Donald Trump's worrisomely wacky presidency is proving to be a movable feast of outrageous controversy. To a certain extent, that is a plus for the twitterific master of ADD media. An endless fur ball short-circuits focus on events which could lead to the unraveling of his presidency, especially with him unable so far to deliver on much besides appointments and the stoking of resentment for his vast reactionary base. He won't expand his support, at historic lows for a new president, but he won't lose his support, either.
If he's not able to issue proper executive orders, and the Muslim travel ban on nations which haven't produced terrorist attackers in this country is a predictable clown show, that is a poor omen for his legislative program. But he does have executive authority on national security and geopolitical matters and, thanks in part to the Obama administration, even greater ability than all but a few presidents of the past to use that authority to prosecute matters in secret. (This is what Democrats get for going along with a no-questions-asked secret global strike program with a massive new surveillance apparat in the bargain.)
Trump's backfiring policy in Yemen, site of last month's disastrous special operations raid, points up just how dangerously slipshod his regime is, on top of its already alarming neo-fascist tendencies and trademark known-nothingism.
Impatience. Ignorance. Insularity. Iran-fixation. Part and parcel of Trump's syndrome as strategy. They are all on prime display in Trump's Yemen policy.
As I suggested at the beginning of the month, the impact of Trump's move was only just beginning to unfold.
The unscathed target of Trump's first special operations raid, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula chief Qassim al-Rimi, is mocking the new president, and America, in media around the world.
What we've learned since is that Trump ordered the raid the day after he heard of the proposed mission. Which he discussed over dinner with a few advisors including his son-in-law and the notorious Steve Bannon, the ex-Navy lieutenant Trump had replace the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and director of national intelligence on the Principals Committee of the National Security Council. There were a couple legit folks there at the dinner, too, but as you'll see Trump clearly had the the bit between his teeth.
For its target was not the "more intelligence," yawn, which Trump's sad sack flack Sean Spicer touted as evidence of its "great success," but the head of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
A big swing and an even bigger miss, as Qassim al-Rimi issued an 11-minute video message to global media mocking our new president. He's laughing at us all over the world.
Why would Trump be so reckless as to shoot from the hip to try to score a big win right off the bat .. Oh, right, with this guy the question answers itself.
He knows nothing about Yemen, like most geopolitical matters, and as someone who consistently dodged military service during the Vietnam War he strongly supported, he has no military experience.
But Trump rolled the big raid out there anyway, like it was another one of his half-baked executive orders or provocative pronouncements.
The result was a debacle, with a dead Navy SEAL, three more wounded, an expensive aircraft downed and dozens of civilians, including many children, killed when the elite operators embarrassingly had to call on heavy air attacks to make good their escape.
We even had the spectacle of the government we are there to supposedly help, Yemen's rump state -- the rebels hold the capital now and much of the country, despite more than a year of Saudi and Gulf Arab attacks -- forbidding new US operations in Yemen. That embarrassment to Saudi Arabia got rolled back, of course, to a demand for mutual advance agreement on any operations. But the point was made. Even the client government was angry.
Trump seems to have given just as slipshod a review to his escalation of American bombardment on behalf of the Saudi side in the long-stalled civil war. He has bought into the spin of his new Saudi friends (if in fact they are new), whose oil minister is absolutely thrilled to have a fossil fuel enthusiast in the White House.
Trump is enthusiastically buying in to the notion that the civil war between the now ousted government aligned with America and the Houthi group now aligned with the former president we backed for decades before he was dumped in the Arab Spring, is really just a war against Iranian proxies. But it just ain't that simplistic.
While a naval blockade to keep any Iranian supplies out might be appropriate, that doesn't seem to interest Trump. Not dramatic enough. Now Trump wants to increase direct US military intervention inside Yemen.
Of course he does. He just screwed up but, since he is never wrong, he wants to double down.
That's part of Trump's syndrome.
Which will just get more people killed, inevitably including more kids to go along with the nine who were killed in our name last month to correct Trump's mistake.
New National Security Advisor Mike Flynn has his problems, but I think he deserves tremendous credit for being right very early on with regard to the rise of Isis. That's something invariably left out of media profiles, which focus on reported management issues around Flynn's directorship of the Defense Intelligence Agency under Obama.
But if the Obama National Security Council, a highly problematic institution in its own right, had listened to Flynn instead of allowing Obama to conclude that Isis was "the junior varsity" of jihadism, things would be going very differently now.
However, Flynn seems something of a loose cannon on the subject of Iran. He goes beyond an appropriate suspicion to a knee-jerk stance.
I have a theory about Flynn's radicalization on Iran and in general, which concerns the co-author of Flynn's deeply alarmist book, 'The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies,' Michael Ledeen. A longtime neocon, he's an acquaintance of mine who was a figure in the Iran/Contra scandal. More to say another time, but suffice for now to recall that Ledeen reported a decade ago that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, had suddenly died.
I did not, let's say, buy that, so made a couple of calls into the intelligence archipelago to inquire about this striking development. Which of course had not occurred, as it is Khamenei who is today riling up his nation against Trump. Where did Ledeen get his, ah, intel about the ayatollah's death? From a janitor in a Tehran hospital. Heh.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the ayatollah erroneously reported as dead by National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's co-author a decade ago, tore into President Donald Trump in a speech on Tuesday.
Flynn's, and Trump's, Iran-fixation is certainly out of phase with their admiration for Russia's geopolitical savvy. Moscow has a dispassionate view of Tehran and works with the Islamic Republic when it suits its purposes.
Meanwhile, Trump's impatience, ignorance, insularity, Iran-fixation -- leading elements, in other words, of his syndrome -- have produced an early disaster, a disaster which Trump shows signs of wanting to further develop by expanding US intervention as part of "pushing back" against Iran.
Instead of pushing the Saudis to settle the civil war, replete with potential war crimes using our weapons on their part, and respectfully acting to keep Iran honest in the matter by closing the door on potential Iranian supply, Trump is taking one side in a losing civil war and trying to turn it around. Which is exactly the sort of thing he criticized Hillary Clinton for in the nearby Syrian civil war.
Millions demonstrated against the US Friday across Iran, answering the call of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the anniversary of the Iranian revolution which overthrew the Shah not long after I backpacked through the country.
"We are thankful to Trump for making our life easy, as he showed the real face of America," declared Khamenei -- who is still not dead 10 years after the exclusive report of his death by National Security Advisor Flynn's co-author -- in a fiery speech on Tuesday when he urged mass mobilization. "During his election campaign and after that, he confirmed what we have been saying for more than 30 years about the political, economic, moral and social corruption in the U.S. ruling system.
"Trump has said we should be scared and frightened of him. We will show on the anniversary of our revolution how we respond to his threats. No enemy can paralyze Iran."
Can things get worse in the wake of Trump's Yemen special ops debacle?
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