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erronis

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Member since: Tue Feb 5, 2013, 04:27 PM
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"Donald Trump's recounting of his 2020 conversation with a Taliban leader is something else"

https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/28/politics/donald-trump-hugh-hewitt/index.html

I dunno anything about CNN and Cillizza. But this interview is absolutely f'in incredible.

(CNN)Donald Trump called into conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt's show on Thursday, spending almost 45 minutes doling out his usual mix of braggadocio, blame-gaming and just plain old riffing.
One answer -- one very loooooong answer -- stood out to me. It came after Hewitt asked Trump to describe his conversation with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban co-founder and deputy leader, during his 2020 negotiations with the group to remove American troops from Afghanistan. (Trump talked to Hewitt before the explosions at the Kabul airport on Thursday morning.)
Here's the full back-and-forth (and you can listen to it here):

Hewitt: What did you communicate to Baradar, Mullah Baradar, Abdul Baradar who you talked to when you spoke to him? What did you tell him?

Trump: So I set up a conversation with him, and people said oh, you shouldn't be talking. Well, I set up a conversation with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. We didn't have a nuclear war. Had I not, then Obama would have been right. We would have had a nuclear war. President Obama said to me we're going to have a nuclear war with North Korea. I said have you ever spoken to him. He said no. And I said don't you think that might be a good idea. But anyway, I know he wanted to speak to him, but he never got to speak to him, and I think the other side didn't want to talk to Obama. So what happened is I spoke to the head of the, the known head, because it's...

Hewitt: Yeah, Baradar, right? Baradar.
Trump: Yeah, but I spoke to, and sort of the known head, but nobody was sure, but now I'm sure, and I was sure then when I was speaking to him. And I knew as soon as I spoke to him. And even the introduction, I say hello, and he screamed something very tough. And I then started with him. I said, listen, before we start the longtime conversation and conversations that we're going to have, I have to say one thing, and I'll never have to say it again to you. And here's what I say. If you do anything bad to the United States of America, if you do anything bad to any of our civilians, to any American citizen, or if you do anything out of the normal, you know, they've been fighting for a thousand years, but out of the normal, because you've had your wars, and if you do anything out of the normal, but anything bad to America or any American citizens, I will hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history. You will be hit harder than any country and any person has ever been hit in world history. And we will start with the exact location and the exact town, and it's right here. And I believe I repeated the name of his town. That will be the first place that we start. And I won't be able to speak to you anymore after that, and isn't that a very sad thing? But that is the story. And then he asked me one question, and I'd rather not repeat that question, because it's a very scary question. But he asked me one question, and I gave him the answer yes. And then after it was all done, I said OK, now I've said what I'm going to say. Let's have a conversation. And I said we're going to be leaving after 21 years. And when we leave, you're going to leave us alone, and we're going to leave with great dignity and great honor. And we are going to take care of this situation. We're going to take our time. We had a date of May 1, but they missed a couple of conditions. We had some very strong conditions, Hugh. But they missed a couple of conditions. I wanted to be out by May 1. I had spoken to him quite a bit before May 1, but we had a condition of May 1. But they missed conditions, and so therefore, I bombed and we hit them very hard. And then we said we will agree to those conditions. I said no, you've already agreed to them. Don't play games. We had them so good. They weren't in Kabul. You take a look at when they started taking over Afghanistan. It's when I left. When I left, that's when it started, they started going wild, because they were dealing with another president. And I never realized, and of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency, but I never realized how important the office of the president is until this happened, because when I watched what happened over the last week and a half with some horrible, stupid decisions that were made, number one being allowing our military to leave before the civilians and before we get all of our equipment back, $83 billion dollars. And not, nobody can even comprehend that much equipment. Thousands of vehicles, thousands, you saw the list of vehicles.

Let's leave aside the fact that it appears as though Trump simply doesn't know Baradar's name -- even with prompting from Hewitt. And that Trump claimed that he single-handedly averted nuclear war because he sat down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Instead, focus on Trump's description of his conversation with Baradar. And start here: The answer runs 588 words. That's roughly three and a half minutes of speaking -- uninterrupted. Which, well, wow.
Now to what Trump actually said:
* "I spoke to, and sort of the known head, but nobody was sure, but now I'm sure, and I was sure then when I was speaking to him. And I knew as soon as I spoke to him. And even the introduction, I say hello, and he screamed something very tough." If I am reading this right, Trump wasn't sure that Baradar was the head of the Taliban when the conversation first started but he figured it out once Baradar "screamed something very tough."
* "If you do anything bad to the United States of America, if you do anything bad to any of our civilians, to any American citizen, or if you do anything out of the normal, you know, they've been fighting for a 1,000 years, but out of the normal, because you've had your wars, and if you do anything out of the normal, but anything bad to America or any American citizens, I will hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history." This sentence is 85 words long. And it ends with Trump recounting that he told Baradar that if the Taliban hurt any Americans that Trump would "hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history." Which, well, would be pretty hard. Also, Trump's description of Afghanistan's history -- "you've had your wars" -- is truly remarkable.
* "And then he asked me one question, and I'd rather not repeat that question, because it's a very scary question. But he asked me one question, and I gave him the answer yes." I truly have no idea what that one question could have possibly been. And why would Trump not want to tell it to Hewitt?
* "I wanted to be out by May 1. I had spoken to him quite a bit before May 1, but we had a condition of May 1. But they missed conditions, and so therefore, I bombed and we hit them very hard."
Trump using the word "I" to describe a bombing campaign is not surprising, given what we know about him. But it is still a little surreal.
* "And I never realized, and of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency, but I never realized how important the office of the president is until this happened, because when I watched what happened over the last week and a half with some horrible, stupid decisions that were made, number one being allowing our military to leave before the civilians and before we get all of our equipment back, $83 billion dollars." So, Trump never realized the power of the presidency until after he had left office and was watching the Afghanistan situation from afar? Really? Of course, he also contradicts himself in the same answer when he says "of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency" right before he says "I never realized how important the office of the president is." So....

The back-and-forth is, well, something else.
That it lands on the same day that so many Republicans have been so quick to bash President Joe Biden for his handling of the drawdown of the US presence in Afghanistan should serve as a reminder that Trump's foreign policy knowledge and bona fides were absolutely paper thin.

Sarah Chayes: Failing States?

https://www.sarahchayes.org/post/failing-states

I feel guilty that I didn't know about Sarah Chayes before a few days ago. To add to the pantheon of excellent writers such as Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel.net) and Asha Rangappa (https://threadreaderapp.com/user/AshaRangappa_)


I write this post with the dizzying impression of having stepped into a hall of mirrors.

In international development circles, it’s fashionable to speak of “fragile” or “failing” states. But such states are deceptive. They are in fact run by sophisticated networks. These networks may be failing at governing, but governing is not their objective. Self-enrichment is. And at that they are highly successful.

Now consider the McMansions that have sprung up like growths around Washington in the past twenty years. Consider the properties in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, the pay packages and portfolios, the offshore bank accounts — and the no-bid tenders — enjoyed by executives of defense contracting and financial investment firms, pharmaceutical and fossil fuel giants, and the lawyers and brokers who service them. Under administrations of both parties, many of those executives have cycled in and out of government.

This is the story explored in On Corruption in America — And What Is at Stake.

What is at stake, indeed? Now consider the public policies these executives have influenced or authored. They include two lost wars, a financial meltdown that nearly brought down the world economy, an addiction crisis and a bungled response to a global pandemic, both of which killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. And the destruction of the irreplaceable habitat upon which we depend for our very survival, which has reached runaway speed in the same two decades. As I write, heaven — meaning the earth — is burning. Or flooded out.

This is what I mean by “Afghanistan holds up a mirror to us.” How competently have our own leaders been governing for the past twenty years? Meanwhile, how successful have they been at achieving that other objective: adding zeroes to their bank accounts? Which of those was in fact their primary objective?

Given the consequences, are terrorists really the greater threat to our homeland?



Those are the questions that have been flooding my mind. I’ll return to them below. But let me first take up some of yours.


James Fallows: "It's the corruption, stupid" and Sarah Chayes: "The Ides of August"

Such a good set of observations on our perpetual follies.

https://digbysblog.net/2021/08/22/its-the-corruption-stupid-2/
Brief history thread.
During late stage in Vietnam, args for staying were:

-Ripple effects on US “credibility”

-Need to fight for democ, against Communism

-US had overwhelming military-power advantage

-Don’t panic now, little more time to give training-mission a chance


After fall of Saigon, many tragic/horrific conseq:

-For those who had worked or fought alongside US

-For the whole of Cambodia

-Catholics in VN, Montagnards i Laos, many ethnic groups

-Re-education camps

-Decades of displacement, refugee camps thru SE Asia.


