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Unprecedented Israeli Strikes Target Iraqi Shia Militias In Syria

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 06/18/2018

A day after a mysterious airstrike close to the Iraq-Syria border reportedly killed over 30 Syrian government soldiers and Iraqi paramilitary forces backed by Iran, a US official has told CNN the attack was carried out by Israel and not by the US coalition.

Syrian state media blamed the strike on the US-led coalition — though in the immediate aftermath any level of confirmation or evidence was hard to come by. The claims prompted the US coalition spokesman to issue a formal denial, calling Syria’s accusation “misinformation” as US-backed SDF forces are only operating east of the Euphrates, and not near Abu Kamal, which lies west, according to the statement.

If confirmed it would mark the first time in the war that Iraq’s paramilitary forces have been targeted by Israel. The Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU, or PMF) have increasingly coordinated with the Syrian Army as well as pro-Syrian irregular Shia fighters during anti-ISIS operations along Syria’s eastern border of late.

The incident marks the second time in three weeks that the Syrian Army has accused the US Coalition of bombing their troops in southeast Syria; however it is uncertain as yet how Damascus will respond to this new claim of Israeli responsibility.

The CNN source is an unnamed US official, who gave no other details on the strike, including how many jets conducted the mission or the flight path into the Iraq-Syria border area, though CNN notes, “The area is some distance from Israel and Israeli jets would have had to overcome significant logistical hurdles to strike that area.”

And as Al Masdar News points out, Israel “has never attacked the Syrian military this far from their border, so if they were behind this – this would be the first time they have every bombed the Deir Ezzor Governorate.” 

The last confirmed Israeli strike in Deir Ezzor was in 2007, when Israel destroyed an alleged nuclear reactor in al-Kibar. Up until now in the war confirmed there have been acknowledged Israeli attacks in western Syria, around Damascus, and in the Homs desert (T-4 airbase).

Syrian military sources initially told Reuters that the strikes were conducted by attack drones flying from the direction of U.S. lines. Syrian forces did not respond to the attacks which left dozens of Syrian Army, allied National Defense Forces (NDF), and Iraqi paramilitary troops killed and wounded in the town of Al-Harri, in the Abu Kamal countryside.

Though casualty numbers have varied slightly — with opposition media site SOHR citing 38 and pro-government sources citing well over 40 — it marks a significant escalation given the high death toll against units which were in the midst of battling remnant ISIS pockets in Syria’s east.

The attack came the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a cabinet meeting, “We will take action – and are already taking action – against efforts to establish a militarily presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria. We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria.”

Netanyahu’s words follow similar statements made last week wherein he accused Iran of importing 80,000 Shia fighters into the Syrian conflict from places like Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to both “covert” Syrian Sunnis and prepare attacks against Israel, claiming that a broader “religious war” would emerge. 

“That is a recipe for a re-inflammation of another civil war – I should say a theological war, a religious war – and the sparks of that could be millions more that go into Europe and so on … And that would cause endless upheaval and terrorism in many, many countries,” Netanyahu said before an international security forum in Jerusalem last Thursday.

“Obviously we are not going to let them do it. We’ll fight them. By preventing that – and we have bombed the bases of this, these Shi’ite militias – by preventing that, we are also offering, helping the security of your countries, the security of the world,” he said.

Currently, new reports of a “massive build-up” of Syrian Army troops and their allies in Syria’s south continue to emerge after Assad recently reaffirmed his desire to liberate “every inch” of sovereign Syrian territory. As the army conducts operations increasingly close to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the likelihood of more direct Syria-Israel clashes to come is high.

June 19, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

 The Deep State “Informants” Used Against the Trump Campaign Were Agent Provacateurs

The Entrapment of Papodopouplos 

By Mark F. McCarty | Medium | June 3, 2018

As you will recall, Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos (P) informed the FBI that, in a London conversation with a Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, he was told that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary. The precise language in P’s indictment is: “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.” (When later questioned by the FBI, Mifsud denied having told P about Russian dirt on Hillary. Then he mysteriously vanished, and hasn’t been spotted since.)

On May 10th, 2016, former Australian ambassador to the UK Alexander Downer met in a London bar with P, who told him about what Mifsud had told him about Russian “dirt” on Hillary. Downer subsequently passed this info along to the US State Dept, which in turn passed it to the FBI (as recently reported by Kimberley Strassel). However, he has denied that P referred to “emails”, but rather had referred to “dirt” on Hillary that “could be damaging.”

In subsequent communications with the Trump campaign, P did not mention any “dirt on Hillary”, but rather proposed that Mifsud — who had represented himself as having close Kremlin ties — could help set up contacts between Trump people and top Kremlin officials. Nothing came of these suggestions, as the Trump higher-ups felt that such contacts would be rash and perhaps inappropriate while the campaign was being contested. (Which of course is evidence that the Trump campaign had no intent to “collude” with Russia.)

The MSM have strongly implied that “emails” that P referred to were those subsequently released by Wikileaks, obtained from the DNC and John Podesta, that occasioned such consternation during the 2016 campaign. This interpretation would indeed suggest that Mifsud had close ties to the Kremlin, and had learned about a nefarious plot by the Russians to interfere on behalf of Trump by hacking those emails and enabling their release by Wikileaks.

The problem with this interpretation is that it is demonstrably wrong. First, in his statement to the FBI, P referred to “emails of Clinton” — Wikileaks released DNC and Podesta emails, very few of which had been written by Hillary. And, at the time of P meeting with Mifsud (April 26th, 2016), a number of pundits were opining in the MSM that almost surely Russia and other foreign powers had hacked the private server that Hillary used as Secretary of State. These emails were of particular interest because 30 K of them had been (seemingly irreversibly) destroyed while under judicial subpoena; people were reasonably suspicious that Hillary did not want these emails to see the light of day, either because of their classification status, or because they would tend to confirm allegations that as SOS she was engaged in pay-for-play through the Clinton Foundation. Moreover, Wikileaks did not begin to release their trove of DNC emails until late July of that year. So if Mifsud had indeed referred to “emails of Clinton” that could be “damaging”, the most reasonable interpretation is that he was referring to emails that had been deleted from Hillary’s SOS server.

But here’s a more compelling point that I haven’t seen made before. Downer’s meeting with P was on May 10th. The DNC emails subsequently released by Wikileaks were written as late as May 25th.

Steve McIntyre has depicted the dates of origin of the DNC emails released by Wikileaks.

Email Dates in the Wikileaks DNC Archive

So, unless Mifsud or his Russian contacts were psychic, they weren’t referring to the DNC emails. Which puts the nail in the coffin of the claim that P had been tipped off to a genuine Russian election interference plot.

And P’s wife has just come forward to verify that P was indeed referring to Hillary’s emails, not those of the DNC.

The other key implication of McIntyre’s observation is that it is extremely hard to square with the Deep States’ claim that the DNC emails released by Wikileaks were hacked. The DNC-commissioned cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike allegedly learned about hacking attempts on the DNC server on May 6th, and very quickly had installed their state-of-the-art anti-hacking tool Falcon on the server. Yet, as McIntyre notes, the majority of the DNC emails released by Wikileaks were written after the installation of Falcon. And even if Falcon had failed to prevent data exfiltrations by hackers, it was supposed to pinpoint the hackers’ exact location — yet no such info has been forthcoming. The clear resolution of this paradox is that the DNC emails released by Wikileaks were not hacked — they were leaked. Which won’t surprise anyone who has followed the statements of Julian Assange and of his close associate Craig Murray, who claims to have met with an affiliate of the leakers in Washington D.C. two months prior to the election — or who knows about the claims of Sy Hersh’s source within the FBI.

Of course, this revelation eviscerates the “Russia interfered” mantra that was the necessary predicate to the “Trump colluded” narrative pushed by the Deep State; it’s hard to collude with non-interference. This mantra, which you must have heard a thousand times if you’ve been watching the MSM, is the creative contribution of Crowdstrike — whose founding CEO Shawn Henry was a top deputy of Robert Mueller at the FBI — to the Deep State plot against Trump.

The motivation of Mifsud remains mysterious, as does his location. While Mifsud has been presented in the press as an associate of Kremlin figures, Elizabeth Vos has reported that in fact he has close ties to British intelligence.

All Russiagate Roads Lead To London As Evidence Emerges Of Joseph Mifsud’s Links To UK Intelligence

In light of this, and of the central role that British intelligence played in fomenting the “Trump colluded with Russian interference” narrative, it is reasonable to suspect that Mifsud was acting at the behest of British intelligence to entrap P. This seems all the more likely in light of P’s claim that Mifsud introduced him to a lady claimed to be Putin’s niece — the lady was no such thing, and Mifsud was evidently engaged in bamboozling the naïve, unsuspecting P. And why has Mifsud gone into hiding for over 6 months — unreachable by even his fiance?

A recent, highly insightful essay by “Publius Tacitus” explains how the plot may have been designed to work:

Here is what you need to understand. When Papadopoulos communicated to persons in the Trump campaign the results of his meetings with Mifsud and Mifsud’s Russian contacts, that information was relayed from the UK to America via telephone and email. Those conversations, without one doubt, were intercepted and put into a Top Secret intel reports (known in intel circles as SIGINT) by GCHQ.

It would be damning if Papadopoulos had initiated the contact with Russian sources and was lighting up the web with requests for info about Russians willing to work with or help Trump. But that did not happen. The impetus to talk about Russia originated with Mifsud, who, based on circumstantial evidence, was a British intelligence asset and was directed to target and bait Papadopoulos. It was Mifsud who raised the specter of the Russians targeting Hillary Clinton.

Mifsud provided the Russian information. Not Papadopoulos. Mifsud’s mission of feeding Papadopoulos “Russian intelligence,” which the later then reported back to the Trump campaign produced the casus belli (of sorts) to justify opening an FBI counter intelligence investigation. The FBI also was ensnared, most likely. It does not appear the FBI was briefed immediately on these matters. Instead, John Brennan and Jim Clapper built up a pretty sizable intel file, filled with SIGINT reports from the UK’s GCHQ, which contained American names and reports of efforts to broker a meeting with Vladimir Putin. Of course they (Clapper and Brennan) conveniently failed to mention to the FBI that the information originated with a UK plant. But it did provide legal cover for unmasking the identities of Trump campaign personnel.

