When It’s Too Late

This is getting tiresome. Sometimes it really is too late:

Several Democratic presidential candidates called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on Sunday after the New York Times published new information about allegations of sexual misconduct against him, while Republican leaders condemned the reporting as irresponsible and defended him.

President Trump on Twitter accused news outlets of trying to pressure the justice into taking more liberal positions and suggested, without elaborating, that the “Justice Department should come to his rescue.”

It’s too late. He was confirmed to the Supreme Court. His appointment is a lifetime appointment, and impeachment is impossible. As with a presidential impeachment, the House would bring charges and the Senate would try him. And the Senate is firmly Republican. They would refuse to try him. They’d shrug. And the Senate has been Republican since the 2010 midterms – the Tea Party takeover. And even if all this is true, which it very well might be, Kavanaugh is the key vote that will one day, soon, overturn Roe and make abortion illegal – and birth control is next – and then maybe the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Does no one read Margaret Atwood? She’s at it again:

When Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, the Christian right was on the rise in the U.S. and the Soviet Union seemed an indelible element of the global political landscape. It would be a mistake to think that the former had a greater influence on Atwood’s masterpiece than the latter. True, the novelist has said that, before writing it, she’d been researching the small-scale theocracies the Puritans established in colonial America. (That’s one reason the book is set in Massachusetts.) But The Handmaid’s Tale is a direct descendant of George Orwell’s 1984, the kind of bleak literary contemplation of the human spirit under the totalitarian regimes that flourished in the post-World War II era, when it often felt like such states were inevitable. “Always, at every moment,” Winston Smith’s torturer tells him in Orwell’s novel, “there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”

Atwood’s Gilead is that kind of place, and it’s infused with the understanding that, for much of human history, most places were that kind of place if you had the misfortune to be a woman. The citizens of Gilead spend remarkably little time thinking about God or Scripture, and its leaders, even less so. Ideology – communism, fascism, religion, racial supremacism – merely provides a rationale for the exercise of raw power and conveniently designates a class of victims and slaves. “The same wailings from the new arrivals, the same barking and shouts from the guards,” a character in Atwood’s new novel, The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, recalls of Gilead’s convulsive birth. “How tedious is a tyranny in the throes of enactment. It’s always the same plot.”

And the victims and slaves are women. They’re entirely disposable. They don’t matter at all. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever – or follow the current news:

On Saturday, The Times published an essay in its Opinion section adapted from a forthcoming book “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,” by two Times reporters, Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, who helped cover his confirmation hearings.

The reporters wrote that they spent 10 months investigating the allegations of sexual misconduct and assault at the center of the hearings, including one by a former Yale classmate, Deborah Ramirez. She recalled being at a dorm party where participants were drinking heavily, and Mr. Kavanaugh thrust his penis in her face, prompting her to swat it away and inadvertently touch it.

While Senate investigators concluded at the time that Ms. Ramirez’s account lacked corroboration, the authors said at least seven people “heard about the Yale incident long before Mr. Kavanaugh was a federal judge,” including Ms. Ramirez’s mother and two classmates who learned of it just days after the party.

The book also reports that Ms. Ramirez’s lawyers gave the FBI a list of at least 25 people who may have had corroborating evidence, but that the bureau interviewed none of them.

No one should have expected anything else. That’s the boot on the face, but was too late to do anything about this many years ago. Democrats now want to impeach Kavanaugh. Donald Trump now wants his very own justice department to shut down the New York Times once and for all. Neither will happen. And no one should expect anything else. And people will keep reading Margaret Atwood. She’s Canadian. She keeps an eye on things down here. And she knew it was too late for us long ago.

And it’s too late to stop the new war:

President Trump said Sunday that the United States was prepared to respond to the devastating attacks on two oil installations in Saudi Arabia that halved the state oil company’s production output, while Iran rejected U.S. accusations that it was responsible.

“There is reason to believe that we know the culprit,” Trump said in a tweet Sunday evening. He said the United States was “locked and loaded depending on verification.”

Trump did not name Iran, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had on Saturday, or specify whether he was contemplating a military response. He said he was waiting to hear from the Saudis on “who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”

What? Long ago, Congress outsourced any declaration of war to the president. Let him wage full-scale war – in Korea – and then in Vietnam – and then in Afghanistan and the Iraq. Just do it, and come back sixty days later for an actual “authorization to use force” – which is almost always automatic but not really a “declaration” of war. The original Constitution is too dangerous. Congress will no longer touch that “declaring war” business. Let the president take the political heat for any war that might go bad. And now Donald Trump had outsourced this declaration of war to the Saudi government. We’re locked and loaded. They’ll tell is what to do and when.

