Yet Another Wartime President

Enjoy America’s De-escalatory Bombs!

W.J. Astore

Who was the last U.S. president with a reputation for peace?

By bombing Syria this week, Joe Biden has become yet another “wartime” president. Apparently Iranian-backed militias from Iraq operating inside Syria were the intended target of the bombs. Perhaps as many as 22 “militants” were killed in these attacks. Using language that would make Big Brother blush, the Biden administration claimed the attacks aimed “to de-escalate the overall situation in both Eastern Syria and Iraq.”

I’ve heard of precision bombing, but this is the first time I’ve heard of de-escalatory bombing. Naturally, Congress wasn’t consulted.

Along with this provocative and needless act of aggression, the Biden administration is currently weighing its options in Afghanistan. Three options seem to be on the table: withdrawing all U.S. troops and ending the war; prolonging the war indefinitely; and continued “negotiations” with modest increases of those troops. The last option is considered the sober sensible one by Beltway sages. Complete withdrawal after twenty years of turmoil and death is predictably seen as too risky, whereas a wholehearted commitment to generational war in Afghanistan, a la General Petraeus, is seen as politically unpopular, even if the end result of the sober sensible option is exactly that: more war fought in the (false) name of (eventual) peace.

So, under Joe Biden, we have bombing for de-escalation and more war for peace. Again, Biden deserves praise when he promised that nothing would fundamentally change under his administration.

42 thoughts on “Yet Another Wartime President

  1. Since the US spends more money on “Defence” than Russia, Iran, North Korea, China, and a few other Nations combined, taking ever more money away from Civilian needs, it seems there’s a National orgasm in the US when they’re used, satisfaction guaranteed.
    And of course, another purchase order for the Military-Industrial Complex.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No one should have expected more from Biden. As you noted, he promised that nothing would fundamentally change.

    It appears one of the key items on every President’s Must-Do checklist: bomb someone to show “toughness”. It is depressingly familiar – every President in my lifetime has bombed and killed someone, or made war on some “brown” or “yellow” country.

    Every four years a non-choice is offered with the best option being the lesser of two evils – with lesser evil still evil. At present, the best choice (using that term advisedly) is a corrupt crony-capitalist party of technocrats who govern for the elites. The other group, of white supremacists and Dominionists led by a madman, has become a death cult with no interest in actual governance.

    This leads to a very bad place for all of us.

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  3. I think it might be helpful to distinguish war, which I would define as actions authorized by Congress for the protection of the US, from wanton violence, which is what is being perpetrated in multiple settings in the absence of a Congressional declaration of war.

    The reason I think the distinction is important is that warfare, given the above definition, can be necessary. And it is consistent with the values of the members of our armed forces, or at least those I know or have worked with.

    Wanton violence, however, is not something our military personnel are suited for. Few of them feel good about committing acts of wanton violence and hence the violence they are ordered to engage in causes moral injury. I think this is a significant source of the mental health issues that our service personnel deal with. I think that a necessary part of the solution is for the US to return to requiring a Congressional declaration of war in order to commit acts of violence in other countries.
    .

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    1. I agree. All service members take an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

      Two things here: 1) War is supposed to be defensive and IAW the Constitution; 2) It follows that war requires a Congressional declaration, else it’s not in support of said Constitution.

      The AUMF, now almost 20 years old, was Congress abnegating its responsibility to declare war. The AUMF must be repealed and wanton violence must stop.

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      1. Apparently there are no aisles to reach across in the arenas of foreign policy.
        Just dyslexic platitudes meant to define our countries creation of a new fangled approach to peace. Good googly moogly

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    2. Excellent point, JPA! In 1950, the military deployment to Korea was very carefully called a “police action.” I’d guess that was at least partially a cover for non-Congressionally-authorized actions. In recent decades, we’ve had Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and so on, similar means of skating away from saying we’ve instigated a war. You’re so right that this framing outlines a vital distinction which allows Presidents to avoid getting permission from Congress. I doubt we the people would have any success in the near term with closing that loophole, however, especially with the AUMF having been renewed (and tacitly expanded and twisted) every year.

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    3. When Reuters News Agency photographers were massacred in Baghdad, under FOIA wanted to see the video from the attacking Apache helicopter. The Pentagon lied and said it didn’t exist.

      Chelsea Manning, performing his assigned duties saw that it did exist and released it to Wikileaks.
      While I generally agree with the comment of JPA, there are exceptions, and the pilots of the attacking helicopter were obviously enjoying what they were doing.

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  4. It reminds me of one of the Vietnam War protest signs I used to see. “fighting for peace is like f—–g for chastity” the quote is somehow attributed to Stephen King’s HEARTS IN ATLANTIS but I think it was around long before that. Other versions attributed to George Carlin and others.

    Another observation about our endless war. I’m sure most of you have seen TV ads for Wounded Warriors. In one of them, there appear about half a dozen veterans with various war injuries including missing limbs, loss of mobility, and other heartbreaking injuries. But what really got to me was the narrative when the veterans talk about what it cost them, lost homes, lost marriage, lost career opportunities. And then they all say “I’d do it all again.” I found that especially heartbreaking. As a former Marine I understand the camaraderie, though I never served in a war zone, and I’m sure the bonds of combat are ten times stronger than non combat service. But still it really bothered me. I wish we could make a commitment to them that even though you would do it all again, we are never again going to ask that of our young people.

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    1. Jerry, what troubles me about the “Wounded Warrior” program is that it exists at all. (This isn’t an anti-war sentiment.)
      Though I never served, a number of my family did (WWII through Vietnam). Instead of a “thanks for your service” (which ranks up there with “sorry for your loss”/thoughts & prayers/a warm & hearty handclasp for callous insincerity) they had the then considerable benefits of the Veterans’ Administration and the GI Bill when they came home.
      Our government & Nation seem fine with not having a draft and with enlistees serving multiple tours (one can’t help but wonder how many of the veterans in the Wounded Warrior commercials rec’d their wounds on their second or third tour). I think it’s fair and accurate to say the official commitment to these “disposable assets” goes no further than providing training, uniforms, weapons and transportation to and from “areas of conflict.”
      And for anyone to say, “They knew what they were signing up for” … it’s beneath contempt.
      (I’m rarely at a loss for words but this could go on and on – outrage isn’t a strong enough term – but I don’t know how to wrap this up beyond simply stopping.)

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      1. I agree, I think we should be embarrassed that there is a need for so many other veteran help organizations. Kind of goes along with GoFundMe, I’ve read that more than half the requests are for medical bills.

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  5. Feeding The Beast
    Instead of the hungry masses
    Here’s to our foolish
    Weak kneed leadership
    Who unraveled
    Like a cheap capitalist suit
    When the pentagon came knocking
    We got pockets full
    Of bombs and explosive toys
    That give false senses of security
    To men behaving like boys
    Making enemies
    Of displaced refugees
    Wandering forever through
    Middle East sands
    Of tainted democracies pyres
    While the cost of war climbs higher

    https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/world/2021/02/25/us-military-budget-what-can-global-bases-do-vs-covid-cyber-attacks/6419013002/

    https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2021/USCounterterrorismOperations

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  6. Fresh off his experience as Supreme Commander during WWII, General-President Eisenhower, the last real Commander-in-Chief, delivered his Cross of Iron speech April 16, 1953.

    First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy — for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.
    Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation — but only in effective cooperation with fellow nations.

    Third: Every nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.
    Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.

    Fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments — but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

    In the light of these principles, the citizens of the United States defined the way they proposed to follow, through the aftermath of — of war, toward true peace.

    It’s obvious US Foreign Policy, under Republicans and Democrats, repudiate the practical Principles the last Real Commander-in-Chief enunciates, in the delusional belief the US has a Divine Mandate to rule this World in place of the Almighty.

    It was a great idealistic speech, but Eisenhower didn’t really believe it himself, because 4 months later, he presided over the coup d’etat removing the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of the Shah, the proxy US Dictator on 19 August 1953.

    https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwighteisenhowercrossofiron.htm

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  7. but what can one DO about it? enough w/ the chatyap; as the inimitable chris hedges claims, revolution is the only viable alternative. hedges’ clarion call has been too dilatory in coming, the babbling tongues too protracted. there is no way the regnant dem-ons and repugs, the pentagon, the MIC, or anyone of the 3 branches of government will leave their lofty perches in the welkin’s eyrie. not voluntarily. it remains the responsibility of US citizens to drag them bodily from their ‘sancta santora’. perhaps january 6th adumbrated the inchoate incipience of hedges’ revolution, no?

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    1. Not sure that the mindset of January 6th is what Hedges has in mind in terms of a revolution. If in fact that white supremist, Christian nationalist, gun-loving faction does succeed in igniting a larger conflict, we’re in BIG trouble.

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      1. we already are, denise… deep doodoo in every corner… but it can be addressed and fixed one day, either by force or by choice. negotiation and concinnity prevail in every animal and plant kingdom… most dramatically among parasitized host species who manage to negotiate a peace agreement w/ their resident parasites, to the extent that they fashion an arrangement of compromise that results in commensalism, symbiont mutualism, or, at the least, obligate parasite/host survival. there is hope for our species yet!

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        1. No argument about the gravity of the current global situation. My point, though, is that the January 6th types are not going to negotiate or compromise. It’s going to be their way or the highway. Their way is a white, misogynist theocracy. If they can feasibly threaten to propagate a revolution, and the rest of us compromise with that, we’ll find out what real hell is. Their brand of revolution will be catastrophic, not cathartic.

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          1. it is the responsibility of compassionate, reasonable, and reasoning beings to find solutions that address and resolve these destructive impasses. we might do so by first trying to understand, from a position of humility, who these people are whom we have tarred w/ such sweeping labels and generalizations as ‘racists’, ‘white supremacists’, and ‘vigilantes’. the lexicon we use matters. if our words are interpreted as antagonistic, demeaning, contumacious, inaccurate, or injudiciously applied, then any potential conversation that might be forthcoming will die a premature death. this is the kind of revolution i meant, not the fisticuff-and-gun-toting revolution of violent extremes… conversations that evolve toward comity rather than devolve toward captiousness.

            i was sanguine my long-time mentor chris hedges’ might agree w/ me. it has been an efficacious and salubrious strategy to use w/ my q-anon, trumpetting trump-loving, LDSer, in-extremis repub sister who was one of the 6th jan. ‘attendees’. i wish now i had been more broad-minded and open-hearted. had i been so, the metaphoric ‘cracks’, as you so argutely termed them on your blog-site, would have been more beneficial. one is best-served in any meaningful conversation by oppugning ‘why’… why do you feel this way? why are you so angry? why do you feel so bereft? so impuissant? so outraged? so dismissed?

            we can start those conversations now w/ the people we disagree w/ the most passionately, and then genuinely listen to their sound vibrations, person-by-person, until the halls of congress and the power-elite become privy to those conversations.

            i was being facetious when i implied a revolution of violence and savagery. i suspect hedges would agree.

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          2. I have to respectfully disagree with you here, Jeanie. You have no cause to chastise yourself for not being more open-minded and compassionate with your sister, nor with any other extremist. Honest debate with people of differing opinions is one thing; trying to reason with a cultist is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

            In the case of the January 6th insurrectionists, of all stripes, many of their family members have reported attempts to persuade them not to take the actions they did, to no avail. When it comes to QAnon-ers, there are now support groups for their spouses, children, and siblings who are in despair after having tried endless reasoning and concerned appeals. If someone wants to drink the Kool-Aid because he or she is a true believer in [name the cult or delusion], all the “why?” questions in the world won’t make any difference. Asking “why?” is a resort to logical thought, and people who think Democrats are cannibalistic, blood-drinking pedophiles are immune to actual facts and logic. Any answers they return will be based on yet more delusions. Something like 67% of GOP voters think the election was stolen, despite 60 lost court cases; assurances by the former guy’s own cybersecurity director that there was NO election interference; and testimony by state GOP officials that the results were accurate. How does your or my being open-minded change that high level of utter belief in something that’s manifestly not true? In short, if someone is about to shoot you because he’s convinced you’re a traitorous, cannibalistic pedophile, employing sweet reason and concern for his feelings is not likely to save your hide. Appeasing extremists has a long history of being totally ineffective.

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          3. perhaps saving my hide is not the newell post of my value strata. saving my psyche seems more palatable. nevertheless, it is not to be recommended as a reliable or effective strategy for survival! tnx for the condign insights, denise. your expatiations are indeed appreciated… worthy of aDsorption, if not aBsorption.

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          4. OK, so you’re not necessarily interested in saving your hide above all else. That’s fortunate if you’ve encountered someone who wants to exterminate you because you support a legal election or because he/she thinks you’re a cannibal who specializes in pedophilia. The point being that you can exert all your efforts at reason and concern, but you won’t save either your psyche or your life. No level of open-mindedness or caring will change the convictions of a committed cultist; again, the families of QAnon-ers are discovering that sad truth. And if such people become dangerous, trying the kumbaya approach cannot be the primary way to handle them, as we saw on January 6th.

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          5. There is no doubt those in Trump’s Cult of Personality IDOLIZE him and this golden statue proves it. They are so BLIND in their devotion, they can’t see the similarity with the golden calf mentioned in Exodus 32:4

            US Christian Leaders living the lifestyle of the rich and famous are blind to these words in their Bibles and never expound on them, even though they all preach we’re in THE LAST DAYS, but can’t see they’re the same LAST DAYS from the Biblical Prophecy in James 5.

            Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
            Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten.
            Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. You have heaped treasure together for THE LAST DAYS.

            Behold, the HIRE OF THE LABOURERS who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by FRAUD, cries: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord Almighty.

            You have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; you have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
            You have condemned and killed the just; and he does not resist you.
            Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
            You also be patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws close.

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          6. There’s scant chance of finding common ground with people living in a fantasy world.

            People tend to love Trump because 1) He professes to hate the same groups as they do; 2) They want an authoritarian daddy-figure to obey; 3) They enjoy his lies and fantasies, which are often far more entertaining or exciting than cold boring facts.

            Liked by 2 people

          7. I have never been afraid to bring it to the metaphorical Lion’s Den from Daniel. By that I mean I’m a minority of 1 commenting in Breibart, Pat Buchanon and other pro-Trump sites, like the Christian pro Trump site Gab.
            I posted the same comment with the Trump golden statue there before I posted it here.

            It’s interesting to note on that site, the post following mine simply said, “I Miss Donald Trump.” There’s nothing wrong with posting that, but at this writing it got 8,863 likes, 557 comments and 1,269 reposts.

            For being a Christian site, my post got no likes, no comments, and no reposts.

            Looking ahead, January 6 may not be an aberration.

            Liked by 2 people

  8. Yes, about common ground. To have common ground, both “sides” have to be working with facts, not delusions. If a representative votes on an appropriation that would site a manufacturing plant in his/her district, I could say it was pure pork barrel, that the plant would be better sited elsewhere, and you could argue that the representative was effectively serving his/her constituents. But if someone else claims that the language of the bill is merely code for setting up a child trafficking ring in the basement of a pizza parlor, there’s no basis for either you or I to have a discussion with that third person. By definition, nothing either of us says at that point will make a difference.

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      1. I was referring to Pizzagate, the whacko conspiracy theory that might have been the first step toward QAnon. Apparently, the theorists did NOT believe that Hillary had any sense of decency. But that’s a debate for another day. ; )

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          1. I’d suspected you were using your Jon Stewart font.

            Yes to the sanctity of pizza parlors! And dare I add, bowling alleys, movie theaters, bookstores, rib joints, real coffee shops…..

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    1. one might try drilling deeper into the odd cortical furniture of those besotted w/ jesus, trump, allah, mohammed, q-anon fantasies, rah, jim jones, joe smith, ‘st’. mary of parthenogenesis fame… or any of that mythical lot… to explore how their brains cogitate as they tick-tock away from reality. if approached w/ a non-judgemental attitude, one is more likely to find clues that open the barriers and cells they have erected during childhood and beyond which, if nothing else, can open conversations and reduce tension. most of the q-anon-ers and 6th jan-ers are not murderers or homicidal maniacs. many simply have crazed ideations and/or legitimate grievances. some feel they’ve been left on the dung-heaps of barnyards.

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  9. The partisan Democrats were all flush with victory once it was settled Biden Won the election. Happy Days were Here Again.

    Corporate Joe almost immediately validated his commitment to the MIC with his Air Raid in Syria. Syria has been a punching bag for several for over a decade. Not hard to figure out why North Korea has Nukes and will never give them up.

    At the same time the report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi will be treated with the usual nod and wink to the Saudi’s. From NYT:

    President Biden has decided that the diplomatic cost of directly penalizing Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is too high, according to senior administration officials, despite a detailed American intelligence finding that he directly approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident and Washington Post columnist who was drugged and dismembered in October 2018.

    Dennis Ross, a former Middle East negotiator, applauded Mr. Biden for “trying to thread the needle here.”
    “This is the classic example of where you have to balance your values and your interests,” Mr. Ross said.

    My Side Bar: In other words like the internal “American Justice System” if you are wealthy, well connected or both the chances of “real justice” is remote to non-existent.

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      1. I did notice when Jamal Khashoggi, first went missing and then was presumed dead via Saudi Sate sanctioned murder, MSDNC and CNN were all in a lather about The Trumpet ignoring the whole thing.

        The details now point the finger at MBS however the outrage from MSDNC and CNN is lacking. These two propaganda outlets have now decided the “Nuanced” approach by Biden is the best course of action.

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        1. The wanton, shameless, self-serving political hypocrisy you describe received perhaps its most lucid and timeless description in “THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF OLIGARCHICAL COLLECTIVISM,” by Emmanuel Goldstein (the book-within-a-book from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four), Chapter 1 – IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.
          . . .
          “The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.”
          . . .
          Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. Doublethink lies at the very heart of [CorpGov*], since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. …”

          * Orwell used the term “Ingsoc” (for English Socialism) whereas in today’s Global Corporate Oligarchical Collective, we might better use the more accurate label “CorpGov.”

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          1. CorpGov is perfect, as it places the dominant power, corporations, first.

            What amazes me is how cheaply Members of Congress can be bought. Often for less than a million dollars in campaign “contributions.”

            Corporations pay the piper so they call the tune. And that tune does not include single-payer health care, a $15 minimum wage, etc.

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  10. Chris Hedges: “It’s over. Anyone who thinks we live in a functioning democracy should turn off Rachel Maddow and start reading Sheldon Wolin.”

    Or, in other words:

    A Pair of Petrarchan Polemics
    (after the Elizabethan “Italian” sonnet style)

    “The Russians did [whatever].” Maddow said it.
    Americans must have someone to blame.
    Excuses they require, both weak and lame.
    Just start a rumor, then proceed to spread it.
    [Whatever] bad, give Vladimir the credit.
    In Cable-TV World, it’s all the same:
    The Villain has a Russian-sounding name.
    (Have Rachel make it up. No need to edit.)
    Or Trump. His tweets. His speeches (Himself-centered)
    A product and a symptom of our fate.
    The infantile career, by Bannon mentored.
    Once more we hear the Nixon suffix “-gate”
    Pursue the White House occupant who entered
    Then on the nation’s nerves began to grate.

    Our “leaders” want submission, not our thanks.
    They tell us where to go and where to stick it.
    A billionaire’s behind? They say to lick it.
    Obama’s government, chose by some banks.
    Now Biden: lost, confused, and drawing blanks.
    “Not Trump And Not Quite Dead” seems just the ticket.
    The Democrats’ new plan? A chirping cricket,
    But billions more for missiles, planes, and tanks.
    Some books have told us all about this racket.
    An Oligarchy with Free Money swollen
    To benefit the topmost income bracket.
    Along the way, Democracy was stolen
    By some fool posing in a bomber jacket.
    To understand, start reading Sheldon Wolin.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2020

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  11. The Pentagon just released this video of the Iranian missile attack against the US base in Iraq in retaliation for the murder of such a high ranking Official of the Iranian government in the person of General Soleimani last January 3, setting the Tone and Tenor of all that came after in 2020.

    This is proof if the US and Israel push Iran to the limit, they have the capability to strike every US base in the Middle East with pin point accuracy.

    Then we can say goodbye to all that we consider Civilization in a post Apocalyptic World.

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