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Saturday, Apr 8, 2017

Crisis: On War, Bannon vs Kushner, U.S. Strike on Syria, Hotline, George Carlin


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. The Pandora’s Box of War
2.
In Battle for Trump’s Heart and Mind, It’s Bannon vs. Kushner
3. Trump Shocks World in Direct U.S. Strike on Syrian Airbase
     That Could Violate International Law

4.
Russia Threatened to Shut Down the "Deconfliction" Hotline.
5. George Carlin: "We Like War!"
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday
, April 8, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with five items and five links. Most are dedicated to the latest war (USA vs Syria): Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges
on war; item 2 is about another item than war, namely the fight between Bannon and
Kushner as reported by the New York Times; item 3 is about Trump's bombing a Syrian
air field without any approval by Congress, which may make this illegal; item 4 is about
a threat the Russians made: They may shut down the deconfliction hotline; and item 5 is about George Carlin's response, 25 years ago, to the first Gulf War: Little has changed since then, except that warring got easier and much more frequent. (And I like Carlin a lot.)

April 8: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site again failed to upload and is still stuck on Tuesday, April 4. These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession.

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. The Pandora’s Box of War

The first article today is
by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

War opens a Pandora’s box of evils that once unleashed are beyond anyone’s control. The invasion of Afghanistan set out to defeat al-Qaida, and nearly 16 years later, we are embroiled in a losing fight with the Taliban. We believed we could invade Iraq and create a Western-style democracy and weaken Iran’s power in the region. The fragmentation of Iraq among warring factions has left Iran the dominant Muslim nation in the Middle East and Iraq destroyed as a unified nation. We set out to topple President Bashar Assad in Syria but then began to bomb the Islamic insurgents trying to overthrow him. We spread the “war on terror” to Yemen, Libya and Syria in a desperate effort to crush regional resistance. Instead, we created new failed states and lawless enclaves where vacuums were filled by the jihadist forces we sought to defeat. We have wasted a staggering $4.79 trillion on death, destruction and folly as our nation is increasingly impoverished and climate change threatens us with extinction. The arms manufacturers, who have a vested interest in perpetuating these debacles, will work to make a few trillion more before this act of collective imperial suicide comes to a humiliating end.

I think this is a fair summary - and Chris Hedges was an international correspondent for 20 years, who reported mostly on wars in that time, and from where the wars were being fought: He knows what he is speaking about from his own long experience.

This is about the opponents of the USA:

The jihadists’ savagery mirrors our own. The jihadists respond to our airstrikes and aerial drone attacks by using suicide vests and improvised explosive devices. They respond to our black sites and prisons such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo with basement cells that torture kidnapped captives. They respond to the ideology of Western secularism with an Islamic state. They respond to violence with violence.

I think this is a fair summary as well, and like to add that from the point of view of the Muslims in the Middle East, they are being attacked now for 16 years (at least: see item 5) by the USA, from the other side of the world, which cost the nations in the Middle East hundreds of thousands of lives and exposure to extremely much violence, and which produced little else except great misery to very many.

Then there is this paragraph, which consists only of questions (and see item 3 below):

WATCH Does U.S. Attack Against Syria Violate International Law?

Why the moral outrage now among Americans? Why have we stood by as Syrians died daily from barrel bombs, bullets, famine, disease and drowning off the shores of Greece? Why have we been mute as schools, apartment blocks, mosques and hospitals have been bombed into rubble? Where is the outrage about the deaths of the thousands of other children, including those we killed recently in Mosul when a March 17 coalition airstrike took the lives of as many as 200 civilians? Why are we not enraged by the Trump administration’s flagrant violation of domestic law by carrying out an act of war without approval from Congress or the United Nations? Why do we lament these deaths yet bar Syrian war refugees from entering the United States? Is American foreign policy to be dictated by the fickle emotions of Donald Trump, whose perception of reality appears to be obtained exclusively from a television screen?

I will not answer these questions except for the first one, and in a general way: I think
that the present moral outrage among Americans has been caused in part by children being killed with poison gas, but I also think that "public opinion" in the USA has been
more or less systematically poisoned by the mainstream media, that also failed to give much honest information - and for "
the Trump administration’s flagrant violation of domestic law by carrying out an act of war without approval from Congress or the United Nations" see item 3 below.

This article ends as follows:

This slaughter has already lasted nearly 16 years. It will not cease until the United States is exhausted and withdraws its forces from the region. And before that happens, many, many more innocents will die. So save your tears. We are morally no different from the jihadists or the Syrians we fight. They reflect back to us our own repugnant visage. If we wanted this to stop, we could make it happen.

I have two remarks on this bit:

First, I don't think that (speaking about Americans) it is true that "
We are morally no different from the jihadists or the Syrians we fight" and I don't think so for - at least -
three reasons: The jihadists and the Syrians in general (mostly civilians) do live in a
state of war, and the Americans do not; the jihadists and the Syrians not only risk being blown up daily by American and others bombs, but also have far less money than Americans; and most Syrians know war in their own country from their own experiences, while most Americans only know war from news reports on TV.

Second, the problems with "
[i]f we wanted this to stop, we could make it happen" are that there are several opposing camps and parties in the USA, some of which are for (this) war and some of which are against (this) war, while in general the force of "we", if "we" are ordinary people who are not rich and live in the USA, has very much diminished in political influence.

And this is a recommended article.

2. In Battle for Trump’s Heart and Mind, It’s Bannon vs. Kushner

The second article is by Maggie Haberman, Jeremy W. Peters, and Peter Baker on The New York Times:

This starts as follows:

Thick with tension, the conversation this week between Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, had deteriorated to the point of breakdown.

Finally, Mr. Bannon identified why they could not compromise, according to someone with knowledge of the conversation. “Here’s the reason there’s no middle ground,” Mr. Bannon growled. “You’re a Democrat.”

Really now?

I wrote about Bannon vs. Kushner yesterday and mentioned that it is true that on Wikipedia Kushner is described as a Democrat (with Democratic parents, who gave a considerable amount of money to the Democrats).

But I don't think that is the main or the really important difference between Bannon and Kushner, which is that Bannon is known to be an anti-semite, who - among other things - did not want his children to go to school with Jewish children, while Kusher is Jewish, has a Holocaust background, and is a Modern Orthodox Jew for religion,

Then again, these differences are not mentioned by the New York Times at all, while they clearly are relevant. What its readers are being told is this:

The escalating feud, though, goes beyond mere West Wing melodrama, the sort of who’s-up-and-who’s-down scorekeeping that typically consumes Washington. Instead, it reflects a larger struggle to guide the direction of the Trump presidency, played out in disagreements over the policies Mr. Trump should pursue, the people he should hire and the image he should put forward to the American people.

On one side are Mr. Bannon’s guerrilla warriors, eager to close the nation’s borders, dismantle decades of regulations, empower police departments and take on the establishment of both parties in Washington. On the other are Mr. Kushner’s “Democrats,” an appellation used to describe even Republicans who want to soften Mr. Trump’s rough edges and broaden his narrow popular appeal after months of historically low poll numbers.

I am sorry, but knowing that Bannon is an anti-semite while Kushner is Jewish does seem to me more relevant than these vagueries, while I must also add that we are given here yet another meaning of "Democrats" (which is completely new to me and also seems rather odd), whereas the Wikipedia article on Kushner simply lists his "Political party" as "Democratic" and his "Religion" as "Judaic".

Again I find it quite strange that these things are not even mentioned in this New York Times article.

The article ends as follows:

Mr. Bannon’s supporters are publicly warning about the subversion of Mr. Trump’s real agenda by the so-called Democrats.

“This isn’t about palace intrigue,” Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host and author who was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest backers, said in an interview. “This is about a full-scale assault against the Trump agenda from within. If the president allows this to continue and drifts away from his key pledges, he risks losing his core constituency and any hope of a second term.”

I'd say this is a "palace intrigue" simply because it is an "assault against the Trump agenda from within", for that is what "palace intrigue" means. But I hope Ingraham
is right in her belief that Trump may risk "
losing his core constituency and any hope of a second term".

3. Trump Shocks World in Direct U.S. Strike on Syrian Airbase That Could Violate International Law

The third article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

Without congressional approval, on Thursday night the United States attacked a Syrian airfield, marking the first military action by the U.S. against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces since the Syrian war began over six years ago. The move comes after the U.S. accused Assad’s forces of using the air base to carry out a chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people, including at least 30 children. Syria denies carrying out the attack. "After six years of watching genocide, … today I am very happy that there is one less airfield," says Lina Sergie Attar, a Syrian-American writer from Aleppo, in the first part of our roundtable discussion. We also speak with Alia Malek, journalist and former human rights lawyer, and Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. "The hypocrisy of it from the vantage point of the Trump administration is staggering," Bennis says, calling the strike an act of war and arguing all sides in Syria have violated international law.

