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7 reasons why by comparison with the USSR the US is losing in Afghanistan

The US is waging at inordinate cost a war in Afghanistan in which it has failed to come up with an achievable objective

Alexander Mercouris

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Today, shortly after admitting that the war in Afghanistan is being lost, US President Trump is wrapping up a strategy session with his top military and political advisers at Camp David to decide the strategy to turn the situation round.

Present will be the entire foreign policy team which following the recent purges of top officials is slowly shaping up as the definitive foreign policy team of the Trump administration: Generals Kelly, McMaster and Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson, and the heads of the US intelligence community, DNI director Dan Coats and CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

These people are all without exception conservative establishment figures, and with the sole possible exception of Secretary of State Tillerson – who has shown a certain independence of mind on some issues – their approach to questions of war and peace can be summed up with the words: more of the same.

It is probably not a coincidence that the one senior Trump administration official who is known to have held different views about Afghanistan – former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon – was forced to quit just before the session.

That makes it a virtual certainty that the policy that is going to be announced for Afghanistan within the next few hours will be ‘more of the same’, apparently in the form of 4-5,000 extra US troops to ‘stabilise’ the situation there.

Needless to say any suggestion of talks with the Taliban to end the war – an idea now being actively promoted by the Russians as the only viable one – is being ruled out.

Steve Bannon for his part is known to have advocated a total pullout from Afghanistan, with the country being left to take of itself.  Needless to say, that option is being ruled out as well.

At this point a brief discussion of comparisons between the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the US war in Afghanistan, which has been going on continuously since 2001, is useful.

The differences are in fact profound and many, and here they are

(1) the USSR intervened in 1979 to stabilise the existing government of Afghanistan; the US intervened in Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow its government;

(2) the Soviet presence in Afghanistan lasted a total of 9 years; the US presence in Afghanistan has now lasted for 16 years and is still continuing;

(3) the Jihadi rebels who fought the USSR and the Afghan government in the 1980s (the so-called “Mujahedeen”) were strongly backed by the US and by a coalition of US allies including Pakistan, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.  They were provided with secure base areas in Pakistan and were also abundantly supplied with often sophisticated weapons including famously Stinger anti aircraft missiles.

By contrast the Taliban has received no overt support from any foreign government and has fought the US and the US led coalition largely on its own;

(4) The total number of Soviet troops who passed through Afghanistan in the 1980s is put at 620,000, though the actual number present in Afghanistan at any one time was never more than 80-104,000 (the latter is the absolute peak figure).

The total number of US troops who have passed through Afghanistan is surprisingly difficult to come by; however the peak number of US troops in Afghanistan at any one time seems to have been around 30,000.  To these of course should be added the various troop contributions made by various US allies, though these have varied widely both in number and effectiveness.

(5) Total irrecoverable losses of Soviet personnel in Afghanistan are put at 14,453.  US military deaths in Afghanistan as of 18th October 2016 are put at 2,386 military deaths and 1,173 US civilian contractor deaths.

Note however that these figures may not be exactly comparable.  The US figure apparently reports combat related deaths in the area of conflict (Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan).

Apparently the Soviet figure includes deaths of wounded personnel outside ‘the area of conflict’ (ie. in hospitals in the interior of Russia) and also the significant number of non-combat caused deaths caused by accidents and above all by sickness of which there were apparently many because of the partial failure of the Soviet logistic system in Afghanistan, especially in the early years of the Soviet intervention there.

To arrive at figures that would be fully comparable losses suffered by US allies in Afghanistan should also be added to the US totals.  Britain has for example reported 454 deaths as of 24th July 2015.

The total number of deaths suffered by the US coalition in Afghanistan was put at 3,407 in October 2015 inclusive of the US combat deaths the method of calculation of which is discussed above.

(6) A February 1987 a US intelligence assessment calculated the total financial cost of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan to the USSR as 15 billion roubles, which would have been about the same amount in 1980s US dollars.  Note that this includes both military and civilian spending including economic assistance.  This is now known to have been an overestimate based on an over-high calculation of Soviet casualties (assumed to be 30,000).

The total financial cost of the US intervention in Afghanistan has been officially estimated at $1 trillion as of October 2015 (unofficial estimates put the cost much higher, though other estimates pitch it lower at $780 billion).

According to official US government estimates the US is spending $4 million an hour on the military side of its war in Afghanistan.

An independent British study has estimated the total financial cost of the British intervention in Afghanistan to Britain as £37 billion.

(7) The USSR withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 after the Soviet backed government there had been stabilised and when it was in secure control of all of Afghanistan’s main towns and cities.

Contrary to widespread predictions the Afghan government survived the Soviet withdrawal and only finally collapsed in the spring of 1992, several months after the USSR had itself collapsed, and only after Soviet aid to Afghanistan was stopped.

Even then the final collapse of the Soviet backed government was not caused by a Mujahedeen military victory but by factional infighting within the government which led to an internal coup.

The current US backed government is said to be losing control of more and more of the territory of Afghanistan despite the continued presence of US troops there, and clearly is not expected by the US to survive a full US withdrawal, as shown by the expected US decision to commit more US troops to fight there.

To summarise:

The war the USSR fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s was shorter and far more intense, with the Soviet army having to fight an enemy strongly supported by outside powers.

The result was that on any calculation the Soviet casualty and death rate was much higher, with the USSR forced to deploy to Afghanistan large numbers of troops who were required to engaged in regular combat operations.

However by 1988-1989 the Soviet backed Afghan government, which in 1979 had appeared to be on the brink of collapse largely because of factional infighting, had been fully stabilised as the Soviets had intended, enabling the USSR to withdraw its troops from the country.

The US since 2001 has been in Afghanistan much longer.  It has deployed fewer troops there than the USSR did against an enemy who has lacked overt foreign support. As a result it has suffered far fewer combat losses.

However it has made up for this by spending on its war far more than the USSR ever did.  Indeed the financial cost to the US of its war totally dwarfs the financial cost to the USSR of its war.

It seems moreover that most of this cost has been caused by the prodigious use of inordinately expensive weapons and logistics support rather than in providing Afghanistan with economic support, though in purely monetary times (though possibly not effectiveness) the economic support the US has provided Afghanistan has also completely dwarfed what the USSR provided Afghanistan in the 1980s.

However despite this colossal commitment of resources, in the time since the US intervened the government it created and imposed on the country has not stabilised, is said to be riddled with corruption, and apparently lacks legitimacy, whilst the enemy the US is fighting, far from being defeated, is gaining territory and appears to be growing stronger, despite having no overt external support.

What conclusions can be drawn from this?

The Soviet decision to intervene in Afghanistan was a disastrous error of which the USSR repented at leisure.  Having however made – and recognised – their mistake, the Soviets nonetheless went on to make the best of a bad job, waging war in Afghanistan effectively in a way that by 1989 meant that the mission – to stabilise and save the Soviet backed government – was successfully done.

It is a fundamental error – though one Western commentators can never resist making – to think that because the Soviet backed government eventually collapsed some months after the USSR had itself collapsed, that the USSR was defeated in Afghanistan and that the collapse of the Soviet backed government of Afghanistan was inevitable once the USSR withdrew.

On the contrary there is every reason to think that if the USSR had survived and continued to support Afghanistan’s Soviet backed government with arms and supplies at the same level that it did up to the moment of its own collapse, that the Soviet backed government which the USSR in 1979 intervened in Afghanistan to save would also have survived, in which case it would probably still be the government of Afghanistan now.

The US decision to intervene in Afghanistan in 2001 was also a disastrous error, though it has never in the US been officially recognised as such.

However the stated objective of the intervention – to achieve the capture of Osama bin Laden – was fully achievable diplomatically, with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elements of the Taliban all committed to helping the US achieve it.  It was the US decision to intervene in Afghanistan militarily that made that impossible, facilitating Osama bin Laden’s escape, and ensuring his survival for a further ten years.

Since then the US has failed to hit on a coherent or achievable objective for the war it is continuing to fight in Afghanistan.  However it has continued to fight the war in its usual way, by trying to minimise casualties by fighting the war at astronomic financial cost.

The result is that no discernible objective is being achieved because the US has never come up with one.  Instead, in the absence of an achievable objective the US can realistically focus on and work towards, the US position in Afghanistan is all too predictably sliding towards defeat and crisis.

I am completely unable to see how ‘more of the same’ is going to change any of that, but judging from what we are hearing coming out of Camp David, that is what we are going to get.

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Shakesvshav
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Shakesvshav

Similar view here: http://www.statecraft.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/NATO Papers 3 Lessons from the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.pdf

Simon
Guest
Simon

Fair enough on all the negatives, but unlike the Soviet intervention the US version has been an absolute godsend for the high-end Dubai and Doha property markets, and as for the global opium trade…well, what can you say….just phenomenal results.

my2Cents
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my2Cents

I am so tired of hearing about “our values”

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

The US spent easily 1 trillion $ on its own “war on poverty” and failed; it spent (and is still spending) 1 trillion-plus $ on the “war against Al Qaeda” in Afghanistan, and failed. In both cses, corruption and drug-profits soared. Seems there is a lesson there.

Franz Kafka
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Franz Kafka

On the plus side, the US does seem to have won its undeclared war on Reality.

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

They don’t care how much they spend – just adding trillions dollars to US deficit. Monkey money.

Franz Kafka
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Franz Kafka

A magisterial assessment by Alexander Mercouris, as always.
Is it just me, or do the Americans look like total fkng retards?
That may have something to do with it.

TecumsehUnfaced
Guest
TecumsehUnfaced

Of course, we look demented. Our parasites are killing the host, ourselves.

BobValdez
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BobValdez

The us “mari-annes” are “kill on command” zombified retards who will obey orders without question and be cannon fodder at request. It is said they are so dumb, they will salute a lamp post if unsure.

FlorianGeyer
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FlorianGeyer

Indeed they do, from top to bottom 🙂

samo war
Guest
samo war

Woorld is crazy game cia mosad kgb ?
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZEmj0USgf4

Vera Gottlieb
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Vera Gottlieb

I don’t need any number of reasons – seems to be the new fad, numbering everything. There is only one outcome: losing.

TecumsehUnfaced
Guest
TecumsehUnfaced

There is no way our military can beat the Russians. Our military and its suppliers are one big scam, while for the Russians they are for the defense of the country. Our vampires have captured the government. If they don’t get to feed on the rest of the world all the time, they are at least feeding on us.

richardstevenhack
Guest
richardstevenhack

You answer your own question, Alexander, when you point out the COST of the US war.

It’s all about the MONEY. Wars have to be paid for and someone gets that money. It’s that simple.

seby
Guest
seby

bush the III obviously agrees with cnn that US militarism keeps Americans in “jobs”.

Hamletquest
Guest
Hamletquest

So Trump has announced his capitulation to the MIC as Alexander Mercouris and others predicted. So more money will be poured into the pockets of the unproductive economy. It has taken 8 months for total capitulation of the POTUS elect. Obama capitulated to the Bankers within weeks, also pouring infinitesimal amounts US dollar into the unproductive sector. The Peace Laureate also capitulated on the WAR front too. So it looks like whoever the poor people of Amerika vote for they get the same creed of greed the 1% who would bleed their mothers dry running the whole circus. It’s very… Read more »

Bankotsu
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Bankotsu

“…the Jihadi rebels who fought the USSR and the Afghan government in
the 1980s (the so-called “Mujahedeen”) were strongly backed by the US
and by a coalition of US allies including Pakistan, Britain, Saudi
Arabia and Egypt.”

And China.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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Macron offers crumbs to protestors in bid to save his globalist agenda (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at French President Macron’s pathetic display of leadership as he offers protestors little in the way of concessions while at the same time promising to crack down hard on any and all citizens who resort to violence.

Meanwhile France’s economy is set for a deep recession as French output and production grinds to a halt.

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Via Zerohedge


As if Brussels didn’t have its hands full already with Italy and the UK, the European Union will soon be forced to rationalize why one of its favorite core members is allowed to pursue populist measures to blow out its budget deficit to ease domestic unrest while another is threatened with fines potentially amounting to billions of euros.

When blaming Russia failed to quell the widespread anger elicited by his policies, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to appease the increasingly violent “yellow vests” protesters who have sacked his capital city by offering massive tax cuts that could blow the French budget out beyond the 3% budget threshold outlined in the bloc’s fiscal rules.

Given the concessions recently offered by Italy’s populists, Macron’s couldn’t have picked a worse time to challenge the bloc’s fiscal conventions. As Bloomberg pointed out, these rules will almost certainly set the Continent’s second largest economy on a collision course with Brussels. To be clear, Macron’s offered cuts come with a price tag of about €11 billion according to Les Echos, and will leave the country with a budget gap of 3.5% of GDP in 2019, with one government official said the deficit may be higher than 3.6%.

By comparison, Italy’s initial projections put its deficit target at 2.4%, a number which Europe has repeatedly refused to consider.

Macron’s promises of fiscal stimulus – which come on top of his government’s decision to delay the planned gas-tax hikes that helped inspire the protests – were part of a broader ‘mea culpa’ offered by Macron in a speech Monday night, where he also planned to hike France’s minimum wage.

Of course, when Brussels inevitably objects, perhaps Macron could just show them this video of French police tossing a wheelchair-bound protester to the ground.

Already, the Italians are complaining.  Speaking on Tuesday, Italian cabinet undersecretary Giancarlo Giorgetti said Italy hasn’t breached the EU deficit limit. “I repeat that from the Italian government there is a reasonable approach, if there is one also from the EU a solution will be found.”

“France has several times breached the 3% deficit. Italy hasn’t done it. They are different situations. There are many indicators to assess.”

Still, as one Guardian columnist pointed out in an op-ed published Tuesday morning, the fact that the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) organizers managed to pressure Macron to cave and grant concessions after just 4 weeks of protests will only embolden them to push for even more radical demands: The collapse of the government of the supremely unpopular Macron.

Then again, with Brussels now facing certain accusations of hypocrisy, the fact that Macron was pressured into the exact same populist measures for which Italy has been slammed, the French fiasco raises the odds that Rome can pass any deficit measure it wants with the EU now forced to quietly look away even as it jawbones all the way from the bank (i.e., the German taxpayers).

“Macron’s spending will encourage Salvini and Di Maio,” said Giovanni Orsina, head of the School of Government at Rome’s Luiss-Guido Carli University. “Macron was supposed to be the spearhead of pro-European forces, if he himself is forced to challenge EU rules, Salvini and Di Maio will jump on that to push their contention that those rules are wrong.”

While we look forward to how Brussels will square this circle, markets are less excited.

Exhausted from lurching from one extreme to another following conflicting headlines, traders are already asking if “France is the new Italy.” The reason: the French OAT curve has bear steepened this morning with 10Y yields rising as much as ~6bp, with the Bund/OAT spread reaching the widest since May 2017 and the French presidential election. Though well below the peaks of last year, further widening would push the gap into levels reserved for heightened political risk.

As Bloomberg macro analyst Michael Read notes this morning, it’s hard to see a specific near-term trigger blowing out the Bund/OAT spread but the trend looks likely to slowly drift higher.

While Macron has to fight on both domestic and European fronts, he’ll need to keep peace at home to stay on top. Remember that we saw the 10Y spread widen to ~80bps around the May ’17 elections as concerns of a move toward the political fringe played out in the markets, and the French President’s popularity ratings already look far from rosy.

And just like that France may have solved the Italian crisis.

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Watch: Democrat Chuck Schumer shows his East Coast elitism on live TV

Amazing moment in which the President exhibits “transparency in government” and shows the world who the Democrat leaders really are.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the reasons Donald Trump was elected to the Presidency was because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – against Democrat policy decisions and “stupid government” in general.

