bureaucracybusters

BAD ALLIES = BAD OUTCOMES

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2022 at 12:12 am

For those born after 1975, America’s departure from Afghanistan marks the first humiliating retreat from a valuable ally.

But this is wrong.

In April, 1975, the South Vietnamese Army suddenly crumbled under an all-out offensive by North Vietnamese regular army units.

The United States—which had been been supplying military assistance to Vietnam since the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower—suddenly saw its worst nightmare come to life.

It had poured more than $120 billion into the conflict in Vietnam from 1965-73. At least 58,000  United States soldiers had died there. Another 304,000 had been wounded.

Map showing the partition of French Indochina following the 1954 Geneva Conference

Vietnam during the Vietnam war

User:SnowFire, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

The last American troops had left Vietnam on March 29, 1973. President Richard Nixon claimed that he had achieved “peace with honor.” The South Vietnamese Army was supposedly now trained by Americans to defend the “country” from attack by North Vietnam. 

Then came December 13, 1974—the start of the North’s all-out offensive.

The result: South Vietnamese forces melted away.

This was hardly surprising to American veterans of the war. Among them a favorite joke had been: “There’s a new batch of South Vietnamese rifles for sale. Never fired, and only dropped once.”

By April 30, 1975, Saigon, the capitol of South Vietnam, fell to the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong.

Fall of Saigon

At home, watching TV, Americans felt shame as Army helicopters hurriedly lifted off the roof of the United States embassy. Numerous South Vietnamese desperately tried to climb aboard—only to have their hands stomped on by Americans equally desperate to get out before North Vietnamese forces reached them.

Now, 46 years later, Americans were seeing Air Force planes taking off from Kabul Airport, with hordes of Afghans desperate to leave the country, racing after them.

Said President Joseph Biden: “Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history.” 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joseph Biden

Just as the South Vietnamese Army had chosen flight instead of fight, so, too, did the Afghan Army—in just 10 days.

“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” said Biden. “And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.

“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces.

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Donald Trump

“Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict.

“I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.”

Republicans have since tried hard to blame the resulting chaos on Biden. But in doing so they deliberately ignore the role played by his predecessor, Donald Trump, in facilitating that rout.

As Biden noted, Trump had invited the Taliban to Camp David to discuss the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.  Making this offer thoroughly disgraceful were two factors:

First: The date for this conference was on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of those attacks, was then living in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban.

It was the refusal of the Taliban to turn him over to American justice that led directly to the American invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001.

Second: Pointedly uninvited to this conference were any members of the Afghan government, which—officially—the United States regarded as a valuable ally. 

There is a brutal lesson here that Americans have long refused to learn: Bad allies make for bad outcomes. Those who refuse to defend themselves cannot be bribed or forced to do so by others. 

Contrast the “I have to catch a plane” cowardice of Afghan soldiers with the courage of Ukrainian soldiers—and civilians—fiercely defending their country from Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked Russian invasion. 

During the assault by Russian troops on the capital of Kiev, the Biden administration urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to evacuate to a safer location and offered to help him do so. Zelensky refused, saying: “The fight is here [in Kiev]; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

Until Presidents and Congressional leaders learn to distinguish worthwhile allies from worthless ones, Americans will continue to waste lives and treasure on the latter.

MORE THAN FETUSES MAY BE ABORTED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2022 at 12:10 am

In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, raised the question of “whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.”

And he answered it: “The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”  

But Machiavelli warned against relying primarily on fear:

“Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together, and will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens….or with their women.”  

If the Republicans governing Georgia and Alabama ever read this warning, they have ignored it with a vengeance.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

On May 7, 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed an anti-abortion law that—in defiance of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade—re-criminalizes abortion.

The law bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable. This usually occurs about six weeks into a pregnancy—even before many women know they’re pregnant.

The law permits abortions

  • Only if the mother’s life is at risk; or
  • If the fetus cannot survive. 

No exceptions are made for cases of rape or incest.

“HB 481 would also have consequences for women who get abortions from doctors or miscarry,” writes Mark Joseph Stern for Slate.

“A woman who seeks out an illegal abortion from a health care provider would be a party to murder, subject to life in prison. And a woman who miscarries because of her own conduct—say, using drugs while pregnant—would be liable for second-degree murder, punishable by 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment.

“Prosecutors may interrogate women who miscarry to determine whether they can be held responsible; if they find evidence of culpability, they may charge, detain, and try these women for the death of their fetuses.”  [Emphasis added.]

