Sat, 17 Mar 2018 18:51:45 GMT Sat, 17 Mar 2018 18:51:45 GMT Russia Claims US Deploys Warships For Imminent Attack On Syria, Trains Militants For False Flag Attack Tyler Durden

Last April, in one of the Trump administration's first "diplomatic" ventures, the US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles on Syria, in stated retaliation for the latest alleged chemical attack by the Assad regime, the same "false flag" excuse which was used by the US to officially enter the conflict back in 2013 when military tensions between the US and Russia nearly resulted in a regional war.

Well, it appears that Assad is a relentless glutton for punishment, because not even a year later, the WaPo reported two weeks ago that the US is considering a new military action against Syria for - what else - retaliation against Assad's latest chemical attack, which took place several weeks earlier.

How do we know Assad (and apparently, Russia) was behind the attack? We don't: in fact, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a moment of bizarre honesty, admitted that he really doesn't know much at all about "whoever conducted the attacks." But hey: just like it is "highly likely" that Russia poisoned the former Russian double agent in the UK - with no proof yet - so it is "highly likely" that a clearly irrational Assad was once again behind an attack which he knew would provoke violent and aggressive retaliation by the US, and once again destabilize his regime.

And so we now wait for that flashing, red headline saying that US ships in the Mediterranean have launched a missile attack on Syria, just like a year ago. Only this time Russia - which is allied with the Assad regime - is not planning to be on the defensive, and according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, "US instructors" are currently training militants to stage false flag chemical attacks in south Syria, i.e., the catalyst that will be used to justify the US attack on Assad. The incidents, the ministry said, will be used a pretext for airstrikes on Syrian government troops and infrastructure.

“We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in southern Syria,” Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy said at a news briefing on Saturday.

According to the Russian, "early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the southern de-escalation zone to the city of Deraa, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed."
They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs.
And, using the exact same worn out narrative as last April, and every prior "chemical attack by the Assad Regime", the "planned provocations will be widely covered in the Western media and will ultimately be used as a pretext by the US-led coalition to launch strikes on Syria", Rudskoy warned.
The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria.
Confirming the WaPo's report from early March, it now appears that an attack is imminent.

“We’re registering the signs of the preparations for the possible strikes. Strike groups of the cruise missile carriers have been formed in the east of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea.”

Rudskoy also warned that another false flag chemical attack is being prepared in the province of Idlib by the “Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in coordination with the White Helmets.” The militants have already received 20 containers of chlorine to stage the incident, he said.

Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly warned about upcoming chemical provocations, and have highlighted that banned warfare agents have been used by the militants. Of course, none of that matters to the Western press which has its marching orders to expose the bloodthirsty killer Assad as an irrational despot who will use the exact same military method month after month and year after year, knowing well the response he will get from the US.

Meanwhile, just a few days ago, Syrian government forces reportedly captured a well-equipped chemical laboratory in Eastern Ghouta. Footage from the facility has been published by the SANA news agency.

The installation contained modern industrial-grade hardware of foreign origins, large amounts of chemical substances as well as crude homemade munitions ad their parts. It was unclear if the chemical lab was capable of synthesizing the novachok nerve gas used in the attempted murder of the Russian agent in the UK that has resulted in the latest diplomatic scandal involving Russia and the west.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 18:51:45 GMT
Syria: It Would All be Over by Now Without the ‘Regime-Changers’ Neil Clark

It was seven years ago this week that the conflict in Syria began. How might it have developed without the negative role played by Western powers and their regional allies?

Beware the Ides of March, the old saying goes. The 15th of March down the ages has seen not only the assassination of Julius Caesar and the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia; it was also the day, in 2011, that the conflict in Syria began.

According to the standard narrative, it was the intransigence and brutality of the Assad government (always referred to as a ‘regime’) that plunged Syria into chaos. But while it’s true that there was genuine discontent with the government for a number of valid reasons seven years ago, the divisions within Syria could have been overcome without much bloodshed, had certain countries not worked to sabotage any peaceful solutions to the crisis.

Faced with a direct threat to its rule, the Assad government showed it was willing to make compromises. As early as March 26, 2011, the BBC was reporting that the government had released more than 200 political prisoners. There were also amnesties announced in May and June.

Not only that but important political changes were introduced as Assad acknowledged in a televised address that demands for reform were legitimate.

In February 2012, a new constitution, which ended the Ba’ath Party’s 40-year monopoly of power, was overwhelmingly endorsed in a national referendum. Article 8 of the new constitution stated: “The political system of the state shall be based on the principle of political pluralism, and exercising power democratically through the ballot box.”

But these democratizing measures, which went far further than any “reforms” made by the US/UK’s authoritarian ally Saudi Arabia, and which have been praised, were loftily dismissed by the West.

It may have only been in the summer of 2011 when Western leaders were openly declaring “Assad must go,” but the truth is that regime change had been on the agenda for a long time.

We know from WikiLeaks that as early as December 2006 US officials were discussing how to destabilize the Syrian government. A cable from US Ambassador to Syria William Roebuck discussed the "potential vulnerabilities" of the Assad administration and the "possible means to exploit them."

One of the "possible means" was to seek to divide the Shia and Sunni communities in Syria. In a section entitled PLAY ON SUNNI FEARS OF IRANIAN INFLUENCE, the ambassador wrote:
There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis. Though often exaggerated, such fears reflect an element of the Sunni community in Syria that is increasingly upset by and focused on the spread of Iranian influence in their country through activities ranging from mosque construction to business.
The date of the cable is highly significant. 2006 was the year that Israel, the US’s closest ally in the region, went to war in Lebanon but despite its clear military superiority, didn’t succeed in defeating Hezbollah. If Israel was to succeed in the future, the Syrian-Hezbollah-Iran axis would have to be broken.

In a television interview, former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said that Britain had been preparing to send gunmen into Syria two years before the anti-government protests of 2011 and identified Syria’s “anti-Israel stance” as being critical.

Of course the US and its allies had to pretend that what they were really after in Syria was "democracy." But had they genuinely wanted this, they would have supported and encouraged Assad’s reforms and sided with opposition figures who wanted peaceful, democratic change and not an armed uprising. Instead they did all they could to escalate the crisis, flooding the country with arms and facilitating the influx of radical Islamist fighters from many other countries.

The Western intervention in Syria, in pursuance of violent regime change, has been massive.

In June 2015, the Washington Post reported:  “At $1 billion, Syria-related operations account for about $1 of every $15 in the CIA's overall budget... US officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years — meaning that the agency is spending roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel who has gone through the program.”

At the same time, attempts to solve the conflict diplomatically were repeatedly sabotaged by the insistence that "Assad must go" and by stepping up support for anti-government forces. Take the Kofi Annan peace plan in 2012.

“Within days of Annan’s peace plan gaining a positive response from both sides in late March, the imperial powers openly pledged, for the first time, millions of dollars for the Free Syrian Army; for military equipment, to provide salaries to its soldiers and to bribe government forces to defect. In other words, terrified that the civil war is starting to die down, they are setting about institutionalizing it,” noted my fellow Op-ed contributor Dan Glazebrook in Al-Ahram Weekly.

The help given to "rebels" looked to be tilting the conflict in the favor of the regime-changers. While Western leaders warned of the dangers of hardline Islamist terrorism at home, they welcomed the gains made by such groups in Syria. A declassified US intelligence report from August 2012 admitted that “The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI (al-Qaeda Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.” The report said that “AQI supported the opposition from the beginning.” It also predicted the establishment of a “Salafist principality in Eastern Syria” and said that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Russia’s lawful intervention in September 2015, in defense of secular Syria, where people of all religions could once again live in peace, proved to be a game-changer and helped push back the advances made by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and other radical terrorist groups. The war could have been brought to an end in 2016, had the US and its allies given up with their regime change obsession and allowed Syrian forces, aided by their allies, regain control of the whole country. But they didn’t.

In September 2016, with the "rebels" on the back-foot, another ceasefire was agreed between then US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.

Again it came to nothing. As I wrote here: “While the SAA [Syria Arab Army] had to halt its advances 'rebels' carried on with their attacks. In one 24-hour period Russian General Vladimir Savchenko said there had been no fewer than 55 rebel attacks, leading to the deaths of 12 civilians.”

And one week after the so-called ceasefire had started, US-led air raids "accidentally" killed 62 Syrian soldiers at Deir ez-Zor. “From the very beginning there have been many of those, including in the US administration, seeking to break down these agreements,” lamented Lavrov. The fact is that the US hadn’t been serious about wanting an end to hostilities, and only wanted to use the "ceasefire" as a cover for rearming/regaining ground.

As the Syrian government moved to liberate eastern Aleppo, the regime-changers became increasingly hysterical. In the UK, neocon Labour MP John Woodcock, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel, called the Morning Star newspaper “traitorous scum” for using the word “liberation.”

But Aleppo was liberated and life slowly got back to normal. We’ve seen similar cries of “something must be done” by the regime-changers as Syrian forces move in to recapture rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. But interestingly the same people are, by and large, silent on the humanitarian catastrophe affecting Yemen. "Human rights" only concern them when transgressions can be blamed on an "Official Enemy" of the West.

Earlier this month, neocon writer Max Boot opined in the Washington Post: “The way to save lives, I’ve sadly concluded, is to let [Syrian President Bashar] Assad win as quickly as possible. Aleppo was a charnel house in 2016. But now that it has fallen to Assad’s forces, pictures are circulating of civilians strolling through its rebuilt public park. It’s terrible that they have to live under Assad, but at least they’re alive. Tyranny is preferable to endless and useless war.”

But other regime-changers still prefer “endless and useless war” to an Assad victory and further democratic reforms. Unless that changes, the bloodshed will only continue.

Reprinted with permission from RT.]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 14:04:44 GMT
Time for the US to End Democracy Promotion Flim-Flams James Bovard

Democracy promotion has long been one of the U.S. government’s favorite foreign charades. The Trump administration’s proposal to slash funding for democratic evangelism is being denounced as if it were the dawn of a new Dark Age. But this is a welcome step to draining a noxious swath of the Washington swamp.

Nineteenth century humorist Josh Billings quipped, “A fanatic is someonewho does what the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the matter.” Similarly, the U.S. government intervenes to rig elections in case foreign voters don’t know the facts of the matter. The U.S. has interfered — usually covertly — in more than 80 foreign elections since World War Two to boost its preferred candidates.

Former CIA chief James Woolsey was asked last month on Fox News whether the U.S. government was continuing to meddle and “mess around in other people's elections?" Woolsey replied with a smile and said: "Only for a very good cause. In the interests of democracy." Obviously, democracy is ill-served if any U.S.-preferred candidate lose.

Nowadays, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is the flagship for U.S. political meddling abroad, and Trump proposes to slash its budget by 60 percent, from $170 million to $67 million. When Congress created the agency in 1983, it prohibited NED and its grantees from directly aiding foreign political candidates. But that law restrains NED as effectively as the Fourth Amendment’s restriction on warrantless searches leashes the National Security Agency.

NED has been caught interfering in elections in FrancePanamaCosta RicaNicaraguaCzechoslovakiaPoland, and many other nations. NED’s operatives helped spark bloody coup attempts in Venezuela and Haiti; their efforts also helped topple the elected government in the Ukraine in 2014 and ignite the ongoing civil war.

The CIA and NED tag-teamed to worsen the biggest U.S. foreign policy catastrophe of this century. After the CIA covertly bankrolled pro-U.S. factions for the Iraqi parliament elections in 2005, NED President Carl Gershman hailed the result as "one of the great events in the history of democracy.” But the animosity fanned by that rigged election helped spur a catastrophic civil war in Iraq which vastly increased the death toll for American soldiers.

Philosopher Hannah Arendt noted that during the Vietnam War, the U.S. government’s “policy of lying was hardly ever aimed at the enemy but chiefly if not exclusively destined for domestic consumption, for propaganda at home and especially for the purpose of deceiving Congress.”  Similarly, NED exists to provide deniability to American politicians for their foreign meddling.

Gershman likes to portray NED as a “private and non-governmental” organization — as if billions of tax dollars had mysteriously showed up in its coffers via Congress over the decades. This facade usually passes muster with the docile American media but foreigners often see through the ruse — especially when Gershman publicly practically calls for ousting elected foreign leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

NED delivers much of its budget to two political front groups. The International Republican Institute has funded centrist or right-leaning political operations around the globe. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Institute’s long-term chairman, boasted in 1997: “When we provide the democratic opposition in Albania with 12 Jeep Cherokees and they win an election, I’m incredibly proud.” Obviously, no U.S.-favored politician should be obliged to hustle for votes in a ramshackle Yugo.

The National Democratic Institute also uses its NED windfalls to play favorites abroad. When its chairman, Madeline Albright, was secretary of State during the Clinton administration, she uttered what could the eternal rallying cry for all subsequent U.S. meddling: “We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.”

President Trump’s proposed budget cut (which also slashes democracy promotion funding in other agencies) is spurring predictable teeth gnashing. Council of Foreign Relations fellow Stewart Patrick lamented last week in The Hill: “By the Trump administration is destroying the credibility of the United States as a champion of freedom around the world.” But the U.S. government already lacks “champion of freedom” cachet except inside the Beltway and among profiteers on the foreign policy gravy train.

Democracy can be a wonderful thing but foreign aggression in its name usually doesn’t work out happily. President Obama invoked democracy to justify bombing Libya, leaving that nation in chaos, with terrorists running amok and slave markets openly operating. Promoting democracy was also one of Obama’s excuses for the U.S. government fueling Syria’s civil war, which has left hundreds of thousands of people dead.

Read the rest here.]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2018 13:10:58 GMT
It's Time for a New American Foreign Policy Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

What kind of job can you have where you are consistently wrong, yet get to still go on TV talking endlessly and making more wild predictions that will no doubt lead to the same failed result?

If you guessed “TV Weatherman” you’re close…but the job I’m referring to is “Neocon Foreign Policy Expert”.

Being a neocon means never having to say you’re sorry, even trillions of dollars and decades into doomed wars.


Famously, the neocons have told us that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. The thousands of American soldiers killed or wounded might argue otherwise. The architects of the Iraq war forgot to tell us that it would embolden Iran and give Iran a new ally in the ‘liberated’ Shia majority in Iraq. They forgot to tell us that it would tip the balance of power in the Middle East and encourage Saudi Arabia to go on a military buying spree and become the third largest purchasers of weapons in the world.


The neocons told us that the Arab Spring would bring Western-style democracy to the Middle East. They told us toppling Muammar el-Qaddafi would bring freedom and stability. They were wrong and instead of stability the overthrow of Qaddafi brought chaos. They failed to understand that the chaos of Libya would become a breeding ground for terrorism.


The neocons loudly announced that regime change in Syria was their goal. Yet, even Hillary Clinton realized the problem when our arms, as well as Saudi and Qatari arms, were getting delivered in the hands of ISIS. In one of the Wikileaks emails, Hillary warned Podesta: “the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia . . . are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIS and other radical groups in the region.”

And yet, the deliveries of Western arms to jihadists went on and on for years.

Despite the evidence that many of the fighters opposing Assad were jihadists with an equal hatred for Israel and the United States, the weapons kept flowing.

Remember their call to arm the “moderate fighters?” Who can forget the $260 million spent to train sixty fighters, ten of whom were captured only minutes after they were sent into battle.

The neocons vociferously argued that Assad must go. Senators McCain and Graham argued that you couldn’t defeat ISIS without also defeating Assad. John Bolton went so far as to pontificate that "defeating the Islamic State" is "neither feasible nor desirable" if Assad remains in power. Actually, the opposite was true. Only when the mission changed from removing Assad to attacking ISIS did the tide finally turn.

Max Abrahms and John Glaser wrote in the LA Times late last year that contrary to neocon dogma, ISIS “imploded right after external support for the ‘moderate’ rebels dried up.”

So, the neocons who argued that ISIS couldn’t or shouldn’t be defeated without first defeating Assad were wrong again.

In the 2016 presidential primary two candidates — myself and Donald Trump — declared that the Iraq War was a mistake, that we should not arm our enemies and that America didn’t have a dog in every fight.

I campaigned against the folly of recent neocon wars, the futility of nation building, and the bankruptcy, moral and literal, of the idea of policing the world. So did Donald Trump — for the most part.

So where do we go from here? Congress is still dominated by neocons. The Trump administration shows no sign of ending the Afghan war. If anything, President Trump has doubled down on our support for Saudi Arabia in the Yemeni civil war. Candidate Trump, who consistently voiced his displeasure with the Iraq War, has surrounded himself with generals still intent on finding military solutions where none exist.

Neocon critics believe the world is black and white. You’re either Churchill or Chamberlain. You’re either with us or against us. You’re either a patriot or an isolationist.

The irony is that the neocons are the TRUE isolationists. The neocons wish to isolate and forbid trade with regimes that they disapprove of. The neocon policy toward Cuba is the very definition of isolationism.

For over half a century, we’ve had an embargo with Cuba. Not only did the Castros survive it, but they milked it for everything it was worth. The Cuban government stoked the flames of nationalism in Cuba and blamed America for anything that went wrong, rather than the true culprit—their own dogmatic socialism.

The isolationist neocons want to continue this embargo. They want to peel back the small diplomatic gains that have been made. They want to pare back cultural exchange and dialogue.

The opposite, free travel and trade, is what is needed.

Our founders understood the perils of perpetual war.

John Quincy Adams echoed and summed the spirit of the foreign policy of our founders when he said:
America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.
Far from being isolationist, the foreign policy of our Founders is the true engagement. To seek honest friendship, free commerce, open dialogue and peaceful engagement with all who are willing.

Libertarian realists agree.

We do not seek to retreat within our borders—nor do we seek to expand them.

We do not seek a wall to keep everyone out, nor to keep anyone in.

Too often the United States has attempted to till the soil in foreign lands with our bombs and plow it with our tanks.

Instead, we should seek to help others till their land with our tractors and reap their harvest with our combines.

The neocons argue that Americans want a more robust foreign policy. Maybe, but at the same time, Americans have also been increasingly clear that they are tired of constant war.

Reagan had it right when he said “our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will.”

In fact, restraint is a triumph of will.

After the debacles of Iraq and Libya, after becoming weary of a drawn-out mission in Afghanistan, the American people are looking for a new path for foreign policy.

America should steer clear of other countries civil wars, such as Yemen.

We should not be in wars where the best outcome is stalemate, as we are in Afghanistan.

And America shouldn’t fight wars that are not authorized by Congress.

Admittedly, the War on Terror is not over, but any military action must be judged by this question: will this use of force kill more terrorists than it creates?

Refueling Saudi bombers mid-air and supplying them with bombs that are dropped on a funeral procession is exactly the kind of misguided policy that creates more terrorists than it kills.

To defend our country properly, we must understand that while there are those that hate our values, military interventions aimed at changing that at the point of a gun—or the blast radius of a bomb—may well exacerbate this hatred rather than end it.

We need a foreign policy that recognizes its own limits, a common sense realism of strength, limited action, full diplomatic engagement and free trade.

Here’s how I see the most important principles of this foreign policy.

First, the use of force must always be on the table, but rarely used. War should be the last resort, not the first.

War is necessary when America is attacked or directly and clearly threatened, and when we have exhausted all measures short of war.

The second principle is that Congress, the people’s representative, must authorize the decision to intervene.

The most serious decision we make as a nation is to send our sons or daughters to war. We should make it together, and we should vote on it.

Finally, how do we solve non-military challenges in places like Asia and Eastern Europe?

That’s where the third principle comes in—a firm, full commitment to diplomacy and leadership.

Hysteria over election-meddling threatens to reignite the Cold War.

Russia, at times, is our adversary, but it need not be our permanent enemy.

Whether it is the threat of ISIS, or the situations in Iran and Syria, it would be in our interest to work together with Russia where possible, yet this opportunity is slipping by. Obsession with Russian “collusion” or other conspiracies involving the Kremlin and the administration have frozen the narrative and hampered what I believe to be the president’s good instincts on the proper relationship with Russia.

Before I close, let me talk about the last piece of the puzzle for a strong foreign policy—our own economic strength.

Adm. Mike Mullen properly noted that the biggest threat to our national security is our debt.

A bankrupt nation does not project power, but weakness.

Our national debt now exceeds $20 trillion. Trillion dollar annual deficits have returned.

Our overseas adventures are causing us to be stretched thin, and Republicans have pushed for, and received, a massive military spending increase.

Despite Congressional hostility, I have asked the question: is our military budget too small or is our mission too big?

I believe, without question, it is the latter. Our mission has become too large. Years after completing our mission in Afghanistan, America remains—spending $50 billion a year nation-building. We are adding debt at nearly $2 million per minute.

If we’re not careful, we will spend our way into second-tier nation status quickly.

If the long war is to ever end, we must understand what must take its place.

It isn’t just religion, nor even abject poverty, that motivates those seeking a better life. It is often the simple idea of freedom that we in the west take for granted.

Mohammed Bousazizi, the Tunisian street merchant who set himself on fire and began the Arab Spring, was an aspiring entrepreneur foiled by an overbearing government.

He had a dream. He’d save for a truck, and he’d sell his wares on the streets to build a life.

Cronyism and overbearing government stifled his dream. He set himself on fire, and the flames are still burning.

My great grandfather came to America with a dream not unlike Bousazizi’s. He peddled vegetables until he saved enough to purchase a truck, to become what was then logically called a truck-farmer. Over time he was able to purchase a home, then a small bit of land.

My grandfather didn’t need a permit or a license. No government hindered his success.

Peruvian economist De Soto spoke to Bousazazi’s father and asked him if he left a legacy. He replied, “Of course, he believed even the poor had a right to buy and sell.”

To own one’s labor and the products of one’s labor is a fundamental human right.

To trade one’s labor and products is also a fundamental right.

Strangely, neocons and libertarians likely agree that government should largely leave us free to pursue our dreams. Neocons, however, feel some universal calling to liberate humanity. Libertarians want the same liberty for individuals across the globe but think that ‘spreading liberty’ through perpetual war can only occur with a big government that tramples individual liberty.

When you boil it all down, the dilemma is whether liberty spreads best by persuasion or force.

And going one step further, one must ask if the government can maintain its character as a defender of individual liberty if the government must large enough to support perpetual war.

This was the great battle fought between William F. Buckley and Murray Rothbard in the early 1960’s. Everyone thinks Buckley’s National Review won hands down. And yet, Buckley himself ended up doubting the wisdom of the Iraq War.

The schism that divides neocons and libertarian realists will heal when the neoconservatives finally acknowledge that a government big enough to “make the world safe for democracy” is inconsistent with individual liberty.

When neoconservatives accept that a government large enough to fight perpetual war requires taxes and debt so extensive as to be to inconsistent with individual liberty—then will the schism heal.

When that time comes, libertarians and neoconservatives will gather in Williamsburg and raise a pint to our common heroes: Jefferson, Paine, Madison, and yes, even John Adams. That will be a glorious time, a time when liberty is no longer divided and we can all celebrate the great American experiment in Liberty.]]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:14:10 GMT
Blaming Russia for Skripal Attack is Similar to ‘Jews Poisoning our Wells’ in Middle Ages John Laughland

Congratulations to Craig Murray for getting there first. The colorful former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, turned anti-establishment dissident after he was sacked from the Foreign Office in 2004, has published on his blog some key texts by authoritative scientists which cast serious doubt on the British government's claims about what happened to the former double agent, Sergei Skripal, and why.

Murray – and his sources – have unearthed texts from 2016, 2013 and 1995 by, respectively, a scientist at Porton Down, the secret British military chemical weapons installations which is 20 minutes from Salisbury where Skripal was found last week; a scientist at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the statutory body created by the 1997 Convention on Chemical Weapons but which London has ignored and bypassed in its spat with Moscow; and by the Russian defector scientist, Vil Mirzayanov, who is the sole source for the claim that the Soviet Union started to manufacture so-called novichok ("newbie") nerve agents in the 1980s, allegedly now used to poison Skripal.

Two of these texts, for which Murray does not provide links, are available online here and here. The first two show, long before anyone had heard of Sergei Skripal, that the existence of novichoks has not been confirmed. Mirzayanov's 1995 paper says that they could be manufactured anywhere, for instance by any laboratory which can make fertilizer or pesticide, and that the factory where they were allegedly developed by the Soviet Union is in Uzbekistan, a country which has not been under Moscow's control since 1991 but where the Americans had a military base until 2005.

In other words, even if it is true that Skripal was poisoned by this nerve agent, novichoks are not "military grade". There is therefore no proof that they are manufactured in Russia and no grounds for claiming, as Theresa May did on March 14 in the House of Commons, that there is "no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter." On the contrary, there are plenty of alternative conclusions available at this stage. The fact that these texts date from long before the Skripal affair only increases their credibility.

We did not need Murray's revelations, however valuable, to come to this conclusion ourselves. The day before Mrs May made her statement to the House of Commons, Neil Basu, the newly appointed assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for counter-terrorism, who is in charge of the Skripal enquiry, told the press, in a formal statement, that the investigation was highly complex and that it would take a long time, probably "weeks."

Mrs May's statement and that of Commissioner Basu cannot both be true: if the police investigation is still ongoing, there are no grounds even for making allegations, let alone for saying that guilt has been proved.

Mrs May's proclaimed lack of doubt is hardly convincing, since it was she who, as home secretary, ordered the Litvinenko enquiry to be opened, seven years after Alexander Litvinenko's death, and then later instructed evidence given to it by the British intelligence services to be kept secret. This enquiry, which broke the law under which it was conducted because Section 2 of the Enquiries Act of 2005 forbids such enquiries from ruling on criminal or civil liability, was in turn as convincing as the similar 2004 Hutton inquiry into the death of the scientist David Kelly. The Hutton report was widely ridiculed as an establishment stitch-up, which it was. The author of the Litvinenko report, a former judge acting on orders from Theresa May, concluded that President Putin ordered Litvinenko's assassination. Very similar arguments – that only the Russians could have done it because only they have these poisons – have now resurfaced about Skripal.

Moreover, the same toxicologist, the late Professor John Henry of Imperial College, London, was the source of both the theory about Litvinenko's poisoning and also of the similar theory about Viktor Yushchenko, the Ukrainian politician who stood for president in 2004 and who developed acne during the campaign. The theory that Yuschenko had been poisoned by his "pro-Russian" rival, Viktor Yanukovich, was widely accredited at the time, even though the clinic in Vienna, on whose premises the original claim of poisoning had been announced, formally denied, in a statement on its website, that it had authorized or approved the diagnosis. In fact, as I learned by telephoning the medical director of the clinic which published the denial, he had received death threats for questioning Yushchenko's story.  In five years as president of Ukraine, moreover, with the whole apparatus of the state at his disposal, Yushchenko was never able to find anyone responsible for what happened to him and the affair has now been closed for years.

The whole thing, to put it bluntly, was a load of rubbish. There are no known cases of fatal poisoning by dioxin in the history of medicine, and the Dutch toxicologist who claimed to have found dioxin in Yushchenko's blood – as I also found out when I rang him too – was in reality a food scientist who admitted to me that he had no way of knowing how it had got there. He added that the dose was so small that it would hardly have killed a rat, let alone a human being. Yet this ridiculous theory was widely believed to be true, including by professors of medicine, and it served its purpose in getting Yushchenko elected.

So there is a history of such poisoning allegations going back a decade and a half. Such accusations tap into some very deep psychology indeed: Russia plays in these allegations the role attributed to Jews in the Middle Ages, who were regularly accused of poisoning wells or of bearing the plague. Each of our modern witch-hunts feeds off the previous one and the theory snowballs over time. The unproved allegations of yesterday become the elements of proof for today. Those of us who cried foul back in 2004 may well be proved right about Sergei Skripal – but by that time everyone will have forgotten him and moved on to something else.

John Laughland is a historian and political scientist who has been Director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris since 2008. He is the author of several books, the most recent of which is ‘A History of Political trials from Charles I to Charles Taylor’. He is a Member of RPI's Advisory Board.

Reprinted with permission from RT.
]]> Fri, 16 Mar 2018 13:49:31 GMT
'Skin In The Game' - With Special Guest Nassim Nicholas Taleb Daniel McAdams
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Will Torture Make America Great Again? Daniel McAdams
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Say No to 'Hardening' the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops John W. Whitehead

Just what we don’t need: more gun-toting, taser-wielding cops in government-run schools that bear an uncomfortable resemblance to prisons.

Microcosms of the police state, America’s public schools already contain almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the “outside.”

Now the Trump Administration wants to double down on these totalitarian echo chambers.

The Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has announced that it will provide funding for schools that want to hire more resource officers. The White House has also hinted that it may repeal “Rethink School Discipline” policies, heralding a return to zero tolerance policies that treat children like suspects and criminals, especially within the public schools.

As for President Trump, he wants to “harden” the schools.

What exactly does hardening the schools entail?

More strident zero tolerance policiesgreater numbers of school cops, and all the trappings of a prison complex (unsurmountable fences, entrapment areas, no windows or trees, etc.).

Just when you thought this administration couldn’t get any more tone-deaf about civil liberties, they prove once again that they have absolutely no regard for the Constitution (especially the Fourth Amendment), no concept of limited government, and no concern for the growing need to protect “we the people” against an overreaching, overbearing police state.

America’s schools today are already about as authoritarian as they come.

Young people in America are now first in line to be searched, surveilled, spied on, threatened, tied up, locked down, treated like criminals for non-criminal behavior, tasered and in some cases shot.

Roped into the government’s profit-driven campaign to keep the nation “safe” from drugs, weapons and terrorism, many schools have transformed themselves into quasi-prisons, complete with surveillance cameras, metal detectors, police patrols, zero tolerance policies, lock downs, drug sniffing dogs, strip searches and active shooter drills.

It used to be that if you talked back to a teacher, or played a prank on a classmate, or just failed to do your homework, you might find yourself in detention or doing an extra writing assignment after school.

That is no longer the case.

Nowadays, students are not only punished for minor transgressions such as playing cops and robbers on the playground, bringing LEGOs to school, or having a food fight, but the punishments have become far more severe, shifting from detention and visits to the principal’s office into misdemeanor tickets, juvenile court, handcuffs, tasers and even prison terms.

These outrageous incidents are exactly what you’ll see more of if the Trump Administration gets its way.

Increasing the number of cops in the schools only adds to the problem.

Indeed, the growing presence of police in the nation’s schools is resulting in greater police “involvement in routine discipline matters that principals and parents used to address without involvement from law enforcement officers.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these school resource officers have become de facto wardens in elementary, middle and high schools, doling out their own brand of justice to the so-called “criminals” in their midst with the help of tasers, pepper spray, batons and brute force.

For instance, 16-year-old Alex Stone was directed by his teacher to do a creative writing assignment involving a series of fictional Facebook statuses. Alex wrote, “I killed my neighbor's pet dinosaur. I bought the gun to take care of the business.”

Despite the fact that dinosaurs are extinct, the status fabricated, and the South Carolina student was merely following orders, his teacher reported him to school administrators, who in turn called the police.

What followed is par for the course in schools today: students were locked down in their classrooms while armed police searched Alex’s locker and bookbag, handcuffed him, charged him with disorderly conduct disturbing the school, arrested him, detained him, and then he was suspended from school.

Not even the younger, elementary school-aged kids are being spared these “hardening” tactics.

Paradoxically, by the time you add in the lockdowns and active shooter drills, instead of making the schools safer, school officials have succeeded in creating an environment in which children are so traumatized that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, anxiety, mistrust of adults in authority, as well as feelings of anger, depression, humiliation, despair and delusion.

Instead of raising up a generation of freedom fighters—which one would hope would be the objective of the schools—government officials seem determined to churn out newly minted citizens of the American police state who are being taught the hard way what it means to comply, fear and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

So what’s the answer, not only for the here-and-now—the children growing up in these quasi-prisons—but for the future of this country?

How do you convince a child who has been routinely handcuffed, shackled, tied down, locked up, and immobilized by government officials—all before he reaches the age of adulthood—that he has any rights at all, let alone the right to challenge wrongdoing, resist oppression and defend himself against injustice?

Most of all, how do you persuade a fellow American that the government works for him when for most of his young life, he has been incarcerated in an institution that teaches young people to be obedient and compliant citizens who don’t talk back, don’t question and don’t challenge authority?

As we’ve seen with other issues, any significant reforms will have to start locally and trickle upwards.

For starters, parents need to be vocal, visible and organized and demand that school officials 1) adopt a policy of positive reinforcement in dealing with behavior issues; 2) minimize the presence in the schools of police officers and cease involving them in student discipline; and 3) insist that all behavioral issues be addressed first and foremost with a child’s parents, before any other disciplinary tactics are attempted.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, if you want a nation of criminals, treat the citizenry like criminals.

If you want young people who grow up seeing themselves as prisoners, run the schools like prisons.

If, on the other hand, you want to raise up a generation of freedom fighters, who will actually operate with justice, fairness, accountability and equality towards each other and their government, then run the schools like freedom forums.

Remove the metal detectors and surveillance cameras, re-assign the cops elsewhere, and start treating our nation’s young people like citizens of a republic and not inmates in a police state.

Reprinted with permission from the Rutherford Institute.]]> Wed, 14 Mar 2018 12:43:49 GMT
US Commander: ‘US Troops Prepared to Die for Israel’ in War against Syria, Hezbollah Whitney Webb

Last Sunday, the largest joint military exercise between the United States and Israel began with little fanfare. The war game, dubbed “Operation Juniper Cobra,” has been a regular occurrence for years, though it has consistently grown in size and scope. Now, however, this year’s 12-day exercise brings a portent of conflict unlike those of its predecessors.

Previous reports on the operation suggested that, like prior incarnations of the same exercise, the focus would be on improving Israeli defenses. “Juniper Cobra 2018 is another step in improving the readiness of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] and the IAF [Israeli Air Force] in particular to enhance their operational capabilities in facing the threat posed by high-trajectory missiles,” Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovitch, the IDF’s Aerial Defense Division head, told the Jerusalem Post.

However, this year’s “Juniper Cobra” is unique for several reasons. The Post reported on Thursday that the drill, set to end on March 15, was not only the largest joint US-Israeli air defense exercise to ever happen but it was also simulating a battle “on three fronts.” In other words, Israel and the US are jointly simulating a war with Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine – namely, the Gaza strip – simultaneously.

What makes this last part so concerning are Israel’s recent statements and other preparations for war with all three nations, making “Juniper Cobra” anything but a “routine” drill. It is instead yet another preparation for a massive regional conflict, suggesting that such a conflict could be only a matter of months away.

As MintPress recently reported, Israeli officials recently told a bipartisan pair of US Senators that it needed “ammunition, ammunition, ammunition” for a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon — a war that will expressly target Lebanese civilians and civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings. The alleged motive for the invasion is the presence of Iranian rocket factories. However, this allegation is based solely on the claims of an anonymous deputy serving in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and was first reported on by a Kuwaiti newspaper known to publish stories planted by the Israeli government.

In addition, Israel has been laying the groundwork for an invasion of Syria since last year and is largely responsible for the current conflict in Syria that has raged on for seven years. Israel’s current push to invade Syria is also based on flimsy evidence suggesting that Iran is establishing bases in Syria to target Israel.

Israel has also been preparing for a conflict on the embattled Gaza strip, which – owing to the effects of Israel’s illegal blockade and the devastation wrought by past wars – is set to be entirely uninhabitable by 2020. Reports have quoted officials of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, which governs the Gaza strip, as saying that they place the chances of a new war with Israel in 2018 “at 95 percent” and that war games, like Operation Juniper Cobra, were likely to be used to plan or even initiate such a conflict. This concern was echoed by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who stated that another Israeli invasion of Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, was “likely” to occur this year. Eizenkot ironically framed the imminent invasion as a way to “prevent a humanitarian collapse” in Gaza.

Such a war is likely to be ignited by the unrest destined to follow the US’ imminent move of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The move, set to take place in May, led Hamas to call for a third intifada, or uprising, in response to the US’ unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in defiance of the international consensus.

Beyond the fact that Israel is preparing to go to war with several countries simultaneously is the fact that US ground troops are now “prepared to die for the Jewish state,” according to US Third Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Richard Clark. “We are ready to commit to the defense of Israel and anytime we get involved in a kinetic fight there is always the risk that there will be casualties. But we accept that, as in every conflict we train for and enter, there is always that possibility,” Clark told thePost.

However, more troubling than the fact that US troops stand ready to die at Israel’s behest was Clark’s assertion that Haimovitch would “probably” have the last word as to whether US forces would join the IDF during war time. In other words, the IDF will decide whether or not US troops become embroiled in the regional war for which Israel is preparing, not the United States. Indeed, Haimovitch buoyed Clark’s words, stating that: “I am sure once the order comes we will find here US troops on the ground to be part of our deployment and team to defend the state of Israel.”

Operation Juniper Cobra is not a routine exercise; it is a portent of a potentially devastating war for which Israel is actively preparing, a war likely to erupt within the coming months. In addition to overtly targeting civilians, these preparations for war — as Juniper Cobra shows — directly involve the United States military and give the war-bent Israeli government the power to decide whether or not American troops will be involved and to what extent. This is a devastating giveaway of national sovereignty by US President Donald Trump.

While the potential involvement of the US forces in such a war is being framed as limited in scope, there is no indication that such a war will be so in practice. Indeed, the US is currently occupying 25 percent of Syria and the Trump administration has economically attacked Palestinians living in Gaza by withdrawing crucial aid, as well as Hezbollah by enforcing new sanctions against the group. Furthermore, Israel’s nuclear arsenal and the fact that Iran — and even Russia — could become involved in such a conflict means that it could quickly spiral out of control.

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.
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Why Not Execute Alcohol and Tobacco Dealers? Laurence M. Vance

Although about thirty countries have the death penalty for drug trafficking, only in China, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Vietnam are drug offenders routinely executed. Yet, the worst place to be caught drug trafficking is in the Philippines, where thousands have died in extra-judicial killings.

In the United States, not only can some drug offenses result in life in prison, “the sentence of death can be carried out on a defendant who has been found guilty of manufacturing, importing or distributing a controlled substance if the act was committed as part of a continuing criminal enterprise.”

President Trump has said some outrageous things. He has said some dumb things. And he has said some outrageously dumb things. But talking about the death penalty for drug dealers is one of the most outrageously dumb things he has ever said.

It was revealed last year that Trump said during a phone call with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte: “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

Then it was reported that Trump has privately told a number of people that he supports executing drug dealers.

And just the other day, speaking at a White House summit on the opioid epidemic, Trump said this:
Some countries have a very, very tough penalty. The ultimate penalty. And by the way they have much less of a drug problem than we do. So we’re going to have to be very strong on penalties.

We have pushers and we have drug dealers that kill hundreds and hundreds of people and most of them don’t even go to jail. If you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty. These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them.
But Trump is not alone. Newt Gingrich has likewise entertained the same despicable idea.

Trump, Gingrich, and the hardcore conservative drug warriors who would support the death penalty for drug traffickers have their sights on the wrong target. Alcohol and tobacco dealers cause much more harm and kill far more people with their products.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Drinking too much can harm your health. Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink.
Short-term health risks include:

- Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
- Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
- Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
- Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
- Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.

Long-term health risks include:

- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
- Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
- Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.

For pregnant women, no amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy is known to be safe:
"Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is associated with spontaneous abortions, birth defects, and developmental disorders, many of which occur early in gestation before the woman is aware that she is pregnant. Alcohol use during pregnancy is associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which may be characterized by specific physical features, impaired growth and abnormal development or functioning of the central nervous system."
Again, according to the CDC:

- Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
- Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States.
- Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined: HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, firearm-related incidents.
- More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.
- Smoking causes about 90% of all lung cancer deaths.
- Smoking causes about 80% of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.
- Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
- Smoking causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost.
- Smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels.
- Smoking causes stroke and coronary heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
- Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicken and grow narrower.
- Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body: bladder, blood, cervix, colon, rectum, esophagus, kidneys, larynx, liver, oropharynx, pancreas, stomach, trachea, bronchus, and lungs.
- Smoking also increases the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases in cancer patients and survivors.
- Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and affects a person’s overall health.
- Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant.
- Smoking can affect bone health.
- Smoking affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss.
- Smoking can increase your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can make it harder to control.
- Smoking causes general adverse effects on the body, including inflammation and decreased immune function.
- Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.

If the government should execute drug dealers, then why should it not also execute alcohol and tobacco dealers? Why not destroy distilleries, breweries, and wineries and execute their workers? Why not round up the owners of, and clerks at, grocery stores, convenience stores, and liquor stores and execute them for causing the deaths of thousands of people?

Seems rather ludicrous to single out drug dealers, doesn’t it?

So, what should the government do about the health problems resulting from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs? What should the government do about binge drinking, chain smoking, and drug abuse?

Absolutely nothing.

Although libertarians certainly recognize the potential negative effects of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use on the user’s health, safety, well-being, finances, family, job, reputation, etc., they don’t believe it is the responsibility of government to provide solutions to any problems resulting from the use of these substances. And certainly not solutions that criminalize the use of substances the government doesn’t approve of. Better solutions are to be found in family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, anti-alcohol, anti-tobacco, and anti-drug organizations, religion, churches, ministers, rescue missions, Alcoholics Anonymous-type programs, and treatment centers.

Ultimately, the users of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are responsible for their own choices and actions.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Tue, 13 Mar 2018 16:58:57 GMT
Are Millennials Abandoning Liberty? - With Special Guest Jeff Deist Daniel McAdams
]]> Tue, 13 Mar 2018 16:34:34 GMT
Christopher Steele As Seen By the New Yorker Philip Giraldi

The latest salvo in the Russiagate saga is a 15,000 word New Yorker article entitled “Christopher Steele the man behind the Trump dossier: how the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia” by veteran journalist Jane Mayer. The premise of the piece is clear from the tediously long title, namely that the Steele dossier, which implicated Donald Trump and his associates in a number of high crimes and misdemeanors, is basically accurate in exposing an existential threat posed to our nation by Russia. How does it come to that conclusion? By citing sources that it does not identify whose credibility is alleged to be unimpeachable as well as by including testimony from Steele friends and supporters.

In other words, the Mayer piece is an elaboration of the same “trust me” narrative that has driven the hounding of Russia and Trump from day one. Inevitably, the Trump haters both from the left and the right have jumped on the Mayer piece as confirmation of their own presumptions regarding what has allegedly occurred, when, in reality, Trump might just be more right than wrong when he claims that he has been the victim of a conspiracy by the Establishment to discredit and remove him.

Mayer is a progressive and a long-time critic of Donald Trump. She has written a book denouncing “the Koch brothers’ deep influence on American politics” and co-authored another book with Jill Abramson, formerly Executive Editor of the New York Times. Abramson reportedly carries a small plastic replica of Barack Obama in her purse which she can take out “to take comfort” whenever she is confronted by Donald Trump’s America. Mayer’s New Yorker bio-blurb describes her as a journalist who covers national security, together with politics and culture.

The problem with the type of neo-journalism as practiced by Mayer is that it first comes to a conclusion and then selects the necessary “facts” to support that narrative. When the government does that sort of thing to support, one might suggest, a war against Iraq or even hypothetically speaking Iran, it is called cherry picking. After the facts have been cherry picked they are “stovepiped” up to the policy maker, avoiding along the way any analysts who might demur regarding the product’s veracity. In journalistic terms, the equivalent would perhaps be sending the garbage up directly to a friendly editor, avoiding any fact check.

Mayer tries to take the high road by asserting that the Republicans are “trying to take down the intelligence community.” It is an odd assertion coming from her as she has written a book called “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals,” a development which was pretty much implemented by the intelligence community working hand-in-hand with Congress and the White House. But she is not the first liberal who has now become a friend of CIA, the FBI, and the NSA as a response to the greater threat allegedly posed by Donald Trump.

A Steele friend describes the man as a virtual Second Coming of Jesus, for whom “fairness, integrity and truth…trump any ideology.” Former head of MI-6 and Steele boss Sir John Dearlove, who once reported how the intelligence on Iraq had been “sexed-up” and “fixed around the policy” to make the false case for war, describes Steele as “superb.” Other commentary from former American CIA officers is similar in nature. Former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who himself was involved in lying to support America’s journey into Iraq, similarly sees Steele as honest and credible in his claims, while a former CIA Station Chief in Moscow is called upon to cast aspersions on the “Russian character” that impels them to engage in lies and deception.

My review of the Mayer rebuttal of criticism of Steele revealed a number of instances where she comes to certain conclusions without presenting any real supporting evidence or accepts “proof” that is essentially hearsay because it supports her overall narrative. She asserts that Russia and WikiLeaks were working together on the release of the Democratic National Committee/Hillary Clinton emails without providing any substantiation whatsoever. She surely came to that judgement based on something she was told, but by whom and when?

Another major blooper in the Mayer story relates to how one unnamed “senior Russian official” reported that the Kremlin had blocked the appointment of Mitt Romney, a noted critic of Russia, as secretary of state. How exactly that was implemented is not clear from the Steele reporting and there has been no other independent confirmation of the allegation, but Mayer finds it credible, asserting that “subsequent events could be said to support it.” What events? one might ask, though the national media did not hesitate and instead reported Mayer’s assertion as if it were itself a credible source in a forty-eight hour news cycle frenzy relating to Romney and Trump.

Steele’s work history also raises some questions. He served in Moscow as a first tour officer for MI-6 under diplomatic cover from 1990 to 1993. Russia was in tumult and Mayer describes how “Boris Yeltsin gained ultimate power, and a moment of democratic promise faded as the KGB -- now called the FSB -- reasserted its influence, oligarchs snapped up state assets, and nationalist political forces began to emerge.” Not to go into too much detail, but Mayer’s description of Russia at that time is dead wrong. Yeltsin was a drunkard and a tool of American and European intervention and manipulation. He was no agent of “democratic promise” and only grew more corrupt as his time in office continued into the completely manipulated election of 1996, when the IMF and US conspired to get him reelected so the looting, a.k.a. “democratization,” could go on. Mayer goes on to depict in negative terms a “shadowy” former “KGB operative” Vladimir Putin who emerged from the chaos.

Mayer also cites a Steele report of April 2016, a “secret investigation [that] involved a survey of Russian interference in the politics of four members of the European Union,” but she neither produces the report itself or the sources used to put it together. The report allegedly concluded that the “Kremlin’s long-term aim …was to boost extremist groups and politicians at the expense of Europe’s liberal democracies. The more immediate goal was to destroy the EU…” The precis provided by Mayer is a bit of fantasy, it would seem, and is perhaps a reflection of an unhealthy obsession on the part of Steele, if he actually came to that conclusion. As it stands it is hearsay, possibly provided by Steele himself or a friend to Mayer to defend his reputation.

Mayer also reports and calls potentially treasonous Steele’s claims that “Kremlin and Trump were politically colluding in the 2016 campaign…’to sow discord and disunity both with the US’ and within the transatlantic alliance.” And also, “[Trump] and his top associates had repeatedly accepted intelligence from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton and other political rivals.” As Robert Mueller apparently has not developed any information to support such wild claims, it would be interesting to know why Jane Mayer considers them to be credible.

Sweeping judgements by Mayer also include “[Steele’s] allegation that the Kremlin favored Trump in 2016 and was offering his campaign dirt on Hillary has been borne out. So has his claim that the Kremlin and WikiLeaks were working together…” As noted above, the WikiLeaks/Kremlin allegations have not been demonstrated, nor have the claims about Kremlin provision of information to discredit Hillary, who was doing a find job at the time discrediting herself.

The account of Donald Trump performing “perverted sexual acts” in a Moscow hotel is likewise a good example of what is wrong with the article. Four sources are cited as providing details of what took place, but it is conceded that none of them was actually a witness to it. It would be necessary to learn who the sources were beyond vague descriptions, what their actual access to the information was and what their motives were for coming forward might be. One was allegedly a “top-level Russian intelligence officer,” but the others were hotel employees and a Trump associate who had arranged for the travel.

Finally, from an ex-intelligence officer point of view I have some questions about Steele’s sources in Russia. Who are they? If they were MI-6 sources he would not be able to touch them once he left the service and would face severe sanctions under the Official Secrets Act should he even try to do so. There are in addition claims in the Mayer story that Steele did not pay his sources because it would encourage them to fabricate, an argument that could also be made about Steele who was being paid to produce dirt on Trump. So what was the quid pro quo? Intelligence agents work for money, particularly when dealing with a private security firm, and Steele’s claim, if he truly made it, that he has sources that gave him closely held, highly sensitive information in exchange for an occasional lunch in Mayfair rings hollow.

Jane Mayer’s account of the Steele dossier seems to accept quite a lot on faith. It would be interesting to know the extent to which Steele himself or his proxies were the source of much of what she has written. Until we know more about the actual Russian sources and also about Mayer’s own contacts interviewed for the article, her “man behind the Trump dossier” will continue to be something of a mystery and the entire Russiagate saga assumption that Moscow interfered in the 2016 US election must be regarded as still to be demonstrated.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Tue, 13 Mar 2018 13:14:35 GMT
Politics, Justice, and the Surveillance State Peter Van Buren

The role pervasive surveillance plays in politics today has been grossly underreported. Set aside what you think about the Trump presidency for a moment and focus instead on the new paradigm for how politics and justice work inside the surveillance state.

Incidental collection” is the claimed inadvertent or accidental monitoring of Americans’ communications under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Incidental collection exists alongside court-approved warranted surveillance authorized on a specific individual.But for incidental collection, no probable cause is needed, no warrant is needed, and no court or judge is involved. It just gets vacuumed up.

While exactly how many Americans have their communications monitored this way is unknown, a significant number Trump staffers (no evidence of incidental surveillance of the Clinton campaign exists) were surveilled by a White House controlled by their opposition party. Election-time claims the Obama administration wasn’t “wiretapping” Trump were disingenuous. They in fact gathered an unprecedented level of inside information. How was it used?

Incidental collection nailed Michael Flynn; the NSA was ostensibly not surveilling Flynn, just listening in on the Russian ambassador as the two spoke. The intercept formed the basis of Flynn’s firing as national security advisor, his guilty plea for perjury, and very possibly his “game changing” testimony against others.

Jeff Sessions was similarly incidentally surveilled, as was former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, whose conversations were picked up as part of a FISA warrant issued against Trump associate, Carter PagePaul Manafort and Richard Gates were also subjects of FISA-warranted surveillance; they were surveilled in 2014, the case was dropped for lack of evidence, then re-surveilled after they joined the Trump team and became more interesting to the state.

Officials on the National Security Council revealed Trump himself may also have been swept up in surveillance of foreign targets. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, claims multiple communications by Trump transition staff were inadvertently picked up. Trump officials were monitored by British GCHQ with the information shared with their NSA partners. Some reports claim after a criminal warrant was denied to look into whether or not Trump Tower servers were communicating with a Russian bank, a FISA warrant was issued.

How much information on Trump’s political strategy a Democratic White House acquired via surveillance, as well as the full story of what might have been done with that information, will never be known. We do know Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats saw enough after he took office to specify the “intelligence community may not engage in political activity, including dissemination of US person identities to the White House, for the purpose of affecting the political process of the United States.”

Coats likely had in mind the use of unmasking by the Obama administration. Identities of US persons picked up inadvertently by surveillance are supposed to be masked, hidden from most users of the data. However, a select group of officials, including political appointees in the White House, can unmask and include names if they believe it is important to understanding the intelligence, or to show evidence of a crime.

Former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice told House investigators in at least one instance she unmasked the identities of Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, also made a number of unmasking requests in her final year in office.

But no one knows who unmasked Flynn in his conversations with the Russian ambassador. That and subsequent leaking of what was said were used not only to snare Flynn in a perjury trap, but also to force him out of government. Prior to the leak which took Flynn down, Obama holdover and then-acting attorney general Sally Yates warned Trump Flynn could be blackmailed by Moscow for lying about his calls. When Trump didn’t immediately fire Flynn, the unmasked surveillance was leaked by a “senior government official” (likely Yates) to the Washington Post. The disclosure pressured the administration to dump Flynn.

Similar leaks were used to try to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign, though only resulted in him recusing himself from the Russiagate investigation. Following James Comey’s firing, that recusal ultimately opened the door for the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller.

A highly classified leak was used to help marginalize Jared Kushner. The Washington Post, based on leaked intercepts, claimed foreign officials’ from four countries spoke of exploiting Kushner’s economic vulnerabilities to push him into acting against the United States. If the story is true, the leakers passed on data revealing sources and methods; those foreign officials now know however they communicated their thoughts about Kushner, the NSA was listening. Access to that level of information and the power to expose it is not a rank and file action. One analyst described the matter as “the Deep State takes out the White House’s Dark Clown Prince.”

Pervasive surveillance has shown its power perhaps most significantly in creating perjury traps to manufacture indictments to pressure people to testify against others.

Trump associate George Papadopoulos lied to the FBI about several meetings concerning Clinton’s emails. The FBI knew about the meetings, “propelled in part by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch.” The feds asked him questions solely in hope Papadopoulos would lie, commit perjury, even though there was nothing shown to be criminal in the meetings themselves. Now guilty of a crime, the FBI will use the promise of light punishment to press Papadopoulos into testifying against others.

There is an element here of using surveillance to create a process crime out of a non-material lie (the FBI already knew) where no underlying crime of turpitude exists (the meetings were legal.) That that is then used to press someone to testify in an investigation that will have significant political impact seems… undemocratic… yet appears to be a primary tool Mueller is using.

This is a far cry from a traditional plea deal, giving someone a light sentence for actual crimes so that they will testify against others. Mueller should know. He famously allowed Mafia hitman Sammy the Bull to escape more serious punishment for 19 first degree murders in return for testifying against John Gotti. No need to manufacture a perjury trap; the pile of bodies who never saw justice did the trick.

Don’t be lured into thinking the ends justify the means, that whatever it takes to purge Trump is acceptable. Say what you want about Flynn, Kushner, et al, what matters most is the dark process being used. The arrival of pervasive surveillance as a political weapon is more significant than what happens to a little bug like Jared.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 12 Mar 2018 18:05:40 GMT
Happy Anniversary, James Clapper Jonathan Turley

Today is an important anniversary for former intelligence chief James Clapper. No it is not his marriage anniversary or conventional milestone. Clapper can celebrate the running out of the statute of limitations on his alleged perjury before Congress — five years and Clapper is now beyond the reach of the law.

recently wrote a column on the approaching anniversary and how it reaffirms the widely held view that powerful people in Washington are immune from laws used against the rest of society.

Clapper appeared before the Senate to discuss surveillance programs in the midst of a controversy over warrantless surveillance of the American public. He was asked directly, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?” There was no ambiguity or confusion and Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.” That was a lie and Clapper knew it when he said it.

Later, Clapper said that his testimony was “the least untruthful” statement he could make. That would still make it a lie of course but Clapper is a made guy. While feigned shock and disgust, most Democratic leaders notably did not call for his prosecution. Soon Clapper was back testifying and former president Obama even put Clapper on a federal panel to review the very programs that he lied about in Congress. Clapper is now regularly appearing on cable shows which, for example, used Clapper’s word as proof that Trump was lying in saying that there was surveillance of Trump Tower carried out by President Barack Obama. CNN and other networks used Clapper’s assurance without ever mentioning that he previously lied about surveillance programs.

News organizations now regularly feature Clapper who has denounced Donald Trump and members of his government, as discussed in an earlier column.

It is the latest chapter in America’s Animal Farm as average citizens are criminally charged with small discrepancies in statements to investigators while people like Clapper and David Petraeus and Sandy Berger are protected from serious repercussions for alleged criminal acts.

Orwell wrote the fanciful account of a farm society of animals at the end of World War II during a period of authoritarian power and government propaganda. The farm government proclaimed equality of all animals but, as the pig Squealer explained, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Of course, none of our politicians is nearly as open and honest as Squealer. There will be no sign proclaiming the different treatment of the governing and governed classes. They prefer the barnyard to return to its previously sleepy existence once the offender has been put away.  That is why Clapper’s anniversary is a point of celebration in the Beltway as a reaffirmation that, in Washington, “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 12 Mar 2018 16:54:27 GMT
Military Coup: Pentagon To Ignore Congress On Yemen Daniel McAdams
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Tariffs Are Not the Answer Ron Paul

President Trump’s planned 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports may provide a temporary boost for those industries, but the tariffs will do tremendous long-term damage to the American and global economies. Tariffs raise the price of, and reduce demand for, imported goods. Tariffs ensure the preferences of politicians, instead of the preferences of consumers, to determine how resources are allocated. This reduces economic efficiency and living standards.

Some justify these economic inefficiencies as being worth it to save American jobs. This ignores how tariffs increase costs of production for industries reliant on imported materials to produce their products. These increased costs lead to job losses in those industries. For example, President Trump’s proposed steel tariff could cost nearly 40,000 jobs in the steel-dependent auto manufacturing industry. Tariffs also cause job losses in industries reliant on exports. This is especially true if — as is likely to be the case — other countries respond to President Trump’s actions by increasing tariffs on US products.

Many of President Trump’s critics do not themselves support true free trade, which is the voluntary exchange of goods and services across borders. Instead, they support the managed (by government) trade of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization (WTO). NAFTA and the WTO promote world government and crony capitalism, not free markets. Any libertarian or free-market conservative who thinks the WTO promotes economic liberty should remember that the WTO once ordered Congress to raise taxes!

Foreign manufacturers may make convenient scapegoats for the problems facing US industry. However, the truth is that most of the problems plaguing American businesses stem from the US government. American businesses are burdened by thousands of federal regulations controlling every aspect of their operations. The tax system also burdens businesses. Until last year’s tax reform bill, the US had the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. The tax reform bill lowered corporate taxes, but the US corporate tax rate is still higher than that of many other developed countries.

The United States not only spends more on military weapons than the combined budgets of the next eight biggest spending countries, but also spends billions subsidizing the defense of developed counties like Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Bringing US troops home from these countries is an excellent place to start reducing spending on militarism.

The biggest cause of our economic problems is the Federal Reserve. America’s experiment with fiat currency has enabled a system based on private and public debt. This makes trade imbalances inevitable as the US government needs foreign investors to purchase its debt. Foreign investors get the money to purchase the US government’s debt by selling products to American consumers. A trade war could cause foreign investors to stop buying US debt instruments and could end the dollar’s world reserves currency status. This would cause a major economic crisis — but at least it would stop our shores from being flooded with “cheap foreign goods.”

President Trump’s claim that trade wars can be easily won is as credible as the neoconservative claim that the Iraq War would be a cakewalk. A trade war would likely push the global economy into a recession or worse. Instead of imposing costs on American businesses and consumers and putting those whose livelihoods depend on imports out of s job, President Trump should address the real causes of our economic problems: the welfare-warfare state, the IRS, and the Federal Reserve.

]]> Mon, 12 Mar 2018 13:12:50 GMT
Trump Seeks Congressional Funding For 60,000-Man Army To Overthrow Assad Eric Zuesse

ISIS, or ISIL, or Islamic State, has been almost completely defeated in Syria, but the U.S. Department of Defense is requesting an increase instead of a decrease in funding to support “Vetted Syrian Opposition,” or fighters in Syria against Syria’s Government, and it refers to these fighters as being part of America’s “strategy to defeat ISIS,” instead of as being what they now obviously are: fighters for regime-change, or to overthrow Syria’s Government (which is headed by its President Bashar al-Assad, who received 89% of the votes cast throughout Syria in the internationally monitored 2014 Presidential election).

The Trump Administration’s “Department of Defense Budget Fiscal Year (FY) 2019” funding-request to Congress calls for “III. Requirements in Syria” of: 
a Coalition campaign to degrade, dismantle, and ultimately defeat ISIS in Syria. One key element of DoD’s strategy to defeat ISIS is to train, equip, sustain, and enable elements of the Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) eligible for support under current law. By the end of FY 2018, these forces are projected to total approximately 60,000 to 65,000; 30,000 to conduct ongoing combat missions against ISIS in the MERV, and 35,000 Internal Security Forces in liberated areas (to provide approximately 20 police/security forces for every 1,000 civilians).
Here is the:

The FY 2019 request fully funds the Syria T[rain]&E[quip/arm] program based on requirements to sustain a 35,000 Internal Security Force together with a 30,000 combat personnel partner forces (as required) to liberate, secure, and defend territory previously controlled by ISIS [but now no longer ISIS-controlled]. The following is a summary of the requirements in Syria by category:

Category FY 2018 Request FY 2019 Request ($ in Millions) [FY2018, then FY2019]

Weapons, Ammunition, Vehicles and Other Equipment $393.3 $162.5

Basic Life Support $6.1 $8.0

Transportation and Staging $40.0 $28.0

Operational Sustainment $60.6 $101.5

TOTAL $500.0 $300.0
In other words: for the 2018 FY, $500 million is being sought, and for the 2019 FY, $300 million is being sought, for this campaign to overthrow Syria’s democratically elected (but in any case legitimate) President, and thus successfully to culminate the former U.S. President Barack Obama’s active military support of Al Qaeda in Syria to achieve this overthrow-objective.

If U.S. air-support is required in this “Coalition campaign” from the United States and its Coalition of the Saud family and other fundamentalist-Sunni Arab oil monarchies, then even a single U.S. plane that could be shot down by enemy fire (either Syrian, or Russian) could cost far more than the $800 million that this budget-request is calling for. Consequently, this is clearly a low-ball figure, which is normal for any Government request for a military invasion and occupation that American voters oppose by two-to-one. This has long been U.S. public sentiment regarding the issue. For example:

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Sept. 5-8, 2013. N=1,002 adults nationwide. Margin of error ± 3.6.

“As you may know the Obama Administration has concluded that the government of Syria used chemical weapons, including nerve gas, to kill over 1,400 civilians last month. Which of the following best describes what you think the U.S. should do in response? Do nothing and stay out of the Syrian civil war. Launch a LIMITED military strike, using only air power, to punish the Syrian government for using chemical weapons. Launch a MORE SUSTAINED military strike, using only air power, to help rebels overthrow the Syrian government. Launch a FULL-SCALE military strike, including both air power and U.S. ground troops, to help rebels overthrow the Syrian government.”


Do nothing

and stay out






Air power

and ground

















Consequently, this is a budget-request that — though it may sail through Congress — is almost certainly opposed by the voters. The only scientific study that has ever been done on the question of whether the preferences of the U.S. electorate correlate at all with the legislation that ends up passing into law in Congress found that there was no significant such correlation but that the preferences of the wealthiest Americans did significantly correlate with what gets passed into law. If wealthy Americans favor continuation and increase of Obama’s military invasion and occupation of Syria, then Trump’s budget-request for this increased invasion-and-occupation there will likely be passed and signed into law by the President, in this ‘democracy’. Certainly, based upon all of the polling, both in the United States and in Syria, the likelihood that Trump will win another term as the U.S. President is lower than that Assad will win another term as Syria’s President, and this isn’t because Syria is a dictatorship and America isn’t. It’s because a far higher percentage of Syria’s voters support their President than the percentage of America’s voters who support our President. That’s what all of the polling, at least up to the present time, shows.

Throughout Trump’s campaign for the White House, he had attacked his ‘opponent’ Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative (i.e., imperialist) foreign-policies, and also President Obama’s neoconservative policies. Even after Trump won election, he said, in a 1 December 2016 rally in Cincinnati, that, “we will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks. Our goal is stability, not chaos because we wanna rebuild our country. It’s time.”

Reprinted with Strategic Culture Foundation.

]]> Fri, 09 Mar 2018 22:38:39 GMT
Double Standards in Libya Richard Galustian

Two weeks ago Interpol issued a Red Notice for the Libyan National Army "Saiqa" Special Forces Major, Mahmoud Werfalli. 

According to the notice, Werfalli is "wanted by the Judicial Authorities of the International Criminal Court."

As to the Werfalla case, the Libya National Army (LNA) had twice announced Werfalla’s questioning and arrest, and his subsequent release twice, amid its own ongoing internal investigation.

But the Red Notice muddies a wider, more complicated picture.

First, what is the nature of Libya’s war? To understand go back to June 2014 when Libya held elections for a new parliament, the House of Representatives (HOR). When the results came in, the Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and allied coalition parties who had controlled the previous parliament, called the General National Congress (GNA), realised they had lost big at the polling booth. 

Like its neighbours, Egypt and Tunisia, Libyans had largely turned their backs on Islamist ideology and Egypt declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. Many describe the Brotherhood as the mother and father of AQ and ISIS.

As a result, extremist Islamist and allied militias, notably from Misrata, rebelled, organising themselves into Libya Dawn, a coalition that battled seven weeks to secure Tripoli. The elected Parliament House of Representatives (HOR) relocated eastwards, setting up in Tobruk and it turned for help to Khalifa Haftar. Haftar’s Libyan National Army had been battling Islamists, including Ansar al Sharia, the group that killed US ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi in 2012, for weeks prior to the elections. Parliament appointed him military commander, a Field Marshall.

His army has since gone from strength to strength. In 2016 it captured the ports and fields of Libya’s Oil Crescent, centre of the country’s oil wealth, ending militia blockades and reopening them to trade, highest oil sales in years. And finally last summer it routed Islamist militants from Benghazi.

Haftar has maintained a hard line stance on how Libya is to be governed. He said there could be no question of militias remaining in control in Tripoli.

That has not gone down well with much of the international community, which wants a peace "coalition" formula to end the civil war. Such a coalition will never happen; its impossible. 

The UN is backing the Tripoli Government of National Accord (GNA), which it helped create and chose the appointments, but the GNA has no on-the-ground Libyan support and has instead allied with the militias Haftar is determined to see dissolved.

Hence for many western diplomats, it is imperative that Haftar, hugely popular in the east for ridding it of militants, goes. They will welcome the indicting one of Khalifa’s senior commanders by a seemingly acquiescent Interpol. 

But the ICC process is grossly flawed, because it is one-sided. The single worst atrocity one might say in Libya was the slaughter at Brak al-Shatti of 140 LNA recruits, unarmed, after being taken prisoner by Islamist forces allied to the GNA last summer. The GNA announced its defence minister Mahdi Al-Bargathi, commander of those troops, had been suspended. 

But the ICC has issued no indictment. Why the double standard?

Such an indictment would pose grave problems for UN support for the GNA if it failed to hand over Bargathi and those troops who carried out that Brak al-Shatti massacre. 

Practically, it would make it politically impossible for the U.N. to continue to support the GNA. The ICC has not commented about why it did not investigate the Brak al-Shatti massacre and many known Libyan based terrorists, but two things are clear. 

The first is that war crimes justice only works when all sides are under inspection. The second is that when war crimes justice is not impartial, the whole project is undermined. This is the ICC’s failure.

As to peace in Libya, this can only be achieved with help of the neighbouring countries and especially from Russia and UAE both of whom are completing their own air bases in East Libya.

The West and its institutions have discredited themselves and lied once too often.

Copyright: Richard Galustian.]]> Fri, 09 Mar 2018 15:09:23 GMT
Google And Geek Squad: Arms Of The Deep State? Daniel McAdams
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The US Ponders a Strike Against Syrian Government Forces: What’s Behind This Aggressive Approach? Peter Korzun

The US is considering the option of military action against Syria. The alleged use of chemical weapons (CW) by the Syrian government, which is not backed by any solid evidence, is to serve as the pretext. Syrian President Assad is going to be “punished.” On March 6, US President Trump and Israeli PM Netanyahu discussed the threat posed by Iran’s presence in Syria and ways to counter it.

Chemical weapons? But why should Syria’s President Assad use them if he has had no trouble winning with conventional weapons wherever he goes? Couldn’t the rebels be using CW? Instances of that have been uncovered and confirmed. But no, US officials don’t even bother to give a passing thought to such “unimportant and irrelevant” considerations. They know better who to blame and who deserves to be made to pay for the wrongdoings they believe have taken place. In April, 2017, the US delivered a missile strike against a Syrian military facility, in flagrant violation of international law.

It’s worth noting that a group of US senators visited Israel in late February. According to them, a conflict between Israel and the pro-Iranian forces in southern Lebanon was imminent and that fighting would likely encompass Syria as well. Israel has been increasing its support of proxy groups in Syria recently.

Senator Lindsey Graham believes that Tehran is “testing” the US and Israel and that the administration is not doing enough to push back against Iran in Syria and throughout the Middle East.

On Feb. 28, just three days before Israeli PM Netanyahu arrived in the US on March 4, Fox News offered its audience an exclusive report on a military base being built by Iran in Syria. It claimed this information was evidence that Tehran was preparing for a permanent presence in the country. The story was presented as a real scoop and the timing was carefully chosen. The report plays into the hands of both the administration and as well as those in Congress who are calling for a more resolute stand on Syria.

Israel enjoys almost unlimited US backing, which forces America to become involved directly or indirectly in the hostilities. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would order airstrikes against Syria if the use of CW were confirmed.

Israel is a privileged ally but it’s not only Israeli security that drives American policy. And it’s not so much Syria but Iran the US has in its crosshairs. If America allows Iran a land bridge linking it to the Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, this will frustrate its main Middle East allies – the Persian Gulf monarchies. Lebanon will leave the sphere of Western influence. The tensions between Sunni Arab states and Iran boost US arms sales to rich Middle Eastern countries, which is hugely profitable. Thus a belligerent stand toward Tehran allows America to preserve its political clout in a region where its policy has been such a disaster in recent years.

It will be too hard to reach any agreement on the recently discovered offshore gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, which are a bone of contention between Israel and Lebanon. And the gas exports from these fields could diminish or eliminate the need to import Russian gas to Southern Europe, which would kill the prospects for the Turkish Stream project. Without Iran, Lebanon could be pressured into an agreement on terms dictated by Israel and America’s European allies.

With access to the Mediterranean, Iran could build naval bases that would threaten the NATO naval forces there. The ability to ship exports by sea would boost Iran’s income, making the country richer and more powerful.

Attacking Syrian forces to force a retreat will reduce Moscow’s influence and hamper the diplomatic efforts to bring peace to Syria that have been so successful recently. So-called “rebel groups,” so recently and spectacularly defeated, will reemerge as a force to be reckoned with. From Washington’s perspective, a divided Syria with vast swaths under the control of pro-US and Israel-backed groups is better than a united country in which the West can take part in the peace talks but not as a party that controls territory or exerts significant influence on the balance of power.

Inventing a reason to use force against Syria is a way to fight Iran and roll Russia back. This is a very dangerous policy. As a result, Syria will become a battlefield where powerful actors clash in their pursuit of strategic goals. That will be much worse than fighting jihadists. This scenario can be avoided through diplomatic efforts headed by Russia with the input of all. That’s what Moscow is talking about but the US does not listen. There were times when the US ignored Moscow’s concerns about Russia’s security. On March 2, Russian President Putin unveiled information about the new super weapons Russia alone possesses in the world today. In this same manner Washington may find that participating in Moscow-sponsored peace initiatives is a much better way to settle the Syrian conflict than instigating tensions as it is now doing, but it may already be too late.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.]]> Thu, 08 Mar 2018 14:58:45 GMT