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When George H.W. Bush died on November 30th, America’s two self-proclaimed newspapers of record The Washington Post and The New York Times were both quick off the mark in publishing what appeared to be definitive obituaries of the former president and statesman that had clearly been prepared in advance. The obit by The Times and that by The Post differed little in substance but they had one curious omission, i.e. President G.H.W. Bush’s eighteen month confrontation with Israel and its powerful domestic lobby.

In 1991-1992 President Bush engaged in a series of sharp exchanges with Israel and its American lobby over the issue of $10 billion in loan guarantees to the Jewish state to pay for the resettlement of Russian Jews, who were beginning to arrive in both Israel and the West in large numbers. Bush correctly assumed that the loans would in fact also subsidize the expansions of illegal settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza, which the U.S. government opposed, so he said “no” to the loans. After a series of increasingly acrimonious exchanges back and forth, Bush, facing election, withdrew his objections and the loans were approved, but he was the only U.S. president since John F. Kennedy to confront the Israel Lobby in any serious way. Kennedy was, of course, assassinated and Bush was defeated for reelection.

Both G.H.W. Bush and many other observers of the campaign and election believed the loss to Bill Clinton in 1992 was at least in part attributable to the actions of Israel and its friends. The conflict between Bush and the Israeli government backed up by the Israel Lobby and a number of congressmen and media outlets began in the spring of 1991. By September, President Bush refused to approve the loan guarantees as he believed that withholding approval of the money would give the U.S. leverage in peace negotiations with the Arabs that were planned for the end of the year in Madrid. Bush felt that Israeli Prime Minister was not taking the U.S. seriously because he believed that he would get what was wanted from Congress in any event without stopping settlement construction or having to concede anything to the Palestinians. There was also a distinct possibility that the Israelis would not bother to participate in Madrid without some kind of possible financial inducement.

Bush fought hard against the Israeli government and the thousands of American Jews plus their organizations that mobilized against him. Thomas Dine, Executive Director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) declared that the day when Bush rejected the loan guarantees would prove to be “a day that lives in infamy for the American pro-Israeli community.”Sentiment against the president in the Jewish community was so intense that many prominent American Jews to this day consider any nostalgia towards the man or his presidency to be an expression of anti-Semitism.

Bush did not roll over. He famously called a press conference in which he said: “We’re up against very strong and effective, sometimes, groups that go up to the Hill. I heard today there were something like a thousand lobbyists on the Hill working the other side of the question. We’ve got one little guy down here doing it…The Constitution charges the president with the conduct of the nation’s foreign policy… There is an attempt by some in Congress to prevent the president from taking steps central to the nation’s security. But too much is at stake for domestic politics to take precedence over peace.”

In October Bush obtained a four-month delay in the loans, a defeat for the Israel Lobby, but the process dragged on into the following summer. On August 12, 1992, Bush, in trouble with his presidential campaign, finally approved the guarantees, which would enable the Israelis to borrow money at a low interest rate. Ironically, by June 1993, none of the borrowed money had been used and Israeli sources admitted that they have never needed the loans. The entire affair was actually a test of strength against the U.S. government, a competition that the Israelis and their friends had persevered in and won.

None of the tale of the Israeli loans appeared in either obituary. Nor was there any hint that Bush might have lost the election in part because pro-Israel forces worked actively against him. Voting tallies reveal a sharp shift in Jewish votes in swing districts to favor Clinton but the impact of Jewish money into the campaign as well as the anti-Bush media onslaught are inevitably more difficult to assess. The Times of Israel observed that “He made clear the cost of an American president waging a political fight against the vast coalition of pro-Israel lobbying groups. In doing so, he exposed the limits of what the world’s most powerful man can do…” George Herbert Walker Bush certainly believed that he was defeated by the Israeli government and its lobby, and he passed that judgment on to his son George W. who was careful not to anger the Israeli/Jewish constituency.

G.H.W. Bush was not the first American statesman to be on the receiving end of a bowdlerized obituary over the subject of Israel. In February 1995, former Senator William Fulbright was remembered by The Times without any reference to his views on the Middle East that had led to his failure to be reelected. As head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright’s was a powerful voice that could not be ignored. He wrote: “So completely have many of our principal officeholders fallen under Israeli influence that they not only deny today the legitimacy of Palestinian national aspirations, but debate who more passionately opposes a Palestinian state. The lobby can just about tell the president what to do when it comes to Israel.”

In Fulbright’s case, the Lobby launched a media and personal vilification campaign against him when he came up for reelection in 1974. Late in the campaign, they came up with an opposition candidate Dale Bumpers whom they generously funded and Fulbright was defeated. His obituaries in the mainstream media would have the reader believe that none of that had actually happened.

 
The biggest threats to America come from its "friends"
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One of the local Washington television stations was doing a typical early morning honoring our soldiers schtick just before Thanksgiving. In it soldiers stationed far from home were treated to videolinks so they could talk to their families and everyone could nod happily and wish themselves a wonderful holiday. Not really listening, I became interested when I half heard that the soldier being interviewed was spending his Thanksgiving in Ukraine.

It occurred to me that the soldier just might have committed a security faux pas by revealing where he was, but I also recalled that there have been joint military maneuvers as well as some kind of training mission going on in the country, teaching the Ukrainian Army how to use the shiny new sophisticated weapons that the United States was providing it with to defend against “Russian aggression.”

Ukraine is only one part of the world where the Trump Administration has expanded the mission of democracy promotion, only in Kiev the reality is more like faux democracy promotion since Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is clearly exploiting a situation that he himself provoked. He envisions setting himself up as a victim of Moscow to aid in his attempts to establish his own power through a security relationship with Washington. That in turn will help his bid for reelection in March 2019 elections, in which his poll numbers are currently running embarrassingly low largely due to the widescale corruption in his government. Poroshenko has already done much to silence the press in his county while the developing crisis with Russia has enabled him to declare martial law in the eastern parts of the country where he is most poorly regarded. If it all works out, he hopes to win the election and subsequently, it is widely believed, he will move to expand his own executive authority.

There also has to be some consideration the encounter with the Russians on the Kerch Strait was contrived by Poroshenko with the assistance of a gaggle of American neoconservative and Israeli advisers who have been actively engaged with the Ukrainian government for the past several years. The timing was good for Poroshenko for his own domestic political reasons but it was also an opportunity for the neocons warmongers that surround Trump and proliferate inside the Beltway to scuttle any possible meeting between a vulnerable Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G20 gathering in Argentina.

The defection of Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, together with the assumption that a lot of anti-Trump dirt will be spilled soon, means that the American president had to be even more cautious than ever in any dealings with Moscow and all he needed was a nod of approval from National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cancel the encounter. A heads-of-state meeting might not have solved anything but it certainly would be better than the current drift towards a new cold war. If the United States has only one vitally important relationship anywhere it is with Russia as the two countries are ready, able and apparently willing to destroy the world under the aegis of self-defense.

Given the anti-Russian hysteria prevailing in the U.S. and the ability of the neocons to switch on the media, it should come as no surprise that the Russian-Ukrainian incident immediately generated calls from the press and politicians for the White House to get tough with the Kremlin. It is important to note that the United States has no actual national interest in getting involved in a war between Russia and Ukraine if that should come about. The two Eastern European countries are neighbors and have a long history of both friendship and hostility but the only thing clear about the conflict is that it is up to them to sort things out and no amount of sanctions and jawing by concerned congressmen will change that fact.

Other Eastern European nations that similarly have problems with Russia should also be considered provocateurs as they seek to create tension to bind the United States more closely to them through the NATO alliance. The reality is that today’s Russian Federation is not the Soviet Union and it neither aspires to nor can afford hegemony over its former allies. What it has made very clear that it does want is a modus vivendi where Russia itself is not being threatened by the West.

Recent military maneuvers in Poland and Lithuania and the stationing of new missiles in Eastern Europe do indeed pose a genuine threat to Moscow as it places NATO forces on top of Russia’s border. When Russia reacts to incursions by NATO warships and planes right along its borders, it is accused of acting aggressively. One wonders how the U.S. government would respond if a Russian aircraft carrier were to take up position off the eastern seaboard and were to begin staging reconnaissance flights. Or if the Russian army were to begin military exercises with the Cubans? Does anyone today remember the Bay of Pigs?

When it comes to international conflicts context is everything. Seeing the incident between Russia and Ukraine in Manichean terms as an example of Moscow’s aggressive instincts is satisfying in some circles, but it does not in any way reflect the reality on the ground. Internal politics of the two countries combined with deliberate fabrications that are expected to generate a certain response operate together to create a largely false narrative for both international and domestic consumption. Unfortunately, narratives have consequences: in this case, the sacrifice of the possibly beneficial meeting between Trump and Putin.

The same dynamic works vis-à-vis Washington’s other enemy du jour Iran. In the case of Russia, useless “friend” Ukraine is pulling the strings while regarding Iran it is conniving Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iran has been accused of being the world’s leading sponsor of terror, of destabilizing the Middle East, and of having a secret nuclear weapon program that will be used to attack Israel and Europe. None of those assertions are true. The terrorism tag comes from the country’s relationship with Hezbollah, which is only a terrorist group insofar as it is hostile to Israel and pledged to resist any future Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Washington and Israel have pushed the terrorism label for Hezbollah, but most Europeans have begun to disregard the designation since the group has become a part of the Lebanese government.

And regarding destabilizing the Middle East, that has largely been the end result of actions undertaken by the United States, Israel and the Saudis, while the alleged Persian nuclear weapons program is a fantasy. If someone in the U.S. national security apparatus had any brains the United States would work to improve relations with Iran real soon as the Iranians would in the long run quite likely prove to be better friends than those rascals who are currently running around using that label.

 
Why can't we just leave everyone alone?
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President Donald Trump’s recent statement on the Jamal Khashoggi killing by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince might well be considered a metaphor for his foreign policy. Several commentators have suggested that the text appears to be something that Trump wrote himself without any adult supervision, similar to the poorly expressed random arguments presented in his tweeting only longer. That might be the case, but it would not be wise to dismiss the document as merely frivolous or misguided as it does in reality express the kind of thinking that has produced a foreign policy that seems to drift randomly to no real end, a kind of leaderless creative destruction of the United States as a world power.

Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of Britain in the mid nineteenth century, famously said that “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”The United States currently has neither real friends nor any clearly defined interests. It is, however, infested with parasites that have convinced an at-drift America that their causes are identical to the interests of the United States. Leading the charge to reduce the U.S. to “bitch” status, as Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has artfully put it, are Israel and Saudi Arabia, but there are many other countries, alliances and advocacy groups that have learned how to subvert and direct the “leader of the free world.”

Trump’s memo on the Saudis begins with the headline “The world is a very dangerous place!” Indeed, it is and behavior by the three occupants of the White House since 2000 is largely to blame. It is difficult to find a part of the world where an actual American interest is being served by Washington’s foreign and global security policies. Indeed, a national security policy that sees competitors and adversaries as enemies in a military sense has made nuclear war, unthinkable since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, thinkable once again. The fact that no one is the media or in political circles is even talking about that terrible danger suggests that war has again become mainstreamed, tacitly benefiting from bipartisan acceptance of it as a viable foreign policy tool by the media, in the U.S. Congress and also in the White House.

The part of the world where American meddling coupled with ignorance has produced the worst result is inevitably the Middle East. Washington has been led by the nose by Israel and Saudi Arabia, currently working in sync, to have the United States destroy Iran even though the Iranians represent no threat whatsoever to Americans or any serious U.S. interests. The wildly skewed view of what is taking place in that region is reflected in Trump’s memo in the first paragraph, which reads:

“The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, ‘Death to America!’ and ‘Death to Israel!’ Iran is considered ‘the world’s leading sponsor of terror.’”

Almost all of that is either patently untrue or grossly exaggerated, meaning that Trump’s profoundly ignorant statement is remarkable for the number of lies that it incorporates into 631 words which are wrapped around a central premise that the United States will always do whatever it wants wherever it wants just because it can. The war being waged by the Saudis against Yemen, which reportedly has killed as many as 80,000 children, is not a proxy struggle against Iran as Trump prefers to think. It is naked aggression bordering on genocide that is enabled by the United States under completely false pretenses. Iran did not start the war and plays almost no role in it apart from serving as a Saudi and Emirati excuse to justify the fighting. Other lies include that Bashar al-Assad of Syria has killed millions of his own citizens and that Saudi Arabia is fighting terrorism. Quite the contrary is true as the Saudis have been a major source of Islamic terrorism. And as for Iran being the “world’s leading sponsor of terrorism,” that honor currently belongs to the U.S., Israel and the Saudis.

The core of Trump’s thinking about Khashoggi and the Saudis comes down to Riyadh’s willingness to buy weapons to benefit America’s defense contractors and this one sentence: “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.” Yes, once again it is Israel pulling Trump’s strings, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading the charge to give Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman a pass on the gruesome murder of a legal resident of the United States who, once upon a time, might have actually had the U.S. government on his side.

The reckless calibrations employed to set American policies in other parts of the world are also playing out badly. Russia has been hounded relentlessly since the 2016 election, wasting the opportunity to establish a modus vivendi that Trump appeared to be offering in his campaign. Russian and American soldiers confront each other in Syria, where the U.S. has absolutely no real interests beyond supporting feckless Israel and Saudi Arabia in an unnecessary armed conflict that has already been lost. There is now talk of war coming from both Moscow and Washington while NATO in the middle has turned aggressive in an attempt to justify its existence. The bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Russia is now worse than it was towards the end of the Cold War while the expansion of NATO up to Russia’s doorstep has threatened the Kremlin’s vital interests without advancing any interest of the United States.

Afghanistan has become the longest war in U.S. history with no end in sight and China too has seen what began as a dispute over trade turned into something more vitriolic, a military rivalry over the South China Sea that could explode. And North Korea? A love fest between two leaders that is devoid of content.

One might also add Venezuela to the list, with the U.S. initiating sanctions over the state of the country’s internal politics and even considering, according to some in the media, a military intervention.

All of the White House’s actions have one thing in common and that is that they do not benefit Americans in any way unless one works for a weapons manufacturer, and that is not even taking into consideration the dead soldiers and civilians and the massive debt that has been incurred to intervene all over the world. One might also add that most of America’s interventions are built on deliberate lies by the government and its associated media, intended to increase tension and create a casus belli where none exists.

 
FDD and AIPAC need adult supervision
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Depending on what criteria one uses, there are between 200 and 600 groups in the United States that wholly or in part are dedicated to furthering the interests of Israel. The organizations are both Jewish, like the Zionist Organization of America, and Christian Zionist to include John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, but the funding of the Israel Lobby and both its political and media access comes overwhelmingly from Jewish supporters and advocates.

Many of the groups are registered with the Internal Revenue Service for tax purposes as 501(c)3 “educational” or “charitable” foundations, which enables them to solicit tax exempt donations. One might dispute whether promoting Israeli interests in the United States is actually educational, but as of right now the Department of the Treasury believes it can be so construed, protected by the First Amendment.

But there is a more serious consideration in terms of the actual relationships that many of the groups enjoy with the Israeli government. To be sure, many of them boast on their promotional literature and websites about their relationships with the Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet, so the issue of dual loyalty or, worse, acting as actual Israeli government agents must be considered.

There is a legal remedy to hostile foreigners acting against American interests and that is the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA). Originally intended to identify and monitor agents of Nazi Germany propagandizing in the United States, it has since been applied to individuals and groups linked to other nations. Most recently, it was used against Russian news agencies RT America and Sputnik, which were forced to register. It is also being considered for Qatar based al-Jazeera.

FARA requires identified agents to be transparent in terms of their funding and contacts while also being publicly identified as representing the interests of a foreign nation. They must report to the Department of Justice every contact they have with congressmen or other government officials. The text of the Act defines a foreign agent as

“any person who acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant, or any person who acts in any other capacity at the order, request, or under the direction or control, of a foreign principal or of a person any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign principal, and who directly or through any other person— (i) engages within the United States in political activities for or in the interests of such foreign principal; (ii) acts within the United States as a public relations counsel, publicity agent, information-service employee or political consultant for or in the interests of such foreign principal; (iii) within the United States solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value for or in the interest of such foreign principal; or (iv) within the United States represents the interests of such foreign principal before any agency or official of the Government of the United States.”

In spite of language that would presumably cover many of the hundreds of Jewish organizations acting for Israel, FARA has never been used to compel registration of any such groups or individuals even when it was public knowledge that they were working closely with the Israeli government to coordinate positions and promote other Israeli interests. That failure is at a minimum a tribute to Jewish power in the United States, but it is also due to the fact that the organizations are funded from within the United States by wealthy American Jews, not by Israel, which is the argument sometimes inaccurately made by the groups themselves to demonstrate that they are not being directed by the Israeli government.

The difficulty in proving that one is directed by a foreign government has been definitively resolved regarding one group the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), which has become the leading neoconservative bastion seeking a war with Iran, Israel’s bête noir. The recent al-Jazeera expose on the activities of the Israeli lobbies in both Britain and the United States, which I wrote about last week, included a surreptitiously filmed conversation with Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli intelligence officer who now heads the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which is tasked with countering what is perceived to be anti-Israeli activity worldwide. The Ministry is particularly focused on the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which is increasingly active in both the United States and Europe.

Vaknin-Gil was discussing his activities with Tony Kleinfeld, an undercover investigative reporter who was secretly recording and filming his encounters with various members of the Israel Lobby as well as of the Israeli government.Vaknin-Gil provided explicit confirmation that the FDD works directly with the Israeli government, making it an Israeli agent by the definition of FARA.

For those who are unfamiliar with FDD, it is probably currently the most prominent neocon organization though it nevertheless claims to be a non-partisan “research group.” It focuses on foreign policy and security issues by “Fighting Terrorism and Promoting Freedom,” as it informs us on its website masthead. It works to “defend free nations against their enemies,” which frequently means in practice anyone whom Israel considers to be hostile, most particularly Iran. FDD’s Leadership Council has featured former CIA Director James Woolsey, Senator Joe Lieberman, and Bill Kristol. Its Executive Director is Canadian import Mark Dubowitz, who is obsessed with Iran. Its advisors and experts are mostly Jewish and most of its funding comes from Jewish oligarchs.

FDD’s auditorium has become a preferred venue for senior officials of the Trump Administration to go and make hardline speeches, just as the American Enterprise Institute was under George W. Bush. Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Nikki Haley have all spoken there recently, frequently focusing on Iran and the threat that it allegedly constitutes.

FDD aside, Vaknin-Gil also confirmed that there were other groups in the United States doing the same sorts of things on behalf of Israel. He said “We have FDD. We have others working on this,” elaborating that FDD is “working on” projects for Israel including “data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organizations, money trail.”

So Vaknin-Gil was admitting that FDD and others were working as Israeli proxies, collecting information on U.S. citizens, spying on legal organizations, and both planning and executing disinformation at Israeli direction. Kleinfeld also spoke with a Jonathan Schanzer, a senior official in FDD, who filled in a bit more of what the foundation is up to in terms of discrediting groups in the U.S. that support the BDS movement.

 
No matter who is elected Israel comes first
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Judging from the mainstream media, Israel was not a major issue in the midterm election but it sure did come up a lot when candidates for office were wooing Jewish or Evangelical voters. To cite only one example, Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis criticized his opponent Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum during their gubernatorial race for receiving support from the Dream Defenders, a group favoring Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, and giving a speech welcoming members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to his city. DeSantis claimed in a video clip that “I can find anti-Semites around him, but it’s almost like ‘we don’t want to discuss that.’”

DeSantis, who sponsored the 2013 Palestinian Accountability Act which called for the withholding of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, charged that Gillum would not be a “friend” of Israel. In 2017, he co-founded the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, saying “Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, as we share common national interests and possess similar national values. Israel is not the problem in the Middle East; it is the solution to many of the problems that bedevil the region. American policy must ensure that Israel emerges victorious against those who deny or threaten her existence.” Earlier this year, DeSantis drafted a proposal calling on the U.S. to recognize Syria’s Golan Heights as an ‘integral part’ of the State of Israel.

DeSantis boasted about his presence in Jerusalem when the U.S. Embassy was moved to that city in May and has promised as governor to visit Israel’s illegal settlements on the West Bank, which he refers to by the preferred Israeli usage as “Judea and Samaria.” He threatens critics that “If you boycott Israel, the state of Florida will boycott you.”

One might note at a minimum that for Ron DeSantis and ambitious slimeballs like him it is all about Israel due to their own political self-interest, with nothing actually in the mix for either Florida or the United States. The uninformed public buys into the narrative because it doesn’t know any better thanks to the media’s heavy slant in favor of Israel, allowing uncritical support for the Jewish state to continue under the radar unchallenged. DeSantis, a former U.S. Navy lawyer, has demonstrated that he reveres Israel even more than his former comrades in arms. In his congressional district there are a number of survivors of the U.S.S. Liberty, which was attacked in international waters by Israel on June 8, 1967, killing 34 crewmen and injuring 171 more. They report that DeSantis has been completely unsympathetic to their requests that a commission of inquiry finally be convened to determine what actually happened on that day.

In fact, Americans have never had the option of voting on the “special relationship” that Israel enjoys with the United States as no Congressman would dare run against it lest they be smeared in the media and find themselves running against an extraordinarily well funded opponent benefitting from large donations coming from out of state sources. The list of prominent politicians “taken down” by Israel is lengthy, and includes Cynthia McKinney, Adlai Stevenson III, Paul Findley, Chuck Percy, William Fulbright, Roger Jepsen, and Pete McCloskey.

It is particularly ironic that as the midterm campaigns were drawing to a close there appeared some serious investigative journalism that demonstrates precisely how Israel and Jewish groups corrupt the political process in America to provide virtually unlimited support for anything and everything that the despicable Benjamin Netanyahu and his gang of war criminals seek to do. How the process has succeeded is best illustrated by the current Israeli government’s policy of “mowing the grass” in Gaza where it is using army snipers to kill unarmed Palestinian protesters. Washington not only does not protest against the in-your-face war crime, it aids and abets it with U.S. Ambassador David Friedman justifying the military response as measured and appropriate.

Another area where Washington chooses to look the other way is regarding Israel’s nuclear arsenal, believed to consist of two hundred warheads. Under U.S. law, any country that has an undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal cannot obtain American-made weapons and cannot received aid of any type. Congress and the White House pretend that the Israeli nuclear arsenal does not exist, in spite of the fact that the Israelis themselves have more than once implicitly acknowledged it and instead of cutting aid to Israel have instead increased it. It is currently $3.8 billion per year guaranteed for the next ten years, with extra money also available if needed. No other country benefits from such largesse and gives in return so little.

To be sure, the groundbreaking book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, which appeared in 2007, pulled no punches in describing how the Israel Lobby operates in the United States. It also made clear that the relationship with Israel serves no United States national interest whatsoever and exists solely because of the corruption of the political system and the media by principally Jewish individuals and groups that are dedicated to that task.

While acknowledging the great debt to Walt and Mearsheimer, it is one thing to read about something in a book and quite another thing to see it live, which is what the new evidence of Israeli interference consists of. Several years ago, the Qatari news service al-Jazeera commissioned two investigations. The first was on the activities of the Israeli Lobby in Britain and the second was on the lobby in the United States. The material consisted largely of meetings with members of Israel’s active lobby that were secretly filmed by journalists who were pretending to be supporters and who eventually managed to penetrate some of the organizations that were most active in promoting Israel’s interests.

The British expose, in two parts, aired in January, and was based on discussions and interviews that took place between June and November 2017. It demonstrated how the Israeli Embassy in London connived with government officials to “take down” parliamentarians and government ministers who were considered to be critical of the Jewish State. It also revealed how the Israeli Embassy was secretly subsidizing and advising private groups promoting Israeli interests, including associations of Members of Parliament (MPs).

The secret recording revealed how an Israeli Embassy diplomat/spy named Shai Masot connived with a senior civil servant to get rid of Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, regarded as a supporter of an independent Palestinian state. To Masot’s additional query “Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you would take down?” the civil servant suggested “…if you look hard enough, I’m sure there is something that they’re trying to hide…a little scandal maybe.” Another alleged pro-Arab member of Parliament Crispin Blunt was also identified and confirmed to be on a “hit list.”

 
Fighting Russia, China and al-Qaeda simultaneously requires more money
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Some believe that the Cold War ended in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart. In retrospect, many observers also believe that a golden opportunity was missed to heal the wounds inflicted by over 45 years to hostility between the Washington and Moscow. Rather than encouraging development of a Russia that would adhere to Western European norms for elections, transparency and individual liberties, some in Europe and America instead sought to steal the country’s natural resources and other assets, a process that went on for some years under President Boris Yeltsin. The looting went hand-in-hand with particularly inept political moves on the part of President Bill Clinton, who ignored end of Cold War agreements to not use the break-up of the Soviet Union as an excuse to bring its former member states in Eastern Europe into NATO or any other military alliance hostile to Russia. The process of NATO expansion continues to this day, together with military maneuvers and the placement of new missile systems right along the Russian border, increasing Moscow’s justifiable paranoia about its security.

The military moves have been accompanied by a political deep freeze, particularly ironic as President Donald Trump during his campaign for office pledged to improve relations with Russia. They are now at their lowest ebb since the hottest days of the Cold War, including as they do the totally bogus sanctioning of Russian government officials under the maliciously conceived Magnitsky Act and the ongoing saga of Russiagate, which blames Moscow for interference in America’s 2016 election, so far without any real evidence being provided.

For those who think all of this is theater, think again. Some critics are beginning to recognize that the United States has become a country addicted to war and one need look no farther than the federal budget, where everything is being cut except military spending, which is set to increase even though there is no country or group of countries in the world that genuinely threaten the U.S.

Two recent stories in particular demonstrate just how far Washington has gone towards accepting that war has more-or-less become a natural condition for the United States of America. The first is an articleAfter years of fighting insurgencies, the Army pivots to training for a major war” that has largely been ignored, regarding how the U.S. military is changing its doctrine and training to enable it to fight a major war against a powerful national opponent. Previously, the armed forces were emphasizing countering non-government hostile agents like al-Qaeda and ISIS, the so-called counter-insurgency doctrine or COIN. According to Pentagon spokesmen, the shift is in recognition of the fact that over the horizon major conflicts are no longer as unthinkable as they once were.

According to the article, U.S. commanders are now beginning to emphasize the type of training that prevailed during the Cold War, tanks against tanks, artillery bombardments, and use of close air support. The change in doctrine derives from the 2018 National Defense Strategy assessment, which identified four national players that might go to war with the United States. They are major powers Russia and China, supplemented by nuclear North Korea and conventionally armed Iran.

The transition was discussed by former and current senior officers at the recent annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, with particular concern being expressed that the “lessons learned” from the past seventeen years of insurgency warfare not be lost as the military returns to a more conventional model. There was also concern that the army is insufficiently resourced to continue to fight insurgencies while also taking on a major conventional component. Some officers believed that the army can handle both jobs simultaneously, but others were not so sure, observing that one really needs two distinct armies, one trained for conventional warfare and the other trained for insurgency operations, which are far more likely to occur and which are more difficult to manage.

Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, explained that “The future of war will be a hybrid threat. There’ll be everything from tanks and missiles and fighter-bombers down to criminal gangs, terrorists, suicide bombers and guerrilla cells. … We’re going to have to do all of that, the full spectrum of conflict.”

General David Petraeus, the “very model of a modern major general” i.e. one who never actually experiences combat, put his finger on why the change to conventional warfare is taking place now. It’s all about money, or as he put it, “it’s about getting resources. And big wars get you big resources.”

Retired Lt. General Guy Swan explained the challenge for the Army in military-speak, citing the career of his son, a West Point produced first lieutenant “…who hasn’t deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, and what he’s been doing has been tank gunnery. He is focused on Russians and other high-end competitors.”

Between Petraeus’ comment on “big” resources and Swan’s on enemies to be killed as “high-end competitors” one might well begin to understand what today’s bloated defense establishment is all about. More money and business school jargon to euphemize wars and killing, with little regard for the possible consequences, including those competitors’ possession of nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them on target. Russia has already warned that if it were attacked by a superior force (NATO) it would used tactical nuclear weapons as a first resort to defend itself. So much for learning tank gunnery.

The second article, also little commented on, made plain that the “competitive” army that is now evolving won’t be just some pretty toy sitting on a shelf unused. The former US commander in Europe from 2014-7 retired Lt. General Ben Hodges spoke at the Warsaw Security Forum on October 24th, where he told NATO allies that they would have to increase defense spending because the United States will not be able to protect them against a “resurgent Russia” while it is fighting China. He predicted that the U.S. will probably be at war with China within 15 years to protect its interests in the Pacific region.

Hodges cited increasing tension between Washington and Beijing in the South China Sea, China’s alleged “constant stealing [of] technology,” and Beijing’s perfectly legal purchasing of infrastructure in Africa, Latin America and Europe through the funding of and investment in projects. There was no mention of China actually threatening the United States and those were presumably Hodges’ reasons for going to war against a powerful nuclear armed nation.

 
Let the cover-up begin
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The angst over the Jamal Khashoggi murder in the Saudi Arabian Consulate General building in Istanbul is already somewhat fading as the media has moved on in search of fresh meat, recently focusing on the series of attempted mail bombings, and currently on the mass shooting in Pittsburgh. But the affaire Khashoggi is still important as it potentially brings with it possible political realignments in the Middle East as well as in Europe as countries feel emboldened to redefine their relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The Turks know exactly what occurred in the Consulate General building and are now putting the squeeze on the Saudis, requiring them to fess up and no doubt demanding compensation. Some sources in Turkey believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will actually demand recreation of the Caliphate, which the Kemal Ataturk led Turkish Republic’s government abolished in 1924. That would diminish Saudi Arabia’s ability to regard itself as the pre-eminent Islamic state due to its guardianship over the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. It would be a major realignment of the Islamic umma and would be akin to a restoration of some semblance of Ottoman supremacy over the region.

To be sure, the brutally effective Turkish intelligence service, known by its acronym MIT, is very active when it comes to monitoring the activities of both friendly and unfriendly foreign embassies and their employees throughout Turkey. It uses electronic surveillance and, if the foreign mission has local Turks as employees, many of those individuals will be agents reporting to MIT. As a result, it should be presumed that MIT had the Consulate General building covered with both cameras and microphones, possibly inside the building as well as outside, meaning that the audio of the actual killing that has been reported in the media is no doubt authentic and might even be supplemented with video.

One recent report, on BBC, indicates that CIA Director Gina Haspel has traveled to Turkey and has been allowed to hear the recordings of Khashoggi being tortured and killed. It’s a good thing the Trump White House sent Haspel as she would know exactly what that sort of thing sounds like based on her own personal experience in Thailand. She will presumably be able to explain the operation of a bone saw to the president.

So the Saudis seem to be in a hopeless situation, but they have several cards to play. They have many lobbyists of their own in Washington that have bought their way into think tanks and onto editorial pages. They are also in bed with Israel in opposition to Iran, which means that the Israel Lobby and its many friends in the U.S. Congress will complain about killing Khashoggi but ultimately will not do anything about it. The White House will also discourage America’s close allies from adopting measures that would do serious damage to the Saudis. In regional terms, Saudi Arabia is also key to Trump’s anticipated Middle East peace plan. If it pulls out from the expected financial guarantees aspect, the plan will fall apart, so Washington will be pressing hard on Ankara in particular to not overdo its bid for compensation.

All of which leads to some consideration of the hypocrisy of the outrage over Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia murdered a citizen in a diplomatic facility located in Turkey, apparently because they believed that individual to be a dissident who was a threat to national security. They then seriously botched the cover-up. In spite of all that, it would seem that the issue involves only two parties directly, the Saudis and the Turks, though there have been calls from a number of countries to punish the Saudis for what was clearly a particularly gruesome murder carried out in contravention of all existing rules for behavior of diplomatic missions in foreign countries.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular missions grants to Diplomats a certain level of immunity in foreign posts, but that does not include murder. In consular posts, like Istanbul, consular immunity only extends to officials who are actually performing consular duties when an alleged infraction occurs. I know from personal experience how subjective that process can be as I was arrested by Turkish police when I was the U.S. Consulate duty officer in Istanbul while looking for a missing American who turned out to be a drug dealer. The Turks weren’t sure what to do with me as I was Consular so I spent 24 hours playing cards with the prison governor before I was released.

The hypocrisy comes in when the U.S. Congress and media become enraged and demand that there be “consequences,” in part because Khashoggi was a U.S. legal resident and therefore under law a “U.S. person.” Saudi Arabia is, to be sure, a country that most would consider to be an undesirable destination if one is seeking to eat, drink and be merry. Or just about anything else having to do with personal liberty. An absolute dictatorship run by one family, it has long both relied on and been the exporter of the most backward looking and unpleasant form of Islam, Wahabbism. But for the fact that the Saudis are the world’s leading exporter of oil, and, for Muslims, guardian of the religion’s holy sites, the country would long ago have been regarded as a pariah.

But that said, Congress and the White House might well consider how the rest of the world views the United States when it comes to killing indiscriminately without fear of consequences. President Barack Obama, who has practically been beatified by the U.S. mainstream media, was the first American head of state to openly target and kill American citizens overseas. He and his intelligence advisor John Brennan would sit down for a Tuesday morning meeting to revise the list of Americans living outside the U.S. who could be assassinated. To cite only one example, the executions of Yemeni dissident Anwar al-Awlaki and his son were carried out by drone after being ordered from the White House without any due process apart from claimed presidential authority. Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also attacked Libya, a nation with which America was not at war, destroyed its government, and reduced the country to its current state of anarchy. When its former ruler Moammar Gaddafi was captured and killed by having a bayonet inserted up his anus, Hillary giggled and said “We came, we saw, he died.”

The United States is also supporting the ongoing war in Syria and also enables the Saudis to continue their brutal attacks on Yemen, which have produced cholera, starvation and the deaths of an estimated 60,000 Yemenis plus millions more threatened by disease and the deliberate cutting off of food supplies. And the White House looks the other way as its other best friend in the Middle East, Israel, shoots thousands of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators. Overall one might argue that if there is a smell in the room it is coming from Washington and one death in Istanbul, no matter how heinous, pales in comparison to what the U.S. itself, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been doing without any pushback whatsoever.

 
How easy it is to give awards to terrorists
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I am often asked to explain why countries like Iran appear to be so aggressive, involving themselves in foreign wars and seeking to create alliances that they know will provoke the worst and most paranoid responses from some of their neighbors. My response is invariably that perceptions of threat depend very much on which side of the fence you are standing on. Saudi Arabia and Israel might well perceive Iranian actions as aggressive given the fact that all three countries are competing for dominance in the same region, but Iran, which is surrounded by powerful enemies, could equally explain its activity as defensive, seeking to create a belt of allies that can be called upon if needed if a real shooting war breaks out.

The United States and Israel are, of course, masters at seeing everything as a threat, justifying doing whatever is deemed necessary to defend against what are perceived to be enemies. They even exercise extraterritoriality, with Washington claiming a right to go after certain categories of “terrorists” in countries with which it is not at war, most particularly Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. Israel does likewise in its attacks on Lebanon and Syria. Both Tel Aviv and Washington have regularly crossed the line drawn by international legal authorities in terms of what constitutes initiating a “just” or “legal” war, i.e. an imminent threat to use force by a hostile power. Neither Israel nor the United States has really been threatened by an enemy or enemies in the past seventy years, so the definition of threat has been expanded to include after-the-fact as with 9/11 and potential as in the case of Israel and Iran.

The “which side of the fence” formulation has also had some interesting spin-offs in terms of how so-called non-state players that use violence are perceived and portrayed. Nearly all widely accepted definitions of terrorism include language that condemns the “use of politically motivated violence against non-combatants to provoke a state of terror.”

It is quite easy to identify some groups that are unambiguously “terrorist.” Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) and its various affiliates fit the definition perfectly, but even in that case there is some ambiguity by those state actors who are ostensibly pledged to eradicate terrorists. There have been credible claims that the United States has been protecting the last enclaves of ISIS in order to maintain its “right” to stay in Syria, allegedly based on the stated objective of completely destroying the group before withdrawal. As long as ISIS is still around in Syria, Washington will have an admittedly illegal justification for doing likewise.

There are two notable groups that should be universally condemned as terrorists but are not for political reasons. They are the Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK), Iranian dissidents that are based in Paris and Washington, and the so-called White Helmets who have been active in Syria. MEK is particularly liked by Israel and its friends inside the Beltway because it retains resources inside Iran that enable it to carry out assassinations and sabotage, and if it is only Iranians that are dying, that’s okay.

MEK has been on the State Department roster of foreign terrorist organizations since the list was established in 1997. Its inclusion derives from its having killed six Americans in the 1970s and from its record of violence both inside and outside Iran since that time. The group was driven out of Iran, denied refuge in France, and eventually armed and given a military base by Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein. Saddam used the group to carry out terrorist acts inside Iran. MEK is widely regarded as a cult headed by a husband and wife team Massoud and Maryam Rajavi. Its members were required to be celibate and there are reports that they are subjected to extensive brainwashing, physical torture, severe beatings even unto death, and prolonged solitary confinement if they question the leadership. One scholar who has studied them describes their beliefs as a “weird combination of Marxism and Islamic fundamentalism.” Like many other terrorist groups MEK has a political wing that operates openly referred to as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which is based in Paris, and another front organization called Executive Action which operates in Washington.

MEK was regarded as a terrorist group until 2012, when it was taken off the Special Designation list by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was removed because multi-million dollar contracts with Washington lobbying firms experienced at “working” congress backed up by handsome speaking fees had induced many prominent Americans to join the chorus supporting NCRI. Prior to 2012, speaking fees for the group started at $15,000 and went up from there. Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell reported more than $150,000 in honoraria. Rudy Giuliani has been paid generously for years at $20,000 per appearance for brief, twenty-minute speeches. Bear in mind that MEK was a listed terrorist group at the time and accepting money from it to promote its interests should have constituted material support of terrorism.

The group’s well-connected friends have included prominent neocons like current National Security Advisor John Bolton and ex-CIA Directors James Woolsey, Michael Hayden and Porter Goss as well as former Generals Anthony Zinni, Peter Pace, Wesley Clark, and Hugh Shelton. Traditional conservatives close to the Trump Administration like Newt Gingrich, Fran Townsend and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao are also fans of NCRI. Townsend in particular, as a self-proclaimed national security specialist, has appeared on television to denounce Iran, calling its actions “acts of war” without indicating that she has received money from an opposition group.

MEK’s formula for success in removing itself from the terrorism lift involved paying its way through a corrupt political system. More interesting perhaps is the tale of the White Helmets, who have just been given the 2019 Elie Wiesel Award by the National Holocaust Museum, with the citation “These volunteer rescue workers have saved lives on all sides of the conflict in Syria. Their motto is ‘To save one life is to save all of humanity.’”

The White Helmets have been praised by those who hate the government of President Bashar al-Asad in Syria and want to see it removed because of its role as a leading element in the propaganda campaign that seeks to instigate violence or use fabricated information to depict the Damascus government as guilty of slaughtering its own citizens. The propaganda is intended to terrorize the civilian population, which is part of the definition of terrorism.

 
Time to cut the tie that binds
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The ability of Israel and its powerful Lobby to control many aspects of American government while also sustaining an essentially false narrative about the alleged virtues of the Jewish State is remarkable. Politicians and journalists learned long ago that it was better to cultivate Israel’s friends than it was to support actual American interests. They also discovered to speak the truth about the Jewish State often would prove to be a death sentence career-wise, witness the experiences of Cynthia McKinney, Paul Findlay, William Fulbright, Chuck Percy, James Traficant, Pete McCloskey and Rick Sanchez.

More recently, we have seen the ascent to real political power on the part of a number of politicians whose pandering to Israel has been notorious, indicating that the path to the White House goes through Tel Aviv and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) offices on H Street in the District of Columbia. Nikki Haley, who recently resigned as United Nations Ambassador, gained national attention when she became the first state governor to sign off on laws that would punish supporters of the non-violent BDS movement. Subsequently, as ambassador, she became noted for her impassioned defense of Israel, to include complaining that “nowhere has the U.N.’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel.” She vowed that the “days of Israel bashing are over” and is now being groomed by the neocons as a possible presidential candidate for 2020. Whichever way it goes, she will be showered with money by Israel supporters as she finds her perch in the private sector, like others before her doing “work” that she does not understand while also making speeches about the importance of the Israeli relationship.

All of that said, one of the truly odd aspects of the Israeli/Jewish dominance is its ability to change the United States. Normally, a tiny client state attached to a great power would conform to its patron, but in the U.S.-Israel relationship the reverse has happened. When 9/11 occurred Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pleased, commenting that the attack would tie the United States more closely to Israel in its war against “terrorism,” which to him meant his Islamic neighbors in the Middle East. Since that time, the bilateral “special” relationship has conformed to what Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer observed in their groundbreaking book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” namely that the United States does things in the Middle East that cannot be attributed to national interest. Rather, Washington behaves in a certain way due to the power of Israel and its lobby. There is no other way to explain it.

The emergence of Israeli practices as models to be adopted by U.S. agencies has occurred, to be sure, to include Israeli training American policemen and soldiers in their “methods,” but the odd thing is that as Israel has lurched to the right and embraced political extremism under Netanyahu, the United States has done the same thing, curtailing civil liberties with the Patriot Acts, the Military Commissions Act, and various updates of the Authorization to Use Military Force. Indefinite detention without trial and assassination of citizens overseas is now acceptable in America and criticizing Israel could soon become a criminal offense in spite of the First Amendment. In short, the United States of America has become more like Israel rather than vice versa.

With one or two exceptions, there is no one in the United States government, elected or civil service, who has anything that is not wonderful to say about Israel in spite of the numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by Netanyahu nearly daily, the unfunded costs of the wars fought in part on behalf of Israel, and the thousands of dead American soldiers plus the hundreds of thousands of dead foreigners, nearly all Muslims. Indeed, Netanyahu is treated like a conquering hero, having received 23 standing ovations from Congress in 2015 when he was in the United States complaining about an agreement with Iran made by President Barack Obama. This inside the beltway approval of Israel contrasts sharply with the general view of the rest of the world, which sees both the U.S. and Israel negatively as the two nations most likely to start a new war.

There are several recent articles that demonstrate pretty clearly the danger in allowing Israel and its friends to have the power and access that they currently enjoy purely because government and the media make no effort to tell them “no” and rein them in. One comes from New Zealand where two women wrote a letter to the pop singer Lorde, urging her to cancel an appearance in Israel due to the treatment of the Palestinians. Lorde posted the letter on twitter, agreed and the trip was canceled.

The tale would have ended there but for the fact that Israel’s parliament the Knesset has passed a law now making it illegal to support a boycott of Israel ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD [my emphasis]. Enter the group called Shurat HaDin, which is an Israeli government supported lawfare instrument, that seeks to find and sue the perceived enemies of the Jewish state, punishing them through court costs and potentially bankruptcy.

The lawsuit argued that Lorde’s response on twitter after receiving the letter showed her decision was directly influenced by the New Zealand women’s plea. Three Israeli ticket holders filed the suit, claiming the cancellation had caused emotional distress. The Israeli court awarded damages of $12,000 dollars and their lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin, boasted that the verdict was “precedent-setting,” sending a message that “no one can boycott Israel without paying for it.” Israeli government agents in New Zealand are taking steps to obtain the money, even though it remains unclear whether the plaintiffs will be able to collect the cash. Darshan-Leitner explained that she will seek to enforce the judgment through “international treaties” and go after the women’s bank accounts, either in New Zealand or if they try to travel abroad. Even if she is unsuccessful, the lawsuits will have a chilling effect on any individual or group seeking to criticize Israel’s brutal behavior by endorsing what once were perfectly legal boycotts.

A second story is possibly even more bizarre. On October 10th, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Israel is everything we want the entire Middle East to look like going forward” while asserting that the bilateral relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv is “stronger than ever.” Pompeo was keynote speaker at an award ceremony hosted by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America in Washington D.C. He also hailed Israel as “democratic and prosperous,” adding “it desires peace, it is a home to a free press and a thriving economy.”

 
Time for the sans-culottes to rise up against Washington's insanity
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On October 21st there will be a Women’s March on the Pentagon hosted by the Global Women’s Peace Action. My wife and many of our friends will be going and even I will tag along in support in spite of my gender. We participate with some reservations as we have only demonstrated publicly twice since 9/11, once opposing the then about to start Iraq War and once against the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). All too often demonstrations morph into progressive exercises in flagellation of what are now referred to as “deplorable” values with little being accomplished either before, during or afterwards, apart from the piles of debris left behind to be cleaned up by the Park Service. And such events are rarely even covered by the media in Washington, where the Post generally adheres closely to a neocon foreign policy tactic, which means that if you ignore something distasteful it will eventually go away.

Hopefully on this occasion it will be different because the time for talking politics is rapidly being rendered irrelevant by the speed of Washington’s disengagement from reality and Americans of all political persuasions must begin to take to the streets to object to what their government is doing in their name. I am mildly optimistic that change is coming as I find it difficult to imagine that in spite of the relentless flood of mainstream media propaganda there is even a plurality of Americans that supports with any actual conviction what the United States is doing in Syria and what it intends to do in Iran. And apart from a desire to make voting in America safer and insofar as possible interference free, I also believe that most think that Russiagate is a load of hooey and would prefer to be friends with Moscow.

Why now? “Now” is a whole new ballgame, as the expression goes, because the utter insanity coming out of Washington could easily wind up killing most of us here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Specifically, in a press conference on Tuesday, Kay Bailey Hutchison, a former Senator from Texas who is currently the United States’ ambassador to NATO, declared that Washington was prepared to launch a preemptive attack on Russian military installations as a response to alleged treaty violations on the part of Moscow. Note particularly what Hutchison actually said: “At that point, we would be looking at the capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries. Counter measures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty. They are on notice.”

And note further what she was implying, namely that Washington, acting on its own authority, has the right to attack a nuclear armed and powerful foreign country based on what are presumably negotiable definitions of what are acceptable weapons to base on one’s own soil. It would be an attack on a neighbor or competitor with whom one is not at war and which does not necessarily pose any active threat. By that standard, any country with a military capability can be described as threatening and one can attack anyone else based purely on one’s own assessment of what is acceptable or not.

It is quite remarkable how many countries in the world are now “on notice” for punishment when they do things that the United States objects to. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned that she will be “taking names” of those United Nations members that criticize U.S. policies in the Middle East. As increasing discomfort with U.S. initiatives there and elsewhere is a worldwide phenomenon, with only Israel, the Philippines, Nigeria and Kenya having a favorable view of Washington, Haley’s list is inevitably a long one. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, when they are not fabricating intelligence and inflating threats, have likewise warned specific countries that they are being judged by Washington and will be punished at a level proportionate to their transgressions.

Hutchison is not known as a deep thinker, so one has to suspect that her expressed views were fed to her by someone in Washington. Her specific grievance against Russia relates to Moscow’s reported deployment of new land-based missiles that have a claimed range of more than 5,000 kilometers, which is enough to hit most targets in Europe. If true, the development would be in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987 and would definitely pose a potential threat to the Europeans, but the more serious question has to be the rationale behind threatening a nuclear war through preemptive action over an issue that might be subject to renewed multilateral negotiation.

Hutchison and the State Department inevitably went into double-speak mode when concerns were expressed about possible preemption against Russia. She clarified her earlier comments with an almost incomprehensible “My point: Russia needs to return to INF Treaty compliance or we will need to match its capabilities to protect U.S. & NATO interests. The current situation, with Russia in blatant violation, is untenable.”

Spokesman Heather Nauert at State then chimed in “What Ambassador Hutchison was talking about was improving overall defense and deterrence posture. The United States is committed to upholding its arms control obligations and expects Russia to do the very same thing.” Both disclaimers were needed, even if lacking in clarity, but they did not dispel the ugly taste of the initial comment regarding starting a war of preemption. Russia took note of the back and forth, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman drily observing “It seems that people who make such statements do not realize the level of their responsibility and the danger of aggressive rhetoric.” Hutchison and Nauert also do not seem aware of the fact that Russia’s frequently stated defense doctrine is to use nuclear weapons if and when it is attacked by a superior force, which might well be Moscow’s assessment of the threat posed by U.S. led NATO.

The disconnect between the White House’s often expressed desire to improve relations with Russia and the bureaucracy’s tendency to send the opposite message is typical of what has been referred to as Trump’s “dual-track presidency”. Gareth Porter has recently observed how President Trump, for all his faults in so many ways, is indeed desirous of military disengagement in some areas but he is repeatedly being overruled or outmaneuvered by the permanent bureaucracies in government, most notably the Pentagon and intelligence services. Hutchison, Haley, Pompeo and Bolton speak and act for that constituency even when they appear to be agreeing with the president.

 
Philip Giraldi
About Philip Giraldi

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


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The gagged whistleblower goes on the record.
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