Syria

by John Holbo on April 8, 2017

I don’t have much to say; perhaps you do. The hell of it is (as several commentators have noted): it doesn’t seem like a distinctively Trumpish response – fire off missiles, let God sort ‘em out. That bit seems as American as apple pie, and President Clinton might well have done the same. The Trumpish part is: willingness to bear the expense of Tomahawks, plus the imponderable downside risks such action entail; plus unwillingness to accept any Syrian refugees – comparatively simple, easy, open, safe, hence morally logical as the latter course of action would seem to be.

The attitude that you can mix mandatory harm-infliction with humanitarianism is less baneful than the attitude that you must do only harm, by way of achieving good ends. But neither attitude is what I would call sane.

Do pundits take some hypocritic foreign policy oath before they are allowed to opine: first, do some harm? Literally no one thinks Trump has any plan for improving the situation in Syria. That would be crazy. Why would you be heartened to see someone blowing things up without any plan? Why would the sight of huge gouts of American hellfire ever seem like a heuristic indicator of increased human welfare?

{ 273 comments }

1

JimV 04.08.17 at 4:34 am

Most American Presidents during my lifetime would done something militarily similar, on the grounds that something must be done (in response to the use of chemical weapons), and this is something. Maybe I’m still naive, but don’t think any other one would have coupled it with the refusal to admit Syrian refugees.

It is very disheartening to see the heirs of Murrow and Cronkite applauding it as though it suddenly made Trump “presidential”.

2

Murray Reiss 04.08.17 at 5:07 am

Well, strictly speaking, since this is what American presidents do, pretty much without exception — bomb people in other countries — then, yes, it does make him “presidential,” for whatever that’s worth. I mean “presidential” — as in Ronald Reagan funding the contras? As in Nixon bombing Cambodia? As in Johnson bombing Hanoi? It’s almost like a presidential rite of passage.

3

Raven Onthill 04.08.17 at 6:19 am

And yet the airfield was back in service in 12 hours. As Jim Wright observed over on Facebook:

Wait. 59 Tomahawks? 59? 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles is enough firepower to level a city center. And yet, somehow 59 TLAMs didn’t disable a runway? (Syrian jets were launching strikes from Shayrat Airbase today, within hours of the strike. I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but from a weapons standpoint, something doesn’t add up. (paragraph breaks removed to fit with the CT’s blockquote restrictions.)

4

Manta 04.08.17 at 7:49 am

It seems to me that Trump’s logic is pretty simple: if you use chemical weapons, USA will bomb you.
As a policy it’s not that bad (assuming that there will not be further escalations).

5

casmilus 04.08.17 at 8:31 am

I guess it all goes back to 1944-5, when huge gouts of American hellfire (including napalm bombing) helped to dislodge the Nazi occupation of France, which hadn’t been ended by the ongoing talks between Jean-Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger.

That’s the paradigm case used to justify all the others at some point. Once you beat an undisputed baddie, it’s easier to justify beating up guys you merely dislike.

6

Phil 04.08.17 at 8:33 am

President Clinton might well have done the same

And the actual President Clinton did do the same.

General approval across the spectrum of Very Serious punditry here, too, reaching as far as the Labour Party’s Deputy Leader (not the leader, though, thank heaven for small mercies). It’s like a switch going on: bombs good!

7

Peter T 04.08.17 at 9:40 am

Watching the VSOPs line up is depressing. Also depressing is the general reporting over the course of the conflict, which has at all times been more geared to fitting in with the various party lines in western capitals than at providing a picture of what’s actually going on. It’s narcissist turtles all the way down.

8

John Holbo 04.08.17 at 9:42 am

“I guess it all goes back to 1944-5, when huge gouts of American hellfire (including napalm bombing) helped to dislodge the Nazi occupation of France”

Contra casmilus, I think most historians would agree that, minus the Allied landing of troops in Europe after D-day, dislodging the Nazis by any mere conjunction of hellfire plus Heidegger/Sartre would have proved very difficult.

9

Hidari 04.08.17 at 9:55 am

It’s all intensely complicated in Syria. But as with so many complex situations, there is a simple solution!

‘It’s time to end US military engagements in the Middle East. Drones, special operations, CIA arms supplies, military advisers, aerial bombings — the whole nine yards. Over and done with. That might seem impossible in the face of ISIS, terrorism, Iranian ballistic missiles, and other US security interests, but a military withdrawal from the Middle East is by far the safest path for the United States and the region. That approach has instructive historical precedents.

America has been no different from other imperial powers in finding itself ensnared repeatedly in costly, bloody, and eventually futile overseas wars. From the Roman empire till today, the issue is not whether an imperial army can defeat a local one. It usually can, just as the United States did quickly in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The issue is whether it gains anything by doing so. Following such a “victory,” the imperial power faces unending heavy costs in terms of policing, political instability, guerilla war, and terrorist blowback.

Terrorism is a frequent consequence of imperial wars and imperial rule. Local populations are unable to defeat the imperial powers, so they impose high costs through terror instead. Consider the terrorism used by Jewish settlers against the British Empire and local Palestinians in their fight for Israel’s independence and territory; or Serbian terrorism deployed against the Hapsburg Empire; or Vietnamese terrorism used against the French and United States in Vietnam’s long war for independence; or American terrorism, for that matter, that independence fighters used against the British in America’s war of independence.

This is of course not to condone terrorism. Indeed, my point is to condemn imperial rule, and to argue for political solutions rather than imperial oppression, war, and the terror that comes in its wake. Imperial rulers, whether the British in pre-independence America; the Americans in Cuba and the Philippines after 1898; the French and Americans in Vietnam; and the United States in the Middle East in recent decades, foment violent reactions that destroy peace, prosperity, good governance, and hope. The real solutions to these conflicts lie in diplomacy and political justice, not in imperial rule, repression, and terror. ‘

https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2017/04/02/military-should-get-out-middle-east/k0lcRcUl9u9nJkUAkFIh6I/story.html

10

Hidari 04.08.17 at 10:08 am

I know multiple posting is frowned on, but Greenwald really demands to be read in these grim times.

‘Democrats have spent months wrapping themselves in extremely nationalistic and militaristic rhetoric. They have constantly accused Trump of being a traitor to the U.S., a puppet of Putin, and unwilling to defend U.S. interests. They have specifically tried to exploit Assad’s crimes by tying the Syrian leader to Trump, insisting that Trump would never confront Assad because doing so would anger his Kremlin masters. They have embraced a framework whereby anyone who refuses to confront Putin or Assad is deemed a sympathizer of, or a servant to, foreign enemies.

Having pushed those tactics and themes, Democrats have painted themselves into a corner. How could they possibly do anything but cheer as Trump bombs Syria? They can’t. And cheering is thus exactly what they’re doing….

Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the last 24 hours has been watching those who have vilified Trump as an Evil Fascist and Bumbling Clown and Unstable Sociopath suddenly decide that they want him to bomb Syria. Even if you’re someone who in the abstract wanted the U.S. to attack Assad, shouldn’t your view that Trump is a completely unstable and incompetent monster prevent you from endorsing this war, with Trump as the Commander-in-Chief?
What happened to all the warnings about Trump’s towering incompetence and core evil? Where are all the grave predictions that he’s leading the world on a path of authoritarianism, fascism and blood and soil nationalism? They all gave way to War Fever.”

https://theintercept.com/2017/04/07/the-spoils-of-war-trump-lavished-with-media-and-bipartisan-praise-for-bombing-syria/

11

J-D 04.08.17 at 10:43 am

It continues to be depressing and disheartening that the spectacle of things (and people) being blown up provides satisfaction to many people, but it’s not new and shouldn’t be surprising. Films with lots of explosions are frequently successful. More generally, violence as a form of entertainment has a long history.

12

William T 04.08.17 at 11:00 am

I can’t find the link, but the (conspiracy minded ) theory that at least makes sense with regard to the anomalies of this action is that the entire episode has been a fake.

In this scenario, Putin ordered the gas attacks, in order to provide a pretext for Trump to show some military might. This changes the focus in Washington and distracts / confuses the critics. Meanwhile, it seems that not much actual damage really eventuated.

Of course Trump has no plan for what to do next. He has no idea of what he is doing now.

13

Walt 04.08.17 at 11:05 am

Greenwald never demands to be read. He’s been trying to downplay Russian interference in the US election and his unwitting complicity in it for months now. Syria is merely a convenient excuse for him to undermine this narrative. Russian interference in the US election is bad, even if bombing Syria is also bad. He ties them together not because they go together, but it is convenient for him to pretend they go together.

14

nastywoman 04.08.17 at 11:29 am

‘but Greenwald really demands to be read in these grim times.’

Because he is -(and was) obsessing about ‘the democrats’ –
UUUH!!! – I tell’a: THESE DEMOCRATS? – while cultivating his obsession to the utmosts degree he became – without any doubt- one of the enablers of the erection of… something Samantha Bee explains best.

And so please – PLEASE don’t read Greenwald – he is really poor propaganda for something even worst – called ‘Pauls’.

So – if you want to be REALLY scared – read all the funny stuff Glenn Greenwald ever wrote about the crazy ‘Pauls’.-(both of them)

15

Jane 04.08.17 at 11:36 am

Trumpian logic: Obama was a weak, oh so weak, president. Trump is a strong, very strong, very, very strong president. Obama didn’t attack Syria when Assad did nasty things. Not attacking Syria when Assad does nasty things is weak. Attacking Syria when Assad does nasty things is strong. Trump is strong. Trump will attack Syria.

Although I doubt he put that much thought into it.

16

nastywoman 04.08.17 at 11:39 am

– and a@10
furthermore -I just couldn’t resist to write my first comment in the comment section of Breitbart –

‘And I never believed – that you guys seriously believed that F…face von Clownstick was some kind of ‘Non Warmonger’?
You guys really believed that? –
How hilarious?!’

– and I kind of suspect that Mr. Greenwald was so ‘naive’ too?

17

RichardM 04.08.17 at 11:53 am

Indeed, my point is to condemn imperial rule

Some good points, but doesn’t quite follow its logic to the conclusion it leads to.

Assad’s rule of Syria is 100% imperial by the terms Sach’s defines; a local population who is unable to defeat him turns to ISIS. Assad is a contemporary King Leopold, western educated, recognized by the international community as the legitimate ruler, with that rule secured by purchasing foreign arms with the proceeds of exports of primary commodities. The surplus is used to live like a rich westerner, with a few ethnic notes like you might see in an 3-rd generation emigre businessman. He wears a business suit, his minions wear uniforms with symbols a 19C Frenchman could use to tell their exact rank. He has no tribal or traditional support, no long-standing lineage, no popular mandate, no claim to divine inspiration or religious scholarship. Western support is not a supplement to his rule; it is its sole foundation.

Naturally those fighting him are going to be anti-western. Some of them will take any opportunity to make attacks on their immediate enemy’s strategic partners; al Qaeda’s ‘far enemy’. From a selfish point of view, taking an opportunity to forcibly clarify that in this case ‘Western’ means ‘those Russians over there’, and not ‘us’, is perhaps helpful.

The Tomahawks should have had ‘not in my name’ written on them.

Of course, the fact that a problem exists doesn’t make Trump magically capable of dealing with it.

18

Layman 04.08.17 at 11:57 am

Manta: “It seems to me that Trump’s logic is pretty simple: if you use chemical weapons, USA will bomb you.”

The actual Donald Trump, on whether the US should respond to the use of chemical weapons by attacking the user: “Again, to our very foolish leader, do not attack Syria – if you do many bad things will happen & from that fight the U.S. gets nothing.”

So that’s not the reason. What could the reason be, I wonder?

19

nastywoman 04.08.17 at 12:07 pm

‘Trumpian logic: Obama was a weak, oh so weak, president. Trump is a strong, very strong, very, very strong president.’

It isn’t ‘logic’ – it’s just a very… ‘Dick-ike’ -(courtesy Bill Maher) – ‘action’ of ‘a Dick’ – who told himself at the correspondence dinner in 2011 – after Obama made hilarious fun of him –
‘If I ever will get my own TeeVee Show playing Precident – I will make fun of this ‘Obama-dude’ by bombing everything he didn’t bomb’!

20

Hidari 04.08.17 at 12:20 pm

Greenwald is always worth listening to because he really is a liberal (not a radical) in the old sense of that word, meaning ‘someone who loves liberty’ and who respects the law (including international law) and criticises those who don’t.

In most contexts in the UK/US, of course, ‘liberal’ means simply ‘someone with no principles*’, a moral nihilist.

*or whose principles are for sale.

21

Frank Wilhoit 04.08.17 at 12:35 pm

I have a few things to say.

Impulsive.
Irresponsible.
Ineffective.
Wasteful.
Incoherent.

But these get us nowhere, because we already thought all those things, and thought that they were bad things; whereas Trump’s people also already thought all those things, and thought that they were good things.

So strike all of them, and substitute:

Allegorical.

22

Howard Frant 04.08.17 at 2:04 pm

It continues to be depressing and disheartening that the spectacle of things (and people) being blown up provides satisfaction to many people

Yes, a pathetic and depressing spectacle. I’m talking about this discussion.

Can we disregard the shiny objects and try to focus for a minute? Assad has, once again, used poison gas against a civilian population. I kind of think we should not simply ignore this, as most of the contributors to this discussion have done. So what should we do about it? To say, “Nothing, without a Security Council resolution” is to say, “Nothing,” given Russia’s attitude. Is everyone OK with that? I’m not.

Astounding as this may seem, the slaughter in Syria is not the result of US imperialism. It’s the result of Assad’s violent suppression of peaceful protests. The situation today in Iraq was in large part created by the US; the situation in Syria was not.

And the US is not bombing “Syria”. It bombed a military air base. This is to the bombing of Hanoi as a fish is to a banana.

That said, I am becoming suspicious of Trump’s literal Road-to-Damascus moment. “Oh, the children! The children!”

23

Glenn 04.08.17 at 2:07 pm

Can comments be removed because they are incoherent?

24

Patrick 04.08.17 at 2:16 pm

I have no idea what to do about Syria.

“100% disengage militarily but accept refugees” isn’t a solution. Its a moral palliative. It lets you do a morally good thing (accepting refugees) while declining to do a morally compromising thing (literally any military course of action in Syria) but also doesn’t solve very much because there’s no way that accepting refugees will ever be more than a drop in the bucket as compared to the overall rate of killing.

“Shoot random bombs at targets we think aren’t playing by Marquis de Queensbury Rules and then stop” isn’t going to solve much because there are loads of ways to kill people if you have an indefinite amount of time to get it done and no one is there to stop you.

“Negotiate something” is great except I don’t see that we have any leverage we’re willing to use with which we might negotiate.

“Invade” seems like it will cost a lot of human life and suffering and the best end game scenario is another Iraq, while the worst end game scenario is Iraq, but with even more terrorism and with US entanglement with Russia, since Russia’s material interests in Syria aren’t going away. I mean, at this point its not like we could put a decent government into power. The non ISIS rebels are mostly dead or scattered.

So far it looks like we’re picking “sit on the sidelines and occasionally shoot at ISIS because they’re awful but really just be there to prevent Assad from ‘whoopsing’ into the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds under cover of fighting ISIS.” Which is nice for the Kurds, I guess, and I’m kind of glad for that.

I’m sure that whatever option Trump selected was briefed by the military, which means that at least some competent humans thought it was a good idea. But there were probably other things he was or could have been briefed on, that OTHER competent humans preferred. And I don’t for a moment trust Trump to have given this any serious, well informed thought. I genuinely believe that Trump’s judgment, with all of the resources of the Presidency at his command, is worse than mine, with no such resources, on issues like this. Because his foreign policy commentary has always been a steady stream of “BE STRONG! DON’T BE A LOSER! OBAMA MADE US LOSERS BUT I’LL MAKE US STRONG!” And I don’t trust that guy to be capable of the judgment required on these issues.

If Obama told me that these strikes were a good idea, I’d probably believe him. I mean, at least, I’d believe his judgment was rational and better informed than mine was, and shrug and go with it.

But last time Obama had to deal with this specific choice, he didn’t launch any missiles. So…

25

bob mcmanus 04.08.17 at 2:18 pm

“War is the health of the State”

It is interesting to watch reactions: the Bannon/Breitbart alt-right crowd is incensed; Louis Proyect, an “Unrepentant Marxist,” mostly Leninist now I think, has been calling for regime change for years; Demohawks are ecstatic. Reading an older book by Susan Buck-Morss (Dreamworlds), early in, she wrote in Moscow during the fall of the USSR. She seems to be channeling Schmitt maybe Agamben and inspires thoughts on sovereignty, legitimacy, war. She seems to say (apologies if wrong) that war defines the state as a collective in excess and even in opposition to the people/collective/nation or their separate and antagonistic sovereignty. The collective creates its master.

The Breitbart crowd are nationalists, not statists. The Demohawks, and most Republicans, the Deep State, Beltway, mass media are the State defining themselves in opposition to the nation and the people.

The place for the Left is obvious. Internationalist, cosmopolitan, anti-militarist, and consistently, in war or peace, in opposition to the State. Anarchism looking better.

26

RD 04.08.17 at 2:51 pm

I would like to hear from Kidneystones now about his pacifist hero.

27

Heliopause 04.08.17 at 3:08 pm

“Why would you be heartened to see someone blowing things up without any plan?”

This would be a perfect subheading in the definitive ethnography of the U.S.

28

Omega Centauri 04.08.17 at 3:20 pm

Jane at 15 had it right on. Only, I think that was exactly his thought process. Its all narcissist political optics all the way down. And with our system where political optics is everything, the lowest common denominator emotionalism carries the policy everytime, such knee-jerk action is almost inevitable. What makes Trump for once seem “presidential” is that he selected a measured proportional response, rather than jumped in with both feet. Of course there is still time for that. Maybe Assad is foolish enough to bate him, he supposedly has already used the runways, and bombed the site of the chemical attack.

29

BBA 04.08.17 at 3:33 pm

Lately I’m growing more and more convinced that Jeannette Rankin was right. No wars, ever.

30

nastywoman 04.08.17 at 3:59 pm

‘meaning ‘someone who loves liberty’ and who respects the law (including international law) and criticises those who don’t.’

Meaning his interpretation of the law? – like in ‘Citizen United’ – and his disrespect for international law which restricts hate speech?
And his version of ‘liberty’? – like the ‘liberty’ of crazy Libertarians?

31

Hidari 04.08.17 at 4:12 pm

I see the ‘Obama did not intervene’ meme is alive and well.

http://fair.org/home/the-return-of-the-dangerous-obama-did-nothing-narrative-on-syria/

32

Glen Tomkins 04.08.17 at 4:46 pm

The cruise missiles were entirely public relations. From that point of view they clearly did only good, not harm. They were mindless destruction only if you cannot ignore all the other realities in favor of the one that counts for Trump, whether or not he is winning over the electorate and the media.

Just one further consideration about the public relations of this matter. There is an inherent PR boost to any US president blowing things up, under any circumstances. But in this case, Trump gets a huge twofer in the form of collateral damage to his standing with the alt.right and Putin. It’s good for him to have Richard Spencer denouncing him, and denouncing him not because he is treating brown people too well, but because he is bombing them. But, considering the trouble brewing over his ties to Putin, it is really, really good for Trump to have done something, anything, to screw Putin over. He’s laundering away any idea that his administration is providing any sort of quid for the quo of Putin’s help winning the election. Without a quid pro quo, that scandal goes nowhere.

But I take it that the main befuddlement here is why the media goes along with this. Why is it a sure winner with the media for a US president to blow things up?

There are plenty of reasons that you could cite, such as xenophobia, racism, etc., all of which have undoubted validity in explaining why cruise missiles launched at Syria are a no brainer advantage for a US president, while the same launched at Kansas would get him impeached. But if that’s all there is to it, people would agree with Richard Spencer. “Why should the US risk anything, pay any price, just to avenge some brown people being gassed by another brown person? Let all those brown and black and yellow reptiles devour one another. The only US interest here is keeping all these sorts from diluting the purity of our essence here in the US.”

The media loves war, especially wars that involve the US, because it gives them a clear story to cover. One side is winning, and the other side is losing, and that’s all you have to cover. You don’t have to go into all the other realities, which are too numerous to cover, and too messy and diffuse.

This is as true of our politics as our govt. The media turns every election into a horse race, because that’s the story they can cover, as opposed to covering politics in terms of whose public policy is sane vs insane. Domestic politics between elections is unattractive because they can’t view political conflict in the US as a simple war, with one party the good guys and the other evil (Okay, sure, if you’re Fox News you can do that. That’s my point.), they have to consider the messy wider realities. Well, right up to the point when there’s an election looming, and then every other reality can be shut up in a box to allow full attention to the horse race.

Consider the alternative for the media to fawning over this president blowing things up. You’re absolutely right, sending these cruise missile was insane, if you let in any considerations other than the PR interests of Trump and his circle. And Trump doesn’t have the grace to even give a good outward show of not being demented, insane, or some combination.

Reagan gave us dementia without behavioral disturbance during his administration and that was a good, happy story for them to cover. He took direction well, made his public appearances and mostly kept to his marks and read his lines from the teleprompter.

Trump is different. Trump is the deterioration of the mind and spirit presented without filter. He has dementia with behavioral disturbance, and we find that quite disturbing, as we should, even in a person who doesn’t have the nuclear codes. The conventional Rs can’t bring themselves to do their duty and get him out of office through the 25th Amendment, partly because of self-interest, but mainly because that task would be way more real than they have any taste for. The media can’t and won’t cover the real story here, the insanity of our president, until and unless the supposedly non-insane conventional politicians define the issue by starting a war with the president, starting the process to remove him from office.

The media loves war because it’s the perfect excuse to not try and give us Lear 24/7. They’re not as talented as Shakespeare, and we, frankly, don’t have heart and mind to stand Lear 24/7. Thank God the media isn’t as talented as Shakespeare.

33

Layman 04.08.17 at 5:15 pm

Patrick: “It lets you do a morally good thing (accepting refugees) while declining to do a morally compromising thing (literally any military course of action in Syria) but also doesn’t solve very much because there’s no way that accepting refugees will ever be more than a drop in the bucket as compared to the overall rate of killing.”

This is as strong an endorsement for accepting refugees while not attacking as could be written. Attacking Syria won’t end the killing, either; there’s no course of action that will do that. Once ‘end the killing’ is off the table, attacking just kills more people to no clear purpose, while accepting refugees saves more people. That’s true as a general rule, but in this case the distinction is incredibly stark. Trump refuses to accept the refugees, while engaging in an attack which, if anything, is practically designed to be meaningless. He’s doing the least moral thing possible, by your calculus.

34

RD 04.08.17 at 5:59 pm

Yes, he shows signs of being clinically demented.
I posted once before that 3 of my family members, a psychologist, a geriatric nurse( including a stint at the criminally insane ward at a state H: great stories from there-changing Hannibal Lecter’s diaper is no walk in the park.) and a Social Worker at an assisted living facility, all came to this conclusion.
It will only be a short while, IMHO, that it presents clearly for all to see.
Then what?

35

Sebastian H 04.08.17 at 6:13 pm

There is international law that restricts hate speech? Which Geneva accord is that? (Seriously).

36

Placeholder 04.08.17 at 6:59 pm

Maybe the intellectual left can steal a march on the bomber lobby and advance an actual plan for Syria and lobby the international powers to support it rather than just wait for bad things to happen and decide who’s worse.

Take ‘the Kurds’: everyone, the liberals, the edgy left, the anarchists say they ‘support’ the Kurds. Who is actually pushing for Kurdish independence, though?

37

Dipper 04.08.17 at 7:42 pm

Here in the UK I’m noting a marked split in response along the same lines as Brexit and the EU. So Kate Hoey (Labour MP, pro leave) tweets that there isn’t been proof of Syrian involvement, David Aaronovich (Times journal, leftish, pro EU) complains “she’s at it again”. Nigel Farage is highly disappointed. Tim Farron, proudly christian, Lib Dem leader and very pro EU is now saying he supports Trump’s bombing of Syria (although as a precursor to diplomacy of course). Jeremy Corbyn, a fence-sitter on the EU, is now fence-sitting on bombing Syria.

I’m curious why these apparently unrelated issues show the same clusters of opinion.

38

Stephen 04.08.17 at 8:45 pm

BBA@29: “No wars, ever.”
Query how that applies to the American Revolution, the American Civil War … need I go on?

39

Roderick Bell 04.08.17 at 8:48 pm

“with one party the good guys and the other evil (Okay, sure, if you’re Fox News you can do that. That’s my point.)”

Doesn’t Paul Krugman do that same thing, virtually without fail?

40

bob mcmanus 04.08.17 at 9:28 pm

Oh, a little post by Mandos at Ian Welch Left populism=utopian; Right populism=competitive nationalism;and technocracy…all as decision heuristics.

“Running a complex industrial and military power requires a highly technical bureaucracy. That bureaucracy therefore has an ultimate veto on what is possible to accomplish that is necessarily beyond democracy. That bureaucracy has made it clear that it won’t implement policies by people it doesn’t consider to be “serious”. The hallmark of seriousness is the ability to make the Tough Decision.”

The OP and Glen Tompkins inspires me to revisit madness. Leave aside for a moment the mechanisms* on either side of the Decider. Does it really matter so much the process by which the decision is made. Does the fact the Obama and Clinton had a massive bureaucracy and tons of white papers and briefings mean all that much in their decisions to a) bomb Libya, and b) not bomb Syria, and c) provide bombs to Saudi Arabia for Yemen? Does it make the decisions and consequences more or less crazy, or the results easier to repair if they have a plan? Who does the process and justificatory mechanisms matter to, and why?

Do I care if Trump flips a coin, or bombs cause Thursdays? The last 16 or 60 years of expertise and science has not impressed.

No one, not Louis XIV, FDR, Hitler, Obama, Trump makes decisions, or makes things happen in isolation. Trump is at the least presented with a menu 1) Bomb Bomb Bomb 2) Be a Wuss. There is a whole bureaucracy institutions technocracy chain of command in front of the decision and a massive military between the decider and the rubble. IOW, a State. Here is where the madness lies, in the architectures of justification and the means of implementation.

41

Cian 04.08.17 at 9:43 pm

The attack was a $100 million firework display. One could argue over the reasons for this, but it was against a fairly insignificant target, did insignificant damage and the Russians were probably given advance warning. Bill Clinton would have probably hit a pharmaceutical factory, or a water plant. So I guess Trump’s got that going for him.

There is currently no evidence that the Syrian government were responsible for whatever happened. In addition, it’s hard to see what motive they would have had for doing it. It’s possible that evidence will emerge in time, but maybe we should wait?

I keep hoping/thinking that western liberals will wake up to the fact that the rebels are awful, awful human beings. That the media are asking us to cheer for Salafists, many of whom are consider Al-Quaeda dangerously liberal. That the rebels are not popular with Syrians, and that the areas they run are far more repressive and brutal than anything that existed under the old regime. That the rebels are committing war crimes and human rights violations left, right and center – AND NOBODY IN THE WEST CARES. That maybe an armed force that cheerfully uses human shields are not the good guys. Or maybe that a war that increasingly involves foreign fighters as ‘rebels’ is not a war of liberation. But it turns out I was dangerously naive.

At some point I thought at least a few of the smarter liberals would notice that the US is using the same tactics against ISIS in Iraq that the Russians are using in Syria. Or maybe notice that the US is also supporting a totally unnecessary and barbaric Saudi war in Yemen. Or that maybe if the US has become an ally of Al-Quaeda, something has gone horribly wrong. Clearly I’m an idiot for thinking this.

Not all wars can easily be separated into good guys vs bad guys. Syria is certainly not one of those wars.

42

Cian 04.08.17 at 9:54 pm

Walt: Greenwald never demands to be read. He’s been trying to downplay Russian interference in the US election and his unwitting complicity in it for months now.

There is almost no evidence of this. The most is that maybe the Russians hacked the DNC and leaked the emails. And while the consensus in the media is that this is proven, in the InfoSec community this is very controversial (with the company who did the investigation pretty discredited at this point). But even if one accepts that the Russians did this. The idea that this had any affect on the election is laughable. Everything is Alex Jones/Fox News style conspiratorial derangement. Hillary Clinton lost the election because she’s not very popular, and her campaign was mismanaged.

Russia is fighting the war in Syria using exactly the same tactics that the US is using in Iraq, against what is essentially the same enemy. Either these tactics are okay, or you should be condemning the US.

43

Cian 04.08.17 at 10:01 pm

bob mcmanus: The PYD Kurds are looking pretty good these days. Louis Proyect doesn’t seem to like them much.

44

daveb 04.08.17 at 10:29 pm

From Damon Young at VSB

http://tinyurl.com/n6l4quy
I wouldn’t say that the three are mediocre but the excuse of ‘the children’ is more than disingenuous. And if one is to use expensive military hardware, why not try to locate the source of the chemical warfare labs and take that out or is that involves too much work and thought process?

45

Robespierre 04.09.17 at 12:27 am

@25:

The Breitbart crowd and alt-right are Putin fans. There’s nothing more to their opposition than this. If Trump had bombed any other muslim country, or any faction in Syria not backed by Russia, they’d be cheering now.

There’s no need to drag the despicable Schmitt into this.

46

Cian 04.09.17 at 3:30 am

Dipper:
Here in the UK I’m noting a marked split in response along the same lines as Brexit and the EU. So Kate Hoey (Labour MP, pro leave) tweets that there isn’t been proof of Syrian involvement, David Aaronovich (Times journal, leftish, pro EU) complains “she’s at it again”. Nigel Farage is highly disappointed. Tim Farron, proudly christian, Lib Dem leader and very pro EU is now saying he supports Trump’s bombing of Syria (although as a precursor to diplomacy of course). Jeremy Corbyn, a fence-sitter on the EU, is now fence-sitting on bombing Syria.

Huh? Jeremy Corbyn has pretty unequivocal and consistent in his position on Syria. He thinks that the west should wait for a UN investigation, and that any bombing should only occur under UN auspices. That’s hardly fence sitting.

47

Raven 04.09.17 at 4:27 am

@Cian: “There is currently no evidence that the Syrian government were responsible for whatever happened.”If you choose to disbelieve the US military who’ve monitored airflights over Syria for some years now, and say the jets that delivered the gas attack came from the specific airfield that just got hit with the retaliatory Tomahawks.

48

kidneystones 04.09.17 at 4:32 am

@26 What do I have to say? Maybe not as important as what this Syrian has to say:

Via conservative hypocrites mocking liberal hypocrites
https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2017/04/07/cnn-narrative-fail-syrian-victim-ridicules-hillary-clinton-not-president-trump/

Basic message: Syrians would prefer to remain in their own nation – minus the killing.
“Thanks to Trump, for the first time Assad has been held responsible for using WMD against his own people.”

So, there’s that. Winning!

49

kidneystones 04.09.17 at 4:44 am

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/04/trump-syria-attack-doctrine-foreign-policy-theory-214999

“Our administration never would have gotten this done in 48 hours,” one former senior official of the Obama administration told me. “It’s a complete indictment of Obama.”

“I feel like finally we have done the right thing,” Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as Obama’s first-term chief of policy planning at the State Department and long publicly urged a more forceful response to Assad’s horrific attacks on civilians during the six years of war that have wracked Syria, told me. “The years of hypocrisy just hurt us all. It undermined the U.S., it undermined the world order.”

“it was clear that Trump had played the Blob (his many establishment critics) masterfully Friday”

Hope these two comments add some context to the discussion, John. Thanks, again, for the good times and the nudge. After a three month absence, I see a great deal of improvement in the intellectual depth and breadth of the discussions. Bye!

50

Meredith 04.09.17 at 5:08 am

“Why would you be heartened to see someone blowing things up without any plan? Why would the sight of huge gouts of American hellfire ever seem like a heuristic indicator of increased human welfare?”

I think all this, in the U.S. context (it probably gets repeated by many societies all over the world), goes back to Europeans — let’s talk English here — coming up against Native Americans. And then against the Africans they had brought as slaves. But let’s start with the Native Americans, who were mostly “in the way” in northern America. Was it 1607? About then, when a cannon was set up near what would be Dover, NH and the Piscataqua River, just to scare the natives. (A man named Hilton was involved, as I recall.) Peruse the minutes of the selectmen of Dorchester, MA in the 1600’w (they are available online for free): young men are warned that shooting off guns in the woods is not a proper occupation. Or look at the stories of, say, Daniel Boone (a self-promoter who was nonetheless typical of woodsmen who loved me some Indians, both as friends and enemies to kill). The Puritans’ notion of “wilderness” intersects with a notion of “wildness” in such curious ways. Welcome to America. Welcome to Syria.

Please, early modern European historians are needed to help us with today’s world.

51

Raven 04.09.17 at 5:17 am

Cian @46: “…any bombing should only occur under UN auspices. That’s hardly fence sitting.” — As long as Russia sides with Assad and holds a veto (i.e. seat on the Security Council) in the UN, waiting for any bombing of the Syrian government to occur under UN auspices is most definitely fence-sitting.

52

Raven 04.09.17 at 7:41 am

@kidneystones: “finally we have done the right thing” — For the first time in the short span of the Trump Administration? Perhaps, by chance. But then, within 12 hours of the missile strike, that same airfield was launching further attacks on the very same civilian population whose sarin-gas deaths had inspired the (clearly ineffective) missile strike to begin with, as if to say, “See? The USA can’t stop us at all!” Which made Trump’s excuses for not doing worse damage to the airfield infrastructure (runways etc.) look even worse than they did while he was making them. So now instead it looks like he did purely cosmetic damage for purely PR purposes, having warned the Russians beforehand so no serious damage would be suffered. But he gets to posture as a “War President” just like Dubya and get praised as “Presidential” by the media just like when he read from a teleprompter….

53

nastywoman 04.09.17 at 8:36 am

@48+49

‘So, there’s that. Winning!’

“it was clear that Trump had played the Blob (his many establishment critics) masterfully Friday”

‘Hope these two comments add some context to the discussion,’

They did – as for sure Clownstick will keep on doing what Clownstick feels like doing –

‘I see a great deal of improvement in the intellectual depth and breadth of the discussions.’

Thank you!

54

nastywoman 04.09.17 at 8:47 am

– and what is more and more troublesome are all these crazy conspiracy theories – especially from people who condemn any conspiracy theories if they are NOT invented by themselves.

So a commenter – even here – might condemn any theory which points to Russia ‘conspirind’ why at the same time he might NOT condemn some theory that it wasn’t Assad.

What is a ‘commenter’ like that – thinking?

55

nastywoman 04.09.17 at 9:38 am

but at last @49
– and:
‘I see a great deal of improvement in the intellectual depth and breadth of the discussions.’

The major exception was the View and the NYT which very superficially headlined:
‘With Airstrike, Trump Reveals a Doctrine That Improvises’ –
and then they had the nerve to rerun:
‘How a President’s View of Syria Evolved, in 19 Tweets’.

How ‘incoherent’? and bout @35
‘There is international law that restricts hate speech? Which Geneva accord is that? (Seriously).

Seriously –

‘The issue of what speech should or may be prohibited on the basis that it incites others to hatred – so‐called ‘hate speech’ – is a matter of great dispute and argumentation globally, although the standards on this under international law are in fact reasonably developed. International law not only allows, but actually requires, States to ban certain speech on the basis that it undermines the right of others to equality or to freedom from discrimination, and occasionally also on the basis that this is necessary to protect public order.’

and you find more under:
Hate Speech Rules Under International Law, February 2010
http://www.law-democracy.org/…/10.02.hate-speech.Macedonia-book….
Diese Seite übersetzen
T Mendel – ‎2010 – 11.02.2010 – This chapter reviews the international law standards regarding hate … International Provisions Freedom of Expression and Hate Speech.

56

Peter T 04.09.17 at 9:51 am

The unthinking reactions of the political class on foreign policy are driven, I think, by much the same emotions that attended the election of Obama and Bill Clinton and the candidacy of Hillary Clinton: outrage at a perceived affront to the natural order.

For varying but large parts of the US population, the natural order does not place blacks, poor rural whites or women in the presidency. Unfortunately, the natural order assigns the highest place to white male billionaires, and neither idiocy nor infantilism is a bar. For almost all Americans, other countries owe a degree of deference to US power – something the UK and Australia reliably provide. Rhetorical defiance is irritating; successful defiance, as with Iran, almost intolerable. Vietnam had to be punished for winning, even if this led to alliance with the Khmer Rouge. Saddam’s survival was an affront.

Augustine wrote the City of God in reaction to the sack of Rome. What literature will the fall of Washington produce?

57

Hidari 04.09.17 at 11:34 am

@47 ‘ If you choose to disbelieve the US military….’

That’s illegal, right?

58

Lee A. Arnold 04.09.17 at 11:38 am

Cian #42: “There is almost no evidence of this. The most is that maybe the Russians hacked the DNC and leaked the emails… The idea that this had any affect on the election is laughable… Hillary Clinton lost the election because she’s not very popular, and her campaign was mismanaged.”

Whaaat??

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2,864,974 votes, approximately a 2.1% margin.

The Russians dumped a huge amount of anti-Hillary propaganda (under “RT, Sputnik”, etc.) onto Facebook and Twitter throughout much of the presidential campaign. This is where most people (except some old-timers) now get their news. Part of the current investigations by the FBI & the Congressional committees are likely to reveal whether these fake stories were coordinated with people in the Trump campaign.

The topper was when anti-Hillary people in the NY FBI office leaked to Giuliani that some of Wiener’s emails were linked to one of Hillary’s staffers, thus forcing Comey’s hand to send a letter to Congress, and thus swinging the election in the final weeks — a bit of dirty tricks, brilliantly played.

59

Lee A. Arnold 04.09.17 at 12:30 pm

On the Syria strike. Useless and toothless, but it assuages the emotional types until their next beer or masturbation. Meanwhile Trump (and the indolent knuckleheads in the U.S. media) are now going to revisit all the reasons why Obama forebore from doing this: What’s the strategic policy, here?

Note that Assad himself needn’t have ordered the attack, for it to come from the Syrian forces: it isn’t clear if he’s got all his people under control. Maybe the U.S. announcement — last week!!!! — that Trump would no longer seek Assad’s removal, suddenly emboldened one of Assad’s officers to take the “initiative” and bomb a chlorine gas depot near some people that somebody doesn’t like. Who knows?

Anyway, what’s the policy, what’s next? Lots of bombs, more boots on the ground, or, next week fugeddaboutit?… The U.S. retaliatory strike may bring Russia closer to Iran, and helps Putin wiggle out of a hellish resource drain in Syria, and gets the price of oil up, while finding a renewed enemy in the United States. Play it as it lays! Putin needs enemies, Trump needs enemies, we all need enemies. Golly, “Putin” and “Trump” are almost the same word, like “Prumt” or “Trupin”.

Important to note that Putin did not help Trump win the election because he likes the United States. Far from it! Putin hates the US. Why? Because the US screwed Russia economically after the Iron Curtain fell, by trying to impose the free-market fundamentalist ignorance. Then the US slapped on oil sanctions recently, after Putin annexed Crimea to help shore-up his southern borders (he’s dealing with NATO expansion and Islamic terrorists, while Crimea is 70% ethnic Russian and likes Moscow). In consequence, Russia’s GDP is suffering. Whether you yourself think it’s good or bad to oppose Russia — and whatever you think of Putin’s tactics in response — is not the point here. Fact is, Putin hates the US… Therefore, Putin is not going to help anyone whom he thinks will make the US stronger or more respected in the world. Russian ex-KGB psych profiles may suggest that Trump’s low cognition and high narcissism will result in short-sighted moves and more foreign policy quagmires for the US: “Look at the black eye the US gave itself, with the Bush-Cheney War! — Let’s make America stupid again!”

Donald J. Trump, on Twitter, Oct. 9, 2012:

“Now that Obama’s poll numbers are in tailspin – watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran. He is desperate.”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/255784560904773633

60

Hidari 04.09.17 at 12:41 pm

@37

The phrase ‘Times journalist’ and ‘leftish’ do not go easily together.

61

Lee A. Arnold 04.09.17 at 12:43 pm

That Trumpentwitter came one month before the 2012 election.

62

Louis Proyect 04.09.17 at 1:16 pm

“Louis Proyect, an “Unrepentant Marxist,” mostly Leninist now I think, has been calling for regime change for years;”

I have no idea why Bob McManus wrote this. I am a supporter of the FSA and the Local Coordinating Committees (LCC’s) that have been trying to overthrow Assad. I am opposed to American intervention as a matter of principle, including no-fly zones. In fact, American intervention has helped to prop up Assad. In 2012, the Libyan rebels that had just seized power were sending Russian-made MANPAD’s to Syria in an act of solidarity. The CIA intervened to prevent them from reaching the FSA. If the CIA had minded its own business, Assad would have been toppled at least 3 years ago.

63

Hidari 04.09.17 at 2:13 pm

‘ In fact, American intervention has helped to prop up Assad. In 2012, the Libyan rebels that had just seized power were sending Russian-made MANPAD’s to Syria in an act of solidarity. The CIA intervened to prevent them from reaching the FSA. If the CIA had minded its own business, Assad would have been toppled at least 3 years ago.’

Of all the crazy things that have been stated in this crazy thread, this is by far the craziest. It has much competition.

64

bob mcmanus 04.09.17 at 2:18 pm

62, Proyect:I have no idea why Bob McManus wrote this.

Because I read your blog, perhaps not carefully enough, and because I didn’t know if the readers of this site were aware that there is a years-long very heated argument about Syria on what CTers would characterize as the farther Left. Sorry if you think I have misrepresented you, it was not my intention.

Louis Proyect on Syria

Proyect does allow a degree of disagreement in comments, and they are worth reading.

65

Hidari 04.09.17 at 2:22 pm

‘The Russians dumped a huge amount of anti-Hillary propaganda (under “RT, Sputnik”, etc.) onto Facebook and Twitter throughout much of the presidential campaign. This is where most people (except some old-timers) now get their news.’

Actually no maybe this is the craziest thing. Incidentally are there any sane people left in the United States? Looking at it from the outside, it does seem that the entire political class is having a nervous breakdown. Insane (literally insane, I don’t mean that metaphorically) conspiracy theories, hysterical name-calling, political analysis of the ‘black is white, up is down’ variety seem to be ubiquitous…Trump is not an outlier it seems but an entirely representative member of the class. And anyone who doesn’t join in with the circle jerk of hysteria is excoriated as a Russian agent or Arab infiltrator or (on the other side) Obama-ite spy in league with the Deep State, or whatever. It does seem to engage in cod Freudianism for a second that the only time the American political class can achieve some kind of calm is when American imperial troops are killing people outside the American borders. Hence the current love of violence….it’s only by projecting, so to speak, the violence outwards that the American political class can restrain themselves from using violence against each other, it seems.

It does make me thing that the American Republic is more or less doomed. Whether it breaks down in a coup, or civil war, or in some other form of collapse isn’t clear, but it’s difficult to see a system this dysfunctional continuing for much longer.

66

nastywoman 04.09.17 at 4:12 pm

@65

‘It does make me thing that the American Republic is more or less doomed.’

You need to ‘surf’ a lot (more)
-(and I tried to calm the Hobson-thing down on the Trump-thread – but now I’m too tired to repeat it…)

67

Cian 04.09.17 at 4:12 pm

The Russians dumped a huge amount of anti-Hillary propaganda (under “RT, Sputnik”, etc.) onto Facebook and Twitter throughout much of the presidential campaign. This is where most people (except some old-timers) now get their news. Part of the current investigations by the FBI & the Congressional committees are likely to reveal whether these fake stories were coordinated with people in the Trump campaign.

So you’re saying that RT and Sputnik, two networks that nobody reads/watches, cost Hillary Clinton the election. Does this not strike you as maybe a little paranoid and conspiratorial?

1) Both the Hillary and Trump campaign pumped out propoganda on social media.
2) Both campaigns paid people to troll/pump out favorable stories.
3) 3rd Parties pumped out fake news, because the advertising hits were very profitable (have we already forgotten the Slovenian teens)

Questions:
1) What is the evidence that RT/Sputnik ‘dumped’ propoganda? And how is this any different from what every media organization does to promote/share their content?
2) What is the evidence that this stuff was propoganda, rather than factual stuff that happened to paint Hillary in a bad light?

I’m willing to consider that both of these things happened, but I need evidence. Which is seriously lacking.

68

Cian 04.09.17 at 4:13 pm

“The phrase ‘Times journalist’ and ‘leftish’ do not go easily together.”

In this case it is David Aaronovitch who still thinks that the Iraq war was a good idea, and defends it quite vociferously. So maybe not the sanest source.

69

Cian 04.09.17 at 4:21 pm

Cian @46: “…any bombing should only occur under UN auspices. That’s hardly fence sitting.” — As long as Russia sides with Assad and holds a veto (i.e. seat on the Security Council) in the UN, waiting for any bombing of the Syrian government to occur under UN auspices is most definitely fence-sitting.

I don’t think calling for an investigation by an impartial party is fence sitting. Especially when we are dealing with people known to lie (the US, the rebels, the Syrians and the Russians), in an area where there are no independent observers.

70

Cian 04.09.17 at 4:25 pm

@Cian: “There is currently no evidence that the Syrian government were responsible for whatever happened.” ― If you choose to disbelieve the US military who’ve monitored airflights over Syria for some years now, and say the jets that delivered the gas attack came from the specific airfield that just got hit with the retaliatory Tomahawks.

Err yeah, I don’t automatically believe the US military. Post Afghanistan/Iraq and we’re really having this discussion?

And actually what is being stated is that there was an air attack, that the US was informed about in advance, that preceeded whatever happened. Nobody is denying an air attack happened. The question is whether the planes dropped chemical weapons. Which an investigation on the ground could probably answer quite quickly.

71

Glen Tomkins 04.09.17 at 4:46 pm

Hidari,

Yes, Trump is indeed the president who exactly matches the times. The US has let its political discourse become so detached from reality, that only someone with dementia can present to the electorate as a rock in the stream, someone who knows what’s going on and isn’t afraid to speak direct truths without all the PC euphemism and dog whistles. Of course he’s actually clueless, and just seems like a rock because he’s so clueless he’s forgotten what conventional politicians know, that the simple bromides they tout to project solidity to the electorate are a fraud needed to get elected and stay in office. In the current state of our politics, only someone who has no idea what the truth is can seem candid and open.

Sure, it could all end in a coup or even civil war. There actually is some truth to the idea that there is in the US a deep state, if only in the sense that there are technocrats in the military and civil service who keep the govt running under all administrations. I would be surprised if there is an actual ongoing cabal or secret committee of these folks, but they do seem to have some sense of common purpose and beneficent ownership of the process that could be provoked to common action if unrealistic Trump decisions threaten what they have built and maintain. This could all end with Trump going the way of Caligula, but he would have to really push things deeply to provoke such a conspiracy among the technocrats, presumably military and security service technocrats.

It seems to me at least as likely that the Trump administration will continue as farce, and never realize its potential to provoke a dramatic end. Maybe the system will end up a bit chastened back from its extreme reality denial by being pushed to the brink. That’s the most hopeful possibility, that we learn from farce, from calamity narrowly averted. But, sure, it is also possible that only some calamity suffered by the US (as opposed to the ongoing calamity we inflict on random victims in the rest of the world) will cause us to learn anything.

Who can tell.

72

William Berry 04.09.17 at 5:26 pm

@bob mcm:

Presumably Proyect would endorse most (at least some?) of the sentiments expressed in the piece you link, but, ftr, it is a guest post by Amith Gupta.

73

Lee A. Arnold 04.09.17 at 5:27 pm

Cian #67: “you’re saying that RT and Sputnik, two networks that nobody reads/watches, cost Hillary Clinton the election.”

Two things are false there:

1. I did not say that they “cost” Hillary Clinton the election, which would imply that they were solely responsible. I reacted to this: You wrote that there is “no evidence” of Russian “interference” in the election, and went on to write, “But even if one accepts that the Russians did this. The idea that this had any affect on the election is laughable.” You are incorrect about the evidence, and your assertion that it had no effect is questionable, to say the least.

2. Links from RT and other sites like it (and worse) inundated my Facebook & Twitter feeds, so I infer that there were a LOT of people reading these things.

74

nastywoman 04.09.17 at 6:13 pm

– or as it was supposedly Ivanka who changed an ‘isolationist’ to a’beautiful internationalist in a few hours – Josh Marshall says it best:

‘It goes to the heart of the Family, Brand-driven, Kleptocratic nature of the Trump White House. The core aim is for the President to be popular, to succeed, a goal in key ways even more important to the thirty-something Kushner/Trumps than the 70 year old President. Politics or policy and ideology, whatever you want to call it, is changeable and secondary, just as Trump can shift from authoritarian isolationist to faux values driven internationalist in a day and a half. This is precisely what you’d expect from people who were probably apolitical or perhaps, if pushed, something like Bloomberg Democrats and then became executors of a far-right, blood and soil, racist nationalist political program. Words and policy have no meaning. What matters is protecting and maximizing the value of the new family acquisition: the presidency.’

75

Yan 04.09.17 at 7:13 pm

Lee:
“You wrote that there is “no evidence” of Russian “interference” in the election.”… You are incorrect about the evidence, and your assertion that it had no effect is questionable, to say the least.”

The evidence claimed by officials is secret, and the evidence cited by journalists is anonymous. Is there any publicly available evidence and any way of assessing the credibility of the secret evidence? Practically speaking, there’s no evidence.

And by interference in the election, do we mean the DNC hack? If so, this is trivial, since better informing the voters, in particular about anti democratic interference by our own keadership, is hardly an obstruction to democratic processes.

And, of course, the evidence for even that is poor: it’s far from certain that the hack was Russian, and there’s zero evidence if Russian that it was state-ordered.

(An excellent, detailed analysis of the evidence here: http://necpluribusimpar.net/trump-russia-media-hacking-democratic-party-private-cybersecurity-companies-part-1/)

76

Cian 04.09.17 at 7:37 pm

> 1. I did not say that they “cost” Hillary Clinton the election, which would imply that they were solely responsible.

What is the evidence that these networks had any effect on the election?

> You are incorrect about the evidence, and your assertion that it had no effect is questionable, to say the least.

What evidence is there that the Russians interfered in the election? The hacking evidence is highly suspect, to put it mildly (and I’m talking about the saner end – I’m ignoring the whacko stuff about voting machines). The only other evidence I’ve seen is that RT and Sputnik (which was unknown to me until after the election, but whatever) posted articles that were not particularly flattering to Hillary. Which is true but the same is true of other networks on the left like TruthDig. All of the actual articles I’ve seen seem like reasonable pieces of journalism. And the fact that the same people bashing RT, or also bashing places like Naked Capitalism and TruthDig for not falling into line behind Hillary.

Now I don’t read either of those websites, or watch their stories, so it’s possible I’m missing something. And unlike you, nobody on my Facebook or twitter feeds seem to share many of their stories, so I don’t have that to draw upon either. So do you have examples of fake news stories that were published by them? Preferably with statistics of how prevalent they were? Because I haven’t seen anything like this, and I’ve looked.

I have no problem believing the Russian government would try to interfere in the US election (I have a tougher problem believing they could succeed – but that might be because I pay more attention to Russia than the average Russiaphobe). I just don’t assume it, and because of that I want to see some evidence.

77

Sasha Clarkson 04.09.17 at 7:41 pm

There are no good guys in Syria, no “moderate rebels”. Syria is a pawn in a geopolitical game. Few people expect a happy ending at any time in the near future. What people decide to accept as the truth usually depends, consciously or unconsciously, upon what they want the outcome of this game to be. Human suffering by the people of Syria will be played-down if this serves the “greater good” of the desired geopolitical outcome, but weaponised if the “wrong” side looks like winning.

So far as the recent atrocity ins concerned, cui bono?

Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan writes:

“What did happen I do not profess to know. There are at least eleven major identifiable state and non-state forces involved in the fighting around Idlib. In going through them all and considering opportunity and motive for each, I continually find that those whose motive would be false flag stand to benefit a great deal more than those who might have been seeking military advantage.”

As always, if you haven’t decided what you want the truth to be for ulterior reasons, it’s worth reading the whole of his carefully weighed opinion.

https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2017/04/the-balance-of-probabilities/

78

bob mcmanus 04.09.17 at 8:05 pm

74:Presumably Proyect would endorse most (at least some?) of the sentiments expressed in the piece you link, but, ftr, it is a guest post by Amith Gupta.

This is the type of cheap ignorant and dishonest insult that keeps me away from here.

If you had bothered to scroll down a few lines, you would have discovered that I linked to a search result, a page (and “more” pages) of all posts at Proyect’s with the topic “Syria”

79

Collin Street 04.09.17 at 10:23 pm

What is the evidence that these networks had any effect on the election?

Asking questions is for people who don’t understand. For people who do understand, the thing to do is to make statements.

Are you a person who understands, or are you a person who doesn’t understand yet? Either is fine, but each means different things for what it means to be polite and considerate.

[asking questions is making a demand of other people, that they do the work required to answer your question. Obvious… but since you don’t actually have any entitlement to the labour of others, a-fortiori you don’t have any right to get your questions answered. Even a refusal is more than you’re entitled to: even having your posts read is more than you’re entitled to. “Asking questions” is a privilege that others have to grant to you: you can trade it for information of your own, or you can ask for it as a favour to an as-yet ignorant person [where the payment is, you become smarter and more-able to usefully contribute], or you can sit there like a particularly selfish six-year-old and express nothing but self-serving demands… only you can’t, not if you’re not an arsehole. You need to make choices.]

80

William Berry 04.09.17 at 10:35 pm

“cheap ignorant and dishonest insult”??? WTBFH is wrong with you?

I meant no insult, and I think you know it. I was simply noting that the linked page is headed by a guest post not written by Louis Proyect himself.

So far as being kept “away from here” is concerned, I doubt anyone would miss you.

81

Faustusnotes 04.10.17 at 12:48 am

I guess we’ll get the evidence of Russian interference once thevgoude committee agrees to interview the witnesses trumps mate indefinitely cancelled – which should be soonish now that nunes is under investigation for revealing classified information. I wonder why he would go to all that trouble to shut down an inquiry into trumps Russia links, if the whole idea has no basis? Perhaps you can ask Michael Flynn at the next RT speaking gig- he’s easy to find, he’ll be the American patriot sitting next to putin.

82

Raven 04.10.17 at 1:26 am

Cian @ 67: “RT and Sputnik, two networks that nobody reads/watches” — except one Donald J. Trump, who notably (and immediately) recited their claims in his campaign speeches and tweets.

“What is the evidence that RT/Sputnik ‘dumped’ propoganda? /What is the evidence that this stuff was propoganda, rather than factual stuff…?” — Have you only just emerged from a cave, blinking, into the sunlight, after many years underground? Catch up with this 2014 item from Foreign Policy: “Kremlin’s ‘Sputnik’ Newswire Is the BuzzFeed of Propaganda”; that’s Sputnik’s (and RT’s) standard operating procedure. More recently, see March 2017’s “How Russia Weaponizes Fake News” from StopFake.org.

… @ 69: “I don’t think calling for an investigation by an impartial party is fence sitting.” — But you *weren’t* just calling for an “investigation”, you were waiting for the UN to authorize (give its “auspices” to) bombing Syria… and that would never, ever happen with Russia (hardly an “impartial party” toward Assad) holding a veto.

… @ 70: “Err yeah, I don’t automatically believe the US military. Post Afghanistan/Iraq and we’re really having this discussion?” — Already you fail to recall the WMD lies came straight from the White House, i.e. the politicians, not from the military?

“Nobody is denying an air attack happened. The question is whether the planes dropped chemical weapons.” — So you didn’t even watch the scenes of Syrian parents frantically washing chemicals off their small children as those children struggled to breathe?

Oh, no wonder you’ve never seen ANY evidence of ANYTHING that ANYONE says to you… you’ve just never looked at anything! Thus:

@ 76: “What evidence is there that the Russians interfered in the election?” — Because sitting blindfolded and lightless deep in that cave all this time until now, you’ve had no chance to follow any news at all….

83

Raven 04.10.17 at 2:06 am

More for Cian: ABC News, Apr 7, 2017: “Syrian military officials appeared to anticipate Thursday night’s raid on Syria’s Shayrat air base, evacuating personnel and moving equipment ahead of the strike, according to an eyewitness. … U.S. officials believe the plane that dropped chemical weapons on civilians in Idlib Province on Tuesday, which according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights killed 86 people, took off from the same air base. … The airstrike follows confirmation by the Turkish Health Ministry that autopsies on several victims of Tuesday’s attack confirmed the use of the nerve agent sarin in violation of international law and represents an escalation of U.S. involvement in the seven-year conflict.”

84

Cian 04.10.17 at 3:20 am

I guess we’ll get the evidence of Russian interference once thevgoude committee agrees to interview the witnesses trumps mate indefinitely cancelled – which should be soonish now that nunes is under investigation for revealing classified information. I wonder why he would go to all that trouble to shut down an inquiry into trumps Russia links, if the whole idea has no basis?

For the same reason that the Democrats tried to shut down Benghazi and Whitewater.

85

Cian 04.10.17 at 3:39 am

Colin,

you are of course right. Nobody who makes wild claims about Russian interference in the election has to prove anything. I have no right to demand that they prove it, anymore than I had the right in 2003 to demand that people show some evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or connections to Al-Quaeda. After all, what is evidence, but something that only a naive six year old could expect. And now I acknowledge that I was wrong to demand evidence of the right for their claims that Obama was Kenyan, or that there was a Behghazi conspiracy. It was my job to find every conspiracy theory, ever scrap of ‘evidence’ and sift through them. And until I had done so, I had to accept that their theories were reasonable.

Out there, in the wacky world of the media so many claims have been made about Russia that it is hard to keep up. Is it one of the claims where Russian names were mangled? Or the strange report about Russian hacking that came out of the intelligence agencies (and which they carefully did not endorse). Maybe it is one of the claims that Naked Capitalism and TruthDig are tools of Moscow (because only a Russkie could criticise fracking). Or it is connected to wild conspiracies about murdered Russian ambassadors. Could it be the article I read that attacked TruthDig as an agent of Russia for daring to publish a story on fracking.

The thing is, Colin, is that I’m dangerously open minded. And while everything I’ve seen so far has been crazed conspiracies of the type I had hitherto associated with the right. It’s possible that there’s something I had missed. That somewhere in the noise, between the MSNBC rants, there was some actual evidence. But in the absence of that I’m going to assume all claims of Russian interference are rubbish. Not because I have warm and fuzzy feelings about Russia. But because so far all the ones I’ve read have been.

Seriously Colin. A couple of links, is that so much to ask?

86

Cian 04.10.17 at 3:43 am

Sasha. I dunno, the YPG Kurds are pretty decent.

Ironically the Syrians/Russians are probably the lesser evil in the conflict. Which I guess means that Hillary supporters should be backing the Syrians? Because purity is bad, or something. As I speak Paul Krugman is probably writing an article arguing exactly that.

87

J-D 04.10.17 at 4:57 am

It does make me thing that the American Republic is more or less doomed.

That is absolutely standard default normal and in no way insightful. Of course the American Republic is more or less doomed. Was anybody expecting it to last forever? Everything is more or less doomed.

(Now, what’s the difference between ‘doomed’ and ‘more or less doomed’?)

88

faustusnotes 04.10.17 at 7:15 am

Seriously, now we have a gas attack truther on here? The gas attack never happened, if it did it wasn’t Russia, and Trump had no connections to the Russians – nothing to see here move on? Really? These are the lengths you’re willing to go to to defend Trump?

89

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 7:24 am

– and Cian – did you hear about these 1000 payed internet trolls to do Russian propaganda?

No?

I never believed it either – I thought it was just one – writing a lot about ‘give me proof -man…?
-(and not ‘angry’ – just joking…)

90

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 8:00 am

– and there seems to be a need to get back to
@65
‘Incidentally are there any sane people left in the United States? Looking at it from the outside, it does seem that the entire political class is having a nervous breakdown. Insane (literally insane, I don’t mean that metaphorically) conspiracy theories, hysterical name-calling, political analysis of the ‘black is white, up is down’ variety seem to be ubiquitous…Trump is not an outlier it seems but an entirely representative member of the class.’
and
‘…it’s difficult to see a system this dysfunctional continuing for much longer.’

– which reminded me on my favorite country on earth – oh – how do I Iove Italy -(seriously) – as without any doubt it can be far, far more ‘far out’ – than my beloved homeland –
The secret is ‘Improvise’ – WE got to be much better in improvising if crazy old horny men get erected as Presidents – and all kind of silly men on the inter tubes want ‘proof’ for what they can see with their own eyes.

91

Raven 04.10.17 at 8:08 am

nastywoman @90: What is the evidence that “all kind of silly men on the inter tubes want ‘proof’ for what they can see with their own eyes”?

92

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 9:08 am

‘What is the evidence that “all kind of silly men on the inter tubes want ‘proof’ for what they can see with their own eyes”?

A comment on Crooked Timber where a commenter called Cian wrote:
“Nobody is denying an air attack happened. The question is whether the planes dropped chemical weapons.”

93

lurker 04.10.17 at 9:09 am

@Cian, 85
My fave is Louise Mensch’s discovery that Putin financed Black Lives Matter.
Only a traitor or a six-year old would ask for evidence…

94

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 9:43 am

– but the funniest… ‘thing’ about ‘conspiracy theories’ does – indeed again – Glenn Greenwald – when he writes:

‘Central to the conspiracy theories woven for months by Democrats is the claim that Putin wields power over Trump in the form of blackmail, debts or other leverage.’
Yet here is Trump – less than three months after being inaugurated – bombing one of the Kremlin’s closest allies, in a country where Russia has spent more than a year fighting to preserve his government.’

And then in another paragraph he comes out with his favorite ‘conspiracy theory’ seriously writing:
‘…of course Trump will be motivated to prove he’s not controlled by Putin via blackmail by seeking confrontation with the Russian leader. And that’s exactly what he just did.’

and then – still – without warning US that he obviously must be joking he resumes:
‘Warped conspiracy theorists are not only immune to evidence that disproves their theories but, worse, find ways to convert such evidence into further proof of their conspiracies.’

Which brings US to my favorite conspiracy theory about ‘the bombing’ – as I have told my dad before too:
‘Daddy did you see these pictures of the dead children? – WE got to do something about it’!!

95

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 10:06 am

– and @91 Correction!

“all kind of silly men on the inter tubes want ‘proof’ for what they can see AND HEAR with their own EAR and eyes”?

and the ‘evidence’ – all these ‘silly men’ who wanted proof that Trump ever did what he said he did.

96

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 10:23 am

@93
‘My fave is Louise Mensch’s discovery that Putin financed Black Lives Matter.’

My fave is when fellow Americans ask me -(because I know a little bit about Russia) –
‘Do you think Putin really tried to f… with our erection?

BE-cause – then I can counter with one of my favorite (Russian-American) ‘Sayings’:

Does a bear s… in the wood?!

97

Raven 04.10.17 at 12:29 pm

nastywoman @92: Yes,indeed, I had responded to his post on that very point above. My #91 using his much-repeated refrain “What is the evidence that… [quote referring to his demands for evidence]” was intended as looping i.e. self-referential humor, being another example of demanding evidence of what was right out here openly in front for anyone to clearly and easily see for oneself….

98

Katsue 04.10.17 at 2:43 pm

@88

As you may remember, the UN’s investigation of the 2013 sarin attack in Ghouta produced no verdict as to the perpetrator, but many investigators, perhaps most prominently Seymour Hersh, believe Jabhat al-Nusra were the perpetrators.

The Syrian government’s story in this case is that a conventional air attack on a rebel arms depot released toxic chemicals stored in that depot. The story is hardly incredible, given that HTS is alleged to have made chlorine gas attacks in the past, and so it would seem that an investigation is warranted.

99

rea 04.10.17 at 3:48 pm

My fave is when fellow Americans ask me -(because I know a little bit about Russia) –‘Do you think Putin really tried to f… with our erection?

Please, tell me that was a typo.

100

Cian 04.10.17 at 4:14 pm

This from the ex-British ambassador to Syria makes the same point as Katsue above:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU5taO5vRDo

I prefer to wait for an investigation. If Syria is found to be responsible that would be the time to take action. Given that Putin would be humiliated in that instance, it would be pretty easy to take action.

On the other hand if Al-Quaeda Jabhat Something did do it, and this is blamed on Syria. Well, except more chemical attacks in the future.

101

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 4:17 pm

@98
‘The Syrian government’s story in this case is that a conventional air attack on a rebel arms depot released toxic chemicals stored in that depot’ The story is hardly incredible’

How true – as a more ‘incredible’ conspiracy specialists could come up with the story – that the Syrian government knew that the toxic chemicals were stored there – and that’s why they bombed it – to release the chemicals – and see what I mean – when you start inventing your own conspiracy theories – it not only in Greenwalds case – finally might turn on you – just like some crazy Breitbarters – who now believe that Trump always was an agent of ‘teh deep state’ – send to them by… pick anybody you want but not Bannon – in order to establish the US Democrats Dictatorship in the Land of the Free!

102

Cian 04.10.17 at 4:32 pm

Raven: If it’s really that self-evident, it should be pretty easy to give an example. So far I know of three allegations.
1) Hacking. Still unproven, despite the media buzz. Crowdstrike’s credibility is very low at this point. The US intelligence agencies have claimed the Russians were responsible, but has refused to release any evidence. If you want to believe US intelligence agencies be my guest, but post-Iraq I don’t find them hugely credible. Also, some hacking tools were used that may have been developed by the Russians, but which are widely available. Oh, and there was some rather amateurish investigation of the Guccifer stuff, which never considered the fact that hackers routinely try to put the blame for their hacks on somebody else.

2) Leak coverage. That just wasn’t a huge story at the time, and it was forgotten by the election. The people who did care about it were Bernie Sanders supporters, but Bernie Sanders supporters voted for Hillary Clinton. There’s no evidence that people who didn’t vote paid any attention to it, or would have cared. Their biggest concern seems to have been that Hillary Clinton wasn’t offering them anything.

3) The leaker. We have no idea who leaked it. Could have been an insider, it could have been another hacker. Given how insecure the DNC system was, it could have been almost anyone.

4) All of the fake news sites I’ve seen cited get very few hits. They were in the thousands, rather than the millions you’d need to make an impact. Even RT gets a negligible number of hits compared to most news sites (While they have a definite bias, they’re not obviously fake news). And Sputnik is basically a rounding error.

What other evidence is there at this point that the Russians interfered in the election?

103

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 5:13 pm

@102
‘What other evidence is there at this point that the Russians interfered in the election?’

We have the words from Alex Jones -(one of Americas most experienced conspiracy theory experts) that: ONCE YOU FEED THE PIRATE they want more more, more – and John Oliver adding – I’m against these strikes because what do they say if you want to skin a Ferret you better bring your dancing shoes!’

And Glenn -(or is it Mona?) – do you really have to (still) do this?

104

nastywoman 04.10.17 at 5:32 pm

and @99
‘Please, tell me that was a typo.’

It was – I meant to write:
‘My fave is when fellow Americans ask me -(because I know a little bit about Russia) –‘Do you think Cian really tried to f… with Putins erection?’

105

liberal 04.10.17 at 5:45 pm

Raven wrote,

So you didn’t even watch the scenes of Syrian parents frantically washing chemicals off their small children as those children struggled to breathe?

But those are of very little forensic value:

Do you know the video isn’t faked or borrowed from some other place/time?

Do you know the video wasn’t staged?

Are the people who took the video neutral observers? If not, should they be trusted?

Even if the video is authentic, do you know that the scene is the result of a CW attack? Are the details of the scene consistent with the aftermath of a CW attack?

If it’s indeed a CW attack, what CW agent is it? Are the details of the scene consistent with the effects of that agent?

If it’s indeed a CW attack, how do you know who conducted the attack?

If it’s a CW agent, how do you know it’s an intentional release/attack and not, say, the result of Syrian government bombs hitting a rebel CW depot?

106

Cian 04.10.17 at 6:17 pm

In 2013 there was a Sarin gas attack. The eventual UN investigation found that the missiles could not have come from the Syrian government territory, but must have been fired from deep inside rebel territory.

Given that there was no military rationale for this attack and that there’s no way that the Syrian government would risk it’s relationship with it’s patron (Putin) over this, that leaves:
1. Rogue Syrian army regiment – possible I guess, but why now? Seems odd. But sure, a possibility.
2) A warehouse that stored chlorine, or other chemicals, that got bombed – given that it seems Sarin was involved I guess this is possible. An easy thing to investigate.
3. An arms depot with chemical weapons that got bombed – The rebels are known to have chemical weapons, so perfectly plausible.
3. The rebels used the chemical weapons themselves as part of a false flag operation – Given the rebels are basically Al-Quaeda, this also seems like a possibility.

Fortunately an independent UN investigation could probably clear all this up. Maybe somebody should push for one.

107

Philippe Lemoine 04.10.17 at 6:27 pm

I just noticed that someone had shared my four-part series about Trump/Russia, but since this post is about Syria, I thought I should tell you about the post I wrote about the recent chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun. Indeed, I wrote a very detailed blog post, in which I examine the evidence about the recent chemical attack and compare the situation with what happened after the chemical attack in Ghouta in August 2013. I argue that, in that previous case, the media narrative had rapidly unravelled and that, for that reason, we should be extremely prudent about the recent attack and not jump to conclusions. It’s more than 5,000 words long and I provide a source for every single factual claim I make. I really believe it’s the most thorough discussion of the allegations against Assad with respect to his alleged use of chemical weapons out there. Please share if you thought it was interesting.

108

Cian 04.10.17 at 7:00 pm

109

efcdons 04.10.17 at 7:13 pm

Collin Street @79

“Asking questions is for people who don’t understand. For people who do understand, the thing to do is to make statements. “

A conversation of only assertions is pretty boring. And what do you have against work? Engaging in discussion is work. One must work to understand and then work to make the other participants understand your point of view. Unless you are looking just to lecture, like a hit and run.

Anyway… The airstrike seems to have been a meaningless gesture designed to reach for credibility with the “mainstream” (see, for example, gushing praise from the likes of Fareed Zakaria) as well as create an appearance of distance from the Russians to rebut the charges of coordination with Putin. I don’t know who put him up to it. Or if it is all just a lucky result of an action with no particular result in mind. But considering the word there was some form of warning to Putin pre-strike and the apparent lack of real impact on the Syrian air-force’s capabilities the strike seems to have had some thinking behind it.

The worst bit of this whole incident is seeing the mere act of wasting money and destroying “stuff'” is enough to make a fool “look” presidential in the eyes of the people who have the ability to shape reality with enough repetition.

110

Stan 04.10.17 at 7:42 pm

“cruise missiles were entirely public relations.”

Correct. Carefully aimed to miss anything of value to anyone Trump cares about. Carefully not intercepted by Russian AAA.

111

Suzanne 04.11.17 at 1:50 am

A stroke of theater, perhaps, but meaningless – not so much. Russia, China, and Iran are not likely to overreact, but they will all be reconsidering their options, and not necessarily in ways that the Trump Administration (part of me still can’t believe there is such a thing) hopes.

I worry particularly that attempts to bully Putin into dropping Assad will backfire. Putin might well be willing to let Assad go, but if Trump tries to bully Putin the way he tried to push around the Freedom Caucus, he will get the same result, only this time weapons will be involved.

@1: Also, neither Obama or Clinton would have announced so publicly and emphatically that removing Assad was no longer a priority. Reluctantly or not, Obama might well have resorted to a show of force here. At the least he would have gone back to Congress and made them say no – or yes.

112

Peter T 04.11.17 at 3:13 am

At this point, Assad has the backing of Russia, Iran, Egypt and Iraq. Jordan considers the regime the lesser evil. The powerful Iraqi militias have declared their intention of moving into Syria post-Mosul (and substantial numbers of volunteers already have). The regime has been steadily gaining ground since late 2014.

Russia has upped its presence in response to the strike.

Just how does the US (it’s not just Trump – it’s the whole circus) plan to do anything about these factors?

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” – Sun Tzu

113

Raven 04.11.17 at 6:32 am

liberal @ 105: “If it’s indeed a CW attack, what CW agent is it?” — Did you miss reading my #83 (immediately after the #82 you replied to) quoting the ABC News article including word from “the Turkish Health Ministry that autopsies on several victims of Tuesday’s attack confirmed the use of the nerve agent sarin in violation of international law”?

114

Raven 04.11.17 at 6:54 am

Cian @ 108: ISIS uses the nerve agent sarin in violation of international law, and we recognize ISIS to be international criminals, pariahs, reviled around the world. Alas, this does not prevent the government of Bashar Assad of Syria from also using the nerve agent sarin in violation of international law, yet somehow Russia supports that government and (with its Security Council veto) will prevent any UN action against that government such as condemning it for these international crimes, let alone authorizing punitive military operations — meanwhile you and ‘liberal’ obligingly post defenses for it. Это просто совпадение?

115

Hidari 04.11.17 at 10:23 am

Frankie Boyle on ‘our’ latest imbroglio in Syria.

‘Nothing more perfectly embodies White America than a 70 year old golfer firing missiles at the Middle East from his country club. Some sticks in the mud probably expect a host of formalities to be gone through before attacking another country: a UN investigation, or congressional approval perhaps, but personally I’m just glad to see a guy with the temperament of a mistreated circus animal launching ballistic missiles on a hunch. It seems statesmanlike and decisive. It’s difficult to tell what Syria’s moderate rebels are really like, as journalists can’t really be embedded with them, because they’d be beheaded. But I refuse to be cynical: there’s every chance that Assad’s end will see a peaceful, pastoral period for Syria once groups like Allah’s Flamethrower and Infidel Abattoir get round the table and good-naturedly sort out their deep seated differences on the finer points of Islamic Law. Perhaps this is a period which Syrians will one day look back on and laugh, if laughter is still allowed.
Not only will Democrats support any war Trump chooses to start, they’ll be outraged by any voters who hold it against them at the next election. Hillary Clinton called for the airstrikes immediately before they happened. We’d do well to listen to the woman who is the architect of modern Libya, where her neoliberal intervention introduced the principals of the free market with such clarity that the country now has several different governments competing for the right to kill everybody. Clinton was criticised for running a tone-deaf, aloof campaign but Democrats have rallied, pointing out that many people didn’t vote for Hilary because Trump is a Russian spy, and people who didn’t vote for Hillary are Russian stooges, and people who voted for Hillary but not very enthusiastically are also Russian stooges, and slowly but surely the goodwill has begun to return.
Personally, I think it would be great if Putin was controlling Trump. I’d love to think there was a rational, malevolent actor directing him rather than just a combination of his own blood sugar levels and the concept of vengeance. I honestly think we’d be in less trouble if he was being controlled by the dark wizard Thoth Amon, or if his body had been taken over by a sentient bacterial civilisation that was using him as a kind of Lifeship. I’m not saying it’s impossible that Trump was moved by the plight of Syria’s children, perhaps in the same way that Tony Soprano got really upset when that guy killed his horse, it’s just that the balance of probabilities is that he doesn’t care about them, even enough not to ban them from entering his country.
The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said that the UK government had close discussions with the US over the few days running up to the attack and had been given “advance notice of the President’s final decision”. Odd then, that immediately after the chemical attack the Guardian cites Downing Street officials (on a tour of despots with the prime minister in the Middle East) who, when asked about military reprisals, said “nobody is talking about that”. Sort of makes you wonder if there’s any contempt that can be shown by the US that will stop us drooling about our “special relationship” like we’re some kind of stalker. I doubt the Americans see us as a valued ally. We’re just somewhere that they stick a few missiles. My best guess is that they think of us in the way that we would think of a shed.
At the prospect of a war, the media reacted with the exuberant joy that I remember fights bringing to a school playground. War copy sells well, and is easier to write. A good way to get a handle on the media’s attitude to conflict is to try to write a thousand words on a United Nations sponsored bilateral negotiation, then the same on a missile cutting a hospital in half. The Guardian exuberantly described the “pinpoint accuracy” of Tomahawks. I’m not sure accuracy is strictly relevant when you’re delivering high explosives, the ultimate variable. In the West, we’ve never needed the military spectaculars favoured by Soviets and dictators; the news has always been our missile parade. On MSNBC the launch of the Tomahawks was repeatedly described as “beautiful”. And there is a certain beauty at that point in their trajectory. Perhaps we should focus on some other point. It would be nice to see a shot of them ten seconds before they drop on their screaming victims. Or two days later when bodies are being pulled from the rubble. Maybe a shot from ten years down the line when the shell casings form part of a makeshift gallows, reflected in the glass eye of an implacable amputee warlord. Perhaps our whole fucked up attitude to war comes from only ever seeing our missiles taking off, only ever seeing our soldiers setting out.
Ignoring international law is bad for all sorts of reasons, not least because it’s the same position as Assad’s. Knowing that our own resolve is only strengthened when people attack us and expecting other people’s to be weakened is suggestive of a kind of racism. Pouring arms and bombs into an intractable conflict means that you are happy for it to be prolonged and worsen. Britain’s activities in the Middle East historically mean we almost can’t imagine what a moral position might look like. We have a huge navy that we could use to pick up the thousands of Syrians, Libyans and others scheduled to drown in the Mediterranean this year, for a fraction of the cost of the bombs we’ve dropped on them. I wonder if those people know, clambering onto boats with their frightened children, many of whom have never seen the sea before and will never see land again, that we aggressively tune out images like this, should they ever reach us at all. That we see all these lives we could save as part of a chaotic, insoluble mess, better not thought about; we who focus so intently on the sleek, clear lines of bombs.’

https://www.facebook.com/FrankieBoyleFans/posts/1476804212360940

116

lurker 04.11.17 at 11:52 am

117

nastywoman 04.11.17 at 11:54 am

‘Frankie Boyle on ‘our’ latest imbroglio in Syria.’

Great insight by one of the UK’s funniest comedian.

118

nastywoman 04.11.17 at 12:06 pm

@115
‘Это просто совпадение?’

it’s doubtful that ‘liberal’ and Cian are members of Putins disinformation brigade – as the ‘brigade’ is very busy right now – focusing mainly on European elections – and these Russian Intertube Warriors have adjusted their ‘strategy’ quite a bit – after they had to realize that misinformation done TOO obvious – tends to backfire – and my suggestion – that this ‘Cian’ might be the Great Greenwald himself -(doing ‘sockpuppeting’ – which he loved to do before he got ‘rich and famous’) – was a very silly joke – I regret deeply and never ever will do again – but ‘liberal and Cian’ might be some hardcore fans of the Great Greenwald?

119

Suzanne 04.11.17 at 3:15 pm

@115: I didn’t realize we had already had a second Clinton Administration and HRC made all the (bad) foreign policy decisions while Obama and his inner circle sat around helpless, but it’s interesting information to have, especially since most reports indicated that no president held foreign policy so closely in the White House since Nixon.

Clinton rallied traditional Democrats to her side in 2008 and was criticized for her failure to reach out to Obama’s coalition. She reaches out to Obama’s coalition and is criticized for ignoring traditional Democrats. Oh, well, easy come, easy go. (Which is not to say that a politician with a defter touch might have done better, but 2016 was a very strange year.)

Could you point out some of this “Russian stooges” talk? I’d be interested to read it, and don’t recall seeing any such accusations.

120

Raven 04.11.17 at 3:29 pm

@ 118: But that brigade are so many, so well-paid, and have time to do more than just one thing; one should always remember Putin heavily favors Assad, even while the European elections are also taking up his attention, so his minions will certainly be assigned to multi-task as well. This distinctive pair of positions (a history of having defended both Trump and Assad) will, I think, turn out to be a useful marker for them.

121

Cian 04.11.17 at 5:35 pm

Raven: I’m sorry Raven. I immediately discounted any news story that cited both the Turkish government(!) and the Coventry based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Just as I discount any story that is sourced from RT. The Turkish government have been backing the nastiest jihadists, for a long time were protecting oil smuggling routes through Syria and are doing their best to destroy the YPG and prevent them from setting up an autonomous region. The last has been made harder as since they shot down the Russian plane, the Russians have limited their influence on the peace talks. I’m sure they’d love to change it.

I have seen mixed reports on whether it was Sarin. The early videos (which given the source could have been anything) did not seem to be consistent with a Sarin gas attack – not that it really matters for those that were killed (gas, bombs, bullets, starvation via Saudi blockade – it’s all just death).

I am not disputing that civilians were gassed. However, a chemical weapon would involve firing a chemical weapon. That is a bomb from a plane, a shell or a missile. Bombing a depot that stored chemical weapons would not be a chemical weapon attack. It would be something else. Equally, bombing a depot that contained materials that could be used to make chemical weapons (such as chlorine – also used for other purposes) would not be a chemical weapon attack. The reason I’m not calling it a chemical weapons attack is that I’m suspending judgement until an investigation can be carried out by the UN. Something the Russians have demanded.

122

Cian 04.11.17 at 5:43 pm

Raven: yet somehow Russia supports that government and (with its Security Council veto) will prevent any UN action against that government such as condemning it for these international crimes, let alone authorizing punitive military operations — meanwhile you and ‘liberal’ obligingly post defenses for it. Это просто совпадение?

I’m saying that there needs to be an independent investigation by the UN, and only when some facts are established should something be done. For reasons I have already stated, I think that the rebels are more likely to be culpable for this, which is why I’m not demanding Russia’s head. I don’t like Syria, or Russia (and I suspect I know rather more about their various crimes than most of the people criticising them on this thread), but I REALLY don’t like jihadists. The fact that the Syrian civil war has reached the point where the best option is to reinstate the Syrian government depresses me, but nonetheless I’m a realist. Almost anything is better than ISIS/Al-Quaeda running things. What has happened in Libya is terrible – I can barely imagine the kind of carnage we’d see in a pluralistic and secular state like Syria.

Russia has invested considerable prestige into destroying Syria’s chemical weapons. If it is shown that Syria has used them behind Russia’s back, Russia will be made to look stupid and Putin will find it very difficult to resist some kind of sanction. If on the other hand the rebels did this, no investigation occurs, and the west punishes Syria for the rebel’s crimes – the west, and people like you, will have given the rebels every incentive to commit future chemical attacks. You call it defense of Russia – I call it the desire to punish the guilty, whoever they are.

123

Cian 04.11.17 at 5:48 pm

Nastywoman: I can’t remember the last time I read something by Greenwald.

124

john c. halasz 04.11.17 at 7:31 pm

Hidari @ 31:

The problem with that link you provided is that it still embeds the meme that the Syrian Army used sarin at East Ghouta. That is how propaganda a.k.a fake news works: repeat a falsehood often enough and it will become embedded in conventional wisdom by lazy, ignorant and conformist operatives who serve the PTB. It is virtually certain that the government side did not perpetrate the attack because according the published investigation, the rockets found in site were not professionally made (by engineers in a well equipped factory), but something that would have been turned iut in a machine ship and would have had a range of 2-3 km not the 7 km required, and the environmental samples tested from 1 rocket and the surrounding soil indicate that the sarin used was not professional quality,m but “kitchen” sarin. Further it had already been established that the jihadis had used sarin against government troops previously. (BTW since the Syrian government surrendered its sarin stockpiles, all international parties have samples that can be matched to determine if the sarin was Syrian made or not). Obama had foolishly left a hostage to fortune with his red-line, but Gen. Dempsey visited the Whitehouse to inform him that attribution of the attack to the Syrian government was highly uncertain, which is why the planned attack was called off.

In the current incident, no one knows just what happened and who is responsible because no forensic investigation has been conducted. It’s verdict now, trial later or shoot first and ask questions later. But that’s just truth, justice and the American way, innit?

125

Raven 04.12.17 at 3:11 am

Cian @121: Nifty argument to discount ABC News [not mentioning its name] “Just as I discount any story that is sourced from RT.”

“The early videos… did not seem to be consistent with a Sarin gas attack….” — You think not? Those scenes I mentioned, with parents frantically washing off their small children who were struggling to breathe, were typical of trying to remove a nerve agent from the skin, showing the parents knew what they were dealing with (Syrians had become familiar with this kind of attack). However, chlorine gas attacks through the lungs but not the skin, so washing it off the skin would have been pointless to help the children breathe.

“I am not disputing that civilians were gassed. However,…” — Your ‘however’ requires ignoring all those civilians, and all the small children among them. — “… Bombing a depot that stored chemical weapons would not be a chemical weapon attack.” — Such a depot would be surrounded by military guards to protect it, and allow no random insecure civilians nearby, possibly even carrying suicide-bomb vests; so the undisputed fact of those gassed civilians all by itself disposes of this ever-so-convenient “chemical weapons depot” hypothesis.

… @ 122: “I’m saying that there needs to be an independent investigation by the UN….” — (1) If Assad’s government permits it? (2) If Trump’s and Putin’s Security Council vetoes, between them, don’t prevent any clear and truthful finding?

“Russia has invested considerable prestige into destroying Syria’s chemical weapons. If it is shown that Syria has used them behind Russia’s back, Russia will be made to look stupid….” — You’re curiously omitting an option: If it is shown that Syria has used them with Russia’s knowledge, Russia will be made to look complicit. And Russian personnel were at the Syrian airbase from which the jet was observed taking off to deliver the sarin attack.

“You call it defense of Russia – I call it the desire to punish the guilty, whoever they are.” — Unless, of course, anyone were to suggest that’s Assad or Putin (depending on the topic), in which case defense mode engages in full.
______________________

john c. halasz @ 124: “… the Syrian government surrendered its sarin stockpiles….” — On this we have the word of Putin’s Russia, which has taken Assad’s Syria as its favored client; and see lines just above about Russian personnel at the Syrian airbase. At this point you might remember Russian methods in Afghanistan.

“… no forensic investigation has been conducted.” — See the last sentence of #83.

126

Hidari 04.12.17 at 8:07 am

Just a wee note about the imperial language that is unthinkingly (sic) used by the apologists for Empire. Corey really what he was doing when he put the title of his post on CT as being about the ‘Trump Regime’. Did anyone pause to reflect that that phrase…seems a little odd?

Of course it does. That phrase is a standard of Orientalist discourse. ‘We’ (you know…’we’ ‘us’ ‘our’….the unified countries of the West, not at all divided by race or class) ….’we’ ‘our’ governments are governments. ‘They’ ‘them’ on the other hand, out there in fuzzy wuzzy territory….they don’t get to have governments. They have ‘regimes’ instead. And whereas our governments (which of course are not in any shape or form representative of class interests, but which instead, magically represent the unified Will of the People) fully represent our countries (hence the British Government, the American Government), ‘they’ ‘their’ regimes are apparently all run by one person and represent no one except that person (as though Assad wakes up every morning and runs out and does all the parking tickets in downtown Damascus and then runs back to do all the paper work for the whole Syrian state and then puts on the uniform of the Syrian Army and fights the terrorists on his own…you could easily do a comedy sketch about this).

So whereas ‘we’ are governed by the British Government or the American Government, those poor benighted foreigners are instead governed by the ‘Putin Regime’ or ‘Putin’s Russia’; (as though he owns it) or ‘Assad’s Syria’ (as though he’s the only one in it). Poor foreigners! No wonder the Syrian and Russian masses are crying out for an ‘intervention’* from our ‘freedom bombs’ (despite what their opinion polls say) leading to ‘regime change’. **

*an imperial euphemism.

**another euphemism.

Orwell, apparently, wrote in vain.

In any case as Thomas Pynchon wrote, ‘If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.’

Asking what should ‘we’ do about the ‘situation’ in Syria* is the wrong question.

Remember all those who pretend to care about Syrian civilians ‘killed by Assad’ now are doing so solely because it is in the sights of the Americans right now. When Syria is attacked, the ‘regime’ overthrown, and it disintegrates into crawling chaos, no one will pop up in CT comment threads to weep crocodile tears about the terrible situation there, the ‘rebels’ will be able to use poison gas and chemical weapons against civilians with impunity, no one will care. No one will write anguished op-eds. No one will dispute (or care about) ‘evidence’ about who did what to whom.

How do I know that?

Easy.

Libya.

*actually it’s not such a bad question as long as the answer is: ‘stop helping our ‘friends’ in Turkey and KSA aiding and arming jihadists who are tearing the country apart’. But that’s not really considered to be an ‘appropriate’ response to that question is it?

127

nastywoman 04.12.17 at 9:52 am

@126
When I studied a few semester anthropology I always dreamed about one time discovering a ‘Regime of Cannibals’ -(with the hope NOT to be eaten by them) – so if I would have survived I would have been ‘The Blond who had discovered ‘the last Regime of Cannibals’!

So I traveled a lot – to all kind of ‘Regimes’ – and I found out – that indeed – there is a difference between the governments I was used to – from my very youth -(even my favorite Italian government) – and so called ‘Regimes’ – and that in no way implies any kind of value judgement or critic of ‘Regimes’ – as anthropological spoken – you need a pretty anthropological attitude if you meet somebody in a ‘Regime’ who tells you that one of the efforts of the Regime is to NOT let women drive a car -(just as a silly example) –

So where was I ?
Oh yes – ‘Regimes’ – and I’m very familiar with the type of… romantic?… language you show in your comment – as when I returned after a half year from Egypt – after leading Americans and all other kind of Tourists into the White and Black Desert and telling them
that the ‘Regime of Mubarak’ was no danger to them personally – I kind of used the same language as you just used?

It made me sooo nostalgic.

128

nastywoman 04.12.17 at 10:04 am

– and finally:

‘White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says that President Donald Trump’s oldest daughter weighed in on his response to the Syrian chemical weapons attack.

Spicer says at his daily press briefing that ‘‘there is no question that’’ Ivanka Trump and others ‘‘weighed into him’’ on the decision.

The president’s son, Eric Trump, told The Daily Telegraph in an interview that the president had been influenced by his sister’s reaction to the gas attack that killed dozens last week.’

So…?

129

Guano 04.12.17 at 11:12 am

Asking what we can do about what is happening in Syria isn’t a bad question, but it requires some careful consideration about what is actually happening in Syria and what is likely to be the effect of any actions to deal with that. I have read a great deal about Syria, and I have gone to talks and seminars, and I have corresponded with academics who study the area; the narrative in most of the mainstream press and politics bears only a tangential relation to what I understand from using these more knowledgeable sources.

One of the themes in “The Battle for Syria” by Christopher Phillips is that many of those involved in fighting in Syria (Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, some of the opposition groups) have been trying to drag the USA into Syria to overthrow Assad for the last five years. The fact that NATO overthrew Gadaffi set a precedent and many of these actors think that the same can be done in Syria. It therefore isn’t inconceivable that there would be a false flag operation to try to bounce the USA into a more direct role in the conflict.

Another issue that isn’t included in many mainstream accounts (but which is apparent if you take the time to listen to people who study the region) is that Syria is part of an area of instability that includes Iraq (and spread out of Iraq and is partly due to the invasion of Iraq). State institutions need to be rebuilt in both Iraq and Syria. There may need to be a military component, and borders may need to be redrawn, but the essential tasks are rebuilding states and their institutions, and rebuilding communities’ trust in those institutions.

There are three letters in today’s Independent from readers making the point that removing Assad may just create a failed state, with even worse consequences than today’s situation. This is a key point that is rarely mentioned in most mainstream comment, though see the second paragraph here:-

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/10/not-just-syria-trump-ratcheting-up-wars-world

Most mainstream comment just has a blind spot to this obvious issue, though the public seems to be aware of it.

Dealing with the linked issues of Iraq and Syria will probably take 20 years. It will require rebuilding failed states and determined conflict resolution across the Middle East. Russia would probably cooperate, because one of its concerns in Syria is the collapse of the last vestiges of state institutions. Whether the Gulf States would cooperate, or the arms’ industry would cooperate, is another matter.

130

Cian 04.12.17 at 12:46 pm

Raven: I didn’t discount ABC news, I discounted the two sources that their story relied upon. If you want to make an argument for why the Turkish government and a single man propoganda operation for the rebels based in England are trustworthy sources, go ahead. I will just point out that the reason there are no independent journalists operating behind rebel lines is because the rebels murdered them.

As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t change anything whether it was Sarin gas, Chlorine gas, or mustard gas. However, in the video I saw the first responders were handling the victims without gloves. Which I believe (based upon my hazy memories of attending a training course on this many many years ago) would kill you. It was just an oddity that struck me about the videos, albeit not a hugely important one.

The Syrian and Russian governments have both called for an independent investigation by the UN. So far (maybe I missed it) the US has been silent on the issue. So if anyone is afraid of the facts it would seem to be the US. Your conspiracy theories about Trump being a Russian agent notwithstanding (god I miss the days when the conspiracy loons were on the right), Syria and Russia have behaved exactly in the way you would expect them to behave if their version of events were true.

Your description of how the rebels would run a chemical weapons depot seems to based entirely upon speculation and fever dreams.

You’re curiously omitting an option: If it is shown that Syria has used them with Russia’s knowledge, Russia will be made to look complicit.

Thus making it even harder for them to resist the outcome of an independent inquiry that they called for. Thank you for helping me make my point.

131

Cian 04.12.17 at 12:54 pm

Guano, while I doubt we’ll ever know what happened, the most plausible explanation for the 2013 Sarin gas attack was that it was some kind of false flag operation. The gas was fired from way behind enemy lines according to the UN investigation.

I think it’s a real tragedy that the Syrian revolution failed, but it did fail. And if the Syrian government fell it’s hard to see who would stop the Jihadists from taking the country over. The resulting of massacres would probably trouble even the butcher of Hama, Hafez al-Assad.

132

Katsue 04.12.17 at 1:05 pm

@125

I am not a chemical weapons expert, but my understanding is that trying to wash sarin off someone’s skin is a good way of dying of sarin poisoning. I understand that the White Helmets in the area had access to hazmat suits, but none of the photos or videos I’ve seen of the aftermath of the attack show them wearing any. I have also seen reports that the gas cloud was both coloured and odiferous. Sarin is, in itself, colourless and odourless.

This isn’t conclusive, of course, but it is possible that the toxic gasses in question consisted of chlorine and/or phosphates other than sarin. And there are any number of explanations, both innocent and otherwise, as to why someone might store chlorine or phosphates.

133

Katsue 04.12.17 at 1:08 pm

I should add that if the SAAF knowingly bombed a warehouse containing fertilisers and/or pesticides, that may well also be a war crime.

134

faustusnotes 04.12.17 at 3:10 pm

Wow, to read the comments posted here, it would appear that Assad is a veritable humanitarian! And that the government that has been dropping 30 barrel bombs a day on civilians is the nice side of this war, and wouldn’t possibly use chemical weapons – I mean really, when was the last time Assad killed even one civilian?! No doubt any such stories are fabrications by the White Helmets or the Syrian Network for Human Rights (who we all know have an office in Corbyn’s front room, the skeezy bastards). Surely the only people in Syria who would use chemical weapons are ISIS, which is why Trump bombed Assad.

135

john c. halasz 04.12.17 at 4:31 pm

People should exercise some due diligence, rather than bloviating based on manipulated media images.

tl;dr:

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/04/sentence-first-verdict-afterwards.html

136

Guano 04.12.17 at 8:47 pm

#132 – None of the political actors in Syria are humanitarians and none of them are to be taken as trusted sources. Many of them are trying to convince the West that overthrowing Assad will resolve the issue – I know because I’ve met some them. Unfortunately there are too many naïve politicians and commentators who will fall for that despite what happened in Iraq and Libya and other places.

137

Cian 04.12.17 at 9:22 pm

Wow, to read the comments posted here, it would appear that Assad is a veritable humanitarian!

Literally nobody has argued this, or anything close to this. But feel to shred what remaining credibility you have.

And that the government that has been dropping 30 barrel bombs a day on civilians is the nice side of this war

I described them as the ‘Least Evil’. If you want to interpret ‘Least Evil’ as ‘Nice’, I can’t stop you.

and wouldn’t possibly use chemical weapons

The argument was that the Syrians would be unlikely to use them for political reasons. Nobody is defending the Syrian government’s moral character.

I mean really, when was the last time Assad killed even one civilian?!

When was the last time that ISIS killed a civilian? When was the last time that Al-Quaeda killed a civilian? WHen was the last time that a US killed a civilian?

And what has any of this got to do with the use of chemical weapons?

No doubt any such stories are fabrications by the White Helmets or the Syrian Network for Human Rights (who we all know have an office in Corbyn’s front room, the skeezy bastards).

The Syrian Network for Human Rights is one guy in the UK who launders propaganda for the rebels. He’s no more credible than the Syrian, or Russian, propaganda sources. The White Helmets have produced fake footage in the past. Given that there is literally noone independent behind enemy lines who can corroborate any of this (unlike behind government lines, where there are journalists operating), it is impossible to know what is and isn’t true.

Surely the only people in Syria who would use chemical weapons are ISIS, which is why Trump bombed Assad.

Your argment appeared to be that only the government would use chemical weapons. I pointed out that ISIS (who are rather proud of the fact) and Al-Quaeda have both used them. And that in 2013 Sarin was used in what seems to have been a false flag operation by somebody on the rebel side.

Consequently assuming ANYTHING about who is responsible is premature until an investigation can occur.

I am amused by you implying that Trump is infallible, though. Have you met the Faustusnotes on the Trump thread?

138

Guano 04.12.17 at 10:22 pm

The link in #135 includes, in turn, a link to an interview with Joshua Landis, who is one of the best-informed academics on Syria. It is worth a read.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/americas-failure-russia-success-in-syrias-war

Among other things, Landis points out that, if there had been a substantial American bombing of Syria in August/September 2013, there was a high risk of jihadi groups taking over the country and getting their hands on the chemical weapons’ stocks.

139

Raven 04.12.17 at 10:40 pm

Cian @ 130: “I didn’t discount ABC news, I discounted the two sources that their story relied upon.” — This is terminally disingenuous; you had indeed specified only two sources (#121: “both the Turkish government(!) and the Coventry based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”)… but that article had also relied upon U.S. officials, local residents (as eyewitnesses), and former National Security Adviser Richard Clarke as sources, as well as quoting Trump’s own statement.

“… the first responders were handling the victims without gloves.” — Fathers were desperately washing poison off their young children’s bodies to save their lives, Cian. If you do not understand why they were willing to take a tremendous chance, then I can’t help you.
______________________

Katsue @ 132: See last note above. Look at those videos, and consider also where all that rapidly flowing water was rinsing the sarin… not toward the rescuers’ hands and bodies, but away.

“… it is possible that the toxic gasses in question consisted of chlorine and/or phosphates other than sarin.” — See #83, autopsies showed sarin.

140

Faustusnotes 04.13.17 at 12:00 am

I don’t think trump is infallible, I just find it interesting that the same people who on the other thread are shamelessly and credulously repeating RT lies about the Clinton foundation and Obamacare are on this thread defending a mass murderer from accusations he innovated his mass murdering methods. You really do believe everything you see on RT don’t you?

141

Pavel 04.13.17 at 3:49 am

Not sure if this has been mentioned, but http://necpluribusimpar.net/chemical-attack-syria/ has a fairly sceptical look at the evidence presented in favour of Assad using chemical weapons in Ghouta in 2013. The argument isn’t that Assad couldn’t have done it… merely that the evidence in support of this claim is questionable.

Some takeaways:
Absence of motivation: Assad was already winning the war, Obama had already made use of chemical weapons an issue, a UN team had just arrived to investigate whether chemical weapons had been used prior. This would be a bad time to drop chemical weapons on a population and expect to get away with it.

Absence of means: Missiles that fell on Ghouta had a 2km range at most and couldn’t come from inside Assad-controlled territory. Missiles did not need heavy equipment to create or launch. Presence of Hexamine doesn’t indicate regime involvement, since it too is a an easily-manufactured compound.

Alternate parties: Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic at one point seemed to indicate that earlier chemical attacks in Khan al-Assal were perpetrated by the rebels. Majority of on-the-ground sources pointing to Assad regime are in areas controlled by Salafist and Al-Q forces, rendering them pretty unreliable.

It’s pretty obvious that there are no serious conclusions here, merely questions about the idea that Assad is solely responsible for using nerve agents in 2013 or more recently.

142

nastywoman 04.13.17 at 6:29 am

– and as it has gotten so bizarre now – that we can mix ‘chocolate cake’ for the Chinese President with ‘mandatory harm-infliction’ and thought so ‘humanitarianism’ from the Presidents daughter with a lot of conspiracy theories from all sides – shouldn’t we at least believe (somehow?) our own ‘intelligence dudes’ when they tell US they have proof -(‘wiretapped’) that the Assad Regime did it? –
I mean come on guys? – I also wasn’t too crazy about Hillary – but is that reason enough to come up with all these insane theories – that the Russians didn’t f… with our erections – or – even worst – that in this case we can’t believe our ‘spies’?

I mean Von Clownbstick is erected -(now for quite some time) AND he is eating chocolate cake with some Chinese Prez – AND Hillary has been retired so what does the (‘very emotional’) I-really-don’t-like-Hillary crowd more?

143

Raven 04.13.17 at 7:24 am

nastywoman @ 142: “that in this case we can’t believe our ‘spies’?” — Recall that our ‘spies’ not only implicate Assad in the recent Syrian gas attack and Putin in our campaign, but also Trump and his staffers as complicit during the campaign. So of course our ‘spies’ must be intensively discredited!

144

Raven 04.13.17 at 8:28 am

Another golden Trump interview quote: “OK, just so you understand, we’re not going into Syria….” — but the US already had troops in Syria at the time he sent missiles in.

As Rachel Maddow reported on her Wednesday night 4/12 program, US special forces at Al-Tanf (in Syria by its 3-way border with Iraq and Jordan) were ordered to evacuate their base at the time of the missile strike in case Syria chose their known location as a site for reprisal. The US troops sheltered in the desert, but coalition troops remained at the base guarding it.

ISIS took that opportunity for a “complex, coordinated attack” on the base, blowing open the gate with a car bomb, letting in armed commandos, some with suicide bomb vests. Some of the coalition troops were killed defending the base. The US troops returned to join that defense, and called in airstrikes to assist, succeeding in retaking the base.

Rachel points out that this was a concrete example of how the missile strike “changed the weather” affecting the lives of US troops already in the field.

145

Guano 04.13.17 at 8:57 am

#140 – I’m not on that other thread. I don’t watch RT. I don’t get my talking points from anywhere.

I ask basic questions about the assumptions that people are making when they develop an argument and, in the case of the Syrian civil war, I have taken some time to understand what is going on. Much of what is being said in the mainstream media is based on an inadequate understanding of what is happening in Syria, and what has happened, and makes some rather heroic assumptions.

Assad is evil but he’s not the only evil player in the Syrian civil war. It is a heroic assumption that removing Assad will end the misery, because installing new regimes is a long and arduous process and I see no understanding among those advocating his removal how long and arduous a process it is. In Syria this is even more complicated because of the nature of many of the rebel groups and their inability to work with each other.

The way this story developed over the last week is a frightening example of how mainstream politicians and commentators rush to judgement and automatically make heroic assumptions, and then make ad hominem attacks on those who question them. An unpredictable US president made a knee-jerk reaction and his mainstream critics said how wonderful it is: that is deeply troubling.

146

Cian 04.13.17 at 1:46 pm

What Guano said.

Faustusnotes – I have told you repeatedly that I do not read RT, and that I consider their articles Russian propoganda. At this points your continuous accusations that I am some kind of Russian apologist are tiresome and unproven. I think your mendaciousness speaks for itself.

The best journalist that I know of covering the region is Patrick Cockburn.

I believe Al-Quaeda to be murderous, lying, bastards. I await with interest your explanation for why this makes me a Russian apologist. The Syrian government are brutal, have a long history of vicious torture (they were where the CIA sent those that they wanted punished during the Bush years) and tried to crush the rebellion with extreme brutality (including amateurish use of chlorine gas). And as I noted above, Bashar’s father was notorious for the Hama massacre. If noting these things makes me a Syrian apologist, so be it I guess. Both sides are bad, but the Syrian population when given the choice (I wish their choices were better) seem to prefer the Syrian government. They probably just haven’t seen enough Rachel Maddow monologues.

Raven: Recall that our ‘spies’ not only implicate Assad in the recent Syrian gas attack and Putin in our campaign, but also Trump and his staffers as complicit during the campaign. So of course our ‘spies’ must be intensively discredited!

They’re intelligence agencies. Propaganda and lying are part of the job description. Did you learn nothing from the Iraq war? Are you really this naive?

147

Suzanne 04.13.17 at 4:55 pm

@24: Obama might well have launched strikes if he had been able to get British support. Cameron lost that vote, so Obama went to Congress. (I don’t think he felt that he really had to do so, but he was looking for political cover.)

Hindsight is 20/20, but as I think someone pointed out somewhere in this thread, the Syrian revolution began as peaceful and non-sectarian. The “moderate rebels” did exist. Assad responded as Dad would have done, with brute force, and also helpfully released jihadis from prison to add spice to the mixture. IMO there was a window of time between 2011 and 2013 when Obama might have been able to take effective action. That window closed with the collapse of the FSA and then Russia’s entry into the war. The Syrian war spiraling out of control and the ensuing refugee crisis did much to bring us Trump.

Now, of course, things are different. Assad can’t control the entire country no matter how vicious his tactics and there are those who will never stop fighting as long as he’s in power. It’s also not clear who would take his place or what would happen following his ouster. Awful, just awful.

148

nastywoman 04.13.17 at 5:34 pm

‘They’re intelligence agencies. Propaganda and lying are part of the job description. Did you learn nothing from the Iraq war? Are you really this naive?’

And this really shouldn’t get the (perhaps?) last word?

The greatest amount of Russian Propaganda -(like directly lifted from some Russian-misinformer-trolls) cam from a commenter called Cian on this thread.
And I always wondered if the Trump campaign – and the commenter Cian was – is so naive that if he -(they) question the trustworthiness of our own spies they should question the trustworthiness of Russian Spies -(and propaganda) just a little bit more?

As you know – they -(the Russians) do this lying thing far longer and far more professional than our Von Clownsticks.

And like always – just joking! Right?

149

Mario 04.13.17 at 7:38 pm

Suzanne,

To get an idea of some of the realities on the ground at the moment the war started, I recommend highly the film “9 days – from my window in aleppo”. It won a price from the European Film Academy (so among other quality features, it includes no gore), is fairly short (13 minutes), and is available on youtube and other sources.

There is really nothing simple about this conflict. And I think it is obvious in hindsight that the best way to avoid the biblical calamity that has been unfolding the last few years would have been to never give any of the rebels any support.

150

Faustusnotes 04.13.17 at 11:09 pm

I’m not accusing you of being a Russian apologist Cian, just saying that you seem to incredulously repeat RT talking points. Btw if you like coburns work you can see his RT interviews on YouTube.

You seem to be making an argument for the lesser evil here. Is that really a strategy you believe strongly ?

151

Cranky Observer 04.13.17 at 11:22 pm

= = = IMO there was a window of time between 2011 and 2013 when Obama might have been able to take effective action. = = =

I’ve read variations on this thought for every US intervention since the Korean War (and some for that one as well). I’d say it is a bit concerning that every single intervention is followed by the lamentation that if only the US had moved at the right time/bombed harder/picked the right side/bombed softer/sent troops/spoken the local language/not sent troops it would have worked out the way we had hoped. Perhaps rethinking of the concept is in order? Just a suggestion.

152

Cranky Observer 04.13.17 at 11:31 pm

= = = that has been dropping 30 barrel bombs a day on civilians = = =

I’m curious in regards to what it is about “barrel bombs” that has stuck in the meme center of hard right wingers. The US, Israel, Russia, etc use good old fashioned oblate iron bombs as Thanatos intended, and if there are some unfortunate collateral damage deaths that is just the way Fortuna rolls, but when dictators who have fallen out of our favor [1] use similar weapons with somewhat different detonation characteristics the weapons and the wielder are infused with inherent evil. Fascinating.

[1] As noted above, the United States used Assad, his secret police, and his prisons as torture outsourcers from 2001-2008, including kidnapping citizens of allied nations and depositing them with Assad for torture. Now he’s a bad guy though.

153

Raven 04.13.17 at 11:57 pm

Cian @ 146: “They’re intelligence agencies. Propaganda and lying are part of the job description. Did you learn nothing from the Iraq war? Are you really this naive?” — Again (as in #82) I remind you the propaganda and lying of the Iraq war came straight from the White House, i.e. the politicians (often voiced by SecState Colin Powell), not from the military or civilian intelligence agencies… in fact, you may recall Cheney and his underlings (Scooter Libby was the only one convicted in the matter, then W commuted his prison sentence) actually outed a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, endangering all her field agents, because her husband, former diplomat Joe Wilson, had publicly contradicted one of those White House lies.

154

faustusnotes 04.14.17 at 5:02 am

Yes Cranky Observer, the irony of the US response to the gassing was not lost on me, given that a few days earlier the US had killed a lot more people in Iraq with a single conventional bomb. I mentioned the barrel bombs because at the time of writing Spicer had been ranting about wanting to retaliate if Syria used “even one more barrel bomb”, thus showing the incoherence of current US “policy”.

155

Peter T 04.14.17 at 7:14 am

It should be obvious to all that religion is inherent to politics in most of the Middle East in the same way that race is in the US (or class in the UK). So “secular” politics is not going to fly, however much we wish it. Any discussion that ignores this obvious fact is off in cloud cuckoo land (as the Bush neo-cons were with regard to Iraq).

Which is not to say that religious affiliation is all-determining. It has to accommodate patronage ties, ethnicity and, of course, calculations of interest. And the non-Salafist groupings (eg the Shi’a in Iraq, the Kurds and the Damascus regime) are less focused on religion as a test than the Salafists, and so have been able to build much broader coalitions (around 10-20 per cent of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units – the anti-ISIS militias are Sunni).

Around half the Sunni population of Syria has stuck with Assad (along with pretty much all the Christians, Druze, Alawi and Shi’a). The rebel side is pretty much all Sunni, and had a strong Salafi component from day one. It could hardly have been otherwise – the Hama revolt brutally suppressed by Assad’s father started with a sectarian massacre of Alawi cadets and also had a strong Salafist component.

So there was probably no point where the US, or any outside force, could have imposed a “secular, moderate” solution, nor was there ever much chance that such a solution could emerge internally. Iraq is instructive – once the Sunni-dominated government was overthrown, the Shi’a were going to insist on the predominance their numbers and new-found political awareness gave them, and those Sunni who found this intolerable were going to resist. A third choice did not exist.

As for attacks on civilians, these have been part of war since forever. The laws of war are very elastic on the issue, and only vaguely applicable in wars where much of the fighting is done by irregulars. As an instance, the civilian population of a Christian town in Hama province recently took up arms en masse to resist a rebel assault (they succeeded). Under the laws of war they could have been shot out of hand. Regime helicopters drop barrel bombs; rebels lob barrels of explosives via rockets into government areas. Both sides try to starve the other out of besieged enclaves.

While there are strong arguments for preventing the use of biological or chemical weapons, the rest is pretty much standard war-fighting, as applied by every belligerent since war began (yes, including the US and every western armed force). If these things are not to happen, prevent wars. If war starts, try to keep it limited in extent and end it asap, as the worst peace is almost always better than any war. This last point seems to be lost on the US (and France and the UK), whose rhetorical indignation never takes account of the actual toll.

156

Cian 04.14.17 at 8:24 pm

I’m not accusing you of being a Russian apologist Cian, just saying that you seem to incredulously repeat RT talking points.

You know one of the disadvantages of not watching RT (or any TV news) is that I don’t know what these talking points are. Meanwhile in the real world the Turks and the Russians are now both calling for a UN investigation. Maybe we’ll finally see some reliable and conclusive evidence that the Syrians were responsible.

Btw if you like coburns work you can see his RT interviews on YouTube.

OMG, then he must be an agent of Putin! Is this just a random slur by association, or do you have anything more substantive to add?

You seem to be making an argument for the lesser evil here. Is that really a strategy you believe strongly ?

There are three options:
1) Endless war with neither side winning.
2) The Salafists win.
3) The government win (with various degrees of compromise with Kurds and non Salafists).

There are no other options. You can’t make a stable deal with the Salafists. If you refuse to pick, then you’re committed to [1] (this in essence is the US position). There are no options that do not involve war, which means civilians will die regardless (as we’ve seen in Iraq where the US is using identical tactics to the Russians, with similar levels of civilian carnage).

1) is the current situation. It is terrible. The longer it goes on, the worse the suffering.

2) means the Salafists win, which means large scale ethnic cleansing and a brutal Islamic state. It means foreign Islamists running the country. It might be better than endless war, but it could just as easily be worse. Or you could just see a new civil war between ISIS and Al-Quaeda.

3) means the government win, which means at least a partial return to the way things were before (the Kurds might get their autonomous state, which would be a good thing). Which was better than the way things are now. And some of the things that have been discussed in early peace talks would probably result in a less repressive country. Obviously these things may not come to pass, but I think the Russians (for entirely selfish reasons) are serious about pushing them. They want stability, and they don’t believe Assad is strong enough to achieve that independently, which means power sharing is an inevitability.

157

Cian 04.14.17 at 8:26 pm

The barrel bomb thing was stupid. A barrel bomb is simply an improvised ordinance.

Criticizing the bombing of civilians is one thing (though it would be nice if the media could distinguish between punishment raids, and attacks on opposition controlled urban areas) – but to focus on the type of ordinance is idiotic.

Well ok, cluster bombs are pretty evil. People should definitely criticize the US for those.

158

Raven 04.14.17 at 10:22 pm

Cian: Oh, and you can stop waiting for any statement from the UN now: (NYTimes) “Further punctuating the Syria dispute, Russia vetoed a Western-backed resolution at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemning the chemical weapons attack. It was the eighth time in the six-year-old Syria conflict that Russia, one of the five permanent Security Council members, had used its veto power to shield the Syrian government.”

159

Cian 04.15.17 at 2:02 am

Raven, there is currently a fact finding mission by the OPCW that is investigating the incident. If it determines chemical weapons were used (which still hasn’t happened), they will formally investigate.

This resolution was meaningless political theatre designed to either imply Syrian guilt (only the Syrians are deemed worthy of investigation), or to imply that the Russians are trying to hide something. I couldn’t find a copy of the resolution anywhere, but the NYT story would suggest that there were a couple of other poison pills buried in there as well. It was a PR exercise for the rubes, nothing more.

Meanwhile: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to support an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons into the chemical weapons attack in Syria last week, Turkish presidential sources say.

In a Thursday phone call, Erdogan stressed to his Russian counterpart that the use of chemical weapons was a crime against humanity, they said.

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/04/14/russia-turkey-back-syria-gas-attack-probe

160

Suzanne 04.15.17 at 3:24 am

@149: Thank you, Mario. I will look at it.

@156: The Russians violate international law as a matter of routine, targeting civilians and medical and rescue workers alike. Putin is indifferent to the lives of his own servicemen and has no compunction about lying about their deaths. The United States has also been guilty of many war crimes and dishonesties, but it hasn’t descended to that level just yet. (Of course, even as I write that I think of Trump making much of Sisi at the White House….)

161

Raven 04.15.17 at 4:33 am

Cian @ 159: “… there is currently a fact finding mission by the OPCW that is investigating the incident. If it determines chemical weapons were used (which still hasn’t happened)…” — but according to the OPCW press release “their preliminary assessment [is] that this was a credible allegation.”

162

Raven 04.15.17 at 4:51 am

Cian @ 159: “only the Syrians are deemed worthy of investigation” — But wait: the UN investigates many matters; and in #122 you yourself demanded the UN investigate this attack on civilians in Idlib Province, Syria.

163

nastywoman 04.15.17 at 7:24 am

– and you can have a ‘Russian’ perspective of the whole clusterf… – but as the typical – actually very stereotypical Russian perspective is so widely known – and get’s recycled day in and day out by always the same arguments – the same words and expressions – it actually has become really boring propaganda – and is so easy to identify – that even f… facebook has caught on to it – so I suggest – if one has the desire to recycle some stale stereotypical ‘Russian Propaganda’ – try to mix it with some creative new expressions or ‘greater’ Trumplike words – like ‘beautiful’ – or even try some new -(the latest Beitbart-Approach) that all of it is conspiracy by Americas Blonds to bomb ‘Bigly’ out of the White House…

164

Cian 04.15.17 at 1:33 pm

Raven, oh Raven:
“Their preliminary assessment is that this is a credible allegation”

1) This does not mean that the allegation is true, merely that it is plausible and worth investigating.
2) This says nothing about who is responsible.

Note that throughout this my position has been that until an independent investigation has concluded, it is premature to make any assumptions about both what happened, and who is responsible. If the investigation concludes that it was an attack by Syrian planes, then I am happy to condemn Syria for this. If the investigation concludes that the rebels were responsible, will you do the same?

“But wait: the UN investigates many matters; and in #122 you yourself demanded the UN investigate this attack on civilians in Idlib Province, Syria.”

The OPCW did not request any of these things. The US and the west demanded these things because they’re trying to put pressure on Russia and Syria for political reasons. The OPCW has yet to suggest that Syria had anything to do with the attack, while the resolution’s demands assumed it. As I said, this is simply diplomatic posturing that has nothing to do with the investigation. UN politics is filled with this crap.

165

Cian 04.15.17 at 1:48 pm

@156: The Russians violate international law as a matter of routine, targeting civilians and medical and rescue workers alike. Putin is indifferent to the lives of his own servicemen and has no compunction about lying about their deaths. The United States has also been guilty of many war crimes and dishonesties, but it hasn’t descended to that level just yet. (Of course, even as I write that I think of Trump making much of Sisi at the White House….)

The US bombed a hospital in Afghanistan last year and lied about it. While not on the same scale, the US military has lied about the deaths of their troops on many occasions (Pat Tilman anyone?). Part of the reason that the US relies so heavily on special forces is that their deaths can be denied if politically convenient.

How is that different? The US is using exactly the same tactics in Iraq against ISIS that Russia is using in Syria. You can’t fight a war like this in an urban environment without killing civilians. People seem to have accepted this for the US wars in Iraq, I fail to see why Syria is any different. Currently the US is supporting the Saudi’s utterly vicious, completely unnecessary and veering on genocidal Saudi war in Yemen. Where’s the condemnation of the TOTALLY deliberate targetting of civilians in Yemen by Saudi Arabia, the targetting of food production and the illegal blockade of imports (preventing essential medicines and food getting in). Where’s the condemnation by Rachel Maddow of the deliberate starvation of children in Yemen.

Yes Russia is supporting Assad. The US supports the awful Saudi and Egyptian regimes. Again, what is the distinction?

And of course if you want to go back further in time – US war crimes in Korea and Vietnam dwarve anything the Russians have ever done, including the utterly wretched wars in Chechneya. And of course the US would never, ever, meddle in the affairs of neighbouring countries in the Gulf, or S. America.

Condemn Russia all you want (though it would be nice if people bothered to understand it). It’s a corrupt gangster state. But don’t pretend that the US is better when it comes to the international stage.

166

Guano 04.15.17 at 3:51 pm

We need a new version of Godwin’s Law, that will estimate how likely it is that an internet discussion will be thrown off course by accusations that somebody is repeating Russian talking points.

167

Guano 04.15.17 at 4:00 pm

#156 – There is another possibility, which is that there is an international push for a cease-fire and serious international engagement in peace talks, which leads to serious international engagement in reducing the tensions across the Middle East.

This would be very difficult, and would take a long time, but is the only way of getting to what everyone claims to want – peace and more accountable governments.

168

Raven 04.15.17 at 4:41 pm

Cian @ 164: “The OPCW did not request any of these things.” [the same “UN investigation” you yourself were demanding] — Click that OPCW press release link or even hover over it, the OPCW didn’t convene its Executive Council meeting to discuss the allegations of chemical weapon use until 13 April 2017, just 2 days ago now as I post. So are you now condemning the OPCW for not sharing your own sense of urgency? Or everyone else including yourself for not being so laid-back about the matter? (‘Hey, no need for the UN or anyone else to investigate the matter; WE’ll get around to it… sooner or later!’)

“UN politics is filled with this crap.” — Crikey, yet in #46 you said “any bombing should only occur under UN auspices”, and in #122 you pushed the UN as the agent of “independent investigation”, despite my having already accurately predicted (in #51) a Russian veto of any UN action against Syria. Now you flip-flop.

169

Raven 04.15.17 at 6:43 pm

Guano @ 166: “… accusations that somebody is repeating Russian talking points.” — Not exactly. An example of an ‘accusation’ would be that somebody was a Russian or alt-right troll. When it is in fact known that Russia has been spreading talking points like #Syriahoax, identifying the repetition of those points here is merely an observation, not a personal accusation.

The repeaters might after all have innocently received their texts through emails from friends or relatives. Though is it quite so likely that they innocently continued to repeat the same material over and over despite having its Russian provenance pointed out to them?

170

Cian 04.16.17 at 1:49 am

Yes Raven everyone who disagrees with you is a dupe of the Russians and is probably not very bright. Tell me, am I allowed to discuss the car bombs that killed so many in the Shiite convey in Syria with my friends? Or would that be spreading Russian propaganda also? Is Patrick Coburn still a Russian troll, or is he now one of the ‘good guys’ after criticizing Russia. It’s so confusing. Thank god you’re here to provide the sanitized news.

Incidentally the OPCW and the Security Council are different bodies. If you’re going to be quite so patronizing you should try to get some basic facts right.

171

Raven 04.16.17 at 4:31 am

Cian @ 170: “everyone who disagrees with you is a dupe of the Russians” — Wow, what a handwave. I did not refer to ‘every’ or ‘any’ ‘disagreement’, but to “When it is in fact known that Russia has been spreading talking points like #Syriahoax” — that link going to ABC News, ‘Analysts identify #SyriaHoax as Russian-fueled propaganda’, 13 April 2017.

“Incidentally the OPCW and the Security Council are different bodies. If you’re going to be quite so patronizing you should try to get some basic facts right.” — Perhaps you should re-read your own #164 that set the context:

[quoting Raven:] “But wait: the UN investigates many matters; and in #122 you yourself demanded the UN investigate this attack on civilians in Idlib Province, Syria.”
[Cian’s reply:] The OPCW did not request any of these things.

My #168 certainly recognizes that the two are different bodies, as it made the point that the OPCW Executive Council didn’t even meet to discuss the chemical gas attack until the day after Russia vetoed the UN’s condemnation of that attack. Oh, wait — you mean when you were posting #164, you did NOT recognize the difference?

172

nastywoman 04.16.17 at 7:32 am

@166
‘We need a new version of Godwin’s Law, that will estimate how likely it is that an internet discussion will be thrown off course by accusations that somebody is repeating Russian talking points.’

That wouldn’t get far enough.
We need a new version of Godwin’s Law – that everybody who brings up the truly ‘Fake News’ and the unbearable Nonsense Russian Intertubes Warriors like to post on the Internet will be laughed at – just the same way we laugh at idiots who bring up ‘Hitler’.

173

Guano 04.16.17 at 8:25 am

#169

… and I’m pointing out, as politely as possible, that the provenance of my information, and comments, is a selection of very reputable academics who I have heard at meetings of very reputable institutions and who have had books published by very reputable publishers.

If there is some similarity with what Russians are saying, it may be because there is sometimes a grain of truth in Russian propaganda.

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nastywoman 04.16.17 at 8:47 am

‘If there is some similarity with what Russians are saying, it may be because there is sometimes a grain of truth in Russian propaganda.’

That might be the tragedy of our times – that there often is some ‘grain’ of truth in ‘Idiotic Propaganda’ – as it made it so difficult for a lot of Americans – to see that the grain of truth in the sick Propaganda of Crazy von Clownstick – was just ‘a grain’ – like the ‘grain’ that he might be ‘THE MAN’ – and NOT some kind of demented Man-Baby.

175

Raven 04.16.17 at 11:45 am

Guano @ 173: “Very reputable academics” have been fellow-travelers ere now, even for the old fascist and communist regimes; Julien Benda wrote about it. RT and Sputnik are using an MIT professor as one of their “very reputable” #Syriahoax voices.

Just “a grain of truth”? Need I explain to you the perils of swallowing such admixtures as just a grain of this amid a dollop of that? The grain’s the bait, the dollop’s the poison… or contains the hook.

176

steven t johnson 04.16.17 at 12:15 pm

RT is a white propaganda outlet with little or nothing to do with concrete Russian foreign policy goals, methods and personnel. Defending US policy means making a case for US policy, not critiquing the origin of criticisms of US policy. The case for US policy relies completely on propositions such as “Urban warfare in Aleppo is an atrocity while urban warfare in Mosul is a glorious liberation, ‘ or “The US government has the legal and moral authority to determine the legitimacy of any foreign government and it is treasonous to deny this.” It is reasonable to independently arrive at some of the same conclusions as RT. Agreeing with the US government is merely obedience.

177

Hidari 04.16.17 at 2:56 pm

I just wish our erstwhile interventionists would have the balls to come out with what they mean, and say , loud and proud, ‘Even though 1 week ago I was seriously arguing that there is literally no difference between Donald Trump and Hitler, now that he has started killing Arabs like Obama did, I suddenly realise that he actually has the potential to be a great President, and I now wish to state that I am fully in agreement with the general lineaments of his Syria policy, although I reserve the right to quibble about trivialities in order to convince myself (and gullible others) that I am an independent critical thinker’.

Please, really, have the courage to openly state that. As a position it has incomparably more dignity than hiding your real views behind racist anti-Slavic conspiracy theories and CIA psyops.

178

nastywoman 04.16.17 at 3:44 pm

‘Agreeing with the US government is merely obedience.’

Really?

And who did that? –
and I understand that these times are so absurd – that if one points to the absurdity of idiotic Russian Propaganda – without at the same time even mentioning some ‘US policy’ –
it might be considered ‘agreeing with the US government’?

And how did that happen?

The same way idiots on the Internet thought – if you don’t vote for a ‘Clownstick’ you are ‘defending’ Hillary?

179

Jerry Vinokurov 04.16.17 at 5:17 pm

Guano @ 173: “Very reputable academics” have been fellow-travelers ere now, even for the old fascist and communist regimes; Julien Benda wrote about it. RT and Sputnik are using an MIT professor as one of their “very reputable” #Syriahoax voices.

At some point, there has to be some determination based in fact regarding what did and did not happen. You can’t just dismiss an argument because it’s advantageous for some other adversarial third party to agree with that argument. I don’t know if I’ve read every single link in this thread, but I’ve read a fair number of them, and it’s hard for me to say, based on the information presented, that the case for “Assad is using chemical weapons” is ironclad. He might or might not be, and the way to establish that is with an open inquiry, with data available for public scrutiny.

180

nastywoman 04.16.17 at 7:40 pm

@177
‘I just wish our erstwhile interventionists would have the balls to come out with what they mean, and say , loud and proud’

See that might be the problem?
As for example I am one of these very much peace loving NON-interventionist – and I hate the misleading word as I always intervene for peace the way I have learned it since my youth in ‘Peace-Loving Europe – but what I also have learned in the ‘Peace-Loving’ Parts of Europe – that what you might call ‘racist anti-Slavic conspiracy theories’ some Europeans might call: ‘a very unpleasant experience with pretty racist anti-peaceful… attitudes.

And I didn’t mention the word ‘Slavic’ as I believe – that these very ‘anti-peaceful attitudes’ have less to do with a… nasty Dude like Putin being ‘Slavic’ – but – much more with his ‘profession’ being a ‘KGB agent’.
And as you (kind of) hinted yourself WE just can’t trust some ‘psyops’ –

Right?

Even if they are our besty,besty friends from Russia?
Which could bring us to @179 and the believe that the case for “Assad is using chemical weapons” is ironclad.
Isn’t that just another way to say: ‘I don’t believe that Trump ever did what he said he did’?

181

steven t johnson 04.16.17 at 8:16 pm

nastywoman @178 I skip most of your posts because I do not understand them. (It was my words that attracted my attention to your comment.) But since you wish to stand with Raven and Guano and such, very well. Yes, claiming that the Russian government conspired to conceal Syria’s chemical weapons after Obama threatened general war in the theater, only to openly use them when they are winning the war and there was no great tactical advantage but enormous political disadvantage and that this is so manifestly obvious, is to advocate an ludicrous Russian Conspiracy. Pretending this Russian Conspiracy is sensible while another Russian Conspiracy isn’t, is shameless nonsense that only diverts from the government. To coin a word, stoogery. Petty and unpaid, but stoogery nonetheless.

182

nastywoman 04.16.17 at 8:23 pm

– and as we all ultimately might have to face the brutal irony that the intervention of our ‘non-interventionist’ helped to erect the utmost ‘erstwhile interventionist’ – please no more confusing some even worst (Russian) ‘interventionists’ with peace-loving ‘non-interventionists’ like us!

183

Pavel 04.16.17 at 8:39 pm

@Everyone
This thread has a serious problem with degenerating into Whataboutism and Tu Quoque fallacies. The more you accuse others of being a shill, the more you undermine the ability of anyone to have a valid opinion to be criticized. This is actually a powerful strategy for shutting down meaningful conversation on the internet. To support this, I’d like to point you to this article about how the usage of the concept of a “shill” has undermined relevant anti-Putin conversation in Russia: https://nobsrussia.com/2016/12/14/so-you-live-in-a-dictatorship-part-i-you-have-no-beliefs/. A similar concept is currently being perpetrated by the Alt-Right (if everyone is a shill, no one has a monopoly on truth, and in that case appeal to lowest-common-denominator tactics win).

What does this mean to the tone of this and future conversations about Russian and US foreign policy? As @steven t johnson and @Jerry Vinokurov have implied, make a positive case for your position and support it with real evidence (or the best circumstantial evidence that you have). Implying that someone else is parroting certain talking points to undermine the substance of their argument is a Guilt By Association fallacy and engenders fundamental mistrust and chaos. Given the number of different antagonistic groups and positions available, almost anything anyone says is likely to be in line with a certain set of talking points and any such tactics degrade the ability to have a conversation.

@John Holbo
Please, please institute a warning/probation/ban system on accusations such as “shill” or “parroting RT/CIA/Putin/Trump talking points”. Even if the interlocutors in question are in fact shills or parroting talking points, the damage of the accusation (given how easy it is to deploy and how difficult it is to prove/disprove) is greater on the ability to establish meaningful conversation than the damage sustained by curtailment of speech. This kind of thing has very real consequences to the health of online communities and their ability to pick apart and study the veracity of the arguments at hand. If you need moderators, then I’m sure some of us (myself included) would be happy to volunteer to maintain a certain level of argument in good faith.

184

nastywoman 04.16.17 at 10:10 pm

– and @181
I understand that you don’t understand my posts – if you think that I ‘wish to stand with Raven and Guano’ – by pointing to the fact that Russian KGB agents always will ‘conspire’.

They believe – it’s their ‘Job’ – as a lot of my fellow Americans now seem to believe – that there are only these two possibilities in life – If you’re against something I write – you must be for ‘Raven and Guano’?

What a tragic misunderstanding?
It’s so funny I could cry!

185

J-D 04.16.17 at 10:25 pm

At some point, there has to be some determination based in fact regarding what did and did not happen.

http://www.resort.com/~prime8/Orwell/02_04_44.html

186

Raven 04.16.17 at 10:25 pm

steven t johnson @ 176: “RT is a white propaganda outlet…” — That’s an interesting race-based point of view. Well, it’s true that most Russians are white (Caucasian — the Caucasus Mountains are in that region), though there’s an admixture of Mongolian and other populations as well.

“… with little or nothing to do with concrete Russian foreign policy goals, methods and personnel.” — You might want to take that up with Vladimir Putin, who is quoted in the Wiki-article RT (TV network) as saying: “Certainly the channel is funded by the government, so it cannot help but reflect the Russian government’s official position on the events in our country and in the rest of the world one way or another.”

“It is reasonable to independently arrive at some of the same conclusions as RT. Agreeing with the US government is merely obedience.”

Why the double standard? In fact, there seems to be an outright inversion among some commenters, whereby even independent US news media like ABC are discounted, but over and over and over consistently, not sometimes but every single time, the credibility of what comes out of Russia is defended… which seems not independent but very obedient.

On the flip side, “the US government” is not exactly unified these days. For all Cian’s denunciations of US intelligence agencies as liars, the DHS leaked studies discrediting Trump lies that had supported his Muslim ban, and the FBI and CIA apparently have not stopped their pre-Inauguration investigative activities. One can certainly agree with these, for instance, and not agree with Trump deceptions, pretty much by definition. (This might be why Trump is depopulating some departments.)

187

Suzanne 04.16.17 at 11:33 pm

@165: The Pentagon did indeed change its story about the bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz. President Obama was appalled and promptly ordered an investigation. The President apologized, investigations were undertaken, and reparations are being made.

Was that sufficient? No. Were the measures taken by the Pentagon adequate? No. Did the bombing meet the definition of a war crime? Very possibly. Is it the equivalent of Russian (and Syrian government forces) routinely targeting field hospitals and first responders? Not in my view.

188

faustusnotes 04.17.17 at 2:17 am

Cian, I don’t think you can say anything about the bombing of the convoy in Syria because it is being reported to the western press by the Syria Conservatory for Human Rights, who you think can’t be trusted and are in any case just some dude in Coventry. Surely that bombing is just fake news?

Regarding Cockburn, a few questions:

If an apparently leftist politician gives presentations at a banker’s seminar does it mean she’s a neoliberal sellout? If an apparently serious unbiased journalist gives presentations to a Russian propaganda outlet, does it mean he’s not really unbiased? And if you have different standards for boys and girls, are you sexist?

Because it seems to me that your standards for judging Clinton (no lesser evilism, judge her political positions by where she speaks) don’t apply here (lesser evilism is the best option, you shouldn’t judge a journalist by where he speaks).

Hidari, I’m happy to say it: I think this intervention is insane bullshit and shouldn’t happen, and I’m terrified that Trump will decide to do the same thing in Korea, which will get my friends in Seoul killed and start a war. It seems to me that the rebels can’t win and the quickest way to end the war is to organize a settlement where Assad stays in power despite his crimes and we all hang our heads in shame. But that doesn’t mean I think that the rebels used chemical weapons and on this one special occasion Assad was a saint, or that every single anti-interventionist criticism is automatically valid.

And I’m very concerned about the extent to which American leftist discourse has been corrupted by RT and the pro-Putin left. Jesus we even have people around here saying they wouldn’t vote if it was Fillion vs. Le Pen. Because what Europe really needs right now is an insane proto-fascist in charge of France.

189

nastywoman 04.17.17 at 7:55 am

@183
@Everyone
”This thread has a serious problem with degenerating into Whataboutism…”

Completly agreed –

‘Whataboutism is a term describing a propaganda technique used by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world during the Cold War. When criticisms were levelled at the Soviet Union, the response would be “What about…” followed by the naming of an event in the Western world.[1][2] It represents a case of tu quoque (appeal to hypocrisy),[3] a logical fallacy that attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, without directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument.”

And I absolutely agree with @steven t johnson and @Jerry Vinokurov – when they make a positive case for a position and support it with real evidence (or the best circumstantial evidence that you have).

BUT what IF – in a thread commenters make ‘a positive case for a position and support it with real evidence (or the best circumstantial evidence that you have)’ – and then – only then ‘Whataboutism” shows up? –
And then some commenters point to this ”Whataboutism’ – and to the fact that such ”Whataboutism’ – it is widely known ‘Russian Propaganda’.
And there were NO words about ‘shills’ or accusing other commenters to be ‘shills’ – there was just pointing to the fact – that some words and expressions which were used -(‘by accident?) were often recycled words or ‘Russian Propaganda’ – or… ‘Whataboutism’.

So the reminder about ‘Whataboutism’ is very helpful.

Thank you @183

190

nastywoman 04.17.17 at 8:35 am

‘So the reminder about ‘Whataboutism’ is very helpful.’

Which could remind US all at ABOUT the absolute ‘Masters’ of… let’s call it ‘Reverse Whataboutism’ Kellyanne Conway – and in a far smaller dimension – Glenn Greenwald – even if Greenwald nearly always comes up with ‘Whataboutism’ – before commenters even have a chance to completely exhaust their ‘positive case for a position and support it with real evidence (or the best circumstantial evidence that they have) – which kind of distracts from the far more ‘sophisticated technique’ of a Conway – to use Russian Propaganda techniques -after the facts in order to prove how successful they can be – with the only drawback that she might not be invited by CNN or Morning Joe anymore?

But I don’t think that should concern US?
-(from an ‘anthropological point of view’…)

191

Z 04.17.17 at 8:39 am

… and the pro-Putin left. Jesus we even have people around here saying they wouldn’t vote if it was Fillion vs. Le Pen.

And proudly so! Before hearing your convincing arguments why I should vote for a candidate you don’t even know how to spell the name, let me check: you do realize that Fillon is Putin’s closest ally among the candidates, right?

192

Peter T 04.17.17 at 9:09 am

JD @185

In this instance, Orwell was wrong. We do in fact have a good count of German losses in the Battle of Britain, the number of Soviet advisors in Spain and so on. Not because, in every case, the right side won, but because any complex organisation cannot afford to lie to itself if it is to function – James Scott’s legibility is internal first. So the Luftwaffe submitted loss and damage returns, the Soviets counted costs, the NKVD numbered prisoners…

In the present case, it is unlikely to take 60 years to find the truth, but it surely will take more than two weeks.

193

Raven 04.17.17 at 11:02 am

Pavel @ 183: “This thread has a serious problem with degenerating into Whataboutism and Tu Quoque fallacies.” — Even Donald Trump, as President, did that defending Putin vs. the US:

O’Reilly: “But [Putin]’s a killer.”Trump: “There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?”

Boris Nemtsov and Denis Voronenkov, among other Putin critics, might have explained the difference to Trump… if they’d still been alive.

I do think it is worth noting who engages in these fallacies, and who does not. It is not generally a case of “both sides are equally at fault.”

(Although Faustusnotes @ 188 par#1 is also saying in effect “you too”, it is the satirical rebuttal, reductio ad absurdum.)

“The more you accuse others of being a shill….” — Once again (as in #169) I point out the difference between accusing a person of being a shill, and observing the fact that known Russian-sourced propaganda (e.g. #Syriahoax) is being repeated here. And I note that Suzanne’s #119 and Faustusnotes’s #150 also deny personal accusations.

As for instituting a ban on warnings about incursions of propaganda/”fake-news” talking points, my goodness, won’t that leave us prey for every single scam to come down the pike? Fakers purely love to put out fakery of every possible type (not just pro-Putin and pro-Assad); a bunch of media just got taken on an item about a married couple wanting IVF who upon genetic testing proved to be fraternal twins (they’d both been adopted, so they didn’t know)… utterly false, made up, from a spurious website for a nonexistent newspaper. By such a rule as yours, if the original item was cited, no-one here could even say that it was fake. … Or would it be only fake news in favor of “RT/CIA/Putin/Trump” that would have this special protection? Right now, that’s how you’ve phrased it.

So there would be freedom to repeat lies, but not freedom to call out those lies and tell the truth about them….

194

steven t johnson 04.17.17 at 12:38 pm

“steven t johnson @ 176: ‘RT is a white propaganda outlet…’ — That’s an interesting race-based point of view. Well, it’s true that most Russians are white (Caucasian — the Caucasus Mountains are in that region), though there’s an admixture of Mongolian and other populations as well.”

White propaganda, as opposed to black propaganda, aims to persuade by using genuine facts and objective arguments, instead of conscious lies and inflammatory appeals. Naturally white propaganda is meant to serve the ends of the white propagandist. And, as in all controversies, the corruption of selective facts and fallacious logic cannot be wished away, even if we would.

In regard to humanitarian intervention in Syria, no supporter of intervention has acknowledged the entire war within days of the first mass demonstrations has been a covert military intervention aimed at regime change; no supporter of intervention has justified supporting the overthrow of a secular national state by a religious sectarian state who already practice lethal repression of enemy religionists/secularists; no supporter of intervention has really sketched out exactly how bombing people and paying and arming religious fanatics like AQ and IS can achieve its professed goal any better than in Libya. They’ve had years now to support these propositions and they haven’t.

Pretending the interventionists have a case is like pretending creationists are one side of a controversy. The notion ‘we” have to take a neutral stance in the controversy between evolutionists and creationists because the evolutionists have the official propaganda is back-handed support for creationists. The real assumption is that US media are just the news while RT is the propaganda. I think this would be crazy were it not so apt to a pro-US government agenda.

195

Pavel 04.17.17 at 4:59 pm

@Raven

“That’s an interesting race-based point of view.”

Nothing to do with race:
-Wikipedia

I agree with the rest of your points though.

@nastywoman/@Everyone

Regarding any questions of inadvertent/intended parallels to known sources of propaganda, I would make the argument that any accusation of “parroting RT talking points” and “CIA psyops” is inherently counter-productive to any reasonable form of debate. I figured that on this forum, with it’s fairly high adherence to academic standards (most of you are supposed to be academics, right?), being cautious of or even self-critical about the nature of the sources in question would be the base state. It’s possible to imply that someone’s opinions seem to parallel those of a known propaganda outlet (literally any state agent, media or proxy these days), but I wouldn’t read anything serious into those parallels. So long as people attempt to provide citations for their opinions and acknowledge the basic unreliability of many of these sources, it’s possible to have a functional conversation. Actively avoiding whataboutism and guilt by association fallacies is fundamental to maintaining some form of honesty. Transparency and self-criticism of sources is the only way to tamp down the paranoia.

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Pavel 04.17.17 at 5:00 pm

@Raven

My quote failed. Here it is again:
White propaganda is propaganda which truthfully states its origin.[1][2] It is the most common type of propaganda. It generally comes from an openly identified source, and is characterized by gentler methods of persuasion than black propaganda (which purports to come from the opposite side to that which actually produced it) and grey propaganda (which has no identifiable source or author).

197

nastywoman 04.17.17 at 5:48 pm

She advocates forging a privileged partnership with Russia. She has said that a French-Russian partnership is necessitated by “obvious civilization and geostrategic factors” as well as France’s “energy security interests”. In her view, “France’s interests are in Europe, but in Great Europe, especially including its partnership with Russia”.[280] Interviewed by Kommersant, she said “the process of demonization of Russia is taking place at the level of the EU leadership and at the wishes of the US, which is trying to create a unipolar world.” Interviewed about democracy in Russia and Vladimir Putin, she replied: “We also do not have an ideal democracy in France and, therefore, do not have the right to give Russia lessons in democracy. But I openly admit that, to some extent, I admire Vladimir Putin. He makes mistakes, but who doesn’t? The situation in Russia is complicated, and one cannot expect all the problems stemming from the collapse of the Soviet Union to be quickly resolved – they require time. I think that Vladimir Putin has principles and a vision of the future that is necessary to ensure Russia’s prosperity, which it deserves.[74][281]

The National Front considers that Ukraine has been subjugated by the United States, through the Ukrainian Crisis. The National Front denounces anti-Russian sentiment in Eastern Europe and the submission of Western Europe to NATO’s interests in the region.[341] Marine Le Pen is very critical against the threats of sanctions directed by the international community against Russia: “European countries should seek a solution through diplomacy rather than making threats that could lead to an escalation.” She argues that the United States are leading a new Cold War against Russia. She sees no other solution for peace in Ukraine than to organize a kind of federation that would allow each region to have a large degree of autonomy.[342] She thinks Ukraine should be sovereign and free as any other nations.[268] According to Russian media, Le Pen has promised to recognize the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea (from Ukraine) in case she is elected President of France.[343] On 3 January 2017 she told BFM TV “I do not believe that there was an illegal annexation: there was a referendum, the citizens of Crimea wanted to join Russia.”[344]

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Cian 04.17.17 at 6:07 pm

FaustusNotes: Reporting of the convoy bombing from a range of sources. But as always, your pointless snark is appreciated.

I’ve been following Patrick Cockburn’s work for 20+ years. On Iraq there is no western journalist that has his breadth of understanding, or range of contacts. He wrote two first rate books on Iraq that put all other writing on the country to shame (and whose predictions came to pass). His recent book on the Islamic state has received wide praise from other journalists, as well as from experts on the region. He has received praise from everyone from Sidney Blumenthal (!), to receiving an award from Foreign Affairs. In Syria he’s criticised every side at some point, including the Kurds. He’s certainly not been covering up the effects of Russian bombing.

Have you watched the RT interviews? Did he demonstrate bias? Did he toe the RT line (whatever that might be)? Was he paid? Do you have any evidence whatseover? Were his interviews different to the ones that he’s given to British, Irish, Australian and Middle Eastern networks?

Or is this just your latest attempt to extricate yourself from a failed argument by making baseless McCarthyite accusations against people you disagree with? D

If an apparently leftist politician gives presentations at a banker’s seminar does it mean she’s a neoliberal sellout? If an apparently serious unbiased journalist gives presentations to a Russian propaganda outlet, does it mean he’s not really unbiased?

Assuming you mean the failed centrist politician Hillary Clinton, she was paid $225,000 a speech. I think it’s reasonable to assume this means that she’s pretty favorable to Wall Street interests. They’re not in the habit of giving money to radicals. And dude, trying to turn this into a sexist thing is weak even by your standards. Up your game.

If I lived in a swing state I would have voted for Hillary Clinton. So if that’s the limit of the lesser evil argument, sure. When the choices are terrible, I choose the least terrible option and curse the people that limited us to those choices. HRC was a bad candidate who lost. The Democrats lost. A Democrat party that puts up center right, upper middle class candidates, is a party that loses elections.

So currently the choices are between the Republicans winning, or the Democrats choosing a different strategy. I dunno, maybe the white haired guy with zero charisma who draws massive crowds because of his policies is onto something. Maybe the people who should be asked the lesser evil question are those on the right of the Democrat party. Just a thought.

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Raven 04.17.17 at 7:17 pm

I note that steven t johnson @ 194 and Pavel @ 196 both “correct” me by offering two different definitions of “white propaganda” — (1) that it uses “genuine facts and objective arguments” [nothing said about its origin]; (2) that it “truthfully states its origin” [nothing said about its facts or arguments]. Apparently the term hasn’t been standardized yet, but “truthfulness” of some sort is implied either way.

As applied to the claim “RT is a white propaganda outlet…”: broadcast screens and webpages are clearly marked with the RT logo and other indicia, so definition (2) “truthfully states its origin” is met.

Regarding (1) “genuine facts and objective arguments” — you are aware, aren’t you, that RT anchors Sara Firth and Liz Wahl both quit RT stating otherwise?

If March 2017’s “How Russia Weaponizes Fake News” from StopFake.org is insufficiently neutral for you, try Wikipedia’s RT (TV network), as neutrality is one of their editing criteria.

200

nastywoman 04.17.17 at 9:53 pm

@195
‘It’s possible to imply that someone’s opinions seem to parallel those of a known propaganda outlet (literally any state agent, media or proxy these days), but I wouldn’t read anything serious into those parallels.’

That’s why I posted @197 LePens ‘admiration’ for Vladimir Putin – as I never read anything ‘serious’ into ‘those parallels’ to the admiration of our ‘Clownstick’ for Vladimir Putin.

And when I read that LePen thinks ‘that Vladimir Putin has principles and a vision of the future that is necessary to ensure Russia’s prosperity, which it deserves’ – I realized that any ‘parallels might be – not only not ‘serious’ but completely random – like the ‘moves’ one of my favorite Choreographers Wayne McGregor creates for his company Random Dance – and I thought – here we have an excellent example of NO Parallels at all.

And when LePen wrote about Putin – that ‘He makes mistakes, but who doesn’t?’ I really had to… ‘smile’ – as I make lots and lots of mistakes too.

201

Mario 04.17.17 at 10:13 pm

I can live with the idea that RT publishes lies, but then, so does the new york times now and then. And CNN, etc. In the end, any media source provides incomplete and noisy information, and that is just the way it is. That’s why you read more than one if you want to have an idea of what is going on. RT at least reports about Yemen and the war against the Kurds inside of Turkey, and at least some of it isn’t all lies. What do you want? Purity and Perfection? Relax, it’s just media.

I can live with the idea that Russia is a corrupt and crazy state but – which state isn’t that? Certainly not the US of A, with Trump in the WH, its Kochs, its bailed out banks and “Home Snatchers” (c.f. Matt Taibbi on foreclosure courts), police impunity, etc. I mean, what’s the problem everybody has with Russia? Is that antipathy anything else than Russophobia?

I can live with the idea that Mr. Assad isn’t Mother Theresa. But did the areas where he lost his iron grip burst out into spontaneous Betty Dodson workshops and Christopher Street Days? Or did something entirely different happen?

202

Pavel 04.17.17 at 11:02 pm

@Raven
@steven t johnson

It’s a murky term overall, but the general gist is that white propaganda tends to use more mainstream and transparent sources and identities (i.e. a newspaper or any other public source routinely twisting the truth in service of a certain set of biases), while black propaganda is actively pretending to be a different entity altogether (fabricating fake surrender broadcasts in a time of war is a classic example). The term almost exclusively refers to representation. It is generally assumed that all forms of propaganda will lie and obfuscate as required, although white propaganda may have to try to retain some form of public credibility by not being blatantly counter-factual.

I would say that the axis of “content truthfulness” is covered by the terms cherry-picking, bias, spin and fabrication. In this context RT is white propaganda is the sense that it is very clearly obvious whose views it represents. However, its level of outright cherry-picking, spin and fabrication hardly fits it into the category of “aims to persuade by using genuine facts and objective arguments, instead of conscious lies and inflammatory appeals”. I mean, it will certainly use genuine facts when they fit the narrative, but they’ve gone much, much farther in the past.

Rule of thumb: treat any organs of the state as fundamentally unreliable sources. I guess I shouldn’t really have to say this, but there it is. If you don’t trust the CIA or the FBI, there is nothing to indicate that any other state actor (particularly an authoritarian one) or their proxies are any more trustworthy.

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Raven 04.18.17 at 12:26 am

Cian @ 198: “HRC was a bad candidate who lost. … I dunno, maybe the white haired guy with zero charisma who draws massive crowds because of his policies is onto something.” — Yet HRC is the candidate who got 60% of the delegates in the primary, and led Trump in the general election’s popular vote by a 2.1% margin, so if “draw” is your criterion….

Oh, but the candidate who won the popular vote also had her voters heavily targeted by the opposition for voter suppression around the country, enough to lose critical Electoral College votes, and her reputation repeatedly targeted for baseless smears by both her primary and general opponents as well as Putin and the well-funded (alt-)right… but then Al Gore and John Kerry had also been heavily targeted for smears, so no doubt any Democratic candidate in the general election would have been (and will be) subjected to the same sort of attack. In short, that’s not due to being a “bad candidate” but due to the sort of campaigns the other side runs now.

204

faustusnotes 04.18.17 at 1:05 am

steven t johnson, as far as I can tell there are no supporters of intervention on here. Just a bunch of people laughing at the fact that the pro-Putin left’s preferred fascist candidate, who was supposed to be “less militarist” than Killery, has launched a pointless intervention they promised he wouldn’t and stands on the brink of war with a lunatic nation. Also, a bunch of us don’t believe that Assad is the sweetheart that RT says he is, and are amused that so many leftists who happened to think Trump and Hillary were the same also happen to believe everything they read about Clinton.

Call it schadenfreude, if you will. It’s the only entertainment we can get from watching Cheeto Jesus be everything we said he would, while his supposedly left wing apologists scramble for evidence that nothing is what it seems and Killery would have been the real evil.

205

nastywoman 04.18.17 at 11:15 am

‘I can live with the idea that RT publishes lies, but then, so does the new york times now and then.’

Yeah – but even the NYT hasn’t invented ‘Whataboutism’ – that honor entirely goes to our Russian friends.

206

nastywoman 04.18.17 at 11:25 am

@204
‘Just a bunch of people laughing at the fact that the pro-Putin left’s preferred fascist candidate, who was supposed to be “less militarist” than Killery, has launched a pointless intervention they promised he wouldn’t and stands on the brink of war with a lunatic nation’

If I may correct to:

‘Just a bunch of people laughing at the fact that the ‘other people’ who thought they have to be pro-Putin because their preferred idiotic candidate was supposedly ‘pro-Putin’ and that got them so confused – that they thought their idiotic candidate was supposed to be “less militarist” than some woman they reall didn’t like – has launched a pointless intervention they promised he wouldn’t and stands on the brink of war with a lunatic nation’

207

Cranky Observer 04.18.17 at 12:02 pm

Clan,
While your general line of argument is thoughtful and appreciated, it is made a bit less strong by your use of the Helms/Limbaugh/Rove attack tactic of misnaming the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party”. The charter and the incorporation documents of that membership organization, available online, clearly list its proper name. Deliberately using a different name than that chosen by a person, membership organization, etc is generally considered insulting.

208

nastywoman 04.18.17 at 12:04 pm

– and why there are still so many ‘beliebers’ – even here on Crooked Timber – that we are number one in ‘Propaganda’?

We can’t be Number One and ‘GREAT’ on everything?

So shouldn’t we finally give our Russian Friends the honor they deserve:
‘The worlds Greatest Whatabuotists’ – and not even a truly ‘GREAT’ Orange Orang Utan -(or the CIA or teh FBI) can come close to such GREATNESS!

And think ‘OO7’ guys – as probably only James Bond could come come close to such… ‘greatness’ – that’s why – for example Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel – likes to consult British spies firstly – before she tells the world that she knows that Assad ‘did it’!

209

Raven 04.18.17 at 12:06 pm

faustusnotes @ post: “[Trump’s] supposedly left wing apologists” — There may be need for a term like “alt-left”, and increasingly I suspect “alt-” of conveying exactly the same meaning as KellyAnne Conway’s “alternative” in the phrase “alternative facts”… to wit, ‘not really ___ but in the service of something else entirely’.

210

Layman 04.18.17 at 12:09 pm

Cian: “Assuming you mean the failed centrist politician Hillary Clinton, she was paid $225,000 a speech. I think it’s reasonable to assume this means that she’s pretty favorable to Wall Street interests.”

Why do you think it reasonable to assume that? There’s a criticism to be made about Hillary Clinton here, but that ain’t it. The criticism is that she’s greedy, and tone deaf to how such things appear to some voters.

Here’s a list of the other people who paid her for speeches. Can we assume that she’s favorable to campers, to artists, to medical researchers, to Jews, to women? When there’s a conflict between two of these groups, is she more friendly to the ones who paid her more? Is that how it works?

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/3/4/1496194/-Complete-List-of-All-91-of-Hillary-s-Corporate-Speeches-and-Speaking-Fees

211

Raven 04.18.17 at 12:46 pm

Cranky Observer @ 207: Good catch. In a different and completely unrelated context, it’s that sort of slip that occasionally betrayed trolls on Democratic-leaning blogs, when they’d say, e.g., “As a lifetime member of the Democrat Party, *I* believe we should do XYZ” — but once called out on that solecism, would softly and silently vanish away under that username, alas only to be replaced by other usernames advocating along the same lines.

212

steven t johnson 04.18.17 at 2:03 pm

Raven@199 claims that a propaganda organ of the Russian state was entirely surprised to discover it had hired two women who were under the misapprehension they were doing journalism instead of PR. If I were running said organ, I myself would buy wise hacks, not such naifs. I suppose you could claim they were indeed wise hacks…who realized slandering RT was a more profitable career move?

Mario@201 “I can live with the idea that RT publishes lies, but then, so does the new york times now and then. ” The NYT publishes lies on a regular basis. Notorious example: Iraqi WMDs. It also censors news stories on a regular basis. Notorious example: Refusing to publish NSA spying story lest it affect a presidential election.

Pavel@202 “although white propaganda may have to try to retain some form of public credibility by not being blatantly counter-factual.” Yes, that’s why black propaganda which is, is best done under false names. But if it is preferred to distinguish the representation rather than the content, the effect is the same. Outlets for white propaganda can’t do the same kind of lying.

“I would say that the axis of ‘content truthfulness’ is covered by the terms cherry-picking, bias, spin and fabrication. In this context RT is white propaganda is the sense that it is very clearly obvious whose views it represents. However, its level of outright cherry-picking, spin and fabrication hardly fits it into the category of ‘aims to persuade by using genuine facts and objective arguments, instead of conscious lies and inflammatory appeals.’ I mean, it will certainly use genuine facts when they fit the narrative, but they’ve gone much, much farther in the past.” Your case assumes US media are different. Your assumption there is no outright fabrication is US journalism would be touchingly naive, if it were. Absent comparisons, this is meaningless, not common sense.

“Rule of thumb: treat any organs of the state as fundamentally unreliable sources. I guess I shouldn’t really have to say this, but there it is.” The US media do not treat the US government as fundamentally unreliable. RT does, which is why it is unacceptable.

The bottom line is that CT and the larger part of its commentariat think things like this http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/the-north-korea-paradox-weakness-is-dangerous/ar-BBzWUap?li=BBnb7Kz are acceptable because it comes from honest journalism, unlike propaganda like RT puts out. The very notion that the DPRK is a threat is I think a gross fabrication far beyond anything alleged against RT that I know about.

faustusnotes @204 tells us nobody supports intervention. This is not true I think. The vast majority of CT and its commentariat resent Russian support for the secular state in Syria, even though it has the only legal claim to be the government. And they vehemently support US financial and military support, directly through the CIA and special forces, and also through its intimate allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey, in support of the violent Islamist factions attacking the non-Sunni Syrians and Sunni loyalists. They do not accept that the Syrian government is in any sense legitimate, because the US has a policy of regime change. They do not appear to favor a massive general invasion of Syria. But they are agnostic about partitioning the country by use of proxies like the Kurds. I find this distinction to be negligible. Trying to divert attention from this by claiming outlets like RT are clouding the issues with lies, lies, lies is arrogance, insolence and folly. My opinion, of course.

nastywoman @205 “Yeah – but even the NYT hasn’t invented ‘Whataboutism’ – that honor entirely goes to our Russian friends.”

I think I understood this one, though that may be an illusion due to brevity. It is of course completely false. Insofar as “Whataboutism” is really a thing, it is an old one.

“The abolition of slavery was a good thing.”
“But, what about the obscene corruption and repression by the scalawags and carpetbaggers?” (AKA the Dunning school.)

But, to be candid, I think nastywoman is a devout believer in “Whataboutism,” and is just pretending for tactical reasons.

“Socialism has brought about massive industrialization in the USSR despite a world depression, allowing them to fight the Nazis.”
“But, what about the show trials and purges and genocide?”

213

Cian 04.18.17 at 2:28 pm

Cranky Observer: Oh okay, not sure I understand the insult, but appreciated.

FWIW, a friend of mine who is a big local supporter of Hillary Clinton, and who is very active in local politics (he also donated the maximum allowable) calls them the Democrat party.

214

Cian 04.18.17 at 2:49 pm

Layman: Wallstreet pay for speeches from politicians they consider friendly, rather than politicians they consider unfriendly. They are unlikely to pay Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren, for a speech. I suppose it’s possible that political actors as sophisticated as Wall Street, or medical manufacturers, would just give Hillary money out of some naive belief in the political process. It does seem unlikely though.

And btw, I’m not implying there’s anything corrupt about this. Just that Hillary is not a progressive candidate of the left. Of all the claims that have been made for her, that’s the strangest.

215

Cian 04.18.17 at 2:52 pm

Raven, Voronenkov was killed by a Ukranian fascist. And if I was going to highlight victims of Putin I probably wouldn’t choose a corrupt ultra-liberal like Nemtsov. The extraordinary Anna Politkovskaya would be a more obvious choice.

While my strict adherence to the RT line (whatever that is) is apparently obvious to you – you haven’t actually given any examples.

216

Cian 04.18.17 at 2:52 pm

Raven, Voronenkov was killed by a Ukranian fascist. And if I was going to highlight victims of Putin I probably wouldn’t choose a corrupt ultra-liberal like Nemtsov. The extraordinary Anna Politkovskaya would be a more obvious choice.

While my strict adherence to the RT line (whatever that is) is apparently obvious to you – you haven’t actually given any examples.

217

nastywoman 04.18.17 at 3:22 pm

– ‘But, to be candid, I think nastywoman is a devout believer in “Whataboutism,” and is just pretending for tactical reasons.’

To be candid – and I think I truthfully hinted ‘it’ – I was ‘amazed’ about the success of ‘Whataboutism’ -(especially during the US erection) – but as I also hinted – I think IT doesn’t work ‘that well’ anymore – as it had been yugely overdone… and Von Clownstick -(and his fans) have given ‘Whatboutism’ such a bad name – that we should prefer other – not as easily detectable ‘types of Propaganda’.

218

nastywoman 04.18.17 at 3:43 pm

and about @212 –
denying the Russians the honor to have ‘invented’ ‘Whataboutism’ shouldn’t acceptable on this blog – as another commenter has reminded us that certain ‘academic standards should apply.

I’m not much of an ‘academic’ but even I have made it through University with a Masters degree in Linguistic – and if I would have come up with the silly theory – that
– ‘this one, though that may be an illusion due to brevity –
or
-‘It is of course completely false’
or
– ‘Insofar as “Whataboutism” is really a thing, it is an old one’ –

I probably wouldn’t have gotten the ‘Trip to Bali’ as my graduation present.

219

Raven 04.18.17 at 9:14 pm

steven t johnson @ 212: “Raven@199 claims that a propaganda organ of the Russian state was entirely surprised…” — I made no claim about the “surprise” or other ’emotions’ of any organization.

“The NYT publishes lies on a regular basis. Notorious example: Iraqi WMDs.” — Beyond simply reporting as news what was said by the George W. Bush White House (which in the case of WMDs were lies), the NYT’s Judith Miller was specifically complicit:

Long criticised for the strong anti-Islamic bias in her writing, Miller became embroiled in controversy after her coverage of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program both before and after the 2003 invasion was discovered to have been based on the inaccurate information in the intelligence investigations, particularly those stories that were based on sourcing from the now-disgraced Ahmed Chalabi. The New York Times later determined that a number of stories she had written for the paper were inaccurate. According to commentator Ken Silverstein, Miller’s Iraq reporting “effectively ended her career as a respectable journalist.” Miller acknowledged in The Wall Street Journal on April 4, 2015 that some of her Times coverage was inaccurate…. Miller was later involved in the Plame Affair…. Miller later was forced to resign from her job at the New York Times in November 2005. Later, she was a contributor to the Fox News Channel….

Miller being forced to resign gives some hint as to whether this is acceptable behavior. You might as well have cited the made-up and plagiarized articles of Jayson Blair, likewise forced to resign from the NYT, as evidence the NYT had a policy of fabulism and plagiarism. After all, it had published Blair’s articles too….

Cian @ 215: “Voronenkov was killed by a Ukranian fascist.” — Yet others state he “was planted by Russian services as an undercover agent”, that “the murder was likely a contract killing”, making this an act of Russian “state terrorism”.

“I probably wouldn’t choose a corrupt ultra-liberal like Nemtsov.” — Compare the neutrally edited Wiki-bio of Boris Nemtsov, e.g. this excerpt:

[As First Deputy Prime Minister 1977-1998 under Yeltsin] He ended the corrupt act of stashing budget funds in commercial banks. He also managed to introduce an anti-corruption law for all state purchases in the government. He also helped to end the illegal export of raw materials and made oil sales more transparent. … According to The Economist, Nemtsov, unlike many other top government figures, “emerged from the troubled 1990s with his reputation intact.”

[In 2011 Nemtsov said:] “There is a myth spreading about how, in the 1990s, we democrats were pals with oligarchs while Putin was fighting them. It was exactly the other way around. We did not let Berezovsky get a foothold in [the world’s largest natural gas company] Gazprom, we did not allow him to take over the Svyazinvest company [Russia’s largest telecom holding]. Yet Putin used to go to his birthday parties and bring flowers to his wife. It was Berezovsky who lobbied for Putin to become president and then financed his campaign.”

So what a remarkably… inverted… remark it is to call Nemtsov “a corrupt ultra-liberal”.

220

Layman 04.19.17 at 12:54 am

Cian: “Wallstreet pay for speeches from politicians they consider friendly, rather than politicians they consider unfriendly.”

Trust me, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Corporations pay keynote speakers who are famous and considered a big draw. The whole point of a keynote speaker is to add cachet to your stupid, boring conference, to give people a reason to attend. They pay George Bush, who is unable to do anything at all for them – and can’t even speak – six figures for speeches. They pay Newt Gingrich to speak. I’m guessing they can’t pay Warren or Sanders to speak without running afoul of campaign finance laws, but if Warren or Sanders were out of office, and if they had been in the White House before being out of office, they would certainly pay them to speak.

“I suppose it’s possible that political actors as sophisticated as Wall Street, or medical manufacturers, would just give Hillary money out of some naive belief in the political process.”

Yes, you don’t get it. The fact is that they are going to give someone a fat fee to speak, because they think they have to. The fat fee is not to buy influence, it is to buy (or rent) prestige. One you grasp that, it’s just a question of how much cachet they can get for their money.

221

Raven 04.19.17 at 2:18 am

Cian @ 215: “While my strict adherence to the RT line (whatever that is) is apparently obvious to you – you haven’t actually given any examples.” — Compare your defense of Putin on the grounds that “Voronenkov was killed by a Ukranian fascist” to this RT article from 25 March 2017: “The latest reports from Ukraine identify Parshov as a Ukrainian ‘fascist’….”

Cited as the source “from Ukraine” is another .ru website with the name “ukrainia”, so cute….

Is that black or grey propaganda? In the “origin” sense, that is?

222

Faustusnotes 04.19.17 at 4:20 am

Steven t Johnson, North Korea may not be a threat to you in your coddled American frame but to the 10 million people living in the shadow of its artillery installations or to the 37 million residents of Tokyo who may be in its missile range it is a very real threat. A threat which has every risk of being catastrophically triggered if cheeto Jesus has a warpspasm.

It would do the brocialists well to remember that there are human beings in the world outside of America.

223

nastywoman 04.19.17 at 10:25 am

– and @219 and @212 and the NYT –
I love the NYT – absolutely ‘love’ the paper – as it has the best ‘Arts’ section of any newspaper -(I know) – in the world – and for that Art section I even forgave the NYT that they didn’t endorse Bernie in the ‘erection’ – and in this spirit I would like to give a… shoutout to the least ‘artful’ example of Whatouboutism on this whole threat.

THE –
‘I can live with the idea that RT publishes lies, but WHATABOUT the new york times?

And I understand that the commenter who ‘originally’ produced the ‘Whataboutism’ didn’t use the words ‘what about’ at all – as she/he wrote: ‘I can live with the idea that RT publishes lies, ‘but then’, so does the new york times now and then’.

BUT then @212 added on to it by coming to the conclusion that the NYT ‘publishes lies on a regular basis’ – without using the newly – and very un-artfully created example of ‘classical Whataboutism’ – as his example – when he tried to proof that ‘Whataboutism’ was as ‘old’? – as
“The abolition of slavery was a good thing.”
“But, what about the obscene corruption and repression by the scalawags and carpetbaggers?” (AKA the Dunning school.)

But I really would have liked to have these… ‘exhibits’ for may paper about ‘The Language of the Internet’.

224

Hidari 04.19.17 at 10:44 am

‘It would do the brocialists well to remember that there are human beings in the world outside of America.’

Or to use the term by which they are referred to in Washington circles: ‘targets’. Or, possibly, ‘prey’.

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steven t johnson 04.19.17 at 10:46 am

Raven@219 misses the absurdity of his claim that RT is a propaganda service that deliberately hires starry eyed idealists for anchors, taking less care for vetting ideological commitment than Fox News does. But then, Raven also claims that Judith Miller was the one who fooled the NYT about WMD, for personal reasons presumably. Like Raven, the NYT would like us all to believe that, and for none of us to have the sense to see Miller as a scapegoat. (Except, technically, scapegoats are actually innocent, unlike Miller and her comrades.)

Faustusnotes’ comment assumes the US government and its allies have the right to openly attack nation after nation for decade upon decade. Those poor souls in Seoul under the threat of Commie artillery can attack the Vietnamese and that’s a justly peaceful nation, but the north just having artillery is insupportable. The real claim here is that some people do not have the right to live. If the people in the south feel threatened they can try to make peace. But, like Faustusnotes, they define peace as victory, which does not admit of human beings outside of American dominion.

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Raven 04.19.17 at 3:11 pm

Followup to Cian @ 215: The fallacy of claiming that Voronenkov’s killer couldn’t possibly be an agent for Russia because he was a “Ukrainian fascist” might be made a little clearer to everyone… else… by considering two other exmples of agents for Russia:

In the 1990s conservative columnist Robert Novak had been getting and passing on accusations about the Clintons from a confidential source, an FBI agent named Robert Hanssen; thus William Safire predicted in January 1997, “Hillary Clinton will be indicted on Whitewater charges but not convicted”! (Remind you of any more recent FBI-official disinformation?) But it turned out that Hanssen, who was on the Russian desk, had also been on the Russian payroll for 20 years, and had betrayed dozens of American intelligence assets in Russia, at least three of whom were executed. He’s now serving life in prison for espionage. So, (a) yes, the Russians were feeding anti-Clinton disinformation to the press two decades ago; and (b) they weren’t using a native Russian but an “American FBI agent” as their operative — so by your logic, how could Russia possibly be to blame for anything he ever did?

My second example, US Navy Chief Warrant Officer John Anthony Walker, should be counted as not just a single agent, because from 1968 to 1985 he also co-opted his family and friends into what (per the NYT) “is sometimes described as the most damaging Soviet spy ring in history,” helping the Soviets decipher more than one million encrypted naval messages, letting them know where US submarines were at all times. But by your logic, the Soviets couldn’t have been to blame for that either, because he was an “American sailor”!

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Raven 04.19.17 at 3:46 pm

nastywoman @ 223: Re #212’s “… conclusion that the NYT ‘publishes lies on a regular basis’….” — I presume that could be justified by pointing to (1) the NYT, as paper of record, is obliged to report statements by the President of the United States, even blatant liars like George W. Bush or Donald J. Trump; the Op-Ed and Letters section, which contains such opposing and contradictory claims they cannot possibly all be true; (3) the advertisements. It will be noted (by others) that none of these are claims by the NYT itself.

steven t johnson @ 225: “Raven@219 misses the absurdity of his claim that RT … deliberately hires starry eyed idealists….” — And last time you said I claimed they were “surprised”. Nothing like either one of these claims did I make, which would be why I missed any such absurdity. Really, Steven, whom do you suppose it persuades when you falsely attribute claims to me? Anyone who has read this thread, or who can scroll back? And of what, other than your tendency to dishonest attribution? (Not, I should think, helpful to you for persuading anyone of anything.)

“But then, Raven also claims that Judith Miller was the one who fooled the NYT about WMD…” — I’ll put that down to mere careless reading on your part, presuming you somehow failed to notice the boldfaced link and subsequent long blockquote of text (not my own) which you are now falsely attributing to me.

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Cian 04.19.17 at 7:07 pm

Trust me, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Corporations pay keynote speakers who are famous and considered a big draw.

What’s the going rate for Ralph Nader at auto company trade shows?

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Cian 04.19.17 at 7:47 pm

Raven, quoting the Economist on Russia is like quoting RT on Chechneya. Actually that rule should probably apply to quoting the Economist on almost any subject.

My favorite of Nemtsov’s reforms was that he decreed that government tenders had to be open, transparent and competitive – except when a closed tender was deemed the best method. An old trick, but still an effective one. He was caught on tape accepting a bribe. There was the rigged sale of Svyazinvest he was responsible for (where the young turks responsible all received very large book advances shortly afterwards). These are just a few that stick out. And honestly, the man was one of Yeltsin’s cronies. That should really be enough to damn anyone. I think he ended up in Kasparov’s and Liminov’s bizarre bunch of far right loons at the end, though I could be misremembering I guess.

And this is Nemtsov on incoming authoritarian Putin:
http://www.nytimes.com/2000/01/05/opinion/russia-s-best-bet.html?pagewanted=print
Some critics have questioned Mr. Putin’s commitment to democracy. True, he is no liberal democrat, domestically or internationally. Under his leadership Russia will not become France. The government will, however, reflect the Russian people’s desire for a strong state, a functioning economy, and an end to tolerance for robber barons — in short, a ”ruble stops here” attitude. Russia could do considerably worse than have a leader with an unwavering commitment to the national interest.

As for the murders of Voronenkov… Unless I’m misremembering, the murderer was a member of the Azov battalion. That Ukranian fascists hate Russians and had a serious problem with Voronenkov is hardly startling news. Or we could choose to believe a complicated conspiracy theory about Russian sleeper agents with no serious facts. But you know, there are some that say the Clintons committed satanic child murders in a Pizza Restaurant. I suppose you think we should take them more seriously as well.

As for Judith Miller. True they fired her when the pressure and embarrassment became too much. Michael R. Gordon is still there and still writing the same kinds of stories 15 years later.

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Raven 04.20.17 at 6:09 am

Cian @ 229: “I think [Nemtsov] ended up in Kasparov’s and Liminov’s bizarre bunch of far right loons at the end, though I could be misremembering I guess.” — Yes, you pretty much are. “The Other Russia” was an umbrella coalition that “included both far left, centre, and far right opposition leaders as well as mainstream liberals”; Garry Kasparov is decidedly anti-fascist, pro-democracy, and chairs the Human Rights Foundation — his part of the coalition was the “United Civil Front”, devoted to preserving electoral democracy in Russia. … So your smearing spreads… by association?

Nemtsov (and Ian Bremmer, who co-wrote) on incoming Putin had no governing track record to write about, so it was more a matter of hope than knowledge. Writers about Trump before January 20 were in much the same position.

“But you know, there are some that say the Clintons committed satanic child murders….” [underline added] — Consider the respective sources. Oh, you didn’t click that link for “others“?

“As for Judith Miller. True they fired her….” — No, you’re misremembering again: she was forced to resign; there’s a distinction. As to their motives, at least you concede the NYT is (or can be) too embarrassed to keep blatant liars like Miller and Blair writing for them, once the veil is ripped off… unlike some other places I could think of *koff*FOX*koff*….

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nastywoman 04.20.17 at 12:25 pm

– and for the final my favorite ‘whataboutism’

What about F…face von Clownstick?
Didn’t we talk about him in the first place and then got sidetracked by all kind of other ‘stuff’

And whatabout using a new ‘Whataboutism’ for ‘the Orange Interventionist’?
A self-righteous landfill of angry garbage’ and I know that this ‘synonym’ was created for another ‘self-righteous landfill of angry garbage’ but whatabout using this new and very artful expression for ALL of them?

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Cian 04.20.17 at 2:29 pm

Dude, the sources for the claims about Russian intelligence agencies were Ukrainian officials. But I’ve not seen any actual evidence that these claims are founded. I’m not sure whether I trust Ukrainian officials less than I trust Russian ones. But I certainly wouldn’t cite either as my sole legitimate source.

Michael R. Gordon still works for the NYT in the same position he had prior to the Iraq war. So yes, the NYT care a little about their reputation, but little for the truth.

The Nemtsov quote that I pulled out states explicitly that he was fine with all the things that Putin went on to do (and he knew that Putin was going to do them). I find the belief that anyone who worked under Yeltsin gave a damn about human rights, corruption, or democracy is a curious one.

As for Kasparov. We’re talking about the guy who writes op-eds with Thor Halvorssen, who chairs the Oslo Freedom Forum. That guy? Have you seen his twitter feed, or paid attention to the stuff he says, rather than the glowing articles about him in the NYT? His links to the more dubious parts of US right wing politics, or his bizarre rants about Obama?

Criticize the Russian government all you want. I am fine with that. But the only thing different about the opposition lauded in the west is that they’re pro-western. Well, that and the fact they’re incredibly unpopular. There are many heroes and martyrs in Russia, but none of them are politicians. Well possibly Limonov, but his politics are pretty terrible.

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Layman 04.20.17 at 2:47 pm

Cian: “What’s the going rate for Ralph Nader at auto company trade shows?”

You mean this Ralph Nader? The one inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame? The same Automotive Hall of Fame run by executives from Bridgestone, NAPA auto parts, Ford Motor Company, Goodyear, General Motors, Toyota, and the National Automotive Dealer’s Association?

Again, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

http://www.automotivehalloffame.org/inductee/ralph-nader/848/

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Cranky Observer 04.20.17 at 2:57 pm

Could someone point me to the “A Brocialist’s Manifesto” that is the equivalent of Charles Peters’ “A Neoliberal’s Manifesto”? Also the web site for ‘Brocialist Monthly’, the equivalent of ‘Washington Monthly’ along with a list of the brocialists who have moved from that magazine into high level positions in a Presidential administration. Thanks.

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faustusnotes 04.20.17 at 3:02 pm

Cian, you seem to be saying that Nemtsov had it coming, or we shouldn’t care if Putin killed him.

Steven t johnson, the north doesn’t just “have artillery”. Perhaps you aren’t aware, but North Korea has a large, heavily protected artillery installation within firing range of Seoul, and has also set up the ability to deliver a massive air attack with just a few minutes’ warning (most people say about 6). The general presumption is that if the north decides to strike the south it will cause enormous damage in Seoul that cannot be prevented. This is why not launching preemptive strikes is a good thing. I don’t know what you’re going on about with regards to south Korea attacking Vietnam, but my comment was certainly not presaged on the idea the US can attack whoever they want whenever they want – quite the opposite. For peace in Asia the minimum precondition is that nobody provokes north Korea. Provoking north Korea will lead to a massive conflagration with the potential to kill millions, even if the north doesn’t have functioning nuclear or chemical weapons.

Of course, if your view is that America is always bad and nothing is anyone else’s fault, then I guess it might seem reasonable for Kim Jong-Un to have a bad hair day and decide to obliterate a few million people. Or should I say “people”, since they apparently don’t count enough in your estimation for you to consider what might happen to them when your supposedly non-interventionist cheeto jesus has a bad hair day.

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Mario 04.20.17 at 6:38 pm

nastywoman: Accusing someone of whataboutism is usually fallacious. “What about X” is, often enough, the only recourse against someone being a hypocrite. So, mentioning Trump is appropriate in a context where other world leaders are being accused of being crazy, especially if one wishes to point out hypocrisy. Similarly, “what about Yemen” fairly effectively makes a caricature of most of the false indignation on Syria. And so on.

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steven t johnson 04.20.17 at 9:08 pm

faustusnotes@235 Shrieking about how Kim Jong-un is a maniac who might obliterate millions of people on a whim is not a criticism of US policy, not even Trump’s. It is the south and its master the US which are unstable, unreliable and confused. (This is a charitable interpretation, as by a saint.) The only consistency is murderous hostility to the north. You cannot pretend to be a critic of provocations against the north when you agree with the premise that the existence of a north that can retaliate against attack is an existential terror. If that were true, there is no provoking the north, there is only self-defense. The thing is, it is not true.

The Syria coverage, like the Max Fisher NYT piece on Korea (link above,) is every bit as rotten as RT is alleged to be. There is mews that accepts the US government claims as authoritative and conducts itself at all times as serving the national interest, ultimately as represented by the government. And then there is the coverage by outfits like RT, which don’t, and therefore are wholly unacceptable to CT and the larger part of its commentariat.

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Daragh 04.20.17 at 9:45 pm

While I’m loathe to get too involved with another thread, I have to object strongly to the Cian’s insinuations that Boris Nemtsov was corrupt. Even Mark Ames struggled to magic up a credible corruption allegation in his obituary. In fact by all accounts he was one of the few people who served under Yeltsin who genuinely tried to combat official corruption and left power with his reputation intact. He certainly wasn’t a member of The Family, and was excluded from power once they started casting around for a successor who would keep them out of prison. I’m also not aware of Nemtsov having any links with the Other Russia or with Kasparov beyond the usual contacts between opposition groups. He certainly had nothing to do with Limonov. Nemtsov may have been an economic Thatcherite but that doesn’t justify character assassination, particularly given his violent demise.

However, it should also be noted that the evidence that Nemtsov’s murder was ordered, or even sanctioned ex ante, by Putin is weak to non-existent. While I doubt the full story will ever be known, it seems to have been ordered by Ramzan Kadyrov, in the expectation that ridding the Kremlin of Nemtsov would please Putin. This was a rather spectacular miscalculation on Kadyrov’s part, which caused such an almight sh*tstorm that Putin felt compelled to disappear for weeks while the internal faction fighting sorted itself out and Kadyrov was reduced to making increasingly desperate protestations of loyalty via his Instagram account (seriously). This is not to absolve Putin – he ultimately gave Kadyrov the Russian Order of Honour in order to signal his continued support for Kadyrov, and he’s certainly created an atmosphere where certain people can be murdered with impunity – just to point out that not every political murder in Russia can be laid at his door.

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Raven 04.21.17 at 1:24 am

Cian @ post: “I’m not sure whether I trust Ukrainian officials less than I trust Russian ones.” — When in #230 I said “Consider the respective sources” it was in reply to your #229‘s “But you know, there are some that say the Clintons committed satanic child murders….” – – – so are you now letting slip Russian officials were your sources, your “some that say”? Or is this merely a bait-and-switch of the topic?

A look at Michael R. Gordon’s Wiki-bio, comparing his professional reputation for accuracy to Judith Miller’s, might explain the difference in their treatment; e.g. his book “Cobra II [on the Iraq War starting 2003], which ‘focuses on the rushed and haphazard preparations for war and the appalling relations between the major players,’ won praise from Lawrence Freedman in Foreign Affairs, who wrote that ‘the research is meticulous and properly sourced, the narrative authoritative, the human aspects of conflict never forgotten.’” (I’ll omit the NYT’s own glowing praise.)

“The Nemtsov quote that I pulled out states explicitly that he was fine with all the things that Putin went on to do (and he knew that Putin was going to do them).” — Written when Putin was still “incoming”, as you said before; yet Nemtsov knew all the things that Putin was going to go on to do; filling his own pockets and locking himself into power and murdering critics… wait, where in that essay are all these things predicted? or praised?

I invite you and everyone else to compare your rendition of Thor Halvorssen with Wikipedia’s neutrally-edited bio.

“There are many heroes and martyrs in Russia, but none of them are politicians.” — Would that be why Russian police had to violently suppress massive protests and arrest hundreds of protestors including their leaders (like Alexei Navalny) just recently?

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Raven 04.21.17 at 2:10 am

Daragh @ 238: “Even Mark Ames struggled to magic up a credible corruption allegation in [Nemtsov’s] obituary.” — And again consider the source: when Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi ran The eXile in Moscow, it was known for “character assassination” (Vanity Fair’s phrase from its article about that sordid history). As the Wiki-article notes, “Former editor Matt Taibbi has said that operating a periodical in Russia was much easier without the burden of American libel laws.”

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J-D 04.21.17 at 2:14 am

Mario

“What about X” is, often enough, the only recourse against someone being a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is common enough in human affairs that most of us have probably been hypocritical at some time, and all of us have probably encountered it in others, but I don’t get why a recourse against it is supposed to be needed. If I were to be hypocritical, why why would you need recourse against that? If you were to be hypocritical, why would I need recourse against that?

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faustusnotes 04.21.17 at 3:25 am

steven t johnson, are you serious? The north runs prison camps, abducted a South Korean filmmaker and forced him to make propaganda, abducted Japanese citizens and held them hostage, shelled a South Korean island, even blew up a passenger jet.

Is there anything on this earth that you can concede is not America’s fault?

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Mario 04.21.17 at 8:16 am

‘Corruption’ is one of those things that somehow don’t happen in decent countries. They must be really decent, so that it never happens. Or perhaps, which is my observation, this is so by definition, so that absolutely blatant things never get labelled corruption in those “decent countries”, yet basically anything the Russians do is corrupt. Or the Venezuelans. Or whoever needs to be delegitimized. Which must be a very convenient thing for some people. It is always puzzling and surprising how the decent/indecent split somehow always happens to align with the same petroleum power games.

(And the Halvorsens of this world are an important component of these power games. I’m not impressed by his Wikipedia bio.)

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steven t johnson 04.21.17 at 12:42 pm

faustusnotes @242 You really need to develop a sense of proportion. This might help? “We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, someway or another, and some in South Korea too.… Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure?”(https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Curtis_LeMay)

That war has never ended. If the people of the south felt so threatened they would try to make peace. They don’t. This is a concrete proof of the unreality of the supposed threat to us that you pretend to fear. As for the real objection, that I do not properly assume the moral superiority of the US government? Yes, guilty as charged. You may console yourself that the US government fears me not one bit.

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kidneystones 04.21.17 at 1:39 pm

The discussion on North Korea is characteristically inaccurate and uncharitable. Good points have been made here and there, but here’s the basics.

The US and North Korea have not yet signed any peace agreement to a conflict that began more than five decades ago. So, the question of attack, or the right to attack is somewhat inaccurate. What exists is a state of war interrupted by a fifty-plus year period of truce, a truce that could realistically end at any time with the only ‘crime’ being which side broke the truce first and for what reason.

One can assert that sides are keen to destroy the other, but the more likely case is that both North Korea and the US would much prefer a peace treaty signed. North Korea wants to keep a substantial arsenal and retain the right to depose the ‘capitalist’ regime in the south. The US wants peace with Kim either out of power, or unable to menace others in the region. Japanese foreign policy wants no resolution to the conflict and opposes reconciliation between north and south. Why? Because if Koreans are in a permanent state of ‘civil war’ (ideally without bullets flying) then their attentions remain fixed on each other, rather than on the nation that invaded and colonized one hundred years ago. The status quo works just fine for Japan. Missing from the discussion on Korea and the Trump armada is the effect US carrier groups parked off Korea have on the newly-constructed Chinese bases in the Korean/South China/Japan sea. Trump is publicly praising China while at the same time making it perfectly clear who controls this section of north-east Asia. We may yet see some sort of blow and one can’t rule out something really bad. Ideally, we’ll see some sort of Romania style collapse with the criminals hounded from power by oppressed with a minimum of blood-shed. Both China and Russia seem to concerned about a flood of refugees pouring across the border. I’m not convinced China is all that happy propping Kim up and wouldn’t be too greatly vexed were he forced from power. The US already has substantial forces in Korea and Japan. Practically nobody in Korea wants bloodshed from what I can see despite the sabre-rattling. But Kim is the distraction – the real target is the negation of the Chinese bases and a (temporary?) end of Chinese expansionism at the expense of Viet Nam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan.

Syria is a very different set of problems.

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kidneystones 04.21.17 at 1:42 pm

Sorry about the typos. Here’s the missing link: http://www.bbc.com/news/10165796

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Raven 04.21.17 at 1:51 pm

Mario @ 243: “… absolutely blatant things never get labelled corruption in those ‘decent countries’…” — Somehow you have missed hearing of such industries as Halliburton, Enron, and Arthur Andersen, and people like Bernie Madoff,
Dennis Kozlowski, and Bernard Ebbers. Even recently I’ve noticed the word “corrupt” has been bandied about concerning the current President of the United States; for instance, this little bit hit my Google News front page big-print headlines and stayed up for a week… but then it was in my personalized GN section that searches for items about corruption. I get items there all the time, including on occasion (with great schadenfreude) Republican politicians removed from office and sometimes even sent to prison. If you’re not seeing anything get labelled corruption, maybe you too should go looking for it….

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Cian 04.21.17 at 2:02 pm

That’s fair Daragh. I guess I’m overreacting to the hagiographies for the man in the west which really pissed me off. The western media have completely whitewashed the awful Yeltsin years. Though TBH I think if Nemtsov wasn’t corrupt (or at least comfortable with at least the aspects of corruption that Thatcherism makes inevitable), the man was a fool.

And no he didn’t deserve to die. It’s just of all the many victims of the Russian government I’m least concerned with one of the architects of modern Russia. There’s a long list of journalists, union workers, gay rights activists and those unfortunate enough to get caught in the middle of the elite’s power games. If you’re looking for martyrs – start there.

Raven, we’re done. Don’t have the inclination to keep arguing with someone who believes that Wikipedia is a useful, or relevant, citation. Or for that matter someone who insists on making stuff up that I supposedly argued.

As always with people like Halvorssen – follow the money. His foundation gets a lot of money from the far right conservative movement. The Scaife’s for example. Peter Thiel. A non-profit that essentially operates as a way for the far right to launder money to conservative causes. I believe the Bradley foundation gave him money.

Thor Jr has appeared in all the usual US conservative places (your weekly standards, your 700 club) making the argument for the more extreme end of the Venezuelan opposition. So it’s not just money he accepts, he seems comfortable mixing in those circles.

He comes from the Venezuelan elite. His fathers a mixed bag – ex-CIA (he was involved in some of the Contras stuff), the DEA seem to have believed he was connected to drug traffickers (though nothing was ever proved – and I’m not sure the DEA are that reliable on such things), but he also did legitimately expose corruption at some cost to himself.

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faustusnotes 04.21.17 at 2:50 pm

Mario, I worked at the front line of treatment and intervention for drug dependence and street-based youth in the 1990s and I watched as my country changed from a corrupt and evil system in which the police aided criminals while medical and social welfare services turned a blind eye, to a system in which drug dealing was actively targeted by police and children were protected from abuse. It really is the case that we can do better, and corruption is not baked into the system. If we try we can fix these problems. It’s not just rhetoric and useful propaganda tools to talk about this stuff.

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Raven 04.21.17 at 4:25 pm

Cian @ 248: “Don’t have the inclination to keep arguing with… someone who insists on making stuff up that I supposedly argued.” — But I have not thus misattributed claims or arguments to you, though I have certainly had them misattributed to me (chiefly by stj). What I have done is notice how well your claims and arguments relating to matters of interest to Russia track those coming from Russian propaganda, and thus repeatedly peg your smears as smears. I can see how you might want to avoid engaging with that.

You can kick crowdsourced, i.e. democratic Wikipedia all you like, but one of its positive traits is the core neutrality policy, whereby any political editing agenda is eventually foiled. (Such edits may be made but will be reverted.) Thus no hagiography, no character assassination. That is the useful and relevant point for which I cited it.

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Daragh 04.21.17 at 9:01 pm

Cian @248

Thank you. FWIW – I thought the accusation that you were excusing his murder to be grossly unfair and well over the line, even for an internet comment thread. I disagree with you on the ‘whitewashing’ of the Yeltsin years, and think it’s more that the US media has always been bad at covering for’n parts, and Russia coverage has always suffered from the unwillingness of foreign hacks to travel far beyond St. Petersburg and Moscow.

I’m afraid I do have to take issue with the assumption of a moral equivalence between US and Russian foreign policy and military interventions. Whatever one thinks of recent US/NATO bombing campaigns, they have made genuine attempts to reduce civilian casualties, avoid striking vital facilities like hospitals, admitted when they have failed to do so and placed clear limits on their application of lethal force. This is why Raqqa, and other major population centres held by ISIS are not currently smoldering heaps of rubble and glass devoid of any life more advanced than a cockroach. By contrast, the Russian campaign in Syria has been marked by consistent deliberate targeting of hospitals, bakeries and other facilities without military value but vital for sustaining human life. This is because Moscowhas embraced a strategy of deliberately making it impossible for civilians to survive in rebel controlled areas, forcing them to choose between death or Assad. And when called out, they have lied about their actions, constantly and shamelessly, to the point of claiming their actions have been directed against ISIS when in truth they barely laid a glove on them. No military action can be entirely stripped of barbarity, but the Kremlin has made barbarism central to its methods, and they aren’t even embarrassed about it. This is before we get to Ukraine.

Raven @240

In its heyday the eXile – while scabrous – did some damn fine reporting. I attended the launch of a Very Serious Paper by a Very Serious Person on the 2006 siloviki war a couple of years back. The paper was indeed of very high quality, the result of some very hard work and good research by said Very Serious Person, whose Very Serious status is well deserved (genuinely, lest the caps be mistaken for sarcasm). Doing some additional reading on the topic that night I found an eXile article written just after the war had ended. Its narrative and conclusions were largely identical to the Very Serious Paper. Keep in mind that the subjects are the kind of people who no sane person would want to get on the bad side of, or even be paid attention by.

Taibbi himself has continued to be a fine journalist IMHO. Alas, I don’t think the same can be said of Ames. Leaving aside the personal stuff, ironically he seems to have made the same journey that so many Russians persecuted by the KGB and its successors have, towards a kind of permanent Stockholm syndrome. Hence the parroting of the ‘Ukrainian Nazis’ nonsense, and the ‘Yeltsin was a puppet of American neoliberals who neoliberalled their neoliberalling ways into Russia and got neoliberalism everywhere and generally neoliberalised up the place.’ There are lots of very valid criticisms of economic policy in 90’s Russia to be made, but Ames is of the school that never bothers to consider that maybe – just maybe – that 70-odd years of communist economics administered by mediocrities who spent their time lying to each other about beet production while drinking themselves to death had something to do with it too.

Mario @243

“‘Corruption’ is one of those things that somehow don’t happen in decent countries.”

Actually, it does. The thing is, in functional democratic states it tends to be detected and punished by law enforcement agencies, whereas in highly corrupt states – such as the examples you cite – it isn’t. Nor do westerners generally take a ‘it doesn’t happen here’ approach to corruption. If you look at the Eurobarometer or Transparency International stats versus observed cases you’ll find that in lots of western democracies the citizenry tends to substantially overestimate the prevalence of official corruption (this is especially the case in my own homeland of Ireland, where a number of high profile scandals during the 80’s and early 90’s have cast a very long shadow it does).

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Layman 04.21.17 at 9:11 pm

kidneystones: “…Missing from the discussion on Korea and the Trump armada…”

…was an actual Trump armada, apparently.

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/how-did-the-trump-administration-lose-an-aircraft-carrier/523458/

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Raven 04.22.17 at 6:23 am

Daragh @ 251: “ a kind of permanent Stockholm syndrome” — Hmm, would that (on the having-been-blackmailed/extorted hypothesis) also explain Trump’s actions like his recent near-endorsement of Marine Le Pen, who would at least partially withdraw from NATO… after all Trump’s previous demands for allies to make more contributions to NATO?

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Peter T 04.22.17 at 6:57 am

“Whatever one thinks of recent US/NATO bombing campaigns, they have made genuine attempts to reduce civilian casualties, avoid striking vital facilities like hospitals, admitted when they have failed to do so and placed clear limits on their application of lethal force.”

Sometimes. Sometimes not. The US operation to re-take Fallujah during the Iraq occupation was pretty much a shoot anything that moves and blow it all up job. And the US military and contractors were notoriously careless of Iraqi civilian life – and lied about incidents all the time. That was under Bush.

By contrast, the air campaign in Syria against ISIS was conducted with great restraint – targets were carefully verified and a minimum of ordnance used. Civilian casualties were remarkably low. Note the past tense – under Trump the rules have been relaxed and/or the attitude changed, and civilian casualties have risen markedly.

The Russian air force does not have the same precision targeting capabilities as the US, and certainly does cause more civilian casualties. They are almost certainly less careful, and the Russians also lie more blatantly. But the mainstream press is remarkably uncritical of rebel claims. As an example, hospital buildings are frequently used as strong points, because they are high and strongly built. Rebel claims of civilian losses are exaggerated, and claims of civilian presence exaggerated even more (the press talked constantly of the 300,000 civilians in east Aleppo – on surrender, there were 130,000, 100,00 of whom chose to move to the government-controlled area. This pattern is repeated wherever rebel enclaves have surrendered). The Russians have also put troops in to de-mine retaken areas, at some cost in life (leftover IEDs are a major cause of civilian casualties in both Syria and Iraq), and also committed military
police in some areas to prevent reprisals and ensure ceasefires.

So it’s not black and white.

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J-D 04.22.17 at 7:43 am

steven t johnson

That war has never ended. If the people of the south felt so threatened they would try to make peace. They don’t. This is a concrete proof of the unreality of the supposed threat to us that you pretend to fear.

If this kind of reasoning makes sense, it should surely apply equally in both directions. Do the people of the north feel more or less threatened than the people of the south? Are they making make more or less effort to achieve peace? Is the supposed threat to them more or less unreal?

256

steven t johnson 04.22.17 at 12:02 pm

The US, via the CIA and its subordinates Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have financed and armed IS. Decades ago, the US government openly boasted of bombing that notorious military target, the Baghdad city water system. It is of course only natural that its progeny should have spent so much effort on blockading the Damascus city water supply. The US supports the overthrow of the only secular government in Syria on behalf of forces which have pursued policies of sectarian massacre and promise more. Obama, whose entire presidency has been replaced in CT lore by Hilary Clinton’s domination of the empire, has expanded the war to Yemen via the subordinate ally Saudi Arabia, a way conducted according to Daragh’s US-approved moral principles, which he attributes to Russia in Syria!

There is no moral equivalence between the US and Russia, despite Daragh’s obscene perversions of reason and morals. The US is much worse.

257

Lee A. Arnold 04.23.17 at 11:43 am

In the run-up to the French election, around 25% of French social media feeds is fake news linked to Russian sources & supporting the far right:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/french-voters-deluge-fake-news-stories-facebook-twitter-russian-influence-days-before-election-a7696506.html

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steven t johnson 04.23.17 at 1:19 pm

J-D @255 asks “Do the people of the north feel more or less threatened than the people of the south? Are they making make more or less effort to achieve peace? Is the supposed threat to them more or less unreal?”

Yes. For instance, only about 17% of the north is arable land, and much of that is vulnerable to flooding. The ongoing policy of the south to limit northern fishing is a direct ongoing attack on civilian food supply. No doubt this is a source of great satisfaction, marred only by fierce indignation when the north “aggresses” against these limits. Nonetheless, it is not just a threat but an assault. The massive joint military exercises each spring and fall (coinciding it appears with planting and harvesting) are also threats. And of course direct personal threats against the leadership are routine, and much admired in all quarters, including CT. Being labeled an axis of evil is a threat. The US custom of personally demonizing foes and killing them, and their children too, is somehow deemed threatening, even if CT et al. find this an admirable expression of a commitment to justice. The open announcement of a preventive war policy is also a significant escalation of threats to the north.

Yes, the north has advocated a peace treaty. It has also advanced several other peace propositions, such as the Agreed Framework signed in the Clinton administration, and later reneged upon by the US. Or, in a different fashion, the Kaesong economic development venture. I know that inferior nations and people are not supposed by CT et al. to possess nuclear weapons, which therefore in and of themselves constitute a threat. I’m afraid I disagree. Even if possession of nuclear weapons is a threat, possession and use of nuclear weapons is an even greater threat. By that standard, the worst threat is the US.

No. The threat to the north is entirely real, unlike the alleged threat to the south. The threat to the south is the threat of retaliation. The threat to the north is one of massive aggression by the US and its southern puppets. This is particularly true given the dire instability of the southern regime. By the skilled use of cunningly devised economic statistics, you can interpret the south as an economic success story, but it’s very much like Obama’s economic success. It hasn’t really helped the masses very much. Even worse, the relative stagnation means that the rich have trouble keeping up their expectations of ever increasing, ever more massive wealth. The Great Depression of the Thirties and the current situation have many differences, but the economic failures of world imperialism are still leading to war. My opinion of course, nothing to do with CT and its commentariat.

259

Raven 04.24.17 at 12:53 am

steven t johnson @ 256: “There is no moral equivalence between the US and Russia…. The US is much worse.” — Nope, no Russian propaganda is being repeated here….

260

Faustusnotes 04.24.17 at 12:58 am

Yes, those poor threatened northern innocents, so desperately harmless they are forced to kill their own family members with nerve toxin in a public airport lounge. If only the southern puppets of the us were as restrained and level headed as the north!

261

J-D 04.24.17 at 1:23 am

steven t johnson

There’s a familiar device in comedy which has a number of variants and one general form of which is something like this:

A: ‘Is it X or is it Y?’
B: ‘Yes’
A: ‘Do you mean “Yes, it’s X” or “Yes, it’s Y”?’
B: ‘No’

I posed three questions, each of which was in the form ‘Is it more or is it less?’ and you provided responses which you prefaced, respectively, ‘Yes’, ‘Yes’, and ‘No’. Those are not actual answers to my questions. This suggests that you provided responses without considering the structure of my questions.

What really makes me think that the substantive content of your responses was written without considering the structure of my questions is this. If I ask you ‘Is Pat older than Nat or younger than Nat?’ and you respond ‘Pat is old enough to vote’, then you haven’t answered my question; and what you have written doesn’t answer my questions in essentially the same way.

262

steven t johnson 04.24.17 at 12:53 pm

Raven@259 The contrast between casualties of US invasions and subversions and Soviet invasions and subversions is evidence that can’t be disappeared by psychotic ravings about Soviet propaganda. Or even Russian propaganda.

Faustusnotes@260 has evidently never read detective novels. If so the question of how someone can get smeared with nerve toxin by someone not wearing protective gear that still somehow does not get poisoned would be asked. Such elementary reality testing is not to be expected from Faustusnotes. But even a non-mystery reader should realize credible cases require credible motives.

J-D@261 evidently wants to dismiss the replies instead of rebutting them. If I say “Pat is old enough to vote,” if Nat is not, then I have indeed answered the question. I just didn’t answer the question in a way detailed enough to preempt deliberate misreading. If J-D wants to pretend that maybe Nat is old enough to vote, at least for polemical purposes, that’s eristics, not a valid rebuttal.

Similarly, if I say the north’s food supply is continually attacked, even if I don’t say the south’s food supply is not, then I am implying the north is feeling more threatened, because their very lives are being attacked.

Or, if I point out the north concluded the Agreed Framework, I am implying that if more peace-seeking than the US, which reneged on the agreement, even if I foolishly presumed the answer would be read in light of commonly acknowledged facts.

And of course the phrase “unlike the alleged threat to the south…” is pretty straightforwardly comparative.

263

Raven 04.24.17 at 2:32 pm

steven t johnson @ 262: “The contrast between casualties of US invasions and subversions and Soviet invasions and subversions is evidence that can’t be disappeared….” — Indeed. Yet you appear to think it can be. How odd. For instance, you must not be counting the occupation of the Baltic states (with the resulting deportations and deaths), or the Iron Curtain’s casualties, or the Soviet–Afghan War’s casualties, to the Soviet account.

264

J-D 04.24.17 at 10:28 pm

steven t johnson

I just didn’t answer the question in a way detailed enough

I do make that point. I did notice that you didn’t answer the question in a detailed enough way. I don’t know what the reason for that is, but there must be a reason.

to preempt deliberate misreading.

What misreading? You allege that I misread something that you wrote, but you don’t give me the information from which I can figure out which is the statement I am supposed to have misread (or any of them) or how the correct reading differs from my misreading.

If J-D wants to pretend that maybe Nat is old enough to vote

Observing that the question of whether Nat is old enough to vote is relevant and undiscussed is not the same thing as asserting that Nat is indeed old enough to vote.

265

Daragh 04.25.17 at 12:01 am

Raven @253

No. Trump is pro Le Pen because they are both racist authoritarians.

Steven T Johnson @ all over the place

“The contrast between casualties of US invasions and subversions and Soviet invasions and subversions is evidence that can’t be disappeared by psychotic ravings about Soviet propaganda.”

So the Holdomor, Katyn Massacre, invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan didn’t happen then? Good to know!

“The US, via the CIA and its subordinates Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have financed and armed IS.”

You do know InfoWars is not a reliable source of information right? Even Alex Jones himself admits he’s doing schtick at this point.

“If so the question of how someone can get smeared with nerve toxin by someone not wearing protective gear that still somehow does not get poisoned would be asked.”

VX is generally stored as a precursor chemical that only becomes lethal when mixed with an additional chemical agent. Entirely coincidentally, two women were involved in the attack on Kim Jong-Nam, where basic intelligence tradecraft would suggest a single assassin would be preferable. Incidentally, one of those women subsequently displayed symptoms of VX poisoning. Of course, the latter report comes from the Malaysian police, who are running dogs and lackeys of the imperialist swine.

“The threat to the north is entirely real, unlike the alleged threat to the south. The threat to the south is the threat of retaliation. The threat to the north is one of massive aggression by the US and its southern puppets. This is particularly true given the dire instability of the southern regime.”

[E-mails CT administrators to see if they’ve noticed any activity from IP addresses in Pyongyang].

266

faustusnotes 04.25.17 at 1:18 am

By the way Steven t johnson, North Korea is 21% arable land, South Korea is 18%; North Korea’s proportion arable land has been increasing. Also, North Korea sold fishing rights in both its maritime areas to China, and the conflict over fishing in the area now is between Chinese and North Korean ships.

I guess that’s all America’s fault too, right?

267

steven t johnson 04.25.17 at 2:40 am

faustusnotes@266 Yes, the south’s proportion of arable land would also be perilously low if the south were to endure the economic blockade inflicted on the north. Chinese policy is not the US government’s policy, but you are no doubt gratified by the pro-capitalist, anti-worker policies of the Beijing administration, which is a major reason why the US has gotten so much cooperation from Beijing, over fishing and elsewhere.
As for Soviet aggress, faustusnotes has inexplicably omitted the truly monstrous aggression that so many here at CT have never been able to forgive, being the very souls of virtue, the murderous invasion of Germany.

Daragh@263 fits comfortably into the CT approach, but Agatha Christie would laugh. The link does not even support the claim, as vomiting is one symptom, of very many things, which was not even confirmed to be present on Kim. As to how the woman who allegedly “mixed” the second precursor could escape a lethal dose while guaranteeing a fatal dose to Kim…no doubt the fiendish Commies could solve this little technical difficulty. I suppose Daragh also knows that an Asian like Kim could be relied upon not to wash his face after strange women rubbed stuff all over it.

268

J-D 04.25.17 at 3:01 am

steven t johnson

Yes, the north has advocated a peace treaty. It has also advanced several other peace propositions, such as the Agreed Framework signed in the Clinton administration, and later reneged upon by the US. Or, in a different fashion, the Kaesong economic development venture.

The default position in any armed conflict is that Side A wants peace, on terms acceptable to Side A, while Side B wants peace, on terms acceptable to Side B; but terms acceptable to Side A are generally unacceptable to Side B and terms acceptable to Side B are generally unacceptable to Side A, because if it wasn’t so there probably wouldn’t be an armed conflict in the first place. So, in general, by itself an announcement that ‘we want peace’ counts for little or nothing. In this particular case, the fact that the north has advocated a peace treaty counts for little or nothing without further details, such as: how has the north advocated a peace treaty and, more importantly, on what terms; what forms has advocacy of peace by the south taken (or are you suggesting that the south does not advocate peace at all? how can you be sure of that?), and how has it compared with and, more importantly, interacted with advocacy of peace by the north; what has been the reaction to or reception of the proposals from the north by the south.

I admit that I was unaware of the Kaesong economic development venture until you mentioned it, and I still don’t know much about it, so I’m sure that there’s additional information available which might change my views if I became aware of it. But going just on the information I have found so far, I don’t understand how it’s supposed to count as an attempt to achieve peace; I don’t understand how it’s supposed to have been more a northern initiative than a southern one, since on its face it seems to be a joint venture; I don’t understand the basis on which its termination can be evaluated as the fault of one side rather than the fault of the other or of both.

As far as I can tell from the information I have found so far, it appears that the Agreed Framework was an attempt to resolve issues that were a point of conflict between North Korea and the US; that seems to me to be something different from an attempt to achieve peace between North Korea and South Korea.

The details make the case for a conclusion; in the absence of the details I find no case for any conclusion.

269

faustusnotes 04.25.17 at 6:23 am

steven t johnson, the south’s proportion of arable land is lower than the north’s. And both countries have considerably more arable land than Japan, which is strangely not being defended as a victim of US starvation policies.

You’ll also note (and haven’t responded to!) the fact that the supposed aggressive attempts to impede North Korean fishing arise from its own govt selling its fishing rights to its ally China – and then its fishing fleets raiding Chinese boats to steal back fish. But that’s a US plot too amirite?

270

Raven 04.25.17 at 6:59 am

steven t johnson @ 267: “As to how the woman who allegedly ‘mixed’ the second precursor could escape a lethal dose while guaranteeing a fatal dose to Kim…no doubt the fiendish Commies could solve this little technical difficulty.” — Apparently they were not concerned with avoiding a lethal dose to her, as she had been hired by the first woman (the actual assassin) to perform only an “innocent prank” as far as she [the second woman] knew. She was incredibly lucky that her share of the binary poison, which was harmless except where mixed with the other share, was mostly mixed only on Kim Jong-Nam’s face, and not on her own hand from throwing her share into his face. … But then there was some directionality of movement, so that reduced her exposure even with her not realizing the necessity of it.

… Kim could be relied upon not to wash his face after strange women rubbed stuff all over it.” — That’s the thing about VX and the face: by the time the victim looks around and finds someplace to wash off his face, his eyes, nose, and mouth have already been even more open portals into the body than the pores; blinking, breathing, perhaps even swallowing. (The second woman had had only her hand exposed.)

271

Daragh 04.25.17 at 7:52 am

“steven t johnson”, if that is your real name…

You’ve now moved on to bizarre assertions that ‘so may here at CT’ come down on the side of the Nazis in the question ‘which side would you have preferred won World War II’, and insinuating that I am an anti-Asian racist in place of making an argument. In short, you’ve gone from darkly amusing to genuinely offensive quite rapidly. As others seem content to continue the whack-a-mole task of pointing out the glaring factual errors and logical holes in whatever spaghetti you’ve just thrown against the wall claim you’ve decided to make I’m going to go do something more productive with my day.

272

steven t johnson 04.25.17 at 1:11 pm

The alleged VX murder plot required Kim to leave the precursor on his face until the second woman added the second. How good of him to cooperate. Incidentally, the video footage does not show the first woman at all, and it does not show the second woman “throwing” anything. As near as I can see her hands were in very close contact with Kim’s face, which according to Daragh means in close contact with the newly formed VX. No doubt it is true that unscrupulous murderers might have no concern over the death of the second woman. It is is not at all clear they would have no concern with the second woman’s corpse providing additional evidence, like the remaining traces of precursor.

While googling for the video, I was amused to note that the accompanying verbal report at one site mentioned needles or sprays, neither of which was a feasible interpretation of the video.

The inability to suggest a motive is finessed by assuming the conclusion, that everything North Korean is insane.

273

Daragh 04.25.17 at 3:31 pm

“The alleged VX murder plot required Kim… neither of which was a feasible interpretation of the video..”

Nothing about jet fuel and the melting point of steel girders then? No baseless accusations that your opponents are racists and pro-Nazi?

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