Archive | December 2nd, 2017

US Bows to Nazi regime/Saudi Alliance in Blaming Iran

NOVANEWS
US Bows to Israeli/Saudi Alliance in Blaming Iran

Exclusive: Contrary to common belief, Israel supported Iran’s Islamic Republic for more than a decade in the 1980s before shifting its favors to Saudi Arabia in the 1990s and making sure the U.S. followed suit, recalls Ted Snider.

By Ted Snider

At first, American officials couldn’t believe it. In 1993, the Israelis began pressuring the Clinton administration to view Iran as the greatest global threat. Only a short time earlier, in the 1980s, Israel had been cooperating with the Iranians militarily and selling them weapons to fight Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

Iranian women at a speech by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. (Iranian government photo)

Back then, the Israelis were Iran’s best lobbyists in Washington, pushing the Reagan administration to talk to Iran, to sell arms to Iran, and even to ignore Iran’s tough talk on Israel. In that process, Israel was aided by a group of staunchly pro-Israeli officials within the Reagan administration whom we now know as the neoconservatives.

In 1981, just months after Iran had held 52 American diplomatic personnel hostage for 444 days, senior State Department officials Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz were advocating on behalf of the Israeli desire to sell Iran weapons. That initiative, which was continued by McFarlane when he became President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, ultimately led to the Iran-Contra scandal of 1986 when Reagan’s secret approval of U.S. arms shipments to Iran became public.

Yet, even in the wake of that scandal and the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, the neoconservatives who remained influential under Reagan’s successor, President George H.W. Bush, pressed ahead with the goal of getting the U.S. to warm its relations with Iran. Iraq’s defeat at the hands of the U.S. military and its allies in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91 further reduced the Arab threat to Israel’s security and encouraged more thinking about a possible U.S.-Iranian détente.

The Bush-I administration’s 1991 “National Security Strategy of the United States” said the U.S. was open to “an improved relationship with Iran,” a country that a 1991 National Intelligence Estimate said was “turning away from revolutionary excesses . . . toward more conventional behavior.”

However, in 1993, with the Clinton administration in power, the Israelis changed their tune, urging the U.S. government to find Iran lurking behind every terrorist attack, every conflict and every threat.

There appear to have been several factors leading to this Israeli switch – from the fact that the Cold War was over and thus Arab states that had relied on Soviet weaponry were weakened; that Iran-backed Hezbollah was challenging Israel’s military occupation of southern Lebanon; and that Israel could no longer profit from Iran’s desperate need for weapons (with the war with Iraq over and Iran’s treasury depleted) while the Arab oil states offered a more lucrative opportunity for both geopolitical and financial gain.

Hooked on the Money

Israeli leadership had found the billions of dollars from arms sales to Iran useful in maintaining Israel’s large military/intelligence infrastructure as well as Israel’s development of Jewish settlements inside Palestinian territories on the West Bank. With that cash source gone, Israel began recalculating its longstanding Periphery Strategy, which had called for countering Arab pressure from close-in states by cultivating relations with non-Arab regional powers on the periphery, such as Iran and Turkey.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in 2012, drawing his own “red line” on how far he will let Iran go in refining nuclear fuel.

There were also two other seismic events that altered the geopolitical landscape. The Cold War was over and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been humiliated in the Persian Gulf War. While the Israelis saw both events as positive, there were unintended consequences. The end of the Cold War meant the exit of the Soviet Union from the Middle East: that left Israel’s traditional Arab enemies even more enfeebled and the U.S. government less worried about losing influence in the oil-rich region. Iran also emerged as relatively stronger than Iraq due to Iraq’s failed invasion of Iran and its catastrophic defeat after its invasion of Kuwait.

Israel’s 1992 elections also brought Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and the Labor Party to power, raising the possibility of finally reaching a peace accord with the Palestinians and thus the possibility of more normalized relations with the Arab world. In turn, that raised the potential for more lucrative arrangements with oil-rich sheikdoms by, in effect, renting out the Israel Lobby to the Sunni-ruled Gulf states so they could push their historic conflict with the Shiites whose power base was Iran.

“There was a feeling in Israel that because of the end of the Cold War, relations with the U.S. were cooling and we needed some new glue for the alliance,” Efraim Inbar of the Begin-Sadat Center told Trita Parsi. “And the new glue was radical Islam.”

But it was a very selective kind of radical Islam: not the kind Saudi Arabia was financing and exporting through Wahhabi fundamentalism and violent jihadists like those in Al Qaeda, but Iran’s radical Shiite Islam. Selling Iran as the number one global terror threat gave birth to a new Middle East enemy that replaced the Soviet Union and reinflated Israel’s value to the U.S. in the region. “Iran,” Inbar went on to explain, “was radical Islam.”

A New Alliance

For the first time, an alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States became possible with Iran as the designated enemy. The Israeli-Saudi relationship has evolved mostly in secret over the past couple of decades but has popped into view in recent years as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his inner circle have emphasized the common interests – especially animosity toward Iran – that they share with Saudi Arabia.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his entourage arrive to greet President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Netanyahu has recently referred to this Israeli-Saudi alliance when he said that Iran was driving Israel into cooperative arrangements with what he called “the modern Sunni states.” He referred to “a new alliance between Israel and Islamic states. … The good news is that the other guys are getting together with Israel as never before. It is something that I would have never expected in my lifetime.”

Nine months ago, Netanyahu delivered the same message when he said “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.”

Though the Israeli-Saudi relationship is rarely spoken of out loud, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz admitted recently that Israel “has ties that are . . . partly covert with many Muslim and Arab countries.” Saudi Arabia was the only one he specifically named. According to Reuters, he said those ties are fueled by “common concerns over Iran.”

But there are other foundations for this relationship. For years, Saudi Arabia sought to buy influence in Washington’s policy circles regarding the Middle East but was largely unsuccessful because Israel had cornered that market and Israel’s influential American supporters demonized lobbyists, academics and others who took Saudi money. Eventually, it became clear to Saudi Arabia that it made more sense to rent out Israel’s sophisticated lobbying apparatus rather than to fight it.

Investigative journalist Robert Parry reported that Saudi money helped seal this Israel-Saudi alliance, with the Saudis giving Israel billions of dollars and Israel reciprocating by giving Saudi Arabia added influence in Washington.

But Official Washington was surprised in the 1990s when Israel’s turnabout began — and Iran went from being a misunderstood nation tilting toward moderation to the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. Despite some bewilderment, U.S. policymakers soon readjusted their rhetoric as the legendary Israeli influence operations carried the day. Shiite Iran became the new terror threat, even after the 9/11 attacks that were organized by Al Qaeda, a Sunni fundamentalist group associated with Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic State

The gap between the facts on the ground – the recognition that Al Qaeda and Islamic State remain the real chief terror threats from radical Islam – and the propaganda of principally blaming Iran for terrorism has led to a quandary for U.S./Israeli propagandists. They want to focus Americans’ fury on Iran and its allies, Syria and Hezbollah, but it is Saudi-and-Gulf-connected terror groups, such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State, that were chopping off heads of innocents and sponsoring terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Europe.

Journalist James Foley shortly before he was executed by an Islamic State operative in 2014

That disconnected reality explains why America’s response to the emergence of the Islamic State can best be characterized as confused and bizarre. Though the Obama administration claimed it was taken by surprise by the Islamic State’s emergence in Iraq and Syria, it really wasn’t. Rather, policymakers had sought to persuade the American public on the need for a “regime change” conflict in Syria, an Iranian ally. This strategy went back years.

A WikiLeaks-released cable dated Dec. 13, 2006, and written by the charge d’affaires of the U.S. embassy in Damascus to the Secretary of State recommended that the U.S. “coordinate more closely with” Egypt and Saudi Arabia in a policy to weaken President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria and “to play on Sunni fears of Iranian influence.” The cable also recognized that Islamist extremists were “certainly a long-term threat” to the Syrian government.

Over the years, there was little change in this inconvenient truth that jihadists were playing a crucial role in achieving these geopolitical goals.  For instance, in a December 2009 cable, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban . . . and other terrorist groups.”

By Aug. 12, 2012, the U.S. government knew explicitly that Islamic extremists were the engine in the Syrian insurgency. A classified Defense Intelligence Agency Information Intelligence Report unambiguously declares that “The salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq, later ISIS and the Islamic State] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

Section 8.C. of the report astonishingly predicts that “If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria.” Section 8.D.1. of the report goes on specifically to say that “ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”

So, the U.S. government knew that the Islamic extremists drove the Syrian insurgency that Washington and its regional allies were supporting. U.S. intelligence analysts also had a surprisingly good idea what the possible outcome of that support was.

Yet, to advance the regional goals of the Israeli-Saudi tandem – i.e., the overthrow of the Syrian government because of its ties to Iran – the U.S. government was, in effect, supporting the very terrorists the war on terror was meant to eradicate.

Selling Al Qaeda

At times, senior Israeli officials made clear their preferences for Sunni extremists over more moderate Arabs associated with Shiite-ruled Iran. For instance, in September 2013, then-Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored the Sunni extremists over Syria’s largely secular President Bashar al-Assad.

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States.

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren said in the interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Oren reiterated this position in June 2014 at an Aspen Institute conference. Speaking as a former ambassador, Oren said Israel would even prefer a victory by the Islamic State, which was then massacring captured Iraqi soldiers and beheading Westerners, than the continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria.

“From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” said Oren, who is now a member of the Knesset and part of Netanyahu’s government.

Other senior Israelis have expressed similar sentiments. Sima Shine, who is in charge of Iran for Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, urged Assad’s removal even if that might turn Syria over to extremists. “The ‘devil we know’ is worse than the devil we don’t,” she said in June 2013. “If Bashar remains in power, that would be a huge achievement for Iran.”

So, in 2014, when Islamic State jihadists advanced through Syria and Iraq and knocked on the door of Lebanon, their success should not have come as a surprise to President Obama and other U.S. policymakers. Today’s Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have in common that they are Iran’s three principal allies in the region.

In other words, the Islamic State’s interests largely corresponded to those of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.: isolating and weakening Iran. Only the Islamic State’s shocking excesses of videotaped beheadings of Americans and other captives – as well as its military successes inside Iraq – forced President Obama’s hand in committing U.S. forces to stop the Islamic State onslaught.

Obsessed with Assad

Still, America has long been bent on removing Assad from Syria. The coincidence of Islamic State and American interests in this regard is revealed in section 8.C of the DIA report: “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

So, the Islamic State’s advance into this region was consistent with American (and more to the point, Israeli and Saudi) interests because these Sunni extremists would block the supply lines from Iran to Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Thus, initially at least, the U.S. government acquiesced to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front taking the lead in damaging or destroying Iran’s allies in Syria.

And Iran suspected as much. According to Iran expert Trita Parsi, the Iranians believed that the initial relaxed approach by the U.S. government toward the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front was because those militants were the point of the spear against pro-Iranian Shiite influences in not only Syria but Iraq and Lebanon as well.

So, the Saudi government provided the “clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region,” according to a leaked Hillary Clinton email on Sept. 17, 2014.

