Week 2: Benghazi #1
According to reporting by Reuters, our severely impulse-control-challenged President launched a covert military operation, resulting in the death of one Navy SEAL operative and an undetermined number of civilians including children, without adequate preparation or intelligence. The tragedy took place in Yemen amidst a three-way conflict that we were dragged into during the Obama administration when the U.S. blindly sided with Saudi Arabia in its religiously-driven strike aimed at severely hurting, if not eliminating, a Shi’a-oriented party regardless of civilian casualties. The dispute in Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries, is complex in itself, and it’s layered over with the Saud family’s need to placate the Wahabi faction that could topple it in its own country. So it has always made Iran (a Shi’a majority country) as the boogeyman. Yemen, however, practices a different form of Shi’a than Iran, and the evidence that the two countries were allies before the Saudi intervention is slim.
Given how complicated the situation in Yemen is, there is absolutely no possibility that Donald Trump has any idea of what is going on. Nor does he care. His contempt for understanding a situation was given its right title last week by Kelly Conway: “alternate facts.” Nor does he have much affection for America’s intelligence services. Why should he when he is, after all, “um, like a smart person”? When you think you are like a smart person, what need is there for intelligence?
Trump’s lack of interest in details (or even correct general points of view) is made lethally dangerous by his impulse to lash out rather than understand. And that is made chillingly clear in this part of the Reuters report:
“U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations.”
This sentence is remarkable for two reasons. First, it shows that the President ordered a military operation apparently knowing that it was poorly prepared and without the necessary assurance that it would succeed. This is not an indictment of his lack of policy knowledge (although it will also undoubtedly show that). It is an indictment of his judgment as an executive. Wasn’t this supposed to be his big selling point? Moreover, it shows that he is not even minimally responsible enough to be in charge of the largest armed forces in the world. This is something that requires Congressional investigation. What is the chance of that?
If I were not cynical, I would point to four years of multiple Congressional investigations into the possible responsibility of Secretary Clinton into the deaths during the 2012 attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Repeated failure to find any evidence of culpability didn’t deter these Republican patriots. Over and over they plowed the same ground, looking for just one hint. Why wouldn’t these faithful watchdogs of the Executive branch not want to get to the bottom of these charges? After all, they are far more damning and more worrisome because they condemn as unfit the president himself.
But of course we know the answer. It all depends on whose ox is being gored. You might as well expect the Republican party to care about the public welfare rather than their plutocratic masters as expect an investigation into Trump’s handling of the military. Of course, to be fair to the Republicans, there are differences between Benghazi and the Yemen fiasco, most prominent of which is that the former was a scandal of their own making and the latter a cause of serious international concern over the fitness of their own party leader.
But the second thing that is remarkable about the quote is that “U.S. military officials” are already leaking their discontent with their new master only two weeks into the new term. And they are criticizing not the policy that put their men in harm’s way, but the competence of the Commander-in-Chief. When “U.S. military officials” believe the president is acting recklessly in deploying force, there is serious cause for worry. People have already died needlessly because of the impulsiveness of this man-child. And it’s going to get worse, because he has already signaled that he wants less intelligence and more covert actions. Something he has already shown he’s not good at. It’s as though Trump has decided that he is presiding over the end of the American Empire and wants to use everything in his power to cause as much damage as possible before he’s gone.