All posts by David Stockman

The New York Times Smears the President

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The Donald has been on a red hot twitter rampage, and he's completely justified. Actually, we didn't think the Russian Collusion Hoax could get any stupider until we saw the New York Times' Friday evening bushwhack.

The trio of authors, apparently self-tortured victims of the Trump Derangement Syndrome, actually had the gall to print a story in the once and former Gray Lady of journalistic rectitude which was nothing more than an ugly smear on the sitting President of the United States—one that would have done Joe McCarthy proud:
In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as FBI director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.
It doesn't get lower than that. The only thing that they didn't mention was presidential Treason, but it's hard to say that "working in behalf of Russia against American interests" would constitute anything less.

So exactly what did the trio of wet behind the ears nincompoops at the New York Times—Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos—dig up from the diarrhetic bowels of the FBI that warranted the above characterization?

Why, it is apparently the following, which is surely a red hot smoking gun. That is, one that condemns the FBI, not Trump; and shows that the NYT, which once courageously published the Pentagon Papers and had earned the above sobriquet for its journalistic stateliness, sense of responsibility and possession of high virtue, has degenerated into a War Party shill—not to say the journalistic equivalent of a comfort woman: Mr. Trump had caught the attention of FBI counterintelligence agents when...
...he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 2016 to hack into the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising President Vladimir V. Putin. And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.
Well, for crying out loud!

Any journalist worth his salt would know that Trump's July 2016 shout-out to the Russians was a campaign joke. At best, it was merely an attempt to cleverly state in one more way the running GOP theme about Hillary's missing 30,000 emails. How many times before that had Sean Hannity delivered his riff about Hillary's alleged hammer-smashing of 13 devices and acid-washing with BleachBit of the missing emails?

More importantly, how in the world of constitutional government, free speech, and contested elections does Trump's refusal to criticize a foreign leader that we we're not at war with constitute something worthy of a counter-intelligence investigation by the FBI?

Indeed, in the case of the Ukraine resolution at the GOP convention, the issue was about making the GOP's prior pro-Ukraine platform even more hawkish, which Trump thought was a bad idea on policy grounds.

Besides, the Democratic platform ended up more dovish than the GOP's final wording. And, no, the FBI didn't think to investigate the Dems for being squishy soft on support for the crypto-Nazi's who took control of Ukraine during an illegal, US funded/supported coup on the street of Kiev in 2014.

What we are saying is that the trio pictured  here—one of whom graduated from Harvard in 2015 and the other two not much older—don't seem to even know that foreign policy is a debatable issue. Or that the American people actually voted into office a candidate who took the other side of Imperial Washington's unwarranted demonization of Putin and made no bones about his desire for a rapprochement with Russia.

Actually, as to pursuing rapprochement, so did:

• JFK, after the near catastrophe of the Cuban Missile Crisis;

• Lyndon Johnson, after the Seven Days War during his meeting with Kosygin at Glassboro NJ;

• Richard Nixon, with the ABM Treaty, detente and his visit with Brezhnev in Moscow;

• Jimmy Carter, when he signed the SALT-II agreement;

• Ronald Reagan, when he went to Moscow to virtually end the Cold War; and

• Bill Clinton, when he sent a multi-billion IMF aid package to Yeltsin to help him get re-elected in 1996.

The fact is, all of the above presidential policy initiatives were heatedly debated in Washington during a period when the US and Soviet Union each had roughly 9,000 nuclear warheads pointed at the other. But that did not lead to FBI counter-intelligence investigations of politicians—to say nothing of sitting Presidents—who took the "wrong" side of these thoroughly democratic debates.

And that includes the outright "peace" candidacies of Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972. Indeed, shortly thereafter it was the Church Committee in the US Senate that aggressively investigated the CIA and FBI, not the incipient Deep State which investigated the elected politicians of that era.

Stated differently, Senator Lloyd Bentsen would have to said to the trio pictured below, "I knew Neil Sheehan, David Halberstam and Seymour Hersh—and you are no Sheehan/Halberstam/Hersh!"

In that regard, your editor did not know the latter three personally back in the day. But those of us on the anti-war barricades during the Vietnam era read them assiduously; and we did not mistake their honest journalistic coverage of that calamitous foreign policy episode for Robert McNamara's lie-filled talking points and genocidal "body counts".

Indeed, back in those days mainstream journalists tended to be the nemesis of the Deep State (yes, it has existed ever since WWII), not it's handmaid.

For instance, in the 1980s Congressman Ed Boland's amendment stopped the effort of neocons in the Reagan Administration to undermine the duly elected "Sandinista" government of Nicaragua. But back then, the press went after the meddlers and interventionists in the national security bureaucracy, not Congressman Boland and the Congressional majority which voted to shackle the Deep State.

In fact, several of the Reagan meddlers went to prison—not to sinecures at CNN or NBC.

Moreover, the alleged "communist" threat in those days was on America's doorstep in central America, not thousands of miles away on Russia's doorstep, as in the case of the Ukraine and Crimea.

Have the three knuckleheads ever read a history book?

Do they not know, for instance, that there are virtually no Ukrainians in Crimea (the population is mainly Russian, Tartar etc.); that the latter was a integral province of Mother Russia for 171 years after it was purchased from the Ottomans by Catherine the Great in 1783; and that Crimea only was added as a territorial appendage to the Socialist Republic of the Ukraine in 1954 by the order of the Soviet Presidium as a door prize to the comrades in Kiev who had supported their favorite son, Nikita Khrushchev, in the bloody battle for Stalin's succession?

Has it not occurred to them that when the scourge and historical anomaly of the Soviet Empire finally slithered off the pages of history that untangling the utterly artificial borders that had enslaved 350 million people might be a tad messy, and that the rump-state of Russia had a valid security interest in the manner in which it unfolded?

Likewise, did they perchance ever read the strident warnings of the father of Soviet containment and NATO, Professor George Kennan, about the foolishness of extending NATO to the very borders of Russia; and especially after Bush the Elder and his Secretary of State, James Baker, had promised Gorbachev in 1989 that in return for his acquiescence to unification of Germany that NATO would not be extended by "a single inch" to the east?

In fact, have they ever bothered to contemplate why NATO even exists any longer; or the anomaly of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization sending troops to the Hindu Kush to make war upon the Taliban tribesman who had actually defeated the Soviet Empire—and 27 years after the Soviet Union was no more?

That is to say, in the whole ragged to-and-fro of post-Soviet eastern Europe and Washington's arrogant claim to sole superpower status, is it really so hard to see that there are two sides to the debate; and that dissent from Washington's hegemonic claim to say what can and can't happen in Kiev, the Donbas and Crimea is actually the more rational course, and certainly not tantamount to treason?

Or consider what happened to Ronald Reagan's misbegotten infatuation with the Star Wars will-o-wisp of a nuclear shield. The latter had the military-industrial complex drooling over the implied trillions (in today's $) of funding, and the Deep State giddy

with the thought that the putative Star Wars shield would unleash it from the bonds of MAD (mutual assured destruction) and thereby open the path t0 US global hegemony.

Needless to say, the intrepid mainstream journalists of the 1980's still had the Sheehan/Halberstam/Hersh investigative spirit and courage about them. It did not take too many years for their exposes to make Star Wars the laughingstock it actually was, and for their rebukes to the Deep State narrative to embolden the bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill to essentially shut it down.

At the end of the day, there is no other way to say it. The Goldman/Schmidt/Fandos types of the present era are not journalists at all; they are lazy, intellectually corrupted, mendacious stenographers of Imperial Washington's oppressive group think.

After all, only a decade or two ago any journalist who typed the words "....whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or unwittingly fallen under Moscow's influence" would have suffered tremors and palpitations for the very phrasing of it.

Don't these kids know them thar words is McCarthyite code for unmasking commie traitors?

Here's the thing. Until the groupthink of the Imperial City congealed into what amounts to worship of the Warfare State after 9/11, any self-respecting journalist who discovered that the FBI had opened a counter-intelligence investigation of a sitting president for the preposterous reasons outlined in the NYT story would have been all over this insidious affront to constitutional government like a screaming banshee.

That is, under what imaginable constitutional scheme does a second tier law enforcement agency have the prerogative to investigate the duly elected President because he fired the FBI director for good cause; rejected the prevailing anti-Russia foreign policy for solid reasons of national interest; and knew that the Russian collusion meme was Democrat sour grapes for loosing the election and said so publicly, loudly and frequently, as is his prerogative?

In the old days, journalists often had the integrity and summoned the courage to speak truth to power. By contrast, the trio of sanctimonious brats pictured above were too lazy, stupid or mendacious to even connect the dots.

That is, this ballyhooed counter-intelligence investigation was launched the very next day after Comey was fired by two of the most compromised people in the entire Obama Administration posse of anti-Trump election meddlers--if not criminals—led by former CIA director John Brennan.

We are referring to the acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, later fired for leaking to the media and lying about it and his legal council, Lisa Page. After the release of literally tons of anti-Trump SMS messages with her lover-boy, the FBI agent Peter Strzok, over the past 12 months what kind of self-respecting journalists would not see the red flags flying in every direction?

By now any one who knows how to Google, also knows or should know that Strzok and Page sent text messages that suggest they were discussing opening up a counterintelligence investigation against Trump even before Comey’s firing. And when it happened, their exchanges left no doubt:

“And we need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting,” Strzok wrote to Page on the day of Comey’s ouster.

So there you have it. McCabe, Strzok and Page are Deep Staters if the term has any meaning at all. Yet here is why Lisa Page thought Trump was such a threat to national security that she and her colleagues were justified in unilaterally suspending the constitution and prosecuting the elected President of the people because they disagreed with his foreign policy positions.

Indeed, by her own closed door testimony to the House committee (now leaked) it is obvious that Lisa Page is a light-weight numbskull when it comes to thinking about national security. For it turns out, she doesn't even claim that Russia is a military threat to America or that Putin has aggressive intents for territorial conquest.

No, it seems his sin is that he doesn't embrace Washington's self-conferred role as the Indispensable Nation and may even be in mind of thwarting Washington's noble effort to spread "our democratic ideals" and bring the blessings of Coca-Cola, long pants and the ballot box to the otherwise benighted peoples of the planet.

You only need a decent regard for the mayhem that the Washington War party has brought to the world—from the jungles of the Mekong Valley, to the Hindu Kush, to Mesopotamia, the Levant, North Africa and Latin America, too—to say are you f*cking kidding?
'In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, America’s ability and the West’s ability to spread our democratic ideals,' Lisa Page, a former bureau lawyer, told House investigators in private testimony reviewed by The Times..... 'That’s the goal, to make us less of a moral authority to spread democratic values,' she added. Parts of her testimony were first reported in the Epoch Times.

Many involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to American democratic values.

'With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life,' Ms. Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscow’s election interference.
As to the last bolded line, we will not bother to wonder how a pint-sized economy of $1.5 trillion compared to America's $20 trillion and all of NATO's $36 trillion, with a military budget of $61 billion compared to NATO $1.05 trillion, is going to do what Khrushchev failed to do—bury us!

So we fully appreciate why the Donald is on the rampage, and in this instance, couldn't more wholeheartedly agree.
'Wow, just learned in the Failing New York Times that the corrupt former leaders of the FBI, almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons, opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof, after I fired Lyin’ James Comey, a total sleaze!' the president tweeted.

'Funny thing about James Comey,' he continued. 'Everybody wanted him fired, Republican and Democrat alike. After the rigged & botched Crooked Hillary investigation, where she was interviewed on July 4th Weekend, not recorded or sworn in, and where she said she didn’t know anything (a lie).'

'the FBI was in complete turmoil (see N.Y. Post) because of Comey’s poor leadership and the way he handled the Clinton mess (not to mention his usurpation of powers from the Justice Department). My firing of James Comey was a great day for America.'
"He was a Crooked Cop,” Saturday’s tweetstorm concluded, “who is being totally protected by his best friend, Bob Mueller, & the 13 Angry Democrats – leaking machines who have NO interest in going after the Real Collusion (and much more) by Crooked Hillary Clinton, her Campaign, and the Democratic National Committee. Just Watch!”

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner.

Good Riddance To General Mattis And The Rest Of Washington’s Mad Dogs Of War

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From the wailing and gnashing of teeth among the mainstream media and officialdom over General Mattis' (welcome) departure, you would think that the Rapture had come and Washington's ruling class was being unjustly left behind to eternal perdition. And if not that, then the Mattis Affair is alleged to be at least its secular equivalent— an unwarranted and unforgivable affront to the good and the brave of the Imperial City.

Then again, exactly what was so existentially harmful to America's security about Trump's decision to get out of Syria—the apparent reason for Mattis' ballyhooed resignation?

The fact is, you can't find a trace of threat to America on the map. Syria is now a tiny, broken country of ruin and rubble with a vastly diminished religiously and ethnically fractured population of 18 million; GDP of barely $60 billion; per capita income of only $3,000; a trickle of oil production (25k barrel/day); and a depleted and battle-ravaged military that cannot possibly operate outside of its own borders and barely controls the lands inside them.

In short, Syria has no economic, strategic or military relevance whatsoever to the safety and security of the American homeland. And that's as in none, nada, nichts and nugatory.

If you are not looking through the distorted lens of Imperial Washington's group think, in fact, the whole brouhaha over getting out of Syria is not even a close call; it's inexplicable.

Except....except for Washington's imperial dictate that Russia and Iran are not allowed to have any role there—even though both have been invited by the country's duly established government in Damascus. Moreover, the derivative postulate from that high-handed writ is even more absurd.

In the first place, neither the pipsqueak nation of Iran with a GDP of $450 billion or the pint-seized nation of Russia with a GDP of $1.5 trillion have ever threatened to attack America. Nor do they have the military means to do so—since their combined defense budgets of $75 billion amount to about one month of Pentagon spending.

Besides, attacking America would be an act of abject national suicide if they tried, which their perfectly rational leaders understand fully well and have no intention of attempting.

So Washington's fulminating and harrumphing chorus never explains how the modest economic and military presence of Russia and Iran in the god-forsaken remnant of Syria would suddenly magnify their already non-existent threat to America's security. The War Party just assumes that any diminution of the Empire—even 2200 US troops in what amounts to the empty desert quarter of Syria's northeast—cannot be tolerated.

In fact, a look at the current "who controls what" map of Syria makes perfectly clear that Trump's withdrawal order has no bearing at all on US national security. Now that Washington's abortive, illegal and counterproductive attempt at "regime change" in Damascus has completely failed and Assad and his allies control most of the territory and overwhelming share of the population and economy, America's military presence in Syria serves only the demented anti-Iranian policy of Bibi Netanyahu and the neocon branch of the War Party.

As shown in the map below, the northeast of Syria is now controlled by the Kurdish YPG (yellow), but most of that territory is desert or consists of impoverished Arab towns and villages east of the Euphrates. The true Kurdish communities occupy far less territory and hug tightly along the Turkish border.

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So the only reason northeast Syria is controlled by the Kurds is that the US military armed, trained and gave massive air-support during the period in which the YPG successfully dislodged ISIS from its occupation of these bedraggled lands. But the YPG's current area of control will drastically shrink and in a heartbeat—once its US military sponsors deport.

So what?

Surely, it is not America's job to promote and defend the detachment of a rump Kurdish state (yellow area) from the existing territory of Syria. And if the American forces leave and the YPG retreats to its own historic corridor along the Turkish border (which it would do of necessity) does that mean that ISIS will recover these territories?

Not at all. With the Syrian state restored and the fighting forces of the Iranians and Russians in support, any attempted revival of the Islamic State would be crushed by Assad and his allies.

Since eliminating the Islamic State was the ostensible reason for Washington's military intervention in Syria in the first place, of course, a follow-on question necessarily recurs. To wit, what's wrong with allowing the sovereign government of Syria and its chosen allies and friends to finish the job and keep the only significant non-government controlled area of Syria ISIS-free?

Needless to say, the skunk in the woodpile is self-evident. The only reason American forces are needed in the yellow area of the map below, and also at the Al-Tanf border crossing in the south (light green area) is to keep the Iranians from having a land-bridge from Iraq across Syria to its allies in the Hezbollah controlled regions of south Lebanon.

In a word, the true mission of the small contingent of US forces in Syria is to contain Iran, not fight ISIS. Like the case of the YPG occupied territory to the north, the light green area around Al-Tanf , which is currently occupied by the CIA recruited, trained and paid for New Syrian Army, would revert to government control immediately upon the US exit.

Again, so what?

