an inspiration?

At the end of Thursday’s hearing by the House Select Committee, Liz Cheney made a point of praising the women who testified before the committee. She named Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman, as well as Sarah Matthews who had testified moments before. But Cheney singled out Cassidy Hutchinson for particular praise.

“She sat here alone, took the oath and testified before millions of Americans. She knew all along she would be attacked by President Trump, and by the 50, 60 and 70-year-old men who hide themselves behind executive privilege. But like our witnesses today, she has courage, and she did it anyway. Cassidy, Sarah and our other witnesses, including Officer Caroline Edwards, Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, are an inspiration to American women and to American girls.”

Yes. And no. And yes again. Yes, all of these women deserve praise for doing the right thing. But let’s look at the totality of their circumstances. The two Georgia election workers were just doing their job like tens of thousands of election workers in every precinct in the United States. It’s an important job, but not an especially demanding one; it took no courage for them to do the right thing. Their courage was tested afterwards, when they were vilified for having done their job properly. Partisan politics didn’t play a role in their jobs.

Officer Edwards at the fist barricade

Officer Edwards was doing her job as well, but on January 6th her job put her in direct physical danger. She was one of a handful of officers who were the first line of defense at the Capitol building. They were quickly overwhelmed; she was knocked down, knocked unconscious, suffered a traumatic brain injury–then after she regained consciousness, she went back to work and for several hours fought in close combat with rioters. That clearly took courage and dedication. Partisan politics didn’t play a role in her job.

Partisan politics is why Sarah Matthews and Cassidy Hutchinson had their jobs. They each made a deliberate choice to work in the Trump administration. They supported the Trump administration. They knew who Donald Trump was–how he behaved and how he treated others. They knew his history. And they chose to work for him They directly witnessed how he ran the White House, how he reached policy decisions, how frequently his staff quit or were fired, how he demanded loyalty without returning it. They knew Donald Trump and they willingly supported and represented him.

That makes them complicit in Trump’s behavior. They worked for him diligently for four years, during which they were willing to disregard or condone his bad behavior. It wasn’t until he actively urged an angry mob to engage in a violent insurrection in order to illegally retain power that they decided he’d gone too far.

It’s to their credit that they were willing to draw the line at sedition and insurrection. And it’s to their credit that they were willing to testify against Trump. That took courage, because Liz Cheney is right–they both knew how Trump and his supporters would treat them. Because they’d see him do it to others. Because they were okay with him doing it to others. It took courage for them to step up; but it doesn’t make them heroes.

Officer Edwards, unconscious.

So yes, the courage of these women should, as Cheney said, be “an inspiration to American women and to American girls.” But no, there’s nothing inspirational about being willing to work for corrupt, cruel people until their corruption and cruelty becomes intolerable. And yes, it’s better to draw the line too late than not draw it at all.

They were all just doing their jobs. Cassidy Hutchinson and Sarah Matthews aided a corrupt White House until the corruption became too much for them to accept. Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman simply processed ballots according to the rules, and were unfairly vilified for it. Officer Caroline Edwards helped provide security for the Capitol Building and protect the people inside.

You want inspiration for redemption, look at Hutchinson and Matthews. You want inspiration for honesty and integrity, look at Moss and Freeman. But if you want a hero, look at Officer Edwards.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Just a reminder that patriarchy is a social structure kept in place by ordinary folks. Pay attention to how people in power treat people with lesser power. Call out assholes, even if they’re people you generally agree with. Support decency, even if it comes from people you disagree with. And every chance you get, add a match to the fire that will burn the patriarchy to the ground.

well, here we are

I haven’t written here for a week or so — not because I don’t have anything to say, but because there’s SO MUCH to say. I start to write about this, which is necessarily tied into that and is deeply connected to this other thing. You can’t, for example, write about abortion without also writing about the political corruption of the Supreme Court, which means you also need to address the rising fascism of the Republican Party and the green grass grows all around, all around.

But here we are on July 4th. Independence Day, right? When we celebrate the decision by a group of colonists so fed up with a hostile government that subjected them to such “a long train of abuses and usurpations” that they felt it was necessary “to dissolve the political bands which have connected them.”

I think the operative term there is necessary. It’s from the Latin necesse (which meant ‘unavoidable’) and cedere (to withdraw, go away). Necessary, a thing from which there is no backing away. The colonists felt it was necessary to rebel against the government that oppressed them.

