Nel's New Day

December 27, 2018

Disasters in Iraq, More Bad news in North Carolina

Day Six of the Government Shutdown:  The Senate returned today for four minutes to discuss the federal shutdown and then went home until the afternoon of January 2, the last day of the 115th Congress. The House lasted two minutes and 55 seconds. Republicans denied the attempt of Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) to get a vote on legislation to reopen the government. DDT’s only visibility are his irate tweets.

Nine federal departments and several federal agencies stay unfunded, leaving 25 percent of the government unable to continue operations. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) said that the Democratic House may put forward a bill to fund the government without the wall on its first day of January 3. The legislation would mirror the bipartisan Senate bill passed last week before Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) refused to sign any budget bill without his wall. All bills passed before January 3 expire, and the Senate would have to repass the legislation with seven new members. The the Office of Personnel Management shared advice for federal workers such as doing building chores in exchange for reduced rent.

DDT said he was “proud” to cause the shutdown and would wear the “mantle.” A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted primarily before the beginning of the shutdown shows that 47 percent of adults agree that he is to blame. Only seven percent fault Republicans in Congress with another 33 percent blaming the Democrats.

On Christmas Day, DDT tweeted, with no evidence that “many” of the 800,000 workers without paychecks want him to hold out for the wall and that they’re doing “just fine.” By today, he declared that most of those workers are “Democrats.”

After 706 days in office, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) visited troops in a combat zone for the first time since he was inaugurated. The visit occurred the week after he announced victory over ISIS, a claim that his Pentagon and State Department disputed, and the same day that the New York Times blew the whistle on DDT’s claims of bone spurs to dodge the Vietnam War. Reports from a podiatrist’s doctor’s daughter describe how Fred Trump may have kept his son from the Vietnam War draft. Long ridiculed for using bone spurs as an excuse, DDT received his medical exemption from Dr. Larry Braunstein, according to his daughters who said Braunstein talked about doing a favor for DDT’s father. Braunstein practiced in one of dozens of buildings that Fred Trump owned in Jamaica, Queens. Dr. Manny Weinstein, who lived in two Brooklyn apartments owned by Trump, may have also been involved. Weinstein died in 1995, and Braunstein in 2007. DDT always said that he had a high lottery number, but that process didn’t begin until a year after his bone spur 1-Y exemption. DDT’s earlier exemption as a student came from his attending Wharton, thanks in part to “an interview with a friendly Wharton admissions officer who was one of [his father’s] old high school classmates,” according to Gwenda Blair’s book The Trumps.

While talking to the troops in Iraq, DDT repeated his lies—that they were getting “one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received” and that they “haven’t gotten one in more than ten years.” He continued, “I got you a big one,” claiming that it is over ten percent. Fact check: U.S. troops received pay raises for every year back to 1975 except for 1983. The latest pay raise was 2.6 percent. And there was no debate with anyone who wanted smaller races.

DDT tweeted video of his meeting in Iraq with members of a Navy Seal team on covert operations who were wearing camouflage gear with night vision goggles, putting the men into danger. Their location was considered classified—until DDT announced it. A Defense Department official said that it is the first time that special-ops forces serving in a war zone didn’t have their faces covered or digitally blurred for a photo release. The troops who asked DDT to autograph their MAGA hats might also be violating the DOD’s position on politics.

Although DDT outed special ops, possibly putting them in danger, he failed to meet with any Iraqi officials during his three hours in their country. He said that the trip had been planned for three weeks, but Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi was invited to meet the president only two hours in advance. The prime minister said that any meeting was canceled because of a disagreement of how to conduct the session. After DDT’s visit, Iraqi politicians and lawmakers, angered and insulted by DDT’s swift and unannounced visit, demanded that U.S. troops leave Iraq. Sabah al-Saadi, leader of Iraq’s Islah parliamentary bloc, asked that an emergency parliament “discuss this blatant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and to stop these aggressive actions by Trump who should know his limits: The U.S. occupation of Iraq is over.”

