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Justin Raimondo

Trump Ends Syrian Regime Change Campaign

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The headline in the Washington Post said it all: “Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow.” The madness that has infected what passes for journalism today could not be more starkly dramatized: everything is seen through the distorting lens of Russophobia. It doesn’t matter that that the program had failed to achieve its ostensible goal, and that the US-vetted rebels had for the most part defected to al-Qaedaal-Nusra, and ISIS. Atrocities committed by the “moderate” rebels go unmentioned. That real experts on the region like Joshua Landishailed the move as a step toward a peaceful settlement is ignored. The only thing that matters is that, as one unnamed “current official” cited in the article puts it, “Putin won in Syria.”

From this perspective, the Syrian people are merely pawns in a geopolitical game between Washington and Moscow. Elsewhere in the piece, the authors – Washington Post reporters Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous – bemoan the fact that the US has somehow “lost” Syria. Under the cover of citing anonymous former White House officials, they write:
Even those who were skeptical about the program’s long-term value, viewed it as a key bargaining chip that could be used to wring concessions from Moscow in negotiations over Syria’s future.

’People began thinking about ending the program, but it was not something you’d do for free,’ said a former White House official. ‘To give [the program] away without getting anything in return would be foolish.’
The Syrian people are mere “bargaining chips” as far as the movers and shakers of the American empire are concerned: they have no reality outside the cold calculations of power politics, the maneuvers of our know-it-all political class, who think they are qualified to run the world.
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Tucker Carlson, Neocon Slayer

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Oh, it was glorious fun, yielding the kind of satisfaction that us anti-interventionists rarely get to enjoy: not one but two prominent neoconservatives who have been wrong about everything for the past decade – yet never held accountable – getting taken down on national television. Tucker Carlson, whose show is a shining light of reason in a fast-darkening world, has performed a public service by demolishing both Ralph Peters and Max Boot on successive shows. But these two encounters with evil weren’t just fun to watch, they’re also highly instructive for what they tell us about the essential weakness of the War Party and its failing strategy for winning over the American people.
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Russophobia Hits the Libertarian Movement

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Fear and loathing of Russia is all the rage in Washington, D.C., as both liberal Democrats and neoconservative Republicans unite in a campaign to demonize the Kremlin as “the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS," as Sen. John McCain recently put it. While Hillary Clinton and her dead-ender supporters conjure a Vast Russian Conspiracy to hand the 2016 election to Donald Trump, and the neocons take advantage of this to push their longstanding hatred of Russian President Vladimir Putin, even ostensible libertarians are getting into the act.

This may seem counterintuitive: after all, the modern libertarian movement was born in rebellion against the cold war politics of the Vietnam war era, and libertarians have always opposed Washington’s interventionist foreign policy, such as NATO and a destabilizing and dangerous arms race. Yet even libertarians are not immune to the power of groupthink and the tyranny of political fashion, as the cover story in the most recent edition of Reasonmagazine makes all too clear. 

Provocatively entitled “Russia’s Global Anti-Libertarian Crusade,” and authored by longtime Russophobe Cathy Young – herself an immigrant from Russia – the piece makes the case for viewing Russia in McCain-esque terms, i.e., an implacable enemy, the driving force behind an “illiberal international” dedicated to stamping out the last vestiges of liberty all across the globe.
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Anti-Interventionist Voters Elected Trump

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How did Donald Trump defy all the pollsters, the pundits, and the Twitterverse “experts” and take the White House? According to the Democrats, it was all a Russian plot – Kremlin-directed Twitter “bots” spread “misinformation” and “fake news,” Russian hackers stole the DNC’s emails, and this deprived Hillary Clinton of her rightful place as President of these United States. If we listen to the Bernie Sanders wing of the party, it was all because their man Bernie failed to win the nomination due to corporate influence and the flawed election strategy of the Clinton campaign. And the Republicans tell us it was because – well, they don’t have any coherent theory, but, hey, they’ll take it regardless of why or how it happened.

What hasn’t emerged from the shock and horror of the elites, however, is a reasonably convincing explanation for the Trump victory: the storied “deplorables,” as Mrs. Clinton described them, rose up in rebellion against the coastal elites and delivered them a blow from which they are still reeling. Disdained, forgotten, and left behind, these rural not-college-educated near-the-poverty-line voters, who had traditionally voted Democratic, deserted the party – but why?

No real explanation has been forthcoming. Hillary tells us it was due, in part, to “sexism,” and the rest was a dark conspiracy by Vladimir Putin and James Comey. More objective observers attribute the switch to the relentless emphasis by the Democrats on identity politics, which seems convincing until one examines the actual statistics down to the county level in those key states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – that gave the party of Trump the keys to the White House.
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Our Rush to War in Syria -- It’s a Disaster in the Making

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The downing of a Syrian fighter jet by the United States – and, more recently, of an Iranian drone – augurs a confrontation that could take us down the road to World War III. The US media is echoing the Pentagon’s explanation, which is that the Syrian jet bombed (or was threatening to bomb) units of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) around the town of Tanf. The Syrians say they were attacking forces aligned with ISIS, which both the US and the Syrian government are supposedly fighting.

The reality is that there is no such entity as the “Syrian Democratic Forces.” There are only loosely aligned groups, factions and splinters of factions, which proliferate seemingly on a daily basis in a mosaic of ethno-religious-ideological conflicts that reflect the chaos that has enveloped that country. The failure of the US to unite these various factions into the so-called Free Syrian Army – large units of which kept defecting to the various radical Islamist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda – led to an explosion of smaller groups centered around local, tribal, ethnic, and religious affiliations. The SDF is an attempt to solder these groups together in a military force capable of fighting and defeating the “Caliphate” established by ISIS – an effort that is far less successful than it seems.

The main military component of the SDF is the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel/YPG), consisting of about 45,000 fighters, including the all-female unit. The YPG is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, a far-leftist formation which adheres to the “democratic confederalist” vision of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Ocalan, who in turn credits anarcho-communist theoretician Murray Bookchin as his inspiration. The YPG is the official army of “Rojava,” a non-contiguous union of Kurdish-controlled territories that is supposedly secular, egalitarian, and socialist.
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Hodgkinson’s Disease: Politics and Paranoia in the Age of Trump

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James T. Hodgkinson, the would-be assassin of Republican congressmen, wasn’t a radical. If you look at his published output – a series of letters to his local newspaper in Belleville, Illinois, as well as the majority of his Internet postings – it’s mostly about matters nearly every progressive cares about: taxes (the rich don’t pay enough), healthcare (the government must provide), income inequality (it’s all a Republican plot). All in all, a pretty unremarkable worldview that any partisan Democrat – either a Bernie Sanders supporter, as Hodginkinson was, or a Hillary fan – could sign on to.

So what drove him over the edge?

One of his more recent Facebook posts was a link to a petition that called for “the legal removal of the President and Vice-President, et. al., for Misprision of Treason.” Hodgkinson had signed it and he was asking his readers to follow suit: “Trump is a Traitor,” he wrote, “Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”  He was also a big fan of Rachel Maddow, who – incredibly — has spent the majority of her airtime ranting about “The Russian Connection,” as this Intercept piece documents. Hodgkinson was also a member of a Facebook group ominously dubbing itself “Terminate the Republican Party,” an appellation Hodgkinson apparently took quite literally. The group has over 13,000 members. The main page of the Terminators is adorned with a cartoon of Putin manipulating Trump like a puppet.

When Hodgkinson left his home and his job to travel to Alexandria, Virginia, he told his wife he was going to “work on tax issues.” But is that what motivated his murderous spree? Do “tax issues” really seem like something that would inspire someone to plan and carry out an assassination attempt that, but for the presence of Capitol police on the scene, would have certainly resulted in a massacre?

Hodgkinson clearly believed that the President of the United States was an agent of a foreign power. He had signed on to the idea that Trump not only benefited from a Russian campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton, but that he is engaged in a war against his own country.
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The Saudi War Against Qatar

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What in the name of Allah is going on with the spat between Qatar, on one side, and the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates, and most of the rest of the Arab states on the other? Accusations that Qatar is the fulcrum of “terrorism” in the region, emanating from Riyadh and Abu Dhabi – the twin epicenters of Islamic extremism on earth – seemed to have been broadcast from Bizarro World. And the incident that sparked the controversy — in which much of the Arab world, led by the Saudis, blockaded tiny Qatar — added the extra-hot spice of cyber-espionage to an already indigestible dish.

Shortly after President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he announced his “anti-terrorist” initiative, the web site of the Qatar News Agency, run by the Qatari government, was hacked. A “fake news” story was posted by the hackers, purporting to describe a speech given by the current Emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in which he called for better relations with Iran, praised Hamas and Hezbollah, and predicted that Trump’s term in the White House would be short.

Despite the Qataris’ claim – since verified by the FBI, according to Qatar’s foreign minister – that the Qatar News Agency site had been hacked, and that the Emir had given no such speech, both the Saudis and the UAE, through their official media outlets, launched a campaign targeting Qatar. Overflight rights were revoked: diplomatic contacts ended: Qatar citizens were forbidden to enter Saudi/UAE territory even to change planes. And in a public statementdelivered in the rose garden of the White House President Trump clearly sided with the Saudi/UAE consortium, complementing a series of remarkably stupid tweets that basically said the same thing.
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Beyond ‘Blowback’: Islam and Terror

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The latest attack in London – the third to hit Britain within seventy-five days – is once again provoking a debate about the relationship between Islam and terrorism. On one side we have those who say Islam is inherently violent, and is incompatible with the basic canons of Western civilization. On the other side, we have liberals who say that this is a libel on an entire religion, and that advocates of religious violence are a distinct minority within the Muslim faith.

These two views have distinct policy implications: the former would impose what amounts to a Muslim ban on travel to Western countries, and would furthermore mandate State surveillance of mosques and other religious institutions of that faith. The latter stance would oppose these measures, and proceed as if Muslims posed the same danger to us as, say, Presbyterians, i.e. none at all.

Both views are simplistic nonsense. Furthermore, neither offers an effective policy to deal with the problem as defined.
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Haven’t We Had Enough of Afghanistan?

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Will there ever be an end to the war in Afghanistan? Apparently not if our generals have anything to say about it – and they do. President Trump has turned over the prosecution of our perpetual “war on terrorism” to the Pentagon, claiming that they’ve been held back by previous administrations. The new policy is to turn them loose.

We saw what this means when the so-called “Mother of All Bombs” was dropped in a remote location where ISIS was said to be hiding: 92 “militants”were said to have been killed. Contrary to the triumphalist reports in US media, the biggest non-nuclear bomb ever deployed in combat had a minimal effect. And the cost, at $16 million for a single MOAB, came to around $174,000 per “militant.”

With anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 ISIS fighters in Afghanistan, let’s take the median number of 2,000 and estimate that getting rid of all of them will cost around $348 million, give or take $10 million or so.

And you’ll note that we’re just talking about ISIS here. The Taliban is not only still in the mix, they’re actually in a better position than ever. In March, the Taliban claimed that 211 administrative districts of the country were either under their control or else contested: this isn’t far off the report of the Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which put the number at 171.
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The ‘War On Terrorism’ Isn’t Working

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If insanity is doing the same thing over and over in the expectation of a different result, then our foreign policy surely qualifies as madness. Since 2001, in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States has been in a state of constant warfare: the Afghan conflict has been ongoing since that time, the longest sustained combat in our history. From Iraq to Syria to Somalia and beyond, US forces and their proxies are engaged in a “war on terrorism” that shows no signs of slowing down, only expanding.

And where has it gotten us?

In Afghanistan, more than half the country is under the control of the Taliban, the radical Islamist group that sheltered Osama bin Laden – and they are now joined by ISIS, which has extended its tentacles into that country.

In Iraq, after our war of “liberation,” a civil war pitting Shi’ites against Sunnis is raging, and terrorist attacks are the norm. The Iranians have extended their sphere of influence into the country, and US troops are still fighting there, despite the much-heralded “withdrawal.”

The focus of US military action in the Middle East has now shifted to Syria, where a multi-sided civil war has been raging ever since the so-called Arab Spring. There we have managed to destabilize the regime of Bashar al-Assad by supporting alleged “moderate” Islamists, while we simultaneously fight ISIS – which is tacitly supported by our “moderate” proxies. The result has been a disaster of epic proportions: hundreds of thousands dead, as refugees pour out of the country and into Europe.
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