All posts by Philip Giraldi

What Foreign Threats? The Biggest Threats to America Come From its ‘Friends’

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One of the local Washington television stations was doing a typical early morning honoring our soldiers schtick just before Thanksgiving. In it soldiers stationed far from home were treated to videolinks so they could talk to their families and everyone could nod happily and wish themselves a wonderful holiday. Not really listening, I became interested when I half heard that the soldier being interviewed was spending his Thanksgiving in Ukraine.

It occurred to me that the soldier just might have committed a security faux pas by revealing where he was, but I also recalled that there have been joint military maneuvers as well as some kind of training mission going on in the country, teaching the Ukrainian Army how to use the shiny new sophisticated weapons that the United States was providing it with to defend against “Russian aggression.”

Ukraine is only one part of the world where the Trump Administration has expanded the mission of democracy promotion, only in Kiev the reality is more like faux democracy promotion since Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is clearly exploiting a situation that he himself provoked. He envisions setting himself up as a victim of Moscow to aid in his attempts to establish his own power through a security relationship with Washington. That in turn will help his bid for reelection in March 2019 elections, in which his poll numbers are currently running embarrassingly low largely due to the widescale corruption in his government. Poroshenko has already done much to silence the press in his county while the developing crisis with Russia has enabled him to declare martial law in the eastern parts of the country where he is most poorly regarded. If it all works out, he hopes to win the election and subsequently, it is widely believed, he will move to expand his own executive authority.

There also has to be some consideration the encounter with the Russians on the Kerch Strait was contrived by Poroshenko with the assistance of a gaggle of American neoconservative and Israeli advisers who have been actively engaged with the Ukrainian government for the past several years. The timing was good for Poroshenko for his own domestic political reasons but it was also an opportunity for the neocons warmongers that surround Trump and proliferate inside the Beltway to scuttle any possible meeting between a vulnerable Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G20 gathering in Argentina.

The defection of Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, together with the assumption that a lot of anti-Trump dirt will be spilled soon, means that the American president had to be even more cautious than ever in any dealings with Moscow and all he needed was a nod of approval from National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cancel the encounter. A heads-of-state meeting might not have solved anything but it certainly would be better than the current drift towards a new cold war. If the United States has only one vitally important relationship anywhere it is with Russia as the two countries are ready, able and apparently willing to destroy the world under the aegis of self-defense.

Given the anti-Russian hysteria prevailing in the US and the ability of the neocons to switch on the media, it should come as no surprise that the Russian-Ukrainian incident immediately generated calls from the press and politicians for the White House to get tough with the Kremlin. It is important to note that the United States has no actual national interest in getting involved in a war between Russia and Ukraine if that should come about. The two Eastern European countries are neighbors and have a long history of both friendship and hostility but the only thing clear about the conflict is that it is up to them to sort things out and no amount of sanctions and jawing by concerned congressmen will change that fact.

Other Eastern European nations that similarly have problems with Russia should also be considered provocateurs as they seek to create tension to bind the United States more closely to them through the NATO alliance. The reality is that today’s Russian Federation is not the Soviet Union and it neither aspires to nor can afford hegemony over its former allies. What it has made very clear that it does want is a modus vivendi where Russia itself is not being threatened by the West.

Recent military maneuvers in Poland and Lithuania and the stationing of new missiles in Eastern Europe do indeed pose a genuine threat to Moscow as it places NATO forces on top of Russia’s border. When Russia reacts to incursions by NATO warships and planes right along its borders, it is accused of acting aggressively. One wonders how the US government would respond if a Russian aircraft carrier were to take up position off the eastern seaboard and were to begin staging reconnaissance flights. Or if the Russian army were to begin military exercises with the Cubans? Does anyone today remember the Bay of Pigs?

When it comes to international conflicts context is everything. Seeing the incident between Russia and Ukraine in Manichean terms as an example of Moscow’s aggressive instincts is satisfying in some circles, but it does not in any way reflect the reality on the ground. Internal politics of the two countries combined with deliberate fabrications that are expected to generate a certain response operate together to create a largely false narrative for both international and domestic consumption. Unfortunately, narratives have consequences: in this case, the sacrifice of the possibly beneficial meeting between Trump and Putin.

The same dynamic works vis-à-vis Washington’s other enemy du jour Iran. In the case of Russia, useless “friend” Ukraine is pulling the strings while regarding Iran it is conniving Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iran has been accused of being the world’s leading sponsor of terror, of destabilizing the Middle East, and of having a secret nuclear weapon program that will be used to attack Israel and Europe. None of those assertions are true. The terrorism tag comes from the country’s relationship with Hezbollah, which is only a terrorist group insofar as it is hostile to Israel and pledged to resist any future Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Washington and Israel have pushed the terrorism label for Hezbollah, but most Europeans have begun to disregard the designation since the group has become a part of the Lebanese government.

And regarding destabilizing the Middle East, that has largely been the end result of actions undertaken by the United States, Israel, and the Saudis, while the alleged Persian nuclear weapons program is a fantasy. If someone in the US national security apparatus had any brains the United States would work to improve relations with Iran real soon as the Iranians would in the long run quite likely prove to be better friends than those rascals who are currently running around using that label.

And there are other friends in unlikely places. Beleaguered British Prime Minister Theresa May is wailing loudly against a Trump threat to reveal classified documents relating to Russiagate. The real problem is that the documents apparently don’t expose anything done by the Russians. Rather, they seem to appear to reveal a plot by the British intelligence and security services working in collusion with then CIA Director John Brennan to subvert the course of the 2016 election in favor of the Deep State and Establishment favorite Hillary Clinton. How did that one work out?

So how about it? Teenagers who get in trouble often have to ditch their bad friends to turn their lives around. There is still a chance for the United States if we keep our distance from the bad friends we have been nurturing all around the world, friends who have been convincing us to make poor choices. Get rid of the ties the bind to the Saudis, Israelis, Ukrainians, Poles, and yes, even the British. Deal fairly with all nations and treat everyone the same, but bear in mind that there are only two relationships that really matter – Russia and China. Make a serious effort to avoid a war by learning how to get along with those two nations and America might actually survive to celebrate a tricentennial in 2076.

Reprinted with permission from Unz Review.

US Foreign Policy Has No Policy

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President Donald Trump’s recent statement on the Jamal Khashoggi killing by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince might well be considered a metaphor for his foreign policy. Several commentators have suggested that the text appears to be something that Trump wrote himself without any adult supervision, similar to the poorly expressed random arguments presented in his tweeting only longer. That might be the case, but it would not be wise to dismiss the document as merely frivolous or misguided as it does in reality express the kind of thinking that has produced a foreign policy that seems to drift randomly to no real end, a kind of leaderless creative destruction of the United States as a world power.

Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of Britain in the mid nineteenth century, famously said that “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”The United States currently has neither real friends nor any clearly defined interests. It is, however, infested with parasites that have convinced an at-drift America that their causes are identical to the interests of the United States. Leading the charge to reduce the US to “bitch” status, as Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has artfully put it, are Israel and Saudi Arabia, but there are many other countries, alliances and advocacy groups that have learned how to subvert and direct the “leader of the free world.”

Trump’s memo on the Saudis begins with the headline “The world is a very dangerous place!” Indeed, it is and behavior by the three occupants of the White House since 2000 is largely to blame. It is difficult to find a part of the world where an actual American interest is being served by Washington’s foreign and global security policies. Indeed, a national security policy that sees competitors and adversaries as enemies in a military sense has made nuclear war, unthinkable since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, thinkable once again. The fact that no one in the media or in political circles is even talking about that terrible danger suggests that war has again become mainstreamed, tacitly benefiting from bipartisan acceptance of it as a viable foreign policy tool by the media, in the US Congress and also in the White House.

The part of the world where American meddling coupled with ignorance has produced the worst result is inevitably the Middle East. Washington has been led by the nose by Israel and Saudi Arabia, currently working in sync, to have the United States destroy Iran even though the Iranians represent no threat whatsoever to Americans or any serious US interests. The wildly skewed view of what is taking place in that region is reflected in Trump’s memo in the first paragraph, which reads:
The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, ‘Death to America!’ and ‘Death to Israel!’ Iran is considered ‘the world’s leading sponsor of terror.’
Almost all of that is either patently untrue or grossly exaggerated, meaning that Trump’s profoundly ignorant statement is remarkable for the number of lies that it incorporates into 631 words which are wrapped around a central premise that the United States will always do whatever it wants wherever it wants just because it can. The war being waged by the Saudis against Yemen, which reportedly has killed as many as 80,000 children, is not a proxy struggle against Iran as Trump prefers to think. It is naked aggression bordering on genocide that is enabled by the United States under completely false pretenses. Iran did not start the war and plays almost no role in it apart from serving as a Saudi and Emirati excuse to justify the fighting. Other lies include that Bashar al-Assad of Syria has killed millions of his own citizens and that Saudi Arabia is fighting terrorism. Quite the contrary is true as the Saudis have been a major source of Islamic terrorism. And as for Iran being the “world’s leading sponsor of terrorism,” that honor currently belongs to the US, Israel and the Saudis.

The core of Trump’s thinking about Khashoggi and the Saudis comes down to Riyadh’s willingness to buy weapons to benefit America’s defense contractors and this one sentence: “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.” Yes, once again it is Israel pulling Trump’s strings, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading the charge to give Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman a pass on the gruesome murder of a legal resident of the United States who, once upon a time, might have actually had the US government on his side.

The reckless calibrations employed to set American policies in other parts of the world are also playing out badly. Russia has been hounded relentlessly since the 2016 election, wasting the opportunity to establish a modus vivendi that Trump appeared to be offering in his campaign. Russian and American soldiers confront each other in Syria, where the US has absolutely no real interests beyond supporting feckless Israel and Saudi Arabia in an unnecessary armed conflict that has already been lost. There is now talk of war coming from both Moscow and Washington while NATO in the middle has turned aggressive in an attempt to justify its existence. The bilateral relationship between the US and Russia is now worse than it was towards the end of the Cold War while the expansion of NATO up to Russia’s doorstep has threatened the Kremlin’s vital interests without advancing any interest of the United States.

Afghanistan has become the longest war in US history with no end in sight and China too has seen what began as a dispute over trade turned into something more vitriolic, a military rivalry over the South China Sea that could explode. And North Korea? A love fest between two leaders that is devoid of content.

One might also add Venezuela to the list, with the US initiating sanctions over the state of the country’s internal politics and even considering, according to some in the media, a military intervention.

All of the White House’s actions have one thing in common and that is that they do not benefit Americans in any way unless one works for a weapons manufacturer, and that is not even taking into consideration the dead soldiers and civilians and the massive debt that has been incurred to intervene all over the world. One might also add that most of America’s interventions are built on deliberate lies by the government and its associated media, intended to increase tension and create a casus belli where none exists.

So what is to be done as it often seems that the best thing Trump has going for him is that he is not Hillary Clinton? First of all, a comprehensive rethink of what the real interests of the United States are in the world arena is past due. America is less safe now than it was in 2001 as it continues to make enemies with its blundering everywhere it goes. There are now four times as many designated terrorists as there were in 2001, active in 70 countries. One would quite plausibly soon arrive at George Washington’s dictum in his Farewell Address, counseling his countrymen to “observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.” And Washington might have somehow foreseen the poisonous relationships with Israel and the Saudis when he warned that “…a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”

George Washington or any of the other Founders would be appalled to see an America with 800 military bases overseas, allegedly for self-defense. The transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the military industrial complex and related entities like Wall Street has been catastrophic. The United States does not need to protect Israel and Saudi Arabia, two countries that are armed to the teeth and well able to defend themselves. Nor does it have to be in Syria and Afghanistan. And, by the way, Russia is no longer the Soviet Union and NATO should be abolished.

If the United States were to withdraw its military from the Middle East and the rest of Asia tomorrow, it would be to nearly everyone’s benefit. If the armed forces were to be subsequently reduced to a level sufficient to defend the United States it would put money back in the pockets of Americans and end the continuous fearmongering through surfacing of “threats” by career militarists justifying the bloated budgets.

Will that produce the peaceable kingdom? Probably not, but there are signs that some in powerful positions are beginning to see the light. Senator Rand Paul’s courageous decision to place a “hold” on aid to Israel is long overdue as Israel is a liability to the United States and is also legally ineligible for aid due to its undeclared nuclear arsenal and its unwillingness to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The hysterical reactions of American Jews and Israel suggest that any redirection of US Middle East policy will produce a hostile reaction from the Establishment, but even small steps in the right direction could initiate a gradual process of turning the United States into a more normal country in its relationships with the rest of the world rather than a universal predator and bully.

Reprinted with permission from Unz.com.

Assange’s Persecution Highlights Dangers to the Freedom of Speech and Free Media

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If you are a journalist and you discover something that is clearly unethical, and possibly even illegal, and you choose to report it what happens next? Well, you could win a Pulitzer Prize or, on the other hand, you might wind up hiding in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for six years.

Julian Assange is the founder and editor in chief of the controversial news and information site WikiLeaks. As the name implies, since 2006 the site has become famous, or perhaps notorious, for its publication of materials that have been leaked to it by government officials and other sources who consider the information to be of value to the public but unlikely to be accepted by the mainstream media, which has become increasingly corporatized and timid.

WikiLeaks became known to a global audience back in 2010 when it obtained from US Army enlisted soldier Bradley Manning a large quantity of classified documents relating to the various wars that the United States was fighting in Asia. Some of the material included what might be regarded as war crimes. Manning’s motives for sharing the information can perhaps be debated but he subsequently regarded himself as a whistleblower, a claim that was ignored, and was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for his mishandling of classified information.

WikiLeaks again became front page news over the 2016 presidential election, when the website released the emails of candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta. The emails revealed how Clinton and her team collaborated with the Democratic National Committee to ensure that she would be nominated rather that Bernie Sanders. It should be noted that the material released by WikiLeaks was largely documentary and factual in nature, i.e. it was not “fake news.” The source of the leaked or hacked material is still unknown though it has been attributed to “the Russians” by various governments, politicians and media experts. Assange has denied that the Russians were involved.

The handling of the Manning case by the government is illustrative of how leaks of classified information that wind up in the media are generally handled, i.e. the leaker is punished since he or she had the statutory obligation to protect the information but the journalist, protected by the First Amendment, is generally left alone. The leak of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, for example, led to the prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg the leaker, though The New York Times and Washington Post, which reported the story, fought back against pressure from the Nixon White House and were not punished. More recently, however, the line between the information provider and media has become more blurry, with the government having gone after CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling in 2015 by putting pressure to testify on the journalist he may have provided the information to, James Risen.

The handling of the “threat” posed by journalist Assange is inevitably something altogether different than Manning or Ellsberg the whistleblowers. Assange has been vilified as a Russian agent and was pursued by the Swedish authorities after claims of a rape, later withdrawn, were made against him. To avoid arrest, he was given asylum by a friendly Ecuadorean government six years ago in London and has been confined to the Embassy ever since. The British police have a warrant to arrest him immediately as he failed to make a bail hearing after he obtained asylum.

Julian Assange is currently back in the news for two reasons. First, it has been reliably reported that the Ecuadorean Embassy, which represents a new government in Quito that is unfriendly to Assange and is being pressured by Washington, might soon be taking steps to expel him. And second, last week the US government accidentally revealed in an unrelated legal filing that there exists a sealed criminal indictment against Assange, ready to be used to arrange extradition from Britain as soon as he is expelled from the embassy. The sealed indictment is a major escalation in the struggle to “get Assange,” who is blamed by the Democrats for Hillary Clinton’s loss while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has labeled him a “fraud, a coward and an enemy.” WikiLeaks itself is regarded by the White House as a “hostile non-government intelligence service.”

The actual charges laid out in the indictment are unknown, but possibly relate to the Espionage Act of 1917, which in theory gives the government broad powers to punish anyone who receives classified information. And then there is the possibility that the Justice Department will attempt to make the case that Assange actively colluded with the Russian government, a conspiracy to “defraud the United States” to put it in legalese.

The danger is that the United States government will be able to fearmonger the case sufficiently to actually get a conviction for unauthorized handling of classified information based on the Espionage Act, something that has never actually been done to a journalist before. One hopes that better angels in the Justice Department and White House will realize that the First Amendment and its protection of a free press are far more important than punishing Assange.

If the barn door is opened with a conviction, major damage to freedom of speech and a free media will undoubtedly ensue. One can open The New York Times or Washington Post today and read a number of stories that are attributed to unidentified or confidential sources in the government. If Assange is convicted, the government would be able to exploit the precedent to operate in secret at all levels while reporters and the papers they represent seeking public interest stories would be subject to legal action by the Justice Department. If that happens a free press, even as limited as it currently is in the mainstream, would become nothing more than a memory.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

The Only Regime Change that Is Needed Is in Washington

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Secretary Pompeo officiates the Swearing-In Ceremony for Ambassador James F. Jeffrey. Image credit: U.S. Department of State/ flickr)

One of the things to look forward to in the upcoming holiday season is the special treats that one is allowed to sample. Fruitcake and nuts are Thanksgiving and Christmas favorites. They usually come in tins or special packages but it seems that this season some of the nuts have escaped and have fled to obtain sanctuary from the Trump Administration.

Currently, there is certainly a wide range of nuts available on display in the West Wing. There is the delicate but hairy Bolton, which has recently received the coveted “Defender of Israel” award, and also the robust Pompeo, courageously bucking the trend to overeat during the holidays by telling the Iranian people that they should either surrender or starve to death. And then there is the always popular Haley, voting audaciously to give part of Syria to Israel as a holiday treat.

But my vote for the most magnificent nut in an Administration that is overflowing with such talent would be the esteemed United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey. The accolade is in part due to the fact that Jeffrey started out relatively sane as a career diplomat with the State Department, holding ambassadorships in Iraq, Turkey, and Albania. He had to work hard to become as demented as he now is but was helped along the way by signing on as a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Jeffrey set the tone for his term of office shortly after being appointed back in August when he argued that the Syrian terrorists were “. . . not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, who must have somehow missed a lot of the head chopping and rape going on, subsequently traveled to the Middle East and stopped off in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been suggested that Jeffrey received his marching orders during the visit.

James Jeffrey has been particularly active during this past month.  On November 7th he declared that he would like to see Russia maintain a “permissive approach” to allowing the Israelis to attack Iranian targets inside Syria.  Regarding Iran’s possible future role in Syria, he observed that “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.”

What Jeffrey meant was that because Israel had been “allowed” to carry out hundreds of air attacks in Syria ostensibly directed against Iran-linked targets, the practice should be permitted to continue. Israel had suspended nearly all of its airstrikes in the wake of the shoot-down of a Russian aircraft in September, an incident which Moscow has blamed on Israel even though the missile that brought down the plane was fired by Syria. Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed. Israel reportedly was deliberately using the Russian plane to mask the presence of its own aircraft.

Russia responded to the incident by deploying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria, which can cover most of the more heavily developed areas of the country. Jeffrey was unhappy with that decision, saying “We are concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level. Who will control it? what role will it play?” And he defended his own patently absurd urging that Russia, Syria’s ally, permit Israel to continue its air attacks by saying “We understand the existential interest and we support Israel” because the Israeli government has an “existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles.”

On November 15th James Jeffrey was at it again, declaring that U.S. troops will not leave Syria before guaranteeing the “enduring defeated” of ISIS, but he perversely put the onus on Syria and Iran, saying that “We also think that you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013, 2014.”

As virtually no one but Jeffrey and the Israeli government actually believes that Damascus and Tehran were responsible for creating ISIS, the ambassador elaborated, blaming President Bashar al-Assad for the cycle of violence in Syria that, he claimed, allowed the development of the terrorist group in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

He said “The Syrian regime produced ISIS. The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population.”

Jeffrey’s formula is just another recycling of the myth that the Syrian opposition consisted of good folks who wanted to establish democracy in the country. In reality, it incorporated terrorist elements right from the beginning and groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliates rapidly assumed control of the violence. That Jeffrey should be so ignorant or blinded by his own presumptions to be unaware of that is astonishing. It is also interesting to note that he makes no mention of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, knee-jerk support for Israel and the unrelenting pressure on Syria starting with the Syrian Accountability Act of 2003 and continuing with the embrace of the so-called Arab Spring. Most observers believe that those actions were major contributors to the rise of ISIS.

Jeffrey’s unflinching embrace of the Israeli and hardline Washington assessment of the Syrian crisis comes as no surprise given his pedigree, but in the same interview where he pounded Iran and Syria, he asserted oddly that “We’re not about regime change. We’re about a change in the behavior of a government and of a state.”

Actually, the only regime change that is needed is in Washington and it would include Jeffrey, Bolton, Haley, Pompeo, and Miller. And while we’re at it, get rid of son-in-law Jared Kushner and his claque of Orthodox Jews, Jason Greenblatt the “peace negotiator” and David Friedman the U.S. Ambassador in Israel. None of them are capable of acting to advance any American national interest, which they wouldn’t recognize even if it hit them in the butt. Once they are gone the U.S. can bid the Middle East goodbye and leave its constituent nations to sort out their own problems. Jeffrey’s ridiculous prescriptions for the Syrians and Russians are symptomatic of what one gets from a team of yes-men who have latched onto some dystopic ideas and pursued them relentlessly, blinded by what they believe to be American power. Someone should tell them that their antics have made that power a commodity that is dramatically depreciating in value, but it is clear that they are not listening.

America Has No Peace Movement – Blame the ‘White Supremacists’

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The United States of America has no peace movement even though the country has been mired in unwinnable wars since 2001 and opinion polls suggest that there is only lukewarm support among the public for what is taking place in Afghanistan and Syria. This is in part due to the fact that today’s corporate media virtually functions as a branch of government, which some might refer to as the Ministry of Lies, and it is disinclined to report on just how dystopic American foreign and national security policy has become. This leaves the public in the dark and allows the continued worldwide blundering by the US military to fly under the radar.

The irony is that America’s last three presidents quite plausibly can be regarded as having their margins of victory attributed to a peace vote. George W. Bush promised a more moderate foreign policy in his 2000 campaign, Obama pledged to undo much of the harsh response to 9/11 promulgated by Bush, and Donald Trump was seen as the less warlike candidate when compared to Hillary Clinton. So the public wants less war but the politicians’ promises to deliver have been little more than campaign chatter, meaning that the United States continues to be locked into the same cycle of seeking change through force of arms.

Just last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to a BBC journalist and said Iran must do what Washington demands “if they want their people to eat.” Pompeo’s comments should have shocked the public, but they were not widely reported. If Pompeo spoke for the Administration, that means that Washington is now ready, willing and often able to starve civilians and deny them medicines as a foreign policy tool. Iran is now on the receiving end, but the US has also been supporting similar action by the Saudi Arabians in Yemen, which has resulted in widespread starvation, particularly among children. The current policy recalls former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s infamous comment that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to sanctions had been “worth it.”

It is hard to believe that most Americans support Pompeo. To be sure, there are a number of groups in the United States that have the word “peace” or “antiwar” somewhere in their titles. Most would describe themselves as “progressive,” wherein lies the problem in pulling together a more broadly-based coalition that would make America’s warfare state a key target in the national election in 2020. Progressives, or, as they used to be called, liberals, are not like everyone else. Some commentators observing their antics describe them scathingly as “social justice warriors” or SJWs. That means that they have a mandate to oppose all the evils in the world, to include racism, sexism, limits on immigration and capitalism to name only a few. War is somewhere on the list but nowhere near the top.

SJWs have no comfort zone for dealing with anyone who does not fully buy into their blueprint for global rejuvenation. This means in turn that the antiwar movement, such as it is, is fragmented into a gaggle of groups with grievances that have little ability to establish cohesion with other organizations that might agree completely with their worldview. Folks like me, who are socially and politically conservative but antiwar, do not fit well with their priorities and would prefer to focus on the wars, but that option is not on offer without accepting a lot of sanctimonious garbage.

recent email from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights illustrates precisely what is wrong. I would support the group based on my concern for justice for the Palestinians but have no interest in its ridiculous stereotyping of who is the enemy, i.e. the omnipresent evil “white supremacists” who are also male, Gentile and heterosexual. The email, sent by one Nusayba Hammad, Communications Director, begins: “In the past week, white supremacist gunmen murdered 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and two Black people in Louisville, and Trump announced his intention to try to erase trans, non-binary, and intersex folks… Our struggles for justice are inextricably linked: rejecting white supremacy means rejecting antisemitism, anti-Black racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, transphobia, and all forms of oppression. This is especially important knowing that many, many people carry overlapping identities and thus are marginalized at the intersection of overlapping oppressions.” 

Yes, I know, it is impossible to understand what she is going on about unless one is educated in the progressive codewords. And also yes, the text could have been written by Monty Python. After that introduction the email goes on to provide some resources to “expand [one’s] knowledge,” including this gem:
Palestine as a Queer Struggle (video)
This webinar with Nada Elia, Falastine Dwikat, and Izzy Mustafa covers the intersecting struggles against heteropatriarchy and Zionism. With Trump’s most recent attack on trans, non-binary, and intersex folks, it’s imperative that we understand the importance of standing with queer and trans people in the US and in Palestine as they face multiple layers of oppression.” 
As war, in this case the slaughter of the Palestinians by the Jewish state, is the ultimate evil and it brings with it many other forms of suffering, it would seemingly not be asking too much to worry about it as a first priority before getting into the “multiple layers of oppression” that seem to bother lefties so much. But, alas, they cannot jettison that baggage and for that reason many “normal” people who want the wars to stop will not be participating in their protests. It’s a shame really, as joining together and fighting to stop the next war is well worth doing for every human being on this planet.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

America Has No Peace Movement – Blame the ‘White Supremacists’

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The United States of America has no peace movement even though the country has been mired in unwinnable wars since 2001 and opinion polls suggest that there is only lukewarm support among the public for what is taking place in Afghanistan and Syria. This is in part due to the fact that today’s corporate media virtually functions as a branch of government, which some might refer to as the Ministry of Lies, and it is disinclined to report on just how dystopic American foreign and national security policy has become. This leaves the public in the dark and allows the continued worldwide blundering by the US military to fly under the radar.

The irony is that America’s last three presidents quite plausibly can be regarded as having their margins of victory attributed to a peace vote. George W. Bush promised a more moderate foreign policy in his 2000 campaign, Obama pledged to undo much of the harsh response to 9/11 promulgated by Bush, and Donald Trump was seen as the less warlike candidate when compared to Hillary Clinton. So the public wants less war but the politicians’ promises to deliver have been little more than campaign chatter, meaning that the United States continues to be locked into the same cycle of seeking change through force of arms.

Just last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to a BBC journalist and said Iran must do what Washington demands “if they want their people to eat.” Pompeo’s comments should have shocked the public, but they were not widely reported. If Pompeo spoke for the Administration, that means that Washington is now ready, willing and often able to starve civilians and deny them medicines as a foreign policy tool. Iran is now on the receiving end, but the US has also been supporting similar action by the Saudi Arabians in Yemen, which has resulted in widespread starvation, particularly among children. The current policy recalls former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s infamous comment that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to sanctions had been “worth it.”

It is hard to believe that most Americans support Pompeo. To be sure, there are a number of groups in the United States that have the word “peace” or “antiwar” somewhere in their titles. Most would describe themselves as “progressive,” wherein lies the problem in pulling together a more broadly-based coalition that would make America’s warfare state a key target in the national election in 2020. Progressives, or, as they used to be called, liberals, are not like everyone else. Some commentators observing their antics describe them scathingly as “social justice warriors” or SJWs. That means that they have a mandate to oppose all the evils in the world, to include racism, sexism, limits on immigration and capitalism to name only a few. War is somewhere on the list but nowhere near the top.

SJWs have no comfort zone for dealing with anyone who does not fully buy into their blueprint for global rejuvenation. This means in turn that the antiwar movement, such as it is, is fragmented into a gaggle of groups with grievances that have little ability to establish cohesion with other organizations that might agree completely with their worldview. Folks like me, who are socially and politically conservative but antiwar, do not fit well with their priorities and would prefer to focus on the wars, but that option is not on offer without accepting a lot of sanctimonious garbage.

recent email from the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights illustrates precisely what is wrong. I would support the group based on my concern for justice for the Palestinians but have no interest in its ridiculous stereotyping of who is the enemy, i.e. the omnipresent evil “white supremacists” who are also male, Gentile and heterosexual. The email, sent by one Nusayba Hammad, Communications Director, begins: “In the past week, white supremacist gunmen murdered 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and two Black people in Louisville, and Trump announced his intention to try to erase trans, non-binary, and intersex folks… Our struggles for justice are inextricably linked: rejecting white supremacy means rejecting antisemitism, anti-Black racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, transphobia, and all forms of oppression. This is especially important knowing that many, many people carry overlapping identities and thus are marginalized at the intersection of overlapping oppressions.” 

Yes, I know, it is impossible to understand what she is going on about unless one is educated in the progressive codewords. And also yes, the text could have been written by Monty Python. After that introduction the email goes on to provide some resources to “expand [one’s] knowledge,” including this gem:
Palestine as a Queer Struggle (video)
This webinar with Nada Elia, Falastine Dwikat, and Izzy Mustafa covers the intersecting struggles against heteropatriarchy and Zionism. With Trump’s most recent attack on trans, non-binary, and intersex folks, it’s imperative that we understand the importance of standing with queer and trans people in the US and in Palestine as they face multiple layers of oppression.” 
As war, in this case the slaughter of the Palestinians by the Jewish state, is the ultimate evil and it brings with it many other forms of suffering, it would seemingly not be asking too much to worry about it as a first priority before getting into the “multiple layers of oppression” that seem to bother lefties so much. But, alas, they cannot jettison that baggage and for that reason many “normal” people who want the wars to stop will not be participating in their protests. It’s a shame really, as joining together and fighting to stop the next war is well worth doing for every human being on this planet.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

America Goes to War: Fighting Russia, China and al-Qaeda Simultaneously Requires More Money

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Some believe that the Cold War ended in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart. In retrospect, many observers also believe that a golden opportunity was missed to heal the wounds inflicted by over 45 years to hostility between the Washington and Moscow. Rather than encouraging development of a Russia that would adhere to Western European norms for elections, transparency and individual liberties, some in Europe and America instead sought to steal the country’s natural resources and other assets, a process that went on for some years under President Boris Yeltsin. The looting went hand-in-hand with particularly inept political moves on the part of President Bill Clinton, who ignored end of Cold War agreements to not use the break-up of the Soviet Union as an excuse to bring its former member states in Eastern Europe into NATO or any other military alliance hostile to Russia. The process of NATO expansion continues to this day, together with military maneuvers and the placement of new missile systems right along the Russian border, increasing Moscow’s justifiable paranoia about its security.

The military moves have been accompanied by a political deep freeze, particularly ironic as President Donald Trump during his campaign for office pledged to improve relations with Russia. They are now at their lowest ebb since the hottest days of the Cold War, including as they do the totally bogus sanctioning of Russian government officials under the maliciously conceived Magnitsky Act and the ongoing saga of Russiagate, which blames Moscow for interference in America’s 2016 election, so far without any real evidence being provided.

For those who think all of this is theater, think again. Some critics are beginning to recognize that the United States has become a country addicted to war and one need look no farther than the federal budget, where everything is being cut except military spending, which is set to increase even though there is no country or group of countries in the world that genuinely threaten the US.

Two recent stories in particular demonstrate just how far Washington has gone towards accepting that war has more-or-less become a natural condition for the United States of America. The first is an article, “After years of fighting insurgencies, the Army pivots to training for a major war” that has largely been ignored, regarding how the US military is changing its doctrine and training to enable it to fight a major war against a powerful national opponent. Previously, the armed forces were emphasizing countering non-government hostile agents like al-Qaeda and ISIS, the so-called counter-insurgency doctrine or COIN. According to Pentagon spokesmen, the shift is in recognition of the fact that over the horizon major conflicts are no longer as unthinkable as they once were.

According to the article, US commanders are now beginning to emphasize the type of training that prevailed during the Cold War, tanks against tanks, artillery bombardments, and use of close air support. The change in doctrine derives from the 2018 National Defense Strategy assessment, which identified four national players that might go to war with the United States. They are major powers Russia and China, supplemented by nuclear North Korea and conventionally armed Iran.

The transition was discussed by former and current senior officers at the recent annual meeting of the Association of the US Army, with particular concern being expressed that the “lessons learned” from the past seventeen years of insurgency warfare not be lost as the military returns to a more conventional model. There was also concern that the army is insufficiently resourced to continue to fight insurgencies while also taking on a major conventional component. Some officers believed that the army can handle both jobs simultaneously, but others were not so sure, observing that one really needs two distinct armies, one trained for conventional warfare and the other trained for insurgency operations, which are far more likely to occur and which are more difficult to manage.

Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, explained that “The future of war will be a hybrid threat. There’ll be everything from tanks and missiles and fighter-bombers down to criminal gangs, terrorists, suicide bombers and guerrilla cells. … We’re going to have to do all of that, the full spectrum of conflict.”

General David Petraeus, the “very model of a modern major general” i.e. one who never actually experiences combat, put his finger on why the change to conventional warfare is taking place now. It’s all about money, or as he put it, “it’s about getting resources. And big wars get you big resources.”

Retired Lt. General Guy Swan explained the challenge for the Army in military-speak, citing the career of his son, a West Point produced first lieutenant “…who hasn’t deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, and what he’s been doing has been tank gunnery. He is focused on Russians and other high-end competitors.”

Between Petraeus’ comment on “big” resources and Swan’s on enemies to be killed as “high-end competitors” one might well begin to understand what today’s bloated defense establishment is all about. More money and business school jargon to euphemize wars and killing, with little regard for the possible consequences, including those competitors’ possession of nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them on target. Russia has already warned that if it were attacked by a superior force (NATO) it would used tactical nuclear weapons as a first resort to defend itself. So much for learning tank gunnery.

The second article, also little commented on, made plain that the “competitive” army that is now evolving won’t be just some pretty toy sitting on a shelf unused. The former US commander in Europe from 2014-7 retired Lt. General Ben Hodges spoke at the Warsaw Security Forum on October 24th, where he told NATO allies that they would have to increase defense spending because the United States will not be able to protect them against a “resurgent Russia” while it is fighting China. He predicted that the US will probably be at war with China within 15 years to protect its interests in the Pacific region.

Hodges cited increasing tension between Washington and Beijing in the South China Sea, China’s alleged “constant stealing [of] technology,” and Beijing’s perfectly legal purchasing of infrastructure in Africa, Latin America and Europe through the funding of and investment in projects. There was no mention of China actually threatening the United States and those were presumably Hodges’ reasons for going to war against a powerful nuclear armed nation.

Hodges is currently a strategic expert with the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington-based think tank that is heavily funded by globalists, NATO governments, and democracy promoters. Supporters include the US government funded National Endowment for Democracy, the US Mission to NATO, the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, the US Department of Defense, the US Department of State, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the Raytheon Company, the European Defense Agency, the Chevron Corporation, Bell Helicopter, Textron Systems and BAE Systems. Oh yes, and also the neocon heavy United States Institute of Peace. The Center’s “experts” and staff are top heavy with Eastern Europeans who are focused on the threat from Russia, as is the institute. Donations to the Center are fully tax deductible by the IRS.

The awfulness of the two articles should be evident. The Army is only “under-resourced” if one considers its appropriate role to be continuously fighting countries in Asia and Europe that pose no threat to the United States. And the reality is that there is no reason for China and Russia to be viewed as threats at all. They are only turning into enemies due to the actions of the United States in their own neighborhoods, to include the NATO expansion and other provocations in the Middle East. Regarding China, the US clearly believes that it is entitled to a sphere of influence that includes the entire Pacific Ocean while China cannot assert that it has any interests on own doorstep in the South China Sea.

And then there is the Strangelovean General Hodges and his pro-war establishment think tank. I wonder how much he gets paid for being a dependable mouthpiece for continuous aggression? He “predicts” war with China within 15 years. And what are the issues for what would justify risking a nuclear war? China stealing technology and protecting its local interests in Asia. And investing in the third world to acquire access to resources, which is precisely what the United States and Europeans have been doing to their benefit for many, many years. Smedley Butler once opined that “war is a racket.” If he were around today he would probably say that it is in reality a low-risk high-cost business designed to keep “heroes” like Petraeus, Swan, Townsend and Hodges fully employed.

Reprinted with permission from Unz.com.

Jamal Khashoggi Died for Nothing

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The angst over the Jamal Khashoggi murder in the Saudi Arabian Consulate General building in Istanbul is already somewhat fading as the media has moved on in search of fresh meat, recently focusing on the series of attempted mail bombings, and currently on the mass shooting in Pittsburgh. But the affaire Khashoggi is still important as it potentially brings with it possible political realignments in the Middle East as well as in Europe as countries feel emboldened to redefine their relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The Turks know exactly what occurred in the Consulate General building and are now putting the squeeze on the Saudis, requiring them to fess up and no doubt demanding compensation. Some sources in Turkey believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will actually demand recreation of the Caliphate, which the Kemal Ataturk led Turkish Republic’s government abolished in 1924. That would diminish Saudi Arabia’s ability to regard itself as the pre-eminent Islamic state due to its guardianship over the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. It would be a major realignment of the Islamic umma and would be akin to a restoration of some semblance of Ottoman supremacy over the region.

To be sure, the brutally effective Turkish intelligence service, known by its acronym MIT, is very active when it comes to monitoring the activities of both friendly and unfriendly foreign embassies and their employees throughout Turkey. It uses electronic surveillance and, if the foreign mission has local Turks as employees, many of those individuals will be agents reporting to MIT. As a result, it should be presumed that MIT had the Consulate General building covered with both cameras and microphones, possibly inside the building as well as outside, meaning that the audio of the actual killing that has been reported in the media is no doubt authentic and might even be supplemented with video.

One recent report, on BBC, indicates that CIA Director Gina Haspel has traveled to Turkey and has been allowed to hear the recordings of Khashoggi being tortured and killed. It’s a good thing the Trump White House sent Haspel as she would know exactly what that sort of thing sounds like based on her own personal experience in Thailand. She will presumably be able to explain the operation of a bone saw to the president.

So the Saudis seem to be in a hopeless situation, but they have several cards to play. They have many lobbyists of their own in Washington that have bought their way into think tanks and onto editorial pages. They are also in bed with Israel in opposition to Iran, which means that the Israel Lobby and its many friends in the US Congress will complain about killing Khashoggi but ultimately will not do anything about it. The White House will also discourage America’s close allies from adopting measures that would do serious damage to the Saudis. In regional terms, Saudi Arabia is also key to Trump’s anticipated Middle East peace plan. If it pulls out from the expected financial guarantees aspect, the plan will fall apart, so Washington will be pressing hard on Ankara in particular to not overdo its bid for compensation.

All of which leads to some consideration of the hypocrisy of the outrage over Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia murdered a citizen in a diplomatic facility located in Turkey, apparently because they believed that individual to be a dissident who was a threat to national security. They then seriously botched the cover-up. In spite of all that, it would seem that the issue involves only two parties directly, the Saudis and the Turks, though there have been calls from a number of countries to punish the Saudis for what was clearly a particularly gruesome murder carried out in contravention of all existing rules for behavior of diplomatic missions in foreign countries.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular missions grants to Diplomats a certain level of immunity in foreign posts, but that does not include murder. In consular posts, like Istanbul, consular immunity only extends to officials who are actually performing consular duties when an alleged infraction occurs. I know from personal experience how subjective that process can be as I was arrested by Turkish police when I was the US Consulate duty officer in Istanbul while looking for a missing American who turned out to be a drug dealer. The Turks weren’t sure what to do with me as I was Consular so I spent 24 hours playing cards with the prison governor before I was released.

The hypocrisy comes in when the US Congress and media become enraged and demand that there be “consequences,” in part because Khashoggi was a US legal resident and therefore under law a “US person.” Saudi Arabia is, to be sure, a country that most would consider to be an undesirable destination if one is seeking to eat, drink, and be merry. Or just about anything else having to do with personal liberty. An absolute dictatorship run by one family, it has long both relied on and been the exporter of the most backward looking and unpleasant form of Islam, Wahabbism. But for the fact that the Saudis are the world’s leading exporter of oil, and, for Muslims, guardian of the religion’s holy sites, the country would long ago have been regarded as a pariah.

But that said, Congress and the White House might well consider how the rest of the world views the United States when it comes to killing indiscriminately without fear of consequences. President Barack Obama, who has practically been beatified by the US mainstream media, was the first American head of state to openly target and kill American citizens overseas. He and his intelligence advisor John Brennan would sit down for a Tuesday morning meeting to revise the list of Americans living outside the US who could be assassinated. To cite only one example, the executions of Yemeni dissident Anwar al-Awlaki and his son were carried out by drone after being ordered from the White House without any due process apart from claimed presidential authority. Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also attacked Libya, a nation with which America was not at war, destroyed its government, and reduced the country to its current state of anarchy. When its former ruler Moammar Gaddafi was captured and killed by having a bayonet inserted up his anus, Hillary giggled and said “We came, we saw, he died.”

The United States is also supporting the ongoing war in Syria and also enables the Saudis to continue their brutal attacks on Yemen, which have produced cholera, starvation and the deaths of an estimated 60,000 Yemenis plus millions more threatened by disease and the deliberate cutting off of food supplies. And the White House looks the other way as its other best friend in the Middle East, Israel, shoots thousands of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators. Overall one might argue that if there is a smell in the room it is coming from Washington and one death in Istanbul, no matter how heinous, pales in comparison to what the US itself, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been doing without any pushback whatsoever.

And then there is the small matter of actual American interests. If Washington persists in going after the Saudis, which it will not do, it will presumably jeopardize future weapons sales worth tens of billions of dollars. The Saudis also support the system of petrodollars, which basically requires nearly all international purchases of petroleum to be paid in dollars. Petrodollars in turn enable the United States to print money for which there is no backing knowing that there will always be international demand for dollars to buy oil. The Saudis, who also use their own petrodollars to buy US treasury bonds, could pull the plug on that arrangement. Those are actual American interests. If one pulls them all together it means that the United States will be looking for an outcome to Khashoggi’s slaying that will not do too much damage to Saudi Arabia.

So, what do I think will happen as a result of the Khashoggi killing? Nothing that means anything. There are too many bilateral interests that bind the Saudis to Europe and America’s movers and shakers. Too much money is on the table. In two more weeks mentioning the name Khashoggi in Washington’s political circles will produce a tepid response and a shake of the head. “Khashoggi who?” one might ask.

Reprinted with permission from Unz.com.

Two Stories from the Propaganda War

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Two recent stories about Russians have demonstrated how the news is selected and manipulated in the United States. The first is about Maria Butina, who apparently sought to overthrow American democracy, such as it is, by obtaining a life membership in the National Rifle Association. Maria, a graduate student at American University, is now in detention in a federal prison, having been charged with collusion and failure to register as an agent of the Russian Federation. She has been in prison since July, for most of the time in solitary confinement, and has not been granted bail because, as a Russian citizen, she is considered to be a “flight risk.”

Maria, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, is now seeking donations to help pay for her legal defense as the Russian government renews demands that she be released from jail or be tried on whatever charges the Justice Department can come up with, but her release is unlikely as she is really a political prisoner.

The media has been silent about Maria Butina because the case against her is falling apart. In early September prosecutors admitted that they had misunderstood text messages used to support claims that she had offered to trade sex for access to information. Demands that she consequently be released from prison were, however, rejected. Her lawyer observed that "The impact of this inflammatory allegation, which painted Ms. Butina as some type of Kremlin-trained seductress, or spy-novel honeypot character, trading sex for access and power, cannot be overstated."

In an attempt to make the Butina embarrassment disappear from the news, the Justice Department has proposed an unprecedented gag order to prevent her attorney from appearing in the media in a way that could prejudice a jury should her case eventually come to trial. Currently there is no court date and Maria remains in jail indefinitely, but the press could care less – she is just one more Russiagate casualty in an ongoing saga that has long since passed her by.

Given the Maria Butina story and the hysteria over all things Russian it was perhaps inevitable that the tale of Kremlin interference in American elections would be resurrected and repeated. Federal prosecutors are now reporting that another Russian woman has illegally conspired with others to “defraud the United States” and interfere with the U.S. political system, to include plans for conducting “information warfare” to subvert the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

The complaint was filed on October 19th at a federal court in Virginia which handles most national security cases. According to the court documents, Elena Alekseevna Khusyainova, a 44-year-old resident of St. Petersburg in Russia, has worked as the head accountant for “Project Lakhta,” a Russian influence operation backed by an oligarch close to President Vladi­mir Putin. According to the Justice Department, the operation “spread misinformation about US political issues including immigration, gun control, the Confederate flag, and protests by NFL players. It also used events including the Las Vegas mass shooting, and the far-Right rally in Charlottesville, to spread discord.”

Khusyainova, who is not likely to be extradited to the United States for trial, allegedly purchased advertising in social networks and also supported dissident groups. The accusation of the American authorities emphasizes the connection between Khusyainova and St. Petersburg businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was previously identified by the media as the owner of a ‘Troll Factory’ in St. Petersburg. In the U.S., several charges have already been brought against him and his staff, including interfering in the presidential elections in 2016. 

The Maria Butina story reveals how there is a fundamental flaw in the justice system in the United States. When someone is found guilty by the media there is no way to right the wrong when the story shifts and starts to break down. The New York Times or Washington Post is unlikely to leap to the defense of the accused. Maria Butina has been raked over the coals in stories that were partly true but mostly false in terms of any criminal intent. She is still waiting for justice and will likely be doing so for some time.

The case of Elena Khusyainova is Maria Butina redux, only even more idiotic. No actual evidence is presented in the indictment and since Elena is in Russia and not likely to visit the United States, the entire affair is a bit of theater intended to heighten hysteria about the U.S. midterm elections. Is the U.S. electoral system really so fragile and what did Elena actually seek to do? The Justice Department is silent on the issue beyond vague accusations about trolling on the internet by Russians. One wonders who in the federal government ordered the investigation and signed off on the indictment.

Both Maria and Elena are victims of a politicized miscarriage of justice. Maria Butina should be released from prison now and allowed to pay her fine for being an unregistered agent before leaving the country. There is no justification for holding her in prison. And the indictment of Elena Khusyainova is not worth the paper it is written on. It should be torn up and thrown away.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

The White Helmets Ride Again

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I am often asked to explain why countries like Iran appear to be so aggressive, involving themselves in foreign wars and seeking to create alliances that they know will provoke the worst and most paranoid responses from some of their neighbors. My response is invariably that perceptions of threat depend very much on which side of the fence you are standing on. Saudi Arabia and Israel might well perceive Iranian actions as aggressive given the fact that all three countries are competing for dominance in the same region, but Iran, which is surrounded by powerful enemies, could equally explain its activity as defensive, seeking to create a belt of allies that can be called upon if needed if a real shooting war breaks out.

The United States and Israel are, of course, masters at seeing everything as a threat, justifying doing whatever is deemed necessary to defend against what are perceived to be enemies. They even exercise extraterritoriality, with Washington claiming a right to go after certain categories of “terrorists” in countries with which it is not at war, most particularly Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. Israel does likewise in its attacks on Lebanon and Syria. Both Tel Aviv and Washington have regularly crossed the line drawn by international legal authorities in terms of what constitutes initiating a “just” or “legal” war, i.e. an imminent threat to use force by a hostile power. Neither Israel nor the United States has really been threatened by an enemy or enemies in the past seventy years, so the definition of threat has been expanded to include after-the-fact as with 9/11 and potential as in the case of Israel and Iran.

The “which side of the fence” formulation has also had some interesting spin-offs in terms of how so-called non-state players that use violence are perceived and portrayed. Nearly all widely accepted definitions of terrorism include language that condemns the “use of politically motivated violence against non-combatants to provoke a state of terror.”

It is quite easy to identify some groups that are unambiguously “terrorist.” Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) and its various affiliates fit the definition perfectly, but even in that case there is some ambiguity by those state actors who are ostensibly pledged to eradicate terrorists. There have been credible claims that the United States has been protecting the last enclaves of ISIS in order to maintain its “right” to stay in Syria, allegedly based on the stated objective of completely destroying the group before withdrawal. As long as ISIS is still around in Syria, Washington will have an admittedly illegal justification for doing likewise.

There are two notable groups that should be universally condemned as terrorists but are not for political reasons. They are the Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK), Iranian dissidents that are based in Paris and Washington, and the so-called White Helmets who have been active in Syria. MEK is particularly liked by Israel and its friends inside the Beltway because it retains resources inside Iran that enable it to carry out assassinations and sabotage, and if it is only Iranians that are dying, that’s okay.

MEK has been on the State Department roster of foreign terrorist organizations since the list was established in 1997. Its inclusion derives from its having killed six Americans in the 1970s and from its record of violence both inside and outside Iran since that time. The group was driven out of Iran, denied refuge in France, and eventually armed and given a military base by Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein. Saddam used the group to carry out terrorist acts inside Iran. MEK is widely regarded as a cult headed by a husband and wife team Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. Its members were required to be celibate and there are reports that they are subjected to extensive brainwashing, physical torture, severe beatings even unto death, and prolonged solitary confinement if they question the leadership. One scholar who has studied them describes their beliefs as a “weird combination of Marxism and Islamic fundamentalism.” Like many other terrorist groups MEK has a political wing that operates openly referred to as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is based in Paris, and another front organization called Executive Action which operates in Washington.

MEK was regarded as a terrorist group until 2012, when it was taken off the Special Designation list by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was removed because multi-million dollar contracts with Washington lobbying firms experienced at “working” congress backed up by handsome speaking fees had induced many prominent Americans to join the chorus supporting NCRI. Prior to 2012, speaking fees for the group started at $15,000 and went up from there. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell reported more than $150,000 in honoraria. Rudy Giuliani has been paid generously for years at $20,000 per appearance for brief, twenty-minute speeches. Bear in mind that MEK was a listed terrorist group at the time and accepting money from it to promote its interests should have constituted material support of terrorism.

The group’s well-connected friends have included prominent neocons like current National Security Advisor John Bolton and ex-CIA Directors James Woolsey, Michael Hayden and Porter Goss as well as former Generals Anthony Zinni, Peter Pace, Wesley Clark, and Hugh Shelton. Traditional conservatives close to the Trump Administration like Newt Gingrich, Fran Townsend and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao are also fans of NCRI. Townsend in particular, as a self-proclaimed national security specialist, has appeared on television to denounce Iran, calling its actions “acts of war” without indicating that she has received money from an opposition group.

MEK’s formula for success in removing itself from the terrorism lift involved paying its way through a corrupt political system. More interesting perhaps is the tale of the White Helmets, who have just been given the 2019 Elie Wiesel Award by the National Holocaust Museum, with the citation “These volunteer rescue workers have saved lives on all sides of the conflict in Syria. Their motto is ‘To save one life is to save all of humanity.’”

The White Helmets have been praised by those who hate the government of President Bashar al-Asad in Syria and want to see it removed because of its role as a leading element in the propaganda campaign that seeks to instigate violence or use fabricated information to depict the Damascus government as guilty of slaughtering its own citizens. The propaganda is intended to terrorize the civilian population, which is part of the definition of terrorism.

Favorable media coverage derives from the documentary The White Helmets, which was produced by the group itself and tells a very convincing tale promoted as “the story of real-life heroes and impossible hope.” It is a very impressive piece of propaganda, so much so that it has won numerous awards including the Oscar for Best Documentary Short last year and the White Helmets themselves were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. More to the point, however, is the undeniable fact that the documentary has helped shape the public understanding of what is going on in Syria, describing the government in Damascus in purely negative terms.

Recently, with the Syrian Army closing in on the last White Helmet affiliates still operating in the country, the Israeli government, assisted by the United States, staged an emergency humanitarian evacuation of the group’s members and their families to Israel and then on to Jordan. It was described in a BBC article that included “The IDF said they had ‘completed a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organization and their families’, saying there was an ‘immediate threat to their lives.’ The transfer of the displaced Syrians through Israel was an exceptional humanitarian gesture. Although Israel is not directly involved in the Syria conflict, the two countries have been in a state of war for decades. Despite the intervention, the IDF said that ‘Israel continues to maintain a non-intervention policy regarding the Syrian conflict.’”

All of the Israeli assertions are nonsense, including its claimed “humanitarianism” and “non-intervention” in the Syrian war, where it has been bombing almost daily. The carefully edited scenes of heroism under fire that have been filmed and released worldwide conceal the White Helmets’ relationship with the al-Qaeda affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra and its participation in the torture and execution of “rebel” opponents. Indeed, the White Helmets only operate in rebel held territory, which enables them to shape the narrative both regarding who they are and what is occurring on the ground.

The White Helmets travelled to bombing sites with their film crews trailing behind them. Once at the sites, with no independent observers, they are able to arrange or even stage what is filmed to conform to their selected narrative. Exploiting their access to the western media, the White Helmets thereby de facto became a major source of “eyewitness” news regarding what was going on in those many parts of Syria where European and American journalists were quite rightly afraid to go, all part of a broader largely successful “rebel” effort to manufacture fake news that depicts the Damascus government as engaging in war crimes directed against civilians, an effort that has led to several attacks on government forces and facilities by the US military. This is precisely the propaganda that has been supported both by Tel Aviv and Washington.

Perhaps the most serious charge against the White Helmets consists of the evidence that they actively participated in the atrocities, to include torture and murder, carried out by their al-Nusra hosts. There have been numerous photos of the White Helmets operating directly with armed terrorists and also celebrating over the bodies of execution victims and murdered Iraqi soldiers. The group’s jihadi associates regard the White Helmets as fellow “mujahideen” and “soldiers of the revolution.”

So, the National Holocaust Museum, which is taxpayer funded, has given an apparently prestigious award to a terrorist group, something which could have been discerned with even a little fact checking. And the museum also might have been sensitive to how the White Helmets have been used in support of Israeli propaganda vis-à-vis Syria. Perhaps, while they are at it, the museum’s board just might also want to check out Elie Wiesel, for whom the award is named. Wiesel, who was a chronicler of Jewish victimhood while persistently refusing to acknowledge what Israel was doing to the Palestinians, notoriously mixed fact and fiction in his best-selling holocaust memoir Night. Ironically, the award and recipient are well matched in this case as mixing fact and fiction is what both Elie Wiesel and the White Helmets are all about.

Reprinted with permission from Unz.com.