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 TeasersEric Margolis Blogview

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`Good fences make good neighbors,’ wrote American poet Robert Frost. But not according to President Donald Trump whose proposed Great Wall is supposed to protect the nation from hordes of rabid, murderous, drug crazed rapists and unwhites from south of the border.

I’m a life-long student of military architecture, with a particular passion for modern fortification, chief among which is France’s own Great Wall, the magnificent and unfairly reviled Maginot Line.

Given the heated debate in America over Trump’s proposed barrier along the Mexican border, it’s worth looking back to the Maginot Line. It was supposed to have been France’s savior after the bloodbath of World War I.

Proposed by Deputy André Maginot in the 1920’s, the Line was supposed to cover key parts of France’s frontiers with German and Italy. Due to the terrible losses of the Great War, France did not have enough soldiers to properly defend its long frontiers. So it made sense to erect fortifications to compensate for manpower weakness and to block surprise attacks from next door enemy forces.

The first large Maginot fort was built in the 1920’s north of Nice to protect the Cote d’Azur from possible Italian attacks. Mussolini was demanding France return the Riviera coast to its former Italian rulers. Work on the principal Line along the German and Luxembourg borders began soon after. Phase one covered 260 miles from near the Rhine to Longuyon, a rail junction south of the Belgian border.

The Line consisted of hundreds of steel and concrete machine gun and anti-tank casemates with interlocking flanking fire. They were surrounded by upright rails designed to halt tanks and dense belts of interwoven barbed wire covered by machine guns. Artillery casemates with 75mm, 81mm and 135mm guns covered the fort’s fronts and sides.

Within and behind the Maginot Line were based an army of specialized fortress troops and hundreds of field artillery guns. The era’s most advanced electronic communications systems meshed the defenses together. The big forts were mostly buried 90 feet underground, proof from any projectiles of the era.

But the problem was that a wall or barrier is only effective so long as there are adequate troops to man it.

In the spring of 1940, France had deployed nearly a third of its field army behind the Maginot Line. But then the Germans staged a brilliant breakthrough north of the Line across the supposedly impenetrable Ardennes forest region. In 1938, a French parliamentarian named Perrier (from the French water family) had toured the Ardennes area and warned the military that it was very vulnerable to a German breakthrough. The generals scoffed at ‘this civilian’ and ignored Perrier’s warning.

Sure enough, the German armored and infantry assault came right through this Ardennes weak point near Sedan, forcing a rapid retreat by French and British forces in the region that ended up at Dunkerque.

As outflanked Allied forces pulled back from the frontier, they exposed the northern flank of the Maginot Line. The French high command, fearing their armies around the Line would be encircled, ordered the interval forces to retreat towards the highlands of central France. The Line was thus denuded of its troops and artillery. These units, who were armed and trained for static defense, had to make their way cross country on foot. Most were captured en route by advancing German forces.

In spring 1940 the Line was unfinished with large gaps and open flanks due to budgetary constraints caused by the 1930’s depression. The Germans drove through them, wisely avoiding most of big forts, and attacked the Line from the rear. Ironically, in 1944/45, German troops ended up defending the Maginot Forts from the advancing US Army.

The Line worked as planned, protecting vulnerable areas. But it was never extended to the Channel due to Belgium’s high water table and reluctance to fortify behind the French ally. The Belgians believed their powerful forts near Liege would delay the Germans until the French Army could intervene. They were wrong.

The French public ascribed almost magical powers to the Line. It would keep them invulnerable they believed. Building the fortifications became a national works project during the Depression, rather like the US WPA labor program. But Adolf Hitler vowed he would go around the Line and chop it up. He did.

A Trump wall or barrier will cost far more than believed and be likely unfinished, with large gaps like the Maginot Line. Some better way of blocking the border must be found. If not, we may end up having to wall and garrison the Canadian border as well.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Donald Trump, World War II 
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Reports coming in about China’s new gulag for Muslims seem too awful to believe. But the United Nations and responsible media have revealed that hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims from western China – and perhaps as many as one million – have been shut away in a growing chain of prison camps designed to impose ruthless state control over them and crush their culture and religion.

Who are these oddly-named people, China’s Uighurs? Their homeland lies on China’s far western region next to independent Kazakhstan and Pakistan. The region, as I’ve seen, is arid, hilly and very remote. The Uighurs are a Turkic people of ancient Muslim culture who have nothing in common with China except proximity. Their once independent nation used to be called the East Turkestan Republic before it was invaded and gobbled up in 1949 by Red China and, before that, by the Russian Empire.

A year later, Communist China began invading independent Tibet. China’s aim there was to crush Tibetan national resistance to Chinese rule and wipe out as much as possible of Tibet’s ancient feudal and religious culture. I infiltrated into Tibet in the 1980’s in time to see violent Tibetan demonstrations and riots against the Chinese occupiers. Four decades later, draconian Chinese rule is well on the way to crushing the life out of Tibet’s ancient Buddhist culture.

The same process is happening now in Eastern Turkestan. This strategic piece of real estate is part of the ethnic Turkish Central Asia that includes Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Mongolia and Afghanistan are sometimes included. In the late 19th century, there arose the Pan-Turkic movement in Turkey that sought to unite Central Asia under the guidance of Istanbul. But in the end, the Russian Empire and China occupied Central Asia until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, China is the last remaining colonial master.

The Uighurs, a forgotten people, have been protesting and resisting Chinese rule since the late 1940’s. Beijing has always seen Islam as a challenge to its absolute rule. Uighur resistance has been limited and ineffectual. But Beijing had a big scare when the US CIA set up camps in Afghanistan in the late 1970’s to train Uighurs into an anti-Chinese guerrilla force for use in a potential future US-China war. When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the former CIA training camps for Uighurs were brazenly called ‘Islamic terrorist training camps’ and blamed on Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida.

China has set about uprooting Muslim culture and identity. Religious devotions, beards and traditional Islamic dress, the Uighur language itself, and historic customs are banned. Communist party members are billeted in the home of Uighurs to keep a wary eye on them. Schools are run by Chinese officials; Uighur movements are restricted; mosques are shuttered.

Over the past year, China has reportedly been building what are officially called ‘re-education’ centers in the region. The UN reports that up to one million Muslims have been locked away in these modern gulags, surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers. China’s prison complex, known as ‘laogai,’ covers the nation, but the Muslim gulag appears particularly brutal and intimidating. Of course, a million Muslims in China’s prisons pales in comparison to the two million, mostly blacks, in US state and federal prisons (though none are charged with religious crimes).

China’s strategy in Tibet and Eastern Turkestan has been what I call ‘ethnic inundation.’ Han Chinese are brought in from afar to settle Muslim and Buddhist lands, relentlessly swamping the local population who become a policed minority. Interestingly, Israel has been following the same policy on the West Bank and Golan. Gaza has been turned into a giant, open-air prison for Palestinians. China’s Turkestan gulag may surpass Gaza in the number of prisoners it holds. Unsurprisingly, China rarely criticizes Israel for its repression of Palestinians.

The Muslim world has done next to nothing to protest the fate of the Uighurs. Only Turkey, one of the few Muslim nations with self-respect, is strongly rebuking China and giving refuge to Uighur refugees. Those self-proclaimed ‘defenders of the faith,’ Saudi Arabia, have been mute to the oppression in Turkestan – as mute as they have been to the savage mistreatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, 800,000 of whom are now living in awful condition in Bangladesh.

As with the sordid murder of Saudi writer Khashoggi by Saudi agents, few dare rebuke the rich perpetrator of the crime. No one wants to be on China’s blacklist.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Uyghurs 
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The United States and China look like two punch-drunk prizefighters squaring off for a major championship fight. They have no good reason to fight and every reason to cooperate now that both their stock markets have been in turmoil.

Six hundred point market swings down and then up look like symptoms of economic nervous breakdown.

Factions in both nations are beating the war drums, putting presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping under growing pressure to be more aggressive.

Trump shoulders much of the blame for having started this unnecessary confrontation by imposing heavy duties on Chinese goods. The US president has turned the old maxim on its head that nations that trade heavily don’t go to war. The US and China, both huge trading partners, appear headed to military clashes, or even full scale war, if their governments don’t come to their senses soon.

Trump was clearly trying to bully China into major trade concessions and better commercial behavior. He is right about this. I’ve done business in China for over 15 years and seen every kind of chicanery, fakery and double-dealing imaginable. China learned from the French that the First Commandment is ‘Thou Shalt Not Import.’

The Japanese are no better. I recall Japanese health authorities telling my pharma firm that all our tablets had to be triangular shaped to make them nearly impossible to swallow.

Theft of technology is indeed rampant, as Trump asserts. But has he looked into CIA and NSA’s techno spying recently? They ransacked the Soviet Union during its last dying days. Much of our postwar missile technology was developed by German scientists spirited off to the USA. After the Sputnik launch in 1957, I recall seeing a German cartoon showing a Soviet and US satellite in orbit next to one another. One whispers to the other, ‘Now that we’re alone, let’s speak German!’

Meanwhile, US warships are patrolling the South China Sea and playing chicken with Chinese naval units and aircraft. It’s only a matter of time before a dangerous incident occurs that could spark a real shooting war. The Trump White House has been encouraging India to challenge China at sea and in the high Himalayas.

Beijing has pulled the rug out from under Apple sales in China, causing a near panic on the US stock market. In his quest for power and glory, Trump may have fatally wounded US financial markets. Apple was the shining example of fruitful cooperation between the US and China.

Trump’s confrontation with China was aimed at winning him votes in the US Farm and Bible belts. It’s ironic that over 80% of Trump backers who profess themselves evangelical Christians are cheering on his military adventure against China and, for that matter, North Korea. ‘Turn the Other Cheek’ got lost on the road to Iowa.

China’s ruler, Xi Jinping, has gotten sufficiently annoyed with Trump to rekindle his nation’s strident claims to ‘renegade province’ Taiwan. In past years, the mighty US Seventh Fleet would have turned any Chinese invasion fleet into chow mein. US Naval officers used to claim they would make a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan into ‘a million-man swim.’ Today, China has the technology, manpower and naval power to invade Taiwan, should it so choose.

While lacking the military proficiency of the US Navy, China’s new fighters, drones, anti-ship missiles and fleet submarines already pose a serious challenge to the US 7th Fleet. It would be foolish to underestimate China’s striking power.

In the midst of all these tensions, the US chose to get Canada to arrest the daughter of China’s leading high tech firm, Meng Wanzhou, on charges of trading with Iran. Trump appeared unaware of plans to arrest Meng as she was transiting Vancouver airport. There is a very strong suspicion that the rabid hawks in the White House, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, hatched this incident to keep the US and China in confrontation.

During the Bush administration, Bolton pulled off a similar machination to thwart a peace deal between North Korea and the US. Now the Chinese are humiliated and furious at Washington for the arrest of Mrs Meng, and the Canadians, who had no business getting involved in this fracas over Iran, are left holding the bag. Pathetic.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Canada, China, Neocons 
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President Trump has done the right thing with regard to America’s troop deployment in Syria. Trump ordered the 2,000 US troops based in Syria to get out and come home.

Neocons and the US war party are having apoplexy even though there are some 50,000 US troops spread across the rest of the Mideast.

The US troops parked in the Syrian Desert were doing next to nothing. Their avowed role was to fight the remnants of the ISIS movement and block any advances by Iranian forces. As a unified fighting force, ISIS barely exists, if it ever did. Cobbled together, armed and financed by the US, the Saudis and Gulf Emirates to overthrow Syria’s regime, ISIS ran out of control and became a menace to everyone.

In fact, what the US was really doing was putting down a marker for a possible US future occupation of war-torn Syria that risked constant clashes with Russian forces there.

We will breathe a big sigh of relief if the US deployment actually goes ahead: it will remove a major risk of war with nuclear-armed Russia, whose forces are in Syria at the invitation of the recognized government in Damascus. The US has no strategic interest in Syria and no business at all being militarily involved there. Except perhaps that the war party wants never-ending wars abroad for arms production and promotions.

Trump’s abrupt pullout from Syria has shocked and mortified Washington’s war party and neocon fifth column. They were hoping reinforced US forces would go on to attack Damascus and move against Iranian forces. It was amusing to watch the anguish of such noted warlike chickenhawks as Sen. Lindsay Graham and the fanatical national security advisor John Bolton as their hopes for a US war against Syria diminished. Israel was equally dismayed: its strategic plan has long been to fragment Syria and gobble up the pieces.

The venerable imperial general and defense secretary, Jim Mattis, couldn’t take this de-escalation. He resigned. Marine General Mattis was one of the few honorable and respected members of the Trump administration and a restraint on the president’s impulses. To his credit, he opposed the reintroduction of torture by US forces, a crime promoted by Trump, Bolton and Chicago enforcer Mike Pompeo.

What really mattered was not a chunk of the Syrian Desert. Matis’s resignation may have been much more about Afghanistan, America’s longest war. The US has been defeated in Afghanistan, rightly known as the ‘Graveyard of Empires.’ Yet no one in Washington can admit this defeat or order a retreat after wasting 17 years, a trillion dollars and thousands of Americans killed or wounded. Least of all, Gen. Mattis, Bolton or Pompeo who bitterly opposed any peace deal with the Taliban nationalist movement.

According to unconfirmed media reports, the US has already thinned out its Afghan garrison of 14,000 plus soldiers. These soldiers’ main function is to guard the corrupt, drug-dealing Afghan puppet government in Kabul and fix Taliban forces so they can be attacked by US airpower.

Taliban insists it won’t begin serious negotiations until all US and 8,000 foreign troops are withdrawn. In fact, Taliban, which has been quietly talking to the US in Abu Dhabi, may agreed to a 50% western troops cut in order to begin peace talks.

The Afghan War has cost the US $1 trillion. Occupying parts of Iraq and Syria has cost a similar amount. Resistance against US rule continues in both nations. Mattis and his fellow generals really like these wars, but civilian Trump does not. As a candidate he vowed to end these ‘stupid’ wars. Let’s hope he succeeds over the bitter objections of the Republican war party, neocons, and military industrial complex.

Syria is an ugly little sideshow. By contrast, Afghanistan is a dark blot on America’s national honor. We watch with revulsion and dismay as the US deploys B-52 and B-1 heavy bombers to flatten Afghan villages. We watch with disgust as the US coddles the opium-dealing Afghan warlords and their Communist allies – all in the spurious name of ‘democracy.’

If Trump wants to make America great, he can start by ending the squalid Syrian misadventure and the butchery in Afghanistan.

 
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France is under siege. Some 90,000 security forces are being deployed across France with particular attention to always combustible Paris and Marseilles. Armored vehicles are moving into the capital. Certain military units are on high alert.

The storm that is hitting France came out of what looked like a clear blue sky. The angry demonstrators, known as ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow jackets), for the warning vests all motorists must keep in their cars, inundated Paris last weekend in peaceful protests over the government’s planned increases in fuel prices, which were already among Europe’s highest.

As too often in France, violent vandals known as ‘the breakers,’ infiltrated the demonstrators and sought to put the most beautiful parts of Paris to the sack. I watched with horror as the magnificent Arc de Triomphe, France’s premier war memorial, was befouled by spray-can graffiti. The majestic Champs Élysée was ravaged by hoodlums, who smashed showroom windows, burned cars, looted luxury stores and set scores of fires.

For people like me who love and esteem France, it was like seeing your mother or daughter being raped by barbarians. The forces of order in France were overwhelmed and outpaced by the fast-moving bands of ‘breakers.’ Media called them anarchists of far right and far left. But anarchists have at least political philosophy. We remember how the Spanish anarchist POUM ruled Barcelona during that nation’s bloody civil war.

The vandals who attacked Paris and other French cities had no philosophy. They were simply scum of the gutter reveling in an orgy of burning and looting. These sewer rats poured out of the back alleys and bleak, suburban housing projects, garbed in masks, goggles, iron bars and jars of gasoline. They are the frightening, violent underclass that has plagued French cities since the Middle Ages.

President Emmanuel Macron appears to have ordered his police forces to go easy on the ‘breakers’ as well as the peaceful yellow jackets. This allowed the rioters and vandals to run amok and overwhelm the police. More of the same impends for this weekend. This was a mistake.

The French Army should have been called in to protect monuments and key thoroughfares. Army troops already patrol airports, train stations and important tourist locations like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum. They should be heavily reinforced. More important, anyone setting fires, as happened last weekend, is a dangerous criminal and should be shot on sight by the police or army. Arson is not a democratic right. It’s a grave crime.

However, the ‘yellow jackets’ should not be confused with the breakers. What we are seeing is a justified national revolt in France against impossibly high taxes that were ignited by the unwise fuel price increases. After the riots, the price hikes were hastily eliminated. This was a necessary move, but it also undermined the authority of President Macron, whose popularity rating was at rock bottom even before the uprising.

The underlying problem is that France’s taxes are far too high. France has the highest taxes in Europe, almost 50% of gross domestic product, and twice those of the United States. But the French at least get their money’s worth from their sky-high taxes. Historic buildings are lovingly maintained; France’s rail system is splendid – when not on strike. Medicine is top drawer though hospitals need more funding. Streets are clean, highways in top shape.

France is one of the world’s most beautiful nations. There are special inspectors for rivers and streams to ensure their cleanliness and ecology. Pensions are generous and often available to those over 60.
Education is ‘par excellence.’ French high school graduates are often better educated than American university graduates.

It’s superb, but unaffordable. The fuel price increases were the proverbial straw that broke the French camel’s back. Taxes are just too high compared to incomes. Besides, French are being nibbled to death by swarms of taxes that lurk almost everywhere.

King Louis XVI faced the same fiscal problem and lost his head as a result. President Macron, a former Rothschild banker, now faces the angry bourgeoisie and mobs of gutter vandals calling for his head.

With the departure of the UK from the EU and the end of Angela Merkel’s long tenure in Germany, it appeared that Macron would become Europe’s leader. Now, there is even talk of a coup in Paris. Mon dieu!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Emmanuel Macron, France 
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Two of the most perilous military operations are crossing rivers while under enemy fire, and retreat while engaged with enemy forces.

Britain’s embattled Prime Minister, Theresa May, must accomplish both maneuvers if she is to extract her very confused nation from the horrid Brexit mess and save her job. We wish her lots of luck.

On December 11th, British members of parliament must vote to accept some sort of Brexit deal; a negotiated withdrawal and/or trade association. But there is bitter opposition within May’s Conservative Party and rival Labour Party to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. The rump Northern Irish Unionist Party, which shores up May’s Tories in parliament, is making everyone crazy.

Increasing numbers of British voters now think that the original referendum to withdraw Britain from the European Union after four decades of grudging membership was a catastrophic mistake. Britain was one of Europe’s big three members; without with EU, Britain will be marooned somewhere off the coast of northern Europe and forced to become totally responsive to US demands and policies.

Equally vexing, the proud Brits, who a century ago ruled a quarter of the globe’s surface, will be forced to see old rivals Germany and France become the undisputed kingpins of Europe while no one pays attention to the toothless old British lion.

British supporters of Brexit don’t care. They tend to dislike foreigners…aka ‘bloody wogs’…, chafe at regulations imposed by faceless bureaucrats in remote Brussels, fret over a rising tide of EU immigrants, fulminate over the steep costs imposed by the EU, and deeply resent being compelled to accept working in the EU collective instead of trumpeting imperial demands.

But times and economic realities have changed. Britain is no longer the manufacturing powerhouse it was before World War II. Its industries are rusting, the quality of its manufactured products questioned (Dyson excepted) and the once mighty financial power of the City of London diminished.

Europe’s money lenders and their ilk are slinking off to Frankfurt and Paris; the City of London is no longer the wild, anything goes casino where all sorts of financial chicanery was quietly tolerated. London is slowly losing its charmed existence as a tax refuge – or to quote Somerset Maugham’s great quip about Monaco, ‘a sunny place for shady people’.

As Britain’s economy deflates under Brexit, its working class will have refuge against the snobs and toffs who sneered at them for generations and perpetuated the class system. But ditching the EU will be like Britain shooting itself in the foot. All economic signs show that Britain will be impoverished if Brexit happens. Everything – the stock markets, industry, trade, housing – are pointed downhill. Divorcing Britain from the EU will be nightmarishly complex and fraught. The Bank of England warns that Brexit will plunge the country into a serious recession.

All this for the sake of national ego and a chance to stick it to the ‘bloody foreigners’. Certainly not worth the expense or national anguish, say many sensible Brits and the Labour Party. The Tories are split over the issue and locked in bitter infighting. The leading Conservative MP’s remind one of all the things we didn’t like about snobby, imperial Britain.

The way out of this nasty mess is for Parliament to do its job and mandate another referendum. Many pro-Brexit voters misunderstood the real issues and regret their hastiness. Divorce is always ugly and painful. After all the shouting and name-calling, Britain will be left with a cup of cold flat tea, not the golden chalice it hoped for.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, Britain 
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Hardly anyone noticed. The Trump administration quietly changed America’s long-held position on Syria’s strategic Golan Heights while attention was focused on the raucous political carnival in Washington. Though barely noticed, the policy change had enormous importance and will lead the United States into a lot of future Mideast misery.

The Golan Heights is a volcanic plateau that abuts Syria, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon. The plateau rises abruptly from the plain of Galilee, providing dominance of the entire region. To the north, Mt Hermon rises to over 9,000 feet (2,814 meters); the plateau slopes down at its southern extremity.

Golan provides the headwaters of the Jordan River and 15-20% of Israel’s water from its snow-capped north. Israeli artillery atop Golan can hit Damascus and its airport. Electronic intelligence systems on Golan look down onto southern Syria, intercepting all communications and detecting troop movements.

The plateau is quite fascinating. I have walked most of the Israeli-held side, observing dug-in tanks, artillery and small forts surrounded by anti-tank ditches. Burned out wrecks of Syrian tanks and armor litter the countryside. I’ve also walked the Syrian side and explored the wrecked Syrian town of Kuneitra that was leveled by the Israelis in 1967.

Israel seized Golan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and annexed the plateau in 1981. Almost all of Golan’s Arab population was driven out by the Israelis. The UN and US demanded that Israel return Golan to its rightful owner, Syria. After 1981, Israel moved over 20,000 settlers onto Golan to cement its control of the strategic heights and its water sources.

During the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Syrian forces came close to pushing Israeli forces off Golan. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. For still unknown reasons, the Syrian armored offensive abruptly halted just as it reached the western edge of the plateau overlooking northern Israel.

My understanding is that Soviet recon satellites saw Israel deploying its nuclear bombs and missiles from their cave shelters. Moscow warned ally Syria that it risked nuclear attack by Israel unless its forces halted their advance so the Syrian offensive stopped on the verge of tactical success. This allowed Israel to concentrate enough reserve armored divisions to successfully counter-attack and drive Syria from the heights.

Since 1973, America’s policy has been to demand Israel relinquish Golan while quietly allowing US tax deductible funds to expand Jewish settlements on the plateau. Israel even reportedly offered to return Golan in exchange for a peace deal with Syria, but the secret terms of the deal were too onerous for Damascus.

The Trump administration abruptly changed US Mideast policy. First, it announced the US Embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, meaning that it rejected the idea of a Palestinian state with its capital in the old city of Jerusalem. Now, the White House has quietly accepted permanent Israeli control of Golan, though it violates international law and past US policy.

It’s clear that US Mideast policy is firmly under the control of the neocons aligned to Israel’s expansionist far right parties. In fact, it is impossible to see any difference between the policies of Israel’s hard rightwing leader, Benyamin Netanyahu, and President Donald Trump. They are joined at the hip. A coterie of pro-Israel lawyers and property developers from New York City have completely taken control of Mideast policy.

More important, what the change in US Golan policy means is that Trump & Co are giving a green light to further Israeli territorial expansion. Now that Washington, which decries Russia’s much more justified annexation of Crimea, has approved the illegal annexation of Golan, what could be next? Likely further chunks of southern Syria, an invasion of Lebanon and annexation of its water resources.

Saudi Arabia and its little ally, the United Arab Emirates, have already been given a green light by Washington to carve out strongholds in Yemen and along the strategic Red Sea coast. This is the Mideast ‘peace’ settlement that candidate Trump promised; an increasingly close alliance with the Mideast’s most reactionary states, notably the murderous Saudi regime. This bodes ill for the United States.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Israel/Palestine 
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Asked if President Donald Trump’s highly critical tweets about French president Emmanuel Macron were unpleasant and inelegant, Macron elegantly replied, `you summed up everything.’

Yes, they were unpleasant and inelegant, to put it mildly. Worse, Trump’s tweet barrage came on the same day France was commemorating the murder of 130 Parisians by gunmen in 2015. A senior French press official claimed Trump ‘lacked common decency.’ Making matters worse, Trump refused to show up at a graveside memorial for American GI’s killed in the bloody, 1918 Belleau Wood battle. He went the following day to another memorial closer to Paris.

A major faux pas, Monsieur le President Trump. You need some foreign policy pros instead of the amateur ideologues who have made a huge mess of the nation’s affairs and image.

This row arose after Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg and called for a common European army to ‘complement’ NATO.

Earlier, Chancellor Merkel stated that Europe could no longer depend on the US for its protection.

Merkel’s frank talk was clearly a slap in the face to the prickly Trump, whose aggressive policies have put the US in confrontation with Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, Venezuela, Cuba and much of the Muslim world.

In effect, Germany and France, Europe’s two big powers, were declaring independence from US hegemony seven decades after the end of World War II. Many Europeans – and certainly Germans – consider their nations still militarily and politically occupied by the American Imperium. How else could the US National Security spy agency (NSA) get away with tapping Angela Merkel’s cell phone with nary a German protest?

Given Russia’s military and financial feebleness (a defense budget less than one tenth of the US), what reason is there for a major US military presence from Spain to the Baltic and Black Sea? There are still US military bases in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany (34 bases), Belgium, Holland, Britain, Turkey, Denmark, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, Greece and soon Poland.

Large parts of Europe are still militarily occupied by the US. Amazingly, the European Union, the world’s most important economic power, has very little self-defense capability. Instead, the US-runs and finances the lion’s share of NATO. Just as during the old Cold War, the Warsaw Pact was run from Moscow, so NATO is directed by Washington, and is a major component of US global power.

Nations that do not have their own military forces have very little sovereignty. Costa Rica is one charming exception. Great powers like France, Britain and Germany must command a good portion of their own military forces or join them in a common armed force. This is what Merkel and Macron were proposing, to Trump’s fury.

During the 1950’s, Europeans agreed to NATO as much in fear of a recurrence of the horrors of two European wars as fear of Soviet invasion, though the latter was very real at the time. Even the Swiss built fortifications designed to stop an invasion by the Soviet Red Army, and France began work to up-gun and reinforce the Maginot Line defenses.

The angry Trump fired back by reminding France that it was rescued in two world wars by the United States, had major economic problems, and could not trust the Germans. This is a favorite theme of French-hating, know-nothing conservatives and neocons. I suspect their hatred of France comes from being mistreated as tourists by rude waiters in Paris restaurants and sneered at by snooty French as uncultured boors and rustics. Trump’s core supporters – Evangelical
Christians – mostly regard French and other Europeans as degenerate, godless, Christian-haters.

They conveniently forget, or don’t know, that French soldiers and sailors delivered decisive victories over British forces during the American Revolution. A key cause of the French Revolution was national bankruptcy caused by King Louis’ heavy spending on military help to the US war of independence.

When I’m in Metz, France, I always go to salute the statue of the Marquis de Lafayette who led French forces helping the American Revolution. Without French help, Americans might be today caught up in the ghastly Brexit mess.

NATO provides huge geopolitical influence to Washington and enormous amounts of military sales. Small wonder the US rages when any mention of an independent European military is voiced. The idea assails America’s domination of Europe and the use of NATO to impose its will on the Mideast, Africa and western Asia.

Ironically, Trump’s evident hatred for Europe and calls by his neocon Praetorian Guard for the US to dominate the entire globe have made Europe turn away from its old subservience to Washington and talk about real independence. But building true Euro-armed forces will be frightfully expensive and politically fraught. Watching EU squabbles over farm laws and other economic issues hardly inspires confidence. But the EU must have its own defense capabilities if it is to escape permanent thralldom to the United States.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, EU, France 
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We are now before the 100th anniversary of World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars. While honoring the 16 million who died in this conflict, we should also condemn the memory of the politicians, officials and incompetent generals who created this horrendous blood bath.

I’ve walked most of the Western Front of the Great War, visited its battlefields and haunted forts, and seen the seas of crosses marking its innumerable cemeteries.

As a former soldier and war correspondent, I’ve always considered WWI as he stupidest, most tragic and catastrophic of all modern wars.

The continuation of this conflict, World War II, killed more people and brought more destruction on civilians in firebombed cities but, at least for me, World War I holds a special horror and poignancy. This war was not only an endless nightmare for the soldiers in their pestilential trenches, it also violently ended the previous 100 years of glorious European civilization, one of mankind’s most noble achievements.

I’ve explored the killing fields of Verdun many times and feel a visceral connection to this ghastly place where up to 1,000,000 soldiers died. I have even spent the night there, listening to the sirens that wailed without relent, and watching searchlights that pierced the night, looking for the ghosts of the French and German soldiers who died here.

Verdun’s soil was so poisoned by explosives and lethal gas that to this day it produces only withered, stunted scrub and sick trees. Beneath the surface lie the shattered remains of men and a deadly harvest of unexploded shells that still kill scores of intruders each year. The spooky Ossuaire Chapel contains the bone fragments of 130,000 men, blown to bits by the millions of high explosive shells that deluged Verdun.

The town of the same name is utterly bleak, melancholy and cursed. Young French and German officers are brought here to see firsthand the horrors of war and the crime of stupid generalship.

Amid all the usual patriotic cant from politicians, imperialists and churchmen about the glories of this slaughter, remember that World War I was a contrived conflict that was totally avoidable. Contrary to the war propaganda that still clouds and corrupts our historical view, World War I was not started by Imperial Germany.

Professor Christopher Clark in his brilliant book, `The Sleepwalkers’ shows how officials and politicians in Britain and France conspired to transform Serbia’s murder of Austro-Hungary’s Crown Prince into a continent-wide conflict. France burned for revenge for its defeat in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and loss of Alsace-Lorraine. Britain feared German commercial and naval competition. At the time, the British Empire controlled one quarter of the world’s surface. Italy longed to conquer Austria-Hungary’s South Tyrol. Turkey feared Russia’s desire for the Straits. Austria-Hungary feared Russian expansion.

Prof Clark clearly shows how the French and British maneuvered poorly-led Germany into the war. The Germans were petrified of being crushed between two hostile powers, France and Russia. The longer the Germans waited, the more the military odds turned against them. Tragically, Germany was then Europe’s leader in social justice.

Britain kept stirring the pot, determined to defeat commercial and colonial rival, Germany. The rush to war became a gigantic clockwork that no one could stop. All sides believed a war would be short and decisive. Crowds of fools chanted ‘On to Berlin’ or ‘On to Paris.’

Few at the time understood the impending horrors of modern war or the geopolitical demons one would release. The 1904 Russo-Japanese War offered a sharp foretaste of the 1914 conflict, but Europe’s grandees paid scant attention.

Even fewer grasped how the collapse of the antiquated Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires would send Europe and the Mideast into dangerous turmoil that persists to our day. Or how a little-known revolutionary named Lenin would shatter Imperial Russia and turn it into the world’s most murderous state.

This demented war in Europe tuned into an even greater historic tragedy in 1917 when US President Woodrow Wilson, driven by a lust for power and prestige, entered the totally stalemated war on the Western Front. One million US troops and starvation caused by a crushing British naval blockade turned the tide of battle and led to Germany’s surrender.

Vengeful France and Britain imposed intolerable punishment on Germany, forcing it to accept full guilt for the war, an untruth that persists to this day. The result was Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists. If an honorable peace had been concluded in 1917, neither Hitler nor Stalin might have seized power and millions of lives would have been saved. This is the true tragedy of the Great War.

Let us recall the words of the wise Benjamin Franklin: `No good war, no bad peace.’

 
• Category: History • Tags: World War I 
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Saudi Arabia has been shaken to its core by the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Turkish intelligence has leaked that the Saudi journalist, who wrote op-ed pieces for the Washington Post newspaper, was strangled in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, then cut up into pieces for disposal or dissolved in acid. His remains have not yet been found.

Khashoggi’s brazen murder has caused a crisis in US-Saudi relations, an angry confrontation with Turkey, and serious questions about the Saudi war in wretched Yemen, which so far had caused 60,000 deaths and left this remote land facing starvation.

Trump and his allies initially supported the Saudi-Emirati war against Yemen, having fallen for the false claim that great Satan Iran was backing the Yemeni Houthi forces. Britain and Israel strongly supported the Saudi war.

In reality, Saudi Arabia’s headstrong Crown Prince Mohammed, got his nation embroiled in a no-win war against tough Yemeni tribes who refused to accept a Saudi-imposed figurehead ruler. The United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, also got involved to expand its little country-big ambitions around the Red Sea littoral.

But the Saudis lacked a real army to wage war in Yemen. They feared an army might mount a coup against the royal family as happened in Egypt, Iraq and Libya. In the past, the Saudis had rented crack Pakistani troops to protect their palaces and oil. But Pakistan refused Saudi requests to send troops to subdue Yemen.

As Libya’s late leader, Col. Muammar Khadaffi told me, ‘the Saudis are a small bunch of rich people living behind high walls in terror of their poorer neighbors.’ The Saudis hated Khadaffi because he kept calling them ‘traitors to the Arab cause, prostitutes, whore-mongers and crooks.’

Instead, the Saudis relied on their US and British-supplied air force to prosecute the war in Yemen by indiscriminate terror bombing and trying to starve the Yemenis into submission. Villages and schools were flattened, wedding parties rocketed, school buses attacked. US and British technicians and military experts kept the Saudi warplanes flying and provided bombs and targeting data from satellites. Western mercenaries fly and service the Saudi and Emirati air force.

No one in the West cared about this massacre until the unfortunate Khashoggi was murdered in Istanbul. This crime allowed disgust with Saudi Arabia over its Yemen war, beheadings and crucifixions to finally take precedence over arms sales and tawdry geopolitics.

The United States and Britain finally questioned their billions of arms sales to the Saudis who use these mammoth purchases to buy subservience from the western democracies. France and Germany recoiled from major arms sales. Self-righteous Canada prevaricated, trying to get the Saudi cash while ducking opprobrium for arming a cruel, murderous regime.

Washington’s most ardent Israel supporters – Security chief Bolton, and Secretary Pompeo – rushed to support the Saudis. They repeated the ludicrous claim that Khashoggi was a Muslim Brotherhood member and thus worthy of execution. In truth, the Muslim Brotherhood is a venerable, moderate organization composed of Arab professionals that calls for democracy.

But the most interesting development may have been the flight from London to Riyadh by exiled Saudi Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz. This 70-something younger brother of King Salman was reportedly given security guarantees by the US and Britain that he would not be arrested by Crown Prince Mohammed when he returned to Riyadh from a golden exile in London.

You could almost hear them yelling ‘bad puppets, bad puppets’ at the Saudi royals. Only two weeks earlier an unusually frank President Trump had even observed that the Saudi 7,000-member royal family would not last ‘more than a week’ without US support.

He was quite right. Since the 1930’s, the Saudi dynasty has been defended and supported by first Britain, then the United States. Few questioned the support of the world’s leading democracy for a cruel medieval monarchy. There was too much oil money involved. The British government even quashed criminal charges when huge kickbacks to Saudi royals on aircraft orders were revealed. Washington covered up the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks and financing of anti-US groups.

Back to Prince Ahmad. Has he been chosen by Washington and London to replace the rash, violent Crown Prince Mohammed? How worried is the US that the Khashoggi murder could set off a rebellion in Saudi Arabia? Or civil war in the royal family? The aged current king, Salman, is reported to have cognitive problems.

The clumsy, ham-handed meddling of President Trump in Saudi dynastic affairs propelled the bull in a china shop Crown Prince into power. The machinations of Trump’s son-in- law, Jared Kushner, and his Israeli allies have ignited the current crisis. Trump & Co have very much to learn about the Mideast. So far, their attempt to play colonial viceroys has been a fiasco.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen 
Eric Margolis
About Eric Margolis

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Lew Rockwell. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

His internet column www.ericmargolis.com reaches global readers on a daily basis.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow.

A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

A native New Yorker, he maintains residences in Toronto and New York, with frequent visits to Paris.


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