Sunday, May 31, 2020

There Was No Doomsday Plan For The Worst Catastrophe To Have Hit America In A Century


"Trump," wrote Harvey Wasserman, "is no accident. He is our Imperial Vulture come home to roost. Our Exceptional Karma. The ultimate incineration of a City on a Hill defined by arrogance, brutality, and greed. Trump’s willful negligence has killed more Americans in three months than did the Vietnam War in ten years. He’s saturated our lives with dictatorship, disease, dementia, depression. But we have no claim to self-pity."
Pinochet (Chile), Mobutu (Congo/Zaire), the Greek Junta, the Shah (Iran), Somoza (Nicaragua), Diem/Thieu/Ky (Vietnam), Yeltsin/Putin (Russia), Pol Pot (Cambodia), Lord Jeffrey Amherst (Indigenous America), Salazar (Portugal), Marcos (the Philippines), Alvarado (Honduras), the Duvaliers (Haiti) … murderers, thieves, despots, liars, bigots, buffoons, puppets, thugs, butchers, hypocrites, clowns, torturers, mobsters, devils incarnate … all installed to serve American corporate interests.

They are Trump and he is them.

The butchery we’ve imposed on humankind and the planet has at last come home to roost. Trump is Earth’s retaliatory demon, here to ravage the remnants of a cruel, hypocritical, dying empire.

China will soon eclipse America’s once insurmountable economic dominance. Our military is an ornate, obsolete, obscene husk. We’re a downbound #2, a failing state. Trump has left us gutted, poisoned, betrayed, mocked, abused, leveled, trashed, choking in the dust (we can’t breathe!!!).

He is history’s inevitable payback.

We can’t get him gone until we fully face our nation’s stake in his epic evil.

So let’s pick a moment before November 3rd. A Trump Exorcism Day, to excoriate the pain our empire has imposed. The arrogance of our “exceptionalism.” The burden of our slave-based misogyny. The injustices of our racism, sexism, ecological destruction, multi-layered bigotries. The wages of our greed. The uselessness of our wars. The absurdity of our military. The blood-sucking death grip of our global corporations.

Wrap them all in one big irreverence. Look deep into the ghastly mirror of our merciless inflictions … then face who we really have been, and what we must become.

The Donald is no random event. He demands we confront where he really came from and all he embodies.

Only then do we get truly woke. 
Trump and Elon Musk launched a rocket yesterday. I suppose the wealthy are going to want them operable after the rest of us are left behind on the sterile planet the Green New Deal was too expensive for. Is that the Doomsday Scenario planners are working on. The Atlantic commentator Marc Ambinder says it's time to listen to those doomsday planners. He had something else in mind though: "What’s the plan if the whole White House becomes infected?" After the worldwide celebrations end?

"The answer," he wrote, "typically lies with the government’s so-called doomsday planners-- the officials at every major agency who are tasked with preparing and rehearsing the nation’s classified continuity-of-government plans. For decades, doomsday planners’ presence has been tolerated, their recommendations have been stashed in policy documents, and their warnings about dark tidings have been for the most part unheeded. The Trump administration has taken an actively hostile approach, though, decimating the institutional engines of catastrophe planning, including at the National Security Council. As a consequence, the U.S. government was not only ill-prepared for the pandemic, but willfully blinded to its potential size and shape, leaving federal agencies in the position of having to confront a fast-moving hurricane without radar to determine where it was headed or a plan to quickly restore essential functions."
The coronavirus has pushed the country’s national-security bureaucracy to figure out how to adapt in a severely restricted work environment, and forced a reexamination of how the government prepares for crises. COVID-19 hasn’t brought the United States to the precipice of doomsday, per se, but it has exposed how much citizens and states rely on a functioning federal government. It’s also revealed the consequences of what happens when the government appears unprepared to reckon with a challenge as significant as the pandemic and hasn’t listened to the people whose jobs require them to churn through permutations and contingencies. Government agencies as crucial as the CIA have had to develop COVID-19 response plans on the fly. Telework practices are patchy and decided by each agency. And it is unclear, even to employees at the highest levels of the national-security bureaucracy, what they ought to be doing.

If you work in continuity planning, a lot of your time is spent ensuring that alternate facilities can function if needed. You try to exercise scenarios, begging senior policy officials to spend a day in a bunker or room and forcing them to make choices under pressure. Then you imagine the worst-case scenarios and try to write plans that adhere to complicated government rules. Year after year, resources for continuity planning tend not to be priorities. Executive-branch departments also have to consider near-term foreseeable challenges, such as infrastructure and technology upgrades. The apocalypse doesn’t rise to top of mind.

Vic Erevia, who served as the special agent in charge of Barack Obama’s protective detail for the Secret Service, was privy to the most developed and well-rehearsed continuity preparations-- those involving the presidency itself, and the preservation of communication among the three branches of government. He spent a lot of time in the weeds with the plans and their planners. “These guys, they were kind of treated like the crazy people in the corner doing their own thing,” he told me. “It’s time for them to be given their due.”

Doomsday planners can’t conjure up every possible future calamity. But their warnings can prompt the government to react quickly, to adapt to ambiguity, and to treat uncertainty as a feature of good social science, not an excuse to avoid prudent precautions. Nicholas Rasmussen, who participated in national-security continuity planning as a senior counterterrorism adviser to George W. Bush and Obama, told me that, at the moment, the U.S. government doesn’t “really have a plan for a scenario where we are down 50 percent of our workforce.” The national-security agencies, including the CIA, have predesignated employees as “essential” and cross-trained thousands to perform essential jobs should those employees become sick. But a pandemic doesn’t distinguish among people, and therefore doesn’t avoid those deemed essential, said Rasmussen, who was also the head of the National Counterterrorism Center until 2017.

The Trump administration has hollowed out the very bureaucracy that’s in charge of the planners. The president has cycled through five homeland-security secretaries and five homeland-security advisers (who also serve as national continuity coordinators) in three years, and has dismantled the apparatus that was expressly designed to inform his response and allow the government to function efficiently during emergencies. Through a succession of national security advisers, the NSC staff was dramatically reduced, culminating in John Bolton’s decision to close a dedicated pandemic-response cell inside the NSC’s global-health security and biodefense directorate. Bolton also pushed out a key official who had both the title and institutional knowledge to shape policy on contingency and continuity, Thomas Bossert, who was a senior member of Bush’s national-security staff and one of the few remaining links between the NSC and federal-preparedness officials. (Bossert did not return calls or emails asking for comment.) Soon after Bossert’s departure as homeland-security adviser, Trump downgraded the position, and it no longer reports directly to the president.

The current homeland-security adviser (and national continuity coordinator) is Julia Nesheiwat. She was appointed on February 21-- two full weeks after the previous occupant, Coast Guard Rear Admiral Peter Brown, left the post. During those two weeks, the pandemic spread rapidly in the United States, and the Trump administration temporized, vamped, and struggled to figure out how to respond.

Agencies are largely left to their own devices. Since its birth more than 70 years ago, the CIA has developed an intuitive flexibility for how to function in emergencies. What happens if multiple case officers get sick in a country where the CIA isn’t supposed to be operating? There’s a plan to evacuate them without the host country knowing. What happens if local food supplies become contaminated? There’s a plan to get food stores to the CIA base.

“A lot of our stations are in places where the food supply is insecure and where you can’t trust local doctors,” said a current agency officer who, like other sources cited in this story, spoke with me on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak with the media. “We’ve had cases where the entire station gets sick and we’ve had to get our own doctors into a country. It’s just something we know how to do.”

But even the CIA could not account for a scenario like the pandemic-- where almost no physical space on Earth is safe to gather in for months at a time. Four current and former agency officials, some of whom asked not to be identified, acknowledged that the coronavirus had not left the agency unscathed, with employees in the Langley, Virginia, headquarters and across the globe falling ill.

So the agency adapted its crisis planning on the fly. In this case, it did not activate its main continuity-of-operations site-- an enormous, anonymous, secure facility in the mid-Atlantic region where up to 10 percent of the headquarters’ staff could run the agency’s worldwide covert operations and communications system if Langley had to be closed or was destroyed, one former agency official and a current government official told me. Instead, the agency is rotating key staff into work in cadres and has implemented social-distancing measures, they said. (The CIA spokesperson Nicole de Haay declined to provide specifics but said that in response to the pandemic, “our officers are exercising tremendous creativity and flexibility.”) It works, for now. It can’t work forever. Will it work if a terrorist engineers a pathogen to be even more virulent and transmissible than the coronavirus?

...According to a Defense Department official, who declined to be identified in order to speak about a sensitive subject, the Defense Information Systems Agency is nearing the end of a pilot program that would allow employees to do limited, classified-level work from home. And some officials are rethinking their long-standing opposition to commercial end-to-end encryption. Of course, this debate could have been hashed out earlier, with guidelines at the ready, if the NSC had had the staff and sense to heed the lessons of doomsday planning.

Dab Kern, another longtime resilience and continuity planner, who was the director of the White House Military Office until the end of 2017, wants the executive branch to shift the focus of its continuity planning to secure communications and dynamic responses that would allow senior officials to work from almost anywhere. “We need to stop doing continuity the way we have done it,” he told me. “This is our opportunity to shift gears and leverage technology.” Kern noted that many private businesses, large and small, incorporating the advice of resilience experts, had plans to rapidly shift gears. “The rest of the industry does it this way. Why doesn’t the government?”

