Monday, April 16, 2018

War Birds Have Bird Brains

Friday night I was really concerned, fearing that WW3 had begun, but by the next morning what I saw was a lot of yelling, fulminating, chest thumping and almost certainly a lot of lying by everyone involved. The whole thing is now beginning to resemble a comedy, except that we may not have seen the final chapter of it yet.

Actually, barring further escalation, the whole thing is mostly rather embarrassing at this point. My present conclusion is that we made an enormous production out of blowing up several empty buildings to “punish” Assad for a chemical weapons attack that not only did he not perpetrate, but which almost certainly never actually happened at all.

The US, Britain and France fired over 100 cruise missiles from airplanes and ships, which Russia said they would retaliate against but so far have not, other than with words like “violation of sovereignty.” I have no idea why they think such a charge would give this nation any cause for concern. The US violates the sovereignty of other nations on a frequent basis; it’s what we do best.

Russia pretty much said that since we didn’t kill anyone, only injured three Syrians, and didn’t destroy anything that anyone cared about, other than one civilian research lab which was unoccupied at the time, they are going to take a pass on this one.

Trump said the missile strikes would continue until Assad’s use of chemical weapons stopped, which was a bit odd since even he had not claimed Assad was currently employing chemical weapons as of the day of said missile strike. Which means they had already stopped. Logic, however, is not Mr. Trump’s strong point, so let’s move on.

Mattis, who is being referred to as “General” and as Secretary of Defense, says that this was a one time strike which will not be ongoing, so there is a communication problem here. One of them is obvious and the other is within the media and is with respect to his title, since military officers cannot serve in the civilian government. He is either an Army general or he is Secretary of Defense, but he can’t be both. The media needs to make up their minds.

Yes, general officers continue in rank after retirement, but using his rank while he is serving in government makes us sound like a nation with a military government such as, say, Egypt. You may recall that the military took over the government of Egypt by means of a coup. The population supported the coup because they trusted the military more than they did the civilian government. Does that sound familiar? When a US citizen meets a soldier today he says, “thank you for your service,” but when he meets a politician he says, “fuck you.” Anyway, back to the US war with Syria.

We say that we have dealt Syria a cruel blow and have destroyed their ability to use chemical weapons in the future, an ability which Syria, Russia and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says they did not have prior to our missile strike.

It’s also in conflict with Trump’s statement about the strikes continuing until Assad stops using chemical weapons. If we have destroyed his ability to use them, then by definition he isn’t going to continue using them. Right? Assuming, that is, that he ever used them in the first place. (“Yes or no, have you stopped beating your wife, Mr. Jones?”) Consistency, however is another thing that Trump is not known for so, again, let’s move on.

Syria says that they shot down, or otherwise disabled, 71 of the 103 missiles which were fired in the strike. The US, of course, says that not one single missile failed to strike the target, which is the same thing we claimed back in April of last year. Pictures of the target back then, however, showed only 23 impact craters after we fired 60 missiles, so the truth about shoot downs this time is probably closer to the Syrian claim of 71 than it is to our claim of zero.

CBS Evening News is still claiming that last April, after a single missile failed into the sea near the ship which was firing it, all of the other 59 missiles hit the airfield which was the target. Somehow, however, they only left 23 craters, and the pieces of metal littering the ground dozens of miles away from the target which look like missile parts are actually, um, er, uh… something else.

If we anticipated a 100% hit rate, why did we need to fire 103 missiles, each with 450 pounds of very powerful explosive, to destroy three buildings?

As to those buildings we destroyed, according to a correspondent with our military who served in Syria prior to their civil war, those facilities are not recent intelligence discoveries, but were known to us and disclosed to the Israelis 25 years ago. They were emptied of chemical weapons in 2013 under a program initiated by Russia and overseen by the US military and have been monitored since then by the OPCW, an international watchdog agency who does for chemical weapons what the IAEA does for nuclear weapons. The most recent inspection, in which they were pronounced clear of any weapons, was November 22, 2017.

According to a Syrian interviewed by a CBS News reporter who worked at the research center in Damascus, which was hit by our missiles and destroyed, the facility did research on food chemicals and he did not have a security clearance. They were standing in the rubble of the destroyed research center as they spoke, and were not wearing anything in the way of protective clothing or breathing gear. Does that sound like a chemical weapons research center?

That same “news agency” is now walking the story back a bit, saying repeatedly last evening that the missile strike was “in response to suspected use of chemical weapons by Assad.” I find such a statement astonishing. Bit like a judge saying, “I sentence you to death for suspected first degree murder.”

Of course, we have been sentencing people to death by Hellfire missile for being “suspected militants” since the beginning of the Obama administration, so I don’t know why I should be surprised by this latest.

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