Sometimes you see stories that are so pathetically dumb and transparently partisan that you wonder why any news outlet would run them. Except you don’t really wonder, you know the reason. The outlet perceives that the story will hurt President Trump. Such is this story in Politico: Trump bragged about classified Syria skirmish at fundraiser
The White House has tried to avoid discussing a February skirmish between U.S. troops and Russian mercenaries in Syria, but that didn’t stop President Donald Trump from bragging about the Pentagon’s performance at a recent closed-door fundraiser.
The details of the battle remain classified, but speaking to donors in midtown Manhattan last Wednesday, Trump said he was amazed by the performance of American F-18 pilots. He suggested that the strikes may have been as brief as “10 minutes” and taken out 100 to 300 Russians, according to a person briefed on the president’s remarks, which have not previously been reported.
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah declined to comment on Trump’s remarks because information about the Syria strikes remains classified.
Let’s cut to the chase here. The White House had, rightfully, played down the incident but the skirmish, itself, is not classified. It just isn’t. For instance, this is Secretary of Defense James Mattis giving a press briefing on the incident the day after it happened.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the whole episode “perplexing.”
“Why do I say it’s perplexing? I have no idea why they would attack there. The forces were known to be there. Obviously, the Russians knew,” Mattis said.
The U.S. used a deconflcition telephone line to warn the Russian that U.S. was about to hit the advancing force with airstrikes, and Russia assured there U.S. there were no Russians among the pro-regime forces.
At a Senate Armed Services hearing for Defense Department nominees Thursday, Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine questioned the authority of the U.S. carry out airstrikes against the Syrian government.
But Mattis said the U.S. response was justified because it was in self-defense, and the U.S. always has the authority to protect itself.
“We are not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war. We are there to fight ISIS, that’s what those troops were doing, coordinating strikes against ISIS,” Mattis said. “Why they chose to initiate this attack, you’ll have to ask them. We don’t know.”
This is Mattis at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April
Secretary of Defense James Mattis explained Thursday why he directed a strike that reportedly killed hundreds of Russian mercenaries in Syria back in February.
Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. has a deconfliction line with Russia to ensure that the two countries can communicate in order to avoid direct conflict with one another in Syria. He said that a group of “irregular forces” were in conflict with U.S. forces, and once it was ascertained that those forces were not Russian regulars, Mattis directed a counterattack.
“The Russian high command in Syria assured us it was not their people, and my direction to the chairman was for the force, then, to be annihilated,” Mattis said. “And it was.”
Mike Pompeo confirmed the same story during his confirmation hearing.
Last Wednesday, before Trump’s fundraiser, the New York Times ran this story: How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria. It is an interesting story that is very obviously officially sourced and quite possibly why the subject came up at the fundraiser.
The artillery barrage was so intense that the American commandos dived into foxholes for protection, emerging covered in flying dirt and debris to fire back at a column of tanks advancing under the heavy shelling. It was the opening salvo in a nearly four-hour assault in February by around 500 pro-Syrian government forces — including Russian mercenaries — that threatened to inflame already-simmering tensions between Washington and Moscow.
In the end, 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters were killed. The others retreated under merciless airstrikes from the United States, returning later to retrieve their battlefield dead. None of the Americans at the small outpost in eastern Syria — about 40 by the end of the firefight — were harmed.
The details of the Feb. 7 firefight were gleaned from interviews and documents newly obtained by The New York Times. They provide the Pentagon’s first public on-the-ground accounting of one of the single bloodiest battles the American military has faced in Syria since deploying to fight the Islamic State.
The story is interesting because, for the first time, we learn that US forces engaged Russian armored vehicles with anti-tank missiles quite possibly making this the first direct ground combat action between the two nations since 1919.
There is exactly one reason Politico ran this puerile bit of nonsense…other than for clicks…and that is to reinforce the meme that Trump talks about classified information when he isn’t supposed to.