All posts by Philip Giraldi

Among the Persians

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I have just spent a week in Mashad and Tehran Iran, speaking at an international conference on the future of Jerusalem as well as other related issues while also meeting with a broad range of Iranians, including journalists, students and government officials. The conference was organized by a non-government organization called New Horizon. It was the sixth such conference, intended to bring together speakers from a number of countries to discuss issues involving Middle Eastern security and identity issues.

To be sure, Iran, threatened as it is from all sides, has certain aspects of a security state. And as what is essentially a partial democracy run along religious lines, it has very clear limits on what constitutes acceptable behavior. But I think the representatives of the thirty or so countries who attended the congress would agree that there was no attempt made to limit free speech or guide discussions. The only attempt to censor the conference and its content has been, I would note, the blocking of sponsor New Horizon’s website on Google and presumably elsewhere in the Zionist/US dominated social media and information-searching world. Indeed, the only coordinated activity that might have been noted at the conference itself was the loud hissing noise that accompanied any mention of the name John Bolton.

Indeed, there was clear criticism of the nature of the Iranian government openly expressed at the conference as well as very heated exchanges on a number of issues surrounding Jewish identity, Israel, the Palestinians, the status of Jerusalem and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Agreement (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. Privately, many Iranians we encountered were quite free in expressing their dislike of the religious leadership and their desire for dramatic change. It should be noted that such comments were not provoked by anything that any of us said. We were indeed being careful not to offend the host country or to get the organizers in trouble, perhaps more cautious than we had to be.

One might also mention that the timing of the conference and associated activities was particularly appropriate as it came on the heels of the President Donald Trump’s abandonment of the JCPOA and the slaughter of Palestinian protesters by the Israeli Army in Gaza. We watched in amazement on live television coverage as the snipers shot dead 58 unarmed Arabs and wounded two thousand more. A baby that was in an area far outside of the area where the shooting was taking place died after being suffocated by the clouds of teargas being used by the Israelis. It was ghastly and it was disgusting. Predictably the Israeli shills in both the US and from Israel itself made the victim the guilty party, arguing that the child should never have been so close to the “fighting” there in Gaza in the first place.

And for those who are concerned that the Israeli Army might even run out of bullets, rest assured that all appropriate steps are being taken. Knesset member Avi Dichterreassured the audience on live television the army “has enough bullets for everyone. If every man, woman and child in Gaza gathers at the gate, in other words, there is a bullet for every one of them. They can all be killed, no problem.”

I have been invited to Iran before, but as an ex-CIA it was complicated for me to get a visa to make the journey. In this case, however, the hard work and networking of the conference sponsors prevailed, making it possible for me and some friends formerly working for the Pentagon to speak and also participate in the numerous panels. We were an instant hit among the attendees and also for the Iranian public, being featured in the local and national media and interviewed over and over again.

To be sure, some will say that we were little more than useful idiots, invited to disparage the United States and provide aid and comfort to its enemies, but that would assume there was any effort to enforce uniformity in the speeches and comments, which, as I have already noted, was not the case. There was, indeed, a theme of the conference, which was essentially that the US recognition of Jerusalem was a new catastrophe delivered by Washington on the backs of the long suffering Palestinian people, virtually guaranteeing that a Palestinian state will never be allowed to develop. And US uncritical support of Israel and its fascistic leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is, of course, the root cause of the problem, something that was discussed in some depth.

I will not make any attempt to describe the speeches and speakers at the conference as I am sure that such material will be surfacing independently through the alternative media over the next few days, but I would like to share some impressions as well as some particularly well-made points that emerged about the current and, unfortunately, burgeoning conflict in the Middle East.

Many at the conference came away convinced that the White House’s rejection of JCPOA was a watershed moment. The anger in Europe clearly being expressed in their national media last week reflects an understanding that the United States is no longer interested in cooperating with anyone to reduce the risk of war. If European nations act in support of their rhetoric there will be an increase in efforts to distance themselves from Washington. This will include mechanisms to work around American sanctions, to include buying Iranian oil with Euros instead of dollars and selling to Iran in ways that avoid US banks as conduits. The eventual result, which will undoubtedly be supported by China and Russia, would mean a flight from dollars as the world reserve currency. The reduced acceptability of the dollar in turn would mean that the Federal Reserve will be unable to continue to print fiat money to support US interventions, with severe repercussions for the American economy.

And the participants at the conference would likely agree that the United States government has no credibility, by which I mean NONE. It is not particularly a Trump issue but rather a Trump-Obama-Bush problem that has been festering ever since 9/11 if not before. We conference participants watched the slaying of the Palestinians and, by split screen, also witnessed how someone named Raj Shah at the White House told reporters at a press briefing that “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response” as “a gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt.” Sure didn’t look like that, Raj.

And meanwhile over at the United Nations, the irrepressible so-called American Ambassador Nikki Haley vetoed a Russian proposal seeking an investigation into the carnage, explaining that that Hamas, aided of course by Iran, was to blame for the violence. “I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council: who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.” She then walked out when Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Permanent Representative to the United Nations began to speak.

Combining the words “Israel” and “restraint” in one sentence just might be a breakthrough moment for the hard charging Nikki, but one hopes for another breakthrough on her part in the ability to see dead Palestinian children as real human beings rather than just as targets for Israeli sharpshooters. Indeed, Haley might must consider that there are a lot of human beings floating around who are perfectly decent individuals finding themselves just a bit tired of being stamped on by the United States and its mad dog Israel.

