A US Navy F-18 shot down a Syrian military aircraft over Syrian territory Sunday, marking the first time the US has engaged in air to air combat since the US attack on Yugoslavia in 1999. US claims that the Syrians were targeting US-backed rebels were undermined by reporting by the generally pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which stated that according to its sources on the ground the Syrian aircraft was not attacking US-backed anti-government forces. The Russians, who also had military aircraft near the shot down Syrian jet, claim the US did not provide warning via the hotline to prevent accidents between the US and Russia. As a result, the Russian defense ministry announced that it would track any flying object flying in its area of operations as potential targets. How high will this new tension rise? Tune in to today’s Ron Paul Liberty Report:
Because we traded the smooth talking guy for the clumsy boob with no manners, it is popular to bleat that America has given up its role as leader of the free world, to say other nations don’t respect us anymore, or look to us for moral guidance – in the extreme, that we are no longer that shining city on the hill we see ourselves as.
What such clichés overlook is that not everyone in the free world is as blind as a typical American op-ed writer. Some in fact see past who the current Spokesmodel of Democracy in the White House is, and look to what America actually does. And what it does is often not pretty, and when revealed suggests our nation is and has been morally bankrupt a lot longer than the Trump administration has been in charge.
One of the more recent revelations of what much of the world already knew comes, again, via WikiLeaks, America’s conscience.
Leaked documents show home Internet routers, that blinking thing in the corner of the room where you’re reading this, from ten American manufacturers, including Linksys, DLink, and Belkin, can be turned into covert listening posts that allow the Central Intelligence Agency to monitor and manipulate incoming and outgoing traffic and infect connected devices.
As research for Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan I encountered people suffering in ways they had a hard time describing but which they wrestled with God over everyday. They told me they went away to fight with an idea “we’re the good guys, they’re not” that did not always survive the test of events. They spoke of a depth of pain that needed an end, some end, and for too many, as many as 22 a day every day, any end, even suicide.
That’s to scratch at describing what we now know as moral injury. The term is fairly new, especially outside of military circles, but the idea is as old as war — each person sent into conflict finds their sense of right and wrong tested. When they see something, do something, or fail to do something, a transgressive act, that violates their most deeply held convictions, they suffer an injury to the soul, the heart, their core. There are lines inside us which cannot be crossed except at great price — ignoring a plea for medical help, shooting a child in error, watching friends die in a war you have come to question, failing to report a sexual assault witnessed, a sense of guilt simply by presence (documented well in Tim O’Brien’s iconic Vietnam War book, The Things They Carried), can cause moral injury. Moral injury is represented well in documentaries such as Almost Sunrise, and though not by name, in films like William Wyler’s 1946 The Best Years of Our Lives and Oliver Stone’s 1986 Platoon.
When I was young, there was a joke: "There is no one like you – and that’s a good thing!"
The joke applies now to Donald Trump. He is unique. That’s good, indeed.
But is he unique? As a worldwide phenomenon, or at least in the Western world, is he without parallel?
As a character, Trump is indeed unique. It is extremely difficult to imagine any other Western country electing somebody like that as its supreme leader. But beyond his particular personality, is Trump unique?
On June 15, 2017, the New York Times reported that the government of Saudi Arabia aims to ease the concerns of some U.S. legislators over US weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis plan to engage in “a $750 million multiyear training program through the American military to help prevent the accidental killing of civilians in the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen.”
Since entering the war in Yemen, in March of 2015, the Saudi coalition’s airstrikes, with US assistance, have destroyed bridges, roads, factories, farms, food trucks, animals, water infrastructure, and agricultural banks across the north, while imposing a blockade on the territory. For a country heavily dependent on foreign food aid, that means starving the people. At least seven million people suffer now from severe acute malnourishment.
A concept that you learn quickly in the military is that you can delegate authority but not responsibility. The buck stops with the guy or gal in charge, and when it’s policy at the national level, that guy is the commander-in-chief, currently Donald Trump. Yet when it comes to the Afghan war, it appears Trump may be seeking to evade responsibility even as he delegates the specifics of strategy and troop levels to his “civilian” Secretary of Defense, retired General James Mattis.
That’s the news out of Washington: that Trump has delegated to Mattis the decision as to how many additional U.S. troops should be sent to Afghanistan, and what strategy they should employ in a war that Mattis admits the US military is “not winning.”
Think about that. After nearly 16 years and a trillion dollars spent, the US is “not winning” in Afghanistan, which is, to put it honestly, an admission of defeat. “Not winning” means we’re losing, yet how likely is it that the US military, effectively under the command of retired General Mattis, is going to shift gears completely and withdraw?