Over the weekend, another supposed bombshell dropped in The New York Times. A single anonymous source claimed that the Trump administration is in possession of intelligence showing that Russia put bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
For their part, the White House has denied the report and said that the President, nor the Vice President were ever briefed on such a claim.
"The White House statement addressing this issue earlier today, which denied such a briefing occurred, was accurate. The New York Times reporting, and all other subsequent news reports about such an alleged briefing are inaccurate.” (2/2)
— Office of the DNI (@ODNIgov) June 28, 2020
That hasn’t stopped other Republicans, mainly in Congress, from rushing to virtue signal about this and “demand” answers.
If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain:
1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB?
2. Who did know and when?
3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) June 28, 2020
There’s not actually a lot of mystery here. The reason the President and Vice President weren’t briefed on it is that it’s likely one of the thousands of pieces of raw intelligence that the intel community handles a day. Given that this came from one source and was leaked to the Times, the odds are that it’s unverified and was not deemed worthy to discuss or act on at this time. As for who did know and when the obvious answer is the analysts who dealt with the information and didn’t see it as important enough to pass it on to the administration right away.
But it’s Cheney’s third question that really gets under my skin. What has been done to protect our forces? Well, for starters, we could try not being in Afghanistan for 20 years, deployment of troops that Cheney and many establishment Republicans still support for reasons that are completely obscured at this point. What’s the end goal? What’s the exit strategy? What’s being accomplished? Good luck getting anything but platitudes in response to those questions.
Proclaiming that Putin must be “held accountable” is also typical beltway jargon that grew old long ago. What would Cheney like to do? Put sanctions on our sanctions that we’ve already put on top of our other sanctions? The reality is that we can’t “hold Putin accountable” because he’s a dictator in a major country that has nuclear weapons. Perhaps a strongly worded letter is in order?
If it seems like I’m tired of the constant theater, it’s because I am. I’m tired of politicians pretending we can do things we can’t while at the same time justifying actions that clearly have negative consequences. No one, including Cheney, can articulate a sound case for why we are still in Afghanistan, which is why it’s rarely attempted anymore. Generalizations about “fighting them over there” stopped being persuasive long ago. The Taliban are never going away, nor do they have international aspirations. We have the technology to monitor and drone terrorists who attempt to strike outside Afghanistan’s borders.
Enough with the useless posturing. It’s time to face reality. We can leave Afghanistan or we can continue to put people in harm’s way for what is obviously very little gain at this point. Whatever one’s convictions are on the matter, play-acting that we can do much of anything to Putin is just silly.
People are craving honesty and they aren’t getting it from anywhere. Establishment politicians rattle their swords, knowing they are actually powerless. Meanwhile, the White House takes the opposite tact by acting as if everything smells of roses, which is similarly pointless.
Washington politicians should try just being real with voters for once. I think it might go better than they think.