U.S. and Russian Militaries Compete for Darwin Award

Which world power can damage its own interests with the dumbest move? The contest will have you on the edge of your seats.

Here’s the latest U.S. entry:

Last month, a raid by Kurdish forces supposedly freed ISIS prisoners, and those Kurdish forces posted a video of prisoners rushing out of a prison while gunfire sounded in the background. One U.S. troop was killed in the raid. U.S. media rushed to cover the story as a heroic act of benevolence. Non-U.S. media rushed to cover the fact that the “non-combat” troops, the so-called “advisors” whom the U.S. has in Iraq by the thousands were in fact engaged in combat.

It escaped my attention and perhaps most people’s that the “advisors” may also have been providing extraordinarily bad advice. NPR — which often functions no differently than an official Pentagon news service — reported an interesting contradiction to the central claim of the prisoner-rescue story.

NPRer Kelly McEvers said, “The province of Kirkuk is the crossroads of Iraq. To the north are the majority of the country’s Kurds, to the south – Arabs. And now Kirkuk is on the frontlines of the battle with ISIS. Last month, Kirkuk province was the site of a prison raid by U.S. and Kurdish forces. One American soldier was killed. Earlier today, I spoke with the governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, from our studios in Washington. And he said the raid was meant to rescue Kurds who’d been captured by ISIS. And instead, it freed ISIS fighters who’d been imprisoned by their own leaders.”

Instead of freeing Kurds captured by ISIS, the U.S.-advised Kurds (together with U.S. “non-combat” troops doing their “advising”) actually freed ISIS fighters?

The governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, replied, “Among these were two who are considered somewhat senior locally in the region. One of them was the prison administrator, and the other one was some guy who used the last name of Shishani. And Shishani is a village in that area, so he’s probably from – they were local.”

Senior ISIS fighters were freed? Including a prison administrator who was locked up in prison? This is very unclear and may be nonsense or only part of the story, but this is an account via a U.S.-military friendly outlet from a U.S.-educated, U.S.-citizen colonial governor visiting Washington, D.C., to ask for more weapons and “trainers” and “advisors” on behalf of multicultural Kurdish heroes who he says are willing to do U.S. dirty work. The interviewer is blatantly and openly on his side, asking oh-so-“objective” questions like this one: “You make a very compelling case, and it sounds like it’s a case you’ve made many times. Give me your honest answer. Are you getting a sense in Washington that more help is on the way?”

Freeing ISIS prisoners would be in line with other steps the U.S. has taken in support of ISIS, from overthrowing secular governments and arming Muslim radicals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and much of Syria, to brutalizing prisoners, to throwing Iraq into utter chaos, to providing arms to the Iraqi government that are used on civilians and taken by ISIS, providing arms to “moderates” in Syria that are given to ISIS, and providing arms directly to ISIS. But the biggest boost for ISIS has come from what it asked the U.S. to do in its propaganda films: attack it. By becoming the leading opponent of the distant foreign nation that has made itself so hated for so many years, ISIS was able to make its recruitment soar. The U.S. response is always the same: declare that there is no military solution, and attempt another larger military solution.

Don’t look now, but here comes Russia:

The December 2013 Gallup poll in which most of the 65 nations surveyed named the United States as the greatest threat to peace on earth, the flourishing of anti-U.S. terrorist groups around the world, the bitter hatred of the flyers of killer drones, the resentment of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib — all of this seems to have infected the Russian government with the seeds of jealousy.

How can Russia make itself properly hated, put its people in proper jeopardy, show itself a vicious world power worthy of equal or greater scorn?

Brilliant 12-dimensional chessman Vladimir Putin found an answer, beloved even on the left in the United States as a means of finally more-efficiently murdering just the right terrorists and only the right terrorists, so help me Tolstoy. Russia began bombing Syria.

Before long, Russia had generated its very own anti-Russian terrorist attack, with a plane blown up over Egypt and 224 people killed. Vladimir couldn’t have been prouder. According to the New York Times,

“analysts and other experts expect that it will only strengthen Mr. Putin’s resolve to become more deeply involved in the Middle East. . . . and might cause Russia to begin targeting the Islamic State more aggressively. . . . ‘The Kremlin will have to reverse cause and effect here so that its strategy is not seen as leading to civilian deaths,’ said Maxim Trudolyubov, an editor at large for the newspaper Vedomosti. . . . ‘A terrorist attack against Russian citizens means a declaration of war against all Russians,’ wrote Tatiana Stanovaya, an analyst, on Slon.ru, a current events website. ‘The Syria campaign will thus become not a matter of Putin’s ambitions, but of national revenge.’

Despite the Russian quotes, this could be just the New York Times reflexively promoting more violence as what anyone would do because it’s what friends of the New York Times would do. If Russia were truly following the U.S. course, it would have occupied Egypt by now. But the Russian TV network RT has posted speculation that “the West” was behind the bomb on the plane and that supposedly the West, in a departure from its every past understanding of how a government responds to violence, intends to thereby drive Russia out of Syria rather than sucking it further in, as was done so many years ago in Afghanistan. Meanwhile Sputnik News warns that the United States has launched a proxy war on Russia in Syria, and celebrates the increased sales abroad of Russian weapons that it says has resulted from the Russian bombing of Syria.

These don’t sound like the noises of a society coming to its senses. They sound like hunger pangs of a political class in the chase for a Darwin award.

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Thanks to Evan Knappenberger for pointing the NPR story out to me.