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The Deep State Closes in on the Donald, Part 3

The Capture Is Complete

by David Stockman

Contra Corner blog (April 13 2018)

Zero Hedge (April 14 2018)

The Donald seems to be taking a Deep Breath on his Syria bomb fest, but the Deep State has him by the orange hairs. So we doubt the delay will last much longer. [he didn’t!]

That’s because our Art of the Deal genius is getting bamboozled yet again. They are telling him that wiping out up to a dozen Syrian airfields, military installations, and a dog-eared factory or two that can be identified as chemical weapons sites will amount to some pretty serious Shock & Awe where it counts: That is, the mere witnessing of it will cause the Fat Boy of Pyongyang to brown his ample trousers, thereby getting his “mind right” for the upcoming summit.

That’s exactly the kind of macho-bargainer stuff that the Donald thrives on, and is further proof that the Deep State has figured out exactly how to press his buttons.

To be sure, Trump is no innocent victim. He voluntarily made himself hostage to the War Party by surrounding himself with failed generals and the most rabid war-mongers to be found in the Imperial City – John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and Gina Haspel.

Indeed, you have to wonder. How could anyone with even a half-baked notion of America First think that a hardcore interventionist like John Bolton should be brought up right close and personal to the President of the United State’s earlobes, Walrus mustache and all?

But whatever the Donald was thinking when he made such horrendous choices for his top national security posts, these denizens of the War Party have wasted no time shoving their own agenda right down his throat.

And at the top of that agenda is systematic, relentless escalation of provocations against Russia and Iran. That’s because confrontation with these demonized states is the best way to keep Imperial Washington (and therefore the entire country) on a war-footing and the national security gravy train overflowing with fiscal largesse.

As we indicated in Part 1, the impending attack on Syria is actually a shot across the bow aimed at Tehran and Moscow. The cover story is simply a humanitarian sounding ruse. Ostensibly, Bashar Assad is being administered a good hard spanking via a barrage of cruise missile birch switches.

That begs the question, of course, of how homeland security is actually enhanced by selectively spanking some malefactors and not others.

In this case, even the surely bogus claim that forty civilians were gassed in Douma hardly compares to the 10,000 civilians that have been slaughtered by American bombs delivered by the Saudi air force in Yemen; or the thousands of anti-government prisoners that have been summarily executed by General al-Sisi in Egypt under this stewardship of Washington’s $1.2 billion annual stipend; or the thousands of civilians that Israel has killed during its periodic “lawn-mowing” exercises on the Gaza Strip.

Obviously, Washington shouldn’t even be in the spanking business because no one appointed America as the world’s policeman or moral proctor. But even if that were the true purpose (it’s not) of the impending act of naked aggression against the sovereign government of Syria, you would think there at least ought to be a semblance of proof that the alleged chemical attack actually occurred.

Unlike in past Syrian incidents, in fact, the way is wide open for an honest determination of what actually happened. That’s because the last rebel hold-outs in Eastern Ghouta are now all dead or have vacated the area on buses arranged by the Syrian government as part of the relocation deal that sent them to rebel-held Idlib province in the northwest.

Consequently, Douma is now safe for western journalists, government officials and international investigators from the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Warfare (“OPCW”) to visit the alleged sites of the attack and find the evidence.

Of course, Syrian and Russian officials who have visited the area say there is no evidence of victims, bodies, chlorine residue or that the sole hospital in the community was ever over-run with victims of toxic chemical agents. That alone is remarkable given initial reports that there were upwards of a thousand victims of the purported attack.

But now the Russian government has gone a striking step further. They are claiming they have evidence that the whole thing was staged. That is, that an incident which has the world on the brink of war was just another false flag attack of the kind that the barbaric jihadists attacking the Syrian government have serially orchestrated since the original Ghouta event and Obama’s infamous “red line” of August 2013.
 

A Russian government spokesman said the ministry had found those who took part in filming the rent-a-mob chemical attack in Syria’s Douma and these people told how the video had been shot.

“Today, the Russian defense ministry has other evidence proving the United Kingdom’s direct involvement in the organization of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta”, he said

In his words, the so-called White Helmets were pressed by London in a period from April 3 to 6 to hurry up with the implementation of the planned provocation. “The White Helmets were told that in a period from April 3 to 6 Jaysh al-Islam militants would conduct a series of massive artillery bombings of Damascus. It would provoke a retaliation operation by government forces and the White Helmets were to use it to stage a provocation with an alleged use of chemical weapons”, he said.

According to Konashenkov, officers of the Russian defense ministry spoke with two Syrian who had taken part in filming the framed-up attack. Both have medical diplomas and work with the emergency department of Douma’s hospital. The two men do not conceal their names. They told Russian officers that all those who had been taken to hospital during the filming had no symptoms of exposure to toxic agents.

“When the patients were receiving first aid unidentified people burst into the hospital, some were holding video cameras”, the spokesman cited them as saying. “These people started shouting, fanning hysteria. They carried hose and douched all present with water crying out that all of them had been exposed to poisonous agents.”

“The patients and their relatives yielded to panic and began to pour water on each other. After this scene was caught on video, these unidentified people fled”, he added.

This is what is called evidence in the civilized world, he stressed, adding that Russia had repeatedly warned about provocations with the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians plotted by militants in Eastern Ghouta.

 

We don’t know whether the Russian government is lying or not, but since the whole world has been invited to come and make its own determination, we doubt it. After all, they have produced local citizens from the Douma hospital and elsewhere in the community who say they witnessed the fabrication. If these witnesses and the Russians are lying, that will quickly become evident.

To the contrary, you can’t bury the evidence – including the bodies – of a chlorine attack that allegedly caused hundreds of deaths and injuries. If it happened, the OPCW investigators and journalists will fund it; and if they don’t, it didn’t.

Meanwhile, why in the world are they gathered in the Situations Room arguing about targets and how to minimize risks of a direct hit on Russian military personnel when the Donald could actually pick up the red phone and tell Putin that he’ll have an investigation team on the ground at Douma tomorrow morning?

We have not doubt that Cool Hand Vlad would say “be my guest”. And we also have no doubt that Pat Buchanan hit the nail on the head in his recent missive when he noted:
 

We cannot forever fight other peoples’ wars without ending up on the same ash heap of history as the other world powers before us.

And why not talk directly to our adversaries there?

If Trump can talk to Kim Jong-un, who used an anti-aircraft gun to execute his uncle and had his half-brother murdered in a Malaysian airport with a chemical weapon, why cannot we talk to Assad?

In 1974, Richard Nixon flew to Damascus to establish ties to Assad’s father, the future “Butcher of Hama”. George H W Bush enlisted Hafez al-Assad and 4,000 Syrian troops in his Gulf War to liberate Kuwait.

All over this city, and across the Middle East, there are people who wish to conscript US wealth and power to advance their goals and achieve their visions. Having let them succeed so often has diminished us as a superpower from what we were at the end of the Cold War.

This should stop, and the nation knows it.

Among the reasons Democrats nominated Barack Obama and America elected him was that his opponents, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, supported the Iraq war Obama opposed.

Among the reasons the Republican Party nominated Trump and the nation elected him was that he promised to take us out and keep us out of wars like the one in Syria.

Is it not ironic that today our War Party, which, almost to a man, loathed Trump and rejected his candidacy, is goading and cheering him on, deeper and deeper into the Syrian quagmire?

 

And that gets us to the meat of the matter. Donald Trump has now been taken hostage by the machinery of the Deep State and has become the tool of its destructive agenda.

For instance, John Bolton is an advocate of America Uber Alles – the very antithesis of America First. In fact, he is an emissary for what might be termed the “Bibi First” wing of the War Party.

Netanyahu’s entire misbegotten reign as head of the Israeli government has been based on demonizing Iran, thereby gluing together a motley coalition of rightwing religious and settler parties in the parliament.

In the present circumstances, the over-riding agenda of the “Bibi First” wing is to ashcan the Iranian Nuke deal when it comes up for certification on May 12.

That’s because an Iran that rejoins the community of nations, reengages in trade and commerce with the rest of the world, and adheres to the nuke deal, which it has every intention of doing if Washington sticks to its end of the bargain, is an Iran that puts the lie to the entire demonization campaign that has been conducted by the neocons in Washington and Israel for the past 25 years.

Needless to say, that is a scenario that the War Party cannot abide. It would put Bibi Netanyahu out of business and severely erode the case for the hundreds of billions that are being wasted on Washington’s conventional military capacities.

After all, if Washington didn’t have the Persian Gulf to police or a dog in the Sunni-Shiite religious and political struggles, it wouldn’t be wasting $30 billion per pop on new aircraft carriers and their battle-group armadas.

So the Deep State has moved heaven and earth to bring the Donald into its thrall and to bury every vestige of his incipient pivot toward an honest and affordable national security policy based on America First.

If the Tomahawk cruise missiles fly toward Syria over the weekend [they did], we will know that the capture has been complete; and that the Oval Office is now occupied by a hostage of the very Deep State that he campaigned against, and which, in any event, will soon sacrifice him to the vengeful furies of the Mueller witchhunt.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-04-14/deep-state-closes-donald-part-3-capture-complete

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Categories: Uncategorized

The Deep State Closes in on the Donald, Part 2

Mueller’s War

by David Stockman

Contra Corner blog (April 12 2018)

Zero Hedge (April 13 2018)

What is going on in the eastern Mediterranean and over the skies and on the ground in Syria is absolutely nuts; it’s also scary dangerous and utterly unnecessary, too.

After all, the imminent Russian/American military clash is over the skeleton of an artificial backwater nation confected in 1916 by two swells in the British and French foreign offices. At length, what was never a nation anyway has finally been reduced to rubble, misery, and sectarian fragments.

So there is nothing to contest now, and, in fact, there never was. The sovereign government of Syria long ago invited the Russians in and Washington out. Period.

Why, then, are commercial aircraft being warned to stay out of Syrian airspace, while the Russian fleet at Tartus scrambles into defensive redeployments?

Likewise, why is the Syrian air force being forced to hide its planes and helicopters in its own country, while Washington steams an armada of warships toward the Mediterranean that is larger and more lethal than the entire Navy of almost every other country in the world?

The answer is simple and terrible: Washington has become the War Capital of the planet and now teems with a whole generation of war-obsessed bureaucrats, think-tankers, consultants, lobbyists, militarists, imperialists, neocon belligerents, and the legions of military/industrial/spy complex racketeers who feed off a hideously bloated national security budget.

Of course, you also have thousands of politicians – both those now in office and those who hang-around afterwards and get prosperous by hanging out a shingle to ply the business of operating Washington’s global empire. Among them are the brainwashed, the stupid, the larcenous, the sanctimonious, the venal, the flag-wavers, the sunshine patriots and the ideologues of American exceptionalism, responsibility-to-protect (“R2P”), democracy propagation and plain old imperial hegemony.

Needless to say, our purpose here is not to play the name game. Instead, we are trying to color, characterize and concretize what we mean by the Deep State, and to explain why the latter is carrying on such a relentless, vicious and dark campaign to take the Donald down – even at risk of war with Russia and nuclear Armageddon for the entire planet.

It’s all encapsulated in two words: America First!

That was the Trump campaign slogan and tonality that sent the Imperial City into a paroxysm of outrage and sanctimonious harrumphing. That’s because at the end of the day America First invalidates the very modus operandi of the War Capital, and all its projects, pretensions, and illicit prosperity.

After all, in a world of America First, what happened or didn’t happen in Douma would be of no moment with respect to homeland security. In fact, here’s what Douma looks like today, and no everyday American would ever confuse it with an existential threat to his own safety or liberty.

Obviously, Douma is just the poster child for the illicit warp and woof of the entire American empire abroad. The civil war in Syria was essentially a proxy battle between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam.

As such, it extended across the entire middle east, encompassing Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies on one side and Iran and its Shiite allies including the Washington-supported government in Baghdad, the Washington-demonized government in Damascus, and the Hezbollah faction of Lebanon on the other.

In one form or another this clash has been going on for 1300 years, and its current manifestation bears not a whit of consequence for the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln Nebraska, Spokane Washington or Springfield Massachusetts. Accordingly, not one ounce of American blood or one dollar of American treasure should have ever been spent on it.

Alas, America First understands that truth intuitively and unequivocally. And that knowledge Imperial Washington could not abide.

Likewise, America First comprehends that the Persian Gulf is no American Lake and that it is in no way the business of the Fifth Fleet to police. Oil is a matter for markets and economics – meaning that high prices, shortages, and supply interruptions are their own cure.

In fact, America First recognizes that in this day and age the US doesn’t even need a Fifth Fleet because it is useless to defend the homeland (that takes nuclear deterrence which we already have in abundance), and is only good for extending, occupying, and policing an Empire that undermines homeland security and bleeds the nation’s treasury.

So too, the case of Ukraine. If the Crimeans chose to return to the Russian Motherland by a ninety percent referendum vote, which they were part of for upwards of 200 years after the peninsula was purchased by Catherine the Great in 1783, so be it.

Similarly, if the Russian-speaking, left-leaning population of the Donbas (eastern Ukraine) wishes to succeed from a regime in Kiev dominated by anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists and proto-fascists, they have every right to do so – not the least of which is memorialized in a document penned by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin et al in 1776.

As a practical matter, whether the output of coal, chemicals, steel, and other industrials by the five million people of the Donbas is chalked up to the GDP of Ukraine, Russia, or a newly christened republic would not make an iota of difference to homeland security in the United States.

Indeed, it is difficult to think of developments anywhere on the planet which bear less on America’s security than the status of the Donbas. Well, except perhaps whether the Chinese want to waste their money building military bases on sandbars in the South China Sea.

In a similar manner, America First is okay with the sovereign determination by the Germans that their national security is adequately served by spending a mere 1.5% of GDP on defense, and that the route to peaceful relations with Russia is through more commerce and trade, not military build-ups and pointless provocations in places like Syria (Germany is not joining the Donald’s impending war there).

Stated differently, America First understands that if the Germans don’t expect to be invaded by Putin, exactly why is Washington bleeding its Treasury piling up conventional armaments on the other side of the Atlantic?

And that gets us to the meat of the matter: America First is an existential threat to the Deep State.

It turns the clock back to April 2 1917 – the date when the Woodrow Wilson foolishly declared war on Germany and led America into a bloody cauldron on the Western Front that had absolutely no bearing on its national security; and thereafter into a destructive “peace” at Versailles that guaranteed perpetual war.

America First, when followed to its logical and correct conclusion, would put the War Capital of the world out of business; it would result in a massive slashing of the hideously bloated national security budget; it would ash-can the endless complex of think-tanks, NGOs, intelligence contractors, and lobbyists for foreign interests.

We refer, of course, to the likes of the Podesta brothers, Paul Manafort and 20,000 more like and similar operators and racketeers. Indeed, having its way with the Warfare State, America First would bring a hair-curling recession to the Imperial City which would make Youngstown Ohio look like a model of prosperity.

To be sure, we seriously doubt that the Donald had any idea of where American First was leading him when he stumbled upon the slogan; and we are afraid that his xenophobic fear-mongering about the Mexican border would have distracted him, anyway.

But the Deep State was taking no chances. That’s why the partisan shills who ran the CIA and FBI under Obama were able to launch their insidious anti-Trump witchhunt as an “insurance policy” in July 2016; and it’s also why the Obama Administration pulled out all the stops in its waning days in office to ensure that the verdict of November 8 would be re-litigated on the back of the Russian Meddling story.

In Part 3 we intend to summarize the ludicrously threadbare nature of the whole Mueller investigation, but suffice it here to note the Smoking Bunker Buster that puts the lie to the whole scam.

To wit, it is absolutely the fact that neither Donald Trump, nor his sons, nor his daughter and son-in-law went to Russia at any time after the Donald’s unlikely campaign was launched in June 2015. At that time no one including Vlad Putin gave him a snowball’s chance of ending up in the Oval Office, and since then Trump has proven that no one matters in his comings and goings except the Donald and his family.

So if there was any collusion after the announcement, it had to be by email or phone between the Trumps and high state officials in the Kremlin. That is to say, every word of such conversations would be stored in the vast NSA (national security agency) server farms where everything which crosses the worldwide web gets snatched and stored.

Needless to say, if Robert Mueller were truly doing God’s work in behalf of the rule of law and American democracy, he would have ordered-up the NSA taps on day one, and resolved the matter of “collusion” with the Russians within one week’s time.

That he didn’t do because no such taps exist and no such conversations between the Trumps and the Russian state ever happened. Period. Full stop.

To the contrary, the entire prolonged, ballyhooed, ever-expanding, leak-ridden, media-fueling Mueller investigation is designed to mortally wound Donald Trump and drive him from office. That is, to crush America First in its infancy and to obliterate even the crude and half-baked form in which it has emerged from the modest gray matter nested under the Orange Comb-Over.

In that mission, the Mueller witch-hunt has already succeeded. The Donald has become so punch drunk from its malicious and vicious assault that he has simply capitulated, and his tweet of the morning lets the cat fully out of the bag.

To wit, less than two weeks ago he was embracing the famous strategy of Senator George Aiken, who in the midst of LBJ’s insane invasion of Vietnam explained how to end that pointless war: “Declare victory and go home” said yesteryear’s profound statesman from Vermont.

That’s exactly what the Donald was doing when he declared victory over ISIS and announced that America would be going home from Syria, and did so without the approval of his Deep State minders.

So doing, it nearly made America First the policy of the land; it was a strident statement of the fact that the Doumas of the world may be human tragedies, but they are not threats to America’s security – nor are they the business of Washington’s war machine.

But the War Capital could not abide the thought, and this morning the Donald explained that he has now gotten his head “right”, after all.

Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”

That wasn’t a statement about second thoughts on attacking Syria; it’s an expression of the rationale the Donald is preparing to use in order to camouflage his abject surrender to the War Party.

That is to say, the anti-ISIS mission is complete – so now on to saving the world from the Iranians and the Russians.

Needless to say, bombing now vacant Syrian military installations to smithereens will not possibly accomplish that objective and will only make the risk of World War Three that much more palpable.

In fact, the surest way to get ISIS back is to destroy the Syrian government and thereby open the gates of Hell, as did Dubya back in 2003.

Either way, it’s Mueller’s War and the evil of it is near at hand.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-04-13/deep-state-closes-donald-part-2-muellers-war

Categories: Uncategorized

The Deep State Closes in on the Donald, Part 1

There Will Be War

by David Stockman

Contra Corner blog (April 11 2018)

Zero Hedge (April 12 2018)

Perhaps we have missed something: Like the possibility that the canyons of Wall Street are actually located on another planet several light years from earth!

Otherwise, how can you explain the equipoise of a stock market sitting at the tippy-top of a nine-year bubble expansion and confronted with the potential outbreak of World War Three?

Folks, like some alien abductors, the Deep State has taken the Donald hostage, and with ball-and-chain finality. Whatever pre-election predilection he had to challenge the Warfare State has apparently been completely liquidated.

Trump’s early AM tweet yesterday, in fact, embodies the words of a man who had more than a few screws loose when he took the oath, but under the relentless pounding of the Imperial City’s investigators, partisans, apparatchiks, and lynch-mob media has now gone stark raving mad. To wit:

… Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!

 

Yes, maybe Wall Street has figured out that the Donald is more bluster than bite. Yet when you consider the broader context and what the Russian side is now saying, it is just plain idiotic to own the S&P 500 at 24X [share price of 24 times earnings]. After all, earnings that have been going nowhere for the past three years (earnings per share have inched-up from $106 in September 2014 to $109 in December 2017), and now could be ambushed by a hot war accident in Syria that would rapidly escalate.

Indeed, did the robo-machines and boys and girls down in the casino not ponder the meaning of this message from the Kremlin? It does not leave much to the imagination:

#Russian ambassador in beirut : “If there is a strike by the Americans on #Syria , then … the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired”, Zasypkin told Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, speaking in Arabic.

 

Sure, the odds are quite high that the clever folks in the Pentagon will figure out how to keep the pending attack reasonably antiseptic. That is, they will bomb a whole bunch of places in Syria where the Russians and Iranians are not (after being warned); and also deploy stand-off submarine platforms to launch cruise missiles and high-flying stealth aircraft to drop smart bombs, thereby keeping American pilots and ships out of harm’s way.

Then, after unleashing the Donald’s version of “shock and awe” they will claim that Assad has just received the spanking of his life and that the Russians and Iranians have been messaged with malice aforethought.

But our point is not that Douma is Sarajevo, and, besides, this is still April, not August. What should be scaring the daylights out of Wall Street is that we are even at the point where the two tweets quoted above are happening.

For crying out loud, there is a brutal, bloody, and barbaric civil war raging in Syria where both sides are bedecked in black hats; both sides have committed unspeakable atrocities; and where it is a documented fact that the rebels possess chemical weapons and have launched false flag gas attacks in the past – even as 1,300 tons of Assad’s inventory, which may or may not have been the totality of it, was destroyed according to the certification of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (“OPCW“).

In that context, who can tell whether the alleged chlorine gas release last Saturday in Douma originated in a bomb dropped by Assad’s air force or came from a rebel stockpile that was hit by a bomb? Or whether it was another deliberate false flag attack staged by the jihadists or perhaps that it never happened at all.

The evidence comes mainly from rebel forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. One of these was the Violations Documentation Center, a virulent anti-Russian organization funded by George Soros. Another was the White Helmets, a completely comprised operation financed by the US and UK and which has operated only in rebel-held territories – often check-by-jowl with the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist elements.

Indeed, Washington’s fabled spies in the sky and taps on every node of the worldwide web can read your email and spot a rogue camel caravan anywhere in a Sahara sandstorm. But they can not tell whether dead bodies are the victims of bullets, bombs, collapsing buildings, or chlorine gas. You need to be on the ground and perform chemical tests for that, and Washington just plain isn’t there.

Besides, even if a careful investigation – like the one proposed by Sweden and which the US and UK vetoed at the UN – were actually completed, why is it Washington’s prerogative to administer a spanking to the culprit?

For one thing, if you are in the spanking business owing to bad behavior, then just within the region you would also need to administer the rod to al-Sisi in Egypt and Erdogan in Turkey; and also to Washington’s on and off wards in Baghdad and to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for his genocidal attacks on Yemen. While you were at it, why would even Bibi Netanyahu be spared the birch – given his periodic “lawn mowing” exercises on the Gaza strip?

The point is, Assad has never attacked, threatened, or even looked cross-eyed at the United States. So you would have thought that administering spankings to international malefactors is the business of Washington’s permanent War Party, not the leader of America First.

To be sure, the only evidence we have to date is the gruesome images posted on the internet by the “Douma Revolution”, which we don’t credit because it is a tool of the good folks of Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), who were holding 3,200 pro-Assad hostages in cages when the attack happened. But even if Assad is culpable, why is the Donald getting out the birch switch if he doesn’t mean to effectuate regime change?

Yes, inconstancy is his middle name. But how in god’s name could even the Donald have rearranged the modest amount of gray matter under his great Orange Comb-Over so quickly and completely with regards to Syria?

As a reminder, this is what the Donald said just last week:

“We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon”, Trump said on Thursday, “Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out … We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be”.

 

The fact is, it’s way too late to drag Bashar Assad behind the Moammar Khadafy Memorial Jeep to be ritually sodomized by his enemies. That’s because he’s already won the civil war (red area in the map below).

What’s left is not remotely conducive to regime change because the majority Arab population of Syria (regardless of Alawite, Shiite, Sunni, Christian, Druse et cetera religious affiliation) would never consent to be ruled by the small minority of Kurds (who control the yellow, largely desert areas). And besides, a Kurdish Syrian state in part or whole would guarantee a Turkish invasion and a blue (Turkish controlled areas surrounding Afrin in the northwest) versus yellow war where Washington would be on both sides.

Indeed, the only thing that a regime change attempt at this late date would accomplish is a resurrection of the remnants of ISIL (small black specs) or an upwelling of chaos from the three or four islets (green areas) that warring gangs of rebels, jihadists, Salafists, and blood-thirsty warlords now nominally control.

So the map below, in fact, tells you what is really going on. To wit, the neocons and deep staters around Trump – with the Walrus Mouth (Bolton) now literally shouting in his ear – are really about picking a fight with Iran and Russia. These are really Imperial Washington’s designated enemies, and the purpose of the impending attack on Syrian military installations is to intimidate them into backing down – even as they issue hostile warnings and rhetorical fulminations (especially the Iranians) against America.

Stated differently, the Orange Comb-Over is being lured not so much into an Assad spanking exercise or regime change maneuver as into a Proxy War with Iran and Russia. The latter is literally manna from heaven for the Warfare State.

Indeed, with the defense budget already cranked up to the absurd level of $720 billion, the Deep State and its military/industrial/surveillance/congressional complex allies would like nothing better than maximum rhetorical belligerence (and occasional provocative acts) from Russia and Iran in order to keep the national security gravy train inflating toward the $1 trillion funding mark.

Needless to say, the contractual droppings from these staggering budget levels will keep the beltway think tanks, NGOs, and pro-war lobbying apparatus in clover for years to come, thereby fueling the ugly secret of Imperial Washington.

Namely, since America lost its only real enemy in 1991, Washington has become an unhinged war capital. It is now endangering the entire planet in a doom-loop of expanding military muscle, multiplying foreign interventions and occupations, intensifying blowback from the victims of Washington’s aggression and an ever greater chorus of Empire-justifying experts, apparatchiks, and politicians getting fat on the banks of the Potomac.

Nevertheless, the extent of the Donald’s capture by the Deep State and its partisan auxiliaries could not be more dramatically evident than in the last seven days of events in Eastern Ghouta.

As shown in the map below, after a bloody two-month long campaign the Syrian Army – backed by the Russian Air Force – had captured most of the rebel strongholds in the Eastern Ghouta district outside of Damascus. And that meant that the civil war was tantamount to over because what remained of the armed opposition could no longer rain artillery attacks and guerrilla assaults down on the Assad government in its own backyard.

After the renewed government offensive in February, Eastern Ghouta had been split into three pockets of resistance.

The rebel groups in two of these pockets had finally capitulated after punishing battles that caused upwards of 1,200 military and civilian casualties on both sides. Under terms of the rebel/government negotiated deals, however, opposition fighters and their families were evacuated in buses to rebel-held territory in the northern Syrian province of Idlib (green area in the map above).

Only the small enclave of Douma (dark pink in the map below) held out because the Salafist fighters from the “Army of Islam” (Jaish al-Islam) refused to surrender.

By April 5, however, the situation had deteriorated so badly inside Douma that this last cohort of rebel fighters also agreed to negotiations. This too was supposed to end in a convoy of evacuation buses heading north, but the discussions had broken down when, according to some reports, the rebel negotiators were recalled and executed by a faction that wished to keep fighting.

So last Friday, the Syrian military resumed its offensive and the purported gas attack occurred the next day, when it appears that it was all over except the shouting.

We will leave for others to explain the unexplainable. To wit, why in the world would Bashar Assad, who was on the verge of a complete victory over the last redoubt of rebel enemies that could threaten his regime, use chemical weapons on civilians and children when all except a few hard-core fighters had already agreed to get on buses and evacuate Douma entirely?

Yet here is the even more unexplainable part of this sorry episode that amounts to the Deep State waging the Donald. The remaining rebels capitulated on Sunday and the government re-upped the evacuation deal. That is, the remnants of Jaish al-Islam are now all dead or have boarded busses – along with their families – and are already in Idlib province.

That’s right. There is no opposition left in Douma and it has been liberated by the Syrian army, including the release of the 3,200 pro-government hostages who had been paraded around the town in cages by the Saudi Arabia funded warriors of Islam who had terrorized it.

According to the Syrian government, no traces of chemicals or even bodies have been found. They could be lying, of course, but with the OPCW investigators on the way to Douma who in their right mind would not wait for an assessment of what actually happened last Saturday?

That is if you are not caught up in the anti-Russian hysteria that has engulfed official Washington and the mainstream media. Indeed, the Syrian government has now even welcomed the international community to come to Douma, where the Russians claim there is absolutely nothing to see:

Speaking with Euronews, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizov, said “Russian military specialists have visited this region, walked on those streets, entered those houses, talked to local doctors and visited the only functioning hospital in Douma, including its basement where reportedly the mountains of corpses pile up. There was not a single corpse and even not a single person who came in for treatment after the attack.”

“But we’ve seen them on the video!” responds Euronews correspondent Andrei Beketov.

“There was no chemical attack in Douma, pure and simple”, responds Chizov. “We’ve seen another staged event. There are personnel, specifically trained – and you can guess by whom – amongst the so-called White Helmets, who were already caught in the act with staged videos”.

In short, if they are lying, it would not be hard to ascertain. Presumably, the Donald could even send Jared Kushner – flack jacket and all – to investigate what actually happened at Douma.

Alas, the Donald has apparently opted for war instead in a desperate maneuver to keep the Deep State at bay.

Either way, we think he’s about done, and in Part 2 we will explore why what’s about to happen next should be known to the history books, if there are any, as “Mueller’s War”.

http://davidstockmanscontracorner.com/the-deep-state-closes-in-on-the-donald-part-1/

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-04-12/deep-state-closes-donald-part-1

Categories: Uncategorized

Russia’s Real Endgame

by James Rickards

The Daily Reckoning (April 11 2018)

Zero Hedge (April 12 2018)

Russia’s Putin has never taken his eye off the ball. His ambition is not global hegemony or European conquest. Putin seeks what Russia has always sought: regional hegemony and a set of buffer states in eastern Europe and central Asia that can add to Russia’s strategic depth.

In Syria, Russia has the warm water port of Tartus – which is important when you consider that most Russian ports are ice-bound for months of the year.

It is strategic depth – the capacity to suffer massive invasions and still survive due to an ability to retreat to a core position and stretch enemy supply lines – that enabled Russia to defeat both Napoleon and Hitler. Putin also wants the modicum of respect that would normally accompany that geostrategic goal.

Understanding Putin is not much more complicated than that.

In the twenty-first century, a Russian sphere of influence is not achieved by conquest or subordination in the old Imperial or Communist style. It is achieved by close financial ties, direct foreign investment, free trade zones, treaties, security alliances, and a network of associations that resemble earlier versions of the EU.

Russian military intervention in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is best understood not as a Russian initiative, but as a Russian reaction. It was a response to US and UK efforts to attack Russia by pushing aggressively and prematurely for Ukraine membership in Nato. This was done by deposing a Putin ally in Kiev in early 2014.

This is not to justify Russia’s actions, merely to put them in a proper context. The time to peel off Ukraine for Nato was 1999, not 2014.

The Russian-Ukraine situation is a subset of the broader US-Russian relationship. Here, the opposition comes not just from domestic opponents but from the globalist elite.

Globalization emerged in the 1990s as a consequence of the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. For the first time since 1914, Russia, China, and their respective empires could join the US, Western Europe, and their former colonies in Latin America and Africa in a single global market.

Globalization relied on open borders, free trade, telecommunications, global finance, extended supply chains, cheap labor, and freedom of the seas. Globalization, as it existed from 1990 to 2007, made steady progress under the Bush-Clinton duopoly of power in the US and like-minded leaders elsewhere. The enemy of globalization was nationalism, but nationalism was nowhere in sight.

The financial crisis of 2007~2008, caused by the elites’ own greed and inability to grasp the statistical properties of risk, put an end to the easy gains from globalization.

Ironically, globalization gained in the short-run despite financial calamity. The same elites who created disaster were empowered to “fix” the situation under the auspices of the G20 Leaders’ Summit. This global rescue began with the first G20 summit hastily organized by George W Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy, then the President of France, in November 2008.

Despite the financial bailouts and central bank easy money of the decade following the crisis, robust self-sustaining growth in line with pre-crisis trends has never really returned. Instead, the world has suffered through a ten-year depression (defined as depressed below-trend growth), which continues to this day.

What little growth emerged was captured mostly by the wealthy, which led to the greatest income inequality levels seen in over eighty years.

Discontent was palpable in middle-class and working-class populations in the world’s major developed economies. This discontent morphed into political action. The result was the UK decision to leave the EU, called “Brexit”, the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of politicians such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France, among others.

What unites these politicians and political movements is nationalism. This can be defined as a desire to put national interests ahead of globalization. Nationalism can mean closing borders, restricting free trade to help local employment, fighting back against cheap labor and dumping with tariffs and trade adjustment assistance, and rejecting multilateral trade deals in favor of bilateral negotiations.

This brings us to the crux of the US-Russia relationship.

Simply put, Putin and Trump are the two most powerful nationalists in the world. Any rapprochement between Russia and the US is an existential threat to the globalist agenda.

This explains the vitriolic, hysterical, and relentless attacks on Trump and Putin.

The globalists have to keep Trump and Putin separated in order to have any hope of reviving the globalist agenda.

Just as Trump and Putin are the champions of nationalism, President Xi Jinping of China and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany have emerged as the champions of the globalist camp.

Understanding this dynamic requires consideration of the paradoxical roles of Xi and Merkel.

Xi positions himself as the leading advocate of globalization. The truth is more complex.

President Xi is the most nationalist of all major leaders. He continually puts China’s long-term interests first without particular regard for the well-being of the rest of the world.

But, China’s relative military and economic weakness, and potential social instability require it to cooperate with the rest of the world on trade, climate change, and supply-chain logistics in order to grow. Xi is in a paradoxical position of being nationalist to the core, yet wearing a globalist veneer in order to pursue the nationalist long game.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany is also in a paradoxical position – but the opposite of Xi’s role. Merkel knows Germany must embrace globalism both because of its unique historical burden of being the source of three major wars (Franco-Prussian, World War One, and World War Two), and the necessity of German integration with the EU and Eurozone.

At the same time, Merkel has advanced her globalist agenda by promoting German interests through exports and cheap foreign labor.

For the globalists, the world breaks down into a Manichean struggle between the nationalists, Trump and Putin, and the globalists, Xi and Merkel. Globalists may be playing a two-sided game of nationalists versus globalists, but they need to widen the lens to see that the world today is really a three-party game.

There are really only three superpowers in the world today – Russia, China, and the US. All other nations are secondary or tertiary powers who may be aligned with a superpower, neutral, or independent, but who otherwise lack the ability to impose their will on others.

Some analysts may be surprised to see Russia on the superpower list, but the facts are indisputable. Russia is the twelfth largest economy in the world, has the largest landmass, is one of the three largest energy producers in the world, has abundant natural resources other than oil, has advanced weapons and space technology, an educated workforce and, of course, has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons of any country.

Russia has enormous problems including adverse demographics, limited access to oceans, harsh weather, and limited fertile soil. Yet, none of these problems negate Russia’s native strengths.

Notwithstanding the prospect of improved relations, Putin remains the geopolitical chess master he has always been.

His long game involves the accumulation of gold, development of alternative payments systems, and ultimate demise of the dollar as the dominant global reserve currency.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-04-12/russias-real-endgame

Categories: Uncategorized

The American Military System Dissected

What Happens when a Few Volunteer and the Rest Just Watch

by Andrew J Bacevich

TomDispatch (April 10 2018)

The purpose of all wars, is peace. So observed Saint Augustine early in the first millennium AD. Far be it from me to disagree with the esteemed Bishop of Hippo, but his crisply formulated aphorism just might require a bit of updating.

I’m not a saint or even a bishop, merely an interested observer of this nation’s ongoing military misadventures early in the third millennium AD. From my vantage point, I might suggest the following amendment to Augustine’s dictum: Any war failing to yield peace is purposeless and, if purposeless, both wrong and stupid.

War is evil. Large-scale, state-sanctioned violence is justified only when all other means of achieving genuinely essential objectives have been exhausted or are otherwise unavailable. A nation should go to war only when it has to – and even then, ending the conflict as expeditiously as possible should be an imperative.

Some might take issue with these propositions, President Trump’s latest national security adviser doubtless among them. Yet most observers – even, I’m guessing, most high-ranking US military officers – would endorse them. How is it then that peace has essentially vanished as a US policy objective? Why has war joined death and taxes in that select category of things that Americans have come to accept as unavoidable?

The United States has taken Thucydides’s famed Melian Dialogue and turned it inside out. Centuries before Augustine, the great Athenian historian wrote, “The strong do what they will, while the weak suffer what they must”. Strength confers choice; weakness restricts it. That’s the way the world works, so at least Thucydides believed. Yet the inverted Melian Dialogue that prevails in present-day Washington seemingly goes like this: strength imposes obligations and limits choice. In other words, we gotta keep doing what we’ve been doing, no matter what.

Making such a situation all the more puzzling is the might and majesty of America’s armed forces. By common consent, the United States today has the world’s best military. By some estimates, it may be the best in recorded history. It’s certainly the most expensive and hardest working on the planet.

Yet in the post-Cold War era when the relative strength of US forces reached its zenith, our well-endowed, well-trained, well-equipped, and highly disciplined troops have proven unable to accomplish any of the core tasks to which they’ve been assigned. This has been especially true since 9/11.

We send the troops off to war, but they don’t achieve peace. Instead, America’s wars and skirmishes simply drag on, seemingly without end. We just keep doing what we’ve been doing, a circumstance that both Augustine and Thucydides would undoubtedly have found baffling.

Prosecuting War, Averting Peace

How to explain this paradox of a superb military that never gets the job done? Let me suggest that the problem lies with the present-day American military system, the principles to which the nation adheres in raising, organizing, supporting, and employing its armed forces. By its very existence, a military system expresses an implicit contract between the state, the people, and the military itself.

Here, as I see it, are the principles – seven in all – that define the prevailing military system of the United States.

First, we define military service as entirely voluntary. In the US, there is no link between citizenship and military service. It’s up to you as an individual to decide if you want to take up arms in the service of your country.

If you choose to do so, that’s okay. If you choose otherwise, that’s okay, too. Either way, your decision is of no more significance than whether you root for the Yankees or the Mets.

Second, while non-serving citizens are encouraged to “support the troops”, we avoid stipulating how this civic function is to be performed.

In practice, there are many ways of doing so, some substantive, others merely symbolic. Most citizens opt for the latter. This means that they cheer when invited to do so. Cheering is easy and painless. It can even make you feel good about yourself.

Third, when it comes to providing the troops with actual support, we expect Congress to do the heavy lifting. Our elected representatives fulfill that role by routinely ponying up vast sums of money for what is misleadingly called a defense budget. In some instances, Congress appropriates even more money than the Pentagon asks for, as was the case this year.

Meanwhile, under the terms of our military system, attention to how this money actually gets spent by our yet-to-be-audited Pentagon tends to be – to put the matter politely – spotty. Only rarely does the Congress insert itself forcefully into matters relating to what US forces scattered around the world are actually doing.

Yes, there are periodic hearings, with questions posed and testimony offered. But unless there is some partisan advantage to be gained, oversight tends to be, at best, pro forma. As a result, those charged with implementing national security policy – another Orwellian phrase – enjoy very considerable latitude.

Fourth, under the terms of our military system, this latitude applies in spades to the chief executive. The commander-in-chief occupies the apex of our military system. The president may bring to office very little expertise pertinent to war or the art of statecraft, yet his authority regarding such matters is essentially unlimited.

Consider, if you will, the sobering fact that our military system empowers the president to order a nuclear attack, should he see the need – or feel the impulse – to do so. He need not obtain congressional consent. He certainly doesn’t need to check with the American people.

Since Harry Truman ordered the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, presidents have not exercised this option, for which we should all be grateful. Yet on more occasions than you can count, they have ordered military actions, large and small, on their own authority or after only the most perfunctory consultation with Congress. When Donald Trump, for instance, threatened North Korea’s Kim Jong-un with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen”, he gave no hint that he would even consider asking for prior congressional authorization to do so. Trump’s words were certainly inflammatory. Yet were he to act on those words, he would merely be exercising a prerogative enjoyed by his predecessors going back to Truman himself.

The Constitution invests in Congress the authority to declare war. The relevant language is unambiguous. In practice, as countless commentators have noted, that provision has long been a dead letter. This, too, forms an essential part of our present military system.

Fifth, under the terms of that system, there’s no need to defray the costs of military actions undertaken in our name. Supporting the troops does not require citizens to pay anything extra for what the US military is doing out there wherever it may be. The troops are asked to sacrifice; for the rest of us, sacrifice is anathema.

Indeed, in recent years, presidents who take the nation to war or perpetuate wars they inherit never even consider pressing Congress to increase our taxes accordingly. On the contrary, they advocate tax cuts, especially for the wealthiest among us, which lead directly to massive deficits.

Sixth, pursuant to the terms of our military system, the armed services have been designed not to defend the country but to project military power on a global basis. For the Department of Defense actually defending the United States qualifies as an afterthought, trailing well behind other priorities such as trying to pacify Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province or jousting with militant groups in Somalia. The United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are all designed to fight elsewhere, relying on a constellation of perhaps 800 bases around the world to facilitate the conduct of military campaigns “out there”, wherever “there” may happen to be. They are, in other words, expeditionary forces.