Framing the Trump Campaign as Lackeys of Russia by Publius Tacitus

Once Downer’s report on his conversation with P got back to the FBI, two agents were sent to London to interview Downer. As I noted previously:

In other words, two FBI agents flew to London, after preparing the way with significant negotiations, to meet with someone who had fourth degree hearsay claiming that the Russians had done something [hacked Hillary] that half the pundits on TV thought they had done. Nor was there any evidence that P had played any role in the alleged hacking. That this was the key basis for initiating a counterintelligence investigation against a rival political campaign, must be considered both paranoid and politically corrupt.

The New York Times “Crossfire Hurricane” Story — Let Me Count the Lies

P’s subsequent indictment by Mueller had nothing whatever to do with any “collusion with Russia”, but rather the allegation that P had misrepresented whether he had been formally hired by the Trump campaign by the time he first met with Mifsud (May 14th). In fact, P had been alerted that he was to be hired prior to that time, but the formal announcement of his hiring was not made public until May 21st, so this discrepancy might have reflected some confusion on P’s part as to when his employment had formally begun. In any case, particularly in light of the fact that P had done nothing illegal prior to his FBI interview, this is a very trivial point, and it seems unlikely that an indictment would have been forthcoming if Mueller hadn’t felt under pressure to justify his bogus investigation by putting some pelts on the wall. Andy McCarthy has discussed this recently.

The Papadopoulos Case Needs a Closer Look

We now know that CIA asset Stefan Halper — who previously had leaked classified info from the Carter administration to aid Reagan’s election campaign — tried to further entrap P by bringing up the “Russian dirt on Hillary issue”; how would he have known about this claim unless he were working hand-in-glove with British/American intelligence? (Alas, P disappointed him by disclaiming any knowledge on the issue.) And Halper made a point of making the acquaintance of two other Trump aides, Carter Page and Sam Clovis. The latter provided him with access to P.

As to the Trump Tower meeting, the deceptive emails that Rob Goldstone sent to Trump Jr. seem to show foreknowledge of unsubstantiated claims regarding the Russian government’s desire to help Trump that subsequently appeared in the Steele dossier — perhaps not surprising, as he is described as an associate of Fusion GPS, which commissioned the dossier — and quite possibly were drafted with the help of GCHQ. (Like Mifsud, Goldstone also has gone into hiding.) This affair seems likely to have been another attempt by the Deep State to entrap Trump officials — particularly in light of the fact that Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya was given a special rare visa by the Obama DOJ just prior to the meeting, enabling her attendance. A story that appeared last year in True Pundit claimed that , according to “inside sources”, the intent of arranging the meeting was to give British intelligence a legal excuse to surveil the Trump associates who attended the meeting.

Six U.S Agencies Conspired to Illegally Wiretap Trump; British Intel Used as NSA Front to Spy on Campaign

Claims that the Deep State employed “spies” against the Trump campaign seem to be off-base — they were employing agent provocateurs, whose intent was to provoke Trump associates into behavior that, if it couldn’t be construed as illegal, could be used to obtain warrants on them to justify further surveillance and to excuse the surveillance already conducted illegally.

June 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Western Media Whitewash Yemen Genocide

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.06.2018

With the United Nations warning that millions of civilians could die from violence or starvation from the ongoing military siege of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, there is no other way to describe what is happening except as “genocide”.

The more than three-year war on Yemen waged by a Western-backed Saudi coalition has been arguably genocidal from the outset, with up to eight million people facing imminent starvation due to the years-long blockade on the Arabian country, as well as from indiscriminate air strikes.

But the latest offensive on the Red Sea city of Hodeida threatens to turn the world’s already worst humanitarian disaster into a mass extermination.

Hodeida is the entry point for 90 per cent of all food and medical aid into Yemen. If the city’s port stops functioning from the military offensive – as UN aid agencies are warning – then an entire country population of more than 20 million will, as a result, be on the brink of death.

The Saudi coalition which includes Emirati forces and foreign mercenaries as well as remnants from the previous regime (which the Western media mendaciously refer to as “government forces”) is fully backed by the US, Britain and France. This coalition says that by taking Hodeida it will hasten the defeat of Houthi rebels. But to use the cutting off of food and other vital aid to civilian populations as a weapon is a blatant war crime. It is absolutely inexcusable.

This past week an emergency session at the UN Security Council made the lily-livered call for the port city to remain open. But it stopped short of demanding an end to the offensive being led by Saudi and Emirati forces against Hodeida, which is the second biggest stronghold for Houthi rebels after the capital Sanaa. The port city’s population of 600,000 is at risk from the heavy fighting underway, including air strikes and naval bombardment, even before food, water and medicines supply is halted.

Since the Security Council meeting was a closed-door session, media reports did not indicate which members of the council voted down the Swedish call for an immediate end to hostilities. However, given that three permanent members of the council, the US, Britain and France, are militarily supporting the Saudi-led offensive on Hodeida, one can assume that these states blocked the call for a cessation.

As the horror of Hodeida unfolds, Western media are reporting with a strained effort to whitewash the criminal role of the American, British and French governments in supporting the offensive. Western media confine their focus narrowly on the humanitarian plight of Hodeida’s inhabitants and the wider Yemeni population. But the media are careful to omit the relevant context, which is that the offensive on Hodeida would not be possible without the crucial military support of Western governments. If the Western public were properly informed, the uproar would be an embarrassing problem for Western governments and their servile news media.

What is notable in the Western media reportage is the ubiquitous descriptor when referring to the Houthi rebels. Invariably, they are described as “Iran-backed”. That label is used to implicitly “justify” the Saudi and Emirati siege of Hodeida “because” the operation is said to be part of a “proxy war against Iran”. The BBC, France 24, CNN, Deutsche Welle, New York Times and Washington Post are among media outlets habitually practicing this misinformation on Yemen.

Both Iran and the Houthis have said that there is no military linkage. Granted, Iran politically and diplomatically supports the Houthis, and the Yemeni population generally, suffering from the war. The Houthis share a common Shia Muslim faith as Iran, but that is a far cry from military involvement. There is no evidence of Iran being militarily involved in Yemen. The claim of a linkage relies heavily on assertion by the Saudis and Emiratis which is peddled uncritically by Western media. Even the US government has shied away from making forthright accusations against Iran supporting the Houthis militarily. Washington’s diffidence is a tacit admission that the allegations are threadbare. Besides, how could a country which is subjected to an illegal Saudi blockade of its land, sea and air routes conceivably receive weapons supplied from Iran?

By contrast, while the Western media repeatedly refer to the Houthis as “Iran-backed”, what the same media repeatedly omit is the descriptor of “American-backed” or “British and French-backed” when referring to the Saudi and Emirati forces that have been pounding Yemen for over three years. Unlike the breathless claims of Iranian linkage to the Houthis, the Western military connection is verified by massive weapons exports, and indeed coy admissions by Western governments, when they are put to it, that they are supplying fuel and logistics to aid and abet the Saudi and Emirati war effort in Yemen.

Last week, the New York Times affected to lament the infernal conditions in Yemen as a “complex war”, as if the conflict is an unfathomable, unstoppable mystery. Why doesn’t the New York Times publish bold editorials bluntly calling for an end to US government complicity in Yemen? Or perhaps that is too “complex” for the Times’ editorial board?

The Washington Post also wrung its hands last week, saying: “The world’s most dire humanitarian crisis may get even worse. Emirati-led [and Saudi] offensive underway against port city of Hodeida, which is controlled by Iran-backed [sic] Houthi rebels.”

In its report, the Post did not mention the fact that air strikes by Saudi and Emirati forces are carried out with American F-15 fighter jets, British Typhoons and French Dassault warplanes. Incongruously, the Post cites US officials claiming that their forces are not “directly involved” in the offensive on the port city. How is that credible when air strikes are being conducted day after day? The Washington Post doesn’t bother to ask further.

In a BBC report last week also lamented the “humanitarian crisis” in Hodeida, there was the usual evidence-free casual labelling of Houthi rebels as “Iran-backed”. But, incredibly, in the entire article (at least in early editions) there was not a single mention of the verifiable fact that the Saudi and Emirati military are supplied with billions-of-dollars-worth of British, American and French weapons.

In the final paragraph of its early edition of the report, the BBC editorializes: “In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and eight other mainly Sunni Muslim Arab states launched a military campaign to restore [exiled president] Hadi’s government after becoming alarmed by the rise of the Houthi group which they see as an Iranian Shia Muslim proxy.”

Note the BBC’s lame and unconvincing implication of Iran. This is a stupendous distortion of the Yemeni conflict by the British state-owned broadcaster which, astoundingly, or perhaps that should be audaciously, completely airbrushes out any mention of how Western governments have fueled the genocidal war on Yemen.

At the end of 2014, the American and Saudi puppet self-styled “president” Mansour Hadi was kicked out by a Yemeni popular revolt led by the Houthis, but not exclusive to these rebels. The Yemeni uprising involved Shia and Sunni. To portray Iran as sponsoring a Shia proxy is a vile distortion which the Saudis and their Western backers have used in order to justify attacking Yemen for the objective of re-installing their puppet, who has been living in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh. In short, covering up a criminal war of aggression with lies.

In reality, the Yemen war is about Western powers and their Arab despot client regimes trying to reverse a successful popular revolt that aspired to bring a considerably more democratic government to the Arab region’s poorest country, overcoming the decades it languished as a Western, Saudi client kleptocracy.

For over three years, Saudi and Emirati forces, supported with Western warplanes, bombs, missiles, attack helicopters, naval power, and air refueling, as well as targeting logistics, have waged a non-stop bombing campaign on Yemeni civilians. Nothing has been off-limits. Hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, funerals, wedding halls, family homes, farms, water-treatment plants and power utilities, all have been mercilessly obliterated. Even graveyards have been bombed.

Even during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Saudi-led coalition – the supposed custodian of the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina – has continued to massacre innocents from the air.

Elsewhere in the region, Western politicians and media have mounted hysterical protests against the Syrian government and its Russian ally when they have liberated cities from Western-backed terrorists, accusing Syria and Russia of “war crimes” and “inhuman sieges”. None of these hyperbolic Western media campaigns concerning Syria has ever been substantiated. Recall Aleppo? East Ghouta? The Syrian people have gladly returned to rebuild their lives now in peace under Syrian government protection after the Western terror proxies were routed. Western media claims about Syria have transpired to be outrageous lies, which have been hastily buried by the media as if they were never told in the first place.