The biggest lesson I learned in Iran was that in spite of all the years of abuse, Iranians still like and respect Americans. I heard over and over again expressions of that fact from ordinary people and sophisticates alike. They would love to have a good relationship and an American Embassy run by proper diplomats who are willing to talk and listen. The only problem is that the United States doesn’t do that anymore. For that reason, the Iranians expressing their liking for the US did have one problem. They can’t stand what the US government is doing all over the world. Well, neither can I and I told them so, as did the twenty or so other Americans present at the conference. I also told them that, unfortunately, the door to Washington is controlled by Israel, which has been doing an expert job at defaming Iran for the past thirty years. The door won’t open anytime soon.

And as sometimes what is expected does not take place, I have to report that I was not harassed by the US authorities when I returned home. Other American conference participants who had long involvement in the peace movement had told harrowing stories of being hounded by the federal government every time they left the country and returned. In my case, I had been headlined in the Iranian and Middle Eastern media during the whole time of the conference and surely was picked up through the intensive USGOV monitoring of all things going on in Iran. I had fully expected to be approached by two thugs with badges on arrival, but they didn’t show up. Maybe next time.

Reprinted with permission from Unz.com.

Will Trump’s Pyrrhic Victory End with America’s Role As Global Bully?

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I am in Iran speaking at a conference on the future of the Middle East. The timing for the meeting is particularly appropriate due to the recent American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which limited the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for suspension of sanctions. Initial discussions with Iranians revealed that they are less pessimistic about the development than are the Americans and Europeans present, believing as they do that the situation can somehow be reversed either by Congressional refusal to endorse the Trump decision or by rejection of the demands being made by the White House that all parties who were also signatories to the agreement (Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) should also withdraw or themselves face secondary sanctions.

The Iranians concede that the move by President Donald Trump will bring with it additional economic suffering and will also likely upset the delicate political balancing act prevailing in their country, with President Hassan Rouhani being blamed by conservatives for having entered into the agreement in the first place. It was an agreement regarding which the president had expended considerable political equity, and he has also been accused of exaggerating its benefits, having claimed some months ago that all sanctions had been lifted, which was not the case. The stagnant state of Iran’s economy has produced considerable unrest in recent months and it is anticipated that more will be on the way as the economy continues to decline.

Iran’s hopes that Europe will develop a spine and will reject the American overtures, joined by China and Russia, is perhaps too optimistic as banks will be reluctant to lend money for Iranian projects and foreign companies will be unlikely to risk entering into anything but very short-term contracts with the Iranian government for much needed infrastructure improvement.

The major debate taking place is over where one goes from here. There are two distinct schools of thought, one of which basically asks whether continuation of what is essentially a unipolar world, supported by US power, in which the United States continues to be able to assert its vision of world global good order. This has been defined by Washington as a mixture of expansion of liberal democracy plus more-or-less free trade.

Even though it was Israel and Saudi Arabia that were driving the rejection of the Iran deal, it was the United States that had the economic, military and political muscle to take the steps necessary to disrupt an international agreement that had other major signatories and the endorsement of the UN Security Council.

The alternative view is quite different, asserting that Washington’s blow against Iran will ultimately be a Pyrrhic victory for Donald Trump as the blatant interference in what was a universally accepted largely successful treaty in which Iran was fully compliant will produce a global backlash against American interests. US military power and economic might give it considerable leverage to protect itself against any number of adversaries, but its huge and ultimately unsustainable budget deficits and debt make it potentially vulnerable. It is therefore likely that the first counterstrokes against Trump’s vision of America First will be to accelerate steps directed against the use of the US dollar as the world’s principal reserve currency.

There have already been moves in that direction, but they have succeeded in going only so far before being marginalized. This time they might stick because there is a large and growing consensus that America has finally gone too far in its role as global bully. One keen observer opines that the shift to a multipolar polity has now become inevitable due to American insensitivity and political blindness. The economic shifts that will, by some judgements, sink the US economy in five to ten years and lead to the rise of competing economic centers in countries like Russia and Brazil. It will be the beginning of an era in which Washington no longer will have either the resources or the will to attempt to maintain some form of global hegemony.

No surprisingly, the participants at the multinational conference I am attending would welcome the day when an interventionist “leader of the free world” America ceases to be. Many Americans would also welcome it, though without the economic disruption.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

The Ruinously Expensive American Military

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America’s Republican politicians complain that “entitlements,” by which they mean pensions and medical care, are leading the country to bankruptcy even as they fatten the spending on the Pentagon, which now takes 12 percent of the overall budget. And it should be noted that while workers contribute to the social programs during all their years of employment, the money that goes to the military comes straight out of the pockets of taxpayers before being wasted in ways that scarcely benefit the average citizen unless one seriously thinks that folks over in Syria, Iran, and Afghanistan actually do threaten the survival of the United States of America.

I was in a Virginia supermarket the other day checking out when the woman behind the cash register in a perky voice asked me “Will you give $5 to support our troops?” I responded “No. Our troops already get way too much of our money.” She replied, “Hee, hee that’s a funny joke” and I said “It’s not a joke.” Her face dropped and she signaled to her boss over in customer service and asked her to take over, saying that I had been rude.

If there is any group in the United States that exceeds the sheer greed of our politicians it is the military, which believes itself to be “entitled” as a consequence of its role in the global war on terror. I am a veteran who began service in a largely draftee army in which we were paid “twenty-one dollars a day once a month” as the old World War 2 song goes. When we got out, the GI Bill gave us $175 a month to go back to college, which did not cover much.

Today’s United States has 2,083,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen on active duty plus reserves. Now that the military is an all-volunteer rather than a conscript force, it is understandable that pay and benefits should be close to or equivalent to civilian pay scales. Currently, a sergeant first class with 10 years in service gets paid $3968 a month. A captain with ten years gets $6271. That amounts to $47,616 and $75,252 a year respectively plus healthcare, food, housing, cost of living increases and bonuses to include combat pay.

