The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    Michael Maiello's picture

    We Never Should Have Had Military Forces in Syria in the First Place

    The collective wisdom seems to be that President Obama blundered when he drew a “red line” over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and then did nothing when Assad’s dictatorship crossed it.  I remember things differently.  I look at it through the lens of all the things that didn’t happen.

    I remember not reading stories about US helicopter crashes, US prisoners of war, US casualties, regional allies letting us down or any sort of quagmire. As intervention in Syria was never popular, I remember Obama not stepping on a political landmine by spending money in Syria at the expense of domestic priorities. Nobody ever writes about the US lives that are not lost when we avoid entanglements in places like Rwanda and Syria 

    Obama ultimately opted for limited engagement, with the goal of containing the civil conflict to Syria and combating ISIS and this is the policy that Trump basically continued and escalated. Now Trump is withdrawing 2,000 soldiers from Syria and half of the 14,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.  It’s hard to know why Trump does anything and I’m no more willing to praise him for being right than I am to praise a broken clock twice a day. But these are the right moves.

    We invaded Afghanistan, with cause, in 2001.  We shouldn’t have 14,000 soldiers there 17 years later. We shouldn’t have any soldiers there. It’s a failure that people have accepted we would have a permanent military presence in Afghanistan, akin to the forces we have had in place in Korea for more than half a century. Critics of the Syria withdrawal say “You can’t just declare victory and go home.” But the alternative, history tells us, is to never declare victory and to never recall the military.  That can’t be acceptable.

    In Syria, Trump seems to reason, the ISIS threat is passed and we’re not going to pick a side in the civil war.  It’s hard to see this as a bad thing. Yet I’m seeing supposed liberals at the New York Times writing headlines like “Retreat Rhymes with Defeat.”

    In our zeal to criticize all things Trump, we risk finding ourselves on the side of perpetual war. Maybe we should be withdrawing forces from more places around the world.  We could even shrink the size of our military and devote resources those nice things I keep hearing about like sturdy bridges, bullet trains and healthcare.



    Your argument makes sense, however, you fail to mention the thousands, tens of thousands, or more, civilians whose lives are at risk due to the exact interventions you criticize, Syria and Afghanistan. See 50,000 Syrians depend on US protection.

    Of course, it's typical for many, or even most, Americans to (if they ever cared to begin with) ignore the local human tragedies we leave behind in these "awesome military adventures"....before, during or after the main conflicts. You show no such concern here.

    A withdrawal would have some humanity if we took the responsibility to allow tens of thousands of Syrians living under US protection to have priority. with no set numerical limit, if they and their families want to come to America.  The same with Afghanistan if the Taliban or ISIS retake it, in a "helicopters off the embassy roof" scenario.

    Compassion and action to safeguard those who trusted us will unfortunately not happen (as it did after the Vietnam War).  Certainly never under the Trump administration.

    Well, I’m fine with allowing anybody who wants to move here to move here. That’s no issue for me.

    Yeah, cause you're in the US where caravans are a figment of Trump's imagination/propaganda. here in Europe a couple million Syrians & other nationalities washing up on shore/pushed from the other side rather made a mess of politics with all the populist loonies it brought out. Yeah, it's settled down a bit, but no, there's not a groundbreaking reason to just resettle massive amounts of people just for the fun of it.

    Of course those people were fleeing the combination US-Syrian-Russian fuckup, not the EU's - but often US & Russia don't pay for their damage. In this case, however (not the invasion of Iraq in 2003) it was Russia pushing the Dr.Moriarty side of the equation, supporting Syria's use of chemical weapons and beating down their Arab Spring; threatening, blackmailing then siding with Erdogan as he beat and imprisoned tens of thousands of his opponents after a contrived coup; playing both sides with Iran., and meanwhile stealing Crimea and keeping a steady beat of confrontation going in the Black Sea as it tries to extend its naval reach farther into the Mediterranean.

    Did Obama do bad? I dunno - sometimes things that look bad are still better than the alternatives. If Putin stopped with Syria, I'd be taken with ennui and simply agree with you, just as our leaving time in Afghanistan should have been roughly November 2001 - been there, kicked some ass, made our point, ciao bella. but the Syrian vacuum is dumb and unnecessary - leaving a few non-fighting troops in region is better than having to decide whether to come back with fighting ones once we figure out what Putin's doing. But since he's pulling Trump's strings, we can imagine there's more to the plan than that, and MBS' embrace of the dark side the last 2 years also makes it an inauspicious time to pack up and leave. The coalition to take on ISIS was one of the most noble gestures and well-executed alliances in a field of rivals - now it's all for naught, a 1 1/2 year painful, bloody but successful initiative. No, our involvement in Syrian wasn't rampant expansionism - it was a slow calculation to limit our adversaries' mischief - too slow, it appears. The human cost has been horrendous, but the socio-political fallout stands to be much worse this time. Yeah, NYC and further west is safe - this is just another facts-is-stubborn-things leftovers in the Mideast somewhere - they're used to roiling in the dirt the Russians/Turks (Ottomans) and Brits/Americans leave behind. But in this case Russia got to us - our military was neither over-ambitious nor naive & neglecting. But Trump's loyalties are certainly elsewhere than our strategic interests or civilian impact.

    In the history of mankind The Refugees are always the inconvenient sticky wicket screwing up isolationist theory.

    Didn't Switzerland have it all figured out before they had to deal with the latest iteration with that pesky E.U. screwing things up.: don't have a lot of land, only let the wealthy in, and make every citizen have a rifle on hand. 

    The U.S. is yuger, lot of land. Maybe the U.S. should build a wall and have lots of guns?

    Look at the chart of where Syrian refugees are at wikipedia and then tell me it's not a major world problem to just let Assad do whatever he wants and what will be will be.

    Yes, I too like the idea of not being the world's policeman. Brutally just counting trouble by numbers, though, Syria is a major problem. I just looked it up: Syria beats Congo. And something like Venezuela is piddling by comparison, only  2.3 million Venezuelans — about 7 percent of the population  (Recently I've been seeing lots of stories about Venezuelan immigrants really screwing up Peru, like this  Venezuela refugees feel unwanted in Peru; Venezuelans leaving their country are finding life problematic in Peru. Racial slurs and hate speech have made it hard for many of them to feel safe. The letting people vote with their feet thing doesn't always work out so well.)

    P.S. Pew Poll from spring 2018: Many worldwide oppose more migration – both into and out of their countries (Er, I see they didn't do Syria, not enough citizens left there to query? Woah look @ Israel! And the UK!)

    Wow, the US seems pretty moderate by this scale.

    It’s a little ridiculous that we’ve converged on this idiotic notion that people should live where they were born, isn’t it?


    Not sure why it's "idiotic" - even too many tourists is becoming a global problem. Somewhere I figured there was an acceptable rate of immigration and change, and something more taxes people's picketbooks and patience. I had a friend who worked in Afghani refugee camps in Pakistan, what, 1 million strong in the late 80's/early 90's - think that helped radicalize the Pakistani populace? How do you think all these Palestinian refugees impact their Mideast hosts? We've always had trouble assimilating newcomers, however much we call ourselves a melting pot. We're exceptional, but not that exceptional...

    Because there’s no guaranty any of us were born in the best place for who we become, that’s why it’s idiotic.  People should have freedom of movement.

    People have some freedom of movement. People also do stupid things, and with trends you can have the trashing of the commons - overuse of resources. And then you have racism and religious intolerance and oeoole's fear of the unknown/less known. But no, let's not pretend free mobility is a given right unless like the European Union you set up the parameters to make it happen.

    BTW, I've spent about 30 years as a foreigner abroad, most of the time as a guest arbeiter around the world, sometimes as a non-working traveler, very seldom (3-4 months?) working black (hard to get a permit for busking...). Certainly I have some privilege in my situation, but still I had to get proper visas, wait the time, hop the border to renew, get US police reportd, even show language proficiency...

