All posts by Philip Giraldi

Here Come the Terrorists. Again

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President Joe Biden is being praised in some circles because he finally ended the war in Afghanistan that in all likelihood should never have begun. President George W. Bush initiated the conflict on a series of lies about 9/11 and the Taliban role in that attack and what followed. After bringing about regime change, he decided to remake the country into a western style democracy. President Barack Obama subsequently allowed a “surge” which actually increased the militarization of the conflict and made things worse. The joint effort produced no free elections but delivered instead tens of thousands of deaths and a huge hole in the US Treasury.

Bush and Obama were followed by President Donald Trump who actually promised to end the war but lacked the conviction and political support to do so, handing the problem over to Biden, who has bungled the end game but finally done the right thing by ending the fiasco. Biden also has been right to accede to a withdrawal of the last US combat troops from Iraq by year’s end, a move that will considerably ease tension with the Baghdad government, which has been calling for such a move since last January.

But America’s war on those parts of the world that resist following its self-defined leadership is not about to go away. An interesting recent article in the foreign policy establishment The Hill written by a former senior CIA operations and staff officer Douglas London sees an Orwellian unending war against major adversaries Russia and China. Derived from his own experience, he concludes that sustained and enhanced clandestine actions should now replace conventional military forces confrontation, which has been somewhat outdated as an option due to the development of relatively cheap missile technologies that have undermined classic conventional weapons.

Some of the clandestine activity he appears to recommend would undoubtedly fall under cover of classic espionage “plausible denial,” i.e. that the White House could disavow any knowledge of what had occurred, but sabotage and cyber-attacks, particularly if implemented aggressively, would quickly be recognized for what they are and would invite commensurate or even disproportionate retaliation. This would amount to an all-out semi-covert war against powerful adversaries which could easily escalate into a shooting war.

The London article is an interesting insight into the thinking of those in both the Democratic and Republican parties who continue to argue that the United States is threatened by largely asymmetrical warfare being conducted by what are regarded as “autocratic” regimes in Moscow and Beijing as well as by non-governmental terrorist groups that is seeking to undermine confidence in US policymakers, the “democratic” government system and the stability of its other institutions.

That the White House is listening to at least some of the complaints coming from the neoconservatives and neoliberals calling for more “democracy promotion” and “regime change” would appear to be the case as there have been renewed calls for greater engagement in various fora, to include NATO leadership now urging the alliance to stand up to Russian “aggression.” The US has meanwhile also called on “friends” in the Middle East to block any attemptsby China to establish “military bases” in that region, with the State Department arguing that “The current assessment is that China has a global strategy of pursuing military installations all over, including in the Middle East.” The United States, by one estimate, has nearly 1100 military bases worldwide while China has only one in Djibouti.

Admittedly this time, the US will have to go about its usual school bully behavior without much in the way of allies. The Europeans will not show up as they are disgusted with American vacillation and inability to anticipate obvious developments, as was the case in Afghanistan. Israel and Saudi Arabia will likely line up, or pretend to, while also continuing their collaboration with radical groups that Washington would prefer to avoid.

To be sure there are many in Washington who would be quite happy to continue the US naval build up in the South China Sea while also sending ships to the Black Sea to cruise defiantly off the Russian coast. And then there is also Iran and its ally Syria, both of which continue to be targets of opportunity for sabotage, covert action and the Israeli Air Force, which last week again attacked Syria after penetrating Lebanese air space. So there are always wars and rumors of wars available, which is precisely what the US military-industrial-congressional complex wants to sustain. And in so doing they know that they will have the mainstream media on board, which has the same objective.

But still, it is important to have a plausible threatening enemy, and China is still somewhat over the horizon in that context. So, you turn to the one-size-fits-all option, which is “international terrorism,” preferably Islamic, to continue to empower the central government and fatten one’s friends in the national security industry. And it doesn’t hurt along the way to label some domestic opponents in the same fashion to guarantee one’s political supremacy for the foreseeable future. It’s a win-win.

So, the Biden Administration is either inadvertently or by design setting up the next chapter in its “America goes to war” narrative even as it has not yet figured out how to extricate the soldiers it has sent to assist in the evacuation of Kabul and who are now potential hostages at the airport surrounded by heavily armed Taliban.

But key figures in the Administration and elsewhere inside and outside the government are already looking beyond that, arguing that the new Afghan state will become a terrorist haven and those radicals will look to the United States for a target, as al-Qaeda reportedly did. Jamil Jaffer, founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University argues that “There’s no question that the return of the Taliban opens up space in this new Islamic emirate for al Qaeda to return, rebuild a base, and for other groups associated or previously associated with al Qaeda, like ISIS, to return to the region. Jihadi fighters of all stripes will now once again make Afghanistan their home, as they did in the lead-up to 9/11.”

Indeed, some of those “experts” are seeing the twenty years spent in Afghanistan as a plus as it kept in check those extremists who might have been inclined to act in Europe and the US. That of course ignores the continued existence of many other unsettled parts of the world where terrorists of various kinds have been able to flourish successfully without feeling any need to bomb New York. Senators Lindsey Graham and Mark Warner have warned of a likely resurgence in terrorism, as have both General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Graham laments that “The likelihood of an attack coming from Afghanistan now is through the roof.” The Department of Homeland Security has also done its bit, warning that possible Afghanistan-derived attacks from Islamic extremists on or near the 20thanniversary of the 9/11 event “could serve as a catalyst for acts of targeted violence.”

Anyway, you look at it, terrorism with be the national security flavor du jour over the next year or more. The only real question is, “Will it be domestic or foreign?” Either way the seemingly endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be history but the search for new enemies will continue no matter who is president or which party dominates congress.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

A Country That Has Lost Its Way: U.S. Government and Corporations Combine to Strip Citizens of Their Rights

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The American people have increasingly become aware that government surveillance and corporate censorship have combined to keep people ignorant and controlled. What is taking place has generated some dark humor. A friend of mine, also a former CIA officer, wrote to me recently and said tongue-in-cheek that he retains a lot of respect for the Agency because it is the only major government national security entity that does not read our mail and emails. Those jobs are the responsibility of the NSA and FBI. I responded that I would imagine that CIA does in fact read quite a lot of mail where it operates overseas but it is probably done the old-fashioned way by recruiting an underpaid mail clerk as an agent.

The whole issue of the government spying illegally on its own citizens has again made the news with the claims by conservative commentator Tucker Carlson that NSA has been spying on him, presumably because he has connections that the government regards either as subversive or, in the new reckoning, as “extremists” who are potential “domestic terrorists.” Given the reasonable assumption that anyone who voted for Donald Trump might well fall under those categories, that means that something like half the US population could be under suspicion.

Mass electronic surveillance of literally trillions of phone calls and messages worldwide without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment restrictions on searches without probable cause or a proper warrant issued by a judge has been the regular NSA authorized procedure at least since 9/11 and there is no reason to assume that it is no longer the practice. It basically is initiated by the agency involved (normally NSA or FBI) going to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court or to some other appropriate judge to get a warrant on an individual where there is some probable cause. Probable cause can consist of “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.” The Court then gives its approval, which it does in the case of FISA 99% of the time. When that individual is then surveilled, the names of his or her contacts are also added to the investigation. And it goes on from there, expanding and growing until it includes thousands of phone numbers and email addresses, individuals who are overwhelmingly innocent of any wrongdoing.

So, it is safe to assume that many of us are right at this moment eligible for being monitored electronically by the federal government. If one combines that with the Biden Administration’s June 1st announcement of a war on “domestic terrorism,” which it clearly considers to be a function of “white supremacists,” it is easy to see where all that is going. Biden pulled no punches, describing the threat from “white supremacy” as the “most lethal threat to the homeland today,” so that would mean that the government is doing all in its power to stamp it out, whatever it takes and whatever that means.

