Commander-in-Absentia?: Pentagon Dropped Largest Non-Nuclear Bomb without President's Authorization
April 17, 2017
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Charles P. Pierce / Esquire Magazine
Commentary: The "Mother of All Bombs" was dropped without White House approval. It's becoming clear that Trump has farmed out his responsibilities as commander-in-chief -- and most of his foreign policy -- to the generals and ex-generals with whom he has surrounded himself. Around the world, several crisis points are hanging by a thread. At the same time, civilian control of the military also is hanging by a thread, because nobody's sure whether the commander-in-chief can keep himself together.
US Defends Use of MOAB
in Afghanistan, Despite Questionable Results
$18 Million Bomb at Most Killed 36 People, Reports Say
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 14, 2017) -- Yesterday's attack with the "Mother of All Bombs" (MOAB) by US forces against eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province was done without approval from President Trump, Pentagon officials insist, saying that they believe they didn't need any such approval.
Officials continue to defend the strike as appropriate and claim it was a success, but the information on the ground is certainly raising doubts about that, with the Afghan government claiming the strike with the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal killed 36 ISIS fighters, and ISIS saying that no one was killed at all in the strike.
The "best case" from the Pentagon’s perspective, the 36 killed all being ISIS, is a pretty dubious result for the deployment of an $18 million bomb. Since larger numbers of ISIS reported killed have never had a lasting impact on the organization, it appears MOAB accomplished little, except for being high-profile.
The big impact was that it terrified a lot of civilians living in the surrounding area, who obviously weren't told what was happening until well after the fact. This is also going to add to distrust of the US, which 16 years into their occupation of Afghanistan is already in short supply.
Is Trump Actually in Charge?
Or Is It Worse Than We Feared?
I haven't felt this shaky about the world in half a century
Charles P. Pierce / Esquire Magazine
(April 14, 2017) -- I have resisted the temptation to speculate on the mental state of our president* because I've always been leery of long-distance psychiatric diagnoses, and because I am not Charles Krauthammer, who regularly has used his professional credentials to define any politics to the left of a drillbit as some sort of cognitive deficiency. However, the events of the last week have required me to rethink this policy.
Years ago, Fletcher Knebel wrote a novel called Night At Camp David about a president who'd gone mad. The evidence for that was that the bughouse president was lost in grandiose delusions about his place in the world. Knebel, you may recall, also was the co-author of the rather more famous Seven Days in May, which concerned a military plot to take over the government.
Lately, I've come to see these two books as being parts of the same whole, like the Lord of the Rings saga, or Dune. I have come to the conclusion that the president* has slipped his gears and that his control over the military -- and over foreign policy -- is as tenuous as his hold on rationality is. I have not felt this shaky about the state of the world since October of 1962.
For example, there's his interview with Maria Bartiomo of the Fox Business Channel. (This is the one that will go down in history as The Wonderful Chocolate Cake Interview, and that's scary enough.) The FBC is the safest possible media venue for this president. *
The FBC makes the Fox News Channel look like Nick, Jr. Bartiromo certainly wasn't out to ambush the president. * He managed to ambush himself and to do so in such a way as to appear to be groping his way toward plain English in a truly unnerving way. For example:
TRUMP: Well, I'm going to let you figure that one out. But it's so obvious. When you look at Susan Rice and what's going on, and so many people are coming up to me and apologizing now. They're saying, you know, you were right when you said that. Perhaps I didn't know how right I was, because nobody knew the extent of it. (INAUDIBLE) . . .
BARTIROMO: When you sent that . . .
TRUMP: -- what they did . . .
BARTIROMO: -- was that what you were referring to, the Susan Rice?
TRUMP: Oh, sure. We're talking about surveillance. It was wiretapped in quotes. The New York Times said the word wiretapped in the headline of the first edition. Then they took it out of there fast when they realized. But I put wiretapped in quotes, meaning, because, look, wiretapping is an old-fashioned . . . (CROSSTALK)
there are too many wires anymore, right? You don't have a lot of wires. Look at this room. This room used to have a lot of wires. Now it doesn't have so many wires.
Leave aside the obvious untruths -- about the surveillance and Susan Rice and what he tweeted and (probably) all those great people who are congratulating him for being so right about everything. Look just at the language. He is talking in circles, gingerly stepping toward the familiar like a man crossing a frozen river on ice he doesn't trust.
"Wires," he says, over and over again. I don't think that's because he doesn't know what he's talking about. I think that's because "wires" is a word he can remember.
And then there's this:
TRUMP: -- and you see these beautiful kids that are dead in their father's arms, or you see kids gasping for life and you know they're -- it's over. It's over for them. They're hosing them down, hundreds of them. When you see that, I immediately called General Mattis. I said, what can we do? And they came back with a number of different alternatives. And we hit them very hard.
Now, are we going to get involved with Syria? No. But if I see them using gas and using things that -- I mean even some of the worst tyrants in the world didn't use the kind of gases that they used. And some of the gases are unbelievably potent. So when I saw that, I said we have to do something.
Again, the language never strays far from what he's said before, even as the policy may or may not be reversing itself.
Which brings us to the second part of the Knebel Paradox. It's becoming very clear that the president* has farmed out his responsibilities as commander-in-chief -- and most of his foreign policy -- to the generals and ex-generals with whom he has surrounded himself. Here he is talking about using a carrier group to poke at the North Koreans.
TRUMP: And in the meantime, they get ready and like you've never seen -- look, they're still fighting. Mosul was supposed to last for a week and now they've been fighting it for many months and so many more people died. I don't want to talk about it.
We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. And we have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this. He is doing the wrong thing. He is doing the wrong thing.
BARTIROMO: Do you . . .
TRUMP: He's making a big mistake.
BARTIROMO: -- do you think he's mentally fit?
TRUMP: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know him. But he's doing the wrong thing. I have a very, very good meeting with President Xi of China. I really liked him. We had a great chemistry, I think. I mean at least I had a great chemistry -- maybe he didn't like me, but I think he liked me.
He is talking as if to children. I think he's talking to himself.
Things got worse the other day, when the US dropped the mightiest non-nuclear weapon it has on a bunch of rocks and caves in Afghanistan. The president* explained this event by stating categorically that the generals are in charge. From Military Times:
"What I do is I authorize my military," in response to a press question about the use of a massive bomb in an assault on Islamic State group positions in Afghanistan. "We have the greatest military in the world, and they've done the job, as usual. We have given them total authorization, and that's what they're doing.
Frankly, that's why they've been so successful lately. If you look at what's happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what has happened over the last eight years, you'll see there is a tremendous difference."
Those are not the words you want to hear from the guy on whom -- theoretically, at least -- the national command authority rests. Those are the words of a guy who's terrified of the awesome responsibilities of his job because he knows he's not up to them, and I think he's not up to them because he knows something's wrong with him. And, come to think of it, "my" military is pretty frightening, too.
There now are several crisis points in the world that are hanging by a thread. At the same time, the civilian control of the military also is hanging by a thread, because nobody's sure whether or not the commander-in-chief can keep himself together. (This column, in which the author assures us that the president* is being "saved" by the military minds around him, is meant to be reassuring, but damned well isn't.)
At the end of Fletcher Knebel's novels, the bughouse president resigns and the coup is foiled. In real life, who knows if it ends that way. I don't want a president* who knows he's not up to the job and I don't want a military establishment that thinks it knows what to do about it. That way, we all go crazy.
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