All posts by Othello

Interference in Plain Sight

History will remember that a Gulf state had a role in expelling the foreign minister of a superpower and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

— Abdulkhalez Abdullaa, UAE Political Science Professor

Tweet by prominent UAE political science professor, Abdulkhalez Abdullaa, as quoted in a recent article on The American Conservative.

As the US continues to writhe in the throes of Russiagate, it is amazing to see the victory laps being taken for Rex Tillerson’s removal as Secretary of State by those who are admittedly agents of foreign states. As the above-mentioned article makes clear, certain Middle East countries and their US proxies believe that their efforts resulted in Tillerson’s firing.

One could hardly ask for a clearer confession regarding foreign interference in the domestic politics of the United States. Yet journalists in the major media seem to be asleep at the wheel on the issue.

A Russian troll farm that ran a click-bait scheme to profit from the US presidential elections inspired massive and almost hysterical coverage, despite the fact that troll farms worldwide engaged in similar practices, yet boasting about getting the Secretary of State fired is not news!

The self-congratulatory crowing observed in certain circles over Trump’s dismissal of Tillerson should serve as a wake up call about the exertion of undue influence on the American government by foreigners…even those from places that the President would describe as s#*thole countries.

If we were naive we would look forward to the appointment of a Special Prosecutor on this issue…we won’t hold our breath.

Interference in Plain Sight

History will remember that a Gulf state had a role in expelling the foreign minister of a superpower and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

— Abdulkhalez Abdullaa, UAE Political Science Professor

Tweet by prominent UAE political science professor, Abdulkhalez Abdullaa, as quoted in a recent article on The American Conservative.

As the US continues to writhe in the throes of Russiagate, it is amazing to see the victory laps being taken for Rex Tillerson’s removal as Secretary of State by those who are admittedly agents of foreign states. As the above-mentioned article makes clear, certain Middle East countries and their US proxies believe that their efforts resulted in Tillerson’s firing.

One could hardly ask for a clearer confession regarding foreign interference in the domestic politics of the United States. Yet journalists in the major media seem to be asleep at the wheel on the issue.

A Russian troll farm that ran a click-bait scheme to profit from the US presidential elections inspired massive and almost hysterical coverage, despite the fact that troll farms worldwide engaged in similar practices, yet boasting about getting the Secretary of State fired is not news!

The self-congratulatory crowing observed in certain circles over Trump’s dismissal of Tillerson should serve as a wake up call about the exertion of undue influence on the American government by foreigners…even those from places that the President would describe as s#*thole countries.

If we were naive we would look forward to the appointment of a Special Prosecutor on this issue…we won’t hold our breath.

Drinking the Self-driving Car Kool-aid

Recently, a Tesla on autopilot slammed into a parked fire engine at 65 mph. It turns out that there was no malfunction. According to Tesla’s manual:

Traffic-Aware Cruise Control cannot detect all objects and may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles, especially in situations when you are driving over 50 mph (80 km/h) and a vehicle you are following moves out of your driving path and a stationary vehicle or object is in front of you instead.

So whereas any half way decent human driver would have braked and/or swerved to avoid the collision, Tesla’s “smart” car proceeded full-speed ahead.

Even if you choose not to buy a self-driving car, you or your loved ones could have been in that parked vehicle struck by a stupid “smart” car. This is not just about technophiles who want to be able to play World of Warcraft while speeding down the highway…this technology is potentially dangerous to all road users and any deaths, injuries or property damage caused by this flawed technology should see the drivers, manufacturers and approving authorities prosecuted or sued…no high-tech exemption!

It is not only Tesla; according to the Wired article referred at the start of this article:

Volvo’s semi-autonomous system, Pilot Assist, has the same shortcoming. Say the car in front of the Volvo changes lanes or turns off the road, leaving nothing between the Volvo and a stopped car. Pilot Assist will ignore the stationary vehicle and instead accelerate to the stored speed.

