Search Results for: Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN – THE BIG FAIL

Aquarian Weekly
8/25/21

Reality Check

James Campion


AFGHANISTAN – THE BIG FAIL

Success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.
– Italian proverb

Man, I have written a whole lot about Afghanistan over two decades. Not as much as Iraq, but a lot. It has been a long, strange trip, over three presidencies, two of which claimed some sort of victory there and all three that dangled withdrawal. This past week or so the announced finality and exit of American troops from the region after the nation’s longest war did not go well. The government that we spent two decades building and the military that we spent two decades training, folded in a week to the Taliban that we were sold were defeated fifteen years earlier. The United States streak of losing military actions and de-facto wars since 1945 continues. This is an epic fail for the U.S. And despite the above quote, it has a shit-ton of fathers.

This could have been predicted in 2001, when President George W. Bush knee-jerked into what we all thought – and were told – was a brief military operation to dismantle the wheels of terrorism that led to 9/11, the first in a series of spectacular lies that would take forty columns to review. The Soviet Union had a similar run in the Afghanistan in the 1980s that ran the gamut from swift invasion, troubled occupation, frustrated abandonment, and a nation completely sunk into chaos. Their final report on conditions on the ground in 1989 were as follows: “Clearly visible is the growth of [Afghan] self-sufficiency, self-confidence, ability to evaluate the situation correctly … which they lacked during our military presence in Afghanistan.”

Oops.

Does this skewed overview of the situation sound familiar?

Which brings us back to our own botched calculation over thirty years later.

Despite the above’s recent history readily available to all involved – Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the usual suspects – five years into the “quick military operation,” Bush claimed victory, as he did three years earlier in the notorious “Mission Accomplished” speech about Iraq (that war is still going on, I think? Maybe? Sort of.), stating “We have defeated the Taliban and freed the nation.” Then he sent more troops in and went away, making way for Barack Obama. That didn’t go particularly well either, despite the obvious opposition to the campaign by the incoming commander-in-chief.

After running for office on ending “endless wars” and hoping to bring what was then an already “too long” fiasco in Afghanistan, Obama added 30,000 troops to the fray within months of being elected, claiming an eighteen-month surge to bring the war to a conclusion. This, as you might ascertain, did not occur. So, the last guy ran on absolutely ending “endless wars.” Donald Trump promptly told the nation that Bush and his cronies were war mongers, the generals were idiots, and he alone could fix it. Of course, like everything that came from Trump, this was total bullshit. The former draft-dodger told the press in 2017 after becoming president that “We have wasted too much blood and treasure on Afghanistan” and blustered about pulling out at least a dozen times in his four years. The events of this week prove that never happened on his watch.

This war… was about vengeance for 9/11 and to shroud our dependence on foreign oil in a patriotic security mission.

Then we have Joe Biden, who as senator, watched our secret war to arm the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to help facilitate the Soviet boondoggle, then abandon our allies, leading to the rise of al Qaeda, and the emergence in the 1990s of Osama bin Laden, and, well, you know the deal. Biden was even in the room as Obama’s vice president when word came that bin Laden had been killed way back in May of 2011. Everyone thought, well, maybe, now we can pull out of this mess after ten years. Nah. Let’s do ten more.

Biden, or someone after him, at some point, was going to have to take the L for this. How long are we supposed to police and build and manage a foreign government and prop up its military? This is not rhetorical. I mean to ask this: How long? Thirty years? Forty? Forever? This thing had to end. Afghanistan is not Syria or even Iraq – this was not an ongoing skirmish. This was a finger-in-the-damn proposition. The U.S. Army is not a police unit. It is not a building contractor operation. It is there to invade and break shit, kill people, and get the fuck out. Afghanistan was something else, and that something else, like all things, had to end. The defeat in Afghanistan was inevitable. Okay, you think defeat is too hard, you need the edges smoothed, then how about an Incomplete? Whatever the semantics, it was as immediate as it was predictable. The entire farce of the War on Terror – a never-ending money pit of violence, lies and fuck-ups – was set up for bad endings. Think of all of this like Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. You just know… right?

This does not excuse the images of people hanging off airplanes and women and children running for their lives and the predictable anti-American chanting and effigy burning. These are not good looks for any president. Ask Jimmy Carter. Biden is in charge now, not Bush or Obama or Trump. He wanted the gig. He’s a big boy (unlike the last cry baby) and he has taken the shit storm like a man. And he should. His historically steady approval ratings have sunk five points to under fifty percent for the first time in his first eight months on the job, and while most of it is related to the backlash over the Delta variant and its probable negative effects on an economy that has already dipped its toes into the early stages of inflation, the swiftness of Afghanistan’s fall into the hands of an enemy we were told was bested fifteen long years is a tough pill to swallow for Americans.

But lest we forget, this war was never about protecting women’s rights or nation building or whatever Judea-Christian falderal you hear, it was about vengeance for 9/11 and to shroud our dependence on foreign oil in a patriotic security mission. It was all bullshit. It is always bullshit when it comes to war, and it had to end, badly or otherwise.

Here’s the only silver lining, and it is at best a long shot. I would think, moreover I would hope we take measured, reasoned, and careful consideration before going the war route in the future. George H. W. Bush promised “no more Viet Nams” in his Kuwait show that gave a generation the false hope we had learned from our mistakes there and in Korea a decade earlier. But we clearly did not. And if twenty years of wasted human life, abject destruction, and trillions of dollars spent in Afghanistan just to see the images of the last week isn’t enough a lesson, then we, and anyone we deign to assist in the future, deserve to be fucked.

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Afghanistan: The Original Quagmire

Aquarian Weekly 10/7/09
REALITY CHECK

AFGHANISTAN: THE ORIGINAL QUAGMIRE

The United States must leave Afghanistan now.

Not in eleven months or after careful discussion and continued study to determine an undisclosed time, but now.

Soon after, it must leave Iraq.

Desert Quagmire: The SequelThese and other difficult but sound decisions are only debatable because it is today, and not four or five or six years ago when these hard choices should have been made, instead of the slack-jawed flag-waving, ribbon-tying jingoistic miasma we received. Back then, if you had asked any voter if this country would still be embroiled in two wars seven or eight years on, they would have chuckled, even bristled with fear and fobbed it off as doom-speak and defeatist thinking by a paranoiac borne of anti-American rhetoric.

If only we could have employed a time machine and fast-forwarded the mood then to now, we may have seen how literally insane it is to continue to call what is going on in the Middle East a policy or a strategy or any clearly defined idea that unfolds into a serviceable conclusion.

But, alas, there will be no conclusion. It will drag on another five, ten years. And when it threatens to die down something else will pop up to take its place. Iran? North Korea? Maybe it will finally spill over into the real threat, Saudi Arabia or maybe the home base of true tyrannical charm, China. Nah, too much money to be made; comrades of convenience can abuse all the civil rights and unleash all the terrorists they please, just keep the oil and loans a-comin’.

