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Trump: US military companies against bringing troops home from Syria

Press TV – October 22, 2019

US President Donald Trump says his plans to bring American troops home from Syria and other countries have been met with strong opposition from “military companies,” arguing that it is easier for him to let the soldiers get killed and sent back in coffins instead.

Trump said Monday that ending American military presence overseas was one of his two key campaign pledges — besides building a wall — and that he was intent to fulfill that promise despite facing opposition in Washington.

“We’re bringing our troops back home,” he told a cabinet meeting at the White House. “I got elected on bringing our soldiers back home. Now, it’s not very popular within the beltway because, you know, Lockheed doesn’t like it. And these great military companies don’t like it. It’s not very popular.”

Earlier this year, a report from the Security Assistance Monitor project of the Center for International Policy found that the Trump administration in coordination with US weapons manufacturers made $78.8 billion in arms deals in 2018 alone.

A quarter of those deals involved the production of American weapons overseas, the report stated.

Trump said bringing back the troops was what his supporters asked him when he appeared before a large crowd of 25,000 during a campaign rally in Dallas on Thursday.

“When I said we’re bringing our soldiers back home, the place went crazy,” the president said. “But within the beltway, you know, people don’t like it. It’s much tougher for me. Be much easier for me to let our soldiers be there, let them continue to die.”

He said “the most unpleasant thing” he has to do is meeting with the families of the soldiers who have been killed or sustained injuries while deployed abroad.

“I see that big cargo plane open and I see those coffins get rolled off,” he said.

He referred to his administration’s decision to redeploy forces from Syria to Iraq and said while he did not want to leave any soldiers behind, they should deploy elsewhere before returning to the United States.

“Well, they’re going to be sent initially to different parts and get prepared. Then ultimately we’re bringing them home,” Trump said.

In a major U-turn in the US military policy, the White House announced on October 6 that the US would be withdrawing its forces from northeastern Syria, clearing the path for an expected Turkish incursion into the region.

Three days later, Turkey launched the offensive with the aim of purging the northern Syrian regions near its border of US-backed Kurdish militants, whom it views as terrorists linked to local autonomy-seeking militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that the nearly 1,000 American troops pulling out of northeastern Syria following a military invasion of the area by Turkey would move to western Iraq.

News agencies reported that US troops had in fact crossed into Iraq from Syria through the Sahela border crossing in the northern province of Dohuk on Monday.

Footage was released of US armored vehicles carrying troops into Iraq, with Iraqi Kurdish sources confirming that American troops had crossed into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.

Trump has announced similar troop withdrawal plans for Afghanistan but his administration has yet to take a step towards fulfilling that promise.

October 22, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 3 Comments

Trump on Offense

By William Stroock | October 17, 2019

Republican political guru Karl Rove, often derisively called ‘Bush’s Brain’, managed George W. Bush’s two successful presidential campaigns in the 2000s. Rove focused on defending the red, Republican leaning states and maximizing conservative turnout in battleground purple states like Florida and Ohio. However, the Bush-Rove brand of free-trade and open-borders conservatism was unpopular with white working-class voters in Rust Belt states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states no Republican presidential candidate had won since 1988. As such, Rove’s strategy was inherently defensive. The Rust Belt became the Democrat’s Blue Wall, invincible against Republicans. Republican nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney stood little chance in these states in 2008 and 2012. In 2008 McCain’s campaign publicly gave up on Michigan.

In the 1990’s and 2000’s defensiveness became the GOP’s default rhetorical setting. Under leaders like Rove and former House Speaker Paul Ryan, the GOP allowed the Democrats to set the terms of the debate, and were always fending off accusation of heartlessness and even racism. During the Valerie Plame scandal, where Plame said Bush Administration officials outed her covert CIA status in retaliation for her husband contesting Bush’s Iraqi WMD claims, Republicans simply said they respected the independent counsel’s investigation and wanted the process to play out. Meanwhile Democrats savaged Bush and the GOP.

In 2016 candidate Donald Trump did not campaign by Rove’s rules. Instead of defending red states, Trump made an aggressive play for the Rust Belt, breached the Blue Wall, and won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. When NBC published a tape in which Trump made lewd remarks about women in 2005, Trump fought back. Instead of genuflecting, Trump pointed out Bill Clinton’s sexual foibles and even brought four of Clinton’s victims to the first debate with Hillary Clinton. A conventional, establishment candidate like Florida Governor Jeb Bush (!), whom Trump ran roughshod over in the Republican primaries, would have played by the Democrat’s rules.

Trump fights back against the Democrats impeachment inquiry. He routinely criticizes the head of the Democrat’s impeachment effort, House Judiciary chair Adam Schiff. He mocks Schiff at rallies calling him ‘pencil neck’ and ‘shifty Schiff’. In the wake of the Mueller independent council investigation, in which no collusion whatsoever was found between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump’s justice department is looking into the origins of the collusion hoax. As of this writing Inspector General John Durham ranges far and wide across the globe gathering evidence. His report is said to be, so far, the size of a phone book.

Already Trump is out on the campaign trail. In September Trump spoke to a packed stadium in Fayetteville, North Carolina the night before two special House elections. In a long, rambling pep-talk Trump defended his record, savaged the Democrats and declared, ‘With your support, tomorrow we take the first steps to firing Speaker Pelosi and winning back the House.’ The next day both Republican candidates won their races, one in a landslide, the other by a mere two points. Trump almost certainly dragged the latter candidate across the finish line. Last weekend he filled an arena in Lake Charles Louisiana for that state’s ‘jungle primary’ against Democrat incumbent governor John Bel Edwards. The end result was Edwards got only 46.6 percent of the vote, forcing a November runoff against Republican Eddie Rispone. Locally the GOP wiped out the Democrats, and won a super majority in the Louisiana state senate.

North Carolina and Louisiana are states Trump won in 2016. But he is also campaigning in states won by Hillary Clinton. In September Trump held a rally in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a state with a large Hispanic population. Trump won 29% of the Hispanic vote in 2016, beating Romney by two points, actually. Increasing Trump’s share of the Hispanic vote is a top priority in 2020. At Rio Rancho he slammed the Democrats and touted the benefits of his economic record to New Mexico and Hispanics. Trump’s biggest target is Minnesota, which he lost by a mere point or 45,000 votes. Minnesota is also home to Representative Ilhan Omar, one of the members of the ‘Squad’ of leftist House members. Trump hopes to use Omar as a foil to turn Minnesota red and flip several of the state’s congressional districts. The GOP only needs to capture eighteen seats to retake the House of Representatives. The Trump campaign is opening up field offices and hiring campaign workers in both states.

In a contentious meeting at the White House this week, Nancy Pelosi told the president that she wished Trump were a politician. The truly gifted politicians have coattails, their victories win races down ticket. So far this year Trump has shown he can do that. In campaign 2020, Trump will be the Republican Party’s greatest weapon.

October 18, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Trump unchained: How the ‘God-Emperor’ is ending American Empire with Syria gambit

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | October 16, 2019

US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria is drawing fire from Democrats, media and some in his own party as well. He doesn’t seem to care, insisting on his 2016 campaign promise to end the endless wars.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump batted away every attempt at criticism – calling out the media for faking footage from Syria; describing the Kurdish militias that worked with US troops against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) as “no angels”; and demanding one good reason why the US should be involved in a centuries-long dispute between Syrians, Kurds and Turks when they could work that out themselves. None was forthcoming.

He even chided the US military-industrial complex that wants to “fight forever,” while making sure to note that he authorized a $2 trillion spending spree to rebuild the “depleted” US military. When reporters brought up the outspoken opposition by some Senate Republicans, Trump shot back that they ought to do their jobs, and he would do his. This was not a president worried about getting impeached, but someone confident in his position after 1,000 days in office.

While 2016 may seem like a long time ago, Candidate Trump did run on the platform of ending endless wars and entangling alliances. His daring to question the sacred cow of NATO, or the US presence in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq caused apoplexies across Washington.

After becoming president – and facing a coordinated effort from every quarter to block, sabotage and “resist” his agenda – he chose to go along with the military and political establishment. So the US did not withdraw from Afghanistan, and sent more troops to Iraq and Syria to fight IS. Trump even launched strikes against the Syrian government on two occasions – both prompted by alleged “chemical attacks” – in 2017 and 2018. Having hired neocon warmongers, he embraced their agenda for regime change in Cuba and Venezuela.

If this was done to appease his domestic critics, it obviously did not work. Neocons and establishment Republicans continued to denounce him and ally with the Democrats seeking Trump’s impeachment. So at some point recently – perhaps when he fired the hawkish adviser John Bolton? – Trump appears to have decided he might as well do what he wanted all along.

Declaring IS defeated, he ordered the pullout of US troops from northern Syria, setting in motion a chain of events that have transformed the situation in the region practically overnight, while his critics could only wail and gnash their teeth in impotent rage.

Trump has always had the uncanny ability to force his foes to defend the indefensible – see the curious case of Democrats and open borders, to name just one example. Now that talent has been leveraged in the area where US presidents have the most influence, and where his critics appear the weakest: foreign policy.

Turns out that getting the US out of Syria was easy, so long as Trump let others do all the hard work. Mainstream media said Trump gave Turkey the “green light” to invade Syria, when he clearly didn’t. They gleefully took up the cause of the “betrayed Kurds” until they got caught faking footage of the Turkish invasion. When it emerged that the “Turkish” troops involved were the very same “moderate rebels” they cheered on, back during the Obama administration – now denounced as “thugs and pirates” – the contortions they had to put themselves through were a sight to behold.

What if Barack Obama had called out the military-industrial complex, told off politicians who wanted to fight “endless wars,” or declared that American soldiers should not be injured or killed in centuries-old sectarian conflicts? It is no stretch to say that he would have been applauded by the same people that now vilify Trump.

Yet Obama didn’t do any of those things, even though he had the “hope and change” mandate. Instead, he allowed himself to be seduced by the promises of glory coming from his ambitious advisers. The result was the rise of IS, as Washington sponsored jihadists in Syria; the destruction of Libya and its transformation into a slave-market anarchy; the coup in Ukraine and the war in Donbass. The “geniuses” behind these fiascos are now shrieking that Trump’s cleanup of their mess is somehow hurting America!

During the 2016 campaign, some of his supporters jokingly referred to Trump as their “God-Emperor,” a science fiction reference that spawned a thousand memes. Yet here he is, single-handedly dismantling the American Empire because he believes it runs counter to the notion of the American Republic its founders had envisioned over two centuries ago.

Meanwhile, his critics are once again forced to defend the indefensible, and the only “argument” they have left is that all of this is somehow “helping Russia.” Trump is either lucky beyond all probability, or truly a “stable genius,” as he once put it himself. In the end, it doesn’t matter.

October 17, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 2 Comments

House of Representatives votes 354-60 against Trump’s withdrawal of US troops from Syria

RT | October 16, 2019

Democrats and 129 of the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to pass a non-binding resolution disapproving of President Donald Trump’s pullout of US troops from Syria – never authorized by Congress to be there.

The House Joint Resolution 77 describes the presence of US troops in northeastern Syria as “certain… efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces,” and formally voices opposition to their withdrawal, but does not offer an alternative. Instead, it demands the White House present a “clear and specific plan for the enduring defeat” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

The IS “capital” of Raqqa was liberated by US-allied Kurdish militias in October 2017, and the last IS enclave was declared secured in December 2018, but traces of the presence of the self-declared “caliphate” remain in both Syria and Iraq, weakened by years of war and sanctions.

The House resolution asks the White House to continue providing “humanitarian support” to the Kurds and ensure that Turkey “acts with restraint,” while also demanding of Ankara to stop its “unilateral military action” in Syria.

Trump has maintained he never gave the “green light” to Turkey to invade Syria, and defended the withdrawal as protecting the lives of American soldiers in a region where they had no business being anymore. He has also threatened to “destroy” Turkey’s economy with sanctions and tariffs over the invasion.

Congress has never voted to authorize the US troop presence in Syria, which is not sanctioned under international law and is based only tenuously on old resolutions allowing military action against Al-Qaeda terrorists following the 9/11 attacks. Damascus considers the US presence a violation of its sovereignty, unlike the Russian force that was invited back in 2015.

While the resolution does little to change the situation in Syria, the fact that so many Republicans chose to back Democrats against the sitting president from their party is being held up as a possible barometer for the Democrat-led impeachment process, even though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly refused to hold an actual floor vote on the matter.

October 16, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump Didn’t Start the War in Afghanistan, But He Owns It

By Thomas L. Knapp | Garrison Center | September 11, 2019

National Security Advisor John Bolton became the latest American casualty of Washington’s 18-year war in Afghanistan on September 10, fired by US president Donald Trump shortly after Trump announced that he had planned, but was canceling, a meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David to ink a “peace deal.”

Firing Bolton is a good start. Nobody sane wants a guy who looks like Captain Kangaroo but talks like Dr. Strangelove whispering foreign policy advice in a president’s ear. The main effect of his departure from the White House is to shift perceived responsibility for America’s ongoing fiasco in Afghanistan back where it belongs: Squarely on the shoulders of Donald J. Trump.

Before Trump became a presidential candidate, his views on the war made sense. “We should leave Afghanistan immediately. No more wasted lives,” he tweeted on March 1, 2013. In November of that same year, he urged Americans to “not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024.”

Unfortunately his position on the war became “nuanced” (read: pandering and weaselly) as he became first a presidential candidate and then president.

As president, he increased US troop levels in Afghanistan and dragged out the war he once said he wanted to end. In fact, the notional Camp David “peace deal” would merely have reduced those troop levels back to about where they were as of his inauguration. Some “peace deal!”

Throughout Trump’s presidency, his non-interventionist supporters have continuously made excuses for his failure to end US military adventures in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere.

It’s always John Bolton’s fault, or Mike Pompeo’s. It’s always this general, or that bureaucrat, or the “fake news media,” or the “deep state” undermining poor, powerless little Donny Trump, thwarting his sincere desire to do the right thing and bring the troops home.

Oddly, those same supporters would have us believe that Trump is a bold and commanding genius, scattering his opponents before him as he  maneuvers 5D chess pieces around their tiddlywinks with his abnormally small hands, Making America Great Again.

It can’t be both. Nor is it necessarily either of those things. Whatever it is, this is necessarily part of it:

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States …” — Article II, Section 2, US Constitution

Trump can pick up his phone any time, call the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and order the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. If his order is disobeyed, he can relieve the generals who fail to follow it and replace them with others who’ll do their jobs.

John Bolton didn’t stop him from doing that. Mike Pompeo can’t stop him from doing that. The “fake news media” and the “deep state” don’t get to countermand presidential orders to the armed forces.

Donald Trump owns this war. If he doesn’t end it, that’s on him and no one else.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).

September 11, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

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