The Battle that Biden Forgot to Mention

Wikipedia has a detailed account (see “Battle of al-Hasakah”) of the Kurdish victory last month, with U.S. help, that Biden didn’t even bother to refer to in his Feb. 3 announcement of the U.S. attack on the compound of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. Fortunately, no Americans were killed in taking out the ISIS leader, but the Kurdish SDF suffered over 100 deaths (far less than those of the ISIS fighters) in their desperate battle at al-Hasakah to minimize the number of ISIS militants escaping from the prison in that city and to drive off the ISIS attackers.

Biden didn’t acknowledge the SDF deaths in his announcement. One would think he should have a new ending for any future speech or announcement about the struggle against Isis: “God protect our troops and the troops of our Kurdish allies.” Why is he so nervous about offending Turkish dictator Erdogan, ferocious enemy of the SDF? Erdogan’s cynical manipulation of Trump in 2019, causing Trump to betray the Kurds, was a direct assault on the U.S. national interest and the honor of the U.S. armed forces for which Erdogan has yet to pay any price.

Please note that the Wikipedia description of the battle in its first paragraph as a “partial strategic victory and major propaganda victory” for ISIS is not properly cited and is contradicted by the account that follows, including of the very large number of ISIS deaths, casualties and recaptures. According to Voice of America, the battle was characterized by Brigadier General Isaac Peltier, commander of Special Operations Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, as a “huge ISIS failure.”

And would the battle have ever occurred if Donald Trump had not slashed U.S. support for the fight against Isis in Syria and thus failed to build a hardened prison for captured ISIS fighters?

Why have the Kurds been so easily forgotten?

President Biden announced this morning how a raid by U.S. troops against ISIS in northern Syria resulted in the death of ISIS’s new leader. Unfortunately, there was not any emphasis on the heroic Kurds in northern Syria, who, in late January, fought for over a week, with some air and armored vehicle support from the U.S., to prevent ISIS from breaking into a prison in al-Hasakah and releasing thousands of ISIS members detained there. The successful raid against the ISIS leader was almost certainly connected to the battle in al-Hasakah that resulted in defeat for ISIS.

It is not known by many Americans how the Kurds continued the battle against ISIS after Donald Trump betrayed them in October 2019 to Turkish dictator Erdogan in apparent hope of getting a Trump Tower in Istanbul. Nor do many Americans know just how many Kurdish women, including Kurdish women fighters, were raped and killed when the U.S. allowed the Turks to come over the border and seize Kurdish territory–the territory of our ALLIES, the ones who had done most of the successful ground fighting against ISIS in northern Syria since 2014 (with robust U.S. air support) that contributed so much to the defeat of ISIS in Iraq as well as Syria.

This may have been the greatest betrayal of an ally in U.S. history and one that Biden has been silent about, as has too much of the U.S. military leadership both at the time of the betrayal and ever since. Former Marine general James Mattis, Trump’s defense secretary, resigned over an earlier Trump decision in Dec. 2018 to pull out of Syria. Mattis’s resignation may have been caused by his recognition of an impending and profound matter of honor as well as by his alarm over the strategic implications. In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg quoted Admiral Michael Mullen, former head of the Joint Chiefs, as saying, based on a conversation with Mattis the day before his friend’s resignation: “He’s not going to leave friends and allies on the battlefield.” The friends and allies who would be abandoned on the battlefield the following year were the Kurds.

Oh, and when will the U.S. Justice Department begin to investigate Trump’s (and possibly Jared Kushner’s and West Point graduate Mike Pompeo’s) role in the betrayal. Certainly Trump deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail for the rapes and murders that resulted, although I know the chances of that are almost non-existent.

A good beginning at some measure of justice would be for MSNBC to start interviewing Erdogan’s Kurdish victims and the U.S. troops who served with the Kurds until Trump told them, in effect, to “stand by.” And then let’s pressure Biden, his Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs to break their silence on Trump’s orchestration of one of the most dishonorable events in the history of our military.

One step might be to reach out to the families of the Kurdish fighters killed in the battle that helped to stave off a disaster of the first order at al-Hasakah last month. The U.S. should offer burial of these heroes at Arlington National Cemetery or, if the families prefer, erection at the cemetery of a memorial to the fallen. I know this is an unusual idea, but what Trump did was far more than unusual; he implicated our nation and military in a high crime and cynical betrayal that requires something more than an “oh yeah, sorry, I forgot about the Kurds” mumble from Biden.

And maybe, while he’s at it, our current President could give the Kurds  sufficiently advanced weapons to make Erdogan think three times before launching any more campaigns of murder, rape and land seizure against Kurdish territory in Syria.

