CNN is showing video of piles of dead and injured people in the sewage ditch just outside the Kabul airport. They are blurring the image. That seems to me to be highly symbolic. The corporate media has been blurring the images coming from Afghanistan for twenty years.
Also, why should Americans have the reality of what is happening in Afghanistan softened?
From an interview this morning with Leon Panetta, it seems likely that members of the corporate Democratic Party elite are advising Joe Biden to come out and take responsibility for the decision to precipitously withdraw from Afghanistan, and to admit that it was a mistake.
It has been reported that when Joe Biden was Vice President and Obama was thinking about withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden went to Obama and counseled him not to listen to the generals, to withdraw. Obama didn’t follow Biden’s advice, but it looks as if Biden followed his own advice. He didn’t listen to the generals. That doesn’t appear to be working out very well for Biden and it has created a humanitarian disaster.
It is unlikely that Biden will accept responsibility. He may make some gratuitous statement that “the buck stops here.” But, I am willing to bet he also spends time outlining how the fault lies everywhere but with him and his administration.
Support for this comes from the reaction of the White House for the past week. Not only have they refused to take responsibility, they have issued a statement essentially blaming Donald Trump. They have as well blamed the Afghan government, corruption, the intelligence community, the Afghan “will to fight,” essentially everybody involved but themselves.
The amount of nonsense that has come out of the mouths of administration officials like Jake Sherman, Ned Price, Blinken and John Kirby is just breath taking. There is very little chance that Biden will do anything but dig himself deeper into this hole than he was a week ago.
I may be wrong. I hope I am wrong. But, I’m probably not.
During the past few weeks the corporate news media has been studiously ignoring the disastrous military and humanitarian crisis shaping up in Afghanistan. They have been doing so, I think, because the crisis makes Biden look feckless, ruthless, and incompetent.
For so long, there was almost nothing on the corporate news, but every day it was possible to read about astonishing advances by the Taliban. Every day estimates of how much of Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban increased, and estimates of how long it would be until the Taliban took over Kabul decreased.
I am no foreign policy expert, but even I could see that the Biden withdrawal of forces in Afghanistan was accelerating a Taliban takeover of the country.
The negotiated “peace plan” was non-existent. I never understood what was being “negotiated” with the Taliban in the first place either by the Trump or the Biden administration. One reporter late this week said that the “negotiated” peace process was not only on hold, it was in the basement with the door locked.
And who had the bright idea that the Taliban could be negotiated with in the first place? The group is defined by a suicidal religious refusal to compromise or negotiate with the modern world.
Let me be clear, I did not support the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq but even I acknowledge that once you have invaded and occupied a country you can’t just walk out and leave everyone who has fought with you at the mercy of the enemy. You cannot just withdraw without considering the implications for the population you are leaving behind.
But this is precisely what the Biden administration seems to have done. They either didn’t consider the implications for the population, or they didn’t care. I’m not sure which is worse.
Reports today (Friday) are that members of the Biden administration knew that this disaster was coming. The Joint Chiefs warned them. But the Biden administration decided that the disaster was inevitable (although they have denied this reality). One official was quoted by Peter Baker as saying: It’s a tragedy, but it’s not our tragedy. Who would say something this crass and unfeeling? There is not even much of a pretense of having any empathy with the abandoned population.
And in an effort to make the chaotic, precipitous, and disastrous withdrawal look better, the Biden administration has blamed everyone in sight – except themselves.
Evidently, the defense department that costs us trillions every fifteen minutes, just couldn’t manage to plan a withdrawal from a country they had occupied that didn’t create a humanitarian crisis. How can that be?
Gen. John Kirby, in a painful press conference today, said the Afghanis had every conceivable advantage in the war. A reporter asked Kirby how the Afghanis could have every conceivable advantage and still be losing. Kirby balked at the rudeness of the question, then evaded answering it. He went on to list all the advantages the Afghanis had (airplanes, an air force, more soldiers, etc.). So, according to Kirby, the Afghanis have all these advantages and it’s just a great fucking mystery why they are losing.
The people of this country are told repeatedly that we have the greatest military in the history of the world, but that military just can’t figure out how after twenty years of supplying and training and fighting, to get the Afghanis in a position to hold their own against the opposing force.
Earlier this week I listened to a podcast where the panel was pointing out that supply lines were a problem in Afghanistan. Supply lines? Twenty years and they haven’t figured out how to secure supply lines? Even my cat knows not to go further away from the door than he can safely run back should there be a threat. And they can’t figure out secure supply lines? I just find this preposterous. What the bleeding devil have they been doing for twenty years?
A lot of the feedback on Twitter consists of people arguing that the very fact that we have been in Afghanistan for twenty years legitimates the withdrawal. But, nobody is objecting to the withdrawal, it’s the way the withdrawal is carried out.
As Paul Riekhoff said on Nicolle Wallace’s show the other night, this was a “reckless” withdrawal. Riekhoff’s honesty about the situation made me wonder if the producers on MSNBC knew what he was going to say. (The next night I don’t think Wallace even talked about Afghanistan). Riekhoff lambasted the Biden administration’s withdrawal. And Riekhoff, like Kevin Baron from Defense One, stated flatly that the administration was not “leveling” with the American people.
The refusal to “level” was painfully obvious in the Pentagon presser this afternoon with Gen. John Kirby. Kirby couldn’t even bullshit with any talent the obfuscation was so blatant. Kirby stood at the podium and spewed nonsense. He looked like a man experiencing a severe attack of piles as he fielded questions from reporters.
He was fine with questions like that from MSNBC’s Pentagon correspondent. After a day when every conceivable TV pundit repeated like a parrot: “The administration was not surprised with what happened but at the speed with which it happened” she asked if the administration was surprised at the speed with which the take over had happened. Seriously?
Another reporter doggedly tried to get Kirby to say that Kabul was “isolated.” “Would you say Kabul was isolated?” He asked repeatedly. Kirby verbally danced all over the universe refusing to say that Kabul was “isolated.” We all fucking know that Kabul is “isolated.” What is the purpose of a journalist taking up valuable time trying to get Kirby to say the word? Kirby said everything under the sun else except that Kabul was “isolated.” What goddamn difference does it make if he uses the word?
I don’t think I have seen such a blatantly pathetic Pentagon press conference since Vietnam, and even then the brass talked the bullshit with some panache. Kirby just seemed to be desperate to finish, desperately uncomfortable, resentful of meaningful questions. John Kirby is a bad liar and bullshitter. If they are going to try to pass off this level of (do you believe me or your lying eyes) bullshit, they need to get another spokesperson.
And, it seems that we should have learned (with the best military in the history of the world) that the solution to a badly thought-out war is not (or should not be) a badly thought-out withdrawal. Evidently not.
But the thing that keeps sticking in my craw and going through my mind for the past few days is why? How could the Biden administration be so inept as to create this situation? Who was this precipitous withdrawal designed to please? I just can’t think of anybody placated or pleased with this hair-brained withdrawal. Why, after breezing through the deadline in May that the Trump administration had set, did Biden rush headlong into this withdrawal that seems so badly planned.
I will give just one example. On another podcast about Afghanistan the commentators were pointing out that the Taliban ratchets up fighting in the Spring and then makes a big push over the summer. Then, I suppose because of the weather, they retreat to bases in Pakistan in the fall and fighting dies down. The panel members were pointing out that if Biden had just waited over the summer and pulled out most of the troops in the fall, it would have helped immensely. So, what was the problem with that small change?
And there another thing that keeps going through my mind. This is in response to a comment made on the Majority Report (a great podcast). The guest was saying that there are many competing factions represented within the Biden administration – progressives (damn few), conservatives, moderates, hawks. When some policy or appointment comes up that sparks strong opposition among these groups, they fight it out vociferously. Fine. But when all this fighting and debate occurs, when positions are entrenched, Biden evidently does not step in and make a decision so everybody can go on. Biden refuses to take make a decision that might alienate somebody and so everybody retreats to their respective corners. The result is that nothing gets done. The example that was being talked about was an appointment that had remained vacant for months.
I can’t keep from wondering if something like that happened here. There was such strong disagreement about what to do, everybody was fighting and pushing and Biden just walked away (sort of like he’s doing in Afghanistan) and nothing got done. The withdrawal just ticked on without Biden taking control. It was easier to do nothing than to make a decision. Now, the administration is facing not only a humanitarian crisis, but a political disaster.
I have watched Fox News, OANN, and that other channel of Steve Bannon’s in the past two days. You can bet they are making hay over this situation. And, to my great discomfort and consternation, I agree with some of the commentary.
A final thing that makes me uncomfortable about this situation is how similar it is to the way Democrats are handling the serious threat Republicans pose to the continuation of democracy.
Democrats are so engorged with hubris, so convinced that the world is the way they want it to be, they are leading us into disaster at every turn.
I fear that they are going to do with Republicans exactly what they are doing with the Taliban – negotiate without reason, rely on the good intentions of murderous men determined to assume power at all costs and then when these men pull off a religious based authoritarian take over, wring their hands and say it was not the outcome they had anticipated.
Dereck Chauvin put his knee on the neck of George Floyd, stared into the camera and dared us to do anything about it.
Donald Trump did exactly what Chauvin did – he put his knee on the neck of democracy, decency, legality. He stared into the camera and dared us to do anything about it.
Putin has done exactly what Chauvin did – he has put his knee on the neck of Navalny, stared into the camera and dared us to do anything about it.
These are lessons, authoritarian lessons. They are demonstrating to us that that they can do whatever they want. They can even murder one of us right in front of our very eyes and we can’t do a damn thing about it.
We have won tonight, in the Chauvin case. We have won because of the mobilization of millions of people putting pressure on the system to live up to its ideals. We have won because of the courage and discipline of a group of witnesses. We have won and we can win again.
We must stand together and stand up to the boot of authoritarian rule on our necks. We stopped them with the Chauvin verdict. That’s why the legal system avoids jury trials if at all possible, especially for powerful defendants. We can, and we must stop them again. We must demand that the participants in the corrupt crime spree that was the Trump administration are held to account. We must demand that dangerous men like Putin and the oligarchs that surround him are held to account.
If we do not see, truly see that these actions are preparations for authoritarianism, they will come back for us. They are obviously not phased in the least by the electoral defeat in 2020. The tidal wave of voter suppression being orchestrated by the Republicans is just another way to take power because they cannot win it legitimately. It is their way back in power. We must take them seriously or we will find ourselves in 2022 and 2024 with another authoritarian take-over of the governmental process. If we flirt with that possibility, we may never recover.
That look you saw on Chavin’s face when he was kneeling there, crushing the life out of a man, is the same look you would see on the face of Bill Barr, Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Pompeo, Pence, Steven Miller, Manafort and many others while they crushed the life out of anyone who opposed them if they thought for one minute they could get away with it. If we let them get away with it, they will crush the life out of democracy and our lives will be unalterably changed. If we don’t take them seriously, if we don’t fight them we will find ourselves living under that knee being given the same compassion and respect Dereck Chavin gave George Floyd.
The Republicans are turning a massive failure of infrastructure and privatization in Texas into a condemnation of renewable energy. Even the Governor of the State is on national television spewing lies and disinformation.
Gov. Greg Abbott, on Fox News, said that the problem was caused by renewable energy systems.
Officials were told in 2011 that they needed to winterize the Texas system. But, the State of Texas didn’t make that winterization and other changes obligatory. Because the grid is operated by private companies, allowed to make as much profit as they can, the State failed to winterize and now we are watching people lose their lives.
Message #1: Don’t elect people to run government that don’t believe in government.
147 Republican members of Congress voted against seating Joe Biden’s electors. They moved against accepting the votes of the people in this country based on no evidence that there was a significant problem with the voting system.
These 147 Republican members of Congress did not win, but they tried to. There are not 147 Trumps. These people are Republicans. They are Republicans who do not support democracy. But, as of today, they are all still in Congress.
Just like all the other outrages of the Trump administration, the fact that 147 members of Congress tried to throw out the results of an election, is being normalized. Corporate news anchors are repeatedly asking representatives of the Biden administration how they can claim to seek “unity” when they are proposing legislation that differs from (what purports to be) the Republican agenda.
The past four years has been difficult, nerve wracking, infuriating, but since the nomination of Biden, it has been even more infuriating. It is perhaps a bit less stressful since I don’t wake up every morning dreading to find out what the president has done while I was asleep, but the Democrats and the corporate media seen to have learned nothing, NOTHING from the last four years.
The Democrats have not learned how to run against the Republicans, and the corporate media (in the face of an insurrection) is still indulging in mindless bothsidesism.
When Trump was in office, it seemed like a frontal assault, every day. Now, I have the feeling that the corporate media is playing music while people are relentlessly creeping up behind me.
Unlike many of the people I know, I feel no relief with the election of Biden. The Democrats are still talking about “unity” and “bipartisanship” with people who have demonstrated that they want to destroy democracy to maintain their power. It’s like watching a government negotiate, trying to win over the Naxi party. It is enraging and it is terrifying.
While the Democrats waltz around congratulating each other for representational appointments, the Republicans are seizing 2022.
In Georgia, Warnock is up for reelection in 2022. We don’t have six years with Warnock, we have less than two. We have to do this again. We have to drag out a win in what is essentially a red state, and we have to do it in a circumstance where the state government is already actively working to eliminate as many potential voters as possible.
In Georgia, Republicans have proposed steps to make it harder to vote by mail and easier to throw out legally cast ballots. The same Republicans who the corporate media celebrated – Kemp, Raffensperger, Sterling – are beavering away to purge voters from the rolls and make it more difficult for people to vote.
What people need to remember is that Kemp, Raffensperger and Sterling went along with every Trump inspired move to suppress voting except put themselves in criminal jeopardy by changing votes. They are like the gang members who were perfectly willing to drive the get away car, but not willing to go into the liquor store with the gun.
They will be even more willing to drive the car now because they are trying to get back into the good graces, and the donations, of right-wing supporters.
Across the Country
Emily Singer (1/22/21) is reporting in the Independent that efforts to make it harder to vote are going on in most of the GOP-controlled state legislatures. They are introducing legislation to make voter registration and voting by mail more difficult.
These voter suppression moves have been practiced by the Republicans for decades, but picked up steam especially after Biden’s win in 2020. Republicans are daily pointing out the dangers of what they see as “voter fraud” and legitimating moves to keep people from voting in the name of eliminating “voter fraud.”
In Montana, the state House began hearings on a bill which would eliminate same-day voter registration. This is what the SOS refers to as “election integrity.” These measures are expected and intended to affect the voting of Native Americans and students. Both groups vote Democratic by a wide margin.
In New Hampshire, the GOP-controlled House started hearings on a bill that would repeal same-day registration and putt barriers to students who want to vote. Students must, if the bill is passed, prove that they qualify for in-state tuition before registering to vote. Republicans passed a similar law ahead of the 2020 election which required students to become permanent residents to vote. This law was struck down by a judge.
In Arizona, a GOP-run legislature is weighing getting rid of the state’s Permanent Early Vote List, which allows residents to register to receive mail-in ballots automatically. They are also working to impose restrictions on recounts and add other burdens to discourage people from voting.
In Pennsylvania, a Republican state senator introduced a bill that would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting.
In Mississippi, a Republican state senator proposed a bill which would lock Mississippi from releasing vote totals in presidential elections until after all states had cast their votes in the Electoral College.
Democrats in the House are working to pass H.R.1, which would require states to implement automatic voter registration and limit their ability to purge voters from the rolls. An identical bill passed the House in 2019, but McConnell blocked it from getting a vote.
So, Democrats are trying to make it easier for people to vote. Republicans, who realize they cannot win if there is a popular vote, are working furiously to purge voting lists and make it more difficult for people to vote.
One Party is advocating and working for democracy. The other party is fighting against it. You choose.
If you are new to the Reality Winner story, this is an excellent place to begin. There are a number of things I disagree with in this podcast, especially the assumptions and analysis of Chris Hayes at certain points, but it is well worth listen to.
This is by far the best podcast out there. I know the corporate media is seductive, but your time would be better spent giving this a listen. Sam Seder puts together some of the most interesting and pertinent interviews available.
“Sam hosts writer and political analyst Jared Yates Sexton to discuss his new book, American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World But Failed Its People, and why the foundational myths of American Exceptionalism have such a hold on the populace.
Sam and Jared explore the stories Americans told themselves throughout the country’s history, from how the process behind writing the Constitution to how the “Mound Builders” stories helped justify indigenous Americans’ slaughter. The two consider how these stories have shaped the populace’s thinking and why it’s essential to reject politics as a spectacle.