Closing Thought–14Jul17

Today the French celebrate Bastille Day, their equivalent to our 4th of July, the day when France became a republic and not a monarchy.

Also our president has traveled to France to help celebrate the day and the arrival of American troops to participate in World War One….

That is where I want to pick up this post….World War One…..some of the bloodiest battles ever fought were fought 100+ years ago in what was called the “Great War” that became known as World War One…….

World War I will be remembered as one of the bloodiest wars in human history.  Millions of soldiers died on both sides, and whole generations of young men were wiped out.  Armies were bogged down in impenetrable trenches, resulting in thousands dying in futile assaults against fortified enemies.  The war also introduced new and terrible weapons, such as the machine gun, which made the war even more horrific and bloody.  There are many terrible battles, but this is a list of the worst.

Source: Top 10 Deadliest Battles of World War I – Toptenz.net

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was more than 38 million: there were over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

The total number of deaths includes about 11 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians. The Triple Entente (also known as the Allies) lost about 6 million military personnel while the Central Powers lost about 4 million. At least 2 million died from diseases and 6 million went missing, presumed dead. This article lists the casualties of the belligerent powers based on official published sources. About two-thirds of military deaths in World War I were in battle, unlike the conflicts that took place in the 19th century when the majority of deaths were due to disease. Nevertheless, disease, including the 1918 flu pandemic and deaths while held as prisoners of war, still caused about one third of total military deaths for all belligerents.  (thanx to wikipedia)

That is enough for today…go out and enjoy your weekend for I shall….see you guys tomorrow and thanx for all the visits and replies…..you are much appreciated……chuq

Natalia Veselnitskaya Strikes Again

Does that name sound familiar?

It should…she is the Russian lawyer at the center of the Don, Jr. email mash up…..but that is not the only place she has been busy….

Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday asking why the Department of Justice settled a major money-laundering case involving a real-estate company owned by the son of a powerful Russian government official whose lawyer met with Donald Trump Jr. last year.

That attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, represents the family of Pyotr Katsyv, the former vice governor of the Moscow region, whose son, Denis, owns the real-estate company Prevezon. The DOJ had been investigating whether Prevezon laundered millions of dollars through New York City real estate when the case was unexpectedly settled two days before going to trial in May.

Source: Why was Russian money-laundering case settled? House Dems want answers – Business Insider

Wait!  Who leads the DoJ?

That would be Jeff Sessions.

Is he part of this whole Russian thingy going on in DC right now?

Yes, he is.

And now a Russian gets off from a money laundering charge by the DoJ?

Yes he does.

Really?

Go figure.

I guess there really is nothing going on with the Russian influence thing after all….(that is sarcasm in case you missed it)…….but if you listen close enough you will be able to hear the eye rolls from those dim lights on the Right.

Their defense is natural….for they know that if the shoe were on the other foot they would be ass deep in all this legal crap….but of course they will never admit it for they cannot see past their nose hairs.

This is all too much fun to pass up.

Defeat Of ISIS–What Then?

It appears that ISIS is all but defeated in Iraq and it is not looking good in Syria…..so when the end arrives…..what then?

The Islamic State appears to be nearly ousted in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and now US-backed forces have the last 2,500 ISIS holdouts trapped in the group’s other stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, reports the New York Times. The militants are cut off from supplies, though the final battle to defeat them promises to be a difficult one that plays out building by building. ISIS leaders already have fled the city, and the group maintains control over smaller towns in both Syria and Iraq. Related developments:

  • The plan? Once ISIS is routed from Syria and Iraq, then what? The Los Angeles Times reports that the US doesn’t seem to have a clear strategy yet for the aftermath, one that takes into account factors such as Iran, Russia, reconstruction, safe zones, troop numbers, etc. Without “rules of the road,” it’s “a dangerous situation,” says one analyst.
  • Assad’s role: One particularly thorny problem for the US is whether to try to keep Syria’s Bashar al-Assad in check as he seeks to reclaim territory abandoned by ISIS. The AP has an analysis.
  • ‘Mom, I’m exhausted’: What’s it like for civilians still in Raqqa? “Mom, I’m exhausted and the situation is horrible, I can’t bear this life anymore,” writes a 23-year-old daughter to her mom. CNN takes a look at WhatsApp messages.
  • A leader emerges: Iraq’s success in Mosul has turned the spotlight on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In a profile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the 65-year-old former electrical engineer has emerged as a genuine leader after three years, to pretty much everyone’s surprise.
  • Premature? But at BuzzFeed, Nancy A. Youssef writes that Abadi and other Iraqi leaders may have made a mistake in declaring the end of the ISIS caliphate last week. Too much fighting remains, in Mosul and elsewhere.
  • Abuses in Iraq:Human Rights Watch says it has reports of Iraqi soldiers beating and executing unarmed men fleeing Mosul.

The better plan is to start planning for ISIS 2.0……..it will be back and back with a vengeance…..

Lt Gen Stephen Townsend told the BBC Iraqis needed to unite to ensure IS was defeated across the rest of Iraq.

He also urged the government to reach out to the Sunni Arab minority.

“If we’re to keep… ISIS 2.0 from emerging, the Iraqi government is going to have to do something pretty significantly different,” he said.

“They’re going to have to reach out and reconcile with the Sunni population, and make them feel like their government in Baghdad represents them.”

Source: Mosul: US commander says Iraq must stop Islamic State 2.0 – BBC News

With the defeat…..does anyone know what ISIS thinks of the future?

In a conversation I had with a fellow university student in Damascus in 2000, he made curious remark. “Ana mubayie,” he said. The sentence, which translates into “I owe a pledge of fealty”, was a reference to a supposed secret oath he made to Mullah Omar, then the emir of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In a secular country like Syria, the lack of context for young students meant nobody made much of it beyond observing its oddity.

When I wrote about the anecdote for The National three years ago, ISIL’s announcement of a “caliphate” was widely dismissed as comic and a delusional ambition. Many hoped that ISIL’s military campaign soon would be reversed once the Iraqi army recovered from the initial shock. Even more than the military challenge, moreover, it was harder for politicians, clerics and observers to grasp the implications of the declaration on the region and the world, and the subsequent evolution of ISIL from a local insurgent group into a global organisation.

Source: What ISIL really thinks about the future – The National

The consensus seems to be that ISIS may be beaten but it is not yet defeated…..plans should be drawn up now that has an approach that will prevent a repeat of the last 4 years.

With the battles of Mosul and Raqqa dislodging the Islamic State (ISIS) from its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, and the Syrian civil war becoming a war of attrition, the Middle East’s most acute conflicts are evolving fast. But that doesn’t mean they will soon be resolved.

ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate was never a state that could be driven to unconditional surrender, meaning that the battles of Mosul and Raqqa were never going to be decisive, even if they did eliminate ISIS sanctuaries. As ISIS’s spread into Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula underscores, there are plenty of loosely controlled areas available to be penetrated.

Source: The next phase of Middle East conflict | The Strategist

But with everything said maybe there is a rule of thumb they should adhere to……one question they should ask after the debacles of Syria and Libya……

Source: Is It Ever a Good Idea to Arm Violent Nonstate Actors? | RealClearDefense

Then what about all those “terrorists” that did not die defending the “caliphate”?  What will become of them?

The fall of Mosul and the likely fall of Raqqa won’t be the end of the Islamic State. The group has already reverted to its insurgent roots in some of the areas that have been lost. It also still controls some territory. The Islamic State will continue to function as a guerrilla army, despite suffering significant losses. In May, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) assessed that even though it was losing significant ground, the Islamic State “will likely have enough resources and fighters to sustain insurgency operations and plan terrorists [sic] attacks in the region and internationally” going forward. Unfortunately, I think ODNI’s assessment is accurate for a number of reasons, some of which I outline below. I also discuss some hypothetical scenarios, especially with respect to returning foreign fighters or other supporters already living in Europe or the U.S.

Source: The Terrorist Diaspora: After the Fall of the Caliphate | RealClearDefense

We will see….the world is watching…….

Health Care: Will Another Bill Fail?

Yes health care has been in the news a lot….the old “repeal and replace” thing and that promise has not been going very well…..there was a disastrous House bill and then the Senate took a whack at it and theirs was even worse than the House offering…..

They all went back to the back rooms and hammered out yet another incarnation of a health bill…..and now it has been released to us mere mortals for our knowledge….

President Trump said he’d be “very angry” if senators fail to repeal ObamaCare as promised, and GOP leaders have just taken a step in their quest to quell that anger. The second draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act was released on Thursday with revisions aimed at getting 50 of the Senate’s 52 GOP votes. The Congressional Budget Office should score the bill early next week, and next week should also see a vote. The Hill’s take: “Overall, [Mitch] McConnell appears to have shifted the revised bill toward the conservatives, without giving the moderates much of what they want.” The AP sees “only modest departures” from the original. Indeed, Medicaid cuts are mostly unchanged, to the likely displeasure of moderates. This means the funding that 31 states have used to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare ends in 2024, and further cuts follow the next year. Five things that were changed:

  1. Ted Cruz’s amendment appears, sort of. He, along with Sen. Mike Lee, proposed allowing insurers to offer bare-bones plans as long as those insurers also sell at least one policy that conforms to ObamaCare requirements. What’s included is based on their version, though the AP notes it appears in brackets, meaning the language hasn’t been finalized.
  2. The “stability fund” grows from $112 billion to $182 billion. This is the money states could dole out to help tamp down premiums and other costs.
  3. Opioids get more funding, to the tune of $45 billion, up from the $2 billion in version one.
  • Two ObamaCare taxes on the wealthy are back. Currently, families earning more than $250,000 a year see a 3.8% increase in their investment income tax and a 0.9% bump in their payroll tax. The taxes had been removed in version one.
  • Premiums could be paid for using money from pre-tax health savings accounts, an approach conservatives favor.

Sorry but that offering is as bad if not worse than their first effort….and sadly it is going to the same place as it predecessor….the trash can.

Medicaid still takes a deep hit…..but now people can buy “no frills” health insurance….someone with half a brain explain that to the country.

Unless Mitch can pull a vote out of his butt this will also fail….do not count him out just yet…..he will use party loyalty as a weapon to get the votes he needs…..and we will see where these GOPers loyalty really lies…..my guess is the people will lose out yet again under the GOP boot.

This is NOT as hard as they are making it….but when you have to make your masters with the money happy it becomes a disaster…..and so far that is exactly what we are getting from Congress…disaster after disaster…..

The country waits……

Return Of The Hessians

I have written many times about the US use of mercenaries….oh my bad….they like security contractors…..a rose by another name is still a rose…..

It appears that the paid soldiers, the “Hessians”, are making a comeback….if you are not sure about a “Hessian”…..

Hessians were the 18th century German auxiliaries contracted for military service by the British government, which found it easier to borrow money to pay for their service than to recruit its own soldiers.  They took their name from the German state of Hesse-Kassel. The British hired Hessian troops for combat duty in several eighteenth century conflicts, but they are most widely associated with combat operations in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

Remember those guys?  They are the ones that Washington caught with their pants down, both literally and metaphorically, at Trenton, NJ during the Revolutionary War……

I bring this up because of something that I read the other day about our policy toward Afghanistan…..

President Trump’s advisers recruited two businessmen who profited from military contracting to devise alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reflecting the Trump administration’s struggle to define its strategy for dealing with a war now 16 years old.

Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have developed proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops in Afghanistan at the behest of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations.

Here we go again…using mercenaries to do our fighting for us……leaving the foreign policy toward a country in the hands of a businessman is disastrous for the Afghan people.

If anyone thinks this will win the hearts and minds of the people then you have not been watching the news in the last 15 years…this is just more problems waiting to happen….this group does not have a good rep with the local people….this is a STUPID idea!

And who do you think will have to clean up the mess that these guys create?

If you believe that the war in Afghanistan is too expensive….just wait until you see the bill these guys present for payment.

The Axis Of Tyranny

We have had the Axis Powers from World War 2…….we then had the Axis of Evil from the Bush years of pushing crap on the American people and the world…..the Axis of Evil was Iran, Iraq and North Korea…..and now with the mash up between the Saudis and their monarchical allies and Qatar we have an new “Axis”….the Axis of Tyranny.

It began in 2011…..what the media named the Arab Spring.

That was a mere 6 years ago and yet it is mostly forgotten…..so I will refresh one’s memory if you so desire…..

The Arab Spring was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East in early 2011. But their purpose, relative success, and outcome remain hotly disputed in Arab countries, among foreign observers, and between world powers looking to cash in on the changing map of the Middle East.

Source: What Is the Arab Spring? A Definition

That was a historic battle between the forces of oppression and the forces of democracy.

Saudis and the other monarchs in the region began to sweat that it might spill over into their realms….and have been working ever since 2011 to curb any and all democratic movements…..

The Qatar-Gulf crisis is a battle rooted in the aborted first wave of the Arab Spring. So far, Arab despots have succeeded in curbing democratic change in the region, but their latest tactics come with much higher risks

The current Gulf Crisis that threatens to destabilise the whole region didn’t pop out of thin air. Its origins lie in a much deeper rivalry rooted in the geopolitics of the Arab Spring, when people rose up and threatened to overthrow an existing order that favoured the preservation of tyranny.

Authoritarian rulers in the region took this as a direct threat to their power and thus began to invest their resources in a counter-revolutionary effort led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Their neighbour, Qatar, home to the Al Jazeera news network, however, chose a different direction and decided to embrace change. Thus began a vicious contest in one of the world’s most strategic locations.

Source: Democracy and the Arab axis of tyranny | Middle East Eye

Of course Qatar will be the poster child of this assault on events from the past….the biggest “threat” is that they, Saudis, say that Qatar is harboring “terrorists”….and I say what like the US did with Operation Paper Clip?

All this is the Saudis setting themselves up as the “ruler” of the Middle East….what they say is the word of “God”…..keep in mind that the radical Islam of ISIS is a direct descendant from the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia…..when you understand that then you can better understand this situation…

My problem is the mash up between Saudi and Iran…..the split between Sunni and Shia…..but if push comes to shove and the Saudis in bed with the US any conflict will involve the US and possibly its military.

Even now while this situation with Qatar is in its infancy there are indicators that something between the US and Iran are brewing……

The Saudi war in Yemen is really directed at…Iran. Donald Trump’s first overseas visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel was specifically targeted at…Iran. The Saudi-led isolation of Qatar is actually about…Iran.

The escalation of U.S. military actions against the Syria government is… well, do I really need to spell this out any further?

Donald Trump has identified several number-one enemies to target. Throughout the campaign, he emphasized the importance of throwing the full weight of the Pentagon against the Islamic State. More recently, his secretary of defense, Jim Mattis, identified North Korea as “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security.”

Source: All Signs from Trump Point to a Coming Conflict with Iran

All this could be solved if only we had a State Department and a cadre of diplomats….all we have now is a pile of yes men that will do whatever their “fearless leader” wants them to do without any concern for the future and its meaning.

Why?

Donald J. Trump and Mohammed bin Salman have a similar outlook when it comes to Iran. Both see the Islamic Republic as a threat that needs to be contained. What then does the elevation of Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, to the role of crown prince of Saudi Arabia mean for the Sunni kingdom’s relationship with Shi’ite Iran?

“Nothing good,” said F. Gregory Gause III, head of the international affairs department at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service.

Source: Saudi Arabia and the United States Are on a Collision Course With Iran | RealClearDefense

This conflict can be avoided….that is if that is what we actual want.

I am not so certain that a peaceful way out is desirable to the Trump people.