And no one would dare to argue with Trump on this:

Some in the Pentagon were said to be urging restraint. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

They know better than to discuss, openly, the idea of letting the Saudis tell us when and where to go to war and with whom. Trump seems to be fine with that. He’ll handle other details:

Oil futures jumped Sunday evening as markets opened for the first time since the attacks. The price of Brent crude surged 18 percent before falling back to a 12 percent increase; the U.S. benchmark West Texas intermediate climbed 12 percent before easing to a 10 percent gain. Trump said he had authorized the release of oil from strategic reserves, “if needed,” to blunt the market impact of the attacks.

He’s just waiting for the Saudi decision, but there are complications:

The attacks on Saturday could upend Trump’s hopes for new U.S.-Iran negotiations, an effort in which he has faced opposition from close ally Israel and many of his own hawkish foreign policy aides. Trump said last week that he would not rule out a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani this month.

But the Iranians refuse to meet with him. He has to lift his nasty sanctions first. Then they’ll talk. And of course he fired John Bolton because Bolton told him not to lift the damned sanctions for just a chance to talk. Those sanctions are leverage. Don’t give that leverage away. And now he’s ready for war with Iran. Go figure.

And things are murky:

The Houthis, a rebel group in Yemen allied with Iran, asserted responsibility for the attacks, saying they had sent a fleet of drones toward the Aramco facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, which said on Saturday that it was still probing the source of the attack, was silent on Sunday about the possible culprit. Media outlets in Kuwait, which sits between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, reported that officials were investigating a drone sighting over the country, deepening the mystery.

Anyone can claim anything, but all of this is heading in a bad direction:

The possibility that Iran had played a direct role in an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure unnerved a region already reeling from multiple conflicts: a war in Yemen, a feud between Qatar and its neighbors, and the confrontation between the United States and Iran.

And our president seems confused:

The United States blamed Iran for mysterious attacks on commercial tankers in the Persian Gulf region; in June, Iranian forces shot down a U.S. Navy spy drone. The incident nearly prompted a U.S. counterstrike. Trump said he called off the attack at the last minute, saying it would be disproportionate and a hindrance to diplomacy.

That incident opened a window on Trump’s dual approach to Iran, which has increasingly included invitations for negotiations to replace the 2015 deal with one he says would be stronger.

Trump’s desire to meet Rouhani with no preconditions has roiled his own advisers and was a factor in last week’s departure of national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton opposed calling off the strikes in June and was deeply skeptical of the value of new diplomacy with Iran. A person close to Bolton said Saturday that Bolton had submitted his resignation after a suggestion from Trump a week ago that the United States could drop some sanctions as a sweetener for talks.

But what does Trump want, Obama’s nuclear deal back in force so he can call it his own, or just being done with this and turning Iran to no more than smoking rubble if the Saudis tell him to do that? And they may not:

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Albukhaiti reiterated the group’s claim that it had carried out the strikes. “We confirm that the Yemeni forces are the ones who hit the oil fields, and everyone knows our credibility, in every attack we announce,” he said in a telephone interview.

“We don’t need to provide evidence,” he added, and pointed out that Pompeo had not provided any proof that strikes had come from Iran or Iraq.

They may be protecting Iran but that hardly matters now:

The weekend incident will probably heighten concerns at the Pentagon that increasing tensions with Iran expose U.S. troops, who are stationed at facilities across the Middle East, to greater risk of Iranian-sponsored attack.

Israeli officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not expected to comment on the strikes in Saudi Arabia or Pompeo’s assertion of Iran’s role.

We may lose troops but Netanyahu has his own problems. There’s an election there in a few days. He may be tossed out. But he does have Trump in his pocket:

President Trump said he had discussed a possible new defense pact with Israel during a phone call Saturday with Benjamin Netanyahu, highlighting the Israeli prime minister’s close ties to the Trump administration days before Netanyahu faces a difficult reelection vote.

Trump did not promise to install a mutual defense pact, nor divulge further details of the conversation. The idea is generally popular in Israel, where the United States is the most important ally and defense partner.

“I had a call today with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the possibility of moving forward with a Mutual Defense Treaty, between the United States and Israel, that would further anchor the tremendous alliance… between our two countries,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets Saturday.

The language of the tweets suggests he is contemplating a formal treaty, which would have to be submitted to the Senate for ratification.

They might or might not ratify a treaty that says that any attack on Israel, from a few rocks thrown by Palestinian teenagers to nukes from Iran, is an attack on the United States itself. The model is NATO which Trump hates but this is Israel. So this is a matter of the new geopolitical alignments:

Ahead of Israel’s early parliamentary election next week, Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Kremlin has an interest in who wins power.

Putin spoke Thursday at the opening of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

Putin says “over 1½ million immigrants from the Soviet Union live in Israel. We always considered them our people, compatriots. And, of course, we are not indifferent to what kind of people will come into the Israeli parliament.”