DDT also raised conflict in South Africa, not for the first time, by tweeting that State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo should investigate the “killing of farmers” and “land and farm seizures” there. The South African government declared DDT “misinformed” and accused him of stoking racial divisions. The country’s rand currency dropped over 1.5 percent against the U.S. dollar. Farm murders are at a 20-year low, and conservative Australian politicians have falsified the number of deaths last year.

The trip wasn’t even kept a secret. An amateur plane enthusiast and photographer spotted Air Force One over Sheffield, England on its way to Iraq. According to Alan Meloy, the only two VC-25s alternate as Air Force One. He posted his photograph on Flickr, and the secret was out three hours before the plane landed at Al Asad Airbase west of Baghdad.

Distressed about DDT’s moves to pull out troops from the Middle East, GOP senators are looking for someone to stand up to DDT now that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has died. The name of Utah’s incoming GOP senator, Mitt Romney, has been tossed out as a solution to take this role—sort of “let Mikey try it.” Evidently no sitting senator has the courage to take on the task.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), known for choosing his words carefully, sent out one of his most critical statements to date, saying he was “distressed” to read Mattis’s reasons for resigning. He added that Trump should pick a successor who shares Mattis’s “understanding” of the “vital principles” that he outlined in his resignation letter. He didn’t. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said he didn’t believe Trump’s views on foreign policy aligned in many ways with his or most Republicans’.

“I think General Mattis has put his finger on where the president has views that are very, very distinct from the vast majority of Republicans and probably Democrats, elected and unelected,” Toomey told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), asked about Mattis, quipped that he was “still depressed” and “too emotional” to talk about the impending departure. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) said “the vast majority of senators both Democratic and Republican are totally opposed to this policy. We’re trying to get the administration to rethink it.”

Asked if he thought Trump understood foreign policy, the highly conservative senator smiled briefly before adding, “I kind of scratch my head.”

Senators need to get started if they have any involvement in DDT’s decisions about the Middle East.

The North Carolina 9th District issue of election fraud keeps getting worse. In the midst of the GOP candidate’s absentee ballot harvesting to create his win, the state legislature passed an override of the governor’s veto that permits the state elections board to hide any allegations of campaign law violations. The new law also requires new primaries and general election for the 9th District if the board determines that fraud existed in the 2018 election, a law that would force primaries on innocent participants as well as the guilty. The GOP legislature rushed to pass the law because it loses its veto-proof majority at the end of December. At that time, a lawsuit has reinstated the power of overseeing elections, ethics enforcement, and lobbyist reporting to the governor after a GOP legislature removed it from the Democratic governor, changing a century-long practice.

Another problem is that the state Supreme Court dissolved the current elections board as of tomorrow. The board had scheduled a hearing on the 9th District issue on January 11, 2019. Because the state board of elections has not certified Mark Harris as the winner of the 9th District election, Harris cannot go to the U.S. House with the newly elected members on January 3. The governor may be able to appoint a new elections board, but the bill passed into law by the state legislature today mandates that the board doesn’t take effect until January 31, 2019. The House can also refuse to seat a candidate until after an investigation. The 116th Congress will most likely start with 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans, and one vacancy.

Before the shutdown, DDT’s approval rating had dropped to 39 percent, the lowest since he was inaugurated. It’s not likely that these events will bolster the figures.

 

September 20, 2014

Wanted: Strategy for Peace, Not War

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The International Day of Peace is commemorated each year on the 21st of September. Before Congress left for home two days ago, members passed an amendment to arm Syrian “moderates” for more war. Where the United States goes from there is not yet known because Congress doesn’t meet for very long and makes very few decisions when it does.

The media has fueled the fear of ISIL in the U.S., and the constant showing videos of two beheadings has created a frenzy among people in the U.S. United States intelligence agencies concluded that it provides no threat to this country. Daniel Benjamin, who served as the State Department’s top counterterrorism adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, said the public discussion about the ISIS threat has been a “farce” and that the lurid descriptions of the threat are “unjustified.”

Former Senate Intelligence Chair, former Sen. Bob Graham, believes the rise of ISIL was helped by the U.S. failure to investigate Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11/01 attacks. When air traffic was blocked after 9/11, 144 people, mostly from Saudi aristocracy, were allowed to fly back to Saudi Arabia without any questioning. Graham noted that U.S. officials “were inexplicably solicitous to Saudis.” U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia found people to be obstructive to any investigative attempts, and the pattern continued for a decade. In 2007, Stuart Levey, the Under Secretary of the US Treasury in charge of monitoring and impeding the financing of terrorism, said, “If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia.” At that time, no one identified by the U.S. or the U.N. as funding terrorism had been prosecuted by the Saudis.

Other concerns, according to the co-chairman of the official inquiry into these attacks, are the continued Saudi support of jihadi movements such as al-Quaeda. In 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” Throughout George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” Saudis funded al-Qaeda, ISIL, Hamas, and the Taliban. The Saudi monarchy has long had an alliance with the Wahhabi clergy, who support an intolerant Islam belief that denounces Shia as heretics and treats women as possessions.

The current plan calls for a special training facility for “moderate” Syrian opposition in Saudi Arabia, which gives priority to regime changes in Damascus. Each U.S. military intervention in Iraq only makes the country more unstable. After U.S. involvement, Syria and Libya are failed states.

A century ago, Britain and France divided Middle East countries between the two countries to loot its resources and maintained power by defeating any move toward independence, smothering Arab nationalism. The French put Christians in charge of Lebanon to control the Sunnis and Shiites and the minority Shiites in charge of the majority Sunnis in Syria. Britain set up a Sunni king in Iraq to rule the majority Shiites and used Zionism in Palestine to keep the country divided.

The U.S. and Europe continue to keep the status quo.  As President Obama said, “We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.” Roughly translated, the U.S. goal is to keep making money off the oil.

Bin Laden said he goaded the U.S. into war to “bleed America to the point of bankruptcy.” George W. Bush paid between $3 trillion and $4 trillion for his two wars in the Middle East, and, with the help of Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), ISIL is following the same pattern. The Saudi ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, found support from these two legislators to move toward taking over Damascus. To topple the Syrian president Bashar Assad, Saudi King Abdulla appointed Prince Bandar bin Sultan who successfully woos McCain.  Bandar was involved in illegal sale of U.S. weapons to Iran during Ronald Reagan’s administration and was clear about his goal to use Sunnis in committing genocide on all Shiites in 2001. In 2008, he threatened a terrorist attack in London if Britain did not stop their investigation into Saudi arms deals. Although Bandar resigned as head of Saudi General Intelligence, he remains Secretary General of Saudi National Security Council.

james o.keefeJames O’Keefe, master of editing videos to prove that liberals are evil, also fueled McCain’s arguments by dressing like Osama bin Laden and crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In a Senate hearing, McCain use the stunt in claiming that the border isn’t safe. Top Homeland Security official, Francis Taylor, said that border officials saw O’Keefe and the people filming him, but The Drudge Report (one of Mitt Romney’s “news” resources) printed as its top headine “ISIS at the border?” Fox told its elderly white viewers “D.H.S. Confirms ISIS Planning Infiltration of U.S. Southern Border” although its headline on the Fox Latino network read “ISIS Terrorists Not Sneaking Over U.S. Southern Border With Mexico, D.H.S. Officials Tell Congress.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) criticized President Obama’s playing golf and said that ISIL may partner with Iran to receive nuclear weapons and cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Playing golf doesn’t “degrade” national security, Iran and ISIL are enemies, and Iran has no nuclear weapons. Yet Franks is still convinced that ISIL is operating in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico) across the border from El Paso (TX). Franks is a member of the Armed Services Committee.  Senatorial candidates on the campaign trail in Alaska, Arkansas, New Hampshire, and North Carolina are using this issue to instill more fear in their constituents. Republicans believe that the ISIL controversy will win them this fall’s election.

