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Pentagon's New 'Cold War' Strategy: Peace...Or War Profits?

The Pentagon has just released its 2018 National Defense Strategy for the United States. After at least 18 years of being told that international terrorism is the number one threat to the United States and that we must spend enormous amounts of money ($11 trillion since 2001) fighting it, we are now told that terrorism is no longer a big threat. The new biggest threat that we must spend more mountains of money defeating? Russia and China! Who benefits from this official return to the Cold War? The military-industrial complex. Who loses? The rest of us. More on the Pentagon's "Orwell moment" in today's Liberty Report...
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Playing ‘Kurdish Card’ in Syria Backfires on US As Turks Move In

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What the result will be of Turkey’s offensive against the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin in northwest Syria may not be clear for a while, but two things are already certain. Bad decisions in Washington provided the trigger, and Washington’s regional position will suffer as a result of Ankara’s Orwellian-named “
Operation Olive Branch.”

The offensive is the latest twist from Turkey’s erratic and unpredictable leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Let’s recall that “Sultan” Erdogan was an early and active participant in what was supposed to have been a relatively easy regime change operation in Syria starting in 2011, on the pattern of NATO’s overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi that same year. Turkey, with its lengthy border with Syria, was (and to some extent still is) a major supporter of al-Qaeda-linked jihadist groups in Syria, working with Saudi Arabia and Qatar under American guidance, with Israel as a silent partner. The appearance of ISIS (Daesh, ISIL) as an outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq was a direct and foreseen consequence of that effort, as the Obama Administration was warned in 2012 by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), then under the command of General Michael Flynn.

To the surprise of many, the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad didn’t just roll up and die but displayed an unexpected tenacity in defending that country’s secular, multi-religious society against outside efforts to impose a Wahhabist sectarian state. The clincher came with Russia’s September 2015 intervention, a distinctly unwelcome development for the “Assad must go!” crowd.
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Destroying, Suppressing Evidence is FBI Standard Procedure

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Congressional investigators were rocked this weekend when the FBI notified them that five months of text messages from a top FBI investigator into the Trump campaign’s Russian connections had mysteriously vanished. The FBI-issued cell phone of Peter Strzok, whose previous texts to his mistress (also an FBI employee) showed fierce hostility to Trump, suddenly had problems due to “software upgrades” and other issues — and voila —all the messages between the two from Dec. 14, 2016, to May 17, 2017 vanished.
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VP Pence At Olympics To Prevent North Korea Peace Overtures

Relations between North and South Korea have taken a surprisingly positive turn this year. First, bilateral negotiations between the North and South began the thaw and an announcement of unprecedented North/South joint participation in the coming Olympic games have left some observers wondering how far this cooperation might go? Meanwhile, Washington casts a skeptical eye on the big thaw. The Trump Administration has bet the bank that the only way to handle North Korea is with sanctions and threats. That has not worked. With North/South rapprochement become the big story at the Olympics? Our take in today's Liberty Report...
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Trump’s National Defense Strategy Has the Pentagon Popping Champagne

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Here’s what we can say about the Trump administration’s just-released National Defense Strategy: it’s not a strategy and its subject is not defense. 

Bearing the imprimatur of Pentagon chief James Mattis, the NDS—at least the unclassified summary that we citizens are permitted to see—is in essence a brief for increasing the size of the U.S. military budget. Implicit in the document is this proposition: more spending will make the armed forces of the United States “stronger” and the United States “safer.” Simply put, the NDS is all about funneling more bucks to the Pentagon.

Remarkably, the NDS advances this argument while resolutely avoiding any discussion of what Americans have gotten in return for the $11 trillion (give or take) expended pursuant to the past 16-plus years of continuous war—as if past performance should have no bearing on the future allocation of resources.

Try this thought experiment. The hapless Cleveland Browns went winless this year. How might Browns fans react if the team’s management were to propose hiking ticket prices next season? Think they might raise a ruckus?
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Is FBI Lying About 'Russiagate'?

Are we supposed to believe that a critical five months of text messages between two plotting (and illicitly connected) anti-Trump FBI agents have disappeared due to technical errors? Much more likely -- and more commonly, as Jim Bovard points out in a recent Hill article -- it is the FBI manipulating evidence and destroying evidence to keep the public from knowing what they really are up to. In this case, it appears FBI agents were colluding with others in the US intelligence community to: 1) prevent Donald Trump from being elected president; and then 2) when that didn't work, to undermine him with baseless charges of foreign collusion in the hopes he would be removed from office. The story continues to unfold, but as it does the "Russiagate" narrative seems to be melting into a "FBI-gate" reality. More in today's Liberty Report...
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It’s Time We Saw Economic Sanctions For What They Really Are – War Crimes

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The first pathetic pieces of wreckage from North Korean fishing boats known as “ghost ships” to be found this year are washing up on the coast of northern Japan. These are the storm-battered remains of fragile wooden boats with unreliable engines in which North Korean fishermen go far out to sea in the middle of winter in a desperate search for fish.

Often all that survives is the shattered wooden hull of the boat cast up on the shore, but in some cases the Japanese find the bodies of fishermen who died of hunger and thirst as they drifted across the Sea of Japan. Occasionally, a few famished survivors are alive and explain that their engine failed or they ran out of fuel or they were victims of some other fatal mishap.

The number of “ghost ships” is rising with no fewer than 104 found in 2017, which is more than in any previous year, though the real figure must be higher because many boats will have sunk without trace in the 600 miles of rough sea between North Korea and Japan.

The reason so many fishermen risk and lose their lives is hunger in North Korea where fish is the cheapest form of protein.
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Why Does Washington Hate Bashar al-Assad?

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The Donald Trump administration is planning to install a 30,000 strong armed “security force” in northern Syria along the borders with Turkey and Iraq. This presumably will tie together and support the remaining rag-tags of allegedly pro-democracy rebels and will fit in with existing and proposed US bases. The maneuver is part of a broader plan to restructure Syria to suit the usual crop of neocon geniuses in Washington that have slithered their way back into the White House and National Security Council, to include renewed demands that the country’s President Bashar al-Assad “must go,” reiterated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last Wednesday.
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Turkey Vs. Syrian Kurds: Whose Side Are We On?

With Ankara's recent military incursion into Syria to fight Afrin-based Kurdish forces, the US finds itself in a bizarre proxy war with its longtime NATO ally, Turkey. Turkish airplanes are literally taking off from the same airbase to bomb the Kurds as American planes are taking off from to arm the Kurds. US policy in Syria to create an autonomous Kurdish region to facilitate the continued (illegal) US military presence in the country is reckless and unsustainable. It is also absurd. For more on this strange state of affairs, tune in to today's Liberty Report...
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Rex Tillerson at Hoover

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On Wednesday morning last week, I, as a research fellow with the Hoover Institution, got to attend a speech by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. It was followed by a Q&A session with former Secretary of State and my Hoover colleague Condoleezza Rice. Unfortunately, questions from the audience were not allowed. The talk was about the Trump administration’s policy on Syria. The State Department has already released a 
transcript of his speech.

After the first few minutes of niceties, Tillerson got to his main topic: Syria. He listed many of the ways that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is bad, the main one being killing many of his own people. I thought Tillerson would then go to say what U.S. policy on Syria would be. But he didn’t do so immediately.

Instead, he segued to ISIS. You can read his comments for yourself, but here are three relevant segments.
The civil war in Syria was horrific in and of itself. But Syria was thrown into an even greater state of turmoil with the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. This was an aspiring terror-state inside the borders of Iraq and Syria. The conflict between the regime and various opposition groups fighting to change Assad’s grip on power created the conditions for the rapid expansion of ISIS in 2013 and 2014. ISIS originally emerged from the ashes of al-Qaida in Iraq, a group Assad had covertly backed. Evidence suggests Assad also abetted ISIS by releasing known terrorists from Syrian prisons and turning a blind eye to ISIS’s growth. ISIS exploited the instability and lack of centralized authority in Syria to set up what it falsely claimed was a "caliphate," with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its capital.
Later...
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