It is abundantly clear that the small remaining salient of ISIS controlled territory (black area) east of Palmyra will be expunged by the Syrian government--with no help needed from the New Syrian Army. And when the US military leaves Al-Tanf this uninvited rebel militia will forthwith sell its American weapons for what can be had on the black market, abandon its uniforms and disappear across the border.

Beyond that, the government now controls all of the major population centers including Aleppo (4 million), Damascus (3.8 million), Homs (1.5 million) Hama (1.4 million) and Del Az Zor (1.0 million).

At the same time, the remnant of the Nusra Front/al-Qaeda around Idlib (light green area) is now thoroughly encircled by the alliance of Turkish forces (light blue) and Syrian/Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah forces (darker green). This is per the so-called Astana Group arrangement to stabilize the country and eliminate the last vestiges of rebel control in an orderly manner without the bloodbath feared earlier this year.

Indeed, the Astana Group (Russia, Turkey and Iran) has also just agreed upon a 150- strong committee representing all legitimate Syrian factions to write a new constitution next year, which would then pave the way for UN-supervised elections and a peace and reconciliation process that would encourage millions of refugees to return to their homeland.

From a purely humanitarian prospective, you really couldn't ask for a better scenario than that for the long-suffering people of Syria. After all, the latter are victims of a vicious civil war and a murderous ISIS caliphate—neither of which would have happened save for the billions of arms that the Washington and Riyadh have poured into the country in quest of Regime Change and in contravention of all international law and norms of non-interference.

Yet the dead-end "remainers" of official Washington insist on jeopardizing a return to order and economic recovery in Syria in order to keep the government-invited and ISIS- fighting Iranians and Russians out of the country.

Indeed, we just heard a numbskull host on the once and former "progressive" MSNBC network argue that Washington is properly horrified at Trump's action because it "ceded control" of Syria to the Iranians, Russians and.....wait for it.....the Syrians!

Yet that's how Imperial Washington rolls. Its official group think has become so poisoned by an utterly false demonization of Russia and Iran that it would sacrifice American blood and treasure in order to protect Syria from the Syrians!

Actually, the situation is even more absurd. A quick perusal of the map does remind that Iran doesn't actually border Syria and that Iraq is juxtapositioned in-between. Since Iraq was supposedly liberated by Washington at the expense of massive cost in American blood and treasure, you would think that if the Iranian land bridge to Lebanon needed to be cut-off, then Iraq would be just the place to seal it off tighter than a drum.

Alas, you would be wrong. That's because the Shiite government in Baghdad—allegedly Washington's bought and paid for puppet—won't or can't do it.

Yet does that dispositive fact of life give the Imperial City cause for reflection?

Nope. Just deploy troops next door in Syria where they are unwanted and are bivouacked in violation of both international and domestic law because that's they way the Empire rolls.

And if an untutored outlaw, who was put into the Oval Office by the American people, does not cotton to the prescribed rules of Empire—why then demonize him in outright McCarthyite fashion for allegedly selling out America's security.

Not surprisingly, the straight-forward reality depicted by the map above—which dramatically underscores that the Washington campaign for Regime Change has failed—is being obfuscated by endless red herrings offered up by Washington remainers, and especially the deplorable ranks of ex-Generals who come on cable TV to emit War Party agit prop.

The first of these—that ISIS will stage a comeback and Washington will be forced to come back to Syria—is complete tommyrot. The horrific Islamic State flickered briefly mainly due to the billions of American weapons it captured in Iraq and from the US supported rebels in Syria and from the modest cash flow from the eastern oilfields. But both of those resources have dried up.

The reality now is that the Syrian and Russian air forces control the air space, and the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies are capable of suppressing any residual ISIS resistance on the ground. The only reason the Islamic State even briefly established its benighted caliphate on Syrian soil during 2014-2016 is that Assad was on his backfoot militarily owing to the massive flow of US/Saudi weapons and money to the mainly sectarian Sunni and jihadist opposition.
Likewise, the related canard that ISIS arose because Obama pulled out of Iraq too soon is truly laughable.

ISIS arose because Washington destroyed the tolerable peace between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurds which Saddam Hussein had established under the banner of Baathist nationalism; and then got itself lethally armed because Washington foolishly turned over billions worth of state of the art American weapons to a non-existent Iraqi national army— weapons which ended-up, instead, in the hands of ISIS when Mosul and Anbar province were abandoned by the Shiite government in Baghdad.
The other big red herring—the claim that Washington can't abandon its YPG/Kurdish allies-- is especially mendacious. Decades of Turkey's civil war against its large Kurdish minority, and the fact that half of the 30 million Kurdish population lives across the Turkish borders in northern Syria, Iraq and Iran, meant that hiring a Kurdish mercenary army to fight ISIS was a known hazard from the get-go.

Erdogan warned vociferously against it, and became nearly apoplectic when the US army backed YPG—which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, rightly or wrongly—nearly established a continuous span of control from Afrin in the northwest (see map above) to the Iraq border in the east.

So by the lights of the perpetual war advocates in Washington, a tactical decision to arm the opportunistic, anti-Turkish Kurds to fight ISIS is supposed to become a permanent obligation to protect them from Turkey to the north and the sovereign government of Syria in Damascus to the south.

Really?

That's Imperial Rome all over again.

Besides, the alleged massacre of the Kurds in the event of Washington's withdrawal is mainly a scary bedtime story circulated within the beltway to smear anyone with the common sense to say Washington should get the hell out of a country it has no business occupying or meddling in.

With ISIS' defeat in Syria and Turkey's pivoting to a friendly relationship with Russia, in fact, the Turks have no need to invade eastern Syria and drive out the Kurds as they did last year in Afrin. Owing to their participation in the Astana Group, and therefore defacto rapprochement with Assad, they are more than well-positioned to get an agreed four-party settlement which ends up with the YPG largely disarmed and its ambitions for a separate state nullified. As Tom Luongo astutely observed,
Turkey was one of the major partners in the mission to destroy Syria. And now they have joined with Russia, Iran and China in negotiating the peace process. They have gone from 'Assad must go!' to 'Assad can stay.' It is an admission that the US plan for balkanization of Syria will eventually fail.....
The truth is, there will be no revival of ISIS or massacre of the Kurds under the Donald's long overdue decision to do in Syria what the dovish GOP statesman from Vermont, Senator George Aiken, advised LBJ to do about Vietnam back in 1968: Namely, to declare victory and bring the troops home—a wise course of action that still rings with truth 50 years later.

And that gets us to General Mattis and his grandstanding resignation. Contrary to the mainstream media narrative, the man was far from the "adult" in the room. He is actually a short guy with a big mouth and an institutionally-instilled affinity for Empire and all its works.

As to the former attribute, his endless series of nasty quotes is hardly reflective of the wise civilian leadership that is supposed to govern our military forces. Instead, it just the smart-mouthed rhetoric of a guy who spent 40-years in a Marine barracks fighting wholly unnecessary wars against crudely armed insurgents who didn't cotton to foreign legions bombing, droning, burning, demolishing and occupying their native towns, villages and farms across the middle east.

'I come in peace. I didn't bring artillery. But I am pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you f*ck with me I'll kill you.'

The only thing you can say about Mattis—notwithstanding his 7,000 book library and ostentatious carrying of the Mediations of Marcus Aurelius to battle—is that he was an unthinking warrior for the Empire who proved to be adept at inflicting the massive technological violence of the American war machine on the inhabitants of Kuwait in Gulf War 1.0, and then the same on the beleaguered lands and populations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Needless to say, there was nothing especially "adult" about any of that unnecessary mayhem. Instead, it was just dutiful implementation of the wholly misguided and destructive projects of Imperial Washington.

Thank heavens Mattis has now been fired from the Oval Office twice—first by Obama for his virulent antipathy to Iran and then by Trump for his ceaseless resistance to the withdrawal from Syria which the Donald announced way back on March 30.

At Christmas, there could be no better gift to the American people—or to the long- suffering populations of the middle east who have been subjected to Mattis style we'll- kill-you-if-even-look-cross-eyed at our occupation of your lands—than the Donald's tweet of good riddance to Mattis and hopefully more of Washington's Mad Dogs of War to come.


Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner.

America Should Have Skipped the War, Not Just the Ceremony

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This weekend the Donald took some heavy duty flack from liberals, Dems, the MSM and harrumphing patriots for canceling his appearance at a wreath laying ceremony at the famous WWI battle site at Belleau, France owing to inclement weather. For instance, former Secretary of State, John Kerry got himself worked into high dudgeon:
Mr. Kerry criticized the president’s decision on Twitter, saying that the weather “shouldn’t have stopped an American President”.

“President @realDonaldTrump a no-show because of raindrops?” he wrote. “Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow – & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom.”
We truly wonder whether Mr. Kerry gets the monumental irony. In his youth he was a courageous leader of the anti-Vietnam War movement based on the insanity of America’s role in a needless war in Southeast Asia of which he was a veteran.

Yet the only war of the 20th century more senseless than Vietnam was the so-called Great War, and most especially America’s intervention in an old world tragedy for no good reason whatsoever. That is to say, the Marine heroes of the bloody battle of Belleau Wood did not die "in the trenches for the cause of freedom."

To the contrary, they died there owing to the fanatical megalomania of President Woodrow Wilson. The latter maneuvered America into the Great War in April 1917 when it was nearly over, and for the purpose of giving himself a grand seat at the peace conference afterward to reshape the world in accordance with his messianic vision.

That was a horrible reason in itself for the 116,000 deaths of American servicemen during the less than 12 months that they were actually engaged in battle at the tail end of the war. The real tragedy of their sacrifice and the real crime of Wilson’s pointless intervention was that it snatched victory for the allies, who didn’t deserve it, from the jaws of stalemate among the militarily exhausted, financially bankrupt and politically demoralized combatants on both sides of the conflict.

In a word, save for Wilson’s intervention the war would have been over in 1917. In consequence, there would have been a peace of the exhausted, not the vindictive, destructive peace of the "victors" at Versailles, which paved the way for Lenin and Stalin in Russia and Hitler and the totalitarian mobilizations that fostered World War II and the Cold War beyond.

That is to say, the 100-year anniversary of the Armistice of November 11, 1918 is not about just another historical date passing a big round number. Instead, it is a reminder that the Great War and the Carthaginian Peace which followed was the incubator for almost all the ills of the next 100 years – and not just the Stalinist nightmare in Russia, Nazi Germany and the holocaust or the long gray night of Cold War during which the Nuclear Sword Of Damocles hung precariously over the planet.

It also gave rise to the Big Government interventionist state in America; turned the Federal Reserve from a decentralized "bankers’ bank" into an all-powerful fiscal arm of Washington and eventually the monetary central planner for the nation; and most insidiously of all, generated the baleful notion of America as the Indispensable Nation and the follies of Empire which have flowed therefrom.

Needless to say, amidst all it harrumphing about the Donald’s "no show" at Belleau Wood, Imperial Washington is showing it true colors. It is so steeped in the culture, rationalizations and prerogatives of Empire that it fails to appreciate the profundity of the Donald’s surely less than noble reasons – fear, apparently, that the Orange Comb-Over might get waterlogged – for eschewing the one hour car trip to the Aisne Marne American Cemetery.

Far, far better that America had eschewed the war entirely 100 years ago, and that no American had ever been sent into the meat-grinder at Belleau Wood. Obviously, their snuffed-out lives would have turned out for the better, but so would have America’s and the entire world’s.

Accordingly, during the next three days we are presenting a series on the wrong path taken 100 years ago during 1917-1919 by the very worst President ever to occupy the Oval Office.

Indeed, even as he prepared on Armistice Day for his triumphal trip to the Paris Peace Conference a month later the messianic Wilson might better have contemplated the meaning of what ace fighter pilot, Eddie Rickenbacker, saw as high piloted his fighter plane just 500 feet over the fog-shrouded battlefield slightly before 11 AM on November 11, 1918. In his diary he noted:
And then it was 11:00 A.M., the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I was the only audience for the greatest show ever presented. On both sides of no-man’s-land, the trenches erupted. Brown-uniformed men poured out of the American trenches, gray-green uniforms out of the German. From my observer’s seat overhead, I watched them throw their helmets in the air, discard their guns, wave their hands. Then all up and down the front, the two groups of men began edging toward each other across no-man’s-land. Seconds before they had been willing to shoot each other; now they came forward. Hesitantly at first, then more quickly, each group approached the other.

Suddenly gray uniforms mixed with brown. I could see them hugging each other, dancing, jumping. Americans were passing out cigarettes and chocolate. I flew up to the French sector. There it was even more incredible. After four years of slaughter and hatred, they were not only hugging each other but kissing each other on both cheeks as well.

Star shells, rockets and flares began to go up, and I turned my ship toward the field. The war was over.
Except it wasn’t and not for a century. Yet back then the soldiers on both sides knew the war was pointless and that there was no victory to be had – just an end to the insane brutality of the whole enterprise. Better that they had all gone home after the politicians on both sides finally threw in the towel.

But it was not to be because the vainglorious Thomas Woodrow Wilson foolishly believed that he had been called by God to remake the world for the betterment of mankind. So doing, he sacrificed American blood and treasure so that the vengeful French and the Empire-minded Brits could impose a punitive, draconian peace on the gray-green German uniforms which Rickenbacker saw that morning ready to go home and to forgive and forget.

Instead, Wilson and the Allies eventually sent them home humiliated and destitute, signatories to the German "War Guilt" clause in the treaty of Versailles and the punitive burden of war reparations which accompanied it; and, more importantly, as the future politically combustible tinder from which the scourge of Hitler and Nazism soon arose – and then nearly a century of wars thereafter.

Rather than harrumphing at the Donald, it would be far the more becoming if Imperial Washington took the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice to reflect upon its own derelict and bloody hands.

Woodrow Wilson And The Rise Of The Indispensable Nation Folly, Part 1

The Indispensable Nation meme originates not in the universal condition of mankind and the nation-states into which it has been partitioned. Instead, it stems from an erroneous take on the one-time, flukish and historically aberrant circumstances of the 20th century that gave raise to giant totalitarian states in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, and the resulting mass murder and oppressions which resulted there from.

What we mean is that Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany were not coded into the DNA of humanity; they were not an incipient horror always waiting to happen the moment more righteous nations let down their guard.

To the contrary, they were effectively born and bred in April 1917 when the US entered what was then called the Great War. And though it did so for absolutely no reason of homeland security or any principle consistent with the legitimate foreign policy of the American Republic, it’s entry tilted the outcome to the social chaos and Carthaginian peace from which Stalin and Hitler sprang.

So you can put the blame for the monumental evil of 20th century totalitarianism squarely on Thomas Woodrow Wilson. This megalomaniacal madman, who was the very worst President in American history, took America into war for the worst possible reason: Namely, a vainglorious desire to have a big seat at the postwar peace table in order to remake the world as God had inspired him to redeem it.

The truth, however, was that the European war posed not an iota of threat to the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE, or Worcester MA or Sacramento CA. In that respect, Wilson’s putative defense of “freedom of the seas” and the rights of neutrals was an empty shibboleth; his call to make the world safe for democracy, a preposterous pipe dream.

Indeed, the shattered world extant after the bloodiest war in human history was a world about which Wilson was blatantly ignorant. And remaking it was a task for which he was temperamentally unsuited – even as his infamous 14 points were a chimera so abstractly devoid of substance as to constitute mental play dough.

The monumentally ugly reason for America’s entry into the Great War, in fact, was revealed – if inadvertently – by his alter-ego and sycophant, Colonel House. As the latter put it: Intervention in Europe’s war positioned Wilson to play,

“The noblest part that has ever come to the son of man”.

America thus plunged into Europe’s carnage, and forevermore shed its century-long Republican tradition of anti-militarism and nonintervention in the quarrels of the Old World. From Wilson’s historically erroneous turn – there arose at length the Indispensable Nation folly, which we shall catalogue in depth below.

For now, suffice it to say that there was absolutely nothing noble that came of Wilson’s intervention.

It led to a peace of vengeful victors, triumphant nationalists and avaricious imperialists – when the war would have otherwise ended in a bedraggled peace of mutually exhausted bankrupts and discredited war parties on both sides.

By so altering the course of history, Wilson’s war bankrupted Europe and midwifed 20th century totalitarianism in Russia and Germany.

These developments, in turn, eventually led to the Great Depression, the Welfare State and Keynesian economics, World War II, the holocaust, the Cold War, the permanent Warfare State and its military-industrial-surveillance complex.

They also spawned Nixon’s 1971 destruction of sound money, Reagan’s failure to tame Big Government and Greenspan’s destructive cult of monetary central planning.

So, too, flowed the Bush dynasty’s wars of intervention and occupation, and from them a fatal blow to the failed states in the lands of Islam foolishly created by the imperialist map-makers at Versailles. The legacy: endless waves of blowback and terrorism now afflicting the world.

The rise of the murderous Nazi and Stalinist totalitarian regimes during the 1930s and the resulting conflagration of World War II is held to be, correctly, the defining event of the 20th century. But that truism only begs the real question.

To wit, were these nightmarish scourges always latent just below the surface of global civilization – waiting to erupt whenever good people and nations fell asleep at the switch, as per the standard critique of the British pacifism and US isolationism that flourished during the late 1930s?

Or were they the equivalent of the 1000 year flood? That is, a development so unlikely, aberrant and unrepeatable as to merely define a horrid but one-off chapter of history, not the ordinary and probable unfolding of affairs among the nations.

We contend that the answer depends upon whether your start with April 2, 1917, when America discarded its historic republican policy of nonintervention and joined the bloody fray on the old continent’s Western Front, or December 7, 1941, when Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor allegedly awoke America from its isolationist slumber and called it to global leadership of the so-called American Century.

Needless to say, the Deep State’s ideology of the Indispensable Nation and its projects of Empire are rooted in the Pearl Harbor narrative. That is, the claim that global affairs go to hell in a hand basket when virtuous nations let down their guard or acquiesce to even modest acts of regional aggression.

The now faded verities of republican nonintervention, by contrast, properly finger Woodrow Wilson’s perfidious declaration of War on Germany as the event that changed the ordinary course of history, and paved the way for the once in a 1000 years aberration of Hitler and Stalin which ultimately ensued.

Not surprisingly, the official historical narratives of the Empire glorify America’s rising to duty in World War II and after, but merely describe the events of 1917-1919 as some sort of preliminary coming of age.

As a consequence, the rich, history-defining essence of what happened during those eventful years has been lost in the fog of battles, the miserable casualty statistics of war, the tales of prolonged diplomatic wrangling at Versailles and the blame-game for the failed Senate ratification of Wilson’s League of Nations thereafter.

In this connection, the defeat of the League of Nations is treated as a colossal error in the mainstream narrative. It is held to constitute a crucial default by the Indispensable Nation that hurried the rise of the totalitarian nightmares, and only compounded America’s task of righting the world in the 1940s and after.

In fact, however, the defeat of Wilson’s treaty was the last gasp of republicanism – an echo of the stand that had kept America true to its interests and noninterventionist traditions as the calamity of the Great War unfolded.

In effect, Henry Cabot Lodge and his so-called Midwestern isolationists (actually the original America Firsters) were trying to turn the clock back to April 1, 1917.

That was the day before Wilson summoned the Congress to war based on his own megalomania and the high-handed maneuvers of his State Department. After William Jennings Bryan’s principled antiwar resignation in June 1915, the latter had been operating in complete cahoots with the Morgan interests (which had risked billions financing England and France) and had essentially maneuvered the messianic Wilson into war.

Consequently, the powerful truths of what actually preceded the 1919 defeat of the League have been lost to standard history. In what follows, we mean to revive these crucial developments and inflection points because they clearly do demonstrate that the 1000 year flood of 20th century totalitarianism originated in the foolish decisions of Wilson and a few others, not the DNA of mankind nor a death urge of the nations.

Needless to say, that is not a matter of academic history; it makes all the difference in the world of here and now because virtually every maneuver of Imperial Washington, such as it current demented attacks on Iran, are predicated on the Hitler and Stalin syndrome. That is, the hoary belief that there is always another one of these monsters lurking in the ordinary political, economic and cultural conflicts of the nations.

To the contrary, of course, if the world actually needs no Indispensable Nation the whole predicate for Empire is invalidated. The raison d’etre of the Imperial City and all its hegemonic projects of "leadership", meddling, intervention, and occupation, in fact, belong in the dustbin of history.

Needless to say, that is also why Imperial Washington was so aghast at Donald Trump’s election. By whatever cockamamie route of thinly informed reasoning he got there – he did seem to comprehend that the national security of America and the policing of a global Empire are not the same thing at all.

So herewith is a capsulized dissection of the 1000 year flood – explaining why Stalin and Hitler should have never happened. Accordingly, the hot, cold and permanent wars that followed thereafter condemn the case for Empire, not make it; and they show that Trump’s America First is a far more appropriate lodestone for national security policy than Imperial Washington’s specious claim that America is the Indispensable Nation.

As indicated above, the Great War had been destined to end in 1917 by mutual exhaustion, bankruptcy and withdrawal from the utterly stalemated trenches of the Western Front. In the end, upwards of 4.0 million combatants had been killed and 8.3 million wounded over four years for movement along blood-drenched front-lines that could be measured in mere miles and yards.

Still, had America stayed on its side of the great Atlantic moat, the ultimate outcomes everywhere would have been far different. Foremostly, the infant democracy that came to power in February 1917 in Russia would not have been so easily smothered in its crib.

There surely would have been no disastrous summer offensive by the Kerensky government to rollback Germany on the eastern front where the czarist armies had earlier been humiliated and dismembered.

In turn, an early end to the war in Russia would also have precluded the subsequent armed insurrection in Petrograd in November 1917, which enabled the flukish seizure of power by Lenin and his small band of fanatical Bolsheviks.

That is, the 20th century would not have been saddled with what inexorably morphed into the Stalinist nightmare. Nor would a garrisoned Soviet state have poisoned the peace of nations for 74 years thereafter, while causing the nuclear sword of Damocles to hang precariously over the planet.

The same is even more true regarding the rise of Hitler, as we examine next time.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner. To subscribe to Stockman's page, click here.

America First, Helsinki, and Trump’s Existential Threat to the Empire

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The major – perhaps only – redeeming virtue of the Donald’s ersatz campaign platform was his clear intent to seek a rapprochement with Russia, revamp America’s commitments to NATO and other cold war relics and to discard "Regime Change" as the core tenant of foreign policy. In essence, "America First" was to become the new route to domestic security and safety.

Those eminently sensible notions struck the Deep State’s raison d’etre to the quick during the campaign; and by hook or crook, the Donald’s rapid fire actions toward these objectives since April have induced a palpable shock in the Imperial City.

Clearly he means to withdraw America’s 29,000 military hostages now stationed in South Korea in return for some sort of peace treaty, economic normalization and denuclearization arrangement with Kim Jong-un.

Likewise, he has sensibly suggested that demonizing Russia and Putin has accomplished nothing, and that they should be invited back into the G-8. And as soon as Robert Mueller finishes his RussiaGate farce, Trump can get rid of the present asinine sanctions on various Russian officials and Putin cronies, too.

We also now know – owing to the sullen reporting of the Washington Post – that Trump has been hounding the national security bureaucracy about another utterly ridiculous artifact of the Empire. Namely, the fact that 73 years after Hitler descended into Hades from his bunker and 27 years after the Soviet Union slithered off the pages of history, there are still 35,000 US troops in Germany:
The Pentagon is analyzing the cost and impact of a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of American troops stationed in Germany, amid growing tensions between President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to people familiar with the work.

'The effort follows Trump’s expression of interest in removing the troops, made during a meeting earlier this year with White House and military aides,' U.S. officials said. Trump was said to have been taken aback by the size of the US presence, which includes about 35,000 active-duty troops, and complained that other countries were not contributing fairly to joint security or paying enough to NATO.

'Word of the assessment has alarmed European officials, who are scrambling …'
Scrambling?

We doubt whether real Europeans are scrambling at all – the Post is surely just quoting from the NATO echo chamber.

Then again, the latter is absolutely the most useless, obsolete, wasteful and dangerous multilateral institution in the present world. But like the proverbial clothes-less emperor, NATO doesn’t dare risk having the purportedly "uninformed" amateur in the Oval Office pointing out its buck naked behind.

So the NATO subservient think tanks and establishment policy apparatchiks are harrumphing up a storm, but for crying out loud most of Europe’s elected politicians are in on the joke. They are fiscally swamped paying for their Welfare States and are not about to squeeze their budgets or taxpayers to fund military muscle against a nonexistent threat.

As Justin Raimondo aptly notes,
Finally an American president has woken up to the fact that World War II, not to mention the cold war, is over: there’s no need for US troops to occupy Germany.

Vladimir Putin isn’t going to march into Berlin in a reenactment of the Red Army taking the Fuehrer-bunker – but even if he were so inclined, why won’t Germany defend itself?
Exactly. If their history proves anything, Germans are not a nation of pacifists, meekly willing to bend-over in the face of real aggressors. Yet they spent the paltry sum of $43 billion on defense during 2017, or barely 1.1% of Germany’s $3.8 trillion GDP, which happens to be roughly three times bigger than Russia’s.

In short, the policy action of the German government tells you they don’t think Putin is about to invade the Rhineland or retake the Brandenburg Gate. And this live action testimonial also trumps, as it were, all of the risible alarms emanating from the beltway think tanks and the 4,000 NATO bureaucrats talking book in behalf of their own plush Brussels sinecures.

But now comes the piece de resistance. The Donald is going to Helsinki to make peace with Vlad Putin, and just in the nick of time.

Hopefully, in one-fell swoop they can reach an agreement to get the US military out of Syria; normalize the return of Crimea and Moscow’s historic naval base at Sevastopol to the Russian motherland; stop the civil war in Ukraine via a mutually agreed de facto partition; stand-down from the incipient military clashes from the Baltic to the Black Sea; and pave the way for lifting of the absurd sanctions on Russian businessmen and citizens.

Needless to say, time is of the essence. Every hour that the Donald wastes tweeting, bloviating about his beloved Mexican wall, sabotaging American exports and jobs and watching Fox & Friends reruns is just more opportunity for the vast apparatus of the Deep State (and most of his own top officials) to deep-six the Donald’s emerging and thoroughly welcome rendition of America First.

For instance, the same Washington Post article cited above is laced with off-the record quotes from officials determined to maintain the NATO status quo and therefore continuing, needless provocation of Russia.
'…..the Pentagon continuously evaluates US troop deployments,' the statement said, and such 'analysis exercises' are 'not out of the norm.'

Several officials suggested that Pentagon policymakers may have moved ahead with the assessment to prove the worth of the current basing arrangement anddissuade Trump from carrying the thought of withdrawal any further.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon dismissed any suggestion of a full or partial withdrawal from Germany and described such analysis as routine.
Overcoming the self-interested inertial forces of the Deep State and its vast syndicate of contractors, weapons suppliers, military pork barrels and think tank supplicants, of course, is its own monumental challenge. Yet the Donald’s pathway to America First is further obstructed by the fact that the Dems are way off-sides for purely partisan reasons.

That is to say, Democratic politicians – including most of the so-called liberals and progressives – have turned themselves into handmaids of the Warfare State owing to their inconsolable grief and anger over losing the 2016 election to Donald Trump. Consequently, they are virtually incapable of thinking rationally about Russia – or of even thinking at all.

Nevertheless, if the Donald is anything, he is a showman. And he very much needs to steal the show in Helsinki from the beltway saboteurs who will stop at nothing to keep the current utterly unnecessary and pointless cold war revival cranking at full steam.

After all, to paraphrase Randolph Bourne, the Russian ogre is the health of the military/industrial/intelligence/think tank complex. So even a rapprochement – to say nothing of peace – with Russia is an existential threat to the Deep State; it would necessarily pull the fiscal pins right out from under the hideous $800 billion per year defense, intelligence and foreign aid apparatus.

So we don’t know whether the Donald can pull off a second Singapore in Helsinki or not, but we are quite sure Flyover America would rally to his cause – just as it has done since his historic photo op with Kim Jong-un.

We are also quite sure that even his own government will be doing its best to sabotage the Helsinki summit because the very prosperity of the Imperial City depends upon demonizing Putin and Russia. As Justin Raimondo has further observed:
The Helsinki summit with Putin is the knockout punch. And the howls of painarising from our hateful warmongering media, the Democratic party politicians they’re in thrall to, and the phony 'human rights' scamsters, are getting louder by the minute. We should all revel in their misery.

Trump campaigned on making peace with Russia: he has a mandate to do so. That, however, matters little to the 'intelligence community' and their media camarilla, which is up in arms at the very prospect of a Russo-American partnership for peace. The national security bureaucracy and the laptop bombardiers who inhabit Think-tank World have a vested interest in maintaining a cold war status quo that should’ve ended when the Berlin Wall fell. They are horrified by Trump’s 'America First' foreign policy views, and they are out to stop him by any means necessary – because his victory meant the end of their worldview and their careers.
Meanwhile, the significance of Helsinki cannot be overstated. If it goes well, it will be proof positive that America faces no large state-based enemy.

That is to say, it will mightily illuminate the hidden fact that neither Russia nor China (for that matter) even remotely possess the intent or the means to threaten the American homeland.

Likewise, a potential US withdrawal from Syria and incipient agreement with Russia to de-escalate tensions in the middle east would remind America that Regime Change has been an utter failure.

Yet without an imperial foreign policy that is implicitly designed to either bully or remove recalcitrant lesser governments anywhere on the planet – whether or not they have the intent or capacity to harm the US homeland – there would be no case at all for 11 carrier battle groups, massive air and sealift capacity and Washington’s far flung string of bases and occupations spread among more than 100 countries around the planet.

So, much is riding in the balance at Helsinki – including the possibility that a strong success could open the door to a real, far more systematic and intellectually cogent America First Policy over the longer haul.

To that end, we therefore propose to dig deeper – to tease out the full possibilities of an America First foreign policy now that the Donald has somehow succeeded in getting his ample belly right up close to the bar.

In the first place it needs be observed that lurking not far below the surface of the Donald’s "America First" slogan is the ghost of Senator Robert Taft’s profoundly correct case for nonintervention.

Back in the 1950s, the great statesman from Ohio fully understood that free enterprise prosperity, minimal government and maximum personal liberty were incompatible with a permanent, fiscally debilitating Warfare State leviathan designed to function as the world’s boots-&-suits-on-the-ground hegemon.

Consequently, Taft strongly opposed a big peacetime navy, a large standing army with forward stationing and rapid global deployment capacities and the proliferation of foreign treaties and aid commitments.

To the contrary, he reasoned that in the nuclear age a US-based bomber and missile force of unquestioned striking capacity would more than adequately protect the homeland from foreign military aggression; and that it could do so at a fraction of the cost of what amounted to permanent imperial legions assigned to patrolling the better part of the planet.

Today Taft’s vision of a homeland defense would be more apt than ever. It would constitute an even cheaper and more efficacious guarantor of the safety and security of the American people than in his time. That’s because there are now no rival superpowers with even a fraction of the military and economic might of the former Soviet Union.

Moreover, missile technology has become so advanced that a relative handful of submarines and hardened domestic launch sites can deter any conceivable foreign threat, which is inherently a nuclear one, to America’s homeland security.

That is, in this day and age there is absolutely no conventional military threat to the safety and liberty of citizens in Omaha NE, Spokane WA or Springfield MA.

That’s because there is no nation on earth that could mount a giant naval and air armada sufficient to invade the American homeland. Or, if it were foolish enough to try, could it survive the guided missile blitz that would send its forces to Davy Jones’ locker long before they crossed the blue waters which surround the North American continent.

Stated differently, nuclear deterrence, the great ocean moats and a territorial military defense is all that it would take to keep America secure in today’s world.

There is no need for Pax Americana, even if it could succeed, which manifestly it has not; and even if it could be afforded, which clearly it can’t be.

To be sure, the Donald is too full of egotistical bluster and too infatuated with militarist trappings to go the full Taft-nonintervention route, but given a fair chance he might yet shimmy policy in that direction. Clearly a rapprochement with Russia would enable a de-escalation of Washington’s imperial presence in the middle east and avoid a dangerous buildup of military tensions and expense in eastern Europe.

In any event, as crude and bombastic as Trump’s articulation of the America First proposition sometimes sounds, it does amount to a frontal attack on the intellectual superstructure which keeps the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf, 35,000 troops in Germany, 29,000 of America’s military personal in harm’s way on the Korean peninsula, 11 carrier battle groups on the oceans, a continued expeditionary force of 100,000 troops, dependents and support personnel in Japan and military operations and economic and military aid in more than 100 other nations around the planet.

Underneath this vast Empire, of course, lays the utterly bogus notion that America is the Indispensable Nation and that Washington Leadership is always and everywhere the sine quo non of stability, order and peace all around the planet.

By the very obnoxious nature of his personality and modus operandi, however, the Donald has done much to tarnish the idea of Washington Leadership; and that is a considerable step toward global peace in its own right.

