Category Archives: Mike Pompeo

Assange Is A Journalist, Should Not Be Persecuted For Publishing The Truth

Last week, rallies in support of Julian Assange were held around the world. We participated in two #AssangeUnity events seeking to #FreeAssange in Washington, DC.

This is the beginning of a new phase of the campaign to stop the persecution of Julian Assange and allow him to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London without the threat of being arrested in the UK or facing prosecution by the United States.

On April 10 2017 people gathered outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to celebrate the 11th Birthday of WikiLeaks. From Wise-Up Action: A Solidarity Network for Manning and Assange.

The Assange Case is a Linchpin For Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Information in the 21st Century

The threat of prosecution against Julian Assange for his work as editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks will be a key to defining what Freedom of the Press means in the 21st Century. Should people be allowed to know the truth if their government is corrupt, violating the law or committing war crimes? Democracy cannot exist when people are misled by a concentrated corporate media that puts forth a narrative on behalf of the government and big business.

This is not the first time that prosecution of a journalist will define Freedom of the Press. Indeed, the roots of Freedom of the Press in the United States go back to the prosecution of John Peter Zenger, a publisher who was accused of libel in 1734 for publishing articles critical of the British royal governor, William Cosby. Zenger was held in prison for eight months awaiting trial. In the trial, his defense took its case directly to the jury.

For five hundred years, Britain had made it illegal to publish “any any slanderous News” that may cause “discord” between the king and his people. Zenger’s defense argued that he had published the truth about Cosby and therefore did not commit a crime. His lawyer “argued that telling the truth did not cause governments to fall. Rather, he argued, ‘abuse of power’ caused governments to fall.” The jury heard the argument, recessed and in ten minutes returned with a not guilty verdict.

The same issue is presented by Julian Assange — publishing the truth is not a crime. Wikileaks, with Assange as its editor and publisher, redefined reporting in the 21st Century by giving people the ability to be whistleblowers to reveal the abuses of government and big business. People anonymously send documents to Wikileaks via the Internet and then after reviewing and authenticating them, Wikileaks publishes them.  The documents sometimes reveal serious crimes, which has resulted in Assange being threatened with a secret indictment for espionage that could keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life.

This puts the Assange case at the forefront of 21st Century journalism as he is democratizing the media by giving people the power to know the truth not reported, or falsely reported, by the corporate media. Breaking elite control over the media narrative is a serious threat to their power because information is power. And, with the internet and the ability of every person to act as a media outlet through social and independent media, control of the narrative is moving toward the people.

WikiLeaks is filling a void with trust in the corporate media at record lows. A recent Gallup Poll found only 32% trust the media. There has been a significant drop in newspaper circulation and revenue, an ongoing decline since 1980. Also, fewer people rely on television for news.

In this environment, the internet-based news is becoming more dominant and WikiLeaks is a particular threat to media monopolization by the elites. Research is showing that independent and social media are having an impact on people’s opinions.

The threats to Julian Assange are occurring when dissent is under attack, particularly media dissent; the FBI has a task force to monitor social media. The attack on net neutrality, Google using algorithms to prevent searches for alternative media and Facebook controlling what people see are all part of the attack on the democratized media..

Free Assange: Don’t Shoot the Messenger. (Jack Taylor for Getty Images)

The Astounding Impact of WikiLeaks’ Reporting

The list of WikiLeaks’ revelations has become astounding. The release of emails from Hillary Clinton, her presidential campaign, and the Democratic National Committee had a major impact on the election. People saw the truth of Clinton’s connections to Wall Street, her two-faced politics of having a public view and a private view as well as the DNC’s efforts to undermine the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. People saw the truth and the truth hurt Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

Among the most famous documents published were those provided by Chelsea Manning on Iraq, Afghanistan, the Guantanamo Prison and the US State Department. The Collateral Murder video among the Manning Iraq war documents shows US soldiers in an Apache helicopter gunning down a group of innocent men, including two Reuters employees, a photojournalist, and his driver, killing 16 and wounding two children. Millions have viewed the video showing that when a van pulled up to evacuate the wounded, the soldiers again opened fire. A soldier says, “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards.”

Another massive leak came from Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who exposed massive NSA spying in the United States and around the world. This was followed by Vault 7, a series of leaks on the Central Intelligence Agency’s activities, and Vault 8, which included source code on CIA malware activities.

WikiLeaks has also published documents on other countries; e.g., WikiLeaks published a series of documents on Russian spying.  WikiLeaks has been credited by many with helping to spark the Tunisian Revolution which led to the Arab Spring; e.g., showing the widespread corruption of the 23-year rule of the Ben Ali. Foreign Policy reported that “the candor of the cables released by WikiLeaks did more for Arab democracy than decades of backstage U.S. diplomacy.” WikiLeaks’ publications provided democracy activists in Egypt with information needed to spark protests and provided background that explained the Egyptian uprising. Traditional media publications like the New York Times relied on WikiLeaks to analyze the causes of the uprising.

WikiLeaks informed the Bahrain public about their government’s cozy relationship with the US, describing a $5 billion joint-venture with Occidental Petroleum and $300 million in U.S. military sales and how the U.S. Navy is the foundation of Bahrain’s national security.

John Pilger describes WikiLeaks’ documents, writing, “No investigative journalism in my lifetime can equal the importance of what WikiLeaks has done in calling rapacious power to account.”

Free Assange rally at the White House, June 19, 2018. From Gateway Pundit.

Assange Character Assassination And Embassy Imprisonment

Julian Assange made powerful enemies in governments around the world, corporate media, and big business because he burst false narratives with the truth. As a result, governments fought back, including the United States,  Great Britain, and Sweden, which has led to Assange being trapped in the embassy of Ecuador in London for six years.

The root of the incarceration were allegations in Sweden. Sweden’s charges against Assange were initially dropped by the chief prosecutor, two weeks later they found a prosecutor to pursue a rape investigation. One of the women had CIA connections and bragged about her relationship with Assange in tweets she tried to erase. She even published a 7-step program for legal revenge against lovers. The actions of the women do not seem to show rape or any kind of abuse. One woman held a party with him after the encounter and another went out to eat with him.  In November 2016, Assange was interviewed by Swedish prosecutors for four hours at the Ecuadorian embassy. In December 2016, Assange published tweets showing his innocence and the sex was consensual. Without making a statement on Assange’s guilt, the Swedish investigators dropped the charges in May 2017. The statute of limitations for Swedish charges will be up in 2020.

As John Pilger pointed out:

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape summed it up when they wrote, ‘The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder, and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will.’

Assange is still trapped in the embassy as he would be arrested for violating his bail six years ago. But, the real threat to Assange is the possibility of a secret indictment against him in the United States for espionage. US and British officials have refused to tell Assange’s lawyers whether there was a sealed indictment or a sealed extradition order against him. Former CIA Director, now Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has described WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence service and described his actions as not protected by the First Amendment. In April 2017, CNN reported, “US authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.” The Obama Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks wasn’t alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning but the Trump DOJ believes he could be charged as an accomplice with Edward Snowden.

When the president campaigned, Trump said he loved WikiLeaks and regularly touted their disclosures. But, in April 2017, Attorney General Jeff Session said that Assange’s arrest is a “priority.”

Time To Stop The Persecution Of Julian Assange

The smearing of Assange sought to discredit him and undermine the important journalism of WikiLeaks. Caitlin Johnstone writes that they smear him because “they can kill all sympathy for him and his outlet, it’s as good for their agendas as actually killing him.”

Even with this character assassination many people still support Assange. This was seen during the #Unity4J online vigil, which saw the participation of activists, journalists, whistleblowers and filmmakers calling for the end of Assange’s solitary confinement and his release. This was followed a week later by 20 protests around the world calling for Assange’s release.

Julian Assange has opened journalism’s democracy door; the power to report is being redistributed, government employees and corporate whistleblowers have been empowered and greater transparency is becoming a reality. The people of the United States should demand that Assange not face prosecution and embrace a 21st Century democratized media that provides greater transparency and accurate information about what government and business interests are doing. Prosecuting a news organization for publishing the truth, should be rejected and Assange should be freed.

