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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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Isolated Trump Flails Helplessly as He Bows to Irrational Policies on Russia and Europe Imposed by Congress

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President Donald Trump has signed the sanctions bill against Russia, North Korea, and Iran. With the near-unanimous, veto-proof margin by which the so-called "Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" was passed by both the House and the Senate, Trump was in a lose-lose position.

In the signing statement issued by the White House, Trump and his advisers tried to put a brave face on what can only be seen as a humiliating defeat. Despite some cosmetic changes...
...the bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together. The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice. 

Yet despite its problems, I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity. It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States. We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary. 
To suggest this absurd, dangerous, and unconstitutional law can be characterized as representing a desire "to see Russia take steps to improve relations" with the US is the opposite of the truth.
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Russia Sanctions and The Coming Crackdown on Americans

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Last week I wrote an article and did an interview explaining that in my reading of the new Russia sanctions bill just signed by President Trump, there is a measure opening the door to a US government crackdown on some of the non-mainstream media. In particular, Section 221 of the "Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" would punish "persons" who are "engaging in transactions with the intelligence or defense sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation."
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US Ignores Saudi Beheading of 14 Activists, Labels Venezuela Dictatorship Despite Elections

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This week, the Trump administration condemned the Venezuelan government following the country’s recent election. But as the US imposes sanctions on Venezuela and vocally decries their lack of democracy, President Trump’s outrage is all but nonexistent as a US ally preparing to behead 14 students for protesting. Though the Venezuelan regime is undoubtedly corrupt, the president’s outrage is meaningless in light of his lack of concern for the victims of US allies.

In June of last year, Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court ordered the beheadings of 14 young people they convicted of waging an armed rebellion against the regime during pro-democracy protests in 2011 and 2012. Amnesty International summarized the charges against them:
They were convicted of a range of charges that included ‘armed rebellion against the ruler’ by, among other things ‘participating in shooting at security personnel, security vehicles,’ ‘preparing and using Molotov Cocktail bombs,’ ‘theft and armed robbery’ and ‘inciting chaos, organizing and participating in riots.’
However, both Amnesty International and Reprieve, another human rights organization, assert that according to court documents, these convictions were largely based on confessions extracted through torture. The beheadings were finalized this month, and the SCC failed to investigate the defendants’ claims they were forced to confess.

The demonstrators were recently moved to a Saudi prison in Riyadh where individuals awaiting execution are housed. One of those individuals is a Saudi student who was on his way to study at Western Michigan University in 2012 when he was intercepted at a Saudi airport in 2012 and held for years before trial. Multiple entities have intervened on his behalf, specifically. Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat is partially deaf and partially blind and attended protests against the monarchy in 2011 and 2012.
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Groupthink at the CIA

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Long ago, when I was a spear carrying middle ranker at CIA, a colleague took me aside and said that he had something to tell me “as a friend,” that was very important. He told me that his wife had worked for years in the Agency’s Administrative Directorate, as it was then called, where she had noticed that some new officers coming out of the Career Trainee program had red tags on their personnel files. She eventually learned from her boss that the tags represented assessments that those officers had exceptional potential as senior managers. He added, however, that the reverse appeared to be true in practice as they were generally speaking serial failures as they ascended the bureaucratic ladder, even though their careers continued to be onward and upward on paper. My friend’s wife concluded, not unreasonably, that only genuine a-holes had what it took to get promoted to the most senior ranks.

I was admittedly skeptical but some recent activity by former and current Directors and Acting Directors of CIA has me wondering if something like my friend’s wife’s observation about senior management might indeed be true. But it would have to be something other than tagging files, as many of the directors and their deputies did not come up through the ranks and there seems to be a similar strain of lunacy at other US government intelligence agencies. It might be time to check the water supply in the Washington area as there is very definitely something in the kool-aid that is producing odd behavior.

Now I should pause for a moment and accept that the role of intelligence services is to identify potential threats before they become active, so a certain level of acute paranoia goes with the job. But at the same time, one would expect a level of professionalism which would mandate accuracy rather than emotion in assessments coupled with an eschewing of any involvement in the politics of foreign and national security policy formulation. The enthusiasm with which a number of senior CIA personnel have waded into the Trump swamp and have staked out positions that contradict genuine national interests suggests that little has been learned since CIA Director George Tenet sat behind Secretary of State Colin Powell in the UN and nodded sagaciously as Saddam Hussein’s high crimes and misdemeanors were falsely enumerated.
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Trump Calls On Police To Be Rougher In Handling Suspects In Speech Denounced By Police Organizations

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Controversial statements by President Donald Trump in the past have often been treated by his supporters as hyperbole or not to be taken strictly or even seriously. However, a speech last Friday had some particularly chilling elements for anyone who believes in the rule of the law. Trump was speaking to law enforcement officers and urged them not to be “too nice” to suspected criminals and gang members.

He further seemed to encourage intentional acts of harm and abuse in the handling of prisoners. The comments were irresponsible and should be be corrected by the White House. We 
recently discussed Trump’s praise for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has bragged about extrajudicial killings and encouraged police abuse.  This is obviously not that extreme but it is still highly disturbing in a speech where the President has pledged that “We have your backs 100 percent” while encouraging them to be rough in handling of suspects. His comments have led to police organizations publicly rejecting the comments and assuring the public that they will not engage in such conduct.

In his speech in Brentwood, New York, Trump departed from his prepared comments to encourage police to be tougher in handling suspects:
'When you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough,' he said, referring to the arrest of alleged gang members. 'I said, please don’t be too nice.'

'When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over,' [mimicking an officer protecting the head of a suspect] Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody? Don’t hit their head? 'I said, you can take the hand away, OK?'
He went on to praise his  acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan  as “a tough guy”  and his agents as “Rough guys. They’re rough.”
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America Declares Economic War Against Europe

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On Friday night, July 28, US President Donald Trump said that he would sign into law the 
increased economic sanctions (passed by 98-2 in the Senate and 419-3 in the House) against any business that is declared to have "knowingly provided goods or services... for construction, modernisation, or repair of Russia’s energy export pipelines."

Russia is the largest energy-supplier to the world’s largest energy-market, which is Europe, or the EU. The biggest proportion of that trade is in Europe’s main source of energy, which is gas, which is pipelined into Europe from Russia. So: those pipelines are vitally important not only to Russia’s economy but to Europe’s.

President Trump had gotten Congress to agree to limit the application of this provision only to "The President, in coordination with allies of the United States, may impose five or more of the sanctions described in section 235 with respect to a person if the President determines that the person knowingly, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act, makes an investment described in subsection (b) or sells, leases, or provides to the Russian Federation, for the construction of Russian energy export pipelines, goods, services, technology, information, or support."

But the new law still does include "SEC. 232. SANCTIONS WITH RESPECT TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF PIPELINES IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION." That Section punishes "Goods, services, technology, information, or support described in this subsection are goods, services, technology, information, or support that could directly and significantly facilitate the maintenance or expansion of the construction, modernization, or repair of energy export pipelines by the Russian Federation." That includes the crucial Nord Stream pipeline, which is maintained by Russian and German companies to transport gas from Russia to the EU.

US firms have thus now gotten their stooges in Congress to punish European and Russian companies that will be determined by "The President, in coordination with allies of the United States," to be working together in these ways, to get Russia’s gas to Europe’s markets.
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