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Senate Approves Bill Opposing ‘Precipitous’ US Pullout From Afghanistan, Syria

Sputnik – 01.02.2019

WASHINGTON – The Senate has voted to advance legislation opposing any “precipitous withdrawal” of US forces from Syria and Afghanistan, following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would be pulling all US troops out of the country.

The Senate voted 68-23 to limit debate on an amendment introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that calls on the United States to remain in Syria and Afghanistan until all terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Daesh are defeated there.

McConnell’s move was backed by almost all Republicans in the Senate, with only three of them — John Kennedy, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz — voting against the motion to advance the amendment.

Trump is reportedly considering plans to withdraw around 7,000 of the 14,000 US troops deployed to Afghanistan after ordering the Defense Department to pull out all 2,000 US soldiers stationed in Syria.

However, Senator Bernie Sanders criticized Trump’s move and supported congressional intervention to help create a more gradual troop withdrawal plan in a statement on Thursday.

“Congress must play a role, consistent with its Constitutional authority over war, in developing a troop withdrawal plan that is coordinated with our allies, that continues to provide humanitarian aid and that supports political settlements in these countries”, Sanders said.

The amendment will be introduced to a wide-ranging Senate bill on the Middle East, the “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act”. The sweeping legislation must still go up for a vote in the Senate, along with the US House.

If passed, the legislation would impose new sanctions against Syria, boost defense spending in the region and punish activists who call for economic boycotts of Israel to protest its policies in Palestine, among other measures.

The move marks a rare break between Senate majority Republicans and President Donald Trump who has said he plans to pull US troops out of both countries. The 68 votes in favor of the motion mean it could be re-passed with two-thirds of the 100 senators overriding any presidential veto by Trump.

On December 19, President Trump announced that the US would be withdrawing its troops from Syria over a period of several months. According to Trump, the US coalition’s mission, the defeat of Daesh (ISIS), had been secured.

The US and NATO initially launched military operations in Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attack. While most of the US troops had left the country by the end of 2014, NATO launched a new mission in 2015, called Resolute Support, to provide training and assistance to Afghan security forces.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Sense of Trump’s Foreign Policy

By Federico PIERACCINI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 11.01.2019

As was to be expected, the announcement that the US was withdrawing troops from Syria has served to provoke numerous reactions in the Middle East and beyond. Following the removal of Mattis, Pompeo and Bolton embarked on a whirlwind Middle Eastern tour of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait to reassure regional allies.

The idea of withdrawing US troops from Syria was based on Trump wishing to fulfil one of his most important electoral promises. Trump knows that he needs to demonstrate to his electoral base that he has kept the most significant promises he made during his 2016 election campaign in order to have any chance of being reelected in 2020. People voted for change, and that includes preventing new wars and getting out of the ones the US is already embroiled in, especially in the Middle East.

If Trump betrays his constituents by not delivering on his campaign promises, then he would simply be like any other politician who, upon being elected, soon forgets about those who put him in office. Trump is aware that such a perception would cost him the possibility of a second term.

We live in a time where Western elites completely ignore the consequences of their actions, manipulate information, lie to their citizens and spread fake news. While we may not always believe what Trumps says in his bombastic remarks, we can rest assured that MSNBC/CNN are even less reliable in terms of facts and unbiased news. Keeping oneself correctly informed is a difficult and demanding task, involving the constant comparison and weighing up of a lot of different sources and constantly researching and learning through the process. Most people do not have the time for this and usually do not care, preferring to rely instead on the mainstream media. This obviously exposes such people to manipulation, lies and distorted facts, clouding the truth and making it difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is fake. Alternative media — the real media — are riding to the rescue, but the overhauling process will require a full generation or even two.

This is why it little matters whether the wall will really built or whether it will only start to be built as a PR stunt or whether it even makes sense in the first place to build it or not. Democrats watching MSNBC/CNN will agree that it is a dumb idea and should not be funded. Republicans watching Fox News will call it a brilliant idea and demand a government shutdown (as Trumps is doing) to force the Democrats to concede. The point is that Democrats or Trump supporters, feeding on news sources based on propaganda and lies, will only have their respective biases confirmed without the need for any real debate.

What is important for us to understand is how Trump operates in order to gain the support of his base. That is what guides him in domestic, foreign and economic affairs. In the case of the wall, Trump’s battle is against the Democrats, and the actions he has taken to fight his opponents is by using the government shutdown to provide himself with a win-win outcome. If the Democrats fund the wall, they lose in the eyes of their voters, as Trump ends up getting his wall. If the Democrats do not fund the wall, Trump will blame them and point to the government shutdown to demonstrate how he valiantly struggled against the Democrats in an effort to keep his promises.

The same is the case with the economic warfare employing the US dollar and imposing tariffs and duties on allies and enemies alike. MSNBC/CNN will tell you that this is damaging the American economy. The Democrats will say that it is a failed strategy, without admitting that they hate Trump’s “economic war” because it undermines US dollar hegemony and thereby their ability to prosecute the neoliberal imperialism to which they are so addicted.

Fox News, on the other hand, will spin the news to show how Trump is battling against Xi Jinping and China in the interests of American farmers. Self-proclaimed experts will go on about the success of the White House’s economic strategy, declaring it a brilliant idea. Trump voters will enjoy the coverage of Fox News and accordingly praise the “commercial war”. Democrats will love the coverage of MSNBC/CNN and will worry about how various policies will either restore or further diminish US global leadership.

The announcement of the withdrawal from Syria follows the same logic as the examples given above. Trump announced the withdrawal only in order to keep an electoral promise. The entire Washington foreign-policy establishment is opposed to Trump’s decision. The purpose of the announcement was to convey to his voters a simple but clear message: I am trying to do what I promised you, but I have everyone against me in Washington as well as in the media.

The same logic is employed with the government shutdown in order to fund the wall. Whenever Democrats, Republicans or talking heads condemn Trump’s withdrawal from Syria/Afghanistan, his effort to build the wall, his imposition of tariffs and duties, his sanctions on Iran, they reinforce the beliefs of Trump’s supporters, showing that Trump is really trying to keep his promises in the face of tremendous opposition.

Every time they bash him they provide free advertisement for Trump and his political line, and this has been going on from the first time he announced he would run in the primaries in 2015. It is a win-win situation for him, even if he does not really build the wall, pull out of Syria, or effectively reduce the trade imbalance between China and the US. If he succeeds, he can declare that he has kept his promises. If he fails, then he can lay be blame squarely at the feet of his political opponents. People elected him on the basis of his words and promises. If he can demonstrate that he at least tried to keep his promises (even if he never actually does), then that should be enough to give him a second term.

Trump understands very well how the media works and how much Washington detests him. He does not want to change the status quo and revolutionize Washington. He does not want to openly challenge the foreign-policy establishment by following a realist-isolationist policy. That was what he said in 2015/16 during the campaign trail, but his presidency has been much different from what he promised, especially in foreign policy. Nevertheless, Trump seeks re-election, and he cannot entirely break with the Washington establishment if he hopes to succeed. Indeed in 2016 he demonstrated this by appointing a staff of generals whose credo over the span of several decades has been that of American exceptionalism, the governing religion of Washington. He used the military to protect himself from the media-intelligence community, shielding himself with four generals (Kelly, McMaster, Mattis and Flynn), in the full knowledge that none of them would support a realist-isolationist policy.

