Parse it Carefully

It’s a sign of my suspicion of government that I read everything they say at least twice. So, when I saw the headline: [bi] “Trump is reportedly ending the CIA’s covert program to arm Syrian rebels.” I thought, “good!”

But then I realized there are 2 ways to read this:

It’s not entirely clear all of a sudden. What’s clear is that the US has stopped pretending that it’s not invading Syria.[stderr] And the writing is all over the wall that the US is giving Turkey the slow finger and aligning increasingly with the independent Kurds. [stderr]

Meanwhile, Mosul looks more like genocide (aka: “ethnic cleansing”) to set the remains of the city up for a general Kurdish take-over. Given that the Mosul dam still looks like a disaster waiting to happen, I’m not sure that they’re getting real estate that anyone should want. Patrick Cockburn over at Counterpunch reports that ISIS sympathisers and fighters are being thrown off buildings [cp] to get rid of them permanently.

Iraqi security forces kill Isis prisoners because they believe that if the militants are sent to prison camps they will bribe the authorities in Baghdad to release them. “That is why Iraqi soldiers prefer to shoot them or throw them off high buildings,” says one Iraqi source. A former senior Iraqi official said he could name the exact sum that it would take for an Isis member to buy papers enabling him to move freely around Iraq.

These are the Iraqi security forces that the US military is serving, that are calling in air strikes and incendiary strikes for. After a decade of asking the Iraqi military to “stand up for itself” and not take to its heels, the US military has now flattened a path for them to go in and kill surrendered enemies. In case anyone cares anymore, that’s a war crime.

Here’s a satellite image of one of the border crossings between Syria and Turkey. I guess they aren’t letting people through with their cars. Imagine the feeling of having your ability to control your future wrenched away from you: one day you’re a person with a car and a house and a job and a year later you’re desperately hoping you can walk empty-handed across a border into a refugee camp. This is liberation: “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

The border at Kobani (reported in [source])

The Syrian rebels, reportedly, learned that the Trump administration had changed its policy via the news. It’s like a sort of break-up-by-TXT scenario, but it’s nothing new – remember when the US tried to foment an insurgency in Iraq between Gulf War I and Gulf War II? Yeah, they got weapons and support from the CIA until, eh, sorry, your rebellion didn’t work fast enough – time to die.

Some 15,000-plus rebel troops in northern Syria have been receiving CIA support for the past four years. But four commanders told The Daily Beast they had learned of the aid cutoff from news reports. They said they had feared something was afoot when they didn’t receive their salaries in July. [beast]

That’s gonna win some “hearts and minds” for sure. I’m surprised Trump didn’t tweet the whole thing out like some Ubu-esque Blac Chyna/Rob Kardashian “we’ve dumped you and are so in love with Kurdistan, BFF!”

Meanwhile, [military times]

Over the last week videos and pictures posted by Kurdish activists on social media show flatbed trucks delivering U.S.-made MRAP, M-ATVs, and up-armored bulldozers into Syria.

Military officials say these vehicles are not part of the U-S.-led coalition’s aid to Kurdish allies on the ground who are currently engaged in a tense street-by-street urban battle in Raqqa – ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital.

The images of heavily armored American vehicles flowing into Syria emerge as the Kurdish fighters attempt to push closer to Raqqa’s city center and their progress has slowed in recent days.

“The SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] has reportedly encountered intensified resistance and ‘better-emplaced defenses’ over the past four weeks following initial rapid gains in districts on the outskirts of Ar-Raqqa City,” according to a  report of the latest assessment from the Institute for the Study of War.

The Vietnamization of Syria continues, only it’s worse – at least Congress had the courage to rubber-stamp the administration’s deepening forays into that quagmire. In Washington, it appears the military is running the show while the president golfs and Congress worries about who is using which toilets and whether they sit or stand.

Meanwhile, in Raqqa, the US continues to put troops in the front line to keep Turkish and Syrian and Kurdish forces apart, while deciding who’s going to get what parcel of real estate when all the rubble-making is done.

Raqqa’s next.

I was a kid during the anti-war protests against the Vietnam war, and didn’t think about them very skeptically. It wasn’t until decades later that I encountered the idea (I believe it was in Howard Zinn) that the anti-war movement really didn’t get much traction until the draft started eating into the white middle class. When I was in the army reserves (1983-1989) it was pretty obvious that the volunteer army was almost entirely staffed by the lower class, and entirely managed by the upper. It’s a step from the victorian British army, where nobility simply bought rank – now they have to earn it by going to a military academy and pulling family ties with lawmakers to get into West Point – but it’s starting to look more and more like Zinn was right (again) – we won’t get any kind of resistance to the war without the rich and white getting forced to play the hand they’re dealing for the lower class. That’ll be when, like in the 1960s, they look at it and go, “Wait! This is shit! Not for ME! I have bone spurs and shit!” My buddy Sazz, [stderr] who spent two tours in Vietnam shooting and getting shot at, was stone deaf but they took him anyway. He couldn’t afford a deferment and got DEROS only when a visiting officer yelled at him, “What, are you deaf?!” and Sazz wrote “yes!” on a piece of paper and handed it to him.

