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 TeasersEric Margolis Blogview

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The really wealthy, vexed by tax collectors, pesky relatives, ex-wives and just plain thieves, long ago learned the wisdom of hiding their money and property. This is twice true for politicians.

An investigation by an international consortium of journalists just examined a massive leak of 11.9 million records of offshore financial firms that have been evading taxes and financial disclosure for their many clients. The result of what is known as The Pandora Papers has been a cascade of scandals.

This column has long maintained that the US has been deeply involved in massive international corruption. Chief tawdry examples are the largest recipients of US ‘aid,’ Israel, Afghanistan and Jordan. Washington spent over two trillion dollars on the now lost, 20-year Afghan conflict.

All that money has vanished. Among the largest recipients was the Afghan Communist Party and the drug mafias that made US-run Afghanistan the world’s largest producer of illegal heroin and morphine.

The third recipient of US largess, Jordan, has gotten \$22 billion from the US since the 1950’s. Last year it received \$1 billion alone from Washington, mostly to support the Trump administration’s crude attempts to buy, threaten and cajole Arab dictatorships into a security pact with Israel that seriously screws the Palestinians. In addition, the US has also given \$ 1.7 billion to Jordan to care for the large numbers of Syrian refugees it shelters. But they were the result of a war stared by the US to overthrow Syria’s Assad regime, one of the last independent Arab nations.

In addition, Jordan’s royal family received tens of millions in secret funding from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and, reportedly, from Israel. Jordan and Oman have long been known as favorite dependencies of Britain’s MI6 intelligence service and the CIA.

All this money for a small, barren nation of only 10 million is remarkable. Yet one must understand that it is a key piece of the US Mideast Empire’s architecture. Interestingly, 60% of Jordan’s population is believed to be made up of Palestinian refugees from the creation of Israel in May, 1948. Today, 20% of Israel’s population is Palestinian.

Britain and then the US kept Jordan’s ruling Hashemite dynasty in power. It turned out to be one of the region’s more civilized and efficient rulers though it too often relied on the US-trained secret police to crush unrest. My mother interviewed the late King Hussein in the 1950’s and at that time discovered that one million Palestinian refugees were subsisting in tents. Many still do today.

Jordan is a very poor nation that lives on the edge. So why was King Abdullah II secretly buying more than \$100 billion of prime property in Malibu, London and the French Riviera? All through a web of complex companies designed to disguise the ownership?

Palace spokesmen claim it was only to assure security. Saudi and other Gulf royalty make the same claim for their important holdings in Spain and France. So does Spain’s recently deposed monarch, King Juan Carlos.

Many of the Mideast’s monarchs and dictators received secret US cash and property. This has been a fact since the days of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat, who was on the CIA’s payroll since 1952. France is in charge of payoffs to North African and black African leaders. It’s hard to find an African leader who does not own luxury buildings on the French Riviera or chic Alpine ski resorts. Why not? These strongmen risk being overthrown daily. Make hay while the sun shines.

Interestingly, some of the Third World leaders most vilified by the west have been relatively honest rulers. Good examples are Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, Khomeini and Ahmadinejad in Iran, and Arafat of Palestine. But it was the crooks and cleptos like Iran’s late Shah, or Afghanistan’s Ashraf Ghani who got all the good press in the West.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Corruption, Middle East 

Afghanistan’s US-run government was the world’s largest producer and exporter of opium, morphine, and the end-product, heroin.

As it did after first seizing power in the mid-1990’s, Taliban, the Islamic anti-drug and anti-communist movement, is shutting down the Afghan drug trade. Billions worth of heroin, opium and morphine that had been flowing into Central Asia, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Southeast Asia will be sharply reduced. Afghanistan’s drug-based economy is now in dire jeopardy.

But you would not know this if you follow the biased western press, notably the big US TV networks, social media and the BBC which thinks it’s Britain’s old colonial office. Western media has focused almost exclusively on the supposed plight of well-off westernized Afghan women in Kabul. That’s all you see on TV.

That these pampered ladies can’t easily get their nails done is not Afghanistan’s biggest problem. Nor is the closing of dance studios or fashion boutiques.

What really matters is that Afghan wedding parties and villages are no longer being savaged by US warplanes or B-1 and B-52 heavy bombers, or that wide scale torture by the Communist-run secret police, whose head, Amrullah Saleh, was a key US ally and the nation’s real strongmen, has been ended by Taliban.

Meanwhile, western media simply ignores the plight of women in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. I well recall being twice arrested in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia by religious police for walking with an attractive lady (an Estee Lauder beauty consultant).

I was arrested in Kuwait under similar suspicion. I was whipped by Saudi airport security police. And yet all we hear about or see are films of wicked Taliban soldiers maltreating Afghan women.

What I really want to know is what happened to all the billions in drug money reaped by the US-backed regime in Kabul and its allied warlords? Where are the pallets of fresh US \$100 bills flown in from Washington to finance the Kabul regime? We saw the same phenomena in US-occupied Iraq. These mountains of cash just went ‘walkabout,’ as the Aussies say. Americans and US Arab allies grabbed the majority of these missing funds.

Iraq and Afghanistan account for one of the biggest thefts of money in modern history. Much of this sordid story has been documented by the US government’s own anti-corruption agency, SIGAR, which has waged a valiant battle to combat crime in Afghanistan during the \$2 trillion, two-decade war.

Many of the drug-dealing criminals have already bailed out of Afghanistan via a US/British/French airlift. Others, Taliban opponents, mostly Tajik and Uzbek gang bosses, have managed to gain refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The most formidable opposition to Taliban came from the Tajik Northern Alliance in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul. This US-allied group dominated the drug trade until run out of business by Taliban. Now it’s trying to rally with secret backing from France, India and the US.

China is playing a cautious game in Afghanistan. I was invited by Chinese military intelligence to Beijing in 1981 to ask me if Beijing should begin supplying arms to the Afghan Islamic anti-Soviet resistance, aka ‘mujahidin.’ This was the most momentous act in the growing China-Soviet split. No one in Washington seemed to see or understand it.

Forty years later, China is still wrestling with this problem. Beijing wants good relations with Taliban but is seriously scared by the notion of Islamic wild men who support freedom and independence for the Chinese-ruled Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang (Eastern Turkestan).

Meanwhile, the great American-Afghan money machine has ground to a halt as its produce is secreted away in US real estate and Swiss banks.

 

Australia has been a very close US ally – one could even say protectorate – since the beginning of World War II. A US Marine formation is based there. The US Navy makes routine port and maintenance calls in Australia, which lies right on the dividing line between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

The Aussies now feel increasingly threatened by the rapid expansion of China’s naval and air power, so they have turned to the United States for more protection by just announcing the purchase of a fleet of nuclear-powered, but conventionally armed, attack submarines.

These new, high-tech subs are to be built in Australia to augment the nation’s small fleet of older, but still capable, submarines. Focusing on submarines makes good sense for Australia which is surrounded by two vast oceans and huge distances. Like the United States, its oceans provide ultimate protection from potential foreign invaders.

However, the deal with the US has abruptly torpedoed a \$66 billion deal made by Australia to buy 12 French-made submarines, their biggest military program in memory. The French, never calm, are really in a fury. The sub deal is a ‘stab in the back ‘ fumed France’s irate foreign minister.

France makes quite good submarines and was counting on the Australian deal to help keep their naval industry alive. Worse, the British somehow sneaked into the sub deal with the US, abandoning any hopes of post-Brexit military cooperation with France, which is still supposed to be a close British ally in the NATO alliance.

‘Perfidious Albion,’ raged the French. The Brits, by contrast, were quietly amused by France’s distress. Britain’s always nasty media needled the French with usual references to the battles of Agincourt, Trafalgar and, of course, Waterloo. Paris retorted by asserting, ‘nous sommes trahis!’ (we have been betrayed). Indeed, they were.

No mention of cancelling the \$66 billion deal was made by the US or British before they abruptly barged into it. This was no way to run an alliance. France is America’s oldest ally. Without military help from France, the American revolution would have failed.

Washington’s behavior was crude and ham-handed. Its new secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, deserves brickbats for this embarrassing fiasco. President Joe Biden, who has so far been doing a pretty good job of managing the world, deserves an F- grade for this debacle. The highly experienced Biden should have known better.

Meanwhile the British Royal Navy is having serious trouble finding enough sailors to man it current subs and its shrinking number of surface warships. London has had to borrow US warplanes for its new, and only, aircraft carrier.

So, it’s up to Uncle Sam to keep patrolling the China seas. Australia won’t be able to deploy its new submarines for 6-8 years, maybe more. Warship construction has always had a painful, slow learning curve.

Too bad the Aussies did not allocate some of their submarine funds for building fire shelters for their endangered wild animals who have been burned alive by the millions by recent massive conflagrations.

China, as usual, will see a dark side to this business.

Conventional submarines are fine for defending territorial waters. But the seas around China are very far from Australia – near the operating range for conventional submarines. However, Canberra’s new US subs with nuclear propulsion will be able to stay on station for three or more months, posing a major threat to China’s all-important maritime commerce, its front-line warships and will, of course, bolster Taiwan’s maritime defenses which are today vulnerable to Chinese blockade.

I have a better way for China to extricate itself from this Pacific mess. Beijing, which is rolling in cash, should offer to buy all the French subs available. The French will be pleased and able to sell more Hermes handbags to Chinese tourists. China will have the latest French sub technology and quality rather than China’s not so great undersea craft. The Aussies will have their new US-engineered subs, and Britain will claim that its imperial sagacity enabled this happy solution.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Australia, China, Joe Biden 

“Oh! wherefore come ye forth, in triumph from the North,
With your hands, and your feet, and your raiment all red?
And wherefore doth your rout send forth a joyous shout?”
‘The Battle of Naseby’ by Thomas Macaulay

After 20 years of B-52 carpet bombing of Afghanistan, murderous drone strikes, 350,000 puppet soldiers, 20,000 mercenaries, nearly two trillion dollars in US spending, destruction of countless Afghan villages, the killing up to one million Afghans, spreading the opium trade around southeast Asia and Europe, abetting wide scale torture…. after all this the US-run Afghan’s puppet `president’ and his drug-dealing cronies have fled embattled Kabul like thieves in the night.

Taliban – more accurately the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan – has been slandered by almost every western news outlet and wrongly called a terrorist movement linked to the late Osama bin Laden. Heavily-propagandized Americans, Canadians and British have been inundated by this torrent of government lies against Afghanistan’s Pashtun (Pathan) people.

I was in Afghanistan with the newly created Taliban in the early 1990’s. I walked from Pashtun village to village and had tea with the local chiefs, known as ‘maliks.’ The Pashtun treated me as an honored guest and welcome visitor. These rough mountain warriors were the descendants of the fighters who had defeated four British invasions the previous century. My book ‘War at the Top of the World’ examines the beginning of our Afghan War.

The fathers of these Pashtun fighters were the men who formed the anti-Soviet ‘mujahidin’ (holy warriors) that defeated the mighty Soviet Red Army with the secret help of US, British and most of all Pakistani intelligence. Everyone in south Asia knew better than to mess with the Pashtun Afghans, including their blood enemies, Afghanistan’s ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara.

An old Hindu prayer goes, ‘Beware of the fang of the cobra, the claw of the tiger, and the vengeance of the Pathan (Pashtun)’

Taliban had just been created when I was visiting the usually off-limits frontier Tribal Territories on the Pakistan-Afghan frontier and the Khyber Pass leading into Afghanistan. After the hurried Soviet pullout, Afghanistan fell into civil war or anarchy. Armed gangs attacked caravans and raped many Afghan women, mostly in the Pashtun region. In Islam, rape is a grave, intolerable crime.

As chaos spread, a one-eyed village preacher, Mullah Omar, a maimed veteran of the anti-Soviet struggle, organized a group of his young religious students, known as ‘Talibs,’ to protect the local village women and defend the caravans. As the late Benazir Bhutto told me, she ordered Pakistan’s Home ministry to arm the Talibs.

At that time, the Afghan Communists were waging a war to keep control of the countryside and, most important, the nation’s lush opium fields, which financed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and Communist Party. Once Taliban defeated the Tajik-Communist alliance, opium production in Afghanistan fell by over 90%. Until then, Afghanistan was the world’s leading producer and exporter of opium. This narcotic was then exported with full Communist approval to the Soviet Union/Russia, Iran, Central Asia an onward to northern Europe. Afghanistan’s ethnic Tajiks, many Communist dominated, ran most of the drug trade.

Taliban crushed the Afghan drug trade and ended some of the attacks on women. But its members were mostly rough-hewn mountaineers of the very old school. They often treated women badly, as was the custom, but certainly far less brutally compared to the often-murderous way girls and women were mistreated or murdered in India, a US ally, or by US air raids on Afghan towns and villages.

Afghanistan’s urban education system was heavily infiltrated by the Afghan Communist Party which used female education as a way of infiltrating government. A major reason for Taliban’s hostility to female education was that it was viewed as a communist plot.

Today’s Taliban is a younger generation of mountain people, better educated and less narrow-minded than their rustic elders. I was invited by its leadership to attend peace talks in Doha. Meanwhile, one hopes that American right-wingers do not get the US to stage new military operations against Afghanistan to prolong this 20-year conflict. Let the Afghans sort out their own messy ethnic issues without interference by their neighbors. A new coalition government that includes non-Taliban leaders like former president Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar should be encouraged and supported. War criminals like Uzbek warlord Rashid Dostum should be prosecuted.

We have to stop drinking our own Kool-Aid over Afghanistan, stop believing our own western and communist propaganda and try to accept that what we are so far seeing is the liberation of this war-ravaged land from four decades of first Soviet, then US occupation

 

Will US occupation troops really leave Iraq? That’s the question that Washington is so far unable to answer. The White House says the official date of the long goodbye is this month, August 2021.

Donald Trump announced a pullout of US troops while still in office but his deadline was simply ignored by the new Biden administration which has also been under mounting pressure to end the two-decade US occupation of Mesopotamia. Left wing Democrats wanted a full end to the war the US has waged since 2003. Right-wing Republicans, blissfully unaware of Mideast realities, urged more troops be sent to Iraq.

After losing some 4,431 troops and 8,000 mercenaries (aka ‘contractors’) and 1,145 troops from allied nations dragooned into the Iraq conflict, and 31,994 wounded – many with serious head wounds from roadside bombs – Washington switched gears in Iraq and adopted the old British Imperial system of colonial rule.

The Britain Empire created Iraq in the 1920’s from the wreckage of the dying Ottoman Empire to secure possession of Mesopotamia’s abundant oil. At the time, the mighty Royal Navy was converting from coal to oil. Iraq became Britain’s vast fuel depot.

A new figurehead king from the Hashemite tribes was put into power by London, backed by a local constabulary, British garrison troops and, most effectively, the Royal Air Force.

In the 1920’s, Winston Churchill approved RAF fighters to bomb restive Arab and Kurdish tribes with mustard gas and poisonous Yperite. The British eventually crushed domestic resistance in Iraq while shamelessly denouncing fascist Italy for also using poison gas against Libyan nationalist rebels.

The RAF bombed and staffed rebellious Iraqis right up to the late 1940’s. British air power played a key role in crushing the nationalist uprising in Iraq by Rashid Ali, who was smeared a pro-fascist by Britain’s imperial press.

The US eventually adopted the low-cost British colonial system for ruling Iraq. US warplanes were stationed at up to six former Iraqi airbases, becoming the principal enforcer of the occupation. US troops were thinned out. By 2020, this job was done so skillfully that the US presence in Iraq became almost invisible.

Iraq was occupied by western forces but it looked like an independent nation with a US-installed president and executive branch. Kurdish areas in the north became virtual US-run mini-states. The demented ISIS movement was totally stamped out by US airpower and Iranian militias. As a thank you, the Iranian military supremo in Iraq, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, was ordered murdered by President Trump after being lured to Iraq for supposed peace talks.

Iraq was one of the most advanced states in the Arab world and a US ally – before 1991. Today, it lies in ruins, smashed to pieces by US airpower, civil wars, and sectarian conflict.

President George W. Bush was convinced by militarists, notably Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, after intense pressure from pro-Israel groups in the US and their media accomplices, to invade Iraq. The Washington hawks planned to use US-occupied Iraq as a central base for dominating the entire Mideast and grabbing its oil.

The golden victory in Iraq promised by the neocons turned to ashes, leaving Washington stuck deep in an ungovernable ruined nation that had even to import oil. At one point, the off-the-rails neocons in Washington even claimed Iraq had a fleet of ships in the Atlantic Ocean carrying ‘killer’ drones that were about to attack sleeping America.

Iraq was so battered and demolished after three decades of bombing and wars that it was worth almost nothing. Faced by the threat of more guerilla warfare, the new older, wiser US administration of Joe Biden announced it would pull all remaining US combat troops from Iraq, but leaving 2,500 behind for ‘training’ and embassy security (the heavily fortified US Baghdad Embassy is one of the biggest in the world). Osama bin Laden called the US embassies in Baghdad and Kabul, ‘modern crusader castles.’

‘Training’ is a bad joke. Iraq has been at almost constant war since 1980. Iraqis need loyalty, pride and patriotism to be effective fighters. Who needs training from the armed forces that got whipped in Vietnam and now Afghanistan? Iraq needs a real national government rather than a bunch of corrupt stooges and foreign agents in Baghdad. President Saddam Hussein predicted that the US would face the ‘mother of all battles’ in Iraq. He was right.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Iraq, Iraq War 

The US-led war in Afghanistan looks to be ending, and not a day too soon. America’s father, Benjamin Franklin, wisely wrote: ‘No good war; no bad peace.’

Yet for 20 years, the United States waged all-out war against this small, remote, impoverished state whose only weapons were old AK47 rifles and the boundless courage of its fierce people.

In my first book about Afghanistan, ‘War at the Top of the World,’ written after being in the field with the anti-Soviet ‘mujahidin’ warriors, I called them ‘the bravest men on earth.’ Now, some 21 years later, I repeat this title.

For the past two decades, the Afghan nationalist mujahidin have faced the full might of the US empire: waves of B-1 and B-52 heavy bombers; fleets of killer drones, constant air strikes from US airbases in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Gulf; 300,000 US-financed Afghan mercenary troops; up to 120,000 US and NATO troops and other US-paid mercenaries; the brutal Communist-run Afghan secret police, regular government police, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek militias, hit squads sent by the US and Britain, plus famine and disease. Use of torture by western forces was rampant.

All this to defend the US-installed Afghan puppet governments whose main business was protecting the nation’s growing opium trade which made Afghanistan the world’s largest exporter of opium/morphine that was processed into heroin. Another proud moment for Washington which, in the 1970’s had been up to its ears in Indochina’s opium trade, and later in Central America’s cocaine business.

Afghanistan was a war of lies, sustained by the powerful US and British media. President George W. Bush, a man of deep ignorance, launched this war to cover being caught sleeping by the 9/11 attacks. Bush blamed Osama bin Laden, former US ally, and Afghanistan’s Taliban government for 9/11, though the Afghans were likely not involved with it.

The only proof of bin Laden’s involvement was a number of fake videos that I believe were made by Afghanistan’s Communist-run intelligence service or its former KGB bosses. When I pointed out these videos were fakes, CNN blacklisted me from further broadcasting. So too did Canada’s CBC TV and the Sun chain after I warned Canadian troops were being sent to Afghanistan under false pretenses.

Officially, the US lost 31,376 dead and seriously wounded in Afghanistan; Canada lost 158 dead; Britain 456 dead; the Afghans god knows how many. Estimates range from, 100,000 to one million. Two million Afghans reportedly died during the decade-long Soviet occupation. Almost anything that moved was bombed.

The known cost for this useless war was 2 trillion US dollars, plus hundreds of millions in secret payments to hire ‘volunteers’ from US allies to fight in Afghanistan. This was almost all borrowed money hidden in the US federal debt.

What next? The US is trying to find a way to stay engaged in Afghanistan via air attacks from its bases in the Gulf and possibly new ones in Central Asia. The world’s premier military power simply cannot endure the humiliation of defeat in Afghanistan, particularly so by a bunch of Muslim mountain warriors. All those US and British ‘experts’ who championed the Afghan war are now hiding their faces, as they did after the Iraq debacle.

America’s war party is trying to find ways to keep the conflict going by raising phony alarms about girl’s schooling, translators and woman’s rights. But we hear nothing at all from these pro-war hypocrites about the murder, rape and dowry killing of thousands of women in India each year. How many misinformed Americans know that Taliban was a religious movement formed to stop the rape of Afghan women and brigandage during the bitter 1990’s civil war? I was there and saw it.

What next? As US power wanes, CIA will try to bolster separatist movements among Afghanistan’s Tajik and Uzbek minorities. Iran will arm and finance the Shia Hazara minority. Still Communist dominated Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will support their ethnic brethren in Afghanistan. Most important, India will intensify intrigues in Afghanistan where its powerful intelligence agency, RAW, is increasingly active.

Meanwhile Pakistan quietly supports Taliban which, like a quarter of Pakistanis, is of Pashtun ethnicity. China for once does not know what to do in Afghanistan: it wants to block expansion of Indian influence in the subcontinent but deeply fears militant Islam and its rising influence in Chinese-ruled Xinjiang, formerly Turkistan.

So, Americans may have not seen the last of Afghanistan, one of the greatest follies of US foreign policy. To paraphrase the great Talleyrand, the US war in Afghanistan ‘was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.’

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2021

Dedicated to my dear friend and warrior for the truth, Countess Pamela de Maigret, passed away on July 12, 2021.

 

Time was when Britain’s mighty fleets ruled a quarter of the earth’s surface. I’ve been savoring the names of its dreadnaughts and battle cruisers like George V, Prince of Wales, Hood, Princess Royal, Iron Duke and scores of other renowned warships.

Last week, the imperial British lion made a last, feeble roar by sending one of its new anti-aircraft destroyers, ‘Defender,’ to annoy the Russians by patrolling off the south-western coast of Crimea.

Russia and Ukraine both claim Crimea, which had been Russian since 1783. After a drunken dinner, the late Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, ‘gave’ the Crimean SSR to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic.

Russia reoccupied Crimea, one of Russia’s most important naval bases, after a US-led coup overthrew Ukraine’s pro-Russian government in 2014. The UK, US and rest of NATO insist Crimea belongs to Ukraine. Of course they do. They engineered it.

HMS ‘Defender’s’ baiting the Russian bear took place while NATO naval and air forces were holding threatening war games over the southern Black Sea to intimidate Russia and embolden allies like Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, the three weak sisters of Eastern Europe.

This tempest in a teapot suddenly became a farce after a stack of soggy secret British naval documents was found behind a park bench in Kent. ‘Defender’s’ mission was discussed in them, Russia’s possible response, and, of all crazy things, potential new British operations in Afghanistan. All to please Uncle Sam, of course.

These embarrassing documents caused an uproar in Britain, made the government look like fools, and put the lie to Whitehall’s claims that the naval operation was only an innocent patrol. Britons are very intelligent people but tend to be sloppy and poorly organized. Britain has been a happy hunting ground for Soviet/Russian spies since the war.

Small wonder the French call Britain ‘perfide Albion.’ The Brits are masters at intrigue, double-dealing and propaganda. British propaganda drew the United States into two world wars. In our era, Britain has assumed leadership of western propaganda efforts against Russia and its allies.

Most Russians, who tend to be well-educated, are well aware of Great Britain’s 1853 invasion of Crimea, in league with France, the Ottoman Empire, and the then kingdom of Sardinia. The Crimean War was a bloody, three-year war designed to wrest the strategic peninsula from Tsarist control and thwart Russia’s expansion into the Balkans.

This nasty war saw the British finally storm fortress Sevastopol and temporarily reduce Russia’s influence in the Black Sea and Balkans. For France, the war was a thrilling return to military victories after the dark years of the Napoleonic wars. For Britain, it was also a triumph in spite of the disaster at Balaclava and heavy casualties due to disease. But, in the end, the war proved a stalemate: the foreign powers withdrew from Crimea and left Russia to lick it wounds.

The next serious invasion came from Germany and Romania in 1941, led by the great German general, Erich von Manstein. The second siege of Sevastopol lasted 250 days. I’ve walked over many of the old Soviet forts that so long resisted German attacks. Crimea was one of the hardest fought campaigns of WWII. Sevastopol was named one of the Soviet Union’s ‘hero cities’ for its legendary resistance.

No one who knows history should be surprised that western moves on Sevastopol and Crimea produced such a strong Russian reaction. Imagine how the US would react to a Russian naval squadron staging war games in the Gulf of Mexico or off New York City.

The point of the ‘Defender’ exercise was to humiliate Russia and show off its weakness, all part of the longer-term US/British/NATO strategy to splinter the remaining Russian Federation in a similar manner that the old Soviet Union was torn apart. That’s what the big NATO Black Sea exercise is about. There will be many more.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Britain, Crimea, NATO, Russia, Ukraine 

Most billionaires spend their money on mansions, yachts, airplanes and much younger wives. But not so casino mogul Sheldon Adelson who died in Las Vegas on January 11th, aged 87.

Adelson rose from humble origins. He used his \$33 billion plus gambling fortune to buy governments in order to fulfill his passion for Zionism. He became one of the single most important private political influences in both the United States and Israel.

Through his political action committees and charities, Adelson focused the huge power of his money on expanding Israel’s borders, squeezing Palestinians into ever smaller ghettos, and ensuring that the Jewish state received almost unlimited American military, financial and political support.

Over recent years, Adelson gave at least \$150 million to Donald Trump and the Republican Party. That’s a lot of money for nickel and dime politicians. Adelson also financed a host of political action committees, mostly with tax deductible funds. Some sources even spoke of \$11 billion worth of political donations. Those few legislators who did not kowtow to Adelson or the idea of a greater Israel were quickly subjects of his wrath and sharp political attacks. US senators Newt Gingrich and Marco Rubio became major recipient of donations from kingmaker Adelson. However, the most important recipient was Donald Trump.

An important part of Trump’s political funding came from Adelson’s casinos and a coterie of ardently pro-Israel billionaires. Many were linked to Israel’s rightwing Likud Party. In fact, one of Trump’s prime political goals was aiding Israel’s hard expansionist government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Critics accused Trump of being a Trojan Horse for Israel’s far right. The US State Department was gutted by Trump and his hatchet-man Mike Pompeo, allegedly for harboring too many ‘old Mideast’ hands who were insufficiently submissive to Israel’s demands. Other government agencies were similarly purged, including CIA and Voice of America. Media commentators who did not toe the pro-Likud line were consigned to obscurity.

In Israel, Adelson was even more direct. He created a free newspaper, ‘Israel Today,’ to support policies of Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party. Adelson played an important role in crushing Israel’s peace parties that opposed Netanyahu.

After years of lavish spending, Adelson ended up giving marching orders to both Trump and Netanyahu. As a Parthian shaft, the departing Trump muscled the Arab states of the United Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and Morocco to come out of the closet to recognize Israel and ditch the Palestinians. Orders from Washington could not be ignored by these monarchies and autocracies.

Trump’s other pillar of support was America’s Christian fundamentalists. As author Upton Sinclair wrote before WWII, ‘when fascism comes to America, it will be under the sign of the cross.’ The mob of pro-Trump thugs that stormed the US Congress was seen waving ‘Jesus saves’ banners – but these were quickly deleted from later TV news reports. Still, extreme Christian rightists remain a powerful force in American life and seemingly limitless support for Israel. They are also the key power bloc in the Republican party.

As I wrote three years ago, the Republican Party has become a religious cult. It has nothing at all in common with the old, moderate party of Lincoln or Eisenhower. The new Republicans are found it the southern and Midwest Bible Belt that brought the US Prohibition and racial politics. This reborn Bible belt was anti-intellectual, xenophobic, anti-education and steeped in primitive theology.

Donald Trump was clever enough to gain control of America’s hillbilly right by setting himself up as a quasi-religious Biblical figure. Many of his apparently bizarre actions were political theater designed to play to religious fundamentalists or to the type of primitives who stormed the US Capitol.

In spite of this monstrous political crime, the Republicans remain firmly under Trump’s thumb and almost in power. The next mid-term elections might well bring them back to power. Trump and his rightwing Israeli allies are counting the days.

 

‘Worse than a crime; a mistake’
Talleyrand

The mob of yahoos and cretins that broke into the United States capitol this week was not a spontaneous act of violence. Quite the contrary, it was a carefully planned criminal uprising designed to terrorize congress and prevent the election of president-elect Joe Biden.

It was clear orders had been given to the local security forces to largely disarm but accommodate the rioters, and allow them into the capitol buildings. By whom? Clearly by President Trump or his minions. There will probably be no written record. Trump, who grew up rubbing shoulders with gangsters and union thugs, certainly had learned the lesson taught by the late criminal lawyer Roy Cohen to always skirt the law and never leave a clear trail.

It’s also very likely that Trump tried to organize a military coup against his own government, what Latin Americans call an ‘autogolpe.’ That’s why ten former US defense secretaries, including the far-right Dick Cheney, felt compelled to issue a joint letter warning Trump not to involve the military in domestic politics. Draft-dodger Trump fancies himself a potential military genius. His effort at Bonapartism quickly failed.

A mob of low-IQ thugs waving Confederate flags was not enough to take over the US government. For this, military or paramilitary forces would have been needed to seize the Pentagon and major military bases, the major media, airports, telecommunications, the Treasury, and police HQ.

And yet there had been open talk for weeks of some sort of coup attempt by Trump supporters. Americans were so absorbed by the game of politics that they almost ignored the looming threat of a coup attempt by denizens of the far right, driven to a frenzy by Trump’s crass falsehoods about the election being stolen.

It’s interesting to compare Trump’s coup attempt with events in the Soviet Union in 1991. A cabal of die-hard communists, including Defense Minister Marshal Yazov, sought to overthrow the reformist government of Mikhail Gorbachev. They mounted a poorly-organized coup to seize state organs in Moscow and isolated Gorbachev at his retreat in Crimea.

The two Soviet mechanized divisions tasked with seizing Moscow went to the city center, then remained inactive due to lack of orders. Marshal Shaposhnikov refused to order his transport aircraft to bring more troops to Moscow to aid the coup. Special KGB ‘Alpha’ units refused to fire on insurgent leader Boris Yeltsin. In all, the highly patriotic Red Army refused to engage in the coup.

The coup failed and its leaders, most of them drunk on vodka, were rounded up and arrested. But this event, and the anti-Yeltsin coup two year later, marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.

The coup leaders were initially jailed, then released. Stalin would have had them shot. The Soviet Union and its successor, Russia, never recovered.

Trump’s encouragement, and then refusal, to halt the storming of the capitol, will likely mark the end of his political career. He could be censored, or even jailed for his act of insurrection. His plans to run again for president in four years look highly unlikely to succeeded after his act of political arson. His supporters, who are large in numbers, should be deterred from advocating violence, Christian political extremism, extreme Zionism and environmental backwardness. The Republican Party needs a huge enema.

Americans deserve to be deeply embarrassed by this week’s events. Scenes of rioters inside the capitol waving Confederate flags conjure fears of a second American civil war: many of the states that voted for Trump were also part of the old civil war Confederacy.

As a New Yorker and life-long Eisenhower Republican, I was horrified by events in Washington. Trump was flying B-52 bombers over Iran while hooligans were trashing the capitol.

 

All hail America’s voters. After an excruciating election, they appear to have edged out of power the man who wanted to be king, Donald Trump, and put into the White House an amiable, old pol who appears likely to soon be replaced by his vice-presidential running mate, half-Jamaican, half-Indian Kamala Harris.

This week’s election should have produced a landslide for Joe Biden and the democrats. Trump had so much against him – his shocking denial of the deadly Covid epidemic; overt hatred for Islam and total subservience to Israel’s far right; overt anti-black and Hispanic racism; a financial mess created by his ill-considered tax cut; boorish behavior; medical quackery worthy of 19th century snake oil salesmen; threats to use nuclear weapons – the list goes on an on.

But many Americans ignored all this bad mogambo in the hope Trump would keep the stock market on fire. Religion also played a key role: some 90% of so-called born-again Christian fundamentalists, misled by Fox News and powerful Protestant churches, promoted bad boy Trump as some sort of Christian savior or a reincarnation of rulers of Biblical Israel.

Trump’s fulminations against Iran led his chief paymaster, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, to fork over another \$75 million to Trump on top of a hefty, \$100 million donation, plus millions more from hedge fund moguls tied to Israel’s rightwing Likud Party while the media screamed about alleged Russian interference.

In spite of all this, ‘Sleepy Joe Biden,’ as Trump disparaged him, won the national vote. The US Postal Service, heavily sabotaged by the Trump minions, still managed to function and deliver the winning votes. Interfering with the mail is a federal crime. Those guilty should be prosecuted.

The United States emerged from this long, ugly electoral battle shaken, wounded and much diminished. Its standing as the world champion of democracy has been debased by an election characterized by yahoos in pickup trucks, welfare recipients and looters.

Trump’s lies and false accusations at the end of the vote confirmed his unfitness for the presidency. Let us hope the world does not conflate the United States with Trump’s boorish, unethical behavior.

States of little or no importance stole the limelight from big, significant states like my own New York and California. The election showed without a doubt that the antique system of the electoral college must be replaced or even better, junked.

What might Trump do? A new TV series of course. The political figure closest to Trump was Italy’s bombastic fascist leader Benito Mussolini. Copying the Duce, Trump might launch a mass march on Washington to seize power. Given Trump’s potent showing in the election, an attempted coup is not unthinkable.

This election also leaves key Trump allies cast adrift. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his most important supporter after casino king Adelson. Brazil’s fool of a president, Jair Bolsonaro, looks orphaned by Trump’s defeat. India’s Narendra Modi will miss Trump’s backing of ever-increasing Indian immigration to the US and ignoring of rising repression in Kashmir. Biden may be forced to face China’s brutal treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. The beastly Saudi regime will lose its most influential patron when Trump goes.

One hopes new president Biden will quickly rejoin the sensible Paris climate accords and the important nuclear control deal with Iran. Four years ago, candidate Trump promised to end America’s festering little colonial wars in Afghanistan, Africa and the Mideast. He never did. Now Biden has the chance to end these ill-starred, trillion-dollar misadventures with the stroke of a pen, recalling Founding Father Ben Franklin’s golden dictum, ‘no good war; no bad peace.’

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2020 Election, Donald Trump, Israel Lobby, Joe Biden 
Eric Margolis
About Eric Margolis

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

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

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

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

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

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


Personal Classics
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