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 TeasersEric Margolis Blogview

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France is under siege. Some 90,000 security forces are being deployed across France with particular attention to always combustible Paris and Marseilles. Armored vehicles are moving into the capital. Certain military units are on high alert.

The storm that is hitting France came out of what looked like a clear blue sky. The angry demonstrators, known as ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow jackets), for the warning vests all motorists must keep in their cars, inundated Paris last weekend in peaceful protests over the government’s planned increases in fuel prices, which were already among Europe’s highest.

As too often in France, violent vandals known as ‘the breakers,’ infiltrated the demonstrators and sought to put the most beautiful parts of Paris to the sack. I watched with horror as the magnificent Arc de Triomphe, France’s premier war memorial, was befouled by spray-can graffiti. The majestic Champs Élysée was ravaged by hoodlums, who smashed showroom windows, burned cars, looted luxury stores and set scores of fires.

For people like me who love and esteem France, it was like seeing your mother or daughter being raped by barbarians. The forces of order in France were overwhelmed and outpaced by the fast-moving bands of ‘breakers.’ Media called them anarchists of far right and far left. But anarchists have at least political philosophy. We remember how the Spanish anarchist POUM ruled Barcelona during that nation’s bloody civil war.

The vandals who attacked Paris and other French cities had no philosophy. They were simply scum of the gutter reveling in an orgy of burning and looting. These sewer rats poured out of the back alleys and bleak, suburban housing projects, garbed in masks, goggles, iron bars and jars of gasoline. They are the frightening, violent underclass that has plagued French cities since the Middle Ages.

President Emmanuel Macron appears to have ordered his police forces to go easy on the ‘breakers’ as well as the peaceful yellow jackets. This allowed the rioters and vandals to run amok and overwhelm the police. More of the same impends for this weekend. This was a mistake.

The French Army should have been called in to protect monuments and key thoroughfares. Army troops already patrol airports, train stations and important tourist locations like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum. They should be heavily reinforced. More important, anyone setting fires, as happened last weekend, is a dangerous criminal and should be shot on sight by the police or army. Arson is not a democratic right. It’s a grave crime.

However, the ‘yellow jackets’ should not be confused with the breakers. What we are seeing is a justified national revolt in France against impossibly high taxes that were ignited by the unwise fuel price increases. After the riots, the price hikes were hastily eliminated. This was a necessary move, but it also undermined the authority of President Macron, whose popularity rating was at rock bottom even before the uprising.

The underlying problem is that France’s taxes are far too high. France has the highest taxes in Europe, almost 50% of gross domestic product, and twice those of the United States. But the French at least get their money’s worth from their sky-high taxes. Historic buildings are lovingly maintained; France’s rail system is splendid – when not on strike. Medicine is top drawer though hospitals need more funding. Streets are clean, highways in top shape.

France is one of the world’s most beautiful nations. There are special inspectors for rivers and streams to ensure their cleanliness and ecology. Pensions are generous and often available to those over 60.
Education is ‘par excellence.’ French high school graduates are often better educated than American university graduates.

It’s superb, but unaffordable. The fuel price increases were the proverbial straw that broke the French camel’s back. Taxes are just too high compared to incomes. Besides, French are being nibbled to death by swarms of taxes that lurk almost everywhere.

King Louis XVI faced the same fiscal problem and lost his head as a result. President Macron, a former Rothschild banker, now faces the angry bourgeoisie and mobs of gutter vandals calling for his head.

With the departure of the UK from the EU and the end of Angela Merkel’s long tenure in Germany, it appeared that Macron would become Europe’s leader. Now, there is even talk of a coup in Paris. Mon dieu!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Emmanuel Macron, France 
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Two of the most perilous military operations are crossing rivers while under enemy fire, and retreat while engaged with enemy forces.

Britain’s embattled Prime Minister, Theresa May, must accomplish both maneuvers if she is to extract her very confused nation from the horrid Brexit mess and save her job. We wish her lots of luck.

On December 11th, British members of parliament must vote to accept some sort of Brexit deal; a negotiated withdrawal and/or trade association. But there is bitter opposition within May’s Conservative Party and rival Labour Party to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. The rump Northern Irish Unionist Party, which shores up May’s Tories in parliament, is making everyone crazy.

Increasing numbers of British voters now think that the original referendum to withdraw Britain from the European Union after four decades of grudging membership was a catastrophic mistake. Britain was one of Europe’s big three members; without with EU, Britain will be marooned somewhere off the coast of northern Europe and forced to become totally responsive to US demands and policies.

Equally vexing, the proud Brits, who a century ago ruled a quarter of the globe’s surface, will be forced to see old rivals Germany and France become the undisputed kingpins of Europe while no one pays attention to the toothless old British lion.

British supporters of Brexit don’t care. They tend to dislike foreigners…aka ‘bloody wogs’…, chafe at regulations imposed by faceless bureaucrats in remote Brussels, fret over a rising tide of EU immigrants, fulminate over the steep costs imposed by the EU, and deeply resent being compelled to accept working in the EU collective instead of trumpeting imperial demands.

But times and economic realities have changed. Britain is no longer the manufacturing powerhouse it was before World War II. Its industries are rusting, the quality of its manufactured products questioned (Dyson excepted) and the once mighty financial power of the City of London diminished.

Europe’s money lenders and their ilk are slinking off to Frankfurt and Paris; the City of London is no longer the wild, anything goes casino where all sorts of financial chicanery was quietly tolerated. London is slowly losing its charmed existence as a tax refuge – or to quote Somerset Maugham’s great quip about Monaco, ‘a sunny place for shady people’.

As Britain’s economy deflates under Brexit, its working class will have refuge against the snobs and toffs who sneered at them for generations and perpetuated the class system. But ditching the EU will be like Britain shooting itself in the foot. All economic signs show that Britain will be impoverished if Brexit happens. Everything – the stock markets, industry, trade, housing – are pointed downhill. Divorcing Britain from the EU will be nightmarishly complex and fraught. The Bank of England warns that Brexit will plunge the country into a serious recession.

All this for the sake of national ego and a chance to stick it to the ‘bloody foreigners’. Certainly not worth the expense or national anguish, say many sensible Brits and the Labour Party. The Tories are split over the issue and locked in bitter infighting. The leading Conservative MP’s remind one of all the things we didn’t like about snobby, imperial Britain.

The way out of this nasty mess is for Parliament to do its job and mandate another referendum. Many pro-Brexit voters misunderstood the real issues and regret their hastiness. Divorce is always ugly and painful. After all the shouting and name-calling, Britain will be left with a cup of cold flat tea, not the golden chalice it hoped for.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, Britain 
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Hardly anyone noticed. The Trump administration quietly changed America’s long-held position on Syria’s strategic Golan Heights while attention was focused on the raucous political carnival in Washington. Though barely noticed, the policy change had enormous importance and will lead the United States into a lot of future Mideast misery.

The Golan Heights is a volcanic plateau that abuts Syria, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. The plateau rises abruptly from the plain of Galilee, providing dominance of the entire region. To the north, Mt Hermon rises to over 9,000 feet (2,814 meters); the plateau slopes down at its southern extremity.

Golan provides the headwaters of the Jordan River and 15-20% of Israel’s water from its snow-capped north. Israeli artillery atop Golan can hit Damascus and its airport. Electronic intelligence systems on Golan look down onto southern Syria, intercepting all communications and detecting troop movements.

The plateau is quite fascinating. I have walked most of the Israeli-held side, observing dug-in tanks, artillery and small forts surrounded by anti-tank ditches. Burned out wrecks of Syrian tanks and armor litter the countryside. I’ve also walked the Syrian side and explored the wrecked Syrian town of Kuneitra that was leveled by the Israelis in 1967.

Israel seized Golan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and annexed the plateau in 1981. Almost all of Golan’s Arab population was driven out by the Israelis. The UN and US demanded that Israel return Golan to its rightful owner, Syria. After 1981, Israel moved over 20,000 settlers onto Golan to cement its control of the strategic heights and its water sources.

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian forces came close to pushing Israeli forces off Golan. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. For still unknown reasons, the Syrian armored offensive abruptly halted just as it reached the western edge of the plateau overlooking northern Israel.

My understanding is that Soviet recon satellites saw Israel deploying its nuclear bombs and missiles from their cave shelters. Moscow warned ally Syria that it risked nuclear attack by Israel unless its forces halted their advance so the Syrian offensive stopped on the verge of tactical success. This allowed Israel to concentrate enough reserve armored divisions to successfully counter-attack and drive Syria from the heights.

Since 1973, America’s policy has been to demand Israel relinquish Golan while quietly allowing US tax deductible funds to expand Jewish settlements on the plateau. Israel even reportedly offered to return Golan in exchange for a peace deal with Syria, but the secret terms of the deal were too onerous for Damascus.

The Trump administration abruptly changed US Mideast policy. First, it announced the US Embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, meaning that it rejected the idea of a Palestinian state with its capital in the old city of Jerusalem. Now, the White House has quietly accepted permanent Israeli control of Golan, though it violates international law and past US policy.

It’s clear that US Mideast policy is firmly under the control of the neocons aligned to Israel’s expansionist far right parties. In fact, it is impossible to see any difference between the policies of Israel’s hard rightwing leader, Benyamin Netanyahu, and President Donald Trump. They are joined at the hip. A coterie of pro-Israel lawyers and property developers from New York City have completely taken control of Mideast policy.

More important, what the change in US Golan policy means is that Trump & Co are giving a green light to further Israeli territorial expansion. Now that Washington, which decries Russia’s much more justified annexation of Crimea, has approved the illegal annexation of Golan, what could be next? Likely further chunks of southern Syria, an invasion of Lebanon and annexation of its water resources.

Saudi Arabia and its little ally, the United Arab Emirates, have already been given a green light by Washington to carve out strongholds in Yemen and along the strategic Red Sea coast. This is the Mideast ‘peace’ settlement that candidate Trump promised; an increasingly close alliance with the Mideast’s most reactionary states, notably the murderous Saudi regime. This bodes ill for the United States.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Israel/Palestine 
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Asked if President Donald Trump’s highly critical tweets about French president Emmanuel Macron were unpleasant and inelegant, Macron elegantly replied, `you summed up everything.’

Yes, they were unpleasant and inelegant, to put it mildly. Worse, Trump’s tweet barrage came on the same day France was commemorating the murder of 130 Parisians by gunmen in 2015. A senior French press official claimed Trump ‘lacked common decency.’ Making matters worse, Trump refused to show up at a graveside memorial for American GI’s killed in the bloody, 1918 Belleau Wood battle. He went the following day to another memorial closer to Paris.

A major faux pas, Monsieur le President Trump. You need some foreign policy pros instead of the amateur ideologues who have made a huge mess of the nation’s affairs and image.

This row arose after Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg and called for a common European army to ‘complement’ NATO.

Earlier, Chancellor Merkel stated that Europe could no longer depend on the US for its protection.

Merkel’s frank talk was clearly a slap in the face to the prickly Trump, whose aggressive policies have put the US in confrontation with Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, Venezuela, Cuba and much of the Muslim world.

In effect, Germany and France, Europe’s two big powers, were declaring independence from US hegemony seven decades after the end of World War II. Many Europeans – and certainly Germans – consider their nations still militarily and politically occupied by the American Imperium. How else could the US National Security spy agency (NSA) get away with tapping Angela Merkel’s cell phone with nary a German protest?

Given Russia’s military and financial feebleness (a defense budget less than one tenth of the US), what reason is there for a major US military presence from Spain to the Baltic and Black Sea? There are still US military bases in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany (34 bases), Belgium, Holland, Britain, Turkey, Denmark, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, Greece and soon Poland.

Large parts of Europe are still militarily occupied by the US. Amazingly, the European Union, the world’s most important economic power, has very little self-defense capability. Instead, the US-runs and finances the lion’s share of NATO. Just as during the old Cold War, the Warsaw Pact was run from Moscow, so NATO is directed by Washington, and is a major component of US global power.

Nations that do not have their own military forces have very little sovereignty. Costa Rica is one charming exception. Great powers like France, Britain and Germany must command a good portion of their own military forces or join them in a common armed force. This is what Merkel and Macron were proposing, to Trump’s fury.

During the 1950’s, Europeans agreed to NATO as much in fear of a recurrence of the horrors of two European wars as fear of Soviet invasion, though the latter was very real at the time. Even the Swiss built fortifications designed to stop an invasion by the Soviet Red Army, and France began work to up-gun and reinforce the Maginot Line defenses.

The angry Trump fired back by reminding France that it was rescued in two world wars by the United States, had major economic problems, and could not trust the Germans. This is a favorite theme of French-hating, know-nothing conservatives and neocons. I suspect their hatred of France comes from being mistreated as tourists by rude waiters in Paris restaurants and sneered at by snooty French as uncultured boors and rustics. Trump’s core supporters – Evangelical
Christians – mostly regard French and other Europeans as degenerate, godless, Christian-haters.

They conveniently forget, or don’t know, that French soldiers and sailors delivered decisive victories over British forces during the American Revolution. A key cause of the French Revolution was national bankruptcy caused by King Louis’ heavy spending on military help to the US war of independence.

When I’m in Metz, France, I always go to salute the statue of the Marquis de Lafayette who led French forces helping the American Revolution. Without French help, Americans might be today caught up in the ghastly Brexit mess.

NATO provides huge geopolitical influence to Washington and enormous amounts of military sales. Small wonder the US rages when any mention of an independent European military is voiced. The idea assails America’s domination of Europe and the use of NATO to impose its will on the Mideast, Africa and western Asia.

Ironically, Trump’s evident hatred for Europe and calls by his neocon Praetorian Guard for the US to dominate the entire globe have made Europe turn away from its old subservience to Washington and talk about real independence. But building true Euro-armed forces will be frightfully expensive and politically fraught. Watching EU squabbles over farm laws and other economic issues hardly inspires confidence. But the EU must have its own defense capabilities if it is to escape permanent thralldom to the United States.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, EU, France 
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We are now before the 100th anniversary of World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars. While honoring the 16 million who died in this conflict, we should also condemn the memory of the politicians, officials and incompetent generals who created this horrendous blood bath.

I’ve walked most of the Western Front of the Great War, visited its battlefields and haunted forts, and seen the seas of crosses marking its innumerable cemeteries.

As a former soldier and war correspondent, I’ve always considered WWI as he stupidest, most tragic and catastrophic of all modern wars.

The continuation of this conflict, World War II, killed more people and brought more destruction on civilians in firebombed cities but, at least for me, World War I holds a special horror and poignancy. This war was not only an endless nightmare for the soldiers in their pestilential trenches, it also violently ended the previous 100 years of glorious European civilization, one of mankind’s most noble achievements.

I’ve explored the killing fields of Verdun many times and feel a visceral connection to this ghastly place where up to 1,000,000 soldiers died. I have even spent the night there, listening to the sirens that wailed without relent, and watching searchlights that pierced the night, looking for the ghosts of the French and German soldiers who died here.

Verdun’s soil was so poisoned by explosives and lethal gas that to this day it produces only withered, stunted scrub and sick trees. Beneath the surface lie the shattered remains of men and a deadly harvest of unexploded shells that still kill scores of intruders each year. The spooky Ossuaire Chapel contains the bone fragments of 130,000 men, blown to bits by the millions of high explosive shells that deluged Verdun.

The town of the same name is utterly bleak, melancholy and cursed. Young French and German officers are brought here to see firsthand the horrors of war and the crime of stupid generalship.

Amid all the usual patriotic cant from politicians, imperialists and churchmen about the glories of this slaughter, remember that World War I was a contrived conflict that was totally avoidable. Contrary to the war propaganda that still clouds and corrupts our historical view, World War I was not started by Imperial Germany.

Professor Christopher Clark in his brilliant book, `The Sleepwalkers’ shows how officials and politicians in Britain and France conspired to transform Serbia’s murder of Austro-Hungary’s Crown Prince into a continent-wide conflict. France burned for revenge for its defeat in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and loss of Alsace-Lorraine. Britain feared German commercial and naval competition. At the time, the British Empire controlled one quarter of the world’s surface. Italy longed to conquer Austria-Hungary’s South Tyrol. Turkey feared Russia’s desire for the Straits. Austria-Hungary feared Russian expansion.

Prof Clark clearly shows how the French and British maneuvered poorly-led Germany into the war. The Germans were petrified of being crushed between two hostile powers, France and Russia. The longer the Germans waited, the more the military odds turned against them. Tragically, Germany was then Europe’s leader in social justice.

Britain kept stirring the pot, determined to defeat commercial and colonial rival, Germany. The rush to war became a gigantic clockwork that no one could stop. All sides believed a war would be short and decisive. Crowds of fools chanted ‘On to Berlin’ or ‘On to Paris.’

Few at the time understood the impending horrors of modern war or the geopolitical demons one would release. The 1904 Russo-Japanese War offered a sharp foretaste of the 1914 conflict, but Europe’s grandees paid scant attention.

Even fewer grasped how the collapse of the antiquated Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires would send Europe and the Mideast into dangerous turmoil that persists to our day. Or how a little-known revolutionary named Lenin would shatter Imperial Russia and turn it into the world’s most murderous state.

This demented war in Europe tuned into an even greater historic tragedy in 1917 when US President Woodrow Wilson, driven by a lust for power and prestige, entered the totally stalemated war on the Western Front. One million US troops and starvation caused by a crushing British naval blockade turned the tide of battle and led to Germany’s surrender.

Vengeful France and Britain imposed intolerable punishment on Germany, forcing it to accept full guilt for the war, an untruth that persists to this day. The result was Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists. If an honorable peace had been concluded in 1917, neither Hitler nor Stalin might have seized power and millions of lives would have been saved. This is the true tragedy of the Great War.

Let us recall the words of the wise Benjamin Franklin: `No good war, no bad peace.’

 
• Category: History • Tags: World War I 
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Saudi Arabia has been shaken to its core by the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkish intelligence has leaked that the Saudi journalist, who wrote op-ed pieces for the Washington Post newspaper, was strangled in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, then cut up into pieces for disposal or dissolved in acid. His remains have not yet been found.

Khashoggi’s brazen murder has caused a crisis in US-Saudi relations, an angry confrontation with Turkey, and serious questions about the Saudi war in wretched Yemen, which so far had caused 60,000 deaths and left this remote land facing starvation.

Trump and his allies initially supported the Saudi-Emirati war against Yemen, having fallen for the false claim that great Satan Iran was backing the Yemeni Houthi forces. Britain and Israel strongly supported the Saudi war.

In reality, Saudi Arabia’s headstrong Crown Prince Mohammed, got his nation embroiled in a no-win war against tough Yemeni tribes who refused to accept a Saudi-imposed figurehead ruler. The United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, also got involved to expand its little country-big ambitions around the Red Sea littoral.

But the Saudis lacked a real army to wage war in Yemen. They feared an army might mount a coup against the royal family as happened in Egypt, Iraq and Libya. In the past, the Saudis had rented crack Pakistani troops to protect their palaces and oil. But Pakistan refused Saudi requests to send troops to subdue Yemen.

As Libya’s late leader, Col. Muammar Khadaffi told me, ‘the Saudis are a small bunch of rich people living behind high walls in terror of their poorer neighbors.’ The Saudis hated Khadaffi because he kept calling them ‘traitors to the Arab cause, prostitutes, whore-mongers and crooks.’

Instead, the Saudis relied on their US and British-supplied air force to prosecute the war in Yemen by indiscriminate terror bombing and trying to starve the Yemenis into submission. Villages and schools were flattened, wedding parties rocketed, school buses attacked. US and British technicians and military experts kept the Saudi warplanes flying and provided bombs and targeting data from satellites. Western mercenaries fly and service the Saudi and Emirati air force.

No one in the West cared about this massacre until the unfortunate Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul. This crime allowed disgust with Saudi Arabia over its Yemen war, beheadings and crucifixions to finally take precedence over arms sales and tawdry geopolitics.

The United States and Britain finally questioned their billions of arms sales to the Saudis who use these mammoth purchases to buy subservience from the western democracies. France and Germany recoiled from major arms sales. Self-righteous Canada prevaricated, trying to get the Saudi cash while ducking opprobrium for arming a cruel, murderous regime.

Washington’s most ardent Israel supporters – Security chief Bolton, and Secretary Pompeo – rushed to support the Saudis. They repeated the ludicrous claim that Khashoggi was a Muslim Brotherhood member and thus worthy of execution. In truth, the Muslim Brotherhood is a venerable, moderate organization composed of Arab professionals that calls for democracy.

But the most interesting development may have been the flight from London to Riyadh by exiled Saudi Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz. This 70-something younger brother of King Salman was reportedly given security guarantees by the US and Britain that he would not be arrested by Crown Prince Mohammed when he returned to Riyadh from a golden exile in London.

You could almost hear them yelling ‘bad puppets, bad puppets’ at the Saudi royals. Only two weeks earlier an unusually frank President Trump had even observed that the Saudi 7,000-member royal family would not last ‘more than a week’ without US support.

He was quite right. Since the 1930’s, the Saudi dynasty has been defended and supported by first Britain, then the United States. Few questioned the support of the world’s leading democracy for a cruel medieval monarchy. There was too much oil money involved. The British government even quashed criminal charges when huge kickbacks to Saudi royals on aircraft orders were revealed. Washington covered up the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks and financing of anti-US groups.

Back to Prince Ahmad. Has he been chosen by Washington and London to replace the rash, violent Crown Prince Mohammed? How worried is the US that the Khashoggi murder could set off a rebellion in Saudi Arabia? Or civil war in the royal family? The aged current king, Salman, is reported to have cognitive problems.

The clumsy, ham-handed meddling of President Trump in Saudi dynastic affairs propelled the bull in a china shop Crown Prince into power. The machinations of Trump’s son-in- law, Jared Kushner, and his Israeli allies have ignited the current crisis. Trump & Co have very much to learn about the Mideast. So far, their attempt to play colonial viceroys has been a fiasco.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen 
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After watching the Saudis behead and even reportedly crucify critics and opponents for decades, suddenly Washington’s great and good are outraged by a single murder.

The victim was a Saudi columnist from that nation’s elite who was noted for his moderate, cautious views, who was also linked to the former Saudi intelligence chief, Turki al-Faisal.

But even gentle criticism of the royal government, and particularly its strongman, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS), caused Khashoggi to be murdered and cut up into pieces in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, to where he was lured last week and from whence he never emerged alive. Turkish intelligence secretly monitoring the Saudi consulate picked up the gruesome details as Khashoggi’s fingers were reportedly cut off, followed by his head.