When we think about the Declaration of Independence, we tend to focus on the dramatic bits at the beginning. Mainly this line:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That’s powerful stuff, no mistake. Beautifully written. But we forget that the biggest chunk of the Declaration is a list of grievances — an inventory of all the shit the government of the King of England was imposing on the American colonies. That list includes stuff like:

— He has obstructed the Administration of Justice
— He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices
— He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us

There’s another small chunk of Declaration that gets overlooked. It’s just a paragraph that basically says, “Hey, look, we warned you guys about this. Repeatedly. We asked you nicely to knock this shit off. We have appealed to your native justice and magnanimity. But no, you fucking ignored all those warnings. You have been deaf to the voice of justice.

A lot of us today feel much as those colonists did almost 250 years ago. Instead of a tyrannical king or queen, we have to deal with a neo-fascist Republican Party. We have to deal with Republican at the state level who are actively manipulating laws to undermine the process of representative democracy. We have to deal with a Republican Supreme Court that ignores legal precedence when it conflicts with their personal religious beliefs or their political ideology. We have to deal with a former president who not only refused to accept the result of a free and fair election, but continues to foment sedition.

Those colonists had to choose — do we keep putting up with this shit, or do we act? We have to make a similar choice. We know basically what needs to be done. The Supreme Court MUST be made neutral. It MUST be returned to balance. Not a liberal Court (as much as I’d love that); just a Supreme Court that isn’t governed by any partisan ideology.

The Declaration of Independence was a revolutionary document. I mean revolutionary in every sense of the term. It sparked an actual revolution, it started a shooting war. We don’t want or need that here. We don’t need to turn the world upside down — at least not at this point; we just need to put it back into balance.

But one thing is clear. If we don’t act, if we keep putting up with this shit, if we don’t start electing Democrats who are willing to make some radical but legal decisions to balance SCOTUS, if we don’t do that in the very next election, then we may never see another free and fair election in my lifetime.

anocracy

The CIA (yes, that CIA) sucks in massive amounts of data and information from a whole galaxy of sources. One of those sources, when it comes to assessing the stability of a nation, is the Center for Systemic Peace. You’re probably asking, “Greg, old sock, just what the hell is this Center for Systemic Peace…and is that really it’s actual, no-shit name?”

Yes, that really is its name. The CSP was founded in 1997 to conduct “research and quantitative analysis in many issue areas related to the fundamental problems of violence in both human relations and societal-systemic development processes.” Basically, they evaluate a nation’s stability by looking at stuff–like the spectrum of social conflict, the methods of governance, and the various responses of the population. The CSP does this for just about every nation state that has a population of over half a million. Also, stop calling me ‘old sock’.

One of the CSP’s metrics for national stability is what they call a ‘polity score’. It measures ‘regime authority’ on a 21-pont scale with a zero point at the center: -10 being an hereditary monarchy, +10 is a consolidated democracy. They tend clump nations into three groups: 1) autocracies (-10 to -6), anocracies (-5 to +5), and democracies (+6 to +10).

Now I suspect you’re asking, “Greg, old sock, what the fuck is an anocracy?” Good question. At the high end (+5) an anocracy is a form of government that’s democratic but has autocratic features; at the low end (-5) it’s an autocratic government with some democratic features.

Why am I telling you all this? Two reasons. First, the CIA uses the CSP as a tool for understanding how fucked up nations are. They have their own reasons for doing this, of course, some of which are almost certainly nefarious, but the CSP metrics are universally seen as pretty damned reliable. The second reason I’m telling you this is because the US, for most or our history, has been either a +9 or a +10. For a long time, the US was the world’s longest continuing democracy.

This is insurgency

Now we’re not. According to the CSP, under the Comrade Trump administration the polity score of the US dropped to a +5, which drags us right out of the democracy zone and dumps us in with the anocracies. How’d that happen? You can find the CSP’s abbreviated political history of the US here.

It’s sad that the US is now just a high-functioning, democracy-leaning anocracy. What makes it all very much worse, though, is that anocracies are much more susceptible to insurgencies, and nations that with active insurgencies are more likely to slide into an actual civil war. And we’re seeing overt signs of a growing insurgency movement in the US.

Depending on which poll you look at, somewhere between 17-38% of folks who identify strongly as Republicans believe the use of violence to ‘restore America’ is acceptable or necessary. Every state in the Union has at least one civilian armed militia movement. Some militia groups are national–the Oathkeepers, the III Percenters, the Proud Boys, etc. Members (and supporters) of militia groups have engaged in anti-government ranging from the insurrection on 1/6/20, to a plot to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan and put her on ‘trial’, to threatening the lives of local election or school board official. These aren’t just crimes; they’re insurgent actions.

