Since Donald Trump’s victory, tensions in the Korean Peninsula have reached almost unprecedented levels. This aggressive approach from the new administration has accentuated tensions with Pyongyang, leaving one to wonder whether another US war is in the making.
During the election campaign, Trump often took ambiguous and, in some respects, isolationist positions concerning hotspots around the world. The exception to this rule has often been North Korea. Business Insider cites the current US president speaking in January of 2016 about the DPRK with the following words about its nuclear program: «We got to close it down, because he’s getting too close to doing something. Right now, he’s probably got the weapons, but he does not have the transportation system. Once he has the transportation system, he’s sick enough to use it. So we better get Involved».
As soon as he became president, the words became even more threatening, clear and explicit, with this tweet becoming famous: «North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US. It won’t happen!»
A few weeks later, words were turned into action: the United States and its allies (South Korea and Japan) carried out two enormous exercises between March and April 2017. The first, focusing on land and sea operations and named Foal Eagle, involved tens of thousands of US and South Korean soldiers and naval warships. A few weeks later the Max Thunder 17 exercise kicked in, with dozens of aircraft involved. In both exercises the goal is to focus on the DPRK, with simulations of an attack by the United States and its allies by land, sea and air.
From Pyongyang’s point of view, the deterioration of relations with the US, South Korea and Japan has risen beyond any tolerable limit with a vicious cycle of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, since Trump’s assumption of the presidency. The United States, the world’s premier military power, continually threatens to bomb and invade the DPRK with thousands of soldiers, or threatens to kill Kim Jong-un. As if this situation were not tense enough, the ongoing exercises by the US and her allies suggest a realistic possibility of invasion rather than a simple exercise (usually wars begin simultaneously with great maneuvers, since in such exercises forces are already deployed, operational, and ready to fight). Finally, to top off the madness coming from Washington, Trump repeatedly broached a change in the historical strategic balance reflected by MAD (mutually assured destruction), floating the idea of arming South Korea and even Japan with nuclear weapons.
Nuclear deterrence for peace
In light of all these historical provocations and threats, Kim Jong-un has in recent years had to accelerate his atomic program and demonstrate the consistency of DPRK’s nuclear capability and convincingly deter opponents. In order to asses the capacity of North Korea to hit the US with a WMD, one has to take into consideration two main factors: the ability to create a nuclear warhead, and the method of delivery.
The first, concerning the ability to detonate a domestically manufactured nuclear bomb, is already a fact acknowledged by the international community and demonstrated with five nuclear tests. The second question focuses on the means used to deliver the nuclear weapon. With the first question already a known fact (the DPRK has up to 30 nukes), this only leaves the assessment of missile range and reliability, which will be discussed later. For now, it is important to focus on the motives that may have driven the DPRK to develop an nuclear program. During American exercises, North Korean reservists from the countryside were often summoned from the countryside when they were most needed for harvesting and planting seasons, creating significant strains in the agricultural area so vital to the country’s economy.
Thanks to the nuclear deterrent, the amount of people recalled has been considerably reduced due to the reduction in the likelihood of an American attack on the peninsula.
Obviously nuclear deterrence plays a key part in North Korea’s defensive posture, but we can further consider the lesser known determinants of this strategic choice. First of all we can consider the reduction in military spending on conventional means of war by the possession of a nuclear deterrent. Pyongyang’s ability to almost market its nuclear deterrence with nuclear and missile tests is certainly more cost effective than building thousands of multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) and mortar rounds. This does not mean that in a military assessment of conflict, such equipment does not tip the balance of power; we will see that they do exactly this.
The DPRK’s deterrence policy is a much more complex matter than just its nuclear component. The common idea is that with a nuclear bomb Pyongyang is safe. That is true on the basis of the theory of MAD. But with missile defense systems in play, this could change the equation, or maybe not. What really makes the DPRK safe is conventional weapons and geography.
China Cannot Help Disarm Pyongyang
Regarding the considerations made by Pyongyang on nuclear disarmament, it is interesting to note that the North Korean leadership has often referred to the promises made by the west to Gaddafi regarding Libya’s nuclear disarmament, and the consequences of this choice seen in the subsequent attack on Libya and the killing of Gaddafi. Kim Jong-un has repeatedly made it clear that trusting Washington and its allies is simply impossible given these historical precedents.
Another important factor when talking about the Korean Peninsula is the common notion of Beijing’s influence on Pyongyang. Trump has on several occasions made it clear that China is the only actor capable of putting sufficient pressure on Kim in order to force him to disarm or stop missile tests. But this is a political position that leaves many questions and doubts and is based entirely on the notion that Beijing is assisting Pyongyang economically and so has the necessary leverage. This, for Washington, means that if Xi wanted to shut down the Korean economy and oblige DPRK’s leadership to dialogue, he could do so.
Reality, however, shows us that Beijing has little influence on the Korean leader, and a deeper analysis shows how the DPRK is forced to trade and talk to China more out of practical need than any desire to do so. Further evidence shows how the relationship between China and the DPRK is at the very least complicated.
Realistically, it is difficult to ignore the contribution of the former Soviet Union, and then Russia, to the DPRK’s conventional and possibly nuclear development. The last parade of arms on April 15, 2017 saw the DPRK parade hardware very similar to that of the Russian military, especially the large Topol-M. Of course Beijing has a longstanding interest in the DPRK and with the state’s survival. The DPRK ensures that there are no hostile forces on China’s southern border. Beijing has learned the lessons from the end of the Cold War, where, following various pledges to Russia not to extend NATO into Eastern Europe, NATO subsequently expanded right up to Russia’s borders, directly threatening the Russian Federation.
Beijing supports the DPRK to avoid a unified Korea under US guidance that would pose a real threat to the Chinese state. In this context, Beijing faces diplomatic consequences at an international level, facing criticism and threats of armed intervention in the DPRK if Beijing does not do something to stop the North Korean leader.
It is a very complicated situation for Beijing, which finds itself between a rock and a hard place, having little real ability to influence Kim’s choices. From the point of view of the DPRK, the best outcome would be an agreement with the United States and Japan to loosen sanctions and embargoes. The problem is what these nations ask for in return is complete disarmament. For the reasons cited above, this solution is virtually impossible because of the complete lack of trust by all actors.
