Category Archives: Paul Manafort

Conservative Rationality, War and Refugees, and Trump’s Spending Priorities

Taking on the Washington Post again, in the person of columnist Max Boot, formerly of the Wall Street Journal

Dear Mr. Boot,

You write: “Every administration since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s has tried to improve relations with Moscow.”

I stopped. Frozen. Can the man be serious? Yes, he is. God help us. I’ve published 5 books which give the lie to that statement, detailing all the foreign governments the US has overthrown, or tried to, because they were too friendly with Moscow, or were themselves too communist or too socialist, or simply too liberal. China, France, Italy, Greece, Korea, Albania, Iran, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Haiti, British Guiana, Iraq, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Congo, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Ghana, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Australia, Portugal, East Timor, Angola, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Philippines, Grenada, Suriname, Libya, Panama … I’m only up to 1989 … God help us … Read my books …

William Blum

Reply from Mr. Boot:

How does your email contradict my statement? I didn’t say the US hadn’t tried to oppose the Soviet Union and Communism. I said that every president had also tried to improve relations with Moscow.

Reply from Mr. Blum:

So, overthrowing governments and assassinating their leaders because they’re friendly to the Soviet Union is not a contradiction to trying to improve relations with the Soviet Union. Interesting. The CIA also connived to get Soviet diplomats expelled from various countries and did various things to block Soviet international financial transactions, etc., etc. All signs of trying to improve relations with Moscow? Silly me for not thinking of that. I’ll have to revise my books.

==== No reply received ====

The above is one example of how conservatives rationalized their being Cold Warriors -– The United States always meant well. No matter how bad their foreign interventions may have looked, America’s heart was always in the right place. The current US secretary of Defense, James Mattis, recently stated: “We are the good guys. We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we’re doing what we can.”1

Russian interference in US election: The new Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Washington Post has a regular “fact checker”, Glenn Kessler, who checks the accuracy of statements made by politicians and other public figures. On September 3 he announced that President Trump’s first 592 days in office had produced 4,713 false or misleading claims; that’s about 8 per day.

The article included a list of the types of claims, including the investigation into “Russian interference in the 2016 election” and whether people in the Trump campaign were in any way connected to it. Kessler believes they were. “All told, more than 200 times the president has made claims suggesting the Russia probe is made up, a hoax or a fraud.”

The “fact checker” needs to be fact-checked. He takes it as gospel that Russia consciously and purposefully interfered in the election, but like all the many other commentators offers no evidence. It’s conceivable that evidence of such has actually been presented and I was in a coma that day. (Would I remember that I was in a coma? Probably only if someone told me. So far no one has told me that I was in a coma.)

Keep in mind that a statement from the CIA that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.

Keep in mind that a statement from the FBI that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.

Keep in mind that a statement from the NSA that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.

Keep in mind that a statement from a dozen other US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election does not count as evidence. It’s merely a statement.

Here’s James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence: “To me it stretches credulity to think that the Russians didn’t have profound impact” on the outcome of the election.2 Clearly if the man had any evidence to substantiate his statement he would have provided it at the time. He did not provide any. So all we get is another statement.

There are not many government bureaucrats who would publicly contradict the CIA, the FBI and the NSA on an important intelligence matter. How impressed would you be if a dozen Russian intelligence agencies all declared that Russia did not interfere in any way in the US 2016 election?

Moreover, keep in mind that numerous notices and advertisements posted to Facebook and other social media calling for the election of Trump and/or the defeat of Clinton do not count as evidence of Russian interference in the election even if some or most of the postings were seemingly made by Russians. Countless other notices and advertisements called for the election of Clinton and/or the defeat of Trump.

Moreover, many of these social-media postings (which members of Congress and the media like to make so much of) were posted well before the candidates were chosen, or even after the election took place.

So what do we make of all this? Well, it’s been pointed out that most of these postings were to so-called “click-bait” Internet sites that earn payments based on their volume of traffic. I have not come across any other explanation of the huge number of electoral postings during 2014-2017.

And forget about Trump aides like Paul Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, who’ve been charged with various financial crimes such as money laundering, tax and bank fraud, failure to register as a lobbyist, and more; in part the charges involve Ukraine – But NOTHING to do with Russian interference in the 2016 US election, although their cases have undoubtedly fed that story.

The idea of Russian interference in the US election has been repeated so many times in so many places that it’s now taken as unquestioned history. Guardian reporter Luke Harding has a book out called Collusion: Secret meetings, dirty money, and how Russia helped Donald Trump win, which reinforces this myth, and wouldn’t be worth mentioning except that Harding was interviewed by that rare breed, a skeptical journalist, Aaron Maté. Harding repeats one anti-Russian cliché after another, but Maté refuses to allow him to get away with any of it. It’s indeed refreshing. Have a look.