One of the reasons President Donald Trump is reviled is because of his pugnacious, “in your face” character he presented – and promised TO present – in the American political scene.

In other words, there are two reactions to the same characteristic. On Tuesday, the President did something that probably cheered and delighted a great many Americans who witnessed this.

The Democrats have been unanimous in taking any chance to roast the President, or to call for his impeachment, or to incite violence against him. But Tuesday was President Trump’s turn. He invited the two Democrat leaders, presumptive incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and then, he turned the cameras on:

As Tucker Carlson notes, the body language from Schumer was fury. The old (something)-eating grin covered up humiliation, embarrassment and probably no small amount of fear, as this whole incident was filmed and broadcast openly and transparently to the American public. Nancy Pelosi was similarly agitated, and she expressed it later after this humiliation on camera, saying, “It’s like a manhood thing for him… As if manhood could ever be associated with him.”

She didn’t stop there. According to a report from the New York Daily News, the Queen Bee took the rhetoric a step below even her sense of dignity:

Pelosi stressed she made clear to Trump there isn’t enough support in Congress for a wall and speculated the President is refusing to back down because he’s scared to run away with his tail between his legs.

“I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild,” Pelosi said of the Oval Office meet, which was also attended by Vice President Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

This represented the first salvo in a major spin-job for the ultra-liberal San Francisco Democrat. The rhetoric spun by Mrs. Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was desperate as they tried to deflect their humiliation and place it back on the President:

With reporters still present, Trump boasted during the Oval meeting he would be “proud” to shutdown the government if Congress doesn’t earmark cash for his wall before a Dec. 21 spending deadline.

Pelosi told Democrats that Trump’s boisterousness will be beneficial for them.

“The fact is we did get him to say, to fully own that the shutdown was his,” Pelosi said. “That was an accomplishment.”

The press tried to characterize this as a “Trump Tantrum”, saying things like this lede:

While “discussing” a budgetary agreement for the government, President Donald Trump crossed his arms and declared: “we will shut down the government if there is no wall.”

While the Democrats and the mainstream media in the US are sure to largely buy these interpretations of the event, the fact that this matter was televised live shows that the matter was entirely different, and this will be discomfiting to all but those Democrats and Trump-dislikers that will not look at reality.

There appears to be a twofold accomplishment for the President in this confrontation:

  1. The President revealed to his support base the real nature of the conversation with the Democrat leadership, because anyone watching this broadcast (and later, video clip) saw it unedited with their own eyes. They witnessed the pettiness of both Democrats and they witnessed a President completely comfortable and confident about the situation.
  2. President Trump probably made many of his supporters cheer with the commitment to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall funding. This cheering is for both the strength shown about getting the wall finished and the promise to shut the government down, and further, Mr. Trump’s assertion that he would be “proud” to shut the government down, taking complete ownership willingly, reflects a sentiment that many of his supporters share.

The usual pattern is for the media, Democrats and even some Republicans to create a “scare” narrative about government shutdowns, about how doing this is a sure-fire path to chaos and suffering for the United States.

But the educated understanding of how shutdowns work reveals something completely different. Vital services never close. However, National Parks can close partly or completely, and some non-essential government agencies are shuttered. While this is an inconvenience for the employees furloughed during the shutdown, they eventually are re-compensated for the time lost, and are likely to receive help during the shutdown period if they need it. The impact on the nation is minimal, aside from the fact that the government stops spending money at the same frenetic pace as usual.

President Trump’s expression of willingness to do this action and his singling out of the Dem leadership gives the Democrats a real problem. Now the entire country sees their nature. As President Trump is a populist, this visceral display of Democrat opposition and pettiness will make at least some impact on the population, even that group of people who are not Trump fans.

The media reaction and that of the Democrats here show, amazingly, that after three years-plus of Donald Trump being a thorn in their side, they still do not understand how he works, and they also cannot match it against their expected “norms” of establishment behavior.

This may be a brilliant masterstroke, and it also may be followed up by more. The President relishes head-to-head conflict. The reactions of these congress members showed who they really are.

Let the games begin.

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