After decades of experience in PR State Department's latest airhead fell apart confronted by just one inconvenient question from a Russian journalist
Originally appeared at The Kremlin Stooge
The British navy was involved in some peacetime maneuvers at sea, involving a column of cruisers. They were steaming along in formation when a signal was given to execute a ninety-degree turn.
The maneuver went off flawlessly, except for one cruiser, whose captain missed the signal. The ship almost collided with the one in front, and when it swerved to avoid a collision, the whole convoy was thrown into confusion. Only some very skillful seamanship by the other captains prevented a serious accident.
When some order had been regained, the Admiral on the flagship sent a message to the captain who had caused all the trouble; “Sir, what are your intentions?” Immediately, the reply came back, “Sir, I plan to buy a farm.” He knew without being told that one missed signal had terminated his naval career.”
From, “Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay; Practical and Contemporary Lessons From the Book of Judges“, by Gary Inrig
Known affectionately on this forum as Psakipath and Harfwit, their…ummm…moving on to greener pastures was likely precipitated by their comic confusion under the relentless cross-examination of Matthew Lee – reporter for the Associated Press – during those press conferences the State Department regularly hosts for international journalists.
Perhaps the State Department thought the presence of a dignified and experienced former military professional would offer a change of course from the hilarious Roman circuses those pressers were becoming, as the spokespersons regularly found themselves pinned like a butterfly to a collection card by questions they could not answer honestly. After all, it worked for CNN.
That’s just a guess on my part, but if their reasoning was something like that, it was a success like the Hindenburg. Driven into a corner by determined questioning from RT’s Gayane Chichakayan (thanks for the link, Tim!), Kirby spontaneously combusted and burned up like a gasbag zeppelin.
Let’s take it from the top. Mr. Kirby is plainly bracing himself for an unwelcome or unpleasant experience; his hand gestures and the sigh before he says, “Okay, go ahead” suggest he is only putting up with this because he is such a nice guy.
Start the clock. When she says “concerns”, click stop. 41 seconds. Knock off 5, because she begins to frame her question at the 5-second mark. That’s 36 seconds to deliver the entire question, and subsequent attempts are all shorter than that.
Yet Mr. Kirby moans and grumbles about “another 10-minute question, and I’m supposed to get the grain…get the grain out of that”. I certainly hope when he was in uniform, he was better at making a time appreciation than this performance indicates. There are occasional situations in military service – such as, “How long do I hold this thing after I pull the pin before I throw it?” – where if you were off by 564 seconds, it could have some consequences.
Let’s get back to the question. Ms. Chichakayan sets the background to the question thus;
- The USA’s official position is that it is up to Turkey and Iraq to sort out the situation with the uninvited Turkish troops;
- The USA assumes unto itself, without invitation from the Iraqi government, the right to invite other countries into Iraq to participate in the fight against ISIL (that seems to be the consensus acronym, at least for now);
- U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter (I refuse to refer to him as “Ash”, as if we were old buddies, like everyone else seems to do) reported to Congress that he had personally reached out to other countries to invite them to commit Special Operations forces to the battle in Iraq; and
- Iraq has announced a review of the defense security agreement with the United States, with some lawmakers calling for its cancellation.
She then asks the question, which is “What does the US do to address their concerns?”
She says the Turkish troops are univited. Is that so? Yes, it is. Who says so? AL Monitor‘s “Turkey Pulse” says so. Where’s it based? Washington, DC.
She says the United States gub’mint invited other countries to come to Iraq to fight ISIL. Is that true? Why, yes; it is – here’s Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in the very hearing Ms. Chichakayan describes in her question, recounting for all who wish to listen that he spent part of the week “reaching out” to 40 countries to press them to do more… in some cases, much more. Remember that.
He says he solicited Special Forces, strike aircraft, munitions and support. He does not say this was done at the behest of the Iraqi government, and in the case of at least one supporting nation, Australia, it reportedly “responded to a request from the United States“.
Interestingly, CNN references not only acknowledge air strikes in Syria “may be illegal without Assad’s agreement or unless he requests assistance of a western nation” – although this will not stop a Washington that claims a right to “take the fight to ISIL wherever it appears”, it merely means it will not work with Assad – they report that Washington heavyweights have been putting serious pressure on Turkey to do more against ISIL.
Is it not possible Erdogan perceives this as a green light to move his forces into Mosul? It certainly sounds like it to me, and for his part, Erdogan still declines to withdraw his troops and tanks.
If I were a suspicious man, I might speculate that is because the nation that claims to be coordinating this whole Global War On ISIL told him to stay put, whatever the Iraqi government says.
If you were not yet suspicious, I invite you to go “hmmmm…” along with me at the announcement that Turkey will partake in a trilateral meeting on December 21st with Northern Iraq Kurdish leaders and US officials. It was the Kurdish regional authority – which is not a nation, they are part of Iraq – who allegedly invited Erdogan’s forces in.
Erdogan continues to insist his forces are there only to act as “instructors”. He has already thought ahead to say he needs his tanks there, too, to protect his instructors from ISIL, because the armored forces of Turkey and Iraq are in no way the same – don’t have a single type in common, in fact – which would beg the question of why the Turkish tanks are necessary. To instruct the Kurds in the operation and tactics of a tank they don’t have?
Finally, Ms. Chichakayan avers that Iraq has ordered a review of the defense security agreement with the United States, and that some lawmakers have called for its cancellation. That true? Uh huh, it is. Everything Ms. Chichakayan purported in her question as fact, is fact.
It is not known whether the USA’s invitation to other countries to come on in to Iraq was negotiated with the participation and at the behest of the Iraqi government. But Ms. Chichakayan never introduced that line of inquiry – Mr. Kirby did.
Apparently not content with merely muffing his own role, he appeared to take over hers, and go on a rant about what she might be implying. Cha-ching! said RT, I’ll bet – give Gayane Chichakayan a raise; she sure as hell earned it, the State Department spokeshole is falling apart in glowing cinders right before our very eyes.
For the record,. because everyone has probably forgotten by now, but the “grain” that Mr. Kirby was unable to extract from a 36-second question was, “What does the US do to address their concerns?”
Nothing at all, apparently, because the deadline for Ankara to withdraw has come and gone without Erdogan budging, which he insists he will not, and the furious Iraqis have gone over their “security partner’s” head and petitioned the UN to order the removal of the Turkish troops.
That likely will be to no avail, since Washington controls the UN through the clownish invertebrate Ban Ki-Moon. But the significance of the December 21st snuggle between the US, Ankara and the Northern Region Kurdish administration should be lost on no one.
Meanwhile, Erdogan – never one for keeping his head down – has moved on from that provocation and begun signing gas deals with the regional Kurdish administration as well.
Washington’s strategy is laid bare at last, and what is going to be the result of it, if everyone is not very, very careful, is a civil war in Iraq as the central government reminds the Kurds that they do not have their own state within the borders of Iraq. I thought Washington was all about the sanctity of regional borders, but apparently that only applies to Ukraine.
It seems pretty clear that Washington is flying by the seat of its pants here, and is working some sort of Plan B. It is unlikely Erdogan would not only up the ante – considering the shitstorm he caused to blow up by shooting down a Russian fighter in Syria – but when ordered out by a sovereign government, would refuse to leave…unless he knew that somebody who swings a lot of weight was in his corner.
Washington is plainly not listening at all to Iraq’s increasingly-frantic calls for Turkey to get out, and if it has been approached by the Iraqis to facilitate Erdogan’s removal it has, equally plainly, declined to act. Gayane Chichakayan and RT were right on the money; Washington and Ankara are up to something, and if they are allowed to normalize the presence of a thousand or so Turkish troops in the area of Mosul, their needs and infrastructure will only grow and grow.
We may well be looking at a lunge for a Kurdish state, brokered by Turkey and the United States and guaranteed by a Turkish military presence. Why? Because Turkey can act as a gas hub for Europe, only pumping gas from Kurdistan. Has American control over Europe’s energy supply been a Washington dream since forever? Why, yes; yes, it has.
A lot of details would still have to be fleshed in, because the forecast supply was only 20 BCm by 2020, and that would nowhere near supply Europe’s gas markets. But it would be a foot in the door. It’s something to think about.
Still, I suppose it was mean of the State Department to push an innocent like John Kirby into the ring with a seasoned propagandist like RT, wasn’t it?
Not really. Not only was Kirby a Rear Admiral pulling down somewhere between $8,045.70 and $11,609.10 per month – plus a housing allowance if he lived off-base – when he was in uniform, he gave up maritime surface operations in favour of Public Affairs in the early 90’s; he was Public Affairs Officer in USS FORRESTAL (the same Carrier as the legendary John “Wet Start” McCain, in fact, although he would have served there much earlier, during the Vietnam War), and FORRESTAL was taken out of service in 1993.
John Kirby was editor-in-chief for the US Navy’s flagship monthly magazine, All Hands, special assistant for Public Affairs to the Chief of Naval Operations, and Deputy Assistant secretary of Defense for Media Affairs before he was tapped to be State’s spokeshole. He was the US Navy’s Chief of Information and, as such, led a department of more than 2,700 active and reserve officer, enlisted and civilian communication professionals. He was the Pentagon’s Press Secretary.
In short, John Kirby had about as much experience in media relations as it was possible for a military man to have, most of it acquired and practiced in the upper levels of government.
The notion that he was unable to follow RT’s question because it was too complicated is ludicrous – he didn’t answer because in order to do so he would have had to lie, or give away information that the world has no business knowing because it is classified to a fare-thee-well. And the idea that he had not seen any reports about Iraqi concerns is frankly insulting – he eats, sleeps and breathes media and current events.
I don’t know how old Ms. Chichakayan is, but I would hazard a guess that she was not out of her teens when John Kirby was getting his start in Public Affairs. The advantage of media experience was weighted heavily in his favour. And he fell apart. You can bet they have their heads together at State, desperately looking for a way to yank RT’s license without looking too dictatorial, or at a minimum, an excuse to ban them from such press conferences.
I only mentioned how much money he makes so his fans will be comforted knowing he could easily afford even this magnificent farm in Florida, his home state. Because farming is shaping up like a good career choice for him.