Christmas Eve Alone with Friends & Foes

(Photo Credit Mario Tama | Getty Images)

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, the French army was barracked in Providence, Rhode Island. On Christmas Eve 1780, the people of Providence celebrated with the Catholic French-speaking soldiers bunking at University Hall at Brown University, singing carols and lighting candles.

http://www.quahog.org/factsfolklore/index.php?id=159

One hundred and four years ago, enemy soldiers stared across the cold battlefield of northern France and, out of respect for each other, a Christmas truce sporadically broke out along the Western Front… French, German, and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps, while several meetings ended in carol-singing. Men played games of football with one another…

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/england/10455611/England-v-Germany-when-rivals-staged-beautiful-game-on-the-Somme.html

In World War II, specifically, on December 24, 1941, at precisely 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, as dusk gathered and the temperature dropped, the red-coated Marine Band on the White House lawn struck up “Joy to the World,” accompanying choirs from area churches. Thousands had gathered in the fading light. After some further carols, the band began “Hail to the Chief.” As the sunset gun at nearby Fort Myer boomed, the president and Mrs. Roosevelt appeared on the South Portico with a group of guests, the Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

http://www.historynet.com/christmas-in-wartime.htm

These days, instead of honoring allies like playing “Joy to the World” to the Prime Minister of Britain, or singing carols to French soldiers away from home to help America, no, instead of celebrating friends or even seeking a temporary white-flag with enemies like the 1914 Christmas Truce, as I’m recording this right now at approximately 6pm Eastern, the President of the United States has spent Christmas Eve 2018 sending out more than 10 tweets already today attacking Democrats, Republican Senator Bob Corker, Trump’s own former anti-terrorism envoy Brett McGurk… and complaining about US allies overseas… that’s right, rather than support foreign allies or seek a detente to the domestic tensions at home, President Trump shows he’s more Grinch than Gingrich, forcing a government shutdown for the holidays after the House and Senate had already passed a bi-partisan bill to avoid this, the third shutdown of the year. Oh, you know, the shutdown that, on December 11, 2018, Trump proudly declared I’ll tell you what: I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. I will take the mantle… I will be the one to shut it down — I’m not going to blame you for it.”

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/24/politics/trump-christmas-chaos/index.html

Weird how now Trump and his few allies left, like Mark Meadows are trying to blame the Democrats in the Senate for blocking the appropriations bill. Apparently, the approximately 3 million Federal civil servants aren’t as important to the Republicans as Neil Gorsuch was, otherwise the filibuster rule would be removed entirely, right?

So here we are. The second year of the Trump Administration. The filibuster rule that was in place for 100 years has been removed by Republican Senators to seat a conservative justice. The US has broken its treaty responsibility under the Paris Agreement. The US has threatened its own allies in NATO. The US was withdrawn from the Iran Framework. The US has announced its withdrawal from NAFTA and renegotiated the agreement. The US has withdrawn from a nuclear weapons deal with Russia negotiated by Ronald Reagan. And, this fall, the US has done nothing as a Saudi resident-alien living in the United States is murdered on diplomatic grounds by the goons of Mohammed bin Salaman. Most recently, Trump talks with Turkish dictator Erdogan and then announces the withdrawal of US forces from Syria. Cui bono? Who benefits? Dictator Erdogan, Dictator Al-Assad, Dictator Putin, and -ironically- even the Iranian backed terrorist group Hezbollah… and who suffers? The stateless Kurds. The same Kurds that were betrayed by the US in ‘91, the same Kurds not given enough support in IS’ Northern Iraq offensive in 6/2014 & now Trump’s betrayal in 12/2018…

Why does Trump coordinate more with Dictator Orban, Dictator Duarte, Dictator Putin, Dictator MBS, and Dictator Erdogan than Angela Merkel, Theresa May,  Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, or Shinzō Abe?

Why does Trump exude admiration for Dictator Xi when he removes term limits, builts re-education camps for the Uighers? Is it because Xi has recognized more than 125 trademarks for Trump and his families businesses in just these last two years?

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-40283830

So this Christmas Eve? December 24, 2018, when President Trump just tweeted out “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House”?

https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/24/politics/trump-christmas-chaos/index.html

I truly believe this is a man who has built his own prison. Attacking the Bush Family, attacking John McCain, attacking the Federal Judiciary, attacking Jeff Sessions, the DOJ and the FBI, pretending George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, and Paul Manafort are nobodies, attacking Michael Cohen, building an administration with the likes of Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, Tom Price, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, Omarosa Newman, Gary Cohn, Ronny Jackson, Ryan Zilke,

Forcing out HR MacMaster, Rex Tillerson, David Shulkin, and firing Jim Mathis for announcing his retirement….

And let’s not forget that Trump now has had three chiefs of staff in less than 2 years…

And this is the guy who complains, on Christmas Eve, that he’s all alone….

 

 

 

Cui Bono?

The classical Roman intellectual, Cicero, credited Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla with establishing the measurement of Cui bono? That is, ‘who benefits.’

U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn

Ambushed? Weird, the judge in the case asked that question and Flynn’s own lawyers said no on December 18, 2018 (https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-wishes-flynn-good-luck-ahead-sentencing/story?id=59881667). Who benefits by continuing the argument and perpetuating the belief that Flynn was ambushed?

American politics has become a real-world charade, inspired by Richard Condon’s 1959  Manchurian Candidate.

Syria

Donald J. Trump ‏| @realDonaldTrump  | December 19, 2018

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Only, we haven’t. James Stavridis: “We put out the active flames, but you still see smoldering little piles all around. You don’t just turn around and walk away from it because you know it’ll reflash. It’ll start up again. It’s a big mistake to walk away” (https://www.npr.org/2018/12/20/678577663/trump-says-isis-is-defeated-so-u-s-troops-will-leave-syria). Who benefits by continuing the argument and perpetuating the belief that ISIS had not been defeated?

Lindsey Graham, who has been described as one of Trump’s closest supporters in the US Senate said, “ I have not found one person, national security-wise, who believes it’s a good idea to remove the 2,200 troops, which was a small footprint, that was a bulwark against Iran expansion and insurance policy against the rise of ISIS. There was a widespread belief that ISIS has not been defeated. They’ve been hurt.”

Mattis, in fact, has resigned over this decision (https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/20/politics/donald-trump-jim-mattis-resignation/index.html)

Whatismore, Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin has gone on the record as saying “The fact that the US has decided to withdraw its troops is right” (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/12/syria-putin-welcomes-trump-decision-pull-troops-181220113100797.html)

The Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad welcomed the decision by Donald Trump

US ally France, with troops in northern Syria, was blindsided by the decision, disagrees that ISIS is defeated, and promises to stay (https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/france-says-troops-to-remain-in-syria-isis-not-defeated-1.6765709)

The decision, however, was praised by Turkey https://www.rferl.org/a/trump-syria-troop-pullout-islamic-state-russia-turkey-iran/29666375.html

In fact, the announcement was criticized by not only France but also Britain and Germany, who have all released statements saying that much remains to be done in Syria.

Doesn’t this sound as familiar as it sounds strange? France, Germany and the UK wrong, Turkey, Russia, and Syria right?

Republicans Lindsey Graham and the current US Secretary of Defense say wrong, but Trump says right?

Cui bono?

Afghanistan

And, the latest news? Today, Trump has announced troop withdrawals from Afghanistan as well.

The Turkish Coup of July 15, 2016

Image result for erdogan
PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of Netherlands (2012)

A few thoughts about the July 15, 2016, attempted coup d’état in the Republic of Turkey. It matters. It matters for the E.U. and the migrant refugee crisis. It matters for the Syrian Civil War. It matters for N.A.T.O. and the treaty obligations that the United States and its allies have with Turkey. It matters in the on-going war against the Islamic State (ISIL, or ISIS). It matters for the future of the West’s relationship with the Muslim world. It matters in terms of free speech and freedom of the press. And it matters in terms of legitimacy and the possible establishment of further international legal precedent. It matters in terms of how the coup may have impacted the genocide of Yazidis and Christians in the region as well as how the history of the Armenian Genocide is taught in Turkey. Finally, the coup may also affect the ongoing conflict between the Turks and Kurds. It matters.

Turkey, straddling two continents on each side of the Bosporus, also straddles the Western world and the Muslim world. The secular Turkish republic has been an example that Islam and the West can co-exist and, after Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s election in 2002, Turkey has also held the promise that democracy and Islam can co-exist as well. Note the past tense in those two previous statements. Previous Turkish governments have been comprised of secular Muslim leadership and intervening military juntas. In contrast, Erdogan’s party espouses Islamic philosophies and his tenure as Prime Minister and later President of Turkey has been scrutinized for more than a decade. That initial promise of an Islamic democracy has been eroded over the years, but perhaps it is not his Islamic inclinations, but his autocratic nature that is to blame.

If the military coup of July 15, 2016, had closed one chapter of Turkish history and begun another, then the world no longer has to wonder if Erdogan would surrender power peacefully. [Verily, democracies are not measured by elections, but by the peaceful transfer of power between political rivals.] So, would the coup have saved Turkish democracy and/or made Erdogan into a tragic hero? We will never know. Erdogan was democratically elected. Isn’t that what the West has supposedly advocated? Democracy? Didn’t US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair promise their actions in the region would promote democracy in the region? But elections have consequences. It is hard to proclaim the sanctity of democratic elections if the results of those elections are not respected by those same voices, à la Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Egypt 2013, and possibly now Turkey 2016.

The coup, to the degree, that its believed to have been a genuine attempt to overthrow the government, may have made a heavy-handed autocrat into a somewhat sympathetic figure. So, are coup d’états to be accepted or not? After all, the American Experiment began as a coup in 1776. No matter what you learned in Civics class, there is no line in the Magna Carta nor Coronation Act of 1688 that legitimizes the overthrow of the government, regardless of how well Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s mesmerizing prose is a logical conceit, not an established legal president. After all, Americans have criticized the Burmese military for years for ignoring the 2010 elections results that had favored Aung San Suu Kyi. It is hard to credibly argue to have it both ways. Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk who knew first hand from the court of Henry VIII how fickle the whims of leaders could be, said famously to Thomas Cromwell, “a man cannot have his cake and eat his cake.”

Many have argued Erdogan is no longer qualified to serve as head of state. After all, the detractors insist, he lost his legitimacy when he began attacking journalists and academics, yet that self-justifying logic is a slippery slope. Politicians must be removed by the rule of law, to do otherwise undermines the very rule of law Erdogan’s enemies purports to defend. It is also quite selective to question the legitimacy of Erdogan when Duarte dines at the White House, journalists mysteriously die in Putin’s Russia, Trump calls the media enemies of the state, and Orbán wins another election.

The Turkish military has had a tradition of intervening to “protect the republic,” specifically in 1960, 1971, and 1980. Let us hope the military does so again. Do not let your dislike of Erdogan cloud your judgment. If it is acceptable for the Turkish military to remove democratically elected civilians from power, what other militaries, in what other countries may now think to do the same? The 2016 attempted coup d’état in the Republic of Turkey certainly matters. It matters to the war against Islamic terrorism and the civilian casualties of the Syrian civil war. Perhaps equally important is what the coup says about the future of democracy in the Muslim world. But what happens next is anyone’s guess.