But books/reports also came out about what this South Vietnamese “democracy” US had fought for was really like

How irrelevant US firepower /technology advantage was.

Why politics / culture / history are crucial elements of war.

How US had structurally deceived itself


Afghanistan is not Vietnam, in a thousand ways.

But in context of arguments then and now, please read searing essay by Sarah Chayes, about on-the ground realities she has seen.


https://www.sarahchayes.org/post/the-ides-of-august

August 15, 2021

I’ve been silent for a while. I’ve been silent about Afghanistan for longer. But too many things are going unsaid.

I won’t try to evoke the emotions, somehow both swirling and yet leaden: the grief, the anger, the sense of futility. Instead, as so often before, I will use my mind to shield my heart. And in the process, perhaps help you make some sense of what has happened.

For those of you who don’t know me, here is my background — the perspective from which I write tonight.

I covered the fall of the Taliban for NPR, making my way into their former capital, Kandahar, in December 2001, a few days after the collapse of their regime. Descending the last great hill into the desert city, I saw a dusty ghost town. Pickup trucks with rocket-launchers strapped to the struts patrolled the streets. People pulled on my militia friends' sleeves, telling them where to find a Taliban weapons cache, or a last hold-out. But most remained indoors.

It was Ramadan. A few days later, at the holiday ending the month-long fast, the pent-up joy erupted. Kites took to the air. Horsemen on gorgeous, caparisoned chargers tore across a dusty common in sprint after sprint, with a festive audience cheering them on. This was Kandahar, the Taliban heartland. There was no panicked rush for the airport.

I reported for a month or so, then passed off to Steve Inskeep, now Morning Edition host. Within another couple of months, I was back, not as a reporter this time, but to try actually to do something. I stayed for a decade. I ran two non-profits in Kandahar, living in an ordinary house and speaking Pashtu, and eventually went to work for two commanders of the international troops, and then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (You can read about that time, and its lessons, in my first two books, The Punishment of Virtue and Thieves of State.)

From that standpoint — speaking as an American, as an adoptive Kandahari, and as a former senior U.S. government official — here are the key factors I see in today’s climax of a two-decade long fiasco:



Afghan government corruption, and the U.S. role enabling and reinforcing it. The last speaker of the Afghan parliament, Rahman Rahmani, I recently learned, is a multimillionaire, thanks to monopoly contracts to provide fuel and security to U.S. forces at their main base, Bagram. Is this the type of government people are likely to risk their lives to defend?

Two decades ago, young people in Kandahar were telling me how the proxy militias American forces had armed and provided with U.S. fatigues were shaking them down at checkpoints. By 2007, delegations of elders would visit me — the only American whose door was open and who spoke Pashtu so there would be no intermediaries to distort or report their words. Over candied almonds and glasses of green tea, they would get to some version of this: “The Taliban hit us on this cheek, and the government hits us on that cheek.” The old man serving as the group’s spokesman would physically smack himself in the face.

I and too many other people to count spent years of our lives trying to convince U.S. decision-makers that Afghans could not be expected to take risks on behalf of a government that was as hostile to their interests as the Taliban were. Note: it took me a while, and plenty of my own mistakes, to come to that realization. But I did.

For two decades, American leadership on the ground and in Washington proved unable to take in this simple message. I finally stopped trying to get it across when, in 2011, an interagency process reached the decision that the U.S. would not address corruption in Afghanistan. It was now explicit policy to ignore one of the two factors that would determine the fate of all our efforts. That’s when I knew today was inevitable.

Americans like to think of ourselves as having valiantly tried to bring democracy to Afghanistan. Afghans, so the narrative goes, just weren’t ready for it, or didn’t care enough about democracy to bother defending it. Or we’ll repeat the cliche that Afghans have always rejected foreign intervention; we’re just the latest in a long line.

I was there. Afghans did not reject us. They looked to us as exemplars of democracy and the rule of law. They thought that’s what we stood for.


And what did we stand for? What flourished on our watch? Cronyism, rampant corruption, a Ponzi scheme disguised as a banking system, designed by U.S. finance specialists during the very years that other U.S. finance specialists were incubating the crash of 2008. A government system where billionaires get to write the rules.


Is that American democracy?

Well…?



Pakistan. The involvement of that country's government -- in particular its top military brass -- in its neighbor’s affairs is the second factor that would determine the fate of the U.S. mission.

You may have heard that the Taliban first emerged in the early 1990s, in Kandahar. That is incorrect. I conducted dozens of conversations and interviews over the course of years, both with actors in the drama and ordinary people who watched events unfold in Kandahar and in Quetta, Pakistan. All of them said the Taliban first emerged in Pakistan.

The Taliban were a strategic project of the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. It even conducted market surveys in the villages around Kandahar, to test the label and the messaging. “Taliban” worked well. The image evoked was of the young students who apprenticed themselves to village religious leaders. They were known as sober, studious, and gentle. These Taliban, according to the ISI messaging, had no interest in government. They just wanted to get the militiamen who infested the city to stop extorting people at every turn in the road.

Both label and message were lies.

Within a few years, Usama bin Laden found his home with the Taliban, in their de facto capital, Kandahar, hardly an hour’s drive from Quetta. Then he organized the 9/11 attacks. Then he fled to Pakistan, where we finally found him, living in a safe house in Abbottabad, practically on the grounds of the Pakistani military academy. Even knowing what I knew, I was shocked. I never expected the ISI to be that brazen.

Meanwhile, ever since 2002, the ISI had been re-configuring the Taliban: helping it regroup, training and equipping units, developing military strategy, saving key operatives when U.S. personnel identified and targeted them. That’s why the Pakistani government got no advance warning of the Bin Laden raid. U.S. officials feared the ISI would warn him.

By 2011, my boss, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Taliban were a “virtual arm of the ISI.”

And now this.


Do we really suppose the Taliban, a rag-tag, disjointed militia hiding out in the hills, as we’ve so long been told, was able to execute such a sophisticated campaign plan with no international backing? Where do we suppose that campaign plan came from? Who gave the orders? Where did all those men, all that materiel, the endless supply of money to buy off local Afghan army and police commanders, come from? How is it that new officials were appointed in Kandahar within a day of the city’s fall? The new governor, mayor, director of education, and chief of police all speak with a Kandahari accent. But no one I know has ever heard of them. I speak with a Kandahari accent, too. Quetta is full of Pashtuns — the main ethic group in Afghanistan — and people of Afghan descent and their children. Who are these new officials?

Over those same years, by the way, the Pakistani military also provided nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. But for two decades, while all this was going on, the United States insisted on considering Pakistan an ally. We still do.



Hamid Karzai. During my conversations in the early 2000s about the Pakistani government’s role in the Taliban’s initial rise, I learned this breathtaking fact: Hamid Karzai, the U.S. choice to pilot Afghanistan after we ousted their regime, was in fact the go-between who negotiated those very Taliban’s initial entry into Afghanistan in 1994.

I spent months probing the stories. I spoke to servants in the Karzai household. I spoke to a former Mujahideen commander, Mullah Naqib, who admitted to being persuaded by the label and the message Karzai was peddling. The old commander also admitted he was at his wits’ end at the misbehavior of his own men. I spoke with his chief lieutenant, who disagreed with his tribal elder and commander, and took his own men off to neighboring Helmand Province to keep fighting. I heard that Karzai’s own father broke with him over his support for this ISI project. Members of Karzai’s household and Quetta neighbors told me about Karzai’s frequent meetings with armed Taliban at his house there, in the months leading up to their seizure of power.

And lo. Karzai abruptly emerges from this vortex, at the head of a “coordinating committee” that will negotiate the Taliban’s return to power? Again?

It was like a repeat of that morning of May, 2011, when I first glimpsed the pictures of the safe-house where Usama bin Laden had been sheltered. Once again — even knowing everything I knew — I was shocked. I was shocked for about four seconds. Then everything seemed clear.

It is my belief that Karzai may have been a key go-between negotiating this surrender, just as he did in 1994, this time enlisting other discredited figures from Afghanistan's past, as they were useful to him. Former co-head of the Afghan government, Abdullah Abdullah, could speak to his old battle-buddies, the Mujahideen commanders of the north and west. You may have heard some of their names as they surrendered their cities in recent days: Ismail Khan, Dostum, Atta Muhammad Noor. The other person mentioned together with Karzai is Gulbuddin Hikmatyar -- a bona fide Taliban commander, who could take the lead in some conversations with them and with the ISI.

As Americans have witnessed in our own context — the #MeToo movement, for example, the uprising after the murder of George Floyd, or the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — surprisingly abrupt events are often months or years in the quiet making. The abrupt collapse of 20 years’ effort in Afghanistan is, in my view, one of those cases.

Thinking this hypothesis through, I find myself wondering: what role did U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad play? And old friend of Karzai's, he was the one who ran the negotiations with the Taliban for the Trump Administration, in which the Afghan government was forced to make concession after concession. Could President Biden truly have found no one else for that job, to replace an Afghan-American with obvious conflicts of interest, who was close to former Vice President Dick Cheney and who lobbied in favor of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan when the Taliban were last in power?



Self-Delusion. How many times did you read stories about the Afghan security forces’ steady progress? How often, over the past two decades, did you hear some U.S. official proclaim that the Taliban’s eye-catching attacks in urban settings were signs of their “desperation” and their “inability to control territory?” How many heart-warming accounts did you hear about all the good we were doing, especially for women and girls?

Who were we deluding? Ourselves?


What else are we deluding ourselves about?


One final point. I hold U.S. civilian leadership, across four administrations, largely responsible for today’s outcome. Military commanders certainly participated in the self-delusion. I can and did find fault with generals I worked for or observed. But the U.S. military is subject to civilian control. And the two primary problems identified above — corruption and Pakistan — are civilian issues. They are not problems men and women in uniform can solve. But faced with calls to do so, no top civilian decision-maker was willing to take either of these problems on. The political risk, for them, was too high.

Today, as many of those officials enjoy their retirement, who is suffering the cost?




Cybersleuths find men who allegedly attacked officer during US Capitol riot

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/aug/14/jeffrey-smith-us-capitol-attack-lawsuit-david-walls-kaufman

Last paragraphs:
“I thought the I in FBI stood for ‘investigation’,” Weber told HuffPost. “It’s pretty lame that a private lawyer for a dead police officer’s widow has to be the one conducting the investigation.

“The fact that these volunteers have accomplished what the FBI has not is extraordinary.”


A group of cybersleuths have tracked down two men who allegedly attacked police officer Jeffrey Smith at the US Capitol during the 6 January insurrection, leaving him with injuries that have been linked to his death days later.

In a new complaint, attorney David P Weber – who represents Smith’s widow, Erin – wrote that David Walls-Kaufman and and Taylor F Taranto appeared to specifically target Smith because his eyes and face were vulnerable.

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The lawsuit said Walls-Kaufman used a cane, crowbar or similar object to level a brain injury to Smith, who took his own life on 15 January. Jonathan Arden, DC’s former chief medical examiner, has attributed Smith’s death to post-concussion syndrome, which can lead to symptoms like depression and suicidal thoughts.

About a dozen people with the open-source intelligence group Deep State Dogs pored over evidence from the capitol attack for more than a month until they found footage of Smith and his assailants.

“We felt we had to do something to honor the memory and family of Officer Smith. It’s terrible that the bereaved were left in that situation,” Forrest Rogers from Deep State Dogs told HuffPost. “So we turned to the thing we do best: finding bad guys.”

Walls-Kaufman, a chiropractor, has said in the past that about 40% of his clients work at or around the Capitol. In January, he was quoted in a story about the riot, which implied he was in attendance.

Taranto – a US navy veteran from Washington state – handed a weapon to Kaufman, who then struck Smith in the head. The battery led to a concussion, according to the lawsuit.

“But for the concussion of Officer Smith at the hands of these defendants, Officer Smith would be alive today,” Weber wrote.

Smith’s widow, Erin, has been trying to convince the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to consider her husband as having died in the line of duty. But the DC metropolitan police department has refused to release Smith’s body-camera video showing what actually happened, and Weber expressed frustration about how little federal law enforcement has done to avenge Smith months after the attack.

“I thought the I in FBI stood for ‘investigation’,” Weber told HuffPost. “It’s pretty lame that a private lawyer for a dead police officer’s widow has to be the one conducting the investigation.

“The fact that these volunteers have accomplished what the FBI has not is extraordinary.”
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