Reflect for a moment on the way the Pentagon divvies the world up into gigantic swathes of territory and then assigns a military command to exercise jurisdiction over each of them: European Command, Africa Command, Central Command, Southern Command, Northern Command, and Pacific Command. With the polar icecap continuing to melt, a US Arctic Command is almost surely next on the docket. Nor is the Pentagon’s mania for creating new headquarters confined to terra firma. We already have US Cyber Command. Can US Galactic Command be far behind?

No other nation adheres to this practice. Nor would the United States permit any nation to do so. Imagine the outcry in Washington if President Xi Jinping had the temerity to create a “PRC Latin America Command”, headed by a four-star Chinese general charged with maintaining order and stability from Mexico to Argentina.

Seventh (and last), our military system invests great confidence in something called the military profession.

The legal profession exists to implement the rule of law. We hope that the result is some approximation of justice. The medical profession exists to repair our bodily ailments. We hope that health and longevity will result. The military profession exists to master war. With military professionals in charge, it’s our hope that America’s wars will conclude quickly and successfully with peace the result.

To put it another way, we look to the military profession to avert the danger of long, costly, and inconclusive wars. History suggests that these sap the collective strength of a nation and can bring about its premature decline. We count on military professionals to forestall that prospect.

Our military system assigns the immediate direction of war to our most senior professionals, individuals who have ascended step by step to the very top of the military hierarchy. We expect three- and four-star generals and admirals to possess the skills needed to make war politically purposeful. This expectation provides the rationale for the status they enjoy and the many entitlements they are accorded.

America, the (Formerly) Indispensable

Now, the nation that has created this military system is not some “shithole country”, to use a phrase made famous by President Trump. We are, or at least claim to be, a democratic republic in which all power ultimately derives from the people. We believe in – indeed, are certain that we exemplify – freedom, even as we continually modify the meaning of that term.

In the aggregate, we are very rich. Since the latter part of the nineteenth century, we have taken it for granted that the United States ought to be the richest country on the planet, notwithstanding the fact that large numbers of ordinary Americans are themselves anything but rich. Indeed, as a corollary to our military system, we count on these less affluent Americans to volunteer for military service in disproportionate numbers. Offered sufficient incentives, they do so.

Finally, since 1945 the United States has occupied the preeminent place in the global order, a position affirmed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991. Indeed, we have come to believe that American primacy reflects the will of God or of some cosmic authority.

From the early years of the Cold War, we have come to believe that the freedom, material abundance, and primacy we cherish all depend upon the exercise of “global leadership”. In practice, that seemingly benign term has been a euphemism for unquestioned military superiority and the self-assigned right to put our military to work as we please wherever we please. Back in the 1990s, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it best:
 

If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.

 

Other countries might design their military establishments to protect certain vital interests. As Albright’s remark suggests, American designs have been far more ambitious.

Here, then, is a question: How do the principles and attitudes that undergird our military system actually suit twenty-first-century America? And if they don’t, what are the implications of clinging to such a system? Finally, what alternative principles might form a more reasonable basis for raising, organizing, supporting, and employing our armed forces?

Spoiler alert: Let me acknowledge right now that I consider our present-day military system irredeemably flawed and deeply harmful. For proof, we need look no further than the conduct of our post-9/11 wars, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

These myriad undertakings of the last nearly seventeen years have subjected our military system to a comprehensive real-world examination. Collectively, they have rendered a judgment on that system. And the judgment is negative. Put to the test, the American military system has failed.

And the cost so far? Trillions of dollars expended (with trillions more to come), thousands of American lives lost, tens of thousands of Americans grievously damaged, and even greater numbers of non-Americans killed, injured, and displaced.

One thing is certain: our wars have not brought about peace by even the loosest definition of the word.

A Military Report Card

There are many possible explanations for why our recent military record has been so dismal. One crucial explanation – perhaps the most important of all – relates to those seven principles that undergird our military system.

Let me review them in reverse order.

Principle 7, the military profession: Tally up the number of three- and four-star generals who have commanded the Afghan War since 2001. It’s roughly a dozen. None of them has succeeded in bringing it to a successful conclusion. Nor does any such happy ending seem likely to be in the offing anytime soon. The senior officers we expect to master war have demonstrated no such mastery.

The generals who followed one another in presiding over that war are undoubtedly estimable, well-intentioned men, but they have not accomplished the job for which they were hired. Imagine if you contracted with a dozen different plumbers – each highly regarded – to fix a leaking sink in your kitchen and you ended up with a flooded basement. You might begin to think that there’s something amiss in the way that plumbers are trained and licensed. Similarly, perhaps it’s time to reexamine our approach to identifying and developing very senior military officers.

Or alternatively, consider this possibility: Perhaps our theory of war as an enterprise where superior generalship determines the outcome is flawed. Perhaps war cannot be fully mastered, by generals or anyone else.

It might just be that war is inherently unmanageable. Take it from Winston Churchill, America’s favorite confronter of evil. “The statesman who yields to war fever”, Churchill wrote, “must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events”.

If Churchill is right, perhaps our expectations that senior military professionals will tame war – control the uncontrollable – are misplaced. Perhaps our military system should put greater emphasis on avoiding war altogether or at least classifying it as an option to be exercised with great trepidation, rather than as the political equivalent of a handy-dandy, multi-functional Swiss Army knife.

Principle 6, organizing our forces to emphasize global power projection: Reflect for a moment on the emerging security issues of our time. The rise of China is one example. A petulant and over-armed Russia offers a second. Throw in climate change and mushrooming cyber-threats and you have a daunting set of problems. It’s by no means impertinent to wonder about the relevance of the current military establishment to these challenges.

Every year the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain and enhance the lethality of a force configured for conventional power projection and to sustain the global network of bases that goes with it. For almost two decades, that force has been engaged in a futile war of attrition with radical Islamists that has now spread across much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa.

I don’t know about you, but I worry more about the implications of China’s rise and Russian misbehavior than I do about Islamic terrorism. And I worry more about changing weather patterns here in New England or somebody shutting down the electrical grid in my hometown than I do about what Beijing and Moscow may be cooking up. Bluntly put, our existing military system finds us focused on the wrong problem set.

We need a military system that accurately prioritizes actual and emerging threats. The existing system does not. This suggests the need for radically reconfigured armed services, with the hallowed traditions of George Patton, John Paul Jones, Billy Mitchell, and Chesty Puller honorably but permanently retired.

Principle 5, paying – or not paying – for America’s wars: If you want it, you should be willing to pay for it. That hoary axiom ought to guide our military system as much as it should our personal lives. Saddling Millennials or members of Generation Z with the cost of paying for wars mostly conceived and mismanaged by my fellow Baby Boomers strikes me as downright unseemly.

One might expect the young to raise quite a ruckus over such an obvious injustice. In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed their righteous anger over the absence of effective gun controls in this country. That they aren’t comparably incensed about the misuse of guns by their own contemporaries deployed to distant lands represents a real puzzle, especially since they’re the ones who will ultimately be stuck with the bill.

Principles 4 and 3, the role of Congress and the authority of the commander-in-chief: Whatever rationale may once have existed for allowing the commander-in-chief to circumvent the Constitution’s plainly specified allocation of war powers to Congress should long since have lapsed. Well before Donald Trump became president, a responsible Congress would have reasserted its authority to declare war. That Trump sits in the Oval Office and now takes advice from the likes of John Bolton invests this matter with great urgency.

Surely President Trump’s bellicose volatility drives home the point that it’s past time for Congress to assert itself in providing responsible oversight regarding all aspects of US military policy. Were it to do so, the chances of fixing the defects permeating our present military system would improve appreciably.

Of course, the likelihood of that happening is nil until the money changers are expelled from the temple. And that won’t occur until Americans who are not beholden to the military-industrial complex and its various subsidiaries rise up, purge the Congress of its own set of complexes, and install in office people willing to do their duty. And that brings us back to …

Principles 2 and 1, the existing relationship between the American people and their military and our reliance on a so-called all-volunteer force: Here we come to the heart of the matter.

I submit that the relationship between the American people and their military is shot through with hypocrisy. It is, in fact, nothing short of fraudulent. Worse still, most of us know it, even if we are loath to fess up. In practice, the informal mandate to “support the troops” has produced an elaborate charade. It’s theater, as phony as Donald Trump’s professed love for DACA recipients.

If Americans were genuinely committed to supporting the troops, they would pay a great deal more attention to what President Trump and his twenty-first-century predecessors have tasked those troops to accomplish – with what results and at what cost. Of course, that would imply doing more than cheering and waving the flag on cue. Ultimately, the existence of the all-volunteer force obviates any need for such an effort. It provides Americans with an ample excuse for ignoring our endless wars and allowing our flawed military system to escape serious scrutiny.

Having outsourced responsibility for defending the country to people few of us actually know, we’ve ended up with a military system that is unfair, undemocratic, hugely expensive, and largely ineffective, not to mention increasingly irrelevant to the threats coming our way. The perpetuation of that system finds us mired in precisely the sort of long, costly, inconclusive wars that sap the collective strength of a nation and may bring about its premature decline.

The root cause of our predicament is the all-volunteer force. Only when we ordinary citizens conclude that we have an obligation to contribute to the country’s defense will it become possible to devise a set of principles for raising, organizing, supporting, and employing US forces that align with our professed values and our actual security requirements.

If Stormy Daniels can figure out when an existing contract has outlived its purpose, so can the rest of us.

_____

In between his contributions to TomDispatch, Andrew J Bacevich is trying to write a book about how we got Trump. He is the author, most recently, of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (2017).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (2017) as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two (2017), John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands (2016), Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead (2016), and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (2014).

Copyright 2018 by Andrew J. Bacevich

(c) 2018 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176409/

Categories: Uncategorized

Who Wants a Hot War with Syria and Iran?

by Philip M Giraldi

Strategic Culture Foundation (April 04 2018)

There is a vast industry in the United States that wants a hot war with Syria and Iran as well as increased confrontation with Russia and China. It is appropriate to refer to it as an industry because it has many components and is largely driven by money, much of which itself comes from Wall Street and major corporations that profit from war-related business. Some prefer to refer to this monster as the Military Industrial Complex, but since that phrase was coined by President Dwight D Eisenhower in 1961, it has grown enormously, developing a political dimension that includes a majority of congressmen who are addicted to receiving a tithe from the profits from the war economy to finance their own campaigns, permitting them to stay in office indefinitely and retire comfortably to a lobbying position or corporate directorship.

The defense industry also has spawned hundreds of so-called think-tanks whose sole business is promoting war. Some, like the neoconservative Institute for the Study of War, have a clear agenda, but the most powerful rely on euphemisms to conceal what they are doing. They include the American Enterprise Institute and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, both of which promote a hard-line foreign policy directed against Iran and Russia, to include intensified confrontation with both in Syria.

The national media, which also benefits from the same food chain, is also complicit in the process, knowing that the public can easily be deceived by pronouncements coming from alleged experts in Washington. Leading politicians like Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain lead the pack but there is no shortage of lesser-known congressmen to also raise the cry about foreign threats to national security. Regarding developments in Syria, Graham advised last weekend that Trump must attack and destroy the Syrian Air Force or “look weak” while McCain said White House talk of pulling troops out of the country had “emboldened” al-Assad.

Unenlightened self-interest prevails in the White House over the formulation of policy, with the public interest completely lost from sight as high officials jockey in support of the agendas being promoted by those with money and access to those in power. There is no other explanation for the astonishing performance last weekend, which pushed the United States closer to a new war in spite of Trump’s earlier expressed claims that he wants to exit from Syria, a comment that he quickly backed away from under pressure from the Israelis and Congress.

But now we have a dubious narrative of a horrible new chemical weapon attack in Syria and the Israelis, who have spent the past two weeks shooting two thousand unarmed demonstrators, have attacked a Syrian airbase, killing fourteen, pretending that they care about civilian casualties when all they really want to do is jumpstart a seven-year war which has been winding down.

Anyone could see there was something not quite right about this latest “chemical attack”, supposedly implemented by Bashar al-Assad just as his troops are about to finish off the last rebels near Damascus. But Donald Trump apparently could not appreciate that the Syrian government had no motive to use chemical weapons, while the rebels, who control the space where the attack supposedly took place, have every reason to motivate an international coalition to attack the Syrian Army.

At 8 am on Sunday morning the President of the United States sent out this tweet:
 

Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia, and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay …

 

Donald Trump could not have possibly known who staged the gas attack so soon after it occurred, but he felt compelled to tweet something anyway. And it was not as if other observers hadn’t suspected that a big lie was coming. Days before the staged attack, the Russian Defense Ministry warned that a false flag incident was being prepared.

One hour later, the Sunday morning talk shows in the US were full of reports about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. No one contradicted that narrative and the news was soon headlined in the late editions of the Sunday newspapers. “Fake news” had won out again, in spite of a complete lack of evidence or credibility. This is completely crazy. There is something very wrong with what is going on currently in the United States.

_____

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

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/04/12/who-wants-hot-war-with-syria-and-iran.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Weapons for Anyone

Donald Trump and the Art of the Arms Deal

by William D Hartung

TomDispatch (April 01 2018)

It’s one of those stories of the century that somehow never gets treated that way. For an astounding 25 of the past 26 years, the United States has been the leading arms dealer on the planet, at some moments in near monopolistic fashion. Its major weapons-producers, including Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, regularly pour the latest in high-tech arms and munitions into the most explosive areas of the planet with ample assistance from the Pentagon. In recent years, the bulk of those arms have gone to the Greater Middle East. Donald Trump is only the latest American president to preside over a global arms sales bonanza. With remarkable enthusiasm, he’s appointed himself America’s number one weapons salesman and he couldn’t be prouder of the job he’s doing.

Earlier this month, for instance, on the very day Congress was debating whether to end US support for Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen, Trump engaged in one of his favorite presidential activities: bragging about the economic benefits of the American arms sales he’s been promoting. He was joined in his moment of braggadocio by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chief architect of that war. That grim conflict has killed thousands of civilians through indiscriminate air strikes while putting millions at risk of death from famine, cholera, and other “natural” disasters caused at least in part by a Saudi-led blockade of that country’s ports.

That Washington-enabled humanitarian crisis provided the backdrop for the Senate’s consideration of a bill co-sponsored by Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders, Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee, and Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. It was aimed at ending US mid-air refueling of Saudi warplanes and Washington’s additional assistance for the Saudi war effort (at least until the war is explicitly authorized by Congress). The bill generated a vigorous debate. In the end, on an issue that wouldn’t have even come to the floor two years ago, an unprecedented 44 senators voted to halt this country’s support for the Saudi war effort. The bill nonetheless went down to defeat and the suffering in Yemen continues.

Debate about the merits of that brutal war was, however, the last thing on the mind of a president who views his bear-hug embrace of the Saudi regime as a straightforward business proposition. He’s so enthusiastic about selling arms to Riyadh that he even brought his very own prop to the White House meeting with bin Salman: a US map highlighting which of the fifty states would benefit most from pending weapons sales to the prince’s country.

You undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn that Michigan, Ohio, and Florida, the three crucial swing states in the 2016 presidential election, were especially highlighted. His latest stunt only underscored a simple fact of his presidency: Trump’s arms sales are meant to promote pork-barrel politics while pumping up the profits of US weapons manufacturers. As for human rights or human lives, who cares?

To be fair, Donald Trump is hardly the first American president to make it his business to aggressively promote weapons exports. Though seldom a highlighted part of his presidency, Barack Obama proved to be a weapons salesman par excellence. He made more arms offers in his two terms in office than any US president since World War Two, including an astounding $115 billion in weapons deals with Saudi Arabia. For the tiny group of us who follow such things, that map of Trump’s only underscored a familiar reality.

On it, in addition to the map linking US jobs and arms transfers to the Saudis, were little boxes that highlighted four specific weapons sales worth tens of billions of dollars. Three of those that included the THAAD missile defense system, C-130 transport planes, P-8 anti-submarine warfare planes, and Bradley armored vehicles were, in fact, completed during the Obama years. So much for Donald Trump’s claim to be a deal maker the likes of which we’ve never seen before. You might, in fact, say that the truest arms race these days is between American presidents, not the United States and other countries. Not only has the US been the world’s top arms exporting nation throughout this century, but last year it sold one and a half times as much weaponry as its closest rival, Russia.

Embracing Lockheed Martin

It’s worth noting that three of those four Saudi deals involved weapons made by Lockheed Martin. Admittedly, Trump’s relationship with Lockheed got off to a rocky start in December 2016 when he tweeted his displeasure over the cost of that company’s F-35 combat aircraft, the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken by the Pentagon. Since then, however, relations between the nation’s largest defense contractor and America’s most self-involved president have warmed considerably.

Before Trump’s May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, new best buddy to Mohammed bin Salman, was put in charge of cobbling together a smoke-and-mirrors, wildly exaggerated $100 billion-plus arms package that Trump could announce in Riyadh. What Kushner needed was a list of sales or potential sales that his father-in-law could boast about (even if many of the deals had been made by Obama). So he called Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson to ask if she could cut the price of a THAAD anti-missile system that the administration wanted to include in the package. She agreed and the $15 billion THAAD deal – still a huge price tag and the most lucrative sale to the Saudis made by the Trump administration – went forward. To sweeten the pot for the Saudi royals, the Pentagon even waived a $3.5 billion fee normally required by law and designed to reimburse the Treasury for the cost to American taxpayers of developing such a major weapons system. General Joseph Rixey, until recently the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which granted that waiver, has since gone directly through Washington’s revolving door and been hired by – you guessed it – Lockheed Martin.

In addition, former Lockheed Martin executive John Rood is now the Trump administration’s undersecretary of defense for policy, where one of his responsibilities will be to weigh in on … don’t be shocked!… major arms deals. In his confirmation hearings, Rood refused to say that he would recuse himself from transactions involving his former employer, for which he was denounced by Senators John McCain and Elizabeth Warren. As Warren asserted in a speech opposing Rood’s appointment,
 

No taxpayer should have to wonder whether the top policy-makers at the Pentagon are pushing defense products and foreign military sales for reasons other than the protection of the United States of America … No American should have to wonder whether the Defense Department is acting to protect the national interests of our nation or the financial interests of the five giant defense contractors.

 

Still, most senators were unfazed and Rood’s nomination sailed through that body by a vote of 81 to seven. He is now positioned to help smooth the way for any Lockheed Martin deal that might meet with a discouraging word from the Pentagon or State Department officials charged with vetting foreign arms sales.

Arming the Planet

Though Saudi Arabia may be the largest recipient of US arms on the planet, it’s anything but Washington’s only customer. According to the Pentagon’s annual tally of major agreements under the Foreign Military Sales program, the most significant channel for US arms exports, Washington entered into formal agreements to sell weaponry to 130 nations in 2016 (the most recent year for which full data is available). According to a recent report from the Cato Institute, between 2002 and 2016 the United States delivered weaponry to 167 countries – more than 85% of the nations on the planet. The Cato report also notes that, between 1981 and 2010, Washington supplied some form of weaponry to 59% of all nations engaged in high-level conflicts.

In short, Donald Trump has headed down a well-traveled arms superhighway. Every president since Richard Nixon has taken that same road and, in 2010, the Obama administration managed to rack up a record $102 billion in foreign arms offers. In a recent report I wrote for the Security Assistance Monitor at the Center for International Policy, I documented more than $82 billion in arms offers by the Trump administration in 2017 alone, which actually represented a slight increase from the $76 billion in offers made during President Obama’s final year. It was, however, far lower than that 2010 figure, $60 billion of which came from Saudi deals for F-15 combat aircraft, Apache attack helicopters, transport aircraft, and armored vehicles, as well as guns and ammunition.

There have nonetheless been some differences in the approaches of the two administrations in the area of human rights. Under pressure from human rights groups, the Obama administration did, in the end, suspend sales of aircraft to Bahrain and Nigeria, both of whose militaries were significant human rights violators, and also a $1 billion-plus deal for precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia. That Saudi suspension represented the first concrete action by the Obama administration to express displeasure with Riyadh’s indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen. Conducted largely with US and British supplied aircraft, bombs, and missiles, it has included strikes against hospitals, marketplaces, water treatment facilities, and even a funeral. In keeping with his focus on jobs to the exclusion of humanitarian concerns, Trump reversed all three of the Obama suspensions shortly after taking office.

Fueling Terrorism and Instability

In fact, selling weapons to dictatorships and repressive regimes often fuels instability, war, and terrorism, as the American war on terror has vividly demonstrated for the last nearly seventeen years. US-supplied arms also have a nasty habit of ending up in the hands of America’s adversaries. At the height of the US intervention in Iraq, for instance, that country’s armed forces lost track of hundreds of thousands of rifles, many of which made their way into the hands of forces resisting the US occupation.

In a similar fashion, when Islamic State militants swept into Iraq in 2014, the Iraqi security forces abandoned billions of dollars worth of American equipment, from small arms to military trucks and armored vehicles. ISIS promptly put them to use against US advisers and the Iraqi security forces as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. The Taliban, too, has gotten its hands on substantial quantities of US weaponry, either on the battlefield or by buying them at cut-rate, black market prices from corrupt members of the Afghan security forces.

In northern Syria, two US-armed groups are now fighting each other. Turkish forces are facing off against Syrian Kurdish militias that have been among the most effective anti-ISIS fighters and there is even an ongoing risk that US and Turkish forces, Nato allies, may find themselves in direct combat with each other. Far from giving Washington influence over key allies or improving their combat effectiveness, US arms and training often simply spur further conflict and chaos to the detriment of the security of the United States, not to speak of the peace of the world.

In the grim and devolving conflict in Yemen, for instance, all sides possess at least some US weaponry. Saudi Arabia is, of course, the top US arms client and its forces are a catalogue of American weaponry, from planes and anti-tank missiles to cluster bombs, but hundreds of millions of dollars in US military aid were also provided to the forces of Yemeni autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh during his thirty years of rule before he was driven from power in 2012. Later, however, he joined forces with the Houthi rebels against the Saudi-led intervention, taking large parts of the Yemeni armed forces – and their US-supplied weapons – with him. (He would himself be assassinated by Houthi forces late last year after a falling out.)

Trump’s Plan: Make It Easier for Arms Makers

The Trump administration is poised to release a new policy directive on global arms transfers. A report by Politico, based on interviews with sources at the State Department and a National Security Council (“NSC“) official, suggests that it will seek to further streamline the process of approving arms sales, in part by increasing the already extensive role of US government personnel in promoting such exports. It will also remove what a National Security Council statement has described as “unreasonable constraints on the ability of our companies to compete”. In keeping with that priority, according to the NSC official, “the administration is intent on ensuring that US industry has every advantage in the global marketplace”.

In January, a Reuters article confirmed this approach, reporting that the forthcoming directive would emphasize arms-sales promotion by US diplomats and other overseas personnel. As one administration official told Reuters, “We want to see those guys, the commercial and military attaches, unfettered to be salesmen for this stuff, to be promoters”.

The Trump administration is also expected to move forward with a plan, stalled as the Obama years ended, to ease controls on the export of US firearms. Gun exports now licensed and scrutinized by the State Department would instead be put under the far-less-stringent jurisdiction of the Commerce Department. Some firearms could then be exported to allies without even a license, reducing the government’s ability to prevent them from reaching criminal networks or the security forces of potential adversaries.

In September 2017, Democratic senators Ben Cardin, Dianne Feinstein, and Patrick Leahy sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raising concerns about such a change. As they wrote, “Combat firearms and ammunition are uniquely lethal; they are easily spread and easily modified and are the primary means of injury, death, and destruction in civil and military conflicts throughout the world. As such they should be subjected to more – not less – rigorous export controls and oversight.”

If Trump’s vision of an all-arms-sales-all-the-time foreign policy is realized, he may scale the weapons-dealing heights reached by the Obama administration. As Washington’s arms-dealer-in-chief, he might indeed succeed in selling American weaponry as if there were no tomorrow. Given the known human costs of unbridled arms trafficking, however, such a presidency would also ensure that whatever tomorrow finally arrived would prove far worse than today, unless of course, you happen to be a major US arms maker.

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William D Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of “Trends in Major US Arms Sales in 2017: A Comparison of the Obama and Trump Administrations”, Security Assistance Monitor, March 2018.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (2017) as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two (2017), John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands (2016), Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead (2016), and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (2014).

Copyright 2018 William D. Hartung

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