Less than a month later, on Oct. 2, 2014, Vice President Biden told a seminar at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates … poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis.”

The DIA report also named the Gulf States as among the “supporting powers” of the Syrian opposition. And at a May 2015 meeting between President Obama and the Princes of the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “Obama and other US officials urged Gulf leaders who are funding the opposition to keep control of their clients, so that a post-Assad regime isn’t controlled by extremists from the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.”

However, with the Israel lobby redirecting Official Washington’s ire toward Iran, more political space was created for these Saudi-connected terror groups to carry out the regime change missions in Syria and elsewhere.

And Israel didn’t just prefer a victory in Syria by the extremists of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. United Nations observers in the Golan Heights reported witnessing cooperation between Israel and Syrian rebels, and Israel has frequently bombed Syrian targets (and here and here).

Netanyahu also reported that Israel has hit Hezbollah forces fighting against the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in Syria dozens of times. Recently, it has been revealed that Israel also provided funding, food and fuel to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.

Lebanon’s Crisis

But the Syrian “regime change” strategy didn’t work. With help from Iran and Hezbollah and Russia’s intervention in 2015, Assad and his army not only survived but routed the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra and other jihadists from major urban strongholds. Instead of Iran losing an ally in the region, Iran emerged with a stronger alliance and greater influence.

A Russian orchestra performing at Palmyra’s Roman theater on May 5, 2016, after Syrian troops, backed by Russian air power, reclaimed the ancient city from the Islamic State. (Image from RT’s live-streaming of the event.)

This setback, however, has not changed the Israeli-Saudi priorities; it has only made them more intense. As the outcome in Syria became more apparent, the anti-Iran gun sight pivoted to Lebanon. The recent confusing events in Lebanon, like the earlier ones in Syria, are best made sense of by looking through the gun barrel that is targeted on Iran.

On Nov. 4, after being summoned to Saudi Arabia, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly and mysteriously resigned. Hariri’s resignation came just one day after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior foreign policy advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, that was reportedly very positive. Velayati praised Hariri and reaffirmed Iran’s support for his coalition government.

Yet, a day later, speaking from Saudi Arabia, Hariri claimed his resignation was catalyzed by fear of an Iranian-Hezbollah assassination. But the Lebanese army said “it had not uncovered any plans for assassinations in Lebanon.” Neither had the army. So, why resign?

The clue may be provided by Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, who expressed Saudi Arabia’s desire for “toppling Hizbullah.” He promised that “The coming developments will definitely be astonishing.” He said the desire was not just his own, and that people “will see what will happen in the coming days.”

The Saudis said Hariri resigned because Hezbollah had “hijacked” his coalition government. Al-Sabhan called Hezbollah “the Party of Satan.”

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, said that the resignation was “imposed on Prime Minister Hariri” by the Saudis. Nasrallah said Hezbollah did not want Hariri to resign, having been a part of Hariri’s coalition government for almost a year. Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, seemed to share Nasrallah’s suspicion, insisting that he would not accept Hariri’s resignation until Hariri returned to Lebanon from Saudi Arabia because his “resignation must be voluntary.”

In Lebanon, there was the suspicion that Hariri was held under house arrest. On Nov. 10, President Aoun told a meeting of foreign ambassadors that Hariri had been “kidnapped.”

Now, having finally returned to Lebanon after a French intervention brought him to Paris, Hariri met with President Aoun who asked him “to temporarily suspend submitting [his resignation] and to put it on hold ahead of further consultations on the reasons for it.” Hariri agreed.

Israel seems to have applauded Saudi Arabia’s Lebanese action and reaffirmed the Iranian motivation behind it. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that “The resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and his statements are a wake-up call for the international community to act against Iranian aggression.”

Netanyahu also made a rare public acknowledgement of the Israeli-Saudi alliance when he said that Iran was driving Israel into cooperative arrangements with what he called “the modern Sunni states,” referring to “a new alliance between Israel and Islamic states.” According to reporting by Israel’s Channel 10, a leaked classified cable from the Israeli foreign ministry to Israeli ambassadors reveals that Israel ordered them to support Saudi Arabia’s efforts and to rally support for Hariri’s resignation.

Iran has also suggested that President Trump and the United States approve of this Lebanese intervention. The resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister came days after Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner visited Saudi Arabia on a trip that was not made known publicly.

Yemen’s Tragedy

While this new alliance took aim at Iran by targeting Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, it also has targeted a Shiite spin-off sect, the Houthis in Yemen. Since 2015, the Saudis have been bombing and blockading Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country. But on Nov. 5, Saudi Arabia expressed outrage after intercepting a ballistic missile fired by Houthi forces in Yemen toward Riyadh. The Saudis accused Iran of providing the missile and ordering the attack – and called this an “act of war” by Iran and Hezbollah.

A neighborhood in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa after an airstrike, October 9, 2015. (Wikipedia)

General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, called the charge against Iran “baseless,” as did Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshroo. Even Saudi officials were calling the missile a Yemeni Burqan 2H missile when it was intercepted. The Houthis said they fired the missile in response to the long-running Saudi bombardment that included a recent attack that killed 26 people.

Despite these denials of Iranian responsibility and the context of Saudi Arabia’s air war, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Nikki Haley called on the U.N. to hold Iran accountable for violating U.N. Security Council resolutions by supplying the missile. She called on the U.N. to take “necessary action” against Iran.

The U.S. government has consistently rationalized the Saudi bombardment of Yemen as necessary to thwart Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf. U.S. accusations about Iran allegedly supplying the Houthis with weapons hang precariously on an “assessment” that Iran has used fishing boats to smuggle weapons into Yemen.

However, according to investigative journalist Gareth Porter, the U.S. was never able to produce any evidence for the link between Iran and the Houthis because the boats were stateless, and their destination was Somalia, not Yemen. An earlier ship was, indeed, Iranian but was not really carrying any weapons.

The Houthis also are allied with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh who maintains control over the army, so the Houthis could get all the weapons they need from local arms supplies, including military bases stocked with American-made weapons.

And just as Iran does not substantially arm the Houthis, so it does not control them. In fact, they have proven to be beyond Tehran’s efforts to influence them. In 2014, the Iranians specifically discouraged the Houthis from capturing the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. However, the Houthis captured the city anyway, demonstrating Iran’s lack of control.

A U.S. intelligence official told The Huffington Post that “It is wrong to think of the Houthis as a proxy force for Iran.” Yemen specialist Gabriele vom Bruck has called Iran’s influence over the Houthis “trivial.” She said the Houthis want to be independent, not controlled by Iran: “I don’t think the Iranians have influence in their decision-making.” To the extent that Iran is involved in Yemen at all, that involvement came as a result of the devastating Saudi air war.

Dating back to the Obama administration, the U.S. government has made the Saudi aerial bombardment of Yemen possibleThe U.S. refuels the Saudi bombers in flight, supplies the bombs and provides targeting intelligence.

This U.S. complicity in what is widely regarded as a humanitarian catastrophe has continued into the Trump administration. A White House statement as recently as Nov. 24 reaffirmed U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, declaring: “We remain committed to supporting Saudi Arabia and all our Gulf partners against the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aggression and blatant violations of international law. Backed by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Houthi rebels have used destabilizing missile systems to target Saudi Arabia.”

The statement again reveals, not only the alliance with Saudi Arabia and the silence about its devastating bombing attacks, but the strategy of turning Yemen’s human tragedy into another excuse to blame Iran. The Iranian foreign ministry said the White House statement “clearly and without question proves America’s participation and responsibility in the atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen”.

Bahrain & Qatar

Washington’s Saudi-Israeli-supplied blinders on the Middle East carry over to other regional conflicts, too. For instance, in 2011, protesters in Bahrain demanded a true constitutional monarchy, the resignation of the Prime Minister, greater civil liberties and a real elected parliament. Though Bahrain has a parliament, it is actually governed by the U.S.-backed dictator, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, whose family has ruled Bahrain for over 200 years. The prime minister, the king’s uncle, is the longest reigning prime minister in the world, in power now for nearly 40 years.

Saudi King Salman bids farewell to President Barack Obama at Erga Palace after a state visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 27, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Bahrain’s population is about 70 percent Shiite, though the ruling family, the government, the army and the police are all Sunni. The Shia have long been victims of discrimination. And the government maintains its control through repression, including the use of torture. Bahrain is located between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran and is seen by the U.S. as a strategically located check on Iranian influence and power.

Though the Obama administration touted itself as a big proponent of the “Arab Spring” and its promised democratization, Washington sided with the Bahraini dictators against the majority of the Bahraini people.

Days after mass arrests and beatings of protesters, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, went through with his planned visit to Bahrain where he reaffirmed the U.S.’s strong commitment to its military relationship with Bahrain and called Bahrain’s response to the protests “very measured.” Mullen stressed the U.S.-Bahrain “partnership” and “friendship.”

On the same day, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also gave full support to the Khalifa dictatorship. The U.S. continued to support the regime and to call for “stability” and “reform”: two words that are code for standing by dictatorships.

To help put down the protests in Bahrain, 1,000 Saudi troops invaded Bahrain across a causeway that connects the countries. The Obama administration remained silent.

Qatar also has suffered under the new Saudi-Israeli alliance because Qatar has pursued a more independent foreign policy than Saudi Arabia likes and now faces a Saudi-led siege as a consequence. Former British diplomat Alastair Crooke explained that Qatar’s principal sin is seeking peaceful coexistence with Iran.

When Washington asked Saudi Arabia to make reasonable proposals for the termination of the siege, Saudi Arabia included the demand that Qatar break all ties with Iran.

In other words, many of the most important events of the past several years are best explained as attempts to weaken Iran by weakening its proxies or allies or by setting up situations that appear to implicate Iran to justify hostility toward Iran.

A problem, however, has been that the major terrorist groups that have infuriated the American public are not Iranian-linked Shiites but rather Saudi-connected fundamentalist Sunnis. Still, the claim that “Iran is the chief sponsor of terrorism” has become a rote and routine refrain from both Republicans and Democrats – as well as the U.S. mainstream media.

Much as Russia now gets blamed for every negative turn in Western democracies, Iran is the all-purpose villain whenever anything goes wrong in the Middle East. Yet, to understand these conflicts and crises, it is best to view them through the perspective of the hostility that the Saudi-Israeli alliance directs toward Iran and the acquiescence of U.S. governments, regardless of which party is in power.

Ted Snider writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Saudi Arabia0 Comments

ASSAD HOLDS ALL TRUMP CARDS

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Image result for ASSAD IN MILITARY UNIFORM PHOTO

ASSAD HOLDS ALL TRUMP CARDS; OPPOSITION APPEARS IRRELEVANT; SYRIAN ARMY PREPARES FOR THE LAST PUSH IN GHOUTAA

Dr. Ja’afari arrived in Geneva with the Syrian government’s delegation.  Oh, its a thankless task but one for which he is eminently well-trained.  I suspect the boredom of being around the U.N. chief delegate, Staffan DiMistura, will be asphyxiating.  In any case, expect nothing from this meeting.  Expect more from the talks at Astana.

The Saudi-funded opposition continues to carp about the same non-starters.  It is obvious to all of us that they are delusional, at best.  They are so ignorant they have not realized that their terrorists have lost the war and that all remaining terrorist forces are now concentrated in Idlib.  The Russian government has announced the withdrawal of its aircraft from Syria indicating clearly that the Kremlin believes the Syrian Army and its allies are more than well-equipped to exterminate the criminals holed up in Idlib.  With Russia and Turkey becoming increasingly friendly, there is little fear that Ankara will intervene to stop the Syrian Army’s onslaught against Alqaeda in Idlib.

DAMASCUS:  The situation in the East Ghoutaa is tolerably stable.  Jaysh Al-Islam, led by theWahhabist ‘Alloosh family, is adhering to the Russian-engineered truce there.  However, on the western side of the capital, the Zionist Apartheid Entity is encouraging its Al-Qaeda allies to keep fighting.  However, Zionist leadership has proven to be inadequate.

The Syrian Army has completely liberated a series of villages and towns on the eastern side of theBarda’yaa Hill in the West Ghoutaa abutting the Golan Heights.  The hill is surrounded by Bayt Jinn Farms which is infested with Nusra cannibals.  This area is southwest of Kafr Hoor.  Yesterday, the SAA killed over 43 Nusra terrorists and were about to kill many more when the Zionist-supported terrorists started diversionary artillery fire out of Tal Al-Sha’aar in order to give their rodents time to regroup.

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ALEPPO:  Yesterday, 59 former rodents threw down their arms and concluded agreements with the government to go back to a normal life.  This was accomplished at Ba’ath Party HQ in Aleppo.  Most of the rodents were from Manbij and A’zaaz.  They have also promised to fight the enemies of Syria which now includes the Kurds.

Of note, the U.S. Pentagon has confessed to fibbing about the actual number of American troops in Syria.  It’s now 1,720 and not the 500 they claimed last week.

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HOMS:  At Al-Sukhna, elements of the Syrian Intelligence agencies beat back an attempt to attack a military checkpoint by ISIS.  Alert spotters detected a van carrying 8 ISIS vultures all wearing suicide belts.  The red van itself was also packed in every crevice with high explosives.  I am informed that the plan was to drop the seven terrorists with exploding belts and then drive the van into the SAA strongpoint and explode the truck.  The other suicide belts were to be detonated in separate operations.  Sadly for our vultures, the van was turned into charred, molten metal before it even came close to the perimeter of the checkpoint.

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DAYR EL-ZOR:    This front is coming to a conclusion as I write.  There is little left to liberate.  In any case, what little is left can be ascribed to the Euphrates River Valley and a string of agricultural villages and towns.  Last Wednesday, the SAA cleaned up the following areas:

Al-Khashfa Village

Al-Saalihiyya

Waadi Al-Ward

Tal Milhim

Kha’an

Dhahr Nasraani

Al-Shaykh ‘Ali

Waali Al-Khoor

Faydhat Ahmad Al-Hayfaan

Waadi Faleeta

Waadi Al-Sayl

And today, Al-Qooriyya Town has been deloused.  It is south of Al-Mayaadeen where scores of ISIS terrorists were concealed under the natural vegetation within the borders of the Euphrates Valley on the West Bank of the river.  I am informed that ISIS gave up 22 dead rodents and scores wounded without any hope of medical treatment.

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Countering the Right-Wing Takeover of the US: An Interview With Henry A. Giroux

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By Ian MastersBackground Briefing | Audio Segment

President Donald Trump walks with House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving as he arrives at the US Capitol for a meeting with the House Republican conference November 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

President Trump walks with House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving as he arrives at the US Capitol for a meeting with the House Republican Conference on November 16, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images).

We speak with Henry Giroux, a world-renowned educator, author and public intellectual whose latest book is The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism. He joins us to discuss his latest article at Truthout “Disposability in the Age of Disasters: From Dreamers and Puerto Rico to Violence in Las Vegas.” We assess how the Republican Party has been captured by the far right and will be a continuing problem for US democracy and society going forward unless a citizen’s movement can be built to counter a right-wing kleptocratic takeover of the US, as growing plutocratic power and the drift towards authoritarianism threatens our economic viability and democratic future.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

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The Trump-Russia Story Is Coming Together. Here’s How to Make Sense of It

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By Bill MoyersMoyers & Company | Interview

Donald Trump, Jr. (R) greets his father, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo: Rick Wilking-Pool / Getty Images)

Donald Trump, Jr. greets his father, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, during the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016, in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo: Rick Wilking-Pool / Getty Images)

The news is coming so fast and furious, from so many sources and in so many fragments, that it takes more than a scorecard to keep up with the Trump-Russia connection. It takes a timeline — a “map,” if you will, of where events and names and dates and deeds converge into a story that makes sense of the incredible scandal of the 2016 election and now of the Trump Administration.

For years Steve Harper produced timelines for the cases he argued or defended in court as a successful litigator. Retired now from practicing law, Harper has turned his experience, talent, and curiosity to monitoring for BillMoyers.com the bizarre and entangled ties between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump and the murky world of Russian oligarchs, state officials, hackers, spies, and Republican operatives. You can check out the over 700 entries right here. But for an overview — and some specifics — of recent developments, I called up Steve to give us a sense of the emerging story.

 To see more stories like this, visit Moyers & Company at Truthout.

Bill Moyers: You’re the consummate trial lawyer with a celebrated reputation for summing up the closing argument for the jury, but from our work together on the timeline I know you also have the instincts of a journalist. So write the lede to the story this far: What’s the most important thing for us to know about the Trump/Russia connection as of today?

Steven Harper: Everything the Trump campaign told you about the connections between Trump and Russia was a lie.

Go on.

Well, there are a number of different dimensions to the issue, but let’s just take the easiest one. The other day The Washington Post published a very good article that said for all of Trump’s denials during the campaign of any connections between him, his campaign and Russia, it turns out there were 31 interactions. And there were 19 meetings. Furthermore, what Trump and his people have been doing since then is everything they can to keep the public from being aware of the truth. And this feeds into the obstruction story.

How so?

Up to and including the firing of James Comey, Trump did everything he could to try to shut down, slow down or stop the investigation. First, he tried to shut down the investigation of Mike Flynn. Then it turned out that Mike Flynn is probably just a piece of a much larger problem, which is Russia. Trump admitted to the Russian ambassador and to the Russian foreign minister shortly after he fired Comey that now he’s got some relief from the Russia problem — in other words, Comey’s gone! But what’s happened since then is the continuing effort to interfere with the investigation, even in the form of tweets — all of which sure look a lot to me like witness intimidation for some of the key players in the saga.

And then there’s a third component, which is in a way the most insidious — the willingness of the congressional GOP to be complicit in all of this. We’re talking now about a prescription for disaster for democracy. It’s all part of the same story. If you think about it, every single person who has said something about there being no connection between Trump and Russia during the campaign has been caught in a lie about it. Even with this fellow George Papadopoulos, the talking point immediately became, “Well, he didn’t get in trouble for anything that he did, he got in trouble for lying to federal investigators.” Sure, and what was he lying to federal investigators about? About whether or not there were any contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. And that’s the part that everybody glosses over in terms of the talking points on the Republican side.

George Papadopoulos was the youngest of Trump’s foreign policy team and not a prominent public figure. Now Trump loyalists say he wasn’t taken all that seriously by the campaign.

That’s another remarkable thing, of course — all the policy advisers all of a sudden are relegated to the status of low-level, unpaid volunteers, even though they sat in a meeting of foreign policy advisers with the presidential candidate himself early on. When they turn out to be suspects in this investigation, they all drop to the bottom of the heap, and it’s as if Trump had never heard of any of them.

It’s usual in a case like this to move the paramount figures to the expendable list, no?

Oh sure, absolutely, and I fully expect before this is over, you’re going to get to a point where Donald Trump will say, “Oh, yeah, Donald Jr. — you know he was only my son for a very limited period of time.” It’s absurd. And it started with Paul Manafort — the same Manafort who actually delivered decisive delegates to Trump during a crucial period of the campaign. When the heat was turned on Manafort, they all said: “Oh, well, he played a limited role for a limited period of time.” Yeah, he was only manager of the campaign, how about that?

Perhaps Trump, who aspired to be a great American president, will confess: “And I was just a real estate guy.” [laughter] Robert Mueller is moving quickly with the investigation now. We have new news almost every day. What’s the most recent development that strikes you as most important?

Three different strands have now begun to coalesce. There’s a core strand running through it that I call the “follow the money” strand. Perhaps most of what happened throughout the campaign, if you view it from Vladimir Putin’s side of the transaction, looks quite reasonable and makes a great deal of sense. Putin wants to eliminate sanctions on Russia, both because they affect him personally in a financial way and because they affect his country’s economy in a big way. So you dangle in front of Trump the prospect of a Trump Tower in Moscow. We always knew that Trump wanted a Trump Tower in Moscow, because Trump told us he did. But what we didn’t know was that during the campaign, the Trump organization was actively negotiating for such a development.

But two other strands have come together, and we need to understand them for all this to become a cogent narrative. The second strand involves political operatives. It turns out we’re hearing about people like George Papadopoulos, who obviously was in communication with the Russians, and that strand is now probably taking Mueller — certainly taking me — further up the food chain. Papadopoulos implicated Sam Clovis, the former co-chairman of the campaign. And with people like Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks, you’re getting right to the inner circle of the Trump campaign. All of a sudden last year, these low-level underlings, as they are now being described to us, were getting remarkable access, and they’re getting responses from within the campaign. They’re not sending emails off into cyberspace that no one ever answers; they’re hearing back from some of these higher-ups.

And the third strand is what I would call the “digital strand.” Cambridge Analytica, the Kushners, WikiLeaks — they’ve started coming together in a very dramatic fashion over the past two or three weeks. Pundits say they keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, didn’t John McCain say, “This is a centipede. I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop.” It seems as though there is just no limit to the number of shoes that keep dropping in this thing. Everyone thought the big bombshell was the June 9 meeting and the Don Jr. emails that had set up that meeting in Trump Tower relating to dirt the Russians were promising on Hillary Clinton. And then we just get this even more stunning series of interactions and communications and exchanges that show the people that Kushner hired to run the digital campaign going to WikiLeaks, and reveal Don Jr. having direct Twitter communications with WikiLeaks about Clinton documents. It’s just remarkable. If all of this had hit at the same time, it would have been blockbuster, but because of the dribbling out of it, no one focuses on the extent to which some of these three strands coalesce. And they sometimes coalesce around what I call very hot dates in the timeline.

Let’s pause right there. There’s a beginning to a story like this. So I hope you’re reading a new book out this week by Luke Harding, once the Moscow correspondent for The Guardian of London. The title is Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money and how the Russians Helped Donald Trump Win. Have you been following coverage of the book?

Yes. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read a couple of excerpts and summaries of certain portions of it.

Harding, who’s a very experienced reporter, quotes the British ex-spy, Christopher Steele, who worked in Russia for years and compiled that notorious dossier on Trump that mysteriously appeared last year. He quotes Steele saying that “Russian intelligence has been secretly cultivating Trump for years.” As you and I discussed in August, Trump appears to have attracted the attention of Soviet intelligence as far back as 1987, on his first visit to Moscow — a visit arranged by the top level of the Soviet diplomatic service, with the assistance of the KGB. 

Trump was of course looking for business in Russia. If you go to Trump’s own book, The Art of the Deal, he acknowledges “talking about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government.” And he quotes a letter he got from the Soviet ambassador to Washington saying the Soviet state agency for international tourism is inquiring about his interest in that partnership. Now, one has to ask: There were lots of ambitious real estate moguls looking for deals with Russia in the mid-’80s; why did they select Donald Trump?

And that’s the $64,000 question. It’s very interesting and Harding notes this as well, and it also was an early entry on our timeline — that in 1988, when Trump came back from the Soviet Union, he first made noises about wanting to run for president. Which brings us back to the second strand developing in this story, which is the personal contacts, the personal operatives, involved in a pretty straightforward if not classic Russian intelligence operation. Russian agents — the recruiters — look for soft spots in their target — in this case, the US — and those soft spots become points of penetration. The Russians must have been astonished at how they achieved penetration in Trump’s circle — astonished at the success that they were having across many different fronts simultaneously.

I remember from my own experience in Washington in the ’60s that the Russians were always trying to find “soft targets” — American citizens — who were drawn to that sort of relationship.

And what could be a softer target for a guy like Putin than a guy who measures the world and everyone’s self-worth in dollars?

Much of what Harding reports in his book is circumstantial, but it adds up to what is fairly damning evidence. You’re the lawyer — how much can circumstantial evidence be introduced in an argument in a trial?

Plenty. There are lots of people sitting in jail who were convicted on circumstantial evidence. In fact, how often is it that there is actually what you would call eyewitness or direct evidence of criminal behavior, except in a situation where you can get one of the co-conspirators to turn state’s evidence and squeal on the others? People talk about circumstantial evidence as if there’s something terrible about it. Circumstantial evidence is the way most people go about proving their cases, whether they’re civil or criminal cases. And what separates circumstantial from direct evidence isn’t even all that clear. Would you say that the email exchanges between Donald Trump Jr. and the lawyer who was supposed to come to Trump Tower with dirt on Hillary Clinton were circumstantial evidence or direct evidence? It’s certainly direct evidence of Donald Trump Jr.’s intent when he says, “If you have what you say you have, in terms of dirt on Clinton, I love it.”

Some people keep saying there’s there’s no collusion. Trump’s favorite expression is “No collusion. No collusion. No collusion.” All right, let’s talk about something else. Let’s talk about something the law recognizes as conspiracy or “aiding and abetting.” Let’s talk about a conspiracy to obstruct justice. In that respect, Trump’s own tweets become evidence. So it’s not as clear as I think some of the talking-head pundits would like to make it, that no collusion means the end of the inquiry. That’s just wrong.

Suppose the circumstantial or direct evidence prove to be true; does it have to be out-and-out treason for Trump and his team’s actions to be impeachable offenses?

No. In all likelihood, treason may be the toughest thing of all to prove, because treason, at least in a technical legal sense, requires that you’re actually at war. And a decent defense could be for Trump that there’s been no declaration of war, so whatever was going on you’re never going to get it past the threshold of treason. There are still plenty of legal bases for concluding that Trump has some serious problems. One would be the election laws, including the financing of elections. It’s pretty clear you can’t accept help from a foreign government in order to win an election, and it seems pretty clear, at least to me, that if they weren’t actually using the help — and that’s a big if; I think they were, based on some of the things that I’ve seen — there’s certainly ample evidence that they were willing to be participating in whatever help anybody would give them to help Trump win the election.

The second category — apart from election laws and related finance laws — would be aiding and abetting computer theft insofar as there were illegal hacks into the DNC computers, and WikiLeaks and/or the Trump campaign knew that that happened, knew the hacks were illegal and knew they were willing to do everything they could to take advantage of it in order to help Trump win the election. That’s another fertile ground for illegality.

And the third category would of course be what I think will ultimately turn out to be the easiest to prove: the obstruction issues, relating to some of the behavior that we already know that George Papadopoulos, for one, engaged in when he lied to investigators about the nature of the connections between Trump and Russia.

On the money issue, The Atlantic magazine published a very strong piece last week by Bob Bauer, in which he argues that Donald Trump Jr.’s private Twitter correspondence with WikiLeaks provides evidence of criminal violations of federal campaign finance rules which prohibit foreign spending in American elections, as you pointed out. He reminds us that those rules disallow contributions, donations or “anything of value” provided by a foreign national to sway an election. Those rules also bar a campaign from offering substantial assistance to a foreign national engaged in spending on American races. 

Here’s a direct quote from Bauer’s article: “Trump Jr.’s messages not only powerfully support the case that the Trump campaign violated these rules, but they also compound the campaign’s vulnerability to aiding and abetting liability under the general criminal laws for assisting a foreign national in violating a spending ban. … The facts and circumstances here are without precedent in the history of campaign finance enforcement, and it’s hard to imagine that any truly neutral analyst informed about the law would conclude otherwise.” 

So he concludes that Trump and his campaign face a “whopping legal problem.”

I agree with him completely. And here we reach one of what I call “the hot dates” when all these strands coalesce. You have these September-October email exchanges between Don Jr. and WikiLeaks. But now listen to what else you have: On Oct. 12, [Trump’s friend and former adviser] Roger Stone tells NBC that he has a backchannel communication with WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks’ private message to Don Jr. suggests that Trump publicize the Clinton documents from WikiLeaks. Fifteen minutes later Trump Sr. tweets about those WikiLeaks documents. That’s on one day. This is all on Oct. 12. And two days after that, Don Jr. tweets the very WikiLeaks link that WikiLeaks had already suggested that they publicize. That’s one point where these strands coalesce. My point is that Bauer’s case is even stronger than he may realize when you look at what you and I have called circumstantial evidence of what other things were happening, and how other layers of action were behaving at the same time.

As you know, American intelligence has identified WikiLeaks as a conduit for information that Russian operatives stole from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign, and now of course it seems there was a connection between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign, as you’ve just outlined it. What do we know about why the Russian government would choose WikiLeaks to release information hacked from Hillary Clinton’s computers?

I think it was an outlet that would ensure publicity, maximum publicity. It’s a notorious organization. And I think if you want bad stuff to get out there and you want everybody to notice it, WikiLeaks would be the way to do it.

Donald Trump Jr. reportedly has released all of his correspondence with WikiLeaks. Does this indicate his lawyers don’t think it is incriminating?

I think it is probably more likely the case that his lawyers assume that it’s going to come out eventually anyway. So the best way to do it is to sort of dribble these things out, hope for an intervening scandal, like Al Franken groping somebody or Roy Moore upsetting the Alabama election, and then let the mind of the body politic move on to something different. The good news is that Robert Mueller is not going to be distracted by the intervening events, and he’ll put all this together.

But how significant is it that when Donald Trump Jr. had all of this information from WikiLeaks, it’s now being reported that he looked around the campaign to see if he could find someone who would act on WikiLeaks’ information, and it doesn’t seem that anyone responded? His appeals seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

What makes you think no one responded? The fact that there’s no email trail doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a response. We know, for example, that what was happening throughout the campaign were interactions and conversations and discussions in which certainly one of the topics included granting Russia relief from sanctions. I don’t conclude that because an email response to Donald Jr. has yet to make its way into the public domain, nothing happened.

So when Donald Trump on Oct. 10, tells the crowd at a campaign rally, “I love WikiLeaks,” and accuses the press of not picking up on what WikiLeaks was publishing, he knew WikiLeaks had dirt on Clinton, where it came from, and he wanted to get it out.

You would think so. And I’m most happy, frankly, that Mueller has such an extraordinary team of talented lawyers working with him, because the case from the prosecutor’s side is a dream in terms lending itself to a coherent, cogent narrative that strikes me as a really damning case.

Is Julian Assange of WikiLeaks in any danger of facing US prosecution?

Not as long as he stays in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Let’s assume he will stay out of the country for a while. I suppose Trump could pardon him.

Is there any way that Assange could be viewed as an agent of a foreign power at this point, or is he just a rogue player?

My opinion is that during the election, he was an agent acting for the benefit for Trump. He claims that he wasn’t dealing with Russian documents. I find that difficult to believe. And certainly, as you said, the US intelligence community is of the view that WikiLeaks was the vehicle through which Russia distributed and disseminated its hacked documents. And I think he’s clearly acting on behalf of interests that are Russian interests.

What do you make of Assange and WikiLeaks urging Donald Trump Jr. to suggest to his father that if he loses the election, he should contest the election? What was that about?

Chaos. I think the goal was chaos. That’s what takes me back to believing that at some level Russia was behind what WikiLeaks was proposing. Because for Putin there are two ways for him to improve Russia’s standing. One is to figure out a way to bring his country up. One easy way would be to get some relief from the sanctions. But an equally powerful way to do it is to bring Western democracies, especially America, down. So what better way to foment chaos than a postelection trauma, if you will, in which Trump is contesting election results in various states and doing all of the things he certainly would have been capable of doing? And of course, WikiLeaks feeds right into Trump’s soft spot by suggesting, in that same email that you just mentioned, that this could be good for him too, particularly if what he really wants to do is launch a new media network. So it all fits.

What do you make of the fact that Donald Trump Jr. did not report to the FBI that WikiLeaks was soliciting him last year? Does that put him legally at risk?

The mere failure to report doesn’t, but it certainly adds to the question about what Trump Jr.’s true motives and the motives of the Trump campaign were in pursuing the information WikiLeaks was offering. Now, let me give you something else to think about, and see if your reaction causes you some of the heartburn it causes me.

In June of last year — quite a month, no? — there was another “hot date.” Jared Kushner — Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser — assumed control of the digital campaign and hired the firm Cambridge Analytica. We talked about Cambridge Analytica a moment ago. Well, Cambridge Analytica’s vice president had been Steve Bannon. And about the same time that Kushner hired Cambridge Analytica, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica is reaching out to WikiLeaks with an offer to help disseminate hacked documents.

And then you get to July 22 and WikiLeaks is releasing hacked documents. In August, George Papadopoulos is continuing to push Russia on the campaign team, Roger Stone is continuing to talk about his communications with Assange and WikiLeaks (and it certainly looks as if Stone is predicting more WikiLeaks releases of documents) and the daughter of the part-owner of Cambridge Analytica, Rebekah Mercer — who is also a Trump donor — tells its CEO to reach out to WikiLeaks too. And then Donald Jr.’s email exchange with WikiLeaks comes in September. See what I mean? There’s a ramping up of the process that culminates in those email exchanges that Don Jr. had with WikiLeaks and that becomes, I think, an important narrative to understanding the story.

I need some Tums. [laughter]

It’s good and bad, I guess — getting mired in all these details. The good news is we learn more facts. The bad news is we learn more facts — and it may not be possible for Americans to put it all together and conclude that anything significant happened, when actually there’s a grave threat to democracy.

Let me pause right there. As Josh Marshall points out at Talking Points Memo, the Justice Department is directly overseeing Mueller’s investigation. It has absolute power over the inquiry. Meaning that Mueller is now investigating his overseers. Isn’t that certain to have some impact on the process?

I don’t think so. Let me tell you why. I think the only thing that will affect the process, and this is the thing frankly that I fear more than anything else, will be if Trump fires Mueller. We know Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself. If he should resign, that would be a great victory for Trump, who could then appoint someone else as an acting attorney general who could then fire Mueller. Otherwise, the ball bounces to Rod Rosenstein. Rosenstein’s been on record a couple of times saying that he hasn’t seen any basis for firing Mueller. And at this point, I have competing views of Rosenstein in general, but I think on this issue, he realizes that his personal interest and his professional interest and even the country’s interest requires that if Trump were to issue an order to fire Mueller or even if he were to try to interfere with Mueller’s investigation in some way, allowing him to do so will be a very bad thing for Rosenstein personally. I don’t think he’ll do it.

There’s a precedent for this, of course. Nixon went ahead and fired the special prosecutor investigating Watergate.

Yes, but he had to go through [Attorney General] Richardson and [Deputy Attorney General] Ruckelshaus to do it. Trump would have to fire Rosenstein, then he’d have to fire an associate attorney general named Rachel Brand, who — based on everything everything I’ve read about her — would likely balk and not be inclined to follow an order unless she were satisfied that there was in fact good cause to do it.

What might provoke Trump to risk everything — firestorm, constitutional crisis, even impeachment — to fire Mueller?

I think he’ll do it if he thinks that things are getting too close. I think he’s already been close to doing it in the past. And I think at some point, and I think it’s probably a question of when [not if], he will fire Mueller. I really fear that’s what’s going to happen. And of course the irony is that for the amount of time Mueller has spent on the job, he’s achieved remarkable results. He’s working very quickly, very efficiently. The median life of a special counsel is just under two years. The average is three years. The Iran-Contra investigation went for six and a half years. Whitewater went for more than eight years. The Valerie Plame NSA leak went for two years. We’re what? Just five months in?

And Mueller’s already obtained two indictments and one guilty plea.

Precisely.

The indictments are for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. But the indictments are not related to the Trump/Russia connection, are they?

I think the answer to that is it remains to be seen. That’s clearly the way the Trump people are going to continue to try to spin it. But step back for a minute and think about the fact that a campaign manager [Paul Manafort] for a presidential candidate [Donald Trump] has been indicted for money laundering, tax evasion and all sorts of other wrongdoing arising from his work for Ukraine, where Putin and Russia were fomenting trouble. And shortly after he became the manager of the campaign, as we’ve learned, he was also offering to provide special briefings to a Ukrainian oligarch with whom he’d had business dealings. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see at some point some of these things merge into one another.

You mentioned earlier that a new series of Trump advisers are under scrutiny. Hope Hicks is one of them. She’s perhaps the closest staffer to Donald Trump. Not even 30 yet, keeps a low profile, been with him a long time, apparently spends more time with the president than anyone else on the White House team. We’ve learned Mueller wants to talk to her. What have you learned about her and what can she add to this?

She can add a lot, I suspect. And I suspect that Mueller thinks so too, because as you say, she’s as close to the inner circle as you can get. She was also present at two really key points in this story — and many others, I could add. One in connection with what ultimately led to the firing of James Comey in May of 2017 — she was around for that. And as you may recall, we now have learned that it turns out that Trump had dictated to Stephen Miller, another close aide, what was apparently a four-page rant, or screed, of his real reasons for wanting to fire James Comey. So it’s hard to imagine that Hope Hicks wasn’t somehow involved in, or at least aware of, what was going on that weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, when Trump was pouring his rage into that letter.

She was also aboard Air Force One — and maybe the lesson is you just never want to be on Air Force One with Donald Trump — when they were coming back from Europe, and Trump, as we learned much later, had a hand, a very heavy hand, in drafting a very misleading statement about what had transpired at that June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr., Manafort, Kushner and some Russians with ties to the Kremlin. Hope Hicks reportedly was advocating on behalf of transparency, but it appears that she lost out. And that’s just what we know Ms. Hicks was involved in. Who knows what else she was involved in and participated in, but I suspect a lot.

I also think she’s got a bit of problem because Carter Page revealed that she had been copied on those messages about what he had learned in Russia, or what he was planning to learn in Russia, when she had denied adamantly there had been no Trump campaign contacts with Russia. So she’s got a bit of a consistency issue there, it would seem.

You mentioned Carter Page. He and George Papadopoulos traveled the world, apparently representing themselves as able to speak for the Trump campaign, even though the Trump campaign later said they weren’t. You’ve tracked down many instances of Papadopoulos in particular speaking to foreign leaders on behalf of Trump. Why is that important?

Well, he’s given extraordinary access to some very high-level people. He was giving speeches in which he was representing himself as being able to speak on behalf of Trump at least with respect to certain policies. And you know, it’s hard for me to imagine that he gets that kind of access unless there’s some credibility to what he’s saying about what his actual role in the campaign is. And of course we all know from the infamous photo taken at the Trump International Hotel that Papadopoulos was one of a handful of people seated at the table with Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump as Sessions presided over a meeting about Trump’s foreign policy and Trump told the group that he didn’t “want to go to ‘World War III’ over Ukraine.”

And I believe that’s what started the process of making clear to everybody who was on Trump’s foreign policy team that easing relations with Russia by easing sanctions, would be something that Trump would be open to. And I think a lot of what happens afterward you can fit into this broader framework of the question: What is Putin’s angle in all this? Well, Putin’s angle in all this is if he can get the Russian sanctions lifted, he’s a winner. And if Trump will help him do that, great. And even if Trump can’t help him, even if Trump doesn’t win the election, it can’t hurt that he’s created some chaos in a Western democracy, which clearly is what he intended and what happened.

You mentioned Jeff Sessions. In his testimony to Congress last week, Sessions said it’s hard for him to remember meeting with, and conversations about, the Russians because the Trump campaign was in constant chaos. The fact that the campaign was in chaos certainly seems accurate, but would his excuse play at all in a trial?

No. And remember what Steve Schmidt, who was involved in John McCain’s campaign, said? He said he hopes that Jeff Sessions never gets a puppy because he’s not going to remember to feed it, he’s not going to remember to get it watered, he’s not going to remember to let it out. That puppy’s just going to be in terrible trouble.

But what’s interesting about Sessions to me is this: What Sessions said in his recent statements was, I haven’t remembered that Papadopoulos raised the issue of Trump meeting with Putin or members of the campaign meeting with representatives of Putin until I read about it in the news reports. But now that I’ve read about it, now I remember, and listen — I pushed back really hard and I said that it would not be appropriate for anyone to be meeting with a representative of a foreign government. All of the sudden, it’s like the light has gone on in Jeff Sessions’ head. Now, you have a situation sometimes in trials where a witness in a previous setting had sworn that he couldn’t remember something. And then six months or a year later, all of a sudden they have this epiphany and the memories came flooding out. And there’s something counterintuitive about somebody who says they remember more now about a specific event than they did a year earlier when asked about that same specific event. That just doesn’t play well with most juries.

And bear in mind, too, something else about Sessions that’s worth remembering that I doubt would necessarily be obvious to non-lawyers. Going into those Senate hearings, going into each one of those hearings, Sessions had to know that he was going to be asked about all of this stuff. And he had to know that he needed to be as familiar as he could be with whatever he could learn so that what he gave was truthful, straightforward, candid and ultimately something that the public and Congress would believe. And yet despite that, at each subsequent appearance, somehow there’s something new and the attorney general of the United States shrugs his shoulders and says, “Oh, I guess I did know that.”

My problem is, I want Sessions to hang on. I don’t want him not to be attorney general yet, because the minute that Sessions resigns or Trump fires him, then you have the door open to an acting attorney general, and I don’t want to live to see Scott Pruitt [head of the Environmental Protection Agency] or [former New York mayor and Trump ally] Rudy Giuliani become acting attorney general, which is something that Trump could do without even Senate confirmation. It doesn’t even have to be those two guys, because we know Trump has a plethora of cronies who will do whatever he says, because Trump says that’s what he wants, and if Trump says he wants Mueller fired, that to me is the disaster scenario for the country.

So, to sum up for now: What’s the most innocent explanation for everything we know? What if all of this was simply Trump’s inexperienced people trying to establish diplomatic rapport with the Russians and hoping to reset America’s connection with Moscow?

Well, the most innocent explanation would be a level of incompetence and ignorance and stupidity that I honestly don’t think anyone could credibly believe, because the most innocent explanation is that Russia was launching a very sophisticated, multipronged intelligence operation and succeeded, but they succeeded because of the blind ambition and greed of the Trump organization coupled with a lack of judgment and intelligence and a fundamental failure to take into regard anything that would remotely look like patriotism when it came to the defense of democracy, subjugating all of that to the need to win. That’s the most innocent explanation. And I just don’t think all of them are that stupid.

So what’s the most damning explanation for everything we know?

The most damning explanation is that the Russians launched a sophisticated intelligence operation. They found willing partners up and down the line throughout the Trump organization. And up and down throughout the Trump organization, as the details of that intelligence operation became known, the participants lied about it, lied about its existence, lied about their personal involvement in it and now they are all facing serious criminal jeopardy as a result.

 

One more: I assume most people believe Russia’s interference in the election last year is a bad thing, a serious offense, but is it possible that by treating Vladimir Putin and his cronies as an existential threat, we’re playing directly into Putin’s hands and making him appear a more significant figure in the world than he really is?

Well, he’s already achieved that, but the problem is, what’s the alternative? Back in January, John McCain and Lindsey Graham were on national television acknowledging the seriousness of the Russian interference. McCain called it the cyber equivalent of “an act of war.” And if you acknowledge and recognize the existential threat, do you sit back and let the let the next thing happen in 2018 that Vladimir Putin wants to do? Remember, we have elections coming up next year. The uniform view of US intelligence is unambiguous, and if you don’t view it as an existential threat then you’re willing, I think, to sacrifice democracy.

We keep hearing, “Yeah, but Trump was still legitimately elected, he won the election fair and square.” Now we’re realizing that that may not even be true. I don’t personally believe that to be true anymore. I rankle every time somebody says he won fair and square, because that’s become less obvious every day. So the last line of defense would be, “Well, even if he didn’t win fair and square, he’s our president, so we’ve got to sit back and let whatever Putin’s going to do to us continue to happen because we don’t want our response to raise his standing in the world.” Well, I would submit it raises Putin’s standing in the world even more to have an accomplice in the White House.

Thank you, Steve Harper.

Posted in USA, Russia0 Comments

Trump’s Fake Populism: Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Isn’t

NOVANEWS

By Rajan Menon

President Donald Trump gestures during a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on August 22, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Ralph Freso / Getty Images)

President Trump gestures during a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on August 22, 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Ralph Freso / Getty Images)

Among the stranger features of the 2016 election campaign was the success of Donald Trump, a creature of globalization, as an America First savior of the white working class. A candidate who amassed billions of dollars by playing globalization for all it was worth — he manufactured clothes and accessories bearing his name in low-wage economies and invested in corporations eager to outsource — won over millions of voters by promising to keep jobs here in the US.

