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Posts published in “Jones”

Deserving of thanks and respect

jones

My Mom, Eunice Martens Jones, was born just as World War 1 was ending. She grew up in a German-American community south of Eden. Her father was an immigrant from Hamburg, Germany, and her maternal grandmother had immigrated from Bremen. Grandma Martens told me in the 1960s that the community of German-Americans had been viewed with suspicion and some hostility during WW1, even though they were loyal Americans. That was not an uncommon situation across the country during that war.

During both World Wars, German-Americans stepped forward to fight German forces. That is the unique feature of America. We are a nation of immigrants and a nation that foreign-born settlers believe is worth protecting with their lives, even in hostilities with their former countrymen. Those who serve and protect the nation are deserving of our trust, thanks and respect, regardless of where they were born.

Shortly after I was born, Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were rounded up and forced to live in camps sprinkled around the west, including the Minidoka Internment Camp located about 6 miles from my home. They were regarded as untrustworthy, even though the majority were American citizens. Many of their sons fought the Axis Powers in Europe and many gave their lives for this country—their country. Their unit, the 442 Infantry Regiment was the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history. Those brave American earned and deserve our thanks and respect.

Several years ago, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, whose son, Captain Humayun Khan, died in 2004 while serving this country in Iraq, were disrespected by some for standing up for basic American values. It had much to do with the fact that the parents had immigrated from Pakistan and, with their deceased son, were members of the Muslim faith. This Gold Star family and their son were entitled to our respect and thanks.

On October 28, a Ukrainian-American serviceman was attacked by Fox News and others for honoring a lawful subpoena to testify before a Congressional committee. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and his twin brother, Yevgeny, were born to a Jewish family in Ukraine and came to this country 40 years ago as 3-year-olds. Both have provided distinguished military service to this country over the last two decades.

Alexander is a combat veteran who has received numerous decorations, including a Purple Heart for injuries caused by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004. He and his brother both work for the National Security Council in the White House, for which they have top security clearances. They are patriots who deserve the thanks and respect of their fellow Americans.

Unfortunately, some with Fox News did not see it that way. Hosts Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade questioned Alexander’s loyalty, which played into the dangerous old trope about divided national loyalties on the part of members of the Jewish diaspora. John Yoo, a Fox regular suggested Alexander’s obeyance of the lawful subpoena could constitute “espionage.” Wow! This comes from the guy who wrote the notorious “torture memos” during the so-called War on Terror. Thanks to the interrogation techniques approved by Mr. Yoo, we still have not been able to send the 9-11 terrorists to trial.

The point is that those who put their lives on the line to serve this great nation deserve our thanks and respect, regardless of their country of birth, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or other distinguishing factors. We should hold our veterans in high regard even if they served in an unpopular war like Vietnam or in a largely forgotten war like Korea. Service to country—service above self-- is the name of the game. Let’s stand up in unity to honor all of our veterans and active duty service personnel this Veterans Day, November 11.
 

al-Baghdadi bites the dust

jones

The United States rightfully celebrated the death of the Islamic State (ISIS) leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on October 27. The killing of this despicable cutthroat was a clear setback for ISIS, but the group will continue to threaten the U.S. and its allies. Just as the death of Osama bin Laden did not eliminate al-Qaeda, Baghdadi’s death will not stop ISIS.

Our efforts to further reduce the danger posed by ISIS suffered a substantial setback because of the President’s abandonment of our Syrian Kurd allies. They provided the intelligence that allowed the highly disciplined and effective U.S. Joint Special Operations Command warriors to end Baghdadi’s loathsome existence. The Kurds had previously killed and captured tens of thousands of Baghdadi’s followers in northeast Syria on our behalf.

After receiving a green light from the President, the Turks forced about 180,000 Kurdish fighters and their families out of their homes along the Syria-Turkey border in a classic ethnic cleansing operation. As a tragic result, we will no longer be able to count on the Kurds as our eyes and ears on the ground in the fight against ISIS.

The President claimed he wanted to bring our troops home, but somehow they ended up in Iraq. The Iraqi government was apparently surprised by their arrival, saying they could not stay for more than a few months. Now, it appears that some will be sent back to Syria to guard oil wells, partly to keep ISIS from getting the oil. Wouldn’t it have made sense to keep ISIS from reforming so that it would not be in a position to grab the oil?

Just five days after the retreat from Syria was announced, the President ordered almost 3,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia. It is not clear whether the troops will be protecting the Saudis or their oil. In any event, we will have a significant military presence in the kingdom that produced most of the 9-11 terrorists. It is the same kingdom that is using a great deal of sophisticated U.S. military equipment to rather indiscriminately kill people in an ill-advised war in Yemen.

It should not be forgotten that the last time a significant number of American troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia, they became terrorist targets. On June 25, 1996, the Khobar Towers barracks was bombed, killing 19 members of our Air Force. Bin Laden rose to international infamy cursing and bemoaning the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia.

The abandonment of the Kurds has caused great anxiety on the part of our few remaining friends in the Middle East. An October 11 Washington Post report from Jerusalem says that Israel’s national security experts were “badly rattled” by the abrupt pullout. The Kurds were viewed by Israelis “as long-standing allies of Israel, a reliable, moderate pro-Western group that has fought on Israel’s side in multiple conflicts, most recently in the battle against Islamic State militants in Syria.” The Israelis are concerned that Iran’s increasing influence in Syria will endanger their security.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said the withdrawal will cause his country to “recalibrate” its relationship with the United States. He said the staying power of the U.S. “is being questioned in a very, very serious way,” and that our allies “are worried about the dependability of the United States.” He declined to rule out closer alliances with Russia and Iran.

It is likely that the Middle-East terrorist threat to America will only increase because Trump dumped the only really reliable ally we had in the region. Without a trusted partner to look after our interests there, we will have to go back at some point in even greater force, simply as a matter of defending the homeland.
 

Mitt Romney and the senators

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I have to admit that I was not particularly impressed with Mitt Romney when he was running for president in 2012. He’d done a great job on the Salt Lake Winter Olympics in 2002 and run a credible campaign for president in 2008, but his core values seemed elusive. Many of the positions he took in the 2012 election were substantially at odds with his track record as Governor of Massachusetts. It was hard to look beyond the attractive exterior and get a glimpse into his soul.

Romney has been in the Senate for less than a year, but I think we are starting to see what he’s made of. On January 1 of this year, Romney wrote an op-ed saying a president “should unite us and inspire us to follow ‘our better angels.’” He observed that Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

When most of his Republican colleagues were incorrectly claiming that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report completely cleared the President of wrongdoing, Romney did not join the chorus. Responding to the Mueller Report on April 19, Romney said, “I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office in the land, including the President.”

When Republican Senators were either hiding under their desks to avoid comment or praising the President for inviting China and Ukraine to investigate a political opponent, Romney was having none of it. On October 4, he tweeted, “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

On October 17, Romney described Trump’s sellout of the Syrian Kurds as “a bloodstain in the annals of American history.” He said a supposed ceasefire, which was being trumpeted as a victory by Trump, “does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally, adding insult to dishonor….The administration speaks cavalierly, even flippantly, even as our ally has suffered death and casualty. Their homes have been burned and their families have been torn apart.”

In response to administration claims that Trump did not fold to Turkish strongman Erdogan in the October 6 phone call that greenlighted the Turkish assault on the Kurds, Romney had some telling words. “Are we so weak and inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?”

It is clear that Romney grasps the danger of an American President unable to stare down the despotic leader of a much weaker country. If Erdogan said he was going to attack anyway, he could have simply been told his forces would meet a lot of American steel at the Syrian border. He could have been told the U.S. valued the great sacrifices the Kurds made to eliminate the Islamic State threat to America and that the U.S. stands by its friends. Erdogan would have been the one backing down. Can anyone picture Ronald Reagan turning tail in these circumstances?

When the leader of a great nation displays weakness on the international stage, it only emboldens strongmen around the world. We can expect some of those strongmen to test our President’s courage in coming months because of that perceived weakness. Let’s keep a keen eye on North Korea’s murderous despot, Kim Jong-un, because he’s likely to pose the next challenge.

It has been interesting watching the unveiling of Mitt Romney’s inner being. He seems to grasp the need for checks and balances--the idea that members of the Senate have a responsibility to exercise independent judgment on behalf of our great nation. Too many of them have become enablers, afraid to speak out when the President does wrong. My hope is that Romney can instill some honor, independence and patriotism in his Republican colleagues.
 

Selling out the Kurds

jones

It broke my heart when South Vietnam fell to Communist forces on April 30, 1975. It was sickening to see the television footage of terrified Vietnamese trying to grab onto evacuation helicopters from the top of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The debacle was a giant stain on the honor of this wonderful country.

I did not object to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam. But it was shameful that we flat failed and refused to keep our solemn word to the Vietnamese to supply them with arms and air power to ward off a major assault by Communist forces. They trusted us and we unceremoniously dumped them.

This betrayal hit me hard because I knew that many of the Vietnamese soldiers I had lived and served with in 1968-1969 would be murdered by the Communists. They were Catholic refugees from North Vietnam and their village had been in armed conflict with the Communists since the early 1950s. The whole village had moved south in 1954 to escape persecution. The Communists had been trying to wipe out the village ever since.

The U.S. has once again betrayed trusting friends by giving the autocratic Turkish ruler the green light to kill our Kurdish allies in Syria. After the Kurds suffered over 10,000 casualties fighting and defeating our Islamic State (ISIS) enemies in northeast Syria, we are deserting them to face a genocidal onslaught. Not much thanks for doing the necessary dirty work that would have cost many American lives.

The President has portrayed the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel as a favor to the troops. These personnel had been embedded with our Kurd allies to advise and support them in our fight against ISIS. I imagine our 1,000-strong military contingent in Syria is sick at heart because of the chaotic retreat. They were the tip of the American spear in Syria, doing important work for the security of our nation. What could be more fulfilling than performing such critical work with such remarkable success?

I had the rare privilege of working together with Vietnamese military forces to do a job I was told was critical to the country. Like our troops recently doing that kind of work with the Syrian Kurds, it would have been incomprehensible to be slapped with an order to precipitously abandon my friends. Perhaps someone who studiously avoided military duty could not understand that this was service of the highest order.

Many Vietnam veterans, including myself, are haunted by the fact that our service appeared to be largely in vain. I would suspect that many of our troops who served in Syria will come to feel the same way. The successes they achieved will be undone. Most importantly, their Kurdish partners have no choice but to leave 11,000 ISIS fighters unguarded so that they can protect their own families from the Turkish attack. That will give ISIS the opportunity to regroup and once more threaten our homeland.

General Joseph Votel, who had overall command of our fight against ISIS until last March, said in an October 8 op-ed that the President’s withdrawal of support for the Kurds threatens “to rapidly destabilize an already fragile security situation in Syria’s northeast, where ISIS’s physical caliphate was only recently defeated.” He continued, “This policy abandonment threatens to undo five years’ worth of fighting against ISIS and will severely damage American credibility and reliability in any future fights where we need strong allies.”

Senator Risch argues that “America needs to get behind the commander in chief” on this disgraceful sellout. I strongly disagree. As citizens, we should weigh in with our Congressional delegation and let them know it is not acceptable to remain silent or frozen in the headlights as this tragedy unfolds. It is too important to America’s honor and credibility in a dangerous world. Where our national security is at stake, it is dead wrong to sit on the sidelines. The Kurdish blood will be on the hands of both those who caused it and those who allowed it.
 

Courage and patriotism in the Senate majority?

jones

Senator Jim Risch has come around to thinking that climate change is a “very, very troubling problem.” Risch told a BSU audience on September 13 he “thinks” climate change is “a very valid theory, that it’s caused by human emissions,” and “the world’s in a very precarious situation, if that’s the case.” He agreed with a Pentagon assessment that climate change is a national security threat. This certainly indicates that we ought to take action.

Not so fast, though, because he also said that if it’s as bad as scientists say, “I don’t know that there’s anything anybody can do about it.” So, it’s bad but, golly gee wilikers, ain’t nothin’ can be done about it.

Risch did offer a solution of sorts to the students, however-- “You kids, we’re handing this off to you in not too long. So I hope you’ll study it, and I hope you’ll have the answer by the time we get there.” The picture that comes to mind is the Road Runner handing Wile E. Coyote a bomb with a short, burning fuse. Good luck, kids, it’s your problem, not those of us in a position to do something now.

When I was growing up in the Republican Party, it was considered a patriotic duty to vigorously attack existential problems confronting the country. When the Soviet Union got the hydrogen bomb in the 50s and seemed intent on taking over the world, Republicans did not cower down in their Washington offices, hoping the big bad Russians would go away. If they had, we’d all be speaking Russian now.

Presidents of both parties rallied bipartisan support in successive Congresses to appropriate billions of dollars (trillions in today’s values) to meet and eventually defeat the Soviets. At that time, we all thought there was nothing this country could not do once we set our mind to it. We have the technology now to slow global warming to the extent we can leave a habitable world to future generations of Americans. We can’t do it if we shrink back from fulfilling our patriotic responsibility to our children.

It is a colossal cop-out to say we can’t do anything to protect our kids or that they have to take care of the ticking time bomb we are handing them. American leadership can get the job done. It worked in defeating the Soviet Union and it worked in keeping the protective ozone layer at the Earth’s poles from being eroded by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are used in refrigeration. The U.S. banned CFCs in 1978 and eventually brought almost 200 countries onboard to eliminate the threat they posed to the planet. Slowing global warming will be an even bigger job, but we can do it if we can just muster the moral and political courage.

Like confronting the USSR and eliminating CFCs, the U.S. needs to work with other countries to solve this common threat. Risch and Crapo and their Republican colleagues need to speak out and educate the public as to the imminent danger. America should take the lead to build on the Paris Climate Accord, but this time with hard emission limits for each polluting nation.

The top ten polluting countries account for two-thirds of the CO2 emissions. They need to be the major focus of any agreement. Smaller polluting nations could be given targets enforced by a variety of carrots and sticks.

The hard limits for the top ten could be enforced by a variety of trade and tax provisions targeting violators. Those limits should be written into every trade agreement. For example, if a country wants to sell its goods or services in the U.S., it must be in compliance with its emission limits. The European Union is working on a variation that would tax goods brought in by a foreign firm that pollutes.

This should be accompanied by a Manhattan-style research effort for means to eliminate or sequester CO2 emissions, to store green energy and to find other solutions to fight climate change. It can be done, and it must be done before our kids are handed the job of cleaning up the mess we have created. It will then be too late. The time is now for Risch, Crapo and the Republican Senate majority to muster the courage and patriotism to protect America’s future. I’m fervently hoping those essential qualities have not gone AWOL from the Grand Old Party.
 

Hurting Ukraine, helping Russia

jones

The President’s efforts to prod Ukraine into conducting investigations to help his re-election are hurting that nation’s defense against Russian aggression. While the emphasis in the U.S. is whether the President was guilty of impeachable conduct, Ukraine has a dangerous war on its hands.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014, seized and annexed Crimea, and ever since has been engaged in a deadly proxy war to seize sizable portions of eastern Ukraine. The U.S. has viewed the Russian aggression as a serious threat to American interests and has been Ukraine’s main supplier of military assistance.

Since the fighting began, about 13,000 Ukrainians have died from hostile action. Even though there is a supposed ceasefire in effect now, pro-Russian forces committed 60 violations just on September 24. Ukraine desperately needs our help to defend itself. There is no place for domestic U.S. politics in this struggle.

Congress has authorized about $1.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine since 2014. Almost $400 million was approved for release in May 2019 by the Pentagon, based on its certification that the Ukrainian Government had “taken substantial actions” toward “decreasing corruption” and “increasing accountability.”

Because the aid package was set to expire on September 30, it was critical to disburse it before then. The aid was urgently needed on the ground for counter-artillery radars, sniper rifles, medical supplies and a wide variety of other essential war-fighting materiel.

Secure communications equipment was desperately needed because the Russians have been using cyber warfare to hack and jam Ukrainian communications--a fundamental necessity on the battlefield. L3 Technologies, an American manufacturer of secure commo systems, had a shipment ready to deliver to Ukraine in July when it received word that a hold had been placed on the order.

It was later learned that our President had personally put a hold on all military assistance to Ukraine the week before his famous July 15 telephone conversation with President Zelensky. When the hold was discovered, bipartisan pressure forced the President to release the aid on September 11, just 19 days before it would have expired. As it turns out, there was no legitimate justification for the two-month hold.

As documented in the notes of the phone call released by the White House, the President requested that Zelensky investigate former Vice President Biden, offering the assistance of Attorney General Barr and Rudy Giuliani. Zelensky agreed, then requested that Trump meet with him. Trump asked Zelensky to phone for a meeting date, saying “we’ll work that out.”

This transaction was likely applauded by President Putin, as it provided some normalcy for his interference in the 2016 election and a green light for more of the same in 2020. If Trump was inviting Ukrainian intervention in the 2020 election, why couldn’t the Russians do an encore of their dirty work? The transaction also demonstrated tenuous U.S. support for Ukraine in its struggle with Putin’s surrogate forces.

The Ukrainian President came off looking weak, pliable and corruptible. At the same time, American military aid for Ukraine appeared subject to Trump’s personal needs. These appearances will likely hinder Zelenky’s efforts to get continued support from other European countries—support that is critical to his country.

Zelensky could be excused to a degree for his submission. He was desperate for a public meeting with Trump to show he had the support of the United States in resisting Russia. He would probably have agreed to about any other demand just for a clear showing of American backing for Ukraine.

The founding fathers would be greatly saddened to learn that a U.S. President had used America’s national security interests as bargaining fodder for private political gain. I think every American should take a few minutes to read the three documents that describe this transaction--the whistleblower complaint, the July 15 telephone conversation notes, and the Inspector General’s cover letter. All three documents can be found on Google. Be sure to let Idaho’s Senators know what you think about this unfortunate business.
 

Do you want a livable planet?

jones

Millions of young people around the globe stepped forward on September 20 to plead with world leaders to leave them an inhabitable planet--a world not plagued by unbearable heat and catastrophic weather. They got a cold and deaf ear from our President, perhaps the most prominent climate denier on the face of the Earth.

It is not easy to ignore the evidence of climate change unfolding before our very eyes. The last five years have seen the hottest global temperatures on record. Last July was the hottest ever recorded. Ice sheets around the world are melting at an alarming rate, sea levels are rising, farmers are having their crops washed out by torrential rains, and conflicts over resources are becoming commonplace. And, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Think of Tropical storm Imelda, which surprised southeast Texas in mid-September with a 43-inch cloudburst near Beaumont. Just two years ago, Hurricane Harvey drenched areas of Texas with more than 50 inches of rainfall. Weather experts say that the warming waters of the Gulf fuel monster storms that produce these massive downpours.

Pentagon and State Department planners predict that violent weather events will lead to hotter weather around the globe and changing weather patterns that will result in torrential rains in some areas and persistent droughts in others. That weather, in turn, will cause major population shifts, widespread starvation, and desperate conflicts over water and land, all of which will pose serious threats to our national security.

We have already seen an increased flight of Central Americans to our borders, partly as a result of weather-caused crop failures in those countries. It will get much worse as global temperatures continue to climb.

Rather than taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit rising temperatures, Trump is stepping on the gas to burn more fossil fuels. He has pushed coal, even though it is more expensive than clean energy. He has attacked the stricter auto mileage standards so that families will have to use and pay for more gas, breathe dirtier air, and suffer hotter temperatures.

Trump has stuffed the agencies with climate deniers, hollowed out government agencies that research ways to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, ordered the suppression of their reports, destroyed efforts to cut down carbon dioxide and methane releases, and refused to attend meetings designed to save the planet from environmental disaster. He was an obvious no-show at the G-7 global roundtable last month and will play no part in the UN Climate Summit this week.

If global warming is a Chinese hoax, as Trump complains, why has he not launched an investigation to find out why 97% of the climate experts have agreed that it is an existential threat to life on Earth? If we phase out fossil fuels and spend several trillion dollars to switch to clean energy, only to find that the scientists were wrong, we will have cleaner air, a vibrant energy sector and hundreds of thousands of green energy jobs.

On the other hand, if it turns out that the scientific community was right about global warming and we simply sat on our hands and let it happen, it will be a catastrophe for those kids who demonstrated on September 20 to save the planet, as well as all of the rest of us. (I’m personally inclined to go along with the scientists, given the President’s record in evaluating Hurricane Dorian’s threat to Alabama.)

It is already too late to prevent the kind of violent and destructive weather events we presently experience from plaguing us thousands of years into the future. If we continue to blast billions of tons of planet-warming greenhouse gasses into our closed atmosphere like we now do every year, our children and grandchildren won’t have a chance. Tell our Senators and Congressmen that our kids deserve to have a life.
 

To the health of Justice Ginsberg

jones

The news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg experienced a second bout of pancreatic cancer this year was a triple blow for me. First, she has been a long-time champion for the rights of women and minorities and we need her on the Supreme Court to continue that work. Second, it is likely her vote will determine whether the Affordable Care Act (ACA) lives or dies.

The third blow is much more personal. When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2017, just two weeks after I retired from the Idaho Supreme Court, the outlook seemed pretty bleak. Google was not very encouraging, giving a range of 5-year life expectancies ranging anywhere from 3% to 30%. But I kept thinking about RBG and how she had beaten pancreatic cancer in 2009. It gave me hope--if a skinny wisp of a woman, then 75 years old, could overcome that dread disease, a 75-year-old farm-grown war veteran might also have a chance. RBG became my loadstar--my hope and prayer. And, sure enough, I went into remission that September.

My favorite oncologist, who recently pronounced me cancer free for two whole years, said that RBG is not necessarily in mortal trouble. Being a consummate professional, he did not offer a diagnosis based on news reports. However, there is hope that she will get past the recent recurrence of cancer.

Just to play it safe, I’m thinking of taking up a collection to prolong her life and her tenure on the Supreme Court. I propose to give her at least a month of the extra life I gained from the courage and hope she gave me with her example. If everyone else who admires this remarkable woman would pledge a month or so of their life to her, she should be with us for many more years.

OK, you say that people can’t donate a portion of their life to others. As an alternative, everyone concerned about this deadly scourge could make a generous donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network in honor of RBG. https://secure.panCAN.org. I’m sure that would be a boost to her morale and it would certainly be of great help in fighting this deadly form of cancer.

Getting back to the second issue, it is likely that the Supreme Court will soon be considering whether to kill the ACA in its entirety. That would mean restoring the right of insurance companies to deny insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. Children would no longer be covered by their parents’ policies to age 26. All of the other protections of the ACA would disappear if the Supreme Court were to agree with the President that the ACA should be wiped off the face of the earth.

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the ACA should die an untimely death (Texas v. Azar). The conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will issue a ruling on the case soon. That ruling, whichever way it goes, will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court sometime next year, where it will probably be decided on a 5-4 vote.

The Trump administration is vigorously working to drive a stake through the heart of the ACA. Presuming Chief Justice John Roberts again votes in favor of the ACA, RBG’s vote will be critical to save it. Without her vote, the entire ACA and its protections for millions of Americans will come crashing down, which will throw the U.S. health insurance industry, and perhaps the entire economy, into utter chaos. Please join me in praying for the good health of Justice Ginsburg.
 

Trade wars and fire in the Amazon

jones

What possible connection could the fires in the Amazon rainforest have with Trump’s trade war against China? Well, Brazilian farmers and ranchers are lusting to replace U.S. farmers as China’s go-to supplier of agricultural products. They need additional ground to grow soybeans and other crops to export to China, while China needs a new source of foodstuffs to make up for the curtailment of American-grown imports. So, burn baby, burn.

U.S. farm exports have been a bright spot in America’s foreign trade picture for years, due to the productivity of American farmers. Until recently, China has been a growing market for our agricultural products, increasing by 700% from 2000 to 2017. China bought $19.1 billion worth of U.S. farm exports in 2017, according to the American Farm Bureau.

These sales to China did not come easy. U.S. farmers worked hard to build up relationships with Chinese buyers and reasonably expected increasing sales into the future. Then came the Trump trade wars. Farm exports plummeted to $9.1 billion in 2018 and will continue dropping.

Trump started the trade war to punish the Chinese for stealing American technology. Why not instead work with our allies to collectively target the theft itself, like prohibiting the importation of goods containing stolen technology? It was entirely predictable that China would retaliate against our agricultural sector. American farmers are paying the price for a misbegotten trade fight and that price is steadily increasing.

While U.S. farmers have suffered, Brazilian farmers have greatly increased their China trade. The South China Morning Post reported in May that Brazil’s soybean farmers “have triumphed spectacularly in the US-China trade war.” Their exports to China increased by 30% last year, while U.S. sales dropped by half.

The Brazilians struggled to meet the China demand last year and need to put additional land into production to serve the growing market in China, both for crops and meat products. Most of the Amazon fires have reportedly been started or cheered on by agricultural interests to get more farmable land. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged the deforestation. Our President tweeted that Bolsonaro has “the full and complete support of the USA.”

Farm equipment companies are also suffering from Trump’s trade war because U.S. farm income has fallen along with the loss of the Chinese export market. While our farmers are buying less machinery, the equipment manufacturers have found markets elsewhere, particularly in Brazil where there is an increasing demand.

It is quite likely that American farmers will be unable to win back the Chinese markets they worked so hard to establish over the last couple of decades. Now that the trade relationship with the U.S. has been broken, China may come to regard Brazil as a more strategic and reliable government to trade with. Brazil has the advantage of not being a political adversary of China. And Brazil gives China a new partner in the United States’ traditional sphere of influence in South America.

The Amazon fires are also a global warming threat since the Amazon rainforest has traditionally absorbed about 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The burning rainforest releases carbon dioxide while reducing Earth’s capacity to capture future CO2 emissions.

In sum, the Trump trade war with China is an all-around loser for the United States. The U.S. farm economy suffers, while Brazilian farmers and ranchers take over our markets in China. They expand those export markets by deforesting the Amazon rainforest. That, in turn, contributes to global warming, which will make it harder for our farmers to grow foodstuffs for the world. Who expected a fancy pants New York real estate developer to know how to protect America’s farm economy?