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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.

(Reprinted 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

(Reprinted 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.

(Reprinted 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

America has not so far become great again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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