Category Archives: Skripal

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.

I Know Who the “Senior Official” Is Who Wrote the New York Times Op-Ed

I know who wrote the anonymous “senior Trump official” op-ed in the New York Times. The New York Times wrote it.

The op-ed is an obvious forgery. As a former senior official in a presidential administration, I can state with certainty that no senior official would express disagreement anonymously. Anonymous dissent has no credibility. Moreover, the dishonor of it undermines the character of the writer. A real dissenter would use his reputation and the status of his high position to lend weight to his dissent.

The New York Times’ claim to have vetted the writer also lacks credibility, as the New York Times has consistently printed extreme accusations against Trump and against Vladimir Putin without supplying a bit of evidence. The New York Times has consistently misrepresented unsubstantiated allegations as proven fact. There is no reason whatsoever to believe the New York Times about anything.

Consider also whether a member of a conspiracy working “diligently” inside the administration with “many of the senior officials” to “preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting” Trump’s “worst inclinations” would thwart his and his fellow co-conspirators’ plot by revealing it!

This forgery is an attempt to break up the Trump administration by creating suspicion throughout the senior level. If Trump falls for the New York Times’ deception, a house cleaning is likely to take place wherever suspicion falls. A government full of mutual suspicion cannot function.

The fake op-ed serves to validate from within the Trump administration the false reporting by the New York Times that serves the interests of the military/security complex to hold on to enemies with whom Trump prefers to make peace. For example, the alleged “senior official” misrepresents, as does the New York Times, President Trump’s efforts to reduce dangerous tensions with North Korea and Russia as President Trump’s “preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un” over America’s “allied, like-minded nations.” This is the same non-sequitur that the New York Times has expressed endlessly. Why is resolving dangerous tensions a “preference for dictators” and not a preference for peace? The New York Times has never explained, and neither does the “senior official.”

How is it that Putin, elected three times by majorities that no US president has ever received, is a dictator? Putin stepped down after serving the permitted two consecutive terms and was again elected after being out of office for a term. Do dictators step down and sit out for 6 years?

The “senior official” also endorses as proven fact the alleged Skripal poisoning by a “deadly Russian nerve agent,” an event for which not one scrap of evidence exists. Neither has anyone explained why the “deadly nerve agent” wasn’t deadly. The entire Skripal event rests only on assertions. The purpose of the Skripal hoax was precisely what President Trump said it was: to box him into further confrontation with Russia and prevent a reduction in tensions.

If the “senior official” is really so uninformed as to believe that Putin is a dictator who attacked the Skripals with a deadly nerve agent and elected Trump president, the “senior official” is too dangerously ignorant and gullible to be a senior official in any administration. These are the New York Times’ beliefs or professed beliefs as the New York Times does everything the organization can do to protect the military/security complex’s budget from any reduction in the “enemy threat.”

Do you remember when Condoleezza Rice prepared the way for the US illegal invasion of Iraq with her imagery of “a mushroom cloud going up over an American city”? Iraq had no nuclear weapons, and everyone in the government knew it. There was no prospect of such an event. However, there is a very real prospect of mushroom clouds going up over many American and European cities if the crazed Russiaphobia of the New York Times and the other presstitutes along with the Democratic Party and the security elements of the deep state continue to pile lie after lie, provocation after provocation on Russia’s patience. At some point, the only logical conclusion that the Russian government can reach is that Washington is preparing Americans and Europeans for an attack on Russia. Propaganda vilifying and demonizing the enemy precedes military attacks.

The New York Times’ other attack on President Trump—that he is unstable and unfit for office—is reproduced in the fake op-ed: “Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president,” writes the invented and non-existent “senior official.”

Americans are an insouciant people. But are any so insouciant that they really think that a senior official would write that the members of President Trump’s cabinet have considered removing him from office? What is this statement other than a deliberate effort to produce a constitutional crisis—the precise aim of John Brennan, James Comey, Rod Rosenstein, the DNC, and the New York Times. A constitutional crisis is what the hoax of Russiagate is all about.

The level of mendacity and evil in this plot against Trump is unequaled in history. Have any of these conspirators given a moment’s thought to the consequences of removing a president for his unwillingness to worsen the dangerously high tensions between nuclear powers? The next president would have to adopt a Russophobic stance and do nothing to reduce the tensions that can break out in nuclear war or himself be accused of “coddling the Russian dictator and putting America at risk.”

The reason that America is at risk is that the CIA and the presstitute media have put America—and Europe—at risk by frustrating President Trump’s intention to reduce the dangerous level of tensions between the two major nuclear powers. Professor Steven Cohen, America’s premier Russian expert, says that never during the Cold War were tensions as high as they are at this present time. As a former member of The Committee on the Present Danger, I myself am a former Cold Warrior, and I know for a fact that Professor Cohen is correct.

In America today, and in Europe, people are living in a situation in which the liberal-progressive-left’s blind hatred of Donald Trump, together with the self-interested power and profit of the military security complex and election hopes of the Democratic Party, are recklessly and irresponsibly risking nuclear Armageddon for no other reason than to act out their hate and further their own nest.

This plot against Trump is dangerous to life on earth and demands that the governments and peoples of the world act now to expose this plot and to bring it to an end before it kills us all.

The Skripal Poisonings and the Ongoing Vilification of Putin

Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a nerve agent on March 4 on a park bench in Salisbury, England.

Skripal had been a Russian double agent, a spy who turned over 300 names of Russian spies to British intelligence from 1995 to 2004. He was (not so surprisingly) arrested in Russia in 2004 and sentenced to thirteen years in prison. He was released in a spy-swap in 2010, settled in the UK and became a British citizen.

I see no reason to judge his moral character, although some might reflect that in Kantian general terms what he did was rather bad. (In precisely the same sense that it would be bad for a British citizen to become a double agent for Russia.) Double agents are often punished harshly; this is the way of the world.

Skripal posed no further threat to the Russian state. There is at least one report that he sought to return to Russia recently. It’s hard to comprehend why at this time Moscow would poison him and his young daughter visiting from Russia with a nerve agent (Novichok) created in the USSR from the 1970s but subsequently banned and destroyed under international supervision. Cui bono? Who profits from these poisonings?

In all the outrage, expressed in Britain and elsewhere, about this attack, there is precious little analysis. The Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has said, “This is nonsense. This has nothing to do with us.” The group of military-grade nerve agents called Novichok have been described in academic literature such that many different actors could produce Novichok. The Russians say they have long since destroyed their stocks and suggest the Czech Republic could be the source of the substance used.

But this attack on Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter (by somebody) is highly useful to those who want to vilify Vladimir Putin, just as the use of chemical weapons in Syria last April (by somebody) was useful for those wanting to further vilify Bashar Assad and justify a U.S. missile strike. Have you noticed that we live in an age of constant disinformation, misinformation and “fake news”?

The most annoying thing is, once these unproven causal relations are posited, embraced by cable news directors, such that they become Truth, discussion centers solely on how the U.S. and allies should respond. Why, pundits ask, didn’t Trump raise the issue in his last chat with Putin? Why is Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn skeptical about the Russia link, suggesting the Novichok could have been possessed by East European mafia? Why isn’t everyone on board the obvious conclusion that Russia did it?

Which would mean: Putin–facing no threat from this traded ex-spy or his innocent daughter–ordered their killing, not because they threatened him, but rather to manifest his deep cruelty and evil to the world and his willingness to invite more and more sanctions against Russia. It doesn’t make much sense.

Putin is ex-KGB. Very rational and calm. He knows all about agents and double agents. I doubt that he is morally judgmental; he understands why people do what Skripal did. He made a deal for the man’s release eight years ago. His only motive to kill him at this point would be to punish Skripal for past sins and warn others not to ever sell secrets. But why would such a rational person incur global outrage by using a banned agent to attempt to murder a British citizen and his Russian daughter, for no compelling reason?

There are international legal processes for investigating charges of use of chemical weapons. Russia has asked Britain to observe them, providing evidence, samples, details. It urges adherence to rules established by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to establish the facts. But London has merely announced it knows Putin was responsible for the state of these two on that park bench.

So the grand narrative now includes: Russian invasions of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 (somehow becoming in the process “adversaries” of the U.S.); alleged “threats” against the Baltic states; multiple political assassinations; dictatorial control of the Russian polity, economy and media; the accumulation of billions in illicit wealth. To say nothing of his brash exposure of his naked chest to his fandom, his judo, his hunting, his annoyingly high approval ratings.

I don’t know who attacked these two who now struggle for their lives in hospital. But I know that the response means nothing good for Russia, or the world. It is just another short chapter in the new Cold War, and like the old war, basically irrational. What is Putin’s motive? Fareed Zakaria says he’s trying to “undermine democracies” although why anyone would want to do that in principle puzzles me. Putin is not the Heath Ledger’s Joker in the Dark Knight Batman film, just spreading chaos for its own sake.

Putin is not interested in heading a European movement towards isolationist nationalisms but rather in thwarting NATO expansion plans, which any rational Russian leader would want to do. To use the strange Skripal incident as a rationale for further Cold War-type confrontation is more than sad. Yet in a supposed display of solidarity with Britain, which has kicked out Russian diplomats in response, the U.S. has suddenly expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed down the Russian consulate in Seattle. Trump, under constant criticism for not criticizing Putin, and not bringing up election meddling or the Skripal affair in his recent phone call, has approved the move without commenting on it.

If Trump planned for better relations with Russia to be a hallmark of his presidency, he has been stymied by his foes’ insistence that he express the traditional knee-jerk hostility. Why, they keep asking, when he criticizes his own cabinet members, does he never say anything bad about Putin? And from there, they proceed to the conclusion that the Russians have stuff on Trump and are blackmailing him… into not being default-mode hostile.

Trump is an ignorant man, uninterested in the world intellectually, unable to invest time in reading, clueless about the historical context of current crises. Part of his candidate persona was opposition to recent U.S. wars (not so much because they’ve killed hundreds of thousands of people, but because they have been expensive and not resulted in the U.S. taking the oil). But he loves men in uniform, surrounds himself with them, relies on them. These are men who grew up during the Cold War and can’t kick it from their minds. Baby-sitting what they surely see (with McMaster) as a “moron,” “idiot,” “dope,” “kindergartner” they see their minimal task the responsibility to remind him that Russia is an adversary.

And so without even ascertaining the facts of the Skripal incident, Washington expels all these diplomats. TV pundits applaud: “absolutely the right thing to do, to defend western values” etc., the system succeeds in maintaining, even strengthening, Cold War Russophobic mentality. The Skripal incident was a blessing to Trump’s critics, who want him with his child-mind to embrace this mentality. We have to support Theresa May in Britain, they told him. This was the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II, they told him; very, very serious. A Russian attack on the UK.

Whoever administered that agent triggered a wave of sanctions on Russia, adding to those earlier imposed after the 2014 coup in Ukraine and the Russian response. Russia will respond proportionately. Whoever did this forces Trump to harden a political line against Russia. As his presidency teeters in the winds of scandal, he is prone to more crazy moves like the appointment of John Bolton. Trump’s sole saving grace in his campaign was his advocacy of better ties with Russia. This immediately upon his election became his chief fault. Pundits demand that he abandon any hope for cordial relations with Putin’s Russia and properly denounce him for multiple crimes.

Maybe that’s what’s in store. Trump’s unpredictable. He agrees to meet Kim Jong Un then appoints Bolton (advocate of war with North Korea, removed from negotiations with the DPRK after Pyongyang called him “human scum”) as national security advisor. And why follow up that cordial call to Putin with the expulsion of so many diplomats? What the hell. Doesn’t make sense.

Had Hillary won, I would probably have found some logic and predictability in her evil. With Trump the evil unfolds erratically. He drops a MOAB on Afghanistan (or his generals do, without necessarily consulting). He attacks a Syrian army base in response to an unproven sarin attack. His cabinet members contradict him, espousing the gospel truth that Russia and its allies such as Syria are threats to U.S. national security, whatever that is. One feels that as his personal situation deteriorates, the president will be more prone to lean on his generals, and listen to their advice while also heeding the horrific Bolton. This is a very bad situation.