Surveilling ordinary Americans for what they might be thinking, which is what this comes down to, would be a George Orwellian 1984 tale for our times, updated from when Winston Smith was doing mandatory daily exercises in front of his television set. He slacked off a bit and the TV instantly admonished him. He then wondered whether it was possible that he and all the other residents of Airstrip One (once called Britain) are surveilled all the time. He concluded that they were.

So, if your television set suddenly speaks to you in the next few months, it might not be Alexa. The other development that has surfaced in the past couple of weeks is the increased corporate cooperation with what the government is saying and doing. Mainstream media has certainly done its share of obfuscation, including the current near total suppression of the story that a key witness who provided false testimony against journalist Julian Assange languishing in a British prison has turned out to be a pedophile, diagnosed sociopath and serial liar. But the major player is inevitably social media, which has enormous power in the United States and also elsewhere to shape opinions and propagate false information that serves the government agenda. The media has banned numerous groups, individuals, and links to sites from its pages, a barrier to free speech and freedom of expression. And it has, for example, enthusiastically cooperated fully with the essentially fraudulent government claims of Russian interference in the two most recent US elections. It is censoring or denigrating material that is at variance with official policies, including, for example, Facebook’s pop-ups that appear whenever there is any article that contests the approved version of the response to the COVID virus.

Back in June, the Biden administration said it would also be working with some of the large high-technology and social media companies to “increase information sharing” to assist in combatting radicalization. Biden announced that his Justice Department would create ways for Americans to report radicalized friends and family to the government. One senior official put it this way: “We will work to improve public awareness of federal resources to address concerning or threatening behavior before violence occurs… If you see something, say something. This involves creating contexts in which those who are family members or friends or co-workers know that there are pathways and avenues to raise concerns and seek help for those who they have perceived to be radicalizing and potentially radicalizing towards violence.”

In other words, in plain English, the Biden Administration is calling on Americans to spy on friends, neighbors and family and reporting any “extremist” views to the authorities. Well, Facebook is now fully on board with more of the same, engaged in the “hot” war against the “white supremacists/extremists/domestic terrorists.” It has blocked or shut down many former contributors and also begun posting at least two versions of warnings to users. One targets individuals who might have personally been visiting an “extremist” site while the other encourages users to snitch on friends or family who might be enticed by such material. The personalized pop-up reads as follows: “[Name of Recipient], you many have been exposed to harmful extremist content recently – Violent groups try to manipulate your anger and disappointment. You can take action now to protect yourself and others.-Get support from experts-Spot the signs, understand the dangers of extremism and hear from people who escaped violent groups.”

The snitch on friends version reads: “Are you concerned that someone you know is becoming an extremist?-We care about preventing extremism on Facebook. Others in your situation have received confidential support.-How you can help.-Hear stories and get advice from people who escaped violent extremist groups-Get support.”

To be sure, one has to ask how Facebook knows that one has visited an “extremist” site since they have blocked such material. Are they somehow hacking into the personal accounts of their own users? The situation is dire, no doubt about it, but it has provoked a backlash, including this post: “Become the extremist Facebook warned you about!” One also has to wonder how Facebook will deal with individuals who complain about some other groups with a demonstrated history of promoting violence, including black lives matter, that are not white supremacist related. It will almost certainly do nothing, just like the federal government’s demonstrated “racially sensitive” supine response to a year of riot, burning, looting and homicide. In truth Americans are standing at the edge of a precipice with just one more “crisis” possibly coming that will tip everyone over the edge so we wind up with a totalitarian government which works hard to keep everyone safe by doing the opposite. We are almost there, and if you doubt it just go take a look at Facebook.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

America Leader of the Free World? How to Forget US interference in Foreign Elections

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After only five months in office, President Joe Biden has already become notorious for his verbal gaffes and mis-spokes, so much so that an admittedly Republican-partisan physician has suggested that he be tested to determine his cognitive abilities. That said, however, there is one June 16th tweet that he is responsible for that is quite straightforward that outdoes everything else for sheer mendacity. It appeared shortly after the summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and was apparently intended to be rhetorical, at least insofar as Biden understands the term. It went: “How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country.”

There have been various estimates of just exactly how many elections the United States has interfered in since the Second World War, the numbers usually falling somewhere between 80 and 100, but that does not take into account the frequent interventions of various kinds that took place largely in Latin America between the Spanish-American War and 1946. One recalls how the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps Major General Smedley Butler declared that “War is a racket” in 1935. He confessed to having “…helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

And there have been since 1900 other regime change and interventionist actions, both using military force and also brought about by corrupting local politicians with money and other inducements. And don’t forget the American trained death squads active in Latin America. Some would also include in the list the possibly as many as 50 Central Intelligence Agency and Special Ops political assassinations that have been documented, though admittedly sometimes based on thin evidence.

That Joe Biden, who has been at a reasonably high level in the federal government for over forty years, including as Vice President for eight years and now President should appear to be ignorant of what his own government has done and quite plausibly continues to do is astonishing. After all, Biden was VP when Victoria Nuland worked for the Obama Administration as the driving force behind efforts in 2013-2014 to destabilize the Ukrainian government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych, an admittedly corrupt autocrat, nevertheless became Prime Minister after a free election. Nuland, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, provided open support to the Maidan Square demonstrators opposed to Yanukovych’s government, to include media friendly appearances passing out cookies on the square accompanied by Senator John McCain to encourage the protesters.

A Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton protégé who is married to leading neocon Robert Kagan, Nuland openly sought regime change for Ukraine by brazenly supporting government opponents in spite of the fact that Washington and Kiev had ostensibly friendly relations. As Biden’s tweet even recognized in a backhanded way, it is hard to imagine that any US administration would tolerate a similar attempt by a foreign nation to interfere in US domestic politics, particularly if it were backed by a $5 billion budget, but Washington has long believed in a global double standard for evaluating its own behavior. Biden clearly is part of that and also clearly does not understand what he is doing or saying.

Nuland is most famous for her foul language when referring to the potential European role in managing the unrest that she and the National Endowment for Democracy had helped create. The Obama and Biden Administration’s replacement of the government in Kiev was the prelude to a sharp break and escalating conflict with Moscow over Russia’s attempts to protect its own interests in Ukraine, most particularly in Crimea. That point of conflict has continued to this day, with a US warships in the Black Sea engaging in exercises with the Ukrainian navy.

Biden was also with the Obamas when they chose to destabilize and destroy Libya. Nor should Russia itself be forgotten. Boris Yeltsin was re-electedpresident of Russia in 1996 after the Clinton Administration pumped billions of dollars into his campaign, enabling him to win a close oligarch-backed victory that had been paid for and managed by Washington. Joe Biden was a Senator at the time.

And then there is Iran, where democratically elected Mohammed Mossadeq was deposed by the CIA in 1953 and replaced by the Shah. The Shah was replaced by the Islamic Republic in turn in 1979 and the poisoned relationship between Washington and Tehran has constituted a tit-for-tat quasi-cold war ever since, marked by assassinations and sabotage.

And who can forget Chile where Salvador Allende was removed by the CIA in 1973 and replaced by Augusto Pinochet? Or Cuba and the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 where the CIA failed to bring about regime change in Havana? Can it be that Joe Biden cannot recall any of those “interventions,” which were heavily covered in the international media at the time?

And to make up the numbers, Joe can possibly consider the multiple “interferences in elections,” which is more precisely what he was referring to. As a CIA officer stationed in Europe and the Middle East in and 1970s through the early 1990s, I can assure him that I personally know about nearly continuous interference in elections in places like France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, all of which had prominent communist parties, some of which were on the verge of government entry. Bags of money went to conservative parties, politicians were bribed and journalists bought. In fact, during that time period I would dare to say there was hardly an election that the United States did not somehow get involved in.