Yes. In fact, the two important things about the attack of the United States against a Syrian airfield are that it is the first attack against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and this attack was not approved by Congress (as attacks of war by the USA should be).

Here is some about the facts of the attack in Syria:

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Syria, where the U.S. military has attacked a Syrian airfield, marking the first military action the U.S. has taken against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces since the Syrian war began over six years ago. According to the Pentagon, 59 Tomahawk missiles were dropped on the Shayrat air base. Syrian state media reports nine civilians, including four children, were killed, after a U.S. missile hit a nearby village.

The U.S. accused Assad’s forces of using the Shayrat air base to carry out a recent chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people, including at least 30 children. Syria denied carrying out the chemical attack, saying the deaths occurred after a Syrian airstrike hit a depot of rebel-controlled chemical weapons.

And the rebels in turn deny they have any chemical weapons. Then there is this about the facts of the attack in relation to Russia:

AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. notified Russia in advance of the U.S. strikes. Condemning the U.S. attack, Russia did, calling it an act of aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law. Following the attack, Russia suspended an agreement with the U.S. aimed at coordinating airspace over Syria. Russia is also reportedly offering to help Syria strengthen its air defenses. Meanwhile, there are reports that Syria is threatening to fire Scud missiles towards Israel if the U.S. carries out any more airstrikes on Syrian military targets.

I say. I think the Russians are right in saying this American attack was "in violation of international law", but I don't think this will be very important, because much happens in Syria "in violation of international law". Otherwise, the main reactions against
war is threats of more war.

I will quote only one of those asked to comment:

PHYLLIS BENNIS:  (...) I think what we are seeing is a complete violation of international law by the United States, in the context of other violations that have happened across the war battlefield in Syria, certainly more casualties caused by the regime, but violations of international law on all sides. The claim that somehow Trump’s own emotions give him the right to now violate both domestic law—no consultation with Congress—and international law—no approval from the United Nations—this was an illegal act. This was an act of war. And to say that this is somehow going to make things better for Syrians, I’m afraid that after this, it’s going to get much worse, not better.

I agree with this.

4. Russia Threatened to Shut Down the "Deconfliction" Hotline.

The fourth article is by Hannah Levintova on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:

Following the US attack on a Syrian airbase overnight, Russian officials expressed outrage. Russia, which is allied with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, denounced the missile strikes as a "violation of the norms of international law." Russia also took an even more ominous step, announcing that it would be shutting down the "deconfliction" hotline it shares with the United States.

The deconfliction hotline may sound obscure, but it's actually a key channel through which the two countries communicate about their military activities in Syria. The US and Russia are backing different sides in Syria's civil war; the US and its allies are attacking ISIS (and now Assad), while Russia is attacking Syrian rebels. This creates the potential for an unintended incident between US and Russian forces to escalate into a larger conflict between the two powers. The hotline helps prevent that from happening by allowing both sides to coordinate their planes in Syria's crowded airspace, avoiding collisions.

Yes, that seems correct. As to the deconfliction hotline (that I could not find on Wikipedia): It may be the same hotline as was agreed to in the 1980ies (I think)
with what was then the Soviet Union, which at the time was seen as an important
move towards peace and for preventing an outbreak of nuclear war.

Here is some more (that is also not very clear):

After the US missile strikes—which President Donald Trump ordered in response to Assad's latest chemical weapons attack on civilians—Russia declared that it was suspending the hotline. "While previous initiatives of this kind were presented as efforts to combat terrorism, now they are clearly an act of aggression against a sovereign Syria. Actions undertaken by the US today inflict further damage to the Russia-US relations," said a statement issued Friday morning by the Russian Foreign Ministry. "Russia suspends the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the course of operations in Syria signed with the US."

In any case, it seems to me a very bad idea to stop communicating, although in fact this may not have happened:

But on Friday afternoon, US military officials speaking anonymously to the Associated Press said that Russia and the US were still in regular communication. Referring to the deconfliction line, a senior official told reporters at the Pentagon that for now, it remained operational. "Our communication line is still open and they are answering on the other end," the official said, according to The Hill.

It is unclear what will happen with the hotline in the coming days. But experts says that if it does shut down, it could lead to heightened conflict between the US coalition and Russia.

As I said: Most things remain unclear.

5. George Carlin: "We Like War!"

The fifth and last item today is not an article but a video that is 25 years old,
that is of George Carlin talking about the First Gulf War of 1990/1:
This is here because extremely little changed in 25 years, except that wars became  more common. Also, Carlin is quite right about the betrayal of the journalists in this
war of 1990/1, which I followed rather closely.

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