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Harvard Study Shows Unprecedented Anti-Trump Media Bias — Except For When He Bombed Syria

By Chris Menahan – InformationLiberation – May 19, 2017

A new Harvard study published on Thursday found unprecedented levels of anti-Trump bias from the major media in Trump’s first 100 days in office, with NBC, CBS and CNN generating over 91 percent negative coverage.

The Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analysed news reports from the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, as well as “the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets (The UK’s Financial Times and BBC, and Germany’s ARD).”

Here’s what they found:

– President Trump dominated media coverage in the outlets and programs analyzed, with Trump being the topic of 41 percent of all news stories—three times the amount of coverage received by previous presidents. He was also the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds of his coverage.

– Republican voices accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency, compared to only 6 percent for Democrats and 3 percent for those involved in anti-Trump protests.

– European reporters were more likely than American journalists to directly question Trump’s fitness for office.

– Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.

– Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall, however, there was variation in the tone of Fox’s coverage depending on the topic.

Charts:

Note, the one week he got the most positive coverage was week 12 when he attacked Syria and started ditching all his campaign promises and acting like he was being blackmailed. Since going rogue again and firing Comey the coverage has no doubt gotten worse than ever.

The tone of coverage was overwhelmingly positive for his Tomahawk missile strike on Syria:

Fox News is not much better than other networks on a lot of issues and as we know they’ve recently shifted even further to the left.

This is death by a thousand paper cuts and on top of it all the deep state is sabotaging Trump’s every move.

If you really look at these polls, it’s clear the only way he could get positive news coverage is if he came out for open borders and amnesty, then launched a full-scale ground invasion of Syria and started a war with Russia.

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Fast and Furious: Now They’re Really Gunning for Trump

The Polemicist | May 17, 2017

Here’s what I saw unfold in the media during the 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday afternoon (May 15-16).

On Monday, I saw blaring headlines throughout the day on Twitter about how Donald Trump had betrayed some “highly-classified” intelligence secrets to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during their meeting last week. I was busy and paid little attention to this news, but I figured Trump must have committed one of his hallmark impetuous faux-pas involving some massive security breach, given the hysterical tone of the coverage.

I awoke Tuesday to read the stories in the New York Times (NYT), and the Washington Post (WaPo), sourced to anonymous “current and former government officials,” recounting that Trump had told the Russians a big secret—the NYT did not specify what, but WaPo identified it as an “Islamic State terrorist threat related to the use of laptop computers on aircraft.” As both papers acknowledge—though WaPo makes the irrelevant point that it would be illegal “for almost anyone in government”—Trump, as president, did nothing illegal in telling the Russians this, and, according to the NYT’s own sources, and to National Security advisor Lt. Gen. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—the only people cited who were actually in the room—Trump “discussed the contents of the intelligence, but not the sources and methods used to collect it.”

Per McMaster: “The president and the foreign minister reviewed common threats from terrorist organizations to include threats to aviation. At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.” Neither of the articles, and no one cited in them, disputed this. Per WaPo: “He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances.”

So far, I was seeing nothing to break a sweat over. Is there some problem with notifying Russia—or anyone else, for that matter—of an Islamic State threat to blow up civilian aircraft with laptop bombs? Is the idea that we’re supposed to sit back and let it happen? What sane person wouldn’t be glad this warning was given to Russia, and wouldn’t want Russia to give it to us if the circumstances were reversed? Is this not a routine exchange of threat information in a closed principals’ meeting?

Besides, was there really any great secret here? I had seen a number of reports in the last few weeks that the government was “likely to expand [the] airline laptop ban” and that “U.S. Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies believe ISIS” can now “effectively conceal explosives in laptops and other electronic devices.” I’m going to take a wild guess and conjecture that, if ISIS were planning something with laptops on airplanes, the group would have read the same reports and figured out that someone was on to them. So that cat was out of the bag before Trump said anything to Lavrov. And it was not Trump, but the media, who revealed knowledge of this plot publicly, before and after the Lavrov meeting!

No, the big “alarming” deal here wasn’t that Trump revealed the ISIS plot, but that knowledge of it was based on information provided by “a Middle Eastern ally that closely guards its own secrets,” and was shared “without the express permission of the ally who provided it.” Trump committed a “breach of espionage etiquette.”

There was no accusation that Trump said who that ally was, or even that “the intelligence came from a Middle Eastern ally or precisely how it was gathered.” So the only way, this Tuesday morning, we and the Russians knew that some “ally” was involved was because, not Donald Trump, but some anonymous “officials,” through the NYT and WaPo, revealed it to the whole wide world.

Only in the more “granular” detail in the coverage could I find the sinful “breach of etiquette” that Trump supposedly committed, the one and only specific thing Trump was accused of revealing that he shouldn’t have: “the city in Syria where the ally picked up the information about the plot.” Supposedly, by naming the city, Trump gave Russia an “important clue about the source of the information,” and raised “the fear” that, with the name of that city, Russia “could disrupt the ally’s espionage efforts” against ISIS. [my italics]

Another bunch of woulds, coulds, and fears that.  After reading this, even I was flabbergasted at how thin this gruel was—and how desperately the media and politicians were trying to make a meal out of it.  Republican Bob Corker was quoted about how “compromise[ing] a source is something you just don’t do,” and Democrat Mark Warner about how “inexcusable” it is to “risk sources and methods,” despite the fact that the reports themselves indicate Trump did neither of those things. If it was so terrible for Trump to name a city in Syria to the Russian Foreign Minister in a private meeting, how terrible was it for the media to publicly inform ISIS that they might be harboring a spy in a Syrian city?

In other words, this coverage is another stream of insinuations about what Trump kinda, sorta, but actually didn’t—but the articles themselves did—do.

As Marcy Wheeler aptly put it:
So multiple people learned of this event, and went out and leaked it (which is illegal to do for most anyone besides the President, the WaPo helpfully notes), not just with the WaPo’s two reporters, but with reporters from Buzzfeed, NYT, WSJ, and more. They leaked it to reporters who they presumably knew would then report it, alerting the frustrated ally that Trump had shared the information, which is a blow to that relationship, and also alerting the frustrated ally that they then proceeded to go leak it more. And it’s all based on the blithe assumption that Trump telling Russia about dangers to civilian aircraft is worse than the American media itself informing ISIS about a spy in their midst.

It seemed obvious to me that its main purpose or these stories was to continue fomenting antagonism with Russia, and to perpetuate the notion, taken up enthusiastically and disturbingly by liberals, that the main problem with the omni-incompetent Donald Trump is that he is too friendly with Russia.

Combined with the other fear-mongering article about the North Korean missile test featured on the NYT, I thought media project for the day was to keep the war drums beating, and I was prompted to begin writing something about that.

Then I noticed (thanks to a tweet by Max Blunenthal) that Alan Dershowitz had called the Trump-betrayed-ally’s-secrets-to-Russia story “the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president.” It had been evident to me, in reading the coverage, that there was only one “Middle Eastern ally” (or ally of any region) which has the chutzpah to “warn” the United States “it would cut off access to…sensitive information”—while itself stealing, with impunity, America’s most closely-guarded secrets. As Newsweek reported in 2014: “Israel has been caught carrying out aggressive espionage operations against American targets for decades… They just don’t get arrested very often.” (Also see herehere, and here). There is only one ally about whose “compromise” Republicans and Democrats would be so unanimously concerned, and certainly only one who would have prompted the ridiculous charge by Dershowitz.  And within an hour, the NYT confirmed, again via a “current and former American official,” that Israel was the ally in question, the source of the “secret intelligence.”

So now we have the American media explicitly revealing to Russia, ISIS, and the world, the supposedly key piece of information that Trump was being excoriated for even implying.

Now perhaps these “current and former American officials” who are leaking all this ultra-sensitive classified intelligence information are entirely neutral about, or even unsympathetic to, Israel; and perhaps they and the media outlets publicizing their leaks—a few hours after insisting that identifying the secret ally would harm it—put Israel’s name out because they are committed to letting the public know the truth, no matter whom it hurts. Or perhaps these officials and these media outlets are in fact supportive of Israel, and would only publicize information they know that Israel wants revealed (or at least has no objection to revealing). Everyone will have to decide, based on his/her understanding of American-Israeli political and media relations, which of those scenarios is more likely.

I think the latter. I also notice that, in the last week or so, there have been reports in the American and Israeli press that Netanyahu’s “honeymoon with Trump” has “ended abruptly,” that there have been “harsh exchanges” with Trump administration officials who told members of Netanyahu’s team, to their “utter shock,” that the Western Wall was “not your territory but rather part of the West Bank,” and that Netanyahu is now “wary” and increasingly mistrustful of Trump.

Now, to be clear: I do not think that Israel or Zionism has anything to fear from Donald Trump. I never thought that he was going to transform American foreign policy, to make it less interventionist or more focused on the concerns of Americans. But I also think Trump is an inconsistent and impetuous actor, capable of wild swings in policy that are perceived as dangerous even by those powerful interests who think they can keep him under control. I think that is becoming more obvious, and of greater concern to a larger swath of important players.

I suspect this betrayal-of-an-ally-to-Russia story, and the frantic news cycle it has generated, means that Israel is showing its concern. And that is bad news for Donald Trump. Israel is a very powerful player, with its hooks embedded throughout the Deep State apparatus. The frantic news cycle that followed—with another blaring headline a few hours later about how Trump asked Comey to stop the Flynn investigation,  a spate of articles about how Trump is a criminal president who might have obstructed justice and betrayed his oath, and an announcement that the impeachment clock is running—means that big guns are blazing, and Trump is now in another realm of trouble.

Three days ago, I endorsed the point, made by Musa Al-Gharbi and others, that it would be virtually impossible for Trump to be impeached. I found Robert Parry’s scenario of a “soft coup” by sectors of the intelligence apparatus very unlikely. Given the make-up of Congress, it would only happen if the Republicans turned against him en masse, and they would only do that if his inconsistency and incompetence were seriously undermining their agenda (as those faults well might). But, since their legislative agenda is going to be so unpopular, they must be able to portray any impeachment as a bi-partisan project of national urgency.

Russiagate has been cultivated by the Democrats and their confected #Resistance to provide a rationale for Republicans to install a more stable and predictable Republican president who will color within the established partisan lines, and with whom the Democrats can more effectively plan wars and Grand-Bargain away Social Security and Medicare. But Russiagate has not yet gained enough traction with Republican congresscritters, who would face a revolt of their Trump voters against any acquiescence to an impeachment driven by Nancy Pelosi, vagina-hatted protestors, and Steven Colbert. If, however, impeachment becomes driven by concern for our betrayed Middle Eastern ally; if Dershowitz is right that “The demographics are clear. Republicans now support Israel much more strongly than Democrats”; and if Mike Pence, Ted Cruz, and the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus take the outstretched hands of concerned constitution- and FBI-loving liberals, then the prospects improve dramatically. (Though you know this to be true, don’t forget: It’s Russia that interferes too much in American politics.)

The Democratic Party and the #Resistance are not going to impeach Donald Trump. The Democratic and Republican Parties can and will if they want to. And, as they never cease proclaiming, what Israel wants, they want.

Fast and furiously, in the course of a single news cycle, the game has changed: Donald Trump has been accused of betraying Israel. Impeachment is possible.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 4 Comments

Are They Really Out to Get Trump?

Sometimes paranoia is justified

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • May 16, 2017

President Donald Trump is not exactly known for his self-restraint. The recent firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey was not handled with any delicacy and has unleashed a firestorm of criticism coming from across the political spectrum. And since Comey’s abrupt dismissal the backstabbing has become even worse, with many coming around to the view that Trump is actually crudely threatening Comey over the issue of what might or might not have been said at dinners and meetings between the two men.

What exactly drove the firing at this time remains somewhat of a mystery though the media has been quick to link it directly to Trump’s reported anger at the seemingly endless investigation into his Administration’s possible ties to Russia, an investigation that nominally Comey headed as FBI Director. But that explanation somehow makes no sense as even a white-hot Trump would have realized that getting rid of Comey would only make the Russiagate problem worse as everyone would assume cover-up and would come after the White House with even greater intensity, which is precisely what has happened. Was Trump dumb enough to dig himself into a deeper hole? Possibly, but it seems unlikely.

What is real, however, is that constant innuendo means that anti-Russian hysteria has been mounting, including completely speculative pieces wondering whether the entourage of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had sought to sneak a recording device into the White House during last week’s visit.

And what if there really is a conspiracy against Donald Trump being orchestrated within the various national security agencies that are part of the United States government? The president has been complaining for months about damaging leaks emanating from the intelligence community and the failure of Congress to pay any attention to the illegal dissemination of classified information. It is quite possible that Trump has become aware that there is actually something going on and that something just might be a conspiracy to delegitimize and somehow remove him from office.

President Trump has also been insisting that the “Russian thing” is a made-up story, a view that I happen to agree with. I recently produced my own analysis of the possibility that there is in progress a soft, or stealth or silent coup, call it what you will, underway directed against the president and that, if it exists, it is being directed by former senior officials from the Obama White House. Indeed, it is quite plausible to suggest that it was orchestrated within the Obama White House itself before the government changed hands at the inauguration on January 20th. In line with that thinking, some observers are now suggesting that Comey might well have been party to the conspiracy and his dismissal would have been perfectly justified based on his demonstrated interference in both the electoral process and in his broadening of the acceptable role of his own Bureau, which Trump has described as “showboating.”

Two well-informed observers of the situation have recently joined in the discussion, Robert Parry of Consortiumn News and former CIA senior analyst Ray McGovern of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. McGovern has noted, as have I, that there is one individual who has been curiously absent from the list of former officials who have been called in to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. That is ex-CIA Director John Brennan, who many have long considered an extreme Obama/Hillary Clinton loyalist long rumored to be at the center of the information damaging to Team Trump sent to Washington by friendly intelligence services, including the British.

Ray suggests that Brennan and also Comey may been at the center of a “Deep State” combined CIA-NSA-FBI cabal working to discredit the Trump candidacy and delegitimize his presidency. Brennan in particular was uniquely well placed to fabricate the Russian hacker narrative that has been fully embraced by Congress and the media even though no actual evidence supporting that claim has yet been produced. As WikiLeaks has now revealed that the CIA had the technical ability to hack into sites surreptitiously while leaving behind footprints that would attribute the hack to someone else, including the Russians, it does not take much imagination to consider that the alleged trail to Moscow might have been fabricated. If that is so, this false intelligence has in turn proven to be of immense value to those seeking to present “proof” that the Russian government handed the presidency to Donald Trump.

Robert Parry asked in an article on May 10th whether we are seeing is “Watergate redux or ‘Deep State’ coup?” and then followed up with a second Piece “The ‘Soft Coup’ of Russia-gate” on the 13th. In other words, is this all a cover-up of wrongdoing by the White House akin to President Richard Nixon’s firing of Watergate independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox and the resignations of both the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General or is it something quite different, an undermining of an elected president who has not actually committed any “high crimes and misdemeanors” to force his removal from office. Like Parry, I am reluctant to embrace conspiracy theories, in my case largely because I believe a conspiracy is awfully hard to sustain. The federal government leaks like a sieve and if more than two conspirators ever meet in the CIA basement it would seem to me their discussion would become public knowledge within forty-eight hours, but perhaps what we are seeing here is less a formal arrangement than a group of individuals who are loosely connected while driven by a common objective.