The article explains why these self-driving systems are engineered that way but blithely promises that in the future LIDAR (Light Identification Detection and ranging, which uses lasers) will replace and/or augment radar and cameras to solve this problem. However, one can discern the real agenda when it informs us that:

Lidar’s price and reliability problems are less of an issue when it comes to a taxi-like service, where a provider can amortize the cost over time and perform regular maintenance. But in today’s cars, meant for average or modestly wealthy consumers, it’s a no-go.

Self-driving cars are a promising new profit center for auto and technology companies. They want to own personal and commercial road transportation which they will provide as a service (at a tidy profit, of course). They repeatedly argue that the technology is safer that using human drivers using flawed statistics while self driving cars cause fatal accidents because the car’s cameras failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky or knock over motorcyclists.

There is a general love-fest for things regarded as cool technology. However, unlike the great innovations that have made driving safer like ABS, ESP, collision avoidance systems, air bags etc. the real intent of self-driving cars seems to be creating a new industry that will be dominated by auto and tech giants who would ultimately control all road traffic…a truly huge potential market.

You probably didn’t hear about the conclusions of Germany’s Highway Research Institute (BASt) that:

After many thousands of kilometers of testing, BASt reportedly concluded that Autopilot represents a significant traffic hazard. Judging that is was not designed for complex urban traffic situations, the report declared that the car’s sensors are too short-sighted to cope with the reality of German motorways.

Or that:

American research conducted by John F. Lenkeit of Dynamic Research, which concludes that forward collision warning systems for automobiles fail dramatically to detect motorcycles.

Before concluding that self-driving cars are an inevitable part of a rosy future one should read an article like The “Self-Driving” Car is only an Oxymoron. In it you might learn that:

…in the first week of March, Uber’s 43 test cars in three states logged some 20,000 miles on public roads. Their drivers had to intervene and take control away from the software, an average of once every mile. Critical interventions, required to save lives and property, were counted separately; they occurred every 200 miles.

In a world where millions would love to have the job of driver and where training and technology geared towards supporting safe driving provide accessible solutions to improving road safety, self-driving cars seem to be of dubious value and downright dangerous as well.

President Dotard Versus Chairman Rocket Man

In the recent rhetoric over tensions in the Korean Peninsula, US President Trump called North Korean Chairman Kim “Rocket Man” and Chairman Kim responded by calling Trump a “Dotard”. The exchange has plumbed the depths of statesmanship, with the greater offender being President Dotard. Language threatening Fire and Fury, national annihilation and extreme personal insults have been exchanged between two nuclear armed states…it makes you positively pine for the old days of a Cuban Missile Crisis presided over by President Kennedy and Chairman Khrushchev.

Promises of genocide are thrown around casually by the “Leader of the Free World” as an appropriate response to North Korea’s provocative testing of its missile and nuclear weapons. The sage advice of Russia and China for both sides to stand down has been dismissed by President Dotard as weak-kneed coddling of Chairman Rocket Man; ignoring Putin’s warning that the continued military hysteria is an “invitation to the graveyard”.

President Moon of South Korea whose country would be devastated under virtually any scenario of war between the US and North Korea has joined President Dotard in threatening to wipe out Pyongyang and has let it be known that his country has a Decapitation Force that is being trained by US special forces to assassinate Chairman Rocket Man.

Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Abe, in a seemingly longing to return to his country’s violent heyday in the early part of the 20th century when Japanese boots trampled over much of Asia, is sounding like a boastful Samurai when in all likelihood a few well-directed nuclear weapons from the DPRK could see millions of Japanese deaths and Japan’s economy in tatters.

As “diplomats” from some countries reflexively applauded President Dotard’s threat to wage nuclear war, there were a few adults in the halls of power around the world who were left wondering if anything could be done to prevent this doltish behavior from resulting in a global calamity. Some might suggest that its time to pray that a head-on collision between President Dotard and Chairman Rocket Man is somehow derailed before millions die and history remembers our era for the casualness with which we sleepwalked into perhaps the greatest slaughter of humanity ever.

More practically, thought should be given to how the authority to wage nuclear war has found itself in such unworthy hands and what can be done to prevent the fate of millions from hanging by such a weak thread of reason.

The Yasukuni Gambit

Fresh off his election victory, Japanese Prime Minister Kobe as well as several of his cabinet members and top party officials, visited the Yasukuni Shrine outside Tokyo. As usual, reaction across Asia was hostile to the PM’s visit to a shrine that honored Class A war criminals that had been part of an Imperial Japanese war machine that had slaughtered and enslaved millions in the run up to and throughout World War II. Nowhere was the anger more sharply felt than in Korea, whose 1100 years as an independent kingdom had been brutally ended by the Japanese in 1910, followed by a harsh occupation until the end of World War II.

This time reaction was even more strident than usual, probably aggravated by the fact that the new Japanese PM had been speaking ominously about Japan taking a more aggressive military stance and their recent joint military maneuvers with the US, South Korea and Australia had been the largest ever seen in the North Pacific. The heated rhetoric from Pyongyang had been dismissed as the ranting of their crackpot leader and the heightened military readiness and missile tests he had ordered had caused the normal condemnations from the US and it allies but little real alarm.

At 5 am three days after the PM’s visit, North Korea launched three Taepodong-2 missiles at the Yasukuni site. All the missiles struck their targets and their high explosive warheads totally demolished the Yasukuni Shrine. Without waiting to organize a joint response with its US ally, Japan immediately launched a missile counter-strike on the North Korean capital, Pyongyang,  as well as at the nuclear power plant at Yongbyon. The reactor was seriously damaged and a massive radiation leak ensued…there were serious doubts as to whether a complete nuclear meltdown could be avoided.

Meanwhile, the South Koreans sank two North Korean submarines that it claimed were trying to sneak special forces into its territories and the US placed all its forces in the region on high alert and ordered the Sixth Fleet aircraft carrier group to sail directly towards North Korea.

Then it happened! North Korea launched three more missiles that detonated 25km over Japan, including one near Okinawa, home to massive US bases. These were nuclear-tipped and the resulting electro-magnetic pulses had the effect of shutting down most of the Japanese electrical grid, caused extensive damage to the electronic infrastructure and, more importantly, degraded radar, defense and surveillance systems.

Within seconds of the atmospheric detonation of these missiles, twelve nuclear missiles were launched at Japan. Half of them were aimed at US bases in Okinawa and the others at Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto as well as Fukushima and two other nuclear power plants. Shorter range Rodong-1 nuclear-armed missiles were fired at Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Incheon and the nuclear power plants at Hanul, Wolseong and Hanbit. Both Japan and South Korea were left with their countries’ major population and industrial centers devastated, a crippled electrical grid and a massive nuclear contamination problem.

Simultaneously, another attack was launched on the US Sixth Fleet involving five nuclear armed Taepodong-2 missile used in air burst mode. The first two detonated 60km from the carrier group to blind and degrade the defense systems and the others managed to get over the middle of the fleet before detonating at an elevation of 2 km. The carrier survived but was incapacitated and most of its supporting surface ships were sunk or badly damaged.

The North Koreans had used the majority of its entire nuclear arsenal in a decisive, preemptive attack against its arch-enemies; thereby unleashing a series of cataclysmic events that would rearrange power arrangements in the region at the price of its own demise as a state. All its major population centers and military installations were soon obliterated by US nuclear and conventional missiles and bombs, but not before launching a devastating swan song second-strike!

Long range Hwasong-14 missiles were fired from their launch pads in the North Pyongan mountains at Hawaii,  Alaska, the US North-West and the Darwin naval base in Australia. The new solid-fuel rockets had been test fired and achieved an altitude in excess of 2,800 kilometers. Western analysts had calculated that they had the range to reach the US West Coast but they had not realized that several of the new missiles were already operational and armed with nuclear warheads. One of the missiles, which had been aimed at Silicon valley, was shot down by the US missile defenses but Pearl Harbor, Anchorage, Seattle and Portland were hit, in addition to Darwin. The warheads were only in the 30 kiloton range but casualties exceeded 700,000.

But perhaps the greatest surprise was delivered by a “Suicide Trawler” that launched 4 Taepodong-2 missiles from 550 kilometers off the California coast at San Francisco,  Los Angeles and San Diego, whose massive naval base received two strikes. The civilian and military casualties exceeded a million deaths and several times that number of injured. The fact that the trawler was almost immediately sunk proved to be of little consolation to the victims and their families.

With over ten million North Korean casualties, millions of survivors flooded into China and the Chinese government virtually annexed a buffer zone extending 100 kilometers into North Korean territory and took the lead in the relief efforts and the reconstruction of the parts of North Korea not badly affected by radiation.

The actions of the North Korean regime would come to be known as the Yasukuni Gambit because of the incident that had triggered this critical chain of events, with its enormous geopolitical consequences. In hindsight, the North Korean situation had been a powder keg that could have been set off by any number of events, including the frequent simulated attacks on the country by the US, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

Japan was finished as a regional power and indeed as an industrial power. Few tears were shed for her in a region that had suffered greatly under Japanese occupation up to and including World War II. South Korea similarly lay in ruins, a shattered shell of its former self. The American public were shocked that a third rate power like North Korea could cause so much damage to the US homeland as well as the destruction of an aircraft carrier group. The US voting public lost a great deal of its appetite for their politicians’ belligerence towards Russia and China.

Australians also reacted with shock and their outrage was soon channeled towards the ruling party that had been so enthusiastic about following the US in threatening North Korea. The subsequent election saw them resoundingly defeated.  The Taiwanese people voted overwhelmingly for association with Mainland China under a One Country, Two Systems arrangement, similar to Hong Kong and Macau. Other countries in the region became more reticent about hosting US forces and antagonizing China, not wanting to suffer South Korea’s fate as a nuclear battleground.

The US tried to find some strategic advantage from the situation; but with its two biggest regional allies, Japan and South Korea in ruins, its Pivot to Asia had suffered a serious setback. It would try to get the Philippines to take over the role of leading US Asian ally by promoting a color revolution against President Duterte, but with its much smaller and less sophisticated economic base and geographic location being so far south, the Philippines proved a poor replacement for the loss of Japan and South Korea. The result was that Russia and China, in tandem, came to clearly dominate the North Pacific.

Ironically, it was China that would benefit most by leading the rising Asian manufacturing states in making up for the lost industrial capacity of Japan and South Korea. The US, wounded by the loss or extensive damage to several of its cities and the smashing of the aura of invincibility of their naval power, was beset by a wave of populist movements that saw a large number of isolationists elected to the Congress and Senate. On the bright side, the decontamination and rebuilding efforts on the west coast stimulated the American domestic, non-military industry and created millions of jobs.

Another blessing to emerge from the tragedy was that the reality of a nuclear exchange and the resultant tremendous loss of life and property spurred the major powers to get back to the negotiating table to pursue arms control treaties that would prevent any repetition of the tragedy. This was supported by the fact that with the clear weakening of the United States and out of fear of suffering the fate of South Korea and Japan, a number of countries passed legislation to expel US military bases or to limit the number of military personnel and types of armaments that could be kept on their territories..

It had been a painful transition but a Multi-Polar international order eventually emerged from the Asian tragedy.

Qatar Today, Saudi Arabia Tomorrow?

As the world watches the rapid transformation of Qatar from wealthy trusted ally in the West’s War on Terror and host to US CENTCOM, the most important US overseas military installation, to having President Trump declare Qatar “… historically being a funder of terrorism at a very high level”, the bigger question is whether Saudi Arabia is next.

All the elements are there. Qatar, for all its pretensions, is small potatoes. Saudi Arabia has for decades provided the ideological foundation and generous funding for terrorism. When President Trump accused Qatar of supporting “extremist ideology” and funding for terrorism he could just as easily have substituted Saudi Arabia and been even more truthful.

From Chechnya, Afghanistan and Al Qaeda to ISIS and the alphabet soup of terror groups in Syria; Saudi Arabia’s hands are dripping in the blood of innocents…plus, the Americans know it and can prove it, if and when its convenient to do so.

For years the Takfiri/Jihadi conglomerate has had a raw and rough face that is the Saudi brand…think Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Taliban, Baghdadi. There have also been the Takfiris in Suits or Tuxedo Takfiris as one commentator has called them. This has been the province of Qatar and to a lesser extent Turkey, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait…Morsi, Qaradawi and Erdogan are the well known faces of this Wahhabi-Lite, Muslim Brotherhood version.

Together, they have all worked to promote the extremist ideological Wahhabi distortion of Islam wherein anyone disagreeing with them was declared outside the faith; i.e., excommunicated, to use a term with which Christians will be familiar, and subject to death. Just like medieval Christian Inquisition and excommunication resulted in loss of life and property, the Wahhabi Takfiris have put hundreds of thousands to the sword, gun, bomb and knife, seized their property and even enslaved their women and children. In many cases they have proudly video-taped their atrocities and broadcast them worldwide with the help of YouTube and Facebook.

Their first targets are Muslims who don’t subscribe to their views, but Christians and those of other faiths are also slaughtered and expelled from their homes mercilessly. With the generous support of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states, the Takfiris in Syria declared “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave” and when they were flush with their early successes boasted that once they were finished with the Alawite Assad they would slaughter Hassan Nasrallah (head of Hezbollah) like a sacrificial animal and purge Lebanon of Shias.

The coordinated attack on Qatar, starting with the hacking of Qatar’s State News Agency website to plant inflammatory remarks and the lockstep response and escalation by Saudi Arabia and it allies, with the full support of Tweeter-in-Chief Trump, sounds like the demonization usually reserved for targets of regime change.

Some commentators have pointed to Qatar’s considerable wealth, and in particular its Sovereign Wealth Fund as being resources that can be used to resist its enemies. However, it would be easy for the US to announce the freezing or seizure of Qatar’s deposits and investments on the basis of their involvement in terrorism.

As the world’s largest exporter of LNG and one of the top three owners of gas reserves, Qatar is a juicy target. Similarly, Saudi Arabia is the world’s number one oil exporter with the planet’s largest oil reserves. Who needs the Paris Climate Change Accords when they can quite easily gobble up Qatar now and Saudi Arabia later? The US already operates more than a dozen military bases in the Gulf region and unlike the military forces of Iran and North Korea, the Qatari and Saudi armed forces are pushovers.

That’s an awful lot of oil, gas and cash in sovereign wealth funds just there for the taking from regimes that can easily be proven to be behind the vast majority of the world’s terrorism…some might even be thinking that it would be a way to Make America Great Again! After all, President Trump is on record as saying that the US should have kept the Iraqi oil and might have another chance to do so.

Trump might just go for it…stay tuned!

Theresa May’s Frankenstein

The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, and his father traveled to Libya in 2011 to fight against the Gaddafi government with the approval of the British security establishment. British Prime Minister Theresa May was at that time Interior Minister with direct responsibility for MI5 and the rest of the UK’s internal security apparatus. Abedi’s father, who has since been arrested along with a younger son in connection with the attack, was one of a large group of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) members who had been allowed to settle in the UK.

There are a couple of articles on the Moon of Alabama website with details of how Britain’s MI5 assisted members of the LIFG to travel to Libya to join the fight against Gaddafi. In addition, the young Abedi also went to fight in Syria, a conflict in which Britain sides with the jihadists fighting against Assad’s government. Indeed, it seems that young Abedi was such a clearly dangerous individual that he was reported by members of the Libyan exile community to the authorities at least five times as an obvious extremist threat.

An article on the Middle East Eye news site states that:

The British government operated an “open door” policy that allowed Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join the 2011 uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi even though some had been subject to counter-terrorism control orders.

The article is topped by a picture of a mural in Tripoli, Libya that praises the Manchester Fighters in both English and Arabic.

The UK Telegraph informs us that several members of the LIFG lived near Abedi in Manchester:

Among them was Abd al-Baset Azzouz, a father-of-four from Manchester, who left Britain to run a terrorist network in Libya overseen by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of al-Qaeda.

The Telegraph also noted that Azzouz was an expert bomb-maker.

The UK and US has a history of “stocking up” on these extremist types to be later used against governments that they wish to regime change. Such people are welcomed as asylum seekers while worthy refugees, like Christians fleeing Iraq and Syria, are often denied.

As pointed out in an article by Neil Clark, The UK Telegraph had praised Libya in 2010 as one of the top six cruise destinations but today Libya is acknowledged as being a Daesh stronghold. Seifeddine Rezgui trained at a Daesh base in Libya for his attack in Kantaoui, Tunisia in June 2015 that killed 38 tourists, 30 of them British. Recent attacks in France have also involved persons who had traveled to Libya and Syria, with the authorities turning a blind eye, perhaps because these known extremists were considered useful in achieving their government’s regime change objectives.

Common sense would suggest that if the UK knowingly harbors people who commit atrocities in the Middle East it is likely that some of those people will also commit atrocities against British targets. While the authorities declare their shock and outrage at the attack, British citizens should be asking themselves if this was not an inevitable side effect of elements of their government playing with jihadi fire that resulted in UK citizens getting burned.

In a country that prides itself on having the Mother of Parliaments, it will be interesting to see if voters exercise their democratic right and duty to punish errant politicians by rejecting them at the polls. Prime Minister May’s role in creating and coddling the jihadi Frankenstein that resulted in the Manchester tragedy may well prove to be her downfall. On the other hand, voters may choose to ignore her bad judgment; in which case it is likely that the current dangerously irresponsible policy will continue, with predictably tragic results .

Truth Trumps Falsehood

“Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away. Surely! Falsehood is ever bound to vanish.”

As we witness President Trump declaring that Iran is the main source of terrorism in the world while standing in the very Kingdom of Terror right next to Terror’s biggest architects and financiers; the above words of the Quran come to mind.

Anyone who has witnessed the rise of Al-Qaida and ISIS and who has been paying attention with even some modest degree of intelligence and impartiality knows that President Trump is lying.

This presents an opportunity for politicians, social commentators, religious leaders and other people of influence to rise up and demolish this edifice of lies with the plain truth. The President of the United States of America is openly allying his country with the very people who provided ideological inspiration and material support to those who killed thousands of Americans in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania in 2001 and who have slaughtered hundreds of thousands around the Middle East, in some cases eating their hearts and livers to leave us no doubt about their barbarity.

Every act of terror in Europe that has been ordered or inspired by Al-Qaida and ISIS can be traced back to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi ideology, ably assisted by Qatar and most of the other Gulf Arabs. Even as the citizens of Europe fall victim to these attacks, their political leaders fall in lock-step behind their American rulers and cozy up to the royal originators and sponsors of terror, hoping for arms deals, petro-dollar investment and other material benefits from the Arab royalty who treat their countries’ hydrocarbon patrimony as their personal wealth.

The American and/or Western politicians who dare to speak truth to power on this issue will find that it is part of human nature for people with good hearts to embrace the truth once they are given the chance to hear it. It’s the reason why people convert to new religious faiths and ideologies and why, in the popular story, once the child declared the emperor’s nakedness all present agreed.

A U.S. Congressman or British MP who sponsors a bill to set up a thorough inquiry into the connection between Wahhabi ideology and Takfiri terrorism may find herself riding a groundswell of support.

Who will seize this opportunity to call a spade a spade? To strip the murderers of their veil of dollars. Undoubtedly, there will be challenges but in the end: Truth Trumps Falsehood.