Khashoggi wrote for numerous papers, including The Washington Post. He had become a pesky journalist who irked the headstrong Saudi crown prince who likely cried, like England’s King Henry II, ‘will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’

As a former pesky journalist for newspapers in Qatar and Dubai, and Turkey, I am appalled by this crime. Crown Prince Mohammed has been arresting, detaining, shaking down and intimidating his subjects, all applauded by Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner who is deep in bed with the moneybags Saudis.

I’m surprised that the Saudis didn’t ask the Israelis, who are very good at assassination and kidnapping, to go after Khashoggi.

The uproar in Washington and the tame US media contrasted to their silence regarding the fate of other journalists killed or held in prison in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, both US client states. Al-Jazeera’s Cairo correspondent Mahmoud Hussein has been held in prison for two years without charge because he dared write about Egypt’s former democratic government that was overthrown by a coup mounted by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates and Israel.

The US has been kidnapping, torturing and ‘disappearing’ alleged enemies ever since 9/11.

Back to the Saudis. In the face of their criminal behavior, President Donald Trump sought to wriggle away from the scandal by claiming that the murder might have been done by ‘rogue’ Saudi agents, a claim quickly echoed by the Saudis. But even the usual lap dog Republicans in the US Congress refused to swallow this baloney, calling for sanctions on Saudi Arabia.

Clearly, even the US Congress and media was growing nervous over Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen that has killed over 10,000 civilians and provoked widespread famine and disease – all done with US and British weapons, advisors and intelligence support.

Not so fast, retorted Trump, whose business empire greatly benefitted from Saudi and Gulf cash. The Saudis have arms orders for $110 billion in the hopper and, claimed Trump, $400 billion in commercial orders pending. We can’t risk Riyadh cancelling this bonanza, said Trump. Just a week earlier, Trump had sneered that the Saudis could not defend themselves and had to rely on US protection.

Unstated by Trump was the tacit threat that the Saudis might cash in some of their trove of US Treasury bills. How many US legislators and journalists are on the Saudi payroll remains a deep, dark mystery.

Equally important, the Saudis and Emiratis are now closely allied to Israel’s far right government. Israel has been a door-opener for the Saudis and Gulf Emirates in Washington’s political circles. The Israel lobby is riding to the Saudi’s defense.

Meanwhile, we will observe the disgusting spectacle of the Trump administration trying to cover up this crime and protect its thuggish allies in Saudi Arabia while trying to provoke war with Iran.

Americans, who have been gulled by a multi-million-dollar PR blitz over the modernized ‘new’ Saudi Arabia, complete with a handful of female drivers and commercials about ‘empowered women,’ will begin to see what a corrupt, brutal regime they have so long and unquestionably supported.

The question will remain: who in the Saudi leadership was stupid enough to approve the murder of Khashoggi? Could this crime mark the beginning of the downfall of the medieval Saudi regime?

As the wise and cynical Tallyrand said about the murder of the young Duc d’Enghien, ‘worse than a crime, it was a mistake.’

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia 
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‘This is La Main Rouge,’ said the gruff voice on our home telephone in Geneva, Switzerland.. ‘Stop your activities on behalf of the FLN or we will kill you.’ The mysterious caller hung up.

I was petrified. La Main Rouge was killing supporters of free Algeria across Europe.

This was 1959 where I was studying at the International School of Geneva. The war to liberate Algeria from 130 years of French colonial was at its bloodiest and most intense.

As an idealistic student, I was outraged by the brutality of this struggle in which up to 1.5 million Algerians were killed by the French and by fellow Algerians. I organized demonstrations calling for free Algeria, penned articles and carried messages for the Algerian underground (Front de Liberation National, or FLN)’s branch in Paris.

The death threat was the first of many I would receive over my life, along with much other heavy intimidation and offers of bribes to alter my journalistic positions. But the bloody Algerian War of Independence, that ran from 1954-1962, still holds particular resonance for me even though I’ve covered 14 wars since then. The horrors of Algeria’s massacres and torture have stayed with me all these years.

La Main Rouge (Red Hand), we later learned, was a false flag operation mounted by French intelligence (SDECE) to kill or frighten off supporters of the Algerian cause, notably pro-Algerian leftwing intellectuals, and arms suppliers.

That’s why I was elated to see France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, officially admit that France had indeed conducted systemic torture in Algeria that he called ‘a crime against humanity.’ Previous French governments had denied the crimes in Algeria and censored reports and books about it.

Torture, ‘disappearing’ and judicial executions would no longer be sanctioned in France, even in extreme cases. Macron called France’s repression in Algeria ‘a crime against humanity.’

The record of the war is ghastly. Tens of thousands of Algerian suspects were rounded up at night, thrown into prisons, and tortured – many to death – using electric generators attached to their genitals or lips with steel clips. Intense beatings and use of masked informers were common. Many FLN suspects were sent to the guillotine.

The superb film ‘Battle of Algiers’ recounts ferocious efforts by French elite paratroopers and security forces to crush the FLN network. `We far outdid the Nazi SS and Gestapo,’ boasted one particularly sadistic French general.

As a result of the Algerian War, torture spread to France’s metropolitan security services and even regular police. But this is always what happens when torture is used. It spreads like a virus.

Back in 1995, then President Jacques Chirac admitted that French police, not Germans, had rounded up 75,000 French Jews and sent them to German concentration camps. France’s right was outraged.

Now, France’s right is denouncing President Macron for finally telling the truth and opening France’s secret archives

Which raises the question of torture by US occupation forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and of similar crimes by its satraps Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and by Israel. Under President Donald Trump, the US is going in precisely the opposite direction as France. Trump and his cohorts have lauded the use and efficacy of torture and called for its wider and more intense use in America’s modern colonial wars. The CIA’s new chief led one part of the torture program in Southeast Asia.

France is now purging itself of the crimes against humanity committed during the Algerian War. Nations, like people, need to occasionally cleanse their spirit of foul deeds and crimes. But not so the United States where the White House and Congress have become cheerleaders for torture.

It will be hard for Washington to keep holding itself up to be the world champion of human rights when its torturers are hard at work inflicting unspeakable punishments on suspects. Let’s recall that the Bush-Cheney administration massively increased the use of torture to try to prove a fake link between Saddam’s Iraq and 9/11. America disgraced itself and never could manufacture the ‘evidence.’

America and France are sister democracies. President Macron has shown Washington how to deal with the crime of torture. We should listen.

***

Epilogue: Algeria gained independence in 1962 thanks to the wisdom of President Charles De Gaulle. But, as Danton famously stated, ‘the revolution devours its young.’ The FLN’s rival leaders began murdering one another. The once noble struggle for independence turned into a bloodbath. Algeria fell under military rule and suffered worse horrors than even the French inflicted.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Battle of Algiers, France, Torture 
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This was hell week in New York City. Traffic was paralyzed from one end of the narrow island to the other as bigwigs and their entourages flocked to the city for the fall opening of the United Nations.

Making matters worse, President Donald Trump chose the occasion to lambaste nations he does not like in a crude display of boorishness not seen since Soviet boss Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on his desk at the General Assembly back in 1960.

Trump reserved special venom for his pet bêtes noirs, Iran and China. His jeremiad against Iran was reportedly written by senior aide Stephen Miller, a rabidly anti-Muslim extremist who speaks with the voice of Israel’s expansionist far right.

Trump reiterated his doctrine of American ultra-nationalism. Political and economic nationalism are his credo. The president claimed he had indeed made America great again, whatever that means.

The president’s speech was greeted by derisive laughter from the General Assembly, a first in UN history.

I was reminded of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s famous bon mot, ‘patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.’ Indeed it is.

And of the words of the late British professor, A.P. Thornton: ‘Patriotism is the first platform of fools.’

Patriotism is poison. Dictators, despots, lunatics – and too many democratic politicians – use it to inflame popular passions to enhance their power. There is nothing wrong with loving and respecting one’s homeland. Canadians offer a fine example of quiet national pride without obnoxious flag-waving and bullying.

But everything is wrong with unleashing toxic nationalist emotions to promote empire-building or eradicating whole peoples. Look at the current horrors in Burma and the recent mass crimes in Bosnia.

As a former soldier and war correspondent, I cringe when I see all the faux patriotism of sports events, chants of ‘USA, ‘USA,’ and pro-war propaganda on TV. Having walked many of the battlefields of World War I, on which millions died, I detest the kind of patriotic cant that ended the civilized glories of pre-war, 19th Century Europe. The idiotic cries in 1914 of ‘on to Berlin’ and ‘on to Paris’ haunt us. Their modern version was ‘Get Saddam’ and ‘bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.’

Trump, who sees himself as more an emperor than democratic president, continues to press for war with Iran, egged on by the cabal of pro-Israel advisors that surround him. Billionaire gambling king Sheldon Adelson pulls the strings from just backstage.

Now, in a new eruption of paranoia, President Trump just claimed that China was trying to rig this fall’s elections. How? By placing tariffs on US agricultural exports to China to punish Trump’s many supporters in the farm belt.

Add Trump’s economic war against Turkey which had locked up an American evangelical pastor accused of involvement in the attempted 2016 coup against the elected government. This contrived furor was clearly aimed at pleasing Trump’s core evangelical supporters. No matter that America was spitting in the face of old ally Turkey whose soldiers had saved many American GI’s during the 1950-53 Korean War and allows the US to keep nuclear weapons at its Incirlik air base.

Unfortunately, many Americans who have never known war at home since 1865 are all too eager to follow a path to war provided it’s far away and a turkey shoot. But now, having bombed all the usual Muslims and ravaged the Mideast, our national security state has to face the ominous reality that the US may have to confront real, big-time enemies, Russia and China. This clearly invokes the nightmare threat of a nuclear confrontation.

President Trump, who thundered at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, ‘my nuclear button is bigger than yours,’ is not the best pilot to guide his nation through dangerous waters. While Trump has some solid advisors – generals Mattis and Kelly – he is also surrounded by a coterie of political fanatics, many plucked from the political gutter. Trump’s unnecessary trade wars and embargoes could easily lead to shooting wars.

We don’t need nationalism, we need wise, cautious leadership.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump 
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Springtime in Korea. Peace and love have erupted all over the mountainous peninsula as the leaders of the two rival nations seek to end the nearly seven decades of hostility between them.

One can’t underestimate the passionate longing felt by most Koreans on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for some form of reunification – or at least reattachment – of the two nations. Amazingly, the 1950-53 Korean War has never been ended by a peace treaty so a simmering state of war exists between North and South Korea in spite of past attempts to end it. During the war, 33,686 Americans died and 128,600 were wounded, and the two Koreas suffered over 2 million dead. Chinese casualties were heavy.

The DMZ is probably the most heavily militarized frontier in the world, with hundreds of thousands of tough troops and thousands of tanks and guns confronting one another. I’ve seen few more impressive military sights. Only the Pakistani-India border in Kashmir offers a similar martial display and menace.

Kudos go to the leaders of North and South Korea for de-escalating the tensions between them. Both deserve a Nobel peace prize. Kim Jong-un and Moon Jai-in have made a great leap forward by trying to end the Korean War. Most Koreans – except for hard rightwing anti-Communist Christians in South Korea – are thrilled.

As a very long-time observer and friend of Korea, I too am elated by the Moon-Kim friendly summit and wish it success. But I’m also worried by the role of Washington.
President Donald Trump certainly broke the ice with North Korea and played a key role in setting peace talks into motion. Kudos to him.

But I’m also apprehensive that the so-called de-nuclearization issue may ruin the effort to end the Korean War. Washington demands that North Korea account for and then dismantle its nuclear weapons under US supervision. This is the key American position.

Interestingly, while making these demands, the US is pushing ahead with a new `smaller’ nuclear warhead program, the B61- Model 12, designed as a deep earth penetrator and for use against tactical targets. This $1 trillion program is designed for war-fighting, not deterrence. Critics warn it will make a nuclear war much more likely.

North Korea, which has a small number of long-ranged, nuclear tipped missiles of undetermined reliability, says its will ‘de-nuclearize’ to meet Washington’s demands. But why? North Korea is demanding ‘reciprocity’ from the US. So far, there is no sign of the US agreeing to shut its air bases in South Korea or Japan, remove nuclear weapons from North Asia, or remove some or all of its 28,500 troops in South Korea.

The Trump administration has convinced itself that a one-way deal with North Korea is possible. Its resident hardliners, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, are believed to be hostile to any US concessions. They want North Korea to unconditionally surrender, not negotiate. Both are neocons who fear North Korea’s nukes might find their way to Israel’s mideast enemies. A deal between Washington and Pyongyang under President Bill Clinton was sabotaged by the neocons for this very reason.

North Koreans have been eating grass for a generation to acquire nuclear weapons. Would they give them up just for a slap on the back from Washington? Would China push Pyongyang in this direction? Highly doubtful. The world is only talking to Kim Jong-un because he has and can deliver nuclear weapons.
Even a lot of South Koreans are proud of Kim for making the mighty US back off.

South Korea’s president, Moon, has done bravura work in his new ‘sunshine’ policy.’ He is a courageous and clever man and a welcome change from South Korea’s former rightwing leaders who were totally under the thumb of the US. Koreans will do much better at settling their many differences if they are allowed to work out their problems without heavy-handed interference by outsiders, be they Americans or Chinese.

A good way to begin would be for the US to end its punishing economic warfare against North Korea and permanently halt its provocative military exercises each fall.

Two great powers, the US and Japan, are not eager to see Korea reunified into a powerhouse with 80 million industrious people. They will continue stirring the Korean pot.

 
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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