Ah, but, don’t fret; you can wager for the rest of your natural born life there will be American foreign military presence wasting our money and stealing our children to not “win” somewhere.

And what the hell is “win” anyway? Can anyone describe what a victory over terrorism would look like? Is it possible? Of course the answer to these and other rhetorically sarcastic queries is no. It is not possible. It will be as it is now; nothing but stemming the tide, waiting them out, bleeding them dry, showing strength, taking the fight to them, all adding up to a slag heap of blood and treasure that will surely bankrupt the United States as it did the last in a long series of history’s fading super powers, the Soviet Union.

Nope, there will be no exiting Afghanistan or Iraq anytime soon.

And why not?

The government needs it.

War is nothing more than another in a spectacular line-up of wasteful, inefficient, badly orchestrated and overly funded government programs.

All these yahoos waving signs about tyranny and government take-overs of Health Care had better start turning their attention to our greatest mismanaged money-pit; the War Machine. With the money poured annually in this finger-in-the-dam waiting it out policy in the Middle East you could bankroll the education, health concerns and retirement of the entirety of North, Central and South America.

War is nothing more than another in a spectacular line-up of wasteful, inefficient, badly orchestrated and overly funded government programs.

This is why our president is “taking time to sort out details on Afghanistan” or some such falderal. When running for the office in 2007, Barack Obama visited Afghanistan and concluded that it was not only winnable but crucial to the war effort, then campaigned diligently on the “right vs. wrong” war ideology: Iraq = Wrong, Afghanistan = Right. The imbecilic college rah-rah mentality of grass roots political hysteria took this as some kind of anti-war slant, just as the poor suckers who were waiting for Obama to legalize gay marriage or even drugs — the latter of which, by the way, would defeat the Taliban in less than thirty days while also rescuing our suicidal farming industry.

But that must all seem like a dream to Joe Cool now that at the conclusion of the bloodiest month in Afghanistan in eight years of baseless meandering, the president hasn’t bothered to speak to the general running things over there but once since he was sworn in. Oh, and before people are all up in arms about this nugget of info, where has your press been? More importantly, where has your outrage been? Since the blatantly fascist ban on the control of the media’s coverage of returning coffins was lifted, only the Associated Press bothers to cover the dead shipped back from these completely useless and utterly winless exercises in abject murder and destruction, all under the appropriation of our beloved nation and on our dime.

Shit, did you even know that Cindy Sheehan is still protesting out there?

Yet, without our vocal participation, much of which is wasted daily investigating the president’s citizenship, which party asshole might be calling the other nitwit a killer, whose lousy children are being indoctrinated into some political mind frap, and an agonizing series of insignificant television personalities trading on unchecked hearsay as some kind of invincible factoid, the powers that be continue to dangle these criminal acts of global stupidity as if a philosophical, and worse still, political carrot of victory. And for the oddest of reasons, we as a people continue to bankroll and support this crap, and allow our brave and impressionable youth the fast lane to its slaughter.

When it comes to endless military campaigns, America goes beyond simple amnesia; it dabbles in a rare stew of revisionist lying and slapdash illusions sold as patriotism. Thus, we are trained to swallow impish notions that to cease making one abysmal mistake after the next is “cutting and running” or “giving up” or forefend, “quitting”.

This, of course, is nonsense, like most of the lies perpetuated by the Dullard Brigade; many of whom with different names from different ages poured our money and blood into stone-cold failures in Korea and Viet Nam and now Iraq and soon Afghanistan.

The Democrats won’t stop it. The Republicans sure won’t. Congress refuses and the president, the one who rightly railed against this cycle of madness appears to be fine with letting it continue.

Of course the generals keep asking for more troops. This is what generals do. Then the guilty and confused in the legislature come running to us with their hands out to get us to pay for it. This is how it goes, over and over and over and over and over until you are dead and a new set of saps take the reigns.

Forget about the national debt and political ideologies weighing heavy on the future of our children.

They’ll be too busy fighting and dying for that endless and most popular, bipartisan government program: War.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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DEATH RATTLE BATTLEFIELD

Aquarian Weekly
3/23/22

Reality Check

James Campion

DEATH RATTLE BATTLEFIELD
How Putin’s Folly in Ukraine is Systematically Destroying Russia

Things are actually going worse than I predicted two weeks ago (PUTIN’S FANCY CLUSTERFUCK) when this ill-conceived and badly figured military invasion of Ukraine began for Russia. Vladimir Putin’s utterly insane idea with no rational endgame to occupy a neighboring nation with a subpar, hardly motivated army, (more confused by the reasoning for the fighting than motivated to “win”), has turned into a bloody stalemate that will only worsen when the tough part of the war inside the urban slaughterhouse commences. The Russian Army has been exposed as ill-equipped and badly led. The entire enterprise has caused a once proud nation to be dragged into economic and moral calamity. It, and its beleaguered tyrant president, has been summarily shunned by the rest of the world. It would seem Russia is on the brink of complete anarchy in less than a month, purely on the whims of a madman.

Putin has done what no NATO coalition could have done. He has doomed Russia. The country is bankrupt, ostracized from the 21^st century global economy – more than 400 hundred western companies have abandoned it, throwing thousands of citizens out of work, and in the process dragged the last thirty years of progress and assimilation since the fall of the Soviet Union into a new dark ages. It is so bad Putin is forced to beg China for much-needed help and then take to the airwaves to shout about “traitors and scum,” many of whom cling to a harsher reality of food shortages, gas hikes, and an isolation from the goods and services in which they rely.

That is to say nothing of the Russian troops who routinely abandon tanks to run scared into the Ukrainian forests or put down their weapons in an open act of desertion. And who can blame them? According to Pentagon officials quoted in a recent NY Times article, more than 7,000 Russian troops are already dead, a greater number than American troops killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. To gain a starker perspective on this, the article goes on to state that “in 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima during World War II, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed. Now, 20 days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Putin’s military has already lost more soldiers.”

General don’t die. Russian generals are dying. Daily.

And through the “fog of war” these are conservative estimates. Some in the U.S. military have been given greater numbers of deaths, which they describe as “staggering.” As many as 10,000 Russian soldiers have likely been sacrificed for this boondoggle, due to Belarusian morgues filling up daily with the slain.
This nearly one-month offensive, predicted by Putin’s brain trust (many of which have likely been executed by now or thrown in prison) as originally taking three to four days, has eviscerated Russian troop morale. Motivation for this mess was already shaky due to soldiers having to murder many of their fellow Slavs for what sounded to them and the rest of the planet as a goofy propaganda ego-circle-jerk by a mentally challenged dictator. The general rule of war is that a ten-percent casualty rate, which includes wounded, for a single unit renders it unable to carry out combat-related tasks. The estimate so far is nearly 21 thousand total wounded, which is nearly ten percent, as there are reportedly more than 150,000 Russian troops in Ukraine. And the kicker might be that four Russian generals have also been killed, a number that usually hovers around zero for generals. General don’t die. Russian generals are dying. Daily.

