Mon, 21 Aug 2017 19:22:06 GMT Mon, 21 Aug 2017 19:22:06 GMT One Step Closer to War: US, South Korea Hold New Military Drills Andrei Akulov

The US and South Korean large-scale combined joint exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) begins on Aug. 21 to last till Aug. 31. There will be approximately 17,500 total US service members participating, with roughly 3,000 coming from off-peninsula - 500 more than last year. The numbers of all participants swell to a total of about 530,000 because South Korean servicemen (around 50,000), government officials and civilians also take part in the drills. The missions include: amphibious landings, intense live-fire exercises, counter-terrorism drills and simulated or tabletop battle plans.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow was deeply worried and considered the risk of military conflict between the US and North Korea "very high." He suggested a plan under which North Korea would halt missile tests if the US and South Korea would cancel the drills. China also objects to the exercise.

The UFG training event was initiated in 1976 and is conducted annually during August or September. This year, it is the first UFG exercise to be held after Pyongyang fire-tested intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking US territory, such as the island of Guam. North Korea feels threatened by a squadron of B-1B bombers on the island. The aircraft flying to the peninsula for taking part in the exercise could provoke it into launching ballistic missiles to spark a war. Last year, Pyongyang responded to the UFG by testing a nuclear weapon.

North Korea alleges that the drill is a precursor to a war planned against it. With bits of information coming from various sources pieced together, one can come to conclusion that this time it may be right. It’s not a routine training event.

This year, the scenario includes training for "decapitation strikes" to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his top lieutenants. It makes the North Korean leadership increasingly sensitive to the event.

The drills take place right after the new sanctions against North Korea went into effect. President Trump signed the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act into law on August 2. According to the data received from US satellites, North Korean missile launchers had been moved into positions ready to strike Guam. The possibility of escalation is made even more acute by the lack of any means of official communication across the demilitarized zone.

Australia has decided to join the training event. Last week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed his country would join the US in any conflict with North Korea if it carries out its threat to fire missiles towards Guam. Tokyo has moved a ballistic missile defense (BMD) capable destroyer into the Sea of Japan. It has also deployed four land-based defence systems in case US interceptors failed to hit any North Korean missiles. Canada, Columbia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, will also participate in the exercise.

The question now is why should the US send more forces to South Korea, with about 30,000 combat ready troops already stationed in that country? American servicemen are also deployed in Japan. The number of American troops to take part in the exercise is over 17,000, the Pentagon has 28,500 already in place, then why spend money, time and effort to transport more forces from the continental USA?

According to the tweet posted on August 19 by the source named Already Happened, US military loaded around 1,500 military vehicles including Stryker AFVs onto USNS Bob Hope and Cape Isabel vehicle cargo ships in WA, West Coast. The information is supported by photos. Before that, long trains loaded with US Bradley IFVs and other vehicles had been spotted in Houston, TX. Already Happened provided videos to confirm the report.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has just wound up his Asia trip, visiting South Korea, China and Japan. According to him, a "full range" of contingency plans had been drawn up in case diplomatic and economic sanctions did not deter Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons.

The exercise may hold more potential to provoke a conflict than ever, given the fact that the war game kicks off after North Korea successfully flight-tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month and threatened to strike Guam with intermediate range ballistic missiles. The calls to ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and give diplomacy a chance have been ignored by the US The training event may provoke Pyongyang into another ICBM test to make the war almost unavoidable. The only thing left is to keep the fingers crossed hoping the worst won’t happen.

Reprinted with permission from the Strategic Culture Foundation.]]> Mon, 21 Aug 2017 19:22:06 GMT
Oppose Fascism of the Right and the Left Ron Paul

Following the recent clashes between the alt-right and the group antifa, some libertarians have debated which group they should support. The answer is simple: neither. The alt-right and its leftist opponents are two sides of the same authoritarian coin.

The alt-right elevates racial identity over individual identity. The obsession with race leads them to support massive government interference in the economy in order to benefit members of the favored race. They also favor massive welfare and entitlement spending, as long as it functions as a racial spoils system. Some prominent alt-right leaders even support abortion as a way of limiting the minority population. No one who sincerely supports individual liberty, property rights, or the right to life can have any sympathy for this type of racial collectivism.

Antifa, like all Marxists, elevates class identity over individual identity. Antifa supporters believe government must run the economy because otherwise workers will be exploited by greedy capitalists. This faith in central planning ignores economic reality, as well as the reality that in a free market employers and workers voluntarily work together for their mutual benefit. It is only when government intervenes in the economy that crony capitalists have the opportunity to exploit workers, consumers, and taxpayers. Sadly, many on the left confuse the results of the “mixed economy” with free markets.

Ironically, the failure of the Keynesian model of economic authoritarianism, promoted by establishment economists like Paul Krugman, is responsible for the rise of the alt-right and antifa. Despite a recent (and likely short-lived) upturn in some sectors of the economy, many Americans continue to struggle with unemployment and a Federal Reserve-caused eroding standard of living. History shows that economic hardship causes many to follow demagogues offering easy solutions and convenient scapegoats.


Left-wing demagogues scapegoat businesses and the “one percent,” ignoring the distinction between those who made their fortunes serving consumers and those who enriched themselves by manipulating the political process. Right-wing demagogues scapegoat immigrants and minorities, ignoring how these groups suffer under the current system and how they are disproportionally impacted by policies like the war on drugs and police militarization.

As the Keynesian-Krugman empire of big government and fiat currency collapses, more people will be attracted to authoritarianism, leading to an increase in violence. The only way to ensure the current system is not replaced with something even worse is for those of us who know the truth to work harder to spread the ideas of liberty.

While we should be willing to form coalitions with individuals of good will across the political spectrum, we must never align with anyone promoting violence as a solution to social and economic problems. We must also oppose any attempts to use the violence committed by extremists as a justification for expanding the police state or infringing on free speech. Laws against hate speech set a dangerous precedent for censorship of speech unpopular with the ruling elite and the deep state.

Libertarians have several advantages in the ideological battle over what we will replace the Keynesian welfare model with. First, we do not need to resort to scapegoating and demagoguing, as we have the truth about the welfare-warfare state and the Federal Reserve on our side. We also offer a realistic way to restore prosperity. But our greatest advantage is that, while authoritarianism divides people by race, class, religion, or other differences, the cause of liberty unites all who seek peace and prosperity.]]> Mon, 21 Aug 2017 11:38:46 GMT
Escape from Aleppo Eric Margolis

AMMAN JORDAN – I haven’t seen many miracles in my decades of travel around the globe, particularly not in the strife-torn Mideast.

But last week I participated in a real miracle in Jordan as the splendid Four Paws International group staged a daring rescue of 13 wild animals trapped in the wartime hellhole of Aleppo, Syria.  It appeared to be a mission impossible.

Syria has been torn apart for the past six years by a bloody civil war that has killed over 400,000 people and reduced many parts of this beautiful country to ruins.  Half the population has become refugees.  The ancient northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, was laid waste.

Just outside Aleppo lies a wrecked 40-acre amusement park cum zoo that once held hundreds of imprisoned wild animals to entertain children.  The animals were abandoned in their cages in the midst of constant gunfire and shelling.  Many were killed; the rest were left to starve to death or die of thirst.  Some starving Syrians shared their meager rations with the animals.

No one else cared about these abandoned creatures that included five lions, two tigers, two Asian black bears, two hyenas and two Husky dogs.

But the Vienna-based Four Paws Charity did, and so did I.  Four Paws had rescued a majestic lion named Simba and a charming honey-colored bear named Lula from Iraq’s abandoned Mosul zoo. Both had been starving.  I agreed to sponsor much of the rescue operation in Aleppo.

I spent a morning in the New Hope Refuge outside Amman, Jordan, presided over by Jordan’s Princess Alia, the king’s sister.  Over lunch, she showed remarkable compassion and understanding for wild animals.

Previously, Four Paws, led by its veterinarian, Dr. Amir Khalil, had rescued numerous starving or sick animals from the ghastly zoo in Gaza, Palestine.

Last week, a security team engaged by Four Paws International finally entered war-ravaged Aleppo which is besieged by feuding jihadist bands supported by competing outside powers that include al-Qaida and even Israel.   Throw in Kurds, Turks, the Syrian government, Iranians, Hezbollah and the US for a total madhouse – and a very dangerous one.

Risking their lives, the security team managed to get around the jihadists and then into the Aleppo zoo.  Over two trips, the thirteen remaining animals were coaxed into cages, then lifted onto flatbed trucks.  Then the convoy headed for the Turkish border.  This was the second attempt.  A previous one had been held at the border, then forced to turn back.


The daring rescue team had to negotiate with the bands of trigger-happy jihadists surrounding them.  A team of well-armed ‘security consultants’ came in to guard the convoy escaping from Aleppo.   There was talk that the Israeli army might come to aid the animals, or a Turkish-backed militia.   In any event, the little mercy convoy finally got to the Turkish border under the cover of darkness.

But the gate leading into Turkey was locked.  Four Paws, with the help of Turkish volunteers, managed to talk the guards into opening it – yet another small miracle.

The animals were then driven for over 24 hours to an animal sanctuary near Bursa, south of Istanbul.  There, one of the tigers, an imposing male that I named Sultan, went into cardiac arrest.  Another wonderful veterinarian, Dr. Frank Goeritz, got into his cage and managed to bring him back to life, warning his aides ‘leave the gate open in case he wakes up.’  Sultan was saved.

Wheels had to be cut off the cages to fit them into a commercial aircraft.  Finding the right tool to do this in the middle of the night in Istanbul was another challenge.

After long delays, the mercy flight finally got to Amman where we met them at 5:30 am.  Four Paws director Heli Dungler was waiting with us.  Thanks to the patronage of Princess Alia we got the animals through border controls and then onto flat-bed trucks for a two hour journey north to the al-Ma’wa animal refuge near the ancient Roman city of Jerash.  Drivers on the road could not believe their eyes as our convoy of big predators rolled by.

After a labor of Hercules, the heavy cages were unloaded from the trucks and the 13 new residents were gently introduced into their new enclosures.  The animals were of course confused, exhausted and testy, but we were thrilled that our wards were finally safe in their new homes.

We humans were also exhausted, but elated. I had slept no more than a few hours for days and was groggy from jet lag and fatigue.  But Four Paws had achieved the impossible and shone a beacon of humanity into the boiling darkness of Syria’s civil war.

As a final sign of good karma, lioness Dana gave birth to a feisty little girl who begins her life in a far better place.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Sun, 20 Aug 2017 19:39:56 GMT
Everyone Is Wrong About North Korea Darius Shahtahmasebi

Imagine a world where one country – country X – is bombing at least seven countries at any one time and is seeking to bomb an eighth, all the while threatening an adversarial ninth state – country Y – that they will bomb that country into oblivion, as well. Imagine that in this world, country X already bombed country Y back into the Stone Age several decades ago, which directly led to the current adversarial nature of the relationship between the two countries.

Now imagine that country Y, which is currently bombing no one and is concerned mostly with well-founded threats against its own security, threatens to retaliate in the face of this mounting aggression if country X attacks them first. On top of all this, imagine that only country Y is portrayed in the media as a problem and that country X is constantly given a free pass to do whatever it pleases.

Now replace country X with the United States of America and country Y with North Korea to realize there is no need to imagine such a world. It is the world we already live in.

As true as all of this is, the problem is constantly framed as one caused by North Korea alone, not the United States. “How to Deal With North Korea,” the Atlantic explains. “What Can Trump Do About North Korea?” the New York Times asks. “What Can Possibly Be Done About North Korea,” the Huffington Post queries. Time provides 6 experts discussing “How We Can Solve the Problem” (of North Korea). “North Korea – what can the outside world do?” asks the BBC.

That being said, some reports have framed the issue in completely different terms. In an article entitled “The Game is Over and North Korea Has Won,” Foreign Policy’s Jeffrey Lewis explains that the United States should accept North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and pursue other courses of action:
The big question is where to go from here. Some of my colleagues still think the United States might persuade North Korea to abandon, or at least freeze, its nuclear and missile programs. I am not so sure. I suspect we might have to settle for trying to reduce tensions so that we live long enough to figure this problem out. But there is only one way to figure out who is right: Talk to the North Koreans.
Lewis explains further:
The other options are basically terrible. There is no credible military option. North Korea has some unknown number of nuclear-armed missiles, maybe 60, including ones that can reach the United States; do you really think U.S. strikes could get all of them? That not a single one would survive to land on Seoul, Tokyo, or New York? Or that U.S. missile defenses would work better than designed, intercepting not most of the missiles aimed at the United States, but every last one of them? Are you willing to bet your life on that?
It’s also worth mentioning that Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, already testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that experts tell him North Korea does not have “the capacity to strike the US with any degree of accuracy or reasonable confidence of success.”

Compare these observations to every single keyboard warrior on Facebook and Twitter who thinks the United States has a duty to defend itself from – and destroy – this rogue state, which is currently attacking no one else nor has any underlying reason to (especially considering that South Korea is open to talking with the North rather than relying solely on a military confrontation).

The problem with the mind-numbingly militarized approach to this conundrum is that it completely ignores the historical factors that led the United States to this crossroads in the first place.

In the early 1950s, the U.S. bombed North Korea into complete oblivion, destroying over 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, 600,000 homes, and eventually killing off perhaps 20 percent of the country’s population. As noted by the Asia Pacific Journal, the U.S. dropped so many bombs that they eventually ran out of targets to hit:
By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.
In its isolated state, the North Korean leadership that held office after the end of the Korean war requested nuclear weapons technology from both China and the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, spearheaded by the US, North Korea began to deteriorate even further, as it had relied heavily on Soviet aid. Following a famine in the nineties that reportedly killed as many as 500,000 civilians, North Korea was left to its own devices as it watched its southern neighbors prosper. It began to rapidly accelerate its nuclear weapons program.

Under the Clinton administration, a deal was struck with North Korea that aimed to ensure the communist nation would eventually freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program.

George W. Bush intentionally derailed this deal in a manner similar to what President Trump is currently doing in his attempts to derail the nuclear deal arranged with Iran in 2015. Then, to make matters worse, the Bush administration accused Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction and invaded the country in 2003, plunging the country into a state of chaos even though Iraq clearly possessed no nuclear weapons.

This decision – coupled with Barack Obama and his NATO cohorts’ decision to invade Libya in 2011 — taught North Korea a very valuable lesson about what can happen to an adversarial state if they give up their nuclear weapons program. This isn’t conjecture. It has come straight from the horse’s mouth.

“The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” which was that Libya’s decision to abandon its weapons programs in 2003, applauded by George W. Bush, had been “an invasion tactic to disarm the country” – according to North Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

The invasion of Iraq was quite clearly tied to natural resources and money, as was the decision to invade and topple Libya. Lo and behold, North Korea is reportedly sitting on a stockpile of minerals worth trillions of dollars. It also happens to have only one real major ally: America’s economic thorn in the backside, China, a country the US has had a specific containment policy towards.


It is quite clear that threats of provocation to what is becoming a rapidly growing nuclear-armed state, which is allied to another nuclear-armed state, have nothing to do with concerns about global security or human rights. China has already warned that their leadership will only pick sides in the conflict if the United States strikes first. A simple solution, therefore, would be for the US not to strike at all.

It is for these reasons that Donald Trump stated in 1999 that the US should negotiate with North Korea as a first resort. Now that he is in the nuclear-code hot seat with a decaying presidency on the verge of failure, he has changed his approach.

People sitting behind their computer screens claiming the US should have blown up North Korea a long time ago fail to realize that the US already did just that, as well as the fact that the US has specifically cultivated the conditions under which a state like North Korea would want to acquire nuclear weapons in the first place. These people also fail to realize that the US and South Korea simulate an invasion of North Korea every year and have also planned to simulate nuclear strikes, as well. In its regular joint exercises, the U.S. has even flown bombers low to the ground on the North-South border, dropping 2,000-pound (900 kilograms) bombs.

Who is provoking whom?

If you find yourself fearing North Korea, try to imagine how North Koreans feel about your current and former governments.

No one is pretending Kim Jong-un is a saint, but he is currently bombing no one, and any attempt on his part at bombing America’s allies or bases would see his inevitable assassination and the destruction of his entire regime. This war would also create a refugee crisis that makes the current crisis pale in comparison.

North Korea’s nuclear strategy is a deterrent strategy only. The country has learned many lessons from its own past, as well as lessons from the US-led invasions of Iraq, Libya, and other weaker nations — and in response, it has made it a pointed policy to never succumb the fate of these aforementioned countries.

Anyone who is able to absorb and digest all of this information and still demand war between these two countries needs to pack their bags and sign up for the military with the specific intention of being on the front lines of this battle. If you believe in this war that genuinely, you need to be prepared to fight it.

Anything else is pure cowardice, glorified by sheer ignorance of this conflict’s historical background, its geopolitical concerns, and the humanitarian crisis it would create.

Reprinted with permission from The Anti-Media.
]]> Sat, 19 Aug 2017 18:07:56 GMT
Weapons Money Intended for Economic Development Being Secretly Diverted to Lobbying Alex Emmons

The United Arab Emirates created a “slush fund” using money meant for domestic economic development projects and funneled it to a high-profile think tank in the United States, emails obtained by The Intercept show.

Last week, The Intercept reported that the UAE gave a $20 million grant to the Middle East Institute, flooding a well-regarded D.C. think tank with a monetary grant larger than its annual budget. According to an email from Richard Clarke, MEI’s chairman of the board, the UAE got the money from offset investments — development investments by international companies that are made as part of trade agreements.

The idea behind offset agreements is simple: When a country buys weapons from a firm overseas, it pumps a large amount of money out of its economy, instead of investing in its own defense industry or in other domestic projects. So to make large weapons deals more attractive, arms companies offer programs to “offset” that effect. As part of a weapons package, they often sign an agreement to invest in the country’s economy, either in defense or civilian sectors.

Offsets provide a way to sell weapons at inflated prices, when companies offer juicier offset packages. Critics say the lack of transparency in how offset investments are carried out leaves a window open for a form of legalized corruption. The emails lift a veil on what has long been an obscure element of the arms trade.

According to an email from Clarke, the UAE accepted unpaid offset obligations as cash payments to a large financial firm called Tawazun Holding. Tawazun sent the $20 million to a UAE think tank called the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. ECSSR then began sending that money to the Middle East Institute, a prestigious D.C. think tank that has a history of promoting arms sales to Gulf dictatorships. ...

So essentially, in a roundabout way, the UAE took money from international firms that was meant for economic development and funneled it to a supportive think tank in the United States.

Fair use excerpt. Full article here.]]> Fri, 18 Aug 2017 16:38:46 GMT
Marco Rubio Says It’s OK To Beat People For Their Thoughts Shane Kastler undefined

In a truly “free” society, no one gets beaten up for their political views. Laws cannot be passed against thoughts or symbols. And mob violence is not allowed to rule the day. But Florida Senator Marco Rubio, like most establishment political hacks, is not interested in a free society. He’s interested in seizing power in any way possible. And if that means excusing and encouraging mob violence, to achieve his political ends, then so be it. While Rubio may rail against dictators, his statements sound eerily like the late Fidel Castro, and other tyrants like him.

Rubio’s statement came in the form of a series of tweets he posted in response to the Charlottesville circus. Here are his exact words: “When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you, it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them.” While the trained seals who follow hucksters like Rubio will bark their approval for his “brave words”; those who love liberty will shudder at the true ramifications of what he is saying. But let’s begin by trying to parse who exactly he is saying it about.

Like a good political opportunist, he speaks in vague terms. One might surmise that his reference to an “entire movement” is a shot at Donald Trump and his supporters. Myriads of establishment politicians have accused Trump of “anger & hatred”; yet examples of this are never forthcoming, other than disagreements over something like immigration policy. So, is Rubio saying it’s OK to physically attack any who belong to “the movement” that elected Trump? And if so, then is Rubio also saying it’s OK to physically attack Trump? The supposed leader of this “movement?” The political vagaries allow Rubio to deny this, and perhaps say that he is talking about white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or the KKK. But even if he is talking about these groups…. Is he correct in saying it’s “justifiable” to physically attack them for their views? If so, then he is no friend to freedom in general, nor to free speech in specific.

Most Americans, including me, abhor the ideologies of white supremacy, Nazism, and the KKK. But if a nation truly wants free speech, then even those we abhor must be allowed to speak their mind. There is no need to pass laws protecting polite speech. It is the very thoughts and words of those we vociferously disagree with that must be protected. Otherwise, there is no freedom at all. Only a rotating cycle of dictatorships, who suppress the people they conquer. And any U.S. Senator who encourages violence against anyone for their political views is a part of the problem and not the solution. While Rubio may rail against Castro, his views toward free speech are identical. He may rail against Adolph Hitter, but his views on free speech are no different.

Rubio is a political hound dog, who lifts his nose to try and sniff which way the popular winds are blowing. And then he (or one of his lackeys) issues a tweet to kiss-up to the mobs he wishes to appease. Rubio has always been a political robot, seemingly incapable of generating a unique thought. This was publicly displayed in that infamous, cringe-worthy presidential debate when Chris Christie tried to engage him in an actual exchange of ideas, and Rubio began sweating profusely and repeating his talking points. Over and over and over. The moment exposed him for the phony that he is and almost ruined his political career. But now, he smells an opportunity to rally the mob and save his career. His actions are truly deplorable.

Sadly, many in this country would side with Rubio and say violence and laws should be enacted to silence “hate speech.” One of the questions this leads to is, “How do you define hate speech?” People, with their selfish natures, typically define “hate speech” as anything uttered that they disagree with. This leads to a person’s thoughts being criminalized. For example, if I think or speak in favor of Christianity, then non-Christians can deem this “hate speech.” Of course the same goes for any other viewpoint that might be expressed. Those in power use the power of intimidation and law to silence opposition. This is what Rubio declares “justifiable.” And the use of baseball bats and clubs are acceptable.

As it pertains to “symbols” some say the mere presence of a Nazi flag, or a Confederate one, justifies violence. Many have shockingly said that showing a symbol is “inciting a riot” and inviting violence against the symbol-wavers, for their views. But this is a slippery slope that all freedom-loving people should avoid. This past week, a man of German origin told me that he had family members killed by the Nazis. Therefore, any violence carried out against those who wave a Nazi-flag is justified. While I have no sympathy toward Nazis, my argument back to him was that I had Southern family members killed by men carrying the American flag during the Civil War. Does this mean I can physically attack anyone who waves an American flag? Politicians like Rubio would never say this, because he’s too busy wrapping himself in the flag as he tries to further his career. But what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If one group can physically attack another group over a symbol. Then what stops the attacked group from reciprocating? And using Rubio’s incendiary words as justification?

If people really want a “free country” like they claim they do, then political thoughts, speech, and symbols cannot be outlawed. Nor can men as powerful as U.S. Senators justify violence against any group because of their views. It’s become passé to call anyone who disagrees with you a Nazi. In some cases, those who disagree with you truly are Nazis. But in this case, Marco Rubio is displaying the philosophy of a Nazi. If Rubio’s supporters truly want freedom, they will call him out for his incendiary comments. They will stand up to him and others like him and say free speech, truly means “free speech.” And they will look for ways to peacefully keep dictatorial men like him from seizing power. Rubio loves to talk about how his family fled the tyranny of Castro’s Cuba to find freedom in America. But today, Rubio’s political ambitions have caused him to revert back to the behavior that his ancestors fled. Or maybe this has been Rubio’s mindset all along. Evil men desire power for themselves more than they desire freedom for all. And they will say and do whatever it takes to gain such power. Rubio’s words expose him once again as what he truly is. If encouraging mob violence furthers his career, then he’s all game. Maybe instead of calling him “Little Marco” people should start calling him “Little Castro.” A more fitting moniker could not be found.

Reprinted with permission from author's blog.

]]> Fri, 18 Aug 2017 05:00:33 GMT
Iran Will be Trump's Nemesis Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

The White House readout of US President Donald Trump’s phone call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday highlighted that the latter “thanked” Trump for his “strong leadership uniting the world against the North Korean menace.” Modi must be the only world leader who has given such fulsome praise to Trump for his performance vis-a-vis North Korea. And, Trump naturally felt elated.

In reality, though, it wasn’t particularly difficult for Modi to say such a strange thing, because India has no role to play in resolving the North Korea problem. What the readout betrays is Washington’s craving for endorsement by the world community for its incoherent approach to the North Korean problem. However, Modi has taken a risk here by raising new expectations in Trump’s mind. The point is, Trump is getting into a collision course with Iran.

Trump has tried to outsmart Tehran by not tearing up the Iran deal but instead undermining it systematically. But Tehran has decided to draw the ‘red line’ and challenged Trump to cross it. On Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened Trump that if his administration imposes any further sanctions on Iran, Tehran will restart its nuclear programme. Period. Significantly, Rouhani issued the stark warning to Trump while addressing the Iranian Majlis:
The new U.S. officials should know that the failed experience of sanctions and coercion compelled their previous governments to eventually come to the negotiation table. If they want to try those experiences again, Iran will definitely revert to a far more advanced situation than it had before the negotiations, not in a matter of weeks or months but in a matter of days or hours.
Top Iranian officials have also been lately articulating a demand that Iran should restart industrial scale uranium enrichment.  Notably, Ali Akbar Salehi, president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and a moderate voice in the establishment who had been a consistent supporter of the nuclear deal with the US, said recently that the country could go up to 20 percent enrichment to “surprise the Americans and their supporters.” Of course, if Iran starts enriching uranium up to the level of 20 percent, it will be a step toward building a nuclear weapon.

All the same, a military showdown with Iran would have catastrophic consequences not only for US interests all across the region but also for Israel. Rouhani’s remarks came only two days after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei directly attacked Trump. In a language reminiscent of the past hostility between Iran and the US, Khamenei said:
Those in power in the United States, wishfully and naively, are still suffering from the illusion that they rule the world. They talk in a manner as if they are dictators over the entire earth! And there are some who obey them out of fear and low self-esteem. Today, the Islamic Republic stands in full power against the United States and tells those in power, who do you think you are? If you are a powerful state, then go manage your own country! If you really care, then tackle the insecurities and violence on the streets of Washington DC, New York City, and Los Angeles! If you really care, go fix racial discrimination and the disastrous violations of human rights for both whites and blacks in your own country! Mind your own business, rather than meddling with other nations’ affairs!
Trump is unused to being spoken to like this. Even those world leaders who think poorly of Trump – such as Germany’s Angela Merkel or Turkey’s Recep Erdogan – speak in innuendos. For sure, this may turn out to be an entanglement that Trump will rue – like in the case of Jimmy Carter. The UN Security Council will never go along with a move by the Trump administration against Iran.

Trump’s credibility is abysmally poor, including among those who may flatter him — like Modi. The US will not even get regional allies to fight its war with Iran. As the 3-day visit by the chief of staff of Iran’s armed forcesGen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri to Turkey testifies — an event without precedent, by the way — the US is pretty much isolated in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the regional alignment involving Russia, Iran and Turkey has jelled, finally, and it binds Trump’s hands. The three countries have just signed a mega $7 billion deal to drill for oil and gas in Iran.

Reprinted with permission from Indian Punchline.]]> Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:24:41 GMT
Korea and Venezuela: Flip Sides of the Same Coin Jacob G. Hornberger

By suggesting that he might order a US regime-change invasion of Venezuela, President Trump has inadvertently shown why North Korea has been desperately trying to develop nuclear weapons — to serve as a deterrent or defense against one of the US national-security state storied regime-change operations. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Venezuela and, for that matter, other Third World countries who stand up to the US Empire, also seeking to put their hands on nuclear weapons. What better way to deter a US regime-change operation against them?

Think back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The US national-security establishment had initiated a military invasion of the Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, had exhorted President Kennedy to bomb Cuba during that invasion, and then had recommended that the president implement a fraudulent pretext (i.e., Operation Northwoods) for a full-scale military invasion of Cuba.

That’s why Cuba, which had never initiated any acts of aggression against the United States, wanted Soviet nuclear missiles installed in Cuba. Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro knew that there was no way that Cuba could defeat the United States in a regular, conventional war. Everyone knows that the military establishment in the United States is so large and so powerful that it can easily smash any Third World nation, including Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Venezuela.

Castro’s strategy worked. The Soviet nuclear missiles installed in Cuba drove Kennedy to reject the Pentagon’s and CIA’s vehement exhortations to bomb and invade Cuba. The way the Pentagon and the CIA saw the situation was that Kennedy now had his justification for effecting a violent regime-change operation in Cuba. The way Kennedy saw the situation was that a violent regime-change operation through bombing and invasion could easily result in all-out nuclear war between the United States and Russia.

It turned out that Kennedy was right. What the Pentagon and the CIA didn’t realize at the time is that Soviet commanders on the ground in Cuba had fully armed tactical nuclear weapons at their disposal and the battlefield authority to use them in the event of a US bombing or invasion of the island. If Kennedy had complied with the dictates of the Pentagon and the CIA, it is a virtual certainty that the result would have been all-out nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States. To his ever-lasting credit, Kennedy struck a deal in which he vowed that the United States would cease and desist from invading Cuba in return for the Soviet Union’s withdrawal of its nuclear missiles from Cuba.

The point is this: If the Pentagon and the CIA had not been trying to get regime-change in Cuba, Cuba would never have felt the need to get those Soviet missiles. It was the Pentagon’s and CIA’s commitment to regime change in Cuba that gave us the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Equally important, the resolution of the crisis showed that if an independent, recalcitrant Third World regime wants to protect itself from a US national-security-state regime-change operation, the best thing it can do is secure nuclear weapons. Thus, the current crisis over North Korea’s quest to get nuclear weapons to deter a US regime-change operation is rooted in how Cuba deterred the US national security establishment’s regime-change efforts in 1962.

Americans would be wise to view regime change operations in North Korea and Venezuela in the context of the US government’s overall foreign policy of military empire and interventionism.

Recall, first of all, that the US government has a long history of interventionism in Latin America, where it has brought nothing but death, destruction, suffering, misery, and tyranny. Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Panama, and Grenada come to mind.

In fact, the situation in Chile that resulted in US intervention was quite similar to today’s situation in Venezuela. In Chile, a socialist was democratically elected and began adopting socialist policies, which caused economic chaos and crisis. The CIA and Pentagon intentionally and secretly did everything they could to makes matters worse. US officials even engaged in bribery, kidnapping, and assassination in Chile. They incited and encouraged a coup that succeeded in ousting the democratically elected socialist and replaced by a “pro-capitalist” military general, whose forces proceeded to round up, kidnap, torture, rape, or execute tens of thousands of people, including the murder of two Americans, all with the support and complicity of the Pentagon and the CIA.

Haven’t we seen the same types of results with the US regime-change operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere? Death, destruction, and chaos, not to mention a gigantic refugee crisis for Europe.

And look at what the pro-empire, interventionist system has done to the American people. Constant, never-ending crises and chaos, with North Korea being just the latest example. Out of control federal spending and debt that are threatening the nation with financial bankruptcy and economic and monetary crises. Totalitarian-like powers being exercised by the president and his national-security establishment, including assassination, torture, and indefinite detention. Weird, bizarre random acts of violence that reflect the same lack of regard for the sanctity of human life that US officials display in faraway countries.

None of this is necessary. It’s entirely possible for Americans to live normal, healthy, free lives. All it takes is a change of direction — one away from empire and interventionism and toward a limited-government republic and non-interventionism in the affairs of other nations. That’s the way to achieve a free, prosperous, harmonious, and friendly society.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Tue, 15 Aug 2017 14:26:35 GMT
The Wrong Narrative in Charlottesville Jeff Deist

The political violence in Charlottesville yesterday was as predictable as it was futile. One person was killed and dozens badly injured, marking a new low in the political and cultural wars that are as heated as any time since in America since the 1960s.

This relentless politicization of American culture has eroded goodwill and inflamed the worst impulses in society. Antifa and the alt-right may represent simple-minded expressions of hatred and fear, but both groups are animated entirely by politics: the perception that others can impose their will on us politically. The only lasting solution to political violence is to make politics matter less.

We’ve allowed politics to invade every aspect of American life, from religion and family life to sex and sexuality, from bathrooms to ball fields to the workplace. But what has it gotten us besides identity politics on steroids? The “personal is political” is hardly the rallying cry of a free and confident nation. Even as we enjoy historically unparalleled material prosperity, we are dispirited by the 2016 election hangover and looking for scapegoats to explain the American malaise.

It’s easy to decry Antifa and its violent leftwing rhetoric. It’s easy to decry the alt-Right, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and fascists. It’s more important to understand them as exemplars of a new political age. Progressives demanded permanent revolution; conservatives responded by becoming permanent reactionaries. And the media bias (overwhelmingly anti-right) makes things worse: one “side” becomes convinced of its moral superiority, while the other becomes convinced the fix is in.

We suspect, without knowing, that a Hillary voter is just a step or two removed from a bandanna-clad Antifa, while a Mitt Romney voter is but a few degrees removed from an alt-Right nationalist marching in the streets. This may seem farcical, but the political society promoted by Clinton and Romney encourages it. Everyone must take a side, and live with the excesses.

What we saw this weekend was a demonstration of the horseshoe effect, where both groups begin to sound and act like the other-- both illiberal, both demanding omnipotent state solutions to problems mostly created by government in the first place.

To be sure, Antifa and the alt-right represent only a tiny fraction of the population and have little economic, social, or political power. But they serve as perfect fodder for a media narrative that benefits from a sky-is-falling narrative to ratchet up viewership. The narrative is fed by our vanity and desire to imagine easy solutions to complex problems (e.g. more “education,” hate speech laws, welfarism, etc.) And we play along, assuming the worst of others and issuing smug affirmations of our own superiority on Facebook and Twitter.

In 2018 we will suffer through a round of mid-term congressional elections which will only intensify the political and cultural divide. Both political parties will use events like Charlottesville to serve their shameful partisan goals. The need for each side to vanquish the other, to punish and repudiate the other’s existence, demonstrates why politics is termed war by other means. It’s not a peaceable process. Yet underneath it all the “policy” differences between Democrats and Republicans are laughably small. Theirs is a turf battle, nothing more.

In a winner takes all political world, elections are weapons. Unless and until we learn to reject politics as the overarching method for organizing society, hatred and fear of “the other” will remain pervasive. Americans understand viscerally that government has far too much power over who wins and loses in our society, but haven’t fully grasped the degree to which the political class benefits from division. We still want to believe in grade-school notions of democracy and voting.

People of goodwill don’t impose themselves on others politically any more than they do militarily. Libertarianism, with its goal of radically diminishing the scope of government and politics in our lives, offers a path to a more peaceful future. Only libertarians can claim the mantle of anti-authoritarianism, because only libertarians would deny government the power and size to become authoritarian. The political world isn’t working, so why do we insist on more politics to fix it?

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 14 Aug 2017 18:42:32 GMT
North Korea and The Unintended Consequences of Trump Patrick Henningsen

There’s something very strange and disturbing about the hype around the White House and US media’s latest obsession with North Korea. It’s not just the usual war-mongering and hot air though. We’ve seen all that before. This goes beyond sabre-rattling. There’s something uncomfortably bipartisan about this new appetite for war.

Watching CNN this week, you got the impression we’ve entered a new comic book phase in the American experiment, driven by an 24 hour media environment where facts and analysis seem like a distant nostalgic hallucination. I asked myself, is it real? Where does the show finally end, and the war begin?

We’re told that North Korea has now defied recent threats of “fire and fury” from US President Donald Trump, and that the regime has announced its plan to launch missiles at the nearest US territory, the island of Guam in the Pacific. So that’s it. It’s war then, right?

Trump’s generals wasted no time throwing petrol on the fire, led by Defense Secretary Gen. James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis who warned Kim Jung-Un that the US military “possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth.”

Whatever your views might be of Trump, North Korea, US foreign policy, or "global security," at this point we’d all do well to hit the breaks.

When one considers that North Korea has been making noises about the American devil and its puppet state South Korea, for the last 18 years – having done absolutely nothing about it during that time, then it’s logical, at least for now, to conclude that Pyongyang either doesn’t want to do anything about it, or more likely, simply cannot do anything about it. Unless of course, you buy into the US mythology about unstable rogue regimes and the constant reincarnation of the Hitler avatar. Saddam should have taught us that lesson already, but apparently not.

Is North Korea a threat to the United States and its allies? This is not the conclusion to which many sober foreign policy analysts have come. Unfortunately, sober analysis is in short supply in Washington DC, but also in London and Down Under too. Emboldened by a media that is desperate for ad-generating eye balls (and the best way to generate ratings is by broadcasting a crisis, or fear-based narrative) you then see wild statements like the one made by the Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull this week assuring the US that he would invoke the "longstanding  military alliance" with America in the event the North Korean regime attacked the US.

What’s most dangerous about all of this is that no one is asking any questions.

The first question that needs to be answered in any intelligence briefing is: what is the nature of the threat?

Missile Threat?

Conveniently ignored by the entire US media and swamp alpha dogs, is the fact that there is no evidence to date that North Korea has an actual operational military ballistic missile program. No evidence suggests their test modules are capable of medium range strikes, let alone any intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability. In terms of ICBM capability – the ability to launch a missile into the outer atmosphere with a 10,000 km range – there exists no real indication that North Korea will have this ability in the near future. A series of recent botched tests (celebrated as ground-breaking by DPRK state media) of relatively short-range Hwasong-12 rockets (glorified Scud missiles) means North Korea cannot yet pose a physical threat to the US, unless of course, you are going by the colorful war graphics plastered all over Wolf Blitzer’s ridiculous Situation Room, airing daily on the military industrial promotional network CNN.

Still, US military officials are lining-up to confirm that the Kim regime can deliver on his threats, issuing a series of Orwellian statements along the way. Vice-Admiral James Syring, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, primed the media pump back in May, stating, “It is incumbent on us to assume that North Korea today can range the United States with an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead.”

In other words, if the threat is not yet there, we need to make sure you think it is.

In typical dramatic style, Pyongyang claimed on July 4th (US Independence Day, no less) that it had conducted its first ICBM test, and that the test had been a resounding success. The missile was capable of reaching “anywhere in the world,” they said on state TV. The amazing thing is that the US media willingly bought it. To borrow a turn from Donald Trump, the media were suddenly “locked and loaded.”

Now for an example of just how mindless (or controlled) western journalism has become, rather than challenge the wild propaganda claim, The Guardian’s man in Osaka, Justin McCurry, axiomatically validated it:
The claim was verified by the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who described the test as 'a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region and the world.'
At this point, anyone who has not dismissed the credibility of the comic book media outfit in Pyongyang cannot rightly call themselves a journalist, nor an "expert" on the DPRK. This seems to be the new formula applied by the west: Pyongyang releases another bombastic, wishful statement, which is then elevated to credulity by an US official, before finally being codified by a western news desk as “official.” It’s enough to make heads spin at Stalin’s Izvestia. Back then, the average Soviet citizen knew Izvestia was pure tripe. Not so in today’s Anglo-American empire.

Again, another in a long list of examples of why the western mainstream media is no longer fit for purpose.

When this latest round of North Korea hype first broke out in June, all the focus was on the ICBM threat which “could hit San Diego.”  Because of this glaring technical reality gap in the narrative, the international mainstream media machine has quickly compensated by simultaneously downgrading the threat to the continental USA and blowing-up the talking point that Kim will instead be attacking the US military stronghold of Guam instead. Their source? Well, it’s North Korea’s state-run propaganda bureau. Credible you say? After 18 years of nonstop nonsense from the Kim Dynasty, the answer should really be no, only for the western media, North Korea’s state-run KCNA is as good as gold (ratings gold). Again, we can confidently say that the mainstream corporate media is guilty of laundering DPRK propaganda, before spinning it into millions in advertising revenue at home, not to mention a nice little nudge for US military industrial share prices whose directors also sit on the boards of those same mainstream media outlets. Another little useful equation.

If you haven’t had an epiphany by this point, then you should consider moving to the DPRK.

There’s more. Pyongyang "confirms": “The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi Prefectures of Japan.”

General Kim Rak Gyom, the head of the country’s strategic forces, took to the airwaves to assure his comrades that The Korean People’s Army (KPA) will complete its plans in mid-August, ready for the final order from The Dear Leader.

They also claim that although the missiles will head towards Guam, they actually ditch into the sea about 18 to 25 miles before the island.

Guam is still 2,100 miles away from North Korea. If believed, North Korea’s own Academy of Defence Science boasted that their best "test" so far has only reached an altitude of 1,741 miles (2,802km), and flew a merger 580 miles – calling it their most "successful missile test" to date. While this report could rightly be classed as DPRK propaganda, The Guardian still reinforced Pyongyang’s claim, spinning it in spectacular fashion:
The US initially described it as an intermediate-range missile but later conceded it was an ICBM.
Dazzling spin. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that The Guardian’s Osaka desk was wired into the Pentagon’s communications department.  Interestingly, buried at the bottom of their missile section of the report, you find this contradictory admission:
John Schilling, a missile expert at the 38 North think tank in Washington, estimates it will take until at least 2020 for North Korea to be able to develop an ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland, and another 25 years before it will be able to build one powered by solid fuel.
Not good for the narrative (it’s worth noting that it took India more than 13 years to create an ICBM powered by solid fuel).

If you are brave enough to venture off the western media reservation, you will quickly learn from a number of different sources that these North Korean missile tests most likely did not have any guidance systems on board. Why not? Maybe because they haven’t managed to develop any yet.

“Nobody really knows if they’ve managed to miniaturize the weapons to put on top of the missiles,” said Robert Kelly, Associate Professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, telling Quartz:
It depends on miniaturization and guidance. The communist countries have traditionally not been good at guidance. That’s why the Soviets built gigantic missiles, because they didn’t know where they were going to land… My guess is that the North Koreans are not good at guidance. My guess is that when they start launching, a lot of them are just going to fall in the water.
What’s worse than Pyongyang’s state-generated bluster propaganda, is how the White House and the western media react to this as if it were a genuine news release. This fact alone should cause western electorates to seriously question the sanity of our media-driven narratives. But we see this familiar pattern time and time again – the US leadership and the western media mindlessly reacting to made-for-purpose propaganda, whether it’s coming from Pyongyang, or from ISIS’s Amaq news agency‘s press releases.

A Nuclear Threat?

Way back when, the topic of nuclear conflagration used to be treated with seriousness, but in today’s America it’s become something of a geopolitical sideshow. One reason for this could be for the US and Israel’s determination to deflect away from any serious discussion about nuclear disarmament, a concept which had achieved some political status in the 1980’s but has steadily waned ever since Francis Fukuyama declared The End of History and the Last Man in 1992.

On top of the fact that North Korea appears to have no operational (their series of failed, underwhelming "tests" do not count as operational) medium range ballistic missile arsenal, and no proven long-range ICBM capability, there is also no discernible nuclear weapons capability.

Estimates vary on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. To date, the US has no hard intelligence on any operational nukes. Reports on their supposed nuclear detonation tests are equally as sketchy. So it seems near impossible at the present juncture to accurately verify just how far along North Korea is with their alleged WMD program. Most estimates are generated by Washington-based think tanks, and are based on how much fissile material they might have, which is based on how much highly enriched uranium it may have produced over the last decade.

The Washington Post even questioned the status of their nuclear arsenal back in 2013. When a former senior Obama administration official was asked if he had seen any actual evidence of any such weapons, his reply was strikingly vague, stating, “We’re worried about it, but we haven’t seen it.”

Logic would dictate that we should only worry about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons until such a time when we have some verifiable intelligence to suggest they have the means to build them. At the moment, a sane argument can be made that they do not.

Despite all this, The Guardian continues to stoke the public fear by proffering the following:
Can anything be done to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions? At this point, the obvious response is no.
One thing that should be crystal clear to anyone by now is that a major component of the Kim regime’s domestic legitimacy requires the state to remind its citizens that they are under constant threat from the US and neighboring allies, South Korea and Japan. Again, what Donald Trump and the US media are doing by amplifying the “fire and fury” rhetoric is tapping directly into the Kim propaganda mill. You could make the argument that there’s a symbiosis between Washington and Pyongyang, a predictable tango of mutually assured public relations outcomes. How many times have we heard the old national security trope, “America takes these threats seriously. We’re putting the enemy on notice.” When this happens, it feeds directly into the DPRK newspeak machine, and so you see a predictable chain of events occur, all of which is turbo-charged by mainstream media spin.

‘Being  There’

Putting aside the issue of how China would react to an US strike near its border, there are a number of good reasons to pause and consider the consequences of any such action.

Here is where we shift gears, from TEAM America, to Chauncey Gardiner. Not to make light of such a serious situation, but I still find myself asking whether there’s not a man or woman around him who has either the clout or the stones to tap the President on the shoulder and calmly say, “Your excellency, a quick word if that’s ok. Maybe ratcheting up the war rhetoric and threatening a preemptive strike in Asia may not be the best way to go about it this.”

The impression one gets is that no such person exists in the President’s inner circle, and if they did, he is not paying them any notice. Maybe he is genuinely still feeling insecure about how to communicate publicly on matters of state. After all, this is a unique experiment in itself – the country’s first non-politician sitting in the chief executive’s chair. This leads us back to one of Trump potential handicaps; he had signaled very early on in his campaign that he would be relying on “the generals” to make all of his important military decisions. At the time, this might have seemed like a prudent move back in 2016 when he was juxtaposed with the bevy of 16 "national security" savants standing to his right and his left on an overcrowded Republican debate stage. As the only one on the stage with no experience in public service or politics, it seemed like a tactical move for Trump; if you can’t compete with the swamp purely on swamp credentials, then just dismiss that section of the résumé by deferring to the military brass, and thus bypassing faux hawks like Lindsey Graham who are constantly grandstanding, whilst pretending to know which war to start and when, or Little Marco shrieking on about going to war with everyone and Cuba, a dizzy Ben Carson, or Jeb Bush trying to defend his brother’s epic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the others – each competing for the crown of who’s toughest on terror, ISIS and Russia.

At the same time, Trump alluded to a clear shift away from a contiguous Clinton-Bush-Obama R2P policy, and towards a non-interventionist foreign policy. This was especially necessary early on in the campaign in order to knock out Jeb Bush, and distance oneself from the Dubya neocon stigma. However, by adopting a more Paulish, paleoconservative stance, Trump had indirectly declared war on the neoconservative Republican establishment and the deep state and their intelligence agency shadow steering committee, a faction which still remains at war with the President today. Come election time though, that didn’t matter because Trump struck a chord with America’s silent majority who were still embarrassed by the disastrous George W. Bush era, and even more disappointed by the Obama’s continuance of it. That crowd responded with positive feedback for Trump which translated into votes and his eventual GOP nomination (something which perennial presidential losers like John McCain and Lindsey Graham may never fully understand). This was the making of Trump. Moving into the general election, he simply refashioned this same platform to exhibit contrast with a hopelessly hawkish Hillary Clinton. Again, that strategy worked for Trump, but he still never addressed what might be his fundamental flaw, namely, a lack of knowledge in international diplomacy and geopolitics. Instead, he did what any good business man does – he delegated, and doubled-down on the generals.

The problem with all of the generals is that they are also career stakeholders in the previous military failures of the Clinton-Bush-Obama gestalt. With not a whistleblower among them (save for Gen. James Cartwright, skillfully indicted and ultimately excommunicated by Obama for whistleblowing on STUXNET), men like Gen. James Mattis, and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, having presided over a series of illegal and disastrous wars in American history, suddenly find themselves in even higher decision-making positions than before. We can only pray they’ve all had a come to Jesus moment and hopefully developed some empathic qualities that may help avert further wars. So far, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Given that Trump respects the generals, you’d expect that if the generals were telling him to calm down (and stop making an ass out of himself) then he wouldn’t be popping-off like he has been. So it looks like the generals may not be telling Trump to hold it down. Maybe they are encouraging him to play the role of war hawk and all-round tough guy. Either way, it looks like it’s back to square one for Trump – back to competing against sad individuals like Graham and McCain for the title of Most Flippant.

The Pro-War Left

On the other side of the aisle, we have something altogether more dangerous, a new fifth column in the United States. The new anti-antiwar left that has been carefully groomed during eight years of the Obama Odyssey, nudged into their current position by the ungodly neolib-neocon chimera led by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and flanked by Susan Rice, Samantha Power, wholly endorsed by John McCain, and backed-up by the terrible tandem of Victoria Nuland and Robert Kagan, and so on. These are the people leading the call for what seems like an endless list of military interventions. What should worry concerned citizens is that this unholy alliance is now completely bipartisan.

Robert Parry from Consortium News illustrates the level of political gymnastics involved in this ideological inversion:
Since the neocons’ emergence as big-time foreign policy players in the Reagan administration, they also have demonstrated extraordinary resilience, receiving a steady flow of money often through US government-funded grants from organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy and through donations from military contractors to hawkish neocon think tanks.

But neocons’ most astonishing success over the past year may have been how they have pulled liberals and even some progressives into the neocon strategies for war and more war, largely by exploiting the Left’s disgust with President Trump.
Their victory over the old antiwar left was achieved through the construct of the Arab Spring and by a relentless media disinformation campaign which suffocated any logical and non-orientalist discourse around interventions in Libya and Syria, and also around Afghanistan which turned out to be NATO’s first unofficial feminist war (where arguably, women and children are worse off in 2017 than before the US invasion on 2002).

So well-trained the new anti-antiwar left has become, that when Donald Trump launched his errant cruise missile attack on Syria, it was met with cheers and congratulations by Trump’s liberal critics and the robotic pundits at CNN and in US mainstream media. Hence, Trump’s lesson: aggressive war action equals a bounce in the polls. There was a method to their madness however. In their infinitely myopic geopolitical view, American progressives worked out a rudimentary equation in their heads: because the Syria government is closely allied with Russia, then anything which was bad for Damascus was also bad for Putin and Moscow. Granted, that might sound a bit like Simple Jack foreign policy, but that’s the intelligence level which most Democrats and ‘progressives’ are working on at the moment.

Another consequence of Trump being there, is that the political left in America have lost their minds and are still relying on the elaborate Russiagate conspiracy theory for their resurrection. Just ask Adam Schiff. If the left truly opposed Trump, it  would have been a good opportunity to pin him down on the fact that the US had no evidence of a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun, Idlib, but instead they passed on it.

Similarly, you would think that Democrats would have learned their lesson in Syria (a 7 year proxy war which the US has now lost), and use Trump’s bellicose outbursts over North Korea as a real opportunity to at least pose as genuine opposition, but again, no such luck. Parry explains how the border of this left-right maze is constructed:
People who would normally favor international cooperation toward peaceful resolution of conflicts have joined the neocons in ratcheting up global tensions and making progress toward peace far more difficult.

The provocative 'Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,' which imposes sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea while tying President Trump’s hands in removing those penalties, passed the Congress without a single Democrat voting no.

The only dissenting votes came from three Republican House members – Justin Amash of Michigan, Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky – and from Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Senate.

In other words, every Democrat present for the vote adopted the neocon position of escalating tensions with Russia and Iran. The new sanctions appear to close off hopes for a détente with Russia and may torpedo the nuclear agreement with Iran, which would put the bomb-bomb-bomb option back on the table just where the neocons want it.
If you are hoping that this new bipartisan war consensus will change any time soon, don’t hold your breath. Unless the American "left" or progressives actually wake up and realize how far out to sea they’ve drifted on the issue of war, then Washington will be locked into a new normal for the foreseeable future.

The danger of this current North Korean war plan is the level of political inertia pushing it. Like in 1914, when no one thought it could happen, and when it began, no one knew how to stop it.

The good news (well, sort of) is that Rex Tillerson seems to be prone to making intermittent statements which resemble sanity. When the war volume was reaching fever pitch on August 2nd, the Secretary of State weighed in saying, “We do not seek a regime change; we do not seek the collapse of the regime; we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula; we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.”

If the rest of the Administration could adopt this tone now and again, it would go a long way towards reducing public anxiety.

Perhaps Trump’s hawkishness will reawaken the moral core of American antiwar movement.

All of these outcomes could end up being the unintended consequences of Trump.

As for the US media, so far we can see there are no Tillerson-types around.

By now, we should all have learned the lesson: mainstream media, not politics, is the true engine of war.

Reprinted with author's permission from 21st Century Wire.]]> Mon, 14 Aug 2017 12:37:58 GMT
Attack Venezuela? Trump Can't be Serious! Ron Paul

There is something unsettling about how President Trump has surrounded himself with generals. From his defense secretary to his national security advisor to his White House chief of staff, Trump looks to senior military officers to fill key positions that have been customarily filled by civilians. He’s surrounded by generals and threatens war at the drop of a hat.

President Trump began last week by threatening “fire and fury” on North Korea. He continued through the week claiming, falsely, that Iran is violating the terms of the nuclear deal. He finally ended the week by threatening a US military attack on Venezuela.

He told reporters on Friday that, “We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary. …We have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying.”

Venezuela’s defense minister called Trump’s threat “an act of craziness.”

Even more worrisome, when Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro tried to call President Trump for clarification he was refused. The White House stated that discussions with the Venezuelan president could only take place once democracy was restored in the country. Does that mean President Trump is moving toward declaring Maduro no longer the legitimate president of Venezuela? Is Trump taking a page from Obama’s failed regime change policy for Syria and declaring that “Maduro must go”?

The current unrest in Venezuela is related to the economic shortcomings of that country’s centrally-planned economy. The 20th century has shown us very clearly that state control over an economy leads to mismanagement, mal-investment, massive shortages, and finally economic collapse. That is why those of us who advocate free market economics constantly warn that US government intervention in our own economy is leading us toward a similar financial crisis.

But there is another factor in the unrest in Venezuela. For many years the United States government, through the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy, and US government funded NGOs, have been trying to overthrow the Venezuelan government. They almost succeeded in 2002, when then-president Hugo Chavez was briefly driven from office. Washington has spent millions trying to manipulate Venezuela’s elections and overturn the results. US policy is to create unrest and then use that unrest as a pretext for US intervention.

Military officers play an important role in defending the United States. Their job is to fight and win wars. But the White House is becoming the war house and the president seems to see war as a first solution rather than a last resort. His threats of military action against a Venezuela that neither threatens nor could threaten the United States suggests a shocking lack of judgment.

Congress should take President Trump’s threats seriously. In the 1980s, when President Reagan was determined to overthrow the Nicaraguan government using a proxy army, Congress passed a series of amendments, named after their author, Rep. Edward Boland (D-MA), to prohibit the president from using funds it appropriated to do so. Congress should make it clear in a similar manner that absent a Venezuelan attack on the United States, President Trump would be committing a serious crime in ignoring the Constitution were he to follow through with his threats. Maybe they should call it the “We’re Not The World’s Policeman” act. 
]]> Mon, 14 Aug 2017 12:04:55 GMT
Trump Isn’t Going to Invade Venezuela, But What He’s Planning Might be Just as Bad Andrew Korybko

Trump was more aggressive than usual yesterday when he said that he’s not ruling out a “military option” in Venezuela, and the international media went haywire speculating that the President was considering an invasion. Nothing justifies what Trump said, but taking aside all moral considerations, his statement shouldn’t have been surprising, and interestingly enough, it might even backfire on him.

All US Presidents routinely restate the rhetoric that “all options are on the table” when dealing with the crises that their country provoked abroad, which in this case is the Hybrid War on Venezuela that seeks to attain proxy control over the world’s largest oil reserves in the Orinoco River Belt and smash the socialist-multipolar ALBA grouping.

Venezuela’s preexisting socio-political vulnerabilities and institutional weaknesses were exploited by US economic machinations against the country in order to trigger a Color Revolution against the government. When that failed, the regime change movement transformed into an urban insurgency and recently expanded its operations by staging a terrorist attack against a military base in the central part of the country.

It’s very likely that the situation will devolve into an externally triggered “civil war” with the eventual intent of sparking a military coup attempt against President Maduro, but the odds of the US directly intervening in this scenario are slim. Rather, Trump’s threatened “military option” probably relates to the “Lead From Behind” role that the US is slated to play in using Colombia as its regional partner for funneling weapons and other forms of assistance to the “moderate rebels” in Venezuela just as it used Turkey to do vis-a-vis Syria for the past six years.

Additionally, it can be confidently assumed that the CIA is hard at work trying to engineer its desired military coup, though the chances of its success are unlikely unless the Hybrid War becomes a full-fledged externally triggered “civil war” like in Syria. These two interconnected reasons explain what Trump meant by refusing to rule out a “military option,” though there’s admittedly the extreme case that can’t be discounted whereby a “humanitarian intervention” of varying scale is unleashed in the final stages of the crisis in order to decisively topple the government at its weakest moment.

No matter what the US ultimately does or doesn’t do, however, Trump’s braggadocious statement might actually backfire on him by increasing President Maduro’s appeal among the on-the-fence members of the so-called “opposition.” It’s one thing to detest an elected leader and hope for his downfall, but it’s another to actively support the foreign invasion of one’s country by the hemisphere’s traditional hegemon, especially given the US’ bloody history of military activity in the Americas across the past century.

Trump’s comments therefore put the US regime change proxies in a bind because they’re now caught in a dilemma between supporting what the world at large perceives to be a threat to invade their country or to support its legitimate leader whom they’ve been rioting against for months already. The average anti-government supporter can be presumed to be equally against Maduro, a speculated US invasion of their country, and the “opposition’s” riots, wanting only to hold snap elections in the hope of peacefully carrying out regime change.

They’ve been backing the “opposition” up until this point, however, because they saw them as the “least-bad” option available, but Trump’s implied military threat essentially exposes them in acting as the tip of the spear in a possible invasion, seeing as how the chaotic “civil war” conditions in which the US could conventionally intervene in Venezuela would be due to their intensified Hybrid War actions.

This fact should rightly give pause to self-identifying “patriotic opposition” members and prompt them to reconsider their “least-bad” normative assessment that they previously gave to the “opposition.” If they engage in some serious self-reflection, they’ll see that it’s actually President Maduro who’s the “least bad” of the two, and that the best way to achieve their objective of regime change is to begrudgingly wait until the next democratic vote is scheduled to be held.

Continuing to throw one’s weight behind the “opposition” at this point is tantamount to openly supporting the steps that are needed to create the conditions for Trump’s media-hyped “military options” against their country, up to and including a “humanitarian intervention.” It’s not known what proportion of the “opposition” satisfies the “patriotic” criteria that these points would apply to, but if their numbers are large enough, then their passive “defection” from the anti-government movement’s ranks in response to Trump’s threat could deal a blow to the regime change effort.

On the other hand, and approaching the subject from a cynical angle as the “devil’s advocate,” it might not tangibly change much at all if the US already has its mind dead-set on escalating the Hybrid War on Venezuela to a Syrian-like level, though it would nevertheless represent an important moral victory for the legitimate government by further exposing the “‘opposition’s” treasonous connivance with the US. In any case, regardless of what Trump really meant in his “military options” comment and despite whatever the “patriotic opposition” members decide to do, all indications suggest that Venezuela is at a fateful turning point and that the coming weeks will decide its future for what might end up being the years to come.

Reprinted with permission from The Duran.]]> Sat, 12 Aug 2017 18:33:45 GMT
If War Comes, Don’t Blame the ‘Military-Industrial Complex’ – Things Are Even Worse Than You Think James George Jatras

As the drumbeat intensifies for what might turn out to be anything but a "splendid little war" against North Korea, it is appropriate to take stock of the ongoing, seemingly successful effort to strip President Donald Trump of his authority to make any foreign and national security policies that fly against the wishes of the so-called Military-Industrial Complex, or MIC. A Google search for "Military-Industrial Complex" (in quotation marks) with "Trump" yields almost 450,000 hits from all sources and almost 26,000 from just news sources.

During the 2016 campaign and into the initial weeks of his administration, Trump was sometimes described as a threat to the MIC. But over time, with the appointment to his administration of more generals and establishment figures (including some allegedly tied to George Soroswhile purging Trump loyalists, it’s no surprise that his policies increasingly seem less a departure from those of previous administrations than a continuation of them (for example, welcoming Montenegro into NATO). Some now say that Trump is the MIC’s best friend and maybe always was. 

There are those who deny that the MIC exists at all. One self-described conservative blogger writing in the pro-war, pro-intervention, and mostly neoconservative National Review refers to the very existence of the MIC as a "myth" peddled by the "conspiracy-minded." Sure, it is conceded, it was appropriate to refer to such a concept back when President Dwight Eisenhower warned against it in 1961 upon his impending departure from the White House, because back then the military consumed some 10 percent of the American GDP. But now, when the percentage is nominally just 3.2 percent, less than $600 billion per year, the term supposedly is inapplicable. (There are those who argue that the real cost annually is over $1 trillion, but why quibble.) 

There is a germ of truth contained in the reference to money. Compared to the "wars of choice" that have characterized US global behavior since the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the MIC of the 1950s and 1960s was relatively less likely to embark upon foreign military escapades. The existence of a world-class nuclear-armed foe in the form of the USSR moderated tendencies toward adventurism. The most serious "combat" the classic MIC preferred to engage in was inter-service battles for budgetary bounty. Reportedly, once General Curtis LeMay, head of the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, was briefed by a junior officer who repeatedly referred to the USSR as "the enemy." LeMay supposedly interrupted to correct him: "Young man, the Soviet Union is our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy." 

But today the "Military-Industrial Complex" is an archaic term that doesn’t begin to describe the complexity and influence of current structures. Indeed, even in Eisenhower’s day the MIC was more than a simple duplex consisting of the Pentagon and military contractors but also included an essential third leg: the Congressional committees that provide the money constituting the MIC’s lifeblood. (Reportedly, an earlier draft of the speech used the term "military-industrial-Congressional" complex, a fuller description of what has come to be called the "Iron Triangle." Asked about the omission from the final text, Eisenhower is said to have answered: "It was more than enough to take on the military and private industry. I couldn't take on the Congress as well.") 

Not only did the Iron Triangle continue to expand during the Cold War, when production of military hardware established itself as the money-making nucleus of the MIC, it swelled to even greater proportions after the designated enemy, the USSR, went out of business in 1991. While for one brief shining moment there was naïve discussion of a "Peace Dividend" that would provide relief for American taxpayers from whose shoulders the burden of a "long twilight struggle" against communism (in John Kennedy’s phrase) had been lifted, that notion faded quickly. Instead, not only did the "hard" side of the MIC maintain itself – first in Iraq to fight "naked aggression" by Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, then in the Balkans in the 1990s as part of NATO’s determination to go "out of area or out of business" – it then branched out into "soft" areas of control.

In the past quarter century what began as Eisenhower’s MIC has become a multifaceted, hybrid entity encompassing an astonishing range and depth in both the public and private sectors. To a large extent, the contours of what former Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren has called the "Deep State" (which largely through Lofgren’s efforts has since become a household word) are those of the incestuous "expert" community that dominates mainstream media thinking but extend beyond it to include elements of all three branches of the US government, private business (especially the financial industry, government contractors, information technology), think tanks, NGOs (many of which are anything but "nongovernmental" but are funded by US official agencies and those of our "allies," satellites, and clients), higher education (especially the recipients of massive research grants from the Department of Defense), and the two political parties and their campaign operatives, plus the multitude of lobbyists, campaign consultants, pollsters, spin doctors, media wizards, lawyers, and other functionaries. 

Comparing the MIC of 1961 to its descendant, the Deep State of today, is like comparing a horse and buggy to a Formula One racecar. The Deep State’s principals enjoy power and privileges that would have brought a blush to the cheeks of members of the old Soviet nomenklatura, of which it is reminiscent. 

Indeed, the Deep State’s creepy resemblance to its late Soviet counterpart is manifest in its budding venture into the realm of seeking to brand domestic American dissent as treason, to the hearty approval of the loony Left. As described by Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:
The government would never compile, analyze, and target private news outlets just because they deviate from the official neocon Washington line.

Perhaps not yet. But some US government funded 'non-governmental' organizations are already doing just that.

The German Marshall Fund has less to do with Germany these days than it did when founded after WWII as a show of appreciation for the US Marshall Fund. These days it’s mostly funded by the US government, allied governments (especially in the Russia-hating Baltics), neocon grant-making foundations, and the military-industrial complex. Through its strangely Soviet-sounding 'Alliance for Securing Democracy' project it has launched something called 'Hamilton 68: A New Tool to Track Russian Disinformation on Twitter.'

This project monitors 600 Twitter accounts that the German Marshall Fund claims are 'accounts that are involved in promoting Russian influence and disinformation goals.' Which accounts does this monitor? It won’t tell us. How does it choose which ones to monitor? It won’t tell us. To what end? Frighteningly, it won’t tell us. 

How ironic that something called the German Marshall Fund is bringing Stasi-like tactics to silence alternative media and opinions in the United States!
The Soviet nomenklatura gave up without a fight. It’s unlikely its American counterpart will. Whether Trump in the end decides to fight or to seek accommodation is still under debate. Some suggest that by signing the recent bill imposing sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea, he has already surrendered. But either way, war or not, things are going to get very rocky.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.]]> Sat, 12 Aug 2017 14:07:20 GMT
End Democracy Promotion Balderdash James Bovard

The Trump administration’s foreign policy often resembles a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party or a loose cannon on a ship deck. But every now and then, a good idea emerges from the fracas. Such is the case with a reform that could sharply reduce America’s piety exports.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is revising the State Department mission statement to focus on promoting “the security, prosperity and interests of the American people globally.” Washington pundits are aghast that “democracy promotion” is no longer trumpeted as a top US foreign policy goal. Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush’s “democracy czar,” complained, “We used to want a just and democratic world, and now apparently we don’t … the message being sent will be a great comfort to every dictator in the world.”

But this is like presuming that any preacher who fails to promise to eradicate sin is a tool of the devil. Instead, it is time to recognize the carnage the US has sown abroad in the name of democracy.

The US has periodically pledged to spread democracy ever since President Woodrow Wilson announced in 1913: “I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men!” Democracy is so important that the US government refuses to stand idly by when foreign voters go astray. Since 1946, the US has intervened — usually covertly — in more than 80 foreign elections to assist its preferred candidate or party.

In his 2005 inaugural address, President George W. Bush proclaimed that the US would “seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” While Bush’s invocation thrilled Washington, the rest of the world paid more attention to his support for any tyrant who joined his War on Terror.

President Barack Obama was supposed to redeem the honor of US foreign policy. In 2011, Obama portrayed the US bombing of Libya as a triumph of democratic values. After Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was killed, Obama speedily announced that Libyans “now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya.” But violence spiraled out of control and claimed thousands of victims (including four Americans killed in Benghazi in 2012). Similarly, Obama administration officials invoked democracy to justify arming quasi-terrorist groups in Syria’s civil war, worsening a conflict that killed hundreds of thousands and created millions of refuges.

But the Obama team, like prior administrations, did not permit its democratic pretensions to impede business as usual. After Egyptian protestors toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak, Obama pledged to assist that nation “pursue a credible transition to a democracy.” But the US government disapproved of that nation’s first elected leader, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. After the Egyptian military deposed Morsi in 2013,  Secretary of State John Kerry bizarrely praised Egypt’s generals for “restoring democracy.” Similarly, many Ethiopians were horrified when Obama visited their country in 2015 and praised its regime as “democratically elected” — despite a sham election and its brutal suppression of journalists, bloggers and other critics.

Democracy promotion gives US policymakers a license to meddle almost anywhere on Earth. The National Endowment for Democracy, created in 1983, has been caught interfering in elections in France, PanamaCosta RicaUkraine, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia, CzechoslovakiaPolandHaiti and many other nations. The State Department has a long list of similar pratfalls, including pouring vast amounts of money in vain efforts to beget democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Democracy at its best is a wonderful form of government but many so-called democracies nowadays are simply elective despotisms. Elections abroad are often herd counts to determine who gets to fleece the herd. Many democracies have become kleptocracies where governing is indistinguishable from looting.

In some nations, election victories legitimize destroying voters en masse. This is exemplified by the Philippines, where the government has killed 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers, including several mayors. After President Rodrigo Duterte publicly declared that he would be “happy to slaughter” three million drug users, Trump phoned him and, according to a leaked transcript, said, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job [you’re doing] on the drug problem.” Similarly, Trump congratulated Turkish president Recep Erdogan after he won a referendum that awarded him quasi-dictatorial powers.

It is time to admit that America lacks a Midas touch for spreading democracy. Freedom House reported that, even prior to Trump’s election, more than 100 nations have seen declines in democracy since 2005.

Rather than abandoning all moral goals in foreign policy, Washington could instead embrace a strict policy of “honesty in democracy promotion.” Under this standard, the US government would cease trying to covertly influence foreign elections, cease glorifying tinhorn dictators who rigged elections to capture power, and cease bankrolling authoritarian regimes that blight democratic reforms in the bud. But the odds of Washington policymakers abiding by those restraints is akin to the chances that all of Trump’s tweets will henceforth be edifying.

Rather than delivering political salvation, US interventions abroad more often produce “no-fault carnage” (no one in Washington is ever held liable). At a minimum, we should get our own constitutional house in order before seeking to rescue benighted foreigners.  Ironically, many of the same people who equate Trump with Hitler still insist that the US government should continue its political missionary work during his reign.

James Bovard, author of Public Policy Hooligan, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard

Reprinted with author's permission from USA TODAY.

]]> Fri, 11 Aug 2017 18:21:14 GMT
Bring the Troops Home From Korea Jacob G. Hornberger

There is one good solution to the Korean crisis, one that the mainstream press commentators simply will not confront. It’s not a solution that is likely to be adopted, especially by a blustery and bellicose president and a national-security establishment that has a Cold War anti-communist mindset. Nonetheless, it bears pointing out.

What is the solution to the Korean crisis: For all U.S. troops to vacate South Korea immediately and come home. No more threats. No more bluster. No more regime-change activity. No more anti-communist crusade. Just exit the country and come home.

There is one — and only one — reason that North Korea has been spending years trying to get nuclear weapons — to deter a U.S. regime-change operation in North Korea or to defend itself from a U.S. regime-change operation in North Korea. The North Koreans have learned that that’s the best way to deter the Pentagon and the CIA from initiating one of their storied regime-change operations against North Korea.

North Korea’s actions are entirely rational. The U.S. national-security establishment has been committed to regime-change in North Korea for almost 70 years. That’s what U.S. intervention in Korea’s civil war in the early 1950s was all about — removing the North Korean communist regime from power and putting it under the control of South Korea, which was ruled by a pro-U.S. regime. It’s why the Pentagon and the CIA remained in South Korea for the next six decades. It’s why U.S. officials have imposed ever-increasing sanctions on North Korea, in the hopes that a starving populace will overthrow their regime and install a pro-U.S. regime in its stead.

We shouldn’t forget that there is one nation that isn’t likely to let that happen. That’s China. Like Russia’s attitude toward Ukraine, China is not likely to permit the Pentagon and the CIA to fulfill their decades-long dream of taking over North Korea to that they can place U.S. missiles and U.S. troops along the North Korean-China border.

Thus, in the event that Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA succeed in initiating a war with North Korea (which, needless to say, they will claim was “necessary” and in “self-defense”), Americans had better be prepared for conflict with China as well, which is precisely what happened during the Korean War. It was Chinese intervention that prevented the Pentagon and the CIA from taking over North Korea and installing U.S. troops and missiles along the North Korean-China border.

As tensions continue to ramp up in North Korea, it’s also important to emphasize Madison’s point about war and liberty: Of all the enemies to liberty, war is the biggest because it encompasses all the rest. This is when dictatorship — including elected dictatorship — comes into being, especially as increasing numbers of Americans are killed or maimed. Make no mistake about it: If the United States ends up with a war with North Korea and possibly China, freedom in America at the hands of the U.S. government will be destroyed even further than it already is.

And let’s not forget the out-of-control federal spending and debt. We are already seeing the Chicken Little op-eds and editorials calling on Congress to lift the debt ceiling again. Like I have been predicting for the past three years, the pundits are repeating their standard lines that they use every time the debt ceiling is hit — that the United States will fall into the ocean if the federal government is not permitted to incur more debt.

Yet, as I pointed out the last time the debt ceiling was raised, not one of the Chicken Littler’s has called for a reduction in federal spending since the last time the debt ceiling was raised. After laughing about how they scared Congress into raising the debt ceiling last time, they have supported ever-increasing federal spending, knowing that they could pull their Chicken Little act again once the new debt ceiling was reached again.

How will Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA fund a war with North Korea (and China)? As Madison pointed out, debts and taxes. And as he further pointed out, debts and taxes are one of the time-honored ways by which regimes subjugate their citizenry.

Leave North Korea alone. Bring the troops home and discharge them into the private sector. That’s the solution to the Korean crisis.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Fri, 11 Aug 2017 17:29:46 GMT
Why President Donald Trump May Let Hillary Clinton Walk Scot-Free Adam Dick

Donald Trump famously said in an October of 2016 presidential debate with Hillary Clinton that she would be in jail if he became president. Pointing to her deletion and destruction of emails that were a focus of an Obama administration Department of Justice investigation, Trump further explained he would, as president, have a special prosecutor investigate Clinton. Yet, it is over six months since Trump was sworn in as president, and there is no special prosecutor and little indication that the Trump administration is making any effort to develop a case for prosecuting Clinton.

Then, on Tuesday, came a report from Ed Klein at Newsmax that the Trump administration Department of Justice had reopened the investigation of Clinton. That investigation had been strangely closed last year in conjunction with a statement by then-Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James B. Comey in which Comey effectively said evidence indicated Clinton had broken the law but she would nonetheless not be prosecuted. Now, just about as strangely, the story is, according to Klein, that the Trump administration’s Justice Department, after reviewing evidence pertaining to Clinton, is considering offering her a plea bargain in which she admits guilt and receives zero punishment related to both her emails and “pay to play" deals with foreign governments and businesses. This is a plea bargain the average criminal defendant dreams of receiving but has virtually no chance of seeing offered.

