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DSMatticus
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2016 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Mask_De_H wrote:
I would like to see DSM's primer of the Syrian Civil War.

That is a thing I can do, though heads up; you can take a magnifying glass to any part of what I am about to say and it unfolds into a fucking novel. If you want more details (or just sources) on a specific claim, feel free to ask, but otherwise this is going to be the simple answers to the questions "why?" and "who?"

So, the first thing to understand is that the latest round of instability in the Middle East starts with the Arab Spring. A bunch of different people living under a bunch of different governments from a variety of different ideological backgrounds all agreed - relatively simultaneously in late 2010/early 2011, thanks to the power of the internet making this shit contagious - that they fucking hated their governments. It can be tempting to say that this was a democratic uprising against authoritarianism, blatant corruption, and human rights abuses, and to a large extent that was absolutely true. But some of the protesters were also just assholes whose primary grievance was not the nature of the government but rather that they weren't the ones running the show. Even other assholes hate assholes, and there is no point pretending that the only people who want to topple Assad are good guys. Of course, it's also really fucking racist to pull a maglag and pretend all the people who want to topple Assad are cannibals, so don't do that either.

Every country has a slightly different Arab Spring story, but for the most part those stories all start peacefully. People took to the streets to demand various reforms and then shit went south from there. In the case of Libya and Syria, the governments broke up protests with (often lethal) force until the protests grew so large the police could no longer contain them, at which point the army was mobilized and the country's respective leaders, Gaddafi and Assad, started giving very concerning speeches about 'exterminating cockroaches' and other bullshit. They were both going to kill a lot of people and restructure their regimes as even more openly brutal and violent than they were before. So in Syria, facing an increasingly aggressive military response, protesters hit their breaking point and raided some police stations through the power of sheer numbers, some soldiers who'd been ordered to fire on civilians simply defected, and yes, shortly thereafter foreign powers started shipping in armaments. So now the protesters are armed rebels, but they are not - and this is critical - all that organized or unified. Here is a list of all the groups involved in the Syrian Civil War. Here is a territorial map. So, let's just go color by color.

The red bits are the pro-government forces. So that's the actual Syrian Army, a number of loyalist militias, some Iranian troops, and a side of operational support from the Russian airforce.

The black bits are ISIS. ISIS really are a "join us or die" type of operation, and as such they don't have a lot of friends. But ISIS and Assad do have a tentative frenemy-type relationship. ISIS has captured a lot of territory and a lot of natural resources. Assad has much better access to international markets. Both have problems other than eachother that they need to deal with. There's a relationship of mutual benefit there, and Assad bare minimum turns a blind eye to let it happen. But otherwise even ISIS and al Qaeda are trying to murder eachother; they just don't have a lot of friends. It's also important to remember that ISIS showed up to the game late; 2013.

The green bits are the Free Syrian Army. Here's the big reveal; the FSA is not a real organization. It's a label certain groups wear (or sometimes just sort of gets shoved on them) that lets you know they hate Assad, but there is no centralized command structure and a bunch of the groups also hate eachother. You may as well scribble "here be rebels" over the green portions of the map for all it matters. Democratic secularists are in there. Every flavor of nationalist under the sun is in there. Al Qaeda and associated groups are in there. It's a rainbow not-quite-coalition and frankly a shitshow, but that's to be expected. Decades of constant political turmoil have bred a huge number of different factions - and also turned a lot of those factions uncompromisingly radical. You can blame most of that on western colonialism and the aftermath thereof.

The yellow bits are the Syrian Democratic Forces. The SDF is mostly centrally-organized, and as such is much, much closer to a real organization than the FSA. It's also ethnically diverse and fairly secular, which are always promising traits to have in your rebel groups. The SDF has a... complicated relationship with the pro-government forces. The two have fought eachother before, and the two will almost certainly fight eachother again, but you may notice on the map that the yellow bits barely touch the red bits while the yellow bits and black bits share a border almost the entire length of the country. The SDF spends most of its time and resources fighting ISIS; they've even shown up to help defend pro-government territory against ISIS advances. There's certainly a hypothetical future in which ISIS's presence in Syria crumbles and a bloodied and battered Assad simply does not have the resources to continue the war against the SDF and we see two states emerge out of Syria's ashes. The SDF has a terrible relationship with a lot of the northern rebel groups, because those rebels groups are pro-Turkey, and Turkey does not think the SDF would make a good neighbor. Turkey's local kurds are already uppity enough without having a bunch of kurds on their southern border chanting terrorist propaganda like "democracy is cool." I've mentioned this previously.

The United States provides support to the SDF and various "members" of the FSA (which, again, not a real organization). We've recently withdrawn support from some of the northern FSA members, because they are backed by Turkey, and Turkey has a nasty habit of shelling SDF positions and then sending those rebel groups to attack them, which is not a thing we want happening. Our goals are to stop Assad (because he will kill a bunch of people to stay in power) and ISIS (because they will kill a bunch of people to kill a bunch of people), and even the really nasty islamicist members of the FSA are noticeably less genocidal than those two options, though we would obviously prefer to see more moderate groups than that win in the end.

Russia provides support to Assad. There are some minor strategic reasons for this, and also some vaguely historical ones, but to be perfectly honest it seems to almost entirely boil down to a pissing contest with the United States for the sake of a pissing contest with the United States. It's difficult to suss out reasons any more coherent than that, but there is some background information that may be relevant; Russia had some absolutely fucking huge protests back in 2011 when Vladimir Putin declared he was running for president again. Those protesters called for things like fair elections, the release of political prisoners, resignations of current government officials, an investigation into fraud, and basically just wanted to clean house on the Russia government. Those are almost exactly the exact same things Syrian protesters were saying. There was genuinely some concern that Russia was looking at the start of a revolution. They had their pet media empire blame it on the west, arrested a fuckton of protesters, passed a bunch of anti-protest laws, and just all around cracked the fuck down. You can make the case that Russia has a political interest in defending the international legitimacy of illegitimate governments - like Assad's. Events like the Arab Spring are genuinely intimidating to regimes like Putin's, and I have no doubt he would prefer it when they fail. Or maybe he just hopes that by waving his dick around against the U.S. he can rally his yes-they-really-are-openly-authoritarian supporters back home, because they eat shit like that up.

Turkey is there too. I've covered them, but in brief they oppose Assad, the SDF, and ISIS, and they support some FSA members who are fighting those groups.

Iran is there too two. They support Assad.

Anyway, uhh... I guess that's a basic rundown? I feel like I have not said nearly enough, but I also feel like I could rant about this shit for pages and pages still not give the conflict the depth it is due. For example, not featured in this at all; "where the fuck did ISIS come from? What does the formation of ISIS have to do with the Syrian Civil War?" And if instead of more detail you want the most tl;dr version possible of the Syrian Civil War, here; "protesters respond to being gunned down by militarizing and splintering; chaos ensues."
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nockermensch
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Not mentioned is that Assad's power base are the Alawites, which are a small sect of Shia Islam. The Assad's Syria (a regime that started with Bashar father) is ruled by this religious minority and has oppressed the country's majority Sunni population for decades.

This would make the Assads into pretty much unambiguous bad guys until you notice that a growing sect among Sunnis today preaches violent religious intolerance, and in the event of Assad's regime breaking we could be looking forward wholesale population displacement ethnical cleaning genocide in Syria.

The most hardcore salafists (ISIS) will merrily browbeat other Sunnis to be more like them. This easily slides into beheadings, headshots and sexual slavery when "heretics" are involved, as clearly demonstrated in Iraq with the Yazidis. Alawites have good reasons to think the same kind of fate awaits them if they stop fighting.

So, yeah, the situation is much more unclear there. Is Iran's Expeditionary Army and their kid Hezbollah there just to defend their economical interests or because if Assad's regime crumbles down the West will just issue increasingly Very Concerned declarations about the genocide that will follow?
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DSMatticus
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It's also worth noting that there are a number of pro-government Alawite militias and they have their fair share of horrific brutality attributed to them.

When people talk about how the Middle East is a clusterfuck of arbitrary lines in the sand, they are not even remotely kidding. The people of these countries did not come together willingly, or even organically, to form sovereign states. A bunch of rich old white guys drew lines on a map, gave guns to whichever factions would help make those lines reality, and the end result is shit like Syria. It turns out that horrible sectarian regimes breed horrible sectarian violence.

The only real hope for a peaceful resolution to this was that Assad would step down under pressure; his decision to try and murder his way back to stability guaranteed the radicalization of otherwise relatively peaceful protests, because organizations like al-Nusra Front and ISIS are always waiting in the background, willing to give you a gun, train you how to use it, and tell you who you need to point it at. And when your government has made obvious its intention to murder you... well... what the fuck else are you supposed to do?
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Voss
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Some of Russia's stake in the matter is to have fleet and air basing rights on the other side of Turkey (and in the Mediterranean). That was an iffy relationship before this week's actual assassination (and the earlier in the year air-space incident), and Turkish control of the Bosporus really does irk Russian governments just on general principles, so being able to put something of a squeeze on them in the longer term has an appeal to Putin.

If some of the genocides* and forced relocations hadn't happened in Turkey, I'm sure Putin would make a big deal about pro-Russian suppression in northeastern Turkey (like Crimea or Ukraine) , but the Armenians, Georgian, Greek and/or Orthodox populations aren't really in that part of the country anymore.

*which officially totally never happened, of course.



The other side of Russia's motivations is just to appear like they have a bigger dick than the U.S. That they determine who rules in 'their backyard,' and thus diplomatic primacy in the region is theirs, and the US is a faltering power. I'm not sure how many people find it convincing, but Putin is certainly spending a lot of time with his old KGB playbook on how to look like the bigger superpower.

Which should worry people come January 20th, of course. Because then the 'Art of the Deal' comes in to get the best bargains, and Putin may well end up with a wrecked Syrian puppet state in exchange for whatever looks shiny.


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Korwin
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

DSMatticus wrote:
For example, not featured in this at all; "where the fuck did ISIS come from? What does the formation of ISIS have to do with the Syrian Civil War?" And if instead of more detail you want the most tl;dr version possible of the Syrian Civil War, here; "protesters respond to being gunned down by militarizing and splintering; chaos ensues."
Would be nice.
From the media coverage (here in Austria), you get the impression there where an uprising against Assad, then later that morphed somehow into ISIS.
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tussock
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

ISIS grew out of the ruins of what was previously known as "al-Qaeda in Iraq", which was a splinter group of al-Qaeda who thought trying to re-build the Caliphate was stupid now that the end of the world was nigh (because of the US invading Iraq, vaguely fitting various ancient prophecies) and they'd be getting right onto helping that along now by being as wildly and loudly offensive as possible at all times, like cutting people up in public and leaving them to die and be dismembered by dogs in the street, for crimes like being a unaccompanied woman.

They were largely defeated by the former Ba'athist elements of the resistance to the US occupation who decided, you know, holy fuck this is grim, let's just work with the US to get rid of these guys. And then did. Which is roughly when Bush claimed victory the last time he did that.

Note that most of al-Qaeda in Iraq were not actually Iraqis, there was a lot of people from a lot of countries, an actual foreign insurgency like the US said it was at the time, though most of the US fighting was against the old Ba'athists until they got together late in the piece. War is lies, but there is often an element of truth in them.

That became vaguely stable, within the reach of the old Ba'athists, and not so much beyond that nearer to the Syrian border. And then the Syrian government lost control of most of it's country all at once, in what included a pretty well coordinated media campaign by classic al-Qaeda. Simultaneous bombings and assassinations across the country, very much their calling card, followed by pulling the same "oh noes, our government is killing us all" thing and just like in Libya the western bombers couldn't rush over to rid them of their government fast enough.

al-Qaeda's bombings were of course mixed up with much bigger and very real protests about the food supplies and trade sanctions and mass unemployment, and the Syrian military response was largely limited to the formation of terrorist enclaves and their associated removal of government by mass murder (this is not the first time this has happened in Syria). The country fell apart anyway, the government just couldn't reach all the trouble at the same time with enough force to settle any of it, for much the same reason as they were in trouble anyway, just broke.

The fight basically went quiet, the government struggled to even be a government let alone run a military campaign to re-capture territory, and the various rebel groups were funded by various outside countries that often set them against each other. So for a couple years, various groups claimed various cities and the transport networks between them and acted as de-facto government providing education and healthcare and courts of some description (or at least a guy with a gun who would solve problems with bullets). There was even national school exams that covered the whole country still, people tried to get on, amongst the war.

Then one of the more successful groups announced it was called ISIS and wanted MOAR recruits because it wasn't stopping, the Caliphate is now, the end is nigh, again, and they were carrying on with the old method of being as bloody and murderous as possible to attract the end times.

At which point various outside powers tried to be very clear they hadn't funded those particular guys (but maybe had accidentally given arms to a few pricks who just on-sold them cheaply to ISIS, oops) but they were instead supporting mystery groups of warlords who were totally fighting both ISIS and the Syrian government. Which is probably true at least some days of the week, except that the only people who can defeat ISIS in Syria is a militarily empowered Syrian government. Realistically.

Turkey totally not only funded and armed groups very close to ISIS but also bombed people who were fighting against ISIS, on the grounds that Kurds are the real enemy. That's just Turkey being Turkey, they had a chance to bomb the Kurds, they bombed the Kurds. They also shot down a Russian jet, that was attacking ISIS. Nice country.

--

Interesting side note, I used to read one of the Iraqi bloggers from ~'05 about the mess the US was making and how they seemed to be behind all the sectarian violence in the new Iraq. And it turns out the English language ones at least, were mostly the voice of al-Qaeda, who would strictly monitor them and murder anyone who didn't follow the script. Those guys are smart, they were mass murdering Shiites and then getting their bloggers to blame it on the foreigners and the puppet government, because their campaign is to get foreign forces to leave and also to kill off Shi'a. It's been the same in a lot of battles in the region, they run top notch anti-western and anti-Shi'a propaganda, while drawing the west into doing things they know the locals will hate, also while casually committing mass murders.

It's the same deal in Syria. There is bad shit happening from all sides, civil wars are really fucking ugly, especially with so many outside folks wanting so many different outcomes, but the buses to evacuate civilians from Aleppo were burnt by al-Qaeda, all the drivers were killed, and they then told everyone it was the Syrian army did it, because that's just something they do all the time.

That guy who shot the Russian ambassador, he's been listening to the western media largely and uncritically parrot al-Qaeda propaganda, which is currently very anti-Russia, because Russia is currently kicking their asses.

--

As for Russia's involvement, a lot of the ISIS people are Chechen, it's extremely broad in it's recruitment, people are there from all over the place, but Putin fucking hates those guys in particular, and knows them doing well in Syria and Iraq will result in them being bolder in states where he has to put ground troops in, like Chechnya.

Russian policy is to fight it's future wars on other people's soil. This is coming their way, if the Syrian government folded, these guys would not stop, so they're fighting it before it gets to them. They will not lose, they learnt a lot about fighting this in Chechnya, and it is not a pretty way to win, but it does work.

The US system, of trying to assassinate the leadership, that on the other hand does not work. al-Qaeda is absolutely a vastly larger and more active organisation now than it was when they started it. It is their greatest recruitment tool, and it's quite possible the reason the US keeps accidentally bombing weddings and stuff is that al-Qaeda tricks them into doing just that for the lovely pictures they can produce off the carnage.
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DSMatticus
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Korwin wrote:
DSMatticus wrote:
For example, not featured in this at all; "where the fuck did ISIS come from? What does the formation of ISIS have to do with the Syrian Civil War?" And if instead of more detail you want the most tl;dr version possible of the Syrian Civil War, here; "protesters respond to being gunned down by militarizing and splintering; chaos ensues."
Would be nice.
From the media coverage (here in Austria), you get the impression there where an uprising against Assad, then later that morphed somehow into ISIS.

Disclaimer: tussock is a fucking lunatic. There are elements of truth in there, but it's also filled with insane insinuations like "of course Assad wasn't murdering protesters, he was only fighting the terrorists." Which is I guess technically true, because Syria is one of those states where protesting can get you arrested for terrorism against the state, so...

Yes, ISIS is a sort-of successor to al Qaeda in Iraq, which is a story unto itself. Back when Saddam Hussein was running Iraq, it was a minority Sunni government ruling over a majority Shia population, and it was genuinely pretty shitty. When we toppled Hussein's government the Shia's ended up in power, and they were not all that keen on governing alongside the various Sunni factions, particularly (but not exclusively) those that had supported Hussein. Sectarian bullshit begets more sectarian bullshit. Unsurprisingly, this exclusion from power made a lot of Sunni's very angry. Well, guess what? Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization - a bunch of angry Sunni's means an al Qaeda recruiting surge. So al Qaeda in Iraq picks up a bunch of fresh new soldiers, rebrands itself as The Islamic State in Iraq (ISI - hasn't picked up the S yet), and by 2008 has been mostly defeated by U.S. forces and moderate Sunni's. Fast forward to early 2011, and the Syrian Civil War begins in earnest. The remains of ISI get together with the al Qaeda main branch and agree to start building a presence in Syria. And that's something of a two prong strategy. First, al Qaeda's main branch puts together a bunch of sympathetic Syrians and funds them while they organize their own local al Qaeda branch; al Nusra Front, also known as al Qaeda in Syria. Second, ISI starts sending its own fighters from Iraq into Syria.

So, recap: you have the al Qaeda main branch, al Qaeda in Iraq (which is calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq), and al Qaeda in Syria (which is calling itself al Nusra Front). That is three different al Qaeda organizations, two of which are not actually called al Qaeda. All three of these organizations have an independent presence in Syria. At first, this works out okay. The three heads of this particular cerberus are either working together or kept far enough away from eachother that it doesn't matter. And then in 2013 shit gets weird. Baghdadi, the leader of ISI, declared publicly that the al Nusra Front would merge with ISI and the two would fight together under the name the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (and now we have the S). Al Nusra Front responded by declaring "what? No, we aren't doing that. You didn't even talk to us about this. What are you smoking?" Al Qaeda's main branch stepped in to say "no merger," and Baghdadi responded "fuck you both, there absolutely is a merger. Do you get my drift?" And now al Qaeda and ISIS are at war.

So the tl;dr is that ISIS is the result of an internal power struggle within al Qaeda over which al Qaeda branch was going to be in charge in Syria. ISIS, specifically, is a former branch of al Qaeda centered in Iraq that had been operating in Syria since the start of the civil war. While ISIS absolutely incorporates local rebel fighters whenever possible, for the most part it's probably one of the groups most external to the civil war itself; the uprising against Assad did not morph into ISIS. During the uprising, ISIS marched in from another country entirely and started swallowing territory and either incorporating or crushing any rebel groups in their path.
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Nath
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

tussock wrote:
And then the Syrian government lost control of most of it's country all at once, in what included a pretty well coordinated media campaign by classic al-Qaeda. Simultaneous bombings and assassinations across the country, very much their calling card, followed by pulling the same "oh noes, our government is killing us all" thing and just like in Libya the western bombers couldn't rush over to rid them of their government fast enough.

al-Qaeda's bombings were of course mixed up with much bigger and very real protests about the food supplies and trade sanctions and mass unemployment, and the Syrian military response was largely limited to the formation of terrorist enclaves and their associated removal of government by mass murder (this is not the first time this has happened in Syria). The country fell apart anyway, the government just couldn't reach all the trouble at the same time with enough force to settle any of it, for much the same reason as they were in trouble anyway, just broke.
"Simultaneous bombings across the country" have to mean two bombings on 23 December 2011 within the same district of Damas, some eight months after the protests began, seven months after the Syrian army started engaging tanks and artillery, and about two months after rebels had (temporarily) seized control of Latakia and Homs.

Even the Syrian government propaganda get that timeline right. They certainly accused terrorist organizations of staging the protests and riots from the beginning, and they used the Damas bombings to support that statement, but the bombings and assassinations you refer to, that simply did not happen.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

My final thought on this thread:

Quote:
This election has proved that sunshine is not the best disinfectant. That just getting the truth out there is insufficient.

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Voss
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Trump, Putin call for more nukes.
7,000 each just ain't enough

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38410027

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Welp, time to move further away from major cities.
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DSMatticus
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I don't think it really matters. A nuclear exchange involving the U.S. is the collapse of modern civilization and possibly the complete end to human life on the planet. Do yourself a favor and eat the blastwave. You're going to die anyway and it's quicker.

In less apocalyptic but still horrifying news, Trump has not stopped talking loudly about "draining the swamp" while packing his cabinet with swamp monsters. The talking point is not going away, so... yeah. We were right, Trump is going to use "corruption" investigations to purge government agencies and restaff them with loyalists and probably to target political opposition. He's building a regime, and this is how it's done.
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Kaelik
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2016 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Every day we get another leaked letter from the Trump Transition team to some government agency saying some variation of "please give us a list of all the work you do on preventing violence against women. Please tell us where all the backups on all this info is. Please tell us the name of everyone who ever advocated for or implemented any of these policies. We promise to make sure this department does nothing but encourage violence against women from now on."
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Prak
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

DSMatticus wrote:
I don't think it really matters. A nuclear exchange involving the U.S. is the collapse of modern civilization and possibly the complete end to human life on the planet. Do yourself a favor and eat the blastwave. You're going to die anyway and it's quicker.

In less apocalyptic but still horrifying news, Trump has not stopped talking loudly about "draining the swamp" while packing his cabinet with swamp monsters. The talking point is not going away, so... yeah. We were right, Trump is going to use "corruption" investigations to purge government agencies and restaff them with loyalists and probably to target political opposition. He's building a regime, and this is how it's done.


To be fair, he said he'd drain the swamp, not where he'd put the drained muck. Apparently, he decided a good place to put it was the cabinet.
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You should gain sanity for finding out that the problems of a region are because there are fucking monsters there.
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Electoral college continues to be a mess.
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