Sat, 24 Jun 2017 14:16:43 GMT Sat, 24 Jun 2017 14:16:43 GMT Tyranny at Home to Fight Tyranny Abroad Jacob G. Hornberger

President Trump has reminded us of how the US government destroyed the liberty of the American people in the name of fighting tyranny abroad. Exercising the same dictatorial method that his predecessors have employed — executive decrees — he has made it illegal again for most Americans to travel to Cuba and spend money there.

Trump’s justification? The communist regime in Cuba is tyrannical and engages in human-rights abuses.

Think about that for a moment: A foreign regime is tyrannical and so what does a US president do? Through a decree-law, he imposes his own tyranny on his own citizenry by punishing Americans who travel to Cuba or do business there.

Let’s not forget, after all, that the US embargo on Cuba is, first and foremost, an attack on the freedom of the American people. That’s the way it has been since the very beginning of the embargo more than 50 years ago. If an American traveled to Cuba and spent money there, he didn’t need to fear the communists. He needed to fear federal investigators, prosecutors, and judges, who would have him indicted, prosecuted, convicted, and sent to federal jail for a long time.

Who’s the tyrant here?

After all, freedom of travel has always been considered one of the most fundamental natural, God-given rights of man. And as we libertarians have long held, so is economic liberty — the natural, God-given right of people to dispose of their own money any way they want.

Natural, God-given rights are rights with which no government — not even the US government — can legitimately infringe upon. Such rights preexist government. It is the solemn duty of government to protect such rights, not destroy them. That’s the central message expressed in the US Declaration of Independence, whose anniversary Americans will be celebrating on the Fourth of July.

But destroy is precisely what President Trump and the US embargo do to the liberty of the American people. In name of fighting communism in Cuba, they do precisely what the communist regime in Cuba does — they destroy the freedom of their own citizenry.

That was the way it was throughout the Cold War. After World War II, US officials told Americans that they now faced a more dangerous enemy than Nazi Germany. This new official enemy, they said, was communism and the communist Soviet Union.

Never mind, of course that they had just finished partnering with, befriending, and supporting the Soviet Union for some four years of World War II. That didn’t matter, US officials said, because the Reds were supposedly now hell-bent on coming to get us through a worldwide communist conspiracy supposedly based in Russia.

That’s how we ended up with the NSA, an agency whose mission of surveillance over the American people is no different in principle from that of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany and the KGB in the Soviet Union.

It’s how we ended up with a government that wields the power to torture people brutally, the same power of torture wielded by the Nazis and the communists in the Soviet Union, Red China, Vietnam, North Korea, and elsewhere.

It’s how we ended up with a government that wields the power to detain people indefinitely in military dungeons, secret prison centers, and concentration camps, just like in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Red China, and elsewhere.

It’s how we ended up living under a regime that wields the same power of assassination that was wielded by the Nazis and every communist regime in the world.

It’s how we ended up living under a regime in which the legislative and judicial branches are scared to death to interfere with anything the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA do in the name of “national security.”

No matter how much Americans have convinced themselves that they are still a free people, there is no way to reconcile freedom with such totalitarian powers. Such powers destroyed freedom, not only in Germany, Russia, China, North Korea, and North Vietnam, but also right here in the United States.

All because the commies (and, later, the terrorists, and, later, the Muslims, or ISIS, or drug dealers, or whoever) were supposedly coming to get us. That’s how Americans lost their freedom at the hands of their own government. The government convinced them that if they didn’t trade away their liberty for the aura of security, they would end up under the control and dominion of the Reds or others.

That’s the major way that people throughout history have lost their liberty. Frightened by crises or threats, most of which were caused by their own governments, people willingly surrendered their liberty in the hopes of being kept safe and secure from the crises or the threats.

People who have made that trade, however, have always found that it was a fool’s bargain, one in which they found themselves neither free nor secure. Instead, they have always found themselves in the position of compliant, obedient, submissive, and deferential serfs whose lives and livelihoods depend on the beneficence and largess of their rulers.

Why should every American be angry, indignant, and outraged over President Trump’s actions on Cuba and, for that matter, the entire US embargo against Cuba?

Because every American should be placing the highest value on his own liberty. His mindset should be that same as the mindset of those men who signed the Declaration of Independence against their own government, whose officials were doing the same types of things against their citizens that Trump is doing against his citizens.

The mindset of every American toward President Trump this Fourth of July — and, for that matter, every other day of the year — should be: No matter how much tyranny or oppression there is in Cuba or anywhere else, you are not going to take away my freedom here at home. I have the right to travel anywhere I want and spend my money any way I want. These are rights endowed in me by nature and nature’s God. And neither you nor any other federal official is going to destroy my freedom, not even in the name of fighting tyranny abroad.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Sat, 24 Jun 2017 14:16:43 GMT
Snowden Part Two: Edward Interviews Ron! Daniel McAdams interview last week with Edward Snowden ended, Edward asked Ron Paul a question while the cameras were still rolling that was so important and interesting that with his permission we decided to release the "after credit sequence." Why so important? As a former intelligence analyst and operative, Snowden wondered how well the intelligence community had done in its mission to keep US policymakers informed on important world events. Congressman Ron Paul had for more than two decades been theoretically a "consumer" of the intelligence community's products. Were they helpful? Listen to Dr. Paul's answer in the segment...

]]> Sat, 24 Jun 2017 13:58:15 GMT
The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused Moon of Alabama

After the crown prince of the Austia-Hungary monarchy Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot and killed in Sarajevo the government of Austria waited three weeks to issue a 10 point ultimatum to Serbia which it held responsible for the incident. At least three of those points concerned the suppression of "propaganda against Austria-Hungary" and the Austrian Monarchy by private and state entities. It demanded a response within two days:
Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, commented that he had "never before seen one State address to another independent State a document of so formidable a character."
The Austrian ultimatum was an offer to be refused. But Serbia did not fall into that trap. It conceded on everything but two minor points. This was to no avail. The issues and plans Austria had were not about the assassination of [the disliked] Franz Ferdinand or the demands issued in the ultimatum. Two days later Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. Allies jumped to either side. World War I had started.

The now official demands by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some minor Gulf sheikdoms against Qatar have a similar smell to them. They are also "an offer to be refused."

The demands come late, three weeks after Saudi Arabia first accused Qatar of "supporting terrorism", three weeks after it closed the border and laid siege on the country.

(Qatar is surly "supporting terrorism". So is the US - the US Citizenship and Immigration Services just rejected an asylum request because the person in question has relations with the Free Syrian Army which it considers to be an "undesignated terrorist organization". The CIA built and supports the FSA. But the biggest terrorist sponsors of all are and have been the Saudis.)

Spats between member of the Gulf Cooperation Council are usually mediated by the US government. But without any official demands issued against Qatar there was nothing to mediate about. Three day ago US Department of State finally issued a rather angry statementtowards Saudi Arabia:
"We are mystified that the Gulf states have not released to the public, nor to the Qataris, the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar," explained State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday. 
"At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns about Qatar's alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries?" Nauert asked.
The real issue for Saudi Arabia is the support for the Muslim Brotherhood by Qatar. The MB provides an alternative model of Islamic government to the hereditary kingdoms of the Gulf sheiks. They are a danger to the Saudi ruling family. A second point are Qatar's relative good relations with Iran, the external enemy the Saudis (and Israeli) rulers need to keep their people in line.

summary of the thirteen points:
In effect, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain are asking Qatar to hand over control of its foreign policy to them. It will not be allowed to have diplomatic relations with Iran and its contact with Iran will be limited to trade and commerce that “complies with US and international sanctions”. Qatar will not be allowed contact with political opposition figures in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — even though other countries (including western countries) do so routinely. In addition, Qatar is being asked to hand over all its files on those opposition groups. 
Qatar is also being asked to “end interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs” while allowing Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc, apparently unlimited interference in Qatar’s own affairs. Qatar, according to the list of demands, must “align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically”.

Then there’s the closure of Qatar’s TV station, al-Jazeera. Obviously, the Saudis, Emiratis, etc, don’t like it. ... Qatar is also told to stop funding several other news organisations, including Middle East Eye and al-Arabi al-Jadeed (also available in English as The New Arab). 
Finally, Qatar is being asked to sign blank cheque covering “reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years”.
The Saudi ultimatum ends on July 3, the anniversary of the Saudi sponsored military coup against the Qatar backed Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. One demand in the ultimatum is for Qatar to end all support for the Brotherhood. The ultimatum will likely be rejected. Qatar will simply not respond until the Saudis and others lift their blockade of the country.

If the Saudis want war they should launch it right away, the Qatari ruler thinks. Doha is sure that the US will not allow that. Ten-thousand US troops are stationed in Qatar. It hosts a major air base and the important Central Command, which leads the war against ISIS and Syria. Qatar just bought US fighter jets for $12 billion and is offering to take a 10% share of American Airlines.

Turkish troops have arrived to protect the sheikdom. One unexpected Saudi demand is that all Turkish troops leave Qatar. The Erdogan government, a Muslim Brotherhood branch,responded with a snippy "Make me do so."
Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Işık rejected the demand, saying any call for the base to be shut would represent interference in Ankara’s relations with Doha. He suggested instead that Turkey might bolster its presence.
There is no "or else" in the Saudi ultimatum. The Saudi ruler, the clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, is not a strategist. He likely has not thought through what he could do should Qatar says "no" to him.

The Trump administration is considering a Camp David-style summit to solve the conflict.
“The president now wants to bring all the key players to Washington,” he said. “They need to disavow groups like the [Muslim] Brotherhood for the stability of the Middle East at large. It’s not just about Qatari elements funding the Brotherhood but disavowing support for extremism in general,” [a senior White House official] said.
The real issue for the Trump administration is to unite the GCC behind his plans against Iran. There is only a small chance that such can be achieved. Iran is an important commercial partner for Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Oman. Those countries have nothing to win from any war with it.

