All posts by Philip Giraldi

The Death of Privacy: Government Fearmongers to Read Your Mail

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It is discouraging to note just how the United States has been taking on the attributes of a police state since 9/11. Stories of police raids on people’s homes gone wrong are frequently in the news. In one recent incident, a heavily armed SWAT team was sent to a St. Louis county home. The armed officers entered the building without knocking, shot the family dog and forced the family members to kneel on the floor where they were able to watch their pet struggle and then die. The policemen then informed the family that they were there over failure to pay the gas bill. Animal rights groups report that the shooting of pets by police has become routine in many jurisdictions because the officers claim that they feel threatened.

Indeed, any encounter with any police at any level has now become dangerous. Once upon a time it was possible to argue with an officer over the justification for a traffic ticket, but that is no longer the case. You have to sit with your hands clearly visible on the steering wheel while answering “Yes sir!” to anything the cop says. There have been numerous incidents where the uncooperative driver is ordered to get out of the car and winds up being tasered or shot.

Courts consistently side with police officers and with the government when individual rights are violated while the Constitution of the United States itself has even been publicly described by the president as “archaic” and “a bad thing for the country.” The National Security Agency (NSA) routinely and illegally collects emails and phone calls made by citizens who have done nothing wrong and the government even denies to Americans the right to travel to countries that it disapproves of, most recently Cuba.

And traveling itself has become an unpleasant experience even before one sits down in the 17 inches of seat-space offered by major airlines, with the gropers of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) acting as judge, jury and executioner for travelers who have become confused by the constantly changing rules about what they can do and carry with them. The TSA is now routinely“examining” the phones and laptops of travelers and even downloading the information on them, all without a warrant or probable cause. And the TSA even has a “little list” that identifies travelers who are uncooperative and flags them for special harassment.

Congress is considering bills that will make criticism of Israel a crime, establishing a precedent that will end freedom of speech, and the impending prosecution and imprisonment of Julian Assange for espionage will be the death of a truly free press. Americans are no longer guaranteed a trial by jury and can be held indefinitely by military tribunals without charges. Under George W. Bush torture and rendition were institutionalized while Barack Obama initiated the practice of executing US citizens overseas by drone if they were deemed to be a “threat.” There was no legal process involved and “kill” lists were updated every Tuesday morning. And perhaps the greatest crimes of all, both Obama and George W. Bush did not hesitate to bomb foreigners, bring about regime change, and start wars illegally in Asia and Africa.

The latest assault on civil liberties relates to what used to be referred to as privacy. Indeed, the United States government does not recognize that citizens have a right to privacy. Officials in the national security and intelligence agencies have reportedly become concerned that some new encryption systems being used for email traffic and telephones have impeded government monitoring of what information is being exchanged. As is often the case, “terrorism” is the principal reason being cited for the need to read and listen to the communications of ordinary citizens, but it should be observed in passing that more people in the US are killed annually by falling furniture than by acts of terror. It should also be noted that the federal, state and local governments as well as private companies spend well in excess of a trillion dollars every year to fight the terrorism threat, most of which is completely unnecessary or even counter-productive.

At the end of June senior Trump Administration officials connected to the National Security Council met to discuss what to do about the increasing use of the effective encryption systems by both the public and by some internet service providers, including Apple, Google and Facebook. Particular concern was expressed regarding systems that cannot be broken by NSA at all even if maximum resources using the Agency’s computers are committed to the task. It is a condition referred to by the government agencies as “going dark.”

Under discussion was a proposal to go to Congress and to ask for a law either forbidding so-called end-to-end encryption or mandating a technological fix enabling the government to circumvent it. End-to-end encryption, which scrambles a message so that it is only readable by the sender and recipient, was developed originally as a security feature for iPhones in the wake of the whistleblower Edward Snowden’s exposure of the extent to which NSA was surveilling US citizens. End-to-end makes most communications impossible to hack. From the law enforcement point of view, the alternative to a new law banning or requiring circumvention of the feature would be a major and sustained effort to enable government agencies to break the encryption, something that may not even be possible.

In the past, government snooping was enabled by some of the communications providers themselves, with companies like AT&T engineering in so-called “backdoor” access to their servers and distribution centers, where messages could be read directly and phone calls recorded. But the end-to-end encryption negates that option by sending a message out on the ethernet that is unreadable.

Phone security was last in the news in the wake of the 2015 San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack that killed 14, where the Department of Justice took Apple to court to access a locked iPhone belonging to one of the gunmen. Apple refused to create software to open the phone but the FBI was able to find a technician who could do so and the case was dropped, resulting in no definitive legal precedent on the government’s ability to force a private company to comply with its demands.

There is apparently little desire in Congress to take up the encryption issue, though the National Security Council, headed by John Bolton, clearly would like to empower government law enforcement and intelligence agencies by banning unbreakable encryption completely. It is, however, possibly something that can be achieved through an Executive Order from the president. If it comes about that way, FBI, CIA and NSA will be pleased and will have easy access to all one’s emails and phone calls. But the price to be paid is that once the security standards are lowered anyone else with minimal technical resources will be able to do the same, be they hackers or criminals. As usual, a disconnected and tone-deaf government’s perceived need “to keep you safe” will result in a loss of fundamental liberty that, once it is gone, will never be recovered.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Goodbye Dollar, It Was Nice Knowing You!

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Over the past two years, the White House has initiated trade disputes, insulted allies and enemies alike, and withdrawn from or refused to ratify multinational treaties and agreements. It has also expanded the reach of its unilaterally imposed rules, forcing other nations to abide by its demands or face economic sanctions. While the stated Trump Administration intention has been to enter into new arrangements more favorable to the United States, the end result has been quite different, creating a broad consensus within the international community that Washington is unstable, not a reliable partner and cannot be trusted. This sentiment has, in turn, resulted in conversations among foreign governments regarding how to circumvent the American banking system, which is the primary offensive weapon apart from dropping bombs that Washington has to force compliance with its dictates.

Consequently, there has been considerable blowback from the Make America Great Again campaign, particularly as the flip side of the coin appears to be that the “greatness” will be obtained by making everyone else less great. The only country in the world that currently regards the United States favorably is Israel, which certainly has good reason to do so given the largesse that has come from the Trump Administration. Everyone else is keen to get out from under the American heel.

Well the worm has finally turned, maybe. Even the feckless Angela Merkel’s Germany now understands that national interests must prevail when the United States is demanding that it do the unspeakable. At the recently concluded G20 meeting in Tokyo Britain, France and Germany announced that the special trade mechanism that they have been working on this year is now up and running. It is called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (Instex) and it will permit companies in Europe to do business with countries like Iran, avoiding American sanctions by trading outside the SWIFT system, which is dollar denominated and de facto controlled by the US Treasury.

The significance of the European move cannot be understated. It is the first major step in moving away from the dominance of the dollar as the world’s trading and reserve currency. As is often the case, the damage to US perceived interests is self-inflicted. There has been talk for years regarding setting up trade mechanisms that would not be dollar based, but they did not gain any momentum until the Trump Administration abruptly withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran over a year ago.

There were other signatories to the JCPOA, all of whom were angered by the White House move, because they believed correctly that it was a good agreement, preventing Iranian development of a nuclear weapon while also easing tensions in the Middle East. Major European powers Germany, France and Great Britain, as well as Russia and China, were all signatories and the agreement was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. The US withdrawal in an attempt to destroy the “plan of action” was therefore viewed extremely negatively by all the other signatories and their anger increased when Washington declared that it would reinstate sanctions on Iran and also use secondary sanctions to punish any third party that did not comply with the restrictions on trade.

Instex is an upgrade of a previous “Special Purpose Vehicle” set up by the Europeans a year ago to permit trading with Iran without any actual money transfers, something like a barter system based on balancing payments by value. The announcement regarding Instex came as a result of last week’s meeting in Vienna in which the JCPOA signatories minus the US got together with Iranian ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, who called the gathering “the last chance for the remaining parties…to gather and see how they can meet their commitments towards Iran.”

Iran is quietly pleased by the development, even though there are critics of the arrangement and the government is officially declaring that Instex is not enough and it will proceed with plans to increase its uranium production. This produced an immediate response from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week speaking in New Delhi “If there is conflict, if there is war, if there is a kinetic activity, it will be because the Iranians made that choice.” Nevertheless, Instex could possibly be a model for mechanisms that will allow Iran to sell its oil without hindrance from Washington. But a sharp reaction from the White House is expected. While Instex was in the development phase, US observers noted that the Iranian Special Trade and Finance Instrument, that will do the actual trading, includes government agencies that are already under US sanctions. That likely means that Washington will resort to secondary sanctions on the Europeans, a move that will definitely make the bilateral relationship even more poisonous than it already is. A global trade war is a distinct possibility and, as observed above, the abandonment of the dollar as the international reserve currency is a possible consequence.

Trump has already been “threatening penalties against the financial body created by Germany, the U.K. and France to shield trade with the Islamic Republic from US sanctions.” The Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Israeli Sigal Mandelker, warned in a May 7th letter that “I urge you to carefully consider the potential sanctions exposure of Instex. Engaging in activities that run afoul of US sanctions can result in severe consequences, including a loss of access to the US financial system.”

Indeed, the White House appears to be willing to engage in economic warfare with Europe over the issue of punishing Iran. The Treasury Department issued a statement regarding the Mandelker letter, saying “entities that transact in trade with the Iranian regime through any means may expose themselves to considerable sanctions risk, and Treasury intends to aggressively enforce our authorities.” Mike Pompeo also was explicit during a visit to London on May 8th when he stated that “…it doesn’t matter what vehicle’s out there, if the transaction is sanctionable, we will evaluate it, review it, and if appropriate, levy sanctions against those that were involved in that transaction. It’s very straightforward.”

It is perhaps not unreasonable to wish the Europeans success, as they are supporting free trade while also registering their opposition to the White House’s bullying tactics using the world financial system. And if the dollar ceases to be the world’s trade and reserve currency, what of it? It would mean that the Treasury might have to cease printing surplus dollars and the US ability to establish global hegemony on a credit card might well be impeded. Those would be good results and one might also hope that some day soon the United States might once again become a normal country that Americans would be proud to call home.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

June Madness Strikes Washington. Iranians, Russians and Britons Beware!

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It has been a lively June so far in light of Washington’s apparent zeal to remake the world in its own image. There is considerable buzz among those networking in ex- or current government circles that the White House is preparing to “do something” about Iran. The recent incidents involving alleged attacks on Norwegian and Japanese tankers in the Gulf of Oman were immediately attributed to Iran by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with so little regard for evidence that even the compliant American media was left gasping. In its initial coverage of the story The New York Times inevitably echoed the administration’s claims, but if one went to the readers’ comments on the story fully 90 percent of those bothering to express an opinion decided that the tale was not credible for any number of reasons.

Several commenters brought up the completely phony Gulf of Tonkin incident of 1964 that led to the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam, a view that was expressed frequently in readers’ comments both in the mainstream and alternative media. Others recalled instead the fake intelligence linking Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 conspirators as well as the bogus reports of an Iraqi secret nuclear program and huge gliders capable to delivering biological weapons across the Atlantic Ocean.

There were a number of questionable aspects to the Pompeo story, most notably the unlikelihood that Iran would attack a Japanese ship while the Japanese Prime Minister was in Tehran paying a visit. The attack itself, attributed to Iranian mines, also did not match the damage to the vessels, which was well above the water line, a detail that was noted by the Japanese ship captain among others. Crewmen on the ship also reportedly saw flying objects, which suggests missiles or other projectiles were to blame, fired by almost anyone in the area. And then there is the question of motive: the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates all want a war with Iran while the Iranians are trying to avoid a B-52 attack, so why would they do something that would virtually guarantee a devastating response from Washington?

What is going on with Iran is certainly front-page material but there are two other stories confirming that brain-dead flesh-eating zombies have somehow gained control of the White House. The first comes from David Sanger of The New York Times, who reported last week that the United States had inserted malware into the Russian electrical grid to serve as both a warning and a possible response mechanism should the Kremlin continue with its cyberwarfare ways.

The astonishing thing about the story is the casual way it is presented because, after all, inserting malware into someone’s electrical grid might well be considered an act of war. The White House responded to the story with a tweet from the president claiming that “This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country…” though he did not state that the account was untrue. In fact, if it was actually treason, that would suggest that the news article was accurate in its description of what must be a Top Secret program. But then Trump or one of his advisors realized the omission and a second tweet soon followed: “…..ALSO, NOT TRUE!”

Assuming that Sanger did his job right and the story is actually correct, a number of aspects of it might be considered. First, interfering with a country’s electrical grid, upon which so many elements of infrastructure depend, is extremely reckless behavior, particularly when the activity has been leaked and exposed in a newspaper. Sanger explained the genesis of his story, revealing that he had been working at it for several months. He wrote:
The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia’s grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow’s disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections. Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.
The Sanger story elaborates:
Since at least 2012, current and former officials say, the United States has put reconnaissance probes into the control systems of the Russian electric grid. But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before. It is intended partly as a warning, and partly to be poised to conduct cyberstrikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow. The commander of United States Cyber Command, Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, has been outspoken about the need to ‘defend forward’ deep in an adversary’s networks to demonstrate that the United States will respond to the barrage of online attacks aimed at it. President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the United States was taking a broader view of potential digital targets as part of an effort to warn anybody ‘engaged in cyberoperations against us.’ ‘They don’t fear us,’ he told the Senate a year ago during his confirmation hearings.
If the Sanger tale is true, and it certainly does include a great deal of corroborative information, then the United States has already entered into a tit-for-tat situation with Russia targeting power grids, largely initiated to “make them fear us.” One might suggest that the two countries are already at war. That is in no one’s interest and the signals it sends could lead to a major escalation very rapidly. Interestingly, the article states that President Donald Trump does not know about the program even though it could potentially lead to World War 3. That the piece appeared at all also inevitably makes some readers wonder why Sanger has not been arrested for exposing national security information a la Julian Assange.

The final story dates from early June when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was privately meeting with American Jewish leaders who expressed concern about the possibility that British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn might become prime minister. Corbyn has been targeted by British Jews because he is the first U.K. senior politician to speak sympathetically about the plight of the Palestinians.

Pompeo was asked if Corbyn “is elected, would you be willing to work with us to take on action if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the U.K.?” He replied: “It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

There are certain ambiguities in both the question and the response, but it would appear that American Jews want to join with their British counterparts to either bring down or contain a top-level elected politician because he is not sufficiently pro-Israel. The American Secretary of State agrees with them that something must be done, to include quite possibly taking some presumably covert steps to make sure that Corbyn does not become prime minister in the first place. As Pompeo might just be thinking of subverting the institutions of America’s closest ally, it is a huge story that is being largely ignored in the media.

And June is not over yet! The good news is that the United States has not yet invaded Venezuela despite calls by America’s boy-Senator Marco Rubio and the demented Senator Lindsey Graham to do so.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

False Identities Become the New Weapon: War with Iran Promoted by Fake Journalists

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*(MEK members working in the ‘Twitter troll factory’ in Manez Camp, Albania)

One of the claims made about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election was that Kremlin-controlled entities were using fake identities to create dissension and confusion on social network sites. This should surprise no one, if it is true, as intelligence operatives have been using false names since Sumerian times.

The concern over fake identities no doubt comes from the deception involved, meaning that if you are dealing with a real person you at least have some handle on making as assessment of what something means and what is likely to occur. A false persona, however, can pretend to be anything and can advocate or do something without any yardstick to measure what is actually taking place. In other words, if Mike Pompeo says something you know that he is a liar and can judge his words accordingly but if it is someone otherwise unknown named Qwert Uiop you have to wonder if he or she just might be telling the truth. You might even give them the benefit of the doubt.

A prime example of a false internet persona has recently surfaced in the form of an alleged “activist” invented by the Iranian terrorist group Mojahedin e Khalq (MEK). MEK is a curious hybrid creature in any event in that it pretends to be an alternative government option for Iran even though it is despised by nearly all Iranians. At the same time, it is greatly loved by the Washington Establishment which would like to see the Mullahs deposed and replaced by something more amenable to western and Israeli worldviews.

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

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

MEK’s fake journalist, who has recently been exposed by The Intercept, is named Heshmat Alavi. He, or if you prefer “it,” has very successfully gained access to a considerable body of generally conservative mainstream western media, including ForbesThe Hill, the Daily Beast and The Federalist. Alavi has placed scores of articles as “an activist with a passion for human rights,” aimed at discrediting Iran and its government while also subtly praising MEK as an alternative to the current regime. His bona fides have never been questioned, even by Forbes, which placed no less than 61 articles under the name between April 2017 and April 2018. The pieces appearing allegedly by Alavi are reportedly composed at a “troll factory” as a so-called “group account” in Albania where MEK members who belong to the organization’s “political wing” toil under tight security.

Alavi’s contribution to the damning of Iran has not been insignificant. An article written by him/it that appeared in Forbes claiming that the Mullahs had been able to increase their military budget due to having money freed up by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement. The article reached the White House and reportedly helped convince the Trump Administration to withdraw from the pact.

To supplement the Alavi propaganda effort, MEK’s Albania operation uses banks of computers manned by followers, some of whom are fluent in English, who serve as bots unleashing scores of comments supporting regime change in Iran while also directing waves of criticism against any pro-Iranian pieces that appear on social media, to include Facebook and Twitter. By one account,more than a thousand MEK supporters manage thousands of accounts on social media simultaneously. The objective of all the chatter is to convince the mostly English-speaking audience that there is a large body of Iranians who are hostile to the regime and supportive of MEK as a replacement.

While the Iranian government and MEK might well be regarded by most Americans as a far-away problem, there was considerable shock expressed even by congress and the media when it was learned shortly before The Intercept’s revelations that the United States government had been funding a so-called Iran Disinformation Project that was employing tactics remarkably similar to those of MEK in an attempt to control the discussion over Iran policy. 
The project, run by the State Department’s global engagement center, consisted of a trolling campaign which targeted online American citizens critical of the government’s Iran policy, labeling them as disloyal to the United States and tools of the Iranian government. It used, for example, the website IranDisInfo.org and the hashtag #NIACLobbies4Mullahs. Iranian-American activist and long-time State Department contractor Mariam Memarsadeghi headed the program, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to “relentlessly attack critics of the Iran policy on social media…accusing them of being paid operatives of the regime in Tehran.” In all, the “Iran Disinfo” operation received over $1.5 million through the Memarsadeghi contract entity the oddly named E-Collaborative for Civic Education.
The investigation of Iran Disinfo also revealed that the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which has been leading the charge for war with Iran, had at least one employee working with E-Collaborative. FDD, which has been advising the Trump White House on a more aggressive policy towards Iran, has also been actively involved in the State Department effort and cross-posting material from the Disinfo campaign.

FDD has long been targeting Iran. It received $3.63 million in 2017 from Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot. Marcus is a hard-core Zionist who hates Iran and once referred to that nation as “the devil.” FDD has also received billions from Las Vegas casino mega billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the GOP’s largest individual donor, who has advocated dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran to send a message. The link between major Republican donors supporting FDD and an increase in FDD quasi-overt cooperation with the Trump Administration in demonizing Iran should not surprise anyone.

Even though the State Department operation was relatively insignificant compared to similar initiatives undertaken by Israel, the idea that an ostensibly democratic government should propagate lies to defend its own policies was definitely unsettling. Some might think that disinformation on Iran is of little importance, that it has little impact on actual policy, but they would be wrong. Bad information that is allowed to circulate freely creates its own reality. Most Americans believe that Iran actually threatens the United States, though they would be at a loss to explain exactly how that could be the case. Dubious stories that originated with Reuters about corruption in Iran have been used by Mike Pompeo to justify sanctions against the regime on humanitarian grounds, measures which have ironically hurt average Iranians disproportionately. The same story was also used in at least four books to discredit the Iranian leadership.

To be sure, the mainstream media is itself largely at fault, as it was with Heshmat Alavi, for not vetting their sources more carefully, particularly when a story is clearly providing unique information or representing a point of view that might be considered controversial. In some cases, of course, the news outlet wants the story to be perceived as true even when it knows that it is not, so it becomes an accomplice in the propaganda effort. A recent attempt to create a mechanism to establish standards by determining the reliability of online news content has, in fact, been little more than a neoconservative scheme to discredit sites that do not support the neocon point of view.

Since governments and various non-governmental constituencies now, by their own admission, are heavily into the game of providing false information and discrediting critics, most Americans will completely tune out of the process, meaning that there will be little or no measurable difference between truth and lies. One already hears complaints from all across the political spectrum that most news is fake. When one reaches the point where such skepticism becomes the consensus, both elections and democracy itself will be rendered pretty much meaningless.

Reprinted with permission from American Herald Tribune.

Pence Goes to War: America Will Be Fighting Forever

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On May 25th Vice President Mike Pence was the featured speaker at the United States Military Academy commencement. His speech was predictably an encomium celebrating both the diversity and the success of the newly commissioned officers as well as of the system at West Point that had produced them, but it also included interesting insights into how he and the other non-veterans who dominate the policy making in the White House see the military.

Most media commentary on the speech was either shocked or pleasantly surprised by Pence’s prediction that the graduating officers would soon be at war. He said “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere. And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less. So, wherever you’re called, I urge you to take what you learned here and put it into practice. Put your armor on, so that when — not if — that day comes, you’ll be able to stand your ground.”

Pence may or may not have known that military academy graduates have only a five-year active duty commitment after graduation. Many do not stay in the service after that point, instead using their security clearances and resumes to obtain well paying positions with defense and national security contractors. If Pence was aware of that five-year window, he was implying that he expects multiple wars will involve the United States during his own remaining time in office, assuming that he and President Donald Trump are reelected in 2020. He might even be assuming that war is inevitable no matter who is in the driver’s seat in the White House because America’s numerous enemies, which he identified, cannot otherwise be dissuaded from their “nefarious behavior.”

Pence’s choice of words is revealing. There is a “virtual certainty” of “fight[ing] on a battlefield for America” and that battlefield is global, including both transnational Islamic terrorism and the western hemisphere. The language implies that American security requires “full spectrum dominance” everywhere. It encompasses traditional national enemies, with a Pyongyang that “threatens peace,” a China that is “militarized,” and a Russia that is both “aggressive” and expansionistic. The soldiers must be prepared to fight “when – not if – that day comes.”

First of all, it is discouraging to note that Pence believes that a war or wars must take place, and further, one must have to wonder exactly what scenarios are envisioned by Pence, and also presumably by his boss and colleagues, regarding precisely how war against other nuclear powers will play out. Nor does he entertain what would happen when the rest of the world begins to perceive the United States at its enemy due to its willingness to interfere in everyone’s politics. And the American soldiers would die not knowing what they were fighting for, since they would understand from the onset that it had nothing to do with the defense of the United States.

The speech is, in short, a recognition that the Trump Administration sees perpetual war on the horizon, a viewpoint that is particularly alarming as one can quite easily make the case that the United States is not seriously threatened at all by anyone on Pence’s enemies list and is therefore the aggressor. China is a regional power, Russia does not have the resources or will to reestablish the Soviet Union, and North Korea has only limited capability to attack anyone, even if it should choose to do so. Islamic terrorism is largely a creation of the United States in the first place and maintains its potency by the adverse impact of the continued US presence in Muslim lands. And the suggestion that Venezuela and/or Cuba might be a threat to America is, quite frankly, laughable.

If Mike Pence is seriously interested in looking around to see who has been most interested in starting new wars, he should look to gentlemen named Bush and Obama, not to mention his own colleagues John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. And then there are Washington’s feckless allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are keen to advance their own interests by means of piles of dead American soldiers.

Is there no one around to question why exactly American soldiers are sent to die in so many places that can hardly be found on a map? Or to ask what the compelling national interests might be to require sending soldiers to such God-forsaken death pits? One can be sure that the newly minted Army officers that Pence addressed have no desire to be killed in Mali, but it would take a brave young man or woman to speak the truth if asked by a senior officer.

And Pence unfortunately has many friends who believe in force majeure as he does on Capitol Hill. Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on Fox News Sunday the day after the Vice President spoke and said “I would give Cuba an ultimatum to get out of Venezuela. If they don’t, I would let the Venezuelan military know, you got to choose between democracy and Maduro, and if you choose Maduro and Cuba, we are coming after you. This is in our backyard.”

It should be clearly understood Pence, Graham and Pompeo are all calling for wars of choice, where the military is being used as an option rather than diplomacy in a situation where there is no imminent threat. Iraq, Syria and Libya are examples of such wars and all three have turned out very badly. And then there is the moral dimension. By the standard set by the Nuremberg Trials after World War 2, initiating an armed conflict in that fashion is a war crime. Indeed, it is the ultimate war crime as it brings so many evils with it. Mike Pence’s vision of America the perpetual war criminal is not something to be proud of.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Tulsi Gabbard Pushes No War Agenda – and the Media Is Out to Kill Her Chances

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Voters looking ahead to 2020 are being bombarded with soundbites from the twenty plus Democratic would-be candidates. That Joe Biden is apparently leading the pack according to opinion polls should come as no surprise as he stands for nothing apart from being the Establishment favorite who will tirelessly work to support the status quo.

The most interesting candidate is undoubtedly Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is a fourth term Congresswoman from Hawaii, where she was born and raised. She is also the real deal on national security, having been-there and done-it through service as an officer with the Hawaiian National Guard on a combat deployment in Iraq. Though in Congress full time, she still performs her Guard duty.

Tulsi’s own military experience notwithstanding, she gives every indication of being honestly anti-war. In the speech announcing her candidacy she pledged “focus on the issue of war and peace” to “end the regime-change wars that have taken far too many lives and undermined our security by strengthening terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.” She referred to the danger posed by blundering into a possible nuclear war and indicated her dismay over what appears to be a re-emergence of the Cold War.

In a recent interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, Gabbard doubled down on her anti-war credentials, telling the host that war with Iran would be “devastating,” adding that “I know where this path leads us and I’m concerned because the American people don’t seem to be prepared for how devastating and costly such a war would be… So, what we are facing is, essentially, a war that has no frontlines, total chaos, engulfs the whole region, is not contained within Iran or Iraq but would extend to Syria and Lebanon and Israel across the region, setting us up in a situation where, in Iraq, we lost over 4,000 of my brothers and sisters in uniform. A war with Iran would take far more American lives, it would cost more civilian lives across the region… Not to speak of the fact that this would cost trillions of taxpayer dollars coming out of our pockets to go and pay for this endless war that begs the question as a soldier, what are we fighting for? What does victory look like? What is the mission?”

Gabbard, and also Carlson, did not hesitate to name names among those pushing for war, one of which begins with B-O-L-T-O-N. She then asked “How does a war with Iran serve the best interest of the American people of the United States? And the fact is it does not,” Gabbard said. “It better serves the interest of people like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Bibi Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia who are trying to push us into this war with Iran.”

Clearly not afraid to challenge the full gamut establishment politics, Tulsi Gabbard had previously called for an end to the “illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government,” also observing that “the war to overthrow Assad is counter-productive because it actually helps ISIS and other Islamic extremists achieve their goal of overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad and taking control of all of Syria – which will simply increase human suffering in the region, exacerbate the refugee crisis, and pose a greater threat to the world.” She then backed up her words with action by secretly arranging for a personal trip to Damascus in 2017 to meet with President Bashar al-Assad, saying it was important to meet adversaries “if you are serious about pursuing peace.” She made her own assessment of the situation in Syria and now favors pulling US troops out of the country as well as ending American interventions for “regime change” in the region.

In 2015, Gabbard supported President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran and in 2016 she backed Bernie Sanders’ antiwar candidacy. More recently, she has criticized President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Last May, she criticized Israel for shooting “unarmed protesters” in Gaza, a very bold step indeed given the power of the Israel Lobby.

Tulsi Gabbard could well be the only genuine antiwar candidate that might truly be electable in the past fifty years, and that is why the war party is out to get her. Two weeks ago, the Daily Beast displayed a headline: “Tulsi Gabbard’s Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists.” The article also had a sub-headline: “The Hawaii congresswoman is quickly becoming the top candidate for Democrats who think the Russian leader is misunderstood.”

The obvious smear job was picked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, television’s best known Hillary Clinton clone, who brought it up in an interview with Gabbard shortly thereafter. He asked whether Gabbard was “softer” on Putin than were some of the other candidates. Gabbard answered: “It’s unfortunate that you’re citing that article, George, because it’s a whole lot of fake news.” Politico the reported the exchange and wrote: “’Fake news’ is a favorite phrase of President Donald Trump…,” putting the ball back in Tulsi’s court rather than criticizing Stephanopoulos’s pointless question. Soon thereafter CNN produced its own version of Tulsi the Russophile, observing that Gabbard was using a Trump expression to “attack the credibility of negative coverage.”

Tulsi responded “Stephanopoulos shamelessly implied that because I oppose going to war with Russia, I’m not a loyal American, but a Putin puppet. It just shows what absurd lengths warmongers in the media will go, to try to destroy the reputation of anyone who dares oppose their warmongering.”

Tulsi Gabbard had attracted other enemies prior to the Stephanopoulos attack. Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept described how NBC news published a widely distributed story on February 1st, claiming that “experts who track websites and social media linked to Russia have seen stirrings of a possible campaign of support for Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.”

But the expert cited by NBC turned out to be a firm New Knowledge, which was exposed by no less than The New York Times for falsifying Russian troll accounts for the Democratic Party in the Alabama Senate race to suggest that the Kremlin was interfering in that election. According to Greenwald, the group ultimately behind this attack on Gabbard is The Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), which sponsors a tool called Hamilton 68, a news “intelligence net checker” that claims to track Russian efforts to disseminate disinformation. The ASD website advises that “Securing Democracy is a Global Necessity.”

ASD was set up in 2017 by the usual neocon crowd with funding from The Atlanticist and anti-Russian German Marshall Fund. It is loaded with a full complement of Zionists and interventionists/globalists, to include Michael Chertoff, Michael McFaul, Michael Morell, Kori Schake and Bill Kristol. It claims, innocently, to be a bipartisan transatlantic national security advocacy group that seeks to identify and counter efforts by Russia to undermine democracies in the United States and Europe but it is actually itself a major source of disinformation.

No doubt stories headlined “Tulsi Gabbard Communist Stooge” are in the works somewhere in the mainstream media. The Establishment politicians and their media component have difficulty in understanding just how much they are despised for their mendacity and unwillingness to support policies that would truly benefit the American people but they are well able to dominate press coverage. Given the flood of contrived negativity towards her campaign, it is not clear if Tulsi Gabbard will ever be able to get her message across. But, for the moment, she seems to be the “real thing,” a genuine anti-war candidate who is determined to run on that platform. It might just resonate with the majority of Americans who have grown tired of perpetual warfare to “spread democracy” and other related frauds perpetrated by the band of oligarchs and traitors that run the United States.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Pandering to Israel Means War With Iran

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The United States is moving dangerously forward in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to provoke a war with Iran, apparently based on threat intelligence provided by Israel. The claims made by National Security Advisor John Bolton and by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that there is solid evidence of Iran’s intention to attack US forces in the Persian Gulf region is almost certainly a fabrication, possibly deliberately contrived by Bolton and company in collaboration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It will be used to justify sending bombers and additional naval air resources to confront any possible moves by Tehran to maintain its oil exports, which were blocked by Washington last week. If the US Navy tries to board ships carrying Iranian oil it will undoubtedly, and justifiably, provoke a violent response from Iran, which is precisely what Bolton, Pompeo and Netanyahu are seeking.

It would be difficult to find in the history books another example of a war fought for no reason whatsoever. As ignorant as President Donald Trump and his triumvirate or psychotics Bolton, Pompeo and Elliott Abrams are, even they surely know that Iran poses no threat to the United States. If they believe at all that a war is necessary, they no doubt base their judgment on the perception that the United States must maintain its number one position in the world by occasionally attacking and defeating someone to serve as an example of what might happen if one defies Washington. Understanding that, the Iranians would be wise to avoid confrontation until the sages in the White House move on to some easier target, which at the moment would appear to be Venezuela.

The influence of Israel over US foreign policy is undeniable, with Washington now declaring that it will “review ties” with other nations that are considered to be unfriendly to the Jewish state. For observers who might also believe that Israel and its allies in the US are the driving force behind America’s belligerency in the Middle East, there are possibly some other games that are in play, all involving Benjamin Netanyahu and his band of merry cutthroats. It is becoming increasingly apparent that foreign politicians have realized that the easiest way to gain Washington’s favor is to do something that will please Israel. In practical terms, the door to Capitol Hill and the White House is opened through the good offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Israel is desperate to confirm its legitimacy in international fora, where it has few friends in spite of an intensive lobbying campaign. It seeks to have countries that do not have an embassy in Israel to take steps to establish one, and it also wants more nations that do already have an embassy in Tel Aviv to move to Jerusalem, building on the White House’s decision taken last year to do just that. Not surprisingly, nations and political leaders who are on the make and want American support have drawn the correct conclusions and pander to Israel as a first step.

One only has to cite the example of Venezuela. Juan Guaido, the candidate favored by Washington for regime change, has undoubtedly a lot of things on his plate but he has proven willing to make some time to say what Benjamin Netanyahu wants to hear, as reported by the Israeli media. The Times of Israel describes how “Venezuela’s self-proclaimed leader Juan Guaido is working to re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel and isn’t ruling out placing his country’s embassy in Jerusalem, according to an interview with an Israeli newspaper published Tuesday.”

One would think that Guaido would consider his interview sufficient, but he has also taken the pandering process one step farther, reportedly displaying huge video images of the flags of both Israel and the United States at his rallies.

This deference to Israel’s interests produced an almost immediate positive result with Netanyahu recognizing him as the legitimate Venezuelan head of state, followed by an echo chamber of effusive congratulations from US (sic) Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who praised the Jewish state for “standing with the people of Venezuela and the forces of freedom and democracy.” Donald Trump’s esteemed special envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, also joined in, praising the Israeli government for its “courageous stand in solidarity with the Venezuelan people.”

A similar bonding took place regarding Brazil, where hard right conservative leader Jair Bolsonaro was recently elected president. Netanyahu attended the Bolsonaro inauguration last December and the two men benefit from strong support from Christian Evangelicals. Bolsonaro repaid the favor by promising that Israel would be his first foreign trip. In the event he went to Washington first, but the state visit to Israel took place in April, just before that country’s elections, in a bid to demonstrate international support for Netanyahu.

Brazilian Jews constitute a wealthy and powerful community which reacted positively to Bolsonaro’s pledges to fight corruption and high crime rates while also repairing a struggling economy. They also appreciated his stance on Israel. He committed to moving the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, though he has backpedaled a bit on that pledge. And he also promised to shut the Palestinian embassy in the capital Brasilia. He famously asked and answered his own question, “Is Palestine a country? Palestine is not a country, so there should be no embassy here. You do not negotiate with terrorists.”

Bolsonaro’s pro-Israel anti-Venezuela credentials also endeared him to Donald Trump on a visit to Washington in mid-March which was described by the media as a “love fest.” The Brazilian leader’s visits to Israel and the US as well as Guaido’s promises to Israel reveal that the foreign policies of Tel Aviv and Washington have become inextricably intertwined, with supplicant nations and politicians wisely seeking to do homage to both regimes to gain favor. It is a development that would shock the Founding Fathers, most particularly George Washington, who warned against entangling alliances, and it means that American interests will be seen through an Israeli prism, a reality that has already produced very bad results.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Jared Kushner, Not Maria Butina, Is America’s Real Foreign Agent

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The Mueller Special Counsel inquiry is far from over even though a final report on its findings has been issued. Although the investigation had a mandate to explore all aspects of the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election, from the start the focus was on the possibility that some members of the Trump campaign had colluded with the Kremlin to influence the outcome of the election to favor the GOP candidate. Even though that could not be demonstrated, many prominent Trump critics, to include Laurence Tribe of the Harvard Law School, are demanding that the investigation continue until Congress has discovered “the full facts of Russia’s interference [to include] the ways in which that interference is continuing in anticipation of 2020, and the full story of how the president and his team welcomed, benefited from, repaid, and obstructed lawful investigation into that interference and the president’s cooperation with it.”

Tribe should perhaps read the report more carefully. While it does indeed confirm some Russian meddling, it does not demonstrate that anyone in the Trump circle benefited from it or cooperated with it. The objective currently being promoted by dedicated Trump critics like Tribe is to make a case to impeach the president based on the alleged enormity of the Russian activity, which is not borne out by the facts: the Russian role was intermittent, small scale and basically ineffective.

One interesting aspect of the Mueller inquiry and the ongoing Russophobia that it has generated is the essential hypocrisy of the Washington Establishment. It is generally agreed that whatever Russia actually did, it did not affect the outcome of the election. That the Kremlin was using intelligence resources to act against Hillary Clinton should surprise no one as she described Russian President Vladimir Putin as Hitler and also made clear that she would be taking a very hard line against Moscow.

The anti-Russia frenzy in Washington generated by the vengeful Democrats and an Establishment fearful of a loss of privilege and entitlement claimed a number of victims. Among them was Russian citizen Maria Butina, who has a court date and will very likely be sentenced tomorrow.

Regarding Butina, the United States Department of Justice would apparently have you believe that the Kremlin sought to subvert the five-million-member strong National Rifle Association (NRA) by having a Russian citizen take out a life membership in the organization with the intention of corrupting it and turning it into an instrument for subverting American democracy. Maria Butina has, by the way, a long and well documented history as an advocate for gun ownership and was a co-founder in Russia of Right to Bear Arms, which is not an intelligence front organization of some kind. It is rather a genuine lobbying group with an active membership and agenda. Contrary to what has been reported in the mainstream media, Russians can own guns but the licensing and registration procedures are long and complicated, which Right to Bear Arms, modeling itself on the NRA, is seeking to change.

Butina, a graduate student at American University, is now in a federal prison, having been charged with collusion and failure to register as an agent of the Russian Federation. She was arrested on July 15, 2018. It is decidedly unusual to arrest and confine someone who has failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA), but she has not been granted bail because, as a Russian citizen, she is considered to be a “flight risk,” likely to try to flee the US and return home.

FARA requires all individuals and organizations acting on behalf of foreign governments to registered with the Department of Justice and to report their sources of income and contacts. Federal prosecutors have claimed that Butina was reporting back to a Russian official while deliberating cultivating influential figures in the United States as potential resources to advance Russian interests, a process that is described in intelligence circles as “spotting and assessing.”

Maria eventually pleaded guilty of not registering under FARA to mitigate any punishment, hoping that she would be allowed to return to Russia after a few months in prison on top of the nine months she has already served. She has reportedly fully cooperated the US authorities, turning over documents, answering questions and undergoing hours of interrogation by federal investigators before and after her guilty plea.

Maria Butina basically did nothing that damaged US security and it is difficult to see where her behavior was even criminal, but the prosecution is asking for 18 months in prison for her in addition to the time served. She would be, in fact, one of only a handful of individuals ever to be imprisoned over FARA, and they all come from countries that Washington considers to be unfriendly, to include Cuba, Saddam’s Iraq and Russia. Normally the failure to comply with FARA is handled with a fine and compulsory registration.

Butina was essentially convicted of the crime of being Russian at the wrong time and in the wrong place and she is paying for it with prison. Selective enforcement of FARA was, ironically, revealed through evidence collected and included in the Mueller Report relating to the only foreign country that actually sought to obtain favors from the incoming Trump Administration. That country was Israel and the individual who drove the process and should have been fined and required to register with FARA was President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. As Kushner also had considerable “flight risk” to Israel, which has no extradition treaty with the United States, he should also have been imprisoned.

Kushner reportedly aggressively pressured members of the Trump transition team to contact foreign ambassadors at the United Nations to convince them to vote against or abstain from voting on the December 2016 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements. The resolution passed when the US, acting under direction of President Barack Obama, abstained, but incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn did indeed contact the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice and asked for Moscow’s cooperation, which was refused. Kushner, who is so close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the latter has slept at the Kushner apartment in New York City, was clearly acting in response to direction coming from the Israeli government.

Another interesting tidbit revealed by Mueller relates to Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’s ties to Israel over an oil development scheme. Mueller “ultimately determined that the evidence was not sufficient to obtain or sustain a conviction” that Papadopoulos “committed a crime or crimes by acting as an unregistered agent of the Israeli government.” Mueller went looking for a Russian connection but found only Israel and decided to do nothing about it.

As so often is the case, inquiries that begin by looking for foreign interference in American politics start by focusing on Washington’s adversaries but then comes up with Israel. Noam Chomsky described it best “First of all, if you’re interested in foreign interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely counts or weighs in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly and with enormous support. Netanyahu goes directly to Congress, without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president’s policies—what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015. Did Putin come to give an address to the joint sessions of Congress trying to—calling on them to reverse US policy, without even informing the president? And that’s just a tiny bit of this overwhelming influence.”

Maria Butina is in jail for doing nothing while Jared Kushner, who needed a godfathered security clearance due to his close Israeli ties, struts through the White House as senior advisor to the president in spite of the fact that he used his nepotistically obtained access to openly promote the interests of a foreign government. Mueller knows all about it but recommended nothing, as if it didn’t happen. The media is silent. Congress will do nothing. As Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi put it “We in Congress stand by Israel. In Congress, we speak with one voice on the subject of Israel.” Indeed.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

The Conspiracy Against Trump

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The real “deplorable” in today’s United States is the continuation of a foreign policy based on endless aggression to maintain Washington’s military dominance in parts of the world where Americans have no conceivable interest. Many voters backed Donald J. Trump because he committed himself to changing all that, but, unfortunately, he has reneged on his promise, instead heightening tension with major powers Russia and China while also threatening Iran and Venezuela on an almost daily basis. Now Cuba is in the crosshairs because it is allegedly assisting Venezuela. One might reasonably ask if America in its seemingly enduring role as the world’s most feared bully will ever cease and desist, but the more practical question might be “When will the psychopathic trio of John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Elliott Abrams be fired so the United States can begin to behave like a normal nation?”

Trump, to be sure, is the heart of the problem as he has consistently made bad, overly belligerent decisions when better and less abrasive options were available, something that should not necessarily always be blamed on his poor choice of advisers. But one also should not discount the likelihood that the dysfunction in Trump is in part comprehensible, stemming from his belief that he has numerous powerful enemies who have been out do destroy him since before he was nominated as the GOP’s presidential candidate. This hatred of all things Trump has been manifested in the neoconservative “Nevertrump” forces led by Bill Kristol and by the “Trump Derangement Syndrome” prominent on the political left, regularly exhibited by Rachel Maddow.

And then there is the Deep State, which also worked with the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama to destroy the Trump presidency even before it began. One can define Deep State in a number of ways, ranging from a “soft” version which accepts that there is an Establishment that has certain self-serving objectives that it works collectively to promote to something harder, an actual infrastructure that meets together and connives to remove individuals and sabotage policies that it objects to. The Deep State in either version includes senior government officials, business leaders and, perhaps most importantly, the managed media, which promotes a corrupted version of “good governance” that in turn influences the public.

Whether the Mueller report is definitive very much depends on the people they chose to interview and the questions they chose to ask, which is something that will no doubt be discussed for the next year if not longer. Beyond declaring that the Trump team did not collude with Russia, it cast little light on the possible Deep State role in attempting to vilify Trump and his associates. The investigation of that aspect of the 2016 campaign and the possible prosecutions of former senior government officials that might be a consequence of the investigation will likely be entertaining conspiracy theorists well into 2020. Since Russiagate has already been used and discarded the new inquiry might well be dubbed Trumpgate.

The media has scarcely reported how Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice (DOJ), has been looking into the activities of the principal promoters of the Russiagate fraud. Horowitz, whose report is expected in about a month, has already revealed that he intends to make criminal referrals as a result of his investigation. While the report will only cover malfeasance in the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, the names of intelligence officers involved will no doubt also surface. It is expected that there will be charges leading to many prosecutions and one can hope for jail time for those individuals who corruptly betrayed their oath to the United States Constitution to pursue a political vendetta.

A review of what is already known about the plot against Trump is revealing and no doubt much more will be learned if and when investigators go through emails and phone records. The first phase of the illegal investigation of the Trump associates involved initiating wiretaps without any probable cause. This eventually involved six government intelligence and law enforcement agencies that formed a de facto task force headed by the CIA’s Director John Brennan. Also reportedly involved were the FBI’s James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Department of Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson, and Admiral Michael Rogers who headed the National Security Agency.

Brennan was the key to the operation because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court refused to approve several requests by the FBI to initiate taps on Trump associates and Trump Tower as there was no probable cause to do so but the British and other European intelligence services were legally able to intercept communications linked to American sources. Brennan was able to use his connections with those foreign intelligence agencies, primarily the British GCHQ, to make it look like the concerns about Trump were coming from friendly and allied countries and therefore had to be responded to as part of routine intelligence sharing. As a result, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Gen. Michael Flynn were all wiretapped. And likely there were others. This all happened during the primaries and after Trump became the GOP nominee.

In other words, to make the wiretaps appear to be legitimate, GCHQ and others were quietly and off-the-record approached by Brennan and associates over their fears of what a Trump presidency might mean. The British responded by initiating wiretaps that were then used by Brennan to justify further investigation of Trump’s associates. It was all neatly done and constituted completely illegal spying on American citizens by the US government.

The British support of the operation was coordinated by the then-director of GCHQ Robert Hannigan who has since been forced to resign. Brennan is, unfortunately still around and has not been charged with perjury and other crimes. In May 2017, after he departed government, he testified before Congress with what sounds a lot like a final unsourced, uncorroborated attempt to smear the new administration: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind whether or not Russia was able to gain the co-operation of those individuals.”

Brennan’s claimed “concerns” turned out to be incorrect. Meanwhile, other interested parties were involved in the so-called Steele Dossier on Trump himself. The dossier, paid for initially by Republicans trying to stop Trump, was later funded by $12 million from the Hillary campaign. It was commissioned by the law firm Perkins Coie, which was working for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The objective was to assess any possible Trump involvement with Russia. The work itself was sub-contracted to Fusion GPS, which in turn sub-contracted the actual investigation to British spy Christopher Steele who headed a business intelligence firm called Orbis.

Steele left MI-6 in 2009 and had not visited Russia since 1993. The report, intended to dig up dirt on Trump, was largely prepared using impossible to corroborate second-hand information and would have never surfaced but for the surprise result of the 2016 election. Christopher Steele gave a copy to a retired of British Diplomat Sir Andrew Wood who in turn handed it to Trump critic Senator John McCain who then passed it on to the FBI. President Barack Obama presumably also saw it and, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “If it weren’t for President Obama, we might not have done the intelligence community assessment that we did that set off a whole sequence of events which are still unfolding today, notably, special counsel Mueller’s investigation.”

The report was leaked to the media in January 2017 to coincide with Trump’s inauguration. Hilary Clinton denied any prior knowledge despite the fact that her campaign had paid for it. Pressure from the Democrats and other constituencies devastated by the Trump victory used the Steele report to provide leverage for what became the Mueller investigation.

So, was there a broad ranging conspiracy against Donald Trump orchestrated by many of the most senior officials and politicians in Washington? Undeniably yes. What Trump has amounted to as a leader and role model is beside the point as what evolved was undeniably a bureaucratic coup directed against a legally elected president of the United States and to a certain extent it was successful as Trump was likely forced to turn his back on his better angels and subsequently hired Pompeo, Bolton and Abrams. One can only hope that investigators dig deep into what is Washington insiders have been up to so Trumpgate will prove more interesting and informative than was Russiagate. And one also has to hope that enough highest-level heads will roll to make any interference by the Deep State in future elections unthinkable. One hopes.

Reprinted with permission from Unz Review.

Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

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It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.