Though there are several options for retirement, generally speaking a soldier, sailor Marine or airman can retire after 20 years with half of his or her final “high three” pay as a pension, which means an 18-year-old who enlists right out of high school will be 38 and if he or she makes sergeant first class (E-7) he or she will be collecting $2338 a month or more for a rest of his or her life adjusted for cost of living,

Many Americans would be astonished at the pensions that general officers and admirals receive, particularly since 80 percent of them also land in “retirement” generously remunerated positions with defense contractors either in active positions soliciting new contracts from their former peers or sitting on boards. General David Petraeus, whom The Nation describes as the “general who lost two wars,” pulls in a pension of $220,000 even though he was forced to resign as CIA Director due to passing classified information to his mistress. He is also chairman of a New York City based company KKR Global, which is part of a private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts. He reportedly is paid in six figures plus bonuses for “oversee[ing] the institute’s thought leadership platform focused on geopolitical and macro-economic trends, as well as environmental, social, and governance issues.”

It apparently is difficult to take money away from general and flag officers. An Air Force four-star general named Arthur Lichte was reduced in rank to a two-star in 2017 after he was found guilty of having raped a lower ranking woman officer. His pension went down from $216,000 to $156,000 due to the reduction. Normally, however, America’s 1,000 general and flag officers can look forward to comfortable retirements.

But on top of that rather generous bit of cash there are the considerable other benefits, as the old recruiting sergeants would put it, the “bennies.” Military retirees can receive full tuition and expenses at a college or technical school if they choose to go back to school. This is why one sees so many ads for online universities on television – they are trolling for soldier dollars knowing that it’s free money. The retiree will also have access to heavily subsidized medical care for him or herself plus family. The medical care is a significant bonus under the Tricare system, which describes itself on its website as “the gold standard for medical coverage, [that] is government managed health insurance.” A friend who is retired recently had a hip replacement operation that would have cost $39,000 for only a few hundred dollars through Tricare.

What is significant is that even enlisted military personnel can start a second career on top of their pension, given that many of them are still in their thirties. Some that have security clearances can jump into highly paid jobs with defense contractors immediately while others also find places in the bureaucracy with the Department of Homeland Security. Working for the government twice is called “double dipping.”

Some would argue that military personnel deserve what they get because the jobs are by their very nature dangerous, sometimes fatal. Indeed, the number of maimed and PTSD-afflicted soldiers returning from the endless wars is a national tragedy and caring for them should be a top priority. But the truth is that only a very small fraction, by some estimates far less than 20 percent of Army and Marine personnel in so-called “combat arms,” ever are in danger. Air Force and Navy personnel rarely experience combat at all apart from bombing targets far below or launching cruise missiles against Syrians. It is true that given the volatile nature of war against insurgents in places like Afghanistan many soldiers in support roles can come under fire, but it is far from normal and most men and women in service never experience a gun fired in anger.

Some numbers-crunchers in the Pentagon have already raised the alarm that the current pay, benefits and retirement levels for military personnel is unsustainable if the United States continues its worldwide mission against terrorists and allegedly rogue regimes. And it is also unsustainable if the U.S. seeks to return to a constitutional arrangement whereby the nation is actually defended by its military, not subordinated to it and being bankrupted by its costs.

Reprinted with permission from Unz Review.

Trump’s Pyrrhic Victory: the US Opts for a Path That Can Only Lead to War

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Nearly everyone loses by President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) relating to Iran’s nuclear energy program and to reinstate the “highest level” of sanctions while also threatening secondary sanctions on any country that “helps” the Iranians. The whole world loses because nuclear proliferation is a disaster waiting to happen and Iran will now have a strong incentive to proceed with a weapons program to defend itself from Israel and the United States. If Iran does so, it will trigger a regional nuclear arms race with Saudi Arabia and Egypt undoubtedly seeking weapons of their own.

Iran and the Iranian people will lose because their suffering economy will not now benefit from the lifting of sanctions and other economic inducements that convinced it to sign the agreement in the first place. And yes, even the United States and Israel will lose because an agreement that would have pushed back by ten or fifteen years Iran’s timetable if it were to choose to develop a weapon will now be reduced to a year or less. And the United States will in particular lose because the entire world will understand that the word of an American president when entering into an international agreement cannot be trusted.

The only winners from the withdrawal are President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will enjoy the plaudits of their hardline supporters. But their victory will be illusory as the hard reality of what they have accomplished becomes clear.

Failure of JCPOA definitely means that war is the only likely outcome if Tel Aviv and Washington continue in their absurd insistence that the Iranians constitute a major threat both to the region and the world. A war that might possibly involve both the United States and Russia as well as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel would devastate the region and might easily have potential to escalate into something like a global conflict.

The decision to end the agreement is based on American domestic political considerations rather than any real analysis of what the intelligence community has been reporting. Deep-pocketed Iran-hating billionaires named Sheldon Adelson, Rebekah Mercer and Paul Singer are now prepared to throw tens of millions of dollars at Trump’s Republican Party to help it win in November’s midterm elections.

Those possessed of just a tad more foresight, to include the Pentagon and America’s European allies, have strongly urged that JCPOA be continued, particularly as the Iranians have been fully in compliance, but there is a new team in Washington. America’s just-confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not exactly endorse the ludicrous Israeli claim made by Benjamin Netanyahu two weeks ago that Iran has a secret weapons of mass destruction program currently in place, but he did come down hard against the JCPOA, echoing Trump in calling it a terrible agreement that will guarantee an Iranian nuclear weapon. The reality is quite different, with the pact basically eliminating a possible Iranian nuke for the foreseeable future through degradation of the country’s nuclear research, reduction of its existing nuclear stocks and repeated intrusive inspections.

