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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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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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