The Tragedy of Flight MH17: Who Benefits?

Screen-Shot-2014-07-17-at-4.57.25-PMCui bono? Who benefits? Who stood to gain? That is the first question everyone should ask with any potential crime (although of course it’s not the only one). Yet, that is the question that is being generally ignored regarding the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Instead, the western media leaps to “whodunnit?” only to immediately answer their own question with, “Well obviously either Russia, the separatists, or both.”

The reason for this is obvious. If they were to even consider the “qui bono?” question, they would have to admit that there is virtually no way that either Russia or the Donetsk separatists could possibly have expected to benefit from downing an airline full of internationals. There was no strategic value in it, and they couldn’t have expected it to be blamed in western media on anyone else or to do anything other than galvanize world opinion against them. Therefore, if either did do it (which is highly unlikely, given that the Russians were not directly fighting in the area, and the separatists were most likely not prepared to reach a flight at that altitude, given the limitations of their equipment and experience), it was almost surely by mistake.

This does not eliminate any culpability and liability they might carry, but it does make ridiculous their characterization by some as mustache-twirling super-villains, on the part of the Russians, or crazed international terrorists, on the part of the separatists, out to murder any citizen of the free world who wanders into their grasp. It should also knock the legs out from any attempt to use this tragedy as a justification for the U.S. to increase intervention, for the E.U. to increase sanctions, or for world opinion to deny the separatists’ right to self-determination.

If the Ukrainian government downed the plane (which they were fully equipped to do), it might have been by mistake on their part as well, but not necessarily. That is because they, in contrast, could very well have expected to gain by downing the plane, for precisely the opposite reason: namely, that it was very likely that the western media, already sympathetic with them anyway, would pin the blame on their enemies, as of course they actually did.

The situation is similar to the gas attack that was almost used as casus belli by the U.S. for bombing Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Especially after Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line”, the international fighters trying to overthrow Assad had everything to benefit by attacking locals with such weapons, since it could easily be pinned on the Syrian government, and Assad had nothing. Ignoring this obvious fact, the political class used the incident to (unsuccessfully, thankfully) try to convince the western public to support airstrikes on Syria. And the most likely interest-analysis assessment of the situation turned out to be the correct one, as subsequent conclusive evidence showed that Syrian government forces could not have been behind the sarin attack, and it very likely may have been Syrian rebels provided with chemical weapons by Turkey.

And yet, Russia and the separatists had even less to gain from an atrocity than the Syrian government, since Assad could have at least conceivably gained extremely short-sighted strategic benefits from gassing his enemies, whereas the former could gain absolutely nothing from killing tourists.

Speaking of cui bono, not even the biggest sell-outs in the establishment media stand to gain from the nuclear holocaust they are risking by whipping up anti-Russian hysteria in the west and tension between two nuclear powers. So they should seriously consider going off-script for once, ask the most basic questions, and be honest about the most obvious truths for a change.

Bitcoin Bolsters Antiwar Activism: An Interview with’s Angela Keaton

Recently, I was interviewed by MK Lords, a manager at Roberts & Roberts Brokerage and correspondent for Bitcoin Not Bombs, of which is a proud member. The transcript can be found here. Ms. Lords asks me all the major questions about antiwar activism, crypto currency for a peace economy and the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of our founder Eric Garris and editorial director Justin Raimondo.

Continue reading “Bitcoin Bolsters Antiwar Activism: An Interview with’s Angela Keaton”

Finally: Mainstream Compares COIN to Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo was a decisive defeat for the Emperor Napoleon: his losses forced his abdication, restored King Louis XVIII to France’s throne, and sent the former emperor away for the rest of his days in exile on the isle of Saint Helena. In other words, it destroyed him.

The Battle of Waterloo (Mary Evans Picture Library 10023793)
The Battle of Waterloo (Mary Evans Picture Library 10023793)

From then on, meeting one’s “Waterloo” has become a catch-all for ruinous defeat against an insurmountable opponent.

For Slate military writer and author Fred Kaplan to draw such an analogy from the once-vaunted counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, sanctified and pursued by once-Gen. David “King” Petraeus for the U.S Army and for the whole of the military (if not the entire U.S government’s efforts overseas) from 2007  through 2011, it’s well, a big deal. For years, COIN was shoved down our throats as the new American Way of War. Careers in the Pentagon thrived –and were thwarted — based on who “got it” and who failed to be a willing Team COIN player.

But just as fast as COIN madeth, COIN tooketh away. Kaplan wrote about this evolution in his new book The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. Hindsight is fun, but one gets the sickly feeling that it would have been nice if more mainstream writers had stuck their necks out to complain about the lack of the emperor’s clothing when it really counted (like six years ago). Kaplan was one of the few who had, writing pieces like this in late 2006, when plans for Petraeus’s Iraq “Surge” were all the rage among the establishment hive in Washington.

Regardless, Kaplan is getting some “I told you so” time, now, and had this to say recently in a Q&A interview on Small Wars Journal (quite notable for once being the go-to site for the COINdinista crowd at its height):

Afghanistan was COIN’s Waterloo. The internal debate over Obama’s policy in 2009-10 was so interwoven with a debate over COIN that when Afghanistan failed–at least by the standards that justified the president’s surge of 33,000 extra troops–then COIN was seen as having failed too, or at least as having proved itself too limited, too risky, too time-consuming to justify its extraordinary investment in lives and treasure. There are certain generals–Odierno, Dempsey, McMaster, others–who are trying to preserve “the lessons of 11 years of war” (aka the lessons and principles of COIN), but this will be hard to do, given that COIN is no longer a “core mission,” ie, given that the president, in his February 2012 strategy review, declared that the Army and Marines will no longer size forces for large-scale, prolonged stability operations. ….

… When Robert Gates said in 2006 that Iraq and Afghanistan are the models for future war, and when the 2007 promotion board gave stars to the most COIN-creative colonels, it looked like COIN would be the new thing. When Gates said in 2011, shortly before resigning, that only someone who’s out of his mind would recommend sending large-scale forces to the Middle East for another war, and when the Iraq formula failed in Afghanistan, it looked like the COIN revolution was done.

…(military adviser) David Kilcullen made a point in a 2008-09 COIN manual that he wrote for civilian policymakers: “it is folly,” he wrote, to undertake a COIN operation abroad if it’s petty clear the regime isn’t interested in reforming. He also wrote that, before going with a COIN operation, US policymakers “must” make a calculation of how interested the regime is in reform. This is a calculation the Obama administration didn’t know to make during its first year in office – and that the military commanders who advised the president purposefully avoided, or evaded.

The take home point for me here is that Petraeus was thriving politically for pushing the COIN template on Afghanistan instead of advising the President to do otherwise, which would have been more in keeping with the fundamentals of COIN these “COINdinistas” had been warbling about all along. Politics and the thrall of proving COIN in the latest mission had taken priority and the gamble became their Waterloo.

Kaplan’s book has been lauded for its detail in tracking the counterinsurgency strategy from the inside, but it’s taken some criticism, too, mostly for not being tough enough on Petraeus. This review on the Kings of War website (hardly a bastion of antiwar writers) calls it “too dependent on the tale told by ‘the insurgents’ and their acolytes to be a truly definitive account. Its conclusions rest too much on the easy, conventional wisdom reflected in contemporary media analyses—and suggested by media-savvy ‘friends of Petraeus.'”

As I have not read the book myself, I cannot say whether this is true and if I do read it — which I am more compelled to do now — I will report back. In the meantime, just having reviewed Nick Turse’s book on atrocities and war crimes in Vietnam, I was intrigued by Kaplan’s references in the interview (and book) to the West Point “Sosh Mafia” clique which had been formed after World War II and had continued to influence Army doctrine and policy under Petraeus (West Point ’74) today:

The Sosh Mafia (as its members called themselves) was very important. The Social Science Department of West Point was created right after WWII by Brig Gen George “Abe” Lincoln, a former Rhodes Scholar, who’d served as General Marshall’s aide during the War and who saw that, with the US facing global responsibilities, the Army would need to educate a new kind of officer, schooled in politics, economics, and military matters – hence the Sosh department. He also created a network, in which alumnae of the “Lincoln Brigade” (as they also called themselves) would give each other jobs, exchange ideas. When COIN gained currency, this group’s knowledge of politics, economics, society and war – and the connections among them – made the idea resonate. The networking they’d picked up on also made it second-nature to form a new kind of network. As I relate in my book, in great detail, every aspect of the revolution that Petraeus led involved – and, in most cases, had its roots in — the Sosh mafia.

In Kill Anything That Moves, Turse refers to West Point too, but he talks about the “West Point Protective Association (WPPA),” active under much more ominous circumstances:

“In 1968, twenty -two out of the twenty-four principle commanders and staff officers in the U.S Army were all graduates of that prestigious military academy. Protecting West Pointers was thus essentially tantamount to protecting the military itself as an institution. Not surprisingly, quite a few West Point graduates implicated in war crimes saw the allegations against them conveniently disappear.

So out of the ashes of Vietnam came Petraeus and the young Turks of the Sosh Mafia. Into the ashes of Afghanistan goes COIN, the hive now officially (and finally) declares.

It’s one thing to acknowledge failure, but it’s another to learn from it. Are we smart enough to anticipate our next Waterloo? Or are we still too dependent on the Sosh Mafias, and the Petraeuses of the military to avoid it?

Although Zero Dark Thirty didn’t get the Oscar – – –

Governments survive on myth. Truth is dangerous. As Chief Nazi “Information Officer” Goebbels put it, “…the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State.”

While the main stream media averts its eyes, the Emperor shivers.

Why would you shoot your highest-value-in-history information-laden target in the head immediately, before he can talk, especially since he isn’t armed and doesn’t resist? And then deep-six the body at sea out of respect for his religious preferences. But you get that wrong. And you don’t want to release photos because, well – – – – ah – – –

We need better scripts!  It’s even been suggested Uncle should hire better fiction writers. Maybe they should tap Philip Kraske – – –

“But I think, in this case” — a long pause — “the best we can do is the impression of photos, the news of photos, rather than the photos themselves. Photo-shopping some old photos is but the work of an hour, and then we release them on a limited, official basis. We send –“

“Forget it,” said the CIA man flatly. “The Truthers will go through ten thousand photos of bin Laden till they find the one we used.”

… “Well now, I don’t know here,” said the Marine general. You don’t release any photos, sir, and you’re not going to convince your grandmother. With all respect.”

Others nodded vigorously. The Rainmaker wondered if any of them had greater intellect than the chairs they sat on.

…”Let’s remember, dear ones, that our job is not to convince, but merely to give people one or two good reasons not to believe any other version. This is a distinction that I’m always having to explain to various agencies. Sometimes, as in an espionage op, you do indeed need to convince. But this is a public psy op. Here we play with a natural advantage” — a tiny chuckle — “and I would imagine it drives the 9-11 Truthers nuts: Americans naturally believe their government.  — Philip Kraske, Zero Light Twenty (or Forty — Whatever)

So, why would you shoot your highest-value-in-history information-laden target in the head immediately, before he can talk?

Weaponized Keynesians?

A regular reader of writes, “Professor Joe Salerno, academic vice president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in a recorded talk from the institute’s 30th anniversary celebration, talks about the Keynesian architects of the US Warfare state. Salerno explains how Keynesian economics teaches that wasteful consumption of all kinds, including warfare, generates additional income which makes society wealthier. For this reason, academic and government Keynesian economists have recommended additional military spending to help the economy out of the current recession.”

Listen to the podcast.

Did Celebrity Hipster force Pamela Geller into brief Self Awareness?

Like Randy Newman, I love LA. Only here, is anything truly possibly and what I mean by anything is yes, the comedic stylings of Russell Brand and Pamela Geller in one studio. Hilarity ensued.

From BrandX:

Pamela Geller doesn’t much care for Islam (or, after being interviewed by Russell, BrandX). On her blog, Atlas Shrugs, she daily reports on crimes allegedly committed by Muslims – and only Muslims – wherever in the world they might be, painting a picture for her largely white and scared suburban audience of a world where swarthy Others are hell bent on the global imposition of Sharia law. Fathers, watch your daughters: Muhammed’s coming to town and he wants her to wear a burka.

The odd, weird, curious thing about Pamela’s Islamophobia, though, is that while she’ll own it in front of a bunch of flag-waving Tea Partiers protesting a mosque, she’ll back away from it in front of a crowd of young Hollywood liberals. Indeed, the way she spoke during her appearance on BrandX, you’d almost think she didn’t want to turn the Middle East to glass.

Oh Pam! Did you too fall for the Brand charm? Is the ‘The Rock of Ages’ star, the cure for self parodic racism and religious bigotry?

My vote for BrandX break out star is the handsome young rabble-rouser Ron Paul youth and Marine veteran Jayel Aheram. You can read more of his work on drones, Bradley Manning and Iraq here.

HT: Charles Davis