It’s a club – Trump and Netanyahu and Putin and the new Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia, and this guy too:

President Trump left a group of officials in “stunned silence” last month when he called out for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi in a Paris hotel, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Where’s my favorite dictator?” Trump asked within earshot of several US and Egyptian officials attending the G7 summit.

Kim Jong-un must be jealous. But they’re all part of the same club now. And there will a war, because, as Max Boot explains, Trump has a favorite:

Saturday’s attacks on two major Saudi oil facilities appear to represent a sharp escalation in the struggle for regional primacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A drone strike was said to have knocked out half of the Saudis’ daily oil production. The Houthi rebel group in Yemen assumed responsibility, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pinned the blame on Iran.

This is a claim that Iran denies and that few may take on faith given how often the administration has lied about even minor matters. President Trump and his aides just tried to falsify information about a hurricane. Why believe them about an attack in the Middle East?

Nevertheless, it appears, based on the sophistication of this attack, that Iran is indeed the real culprit. The Houthis have their own grudge against the Saudis, who have been waging a brutal war against them, but they lack the sophistication to carry out such a surgical strike without a lot of help from their allies in Tehran.

But even so, that hardly matters now:

At the root of the problem is Trump’s decision to outsource Middle East leadership to Israel and Saudi Arabia – unlikely allies united by their mutual (and understandable) antipathy toward the Iranian regime.

And it’s far too late to fix that:

Previous presidents have long made their first trips abroad to Canada or Mexico. Trump instead went to Riyadh in May 2017. He was delighted by the reception he received from the Saudi royals, who fawned over him and made sure there were no pesky protesters to be seen. (Protesting in the kingdom can get you beheaded.) In return for an empty promise to buy $350 billion of U.S. weaponry (the actual figure is less than $30 billion, and most of the sales already occurred), Trump gave Mohammed bin Salman (better known as “MBS”) a blank check to cash however he saw fit.

And that’s just what he did:

Within a month, MBS had staged a palace coup to elevate himself from deputy crown prince to crown prince, thereby making him the undisputed power behind the throne of his elderly father, King Salman. MBS did a few good things with his unlimited authority – notably letting Saudi women drive – but for the most part he has used his power recklessly and maliciously.

MBS launched a blockade of Qatar, another important U.S. ally, in an unsuccessful effort to pressure its royal family to stop supporting Islamist causes. He locked up some of the kingdom’s wealthiest men to extort money he claimed they had acquired corruptly. He kidnapped the prime minister of Lebanon in a failed attempt to force him to stand up to Iran’s proxies in Lebanon. He escalated the war against the Houthis, creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Yemen (10 million Yemenis are on the brink of famine) without dislodging the Houthis. And, of course, he was almost certainly responsible for the murder and dismemberment of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Ah, but he is a member of that exclusive club:

Every step of the way, Trump either cheered the Saudis on or looked the other way from their appalling misconduct. “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” Trump tweeted after MBS locked up dozens of wealthy Saudis without trial… Yet Trump keeps covering for the Saudis: He refuses to name MBS as the culprit behind Khashoggi’s murder and he has vetoed two bills to end U.S. support for the bloody war in Yemen. Most significant of all, Trump exited the Iran nuclear deal in spite of Iran’s compliance – just as his friends in Riyadh and Jerusalem urged him to.

And now things get darker:

Iran is signaling that it will break out of the fuel enrichment limits of the nuclear deal and that it will not scale back its destabilizing activities. Israel has responded by stepping up airstrikes against Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. A costly war with Iran that could drag in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States looms ever closer.

And now it’s too late to stop that:

In recent months, Trump seemed to be having second thoughts about his misguided approach to Iran. Hence his decision to get rid of national security adviser John Bolton, an anti-Iran uber-hawk, and has signaled his openness to talks with Iran – even to easing Iran sanctions. The attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure will make it harder for Trump to compromise; if the Iranian regime was responsible, it may have just shot itself in the foot.

A sponsor of terrorism and a heinous human rights abuser Iran deserves an outsize share of the blame for destabilizing the Middle East. But Trump has only aggravated the crisis by blindly backing his friends in Israel and Saudi Arabia. The attack on Saudi oil production is only the latest blowback — and far from the last.

And when did this all start?

That would be Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Donald Trump entered office with no experience in foreign policy, other than with the intricacies of resort and hotel development in far-off lands, and with the issues involved in staging a beauty pageant in Moscow – and he had no military experience, other than high school at that military academy for troubled rich kids prone to bullying. But he was a billionaire, a master dealmaker who always got his way, humiliating anyone who got in his way. He won. He always won – and now America would always win. No nation would ever humiliate America ever again, even if none really had. That was the general idea.

That was good enough for just enough voters in just the right places – and that was the day when it was already too late to do anything about any of this. Justice Kavanaugh will stay and it will be war with Iran. And yes, if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever. Welcome to Gilead, where it’s always too late.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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