In addition, a woman could be sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment if she leaves Georgia to obtain an abortion in another state.Related image

And on May 14, 2019, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the “Alabama Human Life Protection Act.” The law only allows exceptions “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” for ectopic pregnancy and if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly.”

Again, no exceptions are made for rape or incest.

Ivey admitted that the new law may be unenforceable owing to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in all 50 states. But the whole point of the law is to challenge that decision, Ivey said.

Republicans constantly claim to be “the party of small government.” But there can be no more intrusive act than dictating to a woman that she must give birth—even if she’s the victim of rape or incest.      

At the same time:

  • Republicans have proven uniformly hostile to providing poor mothers with access to food, clothing and medical care.
  • Donald Trump made repealing the Affordable Care Act—which provides medical insurance to more than 20 million Americans—the hallmark of his Presidency.

It’s easy to imagine many of these women fatally cracking under the strain.  

On December 6, 2011, Rachelle Grimmer, a 38-year-old resident of San Antonio, pulled a gun in a state welfare office and held off police for seven hours. Then she shot and wounded her two children—ages 10 and 12—before fatally shooting herself.

For months, she had been unable to qualify for food stamps. 

Thus, women living in abortion-banning states face Right-wing hypocrisy on one hand and draconian laws punishing the most intimate acts—of sexuality and reproductive freedom—on the other.

It’s easy to imagine some pregnant women—especially the victims of incest and/or rape—desperately seeking redress through violence. And the targets of their wrath could easily be the Republican legislators of their states who have made their lives a living hell.

Trump is constantly guarded by the Secret Service. And governors are protected by state police. But state assemblymen and senators aren’t assigned such details—unless there’s a specific threat made against them. Nor are anti-abortion Right-wing commentators like Tucker Carlson.

In fact, Right-wing figures have often been the targets of successful—and unsuccessful—assassination attempts.

  • On September 8, 1935, Louisiana U.S. Senator Huey Long was shot and fatally wounded by Carl Austin Weiss, an idealistic young doctor. Long had intended to run for President in 1936 and unseat Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • On May 27, 1942, SS Obergruppenführer (General) Reinhard Heydrich—“The Butcher of Prague”—was killed with a hand grenade by two Czech patriots.
  • On May 15, 1972, Presidential candidate George C. Wallace was shot and paralyzed by a crazed gunman while mingling with supporters in a Maryland shopping center.
  • On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot and almost killed by a psychotic gunman while walking to his bulletproof limousine in Washington, D.C. 

All but one of these men (Heydrich) were protected by bodyguards when they were attacked.

Given the ferocity of laws aimed specifically at them, some women may decide to abort more than fetuses.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: BRIBES FOR THE SENATE, TANKS FOR UKRAINE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2022 at 12:11 am

Anyone wondering where Vladimir Putin got the idea he could invade Ukraine with impunity need look no further than the United States Senate.

On April 16, 2018, the New York Times published an editorial taking direct aim at the vast majority of Congressional Republicans.

Specifically, it noted their unwillingness to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Its key paragraph:

“Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. [Orrin] Hatch and his colleagues.”

Orrin Hatch was the Republican United States Senator from Utah. He and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) had warned Trump not to fire  Rosenstein or Mueller. 

But most Republicans had held silent.

Why?

The Times editorial offers two reasons:

First, Republicans feared enraging an easily infuriated Trump—who might aim his Twitter account at them and cost them votes in the upcoming fall elections.

Second, Republicans feared enraging Trump’s fanatical base—which, in this instance, had two meanings:

  1. “Something (as a group of people) that reliably provides support (such as for a business or political candidate)”—Merriam Webster; and
  2. “Without moral principles; ignoble”—Oxford Living Dictionaries

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Mueller’s independent investigation to reach the Senate floor.

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.  

Earlier in the day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.” 

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

But there is an additional reason why so few Republicans dared to stand up against Trump. 

Trump received help from Russian Intelligence agents during the 2016 Presidential campaign. And House and Senate Republicans have received Russian help of another kind: Bribe monies.

Of course, these are not officially classified as bribes. Officially, they are “campaign contributions.” 

In recent years, a network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the donations are entirely legal

The following data comes from the Federal Election Commission.

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs. 

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributed

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.  

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.  

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election.

Millionaires and billionaires don’t give six- or seven-figure monetary contributions to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display. 

It’s clear that the Republican party has moved from “Better Dead than Red” to “My Wallet, First and Always.”

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