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We poured weapons into Syria– but only to good guys, the ‘NYT’ explains

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If you look for them, you can find good articles in The New York Times.  This was a good article about Syria that came out in the NYT two years ago.  “Aleppo After the Fall,” by Robert F. Worth. Here is an excerpt:

It is impossible to live in government-controlled Syria without noticing that there are almost no young men on the street. They are in the army, or they are dead. Veterans must carry their military papers with them or risk on-the-spot re-enlistment. At one checkpoint, government soldiers tried to grab the young Spanish photographer I was working with, who is easily mistaken for a Syrian; they wanted to recruit him. In Latakia, a beach town in the regime’s northwestern heartland, I met a 53-year-old businessman named Munzer Nasser, who commands a militia composed almost entirely of older men; there are no young men left in his village. One of its members, he told me, is a 65-year-old whose three sons have all been killed in the war. Behind the Assad regime’s atrocities lies a fear of demographic exhaustion. Its rebel opponents have no such worries: They can draw on a vast well of Islamist sympathizers across the Arab world.

These facts translate into a genuine gratitude — in regime-controlled areas — toward Russia, whose military intervention in late 2015 may have forestalled a total collapse. Many Syrians say they feel reassured by the sight of Russian soldiers, because they (unlike the army and its allied militias) are not likely to loot or steal. Some of my contacts in regime-controlled areas are even learning Russian. In Latakia, some people told me that their city might have been destroyed if not for the Russians. The city has long been one of Syria’s safe zones, well defended by the army and its militias; there are tent cities full of people who have fled other parts of the country, including thousands from Aleppo. But in the summer of 2015, the rebels were closing in on the Latakia city limits, and mortars were falling downtown. If the rebels had captured the area — where Alawites are the majority — a result would almost certainly have been sectarian mass murder. Many people in the region would have blamed the United States, which armed some of the rebels operating in the area. In this sense, the Russian intervention was a lucky thing for the Obama administration too. Andrew Exum, who worked in the Pentagon at the time, told me that the military drew up contingency plans for a rapid collapse of the regime. The planning sessions were talked about as “catastrophic success.”

Worth’s piece should be read in full. He is critical of all sides, but as you can see in the excerpt above, he is honest about some of the people the United States armed.  They would have committed genocide if they had won and the U.S. had a backup plan (presumably invasion) if the Assad government had collapsed.

But now the NYT is trying to cover up the fact that the US supported people who fought side-by-side with genocidal killers and might have been genocidal killers themselves. This ran last week, “Kurds’ Sense of Betrayal Compounded by Empowerment of Unsavory Rivals.” Excerpt:

Now, a week after President Trump’s decision to pull American support from them, the sense of betrayal among the Kurds, trusted allies now being forced to flee under assault from Turkey, is matched only by their outrage at who will move in: Turkish soldiers supported by Syrian fighters the United States had long rejected as extremists, criminals and thugs….


Early in the war, when the United States still hoped that Mr. al-Assad would fall, the military and the C.I.A. sought to train and equip moderate, trustworthy rebels to fight the government and the Islamic State.

A few of those now fighting in the northeast took part in those failed programs, but most were rejected as too extreme or too criminal. Some have expressed extremist sensibilities or allied with jihadist groups. The majority, though, have no clear ideology and turned to Turkey for a paycheck of about $100 a month.

Some have documented records of looting property, displacing civilians and committing other abuses during earlier Turkish-backed incursions into Syria. Fighters for many of the groups routinely chant racist slurs against the Kurds, Syria’s largest ethnic minority, calling them atheists or pigs.

Within days of Mr. Trump’s assent to the Turkish-backed latest advance, human rights groups accused the militias of indiscriminate attacks on residential areas and killing civilians, including a prominent Kurdish politician.

“They are basically gangsters, but they are also racist toward Kurds and other minorities,” said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “No human should be subjected to their rule.”


Now here is columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has his own morality play to narrate, “Trump Takes Incoherence and Inhumanity and Calls It Foreign Policy.” It was published on Sunday. Short excerpts:

Trump has emphasized his desire to bring American troops home, and that’s a perfectly reasonable aspiration if undertaken in a prudent way. But even as Trump abandoned the Kurds and unleashed this disaster, he was actually increasing the number of American soldiers in the Middle East — sending some 3,000 additional troops to Saudi Arabia.

So we’re sending more troops to Saudi Arabia to help a misogynist dictatorship that kills a journalist for an American newspaper, even as we betray the Kurds who have been trying to build a democratic enclave that empowers women; we’re sending troops to Saudi Arabia to confront Iran, even as we give Iran a helping hand in Syria.

More from Kristof:

I began this column with a note of praise for Obama for confronting the Yazidi genocide and saving many lives. It’s also true that Syria was Obama’s greatest foreign policy failure, and I repeatedly criticized his passivity as hundreds of thousands were killed.

Yet at least Obama was always wrestling deeply with the issues, seeking out expert opinions and trying to make the most informed decisions possible. While I questioned his judgment on Syria, I never doubted his seriousness, compassion or integrity.

So according to Kristof, Obama merely stood by and had nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands killed. The aid given the rebels is totally erased from the record.  So is the war in Yemen.  For Kristof, the worst thing Obama did was not intervene in Syria. Of course he did intervene: He supplied weapons to the Free Syrian Army. And under Obama the US actively aided the Saudis in its genocidal bombing campaign in Yemen.  So Kristof is whitewashing this too.

Now Kristof is only upset that we are confronting Iran in Saudi Arabia while indirectly helping them in Syria by withdrawing and forcing the Kurds to join up with Assad.

And of course there is nothing about the bombing in Gaza which the US supported.  This is completely beneath Kristof’s notice.

Hat tip to Moon of Alabama and the Grayzone project, who both have more information on this. I realize that the left has been split on Syria and Assad. I think Assad and Russia have been guilty of massive war crimes, though Russia’s bombing has probably been less severe than ours.  (See the Airwars site for information on the various bombing campaigns by the US and Russia.)

The mere mention of certain names or of criticism of this side or that in the Syrian War will bring forth heated reactions. But for those of us who are Americans the first concern should be our role and it is a simple fact that once again, the U.S. poured weapons into a conflict, with many of those we armed guilty of committing atrocities, atrocities that would have become genocide if they had won. The New York Times essentially admitted that in the piece by Robert Worth two years ago.  What does one say about a term like “catastrophic success”?

But now the NYT is actively whitewashing our role with a childish piece of propaganda telling its readers we  armed only honest trustworthy Boy Scouts, not these current horrible  racist murdering dregs. The US would never arm anyone who didn’t live up to the highest moral standards. Look at the Saudis.  Look at the Israelis.

Add to that countless other regimes and groups that we have armed. And look at what we have done ourselves in Raqqa and Mosul.  For Kristof, nothing we did arming the Free Syrian Army even registered. He was honest about Yemen a year ago, but he has forgotten about that as well, almost certainly because it started under Obama and can’t be blamed solely on Trump.  He mentions the murder of Khashoggi, probably because he worked for an American newspaper (something Kristof mentions explicitly) and because this occurred under Trump.

Trump is a horrible man in many different ways and deserves most of the criticism he gets, but much of the criticism he receives from liberals is opportunistic and hypocritical. Just as Trump could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and gun down a pedestrian with his base cheering him on, Obama actually did participate in arming the allies of Al Qaeda and in assisting in the bombing and starving of civilians in Yemen and Gaza without most liberals even noticing.

Donald Johnson

Donald Johnson is a regular commenter on this site, as "Donald."

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28 Responses

  1. gamal on October 22, 2019, 12:29 pm

    “And look at what we have done ourselves in Raqqa and Mosul”

    The Sacking of Fallujah by Caputi, Hil and Mulhearn

    “The Sacking of Fallujah offers a people’s history of the three sieges and related military assaults, launched against the Iraqi city of Fallujah by the US military and its allies. This timely and compelling combination of eye-witness testimony, historical documentation, and expert analysis is the first complete account of the sieges of Fallujah, from the two US-led operations in 2004 to the recent Iraqi-led operation to wrest control of the city from the Islamic State in 2016.

    Distinguishing itself from other books on Fallujah, written mainly by current and former American soldiers, this book draws on a wide range of sources and includes independent and Iraqi voices. It is also the first book to directly analyze the role of US military information warfare in the operations. Additionally, this book combines military history with social history, drawing attention to the human consequences of these operations as instances of sociocide, urbicide, and ecocide.

    Thus, this book sets out to give a comprehensive analysis of these operations, placing military action in its political, social, and humanitarian context.”

    from a review linked at site
    “Fallujah was the “city of mosques,” made up of some 300,000 to 435,000 people. It had a tradition of resisting foreign — including British — invasions. It suffered, as did all of Iraq, from the brutal sanctions imposed by the United States in the years leading up to the 2003 attack. During that attack, Fallujah saw crowded markets bombed. Upon the collapse of the Iraqi government in Baghdad, Fallujah established its own government, avoiding the looting and chaos seen elsewhere. In April, 2003, the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division moved into Fallujah and met no resistance.

    Immediately the occupation began to produce the sort of problems seen by every occupation everywhere ever. People complained of Humvees speeding on the streets, of being humiliated at checkpoints, of women being treated inappropriately, of soldier urinating in the streets, and of soldiers standing on rooftops with binoculars in violation of residents’ privacy. Within days, the people of Fallujah wanted to be liberated from their “liberators.” So, the people tried nonviolent demonstrations. And the U.S. military fired on the protesters. But eventually, the occupiers agreed to be stationed outside the city, limit their patrols, and allow Fallujah a degree of self-governance beyond what the rest of Iraq was permitted. The result was a success: Fallujah was kept safer than the rest of Iraq by keeping the occupiers out of it.

    That example, of course, needed to be crushed. The United States was claiming a moral obligation to liberate the hell out of Iraq to “maintain security” and “assist in transition to democracy.” Viceroy Paul Bremer decided to “clean out Fallujah.” In came the “coalition” troops, with their usual inability (mocked quite effectively in the Netflix Brad Pitt movie War Machine) to distinguish the people they were bestowing liberty and justice upon from the people they were killing. U.S. officials described the people they wanted to kill as “cancer,” and went about killing them with raids and firefights that killed a great many of the non-cancer people. How many people the United States was actually giving cancer to was unknown at the time.

    In March, 2004, four Blackwater mercenaries were killed in Fallujah, their bodies burned and hung from a bridge. The U.S. media portrayed the four men as innocent civilians who somehow happened to find themselves in the middle of a war and the accidental targets of irrational, unmotivated violence. The people of Fallujah were “thugs” and “savages” and “barbarians.” Because U.S. culture has never regretted Dresden or Hiroshima, there were open cries for following those precedents in Fallujah. A former advisor to Ronald Reagan, Jack Wheeler reached for an ancient Roman model in demanding that Fallujah be completely reduced to lifeless rubble: “Fallujah delenda est!”

    • Donald on October 22, 2019, 8:26 pm

      Thanks for the link. I had not heard of that book— it isn’t the sort of book the mainstream press would wish to review or acknowledge.

      I’ll buy it soon.

  2. brent on October 22, 2019, 1:49 pm

    It has been stunning to see the dishonest journalism, the point of view reporting by MSM, PBS, and NPR. None of them informed Americans of what was actually happening in Ukraine, Libya, or Syria. It is near impossible such ommissions of facts and understanding to unfold without a corrupted primary media. Our foreign policy decisions are likely to remain seriously corrupt if the media coup is successful and the public doesn’t demand professionalism.

    Trump has reversed the policy objective of dismantling Syria that Obama was pushed into. Seems enough people, even many who don’t pay much attention, realize there is a battle underway for militarism vs diplomacy. One doesn’t have to like Trump’s foolish mouth to realize what will be lost if the coup succeeds.

    No doubt Trump has an arrangement to work with Saudi Arabia, probably designed to keep gasoline cheap. The question is whether he can withstand the pressures and eventually bring peace to the ME as he has openly declared as a goal. Like Obama, he seeks to work with Russia toward that end. The war state is so alarmed it’s risking exposing its media influence to stop him, something it didn’t have to do to stop Obama.

    When I listen to the hype by NPR during fundraising, I pray for the day they will live up to their self image.

    • Mooser on October 22, 2019, 5:00 pm

      “One doesn’t have to like Trump’s foolish mouth to realize what will be lost if the coup succeeds.” “brent”

      Gee, “brent” do you think “coup” is strong enough? Why not compare the impeachment inquiry with an accused man being dragged from jail by a crowd and hung?

      OH, BTW, speaking of Trump’s “goal”, did you hear Amb. Bill Taylor’s testimony today?

      • Keith on October 23, 2019, 10:48 am

        MOOSER- “OH, BTW, speaking of Trump’s “goal”, did you hear Amb. Bill Taylor’s testimony today?”

        Threatening to withhold “aid?” Shocking! Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in January of 2018, Joe Biden BRAGGED about it.

        ” And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.

        So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him.


        I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.” (VP Joe Biden)

      • Mooser on October 23, 2019, 12:56 pm

        “Joe Biden BRAGGED about it”

        Yes he did, right out in the open, instead of a ‘secret server’. What chutzpah.
        Might there have been some difference between what Biden was tasked with and what Trump and his clown posse did? Maybe?

      • Mooser on October 23, 2019, 1:50 pm

        Don’t worry “Keith”, Rep Matt Gaetz is going to get to the bottom of this impeachment fraud.
        And he’s got all the same obstruction… whoops, I meant ‘objections’ you do. No, maybe not, Gaetz says the impeachment is a “Soviet style process”.

      • Keith on October 23, 2019, 7:05 pm

        MOOSER- “Yes he did, right out in the open, instead of a ‘secret server’. What chutzpah.”

        Yes, your kind of guy. I swear, you would defend the devil if he was a Hillary Democrat.

        “Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden received $900,000 for lobbying activities from Burisma Group, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada member Andriy Derkach said citing investigation materials.
        “According to the documents, Burisma paid no less than $16.5 million to [former Polish President, who became an independent director at Burisma Holdings in 2014] Aleksander Kwasniewski, [chairman of the Burisma board of independent directors] Alan Apter, [Burisma independent director] Devon Archer and Hunter Biden [who joined the Burisma board of directors in 2014],” Derkach added.”
        (Tyler Durden)

        “The Delaware credit card company MBNA was Joe Biden’s largest campaign contributor when he promoted and passed the 2005 bankruptcy ‘reform’ bill that made it virtually impossible to discharge credit card debt in bankruptcy. Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, was a paid lobbyist for MBNA at the time of the bill’s passage. While lawyers can parse explicit from implicit quid pro quo, 1) the company hired Hunter Biden, 2) its executives were Joe Biden’s largest campaign contributors, and 3) it got what it wanted in terms of legislative outcomes.

        And given the outcome that hiring Hunter Biden appears to have produced for MBNA, why wouldn’t Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings assume the same when it hired him? Here is fired Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin’s sworn affidavit that 1) Joe Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine unless 2) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko fired prosecutor Shokin who 3) was investigating Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma Holdings. (Details provided below).” (Rob Urie)

      • Sibiriak on October 23, 2019, 9:17 pm

        Mooser: Don’t worry “Keith”…

        I think your confusing Keith with Brent. Keith doesn’t support Trump at all.

      • Mooser on October 25, 2019, 12:16 am

        ” Keith doesn’t support Trump at all.”

        Oh, I didn’t think so. As I recall he said he planned to not-vote against Trump. And of course, nothing in the world could make him vote for Hillary Clinton, if she wins the nomination.

      • Keith on October 25, 2019, 3:12 pm

        MOOSER- “As I recall he said he planned to not-vote against Trump.”

        The nature of the ballot is that you cannot vote against a candidate, only vote for a candidate. Had I been able to vote against Hillary in 2016, I would have done so (sorry Jill). Confronted with the option of voting against the obnoxious grifter versus voting against the neoliberal warmonger, clearly the clear and present danger was the Princess of Darkness. But that was not an option, so I voted for Jill. You, on the other hand, voted for a vicious warmonger who helped destroy what little remained of the New Deal, along with the dramatic increase in the prison population, etc. Apparently you approve of privitization, financialization and never ending war. My candidate lost, so did yours. Perhaps you should quite blaming the Russians and Third Party candidates and take an honest look at Clinton’s horrible record in and out of office.

        “Everyone is foreign scum these days. Democrats spent three years trying to prove Donald Trump is a Russian pawn. Mitch McConnell is “Moscow Mitch.” Third party candidates are a Russian plot. The Bernie Sanders movement is not just a wasteland of racist and misogynist “Bros,” but — according to intelligence agencies and mainstream pundits alike — the beneficiary of an ambitious Russian plot to “stoke the divide” within the Democratic Party. The Joe Rogan independents attracted to the mild antiwar message of Tulsi Gabbard are likewise traitors and dupes for the Kremlin.
        This witch-hunting insanity isn’t just dangerous, it’s a massive breach from reality. Trump’s campaign was a clown show. He had almost no institutional backing. His “ground game” was nonexistent: his “campaign” was a TV program based almost wholly around unscripted media appearances. Trump raised just over half the $1.2 billion Hillary pulled in (making him the first presidential candidate dating back to 1976 to win with a funds deficit). He didn’t prepare a victory speech, for the perfectly logical reason that he never expected to win.
        Rather than confront the devastating absurdity of defeat before an ad-libbing game show host who was seemingly trying to lose – a black comedy that is 100% in America’s rich stupidity tradition – Democrats have gone all-in on this theory of foreign infiltration. House speaker Nancy Pelosi even said as much in a White House meeting, pointing at Trump and proclaiming: “All roads lead to Putin.”

        All? Seriously? Is this ever going to end?” (Matt Taibbi)

      • Mooser on October 25, 2019, 3:22 pm

        “The nature of the ballot is that you cannot vote against a candidate”

        You don’t say?

      • Mooser on October 25, 2019, 3:27 pm

        “Keith”, you just keep on excusing Trump. After all, everything says your faith in Trump and his associates will be vindicated.

      • Keith on October 25, 2019, 5:58 pm

        MOOSER- “Keith”, you just keep on excusing Trump.”

        That is a lie, and you know it. You are the one who supports Hillary and the New Democrats in spite of their godawful record.

      • Mooser on October 25, 2019, 8:07 pm

        ” You are the one who supports Hillary and the New Democrats in spite of their godawful record.”

        Hey, I thought we had an agreement about this? You weren’t supposed to tell anybody I’m voting for Hillary Clinton in 2020! If she’s not in jail, of course.
        BTW, how is she doing in the primaries?

        “That is a lie, and you know it”

        Yeah, yeah, you are just concerned Trump gets “due process”.
        “Keith”, you are getting downright frothy.

      • Keith on October 26, 2019, 3:00 pm

        MOOSER- “Might there have been some difference between what Biden was tasked with and what Trump and his clown posse did? Maybe?”

        Several differences. Burisma Joe issued an ultimatum: Fire the prosecutor or no $1 billion IMF loan. Trump, et al, intimated that the $400 million MILITARY AID would not be forthcoming unless Ukraine investigated Burisma and the Ukrainian efforts to assist the Clinton campaign. Better Trump should be impeached for PROVIDING military aid to these neo-Nazis. That is what this “aid” is going for. Military aid for the neo-Nazi assault (think Azov Battalion) on the people of the Donbass. If Trump is convicted after his impeachment, it will be because the empire didn’t attack Iran, not because of a phone call pretext. The reality is that “high crimes and misdemeanors” is SOP for the imperial Presidency. You simply can’t run an empire without this. As far as the Deep State is concerned, Trump’s fatal flaw is that he is insufficiently militaristic. So that you understand where this military “aid” goes, I quote part of an email I received from Regis Tremblay in the Donbass making a documentary. The empire wants continuing war and conflict in the Ukraine as part of its attempt to crush Russia for geostrategic reasons.

        “The people of the Donbas, just like the people of Crimea, wanted no part of the violent, fascist government in Kiev, so subsequently Donetsk and Lugansk declared their independence and formed independent republics: The People’s Republic of Donetsk, and The People’s Republic of Lugansk.

        Considered “separatist, rebels, and even terrorists,” by the government in Kiev, the Ukrainian Army and National Guard have been bombing and shelling Donetsk and Lugansk repeatedly since 2014 killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians. This is a war that is terrorizing civilians by bombing and shelling homes, hospitals, office and apartment buildings, and gas stations with the same “shock and awe” tactic first implemented by General Curtis LeMay in Germany and Japan who infamously said, “if you kill enough of them (civilians), they quit fighting.” (Regis Tremblay, email dated 10/26/2019)

    • RoHa on October 22, 2019, 10:04 pm

      “there is a battle underway for militarism vs diplomacy. ”

      But Americans don’t know anything about diplomacy. Perhaps they could ask that nice Mr Lavrov for some help.

    • Misterioso on October 23, 2019, 10:13 am

      “The question is whether he can withstand the pressures and eventually bring peace to the ME as he has openly declared as a goal. ”

      Surely, you jest. Setting aside the hideous mess America has helped create in the rest of the region, in order to “bring peace to the ME,” Trump must apply maximum pressure against “Israel” in order to force it to comply with international law and withdraw from Palestinian and other Arab lands it has illegally seized by force of arms and still occupies, e.g., East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Syria’s Golan Heights, Lebanon’s Shebba farms, and end its imprisonment of Palestinians in the illegally occupied Gaza Strip.

      Regrettably, but unsurprisingly and true to character, Trump is a classic Zionist puppet who takes his orders from and is financed by Sheldon Adelson and other Zionist zealots. BTW, Adelson gave Trump $100 million to help finance his victory in the last presidential election.

      • brent on October 23, 2019, 12:46 pm

        “Misterioso”, was not expecting that rundown in reply to my points. Yes, a president could stand politics on their head and frontally force Israel to do as you say.

        Also, surprised you’d see Trump as a classic anything, including a puppet. Analyzing Trump is a challenge, even for psychologists. One thing about con-men is they have to produce at the end or they lose. My reading is he wants to prove all his critics wrong and come out being the “greatest” (deal of the century). I see him as challenging the endless war program, a zionist plan. Stating if Netanyahu balked, he’d cut the money, “All of it”, could not have pleased Adelson. Nor saying he could live with one state if both sides agree. That seemed to me to be unwelcome putting the concept on the big table. (which slipped by those thinking one state)

        I don’t think any president will deliver “justice”. Those who seek it are going to have to figure out how to take it… politically, through the marketing of ideas which politicians can embrace.

        Am interested in the case for him being a puppet?

      • Mooser on October 23, 2019, 1:08 pm

        “One thing about con-men is they have to produce at the end or they lose. My reading is he wants to prove all his critics wrong and come out being the “greatest” (deal of the century)” “brent”

        Ooooh! I can see that you have read and closely studied “The Art of the Deal” by Donald Trump.

        But hey, maybe you’re right! I mean, everybody said nobody could lose money owning a casino, too, and Trump proved them all wrong.

  3. James Canning on October 23, 2019, 5:01 pm

    I think Obama blundered on Syria by not doing all he could to prevent the eruption of the vicious civil war.

  4. echinococcus on October 23, 2019, 6:51 pm

    “Obama blundered on Syria by not doing all he could to prevent the eruption of the vicious civil war”

    Just like Lizzie Borden *blundered by hitting her dad with the logsplitter, smack in the middle of the head.

  5. edwardm on October 24, 2019, 4:57 pm

    21 of the 28 factions of the so called “Free Syrian Army” were armed and trained by the USA. Ah but I thought we “don’t negotiate” with terrorists. I guess not – instead we arm them and then wring our hands when it all goes bad.

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