Tuesday, October 29, 2019

How the impulsivity of our mentally deranged 'great leader' almost derailed a military op and then he publicly leaked the intelligence and operational details.

Oh, heck. I am so sorry for that headline. It’s just that once I got started I was in danger of not stopping. As it is, there is much more here. Let’s start with the raid that got Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Trump’s part in it.

John Cassidy at the New Yorker reports that Donald Trump Makes the Raid That Killed Baghdadi All About Him In a briefing on the raid that killed the isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump presented himself as the mastermind behind the operation. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. (What am I thinking? Of course, if there is something further from the truth, Trump will find it and brag about it.)

… According to the version of events Trump provided on Sunday morning, Baghdadi blew himself up, in a tunnel under the compound, “as our dogs chased him down,” and “he died like a dog.” But, as the common refrain suggests, even though you can’t take what Trump says literally, you shouldn’t ignore it completely, especially when he is trying to spin a single successful strike by the U.S. military into a huge strategic victory for his embattled Presidency. “He’s done tremendous damage,” Trump continued, referring to al-Baghdadi. “But it was an amazing display of intelligence and military power and coördination and getting along with people. Lots of great things happened. So that was a big, big day and a big weekend, and we’re very happy about it.”

If that sounded like a wrap, it wasn’t. [OMG!] Trump also confirmed that he is considering releasing some of the footage from the raid, which he, Vice-President Mike Pence, and a number of others watched, in real time, from the White House Situation Room. This is the footage, reportedly shot from above the compound, that Trump described on Sunday as “something really amazing to see … as though you were watching a movie.” When Trump says he’s considering releasing the footage, you can assume he’s already screaming at people in the White House about why it isn’t out there already. Presumably, if Trump had his way, a fully narrated version would be released immediately, and it would be supplemented by a prime-time Fox miniseries—starring him, of course, because, in his telling, he was the mastermind behind the entire thing.

In Trump’s defense, his account of his role in the planning of the raid wasn’t the most glaring falsehood he uttered during his briefing. That prize went to his assertion that, before 9/11, he wrote a book in which he singled out Osama bin Laden and said, “You have to kill him. You have to take him out.” Here is what the Associated Press’s fact checkers had to say about this statement: “His 2000 book, ‘The America We Deserve,’ makes a passing mention of bin Laden but did no more than point to the al-Qaida leader as one of many threats to U.S. security. Nor does he say in the book that bin Laden should have been killed . . . The book did not call for further U.S. action against bin Laden or al-Qaida to follow up on attacks [Bill] Clinton ordered in 1998 in Afghanistan and Sudan after al-Qaida bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.”

Trump is delusional. And as commander-in-chief that makes him very dangerous. Consider his leaking of the details of the al-Baghdadi raid. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on the blubbermouth’s leaks: After decrying leaks, Trump shares sensitive details on Baghdadi raid

… as part of the same White House event in which he suggested Democrats might not be trustworthy to be discreet with sensitive intelligence, Donald Trump shared all kinds of operational details that he could’ve easily kept to himself, including the precise number of commando helicopters used and the route they took to the raid.

Politico reported:

Throughout the rest of the news conference, Trump eagerly divulged operational details that would normally be reserved for expert officials to share at their discretion. The move immediately drew criticism from national security analysts who said they were alarmed by the volume of information he shared regarding the location and specifics of the nighttime raid.

Over the course of his remarks, Trump revealed that Baghdadi had been “under surveillance for a couple of weeks”; the number of helicopters involved in the mission and their time of liftoff; how special forces teams managed to penetrate the compound where Baghdadi was found; how lab technicians administered a “genius” DNA test after he killed himself by detonating a suicide vest; and which “element of the attack [U.S. forces] were most afraid of.”

A separate Politico report added, “Taken together, some of the details Trump revealed could help terrorist groups piece together new information about how U.S. counterterrorism forces gather intelligence and execute such dangerous missions, said veterans of previous operations.”

For Trump to divulge these operational details was unsettling. For him to divulge these operational details while complaining about leaks and suggesting others lacked discretion was ridiculous.

The thing is: the raid succeeded in spite of, and not because of, what Trump did. His withdrawal of U. S. troops almost trashed the op.

The Times reported that As Kurds Tracked ISIS Leader, U.S. Withdrawal Threw Raid Into Turmoil. Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria upended a 5-year alliance and threw the plans against al-Baghdadi into disarray.

[Unlike Trump] American officials would not discuss the specific intelligence provided by the Kurds, but said that their role in finding Mr. al-Baghdadi was essential — more so than all other countries combined, as one put it — contradicting President Trump’s assertion over the weekend that the United States “got very little help.”

Yet even as the Syrian Kurdish fighters were risking their lives in the hunt that led to Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death this weekend, Mr. Trump abruptly shattered America’s five-year partnership with them.

Last December, Mr. Trump suddenly announced on Twitter that he was withdrawing the roughly 2,000 American troops in Syria because ISIS had been defeated, calling that “my only reason for being there.”

The decision baffled the Kurdish-led forces, who were still locked in fierce battles with the Islamic State and would not rout the group from its last patch of territory for another three months.

The withdrawal decision angered Mr. Trump’s Republican allies in Congress and even members of his administration.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned, as did Brett McGurk, the presidential envoy for the fight against the Islamic State, who both considered it a mistake. …

[Now] the Kurds are busy resisting further Turkish advances that they fear could amount to the ethnic cleansing of Kurds from their homeland.

Kurdish leaders say they hoped five years of cooperation could have ended with more respect for their sacrifices.

“All of a sudden you give it up and give it to the regime and Russia and Iran,” said Mr. Can, the S.D.F. adviser. “After that, who is going to trust the Americans and help them? No one.”

Ignorance + Dishonesty = Dangerous Delusions

Let’s take that one at a time starting with ignorance. Thomas Friedman explains: Al-Baghdadi Is Dead. The Story Doesn’t End Here. President Trump boasts of defeating the Islamic State. He’s only showing how ignorant he is.

… this story is far from over, and it could have many unexpected implications. Let’s start at home.

President Trump was effusive in his praise for the U.S. intelligence agencies who found and tracked al-Baghdadi to the lair in Syria where he blew himself up to avoid being captured. In his news conference, Trump went on and on about just how good the men and women in our intelligence agencies are.

Well, Mr. President, those are the same intelligence agencies who told you that Russia intervened in our last election in an effort to tip the vote to you and against Hillary Clinton (and are still intervening). When our intel agencies exposed that reality, you impugned their integrity and quality.

And the same intelligence agencies who tracked down al-Baghdadi are the same ones who produced two whistle-blowers high up in your White House — who complained that you, Mr. Trump, abused the power of your office to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, touching off this impeachment inquiry.

And those same intelligence agencies whom you hailed as heroes for tracking down al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump, are the same “deep state,” the same agencies and whistle-blowers whom your White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, just smeared as “radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.’’

So thank you, Mr. Trump, for clearing up this confusion. We now know that the same intelligence services who have been heroic in protecting us from those who want to attack our constitutional democracy from abroad are the same heroes who have stepped up to protect our constitutional democracy from within. Unlike you, Mr. Trump, they took seriously their oath to do both.

… Trump kept going on and on in his news conference about how he, in his infinite wisdom, was keeping U.S. troops in Syria to protect the oil fields there so maybe U.S. oil companies could exploit them. He even boasted that while he was against the Iraq war, we should have taken over all of Iraq’s oil fields to pay for it.

This is disgusting talk, and again, a prescription for trouble in the future. If America has any role in the Middle East today, it is not to protect the oil wells, but to protect and enhance what I call the “islands of decency.”

These are places like Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan, Jordan, the U.A.E., Oman, Lebanon and the frail democracies in Tunisia and Baghdad. None of these are developed democracies; Oman, Jordan and the U.A.E. are monarchies. But perfect is not on the menu in the Middle East right now. And these countries do promote more moderate versions of Islam and religious tolerance, they do empower their women and they do encourage modern education.

These are the necessary but not sufficient antidotes to ISIS. They are worth preserving and enhancing in hopes that they can develop one day into something better for all their peoples. Just look at the democracy protests in Lebanon. You can see where the young people want to go.

Only Trump would boast of defeating ISIS and thinking that all that needs to be done now is to protect the Middle East’s oil wells and America’s favorite dictators — and not its wells of decency.

In the end, Washington Post columnist Max Boot explains why It’s impossible to give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt.

When previous administrations took controversial steps, there was a general assumption, even among critics, that they were acting in what they believed to be the public interest. When this administration makes contentious decisions — such as awarding a $10 billion Pentagon contract to Microsoft instead of Amazon, or probing the origins of an investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election — the presumption of goodwill has been replaced by a presumption of ill will and illegality.

This seaminess is entirely in character for a president who was surrounded by felons (his previous personal attorney, his first national security adviser and his former campaign chairman); lied about his payments to an alleged mistress in apparent violation of campaign finance laws; engaged in pervasive obstruction of justice to stymie an investigation into his campaign links with Russia; continues to do business as a property manager and developer around the world; lies 22 times a day; and even falsified a weather map to show that he was right about a hurricane.

I wish I could give the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt. But I simply can’t. No objective observer could. I assume that both the decision to “investigate the investigators” and to award a contract to Microsoft over Amazon are deeply corrupt, just like everything else that Trump touches. The onus is on the administration to show otherwise. That’s hard to do given that you can’t believe a single word that Trump and his dishonest aides say.

When you can have no faith that the president is acting in the public interest — when, in fact, you have good cause to believe the opposite — it’s time to impeach and remove, because the president has lost all credibility and hence his ability to carry out the duties of his office.

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