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This is a link worth keeping: it’s when the Washington Post broke the ‘news’ that the CIA was supplying weapons to Syrian rebels. [wp] 9/11/2013. Clearly it had already been going on for some time. Probably shortly after the marches and protests in Daraa got violent.

Sit or stand: I have a penis and I sit. Anyone who’s had to clean army latrines, as I have, will appreciate the value of sitting. Sitting doesn’t mean you’re weak or anything like that, and it’s just a hell of a lot easier to read a good book, too. If sitting is weak, standing is anti-intellectual.

The Wall St Journal interviewed Bashar Assad in January 2011, right before the civil war kicked into high gear. [wsj] All I can think, when I read it, is how nice it would be to have leaders that were articulate and who could answer a question.


  1. says

    When I was in the army reserves

    How did that happen? You don’t sound like a person who would volunteer. Or was it impossible to avoid conscription?

    Latvia abolished draft in 2005. Among my older male friends I have heard a lot of “how I successfully managed to avoid conscription” stories (some of these stories being very creative and fun).

  2. cartomancer says

    The US made a typical schoolboy error in the Imperialism game with Vietnam. They sent over a conscript army rather than using hired mercenaries or organising local dissidents like the Gurkhas. It was a stupid move that any of the more experienced colonial powers could have told them about.

  3. says

    The US made a typical schoolboy error in the Imperialism game with Vietnam.

    You’re not kidding. It really was. I guess they figured it out after that, and haven’t made that mistake since.

  4. says

    Ieva Skrebele@#1:
    How did that happen? You don’t sound like a person who would volunteer.

    I was young and stupid. I’m not sure if the story is worth telling, though there are certainly a few stories that come out of that period of my life, which probably are. Hmmm…

    Short form: I volunteered, then realized what a shit-puddle I had stepped into, took advantage of a mistake in my enlistment contract to shift to a very light duty, found even that to be intolerable, and stopped going. Got angry letters every month for 4 years and then an honorable discharge in the mail. So technically I am a veteran but when someone says “thank you for your service” I have to laugh.

  5. says

    Four years! Wow! They sure were persistent.

    When one of my sex slaves lovers got the obligatory draft letter, he picked up the phone, called them and said that he’s not going to the recruitment office. He said that they knew where he lives, if they needed him so badly, they could just take a car, drive to his home and pick him up. After a while he got a second letter. He called them again repeating the same thing. That was the last time he ever heard from the army. Latvian army was a lot less persistent, giving up after only two letters. So much for “obligatory” draft.

    Military authorities ought to understand that chasing those who are unwilling to show up is pointless. At best such unwilling soldiers can be used as cannon fodder.

    By the way, have you read Jaroslav Hašek’s “The Good Soldier Švejk”? It’s one of my all time favorite novels and it starts with the protagonist doing an amazingly funny attempt of draft avoidance by showing up in a wheelchair (his attempt fails though, he gets sent to war anyway).

  6. says

    Ieva Skrebele:
    Military authorities ought to understand that chasing those who are unwilling to show up is pointless. At best such unwilling soldiers can be used as cannon fodder.

    And, at worst, you’d better keep them away from the grenades, or you wake up with a grenade in your bunk.

    Jaroslav Hašek’s “The Good Soldier Švejk

    Never heard of it before now!

  7. seleukos says

    It’s been a while since I last read Švejk, but I seem to recall that he was so enthusiastic about joining up that he showed up in a wheelchair even though he’d recently been in an accident, and the army people thought he was putting on a show to avoid being drafted. Much of the novel’s humour lay in the protagonist’s naive enthusiasm about the army and the trouble he unwittingly caused to everyone around him.

    Probably the funniest novel ever written about WWI.

  8. says

    To seleukos @#7
    I always perceived Švejk as a clever actor who only pretends to be a fool in order to avoid war and piss off the authority figures. At the beginning of the novel he is able to walk normally, but he makes a show by arriving in a wheelchair. Why would he pretend to be unable to walk and arrive in a wheelchair unless he wanted to avoid joining the army? The beginning of the novel also shows that he is intelligent enough to understand the political situation. And in chapter 8, Švejk lands in a military hospital. There he joins lots of other soldiers who are faking illnesses in order to avoid war. And they also have a sadistic doctor who tortures his patients to make them announce that they are healed and ready to go to war. Švejk attempts to endure the torture and stay in this hospital for as long as possible. Somebody eager to go to war wouldn’t do all that.

    But, yes, in general the novel is open to interpretation. One option is to assume that Švejk is naive, patriotic and eager to participate in the war and only ends up constantly pissing off his superiors because of his stupidity. The second option is that he’s a really good actor doing all that on purpose in order to avoid war and get sent home.

  9. seleukos says

    Hm, it’s been almost twenty years since I last read it. Maybe it’s time for another go, to refresh my memory of it.