Watson’s denial of an intent to kill Russian generals — so far, 12 have gotten smoked — makes it sound like she wants you to believe the deaths are what? Accidental? Incidental? Just bad luck? Of course, the US is providing intelligence to kill top Russian officers. Aren’t you supposed to cut off the head of the poisonous snake when it crawls into your sleeping bag, whether you’re on a family hiking vacation or fighting a major land war against a brutal adversary? Aren’t combat snipers instructed to scope out the landscape for officers to shoot when they nestle down to kill? The Biden administration has already sent at least $3 billion in military aid to Ukraine so far and is planning to send a whole lot more. If that money isn’t supposed to terminate Russian generals and their command structure to hasten the end of the war, why bother?
On Thursday afternoon, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby tried, without success, to expunge the Watson mess at his daily briefing. “We do not provide intelligence on the location of senior military leaders on the battlefield or participate in the targeting decisions of the Ukrainian military,” he said. Kirby can be a straight shooter, but here he seemed to be disputing something the Times didn’t write. The operative words in the Times story are about US intelligence lending “targeting help” and information about “mobile headquarters,” not about the US giving the Ukrainians GPS coordinates for their strikes.
Of course, the Biden administration has gotten all twitchy about the Times story because it expressed the obvious. The White House dreams that bragging about killing Russian generals might widen the war, as the Times story reports. That’s one way to read it. Another would be that lax Russian security and battlefield reccklessness are helping the Ukrainians kill Russian generals, too.
The print headline for the Times story, “US Helped Kyiv in Targeting Russian Generals” softened the facts by replacing “Kill” in the original Web headline with “Targeting.” But who was fooled? The story sounded to some ears like the United States was assassinating Russian generals, and global assassination has – an ugly Kennedy taint to it that our government now avoids. Speaking on CNN Thursday morning on the topic, Phil Mudd, a counterterrorism analyst for the network and former FBI senior intelligence adviser, said as much. “Typically, you do not use intelligence for assassination operations,” Mudd said. “I agree with the White House. I thought the headline was misleading.” But Mudd wasn’t much more cogent in his description of the killing than Watson. In his version, the US provides intelligence and the disposition of forces and command posts, and gives it to the Ukrainians who “may combine that with other intelligence and say we’re going to go after that building because we think high-value targets are there.” In Mudd’s estimation, that’s nothing like assassination. You be the judge.
Mudd, whose work I generally admire, only compounds Watson’s error. If I assist you in determining where your enemy has bivouacked, and I know you know how to get there, and I know you desperately want him dead and have the means to kill, am I not an accessory? Isn’t it obvious to the Russians, no matter Watson’s denials of intent and Mudd’s qualifications, that the US is full partners in the killing of Russian generals? Perhaps the obfuscations give the US some diplomatic cover, but I doubt it. Even if the Times had not run its story, it’s a cinch that the Russians would happily vaporize whatever US forces might enter the theater.
If the Biden administration has a beef with the Times for its story, it’s lashing the wrong offender. The reason the Times Knows the US is helping the Ukrainians “target” or “kill” Russian generals is that US “senior American officials” have told them so, according to the story. It’s been an open secret since two weeks before the invasion that US spy satellites and other intelligence assets have penetrated Russian security, giving the US an open window into Russian plans, and that the US has shared intelligence widely because it wants the Russians to know we know almost everything they’re doing. The Times story, while accurate and thorough, only confirms the true verdict about US capabilities and intents that were handed down months ago.
Adrenne Watson’s disclaimer won’t convince the reading public that the US isn’t deliberately hurrying the deaths of Russian generals. It won’t convince the Russians, either. It will only reinforce the common knowledge that official government statements are frequently formulated to dupe you.
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