Graveyard of Empires

I remember those days like a nightmare that you can’t seem to escape. I was walking to work from my remote parking space. I had been loaned out as a draftsman to another firm while working for Graeber, Simmons and Cowan back in 2001. I don’t recall the name of the firm, but I can point you to the building it was in on Congress Avenue if I happen to be driving with you downtown.

A plane had struck the North tower of the World Trade Center at some point during my drive to work that morning. I was late to work as usual when I was under a deadline and working late nights. The second plane struck not too long after we had all settled down to work that day, and I believe we were dismissed early because there was no use in pretending we were going to get anything done on the project with the kinds of things that were happening in the world that day.

I remember the second plane strike most vividly because it was one of the first times that I was forced to use the internet to get essential news updates, there being no television in the office I was working at. We watched the video of the crash over and over that morning, before leaving to go home and contemplate what we had just witnessed.

When the Travis County Libertarians convened later that week to try to pass an antiwar resolution, declaring that Travis County Libertarians were opposed to the war in Afghanistan that the President was proposing, I motioned to table the declaration. With a second and a majority vote, we did table it. The majority of us at that meeting that day knew that blood called out for blood. It was inevitable and probably right for the United States to seek vengeance against the instigators of the plot that destroyed those towers in New York City. I don’t regret doing that; even today, twenty years later I don’t regret it. I regret that we violated parliamentary procedure to get the resolution tabled, but not that we refused to say that the United States had no right to seek vengeance. Blood called out for blood.

By October 7, 2001, when the war against the Taliban started:

The U.S. military, with British support, begins a bombing campaign against Taliban forces, officially launching Operation Enduring Freedom. Canada, Australia, Germany, and France pledge future support. The wars early phase [PDF] mainly involves U.S. air strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban forces that are assisted by a partnership of about one thousand U.S. special forces, the Northern Alliance, and ethnic Pashtun anti-Taliban forces. The first wave of conventional ground forces arrives twelve days later. Most of the ground combat is between the Taliban and its Afghan opponents.

cfr.org

I was actively planning to go overseas to help rebuild Afghanistan. They needed engineers and experienced construction personnel, and I wanted to put my money where my mouth was, my expertise to work at something that would hopefully inspire a lasting change in the country that had fostered so much hatred for the United States. This was a radical change from the teenager I had been a scant decade earlier. I was ready to go to jail rather than even register for the draft when I turned 18 in 1980. I was that opposed to war.

I knew that if we wanted to avoid a quagmire in Afghanistan, the Graveyard of Empires, it was going to take finesse and a deft hand on the tiller, and I hoped that the former Texas Governor was up to the job that he had signed himself up to perform as President of the United States. I wanted to be part of the success of that effort. I wanted the cycle we were caught in to end.

My hopes were soon dashed, though. By the middle of 2002, before I had made any headway in deciding if it would be smart to involve myself in Bush II’s ill-begotten war on terrorism, he was already taking his eye off the ball and had begun flirting with conducting a war against his daddy’s nemesis, Saddam Hussein:

There’s an old line: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And so it was with the Iraq war. Bush and Clinton and Powell and Blair knew quite a bit that wasn’t true. As Robert Draper shows in his book “To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq,” they were certain Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Only he didn’t. They were also certain, based on decades of testimony from Iraqi expats, that Americans would be welcomed as liberators.

nytimes.com

We ultimately squandered the opportunity handed to us by our allies in Afghanistan. Instead of pursuing a limited campaign that would destroy Al Qaeda and kill Osama Bin Laden, George W. Bush betrayed the needs of the nation and instead pursued imperial goals, trying to bring more countries under the direct control of the United States military through a permanent troop presence and a widening field of battle that essentially encompassed the entire globe, much less all of Afghanistan.

Osama Bin Laden left Afghanistan while we were distracted and took up residence under the protection of one of our purported allies, Pakistan. He lived in hiding there for another decade while our President’s dreams of empire were pursued at our nation’s expense. At the cost of nearly a million lives. Iraq’s government was destroyed and the entire region was destabilized because of the War on Terror. President Bush played right into OBL’s hands and attempted to colonize not just Afghanistan but Iraq as well.

We betrayed our allies, the Northern Alliance, the people who should have been the tip of the spear in everything we did in Afghanistan so as to keep our footprint in the country to a minimum, and instead tried to occupy the country. Time and again it was shown to us that this effort was doomed, and yet we kept doubling down on the investment of blood and treasure, with no one in leadership willing to admit that we were never going to be able to leave the country that we stupidly thought we could control.

We know now what that error has cost us. Has cost the people of Afghanistan. Twenty years later, the United States lead war in Afghanistan has finally come to an end, and the war between conservative governing factions in Afghanistan is set to begin. No one knows how long that war will rage, or what the ultimate outcome will be, but there is little doubt that the next war in Afghanistan is about to begin. Begin without our presence for the first time in a generation.

Donald Trump, the only president in history worse that George W. Bush, was left in charge of the United States when it came time to cut a deal to get us out of Afghanistan. President Obama could have done it, should have done it, but he thought he could turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse (the same hope of every leader left in charge of a debacle in the making) and kept us fighting an unwinnable war for the entire eight years of his Presidency.

Barack Obama, to his credit, did finally see to the death of the architect of the attacks on our country, but he failed to realize that with the death of OBL we no longer had a reason to stay in Afghanistan. We should have gotten out then, at least. Instead we kept lying to ourselves about what the ultimate outcome of the boondoggle would be. Another ten years went by.

Donald Trump, in his infinite lack of wisdom, decided the smart thing to do was hand the country of Afghanistan back over to the people we had fought for twenty years. He released the prisoners of war that we had captured and had them sign his peace deal, tying the hands of Joe Biden to the August 31st deadline that we have just gone through.

The Ezra Klein ShowThe Foreign Policy Conversation Washington Doesn’t Want to Have

Make no mistake, Joe Biden understood what needed to be done when he was Barack Obama’s Vice President. He opposed the surge. He wanted us to get out of Afghanistan sooner rather than later. As Ezra sums up in his article in the NY Times, it was always going to end this way. President Biden knew this just as well as Ezra’s guest in the podcast embedded above knows this.

There was never going to be a time when the coddled, corrupt Afghan puppet that we installed as leader of the country was going to be willing to risk his life for the country that we created. The same clearly went for all of the military personnel that we meticulously trained alongside us for twenty years in-country. Without leadership that would stand firm beside them they would melt away, leaving all the technology we had left in their hands in the hands of the enemies that Donald Trump put in charge with a stroke of his pen.

The Northern Alliance might have been up to the task if we had allowed them to lead, to put their blood and treasure on the line as the cost of not supporting the central government in Kabul. We’ll never know, because that eventuality never occurred. Instead we colonized and set up a puppet government just like we did in Vietnam; and the entire façade collapsed without our constant support, also just like Vietnam.

Now. Now we need to be working with Afghanistan’s neighbors to insure that it doesn’t devolve into the hellhole the Taliban made of it before. If we don’t do this work then we will find ourselves once again drawn into conflict there sometime in the future. Drawn into conflict or attacked by terrorists that found safe harbor there just as they did before. This outcome can’t be allowed to occur; and the only way to stop it is to help make Afghanistan the place it should have been all those years ago when we decided to continue being an empire instead of being a republic of fellow humans that needed to see past wrongs righted and the guilty brought to justice.

How can we, the country that still can’t come to peace with its own slave history, its own genocide of the original population of the land our country was founded on, how can we hope to ever show others how they can move past the point were blood calls out for blood? Who else is there that will do this work if we don’t?

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Featured image from: warfarehistorynetwork.com

Putin’s Trump Card

Eventually, the Russians will leak what they had to control Mr. Trump with his anti-American activities.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey

I’ll believe it when I see it. If Trump’s base can be relied upon to double down on their support of Trump yet again (and why not?) then this kind of revelation will only harden opposition to Trump and his supporters. I don’t know how this all ends other than in blood and Civil War, but I do know that anyone who values the country that they knew as the United States in prior times can not be willing to allow a return to power for anyone who supports a traitor like Trump is, and that most of his closest advisors are. They should all be up on charges already and I remain mystified as to why those charges have not been issued.

Why would Russia release this information? Because it will further destabilize the United States. Because Trump failed to do the job he was put into office to do. What job was that? Maria Butina asked the key question in 2015, and Trump promised to fulfill that obligation. Promised to remove sanctions and improve relations with Russia, a job he failed spectacularly at achieving. Scuttling the infidel that failed them, but that is still being encouraged to fight for a return to power, further divides the nation.

We can’t even get a measure designed to ensure access to the vote for all Americans passed through the Senate as it stands now. We are on the verge of becoming a failed state already. A few more nudges may well send us over the edge into oblivion. Perhaps that is Putin’s hope. I know it isn’t McCaffrey’s. He hopes that exposing the truth will take the wind out of Trump’s supporters and the Republican party. I don’t think that any of them believe in truth anymore or would know it when they saw it.

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Trumpism Abides

Republicans who sought to undercut or overturn President Joe Biden’s election win are launching campaigns to become their states’ top election officials next year, alarming local officeholders and opponents who are warning about pro-Trump, “ends justify the means” candidates taking big roles in running the vote.

politico

This really isn’t news. Not really. Trumpists been beating this dead horse since the election last November, not just since the attempted coup on January 6th:

This is why I muse about the question of allowing Republicans or their intellectual inheritors to ever regain power in the United States in this article:

…and then agitate for instituting jungle (blanket) primaries in every single state in the Union before 2022. We don’t have a choice. Either we open up the system and destroy the possibility of minority rule in the US forever, or we embrace the idea that we like overlords telling us what to do. Embrace it, because that is what we will get if we ever let the Trumpists that Republicans have turned into back into power. If we allow the possibility of minority rule by any one group of Americans, then someone will seek to wield that power for their group. This is a no-joke emergency we are caught up in right now.

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If you elect those who hate and fear government to run government, then you’re going to get a government of hate and fear.

Stonekettle

Still Bullshit

Moscow Mitch thinks we don’t need to investigate the January sixth riot:

All Things Considered – House Passes Bill To Investigate Capitol Riot, But Its Fate In Senate Is Unclear – Updated May 19, 2021

This really doesn’t merit a lot of thought. I’m just going to cut and paste what I said here after the first impeachment started against Donald Trump:

I don’t know what the hurry is. Why do we have to have this all done by the end of the year? now? Why not investigate side by side with the police efforts to uncover the depths of crime involved in the attempted coup? Let’s be sure to get every single gory detail on the record for the Republican party to wear to the end of its days.

Republicans were happy to pretend nothing was worth worrying about for two five years while Trump stole the nation blind and Moscow Mitch shoehorned every judicial nominee he stole from Barack Obama through an otherwise catatonic Senate. Republicans were happy to talk about #Benghazi for three years. What’s the rush? I say we keep the impeachment hearings January 6th inquest going until November 3rd, 2020 November 8, 2022. I suggest they hold hearings on election day, even. Draw it out. Reveal the crimes of all of Trump’s yes-men as well as all of his 40 years of financial and real estate crimes. and his instigations to riot in the streets of Washington D.C. after telling black people they couldn’t riot in the same city streets six months earlier.

Paint it all in glorious technicolor detail, for all the world to see. The damage has been done already, anyway. No one will trust the United States again. Not for a generation. I have now given Moscow Mitch’s dismissal of the bill all the thought that it deserves.

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NBC NEWS – Ryan: ‘This is a slap in the face’ to U.S. police – May 19, 2021

One hundred and seventy-five Republicans voted against the January 6th investigation bill. Those seditionists (to use Stonekettle’s term for them) should never have been allowed to sit in congress. Anyone that wasn’t willing to state in advance that the election that put them there was a valid election should not have been seated. This action was permitted by the rules of the House and the Senate and should have been enforced:

If the election that put you here is in question then you shouldn’t be in a body that represents the people. Plain and simple. Congress chose to go this route instead, seating representatives that declared their intentions to muck up the works as much as possible. Now we have seditionists in Congress. I don’t see how this scenario is better than the outrage that would have been engendered when the 175 seditionists were not seated in the first place. This may be complex political maneuvering, but I don’t see how the Democratic strategy is going to win the next election for them.

…which is the only point that matters on this subject. Making sure the Republicans never see power again on the national level. They have made themselves the enemy of democracy. They should be declared a terrorist organization if they don’t change their tune.

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Battlefield Casualties?

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What kills me is he’s surprised this was how it turned out. Did he honestly think that attacking Congress and trying to stop the government from doing the thing it has a clear mandate to do was going to be something that government would just forget? Did he think that attempting a coup was a thing he wouldn’t be punished for?

This idiocy has happened time and time again through history. People talk themselves into believing that they will be better under a different government; and then even when they succeed in destroying the previous government, they are appalled to discover that governing takes blood and treasure to carry out, even in the best of times. The failed revolutions are far more numerous than the successful ones, and the people in power never forgive and forget. Not if they want to stay in power.

It’s almost like these Trumpists, anarchists and conservatives have never heard of the Whiskey Rebellion. You know the one. That rebellion where the subjects of the first US tax thought they could just do a repeat on the revolution and George Washington had to personally explain that they were going to have to die if they didn’t give up this cause they had declared war on the US over? Made them all swear oaths to the Union and locked a few of the leaders up for their trouble? Yeah, we’ve done this a few times now, historically. You’d think they’d learn eventually. Apparently not.

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Democratic Shutout? Why the Surprise?

spotify.com fivethirtyeight.com

The district went Trump +3 in 2020. Who was dumb enough to think it would go Democratic? That it would go Democratic without the DCCC taking an interest in the race? Every seat in Texas is rigged for Republicans. Rigged. They cheated a decade ago and they’ve yet to be punished for this transgression. That is the fact that you should takeaway from the election. The panel says a lot of stuff about the election and what that means to the nation, stuff that really shouldn’t be applied broadly. Texas Republicans are not like Republicans in other states. Texas politics is not like politics in other states.

As far as the opening segment on the census goes, the states didn’t choose to undercount. Donald Trump chose to undercount while appealing to his White Nationalist base. The real question there is “why did Trump pick up Latino votes in 2020?” I will bet you that this is because a certain portion of the Latino community thought that Trump was talking to them. They don’t know that he’s talking about them when he talks about illegal votes. They are all illegal voters in Trump’s eyes and Trumpist eyes. They need to understand this fact about Trumpismo.

The Republican base has committed political suicide with their support for Trump. The corpse of the Republican party simply hasn’t stopped twitching yet. Give it time. Eventually rigor mortis will set in. I hope.

Voter Fraud? No, Voter Suppression: Part Three

Part three, because the current efforts at voter suppression are merely an extension of what Donald Trump and the Republican party have been engaged in since it became clear that the Southern Strategy was no longer going to allow them to keep winning elections as it had done in previous decades.

It was 2010 when a nationwide effort to gerrymander the state houses that Republicans controlled was rolled out:

The plan, which its architects dubbed REDMAP for Redistricting Majority Project, hinged on the fact that states redraw their electoral maps every 10 years according to new Census data. REDMAP targeted states where just a few statehouse seats could shift the balance to Republican control in the crucial Census year of 2010.

wbur.org

…so this crusade against accurate and democratically represented constituencies predates Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican party. But it has only gotten worse since he forced his way into office using voter suppression tactics handed to him by Russian operatives. Trump’s voter suppression task force lead by Kris Kobach spawned part one and part two of this series. That effort didn’t last very long, like most things that are Trump-inspired.

In the 2018 midterms it became clear that the precisely gerrymandered legislative districts were starting to turn more blueish that Republicans were comfortable with, and the shellacking that Republicans received in 2020 proved to them that they were going to have to keep certain classes of the population from voting if they wanted to retain national power in any real way. They have come out four-square in favor of keeping everyone who isn’t old, white and male from the voting booth, in as many ways as they can possibly arrange, in as many statehouses as they can force legislation through:

In 43 states across the country, Republican lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting with such constraints as stricter ID requirements, limited hours or narrower eligibility to vote absentee, according to data compiled as of Feb. 19 by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. Even more proposals have been introduced since then.

washingtonpost.com

This continued drive to keep people from participating in their government will not end well for those in power when the breaking point comes. This is a truth that has been illustrated time and again throughout history. When the people decide they don’t want to follow a leader any longer, and that leader will not surrender power, the leader doesn’t live very long.

Put bluntly; this issue of voter suppression is going to come to civil war if it isn’t solved with federally mandated voter guarantees. We don’t have two or four years to wait for these guarantees either. They have to be instituted now so that they will be solidly in force by the time the next election period rolls around. The Democrats in the Senate had better get their shit together and do that soon, or we are going to be spending blood and treasure killing our own people in the next election. An outcome that could have been avoided had two Senators had the balls to stand up to their own constituents in defense of the state that they claim to represent.

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End the filibuster. It should never have been allowed in the first place and wouldn’t have been tolerated by the senators who removed the rule that kept it from happening. The arguments about allowing it are pointless. End it already and pass the For the People Act so that we don’t have to fight these damaging battles all across the nation in 43 different state Houses.

The set of bills that are up in Texas:

Following committee approval, HB6 by state Rep. Briscoe Cain, R-Deer Park, now must be approved by the full House. The Republican-dominated Senate has already passed its own voter suppression bill, SB7. Together the bills would impose a slew of restrictions that would make voting harder especially in large, densely populated counties where many Texans of color live. The bills would bar many measures local leaders also promoted to make voting safe and secure during the pandemic, including curbside and drive-thru voting, mobile voting locations and 24-hour voting centers.

tfn.org

Texas freedom network is a nonpartisan watchdog group. I have followed them for years, for longer than I have been siding with Democrats politically. Even they understand the problem with what Texas Republicans are trying to force through the Texas legislature right now. I have a simple observation to make on this subject. Those who make it impossible to govern through social engagement with our neighbors, make the resultant change that much more violent. Make no mistake, Texas. Change is coming. Embrace it while you still can profit from it. If you don’t, it will simply be that much more expensive to clean up after the change is effected. The one constant in life is change. Depend on it.

If Democrats don’t end the filibuster and do the things that need doing including push back Republican power grabs and voter suppression laws, then they will fail and there will be no reason to hope for any better future in this country. It really is that simple. Do the work that needs to be done, or admit that the American experiment has failed. Pick one.

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Republicans have stacked the deck in their favor for a long time and have come to rely on that unfair system, rather than policies that appeal to voters, to retain power. Now that Democrats are trying to level the playing field, they howl that the Democrats are cheating.

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Domestic Terrorism

April 5, 2014 was the date when the modern United States government went off the rails. What happened on that date? Cliven Bundy said “come and take it.”

When Bundy declared his unwillingness to acknowledge the federal government, we should have went in there and taken everything from him and his family, killing every single adult that took up arms against the United States government and refused to recant their rebellion. If we had done that, we’d be in a different place right now.

I don’t know if it would have been a better or worse place, but with Bundy’s sovereign movement crushed into dust, his ranch auctioned to the highest bidder, his family dead or penniless and homeless, there would have been no Trump presidency. There would not be a world-wide retrenchment of White Nationalism.

Instead of doing that, the government paused before using force. Right or wrong, the 76 dead Branch Davidians caused the government to pause before doing what it should have done, and because of that we find ourselves where we are now.

The government is not required to be pacifist in order to be effective, it is only required to be just in its use of force. Justice now requires that White Nationalism be as determinedly destroyed as Black Nationalism and black rights, minority rights, have been destroyed since the creation of the United States. White Nationalism should have died with the Confederacy in 1865. It is long past time we killed the zombie that the Confederacy left behind.

Anti-Vaccination Agitation

One way to look at it is this – a small minority now has the ability to hijack public health policy by waging their own shadow campaign on social media. They are accountable to no one. They can force the expenditure of limited public health dollars just to minimize the effect of their own campaigns. This is also an asymmetric campaign, because it is much easier to spread fear than proper information. At the very least it is reasonable to filter out their harmful misinformation from private platforms. Panels of experts can be used to provide the filter, and fair processes can be made available for appeals. At the very least these options need to be explored.

Sciencebasedmedicine.org
Sciencebasedmedicine.org

This article was about Gardasil. The vaccination worked, but social conservatives hated it because it gave women permission to be promiscuous. Think about what that means. They wanted people to suffer and die from a preventable cancer rather than vaccinate them against the cause of that cancer on the grounds that sex outside of marriage is bad and should be discouraged. They used vaccine fear to wage a war against this vaccine, and this isn’t even the first time, nor was it the last.

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That is the Conservative-Republican-Trumpist line now about the coronavirus vaccine:

Oh, we’re not anti-vax. We just don’t think vaccines work.

…Strangely, it is the same argument they offer about their obvious racism. What their resistance is about now is still religion. Their religion of conservatism. Their invented Republican Jesus, the one who loves capitalism and profit more than he does the poor and the sick. Their belief that government can’t do anything good in the world.

I’ve heard this pushback from dozens of sources now. They just object to this one vaccination, not the general idea that vaccinations work. Either the science is real, or it isn’t. Either we have stopped Small Pox, Polio, etcetera through vaccination, or the entire business is a sham. A con job. Pick one side people, because it can’t be both sides at the same time. The vaccine works. It works and you should get it.

Editor’s Note

This was originally posted as a quote on January 11, 202o, I have advanced and appended the quote with the current coronavirus crap.

Trump Social Already Defunct

Rumor has it that the twice impeached disgraced former president Trump is planning on starting his own social network since his deplorable behavior got him kicked off every online platform he doesn’t own.

Anti-Trumpists are busy trying to imagine correct names for his new service. Names that are allusions to Trump’s treasured voter base, White Nationalists. Most of their attempts to name this proposed service are depressingly predictable.

The service will be called Trump, obviously. Everything the guy does has his name on it, usually in gold capital letters. The service will end up going the same way that all of Trump’s other businesses have gone. Just like Trump streaks and Trump vodka and Trump casinos this business will also fail. Calling the network Trump is all that needs to be done in order to correctly name the disservice it will attempt to perform before it goes out of business.

Let’s be honest here. Coding is hard work that people legitimately expect to be paid for. Trump doesn’t do hard work or pay for things you do for him, so the chances that he can keep contractors on the project long enough to even have it see the light of day is an iffy prospect. Never mind that his floating this particular turd of an idea in the news pool is probably about as real as any of the other bullshit he’s floated over the last fifty years.

…Which means he’ll probably deny even suggesting it a few days from now.