Nel's New Day

May 8, 2018

DDT Drops Iran Denuclearization, Cohen Sells White House Access

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 9:54 PM
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The U.S. has withdrawn from the six-country deal to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons is dead, according to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). He has no reason to take this action. Although DDT has claimed that the deal with Iran was “horrible,” Iran has reduced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent to only 300 pounds, far less than needed for even one bomb. Iran also removed about 13,000 of its centrifuges, leaving just over 5,000 of its oldest-model machines in place. It ceased all enrichment at its underground facility at Fordow, one of the nuclear sites which are continually monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which repeatedly states that Iran is complying with the agreement’s restriction.

Last week, the White House released a statement that falsely declared Iran “has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.” A backlash led to the change of one letter—“has” to “had”—that totally revised the false report. The White House excuse was a “typo,” but journalist Brian Beutler pointed out that the “original statement uses the word ‘has’ twice, strongly suggesting an intent to mislead the global public into believing Iran had covertly reactivated its nuclear weapons program in direct defiance of the agreement.”

The White House admitted in its correction that Iran no longer “has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program,” but DDT ignored all the evidence showing Iran is following its part of the bargain and made up lies about Iran not pursuing its nuclear program. This comment adds to the 3,000+ lies that he has told since he was inaugurated. DDT also ignored the 63 percent people in the U.S. who want the U.S. to stay in the Iran denuclearization agreement.

Last week, Netanyahu threw fuel on the conflagration by releasing Iranian documents showing that Iranians worked a decade ago to design a nuclear warhead. In more work to rationalize his decision to inflame Iran, DDT hired Black Cube, an Israeli-based private intelligence agency, to falsely smear U.S. negotiators of the agreement, including Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl. The foreign spies also targeted Rhodes’ and Kahl’s spouses.

In his move toward regime change in Iran, DDT alienated major European and Asian countries but continued to forge a relationship with Saudi Arabia. His supporters include new lawyer Rudy Giuliani and new national security adviser, John Bolton; both are pushing toward the steps leading to more U.S. conflict in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also pushed DDT to leave the Iran agreement although Netanyahu’s military and intelligence advisers assert that their country is safer with blocking nuclear bombs in Iran.

Lies led to the U.S. 2003 invasion of Iraq with serious fiscal and cultural repercussions fifteen years later, and comparisons are being made between those falsehoods and DDT’s current ones about Iran. John Bolton wants to bomb Iran—just as the George W. Bush era started an ongoing preemptive war against Iraq that has spread across the Middle East. Leaders of France, Germany, and the UK pointed out that a UN Security Council resolution supporting the Iran agreement “remains the binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute about the Iranian nuclear program.” Thus the U.S. has been the first country to violate the agreement.

Paul Waldman summarized DDT’s withdrawal:

“This decision is deeply uninformed, utterly illogical, inimical to the interests of the United States, taken for the pettiest of personal reasons and done with absolutely no plan for what to do next. In other words, it’s pure Trump.”

After his announcement, DDT signed an executive memorandum for the 180-day withdrawal process to impose all sanctions on Iran relaxed under the agreement. On the 90-day mark of August 6, these sanctions will be reinstated:

  • Iran buying or acquiring U.S. dollars
  • Iran trading gold and other precious metals
  • Iran’s sale, supply or trade of metals such as aluminum and steel, as well as graphite, coal and certain software for “integrating industrial processes”
  • “Significant” sales or purchases of Iranian rials, or the maintenance of significant funds or accounts outside the country using Iranian rials
  • Issuing Iranian debt
  • Auto sanctions

The U.S. will also halt Iran’s ability to export its carpets and foods into the U.S. and end certain licensing-related transactions.

  • Further sanctions imposed after 180 days on November 4:
  • Iran’s ports, as well as the country’s shipping and shipping sectors
  • Buying petroleum and petrochemical products with a number of Iranian oil companies
  • Foreign financial institutions transacting with the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian financial institutions
  • Certain financial messaging services to Iran’s central bank and other Iranian financial institutions
  • Provision of underwriting services, insurance, or reinsurance
  • Iran’s energy sector

On Nov. 5, the U.S. will prevent U.S.-owned foreign entities from being allowed to engage in certain transactions with Iran and reimpose certain Iranian individuals.

DDT’s speech about the evil in Iran overlooks the way that the U.S. has violated its own denuclearization agreements. While DDT is demanding that North Korea comply with the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the U.S. violates the NPT, and Israel refuses to sign the treaty because it maintains a massive hidden nuclear arsenal obtained through deceit. The U.S. also consistently attempts to change regimes in violation of international law and the UN charter, most recently in Iraq and Libya which had complied with U.S. demands to close their nuclear programs.

What happens now that DDT has refused to recertify the deal? Uri Friedman presented three possibilities over six months ago:

Congress Ends the Iran Deal: Congress has 60 days to introduce legislation that imposes nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, including those against the banking system and oil exports. Doing so would breach the Iran deal, possibly unraveling the agreement depending on whether other countries in the agreement join or resist the sanctions. Sanctions would most likely cause Iran to no longer comply with the deal and return to their nuclear program. At that point, the U.S. could either bomb Iran or do nothing. Bolton would certainly not accept doing nothing. The withdrawal from an agreement with Iran negatively impacts any denuclearization agreement with North Korea, disturbed about DDT’s decision because they may not be able to trust the United States’ agreements. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani plans to negotiate with the deal’s three European countries, Russia, and China—once more leaving the United States out in the cold. If negotiations don’t work, Iran is ready to start unlimited uranium enrichment in a few weeks, and the U.S. could be fighting both Iran and North Korea.

Congress Seeks to Improve the Iran Deal: Congress could decide not to reimpose sanctions on Iran at this time. Last October, Republicans—including Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Susan Collins (ME), and Bob Corker (TN)—are in a quandary about quitting the deal, but none of them is particularly reliable in sticking to their positions.

Congress Does Nothing: The agreement can die from inaction—a death “by a thousand cuts.” Because Congress can’t agree on anything, this scenario is most likely.

DDT’s withdrawal from the Iran deal puts the rest of the world in control. Iran can build nuclear weapons if the other four five countries cannot persuade the nation to do otherwise. No nation will trust the United States in any of DDT’s promises, and all nations will understand that DDT is incapable of planning. DDT’s actions may even isolate Israel with the Israelis being blamed for outbreaks of hostilities. And DDT owns responsibility for any issues that come from his withdrawal.

Oil prices rose today after DDT’s announcement with the possibility of future spikes, and lack of Iranian oil can lead to inflation and slower economic growth in the U.S. Gas prices typically rise in the summer, and DDT’s withdrawal can make the problem even worse for consumers. As they pay more for gas, they are able to pay less for other purchases. Gas costs re made even worse from all the gas-guzzling cars consumers purchased after the gas prices dropped by over one-third in the past six years.

DDT managed to avoid some of the media attention from the actions of his personal attorney Michael Cohen, who may have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by both corporate clients and the Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg through the New York investment firm Columbus Nova. The Russian oligarch may also have provided the payoff in hush money for Stormy Daniels, according to her lawyer Michael Avenatti in documents supported by the media. The drug company Novartis and Korea Aerospace Industries, both with U.S. business relationships, also paid Cohen. Soon after the last Novartis payment, DDT met with the company’s incoming CEO; Korea Aerospace, which had no comment, is in competition for a multibillion-dollar joint contract to product U.S. Air Force jet trainers.

These episodes of The Apprentice in the White House may lead to more legal charges and World War III.

 

April 10, 2018

Syria’s Past, Scary Possibilities

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 11:10 PM
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Fifteen years ago, George W. Bush followed the advice of his war hawks VP Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to attack Iraq on false pretenses. (I’m sure that the oil in the country had nothing to do with the preemptive war.) Since then, the thoughtless action of the Bush II administration has cost the U.S. people trillions of dollars and the Middle East hundreds of thousands of deaths and tens of millions of refugees. The United States will always suffer from the tragedies of veterans who managed to survive the physical and mental injuries that will always affect them and their descendants.

Syria is again the focus of attention in the Middle East after a disastrous chemical attack against Syrian civilians last Saturday and the possibility that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) would attack Syria in a diversion from his personal problems. Saturday’s attack killed at least 80 people, and an attack on a Syrian air base killed another 14. Syria first blamed the U.S. for the air base attack but then accused Israel. After the chemical attack, the rebels surrendered Douma. Yet any action looks like a lose-lose situation. “Syria is the most complex, complicated issue I have ever had to deal with,” then-CIA Director John Brennan said in 2016.

The current problem in Syria began during the Arab Spring of 2011 when protesters tries to take Middle Eastern countries from dictators. In Syria, Assad used the military to slaughter the protesters. When they fought back, Assad had his war against the Free Syrian Army, a militia formed to protect protesters.

The U.S. was concerned because of Iran’s alliance with Syria to move weapons and other resources to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The Shiite theocracy of Iran sent Hezbollah to fight for Assad in a threat to Sunni Arab states on the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, that then sent arms to the Syrian rebels. Qatar alone gave $3 billion to the rebels in 2013, and Saudi Arabia sent a shipment of 500 TOW anti-tank missiles to the rebel in 2015. Thus the Syrian civil war became a fight between two Middle Eastern factions.

At the same time, Russia supported Assad and the Syrian military in a continuation of its half-century policy; Russia sells weapons, air defense systems, and MI-25 attack helicopters to Assad, partly to protect its naval base at Tartus on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. In 2011, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to condemn Assad’s attacks on protesters. Yesterday in the UN, Russia refused to cooperate with Western countries to investigate Syrian chemical attacks. Russian special forces are embedded with Syrian troops, their warplanes and helicopters conduct air attacks on the rebels, and their artillery bombards Assad’s enemies.

Seeing the civil war as a source of recruits and a safe haven, al-Qaeda started sending forces into Syria since 2011. Qatar paid Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda leader, to destroy Assad.

President Obama refused to take out Assad despite advice from military and intelligence leaders such as David Petraeus who wanted to provide advanced weapons to the rebels. Even the killing of up to 1,423 people, mostly civilians, in Assad’s attack with sarin gas in 2013 didn’t push President Obama farther than a plan for airstrikes that Congress rejected. Russia made a deal with Assad to give up his chemical weapons in exchange for international inspections and no U.S. attacks. President Obama took the deal, and some people blamed him for Russia’s escalation in 2015. At the end of 2016, the civil war had killed at least 470,000 Syrian killed.

While actors in the Middle East used Syria in a tug of war, ISIS swept over northern Iraq in June 2014 and controlled land the size of Great Britain in Syria and Iraq. President Obama used airstrikes to support forces fighting ISIS. Busy fighting Assad, rebels could not fight ISIS; Assad had a ceasefire with ISIS so he fought the rebel as a larger threat to him. The U.S. picked Kurdish fighters in northern Syria near Turkey as their allies. The Kurds wanted their own state instead of overturning Assad and were intent on protecting their city Kobane from ISIS. The U.S. intended to cut ISIS’s supply lines between Syria and Iraq while backing Kurdish forces in their fight. The mission was a success by breaking the siege of Kobane and moving to take over ISIS’s capital, Raqqa. Yet Turkey, threatened by armed Kurdish fighters, threatened to increase military action against the Kurds who were fighting ISIS, and DDT stopped arming them.

Yet the U.S. would not support the rebels in fighting Assad. The U.S. agreement to not conflict with Russian flight to bomb Syrian civilians in 2015 led to atrocities such as chemical attacks. DDT campaigned with his past belief that the U.S. should support Assad and not attack Syria, but a chemical attack in spring 2017 killing over 80 people caused him to reverse his position because Assad had used chemical weapons. He ordered an attack on the airfield in Syria where the chemical attack was launched, possibly based on false information and after warning senior officials from foreign governments before the attack so that they could leave. Most chemical attacks in Syria are largely ignored by both DDT and the media, and DDT has don’t nothing about most of them. The map shows 11 attacks since DDT’s inauguration. [Thanks to Zack Beauchamp for the history of Syria’s civil war and involvement of other countries.]

After the chemical attack last Saturday, DDT’s air strike threats could be far more dangerous for the U.S. than his strike a year ago. Russia is already jamming U.S. drones over Syria and threatening disaster, possibly for a U.S. plane or ship, if DDT dares retaliate for the chemical attack. After protecting Putin for over a year, DDT is already in trouble for the sanctions against wealthy Russians that took billions of dollars from the Russian stock market this week. Now Russia claims that Assad did not use chemicals and blames the U.S. for a fake chemical attack in Syria as a pretext to strike Assad.

DDT cried crocodile tears at the deaths of children in chemical attacks but refuses to take Syrian refugees. In 2016, the Syrian atrocities led President Obama to increase the U.S. refugee resettlement cap from 70,000 to 110,000. DDT has capped the number at 45,000, and the U.S. has resettled 10,876 refugees this year, 44 of them Syrian. At this time last year, 5,935 Syrian had been resettled in the United States.

Ken Isaacs, DDT’s nominee to head the UN international migration assistance efforts believes that permitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. President Donald Trump’s new pick to lead the United Nation’s international migration assistance efforts is “foolish and delusional” because they are Muslims. He is the vice president of evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham’s Christian relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Isaacs also tweeted, “Austria and Switzerland should consider building a wall in the Alps to keep refugees out.”

This is Syria today:

  • Over half of Syria’s 20 million, pre-war population has been displaced.
  • 5.5 million Syrians have fled abroad with 95% of them in these five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.
  • 400,000 civilians are trapped in opposition-held suburbs of Syria’s capital Damascus where Assad is relentlessly bombing.
  • Of Syria’s estimated 10 million children, 8.6 million are in dire need of assistance. Nearly 6 million children are displaced or living as refugees, and about 2.5 million are out of school.
  • About one-third of Syria’s housing and half of its educational and medical facilities have been destroyed, causing catastrophic public health crises.

The biggest question now is what DDT will do about Syria. Before the FBI used a search warrant to take records, a computer, and a phone from the office, home, and hotel room of Michael Cohen, DDT’s lawyer, DDT promised to be “very tough” because “everybody’s going to pay a price.” By the time that he met with his military people, however, he was raging about seizing the documents as “a disgraceful situation” and “an attack on our country.” His venom turned to the FBI and top DOJ officials in raids where agents “broke into” Cohen’s office. After cancelling a trip to the Summit of the Americas in Lima (Peru), DDT will be alone for the entire weekend to watch Fox, sent furious tweets, and possibly starting a war. He’s at a “high level of freak out,” according to one source, and another one said, “I am worried about his response.”

As should everyone in the United States.

August 1, 2017

U.S. No Longer ‘Just,’ ‘Democratic’

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 11:04 PM
Tags: ,

In less than 200 days, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has changed life for the people of the United States. According to DDT, police brutality is a good thing, torture is better, and dictators who murder people for their own benefits are to be emulated. Voting should be taken from anyone suspected of casting votes against Republicans, and pollution is positive if it helps business. War is wonderful, even if the U.S. kills civilians, because it makes money for the wealthy. Health care is only for the wealthy, and nonwhite people are disgusting. People are disposable, and only the richest have any value. Ethics and values are worthless. The president is the CEO of the nation with no attention to Congress or the Supreme Court—unless they agree with the CEO. The nation has become a family business run by DDT and his children.

 (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

DDT’s personal Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is following DDT’s opposition to democracy, justice, and human rights.

The past mission of Tillerson’s agency:

“The Department’s mission is to shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.

“This mission is shared with the USAID, ensuring we have a common path forward in partnership as we invest in the shared security and prosperity that will ultimately better prepare us for the challenges of tomorrow.”

That mission is being redefined, per Tillerson’s directions. The draft of a new mission:

 “We promote the security, prosperity and interests of the American people globally.”

The draft statement on ambition:

“The American people thrive in a peaceful and interconnected world that is free, resilient and prosperous.”

The words “just” and “democratic” have disappeared from desired outcomes, but “prosperous” for just “American people” stays.

Not everyone reads mission statements, but this draft, if put into effect, shows the world that the United States no longer stands for justice and democracy. It would bring the U.S. far closer to Russia and other countries run by dictators. Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said about Tillerson’s mission statement draft:

“It’s a worldview similar to that of Putin, who also thinks that great powers should focus exclusively on self protection and enrichment, rather than promoting democracy. By removing all reference to universal values and the common good it removes any reason for people outside the United States to support our foreign-policy.”

Tillerson may be intending to further reduce the staff at the State Department: hundreds of officials work on congressionally funded programs meant to promote democracy and justice abroad.

When speaking about Cuba or Venezuela, DDT promotes democracy. In his inauguration speech, however, he said:

“We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.”

In his speech in Saudi Arabia during his May visit, DDT went farther when he said that his inauguration speech promised that the U.S. would “outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust.” That was after he told his audience that Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have “shared interests and values.” He may have been referring to his personal desire to control the media in the U.S. through violence and create a dictatorship in which wealthy leadership controls legislative, executive, and judicial functions. As Wilbur Ross marveled during the visit, no one protests in Saudi Arabia—because they are either imprisoned or killed.

Tillerson is following earlier statements. His first speech to his State Department employees stated that the promotion of U.S. “creates obstacles” to national security interests. The former Exxon CEO refused to unveil the agency’s annual human rights report. Under Tillerson, the State Department is eliminating the http://www.humanrights.gov website and move its content to an alternative web address, www.state.gov/j/drl. He already reportedly closed the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, which hunts down war criminals.

Todd Buchwald, special coordinator of the Global Criminal Justice office, is being reassigned to legal affairs.  The remaining staff in the office may be reassigned to the agency’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. As Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright established the office in 1997 to address genocides, at that time in Bosnia and Rwanda, and prosecute people who commit these horrific atrocities. Since then, the U.S. cooperated with internationally supported criminal courts in the former Yugoslavia to Cambodia and the Central African Republic with greater support for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Closing this office communicates the message that the U.S. no longer cares about atrocities throughout the world.

The reorganization of the State Department will follow Tillerson’s priorities: prosperity for U.S. businesses and increased military.

Rumors started a few weeks ago that Tillerson might be resigning. He denied them, but Tillerson has disappeared this week with no known destination. Meanwhile he has rescinded a large number of delegations of authority. People who want a pass to the State Department parking lot even have to go to his personal office.

Tillerson paid a private consulting firm $1.1 million to survey half his employees and discovered that they are unhappy. Complaints covered management, working conditions, lack of performance goals, and technological problems. The 110-page report stated that not one person felt that the environment helped them be successful. One employee summarized some of the problems of overhauling the agency “to save costs.“ Tillerson has asked for a 30 percent budget reduction. “Our leaders do not understand our mission and our capabilities,” the employee said.

The survey results demonstrate a pattern of poor leadership. The results were so bad that Tillerson didn’t release the expensive report, but it was leaked to the Wall Street Journal. Conservative analyst Max Boot wrote in Commentary that the only benefit from Tillerson’s and DDT’s incompetence is strategy is to “explode for all time the conceit that business leaders with no experience in politics are best qualified to run the government.” Tillerson’s only qualification for his current position is that he negotiated oil deals with Russia and other countries.

In his initial speech to his employees, Tillerson repeated DDT’s mantra of making “America First.” If he continues to erase the system of U.S. diplomacy around the world, he may succeed in making “America vanquished.” About Tillerson’s leaderships style, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”

July 9, 2017

DDT’s European Trip Isolates U.S.

After embarrassing the United States for four days in Europe, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) is home again. He had so many disasters that pundits referred  to the G-20 Summit as the “G-19 plus one.”

  • One major problem was DDT’s lack of hotel reservations for the grand event. He and Melania were forced to stay at the city of Hamburg’s Senate guest house.
  • Melania missed a photo session and a tour because protesters blocked their digs.
  • A brief talk with Russia’s Vladimir Putin lasted so long that White House staffers sent DDT’s wife in to end it; she failed, and the session lasted another hour.
  • Daughter Ivanka Trump took the place of real U.S. officials in replacing her father during a session called “Partnership with Africa, Migration and Health” so that DDT could meet with Putin. Former president of Mexico Vincente Fox Quesada tweeted that “a G20 summit isn’t a ‘bring your child to work and let her attend high level meetings’ day.”
  • Photos of DDT at the summit illustrate his goal to make America alone.  matches his own appearance at the event.
  • Another remarkable video shows Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, host of the summit, rolling her eyes at a patronizing Putin.

This collection of photos demonstrates how the United States has lost any relationship with allies, including this image of President Obama at the 2015 G7 summit.

Two events stood out during DDT’s four-day offshore trip in Europe: his visit to Poland and his meeting with Russia’s president.  DDT began his trip in an environment where he felt most comfortable: Poles were bused into Warsaw with the sole purpose of cheering DDT for his speech much like the ones he gives to xenophobic audiences in the United States. DDT’s popularity in Poland is actually 23 percent.

A major premise of the speech was the survival of the West against the Middle East (aka Christians against Muslims). DDT’s image of the terrorism conflict as a clash of civilizations has been avoided by both GOP and Democratic predecessors. The Trump manifesto seems to be the “dire threat” against Western civilization. The language comes directly from white supremacists Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. DDT’s anti-Semitic audience were surely pleased when he was the first sitting president in decades to avoid a stop at Warsaw’s monument to the Jewish Ghetto uprising.

DDT is on the same page as Poland’s leading party, Law & Justice (PiS). The party has inundated civil service and diplomatic corps with their loyalists and weakened the judiciary’s independence. The national broadcaster is a mouthpiece of the state, and independent journalists are restricted. Together DDT and Polish president, Andrzej Duda, based the media with DDT repeating his mantra of “fake news.” The EU calls Polish reforms “a systemic risk to the rule of law.”

Conservative Jonathan Turley wrote about the exchange between DDT and Duda regarding their hatred for the media:

“To have such an exchange with a man like Putin about the free press is a truly low moment for our country.  The men and women in front of the two leaders represent a profession that has lost dozens of journalists who fought to publish the truth about the Putin regime. Thousands more have died around the world in the struggle for free speech and the free press.  I understand the need to deal with figures like Putin in diplomacy but commiserating with the likes of Vladimir Putin about the free press is a terrible image for any American president.  Putin is not a great man and the media is not the enemy.  We can (and should) criticize the media for their loss of objectivity but even casual moments like this one with Putin carry a chilling message both in Russia and the United States. There remain committed journalists in Russia who look to the United States as their ally in the fight for a free press.   For them, these comments must be chilling and demoralizing.”

As usual, DDT displayed his weak vocabulary during the speech—even when someone else wrote it—by describing the losses in Poland during World War II as “tough” and “trouble.” Almost six million Poles, about 20 percent of the country’s population, died during the war.

Possibly worse than DDT’s speech was his press conference before the speech. In opposition to U.S. intelligence reports, he continued to claim that “nobody really knows” who was responsible for the cyberattacks around the November 2016 election and refused to admit that Russia was responsible. “It could have been other people in other countries,” he said. Yet he kept laying the blame on President Obama for something that he wouldn’t admit had happened. His claim that only “three or four” agencies believed that Russia was responsible. These agencies are the FBI, CIA, and NSA; no others disagreed, and some weren’t involved. In the conference, Polish officials cut off NBC reporter Hallie Jackson’s mike to keep her from asking a follow-up question.

Once again, DDT’s staff disagrees with his perception. In an interview for State of the Union, the nation’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, said, “Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.” Her comments followed DDT’s amicable meeting with Putin on Friday. Haley continued by explaining that Russia is meddling “across multiple continents … in a way that they’re trying to cause chaos within the countries.”

Still reeling from DDT’s denial that Russia meddled in the U.S. election, people of the U.S. watched him go into a long meeting with Putin. Only four people attended with the two leaders—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and two translators. No one took notes, and only Russians reported much of what happened in the two and a half hours. Headlines have declared that DDT “confronted” Putin, but the end result did not seem like a confrontation. Supposedly DDT questioned Putin about the meddling. Putin said he didn’t have anything to do it and followed that with the statement that DDT agreed with him.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin didn’t attend the meeting but repeatedly said that DDT “handled it brilliantly.” Putin followed earlier statements by claiming that Russia and the United States agreed to work together to “prevent interference in the domestic affairs of foreign states, primarily in Russia and the U.S.” Tillerson said that the two leaders selected officials to collaborate on a resolution to the Ukraine conflict and reached a “de-escalation agreement” about part of Syria near Daraa and Quneitra.

Even Republicans are disgusted with DDT’s plan to team with Putin in creating a “cyber security unit.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said, “I am sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he’s doing the hacking.” Once again, bad press may have forced DDT to back down on his idea. Today he tweeted, “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the partnership isn’t “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.” On the other hand, Mnuchin called the idea “a very significant accomplishment for President Trump.” He wants to “coordinate with Russia.”

Putin picked up popularity in the United States with DDT’s election, but it’s receding again, perhaps because of the hacking reports. Meanwhile, the number of Russian spies gathering intelligence in the United States has gone up to at least 150 from temporary duty visas issued by the DDT administration. Law enforcement officials have reported that some Russian diplomats are violating protocol by leaving the Washington, D.C. area with notifying the State Department. President Obama had shut down Russian compounds in December that were allegedly outfitted with high-power surveillance equipment and evicted 35 spies. Officials say that countering the threat is difficult because DDT doesn’t accept intelligence information about Russian meddling.

DDT completed his embarrassing four days by referring to his “wonderful relationship” with Xi Jinping. The White House used the wrong title for Xi, however. Instead of his correct title, president of the People’s Republic of China, he was identified as president of the Republic of China, the official name for Taiwan. The elected leader of Taiwan is Tsai Ing-wen, the most powerful woman in the Chinese-speaking world and one of Xi Jinpin’s greatest rivals. DDT is currently trying to persuade China to pressure North Korea for the U.S. benefit.

As always, Melania Trump looked lovely in her expensive fashion designs, but she shouldn’t try to wear them on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is reinforcing a patriarchal ban on sleeveless clothes for women—at least female reporters—in the speaker’s lobby. Although many conservatives have poo-pooed the story, report, Independent Journal Review‘s Haley Byrd was refused entrance. She was offered a cardigan but also told that open-toed shoes are also a no-no.

May 27, 2017

DDT: ‘Danger to the World’

A White House strategy for keeping Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in line while he traveled the world was to keep him so busy that he didn’t have time to get to his Twitter. The authoritarianism, opulence, and subservience in the Middle East also delighted  him. By last Thursday, however, his keepers had largely gone back to the United States, and he was in Europe where his favoritism of Russian was not as popular as in Saudi Arabia. In Brussels, where he attended the NATO summit, the familiar DDT showed up, with the customary picture of an unstable and embarrassing bully.

Perhaps no image demonstrates DDT’s superior attitude better than his pushing aside Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, representing a country which will join NATO in June to the displeasure of Russia’s Vladimir Putin. It has to be seen to be believed! In his speech he  whined about NATO allies not paying their share and snarked about the expense of the new NATO building. Notable also is the way that DDT rejected the U.S. press. News about him—and there was plenty—came from the foreign press. Many people here and abroad will agree with Germany’s highly-respected Der Spiegel newspaper description of DDT:

“Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.

“He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.”

It’s not as if his comments were unscripted, the way that other DDT insults are. In a prepared speech in the ceremony to dedicate the new NATO headquarters, he talked about terrorism such as the Manchester bombing just three days earlier:

“These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct … in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share.”

DDT is demanding that NATO members pay two percent of their GDP as a “bare minimum.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (left with DDT) was polite about DDT’s comments, but a senior diplomat said:

 

“This was not the right place or time. We are left with nothing else but trying to put a brave face on it.”

DDT also told the organization to limit immigration in its goals and failed to commit to its founding Article V rule, mandating that an attack against one ally is an attack against all. He is the only president who has not specifically endorsed the agreement. The only time that NATO has invoked Article V since its founding in 1949 was when the United States was attacked on 9/11. Over 1,000 NATO soldiers were killed in George W. Bush’s war against Afghanistan. DDT made his comments to NATO while standing next to wreckage from the Twin Towers. Last year, he had threatened to abandon the organization if they didn’t pay more while he was catering to Russia, a non-NATO member. Some current NATO countries were in the Soviet Union; Putin called its “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”

NATO members did not respond well to DDT, as the above photo shows. France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron went so far as to swerve away from him to first greet Germany’s Angela Merkel and others before DDT.

DDT’s continuing ignorance was on full display at the NATO summit. For example, he told Jean-Claude Juncker, EU president that “the Germans are bad, very bad” and said that he plans to stop the sale of their cars in the U.S. Yet he was told at least 11 times when Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited the U.S. that the EU makes trade deals, not individual EU countries. Even if he stopped the sale of German cars in the U.S., many people here would lose their jobs because the U.S. manufactured German 281,519 vehicles in the first four months of 2017. In a meeting with Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, DDT complained about the difficulty of building golf resorts in the EU.

NATO members have a more serious reason for their response to DDT. As he actively encourages racist nationalists in the U.S and allies himself with Putin to bring down Europe, he is also willing to start a war to regain popularity. This approach has already been seen in his preemptive bombing of Syria when he searched for a greater support from people in the U.S. He also has exhibited a pattern of carelessness about intelligence that can endanger the rest of the free world.

From Brussels, the U.S. leader moved his disaster to Italy where he met with other members of the G7, the seven major advanced economies as reported by the International Monetary Fund. These countries represent more than 64% of the net global wealth ($263 trillion). Russia was a member of G8 for seven years until the country was ejected for annexing Crimea. DDT threatened them with backing out of the Paris Agreement, a position that he has taken off and on since he began campaigning. This action would put the U.S. on a par with Nicaragua and Syria, the only two countries that did not sign the agreement. DDT has said that the U.S. will not work to slow down climate change if it costs the country money. Withdrawing from the agreement will make China a leader in global environmental policy and new green technologies.

While DDT is making America “great” again by removing regulations, China is on its way to be the world leader in efficiency standards for coal-fired power plants while that nation shifts to renewable energy as shown in this issue brief. While the nation’s new coal-fired power plants are cleaner than any in the U.S., its emission standards are stricter than U.S. ones. China’s air quality is on a political par with economic growth and corruption. If the U.S. doesn’t improve its regulations, all the coal plans would be illegal to operate in China by 2020.

Another argument DDT started with G7 leaders was about migration and famine. He wants only a short reference to the first and to eliminate a five-page statement recognizing migrants’ rights and their positive contribution. The Italian plans on human movement and food security were intended to be the centerpiece of the summit which was in Taormina (Sicily) to symbolize the concern for refugees’ plight. DDT offered its own statement on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis affirming “the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels as key elements of their national security.” He also wants refugees to be settled close to their home countries, letting him off the hook to take the “Muslims.”

By the ninth day of his whirlwind trip, DDT was fed up. He didn’t even bother to listen to a translation of the G7 speech from his host, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni  The man who brags about his stamina was unable to walk 700 yards for a photo shoot; he had to wait for a golf cart. Four of the seven leaders of the G7 are attending their first summit. The only bright spot DDT gave the other six leaders is that he showed up; as usual, he gets a very low bar of performance.

DDT described his trip as “historic,” an accurate word for the way that he pandered to the Middle East for oil and money for his friends while he alienated NATO and G7 allies. At home, however, the attitude toward Islam is same-o, same-o. Rex Tillerson refused a request from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr reception as part of Ramadan celebrations, a custom for almost 20 years.

Back home, DDT faces increasing pressure—Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russian collusion, a son-in-law in trouble, falling already bad approval ratings, legislative problems to get his tax reform through, the 2018 elections, and his Twitter addiction. White supremacist Steve Bannon is running the “war room” to protect DDT from criminal charges.

Conservatives who complained about a $12,000 dress that Michelle Obama wore to a state dinner probably won’t bat an eye at the Melania Trump’s $51,000 floral coat and matching $1,630 purse by Dolce & Gabanna. The 2015 median household income in the U.S. was $55,775, meaning that half the households in the U.S. have an income comparable to or less than what Melania Trump paid for a casual jacket and purse.

A bit of humor: an illustrated tale of Emmanuel Macron’s handshake with DDT.

 

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel recovered from her DDT NATO experience with a joy-filled breakfast meeting with President Obama and an event at the Brandenburg Gate. The former president was invited a year ago to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

 

February 1, 2017

Trump Keeps Campaign Promises, Alienates Growing Number of Countries

Have I demoted President Donald Trump (PDT) to just Donald Trump (DT) was a question sent me yesterday. The demotion was accurate because I cannot consider DT a president until he starts acting like one. His actions recently, however, provide a new descriptor for him—Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Over a half century ago, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, describing the dire consequences of the pesticide DDT including cancer and other destructive effects on the planet. In 1972, the U.S. banned the use of DDT for agricultural use in the nation. Donald Trump may be even more toxic for the United States.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates speaks during a press conference at the Department of Justice on June 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. Volkswagen has agreed to nearly $15 billion in a settlement over emissions cheating on its diesel vehicles. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

As a dictator, DDT has decided to ignore the U.S. Constitution. Conservative press claims that Sally Yates should have been fired from the Department of Justice because she was insubordinate—that she should do anything the president wants, including supporting his unconstitutional actions. The office of the president can legally fire the Attorney General, but DDT’s action in this case and his petty language smearing her demonstrates his failure to understand that the DOJ is an independent agency. The Attorney General swears an oath to the U.S. Constitution, not to the U.S. president, yet DDT looks at the AG as his personal lackey.

Independence of the DOJ is especially vital at this time when some of the president’s associates are being investigated for their communication with Russia regarding the election.  Republican lawmakers understood the mission of the Attorney General when they confirmed individuals under a Democratic president. As with all else in the GOP world, however, fealty to the president is now of paramount importance with a Republican in the office.

As satirist Andy Borowitz wrote:

“Donald Trump fired the acting Attorney General, Sally Q. Yates, after learning that she had downloaded a copy of the United States Constitution to her computer, Trump told reporters on Monday night. According to the Trump Administration’s code of ethics, established by Steve Bannon, a counselor to the President, ‘possessing, reading, or referring to the United States Constitution’ is a violation that is punishable by termination.

“Suspecting that Yates was in breach of that rule, Bannon seized Yates’s computer at the Justice Department and discovered that she had secretly downloaded a complete copy of the 1789 document. ‘Sally Yates was hatching a covert plot to require my actions to be in accordance with the Constitution,’ Trump said. ‘We caught her red-handed.’

“Trump said he hoped Yates’s firing would send Justice Department staffers the message that ‘if you are caught flagrantly obeying the Constitution, you will be out of here. The American people deserve an Attorney General who will come to work every day ready to flout the Constitution, and in Jeff Sessions, they will have one,’ he said.”

With DDT and the current GOP crop, satire has come close to fact.

In DDT’s exuberance to capture terrorists coming in the country, his Muslim ban led to handcuffing a five-year-old boy and holding him in custody, separated from his parents for at least five hours, because he may have been “a threat to America,” according to Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) revealed that the child is a U.S. citizen who lives in Maryland and described the incident as “outrageous.” The boy was detained despite authorities having prior knowledge of his arrival. When Van Hollen tried to see if the child had been released, he was refused information by airport authorities.

With his new presidential powers, DDT is carrying out his campaign promises, one of them targeting the families of terror suspects. Although Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated he was not aware of this DDT position, DDT said this on the campaign trail:

“[Y]ou have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. But they say they don’t care about their lives. You have to take out their families.”

DDT’s first military raid, carried out last Sunday, killed two U.S. citizens, a member of SEAL Team 6 and the eight-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader born in New Mexico and killed in a U.S. strike five years ago. The purpose of the raid in southern Yemen was to gather intelligence, and an official said about the raid, “Almost everything went wrong.” Several other SEALs were injured, some seriously, and the child’s death has been useful for al Qaeda recruitment. Terrorist groups are circulating photographs of children who have been killed by the United States.

DDT attacked its (former?) ally in a telephone call last Saturday to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in that country’s attempt to confirm that the U.S. would honor its pledge to take 1,250 refugees. Before the call, DDT accused Australia of trying to export the “next Boston bombers.” A senior administration official stated that the call to Turnbull was “hostile and charged,” according to the Washington Post. Turnbull had assured that acceptance of the refugees was contingent on vetting, but DDT Trump said that he didn’t see how the U.S. would gain anything by honoring its promise. Although Turnbull tried to move on to discuss Syria’s conflict and other important foreign issues, DDT abruptly ended the call and said it was the “worst call by far.”

DDT’s call with the Mexican president seems even worse. Relationships between DDT and Enrique Peña Nieto have been strained since DDT told the Mexican president that he didn’t need to come to a meeting with him if Mexico wouldn’t pay for DDT’s wall between the countries. In this call, DDT threatened to send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there.” Nieto denied that DDT had made this threat, but the Mexican press reported DDT’s statements:

“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”

White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn announced that the U.S. has put Iran “on notice” for carrying out a medium-range ballistic missile test and attacks by proxy forces on a Saudi frigate:

“The Trump administration condemns such actions by Iran that undermine security, prosperity, and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East and place American lives at risk.”

The missile exploded when its reentry vehicle failed. Flynn declared that the launch violated a UN resolution, but Iran maintains that it has the right to missile development for protection from Israeli attack.  The UN has not made a decision about whether the launch violated its resolution.

Alienating countries in three continents, DDT has ignored Russia’s aggressive actions in escalating its illegal war in Ukraine.

Last week, DDT directed his irritation toward Theresa May, the UK prime minister who visited the U.S. During a joint press conference, May permitted a British reporter to ask this question:

“Mr. President, you’ve said before that torture works; you’ve praised Russia; you’ve said you want to ban some Muslims from coming to America; you’ve suggested there should be punishment for abortion. For many people in Britain, those sound like alarming beliefs. What do you say to our viewers at home who are worried about some of your views and worried about you becoming the leader of the free world?”

DDT avoided answering the question and then said to May, “This was your choice of a question? There goes that relationship!” It may become further strained with May’s opposition to DDT’s positions. She warned DDT and the Republicans to “beware” of Vladimir Putin and keep the sanctions, cautioned him that the West should stop trying to “remake the world in our own image,” backed the Iranian nuclear deal that DDT threatened to tear up, argued for all “diplomatic means at our disposal” to defeat ISIS, and strongly supported NAFTA.

In the first 24 hours after DDT announced his Muslim ban, over 1.5 million people in the UK, that has a population of 64.5 million, signed a petition opposing DDT’s state visit to their country. The petition reads:

“Donald Trump should be allowed to enter the UK in his capacity as head of the US Government, but he should not be invited to make an official state visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen.”

In addition, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion condemning the “discriminatory, divisive and counterproductive” travel ban. On February 20, Parliament will debate whether to rescind DDT’s visit. DDT seems intent on alienating every country except Russia.

trumps-visit

July 19, 2016

Only GOP Gets Pass for Making Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s what Republicans said this week when Leslie Stahl asked GOP vice-president candidate Mike Pence about staunchly supporting the Iraq War and Donald Trump excused him. That’s what a GOP delegate said about Melania Trump’s speech on the first night of the GOP convention that copied segments about values from First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention, the wife of the man who Trump denigrated for his lack of values.

Plagiarism seems to be a family pattern for the Trumps:  much of the materials from Trump Institute’s “get-rich-quick” ideas came from “an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier,” according to NYT’s Jonathan Martin. Plagiarism ended Joe Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1988, but Trump has been called the Teflon Man because nothing sticks to him. The GOP position that mistakes are no problem seem to not be extended to Democrats.

Last night at the convention was a night of fear and doom highlighted by Patricia Smith, mother of a man who died in the attack on the diplomatic post at Benghazi (Libya), when she emphatically said that she holds Hillary Clinton personally responsible for the death of her son. (Fox watchers missed her speech, however, because it broadcast a live interview with Donald Trump at the same time as her speech.) Smith claims that Clinton lied to her; family members of other losses at Benghazi do not agree with Smith. Steve Benen described the manipulation of a woman’s grief for political purposes as “the lowest point a party has reached in my lifetime.” Throughout the evening, the incessant cry of “lock her up” about Hillary made the delegates sound like crowds rioting during the French Revolution.

While the media’s obsession with Clinton and Benghazi, it largely ignored George W. Bush’s part in the Middle East conflicts, a disaster that has killed hundreds of times more people—both in the 9/11 attack and the ensuing wars—than the four tragic deaths at Benghazi. As Maureen Dodd reported in a recent column, “Bush’s Call to Invade Iraq Looking Even Worse,” Trump agrees with a report in Jean Edward Smith’s biography, Bush, “that W. ignored warnings before 9/11, and overreacted afterward.” He behaved like a teenager who didn’t pay attention while driving and then over corrected into the ditch—but millions of times worse.

Recent reports show that Bush’s actions, responsible for the current dangers from radical terrorists, ignored the results of the 9/11 congressional inquiry released in 2002. After 14 years, former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) forced the release of 28 pages from this report showing that the United States blamed the wrong country for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11. Despite heavy redactions, the pages reveal that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack on the United states were paid by Saudi Arabia and identifies serious communication failures between the CIA and the FBI that provided intelligence failure before the attacks.

In addition, the view of Saudi Arabia as an “ally” led to the FBI’s refusal to investigate the Saudi hijackers. Within the 28 pages is that statement that connections “suggest … incontrovertible evidence [exists] that there is support for these terrorists within the Saudi government.” Another part of the newly-released findings is that “Saudi Government officials in the United States may have ties to Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network.”

After the 9/11 attack, the FBI failed to interview key Saudi Arabian witnesses while relying on false second-hand information. Despite the FAA’s closure of the U.S. air space, they allowed key Saudi Arabians to almost immediately flee the United States because of their friendship with the Bush family. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were identified as Saudi citizens, but W. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

Months before the attack on 9/11, however, W. and his administration had already begun planning to attack Iraq. He started immediately after his first inauguration when he also cut taxes by $1 trillion and created a deficit, beginning with $400 billion after the former president, Bill Clinton, had brought the country to a surplus. Dick Cheney said that “Saddam’s own son-in-law” told them that “Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.” Yet in 2003, reporters found that the son-in-law had said the opposite, that “all weapons—biological, chemical, missile, nuclear—were destroyed.”

Despite claims to the contrary from Cheney, and Condoleeza Rice, the aluminum tubes were the wrong size for centrifuges but appropriate for conventional, non-WMD rockets and “innocuous.” There were no links at that time between Iraq and a Qaeda although Colin Powell said the opposite.  W. claimed an IAEA report said that Iraq was “six months away from developing a nuclear weapon.” No such report existed, and the IAEA reported that it had “found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.” And on and on with the lies.

Over one million Iraqi men, women, and children have been killed in the conflict, and another two million are refugees in other countries. Another 1.7 million are displaced within the country. One million U.S. veterans were injured in the war, and 4,491 died.

W. always claimed that releasing this information would “make it harder for us to win the war on terror.” What he really means is that the release of the information would be harder for him to start the war that developed the terror in today’s Middle East.

To accomplish his goal, he enlisted the support of Tony Blair, then British prime minister, “to start a war on dodgy intelligence with inadequate planning to control the killing fields of a post-Saddam landscape, a landscape that eventually spawned the Islamic state.” That’s the conclusion of the 2.6 million-word report from the British government’s Chilcot inquiry. They ignored the report of U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix who said that he found no weapons of mass destruction. Blair expressed concerns about the French, and W. answered:

“Yeah, but what did the French ever do for anyone? What wars did they win since the French Revolution?”

Key findings from the British inquiry into the Iraq War:

  • There was “no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein” in March 2003 and military action was “not a last resort.”
  • The UK “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted.”
  • Tony Blair’s note to George W. Bush on July 28, 2002, saying UK would be with the US “whatever,” was the moment Britain was set on a path to war
  • Judgments about the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD “were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
  • Tony Blair told attorney general Lord Goldsmith Iraq had committed breaches of UN Security Council resolution 1441 without giving evidence to back up his claim
  • Planning for post-war Iraq was “wholly inadequate.”
  • Iran, North Korea and Libya were considered greater threats in terms of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons proliferation.
  • The joint intelligence committee believed it would take Iraq five years, after the lifting of sanctions, to produce enough fissile material for a weapon.
  • There was no evidence that Iraq had tried to acquire fissile material and other components or – were it able to do so – that it had the technical capabilities to turn these materials into a usable weapon.
  • Saddam’s regime was “not judged likely” to share its weapons or knowhow with terrorist groups.

After the report came out, W. admitted “mistakes” in Iraq but said that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. The U.S. created Hussein, employing him starting in 1959 and sending him millions of dollars, intelligence and tactical advice after making him the dictator in the 1980s. W. simply destroyed any Iraqi institutions remaining with no plan on how to rebuild these. Thirteen years later, poverty and violence in Iraq are rampant, and many people are without reliable electricity, running water, and healthcare.

As always, conservatives blame everyone except themselves—in this case the Iraqis. James Kirchick wrote in the National Review:

“If supporters of the Iraq War can be blamed for anything, it is being guilty of, at worst, a naïveté whereby they expected too much from Iraqis—not, as the latter-day inquisitors of George W. Bush and Tony Blair would have it, of a malignant desire to rape and pillage. Iraq’s tragic predicament is the result not of Western imperialism but of the particular pathologies of a Muslim-Arab world whose depredations are now on full view across the region, from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen and beyond.”

The GOP push at this time is to complete wipe out terrorists in the Middle East. That means eliminating whatever infrastructure exists in these countries, putting in more dictators, and then leaving the countries worse off that they were before they did their regime-building. The result will be more hundreds of thousands of people dead and more hundreds of thousands of people left homeless and wandering a planet where they are unwanted.

This is the party that wants to put Hillary Clinton in prison after she was exonerated of involvement with the deaths of four people in Benghazi. The GOP must keep bombing countries—14 of them in the Islamic world since 1980—because politicians make money from contractors creating the war machines. In addition, the U.S. accounts for 79 percent of weapons sales to the Middle East, and the majority of all foreign weapons sales around the world.   That’s one way that GOP candidates get elected; they beat the war drums and then use funding from manufacturers of war weapons.

June 29, 2016

Benghazi Panel Won’t Stop Going Nowhere

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 9:45 PM
Tags: , , ,

The House Committee on the tragic deaths of four people in a diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, has slogged along for almost 800 days—longer than the 704 days that the 9/11 Commission worked to dig out every piece about the worst terrorist attack on the United States. That committee created a bipartisan report endorsed by all the commission members. The Benghazi committee was created on May 8. It has lasted longer than investigations in Pearl Harbor, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Hurricane Katrina debacle and found nothing new over the first seven Benghazi inquiries.

The committee isn’t finished. Although the Republicans on the committee has already released an 800-page report, they interviewed another witness today, a man who used the hashtag “#ifyouvoteforhillaryyouarebeyondstupid.” The Air Force mechanic posted an argument on his Facebook page that planes from his European base could have saved the people who died. His superiors have already testified that there’s nothing to what he claims.

The committee vote on whether to adopt the report is July 8, and Democrats are just getting copies. Not one Democrat on the committee was allowed to see the report before it was released to the public. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), leading Democrat on the committee, described today’s interview as further evidence of GOP attempts to smear Clinton. That one committee cost the public at least $7 million, and Cummings questioned why taxpayers should have to pay more money “to chase down unsubstantiated conspiracy theories against Secretary Clinton.”

The GOP’s sole goal in the investigation, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was to discredit Hillary Clinton to keep her from becoming president. Whether the partisan witch hunt has succeeded in finding enough dirt on Clinton to destroy her differs depending who is reporting the information. The conservative publication from the nation’s capital, The Hill, announced, “Benghazi Panel Faults Clinton.” The headline from the popular Huffington Post was “House Republicans spent millions of dollars on Benghazi Committee to exonerate Clinton.”

The New York Times summarized the Benghazi report:

“Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.”

These seven “findings” in the report show how desperate The Hill is. Although Republicans may wish to believe that these are new, all seven emerged in the earlier seven investigations:

  • Ambassador Stevens, one of the four men killed, wanted to make the Benghazi facility permanent.
  • The military never got moving (probably because it was too far to be successful in stopping the attack).
  • Troops changed clothes four times. (That Marines in Rota, Spain were required to change four times from military to civilian attire and back again is irrelevant because no aircraft was at Rota and the Marines’ destination was Tripoli, not Benghazi.)
  • YouTube video dominated White House meeting, but the anti-Muslim video ultimately proved not to be a contributing factor.
  • Former Qadhafi loyalists evacuated U.S. people from Benghazi’s CIA annex to the airport.
  • Clinton blamed terrorists in private. (The report tried to show this as part of her deception.)
  • Rice went “off the reservation.” The racist statement from the State Department’s senior Libya desk officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs was a criticism of then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice’s statements on the Sunday talk shows after the attack when she said the assaults were spontaneous. She was actually using information from the CIA, some of which the CIA admitted later were wrong.

In the almost four years since the tragic event at Benghazi, that one word is now defined as everything that went wrong in Libya since the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi, assisted by the U.S. The GOP focus on Clinton’s fault in the deaths kept any thoughtful consideration of U.S. interventions in other countries’ politics. The GOP opinion made only one shift: In the past, Republicans claimed that the Obama administration handled the crisis badly because they could have sent military forces but didn’t. Now they’re saying that the situation was badly handled because they had not positioned military forces to make a difference.

Donald Trump and his son, Eric, have viciously lied about Clinton “sleeping” while Ambassador Stevens was killed. Yet the attack occurred at 3:30 pm EST, and Clinton released a public statement after 10:00 pm. She was still sending emails after 11:00 pm that night.

Trump went so far as to tell people to ask Stevens’ family how they feel about Clinton. Dr. Anne Stevens, the ambassador’s sister said this about the tragedy:

“It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is under-budgeted.

“I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.”

The GOP-controlled Congress started slashing security funding for embassies as soon as they took over in 2011. The year before Benghazi, Hillary warned the GOP that their embassy security cuts put Americans at risk, but they refused to listen to her. Instead the report blamed the tragedy on positioning of “assets”:

“The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive prior to the final lethal attack on the Annex. The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond; or why the urgency and ingenuity displayed by team members at the Annex and Team Tripoli was seemingly not shared by all decision makers in Washington.”

Despite all their efforts, the GOP failed to place the blame: they just raised general criticisms and concerns about inadequate security resources, breakdowns among agencies, and bureaucratic inaction. Committee Democrats released a press statement that stated, in part:

“Decades in the future, historians will look back on this investigation as a case study in how not to conduct a credible investigation.”

The far right-wing has now moved from Hillary Clinton to a new scapegoat, committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC). The Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi released a 73-page Benghazi report against Clinton and President Obama that reads like a Trump speech and includes fantasy connections between the deaths and the Clinton Foundation and the president’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report, one of the men who died, Ambassador Stevens, was at fault because he “rather romanticized the Libyan jihadis.”

Retired Gen. Thomas McInerney said that the congressional leadership’s “dirty little secret” is that they approved “black operations” to run weapons from Benghazi to ISIS in Syria. “We see a field of smoking guns,” said Roger Aronoff of Accuracy in Media, which convened the Citizens’ Commission at the National Press Club. And it’s not just the public—two committee members wrote their own report.

In The Guardian, Chris Stephen gave three questions that will probably never be answered: who launched the attack, why did they do it, and were US actions in the turmoil of post-revolutionary Libya a contributory factor? The mystery may never be solved because the CIA won’t provide any explanation of their presence in the city. The report has no information about why the CIA had a Benghazi annex with dozens of agents and contractors to organize massive transfers of weapons from the Libyan government’s stockpile to Syria.

Trey Gowdy knows that the Benghazi report would not be damning to Clinton. He released it just before the Fourth of July recess, a time when few people pay attention, and during the media focusing on the British vote to leave the European Union.

The taxpayers in the U.S. have paid more than $100 million to investigate all the myths surrounding the Clintons—Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster, and Benghazi. The GOP certainly won’t have any concern about a few more million dollars.

As for Clinton’s guilt, Trey Gowdy asked people to read the 800-page report and decide for themselves. If you’re so inclined, it’s online here. At least Democratic committee members can now find the report.

June 27, 2016

Brexit Fails; So Will Trump

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The “Leave the EU” campaign has won, and it doesn’t seem to be working for them. Leading “Leave” politicians made failed promises:

“Leave” promise: EU cash will go to the National Health Service. The campaign even put the promise on its big red bus: The EU costs £350 million a week, “enough to build a brand new, fully staffed … hospital every week.” Politicians repeated the promise, but after the vote, Leave leader Iain Duncan Smith said that the campaign didn’t say “all” of the money, just “a significant amount of it.” After the vote Nigel Farage, another Leave leader, said, “No I can’t [guarantee it], and I would never have made that claim.” The UK gets about half that money back for farmers’ subsidies, research grants, and infrastructure funding.

“Leave” promise: We’ll take control of the UK’s borders. The claim was that the expected immigration to fall. “Leave” leader Nigel Evans said there had been “some misunderstanding” over the Leave campaign’s position on reducing immigration and that he didn’t say it would fall. The UK won’t separate from the EU for at least two years, and the UK may have to keep borders open to EU workers to freely trade with Europe. Boris Johnson, a leading Leave campaigner and wannabe prime minister, wrote, “British people will still be able to go and work in the EU; to live; to travel; to study; to buy homes; and to settle down.” If that’s right, Europeans—including immigrants—will enjoy the same freedom of movement.

“Leave” promise #3: The economy will be fine. Anti-Remain campaigners laughed at the “Project Fear” that maintained the UK would suffer financial and economic turmoil. Yet, the pound is at the lowest level in decades, UK bank stocks collapsed, and GDP growth forecasts have been slashed. Companies are calling off investments, and markets throughout the world have gone down drastically, including the Dow Jones in the United States which lost almost 900 points in two days of trading.

“Leave” leaders have absolutely no exit plan.

Comments about Brexit:

Philippe LeGrain at The New York Times:

“Brexit’s supporters are deluded when they argue that Britain could cherry pick what it likes about the European Union and discard the rest. Since exports to the European Union (13 percent of G.D.P. in 2014) matter much more to Britain than exports to Britain (3 percent of G.D.P. in 2014) do to the European Union, the European Union will call the shots. Other governments have every incentive to be tough, both to steal a competitive advantage and to deter others from following Britain out the door.”

Damian Carrington at The New Republic:

“The crashing financial markets will damage the huge investments needed to create a cleaner and safer environment and will dent the nation’s fast-growing green economy, one economic sector where the UK could lead.”

From a financial authority:

The aftershocks from the UK’s EU referendum results continue to persist. Last Friday saw exceptionally sharp declines in the major global equity markets, though the sharpest drops were recorded in the Italian and German equity markets, down 12.5% and 6.8% respectively, compared with 3.1% for the FTSE100 index, although UK bank stocks were ‘hammered’ on speculation as to how ‘pass porting rights’ to the EU might be affected, as well as a cut in the UK’s credit rating. The S&P500 index fell 3.6% and the US 10-year Treasury yield made a new low for the year at 1.40%.

In the currency market, the US Dollar to Japanese yen briefly dipped below the 100.00, and the Japanese authorities might be ready to intervene in order to stabilise the currency. The Chinese currency went in the other direction and made a new low for the year, with investors sensing that the Chinese authorities are set to countenance some slippage in the exchange rate to act as a shock-absorber for the economy.

Cable dropped sharply from $1.5000 to $1.3200 and continues its slide today, touching $1.3122. UK 10-year Gilt yields fell below 1.00% this morning for the first time ever. (The Bank of England was founded in 1694.)

From a political perspective, the referendum decision has divided the UK. “Remain” members of the Conservative Party want to stop Boris Johnston from being the next Prime Minister. In the opposition Labour Party, a series of resignations in protested Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership style. In Scotland, the SNP is looking to block the “Brexit” vote and call for a second independence referendum. The scope for a constitutional crisis is quite high, and the Brexit vote has exposed the fault-lines in British politics.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said this morning that Article 50 of the European Union Treaty would not be triggered until October. Article 50 lays down the terms and conditions of the negotiation process between the UK and EU and the framework for the exiting country’s future relationship with the EU. Article 50 sets a 2-year deadline on talks that can only be extended by a unanimous decision of the other 27 EU countries. Once activated, Article 50 eliminates the UK from EU decision-making at the highest level. Article 50 is concluded by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining consent of the European Parliament.

The EU Summit this week looks to push for very early negotiations, but it is the UK Government that has to decide when to invoke Article 50. At the moment, UK PM David Cameron remains in place until October when a new Conservative Party leader and PM are to be announced. This might be too distant a time and the pressure for an early settlement to the leadership question is likely to intensify. There is no guaranteed timetable as to how it all works out.

From the EU’s perspective, the risk is that “Brexit” contagion’ spreads to other countries and encourages voters to think of breaking away from the EU. The results of the Spanish elections (the centre-right People’s Party won with 137 seats) yesterday mitigated some of that risk, though there is a question whether the appetite for ever-increasing integration is still there.

Italy holds a constitutional referendum in October, but Italian voters might view “Brexit” as a way of expressing their view on the EU. The Italian economy has suffered a very low economic growth rate for some time, but it is the Italian banks that remain under-capitalised and have the potential to trigger another banking crisis.

Some forecasters are talking about a UK recession next year and perhaps an early cut in UK interest rates. In the Eurozone, the sharper declines in equity markets and concerns over the health of the banking system are likely to keep the European Central Bank’s accommodative monetary stance in place. However, German criticism of negative interest rates in terms of the cost to German banks and German savers is something that the ECB cannot afford to ignore.

Wider afield, the “Brexit” uncertainty gives the U.S. Fed every excuse to defer an increase in US interest rates. The key upcoming dates are the US non-farm payroll report on July 8. The Fed meetings after that are July 26-27 and September 20-21, which seems to be the last opportunity to raise rates prior to the US Presidential Election on November 8. A faltering US economy might require quantitative easing.

Why did UK voters favor “Leave”? Many of them probably didn’t even know the consequences. The two most Googled questions in the UK on the day after the vote was announced was “What does it mean to leave the EU?” and “What is the EU?”  John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, had another funny, factual, hard-hitting piece about the vote. To the people who asked if they could change his vote, he emphatically said, “That was the f*cking vote! That was it!”

Although unlikely, Oliver might be wrong. The Brexit vote was not binding, and Members of Parliament could vote against it. Over 3.5 million UK residents have signed a petition demanding a second vote if support for either side was under 60 percent with a voter turnout under 75 percent. The turnout was about 72 percent, and the winning side had 52 percent of the vote. Scotland voted heavily to remain, and the Scotland Act 1998 requires the Scottish Parliament to approve measures that remove EU law from Scotland. The same might be true for Northern Ireland. The least likely scenario is that the EU could offer major concessions.

Yet the longer the uncertainty in a wait for the outcome, the greater the political and economic costs. The U.S. suffers from the same uncertainty as everyone waits for the outcome of the presidential election in a little more than four months with Donald Trump representing everything that the Leave campaign did—promises he cannot keep, an irrational xenophobia to turn the country white, and an untenable austerity approach toward the economy. The UK today could be the US this January.

June 25, 2016

Brexit Brings Buyers’ Remorse

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 1:26 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

brexit

Many people in the United Kingdom went to bed Thursday night feeling safe and woke up yesterday feeling they were in serious danger after the 52-percent vote for the UK to leave the European Union. EU leaders want Britain to move forward immediately to avoid further financial instability throughout the world, but leaders of the Leave campaign seem nervous about their win, perhaps because of the advantageous trade relationships between UK and EU.

Boris Johnson said that they’d rather not take any immediate steps, perhaps because he hopes to use the vote as leverage for becoming prime minister. He could even allow the UK to stay in the EU. People who voted for leaving the EU are now wishing they could change their vote, agreeing with one British voter who said she voted to leave but “I never thought it would actually happen.”

People who voted in favor of leaving the EU should feel remorseful. Predictions show a one percent drop in GDP, a fall of £19 billion equivalent to £720 (over $1,000 in US dollars) for each UK household. Each households could annually be £4,300 a year worse off by 2030. Prolonged uncertainty, reduced access to the single market, and decreased investment from overseas are joined by the banks’ loss of “passporting” rights to conduct business throughout the EU. In the hours after the vote was announced, the British pound’s 11-percent decrease hit a 31-year low against the dollar. A British recession seems likely because businesses usually defer spending during uncertain times. A bleak economy causes consumers to stop spending on big-ticket items. The collapsing pound will drive up inflation, cutting into incomes. Some jobs will disappear, and wage growth will fall.

The Cornwall area that soundly voted against staying with the EU is now worried about the annual loss of at last £60 million that it received in the past decade. European money provided infrastructure, universities, and broadband internet for them, and farmers and fishers had benefited from the EU policies. New trade deals between the EU and the UK mandate approval and unanimity by over 30 European, national, and regional parliaments that may be able to act only after national referendums. Goods leaving the UK will face tariffs, and everyone leaving the island will be forced to go through customs just to travel to Europe.

Both Northern Ireland and Scotland want to leave the UK in order to stay in the EU, and Spain wants to take back Gibraltar from the UK. After 95.9% of people in Gibraltar voted to stay with the EU, Spain renewed its claim that Gibraltar is its territory, something that Spain has declared for three centuries since the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. People living in Gibraltar are British citizens with British passports, but they also want to be part of the EU.

The economy of countries around the world started to take big hits. The world’s 400 richest people lost $127.4 billion yesterday, 3.2 percent of their total net worth.  In Canada, the loonie had its biggest drop in 18 months to around 76.8 cents. U.S. Oil fell by 3 percent. Asia’s stock market started the fall after the vote, followed by other main indices which fell by about 10 percent. In the U.S., Friday’s Dow Jones industrial average fell 611 points, causing a loss of $160 million in market value. Big corporations on the S&P index lost $627 billion–just yesterday. It could have been much worse, but this is only the beginning. The drops also hurt retirement funds. Tighter financial conditions makes it harder and more expensive for people and businesses to get money—less borrowing, less investing, and less economic activity.

Touting his new golf course in Scotland, Donald Trump saw the results through the prism of Donald Trump’s business ventures. The New York Times reported that his business interests “still drive his behavior, and his schedule. He has planned two days in Scotland, with no meetings with government or political leaders scheduled.” The Republican’s itinerary “reads like a public relations junket crossed with a golf vacation,” complete with “a ceremonial ribbon cutting.”

Trump didn’t even know that Scotland had overwhelmingly voted against leaving the EU: he said they were celebrating because “they took their country back.” NBC’s Katy Tur asked him whether he was traveling with any of his foreign policy advisors who talked to him about the vote. He said that he’d been in touch but that “there’s nothing to talk about.” Instead of talking about the vote, he talked about the golf course and its refurbished holes, plumbing, putting greens, and zoning. Asked about Brexit’s undermining the British pound value, he said that the decline is good news for him.

“If the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly. For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be positive.”

People traveling from the U.S. may get a better deal for their dollars, but the U.S. economy can suffer depressed exports because of the weak English pound and the possible ramifications in the EU. U.S. banks said Brexit could force an overhaul of their business in the U.K. It doesn’t happen all at once, but the dominos are falling.

Trump’s business ventures in Scotland bulldozed through its elected officials and land owners, and Trump sued the Scottish government to break environmental laws and obtain property through eminent domain. Scottish officials allowed Trump to flatten a third of the Foveran dunes complex, a legally protected site of special scientific interest. Whenever he couldn’t get permits, he built anyway.

The neighbors of his golf courses roundly despise Trump because he tried to tear down what he called their “ugly” houses. He called their houses “ugly” and wanted to tear them down. When they refused to leave, he built a tall earthen wall that blocked their view of the dunes and beach and put up a locked gate that blocked the public road to reach the beach. Security staff sit in 4×4 vehicles watching all their movements.

Trump claims that the Scottish people “love” him, but 200-300 protesters appeared with a mariachi band during his press conference at the golf course and threw red golf balls with swastika symbols on the ground. In the background, neighbors of both his golf courses flew the Mexican flag in solidarity with other peoples who he has denigrated.

Many people in the UK had no idea what the EU was before the vote or what the connection between the UK and the EU meant to everyday people. Like Donald Trump, the Leave campaign scapegoated immigrants and created a culture of hatred because of economic inequality. They also accused the country’s leaders of being the elite and maintained that “experts” know nothing. The Leave slogan was “Take Back Control.” Since 2010, the austerity measures of the Conservative Party slashed the social safety net and left deprivation in its place.

As in the United States, British leaders are increasingly purchased by corporate and financial interests. Democratic rights, promised by the Leave campaign, were taken by the wealthy and corporations that control the country’s politics and economy. The loss of the EU will worsen the situation for workers who no longer guaranteed the EU rights, and Conservative Party control will only exacerbate their problems. Less regulated British corporations will cause more environmental damage and more mistreatment of employees and customers. Like the U.S., the media fed the paranoia and the fear.

Is “Texit” next? Daniel Miller, head of the Texas Nationalist Movement, hopes so. In his revisionist history that overlooks the area’s original Hispanic (and of course Native American) residents, Miller said, “We come from a heritage of people that carved an empire out of a wilderness.” The TNN calls for a referendum, as one in the UK, to vote on secession from the U.S. The “Republic of Texas” goes farther, maintaining that Texas never ceded sovereignty to the U.S. when it joined the union in 1845.

Steve Willliams wrote on care2.com:

“If there is anything that can be learned from the UK’s political fight over the past months, it’s that alienation, fear-mongering and a deep distrust of other nations can create a perfect storm of political action that can lead even usually reasonable people to go against compassion, unity and progressive causes….

“Americans who reject all that Donald Trump stands for will want to make sure that doesn’t happen in the United States come November and will hope that the UK can serve as a wake up call for Americans who felt disengaged from the political process.”

Brexit lessons for people in the U.S.:

  • One should never underestimate the forces of right-wing nationalism and nativism.
  • Successful far-right nationalist parties, leaders, and campaigns leave immediate consequences.
  • Centrist political parties will reap what they sow if they slyly invoke nationalist and racist sentiments for their own purposes.

Williams calls for another vote—perfectly legal—for those people who suffer buyers’ remorse. The vote to leave the EU is not legally binding, and the deal is not set in motion until Article 50 is invoked. Over 2 million people have already signed the petition on the official UK Parliament website for another vote, a number well over the mandatory 100,000-signature level to force a debate in Parliament. The high volume of traffic caused the website to temporarily crash. Ironically, the petition had been placed earlier by a Leave supporter who was afraid that the referendum would support staying with the EU.

If Trump is elected this fall, however, the U.S. has no way back. An ignorant, megalomaniacal dictator will be in charge. Those who think that one person cannot make a difference should ask people in Scotland.

More details about Brexit background and impact.

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