Monday, June 29, 2020

 Ah, me. It’s Monday morning. For some poor bastards, it’s a return to the 9-to-5. For people like me, it’s Monday. I’m not sure why I’m bringing that up beyond just needing an intro paragraph, but there you go.

 Before I get started, I’d like to recognize Pride Month because I hadn’t yet and want to wish love, happiness, and assholes leaving them alone to my LGBT+ friends and neighbors. For whatever it’s worth, I am a cis straight man who might, might be aromantic or I might just be weird. Regardless, I don’t feel comfortable writing too much about LGBT+ issues beyond a basic recognition of humanity and equal representation under the law. I try not to go where I’m not needed and not helpful.

 With that in mind, let’s look at the whole “Russian’s paying a bounty to Taliban soldiers to kill American soldiers & Trump either knew & didn’t care or he was kept out of the loop because, come on, he’s Donald Trump” thing. I don’t like writing about the military. Unlike writing about LGBT+ issues or Black issues, I mainly don’t like writing about the military because I don’t like the military.

 But this has popped up over the weekend and I think maybe we need to be clear as we can be on just what it’s all about and just what it means. Otherwise, we know Mississippi finally decided to join the latter half of the 20th century and because we are the Land of the Dumb, the U.S. accounts for one-fifth of all deaths caused by COVID-19. Or we could discuss that goofy couple in St. Louis and what it says about our culture’s fetishization of killing each other, but just thinking about that last one just wears me out.

 Anyhow. Here’s what we know so far. As reported by the New York Times Friday, anonymous American intelligence sources accused the GRU – Russia’s version of the CIA – of paying Taliban militants cash bounties to encourage them to kill U.S. or UK soldiers operating in Afghanistan. A particular incident that resulted in the deaths of three Marines is being particularly highlighted. What we’re doing in Afghanistan after almost two decades is another cup of meat but that’s not germane here.

 Anyhow, this particular group from the GRU, called Unit 29155, is supposedly paying out these bounties, according to the American intelligence official, though they don’t know why. They’re also the group that supposedly interfered in the 2016 election supposedly on Trump’s behalf. Supposedly. While the intelligence official is still anonymous, the accusation has been verified by a European intelligence official, also anonymous.

 Before we go too much further, let’s have a Journalism 101. “Anonymous sources” are a useful thing in the world of journalism because, frankly, telling some secrets that need to be told will get your ass killed. That being said, a healthy skepticism is recommended when dealing with anonymous sources. For one, you have to accept that the reporter/publication/network accepts the source as legitimate and not bullshitting for some reason. Secondly, you have to keep in mind, if legit and true, just why said source is spilling the beans, as their behavior may not be for the noblest reasons. Frankly, it was a mighty bummer to learn Deep Throat and Watergate happened because Mark Felt didn’t get a promotion he wanted.

 So, grain of salt for the time being, all I’m saying. Now here’s where it gets sticky. All of this was supposedly part of the Presidential Daily Briefing given to Trump this past March. The President, however, denies knowing anything about it and says the intelligence wasn’t considered credible. His mouthpieces hit the Sunday show circuit to deny him knowing about it and that the suggestion he was either fine with it or hesitant to do anything that would jeopardize his relationship with Russia was just boosh-wah. Keep in mind that none of them are denying it happened. Russia is, but the general consensus is, far as I can tell, Trump’s claim is that he wasn’t briefed on it because it wasn’t considered credible, but it did happen. It should be noted that American spies and commandos were reportedly briefed on all this months ago.

 This has, of course, stirred up a hornet’s nest. Obviously, Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats are smelling blood in the water. This would be an excellent hammer to use against Trump once November rolls around and would probably shear off the handful of people still on his side who aren’t fanatical worshipers. What’s really interesting, though, is Congressional Republicans are calling for hearings and answers, which could mean there’s something to it or that the rats are noticing that the bottom of the ship is rapidly filling up with sea water.

 Okay, then. What does all this mean? Now, it’s probably my own cynicism against anonymous sources at play, but I would recommend caution with this story. It did happen. That is, a section of the Russian spy department paid Taliban militants to kill U.S. or U.K. soldiers is considered true. What’s important and up in the air is did Trump know about it and not do anything about it. And if he did know about, why didn’t he do anything about it?

 For the record, I do think Russia interfered in the 2016 election to some extent to help Trump win. I don’t think it’s because he’s subservient to Vladimir Putin or a Russian asset as much as that’s what governments do and they knew he’d be more pliable than Hillary Clinton. There’s no question that Russian money saved Trump’s bacon in the ’90s and early Aughts because no one else with any sense would touch the crooked bastard. This is undeniable, just as the ties between the Russian government and stupidly rich Russian oligarchs pretty much run that country. You can’t deny either and you’d be a fool to pretend otherwise.

 Also what can’t be denied is that Trump really only cares about making money however he can. He’s spent his entire life shafting relatives, cheating contractors, skipping his bills, and screwing over his employees, and I think it strains credulity to believe that he turned to a bleeds-red-white-and-blue patriot when he ran for president. You want to believe that, fine. People believe the moon landing was faked and the Earth is flat, too.

 But did he allow this? Russian intelligence operatives paying money to Taliban militants to kill American soldiers and, despite what he continues to claim, the Trump Administration has been increasingly friendly with the Putin government? I don’t know. It’s within the realm of possibility, especially if you think the guy’s a greedy, selfish shell of a human being… and I do, don’t get it twisted.

 This is a heavy claim, though. If true, I’d think this was worse than Reagan’s Iran-Contra affair or Nixon’s sabotaging of Vietnam peace talks, maybe worse than anything a president has done to date as figured by popular thought. Wars and drone strikes don’t count in this estimation because Americans love them some war and drone strikes so long as it doesn’t affect them.

 Because of that heaviness and what all it will possibly entail, this subject demands patience, skepticism and scrutiny. It’s entirely possible this will drift away like a fart in the wind because Washington D.C. is Washington D.C. These are heady, hectic times where great changes are happening and the world is moving like the Road Runner. 

 We just need to make sure we don’t wind up the Coyote in this cartoon, one way or another.


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