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Posts Tagged ‘IRAN’

A “SAND CURTAIN” FOR THE MIDDLE EAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on January 9, 2020 at 12:10 am

There can be peace—at least for the United States—in the Middle East.

But to achieve this, Western Europe and the United States will have to make radical changes in their approach to that part of the world.

First, the United States must embark on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

The Islamic world offers only one reason for American concern: oil.

Yet its consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to regimes that are fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

Second, once the United States weans itself from its dependency on fossil fuels, it can safely end its relationship with such regimes.

That means putting an end to spending billions of dollars every year to prop up dictatorial regimes like those in Iraq and Egypt. And it also means stopping the supply of big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to Islamic regimes.

When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, he was probably the best-armed Islamic leader in the Middle East. His army and air force bristled with sophisticated American weaponry he had bought with billions of dollars in oil revenues.

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Shah of Iran

But he had thoroughly alienated his people. Liberals thought him a tyrant, and conservatives thought him a traitor to Islam. So when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini flew to Iran from his self-exile in Paris, no one in the Shah’s army and air force raised a hand in his defense.

And all that sophisticated American weaponry fell into Khoemeini’s waiting hands.

Third, the United States should end its “Permanent Bodyguard” relationship with Israel.

Every nation—-including Israel—has the absolute right to defend itself from aggression.

But no nation—including Israel—has the right to expect another nation to act as its permanent bodyguard.

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

But there is another reason many Americans feel committed to Israel. And it has nothing to do with concern for the fates of Israelis.

It lies in the mythology of the Christian Right. Millions of fundamentalist Christians believe that before Jesus Christ can awaken from his 2,000-year slumber, Israel must first re-conquer every inch of territory it supposedly held during the reign of Kings David and Solomon.

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Right-wing Christian fantasy: Dead man hovering

After Christ returns, they believe, the Jews will face a choice: Become Christians or go to hell. For evangelical Christians, Jews remain the eternal “Christ killers.”

And if Jews must assume temporary control of the Middle East to bring about the return of a man who died 2,000 years ago, so be it.

Many Right-wing members of the House of Representatives and Senate share this utterly irrational belief—thus proving their unfitness for public office. 

Fourth, the United States and its Western European allies should erect a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East.

For 44 years—1947 to 1991—the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union—including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the countries you’re now occupying”—because that would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

That’s why America did nothing to aid Hungarians when they overthrew their Soviet occupiers in 1956. That rebellion was quickly and brutally crushed.

And the United States stood by when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague in 1968 after Czechoslovakia dared to relax controls over its citizens.

Fifth, a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East would work as follows:

America would withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East—but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

The President would then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies—so long as what you do affects only those of you living in the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“So go ahead and destroy as many of your own citizens as you wish—either because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims hate Shiite Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate Sunni Muslims.

“Just don’t do anything that poses a threat to those living outside your barbaric lands. In short: Western Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“If you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal—including nuclear ones—to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

The United States cannot enforce peace between Islamics and Israelis. Nor between Christians and Islamics. Nor between Islamics and Islamics.

But it can impose an embargo to confine such barbarism to only the Middle East.

DONALD BEVIN’S REVENGE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 8, 2020 at 12:35 am

For Donald Trump, becoming America’s “President-for-Life” is no joke—although he has often “joked” about doing just that. For example:

  • In March 2018, he told Republican donors during a closed-door speech at Mar-a-Lago:[Chinese President Xi Jinping] is now President for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”
  • In May, 2019, Trump retweeted Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr.’s suggestion that he’s owed “2 yrs added to his 1st term” due to distractions caused by the Robert Mueller investigation.

The ancient historian, Plutarch, warned in his biography of Alexander the Great:

“And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.” 

Modern portrait at Chaeronea, based on a bust from Delphi tentatively identified as Plutarch.

Plutarch

Odysses [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

And, in making these repeated statements, Trump has revealed his ultimate intention: To overthrow America’s constitutional government.  

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks offered a disturbing analysis of Trump’s character on the March 25, 2016 edition of The PBS Newshour:

“And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude toward women.” 

Brooks’ analysis has been proven brilliantly accurate during the two years of Trump’s Presidency. He has attacked one person or institution after another—including officials within his own administration. 

For example:

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.” 
  • Publicly siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against American Intelligence agencies (FBI, CIA, National Security Agency) which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted  the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government on December 22, 2018—because Democrats refused to fund his “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure.

