HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » erronis » Journal
Page: 1 2 3 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Do not display
Hometown: Green Mountains
Home country: US
Member since: Tue Feb 5, 2013, 04:27 PM
Number of posts: 11,685

Journal Archives

Why do otherwise apparently rational people get caught up in movements that are fraudulent?


Full quote: Why do otherwise apparently rational people get caught up in movements that are objectively fraudulent?

Such a strong and concise analysis. Please read the whole article at EmptyWheel for context.

graham firchlis says:
December 23, 2021 at 8:41 pm

“The illusion which exalts us is dearer to us than ten thousand truths.”

Alexander Pushkin, as quoted in ‘Gooseberries’ by Anton Chekov

Why do otherwise apparently rational people get caught up in movements that are objectively fraudulent? What drives the Radical Reactionary mass movement? How has it sustained from the 1860s Confederacy through to the present Republican Party?

It is tempting to lay it all on bigotry, of all types, a unifying Other that provides a common ground for conversation and self-affirmation. But the aggregating factors are more complex, an evil brew of victimization, martyrdom, religiosity and abject fear of a coming oppressive force against which they feel individually helpless but collectively powerful.

The True Believer by Eric Hoffer is as relevant as ever. His application of principles focused on anti-establishment movements, but the same apply to the Radical Reactionary movement we face today. As useful as he is in understanding extant movements, Hoffer’s contentions can be beneficial for building a sustainable progressive movement. If you haven’t read True Believer in a while, or at all, couldn’t be more timely.

Drilling down, what is inherent in each of that leaves us susceptible to seduction by fabulists? What could drive human beings to view others so hatefully, to behave so cruelly? Another former prof asserted it stems from our inherent psychological isolation and inability to come to terms with the inevitability of death. I highly recommend Ernest Becker’s first book, Beyond Alienation, for a start.

Also worth reconsideration is Prof. Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Experiment. Empowered with absolute authority, inhumane cruelty quickly came to dominate the behaviors of not just the study subjects but Zimbardo himself. His intellect and stature as an esteemed psychologist did not shield him from the corruption of absolute power.

Which leads us by bend of bay and sweep of shore to the story of Matthew Greene, a combat vet with PTSD and a life in two worlds, at once a mild-mannered, respected creative artist and businessman as well as a violent insurrectionist. As terrifying as they are in aggregate, on an individual basis I find thier stories to be predominantly sad.


Why are so many DU posts just links to twitter? This has increased greatly recently.

I have a twitter account but really don't want that organization to know that I am interested in a story posted on DU. But many people have been simply posting a title and a twitter link as their full story.

Twitter just recently changed CEOs and probably changed its company structure, motivations, etc. I don't know that I can trust whoever now owns them.

Does DU encourage this type of linkage? If so, why?

**** Note that my issue happened because of a privacy blocker add-on. See post below. ****

Memo from Trump attorney outlined how Pence could overturn election, says new book

Source: ABC News

In a memo not made public until now, then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows emailed to Vice President Mike Pence's top aide, on New Year's Eve, a detailed plan for undoing President Joe Biden's election victory, ABC News' Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl reports.

The memo, written by former President Donald Trump's campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis, is reported for the first time in Karl's upcoming book, "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show" -- demonstrating how Pence was under even more pressure than previously known to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Ellis, in the memo, outlined a multi-step strategy: On Jan. 6, the day Congress was to certify the 2020 election results, Pence was to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Trump falsely claimed he had won.

The memo said that Pence would give the states a deadline of "7pm eastern standard time on January 15th" to send back a new set of votes, according to Karl.

Read more: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/memo-trump-attorney-outlined-pence-overturn-election-book/story?id=81134003

Another view of the planning for the insurrection.

Prosecutors in Detroit uncover massive money-laundering operation between US and Dubai

Source: Stars and Stripes

DETROIT — Federal prosecutors in Detroit have seized about $12 million in cash they allege was part of a massive money-laundering operation, called “The Shadow Exchange,” operating between the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.

A forfeiture complaint unsealed this week in federal court in Detroit alleges that some of the laundered money was used to buy armored vehicles for an illegal drug trafficking operation based in Michigan.

The shell companies involved in the scheme, mostly located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, used fake invoices and other methods to disguise the origins of money, sent to banks — including major U.S. banks — using dozens of wire transfers, the complaint alleges.