Parry sees the three key players in the scheme as John Brennan of CIA, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and James Comey of the FBI. Comey’s role in the “coup” was key as it consisted of using his office to undercut both Hillary Clinton and Trump, neither of whom was seen as a truly suitable candidate by the Deep State. He speculates that a broken election might well have resulted in a vote in the House of Representatives to elect the new president, a process that might have produced a Colin Powell presidency as Powell actually received three votes in the Electoral College and therefore was an acceptable candidate under the rules governing the electoral process.

Yes, the scheme is bizarre, but Parry carefully documents how Russiagate has developed and how the national security and intelligence organs have been key players as it moved along, often working by leaking classified information. And President Barack Obama was likely the initiator, notably so when he de facto authorized the wide distribution of raw intelligence on Trump and the Russians through executive order. Parry notes, as would I, that to date no actual evidence has been presented to support allegations that Russia sought to influence the U.S. election and/or that Trump associates were somehow coopted by Moscow’s intelligence services as part of the process. Nevertheless, anyone even vaguely connected with Trump who also had contact with Russia or Russians has been regarded as a potential traitor. Carter Page, for example, who was investigated under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant, was under suspicion because he made a speech in Moscow which was mildly critical of the west’s interaction with Russia after the fall of communism.

Parry’s point is that there is a growing Washington consensus that consists of traditional liberals and progressives as well as Democratic globalist interventionists and neoconservatives who believe that Donald Trump must be removed from office no matter what it takes. The interventionists and neocons in particular already control most of the foreign policy mechanisms but they continue to see Trump as a possible impediment to their plans for aggressive action against a host of enemies, most particularly Russia. As they are desirous of bringing down Trump “legally” through either impeachment or Article 25 of the Constitution which permits removal for incapacity, it might be termed a constitutional coup, though the other labels cited above also fit.

The rationale Trump haters have fabricated is simple: the president and his team colluded with the Russians to rig the 2016 election in his favor, which, if true, would provide grounds for impeachment. The driving force, in terms of the argument being made, is that removing Trump must be done “for the good of the country” and to “correct a mistake made by the American voters.” The mainstream media is completely on board of the process, including the outlets that flatter themselves by describing their national stature, most notably the New York Times and Washington Post.

So what is to be done? For starters, until Donald Trump has unambiguously broken a law the critics should take a valium and relax. He is an elected president and his predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama certainly did plenty of things that in retrospect do not bear much scrutiny. Folks like Ray McGovern and Robert Parry should be listened to even when they are being provocative in their views. They are not, to be sure, friends of the White House in any conventional way and are not apologists for those in power, quite the contrary. Ray has been strongly critical of the current foreign policy, most particularly of the expansion of various wars, claims of Damascus’s use of chemical weapons, and the cruise missile attack on Syria. Robert in his latest article describes Trump as narcissistic and politically incompetent. But their legitimate concerns are that we are moving in a direction that is far more dangerous than Trump. A soft coup engineered by the national security and intelligence agencies would be far more dangerous to our democracy than anything Donald Trump can do.

May 16, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Trump says he’d be ‘honored’ to meet Kim Jong-un

RT | May 1, 2017

President Donald Trump has said he “would be honored” to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances.

“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump told Bloomberg News Monday. “If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”

“Most political people would never say that,” Trump said. “But I’m telling you under the right circumstances I would meet with him.”

“We have breaking news,” he added, likely referring to the news coverage his comments would garner.

Trump’s surprising statements could spark rumors of a new “bromance” between the president and another world leader. The comments come only a day after Trump also described Jong-un as “a smart cookie,” on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday.

North Korea is seen as one of the US’s geopolitical adversaries. Tensions between the two nations have increased recently, following Trump’s vow to stop North Korea from developing a nuclear weapon and Pyongyang’s recent missile tests.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the United Nations on Friday that the US would only negotiate with Pyongyang if it took steps towards giving up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and urged nations to cut diplomatic and financial ties.

Tillerson also told NPR that the US was open to holding direct negotiations should North Korea have the right agenda.

North Korea’s missile test on Friday came hours after Tillerson’s statements at the UN.

The US Congress plans to debate new sanctions against Pyongyang this week, targeting its shipping industry.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer addressed the comments at a press briefing Monday, highlighting Trump’s statement that it would be “under the right circumstances.”

“There’s a lot of conditions that I think would have to happen with respect to its behavior, and to show signs of good faith,” Spicer said. “Clearly the conditions are not there right now.”

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

South Korea Rules Out Renegotiation of THAAD Cost – Defense Ministry

Sputnik – May 1, 2017

On Friday, US President Donald Trump said in an interview with the Washington Times that South Korea should pay for the defense system, which costs $1 billion. Representatives of the South Korean Foreign Ministry said that Seoul has not received US demands to pay the costs of the THAAD despite Trump’s statements.

“I don’t think it’s an issue for renegotiation,” the spokesman said, as cited by the Yonhap news agency.

On Sunday, US National Security Adviser Herbert Raymond McMaster reaffirmed that Washington, and not Seoul, should pay for the deployment.

The agreement on deploying the THAAD system was reached between the United States and South Korea in July 2016, and the first components of the system started to arrive in the country in early March. The agreement implies that Seoul provides land for the system while Washington pays for its installation and maintenance.

According to media reports, citing the South Korean Ministry of Defense, Seoul is expecting to fully station the system as early as June 2017.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

After Syria and ‘mother of all bombs’, Trump fakes again

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 19, 2017

A quarter of the way through TV programmes in the weekend on two leading Malayalam channels, it dawned on me that some woolly-headed local “strategic thinker” must have been spreading a yarn that World War III is in the offing because US President Donald Trump has abandoned his campaign pledges and has embraced the classic US imperialistic policies – and that the missile attack in Syria, the use of the ‘mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan and the war clouds over North Korea were all symptomatic of the Armageddon.

Of course, I tried to reason by detailing empirical evidence that much of what is happening is due largely to the confusion prevailing in Washington under a president who is hopelessly besieged, and that things are in reality far from what meets the eye.

So, today, I laughed uncontrollably when the American press reports started appearing that, after all, Trump’s show of force in the Far East was a contrived playact. The formidable American armada, the Carl Vinson carrier strike force, apparently never really headed for North Korea! It was a charade!

I had suspected all along that some back-room deal between the US and China was going on and that the pantomime was complex and, perhaps, beyond belief. The first cloud of suspicion arose when the Chinese commentaries began hinting vaguely that if both Pyongyang and Washington showed restraint, it was not coincidental but there would have been a mutual awareness that neither side would push the envelope. Of course, Chinese commentators will never acknowledge whether Beijing acted as a guarantor of sorts to Pyongyang that Trump has no intentions to attack North Korea or decapitate the Kim Jong-un regime.

The Chinese and I are on the same page here, perhaps, being votaries of dialectical materialism. I too believe that the US economy is hardly in a position to start an imperial war anywhere on the planet, and that Trump knows this better than anyone in America. Which only, after all, explains his consistent campaign pledge that much as he’d build up the US military as by far the most powerful war machine that man ever knew and would restore American prestige and influence worldwide, he will not be an interventionist and will use American power most sparingly, only if US interests are threatened – and, most important, that the core of his foreign-policy doctrine is “America First”, as distinct from his predecessor Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton’s.

Now, let me reproduce the extracts from a Chinese commentary that appeared today in the Communist Party daily Global Times :

  • Most observers say that the Korean Peninsula is approaching the most volatile point, but the possibility of a war remains slim. There are signs that the US President Donald Trump would resort to a tougher Pyongyang policy than his predecessor… However, it will not act rashly… Trump will not forget the promise he made during the presidential campaign. Though he vigorously believes American foreign policy comes from its military might, to “make America great again” can in no way rely entirely on military prowess. In the near future, the Trump administration will attach more importance to the economy, employment and immigration than to diplomacy… The new administration has made it clear that instead of seeking a regime change, it will put “maximum pressure” upon Pyongyang and calls for engagement with the North Korea regime, if and when it changes its behavior.
  • US national interests and domestic politics, especially American citizens’ political appeal, have determined that Trump must give top priority to domestic affairs… It demonstrates the pragmatic and flexible side of the new government. If the US truly implements the new policy, the global community will see the world’s most powerful country spending more time and energy in dealing with domestic affairs. The future circumstances surrounding Pyongyang will likely enter a new phase.

Now, does it mean China will lower its guard? No way. Make no mistake, China won’t take chances with the unstable political environment in which Trump operates. Thus, explicit warnings have also been held out to the US that any attack on North Korea will inevitably trigger Chinese military intervention. This is what an editorial in Global Times warned on Tuesday:

  • Chinese people will not allow their government to remain passive when the armies of the US and South Korea start a war and try to take down the Pyongyang regime. The Chinese will not let something like that happen, especially on the same land where the Chinese Volunteer Army once fought in the early 1950s. It is a land covered with the blood of Chinese soldiers who bravely fought in the early 1950s. Furthermore, if Pyongyang were to be taken by the allied armies of the US and South Korea, it would dramatically change the geopolitical situation in the Korean Peninsula.

Interestingly, government-owned China Daily reported today that President Xi Jinping in his capacity as the chairman of the Central Military Commission has stressed to the PLA commanders the imperative of being “combat ready”. (China Daily )

So, what lies ahead? My prognosis: Beijing is actively promoting direct talks between the US and North Korea without any pre-conditions, which can be expected in a near future. Would Trump get around to realising his wish to have a McDonald cheeseburger with Kim some day, as he once said? Welcome to the Trump era in world politics.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

What Russia-gate Has Wrought

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 16, 2017

Democrats, liberals and some progressives might be feeling a little perplexed over what has happened to Russia-gate, the story that pounded Donald Trump every day since his election last November – until April 4, that is.

On April 4, Trump fully capitulated to the neoconservative bash-Russia narrative amid dubious claims about a chemical attack in Syria. On April 6, Trump fired off 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase; he also restored the neocon demand for “regime change” in Syria; and he alleged that Russia was possibly complicit in the supposed chemical attack.

Since Trump took those actions – in accordance with the neocon desires for more “regime change” in the Middle East and a costly New Cold War with Russia – Russia-gate has almost vanished from the news.

I did find a little story in the lower right-hand corner of page A12 of Saturday’s New York Times about a still-eager Democratic congressman, Mike Quigley of Illinois, who spent a couple of days in Cyprus which attracted his interest because it is a known site for Russian money-laundering, but he seemed to leave more baffled than when he arrived.

“The more I learn, the more complex, layered and textured I see the Russia issue is – and that reinforces the need for professional full-time investigators,” Quigley said, suggesting that the investigation’s failure to strike oil is not that the holes are dry but that he needs better drill bits.

Yet, given all the hype and hullabaloo over Russia-gate, the folks who were led to believe that the vague and amorphous allegations were “bigger than Watergate” might now be feeling a little used. It appears they may have been sucked into a conspiracy frenzy in which the Establishment exploited their enthusiasm over the “scandal” in a clever maneuver to bludgeon an out-of-step new President back into line.

If that’s indeed the case, perhaps the most significant success of the Russia-gate ploy was the ouster of Trump’s original National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was seen as a key proponent of a New Détente with Russia, and his replacement by General H.R. McMaster, a protégé of neocon favorite, retired Gen. David Petraeus.

McMaster was viewed as the key player in arranging the April 6 missile strike on Syria and in preparing a questionable “intelligence assessment” on April 11 to justify the rush to judgment. Although McMaster’s four-page white paper has been accepted as gospel by the mainstream U.S. news media, its many weaknesses have been noted by actual experts, such as MIT national security and technology professor Theodore Postol.

How Washington Works

But the way Official Washington works is that Trump was made to look weak when he argued for a more cooperative and peaceful relationship with Russia. Hillary Clinton dubbed him Vladimir Putin’s “puppet” and “Saturday Night Live” portrayed Trump as in thrall to a bare-chested Putin. More significantly, front-page stories every morning and cable news segments every night created the impression of a compromised U.S. President in Putin’s pocket.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Photo – Gage Skidmore)

Conversely, Trump was made to look strong when he fired off missiles against a Syrian airbase and talked tough about Russian guilt. Neocon commentator Charles Krauthammer praised Trump’s shift as demonstrating that “America is back.”

Trump further enhanced his image for toughness when his military dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” on some caves in Afghanistan. While the number of casualties inflicted by the blast was unclear, Trump benefited from the admiring TV and op-ed commentaries about him finally acting “presidential.”

But the real test of political courage is to go against the grain on a policy that may be unpopular in the short term but is in the best interests of the United States and the world community in the longer term.

In that sense, Trump seeking peaceful cooperation with Russia – amid the intense anti-Russian propaganda of the past several years – required actual courage, while launching missiles and dropping bombs might win praise but actually make the U.S. position in the world weaker.

Trump, however, saw his fledgling presidency crumbling under the daily barrage of Russia-gate, even though there was no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election and there wasn’t even clear evidence that Russia was behind the disclosure of Democratic emails, via WikiLeaks, during the campaign.

Still, the combined assault from the Democrats, the neocons and the mainstream media forced Trump to surrender his campaign goal of achieving a more positive relationship with Russia and greater big-power collaboration in the fight against terrorism.

For Trump, the incessant chatter about Russia-gate was like a dripping water torture. The thin-skinned Trump fumed at his staff and twittered messages aimed at changing the narrative, such as accusing President Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower. But nothing worked.

However, once Trump waved the white flag by placing his foreign policy under the preferred banner of the neoconservatives, the Russia-gate pressure stopped. The op-ed pages suddenly were hailing his “decisiveness.” If you were a neocon, you might say about Russia-gate: Mission accomplished!

Russia-gate’s Achievements

Besides whipping Trump into becoming a more compliant politician, Russia-gate could claim some other notable achievements: it spared the national Democrats from having to confront their own failures in Campaign 2016 by diverting responsibility for the calamity of Trump’s election.

Instead of Democratic leaders taking responsibility for picking a dreadful candidate, ignoring the nation’s anti-establishment mood, and failing to offer any kind of inspiring message, the national Democrats could palm off the blame on “Russia! Russia! Russia!”

Thus, rather than looking in the mirror and trying to figure out how to correct their deep-seated problems, the national Democrats could instead focus on a quixotic tilting at Trump’s impeachment.

Many on the Left joined in this fantasy because they have been so long without a Movement that the huge post-inaugural “pussy hat” marches were a temptation that they couldn’t resist. Russia-gate became the fuel to keep the “Movement” bandwagon rolling. #Resistance!

It didn’t matter that the “scandal” – the belief that Russia somehow conspired with Trump to rig the U.S. presidential election – amounted to a bunch of informational dots that didn’t connect.

Russia-gate also taught the American “left” to learn to love McCarthyism since “proof” of guilt pretty much amounted to having had contact with a Russian — and anyone who questioned the dubious factual basis of the “scandal” was dismissed as a “Russian propagandist” or a “Moscow stooge” or a purveyor of “fake news.”

Another Russia-gate winner was the mainstream news media which got a lot of mileage – and loads of new subscription money – by pushing the convoluted conspiracy. The New York Times positioned itself as the great protector of “truth” and The Washington Post adopted a melodramatic new slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

On Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page article touting an anonymous Internet group called PropOrNot that identified some 200 Internet news sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other major sources of independent journalism, as guilty of “Russian propaganda.” Facts weren’t needed; no chance for rebuttal; the accusers even got to hide in the shadows; the smear was the thing.

The Post and the Times also conflated complaints against news outlets that dared to express skepticism toward claims from the U.S. State Department and some entrepreneurial sites that trafficked in intentionally made-up stories or “fake news” to make money.

To the Post and Times, there appeared to be no difference between questioning the official U.S. narrative on, say, the Ukraine crisis and knowingly fabricating pretend news articles to get lots of clicks. Behind the smokescreen of Russia-gate, the mainstream U.S. news media took the position that there was only one side to a story, what Official Washington chose to believe.

While it’s likely that there will be some revival of Russia-gate to avoid the appearance of a completely manufactured scandal, the conspiracy theory’s more significant near-term consequence could be that it has taught Donald Trump a dangerous lesson.

If he finds himself in a tight spot, the way out is to start bombing some “enemy” halfway around the world. The next time, however, the target might not be so willing to turn the other cheek. If, say, Trump launches a preemptive strike against North Korea, the result could be a retaliatory nuclear attack against South Korea or Japan.

Or, if the neocons push ahead with their ultimate “regime change” strategy of staging a “color revolution” in Moscow to overthrow Putin, the outcome might be – not the pliable new leader that the neocons would want – but an unstable Russian nationalist who might see a nuclear attack on the U.S. as the only way to protect the honor of Mother Russia.

For all his faults, Trump did offer a more temperate approach toward U.S.-Russian relations, which also could have tamped down spending for nuclear and other strategic weapons and freed up some of that money for infrastructure and other needs at home. But that was before Russia-gate.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

April 16, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marine Le Pen blasts Donald Trump and his new found love for NATO

By Alex Christforou | The Duran | April 15, 2017

Last week The Duran reported on the many “deplorables” turned off by Trump’s new found fancy for a US interventionist foreign policy.

Last week Trump also backtracked on much of his NATO pre-presidential stance.

He signed off on Montenegro’s membership to the alliance…which now means Serbia is completely surrounded by an aggressive military alliance, that has bombed it mercilessly in the past under false flag pretenses.

Trump also met with NATO head warmonger Stoltenberg, and reversed his NATO position from “obsolete” to, “it is not longer obsolete”.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is not amused with Trump’s swiveling foreign policy.

Le Pen said in an interview with France Info radio on Friday…

“Undeniably he [Trump] is in contradiction with the commitments he had made.”

“I am coherent, I don’t change my mind in a few days. He had said he would not be the policeman of the world, that he would be the president of the United States and would not be the policeman of the world, but it seems today that he has changed his mind.”

“Will he persist, or is it a political coup which facilitates his domestic policy, I have absolutely no idea. But I am coherent in my analyses. When something favors France I say so, when it doesn’t I say so too.” 

And just so there is no confusion as to where Le Pen stands on France’s NATO position should she win the election…

“I consider that France does not have to submit to the calendar of the United States, so I want France to leave the integrated command of NATO.” 

CNN reports

Le Pen, leader of The National Front, went on to say that while she does not know if Trump would continue to abandon his “America First” approach, she herself would stick to a France first approach if elected president.

Trump and Le Pen were seen as allies during the 2016 US presidential campaign. The two shared many nationalist policy stances on immigration and globalization. The French politician had said that Trump’s presidential win “shows that people are taking their future back.”

Le Pen’s criticism comes as other nationalist politicians around the world have taken issue with Trump’s recent policy changes. Trump ally and pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage said he was “very surprised” at Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack against civilians.

Le Pen has been a strong critic of NATO during the French presidential campaign and has included pulling France back from NATO in her campaign platform. The leader of the National Front party, on track to make it through to the run-off election on May 7, has recently seen her momentum slowed.

April 15, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Sean Spicer, Hitler and Jewish Power

Sean Spicer apologizes for “Hitler” remark during interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN
By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | April 14, 2017

It has been reported that after the flap erupted over his offhand reference to Hitler, White House spokesman Sean Spicer made a personal phone call to Sheldon Adelson to apologize.

Adelson is the staunch Zionist and casino billionaire who has provided extensive funding to Republican candidates for office. Back in 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie groveled out an apology to him after using the term “occupied territories” in reference to the West Bank, so it probably should come as no surprise that Spicer felt compelled to apologize as well.

But of course the apology comes at a time when the Trump administration has already prostrated itself to neocon wishes by launching a missile attack against Syria–an act which has heightened tensions with Russia and represents a dramatic departure from Trump’s previous campaign positions. Moreover, Adelson isn’t the only person Spicer has apologized to.

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said in an effort to justify the US missile strike. The remark was made at a press briefing on April 11. Later that day Spicer issued a public apology during an interview with Wolf Blitzer over CNN.

“As you know, six million Jews were killed in the holocaust, many of them with poison gas…” Blitzer prefaced the interview.

Spicer’s replies throughout the seven and a half minute segment (see video here ) were almost cringing.

“Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the holocaust, for which there is no comparison, and for that I apologize. It was a mistake to do that… I was trying to draw a comparison for which there shouldn’t have been one. It was insensitive and inappropriate… I should have stayed focused on the Assad regime and the dangers they have brought to their own people… it was a mistake, I shouldn’t have done it. I won’t do it again… it was inappropriate and insensitive…”

But despite the on-air contrition, Blitzer seemed reluctant to let the matter drop.

“Did you not know, Sean, there were gas chambers where the Nazis brought Jews in…” he demanded.

“Yes, clearly I’m aware of that… it was a mistake to do that…”

“Have you spoken to President Trump about your blunder today?”

“Obviously it was my blunder, as you put it correctly…”

So busy was Spicer apologizing that at one point in the interview he even committed a Freudian slip:

“I came out (to apologize) to make sure that we stay focused on what the president’s doing and his decisive action. I needed to make sure that I clarified, and not in any way shape or form any more of a distraction from the president’s decisive action in Syria and the attempts he’s making to destabilize the region and root ISIS out of Syria.”

Spicer obviously meant to refer to Trump’s attempts to “stabilize” rather than “destabilize” the region, but Blitzer, having witnessed the presidential spokesman supplicate himself, allowed the slip to pass without comment.

In its article on Spicer’s phone call to Adelson, The Forward notes that Spicer’s Hitler analogy was “made on the Jewish holiday of Passover.” The article also comments that the Jewish billionaire has a “special relationship” with Trump and was given “prime seats at Trump’s inauguration after pouring massive amounts of cash into the campaign.”

Despite all the apologies, the Anne Frank Center in New York has called for Spicer to be fired.

“On Passover no less, Sean Spicer has engaged in Holocaust denial, the most offensive form of fake news imaginable, by denying Hitler gassed millions of Jews to death,” said Steven Goldstein, the center’s executive director.

Spicer’s sin was nothing more than expressing himself in a clumsy manner; clearly he had no intentions of casting aspersions or doubt upon the holocaust religion. But such considerations apparently have little bearing. A punishment of some sort must be exacted.

“Spicer’s statement is the most evil slur upon a group of people we have ever heard from a White House press secretary,” Goldstein said. “President Trump must fire him at once.”

Trump has not responded, and in fact seems to be laying low on the controversy surrounding his press secretary. This is likely due to the fact that the president clearly has problems of his own.

In the past week or two his behavior has become strangely erratic. The man who once accused the mainstream media of spreading fake news suddenly latched onto a very suspicious and dubious report about a chemical weapons attack in Syria. On April 6, he ordered a missile attack against a Syrian airbase; at a press conference on April 12 he praised NATO (after having called it “obsolete” during his campaign); and on April 13, the US dropped a “mega bomb” in Afghanistan. Now Trump is engaged in a massive military buildup in the Korean peninsula, and just today the foreign minister of China warned that a war could break out “at any moment.”

All of this represents a startling and dramatic departure from Trump’s campaign promises of wanting better relations with Russia and keeping the US from becoming embroiled in useless wars–and as a result, support for Trump is in fact plummeting sharply among his political base.

One of his most prominent and vocal supporters during his campaign was Ann Coulter. So avid a fan was she that she even published a book entitled In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! But you can listen to the interview below from April 7–one day after the attack on Syria–and hear for yourself how dismayed Coulter now is.

Losing the support of people like Coulter has to be a serious blow for Trump. Why would he risk it? One conclusion we might draw from all this is that it makes no difference who gets elected president–and that the policies and agenda of the deep state will remain in effect regardless. In other words, the president is really nothing but a puppet. But perhaps there’s more to it than that.

If you watch the video of his press conference of this past Wednesday–a joint press conference he gave with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg–clearly Trump is not enjoying himself. Maybe he simply has a personal dislike for Stoltenberg. It would be impossible, however, that he could be unaware of the fact that he is alienating people like Coulter. In any event, his behavior during the press conference is quite strange.

In fact, over the past two weeks or so Trump’s behavior has become so curious–on some levels almost bizarre–it is practically as if he has undergone some sort of demonic possession, although a perhaps a much more “earthly” explanation is the far-greater likelihood. My own guess: that someone has gotten to Trump, set him down, and “laid down the law” to him. That would be Jewish law, of course.

See also:

April 15, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

What is Wrong With Trump’s Attack on Syria?

By David Krieger | CounterPunch | April 13, 2017

Trump may have acted with insufficient evidence as to whether the chemical weapons attack was actually the responsibility of Assad and the Syrian government.  Would Syrian president Assad be foolish enough to launch a chemical attack against civilians, when a military response from the US would be possible, even likely?  Peter Ford, a former UK ambassador to Syria, speaking on BBC Radio, said, “It doesn’t make sense that Assad would do it.  Let’s not leave our brains outside the door when we examine evidence. It would be totally self-defeating as shown by the results… Assad is not mad.”

Critics of the US military response have suggested as a possible scenario for the chemical release in Idlib province that the Syrian government attack may have been a conventional bombing that exploded stored weapons in the possession of the Syrian rebels, which may have included chemical weapons.

Trump did not seek and obtain Congressional authorization for his act of war in attacking a Syrian Air Force base.  Thus, the attack was illegal under US law.  It is not the president’s prerogative to initiate attacks against sovereign nations without Congressional authorization.  By acting without such Congressional authorization, Trump has placed himself and the presidency above the rule of law.

Trump did not seek and obtain authorization for his attack against Syria from the United Nations Security Council, as is required under international law.  By failing to do so the US has put itself outside the boundaries of the UN Charter, which is also a part of US law, as well as other international law to which the US is bound.

Trump has further undermined US relations with Russia, and has harmed the chances of the US and Russia working cooperatively in resolving the Syrian conflict.  Increased tensions between the US and Russia in Syria make conflict between these two nuclear powers more likely.

Trump has demonstrated to the world that in matters of war, as with tweeting, he is impulsive, shoots from the hip and is not constrained by US or international law.  These characteristics are not generally accepted by other world leaders as being preferred qualities in a US president.

Trump’s impulsivity in ordering the attack sets a dangerous standard for someone in charge of the US nuclear arsenal.  It demonstrates the extreme dangers of allowing a single individual to exercise control over a country’s nuclear arsenal.

Despite the illegality and inherent dangers of his military response, Trump seems to be getting a favorable response from the US media.  Nearly all US mainstream media seems to have accepted the assumption that Assad was foolish enough to have launched a chemical attack, and have not questioned Assad’s responsibility for the chemical attack.  It appears that neither the US government nor media have conducted a thorough investigation of responsibility for the chemical attack, which should have been done prior to a military response.

Referring to Trump’s ordering the missile strikes against Syria the evening before, a fawning Fareed Zakaria stated, “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night.  I think this was actually a big moment.”  Given Trump’s narcissism, this is the kind of positive response that is likely to keep him returning to impulsive and illegal uses of military force.

For his violations of US and international law in attacking Syria with 59 cruise missiles, it is highly likely that Trump will also be rewarded by the American people with an upward bump in his current ground-level job-approval rating.  Too many Americans tend to like their presidents to be fast on the draw and follow the pattern of Ready, Fire, Aim.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). 

April 13, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Trump Joins Democrats in the War Party

By Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report | April 11, 2017

In 2016 Donald Trump turned the political world upside down, and not just because his victory prevailed against conventional wisdom. Trump claimed to want a new direction in foreign policy. Gone would be the trade deals that sent American workers on a race to an endless bottom. He said that he wanted a new relationship with Russia and felt that the two countries might become partners in a war against terrorism. This terrorism resulted from the United States reliance on jihadists in order to effect regime change. While Hillary Clinton was an openly provocative war hawk, Trump gave an impression of wanting change.

But his attack on a Syrian airfield shows adherence to the worst of United States foreign policy tradition. In less than one week the Trump administration went from saying that “Assad’s fate will be decided by the Syrian people,” and “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out” to parroting Obama’s mantra that “Assad must go.” Vladimir Putin had already dispensed with calling the United States “our American partners.” He suspended Russia’s participation in an air safety agreement between the two countries. The likelihood of unintended consequence is now higher.

Trump was accused of being under Russian influence throughout the campaign and after his inauguration. Democrats used the charge to divert attention from their electoral failures, weaken the new president and force him to join the war party. They were determined to maintain foreign policy continuity and crush any nation that insisted on exercising sovereignty in the face of American attempts at full hegemony. They were also determined to crush Trump if he didn’t go along with their plans for a new American century.

The attack on the new president was unprecedented. After less than three months in office he was threatened with a severely damaged administration or impeachment. The Democrat’s vitriol had nothing to do with judicial appointments, deregulation of environmental protections or civil rights retreats back to the days of Jim Crow segregation. None of the issues which concern their base of supporters are the cause of their opposition. The fight was all about his willingness to carry on the drive for imperialism and the attempt to bring about regime change in Syria and in Russia too.

Years of demonizing Russia and president Vladimir Putin have had the desired impact. Democrats began by invoking the language of right wing discourse and endlessly repeated assertions of intelligence agencies. They are now praising him for bringing the world to the brink. Only one Democratic member of congress, Tulsi Gabbard, has dared to question the veracity of claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The rest either heartily commend Trump or waffle by asking whether he should have asked for permission that they would surely have given.

The anti-war movement is weak, nearly killed off by the marketing that made Barack Obama look like a peace candidate. The U.S. Navy heads to Korea to threaten the DPRK which correctly points out that America’s aggressions force them to seek nuclear capability as a means of self-defense.

Syria is a living hell for millions of people because Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton wanted another notch on their regime change guns. Refugees flee from Libya and Syria because of their state sponsored terrorism. Trump is now making good on what his predecessors thought they could get away with easily when they began their plot in 2011.

In attacking Syria Trump upped the ante, bringing the world closer to war than even Obama did, and Democrats are praising him for it. The New York Times and the Washington Post both repeat lies about Assad and Putin and laud the man they disregarded just two weeks ago.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support his actions in Syria. Sanders says, “We must get rid of Assad.” He proves himself to be a phony progressive, supporting the empire while claiming there is some difference between himself and his once and future rival.

Trump is still bringing out all of the contradictions in America at this stage of disintegration and crisis. He is certainly no match for the neo-cons, who had no intention of moving backwards from their Obama glory days. Republicans like Lindsay Graham and John McCain talk of “boots on the ground” and corporate media talking head Brian Williams says that deadly bombs are “beautiful.”

And what of the resistance? The pink pussy hat wearers and their ilk? They too approve of an American hegemon willing to kill at the first sign of a propaganda lie. They aren’t resisting anything at all. Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau have backed Trump too. If we didn’t know before, we now know who the imperialists are in this country and around the world.

The peace movement has an uphill climb. The demonization of Russia and Syria and the skillful manipulation of public opinion will make the work difficult. But someone must be willing to resist Trump and the Democrats too. Hillary Clinton was a threat to world peace but her electoral defeat did not mean the end of neocon dreams perpetrated by Democrats, Republicans and the corporate media.

The struggle is always the same. Presidents may be Democrats or Republicans. They may say they want to change foreign policy. But bloodshed persists. The fights against it must be equally relentless.

Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

April 12, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s Disdain for Tillerson and Trump

By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | April 11, 2017

Secretary of State Tillerson Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow was supposed to prepare the way for a Trump-Putin summit either as a self-standing event or on the sidelines of the next G-20 meeting in Germany. The hope was that the summit would consolidate the turn toward normalization of relations that President Trump had promised in his electoral campaign.

But the 180-degree reversal in the foreign policy of the Trump administration marked by the launch of a missile strike on Syria last week changed the expectations for Tillerson’s visit dramatically, to the point that one of the most widely respected Russian political observers, Director of the Near East Institute Yevgeny Satanovsky, questioned why Tillerson’s visit is still on.

“It is not clear why Tillerson is coming,” Satanovsky said. “There is no reason at all for him to be received by Putin. Maybe it’s enough for him to talk to Maria Zakharova [spokeswoman of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs], perhaps with [Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov.”

Satanovsky’s pessimism was largely shared by other experts and officials who appeared on the most popular Russian TV news programs, including the talk shows Sixty Minutes, Evening and Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, News on Saturday with Sergey Brillyov, and News of the Week with Dmitry Kiselyov. Always popular with their Russian audiences, these shows drew in remarkably high visitor rates on the internet as posted on youtube.com, between a quarter million and half a million visits each.

Following President Trump’s missile strike on a Syrian air base on April 6, pressure grew on President Putin to respond with his own muscle-flexing. However, the Kremlin’s immediate response was restrained. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs simply announced the suspension of the 2015 Memorandum of Understanding with the United States on deconfliction. That agreement put in place communications channels within the region and rules for conduct meant to prevent and/or resolve incidents between the Russian and U.S.-led coalition forces operating in Syria.

By the evening of April 7, the popular Russian state television talk show Sixty Minutes informed its audience about two essential facts regarding the U.S. missile strike. First, the level of damage inflicted on the Syrian air base at Shayrat turned out to be minimal, totally out of keeping with what one might have anticipated from 59 Tomahawks launched by U.S. naval vessels in the Mediterranean.

Rossiya 1 war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny presented footage he and his camera crew had taken at Shayrat just hours after the strike. It was clear that the landing strip itself was undamaged, that many hangars were similarly intact, and that the structural losses were limited to six out-of-date MIG23s that were being reconditioned and to some roadways and buildings of minor significance. The report also noted that a relatively small number of Syrian military personnel and civilians were killed and wounded.

Poddubny noted that not all of the cruise missiles seemed to have reached the target. Later news broadcasts clarified that only 23 of the 59 Tomahawks reached Shayrat.

The second fact, which tempered Russian anger about the attack, was news that the United States had given two hours advance warning to the Russians. This would have enabled them to withdraw any of their military personnel on the site and to avoid casualties that would call for retribution and spark a direct military confrontation.

But if the sting of the attack and its anti-Russian message were attenuated, there was from the outset some confusion among Official Russia over what message the strike was intended to deliver and to whom. There was also a great deal of interest in exploring the reasons for Donald Trump’s policy reversal on Syria and on Russia and interest in identifying the influencers behind the move so as to better understand what might come next and what to do about that.

Already in Sixty Minutes, the first authoritative view on what happened was put forward by Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party. For political reasons, i.e., policy disagreements with the current government, Zyuganov is a rare guest on Rossiya 1 and was likely invited on to rally unity among the Russian people in the face of the new threats and dangers coming from Washington.

His reading of Trump’s TV appearance announcing the missile strike was that the President looked “broken,” now in the thrall of the mafia that had been running the U.S. before his accession to power. Zyuganov noted that for once Trump was reading his text from a teleprompter and his voice seemed to be unsteady, highly emotional.

What Drove Trump

The discussion of what motivated Trump to act on Syria expanded later in the evening on a special edition of the Vladimir Solovyov talk show. The microphone was offered first to Vyacheslav Nikonov, chairman of the Duma Committee on Education who is better known in international circles for his years at the head of the NGO Russian World, sponsors of the Russian diaspora.

Since the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, Nikonov has appeared regularly on Rossiya 1 as a consistent advocate of Donald Trump in the expectation of very positive changes in U.S. foreign policy. But he was now caught out.

Nikonov said Trump was responding to popular outrage over pictures of children gassed to death that were featured on U.S. mass media so it appeared to Americans that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was poisoning his own people. However, if the villain in the piece was the media for an exploitative presentation, Nikonov acknowledged that there were aspects that were more generally disturbing, in particular, that Russian servicemen could have been on the base under attack. It seemed as if the right hand in America did not know what the left was doing and these contradictions do not bode well.

Igor Morozov, member of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, reminded the Solovyov audience that the idea of attacking Syrian military infrastructure was not something dreamed up at the last second by the Trump administration. Its author was General James Mattis when he was U.S. Commander in the Middle East in 2013 and was removed for promoting policies that contradicted President Obama’s desire to withdraw from war operations in the region, taking down the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Mattis is the Secretary of Defense and the cruise missile attack on the Shayrat air force base comes from his playbook.

In News on Saturday, host Sergey Brilyov remarked how ineffective the U.S. missile strike was in military terms, suggesting that it must be seen as a “signal” And that raised the question of a signal to whom? By process of exclusion, Brilyov recommended to his audience two possible addressees: China and the United States itself.

For Chinese President Xi, news of the American strike on Syria was delivered by Trump in the course of the state visit at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. The blunt warning was that if Xi does not help to rein in the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the United States would act on its own as it had just done in Syria.

But in Brilyov’s view the more important audience for Trump’s gesture was within the United States, within the political establishment, where he was fighting a desperate rearguard battle for his domestic policies against resistance from both hardline Republicans opposed to his foreign policy objectives and the whole of the Democratic Party.

Dmitry Kiselyov, Russia’s most senior news presenter, characterized Trump as a “tabula rasa,” without any experience in international politics who was now using America’s vast military potential to create a very dangerous situation. On his News of the Week program on Sunday evening, Kiselyov featured war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny reporting again from the Shayrat air base and explaining how it was once again operational.

Poddubny also showed off the piles of canisters at the base which appeared in previous telecasts from the air field and were claimed by some Western media to represent the chemical warfare munitions stored there by the Assad regime. He carefully explained that these containers are standard issue and are used to load all kinds of munitions onto fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, so that they have no relation whatsoever to chemical weapons which were nowhere to be seen at the base.

Kiselyov detailed at length the about-face of U.S. foreign policy on Syrian “regime change” and the reversal on efforts to join with Russia to fight terrorism. Now, objectively, the United States was fighting on the side of the terrorists. All of this meant that Trump would fail as a “deal maker” with Russia, that it was improbable he could patch things up with Russia.

Kiselyov called the U.S. President’s action “impulsive” and unsupported by facts. It was done in the context of U.S. domestic political warfare. Trump’s entourage was changing, with strategic political adviser Steve Bannon being shunted to one side and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner rising in prominence.

Kiselyov reserved special scorn for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nicki Haley. He pulled up on screen both her accusations against Assad and the riposte from Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Vladimir Safronkov that the United States was afraid of an independent investigation into the chemical incident in Idlib because it would not support their narrative.

Kiselyov concluded his reportage on the U.S. attack with harsh words, condemning what he called a prima facie case of U.S. aggression. It was not a reaction to any concrete event but was taken “due to the total failure of Donald Trump’s policies at home.”

But he said Russia would react with reason and caution: “It is clear no one intends to declare war on the U.S. But we cannot let this whole affair pass without practical response.”

Specifically, he called for the U.N. Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the situation in Syria. They are the people who oversaw the removal and destruction of Assad’s chemical arsenal and production facilities, for which they won a Nobel Prize for Peace. Now they should be put back to work, he said.

Finally, Kiselyov ran a short interview with Yevgeny Satanovsky that summed up nicely the thinking of his peers: “All U.S. foreign policy actions are based on domestic political considerations. That is why they are so idiotic.”

The discussion of Trump’s missile strike continued on the Sunday Evening show of Vladimir Solovyov. After pointing to rumors of U.S. plans to destroy the North Korean regime with a similar attack, the host kicked off the discussion with a neat summary for his panel of how the U.S. is approaching world governance today: “The U.S. by itself decides which countries can exist, which cannot; which leaders will rule and who must be liquidated. The U.N. Security Council is not needed. The U.S. decides on its own what to do.”

A Cornered Trump

Alexei Pushkov, who was until September 2016 the chairman of the Duma Committee on Foreign Relations and is now chairman of the upper chamber’s Committee on Information, delivered a programmatic statement to explain what he believed happened:

“Trump is operating in a specific set of circumstances. The harder it is for the U.S. to manage the world, the more it tends to throw international rules to the wind. Trump has little opportunity to escape from the existing policies.

“The key question [regarding the chemical gas event at Idlib]: why would Assad use chemical weapons against this small town? He is winning the war. No one in the West has asked this question. Whose interests were served by this chemical event? It is good for American hawks, for [Sen. John] McCain, for the neighboring states which want to overthrow Assad. But it holds no advantages for Assad.

“We have not long ago heard [former National Security Adviser] Susan Rice and [former Secretary of State] John Kerry say that all of Assad’s chemical weapons were destroyed. So where did Assad get these bombs?

“Per The New York Post, Tillerson is coming to Moscow to deliver an ultimatum on removal of Assad. If he comes here with an ultimatum, then the talks will head into a dead end. The experience of the last three years shows that the language of ultimatum does not work with Russia.”

The microphone was then turned over to Yevgeny Satanovsky, a leading expert on the Near East who was more specific in his recommendations on what Russia must do now:

–Clean up the province of Idlib, or at least the city of Idlib, driving out the Al Qaeda fighters who are now installed there so that an independent investigation can begin into what happened leading to the poison gas deaths.

–Since the U.S. clearly wants to take the Assad government’s sole remaining enclave in Eastern Syria at Dar Ezzor and turn it over to the terrorists, Russia must do its best now to break the blockade there.

–Tillerson must be approached very carefully. See whether he has come to negotiate or just to conclude with a press conference at which he tells the media that Russia is hopeless, that the U.S. cannot work with Moscow, and that the U.S. will now deal with North Korea and everywhere else on its own.

Among the other panelists on the Sunday Evening show, retired Lt. General Yevgeny Buzhinsky dealt with the question of the forewarning which the Russians received from the United States before the missile launch, saying:

“Trump is sitting on two stools. This is very sad. Yes, the U.S. gave us one and a half hours, maybe two hours of advance warning of the attack. But how?

“There are several lines of communication between us. There is a Chief of General Staff to Chief of General Staff line, which is very fast. This was not used. Instead they used a line of communications set up by the 2015 Deconfliction Memorandum of Understanding, at the regional level, between Americans in Jordan and Russians in Syria.

“The message on the impending attack was sent to the U.S. command in Jordan in the middle of the night and the duty officer was in no rush to forward it to his Russian counterpart in Syria. The duty officer there sent it to Moscow, to the Ministry of Defense, which also did not rush to respond or to pass the message to the Syrians. Net result: the two hours was barely enough for the Russians to take necessary precautionary measures. The Russian Ministry was furious.”

No doubt this explains why the first Russian reaction to the whole affair was to suspend the Deconfliction Memorandum.

The Chemical Canard

Yakov Kedmi, another panelist on Skype from Tel Aviv, offered insights into why the allegations of a Syrian government chemical weapon attack was nothing more than a canard, an unfounded rumor.

Kedmi is a former Soviet citizen, one of the first Soviet Jews to demand and finally receive permission to leave the country for Israel at the end of the 1970s. In Israel he joined the intelligence services where he had a full career. Until three years ago, he was persona non grata in Russia but has since established a niche on Russian television as a valued expert on Middle East security questions.

He said:

“What is strange here is that if the Syrians used this [air] base to attack Idlib with chemical weapons, then there should be a bunker of such weapons at the base. That would be very easy to detect using the intelligence means available – satellite images, drones, etc.

“Israel follows all movements of munitions to and in Syria going to Hezbollah. We know which trucks are carrying what and where. The United States surely knows the same about what interests it. Yet when speaking of the attack on the base the Americans did not identify any bunker or location for such weapons. Supposedly they are still looking. This shows it is a canard.

“As for the Israeli government, they say Amen to whatever stupidities the Americans say. That is the situation in our country.”

Overall, Official Russia seems to have calmly adopted the cynical interpretation that Donald Trump bombed the Syrian air base on the basis of a manufactured pretext in order to gain the upper hand in his bitter fight with hardline Republicans and the entire Democratic Party over Russia-gate and to advance his domestic political agenda.

If this interpretation is true and is eventually revealed to the American people, they are not likely to appreciate Trump’s cynicism. If he launched a missile attack on Syria based on a lie, Trump would have squandered his political capital with those who voted for him and for his promised pro-détente foreign policy. It is now improbable that he will win them back.

At the same time, Trump has not shed for long the dogs that have been snarling and nipping at his heels. Already Sen. McCain has blamed the supposed chemical attack on Trump’s earlier repudiation of “regime change” in Syria.

Donald Trump’s moral standing was never very high, even among his supporters. But the recruitment of former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was seen as a victory for decency. Tillerson’s prepared remarks delivered at the opening of his confirmation hearings were crystal clear and bracing. He alluded to his training as an engineer who always followed the facts where they led him.

However, by loyally carrying the water for his boss on the alleged Syrian chemical attack, Tillerson has also damaged his credibility, drawing comparisons to Secretary of State Colin Powell who presented President George W. Bush’s bogus case for invading Iraq to the United Nations.

Patently, in this current matter of state importance, indeed a matter that bears on war and peace, Tillerson did nothing to establish the facts. Now, he brings his tattered credibility to Moscow where he will face Russian officials who no longer believe that they can trust the Trump administration.

Gilbert Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.

April 12, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment