Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria

‘+ You believe pronouncements from this White House at your own peril. Two weeks ago it all seemed so clear. Trump announced out-of-the-blue that he was pulling US troops out of Syria immediately. Having “destroyed” ISIS (and killed several thousand innocent bystanders), the military’s role was finished. It was time for the US troops to leave and redeploy to the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. Jim Mattis objected and tendered his resignation, effective in February. Mattis’ terse resignation letter, a read-between-the-lines rebuke of Trump and his abrupt withdrawal plan, sparked a rallying cry among the neocons and their new pro-war allies on MSDNC. But Trump held firm and responded by evicting Mattis from his post immediately. Wonderful! The most honorable move Trump has made during his presidency.

But hold on. Was it all a just put-on to distract from Trump being outfoxed on live TV by Chuck and Nancy? Did anyone check with John Bolton? Apparently not, because Bolton reassured an anxious Bibi Netanyahu that the US was going to be staying in Syria until all remnants of ISIS were crushed into the dust (along many more innocent bystanders), US-backed Kurdish fighters in Rojava were protected from any assaults by Turkey or Assad and Iran pulled its fighters out of Syria. Notably, Trump didn’t fire Bolton for his apparent impertinence. Instead, he seemed to wilt, saying “I never said, we were leaving now.” But whenever Trump says “I never said,” you know he said it.

Some would have you believe that Bolton is an outlier, a Deep State implant. But Bolton was handpicked by Trump to replace the hated McMaster as National Security Advisor. Bolton was Trump’s man. He says what Trump can’t or won’t.

+ Yet, how long will it be before MSDNC anchors start referring to John Bolton as the new Adult in the Room?

+ Who says Trump didn’t fully grasp Lincoln’s “team of rivals” approach to his cabinet? He’s the first president with three National Security Advisors serving at the same time: Bolton, Erdogan and Netanyahu…

+ How Trump’s Syrian “withdrawal” is working in practice: More troops are being sent to Syria in order to remove non-essential equipment.

+ All of this is grim news for the people of Syria, where the death toll now tops 560,000, more than 20,800 of them children. Was the price worth it Mr. Assad, Mr. Obama, Mr. Putin, Mr. Bin Salman and Mr. Trump? Que Syria, Syria…

+ Meanwhile, Pompeo Maximus gave a disgusting speech in Cairo this week. But in stream of bigoted filth, this passage with it’s revealing typo (a textbook case study in Freudian parapraxis), really stands out:

“In World War II, American GIs helped free North America[i] from Nazi occupation. Fifty years later, we assembled a coalition to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Would the Russians or Chinese come to your rescue in the same way, the way that we have?”

Apparently, those GI’s forgot to liberate Iowa from Steve King. (The Soviets lost 8 million liberating half of Europe from the Nazis and the Chinese lost 10-15 million fighting Imperial Japan.)

+ Speaking of John Bolton. In 1981, journalist Robert Scheer interviewed Dr. Charles Kupperman, then a defense analyst for the ultra-hawkish Committee on the Present Danger, about the prospects of nuclear war with the Soviet Union for his book, With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War. Cribbing from Col. Buck Turgidson, Kupperman, who has just been appointed deputy National Security Advisor to Bolton, argued that the US could win a nuclear exchange that left 20 million or so dead.

Scheer: Do you think we are overly influenced by physicists who emphasize the danger of nuclear war and nuclear escalation?

Kupperman: No, but I think the images Americans have been brought up with about nuclear war are not accurate, and it is certainly a more popular argument to say there are no survivors, there’s no way you can win a nuclear war, that it is too horrible to think about. That appeals to human emotions, and really precludes serious and rational thinking about it.

Scheer: Do you think it possible for a democratic society to survive?

Kupperman: I think it is possible for any society to survive, and I think that a democratic society would want to survive.

Scheer: I mean an all-out nuclear war.

Kupperman: It depends on what one considers all-out. If the objective in a war is to try to destroy as many Soviet civilians and as many American civilians as is feasible, and the casualty levels approach 150 million on each side, then it’s going to be tough to say you have a surviving nation after that. But depending on how the nuclear war is fought, it could mean the difference between 150 [million] casualities and 20 million casualties. I think that is a significant difference, and if the country loses 20 million people, you may have a chance of surviving after that.

Scheer: Would that mean the other nation would survive as well? You’re not talking about winning a nuclear war, you’re talking about a stalemate of some kind.

