Donald Trump did a rally for his rival yesterday.
Donald Trump has wondered why the United States didn’t take Iraq’s oil to pay for our invasion. He has insisted that the United States must TAKE THE OIL!
The United States didn’t take the oil because pillaging, theft during war, is a war crime (more here). If a practical reason is needed, oil production and pipelines are extremely vulnerable to sabotage and military action. A continuing military presence would be needed to protect the seized oilfields. Trump seems to believe that the oil can be rapidly pumped from the ground and removed. It can’t.
Trump came into office promising to get American troops out of the Middle East. Many people support that goal. We have been in Afghanistan for eighteen years now. It’s not clear that our presence in the region has improved American security, and now our Saudi partners are dragging us into a war in Yemen.
But Trump knows nothing about military action or our relations with the countries in the region and refuses to learn. Nor does he care to use the decision-making aids available to the President. He has some longstanding prejudices, however, along with his willingness to make decisions impulsively.
After a telephone conversation with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Trump broadcast his decision via tweet to remove American troops from northeast Syria. The withdrawal leaves the Kurds vulnerable to the Turks, who want the Kurds out of the way. Trump assured us that Erdoğan would not harm the Kurds; he would punish Erdoğan with sanctions if he did.
Then Trump changed his mind and sent Erdoğan a letter that sounded like it came from a middle-school bully. Not all the troops were withdrawn. Some were sent to Saudi Arabia. And now the military is concerned that Trump may want to send them all back.
Trump’s ignorance and impulsiveness in this matter have caused problems from the logistical to the constitutional.
Trump’s tweet surprised the American military. They appear to have had no plans for withdrawal, although Trump has been talking about it since his campaign. A case can be made that withdrawal from northeastern Syria, particularly as abruptly as Trump required, is the wrong thing to do. But the military is subject to the civilian Commander-in-Chief, and they should have made a plan. It’s a bit puzzling, because the military is famous for having plans for actions as improbable as invading Canada.
Trump should have known that armies cannot withdraw from combat in the space of time it takes to send a tweet, or even over a few days. Trump could have instructed the military to make plans for withdrawal at the beginning of his presidency, since that was one of his promises. A plan would have dealt with how to protect the Kurds and how long a withdrawal would be likely to take under various circumstances. It could have even covered protecting the oil.
Military and other advisors seem to have used the idea of taking the oil to convince Trump to maintain a presence in the area after his tweet. Trump feels no obligation to the Kurds, and seems convinced that ISIS is defeated and cannot return. But he does want to take the oil. A National Guard unit from South Carolina is now guarding northeast Syria’s tiny oilfields with armored vehicles unsuited to dealing with ISIS.
This corrupts the chain of command. The President made a decision. The military is supposed to take his orders. But they and others have argued back and effectively rescinded the decision, although the troops now in place have a different mission than before. Trump began the corruption by ignoring the National Security Council process for decision-making that would have taken recommendations from the military, the State Department, and others before the decision was made.
Nobody seems now to know what the mission is. Protecting the oilfields is the stated reason the National Guard troops are there. Are there American rules of engagement for encounters with Syrian government troops? Turkish troops? ISIS? Russian troops? Is any of this consistent with the existing Authorization for the Use of Military Force?
Once upon a time, wars in the Middle East were cynically characterized as “blood for oil.” Now that charge is irrefutable, supported by the words of the President.
A Pentagon spokesperson says that the income from oil wells in the Kurdish areas will go to the Kurds. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the United States from “taking the oil.” Trump has said that he wants American companies to develop the oilfields, but they have no interest in doing that illegally, nor in a combat zone.
Trump knows nothing of international law, the geology of northeast Syria, the production of oil, or loyalty to allies. He sees the American military as a profit center. The number of American troops in Syria has remained constant since his pronouncement, but their mission has become less clear. Trump’s ego demands that he proclaim some sort of victory. His ignorance results in inappropriate decision-making by the Department of Defense. He can’t even achieve his own objective of removing the troops from the Middle East.
He is unfit to be president.
More of this, please!
The only places Trump is not likely to get booed at are his own rallies & maybe white evangelical churches. Wide swaths of the population see him as toxic.
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) November 3, 2019
All my NYC people say he’s loathed there. One read he’s leaving reputedly is his attorneys got through to him about inherent jury pool bias.
— GeorgeWilliamHerbert (@GeorgeWHerbert) November 3, 2019
yeah, I know. perhaps unfairly I thought the political makeup of a ufc crowd might self-select differently, and I feel bad about that now
— Gerry Doyle (@mgerrydoyle) November 3, 2019
A great many details are coming out about the raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS. It’s looking like (surprise!) not all the details that President Donald Trump gave at his statement this morning were accurate, but I’d like to let things settle out a bit before trying to work through them. Trump gave out a lot of operational information, as is his wont, so at this very moment people are sifting through that information to learn more, both in the open intelligence community and in national intelligence services.
The one thing I will note is a big contradiction between Trump’s recent retreat (and then return?) from Syria and his saying that this operation had been going on for weeks. To cover for an operation like this, the smartest thing would have been to continue US operations in Syria as they had been going. That would have meant turning down President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desire to go after the Kurds – delay his operation at least. It’s not clear what role this contradiction played in the actual events, but I suspect it was significant.
So let’s look at what we have. Reports are coming out that Trump’s victory photograph was staged a couple of hours after the operation. It certainly looks staged. Let’s compare that photo and the photo of President Barack Obama’s team during the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
The Trump photo contains only six people, all white men, all old except Defense Secretary Mark Esper. It looks like a seventh may have been cut out of the photo at the left, with a laptop in front of him. From left to right, they are National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Vice President Mike Pence, Trump, Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, and a military man I don’t know. Most obviously missing is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Obama photo contains fifteen people, only two in full suit and tie.
The Obama photo is active – people are engaged with a screen to our left. The Trump photo is static, posed, about the men,particularly Trump. All of them are looking at the camera, hoping for a place in posterity, although Esper may be looking at something above the camera.
The mess of cables almost steals the center of the photo from Trump. A short red cable lies unconnected in the foreground. For a number of reasons, including security, I would have gotten those cables out of the way in the preparation for the photo. Notice the more economical arrangement of laptops in the Obama photo. Also coffee cups, which indicate an operation in progress.
The Obama photo is much more diverse – two women, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Audrey Tomason, Director for Counterterrorism for the National Security Council. Additionally, the clothes and manner of wearing them varies across the photo, as do the postures and facial expressions of the participants. Identifications of all the people in the photo at Wikipedia. It’s a team of people, each contributing something different to make the operation work.
Trump is, of course, at the center of his photo, the seal of the President of the United States just above his head, in case anyone might not recognize who this is.
Both photos show papers that may contain classified information. In both cases, I think the papers are too blurred to see much, but I am sure we will hear from the open-source intelligence folks if they can figure something out.
I’m posting this quickly to get ahead of the news flow. Already the New York Times has an article supporting my surmise about the contradiction between the retreat and this raid. It also looks like Trump was golfing rather than watching the raid, as he claimed. More later.
Update: The officer on the right is Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, the Pentagon’s deputy director for special operations and counterterrorism.
So that people can savor Alain’s grape jelly.
The Orange-in-Chief announced that US Special Operations forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He also announced that he knew that Osama bin Laden would attack the World Trade Center on 9/11 and that strong men had called him “sir” and praised him.
I’ll write some more later, and I suspect Adam will too. But for me, there’s breakfast and taking the kitties for a walk first.
— Cheryl Rofer (@CherylRofer) October 27, 2019
This morning, Donald Trump said that it would be fine with him if China investigated Joe Biden, thereby confirming that he wants other countries, including the authoritarian ones, to do his dirt-digging for him.
Here's the video: Trump is now openly urging the leaders of Ukraine and China to investigate one of his political rivals.
Via CSPAN pic.twitter.com/xKOSRosyck
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 3, 2019
Lo and behold tonight!
Trump raised Biden with Xi in June call housed in highly secure server. That was back in June. Also Elizabeth Warren. Trump isn’t taking any chances. Speaking of her, he also doubled down on his “Pocahontas” attack and said he would have to “hit her again.”
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) October 3, 2019
Also, a conversation has surfaced between Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland from July about a statement Sondland drafted for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to sign saying that Ukraine would investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. The conversation ends with an admonition that text message may not be the best medium for it.
And, no surprise, Trump ordered Marie Yovanovich removed as Ambassador to Ukraine because she wouldn’t play along with his games. But now what we suspected is confirmed.
NEW: Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from allies, including Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate Biden. w/@MichaelCBender@vmsalama https://t.co/2yoTb1G7Ow
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) October 3, 2019
Sometimes it’s just hard to write about this stuff. It’s painful that the President of the United States is doing stuff like this. Even Chuck Todd is feeling it.
Gotta give the dude some credit here. pic.twitter.com/JoFtKwR8MO
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) October 3, 2019
A missive from our President:
Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called “Whistleblower,” represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way. Then Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……
His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..
In addition, I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the “Whistleblower.” Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!
These Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, are doing great harm to our Country. They are lying & cheating like never before in our Country’s history in order to destabilize the United States of America & it’s upcoming 2020 Election. They & the Fake News Media are Dangerous & Bad!
James Risen overheard Jay Sekulow, the President’s personal lawyer who probably will have to be Rudy’s cleanup brigade, in a green room. They’ve lost control of the narrative, and they’re frightened.
“I’m going on CBS at 8,” he said. “I’m going to see the president at 10. We’ve got to get on top of this thing. I think we can, but we have got to get on top of this.”
A moment or two later, Sekulow added: “He’s going all around town, stirring things up. It’s not helpful.”
A political science professor at UMass Amherst: