The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
 Eric Margolis BlogviewTeasers

Back in the 1950’s, a British professor at the distinguished University of Malaya, C. Northcote Parkinson, observed that as the post-war Royal Navy shrank in size, its bureaucracy continued to expand.

Parkinson formulated a law that bureaucracies will naturally grow at 5-7% per annum. He also wisely added ‘Make the people sovereign and the poor will use the machinery of government to dispossess the rich.’

All bureaucracies, public and private, must be periodically forced on a diet. US President Donald Trump is, as promised, taking an axe to Washington’s dense bureaucratic undergrowth. He claims the cuts will save $2.5 trillion over ten years.

On Trump’s black list are, for example, such do-nothing government institutions as the International Fund for Ireland ($25 million); US Trade Development Agency ($55 million); Community Development Fund ($4.5 billion to buy black votes); funds for Federal office space ($864 million per annum, thank you Prof Parkinson); USDA sugar subsidy program at $14 million; $900 million for administration for the cancelled Obamacare health program; mohair subsidies ($1 million) and so on.

That’s the sensible part. Now the bad. High quality public broadcasting is to be gutted, saving $445 million. Americans will be left with sports, game shows, and soap operas. Funds for protecting the environment, a growing urgency for America, are being slashed, delighting many flat earth Republicans. Rail subsidies are cut even though decent railroads are a hallmark of civilized nations.

The State Department budget will be slashed by 28%. Some of its 70,000 employees will be let go. One must wonder what all these pencil pushers have been doing. Germany’s total active army has only 63,400 soldiers.

What we are seeing is that everything hated by President Trump and his extremist advisors has been put on the hit list. By contrast, they seem to believe that the United States is in imminent danger of invasion by scimitar-waving Muslims. By contrast, if you’re a Hillary Clinton Democrat, there are Reds lurking under every bed. The Red Peril has replaced the Yellow Peril. We are kept in a constant state of paranoia.

Trump plans to boost the defense budget – which should be called the `offence budget’ – by $54 billion to a total of $664 billion. But wait, that’s not all.

There are numerous big military spending programs, veterans’ affairs, nuclear weapons, so-called homeland security, and maintenance that take the budget up to $773 billion. Add to this paying for the ‘foreign contingency’ wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Plus hundreds of bases around the globe and ‘black programs,’ adding up to about $1 trillion annually.

The US military budget is already larger than the defense budgets of China, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea, and Japan – combined.

I had dinner one night in Nice with a French navy admiral. He told me, with a melancholy look, that the US Navy’s annual budget was larger than France’s entire military budget. Russia’s military budget is around $70 billion to defend one of the world’s largest nations with NATO on one side and China on the other. That’s less than one tenth of the Pentagon’s annual budget.

It’s interesting that Trump & Co. have cut funding for US allies, culture, education, the poor, and just about everything else except the Pentagon and Israel. Not a penny was reduced from Israel’s recent grant of $38 billion in arms spending over ten years. Not a peep about this from Congress or Trump.

I’m sorry that Trump did not level with Americans over financing our endless wars. Today, their costs are hidden into the ever expanding national debt, now approaching $20 trillion.

Americans should be taxed to pay for their wars. An honest war tax would show Americans the real cost of their imperial adventures and spare their children from having to pay for such dumb wars as Afghanistan and the Mideast.

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

Panmunjom, the ‘peace village’ on the incredibly tense demilitarized zone (aka DMZ) between North and South Korea, is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever visited. Tough North Korean soldiers lurk about, watched by equally tough South Korean troops in one-way sunglasses and an aggressive judo ‘warrior’ stance.

When I was filming at Panmunjom, we were warned to beware of North Koreans who could at any moment rush into the main conference room and drag us into North Korea.

It was into this crazy house that the new, jet-lagged US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was transported from turbulent Washington. After a quick look at the DMZ, Tillerson announced `no more Mr. Nice Guy.’ The US had run out of `strategic patience’ with North Korea and will go to war to end North Korea’s ‘threat’ to the US, he warned.

Tillerson, formerly CEO of Exxon, is well-versed in world affairs but the Korean peninsula’s complexities could be too much for him to quickly absorb. Immediately threatening war is no way to begin a diplomatic mission. But Tillerson was obviously reading from a script written by his boss, Donald Trump, whose knowledge of North Asian affairs makes Tillerson look like a Confucian scholar.

Welcome to Trump’s credo: tweet loudly and walk with a big stick.

What would war between the US and North Korea mean? A very grim scenario if it occurs.

The US has nearly 80,000 military personnel in South Korea and Japan, as well as more war-fighting units in Guam, which the US conquered from Spain in 1898. The US 7th Fleet patrols the region, armed with tactical nuclear weapons. US nukes are also based in South Korea and Guam. As we recently saw, US heavy B-1 and B-52 bombers can fly from North America to Korea.

South Korea has a formidable, 600,000-man army equipped with state of the art weapons. I’ve been up on the DMZ with the 2nd ROK division. As an old soldier, I was very impressed by their skill and warlike spirit.

North Korea’s one million-man armed force is large, but obsolescent. Its great strength in heavy artillery partly compensates for its totally obsolete, 1960’s vintage air force. Key combat elements of the DPRK army are dug deep into the rocky hills just north of the DMZ, with thousands of heavy North Korean guns facing south. In the event of war, the North claims it will destroy South Korea’s capitol, Seoul, that is only 30km away and has 20 million residents.

US estimates of war in Korea, made a decade ago, suggest America would incur 250,000 casualties in a war that would cost one million Korean deaths. That’s why the US has shied away from direct attack on North Korea. Unlike Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans and Somalis, North Koreans know how to fight back and are amply armed for a defensive war.

The US would certainly be tempted to use tactical nuclear weapons against North Korean troops and guns deeply dug into the mountainous terrain. Without them, air power, America’s usual trump card, would lose much of its destructive potential. No doubt, all North Korea would be ravaged by US air power, as it was during the 1950’s Korean War. South Korea plans massive air, missile and commando attacks on North Korean military HQ and against leader Kim Jung-un’s hideaway.

US war plans call for amphibious landings along North Korea’s long, vulnerable coastline. This threat forces the North to deploy large numbers of regular army and militia troops on both coasts.

North Korea’s air force and little navy would be vaporized on the first day of hostilities. But it is likely that the DPRK would be able to fire a score or more of medium-ranged missiles at Japan. If the war goes nuclear, Japan looks almost certain to suffer nuclear attack, along with Guam. Tokyo and Osaka are prime targets.

North Korean forces might be able to push south to Seoul, but likely no further in the face of fierce attacks by US and South Korean air power operating from bases further south. The North’s powerful commando force of some 100,000 troops would attack key South Korean targets, including its vital air bases shared with the US. Such raids would be highly disruptive but not decisive unless the DPRK used chemical and/or biological weapons to shut down South Korea’s air bases and its ports at Busan and Inchon.

The US and South Korea could certainly win such a war but it would be very bloody and expensive. There would be the threat of Chinese military intervention if it appeared the US was about to occupy North Korea. Russia is right next door.

Secretary Tillerson, please leave war threats to the generals and start practicing some active diplomacy with the North. If ever a war was not needed, it’s here.

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

We are now moving rapidly into stage II of Levantine Madness as the US boosts its intervention in the war-torn Mideast.

Five thousand US troops are back in Iraq to bolster the shattered nation’s puppet regime that is propped up by American bayonets. New Iraqi military formations have been formed, totally equipped with modern US M1 Abrams tanks, Humvees, and fleets of trucks. More US forces are on the way.

These US-financed Iraqi units are euphemistically called ‘anti-terrorism forces’ and are supervised by US officers. In fact, what we see is the old British Imperial Raj formula of white officers commanding native mercenary troops.
These Iraqi units are now assaulting ISIS-held Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and smaller towns. Most of America’s Iraqi ‘sepoys’ (as native troops in the British Indian Raj were known) are Shia bitterly opposed to the nation’s minority Sunnis. After its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US encouraged animosity between Shia and Sunni as a way of breaking resistance to foreign occupation – ‘divide et impera’ as the Romans used to say.

Interestingly, the backbone of ISIS leadership is made up of senior officers of Saddam Hussein’s old Iraqi army. The ‘Mother of All Battles’ continues, as President Saddam predicted shortly before he was lynched.
Meanwhile, thousands of US troops and Special Forces are now also engaged in Syria though just whom they are battling remains confused. Syria has become a mad house of warring factions backed by outside powers – a sort of modern version of Germany’s dreadful 30 Year’s War of the 1600’s.

The overall US commander for the Mideast, Gen. Joseph Votel, just asked the Trump administration for a large number of new American troops, saying he lacks the military resources to subdue and pacify the Levant. Votel, who is pretty sharp and a star of the US Army’s Special Operations ‘mafia,’ also just warned that India and Pakistan risked triggering a nuclear war, a grave danger this writer has been worrying about for years.

Meanwhile, the crazy-quilt war in Syria that was started by the Obama administration and the Saudis has become unmanageable. Syrian government forces are being strongly backed by Russia and slowly driving back anti-regime forces backed by the US, Saudi Arabia, France and, ever so quietly, Israel. ISIS and what’s left of al-Qaida are battling the Damascus government, sometimes discreetly aided by the western powers.

America’s main ally in Iraq and Syria are Kurdish militias of the PYD party, an affiliate of the older PKK which has sought an independent Kurdish state for decades. I covered the long, bloody war between the Turkish armed forces and the PKK in Eastern Anatolia during the mid-1990’s. Turkey is desperately concerned that formation of even a mini-Kurdish state in northern Syria or Iraq will eventually lead to creation of a large Kurdish state in Turkey. Eighteen percent of Turks are ethnic Kurds. The mighty Turkish Army will never allow this to happen.

The Turks just watched the US break up Sudan, creating the new state of South Sudan, which has turned into a bloody disaster. Could Turkey be next? Many Turks suspect the US was behind the recent coup attempted against Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Washington would like a more obedient leader in Ankara – or see the army generals back in power.

Turkey calls the Kurdish PYD ‘terrorists.’ The US calls them comrades in arms and finances them. Clashes between the Turks and PYD appear very likely. PYD’s blood brothers, the PKK, continue to wage bombing attacks across Turkey along with Islamic State. US forces in the region could easily be drawn into this murky fracas.

Meanwhile, ISIS appears increasingly vulnerable. It has lost almost half of Mosul, the one big city it holds. The ISIS ‘capital,’ Raqqa, will soon be overrun by US-led Iraqi forces and Kurds. Raqqa is a two-by nothing, one-camel town of no military value whatsoever. There is no way that 3,000 or so ISIS hooligans with only small arms could hold off a serious attack by regular troops and massed airpower, including B-52 and B-1 heavy bombers.

Why Raqqa was not taken a year ago or more remains one of the war’s major mysteries. As I’ve previously written, I suspect that the US and Saudi Arabia originally helped create and arm ISIS to be used against Syria’s government and Afghanistan’s Taliban movement. The US has long pretended to fight ISIS but has barely done so in reality.

Maybe this time it will be for real. ISIS has largely slipped out of the control of its western handlers, a bunch of 20-something wildmen whose main goal is revenge for attacks on Muslim targets. Without modern logistics, heavy weapons and trained officers the idea that ISIS could stand up to any western forces is a joke. It’s only when ISIS confronts ramshackle Arab forces that it has any clout. And that’s because mostly Iraqi Arab forces have no loyalty to their governments. They are merely poorly paid mercenaries.

As if this witch’s brew was not sufficiently toxic, US and Russian aircraft and Special Forces are brushing up against one another in Syria. At the same time, the US Navy in the nearby Persian Gulf is provoking the Iranians to please President Donald Trump who seems determined to have war with Iran.

The US Navy is now threatening to impose a naval blockade on war-torn Yemen, another joint US-Saudi warfare enterprise that has gone terribly wrong.

History shows it’s also easy to lie, flag-wave and bluster into war but awfully hard to get out. Trump, whose main information sources appears to be Fox fake TV news, does yet seem to understand this verity. He should have a good look at Afghanistan, America’s longest war, now in its 16th year of stalemate. The Pentagon, heedless that Afghanistan is known as ‘the Graveyard of Empires,’ wants more troops.

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

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 
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.