The fallen.

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Four special forces soldiers were killed in the African nation of Niger earlier this month, and the Trump administration doesn’t want to talk about it. There’s been no discussion of what our policy is in Niger or more broadly in that region of Africa, no information on the circumstances of the men’s deaths, no nothing. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Yemen raid that went bad just a couple of weeks into Trump’s tenure, except that they HAD a story for that one and it turned out to be as bogus as a Linkletter million dollar bill.

Another thing the Niger incident echoes somewhat more dimly is the Benghazi attack back in 2012. You know, four dead Americans, questions about how much support they received from Washington, and so on. So I imagine Trey Gowdy will start holding hearings on this quite soon, right? (Trey? Are you out there, Trey?)

What they DON'T want to talk about.Okay, so, the thing MSNBC has latched onto is Trump’s call to one of the relatives of the lost soldiers in Niger and his comments surrounding presidential condolence calls in general. This seems like a red herring. The fact is, Trump radiates a sense of not caring about anything that happens to military people. This just points to what I’ve contended for some time now; that Trump is all of our worst tendencies balled up into a big, fat, greasy wad of nothing. He doesn’t care about lost soldiers in much the same way that most Americans don’t care – at least, not enough to step away from their televisions or to put their forks down. Sad, as Trump would tweet, but true.

Do Americans wonder why our military is operating in places like Niger, Chad, etc.? My guess is that they don’t, since both the government and the media are not taking a close look. One freelance journalist working in that region, Amanda Sperber, commented on Democracy Now! that she found it surprising that Americans weren’t aware of our presence in Niger; that we have, among other things, a drone base in that country. Why? Because we the people don’t make it our business to question these deployments. We don’t have to pay (at least, for the time being) and we don’t have to fight, so we essentially don’t give a fuck.

We will become a civilized people the moment we start treating our service personnel as if they were members of our immediate family. When we get to that point, maybe Trump will adjust his behavior … or, even better, be sent home.

luv u,

jp

Week that was (redux).

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Okay, I’ve been out of commission for a few days, taking comprehensive exams for a master’s degree in lethargy. (Hard to study for, actually … I keep falling asleep.) And though I’ve been quiet, very quiet for the last couple of weeks, I have been paying attention to what’s going on out in that wacky world of ours, and I have a thing or two to say about it. Just bet you can’t wait to hear it! Harumph!

Mr. Benghazi himselfBenghazi. Really? I mean, really? The republicans are on this Benghazi thing again? Why? Because the Affordable Care Act may not be as good a campaign issue as they thought? I keep hearing this trope about how awful it is that four people were killed. Yes, it’s awful. But Libya is a war zone. And these people make more noise about those four lives than they ever did about the more than 4,000 Americans that died in their Iraq war. How about we hold someone (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.) accountable for that first, then maybe look at Benghazi (right after Afghanistan)? If magnitude counts for anything, Benghazi shouldn’t even be on the list in the first place.

Let us pray. It’s official – public meetings can be opened with some kind of Jesus prayer. Thank you, Supreme Court and, yes, George W. Bush, who replaced the then-dying William Rehnquist with another reliable young conservative, thereby locking us into reactionary decisions from the Court for another generation. I love the way proponents of prayer in the public square frame this as a freedom of religion issue. For crying out loud, YOU CAN PRAY ALL DAY LONG IF YOU WANT TO. When you do it in a public meeting, representing an institution of government that should have no association with a particular religion whatsoever, you are just cramming it into people’s faces and undermining their trust in the impartiality of government.

Nigerian abduction. Well, it took long enough for the press to talk about this, but they are finally giving it the coverage it deserves, thanks to a groundswell of anger from the grassroots. For a couple of weeks after this abduction, I kept thinking, where is this story? Our press tends to keep its distance from stories in Africa, unless they are real blockbusters. It’s just as well that there is some people power behind this … maybe that will bring about some meaningful  change in Nigeria.

luv u,

jp

High crimes and missed opportunities.

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Congressman Darryl Issa (“Step away from the vehicle!”) had his most excellent Benghazi hearing this week – a real blockbuster for the right. Bigger than Watergate, we’re told. A heinous coverup on the eve of a presidential election. What a scandal! Issa will leave no stone unturned, chasing down those responsible for providing false information about the nature of the attack on our consulate. After all, four people are dead – four! That’s nearly half as many as died on our side this week in Afghanistan. Nearly 1/10 the number killed in one of the more notorious drone strikes in Yemen a few years back. Nearly 0.0001% of the number of civilians likely killed in Iraq based on false testimony and obfuscation.

Sure … if you want to hold someone accountable in high places, that seems fair. Just put the Benghazi culprits in line at the Hague behind Bush and Cheney, whose deceptions led us into two wars, one of which is still raging. That, of course, will never happen. But there’s still no justification in being so selective in your enforcement of high crimes.

If you’re going to call the Obama administration on the carpet, why not do so for the unprecedented number of “signature” strikes they are conducting around the world, some of them on American citizens? Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of radical Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki, was summarily killed in a drone strike that tore up a restaurant in Yemen. Why not ask them about that, Issa? Why not call them out for killing people on the basis of behavioral profiles, not intelligence? Is it perhaps because that doesn’t bother you or your constituents? I thought so.

Sure, Obama’s foreign policy is abusive and murderous, just like all of his predecessors in my lifetime. The difference between them is a question of degree. During the Johnson/Nixon war on Vietnam, the same standard was applied as in the current drone war: if you were outside the wire in rural South Vietnam, you were assumed to be part of the Viet Cong (NLF) and therefore a target. The difference is that we killed hundreds of thousands there – probably in the million range – whereas in the current drone war, they take more of a retail approach.

Does that count for much? I suppose it counts for something. But when you split hairs over the numbers of innocents killed, you sacrifice your humanity on some level.

luv u,

jp

The admiral.

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A little more than a week after the election, and McCain is at it again. God, I wish he would stick to making frozen sweet potato french fries! (That’s not him? My bad.) He is vowing to get to the bottom of this … my word … bigger than average scandal surrounding the attack on the Benghazi consulate and the killing of ambassador Chris Stevens and his security detail. The Senator is so determined that he held a press conference while the committee he chairs was receiving testimony from the CIA in closed session. That’s right … he skipped the session where details of the attack were being disclosed to complain that the administration has refused to disclose details of the attack.

Seemingly freakish and perhaps the product of a superannuated brain, McCain is simply clinging to the mast of the ship he’s been commanding since his arrival in the Senate. The Benghazi controversy was cooked up during the campaign to try to drive a wedge into Obama’s national security advantage. The biggest mistake the administration made was likely one of too much disclosure as opposed to too little – while Romney was railing against them for “apologizing” to the killers of Chris Stevens, the administration attempted to quell the issue by releasing more details than anyone could have confidently claimed were reliable at the time. Now that Romney has lost, McCain is left with the issue, defending his ground to the last.

Of course, Obama’s pushback during his news conference got McCain’s famous temper going, and he’s been yelling at Obama to get off of his lawn ever since. This is kind of pathetic, frankly. The man is clinging to his tattered reputation as a foreign policy hawk, throwing bombs wildly and somewhat inaccurately. (My guess is that his bombing runs over North Vietnam were a bit scattershot as well.) The admiral needs to calm down, take his pill, and think about his constituents for five minutes.

Both of Obama’s presidential election opponents were heard from this week. But even with Romney’s doubling-down on his 47% sentiment to his donors, he sounded like less of a crank than his predecessor from four years earlier. We dodged a bullet both times, but particularly in 2008.

luv u,

jp