Considering a lunatic like Putin won’t be quitting this folly anytime soon, he has upped the ante on this losing bet by slaying civilians, using illegal weapons, calling in mercenaries from Syria and the black ops the Russians normally used to assassinate journalists and dignitaries. A kitchen sink tossing is sure to follow. These are desperate times for a despot living in a fantasy.

Ever more galling to Putin is Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, former comedian and TV star, being the toast of the western world and recently enjoying a standing ovation during a speech to the U.S. Congress. Zelenksy has made a very public mockery of the false bravado of his enemy, as women, children and young civilian men join forces with the undermanned Ukrainian Army to thwart the “mighty” Russian Army that staggers around looking to move forward while barely holding flank. And all of it is televised 24-hours a day and flashed on social media: The failures, the embarrassment, the eventual surrender.

While invading Ukraine was never going to end well, not even I could have predicted that there is a chance that Putin may actually lose this war. The longer this bloodletting and destruction of the Russian Army continues this is becoming more of a reality. As stated here a month ago, even if he eventually holds out, after thousands and thousands of his troops are slaughtered and he massacres thousands of Ukrainians, implants a puppet government, and claims some kind of empty victory, then he becomes nothing more than a flaccid occupier, continuously fending off insurgencies and domestic terrorism. All the while continuing this dance of economic suicide with his people and the rest of the civilized world.
Putin is going to lose this eventually, be tossed into the rancid dustbin of history like all the crazies who attempted this stupid shit. But what is to become of Mother Russia, its people, and its general standing in the world, economically, politically, morally? What of the people who endure the last vestiges of this maniac, who has gambled their fortunes on a losing and deadly proposition?

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THE VONNEGUT CATHARSIS & THE PAIN OF WAR

Aquarian Weekly
2/9/22
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
THE VONNEGUT CATHARSIS & THE PAIN OF WAR
In Praise of The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five and a Discussion with its Author, Tom Roston 
 
 
The most difficult highwire act for a writer is taking a well-worn and beloved subject and weaving something new and insightful into it. Author Tom Roston has accomplished this with his new book The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five by getting behind the celebrated novel’s humor, pathos, and charming storytelling that would make the 1969 anti-war, science fiction mind-bender a Twentieth-Century literary classic. For the first time, we meet the many faces and moods of its author, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., who for many, including yours truly, has marked the time of our intellectual and cultural awakening. The best compliment I can offer Mr. Roston is that I have learned why I loved Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade from the moment I cracked it open at fifteen and why it keeps speaking to me more than four decades hence.

At the height of the Vietnam War, Slaughterhouse-Five arrived as a mighty yawp from the bow of the counterculture, written by a wise-cracking forty-six year-old curmudgeon who had survived one of the most horrifying fire-bombings of World War II as a prisoner of war in 1945. After the devastation of the cultured German town of Dresden, Vonnegut pained to create something of worth from its ashes. And for Roston, and those who adore the book, Slaughterhouse-Five reverberates with mental and emotional trauma, an artistic endeavor to quell its author’s demons, while struggling to fit madness into a logical construct (spoiler alert: Vonnegut never finds any logic in war – “poo-tee-weet” – because it doesn’t exist).

This is where Roston began his journey, oddly spurned on by the whims of weird rumor.

“I knew I wanted to confront PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in the book because that just seemed like a clear prism through which Slaugherhouse-Five is understood,” Roston shared with me. “But I just didn’t know how I was going to approach it. And then, as you read in the first chapter, what really got me going was when I got wind of this cooky, implausible story that Vonnegut may have committed a war crime.” Roston playfully dubs Vonnegut, Nazi Slayer!, the central figure in a dubious yarn of the young writer and fellow POW searching out their former Nazi guard to enact vengeance upon him. Roston concludes this never happened, but… “It got me energized, and then I started thinking, ‘Why is this relevant?’ And, to me, it was very relevant because it helped address what I felt, and what I feel people feel in general: they’re excited by war, because they don’t understand war. That, to me, is what Slaughterhouse Five is about – trying to explain what war feels like, which is terrible. But a person like me, who has never experienced it, can never really understand that.”

Thus, Roston fills the pages of The Writer’s Crusade with the voices of those who have experienced war (from Vietnam through Iraq and Afghanistan), and moreover, wrote about it in essays, articles, and books, and in one case used painting as an outlet to face living with it. But at the same time, while providing a useful history of how the medical community and the U.S. Army dealt with the soldier’s mental traumas over the years, Roston is careful not to succumb to lazy syllogism. He warns that it is not even certain Vonnegut suffered from PTSD, something the author denied throughout his life, despite bouts of depression, alcoholism, and an inability to connect with people, specifically his family. This is the avatar Vonnegut creates in Billy Pilgrim, a POW, who experiences the same Dresden trauma and the ensuing life of listless inertia, where he becomes “unstuck in time.”

If you’re fully delusional, and you think you’re talking to a porn star or to God, and it makes you happy, perhaps that’s okay, by you.

“I discovered Billy Pilgrim to already be insecure and kind of a little bit messed up from the start,” says Roston. “When he first enters the war, he’s wandering around, letting himself get shot at – he’s lost in it, ridding him of his humanity. War will do that to anyone, and I think that’s what he’s doing.”

And so, one is led to ask, and Roston does so in his book: Is Vonnegut using his protagonist, Pilgrim to work out a delusional construct – being “unstuck in time” and traveling to the planet Tralfamadore to live with a porn star in an id bubble of “happiness” to deal with his trauma. Or are these fantastical things really happening to him? Vonnegut provides clues that these events are indeed figments of Pilgrim’s imagination and merely a coping mechanism, which in turn, gets Roston and readers of Slaughterhouse Five to surmise that its author is using the novel for the same ends.

“No, I don’t think it’s actually happening to Billy Pilgrim, but then that leads us to the ultimate question; does it even matter?” asks Roston, who reasons that if you’re fully delusional, and you think you’re talking to a porn star or to God, and it makes you happy, perhaps that’s okay, by you. “It’s the only bit of happiness poor Billy seems to get,” he concludes.

Roston also deconstructs Vonnegut’s aim to create in Billy Pilgrim a character not unlike Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where there are no ups and downs in his storyline. He is not only living in a fantasy, but also impassive, removed from humanity. “If you drew an emotional line throughout the play, Hamlet just goes straight across. I think if you look at Billy Pilgrim, it’s the exact same thing, it’s just straight across. I mean, in Pilgrim’s mind, maybe things are getting better, but I think Vonnegut’s point was to write a story with a character whose life never gets better.”