The III Percenters are insurgents

Again, the US is still at the high end of anocracies. We can claw our way back into the realm of full democracies. But there’s no guarantee we will. At this point, the Republican Party is effectively acting as the political wing of an inchoate collective of insurgent groups, all of whom want to install some form of right-wing authoritarian government. Since Senators Sinema and Manchin have given the GOP the power they need to suppress voting, the odds of the US sinking lower on the polity scale have increased.

The Oathkeepers are insurgents

It’s hard for me to even say this–mainly because this should be unthinkable–but we may be witnessing a cascade of events that will be the end of representative democracy in the United States. And because it should be unthinkable, most of the people in the US aren’t thinking about it at all. Most of us are just assuming everything will go on just about as it always has. And maybe it will. But I’m not confident about it. I keep thinking of the closing stanza of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

ADDENDUM (1/28): It appears that Uncle Joe’s move to the Oval Office has allowed the US to claw its way up from a 5 on the Polity Scale to an 8. We are now a middling, shaky democracy. Yay?

voting rights — how fucked are we?

Yesterday I was…let’s call it challenged…for not being sufficiently outraged by the Republican assault on voting rights. A Facebook friend suggested I wasn’t taking the threat of voter suppression seriously enough, that I didn’t fully comprehend the severity of the issue, that I was naive. Why? Because I disagreed with this:

Will Joe have the cajones to install voting rights / election law changes even if it takes declaring Martial Law?

I’m not convinced that the willingness to invoke extraordinary military power to seize control of a civil election is a valid metric of my commitment to voting rights. I mean, the US military is brilliant at blowing shit up and killing people, and they’re really great at responding to humanitarian disasters. But martial law isn’t a remedy for our voting rights problems. It’s not the answer for any number of reasons, beginning with 1) the president doesn’t have any Constitutional power to substitute military authority for civilian control of the US election system, and moving through 2) the reality that no election could be considered valid if one candidate is the Commander-in-Chief of the military and the military is in charge of the election process, and ending with 3) an authoritarian act committed with good intentions by a POTUS I agree with is STILL an authoritarian act–and no authoritarian government in history has remained benevolent.

Martial law is just fucked up. I like Uncle Joe Biden, but he’s no Abe Lincoln. Look at what happened to Lincoln after he imposed martial law in some border states during the Civil War. Not only did SCOTUS spank him for violating the Constitution, but his military commanders became so accustomed to ruling without civilian interference that when Lincoln realized he’d made a mistake and tried to unwind martial law, his generals were reluctant–even actively resistant–to giving up their authority. It was so bad that Lincoln, a few months before he was assassinated, had to send General John Pope with another army to dismantle the martial law system.

Still, the fact remains that representative democracy in the US is in danger. It’s threatened by the Republican slide into authoritarianism and their concentrated assault on voting rights. It’s important to ask what’s being done to save democracy. What can be done about preserving our voting rights?

Ideally, the Senate would pass the pair of voting rights bills that have already passed in the House–the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The former is as dead as Dickens’ door-nail because of the Manchin and the Sinema issues (which are two totally different though equally fucked up issues). The latter, however, has support from Manchin (as well as at least one Republican–Lisa Murkowski), so it’s still a possibility.

The John Lewis bill basically restores the power to the Department of Justice that SCOTUS stripped away in the Shelby County v. Holder decision. It would require DOJ pre-clearance before states can change voting laws involving redistricting, voter ID requirements, changes to precinct locations, changes to early-voting access, or changes to how voter rolls are purged. It wouldn’t end gerrymandering, but it would seriously limit it. The John Lewis Act wouldn’t heal our wounds, but it would help stop the bleeding.

IF the John Lewis Act is passed, then it’s all up to Merrick Garland.

“Help us, Obi-wan, you’re our only hope.”

I fucking hate to trust government officials. Even the ones I like. I don’t entirely trust them because there’s always other shit going on. And let’s face it, every government official I’ve ever counted on has, in some way, let me down. And it’s always for the same reason (that ‘other shit going on’ I mentioned a moment ago). Merrick Garland, as the US Attorney General has SO MUCH other shit going on that you’d need an abacus the size of the St. Louis Gateway Arch to keep count of them. I mean, in addition to voting rights, he’s also got the matter of possibly prosecuting the former president to deal with. That’s a full plate, right there.

But in his speech last week, AG Garland said he was doubling the size of the staff of the Civil Rights Division “within the next thirty days.” They’re the folks who’d handle the voting rights cases. So that’s…promising? Even without John Lewis, a doubling of the staff suggests the DOJ is serious about voting rights.

So that, in my opinion, is where we are. Hovering in the null zone between Totally Fucked and Semi-Fucked. We will almost certainly remain Fucked In Some Fashion so long as the GOP continues to hold fast to authoritarianism and SCOTUS continues to be held hostage by unqualified conservative hacks. The degree to which we’re Fucked will depend a lot on the future of our voting rights.

pissing in the soup

I’m tired. Tired and disappointed and angry, but mostly tired.

I worked as an election official on Tuesday. I suspect the local election (mayor, city council, school board) was pretty similar to most other elections in the US. Our small election team (five of us plus a precinct captain) had worked together before, so everything ran smoothly. We arrived at our polling station at 6AM and worked until 9PM. We’d expected a decent turnout; I figured we’d get 400, maybe 500 voters. Enough to keep us modestly busy.

We had over 1200 voters. I only had time for a short 30 minute break all day–just enough time to eat a sandwich. As far as I could tell, we had a representative sample of the local population–mostly white, with a broad spectrum of age, gender, and political perspectives. There were voters wearing ‘Nevertheless, She Persisted’ t-shirts and voters wearing NRA trucker hats, we had a young woman with a ‘Merry Meet’ Wiccan pin and one beefy guy in camo pants wearing a III% t-shirt. Nobody wore a MAGA hat.

The election was fair; it was busy, but went exactly as planned. Every registered voter got to vote. If somebody showed up and wasn’t registered, we registered them on the spot and let them vote. If a voter came to the wrong precinct, we printed them a map with directions to the correct polling station. I’m proud of the way we handled the voting process.

The election was fair; the campaigning was not.

Although the city council and school board positions are technically non-partisan (there were no political affiliations listed by the candidate’s names on the ballot), Republicans won across the board. Democrats ran campaigns based on compassion tempered by science. Republicans ran campaign based on misinformation, lies, and fear. Democrats supported mask and vaccine mandates; Republicans said parents know more about their kids’ health than scientists. Democrats said education should be diverse and prepare students for the world they live in; Republicans said Critical Race Theory taught white students to hate themselves and trans kids would destroy sports.

The election was fair; the campaigning was not; the reporting was stenographic. Reporters presented the candidate’s positions accurately, but without presenting any factual support. If a candidate said, “Leading scientists say vaccines are dangerous and I only want to protect the children” then that’s what was reported, without any indication that it was fatuous bullshit. If a candidate claimed that CRT was dangerous and shouldn’t be taught in school, that’s what was reported, regardless of the fact that CRT isn’t taught in any public high school, junior high school, or grade school–and not even in most undergraduate college courses. If a candidate lied, reporters just relayed the unfiltered lie to the public.

Looks good, looks healthy — but is it?

If campaigns are allowed–even encouraged–to be dishonest, then an honest election has little practical relevance. I’m proud to have helped facilitate a fair election process, but I can’t help being disappointed. Not because it’s not the outcome I wanted, but because the outcome is tainted. It’s like running a spotless, orderly, professional kitchen that allows some cooks to piss in the soup. The kitchen is clean, the soup looks good, but it’s still got piss in it.

So I’m tired. Tired and disappointed and angry, but mostly tired. Tired physically and emotionally, disappointed in a system that fails to require candidates to speak honestly, and angry that our system favors liars, con artists, and fear mongers. I’m tired and disappointed and angry, but today I’m still mostly tired.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back to being angry.

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.

Dudley of the Afghan Mounted Police

Okay, think of it like this. Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties is just standing around minding his own business and looking handsome, when Snidely Whiplash walks up to him and smacks him in the jaw. WTF, right?

Dudley is bigger and tougher and handsomer than Snidely; ain’t no way he’s gonna let Snidely get away with smacking him in the jaw. He goes to Snidely’s house and starts kicking the shit out of him. Nell Fenwick, Snidely’s sorta girlfriend, encourages Dudley, saying Snidely’s mean to her, never lets her drive his buggy and is always tying her to railroad tracks and shit. Even more reason for Dudley to kick Snidely’s ass.

Nell says, “Dudley, don’t kill him. Make him suffer. Take his buggy. He loves that buggy. He never let me drive it. Take it and give it to me. That’ll piss him off, it’ll give me more freedom, and you’ll be a hero.” Dudley says, “Righto.” He kicks Snidely a few more times, then hands he the reins to the buggy and gives her a horse.

But Nell is a terrible buggy driver. She bangs it into things, she doesn’t oil the wheels, she gets tickets for reckless buggying and illegal parking. Dudley manfully gives her money to pay the fines, the repair costs, and horse feed. He tells Nell, “Hey girl, you need to start taking better care of that buggy or get a job; this is getting expensive.” Nell promises she will. But she doesn’t.

To make matters worse, somebody (Dudley is certain it’s Snidely) keeps tossing bricks at the buggy, breaking spokes in the wheels, painting ‘Dudley is a dick’ on the side, putting burrs in the horse’s tack. Snidely also keeps making sporadic feeble attempts to tie Nell to a railroad track. And Dudley, that dolt, he keeps handing big chunks of his Mountie paycheck to Nell for various repair bills and fines, not to mention premium Horse Chow. He also spends much of his time off work untying her from random railroad tracks.

Dudley finally gets Nell and Snidely together in a room. He say, “You guys, you need to work something out. I’m pretty sick of this shit. Stop with this buggy and railroad track bullshit. And leave that horse alone.” Snidely shrugs; Nell says, “You promised to help me. The horse needs new shoes.” And nothing changes.

Finally, Dudley goes to Snidely. He says, “This buggy shit has to stop.” Snidely says, “It IS my buggy, after all.” Dudley says, “Yeah, but it’s my horse. And Nell has been driving the buggy for twenty years now.” Snidely says, “How about this…if you agree to take your horse and leave, I’ll agree to stop vandalizing my buggy.” Dudley says, “Okay, but I also need you to stop trying to tie Nell to the railroad tracks.” Snidely says, “Sure, I can probably do that. Starting in, say, a month?” Dudley says, “Deal.” They shake hands.

Dudley tells Nell he’s out of the buggy repair business, he’s taking his horse in a month, and she should probably avoid going anywhere near a railroad for a while. She’s pissed he met Snidely behind her back. Snidely stops vandalizing the buggy, but he still occasionally ‘accidentally’ pushes Nell in the general direction of a railroad track. The horse is confused.

Two weeks later, Nell takes all the cash she’d secretly stashed from Dudley’s checks and books a room in a hotel in another town. Snidely collects his buggy and starts building more railroad tracks. Dudley, thinking he still had two weeks to deal with all this, catches shit from the media for ‘suddenly abandoning Nell’ and ‘not having a plan to provide immediate barn space for the horse.’

The horse, accustomed to being a horse, does what it’s told.

burning bed

Yesterday an online acquaintance ‘explained’ to me that the tragedy that’s unfolding in Afghanistan wasn’t actually the fault of President Uncle Joe. It was basically Comrade Trump’s fault, he said, and Uncle Joe had been too focused on taking care of US citizens and so had overlooked what might happened in Afghanistan.

He wasn’t entirely wrong, but he was a LONG LONG way from being right. He’s right that it’s not Biden’s fault that the situation in Afghanistan is fucked up; but Uncle Joe is POTUS, which absolutely makes it his responsibility. Yes, it didn’t help that Trump’s policy in Afghanistan was inconsistent and incoherent. In fact, it’s ridiculous to even call it a ‘policy’; it was a series of reckless impulses, usually implemented through Twitter without consulting the military or his own State Department or…well, anybody. Trump made that unfortunate nation even less stable and more chaotic, but it would be wrong to blame the current calamity entirely on him. President Obama’s handling of Afghanistan was certainly more thoughtful and consistent–well, less inconsistent–but it was still largely ineffective. What’s happening there today isn’t Obama’s fault either.

The blame lies entirely with President George W. Bush. A limited, targeted strike against Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden would have been an appropriate response to the attack of 9/11/2011. But Bush, for personal and political reasons, decided to expand the mission to install a US-friendly president and create a US-style democracy in Afghanistan. And then he decided “Oh, what the hell, let’s do the same thing in Iraq.”

Essentially, Bush shit the bed. He shit the bed in Afghanistan and let the stink spread to Iraq. Obama inherited the bed and the stink, and while he tried to tidy things up, there was no way to get around the fact that there was a pile of shit in the bed and everything stank. When Trump inherited the bed, he sort of randomly smeared the shit around, making a bigger mess, then held his nose and declared he couldn’t smell any stink. He said, “Hey, it’s not my shit and not my bed” and announced the US would be leaving the room. He left the shit-smeared bed and stink for Uncle Joe, who is justifying leaving the room because Trump said that’s what we were going to do.

The Taliban, who’ve lived in the house for centuries, have decided to burn the bed. And everything in it.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t Uncle Joe who shit the bed. Right now, the bed is his responsibility. He has a duty–a moral and ethical obligation–to rescue as much as he can before the Taliban completely burns the bed. Here’s another thing: no matter what he does, there’s nothing–nothing at all–Uncle Joe can do to mitigate the reality that the US left a pile of shit in the bed.