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Philip Giraldi

Why Both Republicans and Democrats Want Russia to Become the Enemy of Choice

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One of the more interesting aspects of the nauseating impeachment trial in the Senate was the repeated vilification of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. To hate Russia has become dogma on both sides of the political aisle, in part because no politician has really wanted to confront the lesson of the 2016 election, which was that most Americans think that the federal government is basically incompetent and staffed by career politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell who should return back home and get real jobs. Worse still, it is useless, and much like the one trick pony the only thing it can do is steal money from the taxpayers and waste it on various types of self-gratification that only politicians can appreciate. That means that the United States is engaged is fighting multiple wars against make-believe enemies while the country’s infrastructure rots and a host of officially certified grievance groups control the public space. It sure doesn’t look like Kansas anymore.

The fact that opinion polls in Europe suggest that many Europeans would rather have Vladimir Putin than their own hopelessly corrupt leaders is suggestive. One can buy a whole range of favorable t-shirts featuring Vladimir Putin on Ebay, also suggesting that most Americans find the official Russophobia narrative both mysterious and faintly amusing. They may not really be into the expressed desire of the huddled masses in D.C. to go to war to bring true US style democracy to the un-enlightened.

One also must wonder if the Democrats are reading the tea leaves correctly. If they think that a slogan like “Honest Joe Biden will keep us safe from Moscow” will be a winner in 2020 they might again be missing the bigger picture. Since the focus on Trump’s decidedly erratic behavior will inevitably die down after the impeachment trial is completed, the Democrats will have to come up with something compelling if they really want to win the presidency and it sure won’t be the largely fictionalized Russian threat.
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The Torturers and the ‘Ticking Bomb’: How Torture Became Routine in the Global War on Terror

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With all the media excitement focused on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, it comes as no surprise that some recent additional insights into how the United States became a torture regime have been largely ignored. It has been known for years that the George W. Bush Administration carried out what most of the world considers to be torture. Acting as if it really cared about illegal activity, the White House back at that time found two malleable Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Jay Busby who would be willing to come up with a defense of torture. They discovered somewhere in their law books that it was possible to do anything to a suspect as long as it did not bring about organ failure. That became the bottom line for interrogations, though in practice some prisoners died anyway, which might be considered the ultimate organ failure. The only one who was subsequently punished over the illegal torture program was former CIA employee John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on it.

Last week there was a hearing at a Guantanamo Bay courtroom in which one of the psychologists who devised the Central Intelligence Agency torture regime testified under oath. Psychologist James Mitchell was testifying in what was a preliminary hearing relating to the eventual trial of five alleged 9/11 conspirators He discussed how he and his business partner Dr. Bruce Jessup together developed the Agency’s torture program, which internal government documents described by employing the euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques.” They were paid $81 million for their work and were able to produce a training manual that included waterboarding, stress positions and mock burials to physically and mentally destroy the target’s ability to resist. Both Mitchell and Jessup have asserted that their procedures were more designed to make a suspect uncomfortable rather than in pain and they blame interrogators who went too far for the physical and mental permanent damage that resulted.
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A New Definition of Warfare

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Supporters of Donald Trump often make the point that he has not started any new wars. One might observe that it has not been for lack of trying, as his cruise missile attacks on Syria based on fabricated evidence and his recent assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani have been indisputably acts of war. Trump also has enhanced troop levels both in the Middle East and in Afghanistan while also increasing the frequency and lethality of armed drone attacks worldwide.

Congress has been somewhat unseriously toying around with a tightening of the war powers act of 1973 to make it more difficult for a president to carry out acts of war without any deliberation by or authorization from the legislature. But perhaps the definition of war itself should be expanded. The one area where Trump and his team of narcissistic sociopaths have been most active has been in the imposition of sanctions with lethal intent. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been explicit in his explanations that the assertion of “extreme pressure” on countries like Iran and Venezuela is intended to make the people suffer to such an extent that they rise up against their governments and bring about “regime change.” In Pompeo’s twisted reckoning that is how places that Washington disapproves of will again become “normal countries.”

The sanctions can kill. Those imposed by the United States are backed up by the US Treasury which is able to block cash transfers going through the dollar denominated international banking system. Banks that do not comply with America’s imposed rules can themselves be sanctioned, meaning that US sanctions are de facto globally applicable, even if foreign banks and governments do not agree with the policies that drive them. It is well documented how sanctions that have an impact on the importation of medicines have killed thousands of Iranians. In Venezuela, the effect of sanctions has been starvation as food imports have been blocked, forcing a large part of the population to flee the country just to survive.
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The Soleimani Assassination: The Long-Awaited Beginning of The End of America’s Imperial Ambitions

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The United States is now at war with Iran in a conflict that could easily have been avoided and it will not end well. There will be no declaration of war coming from either side, but the assassination of Iranian Quds Force Commander General Qassem Soleimani and the head of Kata’ib Hezbollah Abu Mehdi Muhandis by virtue of a Reaper drone strike in Baghdad will shift the long-simmering conflict between the two nations into high gear. Iran cannot let the killing of a senior military officer go unanswered even though it cannot directly confront the United States militarily. But there will be reprisals and Tehran’s suspected use of proxies to stage limited strikes will now be replaced by more damaging actions that can be directly attributed to the Iranian government. As Iran has significant resources locally, one can expect that the entire Persian Gulf region will be destabilized.

And there is also the terrorism card, which will come into play. Iran has an extensive diaspora throughout much of the Middle East and, as it has been threatened by Washington for many years, it has had a long time to prepare for a war to be fought largely in the shadows. No American diplomat, soldier or even tourists in the region should consider him or herself to be safe, quite the contrary. It will be an “open season” on Americans. The US has already ordered a partial evacuation of the Baghdad Embassy and has advised all American citizens to leave the country immediately.

Donald Trump rode to victory in 2016 on a promise to end the useless wars in the Middle East, but he has now demonstrated very clearly that he is a liar. Instead of seeking detente, one of his first actions was to end the JCPOA nuclear agreement and re-introduce sanctions against Iran. In a sense, Iran has from the beginning been the exception to Trump’s no-new-war pledge, a position that might reasonably be directly attributed to his incestuous relationship with the American Jewish community and in particular derived from his pandering to the expressed needs of Israel’s belligerent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act: Why Washington Is Both Corrupt and Ignorant

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The creatures that lurk through the corridors of power in Washington DC have refined corruption to the point where almost anything goes and almost no one is ever held accountable. Traditionally, Congressmen reward their various constituencies by inserting riders into larger pieces of legislation that grant money, exemptions or favors to certain groups or individuals. It is sometimes referred to as “pork.” The recent bloated omnibus spending bills totaling $1.4 trillion, which passed through Congress and were signed off on by President Donald Trump, were for the shameless denizens of Capitol Hill a gold mine. The process was so corrupt that even some Senators like Ted Cruz joked that “Christmas came early in Washington. While you were with your family, while you were shopping for Christmas, the lobbyists were spending and spending. I present to you, the massive omnibus bill that Congress is voting on.”

And no one is more corrupt in Congress than some of those at the top of the food chain, where the Speaker and the Minority leader in the House and the Majority and Minority leaders in the Senate have the final say on what gets cut and what remains. The lugubrious Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is one of the most adept at milking the system to buy his continued reelection in a state where he is actually not very popular, with an approval rating of only 37%. Within the current spending bill he has managed to include more than $1 billion worth of federal spending and tax breaks for some choice constituencies among the Kentucky voters. A tax break for the state’s whisky distillers alone came to a projected $426 million for 2020 and there were also breaks for the state’s thoroughbred horse industry as well as hundreds of millions of dollars more for new federal construction.

One can only wish that politicians would actually commit themselves to doing good for the American people, but the sad reality is that they spend so much time raising and distributing money that they only respond to constituents with the deepest pockets or those who make the most noise. Rarely does anyone actually read the bills that are being voted on. Part of the omnibus spending bills was the $738 billion dollar defense policy component, and, as in the case of the larger amounts intended to keep the federal government funded, the devil is frequently found in the details.
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Impeachment Is a Distraction: Heavily Scripted Vote Demonstrates That Democracy Really Is Dead

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Watching the impeachment “vote” was hard work. With only a few exceptions, each Congressman rose for roughly 90 seconds and provided a prearranged, almost completely scripted-along-party-lines explanation of how he or she was casting one’s ballot. After four grueling hours of hearing self-serving lies like “no one is above the law,” I was hoping that one of them would either fall off the podium and fracture a leg or actually go mad and break out into a song and dance routine. The entire performance was the strongest possible argument for term limits that is possible to make.

However, one of the more truly interesting aspects of the proceedings was the Democratic Party view of Russia, which was cited constantly. According to most of the Democrats, Russian meddling was the decisive element in getting Donald Trump elected, and many of them also believe that there was collusion between the GOP candidate and President Vladimir Putin. It is a viewpoint that is totally at odds with the facts, even if one actually believes that there was a meeting in the Kremlin at which a malevolent Putin instructed his myrmidons to “get Hillary.” Slippery Adam Schiff, he of the intelligence committee, carefully referred to Russia as an adversary but many other Democrats kept using the word “enemy.”

Regarding Ukraine, it was also interesting to note bipartisan support for supplying lethal weapons to the puppet regime in Kiev so they can kill Russian soldiers. No one, as far as I could discern, made the point that the United States had no real interest in regime change in Ukraine in the first place as it was a dangerous move that was responsive to no actual American interest. After that, funding and arming the locals to confront Moscow also would not seem to be in the US interest. That so many congress critters seem to be hard wired in their Russo-phobia would seem to suggest that they are willfully ignorant on the subject and inclined to take the path of least resistance, which is to blame the Kremlin rather than the horrific US policy that preceded and brought about Moscow’s intervention.
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The Afghanistan Fiasco and the Decline and Fall of the American Military

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A devastating investigative report was published in the Washington Post on December 9th. Dubbed the “Afghanistan Papers” in a nod to the Vietnam War’s famous “Pentagon Papers,” the report relied on thousands of documents to similarly expose how the US government at the presidential level across three administrations, acting in collaboration with the military brass and civilian bureaucracy, deliberately and systematically lied repeatedly to the public and media about the situation in Afghanistan. Officials from the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations have all surged additional troops into Afghanistan while also regularly overstating the “success” that the United States was attaining in stabilizing and democratizing the country. While they were lying, the senior officers and government officials understood clearly that the war was, in fact, unwinnable.

The story should have been featured all across the US as Afghanistan continues to kill Americans and much larger numbers of Afghans while also draining billions of dollars from the United States Treasury, but the mainstream media was largely unresponsive, preferring to cover the impeachment saga. Rather more responsive were the families of Army Chief Warrant Officer Second Class David C. Knadle, 33, of Tarrant, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer Second Class Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., 25, of Keaau, Hawaii. Both were killed in a helicopter crash on November 20th in Afghanistan’s Logar province while assisting troops on the ground, according to a Pentagon press release. They were participating in what was characteristically dubbed Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Both men were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas. The Taliban took credit for the downing of the chopper, but the Army is still investigating the cause.

Knadle and Fuchigami are only the most recent of the more than 2,400 American service members who have been killed in Afghanistan since October 2001, together with 20,589 wounded and an estimated 110,000 Afghan dead. In the wake of the Post’s report, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1974, told a CNN reporter that the Pentagon and Afghanistan Papers exposed the same governmental dysfunction: “The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.”
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America’s Unreliable Friends: Today’s Allies Are Tomorrow’s Enemies

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One might postulate that the United States is regularly supporting so-called allies whose very nature will eventually generate blowback that will do terrible damage to actual American interests. The recent example of the mass shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida by Saudi Second Lieutenant Mohammed Alshamrani is illustrative. Alshamrani killed three American sailors while three other Saudi students filmed what was taking place, presumably for posting on social media.
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Who Spied on Julian Assange?

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The Julian Assange drama drags on. Though he continues to sit in a top security British prison awaiting developments in his expected extradition to the United States, the Spanish High Court has been given permission to interview him. Assange is claiming that the Spanish company contracted with by the Ecuadorean government to do embassy security in London spied on him using both audio and video devices. The recordings apparently included conversations with Assange’s lawyers outlining his defense strategies, which is an illegal activity under Spanish law. The prosecution has also indicted the company director, former military officer David Morales, on associated criminal charges of bribing a government official and money laundering. Morales has said that he is innocent.

Aware that he might be monitored by the British government as well as by other interested parties, Assange would often meet his legal team using a white noise machine or in women’s bathrooms with the water running, but the firm, UC Global, anticipated that and planted devices capable of defeating the countermeasures. It planted microphones in the embassy fire extinguishing system as well as in numerous other places in the building. The recordings were reportedly streamed, undoubtedly encrypted, to another nearby location, referred to in the trade as a listening post. The streamed material was also reportedly transcribed and copied at the UC Global offices in Andalusia, but hard copies of the material were made as well on CDs and DVDs to be turned over directly to the client.
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