Ironically, it was the success of Slaughterhouse-Five that would make Vonnegut’s life better. He was now a famous and wealthy author, and yet, Roston found this to perhaps be the most interesting part of the author’s catharsis. “Before the success of Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut was always trying to merely pay the bills, until he wasn’t, and then once he wasn’t, I don’t know if he was that happy writing, because he wasn’t writing good stuff anymore. So, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think he may have been the happiest when was working on his masterpiece from 1968 to 1969. Maybe he was feeling everything that he had hoped for an artist to feel, because he knew he had it. I would love to think that. His letters suggest that’s not the case, but his focus during this period created something lasting and great.”

What Roston does not want us to forget, and I could not agree more, is that Slaughterhouse -Five, like Vonnegut’s entire canon, is damn entertaining stuff. It is funny, thought-provoking satire, social commentary with the kind of wit and page-turning drama that made it a best-seller and continues to dazzle readers today. Despite using his work to find light at the end of the tunnel, the author found a relatable voice. I know I related to it as a teenager and still do, as the book has grown along with me into my years as a working writer. I cannot say that about all the books that jazzed me as a kid. And I thank Tom Roston for reminding me of this.

“Almost everyone who I talked to read it in their teens, and they read it the first time as just being a fun, goofy, crazy book,” concludes Roston. “They didn’t read it as being a book about trauma or a book about war or anything, it was just this wild ride.”

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THE RUSSIA THING… AGAIN

Aquarian Weekly
2/2/22
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
THE RUSSIA THING… AGAIN
 
 
Let’s put this out there first: No one thinks engaging in a war with Russia is a good idea. Not even those who claim to think it is a good idea. And now that most Republicans are pro-Russia thanks to the last president, who was Vladimir Putin’s bitch, we don’t have as much rooting interest from the hawk camp as we did during the Cold War. (You know you have lived a long time when things shift this dramatically – if you would have told me in 1985 that Democrats were the anti-Russia hawk party, I would have assumed you were experiencing crack shivers). And let me also state for the record that despite the cheering and victory laps the West did after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Russia has never not been armed to the teeth with nuclear war heads and is now run by a psychopath, who has been mostly unchecked by the loyal opposition for close to a decade.

Our current president has been all over the map here. A change from the last guy who stood on foreign soil and sided with Putin over the American intelligence community. Either way, that lapdog is gone now, reduced to screaming to the great unwashed that he won the last election from his golf bunker in Florida. The guy who did win, Joe Biden wanted this gig – and the shit storm that is coming down now appears to be far more important than his botched exit from our endless military bullshit in Afghanistan or exploding inflation or even the zig-zag pandemic mandates we continue to endure. He needs to steer this one clear of military action. Period.

The day before I am writing this, the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank released satellite imagery on the Russian build-up in Ukraine showing “a significant and sizeable presence of Russian ground troops, tanks, small arms and mobile artillery.” It states: “If peace talks fail, an escalation between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia could extend well beyond Eastern Europe and include retaliatory measures that are global in nature.”

No shit. We didn’t need a fancy international think tank to come to that gory conclusion, but thanks, nonetheless.

The Russians are moving troops to the Ukrainian border (which the Kremlin calls “exercises”) and although, again, we get the predictably bold talk mixed with calls for cooler heads from our president, the Pentagon has been alerted to ready 8,500 American troops to enter the region should an invasion move ahead.

It is never a good idea to engage in any kind of direct military kerfuffle with Russia.

Let me repeat for anyone not yet fully comprehending it: Going to war with Russia is not an option. This is why Ronald Reagan went nuts and outspent them ten-to-one on defense, forever bloating the military budget, which is the main reason we are in horrible debt today and will continue to be unless we address the federal government’s upside-down budget – which we won’t, but that is another column for another day. I just mention it because the narrative has been for my entire existence on this planet (coming up on six decades this September) there has been Total Annihilation or Bust. Skirmishes in the Baltics is so 1917. You can fuck with Russian-backed dictatorships in the Middle East or even try to upset U.S. dictatorships next door to those other dictatorships, but moving in on Russian military shenanigans in Eastern Europe is not an option. Ever.

I am not suggesting that Putin should be left to his own devices. This is a tough call, because, again, Putin was coddled and sucked up to so embarrassingly for the four years prior to Mr. Biden’s arrival, there is an issue with what Russian thinks is our “resolve.” (Should we mention the stupid and very public shake-down of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by Donald Trump to withhold U.S. security aid unless he dug up fantasy dirt on then candidate Biden’s son, Hunter?) But that is, again, in the rearview. This is Biden’s call now. His approval ratings have tanked and show no signs of improving in time to stop what is certainly going to be mid-term spanking this November. And unlike previous years when presidents and the military get nearly one-hundred percent support for any action, this is a different time. There is no stomach for this outside of a few voices. And that is a good thing; because I don’t think it is remotely redundant to again point out that it is never a good idea to engage in any kind of direct military kerfuffle with Russia. Ever.

Making matters worse is that Ukraine is playing this very “Czechoslovakia circa 1938,” fobbing it off as business as usual – all talk/no action Putin – something South Korea never does, despite the almost incessant non-aggressive aggression from the North and whatever chubby nutcase is engineering it. It also doesn’t help that no one in Europe, least of all France and Germany (and Germany has made it clear due to pipeline oil issues, it does not want to side with the U.S. in this affair no matter the threat to its border interests), is remotely excited about a twenty-first century ground war.

For whatever it’s worth, which if recent history is any indication, is nothing, Russia has publicly stated through its venerable Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov that they have no intention of invading Ukraine. “We do not want wars, but we won’t allow our interests to be rudely trod upon or to be ignored,” Lavrov, who is also Russia’s representative at the United Nations, said this week. Much of this rhetoric stemming from talk for months of Ukraine joining NATO, a George W. Bush 2008 dream that got under Putin’s skin, which eventually led to the Trump-backed anti-Bush, anti-NATO wing of the Kremlin during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. For its role in all this, the Ukraine has no plans to join NATO, something Biden has acknowledged.

All of this provides insight into Putin’s gambit as ill-conceived and not entirely supported by his faux government. So, it might eventually need diplomatic face-saving. Not to mention that Russia’s current post-pandemic economy is weak, far weaker than ours, and needs European oil dollars to subsist. Wars are costly. And Putin can’t afford it.

Not sure who said that “history finds us” or how “we don’t choose our moment it chooses us” or whatever paraphrase you’d like to cite in that direction, but this is where Joe Biden stands now. Thank goodness we have a functioning State Department again. Talks are ongoing, and it must be clear to even a loon like Putin that this is not a wise move. There should be a sign above his desk that reads the mirror image of my stance: War with the United States is never an option.

Yeah, going to war with Russia is not an option.

Ever.  

