For me, the most shocking aspect of "Bountygate" was the news that the Afghan war had morphed into yet another Russian/American proxy war. When we understand how and why that happened, we can comprehend the true horror of Trump's covert policies.
Here's the latest news: American intelligence was aware of the bounties as early as March -- freakin' March -- of 2019
. We are also told that John Bolton knew about this scandal from the start. Weirdly, he did not see fit to mention that fact in his book. (See below.)
Although In the Room Where It Happened
does not talk about the bounties, it contains some extremely enlightening material. Note this
“ISIS is still in Afghanistan,” said Mattis.
"Let Russia take care of them."
Trump said, “Let Russia take care of them. We’re seven thousand miles away but we’re still the target, they’ll come to our shores, that’s what they all say,” said Trump, scoffing. “It’s a horror show. At some point, we’ve got to get out.”
Let us pause to ponder the implication of those words.
Trump wants the Russians to take military control of Afghanistan. There's no other way to interpret his sentiment. The Russians cannot "take care" of ISIS in Afghanistan unless American troops leave and Russian troops replace them.
Throughout Bolton's book, Trump continually pushes for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan. My former self would have considered that goal laudable; like most Americans, I got sick of war -- particularly that
war -- a long time ago. But my attitudes have begun to shift now I've learned more about what Putin has in mind
Putin’s worldview is all about reviving Russia as a global power with clout in strategic regions such as the Middle East and North Africa.
Moscow wants to see Afghanistan stabilized so the Islamic State cannot establish a foothold close to its southern flank.
London-based security analyst Mark Galeotti says Russia sees Afghanistan as key to its security.
“What happens in Afghanistan matters to Russia," he said. “Obviously, everything from the massive flow of heroin — remember, Russia has the highest per capita consumption rate of heroin. They’re also worried about the spread of radical Islam into Central Asian states.”
The conspiratorially-minded will be inclined to see the heroin trade as key. If the Taliban/Russia alliance comes to pass, every single Russian who injects junk into his arm will also inject money into Putin's pocket.
(Am I the only one here who has read Kruger's The Great Heroin Coup
? It's an old book that may have lessons for the current age.)
Bottom line: Russia is quite prepared to do business with the Taliban, while America will never forgive 9/11.
Trump's scandalous inaction vis-a-vis the bounties was, in short, a service to Putin. Bolton makes it quite clear that our president has always pursued a private Afghan policy quite different from our stated
policy. Trump's goal comes down to four words: America out; Russia in.
Trump doesn't mind the killing of our soldiers because he wants America out.
Everyone understands that if the Taliban -- with Russian backing -- takes full control of Afghanistan, that nation will once again become a terrorist haven. The terrorists won't target Russia. They'll go after the US -- only this time, they'll have Putin's help. Essentially, the jihadists will function as Putin's plausibly-deniable warriors.
Worst of all, Trump accepts and desires this outcome. Bolton makes that fact quite clear.
Stand back and savor this tableau: Donald Trump -- hero of the Islamophobes, shameless promoter of anti-Muslim paranoia -- has turned out to be a very different man behind the scenes. He wants to re-establish Afghanistan as a terrorist utopia. He has repeatedly told his aides that "it is cheaper to rebuild the World Trade Center than to fight in Afghanistan."
Seriously. That's a direct quote from John Bolton's book. Can you imagine the outcry if any other American politician had uttered such words?
This is the true scandal behind Bountygate: Trump's willingness to accept a new 9/11.
Nineteen years ago, when Al Qaeda attacked the United States, Bush was able to attack Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But when we are hit by a future
9/11, the future American president -- whoever he or she may be -- will not have the option to strike back. Thanks to Trump, he or she will be impotent. We won't be able to attack terrorists nesting in Afghanistan because that country will be protected by a nuclear power.
When you understand the true ramifications of Bountygate, you'll see the full scope of Trump's treason.
We still have a contradiction to unravel:
The latest report that John Bolton informed Trump about the bounties in 2019 conflicts with with Bolton's seeming surprise
when Bountygate was first revealed. But the wording of that initial reaction deserves study. It may be that Bolton was forbidden from discussing this particular matter when his book was vetted. It may also be the case that Bolton is a source for some of the current reporting on Bountygate.
Added note: Natasha Bertrand
also believes that censorship prevented Bolton from including this material. I'm now persuaded that Bolton has been a
source, though not the only one.
The incompetence excuse won't wash.
Let's go to Marcy Wheeler:
Trump's excuse is now, "Well, I don't read my PDB at all -- it's not like aides pointedly chose not to brief me on Vlad killing our troops to avoid pissing me off, it's just that I never do my homework."
Amusingly, one of Marcy's readers dug up a 2014 Trump tweet in which he accused Barack Obama of not reading his briefs.
When the scandal first broke, Marcy reminded her readers
that "When Iranian backed militias killed one contractor, the Trump Admin took out Soleimani. So what explains the very different response here?"
If we read Bolton's book in conjunction with the WP article cited above, it's possible to come up with an explanation that is quite comprehensible. And reprehensible.
One theory that making the rounds is that the revelation of this scandal constitutes a kind of intelligence community revolt against Trump. That community is not monolithic; I have always maintained there is a strong pro-Trump contingent within Spookworld. Still, it is reasonable to suspect that many within that world are appalled by Trump's willingness to hand Afghanistan over to the Russian sphere of influence.
Thus, we should not be surprised to see a drip drip drip of further scandalous revelations.
Bottom line: Don't buy the "incompetence" excuse. Trump is in deep with the Russians. (Deeper than you know, if this
is true.) He has made a conscious decision to benefit both Putin and the terrorists.