The failure of the JCPOA is not about the agreement at all, which is both sound and workable. There is unfortunately an Israeli-White House construct which assumes that Iran is both out to destroy Israel, for which no evidence has been revealed, as well as being singularly untrustworthy, an odd assertion coming from either Washington or Tel Aviv. It also basically rejects any kind of agreement with the Iranian government on principle so there is nowhere to go to “fix” what has already transpired.

The United States has changed in the past seventeen years. The promotion of policies that were at least tenuously based on genuine national interests is no longer embraced by either political party. A fearful public has allowed a national security state to replace a constitutional republic with endless war as the inevitable result. Presidents once constitutionally constrained by legislative and judicial balance of power have successfully asserted executive privilege to become like third world dictators, able to make war without any restraint on their ability to do so. If America survives, historians will no doubt see the destruction of the JCPOA as the beginning of something new and horrible, where the government of these United States deliberately made a decision to abandon a beneficial foreign treaty to instead opt for a path that can only lead to war.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Pompeo Rocks the Middle East: Lessons from a Former CIA Officer for the Secretary of State

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Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo has recently completed his first trip to the Middle East as US Secretary of State. Perhaps not surprisingly as President Donald Trump appears prepared to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) limiting Iran’s nuclear program creating a possible casus belli, much of what Pompeo said was focused on what was alleged to be the growing regional threat posed by Iran both in conventional terms and due to its claimed desire to develop a nuclear weapon.

The Secretary of State met with heads of state or government as well as foreign ministers in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan during his trip. He did not meet with the Palestinians, who have cut off contact with the Trump Administration because they have “nothing to discuss” with it in the wake of the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

During his first stop in Riyadh, Pompeo told a beaming Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir that Iran has been supporting the “murderous” Bashar al-Assad government in Damascus while also arming Houthi rebels in Yemen. He noted that “Iran destabilizes the entire region. It is indeed the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world…”

In Israel, Pompeo stood side by side with an smiling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said, “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats to Israel and the region, and Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East remains. The United States is with Israel in this fight. And we strongly support Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself.”

At the last stop in Jordan, Pompeo returned to the “defend itself” theme, saying regarding Gaza that “We do believe the Israelis have a right to defend themselves and we are fully supportive of that.”

One hopes that discussions between Pompeo and his foreign interlocutors were more substantive than his somewhat laconic published comments. But given the comments themselves, it is depressing to consider that he was until recently Director of the CIA and was considered an intellectually brilliant congressman who graduated first in his class at West Point. One would hope to find him better informed.

Very little that surfaced in the admittedly whirlwind tour of the Middle East is fact-based. Starting with depicting Iran as a regional and even global threat, one can challenge the view that its moves in Yemen and Syria constitute any fundamental change in the balance of power in the region. Iranian support of Syria actually restores the balance by returning to the status quo ante where Syria had a united and stable government before the United States and others decided to intervene.

Israeli claims repeated by Washington that Iran is somehow building a “land bridge” to link it to the Mediterranean Sea are wildly overstated as they imply that somehow Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are willing to cede their sovereignty to an ally, an unlikely prospect to put it mildly. Likewise, the claim that Iran is seeking to “dominate the region” rings hollow as it does not have the wherewithal to do so either financially or militarily and many of its government’s actions are largely defensive in nature. The reality is that Israel and Saudi Arabia are the ones seeking regional dominance and are threatened because a locally powerful Iran is in their way.

Support by Tehran for Yemen’s Houthis is more fantasized than real with little actual evidence that Iran has been able to provide anything substantial in the way of arms. The Saudi massacre of 10,000 mostly Yemeni civilians and displacement of 3 million more being carried out from the air has been universally condemned with the sole exceptions of the US and Israel, which seem to share with Riyadh a unique interpretation of developments in that long-suffering land. The US has supplied the Saudis with weapons and intelligence to make their bombing attacks more effective, i.e. lethal.

Pompeo did not exactly endorse the ludicrous Israeli claim made by Benjamin Netanyahu last week that Iran has a secret weapons of mass destruction program currently in place, but he did come down against the JCPOA, echoing Trump in calling it a terrible agreement that will guarantee an Iranian nuclear weapon. The reality is quite different, with the pact basically eliminating a possible Iranian nuke for the foreseeable future through degradation of the country’s nuclear research, reduction of its existing nuclear stocks and repeated intrusive inspections. Israel meanwhile has a secret nuclear arsenal and is a non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty without any demur from the White House.

The Israeli-Pompeo construct assumes that Iran is singularly untrustworthy, an odd assertion coming from either Washington, Riyadh or Tel Aviv. It also basically rejects any kind of agreement with the Mullahs and is a path to war. It is interesting to note that the Pentagon together with all of America’s closest allies believe that the JCPOA should stay in place.

And then there is the claim that Iran is the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism. In reality that honor belongs to the United States and Israel with Iran often being the victim, most notably with the assassination of its scientists and technicians by Mossad agents. Israel has also been targeting and bombing Iranians in Syria, as has the United States, even though neither is at war with Iran and the Iranian militias in the country are cooperating with the Syrians and Russians to fight terrorist groups including ISIS as well as those affiliated with al-Qaeda. The US is actually empowering terrorists in Syria and along the Iraqi border while killing hundreds of thousands in its never-ending war on terror. Israel meanwhile has agreements with several extremist groups so they will not attack its occupied Golan Heights and also seeks to continue to destabilize the Syrians.

Pompeo also endorsed Israel’s “fight” against the Gazan demonstrators and pledged that America would stand beside its best friend. As of this point, Israel has used trained army snipers to kill forty-three unarmed protesting Palestinians. Another 5,000 have been injured, mostly by gunfire. No “threatened” Israelis have suffered so much as a broken fingernail and the border fence is both intact and has never been breached. Israel is committing what is very clearly a war crime and the United States Secretary of State is endorsing the slaughter of a defenseless people who are imprisoned in the world’s largest open-air concentration camp.

Donald Trump entered into office with great expectations, but if Mike Pompeo is truly outlining American foreign policy, then I and many other citizens don’t get it and we most definitely don’t want it.

*(Mike Pompeo meets with Israeli Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, April 2018. Image credit: US Embassy Tel Aviv/ flickr)

Reprinted with permission from American Herald Tribune.

Congress Again Fails to Discover Collusion to Subvert the 2016 Election

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There have been a number of developments in the endless inquiry into possible collusion between the Russian government and Donald Trump to manipulate perceptions and voting relating to the two presidential candidates in the November 2016 election. In particular, it has been alleged that the Russians were, with the connivance of some in the Trump team, able to obtain information damaging to Hillary Clinton while also misusing social media to send a message critical of the Democratic Party candidate.

“Russiagate” was born out of a desire to explain how Trump was able to defeat the Establishment candidate Clinton and it quickly focused on emails in possession of Wikileaks and meetings of Trump associates with Russians as a plausible explanation for the electoral result. The media opined that “It had to be the Russians,” who also had motive in their recognizing that Clinton was the stronger candidate whose harsh and steely glare was focused on the various crimes and misdemeanors alleged to be committed by Kremlin President Vladimir Putin in places like Ukraine and Georgia, not to mention Syria. Clinton’s campaign message was that she was prepared to do something about Putin while Trump was instead arguing that a good relationship with Moscow was a sine qua non for American foreign policy.

There are currently three investigations proceeding simultaneously looking into the Russian-Trump collusion, though one of them has finally come to an end. The House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee investigation has concluded that there was no evidence that there had been “collusion, conspiracy, or coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians” to influence or subvert the outcome of the election. The committee did, however, accept that there had been Russian “active measures” interference, apparently based largely on assumptions about WikiLeaks and the alleged activities of employees of Putin confidant Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency on social media sites.

However, no evidence was produced by the committee to support the claim of Kremlin interference, described as an influence campaign having “strategic objectives for disrupting the US election,” and it is to be presumed that the judgement is based on suspicions regarding Russian behavior as well as assessments produced by administrators of the social sites themselves which revealed sketchy and often contradictory evidence based on presumed political ads purchased by the various Russian entities. Even the US media admits that the Facebook ads had little or no real impact on the election while claims that Democratic Party emails were either hacked or stolen by Russian agents or proxies have never been demonstrated.

Nor is there any actual evidence in the Congressional report that anyone in the Kremlin was trying to help Donald J. Trump get elected and it is interesting to note that many of the allegations about insinuations of foreign involvement in the election can be traced back for former senior intelligence figures who were themselves active in the Clinton campaign.

The House judgment was immediately attacked by the media and also by the outnumbered Democrats on the committee, claiming that the “premature” decision to end the investigation was political, to bail out an under-pressure president, but no one has produced any evidence suggesting that the contacts between Russians and Americans, “ill-advised” as some of them were, led to any deliberate or incidental electoral malfeasance. The Democrats and their allies in the media merely assert that more digging and additional otherwise unidentified witnesses would have produced the desired result.

Meanwhile, the investigation continues at the offices of the Robert Mueller Special Counsel and also at the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has proportionately more Democrats on board than does the corresponding committee at the House of Representatives. Senator Mark Warner has already warned that the work of his committee will continue, presumably until their either find something or have to finally admit that there is nothing to find.

Concerning Mueller there are daily newspaper reports explaining how his noose is tightening around President Trump, though no one quite explains credibly how that is so. What is clear so far is that Donald Trump is a highly immoral man by most standards and that a lot of his friends, if not criminals, were engaged in activity that might easily be described as sleazy. But sleazy does not exactly equate to a deliberate attempt to fix a national election and subvert the Constitution of the United States of America.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

How False Flag Operations Are Carried Out Today

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False Flag is a concept that goes back centuries. It was considered to be a legitimate ploy by the Greeks and Romans, where a military force would pretend to be friendly to get close to an enemy before dropping the pretense and raising its banners to reveal its own affiliation just before launching an attack. In the sea battles of the eighteenth century among Spain, France and Britain hoisting an enemy flag instead of one’s own to confuse the opponent was considered to be a legitimate ruse de guerre, but it was only “honorable” if one reverted to one’s own flag before engaging in combat.

Today’s false flag operations are generally carried out by intelligence agencies and non-government actors including terrorist groups, but they are only considered successful if the true attribution of an action remains secret. There is nothing honorable about them as their intention is to blame an innocent party for something that it did not do. There has been a lot of such activity lately and it was interesting to learn by way of a leak that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has developed a capability to mimic the internet fingerprints of other foreign intelligence services. That means that when the media is trumpeting news reports that the Russians or Chinese hacked into U.S. government websites or the sites of major corporations, it could actually have been the CIA carrying out the intrusion and making it look like it originated in Moscow or Beijing. Given that capability, there has been considerable speculation in the alternative media that it was actually the CIA that interfered in the 2016 national elections in the United States.

False flags can be involved in other sorts of activity as well. The past year’s two major alleged chemical attacks carried out against Syrian civilians that resulted in President Donald Trump and associates launching 160 cruise missiles are pretty clearly false flag operations carried out by the rebels and terrorist groups that controlled the affected areas at the time. The most recent reported attack on April 7th might not have occurred at all according to doctors and other witnesses who were actually in Douma. Because the rebels succeeded in convincing much of the world that the Syrian government had carried out the attacks, one might consider their false flag efforts to have been extremely successful.

The remedy against false flag operations such as the recent one in Syria is, of course, to avoid taking the bait and instead waiting until a thorough and objective inspection of the evidence has taken place. The United States, Britain and France did not do that, preferring instead to respond to hysterical press reports by “doing something.” If the U.N. investigation of the alleged attack turns up nothing, a distinct possibility, it is unlikely that they will apologize for having committed a war crime.