Even if you assumed that all the charges made about “Russian interfering in the elections” were true, and put them all together, they still wouldn’t have a fraction of the impact on the 2016 elections as did Republicans in several states by disenfranchising likely Democratic voters (blacks, poor, students, people in largely Democratic districts), by purging state voting lists.

Noam Chomsky has pointed out that Israeli intervention in US elections “vastly overwhelms” anything Russia has done. Israeli leader Netanyahu goes directly to speak to Congress without even consulting the president.

The United States joined a grand alliance with the forces of the communist Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin in World War II, but Washington can’t even talk civilly now with capitalist Russia. When your goal is world domination any country that stands in the way of that is an enemy. American conservatives in particular have a most difficult time shaking this mind-set. Here’s the prominent conservative host of National Public Radio (NPR), Cokie Roberts, bemoaning Trump’s supposed desire to develop friendly relations with Russia, saying: “This country has had a consistent policy for 70 years towards the Soviet Union and Russia, and Trump is trying to undo that.”3

If Trump were to establish good relations with Russia the lack of a European enemy would also leave NATO (= the US) even more obviously unnecessary.

Then we have the Skripal poisoning case allegedly carried out by Russia in the UK: There are just two things missing to support this allegation: 1) any verifiable evidence, AT ALL, and 2) any plausible motive for the Russian government to have carried out such a crime. But stay tuned, the Brits may yet find Vladimir Putin’s passport at the scene of the crime.

Lest we forget. One of Washington’s greatest crimes

The world will long remember the present immigrant crisis in Europe, which has negatively affected countless people there, and almost all countries. History will certainly record it as a major tragedy. Could it have been averted? Or kept within much more reasonable humane bounds?

After the United States and NATO began to bomb Libya in March 2011 – almost daily for more than six months! – to overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi (with the completely phoney excuse that Gaddafi was about to invade Benghazi, the Libyan center of his opponents, and so the United States and NATO were thus saving the people of that city from a massacre), the Libyan leader declared: “Now listen you people of Nato. You’re bombing a wall, which stood in the way of African migration to Europe and in the way of al Qaeda terrorists. This wall was Libya. You’re breaking it. You’re idiots, and you will burn in Hell for thousands of migrants from Africa.”4

Remember also that Libya was a secular society, like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, all destroyed by America while supporting Saudi Arabia and various factions of al Qaeda. It’s these countries that have principally overrun Europe with refugees.

Gaddafi, like Saddam Hussein, had a tyrant side to him but could in important ways be benevolent and do very valuable things. He, for example, founded the African Union and gave the Libyan people the highest standard of living in all of Africa; they had not only free education and health care but all kinds of other benefits that other Africans could only dream about. But Muammar Gaddafi was never a properly obedient client of Washington. Amongst other shortcomings, the man threatened to replace the US dollar with gold for payment of oil transactions and create a common African currency. He was, moreover, a strong supporter of the Palestinians and foe of Israel.

In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the prime moving force behind the United States and NATO turning Libya into a failed state, where it remains today. The attack against Libya was one that the New York Times said Clinton had “championed”, convincing President Obama in “what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as Secretary of State.”5

The American people and the American media of course swallowed the phoney story fed to them, though no evidence of the alleged impending massacre has ever been presented. The nearest thing to an official US government account of the matter – a Congressional Research Service report on events in Libya for the period – makes no mention at all of the threatened massacre.6  Keep this in mind when reading the latest accusations against Russia.

The US/NATO heavy bombing of Libya led also to the widespread dispersal throughout North African and Middle East hotspots of the gigantic arsenal of weaponry that Gaddafi had accumulated. Libya is now a haven for terrorists, from al Qaeda to ISIS, whereas Gaddafi had been a leading foe of terrorists.

Oh my god, I’ve been called an anti-Semite!

British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and many others in the UK and the US are attacked for being anti-Semitic if they criticize Israel. But John McCain had very friendly meetings, and posed for photos, with prominent neo-Nazis in Ukraine and the Middle East – without being accused of being anti-Semitic. People involved in political activity on the Left have to learn to ignore charges of anti-Semitism stemming from their criticism of Israel. These accusations are just thrown out as a tactic to gain political advantage – like with “anti-American” and “conspiracy theorist” – and do not deserve to be taken seriously. Whenever possible, such name-calling should be made fun of.

There’s an unwritten rule in right-wing circles: It’s okay to be anti-Semitic as long as you’re pro-Israel. Evangelical preacher Pat Robertson is such an example.

While in the past an “anti-Semite” was someone who hates Jews, nowadays it is the other way around: An anti-Semite is someone the Jews hate.

“God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.” – John LeCarré7

George Bush, Sr.’s Secretary of State, James Baker, famously said to a colleague: “Fuck the Jews! They don’t vote for us anyway”.8

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser under Jimmy Carter: “An anti-Israel bias is not the same as anti-Semitism. To argue as much is to claim an altogether unique immunity for Israel, untouchable by the kind of criticism that is normally directed at the conduct of states.”9

What the man actually believes about his presidency

He keeps bragging about how he forced NATO to collect more money from members other than The United States. Here he is in a phone conversation with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.

You do know I’m doing a great job for the country. You do know that NATO now is going to pay billions and billions of dollars more, as an example, than anybody thought possible, that other presidents were unable to get more? … So it’s a tremendous amount of money. No other president has done it. It was heading down in the opposite direction.10

Woodward said nothing to contradict Lord Trump. Someone other than the Post’s star reporter might have – just might – have pointed out that giving NATO billions more is not necessarily a good thing, that the member countries might have – just might – have spent that money on health, education, the environment, etc., etc. for their own people instead of more planes, bombs and tanks.

If not at that very moment on the phone, Woodward or the Post could at least have mentioned this subsequently in print.

  1. CBS, Face the Nation, May 28, 2017.
  2. New York Times Book Review, June 10, 2018.
  3. NPR, January 9, 2017.
  4. Sunday News, Zimbabwe, July 3, 2016.
  5. New York Times, February 28, 2016.
  6. Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy”, updated March 4, 2016.
  7. London Times, January 15, 2003.
  8. The Independent (UK), May 17, 1998.
  9. Foreign Policy magazine, July 2006.
  10. Washington Post, September 5, 2018.

Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and the Culture of Hysteria

As the establishment’s coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Donald Trump gathers momentum, readers are invited to read Ann Coulter’s latest book (Resistance Is Futile: How The Trump-Hating Left Lost Its Collective Mind), which the author says is a “self-help book for liberals,” though their hysteria about Trump will insure that few of them read it.

Psychologists have been treating “Trump anxiety” for some time now, and judging by the reaction of liberals to Coulter, they may soon have to treat Trump Tantrum Disorder as well. As Coulter points out, liberals have grown furiously unhinged by isolating themselves in self-righteous bubbles of Trump haters that exchange indignant comments about his latest outrages, most of which are simply imaginary.

For example, whenever the specter of American fascism is raised (every five minutes) we are told that Trump is a virtual Hitler clone. Uh, right. We all remember from our history books how Hitler went around boasting of his opportunities to grab women by the pussy, promising to replace the Treaty of Versailles with “something terrific,” and engaging in fawning adulation of anyone he hoped to get something from. As Coulter puts it, “I don’t remember Hitler or Stalin going around saying, ‘These people are great. Incredible, outstanding, quality people.’ And who in the WWII era would have described Hitler as Coulter describes Trump: ‘[He’s] utterly undisciplined, runs his mouth, flatters everyone, and agrees with the last person he spoke to. Why, it’s right out of the Mein Kampf playbook!”

The rage against Trump is proof that the election of 2016 never really ended. In her first post-election interview Hillary Clinton declared herself “part of the resistance,” rather than the customary “loyal opposition.” If Trump had lost and declared himself part of the anti-Clinton “resistance”, Coulter notes, there would have been demands to put him in jail. “He’s issuing a call to violence! ‘Resistance’ is a military term! It’s a ‘dog whistle’ to the militias and the KKK!” Touché.

This attitude is simply a continuation of liberal hysteria during the campaign. Remember the Access Hollywood tape, somehow not a sleazy “October surprise” by the partisan media, which made no secret of its loathing of Trump? In spite of what was repeatedly claimed, there was no endorsement of sexual assault on the tape. Unless you are using a weapon, “they let you do it” means consent. Trump was simply uttering truisms about celebrity culture, not glorifying rape. Notes Coulter: “His whole point was to cite something axiomatically unacceptable — grabbing women by the P-word — in order to say that celebrity culture was so out of whack that a celebrity could get away with it.” One could quibble with the “out of whack” part of the comment, as on the tape it appears that Trump, in fact, found this benefit of fame both natural and desirable. What needed to be explained was not this reaction of a life-long egomaniac but the shocked indignation of the corporate media: after all, who knew that billionaires and other mega-stars enjoy sex on demand from beautiful women? Right, everyone. And as Coulter points out, Trump used the identical approach in saying his popularity was so great that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without losing voter support. “That’s not a confession,” notes Coulter, “it’s hyperbole.” Nevertheless, she goes on, “Nexis can’t perform a search for all the publications that have accused Trump of admitting to ‘sexual assault,’ because it retrieves too many documents.” Long live fake news.

And while we’re on the subject of fake news, how long has it been since Trump was last accused of being a racist? Five minutes? Surely we can do better than that. Don’t let up for a minute on claims that he’s giving aid and comfort to “white nationalists” and therefore obligated to condemn David Duke every three minutes and defend himself against the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has warned of an imminent neo-Nazi-KKK take-over of the U.S. on a more or less constant basis for nearly four decades.

The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville a year ago has been regarded as the definitive proof of Trump’s racism, though a New York Times reporter tweeted direct from the melee that left-wing Antifa protestors were just as aggressively violent as the racist right. Nevertheless, Trump’s observation that there was violence (and “good people”) “on both sides” has been used as confirmation of his alleged white supremacist sensibilities. By now, official memory has it that Antifa violence wasn’t violence, and only “Nazis” were guilty of such. In one of her book’s best lines, Coulter notes, “The more the rally recedes in time, the fresher a memory it becomes,” which is an excellent description of all kinds of propaganda induced “memory.” With all due regret for the death of Heather Heyer, we still don’t know anything about the state of mind of the man who ran over her, who may have been in fear for his life, and few “journalists” are even curious about the matter.

But on to the alleged Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 elections that is the main focus of Coulter’s book. The basic allegation is that Trump, according to liberals a boundlessly incompetent buffoon, somehow managed to engage in a byzantine international conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the 2016 presidential election from Hillary Clinton. The original claim was that Russia hacked the e-mails of the DNC (after allegedly being invited to do so by Trump in a presidential debate with Clinton) and Hillary’s aide John Podesta, then gave them to WikiLeaks, and that this somehow predictably benefited Trump. But why the Russians would have hacked the DNC to retrieve “lost” e-mails that were no longer on their server is difficult to explain. Furthermore, how could the Russians have had any assurance that the Podesta e-mails would end up helping Trump? That leak mostly hurt the DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign.

More to the point, the Russian election meddling theme is simply a joke. The U.S. meddles in elections all the time, and when that fails, overthrows unwanted governments by force, often assassinating their democratic leaders as well. At William Blum’s excellent archive at www.killinghope.org, you can read until your eyes bleed about the C.I.A. undermining democratic elections around the world going back seventy years. In recent years George Soros alone has repeatedly manipulated election outcomes in Georgia, the Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, variously called the Orange revolution, the Tulip revolution, and the Rose revolution. And while we like to wax self-righteous about Russia interfering in our elections, we tend to forget that Boris Yeltsin would not likely have become president of Russia without a major intervention by the U.S. But perhaps the most ludicrous notion of all is that a relative handful of Russian bots posting on Facebook handed the election to Trump, which is like saying that a coke poured in the water supply prevented us from curing our diabetes epidemic.

The origin of the story alone should make us extremely skeptical about any Trump-Russia collusion, even apart from the absurd pretense that the U.S. has the moral standing to accuse others of such anti-democratic practices. Hillary Clinton invented the Russian collusion story in the summer of 2016 because she needed to neutralize the DNC’s e-mails having shown up on WikiLeaks. This was a classic Clinton maneuver: whenever she is caught in a scandal she diverts attention to all-pervading imaginary enemies — misogynists, unscrupulous political opponents, racists, a vast right-wing conspiracy, and now, Russia and Donald Trump.

So Clinton campaign chairman Robby Mook went on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to tell the world about the Russian conspiracy on July 24, 2016, the eve of the Democratic National Convention. “Experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these Web sites …. And it’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by — by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” The anonymous reference to “some experts” has not been cleared up to this day.

Of course, Hillary Clinton would have preferred to spin a web of conspiracy around Trump and ISIS or Trump and North Korea, but Trump didn’t have business interests with either of them, so she revved up a new Cold War instead. She somehow managed to convince herself that the press was dead set against her and her Russia-connection conspiracy, even though only two of the fifty-nine largest newspapers in the country had failed to endorse her. Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald were among the few liberal skeptics of the fantastic story.

In any event, by September 2016 the New York Times conceded that the consensus among government intelligence agencies was that WikiLeaks had no ties to Russian intelligence.

Two years and dozens of breathless claims later we still have zero evidence for the alleged Trump-Russia collusion. The FBI never investigated for the simple reason that the DNC wouldn’t allow the Bureau to examine its computers. As Glenn Greenwald noted in The Intercept, “there is no evidence . . . just CIA assertions over and over …”

Initial media response found the claim of a Russian conspiracy “remarkable,” and this held true until Hillary lost the election. Then it suddenly became a news story worthy of Watergate, replete with Congressional investigations, saturation media coverage, and an “independent” counsel. Obama reacted by meekly telling Putin to “cut it out,” but he imposed no sanctions, issued no major rebuke, and refrained from retaliation. This for something Thomas Friedman compared to Pearl Harbor and 911. In other words, after mild initial reaction, two years of intensive searching by the nation’s top investigative journalists and up to 100 FBI agents has yielded nothing like collusion.

What has passed for evidence in the case is a dossier authored by Christopher Steele, a British spy who offered Hillary Clinton and the Democratic national Committee dirt on Trump from the Russians. Did Hillary recoil in shocked outrage at this treasonous plot? Of course not. She paid Steele for the information. Yes, that’s right. Hillary Clinton colluded with the Russians to discredit Trump, but Robert Mueller isn’t interested in that collusion. He’s looking for collusion between Russia and the victim of the plot.

Explains Coulter: “Hillary’s campaign and the DNC hired Steele, using a Seattle law firm as a cutout. The law firm hired Fusion GPS, which in turn hired the British spy, who paid current and former Russian government officials for incriminating information on Trump.”

Steele revealed his motive to Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr, saying he was “desperate that Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” OK, but motives aside, did he come up with anything? Not if you believe the New York Times, which says that the information in the Steele dossier “was not corroborated, and the New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims.” And remember that the New York Times, like the press in general, loathes Trump, and would gladly have reported substantiation of the claims in the Steele dossier had they found any.

In fact, so eager was the NY Times to discredit Trump that it flat-out stated that his firing of F.B.I. director James Comey had “echoes of Watergate,”when in fact it did not. For Comey himself admitted under oath to Senator James Risch (R-Ohio) that the F.B.I. hadn’t been investigating Trump at the time he was fired, so Trump couldn’t have been “obstructing justice” in an ongoing case against him. In point of fact, Trump fired Comey precisely because he wouldn’t stop publicly insinuating that Trump was under investigation when in fact he wasn’t. Meanwhile, journalists simply assumed that Trump was guilty of colluding with Russia, and that firing Comey was a transparent attempt to cover up criminal activity.

In short, the mountain keeps laboring, but brings forth but a mouse. The charges to date are a complete farce. Here’s a partial list:

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn: He talked to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period between the Obama and Trump administrations, and then didn’t disclose it on security clearance paperwork, which is not customary because such meetings are routine.

Paul Manafort — Briefly Trump’s “campaign” chairman, he was originally accused of violating the same (unenforced) lobbying registration law that ensnared Michael Flynn, but has since been charged with setting up offshore accounts to avoid taxes, which could make him guilty of practicing capitalism. In October 2017, journalist Ken Silverstein wrote that “I can say with certainty that the law, which Manafort is accused of violating, known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, is a complete joke.” The article in which this comment appeared was entitled, “I’ve Covered Foreign Lobbying for 20 Years and I’m Amazed Manafort Got Busted.” In any event, Manafort’s guilt or innocence hasn’t been demonstrated to have anything to do with Trump.

Carter Page — a non-entity whose name Trump appears to have lifted out of a hat when confronted by media claims that he didn’t have any establishment certified national security advisers on his team. Page was subsequently slapped with a FISA warrant, which proves he is appallingly guilty of something. For as Ronald Reagan’s former Attorney General Ed Meese memorably informed us, “If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.” What could be clearer?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions — He also met with Russian ambassador Kislyak, when he was a senator, and then didn’t record the dastardly deed on security clearance forms, which the FBI doesn’t want because such meetings are routine.

But wait! Didn’t former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her affair with Trump? That’s a violation of campaign finance laws! Possibly, but such violations are a dime a dozen, and if we run every politician who has paid off a mistress out of office Washington will be a ghost town.

There is much, much more in Coulter’s book, but check it out of the library rather than buy it, since Coulter herself is equally prone to slipping into political hysteria when the topic is Communism or Islam. She insists, for example, that Martin Luther King was under the control of Moscow when he made his (accurate) claim that the “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world [is] my own government.” And, of course, many of us remember her advice for dealing with the Islamic world following the 911 attacks, when she said, quite subtly, that “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

American politics is a tale of two hysterias. Rationality has been driven from the stage.