* * * * *

Since childhood, Trump has had an overwhelming sense of entitlement and his own importance. 

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Donald Trump

As a businessman, he demanded that his employees sign Non-Disclosure Agreements to prevent the outside world from learning of his crimes and follies. He has tried to continue that practice in the White House, even though it is flagrantly illegal.

More ominously, he identifies himself with the State—and thus deems anyone who disagrees with or opposes him as guilty of treason. And the penalty for treason has traditionally been death.

Furious that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) mocked him during a session of the House Intelligence Committee, Trump tweeted:

“His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..” 

He judged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason.”  

But now Trump faces a far greater threat than mere disagreement or criticism.

On December 18, 2019, the House of Representatives voted for two Articles of Impeachment to remove Trump from office: Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The case has not yet been sent to the Senate, but that there will be a trial is a certainty.

Whenever Trump has been unable to buy or intimidate his way out of trouble, he has lashed out. And in Nancy Pelosi he faces an implacable foe and a master legislative tactician.

Desperate to avoid impeachment and the cascade of damning news as more of his crimes are revealed almost daily, he has hit upon the most powerful “remedy” of all: War. 

What can be even more attention-grabbing than an expected trial of the President of the United States? A fullscale war between the United States and Iran, a country America has been at odds with since 1979.

Moreover, by going this route, he can take revenge, Matt Bevin-style, on those Americans who dared elect Democratic members of Congress to oppose him.

An all-out war between nuclear-armed America and an Iran now coming into its own as a nuclear power will last for years and leave untold numbers of hated “liberals” as incinerated or blasted corpses. 

And just as he dodged the draft during the Vietnam war, Trump expects to dodge the calamity he is trying to unleash.

Surrounded by Secret Service agents, able to be whisked into heavily-fortified bunkers or onto a high-tech Air Force One, he stands an excellent chance of doing so.

With enough national carnage and confusion, he might live out his dream to become “President-for-Life”—simply because there won’t be any opposition capable of challenging him.

DONALD BEVIN’S REVENGE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 7, 2020 at 12:04 am

On November 5, Kentucky voters refused to re-elect Republican Governor Matt Bevin. To get revenge, he issued more than 650 pardons to hardened criminals before he left office on December 9.

He claimed these were people he would not hesitate to welcome as neighbors, co-workers or members of his church.

Among those pardoned:

  • Convicted killer Patrick Baker, who had served two years of a 19-year sentence for reckless homicide and robbery in the slaying of a Knox County man in front of his family. Baker’s brother held a campaign fundraiser for Bevin in July 2018 that raised $21,500. 
  • Micah Schoettle, a convicted child rapist. In 2018, a judge sentenced Schoettle to 23 years in prison. But Bevin said he made his decision partly because the hymen of the nine-year-old victim was still intact.

“This is perhaps more specific than people would want,” Bevin said in a radio interview. “But trust me. If you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically.”

Studies show that most child victims do not show evidence of physical damage and that examination of the tissue is not a reliable test of sexual activity.   

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Matt Bevin

  • Leif Halvorsen, who confessed to a triple murder in 1983.  Bevin removed Halvorson from death row and commuted his sentence to life in prison.
  • Dayton Jones was serving a 15-year sentence after he and three other men pleaded guilty to sodomizing an unconscious teenage boy at a party and videotaping the incident. Then they posted the video on social media.

Bevin said there was “no evidence” showing that Jones was present at the assault because he did not appear in the video.

Under Kentucky state law, people can directly apply to the govern’s office for clemency. While most states require a board review to decide who gets their sentences reduced or pardoned, Kentucky does not.

“You have police, FBI, judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, hours and hours of work undone on the whim of one person,” Leland Hulbert, who prosecuted a case for an individual pardoned by the governor, told The New York Times. “It’s almost like a godlike power.”

Defending his pardons, Bevin told The Washington Post: “I’m a big believer in second chances. I think this is a nation that was founded on the concept of redemption and second chances and new pages in life.”

These hardened criminals whom Bevin has given “a second chance” will be preying on Kentuckians for decades to come.

Apparently, President Donald Trump has learned something from Bevin’s departing act.

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Donald Trump

On September 9, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees began investigating his attempted extortion of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On July 25, 2019, Trump had “asked” Zelensky to do him a “favor”: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020.

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in military aid Congress had approved for Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia.

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

The ensuing Congressional investigation triggered nonstop Trump abuse of Democrats generally and especially of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff.

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Nancy Pelosi

On December 18, 2019, the House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump along party lines.

On December 24—a day when most Americans were celebrating the alleged birthday of Jesus Christ—Trump threw a tantrum at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.:

“She [Pelosi] hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party and she’s desperate. She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country, and she’s not doing a great job. And some people think she doesn’t know what she’s doing.” 

And on Christmas Day, Trump tweeted: “Why should Crazy Nancy Pelosi, just because she has a slight majority in the House, be allowed to Impeach the President of the United States? Got ZERO Republican votes, there was no crime, the call with Ukraine was perfect, with ‘“no pressure.’ She said it must be ‘bipartisan… 

“‘…& overwhelming,’ but this Scam Impeachment was neither. Also, very unfair with no Due Process, proper representation, or witnesses. Now Pelosi is demanding everything the Republicans weren’t allowed to have in the House. Dems want to run majority Republican Senate. Hypocrites!” 

Even before the Democratic House took its first steps toward impeaching him, Trump was enraged that they might even want to do so.

On May 30, 2019, he raged at reporters: “I don’t see how they can because they’re possibly allowed, although I can’t imagine the courts allowing it. I’ve never gone into it. I never thought that would even be possible to be using that word. To me, it’s a dirty word—the word impeach. It’s a dirty, filthy, disgusting word.” 

Seven months later—on December 18—“impeachment” would become more than a word. It would become reality.

THREE REASONS TO GO TO WAR

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 6, 2020 at 1:10 am

Major General Qassem Soleimani commanded Iran’s elite Quds Force, which oversees and carries out intelligence operations, terrorist plots and unconventional warfare outside of Iran.

On January 3, he was killed by an American Predator drone near Baghdad International Airport. Another casualty of the attack was Jafar Ibrahimi, a leader of Hezbollah (“Party of God”).

A 2013 profile of Soleimani in The New Yorker referred to him as “the shadow commander” who was “reshaping the Middle East.” The Washington Post called him Iran’s “most revered military leader.” 

Qasem Soleimani with Zolfaghar Order.jpg

Qassem Soleimani

 http://farsi.khamenei.ir/photo-album?id=41944#i [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D

There are at least three reasons for this targeted killing.

Reason #1: According to President Donald Trump, the strike was ordered because Soleimani was “actively developing plans” to attack American troops and officials within the Middle East.

A statement released by the Pentagon claimed: 

“General Soleimani was developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more….

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.” 

There are just two problems with this claim:

First, from the day he took office—January 20, 2017—to October 14, 2019, Trump had made 13,435 false or misleading claims, according to the Washington Post. To foreign leaders as well as Americans who aren’t his fanatical followers, his word means nothing.

Second, Trump has repeatedly insulted America’s top Intelligence agencies and rejected their unanimous findings when he didn’t like the news.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.

Trump, however, steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.” 

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Reason #2: Killing Soleimani served to distract Americans from the fact that, on December 18, the House of Representatives had impeached Donald Trump along party lines.

In July, 2019, Trump had tried to extort a “favor” from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

Since then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become enraged at Republicans’ bragging that their majority in the Senate would acquit Trump no matter how much evidence of his criminality was submitted. So she had refused to submit the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, in hopes of pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft a more objective trial procedure.

Thus, the Soleimani killing served, for Trump, as the ultimate “wag the dog” event. 

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Donald Trump

Reason #3: Trump is taking his revenge on the United States for his impeachment. 

On November 5, Kentucky voters refused to re-elect Republican Governor Matt Bevin. To get revenge, he issued hundreds of pardons before he left office on December 9.

Among those pardoned: Convicted killer Patrick Baker, whose family held a fundraiser for Bevin in 2018, and a convicted sex offender whose mother was married to a millionaire road contractor.

These hardened criminals will be preying on Kentuckians for decades to come.

Donald Trump is furious at being impeached. Taking his cue from Bevin, he has decided to punish the country because a handful of Democrats dared to oppose his criminality.

So he has provoked a war with Iran to ensure that thousands of Americans—soldiers and civilians—die in decades to come.

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator.

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.”

Americans have long smugly condemned those Germans who fanatically supported Hitler or stood by impassively while he ordered horrendous crimes and unleashed a world war that claimed 50 million lives.

One American who has learned from the lessons of history is Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

On November 25, Schiff warned what would happen if Republicans opposed any articles of impeachment against Trump:

“It will have very long-term consequences, if that’s where we end up. And if not today, I think Republican members in the future, to their children and their grandchildren, will have to explain why they did nothing in the face of this deeply unethical man who did such damage to the country.”   

The harm that Trump has so far done to the United States is nothing compared to the devastation coming from a needless war with a country fast gaining a nuclear arsenal.

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 27, 2019 at 12:04 am

On September 12, 2001, President George W. Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”—not Iraq.

On November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

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Liars Club:  Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld

Bush and his war-hungry Cabinet officials knew that Americans demanded vengeance on AlQaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. So they repeatedly fabricated “links” between the two:

  • Saddam had worked hand-in-glove with Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al-Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.

Yet as early as September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that

  • There was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.
  • There was scant evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al-Qaeda.
  • Saddam had tried to monitor Al Qaeda through his intelligence service—because he saw it and other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as potential threats to his secular regime.

Bush administration officials repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions. And they further claimed that US intelligence agencies had determined:

  • The precise locations where these weapons were stored,
  • The identities of those involved in their production.
  • The military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.

Among other lies stated as fact by members of the Bush administration:

  • Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa.
  • Thousands of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq could be used in centrifuges to create enriched uranium.
  • Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions.
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin.
  • Saddam Hussein had issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when US forces crossed into Iraq.

August 26, 2002: Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

September 8, 2002: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN: ”There is certainly evidence that Al-Qaeda people have been in Iraq. There is certainly evidence that Saddam Hussein cavorts with terrorists.”

September 18, 2002: Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons—including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas.”

October 7, 2002: Bush declared in a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

March 16, 2003: Cheney declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq—on March 20, 2003.

Even as American occupying forces repeatedly failed to turn up any evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs), Bush and his minions claimed the invasion a good thing.

In fact, Bush—who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard—even joked publicly about the absence of WMDs.

He did so at a White House Correspondents dinner on March 24, 2004—one year after he had started the war.

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George W. Bush at the 2004 White House Correspondents’ dinner

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were simply the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope—no weapons over there! Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

Meanwhile, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women—-the elite of America’s media and political classes—laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

It was a scene from the court of the ancient Caesars, complete with royal flunkies: “Hey! The country we just destroyed wasn’t a threat to us after all!  Isn’t that a gas?” 

The war that Bush had deliberately provoked:

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Created a Middle East power vacumn.
  • Allowed Iran—Iraq’s arch enemy—to eagerly fill it.
  • Frightened and repelled even America’s closest allies.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis. 
  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.

History—in the form of a war-hungry President and a compliant Congress—seems about to repeat itself.

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2019 at 12:28 am

September 11, 2019, will mark the 18th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.  Inevitably, this is a time to remember all those whose lives were so cruelly snuffed out.

But it is also a time to remember those Americans who made this atrocity—and the Iraq war that followed—inevitable.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has chronicled their arrogance and indifference in his 2010 biography: American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Hamilton noted that Richard Clarke, the national security adviser on terrorism, was certain that Osama bin Laden had arranged the [USS.] Cole bombing in Aden on October 12, 2000.

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States—either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she “insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting” in April, 2001, writes Hamilton.

Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.”

Wolfowitz—whose real target was Saddam Hussein—said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.” And he insisted that bin Laden couldn’t conduct his terrorist acts without a state sponsor—namely, Iraq.

Wolfowitz, in fact, blamed Iraq for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Clarke was stunned, since there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in this.

“Al-Qaeda plans major acts of terrorism against the United States,” Clarke warned his colleagues. He pointed out that, like Adolf Hitler, bin Laden had actually published his plans for future destruction.

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Osama bin Laden

And he added: “Sometimes, as with Hitler in Mein Kampf, you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do.”

Wolfowitz heatedly traded on his Jewish heritage to bring Clarke’s unwelcome arguments to a halt: “I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan.”

Writing in outraged fury, Hamilton sums up Clarke’s agonizing frustrations:

  • Bush’s senior advisors treated their colleagues who had served in the Clinton administration with contempt.
  • President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seemed content to ignore the danger signals of an impending al-Qaeda attack.
  • This left only Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Richard Clarke and a skeptical Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, to wage “a lonely battle to waken a seemingly deranged new administration.”

Richard Clarke

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor would any of them be brought to account.

