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 TeasersEric Margolis Blogview

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After 17 bloody years, the longest war in US history continues without relent or purpose in Afghanistan.

There, a valiant, fiercely-independent people, the Pashtun (Pathan) mountain tribes, have battled the full might of the US Empire to a stalemate that has so far cost American taxpayers $4 trillion, and 2,371 dead and 20,320 wounded soldiers. No one knows how many Afghans have died. The number is kept secret.

Pashtun tribesmen in the Taliban alliance and their allies are fighting to oust all foreign troops from Afghanistan and evict the western-imposed and backed puppet regime in Kabul that pretends to be the nation’s legitimate government. Withdraw foreign troops and the Kabul regime would last for only days.

The whole thing smells of the Vietnam War. Lessons so painfully learned by America in that conflict have been completely forgotten and the same mistakes repeated. The lies and happy talk from politicians, generals and media continue apace.

This week, Taliban forces occupied the important strategic city of Ghazni on the road from Peshawar to Kabul. It took three days and massive air attacks by US B-1 heavy bombers, Apache helicopter gun ships, A-10 ground attack aircraft, and massed warplanes from US bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar and the 5th US Fleet to finally drive back the Taliban assault. Taliban also overran key military targets in Kabul and the countryside, killing hundreds of government troops in a sort of Afghan Tet offensive.

Afghan regime police and army units put up feeble resistance or ran away. Parts of Ghazni were left in ruins. It was a huge embarrassment to the US imperial generals and their Afghan satraps who had claimed ‘the corner in Afghanistan has finally been turned.’

Efforts by the Trump administration to bomb Taliban into submission have clearly failed. US commanders fear using American ground troops in battle lest they suffer serious casualties. Meanwhile, the US is running low on bombs.

Roads are now so dangerous for the occupiers that most movement must be by air. Taliban is estimated to permanently control almost 50% of Afghanistan. That number would rise to 100% were it not for omnipresent US air power. Taliban rules the night.

Taliban are not and never were ‘terrorists’ as Washington’s war propaganda falsely claimed. I was there at the creation of the movement – a group of Afghan religious students armed by Pakistan whose goal was to stop post-civil war banditry, the mass rape of women, and to fight the Afghan Communists. When Taliban gained power, it eliminated 95% of the rampant Afghanistan opium-heroin trade. After the US invaded, allied to the old Afghan Communists and northern Tajik tribes, opium-heroin production soared to record levels. Today, US-occupied Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, morphine and heroin.

US occupation authorities claim drug production is run by Taliban. This is another big lie. The Afghan warlords who support the regime of President Ashraf Ghani entirely control the production and export of drugs. The army and secret police get a big cut. How else would trucks packed with drugs get across the border into Pakistan and Central Asia?

The United States has inadvertently become one of the world’s leading drug dealers. This is one of the most shameful legacies of the Afghan War. But just one. Watching the world’s greatest power bomb and ravage little Afghanistan, a nation so poor that some of its people can’t afford sandals, is a huge dishonor for Americans.

Even so, the Pashtun defeated the invading armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Mogul Emperors and the mighty British Raj. The US looks to be next in the Graveyard of Empires.

Nobody in Washington can enunciate a good reason for continuing the colonial war in Afghanistan. One hears talk of minerals, women’s rights and democracy as a pretext for keeping US forces in Afghanistan. All nonsense. A possible real reason is to deny influence over Afghanistan, though the Chinese are too smart to grab this poisoned cup. They have more than enough with their rebellious Uighur Muslims.

Interestingly, the so-called ‘terrorist training camps’ supposedly found in Afghanistan in 2001 were actually guerilla training camps run by Pakistani intelligence to train Kashmiri rebels and CIA-run camps for exiled Uighur fighters from China.

The canard that the US had to invade Afghanistan to get at Osama bin Laden, alleged author of the 9/11 attacks, is untrue. The attacks were made by Saudis and mounted from Hamburg and Madrid, not Afghanistan. I’m not even sure bin Laden was behind the attacks.

My late friend and journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave shared my doubts and insisted that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar offered to turn bin Laden over to a court in a Muslim nation to prove his guilt or innocence.

President George Bush, caught sleeping on guard duty and humiliated, had to find an easy target for revenge – and that was Afghanistan.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, American Military 
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President Trump keeps vowing to create more jobs in America. But his actions often speak differently. The most egregious example was Trump’s cancellation of the multi-national Iran nuclear treaty that had been welcomed by the world as a major step to Mideast denuclearization.

In abrogating the international treaty signed by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, the US humiliated its allies and rivals who were strongly in favor of the accord. Iran had already handed 97% of its enriched uranium to Russia, shut down reactors and centrifuges, and allowed UN inspectors to run all over its nuclear facilities when Trump tore up the deal that had been under negotiation since 2015.

Iran has been under a harsh US-led trade embargo since its 1979 revolution that was designed to cripple its economy and military and drive the people to rebel against their government. Washington used the same tactics – without success – against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

So intense is the Trump administration’s hatred for Islamic Iran that it decided to scrap the multinational nuclear deal that would have meant opening Iran to western commerce and a bonanza for US and European companies. The key element of the deal was to have been the sale of some 210 commercial jet airliners to Iran by the US and the European Union, a deal worth some $40-50 billion, not counting future sales of spare parts.

The US embargo of Iran since 1979 has made it unable to modernize its commercial airline fleet. Iran was denied modern aircraft, spare parts, engines and instruments, leaving it with decaying aircraft from the 1970’s.

The grim result of the US-imposed embargo has been 17 crashes of Iranian civilian aircraft with 1500 deaths.

Most of Iran’s commercial aircraft – a grab bag of old, mostly 25-year old Boeing, Airbus, Chinese and Soviet aircraft – are flying coffins. Iran’s maintenance, training and air traffic control are substandard. Flying over and around Iran’s lofty mountains is a challenge for the best of pilots, even for a handful of newer ATR turboprop aircraft.

Washington’s denial to Iran of Boeing Aircraft (and Airbus planes because they contain US-made parts), means the loss of tens of thousands of highly-paid jobs in the US and Europe. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, claims he talked Trump into canceling the Iran nuclear deal and the Boeing orders.

It’s hard to validate Netanyahu’s claim but it is clear that America’s ever more powerful Israel lobby and its ally fundamentalist Christian Zionists played a key role in thwarting the Iran nuclear deal and sale of commercial aircraft.

We don’t yet know the full cost of lost American jobs and business to help keep Iran isolated. But one could argue that part of the $20 billion lost should be counted as part of annual US aid to Israel.

Russia and China’s aircraft industries will soon be able to deliver modern passenger aircraft to Iran and accept payment in oil. China’s C919 and ARJ21 are now nearing service. Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 will be ready soon. Trump could be cutting off his nose to spite his face.

Trump and his allies are trying to push Iran into a corner and provoke it to lash out at US forces that are poised around it. A navel clash in the Gulf is the obvious pretext for war.

While the US goes after Iran, it has opened a new anti-Muslim front against old ally Turkey by imposing heavy duties on Ankara’s exports to the US and attacking the always vulnerable Turkish lira. This, in turn, has set off a financial crisis across Europe, notably among EU banks that have large, soft loans made to Turkey.

Trump & Co. are trying to force Turkey to bend the knee and support US-Israeli-Saudi policy goals. Turkey and Iran remain the last significant supporters in the region of the Palestinians. Trump and the New York City real estate developers, and the money men who surround him, are determined to show the independent-minded Iranians and Turks who is the big boss.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran 
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The words ‘hope’ and ‘Pakistan’ do not often appear together. Pakistan, a sprawling nation of 205 million, is hard to govern, even harder to finance, and seething with tribal or religious violence and discord.

But Pakistan, which for me is one of the most interesting and important nations on earth, is by far the leading nation of the Muslim world and a redoubtable military power. Created in 1947 from former British India as a haven for oppressed Muslims, Pakistan has been ruled ever since by military juntas or by slippery and often corrupt civilian politicians.

After decades of dynastic politics under the Bhutto and Sharif families, there is suddenly hope that newly elected cricket star Imran Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) may – just may – tackle Pakistan’s four biggest problems: endemic corruption, military interference, political tribalism, and a half-dead economy.

Former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, appears to be headed for jail over a corruption scandal unless he is allowed to go into exile in London. The exiled former military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is hiding out in Dubai awaiting charges of treason.

I spent a good deal of time with Pakistan’s former leaders, Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and his bitter foe, Benazir Bhutto, both of whom were later murdered. Neither Musharraf nor Nawaz measured up to these colorful personalities in political skills, vision, or personality.

Imran Khan is sometimes called ‘Pakistan’s Jack Kennedy’ for his movie-star good looks, charisma and zesty love life. He no longer plays professional cricket though he is still idolized in Pakistan and, interestingly, bitter foe India.

Khan (who is of Pashtun tribal blood) is also a philanthropist and respected thinker. He says he is determined to begin rooting corruption out of Pakistan and to revivify its ailing economy. Pakistan’s GDP is only $1,641 per person compared to India’s $2,134. The illiteracy rate is about 40%, notably among women who are the primary teachers of the young.

As Imran Khan is about to take office, Pakistan’s coffers are almost empty. Islamabad has had to take 12 loans from the International Monetary Fund in the last 40 years, in part to pay for its oil imports.

Now, Islamabad is negotiating yet another loan of $57 billion from its most important ally, China, whose vast belt and road project covering transportation, ports and infrastructure seeks to modernize Pakistan and turn it into a primary conduit to the Arabian Sea.

But Donald Trump’s Washington is angry over China’s dollar diplomacy, formerly a preserve of US foreign policy. US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, who plays bad cop to Trump’s bad cop, lambastes Pakistan for the Chinese loan.

The White House is obviously dismayed by China’s growing influence over Pakistan caused, in large part, by the US decision to cut aid to Pakistan and favor its old enemy, India. President George Bush aided India’s military nuclear program, alarming China and Pakistan. Now, Trump is working to mobilize India against China. So far, India has been too smart to act as an American strategic proxy.

Imran Khan will now have a chance to resolve the Indo-Pakistani dispute over contested Kashmir that has flared since 1947. India keeps one million soldiers and police there to repress the rebellious majority Muslim population that seeks to join Pakistan or create an independent state. The UN mandated a referendum to determine Kashmir’s future but India ignores it.

The new Khan government must also try to find a way to get the US out of the giant hole it has dug in Afghanistan. Imran has been a vocal critic of the stalemated US war in Afghanistan. Soon, he will control the major supply lines to US forces there.

India and Pakistan are important nuclear-armed powers. Their nuclear forces are on a hair-trigger alert of less than 5 minutes. There is frequent fighting on the Kashmir cease-fire line between the two sides. India’s vastly larger forces are poised to invade Pakistan. Islamabad says it must have tactical nuclear weapons to deter such an overwhelming Indian attack.

The Kashmir border is the world’s most dangerous flash point.

Imran Khan may be able to calm tensions over Kashmir and open meaningful talks with India where he is very popular. In the 1980’s, Gen. Zia ul Haq headed off an invasion by India by flying to Delhi on the spur of the moment to attend a cricket match. This writer expects Imran Khan to similarly appear in India for his ultimate diplomatic test match.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Pakistan 
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President Donald Trump and his neocon advisors have been trying to provoke a war with Iran and Syria for many months.

The neocons are echoing Cato the Elder’s cry, ‘delenda est Carthago!’. Iran must be destroyed.

So far, Tehran and its ally Damascus have refused to respond to US naval and air incursions or Israel’s growing air attacks in Syria. But the war of words between the US and Iran has now reached a critical phase.

Last week, Trump, who evaded military service during the Vietnam War, made his loudest threats yet against Iran, bringing the danger of war to the boiling point. On 21 May, the hard-line US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a thunderous ultimatum to Iran during an address to the US Heritage Foundation, a rich, influential arm of America’s Israel lobby.

Pompeo made 12 totally unacceptable demands on Iran that were clearly designed to be rejected by Tehran. Not since Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum against Serbia in 1914 have we seen such a clear effort to bring about war. Tehran quickly dismissed Pompeo as ‘a gangster.’

We are by now used to blood and thunder rhetoric between Washington and Tehran. But this time White House policy is clearly being directed by pro-Israel American neocons who want the US military to crush Iran as it did Iraq.

Crushing Iran will leave Israel with unfettered control of the Mideast and its oil – unless Russia or Turkey intervene against Israel, which is most unlikely. Some think Russia and Israel – and the US – have already made a deal to divvy up the central Mideast.

‘Let the Americans come,’ one Iranian militant told me, ‘they will break their teeth on Iran.’ Very colorful but hardly accurate. The US and Israel will surely avoid a massive, costly land campaign again Iran, a vast, mountainous nation that was willing to suffer a million battle casualties in its eight-year war with Iraq that started in 1980 . This gruesome war was instigated by the US, Britain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to overthrow Iran’s new popular Islamic government.

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, water works, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran’s air defenses range from feeble to non-existent. Decades of US-led military and commercial embargos against Iran have left it as decrepit and enfeebled as was Iraq when the US invaded in 2003. The gun barrels of Iran’s 70’s vintage tanks are warped and can’t shoot straight, its old British and Soviet AA missiles are mostly unusable, and its ancient MiG and Chinese fighters ready for the museum, notably its antique US-built F-14 Tomcats, Chinese copies of obsolete MiG-21’s, and a handful of barely working F-4 Phantoms of Vietnam War vintage.

Air combat command is no better. Everything electronic that Iran has will be fried or blown up in the first hours of a US attack. Iran’s little navy will be sunk in the opening attacks. Its oil industry may be destroyed or partially preserved depending on US post-war plans for Iran.

The only way Tehran can riposte is by staging isolated commando attacks on US installations in the Mideast of no decisive value, and, of course, blocking the narrow Strait of Hormuz that carries two thirds of Mideast oil exports. The US Navy, based nearby in Bahrain, has been practicing for decades to combat this threat.

China vows to keep buying Iranian oil in spite of the US blockade to be imposed this fall. This could put the US and China on a collision course.

While Iran may be able to interdict some oil exports from the Arab states, and cause maritime insurance rates to skyrocket, it’s unlikely to be able to block the bulk of oil exports unless it attacks the main oil terminals in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf with ground troops. During the Iran-Iraq war, neither side was able to fully interdict the other’s oil exports.

Direct western intervention in a major ground campaign seems unlikely. But the US and Israeli war plan would aim to totally destroy Iran’s infrastructure, communications and transport (including oil) crippling this important nation of 80 million and taking it back to the pre-revolutionary era. That was the plan for Iraq, the Arab world’s most industrialized nation. Today Iraq still lies in ruins.

One recalls the words of the great Roman historian, Tacitus: ‘they make a desert and call it peace.’

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran, Neocons 
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Comedy? Disaster? Mental disorder? Hearing loss?

Even days after President Donald Trump’s bizarre appearance in Helsinki alongside a cool, composed President Vladimir Putin, it’s hard to tell what happened. But it certainly was entertaining.

In case anyone in the universe missed this event, let me recap. Trump met in private with Putin, which drove bureaucrats on both sides crazy. So far, Trump won’t reveal most of what was said between the two leaders.

But after the presidential meeting, Trump replied to reporter’s questions by saying he believed Russia had no role in attempts to bug the Democratic Party during the election. Outrage erupted across the US. ‘Trump trusts the Russians more than his own intelligence agencies’ went up the howl. Trump is a traitor, charged certain of the wilder Democrats and neocon Republicans. Few Americans wanted to hear the truth.

In fact, so intense was the outrage at home that Trump had to backtrack and claim he had misspoken. Yes, he admitted, the Russians had meddled in the US election. But then he seemed to back away again from this claim.

The whole thing was black comedy. Maybe it was due to Trump’s poor hearing or to jet lag and travel fatigue.

Hillary Clinton did not lose the election due to Russian conniving. She lost it because so many Americans disliked and mistrusted her. When the truth about her rigging of the Democratic primary emerged, she deftly diverted attention by claiming the Russians had rigged the election. What chutzpah (nerve).

Yet many Americans swallowed this canard. If Russia’s GRU military intelligence was really involved in the run-up to the election, as US intelligence reportedly claimed, it’s alleged buying of social media amounted to peanuts and hardly swung the election.

Back in the 1940’s, GRU managed to penetrate and influence Roosevelt’s White House. Now that’s real espionage. Not some junior officers and 20-somethings on a laptop in Moscow.

Besides, compared to US meddling in foreign politics, whatever the Ruskis did in the US was small potatoes. Prying into US political and military secrets is precisely what Russian intelligence was supposed to do. Particularly when the US Democratic Party was pushing a highly aggressive policy towards Russia that might lead to war.

For the US to accuse Russia of meddling is the ultimate pot calling the kettle black. The neocon former US Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, admitted her organization had spent $5 billion to overthrow Ukraine’s pro-Russian government. US undercover political and financial operations have recently been active in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan, to name but a few nations.

Democrats and Republican neocons are in full-throat hysteria over an alleged Russian threat – Russia, whose total military budget is smaller than Trump’s recent Pentagon budget increase this year.

What we have been seeing is the fascinating spectacle of America’s war party and neocons clamoring to oust President Trump. Included in their ranks are most of the US media, led by the NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and TV’s war parties, CNN and NBC.

It’s also clear that Trump’s most ardent foes are the big US intelligence agencies whose mammoth $78 billion combined budget exceeds total Russian military spending. The bloated US intelligence industry fears that Trump may slash its budgets, power and perks.

The uproar over Putin has revealed just how fanatic and far to the right were the heads of the US national security state operating under the sugarcoating of the Obama administration. Straight out of the wonderful film, ‘Dr. Strangelove.’ We now see them on CNN, snarling away at President Trump.

Speaking of far right generals, one is also reminded of the brilliant film, `Seven Days in May,’ in which a cabal of generals tries to overthrow the president because of a peace deal he made with Moscow. Could there be a real plot against the president? Watching US TV one might think so.

Now, completing the childish ‘Reds Under Our Beds’ hysteria comes the final touch, the evil Russian temptress-spy who managed to infiltrate the National Prayer Breakfast, of all silly things. This dangerous Jezebel is now in the hands of the FBI. If this is the best KGB or GRU can come up with they need urgent help from Congolese intelligence.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Donald Trump, Russia 
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President Donald Trump says most summit meetings are a waste of time. He’s so right. Most meetings of every kind are a waste of time and energy.

The president was certainly right about last week’s NATO summit in Brussels. At least, he livened it up by openly blasting his NATO allies once again for not spending enough on their military forces. But Trump’s real purpose was to show the world that he was boss of all he surveyed.

Doing his best bull in a china shop routine, Trump lectured and scolded the heads of NATO on live TV. They took the verbal thrashing like truant schoolboys. NATO’s secretary general, former Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was put into office by the US, muttered a few lame excuses. Trump supporters in the US were delighted to see the snotty, godless Europeans given a good dressing down.

It did not help when it was revealed that Germany, the bulwark of NATO, had only a handful of front-line fighters in service. Another report claimed most of its main battle tanks were out of service due to budget cuts.

The president made the very important statement that he regarded Russia’s Vladimir Putin as a ‘competitor’ and not an ‘enemy.’ This view is widely held in Europe and the rest of the world.

But then Trump negated this sensible view by claiming Germany is ‘totally controlled’ by and ‘captive to’ nearby Russia because Germany now buys up to 70% of its oil and gas from them.

In fact, many Germans believe precisely the contrary: that Germany is Washington’s vassal state and still under American domination seven decades after World War II.

They cite US control of Germany’s intelligence agencies, foreign and defense policies, relations with Israel, and sending troops to support the ongoing US occupation of Afghanistan.

Over 37 active US bases and installations are spread across northern Germany and Bavaria. Some 35,000 US troops remain in Germany, down from the Cold War total of over 300,000. Important German air bases form the core of the US ability to project power into Eastern Europe and the Mideast. The US quietly stores nuclear weapons in Germany.

The US has dominated Germany’s sedate media since WWII. American intelligence has often hand-picked its editors and columnists. German officials and politicians at all levels understand a list of approved do’s and don’ts, avoiding actions that would annoy or anger Washington.

American influence over Germany is so pervasive that when it was revealed that the US National Security Agency was tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, the German government response to this humiliation was meek and muted.

Donald Trump dislikes Mrs. Merkel because she has let in refugees – and Muslim ones at that – but she remains one of America’s most deferential and loyal allies. It’s a pity that neither she nor NATO chief Stoltenberg stood up and counter-blasted Trump. Acting like mice further reinforced the prevailing view that NATO members are merely water carriers for the American nuclear knights. It reinforces the point that Europe needs its own united military forces.

If Trump had any knowledge of history, which he clearly does not, he would know that Germany had close economic links with Russia since the days of the Empress Catherine the Great (1762-1796). Russians have always admired the technical skills, efficiency and work ethic of Germans. Germany and Russia are natural trading partners thanks to proximity and producing what the other lacks.

One of America’s perennial fears has been a German-Russian entente. This almost happened after the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that combined military and economic development. In recent years, Germany has steadily expanded its economic presence in Russia, most notably with the underwater Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic that brings Russian natural gas to Germany while avoiding hostile Poland and Ukraine.

Buying Russian gas puts Germany under Russian domination, claims Trump, whose military has 800 bases around the globe and soldiers from South Korea to Togo. A certain amount of influence, perhaps. But Russia’s main money earner comes from exporting oil and gas, and minerals. Except in wartime, it’s unlikely Moscow would shut the taps on its vital oil pipelines.

This brouhaha over Russian oil exports is the work of the US neocons who infest the Trump administration and run Fox TV. They want to see Germany and Russia kept on their knees, and NATO submissive to Washington.

Trump is wading in deep, murky waters here. Let’s hope he does better this week in his meeting with Vlad Putin – which we venture to guess will not be a waste of time at all.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, EU, Neocons, Russia 
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`We are the schmucks’ thundered President Donald Trump, using a favorite New York City Yiddish term for penis. The object of Trump’s wrath at his Make America Great Again’ rally in Great Falls, Montana was the craven, stingy European members of NATO, only 16 of 22 members are on budget for their US-commanded military spending. Trump wants them to spend much more.

Trump and his fellow neocons want NATO to serve as a sort of US foreign legion in Third World wars in Africa and Asia. NATO was formed as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to defend western Europe, not to fight in Afghanistan and who knows where else?

Equally bad, according to Trump, is that the US runs a whopping trade deficit with the European Union which is busy shipping high-end cars and fine wines to the US. The wicked foreigners don’t buy enough Amerian bourbon, corn and terribly abused pigs.

Trump is quite right that America’s NATO allies, particularly Germany and Canada, don’t spend enough on defense. Germany is reported to have less than twenty operational tanks. Canada’s armed forces appear to be smaller than the New York City police department.

But the Europeans ask, ‘defense against whom?’ The Soviet Union was a huge threat back in the Cold War when the mighty Red Army had 55,000 tanks pointed West. Today, Russia’s land and navel power has evaporated. Russia has perhaps 5,500 main battle tanks in active service and a similar number in storage, a far cry from its armored juggernaut of the Cold War.

More important, Russia’s military budget for 2018 was only $61 billion, actually down 17% from last year. That’s 4.3% of GDP. Russia is facing hard economic times. Russia has slipped to third place in military spending after the US, China and Saudi Arabia. The US and its wealthy allies account for two thirds of world military spending. In fact, the US total military budget (including for nuclear weapons and foreign wars) is about $1 trillion, 50% of total US government discretionary spending.

In addition, Russia must defend a vast territory from the Baltic to the Pacific. The US is fortunate in having Mexico and Canada as neighbors. Russia has North Korea, China, India, the Mideast and NATO to watch. As with its naval forces, Russia’s armies are too far apart to lend one another mutual support. Two vulnerable rail lines are Russia’s main land link between European Russia and its Pacific Far East.

Trump’s supplemental military budget boost this year of $54 billion is almost as large as Russia’s entire 2018 military budget. As for Trump’s claim that Europe is not paying its fair share of NATO expenses, note that that Britain and France combined together spend more on their military forces than Russia.

In Europe, it’s hard to find many people who still consider Russia a serious threat except for some tipsy Danes, right wing Swedes, and assorted Russophobic East Europeans. The main fear of Russia seems concentrated in the minds of American neoconservatives, media, and rural Trump supporters, all victims of the bizarre anti-Russian hysteria that has gripped the US.

Equally important, most civilians don’t understand that neither US and NATO forces nor Russia’s military are in any shape to fight war that lasts more than a few days. Both sides lack munitions, spare parts, lubricants, and battlefield equipment. The overworked US Air Force, busy plastering Muslim nations, has actually run low on bombs. US industry can’t seems to keep up supplies. There has even been talk of buying explosives from China!

These essentials of war have been seriously neglected in favor of buying fancy weapons. But such weapons need spares, electronics, fuel depots, missiles and thousands of essential parts. As former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld observed, ‘you go to war with what you have.’ Neither side has enough. A war would likely peter out in days after supplies were exhausted. Besides, no side can afford to replace $100 million jet fighters or $5 million apiece tanks after a war, however brief.

President Trump has learned about war from Fox TV. Europeans have learned from real experience and don’t want any more.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Russia 
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Few phobias run deeper in Europe than the fear and hatred of Turks. For at least six hundred years, Europe was locked in innumerable wars with first Seljuk, then Ottoman Turks. My big St Bernard is a descendant of dogs bred to attack Arab and Turkish raiders coming over Switzerland’s St Bernard Pass.

Today, by contrast, there are some 10 million ethnic Turks in Europe, most of whom came in past decades as guest laborers, prized for their hard work, honesty and reliability.

Turkey joined NATO in 1952 at a time when the US dominated the continent and Mideast. The Turkish armed forces were the second largest in NATO after the US. Joined at the hip with the US military, the Turkish generals ran the government in Ankara behind a screen of squabbling politicians. The US gave Turkey its marching orders. Turkey’s small but powerful westernized elite was delighted to follow Washington and keep Islam in Turkey handcuffed or exiled to rural areas.

This all changed in 1994 when a young, 40-year old nationalist, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, became a reformist mayor of Istanbul and began cleaning up and modernizing the decrepit metropolis. After a brief jail term for reading an ancient Islamic poem, he was released and formed the Justice and Development Party (AK) which is an Islamist Lite party dedicated to democracy guided by Muslims principals of national pride, welfare for the poor and elderly, sharing wealth, supporting fellow Muslims and urging followers to lead lives of moderation.

There was no stopping the dynamic Erdogan, who was a semi-pro footballer before his full-time political career. By 2003, he was elected prime minister by Turkey’s 81 million people and ever since has proved wildly popular with the majority of Turks. The big city westernized elites in Turkey, who deny their Muslim culture and try to pass for Europeans, bitterly oppose Erdogan and his Islamic allies.

Under Erdogan’s predecessors, the alliance of westernized elites and the military controlled the nation’s media, education, courts, diplomatic corps and big business, all with Washington’s blessing.

During the long pre-Erdogan era, Turkey’s parliamentary government was a bad joke and its finances catastrophic. Turks are great soldiers, cooks and architects, but not so good with finances. During the Ottoman days, finance was often run by Armenians, Jews and Greeks (as in Czarist Russia).

Over the past decades, Erdogan and his AK have restored Turkey’s rickety finances, boosted the economy, imposed more efficient, honest government, made peace with the restive Kurdish minority, ended feuds with neighbors, and forced the 600,000-man army back to its barracks and out of politics. The generals and secular bigwigs, who staged 16 coups since WWII, were enraged.

To no surprise, the elite and some generals launched yet another coup in July 2016. The coup, joined by key army and air force units, came close to killing Erdogan but was then thwarted by a massive national popular uprising that blocked the plotter’s tanks and airfields. Some 10,000 people were involved in the coup, including senior officers, academics, journalists and two other key plotters: Turkish religious cult leader Fethullah Gulen, who lived in exile in the US; and a few members of Turkey’s shadowy intelligence agency, MIT which spearheaded Turkey’s covert intervention in Syria. The coup was based at the US-run airbase at Incirlik. Most Turks believe the US was behind the coup.

Washington has long been annoyed by Erdogan’s independent-minded actions, notably in Syria and Palestine. Israel’s hard right government, now the dominant force in US foreign policy, despises Erdogan for supporting the Palestinian cause. As a result, the US intelligence services, media and Congress are bitterly anti-Erdogan. His warming relations with Russia have further annoyed the US, leading to more anti-Erdogan plots in the military. The US media keeps blasting Erdogan while totally ignoring the brutal dictatorship in Egypt, a major US-Saudi vassal state.

Hostility against Erdogan has increased since he won a landslide electoral victory this month to become Turkey’s new, powerful president. He had emerged as the most important Turkish leader and modernizer since Ataturk, who died in 1938. If Turkey only had oil, as it did pre-WWI, it would be an important world power.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Erdogan, Turkey 
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Last week’s Economist Magazine won the day with the best-ever headline about the Trump-Kim Jong-un summit: `Kim Jong Won!’

That said it all. Just out of hospital, I was in no shape to compete with the great Economist or its very witty headline writers. But after watching a week of post Singapore summit between Great White Father Trump and delinquent Kim Jong-un I must totally agree with the Economist.

What was billed as a second-coming extravaganza between the two leaders – who have been trading insults of ‘little rocket man’ and ‘dotard’ (someone who is senile) turned out to be a very expensive photo op for both publicity seekers that made much noise but produced very little – at least so far. It seemed as if two schoolyard bullies had been forced by the principal to shake hands.

Beyond gestures, North Korea’s leader certainly came out ahead. His objective – and those of his family predecessors for the past 60 years – was to normalize relations with the US, start trade, and end US efforts to overthrow the Marxist government in Pyongyang.

Trump’s objectives, at least initially, were to crush North Korea and the threats it could pose to the United States and its regional allies Japan and South Korea. Trump sought to set up Kim as a bogeyman, and himself as America’s savior. Trump knew perfectly well that he could not destroy all of North Korea’s deeply buried nuclear-armed missiles, and, in spite of his huffing and puffing, had no stomach for an invasion of North Korea that could cost the US an estimated 250,000 casualties.

So Trump’s solution was more show-biz. A much ballyhooed flight to Singapore, backslapping a delighted Kim, and a love-fest between the two chunky leaders was sold to Americans as the dawn of peace. America’s media was quick to retail the story and burnish Trump’s credentials among the seriously credulous. No more hiding under your school desks or in dank basements. As Trump grandly proclaimed, Americans no longer have to fear North Korea and can sleep peacefully at night!

Why? Korea still has all of its medium and long-ranged missiles and an estimated 40 or more nuclear warheads. The North is developing submarines that can launch nuclear-armed missiles from underwater off America’s coasts. For Kim, these weapons are purely defensive, designed to prevent a US attack on his nation. But he is now a full-fledged member of the nuclear club.

Equally important, North Korea still has an estimated 14,000 170mm guns and hundreds of 300mm long-ranged rocket launchers emplaced in caves just north of the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. They threaten almost all of South Korea’s capital Seoul north of the Han River and some US military bases and key airfields, notably Osan.

This is a very real threat – one that is largely immune to attack from the air. I have seen these emplacements from the northern edge of the DMZ. Kim’s big guns hold Seoul’s millions of inhabitants hostage.

There is no mention of this artillery threat in the final communiqué issued by Trump and Kim in Singapore. But it was agreed to temporarily stop the highly provocative US/South Korean war games simulating an invasion of the North, a key demand by Kim. This column has been calling for their end for a decade. North Korea will seemingly halt its missile tests.

This is not the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea that has been bandied about. There may be a few gestures of disarmament but Kim must know that his nukes are his means of survival. In case Kim didn’t remember the dire fate of Iraq, Libya, and Syria, Trump’s new national security advisor John Bolton, a fanatic’s fanatic, cheerfully recalled the doom of Libya’s murdered Col. Khadaffi.

The Singapore summit was also a huge humiliation for America’s allies Japan and South Korea. In Asia, preserving ‘face’ is essential.

Trump completely ignored America’s two old allies after his meeting with Kim – who routinely blasts Japan and South Korea as ‘America’s stooges.’ Instead, Trump sent his beginner Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to explain what happened in Singapore, inflicting a deep loss of face on Tokyo and Seoul. This was a terrible insult and could spark decisions by at least Japan to proceed ahead with its covert nuclear program. Japan can deploy nuclear weapons in 3-6 months; South Korea is not far behind.

The United States and North Korea are now on a more civilized level of behavior. But nothing basic has been resolved. Maybe Trump has some more concessions up his sleeve, like cutting the number of US troops in the South. But Korea is now on the back burner as Trump wages trade wars around the globe.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, North Korea 
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On my many walking visits to the vast Normandy battlefield in France, I kept recalling the ever so wise dictum of Prussia’s great monarch, Frederick the Great: ‘he who defends everything, defends nothing.’ On this 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings, it’s well worth recalling the old warrior-king.

Adolf Hitler, a veteran of the infantry, should certainly have known better. Defending the European coast from Brittany to Norway was an impossibility given Germany’s military and economic weakness in 1944. But he did not understand this. Having so brilliantly overcome France’s Maginot Line fortifications in 1940, Hitler and his High Command repeated the same strategic and tactical errors as the French only four years later: not having enough reserves to effectively counter-attack enemy breakthrough forces.

Germany’s vaunted Atlantic Wall looked formidable on paper, but it was too long, too thin, lacked defensive depth and was lacking in adequate reserve forces. The linear Maginot Line suffered the same failings. America’s fortifications protecting Manila and Britain’s ‘impregnable’ fortifications at Singapore also proved worthless. The Japanese merely marched into their undefended rears.

In 1940, the German Wehrmacht was modern history’s supreme fighting machine. But only four years later, the Wehrmacht was broken. Most Americans, British and Canadians believe that D-Day was the decisive stroke that ended WWII in Europe. But this is not true.

Germany’s mighty Wehrmacht, which included the Luftwaffe, was destroyed by Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Red Army claims to have destroyed 507 German divisions, 48,000 German tanks, 77,000 German aircraft, and 100 divisions of Axis troops allied to Germany from Italy, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Finland.

Few Americans have ever heard of the Soviet Far East offensive of 1945, a huge operation that extended from Central Asia to Manchuria and the Pacific. At least 450,000 Japanese soldiers were killed, wounded or captured by the Red Army, 32% of Japan’s total wartime military losses. The Soviets were poised to invade Japan when the US struck it with two nuclear weapons.

Of Germany’s 10 million casualties in WWII, 75% were inflicted by the Red Army. The once mighty Luftwaffe was decimated over Russia. Almost all German military production went to supplying the 1,600 km Eastern Front where Germany’s elite forces were ground up in titanic battles like Kursk and Stalingrad that involved millions of soldiers.

Soviet forces lost upwards of 20 million men. Total US losses, including the Pacific, were one million. To Marshal Stalin, D-Day, the North African and Italian campaign were merely diversionary side-shows to tie down Axis forces while the Red Army pushed on to Berlin.

D-Day was without doubt one of the greatest logistical feats of modern military history. Think of General Motors versus the German warrior Siegfried. For every US tank the Germans destroyed, ten more arrived. Each German tank was almost irreplaceable. Transporting over one million men and their heavy equipment across the Channel was a triumph. But who remembers that Germany crossed the heavily defended Rhine River into France in 1940?

By June, 1944, German forces at Normandy and along the entire Channel coast had almost no diesel fuel or gasoline. Their tanks and trucks were immobilized. Allied air power shot up everything that moved, including a staff car carrying Marshal Erwin Rommel strafed by Canada’s own gallant future aviator general, Richard Rohmer. German units in Normandy were below 40% combat effectiveness even without their shortages in fuel.

The Germans in France were also very short of ammunition, supplies and communications. Units could only move by night, and then very slowly. Hitler was reluctant to release armored forces from his reserves. Massive Allied bombing of Normandy alone killed 15,000 to 20,000 French civilians and shattered many cities and towns.

Churchill once said, ‘you will never know war until you fight Germans.’ With no air cover or fuel and heavily outnumbered, German forces in Normandy managed to mount a stout resistance, inflicting 209,000 casualties on US, Canadian, British, Free French and allied forces. German losses were around 200,000.

The most important point of the great invasion is that without it, the Red Army would have reached Paris and the Channel Ports by the end of 1944, making Stalin the master of all Europe except Spain. Of course, the Allies could have reached a peace agreement with Germany in 1944, which Hitler was seeking and Gen. George Patton was rumored to be advocating. But the German-hating Churchill and left-leaning Roosevelt were too bloody-minded to consider a peace that would have kept Stalin out of at least some of Eastern Europe.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Russia, World War II 
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.


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