For this reason, the ructions that have followed the announcement of the withdrawal from Syria are part of normal US political theater, such as was the case with the resignation/dismissal of Mattis. It is no surprise that the deep state immediately dispatched Bolton and Pompeo to sooth the concerns of dozens of US allies, in particular Israel and the Arab states. It was a PR exercise to reassure them of the real intentions of the US in the area (i.e., enduring imperialism).

In practice, it makes little difference whether the US has 2,000 or 200 men in Syria. They will not be able to change the course of the war of aggression against Damascus in their favor. It is therefore not surprising that Bolton was not fired for publicly contradicting Trump on the question of withdrawing troops from Syria. Such contradictions play in Trump’s favor. His supporters will say that Trump is so anti-establishment that even his closest collaborators are against him.

If Trump were to fire Bolton as he did Mattis, none of his faithful voters will remember the ill-considered choice to appoint him in the first place, and will be struck instead by Trump’s determination to stick to his guns and rid himself of internal saboteurs who stand in the way of his electoral mandate. As long as Trump, in our scenario, were not to name someone worse than Bolton, the imperialist wheel will continue to turn.

Just look at North Korea as an example. Trump threatened to destroy Pyongyang, even knowing the US could not really do so. Then he meet with Kim, did an epic PR exercise that presented Trump as solving a major international problem that had eluded all his predecessors. After conveying this triumph to his base, he simply forgot all about Kim, Pyongyang and Seoul. In the meantime, the two Koreas are nonetheless speaking, advancing reconciliation and preparing for historical changes. As for Trump, he has already moved on, North Korea no longer holding his interest, the drama having served its purpose for a certain time but no longer being of relevance. (This, thankfully, is to the benefit of the Korean people.)

It seems the same playbook is being employed in Syria. Trump announced the withdrawal, while leaving a few hundred soldiers behind who continue to be unable to change the situation on the ground; Bolton and Pompeo are dispatched to reassure allies/financiers, though Trump cannot wait to forget about Syria, proclaiming the falsehood that US, under his leadership, defeated ISIS (thereby fulfilling one of his electoral promises).

As I wrote following Trump’s election, The Donald’s victory only served to accelerate the transition to a multipolar world, as we saw in the first two years of his presidency, with Trump’s focus on his base translating into a perennial electoral campaign that uses all the tools at his disposal (domestic, foreign, economic, financial, and currency policy). This creates distrust and concern amongst historical allies and pushes Washington’s enemies closer together, serving in the process to smooth out any tensions that may have hitherto existed between these countries.

Just think of the Astana format of Turkey, Iran and Russia concerning Syria, Inter-Korean talks in Asia, a peace treaty to be signed between Russia and Japan, Indian-Iranian cooperation on trade in oil, a European stance against Iranian and Russian sanctions, and, to top it off, coordination between the Russians and the Chinese on almost everything. All this is in the name of opposing US imperialist policies or trying to directly score a political win against Donald Trump and his policies.

Trump’s enemies have learned to ignore US decisions, which have now become irrelevant in certain parts of the globe. America’s historical allies cling hopefully to the words of Bolton and Pompeo, well aware that the US will not soon change their basic neoliberal and imperialist approach towards the world. Nevertheless, Washington is losing military and economic influence due to the transition into a multipolar world order, where power is shared among multiple countries (China, Russia, Iran, India). The unipolar moment is over and is not coming back, especially not with Donald Trump as president. And that is a good thing for the rest of the world.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Trump Against the Pentagon? Possible Shifting of White House Alliances

By Caleb Maupin – New Eastern Outlook – 08.01.2019

The line from James Mattis that seemed to stand out the most was “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

Mattis spent the prior paragraphs of his resignation letter describing the threats of terrorism, the importance of US military alliances, and the perceived danger of Russia and China. He then dropped the subtly worded bombshell sentence, indicating that Trump did not share these views which are considered to be the standard perspective of the global situation by US mainstream media.

The Mattis resignation coincided with the announced withdrawal of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Mattis is reported to have disagreed with the President’s decision. Shortly after the resignation, Trump visited US troops in Iraq and infuriated the military by signing “Make America Great Again” hats and announcing, falsely, that he had increased the troop’s pay by 10%.

The mainstream of American politics went into overdrive denouncing Trump for “giving a huge gift to Putin” and “abandoning the women” of Afghanistan. US Senator Lindsey Graham said “The only reason they’re not dancing in the aisles in Tehran and ISIS camps is they don’t believe in dancing.” Those who are familiar with contemporary US history should realize that Trump seems to be in an increasingly dangerous position as he has apparently earned the scorn of the Pentagon brass.

The struggle between the elected President as “commander-in-chief” of the US military and its uniformed brass is quite longstanding. Abraham Lincoln famously fired General George McLellan with the historic rebuff “If General McClellan does not want to use the Army, I would like to borrow it for a time.” Truman fired General Douglas Macarthur for threatening to drop atomic bombs on China without Presidential authorization.

The Pentagon and the Presidency

John F. Kennedy’s assassination can be widely interpreted in the context of a rivalry between the intelligence community and the Pentagon. Kennedy refused to send in the US military into Cuba after the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion by exiled anti-Communists. Kennedy refused to escalate the Vietnam War and increasingly argued that the best way to defeat Communism was with a foreign policy of good will and charity.  After Kennedy’s assassination his successor, Lyndon Johnson, did indeed escalate the Vietnam War, and eventually resigned as the war became unpopular.

While Jimmy Carter’s presidency is remembered as an era of Peace, it was also an era in which the intelligence agencies had the upper hand. With the United States public still traumatized by the Vietnam War, Carter presented a liberal, nearly pacifist image. However, Carter called openly himself a student of Zbeignew Brzezinski, the mastermind anti-communist who worked with the CIA to foment protest among the eastern bloc intellegensia and pioneered the use of Wahabbi terrorists as proxy fighters in Afghanistan.

Carter was loved by Langley, but hated in the Pentagon. The US Senate blocked Carter from ratifying the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks 2 agreement of 1979, with retired Generals and military linked voices in the media denouncing him as “soft.” Carter was also accused of having “lost” Iran after the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The Pentagon loathed Carter’s soft-power approach and seemed almost unanimously behind Ronald Reagan who trounced him in the 1980 election. Reagan raised military spending. According to the Washington Post : “Reagan came along and brought…. an infusion of money. Defense spending hit a peak of $456.5 billion in 1987 (in projected 2005 dollars), compared with $325.1 billion in 1980 and $339.6 million in 1981, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Most of the increase was for procurement and research and development programs. The procurement budget leapt to $147.3 billion from $71.2 billion in 1980.”

Trump: On The Outs With Both Intel & the Generals?

The mutual distrust between Trump and the intelligence agencies has been apparent from early on. The media largely credits intel agencies with the steady stream of leaks to the media. Trump’s speech to the CIA shortly after taking office was described by New Yorker magazine as a “vainglorious affront.”

Trump echoed the Pentagon’s mantra of “Peace Through Strength” on the campaign trail. He raised military spending, and even let the Pentagon utilize the largest non-nuclear explosive device, the infamous MOAB, in Afghanistan. Trump arranged for Saudi Arabia to increase its purchases from US military contractors.

In the old feud between intel agencies and the Pentagon, Trump seemed solidly with the Pentagon. But in December, a series of bizarre tweets criticizing US military spending were apparently foreshadowing the withdrawal of forces from Syria and Afghanistan. With Mattis out, and Trump’s Iraqi holiday visit widely criticized, it now appears Trump is on the outs with the US military.

One particular passage from Mattis resignation letter is striking:

“It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions – to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.”

This statement is loaded with hypocrisy and projection. Russia and China are rather loose and free societies compared to many US-aligned regimes such as Saudi Arabia or South Korea. Meanwhile, both Russia and China have been working to develop and eradicate poverty in neighboring countries. The Eurasian Economic Union and the One Belt, One Road initiative have involved massive spending by Russia and China to stabilize and raise living standards in nearby countries, not “promote their own interests” at their “expense.”

However, the structure of Mattis’ letter seems to indicate on some level that Trump does not agree with his assessment, and perhaps has another view of Russia and China and their role in the world.

This raises many questions, not just about what kind of conversations are taking place behind closed doors within the White House, but what the future of the current administration will be. After all, the US military and those who manufacture its weapons and tools are an extremely powerful constituency.

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Notes On The Withdrawals

By Michael Tracey | Medium | December 23, 2018

Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from two warzones, which prompted the resignation (and now, firing) of James Mattis. It’s one of the most consequential weeks of the presidency thus far, so rather than try to come up with a grand cohesive Take on it all, here are some scattered thoughts.

  • The media doesn’t know how to grapple with an event that genuinely does represent Trump contending with an intractable establishment, which is partially understandable given recent overheated bleating about the Deep State — a phenomena that does plainly exist but has been misrepresented by the dumber portion of MAGA boosters. “Establishment,” likewise, is a fuzzy buzzword, and almost nobody ever claims to be part of it. Trump himself can reasonably be said to be The Establishment considering he is the President. However, this is a specific instance in which Trump really is in direct confrontation with very particular “establishment,” namely the institutional national security apparatus, which exists largely unfettered across administrations. Survey the scene and there’s not a single person in this entire apparatus who apparently supports the Syria withdrawal.
  • So what does the media do? They act, essentially, as vehicles for the grievances of said national security apparatus. Take a look at some of the coverage from the major outlets: NYT, WaPo, AP, etc.
  • OK, who exactly is “outraged,” and why does their sentiment justify featured placement in an Associated Press headline? It’s the national security establishment figures who are outraged, for them Mattis is a patron saint. These are the people AP, NYT, and WaPo reporters rely on to inform their natsec coverage. This NYT example is less subtle, and far more egregious:
  • Really? Robert Kagan, to the uninformed reader, might just be some innocuous “expert” offering his wisdom, but Kagan is one of the most significant neoconservative foreign policy luminaries ever, competing ignominiously for that distinction with Bill Kristol. And it’s his ideology which is being transmitted to unwitting readers by way of the NYT. People who hate Trump will be susceptible to the message, because what he’s saying portrays Trump in a very negative light, but they’re also consuming loads of stubborn interventionist pablum along with the typical anti-Trump dopamine hit.
  • Collectively, the theme of all mainline media coverage in reaction to the withdrawals is some combination of “chaos,” “disarray,” “tumult,” etc. Never is it ever considered that the very fact of multiple endless military deployments in hot warzones is also “chaotic.” And destructive. And insanely expensive. And unpopular with the wider public. None of these facts amount to “chaos” in the minds of fretting journalists, because what they’re being informed by is the sentiments of the “natsec” apparatus Trump has just acted against. (Oh yeah BTW the Syria deployment is also illegal and unauthorized, and has been since Obama launched it on false pretenses, but again, that’s definitely not chaotic.)
  • On a slightly different note, it’s also worth harkening back to the time, earlier this year, when John Bolton was appointed National Security Advisor. I joined in the dismay, considering Bolton is one of the most fervent unreconstructed hawks in the entire country, and has *even today* not stopped defending the Iraq invasion. I attended a speech of his in DC about a month before the appointment when he did so, once again… in 2018. His Iran antagonism is a virulent obsession, and he called for a first strike on North Korea in February.
  • But what happened subsequently? Bolton’s wishes have been totally overruled at every turn, most notably at two spectacular junctures. The first was Trump’s Korea diplomacy initiative, when Bolton was made to sit meekly at the negotiating table with Kim’s generals, whom he’d not long before declared should be wiped out with a preemptive strike. Then this week, the Syria withdrawal is among the most epic humiliations conceivable, as Bolton has specifically and publicly declared that US troops would not be leaving Syria until Iranian influence was repelled (i.e., essentially never).
  • So those are crucial facts to consider about Bolton’s influence in the administration. I still think it’s dangerous to have him anywhere near the locus of military power, because who knows what leverage he might wield in the event of some unforeseen crisis. But he’s clearly not anywhere close to calling the shots, or the last 9 months of the Trump presidency would have gone much differently. (If he had any personal pride he’d resign in the wake of the Syria withdrawal, but Bolton’s principal priority is proximity to power, not personal consistency or pride. Unlike, evidently, Mattis.)
  • In sum: the initial freakout when Bolton was appointed at least had basis, because he’s a dangerous person, but the freakout over the policies which he’s (ironically) presided over have engendered an even greater freakout, by several orders of magnitude. And those policies have tended to be dramatically less belligerent and militaristic than what you’d expect from an Administration in which Bolton resides. (The two leading examples again being Korea and Syria/Afg withdrawals.) So you have to wonder what the freakout is really about then. Maybe it’s just simple knee-jerk Trump hatred. (Yeah, it’s that.)
  • There’s a running fight in certain Online Circles about whether Trump is a “non-interventionist.” My point was always that Trump clearly evinced greater non-interventionist tendencies than Hillary Clinton, but that 2016-specific observation has been exaggerated by certain bad faith agitators into a bogus charge that I claimed Trump is some pure, peace-loving anti-war voice. Obviously that’s NEVER been the claim. Any assessment of Trump’s scatter-shot “non-interventionism” has to coexist alongside the acknowledgment that Trump has dropped large quantities of bombs in pre-existing warzones, and killed lots of civilians in the process. That’s bad. At the same time, Trump has now declared his intention to end two wars that were started by previous administrations, and has not started any new ones. He’s done so over the strident objections of his own staff, advisors, and 95% of his own party. Clearly the “instincts” I noted, and then was ruthlessly ridiculed for noting, had some basis in reality, or we would not be where we are.
  • Trump, during the campaign, frequently complained about the trillions squandered in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton never did (because she was partly responsible for it). Therefore, the comparative assessment was warranted. Nobody ever assumed Trump’s complaint would automatically translate into a swift, seamless change in US policy, or that the US would now become a beacon of wholesome anti-interventionism. It took two years, but Trump has now taken tangible steps to actualize those complaints, at significant political risk.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Trump responds to Israeli complaints about US troops exiting Syria: We give Israel $4.5 billion

If Americans Knew | December 28, 2018

Israel and its American partisans have been complaining vociferously about President Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, a nation that Israel and pro-Israel neocons have long targeted.

When Trump was recently asked at a briefing in Iraq whether the troop withdrawal would leave Israel in jeopardy, Trump responded: “We give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And they’re doing very well defending themselves…”

Trump emphasized: “We’re going to take good care of Israel. Israel is going to be good. But we give Israel $4.5 billion a year.”

He went on: “And we give them, frankly, a lot more money than that, if you look at the books — a lot more money than that.”

While Trump’s statements went virtually unreported in U.S. media, which rarely tell Americans about U.S. money to Israel, Israeli news organizations headlined the statement, some questioning the amount.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had originally demanded that the U.S. give Israel $4.5 billion per year in U.S. military aid, Netanyahu signed a memorandum of understanding with the Obama administration in 2016 that placed the ceiling at $3.8 billion per year for the next 10 years.

New legislation currently before Congress would make the disbursement law rather than a non-binding agreement, and changed the arrangement to make the $3.8 billion a minimum, with the expectation that the aid will increase in future years. (The bill is currently being held up by Senator Rand Paul.)

Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper suggests that the difference between the current allocation of $3.8 billion and the $4.5 billion stated by Trump might be due to additional aid to Israel under other budget items:

Ha’aretz reports that in early 2018 the U.S. allocated “over $700 million to supporting Israel’s various missile defense systems, including the Iron Dome system. This was included in the federal spending bill of 2018, and it was an increase of more than $100 million compared to the amount of money provided for Iron Dome and other missile defense systems in the previous year.

“The missile defense support budget is separate from the $3.8 billion Israel will receive under the 2016 agreement signed by Obama and Netanyahu. When the two support budgets are combined, the math behind Trump’s comment becomes clear: 3.8 plus 0.7 adds up to 4.5.”

Ha’aretz also addresses what Trump might have meant by “And we give them, frankly, a lot more money than that, if you look at the books — a lot more money than that.”

Ha’aretz posits that the President might be referring to American support for the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, “which received tens of millions of dollars this year from his administration. It is a well-known secret in Washington that the strongest advocates for continued American support of the PA’s security forces are Israeli security and intelligence officials, who want to keep in place the successful coordination between the IDF and those forces.”

The website Mondoweiss points out that Trump has complained about U.S. aid to Israel before: “During the 2016 campaign, he said that Israel should pay for American defense, just as he had called on South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to do. ‘I think Israel will do that also, yeah, I think Israel do—there are many countries that can pay and they [Israel] can pay big league.’”

The difference is that the American lobby for Israel dwarfs the lobbies for other countries.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Trump’s Holiday Gift to America: Hope for a Little More Peace on Earth?

By Thomas L. Knapp | Garrison Center | December 27, 2018

In March, US president Donald Trump promised the American public that US troops would be leaving Syria “very soon.”

Nine months later, he threw Washington’s political establishment into turmoil by finally ordering the withdrawal he’d promised. Politicians like US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who’d never once in four years bestirred themselves to authorize the previous president’s decision to go to war there in the first place, railed against Trump’s decision to bring the bloody matter to a close.

Instead of backing down in the face of opposition, Trump doubled down. Or, rather, decided to draw down the 17-year-long US military presence in Afghanistan.

Then he jetted off for a surprise Christmas visit to Iraq … eliciting, with his usual theatrics, calls from Iraqi lawmakers for US withdrawal from THAT country. I suspect he may concede to that demand as well.

Nothing’s written in stone, and both US foreign policy and Donald Trump are prone to sudden and unexpected turns. But the holiday season is a time of hope. Maybe, just maybe, nearly three decades of US war in the Middle East are coming to the beginning of their end.

Adding to that hope, let’s turn an eye further east.

After significant saber-rattling and then a sudden turn toward personal diplomacy, Trump stood back and let events on the Korean peninsula take their course even as he continued the bellicose rhetoric and sanctions noises demanded of him by Graham and company.

As a result, North and South seem on the brink of ending a 68-year war. They’ve begun removing land mines and guard posts along the Demilitarized Zone. They’ve broken ground on a railway connecting the two countries.

Is it possible that Trump, as some of his supporters like to say, has been playing 4D chess while the rest of us distracted ourselves with checkers?

I’d really like to think so, and I do hope so.

As an advocate for ending US military adventurism, I’ve doubted Trump every step of the way. During his presidential campaign, he alternated between talking peace and pronouncing himself the most militaristic of the GOP’s presidential aspirants.

I’ve generally found it safer to believe the worst, rather than the best, things politicians say about themselves. But at moments like these, his bizarre zigs and zags on the global 4D chess board suddenly seem in retrospect to have taken American foreign policy in the right direction.

If he brings home substantial numbers of the American fighting men and women now in harm’s way around the globe, he will have secured his legacy and deserve the thanks of a grateful nation. I wish him every success in that endeavor.

Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men, and Happy New Year.

December 28, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Why Mattis’ exit is a defining moment in US foreign policy

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | NewsClick | December 24, 2018

Within the week, President Trump’s sudden announcement of “total” troop withdrawal from Syria has ripped apart the American political system and exposed its fault lines. Trump’s decision is intrinsically a sound one. He didn’t start the Syrian conflict and he has been on record repeatedly that the US had no business to intervene in it militarily. But his writ as president and commander-in-chief didn’t run large. Astoundingly enough, we know now that the Pentagon defied the president who is also the commander-in-chief.

We also know that Trump’s defence secretary James Mattis set the scale and scope of the US intervention in Syria. From what was meant to be a limited intervention, Mattis turned it into an open-ended military occupation of Syria. This was despite the fact that the US carries no UN mandate to send forces to Syria. The repeated protests by Damascus, including at the UN, were ignored.

Indeed, the military mission that was originally geared to fight the ISIS morphed into a geopolitical one to counter Iran (and Russia’s) presence in Syria. Above all, the US military virtually occupied one-third of Syrian territory and declared it an exclusive region that even Syrian government forces were barred from entering and imposed a “no-fly zone” there. All this constituted a gross violation of international law and UN Charter.

While resigning in protest, Mattis took care to turn it into a first-rate political scandal. This has put Trump’s back up. If Mattis was hoping to keep his job till end-February with an intention to continue to undermine the president’s foreign policies, an unforgiving Trump has other plans. Trump has announced the appointment of an acting defence secretary w.e.f. Jan 1, which defangs Mattis overnight. Trump thereby ensures that his decision on troop withdrawal in Syria will be implemented on the ground.

The really stunning part is that the bulk of America’s political class, think tanks and the media have rallied to support Mattis in an astounding display of defiance and spite toward their elected president. Suffice to say, there has been an insurrection against Trump’s foreign policy agenda and Mattis was a key figure in that enterprise. Quintessentially, the established American political system – what Trump calls the “Swamp” – refuses to make way for the elected president, his mandate from the people for his political platform notwithstanding. Isn’t it a sham that the US claims to have a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”?

Quite obviously, Syria is only the tip of the iceberg. Looking back, Mattis had a virtual free run through the past two-year period, to undermine Trump’s foreign policy agenda across the board. Mattis had the great advantage of serving at NATO Headquarters as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. His president, on the other hand, was a novice in alliance politics. Mattis knew precisely how consensus opinion is forged in Brussels around decisions taken in Washington, how those decisions get formally adopted by alliance partners and how Washington’s projects invariably get implemented. Thus, Trump’s role got incrementally reduced to ranting and raving about the NATO budget. Trump talks no longer about NATO being “obsolete”.

Simply put, Mattis has brilliantly revived the NATO. He did this knowing fully well that a transatlantic alliance raring to go cannot do without an “enemy”. And Mattis also knew that that “enemy” has to be Russia. Thus, the reboot of NATO and the ratcheting up of tensions with Russia became mutually reinforcing endeavors. The result is plain to see: NATO has come closer to Russia’s borders than at anytime before and is creating threatening military infrastructure there. Moscow is in a quandary because it is well aware that the NATO project is a de facto Pentagon project and Trump himself probably had little to do with it.

Moscow keeps hoping that a Russian-American summit would help matters, but then, Trump’s plans for meeting with Vladimir Putin runs into strong headwinds whenever the idea surfaces. The “Russia collusion” inquiry keeps Trump off balance (although Robert Mueller has so far failed to produce a shred of evidence that Moscow promoted Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election.) Put differently, for the “Swamp” the Robert Mueller inquiry becomes critically important precisely for the reason that Trump is prevented from making any concerted attempt to improve US-Russia relations.

Syria and Afghanistan are only illustrative examples of how the Pentagon has a corporate interest in fighting open-ended wars. In both cases, a military victory is no longer regarded as feasible, and it is the hidden geopolitical agenda that matters to the Pentagon. Equally, cascading tensions with Russia or the open-ended wars translate as bigger budgetary allocation for the Pentagon, which of course largely goes to fund the military-industrial complex. One can take a safe bet that it is a matter of time before Mattis himself gets re-employed in the corporate board of some big arms manufacturing enterprise. The passion with which he has been advocating Saudi Arabia’s cause in the downstream of the Jamal Khashoggi affair speaks volumes about the unholy nexus at work involving the sheikhs, the Pentagon and the arms vendors – and the US lawmakers.

This sort of nexus has spawned a powerful coalition of interest groups who are viscerally opposed to a “demilitarization” of the US foreign policies, which is at the core of Trump’s agenda. Their favorite candidate in the 2016 election was Hillary Clinton. Their focus today is on debilitating the Trump presidency in any whichever way they can and to work toward ensuring that Trump doesn’t win a second term.

In this holding operation, Mattis played a stellar role by systematically undermining the Trump agenda. Mattis is a skilled operator in the military bureaucracy and his departure leaves a void for the Swamp. But his exit is not going to be the end of the vicious struggle going on in American politics. The good part is that Trump seems to understand that it will be a downhill slope ahead of him unless he took a last-ditch stance and dug in now to assert his constitutional prerogative as the president to push his foreign policy agenda. The point is, that agenda also happens to be linked to Trump’s campaign platform for the 2020 election.

December 27, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Ex-Diplomat: US Elites Alarmed That Trump May Accomplish Promised Foreign Policy

Sputnik – 21.12.2018

WASHINGTON – The US troop withdrawal from Syria and the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis has the establishment fearful that President Donald Trump might finally implement the foreign policy he campaigned on, former diplomat Jim Jatras told Sputnik.

“Terror has again gripped the establishment that the Trump who was elected president in 2016 might actually start implementing what he promised,” Jatras, who was also once a US Senate foreign policy adviser, said on Thursday.

Trump needed to also overhaul the rest of his top-tier defense and national security advisers and chiefs, Jatras said.

“This will be a critical time for the Trump presidency. If he can get the machinery of the Executive Branch to implement his decision to withdraw from Syria, and if he can pick a replacement to General Mattis who actually agrees with [his own] views,” Jatras said. “It is imperative that he pick someone for the Pentagon — and frankly, clear out the rest of his national security team — and appoint people he can trust and whose views comport with his own.”

Trump in a tweet earlier in the day commenting on his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, said it was “time to come home and rebuild.”

On Thursday, Mattis stepped down citing the fact his views no longer aligned with Trump’s a day after the White House announced that US troops were leaving Syria.

Earlier on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump has ordered the US military to withdraw some 7,000 troops from Afghanistan in the coming weeks.

The president made promises during his campaign to stop expending money and lives on foreign wars to rebuild the United States.

December 21, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

US, Europe & NATO risk all-out war by backing unhinged Kiev regime

By Finian Cunningham | RT | November 28, 2018

With the US, EU and NATO all bolstering claims of “Russian aggression” – in face of contrary evidence – the real danger is that the Kiev regime will be emboldened to carry out more reckless provocations leading to all-out war.

It seems indisputable that the three Ukrainian Navy vessels were dispatched last Sunday in order to instigate a security response from Russian maritime border forces. In contrast to normal procedures for passage clearance through the Kerch Strait, the Ukrainian warships refused to communicate with Russian controls and acted menacingly inside Russia’s Black Sea territorial limits.

At a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on Monday, the US, Britain and France pointedly refused to take on board Russia’s legal argument for why it felt obliged to detain the Ukrainian boats and 24 crew. The Western powers automatically sided with the version of events claimed by President Petro Poroshenko – that the Ukrainian Navy was attacked unlawfully by Russia.

The US, EU and NATO denounced Russia’s “aggression” and demanded that the Ukrainian vessels and crew be repatriated immediately, even though under Russian law there is a case for prosecution.

It is the West’s refusal to acknowledge facts that is part of the problem. Russia is continually accused of “annexing” Crimea in 2014 instead of the Western powers recognizing that the Black Sea peninsula voted in a constitutionally held referendum to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Crimea was prompted to take that historic step because the US, EU and NATO had only the month before backed an illegal coup in Kiev against the elected Ukrainian government. That coup brought to power the present Kiev regime led by Poroshenko and a parliament dominated by neo-Nazi parties.

So, the problem here is a refusal by Western supporters of the dubious Kiev regime to accept the legal, historic reality that Crimea is part of Russia’s territory. Ships passing through the Kerch Strait between Russia’s mainland and Crimea are obliged to notify Russian maritime controls of passage. Russia has since reopened the strait to civilian cargo transport following the naval skirmish at the weekend.

When the Ukrainian Navy vessels violated legal procedures and entered Russian territorial limits, their action was aggressive, not Russia’s response.

Furthermore, there are already emerging signs that the Ukrainian naval transport was orchestrated for the purpose of inciting an incident.

Some of the detained crew members have admitted carrying out orders which they knew would be seen by Russia as provocative.

It has also been reported by US government-owned Radio Free Europe that the Ukrainian secret services (SBU) have confirmed that its officers were among the crew on the boats. The vessels were also armed. If the transfer was an innocent passage, why were secret services involved?

Recall that Ukrainian secret services have previously been caught staging sabotage operations in Crimea.

Another major background factor is the increasing NATO military buildup in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the 19km bridge linking Russia’s mainland with Crimea in May earlier this year, there were calls in US and Ukrainian media for the structure to be sabotaged. Moscow has understandably stepped up security controls around the vital infrastructure, which cost $3.7 billion and is the longest bridge in Europe.

In recent months, the US and Britain have ordered increasing military deployment to the region under the guise of “training” and “assistance” to the Kiev regime forces.

Earlier this year, in July, the NATO alliance held naval drills, Sea Breeze, along with Ukrainian forces in the Black Sea. That’s in spite of the fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO, although it is aspiring to join the 29-member US-led bloc at some time in the future.

It was the following month, in August, that Russia began stepping up its controls and searches of vessels through the Kerch Strait linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The latter leads to ports under the control of the Kiev regime such as Mariupol, which is adjacent to the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic. The DPR and Luhansk People’s Republic broke away following the coup in Kiev in 2014 and have been under military attack for the past four years despite the so-called Minsk peace treaties. These are more facts that the Western backers of the Kiev regime refuse to deal with.

More NATO buildup continued in September with the supply of two gunboats by the US to the Ukrainian Navy for deployment in the Sea of Azov. Pentagon-linked publication Defense One described that supply as part of efforts by Washington and Kiev to develop a “mosquito navy” in order to skirmish with Russian forces.

Only four days before the latest naval clash, Britain’s Defense Minister Gavin Williamson announced the Royal Navy was to send HMS ‘Echo’ to patrol with Ukrainian special forces to “defend freedom and democracy.” Williamson said: “As long as Ukraine faces Russian hostilities, the United Kingdom will be a steadfast partner.”

This is background to the simmering tensions in the Black Sea between Ukraine and Russia. The situation has arisen because of Western interference in Ukraine – primarily the coup in Kiev in February 2014. Yet, in all discussions about events since then, the Western powers are in denial of facts and their culpability. The recent militarization of the Black Sea by the NATO alliance is a stark provocation to Russia’s national security, but again the Western powers bury their collective heads in the sand.

Given the reckless indulgence by the US, Europe and NATO of the Kiev regime amid its ongoing violations against the populace in eastern Ukraine, its refusal to abide by the Minsk agreements, and its continual inflammatory and unhinged rhetoric against Russia, it should not be surprising if this same regime feels emboldened to provoke an armed confrontation with Moscow.

Arguably, the Kiev regime and its adulation of World War II Nazi collaborators never had any legitimacy in the first place. It continues to demonstrate its lack of legitimacy from the immense social problems in Ukraine of poverty, corruption, human rights violations, neo-Nazi paramilitaries running amok, and now martial law being imposed.

It remains to be seen if the recent naval provocation was carried out with the tacit approval of Washington and other NATO powers as a pretext for further militarization against Russia. The initial misplaced condemnations of Russia have subsided to more measured calls from US President Donald Trump and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for “restraint” and “dialogue.”

That might suggest Kiev’s failing President Poroshenko and his security services acted alone to order the naval confrontation as a desperate throw of the dice to escalate NATO and EU support for his shaky regime against Russia.

Trump’s comments hoping that Kiev and Russia would “straighten things out” sound like Washington is not behind the provocation and has no desire for a wider conflict. Just as well, because such a development is a gateway to all-out war.

Nevertheless, such a catastrophe is always a serious risk when Western powers indulge this unhinged Kiev regime.

November 28, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“THE CHIMERA OF DONALD TRUMP, RUSSIAN MONEY LAUNDERER”

Sic Semper Tyrannis | November 23, 2018

Is Donald Trump guilty of money laundering? If you ask most Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans, they fervently believe that he has been moving money for Russian mobsters for more than twenty years and that an investigation of this will bring Trump’s Presidency to an end. Don’t count on it. Although there is clear evidence of Trump’s past relationship with Russian/American mobsters, knowing someone or collaborating on a business deal is not proof of money laundering. I have spent three decades investigating money laundering cases (I helped develop the civil money laundering case against Philip Morris—click here) and it is clear to me that those who are earnestly accusing Trump of such a crime do not understand what constitutes money laundering.

Apart from not understanding how to make a money laundering case, the anti-Trumpers have failed to grasp another key element to the narrative that Trump was a puppet to the Russians—one of his longtime Russian business associates, Felix Sater, was an FBI informant during the entire time that Robert Mueller was FBI Director. Since Sater was a fully signed up FBI informant or asset, he was in a unique and powerful position to implicate Trump. But none of the “evidence” uncovered or planted by Sater ever produced an indictment of Donald Trump. With the benefit of hindsight it appears that the FBI, relying on Sater, used Trump and his organization as bait to go after Russian mobsters.

The Democrat case for Trump’s money laundering is laid out in a complaint the Democratic National Committee filed in April 2018 against the Russians, Julian Assange and Trump:

Beginning in 2003, Trump engaged in multiple real estate deals with the Bayrock Group, a firm founded and run by Soviet emigres, who reportedly had close ties to the Russian government and Russian organized crime. In 2004, Trump negotiated with the Deputy Mayor of Moscow over a potential real estate development. In the mid-2000s, Trump partnered with wealthy Russian-Canadian businessmen to develop real estate in Toronto. And in 2006, Trump contracted with the Russian Standard Corporation, a Moscow-based entity that owns and operates the Miss Russia beauty pageant, to allow the winner of the pageant to compete in Trump’s Miss Universe pageant, an action that had not been taken since at least 2002. In 2008, Trump sold a Palm Beach, Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch for a $54 million profit. In 2013, Trump established a business relationship with Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, a close ally of Putin, to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Russia and work on plans to develop a Trump-branded project in Moscow. . . .

As Trump, Jr. explained, the Trump Organization “s[aw] a lot of money pouring in from Russia,” and “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of our assets.” And Trump’s son Eric Trump has reportedly stated that substantial funding for Trump’s golf courses comes from Russian investors.

I do not know who was advising the DNC on this complaint, but it is clear that the drafter or drafters do not have a clue about money laundering. Money laundering is very easy to define:

The act of disguising the source or true nature of money obtained through illegal means.

The key element is the phrase, “illegal means.” If you are going to be charged as a participant or accessory in a money laundering case, you must be handling or receiving money that came from a criminal activity, such as trafficking in drugs, arms or people. So here’s the critical question with respect to Donald Trump and money laundering—what was the predicate crime?

In the world of real estate, the money laundering component is always in the financing.  That is, you want to trade the bad money for good bank money by using the property as the chattel to do it. But when this is done as part of a money laundering scheme, it almost always involves the financing of major building projects. Someone with dirty money is not going to waste time purchasing individual condos or homes as their primary means of cleaning the money. When the dirty money comes from activities like drug trafficking, the amount of cash generated is enormous. You need big money projects to launder large quantities of cash.

Given Donald Trump’s extensive and controversial real estate ventures over the last thirty years, which have involved several Russians, it is understandable why those opposed to Trump seize on these transactions as evidence of “money laundering.” Unfortunately, the journalists who have tried to make the case that Donald Trump was “laundering” money for the Russian mob, have failed to provide actual evidence of such activity. Instead, they have relied on innuendo and guilt by association.

Yes, it is true that Russians with ties to organized crime purchased condos in Trump Towers in New York City. But there is no evidence that the sales of these condos were an organized, structured transaction. Individual Russians, acting in person or through shell companies, purchasing a condo is not proof of criminal activity. The fact that those who have made such purchases have not been arrested or indicted undermines the claim that their mere presence in a Trump building is proof of criminal activity.

As Shakespeare wrote, “Ay, there’s the rub.”  Association with unsavory characters is not a criminal offense. While it is quite true that Trump associated with several Russians with links to organized crime it is also true that Trump has never been indicted or charged with such criminal activity. Is he really that good in hiding his trail?

One of the loudest voices claiming that Trump is in bed with the Russians is Craig Unger. Craig was known as a good reporter at one point in his life, but I think his work on Trump is both shoddy and incomplete. To be fair, Craig is not the only one claiming Trump is facilitating Russian money laundering. Other prominent journalists, including Richard Behar, Tom Burgis of the Financial Times and John Harwood of CNBC, also have echoed Unger’s thesis.

All four focus much of their reporting on a Russian born American “mobster”, Felix Sater, to implicate Trump as a Russian money laundering chump. The following snippet from an interview Unger did with Vox about his book, House of Trump, House of Putin is representative of how Sater is used as some sort of proof that Trump is part of a money laundering scheme:

Bayrock was a real estate development company located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower. The founder was a guy named Tevfik Arif and the managing director was Felix Sater, a man with numerous ties to Russian oligarchs and Russian intelligence. Bayrock proceeded to partner with Trump in 2005 and helped him develop a new business model, which he desperately needed.

Recall that Trump was $4 billion in debt after his Atlantic City casinos went bankrupt. He couldn’t get a bank loan from anywhere in the West, and Bayrock comes in and Trump partners with other people as well, but Bayrock essentially has a new model that says, “You don’t have to raise any money. You don’t have to do any of the real estate development. We just want to franchise your name, we’ll give you 18 to 25 percent royalties, and we’ll effectively do all the work. And if the Trump Organization gets involved in the management of these buildings, they’ll get extra fees for that.”

It was a fabulously lucrative deal for Trump, and the Bayrock associates — Sater in particular — were operating out of Trump Tower and constantly flying back and forth to Russia. And in the book, I detail several channels through which various people at Bayrock have close ties to the Kremlin, and I talk about Sater flying back and forth to Moscow even as late as 2016, hoping to build the Trump Tower there.

Tom Burgis, writing in the Financial Times, provides additional details on the relationship between Sater and Trump and implies something nefarious, perhaps even illegal, was afoot:

As work on Trump Soho got under way in 2007, the partnership between Mr Trump and Bayrock was gathering momentum. Another tower, in Fort Lauderdale, was rising. A 2008 Bayrock presentation includes a picture of Mr Trump grinning beside Mr Arif and names him as a referee. Bayrock had its office on the 24th floor of Trump Tower and calls the Trump Organization a “strategic partner”.

The same presentation says Bayrock was one of the backers of the redevelopment of the 101-year-old Hotel du Parc on the shores of Lake Geneva, owned by Swiss Development Group, a Geneva-based company. In May this year, Nicolas Bourg, a Belgian businessman who says he worked with Viktor Khrapunov’s son Ilyas on US real estate deals, claimed in a separate dispute that Swiss Development Group was “owned and controlled by Ilyas and his family and used to conceal the movement and investment of his family’s money”.

All of this sounds pretty bad on the surface until you examine what Sater actually did. Messrs. Unger and Burgis neglected to analyze the critical fact that Felix Sater was an FBI informant since 1998. If Trump was taking dirty money or engaged in criminal activity with Russians then he was doing it with Felix Sater, who was under the control of the FBI. Felix Sater was proposing deals and making contacts with Russian criminals overseas and this activity surely was known by the FBI. If there was any suspicion on the part of the FBI that Trump was taking bad money, they would have recorded such activity in detail and he would have been indicted. Instead of running around in an orange jump suit, Donald Trump ran for President.

Given Sater’s relationship with the FBI, one needs to look at Trump’s relationship with Russians, especially those facilitated by Sater, in a different light. Put simply, were Trump’s real estate deals being used as bait to attract targets of interest for the FBI. Was Trump a witting cooperator with the FBI or unwitting?

We do know that Sater was trying to put together real estate deals overseas while serving as a FBI informant and working from Trump Tower in New York City. This was reported in a March 2017 Los Angeles Times piece:

Working from a 24th-floor office in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, Felix Sater spent years trying to line up lucrative deals in the United States, Russia and elsewhere in Europe with Donald Trump’s real estate organization.

For much of that time, according to court records and U.S. officials, Sater also worked as a confidential informant for the FBI, and — he says — U.S. intelligence.

“I was building Trump Towers by day and hunting Bin Laden by night,” Sater, now 50, told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview from New York.

As managing director of Bayrock Group LLC, a real estate development firm, the Russian-born businessman met Trump in 2003, court records show, when Trump was looking to expand his business and branding organization around the globe.

Why are the anti-Trump forces failing to grasp the import of Sater and his role as an FBI informant as undermining the claim that Trump was conspiring with the Russians? Sater’s role with the FBI has been widely reported:

There is no question that Sater led a double life during the years he worked with the Trump Organization.

In 1998, Sater pleaded guilty to a federal charge of racketeering for his role in a Mafia-linked $40-million stock fraud scheme. He quickly cut a deal, agreeing to become a secret FBI informant in hopes of getting a lenient sentence.

Court records were sealed to protect Sater’s identity, so his role in the fraud case stayed secret for a decade while he was at Bayrock. After a court hearing in 2009, he was fined $25,000 but was not sent to prison or ordered to pay restitution.

Along with press reports regarding Sater’s role with the FBI, we have Sater’s attorney, in a letter sent to Judge Leo Glasser of the Eastern District of NY on 1 September 2005, telling the court that:

. . . Mr. Sater has been involed in on-going cooperation activities with law enforcement agents, and has provided truthful and credible information on a wide variety of criminal activities, some of which has already led to criminal prosecution of others.

Even Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, provided Sater cover :

At his sentencing hearing, several FBI officials vouched for Sater’s help. He got his biggest endorsement in January 2015 when Loretta Lynch was asked at her Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. attorney general why court records had been sealed in the fraud case.

If Trump was the target of the FBI, then fair observers must concede that the Bureau has failed during an 18 year period to obtain any incriminating information about Trump and his business practices. Had the FBI been successful, Trump surely would have already been indicted by now in the Southern District of New York and charged with criminal conduct.

Sater’s status as an FBI informant is not an honorary position. It is not a job that entitles the informant to regular social chats with an FBI agent. It is a job that puts the informant in the position of having to help the FBI make criminal cases, including entrapping folks willing to engage in illegal acts. The FBI website describes the informant role:

The courts have recognized that the government’s use of informants is lawful and often essential to the effectiveness of properly authorized law enforcement investigations. However, use of informants to assist in the investigation of criminal activity may involve an element of deception, intrusion into the privacy of individuals, or cooperation with persons whose reliability and motivation may be open to question. Although it is legally permissible for the FBI to use informants in its investigations, special care is taken to carefully evaluate and closely supervise their use so the rights of individuals under investigation are not infringed. The FBI can only use informants consistent with specific guidelines issued by the attorney general that control the use of informants.

And who was in charge of the FBI during all of the time that Sater was a signed up FBI snitch? You got it—Robert Mueller. Let us just stick with the facts—during Mueller’s term (2001 thru 2013) the FBI did not make or bring a case of money laundering against Donald Trump. Yet, during this period, Felix Sater, a fully signed up and operating FBI informant, was trying to cobble together real estate deals with Russians of questionable character. Trump and his organization were not implicated in any of this activity in a way that led the FBI to seek an indictment against them.

Many House Democrats are convinced that there is untapped evidence implicating Trump in a variety of money laundering schemes. But their belief, in my view, is based on a fundamental ignorance about money laundering and financial crimes in general. Tax avoidance, for example, is not money laundering. Highly publicized real estate deals are not the kind of cleaning operation that genuine money launderers embrace. Why? Those kind of deals come with scrutiny and the last thing that criminals with dirty money want is a high profile and public attention.

If you hate Trump and are betting that the Democrat investigative tsunami will bring Trump down, I have a word of advice—don’t bet your house. Donald Trump may be guilty of boorish behavior and brash comments, but the evidence of laundering money for the Russians is not there.

November 25, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Mixed US Midterms Results Offer Chance for Peace Agenda With Russia, China

Sputnik – 09.11.2018

WASHINGTON – The mixed results of the US midterm congressional elections resulting in a divided Congress give President Donald Trump the chance to revive the agenda for improving relations with Russia and pull out of foreign wars that he was elected on in 2016, analysts told Sputnik.

With several results not yet in, the Democrats looked likely to have a majority of around 13 to 15 seats in the House of Representatives while the Republicans extended their Senate majority from 51 out of 100 seats to 54 or 55.

Trump Faces Post-Election Foreign Policy Opportunity

Trump now had room for maneuver on his foreign policy agenda, but it remained to be seen whether he would take advantage of it, political commentator and professor John Walsh said.

“Let us see whether Trump can now return to his original agenda of ‘getting along’ with Russia and China: That is the big question,” Walsh said.

During his 2016 presidential election campaign, Trump challenged the foreign policy consensus of US hegemony, Walsh recalled.

“If you look at his agenda, he wishes to make the United States less the imperial nation and more a normal nation albeit the number one among them. Let us see how this goes,” Walsh said.

Even if Trump was blocked from achieving this goal, he had dramatically changed the issues and terms of debate on US foreign policy in national politics, Walsh pointed out.

“Whether he succeeds or not, Trump indicates a turn away from empire not out of humility, but out of the recognition of reality. Let us hope he can carry this as far as possible whether or not he succeeds completely… The farther he goes, the farther we are from war and even nuclear Holocaust,” Walsh said.

Whether Trump ultimately succeeds or fails, his success so far signals a recognition — whether profound or dim — that the US unipolar moment is over, Walsh emphasized. “Let us praise the passage of that ugly moment,” Walsh said.

The losses suffered by Trump’s Republican Party in the midterm elections were relatively minor and fell within the normal rhythms of US politics, Walsh observed.

“There was entirely too much drama about the midterms. An incumbent in his first term always suffers a loss in the House of Representatives. That is what we saw. And as predicted long ago, the Republicans held the Senate: Surprise,” Walsh said.

Trump was likely to face more plots to undermine him from the US security and political establishments, Walsh cautioned.

“Now let us see what the Deep State will do. They can impeach him in the House but not convict him in the Senate should they choose to go that route,” he said.

Trump Likely to Be Stalled on Domestic Front

On the domestic front, the best Trump could hope for was a deadlocked Congress, California State University Chico Professor Emeritus of Political Science Beau Grosscup said.

“[In] domestic dynamics, Trump will continue to be Trump but his ‘green light’ and enabling House committee system is no longer there,” Grosscup said. “Expect Trump to play the victim (aided by the House Republican Party) when Democrats even mention investigation or impeachment.”

On the legislative front, Republican efforts to cut social security in the name of debt that had been generated due to previous enormous concessions to Wall Street would be stalled, Grosscup predicted.

Trump would also carry reduced political influence or coattails to help candidates supporting him into the 2020 presidential elections, Grosscup said.

See also:

2018 US Midterms: Why Trump Says They Were a ‘Tremendous Success’

November 9, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Free Speech’: Trump Campaign Defends WikiLeaks’ Release of Hacked DNC Emails

Sputnik – 11.10.2018

A lawsuit filed in September by two donors and an ex-employee from the Democratic Party alleged that President Donald Trump’s team had purportedly conspired with Russia to release emails ostensibly stolen from the servers of the Democratic National Committee.

In a motion to dismiss a new lawsuit, the Trump campaign, represented by lawyers from the firm Jones Day, turned to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to state that WikiLeaks couldn’t be held “liable” for publishing Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails because the whistleblowing website served as an “intermediary” for other parties’ information.

“A website that provides a forum where ‘third parties can post information’ is not liable for the third party’s posted information. Since WikiLeaks provided a forum for a third party (the unnamed “Russian actors”) to publish content developed by that third party (the hacked emails), it cannot be held liable for the publication,” the motion read.

Presenting the 32-page legal filing, the lawyers also maintained that any alleged agreement between the website and the Trump campaign to leak those emails couldn’t be considered a “conspiracy” due to the fact that WikiLeaks’ posting of the messages was not a crime, while a “conspiracy is an agreement to commit an unlawful act,” the lawyers claimed.

They further added that the campaign couldn’t be held legally responsible for the publication of the DNC emails on WikiLeaks.

The lawyers appealed to the First Amendment, which protects the right to “disclose information – even stolen information – so long as (1) the speaker did not participate in the theft and (2) the information deals with matters of public concern.”

“At a minimum, privacy cannot justify suppressing true speech during a political campaign. The First Amendment ‘has its fullest and most urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office’. It leaves voters ‘free to obtain information from diverse sources in order to determine how to cast their votes,’” the filing read.

The motion was submitted in response to a civil lawsuit brought against the Trump campaign by one ex-employee from the Democratic Party and two donors, who alleged that the leaked emails had revealed “identifying information.”

While the Trump campaign’s lawyers leapt to the defense of the website in their brief, the current administration has previously blasted WikiLeaks for releasing classified documents, with then-CIA director Mike Pompeo – now the secretary of state – dismissing the platform as a “hostile non-state intelligence service” in 2017.

In July 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals, claiming that they were posing as Guccifer 2.0, the entity that took credit for the hack of the DNC.

According to the indictment, they used a website run by an organization, “that had previously posted documents stolen from US persons, entities, and the US government,” in an apparent allusion to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks, which was accused by Trump’s Democratic rival in the election, Hillary Clinton, of acting as a “fully owned subsidiary of Russian intelligence” after publishing emails leaked from the DNC servers during the campaign, has denied any efforts to meddle in the 2016 election in the United States, as well as conspiring with Russia.

Both Washington and Moscow have repeatedly dismissed claims of collusion to influence the outcome of the vote.

October 11, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment