Antiwar Pivot: No Peace in Afrin

Antiwar Pivot: No Peace in Afrin

From March to June 2017 I was the Team Turkey Commander, having replaced what, until that point, had been a Special Forces Company mission with a company headquarters, three Special Forces teams, and some addition support personal. Once the company moved to Syria, it became the job of three other Green Berets from my team, a translator, a cook, and myself to take on the mission. I would be reporting directly to the 5th Special Forces Group and CJSOTF-Syria Commander, skipping my boss and his boss.

We were partnered with several Free Syrian Army units, one of which was Liwa al-Hamza, or the Hamza Division. When I came across that name in the first line of an article by Lindsey Snell from The Gray Zone, I had to keep reading. The article was eerily depressing because I found myself feeling terrible for these mercenaries, simply because we had worked together, even though they were led by Syrian warlords. It’s a weird dilemma I often find myself in. As a fairly recent convert to the antiwar movement, having spent nearly a decade working for the Empire, I am often torn between past accomplishments and the realization that what I was doing was terrible, morally and strategically.

As I continued to read the article titled “No one cares if we die”, I realized that I should absolutely care if they die, just as I care when innocent women and children are being killed. These people, not unlike my former self, are being used like pawns to maintain those in power. This is my effort to shed a sliver of light on the situation and allow people to pivot towards the antiwar movement, without losing who they are in the process.

One of the worst things to read in the article was how, just 9 months after I left, Turkey captured and occupied Afrin. I already knew this, but having it reframed with my now antiwar perspective, it stung as if I was learning it for the first time. Especially because one of our partner forces, the Mu’tasim Brigade, had frequently pushed for a peace deal centered around Afrin.

Afrin was in the center of a section of northern Syria that had recently been cleared of ISIS by the FSA with US Special Forces. To the east and west was Kurdish territory. The Turks wanted to keep them separated as much as possible. These partner forces were Arab, but the area had previously been occupied by the Kurds. The Mu’tasim Brigade commander wanted to discuss returning the displaced people to their homes in Afrin. He certainly wanted to leverage a peace deal to build up his own power within the FSA coalition and there is no guarantee any of these “peace talks” would have amounted to anything. But being willing to have the discussion is the first step. Having learned our lesson on exit strategies from Iraq War II, a sustained peace and way out was always on my mind within our Area of Operation.

I brought up Mu’tasim’s intent to have peace talks during a CJSOTF-Syria Commander’s Update Brief. He brushed it off and quickly moved on to the next briefer. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. He had a lot on his plate and it would always be something we could come back to if needed. Immediately after the briefing, the CJSOTF Operations Officer calls me to chew me out for having brought that up in a meeting when the Turks were present. The Turks were apparently flipping out because someone might be discussing peace on their southern border! He told me that if I was ever unsure of something I should ask him first. Well, if I had thought that was necessary, I would have.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was one of my many pivots that led me toward the antiwar movement. Seeing how just the mere idea of peace made people in the military recoil was disturbing. This certainly was not going to be the deal that saved the region, but to never even discuss it meant that nothing like that would ever be discussed. Had we not learned our lesson from Iraq War II? Maybe forever war really was the plan, if not through any intentional political strategy, but from the bumbling around of military leaders constantly looking for their next mission, purpose, and promotion.

Antiwar Pivot: No Peace in Afrin

Don’t Give Them the Crisis They Want

The Capitol Riot was this generations Reichstag and its being used by the cathedral in the exact same way. If you have to ask how German citizens could allow the rise of fascism, look to your fellow citizens asking, even demanding, the government take more power.

Simply bringing this to your attention could get me labeled an extremist. It seems like such a wild stretch to compare the two, doesn’t it? After all, we all know from four years of the corporate press telling us, that the MAGA crowd is a bunch of white-supremacist, Neo-Nazi fascists. So this current incarnation is the complete opposite and therefore, good. So please government, step in and crush the resistance. Label them traitors, insurrectionists, extremists.

After the Reichstag fire, the German President issued the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State. This decree gave the government, with Hitler as Chancellor, emergency powers to disregard civil liberties, imprison opponents of the Nazi Party, and suppress publications. The enemies started off as communists, the ones who purportedly started the fire. They were enemies of the state, which was fitting and easy since they were already seen as a menace and a threat within the society. This galvanized the German citizens, who quickly supported moves by the Nazi Party to suppress dissent and imprison enemies of the state. Losing a few civil liberties temporarily was certainly worth it to save the nation from an imminent threat.

After eliminating the initial threat, their political opponents were targeted. It wasn’t long before the Nazi’s consolidated the government into one-party rule. I’m sure from there you know the rest of this story.

Of course the rioters at the Capitol were targeted, arrested, and put on No-fly lists. They committed crimes, and should be tried and punished for them, under laws that already exist. That should be the end of that in a country that purports to follow the Rule of Law. But never let a crisis go to waste, which means we need to create more enemies than just the motley crew of LARP-ing MAGA fans. Anyone who supports Trump and dares question the legitimacy of an election should be an extremist. Never mind that almost all of them are simply wanting legitimate investigations to be conducted. That should be an easy sell. If there is no widespread voter fraud, do some investigations, allow people to discuss it and come to their own conclusions based on the evidence. Isn’t that what we did for three years of Russiagate?

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Antiwar Pivot: No Peace in Afrin

USDA Joins in on Screwing Americans

Why farmers are dumping food as some Americans go hungry – The Washington Post

That should be an easy question to answer. Because the US Dept of Agriculture forces farmers to dump milk to maintain prices.

The Washington Post is something else. They’re actually going to write that milk is being dumped and then in the next paragraph say that the federal government needs to step in and help a broken food distribution system.

They never mention that it’s the government who forces farmers to dump the milk. They even imply later on that it’s processing plants asking farmers to dump milk.

The point of the article is that we need to come up with a better solution to provide food for people who are food insecure. But to read the article you would think the only way to get these people food is through food banks and other organizations.

Here’s a wild idea. If supply is really high and demand has dropped, then the price should drop. If the price drops, maybe people would be able to afford it.

Antiwar Pivot: No Peace in Afrin

Event 201

This is some scary, fascist stuff…

Remember that time when some of the biggest companies and international government agencies got together to discuss how the coronavirus would lead to a global pandemic, and then systematically decided what the global response should be? Yeah, me neither.

Event 201: Pandemic Exercise

Thanks to Peter Quinones and Richard Grove for bringing this to my attention.

Antiwar Pivot: No Peace in Afrin

COVID-19’S Final Victim: The Corporate Press

It will be a couple years before we know the full story of the COVID-19 Crisis. But one thing is certain right now. When the dust settles, the corporate press better have been right on this one. They have gone all in with non-stop, wall-to-wall coverage of the pandemic. If this turns into a complete overreaction, they are done for. They are already on thin ice with a large portion of Americans and it’s not even certain that they will ever get the buy in from younger generations.

This points out the very reason why the press and journalists should be held accountable when they get things wrong. When the balloon goes up, you need to know who you can trust. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that everything the corporate press is telling us about COVID-19 is true. Why do you think so many twenty-somethings still went out and partied? Sure, some of it is due to the fact that their age group isn’t at much risk. But a large reason is that Millennials and Generation Z don’t trust the media.

53% of adults 29 and younger do not trust the media. Each age group after them gets progressively more trusting of the corporate press. 57% of 30-44 year olds trust the media. 45-59 year olds increase to 61%, while the 60 and older crowd trusts the media 67%. Younger adults are also less likely to trust their own preferred news source. Here’s the scoop on what is to account for this. Younger generations are more adept at using the internet and finding alternative news sources. In the age of the internet and social media, Millennials and Gen Z grew up being able to instantly fact check and share alternative points of view. They either bypassed the corporate press entirely, or were turned off by them after seeing them spew lies their entire lives.1

Here is what those generations have learned from the corporate press. After going all in to support the Iraq War and WMD, we found out the media cheered on the war without doing any actual journalism and there was no credibility to the claims of WMD. The media just regurgitated whatever talking points the government gave them. After voting Obama into office, based on hope and change and ending the wars, we watched as the media cheered on more wars and bombing campaigns. The media failed to hold the Obama administration’s feet to the fire for that, or bulk data collection of millions of Americans. Most recently, the corporate press went all in on Trump-Russia collusion. After the details emerged of these wasteful investigations, we learned that this too was all based on lies that the media overlooked or actively obfuscated to push their own agenda.

Talk to just about anyone and they understand the basic concept that CNN and MSNBC are on the left and Fox News is on the right. People understand, at least at a fundamental level, that news is slanted. It certainly diverges along political lines with 69% of people identifying as Democrats trusting the media while only 15% of Republicans trust them. Independents are at 36%. Thats not surprising considering how many 24-hour news channels are of the Left while only Fox News is the voice of the Right.2

Is it really any wonder why there is so much doubt regarding media coverage of COVID-19? Ranging from conspiracy theorists claiming it was human made, to simply questioning what the proper response should be. There is even doubt and confusion among medical professionals. I talked with a physicians assistant working in the trauma department. As she said, “It’s hard to rattle a trauma doctor but half of them are terrified and the other half just seem confused.” It should tell you something that the deluge of details coming from the media is too much for even a medical professional to take in.

This level of fear mongering is absurd. In any other profession it would be considered malpractice. Of course college students are still going out for spring break. Why would they believe the corporate press? When the media needs to fill 24-hour news cycles with content, they will dig deep to find any new piece of information to keep eyeballs glued to their televisions. And why not? Everyone is stuck at home. In an attempt to keep you from switching over to Netflix or sitting around and enjoying time with your loved ones, the media has gone all in on the COVID-19 Crisis.

As I said, time will tell if we have completely overreacted, took appropriate mitigation measures, or fell somewhere in between. The corporate press is already at risk of being a dinosaur going extinct as a younger, more sophisticated generation comes of age. If history shows that they overreacted, or politicized a global crisis that required serious journalism, not even a trillion dollar bail out will keep people watching.

Reprinted from OperationLibertas.com

1 https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/reports/survey-research/ages-understand-news/

2 https://news.gallup.com/poll/267047/americans-trust-mass-media-edges-down.aspx

 

Flattening the Curve, Prolonging the Pain

Flattening the Curve, Prolonging the Pain

Flattening the Curve COVIN-19

I want to discuss the above graphic since it, or some version of it, has been promulgating the 24/7 media coverage and the internet. I realize the point of “flattening the curve” is to decrease the number of people who get COVID-19. That seems reasonable on face value, but it only highlights the Y axis of the graph. Maybe it’s just me, but the first thing that jumped out was the X axis. By flattening the curve, we are going to delay how long this crisis spreads. Now, it appears from the graphic that the goal is to keep the number of cases below our health care systems capacity. But this graphic does not take into account the cost we will have to pay to flatten the curve. Most Americans, indeed people all over the world, are already feeling the financial consequences of flattening the curve.

Flattening the Curve

Does anyone else find it odd that the top of the bell curve of the “Cases with protective measures” just happens to fall underneath the line for health care system capacity? There are no numbers representing anything on the X or Y axis. Who has determined what our health care system capacity is? A quick Google images search of “flattening the curve” will show similar images representing the same thing. After looking through the first 50+ images, I didn’t see a single one with actual numbers on it. People are just promulgating and reproducing the same image with no idea what the numbers actually represent.

The health care system capacity certainly varies across the country from state to state and even within states. In my state of Tennessee, the city of Nashville and Williamson County, a major suburb of Nashville, have the highest number of cases. As of this writing they stand at 101 and 35 cases respectively.1 I am not an expert in the health care industry, and from what I have read it does seem like the numbers in these areas will continue to grow. But this certainly doesn’t seem like it would overwork the health care system.

Now I will grant you that some protective measures have been put in place. Bars and restaurants have been told to close down and most businesses are placing themselves on a self imposed quarantine by having people work from home or take time off. So yes, the number of cases would likely would be higher if no measures were put in place. Let’s use the graph, with a complete lack of numbers, to try to figure out where these cases would be had no protective measures been put in place. Eyeballing the graph, it looks like the number of cases would be triple what they are now. That would put Nashville and Williamson county at 303 and 105 cases respectively. Again, I’m no health care expert, but this doesn’t seem to be enough to overload the system, even in this worst case scenario.

Even if we take the higher number of infected patients, not everyone who has COVID-19 needs to be hospitalized. In fact, unless you are severely sick, have a weakened immune system, or are elderly, you should avoid going to a hospital. If you think you might have COVID-19, you should self-quarantine. If your symptoms get worse, then you should go to the hospital. For the majority of people, having COVID-19 is like having the flu. Its not fun, but it is not going to kill you.

Another reason that the health care system’s capacity won’t be overworked is that governments are loosening regulations to allow for more flexibility. In Tennessee, hospitals wanted to put physicians assistants to work on COVID-19 cases. This would free up a lot of physicians to keep focused on daily medical needs while tapping into a pool of highly qualified medical professionals to tackle COVID-19 in Tennessee. The problem is that physicians assistants, under licensing laws, have to have a physician overseeing them who is working in the same field. This would defeat the purpose of splitting up the physicians and physicians assistants to tackle two simultaneous problems; daily medical needs and COVID-19. The Governor signed an executive order on Thursday, March 19th to suspend the licensing requirement during this state of emergency.2 

Even if the number of COVID-19 cases were to spike to projected highs, most other counties outside of Nashville and Williamson County have very few cases. Memphis has 4 cases. Most other counties with reported cases have 1 or 2 cases. If cases in Nashville and Williamson County spiked to projected highs and the loosening of regulations still did not alleviate the strain on the health care system, then patients could easily be flexed to other counties that are not effected. Physicians assistants from less effected areas could also be flexed to Nashville and Williamson County.

I think this shows, in a reasonable and prudent way, how we could handle the worst case scenario along the Y axis. I know a lot of you are thinking that these measures need to be taken to protect at risk populations. I will cover that later, but for now I want to focus simply on this graphic.

Prolonging the Pain

Let’s take a better look at the X axis and talk about some of the implications. If the Y axis’ main concern was whether or not the health care system could withstand a spike in COVID-19 cases, as indicated by the horizontal line at the top of the bell curve, then there should be a vertical line indicating the economies capacity to withstand shutting everything down. By flattening the curve, we have also stretched it out over time, causing this crisis to take even longer than if it ran its normal course.

The economic repercussions could prove to be far more deadly than the virus itself. People are already worried about paying rent and finding toilet paper. I don’t want to add to the spread of fear. Quite the opposite, I hope to alleviate some undo fear and show how taking extreme measures to mitigate the spread could lead to side effects that are worse than the disease, metaphorically speaking. Below are some real world examples of the economic side effects.

I manage some properties for an old Army buddy of mine. One house has several girls living there and two of them are out of a job because they work in the restaurant industry and the city of Nashville has closed down all bars and restaurants. This could mean that the tenants cannot meet their rent. The owner is currently going to school, so he depends on the profits from the rent to pay his own bills. The bank who he has his mortgage through depends on him paying his mortgage on time. Now multiply this across the city, state, and country. Shutting down even a couple of industries has far reaching consequences that are much greater than trying to protect one industry. I think we have shown thus far that the health care industry has reasonable flexibility too meet the added pressures from COVID-19 patients.

On a larger level, we have the federal government passing stimulus packages to pump trillions of dollars into the economy. Printing money brings down the value of the dollar, meaning that all the money people do have saved will be worth a lot less down the road. This is what happened with the banker bailouts during the Great Recession. Failing banks who should have gone under because they made too many risky decisions were instead rewarded with a bailout. The executives who should have been out of a job were still able to receive their million dollar bonuses.

Printing money and giving every qualified American $1,200 also is not the answer. We have the same issue of printing money causing inflation, which makes the value of the dollar go down. It also doesn’t solve the problem. This might help people pay rent and mortgages in April but what happens in May when people are still trying to catch up on all their other bills? These are the same drastic steps that Germany attempted between World War I and World War II. That excessive printing of money caused such hyperinflation that people paid for dinner at the beginning of their meal, because by the end of dinner, the check would be more expensive.

There needs to be a balance between keeping the economy going and keeping people safe. The solution is relatively easy and doesn’t require draconian, over the top government solutions. I know a lot of people say that everyone needs to self-quarantine, even if they are relatively safe from COVIN-19. The idea being that they may come into contact with someone who has a compromised immune system or is elderly. But it is unreasonable and unnecessary to shut down the entire economy in order to protect a small segment of the population. You have most likely seen videos of celebrities showing how they are social distancing from their elderly parents or grandparents and imploring young people to take this seriously and self-quarantine. Isn’t the solution to the problem right there in those videos? The people who are at risk need to be the ones who are self-quarantining. That will allow the economy to continue to move along.

A Healthy Balance

I know there are issues with comparing COVID-19 to the flu. I understand that the death rate of COVID-19 is around 3% and the flu is around .1%. We have already discussed how this virus only effects a small portion of the population, so as long as they self-quarantine, they are effectively safe. Meanwhile, there have been less than 12,000 deaths worldwide from COVIN-19. I acknowledge that that number will go up before its over. However, that worldwide number seems pretty low when you realize that during the 2017-2018 flu season, there were 61,000 flu related deaths in the US alone.3 If we are taking such drastic measures over 12,000 worldwide deaths, why don’t we try to flatten the curve every flu season to prevent 61,000 deaths?

I hope you don’t get me wrong. I do have concern and compassion for anyone who is suffering during this crisis. My sympathies go out to both those effected with or who have lost loved ones from the virus and to people who have been put through undo financial stress due to no fault of their own. I think we all need to take a step back from the 24/7 news cycle and realize this is not the end of the world. Take precautions if you are in an at risk group, but otherwise, things should be business as usual.

 

 

This article was reprinted from OperationLibertas.com

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