You can support Julian Assange by spreading the word in your communities about what is happening to him and why. You can also show support for him on social media. We will continue to let you know when there are actions planned. And you can support the WikiLeaks Legal Defense Fund, run by the Courage Foundation*, at IAmWikiLeaks.org.

* Kevin Zeese is on the advisory board of the Courage Foundation.

War on Iran is US Policy Now According to US Secretary of State

Former CIA head offers policy of prevarication and tortured truth

On May 21, in his first formal public address, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (sworn in May 2) effectively declared war on the sovereign nation of Iran. Pompeo has no constitutional authority to declare war on anyone, as he well knows, so his declaration of war is just short of overt, though it included a not-so-veiled threat of a nuclear attack on Iran. Pompeo’s declaration of war is a reactionary move that revitalizes the malignant Iranaphobia of the Bush presidency, when predictions were rife that Iran would have nuclear weapons by next year, next month, next week, predictions that never came true over twenty years of fearmongering. In effect (as we’ll see), Pompeo wants us to believe that everything bad that happened in the Middle East after Saudi terrorists attacked us on 9/11 in 2001 has been Iran’s fault, starting with Afghanistan. Almost everything Pompeo had to say to the Heritage Foundation on May 21 was a lie or, more typically, an argument built on lies.

Heritage Foundation host Kay Coles James called Pompeo’s 3,700-word speech “Bold, concise, unambiguous” and “a bold vision – clear, concise, unambiguous.”  It was none of those, except perhaps bold in its willingness to go to war with an imaginary monster. Even without open warfare, warmongering has its uses both for intimidating other states and creating turmoil among the populace at home. Buckle your seat belts.

The 2012 Iran nuclear deal (officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) was, by all reliable accounts, working effectively in its own terms up until May 8: inspectors confirmed that Iran had eliminated the nuclear programs it had promised to eliminate, that its uranium enrichment program for nuclear power plants was nowhere close to making weapons grade material, and so on. Whatever perceived flaws the deal may have had, and whatever other problems it didn’t cover, the deal was working to the satisfaction of all its other signatories: Iran, France, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, and China. As a measure of international cooperation, the deal not only worked, it was an available precedent for further negotiations among equal parties acting in good faith. The US was not such a party. On May 8, the US President, unilaterally and over the clear objections of all the other parties to the agreement, pulled the US out of the deal for no more clearly articulated reason than that he didn’t like it.  Or as Pompeo tried to re-frame it in his May 21 declaration of war:

President Trump withdrew from the [Iran nuclear] deal for a simple reason: it failed to guarantee the safety of the American people from the risk created by the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

This is a Big Lie worthy of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. What “risk created by the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran” is there? Iran poses NO imminent threat to the US, and wouldn’t even if it had nuclear weapons (as North Korea and eight other countries have). Iran has no overseas bases, the US has more than 600, including a couple of dozen that surround Iran. A classified number of US bases and aircraft carriers around Iran are armed with nuclear weapons. Iran lives every day at risk from the US military while posing almost no counter-risk (and none that wouldn’t be suicidal). There is no credible threat to the American people other than fevered speculation about what might happen in a world that does not exist.

To clarify Pompeo’s lie, the President withdrew from the deal for a simple reason: to protect the American people from a non-existent threat. In reality, peremptorily dumping the deal without any effort to improve it first may well have made Americans less safe in the long term. There’s no way to know. And given the current US ability to manage complicated, multifaceted problems, there’s little reason for hope. Since no one else seems as reckless as the US, we may muddle through despite massive inept stupidity and deceit.

The frame for Pompeo’s deceitful arguments is the familiar one of American goodness, American exceptionalism, American purity of motive. He deploys it with the apparent self-assurance that enough of the American people still fall for it (or profit from it) that it gives the government near carte blanche to make the rest of the world suffer our willfulness. Pompeo complains about “wealth creation for Iranian kleptocrats,” without a word about American kleptocrats, of whom his president is one and he is too presumably. And then there’s the unmentioned collusion with Russian kleptocrats. Better to divert attention and inflate the imaginary threat:

The deal did nothing to address Iran’s continuing development of ballistic and cruise missiles, which could deliver nuclear warheads.

Missiles were not part of the nuclear agreement, so, of course, it didn’t address missiles. And even if Iran, which has a space program, develops missiles under the agreement, it still wouldn’t have nuclear warheads to deliver. There is no threat, but the US could move the projected threat closer by scrapping the agreement rather than seeking to negotiate it into other areas. That move both inflames the fear and conceals the lie. In effect, Pompeo argues metaphorically that we had to cut down the cherry orchard because it failed to produce beef.

Pompeo goes on at length arguing that all the problems in the Middle East are Iran’s fault. He never mentions the US invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq, or US intervention in other countries creating fertile ground for ISIS in Libya and genocide in Yemen. Pompeo falsely claims that “Iran perpetuates a conflict” in Syria that has made “that country 71,000 square miles of kill zone.” Pompeo falsely claims that Iran alone jeopardizes Iraq’s sovereignty. Pompeo falsely blames Iran for the terror and starvation in Yemen caused by US-supported Saudi terror bombing. Pompeo falsely blames Iran for US failure in Afghanistan. Pompeo uses these and other lies to support the long-standing Big Lie that “Iran continues to be… the world’s largest sponsor of terror.”

This is another Bush administration lie that lived on under Obama and now gets fresh life from Pompeo, but without evidence or analysis. US sponsorship of Saudi bombing of defenseless civilians in Yemen probably accounts for more terrorist acts than Iran accomplishes worldwide. Israeli murder of unarmed protestors in Gaza has killed more people than Iran’s supposed terror. The demonization of Iran persists because of the perverse US public psychology that has neither gotten over the 1979 hostage-taking nor accepted any responsibility for destroying Iranian democracy and subjecting Iran to a brutal US-puppet police state for a quarter-century. The Big Lie about Iran is so ingrained in American self-delusion, Pompeo may not be fully aware of the extent to which he is lying to his core (he surely knows the particulars of specific smaller lies).

Only someone who is delusional or dishonest, or both, could claim with apparent sincerity that one goal of the US is “to deter Iranian aggression.” Pompeo offers no particulars of this Iranian “aggression.” So far as one can tell, in the real world, Iran has not invaded any other country in the region, or elsewhere. The US has invaded several countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and by proxy Yemen. American aggression has been real and deadly and constant for decades, but because the US is the one keeping score, the US doesn’t award itself the prize it so richly deserves year after year as the world’s number one state sponsor of terror. This is how it’s been since long before 1967 when Martin Luther King tried speaking “clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.” That’s the way it was, that’s the way it still is, that’s the future Pompeo points us toward with a not so veiled threat of nuclear war:

And I’d remind the leadership in Iran what President Trump said: If they restart their nuclear program, it will mean bigger problems – bigger problems than they’d ever had before.

And then Pompeo launched on a lengthy description of Iran as he sees it, a self-serving interpretation of Iranian events that may or may not mean what Pompeo says they mean. What is most remarkable about the passage is that it could as well apply to the US today. Just change the Iran references to American references, as I have done in the text below, leaving everything else Pompeo said intact, and the likely unintentional effect is eerily like looking in a black mirror reality:

Look, these problems are compounded by enormous corruption inside of [the US], and the [American] people can smell it. The protests last winter showed that many are angry at the regime that keeps for itself what the regime steals from its people.

And [Americans] too are angry at a regime elite that commits hundreds of millions of dollars to military operations and terrorist groups abroad while the Iranian people cry out for a simple life with jobs and opportunity and with liberty.

The [American] regime’s response to the protests has only exposed the country’s leadership is running scared. Thousands have been jailed arbitrarily, and at least dozens have been killed.

As seen from the [#MeToo] protests, the brutal men of the regime seem to be particularly terrified by [American] women who are demanding their rights. As human beings with inherent dignity and inalienable rights, the women of [America] deserve the same freedoms that the men of [America] possess.

But this is all on top of a well-documented terror and torture that the regime has inflicted for decades on those who dissent from the regime’s ideology.

The [American] regime is going to ultimately have to look itself in the mirror. The [American] people, especially its youth, are increasingly eager for economic, political, and social change.

As an analysis of the US by a US official, that might suggest we were headed toward enlightened and progressive policy changes. Even for what it is, Pompeo’s self-deceiving pitch to “the Iranian people,” it could have led in a positive direction.  It didn’t. Pompeo followed this assessment with a dishonest offer for new talks. It was dishonest because it came with non-negotiable US preconditions, “only if Iran is willing to make major changes.” Then came a full page of preconditions, “what it is that we demand from Iran,” as Pompeo put it [emphasis added]. Meeting those US demands would be tantamount to a surrender of national sovereignty in exchange for nothing. Pompeo surely understood that he was making an offer Iran couldn’t do anything but refuse.

The Secretary of State’s bullying chest puffery continued for another two pages of falsehoods and repetitions. He called for a global alliance of democracies and dictatorships “to join this effort against the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Linking Egypt and Australia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, Pompeo spun into a fully delusional statement about nations with little in common:

They understand the challenge the same way that America does. Indeed, we welcome any nation which is sick and tired of the nuclear threats, the terrorism, the missile proliferation, and the brutality of a regime which is at odds with world peace, a country that continues to inflict chaos on innocent people.

Wait a minute! Nuclear threats! Missile proliferation!  Brutality at odds with world peace! A country that continues to inflict chaos on innocent people! That’s us! That’s the US since 1945. And that’s absolutely not what Pompeo meant, insofar as anyone can be absolutely sure of anything. He made that clear with yet another lie: “we’re not asking anything other than that Iranian behavior be consistent with global norms.”

Pompeo came to the predictable conclusion familiar to other countries: Iran will “prosper and flourish… as never before,” if they just do what we tell them to do. And to illustrate US bona fides and good faith in all its dealings, Pompeo showed himself, however unintentionally, capable of true high hilarity:

If anyone, especially the leaders of Iran, doubts the President’s sincerity or his vision, let them look at our diplomacy with North Korea.

THAT is funny. It’s just not a joke.

Coherence in Trump’s Iran and North Korea Policy?

What’s at work in Donald Trump’s reneging on the Iran Deal and his cancelling/tentative rescheduling of the June Singapore summit to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un? Is there any coherence in these policies? Does his blunderous waffling on the Singapore summit reflect the spinelessness of an empty corpse that’s been infested with parasites? Or, simply put, does it reflect someone who is morbidly indecisive and gutless, and is unduly influenced by the new war-loving National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?

In a Truthout interview with Noam Chomsky, Chomsky maintains that both cancelling the summit (though its status is now up in the air) and leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) benefits Trump’s “actual constituency,” consisting of  “corporate power” and “private wealth.”

Prior to canceling the Singapore summit, Lawrence Wilkerson cited internal U.S. politics as the motivator for Trump’s “Libya model” threat against the Kim Jong-Un regime and for pulling out of the JCPOA. He argues that, since World War II, no other U.S. president has been driven so significantly by domestic politics.

These are both interesting, albeit, unsurprising conclusions. The mid-terms are coming up and Trump seems to be too lazy to go on the campaign trail for Republicans. An easier way to campaign is to manufacture news that rallies the base and, consequently, gets them to turn out in large numbers for his Republican allies…as most of Trump’s base salivates on a ‘tough’, hardline policy towards perceived foreign adversaries.

The corporate power and wealth that Chomsky cites are certainly part of the equation. The stocks of military industrial companies have soared to record highs under Trump. The perpetual threat of war drives the military industry to continuously fill new orders, thus satisfying stockholders. One slight anomaly occurred when the summit with North Korea was planned in early May; this briefly had caused military industrial stocks to plummet. Perhaps, as a response to Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s fears of a long-term peace with North Korea, Trump and his team reacted appropriately: with belligerent U.S.-South Korea military drills and warning that Kim Jong-Un’s overthrow would be something akin to the disastrous regime change of Gaddafi if the talks don’t work out. And who to help ensure military industrial stocks would rise back up, other than pro-war advocate John Bolton?

This was all after North Korea dismantled its nuclear weapons testing site. Such a major concession, prior to an important diplomatic conference, was met with antagonism from the Trump administration. Reacting to intense hostility, a North Korean government statement was issued critical of Mike Pence. And then, unsurprisingly, Trump cancelled the meeting.

We can only assume that if the Singapore conference ever happens, Trump’s complete lack of diplomatic skills will prevent the U.S. from successfully negotiating a peace agreement with North Korea. Even if the parasitic moneyed interests in Trump’s empty corpse, now dominated by neoconservatives, pushed him towards diplomacy, he lacks the ability, patience and intelligence that is necessary to broker a complex peace treaty.

Canceling the North Korea summit, reneging on the JCPOA and threatening the ‘strongest sanctions in history’ against Iran has crystalized the Trump administration’s overall strategy: provocation.

On a school bus, the bigger kid taunts and pushes the smaller one around every day. Eventually, the bullied child finds an opportunity to retaliate.

In the sphere of international relations, this equates with pushing an adversary towards first strike, whether on U.S. forces in Syria, Guam or South Korea, or a strong retaliatory strike against Israel by Iran. When this happens, the mainstream media will play along, as it usually does. Their framing will implicitly go something like: ‘Innocent’ U.S. forces in Syria were attacked or ‘irreproachable’ Israel was attacked by Iranian forces. This occurred a couple weeks ago when Iranian forces struck Israel after over 250 Israeli attacks on Iran’s forces in Syria. In short, the Trumpian goal may be to push the adversary to take ‘preemptive’ military action and, thereby, contrive justification for commencing full-scale war and regime change.

If Trump’s belligerence towards Iran and North Korea is largely theatrics for a domestic audience, then the war-potential consequence may come as a rude awakening. But, if the Trump administration has a more coherent policy of conning either North Korea or Iran into war, then it appears of Machiavellian design.

Yet, we should not really blame Niccolò Machiavelli for superpower machinations of goading smaller states into war. Not only was Machiavelli a tireless advocate for warding off the Florentine city state’s behemoth neighbors, including the Holy Roman Empire, France and Spain, from subjugation, but he sought to preserve Florence’s autonomy to develop a more democratic republic. According to German historian Friedrich Meinecke, Machiavelli’s ragione di stato or raison d’état helped implement the power of the state (which inevitability has its own problems) against the “corporate state of Ancient Régime” to change the law on behalf of the public good (p. 126-127). Ultimately, this allowed for creation of the modern state, which, in theory, holds the state to be responsible to its citizens, rather than the other way around.

It is difficult to discern to what degree there is coherence in Trump’s bellicose policies towards Iran and North Korea. Both policies serve military industrial stocks, as did April’s airstrikes on Syria – in this, there is clear consistency. However, what is not clear, is if the Trump administration is trying to goad North Korea and/or Iran into ‘preemptive’ attack, so it can justify an all-out war. For John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, it would seem that the sooner war occurs, the better. But for Trump, a war now may be too early – it may only benefit his Republican allies up for reelection in November. Meanwhile, any increased popularity Trump would gain from a war now would invariably diminish by the time he’s up for reelection. Thus, for Trump, commencing war two years later, just before the presidential election, would make far more sense. Republicans, independents and even some Democrats would rally to the flag and be more likely to vote him back into office.

This may be why we see Trump floundering, like a befuddled invertebrate, on the Singapore summit. He may have acquiesced to Bolton and Pompeo on cancelling the summit and leaving the JCPOA, but realizes that the timing is not right for the acquisition of political capital that would derive from a new war. However, as Wilkerson noted, Trump’s hostile actions play to domestic politics by firing up his base – but perhaps Trump fears that this could go too far, at least right now. Hence, the summit with Kim Jong-Un still remains up in the air.

Ultimately, a search for full coherence and intelligent life in Trump’s foreign policy may simply be an act of futility. Instead, Trump’s Iran and North Korea policy is reminiscent of a scene from the 1990 movie Ghost. In this scene, various spirits struggle within Whoopi Goldberg’s psychic character ‘Old Mae Brown’ to gain control of the character’s body and will.

In Trump’s case, his reality tv star empty corpse is where moneyed interests fight it out. Inevitably, the result will be antithetical to the public good. And, consequently, war with Iran and/or North Korea looms as a future likelihood.

Pompeo Challenged at Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Newly appointed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had every reason to expect that his first official appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would be the usual slam-dunk as mostly obedient, respectful Senators aligned with his testimony.

Instead of the typically gratuitous compliments and undeserved deference, there was a display (albeit a minority) of some moral courage with a rare slice of truth on Capitol Hill, epitomizing the real-time requirements of a Senator’s job: to be skeptical, provide oversight and demand accountability from every Federal government witness, no matter the rank – once referred to as ‘grilling the witness.”

Besides fraternizing with America’s most privileged citizens, endless rounds of lavish Capitol Hill receptions, wide ranging international travel opportunities (aka junkets), a liberal vacation  policy and exorbitant benefits out of step for the minimal accomplishments actually achieved, the current Senate paradigm has allowed too many Members to degenerate into a protuberance of greedy, sniveling, weak-minded buffoons with no genuine regard for their constituents or what was once the greatest democracy on the planet.

Days earlier, as the nation’s top diplomat, Pompeo delivered the Trump Administration’s controversial “After the Deal: A New Iran Strategy” in a decidedly undiplomatic speech to a less than enthusiastic audience at the Heritage Foundation.  That aggressive strategy included a dozen doomed-to-fail, untenable demands that were little more than a precursor for military intervention and regime change.

Before the hearing began, Pompeo unexpectedly read a crude letter from President Trump to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cancelling the June 12th summit citing “tremendous anger and open hostility” and concluded with the moronic “If you change your mind …, please do not hesitate to call or write me.”  To date, Trump has softened his stance against a meeting and hints the June summit may occur on schedule.

As the hearing began, most Senators expended their allotted time by steadfastly avoiding the massive foreign policy blunder that had just been dropped in their laps.  The following excerpts focus on two Members, Sen. Rand Paul (R-SC) (1:58) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) (2:19/3:27) since they had the most extensive dialogue with Pompeo and because they gave Pompeo the most grief.  Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Or) (3:34) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) (3:15) questioned implications of the upcoming Authority for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

Sen. Paul launched into a rapid-fire critique exposing the inadequacies of Pompeo’s Iran Plan with a much needed dose of reality as he methodically decimated the strategy, beginning with the requirement that Iran reveal the ‘military dimensions’ of its nuclear program:

Let’s substitute Israel for Iran. Does anyone believe that Israel is going to reveal the military dimensions of their nuclear program? ” Paul inquired whether the Saudi’s would be willing to discuss “anything they’ve done to develop nuclear weapons or reveal the military dimensions of their nuclear program. So really what you’re asking for is something they (Iranians) are never going to agree to.”

Regarding the requirement that Iran end its proliferation of ballistic missiles, Paul explained that:

… when we supply weapons, the Saudis buy weapons, the Saudis have a ballistic weapon program, they (Iran) respond to that. The Saudis and their allies …spend more than eight times Iran so when you tell Iran that you have to give up your ballistic missile program but you don’t say anything to the Saudis, you think they are ever going to sign?

If you leave Saudi Arabia and Israel out of it and look at Iran in isolation, that’s not how they (Iran) perceive it. We want Iran to do things that we’re not willing to ask anybody else to do and that we would never do.

Regarding Pompeo’s demand to end military support for the Houthi rebels:

Once again, you’re asking them to end it but you’re not asking the Saudis to end their bombardment of Yemen.  If you look at the humanitarian disaster that is Yemen, it is squarely on the shoulders of the Saudis.

Paul then drew attention to the demand for Iran to withdraw all its forces from Syria noting that:

ISIS is getting weapons from Qatar and Saudi Arabia and that Saudi Arabia and Qatar are ten times the problem. The people who attacked us came from Saudi Arabia. We ignore all that and lavish them with bombs.

It was naïve to pull out of the Iran Agreement and in the end, we’ll be worse off for it.

Pompeo was Stunned and the Silence was Deafening.  Pompeo had absolutely no reaction to Paul’s devastating analysis of US foreign policy in the Middle East, offering no explanation, no excuse, no correction or thoughtful response; nor did any other Senator present dare step into the swamp.

Next up was Sen. Markey citing Trump’s reference to North Korea’s ‘tremendous anger and open hostility” and inquiring:

How did you expect North Korea to react to comparisons between Libya and North Korea, between the fates of Kim Jong Un and Qaddafi? Why would you expect anything other than anger and hostility in reaction to these comparisons?

Markey was referring to Vice President Mike Pence’s  comment that “Kim Jong Un will end up like Qaddafi if he does not make a deal” and National Security Advisor John Bolton’s  “we have very much in mind the Libya model of 2003-2004.”

As background, in 2003 Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi relinquished his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons allowing inspectors to oversee and verify the process.  By 2011, with US and NATO instigation, Libya experienced a violent overthrow of its government with Qaddafi brutally murdered.  And who can ever forget former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s macabre glee “we came, we saw, he died“.

Pompeo expressed “misunderstanding taking place with this idea of a Libya model” and that he “hadn’t done the work to find out what that was…when Libyans chose to give up their nuclear weapons in 2003.  That’s the Libya model.”

Markey explained:

The Libya model, as Kim Jong Un has been interpreting it, is that the leader of the country surrenders their nuclear capability only to then be overthrown and killed.  Why would you not think that Kim would not interpret it that way as it continued to escalate with Bolton and Vice President talking about the Qaddafi model? .…why would you think there would be any other interpretation at what happened to Qaddafi at the end of his denuclearization which is that he wound up dead?  Why would that not elicit hostility from a negotiating partner three weeks prior to sitting down..

From there Markey and Pompeo bantered back and forth with Pompeo consistently failing to grasp the connection between Qaddafi’s 2003 disarmament agreement and US military interference in Libya in 2011 that resulted in Qaddafi’s death as sufficient reason for North Korea to feel threatened.  No matter how precise the clarification, Pompeo continued to respond as a dense, one-dimensional thinker unable to wrap his mind around logic that challenged his view of a simulated reality, as if looking at the same object through a different lens.

Committee chair Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) agreed with Markey.

I opposed so strongly what the Obama administration did in Libya was exactly the argument you are laying out right now…to have someone like Qaddafi who gave up their nuclear weapons and then go kill him to me sent exactly the signal that you are laying out right now.

Corker then announced that he ‘just had discussion with Secretary’s staff and he is now 15 minutes late for a meeting.  I’m going to allow a couple of comments but going to stop it in five minutes.”

Markey immediately inquired:

Who is the meeting with Mr. Secretary.. if you are not going to stay here and answer questions from us.. can you not push that meeting back another 15 minutes…

Corker:

This is getting a little bit, this type of discourse, I’m sorry, I’m the one doing this. I’ve been very generous.

Markey:

…but we agreed to two seven- minute question periods and it is being ended here for two members..

Markey continued until Sen. Corker gavelled his time had expired.

As the Foreign Relations Committee contemplates an upcoming markup and vote on a Forever AUMF next week, it will be a time for other Committee Senators to step outside the Matrix and dig deep to find their own moral fortitude.

Pompeo’s Iran Speech

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced to a Heritage Foundation audience Monday a set of 12 demands (‘basic requirements”) to induce the U.S. to rejoin a new, improved JCPOA agreement and to avoid being “crushed” by the U.S. A Washington Post op-ed by Jason Reizaian described the speech was “silly,” and it was criticized by most of the media as at least unrealistic.

I’m reminded of the Twenty-One Demands Japan submitted to China on January 8, 1914. Months earlier Japanese forces had attacked the German concession (colony) in Shandong and occupied the territory. The attack on the Germans was justified by the fact that Germany was a war with Britain, and Japan was a British military ally doing its part in the First World War. Tokyo demanded that China acknowledge its acquisition of German rights in Shandong, open up more ports to Japanese, transfer control of a mining enterprise, avoid giving more concessions to foreign powers (other than Japan), and generally place Japanese advisors at every level of government. It was so blatantly unreasonable that Britain and the U.S. were shocked and took action to block the most egregious provisions. (The Anglo-Japanese Naval Treaty of 1902 ended in 1921, in part due to mounting British distaste with their ally’s behavior.)

The Japanese imperialist state’s arrogance and cruelty had been made plain to world opinion. Today the U.S. bares its similar qualities not through a diplomatic note but a televised speech in which Iran was told to be afraid, and to obey. It put the rest of the world including key U.S. allies on notice that Washington will use its tools to thwart the trade and investment promised in an agreement it itself helped craft and signed three years ago.

Practically all U.S. allies would like to block these demands that the Trump administration is heaping on Iran. Because they also impose demands on them, to back out on big deals already signed or face secondary sanctions. In 1914 most of the world sympathized with China, the victim. Now most of the world sympathizes with Iran. From at least 2003 and the invasion of Iraq justified on a bogus nuclear threat the U.S. has acquired the reputation of a bully. It already had one, of course; the U.S. war in Vietnam horrified much of the world, as the bombing of Baghdad did in 1999. Even so, global respect for the U.S. was higher while Nixon bombed Hanoi dikes than it is now while Trump merely threatens countries’ annihilation. If there was an upswing for awhile during the Obama era, U.S. prestige and popularity has plummeted under Trump.

Recent polls show more Germans see Putin as more trustworthy than Trump, and Russia more reliable than Washington. The reputation of the U.S. has crumbled while cities crumble under U.S. bombs. Now alongside the U.S.-inflicted tragedies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya there is the potential for a major regional war, virtually provoked by the U.S., involving allied bullies like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Would that there might be a global intervention to prevent the U.S. from sabotaging the deal the rest of the world not only supports but sees as a break on the manifested U.S. penchant for war. Let nations say: if you sanction us for following through on legal contracts, we will sanction you back, in the interests of maintaining our own sovereignty. Let them say: You’re not the boss now. EU GDP equals yours. Iran is a huge promising market in which Europeans especially Germans have long been invested. You’re telling us that to prevent Iran getting nuclear weapons (which the IAEA says it’s not and lacks the capacity to do so) we can’t sell civilian passenger airlines to people who badly need new, safe planes? That’s absurd.

Note that Pompeo has recently visited Pyongyang twice to meet Kim Jung-un. It looks possible that there will be a serious Trump-Kim summit leading to welcome results. That is Pompeo in his diplomatic mode. In his Heritage Foundation speech he adopts the role of a super-bully, shocking not so much the Iranians (accustomed to U.S. duplicity) as the Europeans. The president of the EU Donald Tusk had asked days before Pompeo’s speech, “Looking at the latest decisions of President Trump, some could even think: ‘With friends like that, who needs enemies?” European leaders including British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson say they will do all they can to protect their investments.

Their resentment of being denied their rights—by a government led by a boorish, smug, condescending, bullying, demanding, wholly uninformed, malignant dunce–might be a factor itself in the decline of the U.S. empire. Engels wrote in a letter in 1894:

Men make their history themselves but not as yet with a collective will according to a collective plan or even a definite, delimited given society. Their aspirations clash, and for that very reason all such societies are governed by necessity, the complement and form of appearance of which is accident. The necessity which here asserts itself athwart all accident is again ultimately economic necessity. This is where the so-called great men come in for treatment. That such and such a man and precisely that man arises at a particular time in a particular country is, of course, pure chance. But cut him out and there will be a demand for such a substitute, and this substitute will be found, good or bad, but in the long run he will be found. …That Napoleon, just that particular Corsican, should have been the military dictator whom the French Republic, exhausted by its own warfare, had rendered necessary, was chance; but that, if a Napoleon had been lacking, another would have filled the place, is proved by the fact that the man was always found as soon as he became necessary: Caesar, Augustus, Cromwell, etc.

No, the role of personality is not so important in history. Economic necessity is operative now, surely. But are Trump’s arbitrary, inconsistent policies simply or even fundamentally driven by that? Perhaps Wall Street thinks so, until it panics at the threat of a trade war. Is it necessary for trans-Atlantic inter-capitalist competition and contention to strain the Atlantic Alliance? Or provoke conflict with Canada and Mexico without giving thought to how doing so arouses more disdain even among close allies? Trump reportedly went from being anti-NAFTA to pro-NAFTA in one day, confusing the press. He reveals the inconsistency of someone with no coherent ideology, as many have observed. He will pay too much attention to Bolton’s Wormtongue counsel, but then maybe not. With Trump you don’t know.

As a historical force his personality so far has resulted in multiple successful attempts of foreign leaders to flatter him (even the Saudis on his first foreign visit after his election) into agreements and cordial relations. He is understood (obviously) to want and need praise. The South Korean president brilliantly handled him by serving as the intermediary for North Korea in urging a summit with the North Korean leader (to avoid war on their peninsula), praising him for having made this offer happen by his pressure on the DPRK. No doubt both Moon and Xi Jinping have shared notes with Kim Jong-un about how to exploit this clown’s egoism.

His personality has also resulted in a drop in U.S. power to influence global events. Angela Merkel has been insulted by him and apparently detests him; she’s declared that “Europe must take its fate into its own hands.” In part, by partnering more with Russia.

Trump’s vacillations and vague statements, impulsive decisions and explosive threats, concern the whole world.

His personality has long since convinced the majority is this country that he’s what Hillary Clinton in her restrained name-calling called “unfit.” While his supporters hail the economic statistics thinking he is making America great again, he has produced enormous anxiety and depression and especially lacks support from youth. The prestige of the presidency has rarely been lower, even if Trump’s support remains around 40%. (He has what you call a “polarizing personality.”)

It’s hard to understand, given the multiple appointment picks and contradictory, changing policies and lack of clarity in pronouncements, what Trump’s role is in the global class struggle. He seems determined to revive the World War I world, of competing capitalist-imperialist blocs of exploiters commonly oppressing the toiling people, while always whipping up their patriotism and nationalism as preparation for war. He just might not be able to do it.

The references to him as “Leader of the Free World” are surely fake news, not only because there is no real “Free World” but because its supposed other leaders can’t accept his leadership. He’s an exposed Wizard of Oz. I thought this was true of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush too; very ignorant men posturing as astute (although neither very articulate in unscripted comments because neither knew what they were talking about) but Trump is much worse. His passion for confrontation with Iran is not based so much on economic calculation (although he may have solicited or received some outside money from Iran’s staunch enemies) as much as a campaign promise and perhaps the influence of his son-in-law.

Trump actually seems to work against the U.S. economy long-term by inviting not just limited trade wars, which are normal, but inviting such personal contempt and reducing the desire of Europeans and others to even buy U.S. products. (Not that it’s directly relevant, but the 21 Demands generated a massive Chinese boycott on Japanese imports that hurt the Japanese conglomerates for a time.) Personality is important here. But I agree to Engels that had he not been elected it would have been someone else (like Ted Cruz). The economic necessity may be the re-division of the world to satisfy the needs of psychopaths.

Europe and the U.S.: An Era of Mutual Indignation

On December 21, 2017 the United Nations General Assembly rejected the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by a 128-9 vote. The only countries to side with Israel and the U.S. were Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, and for good balance, Togo. (The West African country’s President Gnassingbe benefiting from Israeli aid gushes about “Israel coming back to Africa, and Africa coming back to Israel.”)

Recall that the UNGA resolution that was passed in 1947, proposing the partition of Palestine, which (with a lot of terror) led to the establishment of the state of Israel, posited Jerusalem as a corpus separatum. Not just the status of East Jerusalem but that of the whole city remains in dispute. The city is the third holiest in the Islamic worldview, behind Mecca and Medina. The Prophet supposedly in a miraculous night visit on a sacred horse, alighted the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in what is now the occupied Old City. (I don’t believe that, any more than I believe the Old Testament myth about God causing the sun to remain stationary in the sky to give Joshua more time to conquer Jerusalem from the evil Canaanites–as depicted in Joshua 10:12. But myths are powerful.)

In any case, from the second century to the twentieth the city was overwhelming Christian or Muslim, a large percentage of its inhabitants probably descendants of pre-diaspora Judeans who over time converted to these religions. The proposition that Jerusalem is the “eternal Jewish capital” is a religious, literary and romantic one unjustified by actual history. It was emphatically not the Jewish capital between 70 CE, when Titus destroyed the city (reconstructing it as a pagan one with amphitheaters and baths); or after the Roman emperor Hadrian expelled Judeans from the city in 115; not until 1948 when west Jerusalem was taken by force. It was the headquarters of a Jewish monarch of some sort, often under foreign (Assyrian, Persian, Hellenistic) influence, for at best a thousand years before it became a pagan city, then a Christian city, then a mixed Muslim-Christian city with a small Jewish minority as of the early twentieth century.

Virtually all European allies of the U.S. voted for the resolution condemning Washington for its decision. The stance of major NATO allies UK, France, and Germany was particularly painful.

An injured UN ambassador Nikki Haley declaimed in front of the assembly: “The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation. We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit.”

What a total disconnect. She’s saying: We pay you to support us, no matter what we do, even if it’s something as inflammatory as moving our embassy to territory the UN considers disputed. (That goes for both the western part occupied in 1948 and the eastern part occupied since 1967.) We have the right to place our embassy wherever we want even if no other country agrees with us, except maybe a few small ones we’ve bought. And if you don’t like it we’ll remember your dislike the next time you need us for something.

She’s saying this not to the Third World so much as to Europe. Those ungrateful allies.

This ignorant, haughty, undiplomatic woman is the perfect Trump representative in the UN. She blames Hamas for the deaths of 92 people in Gaza, and depicts their deaths as an expression of Israel’s right to “defend itself” against peaceful demonstrators and some guys with sling-shots, like David used (see 1 Samuel 17:40).

“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council,”  Haley declaimed on May 15, “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.” (What? When did Danish border guards last kill 92 unarmed people?) This is like saying that the Trump inaugural was the largest in history Or that he’s the healthiest man who’s ever been president, or has the finest genes. It’s more than a lie; it’s a laughable, ridiculous lie in the face of the world, delivered by a political lightweight with no knowledge of history or experience in foreign affairs.

Europe in general doesn’t buy these lies. Nor does it accept the demand from Secretary of State (Minister of War?) Mike Pompeo that it abandon its growing Iran ties at U.S. diktat in order to facilitate the next cataclysmic war—in a zone 3000 km from Italy but 10,000 km from Washington. The Italians have accepted tens of thousands of Syrian and Libyan refugees and are probably not anxious to greet Iranian ones too. They’ve seen the results of U.S.-sponsored regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and attempted regime changes in Syria and Yemen.

An alliance of the Five Star Movement and Northern League in Italy may be taking power. Beppe Grillo, head of the former, is married to a Muslim Iranian woman. The Northern League calls U.S. accusations of Syrian use of WMD “fake news.” Both parties want closer Russian ties. Last year only 57% of Italians polled had a favorable view of NATO (higher than Spain’s 45% or Greece’s 33% but historically low).

Last January Italy and Iran signed a credit agreement worth 5.0 billion euros whereby Rome will help Italian companies invest in Iran. It was signed by Invitalia Global Investment and two Iranian banks. Is Pompeo going to stop that? In order to better “crush” Iran? Can the U.S. still so cow its traditionally closest allies?

The appointments of John Bolton and Pompeo to key positions around the unhinged, impulsive commander-in-chief mean that the policy gap between Washington and Brussels grows, as a matter of sheer idiocy (John Kelly) versus pragmatic capitalism. As appropriate disdain swells in Europe, may the U.S. recede, or hit its imperial peak then shrivel like the Spanish empire did two centuries ago. And may new silk roads link Persia and Europe as they once did, untroubled by banditry or bombs

Trump’s Intelligence Circus: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel

It takes much to make a figure like Rex Tillerson seem not merely sane but competent.  The Trump administration, with its almost paranormal sense of revisionism and fantasy, has managed to make old Rex seem mildly credible. His sacking, inflicted with adolescent petulance, was bound to happen.

At stages, Tillerson came across with clues and cues about what would happen, for instance, with the North Korean nuclear imbroglio.  In December 2017, he suggested the possibility of talking, without conditions, to North Korean leaders, quipping that they could even talk about the shape of the table they might wish to sit at.

It was a stance adjusted within days: Trump had obviously had a word in his ear that such a position did not tally with the “maximum pressure” program being exerted by Washington.  Nor did it match the mania of insisting that, as a precondition, Pyongyang would agree to denuclearisation.

Little wonder, then, that Tillerson found himself out in the arctic cold with a surprise announcement last week that an invitation to speak directly with Kim Jong-un had been accepted.  “Rex wasn’t, as you know, in this country,” mused Trump.  “I made that decision by myself.”

At stages, both men seemed not merely at odds with each other but openly skirmishing.  When Trump insisted on jettisoning the Iran nuclear deal, a point he has reiterated at several points during the 2016 presidential campaign, Tillerson growled.  Decertification, which did take place in October, was delayed.

While hardly being a friend of Teheran, the former Exxon Mobil CEO did at least realise one thing: sinking the deal would signal to Iran that all bets were off.  In Trump’s school boy styled confession, “We disagreed on things.  When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or to do something, and he felt a little bit differently.”

At stages, Tillerson came across as distantly arrogant in the face of a boss he called a moron. (That remark was occasioned by Trump’s enthusiasm last July that he wished to increase the inventory of US nuclear warheads from 4,000 to a previous total of 32,000.)  His boss, in turn, felt that there was no chemistry between them.

The muck infested ponds that feature the latest round of appointments sees Mike Pompeo move from his gun slinging role at the Central Intelligence Agency to the position of Secretary of State.  “We’re always on the save wavelength,” claimed Trump.  “We have a very similar thought process.”  Deputy Director Gina Haspel has been moved up.

Pompeo’s Trumpist wavelength has been decidedly erratic, elevating various figures and entities of the world to the level of demon status.  Iran, for instance, is apparently “intent on destroying America.”  Foremost in his targeting obsessions has been WikiLeaks, an organisation he views as venal and mercenary.  Caring not one jot for the First Amendment, Pompeo was keen to find some aggressive redress to neutralise the activities of that small but industrious outfit.

As Tillerson’s successor, hammered out agreements are bound to be revised, if not overturned.  A clue can be gathered from his stance on Iran, one which he took in Congress.  In 2015, he voted against the Obama administration’s decision to remove various economic sanctions on Iran, a decision premised on Teheran’s pulling back on its nuclear program and accepting a verification regime.

Towards China, Pompeo has already promised dedicated confrontation. On Fox News Sunday, he thought it “clear what the Chinese are doing, whether that’d be on trade or the theft of intellectual property or their continued advancement in East and South China Seas”.  To “have a good relationship with China in the way the world desperately needs”, it was necessary to engage “in pushing back against the Chinese threats”.

The CIA shuffle – putting the sketchy Haspel in the top position – is interesting for its various impediments.  She is, for instance, a veteran of those dark days when torture was euphemised by means of “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Haspel’s involvement there was not merely philosophical but practical: she physically presided over torture at a CIA black site located in Thailand, then subsequently attempted to smudge the record.  She was ably assisted by the destruction of 92 videotapes documenting the interrogation methods used on al-Qaeda suspects at the Cat’s Eye.  The defiant 2005 order came from that not-so-good angel in disguise, Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s counterterrorism chief.  The confirmation hearings promise to be fascinatingly lurid.

Should she, in fact, wish to venture out of the United States, tribes of lawyers and engaged activists preoccupied with such unfashionable topics as the dignity of the subject will be watching.  The European Centre for Constitutional Human Rights has made Haspel a person of fascinating interest in filing a legal intervention with the German Federal Public Prosecutor (Generalbundesanwalt – GBA) hoping to secure an arrest warrant.

Universal jurisdiction can be such a confounding thing, especially for officials keen on conducting activities with impunity.  Given time and circumstance, Trump may shortly be scouring for another replacement in his ever busy schedule of appointments.

Vulnerability and Prowess: Mike Pompeo Meets the BBC

In this age of reality television (or televised unreality), the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency was not going to miss out.  Unlike other chief spies who operate in habitual darkness and moving shadows, Mike Pompeo was very keen to get his voice and opinion across on the British Broadcasting Service.

Pompeo specialises in seeing enemies everywhere, and to be fair, he is remunerated to do so.  But he has taken his brief all too enthusiastically, seeing challenges to US hegemony at every corner, contenders for supreme power behind many an action.  This, in one respect, is a re-enforcing phenomenon: the need for an intelligence service has been questioned at stages of US history, so its chiefs need to find reasons, however plausible.

It was only with the foundation of the US national security state and the arrival of the American imperium that a central intelligence agency was deemed necessary. The occasionally brutal mother of necessity dealt with the rest.

More has to be done, Pompeo insists, on combating covert Chinese influence through the world. (Shades of the Red Menace creep through the dialogue.)  No animosity is intended, merely that they need to be combated.  And when required, the CIA will still supply, in an old age fraternal manner, assistance that might foil a plot.  St. Petersburg is cited as an example, but that hardly means that all is well with the Russian services.  “I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity.”

Threats require inflation and propping up.  Small is truly ugly, with North Korea being elevated to the level of existential bogeyman.  “We talk about [Kim Jong-un] having the ability to deliver nuclear weapons to the United States in a matter of a handful of months.”

The CIA’s role in this is distinctly hostile and averse to diplomacy.  “Our task is to have provided the intelligence to the president of the United States that will deliver to him a set of options that continue to take down that risk by non-diplomatic means.”  This provision has, in the past, been tantamount to feeding an administration a fictional text, based on what might be in order to avert what might come.  It bears repeating: before Donald Trump, there were Weapons of Mass Deception; before this president, there was “fake” news.

For Pompeo, old patterns will supposedly repeat themselves.  Adversaries will continue to chew around the edges of American power, gnawing in hope.  Russia will do what it supposedly did in 2016: interfere in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Pompeo’s strategy here is elementary.  The enemy must be deemed sufficiently serious to warrant concern, but not such as to justify the tag of invincibility.  Interference may take place, but it will all be in hand.  The good shall prevail.

“I have every expectation that [the Russians] will continue to try and do that, but I’m confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election [and] that we will push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.”

This will be so even if his employer, a certain Donald Trump, is sceptical that Moscow got its paws dirty to begin with.  From the start, President Trump has insisted that Russian electoral interference was hardly worth a jot on the political landscape.  “I don’t do fine lines,” returns Pompeo without a smirk of irony. “I do the truth.”  That truth – “exquisite” no less – is delivered “everyday personally to the president”.

This is surely a tall order for a President who regards truth in the most relative of terms, the sort that are shaped according to circumstance and curious angle.  But the CIA chief is keen to impress the BBC that Trump is “very focused in the sense that he is curious about the facts that we present.  He is curious in the sense he wants to understand why we believe them.”  A touch double-edged, given that Trump has had his beef with the CIA and its record in the past on matters factual and truthful.

Mindful of singing for his supper, Pompeo insists that Trump is very much present, engaged and committed.  There is nothing of the unhinged nature being asserted in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.  “The claim that the president isn’t engaged and doesn’t have a grasp on these important issues is dangerous and false, and it saddens me that someone would have taken the time to write such drivel.”

The paradox of such public pitches lies in their dual emphasis on vulnerability and prowess.  Pompeo’s line runs something like this: the United States is vulnerable to virtually every body or entity, but also possesses the best counter-security measures of the globe.  Given that the CIA has been asleep at the wheel on more than several occasions (remember the end of the Cold War or the planes of September 11, 2001?), prowess and proficiency have been periodically called into question.

Pompeo, however, is not interested in history when talking to the BBC.  “We’re the world’s finest espionage service.”  The CIA would continue to steal secrets and to “steal our secrets back”.  The measure of his public engagement with the national broadcaster of a prominent ally is perhaps testament to how far things have fallen.

Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles

It had been, from the start, a cruel wait and see game.  Lacking logic and consistency, the Swedish effort to extradite Julian Assange from the United Kingdom, not for formal charges but the pretext of questioning him over sexual assault and rape, collapsed on Friday.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Marianne Ny and Chief Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren, in a press conference in Stockholm, were doing their best not to have Assange have the last, grizzly laugh.  Abandoning the investigation had been a logistical matter, as they had been unable to serve the Australian with allegations during an interview at the Ecuadorean embassy in November 2016.

It is worth pointing out that getting that interview had been a point of persistent refusal and stonewalling from the Swedish prosecutor’s office.  Communications had also been repeatedly made by the WikiLeaks legal team that they were open to a video interview from the start.

Ny’s text, relayed to the Stockholm District Court, claimed in dryer language that it was “no longer possible to continue the preliminary investigation pursuant to Chapter 23, Section 4, second paragraph, of the Code of Judicial Procedure.”  Keeping in mind “the facts and circumstances of the case, executing the decision to extradite him to Sweden is not expected to be possible in the foreseeable future.”

When pressed about the issue of whether the US still had a thick and clumsy hand in matters, denial followed. At no point had figures in Washington applied pressure to the case.  But Isgren and Ny did claim that an email from a figure claiming to work for the FBI was received in March inquiring about Assange, though both claimed it insufficiently clear to draw any conclusions from.

Indifferent to the inquiry, the prosecutor’s office simply referred the matter to information already available on the agency’s website.  Showing the sort of care they have had to the entire process, the inquiring email was deleted.

Little wonder then, that Assange shot back, telling supporters and journalists that Sweden, and the European Union more broadly, had made indefinite detention a key policy.  “There is no time limit that someone can be detained without charge.  That is not how we expect a civilised state to behave.”

Professor Mads Andenæs, chair of the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention, claimed the collapse of the prosecution case “a victory for the rule of law.  The warrant was contestable.  There were dissents in both the UK and Swedish supreme courts.” Andenæs also noted that the UK Supreme Court had trouble with “several aspects of the extradition request.” As had the UN Working Group itself, which found for Assange last year.

Within Sweden itself, the legal fraternity were also getting stroppy at the lethargic, asthmatic efforts to push the case.  The Swedish Supreme Court had also issued a warning to prosecutors that they needed to speed up efforts or drop the case.

With haste and speculation, the Swedish exit from the Assange equation came with questions whether he would complement it with his own exit from the Ecuadorean embassy in London.  “The European arrest no longer holds,” exclaimed Ecuador’s foreign minister Guillaume Long on Twitter.  “The UK must now grant safe passage to Mr Julian Assange.”  Nothing of the sort: a promise had been made by police that he would be arrested the moment he steps out.

The hook upon which to hang the case against Assange remains his decision to defy UK judicial opinion in June 2012, when he took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy after the Supreme Court handed its final decision ordering his surrender to Sweden pursuant to the flawed European Arrest Warrant.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police dispelled any doubts: “Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Julian Assange following him failing to surrender to the court on 29 June 2012.”  The Met were “obliged to execute that warrant should be he leave the Embassy.”

This keeps the geopolitical dimension relevant.  Assange in the hands of the British authorities will be a far easier catch for US agents keen to pursue WikiLeaks on charges relating to the disclosure of classified material, despite the seemingly impregnable defences of the free speech amendment.

As Assange claimed in a grimly delivered press address from the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy, looking every bit the modelled out information soldier, his detractors in the United States government have little interest in observing the first amendment freedoms for the press for WikiLeaks and its associates.

The Central Intelligence Agency’s Mike Pompeo has deemed WikiLeaks a “hostile non-state intelligence agency” which precludes conventional press protections.  “We can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.  To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for.”

The continuing struggle, one between the guerrilla warriors of the information and transparency movement pitted against the abuses of the Deep State, will continue.  As will the barnacle determination of Assange in occupying that little bit of Ecuador in Knightsbridge. “The proper war,” promised Assange, “is just commencing.”

CIA Chief Declares War on Truth

“… the American people deserve a clear explanation of what their Central Intelligence Agency does on their behalf…. we are an organization committed to uncovering the truth and getting it right…. And sure—we also admit to making mistakes…. But it is always our intention—and duty—to get it right. And that is one of the many reasons why we at CIA find the celebration of entities like WikiLeaks to be both perplexing and deeply troubling.”

— CIA Director Mike Pompeo, April 13, 2017

While the snippets above provide a reasonable summary of the substance of Mike Pompeo’s first speech as head of the CIA, they don’t begin to capture the full demagoguery of the CIA head’s rambling 3700-word blather of ad hominem attacks, false claims, hyperbolic rhetoric, irrelevancies, straw man arguments, and political deflections. In other words, Pompeo made it clear that he has little regard for truth, for personal decency, or for the Constitutional protections for free speech or for the free exercise of religion. It was an altogether chilling debut for a spy agency head in a country that still imagines itself enjoying some basic freedoms.

Pompeo started with an anecdotal biography of former CIA agent Philip Agee, without mentioning that Agee resigned from the CIA in 1968 and died in 2008. Nor did Pompeo mention that Agee resigned, despite CIA entreaties to stay, because Agee could no longer countenance the Agency’s support for brutal dictatorships across Latin America. Instead of confronting the substance of Agee’s life and actions, Pompeo reiterated the official CIA demonization of the man who founded the anti-CIA magazine Counterspy and revealed many CIA secrets. As the CIA has done for decades, Pompeo blamed Agee for the assassination of CIA agent Richard Welch in Greece in 1975. Barbara Bush made this same claim in her 1994 memoir. After Agee sued her for libel, the claim was removed from the paperback edition.

As a lawyer who knows he can’t libel the dead, Pompeo is unmitigatedly dishonest in his portrait of Agee, concluding it with: “Meanwhile, Agee propped up his dwindling celebrity with an occasional stunt, including a Playboy interview. He eventually settled down as the privileged guest of an authoritarian regime.” That was a reference to Cuba, where Agee died, but until the very end of his life he also spent time in Germany, his wife’s home country. Pompeo utterly fails to meet his duty to get it right. He comes nowhere near the truth, that Agee’s life represents the struggle faced by a man of conscience when he realizes the agency he works for also commits horrendous crimes, not just mistakes. An honest historian would put this account of a man’s life within the context of the US Senate’s 1975 Church Committee, which documented a number of CIA crimes and led, for awhile at least, to significant CIA reform.

Having framed his talk with a false version of Philip Agee, Pompeo spent the rest of it mixing CIA boilerplate promotional material with his main purpose, attacking WikiLeaks on the basis of a big lie:

WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It has encouraged its followers to find jobs at CIA in order to obtain intelligence. It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information. And it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States, while seeking support from anti-democratic countries and organizations. It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.

Pompeo offers no analysis or evidentiary support for these assertions. There is no public evidence that WikiLeaks is anything like an intelligence service in purpose, structure, or functioning. According to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, WikiLeaks has the same mission as the Washington Post or New York Times: “to publish newsworthy content. Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media.” The Times famously did that very thing in 1971 when it released the Pentagon Papers, which affirmed the disastrous dishonesty that produced the Vietnam War.

The record of WikiLeaks is the opposite of most any intelligence service, certainly of the CIA. WikiLeaks is available as a resource for people to publish government secrets. WikiLeaks vets the material it is offered and, so far, has never had to make a retraction. Everything WikiLeaks has offered is true. The CIA lies all the time, although not everything it says is false. What Pompeo says about Chelsea Manning looks like a bald-faced lie. But he needs that lie to undercut the reality that Manning was a soldier with a conscience who objected to US random slaughters of Iraqi civilians, men, women, children, journalists.

Pompeo’s reference to “state actors like Russia” is shamelessly hilarious. The best known WikiLeaks project allegedly involving Russia is the massive release of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails during the 2016 campaign. These were significantly damaging to Hillary Clinton, and Mike Pompeo at the time was saying things like this:

Well, it’s classic Clinton, right? When you find out you got a problem, you deflect, you deny, you create a contretemps where there really is none. Frankly, it’s pretty clear who invited the Russians to do damage to America, and it was Hillary Clinton. She put classified information on a private server, inviting the Chinese, the Iranians, the Russians, all to have access to it. I hope they didn’t get it, but even the former director of the CIA said he thinks they probably did. So, the person who’s put American national security risk isn’t Donald Trump, it’s Hillary Clinton.

So in July 2016, WikiLeaks was innocent, and Russia was irrelevant? Can you say find the truth and get it right? Can you say serial hypocrite? Or can you say, along with candidate Trump last October, “This just came out. Wikileaks. I love WikiLeaks”?

At the time of Pompeo’s speech, mainstream media paid more attention to the so-called “mother of all bombs” dropped on Afghanistan than they did to this much more powerful political bombshell dropped on the US. Recently some mainstream media have been taking another look, as in this headline from Newsweek: “CIA CHIEF POMPEO TAKES AIM AT THE FREE PRESS.”

What can and should CIA, the United States, and our allies do about the unprecedented challenge posed by these hostile non-state intelligence agencies?… First, it is high time we called out those who grant a platform to these leakers and so-called transparency activists…. We know the danger that Assange and his not-so-merry band of brothers pose to democracies around the world. Ignorance or misplaced idealism is no longer an acceptable excuse for lionizing these demons.

Once again the high hilarity of the deceitful surfaces in Pompeo’s calling Assange a threat to democracy. If that is in any sense true, then Mike Pompeo owes his CIA job to the success of Assange’s “threat.” The real threat is to those who “grant a platform” to WikiLeaks, and those would be all American media for starters. But the scarier part is that Pompeo is not only comfortable demonizing people like Agee or Assange, he literally calls them “demons,” and this is not standard political talk, this is fundamentalism Christian visualizing the devil’s work. When some of the highest officials in the US government are busy chasing “demons,” then US Constitutional government is at serious risk.

Mike Pompeo, 53, the present director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a West Point trained military veteran, a Harvard trained lawyer, and a self-expressed, profound “Christian” bigot and hypocrite. He has no experience in intelligence. The radical former Tea Party congressman from Kansas was confirmed for his CIA role by a 66-32 Senate vote despite his lengthy, fact-free obsession with the Benghazi attack of 2012, or his avid denial of climate change, or his ardent support for keeping Guantanamo and other torture prisons open (he has called torturers “patriots”). He has advocated covert surveillance to collect “all metadata” on Americans, a program that is currently illegal. Pompeo not only magnifies the threat of terrorists like ISIS, he views that threat through a religious lens and apparently believes in the Manichaean formulation that there is currently “a conflict between the Christian west and the Islamic east.”

After his April 13 address, Pompeo took questions, one of which was about President Trump’s relationship with the CIA and the other 16 agencies in the intelligence community. The question apparently referred to such things as President Trump’s tweets earlier this year, blaming leaks on “the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia” and later saying “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” The supposedly “fake news” had exposed multiple Russian contacts with Trump campaign agents as early as 2015, revelations that led directly to the resignation of Trump’s national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn. The question of Russian involvement in electing President Trump remains unresolved.

Despite this context, Pompeo answered the question about the president’s relations with the intelligence community simply: “It’s fantastic.”

The audience laughed. Pompeo added: “Don’t laugh, I mean that.”

Good to know that the head of Central Intelligence believes in fantasy. Reassuring to know that the CIA head wants to “make sure that we know that Jesus Christ our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”

A nation formed by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is now at least partly in the hands of a Christian Taliban.