Most Republicans see nothing wrong with Trump’s collaboration with Putin–why?

It would be easy to say that the Republicans are “disloyal” to America, but I think the truth is much more complicated than that. Because the very meaning of loyalty has changed.

I remember back when the movement against the Vietnam war was in full swing, NIxon called on the “silent majority” to strike back and indeed there was a period when the majority did support the war, including some Democrats who later became “Reagan” Democrats. The silent majority regarded themselves as the patriots and many of them regarded the protesters as traitors outside the pale.

What has changed today is that the grassroots Republicans have a new definition of what it means to be an American, and hence of what patriotism, as well as loyalty, involves.

Many whites–not just the white working class but many who are college educated and in middle class jobs, as well as many small business people and farmers–have come to see THEIR America, white America, as under siege by hostile invaders: blacks, Hispanics, other nonwhite people, immigrants either undocumented or documented, the LGBT community, and women who refuse to be dominated and mistreated.

Over the eight years of Obama the lurking bigotry in the minds of Republicans turned hard and cruel–Obama became the symbolic focus of their hate, which was cynically brought to a pitch by skilled racist operatives. Now Trump’s Republican followers deeply feel that THEIR America is being taken away from them. This is far more important to them than any cerebral issue of national security, the Atlantic alliance and NATO as defined by the Washington “elite.” They want THEIR America back–the America they delude themselves into thinking they once controlled, as if the banks and the billionaires never had, or don’t still have, the upper hand.

The Christian Right feels the same way but they have a pop-theological overlay to it: They believe that not only is America being taken away from whites but it is being taken away from them AS Christians. They too want America back, they want THEIR Christian white America back, and many of them want Dominion over believers and nonbelievers alike.

So when they are told by the media “elite” that Trump is collaborating with Putin, that is not a negative thing to them. Trump is giving them what they want. And Putin is helping Trump to do it. Putin is supporting their patriotism (as they define it) by helping Republican candidates win elections. Putin is helping them keep their guns and he’s helping them outlaw abortion and gays, and he’s helping Trump stay in power. Thus many Republicans will say openly that Putin’s a great guy and others will think it privately.

Most of them are not going to change on this point. Supporting Trump and defending Trump’s collaboration with Putin is “patriotic” and “Christian.” It is the immigrants, the blacks, the gays, and the liberal women who support Planned Parenthood who are the REAL enemies of white America and of the Bible. Not some guy thousands of miles away in Moscow.

The Trump base has upended the traditional meaning of patriotism so that the Democrats and progressives, not Putin, are the true enemies of America.

Expect no help from the Republicans in taking steps to stop Russian interference in the November elections. Trump’s base will not allow it; indeed his base will regard doing so as the very OPPOSITE of protecting America.

Dan Rather said after Trump’s election that some day there will be better news. He didn’t say “soon,” he said “some day,” like we had entered an extended period of travail. But there is a window of opportunity to lessen that period. All Americans alarmed about the future of our country under Trump and his far right allies need to turn out this November (and make sure their friends and family turn out and get the ID they need not to be turned away at the polls) to help take back Congress. Likewise we should all donate to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to groups such as the NAACP, Planned Parenthood and the labor movement that are rallying the public in support of the issues and values traditionally defended by the Democrats. And if you know people who are unable to get to the polls, either because of illness or because their boss won’t let them take time off to vote, make sure they send in a ballot by mail.

If we take advantage of this brief window of opportunity, we will have a fighting chance to take back at least the House. But this will require a turnout like never before, because the Russians and the Mercer family’s newest tech crew will be cherry picking districts for ballot deletion and the Christian Right will be mobilizing on a huge scale to kill Roe v. Wade.

If we do win back the House and make big gains on the state level, the other side will still have the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the millions of assault rifle owners and the money of billionaires such as the Kochs, Mercers and Murdochs. But we’ll be able to start limiting Trump’s damage, in some policy areas, thanks to the Democrats gaining this toehold of power.

And toeholds, if they are held tenaciously (as in a rather obvious example from 1944), have a tendency to eventually burst the doors wide open.

Will the Russians help the GOP again this year? What can we do about it?

The Democratic lead in the race to control the House has lessened in recent months, and it is unclear if the Dems can mobilize core voters on a level that will compensate for the advantage the GOP has gained from recent gerrymandering and racially targeted voter suppression laws. I have a suspicion that the Christian Right, thanks to Trump’s Supreme Court picks, is going to mobilize its base this November in the most spectacular manner ever seen in midterms–the 20 percent asserting its Dominion over the 80 percent while the 1 percent laughs all the way to the bank.

As to the rest of the Trump base: even their idol’s appalling performance in Helsinki, operating like Putin’s lapdog, is unlikely to have a sobering effect. It is obvious from the performance of the crowds at recent Trump rallies that they will for the most part be unmoved by appeals to the national interest or to patriotism and the importance of the Western Alliance in the wake of Helsinki. For they have replaced national interest in their minds with the white nativist interest, patriotism with white nationalism, and the Western Alliance (insofar as they have any knowledge of the outside world) with the insurgent Putin-financed international movement known as “populism.” And most other Republicans stand and will continue to stand with Trump on the basis of an ersatz conservative ideology, desire for higher profits resulting from deregulation, or a cowardly conformism.

The race will probably be close. All Democrats should therefore be concerned that Russian government hackers will find a a way to influence the outcome in swing districts by just enough to maintain Republican House control and even help the GOP increase its majority in the Senate. Already the Russian GRU intelligence agency has attempted to hack the computers of  Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), who is one of the chief targets of Trump and the Republicans in their fight to maintain control of the Senate.

Our intelligence community keeps warning that Russian cyber warfare in this country continues on a massive scale, but no one is doing much about it. The majority of states are expressing little concern over the possibility of new electoral attacks. And in many states there are no paper ballots, so no easy way to challenge suspicious results.

The Russians may do the hacking directly or provide cover for the Mercer family to once again use its own mercenaries with a little outside help. The hacking may eventually be discovered (or may not, as in the case of the suspected ballot machine tampering in the 2000 Presidential election) but before that the Republican candidates who benefited will be safely occupying their seats–and no one will be able to unseat them (or indict those in the United States who were involved) since the Republicans, flush from victory and continuing to control all three branches of our government, will support Trump in firing Mueller and dismantling the Russia investigation, and in dismissing questions about the November results as “fake news” or a deep-state “witch hunt.”

The GOP leaders may already anticipate that Putin will bail them out, but they don’t frame it as unpatriotic or treasonous to accept Russian support, because they think the Democrats are FAR WORSE than Putin. Same with the Christian Right, which has been allying with Russian Orthodox rightists (backed by Putin-linked oligarchs) for years.; it is more concerned with taking away a woman’s right to control her own body and the right of LGBTQ people to marry–issues more important to them than any abstract and relatively trivial (as they see it) national security or integrity of the ballot issues. For both the Republican legislators and the Christian Right fanatics, the enemy of our enemy is our friend and the Constitution is to be interpreted as whatever keeps the Trumpublicans in power.

The federal government under Trump is not going to ride to the rescue on ballot security this November. Nor will Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department. Nor will the intelligence community. And certainly not Kirstjen Nielsen’s Department of Homeland Security.

The hour is late, but perhaps not too late for the following measures:

1. The Democratic National Committee and/or civil rights groups should file suits in every state without paper ballots, demanding immediate steps to protect the integrity of the computerized elections in those states; and where a state board of elections is not moving in an aggressive manner on this danger, the plaintiffs should ask the court to appoint an outside trustee to manage the election process.

2. The DNC should encourage computer scientists and highly skilled programmers, specially those with expertise in security issues, to join in a volunteer Save the Vote Corps to help any state board of elections in protecting its computer system. (Something similar is already being done to help protect the computers of Democratic congressional candidates.) Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other tech giants should be asked to provide experts for this volunteer corps.

At the least, these measures would help us to accumulate more knowledge of the background of any suspicious results, and thus make it easier to challenge such results in the courts, in the media, and in the streets.

Jewish Labor Committee Urges Friedman Rejection

Yesterday the Jewish Labor Committee urged the Senate to reject the nomination of David M. Friedman as the next Ambassador to Israel. In a statement, the JLC noted its opposition to new or expanded settlements in the West Bank territories and its support for a “…reasonably negotiated, fair and secure two-state solution for Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.” Declaring that it was essential for a United States Ambassador to be supportive of the two-state solution, the Committee said,”…Because Friedman is an active supporter of the West Bank settlement movement and because he does not believe in a two-state solution… he is not an
appropriate nominee for this crucial post.”

The JLC expressed its concern that the incoming Trump administration wishes to express its endorsement of Friedman’s views by his nomination. Such an endorsement, it said “…Will communicate to Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab world and the entire international community that the United States is no longer interested in using its good offices to promote a peaceful
resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The Committee said that not only were Friedman’s views contrary to decades-old bi-partisan American policies but contrary to Israel’s long-term interests: ” Rejecting the two-state solution would doom Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Ameinu, the Labor Zionist organization, has similarly condemned Friedman’s nomination and has started a petition campaign to urge the Senate to reject it. The petition can be found at the group’s website,