There are growing indications that the Trump administration plans to use the Mojahedin-e Khalq (People’s Mojahedin of Iran, or MEK) as a key element in its strategy to destabilize Iran preparatory to regime change.
On June 30 Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani told the group in Paris: “We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran. Trump doesn’t turn his back on freedom fighters.”
On July 1, 2017 John Bolton, former State Department official and Trump supporter, addressed a large gathering of MEK supporters in Paris.
There is a viable opposition to the rule of the ayatollahs,” he told the enraptured crowd, “and that opposition is centered in this room today…I have said for over 10 years since coming to these events that the declared policy of the United States should be the overthrow of the regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change. And therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself. And that’s why before 2019 we here will celebrate in Tehran!
Yes, the man who has been U.S. National Security Advisor since April 9 predicted to MEK that he would celebrate with them the downfall of the Iranian regime by next year. On May 8 of this year Bolton’s boss withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
So it’s virtually official. MEK freedom fighters will be chief U.S. proxy in the coming confrontation, or rather the ongoing confrontation renewed when Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal, threatening all countries with sanctions if they so much as buy Iranian oil. They are comparable to the peshmerga of Syria, or the Northern Alliance warlords in Afghanistan, or the motley array of militia that overthrew Gaddafi in Libya with U.S.-NATO support—willing accomplices in a regime-change effort directed from Washington.
Who are these people? MEK was founded in Iran in 1965 as a revolutionary anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the U.S.-backed regime of the Shah. It sought to produce a synthesis of Shiite Islam and Marxism, an inherently problematic project that has been more or less abandoned, especially as MEK has in recent years courted U.S. officials like Bolton. (A huge number of prominent U.S. officials and former officials have spoken in recent years, often for large fees, at MEK events. They include Howard Dean. Gen. Wesley Clark, Rudolph Giuliani, Porter Goss, Gen. Michael Hayden, Gen. Richard Myers, Bill Richardson, and Gen. Anthony Zinni.)
Embracing urban guerrilla warfare tactics in the 1970s, MEK targeted the regime and the U.S. military presence, conducting many attacks on U.S. personnel and gunning down Lt. Col. Louis Lee Hawkins, a U.S. Army comptroller, in 1973. Its members trained with the PLO and al-Fateh and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman.
During the revolution of 1979 that toppled the Shah, MEK was the largest of the radical left parties (if we exclude the Tudeh or Communist Party founded in 1941, dismissed by MEK as “revisionist”). It worked with smaller communist groups, notably Sardedaran (Union of Iranian Communists) founded in the U.S. by Iranian students in 1976 under the strong influence of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Initially, MEK aligned itself with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose triumphant return from French exile had met with a rapturous response. They perceived him as a popular nationalist leader. But when he denied its leaders input into the writing of a constitution, and forbade them from running for political office, they revolted. Results of their uprising were disastrous; about 10,000 perished and thousands of its members including the leadership fled to Iraq or France. Hosted by Saddam Hussein, they fought alongside the Iraqi Army against their countrymen throughout the 1980s. This is one reason they are generally, according to plausible reports, despised in Iran even by those who chafe under the mullah’s rule.
Camp Ashraf in Iraq was created by the MEK to accommodate its 3500 soldiers in the country. This camp was taken over by the U.S. following the 2003 invasion. Indeed the U.S. protected MEK from the Iraqis’ intention to deport them and indeed housed them at Camp Fallujah and arranged for some to be relocated to Albania.
In 1975 MEK split into its component parts; that is, a faction arguing rather simply that Marxism, not Islam, is the revolutionary path, and the dominant faction arguing the opposite. This is the MEK that hosts the most reactionary U.S. officials and—after inveighing against Zionism for decades—now cultivates ties with Israeli intelligence. In 1997 it was listed as a “terrorist” organization by the U.S. State Department. The UK and EU soon followed suite. But MEK was delisted as terrorist by Britain in 2008, the EU in 2009, and the U.S. in 2012.
Why? Hillary Clinton determined that MEK had changed its ways and given up terrorism. Plus, MEK was so useful, cooperating as it was and is with U.S. and Israeli intelligence, smuggling intelligence out of Iran, abetting U.S.-Israeli disinformation schemes, maintaining an underground presence in Iran that will be useful (some suppose) when the regime-change moment comes.
Analysts agree that MEK is a very unusual organization. Led by a married couple, Massoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam Rajavi, it imposes strict discipline including life-long celibacy on its members. It forbids them to entertain sexual thoughts. It punishes rules infractions with public shaming and sleep deprivation. It is often termed a cult.
That this group should become a key U.S. ally—as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo virtually declares war on Iran—is truly perplexing. Surely U.S. officials know that MEK is hated in Iran, and that its tactics in Iran have not produced mass support. Other underground opposition parties, such as the National Front of Iran, founded by Mohammed Mossadegh (toppled by the CIA in 1953), will not likely cooperate with them in producing a second regime change. The idea is as wild as Bolton’s idea that Cuba’s pharmaceutical plants are producing biological weapons.
Can it be that Pompeo does not understand the enduring outrage felt among Iranians about that 1953 coup? The U.S. didn’t just “interfere” in somebody else’s election, it toppled a democratically elected prime minister because he had the temerity to try to nationalize the nation’s petroleum industry. The world knows the U.S. interferes in other nations’ politics and electoral processes habitually, and that the “bi-partisan” National Endowment for Democracy “NGO” funnels billions into pro-U.S. forces in countries targeted for “color revolutions.” Only the cable anchors on CNN, MSNBC and Fox seem clueless, wide-eyed, indignant and outraged at the thought that “Russia interfered in OUR election!” As though we, as a people, ever had a real election in 2016.)
Bolton resembles his boss in that he cares nothing for the truth; lies boldly with angry, smug confidence, daring his audience to differ; is a loud bully with an ego and an agenda to which he hopes to commit the president. His main project is the Iranian regime change, much as Iraqi regime was Paul Wolfowitz’s preoccupation from 9/11/2001 to March 2003 when the plot to conduct a war-based-on-lies was finally consummated. (Bolton continues to say: “I still think the decision to overthrow Saddam was correct,” and that the U.S. has the right to overthrow sovereign states at will.)
Bolton has told reporters (who note his changing stance on war with North Korea) that anything he may have said in print or on television in the past is irrelevant now since he is in the service of the president and committed to his policies. But he happily realizes his boss is an air-head, ignorant and impressionable, generally Islamophobic, committed to a hawkish anti-Iran policy because (1) he wants to reverse any Obama policy; (2) he made a campaign promise; (3) he’s slavishly deferential to Binyamin Netanyahu, who wants the U.S. to bomb Iran; and (4) hostility towards Iran invites little opposition in Netanyahu’s fan club, Congress. Bolton has lots to work with there.
Congressional attitudes could change if U.S. secondary sanctions applied on European allied nations further strain the Atlantic Alliance already stressed by the trade wars Trump has unleashed. The EU, Russia and China all need to unite in demanding that the U.S. not only end its threats to attack Iran but respect other nations’ rights to trade with that great, large, relatively wealthy nation. (The IMF ranks Iran as 27th of 191 nations in terms of GDP; that is, it’s among the world’s top 15%. China, UAE, Germany and India are main trade partners.)
As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provokes Iran with his arrogant demands—“preconditions” for a U.S. return to the deal, which essentially demand that it grovel at America’s feet—the U.S. provokes the rest of the world too, for multiple reasons. Its demand for allies’ cooperation in its efforts to undermine Tehran conflict with their efforts to improve both diplomatic and trade relations, to say nothing of their hopes for more stability in the region flooding Europe with refugees.
Thus Trump chooses the re-designated terrorist group MEK over Paris; Israel over Europe; Saudi Arabia and its anti-Iran Arab coalition against Russia and China. It demands that Japan (once Iran’s largest oil purchaser, now the sixth largest) and South Korea (currently the third largest, after China and India) end imports to abet regime-change efforts. These demands are outrageous, especially spouted by mouths that the whole world knows routinely spew lies without shame.
So it’s Trump, Bolton, Pompeo, Netanyahu, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the Rajavis—-versus Iran and the world which, while it may not be terribly fond of Iran, are becoming even less fond of Trump’s U.S.A.
Oh, and now Pompeo comes back from Pyongyang boasting of “progress” while the Koreans call the visit “regrettable.” The whole world is hoping that the U.S. work methodically with the DPRK to achieve the denuclearization goal. That will take time and require a schedule of coordinated steps, like the Iran deal that Pompeo has been trying to sabotage since 2015, as Kansas congressman, CIA director, and in his present post, required.
One should not suppose Pompeo more predisposed to promote peace with North Korea than peace with Iran. Imagine the DPRK rapprochement collapsing just as the joint U.S.-Saudi-U.S. missile barrage strikes Iran. There are sober people in Washington thinking carefully about multiple scenarios, amorally planning for all contingencies.
One of these might be a general Manichaean apocalypse in which the issue is not Good versus Evil (which would have been the case under George W. Bush) but Trump and His Base versus the World.
The latter he attacks by trade policy, a diplomacy of irrational insults, an almost impish desire to undermine existing international agreements and institutions (not so much to the objective advantage of U.S. imperialism so much as the advantage of his own frozen prepubescent ego), missile strikes at his generals’ discretion, and shameless voicing of racist, bigoted, uneducated views. The former he pleases by such policies and bombast. The U.S. mainstream media and the bulk of the political class deplore Trump in favor of the world, or at least criticize Trump’s “America First” populist nationalism as threatening to the postwar international order which has hitherto been very good to the imperialist U.S.A. They look askance at MEK and, to the extent they engage the issue, they question the wisdom an alliance with it.
Still, Trump proceeds on a confrontational course with Iran, and with any having deals with Iran, joining in the process with the most unsavory henchmen from the Saudis to the Likudists to these Iranian cultists. One hopes this strategy will only further isolate the U.S. from its allies and unintentionally help produce a more multi-polar world.
Polarisation within western societies on issues relating to migration and human rights has been intensifying over recent weeks and months. To many observers, it looks suspiciously as if an international order in place since the end of the second world war – one that emphasised universal rights as a way to prevent dehumanisation and conflict – is rapidly unravelling in Europe and the United States.
In the past few weeks in Donald Trump’s America, it has emerged that thousands of migrant children have been snatched from their parents while trying to enter at the southern border, with some held in cages; the US Supreme Court has upheld the right of border officials to bar entry to Muslims from proscribed countries; and the Trump administration has quit the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, a key institution for monitoring human rights violations.
Meanwhile, far-right parties across Europe have ridden to electoral success on the back of mounting fears at a wave of migrants displaced from North Africa and the Middle East by wars and famines. Joining the trenchant anti-immigration stances of governments in Hungary and Poland, Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini has turned away boatloads of migrants from his country’s ports. He called last month for the European Union to “defend its border” and deny access to human rights groups, while also threatening to cut his country’s budget to Europe unless action was taken against migrants. Salvini is among the Italian politicians demanding the expulsion of the Roma minority.
Other European governments led by Germany, fearful of internal political instability that might undermine their continuing rule, called a hasty summit to consider options for dealing with the “migrant crisis”.
And casting a long shadow over the proceedings is Britain’s efforts to negotiate its exit from the EU, a blow that might eventually lead to the whole edifice of the European project crumbling.
Two ideas of citizenship
These are not random events. They are part of a quickening trend, and one that signals how an international order built up over the past 70 years and represented by pan-national institutions like the United Nations and the EU is gradually breaking down.
While the evidence suggests that there is no particular migration crisis at the moment, there are long-term factors that readily provoke populist fears and can be readily exploited, especially over the depletion of key global resources like oil, and environmental changes caused by climate breakdown. Together they have stoked resource conflicts and begun to shrink world economies. The effects are ideological and political shockwaves that have put a system of long-standing international agreements and norms under unprecedented strain.
The emerging struggle faced today is one that was fought out a century ago in western Europe, and relates to differing conceptions of citizenship. In the early 20th century, Europe was riven by ethnic nationalisms: each state was seen as representing a separate biological people – or in the terminology of the time, a race or Volk. And each believed it needed territory in which to express its distinct heritage, identity, language and culture. In the space of a few decades, these antagonistic nationalisms tore Europe apart in two “world wars”.
At the time, ethnic nationalism was pitted against an alternative vision of citizenship: civic nationalism. It is worth briefly outlining how the two differed.
Civic nationalists draw on long-standing liberal ideas that prioritise a shared political identity based on citizenship inside the stable territorial unit of a democratic state. The state should aspire – at least in theory – to be neutral towards ethnic minorities, and their languages and cultures.
Civic nationalism is premised on individual rights, social equality and tolerance. Its downside is an inherent tendency to atomise societies into individuals, and cultivate consumption over other social values. That has made it easier for powerful corporations to capture the political system, leading to the emergence of neoliberal capitalist economies.
Ethnic nationalists, by contrast, believe in distinct peoples, with a shared heritage and ancestry. Such nationalists not only resist the idea that other groups can integrate or assimilate, but fear that they might weaken or dissolve the ties binding the nation together.
Ethnic nationalists therefore accentuate an imagined collective will belonging to the dominant ethnic group that guides its destiny; emphasise threats from external enemies and subversion from within by those opposed to the values of the core group; encourage the militarisation of the society to cope with such threats; and anxiously guard existing territory and aggressively seek to expand borders to increase the nation’s resilience.
Even before Europe’s two great wars, most western states were a hybrid of civic and ethnic nationalist impulses. But in a political climate of competition over resources and paranoid vigilance against rivals that prevailed before the second world war, especially fears among western elites about how best to counter the growing threat of Soviet Communism, ideas associated with ethnic nationalism tended to dominate.
It was for this reason that ethnic minorities – especially those such as Jews and Roma whose loyalties to the core nation were considered suspect – found themselves scapegoated and faced rampant discrimination. This took different forms.
In Britain, ethnic nationalism contributed to the Balfour Declaration of 1917, a document proposing that British Jews be transplanted to the Middle East. In part this was a colonial project to create an outpost of Jews in the Middle East dependent on British favour for their security. But as noted by Edwin Montagu, the only Jew in the British cabinet at the time, the Balfour Declaration had strong anti-semitic overtones, reinforcing the idea that Jews did not belong and should be relocated elsewhere.
Ethnic nationalism in France was evidenced by the notorious Dreyfus Affair. A Jewish captain in the French army, Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted of treason in 1894 for leaking military secrets to Germany. In fact, as it later emerged, another French officer was responsible for the leak, but the military preferred to falsify documents to ensure that blame rested with Dreyfus.
And in Germany, racism towards minorities like Jews and Roma culminated in the Nazi concentration camps of the 1930s and a short time later a policy of mass extermination that claimed the lives of many millions.
Rebuilding a post-war Europe
After the devastation of the second world war, western Europe had to be rebuilt, both physically and ideologically. With the dangers of ethnic nationalisms now apparent, greater emphasis was placed on civic nationalism.
This trend was encouraged by the US through its Marshall Plan, an economic recovery programme to reconstruct western Europe. The US wanted a united, peaceful Europe – its ethnic antagonisms a thing of the past – so that a culture of individualism and consumerism could be fostered, guaranteeing an export market for American goods. A US-dependent Europe could also be relied on as a bulwark against Washington’s chief ideological rival, Soviet communism.
By the end of the 20th century, these developments would lead to the emergence of a common market, later the European Union, a single currency and the dropping of border controls.
At the same time, in the immediate post-war period, it was decided to put safeguards in place against the recent slaughter. The Nuremberg Trials helped to define the rules of war, and classed their violations as war crimes, while the UN’s 1948 Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions began the process of formalising international law and the concept of universal human rights.
All of that post-war order is now unravelling.
Bucking the trend
Israel was established in 1948, the year of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, which was itself intended to prevent any return to the horrors of the Holocaust. Israel was presented as a sanctuary for Jews from a depraved Europe that had been overrun by aggressive racial ideologies. And Israel was extolled as a “light unto the nations”, the political fruit of the new international legal order to promote the rights of minorities.
But paradoxically, the “western” state that most visibly bucked the trend towards civic nationalism in the post-war period was Israel. It stuck rigidly with a political model of ethnic nationalism that had just been discredited in Europe. Today Israel embodies a political alternative to civic nationalism – one that is slowly and increasingly helping to rehabilitate ethnic nationalism.
From the outset, Israel was not what it appeared to most outsiders. It had been sponsored as a colonial settler project by western patrons that variously included Britain, the Soviet Union, France and, latterly, the US. Set up to be an explicitly “Jewish state”, it was built on the ruins of the native Palestinian people’s homeland after a campaign of expulsions historians have characterised as “ethnic cleansing”.
Israel was not the liberal democracy claimed in its campaigns of self-promotion, known as hasbara. In fact, far from being an antidote to ethnic nationalism, Israel was decisively a product – or more specifically, a mirroring – of this form of nationalism.
Israel’s tribal ideology
Its founding ideology, Zionism, was deeply opposed to civic nationalism and attendant ideas of a common political identity. Rather, it was a tribal ideology – one based on blood ties and religious heritage – that spoke the same language as Europe’s earlier ethnic nationalisms. It agreed with the racists of Europe that “the Jews” could not be assimilated or integrated because they were a people apart.
It was this shared ground with the ethnic nationalists that made the Zionist movement deeply unpopular among the vast majority of European Jews until the rise of Hitler in the 1930s. After the horrors of the Nazis, however, growing numbers of Jews concluded that, if you could not beat the ethnic nationalists, it was better to join them. A highly militarised, nuclear-armed Israel – sponsored by Europe and belligerent towards its new, relatively weak Arab neighbours – appeared the best solution available.
It is that shared ground that today makes Israel an ally and friend to Trump and his political constituency in the US and to Europe’s far-right parties.
In fact, Israel is revered by a new breed of white supremacists and anti-semites in the US known as the alt-right. Their leader, Richard Spencer, has termed himself a “white Zionist”, saying he wants the US to become a “secure homeland” to prevent “the demographic dispossession of white people in the United States and around the world” in the same way Israel achieved for Jews.
Making racism respectable
Israel preserved the model of ethnic nationalism and is now seeking to help make it respectable again among sections of western public opinion.
Just as historically there were different varieties of ethnic nationalisms in Europe, so there are among the popular and political movements in Israel.
At the most disturbing extreme of the spectrum are the religious settlers who have actively taken up the task of once again uprooting the native Palestinian population, this time in the occupied territories. Such settlers now dominate the middle ranks of the Israeli army.
In a handbook for further dispossession known as the King’s Torah, influential settler rabbis have justified the pre-emptive killing of Palestinians as terrorists, and their babies as “future terrorists”. This worldview explains why settlers massed outside a court in Israel last month taunting a Palestinian, Hussein Dawabshe, whose 18-month-old grandson, Ali, was among family members burnt alive by settlers in 2015. As the grandfather arrived, the settlers jeered “Where is Ali, Ali’s dead” and “Ali’s on the grill.”
Even more common, to the extent that it passes almost unnoticed in Israel, is the structural racism that keeps the fifth of the population belonging to a Palestinian minority apart from the Jewish majority. For decades, for example, Israeli hospitals have been separating women in maternity wards based on their ethnicity. Last month, in a familiar pattern, it was revealed that a municipal swimming pool in the Negev was quietly segregating Jewish and Palestinian bathers – all citizens of the same state – by offering different hours.
At least the pool accepted Palestinian citizens. Almost all communities in Israel are segregated, with many hundreds using admissions committees to ensure they bar Palestinian citizens and remain exclusively Jewish.
There have been weeks of angry protests among Jewish residents of the northern city of Afula, after the first Palestinian family managed to buy a home in a neighbourhood. Deputy mayor Shlomo Malihi observed: “I hope that the house sale will be cancelled so that this city won’t begin to be mixed.”
The ‘danger’ of intermarriage
Last month Miki Zohar, a legislator in the ruling Likud party, observed not only that there is a “Jewish race”, but that it represents “the highest human capital, the smartest, the most comprehending”.
At the same time, the government’s education minister, Naftali Bennett, noted that the future of the Jewish people in countries like the US kept him awake at night. “If we don’t act urgently, we’re going to be losing millions of Jews to assimilation,” he told a conference in Jerusalem.
This is a common refrain on the Israeli left too. Isaac Herzog, the former leader of the supposedly socialist Labour party and the new chair of the Jewish Agency, shares Bennett’s tribal impulse. Last month he warned that Jews outside Israel were falling victim to a “plague” of intermarriage with non-Jews. He bewailed that on a visit to the US last year: “I saw the children of my friends marrying or living with non-Jewish partners”. He concluded: “We have to rack our brains over how to solve this great challenge.”
An ethnic fortress
But the problem is not restricted to the prejudices of individuals and communities. It has state sanction, just as in Europe a century ago.
That can be seen not only in rampant institutional racism in Israel – some 70 laws that explicitly discriminate based on ethnic belonging – but in Israel’s obsession with wall-building. There are walls sealing off Gaza, and the densely Palestinian-populated parts of occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In another indication of the ethnic fortress mentality, Israel has built a wall to block the entry of African asylum seekers through the Sinai peninsula as they flee wars. Israel has been deporting these refugees back to Africa – in violation of international conventions it has ratified – putting their lives in danger.
And while western liberals have grown exercised at the separation of children from their parents by the Trump administration, they have ignored decades of similarly brutal Israeli policies. In that time, thousands of Palestinian children have been seized from their homes, often in night-time raids, and jailed in trials with a near-100 per cent conviction rate.
Throughout its history, Israel has glorified in its military prowess and brazenly celebrated a tradition of extrajudicial violence against opponents. That has included practices such as torture and political assassinations that international law seeks to prohibit. The sophistry used by Israel to defend these actions has been enthusiastically taken up in Washington – in particular, when the US began its own programmes of torture and extrajudicial murder after the Iraq invasion of 2003.
Israel has ready-made rationalisations and specious soundbites that have made it much easier to sell to western publics the dismantling of international norms.
The upending of international law – and, with it, a reversal of the trend towards civic nationalism – has intensified with Israel’s repeated attacks on Gaza over the past decade. Israel has subverted the key principles of international law – proportionality, distinction and necessity – by hugely widening the circle of potential targets of military action to include swaths of civilians, and using massive force beyond any possible justification.
That has been graphically illustrated of late in its maiming and killing of thousands of unarmed Palestinian protesters for being supposedly too close to the perimeter fence Israel has built to encage Gaza. That fence simply delimits the Palestinian land occupied by Israel. But in another success for Israeli hasbara, western reporting has almost universally suggested that the fence is a border Israel is entitled to defend.
Israeli expertise in demand
Israel’s expertise is increasingly in demand in a west where ethnic nationalisms are again taking root. Israel’s weapons have been tested on the battlefield, against Palestinians. Its homeland security systems have proven they can surveill and control Palestinian populations, just as western elites think about their own protection inside gated communities.
Israel’s paramilitary police train and militarise western police forces needed to repress internal dissent. Israel has developed sophisticated cyberwarfare techniques based on its efforts to remain a regional superpower that now satisfy the west’s politically paranoid atmosphere.
With an abiding aversion to the Communist ideology of their former Soviet rulers, central and east European states have led the move towards a renewal of ethnic nationalism. Civic nationalism, by contrast, is seen as dangerously exposing the nation to outside influences.
Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, is among the new brand of eastern European leader brazenly stoking an ethnic politics at home through anti-semitism. He has targeted the Hungarian Jewish billionaire and philanthropist George Soros for promoting a civic nationalism, suggesting Soros represents a wider Jewish threat to Hungary. Under a recent law, popularly known as “STOP Soros”, anyone helping migrants enter Hungary risks a prison sentence. Orban has lauded Miklos Horthy, a long-time Hungarian leader, who was a close ally of Hitler’s.
Nonetheless, Orban is being feted by Benjamin Netanyahu, in the same way the Israeli prime minister has closely identified with Trump. Netanyahu called to congratulate Orban shortly after he was re-elected in April, and will welcome him in a state visit this month. Ultimately, Netanyahu is angling to host the next meeting of the Visegrad group, four central European countries in the grip of far-right ethnic politics Israel wishes to develop closer ties with.
For leaders like Orban, Israel has led the way. It has shown that ethnic politics is not discredited after all, that it can work. For Europe and America’s new ethnic nationalists, Israel has proven that some peoples are destined for greatness, if they are allowed to triumph over those who stand in their way.
It will be a darker, far more divided and frightening world if this logic prevails. It is time to recognise what Israel represents, and how it does not offer solutions – only far greater problems.
• First published in Middle East Eye
Does Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for allegedly hacking Hillary’s emails and interfering in the US election have any purpose other than to throw a monkey wrench in President Trump’s upcoming summit with Putin?
Don’t forget that Rosenstein is implicated in the orchestration of Russiagate as a weapon against Trump, a weapon that serves the interests of the Democratic Party and the military/security complex about which President Eisenhower warned us 56 years ago to no avail. Rosenstein’s indictment of 12 Russians for allegedly hacking computers is a political indictment aimed at President Trump. The indictment is otherwise pointless as the Russian government will certainly not turn over its military personnel to a Washington kangaroo court. The indictment serves no purpose except to poison the atmosphere of the summit.
Rosenstein has thrown red meat to the presstitutes, who are assets of the military/security compex and Democratic Party, and the presstitutes will pressure the Republicans to get behind Rosenstein’s call for a united front against Russian interference. You can imagine what would happen if Trump and Putin were to have a successful summit and normalize the relations that Washington ruined between the two countries. If your imagination is not working, consult here.
During the presidential election campaign, I pointed out that Trump was not Washington savy, did not know who would support his positions, which were antithetical to the interests of powerful interest groups such as the military-security complex and global offshoring corporations, and that Trump ran the risk of being destroyed by his own appointments.
Rod Rosenstein is a Trump appointment. Moreover when Trump’s Attorney General ordered Rosenstein’s resignation, Trump refused to accept it and kept Rosenstein in office. Trump’s miscalculation is so enormously wrong that he deserves the knife in the back that Rosenstein just delivered.
If there were a valid indictment of 12 Russians, for the sake of the summit’s success, a normal functioning deputy attorney general would have held the indictment until after the summit results and, if the summit were successful, would have deep-sixed the indictment regardless of whether there is a basis for it. My 25 years in Washington tells me clearly that Rosenstein has knifed Trump in the back. If Rosenstein has caused the summit to fail, Rosenstein has raised the risk of thermo-nuclear warfare.
There is an alternative to the explanation above. The alternative is that Trump, being a bully, was convinced by those in his administration, who most certainly do not want any normalization with Russia, that the indictment would put Putin on the spot and give Trump the advantage in the bullying arena. I can hear the CIA and John Bolton telling Trump that the indictment would put Putin on the defensive and permit Trump to pressure him into a summit outcome favorable to Washington’s hegemony.
This is a clever way of setting Trump up for failure in his meeting with Putin that could possibly poison the relations between the countries ever further without the failure being blamed on Rosenstein. Thus, Rosenstein’s position as Trump’s political assassin would not be threatened. He would still be running Russiagate with a recused Jeff Sessions sitting there useless.
Professor Stephen Cohen is a premier expert on US/Russian elections. His considered view is compatible with mine.
Reprinted with permission from PaulCraigRoberts.org.
It’s more than doors between government and the businesses that they supposedly regulate that go round and round. One of the other swinging doors is between the Democratic and Republican Parties.
A second door
Perhaps the best known case is when Al Gore ran for president in 2000, he picked Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Then, in 2008, Lieberman showed up at the Republican national convention to endorse John McCain for president. Between those two campaigns, John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, was rumored to be leaning to ask Republican John McCain to be his running mate.
Had Al Gore won, Lieberman would most likely have been the subsequent Democratic nominee for president. Had John Kerry won with McCain on the ticket, McCain would have been the heir apparent to the “Democratic Party” crown. Whether Lieberman or McCain, Democrats across the country would have been told to bow in reverence to their party’s red-blue nominee for president.
This was hardly the first time such a switcheroo blossomed in American politics. In 1864, Republican Abraham Lincoln dumped his sitting vice-president to ask Democrat Andrew Johnson to be his running mate. After Lincoln’s murder, US voters, who had selected a Republican to be their president, found him replaced by a Democrat.
Though such examples at the presidential level may be enshrined in history books, they happen all the time at the local level. In 1963, the Texas Young Democrats allowed high school chapters for the first time. I was 15 years old then and organized the state’s first Young Democrats chapter at Lamar High School in Houston. We invited a teacher who had been elected to the Texas Legislature to speak to our chapter on “Why Am I a Democrat?” His answer was simple. He was a Democrat because that was the only way to get elected in Texas of the early 1960s.
The next year, he came out as a Republican. That was the time of the exodus of southern Dixiecrats from the Democratic to the Republican Party.
Fast forward half a century and I was the 2016 Green Party nominee for governor of Missouri. I participated in the debate with Democrat Chris Koster and Republican Eric Greitens. Greitens, riding the election on Trump’s wave, has since become internationally infamous for an affair in which he allegedly tied his victim to his basement exercise equipment, hit her, took nude photos of her, threatened to publicize the photos if she ever told anyone what he did, and continued various sex acts without her consent.
During the campaign, both the Democrat and Repubican made TV ads showing themselves with automatic weapons. Besides being partial to gun violence, they had something else in common. Both had switched parties. The Republican Greitens was a former Democrat and the Democrat Koster was a former Republican. Like most others greedy for power, they decided which way the winds were blowing, calculated where they could most effectively hustle votes, and adjusted their public images and party affiliation accordingly. (Greitens resigned as governor in May 2018.)
Flip-flops between the corporate parties are hardly peculiar to Missouri. Evan Jenkins was the runner-up in the May 2018 Republican primary for the West Virginia US senate seat. Jenkins had been elected as a Democrat to the West Virginia legislature, but hopped to the Republican side to win the third district US house seat in 2014. During the 2018 race, the former Democrat boasted a perfect rating from the National Rifle Association as well as a 100% “pro-life” record saying, “I am a West Virginia conservative who is working with President Trump each and every day for our shared conservative values.”
That was nothing new for the state. Its billionaire governor Jim Justice started out as a Republican, became a Democrat in 2015 to win the governor’s race and switched again to the Republicans in 2017 to bask in Trump’s glow. These people are as dedicated to the colors of their party as a chameleon is to staying green when it’s opportune to turn yellow.
The original door
Do you remember when the “revolving door” was first noticed? It was due to people like Michael R. Taylor who rotated between regulatory agencies and the corporations they were supposedly regulating. Taylor began as a Monsanto lawyer. Then he became a staff lawyer for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and helped it to hassle Amish farmers for selling whole milk while giving companies like Monsanto the green light to sell genetically contaminated products without labeling them. Then, he cycled back to Monsanto, becoming its Vice President for Public Policy. In 2010, he flipped back to being the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
The scenario was quite a bit different for Richard Gephardt, former speaker of the US House and darling child of business unions and anti-NAFTA coalitions in the early 1990s. When I was working with Public Citizen to oppose NAFTA, a friend who had just been to Mexico told me that Gephardt had spoken in Monterrey promising to get NAFTA through the US House. So I spent several afternoons at the Washington University library until I found the Mexican paper Excelsior recording his comments.
I documented Gephardt’s statements in an Op-Ed piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of June 1, 1993 and reported his two faces during the next Public Citizen conference call. There was stony silence for several seconds. Then Lori Wallach let everyone know “Dick Gephardt is the best ally in Washington that we have.”
Though Gephardt gave clear warnings of his true colors, leftists paid to lobby politicians had a devout faith that an ally scheming to stab you in the back is better than no ally at all. A few years later, the left did turn on Gephardt – but only after he publicly displayed his contempt for progressives. In 2005, he abandoned his distinguished career as public servant and formed Gephardt Government Affairs which allowed him to pocket almost $7 million lobbying on behalf of clients such as Goldman Sachs, Boeing, Visa Inc and Waste Management Inc.
Of course, Gephardt was not the typical revolving door guy. Instead of being an agency bureaucrat he was elected to public office. And he did not wait to resign from his governmental post to serve industry because he was apparently working both sides regarding NAFTA at the same time.
A third door
This brings us to a third way the door revolves – the way that policies and practices get tossed from one corporate party to the other. When I was a kid, the saying went “The Democrats bring war and the Republicans bring recession.” But no more. With rapacious Wall Street increasing its appetite for expansion as its human host decays, the Democrats and Republicans shadow box to see which can simultaneously be more violent and make the quality of life deteriorate faster.
Perhaps the old saying stemmed from the way Woodrow Wilson won the presidency with the slogan “He kept us out of war” and then proceeded to take the US into WWI. A few decades later Lyndon Johnson ridiculed Barry Goldwater’s threat to bomb Viet Nam back into the stone age. After LBJ won the election, he did his best to carry out Goldwater’s plan.
For about half a century, the Republicans won the reputation of being the most anti-Communist. Yet, it was John and Bobby Kennedy who tried to invade Cuba, went off their chain to pit bull Fidel Castro, and began the very long series of attempts to assassinate him.
Years later, the rapidly anti-Communist Richard Nixon ascended the throne, recognized China, and visited Beijing. In case you missed it, the right-wing Nixon reversed course and realized a progressive idea. It was hardly the only positive event that happened during the reign of one of the most degenerate presidents of all time. The following occurred during his presidency: end to the Viet Nam war, beginning of the Food Stamp Program, creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, passage of the Freedom of Information Act, formal dismantling of the FBI’s COINTEL program, decriminalization of abortion, creation of Earned Income Tax Credits, a format ban on biological weapons, and passage of the Clean Water Act.
One of the crowning achievements during the Nixon era was the April 28, 1971 founding of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Shaun Richman describes in The Unionist how OSHA “has the authority to promulgate industry-specific workplace safety rules and to fine companies that violate them. The law also provides for workplace safety inspectors, whistleblower protections for workers who report potentially unsafe conditions and legal protections for workers who go on wildcat strikes to put an end to a dangerous situation.”
Do Democrats in power provide some sort of assurance because they “call for” more environmental protection than do Republicans? During the 1990s, St. Louis environmentalists were trying to block the construction of a dioxin incinerator. There was a Democrat in the White House, a Democratic Governor of Missouri, and a Democratic County Executive. We persuaded the Democratic majority on the County Council to pass an ordinance requiring dioxin incinerators to operate according to EPA standards, which seemed like a victory since no incinerator can meet those standards.
We stopped going to County Council meetings because we thought we had “won.” Then the Council repealed the ordinance we had lobbied for. Bill Clinton got his Missouri dioxin incinerator. When do Democrats stab you in the back? Whenever your back is turned.
In 2018, Donald Trump is justly despised because of his racist hate campaign against people of color, especially his ripping immigrant children apart from their parents and putting them in cages. But let’s not forget the continuity between Obama and Trump. As Tina Vasquez writes in Rewire News:
When he first announced DACA in 2012, President Obama boasted of ‘putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history.’ Obama sought to ‘centralize border security’ on the pretext of deporting violent criminals and gang members—now Trump’s cause … The anti-immigrant zeal that Trump used to get elected is in many ways closely aligned with the history of America’s immigration system, which gave priority to white immigrants and sought to limit entry by other groups. Every administration, Republican or Democrat, has maintained this system’s injustices.
A major difference between the two presidents is that press outlets like MSNBC tended to ignore actions by Obama but shrieked in horror when Trump followed suit. Clearly, the outrage against Trump positively lessens the attacks, but it makes one wonder: If a Democrat replaces Trump and commits the same atrocities against immigrant children, will media again muffle its anger?
These examples of Democrats and Republicans swapping platforms and policies do not even scratch the surface. Their views are so interchangeable that one could write a 10 volume collection of the way they imitate each other and still barely cover the tip of all the stories out there.
Does this mean that there is no one running for office as a Democrat who sincerely wishes to move in a more progressive direction? Of course not. There are many, many candidates who start out running for local office as a Democrat and stay at the bottom of the Party’s hierarchy because it is structured to keep them there and use them as bait to lure and defang other progressives.
Progressive Democrats at the base level do not script the Party’s major directions, which is as firmly controlled by big business as is the direction of the Republican Party. While they may propose reforms in their communities, they must march in line with candidates for national office if they are to get funding to run at a higher level. Those higher-up Dems are the ones most skilled at collaborating with Repubs, echoing their policies, and even fluttering over to the GOP side if the time is right.
While the Republicans and Democrats are able to twist and turn on any dime lying in the street, there is at least one item for which they have a mind-meld. The top concern of their corporate benefactors is “How do we reverse the gains of the New Deal?” Bosses of both parties seek to undo the New Deal – the biggest difference between them is how to pull it off.
The Dems generally use finesse with a stiletto, carving out gains one-by-one, weeping and sobbing as they do so. The public face of the Repubs screams in delight as it whacks off gains with a meat cleaver. The difference in rhetoric is vastly greater than any difference in the end result. So many politicians can alternate policies and, at times, party affiliation because they see elections as a thermometer measuring if it is the hour for the delicate blade or the butcher knife.
The great virtue of the Democrats is creating hope. The great virtue of the Republicans is being a bit more honest about their long term goals. The perception of vice or virtue in either depends on the mood of the observer.
Do Democrats and Republicans quarrel with each other in front of TV cameras? Obviously yes – but it’s merely a mock lovers’ spat crafted for public consumption. Once the cameras are off, they embrace in excited passion while collapsing onto the bed of cash provided by corporate donations to both parties.
In our darkest hour
Understanding that the unified goal of both parties is to turn back New Deal gains leads us to ask how those victories were won. It was because of the massive strikes, exploding labor movement, and unprecedented growth of the Socialist and Communist Parties that made a New Deal necessary. Key corporate players decided that it was more discreet to allow some demanded changes than to suppress mushrooming mass movements.
Hop forward to the Nixon years. The many accomplishments won during his term were not because that vicious anti-communist fell on his knees, beheld a shining light, and vowed to tread the path of righteousness. It was due to a strong labor movement, a massive anti-war movement following on the heels of the civil rights movement, and a growing women’s movement demanding reproductive freedom (along with many other more radical movements).
Hop forward again to the depravity of the Trump administration. As humanity faces extermination from increased production of fossil fuels, opposition bubbles up at an equal rate. Even though Republican state legislatures agreed to continue undermining public schools, in Spring 2018 teachers decided that they had had enough.
West Virginia had a Republican governor and a Republican majority in both houses of the legislature. But West Virginia teachers went on strike anyway and were followed by teachers from Oklahoma and other states likewise dominated by anti-labor Republicans. Even though illegal, the strike won because teachers stood together with janitors, bus drivers, food service workers and other state employees.
As Bruce Dixon laid it out in Black Agenda Report:
…successful strikes are possible wherever an overwhelming majority of the workforce is committed to it, whether or not those workers are in a ‘right to work’ state, and whether or not the strike is endorsed by their union if they have a union at all. Neither of West Virginia’s two teachers unions endorsed the strike, and the leaders of both unions initially and repeatedly attempted to ‘settle’ it for far less than the striking workers demanded.
The three revolving doors are just other ways that big business manages government while pulling the wool over people’s eyes. Corporate flunkies transfer between their bosses and agencies to ensure agencies do their bidding. Professional politicians go back and forth between parties according to their career opportunities. Parties grab policies from each other to see who can hoodwink the most voters.
The Democrats and Republicans are parts of a single gestalt that creates the illusion of meaningful difference when there is none. If you are part of an organization that gets caught up in the revolving door, don’t keep going around in circles – find another way out. In times of the darkest despair, solidarity is still the road to victory.
Yesterday the Irish Seanad voted in favour of the Occupied Territories Bill which will prohibit the importation of goods or services from illegal settlements in occupied territories, including Israel’s settlements in Palestine which violate the Geneva Conventions. The Bill was introduced by the well-known Irish singer Frances Black whose albums feature both Irish ballads and traditional music. She was elected to Seanad Éireann as an independent Senator on her first attempt in 2016.
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomed the Seanad vote (25 in favour, 20 against) in support of Senator Frances Black’s ‘Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill. According to the IPSC Chairperson, Ms. Fatin Al Tamimi (a Palestinian-Irish citizen):
We in the IPSC, and Palestinians around the world, warmly welcome this historic vote, the first its kind in any Western country. Once again, Ireland is making history and leading the way in its solidarity with the Palestinian people. We thank and salute all those Senators and parties who have pledged to support the Bill, and we will be asking the Irish people to ensure that these politicians support its passage at all stages of the lawmaking process.
Black has been campaigning for some time now for the rights of the Palestinian people. She states:
I have long been passionate about the struggle of the Palestinian people, which shows clearly how trade in settlement goods sustains injustice. In the occupied territories, people are forcibly kicked out of their homes, fertile farming land is seized, and the fruit and vegetables produced are then sold on Irish shelves to pay for it all. We condemn the settlements as illegal but support them economically. As international law is absolutely clear that the settlements are illegal, then the goods they produce are the proceeds of crime. We must face up to this – we cannot keep supporting breaches of international law and violations of human rights.
Frances Black discusses the Bill that would support banning goods from Israel’s settlements.
According to an explanatory note on the bill’s main provisions:
Under international criminal law, the transfer by a State of its civilian population into a territory it has militarily occupied is a ‘war crime’, as well as a ‘grave breach’ of international humanitarian law. Importantly, it is also a crime under Irish law, no matter where in the world it is committed. Ireland has a duty to ensure these laws are respected and to uphold the humanitarian principles outlined in them. To this end, the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 seeks to prohibit trade with and economic support for illegal settlements in territories deemed occupied under international law. It would restrict the import and sale of goods produced in such settlements, Irish involvement in the provision of services in such settlements, and the extraction of resources from occupied territories without the consent of the legitimate authority of that territory. This economic support underpins the long-term continuation of illegal settlements, established in clear violation of international law. In tabling this bill we are stating that Ireland should not provide economic or political support for them, wherever they arise.
The Bill, inter alia, specifically covers the importation and sale of settlement goods:
6. Importation of settlement goods
(1) It shall be an offence for a person to import or attempt to import settlement goods.
(2) It shall be an offence for a person to assist another person to import or attempt to import settlement goods.
(3) For the purpose of the Customs Act 2015, the import of settlement goods is hereby prohibited.
7. Sale of settlement goods
(1) It shall be an offence for a person to sell or attempt to sell settlement goods.
(2) It shall be an offence for a person to assist another person to sell or attempt to sell settlement goods.
Many Irish politicians believe that the passing of the Occupied Territories Bill will send a strong message that the issue of illegal settlements is being taken seriously and needs to be addressed.
The Israeli Embassy in Ireland has been highly critical of the Bill and commented that:
The absurdity in the Seanad Éireann initiative is that it will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott.
However, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. It was Palestinian Civil Society that called for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights in 2005.
(Image credit Trocaire)
Earlier this month former Pink Floyd star Roger Waters urged people to support the Occupied Territories Bill 2018 at a concert in Dublin.
Ms. Fatin Al Tamimi also commented that:
These have been great months for Palestine in Ireland, a country which punches well above its weight when it comes to solidarity. At least seven local councils have voted to support the Palestinian-led global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, including Dublin, the first EU capital to take this stand, and most recently Mid-Ulster Council and Fermanagh & Omagh District Council. She said that last month saw the launch of a campaign for an Irish boycott of Eurovision 2019 and noted that barely a week goes by without solidarity vigils or protests outside shops selling Israeli products in Ireland.
As the activist for Palestinian human rights, Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh says:
I find that ingenuity in resistance, the ability to persevere — what we call sumud — to be tremendously inspiring. Our people are able to continue their lives despite the incredible odds arrayed against them and not only to persist but also to find some measure of success. As the graffiti on the wall says, ‘to live is to resist’.
The announced meeting between Trump and Putin has already produced a good result by revealing the hypocrisy of the media and politicians. The meeting has been branded as the greatest danger to humanity, according to the Western globalist elite, because of the danger that "peace could break out between Russia and the United States."
Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. The following so stretches credulity that sources will have to be cited and an exact quotations given to be believed.
A case in point is the following title: "Fears growing over the prospect of Trump 'peace deal' with Putin." The Times does not here fear a military escalation in Ukraine, an armed clash in Syria, a false-flag poisoning in England, or a new Cold War. The Times does not fear a nuclear apocalypse, the end of humanity, the suffering of hundreds of millions of people. No, one of the most authoritative and respected broadsheets in the world is fearful of the prospect of peace! The Times is afraid that the heads of two nuclear-armed superpowers are able to talk to each other. The Times fears that Putin and Trump will be able to come to some kind of agreement that can help avert the danger of a global catastrophe. These are the times in which we live. And this is the type of media we deal with. The problem with The Times is that it forms public opinion in the worst possible way, confusing, deceiving, and disorienting its readers. It is not by accident the world in which we live is increasingly divorced from logic and rationality.
Even if the outcome of this meeting does not see any substantial progress, the most important thing to be achieved will be the dialogue between the two leaders and the opening of negotiation channels for both sides.
In The Times article, it is assumed that Trump and Putin want to reach an agreement regarding Europe. The insinuation is that Putin is manipulating Trump in order to destabilize Europe. For years now we have been inundated with such fabrications by the media on behalf of their editors and shareholders, all part of the deep state conglomerate. Facts have in fact proven that Putin has always desired a strong and united Europe, looking to integrate Europe into the Eurasian dream. Putin and Xi Jinping would like to see a European Union more resistant to American pressure and able to gain greater independence. The combination of mass migration and sanctions against Russia and Iran, which end up hurting Europeans, opens the way for alternative parties that are not necessarily willing to Washington’s marching orders.
Trump's focus for the meeting will be to convince Putin to put even more pressure on Europe and Iran, perhaps in exchange for the recognition of Crimea and the ending of sanctions. For Putin and for Russia it is a strategic issue. While sanctions are bad, the top priority for Moscow remains the alliance with Iran, the need to further strengthen relations with European countries, and to defeat terrorism in Syria. Perhaps only a revision of the ABM treaty and the withdrawal of these weapons from Europe would be an interesting offer for Putin. However, reality shows us that the ABM treaty is a pillar of Washington’s military-industrial complex, and that it is also Eastern European countries that want such offensive and defensive systems in their own countries, seeing them as a deterrents against Russia. Are they victims of their own propaganda, or are billions of dollars pouring into their pockets? Either way, it does not really matter. The most important point for Moscow will be the withdrawal of the Aegis Ashore ABM systems as well as military ships with the same Aegis system. But this is not something that Trump will be able to negotiate with his military leaders. For the military-industrial complex, the ABM system, thanks to maintenance, innovation and direct or indirect commissions, is a gravy train that too many interests intend to keep riding.
From the Kremlin's point of view, the removal of sanctions remains necessary for the restoration of normal relations with the West. But this would be difficult to achieve, given that Moscow would have little to offer Washington in exchange. The strategists at the Pentagon demand a withdrawal from Syria, an end to support for Donbass, and a cessation of relations with Iran. There is simply too much divergence to reach a common position. Moreover, Europe’s sanctions against Russia benefit Washington, as they hurt the Europeans and thereby undermine what is a major trading competitor to the US. The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) can be looked at in the same light, blocking US allies from doing business with Iran.
Putin will keep faith with his commitments to Syria and with his allies, unwilling to betray his word even for the recognition of Crimea. On the other hand, as already mentioned, the priority remains the removal of the ABM; and while Crimea is already under the control of the Russian Federation, Syria remains an unstable territory that risks propelling Islamist terrorism to Russia’s soft underbelly in the Caucasus. For Moscow, involvement in Syria has always been a matter of national security, and this certainly remains the same now, even with Donald Trump's unrealistic offers.
It should be kept in mind that Putin is aiming for a medium- to long-term strategy in the Middle East, where Iran, Syria and the entire Shiite arc serves to counter Saudi and Israeli aggression and hegemony. This strange alliance has emerged as the only way to deter war and dial down the heat in the region, because the crazy actions from Netanyahu or Mohammad bin Salman are deterred by a strong Iranian military. Preventing a confrontation between Iran and Saudis/Israelis also means not making Tehran appear weak or isolated. Such considerations seem beyond the strategists in Washington, let alone in Tel Aviv or Riyadh.
While it is difficult to achieve a positive outcome from the meeting between Trump and Putin, it is important that there is a meeting in the first place, contrary to what The Times thinks. The media and the conglomerate of power that revolves around the US deep state fear diplomacy in particular. The same narrative that was proclaimed weeks before and after the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un is being repeated with regard to Trump’s meeting with Putin.
Washington bases its power on force, both economic and military. But this power also rests on the posture assumed and image projected. The United States and its deep state considers negotiating with opponents to be wrong and counterproductive. They consider dialogue to be synonymous with weakness, and any concession is interpreted as surrender. This is the result of 70 years of American exceptionalism and 30 years of Unipolarity, has allowed the US the ability to decide unilaterally the fate of others.
Today, in a multipolar world, the dynamics are different and therefore more complex. You cannot always employ a zero-sum mentality, as The Times does. The rest of the world recognizes that a dialogue between Putin and Trump is something positive, but we must not forget that, as in Korea, if diplomacy does not bring significant progress, then the hawks surrounding Trump will again be in the ascendant. The tasks for Rouhani, Putin and Kim Jong-un are complex and quite different from each other, but they share in common the belief that dialogue is the only way to avoid a catastrophic war. But apparently, peace is not the best possible result for everyone.
Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.
NATO is obsolete. Donald Trump made this argument back on the campaign trail. This week, in his typically hyperbolic manner, he dressed down the organization for its hypocrisy over its mandate, which is to counter any aggression from Russia.
But, the potential threat of a Russian invasion of Europe is nil. And, literally, everyone involved in this farce of a summit knows this. So, Trump was right to call out the hypocrisy, but wrong about how to solve it.
Attacking Germany over the Nordstream 2 pipeline is nonsense. Trade, especially energy trade, stitches economies and peoples together. But to Trump energy is different. Energy is a defense issue.
As such, it should be tightly controlled and only deployed to the benefit of those he approves of (or is allied with) against those he doesn’t (China).
And this is what is fundamentally wrong with geopolitically-dominant thinking. Everything gets reduced to the metaphoric chess board. People stop thinking about their individual needs and can only think in terms of nations and governments.
And it makes it easy for authoritarians like Trump, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and all the rest to push the public’s buttons, openly stoking people’s in-group/out-group bias against their own best interest.
This is ultimately what allows for equally odious people like Donald Trump and Angela Merkel to achieve and maintain power. NATO is obsolete because the thinking behind why it is necessary is obsolete.
It’s not Russian aggression that everyone has to be worried about, it is the aggression of those who have to this point mismanaged everything they were empowered to take care of in the first place, i.e. the very politicians at the meeting.
The US has subsidized European social welfare states by outsourcing their defense. We, in turn, empowered a corporatocracy built around selling increasingly unnecessary weapons back to them under the false rubric of the evil Russians.
Trump’s position about NATO members not "paying their fair share" is beside the point. NATO’s budget would be far better spent contracting Russia to build the Nordstream 2 pipeline itself than bullying Italy into buying another tank it doesn’t need.
This is nothing more than him trying to turn an obsolete NATO into yet another Keynesian job creation program.
“Buy more of our over-priced, under-performing crap like the F-35 (a plane that should be considered treason by any rational metric of the term) so we can destroy even more precious capital while everyone goes broke issuing more debt to keep the party going a little while longer.”
In Trumpspeak however, this comes out as “Jobs. Yuge jobs!”
It would be better in the end to just give the engineers rocks to throw at windows the assembly team builds. At least there wouldn’t be the massive waste of raw materials. Glass is recyclable after all, though not profitably.
His real complaint, however, is on an imbalance of trade between the US and Europe. This is something he can’t fix without giving up the very source of the power he’s wielding with reckless abandon right now: the US dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.
Triffin’s paradox is real for the country that issues the currency that liquefies world trade. And for that to occur, that country must run a trade deficit to issue more currency. Dollars go out, goods come in.
The trade deficit is an accounting anomaly, and as Martin Armstrong consistently points out, can be manipulated by the interplay between it and the country’s current account.
The question isn’t the amount of money going out it is the value for that money in the goods received for it. In that respect, the only economic respect that matters, the US gets paid handsomely.
The endless preening and virtue signaling by dead-ender politicians trying to justify their existence while mouthing the will of the lobbyists and rentier-class financiers who stand behind him is worse than nauseating.
It is culturally and psychologically destabilizing. Resistance to change by the bureaucracy is on daily display on both sides of the pond. From the Peter Strzok hearings to Theresa May’s betrayal of Brexit, none of these people want their ox gored while they continue to live at the expense of others for their benefit, not those they supposedly serve.
Trump has a real opportunity to quell his critics on the left and from libertarians like me to remake the way the business of geopolitics is done when he sits down with Putin next week. His performance at the NATO summit was, as always with him, three steps forward and two steps back.
He’s needs an unfettered five-k jog in Helsinki.
And that means cutting through the nonsense, stopping the demagoguery and getting down to the real business of putting our own houses in order. And that means for Trump, regardless of the agreements he gets from his European counterparts, to pull the US out of NATO, to tear down this alliance that is an albatross around the neck of everyone who lives under the weight of it.
Reprinted with permission from TomLoungo.me.