Anything happening recently on the military and diplomatic front? Funny you should ask. It’s been a week, let’s put it that way. It seems the road to Armageddon is paved with tweets. Time to roll up our sleeves and try to make sense of it.
- The Pentagon’s online fight against ISIS, a campaign begun under President Obama, is a total shitshow of incompetence and graft that was papered over by sunshiney reports, according to the Associated Press. One issue: the program’s Arabic specialists are kind of bad at Arabic: “[T]ranslators repeatedly mix up the Arabic words for ‘salad’ and ‘authority.’ That's led to open ridicule on social media about references to the ‘Palestinian salad.’”
- The fallout from the White House’s new travel ban on mostly Muslim refugees from seven nations continues apace. After an uproar from vets’ groups and a some sound advice from the Department of Defense, Trump’s administration issued an exception to the ban for Iraqi “LNs,” local nationals who helped coalition forces as interpreters and analysts. Now they can leave a bitterly divided country where they’re constantly targeted for hate and come to America, which … hey, we’re getting there.
- Australia, one of America’s closest allies in the Pacific and regular suppliers of troops for the long war, ended up on America’s shitlist after a contentious phone call between President Donald Trump and his Australian counterpart, Prime Minister David Turnbull. Realizing the importance of the relationship to America’s national security, Trump quickly clarified his remarks through proper diplomatic channels. Just kidding, he doubled down on Twitter. By the way, kangaroos can box!
- The president also had what the State Department (remember them?) likes to call a “fair and frank discussion” with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. “You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump said, according to a transcript obtained by the AP. “You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it.” Both nations denied the quote was accurate. Meanwhile, the baddest hombre of them all, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is chilling federal detention in Brooklyn.
- Your 2017 National Security Council’s principals committee includes Trump political adviser and former Breitbart chairman Stephen Bannon, who envisions an alliance of Christian nations in an all-out war against “radical Islam,” among other interesting things. John McCain is concerned, guys.
- Something else Stephen Bannon said last year: “We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years, aren’t we? There’s no doubt about that.” On that score, he and the Chinese seem to agree. And Chinese state-run media said Wednesday a new aircraft carrier scheduled for delivery in 2019 would be based in the South China Sea to handle “complicated situations.”
- Russian-backed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine started shelling a city held by Ukrainian government forces Sunday, leaving as many as 20,000 residents without shelter, heat, or water in the middle of winter. NATO, wary of further alienating Russia, responded by canceling talks it had planned with Ukrainian officials on missile defense and gently asking Moscow to pretty please, give it a rest.
- After Houthi rebels in Yemen attacked a Saudi warship with a suicide boat Monday, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn blamed Iranian support for the Houthis and announced that “as of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.” Trump tweeted the same thing. That apparently was news to CENTCOM.
- Trump’s first authorized clandestine raid — a grab for intel at a Yemeni Al Qaeda stronghold that killed a Navy Seal chief — was a charlie foxtrot from start to finish, according to military officials who are leaking like crazy to reporters. The raid, which had been reviewed by the Obama administration but delayed for optimum weather, got blown and the U.S. operators faced stiff resistance. The administration, however, says the intelligence gained was good, and the Pentagon is reportedly planning more such raids in Yemen and elsewhere. Trump was on hand at Dover Air Force Base Wednesday to receive the fallen chief’s remains.
- Multiple sources tell Reuters that the Trump administration plans to make over the government’s longstanding “Countering Violent Extremism” program as the “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” program, so that it “would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.”
- In completely unrelated news, a 27-year-old French-Canadian, anti-immigrant Trump fan walked into a Quebec City mosque during services Sunday night and shot six worshipers to death, injuring another 19. Fox News erroneously reported that the murderer was Moroccan, leading Canada’s prime minister to call the news channel out.
- Have you always wanted Hitler’s phone, the red swastika-stamped one that he probably used to order up millions of deaths? Do you have a spare $300,000? Buddy, are you in luck.
- You might not realize it, but pop culture still exists. Beyonce is expecting twins and posing for interesting pregnancy photos. Maybe it’s something in the lemonade.
Beyoncé's maternity shoot 💙💙💙 pic.twitter.com/8RMrz0HD3V
— BEYONCÉ LEGION (@BeyLegion) February 2, 2017