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Palm Beach – A serious curse on the Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea or the DPRK) for apparently murdering one of my schoolmates. Very bad form, Pyongyang!

My old high school, the Ecole International of Geneva, Switzerland had a zany and interesting collection of cosmopolitan students from everywhere.

We had lots of children of movie stars like William Holden, Jack Palance, Yul Brynner, and Lana Turner. There were sons of deposed statesmen from Indonesia, Turkey and the Arab world, children of US European corporate executives, Jewish Britons, even a few Swiss and French as well as some Nepalese, Indians and Japanese. We had the kids of Charlie Chaplin, Gene Kelly, and Robert Graves. The nasty Turkish military junta hanged my friend Turgut’s daddy

We hated sports. For fun, I organized a coup d’état against the hated student government that worked brilliantly. On the `committee for public safety’ were ringleaders from Indonesia, Bolivia and Venezuela whose fathers had overthrown their respective governments. We promised ‘full democratic elections’ at some vague point in the future – a nice touch of cynicism worthy of a Bolivian or Argentine junta.

I also organized student protests against the French colonial war in Algeria that earned me frequent death threats from ’La Main Rouge,’ an extremely violent false front for the DGSE, French intelligence, themselves a bunch of wild and murderous cowboys. I was young and fearless in those days; now I’m not young but still fearless and reckless.

Ecolint had been founded to educate children of Geneva-based United Nations personnel – and, of course, to promote international understanding. What we really cared about in those ancient days was of course girls. Ecolint was coed.

Our deadly rival school, the exclusive Rosey, was chock-a-bloc with Arab and Iranian princes. They had more chic, but we had girls. That’s why I chose Ecolint over Rosey, thus missing the chance to be lifelong best friends with Saudi Arabia’s ruling princes and lot of other very rich kids.

Anyway, it transpires that Kim Jung-nam, the recently assassinated half-brother of North Korea’s fun-loving Communist monarch, Kim Jong-un, was a proud Ecolint attendee. Interestingly, younger brother Kim Jong-un attended another excusive Swiss school outside Bern. Apparently, he learned nothing about Swiss good manners and discretion.

In fact, Kim Jung-un appears to have a proclivity for grisly executions. He is alleged to have fed an irksome uncle to hungry dogs (which is fine because Koreans like to eat dogs) and blown to smithereens a general who had the audacity to nod off during one of Kim’s speeches. The novel method of execution was apparently by a four-barrel heavy anti-aircraft 12.7mm gun.

The assassination of Kim Jung-nam seems to follow this creative pattern. Jung-nam, who has lived for decades in exile, mostly in Macau, was apparently accosted at Malaysia’s modern Kuala Lumpur airport by two women, one Vietnamese, the other Indonesian. One of the women supposedly rubbed her poison-covered hands or a fabric on Kim Jung-nam’s face. He sought help and died on the way to the hospital.

As of this writing, no one really seems to know what happened. Did one or both of the women have a pen that sprays cyanide, an assassination device much favored by Soviet, US and Israeli hit squads, that mimics heart attack? Malaysian police are now suggesting the liquid used to kill Kim was VX, a lethal, fast-acting nerve agent developed for military use.

Was it a harmless promotional stunt, as the arrested women claimed? Or a very clever plot by South Korean intelligence to blacken North Korea’s not so great name? South Korean intelligence is notorious for churning out cock-and-bull stories about its dastardly North Korean brothers, and vice versa.

A number of shady North Korean ‘diplomats’ are on the lam. One was arrested in Kuala Lumpur. North Korean diplomats are hardly innocent social workers. DPRK agents have in the past launched deadly attacks in South Korea and Burma, and kidnapped Japanese civilians.

Malaysia is refusing to return Kim Jung-nam’s body to North Korea. Pyongyang is making the novel claim that Young-nam’s body has diplomatic immunity. North Korea had enjoyed friendly relations with two Asian neighbors, Malaysia and China. Right now, relations with both are beyond bad. China just announced it will cut way back on purchases of North Korean coal, the DRPK’s major export except for trouble and threats.

Meanwhile, DPRK is practicing attacks on South Korea’s presidential palace, the Blue House. The South and its US big brother is practicing war against the North. Kim Jung-un has been launching new medium-range missiles believed able to carry nuclear warheads. Uncle Sam is planning to install an anti-missile system in South Korea that China claims to be a dire threat to its security.

Can one imagine, in this day and age, that if war breaks out in the Korean peninsula, the mighty South Korean army comes immediately under US military command?

Maybe the US and South Koreans could come ask us old Ecolint grads how to overthrow the nasty regime of the Great Leader? We will promise democratic elections at a later date.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: North Korea 

President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the military-industrial complex made half a century ago ring as loud and clear today. The soft coup being mounted against the Trump government by America’s ‘deep state’ reached a new intensity this week as special interests battled for control of Washington.

The newly named national security advisor, Lt Gen Michael Flynn, was ousted by Trump over his chats with Russia’s ambassador and what he may or may not have told Vice President Pence. The defenestration of Flynn appeared engineered by our national intelligence agencies in collaboration with the mainstream media and certain Democrats.

Flynn’s crime? Talking to the wicked Russians before and after the election. Big, big deal. That’s what security advisors are supposed to do: keep an open back channel to other major powers and allies. This is also the job of our intelligence agencies.

There is no good or bad in international affairs. The childish concept of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ comes from the Bush era when simple-minded voters had to be convinced that America was somehow in grave danger from a bunch of angry Mideast goat herds.

The only nations that could threaten America’s very existence are nuclear powers Russia, China, India, France, Britain and Israel (and maybe Pakistan) in that order.

Russia has thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on the US mainland. Any real war with Russia would invite doom for both nations. Two near misses are more than enough. Remember the 1962 Cuban missile confrontation and the terrifying 1983 Able Archer scare – near thermonuclear war caused by Ronald Reagan’s anti-Russian hysteria and Moscow’s panicked response.

Margolis’ #1 rule of international relations: make nice and keep on good terms with nations that have nuclear weapons pointed at you. Avoid squabbles over almost all matters. Intelligence agencies play a key role in maintaining the balance of nuclear terror and preventing misunderstandings that can cause war.

Gen. Flynn was a fanatical anti-Islamic wing nut. He was, to use Trumpese, a bigly terrible choice. I’m glad he is gone. But Flynn’s sin was being loopy, not talking on the phone to the Russian ambassador. The White House and national intelligence should be talking every day to Moscow, even ‘hi Boris, what’s new with you guys? ‘Nothing much new here either besides the terrible traffic.’

The current hue and cry in the US over Flynn’s supposed infraction is entirely a fake political ambush to cripple the Trump administration. Trump caved in much too fast. The deep state is after his scalp: he has threatened to cut the $80 billion per annum intelligence budget – which alone, boys and girls, is larger than Russia’s entire defense budget! He’s talking about rooting waste out of the Pentagon’s almost trillion-dollar budget, spending less on NATO, and ending some of America’s imperial wars abroad.

What’s to like about Trump if you’re a member of the war party and military-industrial-intelligence-Wall Street complex? The complex wants its golden girl Hilary Clinton in charge. She unleashed the current tsunami of anti-Russian hysteria and demonization of Vladimir Putin which shows, sadly, that many Americans have not grown beyond the days of Joe McCarthy.

As a long-time student of Cold War intelligence, my conclusion is that both sides knew pretty much what the other was up to, though KGB and GRU were more professional and skilled than western special services. It would be so much easier and cheaper just to share information on a demand basis. But that would stop the Great Game.

It’s sickening watching the arrant hypocrisy and windbaggery in Washington over alleged Russian espionage and manipulation. The US has been buying and manipulating foreign governments since 1945. We even tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. This week Wikileaks issued an intercept on CIA spying and manipulation of France’s 2012 election. We live in a giant glass house.

The Russians are not our pals. Nor are they the evil empire. We have to normalize our thinking about Russia, grow up and stop using Moscow as a political bogeyman to fight our own internal political battles.
Right now, I’m more worried about the far right crazies in the Trump White House than I am about the Ruskis and Vlad the Bad.

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

Misery loves company. Americans who have been suffering the agonies of advanced Trumpitis can now turn to France and share a good cry.

France’s presidential politics are as crazy and sleazy as America’s, and equally depressing.

French politics run the gamut from the most noble aspirations of the 1789 revolution to today’s gutter fighting and back-stabbing. The lust for power is always thus.

A late 19th century French president, Jean Casimir-Perier, aptly quipped, “government is constant conspiracy.” He was also a former banker.

Today, we observe the doleful spectacle of France’s politicians locked into a sordid demolition derby that disgusts many voters and heaps opprobrium on the great nation of France which, we should not forget, helped birth the American Republic.

The race began when President Francois Hollande, a dreary little Socialist apparatchik who always looks about to burst into tears, wisely decided not to run for a second term. His polls had nosedived to 4%. Amusingly, the only time they went up in recent memory was a 2% blip when photographers caught ‘Monsieur le president’ sneaking off to a ‘cinq-a-sept’ afternoon dalliance with a young movie actress.

This left political big wigs Nicholas Sarkozy, the respected Alain Juppé, and Hollande’s former prime minister, Manuel Valls (he’s from Barcelona), and Sarkozy’s long-suffering former prime minister Francois Fillon to slug it out. To general amazement, straight-arrow Catholic Fillon soundly beat Valls, Juppé, and Sarkozy in a primary last month.

Sarko was just indicted for illegal fund-raising and faces further charges of taking illegal cash payments from Libya’s late strongman, Muammar Khadaffi. Critics claim Sarkozy organized the murder of Khadaffi to shut him up. He denies the charge.

From darkest left field came two veteran leftists, Bernard Hamon and Jean-Luc Melanchon. Both dreary Maxists looked like they stepped off a stage with Josef Stalin. After five years of Hollande, France’s Left is exhausted and down in the dumps. Their chance of winning is considered nil.

Out of an elegant Louis-XIV box jumped Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year old investment banker who had been working for the mighty Rothschild Bank. Running as a non-party independent, Macron vowed a ‘middle way’ to French disgusted by their politics. His chances look good. The Rothschilds are ‘tres content.’

All these candidates are facing `walkure’ Marine Le Pen and her Front National party. I’ve never interviewed Madame Le Pen but I did spend a good deal of time with her dear old dad, Jean-Marie Le Pen who founded the hard-line, far-right party. Papa Le Pen is a vintage Catholic right-winger along the lines of France’s wartime Vichy government. He wanted Muslims, Jews and other emigrants out of France and a return to the ‘good old’ days of the 1950’s.

So, too, Marine but she does not say this openly any more. She suppressed the party’s more extreme elements and kicked her dad out in a successful effort to soften the party’s image. She is doing very well in the polls and may even win the first election round in April of the two-round election. Le Pen calls US-led sanctions against Russia, ‘completely stupid’ and has nice things to say about Trump and Russia’s Putin. In fact, her party has received loans from Russian banks.

She promises to exit the European Union, bring back the French franc and adopt Trumpian-style economic nationalism. Problem is, France’s Socialist-engineered regulations make it almost impossible to profitably make industrial products in France. Bully-boy unions can paralyze the nation in a day. Breaking their death-grip on France’s economy will take a near war. Ditching the EU would be a disaster for Europe.

Fillon looked set to win the spring vote thanks to his clean image and support from Catholic voters. But then a satirical newspaper revealed that he had paid his wife and two of his children some one million euros over a decade, supposedly for `administrative’ duties. While such payola is legitimate and common among the political class, this revelation shocked even jaded French. The lily-white Fillon sank to third place.

One was quickly reminded of France’s priapic former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was arrested in New York in 2011 for allegedly assaulting a hotel maid. He had been a shoe-in to become French prime minister until the scandal erupted. Many French, and this writer, believe that his rival Nicholas Sarkozy was somehow involved in this honey-trap affair.

Until last week, Emmanuel Macron held the lead. That was until some Russian magazines started accusing him of being a closet homosexual. French are pretty easy-going about sex of all kinds, but Macron’s image of being Mr. Clean was tarnished.

French centrists are now calling on Fillon to stay in the race, or for his rival, former PM Alain Juppé, to re-enter the contest. Sarkozy can’t because he is facing trial. Juppé would be the best candidate and would clobber Le Pen in the second vote.

But who knows what’s next? Certainly the French Republic deserves better than this comedy.

Waiter! Quickly, Another bottle of Bordeaux.

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

When I was suffering through advanced infantry training in the US Army many, many moons ago, I learned the Trump negotiating system.

Our dreaded first sergeant, Delmar Creech, would terrorize us, inflict push-ups or latrine detail, and then restrict us to barracks over weekends for some minor infraction.

We hated him with a passion. But then one Friday he strode into the barracks and, with a big smile, said ‘you boys have been good. I’m granting you PX privileges!’

A cheer erupted. We were being allowed to go to the base store to buy candy, cigarettes and magazines. Suddenly, everyone said, `Sarge ain’t such a bad guy after all.’

This is the secret to Donald Trump’s negotiating tactics: a storm of invective and abuse, followed by some minor concessions. `Trump ain’t such a bad guy after all.’

We just witnessed this technique used on our old ally, Australia, where Trump threw a telephone tantrum over the prospect of a modest number of mainly South Asian Muslim refugees held on Australia’s Devil’s Island entering the US.

This nasty little spat came on the heels of last week’s refusal by Trump to accept Mideast refugees from seven nations, supposedly to keep America safe. However, there has not been a single attack against the US from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria or Yemen – even though all have been bombed (26,171 times) or had their governments overthrown by the US and its allies.

President Trump is doing precisely what he promised voters, something very rare in politics. One of the last presidents to do so was Democrat James K. Polk in the mid-1800’s who stormed into office on the promise of conquering northern Mexico, lowering tariffs, and bluffing the British out of Oregon.

Polk accomplished all of his goals, then refused to run for a second term so he would not be compelled to make political compromises. He died in 1849. His legacy was the new American states of California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and other western regions.

This writer had hoped that when Trump felt the full weight of office he would make good on his vow to press for a real Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement. Instead, Trump welcomed Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu, packed his cabinet with rabid Muslim-haters, neo-cons and far right zanies and has just about proclaimed a new crusade against Islam.

Was all this real or a political ploy? We must remember that nearly half of all Republican voters – Trump’s base – describe themselves as practicing born-again Christians. The Christian fundamentalist right played a key role in George Bush’s two victories. Some 78% of born-again Christians voted for Bush.

These religious right voters come from the Bible Belt South and Midwest, a vast expanse routinely ignored by East and West coast pundits and political operatives. The Trump campaign was extremely clever in analyzing this political geography and focusing efforts on the evangelical empty spaces between New York and Los Angeles – the same region that brought Prohibition in 1919 and Trump in 2016.

One of the key tenets of Republican theological voters is the hatred of Islam as the ‘new’ Communism and the fear that Islam’s growth is far outpacing Christianity.

Few of these confused Republican core voters have any sense of geography or history. After the 9/11 attacks, surveys showed that 78% or more were convinced that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks. This was a glaring example of what expert Kevin Phillips terms `the American Disenlightenment.’

President Trump benefitted from this accrued ignorance in his startling electoral victory. East and West coast media were astounded because they had never attended a Pentecostal Church or listened to the poisonous sermons of ‘Rev’ John Hagee or so-called Christian radio from whose bizarre ravings many Christian fundamentalists receive all their news.

I witnessed the birth of the strange alliance between America’s Christian far right and Israel in the early 1980’s during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Two radio stations from the Bible Belt USA rushed in to begin broadcasting their fundamentalist creed to Lebanon and Syria.

We laughed at these Christian broadcasters but the Israelis were smart enough to understand how their new born-again fundamentalist allies could be used as the first step to win over the America’s Christian far right. The fundamentalists believe that Biblical Israel must be re-created (never mind Syria, Lebanon and Palestine) before Christ can return.

Armageddon, the ultimate battle between good and evil, would ensue, bringing destruction of the Earth. Born-agains will zip up to heaven while the rest of us slowly burn in hellfire.

Three decades later, Christian Conservatives are one of America’s leading political forces. President Trump just called for the ban on churches preaching politics and fundraising be lifted.

Let’s hope Trump uses some of his great energy to arm twist Israelis and Palestinians into a decent peace deal. This, alas, seem unlikely.

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

President Donald Trump is getting ready to plunge into the burning Mideast with all the zeal and arrogance of a medieval crusader. The new administration’s knowledge of the region is a thousand miles wide and two inches deep.

Reviving a truly terrible idea originated by know-nothing Congressional Republicans, Trump proposes US-run safe zones in Syria for refugees from that nation’s conflict. The president went out of his way to insist that such safe zones would spare the United States from having to shelter Syrian refugees.

He should better worry about Chicago where 762 citizens were murdered last year.

At the same time, Trump, declaiming from his new Mount Olympus of New York’s Trump Tower, vowed to impose a 30-day halt on immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to ‘protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals.’

One wonders if any of Trump’s Praetorian Guard noticed that all these listed ‘terrorist’ nations have been attacked by the United States or seen their governments overthrown by Uncle Sam. I’m surprised Afghanistan and Pakistan were left off the list. Their time will likely come soon. Is it any wonder that all of these Muslim nations bear a serious grudge against the United States? The angriest group is ISIS, who are seeking revenge for the destruction of Iraq.

Former President Barack Obama shied away from direct military intervention in Syria, preferring stealthy warfare, drones and hit squads. He had the sense to know that US military intervention in the heart of the Mideast would be fraught with danger, not the least clashes between US and Russian forces. History shows it’s easy to invade into unstable areas but hard to get out.

But not so for bull in the Mideast china shop Trump as he charges into the Levant, advised by generals who made a mess in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Trump’s ardently pro-Israel cabinet must be rubbing their hands in glee as they see Syria in his cross hairs. The destruction of Syria’s regime and fragmenting that nation is an Israeli strategic priority.

One wishes Trump would stop for a moment and reflect. There are 11 million Syrian refugees in Syria and neighboring states. They are the result of a civil war engineered by Washington, Turkey, the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with France and Britain playing a supporting role. Western money, arms and supplies have fuelled the six-year old conflict whose aim was to overthrow Syria’s Assad government because he is an ally of Iran.

The US and France did exactly the same thing in Libya, overthrowing its leader, Muammar Khadaffi, and murdering him – thank you Hillary Clinton. The US invaded and destroyed Iraq, tore apart Somalia and neighboring Sudan, and is now providing warplanes, bombs and mercenary advisors that Saudi Arabia – the patron of the jihadi forces in Syria – is using to crush little Yemen.

The largest number of Mideast refugees are now in Syria, thank you Uncle Sam, and its neighbors, Jordan and Lebanon. The second biggest group are the 5.2 million Palestinian refugees scattered across the Levant. Iraq is awash with internal refugees, thank you George W. Bush. Add now a couple of million refugees from strife-torn South Sudan, a new failed nation created by blundering US Mideast policy as a way of punishing disobedient Sudan, thank Bush and Obama.

At the same time, Washington must avoid any and all risk of military clashes in Syria with Russia. We can’t keep huffing and puffing that Moscow has no business in Syria when it’s as close to southern Russia as northern Mexico is to Texas. The US has troops and bases across the globe, most lately in Africa. Who are we to tell Russia to get out of Syria?

Just when it seemed that the Syrian conflict was beginning to simmer down, Trump’s intervention will be certain to heat up the conflict and undermine potential peace agreements. In case there are still Muslims who believed the US is their friend, as was the case fifty years ago, they will now understand that America is their enemy thanks to Trump’s ham-handed, ‘no Muslims’ policies.

Muslims account for 23% of the world’s population and will surpass Christians in about four decades. Besides riling up the Chinese, is it really wise to antagonize and insult members of Islam, the world’s fast-growing religion? And single out Muslims as most likely to face torture? Bad idea.

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

I normally avoid patriotic events. They invariably remind me of the flag-waving idiocy that led to World War I.

In fact, I was even kicked out of the Boy Scouts in New York City after loudly commenting that their uber patriotic display of flags, drums, crashing music and paramilitary uniforms looked like the old Hitler Youth.

But watching the inauguration of President Donald Trump (that’s the first time I write these words) I must admit the ceremony moved me way beyond my normally cynical self.

Mind you, I’ve been observing presidential investitures since my father flew us down from New York City to observe President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration in 1953. I vividly recall being awed by the giant atomic cannon being towed down Pennsylvania Avenue. I remember reading a fine biography of Genghis Khan on our Eastern Airlines flights.

What I found most impressive this time was the reaffirmation of America’s dedication to the peaceful transfer of political power. This was the 45th time this miracle has happened. Saying this is perhaps banal, but the handover of power never fails to make me proud to be an American and thankful we had such brilliant founding fathers.

This peaceful transfer sets the United States apart from many of the world’s nations, even Britain and Canada, where leaders under the parliamentary system are chosen in a process resembling a knife fight in a dark room. The US has somehow managed to retain its three branches of government in spite of the best efforts of self-serving politicians to wreck it.

Each new president inherits a sea of problems from his predecessor. Donald Trump’s biggest legacy headaches and priority will be in the Mideast, a disaster area on its own but made far, far worse by the bungling of the Obama administration and its dimwitted attempts to put the US and Russia on a collision course.

Thanks to George W. Bush – who dared show his face at the inauguration – and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama, Trump inherits America’s longest war, Afghanistan, with our shameful support of mass drug dealing, endemic corruption and war crimes. Add the crazy mess in Iraq and now Syria.

This week US B-2 heavy bombers attacked Libya. US forces are fighting in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and parts of Africa. For what? No one is quite sure. America’s foreign wars, fueled by its $1 trillion military budget, have assumed a life of their own. Once a great power goes to war, its proponents insist, ‘we can’t be seen to back down or our credibility will suffer.’

Trump will struggle to find a face-saving retreat from these unnecessary conflicts and shut his ears to the siren songs of the war party and deep state which just failed to stage a ‘soft’ coup to block his inauguration. Waging little wars against weak nations is a multi-billion dollar national industry in the US. America has become as addicted to war as it has to debt.

If President Trump truly wants to bring some sort of peace to the explosive Mideast, he will have to reject the advice of the hardline Zionists with whom he has chosen to surround himself. Their primary interest is Greater Israel, free of Arabs, not in a Greater America. Trump is too smart not to know this. But he may also listen to his blood and guts former generals who lost the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Trump appears to have been gulled into believing the canard that Mideast-origin violence is caused by what he called in his inaugural speech, radical Islamic terrorism. This is a favorite device promoted by the hard right and Israel to de-legitimize any resistance to Israel’s expansion and ethnic cleansing. The label of ‘terrorism’ serves the same purpose.

Trump should be reminded that the 9/11 attackers cited two reasons for their attack: 1. Occupation of Saudi Arabia by the US; 2. Continued US-backed occupation of Palestine. Persistent attacks on western targets that we call terrorism are, in most cases, acts of revenge for our neo-colonial actions in the Muslim world, the ‘American Raj’ as I term it.

Unfortunately, President Trump is unlikely to get this useful advice from the men who now surround him, with the possibly exception of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Let’s hope that Tillerson and not Goldman Sachs bank ends up steering US foreign policy.

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

As President-elect Donald Trump fights off fierce assaults by the massed national security apparatus, Democrats, the neocon Praetorian Guard, and a host of other political foes, I am feeling a sharp sense of déjà vu.

Trump claimed that these attacks were like ‘living in Nazi Germany.’ Not so. The president-elect could have found a much better analogy: Moscow in August, 1991.

I was in Moscow, Central Asia and the Caucasus covering the Soviet Union’s last days and meeting with senior KGB leaders. What a dramatic and exciting time it was. In fact, on my first night in Moscow a Russian friend and I, fired from drinking potent Georgian moonshine, managed to wake up the then director of KGB, Viktor Chebrikov, at two am by playing very loud music under his apartment. He kept stamping on the floor. My Russian-Georgian friend said, ‘just ignore the old fool.’

Two years later, another old Soviet fool, KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, tried to overthrow the reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev. A so-called ‘gang of eight’ of senior Communist Party officials, intelligence bigwigs and military men secretly formed to overthrow party leader Gorbachev.

Reformist Gorbachev was trying to remake the Communist Party, end its brutal policies, stop the stalemated war in Afghanistan, and allow restive nationalities, like the Baltic peoples, to edge away from the USSR. Gorby also wanted to cut way back on military spending – then almost 40% of GDP – that was bankrupting the Soviet Union. He sought good, peaceful relations with the West.

These policies enraged Moscow’s security agencies, its hardline Communist elite (‘nomenklatura’) and vast military industrial complex. Gorby’s proposed budget cuts would have put many of them out of business. So they decided to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev to save their own skins. The coup utterly failed and its drunken, bungling leaders jailed.

We are observing something similar today in Washington, hence my sense of déjà vu. Trump has suggested he may reduce the bloated CIA and 16 other US intelligence agencies that spend over $70 billion annually, not including ‘black’ programs, on who knows what? Tapping communications and assassinating assorted Muslims from the air no doubt.

Trump has called for an ‘even-handed’ approach to the question of Palestine, enraging neocons who fear Israel’s headlock on Congress and the White House may be loosened. The neocon press, like the Wall Street Journal, NY Times and Washington Post, have been baying for Trump’s blood. Not since World War II has the media so dramatically dropped its mask of faux impartiality to reveal it true political agenda.

Adding to his list of foes, Trump is now under attack by religious fundamentalists in Congress for his sensible attitude to Russia. The vast military industrial complex is after Trump, fearing he may cut the $1 trillion annual military budget and efforts to dominate the globe. Members of Congress under orders from the pro-war neocons are trying to undermine Trump.

They are all using Russia as a tool to beat Trump. The hysteria and hypocrisy over alleged Russian hacking is unbelievable and infantile. Sen. John McCain actually called it a grave threat to American democracy, thus joining the Soviet old fools club. Of course Russia’s spooks probe US electronic communications. That’s their job, not playing chess. The US hacks into everyone’s commo, including leaders of allied states. It’s called electronic intelligence (ELINT).

But don’t blame the wicked Moscovites for revealing how Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Committee rigged the primaries in her favor against Sen. Bernie Sanders. That cat was well out of the bag already.

It’s not Russian TV (for whom I occasionally comment) that is undermining America’s democracy, it’s the nation’s neocon-dominated media pumping out untruths and disinformation. Ironically, Russian TV has become one of the few dissenting voices in North America’s media landscape. Sure it puts out government propaganda. So does CNN, MSNBC and Fox. At least RT offers a fresher version.

Watching our intelligence chiefs and Sen. McCain trying to blacken Trump’s name by means of a sleazy, unverified report about golden showers in a Moscow hotel, is particularly ignoble.

It’s also a laugh. Every one who went to Moscow during the Cold War knew about the bugged hotel rooms, and KGB temptresses (known as ‘swallows’ -after the birds) who would knock on your door at night and give you the old Lenin love mambo while hidden camera whirled away. I asked for 8×10 glossies to be sent to my friends. But sadly for me, the swallows never came though I did meet some lovely long-legged creatures at the Bolshoi Ballet. So-called honey traps were part of the fun of the cold war.

Humor aside, it’s dismaying to hear senior US intelligence officials who faked ‘evidence’ that led to the invasion of Iraq and used torture and assassination attacking Donald Trump. Of course their jobs are at risk. They should be. The CIA, in particular, has evolved from a pure intelligence gathering agency into a state-sanctioned Murder Inc that liquidates real and imagined enemies abroad. The KGB used to do the same thing – but more efficiently.

Our intelligence agencies are a vital component of national security – which has become our new state religion. But in true bureaucratic form (see Parkinson’s Laws) they have become bloated, redundant and self-perpetuating. They need a tough Trump diet and to be booted out of politics. This past week’s display of the deep state’s grab for power – a sort of re-run of one of my favorite films, ‘Seven Days in May’ – should remind all thinking Americans that the monster police state apparatus created by President George W. Bush is the greatest threat to our Republic.

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

North Korea has ‘entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile(ICBM)’. So crowed North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, in his New Year’s Day message aimed at tough-talking US president-elect, Donald Trump.

In case there was any doubt about Pyongyang’s meaning, Kim warned his nation would continue to build its ‘capability for preemptive strike’ as long as the US and its allies continued their nuclear threats and ‘war games they stage on our doorstep.’

Trump fired back, tweeting that North Korea’s nuclear threats against the US ‘won’t happen.’ Well, not if tweets can shoot down incoming ICBM’s.

A lot of Americans dismissed Kim’s braggadocio as more hot air from a world-class producer. But one should not quickly dismiss North Korea’s claims. The US has always underestimated North Korea.

But there no need to squander trillions on new anti-missile defenses based in Alaska and California that may not work as advertised. North Korea’s missiles are designed to deter a US attack.

The alleged dire threat from North Korea can be better and more swiftly resolved by intelligent diplomacy and some calm thinking.

North Korea is a small, backwards, dirt poor nation of 25 million that has been under a fierce US-imposed sanctions regime for over half a century. Call it a North Asian Cuba. Without modest economic and military help from China, North Korea would likely have collapsed long ago. It remains under constant siege by the US and allies.

It’s easy to dismiss pip-squeak North Korea and sneer at its pretensions to major power status. That would be a mistake. In 1950, at the time of the Korean War, North Korea’s economy was larger than that of South Korea thanks to Japan’s colonial industrial policies. Korea’s Communists, like their allies in China, took the lead in fighting Japanese occupation. America suffered heavy casualties fighting North Korean forces.

To many Koreans, particularly young ones, North Korea is the authentic Korea while South Korea remains a well-off but politically powerless American semi-protectorate. The humiliating collapse and impeachment of South Korea’s first female president, scandal-ridden Park Geun-hye, only reinforces the South’s image as a rudderless ship in stormy seas.

The big question remains, is Kim Jong-un really near to deploying an ICBM that can deliver a nuclear warhead to America? The answer appears to be yes.

A consensus of military experts now accepts that North Korea has at least ten nuclear devices, and maybe possesses up to 30. Some have been miniaturized so they can fit atop the North’s medium-ranged missiles, thus threatening South Korea, much of Japan, Okinawa and perhaps the major US Pacific base at Guam.

North Korea is steadily developing the means of putting another stage atop its proven medium-range missiles that can allow the enhanced missile to strike parts of North America. But having a few nuclear-armed ICBM’s – as India does already – does not mean that the US faces Armageddon, as too many ill-informed politicians claim.

As leader Kim stated on new year, his nation’s ICBM program has two objectives: counter US threats to use its tactical nuclear weapons based in South Korea, Guam, Okinawa and at sea on the 7th Fleet against North Korea in the event of a war. Or, as Pyongyang greatly fears, a surprise decapitating first nuclear strike to wipe out North Korea’s leadership and command/control targets. Russia, by the way, shares similar fears of a surprise US strike.

Second, Kim calls on the US and South Korea to stop their huge annual military exercises practicing for a land and amphibious invasion of North Korea. Each fall these very provocative war games send North Korea into a frenzy of bloodthirsty threats and sabre rattling. Meanwhile, South Korea’s intelligence agencies pump out all sorts of gruesome stories about the Kim regime, many of them totally fake, that are eagerly amplified by South Korean and American media.

One of these days, the war games and barrages of threats could lead to a real shooting war. But, unlike US Congressmen and the media, who constantly fabricate scare stories about foreign dangers, many South Koreans remain blasé about North Korea and far more concerned about their own imploding government than Kim’s bombast. As in the US, fundamentalist Christian sects in South Korea play a key role in fostering alarms about North Korea.

North Korea is rattling its cage in hopes of easing or ending the US-led embargo and military threats against Pyongyang. What it really craves is long-denied recognition by Washington and an end to US regime-change efforts. Pyongyang has long asked the US for a peace pact to end the Korean War. South Korea keeps pressing the US to keep North Korea isolated – but not too isolated lest the eccentric communist regime collapse, sending millions of starving refugees south.

Meanwhile, Washington’s pro-Israel neocons keep trying to sabotage any agreements with Pyongyang. They fear the North will supply more missiles and technology to Iran.

Instead of building more elaborate anti-missile systems, why not have Donald Trump invite Kim Jong-un to a nice lunch in Beijing and work out a deal that will end the state of war between North Korea and the US in exchange for Kim ending his nuclear programs. The US recognizes all kinds of unsavory regimes around the globe. Why keep pounding on Kim when diplomacy and trade are the grown-up answer. A few friendly tweets from Trump might even be a good start.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: North Korea 

One of my favorite literary expressions is the term ‘Parthian shaft.’ It refers to the favored tactic of the Parthians, a Persian people, of turning while on horseback and firing arrows while retreating.

The Roman consul Crassus, who defeated Spartacus, may have died from such a Parthian shaft after his defeat at the battle of Carrhae in 53 BC.

This week, outgoing President Barack Obama loosed his own Parthian shaft at Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, by refusing, for once, to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s ongoing expropriation of Arab land on the occupied West Bank.

There was no mention of similar expropriation and ethnic cleansing on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights which legally belong to Syria.

For the past eight years, the Obama administration has discreetly
argued with Israel over its settlement building on the West Bank and Jerusalem. In public, the Obama government maintained the ludicrous but convenient fiction that fruitful talks were under way that would lead to creation of two states in historic Palestine.

No one really believed this nonsense: not Israel, not Mahmoud Abbas, the US and Israeli-installed Palestinian Quisling, not the UN, not America’s allies, including its client Arab states. By keeping this lie going meant that no one would have to do anything to block Israel’s in-you face expansion.

When Barack Obama and his feminist foreign policy cadre made occasional public peeps of protest, he and VP Joe Biden were slapped down and abjectly humiliated. It mattered not that the Obama administration pledged to give Israel $38 billion of US taxpayer’s money to buy arms, vetoed an endless series of UN resolutions condemning Israel for illegal expansion and massive violations of human rights, Israel made clear who was really boss in Washington, and it wasn’t Barack Obama.

When Netanyahu did an end run around Obama by coming to address Congress, US congressmen and senators, made giddy by Netanyahu’s presence and its promise of lavish political donations caused these yes-men to jump up and down in crass adulation of the ‘King of Israel.’

America’s media, no less adoring, lauded Netanyahu and blasted Obama for trying, however feebly, to assert America’s interests in the Mideast and slow down Israel’s quest for lebensraum. As the wise Voltaire observed, `TO LEARN WHO RULES OVER YOU SIMPLY FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CRITICIZE.’

Obama should have taken action eight years ago, not in the last minutes of his administration. Now, the specter of bumptious Donald Trump hangs over the moribund administration, accentuated its manifest failures abroad. If we believe Trump’s Tweets this week in response to the US refusing, for once, to veto a mild UN resolution on Palestine, the Mideast is in for a rougher time than usual.

Trump does not know much about the Mideast. He will rely on a tight circle of extreme Zionists he has named to deal with the issue. That’s crazy and utterly deluded – unless Trump somehow hopes to push Israel into a real two-state peace deal by somehow using his cohorts of Greater Israel expansionists.

Mideast peace hardly seems in the offing. Israel’s hardline far right, increasingly ascendant, appears bent on further expanding Israel’s ‘temporary’ borders into parts of Syria. Some ultra-Zionists even talk about Iraq’s oil in Kurdistan. Why not. The feeble Arab states are collapsing. Egypt is run by a ferocious dictator funded by Saudi and Israeli money. The Saudis are useless and crazed by childish dreams ofpower. The US is now safely in Israeli hands. There’s oil and gas off in the Mediterranean (Palestinians will get none, of course.)

What to do with all those Palestinians? The late Gen. Ariel Sharon had the answer: shove them into the barren wastes of Jordan, a US-Israeli protectorate, and call it Palestine.

If the world does not like it, too bad. Israel may look small on the map but it’s a giant of a country, filled with very smart people who know just what they want and how to get it.

But that’s a very short-sighted victory. By thwarting a UN peace deal that would have ended nearly a century of strife, Israel guarantees endless more years of violence, growing anti-Semitism, and its continued estrangement from the rest of the world. A new apartheid state is being born. All of President Obama’s perfumed orations about Mideast peace have come to nothing.

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

A senior CIA source tells me ‘with a high level of certainty that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was responsibly for Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq. This miscreant was also behind 9/11 and ring around the collar.

Not since Dr Fu Manchu have we seen such a wicked genius bent on wrecking the West. Vlad the Bad is so nefarious that he’s managed to rig America’s voting machines and probably the Super Bowl.

Watching the mounting Red Hysteria in the US is bizarre and amusing. But most amusing is the media furor claiming that the Kremlin has ‘meddled’ in US elections. Or even threw the vote to Manchurian Candidate, Donald Trump. If there was any foreign meddling, it came from a Mideast ally, not Russia.

All very childish.

My answer: even if true (and I don’t believe it), so what? Is great power meddling something new? That’s what great powers do.

The US is hardly in a position to play the outraged virgin. Starting in 1946, the US and the Vatican financed Italy’s right-wing Christian Democratic Party, helping it win three national elections against the Left even though it was heavy with former fascists and Sicilian bandits.

Washington organized the overthrow of Syria’s government in 1949. In 1953, the US and Britain colluded to overthrow Iran’s popular democratic government. In 1954, the US overthrew the government of Guatemala. There followed intervention in Lebanon in 1958. Three years later came the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion and over fifty attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In 1965, the US invaded the Dominican Republic and overthrew its regime. 1973 brought the US-backed coup against Chile’s Marxist government. Nicaragua’s leftists were next on Washington’s hit list. There was masked intervention in Haiti, then a bombing and sabotage campaign in Baghdad, Iraq. A failed attempt to overthrow Iran’s elected government and more machinations in Syria and Libya, followed by outright invasions.

There are many more to mention: Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Turkey, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Russia under Yeltsin, Ukraine’s ‘Orange’ Revolution, Georgia, and the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected pro-Russian government. And now, of course, Syria.

Regime change has become as American as apple pie.

The US may even have tried to overthrow France’s president, Charles de Gaulle. Lately, the US helped put Egypt’s bloody dictator in power, overthrowing the democratic government in the process and tapped the phone of close ally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In the past, Soviet intelligence was very good at intrigue, professional spycraft and occasional ‘wet affairs.’ But the Soviets never measured up in sheer volume of meddling and regime change to the mighty US – and still don’t.

I was the first western journalist admitted to KGB headquarters in Moscow – the dreaded Lubyanka – to interview its senior leaders. I also was closeted in the remarkable KGB museum with its curator for a review of intelligence operations since the 1917 civil war. I learned much about covert operations, but less than I wanted about the Soviet agents of influence who surrounded President Franklin Roosevelt.

As a seasoned intelligence watcher for the past three decades, I think claims by US Democrats that they lost the election due to Russian machinations are absolute bunk. One suspects all the noise and fake fury over Clinton’s loss may foretoken an attempt to oust the Trump government by underhanded legal means (‘lawfare’) and popular demos. Why not? We run them all the time in the Mideast and Russia.

The Dems lost because they ran a horrible, corrupt woman who was hated, and mistrusted by many. They tried to hide the shameful fact that the Democratic Party rigged the nomination to exclude an honest candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders. This was the scandal, not baloney about voting machine voodoo and red scares.

Claims by senior US intelligence officials that Moscow rigged the US elections show two things: first, if true, they were asleep on guard duty; second, that they have become shockingly politicized. Their job was to inform the White House, not manufacture conspiracy theories.
Some of them were shown to be frighteningly extreme, crazily anti-Russian, and likely agents of our deep government.

We need calm, seasoned professionals to run our intelligence, not wild-eyed ideologues bent on war against Russia. America was headed that way under Obama and Hillary Clinton. If Russia came to this conclusion, it was logical for them to try to sway the outcome of the election – if they really did.

The canard that Hillary Clinton was defeated by the godless Red spymasters are as believable as ‘the dog ate my homework.’ And here I though my fellow Americans were a bit more grown up than this.

(Reprinted from EricMargolis.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2016 Election, Donald Trump, Russia 
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.