Monday, October 28, 2019

Literary Corner: Today Donald Trump Didn't Become President

Image by Adam/Know Your Meme.
I'm seeing a lot of skepticism on today's big story of the operation to kill the former Caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,  that it was a wag-the-dog operation to distract the public from the horrible testimony of the last couple of weeks demonstrating that Trump really did attempt to extort cooperation with his personal political agenda from the Ukrainian government. Or even that it killed not Baghdadi but some innocent set extra, or was entirely staged.

But I still like the view I held immediately after hearing the news this morning, that not only did it really happen, but Trump himself was the one getting bamboozled: by the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces and the US military, who kept him more or less in the dark until he got back from the golf course, when they informed him that he had just won the formerly endless war. They were in the right:
Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify more precisely Mr. al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements. American officials said the Kurds continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone.
The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

That is, I think the Kurds and US may have been working together to defeat Trump's ill-timed move to remove American troops from Syria and allow Turkish troops to begin seizing a huge strip of Syrian land along their border. Using Trump's well-known desire to "take the oil" wherever there's a war in the Middle East, they've talked him into reversing the decision (rather late, as Turkish forces are already there) and maintaining an American force in the region, starting with the move of Senator Lindsey Graham and General Jack Keane, on 14 October, to accomplish something he believes Bush and Obama failed to accomplish:

Keane displayed a map showing that almost three quarters of Syria's oil fields are in the parts of the country where U.S. troops are deployed, the people familiar with the meeting said. They said that Graham and Keane told the president that Iran is preparing to move toward the oil fields and could seize the air space above them once the U.S. leaves.
The president seemed "resigned" to leaving a small number of American troops in northern Syria to keep control of the oil, according to a person who was present. (NBC)
"Wow!" he said to himself. "I got the oil! And those Iranians almost got there first!" And gave himself an enthusiastic pat on the back.

Now, with the raid on ISIS fighters in the far northwestern Idlib province, they've enabled him to say he's accomplished something Obama did accomplish, overseeing the killing of the baddest terrorist in the world, thanks to the Kurdish intelligence that was able to discover Baghdadi's location in Idlib, rather than the area on the Iraqi border where he'd been thought to be hiding. Long before dawn Washington time SDF forces announced that they'd worked with the US on a "successful" operation, and
SDF commander Mazloum Abdi said on Twitter an “historic, successful operation” resulted from joint intelligence work with the U.S. (Reuters)
before the Americans said what they'd actually done.

Forcing Trump to acknowledge the Kurdish assistance, as he eventually did, however ungraciously:
I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us. This was a very, very dangerous mission. Thank you as well to the great intelligence professionals who helped make this very successful journey possible.
Though it's not clear what Russians (who denied having had anything to do with it), Turks, Assad Syrians, or the very much busy-with other things Iraqis (currently facing a massive street rebellion of people fed up with the government's persistent inability to do anything it's promised, on a par with events in Ecuador and Hong Kong). "Certain support". Trump has, no doubt through Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the latter's agents Flynn and Giuliani, seemingly developed a kind of personal dislike for Kurds, not unlike the way he seems to feel about Ukrainians. But they have enabled him to look, for about five seconds,  almost as cool as Obama (to himself, I mean, not to you and me). Two more points to Graham and Keane.

The best thing about Trump's self-congratulations in his 48-minute performance piece, beyond the fact that it got seriously in the way of WNYC's pledge week, was the script by, I'm pretty sure, brilliant 14-year-old Stephen Miller, with its outstanding use of redundancy triplets like "whimpering and crying and screaming"
He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed.
or "certain, immediate, and totally positive"
He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, the tunnel had caved in on it in addition, but test results gave certain, immediate and totally positive identification it was him.
and war-porn glee
He was a sick and depraved man. And now he’s gone. Baghdadi was vicious and violent, and he died in a vicious and violent way, as a coward, running and crying. This raid was impeccable, and could only have taken place with the acknowledgment and help of certain other nations and people.
Though it's hard to believe the film crew capturing the event for the emperor's delectation really had microphones that could catch any whimpering, or on-site scientists who could identify the dead man by his DNA in 15 minutes (especially since Trump is addressed as "sir" in his version of the story—"This is a confirmation, sir"—generally a sign that he's making the story up out of whole cloth). Apparently there really was a dog, though, a Belgian Malinois or German shepherd, but just one, whose function wasn't to chase anyone down but sniff out explosives.

The line Miller gave him, "he died like a dog and a coward," wasn't really about dogs but about Miller's 14-year-old's idea of the kind of language that will probably frighten Saracens and Mussulmen, but Trump also repeated and developed it in the question period, in one of those bizarre antitransitions where I see poetry:

He Died Like a Dog
by Donald J. Trump
You know, these people
are very smart.  They’re not
into the use of cellphones anymore.
They’re not — they’re very
technically brilliant.  You know,
they use the Internet better than
almost anybody in the world, perhaps,
other than Donald Trump.  
But they use the Internet incredibly well.
And what they’ve done with the Internet,
through recruiting and everything — 
and that’s why he died like a dog,
he died like a coward.  He was whimpering,
screaming, and crying.  And, frankly,
I think it’s something that should be
brought out so that his followers
and all of these young kids that want
to leave various countries,
including the United States,
they should see how he died.  
He didn’t die a hero.  He died a coward —
crying, whimpering, screaming, and bringing
three kids with him to die a certain death.
When you put together the incoherence there (he died like a dog because ISIS uses the Internet almost as well as Trump?) you can see the outbreak of a real emotion, which might well be fear, of the kids with computers (like his own youngest son) who could kill him without a second thought, or turn his family against him.

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