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 Philip Giraldi Blog View
Weaponized hacking all began with Stuxnet

Is the United States the victim of an unprovoked cyber and media attack by Russia and China or are the chickens coming home to roost after Washington’s own promotion of such activity worldwide? On Thursday Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asserted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that while no foreign government had been able to interfere with actual voting machines, “U.S. agencies are more confident than ever that Russia interfered in America’s recent presidential election. And he called the former Cold War foe an ‘existential threat’ to the nation.” Pressed by Senator John McCain whether the “attack” constituted an “act of war,” Clapper demurred, saying that it would be a “very heavy policy call” to say so. He also said that he could not judge if the election outcome had been changed due to the claimed outside interference.

Clapper also claimed that the Russian effort included including the creation and dissemination of fake stories, explaining that “ While there has been a lot of focus on the hacking, this is actually part of a multifaceted campaign that the Russians mounted.” Clapper singled out Russian state funded TV channel RT, previously called Russia Today. “Of course RT…was very, very active in promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system.” [Full disclosure: I have been on RT numerous times.]

Apart from the nonsense about foreign broadcasters being part of a conspiracy to “disparage our system” and destroy our democracy, I confess that I was willing to be convinced by what seemed to be the near-unanimous intelligence and law enforcement agency verdict but, any such expectations disappeared when the 17 page report on the hack was actually released on Friday. Entitled Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, the report is an exercise in speculation minus evidence indicting alleged Russian interference in the recent election. It even came with a significant caveat, “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

So I am still waiting to see the actual evidence for the Russian direct involvement and have to suspect that there is little to show, or possibly even nothing. Saying that Russian government agents were employed in passing the stolen emails from the DNC server to WikiLeaks raises more questions than it answers, particularly as it is now clear from media leaks that the parties involved were using what is referred to as cut-outs to break the chain of custody of the material being passed. Does the intelligence community actually know exactly who passed what to whom and when or is it engaged in reconstructing what it think happened? Does it really believe that intercepted unencrypted phone calls among Russian officials expressing pleasure over the election result equate to an actual a priori conspiracy to determine the outcome? And based on what evidence do they know that conspiracy was “ordered” by President Vladimir Putin as is now being alleged? Or are the only assuming that it must have been him because he is head of state?

And what about the possibility that activity of Russian intelligence agencies to penetrate computers in the United States was little more than routine information collection, which Clapper conceded is normal activity for Washington as well? And above all, where is a truth and consequences analysis of America’s global role as a contributor to the tit-for-tat, obscured by a prevailing mainstream media narrative that prefers to see everything in terms of good guys versus bad guys?

One can reasonably argue that Washington started the practice of cyber-warfare and has been a long-time practitioner of both regime change and election tampering in its relationship with much of the world. The Snowden papers indicate that NSA hacking of targets in China has been going on for many years as has routine interception of cell phones of allied European and other world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the UN Secretary General. NSA has deliberately sought to have the capability to penetrate nearly every electronic communications network in the world, frequently in real time, and has come close to achieving that ability under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The information obtained in the huge dumps of intelligence obtained by NSA is, at least in theory, used to confront possible threats to the United States and to obtain competitive advantage over both adversaries and competitors. But the intrusion into systems has also been weaponized, witness for example the creation of the Stuxnet worm in collaboration with the Israelis. Stuxnet was intended to disable key elements in Iranian nuclear research but it also went beyond that, creating dysfunction in other economic and industrial systems unrelated to its laboratories. The assault on Iran was more of an act of war than the hack of the DNC computers. And the damage was not limited to Iran. There have also been concerns that the Stuxnet virus had migrated from the Iranian systems and become viable on other civilian use computers.

There have been numerous military interventions in Latin America ever since the U.S. became involved in the region in the wake of the Spanish-American War. The subsequent interventions in the so-called Banana Wars by U.S. Marines in Central America and the Caribbean were on behalf of United Fruit Company and other commercial interests. The cynical use of force to support American business moved the highly-decorated Marine Major General Smedley Butler to describe himself as “a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers … a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism” while declaring that “war is a racket.” More recently, the CIA arranged for the removal of populist Jacopo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, initiating 60 years of political instability in that country while the Agency role in the military coup in Chile that ousted Salvador Allende and its involvement with the Nicaraguan contra rebels subsequently are similarly notorious.

When I was in Europe with CIA the U.S. government regularly interfered with elections, particularly in Italy, Spain, France and Portugal, all of which had active communist parties. The Agency would fund opposition parties directly or indirectly and would manage media coverage of the relevant issues to favor the non-communists. The end result was that the communists were indeed in most cases kept out of government but the resulting democracy was frequently corrupted by the process. Italy in particular suffers from that corruption to this day.

The United States has directly interfered in Russia, using proxies, IMF loans and a media controlled by the oligarchs to run the utterly incompetent Boris Yeltsin’s successful campaign in 1996 and then continuing with more aggressive “democracy promotion” projects until Putin expelled many of the NGOs responsible in 2015. More recently there have been the pastel revolutions in Eastern Europe and the upheaval in Ukraine, which came about in part due to a $5 billion investment by the United States government in “democracy building” supplemented by regular visits from John McCain and the State Department’s activist Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.

And then there are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria as well as endorsement of the ongoing carnage in Yemen. The Congress meanwhile continues to call for regime change in Iran. So it leads to the question “Who is actually doing what to whom?”

One can well understand the anger at Russian actions but much of the sentiment is being fueled by a hostile press and deliberate U.S. government fear mongering orchestrated by the Obama Administration as its parting gift to the American people. A new Cold War would be good for no one. Stepping back a bit, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that anything Russia did or is suspected of doing in 2016 pales in comparison to what the United States has been doing for much longer and on a much wider scale. The Defense Department runs a cyber warfare command with a budget of $7 billion and the White House has ordered military interventions to bring about regime change in four Muslim majority countries while also interfering in a number of others since 9/11. The Obama response to an alleged Russian conspiracy that has yet to be demonstrated has been to send more soldiers to the Baltics while ordering a massive politically motivated retaliation that included the persona non grata expulsion of 35 Russian officials and their families. Moscow did not retaliate and instead invited U.S. diplomatic families to a Christmas celebration at the Kremlin. Sure, it was political theater to a certain extent but it has to make one wonder who was actually the adult in the room whenever Obama and Putin would meet.

 
Quislings in Congress and the Media need to decide which comes first

I am reluctant to write about the “Israel problem” at the heart of U.S. foreign policy two weeks in a row but it seems that the story just will not go away as the usual suspects pile on the Barack Obama Administration over its alleged betrayal of America’s “best and greatest friend and ally in the whole world.”

Even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his gaggle of war criminals continue to foam at the mouth over the United Nations vote it is, in truth, difficult to blame Israel for what is happening. The Israelis are acting on what they see as their self interest in dominating their neighbors militarily and having a free hand to deal with the Palestinians in any way they see fit. And as for their relationship with Washington, what could be better than getting billions of dollars every year, advanced weapons and unlimited political cover in exchange for absolutely nothing?

Surely even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that the settlements are illegal under international law and are an impediment to any peaceful resolution with the Palestinians, which is what Resolution 2334 says. It has been U.S. policy to oppose them since they first starting popping up like mushrooms, but Netanyahu has encouraging their expansion in full knowledge that he is creating facts on the ground that will be irreversible. He has also pledged to his voters that he will not permit the creation of a Palestinian state, so why should anyone be confused about his intentions?

Daniel Larison over at The American Conservative summed up the situation perfectly, observing that “Calling out Israel for its ongoing illegal behavior becomes unavoidable when there is no progress in resolving the conflict, and the current Israeli government has made it very clear that there won’t be any progress… Israel isn’t actually an ally, much less a ‘vital’ one, and it certainly isn’t ‘critical’ to our security. The U.S. isn’t obliged to cater to some of the worst policies of a client government that has increasingly become a liability. The real problem with the U.S. abstention on the resolution is that it came many years after it might have done some significant good, and it comes so late because Obama wasted his entire presidency trying to ‘reassure’ a government that undermined and opposed him time and again.”

So stop blaming Israel for acting selfishly, since that is the nature of the beast, as in the fable of the frog and the scorpion. More to the point, it is the American Quislings who should be the focus of any examination of what is taking place as they are deliberately misrepresenting nearly every aspect of the discussion and flat out lying about what might actually be at stake due to Washington’s being shackled to Netanyahu’s policies. I will leave it to the reader to decide why so many U.S. politicians and media talking heads have betrayed their own country’s interests in deference to the shabby arguments being put forward on behalf of an openly apartheid theocracy, but I might suggest that access to money and power have a lot to do with it as the Israel Lobby has both in spades.

The Quislings are making two basic arguments in their defense of surrendering national sovereignty to a troublesome little client state located half a world away. First, they are claiming that any acknowledgement that the Israelis have behaved badly is counterproductive because it will encourage intransigence on the part of the Arabs and thereby diminish prospects for a viable peace agreement, which has to be negotiated between the two parties. Second, the claim is being made that the abstention on the U.N. vote violates established U.S. policy on the nature of the conflict and, in so doing, damages both Israeli and American interests. Bloomberg’s editorial board has conjoined the two arguments, adroitly claiming in an over-the-top piece entitled “Obama’s Betrayal of Israel at the U.N. Must Not Stand” that the abstention “breaks with past U.S. policy, undermines a vital ally and sets back the cause of Middle East peace.”

Citing the damaged peace talks argument, which is what the Israeli government itself has been mostly promoting, Donald Trump denounced the U.N. resolution from a purely Israeli perspective, stating that “As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.” He subsequently added “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect,” a comment that just might be regarded as either tongue in cheek or ironic because that is precisely how Israel treats Washington. It is reported, however, that Trump does not do irony.

The pundits who most often scream the loudest in defense of Israel are often themselves Jewish, many having close ties to the Netanyahu government. They would undoubtedly argue that their ethno-religious propinquity to the problem they are discussing does not in any way influence their views, but that would be nonsense. One of those persistently shouting the loudest regarding the “peace” canard is the ubiquitous Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who has never seen anything in Israel that he dislikes. He commented that Obama had stabbed Israel in the back and had made “peace much more difficult to achieve because the Palestinians will now say ‘we can get a state through the U.N.’”

Syndicated columnist and fellow Israeli zealot Charles Krauthammer added his two cents, noting that the resolution abstention had meant that Washington had “joined the jackals at the U.N.” Observing that the U.N. building occupies “good real estate in downtown New York City…Trump ought to find a way to put his name on it and turn it into condos.” Iran-Contra’s own Elliot Abrams, who opposes Jews marrying non-Jews, meanwhile repeats the Krauthammer “jackals” meme and also brays about the “abandonment of Israel at the United Nations.”

But the prize for pandering to Jewish power and money has to go to the eminent John Bolton, writing on December 26th about “Obama’s Parting Betrayal of Israel” in The Wall Street Journal (there is a subscription wall but if you go to Google and search you can get around it). Bolton, an ex-Ambassador to the U.N under the esteemed George W. Bush, is a funny looking guy who reportedly did not get a position with the Trump administration because of his Groucho Marx moustache. He currently pontificates from the neocon American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he is something called a senior fellow. He has written a book “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad,” which is available for 6 cents used on Amazon, plus shipping. There is another John Bolton who wrote “Marada the She-Wolf,” but they are apparently not related.

In his piece, Bolton hit on both the peace talks and the “I’m backing Israel arguments.” He uniquely starts out by claiming that Barack Obama “stabbed Israel in the front” by failing to stop Resolution 2334, which he then describes as “clearly intended to tip the peace process towards the Palestinians…abandon[ing] any pretense that the actual parties to the conflict must resolve their differences.” That’s the peace argument plus the negotiations fiction rolled together. He then goes on to argue that Obama has betrayed Israel by “essentially endors[ing] the Palestinian politico-legal narrative about territory formerly under League of Nations’ mandate.”

Bolton concedes that the damage has already been done by Obama’s complicity “in assaulting Israel” and the opening can be exploited by what he describes as the “anti-Israeli imagineers” at the United Nations. He calls on Donald Trump to work to “mitigate or reverse” such consequences and specifically “move to repeal the resolution, giving the 14 countries that supported it a chance to correct their error.” That they cheered loudly when the resolution passed apparently will have to also be somehow expunged, though Bolton does not mention that. Nations that refuse to go along with the repeal “would have their relations with Washington adjusted accordingly” while “the main perpetrators in particular should face more tangible consequences.”

Bolton is unhesitatingly placing Israeli priorities ahead of American interests by his willingness to punish actual U.S. allies like Britain, Germany and France, as well as major powers Russia and China, out of pique over their vote against the settlements. He also recommends withholding the U.S. contributions to the U.N., which amount to over 20% of the budget. Bolton then goes on to reject any Palestinian state of any kind, recommending instead that a rump version of territory where the bulk of the Palestinians will be allowed to live be transferred to Jordanian control.

As always, there is scant attention paid by any of the Israel boosters for actual American interests in continuing to perform proskynesis in front of Netanyahu and whatever reptile might succeed him. American values and needs are invisible, quite rightly, because they are of no interest to John Bolton and his fellow knee jerkers at AEI, the Hudson Institute, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Brookings, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the rest of the alphabet soup that depends on the generosity of pro-Israel donors to keep the lights on.

Bolton provides precisely one short sentence relating to Washington’s stake in the game being played, noting that the U.N. abstention poses “major challenges for American interests.” He never says what those interests are because there are none, or at least none that matter, apart from godfathering a viable two state solution which Israel has basically made impossible. And that is only an interest because it would lessen much of the world’s disdain for U.S. hypocrisy while mitigating the radicalization of young Muslims turned terrorists who are in part enraged by the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, blaming it correctly on American connivance. In reality having the U.S. finally vote on the side of sanity and fairness is really a good thing for Americans and hopefully will lead to severing a bizarre “special relationship” that supports a kleptocracy in Asia that has been nothing but trouble.

 
The tail will be wagging the dog under Donald Trump

While the presidential campaign was still in progress it was possible to think that there might be some positive change in America’s broken foreign policy. Hillary Clinton was clearly the candidate of Washington Establishment hawkishness, while Donald Trump was declaring his disinclination for democracy and nation building overseas as well as promoting détente with Russia. Those of us who considered the foreign policy debacle to be the most dangerous issue confronting the country, particularly as it was also fueling domestic tyranny, tended to vote on the basis of that one issue in favor of Trump.

On December 1st in Cincinnati, president-elect Donald Trump made some interesting comments about his post-electoral foreign policy plans. There were a lot of good things in it, including his citing of $6 trillion “wasted” in Mideast fights when “our goal is stability not chaos.” And as for dealing with real enemies, he promised to “partner with any nation that is willing to join us in the effort to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism…” He called it a “new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past” adding that “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.”

Regarding the apparent inability of governments to thoroughly check out new immigrants prior to letting them inside the country, demonstrated most recently in Nice, Ohio and Berlin, Trump described how “People are pouring in from regions of the Middle East — we have no idea who they are, where they come from what they are thinking and we are going to stop that dead cold. … These are stupid refugee programs created by stupid politicians.” Exaggerated? For sure, but he has a point, and it all is part and parcel of a foreign policy that serves no actual interest for people who already live in the United States.

But, as so often with Trump, there was also the flip side. On the looney fringe of the foreign and national security policy agenda, the president-elect oddly believes that “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” So to reduce the number of nukes we have to create more of them and put them in more places. Pouring gasoline on a raging fire would be an appropriate analogy and it certainly leads to questions regarding who is advising The Donald with this kind of nonsense.

Trump has promised to “put America first,” but there is inevitably a spanner in the works. Now, with the New Year only six days away and the presidential inauguration coming less than three weeks after that, it is possible to discern that the new foreign policy will, more than under Barack Obama and George W. Bush, be driven in significant part by Israeli interests.

At least Obama had the good sense to despise Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but that will not be true of the White House after January 20th. Trump’s very first telephone conversation with a foreign head of government after being elected was with Netanyahu and during the campaign, he promised to invite Bibi to the White House immediately after the inauguration. The new president’s first naming of an Ambassador-designate to a foreign nation was of his good friend and bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman to Israel. Friedman had headed Trump’s Israel Advisory Committee and is a notable hard liner who supports the Israeli settler movement, an extreme right-wing political entity that is nominally opposed by existing U.S. government policy as both illegal and damaging to Washington’s interests. Beyond that, Friedman rejects creation of a Palestinian state and supports Israel’s actual annexation of the West Bank.

U.S. Ambassadors are supposed to support American interests but Friedman would actually be representing and endorsing a particularly noxious version of Israeli fascism as the new normal in the relationship with Washington. Friedman describes Jerusalem as “the holy capital of the Jewish people and only the Jewish people.” Trump is already taking steps to move the U.S. Embassy there, making the American government unique in having its chief diplomatic mission in the legally disputed city. The move will also serve as a recruiting poster for groups like ISIS and will inflame opinion against the U.S. among friendly Arab states in the region. There is no possible gain and much to lose for the United States and for American citizens in making the move, but it satisfies Israeli hardliners and zealots like Friedman.

The Trump team’s animosity towards Iran is also part of the broader Israeli agenda. Iran does not threaten the United States and is a military midget compared either to nuclear armed Israel or the U.S. Yet is has been singled out as the enemy du jour in the Middle East even though it has invaded no one since the seventeenth century. Israel would like to have the United States do the heavy lifting to destroy Iran as a regional power. If Washington were to attempt to do so it would be a catastrophe for all parties involved but that has not stopped hardliners from demanding unrelenting military pressure on Tehran.

Donald Trump is not even president yet but he advised Barack Obama to exercise the U.S. veto for the resolution condemning Israeli settlements that was voted on at the United Nations Security Council on Friday, explaining that “As the United States has long maintained, peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will only come through direct negotiations between the parties, and not through the imposition of terms by the United Nations. This puts Israel in a very poor negotiating position and is extremely unfair to all Israelis.”

This is a straight Israeli line that might even have been written by Netanyahu himself. Or by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which fumed “AIPAC is deeply disturbed by the failure of the Obama Administration to exercise its veto to prevent a destructive, one-sided, anti-Israel resolution from being enacted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In the past, this administration and past administrations have rejected this type of biased resolution since it undermines prospects for peace. It is particularly regrettable, in his last month in office, that the president has taken an action at odds with the bipartisan consensus in Congress and America’s long history of standing with Israel at the United Nations.”

Ah yes, the fabled negotiations for a two state solution, regularly employed to enable Israelis to do nothing while expanding their theft of Arab land and one wonders how Trump would define what is “fair to the Palestinians?” So we are already well into Trump’s adoption of the “always the victim argument” that the Israelis have so cleverly exploited with U.S. politicians and the media.

Not content with advising Obama, Trump also reportedly took the Palestinian issue one step further by directly pressuring the sponsoring Egyptians to postpone any submission of the resolution. Expecting to have a friendly president in the White House after January 20th, Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi complied on Thursday but the motion was reintroduced by New Zealand, Venezuela, Senegal and Malaysia on the following day. The resolution passed with 14 yes votes and a courageous U.S. abstention after Obama finally, after eight long years, developed a backbone. But unfortunately, Trump’s interventions suggest that nothing critical of Israel will be allowed to emerge from the U.N. during his term of office. Referring to the U.N. vote, he said that “things will be different after January 20th.”

The United Nations resolution produced an immediate reaction from Israeli Firsters in Congress and the media, led by Senator Chuck Schumer and the Washington Post. The Post featured a lead editorial entitled The Obama Administration fires a dangerous parting shot and an op-ed The United States just made Middle East peace harder by no less a redoubtable American hero than Eliot Abrams. Look in vain for any suggestion of what might be construed as an actual U.S. interest in either piece. It is all about Israel, as it always is.

The problem with Israel and its friends is that they are never satisfied and never leave the rest of us Americans alone, pushing constantly at what is essentially an open door. They have treated the United States like a doormat, spying on us more than any ostensibly friendly nation while pocketing our $38 billion donation to their expanding state without so much as a thank you. They are shameless. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer has been all over American television sputtering his rage over the United Nations settlements vote. On CNN he revealed that Israel has “clear evidence” that President Obama was “behind” the resolution and he announced his intention to share the information with Donald Trump. Every American should be outraged by Israel’s contempt for us and our institutions. One has to wonder if the mainstream media will take a rest from their pillorying of Russia to cover the story.

For many years now, Israel has sought to make the American people complicit in its own crimes while also encouraging our country’s feckless and corrupt leadership to provide their government with political cover and even go to war on its behalf. This has got to stop and, for a moment, it looked like Trump might be the man to end it when he promised to be even-handed in negotiating between the Arabs and Israelis. That was before he promised to be the best friend Israel would ever have.

Israel’s quarrels don’t stay in Israel and they are not limited to the foreign policy realm. I have already discussed the pending Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, a bipartisan effort by Congress to penalize and even potentially criminalize any criticism of Israel by equating it to anti-Semitism. Whether Israel itself wants to consider itself a democracy is up to Netanyahu and Israeli voters but the denial of basic free speech rights to Americans in deference to Israeli perceptions should be considered to be completely outrageous.

And there’s more. Israel’s government funded lawfare organization Shurat HaDin has long been using American courts to punish Palestinians and Iranians, obtaining punitive damages linked to allegations regarding terrorist incidents that have taken place in Israel. Now Shurat HaDin is using our courts to go after American companies that do business with countries like Iran.

Last year’s nuclear agreement with Iran included an end to restraints on the Islamic Republic’s ability to engage in normal banking and commercial activity. As a high priority, Iran has sought to replace some of its aging infrastructure, to include its passenger aircraft fleet. Seattle based Boeing has sought to sell to Iran Air 80 airplanes at a cost of more than $16 billion and has worked with the U.S. government to meet all licensing and technology transfer requirements. The civilian-use planes are not in any way configurable for military purposes, but Shurat HaDin on December 16th sought to block the sale at a federal court in Illinois, demanding a lien against Boeing for the monies alleged to be due to the claimed victims of Iranian sponsored terrorism. Boeing, meanwhile, has stated that the Iran Air order “support(s) tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.”

So an agency of the Israeli government is taking steps to stop an American company from doing something that is perfectly legal under U.S. law even though it will cost thousands of jobs here at home. It is a prime example of how much Israel truly cares about the United States and its people. And even more pathetic, the Israel Lobby owned U.S. Congress has predictably bowed down and kissed Netanyahu’s ring on the issue, passing a bill in November that seeks to block Treasury Department licenses to permit the financing of the airplane deal.

The New Year and the arrival of an administration with fresh ideas would provide a great opportunity for the United States to finally distance itself from a toxic Israel, but, unfortunately, it seems that everything is actually moving in the opposite direction. Don’t be too surprised if we see a shooting war with Iran before the year is out as well as a shiny new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem (to be built on land stolen from Palestinians, incidentally). Trump might think he is ushering in a new era of American policy based on American interests but it is beginning to look a lot like same-old same-old but even worse, and Benjamin Netanyahu will be very much in the driver’s seat.

 
Anyway you look at it, it's a failure

The twenty-first century, at least up until this point, might well be described as the age of the terrorist. Even though most Americans and Europeans rank terrorism as low among their concerns, the repercussions when a terrorist attack does take place are greatly magnified by the sheer horror associated with the mass killing of innocent people going about their daily lives.

There are a couple of annual reports that look at terrorism as a global phenomenon. The best known is the U.S. State Department’s Annual Country Reports on Terrorism that comes out in the Summer and covers the previous year. It is mandated by Congress and is largely based on Embassy and intelligence community sources.

The Country Reports purports to be an objective review of the year’s terrorist incidents as well as an overview of some of the players to include a discussion of “violent extremism” issues region by region and country by country. It is a valuable resource which provides considerable information on the various militant groups and the crimes attributed to them as well as their involvement globally. But it is nevertheless a government document. The Obama Administration definitely has had a point of view on what constitutes terrorism and how to deal with it based on how the White House would like to frame things from a political perspective. The section on Afghanistan, for example, implicitly makes a case for a more robust American role in the conflict engulfing that country.

I often find that how something is described or even ignored just as important as what is revealed. There is, for example, a section of the report identifying State Sponsors of Terrorism, a status that brings with it various sanctions. It would be difficult to find a section that is by definition more hypocritical as many would certainly consider Washington the leading practitioner of state sponsored terror with its claimed authority to go after militant targets anywhere at any time. The 2015 report names only Iran, Syria and Sudan as state sponsors even though Damascus and Tehran are more often than not on Washington’s side, heavily engaged in fighting ISIS, which the U.S. government in its own reporting clearly identifies as international enemy #1. Regarding Sudan, the report states that it is no longer in the supporting radicalism business while earlier annual reports actually commended it for helping international efforts against terrorists yet it remains on the list, apparently because several individuals close to the White House do not like its government very much and have written scholarly articles attacking its president.

The numbers in the Country Reports tell us something about the impact of terrorism. Deaths attributed to people who might be regarded as terrorists is certainly a huge global problem with the State Department report recording nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks producing 28,000 deaths worldwide in 2015. But the mayhem is very much concentrated in countries that are gripped by what might reasonably be termed civil war, to include Syria, Iraq, and Somalia. Several other countries with high levels of “terror” deaths, to include Nigeria and Pakistan, are engaged in bloody regional conflicts over economic issues fueled by anti-central government sentiment, not exactly civil war but something close to it.

American victims are a lot harder to find. The State Department report, which is only about acts of terrorism overseas, identifies 19 American citizens as victims of terror for the year 2015. Eight of the deaths were in Afghanistan, one in Syria and one in Somalia, all of which can be regarded as war zones. Three were in Jerusalem and on the Israeli occupied West Bank, a region also suffering from endemic violence, killing two American visitors plus a settler who held dual Israeli-U.S. citizenship.

Twenty-two more Americans were injured in terrorist incidents worldwide in 2015 and there were no reported kidnappings during the year. Though I in no way wish to minimize the killing of anyone in a criminal act, which terrorism is, the death and injury toll hardly constitutes a major international threat and I am sure that many more Americans are killed every year “overseas” in traffic accidents while vacationing. The report clearly suggests that international terrorism is an enemy that is largely ineffective at least in terms of being able to do direct damage to the United States, its citizens or its other interests.

A second terrorism report is prepared by the highly reputable Institute for Economics and Peace, which is based in Australia. It’s Global Terrorism Index, currently in its fourth edition, has just come out and it differs from the State Department report in that while it covers 2015 in some detail it is also progressive, meaning that it incorporates new information on terrorist activity into observations derived from reporting that covers 16 years, since 2000. Its overview information itself derives from a large terrorism data base, consisting currently of records relating to 150,000 incidents, maintained at the University of Maryland. As a result, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is sometimes more useful than the State Department if one is seeking to identify long term trends.

One might conclude that what we call terrorism is quite simply warfare by other means and it might not even be useful to try to define it in a distinctive fashion. The GTI report basically confirms the State Department Country Reports on numbers and places where terrorist attacks take place, adding that more than 93% of all reported incidents occur in countries that are already internally extremely repressive or unstable while more than 90% take place in countries engaged in external violent conflicts. Fewer than .5% of terror attacks are in countries that have neither internal or external issues. The most afflicted countries are Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. Three out of the five have experienced direct U.S. military interventions while Pakistan has been under intense pressure from Washington to “do something.” In other words, terrorism deaths occur most often in places where a state of acute internal repression or even civil or external war exist and the role of the U.S. military as an accelerant for instability should be regarded as a given.

And then there is the global U.S. led war on terror, which costs upwards of hundreds of billions of dollars a year and has not actually eliminated any terrorist group while serving as a recruiting poster for assorted radical wannabes. It has also killed, by a very conservative estimate, 1.3 million people. Relying on overwhelming conventional military force and air power, the U.S. can always prevail either on the battlefield or against a radical group that seeks to hold on to territory that it is occupying, but unless Washington is prepared to remain indefinitely it cannot change the dynamic in a country or region that is unstable. Indeed, armed intervention itself followed by staying in place to nation build might actually be counterproductive if one looks at the examples of Afghanistan and Iraq as a U.S. presence frequently inhibits a possible political settlement. When the foreign security presence departs, sooner or later a dissident group will inevitably appear to fill the void. Based on the State Department and GTI reports one has to question a counter-terrorism strategy that has cost cumulatively trillions of dollars to combat an enemy that only rarely can project its power and that normally is only dangerous in the short term and in the immediate area in which it operates.

I have been reading various reports on terrorism for many years now and my firm impression is that the international terrorist threat, as poorly defined as it is, has actually been receding as more and more governments actively seek to eliminate militants in their midst even as fewer states are willing and able to provide them with either assistance or a safe haven. ISIS, the du jour terrorist threat, sought to establish a new territorial state, a Caliphate, but is currently facing complete defeat in Libya, Syria and Iraq. Terrorism is a “dying” industry in every sense of the word and while the U.S. government should take every reasonable step to protect American citizens the key word must be “reasonable.” A global anti-terror Crusade led by the United States is not a reasonable response, nor is it necessary as terrorist groups always eventually fade away due to their own internal contradictions and the intense hostility of the host country and neighbors. It is time to declare the war on terror finished, move on, and bring the troops home.

 
A new study urges more U.S. interventions

The Establishment and Realist foreign policy communities in the United States often seem separated by language which leads them to talk past each other. When a realist or Libertarian talks about non-intervention or restraint in foreign policy, as Ron Paul did in 2008 and 2012, the Establishment response is to denounce isolationism. As Dr. Paul noted during his campaigns, non-interventionism and isolationism have nothing to do with each other as a country that does not meddle in the affairs of others can nevertheless be accessible and open in dealing with other nations in many other ways. Non-interventionists are fond of quoting George Washington’s Farewell Address, in which he recommended that “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible… Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.” Establishment pundits tend to dismiss that “little political connection” bit, preferring instead to warn how detachment from foreign politics might lead to the rise of a new Adolph Hitler.

I was reminded of the language barrier while reading the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force report, which appeared on November 30th. The report, which promises a new “Compact for the Middle East” while also asserting that “isolationism is a dangerous delusion,” might be regarded as a quintessential document laying out the Establishment position on what should be done in the region. It is ostensibly the product of two co-chairs, Madeleine Albright and Stephen Hadley, but it is also credited to an Executive Team headed by Executive Director Stephen Grand and Deputy Executive Director Jessica Ashooh, who in all probability were responsible for the actual drafting and editing.

The report also appears to have numerous high profile advisers who might or might not have had some hand in the final product. Running through the list of associates in the project which appears at the end of the report, one notes immediately that there is no individual or group identified that would contest the notion that the U.S. must have a leadership role in the Middle East. Indeed, many of those named derive considerable status from being part or supportive of America’s engagement in the region.

I would unambiguously describe Albright and Hadley as interventionists, a label that they might object to. Albright was Bill Clinton’s aggressive Secretary of State who is famous for her endorsement of American exceptionalism, stating that “We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future…” She also is notorious for her approval of sanctions on Iraq that might have killed 500,000 children as “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it” and she also once asked Colin Powell “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Stephen Hadley was the hawkish National Security Advisor under George W. Bush. He was one of the most outspoken advocates of military action against Iraq. During the essentially phony Syrian chemical weapons crisis in September 2013, he appeared on the media advocating attacking Syria with missiles. At the time, he was on the board at Raytheon and owned 11,477 shares of stock, which some considered to be a conflict of interest.

Albright and Hadley clearly were selected as co-Chairs to make the report bipartisan, an imperative for the Atlantic Council, which prides itself on being non-political, describing itself in its website as “a nonpartisan organization that promotes constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community.” That self-definition suggests active engagement by the United States that goes well beyond George Washington’s advice. And if you look at the list of the Council’s executives and review their writings you will be able to confirm that they are pretty much inside the Beltway status quo in terms of supporting an assertive U.S. role in world affairs.

Albright and Hadley brought with them a certain point of view which was certainly recognized by the initiators of the project and one might assume that the Atlantic Council pretty much knew what the report would endorse even before it was written. The report, which runs to 105 pages, explores what it describes as a new strategic vision for the Middle East that will “change the political trajectory of the region.” It goes something like this: the states in the region must work together to create a “positive vision for their societies” to include “unlock[ing] the region’s rich, but largely untapped, human capital – especially the underutilized talents of youth and women.” Meanwhile, outside forces like the United States would have the responsibility of taking the lead to wind down the “violent conflicts” that have rocked the region. That means that the local governments will be responsible for haggling their way to some kind of acceptable modus vivendi while the U.S. must become more deeply involved militarily and using intelligence resources to stabilize Syria, Yemen and Libya.

In the case of Syria, which is the focus of the report, the argument is made that Bashar al-Assad’s reactionary regime is the root cause of the violence that has cost more than 200,000 lives and dislocated at least a third of the country’s population. This assessment is not necessarily universally accepted since 80% of the Syrian population lives in areas controlled by the government, which is about to increase its dominance by taking all of Aleppo, and there are no reports of civilians fleeing en masse to the greater freedom afforded by the rebel held areas, rather the reverse being true.

The report recommends using the U.S. military to establish safe areas in Syria to protect civilian populations, to include no-fly zones, which would bring about direct contact with the air forces of both Damascus and Moscow. It explicitly calls for direct military action against Syrian government forces including the employment of “air power, stand-off weapons, covert measures and enhanced support for opposition forces to break the current siege of Aleppo and frustrate Assad’s attempts to consolidate control over western Syria’s population centers.”

This judgment has been overtaken by events, but the co-authors do not really discuss what such an intervention would mean as it would involve the United States in an actual war based on executive fiat without any declaration from Congress. It also ignores reality on the ground, to include some politico-military reliance on the mythical moderate rebels while choosing not to recognize that the U.S. military is the intruder in Syria which, like it or not, has a legitimate government and a legal ally in Russia. The possibility of a second war with Russia is largely ignored in the report though there is an assumption that military pressure from the U.S. would push Damascus and Moscow towards a “political settlement” of the conflict after Russia becomes convinced through the assertion of American military power that “defeat, or stalemate, not victory, are the only realistic military outcomes.”

The report was initially intended to serve as a bipartisan rebuke to the current Barack Obama policy which limits direct American involvement in the conflict. Written before the presidential election, the co-authors could not have anticipated a Donald Trump victory, but they might be hoping that the report would serve as a guideline for the new administration. Hopefully they will be wrong in that expectation, but it is difficult at this point to see where the next White House will be going with its Middle Eastern policy.

There are a number of things wrong with the report from my perspective. Most significant, it assigns to the United States the responsibility to set and enforce standards of governance in parts of the world where the American people have little in the way of actual interests. The report refers to this oversight role as part of “enabling American global military operations,” an odd objective and also a point at which the language and perceptual problems come in – I am hearing intervention, which has been a failed policy since 2001, where Albright and Hadley construe a humanitarian mission based on American interests. They also have difficulty in conceptualizing that what they describe as the “debilitating cycle of conflict” in the Middle East might actually have been caused in large part by Washington’s involvement in that region, starting with the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Second, the authors assume that the countries in the region, all of which have disparate interests, will act in good faith to support the “unlocking of the region’s human potential,” as the report enthuses, as part of its “positive vision.” It sounds good and probably is pleasing to globalists, but I would be skeptical of any kumbaya moments that require bringing together players like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey into one harmonic movement to better everyone in the region. Such pie in the sky is not even close to credible.

Third, when the report was issued Stephen Hadley told Reuters that “It may not work. But one of the things we know is that what’s going on now isn’t working.” No, it isn’t, but that might be based on a faulty assessment of the nature of the conflict. And this is thin gruel indeed to use as justification for going to war against Syria and possibly Russia.

One of the report’s obvious weaknesses derives from its Establishment-centric worldview. It calls for building stronger political institutions among the Palestinians in order to achieve a two-state solution without any serious examination of what the Israeli occupation is doing or not doing to impede any real movement in that direction. It treats Iran as an enemy of the “positive vision” that is “interfering” with its neighbors with the U.S. willing to “deter and contain Iran’s hegemonic activity,” making any real progress towards regional rapprochement unlikely. It sees a liberal democratic solution to all ills and judges multifaceted regional conflicts in purely “us against them” terms, favoring its “friends and allies” against the numerous other forces that are not on the same page.

The Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force Final Report argues that a transformation of the entire region, starting with establishment of security by replacing al-Assad and defeating ISIS, is both desirable and attainable. And it is an enterprise that has to be left to local players for the necessary social and political constructs with the U.S. providing leadership and direction, particularly when it comes to repressing “violent conflicts.” It is a utopian vision of what might be but one has to be concerned that the simplistic application of military force as a remedy for the regional cycle of violence ignores the probability that the reliance on such a solution in the first place has been a key element in the evolution of the current instability. That Syria will be fixed by coming in with force majeure on the side of what is being promoted as a progressive and humanitarian alternative to Bashar al-Assad borders on the ridiculous, but it is characteristic of the default position that many in Washington adopt when considering how to solve the problems in the Middle East.

 
How Russia is pilloried while real news about Israel goes unreported

The drama surrounding allegations that the internet is awash with “fake news” is being promoted by the so-called mainstream media which certainly has a lot to answer for when it comes to producing material that does not pass the smell test. Does the name Judith Miller ring any bells? And the squeaks of rage coming from the U.S. Congress over being lied to is also something to behold as the federal government has been acting in collusion with the media to dish up falsehoods designed to start wars since the time of the Spanish-American conflict in 1898, if not before.

The fake news saga is intended to discredit Donald Trump, whom the media hates mostly because they failed to understand either him or the Americans who voted for him in the recent election. You have to blame somebody when you are wrong so you invent “fake news” as the game changer that explains your failure to comprehend simple truths. To accomplish that, the clearly observable evidence that the media was piling on Donald Trump at every opportunity has somehow been deliberately morphed into a narrative that it is Trump who was attacking the media, suggesting that it was all self-defense on the part of the Rachel Maddows of this world, but anyone who viewed even a small portion of the farrago surely will have noted that it was the Republican candidate who was continuously coming under attack from both the right and left of the political-media spectrum.

There are also some secondary narratives being promoted, including a pervasive argument that Hillary Clinton was somehow the victim of the news reporting due specifically to fake stories emanating largely from Moscow in an attempt to not only influence the election but also to subvert America’s democratic institutions. I have observed that if such a truly ridiculous objective were President Vladimir Putin’s desired goal he might as well relax. Our own Democratic and Republican duopoly has already been doing a fine job at subverting democracy by assiduously separating the American people from the elite Establishment that theoretically represents and serves them.

Another side of the mainstream media lament that has been relatively unexplored is what the media chooses not to report. At the present moment, it is practically obligatory to slam Russia and Putin at every opportunity even though Moscow is too militarily weak and poor to fancy itself a global adversary of the U.S. Instead of seeking a new Cold War, Washington should instead focus on working with Russia to make sure that disagreements over policies in relatively unimportant parts of the world do not escalate into nuclear exchanges. Russian actions on its own doorstep in Eastern Europe do not in fact threaten the United States or any actual vital interest. Nor does Moscow threaten the U.S. through its intervention on behalf of the Syrian government in the Middle East. That Russia is described incessantly as a threat in those areas is largely a contrivance arranged by the media, the Democratic and Republican National Committees and by the White House. Candidate Donald Trump appeared to recognize that fact before he began listening to Michael Flynn, who has a rather different view. Hopefully the old Trump will prevail.

Blaming Russia, which has good reasons to be suspicious of Washington’s intentions, is particularly convenient for those many diverse inside the Beltway interests that require a significant enemy to keep the cash flowing out of the pockets of taxpayers and into the bank accounts of the useless grifters who inhabit K-Street and Capitol Hill. Neoconservatives are frequently described as ideologues, but the truth is that they are more interested in gaining increased access to money and power than they are in promulgating their own brand of global regime change.

There is, however, another country that has interfered in U.S. elections, has endangered Americans living or working overseas and has corrupted America’s legislative and executive branches. It has exploited that corruption to initiate legislation favorable to itself, has promoted unnecessary and unwinnable wars and has stolen American technology and military secrets. Its ready access to the mainstream media to spread its own propaganda provides it with cover for its actions and it accomplishes all that and more through the agency of a powerful and well-funded domestic lobby that oddly is not subject to the accountability afforded by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938 even though it manifestly works on behalf of a foreign government. That country is, of course, Israel.

And that assessment of Israel and what damage it does regarding what most Americans would regard as genuine national interests is most definitely not reported, revealing once again that what is not written is every bit as important as what is. I would note how what has recently happened right in front of us relating to Israel is apparently not considered fit to print and will never appear on any disapproving editorial page. Just this week the Senate unanimously passed an Anti-Semitism Awareness bill and also by a 99 to zero vote renewed and strengthened sanctions against Iran, which could wreck the one year old anti-nuclear weapon proliferation agreement with that country.

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act is intended to give the Department of Education investigatory authority over “anti-Jewish incidents” on America’s college campuses. Such “incidents” are not limited to religious bigotry, with the examples cited in the bill’s text including criticism of Israel and claiming that the holocaust was “exaggerated.” It is a thinly disguised assault on the Boycott Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement, which is non-violent, does not criticize Jews as a religion or ethnicity, and is actually supported by many Jewish American who are concerned about Israel’s apartheid regime.

The Anti-Semitism bill makes Jews and Jewish interests a legally protected class, immune from any criticism. “Free speech” means in practice that you can burn an American flag, sell pornography, attack Christianity in the vilest terms or castigate the government in Washington all you want but criticizing Israel is off limits if you want to avoid falling into the clutches of the legal system. The Act is a major step forward in effectively making any expressed opposition to Israeli actions a hate crime and is similar to punitive legislation that has been enacted in twenty-two states as well as in Canada. It is strongly supported by the Israel Lobby, which quite likely drafted it, and is seeking to use legal challenges to delegitimize and eliminate any opposition to the policies of the state of Israel.

As the Act is clearly intended to restrict First Amendment rights if they are perceived as impacting on broadly defined Jewish sensitivities, it should be opposed on that basis alone, but it is very popular in Congress, which is de facto owned by the Israel Lobby. That the legislation is not being condemned or even discussed in the generally liberal media tells you everything you need to know about the amazing power of one particular unelected and unaccountable lobby in the U.S.

And there is always Iran to worry about. If the United States can successfully avoid a war with Russia, a conflict with the Mullahs could have major consequences even if the all-powerful U.S. military successfully rolls over its Iranian counterpart in less than a week. Iran is physically and in terms of population much larger than Iraq and it has a strong national identity. An attack by Washington would produce a powerful reaction, unleashing terrorist resources and destabilizing an economically and politically important region of the world for years to come. Currently, the nuclear agreement with Iran provides some measure of stability and also pushes backwards any possible program by Tehran to build a weapon. Iran does not threaten the United States, so why walk away from the agreement as some of Trump’s advisors urge? Or violate the agreement’s terms as the U.S. Congress seems to be doing by extending and tightening the sanctions regime with its just passed Iran Sanctions Extension Act? Look no further than the Israel Lobby. Hobbling Iran, a regional competitor, is a possible Israeli interest that should have nothing to do with the United States but yet again the United States government carries the water for the extreme right wing Netanyahu regime.

Israel for its part has welcomed the Trump election by building 500 new and completely illegal settler homes in what was once Arab East Jerusalem. Trump has surrounded himself with advocates for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s expectation that he will have a free hand in dealing with those pesky Palestinians is probably correct. I would like to think that Donald Trump will unpleasantly surprise him based on actual American rather than Israeli interests but am not optimistic.

Indeed, deference to perceived Israeli interests enforced by the Israel Lobby and media permeates the entire American foreign policy and national security structure. Congressman Keith Ellison who is seeking to become Democratic National Committee Chairman is being called an anti-Semite for “implying U.S. policy in the region [the Middle East] favored Israel at the expense of Muslim-majority countries, remarks ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt described as ‘deeply disturbing and disqualifying.’” Donald Trump and his senior counselor Steve Bannon have also both been called anti-Semites and several other potential GOP appointees have been subjected to the media’s fidelity-to-Israel litmus test.

The recently nominated Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who can hardly be called a moderate when it comes to Iran, has also been labeled an anti-Semite by the usual players. Why? Because in 2013 he told Wolf Blitzer “So we’ve got to work on [peace talks] with a sense of urgency. I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and [because of this] moderate Arabs couldn’t be with us because they couldn’t publicly support those who don’t show respect for Arab Palestinians.”

Mattis continued, referring directly to Israeli apartheid: “I’ll tell you, the current situation is unsustainable … We’ve got to find a way to make work the two-state solution that both Democrat and Republican administrations have supported, and the chances are starting to ebb because of the settlements. For example, if I’m Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers to the east and there’s ten-thousand Arabs already there, and if we draw the border to include them, either [Israel] ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid. That didn’t work too well the last time I saw that practiced in a country.”

Mattis will no doubt be reminded of his remarks when he is up for Senate confirmation. A predecessor Chuck Hagel was mercilessly grilled by Senators over his reported comment that the “Jewish lobby” intimidates congressmen. But ironically nearly everyone who is not an Israel-firster who is involved in U.S. foreign and security policy knows that aggressive Israeli colonization of the Palestinian West Bank and its siege of Gaza contribute greatly to terrorism against the United States, since Washington is regularly blamed for enabling Netanyahu. When General David Petraeus said pretty much the same thing as Mattis back in 2010 he was forced to “explain” his comments, retract them and then grovel before he was eventually given a pass by the Lobby.

And there is considerable self-censorship related to the alleged sensitivity of “Jewish issues,” not only in the media. I recently attended a conference on the Iraq invasion of 2003 at which the role of Israel manifested through its controlled gaggle of American legislators and bureaucrats as a factor in going to war was not even mentioned. It was as if it would be impolite or, dare I say, anti-Semitic, to do so even though the Israeli role was hardly hidden. Former Bush administration senior official Philip Zelikow has admitted that protecting Israel was the principal reason why the U.S. invaded Iraq and others have speculated that without the persistent neocons’ and Israel’s prodding Washington might not have gone to war at all. That is apparently what then Secretary of State Colin Powell also eventually came around to believe.

So let’s stop talking about what Russia is doing to the United States, which is relatively speaking very little, and start admitting that the lopsided and completely deferential relationship with Israel is the actual central problem in America’s foreign policy. Will the media do that? Not a chance. They would rather obsess about fake news and blame Putin.

 
Will Iran be the target of the Trump regime?

One of the most discouraging aspects of the filling out of the Donald Trump cabinet is the array of Iran haters that seem to be lining up in the foreign policy and national security areas. Trump has been personally advocating sensible policies relating to Russia and Syria but he appears to have gone off the rails regarding Iran, which just might be attributed to those who are giving him advice. A reversion to the relationship that prevailed prior to last year’s signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) between Iran and the so-called P5+1 consisting of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and the European Union would be undesirable, to say the least, but that appears to be what is likely to develop. Or it could be even worse, finding bilateral support for “action” as a number of policy advisors in the presidential campaign from both parties were endorsing something like war against the Persians.

The irony is that the argument made then and now for attacking Iran were based on the threat of Tehran deciding to build its own atomic bomb. With the JCPA agreement, however, most would agree that any remaining concerns that Tehran might even be considering the development of a nuclear weapons program were greatly diminished. Iran has since that time been in compliance with the agreement, possible nuclear proliferation has been avoided, and, apart from the fulminations of the inevitable anti-Iranian politicians in the United States, the signatories to the agreement have expressed their satisfaction with the outcome. It has been Washington that has failed to live up to its part of the agreement by easing remaining restrictions that are being imposed against Iranian financial institutions and regarding the purchase of some commercially available dual use technologies.

Candidate Donald Trump did not need much prompting to pick up on the prevailing anti-Iran sentiment. In a number of campaign speeches he denounced the JCPA as a bad deal and vowed to tear it up upon taking office. Some of that sentiment might well have been derived from his desire to distance himself from foreign policy positions promoted by President Barack Obama that were subsequently endorsed by Hillary Clinton so it is no surprise that since being elected he has somewhat modified his stance. He is now veering towards trying to renegotiate the agreement, which would likely be impossible given that it has multiple signatories. He could nevertheless disrupt it by continuing or increasing sanctions on Iran.

The thought of reverting to a state of unrelenting hostility towards Iran is disconcerting. One recalls joint CIA-Mossad operations between 2010 and 2012 that assassinated four civilian scientists connected to the country’s nuclear program as well as the creation of the Stuxnet virus that threatened to spread to other computers worldwide. It is generally accepted that Israel’s Mossad planned and prepared the killing of the scientists with a little help from the U.S., attacks which were almost certainly carried out by associates of the radical Marxist group Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK), which is now being seen favorably by several Trump advisors even though the group is Marxist, cult-like and has killed Americans.

The assassinations were based on the false premise that Iran had a nuclear weapons program that could be disrupted by killing the scientists and technicians involved. Two comprehensive studies by the American government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducted in 2007 and 2011 determined that no such program existed and that Iran had never taken any serious steps to initiate such research. Israel was also aware that there was no program. Nevertheless, the Israeli and American governments took steps to interfere with Iran’s existing and completely legal and open to inspection atomic energy program by identifying then killing its scientists and also introducing viruses into its computer systems. This was in spite of the fact that Iran was fully compliant with international norms on nuclear research and it was a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Israel, possessing its own nuclear arsenal, had refused to sign.

The history of the Iran-U.S. relationship is significant because several Trump advisors appear to be locked into a time warp regarding the Mullahs and the threat to Americans that they allegedly constitute. Former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) head Michael Flynn, who will be the Trump National Security Advisor, is the most prominent Iran hater and also the most outspoken.

Flynn, also an unapologetic Islamophobe, has said that Iran represents a danger to U.S. national security and that our friend and ally Israel “lives under the threat of total annihilation from Iran…something the United States must never allow.” He believes that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons as well as the ballistic missiles needed to deliver them on target and thinks that “regime change” is the only solution to the threat posed by the current government. And for Flynn, Iran is not alone, it is part of a “global alliance” that includes China and Russia which seeks to threaten the U.S. and its allies.

Flynn concludes that Iran is unmitigated evil and that Washington should have nothing to do with it, apart from recognizing the reality that it and its government must be destroyed. I personally attended a conference in Moscow last December at which Flynn asserted that Iran is solely responsible for nearly all the instability in the Middle East and is behind at least five wars in the region, an assertion that is just as ridiculous as it sounds.

One might suggest that Flynn is terribly uninformed about a subject regarding which he claims expertise. His comments would suggest that the capabilities of the DIA that he once headed were dangerously overrated, but reports from his former colleagues indicate that he was always guilty of serious overreach in his pronouncements, something they referred to as “Flynn facts”.

If Flynn were just one loud voice braying in the wilderness he would be bad enough since his job is important, particularly with a president who has no foreign policy experience, but the sad fact is that he is not alone. Congressman, West Point grad and former Army officer Mike Pompeo, who will head the CIA, is more-or-less on the same page when it comes to Iran. Her supports new sanctions on the country and, regarding his appointment as Director, he had only one comment to make and it related to the JCPA, “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.” As in the case with Flynn and DIA one has to wonder what kind of “objective” intelligence CIA will be producing under Pompeo.

Finally, there is retired Marine General James Mattis, who is being considered for a senior position in national security, possibly as Secretary of Defense. He is yet another Iranophobe who opposed the JCPA and calls Iran a rogue state that constitutes the “greatest threat” in the Middle East. As part of the evidence for that assessment he cites Iran’s alliance with Syria, which is at least in part directed against America’s enemy number one ISIS, demonstrating once again how Establishment Washington has difficulty in understanding what constitutes actual national interests. Mattis, in fact, denies that Iran is actually fighting ISIS.

The neoconservative kingpin Bill Kristol is gloating, headlining in his Weekly Standard publication that the “Iran Deal Is Doomed!” He should be pleased. Team Trump’s attitude towards an alleged Iranian threat is delusional, more in sync with Kristol and some Israeli thinking than with any actual American interests. Just as neoconservatives always believe that it is 1938 and we are in Munich, Flynn, Pompeo and Mattis likewise seem to think that it is 1979 and the United States Embassy in Tehran is still occupied.

The three Trumpsmen are not stupid, far from it, but the problem appears to be that they cannot comfortably assess two or more conflicting concepts at the same time, which might be due to the linear thinking derived from their military backgrounds. The Middle East is awash with players, all of whom have separate agendas, few of which coincide with actual American interests. If one is fixated on or obsessed with Iran as the sole disruptive force in the region it becomes difficult to see how Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel are also problems. It is decidedly neoconnish to look at a complex foreign policy issue and only see black and white, but that is what the Trump national security team seems to be prone to do.

Hopefully someone will convince Donald Trump that the real answer to eliminating the “Iranian threat” is not war. It requires building on the relationship established by JCPA to bind Iran more closely to the international community, both economically and culturally. By all accounts, young Iranians, a majority of the population, are dismissive of the rigidity of their own government and are very open to Western ideas and lifestyle. Change will come to Iran if the United States and its European allies encourage more rather than less non-threatening contact. It will not come at the point of a bayonet as Flynn, Pompeo and Mattis appear to be promoting.

 
They hate him and will never relent

Newly elected presidents are frequently afforded what is described as a “honeymoon period” in which the criticism of their campaign positions diminishes sharply as the public and media stand by to see what actually will develop as an administration takes shape. The honeymoon can sometimes extend well into the post-inauguration time frame, as it did with President Barack Obama, and it provides for a breathing space during which the new arrivals in the White House can set an agenda and learn how the government actually works.

Unfortunately, President-elect Donald Trump will apparently not enjoy such a courtesy, at least as far as the media is concerned. The mainstream media was unrelentingly hostile to Trump both during the Republican primaries and the presidential campaign itself. The assertions emanating from media apologists contending that Trump actually benefitted from the massive press coverage that he did receive ignores the fact that the reporting was almost always negative. If Trump benefited at all it was only because the public, seeing the outpouring of sheer hatred from a media that it already distrusted, came to believe that someone so vilified by a source so questionable must actually represent something worth supporting.

The rage of the media towards Trump continues unabated. The Washington Post, a scurrilous rag emanating out of the District of Columbia that claims to be a national “newspaper of record,” has a neocon editorial page that has never seen a war that it dislikes coupled with domestic and local reporting that is multicultural, inclusive and diverse to a fault. Its globalist agenda driven hacks seamlessly churn out news stories that are more editorials for a certain world view than they are reporting of actual events. It is “invade the world-invite the world” at its finest and reminds one of Hillary Clinton at her most effusive.

The Post’s November 16th print edition was remarkable even by the paper’s lax journalistic standards, suggesting that it would be well served by renaming itself The Anti-Trump. Here are the stories featured in the paper on that day either about Trump himself, his transition team, or about policies that Trump is believed to be promoting:

  • Lead headline, “Key figures purged from Trump team.”
  • Lead Editorial” “Mr. Putin’s green light for atrocities: Mr. Obama will not act in Syria to stop Russia or the Assad regime, and Mr. Trump seems indifferent at best”
  • Second Editorial” “Show us your papers Mr. Trump”
  • Article “How Bannon coaxed Trump in alt-right shift”
  • Article “A rallying cry for Democrats: Resist”
  • Article “Police chief: Los Angeles won’t aid Trump deportation efforts”
  • Article “Think tank highlights Russian threat”
  • Article “Anti-Defamation League decries Bannon’s ascent”
  • Article “Parents of transgender children speak out in an effort to empower others”
  • Article “Elite schools urged to aid undocumented students”
  • Article “In rejecting the blind trust tradition, Trump follows another model: Ukraine”
  • Article “In Middle east, a new uncertainty after Obama”
  • Article “Europeans urge Trump to be cautious on Putin”
  • Article “Obama warns of ‘crude sort of nationalism’”
  • Article “Why Mexico has a lot to lose in a Trump trade war”
  • Article “Trump’s election does not bode well for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau”
  • Article “The faulty logic behind Trump’s plan to freeze federal hiring”
  • Article “Ginsburg utters: ‘President Trump’: Justice who had voiced distaste for Republican bites her tongue”
  • Article “Election outcome protested in District”
  • Opinion “For my dad and uncle, Trump is no step forward: the election of Obama gave them hope. Now they have Trump”
  • Article “’Sanctuaries’ stand firm amid threat”
  • Article “Council floats plan to cut back on Trump’s parade”
  • Op-ed “America’s Bannon litmus test”
  • Op-ed “Trump must disavow the alt-right”
  • Op-ed “With Russia, deterrence before détente”
  • Op-ed “The Fed clash to come?”
  • Letter to editor: In an attack on those who voted for Trump, “When you knowingly put a racist person with seemingly fascist tendencies in the White House, it can give the impression that you sympathize.”
  • Letter to editor: “…with the selection of Mr. Ebell [a critic of climate change as EPA transition team head] that promise [to drain the Washington swamp] appears to have been a lie. Rather than draining the swamp, the president-elect is already swimming in it.”
  • Metro section review of the Capitol dome restoration: “Revived symbol for worried nation”
  • Style section “Questions of faith: She had always believed hers was a country that, ultimately, chose good. What now?”
  • Style section “Never say #Never? These conservatives said they couldn’t tolerate Trump. Then he won”
  • Style section “Sykes says she got the last laugh on hecklers [a comedian who was booed in Boston when she made a series of jokes about Trump]”

This constitutes just one day’s coverage in only one paper of the World of Trump. I am pleased to report that there were no negative stories about Donald in either the Sports or Food sections, though I might have missed them, and I later noted that there were a couple of more negative pieces in the online version of the paper. The New York Times online on the same day was not so vitriolic, and a bit more restrained in its language, but it had seven featured articles, one editorial and four op-eds all critical of Trump, his policies, or his transition process. One op-ed was entitled “Bullying in the age of Trump.”

My point here is that, yes, I get it, Trump and his doings are currently hot items for the media, but this goes well beyond “reporting the news.” It is more like creating the story. There has been an avalanche of articles, commentary and assorted quasi-reportorial innuendo all depicting Trump, those around him and his prospective policies in as critical a fashion as possible. It appears that no end is in sight and even the most skeptical reader will eventually be somewhat persuaded by the sheer volume of negativity regarding Trump as much of it will be in his or her face as they sip their morning coffee. If one adds in similar coverage deriving from television sources like CNN and MSNBC as well as agitprop demonstrations in the streets allegedly being funded by George Soros, the conclusion that Donald Trump will begin his presidency with a huge credibility deficit is inescapable.

Many of us have longed for a president who will actually shake up the smug oligarchy that runs the New York-Washington bankster-crooked politician axis. Trump may or may not be that man but he at least deserves a chance to prove himself, particularly if he is genuinely interested in détente with Russia and is unwilling to play the role of the world’s policeman. No matter what the oligarchs think, the genie is truly out of the bottle. Few among the flyover public and the “deplorables” any longer trust what goes on in Washington and that sentiment is, if anything, growing. Even if the media and the Establishment succeed in destroying Trump, and they are on course to do so, there will be another Trump in 2020. And he or she would be even angrier and might be able to tap into an increased level of popular rage that could make the current president-elect and his merry band seem the soul of moderation. It is not necessarily something to hope for.

 
Or is it just that liberal Jews hate Trump?

One of the more curious bits of invective hurled at presidential candidate Donald Trump was the claim that he is an anti-Semite. The allegation is particularly odd as Trump worked comfortably for decades in the heavily Jewish New York real estate world, his daughter Ivanka, whom he is very close to, has converted to Judaism and is married to a Jew who was prominent in Donald’s campaign while Trump’s grandson from that marriage is being raised as Jewish. Trump was Grand Marshall of New York City’s 2004 Salute to Israel Parade and has contributed to predominantly Jewish charities.

On November 2nd, a position paper was released that had been prepared by the candidate’s supporters Jason Dov Greenblatt and David Friedman of the campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee which detailed its Middle Eastern policy. It hails the “unbreakable bond” between the U.S. and Israel while calling Israel a Jewish state and a “staunch ally.” It promises to increase financial and political support for Israel, blames the Palestinians for failure to have peace, commits to cut off funding to UN organizations that criticize Israel, rejects any suggestion that Israel is an occupying power, and pledges a major diplomatic and legislative efforts to stop the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement by whatever means necessary. It commits to having the Justice Department investigate on-campus attempts to “intimidate students who support Israel.” It concludes by rejecting a Palestinian state “where terrorism is financially incentivized” and supports Israel’s continued maintenance of “defensible borders” through its settlements. It calls for implementing “tough, new sanctions” against Iran and promises to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making the United States the only country in the world to do so.

Indeed, if one judges philo-Semitism by the relationship to Israel Trump fares well on all fronts, his campaign having also been perceived very positively in that country. One of the first calls from a foreign head of state that Trump took upon winning the election was from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will likely be the very first head of state to visit with Trump.

Admittedly the state of Israel is not exactly identical to Judaism or to what might drive pro- or anti-Jewish sentiment, but it would be difficult to imagine a more pro-Israel with the intention of being pro-Jewish document than the Trump campaign policy paper. Nevertheless, the attacks regarding anti-Semitism in the Trump campaign continued. The claims are usually generic and circumstantial, often evidence free. They tend not to be ad hominem directed at Trump himself because it is impossible to actually cite any instances where the candidate himself made unambiguously anti-Semitic statements or supported causes hostile to Jews.

One recent piece by Dana Milbank, a cookie cutter Washington Post columnist who has been blasting Trump for over a year is characteristic. Milbank, an Ivy league twit who is himself Jewish and liberal to a fault, claimed on November 7th that “Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody.” He claimed that Trump has been “playing footsie with American neo-Nazis for months” and based his broader allegation on Trump’s going after banks and the “global power structure” that Hillary Clinton embodied, which Milbank believes is codeword for citing an International Jewish Conspiracy. What set him off in particular was a Trump ad that appeared on November 4th depicting “those who control the levers of power” and who “represent global interests.” The three individuals appearing on the ad were Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve; George Soros, the international financier; and Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs. All three are Jewish.

Milbank may or may not believe that banks and financial services are fair game when it comes to discussing America’s economic malaise, but he clearly thinks that it is not desirable to do so if it involves his tribe. Trump’s ad in no way mentions Jews or Judaism. It does identify individuals who are key players in the global economy, which would appear to be the point. And one might well observe that discussing banks and bank(st)ers will inevitably lead to people with Jewish names as American Jews are way over represented in the profession.

Janet Yellen is the third Jew in a row to be chairman of the Federal Reserve and her deputy Stanley Fischer is a Rhodesian born Israeli who was formerly head of the Bank of Israel. Soros is a Hungarian born billionaire investor who has supported what some regard as subversive progressive causes for three decades, making him an obvious target of Trump, while Blankfein and the notorious Goldman Sachs needs no further elaboration. One suspects that for Milbank it might be possible to talk critically about some banks, but not if the banking practices under scrutiny are connected with Jews, particularly if such commentary might be construed as suggestive of the political access and control that money buys.

A couple of weeks before Milbank’s venting of his spleen, one Yochi Dreazen made his case against Trump in an article entitled “It’s time to acknowledge reality: Donald Trump talks like an anti-Semite.” He does so largely by citing other people and entities that he links to Trump, including David Duke, The Daily Stormer website and Pepe the Frog. He accuses Trump of using “language and imagery that carry anti-Semitic undertones” and even attacks Trump’s telling the Republican Jewish Coalition that he didn’t need their money and wouldn’t be bought. He also digs up the controversy, as does Milbank, about a mysterious six pointed star appearing on a campaign ad featuring Hillary Clinton and stacks of money. It might be doubted that the creators of ads during a heated political campaign would be inclined to insert secret symbols to inflame their most extreme supporters but even if that is true it is quite a stretch to suggest that Donald Trump either had a hand in it or approved of it.

Dreazen’s wrath is most focused on a speech Trump made in Florida in mid-October, which is reproduced in “key phrases” in his article. Here is what Trump allegedly said:

It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities…

We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors…

This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it on November 8. Remember that.

This election will determine whether we’re a free nation, or whether we have only an illusion democracy but in are in fact controlled by a small handful of special global interests rigging the system, and our system is rigged.

Dreazen regards all of the above as a “paranoid and hate filled rant” as well as “a hoary anti-Semitic canard” but I don’t quite get it. I would agree with most of what Trump said and would observe that he is not unique in thinking that way either as most of what he said has long been common currency among both liberal and conservative critics of the status quo in the U.S. I think that very few Americans who might agree with the sentiments expressed would under any circumstances think that it refers to Jews. Rather, some thoughtful observers who have actually thought about the issues at stake might well believe that Trump is talking about the American Deep State, which, as far as I know, has never been described as some kind of Jewish conspiracy. Trump does not mention Jews at all and the only proper name that he cites in his speech was Hillary Clinton, whom he was running against, and she claims to be a Methodist.

Let’s face it, Milbank and Dreazen are pro-Establishment guys who have hated Trump from the beginning because he does not fit into their progressive world view and who delight in being able to make the kind of twisted arguments that enable them to label him an anti-Semite as well as a misogynist, racist, bigot and homophobe. Have I left anything out? They are attacking him not for what he has actually clearly stated or done but over what he might be thinking. For them it is always convenient to be able to recall Munich in 1938 or to conjure up Cossacks at the front door to win an argument, but someone should tell them that calling someone an anti-Semite is fortunately a slur that is losing its effectiveness through overuse and lack of credibility. Joe Sobran put it very well when he observed that anti-Semite used to be an expression applied to people who hate Jews but now it is more often used to describe people that Jews hate.

 
Delusional foreign policy could bring disaster

The American people don’t know very much about war even if Washington has been fighting on multiple fronts since 9/11. The continental United States has not experienced the presence a hostile military force for more than 100 years and war for the current generation of Americans consists largely of the insights provided by video games and movies. The Pentagon’s invention of embedded journalists, which limits any independent media insight into what is going on overseas, has contributed to the rendering of war as some kind of abstraction. Gone forever is anything like the press coverage of Vietnam, with nightly news and other media presentations showing prisoners being executed and young girls screaming while racing down the street in flames.

Given all of that, it is perhaps no surprise that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, neither of whom has served in uniform, should regard violence inflicted on people overseas with a considerable level of detachment. Hillary is notorious for her assessment of the brutal killing of Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi, saying “We came, we saw, he died.” They both share to an extent the dominant New York-Washington policy consensus view that dealing with foreigners can sometimes get a bit bloody, but that is a price that someone in power has to be prepared to pay. One of Hillary’s top advisers, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, famously declared that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to U.S. led sanctions were “worth it.”

In the election campaign there has, in fact, been little discussion of the issue of war and peace or even of America’s place in the world, though Trump did at one point note correctly that implementation of Hillary’s suggested foreign policy could escalate into World War III. It has been my contention that the issue of war should be more front and center in the minds of Americans when they cast their ballots as the prospect of an armed conflict in which little is actually at stake escalating and going nuclear could conceivably end life on this planet as we know it.

With that in mind, it is useful to consider what the two candidates have been promising. First, Hillary, who might reasonably be designated the Establishment’s war candidate though she carefully wraps it in humanitarian “liberal interventionism.” As Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has always viewed a foreign crisis as an opportunity to use aggressive measures to seek a resolution. She can always be relied upon to “do something,” a reflection of the neocon driven Washington foreign policy consensus.

Hillary Clinton and her advisors, who believe strongly in Washington’s leadership role globally and embrace their own definition of American exceptionalism, have been explicit in terms of what they would do to employ our military power. She would be an extremely proactive president in foreign policy, with a particular animus directed against Russia. And, unfortunately, there would be little or no pushback against the exercise of her admittedly poor instincts regarding what to do, as was demonstrated regarding Libya and also with Benghazi. She would find little opposition in Congress and the media for an extremely risky foreign policy, and would benefit from the Washington groupthink that prevails over the alleged threats emanating from Russia, Iran, and China.

Hillary has received support from foreign policy hawks, including a large number of formerly Republican neocons, to include Robert Kagan, Michael Chertoff, Michael Hayden, Eliot Cohen and Eric Edelman. James Stavridis, a retired admiral who was once vetted by Clinton as a possible vice president, recently warned of “the need to use deadly force against the Iranians. I think it’s coming. It’s going to be maritime confrontation and if it doesn’t happen immediately, I’ll bet you a dollar it’s going to be happening after the presidential election, whoever is elected.”

Hillary believes that Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad is the root cause of the turmoil in that country and must be removed as the first priority. . It is a foolish policy as al-Assad in no way threatens the United States while his enemy ISIS does and regime change would create a power vacuum that will benefit the latter. She has also called for a no-fly zone in Syria to protect the local population as well as the insurgent groups that the U.S. supports, some of which had been labeled as terrorists before they were renamed by current Secretary of State John Kerry. Such a zone would dramatically raise the prospect of armed conflict with Russia and it puts Washington in an odd position vis-à-vis what is occurring in Syria. The U.S. is not at war with the Syrian government, which, like it or not, is under international law sovereign within its own recognized borders. Damascus has invited the Russians in to help against the rebels and objects to any other foreign presence on Syrian territory. In spite of all that, Washington is asserting some kind of authority to intervene and to confront the Russians as both a humanitarian mission and as an “inherent right of self-defense.”

Hillary has not recommended doing anything about Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, all of which have at one time or another for various reasons supported ISIS, but she is clearly no friend of Iran, which has been fighting ISIS. As a Senator, she threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran but she has more recently reluctantly supported the recent nuclear agreement with that country negotiated by President Barack Obama. But she has nevertheless warned that she will monitor the situation closely for possible violations and will otherwise pushback against activity by the Islamic Republic. As one of her key financial supporters is Israeli Haim Saban, who has said he is a one issue guy and that issue is Israel, she is likely to pursue aggressive policies in the Persian Gulf. She has also promised to move America’s relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a “new level” and has repeatedly declared that her support for Israel is unconditional.

One of Hillary’s advisors, former CIA acting Director Michael Morell, has called for new sanctions on Tehran and has also recently recommended that the U.S. begin intercepting Iranian ships presumed to be carrying arms to the Houthis in Yemen. Washington is not at war with either Iran or Yemen and the Houthis are not on the State Department terrorist list but our good friends the Saudis have been assiduously bombing them for reasons that seem obscure. Stopping ships in international waters without any legal pretext would be considered by many an act of piracy. Morell has also called for covertly assassinating Iranians and Russians to express our displeasure with the foreign policies of their respective governments.

Hillary’s dislike for Russia’s Vladimir Putin is notorious. Syria aside, she has advocated arming Ukraine with game changing offensive weapons and also bringing Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, which would force a sharp Russian reaction. One suspects that she might be sympathetic to the views expressed recently by Carl Gershman in a Washington Post op-ed that received curiously little additional coverage in the media. Gershman is the head of the taxpayer funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which means that he is a powerful figure in Washington’s foreign-policy establishment. NED has plausibly been described as doing the sorts of things that the CIA used to do.

After making a number of bumper-sticker claims about Russia and Putin that are either partially true, unproven or even ridiculous, Gershman concluded that “the United States has the power to contain and defeat this danger. The issue is whether we can summon the will to do so.” It is basically a call for the next administration to remove Putin from power—as foolish a suggestion as has ever been seen in a leading newspaper, as it implies that the risk of nuclear war is completely acceptable to bring about regime change in a country whose very popular, democratically elected leadership we disapprove of. But it is nevertheless symptomatic of the kind of thinking that goes on inside the beltway and is quite possibly a position that Hillary Clinton will embrace. She also benefits from having the perfect implementer of such a policy in Robert Kagan’s wife Victoria Nuland, her extremely dangerous protégé who is currently Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and who might wind up as Secretary of State in a Clinton Administration.

Shifting to East Asia, Hillary sees the admittedly genuine threat from North Korea but her response is focused more on China. She would increase U.S. military presence in the South China Sea to deter any further attempts by Beijing to develop disputed islands and would also “ring China with defensive missiles,” ostensibly as “protection” against Pyongyang but also to convince China to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. One wonders what Beijing might think about being surrounded by made-in-America missiles.

Trump’s foreign policy is admittedly quite sketchy and he has not always been consistent. He has been appropriately enough slammed for being simple minded in saying that he would “bomb the crap out of ISIS,” but he has also taken on the Republican establishment by specifically condemning the George W. Bush invasion of Iraq and has more than once indicated that he is not interested in either being the world’s policeman or in new wars in the Middle East. He has repeatedly stated that he supports NATO but it should not be construed as hostile to Russia. He would work with Putin to address concerns over Syria and Eastern Europe. He would demand that NATO countries spend more for their own defense and also help pay for the maintenance of U.S. bases.

Trump’s controversial call to stop all Muslim immigration has been rightly condemned but it contains a kernel of truth in that the current process for vetting new arrivals in this country is far from transparent and apparently not very effective. The Obama Administration has not been very forthcoming on what might be done to fix the entire immigration process but Trump is promising to shake things up, which is overdue, though what exactly a Trump Administration would try to accomplish is far from clear.

Continuing on the negative side, Trump, who is largely ignorant of the world and its leaders, has relied on a mixed bag of advisors. Former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency General Michael Flynn appears to be the most prominent. Flynn is associated with arch neocon Michael Ledeen and both are rabid about Iran, with Flynn suggesting that nearly all the unrest in the Middle East should be laid at Tehran’s door. Ledeen is, of course, a prominent Israel-firster who has long had Iran in his sights. The advice of Ledeen and Flynn may have been instrumental in Trump’s vehement denunciation of the Iran nuclear agreement, which he has called a “disgrace,” which he has said he would “tear up.” It is vintage dumb-think. The agreement cannot be canceled because there are five other signatories to it and the denial of a nuclear weapons program to Tehran benefits everyone in the region, including Israel. It is far better to have the agreement than to scrap it, if that were even possible.

Trump has said that he would be an even-handed negotiator between Israel and the Palestinians but he has also declared that he is strongly pro-Israel and would move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, which is a bad idea, not in America’s interest, even if Netanyahu would like it. It would produce serious blowback from the Arab world and would inspire a new wave of terrorism directed against the U.S.

Regarding the rest of the Middle East, Trump would prefer strong leaders, i.e. autocrats, who are friendly rather than chaotic reformers. He rejects arming rebels as in Syria because we know little about whom we are dealing with and find that we cannot control what develops. He is against foreign aid in principle, particularly to countries like Pakistan where the U.S. is strongly disliked.

In East Asia, Trump would encourage Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenals to deter North Korea. It is a very bad idea, a proliferation nightmare. Like Hillary, he would prefer that China intervene in North Korea and make Kim Jong Un “step down.” He would put pressure on China to devalue its currency because it is “bilking us of billions of dollars” and would also increase U.S. military presence in the region to limit Beijing’s expansion in the South China Sea.

So there you have it as you enter the voting booth. President Obama is going around warning that “the fate of the world is teetering” over the electoral verdict, which he intends to be a ringing endorsement of Hillary even though the choice is not nearly that clear cut. Part of the problem with Trump is that he has some very bad ideas mixed in with a few good ones and no one knows what he would actually do if he were president. Unfortunately, it is all too clear what Hillary would do.

 
Philip Giraldi
About Philip Giraldi

Phil Giraldi is a former CIA Case Officer and Army Intelligence Officer who spent twenty years overseas in Europe and the Middle East working terrorism cases. He holds a BA with honors from the University of Chicago and an MA and PhD in Modern History from the University of London. In addition to TAC, where he has been a contributing editor for nine years, he writes regularly for Antiwar.com. He is currently Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest and resides with his wife of 32 years in Virginia horse country close to his daughters and grandchildren.


Personal
Classics
A Modern Guernica Enabled by Washington
Pressuring Candidates Even Before They Are Nominated
But is it even a friend?
The gagged whistleblower goes on the record.
Today’s CIA serves contractors and bureaucrats—not the nation.
Pay no mind to the Mossad agent on the line.