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Bipartisanship!

The Evil Party and Stupid Party Team Up to Cripple Trump, Subvert the Rule of Law, and Put the US on a Road to War

by James George Jatras

Strategic Culture Foundation (July 28 2017)

The overwhelming approval by both chambers of the US Congress of a bill imposing new, permanent sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea puts President Donald Trump in an impossible position. He can either sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature, in which case he has acquiesced in the Legislative Branch’s usurpation of what is supposed to be among the Executive’s primary constitutional responsibilities, the conduct of relations with foreign states.

Or he can veto it, but with a total of only five votes against it in both the Senate and the House together, an override is almost certain. Trump would still find his authority curtailed, on top of crippling his clout during the infancy of his term.

Keep in mind that this is being inflicted on Trump mainly by members of his own party. The Republican Congressional leadership can’t manage to repeal Obamacare, reform taxes, stop voter fraud, keep dangerous people out of our country, build the Mexican Wall, or renew our national infrastructure. But they find plenty of time to hold hands with the Democrats, who are trying to unseat the constitutionally elected president in a “soft coup” over phony “Russiagate”, to enact a misguided piece of legislation that is expressly intended to guarantee that Trump can’t, under any foreseeable circumstances, improve ties with the one country in the world with which we absolutely must get along, at least on some minimal level: “It’s the Russia, Stupid!”

This is bipartisanship at its worst. In case we need to be reminded, America does not have a multiplicity of parties like most other countries. Instead, we have just two: an “Evil Party” and a “Stupid Party” – and when something is really evil and stupid, we call that “bipartisan”.

To appreciate how corrosive of the rule of law this bill is, consider the status of an authority the Constitution does put firmly into the hands of Congress: the power to make war. Congress has uttered hardly a peep of protest over the decades as their most solemn trust has effectively become a dead letter. Successive presidents have conducted operations in or against dozens of countries without authorization from Congress in clear violation of international law. (In fact, during President Bill Clinton’s aggression against Serbia in 1999, Congress affirmatively voted down his request for war authority. He and lapdog Nato proceeded anyway.)

Recently the Pentagon was enraged at Turkey’s revealing the existence of at least ten secret American bases in northern Syria. The anger was over the exposure of the bases’ existence, not the fact that they had no legal justification to be there at all, under either US domestic law or binding international law. With respect to both, the military presence in Syria is lacking, but no one in Congress cares. They’re too busy clipping Trump’s wings.

Let’s keep in mind that in addition to the illegal bases, the US is busy conducting military activities in Syria under the bizarre fiction of acting pursuant to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (“AUMF”) passed in September 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. Under that resolution, the President is authorized to wage war against entities that “authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11 2001”. That might conceivably be applicable to the operations of al-Qaeda in Syria, although until President Trump’s recent decision to cut off CIA arms supplies to jihadists in Syria, al-Qaeda linked groups seemed to be mostly beneficiaries of Washington’s involvement, not military targets. It can’t possibly apply to ISIS, which didn’t even exist in 2001. Even more blatantly illegal is the repeated targeting of Syrian government forces operating on their own territory and fighting against al-Qaeda, among other terrorist groups.

With respect to international law, there is no murkiness at all: US actions in Syria are flatly illegal. First, let us keep in mind that treaties and conventions, like the UN Charter, are not optional; they are binding on state parties, and in the US legal system have the same weight as federal statute. Under the Charter, which is the fundamental law of the international system, there are two – and only two – legitimate uses of military force.

First, authorization by the UN Security Council (“UNSC”) under Chapter VII “ACTION WITH RESPECT TO THREATS TO THE PEACE, BREACHES OF THE PEACE, AND ACTS OF AGGRESSION”. Clearly, that justification is inapplicable, since the UNSC has authorized no US action in Syria.

Second, there is Article 51, which upholds the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations”. Nobody in Syria has attacked us or any US treaty ally, though Turkey has occasionally flirted with invoking Nato (a collective self-defense organization subject to Article 51, which is cited in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty) while itself aggressing against Syria.

On point of comparison, let’s remember the ex post facto rationales trotted out after the 1999 Kosovo war. As stated by Dr Richard Falk, in arguing the illegality of military actions against Syria:
 

In the aftermath of the Kosovo Nato War of 1999 there was developed by the Independent International Commission the argument that the military attack was “illegal but legitimate”. The argument made at the time was that the obstacles to a lawful use of force could not be overcome because the use of force was non-defensive and not authorized by the Security Council. The use of force was evaluated as legitimate because of compelling moral reasons (imminent threat of humanitarian catastrophe; regional European consensus; overwhelming Kosovar political consensus – except small Serbian minority) relating to self-determination; Serb record of criminality in Bosnia and Kosovo) coupled with considerations of political feasibility (Nato capabilities and political will; a clear and attainable objective – withdrawal of Serb administrative and political control – that was achieved). Such claims were also subject to harsh criticism as exhibiting double standards (why not Palestine?) and a display of what Noam Chomsky dubbed as “military humanism”. None of these Kosovo elements are present in relation to Syria.

 

But of course none of those “compelling moral reasons” were really “present” in Kosovo, either. They were lies then and remain lies today.

In any case, Trump is about to suffer a debilitating wound to his authority, care of the Republican-controlled Congress. Meanwhile, the lynch mob led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, with his unlimited budget and an all-star lineup of partisan Democrat lawyers, will broaden and dig till they can find someone they can nail for something, dragging it out into the 2018 Congressional election year.

If the Republicans lose the House next year, Trump without any doubt will be impeached. And unlike Democrats, who rallied around “their” president Bill Clinton, enough GOP Senators will rush to convict Trump. He’ll have to resign or be removed. The Deep State’s soft coup will have succeeded.

As the noose tightens around Trump’s neck, there’s only one apparent way out: a splendid little war. Whether it’s against Iran or North Korea may be decided by the flip of a coin.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/07/28/bipartisanship-evil-party-put-us-road-war.html

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The US Empire Continues to Stumble Towards Ruin

by Mike Krieger

Liberty Blitzkrieg blog (July 27 2017)

Zero Hedge (July 28 2017)


 

There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions, and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation.

Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. God himself is its author, – its promulgator, – its enforcer. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man. For his crime he must endure the severest penalties hereafter, even if he avoid the usual misfortunes of the present life.

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

There’s been a lot going on this week, so it’s unsurprising that an extremely important vote in Congress failed to get the attention it deserves. What I’m referring to is the recent Russia/Iran/North Korea sanctions bill passed by the House of Representatives in a frighteningly lopsided 419-3 vote.

Let’s turn to Bloomberg {1} for a quick analysis on the Russian reaction:
 

Russia threatened to retaliate against new sanctions passed by the US House of Representatives, saying they made it all but impossible to achieve the Trump administration’s goal of improved relations.

The measures {2} push US-Russia ties into uncharted territory and “don’t leave room for the normalization of relations” in the foreseeable future, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday, according to the Interfax news service.

Hope “is dying” for improved relations because the scale of “the anti-Russian consensus in Congress makes dialogue impossible and for a long time”, Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said on Facebook. Russia should prepare a response to the sanctions that’s “painful for the Americans”, he said.

The bill, passed by a vote of 419-3 on Tuesday, would strengthen sanctions against Russia less than three weeks after President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held their first official meeting at the Group of 20 summit. The measure, which now goes to the Senate, would let Congress block any effort by Trump to unilaterally weaken sanctions imposed under the Obama administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections and its support for separatists in Ukraine. The White House has sent mixed signals about whether Trump will sign the bill.

US Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday that senators want to examine North Korea sanctions added to the bill by the House. If senators insist on changes to the bill, passage could be delayed, possibly until September, when lawmakers return from a recess.

“We all want this to become law before we leave here for the recess”, Corker told reporters in Washington. He added: “The White House doesn’t like this bill. The State Department doesn’t like this bill. This bill is going to become law, okay.”

The sanctions are “pretty sad from the viewpoint of Russian-American relations and prospects for developing them, and no less depressing from the perspective of international law and international trade”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday on a conference call. Putin will decide on a response if the bill becomes law, he said.

Trump will sign the law because “he’s a prisoner of Congress and anti-Russian hysteria”, Alexei Pushkov, a senator in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said on Twitter. The sanctions are “a new stage of confrontation”, he said.

Russia has prepared “economic and political measures that will be adopted if the Senate and Trump support the bill”, said Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house, theRIA Novosti news service reported. Relations with the US “are at such a low level that we have nothing to lose” by retaliating, he said.

 

To summarize, the entire House of Representatives other than three Republicans, Justin Amash of Michigan, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and John Duncan of Tennessee, voted for this thing. Not a single Democrat voted against the sanctions.

We supposedly live in a “representative democracy”, but 99% of our so-called “representatives” voted for this bill. Does this really represent the will of 99% of the public? These are the kind of numbers you’d expect to see in totalitarian states, and the ironic thing is the vote was driven by a desire to put a stop to supposedly fascist Trump. We’ve got much bigger problems than Trump.

Michael Tracey put it perfectly on Twitter earlier today:

As troubling as the bill is for relations with nuclear armed Russia where tensions are already high, the response from European allies is arguably more concerning.

As much as I hate to quote CNN, it actually published a pretty good article {3} on the subject. Here’s some of it:
 

The European Union has delivered a stern warning to the US over a plan to impose new sanctions on Russia, opening up the prospect of a rift between the two allies over how to deal with Moscow’s foreign interventions.

EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc would act “within days” if it does not receive reassurances on the potential impact of new sanctions on European interests.

The EU has previously coordinated with the US over sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. But it fears the latest measures could hit companies that are involved in the financing of a controversial new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, that would carry natural gas from Russia to Germany.

Juncker said the bill could have “unintended unilateral effects” on the EU’s energy security. “This is why the Commission concluded today that if our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days”, Juncker said. “America first cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last”.

Germany, which strongly backs the new pipeline, said it was concerned over the sanctions. It would be “unacceptable for the United States to use possible sanctions as an instrument to serve the interests of US industry policies”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer said Wednesday.

France called the US bill “unlawful” due to its “extraterritorial reach”, saying it could impact Europeans if enacted. “We have challenged similar texts in the past”, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “To protect ourselves against the extraterritorial effects of US legislation, we will have to work on adjusting our French and European laws”.

The European Union expressed frustration that it had not been consulted over the new proposals. “New sanctions should always be coordinated between allies”, EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement.

The EU and the US imposed coordinated sanctions in 2014 {4} over Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. President Barack Obama {5} imposed further sanctions in late 2016 over alleged interference in the 2016 US election. Sanctions were also imposed under the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which targets Russians whom the US considers human rights abusers.

 

These are major EU allies furious with this bill, which makes you ask the obvious follow-up question. Did 99% of the House of Representatives not realize the implications of what they were voting for in their blind rage against Russia? If so, these people are extremely dangerous and have no business making important decisions for 320 million of us.

This is exactly how empires implode. Corrupt, power-drunk, disconnected elites living in an echo chamber of hubris always destroy everything in their path at the end of a geopolitical cycle. First, they lose the trust of their own people (this has already happened), and then they lose the trust of their allies. This last part is happening rapidly and it’s moving much faster than even I imagined.

Unless something major changes we have to assume the US empire is going down, and need to start thinking about what a post-imperial America can look like. There are countless dangers in such a scenario, but also many opportunities for a vastly improved and freer society.

Links:

{1} https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-26/russia-says-new-u-s-sanctions-killing-chances-for-improved-ties

{2} https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-07-25/house-passes-new-russia-sanctions-that-would-curb-trump-s-power

{3} http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/26/europe/russia-us-sanctions/index.html

{4} http://edition.cnn.com/2014/07/16/politics/ukraine-russia-sanctions/index.html

{5} http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/29/politics/russia-sanctions-announced-by-white-house/index.html

https://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2017/07/27/the-u-s-empire-continues-to-stumble-towards-ruin/

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-28/us-empire-continues-stumble-towards-ruin

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The Military Industrial Complex is ….

… Undermining US National Security

by Federico Pieraccini

Strategic Culture Foundation (July 26 2017)

The ongoing problems with the F-35 and other military programs, stemming from virtually unlimited budgets, underline the inefficiency of the American military-industrial complex. In contrast, Moscow develops armaments capable of counteracting the latest technological advances of the US at minimal cost.

One of a state’s most insidious mechanisms is the inefficiency of the military-industrial sector. When looking at the world’s first superpower, this becomes all the more pronounced. Still, the ongoing problems highlighted by the F-35 program and failed missile interceptions by ABM systems are a good demonstration of how inefficiency in the US military sector has risen to worrying levels.

The main cause of these issues is related to the huge military-industrial complex (“MIC”) that employs hundreds of thousands of Americans directly or indirectly. The unhealthy composition of this power conglomerate often employs a revolving door involving politicians and board members from large arms-producing companies. This situation raises questions about corruption as well as a number of obvious conflicts of interest.

It is no surprise, therefore, that Congress is increasingly willing to grant what almost amounts to blank checks to finance military budgets, numbering in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The second factor that impacts negatively on the efficiency of the MIC is the propaganda to which the entire American system is subjected. Looking at the example of think-tanks, they are all practically funded, directly or indirectly, by the military-related industries or foreign governments (especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel). The role of think-tanks is to influence policymakers, creating a common view among components of the (deep) state.

A problem arises when almost all experts and politicians participating in these Washington based think tanks come from federal agencies or industries tied to the military through contracts worth billions of dollars. Hardly offering any dissent from official or mainstream opinions on issue ranging from Russia to the F-35, politicians, experts, and journalists all agree that Russia constitutes the main danger and that the F-35 program does not have any critical issues and is actually a superior weapon, two lies in full swing. Think-tanks and their guests promote an erroneous narrative that seeds, nourishes, and sustains the problems and inefficiencies that beset military systems and Washington’s strategic vision. They offer no criticism, no change of policy, only echo chambers of lies and propaganda.

In addition to the think-tanks and the revolving doors involving board members of MIC companies and Congress and Senate members, a major problem concerns the timing of projects and the contemporary technological advancements of geopolitical opponents. The cost of projects such as the F-35, the ABM system, and the new supercarrier, the USS Gerald R Ford, have reached astronomical figures following decades of development. The immediate consequences are the obsolescence of these systems once they come into service, especially when compared with weapon systems developed or being developed by countries such as China and especially Russia.

Despite the fact that US spending is unmatched in the world, amounting to about half of that of all countries combined, the weapons systems of competitors often cost less and are more efficient.

The survival of the MIC is inextricably tied to the US dollar and its role in the world as a reserve currency. With almost $700 billion a year worth of military spending, it is easy to reach a national debt of over $21 trillion. The only way to sustain this kind of debt is due to the credibility of the dollar itself.

The reason why US treasury bills are considered safe and a great way for a foreign investor to diversify in long-term assets, despite $21 trillion of debt, is because of US credibility and the dollar’s status as reserve currency. The dollar, being the main global reserve currency, continues to be purchased by foreign countries to pay for commodities as well as for trade between each other. Just as the MIC warns breathlessly of all the dangers and threats through propaganda, resulting in enormous investments in unnecessary and obsolete weapon systems, the dollar is also printed by the US Federal Reserve without any fear of devaluation or inflation risk, providing Washington with virtually unlimited funds for defense budgets and the ability to carry out massive wars. If you combine the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone and add to it the cost of the F-35, it amounts to more than $7 trillion. It is an almost incomprehensible figure that is at the same time emblematic of how the global economic system is at the service of American warfare imperialism.

In response to this dysfunctional system, we find a diametrically opposite situation in Russia. With a budget that is about one-tenth that of the US, but with the need to keep pace with the world’s most powerful war machine (at least in terms of quantity; we can discuss quality at another time), Moscow has had to optimize costs to get the greatest possible benefits from its weapon systems. This has led to a much more logical management of the Russian military apparatus.

By carefully observing the most important American technological advances (fifth-generation aircraft like the F-35, new ICBMs, and new aircraft carriers), it is easy to discern two asymmetric strategies by Moscow, one defensive and other offensive. With the defensive one, for each American action, there is a corresponding Russian response. The F-35 and fifth-generation aircraft become easy targets thanks to complex systems such as the S-400, the future S-500, and cutting-edge radar technology. The Gerald Ford supercarrier becomes a simple target to hit if attacked by a Russian supersonic Zircon missile (ready to be put into production in 2018). The S-500s will also be able to intercept any kind of ICBM directed at Russian territory, thus succeeding in sealing Russian skies, a goal the United States is light years away from achieving.

In terms of offensive strategy, Moscow’s capabilities are even more impressive. Emphasis must be placed on the most effective system possible, the SS-28, better known as the Sarmat, a nuclear missile capable of modifying its own trajectory in descent, accelerating or decelerating, thus becoming impossible to intercept for American ABM systems. It is thought that the overall power of a single Sarmat missile (armed with up to 24 MIRVs) is likely to reduce to ashes an area as large as Texas or France. It is the ultimate deterrent weapon.

Other programs related to the development of fifth-generation aircraft or aircraft bombers (PAK-FA and PAK-DA) have slowed down to facilitate the upgrading of aircraft such as the Su-34 and Tu-160, with the Su-35 already within the category of 4++ generation. Such choices can only be made through a military-industrial system that favors the strategies of the nation and not that enrichment of individuals, corrupt shareholders, or politicians.

Finally, an operating mix capable of providing defense or attack performance certainly involves cyberspace and, more generally, electronic warfare (“EW”). Of these systems we know little to nothing; they are secrets jealously guarded by the Russian defense ministry. But from what many experts write, Moscow could be far ahead of their American colleagues in this field.

It is no exaggeration to say that the technological gap between Russia and the United States is being overcome by the need for Moscow to efficiently optimize its key weapons systems. The main problem for the United States concerns its maintenance of the status of military superpower. The continued issuance of dollar-denominated bonds, the use of the dollar as the main reserve currency, provokes a dangerous sequence that allows the US to print unlimited amounts of money, therefore being able to invest incredible amounts of money in old and vulnerable weapons systems.

The blatant squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars over the course of two decades, without anyone ever being held to account for it, has produced enormous damage to the reliability and effectiveness of most of the advanced American military systems and those still in the process of being developed. The military-industrial complex continues to spend large amounts of taxpayers’ money without fulfilling the need for concrete or tangible results. Dozens of failed projects costing tens of billions of dollars have ended up allowing competitors to close the gap enjoyed by US military superiority.

A new era is opening up, one where the United States will no longer possess military and technical superiority over its geopolitical opponents in all domains. This will certainly bear consequences for Washington’s present and future strategy of power projection, possibly deterring the US from further engaging in failed policies, leaving countries completely destroyed and millions of lives lost.

_____

Republishing is welcomed with reference to Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal http://www.strategic-culture.org.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/07/26/the-military-industrial-complex-undermining-us-national-security.html

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Trump Is Being Moved Aside …

… So that Conflict with Russia Can Proceed

by Paul Craig Roberts

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org (July 26 2017)

What is the Congress up to with their stupid bill that imposes more sanctions and removes the power of President Trump to rescind the sanctions that President Obama imposed?

Congress is doing two things. One is that Congress is serving their campaign contributors in the military/security complex by being tougher with Russia, thus keeping the orchestrated threat alive so that Americans denied health care don’t start looking at the massive military/security budget as a place to find money for
health care.

The other is to put President Trump in a box. If Trump vetos this encroachment on presidential power, Congress, and the presstitute media will present the veto as absolute proof that Trump is a Russian agent and is protecting Russia with his veto. If Trump does not veto the bill, Trump will have thrown in his hand and accepted that he cannot reduce the dangerous tensions with Russia.

In other words, the bill is lose-lose for Trump. Yet Republicans are supporting the bill, thus undermining their president.

Yesterday I heard an orchestrated, staged “interview” between two women on NPR’s “All Things Considered” (on NPR all things are never considered). It was a propaganda show focused on Trump’s expression of disappointment in Jeff Sessions, whom Trump mistakenly appointed Attorney General.

When Trump nominated Sessions, the Democrats and the presstitutes went berserk. Sessions was “unqualified”, a “racist”, blah-blah. But now Sessions is the hero of the presstitutes and Democrats. They love him because he has sold out Trump on the question of the justification for an investigation of Trump as a suspect “Russian agent” by an independent prosecutor who happens to be a member of the anti-Trump ruling establishment.

In other words, Sessions, who has been beaten up previously by the establishment, is too afraid to do his job.

In other words, Trump had, as I predicted, no idea what he was doing when he chose his government.

So now he suffers for his ignorance.

What was the point of the staged NPR interview between the two women? The point was that Sessions, unlike Trump, respects the rule of law whereas Trump wants to bend the law in order to cover up for himself. The interview was staged so that without the two women having to say it, Trump’s anger at Session was proof that Trump was guilty of some illegitimate “Russian connection”.

In other words, it was carefully constructed innuendo. Who constructed the innuendo? NPR’s women were just reading from a script.

As far as I can tell, there is no one in Trump’s government who is loyal to Trump or who is willing to back Trump’s effort to stop provoking the Russians and to cease serving as Israel’s military force in the Middle East. As far as I can tell not only the Democratic Party but also the Republican Party supports the left-wing’s view that Trump’s election was illegitimate because he was elected by the votes of illegitimate people – “the deplorables” to use Hillary’s term.

Who are “the deplorables”? They are the remnants of the American working class. They are the people whose jobs were sent overseas to Asia by the global US corporations in order to enrich their shareholders and executives via higher profits from lower labor costs. They are the people who in order to stay afloat had to rely on debt in place of the missing income and whose debt is now so high that they have no disposable income. A huge proportion of the American population is incapable of raising a measly $400 without having to sell personal possessions.

In other words, they are refugees from a destroyed American middle class.

Trump stood up for them against the rich who ruined them, and now the rich are going to ruin Trump.

It will teach a lesson. Henceforth in the United States, no one will dare to stick up for the American people. America is not for Americans any more than the world is for the peoples of the world. America and the world are for the One Percent. No one else. Russia, China, and Iran are in the way, and, thus, they are on Washington’s hit list.

It is heartbreaking to watch the Russians continue to believe, lesson after lesson to the contrary, that they can reach a deal with Washington. This unrealistic hope will destroy Russia. The Russian government will continue to grasp at straws and be put off guard.

It is utterly amazing that the Russian government can believe after its extensive history of being left hanging in the wind by its agreements with Washington that any agreement with Washington is worth anything.

Perhaps Russia is aware of the evil that they face in Washington. Perhaps the Russian emphasis on diplomacy is just a way of gaining time to get prepared for the war that Washington intends to bring to them.

There is little doubt that the great and wonderful beacon of light that is “democracy” in Washington, also known as the government of the “exceptional” people and the “indispensable” country, is lost in hubris and arrogance and will destroy life on earth.

Copyright (c) 2016 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/07/26/trump-moved-aside-conflict-russia-can-proceed/

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The Current Big Lie Is …

by Eric Zuesse

The Strategic Culture Foundation (July 25 2017)

Zero Hedge (July 26 2017)

The Big Lie today is as enormous as, and potentially far more harmful than, any Big Lie throughout history has been; and, it will be exposed fully here, and will be documented even more fully, by means of the links that are provided in this summary of it. (This Big Lie is certainly important enough for that care because if the lie is continued unexposed, that massive fraud will produce World War Three, a world-destroying nuclear war, perhaps even soon.) So, this will be only a summary of it, but a completely documented summary – not a mere “expose” that’s expected to be believed because it is already generally suspected or thought to be the case, but, instead, something that’s presented in the expectation that the key facts of the case have, to the contrary, been so effectively hidden from the public, as to make necessary here the providing of full documentation of it {1} for anyone who wants to delve more deeply into this ongoing rape of history – the super-dangerous Big Lie that’s ongoing right now.

This Big Lie today, which is to be described here, is the lie, upon the basis of which the Cold War against the dictatorial communistic USSR – which Cold War had been such a boost to US weapons-makers such as Lockheed Martin while it lasted – actually became restored in 2014, and continues today, as, this time, not a “cold” but a hot war, by the US and its allies, all united together (for the benefit of the owners of their international corporations, and especially of the big US arms-suppliers) against democratic post-communist Russia (which gets blamed for trying to defend itself, at every step of the way that it does so). This increasingly hot war started in early 2014 (after at least three years of advance-preparation of it by the US Administration of American President Barack Obama), in Ukraine (formerly a part of the USSR), when a CIA coup {2} that was perpetrated under the cover of “democracy” demonstrations, against the democratically elected Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych – when this CIA coup installed there, in Ukraine, a rabidly anti-Russian government, bordering Russia. That is certainly a provocation to war, just as would be the case if instead Russia had overthrown Mexico’s government and installed there a rabidly anti-US regime.

In this Big Lie, which reigns today and is almost universally believed in the US to be true, that bloody coup {3} in Ukraine is simply ignored, and instead the focus is placed upon the peaceful and voluntary breakaway of Crimea from Ukraine, which breakaway actually resulted directly from that coup, which was the real precipitating-event for “the new Cold War” – the basis of the US-and-allied economic sanctions against Russia, and for the massing of Nato troops and weapons onto Russia’s borders, ready to invade Russia. (How would Americans feel if the Russian government did all of that, to us?)

The Big Lie today is this: that the reason for the economic sanctions against Russia, is that “Putin” or Russia “stole” or “conquered” or “seized” the Crimea region of Ukraine.

The Big Truth, about the matter, is that US President Obama conquered Ukraine itself (all of it), via a February 2014 CIA coup that he had secretly started planning by no later than 2011 {4}, which on 20 February 2014 culminated with the violent overthrow {5} of the democratically elected President of Ukraine, Yanukovych, who had won ninety percent of the votes in the far-eastern Donbass area of Ukraine, and 75% of the votes in the far-southern Crimea area of Ukraine {6}, both of which intensely pro-Yanukovych regions refused to be ruled by the Obama-appointed rulers – the hard-right, fascist and rabidly anti-Russian team that the Obama regime imposed upon Ukraine, after Obama’s agent Victoria Nuland told Obama’s Ambassador to Ukraine on 4 February 2014, that “Yats” (Arseniy Yatenyuk) {7}, a hard-right and even racist anti-Russian {8} Ukrainian politician, was to be appointed to run the country as soon as the coup would be over, which happened 23 days later (and Yatsenyuk did then receive the appointment and establish very hard-right anti-Russian policies {9} – including massacres {10} of ethnic Russians in Ukraine {11}).

The legalities of the situation are as heinous on America’s side as the moralities are {12}; and, yet, America’s vassal-states, in the EU and elsewhere, slavishly honor Obama’s sanctions against the victim-nation here, Russia (even while acknowledging that the residents of Crimea are overwhelmingly supportive {13} of having separated themselves from Ukraine and grateful to Russia for now protecting them against the rabidly anti-Crimean US-imposed rulers {14} of Ukraine). Furthermore: by no later than 26 February 2014, the leaders of the EU knew that the “revolution on the Maidan” had, in fact, been a brutal coup, nothing at all “democratic” – but decided to ignore that fact {15}. So, they too are culpable in this, though not nearly to the extent that Obama is.

On Friday 21 July 2017, the anti-Russian Reuters “news” (propaganda) agency headlined “Crimean scandal prompts Siemens to retreat from Russian energy” {16} and reported that, “Germany’s Siemens tried to distance itself from a Crimean sanctions scandal on Friday, halting deliveries of power equipment to Russian state-controlled customers and reviewing supply deals. The industrial group said it now had credible evidence that all four gas turbines it delivered a year ago for a project in southern Russia had been illegally moved to Crimea, confirming a series of Reuters reports.” The false underlying assumption in this propaganda article was that the “scandal” it refers to had been initiated and perpetrated by Russia, not by the United States government (which initiated the sanctions against Russia, which Siemens and Russia are now being punished for). The Wikipedia propaganda site says in its article “Russian financial crisis (2014~2017)” {17} that “The financial crisis in Russia in 2014~2015 was the result of the collapse of the Russian ruble beginning in the second half of 2014” and barely even mentions the economic sanctions, other than to say, “The second [reason for it] is the result of international economic sanctions imposed on Russia following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Russian military intervention in Ukraine” – implying, but not stating, that Russia had started that war – which just happened to be on its doorstep, not on the doorstep of the US – as if Mexico had been taken over by an enemy nation and the people of America were being threatened, which is what this takeover by the US government was equivalent to for the Russian people: a very real and grave national-security threat to them.

The Reuters article simply ignored the fact that Ukraine had been seized by Obama, and it simply presumed that Crimea (and also Donbass) had been seized by Putin. (Furthermore, the appeal by Donbass to become a part of Russia, was declined by Putin on 17 September 2014 {18}. But, still, the lie is also being pumped by pro-US-regime “news” media, that Russia is trying to steal Donbass from Ukraine’s government. The US team’s lying is beyond bizarre {19}. Sometimes, by their using carefully veiled language to deceive without outright asserting their lies, they implicitly blame Russia regarding the impasse in Donbass {20}, even three years after Putin said no to that appeal by the residents of Donbass. And, still: Russia, which had – despite the Obama regime’s refusal to participate – signed and even had helped set up the Minsk agreements to settle the war in Donbass, gets blamed in the US-allied press for what is actually Ukraine’s refusal to honor the commitments it had signed to there {21}. As usual, the victims get blamed. And the Trump Administration says {22} that “there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements”. No good deed will go unpunished – ever.)

Nor has Reuters (nor the rest of the US regime’s press) reported that a power-struggle is now occurring in the post-coup Ukraine between the overt Nazis (or racist-fascists) there and the post-coup (that’s the fascist but not outright nazi) elected government (in elections that excluded non-fascists). The fascists, whom the current US regime supports, are being attacked by the Nazis {23}. The Nazis are being led by Dmitriy Yarosh {24} whose followers are unabashedly Nazis and often even boldly flash German Nazi Party insignia {25}. The US Obama regime was one of only three governments throughout the world that voted against a resolution that had been introduced in the United Nations condemning fascism, racism, and denial of the Holocaust {26}. The two other pro-Nazi nations were Ukraine, whose US-installed regime felt the resolution to be personally offensive even though it wasn’t specific to Ukraine and didn’t even mention Ukraine, and the other country was Canada, which is a US vassal-nation and also has a powerful community of Ukrainian Nazis who escaped Ukraine right after World War Two ended in 1945. Canada’s current Foreign Minister, appointed by the Liberal Party’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is Chrystia Freeland, a racist-fascist who is proud of her Nazi grandparents {27} and who championed in Canada the fascist takeover of Ukraine.

When the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) issued, on 14 November 2016, its annual “Report on Preliminary Examination Activities” {28}, it included, on pages 34~43, a section on “Ukraine”, but considered only accusations that the Obama-installed Ukrainian government had lodged against Russia, and none of the demonstrated crimes (which are amply documented in the links herein), including the illegal coup, that the Obama regime had, in fact, perpetrated against not only the people of Ukraine but also the people of Russia next door; and the discussion by the ICC did not (such as an influential but grossly false Forbes article six days later headlined and yet provided no documentation for, “International Criminal Court: Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Is a ‘Crime’, Not a Civil War” {29}) even allege that any “crime” had been committed by any party; but, nonetheless, the Russian government (which had never ratified the treaty that established the Court) condemned the report as being “one-sided”, which was an understatement, because the report included many gross falsehoods, outright lies, such as (and I boldface the falsehood):
 

At the time of the start of the events that are the subject of the Office’s preliminary examination, the democratically-elected Government of Ukraine was dominated by the Party of Regions, led by President at the time, Viktor Yanukovych. The Maidan protests were prompted by the decision of the Ukrainian Government on 21 November 2013 not to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union.

 

As I and others have documented, the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President started well before that time, and the coup even was already being organized inside the US Embassy there by no later than 1 March 2013 {30}; and the US State Department had begun its work to prepare it, no later than 2011 {31} – it didn’t simply “happen”. And it certainly wasn’t “democratic”; it ended whatever democracy Ukraine had. Furthermore, Yanukovych’s turn-down of the EU’s offer was, itself, a part of the Obama regime’s plan: Yanukovych had turned it down because the Ukrainian Academy of Science’s analysis of the EU’s offer (which had been prepared in accord with the US government’s urgings) had concluded that to accept the deal would produce losses for Ukraine of $160 billion {32}.

This is the Big Lie straight out of hell, because, unless the United States acknowledges publicly that it has been lying, and that the anti-Russia sanctions that the US initiated, are based on that lie and should therefore never even have been imposed (and should not be honored anywhere), there will be war between Russia and the US. Either those sanctions will be entirely lifted, or else nuclear war will inevitably result because Russia will not forever tolerate having its economy squeezed to death on the basis of a clear lie. But how can such sanctions be ended unless the perpetrator – here, clearly, the US – publicly acknowledges that former US President Barack Obama and his Administration lied through their teeth in order to impose them in the first place? The US government would need to renounce, to the entire world, that former US President [lied through his teeth about the coup to impose those sanctions]. Or else, World War Three would seem to be well-nigh inevitable. This is an extremely serious matter, which isn’t so much as even being discussed – much less, debated. World War Three could result from it, but it is entirely ignored. The Big Lie just continues to be promoted, instead of exposed.

Back on 20 February 2015, I headlined “Crimea: Was It Seized by Russia, or Did Russia Block Its Seizure by the US?” {33} and, in the years since, the documentation that it was Obama, not Putin who initiated (perpetrated) the new “Cold War” {34}, has only increased. But the “news” media hide this fact (just as they hid that article) because they exist in order to pump the Big Lie, not to puncture it. (And, of course, that also is why they won’t publish this, though it, too, is sent to all of them free-of-charge to publish.)

Donald Trump condemns many of his predecessor’s actions and decisions and statements; but, on this one, which is the most important of them all and is blatantly a fraud (the blame for the entire catastrophe in Ukraine {1}), Trump remains alternately supportive and noncommittal regarding Obama’s most enormous Big Lie. Now, after half a year in office, does he even care – or does he instead simply lack the courage?

It is clear what a real leader would do – expose and renounce that biggest of all Big Lies. Only a coward would not.

Links:

{1} https://off-guardian.org/2017/03/24/what-americas-coup-in-ukraine-did/

{2} http://rinf.com/alt-news/breaking-news/head-stratfor-private-cia-says-overthrow-yanukovych-blatant-coup-history/

{3} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWkfpGCAAuw

{4} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2016/09/three-big-lies-pervade-americas-news-media.html

{5} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-RyOaFwcEw

{6} https://observationalism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Ukraine_historical_vs_electoral_2010.png

{7} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSxaa-67yGM

{8} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/06/ukraine-international-war-criminal-obama-putin-2.html

{9} http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2014/05/19/why-everything-youve-read-about-ukraine-is-wrong/

{10} http://rinf.com/alt-news/breaking-news/obama-definitely-caused-malaysian-airliner-downed/

{11} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/05/videos-photos-odessan-massacre-done.html

{12} https://gpforecasts.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/yanukovychs-removal-was-unconstitutional/

{13} http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2015/03/20/one-year-after-russia-annexed-crimea-locals-prefer-moscow-to-kiev/

{15} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/08/the-anti-crimean-pogrom-that-sparked-crimeas-breakaway.html

{15} http://www.fort-russ.com/2015/02/the-paet-ashton-transcript.html

{16} https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-crimea-siemens-russia-idUSKBN1A61B2

{17} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_financial_crisis_%282014%E2%80%932017%29

{18} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/03/u-s-economic-sanctions-russia-based-obama-lie.html

{19} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/obamas-new-national-security-strategy-rabidly-anti-russian.html

{20} http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/04/25/russia-to-supply-power-to-rebel-controlled-eastern-ukraine.html

{21} http://www.theblogmire.com/an-appeal-to-angela-merkel-to-fulfil-her-obligations-under-minsk-ii/

{22} http://dailycaller.com/2017/06/20/trump-admin-slaps-russians-with-sanctions/

{23} https://ukraine-human-rights.org/bloody-struggle-for-power-in-ukraine-right-sector-provides-ultimatum-to-poroshenko/

{24} http://rinf.com/alt-news/breaking-news/meet-ukraines-master-mass-murderer-dmitriy-yarosh/

{25} http://www.globalresearch.ca/nazism-of-ukraines-us-backed-government-is-hidden-by-western-news-media/5449339?print=1

{26} http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article40313.htm

{27} https://consortiumnews.com/2017/02/27/a-nazi-skeleton-in-the-family-closet/

{28} https://archive.is/V0SNW

{29} http://biblioteca-virtuala.blogspot.com/2016/11/international-criminal-court-russias.html

{30} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/new-video-evidence-americas-coup-ukraine-means.html

{31} http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-09-05/three-big-lies-pervade-americas-news-media

{32} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/03/160-billion-cost-ukraines-viktor-yanukovych-spurned-eus-offer-20-nov-2013.html

{33} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/crimea-seized-russia-russia-block-seizure-u-s.html

{34} http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/06/indications-u-s-planning-nuclear-attack-russia.html

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/07/25/the-current-big-lie-is.html

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-25/current-big-lie

Categories: Uncategorized

Are America’s Wars Just and Moral?

by Patrick J Buchanan

buchanan.org/blog (July 25 2017)

“One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies”, writes columnist David Ignatius.

Columnist Eric Margolis summarizes the successes of the six-year civil war to overthrow President Bashar Assad:

The result of the western-engendered carnage in Syria was horrendous: at least 475,000 dead, five million Syrian refugees driven into exile in neighboring states (Turkey alone hosts three million), and another six million internally displaced … eleven million Syrians … driven from their homes into wretched living conditions and near famine.

“Two of Syria’s greatest and oldest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, have been pounded into ruins. Jihadist massacres and Russian and American air strikes have ravaged once beautiful, relatively prosperous Syria. Its ancient Christian peoples are fleeing for their lives before US and Saudi takfiri religious fanatics.

 

Realizing the futility of US policy, President Trump is cutting aid to the rebels. And the War Party is beside itself. Says The Wall Street Journal:

The only way to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution is if Iran and Russia feel they are paying too high a price for their Syria sojourn. This means more support for Mr Assad’s enemies, not cutting them off without notice. And it means building up a Middle East coalition willing to fight Islamic State and resist Iran. The US should also consider enforcing “safe zones” in Syria for anti-Assad forces.

 

Yet, fighting ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria, while bleeding the Assad-Iran-Russia-Hezbollah victors, is a formula for endless war and unending terrors visited upon the Syrian people.

What injury did the Assad regime, in power for half a century and having never attacked us, inflict to justify what we have helped to do to that country?

Is this war moral by our own standards?

We overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003 and Moammar Gadhafi in 2012. Yet, the fighting, killing and dying in both countries have not ceased. Estimates of the Iraq civilian and military dead run into the hundreds of thousands.

Still, the worst humanitarian disaster may be unfolding in Yemen.

After the Houthis overthrew the Saudi-backed regime and took over the country, the Saudis in 2015 persuaded the United States to support its air strikes, invasion, and blockade.

By January 2016, the UN estimated a Yemeni civilian death toll of 10,000, with 40,000 wounded. However, the blockade of Yemen, which imports ninety percent of its food, has caused a crisis of malnutrition and impending famine that threatens millions of the poorest people in the Arab world with starvation.

No matter how objectionable we found these dictators, what vital interests of ours were so imperiled by the continued rule of Saddam, Assad, Gadhafi, and the Houthis that they would justify what we have done to the peoples of those countries?

“They make a desert and call it peace”, Calgacus said of the Romans he fought in the first century. Will that be our epitaph?

Among the principles for a just war, it must be waged as a last resort, to address a wrong suffered, and by a legitimate authority. Deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

The wars in Syria, Libya, and Yemen were never authorized by Congress. The civilian dead, wounded, and uprooted in Syria, and the malnourished millions in Yemen, represent a moral cost that seems far beyond any proportional moral gain from those conflicts.

In which of the countries we have attacked or invaded in this century – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen – are the people better off than they were before we came?

And we wonder why they hate us.

“Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return”, wrote W H Auden in [his poem] “September 1 1939”. As the peoples of Syria and the other broken and bleeding countries of the Middle East flee to Europe and America, will not some come with revenge on their minds and hatred in their hearts?

Meanwhile, as the Americans bomb across the Middle East, China rises. She began the century with a GDP smaller than Italy’s and now has an economy that rivals our own.

She has become the world’s first manufacturing power, laid claim to the islands of the East and South China seas, and told America to keep her warships out of the Taiwan Strait.

Xi Jinping has launched a “One Belt, One Road” policy to finance trade ports and depots alongside the military and naval bases being established in Central and South Asia.

Meanwhile, the Americans, $20 trillion in debt, running $800 billion trade deficits, unable to fix their health care system, reform their tax code or fund an infrastructure program, prepare to fight new Middle East wars.

Whom the Gods would destroy …

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http://buchanan.org/blog/americas-wars-just-moral-127383

Categories: Uncategorized

Is this the New Media Normal?

Manufactured News for Hire

by Lee Smith

TabletMag.com (July 22 2017)

Zero Hedge (July 22 2017)

Donald Trump, Junior appears to be the latest figure in President Donald Trump’s inner circle to be caught in the giant web of the Great Kremlin Conspiracy. Trump the younger said he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, but that all he got in his June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer was an earful {1} about dropping the Magnitzky Act, which sanctions Russian officials involved in the death of a Russian lawyer who was killed in detention.

If the Trump, Junior meeting is just another chapter in the Beltway telenovela about Trump selling out America to the Russians through an ever-changing cast of supposed intermediaries – come back, Mike Flynn and Carter Page, we hardly knew ye – it sheds valuable light on the ways and means by which the news that fills our iPhone screens and Facebook feeds is now produced.

You see, the Russian lawyer – often carelessly presented as a “Russian government lawyer” with “close ties to Putin” – Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump, also worked recently with a Washington, DC “commercial research and strategic intelligence firm” that is also believed to have lobbied against the Magnitzy Act. That firm, which also doubles as an opposition research shop, is called Fusion GPS – famous for producing the Russia dossier distributed under the byline of Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent for hire.

Steele’s report, a collection of anonymously-sourced allegations, many of which were said to come from “high-ranking former Russian government officials” – that is, not exactly the kinds of people who seem likely to randomly shoot the shit with ex-British spooks – detailed Trump’s ties to Russian officials and strange sexual obsessions. Originally ordered up by one of Trump’s Republican challengers, the dossier circulated widely in DC in the months before the 2016 election, pushed by the Clinton campaign, but no credible press organization was able to verify its claims. After Clinton’s surprise loss, the dossier became public, and its claims – while still unverified – have shaped the American public sphere ever since.

Yet at the same time that Fusion GPS was fueling a campaign warning against a vast Russia-Trump conspiracy to destroy the integrity of American elections, the company was also working with Russia to influence American policy – by removing the same sanctions that Trump was supposedly going to remove as his quid pro quo for Putin’s help in defeating Hillary. Many observers, including the press, can’t quite figure out how the firm wound up on both sides of the fence. Senator Chuck Grassley wants to know if Fusion GPS has violated {2} the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

As the founders of Fusion GPS surely understand, flexibility is a key recipe for success – and the more room you can occupy in the news cycle, the bigger the brand. After all, they’re former journalists – and good ones. Fusion GPS is the story of a few journalists who decided to stop being suckers. They’re not buyers of information, they’re sellers.
 

* * * * *

 

Fusion GPS was founded in 2009 – before the social media wave destroyed most of the remaining structures of twentieth-century American journalism – by two Wall Street Journal reporters, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. They picked up {3} former colleagues from the Journal, Tom Catan, and Neil King, Junior {4}, who were also well-respected by their peers. When the social media wave hit two years later, print media’s last hopes for profitability vanished, and Facebook became the actual publisher of most of the news that Americans consumed. Opposition research and communications shops like Fusion GPS became the newsrooms – with investigative teams and foreign bureaus – that newspapers could no longer afford.

As top reporters themselves, the principals of Fusion GPS knew exactly what their former colleagues needed in order to package and sell stories to their editors and bosses. “Simpson was one of the top terror-finance investigative reporters in the field”, says one Washington-based journalist, who knows Simpson professionally and personally, and who asked for anonymity in discussing a former reporter. “He got disillusioned when Rupert Murdoch took over the Journal because there was less room for the kind of long-form investigative journalism he thrived on”.

And now, says the journalist, “they’re guns for hire. They were hired to dig up dirt on donors to Mitt Romney’s campaign {5}, they were hired {6} by Planned Parenthood after a video exposing some of the organization’s controversial practices.”

Besides Russia, Fusion GPS has also worked with other foreign countries, organizing campaigns and creating news that furthers the aims of the people who pay for their services – using the fractured playing field of “news” to extend old-fashioned lobbying efforts in a way that news consumers have been slow to understand.

Fusion GPS, according to the company’s website, offers “a cross-disciplinary approach with expertise in media, politics, regulation, national security, and global markets”. What does that mean, exactly? “They were hired by {7} a sheik in the UAE after he was toppled in a coup and waged an information war against his brother”, one well-respected reporter who has had dealings with the company told me. “I believe they seeded The New Yorker story about the Trump Hotel in Azerbaijan with alleged connections to the IRGC. They may have been hired to look into Carlos Slim. It’s amazing how much copy they generate. They’re really effective.”

Yet it is rare to read stories about communications shops like Fusion GPS because traditional news organizations are reluctant to bite the hands that feed them. But they are the news behind the news – well known to every DC beat reporter as the sources who set the table and provide the sources for their big “scoops”. The ongoing transformation of foundering, profitless news organizations into dueling proxies for partisan communications operatives is bad news for American readers, and for our democracy. But it is having a particularly outsized effect on reporting in the area of foreign policy, where expert opinion is prized – and easily bought – and most reporters and readers are only shallowly informed.
 

* * * * *

 

For the past seven years, I’ve reported on and written about American foreign policy and what I saw as troubling trends in how we describe and debate our relationship to the rest of the world. What I’ve concluded during that period is that the fractious nature of those arguments – over the Iran Deal, for instance, or the war in Syria, or Russia’s growing role in the Middle East and elsewhere – is a symptom of a problem here at home. The issue is not about this or that foreign policy. Rather, the problem is that the mediating institutions that enabled Americans to debate and decide our politics and policies, here and abroad, are deeply damaged, likely beyond repair.

The shape of the debate over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action illustrated this most clearly. The Obama White House turned the press into an instrument used not only to promote its initiatives but also to drown out and threaten and shame critics and potential opponents, even within the president’s own party. Given the financial exigencies of a media whose business model had been broken by the internet, mismanagement, and the rise of social media as the dominant information platform, the prestige press sacrificed its independence for access to power. If for instance, your beat was national security, it was difficult at best to cross the very few sources of power in Washington that controlled access to information. Your job depended on it. And there are increasingly fewer jobs in the press.

Ironically, the seeds of the moral and physical collapse of the American press were planted at the moment of its greatest popular triumph – All the President’s Men. Not the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, but the 1976 film lionizing the work of journalists whose big story about the Watergate break-in and cover-up was based on information provided by a government official, who steered their reporting until he brought down the President of the United States. Oh sure, have it your way, Mark Felt – aka “Deep Throat” – was a whistleblower, a man of conscience serving the people he protected for decades as a federal agent. But he was also a man who wanted to become Director of the FBI and became furious at Nixon for snubbing him for the top job. In other words, the hero of this epic tale was an embittered law enforcement official who instead of going public with what he knew about a crime, manipulated a vital American institution, the free press, to pay back his boss, while the reporters manfully withheld that information from their readers.

This is to take nothing away from the sedulous and detailed reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. But the lesson of Watergate has been imprinted on two generations of journalists, and it was only a matter of time before it was raised to the level of a virtue in the Obama years – if you want to break real news, you need to ingratiate yourself with the mid- to high-level officials who are in position to leak it to you. And then, the bottom fell out of the news business.

Try to imagine what it’s like for recent graduates from the country’s top journalism schools when they first hit the Washington happy hour scene. It’s their first time out with their senior colleagues, their mentors – whoever still has a job. Everyone is three drinks into the evening and bragging about who’s closer to some deputy assistant secretary at the Pentagon, or the scheduler for the vice president’s chief of staff.

Gee, the apprentice reporter thinks to herself, in my “Sociology of the Fourth Estate” seminar at Medill, my favorite professor told me that as journalists, those who help provide the free flow of information necessary for the electorate to make choices about how we live at home and influence others abroad, we serve the American people. And now you’re saying that what we’re really doing is advancing the interests of certain bureaucrats against their rivals in other bureaucracies. So we’re political operatives – except we get paid less. Much much less.

The news media is dead broke. Print advertising is washed up and all the digital advertising that was supposed to replace lost revenue from print ads and subscribers has been swallowed up by Facebook and Google. But the good news is that people will still pay for stories, and it’s an awful lot easier to bill one customer than invoicing the 1,500 readers of your blog. The top customers for these stories are political operations.

There is no accurate accounting of how many of the stories you read in the news are the fruit of opposition research, because no journalist wants to admit how many of their top “sources” are just information packagers – which is why the blinding success of Fusion GPS is the least-covered media story in America right now. There’s plenty of opposition research on the right, but most of it comes from the left. That’s not because Republicans are more virtuous than Democrats and look for dirt less than their rivals do. Nor conversely is it because Republicans make a richer subject for opposition research because they’re so much more corrupt. Nope, it’s simple arithmetic: Most journalists lean to the left, and so do the majority of career officials who staff the federal government. There are more sounding boards on the left, and more sources. It’s not ideological, it’s business.

Thus, most of Fusion GPS’s contracts seem to come from the left – except for its most famous project, the Russia dossier. Before it was passed on to the Democrats, it started on the right, when one Republican candidate – thought to be Jeb Bush but never confirmed – hired the outfit to amass damning material on Trump. From humble beginnings, it has taken on the shape of a modern-day legend.

Plugging in various members of the president’s circle as possible accomplices – including his former national security adviser Mike Flynn, Carter Page, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and now Donald Trump, Junior – the narrative has led the news, print and broadcast, nearly every day for seven months. The Great Kremlin Conspiracy has fueled the energies of the anti-Trump resistance and turned obscure twitter feeds into folk heroes. More importantly, it has helped obstruct the legislative and political agenda of an administration that has had no shortage of big problems of its own making without also being the target of what has turned out to be most innovative and successful campaign of political warfare in recent memory.

The Trump-Russia story has frequently been likened to Watergate, a specious comparison since the latter started with evidence of a crime and the former with publication of an anthology of fables, pornography, and Russian-sourced disinformation put together and distributed by partisan political operatives. The salient comparison is rather in the effect – it has the same feel as Watergate. And it’s taking up the same space as Watergate – and that’s because communications shops-for-hire like Fusion GPS have assumed the role that the American press used to occupy.
 

* * * * *

 

Brickbats and Bouquets

On Wednesday, three major news organization published variations of the same story – about the line of succession to the Saudi throne. It seems that in June the son of King Salman, Mohammed Bin Salman muscled his cousin Mohammed Bin Nayef out of the way to become the Crown Prince and next in line.

It’s a juicy narrative with lots of insidery details about Saudi power politics, drug addiction, and the ambitions of a large and very wealthy family, but the most salient fact is that The New York Times {8}, The Wall Street Journal {9}, and Reuters {10} published what was essentially the same story, with minor variations, on the same day – not a breaking news story, but an investigative feature.

In other words, these media organizations were used as part of an information campaign targeting Riyadh, for as yet unknown reasons. Who’s behind it? Maybe an opposition research shop like Fusion GPS, or a less formal gathering of interests, like Saudi opponents foreign and domestic, as well as American intelligence officials.

It’s certainly embarrassing to be played for the sucker and see what you likely assumed was a scoop break in two other outlets the very same day, and some of the bylines involved are capable and talented journalists. But it’s perhaps worst for The New York Times, which was compelled to run what amounted to an article-length correction the next day, under the headline, “Saudi Official Who Was Thought to Be Under House Arrest Receives a Promotion”. On Wednesday, the Times reported that General Abdulaziz al-Huwairini had been put under house arrest by a faction loyal to Mohammed Bin Salman. On Thursday, the Times reported that he was in fact named head of a government body overseeing domestic security and counterterrorism issues.

Still, the Times published what was far and away the best piece of foreign news reporting this week, Tim Arango’s July 15 feature {11}, “Iran Dominates in Iraq After US ‘Handed the Country Over’ “. It’s a terrifically well-reported and well-written piece explaining how the administrations of George W Bush and Barack Obama are both to blame for bungling one of the costliest and most controversial foreign engagements in American history.

_____

Lee Smith is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is also the author of the recently published The Consequences of Syria (2014).

Links:

{1} https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/josh-rogin/wp/2017/07/11/inside-the-link-between-the-russian-lawyer-who-met-donald-trump-jr-and-the-trump-dossier/

{2} http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/chuck-grassley-trump-russia-dossier-justice-department-236768

{3} http://heavy.com/news/2017/07/fusion-gps-dossier-russia-trump-jr-christopher-steele-democrat-planned-parenthood-glenn-simpson-peter-fritsch-natalia-veselnitskaya-grassley-hearing/comment-page-1/

{4} https://www.cjr.org/special_report/who_works_where_election_journalists_trump_jobs.php

{5} https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304203604577397031654422966

{6} http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-sordid-history-of-the-firm-behind-the-trump-russia-dossier/article/2006254

{7} https://www.lifesitenews.com/blogs/planned-parenthood-hires-fmr.-lobbyist-for-sheikh-who-burned-american-flag

{8} https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-mohammed-bin-nayef-mohammed-bin-salman.html

{9} https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-a-saudi-prince-unseated-his-cousin-to-become-the-kingdoms-heir-apparent-1500473999

{10} http://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-palace-coup-idUSKBN1A41IS

{11} https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/15/world/middleeast/iran-iraq-iranian-power.html

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/241381/news-of-the-news

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-07-22/new-media-normal-manufactured-news-hire

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