Admittedly, only a third of his voters earned less than $50,000 a year and cultural and racial resentment, not just economic grievances, drove many of them to Trump. Still, in an ever more economically unequal America, his populist economic message resonated. It helped him win the presidency by peeling off white working class votes in key regions, particularly the industrial Midwest. Now, he’s stuck with his populist narrative, and here’s the problem for him: it’s not likely to work — not given the economic realities of this planet, not for long anyway.

Fading Economic Hegemony

In the Oval Office, as on the campaign trail, Trump’s refrain remains that the economic woes of American workers, including stagnant wages and job insecurity, are the fault of predatory Asian and Mexican exporters, aided and abetted by inept past presidents who inked lousy trade deals. During campaign 2016, he promised to kick down doors abroad and force countries running surpluses, notably China, to buy more from the United States or face huge tariff hikes. He railed against companies that relocate production abroad, depriving Americans of jobs.

Trump’s economic nationalism is, of course, a con job. He did, however, effectively employ the demagogue’s artifice, which invariably lies in crafting simplistic answers to complicated questions and creating plausible scapegoats for complicated problems. In fact, workers in industries the United States dominated for decades are in distress because of irreversible historic changes and the absence, thanks to a staggeringly lopsided distribution of wealth and political power in America, of progressive policies that would better prepare them to cope with the changes that have occurred in the international economy.

But first, a little history.

For nearly three decades after World War II, the United States dominated the global marketplace in big-ticket industries like steel, automobiles, passenger aircraft, shipbuilding, and heavy machinery. That hegemony was bound to fade. As a start, America’s postwar economic primacy owed much to the ravages of that global conflict. After all, the industrial bases of Japan and Germany lay in ruins. Wartime allies Britain and France faced long, arduous recoveries. But the economies of those industrialized, technologically advanced countries were bound to recover — and by the mid-1970s they had. By then, America’s near-monopoly was ending.

Between 1965 and 2010, the share of the national market held by America’s steelmakers and carmakers plunged from nearly 90% to 45%. By the 1970s, they were already complaining about an influx of “cheap imports” and lobbying Washington to enact countermeasures. Now regarded as the ultimate free trader, President Ronald Reagan would indeed oblige them. In 1981, for instance, he limited Japanese automobile sales in the US, while hiking tariffstenfold on motorcycle imports to save Harley-Davidson. European and Japanese steel companies would soon face similar restrictions.

Seen in historical perspective, Washington’s reaction to trade competition was hardly unique. Britain, too, had preached free trade during its economic heyday — until, that is, its imperial predominance began to wane. In the nineteenth century, the zenith of British free trade cheerleading, the United States relied heavily on protectionism to ensure the growth of its nascent industrial base. As its economic power expanded, however, its own version of such cheerleading began. Now, China is fast becoming an economic superpower. Unsurprisingly, at conclaves like the Davos World Economic Forum at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, President Xi Jinping is predictably starting to sound more like Adam Smith than Karl Marx, just as Donald Trump’s speeches during his November whirlwind trip through Asia are coming to resemble nineteenth-century American rationales for protectionism.

Since the 1970s, workers in places like Detroit, Bethlehem, and Peoria have faced another challenge: a range of new sources of competition, especially the “Asian tigers” like South Korea and Taiwan. Once considered inferior, their products have by now become a hallmark of quality, making South Korean or Japanese cars, cellphones, computers, and television sets ubiquitous in this country.

Now, China, which took the top spot in world trade from the US in 2013, is poised to do what Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan already did here (cars included). And India waits in the wings.

These historical trends suggest that President Trump’s protectionism is already doomed. The point isn’t that international trade always benefits American workers; it doesn’t. Trade, national or global, redistributes wealth, especially because the largest and most successful companies have long ceased to think in terms of national markets. They set up shop wherever it’s most profitable, using complex global supply chains. When it comes to Apple’s iPhone, for instance, more than 200 suppliers worldwide provide parts for final assembly in China. Good infrastructure and a workforce with skills that match corporate requirements matter. Yet wage differentials aren’t irrelevant either; that’s partly why China, Mexico, and Vietnam have attracted massive amounts of job-creating investment — and why India, too, has begun to do so.

The relevant question isn’t whether the global economy can be redesigned to protect American workers — it can’t — but what their government will do to help them to gain the skills needed to compete effectively in a rapidly changing marketplace. Reforming public education might be a good place to start (but don’t look to Donald Trump to do it). If American workers are to do better in the global marketplace, this country’s public schools must ensure that their students graduate with the math, science, and other skills needed to get decent jobs. That, however, would mean attacking the inequality that’s increasingly been built into the public education system (as into so much else in this society).

Education: The Zip Code Premium 

Horace Mann, the nineteenth-century American educator, referred to public schooling as “beyond all human devices… the great equalizer of the condition of men, the balance wheel of the social machinery.” Since the early years of the republic, Americans have embraced the idea that schooling is critical in helping individuals realize their aspirations and in guaranteeing equality of opportunity. In principle, there has been a consensus that economic circumstances beyond the control of children shouldn’t block their way into the future. In practice, it’s been quite a different story, partially because of how public schools are funded.

Local property and business taxes are the largest source of support for them, so kids born into a community crammed with pricey homes and thriving businesses will attend well-funded public schools that attract good teachers with decent working conditions and salaries. Such students are more likely to have smaller classes, more guidance counselors, nurses, and psychologists, more computers per pupil, better textbooks and instructional equipment, richer curricula, and better libraries.

In addition to local taxes, which provide 45% of public school funds, state revenues provide another 46%, and federal assistance an additional 9%. Some state governments also offer extra money to poorer school districts, but not enough to begin to close the gap with more affluent ones. In any case, those funds have been falling since 2008. Additional federal support doesn’t come close to leveling the playing field.

The United States is one of the few countries in the 35-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a grouping of wealthy nations, in which central government funding plays such a limited role in reducing disparities between schools. In those countries, national budgets provide, on average, more than 50% of school funding.

Public schools in affluent communities have another advantage. Thanks to their incomes, professional qualifications, social networks, and experience, the parents of students in such schools are far more capable of raising private money to supplement school budgets, which means extra educational equipment and instructional materials, and more staff. Most such private fundraising is done by parent-teacher associations (PTAs), which tend to be more active and more successful in affluent communities. (Indeed, poor districts may lack PTAs altogether.)

Consider a typical California example. In Hillsborough, where the median family income is $229,000, the school district raised an extra $1,500 per student; in Oakland, where median income was just under $58,000, it was only $100 per student. Similarly, in wealthy northwest Washington, D.C., four elementary schools raised $300,000 apiece in one year, sums unthinkable for schools in Washington’s poorer communities like those east of the Anacostia River, where the median household income is $34,000.  Such differences are the norm nationally.

It’s true that PTA funding — $245 million in 2010 (an increase of 300% since 1990) — looks like a drop in the bucket compared to total government spending on kindergarten-through-12th-grade education ($603 billion in 2013). That, however, misses the point, since the private funding is so concentrated in wealthy neighborhoods.

Money can’t fix everything, but it counts for a lot in an ever more unequal society. And there’s overwhelming evidence that the educational success gap between the wealthiest 10% of Americans and the rest has been growing for decades — unevenly since the 1940s, at an accelerated rate since the 1970s, and by 30%-40% percent between 1991 and 2010. If you want graphic proof of how the income-achievement divide matters, it’s easy to find: students in schools with greater resources (including wealthy parents), for example, regularly do better in standardized tests and essentially any other metric of academic achievement.

And remember, student performance in high school increases the likelihood both of college attendance and success once there. All of this indicates the obvious: that one way to improve the economic prospects of American workers would be to ensure that the public school system provides all students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a global economy that privileges people who have solid technical know-how. Channeling more funds to schools in poorer communities would, however, require sacrifices from the segments of society that our “populist” president really represents. So perhaps you won’t be surprised to discover that, though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos favors“school choice,” neither she nor her boss seems to have the slightest interest in doing anything about the growing inequalities and inequities of public education, which Trump’s cherished “base” of working and lower-income people need the most. In fact, cuts in hiseducation budget total about $10 billion and target a raft of programs that help poor and working-class families.

Missing: Worker-Friendly Policies

Once employed, workers will face challenges throughout their lives that their parents, let alone grandparents, couldn’t have imagined. No matter what Donald Trump does about trade pacts and tariffs, companies will continue to shift production overseas to stay ahead of their competitors, which means that well-paying manufacturing jobs in America will continue to disappear. They will also export some of what they make abroad back to the United States, increasing job insecurity and driving down wages. Trump’s rants won’t reverse this well-established trend.

Add in one more thing: automation, robotics, self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, and e-commerce will continue to reduce the role of human labor in the economy, even as they create new jobs with skill premiums. Those with high-end jobs (banking, the law, scientific research, and medicine, among others) will, of course, continue to earn significant incomes, but workers without a college education in the service sector, which already accounts for nearly 80% of the country’s gross domestic product, will find it ever tougher to get higher-paying jobs with decent benefits. This, in turn, means that they will have an even harder time saving for retirement, paying for their childrens’ educations, liquidating accumulated debts, or covering the cost of medical care.

So what to do?

A progressive tax code that actually favored those in Trump’s base and others like them would be one way to start to rectify the situation, but that’s a pipedream in this era. The two versions of the Trump-backed tax “reform” bill now in Congress tell us everything we need to know about who will gain and who will lose in his populist America. They couldn’t be more wildly regressive.

Take corporate taxes. To skirt the present 35% tax on corporate income, American companies have stashed $2.6 trillion in overseas tax havens like Ireland, Luxembourg, Bermuda, and the Netherlands, among other places. If the tax bill passes, corporations will be able to bring that money home and pay only 12% in taxes on it, a bonanza for corporate America. It’s been argued that such companies will then invest the repatriated funds here, creating new jobs, but the tax plan offers them absolutely no incentives to do so and imposes no penalties if they don’t. Oh, and that proposed corporate tax cut will be permanent.

More generally, the truly wealthy have particular reason to celebrate. By 2024, the legislation eliminates the estate tax, which only they now pay. Though it provides less than one percent of federal revenues, scrapping it would shrink those revenues by $269 billion over a decade. That exceeds the annual budgets of the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention combined.

There’s more: 47% of the gains from the proposed tax cuts will benefit the wealthiest 1% of taxpayers, while the prospective bill won’t touch the biggest financial burden carried by young middle- and working-class Americans: college loans. Student debt, which has ballooned by $833 billion since 2007, now totals $1.45 trillion. (The average monthly payment: $351.)

Republican tax policies further skew wealth distribution toward the richest 0.1%. Big tax cuts that favor this exclusive group are also likely to reduce government revenue, increasing the odds of further spending cuts to programs that benefit workers.

Take job retraining. The United States currently devotes a pitiful 0.05% of its gross domestic product to worker retraining, ranking 21st out of 29 OECD countries for which data is available. And prospective budget cuts suggest that there will be no improvement on this front (where the president has already proposed a 40% cut in funds). The 21% cut planned for the Department of Labor will, for instance, slash several job training and employment assistance programs, affecting nearly three million people. And here’s one for your no-good-deed-goes unpunished file: Trump plans to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Council (ARC), which since 1965 has provided job retraining to coalminers while reducing poverty and boosting high school graduation rates significantly. Ninety-five percent of the counties the ARC covers voted for Trump.

It’s the same story when it comes to apprenticeships, widely and successfully subsidized in countries like Germany to create a skilled working class. By contrast, the United States now spends a paltry $95 million on such programs and while Trump has called for five million additional apprenticeships in the next five years, a tenfold increase, he’s suggested no additional funding for such a program. Consider that the definition of not putting your money where your mouth is.

A partnership among community colleges and companies, supplemented by federal funds, could create nationwide apprenticeship programs that would benefit workers and companies. Furthermore, nearly 90% of those who complete apprenticeships not only land jobs but earn an average yearly salary of $50,000 — nearly 12% above the national median wage. Two million American manufacturing jobs will remain unfilled during the next decade for want of adequately trained workers.

Modernizing the nation’s decrepit infrastructure could create a range of new jobs (as it did in the New Deal era of the 1930s). But the federal government’s supposed role in President Trump’s much-vaunted infrastructure “plan” to revamp the country’s disintegrating roads, rail lines, bridges, ports, dams, levees, and inland waterways is to “get out of the way”; it will, that is, be confining its contribution to the trillion-dollar plan to $137 billion (mainly in tax credits), though experts reckon that revamping the country’s infrastructure would actually require a $4 trillion investment over a decade. Private investors will undoubtedly cherry-pick the most profitable projects and so will get a windfall from this tax subsidy. American workers, not so much. Sad!

Fake Populism

Rising college costs, stagnant wages — adjusted for inflation, hourly pay has increased a mere 0.2% annually over the past four decades — and the weight of student debt will make it ever harder for Americans to upgrade their skills. But when it comes to the working class he claims to care deeply about, Donald Trump’s deeds don’t go beyond symbolism — publicizing his love for Big Macs and Kentucky Fried Chicken, engaging in bellicose bombast, trash-talking trade agreements, threatening to raise tariffs, and blaming undocumented immigrants for everything from crime to unemployment. None of this will actually mitigate the challenges that confront workers, which will only grow in an America in which the top 0.1% have about as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

As is always true when it comes to rulers with an autocratic bent, the question is: When will Trump’s base get wise to his populist charade? When will the promises he continues to make, from a new deal with China to a new wall with Mexico, begin to ring hollow? Or will they?

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What the Latest FBI Data Do and Do Not Tell Us About Hate Crimes in the US

NOVANEWS

By Sophie Bjork-James

Image result for FBI CARTOON

This November, the FBI released its annual report of hate crimes for 2016, showing that in Trump’s America, Muslims experience a greater risk of violence.

The FBI defines hate crimes as “a traditional offense like murder, arson or vandalism with an added element of bias.” Overall, the FBI data show that the rates of reported hate crimes in the US have gone up slightly. But other evidence suggests that the actual number of hate crime incidents is likely even higher.

As a researcher who has studied the white nationalist movement for over a decade, I’m not surprised to see that hate crimes are up. But there’s still far too much we don’t know about hate crimes in the US — and that affects how we study and enforce these crimes.

Increased Rates

So what do the new FBI crime stats tell us? Rates of reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation have remained fairly stable, while rates of race-based crimes have gone up slightly.

The most significant increases in reported hate crimes targeted individuals based on their religion. Religiously biased hate crimes increased by almost 20 percent since 2012.

Since 2013, there has been more than a 10 percent increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes, and the rates of reported hate crimes against Muslims has more than doubled.

Other studies point to an increasingly hostile climate for religious and racial minorities. The Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidentsfound a significant spike in anti-Jewish incidents in 2016, a 34 percent increase since 2015. Almost a third of all incidents occurred in November and December. The audit found an 86 percent surge in anti-Jewish incidents in the first quarter of 2017.

Similarly, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and ProPublica documented 1,372 incidents of bias in the first three months after the presidential election.

What’s Behind the Data

A variety of white supremacist groups saw a membership and readership surge during the 12 months preceding the election, with a significant number of white nationalists linking themselves to the Trump campaign on social media. It’s not possible to link a rise in hate crimes directly to any particular candidate or policy issue, but the rise in white supremacist activity during the presidential campaign indicated that hate crimes would also likely go up after the election.

White supremacist activity online is often associated with offline violence. A Southern Poverty Law Center report traced 100 murders to one white nationalist website alone.

report published in 2012 by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point found that, since 2001, the US has seen an average of 300 murders per year by members of the far right.

Holes in the Data

However, we also need to ask what these statistics fail to tell us.

The Department of Justice found that between 2004 and 2015, there were closer to 250,000 hate crime incidents per year, far more incidents annually than reported by the FBI data.

Unlike the FBI, the DOJ includes hate crimes that were not reported to police and defines hate crimes based on victim perception, not on what law enforcement agencies determine. According to the DOJ report, only 41 percent of hate crimes are reported. Of those reported, only 10 percent are then confirmed by law enforcement investigators as hate crimes.

What’s more, this year’s FBI report states that 15,254 law enforcement agencies out of an estimated 18,000 participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program. Almost nine out of 10 of these agencies failed to report a single hate crime instance in their jurisdiction.

In fact, the percentage of agencies reporting no hate crimes has actually gone up slightly since 2012.

This tells us how much remains unknown about the actual extent of hate crimes in the US. The fact that only 12 percent of law enforcement agencies report any hate crimes shows a need for increased dedication to actually documenting these incidents. Fewer agencies reporting hate crimes may sound on the surface like a good thing — but the evidence from the DOJ report suggests that these agencies are likely just failing to report the hate crimes that do occur.

The FBI needs to ask why the majority of law enforcement agencies are failing to report hate crime data. Is this an issue of lack of collection, lack of reporting, lack of interest or something else? Even many federal agencies, which are legally required to report hate crimes data to the FBI, fail to do so.

The Problem With Not Documenting Hate

Lack of reporting leads to incomplete data on the extent of the problem of hate crimes. Lack of reporting is also linked to lack of enforcement. The DOJ study found that violent hate crimes reported to police were “nearly three times less likely” to result in an arrest than violent nonhate crimes reported to police. This indicates a much larger problem with enforcement.

Given what I see as a the lack of federal attention to hate crimes, it is thus important that other entities work to document hate crimes, such as the SPLC/ProPublica project.

Although the FBI’s data are likely inconclusive on the actual number of hate crimes, they do point to a troubling trend that hate crimes appear to be on the rise and remain vastly undocumented and unenforced.

Without accurate federal data on hate crimes, we cannot know if federal and local law enforcement agencies are addressing the needs of all of their constituents. This is crucial, particularly given that the DOJ study shows that law enforcement agencies often fail to adequately prosecute perpetrators of hate crimes.

Failure to record hate crimes leaves us guessing at the causes of the rise in anti-Muslim violence we’ve seen in the past year.

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India: Remembering Bhopal ‘VIDEO’

NOVANEWS

Image result for Remembering Bhopal PHOTO

3,000 KILLED AND 150,000 INJURED

TYPICAL COLD CORPORATE RESPONSE

If you’re old enough, you may remember Bhopal.

It was the worst industrial disaster in history. Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical, killed over 3,000, injured 120,000 – and did next-to-nothing NOTHING to help the people injured.

Poor design, poor training, poor maintenance, and not taking the dangers the operation posed to the nearby residents seriously led to this disaster. In other words, 1,500 counts of negligent homicide.

The Yes Men reveal the callousness of Dow Chemical

 

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Che Guevara, Apostle of the Oppressed: Che and the Cuban Revolution

NOVANEWS
 

The fiftieth anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, assassinated in Bolivia on October 9, 1967, offers us an opportunity to look back on the Cuban-Argentine revolutionary who dedicated his life to defending the “Damned of the Earth”.

What was Che Guevara’s role in the Cuban Revolution?

Che was one of the principal leaders of the rebel army, second-in-command to Fidel Castro who was the indisputable and undisputed leader of the July 26 Movement and the most emblematic figure of the Cuban Revolution. Che was on the same level as Raúl Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos, Ramiro Valdés and Juan Almeida, among others, but it was he who had the greatest intellectual affinity with Fidel Castro.

Che possessed extraordinary courage, that at times approached rashness, and felt a sovereign contempt for danger. His prestige spread rapidly among the fighting troops and supporters of the Movement across the island. Everyone knew that an Argentinian, with a funny accent, was fighting alongside Fidel, and his engagement won the admiration of the Cuban people. Although he was not as well known around the world as Fidel Castro, his image nevertheless had appeared several times in the international press, notably in the United States.

What were the circumstances under which Che was appointed commander by Fidel Castro?

Because of his exceptional qualities as a fighter, a fine strategist and his natural gift of leading men, Che Guevara was the first to be appointed commander, long before Raúl Castro. Argentinian by birth, Che had chosen to join the Cuban revolutionary movement to free the island from the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, but importantly from the hegemonic control of the United States as well. He was aware that he would risk his life at every moment, given the dangers involved in a guerrilla war against an enemy immensely superior in number. Still, he quickly distinguished himself among the group of 82 insurgents by demonstrating his extraordinary valor. Whenever a dangerous mission presented itself, he was the first to volunteer. Understandably, he rapidly won the hearts and respect of his comrades, who greatly admired seeing a foreigner risk his life for a land that was not his own.

Fidel Castro had quickly discerned the exceptional virtues of Che and decided to promote him to the rank of Commander. The Argentinean learned of his promotion in the following way: On July 21, 1957, Fidel Castro ordered his brother Raúl to write a letter to Frank País, leader of the July 26 Movement of the province of Santiago de Cuba, on behalf of the entire group. As he included Che’s name among the signatories, Raúl asked his brother what title he should affix to it. The answer was: “Put ‘commander’”.

Was Che a doctor or guerrilla?

There is an anecdote that reveals Che’s state of mind on this subject. The voyage of the Granma, from Mexico to the Cuban coast, lasted seven days instead of the five originally scheduled. Rather than arriving in Cuba on November 30, the Granma reached the Cuban coast on December 2, 1956. In Santiago, a city in the eastern part of Cuba, an uprising had been planned on November 30 to divert attention and support the landing. Nevertheless, the army, informed of the revolutionaries impending arrival, was waiting for the expedition to land. Moreover, in addition to the grueling crossing, the guerrillas landed in the swampy area of Las Coloradas and the journey from the boat to the mainland was a nightmare that lasted for several hours.

Only moments after their arrival, while in a state of total exhaustion, the insurgents were spotted by military aviation and pursued by soldiers of the dictatorship. The troop was therefore forced to disperse. Che, caught up in this whirlwind, had to make a choice. While he was appointed to be the group’s doctor, he found himself in possession of two large bags, the first filled with ammunition and the second with drugs. It was physically impossible for him to carry both while he was under fire. He therefore opted for the ammunition bag because he considered himself a revolutionary before being a doctor.

What was the name of Che’s battalion?

Che’s battalion was created following his promotion to commander. At the time, the only existing battalion was that of Fidel Castro which bore the designation Column No. 1. Logically, Che’s battalion should have been named Column No. 2, but in order to deceive the enemy regarding the importance of the revolutionary forces, Fidel decided to name it Column No. 4.

Later, Che was put in charge of the “Suicide Squad”, which consisted of the most experienced combatants whose role it was to carry out the most dangerous missions. Due to Che’s rather excessive temerity, Fidel decided to entrust him with responsibility for the group on the condition that he himself no longer participate in this type of operation and focus instead on strategic, tactical and organizational tasks.

The leader of the Cuban Revolution knew that the country would need this group of chosen and trained cadre, and that it was therefore vital to preserve it. On each mission, one or more fighters lost their lives, hence the name “Suicide Squad”. In his diary, Che recounts an unusual and recurring event: when a member of the suicide squad lost his life, another soldier was appointed to replace him. Each time, he witnessed scenes of young fighters in tears, disappointed not to have had the honor of joining a group that would have allowed them to demonstrate their bravery.

How did Che treat the prisoners?

Che was implacable with the rapists, the torturers, the traitors and the murderers. Revolutionary justice was expeditious. On the other hand, he made it a point of honor to preserve the life of the prisoners and to look after the enemy’s wounded. There were two reasons for this. The first was moral and ethical: the life of any prisoner was sacred and needed to be protected. The second was political in nature: while Batista’s army gave no quarter, torturing and murdering prisoners of war, the rebel army demonstrated its difference through its irreproachable conduct.

At the beginning of the revolutionary process, no soldier surrendered because all were convinced that they would be executed by the rebels. Towards the end of the insurrectional war, the soldiers of Batista, who had heard of the noble conduct of the insurgents, surrendered en masse when they were surrounded by the revolutionaries because they knew they would be safe.

An anecdote illustrates Che’s behavior on this subject: following a fight with the army, a rebel killed a wounded soldier without giving him a chance to surrender. He himself had lost everyone in his family during a bombing. Che went into a great rage and told him that his conduct was unworthy of the rebel army, that soldiers’ lives should be preserved whenever possible, and that none were to be shot. Hearing these words, another wounded soldier, who had hidden behind a tree, revealed his position by shouting “Do not shoot!”. He was treated by the rebels and every time a guerrilla appeared, he raised his arms and exclaimed: “Che has said that prisoners will not be killed!”

What was Che’s reputation?

Che was a leader of natural authority and prestige, acquired on the battlefield. He was demanding and steadfast. He preached not by word, but by example. He was uncompromising on principled matters and hated favoritism and special privileges. In the mountains of the Sierra Maestra, when a cook attempted to attract Che’s favor by filling his plate with more than what the other fighters had received, he immediately drew the wrath of Che, who cursed him out. He was egalitarian and wished to be treated like his fellow fighters. His prestige and the admiration of the Cuban people for him were born of his exemplary attitude. He was unyielding and hard, but fair and honest.

What were his political views during the triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1959?

Che defined himself as a Marxist-Leninist. He already had a solid theoretical background before joining the Cuban revolutionary movement. From his experience in Guatemala, he had discovered how US economic hegemony was strangling Latin America and how it constituted an obstacle to any effort at social transformation. The Cuban situation, where the strategic sectors of the economy were in the hands of US multinationals, allowed him to realize that the struggle for freedom, equality and justice would also be a struggle against US imperialism. He was absolutely convinced that the state should take control of the country’s strategic resources by carrying out a vast agrarian reform, diversifying the economy and multiplying its trading partners in order to free itself from dependence upon its powerful northern neighbor. He believed it should also universalize access to education, health, culture and sport as well as provide unfailing support to those who are struggling for their dignity.

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Trump Administration Escalates Threat to “Utterly Destroy” North Korea

The Trump administration is escalating its incendiary threats against North Korea in the wake of the test Tuesday of an intercontinental ballistic missile reportedly capable of reaching the east coast of the United States.

At an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, warned that “if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.” The “utter destruction” of the regime can only mean a genocidal war against the country of 25 million people.

Haley directed her fire as much toward China as toward North Korea, reporting that President Trump had called Chinese President Xi to demand that China cut off all oil exports to the impoverished Asian country.

“China must show leadership and follow through. China can do this on its own,” she said, “or we can take the oil situation into our own hands.”

What precisely was meant by this threat, Haley did not elaborate.

It is clear that the United States is in the advanced stage of planning some form of military operation against North Korea, which, if carried out, would have catastrophic consequences even if it did not develop into an exchange of nuclear weapons.

In a signal that the Trump administration is moving to formally abandon its pretenses of diplomacy, the New York Times reported on Thursday that the White House is planning to push out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom Trump previously publicly rebuked for “wasting his time” by pursuing negotiations with North Korea. Tillerson had said on Tuesday, following the ICBM test, that “diplomatic solutions remain viable and open for now.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, an occasional critic of Trump, solidarized himself with the war threats of the administration, telling CNN Wednesday,

“If we have to go to war to stop this, we will. We’re heading toward a war if things don’t change.”

Graham said that Trump

“is ready, if necessary, to destroy this regime to protect America, and I hope the regime understands that if President Trump has to pick between destroying the North Korean regime and the American homeland, he’s going to destroy the regime. I hope China understands that also.”

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, no doubt channeling information from sources within the military and the state, wrote on Thursday (under the headline “Headed Toward a New Korean War?”),

“One lesson from history: When a president and his advisers say they’re considering a war, take them seriously.”

Kristof reported that

“the international security experts I’ve consulted offer estimates of the risk of war from 15 percent to more than 50 percent. That should be staggering.”

The threats by the United States to obliterate North Korea have been escalating throughout the year. Haley’s comments come just over two months after Trump’s speech before the United Nations, in which he declared that the US was “ready, willing and able” to “totally destroy” North Korea and its 25 million people.

The threats have a logic of their own. Having already declared that the US will take “preemptive” action against North Korea if it develops weapons capable of hitting the continental United States, the administration feels increasingly compelled to carry through on such statements, fearing that any retreat will severely damage the credibility of similar threats by American imperialism in the future.

A war, once launched, also has its own logic, threatening the lives of hundreds of millions throughout Asia and beyond. The demands that China act against North Korea point to the fact that the principal concern of the American ruling class in the region is the growing influence of China. The United States has been systematically building up its military capacity in and around the South China Sea for years, particularly under the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia.” Leading generals and think tanks have already warned that a direct conflict with China is only a matter of time.

China responded to the first Korean War (1950-53), in which the US leveled most of the infrastructure in the northern portion of the peninsula, with a massive military counterattack. The current Chinese government would no doubt see a move by the US to overthrow the North Korean regime as an existential threat to its own strategic interests.

And how will Russia respond to an attack on North Korea, which borders Russia on the east? The country’s top diplomat Thursday accused the US of pushing North Korea into “rash action,” calling on the US and South Korea to cancel military exercises due to begin this week.

The recklessness and criminality of the Trump administration—and the American ruling class as a whole—are astounding. The mad dash to war is proceeding without any significant discussion by either the American media or the US Congress of its real consequences. The former is consumed by an endless series of allegations of sexual harassment, while the latter is preoccupied with the drive to pass a massive tax cut to corporations and the rich, which has sent the stock markets soaring once again. Undeterred by the war danger, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 24,000 for the first time ever on Thursday, with the financial aristocracy licking its chops at its imminent windfall.

The war threats against North Korea intersect with an unprecedented political crisis in the United States involving ferocious conflicts within the ruling class as it oversees a country riven by social tensions. The Trump administration is responding, on the one hand, with the escalation of threats against North Korea, and, on the other, by intensifying its efforts to mobilize far-right forces, expressed in Trump’s retweets of anti-Muslim videos from the fascistic Britain First movement earlier this week.

Trump’s ruling-class critics have sharp differences with the administration over foreign policy. To the extent that they are expressed, however, criticisms within the political establishment over the latest rounds of threats are focused on their impact on the interests of American imperialism. The Democrats are presently engaged in a neo-McCarthyite campaign over allegations that Russia is “sowing divisions” within the United States—used to justify a regime of Internet censorship and to prepare for military conflict with Russia, the main focus of those sections of the military and intelligence establishment that supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

In the final analysis, the divisions within the ruling class are of a tactical character. All are united on the basic strategy of using the military power of the United States to maintain its global hegemonic position.

A quarter-century of unending war has reached a critical juncture. The danger of nuclear war, involving the major powers, is real and present. The independent intervention of the working class against imperialist war and the capitalist system that spawns it is the decisive political task.

Posted in USA, North Korea0 Comments

ISIS Plans to Move Its ‘Caliphate’ to Libya? ‘Video’

NOVANEWS

ISIS Plans to Move Its ‘Caliphate’ to Libya? Relocate Terrorists to Africa, Asia?

The elite Tiger Forces have reportedly redeployed most of its units from the province of Deir Ezzor to northeastern Hama and southern Aleppo to support the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in its clashes against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in the area. Pro—government sources speculate that this is a sign of the upcoming large-scale advance towards the Abu al-Duhur Airbase.

Members of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) have successfully counter-attacked against the SAA and entered the villages of Ramlah and Abisan. Two SAA soldiers were reportedly captured by militants.

On November 30, Ahrar al-Sham said that its members have repelled an SAA attack on its positions in the Armored Vehicles Base in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta. The militant group added that a battle tank of the SAA was destroyed during the clashes.

Pro-government sources claimed on November 21 that the SAA had restored control over the entire area of the base after repelling the attack of Ahrar al-Sham. However, it appears that the militants still control some positions in the command section of the base.

The US-led coalition has announced that it withdraws the 1st Battalion of the 10th Marine Regiment from Syria. The battalion includes 400 US marines armed with M777 howitzers. The US Marines participated in the Raqqah battle supporting the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, [and allowing for the exodus of ISIS terrorists as documented by the BBC, see Global Research article, GR. Editor]

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has allegedly ordered the remnants of the terrorist group to focus on Libya to compensate for losses in Iraq and Syria, the UK-based Saudi newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported. The report quoted documents allegedly found in ISIS locations in various parts of Libya, including al-Baghdadi’s alleged letters to 13 of his top supporters. The documents contained orders to turn southern Libya into a new ISIS base, which will be used for operations in North Africa, including Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Army, told Fox News that al-Baghdadi is currently hiding in the ISIS-held area on the Syrian-Iraqi border. According to the general, the terrorists’ leader sustained “severe injuries” on February 11 as a result of the Iraqi airstrike on the city of al-Qaim.

If al-Baghdadi is really alive, he and his inner circle will likely attempt to leave the shrinking ISIS-held area in Syria and Iraq soon and to establish a new ISIS base in some African or Asian country. It’s high likely that Libya can become such a country.

Posted in Middle East, Libya0 Comments


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