    This is such a simplistic idea that totally ignores the reality of the world. Perhaps on some fantasy Earth in a Star Trek universe with peace and human rights guaranteed and wealth equitably distributed to every nation such an idea might be practical but in the real world we presently live in it's unworkable.

    There are likely hundreds of millions if not more than a billion that live in nations with repressive or dysfunctional governments that would like to leave their country of birth. Just in China there are 15 million Uyghur Muslims living in very repressed conditions and likely all of them would leave if given the chance. There are probably hundreds of millions more who would leave their country for better economic opportunities. Far more than could ever be absorbed by the economies of the liberal democracies in Europe and America.

    Many of these hundreds of millions have values that are antithetical to the secular values or even the liberal Christian values of Europe or America. Those fleeing oppression or seeking economic opportunity bring their values with them. Many are religious fundamentalists with values closer to the Westboro Baptist Church than even mainstream evangelicals. It's not just a question of who wants to immigrate those presently living in a country should have some say. I don't want large numbers of religious fundamentalists or extreme conservatives moving to America. At a certain point too many would change the fabric of the America I value.

    Even if it were possible to absorb hundreds of millions of immigrants with out changing our liberal or secular values I still wouldn't want it. One of the things I value about America is the relatively low population density. I would prefer to live in the bio-region of Pennsylvania but I moved to Arizona for the lower population density. Unlimited immigration would destroy one of the things I value most about America.


    graph says it all, would you want them all let into Spain if you were a Spanish citizen? Edit to add: That's a rhetorical that you don't have to answer. Just look at it, and the reason it's happening.

    Migrant surge to Spain prompts Moroccan crackdown. African nation uses control of flow of people to gain leverage in Europe via @financialtimes

    — alain servais (@aservais1) January 4, 2019

    Sure, but--been watching a lot of Star Trek or what? Global citizenship is still just a dream!  We've been going backwards on that for quite some time. Bannon is not a stupid guy, knew what was up. I think we are going to go backwards as long as people like Assad are allowed to ethnically cleanse huge swaths of land, no country wants to take in a whole population of a different culture at once.  It's called "culture shock" when there's a flood all at once, I heard tell. And when that happens, it takes a long time, generations, to rid the stereotypes, i.e., "no Irish need apply" through "Polish plumbers" in the UK, through "Albanian gangsters" taking over Brighton Beach. One at a time, sure, whole different thing. And leave your nation of birth not by choice? Just whoever will take you so you don't die? No, not good, maybe necessary but not ideal.

    Sure, maybe a little too much Star Trek on my part but is the reality any less absurd?

    My goodness, even in a badly managed capitalist system like ours, every person stuck by random chance in a place they shouldn’t be is just wasted economic potential.

    Even the cleverest sci fi movies I've seen had checks & quotas between planets. Blade Runner even was foresighted enough to limit robots. Don't blame Gene Roddenberry for this mixup. We are not air particles - we do not disperse to equal density in an open room, nor are we individually non-identifiable.

    I don't get what you are trying to say, Michael, do you really believe all those millions left Syria by choice and a significant number of them weren't targeted and chased out by Assad? How do you feel about Palestinians who are still waiting to get great grandpa's lemon trees back, the ones who don't dream of becoming Americans but who want their land back? Just let the bullies shove people they don't like continually around the planet? Plenty of Jews targeted in the holocaust were proud German citizens of many generations. I think multi-culti in every culture is great and that cross cultural exchange is the way the world turns. But by slow assimilation, not by forced migration of millions of single ethnicity or religion at a time. The term refugee has a specific meaning, it is not at all the same as emigre.

    To clarify my point of view...

    Abolish ICE.  The US should have pretty much open borders.We could easily assimilate a lot more people and it’d probably provide economic stimulus.  It could support a far more generous social security/pension system and would solve a lot of demographic problems.

    We went down this line of conversation because it was suggested that if I don’t support using the military for humanitarian interventions than I’d better support taking in more refugees.  My answer to that is simply, “I do.”

    Most people don’t want to migrate and will find other solutions. I just don’t think the US military should be part of that conversation. Don’t get me started on the Palestinians.  I think they have a point. 

    No, Michael, you're wrong, it would screw everything up, we can't assimilate that many, it would be a huge financial drain, huge healthcare and education costs, in a world of 8 billion people we'd have 100 million show up in 6 months looking for a change, and it'd be absolute chaos.

    ETA: absorbing takes housing that doesn't exist, massive numbers put in types of jobs that no longer exist, skewing people of different language, worldview, voting habits... collision of cultures and economics et al.

    Regarding one point, Seymour Hersh has reported that there is grave doubt within the intelligence community as to whether Assad used chemical weapons in 2013 and 2017. Robert Fisk talked to a doctor in Douma who doubted whether a chemical attack occurred in that city, although the doctor wasn't an eyewitness.

    Article that answered a question I had: Why Isn’t Sy Hersh Covering President Trump?

    By Benjamin Wofford @ The Washingtonian Oct. 8, 2018, after spending some time with the man himself

    America’s foremost investigative journalist opened the nation’s eyes to My Lai and Abu Ghraib. But now he’s a Russiagate skeptic.

    Here are two rebuttals to Monbiot


    I note that Monbiot doesn't mention that Hersh reported that American intelligence doubted that Assad perpetrated chemical attacks in 2013 and 2017. Presumably Monbiot would have trouble dismissing American intelligence as a bunch of pro-Assad crackpots. I have no way of knowing if Postol is reliable or not.

    FWIW, Wofford is the one that convinced me that Hersh has lost it. It happens, you get old and it's beyond just a situation of "times change," you lose your contacts because they retire and/or die. I used to think highly of Hersh but he started losing it at least a decade ago and now I don't trust him as far as one can throw a stick.

    Well, I see no reason to doubt him when he says that American intelligence didn't believe Assad did it. If someone has published an article refuting that assertion, I'll read it. Monbiot didn't even address it.

    Google "Postol Peracles" on this Dag site.

    And by the way, referencing Consortium around here is a quick drain ball except for Lulu. If they believe it, it's almost certainly wrong. Perhaps the only thing worse is Moon of Alabama.

      Parry won three awards. But I guess any source that says something Peracles doesn't want to hear is a worthless source. Salon said that Parry was "persona non grata among  those who worship at the altar of conventional wisdom".

    Like what don't I want to hear? I would have loved at the time for Assad not to be a criminal mass-murderer. The last thing I wanted was another Mideast altercation to drag us in. Yeah, I'd like things calm enough to have say 5000 troops across region, and be done with Afghanistan, a tiny presence in Iraq.

    Try reading this one with open mind and see why I don't trust Postol or Hersh.:

      I thought you might not want to hear that Assad might not have gassed people(that he is a mass murderer is indisputable)because you dismissed Parry without doing anything to refute him. Now you have cited a source that provides a good deal of data, for which I commend you.

      My mind is reasonably open. Maybe Louisproyect is right and Parry, Hersh, and  Ian Wilkie are wrong. The two sides make different claims about the evidence, and I can't say who is getting it right. . I deleted Wilkie's piece because I couldn't link to his opponent's rebuttal. I couldn't link to the OPCW site, but certainly their conclusion that sarin was used carries weight. After reading this piece in Jacobin, I'll admit that I have increasing doubts about Hersh's account.

    Your mention inspired me to check Consortium News home page right now to see if things maybe changed around there. Nope. Here's the headline VIDEO: Pilger Says Assange Denies Meeting Manafort, December 24, 2018, The Guardian has claimed Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange at the Ecuador embassy. John Pilger visited Assange and tells CN’s Joe Lauria Assange strongly denied any such meeting. 

    And the next two stories are  COMMENTARY: Send the Mad Dog to the Corporate Kennel and Watch the 9th Vigil for Julian Assange with John Pilger, John Kiriakou and Ray McGovern both published December 21.

    First of all, that's not what I call "News", that's a highly opinionated group political blog. And somehow, since the first Bush administration, it has become easy to predict what they are going to be opining. I am prejudiced for a reason: there's a lot of opinion available to read out there and theirs doesn't say much that's not expected, always can guess what I am going to see. I don't begrudge people their opinions, but I don't really think the minds of most ideologues can be changed easily, I don't see the point of arguing with them over and over and over and over. They are either someday going to come to awareness of new paradigms on their own or they're going to keep hacking away to try to convince others of their righteousness.

    BTW, founder Parry died in January.

    there's a lot of opinion available to read out there and theirs doesn't say much that's not expected, always can guess what I am going to see.   I don't see the point of arguing with them over and over and over and over.

    And yet you do, over and over again. You make your above comment with apparently no sense at all of irony. Often you do not dispute a point so you are not arguing substance of what you reject but still you cannot pass the chance to ridicule the evidence presented. Often that is justified with reference to one contributor or one contribution from the past even if on a different issue completely, even if they have a history that should give them some fair measure of credence.  [You are not alone in using this method] Fairly adopting your standard across the board by which you ridicule other sites would render The New York Times, which you refer to multiple time a day, a laughingstock even though they are a vital part of our news system.  To believe that corporate media staffed by journalists who are climbing through the corporate system of advancement by reporting in a way approved by the corporate power do not have, or at least play to, the larger corporate view doesn’t demonstrate much “nuance” of understanding. Again, IMO. 

     Pilger, for instance, is IMO a very good and important journalist who does not pretend to the supposed “Voice from nowhere” and actually coming out of a very definite place, is a good one to give total credence to. He has a very definite view of international conflicts and a career of reporting on them which has no doubt created and then confirmed his bias by being proven correct time after time. You can expect that any new documentary by him will be critically analysing the various actors and will be giving evidence of the true story as he sees it and opposing it where appropriate to the story being told in the NYT, for instance. Dismissing him or some others and defending that on the grounds that he is covered at a site you have rejected is silly.

    Like much in life, Lulu, we base our evaluations on track records and experience. When a source like your VIP pseudo-intelligence loons has been proven absurd time and again, we tend to not be ready the 1200th time to expect some God-sent change of ability & intent - they'll probably still be loons, and we move on to other sources.

    The NY Times is a large publication - they have their biases and they get many things wrong, and I'd stay skeptical about many of their anonymous sources, as they do play a political game. However they also provide some stellar in-depth reporting as well, along with a huge necessary day-by-day baseline cat-caught-on-roof-firemen-rescue level of reporting. Yes, it's great to countercheck sources, including the NYT, and there are people like Marcy Wheeler who do a good consistent job of this (even though they often disagree with each other as well). The NYT is a mainstream establishment newspaper.

    On counterculture stuff like with Bradley Manning's trial, it took Firedog Lake as a small blog to provide needed day-to-day accurate reporting & checks on the Old Grey Lady. But that said, we can see 10 years later that something's really not right with Manning (& I don't mean her conversion), even though military treatment and other aspects to the charges proferred were over the top while bad deeds went unpunished. [not surprising, considering we had Gitmo & Abu Ghraib over-the-top events as well]. But we also get more perspective on Julian Assange's corruptness and biases, so that "information just wants to be free" tack we may have liked a decade ago has turned into a vengeful criminal mission. Many of us may have had sympathies for the Sandinistas back in the day, but Noriega's last few years of power with his wife should have disillusioned all of us that he was ever a Mandela-like harbinger of peace and comity.

    So just because a group like Consortium is continually against the folks you don't like, 1) that doesn't make them any more accurate - they just please your chosen allegiance/worldview and 2) when someone goes through their rather spotty articles time and again and finds them wanting, they lose confidence that anything of value will be found there (even though Shep Smith has occasionally surprised us at Fox News)

    Now, "Pilger "says Assange denies meeting Manafort" - well, a liar said he didn't do something, just like Assange pimped the "Seth Rich was informing and Hillary whacked him" malicious slur and "Hillary's got some debilitating disease - enter your guess which it might be..." completely irresponsible shit-missive as "poll". Why even bother to go there?

    I know he's dead. Parry being a corpse has nothing to do with the credibility of his reporting when he was alive. People thought he was credible enough to be worthy of the George Polk award, the I.F. Stone award, and the Martha Gellhorn award.

     I don't really see how those three pieces demonstrate that Consortium News isn't reliable. Pilger says that Assange told him he hadn't met Manafort. Maybe Assange did tell him that; I wasn't there. McGovern wrote an angry article denouncing America's wars and especially the deceptions involved in the Iraq War. Whether his stance is the right one is subjective, but did he get the facts wrong? Does the support these guys have shown for Assange show that Parry and his site aren't (weren't) trustworthy? I don't think so.

    With all the Assange lies and his pro-Russia subterfuge, continuing to back him wholeheartedly is a major crimp in any journalist's credentials. Judith Miller was rightfully laughed off the world stage after being burned badly by her lying White House sources. Should we be more forgiving of left-wing journos pimping dubious & disproven stories from left-wing heroes?

    Parry credibility, from 2016, on the shootdown on MH-17 below. Parry was great in the 80s and 90s and helped improve journalism, however, he later went full tilt on one sided conspiracy mongering,.... not once in recent years publishing a single article that centered on either (1) the US government told the truth on some incident...or...(2) the Russians or Putin lied about some incident.

    Debunking Parry on MH 17:

    Robert Parry is a kind of thinking mans Alex Jones. He takes bits of information, mixes, rehashes them and then concludes there are enormous conspiracies about.

    For instance, the article you link touches on his MH-17 crash reports. I looked into Parry on that. His links to his links etc.

    He here uses the 10-13-2015 first post-crash Review Report Arising from the Crash of MH-17 to debunk the recent Dutch final report that a Russian Buk in rebel hands was responsible for the crash.

    If you bother to work through the links in Parry's articles which he links to other Parry articles, to finally find a link to something not at Consortium News, you find the post-crash Dutch Report of 10-13-2015 was specifically a cover their ass analysis to exonerate themselves from not closing the flight route, from the front page of that report:

    The role of the General Intelligence and Security Service of the Netherlands (AIVD) and the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) in the decision-making related to the security of flight routes

    Parry then goes on to cite the same report in one of these string of his articles absolving Russia of accountability for the shoot-down by saying the final report on the shoot-down (which blamed the rebels using a BUK unit from Russia) was to be doubted because that new report Parry 'Troubling Doubts":

    didn’t address questions (from the 10-13-2015 report linked above) about the location of several Ukrainian Buk missile batteries that Dutch intelligence placed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the day that MH-17 was shot down.

    What he doesn't mention from that same first after crash report is that the Ukrainian Buk missile battery was at a Ukrainian base, and that had been taken over by the rebels.

    And "that reliable sources indicated that the systems that were at the military base were not operational."

    Therefore, they could not be used by the CIA or Ukraine, or the rebels. Therefore in the recent final report that Buk is not mentioned.

    Again from the 2015 Dutch report:

    On 29 June 2014, the Separatists captured a Ukrainian armed forces military base in Donetsk. At this base, there were Buk missile systems. These are powerful anti-aircraft systems. This development was reported extensively in the media prior to the crash. The MIVD also received intelligence information on the subject, on 30 June and 3 July 2014 as well as on other dates. During the course of July, several reliable sources indicated that the systems that were at the military base were not operational. Therefore, they could not be used by the Separatists.