...According to conversations with more than a dozen people who have seen them, worked on them, or written them, virtually all government continuity plans since 9/11 have been centered around two plots: nuclear terrorism (either all-out war or an explosion in the Washington, D.C., region) or a bioweapons release (limited in scale and scope, with victims easily tested and identified). After the anthrax attacks of 2001, the U.S. focused on intelligence suggesting that al-Qaeda (and later Iraq, under the government of Saddam Hussein) had explored the most effective ways to disperse a biological agent. “That’s why we immediately turned to smallpox,” a current government official told me. “The R0”-- the rate of person-to-person transmission based on a pathogen’s contagiousness-- “was so high and smallpox was available, at least to some of the nation-state enemies.” Russia, for example, had an active bioweapons program, run by a network of labs called Biopreparat, into the 1990s, and it experimented with weaponizing smallpox. A former Russian intelligence officer, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue and who now lives in the United States, confirmed to me that the program was operational after 9/11. (Russia denies that it is experimenting with pathogenic weapons, but its recent use of chemical and radiological poisons to kill former agents is well documented.) The U.S. intelligence community worries that adversaries could weaponize COVID-19 before there’s a vaccine, taking advantage of the gaps in preparedness exposed by the current response.

After 9/11, Cheney spent many nights at the Raven Rock facility in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But bunkers like Raven Rock are not designed to accommodate an entire bureaucracy. Most of the government’s top-secret disaster plans, buttressed by tens of billions of dollars in “black budget” spending, call for officials to break into groups, with some retreating to a secure facility outside of D.C. where they could communicate with colleagues over classified government networks. In a pandemic, the bunkers would be all but useless if you couldn’t ensure that the workers were virus-free before entering. That would require rapid and reliable tests available at the beginning of the emergency, which is hard enough with a new pathogen, but which the U.S. government did not prioritize until too many people were infected this time around. The White House itself did not develop such testing capacity for COVID-19 until early April, months after being warned that the disease could be a major threat.

One of Ambinder's colleagues at The Atlantic, David Frum, noted that where Ambinder finds Trump "mercurial," what he really is is a looter. And we have no doomsday plan for that, do we? The bloated orangutan in the Oval Office doesn't just steal the odd banana now and again; he "has helped himself to money from the U.S. Treasury," wrote Frum, "using political power to direct public money to his personal businesses. It’s not as visual as a riot, but until 2017 it would have been regarded as equally criminal... The Trump years have confronted all Americans with stark contrasts in the treatment of crime depending on the status of the criminal. The day before the police killing of Floyd, the president and his supporters were voicing passionate concerns for the alleged maltreatment of Michael Flynn by the justice system. Then a helpless man is choked to death on a public street in full public view and-- well, he was no choirboy, the president’s supporters explain.
Threats of armed violence by pro-Trump demonstrators forced the shutdown of the Michigan legislature in mid-May. But about that militancy, Trump was indulgent. He tweeted May 1: “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

An armed intruder is not a peaceful protester. If the targets yield before the intruder discharges his weapon at them, they have still been coerced. The threat of violence works only to the extent that the imminence of violence is credible. And it was imminent violence that pro-Trump protesters displayed in Minnesota, in Michigan, in the state of Washington. But no federalizing of the National Guard there, no threats of indiscriminate shooting, only gentle understanding of people who gridlocked state capitals in service of their abject lunatic theory that Bill Gates wanted to inject microchips into their bums.

The Trump presidency has shown America aspects of itself that few of us wished to see. Even having been forced to watch them up close through three shameful years of presidential corruption, those aspects are still hard for many of us to accept. But along with the monuments of law, along with the rhetoric of liberty, along with the proud achievements of American history, there also exists the realities that Trump daily exposes: impunity for some forms of looting, impunity for some forms of violence, impunity for some forms of lawbreaking.

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At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of truth. But still sheepdogging.

"So let’s pick a moment before November 3rd. A Trump Exorcism Day..."

Trump exorcism is like removing your nose because you have a covid sniffle. It won't do shit about the disease rotting your body from the inside out.

And the thing that is so glaringly missing in this, making it simply a very erudite sheepdog going "woof!", is the absence of mention that to exorcise trumpism, you must first exorcise corruption, neoliberalism and fascism... you MUST exorcise the democraps FIRST.

If you do not, then each particularly bad Nazi will result in ever-worse democrap tools, like $hillbillary and biden, which will ensure an even WORSE Nazi the next time.

America needs a party or movement and individuals within that will give the 80 million who never vote a reason to vote FOR something that they trust will have their interests at heart. I guarantee you that if such a party/movement/candidate were to exist, the 65 million who voted against trump in '16 will join in.

And, I know... math-n-shit... but... lessee... 65m + 80m is... carry the 5... 145m... and that would beat the Nazi 62m. right? someone please check my work.

BTW: The doomsday plan is the democrap plan to prevent someone like Bernie from winning a nom and engaging 10s of millions of voters, BUT who would activate a lot of really inconvenient progressive thought. They could not have that now, could they?

So obamanation and uncle tom perfectly played the black demo for the fools they are... and biden and the dnc played the old white demo for the fools they truly are... and they didn't even NEED those bought-n-paid-for $uperdelegates this time.

fuck we're stupid! "baaaaaaa".

At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DWT at his best: Blaming Trump for all the social ill that's out there, while giving the Dem establishment's top folks a complete pass!!!


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