So far Iran is the sole winner of the GCC spat. Should the Saudi blockade of Qatar continue Iran's farmers will sell over 400,000 tons of food per year to Qatar. Steel and concrete are other potential exports products for Iran. Lucrative air traffic in Iranian air space has increased by 17 percent since the Saudis blocked Qatar Airlines flights through their airspace. Iran will sell more natural gas should Qatar's gas exports be damaged.

As longer this goes on as better for Iran and its allies. The Saudis and Emiratis surely did not think of this when they launched their belligerent plans. The had hoped that Qatar would fold within a day or two. One or two years is now the more likely time frame.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:38:33 GMT
Groundhog Day in Iraq? Nope, Worse Peter Van Buren

It’s a helluva question: “Tell me how this ends.”

It was a good question in 2003 when then Major General David Petraeus asked it as the United States invaded Iraq, an ironic one in 2011 when the US withdrew, worth revisiting in 2014 when the US reinvaded Iraq, and again in 2017 as Islamic State appears to be on its way out. Problem is we still don’t have a good answer. It could be Groundhog Day all over again in Iraq, or it could be worse.

Groundhog Day

The Groundhog Day argument, that little has changed from 2003 until now, is quite persuasive. Just look at the headlines. A massive Ramadan car bomb exploded not just in Baghdad, but in Karada, its wealthiest neighborhood, during a holiday period of heightened security, and all just outside the Green Zone were the American Embassy remains hunkered down like a medieval castle. Islamic State, like al Qaeda before it, can penetrate the heart of the capital city, even after the fall of their home base in Fallujah (2004, 2016.) Meanwhile, Mosul is under siege (2004, 2017.) Iranian forces are on the ground supporting the Baghdad central government. The Kurds seek their own state. American troops are deep in the fighting and taking casualties. The Iraqi Prime Minister seems in control at best only of the Shia areas of his country. Groundhog Day.

But maybe this time around, in what some call Iraq War 3.0, we do know how it ends.

Not Groundhog Day

It seems unlikely anyone will be able to get the toothpaste of Kurdish independence back into the tube. A functional confederacy since soon after the American invasion of 2003, Kurdish national forces have linked with Kurdish militias, albeit with American help, across the width of northern Iraq, from the Iranian border in the east into Turkey and Syria in the west. This is in large part the land mass traditionally thought of as Kurdistan.

The Trump administration is for the first time overtly arming Kurdish militias in Syria (some of whom the Turks consider terrorists) to fight Islamic State, without much plan in mind about how to de-arm them when they turn towards the Turks who hold parts of their ancestral homeland. That may not even be a valid question; the ties that bound the United States and Turkey during Iraq War 2.0 appear significantly weakened following Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s coup. His authoritarian government seems far less a valued NATO partner in 2017 than it was even a few years ago. Though the US may require the Kurds to maintain some sort of fictional relationship with the country of “Iraq” to preserve the illusion of a unified nation for American domestic consumption, the key question is whether the Kurds will go to war with Turkey somewhere in the process, and whether the US will choose a side.

Any reluctance on the part of the United States during Iraq War 2.0 to act as a restraining force on the Shia central government’s empowering of militias (gifted the Orwellian name of Popular Mobilization Units) disappeared when the Iraqi National Army dropped its weapons and ran from Islamic State in 2014. Those militias — only loosely allied with one another, and even less tied to the central government — now carry the bulk of the responsibility for the fight against Islamic State. Many owe their primary allegiance to Iran, who helps arm them, command them, and by some accounts supplements their efforts with special forces dispatched from Tehran. These militias, empowered by the Iranian help now offered openly as America shrugs its shoulders at expediency, are unlikely to be interested in any kind of Sunni-Shia unified Iraq post-Islamic State. It will be near impossible to demobilize them. Indeed, holding them back from committed a Sunni genocide will be the likely challenge in the near future.

The Iraqi government “victories” over Islamic State in Sunni strongholds like Ramadi and Fallujah have left little for those not sent off as internal refugees. Large swathes of Sunni territory lay in ruins, with no clear plan to rebuild in sight. A political officer at the American Embassy would likely tell you the problem is that neither the US nor Iraq will have the funds anytime in the foreseeable future. A Sunni tribal leader would likely spit on the ground and explain the Shia central government wouldn’t spend a dime if it had a dollar, and will settle for a slow-motion genocide of the Sunni people if the Americans won’t allow a quick one at Shia gunpoint. No matter; the desolation of Sunni areas is severe, regardless of the cause.

Iraq will be a Shia nation with extraordinary ties to Iran. With no small amount of irony, the price Iraq and Iran will be forced to pay for America, and Israel, titularly accepting this will likely be permanent American military bases inside Iraq (don’t laugh until you remember Guantanamo in Soviet-dominated Cuba, or Hong Kong nestled in Communist China), mostly out of sight way out west with more interest in Syria than Iran. America has wanted those bases since the early days of Iraq War 2.0, and Iran has nothing to gain by picking a fight with the United States. They get the rest of Iraq, after all.

What happens to the bulk of Iraqi Sunnis is less certain, though the menu is all bad news. World media optics suggest it is in everyone’s interests that any mass slaughter be avoided; Iran in particular would have no interest in giving President Trump or an angry Congress an excuse to get more involved in Iraq’s internal affairs. With the US bases most likely to be located in western Iraqi Sunni homelands, it may be that the tribes find themselves the unofficial beneficiaries of American protection. Those permanent American bases, and the safety they provide, might also keep the successor to Islamic State from moving into a power vacuum the way Islamic State did when al Qaeda found it had outstayed its welcome among the Sunni population.

This is the End

Tell me how this ends? A defacto divided Sunni-Shia-Kurd “Iraq” with stronger ties to Iran than the United States. The only unanswered question will be if the value of that ending is worth the cost of some 14 years of American combat, close to 4,500 American dead, and trillions of taxpayer dollars spent.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:54:39 GMT
How America Armed Terrorists In Syria Gareth Porter

Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them.  Equally important, it would prohibit US military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a US policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power.  And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups—meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.

That policy, ostensibly aimed at helping replace the Assad regime with a more democratic alternative, has actually helped build up al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise al Nusra Front into the dominant threat to Assad.

The supporters of this arms-supply policy believe it is necessary as pushback against Iranian influence in Syria. But that argument skirts the real issue raised by the policy’s history.  The Obama administration’s Syria policy effectively sold out the US interest that was supposed to be the touchstone of the “Global War on Terrorism”—the eradication of al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates. The United States has instead subordinated that U.S. interest in counter-terrorism to the interests of its Sunni allies. In doing so it has helped create a new terrorist threat in the heart of the Middle East.

The policy of arming military groups committed to overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in September 2011, when President Barack Obama was pressed by his Sunni allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—to supply heavy weapons to a military opposition to Assad they were determined to establish. Turkey and the Gulf regimes wanted the United States to provide anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels, according to a former Obama Administration official involved in Middle East issues.

Obama refused to provide arms to the opposition, but he agreed to provide covert US logistical help in carrying out a campaign of military assistance to arm opposition groups. CIA involvement in the arming of anti-Assad forces began with arranging for the shipment of weapons from the stocks of the Gaddafi regime that had been stored in Benghazi. CIA-controlled firms shipped the weapons from the military port of Benghazi to two small ports in Syria using former US military personnel to manage the logistics, as investigative reporter Sy Hersh detailed in 2014. The funding for the program came mainly from the Saudis.

Fair Use Excerpt. Read the rest of the article here.]]> Thu, 22 Jun 2017 23:27:01 GMT
Russia/Iran Sanctions Delayed In House: Policy Change...or Deep State Pressure? Daniel McAdams
]]> Thu, 22 Jun 2017 18:28:37 GMT
Ron Paul: ‘US Should Mind its Own Business; It Shouldn’t be in Syria’ RT

The US has no right to fly into Syrian airspace where it shouldn’t be and set boundaries but should mind its own business. Otherwise, it is an act of aggression, says former US Congressman Ron Paul.

The US fighter jet downed an armed drone belonging to pro-Syrian government forces in southern Syria, near a base in the al-Tanf region, on June, 20 as the drone was advancing on US-backed forces, according to a coalition statement.

This is happening at a time of escalating tension between Moscow and Washington. Also on Tuesday, Australia said it is temporarily suspending air operations in Syria.

RT discussed the latest developments in Syria with former US Congressman Ron Paul.

RT: Australia halted its cooperation. How significant is this development? Why did they do it?

Ron Paul: I think that is good. Maybe wise enough, I wish we could do the same thing – just come home. It just makes no sense; there’s a mess over there. So many people are involved, the neighborhood ought to take care of it, and we have gone too far away from our home. It has been going on for too long, and it all started when Obama in 2011 said: “Assad has to go.” And now as the conditions deteriorate …it looks like Assad and his allies are winning, and the US don’t want them to take Raqqa. This just goes on and on. I think it is really still the same thing that Obama set up – “Get rid of Assad” and there is a lot of frustration because Assad is still around and now it is getting very dangerous, it is dangerous on both sides. One thing that I am concerned about - because I’ve seen it happen so often over the years are false flags. Some accidents happen. Even if it is an honest accident or it is deliberate by one side or the other to blame somebody. And before they stop and think about it, then there is more escalation. When our planes are flying over there and into airspace where we shouldn’t be, and we are setting up boundaries and say “don’t cross these lines or you will be crossing our territory.” We have no right to do this. We should mind our own business; we shouldn’t be over there, when we go over there and decide that we are going to take over, it is an act of aggression, and I am positively opposed to that. And I think most Americans are too if they get all the information they need.

RT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that he wanted to ask his American counterpart why the US-led coalition isn’t targeting Al-Nusra in Syria. What sort of answer do you think he’ll get?

RP: I think it will be wishy-washy. He’ll probably think it is in their interests not to do anything to damage the radicals, the extremists, the rebels because I think that our government thinks that they could be helpful in undermining Assad. I don’t think they are going to say “Yeah, they are our buddies now, we consult with them all the time.” It won’t be that. They’ll argue “We have to help the Kurds out” or something along those lines and make excuses. I think that there’s a net benefit to the radicals for us to get involved there and it is not helpful in the long run for our position which ought to try to bring about peace.

The propaganda the American people hear is such that they get them pretty excited about it, but I am very confident that if the American people had more information…because when I talk to them, they side with my arguments. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be doing what we are doing, and that’s why I persist in trying to get to the facts but trying to eliminate the danger, try to obey international law, try to do the things that are in our best interest. And if we are talking about America’s interest – it isn’t helped by our policy in the Middle East for the last 15-20 years, I think it has all been negative.

Reprinted with permission from RT.

]]> Wed, 21 Jun 2017 20:32:47 GMT
Paul Ryan's Tax 'Reform' -- Beware! Daniel McAdams
]]> Wed, 21 Jun 2017 17:53:16 GMT
Our Rush to War in Syria -- It’s a Disaster in the Making Justin Raimondo

The downing of a Syrian fighter jet by the United States – and, more recently, of an Iranian drone – augurs a confrontation that could take us down the road to World War III. The US media is echoing the Pentagon’s explanation, which is that the Syrian jet bombed (or was threatening to bomb) units of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) around the town of Tanf. The Syrians say they were attacking forces aligned with ISIS, which both the US and the Syrian government are supposedly fighting.

The reality is that there is no such entity as the “Syrian Democratic Forces.” There are only loosely aligned groups, factions and splinters of factions, which proliferate seemingly on a daily basis in a mosaic of ethno-religious-ideological conflicts that reflect the chaos that has enveloped that country. The failure of the US to unite these various factions into the so-called Free Syrian Army – large units of which kept defecting to the various radical Islamist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda – led to an explosion of smaller groups centered around local, tribal, ethnic, and religious affiliations. The SDF is an attempt to solder these groups together in a military force capable of fighting and defeating the “Caliphate” established by ISIS – an effort that is far less successful than it seems.

The main military component of the SDF is the People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel/YPG), consisting of about 45,000 fighters, including the all-female unit. The YPG is the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, a far-leftist formation which adheres to the “democratic confederalist” vision of Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Ocalan, who in turn credits anarcho-communist theoretician Murray Bookchin as his inspiration. The YPG is the official army of “Rojava,” a non-contiguous union of Kurdish-controlled territories that is supposedly secular, egalitarian, and socialist. However, the alleged ideals of this ostensibly leftist configuration haven’t always translated into practice: the YPG regularly enforces conscription on areas under its control, seizing property and persecuting Assyrian and Armenian Christians, and engaging in ethnic cleansing of Arab villages. The YPG is viewed by Arabs as a separatist movement, while the Arabs oppose any effort to divide Syria along ethnic lines. As a result, there is considerable hostility between the Arab fighters, organizing in tribal and regional outfits, and the Kurds, despite American efforts to unify these groups into a grand anti-ISIS coalition.

Another source of internecine conflict is the YPG’s relationship with the Syrian government and its allies: while Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad has persecuted the Kurds in the past, he has also supported them at various times against their Turkish enemies, and Syrian government forces have voluntarily withdrawn from YPG-controlled areas in order to concentrate their fire on the Islamist fundamentalists who were threatening Damascus.

Operating under the rubric of the SDF are several Islamist groups formerly affiliated with ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other jihadist outfits. Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa (Front of Raqqa Revolutionaries) is one of the founding groups of the SDF: they were formerly allied with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, but supposedly split away when Nusra moved closer to ISIS. However, the ideology, aims, and tactics of the group have not changed: its “split” with al-Nusra was over tactical and control issues. The “Raqqa Revolutionaries” are still fighting to establish an Islamic state in Syria under Sharia law, with their main goal being the destruction of the Syrian government in Damascus: they have simply changed their strategy, which is now to ally with the American-sponsored coalition.

The US air strikes in southern Syria, near the town of Tanf, which hit a Syrian fighter jet, were in defense of three American-backed groups: Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra, a jihadist group trained by the US and the Jordanians, the "Ahmad Abdo Martyrs," another jihadist group with murky origins and financing, and the “Lions of the East Army,” formerly a part of the “Authenticity and Development Front,” a Saudi-funded alliance of groups that included the Nour al-Din al-Zenki grouplet responsible for the beheading of a young Palestinian boy. They have also fought alongside al-Nusra: see here for their links to al-Qaeda as well as Turkey.

The Syrian government rightly considers these groups in the same category as al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, and ISIS, and seeks to eliminate them wherever they exist. Thus we see that the conflicting claims coming out of Damascus and Washington – with the former saying they are attacking “terrorists,” while the latter insists it will defend its “allies” – are not really in conflict, because the US is indeed actively supporting terrorists in Syria.

In short, these groups – which the US military is defending against the Syrian army – are the “radical Islamic terrorists” that President Trump continually rails against. So why are we aiding and protecting them?

Looking at the ultimate defeat of ISIS as a foregone conclusion, all the regional powers with proxy forces in Syria are seeking to dominate the country once the Caliphate is consigned to history’s dustbin. The Syrian government, along with their Russian and Iranian allies, look to the restoration of control by Damascus over the entire territory of Syria. The Saudis look to their jihadist outfits to establish an Islamic state after Assad is deposed. The Qataris are backing their own jihadists, notably al-Nusra, and the Turks have their proxies among the Islamist groups in the northern part of the country, as well as the Turkmen militias, which they hope will block the Kurds from establishing a Kurdish state on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Stuck in the midst of this four-sided civil war is the United States, with no real policy, and with its military strategy ceded to commanders on the ground – who are pursuing the same course set by the previous administration, i.e. canoodling with radical Islamists bent on regime change in Damascus. In alliance with the Saudis, the British, the Israelis, and the Jordanians, Washington is seemingly still determined to oust Assad and establish a Sunni regime in Damascus.

The real goal of this strategy – which seems entirely contradictory to Trump’s campaign pledges to stay out of Syria, and cut off aid to Islamist rebel groups – is a looming confrontation with Iran. Trump has always been vehemently anti-Iranian, and his recent trip to Saudi Arabia reinforced his headlong rush into a collision course with Tehran. There is currently a debate going on within the administration over how far to take this: for the moment, the radical anti-Iranian faction seems to have lost out. Yet the ultimate outcome of the fight remains to be seen – because with Donald J. Trump in the drivers’ seat, you never know what will happen next.

The Russians, for their part, have declared that any and all planes flying over Syrian territory will be considered “targets” – and this underscores the seriousness of the threat we are now facing. We are a single incident away from a major conflagration that could drag in all the powers now feasting on the carcass of Syria.

And it’s all because of an American President who was elected on a pledge to stay out of Syria, stop funding radical Islamist terrorists in the region, and who often asked “Wouldn’t it be nice if we got along with Russia?”

Trump has entered the upside-down realm of Bizarro World: he’s inverted most of his foreign policy positions. Instead of détente with Russia, we are pursuing a policy of confrontation. Instead of putting America first, we are putting Saudi Arabia first. Rather than concentrate on pulling this country out of the economic doldrums, the Trump administration is rushing headlong into yet another major war in the Middle East.

While the complete reversal of Trump’s foreign policy stances as expressed on the campaign trail seems inexplicable on the surface, it is perfectly in accord with what I call the theory of libertarian realism: the view that there is no real line of demarcation between foreign and domestic policy, and that all foreign policy is the result of domestic political pressures and the desire of the group in power to retain and expand that power.

Trump is now harried by the phony “Russia-gate” scandal, which depicts him as a pawn of the Kremlin: therefore he is acting in a way that would discredit that charge, maintaining and even expanding sanctions on Russia while confronting Moscow and its allies in Syria. How could he possibly be “Putin’s puppet,” as Hillary Clinton put it, if he’s defying Russian threats to shoot down our planes?

Another factor to consider is the influence of the Israel lobby. Israel has been giving covert support to the Syrian rebels, and their spokesmen have openly preferred the Islamist rebels (including ISIS) to Assad, Israel’s historic enemy. Engaged in an increasingly open alliance with Riyadh, Tel Aviv benefits if Syria is turned into a version of Lebanon – hopelessly divided along ethno-religious lines. Both Hezbollah and Iran are siding with Assad – and if the Israelis can maneuver the US into fighting them, well then all the better.

Here is yet another crisis that has been caused and ratcheted up by our alleged “allies,” who have succeeded in getting the US to front for their interests. As for American interests, they don’t come into the equation. So much for “America first.”

Reprinted with permission from]]> Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:16:45 GMT
Supreme Court Rules Overwhelmingly To Strike Down 'Disparagement Clause' Used To Bar Offensive Trademarks Jonathan Turley

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major victory for free speech on Monday in striking down a provision of the Lanham Act that barred registration for “disparaging” trademarks.  The decision came in Matal v. Tam, a case that we have been following. I have previously written about my disagreement with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision to rescind federal trademark protections for the Redskins as a racially disparaging name. As predicted, the ruling answered  the question raised in the prior column in controversies like the denying of trademark protection to the Washington Redskins.  The decision is good news for Washington’s NFL team, which lost its trademark because its name is disparaging to Native Americans.

Tam is the “front man” for the Asian-American rock band The Slants and, in 2010, filed an application seeking to register the mark THE SLANTS.  Tam’s group called itself the Slants because it wanted to “reclaim” and “take ownership” of stereotypes about Asians.

The Lanham Act provision, known as the “disparagement clause,” bans the registration of a trademark that may disparage “persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”  I have been highly critical of the provision for years in both columns and testimony before Congress.  Now it is gone but I remain perplexed how Congress failed to act on the matter to protect free speech for so many years.  One obvious reason is that many legislators lined up praising the denial of trademarks as entirely proper.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi celebrated the denial of the trademark, which clearly contravened free speech protections.  Sen. Harry Reid not only praised the action but predicted that the Redskins name would be gone within three years. That was in 2014.  Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell said, “We’re so excited to know that finally people are recognizing that this issue can no longer be a business case for the NFL to use this patent.”

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has shown the faith and fealty for free speech that is so conspicuously absent in Congress.  Justice Samuel Alito wrote. “It applies equally to marks that damn Democrats and Republicans, capitalists and socialists, and those arrayed on both sides of every possible issue. It denies registration to any mark that is offensive to a substantial percentage of the members of any group. But in the sense relevant here, that is viewpoint discrimination: Giving offense is a viewpoint.”   Alito added: “The commercial market is well stocked with merchandise that disparages prominent figures and groups, and the line between commercial and non-commercial speech is not always clear, as this case illustrates,” Alito added. “If affixing the commercial label permits the suppression of any speech that may lead to political or social ‘volatility,’ free speech would be endangered.”

That was a view shared by eight out of nine justices — showing just how far these members and commentators were outside of the lines for free speech.  The Redskins should now be in a good position to dismiss the earlier ruling on its trademark. The matter will remain where it should have been left: to the court of public opinion.

The seven other members of the court agreed that the provision amounted to viewpoint discrimination, though four of the justices wrote separately to state that the holding made it unnecessary to give extended treatment to other questions raised by the parties.

In the separate opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said the registration had been denied not because the Slants intended to demean or offend, but because the government thought the trademark would have that effect on some Asian-Americans.

“The government may not insulate a law from charges of viewpoint discrimination by tying censorship to the reaction of the speaker’s audience,” Kennedy wrote.

All eight justices agreed that trademarks are not government speech, which would have required a different analysis.

Here is the opinion: Matal v. Tam

Reprinted with permission from]]> Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:51:11 GMT
Self-Defense Is No Defense for US Acts of War in Syria Finian Cunningham

The shooting down of a Syrian fighter jet by US forces this week comes on the back of several aggressive actions by American military on the ground. Taken together the US actions mark an alarming escalation of intervention in the Syrian war – to the point where the Americans can be said to be now openly at war against Syria.

The American military actions also come despite repeated warnings from Russia against such unilateral deployment of force. Following the shoot-down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced the American violence as an act of "flagrant aggression" against a sovereign state. Some Russian lawmakers such as Duma foreign affairs chief Alexei Pushkov went further and condemned it as an act of war by the Americans.

Of course, Washington’s logic is riddled with absurdity. To claim that its forces are acting in self-defense overlooks the glaring reality that the US-led military coalition has no legal mandate whatsoever to be in Syria in the first place. Its forces are in breach of international law by operating on Syrian territory without the consent of the government in Damascus and without a mandate from the UN Security Council.

Another absurdity is the claim that the US forces are "protecting" militants whom they are supposedly training to "fight" the Islamic State terror group (ISIS). On at least three occasions over the past month, American military have carried out air strikes on Syrian government forces and their allies near a strategically important border crossing between Syria and Iraq. The Americans claim that the Syrian government forces were posing a threat to a military base at Al Tanf on the Syrian side of the border where they are training militants belonging to a group called Maghawir al Thawra.

The Pentagon claims that these militants are being trained to "fight and defeat" ISIS. The installation last week of long-range artillery batteries known as HIMARS at Al Tanf was justified as a self-defense measure. US Colonel Ryan Dillon said: "We have increased our military footprint and are prepared for any threat that is presented to us by the pro-regime forces."

As with the shooting down of the Syrian fighter jet this week, American forces are invoking "self-defense" as a legal rationale. But as Moscow has pointed out, the Americans have no legal right to be present on Syrian territory and then, secondly, to be unilaterally declaring "deconfliction zones" for what are de facto invasive forces.

A further nail to the American lie is exposed when the nature of the militant group is looked at more closely. Unverified video footage showing the US-backed militants at Al Tanf indicates that they are another brand of jihadist terrorism. The videos show Maghawir al Thawra militants repeatedly shouting the jihadist slogan "allu akbar." They are also equipped with the notorious top-of-the-range white Toyota land cruisers that other jihadist groups have obtained through funding by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies.

Syrian sources have confirmed to this author that the group displayed in the videos is indeed the Maghawir al Thawra and that they are unquestionably jihadist. Yet this is the same group that the US has openly declared to be training at its military base at Al Tanf to "fight and defeat ISIS," and which the US is supposedly "protecting" from advancing Syrian army units and their allies.

What’s more, it is reported that in addition to American forces at Al Tanf, there are British and other NATO troops, as well as those from two other Arab states. This amounts to a full-scale US-NATO intervention in the Syrian war – an intervention which seems to be clearly on the side of jihadist terror groups.

After the shooting down of the Syrian warplane by American forces this week, Moscow noted pointedly that Washington has openly taken sides with terror groups aiming to topple the sovereign government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. There can be no other pretense.

The bolstering of the US military footprint at the Al Tanf base near the Syrian-Iraqi border is another sign of brazen American siding with terror groups. As the videos above show, the notion that these militants are somehow "moderate rebels" who are combating ISIS does not bear scrutiny.

This US-led charade of supporting "moderate rebels" has been going on for nearly six years in Syria. The mercurial "Free Syrian Army" and the "Syrian Defense Forces" are part of this smoke and mirrors game designed to obscure the fact that the Americans and their NATO allies are using proxy militant groups dominated by jihadist terror networks, for the objective of regime change. The plethora of different names for these proxies – all whom are illegally armed groups – is just part of the cynical game to conceal the fact that Washington and its allies are waging a criminal war against a sovereign nation.

As independent investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley told this author: "The labelling by the US of any extremist faction fighting in Syria as a Free Syrian Army division is nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy to rebrand these group as ‘moderate.’"

Beeley says that the Maghawir al Thawra militants whom the US claim to be protecting in a supposed campaign to defeat ISIS is just another instance of Washington "rebranding terror groups as moderates."

Another giveaway to the real nature of this US-patronized group came from a Reuters report in which one of the Maghawir commanders was interviewed.

Maghawir al Thawra spokesman Abu al Atheer said the goal of the US forces was to take the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor. That city is already under the control of the Syrian government forces and their allies. If the US and its militants were motivated to defeat ISIS, then why are they moving on Deir Ezzor?

The Maghawir commander also revealed his extremist ideological affiliations when he went on to talk about Iranian-backed forces allied with the Syrian government. "The battle is not over and we will not allow the Iranian Shi'ites to occupy our land. Our response to those who stand against us will be cruel," he told Reuters. Recall this is the same supposedly "moderate" group whom the US, British and Norwegian NATO troops are training at Al Tanf and for which the US has installed long-range artillery batteries in "an act of self-defense."

Events in Syria seem to be spiraling toward a bigger international war. This week Iran hit ISIS bases near Deir Ezzor with medium range ballistic missiles fired from inside Iranian territory. Tehran says the action was coordinated with the Syrian government. Meanwhile, the US is stepping up its direct assault on Syrian government forces.

Another telling development in the slide to wider war is that the US forces are moving towards blatantly defending jihadists like Maghawir al Thawra from Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces who are the only ones actually taking the battle to defeat jihadists. The US mask of hiding behind "moderate rebels" is slipping. Washington is now seen to be increasingly at war in Syria. It seems only a matter of time before US forces come into direct clash with Russian and Iranian military.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.]]> Tue, 20 Jun 2017 17:42:28 GMT
Security...or Surveillance? The Edward Snowden Interview Daniel McAdams
]]> Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:31:18 GMT
Escalation! US Hits Syrian Jet, Russia Cuts Communications Daniel McAdams
]]> Mon, 19 Jun 2017 17:35:58 GMT
Hodgkinson’s Disease: Politics and Paranoia in the Age of Trump Justin Raimondo

James T. Hodgkinson, the would-be assassin of Republican congressmen, wasn’t a radical. If you look at his published output – a series of letters to his local newspaper in Belleville, Illinois, as well as the majority of his Internet postings – it’s mostly about matters nearly every progressive cares about: taxes (the rich don’t pay enough), healthcare (the government must provide), income inequality (it’s all a Republican plot). All in all, a pretty unremarkable worldview that any partisan Democrat – either a Bernie Sanders supporter, as Hodginkinson was, or a Hillary fan – could sign on to.

So what drove him over the edge?

One of his more recent Facebook posts was a link to a petition that called for “the legal removal of the President and Vice-President, et. al., for Misprision of Treason.” Hodgkinson had signed it and he was asking his readers to follow suit: “Trump is a Traitor,” he wrote, “Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”  He was also a big fan of Rachel Maddow, who – incredibly — has spent the majority of her airtime ranting about “The Russian Connection,” as this Intercept piece documents. Hodgkinson was also a member of a Facebook group ominously dubbing itself “Terminate the Republican Party,” an appellation Hodgkinson apparently took quite literally. The group has over 13,000 members. The main page of the Terminators is adorned with a cartoon of Putin manipulating Trump like a puppet.

When Hodgkinson left his home and his job to travel to Alexandria, Virginia, he told his wife he was going to “work on tax issues.” But is that what motivated his murderous spree? Do “tax issues” really seem like something that would inspire someone to plan and carry out an assassination attempt that, but for the presence of Capitol police on the scene, would have certainly resulted in a massacre?

Hodgkinson clearly believed that the President of the United States was an agent of a foreign power. He had signed on to the idea that Trump not only benefited from a Russian campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton, but that he is engaged in a war against his own country. As Maddow put it in one of her more unhinged broadcasts:
“If the presidency is effectively a Russian op, right, if the American Presidency right now is the product of collusion between the Russian Intelligence Services, and an American campaign, I mean, that is so profoundly big. This is not part of American politics; this is not, you know, partisan warfare between Republicans and Democrats. This is international warfare against our country.”
“International warfare” – and Hodgkinson, a soldier in that fight, saw it as his duty to use the sort of weapons that are commonly used in international warfare. That’s why he sprayed that baseball field with a hail of gunfire – over fifty rounds. And when his rifle ran out of ammunition, he took out his handgun and continued firing. Because “this is not, you know, partisan warfare between Republicans and Democrats. This is international warfare against our country” – and it’s the obligation of patriotic citizens to take up that fight and take out the enemy.

This sort of craziness is usually reserved for the farther fringes of the American polity. Back in the 1960s, far-right groups like the Minutemen – who believed the United States government was effectively under the Kremlin’s control – armed themselves to prepare for the day when they would “liberate” America. Indeed, this sort of lunacy has traditionally been a fixture of extreme right-wing politics in this country: that it has now appeared on the left – and not the far-left, but in the “mainstream” of the Democratic party, which has taken up the Russia-gate conspiracy theory to the virtual exclusion of all else — is the proximate cause of what I call Hodgkinson’s Disease: the radicalization of formerly anodyne Democrats into a twenty-first century version of the Weathermen.

How did this happen? Democratic party leaders, in tandem with their journalistic camarilla, have validated an unconvincing conspiracy theory for which not a lick of definitive evidence has been provided: the idea that the Russians “stole” the election on behalf of Trump, and that the Trump campaign cooperated in this treasonous effort.

Yet that hasn’t stopped the Democratic party leadership from taking this ball and running with it. As Jennifer Palmieri, a top official in the Clinton campaign, put it, Democrats should push the “collusion” issue “relentlessly and above all else. They should talk about it in every interview.” The New York Times writes about this conspiracy theory as if it is uncontested fact. Democratic officeholders have declared that the alleged “hacking” of the election was an “act of war” – with the NeverTrump Republicans echoing the party line – and the Twitterverse’s conspiracy theorists are having a field day with the dangerously loony contention that we are at war with Russia. What’s more, the wildest imaginings of the nutjob crowd are being taken up and amplified by “respectable” people like constitutional lawyer Laurence Tribe.

In this way Hodgkinson’s Disease was incubated, its toxicity penetrating the mind of a suggestible and embittered little man until the poison had accumulated to such an extent that it burst through to the surface in an explosion of uncontrollable rage. Rachel Maddow is the theory: James T. Hodgkinson is the practice. The ultimate result is civil war.

That such a conflict would be born out of a full-scale delusional system that resembles a third-rate cold war era thriller just adds a Bizarro World cast to the whole sorry spectacle. The “Russia-gate” conspiracy theory that has consumed the energies of the media, the Congress, and President Trump is an elaborate hoax. This farrago of falsehood rests on a fallacious assumption: that the Russians necessarily “hacked” the DNC and John Podesta’s emails. The contention is that the methods supposedly utilized by the alleged hackers were similar to those used in the past by “suspected” Russian hackers, and that this makes the case. Yet this argument ignores the fact that these tools and methods were already out there, available for anyone to use. This is a textbook example of what cyber-security expert Jeffrey Carr calls “faith-based attribution,” which amounts to, at best, an educated guess, and at worst is the end result of confirmation bias combined with the economic incentive to tell a client what they want to hear. In the case of the DNC/Podesta “hacks,” the company hired to investigate, CrowdStrike, had every reason to echo Hillary Clinton’s contention that the Russians were the guilty party. CrowdStrike, by the way, never gave US law enforcement authorities access to the DNC’s servers: indeed, the FBI’s request for access was rebuffed.

The “Russia-gate” hoax has injected a pernicious and highly dangerous theme into our political discourse: the accusation that the Trump administration is a traitorous cabal intent on “destroying democracy,” as Hodgkinson put it, and handing over the country to the tender mercies of a foreign power. Taken seriously, this theme necessarily and inevitably leads to violence, which means there’s a good chance we’ll see more Hodgkinsons in the headlines.

And standing behind it all is the Deep State – the leakers (with access to all our communications) who are feeding disinformation to the Washington Post and the New York Times in order to bring down this presidency. One prong of this operation is embodied in the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, whose investigation was provoked and fueled by Deep State leakage. The other prong consists of the useful idiot crowd, those who believe the propaganda and can be mobilized to take to the streets.

The Deep State types don’t have to get in direct contact with people like Hodgkinson in order to provoke violence against this administration or Trump’s supporters. They have only to continue to do what they’ve been doing since before Trump even took office, covertly spreading the idea that Trump is “Putin’s puppet,” as Mrs. Clinton put it: radicalized useful idiots like Hodgkinson will do the rest. It is eerily similar to the methods the CIA has used to overthrow foreign governments: spread rumors, utilizing their journalistic sock-puppets, and indirectly motivate and mobilize mobs to carry out their “regime-change” agenda. The only difference now is that they’re doing what they’ve always done on the home front instead of in, say, Lower Slobbovia.

Yes, that’s where we are right now – we’ve become Lower Slobbovia. Get used to it, folks, because it won’t end until the Deep State is defeated and dismantled.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 19 Jun 2017 13:35:36 GMT
Trump Turns Back the Clock With Cold War Cuba U-Turn Ron Paul

Nostalgia seems to be very popular in Washington. While the neocons and Democratic Party hard-liners have succeeded in bringing back the Cold War with Russia, it looks like President Trump is determined to take us back to a replay of the Bay of Pigs!

In Miami on Friday, the president announced that he was slamming the door on one of President Obama’s few foreign policy successes: easing 50 years of US sanctions on Cuba. The nostalgia was so strong at Trump’s Friday speech that he even announced participants in the CIA’s disastrous 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in the audience!

President Trump said Friday that his new policy would be nothing short of “regime change” for Cuba. No easing of US sanctions on Cuba, he said, “until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections are scheduled.”

Yes, this is the same Donald Trump who declared as president-elect in December that his incoming Administration would “pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments.” Now, in another flip-flop toward the neocons, President Trump is pursuing regime change in Cuba on the pretext of human rights violations.

While the Cuban government may not have a spotless record when it comes to human rights, this is the same President Trump who just weeks ago heaped praise on perhaps the world’s worst human rights abuser, Saudi Arabia. There, he even participated in a bizarre ceremony to open a global anti-extremism center in the home of state-sponsored extremism!

While President Trump is not overturning all of President Obama’s Cuba policy reforms – the US Embassy will remain open – he will roll back the liberalization of travel restrictions and make it very difficult for American firms to do business in Cuba. Certainly foreign competitors of US construction and travel companies are thrilled by this new policy, as it keeps American businesses out of the market. How many Americans will be put out of work by this foolish political stunt?

There is a very big irony here. President Trump says that Cuba’s bad human rights record justifies a return to Cuba sanctions and travel prohibitions. But the US government preventing Americans from traveling and spending their own money wherever they wish is itself a violation of basic human rights. Historically it has been only the most totalitarian of regimes that prevent their citizens from traveling abroad. Think of East Germany, the Soviet Union, and North Korea. The US is not at war with Cuba. There is no reason to keep Americans from going where they please.

President Trump’s shift back to the bad old days on Cuba will not have the desired effect of liberalizing that country’s political environment. If it did not work for fifty years why does Trump think it will suddenly work today? If anything, a hardening of US policy on Cuba will prevent reforms and empower those who warned that the US could not be trusted as an honest partner. The neocons increasingly have President Trump’s ear, even though he was elected on promises to ignore their constant calls for war and conflict. How many more flip-flops before his supporters no longer recognize him?]]> Mon, 19 Jun 2017 13:00:48 GMT
The ICC Should be on Trial not Saif Gaddafi Richard Galustian
Saif Gaddafi at a press conference last week.

The International Criminal Court has demanded that Libya hand over former leader Muamar Gaddafi's son Saif after his release by an armed militia last week, but it is the Court, not Saif, which should be on trial.

One word tells you all you need to know about the ICC, and that’s ISIS: These terrorists have perpetuated the most appalling crimes in Libya, not least the ritual execution -- filmed and uploaded onto its website -- of Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beachfront two years ago. The result? No indictments from the ICC.

The ICC is a kangaroo court if ever there was one, and its pursuit of Saif smacks of politics. Consider that for years he pushed for reforms in Libya, and consider also that he commanded no military nor police units. Indeed he was not in a position to commit war crimes. And yet the Hague wants him for crimes against humanity.

As to the Saif prosecution, where is the evidence? Leaked emails show his role in trying to hold back the fighting in the 2011 revolution.

One of the leaked Hillary Clinton emails "UNCLASSIFIED U.S. Department of State Case No. F-2014-20439 Doc No. C05792027 Date: 01/07/2016 RELEASE IN PART B6 states:

Sent: Sunday, February 27, 2011 10:10 AM "The moderates, led by Saif al-Islam Qaddafi favor aggressive police anti-riot tactics but are opposed the use of deadly force. Saif is also calling for negotiations with tribal leaders in the East, including members of the former royal family."
Additionally, consider how the ICC treated Abdullah al Senussi, Gaddafi senior’s former intelligence chief, who was also charged by the ICC. However, the ICC agreed Libya could try him, and raised no objections when that "trial" degenerated into a free for all with militias guarding the courtroom and intimidating witnesses.

That Tripoli "trial" went from bad to farce when the militia group Zintan, who to be fair never mistreated Saif, refused to hand him over to Tripoli. So instead, Tripoli court officials arranged for a video link with Zintan so he could be "tried." That video link broke down multiple times and in the end Saif and Zintan just refused to take part. No matter; the Tripoli judges sentenced him to death, with no public evidence ever produced.

Detractors argue correctly that the ICC is “Africa-focused” and ignores Syrians, Iraqis, Sri Lankans, Israelis, British and Americans who are deemed “safe.”

After all, you don't hear of the ICC considering bringing Tony Blair to justice!

Clearly, the ICC is broken. Outside legal interference by a moribund ICC is negative, and supporters of such a move are exhibiting exceedingly poor judgment.

This is not an academic matter because Saif Gaddafi, newly free and at an undisclosed location in Libya, has a part to play in ending the civil war.

The ICC pursuit of Saif is a travesty of justice. The only reason ICC judges make outrageous rulings is because it is in effect ruling against Africa; because against Africans, you can do anything without fear of a backlash. The Hague-based bogus ICC is a dishonourable court doing dishonourable things. What a tragedy for international criminal justice.

It has been said that the ICC is a political court; a political court that must be fought politically. The ICC has nothing to do with international criminal justice. It is a "kangaroo" court covertly receiving direct instructions from powerful Western neocolonial powers that jokingly don't themselves accept the rulings of the ICC.

In a way, the ICC is Europe’s equivalent of Guantanamo Bay. A court – calling itself such in name only. Its judges, prosecutors et al, should resign instead of shamelessly drawing huge salaries and engaging in outrageous, procedural, racist, illegal, unnecessary and meaningless activities, which are politically motivated.

Several newspapers, including Reuters, reported on or about the 20th of February 2011, that Saif Gaddafi advocated holding back in fighting with rebels in Libya and of his hopes for a ceasefire.

Saif may well help unify Libya and bring peace to the war-riven country. He should be free of meddling by the Hague and Western powers to do so if he so chooses.

The US is not a party to the Rome Statute. Therefore the ICC cannot conduct investigative activities in the United States of America nor have any real jurisdiction over its citizens except under extraordinary circumstances which to date has never occurred.

The seven countries that voted against the treaty were China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, the United States and Yemen. Following 60 ratifications, the Rome Statute entered into force on 1st July 2002 (their 15th Anniversary is coming soon) when the International Criminal Court was formally established. The UK's position as regards the ICC is selective and ambiguous.

So in conclusion in the name of justice, the ICC must be reformed and restructured, because it is there where the core problem lies.]]> Sun, 18 Jun 2017 21:45:02 GMT
It’s the Russia, Stupid James George Jatras

It’s another week in Washington and another horror show. This time it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions being grilled by Senators on whether, when, and how he might have met with certain Russians, or any Russian, or someone who might actually know a Russian. In addition to fishing for any inconsistency that could be used to support an accusation of obstruction of justice or perjury – the usual sleazy methodology of politically motivated investigations here – the transparent aim was to further poison the well on any possible initiative to improve ties with Moscow.

The strategy appears to be working. The Russian Embassy in Washington confirms that for the first time since the Russian Federation’s founding the State Department did not send pro forma national day greetings. Perhaps the bureaucrats were afraid they would be tainted and themselves become targets of multiple investigations into "collusion" with the Kremlin. (Luckily, this intrepid Washington analyst has no qualms about such associations.)

Or more likely, they themselves are part of the Russophobic mob undermining the White House. It has been reported that soon after the inauguration Trump sought to open dialogue with the Kremlin and set an early summit with President Vladimir Putin. This produced a hysterical counteraction from the Deep State. As reported by conservative columnist and former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan:
The State Department was tasked with working out the details.

Instead, says Daniel Fried, the coordinator for sanctions policy, he received ‘panicky’ calls of ‘Please, my God, can you stop this?’.

Operatives at State, disloyal to the president and hostile to the Russia policy on which he had been elected, collaborated with elements in Congress to sabotage any detente. They succeeded.

‘It would have been a win-win for Moscow,’ said Tom Malinowski of State, who boasted last week of his role in blocking a rapprochement with Russia. State employees sabotaged one of the principal policies for which Americans had voted, and they substituted their own.
So much for constitutional government and the rule of law...

But now it gets even worse. This week Congress moved legislation designed to codify in statute sanctions imposed on Russia to keep banging the Russia drum through the 2018 Congressional elections.

When all is said and done, there are lots of reasons the political class hates Trump. His heresies on immigration and trade are near the top of the list. But make no mistake: for the Deep State and its mainstream media arm, demonizing Russia and Vladimir Putin personally is a dangerous obsession. (There is reason to suspect "Russian collusion" figured in the thinking of a fanatical Leftist’s shooting attack on Republican Congressmen: The shooter also signed a petition calling for an investigation into Trump-Russia ties, confirming he was radicalized by the mainstream media’s obsession with conspiracy theories about Russia interfering with the election.)"

It remains to be seen whether Oliver Stone’s extended interview with Putin on the Showtime network will have any impact. So far the commentary seems to be divided between descriptions of the substance of the discussion and attacks on Stone for talking with such a bad, bad man: "Speaking after the interview, Stone refuted allegations that he became an unwitting messenger of pro-Putin propaganda or of dishonest information given by the president."

With regard to substance, relatively little attention has been accorded in American media to Putin’s flat accusation that US "special services" have supported terrorists, including in Chechnya. Of course anyone paying attention would know that arming jihadists is a standard part of US policy, going back at least to Afghanistan in the 1980s and repeated in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, and today in Syria. Indeed, as early as the 1950s the US had established a very close relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist elements as a weapon against Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and Baathists in Syria and Iraq, who Washington thought were a little too cozy with the Soviet Union and far too socialist and secular for the taste of our pals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

There is a real symbiosis between the anti-Russian imperative in American foreign policy and support for radical Islamic elements. It did not end when the Soviet Union and communism collapsed but rather was intensified. This is why Moscow’s constant calls for a common front against terrorism are always rebuffed. Such cooperation doesn’t make any sense for a nomenklatura whose number one goal is hostility to Moscow and for whom jihadists are at worst "frienemies" – people who may be troublesome but useful.

We can only imagine how completely different the world would be if the US were to recognize that Russia is a country that in many respects is not that different from the United States or Europe and that we had common interests. But for the US Deep State, that would amount to switching sides in a global conflict, where we see jihadists essentially as "freedom fighters" against a geopolitical adversary. These same clueless "elites" are then puzzled when their carefully nurtured, cuddly, "moderate" jihad terrorists attack us back here at home.

This irrational pattern is at the root of the hostility of American policymakers toward Russia and any prospect of normalizing bilateral ties. In large part, it’s what underlies the "soft coup" being directed against Trump, of which the Sessions pillorying was an episode. (A late report based on unreliable, unverified sources suggests that Special Counsel on the Russia probe, Robert Mueller, is expanding his investigation to include potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. Mueller, a close personal friend of ousted FBI Director James Comey, has already packed his team with partisan Democrats.)

Those behind this attempted coup think we can continue to treat Russia as though it were a minor power of the magnitude of Serbia, Iraq, Libya, or Syria, or even Iran. They think if we just keep pushing, pushing, pushing, either the Russians will collapse or back down. They will do everything possible to box Trump in and prevent him from pursuing any path other than the disastrous course laid out by Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama. They can see no other outcome than removing Putin and returning Russia to the condition of a Yeltsin-era vassal state – a term Putin used in the Stone interview – or, better yet, its territorial breakup along the lines suggested by the late Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Will the Oliver Stone interview change any minds? It’s too soon to tell. But if the soft coup against Trump succeeds, it might not matter, since then America could not be considered a self-governing constitutional republic even in a residual sense. We may have already passed our own Rubicon and just don’t know it yet.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.
]]> Fri, 16 Jun 2017 20:05:32 GMT
Derangement And Danger On The Potomac David Stockman undefined

The horrific shooting spree on the practice field of the GOP's congressional baseball team happened early yesterday morning, but it was hardly the end of Wednesday's madness on the Potomac.

As it happened, the former was apparently another random eruption by of one of America's sicko lone wolves -- a wretch in the same league as South Carolina church killer, Dylann Roof. Notwithstanding that the latter had littered the nether regions of the internet with racist rantings while the former was apparently a prolific Never Trumper left-winger, neither represented a real threat to the nation's equanimity -- even if they did bring a savage rain of violence to bear on those unfortunate dozens caught in their immediate line of fire.

Not so for the 325 million American citizens who were pounded upon during the balance of the day by the allegedly "sane" Imperial City officialdom which rules the roost in America.

Specifically, we have in mind Janet Yellen's hideous presser in which she declared "mission accomplished" and that the US economy is blessed with "solid fundamentals" that are getting ever stronger. And in the same vein of unreality, there soon came the Senate's 97-2 vote to smack the Donald in his ample jaws and impose even more sanctions on Russia, thereby bringing the nation another step closer to the brink of war and bankruptcy.

Let us unpack this. The American people are being brought to ruin by three institutions that are mortal threats to liberty and prosperity. To wit, the Federal Reserve, the military/industrial/surveillance complex and a sinecured Congress that is burying unborn generations in debt -- even as it sanctimoniously presumes that it is doing god's work by servicing the beltway racketeers who keep it perpetually in office.

On the latter score, it is worth reminding once again. An incumbent House member standing for reelection has a smaller chance of losing his seat than did a Politburo member during the heyday of the post-war Soviet Union.

So it is no wonder that the Congress is filled by Warfare State lifers like Senator John McCain. This senile old fool appears to believe that he is some kind of latter day proconsul of the American Empire -- who struts around Washington spreading bellicose lies and flagrant exaggerations about Washington's self-created enemies.

So doing, McCain helps to keep the Imperial City enthrall to the defense contractors and military and intelligence bureaucracies that he champions out of sheer will to power and ornery bloodlust.

Not surprisingly, therefore, McCain was one of the principal authors and movers behind this week's latest spasm of anti-Russia hysteria. The bill would impose new sanctions against Russia “in response to the violation of the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and Crimea, its brazen cyber-attacks and interference in elections, and its continuing aggression in Syria,” according to the deal's sponsors.

Everyone of these assertions are blatant lies, of course. Russia is in Syria at the behest of its constitutionally established government; it is the CIA and its stooges among the Persian Gulf states which provides arms and billions to the head-chopping jihadist radicals, who are the real aggressors in what is now a desolate land of ruin and refugees.

Likewise, it was Washington's aggression -- via funding and political support -- in February 2014 that led to a coup on the streets of Kiev and the overthrow of its honestly elected President. The latter made the "mistake" of spurning NATO and the EU in favor of a more palatable economic deal with Moscow -- its historic suzerain.

Moreover, it was the virulent anti-Russian neo-Nazi putsch -- handpicked by the US Ambassador to Ukraine -- that led to insurrection against the Kiev regime in the historically Russian-speaking Donbas and Crimea regions; and then to the 90 percent referendum vote of the latter to rejoin Russia, which it had been an integral part of for more than 160 years after 1783.

As for Russian "interference" in the 2016 elections in America -- the very idea of it is ludicrous. The overwhelming source of "influence" in the American election process is the respective political parties, the legions of self-interested lobbies and PACs and the mainstream media and cable channels, which are overwhelmingly and irrationally anti-Putin.

So where did this nefarious "influencing" come from? The RT television network?

Puleese! Your editor can attest to having appeared on that network several times and to have attacked with some vigor the three rotten American institutions mentioned above---the Fed, the military/industrial/surveillance complex and the Congress.

But never once did we get any instructions from the Russians on the formulation of our broadsides. We thunk 'em up all on our own!

More importantly, we never heard from a single American viewer, either. Perhaps that's because RT apparently has fewer than a million viewers per day in the US.

So all the brouhaha is apparently about two-bit cyber-hacking that may or may not be the work of Russian State actors.

But so what? There exists a massive $200 billion per year internet security business in the world because by its very nature the worldwide web begets legions of hackers, thieves and malicious trolls.

These hacking operations are overwhelmingly conducted privately for profit and malice, but there is one giant state actor that does operate for the purpose of political influence and meddling in the affairs of nearly every nation on earth.

We are talking about the massive multi-billion hacking operation at National Security Agency (NSA) called Tailored Access Operations (TAO). The latter spends billions not only trolling every agency and bureau of the Russian Government -- and the French government and Canadian government, too, among others -- but also engages in worldwide cyber-false flag operations designed to lay down the "footprint" of Russian and others foreign agencies on top of Washington's own skullduggery.

And that's just NSA. The CIA has a counterpart operation in the same kind of worldwide hacking business, and these may only be the tip of the iceberg. After all, the total acknowledged budget of the 17-agency "Intelligence Community" (IC) is upwards of $75 billion or nearly 50 percent more than Russia's entire military budget including aircraft fuel, soldiers pay and spare boots.

Needless to say, the self-appointed imperial proconsuls' like McCain never stop to ask whether or not Washington's massive cyber warfare operations might be expected to generate counter-actions from those targeted as Washington's enemies or, more importantly, something even more insidious.

That is, McCain and in his Capitol Hill war party do not even know for sure whether "fancy bear" and the other code-named Russian state malefactors constantly bandied about in the mainstream media are really anything more than a couple of fat guys siting at desks at NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade propagating false-flag cyber-attacks.

In any event, Senator McCain, was delighted with this week's handiwork. The amendment allows “broad new sanctions on key sectors of Russiaʼs economy, including mining, metals, shipping and railways” and authorizes “robust assistance to strengthen democratic institutions and counter disinformation across Central and Eastern European countries that are vulnerable to Russian aggression and interference.”

Likewise, these new sanctions would be imposed on “corrupt Russian actors” and those “involved in serious human rights abuses". They would also target those who supply weapons to the Syrian government or who work with the Russian defense industry, as well as “those conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government” and “those involved in corrupt privatization of state-owned assets.”

In short, Wednesday afternoon the US Senate just plain went nuts attacking a largely non-existent threat emanating from a pipsqueak nation that has a GDP equal to only seven percent of that of the US and no capacity whatsoever -- other than one smoke-belching 40-year old aircraft carrier and a fleet rowboats -- to attack the shores of New Jersey or any other place in the USA.

But those realities did not stop McCain from gassing effusively about his own dangerous handiwork:
'We must take our own side in this fight. Not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans,' said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) before the vote. 'Itʼs time to respond to Russiaʼs attack on American democracy with strength, with resolve, with common purpose, and with action.'
The truth is, Russia has no more attacked American democracy than did the North Vietnamese at the Bay of Tonkin or the Spaniards on the Battleship Maine in 1898.

More importantly, no one else in the world thinks Russia is a serious threat -- except the bureaucrats of NATO who make a living concocting such threats; and some itinerate nationalist politicians in Eastern Europe who are never loathe to play the Russian card in their quest for power and attention.

Even the Donald's own Secretary of State had this to say earlier in the week during his congressional testimony:
'I have yet to have a bilateral, one-on-one, a poolside conversation with a single counterpart in any country: in Europe, Middle East, even South-East Asia, that has not said to me: please, address your relationship with Russia, it has to be improved,' Tillerson said on Tuesday, testifying before the Senate appropriations subcommittee about the proposed State Department budget.
Folks, the point is quite simple. Unless Washington's bloated and wasteful $700 billion national security budget is pared back drastically, there is not a snowball's chance in the hot place of re-establishing fiscal discipline. As long the GOP hawks and pro-war Dems are pumping massive funding into the Deep End of the Swamp, the will be no cuts in domestic appropriations and no entitlement reforms, either.

 Indeed, ever since Ronald Reagan's mild assault on the Welfare State was decisively turned back on Capitol Hill in the spring of 1981, the "guns and butter coalition" has ruled the roost. And that insidious coalition has taken the national debt from $1 trillion to $20 trillion along the way -- even has it has locked in an automatic growth to $30 trillion or 140 percent of GDP by 2027.

That is also why the Deep State and Washington's bipartisan War Party will not desist until they have removed the Donald from office. And that's for the unspeakable sin of suggesting that rapprochement with the Russians and Putin makes more sense than the path to war and fiscal bankruptcy that is underway today.

Self-evidently, hell hath no fury like the prospect for world peace and the dismantlement of Imperial Washington's destructive global empire. A tiny step in that direction was all that General Mike Flynn undertook during his infamous calls with the Russian Ambassador in late December -- a welcome initiative for which he was unceremoniously fired and is now under unrelenting persecution.

But it gets worse. Based on new leaks to the Washington Post it is now clear that the Deep State has used the Flynn Affair and the Donald's naïve request to former FBI director Comey to "go easy" on Flynn as a pretext for obstruction of justice charges against the President himself:
The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russiaʼs role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trumpʼs own conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said.
In this context, it is truly amazing that the "markets" have not yet woken from their stupor. The drive to unseat the Donald will leave the Imperial City in ungoverned chaos during the interim -- meaning an unending crisis over debt ceilings, continuing resolutions and government shutdowns.

Still, perhaps by the looks of today's sea of red, the whopper told by Yellen during her presser yesterday may finally be sinking in.

Our clueless Keynesian school marm not only falsely claimed "mission accomplished" and that the US economy is heading for the promised land of permanent full employment and unprecedented prosperity. She also claimed that the Fed would soon begin normalizing its balance sheet to the tune of $50 billion per month of bond holdings runoff (i.e. effectively bond sales) -- ultimately shrinking its holdings by more than $2 trillion -- and that there would be nary a negative ripple effect thereupon.

As we will soon document further, the first part of Yellen's proclamation is a risible lie. There has been zero net gain in industrial production since September 2007; no net gain in breadwinners jobs since January 2001; and zero gains in real median family incomes since 1989. And that's permanent full employment prosperity?

But the real whopper was her assurance that the Fed's balance sheet normalization would be of no more moment than "watching paint dry" on a wall.

Say what?

Surely, Yellen does not mean that the law of supply and demand in the bond market has been repealed -- such that $2 trillion of extra supply will not have any impact whatsoever on the price and yield of government debt securities. After all, if that is true when the Fed is selling bonds, why would it not have been true when it was buying them hand-over-fist?

Indeed, by the Fed's own lights its $3.5 trillion balance sheet expansion after the financial crisis caused bond yields to decline by more than 100 basis points -- and we think that sharply understates the matter because it does not account for the "front-runners" effect.

That is, the hundreds of billions of bond purchased by carry trade gamblers, who were given free overnight funding to the tune of 97 percent of their investment, in order to by the very same bonds -- down to the exact CUSIP numbers -- that the Fed had announced it would be buying.

Stated differently, what was the point of QE if it was not to falsify and suppress bond yields in order to goose economic activity -- even if that "stimulus", as it happened, never really left the canyons of Wall Street?

By the same token, why in the world would Yellen expect that the front-runners who fueled the bond bubble during QE will not find is profitable to short-sell what the Fed will be selling once its balance sheet shrinking campaign gets started?

Needless to say, the 100-300 basis points rise in the 10-year bond year bond yield that would result from the combination of Fed selling and speculators piling on would cause the entire global bond bubble to implode, and all the economic rot that is built upon it to shatter.

How long, for example, would the $2.6 trillion market in junk loans and bonds last under that regime. Given that the Fed's own action fueled a manic stampede toward yield, the havoc implicit in the chart below is nearly unfathomable.

The fact, is when there are no new breadwinner jobs, there is no gain in living standards or real prosperity. Indeed, Janet Yellen is lost in a Keynesian puzzle palace -- and that is extremely bad news for the casino punters who still refuse to acknowledge the obvious.

David Stockman is a Ron Paul Institute Board Member. For information on how to subscribe to his Contra Corner website, click here.]]> Fri, 16 Jun 2017 12:54:40 GMT
Trump Administration Following in Obama Administration’s Footsteps on Marijuana Adam Dick

Last month, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to oppose Congress again including in Department of Justice appropriations legislation a provision intended to stop, through a restriction on the use of appropriated money, the US government from arresting and prosecuting people for actions that comply with state medical marijuana laws, even if those actions violate US drug laws. Some people are reacting to Sessions’ letter, which was revealed this week, with condemnation of Sessions and the Trump administration for departing from Obama administration policy that showed increased leniency in regard to marijuana. But this claim appears to misrepresent the Obama administration’s marijuana history.

Tom Angell, who revealed the Sessions letter in a Monday
article at MassRoots, suggests that Sessions’ request is consistent with the position under the Obama administration given that President Barack Obama, in his last two budget requests, suggested Congress remove the medical marijuana language. Indeed, Sessions pretty much makes this same observation that he is continuing the prior administration’s policy in the first sentence of his letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), House or Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Sessions starts the letter as follows: “I write to renew the Department of Justice’s opposition to the inclusion of language in any appropriations legislation that would prohibit the use of Department of Justice funds or in any way inhibit its authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).”

Further, Obama administration Justice Department lawyers, after the appropriations provision was in effect, defended in the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals case of United States v. McIntosh ignoring, in ten separate drug law cases that had been consolidated for review on appeal, whether defendants complied with state medical marijuana laws. In each case, the individuals were being prosecuted for actions that they argued complied with state medical marijuana laws. The Obama administration lost the argument in the appellate court, with the court
deciding in August of 2016 that the appropriations provision “prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engage in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws.” The court decision, in addition, ordered that, if the US government should decide to proceed with prosecution of any appellants, those appellants “are entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law.”

While the Ninth Circuit decision interprets the medical marijuana appropriations provision as providing protection for people complying with state medical marijuana laws, that decision does not help people who live in the states outside that judicial circuit. Also, as I noted in an
article shortly after the McIntosh decision was announced, the DOJ argument for a reading of the appropriations language that would mean the provision provides little to no protection from prosecution is rather persuasive and could be accepted by other courts. The appropriations provision also provides no hope for protection for anyone anywhere who is dealing with recreational instead of medical marijuana or for anyone living in one of the states that has not liberalized medical marijuana laws.

Though the Obama administration backed off some in prosecutions of individuals acting in compliance with state laws concerning marijuana that over the past few years have been increasingly liberalized, that did not mean that the Obama administration wanted to subject itself to any additional restraints imposed by the legislative branch. Instead, the Obama administration preferred to design its own restraints via Department of Justice memoranda. These memoranda culminated in the August 29, 2013
Cole memorandum that directs DOJ lawyers to limit their prosecutions of people who are complying with liberalized state medical and recreational marijuana laws. But, the Cole memorandum also provides several exceptions that prosecutors can use to justify cases against individuals who are complying with state laws. In addition, the Cole memorandum and other Justice Department memoranda are just advisory for government employees (unlike a statute that could be enforceable as law to the benefit of defendants) and can be revoked or amended by subsequent DOJ memos.

Sessions has indicated a general support for the Cole memorandum’s policies,
stating the following in a March 15 questions and answers with reporters: "The Cole memorandum set up some policies under President Obama's Department of Justice about how cases should be selected in those states and what would be appropriate for federal prosecution, much of which I think is valid." Yet, there is no guarantee that the wiggle room the Cole memorandum provides for prosecutions will be used the same in the Trump administration as it was in the Obama administration or that the DOJ will not come out with a new memorandum that keeps much of the Cole memorandum policies while also creating significant changes in DOJ policies related to people complying with state marijuana laws.

If you want to ensure people who grow, sell, use, or otherwise deal with marijuana are not arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned by the US government, then both the appropriations medical marijuana provision and the Cole memorandum fall far short of accomplishing the goal. What is needed is for Congress to pass legislation ending the war on marijuana. Leave marijuana laws to the states. Just walk away from the war.

States are steadily developing a
patchwork quilt of differing marijuana laws, with full prohibition becoming increasingly rare. Meanwhile, the majority of Americans favor legal recreational marijuana, and significantly more favor legal medical marijuana. The US government’s war on marijuana is increasingly becoming the odd man out. Despite the evident lack of will among congressional leaders to challenge the war on marijuana, increasing pressure, contributed to by changes in state and local governments’ law as well as public opinion, may soon succeed in emboldening Congress so it will approve legislation that ends the US government’s war on marijuana.

]]> Fri, 16 Jun 2017 12:26:57 GMT
The War In Afghanistan Is A Racket Moon of Alabama

The United States will again escalate the war in Afghanistan.

Sixteen years ago the US invaded the country and decided to eliminate the ruling Taliban for something that was planned elsewhere by a different group. Since the invasion, the US tried to defeat the Taliban. It has lost that fight. As soon as it leaves Afghanistan the Taliban will be back in power. But no one is willing to pull the plug on the nonsensical military approach.

The Taliban are part of Afghanistan and a significant segment of the population supports them. When the US invaded Afghanistan it put the brutal and utterly corrupt warlords back into power. These were exactly the people the Taliban were created to hold down and the reason why they could take power in the first place. While demanding a strict religious life the Taliban successfully took care of local security and eliminated the lawless and corrupt rule of the warlords.

It is no wonder then that a large part of the population wishes to have them back in power.

The US supported government in Kabul is utterly corrupt. The Afghan military and police the US pays is likewise only motivated by money. It is not willing to fight. It takes high casualties during Taliban attacks and therefore avoids contact with them whenever possible. Some 60 percent of the country is now more or less back under Taliban control. The government's say is restricted to the bigger cities.

It is obvious that this trend will continued and sooner or later the Taliban will be back in power. The only sensible strategy is to negotiate with them and to find some solution that allows them to rule while they guarantee that no harm will emanate from Afghanistan for the rest of the world.

But no one in the US is willing to take responsibility for that. Who would want to be blamed for "neglecting" Afghanistan when another 9/11 happens - as unlikely as that might be? Therefore additional troops need to be send whenever the Taliban seem to gain the advantage over the puppet government forces.

President Trump has punted on the issue and has given full authority to the Defense Department to continue the war in Afghanistan with as many troops as it sees fit. It is now the generals, not Trump, who will be blamed should things in Afghanistan go wrong. But the military has no idea what to do about Afghanistan.

This week Secretary of Defense Mattis was asked during a Congressional hearing what "winning" in Afghanistan would mean:
The idea, [Mattis] said, would be to drive down the violence to a level that could be managed by Afghan government forces with the help of American and allied troops in training their Afghan counterparts, providing intelligence and delivering what Mr. Mattis called 'high-end capability,' an apparent allusion to air power and possibly Special Operations forces.

The result, he said, would be an 'era of frequent skirmishing,' but not a situation in which the Afghan government no longer faced a mortal threat.
Winning in Afghanistan is an "era of frequent skirmishes" in which the proxy government is continuously endangered? That does, of course, not make any sense. It is a holding strategy that will only work as long as the general framework stays the same. Should the Taliban change their strategy or a new actor come in, the "holding" strategy will be finished.

One new actor is already there. An Afghan variant of the "Islamic State" just kicked out the Taliban from the Tora Bora cave complex near the Pakistani border. Tora Bora was once though to be the retreat area of Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin-Laden and was attacked during the US invasion in 2001/2.

But who is behind the Islamic State Khorasan Province’s (ISKP) in Afghanistan? Most of its fighters seem to be former Taliban who either defected in Afghanistan or were kicked out of Pakistan when the Pakistani military put pressure on their home areas. The real question now is who pays them and what do they want?

Officially no one seems to know.

For the warlords in Afghanistan the US occupation has become a huge source of money. The US pays them for protecting the goods shipped in from the states and elsewhere. It is a protection racket. Should the US not pay, its convoys will be attacked by "Taliban." As soon as it pays the local warlords, the "Taliban" will be defeated and the area will be clear again for the trucks to pass. The money the Afghan government receives is likewise dependent on a continuation of the US occupation. No one in the ruling class of Afghanistan has an interest in ending that. The government in Kabul will do nearly anything to keep its money source available.

That may well be the reason why ISIS in Afghanistan was created. It was feared in Kabul that sooner or later the US would find a compromise with the Taliban and leave the country. A new reason had to be found to continue the war.

It is therefore not astonishing that the Afghan secret services, the National Directorate for Security (NDS), was the first sponsor of "ISIS" in Afghanistan. The first "ISIS" fighters were refugees of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) who settled in the eastern province of Nangahar and were put on the NDS payroll:
The most well-known case of these militants finding a welcoming home in Nangarhar is that of the Lashkar-e Islam group led by Mangal Bagh. 
Hoping to use them against Pakistan, the Afghan government started to woo some of these fighters, according to influential tribal elders involved in helping relation-building from the districts that sheltered the guest militants. 
[E]fforts by the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), to woo Pakistani militants in Nangarhar have not been confined to Lashkar-e Islam or to militants from Khyber. Tribal elders and ordinary residents of Achin, Nazian and Kot testify that fighters from Orakzai and Mohmand agencies belonging to different factions of the TTP have been allowed free movement across the province, as well as treatment in government hospitals. 
It was from these ‘guests’ that the bulk of the Nangarhar-based ISKP foot soldiers emerged, following the official announcement of IS’s expansion to ‘Khorasan Province.’
It is not clear if or to what extend the "ISIS" group in Afghanistan is still controlled by the Afghan government services. Their weapon and ammunition supply is now allegedly coming from Pakistan. But what is clear is that these new participants in the war were first sponsored by the Afghan government and are now a welcome reasons for an extension of the US occupation and the money flows originating from it. Meanwhile the media can reuse its old scary graphics of the Tora Bora complex and sell more advertisements.

The war in Afghanistan no longer has a real purposes. This or that radical group will always exist in Afghanistan. The war helps the US military to claim more budget and to hand out promotions. It helps the Afghan government officials and the warlords to fill their pockets. What it does not do is to better the situation of the general population of Afghanistan or of the United States.

The war has become the proverbial self-licking-ice-cream-cone. It will unfortunately continue to be such under this and probably also the next US presidents.

Reprinted with permission from MoonOfAlabama.]]> Thu, 15 Jun 2017 18:40:27 GMT