    So Parry uses a post-crash preliminary report meant toe cover the ass of Dutch Defense officials over not closing the flight path over the Ukraine, that a Ukrainian Base which the rebels had captured (which Parry didn't mention) had a non-functional (which Parry also didn't mention) Buk, which Buk was not further discussed in the year later final report - to spread doubt over the whole Dutch investigation which recently concluded that it was a Russian Buk that shot the plane down, being used by the rebels. Facts which fit with the previous report if you bother to read it. Which I assume Parry did, pulling out stuff out of context to spread disinformation.

    As I have said before on the MH-17 shoot down when you posted on this, the plane wreckage and bodies came down on the rebels in their territory, the cell phones, which they picked up, used. Gravity tells me Parry is full of shit on this. The Russian backed rebels were the ones who shot it down with a Russian missile, I don;t need phone call intercepts which Parry also throws doubts on to believe that.

    And your primary Parry link could be summarized as "people in the news who still have jobs in the news didn't stop the Iraq War, ergo, there will be war with Russia over Syria'. 

    Unlikely, but possible.

    Far more likely with a Republican there than a Democrat. Parry doesn't take sides, he is a both sides conspiracy seller.  Like far too many in the media business. Making a living at liquidating our democracy by spreading fears, innuendoes, dismissing facts. His implication is invariably we cannot trust anyone in ours or any western government. Yet he seems to trust Vladimir Putin.

    If any more wars are started it will most likely be by the GOP.

    Both siderists come in many forms. Parry promotes the democracy dissolving mantra that our entire government, and even the Dutch in this case, produce nothing but lies and cannot be trusted with telling the truth.

      I may have to read the Parry article on the plane before I can assess how reliable it is--and even then it might not be easy. While I know the opinions of other people aren't precisely proof of Parry's credibility, he did win two awards in the last five years of his life and the Media Bias site rates Consortium as one of "the most credible news sources". I don't think John Pilger can be dismissed as a crank.

    The awards may have been legacy related to his earlier career. I read the Dutch reports and concluded Parry was cherry picking without context, as his journalism gig seemed to devolve to a pure play of spreading lefty conspiracy theories.

    The media bias of Consortium News is conspicuous. I have challenged anyone here, as I mentioned above, to find one Consortium article, any date,  by anybody there, that is centered on either concluding that (1) the US government told the truth about some incident or (2) the Russians did not tell the truth. I have never found one.

     Your data on the plane shootdown IS pretty convincing. I don't know Consortium; I can't say how much it can be relied on.

    I'd like to abolish the U.S. military. The only thing that give me pause is Korea.  Maybe if we reduced the military to 250,000 troops, and kept a  hundred nukes we could deter a North Korean invasion, and yet be unable to be waging war all over the world.

    But going in and bringing local allies with us, only to leave them abandoned, is the worst possible outcome.

    We have precious few real friends in that region, and we just betrayed them.

    I'm not sure what was/is the best path forward. It seems to me that every choice leaves some people hurt. I'm not even sure what path would leave the least people hurt.

    There was rising discontent in the country and protests against the government. This was brutally and unsuccessfully put down which led to civil war. Obama encouraged the rebels. Would it have been better to opt for stability and discourage rebellion against a brutal dictator? Should we have turned a blind eye to Assad's atrocities? Obama choose not to enter a civil war which seemed like a good decision. Assad was losing the war and would have been left with control of perhaps a third of the country. He would have been forced into negotiations with the Kurds and other rebel groups. Except without America involved it left a vacuum of power that Iran and later Russia filled. They propped up Assad and with brutal efficiency he now controls about 3/4 of the country.

    America in the end did not stay out but empowered the Kurds to create an autonomous region in the north east of the country. Was it right for us to get involved? It seems to me that if western civilization has any hope of diminishing terrorist attacks we need to protect and encourage less fundamentalist forms of Islam. From all sources I've read the Kurds practice the most liberal form of Islam. The rights and treatment of Kurdish women is unusual in the Islamic world.

    So here we are now. One theory is our continued presence in the Kurdish controlled area gives us the power to protect them and a seat at the table in any negotiations to end the war. We can't say how that might have turned out but one thing we can say is that both Assad and Turkey want to end the Kurdish controlled region. Before we can really know how good it is that we withdrew we have to discover just how brutally they take back control of the Kurdish region.

    Arab Spring - please include the uprising as part of that trend as part of your analysis (successful in Tunisia, also in Egypt but with repercussions, slapped down with us turning a blind eye in Bahrain, non-existent in Saudi Arabia, fledgling but reversed in Syria, assisted by no-fly zones in Libya. while overall it did not make sweeping changes, it was a shot across the bow that should have repercussions, though will it be a slow burn like Solidarity or the Czechs' Prague Spring followed by Russian tanks & crackdown, only to re-emerge with force 40 years later, or will it be more like Tiananmen, a students' -nearly peoples' - revolt largely swallowed by time and renewed focus on commerce.

    It's just a brief summary to give a flavor of my thoughts on the subject. I decided to just focus on Syria but even there I left out much. I thought about including a paragraph on the several million Syrian refugees in Jordan, whether our choices exacerbated that problem,and whether there was more Obama could have done to ameliorate their suffering. You do seem to have greater skill in drawing together disparate threads of history to create a more coherent and comprehensive post than I. I'm happy to have you add to or challenge my summary.

    I only bring it up cause it was the happening at the time, and many were optimistic that Arab countries would start to embrace democracy. Adding in weapons didn't seem wholly appropriate, but not every country was benevolent towards protesters. (Mubarek was actually not too bad compared to others, even though he killed some). But our decisions on how to support weren't just with Russians in mind - we were trying to support a democratic wave that disappeared all too quick, hoping Assad Jr would be more agreeable than Paps. Similar in Libya - the seeming democracy movement was in Benghazi, even tho these things are always imperfect.

    Here is one piece of data about our noble intervention in Syria.


    The Warsaw ghettoes looked pretty awful after the war as well (see Polanski's "The Piano Player" for a powerful depiction). War is hell. A lot of destruction. There will always be questons about whether it's better to live under tyranny or risk the deaths and destruction to free them. Not only were there civilians held captive in Raqqa, it was the seat of the ISIS movement, so had to be taken down. That only 2000 (3000?) civilians are estimated to have been killed seems like good news for such an extended (4 1/2 months) street-to-street fighting for a city of 220-300,000. The BBC reports a deal towards the end to let hundreds of ISIS slip out to end the fighting - I have trouble deciding whether that was a good or bad decision - not near enough info to judge. I do recall reports of impending starvation/critical lack of water... Anyway, it seemed something had to be done. I think they tried to be as careful as they could be - much more careful than many similar conflicts.

    ETA - i'm not sure how the operation of the war changed after Trump became president, whether it became less restrained - some note I saw seemed to remind me of that, but i'd have to research to remember.

    This isn't World War II. It makes little moral difference whether Syria is ruled by ISIS or Assad, so I don't think we've freed Syrians.  Amnesty International reported that 80 percent of Raqqa was damaged or destroyed. That is indiscriminate bombardment, probably a war crime. The Russian bombardment has also been savage.

    So a retro religious fanatic group can cone in, enslave people, make women forced concubines, behead men, do this across a large swath of Iraq and Syria, but to expel them we'll be wrong and accused of "excessive" bombing when they use civilians as shields to drag out the war. 

    Idunno, Aaron, read about the painstaking operation iver months. It was pretty obvious they were trying to be careful but ISIS was entrenched in the city and avoiding civilians was really hard. 

    And yes, there was a big moral difference between ISIS and Assad - slavery vs bad repression, say.

    If you damage or destroy 80 percent of a city I don't believe you are trying to avoid civilian casualties. Amnesty said it looked like they bombed areas were there were no ISIS fighters. A source I can't remember said that every building in the city was hit.

