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State Sponsored Assassinations Are the New Norm – It Is Gangsterism
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I was in Israel on 4 November 1995 when a student named Yigal Amir assassinated the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin as he left a peace rally in Tel Aviv. A video shows Amir loitering by an exit to the square for 40 minutes before Rabin appears, when his killer takes out a pistol and fires two shots point blank into Rabin’s back. His purpose was to prevent a lasting peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians by killing the man who was the most powerful protagonist of such an agreement.

The assassination was universally condemned amid plaudits for Rabin as a man and a statesman, but within a year Binyamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister and progress towards a settlement stalled and went into reverse.

Twenty-five years later almost to the day, another assassination took place, this time in Iran, of a nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, as he was driving in a car east of Tehran. He was ambushed and killed by a squad of gunmen, alleged to be Israeli, who shot him and exploded a bomb in a car prepositioned at the scene of the attack.

This time there was no international condemnation of the action of what was, going by different accounts, a death squad operating in a foreign country against a foreign citizen. This free pass was because the target was an Iranian and Fakhrizadeh had been accused by Israel of playing a leading role in a secret plan to build a nuclear device. But these allegations were unproven, mostly dated from long ago, and the current activities of the dead man are unclear. What is evident, however, is that “targeted killings” by assassins outside their home countries are becoming very much the norm as a way in which nations show their strength. The poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury by Russian agents in Salisbury in 2018 and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi death squad in Istanbul the same year are good examples of this and the death of Fakhrizadeh is another.

This latest assassination was not justified primarily as an attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuclear programme, but as a legitimate and successful display of state power. The New York Times said approvingly that “Mr Fakhrizadeh has become the latest casualty in a campaign of audacious covert attacks seemingly designed to torment Iranian leaders with reminders of their weakness.” It added that the operation confronted Iran with an agonising choice between retaliation and seeking to re-engage with the US when Joe Biden becomes president, replacing the viscerally anti-Iranian Donald Trump.

Any description of this or other “targeted killing” by Israel or anybody else should carry a health warning. Everybody involved has a reason for lying, just as they once did about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMD in 2003. Anything leaked by intelligence agencies to a credulous media should only be consumed with a large measure of salt.

Without officially claiming the attack, Israel is sending a message to Tehran to the effect that “we may soon no longer have Trump in our corner, but we can still hit you hard”. A further motive is to sour Iran against a nuclear deal with America, embolden Iranian hard liners who always opposed it, potentially provoke self-destructive Iranian retaliation, and complicate Biden’s declared intention to return to Barack Obama’s 2015 agreement with Iran.

Notice several peculiarities about this assassination: those emphasising the enormity of the breach in Iranian security are not Israelis but Iranians, reputedly close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These paint a rather unlikely scenario of an ambush by a dozen assassins, some leaping from a car and others arriving on motorcycles, and in case they should miss their target, there is a Fiat car packed with explosives ready to detonate.

A more likely explanation is that the IRGC, which was responsible for Fakhizadeh’s security, failed once again and is trying to excuse themselves by claiming that they were faced with an overwhelming force that nobody could have resisted. The IRGC’s reputation for competence had already been damaged in January this year when an IRGC crew manning an anti-aircraft missile battery shot down a Ukrainian aircraft over Tehran, killing 176 passengers and crew.

This disastrous mistake came in the wake of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC head of covert operations in much of the Middle East, by a US drone at Baghdad airport on 3 January, another sign that state-sponsored assassinations are becoming an acceptable international practice.

How will this all play out in terms of future US relations with Iran? The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, was his chief diplomatic achievement. Withdrawing from it in 2018 and seeking to extract better terms from Iran through sanctions amounting to an economic siege, was the most important initiative by Trump in the Middle East.

Economic warfare like this did a lot of damage to Iran but it did not succeed in forcing it to negotiate and it was never likely to do so since Trump’s strategy, if anything so incoherent deserves that name, was to force surrender or regime change on Iran.

Biden says he wants to return to the JCPOA, but only if Iran is compliant, too. There is plenty of room here for disagreement about what exactly compliance entails and a return to the old agreement will be resisted by Israeli, Saudi Arabia and its anti-Iranian Arab allies, and much of the foreign policy establishment in Washington.

Iranian enthusiasm for the 2015 agreement has also ebbed since they discovered that it did not in practice end economic sanctions. They have since found that these can to some degree be circumvented by secretly selling oil at a discounted price.

ORDER IT NOW

All recent US administrations have come into office hoping – and sometimes declaring publicly – that they would not allow themselves to be sucked into crises and messy wars in the Middle East. Invariably they have failed because the region is where the political tectonic plates of the world meet and grind together. It is the arena where outside powers confront each other directly or through their proxies.

“Targeted killings” on an individual or mass basis may appear to be a way of tipping the balance towards whatever country has decided to go into the assassination business. The killing of Yitzhak Rabin did matter for the future of the Israelis and the Palestinians, but this was the act of a single fanatic and not of a government. Few other assassinations in the Middle East have had much long-term impact, contrary to the cinematic view of a world where Mr Bigs, like Goldfinger or Dr No, are evil masterminds whose elimination will make a difference. In the real world, figures like Fakhrizadeh and Soleimani can always be replaced.

Generals and politicians once imagined that campaigns to kill the local leaders of insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq would open the door to victory. But they found that “night raids” enraged local communities and dead leaders were swiftly replaced by angrier and more aggressive substitutes. One such campaign in Iraq led to a sharp jump in attacks on American forces. State-sponsored assassinations employ the methods of gangsterism and discredit and delegitimise those who use them.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. The US has been murdering people in foreign lands for decades and the bulk of the US population couldn’t care less. They even thank the murderers for their service.

    Targeting one person is wrong, but the greater wrong is completely overlooked by the entire world. Some country declares war and the morons in their military start killing people. What happened to the conscience of the soldiers? Where is the Christian or other religious spirit in murdering people who have done you no harm?

    The vast majority of people throughout the world view their political “leaders” as just a notch above shit. Yet, their offspring enlist or join the politicians military because a law that they made up says so. How stupid is that?

    The vast majority of people are worth shit because they have no moral backbone to simply say no when they absolutely know that to be the right answer.

  2. So, Russia and China were right to stick to international law as a guideline rule?
    And the entire EU, USA and others wrong?

    Who could have guessed that?

  3. Let’s cut to the chase:

    1. Did the Zionist entity commit this murder? (Do bears shit in the woods?)

    2. Will the U.S. Government condemn this Israeli crime? (Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy?)

    3. Should Iran dust a few Israelis? (Sure)

    • Agree: RedpilledAF
    • LOL: Taxi
  4. I would draw a distinction between the Khashoggi/Skripal and Fahkrizadeh/Solemani assassinations. The former is basically a domestic dispute (even if carried out on foreign soil). The latter is an International Crime and the perps should be severely punished.

    P.S. I don’t necessarily buy the Skripal story.

    • Replies: @Greta Handel
  5. anon[373] • Disclaimer says:

    Cockburn’s beloved Obama assassinated ordinary people.

    God has made yet another mistake. He should have taken Cockburn, not Fisk.

  6. Cash says:

    Why is it not okay to kill the leaders? Why do leaders get a free pass? Isn’t it better for the leaders to kill each other in very small numbers than sending young men to die by the thousands?

    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  7. @Dr. Krieger

    P. S. S.

    Yes, I noticed how the author failed to apply his admonition that

    [a]ny description of this or other “targeted killing” by Israel or anybody else should carry a health warning. Everybody involved has a reason for lying, just as they once did about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMD in 2003. Anything leaked by intelligence agencies to a credulous media should only be consumed with a large measure of salt

    to his uncritical recitation about

    [t]he poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury by Russian agents in Salisbury in 2018[.]

    This, and the column generally, remind me of late stage Pat Buchanan.

  8. Miro23 says:

    Generals and politicians once imagined that campaigns to kill the local leaders of insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq would open the door to victory. But they found that “night raids” enraged local communities and dead leaders were swiftly replaced by angrier and more aggressive substitutes. One such campaign in Iraq led to a sharp jump in attacks on American forces. State-sponsored assassinations employ the methods of gangsterism and discredit and delegitimize those who use them.

    Correct. It just scales up a desire for revenge.

    Without officially claiming the attack, Israel is sending a message to Tehran to the effect that “we may soon no longer have Trump in our corner, but we can still hit you hard”. A further motive is to sour Iran against a nuclear deal with America, embolden Iranian hard liners who always opposed it, potentially provoke self-destructive Iranian retaliation, and complicate Biden’s declared intention to return to Barack Obama’s 2015 agreement with Iran.

    Israel really isn’t in such a great situation without the US. If special interest dominated US is on line to implode, then Israel may be on its own with the Middle East, China, Russia and the rest of the world. What does Israel have to offer?

  9. Hans says:

    and has been since well before Cockburn’s old man was shilling for Stalin. LMAO.

  10. @RoatanBill

    The vast majority of people are worth shit

    Bias of Priene nailed it 2600 years ago when he said οἱ πλεῖστοι ἄνθρωποι κακοί (hoi pleistoi anthropoi kakoi).

    It’s usually translated as “most men are bad“, but kakoi is a word with a very very broad range of meanings, from ‘immoral’ to ‘worthless’ to ‘ugly’… basically all shades of physical, moral, philosophical and social negatives.

    And kakoi is cognate with, and from the same root as, kakkao … shit or excrement.

    It’s why my preferred translation is “Most people are shit“.

    they have no moral backbone to simply say no when they absolutely know that to be the right answer

    Yes, and it’s true on many levels. It doesn’t help that the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    Advocates for voluntaryism/anarchy are expected to furnish a chapter-and-verse utopia, not simply a better system than the one that presently dominates humanity. It’s odd that I find that odd… I shouldn’t find it odd, because the people requiring the utopia are not arguing in good faith.

    At a micro level: I just finished a late lunch of roast pork and vegetables. The pig did not deserve its fate, to be torn apart just to give me 500 extra calories that I really didn’t need.

    The right answer was, and is, “just have the vegetables“. I know it, and all the Sages knew it too… they lived it better than I do: ‘mostly vegetarian diet’ is a bit like ‘mostly peaceful protests’. At least I’m not (willingly) funding or otherwise supporting the Anglo-Zionist occupation of Palestine.

    • Agree: RedpilledAF
    • Thanks: RoatanBill
    • Replies: @Ugetit
  11. @Cash

    Why is it not okay to kill the leaders? Why do leaders get a free pass?

    For the same reason that in matters of internal politics, neither team in each nation’s false dichotomy will do anything toward their political ‘enemies’ that will cause the Great Unwashed to question the entire political edifice. The Show Must Go On.

    Doesn’t matter where – D/R in the US; Conservative/Labour in the UK; Liberal/Labor[sic] in Australia – there are times when swords are sheathed for the benefit of the political class qua class.

    A good example: a monumental fuckup by the Victorian premier and his staff (all Labor) led – absolutely directly – to 800 of Australia’s 1000 or so COVID19 deaths-with. (Let’s ignore for the minute, that the median age of the victims is 86, and not a sprightly 86: to the extent that these 86yos died earlier than they otherwise would have, it is directly the fault of the Victorian premier and his appointees).

    What did the Liberal (i.e., ‘Opposition’) political class do?

    Did they attack, guns blazing, and call for the guy’s head on a pike?

    Did they fuck.

    They joined the chorus to sing his praises as he forced the whole of the State into a variety of levels of lockdown – forcing the polity to give up freedoms so that his gross death-dealing incompetence could be papered over.

    The prick should have been executed, or at the very least torn to pieces by his victims’ next-of-kin.

    Instead, Victoria – a state of 4.5m people – got to see his retarded visage every morning at 11am for nigh-on three months, lecturing us how the mandates he had implemented were going to solve the problem he had created (viz., a fairly-benign disease that ran its course when his incompetence allowed it to break quarantine and get into nursing homes).

    And why was the ‘Opposition’ silent?

    Simple: because if they had put on the afterburners and forced the media to put the blame where it belonged, the status of the entire political class would have suffered, along with its bureaucratic camp-followers.

    I can’t recall the famous (British) case in which the judge opined that a defendant could be executed for calling for the overthrow of the government, even if he didn’t have a realistic hope of it eventuating: the important thing was that we simply can’t have the legitimacy of the political class being called into question… sets a bad precedent, don’t you know.

    Caedite Eos makes a lot of sense for certain values of ‘Eos’.

    • Replies: @Adrian
  12. Anonymous[351] • Disclaimer says:

    I thought the Skripals survived their poisoning

  13. Last thing I heard, the Skripals were alive, not assassinated. If this is gangsterism, the Russians should stop trying as they are obviously very bad at it, cf. their “assassination” of Mr. Navalny.

    If the Skripals are dead by now, however, that is then not Russia’s doing, but the empire’s.

    Just sayin’

  14. onebornfree says: • Website

    “State-sponsored assassinations employ the methods of gangsterism ”

    Well “duh”, double “duh”. [Talk about naive! ] This “just” in:

    “Because they are all ultimately funded via both direct and indirect theft [taxes], and counterfeiting [central bank monopolies], all governments are essentially, at their very cores, 100% corrupt criminal scams which cannot be “reformed”or “improved”,simply because of their innate criminal nature.” onebornfree

    “Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class.” Albert J. Nock

    “The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic” H.L.Mencken

    Bottom line: if you want government in the first place, the methodology of “gangsterism” is entirely unavoidable. Wake up to reality, fer fucks sake!

    “Regards”, onebornfree

    • Replies: @Justvisiting
  15. Why do the writers of these articles concerning the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist always assume the Israelis are behind these machinations. Can’t anyone think of a reason or conspiracy theory as to why someone or some elite group within Iran would profit from Fakhrizadeh murder?

    As for the act itself. Why do the writers only supply violent romantic notions about how the assassination was carried out and leave it to the reader to fill in the plot holes. Do Israelis resemble Iranians that closely such that these people wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb to the local yokels. I’m not saying the Israelis aren’t capable of such an operation but for me to think they could insert personnel in a timely manner, set up the hit squad, car bomb and all, and then either hide out or slink out of the country with no operatives getting caught, except for the one presented by Giraldi with no evidence.

    Was Fakhrizadeh such a creature of habit that the Israelis could time their assassination down to the day and the minute he, the scientist, happened to pass by that very spot. You know, for such a long trip it can be rather difficult to drive the whole way without needing to stop and take a potty break every once in awhile. And, we all know how potty breaks with that many people can mess up any itinerary for such road trips And, if he was such a top notch guy why wasn’t he flying instead of driving?

    And, the tidbit by a Giraldi that Fakhrizadeh was dragged out of his car by an Israeli agent to make sure the job was done thoroughly strikes me as a little exaggerated. Usually, when your able to get that close to your target aren’t head shots the preferred method of dispatching the victim? The funeral operator must have been one hell of a reconstruction artist to the extent that they were able to have an open casket wake with Fakhrizadeh’s face showing to the whole world. (Yes, I’ve seen funeral pictures where peoples heads were put back together for the express purpose of having an open casket funeral. I just believe they had an open casket for the express purpose of showing specific power structures within Iran that, yes, Fakhrizadeh. Either that or it was a wax dummy like Elvis, Ken Lay, and Epstein.)

    To many plot holes and unanswered questions leave me wondering who really benefited from such an operation. Like Stalin, maybe some in the upper echelons of power in Iran are extremely paranoid that Fakhrizadeh running for President could present problems for their own ambitious plans. And, we all know that Stalin had a knack for getting rid of associates he felt were rising above their stations and could possibly threaten his grip on power. Lenin, Kirov, Trotsky, and Nadezhda Alliluyeva comes to mind as just a few of the many victims to suffer multiple purges by Stalin.

    • Replies: @Adrian
  16. State Sponsored Assassinations Are the New Norm

    No, sorry. State sponsored assassinations are the norm and have been for a century or so, but thanks for playing.

  17. anon[273] • Disclaimer says:

    Looking back at the public support all over the world for attack against Afghanistan just 19 yrs ago ,seems like an effort to find a live insect through the smoke filled sand storm .They are disquietingly quiet. More than killing 3000 people ,911 did something much horrible and exposed the worst .

    In the name of eradicating terrorism, we have essentially empowered embraced and validated terrorism . The ”we” include the voters, media, public officials -elected or chosen across Europe,Australia and USA. Tactics of terrorism ,big one 911 ,can be in hindsight interpreted as nothing but an effort from other players and reaction from the regular solo franchise holders to steal and to prevent the stealing of the tactics respectively .

  18. Elders of Zion ordered assassinations are the old norm.

  19. JimmyGee says:

    ‘State Sponsored Assassinations Are … Gangsterism’. That’s exactly right, Mr. Cockburn. Netanyahu is a gangster, and our leaders here in the West are too cowed even to criticize him — let alone have him hauled off to The Hague.

    But why should we be surprised at Bibi’s behaviour? It seems to be an ethnic tradition. At least half of the gangsters in early 20th century USA were jewish…

  20. The last paragraph sums it up… You can’t kill and ideal and a culture. Killing tribal elders indeed makes the people resent foreigners and you can never win them over. Same with assassinations.

  21. Adrian says:
    @Kratoklastes

    For some reason I have never been able to use the buttons, including the ‘AGREE’ one. But yes. I agree.

  22. @RoatanBill

    You are correct… That is why demonization works. If you demonize the “other” group enough – even when you launch an unjust action – the sheep will think “they deserve it”.

    • Agree: RoatanBill
  23. Adrian says:
    @My SIMPLE Pseudonymic Handle

    The latest version of the story has it that the killing was done by a remote controlled machine gun guided by a satellite. The human operatives involved were allegedly Mossad trained MeK agents.

    The world should thank Israel for killing the father of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a senior Israeli official told the New York Times on Sunday, citing the global threat such arms would pose.

    The official, who was reportedly involved in the program to track Fakhrizadeh for years and spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Times that Israel would keep acting to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    Haaretz 11/29

    So it is not only gansterism, it is gangsterism that wants to set an example to the world. Israel has taken global moral sensitivity, poorly developed as it was, a few notches further down.

  24. The killing of Yitzhak Rabin did matter for the future of the Israelis and the Palestinians, but this was the act of a single fanatic and not of a government.

    Right. And JFK was killed by a single disgruntled ex-Marine, of course. Then his brother was coincidentally “taken care of” by yet another one of those pesky lone wolf nutjobs. And a group of 19 of those troublesome crazies pulled off the attacks of September 11th.

    Israel operates just like a mob. Look at all these crime families. Look at the Gambinos in the 80’s. They killed each other all the time, climbed on top of each other, and still found time to shake down the neighborhoods. Rabin miscalculated his internal support, and the stakeholders found the pros of killing him to outweigh the cons (two-state peace is a hit to IDF/Mossad power).

    I’m not trying to say I have proof. I’m just saying that one should be more skeptical than to say definitively that “this was the act of a single fanatic”, because a lot of people benefitted, and even more supported it.

    • Agree: Ugetit
  25. joe2.5 says:

    “The poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury by Russian agents in Salisbury in 2018”

    This is a “journalist”?

    Why do you keep him in here, Ron Unz? He could publish his brown-tongue stuff in any goddam government rag and get paid oodles of money for it. Not in any shape or form Interesting, Important, or Controversial Perspectives, not at all Excluded from the American Mainstream Media.

    • Agree: Ugetit
  26. Ugetit says:
    @Kratoklastes

    And kakoi is cognate with, and from the same root as, kakkao … shit or excrement.

    Well there goes my appetite for chocolate, thank you very damned much!

  27. Sean says:

    Nation states openly recognise no higher authority. There is no 911 for them to call if they get into trouble either. Consequently, they sometimes feel they must kill in pre emptive self defence. The mafia is a secret society that practices omerta and pleads the 5th and so gangsterism is the opposite of what countries do when they attack other countries.

    Economic warfare like this did a lot of damage to Iran but it did not succeed in forcing it to negotiate and it was never likely to do so since Trump’s strategy, if anything so incoherent deserves that name, was to force surrender or regime change on Iran.

    Disagree. i think iran continues tin its long standing role of bogeyman for Israel and neocons since the USSR is gone, but superannuated strategists notwithstanding, it is East Asia where the world’s eyes are turning. This is doubly true and the ME is of even more rapidly declining significance because the US strategy of isolating and weakening Iran without ever militarily attacking it has worked so well. Iran is helpless, humiliated, and wasting what resources and international goodwill it has trying to forestall an attack that the US–for all its menaces– has no intention of ever launching. With Iran stagnating in the hands of dim old mullahs and stewing in its own juice, America’s revenge for the hostage crisis humiliation of 1980 (a particular bugbear of Trump) will be a never ending dish to be coldly savoured.

    .

    • Disagree: RedpilledAF
    • Replies: @Anonymous
  28. torch man says:

    Last I heard the Skripals/Navalny survived the “lethal” nerve agent but the brits have the Skripals incommunicado, why?

    • Replies: @Greta Handel
  29. @onebornfree

    The author of the article said:

    discredit and delegitimise those who use them

    So, the implication is that there are actually legitimate governments out there somewhere?

    The guy must be living on another planet.

  30. @torch man

    That impudent question is of no interest to serious “journalists” (cf., grubby reporters like Seymour Hersh and publishers like Julian Assange) of Mr. Cockburn’s pedigree.

    A common trait among the Establishmentarian columnists published here (see also, Buchanan) is the apparently willful limiting of their sources of information to TV and prestige newspapers and periodicals; any “dissent” thus stays within the acceptable narratives. Their presence on the roster is presumably to maintain ideological bandwidth and provide toeholds for new readers.

    • Replies: @joe2.5
  31. Anonymous[231] • Disclaimer says:
    @Sean

    Disagree. i think iran continues tin its long standing role of bogeyman for Israel and neocons since the USSR is gone, but superannuated strategists notwithstanding, it is East Asia where the world’s eyes are turning.

    East Asia depends on oil imports from the Mideast. So if you can destroy or control the Mideast, you can have a chokehold on oil imports to East Asia.

  32. @Miro23

    A nuclear device in each and any major city.

    Be afraid.

    Be very afraid.

  33. joe2.5 says:
    @Greta Handel

    Their presence on the roster is presumably to maintain ideological bandwidth and provide toeholds for new readers.

    I simply love the image of the new, innocent reader so scandalized by free speech that he is left hanging head down, grabbing the eaves by his toes. But “ideological bandwidth”? Where is that?

    • Replies: @Greta Handel
  34. @joe2.5

    I may misapprehend your question, but here goes:

    Establishment narratives are conventionally thought of as being in the middle of a Left-to-Right continuum, the panes of the “Overton Window.” But as more people realize that Washington politics are Red + Blue, not Red v Blue, and that the true divide is between institutional control and individual autonomy, the spectrum is better seen with, say, a Buchanan and a Rall together at the institutional end. Many people still need to start there, perhaps one of the reasons Mr. Unz keeps these water carrying faux dissidents and lightweights on board.

  35. Iran has already hit back, as they always do. They killed a Mossad boss in Tel Aviv. They have responded with assassination of Americans and Israelis every time but we just don’t hear about it much, or at all, in western media (Jew media).

  36. Jake says:

    The ‘new’ norm? Is Cockburn ignorant of, for example, the history of the British Empire? Does he also think that national navies acting as ‘legal’ pirates is new?

  37. Stogumber says:

    “It (the Middle East) is the arena where outside powers confront each other directly or through their proxies.”
    Does Cockburn really believe this? Israel as a proxy for the U.S.? And Iran? A proxy for Russia? Or China? Or both at the same time?
    He has either finished his noticing/thinking at the end of the Cold War era. Or he is lead away by his rhetorical fervor. In both cases he cannot be taken seriously.

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