Kupperman: It may or may not be a stalemate, depending on who had more surviving national power and military power.

Scheer: So you think it is possible to win?

Kupperman: I think it is possible to win, in the classical sense.

Scheer: What does that mean: “in the classical sense”?

Kupperman: It means that it is clear after the war that one side is stronger than the other side, the weaker side is going to accede to the demands of the stronger side.

+ One of the very few people in America who is more lame-brained than Trump is Washington Post columnist and neocon-on-parole Max Boot, who wrote an absurd column on Trump’s loopy history of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, wherein Boot concluded that Trump was parroting talking points from Putin. What evidence in his history would lead anyone to believe that 1.) Trump, even hyped on Adderall, has the capacity and patience to read the briefing book Moscow covertly sent him; 2.) that hours later he would correctly remember what he had read?

+ This spectacle down on the border was even more pitiful than Hillary’s “landing under sniper fire” trip to Bosnia, as Trump’s Crisis of the Soul tour took him into the free-fire zone of McAllen, Texas, the 20th safest city in the United States.

+ Trump in the span of a few minutes in a recent press conference:

“I can declare a national emergency and build the wall myself; the wall is already being built; Mexico is paying for the wall through a trade deal that hasn’t been approved by Congress; I need Congress to appropriate $5.6 billion for the building of my wall, because I never said Mexico would send a check…”

+ People are worried that Trump sullied the Oval Office by telling lies during his primetime diatribe on immigration. Isn’t this where presidents go to lie? LBJ on Vietnam, Nixon on Cambodia, Carter on Afghanistan, Reagan on Iran, Poppy on crack, Clinton on Serbia, Bush on WMDs, Obama on Libya…

+ Number of terrorists arrested on the Southern Border: 0, which includes CIA asset Luis Posada Corrilles, who freely crossed the border many times, after his role the bombing of Cubana Air FL 455…

+ There were 2000 suspected or known terrorists recorded coming in and out of JFK airport and those are just the flights taken by Henry Kissinger…

+ After handing out M&Ms to Chuck and Nancy, Kevin and Steve, Mitch and Mike, Trump asked Nancy if she was prepared to allocate money for his dream wall. Nancy said No and Trump reportedly blurted, “This is a waste of time. Bye-bye.” And walked out of the Situation Room in a huff. “Walked out of the room?” That doesn’t sound very Trump-like. Are we sure he didn’t putter away in his golf cart?

+ Trump was very concerned on Tuesday night about Mexican immigrants entering the US with a desire to “dismember” innocent Americans. Will he use the same standard to deny entry into the US for members of the House of Saud?

+ Trump: “They say a wall is a medieval solution. But it worked.” Except when it didn’t See: The Seven Sackings of Rome.

+ One persuasive argument that Trump may be keeping in his back pocket: If we don’t have a Wall, where will we put all of the Redneck Mothers…?

+ Where are the Weapons of Mass Immigration?

+ Who will pay for the wall? Homeless Puerto Ricans (most of Trump’s base can’t tell them from Mexicans).

+ Trump: “The wheel is older than the wall.” Did he learn this from the BC comic strip or a Journey song?

+ The wheel was developed around 5500 BCE in Mesopotamia (don’t let any of those people into the country). The first wall probably erected around 11,000 BCE.

+ Donald Trump Jr. (Uday to his friends) has compared the southern border wall to a fence at the zoo protecting the onlookers from predatory animals. The son really is more repellent than his sperm donor…

+ When Jr. goes to the zoo, he always takes his rifle.

+ The more stentorian Mike Pence sounds, the more infantile the content of what he’s saying. Aside: Notice how his hair doesn’t move, regardless of the wind speed?

+ Arrests of families at the southern border have broken records for the past four months in a row. If you can’t find a terrorist to arrest, just snatch a kid and its mom, and then send them to separate detention camps.

+ Give me my Wall or I’ll make sure more of them will die! At least 22 immigrants have died in US custody in the Trump era. That’s 10 more than were refused entry on the southern border on suspicion of being a “terrorist.”

+ AMLO: “Trump’s wall is his problem. We’re not paying for it.

+ US Army Green Berets pled guilty to a scheme to smuggle $1 million worth of cocaine from Colombia into the US on military transport planes. Looks like we may need a wall that’s 30,000 feet tall.

+ On Tuesday, ICE arrested an El Salvadoran mother named Roxana Orellana Santos during a routine check-in with the agency. This happens all the time now, but Orellana Santos’ case is different. In 2008, she was accosted without reason, except that she appeared to be Hispanic, by police in Frederick, Maryland while she was having lunch. The officers ran her ID and arrested her on an outstanding immigration warrant. This was a clear case of “eating while brown.” Orellana Santos sued and won a major federal court ruling against the county in 2017. Her detention this week by ICE, only a few days before the court was set to determine the amount of damages Orellana Santos is owed for her wrongful arrest, seems to be a clear case of retaliation.

+ Trump whisperer Lou Dobbs is urging the president to invoke a National Emergency. Not simply for the purpose of building a border wall, but to “simply sweep aside the recalcitrant left in this country.”

+ Coming Soon: CounterPunch “Recalcitrant Left” t-shirts!

+ When nations abolish the death penalty, the murder rate goes…DOWN.

+ Here’s a useful guide for those of us who send out FOIA requests every week on what happens to your requests during a government shutdown

+ Arne Duncan, Obama’s neoliberal Education Secretary, rushed to condemn the LA teachers’ strike. Duncan has always been a smoother and more saccharine version of Betsy DeVos, an advocate of “marketing” public schools. Is Trump’s cabinet (what’s left of it) really any worse than Obama’s core group of Biden, Clinton, Geithner, Gates, Salazar and Duncan?

+ Even the Washington Post seems to have thrown in the towel. In an underplayed story by Philip Bump, the paper concedes that the Russian SM trolling operation during the 2016 wasn’t “sophisticated, specific or targeted.” This was obvious to anyone who took even 10 minutes to actually look at the ads…anyone but Rachel Maddow, that is.

+ How to tell if the President is a troll….

+ A real headline from Bloomberg News: “Americans are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions“…

+ By early next year, the US is set to be dethroned as the world’s largest economy, a title it will likely never recapture. Winning!

+ Steven Salaita: “The recent experiences of Angela Davis and Marc Lamont Hill illustrate that Zionism isn’t merely an affront to Palestinians; it is an impediment to Black liberation, to Native decolonization, and to justice for all oppressed peoples around the world.”

+ Yes, this is a United States senator groveling before the God of a theocratic state…

Perhaps Little Marco is jealous of Ted Cruz’s “peace” beard that wowed the rabbis of Israel

+ In an interview with the New York Times, Rep. Steve King (Nazi-IA) wondered when the term “white supremacist” became a bad word. Good question, Steve. Are you sure it has?

+ Sanho Tree: “Did anyone Nazi see this coming?”

+ I hesitate to approvingly quote historian Jon Meacham, and I thought of pulling a Doris Kearns Goodwin and simply swiping it without attribution, but what the hell:

“America should “build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven” against the flow of immigrants.–Georgia Gov. Clifford Walker, at a 1924 convention of the Ku Klux Klan.”

+ Just in from the America First Wire: More than $5 million in Trump’s farm bailout money will end up in the pockets of a Brazilian-owned meat-packing company called JBS. Tired of all that winning yet?

+ Countries Hosting the Most Refugees in 2017, according to the UN Refugee Agency…

Turkey: 3.48m
Pakistan: 1.39m
Uganda: 1.35m
Lebanon: 998K
Iran: 979K
Germany: 970K
Bangladesh: 932K
Sudan: 907K
Jordan: 691K
France: 337K
US: 287K
Sweden: 240K
UK: 121K
Canada: 104K

+ There are federal workers going without pay, children held in detention camps on the border and people sleeping on the sidewalks a few blocks from the Capitol and the Daily Kos crowd buys 10,000 roses and sends them to the office of Nancy (Net Worth $48 million) Pelosi….

+ Most of us recall that Joe “the Messiah” Biden plagiarized British Labour leader Neil Kinnock in speeches in 1987. But what I’d forgotten is that he also plagiarized Hubert Humphrey, RFK and a law review article when he was a student at Fordham.

+ The question is: will Biden run on his record or from it?

+ Rhashida Tliab spoke a profane truth that set the liberal elites’ hair on fire. The House can’t produce any “sound policy” because the Senate and the Presidency are both unsound. The only “sound” actions it can take are to investigate, subpoena, expose and impeach. That’s the only real power the House has.

+ Wayne Kramer of the MC5 on “Mutherfucker,” Detroit and Rashida Tlaib:

“I presume no one will be surprised that I have a few thoughts on mutherfucker. My sense was this is how people actually speak. I always felt like the music should reflect real life. In my world in Detroit, mutherfucker was in constant usage. It’s a most flexible term meaning the highest of praise and the lowest of derision. You can express way more feeling in a well-placed curse word than you can in a couple paragraphs of exposition. And mutherfucker is one of the best. And in our song title, it did. It really was a call to action of the purest order. So, Detroit, I’m proud of you for keeping the “mutherfucker” alive in what, until very recently, just felt like the darkest of times.”

+ MSDNC loses Jeff Flake sweepstakes to CBS

+ Ivanka Trump to head the Word Bank? Why not. If any institution is in need of a facelift. Could she really inflict more misery than McNamara or Wolfowitz?

+ First do no harm…to the insurance cartel: In Tennessee doctors are earning fat checks by denying disability claims.

+ When you go to San Francisco, don’t get sick, don’t get old, don’t get in an accident and don’t allow yourself to be transported to Zuckerberg Hospital

+ The writers who are deemed unsuitable to win prizes like the Nobel are the only ones worthy of such prizes, see the case of Samuel Beckett.

+ Better late than never: The New Yorker finally got around to noticing Ishmael Reed’s assessment of the racist and genocidal legacy of Alexander Hamilton in CounterPunch.

+ The race is on, as the pay-to-play Dems rush to Wall Street pledging to go to bat for hedge funders in exchange for campaign cash. At the first turn, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are leading the pack…

+ Did Bloody Gina Haspel run a secret torture chamber at Gitmo? A recently declassified pleading in  recent Gitmo case seems to suggest she did. From Carol Rosenberg’s tantalizing report for McClatchy:

“In the transcript of a discussion about CIA torture and restrictions on the lawyers for the alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Radostitz notes that prosecutors claim they are “not trying to cover up the torture … But the one thing that they’re not willing to talk about is the names of the people involved in the torture.” Then, after a large censored section, she says, “it makes it impossible for people at Guantánamo, who may have seen her when she was here as chief of base, to identify her and talk about it.”

Will the Democrats pull themselves away from RussiaGate long enough to determine whether the current director of the CIA is a war criminal who should be stripped of her office and prosecuted for crimes against humanity?

+ We are indeed a beacon unto the world….From the testimony Ahmed al Darbi, a Saudi detainee at Gitmo: “The Saudi was beaten, sleep deprived, hung by the wrists, threatened with rape in interrogation then sent to unwanted rectal exams by U.S. military doctors, kept nude & forced to empty other detainees’ feces buckets with his fingers.”

+ Trump has been taking a lot of flak for saying that previous presidents had advised him to build the border wall, even though all living presidents have officially denied any such colloquies with Trump. But Trump might be relying on the doctrine of  “implied consent.” After all, the first stretch of wall near San Diego went up in 1994 with Bill Clinton as the general contractor. In 2006, George W. Bush signed the Secure Fences Act into law, authorizing the construction of 650-plus miles of border barriers. One president (Obama), one vice-president (Biden) and one winner of the popular vote for president (Hillary Clinton) voted for it. So Trump has a pretty good case for the fact checkers.

+ Then again Trump didn’t claim that he had consulted with a living president. Perhaps he followed Hillary’s example and communed with the spirit of a dead one. As Bob Woodward revealed in his book The Choice: How Bill Clinton Won, Hillary secretly retained the services of psychic Jean Houston to summon the shades of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi for helpful tips on how to maximize her role in the White House.

+ Senate Democrats who voted for the 2006 Secure Fence Act (which financed the construction of 600-plus miles of border wall/fence/barrier), including Obama, Biden, and Clinton…

Nelson (FL)
Nelson (NE)

+ In the House, 64 Democrats voted for the 2006 Secure Fences Act, including noted “liberals” Sherrod Brown, Peter DeFazio, Barney Frank, Carolyn Maloney, Jim Moran, Adam Smith, Anthony Weiner…

+ Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said that Trump’s decision to abandon a concrete wall for a steel barrier is a “sign of progress.” Coons is the Democrats’ version of Jeff Flake.

+ Looks like some Witch Hunters finally found the Mother of All Covens

+ According to Texas reporter David McSwain, the layoffs at the Dallas Morning News (40 total; 20 newsroom; untold # of positions closed) came shortly after a hedge fund named Minerva snatched up the company’s stock.

+ Those fired reporters aren’t likely to scratch out much of a living freelancing. According to the Authors Guild’s 2018 Author Income Survey, the largest survey of writing-related earnings by American authors ever conducted, the incomes of writers have fallen to historic lows to a median of $6,080 in 2017, down 42 percent from 2009.

+  Dexter Gordon: “We may be unfit for the Army, but we’re just right for the band.”

This quote is from Maxine Gordon’s terrific bio of her husband, Sophisticated Giant. Dexter believed that “bebop” was created by black musicians who had either refused (Sun Ra, Connie Kay, Dizzy) to serve in World War II or were rejected because they were black. Dizzy told his draft board why he refused to join in terms Muhammad Ali would reiterate 25 years later, “In this stage of my life, whose foot has been in my ass?”

+ Marshall Royal, alto player in Lionel Hampton’s band, on touring the South: “If a black person wanted to go out on Miami Beach, he had to have a driver’s license with his picture on it! That was a new experience for me.”

+ RIP Honey Lantree, one of rock’s first female drummers

+ I learned more from Soul Train about how to live than I did from any class in High School…

+ How did two fine and progressive actors, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, end up in this creep’s dreadful film “Green Room”?

+ What really happened to Tony Soprano when the screen went dark?

From The Soprano Sessions by Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall:

Alan Sepinwall: When you said there was an end point, you don’t mean Tony at Holsten’s, you just meant, “I think I have two more years’ worth of stories left in me.”

David Chase: Yes, I think I had that death scene around two years before the end … Tony was going to get called to a meeting with Johnny Sack in Manhattan, and he was going to go back through the Lincoln Tunnel for this meeting, and it was going to go black there and you never saw him again as he was heading back, the theory being that something bad happens to him at the meeting. But we didn’t do that.

Matt Seitz: You realize, of course, that you just referred to that as a death scene.

[A long pause follows]

David Chase: Fuck you guys.

+ In 2016, a Texas baptist preacher named Donnie Romero praised gunned Omar Mateen for slaughtering 49 people at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando. More than 50 other people were wounded in the attack. In a sermon at the Stedfast Baptist Church Romero told his Ft. Worth congregation “I’ll pray to God that God will finish the job that that man started.” This week this man of the cloth, who once openly prayed for the death of Barack Obama, resigned from his ministry after confessing to having committed “major sins,” including smoking pot, gambling and consorting with prostitutes.

+ St. Boniface on French priests: “They spend their lives in debauchery, adultery, and every kind of filth.”

+ In other news, Snoop Dogg unveiled his new ashtray this week.

+ “He’s a vampire, babe, sucking blood from the Earth, sell you twenty barrels worth….”

+ Since this new study on climatcide denialism was undertaken by students from Brown, perhaps they could release a music video version as well? It would get a lot of airplay on FoxNews

+ Blood on the Tracks: Last week a female wolf, weighing only 70 pounds, was shot by a “hunter” on the plains of northeastern Montana (nearly 300 miles from the Rocky Mountains), where wolves haven’t been seen in many years.

+ After three years of decline, carbon emissions in the US rose by 3.4 percent in 2018.

+ After two weeks of mayhem, with off-roaders chopping down rare Joshua Trees, palms and yuccas, the Park Service finally closed Joshua Tree National Park to public entry. They should close them all. And use the government shutdown to Rest the West by ending logging on the National Forests and getting the damn cows and oil derricks off of BLM lands.

+ Rest easy, this threat from south of the border is NOT a National Emergency….”Antarctic Sea Ice is Astonishingly Low This Melt Season.”

+ Meet the Owl Man of Umatilla, who is reclaiming a chemical weapons depot one burrow at a time

+ Trump says he’d make a great general. It’s hard to disagree. He continues to win the “War on Coal”–down 38% in the last decade.

Never Thought I’d See Your Face, the Way It Used to Be…(Happy 75th Birthday to Jimmy Page)

Booked Up

What I’m reading this week….

Sophisticated Giant: the Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon by Maxine Gordon (Un. of California Press)

The Monarchy of Fear: a Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis by Martha C. Nussbaum (Simon & Schuster)

#Against Trump: Notes From Year One by Jeffrey C. Isaac (O/R)

Sound Grammar

What I’m listening to this week…

Voices Fall From the Sky by William Parker (Centering Records)

A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank by Etta James (Reel to Real)

Universal Beings by Makaya McCraven (International Anthem)

The Beauty of Fragility

Martha Nussbaum: “To be a good human is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertainty, and on a willingness to be exposed. It’s based on being more like a plant than a jewel: something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from that fragility.”


Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3