Showing posts with label Coupe d'état. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coupe d'état. Show all posts

October 22, 2017

Kelly LikeHis Boss Doesn't Care for Details } Would That Matter in A Couple?

Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson. The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.

Argument 1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military. To demonstrate how little laypeople know, Kelly provided a long, detailed explanation of what happens when a soldier is killed in battle: the body is wrapped in whatever is handy, flown by helicopter, then packed in ice, then flown again, then repacked, then flown, then embalmed and dressed in uniform with medals, and then flown home. Kelly provided a similar amount of detail about how family members are notified of the death, when, and by whom. He even recommended a film that dramatized the process of transporting the body of a real-life marine, Private First Class Chance Phelps. This was a Trumpian moment, from the phrasing—“ a very, very good movie”—to the message. Kelly stressed that Phelps “was killed under my command, right next to me”; in other words, Kelly’s real-life experience was recreated for television, and that, he seemed to think, bolstered his authority.

Fallen soldiers, Kelly said, join “the best one percent this country produces.” Here, the chief of staff again reminded his audience of its ignorance: “Most of you, as Americans, don’t know them. Many of you don’t know anyone who knows any of them. But they are the very best this country produces.”
The one-per-cent figure is puzzling. The number of people currently serving in the military, both on active duty and in the reserves, is not even one percent of all Americans. The number of veterans in the population is far higher: more than seven percent. But, later in the speech, when Kelly described his own distress after hearing the criticism of Trump’s phone call, the general said that he had gone to “walk among the finest men and women on this earth. And you can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.” So, by “the best” Americans, Kelly had meant dead Americans—specifically, fallen soldiers.

The number of Americans killed in all the wars this nation has ever fought is indeed equal to roughly one percent of all Americans alive today. This makes for questionable math and disturbing logic. It is in totalitarian societies, which demand complete mobilization, that dying for one’s country becomes the ultimate badge of honor. Growing up in the Soviet Union, I learned the names of ordinary soldiers who threw their bodies onto enemy tanks, becoming literal cannon fodder. All of us children had to aspire to the feat of martyrdom. No Soviet general would have dared utter the kind of statement that’s attributed to General George S. Patton: “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” 

2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do. Kelly went on a rambling explication of speaking to the President not once but twice about how to make the call to Myeshia Johnson. After Kelly’s son was killed while serving in Afghanistan, the chief of staff recalled, his own best friend had consoled him by saying that his son “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that one percent.” Trump apparently tried to replicate this message when he told Johnson that her husband, La David, had known what he was signing up for. The negative reaction to this comment, Kelly said, had “stunned” him.

A week earlier, Kelly had taken over the White House press briefing in an attempt to quash another scandal and ended up using the phrase “I was sent in,” twice, in reference to his job in the White House. Now he seemed to be saying that, since he was sent in to control the President and the President had, this time, more or less carried out his instructions, the President should not be criticized.

3. Communication between the President and a military widow is no one’s business but theirs. A day earlier, the Washington Post had quoted a White House official saying, “The president’s conversations with the families of American heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice are private.” The statement contained a classic Trumpian reversal: the President was claiming for himself the right to privacy that belonged to his interlocutor. But Myeshia Johnson had apparently voluntarily shared her conversation with her mother-in-law and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson by putting the President on speakerphone.

Now Kelly took it up a notch. Not only was he claiming that the President, communicating with a citizen in his official capacity, had a right to confidentiality—he was claiming that this right was “sacred.” Indeed, Kelly seemed to say, it was the last sacred thing in this country. He rattled off a litany of things that had lost their sanctity: women, life, religion, Gold Star families. The last of which had been profaned “in the convention over the summer,” said Kelly, although the debacle with a Gold Star family had been Trump’s doing. Now, Kelly seemed to say, we had descended into utter profanity because the secrecy of the President’s phone call had been violated.

4. Citizens are ranked based on their proximity to dying for their country. Kelly’s last argument was his most striking. At the end of the briefing, he said that he would take questions only from those members of the press who had a personal connection to a fallen soldier, followed by those who knew a Gold Star family. Considering that, a few minutes earlier, Kelly had said most Americans didn’t even know anyone who knew anyone who belonged to the “one percent,” he was now explicitly denying a majority of Americans—or the journalists representing them—the right to ask questions. This was a new twist on the Trump Administration’s technique of shunning and shaming unfriendly members of the news media, except this time, it was framed explicitly in terms of national loyalty. As if on cue, the first reporter allowed to speak inserted the phrase “Semper Fi”—a literal loyalty oath—into his question.

Before walking off the stage, Kelly told Americans who haven’t served in the military that he pities them. “We don’t look down upon those of you who haven’t served,” he said. “In fact, in a way we are a little bit sorry because you’ll have never have experienced the wonderful joy you get in your heart when you do the kinds of things our servicemen and women do—not for any other reason than that they love this country.”

When Kelly replaced the ineffectual Reince Priebus as the chief of staff, a sigh of relief emerged: at least the general would impose some discipline on the Administration. Now we have a sense of what military discipline in the White House sounds like.

Masha Gessen, a staff writer, has written several books, including, most recently, “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” which was short-listed for the National Book Award in 2017.
Posted on New Yorker

August 30, 2017

Gen. Mattis Talk to The Troop Was Inspiring But If There Was a Coup Would It Be Worse Than Now?

We have a mental case as President and his governing political party which is giving him a pass when he lies, when he breaks the law. The only hope is for the Mueller investigation to bring out his law breaking schemes to get richer on the governments' dime and to commit obstruction of justice to the open. The only thing is, this will not happen in the next six months. We've had eight months of Trump already and Pennsylvannia Avenue is full of road kills from his mistakes including the danger he is put the world through causing North Korea to go rogue with an increasing nuclear arsenal threatening us and our allies.

The situation was not this bad when he took office but his tweeting and threatening that regime is put us in nuclear danger. 

Trump has surrounded himself with Generals, god only knows why but the military which is the one that goes fighting and dying for the decisions coming from the White House and Congress and is not going to let the nation be lost to an attack from one of our enemies because there is nobody competent at the switch.

I would hate to see what that would entailed but when the electorate elected a madman they must've been mad themselves.  To top it all off the nation is divided with a 33% or so backing what ever craziness he does because practically they don't like the laws of this nation and they don't like most of the people either: Blacks, Hispanics, Jews and LGBT's. They have been buying up weapons and saying as much every chance they get. That makes it very difficult for law abiding people to go and demonstrate without getting into deadly fights with them in order to send congress a message, not him (Trump) he does not read messages but to the people that can unseat him legally. Im glad the the Secretary of Defense said those words discussed below but at the same time it tells some of us, the one listening that we are in deep s***.
                 'Speak up now or forever hold your Peace'

High-ranking military officials have become an increasingly ubiquitous presence in American political life during Donald Trump's presidency, repeatedly winning arguments inside the West Wing, publicly contradicting the president and even balking at implementing one of his most controversial policies.
Connected by their faith in order and global norms, these military leaders are rapidly consolidating power throughout the executive branch as they counsel a volatile president. Some establishment figures in both political parties view them as safeguards for the nation in a time of turbulence.
Trump's elevation of a cadre of current and retired generals marks a striking departure for a country that for generations has positioned civilian leaders above and apart from the military.
"This is the only time in modern presidential history when we've had a small number of people from the uniformed world hold this much influence over the chief executive," said John McLaughlin, a former acting director of the CIA who served in seven administrations. "They are right now playing an extraordinary role."
In the wake of deadly racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month, five of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were hailed as moral authorities for condemning hate in less equivocal terms than the commander in chief.  [Star and Stripes]

video clip of Defense Secretary James Mattis speaking with troops deployed in Jordan has been making the rounds on various social media outlets, with varied and strong reactions.
Upon seeing the clip, I noted on Twitter, “Mattis is reflecting a line I have from many (mil esp but also civ): society is gone to hell and mil is only + last bastion of virtue.”
A lively discussion ensued between current and former military personnel, academics and national security professionals about what he said. Some praised him, while others wrung their hands with worry.
These contradictory reactions to his comments perfectly exemplify the civilian-military divide. The debate left me wondering: Should I be picking out my outfit for the impending military coup? Or should we all just chill?
First, what did Mattis say exactly? While his comments were part of lengthier remarks, here are the critical points:

Keep on fighting…You are buying time. You are a great example for our country. …It’s got some problems….problems we don’t have in the military…Hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting and showing it….being friendly to one another.
His message to the troops in short: Don’t allow the passions and divisions back home diminish your morale or affect your ability to do what you need to do while deployed.
GettyImages-103121261Former US Marine Corps General, now Secretary of Defense, James Mattis testifying before the Senate Armed Service Committee on July 27, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty 
This seems like a fairly straightforward pep talk from an experienced military commander to those he leads. That was certainly how many military Twitter followers, and some civilians as well, interpreted what Mattis said.
They heard the “ warrior monk ” encouraging fellow warriors and invoking a common theme of his: the lack of “friendliness” and civility in contemporary American society.
However, Mattis makes two points that require deeper reflection.
First, the troops are to stay the course out there/here on the battlefield until things right themselves back at home.
Second, the issues plaguing society at home are not present in the military, in other words, that the military has respect, understanding and friendliness. This view is hardly unique to Mattis.
As I noted in my tweet, the view implied in this part of the statement is one that I have heard in military circles for many years. I have heard it from colleagues, from family members and friends, and I’ve come across it in my research on military ethics and culture. Journalist and author Thomas Ricks notes the issue in his discussion of the civilian/military culture gap in his book Making the Corps .
Plus, numerous studies since Vietnam have demonstrated the public esteem and trust given to the military. The public, if these polls are correct, does view the military as honorable and ethical — and therefore trustworthy — in ways that other public institutions are not.
And here we arrive at the civilian/military cultural divide that was so evident in the reaction of civilian national security professionals and academics on Twitter who expressed concern and even moderate outrage at his comments.  
These folks argued that his comments worked to widen the divide between the military and the civilian society they serve. Some also feared that the growing divide could create favorable conditions for an assertion of even greater military involvement in civilian institutions, if not a military coup.
Those concerns were prompted by the claim of military moral superiority that they thought Mattis expressed in his comments and, for some, this resonates with the experience of Latin American countries where similar sentiments have led to military takeover of democratic institutions.
Loren DeJonge Schulman, who served on the National Security Council and at the Defense Department during the Obama administration, observed, “Mattis is doing well and getting admiration for his Mattisisms. He is also setting enormous precedent – hugely difficult to break at DOD.”
I presume Schulman would not take her point as far as a military takeover even in time of acute crisis, but it is important to ask the question how far toward the insertion of military authority in democratic and civilian life could such sentiments lead.
So is this just another pep talk to the troops or is something else much more concerning afoot? I want to emphasize that this is not about Secretary Mattis.
I am reasonably certain that he is an honorable man dedicated to serving his country as a civilian now, while continuing to live out Marine Corps values and military professionalism. While I would not count myself as a member of the Cult of Mattis, I am not questioning his character.
Instead, I’m much more interested in whether there is a precedent being set. His comments were so striking because they seemed to point to larger attitudes and assumptions held by both civilians and members of the military.
The real questions here are about how the two sides hear what he said, what they might conclude from it, and how they will act? On the military side, how will this be heard?
The concern is that troops will hear an endorsement of military moral exceptionalism and a claim that those in the military are essentially more virtuous than their fellow citizens. They could also hear that civilian society, of which they are not seemingly a part, has these problems and that they have to be sorted out by civilians and are of no concern to the military.
They are on the wall defending; that is their only concern.
On the civilian side, what could be heard is a growing culture divide that has profound importance for our national life. That perception grows up in a time of  the increasing influence of former and current senior military officials in political leadership positions (notably in the current administration, but not exclusively so) and the politicization of the officer corps.
Civilians could also hear the claim of moral superiority (with which some people actually agree) as an assumption that members of the military are generally imbued with some moral character from their service that civilians do not and cannot possess.
This claim can have a powerful political logic to it: eroding the idea of the military as a politically neutral player devoted only to the Constitution and protection of the Nation.
My point here is that language matters, not just in terms of what the speaker meant, but in terms of how these words and attached meanings are perceived and acted upon. Mattis cannot be responsible for that, but his words highlight something that is present and needs to be addressed.
First, we have civilian control of the military as a basic Constitutional principle and a core value of professionalism within the military. These values require a level of engagement and support from the civilian side that seems to be eroding.
The American people and some of their leaders seem more and more content to hand matters over to the military (because they are competent, moral and trustworthy) and essentially say, “We trust you. You handle this.”
This serves several purposes for the public, including: shifting the political and moral risk away from themselves, avoiding difficult decisions and public debate, and refraining from more directly addressing the costs of war.
This was highlighted quite starkly in President Donald Trump’s recent speech on Afghanistan, where he emphasized his desire not to “micromanage” the military as it carried out its mission there.
Second, the military is a part of our society – not a separate fortress. Today’s service members came from society and they will return to it. Sebastian Junger and others have aptly documented the difficulties many in the military have with returning to civilian life and the alienation and separation experienced by veterans.
There is disappointment, frustration, and sometimes, contempt and scorn directed toward civilian society that is often part of this alienation. Thinking of the military as not involved or implicated in the passions and conflicts roiling society today contributes to this, as well as being false and problematic on its own. Indeed, just another slice of this complex puzzle is the involvement of vets in militia groups on American soil.
The military does have a different culture in many ways, but it is one informed by core values that are instilled as part of the training process, then enforced by incentives and in certain cases, coercion to be maintained.
Given this, one would expect military culture to be different! On the other hand, many of the problems and conflicts consuming the American public are present in our contemporary military.
The Fat Leonard and Marines United scandals remind us that strong moral character is not a given in the military. There are discipline problems, racism, sexism, sexual assault, political radicalization, infidelity, drug addiction, lying and theft in the military, just like civilian society.
As an experienced commander, Mattis obviously knows this, even if his remarks do not reflect it in this case. The unified and clear comments of all the service chiefs condemning violence and bigotry following Charlottesville is further evidence of this recognition by commanders that the military is part of society and potentially plagued by the same threats.
In short, Mattis’s remarks and the challenge they pose should be seen as a good opportunity to shift from the civilian/military culture gap to thinking about a civilian/military partnership.
The military does have to hold the line, but they cannot and should not do so alone. Civilians need to reassume much of the moral and political risks of war that they are trying to outsource to the military and be a fully engaged partner – before, during and after conflicts.
What’s more, civilian society is, one might say, a hot mess, but we need the best people of character, commitment and experience to help sort out the myriad issues we face. The military is trained for moral and physical commitment and discipline, so they know what it takes and have practice and training that many in the civilian realm simply lack.
These distinctions could make the difference in facilitating dialog and solutions to our common problems. But it’s short-sighted to fault civilians for not having military training. Better for the military to consider what character, skills and commitment civilians have due to their experiences, education and training that also contributes to the common good.
I think we can all breathe easy that a military coup is not around the corner. I do commend Secretary Mattis for provoking an important discussion, reminding us that there is much work to be done. We need to think seriously about his words: What will the next Marine who hears those words take from them? What will she do?
What will the ROTC cadets who come through my classes hear and take with them when they are commissioned? What will the next president and other future leaders hear and take from them?
How can we as a society, military and civilian, not just learn but train to be better citizens and become, in Mattis’s words, more “friendly to one another”—both across the military-civilian divide not just within one side of it.
Pauline Shanks Kaurin is Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA.

July 20, 2017

Reuters Reports Attempted Coupe At Saudi Palace and Arrest of 1st in Line for Throne

Prince Mohammed bin Salman (left) and prince Mohammed bin Nayef

(Reuters) - On Tuesday, June 20 Mohammed bin Nayef, a powerful figure in Saudi Arabia's security apparatus for the past two decades and the next in line to the throne, was summoned to meet King Salman bin Abdulaziz on the fourth floor of the royal palace in Mecca. 

There, according to a source close to MbN, as he is known, the king ordered him to step aside in favor of the king's favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman. The reason: an addiction to pain-killing drugs was clouding MbN's judgment. 

"The king came to meet MbN and they were alone in the room. He told him: 'I want you to step down, you didn't listen to the advice to get treatment for your addiction which dangerously affects your decisions'," said the source close to MbN. 

The new details about the extraordinary meeting between the king and MbN that touched off the de facto palace coup help to explain the events that are reshaping the leadership of the world's biggest oil exporting nation. 

Reuters could not independently confirm MbN's addiction issues. 

A senior Saudi official said the account was totally "unfounded and untrue in addition to being nonsense". 

"The story depicted here is a complete fantasy worthy of Hollywood," the official said in a statement to Reuters, which did not refer to MbN's alleged use of drugs. 

The official said MbN had been removed in the national interest and had not experienced any "pressure or disrespect". Reasons for his dismissal were "confidential". 

Sources with knowledge of the situation said however that the king was determined to elevate his son to be heir to the throne and used MbN's drug problem as a pretext to push him aside. 

Three royal insiders, four Arab officials with links to the ruling house of Saud, and diplomats in the region, told Reuters that MbN was surprised to be ordered to step aside. 

"It was a big shock to MbN," said a Saudi political source close to MbN. "It was a coup. He wasn't prepared." 

The sources said MbN did not expect to be usurped by the often impulsive Mohammed bin Salman, who MbN considered to have made a number of policy blunders, such as his handling of the Yemen conflict and cutting financial benefits to civil servants. 

The high-stakes power grab has placed sweeping powers in the hands of the 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MbS, and appears designed to speed his accession to the throne. 

Should he get the job, the young prince will preside over a kingdom facing tough times from depressed oil prices, the conflict in Yemen, rivalry with an emboldened Iran and a major diplomatic crisis in the Gulf.    

The source close to MbN acknowledged that he had health issues, which were aggravated after an al Qaeda attacker tried to blow himself up in front of him in his palace in 2009. The health issues were corroborated by three other sources in Saudi Arabia and Arab official sources with links to the royal family.  
An Arab source with close Saudi links also provided a similar account of the meeting at which King Salman asked MbN to step down because of his alleged drug addiction. 

These sources said MbN had shrapnel in his body that could not be removed and he depended on drugs such as morphine to alleviate the pain. One source said MbN had been treated in clinics in Switzerland on three occasions in recent years. Reuters was unable to confirm this independently.  

A Palace Coup 

The King moved ahead of a meeting of the Political and Security Council. The meeting was due to start at 11 pm, but a few hours before that, MbN received what he viewed as a routine phone call from Mohammed bin Salman. According to the source close to MbN, Mohammed bin Salman told MbN that the king wanted to see him. 

In the hours that followed the meeting in which MbN was dismissed, the House of Saud's Allegiance Council, comprising the ruling family's senior members, were informed of a letter written in the name of the king. 

Drafted by palace advisers to MbS, it said MbN had a medical condition - drug addiction - and "we have been trying for over two years to persuade him to seek treatment but to no avail". 

"Because of this dangerous situation we see that he should be relieved of his position and that Mohammed bin Salman be appointed in his place," the Saudi source close to MbN quoted excerpts of the letter as saying. 

The letter was read over the phone to members of the Allegiance Council, while MbN was kept isolated in a room all night, his mobile phone removed, and cut off from contact with his aides. His bodyguards from elite paramilitary interior ministry units were also replaced.  

Envoys were sent to council members to get their signatures. All but three of 34 signed. The coup had worked. 

Calls by council members who backed MbN's removal were recorded and played to him by a palace adviser to demonstrate the strength of the forces against him and to discourage any urge the 57-year-old crown prince might have to resist. 

According to two Saudi sources with links to the royal house, only three members of the council opposed his overthrow: Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, a former interior minister, Abdulaziz bin Abdallah, a representative of the family of late king Abdallah, and Prince Mohammad bin Saad, a former deputy governor of Riyadh. The three could not immediately be reached for comment. 

At dawn MbN gave up. He told a palace adviser that he was ready to see the king. The meeting was short. MbN agreed to step down and signed a document to that effect. 

When MbN left the king's quarters, he was surprised to see MbS waiting for him, the adviser said. MbN was embraced and kissed by MbS while television cameras rolled. 

Soon afterward a pre-written statement was released announcing the king's decision to make his son the next crown prince. This was the clip that would play on all Saudi and Gulf media over the coming hours and days. 


House Arrest 

MbN remains under house arrest to keep him out of circulation following his overthrow, with no visitors allowed except close family members. He is not taking calls, the source close to MbN said. In the past week he was only granted permission to visit his elderly mother with the new guards assigned to him. 

The senior Saudi official said, however, that MbN had received guests, including the king and the new crown prince. 

The source close to MbN said he would like to take his family to Switzerland or London but the king and MbS had decided that he must stay. "He wasn't given any choice." 

The White House and CIA declined to comment. A senior administration official said Washington knew that MbS was the favorite of the king but "beyond that, it's very opaque". 

The elevation of MbS had been predicted by some Saudi and Western officials, but it came much sooner than expected with a rushed exit for MbN. 

Since King Salman's accession, there had been clear indications that MbS was favored over MbN, setting the stage for the younger prince to eclipse the formal heir to the throne.  

MbS was given unprecedented power by his ailing 81-year-old father, which he used to reorder the top jobs in the political, oil, security, security and intelligence sectors, often without the knowledge of MbN, according to diplomats and Saudi political and security sources. 

Since Salman took the helm just over two years ago, MbS has placed his men in key positions. MbS has been interfering in MbN's interior ministry, appointing, promoting and firing officers without informing him. 

The succession quarrel, the sources said, began in 2015 when MbN's personal court was disbanded and merged with the court of the king, preventing MbN from bestowing independent patronage and cultivating support. This was followed by the sacking of Saad al-Jabri, MbN's security adviser. 

When Donald Trump entered the White House, MbS cultivated contacts in Washington to offset the strong support that MbN had in the U.S. security and intelligence establishment because of his successes against al Qaeda. 

The source close to MbN told Reuters the putsch went ahead after MbS struck up a strong relationship with Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. 

A White House official declined to comment when asked about Kushner’s relationship with MbS. 

The official, referring to MbN's removal as Crown Prince and MbS’ ascension to the post, said: 

“The United States government also sought not to intervene or to be seen as intervening in such a sensitive internal matter. We have great respect for the King, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Prince Mohammed bin Salman and we consistently stressed our desire to maintain cooperation with the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and its leadership. This message was communicated at all levels of government.” 

With MbS's sudden ascent, there is now speculation among diplomats and Saudi and Arab officials that King Salman is poised to abdicate in favor of his son. 

Quoting a witness at the palace, one Saudi source said King Salman this month pre-recorded a statement in which he announces the transfer of the throne to his son. The announcement could be broadcast at any time, perhaps as soon as September. 

Reporting by Reuters

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