Democrats Against Assange: Influencing US-Ecuador Relations

Such a historical twist, but one that deserves its iniquitous slot in the history books.  No secret has been made about US policy towards Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, which continues its trajectory to seek his apprehension and shutter the organisation.  Despite its cables being used for political effect by interested parties; despite the exposures of corruption within the ranks of US politics, Assange is to be thanked with punishment.

This is the sentiment expressed by Senator Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with nine other Democratic senators, in a letter to US Vice President Mike Pence.  The senators had been losing sleep after getting wind of what was said, or rather not said, in a June 4 phone call between Pence and Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno. One glaring omission troubled them: the absence of any discussion about Assange’s asylum status and stay in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Ahead of Pence’s meeting with Moreno this week, the senators wished to press the matter:

As the United States is still seeking clarity about the full extent of Russian intervention in our elections and Russian interference in elections across the world, it is imperative that you raise US concerns with President Moreno about Ecuador’s continued support for Mr. Assange at a time when WikiLeaks continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes globally.

This is a fine take, if dizzyingly inaccurate: WikiLeaks as the great undermining force of democratic states, worrying politicians in the United States who have enthusiastically backed the imperial project of overthrowing democratically elected governments. But slotting Assange, Putin and electoral interference in the same line is bound to have its emotive effect on politicians obsessed with government secrecy.

The charges tend to muddle the broader political landscape, but the intention in the letter is to paint Assange as an architect of discord, comfortably wading in the politics of other states.  That such muck racking is often no more than releasing documents casting a different light on traditional politics is beside the point; Assange interfered in revealing the hidden whispers and clandestine reflections.  Other scenes of engagement are also noted: the French presidential election, and the Spanish referendum on Catalan independence.

What the letter omits to say is that the current US president has expressed his delight at various nuggets he has received from the WikiLeaks trove.

I simply state what he states, it is for the people… to make up their own minds as to the truth.  The media lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!

The specific reading advanced by the Democrats builds upon the stance that Assange as a radical transparency vigilante must be potted.  It regurgitates, in uncritical form, the designation by former CIA director Mike Pompeo that WikiLeaks was a “non-hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”  It makes the facile link between WikiLeaks and Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) in suggesting that the publishing outfit was used “to release hacked information in order to influence… the 2016 US Presidential election.” (Use here is conflated with manipulation, collusion, and conspiracy.)

The content, and veracity of such material, is deemed irrelevant.  And rather than being content with his arbitrary detention in Ecuador’s embassy compound in London, as found by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, there is a desire to take the next step.

As for the meeting with Ecuador’s Moreno, the White House was short if vaguely ominous:

The Vice President raised the issue of Mr Assange.  It was a constructive conversation. They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.

The Senators’ letter also made the observation that US-Ecuador relations for the last decade had been “marked by unfortunate tensions.  However, under President Lenín Moreno’s leadership, there is a unique opportunity to reverse this trend.”  A change presented itself now to “forge a new chapter in longstanding relations with the United States and Ecuador built on shared values, and address remaining challenges between our countries.”

Too much bad blood exists within the Democratic camp about Assange, who has become a proxy hate figure for a party that bungled the US presidential elections in 2016.  A steadfast refusal to accept the result, not to mention the inadequacies of their candidate where it most mattered permeates through the Mueller investigation and Russia Gate, all tied together by a bow of grievance.

A note from Harry Cheadle writing for Vice in the lead up to the 2016 election is instructive in painting the picture that emerged from the DNC-Podesta trove released by WikiLeaks. The emails portrayed an “organization that is contemptuous of opposition, often obsessed with how an issue is perceived, and yet sometimes prone to decisions that seem self-defeating and dance on the knife edge of political disaster.”  The chickens, notably of the socialist variety, are vengefully coming back to roost.

Scratching for ideas and options in ambushing President Donald Trump, it is clear that the senators have latched on to the next best thing: revoking the political status of a man with no internet access who will be arrested the moment he steps out of the embassy door. How fittingly democratic of them.

The Oil Weapon Trump Tightens Iran Stranglehold

President Trump has informed Washington's allies that they must cease purchasing Iranian oil by November. He is also trying to force/intimidate European countries into joining, de facto, a return to prior US sanctions on Iran. The goal seems clear: push regime change in Iran through economic strangulation. The Europeans may well go along, but will Russia and China? Turkey? Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

What does Doug Ford’s Election as Premier of Ontario mean for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement?

How will the election of Doug Ford as premier of Ontario effect the pro-Palestinian movement?

In one of his first post-election moves Ford announced that he would seek to ban an annual Palestinian solidarity event. After the recent Al Quds (Jerusalem) Day protest brought over 500 people out in Toronto, Ford tweeted, “our government will take action to ensure that events like Al Quds Day, which calls for the killing of an entire civilian population in Israel, are no longer part of the landscape in Ontario.” Ignoring how Israel has been killing large numbers of Palestinian civilians — 124 to 0 in the latest round in Gaza — the premier-elect added in a subsequent tweet: “Blatantly racist or anti-Semitic ideology should never be permitted on the grounds of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, or anywhere else in our province.”

Ford’s move isn’t surprising since he’s previously campaigned against Palestinian solidarity activism. During his stint on city council Ford sought to defund Toronto’s Pride Parade because Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was allowed to march alongside hundreds of other groups. “We don’t support hate groups, that’s our view. If they want to march in the parade, then we won’t fund them,” said the Councillor.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Jewish Defence League and B’nai B’rith immediately applauded or re-tweeted Ford’s call to ban Jerusalem Day protests (as did Canada’s leading Christian Zionist activist and noted opponent of sexual education, Charles McVety, who celebrated Ford’s election by tweeting, “praise God who heard our prayers and delivered victory for the sake of our children.”) During the election campaign B’nai B’rith, JDL and CIJA — to differing degrees — sought to undermine Ford’s main rivals by weaponizing claims of “anti-Semitism” against the NDP. The JDL’s Twitter account repeatedly alleged the NDP was anti-Semitic while B’nai B’rith’s Twitter did the same and its officials participated in a Conservative Party press conference to denounce the NDP’s candidate in Scarborough-Agincourt, Tasleem Riaz, for allegedly posting an Adolf Hitler meme on Facebook five years earlier. More circumspect, CIJA-organized election debates that highlighted NDP candidates’ criticism of Israel and the influential lobby group stayed mum while the Conservatives and right-wing press repeatedly claimed the NDP were anti-Semitic.

Uber Israeli nationalist Toronto Sun columnist Sue Ann Levy wrote a handful of columns criticizing NDP candidates’ purported anti-Israel views and accusing them of being anti-Jewish. So did far right Rebel Media and the Canadian Jewish News repeatedly mentioned NDP candidates’ support for Palestinian rights in its election coverage. A CJN response to a column detailing Ford’s bigotry called  “the NDP, a party rife with anti-Israel, anti-Jewish candidates who promote the BDS [Boycott Divestment and Sanctions] narrative.”

But, it was obvious to anyone familiar with Ford’s history or who followed the election closely that he was the flag bearer for racist sentiment. In the CJN Bernie Farber wrote a piece titled “The depth of Doug Ford’s bigotry”, which highlighted his stereotyping of Jews. For its part, Ricochet ran a story titled “Why Canada’s white supremacists want Doug Ford to win” and Press Progress published stories titled “This White Nationalist Says Doug Ford is Sending Him Anti-Immigrant ‘Dog Whistle’ Messages”, “Pastors Who Preached Homophobic and Anti-Semitic Views Endorse Doug Ford”, “Ontario PC candidate Andrew Lawton: gender and racial discrimination should be legal”, etc.

Softer in tone, a number of corporate media outlets published stories making similar points. “Among Doug Ford’s PCs, yet another candidate with bigoted views emerges”, noted a Toronto Star headline.

Despite associating with racists and stereotyping Jews, Ford was backed (at least implicitly) by the dominant Israeli nationalist Jewish organizations. He also appears to have won the bulk of Toronto’s sizable Jewish vote. A CJN headline noted, “Ontario Tories win big in ridings with large Jewish populations.” In Thornhill, the riding with the highest concentration of Jews in Ontario, Conservative candidate Gila Martow defeated her nearest rival by an astounding 29,000 to 9,000 votes.

Unfortunately a sizable portion of Ontario’s Jewish community, particularly its main lobby groups, has shifted to the right. This could be due to a decline in real anti-Semitism, a rise in the average Jews’ socio-economic standing, or ties to an increasingly racist and right-wing Israeli public (in recent days hundreds protested against an Arab family moving into a Jewish neighborhood in Afula, an Israeli pool admitted to maintaining separate swim times for Bedouin and Jews and a Likud member of the Knesset claimed “the whole Jewish race is the greatest human capital, and the smartest”). Whatever the reason, every person, including Jews, who believe in justice for all, must confront this reality.

So, how will all this play out for the Palestinian solidarity movement?

The election of Doug Ford has already highlighted the Jewish establishment’s preference for a Conservative ‘populist’ over social democrats associated with Palestinian rights. It should also strengthen the link between Israel campaigning and bigoted, right-wing, politics. This will ultimately be a good thing for the Palestinian solidarity movement.

Did Sen. Warner and Comey ‘Collude’ on Russia-gate?

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An explosive report by investigative journalist John Solomon on the opinion page of Monday’s edition of The Hill sheds a bright light on how Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and then-FBI Director James Comey collaborated to prevent WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange from discussing “technical evidence ruling out certain parties [read Russia]” in the controversial leak of Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks during the 2016 election.

A deal that was being discussed last year between Assange and U.S. government officials would have given Assange “limited immunity” to allow him to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been exiled for six years. In exchange, Assange would agree to limit through redactions “some classified CIA information he might release in the future,” according to Solomon, who cited “interviews and a trove of internal DOJ documents turned over to Senate investigators.” Solomon even provided a copy of the draft immunity deal with Assange.

But Comey’s intervention to stop the negotiations with Assange ultimately ruined the deal, Solomon says, quoting “multiple sources.” With the prospective agreement thrown into serious doubt, Assange “unleashed a series of leaks that U.S. officials say damaged their cyber warfare capabilities for a long time to come.” These were the Vault 7 releases, which led then CIA Director Mike Pompeo to call WikiLeaks “a hostile intelligence service.”

Solomon’s report provides reasons why Official Washington has now put so much pressure on Ecuador to keep Assange incommunicado in its embassy in London.

The report does not say what led Comey to intervene to ruin the talks with Assange. But it came after Assange had offered to  “provide technical evidence and discussion regarding who did not engage in the DNC releases,” Solomon quotes WikiLeaks’ intermediary with the government as saying.  It would be a safe assumption that Assange was offering to prove that Russia was not WikiLeaks’ source of the DNC emails. 

If that was the reason Comey and Warner ruined the talks, as is likely, it would reveal a cynical decision to put U.S. intelligence agents and highly sophisticated cybertools at risk, rather than allow Assange to at least attempt to prove that Russia was not behind the DNC leak.

The greater risk to Warner and Comey apparently would have been if Assange provided evidence that Russia played no role in the 2016 leaks of DNC documents

Missteps and Stand Down

In mid-February 2017, in a remarkable display of naiveté, Adam Waldman, Assange’s pro bono attorney who acted as the intermediary in the talks, asked Warner if the Senate Intelligence Committee staff would like any contact with Assange to ask about Russia or other issues. Waldman was apparently oblivious to Sen. Warner’s stoking of Russia-gate.

Warner contacted Comey and, invoking his name, instructed Waldman to “stand down and end the discussions with Assange,” Waldman told Solomon.  The “stand down” instruction “did happen,” according to another of Solomon’s sources with good access to Warner.  However, Waldman’s counterpart attorney David Laufman, an accomplished federal prosecutor picked by the Justice Departent to work the government side of the CIA-Assange fledgling deal, told Waldman, “That’s B.S.  You’re not standing down, and neither am I.”

But the damage had been done.  When word of the original stand-down order reached WikiLeaks, trust evaporated, putting an end to two months of what Waldman called “constructive, principled discussions that included the Department of Justice.”

The two sides had come within inches of sealing the deal.  Writing to Laufman on March 28, 2017, Waldman gave him Assange’s offer to discuss “risk mitigation approaches relating to CIA documents in WikiLeaks’ possession or control, such as the redaction of Agency personnel in hostile jurisdictions,” in return for “an acceptable immunity and safe passage agreement.”

On March 31, 2017, though, WikiLeaks released the most damaging disclosure up to that point from what it called “Vault 7” — a treasure trove of CIA cybertools leaked from CIA files.  This disclosure featured the tool “Marble Framework,” which enabled the CIA to hack into computers, disguise who hacked in, and falsely attribute the hack to someone else by leaving so-called tell-tale signs — like Cyrillic, for example. The CIA documents also showed that the “Marble” tool had been employed in 2016.

Misfeasance or Malfeasance

>Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which includes among our members two former Technical Directors of the National Security Agency, has repeatedly called attention to its conclusion that the DNC emails were leaked — not “hacked” by Russia or anyone else (and, later, our suspicion that someone may have been playing Marbles, so to speak). 

>In fact, VIPS and independent forensic investigators, have performed what former FBI Director Comey — at first inexplicably, now not so inexplicably — failed to do when the so-called “Russian hack” of the DNC was first reported. In July 2017 VIPS published its key findings with supporting data.

Two month later, VIPS published the results of follow-up experiments conducted to test the conclusions reached in July. 

Why did then FBI Director Comey fail to insist on getting direct access to the DNC computers in order to follow best-practice forensics to discover who intruded into the DNC computers?  (Recall, at the time Sen. John McCain and others were calling the “Russian hack” no less than an “act of war.”)  A 7th grader can now figure that out.

Asked on January 10, 2017 by Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr (R-NC) whether direct access to the servers and devices would have helped the FBI in their investigation, Comey replied:  “Our forensics folks would always prefer to get access to the original device or server that’s involved, so it’s the best evidence.” 

At that point, Burr and Warner let Comey down easy. Hence, it should come as no surprise that, according to one of John Solomon’s sources, Sen. Warner (who is co-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee) kept Sen. Burr apprised of his intervention into the negotiation with Assange, leading to its collapse.

Reprinted with author's permission from ConsortiumNews.com.

That Time the Media Cheered for Gestapo Immigration Tactics

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Every Trump voter is effectively "standing at the border, like Nazis, going 'you here, you here,'" MSNBC guest Danny Deutsch declared on Friday. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden also compared the Trump administration's immigration crackdown with Nazi concentration camps. The media is showcasing the anguish of parents and children forcibly separated at the southwestern border.

Eighteen years ago, the media had a mirror-image reaction to perhaps the most famous immigration raid in American history. Though some critics back then complained of Gestapo-like federal raid, much of the media downplayed or whitewashed the alleged brutality.

On April 22, 2000, 130 federal agents conducted a pre-dawn raid in Miami’s Little Havana section to seize Elian Gonzalez, a six-year-old Cuban boy. The raid shattered doors, broke a bed, roughed up Cuban-Americans, and left two NBC cameramen on the ground, writhing in pain from stomach-kicks or rifle-butts to the head. The raid seemed to go off without a hitch until a photo surfaced taken by Associated Press stringer Alan Diaz showing a Border Patrol agent pointing his submachine gun toward the terrified boy being held by the fisherman who rescued him six months earlier from the Atlantic Ocean.

While Trump administration’s falsehoods on immigrations have been widely hammered, few people recall the Clinton administration’s rhetorical backflips. A few hours after the Elian raid, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder asserted in a press conference that the boy "was not taken at the point of a gun." When challenged about the machine gun in the photo, Holder explained: "They were armed agents who went in there who acted very sensitively ."

Attorney General Janet Reno, when asked about the photo, stressed that the agent's "finger was not on the trigger." But that is scant consolation when a highly agitated person is holding a Hechler and Koch MP-5 that sprays 800 rounds a minute. Two days later, Reno declared, "One of the things that is so very important is that the force was not used. It was a show of force that prevented people from getting hurt." This would be news to the people kicked, shoved, and knocked down by federal agents.

When White House spokesman Joe Lockhart was asked whether federal agents had used excessive force, he stressed that the agents "drove up in white mini-vans" - as if the color of the vehicles proved it was a mission of mercy. Lockhart implored the media: “It's certainly my hope that those who are in the business of describing such things to the public will use great care and great perspective" in how they presented Diaz's photo.

After film footage showed a female Immigration and Naturalization Service agent carrying Elian out of the house with a look of horror on the boy's face, one cynic commented that she looked like a vampire excitedly carrying away her breakfast. However, INS Chief Doris Meissner dismissed concerns about the boy's well-being and stressed that Elian was quickly given Play-Doh after he was taken into custody. Meissner explained, "The squeezing of Play-Doh is the best thing that you can do for a child who might be experiencing stress." Meissner did not disclose which color of Play-Doh is the best antidote for facing a machine gun.

The news media buttressed the Clinton administration storyline. Less than three hours after the raid, CBS news anchor Dan Rather interrupted the televising of Reno's press conference to assert: "Even if the photographer was in the house legally... there is the question of the privacy, beginning with the privacy of the child." Rather was more concerned about the photographing of the boy's terror than about the terrorizing itself.

The New York Times refrained from running the AP photo on the front page, instead giving it the treatment usually reserved for propaganda images from Communist regimes. The photo appeared on page 16 along with a side article by a Times media critic to help readers “put in context” the apparent violence.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in an article headlined, "Reno for President," declared that the machine gun photo "warmed my heart" and symbolized that "America is a country where the rule of law rules. This picture illustrates what happens to those who defy the rule of law and how far our government and people will go to preserve it." But since the Clinton administration’s attempt to seize Elian had been rebuffed by a federal appeals court two days earlier, the legality was shaky and rejected even by liberal icons such as Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe .

For much of the press corps, the real peril was that the Diaz picture "will ignite all the crazies,” fretted James Warren, Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune. Author Garry Wills, writing for the New York Times op-ed page, portrayed the feds as victims of citizens’ distrust: “The readiness of people to deplore 'jack-booted' tactics reveals the intransigence that made the rescue necessary."

It is difficult to believe that such sentiments occurred in the same nation or even the same century as the ongoing backlash against ICE enforcement tactics. Is it a sign of progress that the news media no longer automatically cheers heavy-handed crackdowns by federal agents? The jury will remain out on that question at least until January 2021.

James Bovard is the author of ten books, including 2012’s Public Policy Hooligan, and 2006’s Attention Deficit Democracy. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Washington Post, and many other publications.

Reprinted with permission from Mises.org.

Three Cheers for Trump’s Peace Trifecta

In the short space of five days, June 8-12, President Trump took three steps that upended the old post WWII global order and moved us a few steps toward a more peaceful world.  Two of those steps are undeniable; the third is perhaps not so obvious.

The Singapore Summit

The Singapore Summit comes first, because it rocked the world.

In this bold and unprecedented meeting President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un, of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK), started down a path to Détente, aiming toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, an intractable problem or so the pundits informed us.  But as Melania warned us with a bemused smile sometime back, “Donald always shakes things up.”

The historic meeting produced more than words; concrete steps were taken:  The DPRK went first, terminating the testing of nuclear warheads, IRBMs and ICBMs and even closing its nuclear test site – all done before the summit. Leading up to the summit, Trump cut back on the extent of annual joint South Korea-US military exercises.  These have been roiling the East Pacific since the 1970s, frightening the North Koreans since these “war games” could abruptly turn into a real invasion as in the Korean War.  At summit’s conclusion Trump went further and terminated those exercises planned for late summer, labeling them “provocative,” as the North Koreans have long described them, and “expensive,” cost always being a big item in the Trumpian mind.  These exercises are also costly for the DPRK since they come at a time of year when agricultural labor is needed and hundreds of thousands of men must be diverted from the fields to join the armed forces in case the war games turn into a real invasion.  This hurts the agricultural output of the DPRK, and one suspects it is designed to do so.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Singapore Summit is the biggest step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula since President Dwight Eisenhower lived up to his 1952 campaign promise to “go to Korea” and end Truman’s deeply unpopular war, which had claimed millions of Korean lives, 1 million Chinese lives and tens of thousands of American ones. Ike ended that genocidal war, which had slaughtered 20% of the population of North Korea primarily by bombing and the use of chemical weapons.  An armistice was negotiated quickly and so the killing stopped, but a formal treaty of peace proved politically impossible.  (Ike, the peacemaker, was criticized by the media for being inarticulate and stupid and for spending too much time on the golf course.  And he had a mistress.  Sound familiar?  But he brought peace.)

Quite rightly the world greeted the Kim-Trump breakthrough with jubilation – save for the US elite and its press, including the interventionist Democratic Party leadership all of which were quite glum or downright enragedThe admirable and effective President Moon of the Republic of Korea (ROK) who himself was a key figure in making the summit possible, gave Trump much credit, and the South Korean people gave Moon’s Party overwhelming victories in the municipal elections on the day after the summit, putting the very political existence of the hawkish leadership of the rival party in question.  There was great celebration in North Korea and even the Japanese PM Shinzo Abe hailed the agreement since it removed a perceived threat.  Needless to say, China and Russia who have long pushed for denuclearization of the peninsula were very pleased; the cessation of US war games in exchange for ending DPRK testing of nukes and rockets was just the sort of first step they had advocated for some time.  And the majority (71%) of the American people approved of the summit. The Monmouth poll taken just after the summit and before the media had time to spin its demented take on events reported:

Most Americans (71%) say that the recent meeting between Trump and Kim was a good idea, including 93% of Republicans, 74% of independents, and 49% of Democrats. Only 20% say it was a bad idea. This positive feeling is somewhat higher than in late April, when 63% said the prospect of having such a meeting was a good idea.

Would it not be correct to say that the Singapore Summit is a move toward a world of peace by Trump and Kim? If so, should not all peace-loving forces support and praise it as a way to protect it from attacks of domestic hawks and to encourage similar steps in foreign policy? Have we?

This is not an academic question. The opposition to this and the policies listed below is large and building as can be seen from the reaction of the press. When Jimmy Carter tried to reach an accommodation with the DPRK and remove US troops and 700 nuclear weapons from the ROK, he was ultimately stopped by the forces we would now call Deep State, as chronicled here.  And similar forces are already organizing to stop Trump. If the peace movement does not do all in its power to back these and the initiatives outlined below, then we will bear part of the blame if those initiatives fail. What side is the peace movement on here?  To this writer the answer is unclear and the clock is ticking.

Let Russia Join the G7, says Trump

Let’s turn to achievement number two over those five days in June.  It came leading up to the G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec.  Trump announced beforehand that Russia should be invited back into the G7, a move opposed by all the other members but for Italy’s new government.  The U.S. press went berserk, of course, with many declaring as they do many times daily that Trump’s strings were being pulled by – who else? – Putin.

Putin himself responded to the disagreement at the G7, thus:

As for Russia’s return to ‘the seven,’ ‘the eight’ [G7, G8] – we have not left it. Our colleagues once refused to come to Russia due to well-known reasons. Please, we will be happy to see everyone in Moscow.

Putin made that statement at a press conference in Qingdao, China, at the conclusion of the meeting of the SCO, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with its present 8 member states: China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyryzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – with Iran, currently an observer, backed by China to become a full member.  Putin went further in this press conference; and it was reported by RT.com as follows:

The SCO gathering concluded just shortly after the G7 summit, and Russia enjoys the format of the now-eight-member organization after India and Pakistan joined. Putin believes the SCO trumps the G7 in certain aspects. For example, the member states have already overtaken the G7 in purchasing-power parity, the Russian leader said, citing IMF data.

If we calculate… per capita, the seven countries are wealthier, but the size of the SCO economies [combined] GFP is larger. And the population is, of course, much bigger – half of the planet.

That is, the combined gross GDPs of the SCO 8 are larger than the combined economies of the G7 by the PPP-GDP metric used by the IMF and World Bank (and CIA) as can be seen here.  It is noteworthy that Russia’s GDP is about equal to Germany’s, and not the basket case that it is made out to be in the Western press.  In fact, the G7 has only 3 of the world’s 7 largest economies the same number as the SCO-8.  The G7 are really nothing more than the ex-colonial and now neo-colonial countries whose time may be running out with the rise of the economies of the once colonized nations of East and South Asia.

In calling for Russia’s readmission to the G7, Trump was turning his back on the old Cold War alliances and looking to the economic realities of the 21st Century exemplified by the SCO.  He was opting to create an atmosphere of dialogue which would include Russia.  As he later said, the G7 spends 25% of its time discussing Russia- so why not have Russia present and try to work out problems together.

Trump’s appeal to readmit Russia to the G7 is simply a repeat of his call to “get along with Russia” a promise made in the campaign of 2016.  Is this not a good idea?  Is the recognition of new realities not part of creating a peaceful world?

Would it not be correct to say that this move of Trump’s is a move toward a world of peace? If so, should not all peace loving forces support and praise it as a way to protect it from attacks of domestic hawks and to encourage similar steps in foreign policy?  Have we? Again this is not an academic question because the outcome depends in part on our support or lack thereof.

Mercantilism over imperialism and hegemony

The third move in Trump’s weekend trifecta is not so much an action of his in and of itself but the revelation of a mindset behind that action.  Trump has set in motion the imposition of tariffs on countries that he views as unfair in trade with the US.  My point is not to argue whether such tariffs are good or bad or even whether the US has been treated unfairly.  (One might think, however, that the need to impose them is the sign of a trading power in its infancy which needs to protect its key enterprises – or of one in decline which can no longer prevail by virtue of the quality of what it produces.  But that is not of significance for this discussion.)

What is unusual is that Trump did not limit his economic attacks to an official adversary like China.  No, he is also directing them at our “allies,” from NATO all the way to Japan on the other side of the world.  In so doing he shows that commerce is more important to him than alliances that facilitate military actions aimed at domination and hegemony.  It might fairly be said that Trump is putting mercantilism over imperialism – if by mercantilism we mean economic nationalism.  Most of those at the G7 meeting who were aghast at the tariffs are NATO allies.  This action taken without regard to “the alliance” reminds us of Trump’s assertion during the campaign of 2016 that “NATO is obsolete.”

Trump’s stance was criticized by Canada’s PM Trudeau on this very basis, saying:

Canadians did not take it lightly that the United States has moved forward with significant tariffs on our steel and aluminum industry…. For Canadians who…stood shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers in far-off lands and conflicts from the First World War onward…it’s kind of insulting. (Emphasis, jw).

Is fighting in the useless and criminal WWI something to be proud of?  Let’s pass over the many other murderess conflicts that have engaged the US and the G7 in the last 25 years, let alone the past 70 plus years.  Trudeau encompasses all this criminal behavior in the single word “onward.”  The alliances that have made this possible are indeed “obsolete,” in fact, retrograde and dangerous.  Trudeau is simply saying that the G7 have been willing allies in the imperial crimes of the US.  So they expect due economic consideration in return.  Trump is saying no more; now the business of America is business first and foremost.

This does not mean that economic nationalism is the answer to the world’s problems.  But Trump’s action does represent a move away from the “entangling alliances” that have been employed to further the hegemonistic policies of the US.

Would it not be correct to say that favoring competition in trade over cultivating alliances for military hegemony is a positive development? Should not all peace loving forces praise the move away from our “alliances,” away from NATO which has been the agent of so many criminal wars of the last quarter century?

The flies in the Trumpian Ointment

At this point in the conventional treatment of matters Trumpian, it is compulsory to launch into psychobabble about the man, with cries of indignation about his narcissism or vulgarity or some other imagined personality disorder.  This writer is not a mind reader, nor do I have much have faith in the “science” of psychology.  Such anti-Trump disclaimers are more often than not simply inoculation to protect the writer from the wrath of the legions of Trump-haters and Respectables.  Such disclaimers also represent a cheesy substitution of pop psych for political analysis.

In reality none of Trump’s actions outlined above should have been a surprise.  They are fully consistent with what he promised in 2016.  Likewise the war of words between Trump and Kim earlier in the year was simply a way to protect them both from charges of being weak on their adversary by their own hardliners.  Trump himself has admitted they were a charade, and there may have been more to the charade than he admitted.  Kim too had his hardliners although not so numerous or powerful as Trump’s.

That said, the beginnings of Trump foreign policy has not taken us from a quarter century drive toward US unipolar hegemony, which began with the Clintons, to a nirvana of peace in the space of 18 months.  Since the US Empire is the last of the 500 years of European Empires, successor to them all, it would be absurd to even expect such an outcome.  Likewise, it would be easy to google all the things that are wrong with US foreign policy and even growing worse – and there is a cottage industry devoted to just that.

But one of the current problems, US policy toward Iran, looms large and deserves special mention.  Because Iran has support from Russia and because it lies so close to Russia, conflict with Iran is likely to destroy Trump’s desire for Détente with Russia and could therefore drag the US into military conflict with a great nuclear power, even a World War.  Such a thing would be catastrophic for humanity – so it is a very big deal.  Fundamentally Trump’s position on Iran is dictated by Israel which maintains its stranglehold on US foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  By necessity, given Israel’s power in US politics, and by his conviction as well, one suspects, Trump’s brain is Israeli occupied territory.  And the same malign influence contributes to the criminal US support of the Saudi atrocities in Yemen.  Perhaps discussions with Putin can help Trump on this matter.  But right now Israel poses one of the greatest obstacles to a new and enlightened foreign policy in a key area for all of humanity.

Finally let’s return again to the Singapore Summit.  Please, dear reader, immerse yourself in the jubilation it generated worldwide.  It jumps out of the screen right here Gangnam Style. Be sure the sound is on at the lower right of the screen– and join the dance for joy.

• This article first appeared on Antiwar.com

Trump’s Sadist-in-Chief

Mr. Mick Mulvaney’s title seems uninterestingly bureaucratic—director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But as Trump’s chief hatchet man extraordinaire, Mugger Mick Mulvaney is easily one of the cruelest, most vicious presidential henchman in modern American history. From his powerful perch next door to the White House, he is carving a bloody trail against tens of millions of Americans who are poor, disabled, frail, and elderly. He has gone after defenseless children and injured or sick patients with little or no access to health care.

It is difficult to exaggerate the relentless, savage delight that this former Congressman from South Carolina—handpicked for Trump by the brutish, oil funded Heritage Foundation—takes in attacking the most vulnerable members of our society.

A human wrecking ball, Mugger Mick has pushed to eliminate the Meals-on-Wheels assistance for isolated elderly, to increase rents for poor tenants, to severely gut SNAP (food stamps) and nutritious food standards, and to diminish Medicaid. In addition the Trump administration wants to impose work requirements in Medicaid as a condition of eligibility. Many adult Medicaid recipients are already working. Where will the new jobs come from? Those who want to work but can’t find jobs are not Mr. Mulvaney’s concern.

His hellish agenda, undertaken on behalf of his plutocratic rulers, is comprehensive. He wants to smash consumer, environmental, and workplace health and safety standards. To Mugger Mick, killing and disabling Americans doesn’t even qualify as collateral damage. To Mulvaney’s fevered, psychopathic mind, eliminating Americans’ health and safety protections is worth it if it means “efficiency” and less spending of tax dollars (more on that lie later).

He even would plunge a dagger into Social Security and Medicare. President Trump has the political sense to restrain Mugger Mick from this attack on the elderly. However, biding his time, Mulvaney has led the campaign for the enacted corporate and wealthy tax cuts that are already swelling the forthcoming massive deficits. Mulvaney wants to use the deficit to persuade Trump eventually to butcher these two pillars of our society’s foresight and compassion for seniors.

The New York Times reports that Mulvaney is at the core of the Trump regime’s “rollback in the enforcement of fair housing, educational equity, payday lending and civil rights cases pursued aggressively under the Obama administration intended to protect vulnerable populations from discrimination and abusive business practices.”

Nowhere has Mugger Mick been more blatant about his ugly mission than in his efforts to freeze and dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB was created after the Wall Street collapse of the economy, which displaced millions of workers and drained trillions of dollars from pension and mutual funds. Remember Wall Street then had to be bailed out by America’s taxpayers.

Mulvaney has jettisoned ongoing enforcement actions, driven or reassigned personnel, zeroed out the CFPB’s first quarter budget, and prioritized the protection of Wall Street in the CFPB mission statement. How grotesque a response to the corporate crime wave in this country that has been stealing trillions of dollars from defenseless consumers, workers, and investors!

There is, of course, more to this colossal bully. Mulvaney is also a colossal coward and a greasy hypocrite at that. He shuts his foul mouth when it comes to the bloated defense budget and the corporate contractors profiting from endless Pentagon golden handshakes. He shuts his mouth when confronted with thousands of corporate subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and bailouts. In these crony capitalistic binge arenas, he demands no corporate self-reliance or worries about taxpayer losses. Why would he argue with his future paymasters and the corporate donors who funded his prior Congressional campaigns?

Mugger Mick is a walking candidate for impeachment, a poster boy for high crimes and misdemeanors, as well as a lawsuit by members of Congress for the deliberate dereliction of duties that aids and abets corporate criminality. Every day he has been systematically defying and violating existing Congressional mandates, called federal statutes.

So where are the Democrats? Aside a few members such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown pummeling Mugger Mick at Congressional hearings that go nowhere, action by the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill is largely AWOL. Mulvaney just laughs at the Democrats’ verbal darts.

Forget about their own pride, these lawmakers have little fortitude in preserving the best work of their forbears in Congress and in the White House. They’re too busy having fun ridiculing Trump’s foibles, fibs, and fantasies. Such distractions may well cause them not to urgently focus on what is happening to the American peoples’ freedom, urgent necessities and livelihoods emanating from the Trumpsters and their media ditto heads.

November is coming fast.

Crowley’s Shocking Loss! Is Socialism On The March?

In a stunning upset, 28 year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated long-time incumbent Joe Crowley (D-NY) in yesterday's New York Democratic Party primary. Crowley has long been in tight with the financial establishment and most of his donations came from mega-corporations. His challenger was largely financed by small, individual donations. Ocasio-Cortez is a self-described socialist whose views on the Middle East seem to contrast with Crowley's strong pro-Israel position. Should we cheer this challenge to the status quo, or fear creeping socialism? Tune in to today's Liberty Report:

«I Will Negotiate With the Taliban Anywhere», by Ashraf Ghani

About half of Afghanistan's population — around 33 million — is young enough to have never seen a day of peace. The milestones of their young lives have been marked by loss and violence. For 38 years now, peace in my country has remained a dream, a prayer on our lips. On June 15, on the festival of Eid, our prayers were answered. A few days earlier, as the month of Ramadan was coming to an end, almost 3,000 Islamic scholars convened in Kabul and issued a fatwa reminding us that the quest for (...)