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Media reports claim President Donald Trump let loose on his generals behind closed doors, blasting them royally for their startling failures in Afghanistan, America’s longest war.

The president has many faults and is a lousy judge of character. But he was absolutely right to read the riot act to the military brass for daring to ask for a very large troop and budget increase for the stalemated Afghan War that has cost $1 trillion to date.

Of course, the unfortunate generals are not really to blame. They have been forced by the last three presidents to fight a pointless war at the top of the world that lacks any strategy, reason or purpose – and with limited forces. But they can’t admit defeat by lightly-armed Muslim tribesmen.

The truth is, simply, that America blundered into the Afghan War under President George W. Bush who needed a target for revenge after the humiliating 9/11 attacks. Instead of blaming Saudi Arabia, a US protectorate which was clearly involved in the attacks, Bush went after remote but strategic Afghanistan and cooked up the Osama bin Laden bogeyman story.

Sixteen years later, the US is still chasing shadows in the Hindu Kush Mountains, rightly known to history as ‘Graveyard of Empires.’

The US invasion of Afghanistan was based on the unproven claim that anti-communist fighter Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. We have yet to see conclusive proof. What we have seen are phony documents and faked videos put out by bin Laden’s foes, the Afghan communists and their Northern Alliance drug-dealing allies.

As I’ve written in my books on South Asia, the so-called ‘terrorist training camps’ in Afghanistan were mostly bases for training anti-Indian Kashmiri liberation groups run by Pakistani intelligence. Claims by the right-wing US media that Afghanistan would become a jihadist base if the 9,800 US troops there now withdrew are nonsense. The 9/11 attacks were planned and mounted from Germany, Spain and Florida, not Afghanistan. They could have come from anywhere.

After sixteen years, the US military and its Afghan mercenaries troops have failed to defeat the Afghan Pashtun tribal resistance forces, Taliban. In fact, the Taliban alliance now controls at least half of Afghanistan and keeps US and government forces pinned down. The US installed ‘president,’ Ashraf Ghani, barely clings to power.

What keeps the US in control of parts of Afghanistan is the US Air Force and naval air power. US warplanes from Afghanistan, Qatar, and aircraft carriers keep a 24/7 combat air patrol over distant Afghanistan and can reply in minutes to attacks on US or Afghan ground units. No other nation could do this – or afford the immense cost.

Gasoline trucked into Afghanistan over the Khyber Pass from Karachi costs $400 per gallon delivered. The authoritative ‘Aviation Week’ magazine reports that keeping US warplanes on station over Iraq and Syria costs an astounding $600,000 per mission. It’s even more over Afghanistan.

But without 24/7 US airpower, US forces in Afghanistan would be soon isolated, then driven out. This is just what happened to the British and Soviets, dooming their efforts to crush the independence-loving Pashtun, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group.

Bereft of new ideas, the US keeps repeating its mistakes in Afghanistan: colluding with the worst, most corrupt elements of Afghan society; condoning torture and murder; relying on the big, drug dealing tribal chiefs.
The UN reports that opium (the base for heroin) exports doubled last year. The sputtering Afghan economy runs on opium and hashish.

The United States is now the proud owner of the world’s leading producer of opium and morphine base. If the drug trade is ever cut off, the government in Kabul and its warlords will collapse. Ironically, when Taliban ruled Afghanistan before 9/11, the drug trade was almost wiped out. But you will never read this in the tame US media.

Now America’s imperial generals are asking Trump for 4,000 more troops. A basic law of military science is concentration of force. Penny packets of troops are a fool’s strategy. The main function of US troops in Afghanistan is to protect the strategic Bagram and Kandahar air bases and US installations in Kabul.

Now, hard right Republicans are pushing a daft proposal to contract the Afghan War to a US-paid mercenary army led by an imperial viceroy in Kabul. Shades of Queen Victoria. Break out the pith helmets.

Trump has proposed pressuring Pakistan, India and China to end the war. What an absurd idea. For Pakistan, Afghanistan is its blood brother and strategic hinterland. China plans to turn mineral-rich Afghanistan into a Tibet-style protectorate. India wants to outflank Pakistan by taking over Afghanistan. India and China are in a growing military confrontation in the Himalayas.

Trump had better come up with a better idea. My solution to the 17-year war: emulate the example of the courageous Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. He pronounced his Afghan War unwinnable, told his angry generals to shut up, and ordered the Red Army out of the war in Afghanistan.

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

Many Americans voted for Donald Trump because he vowed to end the foreign conflicts in which the US had become entangled. So far, they have been disappointed. But this week a light flashed at the end of the tunnel.

President Trump, according to numerous reliable Washington sources, has decided to end US arms supplies and logistics support to Syria’s jihadist rebels that have fuelled the bloody six-year conflict. Washington, and its allies Britain and France, have persistently denied arming Syria’s jihadist rebels fighting to bring down the Russian and Iranian-backed government of President Bashar Assad.

Former President George W. Bush actively considered invading Syria around 2008 in collusion with Israel. But the Israelis then pointed out that there were no Western-friendly groups to replace Assad, only extreme militant Sunni Muslim groups. Even the usually reckless Bush called off the invasion of Syria.

By contrast, Barack Obama gave a green light to the CIA to arm, train and logistically support anti-Assad jihadist rebels in Syria. Arms poured in from Lebanon and, later, Turkey, paid for by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates. Small numbers of US, British and French advisors went to Syria to teach the jihadists how to use mortars, explosives, and anti-tank weapons. The media’s claim that the fighting in Syria was due to a spontaneous popular uprising was false. The repressive Assad government was widely unpopular but the uprising was another CIA ‘color-style’ operation.

The object of this operation was to overthrow President Assad and his Shiite-leaning regime, which was supported by Iran, a bogeyman to all the US-backed feudal Arab oil monarchies. Syria was also to be punished because it refused Washington’s demands to sever ties with Iran and accept US tutelage.

Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton championed the covert war against Syria, arranging massive shipments of arms and munitions to the rebels from Kadaffi-era arms stores in Libya, and from Egypt, Croatia, likely Serbia, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan. Once again, the Gulf Arabs paid the bill.

The offensive against Syria was accompanied by a powerful barrage of anti-Assad propaganda from the US and British media. From the background, Israel and its partisans beat the war drum against the Assad government.

The result of the western-engendered carnage in Syria was horrendous: at least 475,000 dead, 5 million Syrian refugees driven into exile in neighboring states (Turkey alone hosts three million), and another 6 million internally displaced. That is, some 11 million Syrians, or 61% of the population, driven from their homes into wretched living conditions and near famine.

Two of Syria’s greatest and oldest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have been pounded into ruins. Jihadist massacres and Russian and American air strikes have ravaged once beautiful, relatively prosperous Syria. Its ancient Christian peoples are fleeing for their lives before US and Saudi takfiri religious fanatics.

Just when it appeared the jihadists were closing in on Damascus, limited but effective Russian military intervention abruptly changed the course of the war. The Syrian Army was able to regain the military initiative and push back the jihadists. Intermixed with so-called ‘takfiri’ rebels are some 3,000 ISIS jihadists who were originally armed and equipped by US advisors but have now run amok. They are under fierce western air attack in Syria and Iraq and are splintering.

Russia and the US have been inching toward a major war over Syria. In fact, US intervention has been far more extensive than generally believed, as this writer has been reporting for the past five years. Turkish media linked to the government in Ankara has just revealed that the US has at least ten small military bases in northern Syria being used to support rebel jihadist forces.

Meanwhile, the US is now relying almost entirely on Kurdish militias, know in Syria as YPG, to attack ISIS and act in US interests. This has outraged Turkey, which regards YPG as part of the hated Kurdish independence movement, PKK, against which Turkey has fought for two decades. During the 1980’s, I covered the Turkish-PKK conflict in eastern Anatolia.

If YPG/PKK emerges victorious from the Syrian conflict, Kurdish demands for an independent state in south eastern Turkey will intensify, threatening the breakup of the Turkish state. Kurds make up some 20% of Turkey’s population of 80 million.

For this very important reason, Turkey has been pulling away from US-run NATO, and warming relations with Moscow. Turkey has NATO’s second largest armed forces and key airbases that cover the Mideast.

Trump’s announced retreat from Syria – if it turns out to be real – will mark a major turning point in US-Russian relations. It could well avoid a clash between Russia and the US, both nuclear powers. The US has no real business in Syria and no strategic interests

America’s powerful neocons, who have been pressing for war against Russia, will be furious. Expect the media war against Trump to intensify. So too claims that Trump colluded with Moscow to get elected.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017

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

As a former soldier and war correspondent, I abhor demonstrations of flag-waving, militarism and nationalism. That great American, Benjamin Franklin, put it perfectly: ‘no good war, no bad peace.’

But I must admit that my heart does beat faster when I hear the rousing strains of France’s glorious national anthem, ‘La Marseillaise.’ One must be almost dead not to respond to the hymn, first known in 1775 as ‘the war song of the army of the Rhine’ and then the marching song of volunteers from Marseille.

Allons! Enfants de la Patrie! Forward! Sons of France,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé! The Day of Glory has Arrived,
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us Tyranny
L’étendard sanglant est levé! Its bloody standard is raised!

A few years ago, I was a guest of France’s government on the reviewing stand of the annual 14 July Bastille Day military parade. Watching the glittering Garde républicaine cavalry, the tough Alpine troops in their huge berets known as “tartes,” and, of course, the grim Foreign Legion march down the Champs Élysées was thrilling.

US President Thomas Jefferson put it best: ‘Every man has two homelands: his own, and France.’

Both Franklin and Jefferson spent time in Paris as ambassadors and helped negotiate France’s decisive military intervention that saved the American Revolution. French troops under the Marquis de Lafayette and a fleet under Admiral Rochambeau and Count de Grasse played the key role in defeating British forces.

Ironically, France was bankrupted by this military effort which also contributed to the French Revolution against King Louis XVI.

One hopes US President Donald Trump reflected on these facts when he was French President Emmanuel Macron’s guest of honor at Bastille Day. He was hopefully reminded by aides of American Gen. ‘Blackjack’ Pershing’s memorable statement upon landing with US troops to join France in World War One, ‘Lafayette, we are here!’

Two hundred US troops led the great parade down the Champs Élysées, headed by a contingent from the venerable 1st US Infantry Division, known as ‘the Big Red One’ and other American units. Their march marked the 100th anniversary of the US landing in France. President Trump, who managed to avoid military service due to a small foot problem, stood and saluted the American troops.

The US and France owe much to one another and should regularly recall their mutual debt.
Particularly so for all those uninformed Republicans who keep calling the French cowards and sissies. France lost more than 1.5 million dead in World War I. Churchill observed, ‘you will never know war until you fight Germans.’

But the key question remains, was US intervention in World War I a catastrophic mistake? By 1917, France, Britain, Russia and their allies were militarily exhausted. So was Germany and its allies Turkey, Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary. The war had become a giant siege in which millions had died for nothing in history’s most barbarous war.

Both the bankrupted Allies and Central Powers were beginning discreet contacts over a possible peace in the stalemated war. At this point, US President Woodrow Wilson, a sort of idealistic imperialist, pushed America into war against Germany, using some German blunders, the sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ and waves of British propaganda as a ‘casus belli.’ This at a time when the largest ethnic group in the United States was of German origin. In spite of this, Wilson secretly aided, armed and financed the British Empire and finally secured a declaration of war against Germany.

By the end of 1917, one million US troops arrived in France. The advent of so many American soldiers tipped the stalemated military balance. Germans were heavily outnumbered, exhausted, and unable to fee their people due to a crushing British blockade.

Generals Ludendorff and Hindenburg, who had led the war, walked away, leaving civilian politicians to surrender and make whatever terms they could get. After the war, these civilians and wealthy German Jews would be blamed by all sides for ‘stabbing Germany in the back.’

At the notorious Versailles Treaty, the victorious Allied powers tore away 14% of Germany’s people, 13% of its lands and imposed crushing monetary sanctions. Austria-Hungary was ravaged. An obscure Austrian politician, Adolf Hitler, called for revenge and vowed to restore Germany’s and Austria’s lost lands and populations.

Had Woodrow Wilson not intervened in the European war, the exhausted opposing sides would have been driven to a fair peace, rather than a draconian peace of the victors, which would have totally altered Europe’s modern history. There would likely have been no Hitler and his National Socialists; tens of millions of lives would have been saved by averting World War II. The 1930’s Depression may have been avoided or mitigated. Communists might not have seized power in Russia and, later, Eastern Europe.

Responsibility for many of these disasters lies with Woodrow Wilson who is wrongly portrayed in the US as a noble idealist; in Europe, he’s seen as a rampant fool or dangerous naïf.

The 200-man US contingent on the Champs Élysées recalled all these bitter memories. Their uniforms looked dowdy compared to the snappy French. President Trump, by contrast, looked seriously presidential; wife Melania was serene and elegant. They did a fine job.

The French are masters of the art of seduction. Let’s hope Trump was charmed by his brief visit to Paris and reminded that France has resumed its role as diplomatic leader of Europe and key American ally. Trump may even reconsider his ill-advised withdrawal from the Paris climate pact.

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

“I have some pretty severe things we’re thinking about,” Trump said of North Korea at a news conference in Warsaw. “Doesn’t mean we’re going to do them.”

What President Trump really meant is that he has painted the US into a corner with all his threats of war and really does not know what to do next. North Korea called his ‘or else’ bluff. Good. No action on North Korea is better than any conceivable military operation.

Last week the North Korea test fired a new, longer-ranged strategic missile, Hwasong-14, that US experts claimed was capable of hitting Alaska and perhaps even San Francisco. North Korea is now believed to have mastered a lightweight nuclear warhead that can be carried by the Hwasong and shorter-ranged Taepodong and Nodong missiles.

North Korea can’t today seriously threaten North America with missile strikes, but it probably will by 2019. Meanwhile, North Korean nuclear and conventionally-armed missiles (and this could include poison gas and biological warheads) today threaten the 80,000 plus US military personnel based in Japan, South Korea and Guam. They would be immediate targets should the US and South Korea attack the north.

Add tens of millions of South Korean and Japanese civilians who are at risk of North Korean retaliation. Half of South Korea’s capitol, Seoul, is within range of North Korean heavy artillery and rocket batteries dug into the so-called Demilitarized Zone.

It would take only three nuclear weapons to shatter Japan and just two to cripple South Korea, not to mention polluting the globe with radioactive dust and contaminating North Asia’s water sources. Nuclear explosions would spread radioactive contamination over northern China and Pacific Russia.

Why are we even talking about nuclear war in North Asia?

Because North Korea has scraped and skimped for decades to build nuclear weapons for the sole reason of deterring a major US attack, including the use by the US of tactical nuclear weapons. Pakistan ‘ate grass’ for decades to afford nuclear weapons to offset the threat from far more powerful India. Israel uses the same argument to justify its large nuclear arsenal.

After Washington overthrew the rulers of Iraq and Libya, it became painfully apparent that small nations without nuclear weapons were vulnerable to US ‘regime change’ operations. The North Koreans, who are very eccentric but not stupid, rushed to accelerate their nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

Almost equally important, North Korea boasts one of the word’s biggest armies – 1,020,000 men, 88,000 crack special forces, and an trained militia of over 5 million. The North’s weapons are obsolescent; its small air forces and navy will be vaporized by US power but its troops are deeply dug into the mountainous terrain and would be fighting from prepared positions. War against North Korea would be a slow and bloody slog– even a repeat of the bloody, stalemated 1950-52 Korean War in which 39,000 Americans and at least 2.5 million Koreans died. I’ve been in the deep North Korean-dug tunnels under the Demilitarized Zone. A full division can be moved through in only 60 minutes.

Ever since being soundly beaten in Vietnam and fought to a draw in Afghanistan, the US military has preferred to attack small countries like Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon is not eager to tangle with the tough North Koreans. Estimates of the cost of a US invasion of North Korea have run as high as 250,000 US casualties and tens of billions of dollars.

Seemingly heedless of these hard facts, President Trump – who himself avoided national military service in the 1960’s – keeps beating the war drums over North Korea and needling its thin-skinned regime with naval exercises, over-flights, and intensifying bombast. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has played right along, clearly relishing his game of chicken with tough-talking Donald Trump.

Trump seemed certain he could somehow cajole China into disarming North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. But the administration’s amateur foreign policymakers failed to understand that the only “deal” that could get China to disarm the North was by agreeing to remove all US military bases from the region – South Korea, Japan and Guam – and also moving the US Seventh Fleet far from China’s coasts.

Growing US hysteria over North Korea, a nation of only 25 million, recalls the propaganda storm launched by Washington to justify its invasion of equally small Iraq. The dim-witted US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has become point-woman for hurling warlike threats at North Korea even though this neocon poster-girl’s foreign affairs experience appears to have been limited to the International House of Pancakes in her native South Carolina.

Everyone seems to have forgotten, or ignores, that North Korea, South Korea and the United States remain in a state of war. The 1950-52 Korean War ended with a cease-fire, not a peace. The US has been trying to overthrow and undermine North Korea’s Stalinist regimes ever since, using military threats, subversion and economic warfare. Talk of US-South Korean plans to “decapitate’ North Korea’s leadership with missile strikes and commando raids keeps giving Pyongyang the jitters.

South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, demanded that his nation be consulted before any military action. But Moon’s pleas have been largely ignored by Trump. Most South Koreans shrug off the North’s threats and seek to avoid war at all costs. Of course. They would be the primary victims.

The US has spent over $200 billion on ballistic anti-missile systems in recent years designed to stop North Korean missiles.

Unfortunately, these ABM systems don’t work very well. More tens of billions will have to be spent before these anti-missile systems become reliable.

Would it not be easier and less expensive for grand deal-maker Trump to recognize North Korea, set up diplomatic relations, stop trying to overthrow the Kim regime, and finally end the Korean War?

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

Bravo Monsieur le president Macron! You have gotten off to a most impressive start. France’s five-year national depression – known as ‘morosité – has lifted and been replaced by a sense that the republic is not doomed after all. In fact, quite the contrary.

France’s new 39-year old president has astounded nearly everyone. Like the silver-tongued Barack Obama, he appeared out of nowhere and captured the imagination of the nation. Like Obama, Macron is accused of being a cat’s paw for the deep state and/or powerful financial interests. Macron used to work for the influential Rothschild bank arranging deals.

Yet Macron, with limited political experience and few evident allies, chose the perfect moment to enter the lists of French politics. The French public was disgusted by its feckless, self-serving political parties of left and right. The economy was mired in stagnation. France’s former role as leader of Europe had become a distant memory.

In love and politics, timing is everything.

Emmanuel Macron declared himself and his new ‘En Marche’ party above politics and dedicated to ending the vitriolic battle between left and right that has wounded France since the 1930’s. French were sick of the left-right bickering and trench warfare of their professional politicians. Americans should take notice.

Amazingly, France’s Socialist and Communist parties pretty much collapsed in the recent presidential election. So too the far right National Front and the center-right Republicans. The defeated Socialist president, Francois Holland, bore heavy responsibility for the Socialist’s rout. His sad sack image and inability to lower unemployment doomed Hollande’s presidency and his party. Poor Hollande, a decent man for a politician, was so unpopular he decided not to run for a second term. Almost everyone was happy to see him go.

Macron’s brand new party took over France’s legislature and, of course, the reins of government. He appointed a cool new prime minister, Eduard Philippe, and many new faces from left and right in the cabinet.

The new president lost no time in announcing that his priority would be to attack France’s biggest problem: its stagnant economy weighed down by over 10% chronic unemployment, belligerent left-wing trade unions, and absurd labor laws.

In fact, Macron threw down the gauntlet to the left: either reform and modernize or face full-scale war. But all of Macron’s predecessors vowed to modernize and reform France’s labor laws. All failed.

Only 8% of France’s work force is unionized, less than Germany, Britain, or the US. Back in the 1950’s, the number was over 30% unionized. However, joint union-management work councils have given the left inordinate power over industry. Unlike Germany, where labor usually cooperates with management, the relationship in France is too adversarial and ideological.

Worse, five powerful unions are recognized by the French government as labor negotiating partners. Except for a leading moderate union, they are dominated by Communists, Trotskyites, and militant socialists, backed by free-enterprise hating academia and the leftist media. These extreme labor groups are concentrated in transportation, telecommunications, power, trucking and food distribution. They also dominate parts of the farm and fishing sectors.

It takes only a few phone calls for these unions to shut France down. The center right may control the government in Paris, but the left controls the streets, highways, airports and metros. Every time Paris and its union foes fight, up go the barricades and roadblocks and the public suffers. Striking is France’s national sport.

Up until now, union blackmail and violence has won almost every confrontation. It’s become a ritual: they make outrageous demands, up go the barricades, and the two sides palaver until government finally gives in to union demands.

The result has been to make France a no-go zone for industry. Labor laws make firing workers and closing plants almost impossible and hugely expensive. One would be crazy to open a manufacturing business in France. Blizzards of government regulations smother enterprise and hand power to bitter government bureaucrats who hate their jobs and their lives.

The net effect of this Marxist miasma has been to deter French firms from hiring, 40% youth unemployment, and a widespread sense of despair in the business community. Even France’s once glorious gastronomy has been degraded by the Socialist’s daft 35-hour work week and high taxes. The majority of French restaurants now use pre-prepared food in portion packs – much like airline meals. This is unforgivable.

Seizing the moment, Macron plans to reform the labor code by decree. He calls it ‘the Mother of All Reforms.’ The truculent CGT labor union has already called for strikes and demonstrations on 12 September. This will be the beginning of a ‘battle royale.’

Macron has invited US President Donald Trump to Paris for the 14 July Bastille Day celebration. That should be very interesting.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Emmanuel Macron, France, Neoliberalism 

What a scary week in the Mideast. The epicenter of the world’s energy resources and the land-bridge between Asia and Africa is spinning out of control as the danger of a shooting war between the US and Russia grows daily.

A US F-18 warplane shot down a Syrian Air Force SU-22 ground attack aircraft over eastern Syria. This was a grave, reckless provocation clearly authorized by Washington. Russia, Syria’s ally, threatened to begin targeting its supposedly deadly S-300 missiles against US warplanes over Syria.

Another US warplane shot down an Iranian drone over southeastern Syria as US forces and US mercenary Arab troops closed in on a worthless piece of ground on the Syrian-Iraq border. Russia is rushing ten more warships into the Mediterranean, though most are obsolescent or small.

The US Navy is challenging – or provoking – the Iranians in the Gulf. US technicians and crews are keeping Saudi warplanes bombing Yemen, where half the population faces starvation. Just across the Red Sea, US warplanes and special forces are attacking the Somalia nationalist resistance movement, Shebab. At least 4,000 more US troops are headed for Afghanistan’s stalemated war.

US Marines are attacking ISIS positions near Mosul, al-Tanf and Raqaa and adding long-ranged HIMARS artillery rockets. American forces are using white phosphorus, a hideous chemical weapon, against Isis defenders. Iran may send more ‘volunteer’ troops into Syria and Iraq as US warplanes probe Iran’s airspace. Turkey is reportedly moving against US-backed Kurds in Syria. Some Mideast experts believe the US may be set on partitioning Syria.

A US fighter just buzzed a Russian aircraft over the Baltic carrying Russian defense minister Sergei Shogu until chased away by Russian fighters. Moscow is under growing pressure to retaliate against the US though President Vladimir Putin insists he wants no military confrontation with Washington.

Adding to these tensions, a palace coup in Saudi Arabia just sidelined the kingdom’s iron-handed number two, former Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef and replaced him by 31-year old Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of King Salman. The King is said to be seriously ill. But the 15,000-member Saudi family is not pleased by the defenestration of heir apparent Nayef.

Prince – now crown prince – Mohammed was the author of Saudi Arabia’s stalemated war in Yemen, which is burning through the kingdom’s cash reserves at a time when oil prices are plunging and has killed large numbers of civilians. He is behind the recent Saudi-Egyptian-Israeli tacit alliance.

It was Prince Mohammed who came up with the plan to run US shale producers out of business by launching an oil price war. It has backfired badly. The Saudis even had to borrow $9 billion to keep the kingdom running.

Arab critics assert that the young prince is rash and inexperienced. The Trump administration likes Prince Mohammed a lot. He is about the same age as Trump’s favorite, son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is in Israel this week supposedly crafting a final peace settlement between Jews and Arabs after a century of conflict. What a cruel joke this is.

Kushner has been meeting with Israel’s wily PM Netanyahu, who has no intention of ever allowing a Palestinian state, and with over-the-hill Palestinian ‘leader,’ Mahmoud Abbas, who is 82. Abbas is widely reviled as a US/Israel puppet who was made PLO leader after the untimely death of Yasser Arafat. The shady Mohammed Dahlan, rumored to be CIA’s Palestinian ‘asset,’ waits in the wings to replace the doddering Abbas.

The authentic Palestinian government, Hamas, is locked up in Gaza and totally isolated by a joint Israeli-Saudi-Egyptian campaign. Back in Washington, most of Trump’s senior advisors are ardent supporters of Israel. So with whom will young Kushner, himself an orthodox Jew, negotiate? As in decades past, Washington’s supporters of Israel’s moderates will negotiate with Israel’s right. Is it any wonder there is no Mideast peace?

Meanwhile, the new Saudi Crown Prince proclaims he will modernize the kingdom, diversify away from its oil and gas economy, and make himself leader of the Arab world. Those who do not readily agree, like little Qatar, will be squashed like bugs.

It’s a tall order. But we wish Crown Prince Mohammed well because Saudi Arabia, the world’s most ultra-conservative nation, very badly needs shaking up, modernization and less theocracy. The skimpy army is denied ammo and transport for fear of a coup, and the kingdom employs large numbers of foreign mercenaries.

In the past, 15,000 tough Pakistani troops defended the royal family. Pakistan’s former president, Zia ul-Haq, told me many funny stories of his days as a military advisor in Saudi and Iraq. Today, US forces in the region protect the Saudis from their neighbors and their own sometimes restive people.

Add the rising dangers in Syria, Iraq and the Gulf to this tense situation and we can count on Arabia and the Levant to provide lots of fireworks in days to come.

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

Tiny Qatar, the mouse that roared, has now managed to enrage the larger part of the Arab world and defy the newly-minted Mideast expert, Donald Trump.

This month, an angry alliance of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, with some background support from the puppet regimes of war-torn Libya and Yemen, declared an embargo of Qatar for ‘supporting terrorism.’ They immediately cut off food and goods deliveries to the sandy peninsula on which Qatar sits, boycotted its oil and gas exports, and denied their airspace to Qatar’s airline. There is talk of a US and Arab coup aimed at ‘regime change’ in Qatar.

Veteran Mideast-watchers are used to endless spats between the region’s Arab rulers, but this one was a big deal. It seems that Trump, who recently visited Saudi Arabia, had orchestrated the boycott and isolation of Qatar to show its upstart rulers who was boss. Moreover, his pro-Israeli advisors devised the plan and Trump backed it publicly.

Here was another example of a US leader, with only comic book knowledge of the region, mucking things up royally. The ‘terrorists’ Qatar is accused of supporting were the Muslim Brotherhood, a venerable, moderate movement dedicated to welfare and education. After the Muslim Brotherhood won a democratic election in Egypt, the Saudis and Israel colluded to overthrow it. The result was the US-backed ruthless military dictatorship of ‘Field Marshall’ al-Sisi, which has killed, jailed, and tortured thousands of opponents.

Trump apparently green-lighted the siege of Qatar because it owns the outspoken al-Jazeera TV network, the only really outspoken media group outside of Israel, which the prickly Egyptians and Saudis hate with a burning passion. Qatar’s ruler, Sheik Hamid al-Thani, has been the principal supporter of the besieged Palestinians in Gaza and their political arm, Hamas, which is branded “terrorists’ by the US and Israel.

Qatar has long been friendly with the Afghan resistance movement Taliban, which is also branded ‘terrorists’ by its foes. By contrast, Qatar has been an important backer of Syria’s anti-Assad rebels – who are also supported by the US, Britain, France and Turkey.

While Trump of Arabia was blasting the Qataris as ‘terrorists,’ a word of no meaning whatsoever but beloved of propagandists, the Pentagon’s top brass were tearing their hair out. Qatar just put in a $12 billion order for US F-15 jets, keeping its production lines, that were slated to be scrapped, open and running, creating 60,000 American jobs.

Qatar is home to one of the largest and most important US military bases in the Mideast, al-Udaid, where 10,000 US servicemen are stationed. US warplanes from Udaid fly missions against ISIS insurgents, into Afghanistan, and to Libya. Only the US base at Incerlik, Turkey, rivals al-Udaid. Udaid played a key role in the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. France also runs air operations out of al-Udaid and a base in Abu Dhabi.

Qatar has only 313,000 native-born citizens. Expats comprise 2.3 million. Residents of Qatar joke that it’s the best-run Indian city in Asia.

Indeed, Indians keep the city operating and provide much of its technical cadres. As in all the Gulf States, known to their former British rulers as ‘Trucial States,’ armies of pitifully-paid coolies from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh do the grunt work and are treated as virtual slaves.

Still, Qatar enjoys the world’s highest per capita income. It’s a worthy example of how to put oil money to work properly. When I was a columnist for its leading newspaper, I always marveled at the order and discipline of the kingdom as compared to its neighbors.

Here in a nutshell is what’s happening. Qatar has been the most progressive, modern-thinking Gulf state. Its rulers, the al-Thani family, have tried to support moderate, progressive movements in the Arab world and Afghanistan with money and media support.

Qatar’s efforts at modernizing are being met with furious opposition by the leaders of Mideast reaction – feudal kingdom Saudi Arabia, military dictatorship Egypt and their feudal satraps in the UAE and Bahrain. Trump’s green-lighting this foolish venture shows how poorly informed and dunderheaded he is. The other Gulf States should grow up and stop acting like feuding Bedouins.

Interestingly, Turkey, an old friend of Qatar, just announced more of its troops will go to the sheikdom, where Ankara has a small base. The other war-like actors in this tempest in a teapot will think twice before defying the Turks who have NATO’s second biggest army.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Qatar, Saudi Arabia 

There’s not a lot to be proud of in today’s America: the Punch and Judy show in Washington; brutal but inept colonial wars in the Mideast against poorly armed enemies; pollution of the climate, and culture of trash and violence.

To see America as it once was, go back to the three days from 4 to 7 June, 1942. During the six months after the devastating Japanese attack on the principal US Pacific base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, US and allies forces across the west Pacific were being mauled by the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Japan’s leading naval strategist, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto, was planning a decisive action near Midway Island to lure America’s three aircraft carriers into battle and sink them.

The USS carriers Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown had been sent away from Pearl Harbor before the Japanese attack. Had they been in port, Japan would have won the Pacific War on 7 Dec 1941. But they were not, strongly suggesting foreknowledge by the pro-war Roosevelt administration of Japan’s plans.

In fact, US naval code-breakers had deciphered many of Japan’s naval and diplomatic codes that Tokyo believed were secure. The US also broke many of Germany’s codes. Almost eight decades later, the US National Security Agency continues this code-breaking tradition. Small wonder the US is so obsessed with communications security and ELINT, or electronic intelligence. They were key elements in America’s WWII victory.

Yamamoto had made a grave error during the Pearl Harbor attack. He should have sent his powerful battleships to direct attack the US base with naval gunfire. There was concern about US coastal 16 inch batteries on Oahu, but Yamamoto should still have bombarded US oil and repair facilities at Pearl Harbor. Destroying them would have given Japan control of the Pacific for at least a year. In the event, his battleships served little useful purpose during the war and were mostly sunk by later US airstrikes.

Widely dispersed Japanese naval forces, with four fast carriers, moved towards Midway, a tiny atoll 3,500 miles west of Hawaii, to draw the US Navy into battle.
What Yamamoto did not know was that US naval intelligence was reading all of his orders and tracing movement of his ships. Or that he was facing three of the finest admirals in US history: Chester Nimitz, Frank Fletcher and Raymond Spruance.

Meanwhile, Adm. Yamamoto had to dispatch a strong navel force to the remote US Aleutian Islands off Alaska to secure backing by the Imperial Japanese Army for the coming Midway battle. Throughout WWII, Japan’s army and navy operated at cross-purposes or as rivals. The army wanted to attack Soviet Siberia while the Navy was determined to capture oil sources in SE Asia. There was almost no coordination between the two and the Emperor failed to impose unity of command.

In a near-miraculous example of American can-do spirits, the carrier ‘Yorktown,’ badly damaged at the Battle of the Coral Sea, was rushed back into service to the astonishment of the Japanese.

The two fleets began searching for one another – a process in pre-radar days of blind luck, like a knife fight in a pitch-black room. Of course, the US knew where many of the Japanese ships were. But once Japan’s fleet moved, it was quickly lost again.

Carrier warfare is one of the consummate military arts, a process demanding absolute technical expertise, top command skills, steel nerves, and a lot of luck. Japan’s admirals, Yamamoto, Nagumo, and Kondo, were experienced and skilled but America’s commanders ranked with Britain’s admirals Nelson and Cochran.

The key to the upcoming battle, which was all beyond visual range, was searching. US land and carrier planes kept flying over search patterns seeking the Japanese carriers ‘Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu,’ all veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack. The Japanese searched even more intensely. Ironically, a Japanese floatplane that was to search a quadrant in which the US carriers were steaming was badly delayed by mechanical problems and failed to locate the US warships.

At 0430 on 4 June 1943, Adm. Nagumo launched air attacks on Midway, which was defended by US Marines. As the Japanese attack intensified, Pearl Harbor reportedly sent them a message, ‘what can we send you?’ Came the insolent reply (my father was a Marine in the 5th Division), ‘send us more Japs.’

Nagumo kept half his torpedo plans and dive bombers armed and in reserve in case US warships were sighted. At 0800, a Japanese search plane reported sighting US carriers while Nagumo still kept attacking Midway. Unbeknown to him, Adm. Fletcher had already ordered his torpedo planes and dive bombers to attack Nagumo’s fleet that had been spotted by a US PBY flying boat and the heroism of squadron commander C. Wade McClusky.

At 0920, US torpedo squadron 6 from Enterprise flying obsolescent `Devastator’ aircraft attacked the Japanese carriers. The squadron was massacred by Japanese Zero fighters flying top cover. At least six US Mark 13 torpedoes hit the Japanese carriers yet failed to explode. US torpedoes were notoriously unreliable as compared to the deadly Japanese long-lance torpedoes.

All 15 of torpedo squadron 6’s Devastators were shot down. At this dark moment, three squadrons of Douglas Dauntless dive bombers from Enterprise and Yorktown arrived while the Japanese were distracted by the torpedo attacks. Worse, the Japanese carriers were in the process of re-arming their aircraft for new strikes. The carrier decks were covered with bombs, torpedoes and fuel lines.

At 1022 the US Dauntless dive bombers struck. Within minutes, three Japanese carriers, Soryu, Kaga and Akagi were in flames. The surviving Hiryu managed to launch and fatally wound the Yorktown. US aircraft located then sank the Hiryu.

Four of Japan’s six carriers were sunk and many of her veteran pilots and mechanics were killed. Both sides broke off the battle to lick their wounds.

Midway marked the high point of Japan’s Pacific offensive. After the battle, Japan lost the military imitative and went on the defensive for the rest of the war. Japan could not replace the carriers or aircrews lost in battle. As the war continued, America’s mighty industrial base produced more than eight times more warships and transports than battered Japan.

There were many more naval battles after Midway, but no other nation on earth would dare challenge the US Navy. America’s sailors and airmen had won the Pacific War in a day that will reverberate in history.

All glory and honor to the United States Navy.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2017

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: American Military, World War II 

Germany: ‘bad, very bad.’ Trump tweet.

France’s brainy new president, Emmanuel Macron, said it was too bad that Donald Trump was not part of the Enlightenment. Few Americans would have understood what he meant but Europeans certainly did.

The Enlightenment was the glorious epoch in the mid 1700 and 1800’s that gave birth to modern science, philosophy, reason, and literature. Among its notables were Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant, Diderot, Hume, and Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin.

This was by far the most delicate criticism of Trump that one hears in Europe, where he is widely regarded with contempt and revulsion. As for Trump’s business-heavy cabinet, one immediately thinks of Oscar Wilde’s acid line about men who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Europe is in a rage over Trump’s rejection of the Paris Climate Accord, an act that also caused worldwide shock and dismay. It will please American coal miners, religious fundamentalists and those who share Trump’s view that it’s all a Red Chinese hoax.

Meanwhile, Trump’s adversarial relations with Europe have shaken the NATO alliance and changed Germany’s view of transatlantic relations. After last week’s testy NATO summit and Trump’s tweeted attacks on Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel lashed out, ‘“The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over.”

Merkel is a cautious, ultra-bland technocrat whose speeches are usually sleep-inducing. For her to drop such a bombshell shows how poor US-German relations have become. This fracture between Berlin and Washington has been a long time in coming but is still startling. Germans are fed up with being treated like vassals and, let us not forget, still semi-occupied by US armed forces.

Adding to the tensions, Trump has been hammering Europe’s NATO members over their skimpy contributions to the alliance and its arms programs. But here is another example of Trump’s poor understanding of world affairs.

NATO is not a business partnership. The alliance, founded in 1949, was designed to shore up war-battered Europe and form a united front against the very real threat of Soviet invasion. Today, the very successful NATO alliance, 70% funded by the US, remains the most concrete expression of America’s geopolitical domination of western Europe.

As the recently deceased thinker Zbigniew Brezezinski aptly put it to me, Europe provides strategic ‘stepping-stones’ to the expansion of US influence into Eurasia through NATO. The alliance is not an equal partnership, it’s the primary tool for enforcing US power in Europe.

Now that the Soviet Union is gone, there is no real military threat to Europe. A majority of Europe’s tax-payers don’t want to pay more to reinforce NATO. Or worse, see it become a sort of foreign legion for the US to use in its imperial ventures in the Mideast, Africa and West Asia.

Germany was dragooned by the US into sending troops to Afghanistan, but over the protests of most of its citizens and other Europeans. Canada faces a similar problem. As the late German defense minister, Franz Josef Strauss so colorfully put it, ‘we won’t be spear carriers for America’s atomic knights.’

I’ve witnessed a powerful up swell of nationalism in Germany, including growing pride in Germany’s soldiers during World War II. But every sign of pride in Germany is met by a torrent of media frenzy about the Nazis and their crimes. In this way, Germany is kept on the defensive and quiescent. But this may now be changing as Trump & Co lambastes Germany and Germans. It’s very dangerous, as history shows, to strong-arm Germans.

Trump even blasts German cars. He would better reserve his wrath for the manufacturers of America’s mediocre quality cars.

What really galls Trump about Europe is that it has too many Muslims. He actually accused Angel Merkel of ‘wrecking’ Europe because she allowed in Syrian refugees in a praiseworthy humanitarian act. Trump and his alt-right advisors are unlikely to know that 11% of Syrians are Christians of various sorts.

Neither Trump nor his advisors have much interest in or knowledge of Europe. America’s nativist religious voters, 80% of whom support with Trump, see Europe as a wicked, degenerate place filled with drinkers, sexual perverts and pacifists. Europeans laugh at church-going fundamentalist Americans as backwards, superstitious rustics.

Trump is wildly popular in Pittsburgh, as he noted last week, but to much of the rest of the planet he remains a symbol of flat-earth consciousness and the unlovely face of America.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Germany, NATO 

The Great White Father came to Saudi Arabia last week to harangue some 50 Arab and African despots on the glories of Trumpism, democracy and the need to fight what the Americans call terrorism.

Having covered the Mideast for many decades, I cannot think of a more bizarre or comical spectacle. Here was Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, hosting the glad-handing US president who hates Islam and the Mideast with irrational passion.

I was amazed to learn that Trump’s speech to the Arab and African attendees had been written by pro-Israel ideologue Stephen Miller, a young senior White House staffer from California who is an extreme Zionist. How very bizarre.

Not only that, Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, who are also strongly pro-Israel, were with him. So too was the powerful commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, another ardent pro-Israel cabinet member with whom I spent a weekend last year. Billionaire Ross performed the traditional Saudi sword dance with skill and verve.

Listening to Trump and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, blast Iran as the font of terrorism provided another big joke. Trump’s tirade against Tehran was delivered in Saudi Arabia, a feudal monarchy that holds no elections, cuts off the heads of some 80-90 people annually, and treats women like cattle. While claiming to be the leader of the Muslim world, the Saudi royal family funds mayhem and extreme Muslim obscurantism through the region. The current wave of primitive violence by some self-professed Muslims – ISIS being the leader – was originally funded and guided by the Saudis in a covert struggle to combat revolutionary Iran. I saw this happen in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let’s recall 15 of the 19 men who attacked the US on 9/11 were Saudis.

Iran has the freest political system in the Mideast (except for Israel). Iranian women have rights and political freedoms that are utterly unknown in Saudi Arabia. Iran just held a fair and open national election in which moderates won. Compare this to Saudi Arabia’s medieval Bedouin society. I was once arrested by the religious police in Jeddah just for walking down a street with an Egyptian lady.

Today, US and British equipped Saudi forces are laying waste to wretched Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation. As a result of a Saudi air, land and sea blockade, the UN now reports that famine has gripped large parts of Yemen. US and British technicians are keeping the Saudi air force flying; the US and Britain supply the bombs.

President Trump arrived with a bag of $110 billion worth of arms (some already approved by the Obama administration), and a promise of $350 billion worth in ten years. There was nothing new about this arms bazaar: for over a decade the Saudis have bought warehouses of US arms in exchange for keeping oil prices low and fronting for US interests in the Muslim world. Most of these arms remain in storage as the Saudis don’t know how to use them.

Many of America’s most important arms makers are located in politically important US states. The Saudis were so deeply in bed with the Republicans that their former ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar, was known to one and all as ‘Bandar Bush.’ Saudi money and influence has flowed far and wide across the US political landscape. That’s how the Saudis get away with mass killing in Yemen, funding ISIS and ravaging Syria with hardly any peeps of protest from Congress.

By now, it’s perfectly clear that the long secret relationship between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates has finally come into the open. Israel and its rich Arab friends all hate Iran, they oppose Palestinian rights, and fear revolution in the Arab world.

The two most reactionary Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are now close allies, though they compete over who will lead the Arab world. Neither despotic regime has any right to do so. Trump lauded the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah al-Sissi who overthrew Egypt’s first ever democratically elected government (with Saudi help), gunned down hundreds of protestors, jailed and tortured thousands. Suspects in Egypt are routinely subjected to savage beatings and anal rape.

As I tried to explain in my second book, ‘American Raj,’ the brutal, corrupt regimes we westerners have imposed on the Arab world and Africa are the main cause of what we call ‘terrorism.’ So too the wars we have waged in the region to impose our will and economic exploitation. It’s blowback, pure and simple. So-called terrorism is not at all about Islam as our politicians, led by Trump of Arabia, falsely claim.

But no shoes were thrown at Trump by his audience. They were too scared of their heads being cut off by our democratic ally.

(Republished from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Donald Trump, Middle East, Saudi Arabia 
Eric Margolis
About Eric Margolis

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

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

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

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

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

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


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