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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mike Pence on U.S. Carrier Misstatements: We Just Didn’t Know What We Were Talking About

That seems to be the glass half full explanation for the Trump WH: Sean Spicer, James Mattis, and Devin McMaster gave wrong information about the whereabouts of the U.S. Carrier out of gross ignorance and incompetence. Not because they were deliberately lying.

Dealing with Kim Jong-un’s crazy regime that’s a pretty careless mistake.

“Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that misstatements about the location of a U.S. aircraft carrier supposedly on its way to the waters off the Korean peninsula were not made intentionally.”

“Earlier this month, White House and Pentagon officials announced that the USS Carl Vinson and its accompanying battle group had been deployed off the coast of the Korean peninsula, a response to a missile test launched by North Korea. But on Monday, Defense News reported that the Carl Vinson was nowhere near the Korean peninsula and had instead been photographed near Indonesia.”

“Reporting that the Carl Vinson had not immediately turned north towards the Korean peninsula was corroborated by the New York Times, Reuters and others, leaving government officials in the awkward position of having to explain why the aircraft carrier had not been deployed as initially described.”

“Asked during an interview with CNN if the misstatements from White House and Pentagon officials had been intentional, Pence replied “oh, I think not” and noted the already strong U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, including in Japan and South Korea. He did not offer an explanation as to why government officials had said the Carl Vinson was steaming for the Sea of Japan when it was not.”

Just a little mistake-of 3500 miles.

“On April 9 — nine days ago — the Trump administration announced that it was sending an aircraft carrier and four accompanying vessels to Korean waters. The strike group was supposed to be doing exercises near Australia, but the administration was diverting it in anticipation of a possible North Korean missile test. The scary implication: The US was putting its warships in place in preparation for a possible strike on North Korea.”

“Except it turns out there was a bit of an oopsie: Despite Trump’s boast last week that he was “sending an armada” to North Korea, as of Saturday, the carrier group in question was still hanging out with the Australian navy off the coast of Indonesia — 3,500 miles from North Korea.”

“We know this because the Navy told us. On Saturday, as Defense News’s Christopher Cavas reports, the US Navy publicly released photos of the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier in said carrier strike group, going through Indonesia’s Sunda Strait. Cavas called up Defense Department officials, who told him that the Vinson had indeed been in Indonesian waters that day. A subsequent piece by the New York Times, released on Tuesday afternoon, backed up Cavas’s work.”

“The carrier group is now — finally! — heading to the Korean Peninsula. But the whole bizarre incident is a useful reminder not to overstate the risk of military conflict in North Korea.”

How exactly do you make a mistake like that? But isn’t there a responsibility to not make mistakes of this consequence? Zack Beauchamp has some excellent advice:

“Calm down about North Korea, people.”

“Regardless of how the bizarre error happened, however, it’s a good opportunity for a deep breath — and to take stock of what’s actually happening with the North.”

“While there’s been a lot of noise, both from Washington and Pyongyang, the truth is there’s no tangible evidence that the two countries are at risk of imminent conflict. The only such piece of evidence so far was a thinly sourced NBC News report last Thursday claiming that the US was preparing to launch a preemptive strike on North Korea — a report that was quickly shot down by numerous defense and intelligence officials and dismissed by essentially everyone else who covers the issue.”

“News reports on North Korea tend to sound a whole lot scarier than the situation usually turns out to be. The Kim regime is notoriously secretive, which makes it very difficult to ascertain its real thinking on any key issues.”

“The North also likes to make absurdly over-the-top threats that it has no intention of actually carrying out but that sound really scary — like the time it threatened to “mercilessly destroy” Seth Rogen for making a comedy film about assassinating Kim Jong Un. And the international press has a longstanding habit of relying on dubious sources to relay outlandish tails from the North, because hyping up North Korea’s scary weirdness is a great way to generate clicks and sell papers.”

“Combine this with the fact that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is genuinely worrisome, and what you get is constant sense of doom and imminent war. This is especially true now that Donald Trump, who has said threatening things about North Korea and made unpredictability into a major part of his geopolitical strategy, is in the White House.”

“The carrier group being suddenly diverted to North Korea was thus taken as a sign that we were on the brink of war.”

“Yet it wasn’t: When war fears were hitting their peak late last week, the carrier group wasn’t sitting in the waters off North Korea prepping for a military strike — it was 3,500 miles away doing a planned military exercise with the Australian navy and having its picture taken.”

“This was yet more misinformation about a conflict that’s already full of it — another reminder that information about the Korean conflict is often wrong, misstated, or misleading (a warning that goes double when you have a dramatically understaffed Pentagon PR team).”

Kim Jong-un is every secretive and likes to make outlandish, over the top statements? Does that remind you of anyone? In Trump, Jong finally has a playmate with his sense of humor and that’s where the genuine concern comes in.

Kind of fitting that in the past Trump has praised Jong-as he has praised Turkey’s Erdogan.

One of the most dubious narratives was how offended Trump was at pictures of victims of chemical weapons in Syria. This is the same guy who defended Saddam Hussein: ‘He uses a little gas and everyone goes crazy. It was just a little gas.’

The big worry is that with Trump and Jong-un acting like mirror images of each other someone makes a mistake or reacts to wrong the disinformation flowing so freely in both directions.

P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.

There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.

Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will.


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