Whether the Trump administration does nothing or offers Clinton the dream plea bargain that Klein mentions, either course would be about the opposite of the one to which Trump, as a candidate, said he aspired.

What would explain this reversal from promising to jail Clinton to choosing to let her go Scot-free?

Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News senior judicial analyst and former New Jersey state judge, provided a possible answer to this question in an interview this week with host Stuart Varney at Fox Business regarding another Clinton administration email scandal — this one involving former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

In the interview, Napolitano expressed infuriation that the Trump administration is hiding from the public the content of emails from Lynch describing her June of 2016 meeting with former President Bill Clinton. Lynch said shortly after the meeting that her conversation with Bill Clinton was "a great deal about his grandchildren” and “primarily social and about our travels,'' while not at all dealing with the then-ongoing Justice Department investigation of Hillary Clinton —  Bill Clinton’s wife. However, the redacting of Lynch’s emails raises suspicion that the discussion was much different than Lynch claimed.

Recall that this meeting is important because, at the time, Lynch was the top official at the Justice Department that was investigating Hillary Clinton for mishandling emails as secretary of state, mishandling that could result in charges of espionage due to the confidential nature of information in a number of the emails. Indeed, later in the week, the apparent impropriety of Lynch’s private meeting with the investigation subject’s husband led Lynch to announce that she was removing herself from the determining of whether to prosecute Hillary Clinton.

Holding up to the camera printed copies of the Lynch emails in the Fox Business interview, Napolitano, who is a Ron Paul Institute Advisory Board member, showed that the emails’ contents had been blacked out and said he was infuriated that the blacking out had been done by Trump’s Justice Department. “I would have expected the Obama Justice Department trying to protect its attorney general, but, if she did something untoward with Bill Clinton — and she apparently did, we have the right to know about it,” declared Napolitano.

After noting that the blacking out is “a violation of the public policy that requires transparency,” Napolitano proceeded to present what he called a “dirty little secret” that explains why the Trump administration would want to protect the previous administration by preventing the public from knowing about improper or illegal acts and declining to prosecute people for alleged illegal acts. The reason, Napolitano explains, is “so its successor — the Justice Department of ‘President Whoever,’ fill in the blank — won’t come after” people in the Trump administration.

Watch Napolitano’s complete interview here:

]]> Thu, 10 Aug 2017 20:42:56 GMT
Pentagon Unveils Plan For 'Pre-Emptive Strike' On North Korea Tyler Durden

Just hours after Trump made his famously heated vow to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea if provocations by the Kim regime continued, the US Air Force issued a very clear statement in which it explicitly said that it was "ready to fight tonight," launching an attack of B-1 bombers if so ordered:
'How we train is how we fight and the more we interface with our allies, the better prepared we are to fight tonight,' said a 37th EBS B-1 pilot. 'The B-1 is a long-range bomber that is well-suited for the maritime domain and can meet the unique challenges of the Pacific.'
Now, according to an NBC report, it appears that the B-1 pilot was dead serious, as the Pentagon has unveiled a plan for a preemptive strike on North Korean missile sites with bombers stationed in Guam, once Donald Trump gives the order to strike. Echoing what we said yesterday that war "under any analysis, is insanity", the preemptive strike plan is viewed as the "best option available" out of all the bad ones:
'There is no good option,' a senior intelligence official involved in North Korean planning told NBC News, but a unilateral American bomber strike not supported by any assets in the South constitutes 'the best of a lot of bad options.'
The attack would consist of B-1 Lancer heavy bombers located on Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, a senior acting and retired military officials told NBC news.

"Of all the military options … [President Donald Trump] could consider, this would be one of the two or three that would at least have the possibility of not escalating the situation,” retired Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and an NBC News analyst, said.

Why the B-1?
Military sources told NBC News that the internal justification for centering a strike on the B-1 is both practical and intricate. The B-1 has the largest internal payload of any current bomber in the U.S. arsenal. A pair of bombers can carry a mix of weapons in three separate bomb bays — as many as 168 500-pound bombs — or more likely, according to military sources, the new Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile — Extended Range (JASSM-ER), a highly accurate missile with a range of 500 nautical miles, allowing the missile to be fired from well outside North Korean territory.
There is another important consideration: according to one senior military officer, "the B-1 has also been selected because it has the added benefit of not being able to carry nuclear weapons. Military planners think that will signal China, Russia, and Pyongyang that the U.S. is not trying to escalate an already bad situation any further.

The plan explains why in recent weeks pairs of B-1s have conducted 11 practice runs of a similar mission since the end of May, the last taking place on Monday, around the time Trump and Kim were exchanging unpleasantries in the media, with the training has accelerated since May, according to officials. In an actual mission, NBC notes that the non-nuclear bombers would be supported by satellites and drones and surrounded by fighter jets as well as aerial refueling and electronic warfare planes.

There are currently at least six B-1 bombers on Andersen Air Force base, which is located some 3,200km from North Korea. If given the command, these strategic bombers would target around two dozen North Korean "missile-launch sites, testing grounds and support facilities" according to sources cited by NBC.

Asked about the B-1 bomber plan, two U.S. officials told NBC News that the bombers were among the options under consideration but not the only option. NBC points out that "action would come from air, land and sea — and cyber."

Of course, as we elaborated yesterday, striking North Korea is certain to prompt an immediate and deadly response that could involve targets as near as Seoul, just 40 miles from the border, or as far away as Andersen AFB, according to Adm. Stavridis.

The use of the B-1 bombers to actually drop bombs and destroy Korean infrastructure and kill North Koreans would cause an escalation," said Stavridis. "Kim Jong Un would be compelled to respond. He would lash out militarily, at a minimum against South Korea, and potentially at long-range targets, perhaps including Guam. … That's a bad set of outcomes from where we sit now."

"Diplomacy remains the lead," said Gen. Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, after the B-1 bombers' late May training run. "However, we have a responsibility to our allies and our nation to showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario. If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing."

* * *

Finally, should the worst-case scenario be put in play, and conventional war is launched, here is what Capital Economics predicted would be the drastic economic consequences from even a contained, non-nuclear war.
  • North Korea’s conventional forces, which include 700,000 men under arms and tens of thousands of artillery pieces, would be able to cause immense damage to the South Korean economy. If the North was able to set off a nuclear bomb in South Korea, the consequences would be even greater. Many of the main targets in South Korea are located close to the border with the North. The capital, Seoul, which accounts for roughly a fifth of the country’s population and economy, is located just 35 miles from the North Korean border, and would be a prime target.

  • The experience of past military conflicts shows how big an impact wars can have on the economy. The war in Syria has led to a 60% fall in the country’s GDP. The most devastating military conflict since World War Two, however, has been the Korean War (1950-53), which led to 1.2m South Korean deaths, and saw the value of its GDP fall by over 80%.

  • South Korea accounts for around 2% of global economic output. A 50% fall in South Korean GDP would directly knock 1% off global GDP. But there would also be indirect effects to consider. The main one is the disruption it would cause to global supply chains, which have been made more vulnerable by the introduction of just-in-time delivery systems. Months after the Thai floods had receded in 2011 electronics and automotive factories across the world were still reporting shortages.

  • The impact of a war in Korea would be much bigger. South Korea exports three times as many intermediate products as Thailand. In particular, South Korea is the biggest producer of liquid crystal displays in the world (40% of the global total) and the second biggest of semiconductors (17% market share). It is also a key automotive manufacturer and home to the world’s three biggest shipbuilders. If South Korean production was badly damaged by a war there would be shortages across the world. The disruption would last for some time – it takes around two years to build a semi-conductor factory from scratch.

  • The impact of the war on the US economy would likely be significant. At its peak in 1952, the US government was spending the equivalent of 4.2% of its GDP fighting the Korean War. The total cost of the second Gulf War (2003) and its aftermath has been estimated at US$1trn (5% of one year’s US GDP). A prolonged war in Korea would significantly push up US federal debt, which at 75% of GDP is already uncomfortably high.

  • Reconstruction after the war would be costly. Infrastructure, including electricity, water, buildings, roads and ports, would need to be rebuilt. Massive spare capacity in China’s steel, aluminum and cement industries mean reconstruction would unlikely be inflationary, and should instead provide a boost to global demand. The US, a key ally of South Korea, would likely shoulder a large share of the costs. The US spent around US$170bn on reconstruction after the most recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. South Korea’s economy is roughly 30 times larger than these two economies combined. If the US were to spend proportionally the same amount on reconstruction in Korea as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would add another 30% of GDP to its national debt.
Naturally, should North Korea manage to successfully launch a nuke, the devastation, economic and otherwise, would be orders of magnitude greater.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.]]> Thu, 10 Aug 2017 19:29:52 GMT
US Military Presence Overseas Mushrooming: Here, There and Everywhere Alex Gorka

Around 200,000 US troops are stationed in 177 countries throughout the world. The forces use several hundred bases, more than 1,000 if the figure includes overseas warehouse and installations. The US may need more soon, with its presence and involvement in armed conflicts on the rise.

It was reported on August 7 that the Pentagon plans to conduct airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines. This move will be part of the effort to rout IS militants who occupied Marawi, a city in the south of the Philippines, in May, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the entire southern region of Mindanao and ask the US for help. In June, the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident joined the battle.

Just three days before that (on August 4), it was reported by the Pentagon that a Special Operations Forces (SOF) team was deployed to Yemen to support the ongoing United Arab Emirates (UAE) operation against the Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terror group. The amphibious assault ship Bataan with several hundred Marines aboard is also operating in the region. Close-air support missions in the current offensive against AQAP are not ruled out.

On August 7, the US was also reported to be sending dozens more Marines to Helmand Province in southwestern Afghanistan. Army Gen. John Nicholson as the US commander in that country has been lobbying for 3,000 to 5,000 troops in addition to the 8,400 US service members already on the ground.

In June, the US increased the size of its special operations advisory force embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces as the group prepared its invasion of Raqqa, Syria. Around 1,000 US service members are believed to be operating there.

The SOF play a special role to implement the "here, there and everywhere" policy. In 2016, the US SOF teams conducted missions in 138 countries - roughly 70 percent of the nations on the planet. The Special Operations Command is tasked with carrying out 12 core missions. Last year, US SOF were deployed to 32 African nations, about 60 percent of the countries on the continent. Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other special operators are now conducting nearly 100 missions across 20 African countries at any given time. They are deployed in Libya - the country, which has its future uncertain after the 2011 US-led NATO involvement.

The US war footprint grows in the Middle East with no endgame in sight. In his remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Donald Trump said that the last 15 years of US military action in the Middle East had been an almost incomprehensible waste of money – six trillion dollars – and that after all that US war and meddling the region was actually in a worse shape than before the operations were launched. So, the policy was wrong, the president understands that and…keeps on doing the very same thing on a larger scale!

The presence in Europe is on the rise. Troops are being deployed to countries they had no presence in before, such as Norway and Estonia. It’s not forces only but also the costly logistics infrastructure. The military wants more large-scale exercises in Europe to further boost the presence and expand infrastructure there. During his recent foreign trip, Vice President Mike Pence said the US Air Force would deploy twice as many jets during the Russian exercise Zapad-2017 to be held in September.

The US military is calling for even greater presence in Europe. Air Force Brigadier General John Healy, the director of US exercises in Europe, says he wants one comprehensive training maneuver would be crucial in testing NATO's preparedness for a global showdown with Russia. As he put it, "What we're eventually going toward is a globally integrated exercise program so that we (are) ... all working off the same sheet of music in one combined global exercise." The military leader believes the exercise should encompass all domains of war – land, sea, air, space and cyber and involve all nine US combatant commands.

Under President Trump, drone strikes worldwide grew 432 percent as of mid-March. Civilian death toll is significant in Iraq and Syria as a result of US bombardment.

A war with Iran appears to be imminent. An attack against North Korea is on the cards. There is a plan to spend $8 billion on bulking up the US presence in the Asia-Pacific region over the next five years by upgrading military infrastructure, conducting additional exercises and deploying more forces and ships.

All these facts make one recall the events that took place just a few months ago. President Trump said he would avoid interventions in foreign conflicts. Instead of investing in wars, he would spend money to build up America's aging roads, bridges and airports. But there was a loophole. He promised to stay away from all other conflicts except Islamic State militancy.

Everybody thought he meant only airstrikes in the Middle East. Now it looks like the president meant the other regions as well. The Islamic State is present in Afghanistan and Africa. The IS terrorists have recently staged a terrorist act in Iran. They take responsibility for terrorist attacks in Europe. Jihadists operate in Russia and Central Asia. Their presence is menacing in the Asia-Pacific region. They are almost everywhere to serve as a pretext for US invasions or war preparations in almost any corner of the globe.

The United States in actually one way or another involved in all hot spots on the world map. No doubt, it will expand the involvement in the Philippines, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and boost the naval and air force presence in the Asia Pacific to oppose China – a move not related to the IS by any stretch of imagination as well as the beefing up of forces in Europe.

So, it’s Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa! It feels like the United States is always at war or preparing for a war somewhere. Yemen on August 4, the Philippines on August 7, perhaps some other place a few days later, you never know what to expect. It’s like the "perpetual war for perpetual peace" described by Charles Beard.

No matter how high the military expenditure is, the US military is doomed to be stretched thin until the policy is not changed. One cannot square the circle or embrace the boundless. The nation has a huge national debt. If the enemy is the Islamic State than the intelligence and military efforts should be concentrated on the mission to strike the group, not a number of tall orders to be accomplished by and large at the very same time.

With one mission accomplished, the US could review the priorities. The thing is - it will never be accomplished because the IS is not only militants, but rather the ideology that drives them. This evil cannot be defeated by the people in uniform alone. But that’s a different story to talk about in another article. Anyway, stretching the resources thin is not an effective policy. The United States will be following two hares catching neither instead of setting the priorities straight and focusing on what is the primary mission.

Reprinted with permission from the Strategic Culture Foundation.
]]> Thu, 10 Aug 2017 12:59:26 GMT
The Unsung Summit of Putin and Trump John V. Walsh

This week marks the 72nd anniversary of the criminal US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And as is the case each year, there is much discussion and lamenting over this atrocity, as there well should be.  For the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not necessary for victory; Japan had already sued for peace.  It was the opening salvo, a brutal one, in the first Cold War in which the world was nearly incinerated during the Cuban missile crisis.

This week is also the one month anniversary of the first in-person meeting of Presidents Trump and Putin at Hamburg on July 7 in the shadow of the G20 meetings. This comes at a time when we find ourselves years into a New Cold War. Given the tensions between Russia and the US, the leading nuclear powers, one would think that there would be rejoicing over the prospect of relieving the tensions between the nuclear superpowers.  For that was the agenda of the Trump-Putin summit, as such meetings were called during the first Cold War. Unfortunately, such rejoicing was not to be heard, quite the opposite – with a few rare exceptions

This is lamentable, to say the least, because as tensions grow between the superpowers, the chance for nuclear war increases.  During his lengthyinterviews with Vladimir Putin, Oliver Stone showed him the movie “Dr. Strangelove” which Putin had never before seen.  Putin commented that the movie captured, among other things, a technical truth with its depiction of the Doomsday Machine. That is, said Putin, nuclear weapons grow increasingly harder to control with every passing day.  Given this, the failure to applaud the Trump-Putin on the part of those who were full of praise for the UN vote on denuclearization made me wonder whether there was any thought behind their chatter. Hatred of Trump and Putin seemed to blot out a rational concern for human survival. Are we living in a mad house?  Did we not learn our lesson when we narrowly escaped Armageddon in Cold War 1?

In the face of such madness, let us take the time to offer full-throated, unmistakable praise for the Trump-Putin summit meeting. The parley was a long time coming because of the relentless attack on Trump over Russiagate, a Big Lie blared out relentlessly these many months and only now collapsing for want of so much as a smidgen of evidence.  Although Trump had promised to hold this summit with Putin even before he was inaugurated, he could not do so because of the intense Russia-gate related pressure against it – from the Elite of both Parties but with the Democrats far in the lead. But Trump pushed ahead with the meeting anyway; as we learned during the 2016 campaign, this is not a guy who gives up despite the odds.

To begin, the summit was undeniably a success with solid achievements and follow-ups. Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian History at Princeton and NYU, and one of the few to offer praise for the meeting, summed up the meeting’s four main accomplishments thus:

Formalizing and symbolizing the new détente partnership between the American and Russian presidents (The symbolism of the two Presidents meeting, shaking hands and “getting along,” to use a phrase often invoked by Trump in the 2016 campaign, should not be underestimated.  It can have a great effect on public opinion and show people that to feel friendly toward Russia and Putin is legit. After all the President feels that way. jw);

Agreement to cooperate in Syria against terrorist forces there, not only in the limited ways announced, but in more expansive ways, which meant agreeing with Moscow that Syrian President Assad must remain at least until ISIS is fully defeated;

Creating a bilateral US-Russian channel for negotiating a settlement of the Ukrainian civil and proxy war, thereby bypassing, or reducing, the role played thus far by Germany and France, which has largely failed; and

Agreeing to discuss ways to limit the dangers of cyber technology in international affairs. (Though Trump was forced to talk back this agenda item, no doubt it remains on the US-Russian agenda, a subject of negotiation, as it should be, considering the ways in which cyber attacks could undermine nuclear security on both sides.)

To these I would add the cease-fire in southwest Syria which was arranged in the run-up to the meeting and announced there. This cease-fire is still holding, and Russian FM Lavrov has announced that more ceasefire zones are in the works in Syria.  Any time that the guns fall silent, the killing stops and people can return to their homes, there should be jubilation – especially in the outlets devoted to peace. Sadly that has been far from the case in the progressive press or the MSM.

The cooperation on Syria continued with a thunderbolt in the form of a Trumpian tweet on Monday night, July 24:
The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad…..
A superb assessment of this tweet marking Trump’s order to end the CIA’s regime change op and its de facto support for jihadis in Syria comes from David Stockman here:
Occasionally one of Trump’s tweets slices through Imperial Washington’s sanctimonious cant. Indeed, Monday evening’s 140 characters cut right to the bone.  Needless to say, we are referencing not the dig at the empire of Bezos, but the characterization of Washington’s anti-Assad policy as 'massive, dangerous and wasteful.'

No stouter blow to the neocon/Deep State 'regime change' folly has ever been issued by an elected public official. Yet there it is – the self-composed words of the man in the Oval Office.
Stockman follows with a brief history of the U.S.’s covert war on Syria and Syria’s historical mistreatment at the hands of earlier Western Empires. (It is to the credit of for publishing Stockman’s piece – in contrast to the far more widely published feverish denunciation by John McCain: “If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin.”  Thus, is any initiative for peace greeted from the two wings of the War Party.)

On top of this there is Secretary Tillerson’s statement that cooperation on Syria is continuing and developing, mirroring the statement of FM Lavrov.

I fully expect that this evaluation will bring a storm of condemnation.  Some will accuse the author of parroting the “Kremlin line,” or being a Putin puppet, dead giveaways for the old Cold War mindset. But I would offer one word of advice to such naysayers.  Support the good in what Trump does and oppose the bad. Very simple. And certainly, the good includes New Détente with Russia since it may well mean the survival of humanity. We might not get another shot at it.  No other major national political figure, other than Rand Paul, is calling for it, which means we are in very deep trouble, perhaps mortal trouble.

Reprinted with author's permission from Dissident Voice.]]> Wed, 09 Aug 2017 14:21:12 GMT
If America Was Trying to Start a World War, This Is How It Would Happen Darius Shahtahmasebi

Last Wednesday, US President Donald Trump signed new sanctions into law against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The legislation was supported so overwhelmingly in Congress that President Trump’s ability to veto the legislation was rendered completely ineffective.

Even anti-interventionist Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard voted in favor of the bill, once again proving that Republicans and Democrats always find common ground when it comes to beating the drums of war against sovereign nations who have taken very little unwarranted hostile action — if any — towards the United States.

But these are just sanctions, not acts of war, right? There’s nothing wrong with economically bullying other countries into submission over non-compliance with the current global order, right?

Not quite.

Sanctions are always a prelude to war. Though few are aware, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was arguably in response to America’s attempt to cripple Japan’s booming economy through embargos and asset freezes, ending Japan’s commercial relationship with the United States and provoking the desperation that led to their attack.

In August 1990, the US began a sanctions regime against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. In 1991, the United States invaded Iraq and completely decimated its armed forces, also directly targeting its civilian infrastructure. Following this devastation, the US extended and expanded these economic sanctions on Iraq as further punishment. The U.N. estimated these sanctions led to the deaths of 1.7 million Iraqi civilians, including between 500,000 and 600,000 children.

When Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was questioned on these statistics, she intimated that the price was “worth it.”

These sanctions only came to an end after the US invaded again in 2003 (and the complete international sanctions regime was only lifted in December 2010).

Libya also faced American-imposed sanctions beginning in the 1990s, as well, and we all know how that story ended.

In May of 2004, the US imposed economic sanctions on Syria, supposedly over Syria’s support for terrorism and its “failure to stop militants entering Iraq” – a country the US destabilized in the first place. In reality, these sanctions were a response to Syria and Iran’s growing relationship as the two countries had reportedly agreed to a mutual defense treaty that same year.

Syria has been the target of a regime change operation since as far back as 2006, and the US has been openly bombing its territory under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump; the US has already bombed the Syrian government multiple times over the past year. If it had not been for the Russian intervention, the US most likely would have ousted the Syrian government by force before Trump even took office.

Iran has been battling with sanctions for some time now, with the anti-Iranian sanctions regime serving as a smokescreen for regime change in the same manner that Libya, Syria, and Iraq were targeted previously.

In the case of Iran, the underlying motives are quite clear: the renewed set of sanctions is designed to undermine the 2015 nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Even though the Trump administration is aware that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA, Trump has made it an official policy of his own to deliberately erode the deal.

Why would he do that?

As explained in the book Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran, authored by an ex CIA analyst who promoted the 2003 invasion of Iraq:
For those who favor regime change or a military attack on Iran (either by the United States or Israel), there is a strong argument to be made for trying this option first. Inciting regime change in Iran would be greatly assisted by convincing the Iranian people that their government is so ideologically blinkered that it refuses to do what is best for the people and instead clings to a policy that could only bring ruin on the country. The ideal scenario in this case would be that the United States and the international community present a package of positive inducements so enticing that the Iranian citizenry would support the deal, only to have the regime reject it. In a similar vein, any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context – both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer – one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. [emphasis added]
This paradigm brilliantly explains why hawkish members of Trump’s team are completely opposed to Trump unilaterally derailing the JCPOA: These officials don’t want the blame to rest on the US, as it will ignite new tensions within the international community and directly affect the US dollar.

That being said, if the US government continues to undermine Iran with sanctions that target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – a very powerful entity within Iran – the US may end up forcing Iran to walk away from the deal, anyway. In that scenario, the US will have the outcome that they long have desired.

North Korea has been on the receiving end of a US-led sanctions regime for years, as well, and the American military is now flying bombers over its airspace, provoking the country to respond in kind.

The only question now becomes: who will Trump set America on a warpath with first: Iran or North Korea?

Trump is reportedly setting the stage for a confrontation with Iran as early as October, having found a new strategy to demonize Iran should the sanctions regime fail to bring about the war he desires before he is due to certify Iran’s compliance for the following 90-day period. This strategy involves Trump tasking his team with setting up spot-inspections at Iranian facilities in the hopes of finding ways that Iran is not complying with the JCPOA.

In the meantime, America continues its unilateral policy of bullying non-compliant states, further isolating itself from its traditional post-WWII allies. For example, Germany does view sanctions that target Russia favorably, as these sanctions hurt Germany’s own economic interests.

Not to mention that American-led sanctions push these defiant countries into the open arms of one another. Iran and Russia just signed a $2.5 billion deal last Monday, going about business as usual and giving Donald Trump the political middle finger in the process.

If the US continues to use its global stranglehold over the financial markets as a tool to weaken other countries, these countries will also have no choice but to ditch the dollar and to seek alternative currencies through which to complete transactions. Not surprisingly, Russia has just responded on Monday by announcing it will seek to end its reliance on the US dollar.

Make no mistake: the US is at the crossroads of its dying status as a global superpower. In order to stay afloat, it has only one real option – to continue down the warpath it has set itself on and confront those countries that seek to rise up in the post-American led international order.

The newly signed sanctions regime is just the beginning, and there will be a difficult road ahead. Cooler heads may ultimately prevail, given the way these sanctions are already being seen to backfire.

It will be almost impossible to sell these wars to the American public and the international community at this stage considering the evidence shows the US is acting rashly and out of order with the rest of the world. However, if the US can provoke Iran or North Korea into doing something regrettable first, the US may finally reward itself with the justification to go to war which it so desperately needs.

And when that happens, all bets will be off the table.

Reprinted with permission from The Anti-Media.
]]> Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:43:41 GMT