Does it still go on? The US has been seeking regime change in Syria since 2004 and is currently occupying part of the country. And of course, Russia is on the receiving end of a delegitimization process through a controlled western media that is seeking to get rid of Putin by exploiting a CIA and western intelligence funded opposition. China has no real opposition or open elections, nor can its regime plausibly be changed, but it is constantly being challenged by depicting it and its behavior in the most negative fashion possible.

Joe Biden really should read up on the history of American political and military interventions, regime changes and electoral interference worldwide. He just might learn something. The most important point might, however, elude him. All of the intervention and all of the deaths have turned out badly both for the US and for the people and countries being targeted. Biden has taken a bold step to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, though it now appears that that decision might be in part reversed. Much better to complete the process and also do the same thing in places like Iraq, Somalia and Syria. The whole world will be a better place for it.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Butting Heads With China and Russia: American Diplomats Are Outclassed

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With the exception of the impending departure of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, if it occurs, the White House seems to prefer to use aggression to deter adversaries rather than finesse. The recent exchanges between Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting in Alaska demonstrate how Beijing has a clear view of its interests which Washington seems to lack. Blinken initiated the acrimonious exchange when he cited “deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies. Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability. That’s why they’re not merely internal matters, and why we feel an obligation to raise these issues here today.” He then threatened “I said that the United States relationship with China will be competitive where it should be, collaborative where it can be, adversarial where it must be” before adding “I’m hearing deep satisfaction that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged with our allies and partners. I’m also hearing deep concern about some of the actions your government is taking.”

The Chinese Foreign Minister responded sharply, rejecting US suggestions that it has a right to interfere in another country’s domestic policies, “I think we thought too well of the United States, we thought that the US side will follow the necessary diplomatic protocols. The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength. We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image, and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world.” Yi had a point. Ironically, most of the world believes that the US represents a greater threat to genuine democracy than does either China or Russia.

In another more recent interview Blinken has accused the Chinese of acting “more aggressively abroad” while President Biden has claimed that Beijing has a plan to replace America as the world’s leading economic and military power. US United Nations envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield has also delivered the same message that Washington is preparing to take no prisoners, pledging to push back against what she called China’s “authoritarian agenda” through the various agencies that make up the UN bureaucracy. Indeed, the United States seems trapped in its own rhetoric, finding itself in the middle of a situation with China and Taiwan where warnings that Beijing is preparing to use force to recover its former province leave Washington with few options to support a de facto ally. Peter Beinart in a recent op-ed observes how the White House has been incrementally increasing its diplomatic ties with Taiwan even as it both declares itself “rock solid” on defending while also maintaining “strategic ambiguity.”

China understands its interests while the US continues to be bewildered by Beijing’s successful building of trade alliances worldwide. Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin, reputedly an excellent chess player, is able to think about genuine issues in three dimensions and is always at least four moves ahead of where Biden and his advisers are at any time. Biden public and video appearances frequently seem to be improvisations as he goes along guided by his teleprompter while Putin is able to explain issues clearly, apparently even in English.

A large part of Biden’s problem vis-à-vis both China and Russia is that he has inherited a US Establishment view of foreign and national security policy options. It is based on three basic principles. First, that America is the only superpower and can either ignore or comfortably overcome the objections of other nations to what it is doing. Second, an all-powerful and fully resourced United States can apply “extreme pressure” to recalcitrant foreign governments and those regimes will eventually submit and comply with Washington’s wishes. And third, America has a widely accepted leadership role of the so-called “free world” which will mean that any decision made in Washington will immediately be endorsed by a large number of other nations, giving legitimacy to US actions worldwide.

What Joe Biden actually thinks is, of course, unknown though he has a history of reflexively supporting an assertive and even belligerent foreign policy during his many years in Congress. Kamala Harris, who many believe will be succeeding Biden before too long, appears to have no definitive views at all beyond the usual Democratic Party cant of spreading “democracy” and being strong on Israel. That suggests that the real shaping of policy is coming from the apparatchik and donor levels in the party, to include the neocon-lite Zionist triumvirate at the State Department consisting of Tony Blinken, Wendy Sherman and Victoria Kagan as well as the upper-level bureaucracies at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, which all support an assertive and also interventionist foreign policy to keep Americans “safe” while also increasing their budgets annually. Such thinking leaves little room for genuine national interests to surface.

Biden’s Secretary of State Tony Blinken is, for example, the perfect conformist bureaucrat, shaping his own views around established thinking and creating caveats to provide the Democratic Party leadership with some, though limited, options. Witness for example the current White House attitude towards Iran, which is regarded, along with Russia, as a permanent enemy of the United States. President Biden has expressed his interest in renegotiating a non-nuclear proliferation treaty with the Iranians, now being discussed by diplomats without direct contact in Austria. But Blinken undercuts that intention by wrapping the talks in with other issues that are intended to satisfy the Israelis and their friends in Congress that will make progress unlikely if not impossible. They include eliminating Iran’s alleged role as a regional trouble maker and also ending the ballistic missile development programs currently engaged in by the regime. The downside to all of this is that having a multilateral agreement to limit Iranian enhancement of uranium up to a bomb-making level is very much in the US interest, but it appears to be secondary to other politically motivated side discussions which will derail the process.

A foreign and national security policy based on political dogma rather than genuine interests can obviously generate some disconnects, unlike in Russia or China, where redlines and national interests are clearly understood and acted upon. To cite yet another dangerous example of playing with fire that one is witnessing in Eastern Europe, the simple understanding that for Russia Belarus and Ukraine are frontline states that could pose existential threats to Moscow if they were to move closer to the west and join NATO appears to be lacking. The US prefers to stand the question on its head and claims that the real issue is “spreading democracy,” which it is not. Policy makers in Washington might consider what Washington would likely do if Mexico and Canada were to be threatened with foreign interference that might bring about their joining a military alliance hostile to the United States.

The American Establishment-driven foreign policy thinking clearly has trouble in accommodating the obvious understanding that the US actually becomes more vulnerable every time it interferes in China’s trade practices or gives the green light for alliances like NATO to expand. Expansion of the national security policy components often brings in another client state that rarely has anything whatsoever to contribute and which, on the contrary, becomes a burden, relying for their own security on overstretched American military resources. In return, the expansion itself guarantees that a hostile and genuinely threatened Russia will take steps of its own to counter what it sees as a potential grave threat to its own security and national identity.

Quite simply, America’s national security should dictate that the United States treat China as a competitor rather than ane enemy while also disengaging from support and encouragement of Ukraine’s irredentist ambitions as quickly as possible. A recent shipment of offensive weapons to Kiev should become the last such initiative and speeches by American politicians pledging “unwavering support” for Ukraine should be considered unacceptable. Washington should meanwhile reject any clandestine attempts to overthrow Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus and make clear to Vladimir Putin that it will not support any NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, which admitted was a pledge already made when the Soviet Union collapsed that was subsequently ignored by President Bill Clinton. Thanks to Bill, America is now obligated to defend not only Western Europe but also Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia, the Baltic States and tiny little Montenegro.

In short, United State engagement in complicated overseas quarrels should be limited to areas where genuine vital interests are at stake. In fact, by that standard one should begin to emphasize the security impact of the crisis on America’s southern border, which has a completely different genesis and is being driven by politics. As British statesman Lord Palmerston said in 1848 “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” The United States government would be very wise to be guided by that advice.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

The US Congress Turns on Itself: Censuring and Threats of Expulsion Proliferating

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Mark Twain once wrote that “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” Some developments over the past several weeks would certainly support that judgement if one regards a country’s legislative body as a mechanism intended to benefit the public that it is elected to serve. The hypocrisy of America’s two major parties is something to behold, with corruption at a level that is rarely attained in most third world countries.

Recently there have been some appalling cases that underline how far the American Congress has separated itself from any tangible national interest if one excludes getting rich and reelected, in whichever order one seeks to go about that. One of the best at getting rich and reelected in spite of not having two brain cells to rub together is the esteemed Maxine Waters of California, who has starred in her recent attempt to inspire an angry mob to get more “confrontational” if the murder trial of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin were to go the wrong way through a failure to convict.

Now bear in mind that we Americans live in a no-fault no-accountability society, where no one is guilty of anything unless he or she is caught red handed and has no protectors in place to deny that anything at all happened. As Maxine has plenty of defenders because she is black, a woman and, most of all, a Democrat, it should have been expected that in her case a call to riot by a congressman would be treated as a non-event, and so it proved when the GOP made a feeble attempt to censure her for her behavior.

As Maxine represents part of California, her appearance in Minnesota was little more than race baiting with a threat of violence thrown in. Attempts to characterize it as free speech on her part ignore the fact that she is a government official, paid for generously by the taxpayer, and a call to violence by one part of the citizenry directed against both the legal system and another constituency cannot be considered acceptable. It is indeed impeachable.

One has to wonder who paid for Waters’ Minnesota trip and marvel at her audacity when she asked for and received an armed police escort for her own safety as she traveled to and from the airport. Perhaps her calls to de-fund the police were on hold until after she completed her travels. It is also important to realize that due to the seniority afforded by her 29 years in office she is, in spite of her lack of anything describable as patriotism of even integrity, part of the House Democratic leadership. She’s Chief Majority Whip, has been the chairperson of the House Black Caucus, and is the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee. Never before has anyone attained so much having so little to offer.

But the story does not end there, which is where the true mendacity of the US Congress comes to the surface. When the Republicans rightly attempted to censure Waters it was inevitable that the recent impeachment of President Donald Trump for the use of incendiary language when addressing a crowd at the Capitol on January 6th would come up, but the Democratic Party leadership was having none of that. The Hill reports that shortly before the Waters censure vote, rather than accepting that the two offenses were of a kind, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer instead delivered a threat, warning the Republican leadership that forcing a roll call on censuring Waters would make it more difficult to justify not taking similar action targeting Republican members of Congress. “This makes it harder, however, not to proceed on numerous [similar] resolutions on my side of the aisle” he said.

So the game is on under new rules. The leadership of the Democratic and Republican Parties have declared that they will impose punishment, including censure, suspension and even expulsion, on House and Senate members who defy the consensus on appropriate behavior, which itself has become heavily politicized.

The first Republican who is likely to feel the wrath of the Democratic controlled Congress is Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Representative Jimmy Gomez of California has already circulated a draft letter renewing his earlier effort to expel her from Congress. Gomez cited Greene for her alleged promotion of violence against other members of Congress. In his letter he included her promotion of “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” as yet another justification for her expulsion from Congress. The “Dear Colleague” letter begins with “[E]veryone – including House Republican leadership – knew this stunt was nothing more than an effort to promote white supremacy in the United States Congress.” He, of course, also claimed that she was engaged in the “brazen promotion of anti-Semitism and racism.” Somehow the anti-Semitism tag always seems to make it into these documents.

Gomez’s expulsion resolution already has 72 Democratic co-sponsors. House Democrats as well as 11 Republicans had already voted in February to strip Greene of her committee assignments over her alleged past endorsements of violence against Democrats and embrace of conspiracy theories to include suggesting that some mass shootings have been staged.

Greene, for her part, has tit for tat submitted a resolution to expel Waters based on her encouraging supporters to harass Trump administration officials when they made public appearances in 2018 while also saying a year earlier that she would “go and take Trump out tonight. “This is nothing new from Maxine Waters. She has been inciting violence and terrorism for the last 29 years,” Greene said in a statement.

Despite the current wave of lawmakers introducing measures to formally sanction each other, it seldom occurs that the House actually takes such a drastic step. Only 23 lawmakers have been censured in the House’s history and only five were expelled, mostly for actual criminal behavior. Nevertheless, the new environment condoning punishment of colleagues in Congress is only just gaining momentum and the Democrats clearly have the whip hand with their control of both houses of Congress and the presidency. To be sure, free speech is the most important liberty guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States, but the right of legislators to call on citizens to break the law up to and including the destruction of that very government that pays them and gives them their status has to be challenged. Say what they will when they are out of office, but when they take that oath of loyalty to the constitution it means that they are pledged to support all of those structures and safeguards that that foundational document has established.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Shock and Awe Is a State of Mind: Millions of Deaths Have Not Made Americans Safer

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That the United States likes to use expressions like “shock and awe” or “maximum pressure” would rather suggest that there is a psychopath working in the White House basement whose full-time job is to come up with pithy one-liners to somehow euphemize government bad behavior. The expressions hardly mean anything in and of themselves apart from “tough talk” but they do serve as an alternative to having to admit in plain language to the killing of millions of people since the Global War on Terror began in 2001. “Millions?” one might skeptically ask. Yes, millions if one includes all those killed directly or indirectly as a result of the wars. Direct victims of the violence number at least 157,000 in Afghanistan, 182,000 in Iraq, 400,000 in Syria and 25,000 in Libya. And if you want to go back a few years three million Vietnamese died in 1964-1975 while 2.5 million civilians were killed in Korea. And even in the “Good War” World War 2 there were unnecessary incidents to include the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed 105,000, the firebombing of Tokyo adding another 97,000, and the firebombing of Hamburg and Dresden that together killed 45,000.

An estimated ten million more civilians have been displaced from their homes since 2001, creating refugee crises in both Europe and the Americas, while trillions of dollars have also been wasted or “misplaced” by the geniuses at the Pentagon and in Congress. And some might reasonably argue that the violence taking place all around the world has also been internalized in the US, with mass murders surfacing in the news media every few days. Some argue that the United States has nearly always been at war since its founding, which would be true, but it is also correct to note that the nature of America’s lethal engagement with the rest of the world has changed in the past twenty years. Old wars were fought to expand territory and trade or to acquire colonies for the same purpose, meaning they were intended to increase one’s power and wealth. Since 9/11, however, the wars are being fought seemingly without any real identifiable objective while also inflicting significant losses in relative wealth and power on the United States.

The fundamental problem is that the United States is being led by a political and financial elite that has completely bought into a radical view that Americans have a “manifest destiny” to create an international order that is both plausibly democratic and rules-based that would as the theory goes benefit everyone. This is, of course, nonsense as the United States itself is becoming increasingly totalitarian while it also nurtures in its bosom anti-democratic states like Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The elite that might be blamed for many of the missteps of the past twenty years includes both liberals and conservatives, all of whom for one reason or another embrace America’s mission. There is, for example, little to differentiate the world views of Donald Trump appointees Mike Pompeo and John Bolton from those of the current foreign policy incumbent Tony Blinken, as all three men believe that the use of force is the completely acceptable ultimate response to recalcitrant nations and leaders.

Blinken shares the very same trait visible in Pompeo and Bolton, that they actually radiate a sense of moral superiority while implementing policies that result in the pointless deaths of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands and even millions of innocents. They occupy the bully pulpit as they sanctimoniously call for action regarding their “noble cause” of making the rest of the world both look like America while also deferring to Washington for direction and guidance.

Tony Blinken is not surprisingly a protégé of Bill Clinton’s former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who famously cackled that “it was worth it” when asked about the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to US enforced sanctions on food and medicine. Somehow it seems that whenever one turns over a rock in the Democratic Party up pops someone connected with the Clintons. Blinken recently produced and tweeted out a bizarre video that attempts to explain the real “humanity” behind the current Syrian policy, which he helped to define and initiate working closely with Joe Biden while serving under President Barack Obama. It is a sanctions-plus military intervention construct that has, inevitably, resulted in the deaths and the displacements into Europe and the Middle East. The policy was from the beginning clearly intended to bring about “regime change” in Damascus even though the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad in no way threatened the United States.

Blinken tweeted: “When I think of the suffering of the Syrian people, including Syrian children, I think of my own two children. How could we not take action to help them? Our common humanity demands it. Shame on us if we don’t. We have to find a way to do something to take action to help people.” Blinken fails to mention that the blood of the Syrian children is largely on his hands, particularly as the US and Israel effectively turned loose and otherwise supported the terrorist and separatist groups that killed so many Syrian civilians while also destroying entire towns, religious centers and many irreplaceable relics of the country’s history.

So Blinken is really a good guy, thinking about his own kids while mourning the deaths of so many Syrian boys and girls? No. If he really wanted to help those children, he would have announced that US troops will be withdrawn from Syria immediately. He would have lifted sanctions on the country so that it can begin serious reconstruction, together with restoring access to food and needed medicines. He did nothing of the sort and clearly is fully on board with the agenda set over the past ten years by the neocons and their Israeli masters plus the “democracy promotion” at all costs wing in his own party.

And the real problem is that Syria is not alone. Blinken and his cohorts are also encouraging Ukraine’s irredentism which is close to bringing on a war with Russia while also poking China over Taiwan. And then there is also Venezuela which appears to need a regime change and the perennial problem with Iran. And Afghanistan? Blinken should realize that all the deaths of the children that so concern him could be avoided if he and those pulling his strings would adopt a more modest agenda and stay at home. We have enough problems in the United States, but then again, the hubris which has created a pointless foreign policy would likely be channeled to drive still more of the destructive impulses that are turning the country into a collective of hostile enclaves.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Is Joe Biden Enabling Russiagate 2?

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The old expression that “lightning never strikes the same place twice” is frequently used in the aftermath of a truly awful experience, meaning that the odds are that something exactly like that will never occur again. Unfortunately, however, we Americans will now have to endure lightning striking twice due to the emergence of President Joe Biden and whoever is telling him what to say. I am referring specifically to Russiagate, which is possibly the single most discredited bit of politically motivated chicanery that this country has seen in the past twenty years. Joe is relying on the “evidence” provided by a conveniently timed new declassified “Intelligence Community Assessment” entitled “Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Election.” The document was dated March 10th but released by Director Avril Haines of the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) on March 16th.

The new report consists of eleven pages of text and charts. It specifically discounts any direct evidence to alter votes electronically, but asserts that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed his spies and proxies to turn the US election in favor of Donald Trump. Based in part on the report, Joe Biden subsequently labeled Putin a “killer” and vowed that both Russia and its president would “pay a price” which we will be “seeing shortly” for their claimed meddling in American politics. The Bidenesque grotesque overreach has led to the Kremlin recalling its ambassador in Washington home for “consultations” and will at a minimum put US forces in the Middle East at risk.

Does it sound more than a bit like the Democratic Party is still looking for revenge for 2016? You bet, and the name calling that took place during the 2020 campaign made it predictable that they would turn on Russia as soon as an opportunity presented itself, if only because it is always convenient to have a foreign enemy to blame one’s own failings on. And there is also payoff personally for Joe and his sons in the report, which strongly suggests that the claims and evidence of Biden family corruption were actually just disinformation put out by the Kremlin’s spy agencies.

Anyone who reads the report and tries to assess its credibility from the viewpoint of the evidence that it presents to make its case will notice that there is very little solid to back up the conclusions, which themselves are weasel worded. The report in fact concludes with the disclaimer “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” There is, to be sure, no evidence that even a single vote was changed or that anyone succeeded in influencing any persons or policies that emerged from the election. And, as a former CIA field officer, I found that whoever drafted the final report in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) really doesn’t have a clue regarding how and why nations spy on each other, much less still how one runs what it is referred to as “covert action.”

The most important key judgement of the report, number two, reads as follows: “We assess that Russian President Putin authorized, and a range of Russian government organizations conducted, influence operations aimed at denigrating President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party, supporting former President Trump, undermining public confidence in the electoral process, and exacerbating socio-political divisions in the US.”

Every foreign government with an external intelligence capability, including that of the United States, does exactly what Russia is being accused of. If there is another country that is either seen as an adversary or even a threat, the intelligence agencies will attempt to influence opinion of the public and elites in that country to avoid their doing things that do damage to one’s own interests. That is accomplished through placements in the media and direct contact with influential politicians in the country being targeted. As the Russians correctly saw a Democratic victory as detrimental to their interests, it is inevitably that they should use their own media resources to surface alternative views that might help the other candidate, in this case Donald Trump.

Lying is, as after all, a traditional role for intelligence services. The Romans had a spy service run out of the imperial palace that provided military and political intelligence all across their vast empire. It included what might be called deception operations carried out to confuse enemies about intentions and capabilities. In more recent centuries, the British became masters of both spying and deception. Major influencing intelligence operations run against the United States can be credited with having led to American involvement in both world wars.

Currently, the world’s preeminent spy agency in terms of manpower, resources and global reach is undoubtedly the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). That is not to suggest that it is necessarily the best intelligence agency, as smaller, more nimble, focused organizations can outperform the spies from the large countries in the niche areas that they consider important.

America’s federal government’s various intelligence agencies are in fact into deception big time, so much so that they have a number of euphemisms that permit them to lie about lying. The CIA regards spreading false information as part of its “covert action” activity while the military prefers variations on “perception management.” Both occasionally refer to “influence” or “influencing” operations. Either way, it is in reality a form of “information warfare” in which words and ideas are used to shape a perspective favorable to the country engaging in the practice and damaging to one’s adversaries.

The United States Department of Defense defines “perception management” as “Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.” In other words, perception management is a multi-tasked mechanism designed to get an adversary to think or believe what one wishes, no matter what the truth actually is.

The CIA has historically disseminated disinformation primarily through press placements, using agents and collaborators worldwide to circulate stories that were presumed to be supportive of presumed U.S. interests. When possible, local politicians or journalists might be recruited and paid to support the effort, but the ODNI report does not accuse the Russians of doing that. In fact, given the U.S. disinformation efforts vis-à-vis Venezuela, Iran, China and regarding Russia itself, it would be wise to consider that the largest portion of disinformation circulating on the internet is produced by the United States government itself. And when all of that doesn’t work, the U.S. is more than willing to directly interfere in foreign elections. In fact, it has played an active role in elections worldwide, up and including regime change in places like Ukraine, at least 81 times according to its own publicly available data.

The ODNI report also mentions other countries that “interfered” or attempted to do so in 2020, naming Iran as a Biden supporter in Key Judgment Three: “We assess that Iran carried out a multi-pronged covert influence campaign intended to undercut former President Trump’s reelection prospects— though without directly promoting his rivals— undermine public confidence in the electoral process and US institutions, and sow division and exacerbate societal tensions in the US.” China was let off this time around, with the assessment even conceding that there was no evidence that it had been involved in the election, but reports from Washington suggest that it will be sanctioned anyway, along with Iran and Russia as a consequence of being out of favor with the White House and Congress.

One suspects that in drafting up the report the neoconnish Avril Haines saw what she wanted to see because there is scant evidence to condemn the behavior of either Russia or Iran acting in their own interests without breaking into voting machines or suborning officials. Even the New York Times in its own reporting on the “Assessment” included a judgement taken directly from the document, that “Russian state and proxy actors who all serve the Kremlin’s interests worked to affect U.S. public perceptions” before admitting that “The declassified report did not explain how the intelligence community had reached its conclusions about Russian operations during the 2020 election. But the officials said they had high confidence in their conclusions about Mr. Putin’s involvement, suggesting that the intelligence agencies have developed new ways of gathering information after the extraction of one of their best Kremlin sources in 2017.” In other words, the Times is taking the assertions in the report as an act of faith as it has no idea what evidence actually supports the claims that are being made.

To be sure the release of the report was greeted by the usual players in Congress, including Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who enthused that “The American people deserve to know the full truth when a foreign government seeks to interfere in our elections, and today’s release of the Intelligence Community’s Assessment is an important step.” Schiff predictably does not know what “interfere” means, for which there is no evidence, and he exhibits no curiosity about the report’s omission of the one country that does regularly interfere in American elections down to the local level. That country is, of course, Israel, which Noam Chomsky has referred to, oberving that “Israeli intervention in U.S. elections ‘vastly overwhelms’ anything Russia has done.” It seems that Biden, Haines and Schiff all missed that little detail.

So here we go again. New president, new national security team, same old nonsense. Russiagate one more time around will not render the entire argument being made about a vast conspiracy to destroy democracy any more credible. Yeah, nations spy on each other and try to influence things their way but get over it. If the whole world is out to “get” the United States it just might be because the whole world has finally realized that Washington is neither exceptional nor a force for good. Leave everyone else alone and they will leave you alone. That’s a law of nature.

Reprinted with permission from American Herald Tribune.

A Killing in Iran: Who Gains From Yet Another Assassination?

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It is not often that one can agree with the pronouncements made by former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John Brennan, but his tweeted comment on the killing of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh suggesting that the incident “…was a criminal act & highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict. Iranian leaders would be wise to wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage & to resist the urge to respond against perceived culprits” was both restrained and reasonable. Or it was at least so until sentence two, which was clearly intended to attack Donald Trump and praise the incoming Joe Biden administration, which Brennan just might be seeking to join.

Bearing in mind that John Brennan was the guiding hand behind President Barack Obama’s kill lists of Americans who were marked for death by drone it is difficult to understand what moral high ground he seeks to occupy in the slaying of Fakhrizadeh. Brennan, who was a leading critic of Trump and who may have led the clandestine effort to undermine his election and term in office, subsequently found himself in an exchange of tweets with Republican Senator from Texas Ted Cruz which degenerated into a trading of insults. Cruz responded “It’s bizarre to see a former head of the CIA consistently side with Iranian zealots who chant ‘Death to America.’ And reflexively condemn Israel. Does Joe Biden agree?” This produced a riposte by Brennan that “It is typical for you to mischaracterize my comment. Your lawless attitude & simple-minded approach to serious national security matters demonstrate that you are unworthy to represent the good people of Texas.”

The assassination of Fakhrizadeh, the “father of Iran’s nuclear program,” took place on a road near the town of Absard to the east of Tehran. According to initial accounts, the Iranian scientist, who has long been targeted by name and in public fora by Israel, was traveling in an SUV together with his wife plus bodyguards and a driver. Initial reports suggested that there was a Nissan truck parked on the opposite side of the road loaded with what appeared to be wood, though it may have turned out that the wood was concealing a bomb which may have been triggered by a signal from a surveillance satellite. The bomb was detonated to disable Fakhrizadeh’s vehicle before an attack on the car by five or six gunmen with automatic weapons who had emerged from a vehicle following the SUV began, again according to initial reports, including reporting by eye witnesses. The Iranian official news agency FARS is now claiming, however, that the attack was carried out by a remote controlled machine gun concealed on the truck, which subsequently exploded, and no human attackers were involved. It is presumed that the bodyguards and driver were killed in the exchange. Fakhrizadeh was badly wounded and died in hospital shortly thereafter. Photos of the SUV reveal shattered windows, blood streaks, and numerous bullet holes as well as other damage from what may have been the bomb.

Iranian news agencies are now reporting that at least one of the attackers has been arrested, and if that is true he will surely be made to talk regarding what he knows. They are also reporting that two of the assailants were killed in the exchange with the bodyguards, which, if true, means they will possibly be identified. Clearly, the attack was well planned, was able to employ considerable resources, and was based on intelligence that would be very hard to obtain, particularly as the Iranian government was taking steps to protect Fakhrizadeh, to include details of his travels.

The killing comes just two weeks after intelligence officials confirmed that Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah was shot dead together with his daughter by alleged Israeli supplied assassins on a motorcycle on August 7th. The hit was reportedly carried out at the request of the United States based on Abdullah’s claimed involvement in the 1998 deadly attacks on two US Embassies in East Africa. The claim that Iran has been harboring al-Qaeda is already being used by the Trump White House to justify increased pressure on Iran and it might possibly even serve as part of a casus belli.

The two assassinations are not linked except perhaps in terms of sending a message to high level Iranians that they are not safe even in their own country even when they are given bodyguards. The claim that Fakhrizadeh was in charge of a secret Iranian weapons program, made regularly by Israel and the US, is not generally believed by most authorities. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which nuclear armed Israel is not, and its facilities are subject to regular unannounced inspections.

Likewise, the killing of Qods Force commander General Qassem Soleimani in January in a US drone attack was intended more regarding sending a message concerning possible consequences of reckless behavior than it was about actually killing one man. Whatever programs Fakrizadeh and Soleimani were involved in will continue without them. Nevertheless, assassination of Iranians linked to the country’s former and current nuclear program has been Israeli policy since 2010. As many as a dozen Iranian scientists and technicians reportedly have been killed. So-called “targeted killings” have been a regular feature of Israel’s “national defense” strategy. In addition to the Iranians, at least seventy Palestinians have been assassinated.

Though Israel has clearly ordered the assassinations, it is generally believed that the actual preparation for the attacks have been carried out by Mojahedin e Khalq or MEK, a Marxist cult that came into prominence at the time of the Iranian revolution against the Shah. It is generally regarded as a terrorist group that once was virulently anti-American and killed a number of US officials. MEK is a curious hybrid creature in any event in that it pretends to be an alternative government option for Iran even though it is despised by nearly all Iranians. At the same time, it is greatly loved by the Washington Establishment which would like to see the Mullahs deposed and replaced by something more amenable to western and Israeli worldviews.

MEK is run like a cult by its leader Maryam Rajavi, with a number of rules that restrict and control the behavior of its members. One commentarylikens membership in MEK to a modern-day equivalent of slavery. The group currently operates out of a secretive, heavily guarded 84-acre compound in Albania that is covertly supported by the United States, as well as through a “political wing” front office in Paris, where it refers to itself as the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

MEK, which is financially supported by Saudi Arabia, stages events in the United States in Europe where it generously pays politicians like John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani and Elaine Chao to make fifteen-minute speeches praising the organization and everything it does. It’s paying of inside the Beltway power brokers proved so successful that it was removed from the State Department terrorist list in 2012 by Hillary Clinton even though it had killed Americans in the 1970s. MEK also finds favor in Washington because it is used by Israel as a resource for anti-Iranian terrorism acts currently, including assassinations carried out in Tehran. Israel, in fact, directs most terrorist acts carried out by MEK inside Iran.

So those are the players and, at first glance, one might reasonably come to the Ockham’s razor conclusion, i.e. that Israel ordered MEK to kill Fakhrizadeh, an order which was then executed. But that would be to ignore some of the politics currently playing out in Washington. First of all, Israel would not have carried out the high-level assassination without the consent of the White House. Indeed, US intelligence resources might well have played a key role in locating the Iranian scientist. Second, the Trump Administration has clearly adopted a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran, which has included strangling the country’s economy through sanctions, condoning Israeli attacks in Syria and elsewhere, and destabilizing moves, to include assassinations, designed to make the nation’s leadership both vulnerable and nervous. It is the application of an Israeli strategic doctrine referred to as “Campaigns Between Wars,” meaning constant aggression to erode an enemy’s ability to fight without actually crossing a line that would start a shooting war.

A direct role by the Trump Administration in the assassination should not be ruled out as it is clearly seeking to harden Iranian antipathy towards any new comprehensive arms control or nuclear agreement with the incoming Biden team. Trump himself reportedly raised the possibility of bombing Iran earlier this month, though he was talked out of it by his national security team, but the Israeli Army meanwhile is on alert in case of an American attack. There are confirmed reports that B-52 bombers, capable of deploying the 30,000 pound penetrator bombs that can destroy targets deep underground, have been sent to the Middle East, presumably to Qatar where the US has its principal airbase in the region. They would presumably be used against Iran’s main nuclear development site at Natanz.

Israel is in a strong position right now. Iran has significant military resources to respond to the killing, including the drones and missiles it developed and used in September 2019 to devastate the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia. But if it does react robustly to the assassination and sparks a conflict that inevitably would include the United States, it would be a war that Bibi Netanyahu has long sought, destroying Iran at what he hopes would be minimal cost to Israel. If Iran does not respond, Israel will no doubt push the White House to be even more aggressive in its remaining time in office while hardliners within Iran will also demand an end to any agreements with western powers. Taken together, that would make sure that any attempt by the Biden administration to engage diplomatically with Iran would fail. The ultimate provocation by the United States would, of course, be to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Unthinkable? Perhaps, but perhaps not. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is already reporting that “US President Donald Trump has more than a month before he leaves the White House, and on his way out he could set the world on fire. In starting this conflagration, it seems as though he plans to strike every match in the box. Standing beside him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be more than happy to lend him a lighter.”

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Neocons Poised to Join New Government

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Donald Trump was much troubled during his 2016 and 2020 campaigns by so-called conservatives who rallied behind the #NeverTrump banner, presumably in opposition to his stated intention to end or at least diminish America’s role in wars in the Middle East and Asia. Those individuals are generally described as neoconservatives but the label is itself somewhat misleading and they might more properly be described as liberal warmongers as they are closer to the Democrats than the Republicans on most social issues and are now warming up even more as the new Joe Biden Administration prepares to take office.

To be sure, some neocons stuck with the Republicans, to include the highly controversial Elliott Abrams, who initially opposed Trump but is now the point man for dealing with both Venezuela and Iran. Abrams’ conversion reportedly took place when he realized that the new president genuinely embraced unrelenting hostility towards Iran as exemplified by the ending of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad. John Bolton was also a neocon in the White House fold, though he is now a frenemy having been fired by the president and written a book.

Even though the NeverTrumper neocons did not succeed in blocking Donald Trump in 2016, they have been maintaining relevancy by slowly drifting back towards the Democratic Party, which is where they originated back in the 1970s in the office of the Senator from Boeing Henry “Scoop” Jackson. A number of them started their political careers there, to include leading neocon Richard Perle.

It would not be overstating the case to suggest that the neoconservative movement has now been born again, though the enemy is now the unreliable Trumpean-dominated Republican Party rather than Saddam Hussein or Ayatollah Khomeini. The transition has also been aided by a more aggressive shift among the Democrats themselves, with Russiagate and other “foreign interference” being blamed for the party’s failure in 2016. Given that mutual intense hostility to Trump, the doors to previously shunned liberal media outlets have now opened wide to the stream of foreign policy “experts” who want to “restore a sense of the heroic” to U.S. national security policy. Eliot A. Cohen and David Frum are favored contributors to the Atlantic while Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss were together at the New York Times prior to Weiss’s recent resignation. Jennifer Rubin, who wrote in 2016 that “It is time for some moral straight talk: Trump is evil incarnate,” is a frequent columnist for The Washington Post while both she and William Kristol appear regularly on MSNBC.

The unifying principle that ties many of the mostly Jewish neocons together is, of course, unconditional defense of Israel and everything it does, which leads them to support a policy of American global military dominance which they presume will inter alia serve as a security umbrella for the Jewish state. In the post-9/11 world, the neocon media’s leading publication The Weekly Standard virtually invented the concept of “Islamofascism” to justify endless war in the Middle East, a development that has killed millions of Muslims, destroyed at least three nations, and cost the U.S. taxpayer more than $5 trillion. The Israel connection has also resulted in neocon support for an aggressive policy against Russia due to its involvement in Syria and has led to repeated calls for the U.S. to attack Iran and destroy Hezbollah in Lebanon. In Eastern Europe, neocon ideologues have aggressively sought “democracy promotion,” which, not coincidentally, has also been a major Democratic Party foreign policy objective.

The neocons are involved in a number of foundations, the most prominent of which is the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), that are funded by Jewish billionaires. FDD is headed by Canadian Mark Dubowitz and it is reported that the group takes direction coming from officials in the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Other major neocon incubators are the American Enterprise Institute, which currently is the home of Paul Wolfowitz, and the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at John Hopkins University. The neocon opposition has been sniping against Trump over the past four years but has been biding its time and building new alliances, waiting for what it has perceived to be an inevitable regime change in Washington.

That change has now occurred and the surge of neocons to take up senior positions in the defense, intelligence and foreign policy agencies will soon take place. In my notes on the neocon revival, I have dubbed the brave new world that the neocons hope to create in Washington as the “Kaganate of Nulandia” after two of the more prominent neocon aspirants, Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland.

Robert was one of the first neocons to get on the NeverTrump band wagon back in 2016 when he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president and spoke at a Washington fundraiser for her, complaining about the “isolationist” tendency in the Republican Party exemplified by Trump. His wife Victoria Nuland is perhaps better known. She was the driving force behind efforts to destabilize the Ukrainian government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych, an admittedly corrupt autocrat, nevertheless became Prime Minister after a free election. Nuland, who was the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, provided open support to the Maidan Square demonstrators opposed to Yanukovych’s government, to include media friendly appearances passing out cookies on the square to encourage the protesters.

A Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton protégé, Nuland openly sought regime change for Ukraine by brazenly supporting government opponents in spite of the fact that Washington and Kiev had ostensibly friendly relations. Her efforts were backed by a $5 billion budget, but she is perhaps most famous for her foul language when referring to the potential European role in managing the unrest that she and the National Endowment for Democracy had helped create. The replacement of the government in Kiev was only the prelude to a sharp break and escalating conflict with Moscow over Russia’s attempts to protect its own interests in Ukraine, most particularly in Crimea.

And, to be sure, beyond regime change in places like Ukraine, President Barack Obama was no slouch when it came to starting actual shooting wars in places like Libya and Syria while also killing people, including American citizens, using drones. Biden appears poised to inherit many former Obama White House senior officials, who would consider the eager-to-please neoconservatives a comfortable fit as fellow foot soldiers in the new administration. Foreign policy hawks expected to have senior positions in the Biden Administration include Antony Blinken, Nicholas Burns, Susan Rice, Valerie Jarrett, Samantha Power and, most important of all the hawkish Michele Flournoy, who has been cited as a possible secretary of defense. And don’t count Hillary Clinton out. Biden is reportedly getting his briefings on the Middle East from Dan Shapiro, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, who now lives in the Jewish state and is reportedly working for an Israeli government supported think tank, the Institute for National Security Studies.

Nowhere in Biden’s possible foreign policy circle does one find anyone who is resistant to the idea of worldwide interventionism in support of claimed humanitarian objectives, even if it would lead to a new cold war with major competitor powers like Russia and China. In fact, Biden himself appears to embrace an extremely bellicose view on a proper relationship with both Moscow and Beijing “claiming that he is defending democracy against its enemies.” His language is unrelenting, so much so that it is Donald Trump who could plausibly be described as the peace candidate in the recently completed election, having said at the Republican National Convention in August “Joe Biden spent his entire career outsourcing their dreams and the dreams of American workers, offshoring their jobs, opening their borders and sending their sons and daughters to fight in endless foreign wars, wars that never ended.”

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

The Strange Demise of the American Herald Tribune

Many observers would agree that the biggest loser in the recent U.S. presidential election was not Donald Trump, it was the media. The news that was presented to the American public amounted to a tsunami of negative reporting on Donald Trump buttressed by opinion polls that turned out to be poorly executed and wrong by a huge margin. Some might argue that Trump got what he deserved as he was a bad candidate and a bad man, but the unwillingness of the media to pursue stories detrimental to Joe Biden, particularly the corruption surrounding son Hunter, demonstrated a reckless disregard for admittedly unpleasant facts that might have changed some votes.

As an honest media is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy the issue of the politicization of the Fourth Estate is perhaps more serious than who eventually wound up being elected. The degradation of the traditional media, exemplified by the shameful reporting on the Russiagate fiction, has unfortunately come at a time when the new media, i.e. the “internet” is also undergoing transformation. Though some Americans continue to believe that when they go “online” they will get a free flow of useful and factual information that will guide them in making decisions or coming to conclusions about the state of the world, they are increasingly finding only spin or misdirection.

The conceit that the internet would bring with it alternative viewpoints challenging the status quo might have been true to an extent twenty years ago, but the growth and consolidation of corporate information management firms has instead limited access to material that it does not approve of, thereby successfully shaping the political and economic environment to conform with their own interests, and, increasingly those of the federal government. Facebook, Google and other news and social networking sites now all have advisory panels that are authorized to ban content and limit access by members and threats from Washington about regulating the companies and their offerings keep everyone toeing the line.

The United States government, riding a wave of Donald Trump inspired complaints about fake news, has itself been increasingly engaged in suppressing viewpoints that it objects to. The first major attack on foreign media operating in the United States came in 2017, when Russian government news sites Russia Today (RT America) and Sputnik were compelled to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. U.S. intelligence agencies had stated in a January report that the stations, which broadcasts on cable and over radio in the United States, are part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine” and that they had contributed to the Kremlin’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential. That was of course untrue. Based on the report, the Department of Justice compelled RT America and Sputnik to register under FARA, which inter alia requires the disclosure of financial information.

The United States has moved to criminalize what it considers propaganda by foreign adversaries through its 2017 creation of the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force (FTIF) in the bureau’s Counterintelligence Division. The Justice Department claim that both the Russian sites were agents of the Kremlin might appear to be fair enough, but it was noted at the time that many other government-supported foreign news services operate freely in the U.S. without having to declare themselves “agents” and the U.S. itself openly operates propaganda sites like Radio Free Europe overseas without any hindrance.

Since that time, Washington and the media have also been beating the familiar drum that foreigners are interfering in American politics, to include Russia, the Chinese, and the Iranians. In August a 77 page report produced by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) on Russian internet based news and opinion sources was released. It claimed that the Russians were guilty of spreading disinformation and propaganda on behalf of the Kremlin. Its full title read “Understanding Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem” and it included a lead paragraph asserting that “Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem is the collection of official, proxy, and unattributed communication channels and platforms that Russia uses to create and amplify false narratives.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the New York Times is hot on the trail of Russian malfeasance, describing the report and its conclusions in a lengthy article “State Dept. Traces Russian Disinformation Links” that appeared on August 5. The Times described how the government report identified a number of online sites that it claims are actively involved in the “disinformation” effort. The Times article focuses on one site in particular that this author writes for, describing how “The report states that the Strategic Culture Foundation [website] is directed by Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the S.V.R., and stands as ‘a prime example of longstanding Russian tactics to conceal direct state involvement in disinformation and propaganda outlets.’ The organization publishes a wide variety of fringe voices and conspiracy theories in English, while trying to obscure its Russian government sponsorship.” It also quotes Lea Gabrielle, the GEC Director, who explained that “The Kremlin bears direct responsibility for cultivating these tactics and platforms as part of its approach of using information and disinformation as a weapon.”

Russia has, of course, been falsely accused of supporting the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the existence of alternative news sites funded wholly or in part by a foreign government is not ipso facto an act of war or even particularly aggressive. Also, the claim that the Strategic Culture Foundation was and presumable still is a disinformation mechanism is overwrought. Yes, the site is located in Moscow and it may have some government support but it features numerous American and European contributors in addition to Russians. Its content is generally speaking antiwar and often critical of U.S. foreign policy but the contributors include conservatives, libertarians and progressives who write on all kinds of

subjects.

The latest attack by the U.S. government on an alternative media resource, involves the American Herald Tribune (AHT), which was launched as an alternative news site in 2015. Canadian Professor Anthony Hall, serves as the Editor in Chief of the site. Hall currently lives in Lethbridge Alberta Canada and is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Lethbridge. The name and internet domain base of the site were set up and initially funded by Iranians whom Hall had encountered on one of his several trips to Iran. The news site is admittedly highly critical of American foreign policy and of Israel, which also means that it is supportive of both Iran and Syria. It is strongly opposed to the United States initiating a war with the Iranians. Its contributors include myself as well as scores of writers from the Americas, Europe and Asia and articles have appeared on a wide range of topics.

AHT first came under pressure in February, based on a cyber-security report that alleged that the site was one element in a large disinformation network being run by the Iranian government. The story was picked up by CNN and the Washington Post, with a Post review of the CNN information claiming that though AHT masquerades as a self-professed “’genuinely independent online media outlet’ …cybersecurity experts have determined [it] is part of a far-reaching Iranian influence campaign. The strategy is simple: create a network of inauthentic news sites, then enlist associated accounts on popular platforms to spread the stories not only here but also in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. American Herald Tribune’s modus operandi matches what we’ve already learned about online disinformation: Adversaries ‘launder’ their campaigns through sympathetic citizens of target countries, or just citizens they offer money to — from authors on propagandistic or outright deceptive news sites to run-of-the-mill social media users.”

The cybersecurity company that wrote the damning report cited by CNN is based in California and is called Fire Eye. It reportedly has numerous contracts with the federal government and its assessment about the Iranian disinformation network provided nothing in the way of actual evidence nor did it actually name AHT, though there has been an independent unsupported claim that AHT was founded in Iran. Fire Eye also rated its “assessments” in the report as being presented with “moderate confidence.” In government-speak, that means that the conclusions are mostly speculative, not based on hard evidence, and do not require further action.

Prominent investigative journalist Gareth Porter has also described the social media censorship AHT has endured. His June report maintains that the FBI had encouraged Facebook, Instagram, and Google to remove or restrict ads on AHT specifically. In 2018, AHT’s Facebook page was deleted and its Instagram account was closed.

If the allegations regarding AHT’s role in a larger conspiracy sounds similar to the false charges made against Russia post 2016, they should, as they come out of the same script of “foreign interference.” The CNN coverage of AHT should have been seen as a warning that more was to come. On October 7 the Department of Justice took decisive action when it “…seized 92 domain names that were unlawfully used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to engage in a global disinformation campaign… According to the seizure documents, four of the domains purported to be genuine news outlets but were actually controlled by the IRGC and targeted the United States for the spread of Iranian propaganda to influence United States domestic and foreign policy in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and the remainder spread Iranian propaganda to other parts of the world. In addition, the seizure documents describe how all 92 domains were being used in violation of U.S. sanctions targeting both the Government of Iran and the IRGC. We will continue to use all of our tools to stop the Iranian Government from misusing U.S. companies and social media to spread propaganda covertly, to attempt to influence the American public secretly, and to sow discord…”

On November 4 the Justice Department seized an additional 27 alleged IRGC supported domains. The AHT was included in the seizures and the site is now down. All of AHT’s accumulated articles archived in the domain are also inaccessible.

What is happening here is an effort by the U.S. government to suppress any news source if it can be plausibly linked to a foreign government that is unfriendly. At the present time that basically means Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. To be sure, AHT publishes authors with dissenting views, who frequently criticize U.S. foreign policy towards Iran in particular and also regarding the Middle East more generally. But to make the case against AHT and the other alleged Iranian disinformation sites, the Justice Department had to claim that the funding for the network was coming from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Force, an organization that it has conveniently labeled as “terrorism supporting.” It is a tenuous argument on all levels, but the real damage being done is to the First Amendment right, Freedom of Speech. The ability of Americans in particular to obtain up-to-date and reliable information has been eroding for twenty years or more while the claim that “foreigners” providing alternative viewpoints to small audiences are destroying democracy is ridiculous as there is no evidence that anyone was radicalized by anything through what he or she was hearing or seeing. If Joe Biden’s administration continues to move in the same direction as Donald Trump and the mainstream media itself self-censors to go along with the charade, there will be very little freedom left when the next national election rolls around.

 

The post The Strange Demise of the American Herald Tribune first appeared on Dissident Voice.