Disgustingly, these were the same officials who, afterward, posed as the Nation’s saviors—and branded anyone who disagreed with them as a traitor, practices the Right continues to exploit to this day.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

Yet even worse was to come.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush took Clarke aside during a meeting in the White House Situation Room:

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam [Hussein, the dictator of Iraq] did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al-Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

Hussein had not plotted the attack–and there was no evidence proving that he did. But the attack gave “W” the excuse he wanted to remove the man he blamed for the 1992 defeat of his father, President George H.W. Bush.

Bush believed that his father would have been re-elected if he had “gone all the way” into Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War.

He would finish the job that his father had started but failed to compete.

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

INVADING IRAQ WAS A DISASTER–SO LET’S INVADE IRAN: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 23, 2019 at 12:07 am

“If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

So threatened President Donald Trump in a tweet on May 19.

Meanwhile, a debate raged among American military and Intelligence officials about the latest intentions of the Iranian government.

Some officials believed that Iran or its militias might be planning to attack American military bases in the Middle East. Others believed that Iran might be acting defensively to counter possible American aggression.

“I just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons, and they can’t be threatening us,” Trump said that same evening in an interview with Fox News.

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Donald Trump

“And with all of everything that’s going on, and I’m not one that believes—you know, I’m not somebody that wants to go into war, because war hurts economies, war kills people most importantly—by far most importantly.” 

That same day, Major-General Hossein Salami, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, responded: “Iran is not looking for any type of war, but it is fully prepared to defend itself.”

The Trump administration has aggressively tried to effect “regime change” in Iran. Its methods have included diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, hawkish rhetoric and increasing the number of American soldiers and weaponry deployed in the Middle East.

If this seems familiar to those Americans with a sense of historical perspective, there is good reason for it.

These are precisely the methods used by the George W. Bush administration in its build-up to invading Iraq in March, 2003.  

Even as the rubble was being cleared at the Pentagon and World Trade Center, President George W. Bush was preparing to use the attack as an excuse to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Hussein had not plotted 9/11, and there was no evidence that he did. But that didn’t matter to Bush and those planning the invasion and conquest of Iraq.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has dared to lay bare the facts of this disgrace. Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

In 2007, he began research on his latest book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents From Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

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Nigel Hamilton

By Nigel Hamilton (Nigel Hamilton picture)

The inspiration for this came from a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy–who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

And this arrogance and indifference continued–right up to September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and Pentagon became targets for destruction.

Among the few administration officials who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

Clarke had been thus appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. He continued in the same role under  President Bush—but the position was no longer given cabinet-level access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with other, higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

These turned out to be the very officials who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States.

“Indeed,” writes Hamilton, “in the entire first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Clarke was not permitted to brief President Bush a single time, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new al-Qaeda outrage.”  [Italics added]

Nor did it help that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time. 

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States–either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

BILLIONS FOR BUILDINGS AND WARS, NONE FOR THE POOR

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 30, 2019 at 9:41 am

On April 15, millions across France gasped in horror at the sight of Notre Dame Cathedral going up in flames.  

The Cathedral, perhaps the most iconic building in Paris, is visited by more than 14 million people every year. Built between 1160 and 1345, it has long been one of the most important sites in Christendom. 

A law passed in 1905 classified the cathedral as a Historical Monument and thus the property of the state. But its use is dedicated exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church. Catholics are estimated to comprise between 41% and 88% of France’s population.

But by April 19, for untold numbers of French citizens, horror and sadness had been replaced by anger.  

So what had happened to arouse this? 

First, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation to speak about the fire. In doing so, he totally ignored the violent protests against inequality that have erupted throughout the country since last November.

Low-paid workers and pensioners have accused Macron’s government of favoring the rich. The activists are named Yellow Vests—after the fluorescent jackets French motorists are required to keep in their cars.

Second, in just a few hours, billionaires pledged hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) to help restore the damaged cathedral.

“You’re there, looking at all these millions accumulating, after spending five months in the streets fighting social and fiscal injustice. It’s breaking my heart,” Ingrid Levavasseur, a founding leader of the movement, told The Associated Press.

“What happened at Notre Dame is obviously a deplorable tragedy. But nobody died,” Levavasseur said. “I’ve heard someone speaking of national mourning. Are they out of their minds?”

“The yellow vests will show their anger against the billion found in four days for stones, and nothing for the needy,” wrote Pierre Derrien on Facebook.

More than $1 billion has been pledged for the cathedral’s restoration, and many French citizens believe the money could be better spent elsewhere. And the billionaires’ donations entitle them to huge tax deductions.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” CGT trade union leader Philippe Martinez said.

But this is generally how the rich and powerful react to the needs of the neediest.

In 2016, returning to Congress after their traditional summer recess, House Republicans planned to cut $23 billion in food stamps for the poor. This included ending waivers that allowed some adults to get temporary assistance while they were in school or training for a job.  

The cuts were to include drug tests of applicants and tougher work rules. As Republicans see it: There’s no point in “helping” the poor if you can’t humiliate them.

The food stamp program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, served more than 46 million Americans and cost $74 billion in 2015. 

Meanwhile, Republicans were eager to spend billions of dollars for another project: An unnecessary war with Syria.

One of these right-wingers was Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard—and one of the leading instigators of the 2003 war with Iraq.

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Bill Kristol

He—like senior officials on the George W. Bush administration—falsely claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against the United States.

Another Kristol lie: Hussein planned 9/11 with Osama bin Laden.

He has never apologized for either lie—or the resulting war that killed 4,487 American soldiers and wounded another 32,226.

In a September, 2013 column, Kristol called for a return to slaughter—not only in Syria but Iran as well:

“…Soon after voting to authorize the use of force against the [Bashar al-] Assad regime, Republicans might consider moving an authorization for the use of force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

“They can explain that [President Barack] Obama’s dithering in the case of Syria shows the utility of unequivocally giving him the authority to act early with respect to Iran.”

Among Republican U.S. Senators calling for war were Arizona’s John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who issued a joint statement:

“Using stand-off weapons, without boots on the ground, and at minimal risk to our men and women in uniform, we can significantly degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on  the ground.”

In addition: A major weapon for “degrading Assad’s air power” would be Tomahawk Cruise missiles. A single one of these costs $1,410,000.

Firing of a Tomahawk Cruise missile

A protracted missile strike would rain literally billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles on Syria.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon was spending about $27 million a week to maintain the increased U.S. Navy presence in the Mediterranean Sea and Middle East region to keep watch over Syria and be prepared to strike.

Navy officials said it cost about $25 million a week for the carrier group and $2 million a week for each destroyer.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?

Yes.

Powerful people—whether generals, politicians or the wealthy—will always find abundant money and resources available for pet projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people actually need that the powerful will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

TIME TO END OUR DEAL WITH THE DEVIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 23, 2018 at 1:09 am

This is an ideal time for the United States to pull the plug on its devil’s bargain relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Reason #1: The political assassination of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a key critic of Saudi King Mohammed bin Salman.

On October 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to pick up a document allowing him to marry a Turkish woman. Video footage shows Khashoggi walking into the consulate; there is none of him leaving it.

He has not been seen since.

According to Turkish government officials:

  • Fifteen Saudi agents flew into Istanbul.
  • They waited for Khashoggi inside the consulate and murdered him within two hours of his arrival.
  • The assassins used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s corpse. 

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 Jamal Khashoggi

[GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Reason #2: Saudi Arabia is a weak ally.

Trump claims America needs Saudi Arabia as a counter-weight to the growing regional influence of Iran. But Saudi Arabia was unable to defend itself against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, after the invasion and takeover of Kuwait.

This was, in fact, why Saudi-born Osama bin Laden decided to declare war on the United States.

He petitioned Saudi King Fahd bin Abdulazis al-Saud to let Saudis oppose any invasion by Iraq. He argued that “infidel” American soldiers stationed in the Kingdom would “pollute” Islam’s two great holy sites: Mecca and Medina.  

Having fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s, bin Laden offered to help defend Saudi Arabia with his Arab legion. 

The king refused—because he knew that, despite all the sophisticated military hardware he had bought from the United States, the Saudis were too militarily weak to resist an invasion.

Bin Laden left the country to wage fulltime war against the United States.

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Osama bin Laden

Reason #3: Saudi Arabia is filled with Islamics who hate the United States as “the Great Satan.”  

Fifteen of the 19 September 11, 2001 highjackers came from Saudi Arabia. 

And Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Wahhabism, a radical brand of Islam dedicated to “purifying” the world of “unbelievers.”

Reason #4: The only reason the United States cares about Saudi Arabia is that it’s the second-largest oil-producing country (after Venezuela) n the world. 

Yet oil consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to a regime that is fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

Reason #5: The United States can end its dependence on Saudi oil by embarking on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

Had this happened during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the United States would now be energy-independent. America has the technology to do so; it lacks only the will.  

Reason #6: Once the United States no longer needs fossil fuels, it can quit financing Middle East dictatorships.

This will end spending billions of dollars every year to prop up dictatorial regimes like those in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt. America will no longer supply big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to potentially hostile Islamic regimes.

Reason #7: By withdrawing from the Middle East, the United States can free itself of the burden of acting as Israel’s permanent bodyguard. 

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

Yet, for decades, the United States has been repeatedly dragged into the never-ending religious conflicts between Israelis and Islamics. Since both sides believe they are doing “God’s will,” there can be no substantial compromise by either.

Reason #8: The United States and its European allies can defend themselves against Islamic terrorism by erecting a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East. 

For 44 years—1947 to 1991—the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union—including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the countries you’re now occupying”—because that would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

America could withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East—but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

It could then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies—so long as what you do affects only the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“We realize you will destroy as many of your own citizens as you can—because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate each other.

“Just don’t threaten citizens living outside your territories. In short: Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“And if you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal—including nuclear ones—to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

THE MYTH OF AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 17, 2018 at 12:21 am

On September 11, 2013, the New York Times published an Op-Ed (guest editorial) from Russian President Vladimir Putin, entitled: “A Plea for Caution from Russia: What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria.”

No one should be surprised that Putin came out strongly against an American air strike on Syria.

Its “President” (i.e., dictator) Bashir al-Assad, is, after all, a close ally of Russia. Just as his late father and  dictator, Hafez al-Assad, was a close ally of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

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Putin, of course, is a former member of the KGB, the infamous secret police which ruled the Soviet Union from its birth in 1917 to its collapse in 1991.

He grew up under a Communist dictatorship and clearly wishes to return to that era, saying publicly: “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

So it would be unrealistic to expect him to view the current “Syria crisis” the same way that President Barack Obama did.

(A “crisis” for politicians is any event that can be exploited to increase their own status—and thus power. Few politicians really care about the “human rights” of other nations—unless promoting this issue can empower themselves and/or their own nation. 

(President Ronald Reagan, for example, often wailed about the Soviets’ oppression of the Polish union, Solidarity—while firing hundreds of unionized air traffic controllers who went on strike.)

(A “crisis” for the media is any event that can be exploited for higher ratings.)

In his September 11, 2013 guest editorial in the New York Times, Putin offered the expected Russian take on Syria:

  • Poison gas was used in Syria.
  • It wasn’t used by the Syrian Army.
  • It was used by “opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.”

But it was the concluding paragraph that enraged American politicians the most—especially Right-wing ones. In it, Putin took exception with American “exceptionalism.”

Vladimir Putin

This is the belief that the United States is unlike other nations. That it is unlike other nations in its innocence and steadfast dedication to human rights above all else.

Citizens of nations whose governments have been overthrown by the United States—such as Chile, Iran and Nicaragua—and replaced with brutal dictatorships would strongly disagree.

Referring to then-President Obama, Putin wrote:

“And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

“There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too.

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Putin has never publicly shown any interest in religion. But by invoking “the Lord,” he was able to turn the Christian beliefs of his Western audience into a useful weapon.

“I was insulted,” then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters when asked for his blunt reaction to the editorial.

“I have to be honest with you, I was at dinner, and I almost wanted to vomit,” said U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey).

Putin had dared to question the self-righteousness of American foreign policy—and those who make it.

Making his case for war with Syria, Obama had said: “America is not the world’s policeman….

“But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.

“That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

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President Barack Obama

In short: Because we consider ourselves “exceptional,” we have the divine right to do whatever we want.

It’s not necessary to see Putin as a champion of democracy (he isn’t) to see the truth in this part of his editorial: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”

From 1938 to 1969, the House Un-American Activities Committee sought to define what was “American” and what was “Un-American.”  As if “American” stood for all things virtuous.

Whoever heard of an “Un-French Activities Committee”?  Or an “Un-German” or “Un-British” one?

The late S.I. Hayakawa once made an observation that clearly applies to this situation.

Hayakawa was a professor of semantics (the study of meaning, focusing on the relation between words and what they stand for).

In his bestselling book, Language in Thought and Action, he observed that when a person hears a message, he has four ways of responding to it:

  1. Accept the speaker and his message.
  2. Accept the speaker but reject the message.
  3. Accept the message but reject the speaker.
  4. Reject the message and the speaker.

Americans might want to consider #3 in the recent case of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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