Well, now I prefer the guy who didn’t know what Aleppo is.
In the second presidential debate, during which Hillary Clinton looked as if she could profit from her own no-fly zone against her menacingly hovering opponent, Donald Trump made a series of assertions about the five-year-old humanitarian catastrophe in Syria that no one with access to Google, much less classified intelligence, ever ought to make. That he managed to do this while both deferring to a theocratic—excuse me, Islamic terrorist—regime he claims to reprehend and also humiliating his own running-mate in the process was a masterstroke of Trumpist illogic and megalomania.
By way of reaffirming his faith in a better working relationship with the Kremlin (whose hacking of the Democratic National Committee he again doubted), Trump stated that “Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS.” He sees this as proof of absent American leadership, and is quite comfortable being on their side in a civilizational struggle, even though he hates the fact that Iran is richer and only able to war against the Sunni extremists thanks to Obama’s nuclear deal.
In point of fact, none of the parties Trump rattled off has demonstrated much of a keenness or willingness to fight ISIS in Syria, as a bevy of U.S. officials and independent monitors have repeatedly pointed out.
The Assad regime has actually traded in oil, natural gas, and weaponry with its alleged nemesis, as have Iranian-built militias, which have borne the brunt of the fighting for Damascus in recent months—fighting that has been directed against non-ISIS rebel groups, in the main.
Assad regime officials have even admitted that fighting ISIS is not a “first priority”; rather, it behooves the regime to see the terror army devour other rebel groups, which constitute the gravest security challenge to Assad’s strategic heartland, or in symbolically more important cities, such as Aleppo.
Russia’s defense ministry has serially falsified the timing and location of much of its footage of supposed airstrikes against the jihadis, as open-source resources have documented in painstaking detail.
The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has also chronicled Vladimir Putin’s intervention in the conflict since its inception in late September 2015. With the exception of areas under imminent threat by ISIS to Syrian regime military positions, or to strategically vital gas fields, the vast majority of Russian sorties have “deliberately targeted” Free Syrian Army factions, including and especially those backed by the United States or Turkey.
In June, Russian Su-34 jet fighters conducted a brazen “double tap” bombing raid against the New Syrian Army, an American and British-trained contingent of anti-ISIS counterterrorists, at al-Tanf near the Jordanian-Syrian border.
The consequence of this proxy annihilation strategy has often be a boon to the caliphate’s expansionism. In the first week of Moscow’s intervention, for instance, ISW found that Russian airstrikes “coincided with ISIS’s largest advance against rebels in northern Aleppo since August 2015” and that “Russia’s involvement in Syria is facilitating ISIS’s territorial gains, while also strengthening Assad…. ISIS is benefiting from Russia’s strikes on the Syrian opposition.”
True, Russia helped the regime retake the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS last March, drawing largely on fascistic mercenary ground forces with experience in the Balkans and now Ukraine, but Sky News has reported, drawing on leaked ISIS documents, that there was “direct evidence of collusion between the Syrian regime and Islamic State chiefs” whereby some of the jihadis’ arsenal was withdrawn well in advance of that battle.
Next, Trump claimed that Syria’s once most populous city, Aleppo, had “basically” fallen to the regime. Tell that to the 275,000 civilians and host of rebel forces trapped in a city reduced to rubble and ruin, thanks to a remorseless siege and combined aerial campaign, which continued as Trump was sniffling and circling his prey in St. Louis.
But perhaps most bizarre in Trump’s performance was how thoroughly he repudiated his vice-presidential pick, Gov. Mike Pence, who must now be as irate as his wife about his choice of professional associations. Here is what Pence said just days ago in his own debate with rival Tim Kaine:
“I truly do believe that what America ought to do right now is immediately establish safe zones so that families, and vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas, work with our Arab partners, real-time, right now, to make that happen, and secondly, I just have to tell you that the provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength. And if Russia chooses to be involved and continue, I should say, to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime, to prevent them from this humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Aleppo.”
Which sounds, and is, very much like Hillary Clinton’s own prescription for Syria, as she elaborated well this evening while Trump said this: “She talks in favor of the rebels. She doesn’t even know who they are. Every time we take rebels, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else, we’re arming people, and you know what happens? They end up being worse than the people.”
What “rebels” did we arm in Iraq? “They end up being worse than the people”… What people? What the fuck is he talking about?
Perhaps out of sheer spite for his selected number two’s echoing the opinion of a woman he has vowed to imprison if elected, Trump admitted that he hasn’t “spoken” to Pence and “disagrees” with this policy. Here, I think, is a historic confession from a major party candidate for the highest office in the world. The lonely man in the tower on Fifth Avenue knows more than the generals and will listen to the best people on so many issues (it’ll make your head spin), but he doesn’t even talk to his own running-mate. Tonight we saw a shortcoming of Donald Trump that may eclipse even his casual racism, xenophobia, misogyny and thuggishness. When it comes to what he believes will make America great again, he is a complete and utter moron.