The other major false flag that has recently surfaced is the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury England on March 4th. Russia had no credible motive to carry out the attack and had, in fact, good reasons not to do so. The allegations made by British Prime Minister Theresa May about the claimed nerve agent being “very likely” Russian in origin have been debunked, in part through examination by the U.K.’s own chemical weapons lab. May, under attack even within her own party, needed a good story and a powerful enemy to solidify her own hold on power so false flagging something to Russia probably appeared to be just the ticket as Moscow would hardly be able to deny the “facts” being invented in London. Unfortunately, May proved wrong and the debate ignited over her actions, which included the expulsion of twenty-three Russian diplomats, has done her severe damage. Few now believe that Russia actually carried out the poisoning and there is a growing body of opinion suggesting that it was actually a false flag executed by the British government or even by the CIA.

The lesson that should be learned from Syria and Skripal is that if “an incident” looks like it has no obvious motive behind it, there is a high probability that it is a false flag. A bit of caution in assigning blame is appropriate given that the alternative would be a precipitate and likely disproportionate response that could easily escalate into a shooting war. 

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Scarier Than John Bolton? Think of Nikki Haley for President!

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The musical chairs playing out among the senior officials that make up the President Donald Trump White House team would be amusing to watch but for the genuine damage that it is doing to the United States. The lack of any coherence in policy means that the State Department now has diplomats that do not believe in diplomacy and environment agency heads that do not believe in protecting the environment. It also means that well-funded and disciplined lobbies and pressure groups are having a field day, befuddling ignorant administrators with their “fact sheets” and successfully promoting policies that benefit no one but themselves.

In the Trumpean world of all-the-time-stupid, there is, however, one individual who stands out for her complete inability to perceive anything beyond threats of unrelenting violence combined with adherence to policies that have already proven to be catastrophic. That person is our own Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who surfaced in the news lately after she unilaterally and evidently prematurely announced sanctions on Russia. When the White House suggested that she might have been “confused” she responded that “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” This ignited a firestorm among the Trump haters, lauding Haley as a strong and self-confident woman for standing up to the White House male bullies while also suggesting that the hapless Administration had not bothered to inform one of its senior diplomats of a policy change. It also produced a flurry of Haley for higher office tweets based on what was described as her “brilliant riposte” to the president.

One over-the-top bit of effusion from a former Haley aide even suggested that her “deft rebuttal” emphasizes her qualities, enthusing that “What distinguishes her from the star-struck sycophants in the White House is that she understands the intersection of strong leadership and public service, where great things happen” and placing her on what is being promoted as the short list of future presidential candidates.

For sure, neocon barking dog Bill Kristol has for years been promoting Haley for president, a sign that something is up as he was previously the one who “discovered” Sarah Palin. Indeed, the similarities between the two women are readily observable. Neither is very cerebral or much given to make any attempt to understand an adversary’s point of view; both are reflexively aggressive and dismissive when dealing with foreigners and domestic critics; both are passionately anti-Russian and pro-Israeli. And Kristol is not alone in his advocacy. Haley regularly receives praise from Senators like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and from the Murdoch media as well as in the opinion pages of National Review and The Weekly Standard.

The greater problem right now is that Nikki Haley is America’s face to the international community, even more than the Secretary of State. She has used her bully pulpit to do just that, i.e. bully, and she is ugly America personified, having apparently decided that something called American Exceptionalism gives her license to say and do whatever she wants at the United Nations. In her mind, the United States can do what it wants globally because it has a God-given right to do so, a viewpoint that doesn’t go down well with many countries that believe that they have a legal and moral right to be left alone and remain exempt from America’s all too frequent military interventions.

Nikki Haley sees things differently, however. During her 15 months at the United Nations she has been instrumental in cutting funding for programs that she disapproves of and has repeatedly threatened military action against countries that disagree with US policies. Most recently, in the wake of the US cruise missile attack against Syria, she announced that the action was potentially only the first step. She declared that Washington was “locked and loaded,” prepared to exercise more lethal military options if Syria and its Russian and Iranian supporters did not cease and desist from the use of chemical weapons. Ironically, the cruise missile attack was carried out even though the White House had no clue as to what had actually happened and it now turns out that the entire story, spread by the terrorist groups in Syria and their mouthpieces, has begun to unravel. Will Nikki Haley apologize? I would suspect that if she doesn’t do confusion she doesn’t do apologies either.

Haley, who had no foreign policy experience of any kind prior to assuming office, relies on a gaggle of neoconservative foreign-policy “experts” to help shape her public utterances, which are often not cleared with the State Department, where she is at least nominally employed. Her speechwriter is Jessica Gavora, who is the wife of the leading neoconservative journalist Jonah Goldberg. Unfortunately, being a neocon mouthpiece makes her particularly dangerous as she is holding a position where she can do bad things. She has been shooting from the lip since she assumed office with only minimal vetting by the Trump Administration, and, as in the recent imbroglio over her “confusion,” it is never quite clear whether she is speaking for herself or for the White House.

Haley has her own foreign policy. She has declared that Russia “is not, will not be our friend” and has lately described the Russians as having their hands covered with the blood of Syrian children. From the start of her time at the U.N., Haley has made it clear that she is neoconservatism personified and she has done nothing since to change that impression. In December 2017 she warned the U.N. that she was “taking names” and threatened retaliation against any country that was so “disrespectful” as to dare to vote against Washington’s disastrous recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which she also helped to bring about.

As governor of South Carolina, Haley first became identified as an unquestioningsupporter of Israel through her signing of a bill punishing supporters of the nonviolent pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the first legislation of its kind on a state level. Immediately upon taking office at the United Nations she complained that “nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel” and vowed that the “days of Israel bashing are over.” On a recent visit to Israel, she was feted and honored by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She was also greeted by rounds of applause and cheering when she spoke at the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March, saying “When I come to AIPAC I am with friends.”

Nikki Haley’s embrace of Israeli points of view is unrelenting and serves no American interest. If she were a recruited agent of influence for the Israeli Mossad she could not be more cooperative than she apparently is voluntarily. In February 2017, she blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a diplomatic position at the United Nations because he is a Palestinian. In a congressional hearing she was asked about the decision: “Is it this administration’s position that support for Israel and support for the appointment of a well-qualified individual of Palestinian nationality to an appointment at the U.N. are mutually exclusive?” Haley responded yes, that the administration is “supporting Israel” by blocking every Palestinian.

Haley is particularly highly critical of both Syria and Iran, reflecting the Israeli bias. She has repeatedly said that regime change in Damascus is a Trump administration priority, even when the White House was saying something different. She has elaborated on an Administration warning that it had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime” by tweeting“…further attacks will be blamed on Assad but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.” At one point, Haley warned “We need to see Russia choose to side with the civilized world over an Assad government that brutally terrorizes its own people.”

At various U.N. meetings, though Haley has repeatedly and uncritically complained of institutional bias towards Israel, she has never addressed the issue that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians might in part be responsible for the criticism leveled against it. Her description of Israel as a “close ally” is hyperbolic and she tends to be oblivious to actual American interests in the region when Israel is involved. She has never challenged the Israeli occupation of the West Bank as well as the recent large expansion of settlements, which are at least nominally opposed by the State Department and White House. Nor has she spoken up about the more recent shooting of three thousand unarmed Gazan demonstrators by Israeli Army sharpshooters, which is a war crime.

Haley’s hardline on Syria reflects the Israeli bias, and her consistent hostility to Russia is a neoconservative position. A White House warning that it had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime led to a Haley elaboration in a tweet that “…further attacks will be blamed on Assad but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.” Earlier, on April 12, 2017 after Russia blocked a draft U.N. resolution intended to condemn the alleged Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, which subsequently turned out to be a false flag,Haley said, “We need to see Russia choose to side with the civilized world over an Assad government that brutally terrorizes its own people.”

Haley is particularly critical of Iran, which she sees as the instigator of much of the unrest in the Middle East, again reflecting the Israeli and neocon viewpoints. She claimed on April 20, 2017 during her first session as president of the U.N. Security Council, that Iran and Hezbollah had “conducted terrorist acts” for decades within the Middle East, ignoring the more serious terrorism support engaged in by US regional allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar. She stated in June 2017 that the Security Council’s praise of the Iran Nuclear Agreement honored a state that has engaged in “illicit missile launches,” “support for terrorist groups,” and “arms smuggling,” while “stok[ing] regional conflicts and mak[ing] them harder to solve.” All are perspectives that might easily be challenged.

So, Nikki Haley very much comes across as the neoconservatives’ dream ambassador to the United Nations–full of aggression, a staunch supporter of Israel, and assertive of Washington’s preemptive right to set standards for the rest of the world. And there is every reason to believe that she would nurture the same views if she were to become the neocon dream president. Bearing the flag for American Exceptionalism does not necessarily make her very good for the rest of us, who will have to bear the burdens and risks implicit in her imperial hubris, but, as the neoconservatives never feel compelled to admit that they were wrong, one suspects that Haley’s assertion that she does not do confusion is only the beginning if she succeeds in her apparent quest for the highest office in the land. Worse than John Bolton? Absolutely.

Reprinted with permission from Unz Review.

The Mainstream Media Fueled Military Action in Syria and Reprisals against Russia over the Skripals

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The complicity of America’s Fourth Estate in the evolution of the national security warfare state is often mentioned in passing but rarely analyzed in any detail. But a recent article on Lobe Log by Adam Johnson is refreshing in that it does just that, looking at the editorials in 26 leading newspapers relating to the April 13th strike against Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons. All of the papers supported the attack in the belief that Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies had done something wrong and had to be punished. Some of the endorsements went well beyond the actual strike itself, urging the White House to do more. The article quotes the Toledo Blade’s assertion that:
Make no mistake, this was a warning to Vladimir Putin as well as Bashar al-Assad. The United States and its two longtime allies redrew the red line that had been obliterated by a failure of nerve by the US and the West generally: There will be cost for your barbarities…. But in the larger sense, the West did what it should have done a long time ago. It stood up for decency and international law. It stood up for those who are defenseless. It stood up for itself, and for simple humanity, and redeemed some self-respect.
Another recent editorial intended to stir up hysteria about perfidious Moscow appeared in theNew York Times on March 12th. It was entitled Vladimir Putin’s Toxic Reach. It said in part:
The attack on the former spy, Sergei Skripal, who worked for British intelligence, and his daughter Yulia, in which a police officer who responded was also poisoned, was no simple hit job. Like the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, another British informant, who was poisoned with radioactive polonium 210, the attack on Mr. Skripal was intended to be as horrific, frightening and public as possible. It clearly had the blessing of President Vladimir Putin, who had faced little pushback from Britain in the Litvinenko case. The blame has been made clearer this time and this attack on a NATO ally needs a powerful response both from that organization and, perhaps more important, by the United States.
These two stories and the many others like them have something in common, which is that they were written without any evident “fact checking” and subsequently have proven to be largely incorrect in terms of their assumptions about Russian and Syrian behavior. They also share a belief that the United States and its allies can both establish and enforce standards for the rest of the world. In these cases, the stakes were very high as there was an assumption that it could be appropriate to risk going to war with a powerful nuclear armed government based on incidents that did not in any way impact upon American or British national security.

Regarding Syria, the first wave of “reporting” on the alleged gassing came from sources linked to the terrorist group that was under attack, Jaish el-Islam. This included the so-called White Helmets, who have been outed and exposed as a virtual PR outfit for those one might call the head-choppers. More recently, with government control reestablished over the Douma neighborhood where the reported deaths took place, independent journalists including the redoubtable Robert Fisk, no friend of the al-Assad “regime,” have been entering and discovering that there appears to be no evidence that a gas attack even took place.

Skeptics examining the incident from the beginning noted that the Syrian government had every reason to avoid a provocation in its rollup of the remaining rebel pockets near Damascus while the so-called rebels would have been highly motivated to stage a false flag attack to bring in outside forces in support of their cause. If there was a chemical attack of any kind, it almost surely originated with the terrorists.

Even assuming that the United States was acting in good faith when it attacked Syrian “chemical sites” believing that the al-Assad “regime” had actually used such weapons, one should also assume, given the time frame and lack of definitive intelligence resources, that the decision was based on an assessment that relied on limited information coming from sources hostile to Damascus as well as White House perceptions of persistent bad behavior by the Syrian government.

So a poorly informed Washington clearly went to war without exactly knowing why. As the story continues to unravel, there will, however, be no apologies forthcoming either from the White House or the national media, both of which got it so wrong. The mainstream media never even questioned whether Trump should bomb the Syrian “regime” at all, instead merely debating exactly how much punishment he should inflict.

To their credit, the British public and some former senior officials are beginning to ask questions about Syria through a reluctant media filter and opposition leader in Parliament Jeremy Corbyn has refused to be silenced. Similarly, the story of the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury has also begun to come apart. Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray has detailed how the narrative was cooked by “liars” in the government to make it look as if the poisoning had a uniquely Russian fingerprint. Meanwhile U.S. investigative reported Gareth Porter sums up the actual evidence or lack thereof, for Russian involvement, suggesting that the entire affair was “based on politically-motivated speculation rather than actual intelligence.”

Here in the United States the mainstream media, which has supported every war since 9/11, has yet to account for its deliberately slanted reporting that has fueled both military action in Syria and reprisals against Russia over the Skripals. Unfortunately, the resulting actions undertaken by the United States and Britain have not been consequence free. The attack on Syria, given the fact that Damascus in no way threatened either the US or UK, was a war crime under international law. The mass expulsions of Russian officials over the Skripals affair has produced a diplomatic chill not unlike the Cold War, or perhaps even worse, with American UN Ambassador Nikki Haley declaring that the White House is “locked and loaded” if Syria should again step out of line. One might ask Haley what is to be done when Washington steps out of line? It would be interesting to hear her answer.

Reprinted with permission from American Herald Tribune.

Why Each US President Ends Up As Ruthless Interventionist These Days

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In the wake of last week’s cruise missile attack on Syria, there was a joke going around the internet saying that it doesn’t matter who Americans vote for, they always wind up getting John McCain as President of the United States. The humor derives from the fact that the past three presidents all ran for office committed to reducing America’s interventionism overseas but once in office they reversed course and expanded US military commitments worldwide, turning them into facsimiles of John McCain, who has never seen a war he didn’t like.

President Donald Trump’s explicit pledges to avoid expanded engagement in Asia and the Middle East while also fixing the relationship with Russia are by now lost down the memory hole as he has increased troop levels in Afghanistan while, by his own admission, the relationship with Moscow is now even worse than it was during the Cold War. And regarding Syria, his Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Halley has confirmed that the US military will not be going anywhere because certain goals have to be met first. One objective, monitoring developments relating to Iran, is open-ended, implying that it will be impossible to leave for the foreseeable future and suggesting that another Afghanistan-style quagmire is in the making.

Pundits see the process whereby all new presidents turn into hawks as evidence of the pervasiveness of the Deep State in US foreign policy, but as the Deep State operates largely in the open in the United States, it might also be referred to as the Establishment consensus. The persistence of the Establishment view in what has become increasingly a national security state is largely due to the fact that there is little pushback against it. The media is fully on board and Congress, which should be serving as a brake on presumed presidential prerogatives to go to war, benefits substantially from the bloated budgets and other emoluments that derive from American imperialism. Defense and related budgets grow in spite of the lack of any real threat and the public is fed a steady diet of fear by the media and government regarding fabricated threats to US national security.

The combination of government and media lies renders most Americans completely ignorant about what is going in in Syria. First of all, the United States and its allies, who are occupying nearly one quarter of the country, are in Syria illegally. Under international law, attacking and occupying a country that is not directly threatening you without any justifying United Nations Security Council resolution is illegal. It is also a war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Trials that followed after the Second World War, which ruled that a war of aggression is the “ultimate war crime” as it inevitably leads to many other crimes. So the United States is undeniably an unindicted war criminal.

That the United States has not been indicted or brought to justice for its crimes is largely due to its political and military power, which few nations choose to challenge, but also because it is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and is able to veto resolutions criticizing it. There have been numerous motions condemning American behavior, but none of them have made it out of the Security Council. This is not a confirmation of US innocence but rather a result of the politics that operate at the United Nations.

The United States is also in violation of international law because it remains in Syria without the permission of the recognized and legitimate Syrian government. Iranian forces and those of Russia are present on the invitation of Damascus. The United States is not. The US has also been illegally working to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government, acting in collusion with groups of so-called rebels, some of whom are actually drawn from internationally recognized terrorist groups, violating its own laws regarding providing material assistance to terrorism.

Establishment politics has meant that the United States is now a rogue nation defined by its propensity to go to war. America’s bombing of Syria is illegal, immoral, ineffective and dishonest. It is past time for the United States to pull out its troops and leave the Syrians alone. Americans killing Syrians while hypocritically claiming that it is done to stop Syrians from killing each other is a recipe for disaster.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.