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Top Scientist Slams OPCW Leadership for Repressing Dissenting Report on Syria Gas Attack

Thu, 2019-06-20 18:25

MIT rocket scientist Theodore Postol has accused the OPCW leadership of overseeing “compromised reporting” and ignoring evidence that challenged claims that the Syrian government carried out a chemical attack in Douma.

Aaron MATÉ

Facing a growing controversy, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has offered his most extensive comments to date on a leaked internal assessment that challenged allegations that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma in April 2018.

But the remarks from OPCW chief Fernando Arias have done little to address concerns that his UN-backed watchdog suppressed the document and published a flawed report that ignored countervailing data.

In an exclusive interview with The Grayzone, the award-winning rocket scientist and MIT professor emeritus Theodore Postol accused Arias of badly mischaracterizing the document in order to paper over his organization’s errors.

According to Postol, the OPCW appeared so determined to attribute blame to the Syrian government that it overlooked clear evidence the incident was staged.

In the end, Postol said, the OPCW produced “a product of compromised reporting of the inspection and analysis process by upper level OPCW management.”

Serious questions surrounding the Douma gas attack

The unfolding scandal relates to an incident that took place in Douma, a suburb of Syrian capital Damascus that had been occupied for years by a Saudi-backed extremist militia called Jaysh al-Islam.

As Syrian forces moved in to retake the area in April 2018, opposition activists linked to Jaysh al-Islam accused the Syrian government of dropping gas cylinders on a shelter and killing at least 43 people.

This allegation prompted the United States, France, and Britain to bomb three sites in Syria one week later.

An OPCW investigation later concluded that the cylinders in Douma were likely dropped by from the air, a finding that effectively pinned blame on the Syrian military, the only warring party with aircraft.

But a leaked engineering assessment revealed that an expert with the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) had in fact challenged that conclusion.

The leaked document, authored by Ian Henderson, found that the “dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders and the surrounding scene of the incidents were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder having been delivered from an aircraft.”

Accordingly, Henderson wrote, there is “a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.” Henderson’s conclusion suggests that the attack was in fact staged on the ground.

Henderson’s work was excluded from the OPCW’s final report to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019. It remained unknown until it was leaked to a group of UK-based academics known as the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM) in May.

After initially attempting to downplay the document’s significance and refusing to address the issue publicly, the OPCW is now on the defensive.

OPCW chief: ‘Reasonable grounds’ for believing the official story on Douma

In newly revealed comments to OPCW member states on May 28th, the organization’s director-general, Fernando Arias, confirmed that he had ordered an investigation into the leak. But Arias did not appear concerned with the implications of Ian Henderson’s buried finding – only the fact that it was publicly disclosed without permission.

“When further evidence appeared that the document drafted by the staff member had been shared outside this framework,” Arias said, “I considered I had sufficient information to authorize the initiation of an investigation to clarify the situation.”

Arias also confirmed that Henderson was an OPCW staff member who was on the ground in Syria at the time of the investigation. Without naming him, Arias said that Henderson was a “liaison officer at our Command Post Office in Damascus” who was “temporarily assisting… with information collection at some sites in Douma.”

Henderson is, in fact, a veteran OPCW official who is listed on internal documents as a staff expert dating back to 1998, one year after the organization’s founding. In past investigations, he has served as OPCW Inspection Team Leader.

Notably, while Henderson was initially misidentified as being a non-member of the FFM, Arias not only confirmed that he was a member, but also that the OCPW relied on “external experts” for a crucial part of its investigation.

According to Arias, ballistics data from the scene was “analysed by three external experts commissioned by the FFM, and working independently from one another. In the end, while using different methods and instruments, they all reached the same conclusions that can be found in the FFM final report.”

Seeking to address why Henderson’s findings were excluded from the final report, Arias claimed that his assessment “pointed at possible attribution,” and was therefore “outside of the mandate of the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] with regard to the formulation of its findings.” Under OPCW guidelines, the FFM is prevented from assigning blame to parties involved in chemical attacks.

But the obvious inference of the OPCW’s published conclusion was to blame the Syrian government – an act of attribution – since the Syrian military (or its Russian ally) was the only warring party in Douma with aircraft.

Arias added that he issued instructions for Henderson’s work to be submitted to the Investigation and Identification Team, a body within the OPCW that has yet to become operational.

Ultimately, Arias said, “I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions of the FFM … that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place in Douma on 7 April 2018.”

Expert: OPCW’s initial report ‘bear[s] no relationship to what was observed at the scene’

Ian Henderson’s findings have received an unambiguous endorsement from award-winning physicist and MIT professor emeritus Theodore Postol, a leading expert in missile technology.

After reviewing Arias’ comments, Postol told The Grayzone that the OPCW chief had “mischaracterized the contents” of Henderson’s assessment.

“Unlike the claims made by Ambassador Arias, the leaked internal OPCW engineering completely undermined the findings of his report to the UN Security Council about two alleged chlorine cylinder attacks on April 7, 2018 in Douma, Syria,” Postol said.

“The leaked document provided unambiguous contradictory data from the UN Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) and supporting technical analysis that explicitly showed that the attacks were instead staged.”

Postol punched holes in Arias’ excuse for excluding Henderson’s findings. “The leaked OPCW report did not, as mischaracterized by Ambassador Arias, assign attribution to these attacks,” the MIT professor emeritus explained.

“The leaked OPCW document merely showed that the evidence was unambiguous that someone had placed the chlorine cylinders at the alleged locations in the hope of making it appear like the cylinders had been dropped from an aircraft.”

Postol argued that the OPCW’s “calculations produced as proof for the conclusions” in its report “bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.”

The prominent scientist was especially withering in his assessment of the OPCW’s published report on Douma, describing it as “a product of compromised reporting of the inspection and analysis process by upper level OPCW management.”

On-the-ground reporters and Syrian witnesses echo Henderson’s OPCW conclusions

OPCW investigator Ian Henderson’s findings dovetail with overlooked field reports that raised serious doubts about Western claims of a chemical attack by the Syrian government.

Robert Fisk, the veteran correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, spoke to a doctor in Douma who said the victims he treated suffered from dust and dirt inhalation, not toxic gas exposure. The doctor said he witnessed a member of the US and UK-funded White Helmets operation start a panic among Douma residents by shouting, “Gas!”

Riam Dalati, a BBC producer who has covered Syria extensively, claimed in February to have uncovered evidence that the attack “was staged.” Dalati was referring to harrowing images from the Douma hospital showing doctors and White Helmets workers treating young victims of alleged chemical attack.

Strangely, the reporter made his Twitter account private six hours after his initial tweet, and never mentioned the issue again.

These reports were supported by testimony by staff at the hospital where Douma victims were treated and by some of the supposed victims themselves.

For example, an 11-year-old boy named Hassan Diab said he never experienced a chemical attack, but was rushed to a hospital and hosed down with cold water on camera.

Ahmad Kashoi, an emergency ward administrator at the hospital, echoed Diab’s account, recalling how opposition activists doused people with water even though, “No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure.”

Because these testimonies and many more like them were delivered in Brussels at a press conference organized by the Russian government, Western states and their attack dogs in the media attempted to discredit them with baseless claims of coercion.

The Intercept’s Robert Mackey took the lead on attempts to take down the Syrian testimonies, suggesting that because Diab had been initially interviewed by Russian state broadcasters on or near Syrian military facilities, he had been held under duress. Yet Mackey produced no evidence to support his insinuation that the testimonies were coerced.

Since the release of Henderson’s dissenting OPCW report, the Intercept pundit has all but ignored the inconvenient issues it raised.

Mackey’s silence is characteristic of Western media’s treatment of the report across the board. The near-uniform silence is glaring in light of the document’s implications: a chemical attack appears to have been staged by extremist insurgents to trigger Western military intervention in Syria, and the world’s top chemical watchdog publishing flawed data to retroactively lend credibility to that violent outcome.

With the OPCW facing a growing fallout, it may be more difficult for Henderson’s stunning dissent to remain out of the public eye for much longer.

thegrayzone.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Andrew Yang: A Trump in Democrat’s Clothing

Thu, 2019-06-20 18:01

Democratic Candidate Andrew Yang has quickly risen to become a star on the brightest side of the “intellectual dark web” by appealing to the working class voters that used to be the foundation of his party’s attention with the promise of a very juicy piece of welfare pie. But is Yang a strong candidate and what are his chances of taking the White House?

Judging by the unprecedented Mainstream Media rage that happened after Trump was elected as President of the United States, winning the Oval Office does still matter. The process of winning it is not done by good ideas, honesty and honest patriotism however. Instead it is done by aggressive marketing, pandering and sky-high promises. Obama not only became President in 2008 but he also won the title of “Marketer of the Year” based around his campaign of “Hope and Change”. “Make America Great Again” was also a PR triumph worthy of a win in biggest popularity contest on Earth.

Candidate Yang so far does not have a winning slogan or image yet but he does have a winning idea – Universal Basic Income (UBI) which he refers to as the Freedom Dividend, which would give every American a $1,000 government check per month to use as they see fit. On some Youtube Alt-Right\Alt-Light legendary interviews with Joe Rogan and Ben Shapiro, Yang said that his experience working for his own “Venture for America” program (that gives “two-year fellowship program for recent grads who want to work at a startup and create jobs in American cities”) and looking at projected job losses due to the next wave of automation that will hit the global economy, he is sure that UBI is the only way to deal with the massive unemployment that will appear in the US very soon. This message was definitely able to perk interest in the type of voters who were repulsed by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

To further support his view, Yang claims that his statistics say that retail and truck driving are two massive areas of the American economy that will be utterly destroyed by the predicted rise of the robots and that “retraining the truckers to code” is not a viable option as throwing college and training at people (which is a mantra of most Democrats like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez) does not solve these problems. Yang also says that many college degrees (some lawyers, accountants, clerical work) will also so be worthless in the near future and it would be better off for society to reconsider and revalue trades like plumbers which cannot be replaced by robots and provide everyone with the minimum they need to survive to keep society afloat.

In good “I feel your pain” Democrat fashion Yang addresses the drug addiction, low birth rates and suicide across the US in his interviews, however he attributes them almost universally to the results of high unemployment and atomization of labor. It is very nice to hear a Presidential candidate acknowledge that especially for men, jobs are what give us our identity and purpose in life and when we lose it we may react violently towards ourselves or society, but it is a shame that Yang cannot see that there could be a spiritual ideological crisis in America and that massive drug abuse and suicide in the wealthiest nation in human history may have something more to do with than losing your job to a robot. The real crisis is Liberalism itself, but that is a topic for another day, but the question remains can Yang win?

Andrew Yang’s Personality and Style

Mr. Yang speaks in a very calm voice, he uses a lot of information and statistics, with only the occasional appeal to Americans who have it tough. This “intellectual” approach is a loser’s game as people make decisions based on emotion rather than reason especially in terms of electing the next President. A small, soft spoken brainy guy with lots of stats is a terrible sell. The people who will vote for any candidate that will give them the most “free” stuff are not going to pay attention Yang, who should be out in the media like a used car salesman screaming about how every vote for him is $1000 a month for the rest of your life, satisfaction guaranteed, with no money down!

This is not to say the American people are dumb, this is just how Western-Style Democracy works. As he is today Yang is too sterile and intellectual to win.

Andrew Yang’s Vision

As mentioned above offering supposedly free things to the masses (like Sanders with free college tuition) is always a winner, but the apocalyptic economic prophecy that Andrew Yang has for America’s future is very scary and definitely scary enough to make someone vote to avoid it. Although this Democrat himself is extremely boring, his dark vision of America in the next few decades is vivid and terrifying. This vision if hyped up could compensate for Yang’s total lack of personality. Then again it may be better for the Democrats to just put Yang’s vision into a different vessel that is more marketable as his ideas are far better than he himself is for winning.

Andrew Yang’s is a One-Trick Pony

Although he gets tries to throw out a mythos of being the son of immigrants who became successful in American and criticize Political Correctness, Yang is essentially a UBI machine at this point. Although he appeals to many of the populist positions of Trump, the Orangeman just simply does those positions better. Furthermore, for his base and centrists “Alt-Light” positions may not be thrilling enough to get people to go out and vote. So far Yang’s only real selling point is one single issue. There are single issue voters out there but UBI is way more new to the American psyche than guns and abortion. Yang has to expand a platform around a core his Freedom Dividend to other issues that will draw in voters or he is simply doomed as a candidate.

In Conclusion

As stated above modern Democracy in the West is a popularity contest. The objective is to win the contest at all costs truth and consequences be damned. So we should not judge Andrew Yang on the legitimacy of his ideas or the content of his character but on his pure marketability as that is all that matters at this point. And in terms of marketing this out-of-nowhere Democrat is trying to be the Left’s Trump who wants to save the American worker from an upcoming economic apocalypse, who understands where the commoners are coming from while still being Lefty enough to provide a new form of Welfare State as the solution. If Yang had a bigger personality this would probably work but as it stands now, despite his clear speaking, good argumentation and visible willpower he is just too boring and bland to win anything. He tries to kind of go Alt-Right in terms of Affirmative Action, Hate Speech etc., but it all comes across as very soft compared to the Donald, while at the same time alienating those who would wear Pussy Hats to an AOC or Sanders rally. As stated above, Yang is just simply the wrong vessel to carry the idea of UBI for the Democrats.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Trump Fires Shanahan. Pompeo for Sec Def? Bolton to State?

Thu, 2019-06-20 17:25

Trump just fired his acting Secretary of Defense.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump –16:59 UTC· 18 Jun 2019Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family….
….I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense. I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job

On May 9 the White House announced that it would nominate Shanahan for the Secretary of Defense position. But it never sent the nomination request to Congress to have Shanahan confirmed. During the usual FBI background check before a confirmation, a 2010 domestic violence incident Shanahan was involved in came up. It seems that it now ended his short career at the Pentagon.

Shanahan had zero experience in the military. He is a former Boeing manager. A recent Politico portrait of Shanahan described him as weak leader who allowed the war hawks in National Security Council to directly talk with regional commanders without even informing him. He was no counterweight for Bolton and Pompeo who are eager to wage war on Iran.

Yesterday ABC News reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would meet with talk with the Central Command and Special Operations Command leaders without Shanahan being there. It was extremely unusual:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Florida on Monday to meet with leaders from U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command on Tuesday. The U.S. is considering “all options,” including military force, to respond to Iran’s reported attack on two oil vessels, Pompeo said on Sunday, raising concerns of a U.S. strike.

Pompeo will meet with CENTCOM and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Tuesday to “discuss regional security concerns and ongoing operations,” according to Ortagus, after calling several world leaders over the weekend to discuss America’s evidence that Iran was behind last week’s attacks.

There is no information what plans those talks were about.

Mark Knoller @markknoller – 16:45 utc – 18 Jun 2019At @CENTCOM at @MacDill_AFB, @SecPompeo says he conferred with military commanders to coordinate State and Defense Dept policy on Iran.
Says US is serious about deterring Iran regime from further aggression in the region.
Says Pres Trump does not want war against Iran.

[Another very unusual sign is that the old war criminal Henry Kissinger visited the Pentagon yesterday and today.]

Trump already had difficulties to find a new Secretary of Defense. Shanahan was not his first choice. To now find a new candidate will be difficult.

It is unlikely that the U.S. would launch a war without a Secretary of Defense in place.

Bolton and Pompeo obviously want a war on Iran and they try their best to instigate it. They need a new SecDef in place as soon as possible.

Pompeo served five years as an officer in the U.S. army. He has extensive political experience. Would he want to become Secretary of Defense?

That would leave the Secretary of State position open for John Bolton to move in. The confirmation would be a bit difficult but the Senate is in Republican hands and might go with it.

One of Bolton’s cronies could then take over the National Security Advisor position.

From the war-hawks’ point of view it would be the ideal configuration to launch a big one.

moonofalabama.org

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

We Just Took A Dramatic Turn Toward Political Collapse, Could There Be A Second Civil War?

Thu, 2019-06-20 17:10

It seems with the dramatic escalation of censorship over the past few weeks and years we are dividing our society in two and that can only lead to one path. The far left social justice activists against the those who oppose them.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

June Madness Strikes Washington. Iranians, Russians and Britons Beware!

Thu, 2019-06-20 16:55

It has been a lively June so far in light of Washington’s apparent zeal to remake the world in its own image. There is considerable buzz among those networking in ex- or current government circles that the White House is preparing to “do something” about Iran. The recent incidents involving alleged attacks on Norwegian and Japanese tankers in the Gulf of Oman were immediately attributed to Iran by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with so little regard for evidence that even the compliant American media was left gasping. In its initial coverage of the story The New York Times inevitably echoed the administration’s claims, but if one went to the readers’ comments on the story fully 90% of those bothering to express an opinion decided that the tale was not credible for any number of reasons.

Several commenters brought up the completely phony Gulf of Tonkin incident of 1964 that led to the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam, a view that was expressed frequently in readers’ comments both in the mainstream and alternative media. Others recalled instead the fake intelligence linking Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 conspirators as well as the bogus reports of an Iraqi secret nuclear program and huge gliders capable to delivering biological weapons across the Atlantic Ocean.

There were a number of questionable aspects to the Pompeo story, most notably the unlikelihood that Iran would attack a Japanese ship while the Japanese Prime Minister was in Tehran paying a visit. The attack itself, attributed to Iranian mines, also did not match the damage to the vessels, which was well above the water line, a detail that was noted by the Japanese ship captain among others. Crewmen on the ship also reportedly saw flying objects, which suggests missiles or other projectiles were to blame, fired by almost anyone in the area. And then there is the question of motive: the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates all want a war with Iran while the Iranians are trying to avoid a B-52 attack, so why would they do something that would virtually guarantee a devastating response from Washington?

What is going on with Iran is certainly front-page material but there are two other stories confirming that brain-dead flesh-eating zombies have somehow gained control of the White House. The first comes from David Sanger of The New York Times, who reported last week that the United States had inserted malware into the Russian electrical grid to serve as both a warning and a possible response mechanism should the Kremlin continue with its cyberwarfare ways.

The astonishing thing about the story is the casual way it is presented because, after all, inserting malware into someone’s electrical grid might well be considered an act of war. The White House responded to the story with a tweet from the president claiming that “This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country…” though he did not state that the account was untrue. In fact, if it was actually treason, that would suggest that the news article was accurate in its description of what must be a Top Secret program. But then Trump or one of his advisors realized the omission and a second tweet soon followed: “…..ALSO, NOT TRUE!”

Assuming that Sanger did his job right and the story is actually correct, a number of aspects of it might be considered. First, interfering with a country’s electrical grid, upon which so many elements of infrastructure depend, is extremely reckless behavior, particularly when the activity has been leaked and exposed in a newspaper. Sanger explained the genesis of his story, revealing that he had been working at it for several months. He wrote: “The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections. Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.”

The Sanger story elaborates: “Since at least 2012, current and former officials say, the United States has put reconnaissance probes into the control systems of the Russian electric grid. But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow. The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, has been outspoken about the need to ‘defend forward’ deep in an adversary’s networks to demonstrate that the United States will respond to the barrage of online attacks aimed at it. President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the United States was taking a broader view of potential digital targets as part of an effort to warn anybody ‘engaged in cyberoperations against us.’ ‘They don’t fear us,’ he told the Senate a year ago during his confirmation hearings.”

If the Sanger tale is true, and it certainly does include a great deal of corroborative information, then the United States has already entered into a tit-for-tat situation with Russia targeting power grids, largely initiated to “make them fear us.” One might suggest that the two countries are already at war. That is in no one’s interest and the signals it sends could lead to a major escalation very rapidly. Interestingly, the article states that President Donald Trump does not know about the program even though it could potentially lead to World War 3. That the piece appeared at all also inevitably makes some readers wonder why Sanger has not been arrested for exposing national security information a la Julian Assange.

The final story dates from early June when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was privately meeting with American Jewish leaders who expressed concern about the possibility that British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn might become prime minister. Corbyn has been targeted by British Jews because he is the first U.K. senior politician to speak sympathetically about the plight of the Palestinians.

Pompeo was asked if Corbyn “is elected, would you be willing to work with us to take on action if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the U.K.?” He replied: “It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

There are certain ambiguities in both the question and the response, but it would appear that American Jews want to join with their British counterparts to either bring down or contain a top-level elected politician because he is not sufficiently pro-Israel. The American Secretary of State agrees with them that something must be done, to include quite possibly taking some presumably covert steps to make sure that Corbyn does not become prime minister in the first place. As Pompeo might just be thinking of subverting the institutions of America’s closest ally, it is a huge story that is being largely ignored in the media.

And June is not over yet! The good news is that the United States has not yet invaded Venezuela despite calls by America’s boy-Senator Marco Rubio and the demented Senator Lindsey Graham to do so.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Trump Wasn’t the Only Candidate to Test Our Campaign Laws

Wed, 2019-06-19 18:25

Bill BLUM

By now, anyone who pays the slightest attention to politics knows that Donald Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in an Oval Office interview last week that he would “take” opposition research on his 2020 election rivals, even from a foreign source like Russia, China or (eyeroll) Norway. Trump also said that he might not notify the FBI about his receipt of such information, and that FBI Director Christopher Wray was “wrong” to suggest in a recent Senate hearing that the law requires the bureau to be alerted.

Trump’s remarks sent howls of “collusion” across the landscape of cable news and the mainstream press. Pundits asked if the president had forgotten the lessons of 2016 and the Mueller probe. Had Trump gone, in the words of New Yorker columnist Susan B. Glasser, from proclaiming “no collusion” to admitting that he was, after all was said and done, “pro-collusion?”

In a rare display of unity, leading Democrats and Republicans assailed the president for apparently opening the door to a new round of election meddling. Even Lindsey Graham—Trump’s most loyal congressional enabler—gave the president a thumbs down. Asked by reporters if he would take foreign opposition research, Graham replied: “A foreign government comes to you as a public official and offers to help your campaign giving you anything of value, whether it be money or information on your opponent, the right answer is no.”

Graham was quick to add, however, that Democrats were just as culpable for paying ex-British spy Christopher Steele to prepare his much-ballyhooed dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia. “I hope my Democrat colleagues will be equally offended,” Graham said, “by the fact that this actually did happen in 2016 where a foreign agent was paid for by a political party to gather opposition research. All those things are wrong.”

For once, I find myself in partial agreement with the often-raving sycophant from South Carolina. In the run-up to the 2016 election, both the Trump and Clinton campaigns pushed the law governing opposition research and elections to the limits, albeit in different ways. Alarmingly, Trump’s rambling chin-wag with Stephanopoulos threatens to stretch the limits even further in 2020.

To understand the relationship between opposition research and election law, it’s necessary to go back to the Supreme Court’s 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo.

In Buckley, the court drew the now-familiar sharp distinction between “contributions” made to political campaigns by outsiders and “expenditures” made by political candidates and their campaign committees. The court held that Congress, in passing the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), could lawfully restrict contributions to candidates to prevent “quid pro quo” corruption or the “appearance of corruption.” But the court also struck down important provisions of the FECA, holding that the First Amendment prohibited Congress from limiting the amount of money candidates and their committees could spend on elections from their own coffers.

The Buckley ruling would later serve as the legal basis for the court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opened the door to unlimited “independent expenditures” by super PACs, corporations and unions.

Both Buckley and Citizens United left intact the FECA’s ban on electoral contributions by foreign persons, entities and governments. As the act stipulates, it is “unlawful” for a “foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election.” The act also prohibits the solicitation, acceptance or receipt of foreign contributions, as well as conspiring with foreign nationals to receive contributions.

For donations worth $25,000 or more, knowing and willful violations of the act are punishable by up to five years in prison.

The foreign-contribution ban got the Trump campaign and Donald Trump Jr. in hot water with special counsel Robert Mueller. In his report, Mueller documented scores of contacts between Russian nationals and the campaign, including the widely publicized Trump Tower meeting of June 9, 2016, that promised to provide Junior with “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Fortunately for the Trumps, Mueller concluded the contacts were insufficient to establish a criminal conspiracy.

Mueller also declined to pursue an FECA violation against Junior or anyone from the campaign because he was uncertain that he could prove the monetary value of the promised opposition research on Clinton. Even more significantly, according to the report, Mueller was unsure he could prove Junior or his associates knowingly and willfully intended to violate the act in convening the Trump Tower meeting. Ignorance, in the end, saved the day for the campaign.

Heading into the 2020 election, the ignorance excuse will no longer be available to the president. After two years of the Mueller investigation and all the attendant media coverage, no one—not even our blathering 45th commander in chief—could plausibly claim that accepting opposition research from a foreign source is legal.

But what about Clinton and the Democrats? With all the attention on Trump, it’s easy to forget the Clinton campaign’s election law transgressions associated with paying for the Steele dossier.

As many election law experts have noted, payments for opposition research, even if conducted by foreign nationals or governments, aren’t considered campaign contributions. Rather, they are seen as campaign expenditures, which are lawful and may be not be subject to monetary ceilings, as the Buckley case long ago instructed.

Nonetheless, the FECA requires candidates and their campaigns to itemize and report each expenditure in excess of $200 to the Federal Election Commission. Campaigns are also required to report the “purpose” of each disbursement. Knowing and willful violations of campaign-finance reporting requirements are punishable just as severely as knowing receipt of illegal campaign contributions.

So, what did the Clinton team do wrong in the last election?

In October 2017, the nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the FEC, charging the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s presidential committee, Hillary for America, with failing to accurately report the money funneled to Steele. According to Reuters, Steele was paid $168,000 for creating the dossier. Yet nowhere is Steele listed in the campaign’s FEC filings.

A CLC spokesperson confirmed with me last week that its complaint against the DNC and Hillary for America remains pending, unrebutted and unresolved at the FEC.

Whatever the FEC ultimately decides, neither major party, given the past, can honestly claim the high road when it comes to opposition research and elections. The Republican National Committee reportedly has already retained a variety of intelligence firms to conduct opposition research in the run-up to 2020. It would be truly shocking if the DNC hasn’t done the same.

Opposition research may be an intrinsic and unavoidable feature of American politics, but it isn’t too much to demand that our politicians be held to account, civilly and criminally, for courting foreign influence. And while we’re at it, we should also demand that our leaders, once in office, steer clear of intruding in elections abroad—something no nation on earth has perfected more expertly than our very own.

truthdig.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Memorial Honoring the Life of Lyndon LaRouche Held in New York City

Wed, 2019-06-19 18:01

On Saturday June 8, a Memorial event occurred in New York City celebrating the life of an American personality whose name is widely respected throughout Eurasia yet whose important accomplishments have remained hidden from the minds of most American and European citizens.

Lyndon LaRouche died on February 12, 2019 and his passing at the age of 96 has caused many people to take a deeper look at this fascinating personality who ran for the presidency eight times, led international political, scientific and artistic organizations for decades, has spent years in jail as an American political prisoner and has advised many government officials since 1976. Just a handful of those statesmen who have sought LaRouche’s council and who have adopted key elements of his policy proposals over the years includes India’s PM Indira Gandhi, Guyana’s Foreign Minister Fred Wills, Mexico’s President Lopez Portillo, and American President Ronald Reagan. [A timeline of these incredible relationships can be accessed here].

His policy for a New Silk Road program for international development, which has now become Russia and China’s joint initiative dates back to 1992 and which he and his wife have promoted through countless conferences, speeches and writings ever since.

50 Years of Character Assassination

It is unfortunate that upon hearing the name of Lyndon LaRouche, many minds immediately jump to thoughtless slanders embedded in the collective zeitgeist shaped by 50 years of mainstream media repetition. These slanders circulate such accusations of “anti-Semite”, “neo-fascist cult leader”, “conspiracy theorist” and ironically “conspirator against the US government” (the later accusation having landed him and dozens of his colleagues into federal prison in 1988 during the height of LaRouche’s presidential race against former CIA director George Bush Sr). In opposition to such gossip, former US Attorney General Ramsay Clark said of the Government’s attack on LaRouche that he had never seen a “broader range of deliberate and systematic misconduct and abuse of power over a longer period of time in an effort to destroy a political movement and leader, than any other federal prosecution in my time or to my knowledge.”

[Click here to watch Ramsey Clark’s full testimony during LaRouche’s trial]

It should be recalled that Clark was a friend of both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., not to mention a long-standing critic of the FBI/CIA takeover of the functions of the US government. For such an insider to describe LaRouche’s case in such terms is no small deal.

One of the leading figures who directed the “systemic misconduct” to destroy LaRouche’s political movement during those years was none other than Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller who went onto greater celebrity as CIA director during 911 (covering up the CIA-British-Saudi role in the operation), and the modern witch hunter of President Donald Trump. One of the current targets of Mueller’s witch hunt is long time Trump confidante Roger Stone who played a role within the republican party for 45 years and who described  LaRouche’s role in mediating a strategic defense doctrine between the Russians and Ronald Reagan at a Schiller Institute conference last year when he said:

“I first became acquainted with Dr. Lyndon LaRouche back in 1979 when he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President and played a very important backstage role in the election of our last outsider President Ronald Reagan. I have great admiration for Helga Zepp-LaRouche, who is with you today. I think these people are doing an extraordinary job to try to forge greater understanding of the international issues that would bring my country—the United States—and Russia, China, and virtually every country on the globe into some kind of harmony, so that we can all live in both peace and prosperity.”

In spite of receiving a 15 year sentence in maximum security prison LaRouche continued to fight against the City of London-penetration into America by running for the presidency from jail in 1992 and writing prolifically on the science of physical economy, philosophy, science, art and statecraft. His 1991 Science of Christian Economy and Other Prison Writings contain some of the richest epistemological concepts that would surprise many thinkers today.

While LaRouche was entering prison, former Guyanese Foreign Minister Fred Wills who had survived five assassination attempts while leading the fight for a new just economic order in 1977 said of his friend in 1988: “The chief of our strengths is the creative leadership, and the fertile intellects of Lyndon and Helga LaRouche. We have, in the Schiller Institute, the formal embodiment of the soul of the human genius.”

By the time of this speech, Wills was living in Virginia and acting as a board member of the Schiller Institute.

A Leading Figure in Science

Upon his early release from prison in 1994, LaRouche entered a world very different from the one that had existed upon his entry. The Soviet Union had dissolved, and a new world order of unipolarism had been unleashed by those deep state forces who worked so hard to railroad him into prison.

Trying to make sense of the Soviet breakdown, many leading members of the Russian intelligentsia had spent years studying the writings of LaRouche, who had distinguished himself as uniquely forecasting the collapse 6 years before it occurred for reasons outlined in his international magazine Executive Intelligence Review. Another important review which was widely circulated in Russia was Fusion: The Magazine of the Fusion Energy Foundation which brought together leading physicists from around the world in opposition to the “political/mathematicization of the sciences” that had been underway for much of the 20th century. “Fusion”, which had become America’s 2nd most subscribed to science magazine by 1987 was shut down and bankrupted through the FBI’s crackdown on LaRouche.

Weeks after his release, LaRouche was invited to speak to dozens of Russian scientific academies, members of parliament and the Ministry of Economy. It also included LaRouche’s entry into Russia’s Universal Ecological Academy for his contributions to the field of physical economy and it was during this time that he was brought to the attention of Sergei Glazyev (today a leading advisor to President Putin). Glazyev went onto collaborate with LaRouche over the subsequent decades and recently wrote of his deceased friend:

“LaRouche forecast the inevitable onset of a global financial crisis, many years before it arrived. LaRouche’s famous curve [Triple Curve/Typical Collapse Function], depicting the growing gap between the volume of real output and that of financial speculation, was a serious warning for all economists who were really thinking. It turned out that not only in Russia, but also in the U.S.A., no one is a prophet in his own country. Instead of being recognized, LaRouche was persecuted by the American financial oligarchy, who imprisoned him on false charges.”

The Cultural Battleground

Over the years, international political and cultural movements have arisen to represent LaRouche’s policy for a new economic system driven by 1) scientific and technological progress, 2) a defense of national sovereignty and 3) cultural/educational reforms focused upon the replication of great discoveries. These later reforms can be classified as the Platonic-Humanist approach to the mind as a “Fire to be kindled with poetic inspiration” in opposition to the Aristotelian-Oligarchical view of the mind as “a vessel to be filled with crystalized definitions and recipes of behaviour”. In 1978, LaRouche published his first thorough study on this battle between two modes of thought titled “Secrets Known Only to the Inner Elites”.

In France, three-time presidential candidate Jacques Cheminade has represented LaRouche’s ideas for over four decades as the head of the Solidarité & Progrès Party. Cheminade said of his friend: “Lyndon LaRouche has always been a fighter against physical and mental serfdom; and now the fight against mental serfdom is key, together with the fight against oppression, exclusion, and exploitation in the social and economic realm”.

Cheminade and other international collaborators have defended LaRouche’s view of the necessary re-unification of the arts and sciences under the higher field of a science of physical economy (aka: “the art of maintaining the successful survival of the human species”). Cheminade and LaRouche have maintained that without this re-unification of the two aspects of the human soul (Beauty and Reason), then no true emancipation of humanity could ever become sustainable.

It is only by grasping this cultural fight which gave purpose and meaning to LaRouche’s mission that one can properly understand why the June 8 New York Memorial was primarily a musical one.

The Memorial in Brief

While opening remarks were given by Helga Zepp-LaRouche (head of the Schiller Institute), and LaRouchePac representative Dennis Speed, the event was driven by musical offerings ranging from African American spirituals such as When I was Sinkin’ Down, and I don’t Feel in No Ways Tired to pieces by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms. Throughout the event selections of LaRouche’s speeches ranging over many years were played for an international audience and which can be heard in full here.

It is appropriate to end with a selection of Helga’s remarks at the end of the Memorial:

“The creativity per se would be the highest value in society, and all would experience the intellectual joy of a new international Renaissance.  And we, who worked with Lyn, had the privilege of getting a taste of what it means to live in the world of ideas.  If Lyn would have become President, the whole United States, and the world, this Renaissance spirit would have become the intellectually hegemonic power.  The United States is very fortunate to have such a person, with such a beautiful mind and such a prophetic vision.

Lyn and I had a meeting once with a bishop of Rome, and he said “Lyn is a man of providence”, and I absolutely agree: Because Lyn’s life and his life’s work is in absolute tune with the intention of Creation.  It’s a tragedy for the people of the United States, and the rest of the world, that the evil powers of the present, were able to derail this effort, at least temporarily.  And a breakthrough for all of humanity will be associated with Lyn’s ideas.

But Lyn’s vision of a fully developed world becoming a reality in the form of the World Land-Bridge is now happening: Of a new form of international relations among nations, of a dialogue of classical cultures replacing confrontation, and of the vision of an international cooperation of colonizing the Moon and a joint Mars mission.  His enemies, who are the enemies of humanity and the happiness of the people, may prevail in the short term.  But they’re already haunted by the Erinyes.  They may have been able to cover up their crimes for a short while, but there is this higher power of natural law, which will bring their crimes to the light of day.

Lyn, on the contrary, has earned eternal life.  His life is in the simultaneity of eternity.  His mind and ideas transcend all places and times.  Lyn is now in a real like that shown in the School of Athens:  He is with Socrates and Plato, with Confucius, Kepler, Leibniz, Bach, Beethoven, Einstein, and Vernadsky, and all the best minds of all times, and all cultures.”

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Russia Expert’s 2017 Prophecy About the Nuclear Threat of Russiagate Is Coming True

Wed, 2019-06-19 17:25

Caitlin JOHNSTONE

The New York Times has published an anonymously sourced report titled “U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid” about the “placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before” which could potentially “plunge Russia into darkness or cripple its military,” with one anonymous official reporting that “We are doing things at a scale that we never contemplated a few years ago.”

Obviously this is yet another serious escalation in the continually mounting series of steps that have been taken into a new cold war between the planet’s two nuclear superpowers. Had a report been leaked to Russian media from anonymous Kremlin officials that Moscow was escalating its cyber-aggressions against America’s energy grid, this would doubtless be labeled an act of war by the political/media class of the US and its allies with demands for immediate retaliation.

To put this in perspective, The New York Times reported last year that the Pentagon was pushing for the US Nuclear Posture Review to include the strategy of retaliating against serious Russian cyberattacks on American power grids with nuclear weapons.

So that’s scary enough. What’s even scarier is the information that the Timesburied way down in the 21st to 23rd paragraphs of its report:

“Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place ‘implants’ — software code that can be used for surveillance or attack — inside the Russian grid.

“Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction — and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister.

“Because the new law defines the actions in cyberspace as akin to traditional military activity on the ground, in the air or at sea, no such briefing would be necessary, they added.”

In an article titled “Pentagon Keeps Trump in the Dark About its Cyber Attacks on Russia”, Rolling Stone’s Peter Wade described this jarring revelation as follows:

“New laws, enacted by Congress last year, allow such ‘clandestine military activity’ in cyberspace to go ahead without the president’s approval. So, in this case, those new laws are protecting American interests… by keeping the sitting president out of the loop. What a (scary) time to be alive.”

Pentagon Keeps Trump in the Dark About its Cyber Attacks on Russia https://t.co/CJLFjbkR6x pic.twitter.com/TFYkTAcD0g

— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) 15 июня 2019 г.

So Trump is in a bit of a bind now. The escalation has already been put in place, which will likely see an equal response from Moscow if it isn’t scaled back. But scaling it back would mean a whole new wave of shrieking alarmism from the political/media class about the conspiracy theory that just won’t die no matter how much evidence is mounted against it: that Trump is a controlled puppet of the Kremlin. All as he’s working to build the case for re-election in 2020.

Stephen F Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University and one of America’s leading experts on US-Russia relations, has been warning for years that exactly this would happen. In an April 2017 interview on Democracy Now, Cohen warned that placing political pressure on a US president to never step back from escalations during a showdown between nuclear superpowers could have potentially world-ending consequences should mounting tensions see a situation similar to the Cuban missile crisis again.

“I think this is the most dangerous moment in American-Russian relations, at least since the Cuban missile crisis,” Cohen said. “And arguably, it’s more dangerous, because it’s more complex. Therefore, we — and then, meanwhile, we have in Washington these — and, in my judgment, factless accusations that Trump has somehow been compromised by the Kremlin. So, at this worst moment in American-Russian relations, we have an American president who’s being politically crippled by the worst imaginable — it’s unprecedented. Let’s stop and think. No American president has ever been accused, essentially, of treason. This is what we’re talking about here, or that his associates have committed treason.”

“Imagine, for example, John Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis,” Cohen said. “Imagine if Kennedy had been accused of being a secret Soviet Kremlin agent. He would have been crippled. And the only way he could have proved he wasn’t was to have launched a war against the Soviet Union. And at that time, the option was nuclear war.”

People rarely take time to deeply reflect on the uniquely important fact that our species came within a hair’s breadth of total annihilation during the Cuban missile crisis. We learned long after it was all over that the only reason a nuclear-armed Soviet submarine didn’t discharge its payload on the US Navy and set off a full-scale nuclear exchange between the US and the USSR was because one of the three men in the sub needed to authorize the weapon’s use stood against the other two and refused. That man’s name was Vasili Arkhipov, and he’s responsible for the fact that you and everyone you love exists today. There’s a good PBS documentary about the event on YouTube if you’re curious.

President Kennedy was constantly going back and forth in communication with the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis, and any number of things could have gone cataclysmically wrong during that exchange had Kennedy not made certain concessions at certain times and known when to hold back instead of pressing forward. He made a series of diplomatic moves that would not be possible in this current paranoid, leak-prone climate, including secretly recalling the USA’s Jupiter missiles from their position in Turkey at Khrushchev’s request.

For all the outrage that liberals display whenever a high-profile Republican utters the phrase “deep state”, it sure is interesting that the Commander-in-Chief has found himself in a situation where he is at the whim of a collective of warmongers who are advancing pre-existing agendas against a nation they perceive as a geostrategic threat to US hegemony. It begs the question, who is really in charge?

The US war machine is the most powerful military force in the history of civilization, and the alliance of nations that it upholds is functionally the most powerful empire that the world has ever seen. Because so much power depends on the behavior of this gargantuan war engine, it is seen by those with real power as too important to be left to the will of the electorate, and too important to be left to the will of the elected Commander-in-Chief. This is why Americans are the most propagandized people in the world, this is why Russia hysteria has been blasted into their psyches for three years, and this is why we are all at an ever-increasing risk of dying in a nuclear holocaust.

UPDATE: Trump now seems like he might be denying that what The New York Times’ sources said is happening is happening. It’s unlikely that the Timeswould fabricate a story whole cloth, so if Trump is in fact denying the story then either the sources are lying about what they’re doing in their own purported jobs, or Trump is still being kept in the dark, or Trump is just lying.

“Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia,” Trump tweeted. “This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country. ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

Curiouser and curiouser.

Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia. This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 16 июня 2019 г.

…..ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 16 июня 2019 г.

medium.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Corporate News Pushes Iran War For Trump

Wed, 2019-06-19 17:10

Citizen Jimmy – A David against an army of Goliaths.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Trump’s Cuba Sanctions Are Sadistic and Spiteful

Wed, 2019-06-19 16:55

The history of sanctions is grim, and it is generally acknowledged that they penalise ordinary people to an unjustifiable degree. It is difficult to forget the excruciating pronouncement by Madeleine Albright, President Clinton’s Secretary of State, when she was ambassador to the UN and commented on their effects in Iraq in the 1990s, in the run-up to the US invasion. In a media interview her questioner said that in Iraq “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Albright replied, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it.”  Her noxious statement was largely ignored by Western mainstream media which was being ramped up to support the invasion of 2003, by which time, the citizens of Iraq had been viciously punished by a bunch of bigots who had reduced the country to a societal shambles. In his 2006 book ‘A Different Kind of War’ the former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Hans Von Sponeck, wrote that “Communicable diseases in the 1980s not considered public health hazards, such as measles, polio, cholera, typhoid, marasmus and kwashiorkor, reappeared on epidemic scales.” The commentator Gilles d’Aymery warned that the book “is not for the faint-hearted reader. The wrenching suffering of the Iraqi people it recounts cannot be read without feeling ill to the point of nausea and experiencing a deep sense of anger and outrage, as well as immense sadness, by the unfathomable tragedy that befell this peaceful people — mere pawns sacrificed on the checkerboard of great gamesmanship between an authoritarian government fallen out of grace and the parochial interests of a few Western nations.”

So one would think that the US Establishment might have realised the extent that sanctions inflict suffering on innocent people, and in one instance this was so, because President Obama began to relax sanctions on Cuba, whose people have been ferociously targeted by Washington’s Best and Brightest for almost sixty years.

The anti-Cuba campaign began in 1959 when Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista, who was totally corrupt and supported by the US.  Castro was regarded as an enemy, not because he was brutal, which he undoubtedly was, but because in 1960 he nationalized US-owned businesses, including casinos owned by Mafia mobsters. This sparked the April 1961 Bay of Pigs attack by CIA-sponsored Cuban exiles, authorised by President John F Kennedy. It took only three days for Castro’s forces to wipe out the would-be invaders, then, as the BBC records, “The CIA began to make plans to assassinate Castro as part of Operation Mongoose. At least five plans to kill the Cuban leader were drawn up between 1961 and 1963.”  And to complement this righteous crusade, in 1962 Kennedy ordered sanctions prohibiting all trade and communication with Cuba.

President Jimmy Carter tried to engage in dialogue, and in 1977 he permitted diplomatic exchanges, but there was no support in Establishment Washington for rapprochement, and in 1992 President George HW Bush imposed the wonderfully-named Cuban Democracy Act which intensified sanctions.

As the legislation was passing through Congress, before being signed by Bush, the New York Times observed that “the bill’s punishing measures would make life worse for many Cubans, but nobody can sensibly argue that sanctions alone will topple Castro’s police state.”  Of course the “punishing measures” would make life worse — much worse — for ordinary Cubans, and especially children, because although Section 6004 of the legislation exempted medical supplies from the embargo, there were many let-outs designed to hamper their provision.  These included the exceptions “to the extent such restrictions would be permitted under section 5(m) of the Export Administration Act” and “a case in which the item to be exported could be used in the production of any biotechnological product.”

Which brings us to John Bolton, who as Under Secretary of State in 2002 declared that Cuba “has at least a limited offensive biological warfare research and development effort” and has “’provided dual-use biotechnology to other rogue states.”  This was exactly a year before the US invaded Iraq on the spurious grounds that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” including biological agents, which were not found because they didn’t exist.  When reporting Bolton’s allegation that Cuba had exported biotechnology to “rogue states” CBS News reported that “Bolton did not identify these nations but noted that Cuban President Fidel Castro visited Iraq, Syria and Libya last year, all of which, like Cuba, are on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. Bolton said all are attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction.”

Mercifully, Bolton disappeared from the scene for some years, and President Barrack Obama attempted to establish normality by easing travel restrictions in 2009, then restoring diplomatic relations. Sanity continued in 2015 when the US removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism (although Congress continued to resist removal of trade sanctions), but President Obama visited Cuba in 2016, and a Pew Research poll found that 63 percent of Americans approved of his Cuba policy.  It appeared that maturity had triumphed.

But maturity, rationality and responsibility were discarded when Trump came to power and announced that in regard to Cuba “we will not be silent in the face of communist oppression any longer.” He began to reverse Obama’s moves to rapprochement, and reinstituted sanctions. This moved the UN General Assembly’s 193 nations to pass a resolution in 2017 deploring such action with a vote of 191 to 2 (the two dissenters being the US and Israel), but Trump intensified his anti-Cuba crusade, energetically assisted by the resurrected Bolton whose fetid character promotes the poisoning of US foreign policy.

In April 2019 Bolton gave a speech at a lunch marking the 58th anniversary of the farcical and failed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs operation, and the Washington Post reported he “compared the aging Cuban Americans to ‘the brave men of Bunker Hill, Belleau Wood and Normandy,’ and said the new measures [against Cuba] were being undertaken to ‘honor your courage . . . by boldly confronting the evils of socialism and communism in the hemisphere’.”

To praise the Bay of Pigs mercenaries and compare them to US soldiers who served their country and gave their lives at Bunker Hill, Belleau Wood and the Normandy landings is nothing short of obscene — especially coming from a draft-dodger who declared he avoided military service in Vietnam (where over 50,000 Americans died), because “I wasn’t going to waste time on a futile struggle.”

Trump’s international belligerence is fuelled by the psychotic, lily-livered Bolton, who is encouraging him to go to war on Iran while intensifying savage sanctions on Cuba. There is no end in sight to Trump’s campaigns of sadism and spite.

 

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Credibility Crisis: No One Believes Pompeo On Iran Attack

Tue, 2019-06-18 19:22

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s rush to judgement that Iran was behind the apparent attacks on two tanker ships last week has not galvanized world opinion against Iran, as the neocons hoped. Has the neocon practice of massively exaggerating and endlessly issuing threats finally destroyed US credibility on the world stage?

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Russiagate is No Watergate

Tue, 2019-06-18 18:20

Patrick J. Buchanan

“History is repeating itself, and with a vengeance,” John Dean told the Judiciary Committee, drawing a parallel between Watergate, which brought down Richard Nixon, and “Russiagate,” which has bedeviled Donald Trump.

But what strikes this veteran of Nixon’s White House is not the similarities but the stark differences.

Watergate began with an actual crime, a midnight break-in at the offices of the DNC in June 1972 to wiretap phones and filch files, followed by a cover-up that spread into the inner circles of the White House.

Three years after FBI Director James Comey began the investigation of Trump, however, the final report of his successor, Robert Mueller, found there had been no conspiracy, no collusion, and no underlying crime.

How can Trump be guilty of covering up a crime that the special counsel says he did not commit?

And the balance of power today in D.C. is not as lopsided as it was in 1973 and ’74.

During Watergate, Nixon had little support in a city where the elites, the press, the Democratic Congress, and the liberal bureaucracy labored in earnest to destroy him. He had few of what Pat Moynihan called “second and third echelons of advocacy.”

Contrast this with Trump, a massive presence on social media, whose tweets, daily interactions with the national press, and rallies keep his enemies constantly responding to his attacks rather than making their case.

Trump interrupts their storytelling. And behind him is a host of defenders at Fox News and some of the top radio talk show hosts in America.

There are pro-Trump websites that did not exist in Nixon’s time, home to populist and conservative columnists and commentators full of fight.

Leftists may still dominate the mainstream media. But their unconcealed hatred of Trump and the one-sided character of their coverage has cost them much of the credibility they had half a century ago.

The media are seen as militant partisans masquerading as journalists.

Consider the respective calendars.

Two years after the Watergate break-in, Nixon was near the end, about to be impeached by the House with conviction possible in the Senate.

Three years into Russiagate, three in four House Democrats do not want their caucus to take up impeachment. Many of these Democrats, especially moderates from swing districts, do not want to cast a vote to either bring down or exonerate the president.

Assume the House did take up impeachment. Would all the Democrats vote aye? Does anyone think a Republican Senate would deliver the needed 20 votes to provide a two-thirds majority to convict and remove him?

For a Republican Senate to split asunder and vote to expel its own Republican president who is supported by the vast majority of the party would be suicidal. It could cost the GOP both houses of Congress and the White House in 2020. Why would Republicans not prefer to unite and fight to the end, just as Senate Democrats did during the Clinton impeachment?

Trump’s support in the Senate Republican caucus today is rock-solid. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is herself opposed to impeachment hearings in the House, which she considers ruinous to her party’s hopes of maintaining control in 2020.

When Dean went before the Watergate committee of Senator Sam Ervin in 1973, all five days of his testimony were carried live on ABC, CBS, and NBC.

When Dean appeared Monday, the three cable news networks swiftly dropped coverage of the Judiciary Committee hearings to report on a helicopter crash in Manhattan. Dean’s testimony could be seen on C-Span3.

Much of America is bored by the repetitive, nonstop media attacks on Trump and look on the back-and-forth between left and right not as a “constitutional crisis” but a savage battle between parties and partisans.

The impeachers who seek to bring down Trump face other problems.

Now that Mueller has spent two years investigating and found no proof of a Trump-Putin conspiracy to hack the emails of the DNC and Clinton campaign, questions have arisen as to what the evidence was that caused the FBI to launch its unprecedented investigation of a presidential campaign and a newly elected president.

Did an anti-Trump cabal at the apex of the FBI and U.S. security agencies work with foreign intelligence, including former British spy Christopher Steele, in an attempt to destroy Trump?

The political dynamic of Trump’s taunts and defiance of the demands of committee chairs in a Democratic House, and the clamor for impeachment from the Democratic and media left, are certain to produce more calls for hearings.

But if the impeachment hearings come, they will be seen for what they are: an attempted coup to overthrow a president by the losers of 2016 who are fearful they could lose again in 2020 and be out of power for four more years.

Russiagate is not Watergate, but there is this similarity: Nixon and Trump are both the objects of truly great hatred.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.

theamericanconservative.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

The Arab Emergency Summit in Mecca: Provocative and Invective

Tue, 2019-06-18 18:00

When an Arab emergency summit is called to convene, one would naturally assume the existence of an urgent Arab crisis which requires immediate attention. So, when king Salman of Saudi Arabia called for an emergency Arab summit to convene in Mecca, the holiest Muslim city, the natural assumption was that there is an urgent Arab crisis to be dealt with, immediately.

Therefore, one had to assume the urgent Arab emergency summit meeting in Mecca on May 30, 2019, would have to do, though belatedly, with the ramifications of Arab states destroying Arab states, Muslims killing Muslims, Arabs killing Arabs. Or perhaps more specific urgent Arab matters such as the American recognition of a united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel, the moving of the American embassy to Jerusalem, the declaration by Netanyahu of his intention to annex the major Israeli settlements with American acquiescence or with the American recognition of the Israeli annexation of the Syrian Golan, or the “Deal of the Century”. Surprisingly and unfortunately the summit dealt with none of the above.

On the face of it, the summit was an official Arab emergency summit, but in reality, it was a Saudi Arabian summit and the agenda was a Saudi Arabian agenda: Iran, which was practically the exclusive item on the agenda and in the final communique. No perceptive Arab affairs genius would have thought of an urgent need for an emergency Arab summit to deal with a presumed ‘Iranian threat’ to the Arabs. There is mutual animosity and perception of security threats between Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and a very few Arab states, mostly in the Gulf region, on the other hand. However, there are no similar feelings between the majority of other Arab states and Iran.

The final communique was delivered by the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, at the conclusion of the summit. It starts with a preamble and ten operative paragraphs. Iran is mentioned in the preamble and the operative paragraphs no less than fifteen times. The onslaught on Iran full of provocations and invectives started with the preamble and moved on with gusto in the operative paragraphs.

The impetus for convening the emergency summit, as noted by Mr. Aboul Gheit, was “the serious repercussions of the attack by the Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist militias on two oil pumping stations in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the attack on commercial vessels in the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates.”

In view of the killing and wounding of millions of Muslim and non-Muslim Arabs, the immigration and displacement of more millions, the chaos and destruction and the rendering of several Arab states as failed states, it is amazing that attacks on two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia, and on four commercial vessels in the territorial waters of the UAE, in which the culprit is uncertain, warranted the convening of an emergency Arab League summit to target and condemn Iran. It is made clear in the preamble, and the ten substantive paragraphs, of the communique that the culprit is Iran. But why the certainty that Iran is the culprit? Because John Bolton, American National Security Adviser, who is not known for his honesty and truthfulness, said so! Mr. Bolton said he will provide the evidence later; thus, a new legal norm: Convict then provide the evidence.

Not only the reason for convening of the emergency summit is amazing, but the content of the ten-paragraph communique is shocking.

1. Historically and traditionally, Israel and Zionism are standard features in Arab League summit communiques. Thus, the present summit communique is a first for not including the terms Israel nor Zionism once.

2. Similarly, Palestinians are a standard feature in Arab League summit communiques. Thus, the present communique is also a first for not mentioning the Palestinians once. Although, as an afterthought, the last sentence of the last paragraph ten states that the issue of Palestine is “the main Arab issue”, but it did not merit a single operative paragraph.

3. While the communique does not include the aforementioned names, it has certainly gone overboard in provocatively and invectively mentioning Iran/Iranians and often preceded by ‘condemning’ and ‘denouncing’, no less than fifteen times.

4. Syria is mentioned once in paragraph ten for the purpose of condemning Iran. It is ironic that the Arab states, who expelled Syria from the League, the majority of which were not independent states when Syria and five Arab states established the League in 1945, met in a presumed Arab League summit and have suddenly become concerned about Syria. They denounced “the Iranian interference in the Syrian crisis and its implications for Syria’s future.”

The irony is that the ‘Iranian interference’ is legitimate, because it came at the request of the legitimate Syrian government and “supported Damascus’s efforts in fighting terrorism which was supported by some of those meeting in this summit”, as noted by the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

The Arab summit in Mecca was a Saudi Arabian conference attended by Arab states to discuss Saudi Arabia’s perceived and contrived Iranian threats. Threats which are, largely, not shared by most of the Arab states, not even shared by some of the Arab Gulf states. The contention that Iran constitutes a threat to the Arab states is contentious, and irrespective of what Netanyahu, Bolton and Pompeo claim, it is Iran which is threatened by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, why manufacture a new crisis, and a potential war in the Muslim Arab region which is already ravaged by a multitude of crises, conflicts and wars?

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Iran at the center of the Eurasian riddle

Tue, 2019-06-18 17:25

Pepe Escobar

With the dogs of war on full alert, something extraordinary happened at the 19th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) late last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

Virtually unknown across the West, the SCO is the foremost Eurasian political, economic and security alliance. It’s not a Eurasian NATO. It’s not planning any humanitarian imperialist adventures. A single picture in Bishkek tells a quite significant story, as we see China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin, India’s Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan aligned with the leaders of four Central Asian “stans”.

These leaders represent the current eight members of the SCO. Then there are four observer states – Afghanistan, Belarus, Mongolia and, crucially, Iran – plus six dialogue partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and, crucially, Turkey.

The SCO is bound to significantly expand by 2020, with possible full membership for both Turkey and Iran. It will then feature all major players of Eurasia integration. Considering the current incandescence in the geopolitical chessboard, it’s hardly an accident a crucial protagonist in Bishkek was the ‘observer’ state Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played his cards masterfully. Rouhani speaking directly to Putin, Xi, Modi and Imran, at the same table, is something to be taken very seriously. He blasted the US under Trump as “a serious risk to stability in the region and the world”. Then he diplomatically offered preferential treatment for all companies and entrepreneurs from SCO member nations committed to investing in the Iranian market.

The Trump administration has claimed – without any hard evidence – that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which Washington brands as a “terrorist organization” – was behind the attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. As the SCO summit developed, the narrative had already collapsed, as Yutaka Katada, president of Japanese cargo company Kokuka Sangyo, owner of one of the tankers, said: “The crew is saying that it was hit by a flying object.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had accused the White House of “sabotage diplomacy” but that did not derail Rouhani’s actual diplomacy in Bishkek.

Xi was adamant; Beijing will keep developing ties with Tehran “no matter how the situation changes”. Iran is a key node of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It’s clear for the leadership in Tehran that the way forward is full integration into the vast, Eurasia-wide economic ecosystem. European nations that signed the nuclear deal with Tehran – France, Britain and Germany – can’t save Iran economically.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets with Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, right, in Bishkek at the SCO summit on June 14. Photo: Nezir Aliyev / Anadolu / AFP

The Indian hedge

But then Modi canceled a bilateral with Rouhani at the last minute, with the lame excuse of “scheduling issues”.

That’s not exactly a clever diplomatic gambit. India was Iran’s second largest oil customer before the Trump administration dumped the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, over a year ago. Modi and Rouhani have discussed the possibility of India paying for Iranian oil in rupees, bypassing the US dollar and US sanctions.

Yet unlike Beijing and Moscow, New Delhi refuses to unconditionally support Tehran in its do-or-die fight against the Trump administration’s economic war and de facto blockade.

Modi faces a stark existential choice. He’s tempted to channel his visceral anti-Belt-and-Road stance into the siren call of a fuzzy, US-concocted Indo-Pacific alliance – a de facto containment mechanism against “China, China, China” as the Pentagon leadership openly admits it.

Or he could dig deeper into a SCO/RIC (Russia-India-China) alliance focused on Eurasia integration and multipolarity.

Aware of the high stakes, a concerted charm offensive by the leading BRICS and SCO duo is in effect. Putin invited Modi to be the main guest of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in early September. And Xi Jinping told Modi in their bilateral get together he’s aiming at a “closer partnership”, from investment and industrial capacity to pick up speed on the stalled Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor, another BRI stalwart.

Imran Khan, for his part, seems to be very much aware how Pakistan may profit from becoming the ultimate Eurasia pivot – as Islamabad offers a privileged gateway to the Arabian Sea, side by side with SCO observer Iran. Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea is the key hub of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), much better positioned than Chabahar in Iran, which is being developed as the key hub of India’s mini-New Silk Road version to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

On the Russian front, a charm offensive on Pakistan is paying dividends, with Imran openly acknowledging Pakistan is moving “closer” to Russia in a “changing” world, and has expressed keen interest in buying Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and Mi-35M attack helicopters.

Iran is at the heart of the BRI-SCO-EAEU integration road map – the nuts and bolts of Eurasian integration. Russia and China cannot allow Iran to be strangled. Iran boasts fabulous energy reserves, a huge internal market, and is a frontline state fighting complex networks of opium, weapons and jihadi smuggling – all key concerns for SCO member states.

There’s no question that in southwest Asia, Russia and Iran have interests that clash. What matters most for Moscow is to prevent jihadis from migrating to the Caucasus and Central Asia to plot attacks against the Russian Federation; to keep their navy and air force bases in Syria; and to keep oil and gas trading in full flow.

Tehran, for its part, cannot possibly support the sort of informal agreement Moscow established with Tel Aviv in Syria – where alleged Hezbollah and IRGC targets are bombed by Israel, but never Russian assets.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani smiles during a meeting with his Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Bishkek on June 14, 2019. Photo: Alexey Druzhinin / Sputnik / AFP

But still, there are margins of maneuver for bilateral diplomacy, even if they now seem not that wide. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued the new rules of the game; reduce imports to a minimum; aim for less reliance on oil and gas exports; ease domestic political pressure (after all everyone agrees Iranians must unite to face a mortal threat); and stick to the notion that Iran has no established all-weather friends, even Russia and China.

St Petersburg, Bishkek, Dushanbe

Iran is under a state of siege. Internal regimentation must be the priority. But that does not preclude abandoning the drive towards Eurasian integration.

The pan-Eurasian interconnection became even more glaring at what immediately happened after Bishkek; the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Bishkek and Dushanbe expanded what had already been extensively discussed at the St Petersburg forum, as I previously reported. Putin himself stressed that all vectors should be integrated: BRI, EAEU, SCO, CICA and ASEAN.

The Bishkek Declaration, adopted by SCO members, may not have been a headline-grabbing document, but it emphasized the security guarantees of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone Treaty, the “unacceptability of attempts to ensure one country’s security at the expense of other countries’ security, and condemning “the unilateral and unlimited buildup of missile defense systems by certain countries or groups of states”.

Yet the document is a faithful product of the drive towards a multilateral, multipolar world.

Among 21 signed agreements, the SCO also advanced a road map for the crucial SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, driving deeper the Russia-China strategic partnership’s imperative that the Afghan drama must be decided by Eurasian powers.

And what Putin, Xi and Modi discussed in detail, in private in Bishkek will be developed by their mini-BRICS gathering, the RIC (Russia-India-China) in the upcoming G20 summit in Osaka in late June.

Meanwhile, the US industrial-military-security complex will continue to be obsessed with Russia as a “revitalized malign actor” (in Pentagonese) alongside the all-encompassing China “threat”.

The US Navy is obsessed with the asymmetrical know-how of “our Russian, Chinese and Iranian rivals” in “contested waterways” from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf.

With US conservatives ratcheting up “maximum pressure” trying to frame the alleged weak node of Eurasia integration, which is already under total economic war because, among other issues, is bypassing the US dollar, no one can predict how the chessboard will look like when the 2020 SCO and BRICS summits take place in Russia.

asiatimes.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

‘Wagging the Dog’ While Lying About It

Tue, 2019-06-18 16:55

The Donald Trump administration, aided and abetted by the Republican congressional conference, will go down in history as a regime of liars, grifters, dime store propagandists, common criminals, and schoolyard bullies. The evidence that “Team Trump” can and probably will lie the United States into a war with Iran, just as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied America into a war with Iraq, is seen in the latest tomfoolery regarding recent attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The attacks follow by almost a month similar suspicious attacks on four ships at anchor in the Gulf of Oman, off the coast of the United Arab Emirates sheikhdom of Fujairah. Although Iran was blamed by members of the Trump administration for the May 12 attacks, no evidence was provided to bolster such claims.

Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton, a cartoon character-type war monger who could have served as a role model for the fictional film “Wag the Dog” about a US war against Albania based on concocted falsehoods and a steady stream of televised propaganda, strongly appears to have had his fingerprints all over the June 13 attack on two ships transiting outbound from the Strait of Hormuz into the Gulf of Oman.

No sooner than had the story broken worldwide about the attack did Bolton’s partner-in-crime Secretary of State Mike Pompeo go before cameras a cast blame on Iran for attacking the ships with mines. Pompeo declared that “intelligence” determined that Iran carried out mine attacks on the Japanese-owned and Panamanian-flagged M/V Kokuka Courageous and the Norwegian-owned and Marshall Islands-flagged M/V Front Altair. But whose intelligence? Pompeo did not claim that US intelligence concluded that Iran was responsible. Given Pompeo’s and Bolton’s close ties with the far right and uber-nationalist regime of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the “intelligence” being relied on by Pompeo strongly appears to have been from Mossad and its team of video propagandists in Herzliya; Washington, DC; and Los Angeles.

Provoking a US military attack against Iran in a Gulf of Tonkin-style false flag operation is certainly a key part of the playbook of Bolton, Pompeo, and the team of neo-conservatives and pro-Israeli shills they have hired at the National Security Council and State Department. In addition, waging war through deception is an integral part of the strategy of the Israeli Mossad. Operation Susannah in 1954 was one such deceptive tactic used by the Mossad. American, British, and Egyptian targets in Egypt were bombed by Mossad agents with blame being cast on Egyptian Communists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The 1967 Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, an intelligence-gathering ship on patrol in the eastern Mediterranean was originally intended to be blamed on Egypt. The 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane and its diversion to Entebbe, Uganda was, according to British intelligence, a false flag attack planned by Israeli intelligence using Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) cut-outs to damage the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the eyes of the French and Americans. And serious questions remain about Mossad’s role in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

Provoking a US military attack against Iran in a Gulf of Tonkin-style false flag operation is also not beyond the Bolton, Pompeo, and other top neo-cons like Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook and State Department Counter-terrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales.

Several facts point away from Iran being responsible for the attacks. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was preparing to depart for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, when the attack on the ships occurred. There is zero chance that Iran would have engaged in such action while the president was traveling abroad. Although the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was blamed by neo-con circles for the attack, it is IRGC policy not to interfere with commerce in the waterways of the region. That is because the IRGC, recently designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the Trump administration, is invested in various commercial enterprises, including transportation, in Iran and Iraq. The IRGC also regularly deals with mitigating actual threats in the area, such as those coming from the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), both groups being financed by Saudi Arabia. Launching unprovoked attacks on shipping would also affect the IRGC’s bottom line, hence the policy.

In addition, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran when the ships were attacked. Abe was on a peace dialogue mission and was carrying a letter from Donald Trump to the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is noteworthy that the Kokuka Courageous is Japanese-owned and the Front Altair was transporting its cargo of highly-flammable naptha from Abu Dhabi to Japan at the time it was attacked. The Kokuka Courageous was transporting flammable methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore. A spokesman for the Japanese Trade Ministry in Tokyo stated the two ships were carrying “Japan-related cargo.” From Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe” the attack on a Japanese-owned vessel during the visit of Abe to Iran.

Iranian television airborne television news cameras were able to capture video of the two ships burning from their flammable cargos. These videos, taken against a cloudless sky, were highlighted by the war-promoting Western news networks, including Fox News, CNN, MS-NBC, the BBC, and others to promote the meme that Iran carried out the attacks. But why would Iranian TV purposely provide the Western corporate media with such footage if they had clandestinely carried out the attacks? In addition, the crew of the Front Altair, consisting of 11 Russians, 11 Filipinos, and a Georgian, were rescued by the Iranian Coast Guard, treated for injuries, and transported to Bandar Abbas for flights home.

There are other more likely sources for the attacks on the vessels during the first visit to Iran in some 40 years for a Japanese prime minister. For example, the Saudis, Emiratis, and Israelis are all opposed to any talks between Washington and Tehran, whether they are mediated by Japan or another country. For example, the Saudis have previously pressed hard against Oman for entertaining a role as a mediator between the Trump administration and Iran.

Ironically, on the very same day the House Intelligence Committee was hearing evidence about the threat of “deep fake videos” during the upcoming presidential election campaign, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) released a grainy forward-looking infrared (FLIR) video, along with photographs, purporting to show a boat belonging to the IRGC removing an unexploded limpet mine from the side of the Kokuka Courageous. The Pentagon provided the video as “proof” of Iran’s culpability. However, the Pentagon was caught in a major Trump-grade lie when Yutaka Katada, the president of Kokuka Sangyo Marine, the company that owns the Kokuka Courageous, said the attack on his firm’s vessel did not come from a mine, but from a “flying shell.” The explosion was too far above the water line to have been from a mine, Katada told the press in Tokyo.

Pompeo told the press that “no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.” That was another falsehood. Israel maintains at least one Dolphin-class diesel electric submarine on patrol in Persian Gulf waters at all times. These submarines are not only equipped with nuclear-armed missiles but conventional missiles, including the Popeye Turbo cruise missile, capable of causing the damage to the Kokuka Courageous and Front Altair. The Saudi naval fleet in the Persian Gulf consists of Al-Badr-class corvettes and Al Sadiq-class patrol boats armed with Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles capable of damaging the two merchant tankers. The UAE Navy’s corvettes are armed with Exocet anti-ship missiles capable of damaging the tankers.

In addition, the terrorist cult group, Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), whose interests in Washington are represented by Bolton and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, has shown itself more than capable of carrying out terrorist attacks on Iranian targets along the Persian Gulf coast, with the support from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Bahrain is also home to a US and British naval bases. The MEK is opposed to any country maintaining relations or dialogue with the Iranian government and, like Bolton and Giuliani, seeks “regime change” in Tehran. While the Trump administration has labeled the IRGC a terrorist organization, it has dropped the terrorist brand for the MEK and allows it to operate freely in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles.

Pompeo, who is as adept a liar as Trump, said “no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.” That, of course, means the opposite in Trumpland’s Orwellian “doublespeak,” which is to say, the MEK, with the support of the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, does have the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

All Americans Have Blood on Their Hands

Sun, 2019-06-09 19:31

Robert SCHEER

Shortly after Truthdig columnist Danny Sjursen left the Army, where he spent 18 years on active duty and rose to the rank of major, he sat down with Editor in Chief Robert Scheer for an interview about life after the military and a discussion about the conclusions he drew throughout his military career. Sjursen, who attended West Point and did several tours in the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, opened up to Scheer about how leaving the institution where he spent most of his adult life has allowed him to finally be completely frank about his experiences, in his columns as well as in his recent book, “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.”

“I’d like to think that I was always bold on active duty,” Sjursen tells Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” “but the reality is that I was censoring myself. You know, there is a degree of fear and harassment, and it’s very passive-aggressive stuff. But the book was a labor of love [that] tears apart the notion of American exceptionalism that brought us to Iraq, to a folly.”

Now, as Sjursen pursues a Ph.D and a career as a writer while adapting to his new life and grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder, the former soldier is still profoundly troubled by his experiences at war, not only as he led soldiers to their deaths, but also as he watched U.S. forces devastate Iraq and Afghanistan. Although he went to Iraq thinking the trouble with the war was the way it was being fought, he left with a very different impression of the conflict.

“What I saw happen to the Iraqi people [haunted me more] than what happened to my soldiers,” Sjursen says. “Not only the bodies in the street, not only the civil war that was being waged, but I found that more than 90% of the very friendly Iraqis … Sunni and Shia, they all told me that life was better under Saddam. … That was a big turning point, when I started to say, ‘Wait a second. You know, forget about fighting the war poorly; we shouldn’t be fighting this war at all.’ ”

Recounting the many ways the U.S. created worse conditions for Iraqis after the death of Saddam, Sjursen explains that the nearly half a million Iraqis who have died since the early 2000s were not killed directly by American soldiers, but by the unleashing of a “Pandora’s box of sectarian civil war in what was once a secular society.” The war in Afghanistan, while fought under different pretenses, was no less brutal or foolish than the Iraq War, in Sjursen’s eyes.

The reality is, any chance of victory in Afghanistan was over the minute–and this only took weeks—the minute after we switched from a counterterrorism strategy, a surgical, law enforcement-type attack on the al-Qaida system—the minute we switched from that to nation-building, counterinsurgency and occupation, the war was already lost.”

But the blood on Sjursen’s hands, which he remains conscious of long after his last deployment, is on all Americans’ hands, as the Truthdig columnist points out. And with no end in sight to what have been dubbed our “forever wars,” it’s unlikely we’ll be able to wash our hands clean of these ongoing tragedies any time soon.

Listen to Sjursen and Scheer as they talk about everything from WikiLeaks to the accumulating failures of America’s leaders, at home and abroad. You can also read a transcript of the interview below the media player and find past episodes of “Scheer Intelligence” here.

—Introduction by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, it’s someone–this is sort of the second part of an interview that began, oh, months ago, when Major Danny Sjursen was active duty in the Army. And he had spent 18 years of his life, ever since signing up at West Point–being admitted at West Point, a kid from Staten Island, a basically poor, working-class background. A lot of firemen and cops in his community and family. And affected by 9/11, the attack on the World Trade Center. But he went to West Point before 9/11. And people just thought, well, you know, god, they’re letting poor kids in there now, because the congressmen and the bankers, they don’t want their children to grow up to be lieutenants or even majors; he became a major eventually. So the military academy is actually more merit-based now than it might have once been. And so welcome, Major Sjursen. How are you?

Danny Sjursen: Oh, I’m great. Thanks for having me again, Bob.

RS: OK. And the reason I wanted to talk to you today is that, first of all, it’s two months now since you’ve been an active duty major. It’s something you’ve done, I’m sure, your whole life, adult life. And you were a lieutenant, you were in Iraq for a year and a half or so; you were in Afghanistan, and you were deployed other times. How many times were you deployed?

DS: Ah, just two combat deployments and then some short tours for–

RS: Yeah, but in many other countries and so forth–

DS: Of course, yeah, absolutely.

RS: And you’re a father of two children; you’ve had an interesting life. And you wrote a book about the surge in Iraq called “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” And it’s a really terrific book that people can get, if they want to go online or find some bookstore that has it. And what it really—you know, I was going to start with something from the book, and you can help me here. It was a quote from Graham Greene: “Innocence is a kind of insanity.” Graham Greene, the great writer, great novelist. And he wrote “The Quiet American,” which is about innocence as a form of [insanity], how we got involved in Vietnam. And your book is really an unmasking of the conceit of innocence. Somehow Americans go off to war, they’re always intending to do good, they’re always going to make it a better world. And generally, they screw it up horribly, with very few rare exceptions. And that’s really the thesis here, isn’t it? And so why don’t you give us that overall view. And are you bolder in that view now that you’re not active duty, that you’re out of the military for the first time in 18 years? How does it feel?

DS: It feels good. I’d like to think that I was always bold on active duty, but the reality is that I was censoring myself. You know, there is a degree of fear and harassment, you know, and it’s very passive-aggressive stuff. But you know, the book was a labor of love. It started out as an essay, an angry essay that I wrote to Senator Lindsey Graham because I didn’t like something he said on C-SPAN, and it became a book. But you’re right that there are sort of the—the theme of innocence runs through it. And it’s two tracks; it’s my own innocence as someone who was, you know, naive enough to believe not only that the Iraq War might be valuable and necessary, but also that the military was just ultimately a force for good in the world. But the other innocence is a collective, national innocence. Only such a collective, national innocence that borders on insanity, as the quote says, could have allowed us to invade Iraq. Probably the catastrophic blunder of the 21st century, if not even larger than that. And I don’t even think we understand the scale of what a disaster we’ve created, because the aftershocks are–they’re sometimes worse than the initial earthquake. And we haven’t seen the last of it. So the book is an unmasking of my own innocence, which very quickly was rattled. By my third or fourth month in Iraq, I was anti-war. I mean, I was posting anti-war poems from World War I on the door to my room in Iraq, you know, provocatively. My little protest, you know, before I was told to pull them down. But you know, that’s what the book does. It tears apart the notion of American exceptionalism that brought us to Iraq, to a folly.

RS: The day that Julian Assange was arrested, you know, in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and they hauled him out of there. And you know, he’s been charged, and the charge is conspiring to commit computer intrusion. And what they’re doing is basically getting him on something they think they can nail him on; they don’t want to, this is his helping Bradley Manning, now known as Chelsea Manning, and be able to crack a computer code preventing entry into some data trove. But they didn’t—but at that moment in time, Bradley Manning had already released a million documents. They were fairly low-level secrecy; you can discuss that. But really, very revealing information, unquestionably, in my mind, that the public had a right to know, and a need—a need to know. Including how we shot up civilians, and so forth. And one reason why I wanted particularly to do this interview with you today is, you know, when people release these secrets, they’re always told they’re putting the troops in harm’s way. And you’re not, you’re dishonoring and threatening the troops. Well, you were a young lieutenant at that point, or had been a few years before. You were involved in the surge. And the documents that Chelsea Manning released really affected the kinds of activities you were in. You were in constant patrol in Baghdad, one end to the other, with your unit of what, 20 soldiers?

DS: Yeah, give or take, 20 soldiers.

RS: Half of whom ended up being killed or seriously injured, some of whom committed suicide. And I want to ask you, as the grunt on the ground—now, you were a lieutenant; you were a West Point graduate. You end up later in life teaching at West Point; you end up being a major before your retirement two months ago. But what did you think about that release of documents by Manning through WikiLeaks?

DS: You know, I had a very provocative view of it, in the sense that I thought it was a national service that he’d, you know, that he’d committed. My peers were horrified. They believed the myth that the troops were put in harm’s way by what he released, which was patently false. The people who were doing harm to the troops were the people who were lying, the people who were creating the secrecy. That’s what damaged the troops: the people that brought us to Iraq. One of the things that was most staggering for me was, in that million documents that then-Bradley Manning released, what there was was this evidence that we, the soldiers on the ground, knew that we were policing an internal, sectarian civil war. So in 2006 and ’07, dozens and sometimes hundreds of civilians would kill one another, right? Sunni versus Shia, in the middle of the night. And in the morning, we would gather the bodies and count them and report them. But that was all classified, at a low level; just secret, not top secret or anything. But at the same time that was going on, when we were using the words “civil war,” when we were witnessing a civil war, our leaders–General Casey, who was at the time the commander of multinational forces in Iraq, and senior defense officials, Rumsfeld, et cetera—they were telling the press, no, it’s not a civil war. We won’t use the words “civil war.” And I think largely that’s because they did not want to admit to the chaos that had broken out, that we had lost control, if we ever had it. That we had patently, forever, lost control of Baghdad. And of, really, the whole country, but especially the capital city. And you know, I was offended by that lie, because I lived the civil war. You know, I lived the multipronged war, where they were both attacking us and attacking each other. And that the country was both literally and figuratively on fire in late 2006, and I was offended by the lie. And I thought it was a brave decision. And, of course, whistleblowers were out of fashion, as you said earlier today, Bob. And obviously, he was crucified–she–and was given a 30-year sentence. And my peers thought that was just about right. Some of them thought, you know, she should have been executed.

RS: “She” being Chelsea Manning. And Julian Assange published these documents. And Washington Post, The Guardian, the British paper, papers all over the world, printed them. And interestingly enough, Julian Assange is not in the position that Daniel Ellsberg was in when he released the Pentagon Papers, a trove of—a history study, really; you’re a historian, I should point out you’re about to get your doctorate. The military sent you to graduate school in preparation of being an instructor at West Point. And now you’re at the end of your dissertation, and will be doctor, Dr. Danny Sjursen, in a couple of months. And the really interesting thing here is who controls history, who controls knowledge, who controls truth and true news? And fake news is really, in a way, the norm, it seems to me, if we talk about Vietnam, we talk about Iraq, and so forth. And without the whistleblowers, we don’t even get a crack—a crack there where the light can come through. But you were on the ground, and when you talk about it being—I mean, look, after all, we had supposedly gone to Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction; that was a lie. And it was a lie that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11; he didn’t. You know, and another lie is that somehow this was a backward country with no redeeming virtue–well, we managed to make it a far more unlivable, miserable country than it had ever been. Why don’t you talk—you got an education there. And now you’re in this, even though you’re going to be Dr. Danny Sjursen, you hopefully will be successful as a writer about history and a professor. And you, you know, you’re honorably discharged as a major from the military. But you’re a deeply troubled person by what you saw and experienced. Why don’t you—I mean, tell us the consequence, not just for you, but also for the Iraqi people.

DS: You know, I got there with just a little bit of idealism left. I had read Thomas Ricks’ “Fiasco,” so I was aware of the failures early in the war. But I think, at the time, I was in the mainstream of military officers, in the sense that I thought the war was being fought poorly, but I did not necessarily think that the war was wrong in itself. And, of course, I quickly came to believe that it was. And the best way, Bob, to talk about it is, you know, what I saw happen to the Iraqi people. Because more, believe it or not, than what happened to my soldiers, that haunted me. Not only the bodies in the street, not only the civil war that was being waged, but I found that more than 90% of the very friendly Iraqis–not attacking us, as far as I knew, you know; talking to me, drinking chai with me, thousands of them. And they all started telling me—Sunni and Shia, OK, and Saddam had been pretty brutal to the Shia—but Sunni and Shia, they all told me that life was better under Saddam. And they would say, we like you just fine; you’re a nice guy. But we want you out of here. I mean, look what you’ve done. You know, this is why we can’t have nice things. I mean, they really thought we had destroyed their country. Because we had. We had. So for me, that was a big turning point, when I started to say, “Wait a second. You know, forget about fighting the war poorly; we shouldn’t be fighting this war at all.” We’ve brought disaster–to the tune, now, most estimates, half a million dead, right. Mostly civilians, in Iraq. Did we—you know, we didn’t directly kill all of them. But we unleashed the Pandora’s box of sectarian civil war in what was once a secular society. Men and women holding hands, drinking in cafes—that’s all over with now. People get their heads cut off for less. That really shocked me. And then, of course, there was the idealism of my soldiers, who, you know, they were just fighting for each other, as the cliché goes. But it’s true.

RS: A serious student of the course—are we not up against the incompatibility of empire and republic? We were founded as a republic. As a historian, you know, we began to betray that promise from the day of our founding, or even before, when we were striving to be an independent country. What about this tension? Where are we now in empire land? And isn’t, really, this what the whistleblowers have been revealing, the consequence of empire?

DS: There are precious few whistleblowers about military issues, as you mentioned. And that is a shame, because what Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, and Chelsea Manning should be is a splash of cold water, a bucket of cold water, on the face of the collective American people. And yet it’s not, for the most part. We’re willing to accept what our military does in our name. We’re willing to accept that the United States has a system where the president is essentially a dictator in foreign policy. You’re right that it’s the only institution where we do not, you know, expect whistleblowers to provide that check, that truth that you mentioned. And it’s very, very disturbing. The bottom line is, you know, from a historical perspective, to answer your question, we are—we are long, long down the road of this empire. I mean, absolutely, far down that road. The republic, the ostensible republic, is dying. And empires tend, not only does it not end well when the empire comes home—as it always does; the empire always comes home, Britain, Rome, you name it. These countries on the way out, on the decline, that’s when they act the most absurd. Things go really poorly. They do not behave well. And what you’re looking at today is a United States of America that is not behaving well in the world, because it is in, you know, the twilight of its empire. And it may take a long time before the empire collapses, but in the interim, we are going to act poorly. And as long as we have an all-volunteer force, as long as a, you know, a select half of a percent—the other 1%, as I like to call them. As long as we give it out to a military caste, and it doesn’t Main Street, especially in the wealthy communities, then this will continue indefinitely, and America will continue to behave badly, as the empires often historically do.

RS: In what sense are we an empire? Because some people think, “Oh, you’re just throwing around rhetoric.” Now, we do happen to live in a time when more people are open to the possibility that something has gone awry, because Donald Trump is president, and he has the aura of an emperor. And, you know, the whole notion of, his notion of American greatness is a notion of power over others, and being able to dictate and fire lesser people, and dictate the terms of agreements, and they’ll do this, they’ll pay for the wall, these Mexicans, and the Chinese will bow to our will, and et cetera, et cetera. So we actually have an [emperor], but most people blame that on Julian Assange, or many people do, or on WikiLeaks, or something. They don’t seem to want to come to grips with the idea that maybe, maybe Trump is the man for the time of empire. And this is what emperors do, and sometimes they’re a little bit wacky, and sometimes they’re a little bit out of control, or more so. In what sense are we—you’re a historian; in what sense is this accurate labeling?

DS: You know, we—we are an empire. And I’m going to explain why, and then I’m going to talk about Trump a little. I have a complex relationship with my old commander in chief, my old chum. You know, we have 800 military bases in 80 countries; on any given day, we are bombing at least seven countries, some days more, if there’s something going on in Africa. We have a defense budget as large as the next seven countries’ combined. We have, you know, the majority of the world’s aircraft carriers, 10 times more than the Russians and the Chinese. We have divided the planet into regional commands—CENTCOM, Northcom, Southcom—where our four-star generals in charge of these commands are essentially Roman proconsuls, right? Ruling over—and much more powerful than our diplomats. Our diplomats are not taken seriously anymore; it’s the military that gets the business done. And you know, finally, we are unique. We are exceptional. Exceptional in the sense that we are the most imperial of all the places on the planet. Because there are 77 total foreign bases split between all the other 200 countries of the world, and we have some 800. So yes, certainly, we’re are an empire, by any stretch of the imagination. Now, our people, ironically, like to think we’re not. But you’re right that people are becoming a little more open to that. Now, Trump is—I think you’re correct—the reason why people are starting to accept that we might be an empire. But I would argue that Trump is not such an anomaly. He is a man for his times. You know, the question you have to ask in America, when it comes to the popularity contest that we call the presidential election every four years—that entertaining bit, right, of the blue team and the red team–you have two choices. And you will always have two choices. And the choice in the two major parties is between, do you like coarse emperors? Do you want your empire to be coarse and absurd and a little bit buffoonish? Or do you like your empire and your emperors to be polite? Because Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would have been polite emperors. But the reality is, if anything, Donald Trump questions the empire at times—doesn’t always follow through—more than a Barack Obama, more than a Hillary Clinton or a George W. Bush or a Bill Clinton, for that matter. I mean, the question is not whether we’re an empire; it’s how do you like your imperialism? And you have two choices. Well, “liberal,” in quotes, society prefers polite emperors. And so they try to get them elected, and they can’t accept that a coarse emperor, like Donald Trump, is currently in charge.

RS: Well, one of those polite emperors was Lyndon Johnson. In fact, most of the more aggressive emperors have been Democrats, but put that aside for a minute. And then you’re raising an interesting question: Is this debate really over manners? Because, after all, Lyndon Johnson—and then came Richard Nixon—but together, I think a conservative figure would be that 4 or 5 million people lost their lives. Maybe more, certainly whole societies were disrupted. Certainly Barack Obama, to take the most pleasant of our emperors, if we’re going to use that language, you know, every morning would decide who to fire a drone attack on. Maybe it’s a wedding, maybe it’s a family living somewhere. And you served, in your 18 years in the military, under mild-mannered emperors and under more aggressive and buffoonish emperors. What was the difference on the ground?

DS: There was almost none. Certainly under George W. Bush we pursued more conventional military means. So there were more soldiers on the ground; there were more tours, right. Because there was more people there, therefore you deployed slightly more often. But what we were doing—

RS: But not as much as under Lyndon Johnson.

DS: No, no. By no means as much as under Lyndon Johnson. And of course, in reality, what we were doing on the ground was precisely the same. I mean, we were bringing instability, and we were dealing death. Usually from above, with the polite people like, you know, Barack Obama. He preferred the, you know, that killing. And it’s a myth. I mean, the myth that this is somehow a controlled killing, it’s precision-guided—of course, it’s not, it never is, and it probably never will be. But the big answer to your question is, very little changed on the ground for those of us carrying water for the empire, whether we had George W. Bush or Barack Obama or even Donald Trump.

RS: Well, spell that out, because most of us are not on the ground. In my own situation as a journalist, I’ve been parachuted into a few war zones, and can sense the mayhem. And some of my colleagues stayed much longer; I’m not going to take that away from them. But still, we are voyeurs to violence. You were dealing violence, right? And you were receiving, on the receiving end of violence. You know, this is not a video game. Most of us accept war as a video game now. The [thing] about the drone attacks, we see somebody in Omaha killing somebody in Baghdad or someplace, and we assume they’re accurate, we assume they know what they’re doing. That’s what Barack Obama did, right? He approved every one of those. What’s the reality on the ground?

DS: The reality on the ground is much different. It’s much more brutal, it’s much more of what you’d expect of a conventional war. I’ll give you one really good example that I think demonstrates this. During the, quote, surge in Iraq of 2007, when we put all these extra soldiers on the ground, and we flooded the neighborhoods, and we lived among the Iraqis, and we fought every day, and we received and dealt violence—you know, that was a George W. Bush thing. And many of us, like myself, were naive enough to believe that when a Democrat won—and I liked Obama at the time—that it would change. That we would no longer think that we can fix these societies, and unzip the American inside every Arab, or inside every Afghan–that that would change. But it did not. Because Barack Obama applied that very same model to Afghanistan, and we had ourselves a surge there. This was the Obama surge. And the reality is, the figures leading these surges didn’t change at all. Because Petraeus was the commander of both surges, at least after Stanley McChrystal was fired. So it’s the same folks doing the same things, going on the same inane patrols, trying to secure or pacify or win the hearts and minds–you pick. But it usually means use violence in order to convert them to our way of life, or whatever we perceive to be our way of life. And unlock the American inside each of them. So no, it didn’t change very much at all. Barack Obama’s surge in Afghanistan was equally as brutal and equally as wasteful as George W. Bush’s. And if we are to have another surge, and it’s the favorite tool now of generals, you can be sure that under Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, if she had won, it’ll be largely the same.

RS: So you—we haven’t talked much about Afghanistan. Iraq made no sense whatsoever. But the argument somehow, because we—9/11 had been launched at least logistically from Afghanistan, the planes that flew into the World Trade Center—that that was defensible. And we have an image—in order to do all this, the mannered style requires, you know, that the enemy be defined as thoroughly loathsome. Another Hitler, in the case of Saddam Hussein; the analogies have to be there so there’s no possibility of negotiation. The irony in Afghanistan, where you spent quite a bit of time in a very dangerous situation, is we’re actually now—Donald Trump, amazingly, is accepting, negotiating with the Taliban. Something that could have been done, you know, weeks after 9/11. I mean, you know, who are these Taliban? What was the—how did they get there, how did fanaticism come to Afghanistan, which was not a center of Islamic fanaticism? Mostly paid for by Saudi Arabia; 15 of the hijackers were traveling on legal papers from Saudi Arabia. You know, so suddenly—wait a minute, we can talk to the Taliban? You had a lot of familiarity. What was Afghanistan all about?

DS: Well, Afghanistan is, you know, what Barack Obama called the “good” war. Remember, he was selling us the idea during the campaign in 2007 and ’08, that there’s a bad war—the stupid war, in Iraq—and then there’s the good war, the one that we have to win. The reality is any chance of victory in Afghanistan was over the minute—and this only took weeks—the minute after we switched from a counterterrorism strategy, a surgical, law enforcement-type attack on the al-Qaida system—the minute we switched from that to nation-building, counterinsurgency and occupation, the war was already lost. And you’re right that it’s going to end—I promise you, it is going to end with a negotiated settlement, and the Taliban will still have their guns and will still be a force of essentially militiamen. And they might take over half the country, or maybe the whole thing. And you’re right that that could have, that negotiation could have been done from a position of more strength, mind you, in December of ’01, or in February of ’02. And we would have had the same thing. And you know, this happened in Vietnam as well; Richard Nixon prolongs the war for four or five years, and then he actually accepts terms that are about the same that were on offer from the North Vietnamese, you know, in January of 1969. Now, in the interim, I think the number, if I’m not mistaken, is 20,532 American soldiers died, more than a third of our casualties coming after it was no longer necessary, if it ever was. The same has happened in Afghanistan. In this case, 95 to 98% of the Americans who died, and an equal number of Afghans, who we often forget about, died after that moment when the war was no longer winnable. And the war will end with those same terms that would have been on offer, maybe even better terms would have been on offer when the Taliban had first been knocked out of power. And that’s the ultimate tragedy of this, is that everyone who died in the interim, that blood is very specifically on our hands.

RS: I want to end this on a point you may not agree with. But it’s I guess sort of the main, [Laughs] maybe the only significant—and I don’t know why I’m laughing, because I took some risks to learn this; I went to some dangerous areas. Not like you, for 18 years, but. And what came to me was an overwhelming sense of the stupidity of the very smart people who were in charge. Whether I was sitting at some high-ranking diplomat’s house; whether I was talking to a general who had also, not always had a Ph.D, but a good education. Basically, I was talking to people—Halberstam captured it with the title, “The Best and the Brightest”—who could present well. Again, manners; they weren’t buffoons, they were reasonable, and so forth. And yet, when I would have these conversations, it was informed by an idiocy, an unawareness. So, for example, in Vietnam, they would talk about the people, and I would say, “But the guy you put in power here–it wasn’t just ’69 they could have had peace.” They could have had peace with Ho Chi Minh after the Second World War, when he quoted the U.S. Declaration of Independence and was a nationalist who wanted—they could have had peace when he defeated the French. No! We picked a Roman Catholic from New York state, who was in a monastery in New York state, Vietnamese refugee, and we said he’s going to be the George Washington of his country. Ignoring the fact that the Catholics, who had been brought in by French colonial education, represented only 10% of the country. This is what Graham Greene wrote about. So, stupidity, you know. And then you look at the whole course of it, and a myth that somehow this is an extension of communism and China and—it wasn’t anything of the sort. We lose the war, and the Vietnamese communists and Chinese communists go to war with each other. OK? And now they’re going to war to fill the shelves of Costco or Walmart with different products. And something very similar happened in Iraq, happened in Afghanistan. It’s the same kind of, you know—we honor these leaders of our military as—and you taught at West Point. That’s why I’m putting the question to you. And you’re a very smart guy, you know, and yet, why don’t they learn from this? And my own explanation is because they’re not subject to a critical environment. And they’re not held accountable. And I’m bringing it back to Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. When we get these documents, like the Pentagon Papers that Daniel Ellsberg released, we realize if they only read their own memos, if they only talked honestly to each other, they would know this. There wasn’t—everything they had to know was in the Pentagon Papers. Their own document. Right? And what we’ve learned from the WikiLeaks—if they would just have studied what Chelsea Manning, Bradley Manning released through Julian Assange, and just read those things—that were published in newspapers, Washington Post, The Guardian—they would have known, they would know how idiotic the whole enterprise is. So when you were brought back to West Point, and when you were sent by the Army to go get your doctorate, you’re an intelligent guy, you’ve paid your dues, they had you marked to be a general, you made it up to be a major. What happened when you tried to speak in reasonable terms to these fellow officers? And I know you just came from a conference a few weeks ago where there were some at least two-star generals, and important colonels. What is it like talking to them?

DS: You know, the best and the brightest have failed us again. And I’m glad that you used that term. The reality is that most of the general officers and most of the colonels are not in a critical environment; they’re not in an environment that, you know, wants dissent or wants critical thinking. I mean, they’re surrounded in a bubble by sycophants. I mean, that’s how they are raised up through the ranks in the Army; they don’t get a lot of criticism from above, below or laterally. It’s a very hierarchical structure. And it is stupidity. I mean, flat-out. The truncated nature of their thinking, I mean, it’s so narrow. And it is almost childish. I mean, their view of Islamism as the new communism, which is the new Nazism—I mean, that sort of thinking, it’s absolutely, it’s ludicrous. And yet it’s the, it’s the norm, right, it’s the consensus among the people that I served with, and among the policymakers, who are often worse, often more hawkish. You know, the “chicken hawks” like John Bolton. But they have failed you again, and they will fail you in the future. And there are very, very few critical-thinking officers who are able to get outside of that box and say, “The question isn’t are we doing this well, the question is should it be done at all—can it be done at all?” And if the answer is no, it’s time to speak up. And it’s time to give your military advice, and if necessary, resign.

RS: And, well, you’re no longer in the military. I don’t know where the next Danny Sjursen’s going to come from. But if you want to really have a sense of what it’s like to be on the ground in one of these wars that we treat as video games—and most of us, because we don’t have a draft, don’t really have to think about it, even though the country is being bankrupted by it. And we often commit genocide, war crimes and what have you. That’s what Julian Assange, for my money, revealed, and Bradley Manning. Check out the book, “Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge.” Because the surge is held up, and will be held up in Afghanistan and so forth, as the saving grace. And then people like Barack Obama were criticized because they didn’t have another surge, or didn’t do more killing on that level. And check it out. Danny Sjursen, I want to thank you for doing this. It’s—it’s just so, to me, so depressing that there’s like 15 truth-tellers that we’ve had about our wars, from Daniel Ellsberg up to Danny Sjursen. You got to ask yourself some tough questions about why we, the citizens of this modern Rome, with a great deal of freedom and a great deal of arrogance about our power as individuals, are letting the empire drag us into these disasters and ultimately destroy the republic. But that’s it for this edition of “Scheer Intelligence.” Our engineers at KCRW in Santa Monica are Mario Diaz and Kat Yore. Joshua Scheer is the producer of this show. And a special shout-out to Sebastian Grubaugh, the brilliant sound engineer here at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who holds this whole thing together. And you know, yes, we have General Petraeus on the faculty, but we also heard from [Major] Danny Sjursen, presenting a very different view than that of Petraeus. So let it go at that, see you next week.

truthdig.com

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Boeing, Obama, a Gold Watch and 346 Dead

Sun, 2019-06-09 19:00

Russell MOKHIBER

Democrats want to make Donald Trump the issue in 2020.

If they do, they will lose again, the way they lost in 2016.

Instead, the 2020 election should be about corporate power in all of its manifestations, its hold on the culture, our country and both major political parties.

Take the case of the two Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane crashes — the Lion Air crash off the coast of Jakarta, Indonesia in October 2018 that killed all 189 on board and the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March 2019 that killed all 157 on board.

During his time as President of the United States, Barack Obama promoted the sale of Boeing planes — including the 737 Max 8 planes — around the world.

In November 2011, in Bali, Indonesia, President Obama announced an agreement between Boeing and Lion Air.

“For the last several days I’ve been talking about how we have to make sure that we’ve got a presence in this region, that it can result directly in jobs at home,” Obama said. “And what we see here — a multibillion-dollar deal between Lion Air — one of the fastest-growing airlines not just in the region, but in the world — and Boeing is going to result in over 100,000 jobs back in the United States of America, over a long period of time.”

“This represents the largest deal, if I’m not mistaken, that Boeing has ever done.  We are looking at over 200 planes that are going to be sold.”

In September 2014, Obama met with the Prime Minister of Ethiopia at the White House.

“We’re strong trading partners,” Obama said. “And most recently, Boeing has done a deal with Ethiopia, which will result in jobs here in the United States.”

“I’m expecting a gold watch from Boeing at the end of my presidency because I know I’m on the list of top salesmen at Boeing,” Obama said at an export forum at the White House in September 2013.

Of course, Obama got more than just a gold watch from Boeing when he left the White House.

According to a report from Bloomberg, Boeing donated $10 million to the Obama presidential library and museum in Chicago. And earlier this year, Obama dropped in to speak to a Boeing leadership retreat at a swank resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Obama gratefully waived his $400,000 speaking fee.

While pushing the sale of Boeing planes around the world, the Obama administration was at the same time fast tracking a dangerous deregulatory process at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that effectively put the corporations in charge of the safety certification process — and that in effect put Boeing in charge of certifying it’s faulty MCAS software that led to the tragedies in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

The FAA certification system is known as the Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) program. Under that program, companies like Boeing can appoint their own representatives to act in the place of FAA inspectors.

In 2004, one of the unions representing FAA inspectors – Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) – criticized the proposed ODA program as “premature and reckless.”

“Allowing the aviation industry to self-regulate in this manner is nothing more than the blatant outsourcing of inspector functions and handing over inherently governmental oversight activities to non-governmental, for-profit entities,” PASS wrote in its 2004 comments to the FAA.

Would a more independent FAA have prevented the two recent Boeing crashes?

Yes, says Paul Hudson of Flyer’s Rights.

“The ODA program has allowed Boeing to effectively self certify the MCAS software as safe,” Hudson told Corporate Crime Reporter.

“Boeing ‘s CEO, whistleblowers and FAA now admit they failed to properly test, fully connect, or even disclose MCAS, much less its deadly defects and overpowering features — not to the FAA higher ups, not to airline pilots or not even to its own test pilots.”

“Air travel has gotten much safer due to both safety regulation and technical advancements,” Hudson said. “But profit seeking over safety at all costs is destroying both safety and profits.”

“Some Boeing safety inspectors have summed up the current culture as ‘safety is king but schedule is God,” Hudson said. “I asked Boeing in December after the Lion Air crash to ground the Max. Boeing refused.”

counterpunch.org

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Mueller’s BullS**t Press Conference Reveals His Dishonesty

Sun, 2019-06-09 18:40

Citizen Jimmy – A David against an army of Goliaths.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

Canadian ‘Srebrenica Genocide Denial Law’: When Even the Truth Is No Defense

Sun, 2019-06-09 18:00

Never mind the slow but steady dismantling in the fabled West of the “welfare state”, that temporary horror the elites grudgingly used to tolerate. But that was only as a means of pacifying their subjects and winning over credulous hearts and minds in the competing socialist camp, while it still existed. To be fair, concern for public wellbeing never was an ideological item in the Western “value” system to begin with. It was dissimulated for a while merely as a tactical measure to confuse the masses. But one assumes that at least the various personal “freedoms” that Western countries used to be famous for indeed were an integral element of their political institutions, values deeply ingrained in their culture.

Canada is the latest champion of Western, trans-Atlantic values that is sending a clear message to the world that such assumptions are poppycock.

A major scrupulously legal assault on freedom of speech and conscience as well as scholarly research (and we are not talking here about the rampaging of informal terror squads such as Antifa) is in the works in Canada. A Srebrenica genocide denial law is coming up soon for parliamentary vote in Ottawa. It is being sponsored by MP Brian Masse (brian.masse@parl.gc.ca). The pending bill is the result of a petition filed by a Bosniak lobby group in Canada, “Institute for genocide research.” The “institute” is not known to have published a single serious and academically viable book or scholarly paper on any subject whatsoever, including Srebrenica. It is a comically misnamed ethnic pressure group financed, as usual, by mysterious patrons. But given the manufactured climate of opinion, unless this bill is strongly and competently opposed, there is little doubt about the outcome.

Here is some basic information about this parliamentary project, now known as Petition No. 421-03975, presented to the House of Commons on May 29, 2019.

And here is the maudlin nonsense the measure’s sponsor, Brian Masse, spouted in Canada’s House of Commons as he put the matter before his colleagues:

“Madam Speaker … the House unanimously declared April as ‘Genocide Remembrance, Condemnation and Awareness Month’ and named genocides, which have been recognized by Canada’s House of Commons, including the Srebrenica genocide.

“It is time for the government to extend resources to commemorate the victims and survivors of genocide, educate the public and to take specific action to counteract genocide denial, a pernicious form of hate which reopens wounds and reinvigorates division. Truth is justice; honesty is the path to reconciliation and peace.”

Just so that no one is taken in by this fine rhetoric, the geopolitical significance of Srebrenica (forget about truth, justice, reconciliation, and peace) should briefly be recalled. The alleged failure in July of 1995 of the collective West to come to the rescue of 8,000 “men and boys” in Srebrenica was transfigured into the pretext for the “Right to protect” (R2P) doctrine. That fraudulent rationale was used for subsequent “humanitarian interventions” which wrecked and plundered at least half a dozen countries and cost about two million mostly Muslim lives.

But contrary to interventionist propaganda and the simplistic cant of politicians, always campaigning to attract a few more ethnic votes and to impress the political correctness brigade with their loyalty to the right causes, in the real-world there exist complex issues not given to simplistic reductionism. Srebrenica is one of them. (Also here, here, and here.) To paraphrase Polonius, there are indeed “more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of by politicians,” eager to please special interests.

One of the major pertinent issues here, of course, is the factual question of what actually happened in Srebrenica. A staggering amount of research has been done on that subject that one supposes busy politicians, long out of school, may be excusably ignorant of. Canadian politicians in particular may be generously excused for not keeping up with Srebrenica developments because their hands are presumably full sorting out genocides closer to home.

A fundamental issue that comes to mind straightaway, and voters anxious to protect their liberties might want to bring it to the attention of their parliamentary deputies, has to do with freedom of speech and conscience, not whether or not genocide occurred in Srebrenica. Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms rather unambiguously guarantees “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” as fundamental rights. May the supreme law of the land be taken at face value? Or is it a flexible document, like the Stalin Constitution of 1936? How do MP Masse and colleagues who are contemplating to vote for his “genocide denial” bill propose to reconcile its language with the liberties which are constitutionally guaranteed to all citizens of Canada (and presumably also to foreign nationals on Canadian territory)? Or with the fact that Canada is also party to international agreements which guarantee freedom of conscience and expression, such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Articles 18 and 19 of the Declaration, which deal with freedoms of thought, opinion, and expression should in particular be pondered by Canada’s lawmakers.

The ghastly thing about this is that the Srebrenica genocide denial law would not even change anybody’s mind about Srebrenica. But it would suppress (have a “chilling effect,” as they aptly put it in neighboring America) public discourse on the subject and would therefore constitute a serious infringement of Canadian citizens’ human rights. That is the issue of principle. All but zealous Balkan combatants should manage easily to agree on this much, and it ought to be gently stressed to befuddled Canadian legislators. A member of parliament is free to think whatever he or she wants about Srebrenica, with or without adequate information on the subject, including that it was genocide. But for Canadian citizens of all stripes and backgrounds, including those who happen to be legislators, their fellow-citizens’ freedom of expression should take absolute priority over the agenda of a Balkan lobby. A legislator who sincerely thinks that Srebrenica was genocide can and should still vote against Petition no. 421-03975 on freedom of speech and conscience grounds alone. Assuming that those values matter in countries that boastfully claim to have copyrighted them.

It so happens that the aforementioned bogus “Institute for genocide research” has a record of attempts at free speech suppression, targeting those who think differently about its pet projects. In 2011 the “institute” made an unsuccessful attempt to steer a Srebrenica genocide denial law through the Canadian parliament. “Institute” scholars then took their revenge on American-Serbian professor Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, preventing his entry into Canada to deliver a lecture in Vancouver by falsely alleging to immigration authorities that he was a dangerous hatemonger, or something to that effect. The incident at the time was amply covered by Global Research. Prof. Trifkovic fought the spurious allegation against him energetically in Canadian courts and won. The upshot of it was that Canadian taxpayers lost considerable treasure in a wasteful judicial confrontation instigated by agenda-driven lobbyists.

The proposed law, be it mentioned in passing, is also manifestly discriminatory in relation to the Canadian-Serbian community. Considering the cultural role of spitefulness (inat is the native word) in the region that the lobbyists come from, that may well be its true and ultimate inspiration. Is there a single Canadian Serb who thinks that what occurred in Srebrenica was genocide? The proposed law would nevertheless have a discriminatory effect on the ability of members of the Canadian Serbian community, as such, to enjoy the freedom of expression guaranteed to them and to all Canadians by Canada’s constitution. As Canadian Serbs, they would be obliged to either maintain public silence about an issue they regard as being of vital interest to their nation and community or, were they to speak up in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, to face criminal prosecution. So much for all the “Atlantic Charters” and their associated “freedoms.”

Canadian legislators should ponder the fact that Canada does not have a Holocaust denial law protecting the dignity of six million victims, yet its parliament is contemplating a massive curtailment of its citizens’ civil rights in a matter involving 8,000 unverified deaths. That is a degradation and in-the-face mockery of the pain of the Jewish community. But it gets even worse, or tragicomic if one prefers. In its Tolimir judgment in 2012, the vaunted Hague Tribunal ruled that the killing of three individuals in the nearby enclave of Zepa (which is part of the same conceptual package with Srebrenica) constituted genocide (Trial Judgment, Par. 1147 – 1154). That was allegedly because those individuals were endowed with such extraordinary importance within the community of Zepa that, as a result of their demise, the community was rendered unviable, hence subjected to genocide. The point is that denying this absurd and tortuously reasoned finding of the Hague Tribunal concerning Zepa (a place that assuredly no member of the Canadian parliament had ever even heard of) by operation of the projected genocide denial law would also subject the careless speaker who took his rights seriously to criminal liability. That is the absurd level to which the “genocide denial” rhetoric has degenerated.

As an American citizen, this writer is quite prepared to stand in any public square in Canada and to proclaim that Srebrenica was not genocide. It would in fact be a pleasure to be detained by Her Majesty’s authorities in order to accomplish a lofty civic purpose that should benefit all Canadians. The resulting proceedings would ultimately enhance Canada’s judicial culture by testing the constitutionality of this legal travesty before the Canadian supreme court.

In the immortal words of Diana Johnstone, the “denial” of Srebrenica “genocide” is sufficiently justified by the fact that it is not true. The Srebrenica lobby and its eager acolytes in Canada’s Federal Parliament in Ottawa should grow up and accept that.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

More Evidence US Armed Syria Terrorists as Trump Pleads Ceasefire

Sun, 2019-06-09 16:55

Remember when Donald Trump was running for president back in 2016, and he bragged he would “bomb the hell out of” terrorists in Syria. Now, in a reversal, Trump is calling on Syrian and allied Russian forces to stop bombing Idlib, the last redoubt of terror groups in Syria.

Trump urged Syria, Russia and Iran to “stop bombing the hell out of Idlib” claiming that civilians were being indiscriminately killed in the offensive to retake the renegade northwest province.

It seems like a strange plea from the American president. Idlib is unquestionably a stronghold for internationally proscribed terror groups, mainly Jabhat al Nusra (rebranded as Hayat Tahrir al Sham). Syrian government forces backed by Russian air power say it is their sovereign right to rout the militants, who have reportedly broken ceasefire agreements to launch attacks on civilian areas in government-controlled areas, as well as on the Russian air base at Hmeimim.

Moscow rejected Trump’s characterization of indiscriminate killing of civilians, saying that its operations along with Syrian forces are being directed at defeating illegally armed militants.

Moreover, the offensive to retake Idlib comes as new evidence emerges of the massive – albeit covert – international military support given to the various terror groups during Syria’s nearly eight-year war. Syrian state media this week reported arsenals of weaponry recently recovered in Damascus countryside and further south in the Daraa area.

The arsenals included rows and rows of heavy machine-guns, sniper rifles and US-made TOW missiles. Much of the weaponry was also of Israeli-origin, according to reports.

A separate find showed tonnes of C-4 plastic explosive, which Syrian military intelligence said was “US-made”. Up to four tonnes (4,000 kgs) were recovered this time around. Half a kilo of this lethal material is enough to kill several people.

This is not, of course, the first time that such huge caches of US, Israeli and NATO-origin weaponry have been recovered from territory formerly held by terrorists in Syria. There have been numerous such finds, which also included industrial chemicals made in Germany and Saudi Arabia, capable of producing sarin and other highly toxic munitions. That implies military-grade logistics and technical knowhow.

Taken together, the unavoidable conclusion is that internationally proscribed terrorist groups have been systematically weaponized by the US, its NATO allies, Israel and the Arab regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The array of weaponry indicates international and state-level organization, not haphazard procurement from disparate private arms dealers.

A plausible configuration for how the weapons into Syria were delivered and paid for is the following: most likely through smuggling routes from Turkey, Jordan and Israel. The oil-rich Arab monarchs would have footed the bill. The American CIA and Britain’s MI6 managed the logistics and weapons handling. The circuitous supply chain was sufficiently obscure to avoid oversight by the US Congress and European parliaments. But the bottomline is that terrorist organizations were evidently weaponized by Washington and its allies for the objective of regime change in Damascus.

That is why President Trump and other Western leaders do not have any moral authority whatsoever when they make belated calls for a ceasefire in Idlib province.

Syria has faced an international criminal conspiracy to destroy its nation. Washington and other NATO states have been fully complicit in directing that conspiracy by arming terror groups to the teeth. Western corporate news media have served as propaganda cover for the entire criminal enterprise, lionizing the terrorists as “rebels”, and continually demonizing the Syrian army and its allies in their efforts to liberate the country from the foreign-sponsored scourge. Recall the disgraceful Western media distortion over the liberation of Aleppo by the Syrian army and Russia in 2016-2017, endeavoring to portray that defeat of besieging terror groups as a “massacre”. The Western media never followed up their hysterical charade with subsequent reports of how Aleppo citizens actually rejoiced in their liberation from Western-backed “rebels”.

The infernal problem of conflict and violence in Syria is the direct consequence of Western states embarking on a criminal scheme years before the war started in 2011 in order to overthrow the government of President Bashar al Assad.

A proud and rich ancient civilization of pluralist tolerance among religions and ethnicities was almost destroyed by the nefarious regime-change war. It was largely due to Russia’s military intervention at the end of 2015 in support of its Syrian ally, as well as support from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, that turned the tide of war and saved Syria from being plunged into a failed state over-run by jihadist warlords.

Syrian state forces have every legal and moral right to finish this war by conquering the last bastion of foreign-backed terror groups holding out in Idlib. Those groups have forfeited any respite by their repeated violation of ceasefire agreements with the Syrian government, violations which targeted civilian areas.

Trump’s apparent concern over civilian deaths is no doubt misinformed by his intelligence agencies who have been covertly sponsoring the terror groups and their media agents, the so-called White Helmets.

In any case, as more evidence emerges of the systematic weaponization of terrorists by the US and its allies, the calls for “restraint” out of Washington and other Western capitals should be treated with contempt. If they had any genuine concern for civilian safety, they would be providing information on the whereabouts of other weapons caches hidden in Syria and supplied to their terrorist mercenaries.

Categories: America, Foreign Policy

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