Japan and Russia: Breaking the Ice

by Kitagawa Hiromitsu

https://www.nippon.com (December 11 2013)

Climate change is causing the ice covering sections of the Arctic Ocean to recede. This enables greater use of the Northern Sea Route, a shipping lane between Europe and the Far East that’s about forty percent shorter than the southern route that passes through the Suez Canal. Kitagawa Hiromitsu of the Ocean Policy Research Foundation argues that the new route offers Japan a rare opportunity to improve relations with its neighbor, Russia.

The Northern Sea Route, which mainly runs through Russian territorial waters, is defined by Russia as a shipping lane that extends westward from the Bering Strait to the Kara Strait, located at the southern tip of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago. During the summer, there is a two-week window of opportunity when the route is free from ice, allowing ships to pass safely through.

Norway, situated at the northernmost part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, has abundant natural resources, including oil. A ship departing from Kirkenes, Norway, bound for Japan via the Northern Sea Route, can sail east along Russia’s northern coastline, pass through the Bering Strait, head south along the Kamchatka Peninsula, and arrive at Hokkaido. This route is only about forty percent as long as the alternative, southern route, which passes through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal, across the Indian Ocean, through the Straits of Malacca, and from there to Japan.

The shorter route means lower fuel costs for tanker ships, which have soared in recent years, and can also be expected to curb exhaust emissions, particularly black carbon, or soot, a byproduct of fuel combustion. In addition, by taking the northern route, ships can avoid the dangerous waters off the coast of Somalia and in the Straits of Malacca, where piracy is rampant. For all these reasons, the Northern Sea Route offers unmistakable economic advantages.

Due to instability in the Middle East, especially the ongoing unrest in Egypt, Western European countries are hastening to avail themselves of the Northern Sea Route. For the most part, such efforts are still in the preliminary stages, but Western European firms that have used the Northern Sea Route appear to be working quickly to make it a viable alternative in the event the southern route becomes unavailable.

There are some disadvantages, however. For one thing, deep-draft supertankers have a hard time traversing the relatively shallow waters of the Bering Strait. Furthermore, the presence of ships passing through the Arctic Sea is likely to have adverse effects on the natural environment. It’s also difficult to set insurance rates for shipping via the northern route since it hasn’t been used much in the past so risk factors can’t be definitively assessed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has encouraged commercial use of the Northern Sea Route, pledging to turn it into a major artery for international transport. The use of Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers can alleviate risks and help curb any sharp rise in insurance rates. The icebreakers and their crews not only make sure the route is cleared, they can also render assistance if a tanker ship runs into trouble, such as by dealing with leaks or spills, making repairs, and mounting rescue operations. In light of conditions in the Arctic Sea, the availability of seaborne rapid-response support, as opposed to land-based support, would seem appealing to insurance firm providing coverage for ships.

Energy Security, A Primary Concern

At present, however, only about 100 ships per year use the Northern Sea Route, a trifling number compared to the approximately 18,000 ships that travel the southern route. Given the fact that the northern course is unusable in the winter months, there seems little likelihood that it could become a major shipping route on a par with the southern route anytime soon. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of energy security, the Northern Sea Route is an option worth considering for Japan as well.

Japan was granted observer status in the Arctic Council at a ministerial meeting held in Sweden in May 2013. This move, which enables Japan to regularly attend meetings among governments with interests in the Arctic, is a significant step forward. Although it does not have a voice in the organization, Japan can nevertheless lobby the members and gather information bearing on its national interests. I hope that Japan will be represented by members of the private sector who have strong credentials in the energy and distribution industries, and can stay with the organization for the long term, in order to help Japan move forward in the future.

Japan depends primarily on oil from countries in the Middle East and natural gas to meet its energy needs. For minerals, it relies heavily on imports from Australia. There’s no guarantee, however, that these countries will continue to meet Japan’s needs. The Arctic coastline doesn’t have much in the way of petroleum deposits, but it’s rich in natural gas and minerals, including iron ore. These resources are already being developed by business interests in India and China, which need vast quantities of resources to create domestic infrastructure. Japan is a late arrival. Unless preparations are made very quickly, by the time Japan really needs resources from the Arctic, they’ll all be spoken for.

Putin’s Motives

Kitagawa Hiromitsu maintains that Russia will welcome forays by Japanese businesses.

Foreign businesses have been developing resources in the Scandinavian countries for some time. This has yet to occur in Russia, though, and there’s still room for Japanese firms to gain a foothold. Although the Russian economy has expanded rapidly since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the perceived progress actually amounts to little more than a sudden influx of foreign currency derived from exports of the country’s abundant underground resources, which had previously been reserved for domestic consumption. This has prompted warnings from the International Monetary Fund over the country’s excessive reliance on exports of natural resources.

An analysis of data from the Russian government shows that the growth rates posted by major industries are directly proportional to investments made by the state. There’s no denying the soaring economic growth, but the linear relationship between investment and output reveals an economy wholly dependent on systematic state-sponsored investment, with precious little growth in private industry. Apparently motivated by concern over this vulnerability, Putin has shifted the focus toward exporting inexhaustible “commodities” such as electric power, instead of simply selling off Russia’s natural resources. This provides Japan with an opening: the need for Japanese technology.

Russian advanced technology: a nuclear-powered icebreaker.

Advanced technology tends to be associated with the IT and communications sectors, but it’s important to keep in mind that heavy industry is being transformed by technology as well. The development of oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor has only become possible thanks to technological advances. Japanese and Russian interests have collaborated on developing energy resources on and around the northern island of Sakhalin, and the Russians have been very receptive to Japanese private-sector investment. Given their interest in expanding the Russian economy while avoiding further reliance on oil and gas exports, Putin and those around him are apt to be especially keen on tie-ups with the Japanese, hoping that the latter’s passion for high-quality manufacturing will rub off on Russians.

China is currently Russia’s primary “customer” in terms of accessing the Northern Sea Route, but Russia can’t attain the kind of economic growth it’s aiming for by doing business with China. Yet China does constitute an enormous market that Russia can’t afford to ignore. That’s why Japan should make its own bid to take advantage of the Northern Sea Route now, while the appeal of its technological prowess still holds sway. This chance may not come again.

The most valuable advantage Japan can obtain through the use of the northern route is, of course, a portion of Russia’s vast trove of petroleum and other subterranean resources. At the same time, Japan will be benefiting from the superior skills of Russian seamen. Russian icebreakers are generally manned by highly capable crews who are far more experienced at navigating arctic seas than sailors anywhere else. It takes a great deal of skill to pilot a ship through the icebound Arctic Ocean. Even satellite technology can’t tell you how thick the ice is in any given location, so the person at the helm has to quickly identify and avoid the impenetrable older ice and steer for the newer ice, which will give way. That kind of skill only comes with experience.

The Scandinavian countries used to have crews who were equal to the Russians, but ice has been disappearing from the Baltic Sea due to the effects of global warming, and relatively few younger Scandinavian sailors have experience on icebreakers. There have been incidents in which Scandinavian icebreakers piloted by inexperienced sailors became trapped in the ice and had to be rescued by Russian ships. Even in Russia, highly skilled icebreaker pilots have dwindled in number over the years. While there are still some around, their skills should be put to use to enable safe and orderly passage on the Northern Sea Route.

The Northern Route to Better Relations

I propose that a shuttle transport operation be created to traverse the Northern Sea Route, staffed by seasoned Russian sailors, with due attention paid to the possible environmental repercussions. Designated base ports can be established on the Scandinavian Peninsula and in Japan, respectively, and sturdy vessels well-equipped to handle icy seas can make regular runs along the route. Cargo can be offloaded to regular ships at each base port for transport to its destination. This will provide a comparatively safe and economical way of carrying goods back and forth.

If Japan and Russia can become more closely linked by means of the Northern Sea Route, the bilateral relationship will surely change. It has to change. Provided Japan is sufficiently concerned to do something about this, Russia will be receptive. Political issues such as the status of the Northern Territories can be put aside, and the two sides can pursue a purely economic relationship. Preferably, as Japan and Russia grow closer, a resolution to the Northern Territories issue will emerge naturally.

(Originally published in Japanese on September 13, 2013.)

Kitagawa Hiromitsu is Research Fellow Emeritus, Ocean Policy Research Foundation. Born in Tokyo in 1935. Graduated from Yokohama National University, College of Engineering, Department of Naval Architecture. Joined the Ship Research Institute, Ministry of Transport (now the National Maritime Research Institute); served as head of Propulsion Performance Department, later appointed director. Served as president, Shipbuilding Research Center of Japan.


The Problem is America

The Malignant Cultural Hegemony

by Phil Butler

New Eastern Outlook (February 18 2018)

What is wrong with the American people? After several years of horrific policy toward the waking world, democracy’s standard bearers seem to be drowning in a lake of selfishness. Distracted, apathetic, or simply dumbed and numbed by unrelenting propaganda, the most admired society on Earth has turned to a wriggling mush of diverging ideals. I fear that American have become what we ultimately deplored, just another despicable cultural hegemony. Here’s a short brief on the matter.

A recent article {1} by James Carden at The Nation prompted me to discuss this unsavory truth today. The title of the piece, “Trump’s Syria Policy: Perpetual War Without Debate”, provides a stunning introduction for my “proofs” of America’s war on peace. But, the reader need not read Carden’s story to understand that the United States has been transformed into a lawless international pirate state. This paragraph is evidence enough our government has gone rogue:

Currently there are, in the absence of congressional authorization and in violation of international law (since the United States was not attacked by Syria, nor are US troops there at the invitation of the sovereign Syrian government), an estimated 2,000 American troops based in Syria. Given this, it was odd, though hardly surprising, when major US media outlets like CNN carried the news {2} that American occupying troops were acting “defensively” last week when the United States launched a series of strikes against regime forces, killing over 100 Syrian soldiers, in retaliation for an attack on a headquarters of US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces in Khusham. Reports emerged {3} this week that perhaps dozens, if not hundreds, of Russian mercenaries were also killed in the US attack.



We Are the Enemy

It’s high time we face the fact that successive administrations have been operating outside the Constitution of the United States of America. There’s no arguing that Obama and Trump blatantly exceeded their authority under that founding document, as well as under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which limits executive authority to conduct such military actions. However horrific this fact may be thought, these actions are only a symptom of a much deadlier, and more pitiful causal agent – a society in shameful decay, one indiscernible from those of the last days of Rome or Hitler’s Third Reich. What we have witnessed these last thirty years is the corruption and destruction of a dream – a dream very few can even recall. The Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, Iran-Contra, Afghanistan, and Iran, and a dozen regime changes taught Americans nothing whatsoever. Today, my people scarcely even noticed the tens of millions ruined or dead on account of America’s corrupt policies toward the world. Not even the Clintons’ graft and misdeeds seem to register as more than a sound bit these days. Rather than parroting the painfully obvious, I should think the reader is wanting more explanation of how in the hell this happened.

For those unfamiliar, it was Karl Marx who gave us the notion of “cultural hegemony“, which is the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class. In such a system of control, the ruling class manipulates the culture of society, altering and shaping the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores in such a way as to form a social construct beneficial only to this ruling class. Make no mistake, this is exactly where American society is today – managed to the point of being automated. And while we all grew up whispering how “The Man” was controlling everything, hardly anyone in my country will stand up and raise a voice professing this truth. Please, my fellow Americans, do not hazard to argue here – we all know this is the truth we do not want the world to know. The technocrats I harp about, the ruling elites who hide behind their invulnerability, and the local despots allowed to run their urban games, the wheelers and dealers, and the apathetic masses who tolerate them – we’re finally at the predictable end my friends. Rex Tillerson the Exxon king armed with the mighty lever of American military might, now there is a fearsome vision for you, a moving picture image of literal cultural imperialism. “We need gas, we’ll take gas, don’t you try and stop us”.

The Rotten Seed of Mediocrity

And now you might ask; “Where did we go wrong?” Was the assassination of JFK or some other crisis the beginning? Well, the beginning of America’s transformation into a dastardly hegemony does not really matter now. We are here. It is helpful to look at a few signposts though, just in order that we tweak the consciousness of a few. Maybe some analysts would point to Bill Clinton’s role in destroying Yugoslavia. While others will venture back to Lyndon Johnson and America’s biggest disaster, that Vietnam War. But, I can recall a more recent societal disaster for American known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (“NCLB“), first proposed by former President George W Bush, and signed into law January 08 2002. This disastrous piece of legislation ensured thirteen years of dumbing and numbing of America’s youth, with aftereffects reaching into the distant future. NCLB provided Bush and Obama with a monetary lever to blackmail educators into retarding the educational excellence that had made America the envy of the world once. NCLB produced a generation of Americans who can read well and do mid-level math, but who are also social science cripples. We created a generation of sociopaths who could read iPhone instructions and count well. NCLB drowned the excellent student and threw a life preserver for any child who wanted a free ride. NCLB was scrapped just before Obama left office, and it was replaced by Every Student Succeeds Act, which was like closing the gate after the cows have already left. Please understand, the ruling elite have no interest in a new intelligent society, think about it.

After over a decade of American kids supposedly being pushed forward, the United States ranks fortieth in Mathematics, 25th in Science, and 24th in reading behind many of the countries Donald Trump calls “shit holes”. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (“PISA“) Latvia, Vietnam, Russia, and even Singapore (1st) beat American students out in math. Even more telling than recent indicators, this report {4} by AARP speaks of an American education system half a century ago that was second to none. When I was a student, Americans consistently ranked in the top two spots on the world stage, today tenth is considerate a success by leadership. We need not argue here about test scores and the exactitudes of America’s education system to understand the impacts of this “cultural hegemony” exacted onto Americans. The disintegration of America’s former ideals grows more apparent as we look at such things as the WJP Rule of Law Index, where the US is currently eighteenth position behind Singapore and others. And if we look at the “Economic Freedom of the World” results we find the US in sixteenth position behind even Jordan and Chile. Even in areas where America is perceived to excel, such as in press freedom {5}, the country ranks far below many third-world or emerging states. Finally, when we examine such measures as the Global Peace Index we see America running 114th behind Rwanda. Yes, you read that correctly, the same Rwanda infamous for genocide.

Dumbness, to paraphrase the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education {6} and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science, and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.

– Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason (2009) {7}



“Sieg Heil” – Hail Stupidity

How many remember the newsreel reruns of Adolf Hitler standing before a multitude of Nazis chanting “Sieg Heil” – the minions of evil thrusting their hands forward in unison to perform the Hitler salute that was obligatory in the Nazi Reich. I remember this as I read the comments in every “Putin bashing” article I read. We have returned to those days, rest assured, for every western media broadcast of Putin hate is emblematic. Putin has a cold, and the new Nazis in America wish him dead or worse. Most of you probably do not read comments, but you do know the western mainstream versions resonated with a tone we’ve become familiar with. Putin, they said, is either on his deathbed or he’d been kidnapped by Pussy Riot fans. Putin is this, or Putin is that, but always Putin is jeered, hated, and detested for reasons that are manufactured. Reading the headlines and the comments underneath, this is was what compelled me to study my country’s malignant stupidity. You’d be amazed how many readers of American or British magazines want Putin dead. Meanwhile, Russia eliminates the same people who killed in Paris, London, Brussels, and even the United States. Can you grasp the meaning in all this? Think about Putin smashing ISIL for humanity, and then superimpose this Wikipedia list {8} of atrocities committed by them {xxx}. If you have a conscience and a brain you are asking; “How can this be?”

Goose pimples rose all over me, my hair stood on end, my eyes filled with tears of love and gratitude for this greatest of all conquerors of human misery and shame, and my breath came in little gasps. If I had not known that the Leader would have scorned such adulation, I might have fallen to my knees in unashamed worship, but instead, I drew myself to attention, raised my arm in the eternal salute of the ancient Roman Legions and repeated the holy words, “Heil Hitler!”

– George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party


I will tell you how this came to be if Donald Trump was elected by “deplorables” – the liberal Millennials and other world order minions are mental sodomites, even when compared to the most ignorant and bigoted southern redneck. No wonder dead and displaced Syrians matter not. We are a Titanic shipwreck adrift, adrift until we strike a reef and sink. Looking on through clearer eyes, I see now how Karl Marx was a genius in his theories of cultural hegemony, and how unchecked capitalism is wrecking our world. In America, as was the case in Russia about the time of the Czars, the masses depended on working-class intellectuals to insulate/defend them from elitist control. So, George Bush’s NCLB dumbing virtually assured there could be no “working class intellectuals”. Meanwhile, those decent citizens who might have called out the ruling class’ political pawns, they’ve been bought off with other aspects of this new dominant ideology of “perceived” empowerment. And in this false empowerment, we see domestic and foreign policy goals uncovered. The Tillerson/Exxon war we are about to witness, the utter destruction of traditional values, rampant consumerism taken to new heights, and the myth of American exceptionalism which drugs the high functioning chimpanzees – this is the bitter and stark reality of a once great nation. We must see this, lest we be doomed to it.

I leave you with this from the eminent astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator, Carl Sagan:

The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the thirty-second sound bites (now down to ten seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.


{1} https://www.thenation.com/article/trumps-syria-policy-perpetual-war-without-debate/

{2} https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/07/politics/us-strikes-pro-regime-forces-syria/index.html

{3} https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/14/585653555/dozens-of-russian-mercenaries-reportedly-killed-in-u-s-airstrikes-in-syria

{4} https://blog.aarp.org/2013/06/19/u-s-global-education-rankings-slipping-boomers-once-held-strong-lead/

{5} https://rsf.org/en/ranking

{6} https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/education

{7} https://www.amazon.com/Age-American-Unreason-Susan-Jacoby/dp/0375423745

{8} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents_linked_to_ISIL


Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller Putin’s Praetorians (2017) and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.


How the US Bullies North Korea

1945 to Present

by T J Coles

CounterPunch (February 22 2018)

Photo by John Pavelka | CC BY 2.0

For more than seven decades, US policymakers and military strategists have bullied, intimidated and ultimately tried to isolate the self-professed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea). It is particularly instructive to examine official Congressional, CIA, and Pentagon sources relating to North Korea’s motives. These often paint a much more honest picture of events than mainstream media.

The official sources, conspicuously absent from mainstream US and European media, strongly and consistently suggest that threats and aggression on the part of Western countries, in this case the USA, are met with threats and aggression by weaker states; in this case, North Korea. From this, we learn that if we want peace or at least de-escalation, it pays to pursue diplomacy and to stick to international agreements. We also learn that US elites are committed to global military domination at any cost, not to peace.

The Second World War & the Korean War

The current period of US-North Korea relations began at the close of World War II. Korea had already faced external threats, having been under brutal Japanese occupation, beginning 1910. A recent US Defense Department report {1}, says: “[North Korea’s] threat perceptions are shaped by a legacy of guerrilla warfare dating back to its anti-colonial struggle against the Japanese, political and economic isolation, experience during wartime, and a political culture that is defined by an unending existential struggle with outside forces”. If the assessment is correct, we learn that aggression leads to escalation.

The Cairo Conference 1943 said {2} of Korea: “in due course, Korea shall become free and independent”, which means a satellite of the US, as indeed history shows; at least with regards to the South (or the Republic of Korea). By the end of the war, the US had developed unprecedented, destructive technology, the atomic bomb, which was demonstrated twice; once in Hiroshima and again in Nagasaki, to show the world that the US was the new imperial power. Around seventy percent of Japan was destroyed, much of it from carpet bombing, even before the atomic bombs were dropped.

With Japan defeated, Stalin, arguably in accordance with the Cairo treaty, invaded Japanese Manchuria, which included parts of what is now North Korea, and sided with the anti-Japanese guerrilla, Kim Il-sung. Supposedly in an effort to stop Soviet advances, the US imposed an arbitrary demarcation line, which is why there are two separate countries, North Korea and South Korea today.

Soviet archives reviewed by US scholars at the Woodrow Wilson Center suggest {3} that “from February 1945 to April 1950 Stalin did not aim to gain control over the entire peninsula”. Stalin, according to the records, assumed that the US would seek control over Japan’s territories. A declassified CIA assessment {4} of troop movements in the North in January 1950, says that the North Korean movements were “probably a defensive measure to offset the growing strength of the offensively minded South Korean Army (sic)”.

This is in accord with the Defense Department report quoted earlier, which says that North Korea’s threat assessments are shaped by its sense of external vulnerability. It also adds weight to the idea that if you threaten people, they tend to respond.

In response to the North’s invasion of the South, the US-dominated United Nations Security Council adopted resolutions 84 and 85, which appear to have authorized the use of force under a United Nations Command. The UN Command was almost entirely made up of US forces, who unleashed what they describe {5} as “burn[ing] down every town in North Korea … Over a period of three years or so, we killed off … twenty percent of the population of Korea as direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure”, to quote General Curtis LeMay. Dean Rusk, who served in Truman’s State Department, said: “We were bombing with conventional weapons”, meaning non-nuclear, “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another” {6}.

This destroyed about ninety percent of the country, proportionally even more than the US had destroyed in Japan, including with the use of two atomic bombs. There were calls from some quarters to use nuclear weapons against Korea. Sir Peter Roberts, a Tory politician from Sheffield, UK, told Parliament {7} in 1950: “if the North Korean Government refuse to consider [a peace] resolution will the Prime Minister [Clement Attlee] advise his representative in the United Nations to ask for the use of the atomic bomb … upon the capital of North Korea?”, drawing gasps from fellow MPs.

Phases 1 & 2: “A Decade of Relative Quiet”

In 1956, the US, in violation of the Armistice Agreement, considered the possibility of positioning nuclear weapons in the South. North Korea responded by building huge, subterranean bunkers to survive the possibility of annihilation from the US. It also sought nuclear materials from the Soviets. This began, unofficially, Phase 1 of US-South Korea military build-ups in the region, which North Korea perceived as a threat.

The first exercises took place between 1955 and 1957 (Autumn Season and Spring Shower). Others included Counterblow and Strong Shield. They incorporated counterinsurgency operations, due to the fact that North Korea had some ideological support in the South, among the population, not the government, and North Korea conducted frequent infiltration operations into the South.

Why did significant numbers of South Koreans support the North? According to the CIA, the North was developing socioeconomically in ways unseen in the South under a US-backed dictatorship. To quote a report {8} from 1967: “excellent progress towards … rapid industrialization and the achievement of a high degree of self-sufficiency … aroused admiration among some South Koreans”.

And so began Phase 2: North Korea reacted to US-South Korean developments by engaging in provocations against the South. Kim Il-sung decided to relocate the armed forces closer to South Korea, to the Demilitarized Zone. The US-South Korea exercises, now called Focus Lens (or Focus Retina) began in 1968 and included long-range US flights designed to demonstrate rapid US force deployment.

During the late-1960s and well into the early-1980s, the North launched a series of cross-border raids, including assassination attempts and terrorism, such as hijacking South Korean airlines. Again, we learn that threats and violence are met with more of the same. The CIA report quoted above also explains that North Korea acted when it did in order to deter aggression from the USA: “more than a decade of relative quiet [followed the Korean War, but] the war in Vietnam probably caused North Korea to act when it did … [North Korea] has … been apprehensive that the conflict in Southeast Asia might spread to China and thence ultimately to Korea”.

It is also interesting to note that the CIA acknowledges “relative quiet”, so we might have expected US-South Korea military exercises to decline in scale and frequency, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Phase 3 began.

Phases 3 & 4: “Limited Provocations” & Deterennce

Former US serviceman and Pentagon analyst, Robert Collins, writes {9} that between 1976 and 1991, there was “an increase in the size of combined [South Korea]-US exercises”. Operation Focus Lens became an integrated exercise combing [sic] the South Korean government. The new exercise Team Spirit was introduced in 1976. By the late 1980s Team Spirit had grown in force participation, from 100,000 to over 200,000 US-South Korean troops. Collins says: “Because of its size, Team Spirit became a major concern for the North Koreans”. North Korea speeded up its nuclear programme, with assistance from the Soviet Union. So, again we learn that threats have consequences.

On the positive side, the 1990s began a new phase of slightly relaxed US-North Korea relations, as US war planners and strategists realized that North Korea could not be stomped on. “Slightly relaxed” because the evidence shows that the US violated every one of its treaty obligations with North Korea.

In 1992, North and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Initially, North Korea lived up to its side of the agreement, but the George H W Bush administration rejected North Korea’s offer to allow UN inspectors to examine part of its programme. Specialist Leon V Sigal of Arms Control Today says:

For a country supposedly intent on obtaining nuclear weapons, [North Korea’s] self-restraint seems difficult to explain. One possible explanation is that, starting in 1990 or 1991, North Korea was trying to trade in its weapons program for what it thought it needed more – security, political and economic ties with the United States …

… Washington entered into talks only with extreme reluctance, and even then it was unwilling to specify what it would give North Korea in return for abandoning its nuclear arms program.{10}


Under the US-North Korea Agreed Framework (1994), the US was obliged to replace North Korea’s graphite nuclear reactor with light-water plants. It never did. By 2001, George W Bush was in power and all talk of negotiations was for wimps. In his state of the union address in January 2002, Bush labeled North Korea part of the “axis of evil”, along with Iran and Iraq. Scholars at the Woodrow Wilson Center write: “Faced with such a clear and present danger”, that is, the United States, “Pyongyang did what most countries [sic] under similar circumstances would do”, namely it turned to developing weapons of mass destruction. They go on to say that ” ‘evil’ is something to be destroyed, not something to negotiate with. Indeed, the Bush administration has boxed itself – and North Korea – into a corner.” {11}

Phase 4 begins, the current phase of US-South Korea exercises, only this time with a supposedly nuclear-capable North. This continued well into the Obama years, by which time North Korea had developed and tested – or at least claims to have tested – nuclear weapons. By then Kim’s son, Kim Jong-il had long been in power, and through state-media explained that North Korea developed nuclear weapons as a deterrent against potential US aggression.

Remarkably, even the annual US Defense Department threat assessments to Congress agree. The documents also refer to North Korea’s provocative actions and media statements as minor, which contradicts Western media hoopla concerning the latest leader, Kim Jong-un and the portrayal of him as a madman. They go on to talk about North Korea’s deterrent to US aggression.

To quote the Pentagon {12} in 2015: “North Korea uses limited provocations – even those that are kinetic and lethal in nature, such as military actions and small-scale attacks”. The report also explains why exactly North Korea engages in “limited provocations”, namely “to gain psychological advantage in diplomacy and win limited political and economic concessions”. With regards to its alleged possession of nuclear weapons, the same report says:

“North Korea’s national military strategy … relies heavily on deterrence, strategically through its nuclear weapons program and supporting delivery systems and conventionally by maintaining a large, heavily-armed, forward-deployed military that presents a constant threat to South Korea, especially the greater Seoul metropolitan area”.


As Western media ludicrously claim that the US under Trump is committed to “negotiating” with North Korea, the same media that make a killing analysing Trump’s lies letting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson get away (keeping a straight face) with saying that peace talks with North Korea are contingent on North Korea’s initial commitment to “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” {13}; in other words, they are contingent on North Korea’s giving up its sole deterrent. The CNN interviewer never asked what right the US has to demand anything of North Korea, nor did she point out that the US stations weapons, including likely nuclear weapons, in the region. Under Democrats, Republicans, or far-right extremists like Trump, the US project for Full Spectrum Dominance continues …



{1} https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Report_to_Congress_on_Military_and_Security_Developments_Involving_the_DPRK.pdf

{2} https://www.loc.gov/law/help/us-treaties/bevans/m-ust000003-0858.pdf
Before the end of the Second World War, the US had plotted to take over Japan’s regional empire.

{3} https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACFB76.pdf

{4} https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP78-01617A002300290001-4.pdf

{5} https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=eCWXBWVjkEMC&pg=PA88&lpg=PA88&dq=Over+a+period+of+three+years+or+so,+we+killed+off+…+twenty+percent+of+the+population+of+Korea&source=bl&ots=IYHDQzNjcc&sig=ujuNUfeDC3GWtVygIBAenZCG5xM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjAy4D9i_jYAhVCKcAKHbvVCV44ChDoAQg3MAI#v=onepage&q=Over%20a%20period%20of%20three%20years%20or%20so%2C%20we%20killed%20off%20…%20twenty%20percent%20of%20the%20population%20of%20Korea&f=false

{6} Lori Lyn Bogle, Hot Wars of the Cold Wars: The Cold War (2001)

{7} http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1950/jun/26/korean-republic-invasion#S5CV0476P0_19500626_HOC_264

{8} https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0001218147.pdf

{9} http://www.38north.org/2014/02/rcollins022714/

{10} https://www.armscontrol.org/act/1997_05/sigal

{11} https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/uneasy-allies-fifty-years-china-north-korea-relations

{12} https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Military_and_Security_Developments_Involving_the_Democratic_Peoples_Republic_of_Korea_2015.PDF

{13} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRFijYzmytI

This article is adapted from a talk given to Cambridge Stop the War Coalition in the UK in January 2018.

Dr T J Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (2017 with Noam Chomsky and others, and the forthcoming Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (2018).

More articles by T J Coles: https://www.counterpunch.org/author/t-j-coles/


If We Want Kids to Stop Killing …

… the Adults Have to Stop, Too

America’s rage-sickness trickles down from the top

by Matt Taibbi

Rolling Stone (February 16 2018)

Mourners stand during a candlelight vigil for the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 15 2018. RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

Over two decades ago, I traveled to a city in the Russian provinces called Rostov-On-Don to interview a psychiatrist named Alexander Bukhanovsky.

Bukhanovsky, now deceased, was famous. If you’ve seen the movie Citizen X, about the capture of serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, Bukhanovsky was the guy played by Max Von Sydow. He was the Soviet Union’s first criminal profiler.

One of the first things he said was that both Russia and America produced disproportionate shares of mass killers.

“Giant militarized countries”, he said, “breed violent populations”.

Bukhanovsky at the time was treating a pre-teen who had begun killing animals. He told me this young boy would almost certainly move on to killing people eventually. He was seeing more and more of these cases, he said.

Nikolas Cruz, the nineteen-year-old just arrested for shooting and killing seventeen people in Parkland, Florida, supposedly bragged about killing animals. He reportedly even posted photos of his work on Instagram.

There will be lots of hand-wringing in the coming days about gun control, and rightfully so – it’s probably easier to get a semi-automatic rifle in this country than it is to get some flavors of Pop Tarts – but with each of these shootings, we seem to talk less and less about where the rage-sickness causing these massacres comes from.

On the rare occasions when we do talk about it, the popular explanation now is that guns themselves cause gun violence. As The New York Times put it after the Vegas massacre, “The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns”.

This makes sense. It would be interesting to see what would happen if we tried real gun control as a solution (we won’t, of course).

But even then, what are we talking about as a root cause of the violence? Commerce? Advertising? We have companies that make a lot of guns, sell a lot of guns, and then – what? Is it just statistics from there?

It’s here when Americans talk about what actually drives people to kill in huge numbers, that we show off our amazing incapacity for introspection.

Deep-seated racism is the most believable of the many motivations Americans typically trot out to explain their gun-violence problem. But from there it just gets dumber and dumber. Everyone from Donald Trump to Ralph Nader has tried blaming violent video games (“Electronic child molesters”, Nader called them).

Music lyrics are usually next in line – it was Marilyn Manson’s fault after Columbine, but the latest bugbear is gangsta rap (you’ll hear this one even in England).

After that, it’s movies, where we’ve been told by academics that the amount of gun violence even in PG-13 movies has doubled since 1985 and started surpassing the levels in R-rated film.

Okay, sure. But what about the fact that we’re an institutionally violent society whose entire economy has historically been dependent upon the production of weapons?

And how about the fact that we wantonly (and probably illegally) murder civilians in numerous countries as a matter of routine? Could that maybe be more of a problem than 50 Cent’s lyrics? No? Really?

Apart from a few scenes in Bowling for Columbine, this is an explanation you won’t hear very much. Military spending is the lifeline of virtually every federally-elected politician in the country. You’ve been to trained seal shows where the animals get a fish every time they perform? The same principle works with members of Congress and defense contracts.

The US is more dependent than ever on a quasi-socialistic system that redistributes tax dollars to defense projects in even fashion across both Republican and Democratic congressional districts. A few times a year, you’ll spot a news story about someone in the Pentagon trying to refuse a spending initiative, only to be told to keep building by Congress.

In an era of incredible division and political polarization, military killing is the most thoroughly bipartisan of all policy initiatives. Drone murders spiked tenfold under Obama, and Trump has supposedly already upped the Obama rate by a factor of eight. The new president apparently killed more civilians in his first seven months in office than Obama did overall, making use of our growing capacity for mechanized murder.

“We are killing these sons of bitches faster than they can grow them now”, a CIA official reportedly told a subordinate with glee some years back. Another CIA vet told The Washington Post the agency had become “one hell of a killing machine”.

Maybe this is just hippie-ish whining about the military, but if we’re talking about where the rationalization of violence comes from in our society, Jesus, how can you not look in this direction?

I vividly remember the spectacle of Dennis Kucinich being laughed at by reporters on the campaign trail during his quixotic presidential runs. He got the most abuse whenever he talked about one of his favorite ideas, the establishment of a “Department of Peace“.

Kucinich never said we couldn’t have a defense department. He just happened to believe we should should make nonviolent conflict resolution an “organizing principle in our society”.

He introduced a “Department of Peace” bill in 2001 and it languished in legislative purgatory until his retirement in 2012. The bill called for the establishment of a “Peace Academy“, modeled after the military service academies, whose graduates would have to perform five years of public service after graduation.

The corresponding Peace Department’s goals were to be aimed at transforming the way we look at the world, and would: “… promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights; strengthen nonmilitary means of peacemaking; promote the development of human potential; work to create peace, prevent violence, divert from armed conflict and develop new structures in nonviolent dispute resolution …”

This is a completely sane and rational idea. It’s even beautiful prose, for a congressional bill. Yet it was continually held up as exhibit one in the case against Kucinich as a crazy person.

When he retired, The Washington Post wrote a patronizing little obit for his peace dream, calling it the “Hope Diamond of liberal ideas: pure, breathtaking, and highly impractical in the real world”.

Why is it impractical?

Why are peace and nonviolence impossible to embrace as national values? Why is this the last taboo?

The people who point at pop culture as the reason disturbed kids and lone-wolf madmen go on killing sprees are half right. But images of violence are less the problem than the messages behind them, which are profoundly intertwined with deep-seated cultural ideas about the virtue of military supremacy and the political efficacy of violence.

Hollywood churns out one film after another in which the hero is a reluctant but highly skilled killer, an “unstoppable killing machine” (there’s that phrase again) like Wolverine. Reluctantly deadly: This is how we like to see ourselves.

One of the weirdest genres involves the super-powerful Randian wealth creator who as a secret hobby masters hand-to-hand killing techniques, and saves the world by bypassing laws and ass-whipping bad guys using awesome military technology.

Christ, both Iron Man and Batman are literally military contractors during their day jobs. Even journalistic movies like Zero Dark Thirty turn into upper-class parables about how the only way to save American lives is through violence, even torture.

The other incredibly popular genre is the revenge tale, in which the otherwise peaceful family man (who just happens to have also been a government-trained super-killer – beware, “I do this for a living!”) is forced to go around the world ripping heads off to save his daughter/son/wife whomever. Hell, even the president turns into an unstoppable ass-kicker from time to time (who can forget Harrison Ford’s “Get off my plane!” scene).

These aren’t just scenes from bad movies. They’re foundational concepts in our society. We’re conditioned to disbelieve in the practicality of nonviolence and peace and to disregard centuries of proof of the ineffectiveness of torture and violence as a means of persuasion.

On the other hand, we’re trained to accept that early use of violence is frequently heroic and necessary (the endless lionization of Winston Churchill as the West’s great realist is an example here) and political courage is generally equated with the willingness to use force. JFK’s game of nuclear poker with Nikita Khrushchev is another foundational legend, while Khrushchev is generally seen as a loser for having backed down.

We just don’t believe in peace. We don’t believe in nonviolence. The organizing principle we’re going with instead involves using technological mastery to achieve order by killing exactly the right people.

This is despite the fact that “precision” killing turns out to be less than precise in reality, whenever anyone bothers to check. And we don’t dwell on the misses, like those millions of Indochinese men, women, and children we once massacred with bombs and chemicals and evil little pellet-mines. It’s always the enemy who doesn’t value human life, who thinks “life is not important”, as General William Westmoreland – one of the early users of the term “body count” – once said about “the Oriental”.

Gun control? I’m all for it. But this madness won’t stop until we stop believing that killing makes us strong, or that we can kill without guilt or consequence just by being “precise” What beliefs like that actually make us is insane and damaged, and it’s no surprise that our kids, too, are beginning to become collateral damage.


The Three Global Super-Powers …

… and the End of Mutually Assured Destruction (“MAD”)

by Eric Zuesse

Strategic Culture Foundation (February 19 2018)

Zero Hedge (February 19 2018)

There are currently three global super-powers, three nations that lead the world: China, Russia, and the US.

After World War Two, until recently, the US clearly dominated the world, not only culturally, with more influence over the world’s other cultures than any other single nation possessed, but also economically, with product-dominance throughout the world, and also militarily tied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and, then, after the Cold War, still possessing such military dominance, so that in 2006, America’s billionaires – as represented by the most-prestigious two agencies that represent their collective interests against the public, the Council on Foreign Relations (“CFR“) and Harvard University – were actively promoting, broadly amongst foreign-policy academics, the idea that the US should seek to occupy a position of such extreme military superiority over Russia, so that since 2006 the concept of “Nuclear Primacy” is reflected, by America’s power-centers, as being the correct goal for America, going forward, replacing the prior nuclear-strategic paradigm (since the 1950s) of “Mutually Assured Destruction”, or “MAD“, in which nuclear weapons were (and, by Russia, still are) seen as purely defensive strategic military assets between the two nuclear superpowers, weapons whose only actual purpose, for either country, is to ward off a World War Three – no usefulness at all in an actual aggressive military context.

Thus, MAD became replaced in America by Nuclear Primacy, nuclear weapons that are put in place to serve not only to ward off a nuclear attack, but also, ultimately, to win a nuclear war against the other nuclear super-power, Russia – nukes as aggressive weapons, by which the US will (it has been expected, ever since 2006) soon be able to demand, and to receive, Russia’s capitulation, surrender, or else Russia will be destroyed by a US nuclear first-strike, while US casualties, from any presumably few Russian weapons that might make it through this ABM-BMD shield, will be kept to an “acceptably low” level, by virtue of that then-functioning ABM-BMD system, combined with increases in US nuclear striking-power. This nuclear-primacy paradigm aims for America (its billionaires) to take over the entire world, including ultimately the world’s largest land-mass: Russia.

But, now, twelve years later, America’s presumed early lead in such “defensive” strategic weaponry has become, instead, ever more clearly, just a figment of America’s military-industrial complex’s (“MIC’s“) fervid marketing-campaign for the development and sale of such weapons, ever since US President Ronald Reagan’s promised “Star Wars” program during the 1980s got the effort, toward a winnable nuclear war, started, as an alleged “defensive” measure – not yet overtly the end of MAD .

Soon after Reagan, the Soviet Union, and its communism, and its Warsaw Pact counter to America’s Nato military alliance, all simultaneously ended, in 1991, as a consequence of which, the US military-industrial complex (“MIC“), and especially the large US manufacturers of nuclear-weapons systems, the companies that dominate the MIC, were becoming stranded, because the market for their costliest wares was now in limbo. Though elimination of the Cold War wouldn’t have been an existential threat to these manufacturers, an end to the Cold War on the US side would have threatened the market-values of those US companies, which are controlled by US billionaires, who have lots of clout in Congress. Thus, though the Cold War ended in 1991 on the Russian side, it secretly continued on the US side (that is, amongst America’s super-wealthy, the people who control the US Government – the main market for the MIC); and America’s strategic switch, away from MAD to Nuclear Primacy (so as to unshackle their market from the prior politically imposed demand to maintain a nuclear balance between the two sides), has been a significant part of this secret continuation, by America, of the Cold War, while Russia’s Government continued instead to think in terms of the MAD paradigm. (Russia’s weapons-manufacturers are still owned by the Government – socialized – so, there’s no need to grow their “market value”.)

In a strictly capitalist country, weapons-manufacturing is a major area of investment for billionaires, whose fortunes there rise to the extent that governments are buying their planes and bombs and missiles, especially those of the most sophisticated types, which are strategic weaponry, such as nuclear systems, which are the most profitable ones of all. Growth-at-all-costs has meant (and means) that the MIC is a cancer upon the entire world. (Eisenhower’s Farewell Address, on 17 January 1961, understated the problem.) Either the entire military will be a public entity, or else there will be (because of its privatized weapons-manufacturing) a tendency for the military to destroy everything else in order to continue to grow like investors expect and demand – grow like cancer.

A major source of America’s decline was US President George W Bush, who came into office in 2001 when the Cold War could no longer excite the American public as being a threat (since the Soviet Union and its communism and its military alliance were now long gone), and a new demon thus needed to be brought before the American people, as warranting increased “defense” expenditures. 9/11 came along just in time to fill this interim lack of a cause de guerre, to attack now Al Qaeda and other (as today’s US President famously tags it) “radical Islamic terrorists”. However, America’s spending on strategic weaponry requires instead focus against the other nuclear super-power as being the “enemy”, and this is what the end of MAD and the start of Nuclear Primacy (which is manna from heaven for the “Defense” contractors) have been all about: re-defining “the enemy”, from being a country with which peace must be maintained (MAD), to becoming instead a country that should be outright conquered. And, amongst the lies which are necessary in order to sustain this switch (from MAD to Nuclear Primacy), is the lie that ABMs have no aggressive function, but are “purely for defense”. This lie will enable the public to accept the spending of trillions of dollars of federal money on weapons whose sole real use will be conquering Russia – or, at least, the attempt to do so.

Nobody makes public the identities of the individuals, in the US and in its allied countries, who comprise the suddenly booming market for luxurious nuclear-proof deep-underground bunkers. But whomever these owners are, three things about them are obvious: they’ve got lots of money; they think that the prospect of a nuclear war is very real – worth their pre-paying for suitably luxurious long-term temporary accommodations deep underground; and they aren’t themselves one of the high government officials for whom the government’s taxpayers have already built such bunkers. (Or, perhaps, some of them do belong to the last of those three categories, but they’ve got so much extra money that they can easily afford to pay for more luxurious quarters than the taxpayers have already supplied them with.)

Quite similar to Donald Trump, but far more overtly faith-based than the hyper-secular former Miss Universe Pageant owner, George W Bush had a confidence like the Taliban and Al Qaeda do, that “God is on our side”, and so Bush acted as if he had no reason to test-out America’s ABM weapons before ordering and buying them (at the public taxpayers’ expense, and private billionaires’ profits, of course). Or, perhaps alternatively, Bush didn’t even care whether these weapons would work, but only whether the owners of the companies that would be manufacturing them would be satisfied with their profits, from the decisions that he was making, which so powerfully affected their profits. In any case, Bush’s focus on rushing forward with a US ABM system demonstrated his strong commitment to the replacement of MAD by Nuclear Primacy. The whole idea of Nuclear Primacy rests upon there being an effective US ABM system installed so as to make the enemy’s retaliatory weapons ineffective. Bush pushed the ABM into production even before there was any indication that it would work. He did this even before the very concept of “Nuclear Primacy” was publicly introduced by the two chief agents for America’s aristocracy in 2006. What Harvard and the CFR promoted, was already the Government’s policy. While there were criticisms of Bush’s execution of the plan, there was no significant scholarly opposition against the Nuclear Primacy concept itself.

All subject areas of expertise (and this refers to scientists, not to scholars) despised the religious faith-based President George W Bush, much like they despise the secular faith-based President Donald Trump. For example, everyone knows that Trump has great difficulty finding experts who are willing to serve in his Administration. Similarly, in the October 2004 “Poll of Academic Economists” by the Economist, 59% of them answered “no” when asked, “If you had a chance to work in a policy job in Washington, would you take it?” And when queried “For whom would you rather work?”, Bush or his then electoral opponent Senator John Kerry, 81% chose Kerry – notwithstanding that, as a predominantly conservative lot, the economists did like one thing about George W Bush: “Outsourcing of jobs overseas”, which 86% of them rated to be either good or very good. (Of course, Trump claims to oppose that; so, in this regard, he’s even less acceptable to economists than Bush was.)

Under Bush, experts were even trying, with no success, to inform this conservative faith-based President about areas in the federal budget where substantial funds were being simply wasted, but his blind faith caused him to ignore such scientific warnings, and enormous federal waste resulted. For example, the science reporter William Broad headlined in The New York Times on 24 September 2003, “Report Sees Risks in Push for Missile Defense”, and opined, “The Bush administration’s push to deploy a $22 billion missile defense system by this time next year could lead to unforeseen cost increases and technical failures that will have to be fixed before it can hope to stop enemy warheads, Congressional investigators said yesterday. The General Accounting Office, in a forty-page report, said the Pentagon was combining ten crucial technologies into a missile defense system without knowing if they can handle the task [and subsequently the same thing happened in order to produce the scandalously overpriced and insanely multi-functional F-35 jets], often described as trying to hit a bullet with a bullet.” The article quoted a former Pentagon weapons testing chief, who said that to deploy such an anti-ballistic missile (“ABM“) system just a year hence as planned, would be to deploy “no more than a scarecrow, not a real defense” – in other words, a system that would almost certainly fail in any actual use – because so many parts of the system wouldn’t have been tested sufficiently to be designed functionally that soon. The prior (Bill Clinton) Administration, more attentive to such concerns, had established a schedule for testing the various parts of this complex system prior to any possible deployment. However, one of G W Bush’s first actions coming into office was to deploy an ABM system, even if it might not work, and to do the testing afterward. Bush, it seems, possessed the faith that if science were to fail to supply the system’s functionality, then God would certainly do so, for the benefit of “God’s People”.

Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post thus headlined on 26 April 2004, “Dubious Threat, Expensive Defense” and closed: “Bush would spend twice as much on missile defense as on customs and border protection”, yet gain only “a rudimentary and uncertain defense against an unlikely long-range missile attack”. Diehl opined that, despite the transformed defense needs after 9/11, “The president who never admits error will stay the course”.

Bush did stay the course: by the time of 14 February 2005, as The New York Times reported the next day, “The nation’s fledgling missile defense system suffered its third straight test failure”. Commented one scientist there, “It’s as if Henry Ford started up his automobile production line and began selling cars without ever taking one for a test drive”. But not quite: Bush had now taken his third “test drive” – and all three failed.

On 4 April 2005, the AP reported, “Congress is weighing how much to invest in the fledgling ballistic missile defense system, which has suffered setbacks and whose cost could easily top the $150 billion partial price tag the Bush administration has estimated”. Some congressional proponents of the ABM system were even quoted as saying that it had to be deployed in order to prevent future terrorist attacks, such as had occurred on 9/11. Of course, that allegation is absurd – 9/11 couldn’t have been stopped by an anti-missile defense system. But members of Congress aren’s so stupid as not to know this. That allegation was probably just a marketing-ploy sponsored in back-rooms by corporations such as Lockheed Martin, who might reflect their satisfaction with the statement, by donating to the “appropriate” Political Action Committees (“PACs“).

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress were financially shortchanging many of the nation’s authentic anti-terrorist needs. This $150 billion+ could have gone a long way toward achieving real protection (and/or toward serving non-defense needs), if it had been scientifically allocated.

Were Al Qaeda to have been voting directly in the US Congress, the ABM system would have had an easier time passing unchanged, exactly as Bush wanted. Al Qaeda would have been fervent Republicans – they were just as religious, and just as faith-obsessed, though in a different “inerrant Scripture”. If Donald Trump has faith in any “inerrant Scripture”, nobody knows what it is. But, he seems to have lots of faith in himself, even if experts in the respective subject-fields don’t.

By the present time, the failure of America’s entire ABM-BMD gamble – which was started under Reagan, begun being operationalized under G W Bush, and finally being installed by Barack Obama and now under Trump – is painfully clear. But success was never its actual goal: restoring the government’s growth in “defense” spending (even while cutting now the government’s non-“defense” spending) is its real purpose. Those billionaires and centi-millionaires must be served, or else Congress-members will lose their seats to well-funded competitors in their own Party’s next primary. The system succeeds marvelously at doing what it’s intended to do: to serve the people who buy the Government – to serve the actual patrons of this “democracy”. Instead of being a democracy, it’s a government that’s bought and sold.

While America thus spends itself into becoming increasingly a third-world country, China and Russia pursue different objectives. Specifically in the case of Russia, its military spending is one-tenth of America’s, but, because Russia cannot afford to allow billionaires’ demands for private profit to constitute the incentive-system that drives the Russian Government’s military decisions, Russia has gone militarily from strength to strength, while post-World War-Two America (spending ten times as much) has gone from Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya to Syria, and yet America’s “news”-media have cheered all of these evil billionaires’ invasions of those countries we wrecked, as if companies such as General Dynamics owned companies such as The Washington Post, and thus (with all that propaganda) the American public continue to respect America’s military higher than any other US institution – despite such a long string of military failures by this country, despite spending ten times what Russia does on its military, and despite America’s military being the most corrupt part of the US federal Government.

But, actually, America’s military spending is probably much higher than just ten times Russia’s, because America’s official figures – what SIPRI and others use, which is just the “Defense” Department – excludes much of America’s military expenses, as a consequence of which, America’s official $617.1 billion Fiscal Year 2019 expenditure for the Department of “Defense” masks an actual annual military expense of $1,135.7 billion. That’s $1.36 trillion per year, to do things such as destroy Afghanistan, destroy Iraq, destroy Syria, destroy Libya, perpetrate coups such as in Ukraine, assist coups such as in Honduras, et cetera. But even that’s not the total “defense” expenditure which taxpayers have bought for the billionaires, because, throughout its existence, the US CIA has been getting unrecorded off-the-books billions from the international narcotics trade, starting in 1948, when it perpetrated a coup in Thailand and installed there a brutal regime that helped establish the CIA’s off-the-books funding-system, as I had mentioned in a prior article, where I discussed US relations with Syria, in broader historical context,

starting in 1949, when the US CIA, under President Harry S Truman, did its second coup d’etat, overthrowing a democratically elected progressive Government (the first having been Thailand 1948, where the CIA had installed an extremely barbaric dictator replacing the democratically elected government that had been headed by a staunch anti-fascist, and simultaneously set up the CIA’s off-the-books supplementary funding mechanism from the international narcotics-trade – a CIA practice which has continued till perhaps the present; and, furthermore, the infamous Nugan-Hand affair, which involved Thailand, definitely involved the CIA’s Michael Hand and William Colby; so, clearly, the CIA is funded off-the-books from the narcotics business, and America’s anti-narcotics laws thus are actually keeping narcotics-drug prices and resultant burglaries and CIA profits artificially high, funneling that illicit money into CIA coffers; and any method to defund the CIA down to its core intelligence-gathering function and to eliminate its coup-function, which is the function that took control in Thailand and Syria and then Iran and many more, would need to regulate – instead of to continue outlawing – drugs, which might be the main reason why it hasn’t yet been done: illegal drugs provide wealth to the CIA and other gang-lords, including some US Government officials).


Another significant milestone in the development of the American elite’s plan to conquer Russia has been the overwhelming – more than ninety percent of the votes in both the US Senate and House – support for the imposition in 2012 of economic sanctions against Russia, to punish the Russian Government for the alleged 2009 murder of one alleged anti-corruption whistleblower in a Russian prison, Sergei Magnitsky – the Magnitsky Act was passed, and was the first set of economic sanctions against Russia. (The evidence that Magnitsky had been a “whistleblower”, and the evidence that he was “tortured” in prison, and the evidence that he wasn’t instead the American Bill Browder’s tax-accountant who had helped Browder in a complex tax-evasion scheme that had defrauded the Russian Government of $232 million, are all themselves fraudulent, and even are easily verified as being fraudulent, but both the US Government, and the EU, ignored and continue to ignore all of it.) In order to have a “justification” to attack Russia, an excuse is needed; and, since the ideological one – communism – ended in 1991, Russia needs to be at least a “dictatorship”; so, something such as the Magnitsky Act was necessary in order to get the military-industrial complex’s Public Relations ball rolling toward even-higher annual US “defense” spending. However, that excuse, being a “dictatorship” (with elections that are at least as honest as America’s are), isn’t enough. Russia also needs to be officially declared to be an “aggressor” – an aggressive dictatorship – such as to have grabbed portions of its adjoining country, Ukraine. So, America’s Obama regime secretly started in 2011 planning, and then in February 2014 it carried out, a coup against and overthrowing the democratically elected and Russia-friendly Government of Ukraine, and installed there a fascist regime to replace the one that had received 75% of the vote in the Crimean region of Ukraine, and ninety percent of the vote in the Donbass region of Ukraine, so that both regions refused to be ruled by the Obama-installed rabidly anti-Russian Ukrainian regime, and Russia helped both of those two separatist regions on its borders, and even protected and accepted Crimea’s referendum-vote of over ninety percent to rejoin Russia, of which Crimea had historically been a part until the Soviet dictator in 1954 arbitrarily transferred it to Ukraine. So, now, the US MIC has the excuses it wants, in order to place – and thus did place – its weapons and troops onto and near Russia’s borders, just a ten-minute missile flight-time to Moscow.

This plan is moving forward, but nobody can yet say whether, or even when, the US regime will invade. However, the US regime and its Nato allies now also have the excuses that Russia has been holding “aggressive” military exercises near its borders “threatening” Nato countries on its border that might invade Russia, and Western “news” media have alarmed their publics against Russia’s “aggressive” moves after its having “stolen” Crimea and “attacked” Ukraine in Donbass. And then there is yet more Russian “aggression” when Syria requested and received Russia’s military assistance against the US-backed jihadists who, since 2012, have poured, by the tens of thousands, from around the world, into Syria, to be led by the US-backed Al Qaeda there, to overthrow the Syrian Government, which is allied with Russia. So, that too (the Syrian war) could produce a war between the US and Russia; it could start over Syrian territory, where the US insists on regime-change, but claims only to be “fighting terrorists” there. Of course, regardless of whether the invader of Syria (the US), or else the defender of Syria (Russia), wins, the loser in Syria, especially if it turns out to be the US invader (that is, if Syria remains one country instead of breaking apart, and if Assad becomes re-elected as President there), could then use that superpower-defeat in Syria, as constituting an excuse to invade the winning superpower there.

This would be World War Three, starting in Syria, instead of in Ukraine. The US regime has set up those two scenarios.

1984 has come in the real world, but the declining and former leading superpower, America (“Oceania” in George Orwell’s uncannily prophetic description of the future that he prematurely set to occur in 1984), is apparently determined to stay “on top”, even if it’s the last thing that anybody does.

Can it really be that if the world of the future won’t be led by America’s billionaires, then it won’t exist at all? Do they really demand “My way, or the highway” – really? Are America’s billionaires (despite any “humanitarian” pretenses they individually so often hypocritically express, both in the fictionalized and in the real version) so stunningly united in their actual psychopathy (likewise in both versions – “Big Brother”, and today’s reality)? Thus far, it seems that they are. None of them – not one of these people who have the financial resources to bring the world’s most pressing issue honestly to the American public – is speaking out against the others on it, and devoting major funds to exposing the others for their pumping lies against Russia, and to exposing the truths about such things as ABMs and the MIC. And collectively they’ve got the American public fooled into admiring the MIC (“the Military”) above all other US institutions. But whether America’s billionaires will carry their collective evil to the extreme, isn’t yet clear. They are the actual decision-makers regarding US Government policy, but they are playing their cards – as usual – privately and secretly, until their game (whatever it may turn out to be) will already be finished.

Meanwhile, Russia and China each proceed forward on its own priorities, which aren’t necessarily similar to those of the conquest-obsessed American Government.

Copyright (c) 2009-2018 ZeroHedge.com/ABC Media, LTD



CIA’s Drug Confession

by Robert Parry

Consortium News (October 15 1998)

Cocaine traffickers and money-launderers swarmed through the Nicaraguan contra movement in the 1980s to a far greater extent than was ever known, according to a report by the CIA’s inspector general.

One contra trafficker claimed Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council (“NSC“) cleared his work. The NSC’s favorite covert airline also was under suspicion for drug connections, the report stated.

In a historic document released on October 8th – and nearly ignored by the major news media – CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz confirmed long-standing allegations of cocaine trafficking by contra forces. Hitz identified more than fifty contras and contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade.

Hitz detailed, too, how the Reagan administration protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations which threatened to expose these crimes in the mid-1980s.

In perhaps the most stunning disclosure, Hitz published evidence that drug trafficking and money laundering tracked directly into Reagan’s National Security Council where Lieutenant Colonel Oliver L North oversaw contra operations.

Hitz also revealed that the CIA placed an admitted drug money launderer in charge of the Southern Front contras in Costa Rica. Hitz disclosed, too, that the second-in-command of contra forces on the Northern Front in Honduras had escaped from a Colombian prison where he was serving time for a drug conviction.

In the lengthy report – Volume Two of a two-volume set on contra-drug allegations – Hitz continued to defend the CIA on one narrow point: that the CIA did not conspire with the contras to raise money through cocaine trafficking.

But Hitz made clear that the contra war took precedence over law enforcement and that the CIA withheld evidence of contra crimes from the Justice Department, the Congress, and even the CIA’s own analytical division.

Among Hitz’s new disclosures:

The CIA knew the criminal nature of its contra clients from the start of the war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. The earliest contra force, called ADREN or the 15th of September Legion, had chosen “to stoop to criminal activities in order to feed and clothe their cadre”, according to a June 1981 draft CIA field report.

ADREN employed terrorist methods, including the bombing of Nicaraguan civilian planes and hijackings, to disrupt the Sandinista government, the CIA knew. [Graf 180]

Cocaine smuggling was also in the picture. According to a September 1981 cable to CIA headquarters, ADREN decided to use drug trafficking as another financing mechanism. Two ADREN members made the first delivery of drugs to Miami in July 1981, the CIA cable reported. [Graf 181]

ADREN’s leaders included Enrique Bermudez and other early contras who would later direct the major contra army, the CIA-organized FDN. Throughout the war, Bermudez remained the top contra military commander. The CIA later corroborated the allegations about ADREN’s cocaine trafficking but insisted that Bermudez had opposed the drug shipments to the United States which went ahead nonetheless. [Graf 542]

The truth about Bermudez’s claimed opposition to drug trafficking, however, is less clear. According to Volume One of Hitz’s report, Bermudez enlisted Norwin Meneses, a large-scale Nicaraguan cocaine smuggler, to raise money and buy supplies for the contras.

The first volume quoted a Meneses associate, another Nicaraguan trafficker named Danilo Blandon. In an interview with Hitz’s investigators, Blandon said he and Meneses flew to Honduras to meet with Bermudez in 1982.

At the time, Meneses’s criminal activities were well known in the Nicaraguan exile community. But the FDN commander told the cocaine smugglers that “the ends justify the means” in raising money for the contras.

After the Bermudez meeting, contra soldiers helped Meneses and Blandon get past Honduran police who briefly arrested them on drug-trafficking suspicions. After their release, Blandon and Meneses traveled on to Bolivia to complete a cocaine transaction. [For details, see iF Magazine, March-April 1998.]

There were other indications of Bermudez’s drug-smuggling tolerance. In February 1988, another Nicaraguan exile linked to the drug trade accused Bermudez of narcotics trafficking, according to Hitz’s report. Continuing its long defense of Bermudez, however, the CIA dismissed the source as “unstable”. [Graf 545]

After the contra war ended, Bermudez returned to Managua, where he was shot to death on February 16 1991. The murder has never been solved.

In the Southern Front, in Costa Rica, the drug evidence centered on the forces of Eden Pastora, another leading contra commander. But Hitz discovered that the US government may have contributed to the problem.

Hitz revealed that the CIA put a now-admitted drug operative – known by his CIA pseudonym “Ivan Gomez” – in a supervisory position over Pastora.

Hitz reported that the CIA discovered Gomez’s drug history in 1987 when Gomez failed a security review on drug-trafficking questions. The CIA then hushed up the discovery.

In internal CIA interviews, Gomez admitted that in March or April 1982, he helped family members who were engaged in drug trafficking and money laundering. In one case, Gomez said he assisted his brother and brother-in-law in transporting cash from New York City to Miami. He admitted that he “knew this act was illegal”. [Grafs 672-73]

Later, Gomez expanded on his admission, describing how his family members had slid $2 million into debt and had gone to Miami to run a money-laundering center for drug traffickers. Gomez said, “his brother had many visitors whom [Gomez] assumed to be in the drug trafficking business”.

Gomez’s brother was arrested on drug charges in June 1982. Three months later, in September 1982, Gomez started his CIA assignment in Costa Rica.

Years later, convicted drug trafficker Carlos Cabezas charged that in the early 1980s, Ivan Gomez was the CIA agent in Costa Rica who was overseeing drug-money donations to the contras.

Gomez “was to make sure the money was given to the right people [the contras] and nobody was taking … profit they weren’t supposed to”, Cabezas declared publicly. [Graf 678]

But the CIA sought to discredit Cabezas. He did have trouble identifying Gomez’s picture and put Gomez at one meeting in early 1982 – before Gomez started his CIA assignment.

Still, Hitz’s report offers the first official evidence that Gomez did have a direct role in drug-money laundering, as Cabezas alleged.

There also was more about Gomez. In November 1985, the FBI learned from an informant that Gomez’s two brothers had been large-scale cocaine importers, with one brother arranging shipments from Bolivia’s infamous drug kingpin Roberto Suarez. [Graf 695]

Suarez already was known as a right-wing financier. In 1980, with Argentine military support, Suarez bankrolled a coup in Bolivia that ousted the elected government. The violent putsch became known as the Cocaine Coup because it made Bolivia the region’s first narco-state.

Bolivia’s protected cocaine shipments helped transform the Medellin cartel into a corporate-style business for delivering cocaine to the US market. Some of those profits allegedly found their way into contra coffers, partly through Suarez.

Flush with cash in the early 1980s, Suarez invested more than $30 million in various right-wing paramilitary operations, including the contra forces in Central America, according to US Senate testimony by an Argentine intelligence officer, Leonardo Sanchez-Reisse.

In 1987, Sanchez-Reisse stated that the Suarez drug money was laundered through front companies in Miami before going to Central America. There, other Argentine intelligence officers – veterans of the Bolivian coup – trained the contras. [For details, see “Nazi Echo” in The Consortium On-line, September 19 1998.]

Hitz added another piece to this contra-Bolivian puzzle. One contra fund-raiser, Jose Orlando Bolanos, boasted that the Argentine government was supporting his anti-Sandinista activities, according to a May 1982 cable to CIA headquarters.

Bolanos made the statement during a meeting with undercover Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA“) agents in Florida. He offered to introduce them to his Bolivian cocaine supplier. [Graf 465]

Despite all this suspicious drug activity around the contras, the CIA insisted that it did not unmask Ivan Gomez until 1987 when he failed a security check and confessed his role in his family’s drug business.

The CIA official who interviewed Gomez concluded that “Gomez directly participated in illegal drug transactions, concealed participation in illegal drug transactions, and concealed information about involvement in illegal drug activity”, Hitz wrote. [Graf 674-75]

But senior CIA officials still chose to protect Ivan Gomez. They rejected a proposal that the Gomez case be referred to the Justice Department. Their rationale was a 1982 DOJ-CIA agreement that spared the CIA from a legal obligation to report narcotics crimes by non-employees. [Graf 714]

Instead, the CIA eased Gomez, an independent contractor, out of the agency in February 1988, without alerting law enforcement or the congressional oversight committees. [Graf 728]

When questioned about the case nearly a decade later, one senior CIA official who had supported the gentle treatment of Gomez had second thoughts.

“It is a striking commentary on me and everyone that this guy’s involvement in narcotics didn’t weigh more heavily on me or the system”, the official acknowledged. [Graf 711]

As for the decision not to make a criminal referral, the official added: “That view that Gomez is not technically an employee and therefore reporting may not be required is slicing it pretty thin”. [Graf 713]

A Medellin drug connection arises in another section of Hitz’s report, where he revealed evidence suggesting that some contra trafficking may have been sanctioned by Reagan’s National Security Council.

The protagonist for this part of the contra-drug mystery is Moises Nunez, a Cuban-American who worked for North’s NSC operation and for two drug-connected seafood importers, Ocean Hunter in Miami and Frigorificos de Puntarenas in Costa Rica.

Frigorificos de Puntarenas was created in the early 1980s as a cover for drug-money laundering, according to sworn testimony by two of the firm’s principals – Carlos Soto and Medellin cartel accountant Ramon Milian Rodriguez.

Drug allegations began swirling around Nunez in the mid-1980s. Finally, on March 25 1987, the CIA questioned Nunez about the cocaine-trafficking suspicions. He responded by pointing the finger at his superiors at the NSC.

“Nunez revealed that since 1985, he had engaged in a clandestine relationship with the National Security Council”, Hitz reported.

“Nunez refused to elaborate on the nature of these actions but indicated it was difficult to answer questions relating to his involvement in narcotics trafficking because of the specific tasks he had performed at the direction of the NSC. Nunez refused to identify the NSC officials with whom he had been involved.” [Graf 490]

After this first round of questioning, CIA headquarters authorized an additional session, but then senior CIA officials reversed the decision. There would be no further efforts at “debriefing Nunez”.

Hitz noted that “the cable [from headquarters] offered no explanation for the decision” to stop the Nunez interrogation. [Graf 491]

When asked recently about that decision, former Central American Task Force planning chief Louis Dupart said he did not recall the reason for halting the Nunez debriefing.

But Dupart added,

the Agency position was not to get involved in this matter and to turn it over to others because “it had nothing to do with the Agency, but with the National Security Council. We … told Congress and [Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence] Walsh. That’s all we had to do. It was someone else’s problem.” [Graf 492]


Dupart’s boss, task force chief Alan Fiers, stated that the Nunez-NSC drug lead was not pursued “because of the NSC connection and the possibility that this could be somehow connected to the Private Benefactor program [the contra money handled by North]. A decision was made not to pursue this matter.” [Graf 494]

According to CIA records, the CIA briefed Senators. Warren Rudman and William Cohen, two Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee, about the Nunez case. Dupart offered to arrange a committee interview with Nunez but that apparently never happened. [Graf 493]

The CIA did interview Nunez again in September 1987 – five months after his admission and at the height of the Iran-contra scandal. Nunez began insisting that he had no relationship with the NSC. [Graf 495]

By then, however, Joseph Fernandez, former CIA station chief in Costa Rica, had confirmed to congressional Iran-contra investigators that Nunez “was involved in a very sensitive operation” for North’s “Enterprise”. The exact nature of that NSC-authorized activity has never been divulged.

The CIA gave Walsh the material about Nunez’s claim of NSC authorization, but not until February 1988 – nearly a year after the admission and then only as part of a large batch of documents delivered at the end of Walsh’s North investigation.

If supplied in a timelier fashion, the Nunez statement and the other evidence of money laundering might have put into focus a part of the North case that always remained fuzzy: his personal handling of dirty money.

According to little-noticed documents that emerged during the Iran-contra scandal, North tapped into a money-laundering network that pulled $2.7 million in untraceable cash off New York City streets.

The cash deliveries were arranged through a Republic National Bank officer named Nan Morabia. She sent bags filled with cash to North’s operatives who took the money to Washington. [For details, see iF Magazine, July-August 1997]

Mysterious money was showing up elsewhere in the contra operation. A total of $14 million materialized in 1985 to finance the so-called Arms Supermarket which supplied weapons to the contras in Honduras.

North’s handwritten notes from July 12 1985, record a warning from a CIA officer in the field that “$14M [million] to finance came from drugs”.

The Arms Supermarket owner, Ronald Martin, denied the drug taint but acknowledged that the financing was handled by a Cuban-American banker named John Molina, who moved money from wealthy individuals through Panamanian banks.

In 1987, John Molina told his brother, Pablo, that he had worked for the CIA from 1980 until April 1987 arranging letters of credit to purchase arms for the contras and other US-backed forces in Latin America.

As the money poured in, John Molina confided to his brother that he suspected that some came from drug trafficking. In an interview with me, Pablo Molina quoted John as saying, “There’s too much money coming in … You can’t imagine how much money is involved”.

A nervous John Molina tried to pull out of the operation in 1987. But he received one last assignment: to close out some contra front companies in Panama.

On October 02 1987, after completing that work, John Molina left the law offices of Sucre y Sucre in Panama City. He walked to his car and climbed in.

A young man approached from the side and shot Molina in the head. The assassin was later captured and claimed that he was dispatched by Colombian kingpins to murder Molina. [For details, see iF Magazine, July-September 1997]

During the Iran-contra investigation, however, Walsh never zeroed in on the money laundering or the drug trafficking. In March 1988, Walsh indicted North for crimes related to false statements, document destruction, and other relatively minor offenses.

While Moises Nunez may have worked for the NSC, the CIA worked directly with other drug-connected Cuban-Americans on the contra project, Hitz found.

One of Nunez’s Cuban-American associates, Felipe Vidal, had a criminal record as a narcotics trafficker in the 1970s. But the CIA still hired him to serve as a logistics coordinator for the contras, Hitz reported. [Grafs 508-511]

The CIA soon learned that Vidal’s drug connections were not only in the past. A December 1984 cable to CIA headquarters revealed Vidal’s ties to Rene Corvo, another Cuban-American suspected of drug trafficking. [Graf 512]

Corvo was working with anticommunist Cuban, Frank Castro, who was viewed as a Medellin cartel representative within the contra movement. [For details, see sidebar, “Contras’ Narco-Terrorist”.]

There were other narcotics problems with the CIA’s Felipe Vidal. In January 1986, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Miami seized 414 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipment of yucca that was going from a contra operative in Costa Rica to Ocean Hunter, where Vidal worked. [Graf 526]

Despite the evidence, Vidal remained a CIA employee as he collaborated with Frank Castro’s assistant, Rene Corvo, in raising money for the contras, according to a CIA memo in June 1986.

By fall 1986, Senator John Kerry had heard enough rumors about Vidal to demand information about him as part of a congressional inquiry into contra drugs.

But the CIA withheld the derogatory information. On October 15 1986, Kerry received a briefing from Alan Fiers who didn’t mention Vidal’s drug arrests and conviction in the 1970s. [Graf 527]

Vidal was not yet in the clear, however. In 1987, the US attorney in Miami began investigating Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and other contra-connected entities.

This prosecutorial attention worried the CIA. The CIA’s Latin American division felt it was time for a security review of Vidal. But on August 05 1987, the CIA’s security office blocked the review for fear that the Vidal drug information “could be exposed during any future litigation”. [Grafs 520-22]

As expected, the US Attorney did request documents about “contra-related activities” by Vidal, Ocean Hunter, and sixteen other entities. The CIA advised the prosecutor that “no information had been found regarding Ocean Hunter”, a statement that was clearly false. [Graf 528]

The CIA continued Vidal’s employment as an advisor to the contra movement until 1990, virtually the end of the contra war. [Graf 510]

Hitz revealed that drugs also tainted the highest levels of the Honduran-based FDN, the largest contra army.

Hitz found that Juan Rivas, a contra commander who rose to be chief of staff, admitted that he had been a cocaine trafficker in Colombia before the war. The CIA asked Rivas, known as El Quiche, about his background after the DEA began suspecting that Rivas might be an escaped convict from a Colombian prison. [Graf 562]

In interviews with CIA officers, Rivas acknowledged that he had been arrested and convicted of packaging and transporting cocaine for the drug trade in Barranquilla, Colombia. After several months in prison, Rivas said, he escaped and moved to Central America where he joined the contras. [Graf 563]

Defending Rivas, CIA officials insisted that there was no evidence that Rivas engaged in trafficking while with the contras. But one CIA cable noted that he lived an expensive lifestyle, even keeping a $100,000 thoroughbred horse at the contra camp. [Graf 566]

Contra military commander Bermudez later attributed Rivas’s wealth to his ex-girlfriend’s rich family. But a CIA cable in March 1989 added that “some in the FDN may have suspected at the time that the father-in-law was engaged in drug trafficking”. [Graf 567]

Still, the CIA moved quickly to protect Rivas from exposure and possible extradition to Colombia. In February 1989, CIA headquarters asked that DEA take no action “in view of the serious political damage to the US Government that could occur should the information about Rivas become public”. [Graf 569]

In a February 22 1989, note, the CIA’s director of operations, Richard Stoltz, argued that “what we have here is a single, relatively petty transgression in a foreign country that occurred a decade ago and that is apparently of no current interest to DEA”. [Graf 573]

Rivas was phased out of the contra leadership with an explanation of poor health. With US government help, he was allowed to resettle in Miami. Colombia was not informed about his fugitive status. [Graf 581]

Another senior FDN official implicated in the drug trade was its chief spokesman in Honduras, Arnoldo Jose “Frank” Arana.

The drug allegations against Arana dated back to 1983 when a federal narcotics task force put him under criminal investigation because of plans “to smuggle 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States from South America”.

On January 23 1986, the FBI reported that Arana and his brothers were involved in a drug-smuggling enterprise, although Arana was not charged.

Arana sought to clear up another set of drug suspicions in 1989 by visiting the DEA in Honduras with a business associate, Jose Perez. Arana’s association with Perez, however, only raised new alarms.

If “Arana is mixed up with the Perez brothers, he is probably dirty”, the DEA responded.

Through their ownership of an air services company called SETCO, the Perez brothers were associated with Juan Matta Ballesteros, a major cocaine kingpin connected to the murder of a DEA agent, according to reports by the DEA and US Customs.

Hitz reported that someone at the CIA scribbled a note on the DEA cable about Arana stating: “Arnold Arana … still active and working, we [CIA] may have a problem”. [Grafs 608-15]

Despite its drug ties to Matta Ballesteros, SETCO emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the contras in Honduras.

During congressional Iran-contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for ferrying supplies to the contras in 1986.

Hitz found other air transport companies used by the contras implicated in the cocaine trade. Even FDN leaders suspected that they were shipping supplies to Central America aboard planes that might be returning with drugs.

Mario Calero, Adolfo Calero’s brother and the chief of contra logistics, grew so uneasy about one air-freight company that he notified US law enforcement that the FDN only chartered the planes for the flights south, not the return the flights north. [Graf 550]

Hitz found that some drug pilots simply rotated from one sector of the contra operation to another. Donaldo Frixone, who had a drug record in the Dominican Republic, was hired by the CIA to fly contra missions from 1983 to 1985.

Frixone then was implicated in September 1986 smuggling 19,000 pounds of marijuana into the United States. In late 1986 or early 1987, he went to work for Vortex, another US-paid contra supply company linked to the drug trade. [Grafs 996-1000]

One of Hitz’s most dramatic findings was evidence implicating Southern Air Transport (“SAT“), the principal airline of North’s Iran-contra operations and a former CIA-owned airline.

In the mid-1980s, Southern Air flew missiles to Iran as well as supplies to the contras. SAT crewmen were involved in one flight that was shot down over Nicaragua on October 05 1986, exposing part of North’s Iran-contra network.

After that event, Attorney General Edwin Meese III briefly blocked a federal investigation into Southern Air on national security grounds. But suspicions about SAT were just starting.

Wanda Palacio, who had ties to the Medellin cartel, told Senate investigators that she witnessed Ochoa operatives loading cocaine aboard SAT planes in both 1983 and 1985.


This Year’s Stock Buybacks …

… Are Already Bigger than all of 2009’s

by Tyler Durden

Zero Hedge (February 17 2018)

While there is still some fringe debate what companies will do with the hundreds of billions in offshore funds repatriated to the US as part of the recently passed Trump tax reform, the discussion is largely over, especially after last week’s Cisco results. The company, which has $68 billion of overseas cash, third after AAPL and MSFT, announced that it would raise its buyback authorization by $25 billion, and revealed plans to repurchase its entire authorization of $31 billion during the next six to eight quarters, equal to roughly fifteen percent of its current market cap.

Call it a partial leveraged buyout (“LBO“), courtesy of Donald Trump.

In other words, those who said that companies will use virtually all repatriated proceeds for buybacks, congratulations, you were right, or as the Financial Times humorously put it:

Flush with cash after the Republican tax cuts, Cisco announced on Wednesday that it was building gleaming factories across the US, employing hundreds of thousands of workers to make the latest cutting-edge routers.

Sorry, of course not. The money is going back to shareholders.


Don’t believe it? Here’s what Goldman’s David Kostin said in his latest Weekly Kickstart report:

Since December, S&P 500 firms have announced buybacks totaling $171 billion. Year to date (“YTD”) announcements of $67 billion represent a 22% increase versus the same period in 2017. The buyback window has re-opened and firms are taking advantage of the recent correction; the Goldman Sachs Buyback Desk reported that last week was the most active week in its history.


The $171 billion in YTD stock buyback announcements is the most ever for this early in the year. In fact, it is more than double the prior ten-year average of $77 billion in YTD buyback announcements.

Incidentally, the record burst of stock buybacks was arguably the key driver behind last week’s miraculous stock rebound.

“It acts as a floor, you have a natural buyer in there”, Birinyi’s Jeff Rubin told CNBC. “At the end of the third quarter, companies had dry powder of over $800 billion”, he said. Fourth quarter actual purchases are not yet available.

Rubin said this year became the largest with the latest rush of buybacks in the last two days, including Cisco and AMAT with $6 billion.


“There’s a whole stockpile of cash that just came back. Take Cisco. We know they had $68 billion trapped overseas, and they’re going to take $25 billion of that and buy back stock”, said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B Riley FBR.

B Riley’s Art Hogan doubled down saying that “the buyback news should be good for the market”.

“If they’re going to use it judiciously I think it’s going to be great. You’re either going to be paying a dividend, buying shares, or you’ll find something accretive like an acquisition or investing in your business”, said Hogan. “When CEOs are asked about it, it’s all of the above and buybacks are in there. It helps drive earnings even higher than what our earnings estimates already are for 2018”, said Hogan.

Finally, putting the number in context, according to J P Morgan the amount of announced buybacks just in the first six weeks of 2018 is already greater than all of 2009 … which of course is when companies should have been splurging on stock repurchases.

Finally, in addition to what we first pointed out over two years ago, namely that all net debt issuance in the 21st century has been used to pay for stock buybacks

… here is what John Hussman commented on this record last hurrah in stock buybacks: “Though buybacks are primarily debt-financed, they are also highest at market peaks, and contract sharply at major market troughs. Corporations are still borrowing to buy the dip at peak valuations, within a few percent of extremes associated with prospective ten- to twelve-year market losses.”

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