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US Military Presence Overseas Mushrooming: Here, There and Everywhere

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Around 200,000 US troops are stationed in 177 countries throughout the world. The forces use several hundred bases, more than 1,000 if the figure includes overseas warehouse and installations. The US may need more soon, with its presence and involvement in armed conflicts on the rise.

It was reported on August 7 that the Pentagon plans to conduct airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines. This move will be part of the effort to rout IS militants who occupied Marawi, a city in the south of the Philippines, in May, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the entire southern region of Mindanao and ask the US for help. In June, the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident joined the battle.

Just three days before that (on August 4), it was reported by the Pentagon that a Special Operations Forces (SOF) team was deployed to Yemen to support the ongoing United Arab Emirates (UAE) operation against the Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terror group. The amphibious assault ship Bataan with several hundred Marines aboard is also operating in the region. Close-air support missions in the current offensive against AQAP are not ruled out.

On August 7, the US was also reported to be sending dozens more Marines to Helmand Province in southwestern Afghanistan. Army Gen. John Nicholson as the US commander in that country has been lobbying for 3,000 to 5,000 troops in addition to the 8,400 US service members already on the ground.

In June, the US increased the size of its special operations advisory force embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces as the group prepared its invasion of Raqqa, Syria. Around 1,000 US service members are believed to be operating there.
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The Unsung Summit of Putin and Trump

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This week marks the 72nd anniversary of the criminal US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And as is the case each year, there is much discussion and lamenting over this atrocity, as there well should be.  For the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not necessary for victory; Japan had already sued for peace.  It was the opening salvo, a brutal one, in the first Cold War in which the world was nearly incinerated during the Cuban missile crisis.

This week is also the one month anniversary of the first in-person meeting of Presidents Trump and Putin at Hamburg on July 7 in the shadow of the G20 meetings.  This comes at a time when we find ourselves years into a New Cold War. Given the tensions between Russia and the US, the leading nuclear powers, one would think that there would be rejoicing over the prospect of relieving the tensions between the nuclear superpowers. For that was the agenda of the Trump-Putin summit, as such meetings were called during the first Cold War. Unfortunately, such rejoicing was not to be heard, quite the opposite – with a few rare exceptions

This is lamentable, to say the least, because as tensions grow between the superpowers, the chance for nuclear war increases. During his lengthy interviews with Vladimir Putin, Oliver Stone showed him the movie “Dr. Strangelove” which Putin had never before seen. Putin commented that the movie captured, among other things, a technical truth with its depiction of the Doomsday Machine. That is, said Putin, nuclear weapons grow increasingly harder to control with every passing day.  Given this, the failure to applaud the Trump-Putin on the part of those who were full of praise for the UN vote on denuclearization made me wonder whether there was any thought behind their chatter.  Hatred of Trump and Putin seemed to blot out a rational concern for human survival. Are we living in a mad house? Did we not learn our lesson when we narrowly escaped Armageddon in Cold War 1?
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Reports of Hungary’s Slide into ‘Dictatorship’ Have Been Exaggerated

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Is Hungary sliding into tyranny and dictatorship? According to headlines which have painted a rather grim picture of Hungary’s present and future under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the answer is a resounding yes.

Hungary is “held hostage” by “tyrant” Orban who is returning the country to “totalitarianism,” claims The New Statesman. The International Business Times worries about Hungary’s “dark path toward dictatorship”.

The EU struggles to contain “dictator” Orban, says the Sydney Morning Herald. Orban is Europe’s “enemy within,” warns the Financial Times. He is “Europe’s New Dictator,” says Politico.

These attention-grabbing headlines and dramatic portrayals exaggerate the political situation in Hungary. Of course, there are plenty of legitimate complaints to be made about Orban (though, naturally, the specifics of the complaint will vary based on who is speaking). The problem is that the media has taken those complaints, exaggerated and embellished them, and used them to predict this country's slide into absolute tyranny irresponsibly. This distorts reality and lessens the readers’ ability to understand what is going on in Hungary.

Brussels likes to believe it promotes democracy within the 28 EU member states. Yet, when Orban begins to implement policies that they don’t like (but that his voters support), he becomes an outcast. Those shouting "dictator!" fail to take into account the wishes of the many Hungarians who voted for Orban’s reelection in 2014 and who support many of his policies. Disregarding the will of the people to score ideological points about democracy is ironic indeed.

Let’s break it down.
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The Tale of the Brothers Awan

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There has been surprisingly little media follow-up on the story about the July 25th Dulles Airport arrest of House of Representatives’ employed Pakistani-American IT specialist Imran Awan, who was detained for bank fraud while he was allegedly fleeing to Pakistan. The mainstream media somewhat predictably produced minimal press coverage before the story died. The speed at which the news vanished has prompted some observers, including Breitbart, to sound the alarm over a suspected cover-up of possible exposure of classified information or even espionage that just might be part of the story that we are now calling Russiagate.

To be sure, the tale is a strange one with plenty of unsavory links. Thirty-seven year old Awan, his wife, sister-in-law and two brothers Abid and Jamal worked as IT administrators, full and part-time, for between 30 and 80 congressmen, all Democrats, including former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. They did not have security clearances and it is not even certain that they were in any way checked out before being hired. Nor were their claimed skills at IT administration confirmed as their work pattern reportedly turned out to consist more of absences than time spent in the House offices. One congressional IT staffer described them as “ghost employees.”

At one point, Imran brought into the House as a colleague one Rao Abbas, someone to whom he owed money, best distinguished by his being recently fired by McDonald’s. Abbas lived in the basement of a house owned by Imran’s wife as a rental property. He may have had no qualifications at all to perform IT but the congressmen in question did not seem to notice. Abbas wound up working, on the rare occasions that he went into the building, in the office of Congressman Patrick Murphy, who was at the time a member of the House Intelligence Committee as well as forFlorida Congressman Theo Deutch. He was paid $250,000.
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Jeff Sessions Endorses Theft

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered the Justice Department to increase the use of civil asset forfeiture, thus once again endorsing an unconstitutional, authoritarian, and increasingly unpopular policy.

Civil asset forfeiture, which should be called civil asset theft, is the practice of seizing property believed to be involved in a crime. The government keeps the property even if it never convicts, or even charges, the owner of the property.
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NATO Beefs Up Logistics Infrastructure for Offensive Operations

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Some very important news is kept out of spotlight and undeservedly so. Bits of information pieced together indicate that very quietly the North Atlantic alliance is gearing up for large-scale combat operations. War preparations are not limited to weapon systems deployments and troop movements that hit headlines. No combat can be waged without logistics.

The US Army official website informs that the US European Command (EUCOM) Logistics Directorate (ECJ4), other EUCOM directorates, NATO allies and partners, and the Joint Logistics Enterprise (JLEnt) are effecting an unprecedented security transformation. They are transitioning from being focused on assurance through engagement to being a warfighting command postured for deterrence and defense. Throughout fiscal year 2017, 28 joint and multinational exercises in 40 European countries, the buildup of four NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) multinational battlegroups in the Baltics, and overlapping deployments of rotating armored brigade combat teams and combat aviation brigades will test, validate, and offer proof of principle for these infrastructure and organic capability investments.

NATO Exercise Saber Guardian 17, a US Army Europe-led, multinational exercise, took place in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania on July 11 - 20, 2017 with 25,000 troops and forces from 24 countries. The event demonstrated the increased scope and complexity of war games. The drills were conducted against the background of this year's rotational deployment of more than 4,500 troops in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as Poland. 2nd Cavalry Regiment soldiers are already operating as a deterrent force roughly 100 miles from Poland’s border with the Russian military enclave of Kaliningrad.

Citing the lessons learned from the training event, US Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, commander of US Army Europe, emphasized in an interview the importance of NATO logistics. According to him, progress is evident but much remained to be done to ease the movement of military equipment and forces across Europe in the event of a real crisis, and Germany could play a crucial role. Hodges noted that Berlin could ensure guaranteed rail access as part of its bid to boost military spending from around 1.2 percent of gross domestic product to the 2 percent NATO target.
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McMaster: U.S. Preparing For 'Preventive War' With North Korea

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The United States is preparing for all options to counter the growing threat from North Korea, including launching a “preventive war,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said in an interview that aired Saturday on MSNBC. The comments come after North Korea carried out two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the past month and after the president said he has been clear he will not tolerate North Korea's threats to attack the U.S. with nuclear weapons.

The key excerpts (full transcript):
Hugh Hewitt.: Let me switch if I can to North Korea, which is really pressing. And– and remind our audience, at the Aspen Institute ten days ago, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Joe Dunford, said, “There’s always a military– option. It would be horrific.” Lindsey Graham on Today Show earlier this week said– “We need to destroy the regime and their deterrent.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday, I believe, to North Korea, “You are leaving us no choice but to protect ourselves.” And then the Chairman of the Chief of Staff of the Army said, “Just because every choice is a bad choice doesn’t mean you don’t have to choose.” Are we looking at a preemptive strike? Are you trying to prepare us, you being collectively, the administration and people like Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton for a first strike North Korea?

H.R. McMaster:Well, we really, what you’re asking is– is are we preparing plans for a preventive war, right? A war that would prevent North Korea from threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon. And the president’s been very clear about it. He said, “He’s not gonna tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States” if they have nuclear weapons that can threaten the United States; It’s intolerable from the president’s perspective. So of course, we have to provide all options to do that. And that includes a military option.

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Time to End the Lost Afghan War

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Media reports claim President Donald Trump let loose on his generals behind closed doors, blasting them royally for their startling failures in Afghanistan, America’s longest war.

The president has many faults and is a lousy judge of character. But he was absolutely right to read the riot act to the military brass for daring to ask for a very large troop and budget increase for the stalemated Afghan War that has cost $1 trillion to date.

Of course, the unfortunate generals are not really to blame. They have been forced by the last three presidents to fight a pointless war at the top of the world that lacks any strategy, reason or purpose – and with limited forces. But they can’t admit defeat by lightly-armed Muslim tribesmen.

The truth is, simply, that America blundered into the Afghan War under President George W. Bush who needed a target for revenge after the humiliating 9/11 attacks. Instead of blaming Saudi Arabia, a US protectorate which was clearly involved in the attacks, Bush went after remote but strategic Afghanistan and cooked up the Osama bin Laden bogeyman story.

Sixteen years later, the US is still chasing shadows in the Hindu Kush Mountains, rightly known to history as "Graveyard of Empires."
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Where Trump Might Be Vulnerable

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It’s still not clear to me the particular crime for which special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump.

Was it illegal for Vladimir Putin to support Trump for president instead of Hillary Clinton?

Nope.

Was it illegal for Trump to receive advice, support, and consultation from Vladimir Putin or any other Russian politico on how best to defeat Clinton?

Nope.

In fact, imagine if George W. Bush and his English poodle Tony Blair had “colluded” to defeat Bush’s presidential opponent, Al Gore. Would the Pentagon, the CIA, and their assets in the mainstream press be making the same brouhaha that they’re making today about Trump’s supposed “collusion” with Russia to defeat Clinton? We all know they wouldn’t have. It’s the anti-Russia obsession that the Pentagon and the CIA instilled in the American people throughout the Cold War that is driving the current anti-Russia brouhaha.

Ordinarily, a special prosecutor would have evidence that a certain crime has been committed and would be investigating whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an indictment for that crime.
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