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Nuke Pyongyang

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Dear Mr President,

I’ve received another anonymous letter from the White House. Enclosed were the results of a short multiple-choice quiz on the Middle East, that according to the leaker, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster gave you recently to determine the success of the new policy of presenting your daily intelligence briefings in pictorial form, rather than in boring multisyllable words.

The leaker wrote, "The new format of the briefings was designed under Ivanka’s direction. But, despite the report of the Boston Globe, it is not true that Garry Trudeau was brought in to draw the pictures."

The questions are followed by the answers you chose:

  • Alawites are: D. Delicacies made from eggplant and figs. [Correct!]
  • Sharia is: C. The spelling of Syria in Arabic. [Correct!]'
  • The difference between Sunnis and Shiites is: D. No difference. They’re both made-up religions. [Correct!]
  • When we defeat the Syrians, we will: B. Keep the olive oil. [Correct!]
  • Hezbollah is: A: An American organization of female Zionists. [Correct!]
  •  Zionists are: B. Militant park rangers in Utah. [Correct!]
  • In the recent strike on the Syrian airfield, all the Tomahawks: D. Returned safely to base. [Correct!]
  • ISIS was founded by: C. Hillary Clinton, who was beaten in a historic landslide victory of historic proportions. [Correct!]
  • The central principle of Obama’s policy in the Middle East was: A. Bad. [Correct!]
  • Syrian babies are: B. Children of God if poisoned by saran gas, otherwise potential terrorists. [Correct!]

Congratulations on your perfect score! Awesome! But the leaker added, “Jared graded the quiz, and besides, Sean read him the questions and helped him with the answers.”

Monday, 10 April 2017

Dear Mr President,

[I’m afraid you’re just a CC here, Mr President, and the CC’s are the real audience. I need to talk them about you, but of course I wouldn’t do that behind your back.]

For a few years a long time ago I was an army officer, just long enough to imbibe and internalize the military’s sacred principle of apolitical execution of civilian orders. Military officers are supposed to have no political opinions, at least publicly. There were plenty of officers and enlisted soldiers in Viet Nam who had growing doubts about the legality – never mind the efficacy – of that war, but they carried out their assigned missions conscientiously, in the fullest sense of that adverb. That is, they scrupulously adhered to the letter of their orders while allowing their consciences to keep them within reasonable, human, and legal bounds. They kept in mind that their oaths bound them to the Constitution, not to the generals or even the president.

In 1944, German General Dietrich von Choltitz is reported to have refused orders to burn Paris to the ground. I’m wondering whether American generals, ordered on a whim to nuke Baghdad or Pyongyang will have that kind of courage.

One of my personal heroes from that time is a West Point classmate who perfectly exhibited a consciousness of the line that couldn’t be crossed. Having completed one tour in Viet Nam as an infantry company commander, much decorated for valor, when he was promoted and sent back a few years later, he simply said no. He had not, as far as I know, found his superiors crazy, but he had found the war crazy, and he quit the war. Not at a draft terminal, not in Canada, but in the war. The army could have imprisoned him, but finding it impossible to call him incompetent or cowardly, it was forced to capitulate and let him go quietly and honorably home.

What I am contemplating now involves a similar, but much more significant refusal to cross a line. Will the generals and admirals who are in highest positions of the military power refuse to carry out the lawful orders of a lawfully elected president if those orders are not only unreasonable but, by international conventions and humane principles, outright crazy? Put more bluntly, will sane men refuse to follow the orders of a crazy man – even if they must break the law to do it?

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In 1944, German General Dietrich von Choltitz is reported to have refused orders to burn Paris to the ground. I’m wondering whether American generals, ordered on a whim to nuke Baghdad or Pyongyang will have that kind of courage. Are they even now quietly installing a circuit breaker in the wire that runs from the man who imagines that his micro-wave is recording him to the missile silos in North Dakota? I hope so.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Dear Mr President,

I’m writing to applaud your action in appointing Secretary of Energy Rick “Oops” Perry to the Principals Committee of the National Security Council. He’s the sort of no-nonsense, plain-folks American that we New Mexican Republicans could feel comfortable having a beer (or 6 or 7) with – solid, as we say, when referring to both his religious views and his mental capacity. And he’s a broad-minded team player – as is proved by his willingness to sign on to your administration, despite having called you a “cancer on conservatism” just last year.

But those of us who know him well – Texas is right next door – think he will need a little help:

  • When he finds himself in a meeting of the “Principals Committee”, he will naturally think that those other guys in the room are high school administrators, and he will likely launch into his usual speech about school prayer. Maybe someone soothing like Ivanka will be able to calm him down. (I assume she is also a principal.)
  • She should also stress the importance of his not talking to the press – ever. This is not just a matter of security, but of clarity. He was once quoted as saying that George W. Bush “did a great job defending us from freedom.”
  • He has been a little nervous about talk in the senate of “going nuclear” – apparently believing that this will diminish the stockpiles he has just discovered he is in charge of.
  • If the business of the National Security Council ever gets into geopolitical matters, he may be somewhat challenged. He has been known to state that Juarez is “the most dangerous city in America”, that the American Revolution was in the 16th century, and that in the 2012 election, when he was a candidate, those young people who would turn 21 by 12 November should vote for him – though the voting age had long been 18 and the election was on 6 November. So that rules out geography, history, American law, and the calendar. On other matters – such as the necessity of banning Muslims – he will be, as I say, solid.
  • On the positive side, he knows when it’s time to face a crisis on his knees: “It’s time to hand it over to God and say, ‘God, you’re gonna have to fix this’.”

This is the man you have given custody of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Dear Mr President,

Tell me whether I’ve got this right: Michael Flynn, disgraced head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, while working secretly for Russia and Turkey, was part of your transition team, which was headed by VP Elect Mike Pence, who later said he never received a letter from Elijah Cummings of the House Oversight Committee warning that Flynn was a Turkish agent, and after Flynn talked with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about sanctions, he denied to Pence that he had done so, so Pence told reporters that, and then after Flynn was made National Security Advisor, Acting Attorney General and Obama Stay-Behind agent Sally Yates wrote to the White House warning that Flynn and Kislyak really had talked about sanctions, and then 21 days later Flynn was fired, not for talking about sanctions but for lying to Pence about it, and after Admiral Robert Harward turned down the job, calling it a “shit sandwich”, H. R. McMaster took it, provided he could have his own team, but when he tried to remove political strategist Steve Bannon and intelligence novice Ezra Cohen-Watnick from the council, Bannon appealed to Son-in-Law Jared Kushner who appealed to you, and you said McMaster could not remove them, and then Bannon had Cohen-Watnick show a classified document at midnight on the WH grounds to House Intelligence Chair Kevin Nunes, who showed it to you, but not to his committee, though they were investigating you, and then Kushner and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who everybody had forgotten even worked in the White House, decided that Bannon was to blame for the mess and told you to remove him from the council, and so you did, saying that he was only there to keep an eye on Flynn who had been removed seven weeks before – though Bannon said his job had been to “de-operationalize” the council (render it dysfunctional?) and that had been achieved, so he could move on to de-operationalize other parts of the government as part of his plan “to destroy the administrative state” – and Bannon denied that he had threatened to resign, though he really did, and then you put real national security officials JCS Chair Joseph Dunforth and DNI Dan Coats back on the council from which they had been removed to make room for Bannon, all of which Pence has termed “natural evolution”, which everyone thought he didn’t believe in, though pretty clearly he believes whatever anybody tells him, and Susan Rice is to blame, and this is called the fine-tuned machine.

Right?

dan-embree-17

Dan Embree