The Morning Jolt

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The War in Syria Finds a Way to Get Even Worse

The War in Syria Finds a Way to Get Even Worse

Look, we get it. There doesn’t seem to be many good guys in Syria. The American people are exhausted from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and feel like enormous sums of blood and treasure were wasted. We don’t do nation-building well. The countries we save never seem particularly grateful. When we descend into the world’s hellholes with the best of intentions, we mostly make ourselves a target for asymmetrical warfare. Most of the rest of the world has grown lazy, waiting for Americans to show up and pay the price for stopping the globe’s horrors and restoring order.

But how many people have to die before we as a country think, “We should have done something about that?”

We may never get a firm number on the death toll from the war in Syria. In February, one group estimated it at 470,000 people. ISIS has used chemical weapons at least 52 times in Iraq and Syria.

Our government is full of some really harsh words for those engaged in slaughter.

Syrian regime forces were on the brink of taking eastern Aleppo on Tuesday as the U.N. said pro-regime forces had reportedly carried out executions of at least 82 civilians.

The U.N. said it had received reports that some civilians had been shot in their homes and on sight.

Speaking at a U.N. Security Council Emergency Briefing on Syria on Tuesday, US ambassador Samantha Power had some scathing words for her Syrian, Iranian and Russian counterparts.

“You bear responsibility for these atrocities,” she said of the plight of eastern Aleppo residents amid reports of widespread summary executions, including of women and children, by Syrian forces in formerly rebel-held areas.

“When one day there is a full accounting of the horrors committed in this assault of Aleppo — and that day will come, sooner or later — you will not be able to say you did not know what was happening.”

She said the actions of the three players “should shame” them.

“Three Member States of the U.N. contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you. . . Are you truly incapable of shame?”

No, they aren’t. She literally wrote the book on genocide. Why does she seemed so surprised that the Syrian, Iranian, and Russian regimes have absolutely no concerns about civilian casualties?

We keep saying “Never again.” And then Cambodia happens, and Rwanda happens, and the Balkans happen, and North Korea continues to be a giant maniacal homicidal prison camp.

The world can have messy American military interventions, or the world can have massacres. Those are the options.

A Failed President, Continued

Another unforeseen consequence of the Syrian conflict: the insane belief that at some point, Russia would be a cooperative partner in negotiations about Syria was reportedly enough to get the Obama White House to be quiet about Russian hacking.

CNN discussions with multiple administration, law enforcement and intelligence officials tell a different story.

By July, law enforcement and intelligence agencies were sure that Russian intelligence hackers had breached the Democratic National Committee. A debate began inside the administration about what to do next.

A month earlier, the hackers had released an opposition file on Trump that had been stolen from the Democrats.

The U.S. and many other nations use cyberhacking to spy on each other. The Russian actions, administration officials determined, had crossed the line because they were releasing documents the administration believed were intended to undermine the U.S. elections.

Over the next three months, during a series of meetings at the White House and on conference calls, national security officials at the White House and other government agencies debated over how to calibrate an appropriate response.

Some officials in the U.S. intelligence agencies warned that the U.S. risked starting a wider cyber-conflict with Russia in which the U.S. had a lot more to lose because more of the U.S. infrastructure and economy is dependent on the Internet, and much of it is vulnerable to attack.

Some State Department officials also worried about the risk to ongoing efforts to make a deal with Russia over Syria. The on-again, off-again talks continued during the summer as the U.S. wrestled with what to do about the hacks.

If Trump’s really a Russian stooge, how much of a change is that from an administration that is painfully naïve about Putin and Moscow’s interests?

It’s not hard to walk away with the impression that Obama’s own national security team found him insufferably indecisive and passive when it came to looming threats.

Mr. Obama was briefed regularly on all this, but he made a decision that many in the White House now regret: He did not name Russians publicly, or issue sanctions. There was always a reason: fear of escalating a cyberwar, and concern that the United States needed Russia’s cooperation in negotiations over Syria.

“We’d have all these circular meetings,” one senior State Department official said, “in which everyone agreed you had to push back at the Russians and push back hard. But it didn’t happen.”

So the Russians escalated again — breaking into systems not just for espionage, but to publish or broadcast what they found, known as “doxing” in the cyberworld.

Kudos to Adam Schiff, who points out that these Russian hacks aren’t the first time a hostile power launched a cyber-attack on American interests.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that the Obama administration didn’t act soon enough.

“I do think it was a mistake,” he said. “I think it was a mistake earlier frankly not to react more forcefully when North Korea hacked us. I think those kind of — that lack of deterrence invited the Russians to meddle and consider they could do this with impunity.”

Clinton Campaign: Don’t You Dare Help Us Out in Michigan!

According to Politico, Hillary Clinton’s campaign were so confident about her chances in Michigan, she wouldn’t allow her allies to put any resources there.

Everybody could see Hillary Clinton was cooked in Iowa. So when, a week-and-a-half out, the Service Employees International Union started hearing anxiety out of Michigan, union officials decided to reroute their volunteers, giving a desperate team on the ground around Detroit some hope.

They started prepping meals and organizing hotel rooms.

SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan.

According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious.

Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.

Trump won, 47.5 percent to Hillary’s 47.3 percent. With judgment like his, a Russian hack was superfluous, wasn’t it?

ADDENDA: She did it. Those of us who knew Cindy Stowell knew she had taped a Jeopardy! appearance, but didn’t get any details about how it went. Considering how she was in the late stages of cancer, fighting a fever and blood infection, and filled with painkillers that day, we thought her victory was simply being well enough to appear on the show and compete.

Nope. We should have known Cindy had one last trick up her sleeve: She went out there and won, ensuring more than $22,000 would go to cancer research, and must have taped at least two shows.  Watching it last night with our family and friends, watching my boys jump up and down and cheer, like they had just watched the winning play in the Super Bowl, was this wonderfully bittersweet moment. Maybe the best moment of the night was that half-second of wanting to call and congratulate her before remembering we can’t. Still, her appearance went from this surreal postmortem brush with fame to a bizarrely appropriate final act: a quiz show Viking funeral, sending her into Jeopardy! Valhalla.

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