     In my humble opinion, any marginal superiority Assad might have over ISIS wasn't worth all this killing. I have doubts whether even the considerable superiority of Abadi over ISIS( the Abadi government has a terrible human rights record) was worth all this killing, although I'm not sure. Tens of thousands of dead, a lot of them civilians--it adds up.

    As we sit inside the comfort of our homes looking on from afar it may be hard to gauge the degree of evil between two entities. But it seems clear to me that I'd much rather live under the dictatorship of Assad than under ISIS. Assad is brutal only to the degree he needs to be to maintain control. It only affects those challenging his control. ISIS is ideologically evil. Their brutality affects all women and all who will not publicly embrace their version of Islam.

    From the Guardian - just 1 event from a long hellish ordeal:

    ...Residents of Sweida began burying their dead on Thursday, a day after the worst Isis atrocity in recent months claimed the lives of nearly 250 people – a toll that may yet rise.

    Dozens were kidnapped and wounded, many are missing, and the slaughter has upended the peace of the ancestral homeland of the minority Druze sect, which had so far largely escaped the violence that devastated much of Syria.

    Interviews with Sweida residents offered a glimpse into a brutal but well-planned, 12-hour attack that appeared to have evaded government security forces – and displayed the terror that Isis can still sow despite its repeated battlefield defeats and retreat across Syria and Iraq.

    The raids began at about 4am on three simultaneous fronts. Under the cover of darkness, the militants infiltrated Druze towns and villages in the east and north-east of Sweida, some using local Bedouin as guides.

    The militants knocked on doors – sometimes calling out locals by name – and slaughtered families. Meanwhile, they deployed snipers outside the town limits, and took up entrenched positions in the towns.

    In most homes the militants left a single survivor as a witness to their brutality, said Monther. Some of the Isis fighters had tied their legs together in what appeared to be a symbolic statement that they would fight to the death without fleeing.

    As news of the attack spread, local youth and militiamen took up arms. At the same time, at least four suicide bombers entered Sweida city. One bomber blew himself up at the vegetable market, another two in the city centre and the fourth detonated his vest in a building after being cornered by locals in the southern part of the city. About 30 people were killed by those attackers.

    “In the beginning, the attack took us by surprise, but the heroic youth of Sweida rallied quickly in the centre of town and the villages that Daesh [Isis] had attacked,” said Osama Abu Dikar, a writer and journalist in the city. “These local fighters with basic capabilities fought real battles against Isis.”

    He added: “The people of Sweida defended and fought with one heart. Today the city is recovering gradually. There is a very cautious calm, and there is an expectation of another attack.”

    The coordinated assault raised questions over the competence of Syrian government forces, the capabilities of Isis and its ability to sow chaos – and the reconciliation deals that the regime of Bashar al-Assad has used to reclaim control of territory around the country.

    Isis once controlled nearly half of Syria’s landmass at the zenith of its power in 2015. Since then it has lost vast tracts of territory to offensives by the US-led coalition and the Syrian military, retreating to desert hideouts and waging an insurgency.

    The militants who attacked Sweida emerged from positions in the eastern Syrian desert to the east and north-east of the province. Scores of militants had arrived there in recent weeks – they had agreed to surrender the Yarmouk refugee camp, a sprawling suburb south of the capital Damascus, in exchange for safe passage to the area.

    Their arrival to locations between 10 and 40 kilometres from the majority-Druze province led to great consternation among locals.

    “Since then there have been civil society activists asking, why did you bring Isis east of Sweida?”, said one local journalist and activist.

    Sweida is nominally under Syrian government control but has maintained a delicate neutrality that isolated it from the chaos raging throughout Syria.


    struck me right away from your excerpt, this is also an ironic anecdote of neutrality principle not working out so well when other parties are intent on using chaos as a weapon:

    Sweida is nominally under Syrian government control but has maintained a delicate neutrality that isolated it from the chaos raging throughout Syria.

    Reminds me of people who keep 5 or 6 different flags in a trunk, preparing for whoever might invade next...

    Hah, makes me think of the all the famous scam artist characters in the war movies, the grifters, i.e.,Sgt. Bilko, the John Malkovich character in Empire of the Sun. Trump belongs with them.

    Whole discussion here made me think: big picture, what am I for? Until we have a Star Trek/Prime Directive world, as a globalist elite realist, what the best we can do right now with the world we've got? It's actually kind of simple: the U.N. and associated go-along-with organizations like NATO are all we've got, as lousy as they may be sometimes! The U.N. decides the world and the big powerful countries in it, need to get together to police what's going on Syria? That's good enough for me. I can't be an expert at everything and in my lifetime, I've seen the U.N. as a whole make more good decisions than bad, i.e., they really didn't want George Bush's invasion of Iraq. #MAGA is the opposite of that ethos. It's not that hard once you realize our world is not perfect. People like Obama, Hillary, Bill Clinton on foreign policy, that's the best we can do, we can't get perfect, demanding perfect just makes things worse.

    Many Holocaust survivors hoped their concentration/slave camps (Auschwitz, Dora, Mauthausen...) would be bombed, so inmates could escape in the chaos.

    Victor Klemperer and his wife were saved by the fire bombing of Dresden in Feb.1945, the Gestapo agents and records were killed and destroyed, and they joined fleeing refugee columns, claiming Aryan identities.

    Well, the bombing of Dresden seems to have been irresponsible and largely pointless, whatever the case of Victor Klemperer as an exception to the mass death.
    But Raqqa was ISIS' headquarters, not a pointless destination. By defeating them there, the allies basically signalled an end to ISIS' terror - a symbolic finish important to break their psychological grip of terror & inevitability.

    Point is, no one knows, or can povide statistics, on the civilians who were saved from death (by ISIS), when a city like Raqqa is bombed and liberated....they count the dead.

    What percent of the city did ISIS destroy, or do we just blame everything on the US? (even Russia & Syria have gotten into the act, ignoring their own cluster & chemical bombing of civilian areas)

    At what point do you say treatment of civilians is bad enough to go in to 1) try to rescue them, 2) try to prevent ISIS from spreading its madness elsewhere?

    Read the descriptions & see if you think the allies tried to go in with super indiscriminate force & disregard for civilians.


      I don't see that either the Atlantic article or the wikipedia article can be cited in defense of the coalition's tactics. The wikipedia article cites a journalist who accuses the coalition of a "scorched earth" policy. As for the question of when military offensives by the great powers are justified to save people, I'm leaning towards saying "never". As Chomsky has said, every intervention has been called humanitarian. I think America's wars since 1945 have been catastrophes. The peacekeeping missions in East Timor and Sierra Leone had happy results, but those were hardly wars.

    No humanitarian intervention could be more justified than intervening in the catastrophe in Yemen. None could have been simpler to enact. No humanitarian intervention could have had a higher chance of working.  All we would have to do was quit helping. 

    Except purists helped elect the wrong president, so there's not fuckall we can do, is there. Would Trump have triwd to help out Haiti? hardly - we saw what he did with Puerto Rico.

    Putin weaponized purity. 

    He helped cultivate it first - the better to stir the chaos.

     I wouldn't say that ceasing to help the Saudis would be intervention. It would rather be ending an intervention.

    We would be intervening in the ongoing attacks by the Saudis in Yemen by stopping our support without which they could not have carried out their military missions. My point was that if humanitarian situations really pulled at their heartstrings, rather than being a sometimes political excuse which did not come into play in Yemen as evidenced by for whatever reasons we did not choose to intervene in the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet until a political way to profit from it came up. Otherwise, Yemen would have become an issue long ago. 

    What we should do about the civil war in Yemen is a matter of opinion. But you are wrong about the influence and power of the US in that conflict. This is just one more shia sunni war in the middle east with several players including Iran, jihadists and Al Qaeda. Iran took sides and was involved in the civil war before Saudi Arabia, some claim Iran was pivotal in starting it. Iran has absolutely no problem carrying out their military missions in Yemen without any help. Saudi Arabia and the other sunni nations that work with them would have no trouble carrying out their military missions without the US. US aid is minimal and if we stopped it would make no meaningful difference. 

    Iran is clearly using it's military strength to be a regional power in the middle east. It has considerable influence in Lebanon through it's proxy Hezbollah. It's a major player in Syria. And it's working to get control or at least influence in Yemen. It was inevitable that eventually Saudi Arabia and other sunni nations would push back with or without the US.

    Should the US have any allies in the region? Should we help them push back against Iran's bid for power? Should we stay out completely and let them fight it out no matter who wins? The example of Syria makes it clear that if we stay out that vacuum will be filled by Russia, should we care? These are the questions our foreign policy needs to address. But to discuss them here you need to get your facts straight.

     Time and CNBC say we have contracted to provide the Saudis with 110 billion in arms. That doesn't sound minimal.

    There's been a lot of talk about this arms sale but to the best of my knowledge none of it has been sent yet. If you're going to consider it "aid" the amount Saudi Arabia has received so far is less than minimal, it's nothing. But it's not a gift. If a nation has the money it can buy weapons from somewhere. Even if we cancel the arms sale as some have suggested as punishment for the murder of Khashoggi it really wouldn't change anything.

    Above you say," Saudi Arabia and the other sunni nations that work with them would have no trouble carrying out their military missions without the US. US aid is minimal and if we stopped it would make no meaningful difference."

    US aid should not be considered minimal if it was in fact vital. According to all reports SA depended on the US for targeting information, the bombs they were dropping, and for inflight refueling of the attack aircraft. Now you suggest that because SA has money it can get its arms else ware. Eventually they could transition their infrastructure and train their forces on new equipment but doing so would not be a small thing. Cutting arms sales to SA would change a hell of a lot.

    Have you ever looked at a map of Saudi Arabia and Yemen? Why don't you go do that and then explain exactly why the Saudis need in flight fueling to get to Yemen and how that provides anything more than a marginal benefit. Then explain how beneficial that aid can be when the Houthis and Iran have been able to fight the Saudis and their allies to a stalemate for 4 years without similar aid. When Saudi Arabia entered the war they predicted it would last only a few weeks.

    While you're looking at that map of Yemen, probably for the first time, see if you can figure out why control of this poor weak little country is so important and why so many nations don't want Iran to control the country. I don't think you know what you're talking about but you can prove it by just telling me why it's so important. It's a very easy question to answer. If you haven't read anything that explains it one glance at a map will give you the answer.

    It's no mystery why Washington and Saudi Arabia are involved in Yemen; it's to counter Iranian influence. Saudi Arabia hasn't yet broken Houthi resistance, but I don't think 2 billion in arms a year(which we've been told is what it is) is minimal assistance.

    Clearly it is a mystery to you. Why bother to counter Iranian influence in Yemen? It's not like Saudi Arabia is doing much of anything to counter Iranian influence else where. Here's a hint, it's all about Saudi Arabia  and Yemen geography. If you haven't read enough to know look at a map.

     You've answered your own question. They are bothering because Iran is seeking influence in a country on their border. They are trying to counter Iranian influence elsewhere, in Syria. They can't do much about the Iraqi government's friendship with Iran, and they are probably more afraid of ISIS in Iraq than of Iran in Iraq.

    The most common reason that aircraft are refueled in air is so that they can complete their mission and return to their chosen airfield before they run out of fuel and crash. Sharing a border with a country does not mean there is zero or little distance between one of the country’s military airfield and targets in the other country or that they are even close. If you are having trouble visualizing the concept take a look at a US map. Texas and Oklahoma share a border but an F-15 attack from a field in San Antonio on a hospital in Oklahoma city would require refueling the F-15 at some point.

     Many of the refueling missions were in support of aircraft from the Saudi’s ‘coalition’ partners.  As indicated below, and as you said, the coalition has by now ramped up the necessary infrastructure and received enough training that it can carry on the refueling of attack aircraft on its own. Even so, I believe it is quite evident that the US could have leveraged its support of training and the supplying of the Saudi coalition’s forces to stop the brutal air attacks at any time since when our support helped them begin. It could still do so. If we do not do so it will be because someone weighed the various aspects of doing so and made a decision not to, not because it was impossible.

    From America’s paper of record:

    Arms Sales to Saudis Leave American Fingerprints on Yemen’s Carnage

    CAIRO — When a Saudi F-15 warplane takes off from King Khalid air base in southern Saudi Arabia for a bombing run over Yemen, it is not just the plane and the bombs that are American.

    American mechanics service the jet and carry out repairs on the ground. American technicians upgrade the targeting software and other classified technology, which Saudis are not allowed to touch. The pilot has likely been trained by the United States Air Force. …

    … “In the end, we concluded that they were just not willing to listen,” said Tom Malinowski, a former assistant secretary of state and an incoming member of Congress from New Jersey. “They were given specific coordinates of targets that should not be struck and they continued to strike them. That struck me as a willful disregard of advice they were getting.”

    Yet American military support for the airstrikes continued.

    As bombs fell on Yemen, the United States continued to train the Royal Saudi Air Force. In 2017, the United States military announced a $750 million program focused on how to carry out airstrikes, including avoiding civilian casualties. The same year, Congress authorized the sale of more than $510 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, which had been suspended by the Obama administration in protest of civilian casualties.

    From Business Insider: Recently, the Kingdom and the Coalition increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen. As a result, in consultation with the United States, the Coalition has requested the cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen," it said in a statement.

    Saudi Arabia has a fleet of 23 planes for refueling operations, including six Airbus 330 MRTT used for Yemen, while the United Arab Emirates has six of the Airbus planes, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya al-Hadath channel reported on Saturday.

    Riyadh also has nine KC-130 Hercules aircraft that can be used, it added.


    Short of halting all weapons sales, critics say the United States could pressure the Saudis by curtailing its assistance to the air war. Hundreds of American aviation mechanics and other specialists, working under Defense Department contracts, keep the Saudi F-15 fleet in the air. In 2017, Boeing signed a $480 million contract for service repairs to the fleet.


    I think you're pretty clueless and I don't have the energy to point out the errors in your analysis. No country in Saudi Arabia's geographic position would ever allow an enemy to control the Bab al-Mandab Strait. Especially not Iran who already controls the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has no legitimate reason to be involved in the Yemen civil war while Saudi Arabia has clear national security interests in making sure Iran does not control Yemen and that Yemen is at least neutral or an ally of Saudi Arabia. You condemn Saudi engagement in Yemen in response to Iran's engagement in the war when the opposite should be true. The only reason you condemn the Saudi engagement is because Saudi Arabia is America's ally. You give Iran a pass because it's America's enemy. It's all based on your primary premise: everything America does in the world is evil.

    In addition who controls the Bab Al-Mandab Strait is of significant interest to every country that uses the Suez Canal to move ships south.

     Your analysis seems similar to mine: Saudi Arabia is intervening because they don't want an Iranian foothold on their borders(or in the strait). I'm kind of surprised to be told I should be condemning Iran instead of Saudi Arabia. It is the Saudis who have blown up many thousands of Yemeni civilians, and have starved scores of thousands to death(according to the Guardian anyway).

    But it's  not about an Iranian foothold on Saudi borders. If Iran was attempting to get a greater foothold in Oman it would be a minor concern for Saudi Arabia. Definitely not worth a major war effort like what's happening in Yemen. Iran already borders Saudi Arabia across the rather small Persian Gulf. A foot hold in Yemen would be only a small improvement over that but for the Bab al-Mandab Strait. Put Bab al-Mandab Strait in google and learn about it.

    We can certainly condemn all nations for the atrocities of war but Saudi Arabia would not be there if Iran hadn't entered the civil war first and control of the Bab al-Mandab Strait was not of such a significant national interest to Saudi Arabia. 

    But you do have the energy to move the goalposts and declare a new game when your stated position cannot be supported convincingly. My position from the start is that the US has the power to stop Saudi air attacks on Yemen.  In part your response was,   "Saudi Arabia and the other sunni nations that work with them would have no trouble carrying out their military missions without the US. US aid is minimal and if we stopped it would make no meaningful difference".   After I offered strong evidence rejecting that opinion you change your attack position to one of explaining why Saudi Arabia can be expected to attack Yemen. That is a different subject.Your becoming an apologist for MDS does not change the fact that Saudi Arabia is dependent on the US to keep its air force flying. 




    The $110 billion is political bs. They've actually payed for and received $2.25 billion a year, on average, 2013-17.

    Saudi Arabia leads the list for U.S. weapons exports and is itself the world's second-largest arms importer. Saudi Arabia received $9 billion in weapons from the U.S. between 2013 and 2017, and last year alone garnered some $3.4 billion, more than the next top five U.S. customers—Australia, the United Kingdom, Israel, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.


    Hezbollah has been there for what, 35 years now? More? Iran has supported Syria for roughly the same time, I'd guess. Meanwhile we invaded and ocupied 2 of its neighbors, supported one of them in a brutal 10 year war against it, prop up a 3rd as a NATO ally, and have enlisted a 4th in the "war on terror". And have been under sanctions since the late 70's, increased over inflated nuclear claims and political posturing. And now we're conspiring with 2 more (where we also barrack US troops) plus Israel for some regional reshuffling and domination and nuclear energy game.

    So I think you imply a bit more Iranian muscle pumping than it's done.

    I don't think anything I've posted about Iran is incorrect. Nothing you posted challenged my post. Listing US actions in the region doesn't challenge my post though it may provide a justification for Iran's actions. Is that what you're attempting to do?

    Uh, yeah.  Maybe not "justify", but rationalize and balance impressions a bit.

    Hezbollah supports Xmas & Santa - can't be all bad, can they?
    More paradoxes from the Middle East.

    I'm a big fan of Santa. Even I can see the value in lying to children over and over and over again for years and then laughing it off when they get old enough to see it was all an elaborate ruse. If only the other religions were as honest about their con.

    As an atheist I'm evil and cold-hearted. I'm just trying to relate to what other people must be going through. Plus I have a soft spot for lap dances. Go, Santa! Whirling drvishes indeed.

     I know this is just a matter of semantics, but I don't think that withdrawing our support constitutes an intervention; it means ceasing to intervene.

    Invoking Lewis Carroll, "when I use a word, I mean what I want it to mean, nothing more, nothing less". Rhetoric is fungible - prepare for war. No blame.

    As lulu pointed out in another thread it's intellectually honest to make up personal definitions for words, tell people what your personal definition is and then expect other people to use your personal definition instead of the dictionary definition, or at least supply a different personal definition and argue about them.

    My personal definition for fungible is: having to do with fungi or mushrooms, either poisonous or edible. So I agree with you, rhetoric, like fungi, can be wholesome or poisonous.

    So South Korea is a prosperous country rather than a dystopian rice paddy thanks to us, Milosevic didn't get to wipe out Kosovo, Hussein was removed from Kuwait, ISIS is vastly diminished, and of course Russia was never able to extend its Iron Curtain to the West. But Chomsky as long as he has his citadel looks down and finds it all beneath him - let them eat grubworms  -it's more pure that way.

     The Korean War would have ended in less than four months if we hadn't tried to conquer North Korea. We made the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo much worse(besides killing civilians, opening the door to the revenge killing of a thousand Serbs, and violating international law). We could have accepted Saddam's offer to withdraw from Kuwait, but Bush wanted glory, so we got 100,000 dead soldiers and civilians(not to mention a second war). We didn't have to make war to keep the Soviets out of Western Europe; we did it through deterrence. I've said that I doubt stopping ISIS was worth the price, but I admit it's arguable.

       I don't know how reliable Hersh's source was, but I confess it is a problem that he only had one, and this was all before the OPCW conducted its on-site investigation. I'll try to look up Hersh's earlier article about the reported 2013 attack.

    It is what it is, no matter who one blames to have gotten it there. What comes next?

    Syria Faces Brittle Future, Dominated by Russia and Iran

    By Vivian Yee @ Dec. 26, 2018

    BEIRUT, Lebanon — Turkey is threatening to invade Syria to eradicate Kurdish fighters. Syrian forces are rolling toward territory the Americans will soon abandon. Israel is bombing Iran-backed militias deep inside Syria. And Russia could soon move to crush the last vestige of the Syrian anti-government insurgency.

    The Syria that the United States military is vacating on President Trump’s orders is a Balkanized version of the country that plunged into a calamitous civil war nearly eight years ago.

    Now, with the American troop withdrawal and the demise of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia will be even freer to flex their power in Syria.


    A look at the changing complexities of the Syria conflict:

    What could postwar Syria look like? [....]

    And yesterday, whilst we were celebrating western Christmas:

    Russia condemns 'Israeli' air strikes on Syria

    @ BBC News, 9 hrs. ago

    Russia has branded as "provocative" an alleged Israeli air strike on Syria late on Tuesday.

    Reports from Syria said an arms depot in Qatifah, about 40km (25 miles) north-east of Damascus, was hit, injuring three soldiers.

    Israel has not commented, but after the reported strikes it said it had fired at a Syrian anti-aircraft missile. It did not report any damage or injuries.

    Israel has carried out dozens of strikes on Syria in recent years.

    It says it is acting to thwart advanced weapons transfers from Iran to the Lebanese pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement and the strengthening of Iran's military presence [.....]

    Edit to add:

    and Saudi Arabia sez: just like with Mexico paying for the wall, don't believe what Trump says about us:

    Saudi Arabia clarifies Trump tweet: No new Saudi pledges to rebuild Syria

    @ CNBC. com, 10 hrs. ago

    • President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday that Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend the "necessary money" to help rebuild Syria.
    • The tweet briefly raised questions about whether the White House has secured new commitments from the kingdom.
    • An official at the Saudi embassy in Washington confirmed the kingdom has not made any major new financial pledges since August. [....]

    more on Russia vs. Israel over Syria:

    Again I'm stuck in the unusual position if supporting Bibi & Israeli airstrukes, but PP abhors a vacuum (as the Missus might attest)

    Just for input about "what is actually going on?" as opposed to what one would prefer to happen:


    — Laura Rozen (@lrozen) December 27, 2018

    Though I see he has also most recently retweeted this, which admittedly is an anecdotal with some advocacy intent:

    What you see in NE #Syria: moms pushing forward toward the future after seeing things worse than you can imagine. And asking the world not to give up on their fight for stability. Meet one extraordinary woman here:

    — Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (@gaylelemmon) December 26, 2018

    Edit to add, and before that he tweeted this:

    A little dark #Syria humor. Sigh. H/T @ver_scholl_en @flintsparc #SDF #CJTFOIR #Turkey #Trump #Erdogan #Assad #Iran #Russia

    — Nicholas A Heras (@NicholasAHeras) December 27, 2018

    The question of whether U.S. troops should be anywhere or at a particular spot is always important and raises questions that need to be asked again and again.

    It is difficult to separate the crisis of any given moment from recurring patterns.

    It seems to me that the present discussion of what is possible forgets that the "Bush" doctrine suspended the systems of states on the basis that it was not capable with dealing with non-state actors unless it became a non-state actor.

    So the present decisions are bad or good by any number of measures, but they don't address the problems of previous decisions as something to build other decisions upon.

    And that is the gap. Nobody in their own personal life expects to separate what happens from past decisions.

    Why would anybody think it was possible for a nation?

    San Antonio is in the south of Texas so an attack on Oklahoma city requires planes to fly a vast distance north over Texas. There are military airfields in south Saudi Arabia that are near to the border with Yemen or with small effort a new airport could be built in the desert where ever Saudi Arabia wanted. Your example is asinine. An attack on Oklahoma City from Burkburnett, Texas would be a trivial flight by any military aircraft. Did you think I was too stupid to know this or are you so stupid you didn't realize it? And as your link states SA has increased it's capacity for in flight fueling so that already, " the Coalition has requested the cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen."  That's an example of your strong evidence?

    It's true that by completely severing all aid to Saudi Arabia, rejecting all promises made when we sold them the weapons, would slow down and eventually end SA ability to prosecute the war. But that might just push them into the arms of Russia who would celebrate the chance to sell weapons and obtain SA as an ally.There would be some transition costs but Russia would go out of it's way to minimize them as much as possible. Would that be a good thing in your opinion?

    I have not moved the goal posts. I've been discussing what I see as the foundational issue of Iran's involvement in the civil war before SA from the beginning and you've been ignoring it. I finally got tired of it and decided to ignore your comment to only address the issue of Iran.

    By the way I don't like MBS and never believed the hype about his reform of SA. But it's still possible for me to look at the games of chicken Iran has been playing with American aircraft carriers in the Straits of Hormuz and Iran's attempt to encircle SA sea access by controlling the Bab al-Mandab Strait and see it as a unacceptable threat to SA. And also for any country routinely using the Suez Canal.

     That's an example of your strong evidence? 

    F-15s and very other attack aircraft in Saudi Arabia's airforce require a lot of maintenance after every flight. From the NYT as posted in an earlier comment:

    American mechanics service the jet and carry out repairs on the ground. American technicians upgrade the targeting software and other classified technology, which Saudis are not allowed to touch. 

    What is your theory as to why air to air refueling was ever required? I continue to believe it was so that the attacking aircraft could make the round trip from their base to the target and back again without flaming out due to a shortage of fuel.

     Here is a dictionary definition of apologist. "A person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial." By that definition you are an apologist for MDS whether you 'like' him or not. Is it possible for you to look at the Middle East situation and see any reason to expect Iran to play a few cards too because they have reason to feel threatened? Being so clear headed to recognize every excuse for SA's brutality while being bull headed and ignoring that the Iranians have plenty of reason to react to threats too, and blaming them totally for tensions every chance you get, casts your apologetics in an approving light and could qualify you for a post with the neocon war mongering machine which so strongly influences our country's foreign policy. 

    I thought that when I used the correct initials for Mohammed Bin Salman you'd realize your typo. But clearly it wasn't a typo.

    What do you think happened to all the western weapons in Iran after the Shah was overthrown? Did they cut the jets down for scrap? American mechanics are more knowledgeable about American technology but Iranian mechanics did and Saudi mechanics could take over. Iran got so good at it they reversed engineered much western technology to create their own weapons industry.

    Software doesn't need to be updated. Old software can be used for years. 

    Planes are flown out of King Khalah military airbase near Riyadh in central SA so need refueling. But they don't have to be flown out of that airbase. There were other options if the US had refused to aid with refueling.

    Apologist has a negative connotation and that's why you're using the term. By that same rational you're an apologist for Iran, the ayatolla that rules it and Muslim theocracy.. Both countries are pretty evil but I think Iran is slightly worse. The only question that matters is are my arguments valid or not. Iran is not reacting to threats, it's pushing for foreign power with similar behavior you criticize America for. There have been numerous stories about Iran behavior in the Straits of Hormuz for many years. It's not a reaction to a threat but a push for dominance in the straits and a threat to SA. Have you been following any of those stories? Do you have any reasonable explanation for it as anything other than an aggressive move toward dominance in the strait.?

    Why do you think Iran entered the civil war in Yemen if it wasn't for such a strategically important goal as control of the Bab al-Mandab Strait? It was already over stretched with it's war in Syria and unrest at home. It wasn't defensive. It was a direct threat to SA. It was a push for power mainly over SA. Be honest, before I mentioned the Bab al-Mandab Straits you had no idea they even existed even though most analysis of the situation cites the straits as the cause of Iran and SA entering the civil war.

     I blame Iran for making the first move in Yemen's civil war to gain control over they Bab al-Mandab Straits more  than I blame SA for responding to that threat. Why don't you?

    If you think that my mistake in the initials ‘MDS’ was actually deliberate, what do you think that means?

    Regarding my calling you an apologist, I was actually just calling attention to the fact that being an apologist for some action of a leader does not mean that you like the person, which I said specifically, or that you support all their actions. I was thinking of the numerous times I have been, correctly, by definition, called an apologist for some leader or other just as you do me here regarding Iran, and with an obvious bad connotation attached.

    You would have to be nuts not to know that Iran has been threatened over and over lives under constant threat. I believe Iran has, as I would expect them to, concentrated a great deal of firepower on the Straits of Hormuz because it gives them a strategic threat. They quite naturally want to demonstrate that they can exact a severe price in retribution if they are attacked. Do you believe that Iran would initiate a confrontation by blocking the Straits of Hormuz? I think they are not crazy.

    Whether we could have stopped SA’s air war in Yemen is one question. Whether we should stop that air war is a different question which you answer from the perspective of MBS. Your argument that MBS had his reasons is not one which answers the question of whether we could have stymied his actions. I believe we could have stopped his air war and I will leave that question at that.  You say our help means nothing and withdrawing it would change nothing. I believe that is a ridiculous line of reasoning maybe meant to mute the question of whether we should try to stop the air war. Maybe adopting that attitude works to stifle or ease any conscious feeling of the morality involved in participating in the holocaust of bombing a bronze age nation into the stone age and making excuses as its citizens die like in the middle ages from the resulting famine and pestilence.

    F-15s can be fitted with extra tanks to make the trip to OK City trivial. Speed will be slower, but Yemen ain't got fighters.

    Yeah but without American gas station attendants the Saudi gas station attendants wouldn't know how to fill those extra tanks.

    Maybe we can get Goober from Mayberry to lend a hand if they can spare him at the gas pump? tho I doubt his Arabic's very good, "Saudi" sounds a lot like "howdy"...

    Ferry range is one thing but the goal would be to arrive at the target with a payload. Everything about aircraft range of a fighter jet involves a tradeoff as I feel sure you know or can at least understand when it is explained. Even with extra tanks the aircraft is much cleaner aerodynamically than when fitted with external ordinance so more than a pound of fuel must be sacrificed for every pound of ordinance that is carried. An F-15 carries more than 40 thousands pounds at takeoff which can be split at various ratios between fuel and ordnance. I don’t know where the graphs cross for range when carrying thousands of pounds of bombs and missiles and needing a fair amount of fuel for safety at the end of the trip. Do you?  Maybe the Saudis  were just determined to carry every pound of ordnance they could fit aboard and so had to sacrifice too much range unless refueled. Maybe they refueled for no reason at all, but I doubt it.

    WaPo is headlining the Bolton story on their home page right now:

    Bolton promises no troop withdrawal from Syria until ISIS eradicated

    National security adviser John Bolton’s comments are the clearest explanation yet of how officials plan to execute the president’s abrupt announcement that he would pull troops from Syria, surprising allies and prompting the resignation of former defense secretary Jim Mattis.

    So if it was meant as a sotto voce "don't believe Trump's spin", it's no longer sotto voce. PLUS it's no longer just about making sure the Kurds are protected: it's back to the status quoa, the Trump talk was all b.s., ISIS not "eradicated" yet.

    Not exactly. A simple if then confirmation of whatever Trump does:

    If Trump withdraws, it is because ISIS is eradicated.

    If Trump stays, it's because ISIS is not eradicated.

    Of course, any future terror attacks on anyone, anywhere, Trump will always blame on someone else.

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