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Philip Giraldi

Bipartisan War: New Study Urges More US Interventions

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The Establishment and Realist foreign policy communities in the United States often seem separated by language which leads them to talk past each other. When a realist or Libertarian talks about non-intervention or restraint in foreign policy, as Ron Paul did in 2008 and 2012, the Establishment response is to denounce isolationism. As Dr. Paul noted during his campaigns, non-interventionism and isolationism have nothing to do with each other as a country that does not meddle in the affairs of others can nevertheless be accessible and open in dealing with other nations in many other ways.

Non-interventionists are fond of quoting George Washington’s Farewell Address, in which he recommended that “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible… Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.” Establishment pundits tend to dismiss that “little political connection” bit, preferring instead to warn how detachment from foreign politics might lead to the rise of a new Adolph Hitler.

I was reminded of the language barrier while reading the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force report, which appeared on November 30th. The report, which promises a new “Compact for the Middle East” while also asserting that “isolationism is a dangerous delusion,” might be regarded as a quintessential document laying out the Establishment position on what should be done in the region. It is ostensibly the product of two co-chairs, Madeleine Albright and Stephen Hadley, but it is also credited to an Executive Team headed by Executive Director Stephen Grand and Deputy Executive Director Jessica Ashooh, who in all probability were responsible for the actual drafting and editing.
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Iranophobes on Parade: Will Iran be the Target of the Trump Regime?

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One of the most discouraging aspects of the filling out of the Donald Trump cabinet is the array of Iran haters that seem to be lining up in the foreign policy and national security areas. Trump has been personally advocating sensible policies relating to Russia and Syria but he appears to have gone off the rails regarding Iran, which just might be attributed to those who are giving him advice. A reversion to the relationship that prevailed prior to last year’s signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) between Iran and the so-called P5+1 consisting of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and the European Union would be undesirable, to say the least, but that appears to be what is likely to develop. Or it could be even worse, finding bilateral support for “action” as a number of policy advisors in the presidential campaign from both parties were endorsing something like war against the Persians.

The irony is that the argument made then and now for attacking Iran were based on the threat of Tehran deciding to build its own atomic bomb. With the JCPA agreement, however, most would agree that any remaining concerns that Tehran might even be considering the development of a nuclear weapons program were greatly diminished. Iran has since that time been in compliance with the agreement, possible nuclear proliferation has been avoided, and, apart from the fulminations of the inevitable anti-Iranian politicians in the United States, the signatories to the agreement have expressed their satisfaction with the outcome. It has been Washington that has failed to live up to its part of the agreement by easing remaining restrictions that are being imposed against Iranian financial institutions and regarding the purchase of some commercially available dual use technologies.
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Oh, What a Lovely War!

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The American people don’t know very much about war even if Washington has been fighting on multiple fronts since 9/11. The continental United States has not experienced the presence a hostile military force for more than 100 years and war for the current generation of Americans consists largely of the insights provided by video games and movies. The Pentagon’s invention of embedded journalists, which limits any independent media insight into what is going on overseas, has contributed to the rendering of war as some kind of abstraction. Gone forever is anything like the press coverage of Vietnam, with nightly news and other media presentations showing prisoners being executed and young girls screaming while racing down the street in flames.

Given all of that, it is perhaps no surprise that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, neither of whom has served in uniform, should regard violence inflicted on people overseas with a considerable level of detachment. Hillary is notorious for her assessment of the brutal killing of Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi, saying “We came, we saw, he died.” They both share to an extent the dominant New York-Washington policy consensus view that dealing with foreigners can sometimes get a bit bloody, but that is a price that someone in power has to be prepared to pay. One of Hillary’s top advisers, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, famously declared that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to US led sanctions were “worth it.”
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Obama's Victory Lap?

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In between nearly daily campaign stops shilling for Hillary, President Barack Obama has been promoting his record as Head of State. To Obama’s credit, he talks nice and appears to be both thoughtful and rational, qualities that were not always evident in his predecessor in office. But the hype about what was achieved in his eight years appears to be more than a bit overblown, particularly if one considers the flagship domestic project, Obamacare. It is a program in which the government forces individuals to buy a product that has been crafted together by private, for profit companies. If the people do not buy, they will be penalized by the government. The companies in turn have learned that it is tough to make money insuring people who are actually sick so they are leaving the program while those individuals who have to buy their own coverage without government subsidies are discovering that the significant annual price increases mean that they cannot afford insurance at all.Donald Trump is right that the program is in crisis, is “over,” and should be repealed.

Against that, what has Obama accomplished domestically? I will not consider the constant pandering on gender and race because that is, after all, what Democrats do. But if one considers immigration a part of domestic policy, he is responsible for refusing to enforce immigration law, letting Haitians stay illegally in the US as compensation for a hurricane that occurred in 2010, while also failing to deport whole categories of Hispanics who are in the country without visas or residency permits. 

Domestic would also include the continuation of several types of surveillance of citizens by the NSA and FBI, the hounding and prosecution of whistleblowers, and the increased reliance on the State Secrets privilege to derail the use of the judicial system to pushback against government overreach. And in a just concluded parole hearing involving a Guantanamo detainee who had been repeatedly tortured, the Obama Administration has now determined that some individuals can be held in prison forever without ever being charged with a crime or convicted.
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The Legacy of United States Interventionism

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There are really two questions here – when is the use of force justified in the context of the key word “abroad” and what have Americans learned regarding overseas interventions from the Iraq experience. As a foreign policy adviser for Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, I lean in a non-interventionist direction, but that is at least somewhat due to that fact that recent interventions have not worked very well and have in fact increased the number of enemies rather than reduce them while also killing nearly 7,500 American soldiers and more than a million inhabitants of the countries Washington has become entangled with.

One might also reasonably argue based on post 9/11 developments that destabilizing or attacking other countries consistently makes bad situations worse and has a tendency to allow problems to metastasize. This is sometimes referred to as blowback.

Nevertheless, anti-intervention does not necessarily mean anti-war when war becomes the only option to protect vital interests, but armed conflict cannot be entered into lightly. There is in fact a simple answer to when to use force: it is to defend the United States itself against a clearly defined threat to the country or to a genuine vital interest.
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Israel's $38 Billion Scam

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As an American it is difficult to imagine a more unseemly bit of political theater playing out than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance before his cabinet to claim that he had gotten every last dollar of military assistance out of the Obama Administration. Netanyahu argued that he had obtained all that was on the table, adding that his bad blood with President Barack Obama had not proven to be detrimental in the bilateral negotiations that had been ongoing for more than a year. The Prime Minister was on the defensive because some of his critics claimed that he might have gotten $100 million more per annum, admittedly chump change on top of the $38 billion over ten years that the Memorandum of Understand will provide Netanyahu from the U.S. Treasury.

The critics also argued that the “real money” obtained from Washington was less than it seemed because of inflation, but the gift of $38 billion to Israel was nevertheless a considerable increase over the roughly $3.3 billion per year that Israel is currently receiving. The protracted negotiations over the exact sum to be handed over were reportedly due to Netanyahu’s demanding much more money, possibly as much as $5 billion per year. The deal did come with a minor problem for the Israeli defense industries, which had become accustomed to skimming 26% off the top of the annual U.S. grant to build and market their own weapons. 

Someone in Washington finally figured out that the U.S. taxpayer was directly funding foreign competition for its own defense industries, costing thousands of American jobs. But not to worry, the Israeli companies are now setting up U.S. subsidiaries, so the gravy train will almost certainly continue to deliver.
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Deep State America

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On September 9th the Washington Post featured a front page article describing how the Defense Department had used warplanes to attack targets and kill suspected militants in six countries over the Labor Day weekend. The article was celebratory, citing Pentagon officials who boasted of the ability to engage “multiple targets” anywhere in the world in what has become a “permanent war.” The article did not mention that the United States is not currently at war with any of the six target countries and made no attempt to make a case that the men and women who were killed actually threatened the U.S. or American citizens.

Actual American interests in fighting a war without limits and without an end were not described. They never are. Indeed, in the U.S. and elsewhere many citizens often wonder how certain government policies like the Washington’s war on terror can persist in spite of widespread popular opposition or clear perceptions that they are either ineffective or even harmful. This persistence of policies regarding which there is no debate is sometimes attributed to a “deep state.”

The phrase “deep state” originated in and was often applied to Turkey, in Turkish “Derin Devlet,” where the nation’s security services and governing elite traditionally pursued the same chauvinistic and inward-looking agenda both domestically and in foreign affairs no matter who was prime minister.
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Israel Wins in November - It Doesn't Matter Who is Elected

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There is considerable chatter about who will win in some of the hotly contested congressional races around the country, but one thing is certain: whoever triumphs will soon be receiving a nice all expenses paid luxury trip to Israel to learn all about Benjamin Netanyahu’s views regarding what more Washington can do to support him and his government. The “educational seminars” are organized by the Israel Lobby, more specifically by a tax exempt entity referred to as the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is a part of the hardline American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Participation in the journey by all freshman congressman is not mandatory but is advisable if one wants to stay on the right side of the Lobby. In August 2015 the class of 2014 only had three abstentions out of 53 new congressmen when it traveled to Israel along partisan lines with a Democratic group followed shortly thereafter by a GOP contingent.

These orientation trips are in addition to the frequent taxpayer funded visits made by congressmen to update themselves on Israel’s expanding list of “needs.” One such recent excursion involved Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who enthused that “in a region consumed by terrorism and oppression, Israel stands out as a shining beacon of hope and freedom.” Congressman David Rouzer, also from North Carolina, observed that “Any attack on Israel of any kind is an attack on the American people. It was an honor for us to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
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The Magnitsky Hoax?

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Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer hired by an Anglo-American investment fund operating in Moscow to investigate the apparent diversion of as much as $230 million in taxes due to the government. He became a whistleblower after discovering that the money had been stolen by the police, organized crime figures and other government officials. After he went to the authorities to complain he was unjustly imprisoned for eleven months. When he refused to recant he was both beaten and denied medical treatment to coerce him into cooperating, resulting in his death in jail at age 37 in November 2009. He has become something of a hero for those who have decried official corruption in Russia.

The Magnitsky case is of particular importance because both the European Union and the United States have initiated sanctions against the Russian officials who were allegedly involved. In the Magnitsky Act, sponsored by Russia-phobic Senator Ben Cardin and signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, the US asserted its willingness to punish foreign governments for violations of human rights. Russia reacted angrily, noting that the actions taken by its government internally, notably the operation of its judiciary, were being subjected to outside interference. It reciprocated with sanctions against US officials as well as by increasing pressure on foreign non-governmental pro-democracy groups operating in Russia.

Tension between Moscow and Washington increased considerably as a result and Congress will likely soon approve a so-called Global Magnitsky Act as part of the current defense appropriation bill. It expands the use of sanctions and other punitive measures against regimes guilty of egregious human rights abuses though it is unlikely to be applied to US friends like Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is also sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin and is clearly intended to intimidate Russia.
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Fifty-One Foreign Service Officers Can't be Wrong…Or Can They? More bombs and Less Talk on Syria


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It is ironic that fifty-one US State Department employees, perhaps overly-generously dignified in the media with the title of “diplomats,” have come out in favor of removing a foreign head of state by force. Detailing their opposition to the status quo, the signatories submitted a dissent memo through established Foreign Service channels. The document itself is classified, even though the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal clearly have obtained copies, presumably leaked to them by some of the dissident officers.

The signatories have reportedly demanded “targeted air strikes” and the “judicious use of stand-off and air weapons which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed US-led diplomatic process” to bring down the al-Assad government. They justify their dissent by arguing that “The moral rationale for taking steps to end the deaths and suffering in Syria, after five years of brutal war, is evident and unquestionable. The status quo in Syria will continue to present increasingly dire, if not disastrous, humanitarian, diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges.”

The memo describes the Syrian government’s alleged barrel bomb attacks on civilians “the root cause of the instability that continues to grip Syria and the broader region. Crucially, Syria’s Sunni population continues to view the Assad regime as the primary enemy in the conflict. Failure to stem Assad’s flagrant abuses will only bolster the ideological appeal of groups such as (IS), even as they endure tactical setbacks on the battlefield.”
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