That’s because the best way to stop more American wars is for no one to come next time Washington puts out the call, and for the so-called Coalition of the Willing to shrink to a quorum of none.

That prospect has surely terrified the foreign policy establishment. Even though to date the Donald has been throttled at nearly every turn by the War Party in his discombobulated and amateurish pursuit of America First, that has not stopped its leading spokesman and institutions from lambasting him for allegedly sullying Washington’s self-assigned "leadership" role in the world.

In that respect there are few grand poobahs of the War Party who better embody the arrogant pretensions of the American Imperium than the odious president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Hass.

According to the latter, the trouble with Trump is that after 16 months in office he still doesn’t get it; he’s turned his back on the core predicate that animates the Imperial City:
'Trump is the first post-WWII president to view the burdens of world leadership as outweighing the benefits. The United States has changed from the principal preserver of order to a principal disrupter.'
Exactly what hay wagon does he think we fell off from?

How did the war on Vietnam, the First Gulf War to save the Emir of Kuwait’s oil wealth, the futile 17-year occupation of Afghanistan, the destruction of Iraq, the double-cross of Khadafy after he gave up his nukes, the obliteration of much of civil society and economic life in Syria, the US-supplied Saudi genocide in Yemen and the Washington sponsored coup and civil war on Russia’s doorstep in Ukraine, to name just a few instances of Washington’s putative "world leadership", have anything to do with preserving "order" on the planet?

And exactly how did the "benefits" of these serial instigations of mayhem outweigh the "burdens" to America’s taxpayers – to say nothing of the terminal costs to the dead and maimed citizens in their millions who had the misfortune to be domiciled in these traumatized lands?

Likewise, have the refugees who have been flushed out of Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere in the middle east by Washington’s wars done anything for the peace and stability of Europe, where Washington’s victims have desperately fled in their millions?

Yet, there would have been no long-lasting civil war in Syria without the billions of cash and weapons supplied to the so-called rebels and the outright jihadis by Washington and its Persian Gulf vassals; nor would Yemen by sinking into famine and cholera plagues without the American bombs, missiles and drone dispatched by the Saudi pilots essentially functioning as hired Pentagon mercenaries.

Indeed, the smoldering ruins of Mosul, Aleppo, Fallujah, Benghazi and lesser places in their thousands hardly speak to a beneficent hegemony.

Yet had Washington never brought its fleets and occupying forces to the Middle East after 1970 and had the region not come under the heavy boot of the Central Command and Washington’s assorted proconsuls and plenipotentiaries, the plague of radical Sunni jidhadism would never have arisen. Nor is it likely that the ancient rift between the Sunni and Shiite confessions of Islam would have erupted into today’s lethal armed conflicts.

It is well to note that during peacetime before 1970, no American soldiers were killed in the middle east. After 1990. However, virtually all US serviceman who were killed or wounded in combat were stationed in the greater middle east.

It is also worth noting that the answer to high oil prices is high prices, not the Fifth Fleet. In fact, global oil production today has doubled since 1973 owing to price, technology and the worldwide quest for profits by state and private oil companies alike – even as constant dollar prices per barrel stand far below the peaks reached during that decade.

There never was any economic imperative whatsoever to bring the American armada into the region.

So when candidate Trump said the Iraq invasion was a stupid mistake, that Hillary’s war on Khadafy was misbegotten, that he would like to cooperate with Putin on pacifying Syria and that NATO was obsolete, he was actually calling into question the fundamental predicates of the American Imperium.

And that gets us to the Russian threat bogeyman, the War Party’s risible demonization of Vladimir Putin and the cocked-up narrative about the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 election – all of which the upcoming Helsinki summit could knock into a cocked hat.

When Trump captured the GOP nomination against all odds and expectations in the spring of 2016, the War Party went into hyper-drive. Each of these bogus themes were promoted to a fare-the-well through the MSM in order to derail his candidacy; and then, after the fact, to delegitimize and imperil his presidency.

Yet the gruel behind each of these memes is thin indeed. So it’s is fair to say that while the Donald has caused the Imperial City itself to become unhinged, it is also possible that a successful Helsinki photo op writ large could mightily help Flyover America to see the light.

In the case of the election meddling meme, there are few more hypocritical instances of the cat-calling-the-kettle-black than this one.

To wit, the total US intelligence community (IC) budget is upwards of $75 billion – 25% more than Russia’s entire military budget including ships, planes, tanks, ammo, fuel, rations, operations, maintenance and even spare boots – and a big part of that giant IC spend goes to, well, meddling, hacking and sabotage of foreign nations!

The Targeted Access Operations (TAO) unit inside NSA alone has a multi-billion budget which funds thousands of in-house and contractor personnel who spend day and night hacking the communications channels of virtually every government in the world, friend, foe and enemy alike.

It goes without saying, of course, that the very purpose of these intrusions is to interfere with the domestic politics and governance of most of the planet’s population, and in some cases to actually sabotage perfectly appropriate operations, such as the Natanz centrifuges in Iran which were destroyed by the Washington’s stuxnet virus.

Thus, if you are not caught up in the War party’s self-serving groupthink, it seems entirely plausible that in the face of these massive Washington cyber-assaults that targeted nations might indeed seek to counterattack, as apparently the Russian security services have done.

Yet that also opens up another show and tell possibility for Helsinki. There could be nothing that would shutdown the whole RussiaGate Farce (and leave the Dem handmaids high and dry) than a freeze-for-freeze proposal on meddling – something we are quite confident Cool Hand Vlad would jump at in a heartbeat.

After all, what the whole Russian meddling meme boils down to is an assertion that Kremlin operatives have been attacking America in plain sight. That is, they hacked the DNC’s gossip and intrigue-ridden computers and breached the content of Podesta’s password protected political skullduggery. But airing intra-party dirty laundry is neither a national security matter nor does its disclosure jeopardize American democracy in the slightest.

The very idea that these two alleged hacks amount to some grand assault on American democracy is just plain laughable; and it surely does not take a dozen congressional investigations and the rogue Mueller witch-hunt to preclude any future recurrence.

All it would really require is a handshake agreement in Helsinki because it is plainly obvious that Russia got nothing out of the St. Petersburg troll farm or any of the other related allegations of "meddling".

At the end of the day, we are supposed to believe that a country with a puny$1.3 trillion GDP, which is just 7% of the US’ $19.7 trillion GDP, and which consists largely of aged hydrocarbon provinces, endless wheat fields, modest industrial capacities and a stagnant Vodka-favoring workforce, is actually a threat to America’s security.

And we are also supposed to fear the military capacity of a country that has no blue water Navy to speak of and no conventional airlift and air-attack capacity which could remotely threaten the New Jersey shores, and that spends less in a full year than the Pentagon consumes every 35 days.

Oh, yes, and this midget military is run with an apparent iron-hand by the Cool Hand Luke of the modern world. Yet as will be readily apparent to the unwashed American masses from his demeanor at Helsinki, the last thing Putin is going to do is commit Russian national suicide by launching a nuclear attack on America.

Yet that’s all he’s got: To wit, a nonexistent military threat and a justifiable desire to protect the Russian-speaking populations on his doorstep in Crimea and the Donbas from the depredations of the Civil War that Washington itself instigated.

That too will become apparent at Helsinki.

So let the Empire’s existential crisis begin!

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner. To subscribe to Stockman's page, click here.

Why The Empire Never Sleeps: The Indispensable Nation Folly

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Like the case of Rome before it, the Empire is bankrupting America. The true fiscal cost is upwards of $1.0 trillion per year (counting $200 billion for veterans and debt service for wars), but there is no way to pay for it.

That's because the 78-million strong Baby Boom is in the driver's seat of American politics. It plainly will not permit the $3 trillion per year retirement and health care entitlements-driven Welfare State to be curtailed.

The Trumpite/GOP has already sealed that deal by refusing to reform Social Security and Medicare and by proving to be utterly incapable of laying a glove politically on Obamacare/Medicaid. At the same time, boomers keep voting for the GOP's anti-tax allergy, thereby refusing to tax themselves to close Washington's yawning deficits.

More importantly, the generation which marched on the Pentagon in 1968 against the insanity and barbarism of LBJ's Vietnam War has long since abandoned the cause of peace. So doing, boomers have acquiesced in the final ascendancy of the Warfare State, which grew like topsy once the US became the world's sole superpower after the Soviet Union slithered off the pages of history in 1991.

Yet there is a reason why the end of the 77-year world war which incepted with the "guns of August" in 1914 did not enable the world to resume the status quo ante of relative peace and prosperous global capitalism.

To wit, the hoary ideology of American exceptionalism and the Indispensable Nation was also, ironically, liberated from the shackles of cold war realism when the iron curtain came tumbling down.

Consequently, it burst into a quest for unadulterated global hegemony. In short order (under Bush the Elder and the Clintons) Washington morphed into the Imperial City, and became a beehive not only of militarism, but of an endless complex of think-tanks, NGO's, advisories and consultancies, "law firms", lobbies, and racketeers.

The unspeakable prosperity of Washington flows from that Imperial beehive. And it is the Indispensable Nation meme that provides the political adhesive that binds the Imperial City to the work of Empire and to provisioning the massive fiscal appetites of the Warfare State.

Needless to say, Empire is a terrible thing because it is the health of the state and the profound enemy of capitalist prosperity and constitutional liberty.

It thrives and metastasizes by abandoning the republican verities of non-intervention abroad and peaceful commerce with all the nations of the world in favor of the self-appointed role of global policeman. Rather than homeland defense, the policy of Empire is that of international busybody, military hegemon and brutal enforcer of Washington's writs, sanctions, red lines and outlawed regimes.

There is nothing more emblematic of that betrayal of republican non-interventionism than the sundry hot spots which dog the Empire today. These include the Ukraine/Crimea confrontation with Russia, the regime change fiasco in Syria, the US sponsored genocide in Yemen, the failed, bloody 17-year occupation of Afghanistan, the meddling of the US Seventh Fleet in the South China Sea, and, most especially, the swiftly intensifying contretemps in Iran.

As to the latter, there is absolutely no reason for the Empire's attack on Iran. The proverbial Martian, in fact, would be sorely perplexed about why Washington is marching toward war with its puritanical and authoritarian but relatively powerless religious rulers.

After all, Iran hasn't violated the nuke deal (JPCOA) by the lights of any credible authority -- or by even less than credible ones like the CIA. Nor by the same consensus of authorities has it even had a research program for nuclear weaponization since 2003.

Likewise, its modest GDP of $430 billion is equal to just eight days of US output, thereby hardly constituting an industrial platform from which its theocratic rulers could plausibly menace America's homeland.

Nor could its tiny $14 billion defense budget -- which amounts to just seven days worth of DOD outlays -- inflict any military harm on American citizens.

In fact, Iran has no blue water navy that could effectively operate outside of the Persian Gulf; its longest range warplanes can barely get to Rome without refueling; and its array of mainly defensive medium and intermediate range missiles cannot strike most of NATO, to say nothing of the North American continent.

The answer to the Martian's question, of course, is that Iran is no threat whatsoever to the safety and security of the US homeland, but it has run badly afoul of the dictates of the American Empire.

That is to say, it has presumed to have an independent foreign policy involving Washington proscribed alliances with the sovereign state of Syria, the leading political party of Lebanon (Hezbollah), the ruling authorities (and US puppets) in Baghdad and the reining power in the Yemen capital of Sana'a (the Houthis).

These are all deemed by Washington to be sources of unsanctioned "regional instability" and Iran's alliances with them have been capriciously labeled as acts of state sponsored terrorism.

The same goes for Washington's demarche against Iran's modest array of short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles. These weapons are palpably instruments of self-defense, but Imperial Washington insists their purpose is aggression -- unlike the case of practically every other nation which offers its custom to American arms merchants.

For example, Iran's arch-rival across the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, has more advanced NATO supplied ballistic missiles with even greater range (2,600 km range). So does Israel, Pakistan, India, and a half-dozen other nations, which are either Washington allies or have been given a hall-pass in order to bolster US arms exports.

In short, Washington's escalating war on Iran is an exercise in global hegemony, not territorial self-defense. What the proverbial Martian is really asking, therefore, is how did the Empire come about?

How did the historic notion of national defense morph into Washington's arrogant claim that it constitutes the "Indispensable Nation" which stands as mankind's bulwark against global disorder and chaos among nations? 

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner. To subscribe to Stockman's website, click here.

The Donald’s Done — The Deep State Wins Its War On America First

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The Donald's action to ash-can the Iranian nuclear deal marks the War Party's complete and baleful triumph. There is now nothing much left of America First.

Trump's reckless, unwarranted and utterly irrational action will pull Washington ever deeper into an incendiary middle eastern vortex of political and religious conflict that has absolutely nothing to do with the safety and security of the America people.

To the contrary, picking a fight with Tehran is an exercise in unprovoked Imperial aggression. The Iranian regime has no means to attack America militarily and has never threatened to do so. Nor has it invaded any other country in the region where it was not invited by a sovereign government host.

Even Iran's minor skirmishes with American forces in recent years have been owing to the happenstance of Washington's far-flung imperial ventures.

For example, Washington destroyed Saddam's Sunni/secular government in Iraq and installed a Shiite regime in Baghdad, thereby leaving the Sunni lands of western Iraq in chaos. Only then did Baghdad invite their shiite co-religionists from Iran to help excise the scourge of ISIS that formed from the remnants of Saddam's army and government.

Likewise, Washington and its allies sent thousands of jihadist warriors and billions of aid and supplies into Syria to topple its dully elected government. Only then did the Alawite (Shiite) Assad regime invite help from its confessional compatriots in Tehran.

And you can't find any more ludicrous example of the cat calling the kettle black than the Donald's claim that Iran is a terrorist state because it is aligned with the Shiite population of Lebanon represented by Hezbollah.

For crying out loud. The War Party pretends Washington has turned much of the middle east into rubble and barbarism in order to spread democracy -- whether they wanted it or not, and whether they were ready for it or not.

But Lebanon is a serviceable democracy and last weekend Hezbollah and its allies -- including certain Sunni factions -- won an overwhelming election victory. They now control a clear majority in its legislature, where Hezbollah will have the power to name a new Prime Minister (a Sunni) and Speaker of the Parliament (a Shiite) -- both of whom will be pledged to work with the country's Christian president.

That particular outcome of democracy the War Party can't abide. But it fairly violates the english language itself to call it state sponsored terrorism.

In a similar vein, the Houthi tribe of Shiites have dominated much of northern and western Yemen for centuries. So when a Washington installed government in Sana'a was overthrown, the Houthi took power in northern Yemen -- as had been the case during the long expanse from 1918-1990 when the two Yemens were finally unified.

But it is the Houthis who are the victims of aggression by the brutal Saudi bombing campaign that has left more than 10,000 civilians dead and the land plagued with famine, cholera, rubble, and economic collapse.

There is no telling which faction in Yemen's fratricidal civil war and invasion by Saudi Arabia is the more barbaric, but the modest aid provided by Iran to its Shiite kinsman in northern Yemen is absolutely not a case of state sponsored terrorism.

In a word, the Donald has fallen hook, line and sinker for the War Party's lie- and propaganda-filled demonization of the Iranian regime. We have debunked this false history elsewhere, but suffice to say that it boils down to two very imperialist propositions.

To wit, that Iran is not entitled to have its own foreign policy via alliances with Iraq, Syria, the dominant party of Lebanon, or the official government in Sana'a Yemen because Washington (and Israel) say so; and that it's not allowed to have even intermediate and medium range missiles (that can't reach either the US or most of Europe) to defend itself -- even though Washington has armed its far wealthier Sunni rival across the Persian Gulf with upwards of $250 billion of America's most advanced warplanes, attack helicopters, missiles, drones and sundry other accoutrements of war.

And that is to say nothing of a tiny residual capacity to enrich uranium to 3.5 percent purity (compared to 90 percent weapons grade) for civilian power reactors on fewer than one-fifth of the oldest and slowest centrifuges it had before the 2015 nuke deal.

Nor does it consider that all 17 US intelligence agencies certified in an official NIE (national intelligence estimate) in 2007 and again in 2011 that Iran only had a small weaponization research program between 1999 and 2003, which was then abandoned and never restarted.

Moreover, the documentary proof of that was thoroughly investigated by the IAEA after the 2015 deal, which then re-validated that the Iranian weapons program was indeed disbanded in 2003.

In short, the Donald has fallen for a pack of lies and distortions that are only remotely plausible if the aim is to find enemies and territories around the planet to police, occupy or otherwise hegemonize. And to thereby keep the Warfare State in business, its $800 billion budget funded, and the Imperial City's vast beehive of think-tanks, contractors, NGOs, lobbyists, and racketeers in clover.

The invincible grip on power of the above -- the Deep State for short-hand purposes -- has now been proven. And that's a full-on tragedy because the Donald's inchoate notion of America First was an incipient challenge to its power -- the only one since the end of the cold war.

To be sure, Donald Trump never had a coherent or articulated notion of America First. But all of his impulses were in the right direction.

Perhaps like renegade Sarah Palin before him, for example, he could see Russia from his airy on the 68th floor of Trump Tower and recognize that it is no threat whatsoever to America's security.

That is, from his perch the Donald could gaze upon metro New York's $1.6 trillion of GDP, which is greater than the entirety of Russia's economy ($1.5 trillion GDP); and whether he knew the precise numbers or not, his impulse toward rapprochement with Putin was spot on.

Likewise, whether he had gotten George Bush's folly in Iraq right on day one or not -- he was loud and clear in his consistent denunciation years before Hillary sprouted her dawkish feathers.

Nor was he any less correct when he averred that NATO was obsolete. After all, the GDP of the EU-29 is 10X larger than Russia's, and their combined military spending is 4X greater.

If you're not a prisoner of Imperial Washington's twisted group think you cannot possibly believe that Russia's supremely rational leader -- Cool Hand Vlad -- intends to militarily assault his European neighbors. He'd like to supply their markets, not occupy their cities -- something that anyone except the demented, self-serving bureaucrats of NATO can easily understand.

Ditto for Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia et. al. They aren't cold war "dominoes" because the Soviet Union slithered off the pages of history 27 years ago; they don't threaten America directly, either, because they don't have two dimes to rub together economically or militarily; and whether they affiliate with the Saudi-Sunni axis or the Iran-Shiite crescent makes not one damn bit of difference for the safety and security of American citizens in Lincoln NE or Springfield MA.

In the case of the Korean Peninsula, the Donald also rightly questioned why we are still funding 29,000 US troops when the war there ended 65 years ago.

The truth is, it is a war that never should have been fought in the first place because the now open Soviet archives show both Stalin and Mao were against it. US national security was never at stake.

Rather than a domino, it originated purely as a civil war between the communist/nationalists under Kim II-sung, who had fought the Japanese occupiers to the death, and a puppet government in the South under Syngman Rhee.

The latter was an aristocratic dandy who moved to the US in 1904 and spent most of the next 40 years hob-knobbing in Washington. So doing, he promoted endless schemes to install himself in power back in Korea, which finally happened when Japan's 35-year long occupation was ended in August 1945.

At length, the two Korean political rivals got into a war that the north would have handily won -- and might well have turned itself into a cheap labor based export platform just as did Mao's heirs on the mainland. It might even have become a darling of Wall Street -- just as the Red Suzerains of Beijing are today.

That is to say, there was exactly nothing at stake in June 1950 -- until the rabid cold warriors in Washington persuaded Truman to intervene.

So doing, the US military launched the most destructive and vicious bombing campaign in history under the blood-thirsty top Air Force general, Curtis LeMay. By the 1953 armistice, North Korea had become a bombed-out wasteland with hardly a city or town not reduced to rubble and with millions of civilians dead or starving.

But it was not merely a pointless war and waste of American blood and treasure; it also became forever embraced by the people of the north as the patriotic war of resistance that paved the way for six decades of the brutal Kim family dictatorship and a life of poverty and misery for its 25 million people, who could otherwise be working in Apple factories and auto plants today.

Needless to say, Imperial Washington has no regard for honest history -- only its own self-serving narrative and imperative need for enemies and missions to justify nearly $800 billion per year for the machinery of war and empire. In the case of North Korea, in fact, its imperial pretensions and penchant for "regime change" under the neocons in recent decades, unleashed a veritable monster.

That is, a drive by the Kim family to obtain nuclear weapons, thereby hoping to avoid Saddam's fate at the end of a rope or Khadafy's bloody demise with a shive up his rectum.

Fortunately, the Donald has been blessed with a historic serendipity. His military bluster and name-calling apparently caused Kim Jong-un to stage so many nuclear bomb tests culminating in a huge (for N. Korea) 160 kiloton explosion last September that the Fat Boy of Pyongyang has literally destroyed the mountains which house his Punggye-ri test site.

A recent authoritative study actually warns that if North Korea were to use the same area for another test it could cause an "environmental catastrophe."

North Korea's past tests have altered the tectonic stress in the region to the extent that previously inactive tectonic faults in the region have reached their state of critical failure. Any further disturbance from a future test could generate earthquakes that may be damaging by their own force or crack the nuclear test sites of the past or the present.

Of course, Kim Jong-un is now attempting to make a virtue out of necessity by ostentatiously shuttering the no longer useable site and inviting the world to witness its entombment. But if that leads to a denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, so be it.

And let it also be an occasion to reverse the mistake of June 1950, and get American forces off the peninsula once and for all: Return Korea to the Koreans to work out their own governance as they see fit!

Yet even on this matter, where the Donald has recently tried to explore a drastic reduction, if not complete removal, of US troops as part of the pending deal with Kim Jong-un, the Deep State has come down on him with all fours.

In that regard, here is what former "peace" candidate Barack Obama's leading advisor on the topic had this to say:

Kelly E. Magsamen, a top Asia policy official at the Pentagon during the Obama administration, said, 'U.S. presence in South Korea is a sacrosanct part of our alliance.'

In fact, apparently the entire global empire of Washington is sacrosanct -- including the ridiculous fact that in the year 2018 Washington still has military bases in the defeated powers of World War II. Yet neither Japan nor Germany have any mortal military enemies and both are utterly dependent on the trade custom of the US for their high standard of living.

So the Deep State now owns the Donald and America First is not even a slogan. It's inoperative, Nixon-style.

Indeed, it's only a matter of time before the Donald gets the ultimate Nixon treatment -- now that he has done the Deep State's dirty work and ash-canned the deal that could have opened a broad avenue toward peace in the world and drastic retrenchment of the fiscally bankrupting Warfare State at home.

That is to say, at length the ingrates of the Deep State will put the Donald on the Dick Nixon Memorial Helicopter for his final ride to Gonesville.

To paraphrase the great Randolph Bourne, Demonization of the Unwilling is the Health of the Deep State.

At least that much the Donald has now, regrettably, confirmed with his sophomoric attack on Iran.

So doing he has also lurched America drastically forward on the path to a monumental financial catastrophe. That's because taken together the Warfare State and the Welfare State are also the fiscal demise of the state.

One of these days even the lemmings of Wall Street -- which took day's calamitous news in stride -- will finally get the memo, too.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner. To subscribe to Stockman's page, click here.


America First — RIP

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When the Cold War officially ended in 1991, Washington could have pivoted back to the pre-1914 status quo ante. That is, to a national security policy of America First because there was literally no significant military threat left on the planet.

Post-Soviet Russia was an economic basket case that couldn't even meet its military payroll and was melting down and selling the Red Army's tanks and artillery for scrap. China was just emerging from the Great Helmsman's economic, political and cultural depredations and had embraced Deng Xiaoping proclamation that "to get rich is glorious."

The implications of the Red Army's fiscal demise and China's electing the path of export mercantilism and Red Capitalism were profound.

Russia couldn't invade the American homeland in a million years and China chose the route of flooding America with shoes, sheets, shirts, toys and electronics. So doing, it made the rule of the communist elites in Beijing dependent upon keeping the custom of 4,000 Wal-Marts in America, not bombing them out of existence.

In a word, god's original gift to America -- the great moats of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans -- had again become the essence of its national security.

After 1991, therefore, there was no nation on the planet that had the remotest capability to mount a conventional military assault on the US homeland; or that would not have bankrupted itself attempting to create the requisite air and sea-based power projection capabilities -- a resource drain that would be vastly larger than even the $700 billion the US currently spends on its global armada.

Indeed, in the post-cold war world the only thing the US needed was a modest conventional capacity to defend the shorelines and airspace against any possible rogue assault and a reliable nuclear deterrent against any state foolish enough to attempt nuclear blackmail.

Needless to say, those capacities had already been bought and paid for during the cold war. The triad of minutemen ICBMs, Trident SLBMs (submarines launched nuclear missiles) and long-range stealth bombers cost only a few ten billions annually for operations and maintenance and were more than adequate for the task of deterrence.

Likewise, conventional defense of the US shoreline and airspace against rogues would not require a fraction of today's 1.3 million active uniformed force -- to say nothing of the 800,000 additional reserves and national guard forces and  the 765,000 DOD civilians on top of that. Rather than funding 2.9 million personnel, the whole job of national security under a homeland-based America First concept could be done with less than 500,000 military and civilian payrollers.

In fact, much of the 475,000 US army could be eliminated and most of the Navy's carrier strike groups and power projection capabilities could be mothballed. So, too, the air force's homeland defense missions could be accomplished for well less than $50 billion per annum compared to the current $145 billion.

Overall, the constant dollar defense budget (2017$) was $610 billion in 1989 when the cold war ended and the Soviet Union disappeared from the face of the earth. Had Washington pivoted to an America First national security policy at the time, defense spending could have been downsized to perhaps $250 billion per year.

Instead, the Imperial City went in an opposite direction and ended up embracing a de facto policy of Empire First. The latter will cost $700 billion during the current year and is heading for $900 billion annually a few years down the road.

In a word, Empire First easily consumes one-half trillion dollars more in annual budgetary resources than would America First. And that giant barrel of weapons contracts, consulting and support jobs, lobbying booty and Congressional pork explains everything you need to know about why the Swamp is so deep and intractable.

Obviously, it's also why Imperial Washington has appointed itself global policeman. Functioning as the gendarme of the planet is the only possible justification for the extra $500 billion per year cost of Empire First.

For example, why does the US still deploy 90,000 US forces and their dependents in Japan and Okinawa and 30,000 in South Korea?

These two counties have a combined GDP of $7 trillion -- or 235 times more than North Korea and they are light-years ahead of the latter in technology and military capability. Also, they don't go around the world engaging in regime change, thereby spooking fear on the north side of the DMZ.

Accordingly, Japan and South Korea could more than provide for their own national security in a manner they see fit without any help whatsoever from Imperial Washington. That's especially the case because North Korea would seek a rapprochement and economic help, and their relationship with China is based on business, not military confrontation.

Indeed, sixty-five years after the unnecessary war in Korea ended, there is only one reason why the Kim family is still in power in Pyongyang and why the Fat Boy now noisily brandishes his incipient nuclear weapons and missiles. To wit, it's because the Empire still occupies the Korean peninsula and surrounds its waters with more lethal firepower than was brought to bear against the industrial might of Nazi Germany during the whole of WWII.

And speaking of Germany, why is it that its modest $60 billion defense budget amounts to only 1.5 percent of GDP if Russia -- with a defense budget of $46 billion -- is some kind of expansionist military threat?

The Germans clearly don't believe it and see Russia as a vital market for exports and as a source of supply for natural gas, other natural resources and food stuffs. Besides, with a GDP of $4 trillion or nearly 3 times Russia's $1.6 trillion GDP, Germany could more than handle its own defenses if Russia should ever become foolish enough to threaten it.

From there you get to the even more preposterous case for the Empire's NATO outposts in eastern Europe. The history books are absolutely clear that in 1989 George H. W. Bush promised Gorbachev that NATO would not be expanded by a "single inch" in return for his acquiescence to German unification.

At the time, NATO had 16 member nations bound by the Article 5 obligation of mutual defense, but when the Soviet Union and the Red Army perished, there was nothing left to defend against. NATO should have declared "mission accomplished" and dissolved itself.

Instead, it has become a political jackhammer for Empire First policies by expanding to 29 nations -- many of them on Russia's doorstep.

Yet if your perception is not distorted by Washington's self-justifying imperial beer-goggles, the question is obvious. Exactly what is gained for the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE or Springfield MA by obtaining the defense services of the pint-sized militaries of Latvia (6,000), Croatia (14,500), Estonia (6,400), Slovenia (7,300) or Montenegro (1,950)?

Indeed, the whole post-1991 NATO expansion is so preposterous as a matter of national security that its true function as a fig-leaf for Empire First fairly screams outloud. Not one of these pint-sized nations would matter for US security if they decided to have a cozier relationship with Russia -- voluntarily or not so voluntarily.

But the point is, there is no threat in eastern Europe unless such as Montenegro, Slovenia, or Latvia became the invasion route to Russian occupation of Germany, France, the Benelux and England. And that's just plain crazy.

Yet aside from that utterly far-fetched and economically and militarily impossible scenario, there is no reason whatsoever for the US to be in a mutual defense pact with any of the new, and, for that matter, old NATO members.

And that gets us to most ridiculous NATO fig leaf of all. The patently bogus claim that Russia's self-evidently defensive actions in Crimea and the Donbass (eastern Ukraine) prove that it is an aggressive expansionist. But on that score, Washington's imperial beer goggles are utterly blind to history and geopolitical logic.

Sevastopol in Crimea has been the homeport of the Russian Naval Fleet under czars and commissars alike and was purchased from the Ottomans for good money by Catherine the Great in 1783. It is the site of one of Russia greatest patriotic events -- the defeat of the English invaders in 1854 made famous by Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade -- and is 80 percent Russian speaking.

It only technically became part of Ukraine during a Kruschev inspired shuffle in 1954 driven by his maneuvers to consolidate power in post-Stalin Soviet Union. To wit:
On April 26, 1954. The decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet transferring the Crimea Oblast from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.....Taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic and cultural ties between the Crimea Province and the Ukrainian SSR, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet decrees:

To approve the joint presentation of the Presidium of the Russian SFSR Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet on the transfer of the Crimea Province from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.
That's right. The dead-hand of the Soviet presidium most be defended at all costs by Washington because the security of North Dakota depends upon it!

The fact is, only 10 percent of the Crimean population is Ukrainian speaking, and it was the coup on the streets of Kiev in February 2014 by extremist anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists and proto-fascists that caused the Russian speakers in Crimea to panic and Moscow to become alarmed about the status of its historic naval base.

In a word, 83 percent of eligible Crimeans turned out to vote and 97 percent of those approved cancelling the 1954 edict of the Soviet Presidium and rejoining mother Russia during the March 2014 referendum. There is absolutely no evidence that the 80 percent of Crimeans who thus voted to sever their historically short-lived affiliation with Ukraine were threatened or coerced by Moscow.

Indeed, what they actually feared were the anti-Russian edicts coming out of Kiev in the aftermath of the Washington funded, supported and instantly recognized overthrow of the legally elected government. And exactly the same thing is true of the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking populations of the Donbas.

After all, the good folks of that industrial heartland of the former Soviet Union had always been an integral part of its iron, steel, chemical and munitions industries, and, indeed, their grandparents had been put there by Stalin because most native Ukrainians had not cottoned to his bloody rule.

By the same token, Uncle Joe's 1930s Russian transplants forever hated the Ukrainian nationalists who rampaged though their towns and homes in the Donbas with Hitler's Wehrmacht on the way to Stalingrad.

So it boils down to this: By Washington's edict the grand-sons and grand-daughters of Stalin's industrial army in the Donbas will be ruled by the grand-sons and grand-daughters of Hitler's collaborators in Kiev, whether they like it or not.

Likewise, the 1954 edict of the Soviet Presidium is now apparently under the stewardship of Washington. So the Crimeans' short-lived marriage to Ukraine will be enforced with sanctions, threats and demonizations of Moscow -- notwithstanding an 80 percent referendum against it.

Here's the thing. You simply can't make up $500 billion worth of phony reasons for an Empire First national security policy without going off the deep-end. You have to invent missions, mandates and threats that are just plain stupid (like the purported Russian "occupation" of Crimea) or flat out lies (like Saddam's alleged WMDs).

Indeed, you must invent, nourish and enforce an entire universal narrative based on completely implausible and invalid propositions, such as the "indispensable nation" meme and the claim that global peace and stability depend overwhelmingly on Washington's leadership?

Is there not a more cruel joke than that?

Was the Washington inflicted carnage and genocide in Vietnam a case of "American leadership" and making the world more peaceful or stable?

Did the two wars against Iraq accomplish anything except destroy the tenuous peace between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurds, thereby opening up the gates of hell and the bloody rampages of ISIS?

Did the billions Washington illegally channeled into the rebel and jihadist forces in Syria do anything except destroy the country, create millions of refugees and force the Assad regime to engage in tit-for-tat brutalities, as well as call-in aid from his Iranian, Russian and Hezbollah allies.

In a word, Imperial Washington's over-arching narratives and the instances of its specific interventions alike rest on a threadbare and implausible foundation; and more often than not, they consist of arrogant fabrications and claims that are an insult to the intelligence of anyone paying even loose attention to the facts.

Then again, Imperial Washington no longer cares about facts, logic, history or truth. At the time of the Bush War on Saddam's WMD's, Karl Rove explained the Empire's new Creed without pulling any punches.
That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
There you have it. And Rove is no out-of-the-way academic scribbler inventing some high-flutin' rationalization for American global hegemony. To the contrary, he's a lifetime Swamp creature, leading beltway racketeer and the strategic brain trust of the GOP establishment.

Needless to say, Washington has yet again created its "own reality" with respect to its hideously unjustified bombing attack on Syria last Friday night. So doing, it literally took our dim-witted President captive by exploiting his macho delusions, thereby decreeing that no one -- not even the Donald -- may brook with the War Party narrative.

Yet the case for launching a spanking attack on Assad was so threadbare that it might as well have been derived from a Washington claim of full spectrum dominance over planet Earth. Or as one astute observer noted:
(Those who have) been properly following the situation in Syria for the last few years will know the truth, which is that the US and its allies have been arming, funding and supporting Islamist terrorists, and using them as proxies to topple the Syrian Government. Not 'moderate rebels,' as the dutiful stenographers in the Mainstream Media have been telling you, but fanatical head-choppers who want to see Syria turned into a Wahhabi state replete with Sharia Law.
In Part 2, we will assemble the evidence that if the Douma chlorine attack actually occurred, it was likely a false flag attack staged by the rebels. After all, the evidence for it comes from unverified social media accounts, the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

The latter is a tool of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, which for better or worse had been banned from Syria by Assad's father way back in the early 1980's owing to its opposition to the secularist rule of the Alawite-based coalition of nationalists, socialists, Christians and other non-Sunni minorities.

Not surprisingly, SAMS has only operated in jihadist and rebel occupied territories -- just as has been the case with the vaunted White Helmets, which have been repeatedly caught in the act of staging and fabricating false flag attacks.

We posted a compilation of 20 such incidents from social media yesterday, but here are three which give the flavor. In the last one, for example, it is obvious that the mainstream media, which played this image over and over, was duped by chicken blood!

In the very best case for Washington, we have a case of dueling liars. Why would you believe the White Helmets, but not Halil Ajiji, a medical student who worked at the only functioning hospital in Douma?

He described the origin of the chemical victims being desperately sprayed in a hospital as follows:
'On April 8, a bomb hit a building. The upper floors were damaged and a fire broke at the lower floors. Victims of that bombing were brought to us. People from the upper floors had smoke poisoning. We treated them, based on their suffocation.'

Ajij said that a man unknown to him came and said there was a chemical attack and panic ensued. 'Relatives of the victims started dousing each other with water. Other people, who didn’t seem to have medical training, started administering anti-asthma medicine to children. We didn’t see any patient with symptoms of a chemical weapons poisoning,' he said.
The point is, before Washington turned loose the cruise missiles and bombers, it could have sent a delegation to Douma with the blessing of Putin and Assad, and interviewed Ajij and several thousand more to find out what actually happened.

Unlike all of the past "gas attack" incidents, this one happened in what is now safe government controlled territory, and any Washington delegation of investigators could have even been accompanied by CNN's own Baghdad Bob -- that is, Wolf Blitzer himself.

Perhaps the latter would have ascetained whether the chemical protection gear pictured below and found in an abandoned rebel site was just staged by the Assad government; and  also whether or not the rooms full of rockets and components also pictured below were used by the rebels strictly for killing people with good old fashioned shrapnel and percussion effects, rather than chlorine gas.

Likewise, maybe Washington could have demanded that the chief paint and plastics engineer at the Barzeh research center give international investigators who were arriving from the OPCW the next morning a tour of every room in that largely empty facility before they blew it to smithereens with 71 missiles.

After all, the man stood on the rubble within an hour or two of the attack and was not overcome with any kind of toxic agent chemical release. Thus said, Mr. Said Said:
'The building had three storeys: a basement, ground floor, and second floor,' said Said Said, an engineer who identified himself as head of the centre's paint and plastics department.

'If there were chemical weapons, we would not be able to stand here. I've been here since 5:30 am in full health -- I'm not coughing,' he added.

Said said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had visited the site in Barzeh in recent years and had declared it free of any toxic weapons.

'The OPCW used to stay in the two upper rooms, and use the labs, and we would cooperate with them completely,' he said.

'The OPCW has proven in two reports that this building and the centre as a whole are empty and do not produce any chemical weapons.'
We leave it to the French, however, to spill the beans. Their proof was surmise, and social media pictures!
On the basis of this overall assessment and on the intelligence collected by our services, and in the absence to date of chemical samples analysed by our own laboratories, France therefore considers (i) that, beyond possible doubt, a chemical attack was carried out against civilians at Douma on 7 April 2018; and (ii) that there is no plausible scenario other than that of an attack by Syrian armed forces as part of a wider offensive in the Eastern Ghouta enclave.

Non-governmental medical organizations active in Ghouta (the Syrian American Medical Society) and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations), whose information is generally reliable, publicly stated that strikes had targeted in particular local medical infrastructure on 6 and 7 April.

The French services analysed the testimonies, photos and videos that spontaneously appeared on specialized websites, in the press and on social media in the hours and days following the attack.

Testimonies obtained by theFrench services were also analysed. After examining the videos and images of victims published online, they were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated. The spontaneous circulation of these images across all social networks confirms that they were not video montages or recycled images. Lastly, some of the entities that published this information are generally considered reliable.
Say again?

"Some of the entities" that were the basis for attacking a country that has never harmed France, England or the US are "generally considered reliable."

Goodness gracious me!

Fortunately, General Mattis talked the Donald into attacking several nothing-burger sites as we will document in Part 2. Meanwhile, Cool Hand Vlad apparently took the weekend in stride, popcorn in hand.

Perhaps that was the cruelest insult of all to Imperial Washington. And perhaps the absolute bunkum of these repeated video-game bombing missions will finally alert America to the fraud that is Empire First.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's ContraCorner. Subscribe to ContraCorner here.

Trump’s War Cabinet And The Fiscal Doom Loop

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Last week the Donald's incipient trade war got Wall Street's nerves jangling, but that wasn't the half of what's coming.

To wit, Trump has now essentially formed a War Cabinet and signed a Horribus spending bill that is a warrant for fiscal meltdown. Indeed, the two essentially comprise a self-fueling doom loop which means Washington’s descent into fiscal catastrophe is well-nigh unstoppable; it’s all over except for the screaming in the bond pits.

That is, Trump's new War Cabinet of John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel and Mad Dog Mattis is arguably the most interventionist, militarist, confrontationist and bellicose national security team ever assembled by a sitting President. We cannot think of a single country that has even looked cross-eyed at Washington in recent years where one or all four of them has not threatened to drone, bomb, invade or decapitate its current ruling regime.

That means Imperial Washington's rampant War Fever owing to the Dem-left declaration of war on Russia and Putin is now about to be drastically intensified by the complete victory of the neocon-right in the Trump Administration. The result will be sharpened confrontation, if not actual outbreak of hostilities, across the full spectrum of adversaries -- Iran, Russia, China, Syria and North Korea -- and an escalating tempo of military operations and procurement to implement the policy.

At the same time, the Donald's pathetic Fake Veto maneuver on Friday cemented the special interest lobbies' absolute control over domestic appropriations. Of course, Chuckles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi crowed loudly about the $63 billion annual domestic spending increase they got in return for the Donald's $80 billion defense add-on, but the victory was not partisan; it belonged to the Swamp creatures who suckle the politicians of both parties and own the appropriations committees lock, stock and barrel.

To be sure, upon folding at mid-day from his four-hour’s earlier veto tweet, the Donald promised "never again", but his reason for signing the most wasteful, pork-ridden appropriations bill of this century tells you all you need to know. To wit,

"There are a lot of things I'm unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things that we shouldn't have had in this bill, but we were in a sense forced if we want to build our military," Trump said. "I said to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again."

Au contraire. As long as he lasts in office, the Donald will be signing budget busters far worse than this one because the aggressive foreign policies of his War Cabinet will drive the pace of national security spending dramatically higher than the record $695 billion he signed into law last week; and these "must have" increases for pay, operations, ammo, spare parts, training, readiness and weapons replacement/augmentation will not get through the Congress until the bipartisan porkers have had their fill on the domestic side.

Your editor experienced long ago the toxic fiscal equation which arises when hawks and militarists take control of foreign policy and the defense budget. What you get is a “guns and butter” log-rolling dynamic as defense advocates on the spending committees buy the votes of colleagues whose snouts have penetrated deeply into the domestic pork barrel or whose paymasters inhabit the vast expanse of the health, education and social welfare complex.

That’s what stopped cold the Gipper’s short-lived attack on Big Government after 1981, and why the hawk-dominated GOP has been such a dismal failure on the fiscal front ever since.

But the Trumpite/GOP has brought guns and butter log-rolling to a whole new level of fiscal profligacy. And the overwhelming share of the blame for the resulting Horribus appropriations bill -- which will raise spending by $143 billion this year and $2.4 trillion over the next decade -- rests squarely with the incumbent member of Trump's new War Cabinet, SecDef James Mattis.

Not only does his brazen bellicosity and demented militarism rival that of the other three members of Trump's new War Cabinet, but Mattis also spent a 40 year career sucking the hind teats of the Warfare State, where he apparently never met a military budget that was big enough.

That is to say, Mattis is not remotely the “warrior monk” or “military intellectual” the fawning mainstream press makes him out to be. He’s actually a gung-ho bull-in-the-china-shop who defines his mission as complete obliteration of any foe who comes along; and which is to be accomplished by the assembly of overwhelming military capabilities and firepower.

Stated differently, the quotes below are not the expressions of a subtle mind. They reflect the mindset of the bombastic militarist who should have never, ever been let near the top post at the Pentagon, and who is the architect of the Donald’s hideously bloated defense budget and new long-term strategic plan for unaffordable, insensible global military dominance:
The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a**holes in the world that just need to be shot…..I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fu*k with me, I’ll kill you all.
Unlike most of the American generals who have been waging and losing pointless wars over the last half century while cheerfully checking the boxes on the way to their post-retirement bonanzas, Mattis never got over it. He blitzed the enemy as an assault battalion commander in the first Gulf War, brought carnage to the Pashtun villages of southern Afghanistan and obliterated Fallujah (Iraq) twice -- without ever noticing that he was not winning any wars, but just dispensing random high-tech violence at huge cost in blood (theirs), treasure (ours) and blowback (throughout the Muslim world).

Indeed, Mattis' apparent lesson was that America needed massive military dominance to pacify an uncooperative world, and the Donald fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Yet in today's world, America has no industrial state enemies remotely capable of and/or motivated to threaten the homeland. Indeed, the only real homeland defense we need is our nuclear retaliatory force of land-based ICBMs, sea-based Trident missiles and DOD’s 5,000 active and standby nuclear warheads -- all of which were bought and paid for long ago.

That is, America doesn’t need no stinkin’ defense build-up, and could slash what it’s already spending by $250 billion per year without harming national security in the slightest.

That is also to say, neither Russia nor China is about to invade the American homeland with conventional forces because neither has even 5% of the necessary air-lift, sea-lift and power projection capacity that would be needed — even if they were ruled by lunatics, which they most assuredly are not.

Likewise, Russia and China are not suicidal enough to launch a first nuclear strike or attempt nuclear blackmail.

And beyond that, the even more dispositive point is that the very thought of hostile action against the American homeland would amount to an economic death warrant for either power.

That’s because in the case of the Red Ponzi, the Donald is absolutely right about its massive trade imbalance. China’s $510 billion per year of exports to the US do not represent free and fair trade in the historic sense: They are an absolute freak of economic nature stemming from the massive central bank money printing spree of the last 25-years and the egregious mercantilism that Beijing has instituted to exploit it and to build the greatest credit-fueled house of cards in human history.

Accordingly, if China were to threaten the US militarily, the resulting embargo on Chinese goods would cause its economy to plunge into a thundering collapse within six months: To wit, America’s spacious closets are already stuffed full of enough junk from China -- including every variety of Apple device -- to last for years, while China’s debt-ridden production chain on the margin survives hand-to-mouth on export orders.

And as for Russia, pulleese!

Its entire GDP of $1.5 trillion is less than that of the New York metro area, and only 8% of the US economy as a whole. The very idea that it’s a military threat to America is just flat out ludicrous; and that is in no way changed by Putin’s recent hints that Russia has developed a new class of non-ballistic strategic weapons that are not vulnerable to US ABM defenses.

But of course!

It was the US and John Bolton specifically during his stint as head of arms control at the Bush State Department that caused the expiration of Nixon’s ABM treaty. And in light of the subsequent drive toward a US missile defense system, what does another power that wishes to preserve the credibility and efficacy of its nuclear deterrent or retaliatory strike capability do?

Why, it finds a way around the ABMs to insure that no adversary is tempted to launch a pre-emptive first strike while secure from retaliation in a protective ABM cocoon. That’s exactly what the old MAD playbooks recommend, and what Russia, apparently, actually did.

So why does Mattis want $700 billion per year of force structure, readiness and massive weapons upgrades this year, which is just a down payment on an embedded defense bow-wave that will quickly rise towards $1 trillion annually?

A good part of the answer is sheer economic ignorance. Mattis along with the career national security apparatchiks who now comprise the Donald’s new War Cabinet are making the same mistake as their cold war forebears did about the old Soviet Union.

The latter was always destined to collapse under the weight of command and control centralization and ersatz socialism; it was only a matter of funding a strategic deterrent and waiting out the collapse that finally came, and swiftly, too.

There was never any need for the massive conventional forces that were kept in being during the Cold War, and especially not the huge Reagan build-up. The latter essentially funded an expeditionary armada designed for invasion and occupation -- an unneeded capability that eventually led to the follies of Washington’s serial military interventions in the Middle East.

That is even truer today. ISIS was a short-lived menace that arose from Washington’s interventions in Iraq and Syria, and has now been largely extinguished by its mortal 13-century old Shiite enemy: That is, the Shiite coalition of the Iraqi government in Baghdad, Iran, the Assad regime in Syria and the Hezbollah fighters of Lebanon.

There is nothing else from that region that threatens the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE or Springfield MA, and most especially not the Iranians and their Shiite allies. The Iranians never had a nuclear weapons program, even by the lights of the 17-agency NIEs (national intelligence estimates) from 2007 onwards, and they have now precluded the possibility by agreeing to the Obama nuke deal.

The fact is, Iran is not a terrorist state -- even if its theocracy falls far short of democratic ideals, and even if its leaders do fulminate against the Great Satan in Washington.

After all, during the past 65 years Washington has attacked the Iranian people by installing a brutal, larcenous puppet regime under the Shah from 1953-1979; siding with Iraq when the latter invaded Iran during the 1980s; and by demonizing and attempting to destabilize it ever since.

The entire case against Iran has been concocted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the coalition of right-wing parties upon which his rule depends. They claim the Tehran regime is an existential threat to Israel’s survival, but that’s ridiculous when they have upwards of 100 nukes and the Iranians have none, and when the Israeli air force has the capacity to turn Iran’s limited attack forces into a smoldering heap of twisted metal on a moment’s notice.

The Israeli claim that Hezbollah is a lethal Iranian dagger pointed at its survival is equally upside down. In fact, Israel’s repeated brutal occupations of the Shiite regions of southern Lebanon is what brought Hezbollah into existence, and at length has made it the largest political party in this religiously fractured country.

In that context, the main reason Iran supplies Hezbollah with arms is to deter a US/Israel attack; and also because like any other sovereign nation it is allowed to have a foreign policy, including one based on shared confessional ties.

We remonstrate on these matters because when it comes to Iran the Donald’s new War Cabinet is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bibi Netanyahu. Bolton and Pompeo are absolutely rabid in their desire to make war on Iran, and Mad Dog Mattis is not far behind.

Yet it cannot be stated strongly enough: Iran proposes no military threat to the American homeland whatsoever; it has never been involved in a terrorist incident or even plot against America or Europe for that matter; and its religious and political quarrel with the Saudis is absolutely none of Washington’s business.

As we have frequently observed, it really doesn’t matter who controls the vast hydrocarbon deposits surrounding the Persian Gulf -- Sunni or Shiite, dictators or democrats, Arabs or Persians. That’s because they all desperately need the revenue. And if oil prices should temporarily spike due to local wars or political upheaval, the cure for high prices is the global free market, not the US fifth fleet.

The truth of the matter is that a unilateral US military attack on Iran would be tantamount to a war crime -- as the Nuremberg trials defined "wars of aggression". And that is why the Donald’s mindless and groundless conviction that the Iran nuclear accord is the worst deal ever made by the US government is so pregnant with danger.

To a person, his new War Cabinet will be in the business of scratching and clawing the Donald's itch. Their modus operandi will be to sabotage the greatest breakthrough for world peace in decades on May 12 when the next certification of Iranian compliance arrives.

Once the nuclear deal is ash-canned, in turn, the War Cabinet will revive their historically false claims that the Iranian's are on the verge of gaining nuclear weapons. That's even if they merely restart their enrichment plant at Natanz, which they would have every right to do in the event of Washington's unilateral abrogation.

From there the war drums would start beating loudly in Imperial Washington for a pre-emptive attack to stop them -- a speciously Nuremburg compliant attack, as it were.

Regardless of how this scenario plays out in concrete detail and time frame, one thing is certain. A rising crescendo of tensions and confrontations with all of the War Cabinet's targets -- Iran, Syria, Russia, China and North Korea -- is fast coming down the pike. And that means an even larger burst in defense spending is not far behind.

All the while, of course, the Freedom Caucus stumbles around helping to slash tax revenues to 16.6%of GDP -- the lowest level since the late 1940s -- even as it welcomes the Donald's War Cabinet and kvetches about soaring entitlements and the Horribus appropriations bill that a good portion of its membership acquiesced to.

And they are the purported fiscal good guys!

Yes, it is a doom loop and there is not a chance in the hot place of avoiding the fast arriving bond market "yield shock" that will make mincemeat out of today's incorrigible dip buyers.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner.

Mueller’s Comic Book Indictment: How to Prosecute A Great Big Nothingburger

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We have always heard that a determined government prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, and now we know it's true. After 38 years in the prosecution racket, Robert Mueller just made his biggest score ever -- that is, he nailed a great big Nothingburger.

But he also did a lot more than that. Mueller's 37-page comic book indictment actually unmasks -- inadvertently to be sure -- the distinctly un-terrifying essence of the whole Russian meddling narrative. In fact, the crude social media emissions (ads and posts) of the so-called troll farm were generally lame, often laughable and sometimes downright ludicrous as per this gem cited by Mueller:
a. On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the ORGANIZATION-controlled Instagram account "Woke Blacks" to post the following message: '[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we'd surely be better off without voting AT ALL.'
Notwithstanding the grave nomenclature of BLOCK CAPITALS, endless sinister "on or about" events and 99 numbered paragraphs of particulars, the true bill (charging document) is actually just a random catalogue of social media trivia like the above "Woke Blacks" post.

Most of the cited gleanings amounted to crude word bombs, often in broken English, that presumably even Kim Kardashian's 59 million Twitter followers could see through.
'Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is'
The lion's share of these postings and ads probably disappeared into cyberspace like the sound of a falling tree in an empty forest, anyway. According to Facebook itself, the seemingly ubiquitous social media ad campaign depicted in the indictment was nothing of the kind. It actually amounted to just 3,000 placements at a cost of $100,000 -- more than half of which were purchased after the election, and 25 percent of which ended-up in its dead letter office (unread).

Likewise, the handful of efforts to actually stimulate pro-Trump rallies in Florida and elsewhere were abject failures. As we document below, the Russians had absolutely no "ground game" in the US and any third-rate campaign consultant will tell you that ads alone do not produce crowds. In fact, there is virtually no evidence that anyone showed up at the rallies cited by Mueller.

Besides, the overwhelming share of the pro-Trump social media postings uncovered by Mueller's sleuths amounted to "copy and paste" relays of current partisan talking points. Thus, the indictment cites such slogans as:
'Vote Republican, vote Trump, and support the Second Amendment!'

'Trump is our only hope for a better future!'

'Donald wants to defeat terrorism...Hillary wants to sponsor it'
Really?

It took a clandestine nest of Russkie imposters and subversives to pollute the social media with this kind of tripe?

In fact, RNC, Fox News, and the Trump campaign were already saturating the internet with these messages, anyway -- along with millions of pro-Trump social media activists. The 80 Russian operatives cited by Mueller didn't add one damn bit to the massive social media messaging that was already out there.

So here's the joker in the whole deck. It seems that the nefarious "troll farm" in St. Petersburg that comprises nearly the totality of Mueller's case is not a Russian intelligence agency operation at all.

Instead, it's the relatively harmless Hobby Farm of a fanatical Russian oligarch and ultra-nationalist, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has a great big beef against Imperial Washington's demonization of Russia and Vlad Putin. Apparently, the farm was (it's apparently being disbanded) the vehicle through which he gave Washington the middle finger and buttered up his patron.

Prigozhin is otherwise known as "Putin's Cook" because he made his fortune in St. Petersburg restaurants that Putin favored and via state funded food service operations at Russian schools and military installations. Like most Russian oligarchs not in jail, he apparently tithes in gratitude to the Kremlin: In this case, by bankrolling the rinky-dink operation at 55 Savushkina Street in St Petersburg that is the object of Mueller's pretentious foray into the flotsam and jetsam of social media low life.

Prigozhin's trolling farm is grandly called the Internet Research Agency (IRA), but what it actually does is hire (apparently) unemployed 20-somethings at $4-8 per hour to pound out ham-handed political messaging on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube etc. They bang away twelve hours at a shift on a quota-driven paint-by-the-internet-numbers basis where their output is rated for engagements, likes, retweets etc.

Whatever these keyboard drones might be, they are not professional Russian intel operators. And the collection of broken English postings strewn throughout the indictment are not one bit scary.

Indeed, the utterly stupid naiveté of the whole St. Petersburg operation is crystalized by this episode when the farm purportedly garnered some startling political insight from an unwitting Trump campaign official in Texas:
80. On or about August 19, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona 'Matt Skiber' account to write to the real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization who previously had advised the false persona to focus on 'purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.' Defendants and their co-conspirators told that U.S. person, 'We were thinking about your recommendation to focus on purple states and this is what we're organizing in FL.'
Jeez Louise and goodness gracious, too. Who coulda thunk as early as August that Colorado, Virginia, and Florida would be swing states!

In any event, even Mueller's indictment proves that the farm was strictly amateurville. None of the other 12 Russians charged has an intelligence background, either.

Thus, the CEO is a retired St. Petersburg police officer. The executive director is a 31-year old website developer and internet PR promoter who previously had garnered small beans contracts ($4k-20k each) from St. Petersburg agencies to publish municipal newspapers, make video reports about their activities, or promote local programs such as one on "tolerance and prevention of drug addiction."

Likewise, two more of the operatives were graduates students in IT and advertising at St. Petersburg universities.

Then there is the husband/wife duo, Maria and Robert Bovda, who were the original heads of the US focused "translator project." Both were recent graduates in psychology from local universities, where Robert's 2011 thesis had been on "The Effects of Social-Support Conditions On Loneliness As Experienced By the Elderly".

We can't help but think they had not yet become hardened spies when the joined IRA in November 2013 and apparently left in October 2014. Whatever they did during their tenure at the farm, cooking up ways to help Donald Trump's not yet announced campaign was surely not among them, but still apparently enough to help fill out Mueller's indictment roster.

Another was Dzheykhun Aslanov, who was head of the "American department" and had graduated in 2012 from the Russian State Hydrometeorological University in St. Petersburg. He had studied economics and wildlife management!

Likewise, nowhere in the entire 37 pages is there even a clause linking Prigozhin's Hobby Farm to the SVR (foreign intelligence service), the FSB (counter-intelligence and anti-terrorism), the GRU (military intelligence service), any other agency of the Russian State -- or even some purported Kremlin back channel to Putin.

Yet there is every reason to believe that the entire Russian meddling narrative cooked up by the partisan hacks in Obama's inner circle -- John Brennan, Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes -- was based on the amateurish machinations originating in the nondescript building pictured below.

As we will show, the Hobby Farm was no Russian state secret or clandestine vehicle of its intelligence community. To the contrary, it had been fully covered in the Russian press for years as one of numerous such oligarch funded projects designed to glorify the Putin regime and vilify the Russian opposition.

It had also been the subject of a lengthy expose in The Guardian of London, as well as other western media. Even Radio Free Europe had done a lengthy profile.

All of this had happened long before Prigozhin's Hobby Farm had turned its attentions to US politics. Indeed, the IRA's pivot to the US in April 2014 occurred well before Trump's candidacy was gleam in anyone's eye except his own, but after a seminal event had occurred which Mueller's comic book narrative completely ignores.

To wit, what apparently riled up Prigozhin was Washington's heavy-handed meddling in the politics of Ukraine during the US funded and enabled coup on the streets of Kiev in February 2014.

Never mind that the incumbent pro-Russian government had come to power in an honest election and had chosen to take a more attractive economic deal from Moscow than was being offered by the West. Also ignore that fact that Ukraine was Russia's next door neighbor and had been an essential element of Greater Russia -- sometimes a full fledged constituent state -- for more than 700 years.

Likewise, when Crimea elected by 90 percent referendum vote to "rejoin" Russia, it didn't happen at gunpoint. Crimea is 85 percent Russian and had been an integral part of the Russian state ever since it was purchased from the Turks by Catherine the Great for good money in 1783.

Thereafter, its major port city of Sevastopol had functioned as the homeport for Russia's Black Sea fleet under Czars and Commissars alike. The only real reason it needed to "rejoin" Russia in March 2014 was because the Ukrainian tyrant who ruled the Soviet Union in the 1950s, Nikita Khrushchev, had gifted it to his Ukrainian compatriots during a drunken celebration of his victory over two deadly rivals who also claimed Stalin's succession.

Indeed, when Obama's neocon Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, was caught telling the American ambassador in Kiev that "Yats is the guy" with respect to the new Washington designated leader of the post-coup government and joined a chorus of Washington-based vilification of Putin and the Russian government, the die was cast.

Russian nationalists like Prigozhin were not going to take it lying down. As we document below, then and there he began to shift some of the activities of his trolling farm toward the US.

It amounted to a tit-for-tat response to the anti-Russian propaganda emanating from the Washington-funded NGOs in Kiev; and also from outright government agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy and Radio Free Europe, as well as the Deep State subservient operations of CNN and its print media imitators.

That shift was described as the "translator project" by Mueller's historically ignorant lawyers. The implication was that out of sheer aggression the Kremlin had unilaterally decided to attack America's democratic process through the IRA.

In fact, the overwhelming likelihood is that an arriviste Russian billionaire got a bee in his bonnet after Washington's Ukrainian coup -- and then went to town on America with his trolling farm exactly as he and many others had been doing in internal Russian politics for years.

From the point of view of US/Russian relations and world peace, however, the re-direction of activity at Prigozhin's Hobby Farm could not have come at a worse time. Its wholly open and widely known operations permitted Obama's hatchet-people to quickly seize on the IRA's new theatre of focus as evidence of a massive Russian attack on America's election process, thereby turning a molehill into a mountain.

At length, the partisan leaders of Obama's national security team, led by the detestable John Brennan at the CIA, selectively coopted and abused the resources and credibility of the vast US intelligence apparatus to put the imprimatur of a national security threat upon what was in fact a scary bedtime story of no real significance. That effort culminated in the phony intelligence assessment published by four US intel agencies in January 2017 based on the work of Brennan's "hand-picked" accomplices.

In what is surely a fabulous irony, therefore, the Internet Research Agency amounts to a reverse Potemkin Village. It wasn't much to look at and was nothing to worry about until Obama's national security posse falsely embellished it's innocuous façade into a mortal threat to American democracy and national security.

And then Robert Mueller brought in his gang of copywriters and illustrators to turn this entire tall tale into CNN-ready "news."

We will demonstrate below that what happened in this building was a complete farce and posed no threat to the security and liberty of the American people whatsoever; nor did it even remotely impact the 2016 election process.

But with his comic book indictment, Robert Mueller has actually made himself a mortal threat to America's democracy and national security. That's because his indictment is unleashing a rabid anti-Russian mania in the Democratic party and turning flaming liberals and leftwing progressives, who used to form the backbone of the peace party in America, into outright war-mongers.

The Donald tweeted over the weekend about Moscow "laughing its ass off"  about the Mueller indictment, but we think he missed the mark. It is the Deep State on the banks of the Potomac that is bursting with glee -- literally licking its collective chops -- about the endless budget boondoggles now assured to be coming its way.

The neocons and military/industrial complex had already taken control of the GOP lock, stock and barrel. Then, his campaign rhetoric about "America First" notwithstanding, Trump abdicated to his empire-minded generals in order to concentrate on his Twitter account. And now in the wake of the RussiaGate hysteria being given a powerful new boost from Mueller's comic book, the Dems are lining up to say we will see your $700 billion budget and crank it up from there.

The truth is, there is a screaming fiscal crisis coming hard upon Imperial Washington. That's owing to the $15 trillion of new deficits that are now built-in for the next decade -- at the very time when the Fed has shut down is massive bond-buying experiment and the Baby Boom is hitting the social security and medicare rolls in droves.

Absent the RussiaGate hoax and the Dems descent into mindless, anti-Putin hysteria, there would have been a moment of maximum danger for the Deep State's hideously inflated military, intelligence, and surveillance operations. In the coming battle against fiscal collapse, they surely would have been on the fiscal chopping block like at no time since the aftermath of Vietnam in the 1970s.

But rescue is now at hand. The Dems have been shell-shocked ever since the evening of November 8, 2016, and have worked themselves into deliriums about how it was all a big mistake enabled by Russian meddling and collusion with the Trump campaign.

To a substantial degree, however, those narratives were on their last legs until the Mueller indictment came along. For anyone who takes the trouble to read it, of course, it's just a potpourri of nonsense, marginalia, and irrelevance.

But the Dems had already gone brain dead on the RussiaGate matter -- so they are now greeting it as a "blockbuster," as are the talking heads of CNN and the mainstream media. Consequently, the drivel that came out of the building pictured below is being taken as evidence of a far-reaching attack on America that even rivals Pearl Harbor. As Pat Buchanan noted:
This Russian troll farm is 'the equivalent (of) Pearl Harbor,' says Cong. Jerrold Nadler, who would head up the House Judiciary Committee, handling any impeachment, if Democrats retake the House.

When MSNBC’s Chris Hayes pressed, Nadler doubled down: The Russians 'are destroying our democratic process.' While the Russian trolling may not equal Pearl Harbor in its violence, said Nadler, in its 'seriousness, it is very much on a par' with Japan’s surprise attack.
That's right. But unlike the vast Japanese naval armada that stealthily steamed toward Hawaii in early December 1941, the Facebook cyber-missiles that allegedly hit America in 2016 came out of this little joint hiding in plain sight:

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So let's return to the fact that Prigozhin's troll farm doesn't really look much different than countless others that dot the Russian internet landscape, and which mushroomed after 2011 in support of the Putin-ified Russian state and the crony capitalist economy it shepherds.

A New Yorker piece published by journalist Adrian Chen, no fan of Donald Trump, in late July 2016 explains about as well as any where the Internet Research Agency came from:
The (Internet Research Agency) has been widely reported in Russian media to be the brainchild of Evgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch and ally of Vladimir Putin. At the time, it employed hundreds of Russians in a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, where they produced blog posts, comments, infographics, and viral videos that pushed the Kremlin’s narrative on both the Russian and English Internet.

The agency is what is known in Russia as a 'troll farm,' a nickname given to outfits that operate armies of sock-puppet social-media accounts, in order to create the illusion of a rabid grass-roots movement. Trolling has become a key tool in a comprehensive effort by Russian authorities to rein in a previously freewheeling Internet culture, after huge anti-Putin protests in 2011 were organized largely over social media. It is used by Kremlin apparatchiks at every level of government in Russia; wherever politics are discussed online, one can expect a flood of comments from paid trolls.

The real effect, the Russian activists told me, was not to brainwash readers but to overwhelm social media with a flood of fake content, seeding doubt and paranoia, and destroying the possibility of using the Internet as a democratic space......

.......toward the end of last year (2015) I noticed something interesting: many had begun to promote right-wing news outlets, portraying themselves as conservative voters who were, increasingly, fans of Donald Trump. Exposure to even small amounts of Russian politics can induce severe bouts of paranoia and conspiracy-minded thinking, and it seemed logical to me that this new pro-Trump bent might well be an attempt by the agency to undermine the U.S. by helping to elect a racist reality-show star as our Commander-in-Chief. At the time, I found it funny. The agency was a well-funded but often hapless operation -- it created a cartoon character that was a giant buttocks to spread anti-Obama propaganda, for example -- and this seemed like another of its far-fetched schemes to poison the Internet.
In fact, it was. How it became a fearsome Russian intel operation was entirely due to what happened in Washington DC, not St. Petersburg or the Kremlin, for that matter.