“An organized group of individuals operated an unregistered U.S. dollar money transmitting and money laundering business (the ‘Shadow Exchange’) based in Dubai,” the complaint alleges.

Read more: https://www.stripes.com/theaters/us/2021-10-23/money-laundering-operation-us-dubai-3347270.html

I haven't seen this reported in the "major" news outlets yet. Found out via Heather Cox Richardson's morning piece:

There are three stories in the news today that seem to me to add up to a larger picture.

First is the story of money laundering, which seems suddenly to be all over the news. Today we learned that federal prosecutors in Detroit have broken into a massive money-laundering operation between the United States and the United Arab Emirates called “The Shadow Exchange.” They confiscated $12 million and suggest this is the tip of the iceberg.

This story comes just weeks after the release of the Pandora Papers, which detailed the ways in which the world’s wealthy hide money. The United States is one of the money-laundering capitals of the world, and the consequences of our lax financial legislation are coming home to roost. Experts say that because of the lack of transparency required in our financial transactions, hundreds of billions of dollars are laundered in the U.S. every year.

... more ...

How Corporate America exercises its immense political power - Narain Batra


This commentator has had some very astute observations on our world and national situation. I wanted to bring his writings to our DU audience.

This commentary is by Narain Batra, a resident of Hartford, professor of communications and corporate diplomacy at Norwich University, and author of “The First Freedoms and America’s Culture of Innovation” and the forthcoming “India in a New Key.”

Fascinated by how the political football of raising the debt ceiling ($28.43 trillion) is being played between Democrats and Republicans, a recurrent annual issue that eventually gets resolved, I wondered how the economic power of Corporate America generates political power, and how it’s being used.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and other progressives bemoan that Big Business does not pay its fair share of taxes, which of course is true, but they don’t question its political power.

Consider this: Bloomberg reported recently that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appealed to the CEOs of Wall Street’s biggest financial firms, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs, “to enlist their help in her campaign to pressure Republicans to support raising or suspending the debt ceiling.”

One might say that Yellen is using all the available means of political persuasion; nonetheless, it seems that Corporate America has become an autonomous center of political power, an unelected fourth branch of government, the role earlier played by the press.

Yellen would know that, although Wall Street and Corporate America fund both political parties, ideologically it has greater affinity with Republicans than Democrats.

It’s also true that Corporate America cannot afford to be content to feed only the stockholders’ bellies. that its responsibilities go beyond profitmaking, and that it is a political actor.

Hardly anyone, and rightfully so, pays heed to what Chicago economist Milton Friedman argued in 1970: “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits,” which Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” took to the extreme: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. … (Greed) captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

Gekko might have foreshadowed the ascent of Donald Trump. Addressing his stockholders, Gekko likened the United States to a “malfunctioning corporation. … America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions.”

Gekko did not foresee the rise to power of Corporate China, but President Xi Jinping did, and he soon realized that the growing might of Chinese tech giants — including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Xiaomi and others — could be a challenge to his absolute power. So he plucked growing feathers from their wings to keep them grounded.

As the whole world watched in horror the Jan. 6 Trump-guided catastrophic — but nonetheless spectacular — assault on the Capitol to overturn the presidential election that the Senate had met to certify, Americans also saw the immense political power of Big Business and Silicon Valley, which soon went into political action and not only shut off the financial spigot to Trump and the politicians who voted against the certification, but also choked their voices. Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook; Apple and Google removed the conservative Paler platform app; and Amazon refused to host Paler anymore. BigTech de-platformed the once mighty Trump.

Without Twitter — which Trump had brilliantly weaponized to advance his political agenda and browbeat his political opponents — he sounded like a village idiot.  Which, however, has raised serious First Amendment issues — whether BigTech, which controls channels of information, could, without due process, deny access to social media platforms and apps through which we exercise our free speech rights as citizens in a democracy.

The European Union might seem to be a congeries of sovereign states, but when it comes to dealing with global corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, for example, or a technological juggernaut like China’s Huawei, the EU does not underestimate their politic-economic power and takes a united stand.

Nonetheless, EU countries cannot ignore the political power of their own domestic corporations. Consider this, for example: Germany’s politically powerful automobile and precision machine industries, as William Galston commented in The Wall Street Journal, exercised tremendous influence on Angela Merkel’s trade and foreign policy with China. So does Big Business in the United States in its dealing with China

Instead of depending upon Washington, major corporations have their own political affairs experts who use the same tools and talents as diplomats do in dealing with national and international affairs. Many of them are retired ambassadors, state department officials and military officers; they know how to negotiate with global and national stakeholders, including Senate and House members, Republicans and Democrats.

Building social and political capital is sine qua non because Corporate America in distressing times would need help, as happened in 2008, when the Obama administration bailed out some Wall Street firms euphemistically dubbed as “too big to fail.” Therefore, to help a powerful politician in need — Treasury Secretary Yellen’s debt ceiling conundrum, for example — it makes political sense for Wall Street financial firms to use their political influence with Republicans.

But we cannot ignore what Professor Jerry Davis of Michigan Ross School of Business said — whether “the exercise of such overt political influence on the workings of U.S. democracy — with almost no room for oversight, by shareholders or anyone else — requires a new set of regulatory tools for a new form of corporate power.”

Press Watch - Dan Froomkin: Political journalism needs a reset

A particularly good analysis of how the press needs to change to deal with these current emergencies.


No one can possibly argue that modern political journalism has fulfilled its essential mission of creating an informed electorate.

So it’s long past time for a reset.

Let’s start with the overarching problem: Misinformation, disinformation and gaslighting have become rampant in our political discourse, turning citizens against each other, choking the legislative process, eroding confidence in elections, and, in the age of Covid, literally getting people killed. A striking number of voters are laboring under a series of delusions that make them incapable of rational decision-making. The country is still reeling from a violent attempted coup in the name of a Big Lie – a lie that has essentially become doctrine for one of our two major political parties.

Despite all this, our elite political media recognizes no need for a course change.

Indeed, even after four years of Trump — and his continued domination of the party — there has been essentially no self-reflection from the reporters and editors who set the tone for national news coverage. They just keep doing what they’ve done for decades: remain aloof and detached from the urgent and crucial political issues that underly the partisan divide, so intent on covering the play-by-play and “not taking sides” that they have refused to scream out the truth. As a result, they’re being drowned out by the lies.

The 2022 midterms, as Esquire political blogger Charles Pierce has noted, “are going to be a conflict between what is actually happening and what people believe is happening.”

We can’t sit this one out.

My goal here is to challenge business as usual and spur some self-reflection – ideally from the elite political reporters and editors themselves, but if not, then from the people who employ them and the people who keep them in business.

It’s also to call attention to excellent political journalism that can define best practices going forward.

And, I admit, it’s also to put into words the often inchoate fury that readers of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other elite, influential news organizations so often feel after reading or watching a work of political journalism that does not acknowledge the urgency of the moment, lacks historical context, offers a megaphone to liars and provocateurs, normalizes radical extremist white Christian nativism, and projects a white male right-of-center gaze under the guise of objectivity.

Steps and Issues ...

Adjusting to Asymmetry

It’s been nine years since political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein justifiably scolded the press for whiffing on the biggest story of the 2012 election: the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth.

And that was nothing compared to today.

Post-Trump, any hint of a coherent governing philosophy has vanished. There is no Republican agenda, just culture warfare and obstruction. The party’s most defining principle right now is the Big Lie. Practically speaking, it reliably serves only the ultra-rich. It is inflamed with racism and nativism.

And yet the incremental, day-in-day-out political coverage still casts the GOP as a reasonable and viable alternative to Democrats. It goes beyond both-sides coverage: Political reporters consistently predict Republicans will retake at least one chamber in 2022, and quite possibly the White House in 2024.

What that does, however, is normalize the decision to vote for an extremist, nativist, anti-governance party. It presumes that there will be zero accountability for lying and extremism. When mainstream-media reporters say the next elections are going to be squeakers, it reassures non-delusional people that voting Republican would not be such a crazy and dangerous thing, which it would be.

And to the extent that it’s true — and that Republicans could in fact win again — it’s incumbent on reporters to further explore the tribalism that attaches people to the party apparently regardless of what it does.

Any political journalist who is not addled knows full well that this GOP winning a chamber of Congress would effectively shut down any attempts at governance, and that a second Trump term would cause profound, potentially irrecoverable damage to the country and its institutions.

For that reason, every news story about the two parties, especially about elections, should openly address the imbalance between the two parties when it comes to speaking the truth and wanting every vote to be counted.

Yet political reporters are more comfortable speculating about who’s winning.

I should be clear that I am in no way suggesting that political journalists endorse the Democratic Party. Political reporters shouldn’t be partisans. Partisanship distorts reality. Partisans are willing to twist facts to suit their goals, which is profoundly anti-journalistic. The Democratic Party is terribly flawed in its own way. And political news reporters should, in fact, not take sides on issues where there are reasonable, fact-based, but contradictory solutions.

What I am calling for is an endorsement of reality. A hearty one.

"Donald Trump's recounting of his 2020 conversation with a Taliban leader is something else"


I dunno anything about CNN and Cillizza. But this interview is absolutely f'in incredible.

(CNN)Donald Trump called into conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt's show on Thursday, spending almost 45 minutes doling out his usual mix of braggadocio, blame-gaming and just plain old riffing.
One answer -- one very loooooong answer -- stood out to me. It came after Hewitt asked Trump to describe his conversation with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban co-founder and deputy leader, during his 2020 negotiations with the group to remove American troops from Afghanistan. (Trump talked to Hewitt before the explosions at the Kabul airport on Thursday morning.)
Here's the full back-and-forth (and you can listen to it here):

Hewitt: What did you communicate to Baradar, Mullah Baradar, Abdul Baradar who you talked to when you spoke to him? What did you tell him?

Trump: So I set up a conversation with him, and people said oh, you shouldn't be talking. Well, I set up a conversation with Kim Jong Un of North Korea. We didn't have a nuclear war. Had I not, then Obama would have been right. We would have had a nuclear war. President Obama said to me we're going to have a nuclear war with North Korea. I said have you ever spoken to him. He said no. And I said don't you think that might be a good idea. But anyway, I know he wanted to speak to him, but he never got to speak to him, and I think the other side didn't want to talk to Obama. So what happened is I spoke to the head of the, the known head, because it's...

Hewitt: Yeah, Baradar, right? Baradar.
Trump: Yeah, but I spoke to, and sort of the known head, but nobody was sure, but now I'm sure, and I was sure then when I was speaking to him. And I knew as soon as I spoke to him. And even the introduction, I say hello, and he screamed something very tough. And I then started with him. I said, listen, before we start the longtime conversation and conversations that we're going to have, I have to say one thing, and I'll never have to say it again to you. And here's what I say. If you do anything bad to the United States of America, if you do anything bad to any of our civilians, to any American citizen, or if you do anything out of the normal, you know, they've been fighting for a thousand years, but out of the normal, because you've had your wars, and if you do anything out of the normal, but anything bad to America or any American citizens, I will hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history. You will be hit harder than any country and any person has ever been hit in world history. And we will start with the exact location and the exact town, and it's right here. And I believe I repeated the name of his town. That will be the first place that we start. And I won't be able to speak to you anymore after that, and isn't that a very sad thing? But that is the story. And then he asked me one question, and I'd rather not repeat that question, because it's a very scary question. But he asked me one question, and I gave him the answer yes. And then after it was all done, I said OK, now I've said what I'm going to say. Let's have a conversation. And I said we're going to be leaving after 21 years. And when we leave, you're going to leave us alone, and we're going to leave with great dignity and great honor. And we are going to take care of this situation. We're going to take our time. We had a date of May 1, but they missed a couple of conditions. We had some very strong conditions, Hugh. But they missed a couple of conditions. I wanted to be out by May 1. I had spoken to him quite a bit before May 1, but we had a condition of May 1. But they missed conditions, and so therefore, I bombed and we hit them very hard. And then we said we will agree to those conditions. I said no, you've already agreed to them. Don't play games. We had them so good. They weren't in Kabul. You take a look at when they started taking over Afghanistan. It's when I left. When I left, that's when it started, they started going wild, because they were dealing with another president. And I never realized, and of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency, but I never realized how important the office of the president is until this happened, because when I watched what happened over the last week and a half with some horrible, stupid decisions that were made, number one being allowing our military to leave before the civilians and before we get all of our equipment back, $83 billion dollars. And not, nobody can even comprehend that much equipment. Thousands of vehicles, thousands, you saw the list of vehicles.

Let's leave aside the fact that it appears as though Trump simply doesn't know Baradar's name -- even with prompting from Hewitt. And that Trump claimed that he single-handedly averted nuclear war because he sat down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Instead, focus on Trump's description of his conversation with Baradar. And start here: The answer runs 588 words. That's roughly three and a half minutes of speaking -- uninterrupted. Which, well, wow.
Now to what Trump actually said:
* "I spoke to, and sort of the known head, but nobody was sure, but now I'm sure, and I was sure then when I was speaking to him. And I knew as soon as I spoke to him. And even the introduction, I say hello, and he screamed something very tough." If I am reading this right, Trump wasn't sure that Baradar was the head of the Taliban when the conversation first started but he figured it out once Baradar "screamed something very tough."
* "If you do anything bad to the United States of America, if you do anything bad to any of our civilians, to any American citizen, or if you do anything out of the normal, you know, they've been fighting for a 1,000 years, but out of the normal, because you've had your wars, and if you do anything out of the normal, but anything bad to America or any American citizens, I will hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history." This sentence is 85 words long. And it ends with Trump recounting that he told Baradar that if the Taliban hurt any Americans that Trump would "hit you harder than anybody has ever been hit in world history." Which, well, would be pretty hard. Also, Trump's description of Afghanistan's history -- "you've had your wars" -- is truly remarkable.
* "And then he asked me one question, and I'd rather not repeat that question, because it's a very scary question. But he asked me one question, and I gave him the answer yes." I truly have no idea what that one question could have possibly been. And why would Trump not want to tell it to Hewitt?
* "I wanted to be out by May 1. I had spoken to him quite a bit before May 1, but we had a condition of May 1. But they missed conditions, and so therefore, I bombed and we hit them very hard."
Trump using the word "I" to describe a bombing campaign is not surprising, given what we know about him. But it is still a little surreal.
* "And I never realized, and of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency, but I never realized how important the office of the president is until this happened, because when I watched what happened over the last week and a half with some horrible, stupid decisions that were made, number one being allowing our military to leave before the civilians and before we get all of our equipment back, $83 billion dollars." So, Trump never realized the power of the presidency until after he had left office and was watching the Afghanistan situation from afar? Really? Of course, he also contradicts himself in the same answer when he says "of course I realized the importance and power of the presidency" right before he says "I never realized how important the office of the president is." So....

The back-and-forth is, well, something else.
That it lands on the same day that so many Republicans have been so quick to bash President Joe Biden for his handling of the drawdown of the US presence in Afghanistan should serve as a reminder that Trump's foreign policy knowledge and bona fides were absolutely paper thin.

Sarah Chayes: Failing States?


I feel guilty that I didn't know about Sarah Chayes before a few days ago. To add to the pantheon of excellent writers such as Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel.net) and Asha Rangappa (https://threadreaderapp.com/user/AshaRangappa_)

I write this post with the dizzying impression of having stepped into a hall of mirrors.

In international development circles, it’s fashionable to speak of “fragile” or “failing” states. But such states are deceptive. They are in fact run by sophisticated networks. These networks may be failing at governing, but governing is not their objective. Self-enrichment is. And at that they are highly successful.

Now consider the McMansions that have sprung up like growths around Washington in the past twenty years. Consider the properties in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, the pay packages and portfolios, the offshore bank accounts — and the no-bid tenders — enjoyed by executives of defense contracting and financial investment firms, pharmaceutical and fossil fuel giants, and the lawyers and brokers who service them. Under administrations of both parties, many of those executives have cycled in and out of government.

This is the story explored in On Corruption in America — And What Is at Stake.

What is at stake, indeed? Now consider the public policies these executives have influenced or authored. They include two lost wars, a financial meltdown that nearly brought down the world economy, an addiction crisis and a bungled response to a global pandemic, both of which killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. And the destruction of the irreplaceable habitat upon which we depend for our very survival, which has reached runaway speed in the same two decades. As I write, heaven — meaning the earth — is burning. Or flooded out.

This is what I mean by “Afghanistan holds up a mirror to us.” How competently have our own leaders been governing for the past twenty years? Meanwhile, how successful have they been at achieving that other objective: adding zeroes to their bank accounts? Which of those was in fact their primary objective?

Given the consequences, are terrorists really the greater threat to our homeland?

Those are the questions that have been flooding my mind. I’ll return to them below. But let me first take up some of yours.

James Fallows: "It's the corruption, stupid" and Sarah Chayes: "The Ides of August"

Such a good set of observations on our perpetual follies.

