Speaking to the US Senate, the Pentagon’s leaders blamed Russia for the Aleppo aid convoy attack, but admitted they “had no facts.” Only US coalition planes should be allowed over Syria, they said, though that would require war against both Syria and Russia.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, faced the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday to report on the ongoing military operations and “national security challenges” faced by the US. They also asked the senators for more reliable funding, saying the uncertainty was hurting the defense industry.
“Not only our people – our defense industry partners, too, need stability and longer-term plans to be as efficient and cutting-edge as we need them to be,” Carter told the senators.
The lawmakers were far less interested in the war against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) than about the future of the Syrian government, Iran’s “malign influence,” and “aggression” by China and Russia – all ranked far ahead of terrorism on Carter and Dunford’s list of security challenges.
The Pentagon had “no intention” of sharing intelligence with Russia when it came to Syria, Dunford told the lawmakers unequivocally. Secretary Carter explained that the joint implementation councils envisioned by the ceasefire proposal negotiated in Geneva wouldn’t share intelligence, just coordinate efforts – but that they were a moot point anyway, since the ceasefire was effectively dead.
READ MORE: AP leaks one of the 5 Syria ceasefire docs, Moscow says always wanted them public
Both the lawmakers and the Pentagon chiefs blamed that development on Russia, focusing on the alleged airstrike against the humanitarian convoy in east Aleppo while the US-led airstrike against the Syrian Army fighting IS in Deir ez-Zor went unmentioned.
“I don’t have the facts,” Dunford said, when asked about the convoy attack by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). “It was either the Russians or the regime,” he added.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the Russians are responsible,” whether directly or because they backed the government in Damascus, Dunford said, describing the attack as “an unacceptable atrocity.”
Carter explained Dunford’s logic in a response to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), saying that “the Russians are responsible for this strike whether they conducted it or not, because they took responsibility for the conduct of the Syrians by associating themselves with the Syrian regime.”
The latest proposal by Secretary of State John Kerry involves grounding only Syrian and Russian airplanes, Carter told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire).
“There can be no question of grounding US aircraft” over Syria, he said, adding that US jets conduct their strikes “with exceptional precision… that no other country can match.”
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) asked about what it would take for the US to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, using the phrase “control the airspace.”
“Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia,” Dunford replied, drawing a rebuke from committee chairman John McCain (R-Arizona), who argued a no-fly zone was possible without war.
Asked about the video of US-backed Syrian rebels insulting US Special Forces in Al-Rai and running them out of the northern Syrian town, Carter and Dunford shrugged it off.
READ MORE: ‘Crusaders! Infidels! Dogs! Get out!’ US-backed rebels force US commandos to leave Syrian town
A “very small minority took verbal action” against US troops, said Dunford, who admitted he did not watch the video but had discussed it with US commanders. He said the incident was “irrelevant” because the US-backed forces and Turkey were making “great progress” along Syria’s northern border.
In their exchange with Graham, Carter and Dunford confirmed there is a plan to arm the Kurdish militia in Syria, over Turkish objections, as a way of advancing on the IS stronghold of Raqqa. Once Raqqa is taken, however, an Arab force would be required to hold it. “We have a plan,” Dunford said, but described it as “not resourced.”
Dunford agreed with Graham’s assertion that the US had two objectives – to destroy IS and to “remove Assad,” referring to the Syrian president – but admitted the Kurds were not interested in the latter.
“If the main fighting force inside of Syria is not signed up to take Assad out, where does that force come from?” Graham asked. Neither Dunford nor Carter had an answer to that.
Both the Pentagon heads and the lawmakers agreed throughout the hearing that caps on military spending mandated by sequestration were harmful and needed to be repealed. Lack of funding posed a significant threat to readiness and maintenance, Carter and Dunford argued, before pointing out that the US military was still the strongest, most powerful and most competent in the world.
Cause of Today’s Treacherous US-Russia Conflict Discovered in NY Times Archives: Finger Points Right at Clinton
There has been a plethora of stories in the New York Times that cast Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin in a very negative light. So it was with great interest that I saw recently a 1998 article that explained how the US-Russia relationship was headed for serious trouble. It even prophesized the dire straits the two countries find themselves in today.
Who was to blame for the problems? Given today’s Times’ condemnatory coverage of Putin, it was surprising to see that the newspaper fingered then-president Bill Clinton and his team.
In contrast, the Times’ coverage today attributes blame for the outcome to Putin. Hillary Clinton is very outspoken about Putin’s culpability, ironically, with no hint of her husband’s earlier role.
Hillary has compared Putin to Hitler, accused Russia of being militarily aggressive, and lambasted Donald Trump for even thinking of trying to get along with Putin.
According to the Times,
“Hillary Clinton excoriated Mr. Trump for asserting that Mr. Putin is a better leader than President Obama, saying it was ‘not just unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country, as well as to our commander in chief — it is scary.'”
The 1998 article focused on an interview with George Kennan. It credited the nonagenarian as having “defined America’s cold-war containment policy for 40 years” during his public service career.
Kennan, a person “who was present at the creation of NATO,” was troubled by the US Senate’s ratification of NATO expansion.
Kennan told the Times:
“I think it is the beginning of a new cold war … I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies
“There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else. This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way.”
Kennan added, “And Russia’s democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we’ve just signed up to defend from Russia.”
Continuing, Kennan said,
“I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe. Don’t people understand? Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove the Soviet regime.”
The Times commented,
“One only wonders what future historians will say. If we are lucky they will say that NATO expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic simply didn’t matter, because the vacuum it was supposed to fill had already been filled, only the Clinton team couldn’t see it.”
So it appears that Kennan’s prophesy for a new cold war has indeed materialized. The Times’ hope that the unjustified NATO expansion simply wouldn’t matter lamentably didn’t pan out. Instead, a disaster emerged.
Careful study of the circumstances shows that Russia’s alleged “aggressions” — such as in Georgia and Ukraine — were indeed reactions to the threat of NATO advancement toward Russia’s borders.
What neither Kennan nor the Times foresaw, however, is the hyperactive counterfactual campaign to demonize Russia that has unfolded. It’s presented endless factless allegations that have shaped American perceptions of Putin and Russia in the minds of many.
The Times concluded,
“Thanks to Western resolve and the courage of Russian democrats, [the] Soviet Empire collapsed without a shot, spawning a democratic Russia, setting free the former Soviet republics and leading to unprecedented arms control agreements with the US. And what was America’s response? It was to expand the NATO cold-war alliance against Russia and bring it closer to Russia’s borders.”
As to Kennan’s own conclusion, the Times’ interviewer reported, “As he said goodbye to me on the phone, Mr. Kennan added just one more thing: ‘This has been my life, and it pains me to see it so screwed up in the end.'”
The foregoing is a story the Times was willing to tell readers in 1998.
The prophesy it published has now come true.
The facts haven’t changed.
But the Times’ current reportage has. It’s now in conflict with its own archives.