Yet in Yemen there is an ongoing, veritable genocidal war fully supported by Western governments. The latest barbarity is the siege of Hodeida with the callous, murderous objective of finally starving a whole population into submitting to the Western, Saudi, Emirati writ for dominating the country. This is Nuremberg-standard capital crimes.

With no exaggeration, Western news media are a Goebbels-like propaganda ministry – par excellence – whose duty is to whitewash genocide conducted by their governments. The barefaced lies and sly omissions being told about Yemen is one more reason among many reasons why the Western media have forfeited any vestige of credibility. They are serving as they usually do – Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Syria among others – as accomplices in an epic war crime against Yemen.

Photo: Geopolitics Alert

June 18, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

American Pravda: The JFK Assassination, Part I – What Happened?

By Ron Unz • Unz Review • June 18, 2018

About a decade ago, I got a Netflix subscription and was amazed that the Internet now provided immediate access to so many thousands of movies on my own computer screen. But after a week or two of heavy use and the creation of a long watch-list of prospective films I’d always wanted to see, my workload gained the upper hand, and I mostly abandoned the system.

Back then, nearly all Netflix content was licensed from the major studios and depending upon contract negotiations might annually disappear, so when I happened to browse my account again in December, I noticed that a couple of films on my selection list included warning notices saying they would no longer be available on January 1st. One of these was Oliver Stone’s famous 1991 film JFK, which had provoked quite a stir at the time, so thinking now or never, I clicked the Play button, and spent three hours that evening watching the Oscar winner.

Most of the plot seemed bizarre and outlandish to me, with the president’s killing in Dallas supposedly having been organized by a cabal of militantly anti-Communist homosexuals, somehow connected with both the CIA and the mafia, but based in New Orleans. Kevin Costner starred as a crusading District Attorney named Jim Garrison—presumably fictional—whose investigation broke the assassination conspiracy wide open before the subtle tentacles of the Deep State finally managed to squelch his prosecution; or at least that’s what I vaguely remember from my single viewing. With so many implausible elements, the film confirmed my belief in the wild imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters and also demonstrated why no one with any common sense had ever taken seriously those ridiculous “JFK conspiracy theories.”

Despite its dramatic turns, the true circumstances of President John F. Kennedy’s death seemed an island of sanity by comparison. Lee Harvey Oswald, a disgruntled young marine had defected to the USSR in 1959 and finding life behind the Iron Curtain equally unsatisfactory, returned to America a couple of years later. Still having confused Marxist sympathies, he’d joined public protests supporting Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and gradually turning toward violence, purchased a mail-order rifle. During the presidential visit, he had fired three shots from the Dallas School Book Depository, killing JFK, and was quickly apprehended by the local police. Soon, he too was dead, shot by an outraged Kennedy supporter named Jack Ruby. All these sad facts were later confirmed by the Warren Commission in DC, presided over by the U.S. Chief Justice together with some of America’s most respected public figures, and their voluminous report ran nearly 900 pages.

Yet although the film seemed to have affixed an enormous mass of incoherent fictional lunacy on top of that basic history—why would a murder plot in Dallas have been organized in New Orleans, five hundred miles distant?—one single detail troubled me. Garrison is shown denouncing the “lone gunman theory” for claiming that a single bullet was responsible for seven separate wounds in President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connolly, seated beside him in the limousine. Now inventing gay CIA assassins seems pretty standard Hollywood fare, but I found it unlikely that anyone would ever insert a fictional detail so wildly implausible as that bullet’s trajectory. A week or so later, the memory popped into my head, and I googled around a bit, discovering to my total astonishment that the seven-wounds-from-one-bullet claim was totally factual, and indeed constituted an absolutely essential element of the orthodox “single gunman” framework given that Oswald had fired at most three shots. So that was the so-called “Magic Bullet” I’d occasionally seen conspiracy-nuts ranting and raving about. For the first time in my entire life, I started to wonder whether maybe, just maybe there actually had been some sort of conspiracy behind the most famous assassination in modern world history.

Any conspirators had surely died of old age many years or even decades earlier and I was completely preoccupied with my own work, so investigating the strange circumstances of JFK’s death was hardly a high personal priority. But the suspicions remained in the back of my mind as I diligently read my New York Times and Wall Street Journal every morning while periodically browsing less reputable websites during the afternoon and evening. And as a result, I now began noticing little items buried here and there that I would have previously ignored or immediately dismissed, and these strengthened my newly emerging curiosity.

Among other things, occasional references reminded me that I’d previously seen my newspapers discuss a couple of newly released JFK books in rather respectful terms, which had surprised me a bit at the time. One of them, still generating discussion, was JFK and the Unspeakable published in 2008 by James W. Douglass, whose name meant nothing to me. And the other, which I hadn’t originally realized trafficked in any assassination conspiracies, was David Talbot’s 2007 Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, focused on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. Talbot’s name was also somewhat familiar to me as the founder of Salon.com and a well-regarded if liberal-leaning journalist.

None of us have expertise in all areas, so sensible people must regularly delegate their judgment to credible third-parties, relying upon others to distinguish sense from nonsense. Since my knowledge of the JFK assassination was nil, I decided that two recent books attracting newspaper coverage might be a good place to start. So perhaps a couple of years after watching that Oliver Stone film, I cleared some time in my schedule, and spent a few days carefully reading the combined thousand pages of text.

I was stunned at what I immediately discovered. Not only was the evidence of a “conspiracy” absolutely overwhelming, but whereas I’d always assumed that only kooks doubted the official story, I instead discovered that a long list of the most powerful people near the top of the American government and in the best position to know had been privately convinced of such a “conspiracy,” in many cases from almost the very beginning.

The Talbot book especially impressed me, being based on over 150 personal interviews and released by The Free Press, a highly reputable publisher. Although he applied a considerable hagiographic gloss to the Kennedys, his narrative was compellingly written, with numerous gripping scenes. But while such packaging surely helped to explain some of the favorable treatment from reviewers and how he had managed to produce a national bestseller in a seemingly long-depleted field, for me the packaging was much less important than the product itself.

To the extent that notions of a JFK conspiracy had ever crossed my mind, I’d considered the argument from silence absolutely conclusive. Surely if there had been the slightest doubt of the “lone gunman” conclusion endorsed by the Warren Commission, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy would have launched a full investigation to avenge his slain brother.

But as Talbot so effectively demonstrates, the reality of the political situation was entirely different. Robert Kennedy may have begun that fatal morning widely regarded as the second most powerful man in the country, but the moment his brother was dead and his bitter personal enemy Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the new president, his governmental authority almost immediately ebbed away. Longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who had been his hostile subordinate, probably scheduled for removal in JFK’s second term, immediately became contemptuous and unresponsive to his requests. Having lost all his control over the levels of power, Robert Kennedy lacked any ability to conduct a serious investigation.

According to numerous personal interviews, he had almost immediately concluded that his brother had been struck down at the hands of an organized group, very likely including elements from within the U.S. government itself, but he could do nothing about the situation. As he regularly confided to close associates, his hope at the age of 38 was to reach the White House himself at some future date, and with his hands once again upon the levels of power then uncover his brother’s killers and bring them to justice. But until that day, he could do nothing, and any unsubstantiated accusations he made would be totally disastrous both for national unity and for his own personal credibility. So for years, he was forced to nod his head and publicly acquiesce to the official story of his brother’s inexplicable assassination at the hands of a lone nut, a fairy tale publicly endorsed by nearly the entire political establishment, and this situation deeply gnawed at him. Moreover, his own seeming acceptance of that story was often interpreted by others, not least in the media, as his wholehearted endorsement.

Although discovering Robert Kennedy’s true beliefs was a crucial revelation in the Talbot book, there were many others. At most three shots had allegedly come from Oswald’s rifle, but Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent in the passenger seat of JFK’s limousine, was sure there had been more than that, and to the end of his life always believed there had been additional shooters. Gov. Connolly, seated next to JFK and severely wounded in the attack, had exactly the same opinion. CIA Director John McCone was equally convinced that there had been multiple shooters. Across the pages of Talbot’s book, I learned that dozens of prominent, well-connected individuals privately expressed extreme skepticism towards the official “lone gunman theory” of the Warren Commission, although such doubts were very rarely made in public or on the record.

For a variety of complex reasons, the leading national media organs—the commanding heights of “Our American Pravda”—almost immediately endorsed the “lone gunman theory” and with some exceptions generally maintained that stance throughout the next half-century. With few prominent critics willing to publicly dispute that idea and a strong media tendency to ignore or minimize those exceptions, casual observers such as myself had generally received a severely distorted view of the situation.

If the first two dozen pages of the Talbot book completely overturned my understanding of the JFK assassination, I found the closing section almost equally shocking. With the Vietnam War as a political millstone about his neck, President Johnson decided not to seek reelection in 1968, opening the door to a last minute entry into the Democratic race by Robert Kennedy, who overcame considerable odds to win some important primaries. Then on June 4, 1968, he carried gigantic winner-take-all California, placing him on an easy path to the nomination and the presidency itself, at which point he would finally be in a position to fully investigate his brother’s assassination. But minutes after his victory speech, he was shot and fatally wounded, allegedly by another lone gunman, this time a disoriented Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan, supposedly outraged over Kennedy’s pro-Israel public positions although these were no different than those expressed by most other political candidates in America.

All this was well known to me. However, I had not known that powder burns later proved that the fatal bullet had been fired directly behind Kennedy’s head from a distance of three inches or less although Sirhan was standing several feet in front of him. Furthermore, eyewitness testimony and acoustic evidence indicated that at least twelve bullets were fired although Sirhan’s revolver could hold only eight, and a combination of these factors led longtime LA Coroner Dr. Thomas Naguchi, who conducted the autopsy, to claim in his 1983 memoir that there was likely a second gunman. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses also reported seeing a security guard with his gun drawn standing right behind Kennedy during the attack, and that individual happened to have a deep political hatred of the Kennedys. The police investigators seemed uninterested in these highly suspicious elements, none of which came to light during the trial. With two Kennedy brothers now dead, neither any surviving member of the family nor most of their allies and retainers had any desire to investigate the details of this latest assassination, and in a number of cases they soon moved overseas, abandoning the country entirely. JFK’s widow Jackie confided in friends that she was terrified for the lives of her children, and quickly married Aristotle Onassis, a Greek billionaire, whom she felt would be able to protect them.

Talbot also devotes a chapter to the late 1960s prosecution efforts of New Orleans DA Jim Garrison, which had been the central plot of the JFK film, and I was stunned to discover that the script was almost entirely based on real life events rather than Hollywood fantasy. This even extended to its bizarre cast of assassination conspiracy suspects, mostly fanatically anti-Communist Kennedy-haters with CIA and organized crime ties, some of whom were indeed prominent members of the New Orleans gay demimonde. Sometimes real life is far stranger than fiction.

Taken as a whole, I found Talbot’s narrative quite convincing, at least with respect to demonstrating the existence of a substantial conspiracy behind the fatal event.

Others certainly had the same reaction, with the august pages of The New York Times Sunday Book Review carrying the strongly favorable reaction of presidential historian Alan Brinkley. As the Allan Nevins Professor of History and Provost of Columbia University, Brinkley is as mainstream and respectable an academic scholar as might be imagined and he characterized Talbot as

the latest of many intelligent critics who have set out to demolish the tottering credibility of the Warren Commission and draw attention to evidence of a broad and terrible conspiracy that lay behind the assassination of John Kennedy — and perhaps the murder of Robert Kennedy as well.

The other book by Douglass, released a year later, covered much the same ground and came to roughly similar conclusions, with substantial overlap but also including major additional elements drawn from the enormous volume of extremely suspicious material unearthed over the decades by diligent JFK researchers. Once again, the often bitter Cold War era conflict between JFK and various much harder-line elements of his government over Cuba, Russia, and Vietnam is sketched out as the likely explanation for his death.

Summarizing a half-century of conspiracy research, the Talbot and Douglass books together provide a wealth of persuasive evidence that elements of organized crime, individuals with CIA connections, and anti-Castro Cubans were probably participants in the assassination plot. Oswald seems to have been working with various anti-Communist groups and also had significant connections to U.S. intelligence, while his purported Marxism was merely a very thin disguise. With regard to the assassination itself, he was exactly the “patsy” he publicly claimed to be, and very likely never fired a single shot. Meanwhile, Jack Ruby had a long history of ties to organized crime, and surely killed Oswald to shut his mouth.

Many others may have suffered a similar fate. Conspirators daring enough to strike at the president of the United States would hardly balk at using lethal means to protect themselves from the consequences of their action, and over the years a considerable number of individuals associated with the case in one way or another came to untimely ends.

Less than a year after the assassination, JFK mistress Mary Meyer, the ex-wife of high-ranking CIA official Cord Meyer, was found shot to death in a Washington DC street-killing with no indications of attempted robbery or rape, and the case was never solved. Immediately afterwards, CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angelton was caught breaking into her home in search of her personal diary, which he later claimed to have destroyed.

Dorothy Kilgallen was a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist and television personality, and she managed to wrangle an exclusive interview with Jack Ruby, later boasting to her friends that she would break the JFK assassination case wide open in her new book, producing the biggest scoop of her career. Instead, she was found dead in her Upper East Side townhouse, having apparently succumbed to an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills, with both the draft text and the notes to her Jack Ruby chapter missing.

Shortly before Jim Garrison filed his assassination charges, his top suspect David Ferrie was found dead at age 48, possibly of natural causes, though the DA suspected foul play.

During the mid-1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations held a series of high-profile hearings to reopen and investigate the case, and two of the witnesses called were high-ranking mafia figures Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli, widely suspected of having been connected with the assassination. The former was shot to death in the basement of his home one week before he was scheduled to testify, and the body of the latter was found in an oil-drum floating in the waters off Miami after he had been subpoenaed for an additional appearance.

These were merely a few of the highest-profile individuals with a connection to the Dallas assassination whose lives were cut short in the years that followed, and although the deaths may have been purely coincidental, the full list is rather a long one.

Having read a couple of books that completely upended my settled beliefs about a central event of twentieth century America, I simply didn’t know what to think. Over the years, my own writings had put me on friendly terms with a well-connected individual whom I considered a member of the elite establishment, and whose intelligence and judgment had always seemed extremely solid. So I decided to very gingerly raise the subject with him, and see whether he had ever doubted the “lone gunman” orthodoxy. To my total astonishment, he explained that as far back as the early 1990s, he’d become absolutely convinced in the reality of a “JFK conspiracy” and over the years had quietly devoured a huge number of the books in that field, but had never breathed a word in public lest his credibility be ruined and his political effectiveness destroyed.

A second friend, a veteran journalist known for his remarkably courageous stands on certain controversial topics, provided almost exactly the same response to my inquiry. For decades, he’d been almost 100% sure that JFK had died in a conspiracy, but once again had never written a word on the topic for fear that his influence would immediately collapse.

If these two individuals were even remotely representative, I began to wonder whether a considerable fraction, perhaps even a majority, of the respectable establishment had long harbored private beliefs about the JFK assassination that were absolutely contrary to the seemingly uniform verdict presented in the media. But with every such respectable voice keeping so silent, I had never once suspected a thing.

Few other revelations in recent years have so totally overturned my understanding of the framework of reality. Even a year or two later, I still found it very difficult to wrap my head around the concept, as I described in another note to that well-connected friend of mine:

BTW, I hate to keep harping on it, but every time I consider the implications of the JFK matter I’m just more and more astonished.

The president of the US. The heir to one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in America. His brother the top law enforcement officer in the country. Ben Bradlee, one of his closest friends, the fearless crusading editor of one of the nation’s most influential media outlets. As America’s first Catholic president, the sacred icon of many millions of Irish, Italian, and Hispanic families. Greatly beloved by top Hollywood people and many leading intellectuals.

His assassination ranks as one of the most shocking and dramatic events of the 20th century, inspiring hundreds of books and tens of thousands of news stories and articles, examining every conceivable detail. The argument from MSM silence always seemed absolutely conclusive to me.

From childhood, it’s always been obvious to me that the MSM is completely dishonest about certain things and over the last dozen years I’ve become extremely suspicious about a whole range of other issues. But if you’d asked me a couple of years ago whether JFK was killed by a conspiracy, I would have said “well, anything’s possible, but I’m 99% sure there’s absolutely no substantial evidence pointing in that direction since the MSM would surely have headlined it a million times over.”

Was there really a First World War? Well, I’ve always assumed there was, but who really knows?….

Our reality is shaped by the media, but what the media presents is often determined by complex forces rather than by the factual evidence in front of their eyes. And the lessons of the JFK assassination may provide some important insights into this situation.

A president was dead and soon afterward his supposed lone assassin suffered the same fate, producing a tidy story with a convenient endpoint. Raising doubts or focusing on contrary evidence might open doors better kept shut, perhaps endangering national unity or even risking nuclear war if the trail seemed to lead overseas. The highest law enforcement officer in the country was the slain president’s own brother, and since he seemed to fully accept that simple framework, what responsible journalist or editor would be willing to go against it? What American center of power or influence had any strong interest in opposing that official narrative?

Certainly there was immediate and total skepticism overseas, with few foreign leaders ever believing the story, and figures such as Nikita Khrushchev, Charles DeGaulle, and Fidel Castro all immediately concluded that a political plot had been responsible for Kennedy’s elimination. Mainstream media outlets in France and the rest of Western Europe were equally skeptical of the “lone gunman theory,” and some of the most important early criticism of U.S. government claims was produced by Thomas Burnett, an expatriate American writing for one of the largest French newsweeklies. But in pre-Internet days, only the tiniest sliver of the American public had regular access to such foreign publications, and their impact upon domestic opinion would have been nil.

Perhaps instead of asking ourselves why the “lone gunman” story was accepted, we should instead be asking why it was ever vigorously challenged, during an era when media control was extremely centralized in establishmentarian hands.

Oddly enough, the answer may lie in the determination of a single individual named Mark Lane, a left-liberal New York City attorney and Democratic Party activist. Although JFK assassination books eventually numbered in the thousands and the resulting conspiracy theories roiled American public life throughout the 1960s and 1970s, without his initial involvement matters might have followed a drastically different trajectory.

From the very first, Lane had been skeptical of the official story, and less than a month after the killing, The National Guardian, a small left-wing national newspaper, published his 10,000 word critique, highlighting major flaws in the “lone gunman theory.” Although his piece had been rejected by every other national periodical, the public interest was enormous, and once the entire edition sold out, thousands of extra copies were printed in pamphlet form. Lane even rented a theater in New York City, and for several months gave public lectures to packed audiences.

After the Warren Commission issued its completely contrary official verdict, he began working on a manuscript, and although he faced enormous obstacles in finding an American publisher, once Rush to Judgment appeared, it spent a remarkable two years on the national bestseller lists, easily reaching the #1 spot. Such tremendous economic success naturally persuaded a host of other authors to follow suit, and an entire genre was soon established. Lane later published A Citizens Dissent recounting his early struggles to break the total American “media blackout” against anyone contradicting the official conclusion. Against all odds, he had succeeded in sparking a massive popular uprising sharply challenging the narrative of the establishment.

According to Talbot, “By late 1966, it was becoming impossible for the establishment media to stick with the official story” and the November 25, 1966 edition of Life Magazine, then at the absolute height of its national influence, carried the remarkable cover story “Did Oswald Act Alone?” with the conclusion that he probably did not. The next month , The New York Times announced it was forming a special task force to investigate the assassination. These elements were to merge with the media furor soon surrounding the Garrison investigation that began the following year, an investigation that enlisted Lane as an active participant. However, behind the scenes a powerful media counterattack was also being launched at this same time.

In 2013 Prof. Lance deHaven-Smith, past president of the Florida Political Science Association, published Conspiracy Theory in America, a fascinating exploration of the history of the concept and the likely origins of the term itself. He noted that during 1966 the CIA had become alarmed at the growing national skepticism of the Warren Commission findings, especially once the public began turning its suspicious eyes toward the intelligence agency itself. Therefore, in January 1967 top CIA officials distributed a memo to all their local stations, directing them to employ their media assets and elite contacts to refute such criticism by various arguments, notably including an emphasis on Robert Kennedy’s supposed endorsement of the “lone gunman” conclusion.

This memo, obtained by a later FOIA request, repeatedly used the term “conspiracy” in a highly negative sense, suggesting that “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy theorists” be portrayed as irresponsible and irrational. And as I wrote in 2016,

Soon afterward, there suddenly appeared statements in the media making those exact points, with some of the wording, arguments, and patterns of usage closely matching those CIA guidelines. The result was a huge spike in the pejorative use of the phrase, which spread throughout the American media, with the residual impact continuing right down to the present day.

This possible cause-and-effect relationship is supported by other evidence. Shortly after leaving The Washington Post in 1977, famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein published a 25,000 word Rolling Stone cover story entitled “The CIA and the Media” revealing that during the previous quarter century over 400 American journalists had secretly carried out assignments for the CIA according to documents on file at the headquarters of that organization. This influence project, known as “Operation Mockingbird,” had allegedly been launched near the end of the 1940s by high-ranking CIA official Frank Wisner, and included editors and publishers situated at the very top of the mainstream media hierarchy.

For whatever reason, by the time I came of age and began following the national media in the late 1970s, the JFK story had become very old news, and all the newspapers and magazines I read provided the very strong impression that the “conspiracy theories” surrounding the assassination were total nonsense, long since debunked, and only of interest to kooks on the ideological fringe. I was certainly aware of the enormous profusion of popular conspiracy books, but I never had the slightest interest in looking at any of them. America’s political establishment and its close media allies had outlasted the popular rebellion, and the name “Mark Lane” meant almost nothing to me, except vaguely as some sort of fringe-nut, who very occasionally rated a mention in my mainstream newspapers, receiving the sort of treatment accorded to Scientologists or UFO activists.

Oddly enough, Talbot’s treatment of Lane was also rather dismissive, recognizing his crucial early role in preventing the official narrative from quickly hardening into concrete, but also emphasizing his abrasive personality, and almost entirely ignoring his important later work on the issue, perhaps because so much of it had been conducted on the political fringe. Robert Kennedy and his close allies had similarly boycotted Lane’s work from the very first, regarding him as a meddlesome gadfly, but perhaps also ashamed that he was asking the questions and doing the work that they themselves were so unwilling to undertake at the time. Douglass’s 500 page book scarcely even mentions Lane.

Reading a couple of Lane’s books, I was quite impressed by the enormous role he had seemingly played in the JFK assassination story, but I also wondered how much of my impression may have been due to the exaggerations of a possible self-promoter. Then, on May 13, 2016 I opened my New York Times and found nearly a full page obituary devoted to Lane’s death at age 89, the sort of treatment these days reserved for only the highest-ranking U.S. Senators or major rap stars. And the 1,500 words were absolutely glowing, portraying Lane as a solitary, heroic figure struggling for decades to reveal the truth of the JFK assassination conspiracy against an entire political and media establishment seeking to suppress it.

I read this as a deep apology by America’s national newspaper of record. President John F. Kennedy was indeed killed by a conspiracy, and we are sorry we spent more than a half century suppressing that truth and ridiculing those who uncovered it.

Related Reading:

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Real and Fake Threats to U.S. Vital Interests

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald tribune | June 18, 2018

There has been considerable chatter inside the Washington Beltway about the meaning of President Donald Trump’s recent forays into international trade at the G-7 meeting in Canada and his nuclear disarmament tete-a-tete with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. Depending on where one sits on the ideological spectrum G-7 is being viewed either as a calculated and largely ignorant insult to America’s closest allies or as a long overdue accounting for trade and defense imbalances that have severely damaged the U.S. economy. The most vitriolic analysis came from Republicans like Senator John McCain who accused Trump of betraying America’s allies while also aiding its enemies. McCain was referring in part to the president’s eminently reasonable suggestions that Moscow be allowed to rejoin the G-7 and that it would be beneficial to get together personally with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting with Jong-un likewise is being described as a giveaway to North Korea with nothing in exchange but White House spin or as a brilliant maneuver to break a diplomatic logjam that has prevailed for more than twenty years. Those who are particularly concerned over the issue of a possible nuclear exchange taking place are pleased that the two sides are talking, even if, as The Hill observes, it will now be up to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “put meat on the bones” by initiating a series of confidence building steps that will lead to a program for finally ending the Korean War and denuclearizing the region.

In his analysis of what to expect from Singapore, former Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren quotes another FSO Asia hand William Johnson, who describes how diplomacy is a process which “… is often a series of failures, and in the best case, the failures become incrementally less bad, until the least spectacular failure is declared to be success. Diplomacy is a game where the goalposts are supposed to move, and often, to move erratically. Trump needs a plan, with specific goals, each laid out neatly in a set of talking points, not because he will attain those goals, but because he needs to figure out how short of them he can afford to fall or how far beyond them he can push his interlocutor.”

One would hope that in both the case of G-7 and Singapore wiser heads in the Administration will prevail and convince the White House to remain on target about protecting genuine American interests using diplomacy and whatever other tools are at hand.

Above all, a careful assessment of what the actual threats against the United States might be ten or twenty years down the road should be considered to frame appropriate responses. Was the presidential onslaught at G-7 justified in terms of protecting the national interest relating to unfair trade practices? Is a transnational defense strategy beneficial to the United States if it is required to bear most of the burden financially? And finally, what are the real military and political threats that confront the Washington?

The trade issue is perhaps the most complicated to deal with as most countries run surpluses with some trading partners and deficits with others, something called competitive advantage. The Donald Trump claim that that Canada runs a $100 billion surplus with the U.S. is incorrect. In reality, the U.S. has a small surplus in trading with Canada, last year amounting to $2.8 billion. So, is Canada a major source of trade imbalance? The answer would have to be “no,” even though it is demonstrably protectionist regarding food products. But there are other regions that have a large trade advantage vis-à-vis the U.S. The European Union runs a $100 billion surplus and China $375.

Europe aside, does China’s trade advantage have security implications? Yes, it does as China is the world’s most populous nation with the world’s largest economy. Economic power eventually translates into military power and if Beijing is closing its market to American products arbitrarily while selling its own goods in a relative open U.S. marketplace it becomes a vital national interest to correct that. And there are clear indications that Beijing deliberately distorts the marketplace by maintaining an undervalued Yuan and creating hurdles that foreign companies must negotiate to do business in China. China also owns 19% of Washington’s Treasury note issued debt, totaling $1.18 trillion, which it could unload at any time causing an economic crash in the U.S. The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has described the U.S. national debt as the most-grave long-term security challenge facing the country.

Defense policy and military threats from competitors constitute together a single issue as one drives the other. It is ironic that the United States, which is relatively unthreatened by enemies, continues to believe that it must intervene overseas to be safe. The current conflicts with Iran as well as in Syria and in Afghanistan are not vital interests for the United States, instead being driven largely by feckless allies, defense contractors and a sensationalist media. Even North Korea, which is a serious issue, is hardly a major threat to Americans.

The alleged threat from Russia, demonized by both the political left and right, is largely a fiction created to sell newspapers and give aspiring politicians something to talk about. Even if Russia wanted to re-occupy Eastern Europe it does not have the resources to do so. Its army is relatively small and designed for defense, its economy is the same size as Spain’s. It is nuclear armed to be sure, but, unless one is suicidal, nuclear weapons are ultimately defensive rather than offensive, to serve as a deterrent guaranteeing national survival when attacked but hardly usable otherwise.

So realistically Trump should be looking at the over the horizon economic and political problems deriving from Chinese power if he wants to address a real vital national interest. And he should do what he can to keep talking to G-7 about trade imbalances while also doing whatever is possible to hasten the demise of NATO, which has outlived its usefulness both from a fiscal and security point of view. And by all means, he should keep talking to Kim Jong-un and arrange sooner rather than later to meet with Vladimir Putin.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Which Door Has Opened? Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump, and the Singapore Summit

By Maximilian C. Forte | Zero Anthropology | June 17, 2018

Both leaders arrived in Singapore, with significant excitement greeting them. Trump, arriving from a bitter G7 meeting, after which he attacked Justin Trudeau personally, flew into Singapore on Sunday, June 10, as did Kim Jong-un, who took serious precautions in his travel arrangements. By this point Trump had already significantly lowered expectations, saying that it would just be a meeting where the two leaders got to start a dialogue: “at least we’ll have met each other, we’ll have seen each other; hopefully, we’ll have liked each other. We’ll start that process….But I think it will take a little bit of time”. The lowered expectations might have been well advised. The usual appeal to authority that is the now customary wail of panic-striken, discredited elites, was evidenced by the scorn heaped on the work of Dennis Rodman, for not being a “professional”—when his work was fundamental to laying the groundwork for the peace talks. Others, with a longer and more considered view of history, pointed out that, “The history of U.S. foreign policy is littered with unsuccessful presidential summits, even when they have been preceded by months of careful preparation and infused by a coherent strategy and clear objectives set by a well-informed and experienced president”.

An Historic Encounter

Just the fact of meeting and talking was significant enough: already there was evidence that the campaign of “maximum pressure” was over and not likely to come back. Sanctions on North Korea were already being loosened, tested, and plans made for a future after the talks. In the meantime, clearly in a deep, quiet panic over the summit, Fox News saturated its coverage with talking heads offering Trump advice from a distance, hoping to pressure him—including advising flatly undiplomatic and plainly rude tactics such as not shaking Kim Jong-un’s hand, or preventing photographs of the two leaders together.

The Summit, televised live around the planet, wrapped up in the the afternoon on Tuesday, June 12 (Singapore time), with the final event being an extended press conference by Donald Trump, and the release of the text of the agreement jointly signed by Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. Also released was the video, “A Story of Opportunity,” prepared by the US side and shown in person to Kim Jong-un, which offered the progressivist American vision of the future.

(See Trump’s 12 tweets on the summit here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.)

Reactions to the Summit

Initial lists of outcomes did not seem to be particularly compelling in terms of the Summit offering either side any real change. Yet North Korean state media reported that the Summit had been a great success. Trump went quickly from lauding the move toward eventual denuclearization, into a full blown cheer for what he said had now been achieved: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea” and “The World has taken a big step back from potential Nuclear catastrophe!”. Trump seemed ready to conclude a process that, at best, would take years and many more significant concessions. Trump also vowed to stop US war games on the Korean peninsula, admitting that they are “very provocative” (a small concession to reality). Not among the naysayers was the UN Secretary General, who immediately issued a statement of support on behalf of the UN. Regional experts called the Summit a “beginning,” and thus noted an absence of details on denuclearization. But there was also confusion, thanks to vice-president Mike Pence, about whether the US was stopping war games, or not.

Early reactions, including one from a former CIA expert, was that “denuclearization,” the way the US envisaged, is not what the Summit agreement affirmed. Others held that at the very least the Summit was a real turning point, that averted war and began a peace process; also set to rest was the trope that Kim and Trump are “madmen”.

One interesting assessment was that the summit had been a significant success for North Korea:

“The joint declaration specifies no timeline for denuclearization nor it does have steps to verify disarmament. It also refers to denuclearization on the entire Korean Peninsula—Pyongyang’s preferred phrasing—and does not include the words ‘verifiable’ and ‘irreversible’ despite months of U.S. statements. Trump also agreed to something North Korea has sought for years: the suspension of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises”.

In some key respects, Trump’s concessions matched what had long been the position of Russia and China (both of which were keen to formally rejoin negotiations on Korea): that the US freeze war games in return for North Korea suspending testing nuclear weapons. The double-freeze approach finally won. In addition, one outcome of the Summit was that China was now pressing for sanctions to be eased, almost immediately, with Trump acknowledging—without criticism on his part—that China had already eroded sanctions enforcement over the last few months. Kim and Trump also promised to personally visit each other’s capitals in the near future.

Another assessment saw the Summit as a victory for all of Korea, and the signed document as simply an aspirational declaration and not an agreement on denuclearization as such:

“The North Korean side played its cards exceptionally well. It built its capabilities under enormous pressure and used it to elevate the country to a real player on the international stage. The ‘maximum pressure’ sanction campaign against it is now defused. China, Russia and South Korea will again trade with North Korea. In pressing for an early summit Trump defused a conflict that otherwise might have ruined his presidency. The losers, for now, are the hawks in Japan, South Korea and Washington who tried their best to prevent this to happen. The winners are the people of Korea, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. Special prizes go to President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and to Dennis Rodman who did their best to make this happen”.

Others offered well-informed analysis by individuals who were intimately involved in negotiations with North Korea and who argue that North Korea is not intending to “get away” with keeping its nuclear weapons, but that the North instead has real reasons for wanting to denuclearize. The argument here is that North Korea developed nuclear weapons to entice the US to the negotiating table, in order to end the Korean War, remove all sanctions, offer diplomatic recognition, and ending the US military threat to North Korea. In addition, a rapprochement with the US would allow North Korea to diversify its foreign relations, not remaining exclusively dependent on China, when North Korea has traditionally preferred independence. Another view is that the Summit simply resulted in a momentary stabilization. Yet, as Pepe Escobar noted, “by reaffirming the Panmunjom Declaration, the US President has committed to bringing its military back from South Korea and thus a complete denuclearization of the South as well as the North”. The accusation by liberal media was that, somehow, Trump managed to get nothing at all from the summit with Kim Jong-un—though even within this line of attack, there were some thoughtful pieces that at least addressed the facts of the summit in detail, with some showing how one could still take a Democratic, anti-Trump line and yet concede the significant value of the Summit.

US Domestic Politics and Trump’s Foreign Policy

In terms of domestic politics, it became evident that for any country to deal with the US—whether friend or foe—it would enter into a dangerously unreliable relationship: the pattern has now been set where one party’s international agreements are automatically decried, and then rescinded, by the opposing party. While many Republicans praised Trump on North Korea, they viscerally rejected Obama’s similar advances with Cuba and Iran. Likewise, while all for peace with Iran and good relations with Cuba, Democrats reacted as belligerently imperialist war hawks on North Korea, with liberals validating neconservatives and war-mongers. For both parties then, imperialism remains a tool to be used in domestic competition, and it is thus continually reproduced and validated.

Within just 12 hours of the close of the Summit, mainstream media in the US began to move the event off the front pages of their sites (most notably Reuters, where one had to dig to find any report on the event). This fact alone suggested that the anti-Trump opposition itself saw the event as a success, or there would be little to begrudge Trump. However, the opposition was much more serious than that. While only four months earlier much of the media celebrated the role played by Kim Jong-un’s sister at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, and how she diplomatically bested Mike Pence—now the media gave vent to denunciations of North Korea’s “brutality” and “human rights atrocities”. This was an opportunistic use of “human rights,” instrumentalizing allegations of human suffering to score political points at home. This was also domestically-driven virtue signalling at the expense of North Korea—when historically the number one killer of North Koreans has been the US itself, having destroyed every city in the North during the Korean War, while killing at least one out of every nine persons. Current sanctions have also exacted a toll on ordinary North Koreans—so much for the “human rights” lobby. The position was also bizarre for excluding the danger of nuclear war from the scope of “human rights”. If “human rights” do not include the right not to suffer a catastrophic nuclear apocalypse, then surely the concept is of little weight and even less merit, and should probably not be a significant concern. Opposition to Trump was also expressed in terms of resentment of parity shown to North Korea at the Summit, as if anything short of the public humiliation of North Korea on the world stage was somehow a sign of American “weakness,” of “unilateral concessions,” and of course, of Trump’s personal failure. Anything that might show North Korea in a more dignified light than the usual barbarian, torture state, was depicted as mere propaganda.

Similar reasoning could be found in articles such as one in The New Yorker, which reacted with alarm at rumours of Trump wanting a summit with Vladmir Putin. First, why the resort to rumours? Trump has always been very public and very explicit about his desire to meet Putin for a full one-on-one dialogue. There is no mystery about it, and any attempt to make it sound mysterious is an attempt to make it appear sinister. Second, the underlying tone of the article is that Trump is “unbound,” manifesting the continued disregard for the legitimate election of Donald Trump to office, such that he should not be allowed to command—like a president would do. Third, The New Yorker’s Susan B. Glasser is clearly projecting her faction’s anti-Russian hysteria onto Europe—forgetting that it was the US which pressured Europe into anti-Russian sanctions that hurt European economies, and which few European nations want to continue.

One charitable way to look at this situation would follow these lines: “Washington is a liberal town and the media rush to defend the status quo when it’s threatened by an interloper. When outsiders intervene, their influence declines”. Another approach would be a critique of how accusations that Trump is in “bonding sessions” with “brutal dictators,” are the liberal-left’s way of extending, translating, and reinforcing its inherent racism, by maximizing such racist attitudes on the world stage while pretending to challenge racism in discrete social pockets at home.

Rubbing Their Faces In It

On the other hand, Trump really succeeded in taking neoconservatives, professionals in the corporate-funded and government-backed human rights industry, the liberal imperialist media, and vigorously rubbing their faces with his foreign policy. Though many in the corporate media had—just in February—produced articles laced with praise for Kim Yo-jong (the sister of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un) because she had diplomatically upended Mike Pence—now that Trump’s relations with North Korea turned in a positive direction, the media reversed polarity and switched to denunciations of the “brutality” of the North Korean “dictator,” in terms as shrill as they were opportunistic. To add more context to this, Trump declared that it was not North Korea that was the enemy of the US, instead: “Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News”. Remember that within the media some wanted Trump to avoid even shaking hands with Kim Jong-un, at the Summit itself of all places and times—when he did, some called it “disconcerting”. In their faces, Trump rubbed the following admiration for Kim Jong-un: “he is the strong head….He speaks, and his people sit up at attention”. Trump praised Kim Jong-un in no uncertain terms: “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country” and that, “really, he’s got a great personality”. On his own relationship with Kim Jong-un, Trump affirmed: “I think we have a very good relationship. We understand each other” and “I think he trusts me and I trust him”. From the start of the Summit, Trump said he and Kim, “got along very well”. In response to charges that Kim Jong-un is a “human rights violator,” Trump’s responses included: “Look, he’s doing what he’s seen done….He’s a tough guy,” adding in another interview, “he has to be a rough guy or he has to be a rough person,” and in another, “he’s a strong guy”. Kim Jong-un, charged by an interviewer with doing some “really bad things,” got this response from Trump: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things”. On Kim’s stance regarding his fellow citizens, Trump stated: “I think you have somebody that has a great feeling for them”. Trump added: “He’s a funny guy, he’s very smart, he’s a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I’m surprised by that, but he loves his people”. In return, the North Korean people love Kim: “His country does love him—his people, you see…the fervor, they have a great fervor”. About saluting a North Korean general at the summit, Trump stated simply: “I met a general. He saluted me. I saluted him back. I guess they’re using that as another sound bite. I think I’m being respectful to the general”. To top it all off, Trump added to his statement about ceasing war games with South Korea, saying he would like to also withdraw all US troops from South Korea: “I would love to get the military out as soon as we can because it costs a lot of money and a lot of money for us. I would like to get them home. I would like to”. Then Trump cheerfully assessed the outcome of his own efforts: “I did a great job this weekend”.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

US Media, Democrats, Bolton Form Unholy Alliance to Fight Trump-Kim Nuclear Deal

Sputnik -June 18, 2018

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s own National Security Adviser John Bolton, the Democratic Party and the US mainstream media were all trying to derail the US president’s new agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, analysts told Sputnik.

On June 12, Trump and Kim met on the Singaporean island of Sentosa and signed a document showing their commitment to establish new bilateral relations and build a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Trump also agreed to halt US-South Korea military exercises near the Korean peninsula, while Kim reiterated his country’s commitment to denuclearization.

The Democratic Party in the United States and the media establishment that supported them were cooperating closely to try and discredit Trump’s peace initiative in Korea, University of Illinois Professor of International Law Francis Boyle said.

“As the ancient Chinese proverb says, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, a very positive and encouraging step,” Boyle said. “Regretfully, it [the Singapore agreement] has pretty much been trashed by the Democrats and the mainstream US media who are in cahoots with them.”

The Democrats’ hostility to the new dialogue with Pyongyang flowed directly from their strategy in trying to discredit Trump over the past two years, Boyle pointed out.

“The Democratic strategy has been to bash Trump from the right. That goes back two years now to the conventions that nominated Trump and Hillary Clinton as their parties’ candidates,” he said.

The spectacle of the US media ganging up against the president when he was trying to resolve a potentially dangerous conflict was a depressing one, Boyle commented.

“All these newspapers condemning President Trump, it’s just unimaginably sad,” he said.

The media and the Democrats were misrepresenting Trump’s talks with Kim by falsely alleging that the US president had caved in by agreeing to talk to him when in fact Trump was just fulfilling the obligations placed upon him by the United Nations Charter which the US has signed, Boyle explained.

“Trump did not give Kim Jong-un an unnecessary concession. All he did was fulfill the commitment required of him or any US leader to hold such negotiations that is in the United Nations Charter,” he said.

Under Article 23 of the UN Charter there is a requirement for President Trump to have negotiations with North Korea which he did, Boyle recalled.

“Article 33 clearly requires ‘negotiations’ to maintain international peace and security,” he added.

Far from failing to make any progress, Trump had succeeded in getting Kim’s assent to giving the new negotiating process a promising beginning, Boyle observed.

“Trump did get a commitment on complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula so that’s a good start. It incorporates the Panmunjom Declaration between Chairman Kim and President Moon. It’s a good start. I’m moderately encouraged,” he said.

Trump Rejected Bolton’s Parallel Between Libya, North Korea Talks

Boyle warned that the talks faced another major threat because National Security Adviser John Bolton was likely to try and undermine them.

“Bolton is a hard-line neoconservative (neocon) who publicly bragged about having sabotaged the process [of negotiations] with North Korea. He tried to sabotage these negotiations by going public and saying we are going to go the Libya route,” he said.

Last month, Bolton commented that the US denuclearization talks with North Korea would follow the pattern of previous talks to eliminate weapons of mass destruction in Libya. However, several years after Libya agreed to scrap such programs, its ruler Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in a West-backed rebellion and murdered.

Trump contradicted Bolton and said that model of negotiations with Libya would not apply to North Korea.

Boyle said Bolton was highly intelligent and knew what he was doing when he made such remarks or and when he had encouraged Vice President Mike Pence to make similar ones.

“Bolton is a smart guy. He is a very cunning operator in the bureaucracy. I’m afraid Bolton will try to sabotage the negotiations. He has brought his own hardline people on to the National Security Council. I’m afraid that he will do what he can behind the scenes to sabotage this thing,” he said.

Boyle said he believed Trump needed to fire Bolton and select a new national security adviser who was committed to trying to make the negotiations with North Korea succeed.

“If Trump were smart I think he would fire Bolton and bring in a realpolitik-er,” he said.

Even if the talks with North Korea went well, they would take many months and several years, Boyle cautioned.

“This is going to be a long process. The administration people have conceded to the New York Times that it will take at least two years… However, following the summit, there is momentum,” Boyle concluded.

Military Establishment Tries to Hold on to US Bases in Asia-Pacific

Retired US Army Colonel and historian Doug Macgregor agreed that the Washington establishment opposed Trump’s efforts to achieve a lasting peace agreement with North Korea.

“The swamp [the establishment] will now fight the inevitable withdrawal of US ground troops from Korea because it will lead to the removal of the Marines from Okinawa as well,” Macgregor said.

Trump had made the mistake of surrounding himself with super-hawk figures like Bolton when he needed other kinds of officials who would support his peace plans, Macgregor cautioned.

“President Trump’s current defense [national security] team won’t help him! To achieve his aims the President will need to make new appointments,” he said.

However, the US public felt no commitment to running risks of full-scale war on the Korean peninsula and would support an agreement that could end the US military presence there, Macgregor advised.

“The mood and attitude of the political class in Washington is reminiscent of London’s attitude toward leaving India after World War II,” Macgregor said.

Like the British people then, the American people support the departure, Macgregor added.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Kremlin Unaware of Meeting Between Trump Team, ‘Russian’ Having Dirt on Clinton

Sputnik -June 18, 2018

The Kremlin is not aware of a meeting between former aide from US President Donald Trump’s election headquarters Roger Stone and a man from Russia, who called himself Henry Greenberg and allegedly offered Trump’s team compromising data on his then-rival Hillary Clinton in 2016, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

“I cannot say anything, I am not aware of this… These nuances are completely unknown to us and we know nothing about the issue,” Peskov told reporters when asked to comment on the publication.

On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that Trump’s election headquarters in 2016 denied Greenberg $2 million for the “dirt” on Clinton. The newspaper confirmed that Greenberg was an FBI informant until 2013, but found no evidence that he continued this activity after 2013.

Stone told the publication that another staffer, Michael Caputo, arranged for him to meet with a certain “Russian,” who offered to pay him $2 million in exchange for compromising material on Clinton. His offer was rejected.

The Washington Post interpreted the refusal of Trump’s staff to pay money for this information as another suspicious “contact with the Russians.” In total, the newspaper counted 11 campaign officials who “contacted the Russians” in some capacity.

Special Counsel Mueller is investigating the alleged connections between Trump and Russia, which are denied both by the Kremlin and the White House. Trump has said in the past that his political enemies had been conducting an investigation against him during the presidential race together with intelligence officials. Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

Nuclear Power Won’t Survive Without A Government Handout

By Maggie Koerth-Baker | FiveThirtyEight | June 14, 2018

Once upon a time, if you were an American who didn’t like nuclear energy, you had to stage sit-ins and marches and chain yourself to various inanimate objects in hopes of closing the nation’s nuclear power plants. Today … all you have to do is sit back and wait.

There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they’re responsible for producing about 20 percent of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren’t being built. And the ones still operational can’t compete with other sources of power on price. Just last week, several outlets reported on a leaked memo detailing a proposed Trump administration plan directing electric utilities to buy more from nuclear generators and coal plants in an effort to prop up the two struggling industries. The proposal is likely to butt up against political and legal opposition, even from within the electrical industry, in part because it would involve invoking Cold War-era emergency powers that constitute an unprecedented level of federal intervention in electricity markets. But without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion.

“Is [nuclear power] dying under its own weight? Yeah, probably,” said Granger Morgan, professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

Morgan isn’t pleased by this situation. He sees nuclear energy as a crucial part of our ability to reduce the risks of climate change because it is our single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity. Morgan has researched what the U.S. could do to get nuclear energy back on track, but all he’s come up with is bad news (or good news, depending on your point of view).

The age of the nuclear fleet is partly to blame. That’s not because America’s nuclear reactors are falling apart — they’re regularly inspected, and almost all of them have now gone through the process of renewing their original 40-year operating licenses for 20 more years, said David McIntyre, a public affairs officer at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A few, including the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in Florida, have even put in for a second round of renewals that could give them the ability to operate through their 80th birthdays.

Instead, it’s the cost of upkeep that’s prohibitive. Things do fall apart — especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren’t especially profitable. Historically, nuclear power plants were expensive to build but could produce electricity more cheaply than fossil fuels, making them a favored source of low-cost electricity. That changed with the fracking boom, Morgan told me. “Natural gas from fracking has gotten so cheap, [nuclear plants] aren’t as high up in the dispatch stack,” he said, referring to the order of resources utilities choose to buy electricity from. “So many of them are now not very attractive economically.”

Meanwhile, new nuclear power plants are looking even less fetching. Since 1996, only one plant has opened in the U.S. — Tennessee’s Watts Bar Unit 2 in 2016. At least 10 other reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade. Morgan and other researchers are studying the economic feasibility of investment in newer kinds of nuclear power plants — including different ways of designing the mechanical systems of a reactor and building reactors that are smaller and could be put together on an assembly line. Currently, reactors must be custom-built to each site. Their research showed that new designs are unlikely to be commercially viable in time to seriously address climate change. And in a new study that has not yet been published, they found that the domestic U.S. market for nuclear power isn’t robust enough to justify the investments necessary to build a modular reactor industry.

Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025. Those closures aren’t set in stone, however. While President Trump’s plan to tell utilities that they must buy nuclear power has received criticism as being an overreach of federal powers, states have offered subsidies to keep some nuclear power plants in business — and companies like Exelon, which owns 22 nuclear reactors across the country, have been happy to accept them. “Exelon informed us that they were going to close a couple plants in Illinois,” McIntyre said. “And then the legislature gave them subsidies and they said, ‘Never mind, we’ll stay open.’”

So intervention can work to keep nuclear afloat. But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can’t do without the handouts.

June 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

It’s Time for America to Cut Loose Our Useless So-Called ‘Allies’

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 16.06.2018

US President Donald J. Trump spent the last week or so churning out initiatives that seemed deliberately calculated to set his critics’ hair on fire:

  • He met as an equal with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un – who is a very bad man!
  • He stated again his willingness to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin – an even worse man!
  • He mocked and threatened our trading partners – and slapped tariffs on them!
  • He suggested that an impenitent Russia (a very bad country!) should be let back into the genteel company of the Group of Seven!
  • He topped everything off by suggesting that Russian-speaking Crimea should be part of – Russia!

As summed up by vulgar Republican, Never-Trump apparatchik Rick Wilson:

‘After the last week, Trump is clearly a man who puts the dick in dictator. He’s a fanboy of Putin, Kim, Duterte, and a dog’s breakfast of the worst examples of oppression, thuggery, and anti-Western values the globe has to offer. [ . . . ]

‘[T]his week, Trump’s love of authoritarians, dictatorships and his actions and words came together. Donald Trump first went to the G-7 to wreck the proceedings with a combination of insult-comic schtick, diplomatic demolition derby, Putin cheerleading, and giant-toddler petulance.

‘He followed that with the Singapore Shitshow. It was a monstrous reality TV event, as was intended. But it left our putative allies wondering at the new Axis of Assholes Trump has joined—the CRANK: China, Russia, America and North Korea. By the end, it didn’t feel like he was after denuclearization but management tips from the portly little thug Kim.

‘For the American president to normalize, excuse, and ally himself with the worst of the world’s bad actors while insulting, degrading, and destroying our allies and alliances would be appalling in any circumstance. The fact that Trump acts like a bumbling, eager fraternity pledge, desperate to join Phi Sigma Dictator makes it all the worse.’

For the moment, let’s put aside Trump’s alleged sympathy for authoritarianism and focus on the accusation that Trump is “insulting, degrading, and destroying our allies and alliances,” a view held across the Establishment spectrum, from neoconservatives like Max Boot to far-Left Democratic California Congresswoman Maxine Waters (famed for her concern about Russian aggression in nonexistent Limpopo). How dare Trump threaten such valuable relationships!

Except these so-called ‘allies and alliances’ aren’t valuable to the United States. They’re a positive danger and a detriment.

Let’s get one thing straight: the United States has no real allies. There are countries we dominate and control, more properly termed client states or even satellites. (True, given Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s lock-stock-and-barrel ownership of the American political class, it seems rather that we are their clients, not the other way around…) Conversely, on an almost one-to-one correspondence, countries that are not satellites are our enemies, either currently (Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria) or prospectively (China).

But do we have any actual allies – that is, countries that provide mutual security for the United States, and whose contributions actually make us Americans safer and more secure in our own country?

Try to name one.

Let’s start with the granddaddy of our alliances, NATO. How does having a mutual defense pact with, say, virulently anti-Russian Poland and the Baltic States make America more secure? How does, say, tiny corrupt Montenegro, contribute to US security? Are these countries going to defend America in any conceivable way? Even if they wanted to, how could they possibly?

For that matter, against what ‘threat’ would they defend us? Is Latvia going to help build Trump’s Wall on the Mexican border?

‘Our NATO allies help out in Afghanistan,’ we are told.  NATO-Schmato – it’s Americans who do almost all the fighting and dying. It’s our treasure being wasted there. Maybe without the fig leaf of an alliance mission, we might long since have reevaluated what we still are doing there after 17 years.

But comes the answer, ‘Russia!’ Except that Russia isn’t a threat to the United States. Despite their hype even the most antagonistic Russophobic countries in NATO themselves don’t really believe they’re about to be invaded. And even if they were, that still doesn’t make Russia a threat to us – or wouldn’t except for the very existence of NATO and a forward American presence on Russia’s borders and in the Black and Baltic seas littorals. How does gratuitously risking conflict with the one country on the planet whose strategic arsenal can annihilate us make Americans safer?

As Professor Richard Sakwa has observed, ‘NATO exists to manage the risks created by its existence.’

Let’s look at other supposedly valuable alliances.

Why do we need South Korea and Japan? ‘China!’ But except for a nuclear stockpile much smaller than our intercontinental deterrent China doesn’t present a military threat to us. ‘Yes, but Beijing poses a danger to South Korea and Japan.’ Maybe, maybe not. But even if that is so why is it our problem?

Why do we need Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and bunch of other Middle Eastern countries? We aren’t dependent on energy from the region as we arguably were when Jimmy Carter proclaimed a vital national interest there four decades ago. ‘Well then, Iran!’ But the Iranians can’t do anything to us. ‘Yes, but they hate Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc., etc.’ Again, what’s that got to do with us?

In each case the argument of a US interest is a tautology. The US ‘needs’ allies for the sole purpose of defense against purported threats not to us but to those very same allies. It’s a self-licking ice cream cone.

It would be bad enough if these faux alliance relationships were only detrimental in terms of getting embroiled in quarrels in which we have no interest, wasting money and manpower in areas of the world where our security is not at stake. But there’s also a direct economic cost right here at home.

Based on the claimed need for “allies” US trade policy since World War II could almost have been designed to undermine the economic interests of American workers and American producers. Starting with Germany and Japan, our defeated enemies, we offered them virtually tariff-free, nonreciprocal access to our huge domestic market to assist with their economies’ recovery from wartime destruction; in return, we would take their sovereignty: control of their foreign and security policies, as well as their military and intelligence establishments, plus permanent bases on their territory.

This arrangement became the standard with other countries in non-communist Europe, as well as some in the Far East, notably South Korea. As much or more than puffed-up claims of military threats (and companies that benefit from inflated military spending) lopsided trade is the glue that keeps the satellites in place. In effect, our “allies” cede geostrategic control of their own countries and are rewarded at the expense of domestic American economic interests. Already of questionable value in its heyday, this pattern not only survived the end of Cold War 1 but continued to grow, contributing to the rise of Cold War 2.

Put into that context, this is where Trump’s tariffs dovetail with his other blasphemies, like expecting the deadbeats to pony up for their own defense. He challenges them to reduce tariffs and barriers to zero on a reciprocal bilateral basis – knowing full well they won’t do so because it would spoil their cozy arrangement at the expense of American workers. He threatens the sanctity of the North Atlantic Treaty’s vaunted Article 5 obligation of mutual defense on whether countries meet a two percent of GDP level of military spending – knowing that few of them will since they don’t in fact face any external military threat and would rather keep the money.

In his own unvarnished, zigzaggy way, Trump is doing what he said he would: putting America and Americans first. As he has said, that does not mean hostility towards other countries, whose leaders have aduty to put their countries and peoples first as well. It means both stopping our allies’ sandbagging us, while restoring to them their unsought-for – and for many of them, undesirable – sovereignty and independence.

In the final analysis, what the likes of Rick Wilson are really afraid of is disruption of a decades-old, crooked racket that has been so lucrative for countless hangers-on and profiteers. As James P. Pinkerton, former aide to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, describes it: ‘[T]he basic geopolitical foundations of the last seven decades are being challenged and shifted – or, as critics would prefer to say, being subverted and betrayed. Yet in the meantime, even as his myriad foes prepare their next political, legal, and punditical attacks, Trump is the man astride the world stage, smiling, shaking hands, signing deals – and unmistakably remaking the old order.’

Let’s get on with it.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

Aspartame Sweet Misery

OffGuardian :

This documentary describes the alleged toxicity of the artificial sweetener known as aspartame and the questionable methods employed in order to secure FDA approval.

The mainstream view remains that aspartame is safe and even beneficial. See the official NHS page on aspartame, and SNOPES.com.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Russia inserts itself into North Korea game

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asian Times | June 16, 2018

When it comes to North Korea, Japan and Russia may seem like two “lost souls” in Northeast Asia, standing on the fringes anxiously looking on as China, South Korea and the United States dominate the headlines.

The tremors set in motion by the meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last Tuesday add to the angst.

In reality, Russia is way ahead of Japan. The meeting in the Kremlin on Wednesday between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the visiting Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea Kim Yong-nam, the number two man in the hierarchy in Pyongyang, underscores this.

Clearly, the two countries are keeping up the momentum in high-level exchanges.

Japan out, Russia in

Japan, on the other hand, is groping for a way to somehow make an entry. Notionally, it is aligned with the US at the leadership level. But then, Trump is a lone ranger. Japan has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and setting up high-level contacts needs protracted efforts.

Besides, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been the most forceful proponent of the “maximum pressure” policy toward North Korea. He probably overreached, overlooking Trump’s propensity to make abrupt shifts. Indeed, the shift in the tectonic plates this week caught Tokyo flat-footed. Quick backtracking is necessary.

Kim must first decide when, how urgently or even whether to meet Abe. It’s a fraught situation for Tokyo, because Japan is a stakeholder and is most vulnerable to North Korea’s missiles. But with Kim having twice met both Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Abe is the only major regional leader yet to establish eye contact with the top man in Pyongyang.

Clearly, Kim is prioritizing Beijing and Moscow before Tokyo. The plane carrying Kim from Singapore to Pyongyang on the return journey reportedly landed in Beijing airport and someone “disembarked.” And, at the Kremlin meeting, Kim Young-nam handed over to Putin a letter from his supreme leader.

Putin’s remarks suggest that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Pyongyang on May 31 has re-injected some dynamism into the longstanding ties between the two.

The Russians invited a dignitary from Pyongyang to the FIFA World Cup inaugural ceremony – although the North Korean soccer team has not qualified. Kim Young-nam represented North Korea at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and Putin received him again just before the gala ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Putin recalled the “old and very good relations” between Russia and North Korea and took the opportunity to “welcome and praise the outcome of the meeting” in Singapore between Trump and Kim on Tuesday. He said that this has been “the first step towards a full settlement” and the goodwill of the two leaderships made it possible.

Putin assessed the meeting as creating conditions for further progress and reducing the overall level of tension in the region. Putin added that a large military conflict would have had a “very dire outcome,” and thanks to the meeting in Singapore, “a possible negative scenario has been postponed.” He noted, “now there are prospects of resolving the problems by peaceful political and diplomatic means.”

Putin reiterated Russia’s cooperation and stressed its readiness to “establish ties” in economic cooperation. Without doubt, the long-standing Russian proposals to link the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Korean railways systems, and to run a new pipeline from the Russian Far East through North Korea to energy-thirsty South Korea, are high on Putin’s agenda. Kim Young-nam responded that North Korea’s new strategy aims to “concentrate all its resources and efforts on economic construction.”

Putin also showed an interest in an early meeting with Kim Jong-un. He suggested that the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September might provide an occasion for Kim to visit Russia, but added that a “stand-alone” visit is also possible.

The positive tone of all this is self-evident.

If the US is determined to keep Russia out of the peace process looming ahead, Moscow is equally determined to be present at center stage. Ideally, Russia would have preferred a resuscitation of the long-moribund, Beijing-sponsored six-party talks format, which gave it a habitation and name at the high table.

But that is unlikely to happen, given Trump’s preference for the Art of the Deal – a “bilateral deal” with Kim, with Xi and Moon acting as facilitators. At any rate, Trump has disclosed that Washington intends to keep the negotiations on a peace treaty as a matter between North Korea, China, South Korea and the US.

However, Moscow can be expected to play an active role. Unsurprisingly, Russia emphasizes the “denuclearization” of the entire Korean Peninsula, which includes the future US military presence and a host of attendant issues.

From Kim’s perspective, Russia, by its sheer presence, creates more space for him to negotiate. In fact, Moscow is compelled to play an active role, since it shares a border with North Korea and any expansion of American influence in that country there impacts vital Russian interests.

North Korea’s integration into the region is a key template of Russia’s “pivot to the East.” The development of the Russian Far East is significantly dependent on the success of this pivot policy. North Korea’s re-construction opens up business opportunities for Russian companies and provides a transit route for Russia’s trade with the Asia-Pacific region.

Putin has a rare genius for optimizing geopolitics by combining it with geo-economics, although the two are often regarded as fundamentally different paths.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment