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“Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans…That’s why Russia proposes moving towards the creation of a common economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, a community referred to by Russian experts as ‘the Union of Europe’ which will strengthen Russia’s potential in its economic pivot toward the ‘new Asia.’”

— Russian President Vladimir Putin, “Russia and the changing world”, February 2012

The relentless demonization of Vladimir Putin is just one part of Washington’s multi-pronged strategy to roll-back Russian power in Central Asia and extinguish Putin’s dream of a “Greater Europe”. Along with the attempt to smear the Russian president as a “KGB thug” and “dictator”, the media has also alleged that Moscow intervened in the US presidential elections and that Russia is a serial aggressor that poses a growing threat to European and US national security. The media onslaught, which has greatly intensified since the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, has been accompanied by harsh economic sanctions, asymmetrical attacks on Russia’s markets and currency, the arming and training of Russian adversaries in Ukraine and Syria, the calculated suppression of oil prices, and a heavy-handed effort to sabotage Russia’s business relations in Europe. In short, Washington is doing everything in its power to prevent Russia and Europe from merging into the world’s biggest free trade zone that will be the center of global growth and prosperity for the next century.

This is why the US State Department joined with the CIA to topple the elected government of Ukraine in 2014. Washington hoped that by annexing a vital landbridge between the EU and Asia, US powerbrokers could control critical pipeline corridors that are drawing the two continents closer together into an alliance that will exclude the United States. The prospect of Russia meeting more of the EU’s growing energy needs, while China’s high-speed railway system delivers more low-cost manufactured goods, suggests that the world’s center of economic gravity is shifting fast increasing the probability that the US will continue on its path of irreversible decline. And when the US dollar is inevitably jettisoned as the primary means of exchange between trade partners in the emerging Asia-EU free trade zone, then the recycling of wealth into US debt will drop off precipitously sending US markets plunging while the economy slips into a deep slump. Preventing Putin from “creating a harmonious community of economies from Lisbon to Vladivostok” is no minor hurtle for the United States. It’s a matter of life and death.

Remember the Wolfowitz Doctrine:

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

Washington’s relations with Russia will always be fractious because Russia poses a perennial threat to US ambitions to rule the world. Geography is fate, and Russia’s geography contains massive oil and gas reserves that Europe needs to heat its homes and fuel its businesses. The symbiotic relationship between supplier and end-user will eventually lead to the lifting of trade barriers, the lowering of tariffs, and the smooth melding together of national economies into a region-wide common market. This may be Washington’s biggest nightmare, but it’s also Putin’s top strategic priority. Here’s what he said:

“We must consider more extensive cooperation in the energy sphere, up to and including the formation of a common European energy complex. The Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea and the South Stream pipeline under the Black Sea are important steps in that direction. These projects have the support of many governments and involve major European energy companies. Once the pipelines start operating at full capacity, Europe will have a reliable and flexible gas-supply system that does not depend on the political whims of any nation. This will strengthen the continent’s energy security not only in form but in substance. This is particularly relevant in the light of the decision of some European states to reduce or renounce nuclear energy.”

If Europe wants a reliable partner that can meet its energy needs, then Russia fits the bill. Unfortunately, the US has repeatedly tried to sabotage both pipelines in order to undermine EU-Russia relations. Washington would prefer that Europe either dramatically curtail its use of natural gas or find other more expensive alternatives that don’t involve Russia. In other words, Europe’s material needs are being sacrificed for Washington’s geopolitical objectives, the primary goal of which is to prevent the forming of Greater Europe.

Washington’s war against Russia is becoming increasingly militarized. Recently the Pentagon deployed more combat troops to Syria and Kuwait suggesting that US warplanners intend to shift from the current strategy of arming jihadist militias (to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad), to a more direct use of martial force to seize-and-hold territory in East Syria. There are signs of an uptick in the violence in Ukraine too, as President Trump appears only-too-eager to use a more iron-fisted approach in settling regional disputes than his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Also, NATO has deployed troops and weaponry to Russia’s western flank while the US has spread its military bases across Central Asia. NATO has continued to push eastward ever since the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989. The steady buildup of hostile armies on Russia’s western perimeter has been a source of growing concern in Moscow and for good reason. Russians know their history.

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At the same time the US is building a ground-based missile defense system in Romania (Star Wars) that integrates the US nuclear arsenal at a site that is just 900 miles from Moscow. The US missile system which was “certified for operation” in May 2016, cancels-out Russia’s nuclear deterrents and destroys the strategic balance of power in Europe. Putin has responded by ordering appropriate countermeasures. Here are Putin’s comments on the subject:

“It seems that NATO countries, and especially the United States, have developed a peculiar understanding of security which is fundamentally different from our own. The Americans are obsessed with the idea of ‘absolute invulnerability’ for themselves… But absolute invulnerability for one nation means absolute vulnerability for everybody else. We cannot agree to this.”

In the last week, the Trump administration announced that it will deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea citing a need to respond to provocations by North Korea. In truth, Washington is using the North as a pretext for its plan to hem in Russia and China at “axial ends” of the Eurasian heartland as a means of containing the vast landmass that Sir Halford Mackinder called the “pivot area… stretching from the Persian Gulf to China’s Yangtze River.”

Washington hopes that by controlling critical sea lanes, encircling the region with military bases, and aggressively inserting itself where necessary, it can prevent the emergence of an economic colossus that will diminish the United States role as global superpower. America’s future rests on its ability to derail economic integration at the center of the world and prevail in the Great Game where others have failed. Here’s an excerpt from an article by Alfred W. McCoy titled The Geopolitics of American Global Decline” which helps to shed light on the struggle that is now taking place for control over the so called “world island”:

Following World War II the US became “the first power in history to control the strategic axial points “at both ends of Eurasia” … With fears of Chinese and Russian expansion serving as the “catalyst for collaboration,” the U.S. won imperial bastions in both Western Europe and Japan. With these axial points as anchors, Washington then built an arc of military bases that followed Britain’s maritime template and were visibly meant to encircle the world island….

“Having seized the axial ends of the world island from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in 1945, for the next 70 years the United States relied on ever-thickening layers of military power to contain China and Russia inside that Eurasian heartland. Stripped of its ideological foliage, Washington’s grand strategy of Cold War-era anticommunist “containment” was little more than a process of imperial succession. …

By the Cold War’s end in 1990, the encirclement of communist China and Russia required 700 overseas bases, an air force of 1,763 jet fighters, a vast nuclear arsenal, more than 1,000 ballistic missiles, and a navy of 600 ships, including 15 nuclear carrier battle groups — all linked by the world’s only global system of communications satellites….(“The Geopolitics of Global Decline”, Alfred W. McCoy)

For the last 70 years the imperial strategy has worked without a hitch, but now Russia’s resurgence and China’s explosive growth are threatening to break free from Washington’s stranglehold. The Asian allies have begun to crisscross Central Asia and Europe with pipelines and high-speed rail that will gather together the far-flung statelets scattered across the steppe, draw them into a Eurasian Economic Union, and link them to an expansive and thriving superstate, the epicenter of global commerce and industry. Grand Chessboard brain-trust Zbigniew Brzezinski summed up the importance of Central Asia in his 1997 classic stating:

“Eurasia is the globe’s largest continent and is geopolitically axial. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. ….About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s GNP and about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.” (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Zbigniew Brzezinski, p.31)

A new global empire is gradually emerging in Central Asia, and while the transformative impact of economic integration has not yet been realized, US efforts to block the embryonic alliance are getting weaker and more desperate all the time. The hyperbolic propaganda about the alleged “Russia hacking” of the presidential election is just one example of this, while the arming of Nazi militants in Kiev is another.

The bottom line is that both Russia and China are using markets, development and raw ingenuity to beat Washington, while Washington relies almost exclusively on deception, covert activity and hard power. In other words, the former communists are beating the capitalists at their own game. Here’s more from McCoy:

“China is reaching deep within the world island in an attempt to thoroughly reshape the geopolitical fundamentals of global power. It is using a subtle strategy that has so far eluded Washington’s power elites….

The initial step has involved a breathtaking project to put in place an infrastructure for the continent’s economic integration. By laying down an elaborate and enormously expensive network of high-speed, high-volume railroads as well as oil and natural gas pipelines across the vast breadth of Eurasia, China may realize Mackinder’s vision in a new way. For the first time in history, the rapid transcontinental movement of critical cargo — oil, minerals, and manufactured goods — will be possible on a massive scale, thereby potentially unifying that vast landmass into a single economic zone stretching 6,500 miles from Shanghai to Madrid. In this way, the leadership in Beijing hopes to shift the locus of geopolitical power away from the maritime periphery and deep into the continent’s heartland….” (Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Washington’s Great Game and Why It’s Failing”, TomDispatch)

Washington is not going to let the Russo-China plan go forward without a fight. If economic sanctions, covert activity and financial sabotage don’t work, then US powerbrokers will implement more lethal strategies. The recent deployment of troops to the Middle East suggests that policymakers believe that a direct military confrontation might be the best available option, after all, a shooting war with Russia in Syria or Ukraine would not necessarily escalate into a full-blown nuclear conflagration. No one wants that. But if the fighting can be contained within Syria’s borders, then it would be a practical way to rally the EU allies, torpedo Russia’s “economic integration” plan, and draw Moscow into a long, resource-draining quagmire. Is that what US war-planners have in mind?

It’s a risky plan, but one that Washington would eagerly pursue if it helped to reinforce America’s global supremacy.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, EU, Russia 

Why did the Fed raise its benchmark interest rate when inflation is still running below the Fed’s target, workers wages have hardly budged and the economy is not even growing at 1 percent?

Yellen was asked that question at a press conference on Wednesday following the release of the FOMC’s statement. Her answer helps to show how the Fed makes its policy decisions based on factors most people would never consider. Here’s what she said:

Janet Yellen– “Well, look, our policy is not set in stone. It is data-dependent and we’re — we’re not locked into any particular policy path…As you said, the data have not notably strengthened.”

Translation– So after saying the Fed bases its decisions on the data, Yellen does a quick 180 and says the data hasn’t changed. Okay.

Janet Yellen– “There’s always noise in the data from quarter to quarter. But we haven’t changed our view of the outlook.”

Trans– The Fed expects economic growth will remain in the doldrums. (2 percent or less)

Janet Yellen– “We haven’t boosted the outlook, projected faster growth.”

Trans– The Fed is determined to maintain a slow-growth environment in order to continue its “easy money” policy which benefits Wall Street.

Janet Yellen– “We think we’re moving along the same course we’ve been on, but it’s one that involves gradual tightening in the labor market.”

Trans — Ah ha. Now we’re getting somewhere. Now we can see what the rate hike is really all about. It’s all about the minuscule improvements in the labor market. Yellen thinks the improvements are a big red flag.

Janet Yellen– “I would describe some measures of wage growth as having moved up some.”

Trans– Battle Stations! Battle Stations! Full Red Alert!

Janet Yellen– “Some measures haven’t moved up, but there’s is also suggestive of a strengthening labor market.”

Trans– “Suggestive”? In other words, the mere hint of improving conditions in the labor market –which could result in higher wages –is enough to send Yellen into a rate-hike frenzy? Is that what she’s saying?

Janet Yellen– “And we expect policy to remain accommodative now for some time.”

Trans– So don’t worry Wall Street, we’re not cutting off the flow of cheap money, we just need to tweak rates a bit to dampen the prospect of higher wages.

Janet Yellen– “So we’re talking about a gradual path of removing policy accommodation as the economy makes progress moving toward neutral.”

Trans– We’re keeping our eyes peeled for even the slightest uptick in wages, but we’ll continue to price cash below the rate of inflation so the investor class can make out like bandits.

Janet Yellen– “But we’re continuing to provide accommodation to the economy that’s allowing it to grow at an above-trend pace that’s consistent with further improvement in the labor market.”

Trans– We’ll make sure the economy doesn’t grow any faster than 2 percent GDP for the foreseeable future so we can continue to provide cheap credit to our constituents on Wall Street who need money that is priced below the rate of inflation to push stocks and bonds higher into the stratosphere. Also, we think that rising wages are merely a fleeting blip on the radar, even so, we are prepared to raise rates until the threat has been thoroughly extinguished.

So the Fed hasn’t changed its policy or its projections. Yellen basically raised rates because she had a ‘gut-feeling’ that the demand for labor is strengthening which means that wages could rise. (Her feelings on this matter are not supported by the data, but whatever.) As the primary steward of the system, it’s Yellen’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen. Any sign that of improvement in labor markets (like higher wages or, god forbid, rising standards of living) must be squelched before they ever get started. At the same time, the Fed has to balance its anti-worker duties with its stealth mandate to shower the investor class with below market-priced credit to help them game the system and rake off hefty profits. It’s a tough job, but the Fed has proved that it’s more than ready to meet the challenge.

The idea that the Fed is an impartial referee that serves the public by setting interest rates and regulating the financial system, is the nuttiest of all the conspiracy theories. The Fed is not only a creature of the banks, it is also the most destructive institution in the country today. Just look at the growing social unrest, the political instability and the sudden surge in right wing movements. Does anyone seriously believe these phenomena just popped out of nowhere? These are all the result of the gaping inequality that has emerged under the Fed’s malign stewardship. There’s nothing accidental in the way that wealth has been transferred from one class to another. It’s all part of a plan, a plan to enrich the few while everyone sees their incomes shrivel, their wages stagnate, the health care costs soar, their education expenses explode, their personal debts balloon, and their standards of living steadily decline.

Check out this chart from Bloomberg that shows with stunning clarity the real impact the Fed’s misguided policies. Rather than try to persuade readers that the Fed is a thoroughly corrupt and heinous institution that is a threat to every man, woman and child in the USA, I ask readers to study the chart and draw your own conclusions. The question that arises is this: Did the Fed choose the policy that would best serve the interests of the American people (by restoring economic growth and increasing employment) or did they choose a policy that they knew would maximize the profits for the investor class at the expense of everyone else?

You decide.

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(Here’s One Chart That Captures the Debate Over Quantitative Easing, Bloomberg)

One more thing: How much of our fractious and increasingly-polarized political culture is the result of economic and monetary policies that have intensified feelings of hopelessness among the public? Would the American people have voted for a rightwing demagogue unless they were so desperate about the slide in their standards of living that they felt compelled to look for remedies outside the political mainstream?

Isn’t it true that Donald Trump wouldn’t be president today if it wasn’t for the Fed?

Think about it.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, Federal Reserve 

“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals…. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”

— President Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan is not an infrastructure plan and it won’t put $1 trillion of fiscal stimulus into the economy. It’s basically a scheme for handing over public assets to private corporations that will extract maximum profits via user fees and tolls. Because the plan is essentially a boondoggle, it will not lift the economy out of the doldrums, increase activity or boost growth. Quite the contrary. When the details of how the program is going to be implemented are announced, public confidence in the Trump administration is going to wither and stock prices are going to plunge. This scenario cannot be avoided because the penny-pinching conservatives in the House and Senate have already said that they won’t support any plan that is not “revenue neutral” which means that any real $1 trillion spending package is a dead letter. Thus, it’s only a matter of time before the Trump’s plan is exposed as a fraud and the sh** hits the fan.

Here are more of the details from an article at Slate:

“Under Trump’s plan…the federal government would offer tax credits to private investors interested in funding large infrastructure projects, who would put down some of their own money up front, then borrow the rest on the private bond markets. They would eventually earn their profits on the back end from usage fees, such as highway and bridge tolls (if they built a highway or bridge) or higher water rates (if they fixed up some water mains). So instead of paying for their new roads at tax time, Americans would pay for them during their daily commute. And of course, all these private developers would earn a nice return at the end of the day.” (“Donald Trump’s Plan to Privatize America’s Roads and Bridges”, Slate)

Normally, fiscal stimulus is financed by increasing the budget deficits, but Maestro Trump has something else up his sleeve. He wants the big construction companies and private equity firms to stump up the seed money and start the work with the understanding that they’ll be able to impose user fees and tolls on roads and bridges when the work is completed. For every dollar that corporations spend on rebuilding US infrastructure, they’ll get a dollar back via tax credits, which means that they’ll end up controlling valuable, revenue-generating assets for nothing. The whole thing is a flagrant ripoff that stinks to high heaven. The corporations rake in hefty profits on sweetheart deals, while the American people get bupkis. Welcome to Trumpworld. Here’s more background from Trump’s campaign website:

“American Energy and Infrastructure Act Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over ten years. It is revenue neutral.” (Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter”)

In practical terms, ‘revenue neutral’ means that every dollar of new spending has to be matched by cuts to other government programs. So, if there are hidden costs to Trump’s plan, then they’ll have to be paid for by slashing funds for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps etc. But, keep in mind, these other programs are much more effective sources of stimulus since the money goes directly to the people who spend it immediately and help grow the economy. Trump’s infrastructure plan doesn’t work like that. A lot of the money will go towards management fees and operational costs leaving fewer dollars to trickle down to low-paid construction workers whose personal consumption drives the economy. Less money for workers means less spending, less activity and weaker growth. Here’s more on the topic from the Washington Post:

“Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports…. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. … There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for … expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects…

Second, as a result of the above, Trump’s plan isn’t really a jobs plan, either. Because the plan subsidizes investors, not projects; because it funds tax breaks, not bridges; because there’s no requirement that the projects be otherwise unfunded, there is simply no guarantee that the plan will produce any net new hiring. …

Buried inside the plan will be provisions to weaken prevailing wage protections on construction projects, undermining unions and ultimately eroding workers’ earnings. Environmental rules are almost certain to be gutted in the name of accelerating projects.”

(Trump’s big infrastructure plan? It’s a trap. Washington Post)

Let’s summarize: “Trump’s plan” is “massive corporate welfare plan for contractors” and the “tax breaks”…”could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects.”

Check.

“Trump’s plan isn’t really a jobs plan, either”…. (and) “there is simply no guarantee that the plan will produce any net new hiring.”

Check.

Trump’s plan will probably “weaken prevailing wage protections… undermining unions and ultimately eroding workers’ earnings.”

Check.

What part of this plan looks like it will have a positive impact on the economy?

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None. If Trump was serious about raising GDP to 4 percent, (another one of his promises) he’d increase Social Security payments, beef up the food stamps program, or hire more government workers. Any one of these would trigger an immediate uptick in activity spurring more growth and a stronger economy. And while America’s ramshackle bridges and roads may be in dire need of a facelift, infrastructure is actually a poor way to inject fiscal stimulus which can be more easily distributed by simply hiring government agents to stand on streetcorners and hand out 100 dollar bills to passersby. That might not fill the pothole-strewn streets in downtown Duluth, but it would sure as hell would light a fire under GDP.

So what’s the gameplan here? What’s Trump really up to? If his infrastructure plan isn’t going to work, then what’s the real objective?

The objective is to allow wealthy corporations to buy public assets at firesale prices so they can turn them into profit-generating enterprises. That’s it in a nutshell. That’s why the emphasis is on “unconventional financing programs”, “public-private partnerships”, and “Build America Bonds” instead of plain-old fiscal stimulus, jobs programs and deficit spending. Trump is signaling to his pirate friends in Corporate America that he’ll use his power as executive to find new outlets for profitable investment so they have some place to stick their mountain of money.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with rebuilding America’s dilapidated infrastructure or even revving up GDP. That’s just public relations bunkum. What’s really going on is a massive looting operation organized and executed under the watchful eye of Donald Trump, Robber Baron-in-Chief.

And Infrastructure is just the tip of the iceberg. Once these kleptomaniacs hit their stride, they’re going to cut through Washington like locusts through a corn field. Bet on it.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

The U.S. economy is weak. Very weak. But the Federal Reserve is planning to raise interest rates anyway. Why?

Here’s what’s going on: According to the Atlanta Fed the US economy is expected to grow at a respectable 2.8 percent for the first quarter of 2017 That’s not bad considering that, for the entire year of 2016, the economy hobbled along at an anemic 1.6 percent. Unfortunately, the Fed’s original forecast has been slashed to account for the downturn in the data. According to their current (March 8) calculation, the economy is growing at a meager 1.2 percent. In other words, the already-sluggish and underperforming economy is gradually grinding to a standstill.

This isn’t the kind of environment where the Fed typically raises rates. In theory, lower rates create an incentive for borrowing which boosts consumer and business spending which, in turn, increases growth. Conversely, raising rates, however slightly, has a negative impact not only on rate-sensitive sectors of the economy (Re: Housing) but also on stock and bond markets where investors adjust their portfolios to reflect the rising cost of credit.

So why is the Fed raising rates when the economy is crawling along at suboptimal speed and, perhaps, headed for recession?

That question can be answered in two words: Donald Trump.

The Trump Bump has been the biggest post election day rally in Wall Street history. The promise of giant tax cuts, fewer regulations and $1 trillion in fiscal stimulus has sparked a stock-buying frenzy that has added nearly 2,000 points to the Dow Jones Industrial Average while piling up another $3.2 trillion in market capitalization. Wall Street loves Donald Trump, there’s no doubt about it.

Regrettably, the unexpected stock-surge has thrown a wrench in the Fed’s plan to gradually guide stocks higher avoiding a bond market blowout that could send yields into the nosebleed section wiping out trillions of dollars in equity in the process. The Fed would rather avoid that scenario which is why the FOMC is expected to gradually raise rates to dampen the irrational exuberance that has overtaken Wall Street. So after nearly a decade of flatlining GDP — accompanied by a stock market rally that lifted the Dow from an abysmal 6,547 points on March 9, 2009 to a lofty 20,906 on March 8, 2017– the Fed has finally decided to ease on the brakes, remove the punchbowl, and see if it can regain control over the runaway equities-train.

Following Friday’s BLS report that 235,000 new jobs were added in February, Goldman Sachs economists predict the Fed will hike rates three times in 2017; in March, June and September. That should stop the Trump surge dead-in-its-tracks. Here’s more from the New York Times:

“Employers added 235,000 workers to their payrolls in February, the government reported on Friday, a hefty gain that clears the path for the Federal Reserve to raise its benchmark interest rate when it meets next week.

The official jobless rate fell to 4.7 percent, from 4.8 percent in January, while average hourly earnings grew by 0.2 percent in a report that overlaps with President Trump’s first full month in office.

“They’re ready to go,” said Diane Swonk, founder and chief executive of DS Economics, referring to the central bank’s expected vote next week to raise rates from their historically low levels….

Although the economic anxiety that helped put President Trump into the White House remains, the official jobless rate is near what the central bank considers full employment — a threshold where, in theory at least, everyone who wants a job at the going rate can find one.”

Of course, the booming labor stats do not account for the millions of people who have left the workforce altogether after failing to find a job in Obama’s less-than-stellar economic recovery. The data also fails to point out that 95 percent of all the new jobs have been crappy, low-paying, parttime service sector jobs that barely keep food on the table let alone put a roof over one’s head. But, whatever.

Fed chairman Janet Yellen sees the uptick in new hires as a vindication of her steady-as-she-goes 8-year zero rate monetary policy that has shifted trillions to the investor class while working people have seen their incomes and wages stagnate, their prospects for retirement dwindle, and their living standards fall. Now Yellen wants to shift gears and gradually raise rates to preemptively dampen the possibility that tighter labor markets will increase wages and, thus, give workers a bigger slice of gains in production. That, of course, is a catastrophe for which the Fed will do everything in its power to avoid. Any sign of higher salaries will be dealt with swiftly and decisively. As de facto representative of the ruling Bank cabal, the Fed would rather prick the massive asset-price bubble it has created and risk sending the financial system into a headlong plunge off a cliff, than allow perennially-strapped workers to garner even a farthing more for their daily drudgery. Class hatred remains the animating force that fuels all Central Bank policy decisions. Here’s more from the Times:

“Bigger paychecks are something that most Americans, after years of stagnant wage growth, are particularly eager to see. The Federal Reserve, too, has been waiting for an increase,(yuk, yuk) but it is also wary of wages rising too fast. The board’s members want to head off incipient inflation and so have begun to slowly raise rates, which makes borrowing and risk-taking more expensive.”

Now there’s a phrase for the ages: “Incipient inflation”?

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You’ve heard of preemptive war, haven’t you? Now we have preemptive attacks on inflation. In other words, even the whiff of higher wages sets off alarms at the Eccles Building where the Bank Mafia hastily gathers their members to mount yet-another assault on working people. Keep in mind, that when stocks double or triple in value providing mountains of cash for the parasite class for whom Yellen works– it’s a sign of boundless optimism and confidence in the illusory recovery, but when wages make even the slightest movement upwards, the shift is greeted with howls of “runaway inflation” followed by a series of excruciating rate hikes that boost unemployment, reduce activity and weaken growth. Where’s the justice?

At present, inflation hasn’t even reached the Fed’s 2 percent target while, according to Reuters, workers wages have gone up by a pathetic 6 cents per hour. Is that why the Fed is slamming on the brakes?

Yer darn right, it is. No raise for you, Mr. American worker. Janet Yellen is going to make sure of that!

But there’s another reason why Yellen is tightening policy even though the economy remains in the 1 percent-GDP doldrums. She wants to torpedo Trump’s economic plan before the details are even put to paper.

The Fed has repeatedly expressed uneasiness about the president’s $1 trillion fiscal stimulus strategy, a plan Yellen thinks could result in a sudden blip of activity that could push up inflation and overheat the economy. A series of rate hikes will not only put the kibosh on Trump’s chances for success, it will also undercut prospects for stronger growth.

But why would Yellen want to foil a plan that would result in stronger growth?

It’s because stronger growth means higher yields on long-term debt. In other words, Yellen’s dodgy buddies in the bond market will get absolutely pulverized if GDP picks up and Trump achieves his goal of 4 percent growth.

Market analysts think that Trump will never achieve that goal, and they’re probably right. After all, the Fed will never let him.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
Essential Criminal Probe or Politically-Motivated Witch Hunt?

“The strange sight of liberal America participating in a neo-McCarthyite assault on Trump appointees, not on the grounds of their inherent racism and stupidity, but because they have contacts with Russia, is among the more surreal spectacles of modern political history.”

— John Steppling, Are You Now, or Have You Ever Been, a Secret Agent of Vladimir Putin?, CounterPunch

If Donald Trump is found guilty of illegal behavior in his connections with Russia, then he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But shouldn’t the same rule apply to Obama? Shouldn’t Obama be held responsible if he authorized an illegal investigation of the Trump campaign in order to destroy a political enemy?

A widely-circulated article in the New York Times casts suspicion on the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. The article titled “Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking” strongly insinuates that Russian “tampering” might have helped the campaign “tip the election in Mr. Trump’s favor.”

These are serious charges and Congress is currently taking steps to investigate whether there’s any substance to the allegations or not.

But a careful reading of the Times article also reveals disturbing details about the overzealous manner in which the White House attempted to build its case against Trump. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government.” (“Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking”, New York Times)

The opening sentence sounds innocent enough until we get more background later in the article. Halfway through the piece, we see that things are much more murky than they seem. Check it out:

“At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information….There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress.” (New York Times)

Let’s paraphrase and readers can decide whether they think my analysis is fair or not:

In the final days of the Obama administration, White House officials made a concerted effort to spread unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged attempts to influence the 2016 election. The administration also tried to uncover contacts between associates of Trump and Russia that could be used in future investigations or impeachment proceedings. Presumably, the contacts would be used to create the impression that Trump or his lieutenants were guilty of criminal wrongdoing even though, so far, there is no evidence of any impropriety. Since there was no proof that Trump or his colleagues were involved in anything nefarious, most people would be inclined to call the Obama investigation a “fishing expedition” which is an unfocused probe aimed at uncovering incriminating evidence.

Aside from the fact that the Intel agencies were spying on the members of a presidential campaign without probable cause and without any evidence of criminal wrongdoing; the fact that they decided to release “raw intelligence” that was re-classified so that it could be disseminated as widely as possible, suggests that someone may have acted improperly if not illegally. At the very least, we must assume that higher-ups in the administration (The DOJ?) authorized the Intel agencies to “dig up dirt” on a political enemy in order to roll back the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Is that a fair reading of the two paragraphs in the Times?

More from the NYT: “There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress” (and to) ” European allies.”

Who made that decision? Someone (Obama, the DOJ, the CIA?) sought to disseminate as much damaging information as possible to as many people as possible to undermine the new administration and create a legal foundation for impeachment proceedings. The fact that the information they were disseminating was “raw intelligence”– which was not necessarily reliable– suggests that the primary objective was not to reveal the truth, but to use whatever tools that were available to sabotage the Trump presidency.

More from the NYT:

“Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign had any contact with Russian officials, and at one point he openly suggested that American spy agencies had cooked up intelligence suggesting that the Russian government had tried to meddle in the presidential election. Mr. Trump has accused the Obama administration of hyping the Russia story line as a way to discredit his new administration.”(New York Times)

Trump has denied the allegations because, so far, there’s been no evidence to verify the claims. None of the Intel agents who leaked to the media have identified themselves. None of the Intel agencies have come forward and verified the claims of their agents. None of the alleged connections with Russia suggest that a felony or even a misdemeanor was committed. And none of the leaks provide any proof that Russia was behind the alleged “hacks” at the DNC. So far, there is no proof of anything; no eyewitnesses, no corroborating evidence, and no indication that Trump or anyone in his campaign broke the law.

The whole fiasco appears to be a very desperate and sloppily constructed smear campaign based on the flimsy belief that Trump and his team collaborated with Moscow to steal the election. The Times even admits as much in this one revealing sentence in the article:

“It also reflected the suspicion among many in the Obama White House that the Trump campaign might have colluded with Russia on election email hacks — a suspicion that American officials say has not been confirmed.” (New York Times)

ORDER IT NOW

The Obama administration (or someone at the DOJ?) launched a full-blown investigation including the wiretapping of phones– on the mere “suspicion” of foul play? (Note: The New York Times admitted in a February 14, 2017 headline article that intelligence officials had “intercepted calls” and “communications” from members of the Trump campaign. Then, again, in a January 19, 2017 article the Times admitted that “wiretapped communications had been provided to the White House” although investigators had “found no conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the officials said.”)

Can the president spy on a political opponent because he has a ‘hunch’ that his opponent might be up to something? Is that the standard we apply in authorizing the tapping of phones or other unknown types of electronic surveillance that might have been used in this case? Whatever happened to “probable cause”? Has that legal concept been jettisoned along with the rest of the Forth Amendment?

If the Obama administration was spying on Trump or members of his campaign, the Loretta Lynch Justice Department would have had to have gotten a warrant from the secretive FISA court first. But according to George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, “the standards for FISA are so low and easily satisfied that it is difficult to establish any illegality under the law.”

“The President can technically request the warrant but it still has to go through the process. Obama couldn’t authorize it on his own. The Attorney General still has to sign off and the FISA judge still has to authorize the warrant,” said Bradley Moss, an attorney and national security expert.

So there is a legal process that prevents the president from acting independently, but the standards for procuring a warrant are considerably lower those of a normal court, which means that someone’s civil rights are going to be violated. The FISA system is, in fact, a shadow justice system that was created to protect the interests of the state. Now it is being used to target political enemies. (Note: NSA whistleblower Bill Binney, thinks that Trumps phones were bugged by the NSA without a warrant. Also, when former Attorney General Michael Mukasey was asked on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday whether Donald Trump had been the “the target of surveillance ordered up by his predecessor”? Mukasey said that he thought Trump was “right in that there was surveillance and that it was conducted at the behest of the attorney of the Justice Department through the FISA court.” In other words, Mukasey believes that Trump Tower was bugged via some form of electronic surveillance.)

What we need to know is whether Obama or the DOJ had probable cause for the extraordinarily intrusive investigation that was authorized. We also need to know who was involved in the decision to allow the Intel agencies to disseminate “raw intelligence” not only to other government officials and the European allies, but also to members of the media who were expected to compose unsourced articles that would inflict maximum damage on Trump and his administration.

Like I said earlier, if Trump is found guilty of illegal behavior in his connections with Russia, then he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But if Obama or the DOJ abused their authority by using the Intelligence agencies and the media to conduct a politically-motivated witch hunt aimed at crushing a political rival and reversing the results of the election, then they should be held accountable.

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

It’s funny how an election can change the way a man sees the world. Before the election, Donald Trump thought that stocks were dangerously inflated. In an interview on CNBC, he said “I hope I’m wrong, but I think we’re in a big, fat, juicy bubble.”

That was Candidate Trump. President Trump sees things differently. Here’s what he tweeted on Tuesday:

“Since November 8th, Election Day, the Stock Market has posted $3.2 trillion in GAINS and consumer confidence is at a 15 year high.”

See the difference? So when Trump was running for office, stocks were headed for another thundering crash. But now that he’s president, Happy Days Are Here Again. The question is: Which Trump do we believe? Are stocks in a bubble or not?

Stocks aren’t just in a bubble, they’ve completely detached from reality. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“The stock market’s valuation is now in the 96th percentile of all observations in the past 135 years based on a cyclically adjusted measure used by Yale professor Robert Shiller….

..it is no surprise that most of the S and P 500’s 17.1% annualized price gain since the bottom in 2009 has come as a result of valuation rather than real earnings growth or inflation. Justin Sibears of money manager Newfound Research calculated that a larger portion of the current bull market’s returns have come from valuation gains than any since the 1920s bubble. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Shiller price-to-earnings ratio is at the same level as observed in July 1929.” (“Economy Up, Stocks Down? Don’t Be Surprised”, Wall Street Journal)

Read that clip over again. So not only are stocks inflated to 1929-levels but, also, the bulk of corporate earnings is currently coming from higher stock prices. In other words, fatcat CEOs are making more dough jacking their share prices via stock buybacks than they are by selling widgets or providing services. It’s crazy. What was it that John Maynard Keynes said? He said:

“Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation.”

Was Keynes right? Is the Trump Rally a sign that the markets have become a “whirlpool of speculation”?

The Yale economist who predicted the dot.com bust and the 2008 financial crisis seems to think so. Check out this excerpt from an article on CNBC:

“The cyclically adjusted P/E (CAPE), a valuation measure created by economist Robert Shiller now stands over 27 and has been exceeded only in the 1929 mania, the 2000 tech mania and the 2007 housing and stock bubble,” Alan Newman wrote in his Stock Market Crosscurrents letter at the end of November.

Newman said even if the market’s earnings increase by 10 percent under Trump’s policies “we’re still dealing with the same picture, overvaluation on a very grand scale.” (“Market indicator hits extreme levels last seen before plunges in 1929, 2000 and 2008”, CNBC)

It’s worth noting that the article was written in early December. Since then, stocks on the Dow have added another 2,000 points which means that we have definitely entered the Danger Zone.

Of course high stock prices aren’t a problem if they accurately reflect the underlying strength of the economy. But do they?

Look at the economy. Business investment has been abysmal, wages and incomes have either flatlined or dropped outright, personal consumption has remained weak throughout, bank lending is still well-below 2007 levels, and GDP has been stuck in the 2 percent doldrums for the entire eight years. There are actually fewer people working now than in 2007 and 95% of all new hires are crappy, part-time, service sector jobs that don’t even pay a living wage.

Does that sound like a strong economy to you?

Of course not. The economy is mired is a permanent state of near-Depression. Anyone can see that. According to CNBC: “The economy grew 1.6 percent for all of 2016, its worst performance since 2011.”

1.6%! The US economy is on life support and barely breathing. But if the recovery is fake, then why are stocks in the nosebleed section?

Three reasons:

1/ Cheap money

2/ Financial engineering

3/ “Irrational exuberance” or “animal spirits”.

For eight years, the Fed has kept interest rates below the rate of inflation which means the Fed provides a small subsidy on every dollar that’s borrowed. This ‘underpricing of money’ creates a powerful incentive to borrow, but borrowing is pointless if there are no investment opportunities. And when growth is slow and wages are flat, consumption stays weak which reduces demand. Companies don’t invest in their businesses when demand is weak, because there’s no one to buy their extra widgets. So why borrow more money and pile on more red ink?

Ah, but that’s where the magic of financial engineering comes in, because even if demand is weak, companies can always borrow money at ridiculously cheap rates and repurchase their own shares. That pushes up stock prices, rewards shareholders, and allows cheery CEOs to walk away with a bundle. And the whole shebang can be carried off even when the economy is in the shitter.

It’s magic!

And we’re not talking chump change here either. According to the WSJ: Companies “have been purchasing their own shares furiously. Companies in the S and P 500 have spent more than $2.5 trillion on share buybacks in the five years through 2016’s third quarter, according to FactSet. In the third quarter of 2016 alone buyback champs Apple Inc. and General Electric Co. repurchased $11.5 billion worth of their shares combined.”(Wall Street Journal)

It’s a buyback feeding frenzy and it’s going to get a lot worse under Trump because now we’re adding irrational exuberance to the mix of cheap money and financial engineering. So now we’re talking about some serious blowoff bubblemaking, the likes of which can take down the entire fragile economy.

Check out this blurb from the PBS News Hour: The Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen “from just over 18,000 on Election Day to breaking 21,000 this week. In fact, it jumped by 1,000 points in just 24 days.”

We are experiencing the biggest post-election day rally on record. Stocks are grossly overvalued, traders are euphoric, and Wall Street is in a state of pure rapture.

“Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau,” said the jubilant Yale economist Irving Fisher on the eve of the 1929 stock market crash.

Is that where we’re headed? It sure looks like it to me.

How do we explain the hysteria that has swept across the country and pushed stocks into the stratosphere?

Two words: Donald Trump.

ORDER IT NOW

Trump has promised the investor class unlimited accommodation, more treats and less rules for Wall Street. He’s promised behemoth tax cuts, massive government spending, and fewer regulations. He’s transformed a heady “easy money-poorly regulated” environment into the Wild, Wild West where anything goes and the sky’s the limit. He’s going to dump $1 trillion into fiscal stimulus to rev up consumer spending and beef up corporate profits. He’s going to allow tax cheats to bring $2 trillion in corporate profits back into the country to accelerate stock buybacks and stretch prices to the limit. He’s going to slash corporate tax rates and fatten the bottom line for America’s biggest businesses. And he’s going to gut Dodd-Frank, the “onerous” regulations that were put in place following the 2008 financial implosion, to prevent another economy-decimating cataclysm.

That’s why stocks are on a tear, it’s because Uncle Sugar is back in town and everyone is going to get well again.

But how does all this square with the astute observations made by Candidate Trump? Is this is the same Donald Trump who, before the election, said that conditions were so perilous that the country was headed for a “very massive recession” and that “it’s a terrible time right now” to invest in the stock market? Is this the Donald Trump who said “I think we’re in a big, fat, juicy bubble”? Is this the Donald Trump who said, “if you raise interest rates even a little bit, (everything’s) going to come crashing down?”

It is. It’s the very same person.

Isn’t it amazing how things change when a man becomes president?

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

The war party is back in power and the odds of normal relations with Russia have dropped to zero.

The appointment of Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster to the position of national security adviser indicates that Trump has done an about-face on his most critical foreign policy issue, normalizing relations with Russia. General Michael Flynn– who recently stepped down from the post following allegations of lying to Vice President Mike Pence –was the main proponent of easing tensions with Moscow which is a position that had been enthusiastically embraced by President Donald Trump. But McMaster does not support normalizing relations with Russia, in fact, McMaster sees Russia as a “hostile revisionist power” that “annex(es) territory, intimidates our allies, develops nuclear weapons, and uses proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.” So, what’s going on? Why has Trump put a Moscow-hating hawk like McMaster in a position where he’ll be able to intensify the pressure on Russia, increase the provocations and, very likely, trigger a conflagration between the two nuclear-armed superpowers?

The appointment of McMaster is an attempt by Trump to placate his enemies in the Intel agencies and foreign policy establishment. Trump is signaling to his adversaries that he will cooperate in carrying out their strategic agenda provided they allow him to finish his term. Trump doesn’t want to end up like Flynn nor does he want to do battle with the all-powerful deep state operatives who can launch one demeaning propaganda blitz after the other followed by years of excruciating investigations leading inevitably to a lengthy and humiliating impeachment that leaves Trump a broken, discredited shambles. That’s not how Trump wants to end his career in politics. He wants to end it on a high note, riding a wave of burgeoning affection and love.

That’s why he picked McMaster. The neocons love him, the liberal interventionists love him, the media loves him and the entire political establishment loves him. Everyone loves him. He’s the “warrior-scholar” who ‘speaks truth to power’ and writes futuristic books on ‘generation warfare’, ‘information superiority’ and ‘predictive battlespace awareness’ all of which delight his devoted admirers. The downside of McMaster is that he is a hard-boiled militarist with a driving animus towards Russia. Judging by his writing on the topic, I would expect a broader and more lethal conflict to flare up in either Syria or Ukraine as soon as he gets settled in his new job.

Bottom line: The removal of Flynn has convinced Trump that powerful elements within the national security state have him in their crosshairs. As a result, Trump has relinquished control of foreign policy and handed the whole mess over to gladiator McMaster who will coordinate with Sec-Def General James Mattis on a new strategy to deploy US troops to East Syria and West Iraq to establish a permanent military presence in “occupied” Sunnistan. (The area will also be used for natural gas pipeline corridors connecting Qatar to the EU) The strategy in Ukraine will focus primarily on luring Russia into a long and resource-draining war that will further depress the ailing Russian economy precipitating political instability, social unrest and regime change. That is the hope at least, that Russia’s wars abroad will lead to the ousting of Vladimir Putin.

Here’s a few clips from a presentation McMaster gave at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on May 4, 2016. They help to clarify the man’s ominous world view:

“…what I’d really like to talk to you about is (the) period we’re in right now, a period of increasing risks…risks to our nation, to our allies, and really all of humanity……….

globally – the situation in connection with U.S. vital interests and security – .. is changing really in a direction that’s going to raise additional challenges to the U.S. and U.S. national security…. what we’re seeing is a shift in geopolitics in a way that imposes great dangers and has elevated the risk of a major international military crisis to the highest level in the last 70 years. A number of scholars are writing about this – Jakub Grygiel and Wess Mitchell in particular in their great recent book “Unquiet Frontier,” where they describe revisionist powers, Russia and China in particular on the Eurasian landmass, that are surrounded by weak states which are now becoming battlegrounds, areas of competition at the far reaches of American power.” (“Harbingers of Future War: Implications for the Army with Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster”, The Center for Strategic and International Studies)

We have discussed the “pivot to Asia” ad nauseam in this column. McMaster’s comments help to underscore the fact that the struggle to control the “Eurasian landmass”, the center of economic growth for the next century, is at the heart of the US imperial crusade which is now entering a new and more dangerous phase.

McMaster: “I also think Margaret MacMillan’s great essay written in 2014 making the analogy between 2014 and 1914, and really making the point that geopolitics is back; maybe our – what we might call our holiday from history in the post-Cold War period is over.”

So in McMaster’s mind, another global conflagration on a par with World War 1 is now in the making. Unlike most people, he sees this as a challenge rather than an apocalyptic event that should be avoided at all cost.

McMaster: “I think what might have punctuated the end of the post-Cold War period is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. Now, this was – this was not really a new development in terms of Russian aggression. I think you can go back to the denial-of-service attacks on the Baltic states in 2007, certainly the invasion of Georgia in 2008.”

ORDER IT NOW

McMaster is extremely well read and follows the news closely. He knows that Georgia attacked South Ossetia and that Putin –who was at the Olympics at the time– merely responded. Why is McMaster deliberately misleading his audience about the details? And why doesn’t he explain how the elected government of Ukraine was toppled in a CIA-State Department coup? Those facts are readily available to anyone who has seriously researched the incident.

It seems obvious that McMaster is twisting the truth to make his case against Russia.

McMaster:

“…even though it may have been apparent at least since 2008 that Russia was changing its geostrategic behavior … what we’re seeing now is we’ve awakened to, obviously, this threat from Russia, who is waging limited war for limited objectives – annexing Crimea, invading Ukraine – at zero cost, consolidating gains over that territory, and portraying the reaction by us and allies and partners as escalatory.”

The “threat from Russia”? In other words, NATO is not responsible for its relentless push eastward expanding its grip on all the former Soviet satellites in east Europe, deploying its tanks, heavy artillery, troops and missile systems right onto Russia’s doorstep. No. Instead, Russia should be blamed for its fictitious invasion of Crimea.

McMaster is basing his argument on fake facts and a convoluted interpretation of events that doesn’t square with reality. Russia is the victim of US-NATO aggression not the perpetrator.

McMaster then offers a remedy for so called ‘Russian aggression’: “…what is required to deter a strong nation that is waging limited war for limited objectives on battlegrounds involving weaker states … is forward deterrence, to be able to ratchet up the cost at the frontier, and to take an approach to deterrence that is consistent with deterrence by denial, convincing your enemy that your enemy is unable to accomplish his objectives at a reasonable cost rather than sort of an offshore balancing approach and the threat of punitive action at long distance later, which we know obviously from – recent experience confirms that that is inadequate.”

“Forward deterrence”? This needs to be clarified.

What McMaster is saying, is that, instead of threatening to retaliate at some time in the future, the US should use ‘deterrence by denial’, that is, make it as hard and as costly as possible for Russia to achieve its strategic objectives. By defeating ISIS in Eastern Syria and establishing permanent US military bases, McMaster intends to prevent Russia from restoring Syria’s sovereign borders which is one of the primary goals of the mission. The “safe zones” that Trump has talked about recently, fit perfectly with this same strategy as they undermine Moscow’s efforts to reunify the state and bring the conflict to an end.

This appears to be the plan that McMaster will pursue as national security adviser. Expect US ground troops to be deployed to Syria as soon as the details are worked out.

More from McMaster:

“… what Russia is employing…is a sophisticated strategy…that combines conventional forces as cover for unconventional action, but a much more sophisticated campaign involving the use of criminality and organized crime, and really operating effectively on this battleground of perception and information, and in particular part of a broader effort to sow doubt and conspiracy theories across our alliance. And this effort, I believe, is aimed really not at defensive objectives, but at offensive objectives – to collapse the post-World War II, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe, and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.”

The Russian strategy employs “criminality and organized crime” to effect “perception and information”?

This is just more demonization of Russia intended to make the case for war. Putin does not want a war with the US nor does he want to “collapse the post-World War II order… and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests.”

Putin is a firm believer in capitalism and still participates in the G-20 and WTO. What Putin objects to is the US using its extraordinary power to topple regimes it doesn’t like spreading death and instability across the planet. That’s what he opposes, the persistent meddling that undermines global security. Is that so unreasonable?

McMaster:

“So what do all these conflicts have in common is they’re about the control of territory, people and resources. ….what we need is that synergy between the joint force, where our forces have the capability and the capacity to deter conflict and, if that fails, to resolve conflict in our interest – to protect our security and our vital interests. And that may entail imposing outcomes without the cooperation of the enemy, and that has significant implications for the Army in particular.”

In other words, we are going to continue to fight for oil and markets (our “vital interests”), we’re going to go it alone if necessary, and if somebody tries to stop us, we’re going to annihilate them.

Isn’t that what he’s saying?

You know it is. There’s not going to be normal relations between Russia and the US on McMaster’s watch. The man believes we are in a life or death struggle with an evil enemy that wants to do us harm. That’s not the basis for building peaceful relations. It’s a justification for war.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

The New York Times is currently engaged in one of its most ambitious projects: Removing a sitting president from office. In fact, Times columnist Nicolas Kristof even said as much in a recent article titled “How Can We Get Rid of Trump?”

Frankly, it’s an idea that I find attractive, mainly because I think Trump’s views on immigration, the environment, human rights, civil liberties and deregulation are so uniformly horrible, they could destroy the country. But the Times objections are different from my own. The reason the Times wants Trump removed is because Trump wants to normalize relations with Russia which threatens to undermine Washington’s effort to project US power deeper into Central Asia.

Trump’s decision to normalize relations with Moscow poses a direct threat to Washington’s broader imperial strategy to control China’s growth, topple Putin, spread military bases across Central Asia, implement trade agreements that maintain the dominant role of western-owned mega-corporations, and derail attempts by Russia and China to link the wealthy EU to Asia by expanding the web of pipeline corridors and high-speed rail that will draw the continents closer together creating the largest and most populous free trade zone the world has ever seen.

This is what the US foreign policy establishment and, by inclusion, the Times are trying to avoid at all cost. The economic integration of Asia and Europe must be blocked to preserve Washington’s hegemonic grip on world power. That’s the whole deal in a nutshell.

So don’t be fooled, the Times doesn’t care any more about the suffering of immigrant families who have been victimized by Trump’s extremist policies than they do about the three million refugees that have fled America’s wars in Libya and Syria. The fact that the Times continues to mischaracterize this vast human exodus as some sort of natural disaster instead of the predictable spillover from persistent US aggression, just confirms the fact that the Times is not a reliable source of unbiased information at all. It is a political publication that crafts a political narrative reflecting the views of politically-minded elites whose strategic objectives cannot be achieved without more brainwashing, more coercion and more war.

Let’s consider, for a minute, the Times article that precipitated the current furor over Trump’s alleged connection to Russian intelligence. This is the article that’s been held up by numerous members of congress and the media as ironclad proof of Trump’s collusion with Moscow. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.” (“Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence”, New York Times)

There’s no reason to read any further, because the entire article follows this same basic pattern, that is, the article is shaped to create the impression that the Trump camp teamed up with the Russians to torpedo Hillary’s campaign. Unfortunately, the Times presents no hard evidence that the “call logs and intercepted communications (that) are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I.” even exist. Nor have they proved that anyone in the Trump camp ever communicated with people in Russia (excluding Michael Flynn, of course) let alone, collaborated to undermine the presidential election. It’s all 100% uncorroborated fluff.

So what’s going on here? Why would the Times run an article alleging impeachable offenses –which has sharpened the attacks on Trump by his critics in the media, the congress and in foreign capitals– without providing any evidence that their claims are true? None of the intelligence agents cited in the article have come forward and identified themselves (as one might expect when the charges are this serious), and as the Times admits, “The F.B.I. declined to comment.”

So they have nothing, right?

One can only conclude that the real intention of the article was to generate as much suspicion as possible –in order to damage to Trump as much as possible– without really saying much of anything, that is, to create the impression of wrongdoing without providing any proof of wrongdoing. And, in that regard, the Times certainly succeeded. It has been a very impressive smear campaign.

(By the way, in a Sunday morning interview on Fox News White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said that top intelligence officials told him that their was no collusion between Trump’s people and Russia. Priebus said that “top-level people,” in the intelligence community told him “that that story in the New York Times is complete garbage. And quite frankly, they used different words than that.”

Not surprisingly, Fox News host Chris Wallace demanded that Priebus reveal his sources, a demand that Wallace never made of the Times.)

Here’s more from the Times piece:

“The intercepted calls are different from the wiretapped conversations last year between Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. In those calls, which led to Mr. Flynn’s resignation on Monday night, the two men discussed sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December.”

ORDER IT NOW

More disinformation. So far, all we know about Flynn’s conversations was that he said that the administration would “review” the newly-imposed sanctions when after Trump was sworn in as president. There’s no evidence at all that Flynn did something illegal or in violation of the Logan Act. None. The media has used the incident to suggest that illicit activities had taken place when in fact, there is no evidence of wrongdoing at all. As far as we know, Flynn was just doing his job.

What’s more interesting is the fact that Obama decided to impose the new sanctions on Russia in late December (after Trump had already been elected) knowing that Trump probably wouldn’t support the sanctions.

That seems strange, don’t you think? Why would Obama do something so disrespectful at the eleventh hour unless he had something else up his sleeve? Was Obama setting a trap to get rid of the man who was the driving-force behind better relations with Russia? (Flynn)

I don’t know, but the facts are pretty suspicious. First, Obama imposed the sanctions in late December knowing that Trump would oppose them.

Second, Obama knew that Russia would want to discuss the sanctions with Flynn, right?

Right. So was it a trap set by Obama to trip-up Flynn?

Maybe “yes”, maybe “no”. It’s hard to say. But what we know is that 17 days before Obama left office, he issued an executive order expanding the powers of the NSA “to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.” (NYT)

Why does that matter?

It matters because Flynn had already had his conversation with the Russian ambassador, so if the Intel agency that illegally gathered the information wanted to escape prosecution, the best way to do that would be to spread the information around to other agencies making it impossible to hold any one agency accountable. Simply put: They were taking the precautionary step of removing their bloody fingerprints from the murder weapon.

Check this out from Zero Hedge: “According to civil rights expert and prominent First Amendment Supreme Court lawyer, Jay Sekulow, what the agencies did by leaking the Trump Administration information was not only illegal but “almost becomes a soft coup”, one which was spurred by the last minute rule-change by Obama, who intentionally made it far easier for leaks to propagate, and next to impossible to catch those responsible for the leaks…

This is his explanation:

‘There was a sea-change here at the NSA with an order that came from president Obama 17 days before he left office where he allowed the NSA who used to control the data, it now goes to 16 other agencies and that just festered this whole leaking situation, and that happened on the way out, as the president was leaving the office.

Why did the Obama administration wait until it had 17 days left in their administration to put this order in place if they thought it was so important. They had 8 years, they didn’t do it, number one. Number two, it changed the exiting rule which was an executive order dating back to Ronald Reagan, that has been in place until 17 days before the Obama administration was going to end, that said the NSA gets the raw data, and they determine dissemination.

Instead, this change that the president put in place, signed off by the way by James Clapper on December 15, 2016, signed off by Loretta Lynch the Attorney General January 3, 2017, they decide that now 16 agencies can get the raw data and what that does is almost creates a shadow government. You have all these people who are not agreeing with President Trump’s position, so it just festers more leaks.

If they had a justification for this, wonderful, why didn’t they do it 8 years ago, 4 years ago, 3 years ago. Yet they wait until 17 days left.’

One potential answer: They knew they had a “smoking gun”, and were working to make it easier to enable the information to be “leaked” despite the clearly criminal consequences of such dissemination.” (“Jay Sekulow: Obama Should Be “Held Accountable” For The “Soft Coup” Against Trump“, Zero Hedge)

It’s an intriguing twist to the larger story, but it is not one that I can independently verify. Besides, what really concerns me is the emerging alliance between the Dems, the agenda-driven media, the deep-state agencies, the all-powerful foreign policy establishment and the progressives that are desperate to get rid of Trump by hook or crook. Glenn Greenwald summed it up perfectly in a recent post at The Intercept. He said:

“I happen to think that the Trump presidency is extremely dangerous…. They want to dismantle the environment. They want to eliminate the safety net. They want to empower billionaires. They want to enact bigoted policies against Muslims and immigrants and so many others. And it is important to resist them. …(But) if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls… But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it.” (“Greenwald: Empowering the “Deep State” to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy“, Democracy Now)

In other words, if you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas. Leftists should avoid the temptation of aligning themselves with groups and agencies that might help them achieve their short-term goal of removing Trump, but ultimately move them closer to a de facto 1984 lock-down police state. Misplaced support for the deep state Russophobes will only strengthen the national security state’s stranglehold on power. That’s not a path to victory, it’s a path to annihilation.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

The Flynn fiasco is not about national security advisor Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador. It’s much deeper than that. It’s about Russia. It’s about Putin. It’s about the explosive rise of China and the world’s biggest free trade zone that will eventually stretch from Lisbon to Vladivostok. It’s about the one country in the world that is obstructing Washington’s plan for global domination. (Russia) And, it’s about the future; which country will be the key player in the world’s most prosperous and populous region, Asia.

That’s what’s at stake, and that’s what the Flynn controversy is really all about.

Many readers are familiar with the expression “pivot to Asia”, but do they know what it means?

It means the United States has embarked on an ambitious plan to extend its military grip and market power over the Eurasian landmass thus securing its position as the world’s only superpower into the next century. The pivot is Washington’s top strategic priority. As Hillary Clinton said in 2011:

“Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests… Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia…

The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade…. we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia…and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.”(“America’s Pacific Century”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton”, Foreign Policy Magazine, 2011)

In other words, it’s pivot or bust. Those are the only two options. Naturally, ruling elites in the US have chosen the former over the latter, which means they are committed to a strategy that will inevitably pit the US against a nuclear-armed adversary, Russia.

Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, wanted to normalize relations with Russia. He rejected the flagrantly hostile approach of the US foreign policy establishment. That’s why he had to be removed. And, that’s why he’s been so viciously attacked in the media and why the threadbare story about his contacts with the Russian ambassador were used to force his resignation.

This isn’t about the law and it isn’t about the truth. It’s about bare-knuckle geopolitics and global hegemony. Flynn got in the way of the pivot, so Flynn had to be eliminated. End of story. Here’s a clip from an article by Robert Parry:

“Flynn’s real “offense” appears to be that he favors détente with Russia rather than escalation of a new and dangerous Cold War. Trump’s idea of a rapprochement with Moscow – and a search for areas of cooperation and compromise – has been driving Official Washington’s foreign policy establishment crazy for months and the neocons, in particular, have been determined to block it.

Though Flynn has pandered to elements of the neocon movement with his own hysterical denunciations of Iran and Islam in general, he emerged as a key architect for Trump’s plans to seek a constructive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Meanwhile, the neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks have invested heavily in making Putin the all-purpose bête noire to justify a major investment in new military hardware and in pricy propaganda operations.” (“Trump Caves on Flynn’s resignation“, Consortium News)

US foreign policy is not developed willy-nilly. It emerges as the consensus view of various competing factions within the permanent national security state. And, although there are notable differences between the rival factions (either hardline or dovish) there appears to be unanimity on the question of Russia. There is virtually no constituency within the political leadership of either of the two major parties (or their puppetmaster supporters in the deep state) for improving relations with Russia. None. Russia is blocking Washington’s eastward expansion, therefore, Russia must be defeated. Here’s more from the World Socialist Web Site:

“US imperialism seeks to counter its declining world economic position by exploiting its unchallenged global military dominance. It sees as the principal roadblocks to its hegemonic aims the growing economic and military power of China and the still-considerable strength of Russia, possessor of the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal, the largest reserves of oil and gas, and a critical geographical position at the center of the Eurasian land mass.

Trump’s opponents within the ruling class insist that US foreign policy must target Russia with the aim of weakening the Putin regime or overthrowing it. This is deemed a prerequisite for taking on the challenge posed by China.

Numerous Washington think tanks have developed scenarios for military conflicts with Russian forces in the Middle East, in Ukraine, in the Baltic States and in cyberspace. The national security elite is not prepared to accept a shift in orientation away from the policy of direct confrontation with Russia along the lines proposed by Trump, who would like for the present to lower tensions with Russia in order to focus first on China.” (“Behind the Flynn resignation and Trump crisis: A bitter conflict over imperialist policy“, WSWS)

Foreign policy elites believe the US and its NATO allies can engage Russia in a shooting war without it expanding into a regional conflict and without an escalation into a nuclear conflagration. It’s a risky calculation but, nevertheless, it is the rationale behind the persistent build up of troops and weaponry on Russia’s western perimeter. Take a look at this from the Independent:

“Thousands of Nato troops have amassed close to the border with Russia as part of the largest build-up of Western troops neighbouring Moscow’s sphere of influence since the Cold War…Tanks and heavy armoured vehicles, plus Bradley fighting vehicles and Paladin howitzers, are also in situ and British Typhoon jets from RAF Conningsby will be deployed to Romania this summer to contribute to Nato’s Southern Air Policing mission…

Kremlin officials claim the build-up is the largest since the Second World War.” (“The map that shows how many Nato troops are deployed along Russia’s border“, The Independent)

Saber-rattling and belligerence have cleared the way for another world war. Washington thinks the conflict can be contained, but we’re nor so sure.

ORDER IT NOW

The inexperienced Trump– who naively believed that the president sets his own foreign policy–has now learned that that’s not the case. The Flynn slap-down, followed by blistering attacks in the media and threats of impeachment, have left Trump shaken to the core. As a result, he has done a speedy about-face and swung into damage control-mode. On Tuesday, he tried to extend the olive branch by tweeting that “Crimea was taken by Russia” and by offering to replace Flynn with a trusted insider who will not veer from the script prepared by the foreign policy establishment. Check out this blurb on the Foreign Policy magazine website on Wednesday:

“President Donald Trump offered the job of national security advisor to retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward on Monday night…If, as expected, Harward accepts the job today, he is likely to bring in his own team, from deputy on down, with a focus on national security types with some experience under their belts…

Harward also would work well with Defense Secretary James Mattis. When Mattis was chief of Central Command, Harward was his deputy. Mattis trusted him enough to put him in charge of planning for war with Iran. Mattis has urged Harward to take the NSA job.

If Harward becomes NSA, Mattis would emerge from the Flynn mess in a uniquely powerful position: He would have two of his former deputies at the table in some meetings. The other one is John Kelly, now secretary for Homeland Security, who was his number two when Mattis commanded a Marine division early in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.” (“A Mattis protégé poised to take the helm of Trump’s NSC,” Foreign Policy)

In other words, Trump is relinquishing control over foreign policy and returning it to trusted insiders who will comply with pre-set elitist guidelines. Trump’s sudden metamorphosis was apparent in another story that appeared in Wednesday’s news, this time related to Rex Tillerson and General Joseph Dunford. Here’s a clip from CNN:

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford meet face to face with their Russian counterparts Thursday, as the Trump administration evaluates the future direction of US-Russian relations….But even as Tillerson’s plane was taking off in Washington, the Pentagon announced the meeting between Dunford and his Russian counterpart Valeriy Gerasimov, which will take place Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan….

“The military leaders will discuss a variety of issues including the current state of U.S.-Russian military relations …Trump’s envoys have been expressing positions more keeping with previous US policies. …

Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, indicated the US would maintain sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014. She condemned what she called the “Russian occupation” of the Ukrainian territory…

The US has deployed thousands of troops and tanks to Poland and Romania in recent weeks, while other NATO allies have sent troops to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“There is a common message from the President, from his security team, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, that they stay strongly committed to NATO,” he added.

Let’s summarize: The sanctions will remain, the tanks are on the border, the commitment to NATO has been reinforced, and Dunford is going to explain Washington’s strategic objectives to his Russian counterpart in clear, unambiguous language. There will be no room for Tillerson, who is on friendly terms with Putin, to change the existing policy or to normalize relations; Dunford, Haley, and Defense Secretary James Mattis will make sure of that.

As for Trump, it’s clear by the Crimea tweet, the sacking of Flynn and the (prospective) appointment of Harward, that he’s running scared and is doing everything in his power to get out of the hole he’s dug for himself. There’s no way of knowing whether he’ll be allowed to carry on as before or if he’ll be forced to throw other allies, like Bannon or Conway, under the bus. I would expect the purge to continue and to eventually include Trump himself. But that’s just a guess.

The hope that Trump would bring an element of sanity to US foreign policy has now been extinguished. The so called “Trump Revolution” has fizzled out before it ever began.

In contrast, the military buildup along Russia’s western flank continues apace.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

On Friday, the Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, used his first trip abroad to present Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef with the CIA’s highest award for fighting terrorism, the George Tenet Medal. Although the ceremony wasn’t covered by any of the major media, it was picked up on various blogsites where the news was greeted with predictable howls of outrage. Not surprisingly, most American’s still see Saudi Arabia as the epicenter of global terrorism, a point which was underlined in a recent article at The Atlantic titled “Where America’s Terrorists Actually Come From”. Here’s an excerpt:

“….after sifting through databases, media reports, court documents, and other sources, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, has arrived at a striking finding: Nationals of the seven countries singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015.

Zero….

Nowrasteh has listed foreign-born individuals who committed or were convicted of attempting to commit a terrorist attack on U.S. soil by their country of origin and the number of people they killed. … the countries at the top of the list, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are not included in Trump’s ban…

The 9/11 attacks were carried out by 19 men—from Saudi Arabia (15), the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt (1), and Lebanon (1). The incident remains influential in how Americans think about the nature of terrorism.” (“Where America’s Terrorists Actually Come From“, The Atlantic)

While it’s true that 9-11 has shaped the way that Americans think about terrorism, it’s also true that most people are unaware of the deeper operational relationship between the CIA and the Saudis that dates back to the funding of the Mujahidin in Afghanistan in the 1970’s. This is where bin Laden and al Qaida first burst onto the scene, which is to say, that the sketchy CIA-Saudi connection created the seedbed for the War on Terror. Unfortunately, even now– 16 years after the attacks of 9-11– the relationship between the notorious intel agency and its Middle East allies remains as foggy as ever. As a result, the Saudis are typically fingered as the main source of the problem while the CIA’s role is conveniently swept under the rug. For example, take a look at this clip from an article in the Independent:

“Saudi Arabia is the single biggest contributor to the funding of Islamic extremism and is unwilling to cut off the money supply, according to a leaked note from Hillary Clinton.

The US Secretary of State says in a secret memorandum that donors in the kingdom still “constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide” and that “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority”…..

Saudi Arabia is accused, along with Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, of failing to prevent some of its richest citizens financing the insurgency against Nato troops in Afghanistan. Fund-raisers from the Taliban regularly travel to UAE to take advantage of its weak borders and financial regulation to launder money.

However, it is Saudi Arabia that receives the harshest assessment. The country from which Osama bin Laden and most of the 9/11 terrorists originated, according to Mrs Clinton, “a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during the Haj and Ramadan”.

(“Saudi Arabia is ‘biggest funder of terrorists“, Independent)

Then there’s this gem from ex-Vice President Joe Biden:

“Biden said that “our biggest problem is our allies” who are engaged in a proxy Sunni-Shiite war against Syrian President Bashar Assad. He specifically named Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were (Jabhat) Al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world,” Mr Biden said.” (“Joe Biden forced to apologize to UAE and Turkey over Syria remarks“, Telegraph)

The evidence against Saudi Arabia is overwhelming and damning, and that’s what makes Pompeo’s performance in Riyadh so confusing. Why is the head of the CIA bestowing an award on a man who could undoubtedly identify some of the world’s biggest terrorist donors, unless, of course, the CIA derives some benefit from the arrangement?

Is that it? Is there is a quid pro quo between Washington and the Saudis that no one knows about but from which Washington reaps tangible geopolitical benefits?

It’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

Is it too far-fetched to think that the Saudis are actually a franchise that acts as Langley’s primary subcontractor carrying out operations deemed too sensitive for its own agents while obscuring the Company’s role behind a cloak of plausible deniability? Isn’t that what Friday’s freakishly Orwellian awards ceremony really suggests, that the skullduggery is much darker, deeper and more complicated than anyone would care to imagine?

Washington’s support for the Mujahidin helped to push the Soviets out of Afghanistan which is why the Brzezinski crowd thought it was a success story. If that’s the case, then isn’t it logical to assume that subsequent administrations might have used the same model elsewhere, like Kosovo, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan?

Isn’t it at least worth investigating?

And, another thing: Is it possible to uncover the root of terror by capturing and interrogating individual terrorists to find out what they know?

ORDER IT NOW

No, it’s not possible, because the individual cogs have never revealed the source of the funding-streams which originate from within the deep state. Every effort has been made to distance the authors from their illicit handiwork, to remove the tracks and erase the fingerprints. Once again, it’s all about plausible deniability and preventing the public from identifying the real perpetrators. Which means the only way to end this madness is by shedding light on the shadowy goings on between the Intel agencies and their Middle East proxies. There’s no other way.

One thing is certain, you’re not going to win the war on terror by handing out medals to the prime suspects.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)