Retired generals demanding aggression against ISIL are making money from war. General Jack Keene wants 25,000 “boots on the ground.” His think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), includes such neoconservatives as Liz Cheney and William Kristol among its leaders. He has long called for air strikes and then moved up to calling for special operation forces. Among his other credentials, left unmentioned, are special adviser to Academi (formerly Blackwater); board member to tank and aircraft manufacturer General Dynamics, which paid him $258,006 just last year; and “venture partner” to SCP Partners, an investment firm that partners with defense contractors, including XVionics, an “operations management decision support system” company used in Air Force drone training.

General James Mattis also wants the U.S. in Iraq; his role on General Dynamics paid $88,479 cash and stock options last year. General Anthony Zinni, who wants at least 10,000 troops, is a board member to BAE Systems’ US subsidiary and also works for several military-focused private equity firms. Frances Townsend has positions in two investment firms with defense company holdings, MacAndrews & Forbes and Monument Capital Group, as well as acting as advisor to defense contractor Decision Sciences.”

The U.S. has actually been training and arming Syrian rebels in Turkey and Jordan during the past six years. Keane’s ISW, which made money out of the venture, promised that this action will create stability. Many of the groups that were part of the Free Syria Army—and who we trained—have now joined ISIL with their CIA-backed training and equipment.

The United States caused the Middle East to implode by removing Saddam Hussein from Iraq with no contingency plan. The loss of his power led to the rise of fundamentalist movements that resulted in the Isis Caliphate and the exploitation of Syria’s populist uprising. Without U.S.-provided training, weapons, and funding, ISIL would never progressed into starting war throughout the Middle East and leading to serious global issues.

The plan to arm more so-called moderates that can then take their weapons to ISIL is reminiscent of the protest sign during the Bush years: “We’re making enemies faster than we can kill them.”

We need to listen to Aristotle’s advice: “It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace.” We have never had a strategy for winning the war that George W. Bush created at the beginning of his first term and then nurtured during his eight years in Washington. The U.S. needs a strategy for peace, not war.

September 11, 2014

Demand Exit Strategy for War

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 8:36 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

With the drums of Iraqi war beating more loudly and steadily, President Obama made a brief address last night to announce his plans. It was a mild speech that largely dealt in generalities:

  • Increase airstrikes to “roll back” ISIL in Iraq and into Syria, if necessary.
  • Strengthen troops by sending off another 475 military members to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces as well as ask Congress to authorize a million to equip and train Syrian opposition. (We won’t call them “boots on the ground.”)
  • Prevent terror by stopping attacks on the homeland through cutting off ISIL’s funding and improving U.S. intelligence.
  • Protect civilians such as Iraqi Christians.

ISIL knew that video of the beheadings of two U.S. citizens would draw the U.S. public into war. The militants also know that conservatives in this country will oppose anything the president plans. ISIL has won the war of fear with the help of irresponsible statements from such conservatives as Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Cory Garner (Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s opponent in Colorado), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The heretofore Libertarian/isolationist said, “If I were president, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) assessed congressional support—or lack thereof:

“It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), chair of the Armed Services Committee, said that the House didn’t have time to take a vote on any proposed military action in the Middle East. (Yawn.) would probably not take a vote on military action because they didn’t have the time. Tommy Christopher explained:

“Congress, especially Republicans in Congress, has responsibilities it doesn’t want, especially when it comes to military action. The less they have to do with making actual decisions, the more they can play Goldilocks on Sunday shows and complain that the president’s actions are too weak, or too strong, or too pitchy, dawg, or whatever.”

GOP members of Congress are currently suing the president for tweaking the Affordable Care Act as the GOP wanted, but they’re telling the president to make all the decisions about ISIL because any position on war is dangerous to their re-election.

Legislators such as Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-NC) calling for more airstrikes and more aggression in the Middle East ignore the most important factor of war—an exit strategy. In the early 21st century, George W. Bush, led by Dick Cheney and other advisers, charged into Iraq with no idea how to get out. Now conservative media, led by Fox network, are playing a 2007 video of Bush II warning that the withdrawal of troops from Iraq would mean “surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.” Bush finished by saying that U.S. troops would have to go back later against an even more dangerous enemy.

The U.S. left Iraq on a timetable that Bush established. The October 2008 Status of Forces Agreement, ratified by Iraqi lawmakers, stated, “All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.” People probably forgot about SOFA because a man threw a shoe at Bush during the press conference when he and Mouri al-Maliki announced their agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by New Year’s Day 2012. Bush ducked the problem in the same way that he ducked the shoe.

Conservative war-mongers could have left Saddam Hussein’s regime intact and let him suppress the Islamic extremists. Instead they chose to remove Hussein which spends an indefinite length of time there (Arizona’s GOP Sen. John McCain suggested 100 years), lives (almost 5,000 from the U.S. and a possible 600,000 from Iraq), and dollars (between $2 trillion and $6 trillion). Cheney knew it would be a disaster almost a decade earlier, but he did it anyway. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997-2007) was told “before invading Iraq that a stable post-war government would be impossible without keeping large numbers of troops there for ‘many years.’”

Cheney, mistakenly identified by The New York Times as a former president instead of vice-president, met earlier this week behind closed doors with GOP members of Congress this week and called for more defense spending. He’s sure to want more money for his business, Halliburton, like the funds he got  from the no-bid contracts he awarded his company during the earlier Iraq war. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said they appreciated Cheney’s advice “because most of us think we did the right thing in Iraq.”

As for sending all those arms to the people who we like—right now—in the Middle East, just read about ISIL’s resources. Their M-16 assault rifles bear U.S. government markings, and their anti-tank rockets are identical to the 1980s-era M79 rockets used by the moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) to bring down planes flying at 16,000 feet. Other quantities of weapons, including warplanes, come from Syrian military installations. ISIL got more military gear and U.S. equipment, including U.S.-made amored Humvees, that Iraqi army soldiers abandoned. ISIL brings in over $1 million a day in addition to tanks, grenade launchers, field guns, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles produced in Russia, China, the Balkans, and Iran. Descriptions are available here. More arms that the U.S. sends to the Middle East will provide more arms to ISIL.

Over two years ago, former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) gave a speech on the floor of the House that included this advice:

  • Stop creating wars.
  • Stop funding and arming mercenaries.
  • Stop causing abject chaos by “liberating” countries and delivering them to illegitimate non-state actors, i.e. terrorists.
  • Stop NATO and other Western front groups from promoting neo-conservative agendas which lust for empire, for control of oil and gas resources, and which bait countries into conflict to cause an increase in arms trade.
  • Stop playing the naïve fool and falling for the theater of propaganda while interest groups and arms dealers stand at the cash register.

In that speech, Kucinich said, “In the weeks and months ahead, when our leaders are calling for military strikes, without considering the consequences or knowing the end game, let’s remember our recent history.” There’s something terribly ironic about calling for air strikes that kill civilians when that was the issue calling Bush to declare war.

Today is the 13th anniversary of the killing of over 3,000 people in the United States because 19 terrorists were able to take over four airplanes and use them as bombs. It is also the day that allowed Bush, Cheney, and others to convince the people of the United States to start the Middle East conflict that continues today.

Yesterday, The New Yorker published an article about 28 pages that George W. Bush excised from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. According to Bush, that information damage U.S. intelligence operation. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said, “There’s nothing in it about national security.” Yet Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said that it describes complicity of some Saudi people and entities in Al Qaeda’s attack on the United States. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), another co-sponsor, said that reading those 28 pages has made him more cautious about a military response to ISIL.  These three representatives have co-sponsored a resolution to declassify the 28 pages.

Most of the people in the United States desperately need help. Most of us grow poorer every year, and wealthy members in the Congress won’t even begin to increase minimum wages to match the 1960s. The NRA and the gun industry demand the ability for so-called “responsible” gun owners to wound and kill more and more innocent people. A ginned-up fear from conservatives is driving people to want more trillions of dollars sent to a crisis on the other side of the globe that Dick Cheney and his minions created over a decade ago and that isn’t going to go away because the war-mongers have no exit strategy. The wealthy will continue to get richer from war profiteering while the poor will be forced to subsist on less and less until they revolt.

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