From words to nothing
At this point it is good to go to the heart of the matter and to analyze the most interesting aspects. First of all, Trump’s actions in Syria, as well as the use of a MOAB in Afghanistan, sought to put pressure on Kim Jong-un to make him come to the negotiating table. This obviously did not work, it being utterly unrealistic to commence negotiating with Pyongyang on the basis of threats of war. The DPRK has been besieged for over 50 years, and 50 cruise missiles, or a ten-ton bomb, will hardly do anything to change their position or scare them. The DPRK is neither Syria nor Afghanistan.
The subtle line between deception and perception in the Korean nuclear affair is certainly of great interest. We should begin by saying what we know. The DPRK as a country is a tightly state monitored system from many points of view, in terms of information, the internet, computer systems. Any information we read in the mainstream media on the DPRK should therefore be treated as propaganda. Two aspects are to be considered, namely what the DPRK wants western military planners to believe, and what the western press wants public opinion to know and believe about the DPRK. Let us take a practical and vital example in this discussion by looking at the range of the missiles mentioned in previous paragraphs.
We start with a basic premise stated by Washington, namely that the United States will prevent the DPRK from developing a missile (ICBM) capable of reaching American territory with a nuclear warhead. The DPRK is in response developing an ICBM that can reach US soil in order to gain the ultimate deterrent weapon and so ensure its safety. In reality, we cannot know what the DPRK’s capabilities are until they test them. And with regard to that, the US administration has limited interest in publicizing possible DPRK achievements and hinting that Pyongyang could hit the US with a nuclear warhead. That would then arouse domestic pressures exerted throughout the press, politics, think-tanks, the military, the intelligence community, and external actors (Japan and Korea) to attack North Korea.
Likewise, the DPRK has no interest in eventually testing an ICBM already knowing well that the United States would have its back against a wall, leaving it with no choice but to attack.
Two dozen former U.S. intelligence professionals are urging the American people to demand clear evidence that the Syrian government was behind the April 4 chemical incident before President Trump dives deeper into another war.
AN OPEN MEMORANDUM FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
Subject: Mattis ‘No Doubt’ Stance on Alleged Syrian CW Smacks of Politicized Intelligence
Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, during a recent trip to Israel, commented on the issue of Syria’s retention and use of chemical weapons in violation of its obligations to dispose of the totality of its declared chemical weapons capability in accordance with the provisions of both the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“There can be no doubt,” Secretary Mattis said during a April 21, 2017 joint news conference with his Israeli counterpart, Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman, “in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all.” To the contrary, Mattis noted, “I can say authoritatively they have retained some.”
Lieberman joined Mattis in his assessment, noting that Israel had “100 percent information that [the] Assad regime used chemical weapons against [Syrian] rebels.”
Both Mattis and Lieberman seemed to be channeling assessments offered to reporters two days prior, on April 19, 2017, by anonymous Israeli defense officials that the April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack on the Syrian village of Khan Shaykhun was ordered by Syrian military commanders, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s personal knowledge, and that Syria retained a stock of “between one and three tons” of chemical weapons.
The Israeli intelligence followed on the heels of an April 13, 2017 speech given by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that, once information had come in about a chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, the CIA had been able to “develop several hypothesis around that, and then to begin to develop fact patterns which either supported or suggested that the hypothesis wasn’t right.” The CIA, Pompeo said, was “in relatively short order able to deliver to [President Trump] a high-confidence assessment that, in fact, it was the Syrian regime that had launched chemical strikes against its own people in [Khan Shaykhun.]”
The speed in which this assessment was made is of some concern. Both Director Pompeo, during his CSIS remarks, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, during comments to the press on April 6, 2017, note that President Trump turned to the intelligence community early on in the crisis to understand better “the circumstances of the attack and who was responsible.” McMaster indicated that the U.S. Intelligence Community, working with allied partners, was able to determine with “a very high degree of confidence” where the attack originated.
Both McMaster and Pompeo spoke of the importance of open source imagery in confirming that a chemical attack had taken place, along with evidence collected from the victims themselves – presumably blood samples – that confirmed the type of agent that was used in the attack. This initial assessment drove the decision to use military force – McMaster goes on to discuss a series of National Security Council meetings where military options were discussed and decided upon; the discussion about the intelligence underpinning the decision to strike Syria was over.
The danger of this rush toward an intelligence decision by Director Pompeo and National Security Advisor McMaster is that once the President and his top national security advisors have endorsed an intelligence-based conclusion, and authorized military action based upon that conclusion, it becomes virtually impossible for that conclusion to change. Intelligence assessments from that point forward will embrace facts that sustain this conclusion, and reject those that don’t; it is the definition of politicized intelligence, even if those involved disagree.
A similar “no doubt” moment had occurred nearly 15 years ago when, in August 2002, Vice President Cheney delivered a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney declared. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.” The message Cheney was sending to the Intelligence Community was clear: Saddam Hussein had WMD; there was no need to answer that question anymore.
The CIA vehemently denies that either Vice President Cheney or anyone at the White House put pressure on its analysts to alter their assessments. This may very well be true, but if it is, then the record of certainty – and arrogance – that existed in the mindset of senior intelligence managers and analysts only further erodes public confidence in the assessments produced by the CIA, especially when, as is the case with Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction – the agency was found so lacking. Stuart Cohen, a veteran CIA intelligence analyst who served as the acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, oversaw the production of the 2002 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was used to make case for Iraq possessing WMD that was used to justify war.
According to Mr. Cohen, he had four National Intelligence Officers with “over 100 years’ collective work experience on weapons of mass destruction issues” backed up by hundreds of analysts with “thousands of man-years invested in studying these issues.”
On the basis of this commitment of talent alone, Mr. Cohen assessed that “no reasonable person could have viewed the totality of the information that the Intelligence Community had at its disposal … and reached any conclusion or alternative views that were profoundly different from those that we reached,” namely that – judged with high confidence – “Iraq had chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of the 150 kilometer limit imposed by the UN Security Council.”
Two facts emerge from this expression of intellectual hubris. First, the U.S. Intelligence Community was, in fact, wrong in its estimate on Iraq’s WMD capability, throwing into question the standards used to assign “high confidence” ratings to official assessments. Second, the “reasonable person” standard cited by Cohen must be reassessed, perhaps based upon a benchmark derived from a history of analytical accuracy rather than time spent behind a desk.
The major lesson learned here, however, is that the U.S. Intelligence Community, and in particular the CIA, more often than not hides behind self-generated platitudes (“high confidence”, “reasonable person”) to disguise a process of intelligence analysis that has long ago been subordinated to domestic politics.
It is important to point out the fact that Israel, too, was wrong about Iraq’s WMD. According to Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli Intelligence Officer, Israeli intelligence seriously overplayed the threat posed by Iraqi WMD in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War, including a 2002 briefing to NATO provided by Efraim Halevy, who at the time headed the Israeli Mossad, or intelligence service, that Israel had “clear indications” that Iraq had reconstituted its WMD programs after U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in 1998.
The Israeli intelligence assessments on Iraq, Mr. Brom concluded, were most likely colored by political considerations, such as the desire for regime change in Iraq. In this light, neither the presence of Avigdor Leiberman, nor the anonymous background briefings provided by Israel about Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities, should be used to provide any credence to Secretary Mattis’s embrace of the “no doubt” standard when it comes to Syria’s alleged possession of chemical weapons.
The intelligence data that has been used to back up the allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use has been far from conclusive. Allusions to intercepted Syrian communications have been offered as “proof”, but the Iraq experience – in particular former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s unfortunate experience before the U.N. Security Council – show how easily such intelligence can be misunderstood and misused.
Inconsistencies in the publicly available imagery which the White House (and CIA) have so heavily relied upon have raised legitimate questions about the veracity of any conclusions drawn from these sources (and begs the question as to where the CIA’s own Open Source Intelligence Center was in this episode.) The blood samples used to back up claims of the presence of nerve agent among the victims was collected void of any verifiable chain of custody, making their sourcing impossible to verify, and as such invalidates any conclusions based upon their analysis.
In the end, the conclusions CIA Director Pompeo provided to the President was driven by a fundamental rethinking of the CIA’s analysts when it came to Syria and chemical weapons that took place in 2014. Initial CIA assessments in the aftermath of the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons seemed to support the Syrian government’s stance that it had declared the totality of its holding of chemical weapons, and had turned everything over to the OPCW for disposal. However, in 2014, OPCW inspectors had detected traces of Sarin and VX nerve agent precursors at sites where the Syrians had indicated no chemical weapons activity had taken place; other samples showed the presence of weaponized Sarin nerve agent.
The Syrian explanation that the samples detected were caused by cross-contamination brought on by the emergency evacuation of chemical precursors and equipment used to handle chemical weapons necessitated by the ongoing Civil War was not accepted by the inspectors, and this doubt made its way into the minds of the CIA analysts, who closely followed the work of the OPCW inspectors in Syria.
One would think that the CIA would operate using the adage of “once bitten, twice shy” when assessing inspector-driven doubt; U.N. inspectors in Iraq, driven by a combination of the positive sampling combined with unverifiable Iraqi explanations, created an atmosphere of doubt about the veracity of Iraqi declarations that all chemical weapons had been destroyed. The CIA embraced the U.N. inspectors’ conclusions, and discounted the Iraqi version of events; as it turned out, Iraq was telling the truth.
While the jury is still out about whether or not Syria is, like Iraq, telling the truth, or whether the suspicions of inspectors are well founded, one thing is clear: a reasonable person would do well to withhold final judgment until all the facts are in. (Note: The U.S. proclivity for endorsing the findings of U.N. inspectors appears not to include the Khan Shaykhun attack; while both Syria and Russia have asked the OPCW to conduct a thorough investigation of the April 4, 2017 incident, the OPCW has been blocked from doing so by the United States and its allies.)
CIA Director Pompeo’s job is not to make policy – the intelligence his agency provides simply informs policy. It is not known if the U.S. Intelligence Community will be producing a formal National Intelligence Estimate addressing the Syrian chemical weapons issue, although the fact that the United States has undertaken military action under the premise that these weapons exist more than underscores the need for such a document, especially in light of repeated threats made by the Trump administration that follow-on strikes might be necessary.
Making policy is, however, the job of Secretary of Defense Mattis. At the end of the day, Secretary of Defense Mattis will need to make his own mind up as to the veracity of any intelligence used to justify military action. Mattis’s new job requires that he does more than simply advise the President on military options; he needs to ensure that the employment of these options is justified by the facts.
In the case of Syria, the “no doubt” standard Mattis has employed does not meet the “reasonable man” standard. Given the consequences that are attached to his every word, Secretary Mattis would be well advised not to commit to a “no doubt” standard until there is, literally, no doubt.
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret) and former Office Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research
Thomas Drake, former Senior Executive, NSA
Bogdan Dzakovic, Former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security, (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (Ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)
Brady Kiesling, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, ret. (Associate VIPS)
Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
Lisa Ling, TSgt USAF (ret.)
Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Torin Nelson, former Intelligence Officer/Interrogator (GG-12) HQ, Department of the Army
Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq
Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA
Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary (associate VIPS)
Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)
Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)
The United States is pursuing global strategic domination through developing anti-ballistic missile systems capable of a sudden disarming strike against Russia and China, according to the deputy head of operations of the Russian General Staff.
There is an obvious link between Washington’s prompt global strike initiative, which seeks capability to engage “any targets anywhere in the world within one hour of the decision,” and the deployment of missile launch systems in Europe and aboard naval vessels across the globe, Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir said at a news briefing on Wednesday.
“The presence of US missile defense bases in Europe, missile defense vessels in seas and oceans close to Russia creates a powerful covert strike component for conducting a sudden nuclear missile strike against the Russian Federation,” Poznikhir explained.
While the US keeps claiming that its missile defenses are seeking to mitigate threats from rogue states, the results of computer simulations confirm that the Pentagon’s installations are directed against Russia and China, according to Poznikhir.
American missile attack warning systems, he said, cover all possible trajectories of Russian ballistic missiles flying toward the United States, and are only expected to get more advanced as new low-orbit satellites complement the existing radar systems.
“Applying sudden disarming strikes targeting Russian or Chinese strategic nuclear forces significantly increases the efficiency of the US missile defense system,” Poznikhir added.
American ABM systems are not only creating an “illusion” of safety from a retaliatory strike but can themselves be used to launch a sneak nuclear attack on Russia.
In a blatant breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the standard land-based launching systems can be covertly rearmed with Tomahawk cruise missiles instead of interceptors – and the Pentagon’s denial of this fact, according to Poznikhir, is “at the very least unconvincing.”
Moreover, Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed in 1972 with the Soviet Union, allowed it to develop more advanced weapons that can now not only pose a threat to targets on the ground but in space as well.
“In February 2008, the Pentagon demonstrated the possibility of engaging spacecraft with its ABM capabilities,” Poznikhir said. “An American satellite at an altitude of about 250 km was destroyed by a Standard-3 missile, an earlier modification, launched from a US Navy destroyer.”
“Given the global nature of the ABM ships’ deployment, the space operations of any state, including the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, are under threat.”
Russia has repeatedly voiced its concerns over the risk American ABM systems pose to the global balance of power and thus peace and stability, but has consistently been sidelined.
“Within the framework of cooperation, we also proposed jointly to develop a missile defense architecture for Europe, which could guarantee security against the impacts of nonstrategic ballistic missiles,” said Poznikhir.
“However, all Russian initiatives were rejected.”
“In this regard, Russia is compelled to take measures aimed at maintaining the balance of strategic arms and minimizing the possible damage to national security as a result of the United States’ ABM systems expansion.”
“This will not make the world a safer place,” he warned, urging Washington to engage in a constructive dialogue instead of dully repeating that the systems are not aimed at undermining Russia’s or China’s national security.
After years of controversy, Japan has announced its intention to continue building a new air base to house elements of the US Air Force stationed on the island of Okinawa.
Tuesday’s initiation of the construction of seawalls around the new base, a replacement for the 1945-era US Air Station Futenma on Okinawa, continues the steps toward relocating the immensely unpopular foreign military facility.
Though these plans have met with resistance by officials and the public in the local prefecture, due in part to the ongoing environmental destruction required by the new base, Tokyo officials are going ahead with the build, including the dumping of landfill waste into sensitive marine habitats.
Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, citing local resistance to the move, has threatened to withdraw his support, which could hamper the completion of the project. A December 2016 ruling by the Japanese Supreme Court stated that Onaga’s offer to annul the construction of the air base was illegal, although legal grounds to back up the governor’s threat remain in place.
Local protesters have stepped up their actions at the construction site. The call to have the base closed down entirely, not simply relocated, has gained traction in recent years, particularly in light of several grisly crimes against locals, including sexual abuse, rape and murder, at the hands of US servicemembers stationed at the Futenma base.
Tokyo issued a statement in support of construction, as Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said, “I’m convinced that the start of the construction marks a steady first step toward realizing the complete return of the Futenma airfield.”
But the island base, regardless of its location, remains profoundly unpopular with residents.
As protesters held up signs saying “stop illegal construction work!” and “block the new base,” 64-year-old Yumiko Gibo from the village of Ogimi said, “They should not make Okinawa shoulder the burden of hosting [US] bases anymore,” according to the Japan Times.
Senior officials in Okinawa prefecture have slammed Tokyo for what they term the government’s “authoritarian” attitude toward the construction of the new facility, and have accused national officials of poor judgment after they “ignored the local will.”
A 71-year-old Naha resident, Yoshiko Uema, said, “We must not provide the place for war. We will unite and definitely stop the relocation,” according to the Japan Times.
Tokyo has remained unsympathetic to concerns on the island, insisting that the new air base in Henoko is “the only solution,” as the current Futenma site lies in a densely populated residential zone.
Some officials in Tokyo have privately acknowledged that the US Air Force presence in Okinawa is integral to maintaining the US-Japan military alliance.
A completion date for the new US air base, begun in 2015, has not been set.
MOSCOW – The United States’ and other countries’ inability sign an international nuclear test ban treaty raises questions in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at an international security conference Wednesday.
“More and more questions are caused by the unwillingness or the inability of the United States and a number of other states to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty [CTBT],” Lavrov said.
In September 2016, late Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaliy Churkin said that Russia hopes that the next US president will be more committed to ratification by his country of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty which had been already ratified by Moscow.
The CTBT was finalized in 1996 and has been signed by the United States and 182 other countries. It was ratified by 166 countries but is yet to be ratified in Washington. To enter into force, the CTBT requires ratification by all 44 states listed in the annex. At present, the treaty is ratified by 36 countries, including the three nuclear weapons possessor states — Russia, France and the United Kingdom.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty provides for a legally binding global prohibition against nuclear explosive tests or any other nuclear explosions.
In a further sign that the political climate of South Korea has turned increasingly anti-American/anti-militaristic since the impeachment and arrest of President Park in March of this year, South Koreans took to the streets to protest the arrival of the US THAAD Missile System in North Gyeongsang Province.
The THAAD system arrived in the country in March and is now being positioned at its permanent installation point in Seongju in the south east of the country.
The Duran has previously published a piece speculating that increased pressure from the US directed to North Korea, may actually be an attempt to meddle in the South Korean political process as special Presidential elections are to take place on the 9th of May. A war could possibly dispute those elections.
Initial reports state that 200 people blocked the entrance to the site where THAAD will be set-up and over 8,000 locals came out to protest. Local police who were escorting the US military convoy came under attack from outraged locals.
One must consequently question the following: with US rhetoric constantly stating how little the North Korean’s support their government. How much do South Korean’s support their government?
An unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) will be launched from a US Air Force base in California Wednesday to ensure its “effectiveness, readiness and accuracy,” and demonstrate “national nuclear capabilities,” according to the US military.
The Minuteman III missile test comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with a carrier strike group led by the ‘USS Carl Vinson’ approaching North Korean waters. However, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Global Strike Command says the test was planned in advance and is not connected with the situation in North Korea, and the launches happen on regular basis, according to the Washington Examiner.
The launch is scheduled on Wednesday between 12:01am to 6:01am (07:01GMT to 13:01GMT) from North Vandenberg Air Force Base, according to the 30th Space Wing, which is conducting the test.
“These Minuteman launches are essential to verify the status of our national nuclear force and to demonstrate our national nuclear capabilities,” the commander of the unit, Colonel John Moss, said in a statement.
The test launch is aimed at validating and verifying “the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system,” according to the Air Force Global Strike Command.
Despite the fact that the US military denied all connections of the launch with the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, the drills have raised concerns and received criticism from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. The organization accused the US of a “clear double standard,” and advocated for “diplomacy rather than military provocations,” the foundation president, David Krieger, said as cited by the Los Angeles Times.
“It views its own tests as justified and useful, while it views the tests of North Korea as threatening and destabilizing,” Krieger said, also warning of increasing danger of such moves.
He also tweeted that nuclear-capable missile tests are simply a waste of money.
However, the “lethal and ready” capability of the ICBM was praised as a signal for the US enemies following its successful simulated electronic firing on April 11.
“The Simulated Electronic Launch of a Minuteman III ICBM is a signal to the American people, our allies, and our adversaries that our ICBM capability is safe, secure, lethal and ready,” the 625th Strategic Operations Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Deane Konowicz, said in a statement.
Minuteman III ballistic missiles were initially deployed in 1970 and are approaching the end of their useful lifespan of 60 years. Washington has recently launched a massive trillion-dollar program to modernize, support, and maintain its nuclear air-land-sea triad, which also includes Ohio-class submarines and B-52 strategic bombers, over the next 30 years.
For more than a century Canadians have gone abroad to do “good” in poorer parts of the world. Whether they spurred positive change or simply became foreign agents should be of interest to international non-governmental organizations.
Last week the Globe and Mail reported on the Canadians Christians who set off to proselytize in China in 1891. Focused on their medical achievements, the laudatory story hinted at a darker side of their work. It quoted a missionary who was “critical of the lifestyle most of the missionaries led, with their large houses, many servants and imported comforts which contrasted with the far lower standard of living of their Chinese fellow Christians.”
Of more consequence than their opulence, Canadian missionaries aggressively supported colonial officials, as I discovered researching Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. By the end of the colonial period 2,500 Canadian missionaries were proselytizing in Africa and Canadian churches raised large sums to support mission stations across the continent.
Four Québec Jesuit fathers left for the Zambesi Mission in southern Africa in 1883. Alphonse Daignault rose through the ranks of the Catholic male congregation to become Prefect Apostolic of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). Then Superior of the Jesuits’ Zambezi Mission, Daignault backed the British South Africa Company’s invasion of Mashonaland (Zimbabwe) in 1890. With their evangelizing shunned by the Ndebele people, the Jesuits and other foreign missionaries supported the “destruction of [the] Ndebele system.”
Granted a charter from London in 1889, Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company offered white men in Kimberley, South Africa, 3,000 acres of land and mining rights if they joined the Company’s fight to conquer part of today’s Zimbabwe. Daignault offered the invading force chaplaincy services, mobile ambulances and nurses. The British South Africa Company paid the Jesuit nurses’ costs and compensated Daignault’s mission with conquered territory, including a major piece of land on the outskirts of today’s Harare. In A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe C. J. M. Zvobgo writes that the Harare “farm which consisted of 12,000 acres, beautifully surrounded by hills, was given to the Jesuits by the BSA Company in recognition of FR Alphonse Daignault’s service to the [Company’s] sick.”
The Québec Jesuit leader worked with Rhodes and British officials for years. He also supported the colonial authorities’ efforts to drive Africans from their traditional economies into wage work. Reflecting the settler community’s attitude in 1897, Daignault told the deputy administrator of the city of Bulawayo in 1897 that the “natives of this country… are but grown-up children” prone to “idleness”. “Men in authority who have the true interests of the natives at heart ought to treat the natives not only as children but are also to do all they can to make them acquire habits of work. As this cannot be obtained by mere moral persuasion, authority must necessarily be used.”
To the north, dozens of Canadian missionaries helped the colonial authority penetrate Ugandan societies in the early 1900s. The preeminent figure was John Forbes who was a bishop and coadjutor vicar apostolic, making him second in charge of over 30 mission posts in Uganda. A 1929 biography of the founder of the White Father in Canada describes his “good relations” with British colonial authorities and the “important services Forbes rendered the authorities of the Protectorate.”
In 1918 Forbes participated in a major conference in the colony, organized by Governor Robert Coryndon in the hopes of spurring indigenous wage work. The Vaudreuil, Québec, native wrote home that “it’s a big question. The European planters in our area, who cultivate coffee, cotton and rubber need workers for their exploitation. But the workforce is rare. Our Negroes are happy to eat bananas and with a few bits of cotton or bark for clothes, are not excited to put themselves at the service of the planters and work all day for a meager salary.” British officials subsidized the White Fathers schools as part of a bid to expand the indigenous workforce.
During World War I, Canadian White Fathers Ernest Paradis and Wilfred Sarrazin helped Brigadier General Edward Northey conquer German East Africa. Serving as civilian transport officers, Paradis and Sarrazin focused on organizing African carriers, who were generally press ganged into service. Paradis became Senior Transport Officer for all British forces east of Nyasaland and North of Zambesi in today’s Malawi and Zimbabwe.
By volunteering to join the war, the White Fathers sought “respectability … in the eyes of planters and government officials.” Afterwards, Paradis used his heightened status to gain the colonial administration’s support for the White Fathers’ educational work.
Paradis evangelised in Malawi for several decades. He led the White Fathers campaign to supress “the Nyau”, a religious belief among the Chewa and Nyanja people that included elaborate dances. In May 1929 Paradis wrote an East Africa article titled “Devil Dancers of Terror” that claimed Nyau dances were seditious.
Another Canadian missionary engaged in the White Fathers’ efforts to outlaw Nyau customs in Nyasaland. Father Superior David Roy called on colonial officials to criminalize their dances and in 1928 Christians in the Likuni district, which he oversaw, killed two Nyau.
Thomas Buchanan Reginald Westgate was a Canadian missionary who joined the Church Missionary Society in German East Africa in 1902. With the support of the Ontario branch of the Church Mission Society, Westgate remained in Tanzania for over a decade. The Watford, Ontario, born missionary translated parts of the Old Testament into Cigogo, the language spoken by the Gogo nation in the central region of the colony.
Westgate worked with the colonial administration. His son, Wilfrid Westgate, authored a book about his father’s life titled T. B. R. Westgate: A Canadian Missionary on Three Continents. In the biography, Westgate writes: “Governor [Heinrich] Schnee looked upon the mission as an asset to this part of the German colonial empire.” German soldiers protected the Canadian’s mission post when the population rose up in 1905 against the colonial authority. Dissent was sparked by measures to force Africans to grow cotton for export, and an uprising known as the Maji Maji rebellion swept across the vast colony. It lasted two years. During the rebellion, Westgate coordinated with German Captain von Hirsch. Westgate’s wife, Rita, later wrote, “at times we feared the Germans could not suppress the rising.” The Germans succeeded, however, and the Westgate’s fears did not come to pass. In The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, Isabel Hull writes that 15 Europeans and 389 allied African soldiers were killed by the rebels. By contrast, writes Hull, whole areas of the colony were depopulated with 200,000 to 300,000 Tanzanians killed between 1905 and 1907.
Another Ontario native by the name of Marion Wittich (later Marion Keller) felt called to missionary work while working as an Anglican schoolteacher in Parry Sound, Ontario. She set off with her husband to proselytize in Tanzania in 1913. Her husband died in Tanzania and several years later she remarried a man by the name of Otto Keller, a German born US émigré, who the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada sponsored to set up a mission station in western Kenya. In 1914 Otto Keller claimed that “here [Africa] we see the power of the devil in an astonishing form, almost beyond belief. The noise of drunken men and women, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh come to our ears. All seemingly bound and determined to fulfill the cup of their iniquity.” By the time Marion Keller died in 1942, the socially conservative Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada had over 200 branch churches in Kenya.
An official history of the Canadian church attacked the anti-colonial movement in Kenya as “a resurgence of primitive animism.” Published in 1958, What God Hath Wrought: A History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada notes: “Unfortunately, sinister forces were bidding high for the souls of Kenya’s millions. In the 1950s there was to be a resurgence of primitive heathenism which had as its aim the expulsion of the white man from Kenya and the extinction of everything Christian in their land. This was the Mau Mau uprising.” In putting down the uprising the British killed tens of thousands.
In 1893 Torontonians Walter Gowans and Rowland Victor Bingham founded what later became the largest interdenominational Protestant mission on the continent: the Sudan Interior Mission (Though SIM initially focused on modern- day Nigeria, at the time “Sudan” generally referred to the area south of the Sahara and North of the equator from the east to west coast of the continent.) Head of SIM for four decades, Bingham described “facing millions of people in the darkness of their heathenism” and “seeing the people in all their savagery and sin.”
In the 1950s SIM described growing Nigerian nationalism as “dark and threatening”. Adeleye Liagbemi writes that “the nationalist upsurge of the post Second World War era engendered a new spirit of independence and experimentation; positive, forward-looking, purposeful and militant. The situation sent chills down the spines of some Christian missionary organizations in the country — including the S.I.M.” In response SIM ramped up its literature output, deciding to “take the offensive out of Satan’s hands”, which it felt had “been winning the war of words among the new literates” of Africa.
Official Canada generally supported these Christian activists. Missionary leaders were well-regarded and received sympathetic media coverage. Leading business people financed mission work and Ottawa sometimes looked to missionaries for advice.
Most of the Canadians who proselytized in Africa were “good Christians” who saw themselves as helping to “civilize the dark continent”. While formal colonialism is over and paternalism has been tempered, Canadians supportive of international NGOs should reflect on missionary history.
Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
How biased are the US media, really? This is a frequently asked question. The answer is – they are biased very much and they know how to instill the vision of things in a quiet and unobtrusive way. Here is an example to prove the point.
«Defense Secretary Mattis Arrives at Only US Base in Africa» reads the Voice of America’s headline on April 23. «Only US Base in Africa»? It’s hard to believe one’s eyes but that’s what it says. This is a good example of what is called «inaccurate reporting», to put it mildly. Probably, some people will call it outright distortion because anyone who knows the first thing about military matters knows it has nothing to do with reality.
Suffice it to take a cursory look at the US military presence on the continent. Guess who is spending $100 million to build a new drone base in Niger? What about a “cooperative security location” in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, which provides surveillance and intelligence over the entire Sahel?
In recent years, the US Army has rolled out an extensive network of over 60 outposts and access points in at least 34 African countries – more than 60 percent of the nations on the continent. To compare, the US has only 50 diplomatic missions in Africa.
In his 2015 article for TomDispatch.com, Nick Turse, disclosed the existence of an «America’s empire» comprising dozens of US military installations in Africa, besides Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. These numerous cooperative security locations (CSLs), forward operating locations (FOLs) and other outposts have been built by the US in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. The US military also has had access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zambia and other countries.
According to a rough guide of foreign bases in Africa, the US military uses Garoua airport in northern Cameroon as a drone base for operations in northeastern Nigeria. It houses Predator drones and some 300 US soldiers. Predator and Reaper drones are based in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad. In Kenia, the military uses Camp Simba in Manda Bay as a base for naval personnel and Green Berets. It also houses armed drones for operations in Somalia and Yemen. In Niger, the American armed forces use Agadez, capable of handling large transport aircraft and armed Reaper drones. The base covers the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. US special operations forces (SOF) use compounds in Kismayo and Baledogle in Somalia. A drone base is operated on the island of Victoria, the Seychelles. PC-12 surveillance aircraft operate from Entebbe airport, Uganda.
At least 1,700 special operations forces (SOF) are deployed across 33 African nations at any given time supported by planes and drones. In 2006, just 1% of commandos sent overseas were deployed in the US Africa Command area of operations. In 2016, 17.26% of all US SOF – Navy SEALs and Green Berets among them deployed abroad were sent to Africa. They utilize nearly 20 different programs and activities – from training exercises to security cooperation engagements – these included Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, among others.
Drone warfare is a special case as the vehicles are carrying out combat missions in peacetime. The full scope of the US unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) program has long been shrouded from view. Only sketchy details emerge off and on about individual drone strikes. The US African Unified Command (AFRICOM) is known to operate at least nine UAV bases in Africa located in Djibouti, the Seychelles, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.
Housing 4,000 military and civilian personnel, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, is the hub of a network of American drone bases in Africa. It is used for aerial strikes at insurgents in Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, as well as exercising control over the Bab-el-Mandeb strait – a strategic maritime waterway linking the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. In 2014, America signed a new 20-year lease on the base with the Djiboutian government, and committed over $1.4 billion to modernize and expand the facility in the years to come.
Unlike other installations, the Djibouti base is called a permanent facility. Not the only facility on the continent but the only «permanent» base. The US military uses the terms Main Operating Base (MOB), Forward Operating Site (FOS) and Cooperative Security Location (CSL). Camp Lemonnier is a MOB. The difference is the size of the presence and the scale of operations a facility is designed for. The terms used do not change the essence – the US uses a vast array of military installations in Africa and the presence keeps on growing. Temporary and permanent facilities are hard to distinguish – you sign an agreement and operate a facility as long as you need it. It’s just a play of words without any effect on substance. For instance, US forces are reported to be deployed in Europe on «rotational basis» or temporarily under the pretext of participation in exercises. Every army unit has an operational cycle, which inevitably includes various stages in training. From time to time, they leave home bases and rotate, moving from one location to another. All military career paths presuppose rotation. Using this or that term does not change the reality – US forces are constantly stationed near Russia’s borders on whatever «basis» it takes place.
It’s not only the increasing number military facilities in Africa and elsewhere. The Donald Trump administration is considering a military proposal that would designate various undeclared battlefields worldwide to be «temporary areas of active hostility». If approved, the measure would give military commanders the same latitude to launch strikes, raids and campaigns against enemy forces for up to six months that they possess in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. No top level permission will be required anymore. The authority could be pre-delegated to Defense Secretary James Mattis on extremely sensitive operations. It could be pushed down all the way down to the head of the Joint Special Operations Command for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets. If a high-value target is spotted, a force can move into action without wasting time.
How all these activities jibe with the pre-election promise «A Trump administration will never ever put the interest of a foreign country before the interest of our country. From now on, it’s going to be America first» is an open question. Looks like the whole «black continent» has become an area of vital interests for the United States. But reading the media headlines one gets the impression that it’s just «one base» on the huge continent. Not a big thing from point of view of expenditure and the extent of dangerous involvement in faraway conflicts that have no relation whatsoever to the national security, a reader may say. The lesson is – take what the media tell you with a grain of salt, never at face value. It would stand everyone in good stead.
The United States has sent a nuclear submarine to South Korea amid escalating tensions with the neighboring North.
The USS Michigan, which is a guided missile submarine, arrived in the port city of Busan, South Korea, on Tuesday. A US military official described the move as a show of force.
Washington has already sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to the western Pacific Ocean.
The Ohio class submarine will later join the aircraft carrier for exercises in the Sea of Japan.
The movement came after North Korea threatened to sink USS Carl Vinson.
“Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” the ruling Workers’ Party newspaper said in a commentary on Sunday.
The article said Pyongyang had weaponry that “can reach continental US and Asia Pacific region.”
A statement from US Naval Forces Korea described the submarine’s visit as “routine deployment.”
“US Navy ships and submarines routinely make port calls in a variety of locations,” Lieutenant commander Matt Knight with US Pacific Fleet told Fox News.
“As a matter of routine, we do not discuss future operations or the details regarding the operations of our submarines. USS Michigan is currently on a routine deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”
‘Senate to go to White House for North Korea briefing’
Meanwhile, the White House has invited the entire US Senate on Wednesday for a briefing on the mounting tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
The briefing will be delivered by several top officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Monday.
‘UN must impose new sanctions on N Korea’
President Donald Trump has said the United Nations Security Council must impose new sanctions on North Korea.
“The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable and the council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” Trump said on Monday ahead of a lunch with ambassadors from countries on the Security Council.
“This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem and it’s a problem that we have to finally solve,” he added.
North Korea has so far conducted five confirmed nuclear tests and numerous missile test-launches. While it has not fired missiles against other countries, it has vowed strong action — including missile attacks against South Korea — if it is invaded by the South and the US.
The US earlier threatened to strike North Korea if it tried to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile. And, Pyongyang warned the US of an “all-out war” and announced that it would continue to test missiles on a weekly basis.
Will we survive the next 90 days?
There remains one good thing to say about Donald Trump: he is not Hillary. The boneheaded cruise missile attack in Syria would have occurred even earlier under President Rodham Clinton and there would undoubtedly be no-fly and safe zones already in place. Oh, and Ukraine and Georgia would be negotiating their entries into NATO to make sure that old Vlad Putin would be put on notice and understand that the days of namby-pamby jaw-jaw-jaw that characterized the Obama Administration are now ancient history.
Apart from that, I can only observe dumbstruck how yet again a candidate promising peace and dialogue could be flipped so quickly. Or maybe he never believed in anything he said, which is perhaps more to the point. Be that as it may, we now, after only ninety days in office, have a neo-neocon foreign policy and the folks clustered around their water coolers in the Washington think tanks are again smiling. And as the ruinous Syrian civil war continues thanks to American intervention, there are probably plenty of high fives within Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu government. Bibi again rules the roost.
The Israelis are no doubt particularly delighted to hear Donald Trump’s latest factually exempt voyage into the outer reaches of the galaxy regarding Iran. Or perhaps The Donald is only having continuing digestive problems dealing with “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” when dining with mortified Chinese leader Xi Jinping while simultaneously launching cruise missiles intended to send a message to Beijing’s ally Russia. It is inevitably Iran’s turn for vilification, so Trump, while conceding that the Iranians have been compliant with the nuclear weapons agreement they signed, also felt compelled to add that they continue to be a threat and have not entered into the “spirit” of the pact. Apparently the spirit codicil was somehow left out of the final draft, an interpretation that will no doubt surprise the other signatories consisting of Russia, China and the European Union.
To make its point that Tehran is somehow a cheater, the White House has ordered a 90 day review of Iran policy which will empower hardliners in that country in upcoming elections as well as nut cases like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham on this side of the Atlantic. Iranian opposition groups like the terrorist Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK) are already rising to the challenge by floating phony intelligence while Graham is currently advocating a preemptive attack on North Korea, conceding that it would be catastrophic for every country in the region while noting smugly that the carnage and destruction would not reach the United States. Too bad that Pyongyang’s fury cannot be directed straight to Graham’s house in South Carolina.
Graham is reportedly a good dancer and multitasker who can pivot back to Iran effortlessly as soon as Pyongyang is reduced to rubble, so those who want to deal with Iran sooner rather than later should not despair. As things continue to go south nearly everywhere, tension in the Middle East will no doubt lead to a rapidly deteriorating situation in the Persian Gulf that will require yet another ham-handed show of strength by the United States of Amnesia. There will be a war against Iran.
There have been a couple of other interesting stories circulating recently, all demonstrating that when Benjamin Franklin observed that we Americans had created a republic, “if we can keep it,” he was being particularly prescient. Robert Parry has observed that all the fuss about Russiagate is misleading as the only country that interferes with the political process in the U.S. persistently and successfully while also doing terrible damage to our national security is Israel. He wonders when we will have Congress convening investigative commissions to look into Israel-gate but then answers his own question by observing that it will never happen given who controls what in the United States. “No one dares suggest a probe of Israel-gate,” he concludes, but it is interesting and also encouraging to note that some Americans are actually starting to figure things out.
One of the curious things relating to the Russiagate scandal is the issue of who in the U.S. intelligence community leaked highly classified information to the media, a question which somehow seems to have disappeared from whatever final reckoning might be forthcoming. The issue is particularly relevant at the moment because there are reports that the Justice Department is pulling together a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as part of a possible attempt to remove him forcibly from his refuge in Britain and try him for constituting what CIA Director Mike Pompeo describes as a “hostile intelligence service helped by Russia.” It all suggests that low hanging fruit is fair game while some “official” leakers at high levels are somehow being protected.
To cite another example of Justice Department hypocrisy, three current and four former U.S. officials leaked to Reuters last week’s story about a Russian think tank having created a plan to subvert the U.S. election. If that is so, their identities might be discernible or surmised. Why aren’t they in jail? Or is it that many in government now believe that Russia is fair game and are prepared to look the other way?
It is significant that the recent House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russiagate, featuring FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, provided very little new information even as it confirmed troubling revelations that had already surfaced regarding the corruption of the nation’s security services. Given that former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) head John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) chief James Clapper have been most frequently cited as the Obama administration’s possible bag men in arranging for the generation, collection, dissemination, and leaking of information disparaging to Trump, why weren’t they also being questioned?
The latest focus on Brennan, an Obama/Clinton loyalist who might safely be regarded as the most likely candidate seeking to discredit Team Trump and reap the benefits from Hillary, explores some suspicions about what actually took place last year and how it might have been arranged. The story broke in The Guardian on April 13th, headlined “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia.” The article rehashes much old information, but, relying on a “source close to UK intelligence,” it describes how Britain’s NSA equivalent GCHQ obtained information late in 2015 relating to suspect “interactions” between Trump associates and the Russian intelligence. GCHQ reportedly routinely passed the information on to its U.S. liaison counterparts, and continued to do so over the next six months. The information was supplemented by similar reporting from a number of European intelligence services as well as the remaining “Five Eyes”: Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
According to the Guardian source and reporters, who are clearly hostile to Trump, the collection was not directed or targeted but was rather part of random interception of Russian communications. This may or may not be true but it serves as a useful cover story if someone was up to something naughty. And it also makes one wonder about the highly incriminating British intelligence sourced “dossier” on Trump and his associates, which The Guardian strangely does not mention, that appeared in January. Another apparent Guardian source called GCHQ the “principal whistleblower” in sharing the information that led to the opening of an FBI investigation in July 2016, a suggestion that the British role was not exactly passive.
The article goes on to describe how John Brennan, then CIA Chief, was personally the recipient of the material passed hand-to-hand at “director level” because of its sensitivity. So the Guardian article is essentially saying that the information was both routine and extremely sensitive, which would seem to be contradictory. Brennan was reportedly then the driving force behind launching a “major inter-agency investigation” and he briefed selected members of Congress regarding what he had obtained. Shortly thereafter leaks began appearing in the British press followed subsequently by revelations in the media in the U.S.
An October request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court reportedly was initiated after particularly damaging information was received from Estonia concerning Trump associate Carter Page and also regarding allegations that a Russian bank was funneling money into the Trump campaign. This led to an investigation of Page and the tapping into servers in Trump Tower, where the presidential campaign offices were located. Estonia, it should be noted, was particularly concerned about Trump comments on de-emphasizing NATO and strongly supported a Hillary victory so it is fair to speculate that the intelligence provided might have been cherry picked to make a particular case, but The Guardian fails to make that obvious point.
It is interesting to note how for the first time, in this media account, Brennan surfaces as the central player in the investigation of Team Trump. And it is perhaps not out of line to suggest that the European reporting of information on Trump associates was not exactly due to random collection of information, as The Guardian seeks to demonstrate. It could just as easily have been arranged at the “director level” by Brennan and his counterparts to disrupt the Trump campaign and enhance the electability of Hillary Clinton, which would have directly benefited Brennan and his inner circle as well as the Europeans, all of whom feared a Trump victory. Intelligence can be skewed, “fixed around a policy” or even fabricated and can say whatever one wants it to say so it is fair to suggest that the role of a politically committed John Brennan remains to be explored much more fully.
It is now being reported that Brennan will be summoned to give testimony at a closed House Intelligence Committee meeting on May 2nd. Hopefully his comments will be somehow leaked to the media plus those of James Clapper, who is also scheduled to appear. Nevertheless, one imagines that, as was the case in Comey’s first appearance, both former officials will spend most of their time refusing to confirm or deny anything.
The active participation of Brennan in the background to the 2016 electoral campaign is unprecedented and it is also suggestive of what America’s national security agencies have become, basically creatures of the White House. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Benjamin Franklin would undoubtedly deplore the fact that we have failed to keep the republic that the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us. That would be bad enough, but we are slipping into a pattern of foreign wars based on tissues of lies and deceptions by the very people who are in place to protect us, quite possibly exemplified by unscrupulous and ambitious ladder climbers like John Brennan, who was also the architect of Obama’s assassination policy. If we go to war because of suspected lack of “spirit” in our adversaries or merely because someone in the White House had a piece of chocolate cake and wanted something to talk about over his cup of espresso then we are doomed as a nation.
British Prime Minister Theresa May will use nuclear weapons “as a first strike” against UK’s enemies, even if the country is not directly attacked, says Defense Secretary Michael Fallon.
“In the most extreme circumstances we have made it very clear that you can’t rule out the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike,” Fallon told state-funded BBC on Monday.
Asked what the circumstances would be, the British Defense chief said, “They are better not specified or described, which would only give comfort to our enemies and make the deterrent less credible.”
He further argued that “The whole point about the deterrent is that you have got to leave uncertainty in the mind of anyone who might be thinking of using weapons against this country.”
Later in the day, Fallon’s spokesman asserted that there was “no reason to disagree with what the defense secretary said.”
Last year, a vote in the House of Commons saw MPs vote for Trident’s renewal, which would cost billions of pounds.
Activists oppose the renewal of Trident, describing it as a violation of international commitments, unsafe and ill-suited for contemporary warfare.