trump’s emotional instability during the closing days of his administration that he called his Chinese counterpart (General Li Zuocheng) to assure him the US wasn’t planning to attack China. Milley also apparently assured Li that IF the US was going to launch any sort of attack, he’d call Li first to let him know.

Gen. Mark Milley

Republicans, of course, are calling this treason. Republicans, of course, are fucking idiots. Just to be clear, treason is a crime and like all crimes, it has to be defined. Here’s the definition of treason as written in the US Constitution (Article III, section 3):

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

That’s it. The Constitution outlines treason, but in order to make it a criminal offense, Congress had to pass a law against it, and the law had to articulate the elements of the crime. And hey, Congress did just that. Title 18 of the US Code § 2381, which reads as follows:

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

So, back to Gen. Milley. Does he owe allegiance to the US? Damn right, he does. Did he levy war against the US? Nope. Did he adhere to the enemies of the US? Under law, adhere refers to the act of joining or being in league with. Did Milley join China? Was he in league with China? Nope. Did he give aid and comfort to China? Aid, nope; comfort, yeah, probably.

Now some folks will be thinking Lawdy, General Milley gave comfort to CHINA! Traitor!. Nope. Every politician or military figure or corporate CEO who has gone to China and said stuff like “We want to be partners, we want to be friends, we want to work together” has given comfort to China. As far as that goes, every corporation who has opened a factory in China has given them aid and comfort. Every US business who buys Chinese products is giving them aid and comfort. Look around your house or apartment and you’ll find stuff made in China.

Dude, you done gave aid and comfort to China.

But you didn’t commit treason, did you. (Wait…did you? Just asking.) But buying products made in China isn’t treason because…and this is the thing all those GOP fucking idiots either forget or ignore…China isn’t the enemy of the US. We’re not at war with China. Hell, despite what Trump used to bellow, we’re not even in a trade war with China. In fact, China is our biggest trading partner.

What Gen. Milley did was inform a worried trading partner who was being threatened in speeches by an emotionally labile and irrational POTUS (who, if you’ll recall, was openly suggesting China had deliberately unleashed a global pandemic and promising some sort of retaliation) that the US had no plans to launch an attack. And IF an attack was planned, he’d let Gen. Li know about it.

Now that last bit sounds dodgy, doesn’t it. I mean, why would we warn somebody we’re going to attack them? We do it because we’re not monsters. This is actually a pretty common practice in modern international warfare. Retaliatory strikes tend to be made against structures rather than people. Radar sites, command and control facilities, chemical plants, armament factories, aircraft hangars, stuff like that. The intent is to punish the enemy by degrading their military capabilities. The targets are usually announced in advance to give personnel a chance to leave. Basically, it’s a warning, a statement. It’s saying, “Dude, we just blew the everlasting fuck out of these buildings, but we could have done that when there were people inside. Do NOT fuck with us. Next time we might not be so nice.”

Gen. Milley wasn’t committing treason. He was being a professional military leader. He was basically telling Gen. Li that even if Comrade Trump was unstable, the government of the United States was…well, less unstable. What Milley did — reassuring China that POTUS wasn’t out of control — wasn’t alarming. What’s alarming is the fact that the nation’s highest-ranking military officer and principal military advisor to the President thought it was necessary to reassure China.

yeah, it did

You know what’s annoying? You probably do, but I’m going to tell you anyway (which is undoubtedly annoying). What’s annoying is folks who ought to know better–and maybe actually do know better–repeating the same stupid shit. They continue to claim to be absolutely shocked at the completely predictable outcome of the US/NATO adventure in Afghanistan.

“It didn’t have to be this way,” they say. And yeah, they have a point–but it’s a very narrow one. The moment the Bush administration decided to step beyond its simple, achievable objective of eliminating the influence and capabilities of the al Qaeda network, they created an inevitable monkeyfuck situation.

It didn’t have to be this way. Yeah, it did–as soon as we decided to ignore 1700 years of history, it had to be this way. When we decided to engage in a conflict against multiple ethnic and tribal cultures we don’t understand, that operate on traditional rules and norms unknown to us, that have values and ethics that are often alien to us, and that have goals that are foreign to us, it had to be this way. We didn’t understand Afghan Rules, and we were too lazy/arrogant to bother to learn about them. I said this back in April, when President Uncle Joe announced the withdrawal date: Forget it Joe, it’s Afghanistan.

It didn’t have to be this way. Yeah, it did–when we implemented a style of combat that was heavily dependent on sophisticated technology and massive firepower in an environment that’s hostile to any machinery more complex than a Toyota pickup and has a mountainous terrain that moderates the effectiveness of firepower. Military tech is great, but that shit is expensive and it breaks. We made it all worse by training the Afghan army to fight an American-style high tech war, then failed to train them to maintain the tech required to support it.

This terrain is fucking nightmare for an invader.

It didn’t have to be this way. Yeah, it really did–when we decided to impose a Western style centralized democracy on a diverse group of tribes and clans that have zero experience with democracy. In fact, many/most of them reject the notion that they all belong to a single nation. They don’t think of themselves primarily as Afghans. The Tajiks speak Farsi and generally identify as Tajiks, not as Afghans; the Balochs speak Balochi and identify by any of dozens of local tribal or clan affiliations, not as Afghans. The same is true of the Uzbeks and the Hazara and the Kyrgyz and all of the other tribal groups. (See the Editorial Note at the end.)

Various ethnic/tribal/clan groups that make up Afghanistan

It didn’t have to be this way. Yeah, it did–when we brought an American football mindset to fight against a fútbol mindset. In football, orders are given by a coach who isn’t on the field of play. Those orders are sent to a single player who relays the commands to the others and controls the ball. The other players each have a specialized skill set and very specific roles to play; they wear complex specialized gear and follow their orders. Most of the players never touch the ball, only a very few can achieve the goal. After each play, the action stops, the team regroups and waits for the next set of orders. In fútbol, the play never stops, the players don’t depend on gear to protect them, the players learn to recognize situations and adapt their play to the immediate situation, they shift roles easily and often as the situation changes, no single player controls the ball, at any given moment any player can assume temporary control, and they’re all capable of scoring. Football is about a rigid centralized command structure, and following strict orders. Fútbol is about decentralized flexibility and quick idiosyncratic responsiveness to changing situations.

It didn’t have to be this way? Yeah, considering all the bad choices we made, it did. It was a monkeyfuck almost from the start.

EDITORIAL NOTE: I’m too lazy to count and categorize the various ethnic and tribal groups that comprise what we like to call Afghanistan, but the CIA collected a list in 2005. Many of these groups speak their own language, have their own unique identity, have their own cultural norms, have their own conflicts/feuds/vendettas with other groups. There is no United States of Afghanistan; anybody who thought we could create one was an idiot.

mission accomplished

Hey, remember that time we won the war in Afghanistan? No, no…not the one when President George W. Bush hitched a ride on a Lockheed S-3 Viking (and yeah, okay, the S-3 was originally an anti-submarine aircraft…but c’mon, there wasn’t a single successful submarine attack against US forces while Bush was POTUS, so there), landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and almost announced ‘mission accomplished.’ That was the time we won the war in Iraq. (I know, I know…Iraq, Afghanistan, what’s the difference, tomato, tomahto, and all that.) That was in May. Of 2003.

Mission almost accomplished.

Yes, there was a banner that said Mission Accomplished, but that was just a goof by some enthusiastic public relations johnny. Bush never said the mission was accomplished. What he actually said was this:

“[M]ajor combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed…. The transition from dictatorship to democracy will take time, but it is worth every effort. Our coalition will stay until our work is done and then we will leave.”

So no, not that time. I’m talking about the time we won the war in Afghanistan, which is a whole nother country than Iraq. I’m talking about the time President Bush (yes, the same guy) flew into Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar and actually said the mission was accomplished.

“America sent you on a mission to remove a grave threat and to liberate an oppressed people, and that mission has been accomplished…. In Afghanistan, forces directed from here from Qatar, and headquartered in Tampa, you delivered decisive blows against the Taliban and against al Qaeda. And now the people of Afghanistan are free.”

That was back in June. Also of 2003. An entire month after that business on the flight deck of the USS Abe Lincoln. That’s right, it took us a whole nother month to win the war in Afghanistan. Because winning a war in Afghanistan is hard.

Okay, mission accomplished now.

But a war doesn’t just end after you’ve given the ‘thumbs up’ sign. No sir, there’s always a lot of tidying up to do. President Bush continued to tidy up Afghanistan and Iraq for another five years. After which President Obama tidied up for eight years. Then President Comrade Trump tidied up for four years.

Well, not quite four years. On Groundhog Day in 2020 (no, I am NOT making that up) Comrade Trump signed an initial peace treaty with the Taliban. It was formalized on 29 February as the Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and the United States of America (you probably know it as the AfBPtAbtIEoAwinrbtUSasaikatTatUSA treaty).

Now, you may be wondering “What exactly did the Trump administration agree to in the AfBPtAbtIEoAwinrbtUSasaikatTatUSA treaty?” That’s a good question and I’m glad you asked. They agreed to:

  • “Withdraw from Afghanistan all military forces of the United States, its allies, and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel within fourteen (14) months.”
  • “Up to five thousand (5,000) prisoners of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban and up to one thousand (1,000) prisoners of the other side will be released by March 10, 2020.”
  • “[T]he Taliban commits that its released prisoners will be committed to the responsibilities mentioned in this agreement so that they will not pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies…the Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”
  • “The United States and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban seek positive relations with each other and expect that the relations between the United States and the new post-settlement Afghan Islamic government as determined by the intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations will be positive.”

There it is. The US agreed to 1) pull all of its troops out of Afghanistan by April of 2021 and 2) release 5000 Taliban prisoners, and in exchange the Taliban promised 3) those released prisoners would behave themselves and 4) the Taliban wouldn’t attack the US or let terrorist groups in Afghanistan attack the US. And then both sides agree to 5) be BFFs.

Ain’t diplomacy grand?

Okay, maybe there’s still some tidying up to do. But it’s important that we remember to give credit where it’s due. We can thank George W. Bush for winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we can thank Comrade Trump for signing the peace treaty making the US and the Taliban BFFs. But lawdy, now here comes President Uncle Joe Biden trying to grab all the headlines, when all he did was stand around an win an election.

If that isn’t just like a Democrat, then I don’t know what.

the second amendment, matt gaetz, and the battle of the wabash

This year I was going to avoid writing about Memorial Day. I’ve written about Memorial Day just about every year since I started writing this blog. I’m not even going to bother linking to all those earlier blogs (though if you’re interested, just type ‘Memorial Day’ into the search feature and hey bingo).

But here it is, Memorial Day again, and I’m about to write something that’s not exactly about Memorial Day (well, not about Memorial Day at all), but about cheap-ass pseudo-patriotic feculent cowardly politicians who give speeches during the Memorial Day weekend. And when I say “cheap-ass pseudo-patriotic feculent cowardly politicians” I mean Matt Gaetz.

What happened was I read what Matt (Hey, what’s a little child sex trafficking among friends?) Gaetz said a few days ago at an America First rally.

“For all the fake news media, the Second Amendment is not about — it’s not about hunting, it’s not about recreation, it’s not about sports. The Second Amendment is about maintaining within the citizenry the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government if that becomes necessary. “

Aside from the fact that an America First rally is an awfully nice way of saying “Rally for Fascism Yay!” there’s this: Matt Gaetz is, obviously, a fuckwit. You have to make some allowances for fuckwits. Because they’re fuckwits. So I’ll agree that Matt was correct when he said the Second Amendment isn’t about hunting or recreation or sports. But he’s absolutely wrong in thinking (and I use ‘thinking’ in the loosest possible way) that it’s about the ability to maintain an armed rebellion against the government. That’s just fucking stupid.

It’s the same sort of cellular-level stupidity that allows gun nuts to simultaneously insist that an AR-15 assault-style rifle is NOT IN ANY WAY a military weapon BUT is still absolutely vital for citizens to own in order to go Matt Gaetz on the US military. You know, if necessary.

Gen. Washington telling the Continental Army to just go home.

Thing is, the Second Amendment was grounded in the deep distrust and suspicion of the Founders regarding a professional standing army. Remember that most of the Founders had a Western European mindset, and Europe had a long history of standing armies, answerable only to a king, imposing the will of the king on the people. I mean, they explicitly denounced the entire concept, stating “standing armies in time of peace are inconsistent with the principles of republican government, dangerous to the liberties of a free people, and generally converted into destructive engines for establishing despotism.” That whole “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” business was about insuring themselves against a professional army acting on the whims and wishes of a supreme ruler (or the army’s own generals).

That’s why, after the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was disbanded. Gen. George Washington gave a speech to the troops, in which he said (and I’m paraphrasing here):

“Guys, war’s over. Thanks for helping to kick the Brits out. But go on home now. Take your guns and uniforms, put that shit in the closet, and if you’re ever needed again, we’ll let you know.”

Oh, they kept a few troops to guard the arsenal at West Point, because you can’t just leave artillery laying around like lawn ornaments. But that was basically it. The former members of the Continental Army met periodically with other civilians as informal local militias to train or put down the occasional slave rebellion.

But in 1784 problems on the Western Frontier (which at the time was somewhere around Ohio) triggered Congress to approve the creation of the First American Regiment. The problem was settlers versus Native Americans. The settlers were all “We just want to live in peace, and cut down all these trees to create farms where we can grow crops on land that the savages weren’t really even using like god intended, but the savages want to cancel our culture.” Yes, the settlers kept personal firearms to hunt and to protect themselves from attacks by the natives they were displacing. The job of the First American Regiment was to support the locals, secure the frontier, and discourage Native Americans from slaughtering the white settlers. They did this by slaughtering the natives first.

First American Regiment, looking for unruly natives.

You may be assuming the reason the new American government was protecting those settlers was because they were racist assholes who didn’t think of the natives as human. Which would be accurate. But the primary reason was because the new US government didn’t have the authority to impose taxes on its citizens, which meant the government was broke, which meant they needed to generate some serious pocket money, which they decided to do by selling the land the natives weren’t really using like god intended to the invading settlers. So obviously, they had to keep the settlers from being slaughtered by the natives because dead folks don’t buy land.

That policy worked really well. The First American Regiment fought the natives, which allowed local militias to keep the slaves in check. Everything was cool…until November of 1791, when 320 troops from the First American Regiment supported by about a thousand local militia/settlers tried to teach a lesson to a coalition of Shawnee, Miami, Delaware, and Potawatomie tribes. That lesson was rejected. It’s generally called the Battle of the Wabash, but it was more of a rout than a battle. The native coalition kicked ass. Over 800 soldiers and militia members were killed; around 270 were wounded. A quarter of what had been the standing army of the US was wiped out.

“WTF, I’m wearing a snazzy uniform and being killed by a native wearing feathers and a purse?”

Congress responded to the defeat in a variety of ways. They decided maybe a standing army of professional soldiers wasn’t an entirely bad idea after all. They created the Legion of the United States–about 5000 troops–to insure a more effective military force for slaughtering natives. A month of so after the defeat, Congress also passed a lot of amendments to the new Constitution, one of which authorized well regulated militias to keep and bear arms. Five years after that they changed the name of the Legion of the United States to the Army of the United States. Probably because ‘legion’ sounded French.

My point, though, if you can call it that. was that the Second Amendment wasn’t about fighting a rebellion against the US government. It was about arming local groups who could be called upon to fight against local enemies (like slaves who resisted being slaves) freeing up the standing army to fight against regional enemies (like godless natives who resisted giving up their land to decent god-fearing white settlers).

My other point, which I seem to have strayed from, was that Matt Gaetz is a treasonous fuckwit who should be giving his speeches from a prison cell.

empathy triage

I read the news every morning. It’s part of my routine. I do it almost without thinking. Get up, get dressed, check the perimeter, feed and pet the cat, start the coffee, read the news.

One of the first articles listed in my morning news feed was from The Atlantic magazine. It was titled Why People Who Hate Trump Stick With Him. I started to click on it, partly out of habit and partly because The Atlantic usually has solid reportage — but I didn’t. I read the title again and thought, ‘I really don’t care why people who hate Trump stick with him’. I moved on to the next stories — one about a white man in Wichita who threatened to assassinate the mayor for issuing a mask mandate, and one about a black man in Louisiana who was granted parole after serving 24 years of a life sentence for attempting to steal a pair of hedge clippers.

A million years ago I was a medic in the military. Basic military medical training tends to be focused on casualty and trauma care. In addition to the field fundamentals — stop the bleeding, tend the wound, prep the patient for evac, that sort of thing — we were also taught the essentials of triage. Triage is a system developed by Dominique Jean Larrey during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century. It’s a way of sorting mass casualties to determine who should be treated first. It’s a method of directing limited resources toward the best outcome for the majority of the wounded.

Dr. Dominique Jean Larrey, creator of the triage system, during the Napoleonic Wars.

Basically, what it means is that during a mass casualty event, some poor bastard greets the incoming wounded and sorts them into three groups: 1) victims who’ll probably live even without treatment, 2) victims who’ll likely die even with treatment, and 3) victims who have a chance of living if they’re given immediate treatment. Your arm is broken in three places? Yeah, it hurts…but it’s not going to kill you. Wait in the hall. Your arm has been blown off? Yeah, we can fix that, go right on in to surgery. You have two traumatic amputations and a head wound? Here are some M&Ms to tide you over until you bleed out. Sorry.

It’s an ugly job. Necessary, but ugly. But here’s the thing about triage: it focuses only on the wound and the treatment, not on any other characteristic of the victim. Dr. Larrey insisted treatment be based on the seriousness of the injury and the urgency of need for medical care, regardless of the wounded person’s rank or nationality. That meant French doctors would treat a seriously wounded British private before a lightly wounded French officer.

The Trump years have been a struggle for folks who care about other folks, who care about strangers as well as for friends and family. My capacity for empathy has been stretched. I’m now performing a warped sort of empathy triage. I’m most focused on folks who are suffering emotionally and spiritually and not coping very well. They get most of my empathy and support. Folks who are suffering but manage to retain their sense of humor and some degree of optimism, they’re the walking wounded; they’re in pain but they’ll recover. Folks who support Trump — those are self-inflicted wounds from which they probably won’t recover. Here are some M&Ms to tide you over until you bleed out.

Folks who hate Trump but stick with him? Dr. Larrey would be disappointed with me, but I’m out of M&Ms.

on notice

Let me first say this: I’m neither shocked nor angry that a Russian military intelligence unit was offering/paying a bounty to Taliban-linked militants for attacking and killing coalition forces — including U.S. and British troops — in Afghanistan. After all, the US did essentially the same thing during the 1980s when Russia invaded Afghanistan. It’s ugly business, to be sure, but war is never nice; paying proxy troops fight the enemy has been a common facet of warfare since…well, since war was invented.

Don’t get me wrong. It may be a common practice, but it’s loathsome. Governments should still object to it. Back in March, when Comrade Trump was first briefed by US intelligence officials about these bounties, it was his sworn duty to confront Comrade Putin — to raise holy hell and demand that it stop. According to sources reported in both the Washington Post and the New York Times, a number of responses were discussed at that briefing, “includ[ing] sending a diplomatic communication to relay disapproval and authorizing new sanctions.”

Instead, there’s been no response. None.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. There’s been no official US response. There have been several unofficial Trump responses. Since March — since he learned about the bounties — Trump has 1) invited Putin to visit the US and stay at a Trump-owned property, 2) decided, after a call with Putin, to pull US troops out of NATO partner Germany, 3) suggested Russia should be reinstated in the G7 summit (a suggestion which other G7 nations soundly rejected), 4) refused to implement measures to combat Russian interference in the coming presidential election, 5) worked with Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman (who, let’s not forget, had a Washington Post reporter kidnapped, killed, and dismembered) to raise oil prices (which benefitted US oil companies while raising prices of gasoline for consumers), 6) had his Department of Justice drop criminal charges against the Russian citizens and firms that criminally interfered with the 2016 election, and 7) had his DOJ drop charges against his former National Security Advisor who’d twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interaction with Russian intelligence services.

He knew, while he was saluting these future military leaders, that Russia had placed a bounty on the lives of their brothers and sisters-in-arms serving in Afghanistan — and he’d done nothing to stop it.

But about the Russians paying bounties to kill US troops? Nothing. Worse still, Comrade Trump stood on a stage in front of graduating cadets at West Point and said this:

“You became brothers and sisters pledging allegiance to the same timeless principles, joined together in a common mission to protect our country, to defend our people, and to carry on the traditions of freedom, equality, and liberty that so many gave their lives to secure. You exemplify the power of shared national purpose to transcend all differences and achieve true unity. Today, you graduate as one class, and you embody one noble creed: Duty, Honor, Country.”

He went on to promise this: “[L]et our enemies be on notice; if our people are threatened, we will never, ever hesitate to act.”

Our enemies ARE on notice. If the enemy is Russia, we will absolutely hesitate. We will protect our country…except from Russia. We will defend our people…except from Russia. Our military will embody a noble creed of duty, honor, country…except when Russia is involved.

Trump was right about one thing in his West Point speech. He mentioned “the power of shared national purpose” and “the traditions of freedom, equality, and liberty.” To our everlasting shame, the President of the United States doesn’t share that national purpose or honor those traditions.

Comrade Trump has betrayed his oath of office, he’s betrayed the US military, and he’s betrayed the people of the United States. He’s done it knowingly, he’s done it willfully, and he’s done it with the tacit acceptance of a complicit Republican Party.

They all need to feel the consequences in November. They all deserve to bear the consequences after the election.

there will be a blood price to pay for this

I’m not at all sad that Qasem Soleimani is dead. As the leader of the Quds Force, he’s been responsible for a LOT of deaths, including those of US troops. But I’m outraged and alarmed by how and why he was assassinated.

First, this act seems a clear violation of Executive Order 12036, which includes a prohibition against assassination. “No person employed by or acting on behalf
of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in,
assassination.” You can call it a ‘targeted killing’ but that’s just a polite way of saying assassination.

Second, even if you’re willing to violate that Executive Order, openly assassinating the leader of the Quds Force is deliberately provocative. We’re talking 10-20 thousand special ops troops who specialize in unconventional warfare and intelligence activities. These guys are extremely loyal to Soleimani, and they know how to conduct terror operations. The Quds Force is capable of striking targets in the US mainland, but are FAR more likely to take vengeance on more convenient targets. That means every member of the US armed services located in the Middle East. And every person who works for any US agency in the region. And any US non-governmental organization. And any US businessperson working in the area. And their families. I don’t know who the most likely targets would be — but if I were considering retaliation, I’d set up coordinated attacks on US special forces commanders.

Third, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk from experts at terror operations, it’s exceedingly stupid to commit the assassination in the capital city of a third nation. That necessarily embroils that nation in the conflict, which is especially stupid when your embassy in that third nation has been mobbed by protesters for days. Iran and Iraq aren’t natural allies, but this assassination will make them both more hostile toward the US. What makes this even worse is that the US no longer has any real allies in the region — and it’s made doubly worse by the fact that Comrade Trump recently betrayed the only allies the US could count on (the Kurds). Nobody in the region has any reason to trust the US. Sadly, nobody on the globe has any reason to trust the US to keep its word about anything.

Fourth, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk from experts at terror operations, AND you’re willing to do this in a third nation in a region in which you have no allies, it’s wildly irresponsible and risky to do it after you’ve spent three years gutting your diplomatic corps and undermining your intelligence agencies. Even if other nations COULD trust the US, we’ve replaced most of our professional diplomats and intelligence analysts with political hacks and amateurs.

Finally, even if you’re willing to violate an Executive Order prohibiting assassination AND you’re willing to put a massive number of US citizens at risk, AND you’re willing to do this in a region in which you have no allies, AND you’ve spent three years trashing your diplomatic corps and intelligence agencies, you should NOT have two different US agencies giving two different reasons for committing that assassination. Did we assassinate Soleimani to A) deter future Iranian aggression (as the Pentagon says) or B) prevent an imminent attack by Iranian terrorists (as the State Department says)? Pick a fucking story and stick with it.

It’s all so very sad and so unnecessary. The sad and terrifying truth is this: there will almost certainly be a blood price to pay for this recklessness. It won’t be paid by Trump’s family, it won’t be paid by the children of members of Congress or the children of the wealthiest clans in the US. That blood price will most likely be paid by poor and working class kids who enlisted in the military after graduating from high school.

That’s the ugly truth haunts me more than anything. I’m not at all sad that Qasem Soleimani was killed. But I’m sick at heart that his assassination in this manner will almost certainly end up killing kids in uniform.

war crimes

There have been Trumps in the United States since 1885, when Friedrich Trumpf emigrated here from Kallstadt, Bavaria to 1) escape poverty and 2) avoid mandatory military service. His failure to serve, combined with his failure to notify the authorities of his departure, led to a royal decree banishing Trump from ever returning to what was then the Kingdom of Bavaria.

Since their arrival in the U.S. Trumps have had the opportunity to serve their adopted nation in two world wars, the Korean war, Vietnam, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They haven’t. Not a single member of the Trump family has spent a day in uniform (to be fair, Trump’s parents sent him to a private military school when he was an unruly, wayward 13-year-old). Comrade Trump his ownself famously dodged military service during the Vietnam war through a bogus medical deferment.

That’s okay. We don’t have any mandatory service in the U.S. and it’s hard to blame anybody for not wanting to fight in that particular war (or any war, for that matter). I can fault with the system that allowed Trump to dodge conscription because of his family wealth, but I don’t fault him personally for not wanting to fight.

I do, though, fault him for celebrating war. I do fault him for using the military as a prop. And I especially fault him for honoring war criminals. I fault him for interfering in the military justice system to benefit murderous fucks like Eddie Gallagher.

If you’re not familiar with the Gallagher case, here’s a quick take. He’s a Navy SEAL Special Warfare Operator. He’s done eight combat tours; he’s been trained as a sniper, as a medic, and as an explosives expert. He’s been awarded two bronze stars and was, apparently, under consideration for a silver star. He’s also been accused of multiple war crimes. He was acquitted of some of the most serious crimes (murdering at least two civilians — an old man and a young girl) because of the absence of physical evidence (it’s hard to collect DNA evidence from sniper victims in a combat zone). Basically, Eddie Gallagher is a hero who is also a murderous fuck.

Loyalty is a big deal in the military. First loyalty is to your buddies, then it spreads out to your squad, to your platoon, your company, your battalion, and so on in an expanding circle. Because loyalty is such a big deal, it’s incredibly telling that Gallagher’s squadmates reported his criminal behavior repeatedly. It’s telling that they were willing to testify against him in court. It’s telling that they were so concerned about him, they even sabotaged his weapon — they altered the optics on his sniper scope — to keep him from killing innocent civilians.

Eddie Gallagher in Iraq.

Here are two really really ugly truths. First, the military has a need for people like Eddie Gallagher — people who are murderous fucks. They need people who are willing and capable of doing horrible things. There are situations in combat, for example, when it might be necessary to kill children. It appalling that we ask people to be prepared to do that, but it is sometimes necessary. Here’s the second ugly truth. We need to punish those murderous fucks who act indiscriminately. We need laws to regulate war, to define and distinguish between what murderous fucks can and cannot do. Murderous fucks are only useful to the military when they can effectively channel their murderous fuck potential. There are really good reasons the military talks so much about ‘good order and discipline.’

The military tends to treat their murderous fucks the way a family treats a lecherous, drunk uncle at a holiday gathering. They try to quietly control them, to put limits on their opportunities to be drunk and lecherous, to keep it in the family unless their behavior becomes so awful they have to notify the police. The military will demote their murderous fucks, they’ll re-assign them to posts where they have fewer opportunities to be murderous fucks, they’ll discharge them from the service, and when it’s absolutely necessary they’ll prosecute them for war crimes.

Eddie Gallagher in handcuffs.

When Comrade Trump, the President of the United States, interferes with the prosecution and sentencing of murderous fucks — when he absolves them of their crimes, when he celebrates them, when he says he actually wants them to campaign with him — he essentially erodes the necessary restraints the military puts on them. In effect, Trump encourages murderous fucks to become more fucking murderous.

This would be egregious in any president. It’s especially galling in a president who knows nothing about military life, a president whose entire family has avoided any sort of military service. Eddie Gallagher is as unfit to serve in the U.S. military as Comrade Trump is to be the Commander-in-Chief.