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ALL EYES ON THE COMMONWEALTH

Aquarian Weekly
10/20/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
ALL EYES ON THE COMMONWEALTH
The Governor’s Race May Predict a 2022 Mid-Term Outcome      
 
In two weeks, the national temperature of the voting public will be taken again. The last one, the doomed recall of California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, in September, did not end well for Republicans. But this was before the approval-ratings nosedive for President Joe Biden, who has appeared overwhelmed and mostly impotent in the face of several crisis from Afghanistan to the border to Covid-19 surges to inflation, which has led to a national malaise and as a result the hemorrhaging of the Independent vote. Virginia is not only a “purple” state but has leaned solidly in the Democrats’ column since 2012 – an unprecedented thirteen-cycle winning streak in a highly competitive state. While stressing again, as in California last month, most politics is local, a governor’s race in a key battleground state like Virginia is a fair to crucial bellwether on how badly things could go for Democrats in the 2022 mid-terms.

Beyond national prognostications – a fun exercise for political junkies like yours truly – reside the players. The two candidates acutely represent both parties. Former Governor of Virginia and current Democratic candidate to regain that title, Terry McAuliffe is a pre-Obama lifer, mostly centrist and connected to the national political machine. He has the full backing of the national party, which means his president Joe Biden. His opponent, Glenn Allen Youngkin, is a former CEO of the $260 billion global investment Carlyle Group, loudly endorsed by former failed businessman and recent ignominious loser of the 2020 presidential race, Donald J. Trump.

On the ground, Virginia is not immune to the national issues facing a mostly post-Covid United States. Economic strains including jobs, vaccine mandates, the undermining of democratic ideals and the state of the current presidential administration is on the table for Virginia voters.

So, the state (a bellwether of national politics), the parties (locked in a death-match of reality and conspiracy) and the candidates (reflections of this ongoing narrative) are all entwined in this one. It is why we have these elections. It is why we vote. And when it is done, we accept the outcome as the will of the people and not some lopsided agenda-fueled tyrannical overthrow of the system based on ego-addled lies. But that is for many future columns to come. Virginia is the order of the week.

Virginia – seemingly always at the center of the national fervor and our historical tipping point.

For the record, McAuliffe is a loathsome hack. He toiled for both Clintons in wins and losses and ran the party for a spate in the early aughts. He represents wheel-and-deal party politics and is roundly dismissed by most politicos as something of a relic. Youngkin is a Republican, which now unfortunately represents anti-American domestic terrorism. He claims to be against the brutal violence perpetuated during the dark hours of January 6 at our Capitol and is trying to distance himself from recent rallies for his campaign hosted by petulant thug Steve Bannon, who is soon to go to jail for contempt of congress in his role inciting the attempted overthrow of the 2020 election results in a bloody coup. At a recent pro-Youngkin rally, participants pledged allegiance to a flag used on January 6, which unfortunately for the candidate reminds voters of what it means to back anyone on a Republican ticket now.

But the Democrats have had a bad sixty or so days. The barely Democrat-controlled congress is in a stalemate on how much more we can jack up the deficit, duly bloated in record numbers by the outgoing Republican-led congress for four years of drunken spending. Both parties fight against the power of the other to spend our money and now it is the progressives v the moderates on what should have been a slam-dunk effort to expand infrastructure spending eight years ago. As mentioned, Biden’s national numbers (52-percent disapproval in Virginia as a result) are in a sinkhole and McAuliffe can no better hide from this than Youngkin can wipe the stain of Trumpism (eleven months of claiming the 2020 election was a fraud with zero evidence) from his candidacy.

Ever more the reason why the Commonwealth of Virginia, once the most powerful force in the nascent days of the republic, birthplace of Thomas Jefferson, the father of modern democracy and the former capital of the Confederacy, is back at the center of our national soul. The very history of America plays out on its bloody ground. And in two weeks it shall again.

As of this writing, McAuliffe barely leads Youngkin by three points, well within the margin of error. Biden easily carried Virginia by ten points only eleven months ago. Youngkin, a very wealthy CEO, has outspent his opponent, exposing his weakness on crime and economics in a phalanx of attack adds. McAuliffe is clinging to two key popular issues: The state favors vaccine mandates for businesses (fifty-four percent) and keeping Roe V. Wade legal polls at sixty percent. Recent abortion-restriction laws in Texas have alerted voters to the reality of this issue most of all. What a shocker. In a close race, the Republican is all about crime and the Democrat is all about reproductive rights.

As far as the numbers guys are concerned, this one is hard to prognosticate. Beyond the national climate or local issues, there is recent history in polling. According to the Five Thirty Eight estimates, a model for higher turnout has McAuliffe leading Youngkin by eight points instead of three points. This is similar to the 2017 race between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, in which the latter trailed by the same three points going into the election but ended up losing by a solid nine points. The problem with this, the celebrated prediction group notes, is that in 2017 there was an unpopular Republican president. Now that particular shoe is on the other foot.

The final word on this election, as in most close elections, is Independents. Right now, Youngkin leads McAuliffie by nine points there. That is the difference between Biden carrying Virginia last year and the Democratic candidate coughing it up in two weeks. Whether this tells us how 2022 will play out and the prospects for a Republican wave or a more tempered Democratic defeat is dubious. But less so when considering Virginia – seemingly always at the center of the national fervor and our historical tipping point.
 

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CALIFORNIA SCHEMING

Aquarian Weekly
9/15/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
CALIFORNIA SCHEMING
What the Golden State Recall Election Tells Us About National Politics 
 
 
Six weeks ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom was in trouble. The recall election slated for 9/14 looked to be hanging in the balance. When a recall was first broached last year after a backlash resulting from his flouting his own mask mandate and other stressing economic issues facing his state, the idea of ousting him before the end of his term was about 50-50. But there was a serious swell rising against the beleaguered Democrat. Since, there have been alternative Republican candidates entering “the race”. Then the numbers shifted dramatically. The frontrunner, Larry Elder is the biggest culprit, if Republican strategists on the ground are to be believed. Elder’s presence has morphed a competitive contest into a rather banal one.

Elder is another of these goofy “conservative” talk show hosts. Before the age of Trump this used to mean something. Now, it is a place for abject lunacy. His candidacy in a wildly Democratic state centers mostly around name recognition, the usual twenty-nine to thirty-eight percent far-right militant radical vote, and for window dressing, being African American does not hurt. For a while that kind of thing held some sway, especially when he received a rousing endorsement from Trump himself. It was enough to gain a plurality among the right. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the governor’s seat; Elder started appealing to the body politic. It was then when things went rapidly south.

And I need to stress rapidly.

Californians, it turns out, are not so keen on someone who says before his first cup of tea upon being sworn in he would eliminate the mask mandates put in place by the current administration, and then make it more difficult to fully vaccinate the state. This stuff is gold on the radio, where resentment, fear and outlandish blather helps sell beer. On the campaign trail, however, it is poison. In the past two weeks the nearly 50-50 split to kick Newsom to the curb has gone the other way almost twenty percent. Now nearly seven out of ten in the state support keeping the governor right where he is. Twenty percent did not shift by the selling of a new Newsom, but the very possibility of a crazy Elder.

What California tells us, if anything, is that although a chief executive may not be the popular choice, his opponent matters.

Now, I know that contextualizing a state or any local race into a national prognostication is foolhardy at best and quite frankly fucking insane at its core, but for the purposes of fun, let’s take what was happening to an obviously vulnerable sitting executive and extrapolate his story of seeming defeat to an unlikely reprieve on the national scene.

While Newsome’s governorship was being taken off life support, the president of the United States has been in a significant tailspin. Not since George W. Bush, the last president to enjoy a crossover appeal and rejection, has a president suffered the kind of nosedive approval ratings as Joe Biden in the past three weeks. As broached in the space recently, his steady fifty-three percent approvals since inauguration in January has sunk him to forty-five percent. Not once in those weeks has there been a respite. The numbers dive, slowly, steadily.

The botched and badly communicated exit from Afghanistan and the return of the Covid restrictions, rising hospitalizations and deaths being the two big reasons. There has always been a sense that Biden is not completely compos mentis, and the former did not help this assessment. The Covid thing is beyond his control. The federal government can only do so much. If states like Florida, Texas, and most of the South wish to force schools to not mask children and basically ignore the Delta variant explosion, then so be it. But among independent voters, these issues have led to a softening and then a mass exodus.

This is a crisis point for Biden. Independents decide close elections. And without an opponent, and if things were to be settled this November instead of three years from now, he would be very beatable.

Which brings me back to California. There is still a fervor to want change at the top, and Newsome’s approval numbers may not be overwhelming (he is at Biden’s former fifty-three percent) but once Larry Elder took his radio schtick into actual politics, it went the other way. If a Trumpian candidate is pummeled in California now, one wonders if Joe Biden might consider trolling Donald Trump to announce his candidacy. Because there is a very strong possibility that if a sane, actual conservative runs in 2024, the president is in deep shit.

Of course, Biden has three years, not three months. But what California tells us, if anything, is that although a chief executive may not be the popular choice, his opponent matters. Not sure there is (the November election is less than a year ago) the stomach for another Trump run or for another Trumpian candidate. And since Elder has already started predictably claiming election fraud a week out, the fallout might also be equally as ugly.

Let’s see if the Elder vote shows up to make this competitive. But if he loses, and if he loses by ten points, his presence in the race clearly forced the electorate to choose between incompetence and bat shit crazy dangerous.  

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WOMEN IN BONDAGE

Aquarian Weekly
9/8/21
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
WOMEN IN BONDAGE
Supreme Court Ignores Unconstitutional Bans on Abortion in Texas, Thus Enslaving Women’s Bodies at the Behest of the State
    
 
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
– Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
 
 
The moment former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg stopped breathing the rights of women were put on life support. This overwhelming conservative court is now poised to strike down the forty-eight year-old Roe v Wade decision that we were told (like we were told the twenty-year Afghanistan War would be swift) was “decided law.” It is not. It never was. Until an amendment exists, (but it kind of exists, doesn’t it? – more on that in a couple of paragraphs), there is no such thing as “decided law.” They are likely coming for marriage equality as well. If the slow gutting of the Civil Rights Act is any indication, there is some radical judicial shenanigans to come.

But this is not a column about the vagaries of political justices or religious fanatics or the age-old arguments about fetal rights or heartbeats. This is about one thing, and has always been about that thing: Can a democratically constructed government based on a human’s right to live free in a nation built on the concept of law dictate what happens inside the body of its citizens?

The answer to that question must always be no. The government should not demand you remove your appendix or change your sexual organs. There are anti-choice, pro-lifers who bitch about the strong suggestion they receive a vaccine to save their lives and the lives of other fellow citizens, many of them family and friends. Not a mandate. A Suggestion. Yet, they wholly support the government dictating what goes on inside their bodies.

Oh, no, wait a minute, not everyone’s bodies. Women’s bodies. Just women. So, um, it is prejudicial on top of the other life and liberty stuff. Oh, I get it. Sure. And so, the end of Roe v Wade, a correct legal decision based on the basic principles of liberty, would mean that there can come a day when the government could force a woman to terminate a pregnancy. Oops. Yes. It would. Why wouldn’t it? Roe v Wade protects the systemic control over the bodies of more than half our citizenry. It protects women. Women are citizens. Thus, striking it down makes women’s bodies slaves to the state. This issue should be argued on the merits of the Thirteenth Amendment.

Okay, so maybe the Thirteenth Amendment is going too far – not sure it is – but there is always the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants the rights of citizens (women, the whole of women, including the uterus) over draconian laws instituted by lunatics. Of course, that amendment, passed in 1868, only granted these rights to men. It is specifically in the wording. Men only. But then the Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1919, supersedes it. Allowing not only women to vote but making them equal in the eyes of laws previously passed for men. So, now we’re up to three amendments. How many do we need to grant equal rights to women? Apparently more, as in the 1970s there was the proposition – stymied, of course – for an Equal Rights Amendment. Because maybe four fucking amendments might get women where they need to be.

Which brings us back to this: My daughter. Your daughter. Our daughters. Slaves to the state. None of them would have control over what happens inside them, now that Texas flouts the constitution, as they do, and many states do now with voting rights, and pushes this issue to its logical end – enslaving women. All of these things to be dictated by government over citizens. Unconstitutional. Period.

Women have taken your shit for as long as there has been anything known as society…

This has not been a good year for the constitution or democracy. It starts with a president trying overturn a free and fair election and become a dictator, then anarchists attacking the state capitol, and now the Supreme Court paving the way to enslave women’s body as the behest of the state.

Yeah, and we fear the Taliban halfway across the globe. No point. It’s here. And now. Next up, burkas. 

I shan’t get into the spectacular level of hypocrisy in the conservative, anti-government, Don’t Tread on Me clan that demand that women cash in their uterus. It is an appalling lack of ideological self-awareness, or really awareness or rationality. It is, in fact, the very definition of irrational, like most of the arguments to allow the government to take control of women. Government control. Over the body of a citizen of the United States. This is where we are heading.

And we need to get our heads around that. It is coming. Both of Donald Trump’s SCOTUS appointees are intractably anti Roe v Wade in previous rulings, comportment and commentary. We’ve already covered this. That particular ship has left the dock a while ago. It is a done deal. Its time is limited. And for those who have fought on the front lines against it for decades, your time has come. Good for you. But that does not mean it isn’t draconian and wrong and has no place in a society built on the concept that we are all free. Not women. Not for long.

Women have taken your shit for as long as there has been anything known as society – long before anyone considered freedom or that women were not property. Women. Property. To marry off and auction off and stigmatize and marginalize and objectify and demean and corner and make less-than. They’ve been on the butt end of religion and law and social mores and bigotry. But since 1973, when a woman couldn’t own a credit card or be a doctor or get a loan, they had at the very least, control of their bodies. And this is our ticking time bomb now. And this non-ruling ruling by the highest court in the land means, for now, there isn’t a fucking thing that can be done about it.

But right now, not tomorrow or next week or some time when we get our shit together, it is time to begin working out a plan to up-end anti-choice candidates for any office. It should be the democratic litmus test of all litmus tests. It used to be. But we got soft. The anti-choice crowd were hoping we would sleep on it. And we did. They made it their crusade. And now they are reaping the benefits. But the only way to protect the rights of women – even the unknowing women who support the pro-life movement at the peril of their own rights – is to upend this and make it our moral fight. Stop playing defense and get on offense to make it a law and maybe even an amendment, or at least evoke the rights granted by three amendments and the existence of a ratified constitution that the systemic control of any citizen is illegal and immoral. 

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BIDEN AT THE CENTURY MARK

Aquarian Weekly
5/7/21

Reality Check

James Campion

BIDEN AT THE CENTURY MARK
The First 100 Days in Our National Recovery

It is going to be difficult to judge this president without gazing through the dismal lens of the last one. Donald Trump was such an ineffectual, downright moronic and haphazard president, anyone who followed him would have an advantage of “not him”-ism. Think of how good a McDonald’s hamburger might taste after a pile of steaming shit – it’s not rib-eye, but it’s sort of edible. This will be Reality Check’s fourth president hitting his first 100 days in office, and the first that will skew the numbers from any semblance of reality. Sure, Joe Biden has a 54-percent approval rating at the century mark, which is below George W. Bush (63-percent) and Barack Obama (62-percent), but way above Trump’s 45-percent. And that was Trump’s four-year high – he was just warming up to suck – but it is hard to know what I am analyzing here. Nevertheless, I’m bound to duty, so let’s do this.

To get the obvious out of the way, Biden is not Trump. When the president used my “house on fire” analogy I had worn out last year during his congressional address this week I had to smile. Because for these first 100 days the most important thing Biden could have done was turn the page, fast. Especially since we are still enduring a pandemic that has taken the lives of a half-million Americans and sunk the economy. All of this was defiantly ignored by his predecessor, especially when Trump lost the election and spent his final three months disappearing to whine or emerging to blather tired bullshit about election rigging, ending his sad tenure with the gathering of lunatics to attack the Capitol. What a merry time of misrule it was.

When I write, Any new administration had to be better, it comes with heavy emphasis, like, ANY NEW ADMINISTRATION HAD TO BE BETTER. And for the first couple of weeks Biden shifted tone, connecting the otherwise abandoned federal government response to Covid-19 with the states to expand testing and get the new vaccines out to as many places as possible, specifically lower-income urban and rural areas, and did things presidents do, like function and not tweet at four am about craziness, embrace foreign despots, deny reality, and lie, lie, lie, and more lying. So, is this success? I guess? It’s not a shit show, so that’s a win.

People who somehow find the temerity to defend the Trump presidency conveniently forget he was hired to wreck shit. On that front, and by that measure, the experiment to send a game show host to run the free world was a rousing success. What revisionist historians try and tell us is this was a form of functioning, like having someone demolition your home and call it redecorating. Biden, on the other hand, is being president. Whether you agree with his policies or ideology is up for grabs, he is actually doing the thing he was elected to do, instead of running the federal government as a vanity project wrapped in criminal activities.

To say the very least, confidence in a functioning president was paramount in late January 2021, and on this count, Biden delivered by quickly undoing much of the damaging silliness of the Trump era by going executive-order crazy. Even supporters of the president realized that this was a speed-train approach, but since Trump mostly altered the terrain through a phalanx of executive orders, this sidewinding method held sway in changing course accordingly.

The other key element of Biden’s first 100 days is his restocking the business of government – the gutted state department, the eviscerated diplomacy tract, politicized justice department, embattled intelligence community, and the use of the national guard to deploy vaccines, etc. (220 million shots in 100 days – he promised 100 million). But this is just doing the job. After the last four years, it is apparently big news.

He is actually doing the thing he was elected to do, instead of running the federal government as a vanity project wrapped in criminal activities.

On the ideological front, Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue package was as progressive and big government as it gets. No Republican would touch it under the hypocritical auspices that it would add to the debt and it was too expensive, all the things they ignored for the four previous years of senseless corporate handouts and tax-cuts. Spending is always suggested in economic crisis, especially one created by the government when shutting it down in the first place, but Biden came in swinging. And if his address to congress is any indication he intends to spend some more. To be fair, again, expanding infrastructure investments was a Trump/GOP edict – roads, bridges, airports, schools, broadband – but once again the $2 trillion price tag is too high for them, and unless Biden can get a couple of his sticky centrist Democratic senators onboard there is likely to be compromise or fancy politicking.

One major cross-political pollination occurred in the final weeks of the century mark for this president; Biden’s decision to remove troops from Afghanistan. There have been both left and right arguments for and against this war since we invaded that country twenty years ago, making it by-far the longest running U.S. military engagement. First, it was a Bush plan (GOP backed), then it was Obama’s inheritance (wait and see, and then wait, and wait and wait some more) for eight years, then Trump went all America-First No More Stupid Wars, but kept it going, despite threatening a few times in his final year to end it, but, ironically, was met this time from Democratic blowback. The Pentagon also weighed in, warning of doom and gloom, but this was expected, since the generals always want war. Keeps them in business. Gives them a reason to exist. Biden, unlike Trump, is old-world. There is more Reagan and Bush in Biden than Trump. Biden is a Cold War vet. He still sees America as the Shining City on the Hill. Devoid of perspective, Trump didn’t see any money is supporting our allies. But for all his bluster and maverick nonsense, four years went by and we were still at war in Afghanistan. Biden wants out.

Not sure what this tells us about a Biden Doctrine. His job for the past 100 days was to get us back in the international game, wipe the egg off our face and put us back into conversations about climate change, international treaties, alliances in Europe and Asia, all left to rot or were sabotaged in the last administration.

One major failure for Biden, he miscalculated the partisan divides in his town. All that “work together” rhetoric revealed he was out of touch. Even his close friends on the other side like Lindsay Graham have long ago sold their commitment to govern for faux heroism in the eyes of the far right. Biden also needs to come to grips with the centrists on Capitol Hill, specifically West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who has shown more empathy for the Republican caucus than his party’s president. Yet, this should not shy Biden from being bold on his agenda, (national referendum on voting rights to placate the Black vote that put him in the White House and to stem the tide of voter suppression the Republicans seek to stay relevant, for one). Seeing how the weight for 2022 looks to be shifting back to a GOP controlled House and Senate, there is no better time than now.

The mark for Biden’s first 100 days is incomplete. He has shown he can transform and rebuild. He has brought decency and sanity back to the presidency. He has been really liberal (big government solutions) and steadfastly moderate (keeping Trump era immigration regulations in place). He has not yet shown his hand on the refugee crisis at the southern border, which has been punted to the next 100 days, or three and a half years.

But one thing can be said about Joe Biden. He is no Donald Trump.

cmini

And I will take that every day and twice, please, on Sundays.       

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TRUMP & RUSSIA – THE LAST CHAPTER

Aquarian Weekly
8/5/20
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
TRUMP & RUSSIA – THE LAST CHAPTER          
 
The weird, bizarre and dangerous history between the current president of the United States and Russia, specifically its tyrannical president Vladimir Putin, took another odd turn this week after Donald Trump acted first aloof and then dismissive of intelligence reports from last month that Russians have been bankrolling terrorist fighters in Afghanistan and since late 2019 putting bounties on the heads of U.S. soldiers. After a July 23 phone conversation with Putin of unknown original or subject – because Trump has been silent about these in the past anyway – there appeared to be no discussion of this rather grave information between the two “leaders”.

“No, that was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly, that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,” Trump told in reporter Jonathan Swan, who has already conducted several revealing interviews with Trump in the past. Shockingly and quite embarrassingly for the craft of American journalism, Swan is the first reporter to press Trump on this. For some reason this has not been a high priority for the sleepy White House press that takes Trump’s click-bait nonsense about injecting bleach, postponing the election and V-shaped economic recoveries instead. This is especially egregious since, as covered in this space weeks ago, there is evidence the White House knew about what the official report registered as Unit 29155 of the GRU – Russia’s military intelligence agency – since it began and there have been actual military deaths allegedly associated with the allegations.

Oh, there were some chatter about it for a day or so a few weeks back when the NY Times published a deep-dive into the reports, but understandably while Trump is assisting in the death of hundreds of Americans a week by continuing his unconscionable battle against scientists, doctors, governors and everyone else concerned with the spiking numbers of this virus, not to mention his fascist deployment of secret police to jail protesters and fly spy planes over American cities gathering cell phone information from all citizens, whether they are dissenters or not, will distract the press. But then television personality turned “press secretary” Kayleigh McEnany told the American people Trump never saw the briefing. “He doesn’t read briefings,” went the excuse. Then the poor overwhelmed simpleton spent the next days trying to convince everyone Trump does and can read. Or some such. All of it effectively kiboshing the killing of American soldiers as the commander-in-chief has no idea or could not care any less. “Why doesn’t anyone like me?” Trump asked instead, and then tweets that social media is “unfair.”

I get that it is hard to concentrate in a circus. But no way should this have gone unchecked for this long, especially when considering this presidents proclivity to defend and prop up the myth of Putin, even against his own country’s intelligence, as in 2018 when he stood on foreign soil and committed treason refuting American intelligence, defending the Russian president, and brazenly siding with our enemy. 

His feckless, damaged psyche makes it easy for him to subjugate his fragile ego to strongmen – Putin being the Mac-Daddy.

After using his prerequisite “hoax” routine with Swan, which is our president’s running “Take my wife, please” bit and has worked like a charm with the original Russian investigation that got him impeached and this Corona virus which he said would disappear magically in a few days and be gone when it warmed up in April, Trump said, “I have never discussed it with him.”

This is odd for any president, even one as dumbfounded as this one. I mean, Trump consistently re-tweets nonsense that teenage racists post on the dark web with absolute zero vetting. His constant knee-jerk reactions to the slightest criticism by Hollywood celebrities, political opponents, cable news network pundits are legendary. Shit, in 1990 Trump took out a full-page newspaper ad asking for the death penalty against five black teenagers for a crime they did not commit. But a foreign enemy that has used cyber-attacks to interfere with our elections, along with aggressive international military moves in the middle east and all the rest, is a “hoax”?

“I have never discussed it with him.”

Hmmmm.

And what exactly does “discuss other things” entail?

Again, the Trump-Russian “thing” as Trump liked to call it when the president unceremoniously sacked the head of the FBI investing Russian interference that began to close in on him because a laughable preponderance of his campaign staff and people he tabbed for his cabinet had been busted talking to, making deals with, and having shady connections with Russian that began to surface as early as late 2016 and into 2017 when he was president, has been a consistent part of this presidency. It never fails to pop up. Why was Trump bragging to Russian diplomats about firing Director of the FBI James Comey hours afterwards in the Oval Office? Why did Trump make a deal with Russian ally and American enemy Turkey to pull troops from Russian stronghold Syria? And why did the United States pull 1,200 troops from Germany a few days after this mysterious July 23 call between Trump and Putin?

Now, to use a Trumpism, many say it’s because Putin has “something on Trump.” The infamous Steele dossier that has been proven mostly correct over years of scrutiny makes allegations of Trump’s sexual exploits during Russian visits. Of course, there is the money-laundering and ties to the Russian mafia, some of which came out during the Mueller investigation and has his personal lawyer, the demented troll Rudy Giuliani, in hot water. But I tend to dismiss these as too conspiratorial. I have always thought Trump too stupid to actually hatch this kind of clandestine plan. I have maintained, and Trump has shown this to be true on several levels during his public career as a conman, that his feckless, damaged psyche makes it easy for him to subjugate his fragile ego to strongmen – Putin being the Mac-Daddy. “Daddy” being the operative word here.

Think of Trump’s support for macho “domination of the streets”, as he commanded mayors during the first weeks of the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests, using force as the first resort. His praising of China’s use of tanks to murder students during the 1989 Tiananmen Square and the bombshell from former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s best-selling book, The Room Where It Happened about a private meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, wherein Trump advised Jinping to “go ahead with building concentration camps for Uighur Muslims” because it “was exactly the right thing to do.”

Whatever the reason, Trump has been and still is very much in the back-pocket of one of the most despotic leaders on the planet who has been at cyber war against the U.S. for the entire time he has been president. Blessedly, that time is coming to an ignominious close. The American health system, its economy, its democracy is in ruins. Planned or not, Trump has succeeded in helping Putin weaken America. As I wrote years ago, Trump is our greatest threat, a terrorist that must be stamped out this November to return us to a sovereign nation that holds our enemies accountable. Whatever issues Trump has with Putin or the Russians then becomes private. Let his hidden tax returns be someone else’s concern.

But make no mistake, something is going on with Trump and Russia, since the very beginning of this garbage-heap presidency. The latest actions of a president soon to be defeated is enough evidence. Listen carefully when the president questions our free and fair elections, our system, calling it “fraudulent”. Listen as he undermines the democracy and the nation he was elected to “lead” and see with your own eyes how the lives of American soldiers and our safety must take a backseat to the whims and wishes of a madman Russian.

“I have never discussed it with him.”

“That was a phone call to discuss other things.”
    

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