Sunday, February 3, 2019

Literary Corner: The area—the land—the area

Noon, 1947, Lee Krasner, via Wikiart.

Sonnet: On the Poet Attempting to Explain Why He Scolded the Intelligence Community For Disagreeing With Him on Syria Before Deciding That They Agreed With Him After All, Which Everybody Knows They Didn't
by Donald J. Trump

It wasn't so much a report. It was the questions
and answers as the report was submitted
and they were asked questions and answers.
We've done an incredible job with Syria.
When I took over Syria it was infested
with ISIS. It was all over the place.
And now you have very little ISIS and
you have the caliphate almost knocked out.
We will be announcing in the not too distant future
100 percent of the caliphate which is the area—
the land—the area—100. We're at
99 percent right now, we'll be at 100.
When I took it over it was a disaster.
I think we've done a great job with that.
(CBS interview with Margaret Brennan.)

I'm guessing he heard very recently that ISIS and the caliphate are the same thing, or more precisely that the caliphate is ISIS's territorial expression, but he's not convinced, and just when he's about to say that "not everybody knows that", he starts worrying about whether he knows it himself or is getting it wrong again, in that way that always used to make Kelly look so exasperated with him, the smarmy son of a bitch, which is what causes that little breakdown in lines 11-12. You can see him immediately reaching for his lifeline, casting some blame on Obama ("it was a disaster").

I'm really pleased about the half-rhyme (future-disaster) and full rhyme (at-that) in the sestet.

There was some anxiety going around about the Senate vote on McConnell amendment to the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, "To express the sense of the Senate that the United States faces continuing threats from terrorist groups operating in Syria and Afghanistan and that the precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from either country could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security," chastising the president for his Twitter announcement of 19 December that the US had unexpectedly won those wars and all the US troops could now be pulled out. Altogether 20 Democratic Senators, including more or less all the actual or potential presidential candidates, voted against it, or on Trump's side, along with reactionary icons Cruz and Lee, but their vote wasn't actually pro-Trump:
The amendment asks the administration to show lawmakers that “conditions have been met for the enduring defeat of al-Qaeda and ISIS” before starting any troop withdrawals — a definition that struck about half the Democratic caucus as too nebulous and far-reaching to support. Some worried it might prevent Congress from putting any limits at all on the president’s war powers.
Voting against Trump could have given Trump too much power, and this is literally true. The theatricality of the whole thing must be getting obvious to everybody by now. None of this activity has had any practical meaning at all; the troops in Syria clearly aren't going to be withdrawn even to the extent they really should be (back to the 550 or so there were at the time of inauguration, before Trump and Mattis quadrupled them), though nobody's quite willing to say so, and whatever happens in Afghanistan will have nothing to do with Trump, and everything with wily old Zalmay Khalilzad, though the news from there doesn't seem great; it seems like nothing can happen one way or another as if, and I'm not even kidding, the Taliban prefers not to win just at the moment (which in a logical world would be smart, in my opinion; everybody else seems to think they're the North Vietnamese army with a plan and a legitimacy to start running the whole country more or less immediately, but I don't get how that works, where they essentially represent a single ethnic group (Pashtun) representing maybe 42% of a multi-ethnic polity and many of its members are starting to get fed up in a way they weren't before.

They can vote "for" Trump, I'm saying, signaling their unwillingness to back a limitless commitment of troops, because Trump is so completely irrelevant. (Politically it's more interesting to me that Rand Paul, the last living representative of Republican non-interventionism, didn't show up to vote at all.) It's nice they're willing to make the stand, even though it means more or less nothing.

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