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Market failures could see Britain suffering five-day power cuts

Today’s electricity infrastructure, driven by commercial forces, will find it hard to cope when things go seriously wrong.

By David Watson | Energy & Technology | March 11, 2019

Even in industrialised nations in the 21st century, the sort of electricity-grid system failure that’s been seen in parts of Australia in recent years is not uncommon. In the UK, the risk of total blackout or significant partial shutdown of the transmission network is increasing.

The rise in renewables is making failure more probable. Wind farm growth creates frequency-management issues arising from reduced system inertia, while declining network strength can cause longer, stability-risking, fault-clearance times. Then there are the challenges to match supply to demand following sudden variations in wind generation and the reduced one-hour notice of input variations from European interconnectors. Other risk factors include grid substation failure, lightning or overhead line faults and cyber attack.

For grid recovery following widespread collapse, a process known as ‘black starting’ is deployed where the UK is split into different areas. Being able to rapidly black-start the country is a public health priority and, rightly, a public expectation, but in Scotland, and probably London, it is unrealisable; it would take several days to re-establish networks. So serious has the issue become that I understand it has attracted the attention of the government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee.

Professional expectation for Scotland to black-start has now, I’ve been told, risen to five days, largely as a result of large-scale, dispatchable, on-demand generation being replaced with intermittent distributed renewables. London has experienced a similar progressive local reduction and will also take longer to recharge since much of its high-voltage grid uses cable and not overhead line transmission.

The Scottish Black Start Restoration Working Group reviewed its procedures in September 2018. These are based on local joint restoration plans that would see transmission operators powering up and stabilising local transmission islands, which would then have to be synchronised and progressively interconnected.

The group’s report warns that, following the 2016 closure of the Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife, there would be ‘severe delays’ to restoration. Peterhead gas-fired station, now Scotland’s only high-powered and high-inertia (essential to stabilise frequency) dispatchable power station, is seeking planning permission to install 31 diesel generators, capable of full power for seven days, to secure its restart. However, it has only half the capacity of Longannet and couldn’t restart all of Scotland without input from the pumped-storage capacity at Cruachan and Foyers and, crucially, from England, which arrangement is untested.

Nor would wind farms be able to black-start the grid. Main generator types in use need external power to start generating; some more recent designs are self-starting, but connecting to a dead grid via long offshore AC cable interconnections remains an unsolved problem as the turbines cannot provide enough reactive power to recharge what are, in effect, large capacitors. In any case, they wouldn’t be able to meet National Grid requirements for block loading, grid voltage or frequency control.

The first local joint grid-restoration activity is to disconnect all offshore generation. Onshore wind farms can be progressively reintroduced once the grid has been re-established, but only providing they are not frozen and there is wind. As with all nuclear stations, Scotland’s Hunterston and Torness could only be reconnected into a stable grid, this taking several days.

The new £2.4bn HVDC interlinks from Wales to the Hunterston area and from Moray Firth to Spittal have not been engineered to support black start as they do not include the latest voltage source converter (VSC) technology and cannot commutate into a dead network. Scotland is now literally at the end of the line and critical restart power would arrive only once the north of England grid had been re-established. Similarly, for London, the two HVDC interconnector links to France and the Netherlands cannot support black start.

National Grid confirmed in 2016 that the restoration strategy “must be adjusted” as “system strength and the number of black-start providers declines” and that black-start costs are “anticipated to increase by a 7-10 factor” over the next 10 years. While, like Ofgem, it favours the provision of up to seven new VSC interconnectors between Britain and the European mainland, these are not yet built and power availability from them would depend on market conditions. The UK is a net importer of electricity. And then there is Brexit…

The situation is clearly untenable. It exemplifies the need for proper governance of the UK electricity system to replace the present disparate, profit-driven weakening of the grid that ‘the market’ has caused.

Several of the engineering institutions are advocating change, including the IET, the IMechE and the Institution of Engineers in Scotland. We need to be heard.

David Watson is a chartered electrical engineer who before retirement was manager of projects at Foster Wheeler Energy, based in Glasgow.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment

US announces more support for ‘heroic’ White Helmets in Syria

RT | March 14, 2019

The Trump administration is doubling down on backing the White Helmets, the self-proclaimed civil defense group with often controversial activity in militant-held areas of Syria, pledging a $5 million donation at a conference.

The contribution was announced by ambassador James Jeffrey, US special envoy to the anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) coalition, at the third Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, held in Brussels.

The $5 million will fund both the “vital, life-saving operations” by the White Helmets and the work of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), a UN body created in late 2016 to investigate – but not prosecute – alleged atrocities in Syria after 2011.

As justification for the support, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino claimed the “heroic first responders” of the White Helmets have saved “more than 114,000” lives since the Syrian conflict began, including victims of “vicious chemical weapons attacks” the US is blaming on the Syrian government. Palladino’s statement, however, acknowledged that the group operates solely “in areas outside of the control of the regime.”

Though the Trump administration announced it would stop funding the White Helmets back in May 2018, it reversed course just a month later, sending $6.8 million to the group.

The Syrian government has repeatedly accused the White Helmets of being part of various Islamist rebel groups, while Russia has accused the group of staging alleged chemical attacks in order to provide pretexts for US military intervention in Syria.

Evidence of White Helmet involvement with anti-government militants and other abuses, such as organ harvesting and endangering children, was presented to the UN in December.

See also:

White Helmets stealing children for ‘chemical attack’ theater in Idlib

March 14, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Russian pranksters posing as Swiss president call Guaido, talk freezing Maduro’s ‘crime monies’

 

© AFP 2018 / YURI CORTEZ
RT | March 14, 2019

The self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ of Venezuela, Juan Guaido, has fallen victim to a famous Russian prankster duo, discussing freezing Maduro’s Swiss bank accounts and even sending them an “official request” to do so.

The comedic duo of two Russian pranksters – Vladimir ‘Vovan’ Kuznetsov and Alexei ‘Lexus’ Stolyarov – notorious for their high-profile pranks of politicians world-wide, released an audio, which purportedly captured their “talks” with Guaido on Thursday.

The prank victim apparently found the pranksters after the duo called the US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, impersonating the President of Switzerland, and the chief of the nation’s Department of Finance, Ueli Maurer.

Shortly after the call, they were contacted by an “ambassador of the new Venezuelan government,” Carlos Vecchio, who then arranged talks with the ‘interim president’ himself. According to the pranksters, Guaido insisted on holding the “talks” only through Skype or WhatsApp for fear of wiretapping.

On February 20, ‘Maurer’ and Guaido talked about the “crime monies” of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, supposedly held in Swiss banks. The ‘Swiss president’ promised to freeze the accounts, claiming that of late the banks observed transfers from them to Russian and Chinese banks.

The pranksters reassured Guaido that he would be able to “manage” the frozen Venezuelan government accounts “as head of state.” “Excellent,” Guaido replied. Apart from that, the duo talked about another way, suggesting to simply create a personal account for Guaido and transferring Venezuelan state funds there.

To take action, the ‘Swiss president’ asked Guaido to send an “official” request, sending him a draft of it. The draft included a list of Swiss banks, where the “crime monies” are supposedly held – and cheekily included ‘Lexus Vovanial Bank Ltd.’ – a fictitious bank, based on the duo’s nicknames.

While the prank was already a success, Guaido himself apparently added more hilarity to it, bragging to the press about getting in touch with the ‘Swiss president’ and stating that he was “doing everything possible to protect these assets that belong to the republic.” Switzerland, however, swiftly rebuked Guaido’s claims, stating – obviously – that “there was no telephone contact between Mr. Guaido and President Maurer.”

The official statement by the real Swiss government, however, did not stop the prankster duo, who then again contacted Abrams and ‘Ambassador’ Vecchio, complaining about Guaido not being able to keep the “talks” private.

Surprisingly, the veteran meddler Abrams took the bait, replying to their email.

“Yes – that was an error on his part. We will of course keep everything confidential,” a screengrab, purportedly showing a reply from Abrams to ‘Maurer’ reads. The US Special Representative for Venezuela promised to tell Guaido “gently” that openly speaking to the press about such sensitive matters “should not be repeated.”

A similar response was provided by Vecchio, who reassured the ‘Swiss president’ that they “already took action” and such a blunder “will not happen again.”

As the fallout of Guaido’s talkativeness was contained, the duo received English and Spanish versions of the “official document” from the ‘interim president’ – Lexus Vovanial Bank Ltd. included – screenshots provided by the pranksters show.

Read more:

‘Freeze all Venezuelan assets’ – US regime-change hawk tells pranksters posing as Swiss president

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Trudeau’s position on Honduras reveals hypocrisy about Venezuela

By Yves Engler · March 14, 2019

The hypocrisy is head spinning. As Justin Trudeau lectures audiences on the need to uphold Venezuela’s constitution the Liberals have recognized a completely illegitimate president in Honduras. What’s more, they’ve formally allied with that government in demanding Venezuela’s president follow their  (incorrect) reading of that country’s constitution.

In November 2017 Ottawa’s anti-Venezuela “Lima Group” ally Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) defied  the Honduran constitution to run for a second term. At Hernandez’ request the four Supreme Court members appointed by his National Party overruled an article in the constitution explicitly prohibiting re-election.

JOH then ‘won’ a highly questionable  poll. With 60 per cent of votes counted opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla lead by five-points. The electoral council then went silent for 36 hours and when reporting resumed JOH had a small lead.

In the three weeks between the election and JOH’s official proclamation as president, government forces killed at least 30  pro-democracy demonstrators in the Central American country of nine million. More than a thousand were detained under a post-election state of emergency. Many of those jailed for protesting the electoral fraud, including prominent activist Edwin Espinal,  who is married to Canadian human rights campaigner Karen Spring, remain in jail.

Ottawa immediately endorsed the electoral farce in Honduras. Following Washington, Global Affairs tweeted that Canada “acknowledges confirmation of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of Honduras.” Tyler Shipley, author of Ottawa and Empire: Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras, responded: “Wow, Canada sinks to new lows with this. The entire world knows that the Honduran dictatorship has stolen an election, even the OAS (an organization which skews right) has demanded that new elections be held because of the level of sketchiness here. And — as it has for over eight years — Canada is at the forefront of protecting and legitimizing this regime built on fraud and violence. Even after all my years of research on this, I’m stunned that [foreign minister Chrystia] Freeland would go this far; I expected Canada to stay quiet until JOH had fully consolidated his power. Instead Canada is doing the heavy lifting of that consolidation.”

In 2009 Ottawa backed the Honduran military’s removal of elected president Manuel Zelaya, which was justified on the grounds he was seeking to defy the constitution by running for a second term. (In fact, Zelaya simply put forward a plan to hold a non-binding public poll on whether to hold consultations to reopen the constitution.) After the coup Ottawa failed to suspend aid to the military government or exclude the Honduran military from its Military Training Assistance Programme.

A number of major Canadian corporations, notably Gildan and Goldcorp, were unhappy with some modest social democratic reforms implemented by Zelaya. Additionally, a year before the coup Honduras joined the Hugo Chavez led Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our Americas (ALBA), which was a response to North American capitalist domination of the region.

JOH’s National Party won the presidency and he took charge of the national assembly in the post-coup elections, which were boycotted by the UN, Organization of American States and most Hondurans.

Since JOH stole an election that he shouldn’t have been able to participate in the Trudeau government has continued to work with his government. I found no indication that Canadian aid has been reduced and Canadian diplomats in central America have repeatedly met  Honduran representatives. JOH’s Foreign Minister, Maria Dolores Aguero, attended  a Women Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Canada organized in Montreal four months ago. Recently Canadian diplomats have lauded the “bonds of friendship  between the governments of Canada and Honduras” and “excellent relations  that exist between both countries.” Canada’s ambassador James K. Hill retweeted a US Embassy statement noting, “we congratulate  the President Juan Orlando Hernandez for taking the initiative to reaffirm the commitment of his administration to fight against corruption and impunity” through an OAS initiative.

While they praise JOH’s fight against impunity, Canadian officials have refused repeated requests by Canadian activists and relatives to help secure Edwin Espinal’s release from prison. In response to their indifference to Espinal’s plight, Rights Action director Grahame Russell recently wrote, “have the Canadian and U.S. governments simply agreed not to criticize the Honduran regime’s appalling human rights record … in exchange for Honduras agreeing to be a ‘democratic ally’ in the U.S. and Canadian-led efforts at forced government change in Venezuela?”

Honduras is a member of the “Lima Group” of countries pushing to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela. Last month Trudeau was photographed  with the Honduran foreign minister at the “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa.

To justify recognizing the head of Venezuela’s national assembly, Juan Guaidó, as president the “Lima Group” and Trudeau personally have cited “the need to respect the Venezuelan Constitution.” The Prime Minister even responded to someone who yelled “hands off Venezuela” at a town hall by lecturing the audience on article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution, which he (incorrectly) claims grants Guaidó the presidency.

Why the great concern for Venezuela’s constitution and indifference to Honduras’? Why didn’t Trudeau recognize Salvador Nasralla as president of Honduras? Nasralla’s claim to his country’s presidency is far more legitimate than Guaidó’s.

The hypocrisy in Trudeau allying with the illegitimate president of Honduras to demand Venezuela succumb to their interpretation of that country’s constitution would be absurdly funny if it didn’t put so many lives at risk.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

In Israel normalising violence takes precedence over targeted assassinations

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | March 14, 2019

One outcome is certain when it comes to the forthcoming Israeli elections – Gaza will remain a top target for the new government. Amid the sparring between contenders for the elections, former IDF chief Benny Gantz declared he would implement Israel’s policy of targeted assassinations against Hamas leaders if elected, and if necessary.

His comments sought to counter Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks over “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, in which the latter used derogatory language to criticise Gantz’s decisions which, according to Bennett, endangered the lives of Israeli soldiers. Bennett alleged that Gantz would be Hamas’ preferable leadership option. This claim is also being supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has stated that Gantz’s party would make “significant concessions to the Palestinians.”

Both Gantz and Netanyahu have increasingly focused on Gaza in their electoral campaigns, with “Operation Protective Edge” and the Great March of Return providing premises for their arguments. Gantz, who was in charge of the aggression against the enclave, has compared the 2014 aftermath to the ongoing protests and Netanyahu’s response, which was to order snipers positioned at the border to kill and injure Palestinians participating in the demonstration.

Gantz described Netanyahu’s strategy as a “tired policy”. The alternative in such a scenario, according to the former army chief, is to “return to a policy of targeted killings.”

In June 2018, Israel’s Security Minister Gilad Erdan advocated for the targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders and Palestinians launching the “incendiary kites” from Gaza’s border.

A return to targeted killings, however, is not accurate. Israel has a long history of assassinating Palestinian leaders from Hamas and other Palestinian political factions. Only last year, a Palestinian scientist affiliated to Hamas was gunned down in Malaysia, in an operation which raised speculation about Mossad’s role even in Israeli media, although there was no forthright confirmation of the agency’s involvement.

Gantz, therefore, will not be “returning” to a policy of targeted assassinations but embarking upon a continuation of Israel’s policy. Yet, speculation on targeted assassinations alone is just a deviation from the damage which both Netanyahu and Gantz have the power to inflict on the enclave in terms of political and humanitarian related violence.

Following “Operation Protective Edge”, Netanyahu adopted a strategy that prolongs violence for Israel’s benefit. The Great March of Return is one such example. Extrajudicial killings by Israel’s snipers raised international scrutiny which, with time, mellowed down to the usual expressions of concerns regarding what is deemed as routine violence. Distancing Israel from targeted assassinations in Gaza during this period provided Israel with the opportunity to normalise its ongoing violence on the border.

Gantz is no stranger to strategy. Targeted assassinations cannot be attributed to one single leader but to the existence of the colonial state and its policies of elimination. What Gaza will face under the new Israeli government is more likely to be a continuation of measures which maintains Palestinians’ deprivation in the enclave. Electoral campaign rhetoric aside, an outright endorsement and implementation of targeted assassinations contradict the intentional ambiguity which Israel has employed against leaders or individuals who have the potential to challenge its existence.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Exxon Plans Foray Into Israel Gas Exploration

By Irina Slav | Oilprice.com | March 14, 2019

Exxon has plans to enter the Israeli natural gas exploration industry despite the country’s tense relations with its Arab neighbors where Exxon has an established presence, Reuters reports, citing a source with knowledge of the plans.

According to the source, Exxon officials had talked with Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on the sidelines of CERAWeek in Houston, focusing on an offshore oil and gas auction that Israel has scheduled for this June.

Israel made several major gas discoveries offshore during the last decade, but only one of them, Tamar, is already producing. Another large field, Leviathan, is close to completion, with first gas flowing into the market in late 2019, according to a November 2018 Reuters report.

The Tamar field contains an estimated 281 billion cu m of natural gas and some 13 million barrels of condensate, according to field operator Delek Group. Delek partners on Tamar’s development with Noble Energy, which holds a 25-percent stake.

Delek and Noble Energy are also the lead partners on the Leviathan project, which Steinitz earlier this year called “the greatest natural treasure that has been discovered in Israel.” The field holds about 535 billion cu m of natural gas as well as 34.1 million barrels of condensate.

Israel has grand ambitions in the gas industry thanks to these discoveries and has been eager to tap more reserves. It has already struck a sizeable gas export deal with an Egyptian firm, but it may just be the start of its growth as a regional factor to reckon with in gas.

This may put Exxon in an interesting position with its partners from the Arab countries, but the risk is relatively small: local oil and gas producers have benefited from the know-how supplied by Exxon and the other Big Oil majors for long enough to risk losing it.

However, there is no certainty there will be another Leviathan-sized discovery any time soon. The 2017 oil and gas block tender that Tel Aviv held was disappointing and hopes are now that the next round, to cover 19 blocks, will have better results.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Iranian official rejects US secretary of state’s ‘fabricated’ allegations

Press TV – March 14, 2019

A senior Iranian official has dismissed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent claims about Iran’s regional role as “fabricated,” saying the United States practices fear-mongering in order to sell more arms to the countries in the region.

“Certain US officials, influenced by the Zionist lobby, have been making utmost efforts to intoxicate the atmosphere against Iran,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Thursday.

In a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, Pompeo expressed concerns over what he called Iran’s “destructive and disruptive activities” across the Middle East region.

Qassemi said US officials were making up allegations against Iran in order to sustain an appearance of crisis in West Asia and thus increase American arms sales to the region.

The Iranian official also censured remarks made by Pompeo in the CERAWeek conference — an annual US oil and gas industry forum — regarding relations between the Islamic Republic and Iraq.

Addressing the conference in Houston on Tuesday, Pompeo had said, “Iran uses its energy exports to exert undue influence all across the Middle East, most particularly today on Iraq.”

Qassemi said Pompeo was angered by the close relations between Iran and Iraq.

“The relations between Iran and Iraq have been established totally based on the will of the two countries’ leaders and nations and [have been] based on mutual respect and trust and shared interests,” he said, adding that neither of the two countries was seeking to impose its will on the other.

On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani traveled to Iraq at the head of a high-ranking delegation. The state visit featured several meetings between President Rouhani and Iraq’s top leadership, and the signing of memorandums of understanding for the expansion of bilateral ties in various fields, including the energy sector.

On Wednesday, President Rouhani traveled to the Iraqi city of Najaf to meet with senior religious leaders there, including most prominently with Iraq’s top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Rouhani was the first Iranian president ever to meet with Ayatollah Sistani, signifying the depth of bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad.

Qassemi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, pointed to the deep-rooted relations between Iran and Iraq and said the two countries had stood by each other during “tough times.”

Earlier, US President Donald Trump had made an unannounced and very brief trip to Iraq in the dark of the night and landed at a military base where he only met US soldiers and no Iraqi officials before he left the country.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bipartisan Attacks on the Second Amendment

By Ron Paul | March 11, 2019

The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would expand the national background check system to require almost everyone selling firearms, including private collectors who supplement their incomes by selling firearms at gun shows, to perform background checks on the potential buyers. The bill has a section purporting to bar creation of a national firearms registry. However, the expanded background check system will require the government to compile lists of those buying and selling guns. In other words, it creates a de facto national gun registry.

Similar to the experience with other types of prohibition, making it more difficult to legally buy a gun will enhance the firearms black market. Criminals, terrorist, and even deranged mass shooters will thus have no problem obtaining firearms.

It is no coincidence that the majority of mass shootings take place in “gun-free zones,” where shooters know their targets will be unarmed. This shows that any law making it more difficult for Americans to own and carry firearms makes us less safe. If Congress really wanted to reduce the incidence of gun violence, it would repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act. This law leaves children easy prey for mass shooters by mandating that public schools be “gun-free zones.”

A nationwide system of gun registration could be a step toward national gun confiscation. However, antigun bureaucrats need not go that far to use the expanded background check system to abuse the rights of gun owners. Gun owners could find themselves subject to surveillance and even harassment, such as more intensive screening by the Transportation Security Administration, because they own “too many” firearms.

Republican control of the White House and the Senate does not mean our gun rights are safe. Republicans have a long history of supporting gun control. After the 1999 Columbine shooting, many Republicans, including many who campaigned as being pro-Second Amendment, eagerly cooperated with then-President Bill Clinton on gun control. Some supposedly pro-gun Republicans also tried to pass “compromise” gun control legislation after the Sandy Hook shooting.

Neoconservative Senator Marco Rubio has introduced legislation that uses tax dollars to bribe states to adopt red flag laws. Red flag laws allow government to violate an individual’s Second Amendment rights based on nothing more than a report that the individual could become violent. Red flag laws can allow an individual’s guns to be taken away without due process simply because an estranged spouse, angry neighbor, or disgruntled coworker tells police the individual threatened him or otherwise made him feel unsafe.

President Trump has joined Rubio in wanting the government to, in Trump’s words, “take the guns first, go through due process second.” During his confirmation hearing, President Trump’s new Attorney General William Barr expressed support for red flag laws. California Senator and leading gun control advocate Dianne Feinstein has expressed interest in working with Barr to deprive gun owners of due process. It would not be surprising to see left-wing authoritarians like Feinstein work with right-wing authoritarians like Barr and Rubio on “compromise” legislation containing both a national red flag law and expanded background checks.

My years in Congress taught me that few politicians can be counted on to protect our liberties. Most politicians must be pressured to stand up for freedom by informed and involved pro-liberty citizens That is why those of us who understand the benefits of liberty must remain vigilant against any attempt to erode respect for our rights, especially the right to defend ourselves against private crime and public tyranny.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Leave a comment

John McCain’s Disastrous Militaristic Legacy

By James Bovard | FFF | March 13, 2019

When Sen. John McCain passed away in August, he was lauded far and wide for his long career of public service. Rep. John Lewis, the famous civil-rights activist, hailed McCain as a “warrior for peace.” In reality, McCain embodied a toxic mix of moralism and militarism that worked out disastrously for America and the world.

In his funeral eulogies, McCain was portrayed as a hero and a visionary. But early in his congressional career, he barely avoided indictment as part of the Keating Five Savings and Loan bribery scandal that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. McCain repaired his image by becoming a champion of campaign-finance reform and new restrictions on political contributions. In 2002, Congress enacted the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which proved more effective at suppressing criticism than at reforming political life. The McCain-Feingold Act authorized harsh penalties for private citizens who accused their rulers of abusing their power. It prohibited most issue ads by private groups on television or radio in the months before a presidential or congressional election. In 2003, the Supreme Court (by a 5-4 margin) upheld the new law in response to activities with “a significant risk of actual and apparent corruption.” Justice Antonin Scalia noted in a dissent to the decision upholding the law, that the McCain-Feingold act “cuts to the heart of what the First Amendment is meant to protect: the right to criticize the government.” But that was fine with McCain, since he declared that if he had the power, he would outlaw all negative political ads. He declared, “I detest the negative advertising. I think it is one of the worst things that has ever happened in American politics.” Banning negative ads but not political lies was McCain’s notion of a level playing field.

When he was awarded the Liberty Medal in October 2017 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Senator McCain declared, “We live in a land made of ideals…. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world.” He warned that it would be “unpatriotic” to “abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe.” But idealism has fared better in political speeches than in the lives of American soldiers or supposed foreign beneficiaries.

McCain served 25 years as the chairman of the International Republican Institute, a federally funded entity that intervenes in foreign elections to promote pro-American candidates. McCain often spoke as if the institute was the incarnation of America at its best. In 1997, McCain declared, “When we provide the democratic opposition in Albania with 12 Jeep Cherokees and they win an election, I’m incredibly proud.” However, the Institute was involved in violent attempts to overthrow governments in Venezuela and Haiti and was condemned for meddling in many other places. As long as pro-American candidates snared the most votes by hook or by crook, McCain had no complaints.

During the 1990s, McCain “slowly moved toward the idealist camp and became one of his party’s foremost advocates for the use of force abroad,” the Boston Globe noted. In his 2000 presidential campaign, he pledged a “rogue state rollback,” which sounded like “fill-in-the-blank” declarations of war against any regime of which the United States disapproved. He was defeated in the Republican primaries by George W. Bush, who sounded reasonable and moderate in comparison. However, after 9/11 Bush adopted McCain’s bellicose vision and promised to “rid the world of evil.”

Iraq

McCain was one of the foremost advocates for attacking Iraq and served as honorary co-chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. In 2002, he declared that invading that nation would be “fairly easy” and that “we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time.” Two months after the fall of Baghdad, McCain proclaimed that the war was “fully vindicated.” After the war became a debacle, he declared in 2008 that it was “fine with me” to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for “a hundred years.”

McCain believed Americans should idealize military interventions regardless of the political machinations that preceded them. When Bush created a pseudo-independent commission in 2004 to exonerate him for the missing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he selected McCain as one of the nine members. On the day his appointment was announced, McCain publicly declared, “The president of the United States, I believe, would not manipulate any kind of information for political gain or otherwise.” McCain’s boundless endorsement of the current president ignored the legendary presidential deceits that trademarked the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War of 1898, the First World War, and the Vietnam War.

McCain sanctified a commission (which had no subpoena power) that was a crock from the get-go. As Sen. Robert Byrd scoffed, “This commission is 100 percent under the thumb of the White House. Who created the panel’s charter? The president. Who chooses the panel members? The president. To whom does the panel report? The president. Whom shall the panel advise and assist? The president. Who is in charge of determining what classified reports the panel may see? The president. Who gets to decide whether the Congress may see the panel’s report? The president.” Predictably, the commission concluded that Bush was not to blame for starting the Iraq War on false pretenses.

McCain loved to strut on foreign trips where American reporters were sure to hail him as a visiting savior. He was ridiculed as “the new Baghdad Bob” who took a “magic carpet ride” after he visited a Baghdad market in 2007 and claimed, “Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today.” McCain touted his visit: “We stopped at a local market, where we spent well over an hour, shopping and talking with the local people, getting their views and ideas about different issues of the day.” Rep. (now Vice President) Mike Pence, who accompanied McCain, ludicrously asserted that the scene was “just like any open-air market in Indiana in the summertime.” At the time of his market visit, McCain was wearing a flak jacket, accompanied by 100 U.S. troops, and protected overhead by attack helicopters. Prior to McCain’s arrival, U.S. troops cleared almost everyone else at the scene. After he departed, Iraqi merchants bitterly scoffed at his claims that the market was safe. One shop owner growled, “They paralyzed the market when they came. This was only for the media. This will not change anything.”

But the American media lapped it up and the charade did nothing to prevent McCain from securing the Republican presidential nomination the following year. The shining moment of his campaign was his proclamation, “We are all Georgians now!” in response to a border clash that the Republic of Georgia commenced against the Russian Federation. McCain’s bellicosity against Russia never died. He also proclaimed during that campaign, “I know how to win wars. And if I’m elected president, I will turn around the war in Afghanistan, just as we have turned around the war in Iraq, with a comprehensive strategy for victory.” McCain never explained how he learned how to win wars (not a lesson taught in North Vietnamese prisons) or why he advocated bombing more than a dozen nations throughout his congressional career.

Syria and Libya

Perhaps the only lesson McCain learned from the Iraq War was that the American media would unquestioningly glorify him for demanding foreign intervention. In 2011, he was outspoken demanding U.S. bombing of Libya — widely considered the biggest foreign-policy blunder of the Obama administration. In April 2011, he visited rebels in Benghazi and labeled them heroes. Yet, as a Wikileaks disclosure revealed, he had sung a different tune two years earlier when he visited Tripoli. Meeting with officials of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime, McCain “pledged to see what he could do to move things forward in Congress” regarding a Libyan request for U.S. military equipment, according to a confidential U.S. embassy cable. After the United States helped topple the Qaddafi regime, chaos erupted and four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed in Benghazi. A few years later, slave markets were operating in the nation that McCain and Obama had so proudly liberated.

McCain returned to the Middle East for an encore visit with Syrian rebels in 2013, whom he then ceaselessly championed as a moderate alternative to the regime of Bashar Assad. Under pressure from McCain and others, the Obama administration provided massive military aid to anti-Assad forces, but much of the weaponry ended up in the hands of terrorist groups. The absurdity of U.S. policy became undeniable when Pentagon-backed Syrian rebels openly battled CIA-backed rebels. That did not deter McCain from endless pious preening, such as his early 2017 tweet: “On 6th anniversary of Syrian civil war, Assad & Russia cont. to commit genocide — when will the world wake up to the slaughter in Syria?” Since McCain had used the word “genocide,” that meant the U.S. government was morally obliged to topple the Assad regime — even though Libya showed the catastrophic results of intervention. A year later, McCain wailed, “For seven long years, the United States has sat idly by in the face of genocide. We seem to have become immune to images of devastation and brutality coming out of Syria every day. Two successive U.S. administrations have failed to do anything meaningful to stop the slaughter and enabled Assad’s reign of terror to thrive.” Actually, the U.S. government had dropped tens of thousands of bombs and missiles on Syria, despite not having a dog in that fight. Donald Trump twice sent cruise missile barrages against the Assad government after unproven allegations were made that the government had used chemical weapons. (The al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups fighting Assad were also frequently accused of using chemical weapons.)

Most of the media ignored McCain’s role in making the Syrian conflict longer and bloodier than it otherwise would have been. That is no surprise, since American politicians across the board are perennially absolved by the ideals they invoke when championing foreign wars. But the moral bonus points are void beyond the national borders. Idealistic pretenses can spur vast resentment because “the American judges himself by the way he feels, whereas the foreigner judges him by what he does,” as Irving Babbitt explained after World War One.

There are plenty of nasty dictators in the world but U.S. government efforts have dismally failed to spread democracy this century. John McCain was in the forefront of prominent Americans who had “learned nothing and forgotten nothing” from recent U.S. pratfalls. Instead, he continued talking as if foreign interventions could be a deft blend of Jesus and General Sherman, righteously burning a swath through Georgia.

America cannot afford an idealism that consists of little more than combining bombing and wishful thinking. We should not forget the Americans, Iraqis, Syrians, and Libyans who died in part because of policies McCain championed. The most valuable lesson from McCain’s career is to reject the folly of militarized idealism.

March 14, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment