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`Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble.’ The witches in Macbeth.

President Trump’s administration is now at a high boil as he faces intense heat from all sides. The Republican Party has backed away from their embattled president. US intelligence agencies are baying for his blood. The US media plays the role of the witches in ‘Macbeth’ as it plots against Trump.

One increasingly hears whispers about impeachment or the wonderful 1964 film about a military coup in Washington, ‘Seven Days in May.’

As in Shakespeare’s King Lear, Trump stands almost alone on a blasted heath, howling that he has been betrayed. The world watches on in dismay and shock.

One thing is clear: the US presidency has become too powerful when far-fetched talk of possibly Russian involvement in Trump’s campaign could send world financial markets into a crash dive. And when Trump’s ill informed, off the cuff remarks can endanger the fragile global balance of power.

Trump has made this huge mess and must now live with it. Yes, he is being treated unfairly by appointment of a special prosecutor when the titanic sleaze of the Clintons was never investigated. But that’s what happens when you are widely detested. No mercy for Trump, a man without any mercy for others.

Trump is not a Manchurian candidate put into office by Moscow though his bungling aides and iffy financial deals often made it appear so. His choice of the fanatical Islamophobe Gen. Michael Flynn was an awful blunder. Flynn was revealed to have taken money from Turkey to alter US Mideast policy. Who else paid off Flynn? Disgraceful.

But what about all the politicians and officials who took and take money from the Saudis and Gulf emirates, or Sheldon Adelson, the ardent advocate of Greater Israel? What about political payoffs to the flat-earth Republicans who now act as Israel’s amen chorus in Washington?

The growing scandals that are engulfing Trump’s presidency seem likely to delay if not defeat the president’s laudatory proposals to lower taxes, prune the bureaucracy, clean up intelligence, end America’s foreign wars, and impose some sort of peace in the Mideast.

By recklessly proposing these reforms at the same time, Trump earned the hatred of the media, federal government, all intelligence agencies, and the Israel lobby, not to mention ecologists, free-thinkers, cultured people, academia and just about everyone else who does not raise cotton or abuse animals for a living.

No wonder Trump stands almost alone, like Rome’s Horatio at the Bridge. One increasingly hears in Washington ‘what Trump needs is a little war.’

That would quickly wrong-foot his critics and force the neocon media – Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and CNN – to back him. We already saw this happen when Trump fired salvos of cruise missiles at Syria. It would also provide welcome distraction from the investigations of Trump that are beginning.

Trump has appeared to be pawing the ground in a desire to attack naughty North Korea or Syria, and maybe even Yemen, Somalia or Sudan. A war against any of these small nations would allow the president to don military gear and beat his chest – as did the dunce George W. Bush. Bomb the usual Arabs!

The Pentagon wants 50,000 more troops for Afghanistan. US warplanes are buzzing angry North Korea. In Syria, the US and Russia are a falafel’s length from open clashes. Now is the time for extreme caution, but an enraged President Trump, who avoided military service in his youth, is ready to lash out.

For Trump, next week’s visit to the Mideast should prove a welcome respite after the madness of Washington. But isolated and besieged as Trump is, he may have to depend more on support from Israel and its American partisans rather than forcing a Mideast peace settlement. Israel insists there be no change to the status quo that leaves Palestine an open air prison.

America has not so far become great again.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Media, Donald Trump 

PARIS – France is holding its breath as this weekend’s second-round presidential vote approaches. The first round vote on 23 April left two winners: National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Polls show newcomer Macron with an overwhelming 60/40 lead over Marine Le Pen. But many French are very nervous that a surprise electoral upset may occur if undecided voters and shut-out leftists throw their votes to Le Pen’s National Front Party.

Le Pen has vowed to ditch the Euro, pull out of the European Union and make life miserable for France’s five million impoverished, marginalized Muslims. She might withdraw from NATO and make nice with Moscow. The rest of the EU and the US are watching Le Pen’s rise with dismay. Call her Madame Trump.

Most French national elections are like bandages ripped off a long-festering wound. They produce painful memories from dark periods in France’s turbulent past, most notably the 1930’s and 1940’s, when Left and Right were at one another’s throats.

In this election, France’s traditional hard-line Left and Right parties have collapsed, being replaced by the National Front and the 39-year old Macron’s newly confected political party, ‘En Marche’, that has no presence in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament.

Marine Le Pen is a very intelligent woman. She is the reincarnation of her father, Jean-Marie, whom I’ve interviewed, but with the rough edges sanded down. No more mentions of the WWII Jewish Holocaust being a ‘detail of history,’ as the old boy claimed. She is diluted far rightism. As a result, the Front’s ratings have soared: no more skin heads and hooligans. She projects maternalism and common sense blended into hard-line nationalism.

Last week, Madame Le Pen declared that ‘finance’ is a primary enemy of France. Bankers are now lumped with Muslims as dire threats to the republic. Outgoing President Francois Hollande made the same warning last year, but no one paid him any attention.

Coming from the hard-right Le Pen, it’s a bombshell. ‘Finance’ is really political code for Jews who dominate parts of France’s media, banking and industry. France has Europe’s largest Jewish population, followed by Ukraine.

Le Pen’s gun sights are trained squarely on the youthful Macron who may, it is rumored, have some Jewish background, and squarely on his former employer, the mighty French Rothschild banking empire.

The Front whispers that Macron was fabricated by the Rothschilds as a bland, malleable politician spouting platitudes and bromides. Traditional Catholic conservative Francois Fillon was not responsive enough for the French Rothschilds, it is said. French do not trust bankers or other financiers. During the 1940’s, France’s Vichy government repressed bankers and rounded up Jews for deportation to Germany. In 1937-1941, many if not most French saw Stalinist Communists as a far greater threat than Hitler’s National Socialist Germany. In fact, some French and other Europeans, including Ukrainians and Baltic peoples, waited to be ‘liberated’ by the Nazis from the Soviet threat.

Today, a lot of French wonder ‘who is Monsieur Macron, and from where did he come?’ One is reminded of silver-tongued US candidate Barack Obama, who rocketed out of obscurity to become president. Who bankrolled him and blazed a political path for him? The Deep Government, no doubt.

Who then is behind Macron if not the Rothschilds? Maybe the MEDEF big business association, maybe both. Are they making sure that the awful Madame Le Pen does not win, keep some of her promises and run France into financial and political ruin? If she wins, the hard right will surely blame the ‘financiers,’ harking back to the ugly 1930’s.

Whatever the outcome, France faces a rough ride. Macron vows to lower taxes and cut civil service employment and perks. The Left vows to fight any labor and social reforms tooth and nail. Every French president since Charles De Gaulle has failed to break the power of France’s surly unions. Though not great in membership, they can shut down France’s trains, roads, airports, food logistics, and power plants with a few phone calls. Militant farmers can block roads and thwart food shipments.

France’s labor unions have been at war with the government in Paris since 1948. Unless their inordinate power is broken, no significant economic and social reforms will be possible. The big question: who do the unions dislike the most, Macron or Le Pen?

Both claim they will shake up lethargic France. But French really don’t want to be shaken up. Seventy percent still spend their five-week annual vacations in France. They know there is no finer or more beautiful nation anywhere else, even with Madame Le Pen snorting fire and brimstone, and Macron offering don’t worry be happy placebos.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: France, Marine Le Pen 

Maybe the president believes he’s won a great victory over the wicked Syrians by lobbing cruise missiles at one of their underused air bases. Maybe Trump believes that he’s scared the evil Russians and the too big for their sampans Chinese into obedience.

His 22,000 lb MOAB terror bomb on Afghanistan should keep those pesky Taliban quiet for a while even though the Pentagon claimed the intended target was a group- Khorosan – that may not actually exist.

Those major malefactors, the crazy North Koreans, could be about to feel America’s full military might if they so much as twitch.

Not content with nearly stirring up a new war with North Korea, President Donald Trump is now waving the big stick at another of Washington’s favorite bogeymen, Iran. For the Trumps, Iran is poison.

In recent days, President Trump has threatened to renounce the six-power nuclear agreement to freeze or shrink Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. This sensible pact was signed during the Obama administration by the great powers: US, Britain, France, Russia, Germany and China. Trump appears willing to abrogate the treaty and outrage the other great powers just because he hates Iran for some reason and, it appears, Muslims in general.

The Trump administration seems increasingly influenced by Israel’s far right Netanyahu government. In fact, PM Netanyahu often appears the most moderate member of his rightist coalition which is dominated by militant West Bank settlers.

Trump has surrounded himself with ardent supporters of Israel’s right. One of his major bankrollers is casino mogul Sheldon Adelson who is a key supporter of Jewish expansion on the illegally occupied West Bank.

Israel’s right has made a hate fetish of Iran and incessantly calls for war against the Islamic Republic. However, the mighty US Israel lobby twice failed to push the Obama administration to attack Iran. The US Congress, by contrast, is totally under the thumb of Israel’s American lobby and pays more respect to PM Netanyahu than the president. He who pays the piper….

In fact, Congress sought to block sales of Boeing civilian airliners to Iran worth $16.6 billion even though it would have cost thousands of American jobs. Congress has been trying to sabotage the Iran nuclear deal ever since it was signed, putting American national interests on a collision course with those of Israel’s right.

But now President Trump says he’s found a new reason to sabotage the six-power deal: Iran, insists Trump, supports ‘terrorism’ and has bad intentions. This charge has been around for decades, cited by Israel as a compelling reason to attack Iran because Tehran supports the ‘terrorist’ Lebanese movement Hezbollah and the Palestinian movement Hamas.

The ‘terrorist’ label is slapped onto all enemies of Israel and the United States. It’s a handy, meaningless sobriquet that automatically denies those so named political or moral justice.

I was with the Israel army when it invaded Lebanon in 1982 and saw first-hand how its arrogance turned formerly pro-Israel Shia Lebanese in the south into anti-Israel fighters. Israel actually encouraged and may have secretly financed the growth of Hezbollah and Hamas hoping they would drain support from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Lebanon’s Amal militia.

Israel hates Hamas and Hezbollah and is determined to eradicate them. The principal supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah has long been Syria. Large parts of Syria have now been destroyed by a US-engineered uprising and bands of Saudi-financed mercenaries. That has left Iran as the main supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, and a principal backer of Syria’s Assad government. The PLO has become a puppet of Israel and the US.

So Israel is now determined to destroy Hezbollah in its strongholds in Lebanon and then crush Hamas with Trump’s blessing, so ending any dreams of a Palestinian state. Iran is now being blamed for all Washington’s problems in the Mideast. So war fever against Iran is again mounting.

Interestingly, Iran, which has 79.1 million people, is not cowering before this threat. Like North Korea, Iran’s air force and navy are sitting ducks. But Iran has strong infantry, some 500,000 men including Revolutionary Guards. They are armed with outdated weapons but showed redoubtable fighting spirit in the Iran-Iraq War. Any US invasion would be met by fierce resistance.

An Iranian commander told me, ‘let the Americans come and invade. They will break their teeth on Iran. Then we will drive them out of the Mideast.”

Boastful, yes, but not impossible. Iran could prove more than the US can handle. President Trump does not know this yet and is still having fun with his new military toys. Problem is, he just can’t decide where to attack first.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Iran, Israel, Syria 

I watched the final French presidential debate last Thursday night with fascination and even a measure of admiration. France has some very intelligent, well-educated politicians. They are fine until they get into office but then must begin pleasing France’s fractious voters.

And they must deal with the rising tide of jihadist violence in France, as witnessed by the shooting of police officers on the Champs Elysée on Thursday. This could help far right candidate Marine Le Pen.

One is reminded of Charles De Gaulle who asked how anyone could run a nation that had 246 different varieties of cheese. France’s outgoing president, poor Francois Hollande, could not even deal with a single camembert. He leaves office with a less than 4% approval rating.

There are eleven aspirants in the presidential race though only four are considered serious candidates: former Prime Minister Francois Fillon; newcomer Emanuel Macron; firebrand leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon; and far right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

My favorite is none of the above. He’s a towering, craggy-faced character named Jean Lasalle from the Pyrenees mountains on the border with Spain with a delightfully thick accent that harks back to the southern Provencal language. He’s as authentic as they come, a real human being who might be able to tame France’s bully-boy unions. Alas, Lasalle’s chances appear slim.

By contrast to the rough-hewn Lasalle is the leading candidate, Emmanuel Macron. Just who Macron really is remains a puzzle. He came from an academic background, worked for the mighty Rothschild banking empire, then as an economic advisor and minister to President Holland. At 39 years old, Macron is blandly attractive, youthful, and so far untainted by scandal except for the oddity of being married to his former schoolteacher two decades his senior.

Macron claims to be a middle way between old antagonists of left and right. He calls for gentle reforms and revitalization of the European Union. Women like him. What he stands for is unclear. His deep links to the Rothschild’s make many uncomfortable. To others, he’s too smooth and full of bromides. Still, the polls say that Macron will win both this Sunday’s vote and the second round on 7 May.

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon was the front-runner until severely damaged by accusations he had lined his pockets with government money and put his wife Penelope and children on the government payroll.

It was sad indeed to see this straight-arrow conservative candidate undone by what looked like sleaze. Fillon would have made a capable prime minister.

Next, Madame Marine Le Pen. She has been trying to distance herself from pugnacious National Front founder and her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. The old boy has been given the bum’s rush from his party for daring to say that the Jewish Holocaust was a mere ‘detail’ of history. I spent a long time interviewing Papa Le Pen in his home outside Paris. He is not a fascist, as critics charge, but an old-style supporter of the 1940’s Vichy government of Marshal Pétain.

Marine Le Pen is no charmer, to be sure. She is rough, tough and often nasty. She wants Muslims out of France, a pullout from the EU and NATO, and a return to the old French franc. Like President Trump, she is popular in working class, high unemployment, low education areas. Le Pen has become the champion of downcast French suffering from what they call, ‘la morosité’ (moroseness).

Finally, the last of the leading candidates, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. He’s an old time leftist full of loopy Marxist schemes about actually reducing France’s already short work week, reducing the retirement age, and taxing the pants of people who make more than 400,000 euros a year. Mélenchon wants out of NATO, revised relations with the EU, rejects being ordered around by the United States, and wants to ditch the euro.

Mélenchon may be an old-style firebrand but he’s very popular with youth and, of course, the left. He’s completely upstaged the lackluster Socialist candidate, Benoît Hamon and has soared in the polls. What French like about Mélenchon is his wit, sense of humor, and sharp debating skills. He appears authentic, platitude-free and bursting with what the French call ‘élan.’ Mélenchon is always fun to watch.

Polls say that Marine Le Pen and Macron will win this weekend’s first round. Macron is then favored to crush Le Pen in the 7 May vote. But France is now in a dither over the possibility of a win by Mélenchon this Sunday. That would leave him facing off against le Pen: the far right versus the far left. Interesting, bien sûre, but the prospect is giving France’s stock market, banks and investors a big scare.

If either were to win on 7 May, France might quit the euro and European Union – a much graver event than Britain’s Brexit. The fate of the EU is hanging in the balance. Bankers are praying that the silky-smooth Monsieur Macron will save them from the vengeful heirs of Karl Marx and Marshal Pétain.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: European Right, France 

“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”

So thundered President Donald Trump last week. Unfortunately, neither China nor North Korea appeared intimidated by this presidential bombast or Trump’s Tweets.

What would ‘we will’ actually entail? This clear threat makes us think seriously about what a second Korean War would be like. Memory of the bloody, indecisive first Koran War, 1950-53, which killed close to 3 million people, has faded. Few Americans have any idea how ferocious a conventional second Korean War could be. They are used to seeing Uncle Sam beat up small, nearly defenseless nations like Iraq, Libya or Syria that dare defy the Pax Americana.

The US could literally blow North Korea off the map using tactical nuclear weapons based in Japan, South Korea and at sea with the 7th Fleet. Or delivered by B-52 and B-1 bombers and cruise missiles. But this would cause clouds of lethal radiation and radioactive dust to blanket Japan, South Korea and heavily industrialized northeast China, including the capital, Beijing.

China would be expected to threaten retaliation against the United States, Japan and South Korea to deter a nuclear war in next door Korea. At the same time, if heavily attacked, a fight-to-the-end North Korea may fire off a number of nuclear-armed medium-range missiles at Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa and South Korea. These missiles are hidden in caves in the mountains on wheeled transporters and hard to identify and knock out.

This is a huge risk. Such a nuclear exchange would expose about a third of the world’s economy to nuclear contamination, not to mention spreading nuclear winter around the globe.

A conventional US attack on North Korea would be far more difficult. The North is a small nation of only 24.8 million. Its air and sea forces are obsolete and ineffective. They would be vaporized on the first day of a war. But North Korea’s million-man army has been training and digging in for decades to resist a US invasion. Pyongyang’s 88,000-man Special Forces are poised for suicide attacks on South Korea’s political and military command and control and to cripple key US and South Korean air bases, notably Osan and Kunsan.

North Korea may use chemical weapons such as VX and Sarin to knock out the US/South Korean and Japanese airbases, military depots, ports and communications hubs. Missile attacks would be launched against US bases in Guam and Okinawa.

Short of using nuclear weapons, the US would be faced with mounting a major invasion of mountainous North Korea, something for which it is today unprepared. It took the US six months to assemble a land force in Saudi Arabia just to attack feeble Iraq. Taking on the tough North Korean army and militia in their mountain redoubts will prove a daunting challenge.

US analysts have in the past estimated a US invasion of North Korea would cost some 250,000 American casualties and at least $10 billion, though I believe such a war would cost four times that much today. The Army, Air Force and Marines would have to mobilize reserves to wage a war in Korea. Already overstretched US forces would have to be withdrawn from Europe and the Mideast. Military conscription might have to be re-introduced.

US war planners believe that an attempt to assassinate or isolate North Korean leader Kim Jung-un – known in the military as ‘decapitation’- would cause the North Korean armed forces to scatter and give up. I don’t think so.

My visits to South and North Korea have shown me that soldiers of both nations are amazingly tough, patriotic and ready to fight. I’ve also been under the Demilitarized Zone in some of the warren of secret tunnels built by North Korea under South Korean fortifications. Hundreds of North Korean long-range 170mm guns and rocket batteries are buried into the hills facing the DMZ, all within range of the northern half of South Korea’s capital, Seoul.

North Korea is unlikely to be a pushover in a war. Even after US/South Korean forces occupy Pyongyang, the North has prepared for a long guerilla war in the mountains that could last for decades. They have been practicing for 30 years. Chaos in North Korea will invite Chinese military intervention, but not necessarily to the advantage of the US and its allies.

Is Commander-in-Chief Trump, who somehow managed to avoid military service during the Vietnam War, really ready to launch a big war in Asia? Most Americans still can’t locate Korea on a map. Will Congress tax every American taxpayer $20,000 to pay for a new Korean war? Will Russia sit by quietly while the US blows apart North Korea? Does anyone in the White House know that North Korea borders on Russia and is less than 200km from the key Russian port of Vladivostok?

All this craziness would be ended if the US signed a peace treaty with North Korea ending the first Korean War and opened up diplomatic and commercial relations. No need for war or missile threats. North Korea is a horrid, brutal regime. But so is Egypt, whose tin pot dictator was wined and dined by Trump last week.

But pounding the rostrum with your shoe is always much more fun than boring peace talks.

* * *

Here are some films I shot in South and North Korea three years ago:

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 

It seems that every new US president has to prove his machismo…or make his bones, as wiseguys say…by bombing the usual Arabs. By now, it’s almost a rite of passage. The American public loves it.

So we just saw the US launch 59 or 60 $1.5million apiece cruise missiles at a western Syrian airfield to express President Trump’s outrage caused by seeing injured children allegedly caused by a Syrian government toxic gas attack.

But what, Mr. President, about all those Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan babies killed by US B-52 and B-1 heavy bombers? Or the destruction of the defiant Iraqi city of Fallujah where the US used forbidden white phosphorus that burns right to the bone?

Washington claimed its radar had conclusively identified Syrian warplanes dropping chemical weapons. This sounds to me to be unlikely. Where was the US radar? Hundreds of miles away aboard ships? Was the info from Israel or Turkey, both with axes to grind? Is US radar so sharp that it can tell the difference between a chemical and high explosive bomb at great distance? Sounds highly fishy to me.

The cruise missile strike was planned well in advance and the missiles programmed accordingly. This was likely done before the alleged chemical attack. What a hell of a rude act to launch the attack just before China’s leader, Xi Jinping, sat down to dinner with Trump in Palm Beach. This was the most important China-US meeting since President Richard Nixon went to meet Chairman Mao in 1972. What a monumental loss of face for Xi and for China. He was made to look small and irrelevant. Was this planned in advance? Xi should have walked out, gotten onto his plane and returned to China.

Couldn’t Trump have waited till Xi’s visit was over, a mere additional day? What was so urgent about bombing a Syrian air base? Do we not think that Russia, China and Iran, all Syria’s ally, will take some negative action? Trump had actually blasted former President Barack Obama for even thinking about attacking Syria…and now here he goes and does the same thing.

While the new president was showing how tough and decisive he is by bombing the usual Arabs, the US is openly threatening war against North Korea. Washington’s most urgent objective in the Florida summit was to somehow convince, cajole or coerce China into lowering the boom on irksome North Korea and ending its nuclear programs.

The huge insult to Xi will hardly motivate China to invade North Korea and depose Kim Jong-un. In fact, North Korea is quite useful for China in spite of its eccentric ways and offers no threat to them. The DPRK helps protect China’s sensitive northeast region and Manchuria from US/South Korean intervention. Collapse of the Kim regime would drive millions of starving refugees to China, South Korea and Japan.

Worse, a now threatened US attack on North Korea could cause it to fire nuclear-armed missiles at Japan, South Korea and US bases in Japanese Okinawa and Guam. Two nuclear warheads would be enough to turn Japan into a vast wasteland. There are some 88,000 US troops and large numbers of dependents in the region. South Korea’s 20-million people capitol, Seoul, is partly in range of Kim Jong-un’s 170mm heavy guns dug in on the Demilitarized Zone.

An accidental naval or air clash over the South China Sea between the US and China seems inevitable. The US is making a big fuss over atoll airbases that China has created there, but are these really so different from US Navy aircraft carriers cruising the China Sea?

The US has lost its old strategic superiority over China in the western Pacific. China’s land, air, naval and rocket forces are near parity with those of the US and well advanced in plans to drive the US far from its coasts. Any clash would see US forces fighting half a world away against home-based Chinese forces. US military officials are struggling to invent new strategies while cautioning the White House to avoid a fight it could lose.

As if potential wars against China and North Korea are not enough, the US is kicking sand into Russia’s face and beating the war drums over eastern Ukraine and Crimea, two regions utterly unknown to Americans. There seems collective amnesia that Russia has thousands of nuclear-armed missiles, many pointed at the US. Anti-Russian hysteria in the US has assumed epidemic proportions and makes the US look silly.

The US is also broadening its little wars in Yemen and Somalia in an effort to dominate the Red Sea. The hottest new US command is the new Africa Command.
This while being at bayonets drawn with China and Russia. Amazing strategic stupidity that would make old Bismarck turn in his grave. Add America’s forgotten, foolish war in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, and its provocations of Iran.

Trump likely views these issues through the eyes of a businessman, not realizing that Empire has its costs that do not fit on a balance sheet. Sure, the US pays more for NATO than other members. NATO is an organ of the US Empire, not a simple partnership. Ruling the globe costs lots of money. Even worse, much of it is being borrowed. Interestingly, America owes more money to Comrade Xi Jin-ping’s China than anyone else.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Russia, Syria 

Ireland was much on my mind these past weeks. As we watched the first stage of Britain’s divorce from the European Union, the ever-rebellious Scots and Northern Irish were getting ready for a new struggle for independence.

St Patrick’s Day arrived last week, commemorating the patron saint of Ireland, a grand and glorious day when Irish and adopted Irish whoop it up, drink too much, sing traditional songs and get into fist fights over nothing.

Then, a prominent leader of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) Martin McGuinness died, aged only 67. McGuinness had long battled for British-ruled Northern Ireland to join the Irish Republic.

The British, who suffered greatly from IRA bombings and killings, damned McGuinness a ‘terrorist’ until he renounced violence and joined the political wing of the IRA. Many of his fellow Irish hailed him as a freedom fighter and patriot in the centuries-old resistance to British rule.

But I was also reminded of my dear, long-departed Auntie Mairead McCartney. She was a silver-haired, aristocratic Irish lady living in New York City who was very close friends with my mother. Auntie Mairead (as I called her) lived in a vast apartment on New York’s West End Avenue adorned by Tiffany lamps, Irish antiques, figurines of naughty Irish elves known as leprechauns, Victorian paintings and rich Persian carpets.

Auntie Mairead shared the apartment with her elderly cousin, Matt Finnegan. They ran a clerical garb business catering to the New York Catholic Arch Diocese. There were boxes and boxes of nun’s and priest’s wear, rosaries, assorted crucifixes and piles of religious paraphernalia.

The apartment had a thick steel door secured by what is known in New York as a ‘police lock,’ a stout steel brace that fits into a special socket in the floor and then behind the main door lock. Once in place, it was near impossible to force the door open.

And well so. The steel door bore innumerable signs of efforts to force it. I recall lying in bed there at night, listening to would-be intruders trying to jimmy the lock or force the door frame. I was often parked at Mairead’s by my mother, an intrepid journalist who was one of the first female writers to cover the 1950’s Mideast. She interviewed Egypt’s Nasser and Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein.

My mother discovered and reported that nearly a million Palestinians had been driven from the new state of Israel and were living in tents. This was when the official line was that Palestine, what became Israel, was ‘a land without people for a people without land.’

I recall many festive nights when Auntie Mairead, who was the queen bee of Irish society in New York City, gave parties for visiting Irish writers, poets, artists and musicians. She would sit at her grand piano and thunder out lusty songs about Ireland’s quest for freedom and the lovely Scottish ‘Skye Boat Song.’

At the end of such evenings, our glasses would be refilled with Irish whiskey and we would cry out in unison, ‘Death to the British, Long live Ireland.’ I never admitted that I rather liked, even admired, the wicked Brits.

Years later, I discovered why we lived behind a fortified door. It transpired that my beloved Auntie Mairead was a senior IRA leader in the New York City region and a scourge of the British. She was a chief IRA fundraiser who fuelled the Irish independence struggle. While American officials fulminated against so-called Mideast ‘terrorism,’ the then rampaging IRA was being chiefly funded from New York City and Boston.

Not only that. My mother told me years later that dear Auntie was New York’s leading fence for hot rocks. In retrospect, I do recall Mairead once showing me one of the many cigar boxes she kept under her bed that was filled with lots of shiny little clear, blue and red stones. My child’s brain did not understand that this was a king’s ransom in jewels.

This was how my auntie financed the IRA. I would not be surprised, looking back, that behind the cartons of nun’s wear were boxes of Thompson .45 submachine guns and ammo. Even the holy saints sometimes used swords.

The Feds never caught on to Auntie, and we were never assaulted by British SAS commandos. Crooks and robbers never broke in our fortress. Auntie Mairead waged her little holy war against the British until some sort of peace finally came to Northern Ireland.

To this day – over half a century later – I still don’t know how living with my Auntie Mairead shaped me. I’ve always been a rebel by nature and resistant of authority. I feel sympathy for underdogs and the oppressed. I admire all those who fight for their freedom. Like traditional Japanese, I admire those who decide to fight even when they know the odds against them are overwhelming.

I guess I’ve become partly Irish by osmosis.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Irish, Terrorism 

Back in the 1950’s, a British professor at the distinguished University of Malaya, C. Northcote Parkinson, observed that as the post-war Royal Navy shrank in size, its bureaucracy continued to expand.

Parkinson formulated a law that bureaucracies will naturally grow at 5-7% per annum. He also wisely added ‘Make the people sovereign and the poor will use the machinery of government to dispossess the rich.’

All bureaucracies, public and private, must be periodically forced on a diet. US President Donald Trump is, as promised, taking an axe to Washington’s dense bureaucratic undergrowth. He claims the cuts will save $2.5 trillion over ten years.

On Trump’s black list are, for example, such do-nothing government institutions as the International Fund for Ireland ($25 million); US Trade Development Agency ($55 million); Community Development Fund ($4.5 billion to buy black votes); funds for Federal office space ($864 million per annum, thank you Prof Parkinson); USDA sugar subsidy program at $14 million; $900 million for administration for the cancelled Obamacare health program; mohair subsidies ($1 million) and so on.

That’s the sensible part. Now the bad. High quality public broadcasting is to be gutted, saving $445 million. Americans will be left with sports, game shows, and soap operas. Funds for protecting the environment, a growing urgency for America, are being slashed, delighting many flat earth Republicans. Rail subsidies are cut even though decent railroads are a hallmark of civilized nations.

The State Department budget will be slashed by 28%. Some of its 70,000 employees will be let go. One must wonder what all these pencil pushers have been doing. Germany’s total active army has only 63,400 soldiers.

What we are seeing is that everything hated by President Trump and his extremist advisors has been put on the hit list. By contrast, they seem to believe that the United States is in imminent danger of invasion by scimitar-waving Muslims. By contrast, if you’re a Hillary Clinton Democrat, there are Reds lurking under every bed. The Red Peril has replaced the Yellow Peril. We are kept in a constant state of paranoia.

Trump plans to boost the defense budget – which should be called the `offence budget’ – by $54 billion to a total of $664 billion. But wait, that’s not all.

There are numerous big military spending programs, veterans’ affairs, nuclear weapons, so-called homeland security, and maintenance that take the budget up to $773 billion. Add to this paying for the ‘foreign contingency’ wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Plus hundreds of bases around the globe and ‘black programs,’ adding up to about $1 trillion annually.

The US military budget is already larger than the defense budgets of China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea, and Japan – combined.

I had dinner one night in Nice with a French navy admiral. He told me, with a melancholy look, that the US Navy’s annual budget was larger than France’s entire military budget. Russia’s military budget is around $70 billion to defend one of the world’s largest nations with NATO on one side and China on the other. That’s less than one tenth of the Pentagon’s annual budget.

It’s interesting that Trump & Co. have cut funding for US allies, culture, education, the poor, and just about everything else except the Pentagon and Israel. Not a penny was reduced from Israel’s recent grant of $38 billion in arms spending over ten years. Not a peep about this from Congress or Trump.

I’m sorry that Trump did not level with Americans over financing our endless wars. Today, their costs are hidden into the ever expanding national debt, now approaching $20 trillion.

Americans should be taxed to pay for their wars. An honest war tax would show Americans the real cost of their imperial adventures and spare their children from having to pay for such dumb wars as Afghanistan and the Mideast.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump 

Panmunjom, the ‘peace village’ on the incredibly tense demilitarized zone (aka DMZ) between North and South Korea, is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever visited. Tough North Korean soldiers lurk about, watched by equally tough South Korean troops in one-way sunglasses and an aggressive judo ‘warrior’ stance.

When I was filming at Panmunjom, we were warned to beware of North Koreans who could at any moment rush into the main conference room and drag us into North Korea.

It was into this crazy house that the new, jet-lagged US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was transported from turbulent Washington. After a quick look at the DMZ, Tillerson announced `no more Mr. Nice Guy.’ The US had run out of `strategic patience’ with North Korea and will go to war to end North Korea’s ‘threat’ to the US, he warned.

Tillerson, formerly CEO of Exxon, is well-versed in world affairs but the Korean peninsula’s complexities could be too much for him to quickly absorb. Immediately threatening war is no way to begin a diplomatic mission. But Tillerson was obviously reading from a script written by his boss, Donald Trump, whose knowledge of North Asian affairs makes Tillerson look like a Confucian scholar.

Welcome to Trump’s credo: tweet loudly and walk with a big stick.

What would war between the US and North Korea mean? A very grim scenario if it occurs.

The US has nearly 80,000 military personnel in South Korea and Japan, as well as more war-fighting units in Guam, which the US conquered from Spain in 1898. The US 7th Fleet patrols the region, armed with tactical nuclear weapons. US nukes are also based in South Korea and Guam. As we recently saw, US heavy B-1 and B-52 bombers can fly from North America to Korea.

South Korea has a formidable, 600,000-man army equipped with state of the art weapons. I’ve been up on the DMZ with the 2nd ROK division. As an old soldier, I was very impressed by their skill and warlike spirit.

North Korea’s one million-man armed force is large, but obsolescent. Its great strength in heavy artillery partly compensates for its totally obsolete, 1960’s vintage air force. Key combat elements of the DPRK army are dug deep into the rocky hills just north of the DMZ, with thousands of heavy North Korean guns facing south. In the event of war, the North claims it will destroy South Korea’s capitol, Seoul, that is only 30km away and has 20 million residents.

US estimates of war in Korea, made a decade ago, suggest America would incur 250,000 casualties in a war that would cost one million Korean deaths. That’s why the US has shied away from direct attack on North Korea. Unlike Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans and Somalis, North Koreans know how to fight back and are amply armed for a defensive war.

The US would certainly be tempted to use tactical nuclear weapons against North Korean troops and guns deeply dug into the mountainous terrain. Without them, air power, America’s usual trump card, would lose much of its destructive potential. No doubt, all North Korea would be ravaged by US air power, as it was during the 1950’s Korean War. South Korea plans massive air, missile and commando attacks on North Korean military HQ and against leader Kim Jung-un’s hideaway.

US war plans call for amphibious landings along North Korea’s long, vulnerable coastline. This threat forces the North to deploy large numbers of regular army and militia troops on both coasts.

North Korea’s air force and little navy would be vaporized on the first day of hostilities. But it is likely that the DPRK would be able to fire a score or more of medium-ranged missiles at Japan. If the war goes nuclear, Japan looks almost certain to suffer nuclear attack, along with Guam. Tokyo and Osaka are prime targets.

North Korean forces might be able to push south to Seoul, but likely no further in the face of fierce attacks by US and South Korean air power operating from bases further south. The North’s powerful commando force of some 100,000 troops would attack key South Korean targets, including its vital air bases shared with the US. Such raids would be highly disruptive but not decisive unless the DPRK used chemical and/or biological weapons to shut down South Korea’s air bases and its ports at Busan and Inchon.

The US and South Korea could certainly win such a war but it would be very bloody and expensive. There would be the threat of Chinese military intervention if it appeared the US was about to occupy North Korea. Russia is right next door.

Secretary Tillerson, please leave war threats to the generals and start practicing some active diplomacy with the North. If ever a war was not needed, it’s here.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 

We are now moving rapidly into stage II of Levantine Madness as the US boosts its intervention in the war-torn Mideast.

Five thousand US troops are back in Iraq to bolster the shattered nation’s puppet regime that is propped up by American bayonets. New Iraqi military formations have been formed, totally equipped with modern US M1 Abrams tanks, Humvees, and fleets of trucks. More US forces are on the way.

These US-financed Iraqi units are euphemistically called ‘anti-terrorism forces’ and are supervised by US officers. In fact, what we see is the old British Imperial Raj formula of white officers commanding native mercenary troops.
These Iraqi units are now assaulting ISIS-held Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and smaller towns. Most of America’s Iraqi ‘sepoys’ (as native troops in the British Indian Raj were known) are Shia bitterly opposed to the nation’s minority Sunnis. After its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US encouraged animosity between Shia and Sunni as a way of breaking resistance to foreign occupation – ‘divide et impera’ as the Romans used to say.

Interestingly, the backbone of ISIS leadership is made up of senior officers of Saddam Hussein’s old Iraqi army. The ‘Mother of All Battles’ continues, as President Saddam predicted shortly before he was lynched.
Meanwhile, thousands of US troops and Special Forces are now also engaged in Syria though just whom they are battling remains confused. Syria has become a mad house of warring factions backed by outside powers – a sort of modern version of Germany’s dreadful 30 Year’s War of the 1600’s.

The overall US commander for the Mideast, Gen. Joseph Votel, just asked the Trump administration for a large number of new American troops, saying he lacks the military resources to subdue and pacify the Levant. Votel, who is pretty sharp and a star of the US Army’s Special Operations ‘mafia,’ also just warned that India and Pakistan risked triggering a nuclear war, a grave danger this writer has been worrying about for years.

Meanwhile, the crazy-quilt war in Syria that was started by the Obama administration and the Saudis has become unmanageable. Syrian government forces are being strongly backed by Russia and slowly driving back anti-regime forces backed by the US, Saudi Arabia, France and, ever so quietly, Israel. ISIS and what’s left of al-Qaida are battling the Damascus government, sometimes discreetly aided by the western powers.

America’s main ally in Iraq and Syria are Kurdish militias of the PYD party, an affiliate of the older PKK which has sought an independent Kurdish state for decades. I covered the long, bloody war between the Turkish armed forces and the PKK in Eastern Anatolia during the mid-1990’s. Turkey is desperately concerned that formation of even a mini-Kurdish state in northern Syria or Iraq will eventually lead to creation of a large Kurdish state in Turkey. Eighteen percent of Turks are ethnic Kurds. The mighty Turkish Army will never allow this to happen.

The Turks just watched the US break up Sudan, creating the new state of South Sudan, which has turned into a bloody disaster. Could Turkey be next? Many Turks suspect the US was behind the recent coup attempted against Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Washington would like a more obedient leader in Ankara – or see the army generals back in power.

Turkey calls the Kurdish PYD ‘terrorists.’ The US calls them comrades in arms and finances them. Clashes between the Turks and PYD appear very likely. PYD’s blood brothers, the PKK, continue to wage bombing attacks across Turkey along with Islamic State. US forces in the region could easily be drawn into this murky fracas.

Meanwhile, ISIS appears increasingly vulnerable. It has lost almost half of Mosul, the one big city it holds. The ISIS ‘capital,’ Raqqa, will soon be overrun by US-led Iraqi forces and Kurds. Raqqa is a two-by nothing, one-camel town of no military value whatsoever. There is no way that 3,000 or so ISIS hooligans with only small arms could hold off a serious attack by regular troops and massed airpower, including B-52 and B-1 heavy bombers.

Why Raqqa was not taken a year ago or more remains one of the war’s major mysteries. As I’ve previously written, I suspect that the US and Saudi Arabia originally helped create and arm ISIS to be used against Syria’s government and Afghanistan’s Taliban movement. The US has long pretended to fight ISIS but has barely done so in reality.

Maybe this time it will be for real. ISIS has largely slipped out of the control of its western handlers, a bunch of 20-something wildmen whose main goal is revenge for attacks on Muslim targets. Without modern logistics, heavy weapons and trained officers the idea that ISIS could stand up to any western forces is a joke. It’s only when ISIS confronts ramshackle Arab forces that it has any clout. And that’s because mostly Iraqi Arab forces have no loyalty to their governments. They are merely poorly paid mercenaries.

As if this witch’s brew was not sufficiently toxic, US and Russian aircraft and Special Forces are brushing up against one another in Syria. At the same time, the US Navy in the nearby Persian Gulf is provoking the Iranians to please President Donald Trump who seems determined to have war with Iran.

The US Navy is now threatening to impose a naval blockade on war-torn Yemen, another joint US-Saudi warfare enterprise that has gone terribly wrong.

History shows it’s also easy to lie, flag-wave and bluster into war but awfully hard to get out. Trump, whose main information sources appears to be Fox fake TV news, does yet seem to understand this verity. He should have a good look at Afghanistan, America’s longest war, now in its 16th year of stalemate. The Pentagon, heedless that Afghanistan is known as ‘the Graveyard of Empires,’ wants more troops.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
Eric Margolis
About Eric Margolis

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Lew Rockwell. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

His internet column www.ericmargolis.com reaches global readers on a daily basis.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow.

A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

A native New Yorker, he maintains residences in Toronto and New York, with frequent visits to Paris.


Personal Classics
Bin Laden is dead, but his strategy still bleeds the United States.
Egyptians revolted against American rule as well as Mubarak’s.
“America’s strategic and economic interests in the Mideast and Muslim world are being threatened by the agony in Palestine, which inevitably invites terrorist attacks against US citizens and property.”
A menace grows from Bush’s Korean blind spot.
Far from being a model for a “liberated” Iraq, Afghanistan shows how the U.S. can get bogged down Soviet-style.