Brief history thread.
During late stage in Vietnam, args for staying were:

-Ripple effects on US “credibility”

-Need to fight for democ, against Communism

-US had overwhelming military-power advantage

-Don’t panic now, little more time to give training-mission a chance

After fall of Saigon, many tragic/horrific conseq:

-For those who had worked or fought alongside US

-For the whole of Cambodia

-Catholics in VN, Montagnards i Laos, many ethnic groups

-Re-education camps

-Decades of displacement, refugee camps thru SE Asia.

But books/reports also came out about what this South Vietnamese “democracy” US had fought for was really like

How irrelevant US firepower /technology advantage was.

Why politics / culture / history are crucial elements of war.

How US had structurally deceived itself

Afghanistan is not Vietnam, in a thousand ways.

But in context of arguments then and now, please read searing essay by Sarah Chayes, about on-the ground realities she has seen.


August 15, 2021

I’ve been silent for a while. I’ve been silent about Afghanistan for longer. But too many things are going unsaid.

I won’t try to evoke the emotions, somehow both swirling and yet leaden: the grief, the anger, the sense of futility. Instead, as so often before, I will use my mind to shield my heart. And in the process, perhaps help you make some sense of what has happened.

For those of you who don’t know me, here is my background — the perspective from which I write tonight.

I covered the fall of the Taliban for NPR, making my way into their former capital, Kandahar, in December 2001, a few days after the collapse of their regime. Descending the last great hill into the desert city, I saw a dusty ghost town. Pickup trucks with rocket-launchers strapped to the struts patrolled the streets. People pulled on my militia friends' sleeves, telling them where to find a Taliban weapons cache, or a last hold-out. But most remained indoors.

It was Ramadan. A few days later, at the holiday ending the month-long fast, the pent-up joy erupted. Kites took to the air. Horsemen on gorgeous, caparisoned chargers tore across a dusty common in sprint after sprint, with a festive audience cheering them on. This was Kandahar, the Taliban heartland. There was no panicked rush for the airport.

I reported for a month or so, then passed off to Steve Inskeep, now Morning Edition host. Within another couple of months, I was back, not as a reporter this time, but to try actually to do something. I stayed for a decade. I ran two non-profits in Kandahar, living in an ordinary house and speaking Pashtu, and eventually went to work for two commanders of the international troops, and then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (You can read about that time, and its lessons, in my first two books, The Punishment of Virtue and Thieves of State.)

From that standpoint — speaking as an American, as an adoptive Kandahari, and as a former senior U.S. government official — here are the key factors I see in today’s climax of a two-decade long fiasco:

Afghan government corruption, and the U.S. role enabling and reinforcing it. The last speaker of the Afghan parliament, Rahman Rahmani, I recently learned, is a multimillionaire, thanks to monopoly contracts to provide fuel and security to U.S. forces at their main base, Bagram. Is this the type of government people are likely to risk their lives to defend?

Two decades ago, young people in Kandahar were telling me how the proxy militias American forces had armed and provided with U.S. fatigues were shaking them down at checkpoints. By 2007, delegations of elders would visit me — the only American whose door was open and who spoke Pashtu so there would be no intermediaries to distort or report their words. Over candied almonds and glasses of green tea, they would get to some version of this: “The Taliban hit us on this cheek, and the government hits us on that cheek.” The old man serving as the group’s spokesman would physically smack himself in the face.

I and too many other people to count spent years of our lives trying to convince U.S. decision-makers that Afghans could not be expected to take risks on behalf of a government that was as hostile to their interests as the Taliban were. Note: it took me a while, and plenty of my own mistakes, to come to that realization. But I did.

For two decades, American leadership on the ground and in Washington proved unable to take in this simple message. I finally stopped trying to get it across when, in 2011, an interagency process reached the decision that the U.S. would not address corruption in Afghanistan. It was now explicit policy to ignore one of the two factors that would determine the fate of all our efforts. That’s when I knew today was inevitable.

Americans like to think of ourselves as having valiantly tried to bring democracy to Afghanistan. Afghans, so the narrative goes, just weren’t ready for it, or didn’t care enough about democracy to bother defending it. Or we’ll repeat the cliche that Afghans have always rejected foreign intervention; we’re just the latest in a long line.

I was there. Afghans did not reject us. They looked to us as exemplars of democracy and the rule of law. They thought that’s what we stood for.

And what did we stand for? What flourished on our watch? Cronyism, rampant corruption, a Ponzi scheme disguised as a banking system, designed by U.S. finance specialists during the very years that other U.S. finance specialists were incubating the crash of 2008. A government system where billionaires get to write the rules.

Is that American democracy?


Pakistan. The involvement of that country's government -- in particular its top military brass -- in its neighbor’s affairs is the second factor that would determine the fate of the U.S. mission.

You may have heard that the Taliban first emerged in the early 1990s, in Kandahar. That is incorrect. I conducted dozens of conversations and interviews over the course of years, both with actors in the drama and ordinary people who watched events unfold in Kandahar and in Quetta, Pakistan. All of them said the Taliban first emerged in Pakistan.

The Taliban were a strategic project of the Pakistani military intelligence agency, the ISI. It even conducted market surveys in the villages around Kandahar, to test the label and the messaging. “Taliban” worked well. The image evoked was of the young students who apprenticed themselves to village religious leaders. They were known as sober, studious, and gentle. These Taliban, according to the ISI messaging, had no interest in government. They just wanted to get the militiamen who infested the city to stop extorting people at every turn in the road.

Both label and message were lies.

Within a few years, Usama bin Laden found his home with the Taliban, in their de facto capital, Kandahar, hardly an hour’s drive from Quetta. Then he organized the 9/11 attacks. Then he fled to Pakistan, where we finally found him, living in a safe house in Abbottabad, practically on the grounds of the Pakistani military academy. Even knowing what I knew, I was shocked. I never expected the ISI to be that brazen.

Meanwhile, ever since 2002, the ISI had been re-configuring the Taliban: helping it regroup, training and equipping units, developing military strategy, saving key operatives when U.S. personnel identified and targeted them. That’s why the Pakistani government got no advance warning of the Bin Laden raid. U.S. officials feared the ISI would warn him.

By 2011, my boss, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Taliban were a “virtual arm of the ISI.”

And now this.

Do we really suppose the Taliban, a rag-tag, disjointed militia hiding out in the hills, as we’ve so long been told, was able to execute such a sophisticated campaign plan with no international backing? Where do we suppose that campaign plan came from? Who gave the orders? Where did all those men, all that materiel, the endless supply of money to buy off local Afghan army and police commanders, come from? How is it that new officials were appointed in Kandahar within a day of the city’s fall? The new governor, mayor, director of education, and chief of police all speak with a Kandahari accent. But no one I know has ever heard of them. I speak with a Kandahari accent, too. Quetta is full of Pashtuns — the main ethic group in Afghanistan — and people of Afghan descent and their children. Who are these new officials?

Over those same years, by the way, the Pakistani military also provided nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. But for two decades, while all this was going on, the United States insisted on considering Pakistan an ally. We still do.

Hamid Karzai. During my conversations in the early 2000s about the Pakistani government’s role in the Taliban’s initial rise, I learned this breathtaking fact: Hamid Karzai, the U.S. choice to pilot Afghanistan after we ousted their regime, was in fact the go-between who negotiated those very Taliban’s initial entry into Afghanistan in 1994.

I spent months probing the stories. I spoke to servants in the Karzai household. I spoke to a former Mujahideen commander, Mullah Naqib, who admitted to being persuaded by the label and the message Karzai was peddling. The old commander also admitted he was at his wits’ end at the misbehavior of his own men. I spoke with his chief lieutenant, who disagreed with his tribal elder and commander, and took his own men off to neighboring Helmand Province to keep fighting. I heard that Karzai’s own father broke with him over his support for this ISI project. Members of Karzai’s household and Quetta neighbors told me about Karzai’s frequent meetings with armed Taliban at his house there, in the months leading up to their seizure of power.

And lo. Karzai abruptly emerges from this vortex, at the head of a “coordinating committee” that will negotiate the Taliban’s return to power? Again?

It was like a repeat of that morning of May, 2011, when I first glimpsed the pictures of the safe-house where Usama bin Laden had been sheltered. Once again — even knowing everything I knew — I was shocked. I was shocked for about four seconds. Then everything seemed clear.

It is my belief that Karzai may have been a key go-between negotiating this surrender, just as he did in 1994, this time enlisting other discredited figures from Afghanistan's past, as they were useful to him. Former co-head of the Afghan government, Abdullah Abdullah, could speak to his old battle-buddies, the Mujahideen commanders of the north and west. You may have heard some of their names as they surrendered their cities in recent days: Ismail Khan, Dostum, Atta Muhammad Noor. The other person mentioned together with Karzai is Gulbuddin Hikmatyar -- a bona fide Taliban commander, who could take the lead in some conversations with them and with the ISI.

As Americans have witnessed in our own context — the #MeToo movement, for example, the uprising after the murder of George Floyd, or the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — surprisingly abrupt events are often months or years in the quiet making. The abrupt collapse of 20 years’ effort in Afghanistan is, in my view, one of those cases.

Thinking this hypothesis through, I find myself wondering: what role did U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad play? And old friend of Karzai's, he was the one who ran the negotiations with the Taliban for the Trump Administration, in which the Afghan government was forced to make concession after concession. Could President Biden truly have found no one else for that job, to replace an Afghan-American with obvious conflicts of interest, who was close to former Vice President Dick Cheney and who lobbied in favor of an oil pipeline through Afghanistan when the Taliban were last in power?

Self-Delusion. How many times did you read stories about the Afghan security forces’ steady progress? How often, over the past two decades, did you hear some U.S. official proclaim that the Taliban’s eye-catching attacks in urban settings were signs of their “desperation” and their “inability to control territory?” How many heart-warming accounts did you hear about all the good we were doing, especially for women and girls?

Who were we deluding? Ourselves?

What else are we deluding ourselves about?

One final point. I hold U.S. civilian leadership, across four administrations, largely responsible for today’s outcome. Military commanders certainly participated in the self-delusion. I can and did find fault with generals I worked for or observed. But the U.S. military is subject to civilian control. And the two primary problems identified above — corruption and Pakistan — are civilian issues. They are not problems men and women in uniform can solve. But faced with calls to do so, no top civilian decision-maker was willing to take either of these problems on. The political risk, for them, was too high.

Today, as many of those officials enjoy their retirement, who is suffering the cost?

Cybersleuths find men who allegedly attacked officer during US Capitol riot


Last paragraphs:
“I thought the I in FBI stood for ‘investigation’,” Weber told HuffPost. “It’s pretty lame that a private lawyer for a dead police officer’s widow has to be the one conducting the investigation.

“The fact that these volunteers have accomplished what the FBI has not is extraordinary.”

A group of cybersleuths have tracked down two men who allegedly attacked police officer Jeffrey Smith at the US Capitol during the 6 January insurrection, leaving him with injuries that have been linked to his death days later.

In a new complaint, attorney David P Weber – who represents Smith’s widow, Erin – wrote that David Walls-Kaufman and and Taylor F Taranto appeared to specifically target Smith because his eyes and face were vulnerable.

Artur Pawlowski’s extreme right-wing positions have attracted antifascist protests.
Man charged in Capitol riot also engaged in rightwing street brawl
Read more

The lawsuit said Walls-Kaufman used a cane, crowbar or similar object to level a brain injury to Smith, who took his own life on 15 January. Jonathan Arden, DC’s former chief medical examiner, has attributed Smith’s death to post-concussion syndrome, which can lead to symptoms like depression and suicidal thoughts.

About a dozen people with the open-source intelligence group Deep State Dogs pored over evidence from the capitol attack for more than a month until they found footage of Smith and his assailants.

“We felt we had to do something to honor the memory and family of Officer Smith. It’s terrible that the bereaved were left in that situation,” Forrest Rogers from Deep State Dogs told HuffPost. “So we turned to the thing we do best: finding bad guys.”

Walls-Kaufman, a chiropractor, has said in the past that about 40% of his clients work at or around the Capitol. In January, he was quoted in a story about the riot, which implied he was in attendance.

Taranto – a US navy veteran from Washington state – handed a weapon to Kaufman, who then struck Smith in the head. The battery led to a concussion, according to the lawsuit.

“But for the concussion of Officer Smith at the hands of these defendants, Officer Smith would be alive today,” Weber wrote.

Smith’s widow, Erin, has been trying to convince the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to consider her husband as having died in the line of duty. But the DC metropolitan police department has refused to release Smith’s body-camera video showing what actually happened, and Weber expressed frustration about how little federal law enforcement has done to avenge Smith months after the attack.

“I thought the I in FBI stood for ‘investigation’,” Weber told HuffPost. “It’s pretty lame that a private lawyer for a dead police officer’s widow has to be the one conducting the investigation.

“The fact that these volunteers have accomplished what the FBI has not is extraordinary.”
Go to Page: 1 2 3 Next »