In the midst of a pretty bad news cycle, coming off another truly awful few weeks of news from Afghanistan, the Biden Administration did something strange: it admitted to a possible war crime. Released from the Pentagon press briefing and relayed through US CENTCOM commander, Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth F. MacKenzie, Jr., and Pentagon spokesperson, Jack Kirby, the revelations were made to a stunned press corps on an otherwise sleepy end-of-summer news day. Interestingly, neither Jen Psaki nor anyone else from the White House spoke of this revelation.
It was entirely up to the Pentagon; done in their house, with their personnel. Yet, make no mistake, the White House let this news get out.
Ordinarily, this sort of headline would not be so readily given to the anxious press. Instead, it would be buried underneath the elephantine national security establishment; masked behind a seemingly impenetrable veil of legalese designed to dissuade all but the most committed activist-journalists (of which, hardly no one in the Western press is anymore).
At a time when Mr. Biden is beset by bad news, ranging from the devastating Afghan pullout to the recent messy nuclear submarine deal with Australia which left a jilted France out in the cold resulting in Paris pulling its ambassador from the US for the first time in the history of our two nations, the question must be: why would the Biden Administration have spoon-fed this bad news to an otherwise complacent Western media?
The Pentagon’s “Tragic Mistake” Sounds More Like a War Crime
As for what the dastardly deed was: the Biden Administration decided to implement a radical withdrawal plan from Afghanistan to be accomplished by August 31, 2021. Having moved the original withdrawal deadline of May 1, 2021, the date that the Trump Administration had tentatively set with the Taliban during a meeting in Doha in February 2020, President Biden wanted the US military out of Afghanistan. Having abandoned their most fortified facility in the country, Bagram Air Base, the Americans were forced to rely entirely on the hard-to-defend Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul.
During the sloppy US evacuation from Kabul, 13 servicemen and women–mostly US Marines–were murdered by an IS-K suicide bomber who attacked the Abbey Gate.
The Biden Administration claimed that they had stopped another attack against the Americans at the airport. Everyone applauded. Few had the temerity to ask for the actual details of the attack. Those who did inquire were met with stiff resistance from the Pentagon and the administration.
That was usually how these things played out.
After all, the Obama Administration had conducted a record number of drone attacks across the arc of the Greater Middle East. Multiple claims had been made that those numerous attacks did not always get the intended targets–some even accusing the Obama Administration of just blowing up random Muslims in an effort to be seen as waging the Global War on Terror in a smarter way than the maligned George W. Bush administration had done.
Almost all of these claims were quickly, permanently, locked away by the national security bureaucracy.
Few in the press likely assumed that President Biden would behave any differently than former President Barack Obama when it came to admitting culpability in the wanton murder of innocent foreigners who were in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The press likely thought that any further details, especially ones that made the Biden Administration look bad, would never be released to the public–at least not any time soon.
Yet, just a few weeks after those drone strikes in Afghanistan, the truth was being revealed to the press by none other than the Pentagon’s spokesperson and the commander of US Central Command! As the video at the top of this piece shows, the Pentagon didn’t kill a terrorist and his confederates at all.
The US military blew up an individual who was an Afghan civilian known to the US military and intelligence community; an aide worker. In the process of assassinating that the innocent Afghan man the US military also murdered almost a dozen women and children. Naturally, at the funeral for these innocent people, the family chanted, “Death to America!”
Honestly, who could blame them?
Here’s a picture of the victims (all of this could have been avoided, mind you, had Mr. Biden used a modicum of common sense to evacuate our people from Afghanistan):
In PR, sometimes it’s best to leak your own bad news to get in front of the story and shape the media environment to your favor. But there’s no apparent upside in revealing this particular information. Then again, President Biden has made human rights a key tenet of his platform since announcing his bid for the presidency in 2020. Perhaps this was some bizarre attempt to show the world that he meant what he said?
Though, that seems less likely, given that, in the same briefing that the Biden military team announced this horrible news, the Pentagon made it clear that they did not view what occurred last month in Afghanistan as anything other than a “tragic mistake.”
This Isn’t About Accountability
So, one can assume that accountability on this matter–like so many other issues in Washington, D.C. requiring accountability–will be nonexistent. Our governing elite have mastered the art of therapeutic politics wherein the act of begging for forgiveness and expressing solemnity at one’s bad actions is somehow a viable alternative to actual accountability.
In the 2014 original Netflix series, House of Cards, the villainous antihero, Frank Underwood, deviously advises his audience that…
What was likely going on this last Friday at the Pentagon was an attempt to either save the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Army General Mark Milley, or to pressure him to leave quietly.
The reason that I think these recent revelations about the Afghan drone strike in August are not about accountability for possible war crimes, but are actually about Mark Milley is because the recent revelations surrounding General Milley’s actions in the chaotic final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency were so extraordinary.
According to a new book by Washington Post columnists, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa entitled Peril, due out this week, General Milley took multiple actions that he supposedly intended to “reassure” twitchy members of the Democratic Party and foreign military leaders, like his counterpart in China.
Beginning in October 2020 and going through until January 2021, General Milley fielded a series of calls and apparently took action as well as making comments alluding to the fact that he was going to use his position to undermine the then-sitting president, Donald Trump.
At one point, according to multiple reports, General Milley had a long conversation with Democratic Party Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to tell her that he had personally taken steps to ensure that President Trump’s ability to order US military strikes was seriously curbed so as to deny the president a “wag-the-dog” moment–using the pretext of a military strike to distract the American people from something that the president wanted to do on the domestic front (like, say, overturning an election).
Stepping outside of his chain of command to assuage the worries of the sitting president’s political rivals, like Nancy Pelosi, is bad enough. But picking up the phone to call your counterpart in China, a nation that Milley’s Pentagon has consistently framed as the greatest, existential threat facing the US today, to basically throw the sitting president under-the-bus is outrageous. In fact, if it’s not treason, it’s certainly conduct unbecoming an officer–let alone a general officer.
To be sure, former Trump Administration Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has defended Milley by claiming that he had ordered General Milley to begin making routine reassurance phone call to Milley’s military counterparts in other countries, like China, beginning in October 2020. Yet, Esper was either fired or resigned from the Trump Administration in the beginning of November. For his part, Esper’s successor, the former Acting Secretary Christopher Miller denies ever giving General Milley to make such phone calls to his foreign counterparts.
Once the revelations of Milley’s unconventional actions was made public in the run-up to the release of Woodward and Costa’s new book, the general did little to deny the horrible claims. He seemed to relish in the fact that he had rankled the Right-wing. That alone is extraordinary.
As I told Jim Bohannon in a recent interview, we cannot expect our military leaders to not have personal political opinions but we can certainly demand that they keep those opinions separate from the conduct of their job.
Is not the military intended to be apolitical?
If the answer to that question is “no,” then explain to me why Marine Corps Lt. Colonel Stuart Scheller was forced to resign for posting a video demanding accountability for his leaders in the civilian and military chain of command responsible for the debacle that was the American withdrawal from Kabul. Tell me why men like that must be cashiered from their jobs and made examples of whereas Milley is applauded.
The answer is simple–and it’s why so many are rushing to protect Milley: it is acceptable to be anti-Trump specifically and, more generally, anti-Republican Party today. That sort of politicking is rewarded…even when it leads the top military adviser in the Pentagon to humiliate himself and this country before a strategic rival, like China, by calling his counterpart in the midst of a contentious presidential election to insist that the sitting president would be unable to launch any kind of attack on China.
By relieving Colonel Scheller but defending General Milley, it was all-too-apparent that Washington truly had become coopted by the Left. It might even feed into the claims that there was a vast conspiracy to unseat Trump and punish his “deplorable” supporters.
So, the Biden Administration moved quickly to distract the press. They revealed the potential war crimes in Afghanistan and now that’s all anyone is talking about in the press. Only on the Right are people still talking about General Milley’s bizarre, very political behavior–and those Righties, so the logic goes, can be managed, discredited, and ignored.
And as I noted above, there is one of two reasons for why the Biden Administration would have revealed the possible war crime in Afghanistan as it related to General Milley: either to cover for him and continue on their merry way.
Or, to create the pretext needed to remove Milley.
Just remember, after the drone strike in Afghanistan, General Milley went to the Pentagon press room podium to label that strike as being “righteous.”
According to the Biden Administration, though, that strike was anything but righteous. It was criminally incompetent. And now Milley’s fingerprints are all over it–made doubly so by the fact that the revelation of the war crime was made from the Pentagon press room rather than the White House.
The latter option, that President Biden is creating a pretext to remove Milley, is very plausible. This is not because the White House disapproves of Milley’s actions as they related to former President Trump. But because the White House fears that Milley might engage in similar behavior toward President Biden should the two groups no longer be simpatico. Which, after Afghanistan, they will not remain so close.
Plus, as I’ve written here, despite his public pronouncements about “White Rage”, General Milley is not “woke”. Milley says what he has to in order to keep his department in the good graces of the crazies who populate the Democratic Party, because Milley has cynically assessed that the Democratic Party is the ruling party of our future and the GOP is on the way out (sadly, he’s likely right about that).
I haven’t yet figured out which option explains the Biden Administration’s war crime revelation.
The point is, however, that the war crime revelation was not intended as a serious mea culpa. These people in Washington don’t care about such things. It’s all standard operating procedure; it’s baked into the cake. After 20 years, those who’ve killed the innocent in this Global War on Terror have never been punished and most have been promoted.
This revelation on Friday was designed to either distract the media from Milley and the obvious plot against Mr. Trump or to pressure Milley into retiring from behind the scenes, lest he replicate his unconstitutional behavior against Mr. Biden at a future date.
Keep an eye on these stories. They are related. You’ve been warned.