Monday, October 14, 2019

Syria, Trump Derangement Syndrome, and the Media

I have to admit to being baffled by the current reaction to Trump's decision to remove 50-250 soldiers from the Kurdish held area of Syria. Probably because I am somewhat aware of the situation, which means I see this as nothing new.

I'm no fan of Donald Trump, but the way the current Turkish invasion has been portrayed seriously makes me question the bias of US media. There has been absolutely NO discussion of some serious background points that put an entirely different spin to this story.

Part of me wanted to subtitle this "I love it when Barack Obama gets us involved in pointless military exercises." US involvement in the Syrian Civil War began back on 22 September 2014 during the Obama administration.
YPJ girl soldiers: shouldn't they be in school?

It seems that the Trump detractors have been too willing to think that the "abandonment" of the Kurd was somehow "sudden" when anyone familiar with this will tell you that it is amazing it hasn't happened yet. The Kurds in Syria are tied to the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK (Kurdish: Partiya KarkerĂȘn Kurdistan). This group is considered a terrorist group by the United States, European Union, and NATO: to name a few. The YPG/YPJ's use of child soldiers should be embarrassing as fuck to people who are trying to make Syria's Kurds somehow "allies" of the west. The Kurds are no saints, but you wouldn't guess that from the current attention they are getting lately.

Andrew McCarthy gets to the crux of the matter:
The Kurds have been our allies against ISIS, but it is not for us that they have fought. They fight ISIS for themselves, with our help. They are seeking an autonomous zone and, ultimately, statehood. The editorial fails to note that the Kurds we have backed, led by the YPG (People’s Protection Units), are the Syrian branch of the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party) in Turkey. The PKK is a militant separatist organization with Marxist-Leninist roots. Although such informed observers as Michael Rubin contend that the PKK has “evolved,” it remains a formally designated foreign terrorist organization under U.S. law. While our government materially supports the PKK’s confederates, ordinary Americans have been prosecuted for materially supporting the PKK.

The fact is that:
"The Kurdish militias weren’t Washington’s first choice. U.S. attempts to train secular, anti-Assad, Syrian Arab forces to fight on its behalf cost hundreds of millions of dollars but produced just 5-50 fighters. The U.S. was forced to change tack and support Syrian Kurdish militias. The largest and most powerful of these were the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which were later called the “Syrian Democratic Forces” in the hopes of easing Turkish hostility and endearing the new fighting force to the predominantly Arab territories it began to conquer with U.S. air support."
What bothers me most about all this is the sudden concern for the Kurds, a group which has been fucked over for some time in the geopolitical struggles of this region. The Kurds say that they "have no friends, but the mountains." On the other hand, all the anti-Trump forces have developed a deep love for  these "strong allies of the US."

Another thing which is conspicuous in all this is the fact that Turkey and The Kurds have had an armed conflict going on since at least 1978. There have been two other Turkish "invasions" of Syria (2016 and 2018) prior to the latest. A Northern Syria Buffer Zone was created by agreement between Turkey, The Kurds, and the US. Turkey felt the Kurds were in breach of that agreement.

An even more important point which is missing is that Turkey is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, as is the United States.  NATO, as a treaty adopted by the United States is part of US law (US Constitution Article VI, ii)! The Turks as co signators of the treaty are our allies, not the Kurds.

As far as I know there is no formal agreement between the US and Kurds making them "allies" of any sort. In fact, the Kurds have fought with the Assad Regime and their Russian Allies during the Northern Aleppo offensive of 2016. The Kurds will fight with whoever promises to protect them at the moment. They aren't strong allies of anybody but themselves.

The Kurds fuck and have been fucked in the political events of the region which makes it amusing when people try to make them out as "strong allies".  Anyone who says that appears to be ignorant about the Kurdish people. The Kurds will find that all this concern will vanish like writing in the sand after the next news cycle.

Scott Ritter, the man who was "the loudest and most credible skeptic of the Bush administration’s contention that Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction" writes:
That Turkey, an American NATO ally, is waging war against the SDF (which the Turks label as YPG/PKK—more on that later), while at the same time targeting ISIS, the archenemy of the all these Kurdish groups, underscores the complexity of the regional politics at play in northern Syria today. Deciphering this alphabet soup goes a long way towards explaining why the Turkish actions are justified and why President Trump will ultimately be vindicated for pulling the troops out.  
The reality of the situation is as Scott puts it:
The American embrace of the SDF was always a temporary solution to the problem of ISIS. The United States never has supported a greater Kurdish nation. And while there’s been much lip service to the idea of using the SDF as a vehicle to destabilize the government of Bashar al-Assad, regime change has never been seriously pursued by the United States in Syria.

The most important point is raised by Andrew McCarthy:
 Our intervention in Syria has never been authorized by Congress. Those of us who opposed intervention maintained that congressional authorization was necessary because there was no imminent threat to our nation. Contrary to the editorial’s suggestion, having U.S. forces “deter further genocidal bloodshed in northern Syria” is not a mission for which Americans support committing our men and women in uniform. Such bloodlettings are the Muslim Middle East’s default condition, so the missions would never end.

A congressional debate should have been mandatory before we jumped into a multi-layered war, featuring anti-American actors and shifting loyalties on both sides. In fact, so complex is the situation that President Obama’s initial goal was to oust Syria’s Assad regime; only later came the pivot to fighting terrorists, which helped Assad. That is Syria: Opposing one set of America’s enemies only empowers another. More clear than what intervention would accomplish was the likelihood of becoming enmeshed, inadvertently or otherwise, in vicious conflicts of which we wanted no part — such as the notorious and longstanding conflict between Turks and Kurds.
There are a lot of different players in the Syrian Civil War. It was a dangerous game for the US to have entered. Although, it wasn't really just the US that was involved here: Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve comprised soldiers from at least Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, Belgium, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. There were more troops on the ground than the 50-250 US soldiers.

I find the media's story troubling because I see narrative in the US media which is highly partisan and interventionist. I see a concern which is based not on reality, but on a media image which couldn't be further from the fact.

But it sure is convenient for making Trump look bad.

See also:

Saturday, October 12, 2019

More on the Kurds

Not sure how accurate this is, but it definitely changes the debate if true.

But it does demonstrate that Trump Derangement Syndrome has infected the debate!

How can so-called progressives not support a withdrawal from this territory if the Kurds used child soldiers?

Trump Derangement Syndrome is REAL!

OK, I'm going to preface this by saying I'm no fan of Donald Trump.

On the other hand, you may now people who start frothing at the mouth at the mere mention of the "Cheeto" if they are left of centre.

There is a right wing manifestation as well which thrives on making the aforementioned people cringe. The ones on the right will support Trump because it makes the left leaners act in the manner depicted.

For the Left, Trump can do nothing right and is up to no good. It is their hope he will somehow be impeached, which isn't very likely.

Ted Rall hit the nail on the head with his definition:
“Trump Derangement Syndrome” is when you have so much anger and rage at President Trump that you are willing to do anything, no matter how stupid or reckless or dangerous, to try to get him out of office by hook or by crook. Lately I’ve been hearing Democrats say that they’re hoping that the economy head south, as if they didn’t live in the economy themselves. Others want him to attack Iran so that people angry at the war don’t vote for him for reelection. This is crazy talk

The recent incident with Turkey announcing it would be making bombing raids in Syria to push back the Kurds demonstrates how this all works.

I would put that most people who were upset by this know next to nothing about the Kurds: a stateless people who mostly live in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. They also don't know that Turkey has been participating in airstrikes against ISIL alongside the U.S.-led coalition, but also actively supporting the Syrian opposition and occupying large swaths of northwestern Syria while engaging in significant ground combat with ISIL, the SDF, and the Syrian government since August 2016.

SDF if you didn't know is The Syrian Democratic Forces which is composed primarily of Kurdish, Arab, and Assyrian/Syriac militias, as well as some smaller Armenian, Turkmen and Chechen forces.

Since most people don't know about the situation here is a brief run down of it:
The Kurds are an ethnic group of about 40 million people centered at the intersection of Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq. Many naturally want their own state. The four countries in which they live naturally do not want that to happen.

On the one hand, the Kurds are a perfect tool for U.S. foreign policy. We can arm the Kurds in whichever of these countries is currently our enemy, whether to make trouble for that country’s government or to accomplish various other objectives. On the other hand, we don’t want the Kurds we’re utilizing to ever get too powerful. If that happened, the other Kurds — i.e., the ones living just across the border in whichever of these countries are currently our allies — might get ideas about freedom and independence.

It seems that this is another instance of the Kurds being used for political gain. In this case, an attempt at internal US political gain by putting Trump into a no win situation.

Ahval, a trilingual independent online news site on Turkey, reported on 1 October that:
"U.S. and Turkish officials last month (September) agreed to work together to create a buffer zone free of fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara views as an existential threat due to its presumed links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for over three decades and has been designated as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the EU and the United States."
"However, Ankara has been critical of the lack of progress made with the envisaged zone, threatening to put its own operation plan into effect if Turkish troops do not control a “safe zone” within a few weeks.
Turkey will also continue with operations in northern Iraq “until all terrorists are eliminated from the area,’’ the council said.
Turkey on Aug. 23, launched Operation Claw-3 in northern Iraq targeting PKK militants.
Monday’s statement by the council also said that Turkey would continue its activities in the eastern Mediterranean."
Al-Jazeera also contradicted the narrative seen in the Western Press about Trump giving a green light to this. Let's toss in that this was not a total withdrawal of US troops from Syria:
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said, "The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial "Caliphate," will no longer be in the immediate area."

The New York Times reported Monday that about 100 to 150 American forces would withdraw from northern Syria but not completely from the country. Newsweek confirmed the Times reporting but the National Security Council official said the number was closer to 230 service members, among them U.S. Special Forces and reconnaissance units.

While Trump's action caused a stir,  it may end up actually creating peace in this part of the world: which is why this is a prime example of Trump Derangement Syndrome. People are upset that Trump could possibly bring peace to the Middle East.

Sure, he may have blundered his way into it, but he would have done brought peace to the Middle East.

Which people suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome would hate. Yes they would hate peace if Trump managed to achieve it!

Anyway, this story appears to have lived its short life cycle especially if it is yet another tactic that backfires on Trump's detractors. The bottom line is that this is a prime example of Trump Derangement Syndrome because people started reacting without all the facts. It seemed that emotion triumphed over reason in this instance.

See also:

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Why I went Green (and sort of silent on Guns)

“There was once a big atomic bomb
That wanted to be a bullet.
His friends all asked why, when he was such a big atomic bomb, he would want to be a tiny bullet.
"I miss", he sighed, "the personal touch.”
-- Tuli Kupferberg

I've kind of gone silent on the topic of guns since, like the above passage, climate change is something which affects us all. Sure, guns are bad, but the coming crisis makes the gun debate in the US look tame.

Climate change is happening. It's undeniable (if you are not totally out of touch with reality). And it will require cultural as well as political changes.

It's also long overdue that people start addressing it. We shouldn't have needed Greta Thurnberg.

The United Nations has estimated that we need to reduce carbon emissions by half within a decade to have a 50% chance of avoiding global catastrophe. Of course, this is likely to be an underestimation as recent science shows permafrost melting 90 years earlier than forecast and Himalayan glaciers melting twice as fast as expected. Feedbacks and locked in heating will take us over 2C even before we factor in additional temperature rises from human caused emissions over the next ten years.

In short, we're fucked

George Monbiot says:
A paper published in Nature shows that we have little chance of preventing more than 1.5C of global heating unless existing fossil fuel infrastructure is retired. Instead the industry intends to accelerate production, spending nearly $5tn in the next 10 years on developing new reserves. It is committed to ecocide.
But the biggest and most successful lie it tells is this: that the first great extermination is a matter of consumer choice. In response to the Guardian’s questions, some of the oil companies argued that they are not responsible for our decisions to use their products. But we are embedded in a system of their creation – a political, economic and physical infrastructure that creates an illusion of choice while, in reality, closing it down.
Sure, people can try to say that this is "liberal nonsense", but climate change has been on the radars since physicist Edward Teller told the American Petroleum Institute (API) back in 1959 that a 10% increase in CO2 will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. “I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.”

Lyndon Johnson’s President’s Science Advisory Committee states that “pollutants have altered on a global scale the carbon dioxide content of the air”, with effects that “could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings”. Summarising the findings, the head of the API warned the industry: “Time is running out.”

A confidential report prepared for Shell’s environmental conservation committee in 1988 found that CO2 could raise temperatures by 1C to 2C over the next 40 years with changes that may be “the greatest in recorded history”. It urged rapid action by the energy industry, “By the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even stabilise the situation.” 

Instead of addressing the issue in the past sixty years, people have been heading full tilt on the road to disaster. It would have been far easier to have addressed this issue early on than to wait until the house has almost burned down.

Anyway, I am more interested in addressing climate change than in wasting time on trying to impeach Trump. This issue requires cultural and political change. I've made as many of those changes as I can, but others need to catch on.

The ecological and climate crisis is not be owned by any political ideology, culture, age or gender.  We ALL need to take action on this pressing issue.

Monday, October 7, 2019


OK, the real problem facing any solution to the US gun problem is getting the guns off the streets. Yes, there will have to be a buyback which will be fun given that it will have to be on the same level as the Aussie one. There will probably be later gun amnesties, but without the monetary incentive.

So, cash in early.

There is a solution for those who can't wait to get your guns off the streets but aren't altruistic enough to just give them to someone without some kind of benefit.

The National Center for Unwanted Firearms

They say they are willing to buy or allow for donation of the firearms. That is a pretty good deal if one can realise the fair market value of your firearm: even if it's only as a tax deduction.

Gun control won't work in the US as long as there are guns in circulation which is why getting them off the streets is the most important aspect for dealing with this problem.