That is, in the summer of 2016, when the Obama inner circle and the Deep State national security establishment alike suddenly were confronted with the theretofore unthinkable prospect that Donald Trump might actually be elected US President, they literally transformed the Hobby Farm of a second tier Russian oligarch into monumental threat to American democracy.

And that took some doing because Prigozhin was essentially a nobody in the great scheme of national security. Unlike Putin, who cut his eyeteeth in the old Soviet era KGB, Prigozhin had fancied himself a ski racer as a privileged young man in a Soviet boarding school. Failing to make the grade on the slopes, however, he had subsequently pursued various petty criminal schemes that landed him nine years in a Soviet prison during the latter's dying days.

But timing is everything -- so when he opened a hot dog stand from his mother's kitchen in newly liberated St. Petersburg in the early 1990s his entrepreneurial talents in the culinary field self-evidently flourished. Soon he branched into convenience stores and then in 1996 into a swank restaurant (Staraya Tamozhnya or "The Old Customs House") that catered to newly monied Russian who were looking for "more than cutlets with Vodka".

At length, a strategic $400k investment in a rusting harbor boat was turned into a floating hot spot called "The New Island Restaurant." From there flowed catering contracts for lavish state banquets after he gained the gastronomical favor of the post-Soviet St. Petersburg political operative, who became prime minister of Russia.

Putin held lavish state dinners on Prigozhin's floating emporium, where he played host to world leaders like George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac. He also apparently heaped business into Prigozhin's budding empire with a $177 million catering contract with Moscow's schools, and then the real jackpot: A two year contract in 2012 worth more than $1.6 billion to supply 90 percent of all food orders to Russian soldiers.

Folks, that's where the troll factory came from. It opened the next year in 2013 as the kind of token of appreciation expected from oligarchs favored by the Russian state.

Still, it wasn't the KGB incarnate -- just a tweet-by-the-numbers body shop designed to flood Russian media and internet forums with messages extolling Russian greatness, the iniquities and hypocrisies of the morally corrupt West and the glorious works of Vlad Putin.

At this stage the troll farm was involved in strictly Russian business -- the handiwork of an oligarch who had thrived on Russia's particular brand of crony capitalism and was more than happy to shill for his patron in the Kremlin.

Here is how the previously referenced Guardian article from mid-2015 described the farm before some of its modest resources were later shifted to the "American Department" in 2016:
Just after 9pm each day, a long line of workers files out of 55 Savushkina Street, a modern four-storey office complex with a small sign outside that reads 'Business centre.' Having spent 12 hours in the building, the workers are replaced by another large group, who will work through the night.

They painted a picture of a work environment that was humourless and draconian, with fines for being a few minutes late or not reaching the required number of posts each day. Trolls worked in rooms of about 20 people, each controlled by three editors, who would check posts and impose fines if they found the words had been cut and pasted, or were ideologically deviant.

The LiveJournal blogger, who spent two months working at the centre until mid-March, said she was paid 45,000 roubles ($790) a month, to run a number of accounts on the site.

'We had to write "ordinary posts," about making cakes or music tracks we liked, but then every now and then throw in a political post about how the Kiev government is fascist, or that sort of thing,' she said.

Scrolling through one of the LiveJournal accounts she ran, the pattern is clear. There are posts about 'Europe’s 20 most beautiful castles' and 'signs that show you are dating the wrong girl,' interspersed with political posts about Ukraine or suggesting that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is corrupt.

The desired conclusion of one reads: 'The majority of experts agree that the US is deliberately trying to weaken Russia, and Ukraine is being used only as a way to achieve this goal. If the Ukrainian people had not panicked and backed a coup, the west would have found another way to pressure Russia. But our country is not going to go ahead with the US plans, and we will fight for our sovereignty on the international stage.'

To add colour to their posts, websites have been set up to aid the troll army. One features thousands of pasteable images, mainly of European leaders in humiliating photoshopped incidents or with captions pointing out their weakness and stupidity, or showing Putin making hilarious wisecracks and winning the day.

'When I got the job there in 2013 it was a small building, I was working in the basement, and it was clear they didn’t have enough space,' said Andrei Soshnikov, a St Petersburg journalist who infiltrated the company two years ago and has continued to cover it. He linked the move to a much bigger office with increased online activity around the Ukraine crisis....
As we explained above, it was only after Washington massively intervened in the domestic politics of Ukraine in February 2104 that Prigozhin's Hobby Farm branched into external operations focused on Russian adversaries like the new anti-Russian Ukrainian government and the United States.

Even then, however, the mainstream media headline writers, who have been intellectually lobotomized by a constant diet of anti-Russian mania, cannot seem to grasp that their hyperbolic headlines are in no way, shape or form supported by the actual written words in Mueller's indictment.

In a word, eighty twenty-somethings sitting cheek-by-jowl at banks of computer screens and banging out social media tripe in English as a (third) language did not impact anything in America, let alone the 2016 election outcome.

That is to say, what in the world is so hard to understand about the fact that the pathetic output of this group could not have amounted to 0.000001 pecent of the content that rumbled through these social media channels during 2016?

Yet here is Mueller -- writing in indictment black and white -- admitting that the troll farm had deployed precious few trolls to the American department:
spread (ing) distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.....By approximately July 2016, more than eighty ORGANIZATION employees were assigned to the translator project.
Besides the infinitesimal volume and generally crude and unoriginal nature of the troll farm's output, this tiny 80-person contingent points to another huge flaw in the entire Mueller narrative -- especially as it has been embellished and exaggerated by the mainstream media since last Friday afternoon. To wit, all of these posts were destined to get lost in the vast sea of cyberspace without a ground game in the US.

Yet the indictment is clear on that crucial point as well. The Russian meddlers had "no ground game" whatsoever aside from a 22 day visit in June 2014 by two operatives who were not trained spies and who had apparently never even been to America previously.

Yet they visited nine states during that brief interval and thereby "cased-out" the entirety of the American electoral scene:
Only KRYLOVA and BOGACHEVA received visas, and from approximately June 4, 2014 through June 26, 2014, KRYLOVA and BOGACHEVA traveled in and around the United States, including stops in Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and New York to gather intelligence. After the trip, KRYLOVA and BURCHIK exchanged an intelligence report regarding the trip.
The above paragraph is itself a smoking bratwurst!

Aside from sleeping, passing through countless airports, checking into a dozen or more hotels and perhaps visiting the chamber of Commerce in Dallas or Denver, what possibly could these two travelers have done to lay the groundwork for "influencing" 133 million voters two years hence?

Mueller doesn't say and the talking heads jabber on about this trip as if it were some kind of invasion, not the pointless needle-in-the-haystack type of undertaking that it actually was.

And that gets us to the ballyhooed efforts to organize and promote Trump rallies in Florida, Washington DC, New York City and elsewhere. Once again, however, Mueller spills large amounts of ink citing the emails and social media posts that describe the aims of these long-distance media trolls. But there is not a shred of evidence presented about what actually happened on the ground.

We would be so bold as to suggest that we know why Mueller didn't document this core element of the alleged meddling campaign. Namely, because nobody came to the rallies and flash mob events called for by the keyboard jockeys in St. Petersburg.

Take the case of the "Florida Goes Trump" rallies on August 20, which the indictment dwells on at length. So doing, it purports to explain how real Trump supporters in the state were duped into cooperating, how bloggers back in Russia used social media posts to promote 13 rallies across the state of Florida and bought ads to the same end on Facebook.

In fact, compared to fleeting references with respect to similar rallies allegedly staged in Washington DC and New York City, the Florida rallies take up far more ink in the indictment and come across as exhibit #1  on Russia ground game in the US election process.

Indeed, the liberal hatch-people at Politico made the singular importance of the Florida meddling operation abundantly clear:
But the document makes clear that the operation in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, was in a class by itself. The indictment is packed with details of how Russian nationals duped Donald Trump campaign volunteers and grass-roots organizations in Florida into holding rallies they organized and helped fund with foreign cash.
Here's the problem. There seems to be scant evidence that these rallies actually happened or that anyone showed up to the ones that did occur. For instance, here is a photo of one in St. Petersburg (Florida) posted on social media at the time.

We doubt whether Vlad got his money's worth on this one:

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Then there's the case of Jim Frishe of Clearwater, Florida. He was a real estate development consultant and candidate for county office, who organized a sign-waving event in response to the Russian entreaties that attracted barely a dozen people:
Frishe, 68, said he was called by someone identifying themselves as with a group called 'Florida for Trump' and asked to organize a sign-waving rally. He said between 15 and 18 people showed up and that he didn't receive any signs or money or other support. He never heard from them again.

'I was going to do what I was going to do anyway. I was a Trump supporter, they didn't convince me.'
Then there is the case of the "Hillary in stripes" caper allegedly promoted by the Russians. According to the indictment:
'For example, defendants and their co-conspirators asked one U.S. person to build a cage on on a flatbed truck … and another U. person to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform,'
The thing is, the main evidence for that is that the "cage" appeared about a month later as the handiwork of a Trump supporter, Gary Howd, who did it all on his own -- without any prompting, encouragement or money from the Russians.

Even the Politico account of the purported Florida invasion by the Russians let that much slip out:
The caged Clinton stunt was a hit among Trump supporters. On Sept. 23, for instance, NBC2 reported that a Cape Coral man erected a caged Clinton display in his front yard.

'I feel like I'm doing my little part at least in my little neck of the woods,' homeowner Gary Howd said.
As it happened, even the Washington Post admits that the "Florida Goes Trump" rallies didn't amount to much.
The efforts in Florida that August day did not turn out to be particularly impressive. No people showed up to at least one of the proposed rallies, and online photos of some of the other events reveal ragtag groups with Trump signs staking out patches of grass or traffic medians.
As to the "Down With Hillary" demonstration on July 23, 2016, to take another example, here is what you get from Google on this particular element of the indictment:
No results found for "Down with Hillary" rally in New York City on July 23, 2016.
Finally, and as long was we are on the topic, here is what a real troll farm looks like. Yet this vast suite of offices in Fort Meade, Maryland, where 20,000 SIGINT spies and technicians work for the NSA, is only the tip of the iceberg.

The US actually spends $75 billion per year -- more than Russia's entire $69 billion defense budget -- spying on and meddling in the politics of virtually every nation on earth. An outfit within NSA called Tailored Access Operations (TAO) has a multi-billion annual budget and does nothing put troll the global internet and does so with highly educated, highly paid professionals, not $4 per hour keyboard jockeys.

Indeed, the cafeterias in the NSA buildings cost far more per year to operate than did Prigozhin's troll farm during it entire short lived existence (its apparently now being closed down with two of the 3.5 floors already dark).

In that context, Charles Hugh Smith cogently reminds that the real farce in the Mueller comic book is that it is the ultimate case of the pot-calling-the-kettle black:
America's foreign policy is one of absolute entitlement to influence the domestic affairs and politics of every nation of interest, which to a truly global empire includes every nation on the planet to the degree every nation is a market and/or a potential threat to U.S. interests.

Assassination of elected leaders -- no problem. Funding the emergence of new U.S.-directed political parties -- just another day at the office. Inciting dissent and discord to destabilize regimes -- it's what we do, folks. Funding outright propaganda -- one of our enduring specialties.
Finally, as Pat Buchanan further observed in his post on the Mueller indictment, political and election meddling is what Imperial Washington does. And now we are surprised that others do the same -- even that pathetic efforts of a Russian oligarch laid out in Mueller's ham sandwich indictment:
Are the CIA and National Endowment for Democracy under orders not to try to influence the outcome of elections in nations in whose ruling regimes we believe we have a stake?

'Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries’ elections?' Laura Ingraham asked former CIA Director James Woolsey this weekend.

With a grin, Woolsey replied, 'Oh, probably.'

'We don’t do that anymore though?' Ingraham interrupted. 'We don’t mess around in other people’s elections, Jim?'

'Well,' Woolsey said with a smile. 'Only for a very good cause.'

Indeed, what is the National Endowment for Democracy all about, if not aiding the pro-American side in foreign nations and their elections?

Did America have no active role in the 'color-coded revolutions' that have changed regimes from Serbia to Ukraine to Georgia?

When Republicans discuss Iran on Capitol Hill, the phrase 'regime change' is frequently heard. When the 'Green Revolution' took to the streets of Tehran to protest massively the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, Republicans denounced President Obama for not intervening more energetically to alter the outcome.

When China, Russia and Egypt expel NGOs, are their suspicions that some have been seeded with U.S. agents merely marks of paranoia?
Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's Contra Corner.

Steve Bannon’s Done – But It’s Way Too Late

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Good riddance to Steve Bannon. The last thing America needed was a conservative/populist/statist alternative to the Welfare State/Warfare State/Bailout State status quo. Yet what Bannonism boiled down to was essentially acquiescence to the latter -- even as it drove politicization deeper into the sphere of culture, communications and commerce.

Stated differently, the heavy hand of the Imperial City in traditional domestic, foreign and financial matters was already bad enough: Bannonism just gave a thin veneer of ersatz nationalism to what was otherwise the Donald's own dogs' breakfast of protectionism, nativism, xenophobia, jingoism and strong-man bombast.

By the latter, of course, we mean Trump's essentially content free notion that America was falling from greatness mainly due to stupidity, corruption and a penchant for bad deals among Washington pols; and that the undeniable economic malaise, if not decline, of Flyover America was due to some kind of grand global zero sum-game.

That is, what rightly belonged to America was being stolen by immigrants, imports, and the nefarious doings of foreign governments and globalist elites. What was needed to make America Great Again (MAGA), therefore, was a Washington-erected moat to hold back the tide of bad people and unfair foreign economic assaults and a new sheriff in the Oval Office with the "smarts" (with which he believed himself amply endowed) to start "winning" again.

In truth, Trump had it upside down from the beginning. The unfortunate arrival of Steve Bannon to his campaign in August 2016 only served to give the Donald's disheveled basket of bromides, braggadocio, and bile a rightist political edge and proto-intellectual rationalization.

The real problem, in fact, was not the evil flowing into the American homeland from abroad -- whether imports, illegals or terrorists. Rather, it was the outward flow of Washington's monetary and military imperialism that was gutting capitalist prosperity domestically and generating terrorist blowback abroad.

Needless to say, Bannonism never identified the real culprits: Namely, the Wall Street-enriching Bubble Finance policies of the Fed, which forced foreign central banks to buy dollars and trash their own currencies to keep exports "competitive"; the military-industrial-intelligence-foreign aid complex of the American Imperium; and the massively insolvent institutions of the Welfare State social insurance system (Social Security and Medicare) and prodigious spending on means-tested entitlements (Medicaid, food stamps EITC, etc.).

Consequently, the Bannonized agenda had no inkling, either, that fiscal catastrophe was imminent. And that the Trump administration had no real choice except the politically unpalatable path of cutting spending and/or raising taxes -- or eventually getting buried by the inherited fiscal tidal wave cresting at the end of a failed ((102 month old) recovery.

Nor did it grasp that the real cause of Flyover America's distress is the Fed's multi-decade regime of financial repression and Wall Street price-keeping policies which: (1) deplete the real pay of workers via the FOMC's absurd 2 percent inflation target; (2) savage the bank balances of savers and retirees via ZIRP; (3) gut jobs, investment and real pay in the business sector via the C-suites' strip-mining of corporate balance sheets and cash flows to fund Wall Street-pleasing stock buybacks, fatter dividends and M&A empire building; and 4) impale the bottom 80 percent of households on a unrepayable treadmill of (temporarily) cheap debt in order to sustain a simulacrum of middle class living standards.

At the same time, these pernicious monetary central planning policies did fuel the greatest (unsustainable) financial asset inflation in recorded history, thereby showering the top one percent and 10 percent with upwards of $35 trillion of windfall wealth (on paper). At bottom, Fed policy amounted to "trickle-up" with malice aforethought, and it was sponsored and endorsed by the beltway bipartisan consensus.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Trump's flawed candidacy and pastiche of palliatives and pettifoggery appealed to the left-behind working classes of western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa---as well as to the retirees of Florida and culturally-threatened main streeters domiciled in the small towns and countryside of Red State America.

In these precincts, the election was not especially won by Trump. Rather, the electoral college was essentially defaulted to him by a lifetime denizen of the Imperial City who had no clue that war, welfare and windfalls to the wealthy were no longer selling in Flyover America.

Reprinted excerpt with permission from David Stockman's ContraCorner.