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Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, Mad Policies for a Mad World

Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, Mad Policies for a Mad World 

What’s the value of an American life in the age of Donald Trump? If you were judging by the death of Nawres Hamid, an Iraqi-American contractor killed in late December after an American base in Iraq was mortared by a Shiite militia believed to have ties to Iran, the answer would be obvious: enough to risk war. After all, the president cited Hamid’s death in going after that militia and then drone-assassinating Iranian Major General Qassem Suleimani. In response to the mortar attack, U.S. air strikes in Iraq and Syria killed at least 25Iraqi militia fighters and then, as January began, that drone strike near Baghdad International Airport took out a figure who was often considered the number-two man in Iran, as well as its possible future leader. In addition, it killed an Iraqi militia commander and eight otherpeople.

So you might say that the president considers any American death under such circumstances worth not just 35 Iraqis and Iranians, but the possibility of adding in a significant way to America’s forever wars (that he’s long denounced). Of course, you would have to reach a different conclusion if you considered the deaths in early January of an American soldier and two American contractors at an airport in Kenya after an attack by the Somali terror group al-Shabaab. In that case, there was no obvious response at all, not even a comment from the president. And the same would be true of the two dead and two wounded U.S. soldiers whose vehicle recently ran over a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan (deaths immediately claimed by the Taliban). Again, neither a comment nor a response from you-know-who.

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How the US Wages War to Prop up the Dollar

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How the US Wages War to Prop up the Dollar

At Counterpunch, Michael Hudson has penned an important article that outlines the important connections between US foreign policy, oil, and the US dollar.

In short, US foreign policy is geared very much toward controlling oil resources as part of a larger strategy to prop up the US dollar. Hudson writes:

The assassination was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves, and to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (Isis, Al Quaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar. That remains the key to understanding this policy, and why it is in the process of escalating, not dying down.

The actual context for the neocon’s action was the balance of payments, and the role of oil and energy as a long-term lever of American diplomacy.

Basically, the US’s propensity for driving up massive budget deficits has created a need for immense amounts of deficit spending. This can be handled through selling lots of government debt, or through monetizing the debt. But what if there isn’t enough global demand for US debt? That would mean the US would have to pay more interest on its debt. Or, the US could monetize the debt through the central bank. But that might cause the value of the dollar to crash. So, the US regime realized that it must find ways to prevent the glut of dollars and debt from actually destroying the value of the dollar. Fortunately for the regime, this can be partly managed, it turns out, through foreign policy. Hudson continues:

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Questions, Not Answers Surround U.S. Push to War with Iran

Questions, Not Answers Surround U.S. Push to War with Iran

When President Trump fired National Security Adviser John Bolton last week rational people the world over cheered. 

When there was news that Trump would meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly with Iran’s President Rouhani in a few weeks there were sighs of relief.

When Benjamin Netanyahu goes to Moscow to get Vladimir Putin’s blessing to continue airstrikes in Syria and was told no, the world said, “Finally! Enough is enough.”

The problem is that there were also very powerful people who were not happy about these things. 

Moreover, there are a lot of nervous people out there worried that Tuesday’s election in Israel will not go the way they want it.

A lot of people have invested a lot of time and money in ensuring Netanyahu stays in power. And I don’t just mean Bibi himself, who will likely go to jail on corruption charges if he doesn’t win. 

I mean a lot of people in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the U.K. and in Europe, all of the places where anti-Russian, anti-Iranian and pro-Israeli sentiments abound.

And this brings up the main question I always have in the wake of one of these major escalations of tensions with the country currently catching the Twin Eyes of Sauron in D.C. and Tel Aviv.

Why do they always seem to occur right after moments of de-escalation and there’s the threat of peace breaking out somewhere?

Why is it that every time President Trump tries to push the U.S. and the world away from war within a few days there’s an incident which pushes us right back to the brink of it?

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The Forever War Is So Normalized That Opposing It Is “Isolationism”

The Forever War Is So Normalized That Opposing It Is “Isolationism”

After getting curb stomped on the debate stage by Tulsi Gabbard, the campaign for Tim “Who the fuck is Tim Ryan?” Ryan posted a statement decrying the Hawaii congresswoman’s desire to end a pointless 18-year military occupation as “isolationism”.

“While making a point as to why America can’t cede its international leadership and retreat from around the world, Tim was interrupted by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard,” the statement reads. “When he tried to answer her, she contorted a factual point Tim was making— about the Taliban being complicit in the 9/11 attacks by providing training, bases and refuge for Al Qaeda and its leaders. The characterization that Tim Ryan doesn’t know who is responsible for the attacks on 9/11 is simply unfair reporting. Further, we continue to reject Gabbard’s isolationism and her misguided beliefs on foreign policy. We refuse to be lectured by someone who thinks it’s ok to dine with murderous dictators like Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad who used chemical weapons on his own people.”

Ryan’s campaign is lying. During an exchange that was explicitly about the Taliban in Afghanistan, Ryan plainly said “When we weren’t in there, they started flying planes into our buildings.” At best, Ryan can argue that when he said “they” he had suddenly shifted from talking about the Taliban to talking about Al Qaeda without bothering to say so, in which case he obviously can’t legitimately claim that Gabbard “contorted” anything he had said. At worst, he was simply unaware at the time of the very clear distinction between the Afghan military and political body called the Taliban and the multinational extremist organization called Al Qaeda.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Incorrigible Hypocrisy of Conservatives

The Incorrigible Hypocrisy of Conservatives

Last week a Wall Street Journal editorial revealed the incorrigible hypocrisy with which conservatives have long suffered. Conservatives, of course, have long suffered this malady with respect to domestic policy given their ardent devotion to Social Security, Medicare, foreign aid, and other welfare-state programs even while decrying the left’s devotion to socialism. But this particular WSJ editorial revealed the incorrigible conservative hypocrisy with respect to foreign policy.

The editorial was entitled “Putin Pulls a Syria in Venezuela.” The opening sentence is comical: “Vladimir Putin has made a career of intervening abroad and seeing if the world lets him get away with it.” 

Why is that sentence funny? Because it also describes ever single U.S. president for the last 100 years! Every president from Woodrow Wilson through today has made a career of intervening abroad and seeing if the world lets him get away with it. Indeed, the central feature of the U.S. government for the last 100 years has been and continues to be empire and foreign interventionism.

Clearly, conservatives do not see anything wrong with foreign interventionism as long as the interventionists are wearing an American flag on their sleeves and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. They obviously consider foreign interventionism to be bad only when those pesky Russkies (of Russia-Trump conspiracy fame) do it. 

Another humorous aspect to the editorial is the verbiage that the Journal’s editorial writer uses to condemn Putin’s interventionism. The editorial condemns Putin for extending his interventionism in Syria to Venezuela. 

Why is that point humorous? Because the U.S. government, with the full support of conservatives, has also been intervening in both Syria and Venezuela! Thus, the Journal could just as easily have stated that “Putin pulls a U.S. in Syria and Venezuela,” except, well, for one thing: The regimes in both countries invited Russia into their countries.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Mother of All Bombs: U.S. Foreign Policy

The Mother of All Bombs: U.S. Foreign Policy

Following the horrific destruction left in the wake of World War II, the United Nations in its seminal and founding document, the Charter of the United Nations, set out to prevent future wars among member nations. The Charter’s admonition against war was also voiced in the lessons learned from the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals in its condemnation of war: “starting or waging a war against a territorial integrity, political independence or sovereignty of a state, or violation of international treaties or agreements.”  are crimes against peace  and “makes all war crimes possible.”

The few and the wealthy of many nations are no longer constrained by rules that categorize civilized and enlightened behavior toward other nations such as Venezuela and Iran. They’ve had many nations in their crosshairs and have met with much “success.” Their attacks against Venezuela’s sovereignty are the final nail in the coffin of the endless wars, and the preparation for war, that are now all the rage among the sycophants of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Venezuela is absolutely no threat to the U.S., and therefore, the U.N. Charter prohibits the kinds of dangerous and lethal idiocy that the Trump administration is now orchestrating against Venezuela. Readers need to consider that presidents are viewed in a positive light when they are seen as acting in a presidential manner, i.e., threaten or incite war against other nations. Recall the popularity of the newly elected Trump when he ordered the use of the mother of all bombs against Afghanistan. The bipartisan talking heads in the U.S. loved that theatre (“Trump Drops The Mother Of All Bombs On Afghanistan,” New Yorker, April 14, 2017).

Even billionaire Michael Bloomberg got in on the act of Venezuela bashing in his attacks against mild reformers of the political system like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren:

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The Counterinsurgency Paradigm: How U.S. Politics Have Become Paramilitarized

THE COUNTERINSURGENCY PARADIGM: HOW U.S. POLITICS HAVE BECOME PARAMILITARIZED

DONALD TRUMP RAN a campaign promising to refill the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” to “take out” the families of suspected terrorists, to ban Muslims from entering this country, and to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet these policies didn’t start with Trump: Torture, indefinite detention, extraordinary renditions, record numbers of deportations, anti-Muslim sentiment, mass foreign and domestic surveillance, and even the killing of innocent family members of suspected terrorists all have a recent historical precedent.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, continued some of the worst policies of the George W. Bush administration. He expanded the global battlefield post-9/11 into at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria. At the end of Obama’s second term, a reportby Council of Foreign Relations found that in 2016, Obama dropped an average of 72 bombs a day. He used drone strikes as a liberal panacea for fighting those “terrorists” while keeping boots off the ground. But he also expanded the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan. Immigrants were deported in such record numbers under Obama that immigration activists called him the “deporter-in-chief.” And then there were the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, where Obama national security officials would order pizza and drink Coke and review the list of potential targets on their secret assassination list.

For his liberal base, Obama sanitized a morally bankrupt expansion of war, and used Predator and Reaper drones strapped with Hellfire missiles to kill suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens stripped of their due process. The Obama administration harshly prosecuted whistleblowers in a shocking attack on press freedoms. By the end of his presidency, official numbers on civilian deaths by drone were underreported; we may never know the true cost of these wars, which continue today.

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How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries

How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries

A new collection of essays, edited by former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, clearly shows that it is the U.S. that is largely responsible for the poverty and suffering in these very nations, says Robert Fantina.


In two years, the world has become accustomed to being shocked by the words and actions of United States President Donald Trump. In January of this year, he again showed his lack of diplomacy, tack and common decency, when he referred to many poorer countries as “sh*ithole countries”, asking, “Why do we want all these people from sh*thole countries coming here?” Former member of the House of Representatives Cynthia McKinney, in the new book she has edited, How the US Creates ‘Sh*thole’ Countries, (Clarity Press) has gathered a collection of essays, including one of her own, that clearly shows that it is the U.S. that is largely responsible for the poverty and suffering in these very nations.

McKinney

The first series of essays describes U.S. foreign policy, and its true motives. In the essay, The End of Washington’s ‘Wars on the Cheap’, The Saker sums up U.S. foreign policy as follows: “Here’s the template for typical Empire action: find some weak country, subvert it, accuse it of human right violations, slap economic sanctions, trigger riots and intervene militarily in ‘defense’ of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘self-determination’ (or some other combo of equally pious and meaningless concepts).” The hypocrisy of such a policy is obvious. A weak and vulnerable nation is victimized by a far more powerful one. The U.S. has done this countless times in its history, and there appears to be no appetite in the government to change.

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Pompeo’s Albright Moment Arrives

Pompeo’s Albright Moment Arrives

Pompeo’s Albright Moment Arrives

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is not a very bright guy. He is, like his boss, a thin-skinned bully with a narrow view of the world focused on US righteousness. With the sanctions going into place on Iran this week he gave an interview with the BBC which laid bare what happens when you scratch Pompeo just a hair beneath the polished surface.

Pompeo will be happy to see the people of Iran starve to achieve his ends. And those ends are purely in service of not only Israel and Saudi Arabia but the military contractors who back him and direct so much of the policy coming out of D.C.

Pompeo: Yeah, we’re going to work to do two things: that things that are sanctioned don’t happen, and things that are permitted to happen are permissible, and can in fact happen. [Speaking of food and medicine flowing unimpeded]

Well, remember, just so you remember, the leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat. They have to make a decision that they want to use their wealth to import medicine, and not use their wealth to fund Qasem Soleimani’s travels around the Middle East with – causing death and destruction. That’s the Iranian Government’s choice on how to use Iranian wealth. If they choose to squander, if the Iranian leadership chooses to spoil it, if they choose to use it in a way that doesn’t benefit the Iranian people, I’m very confident the Iranian people will take a response that tries to fix that themselves as well.

Aside from the fact that Pompeo has no idea how commerce works, this is a horrific statement. We’re going to destroy your economy and if you don’t overthrow your government you will starve.

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President Trump’s Iran Policy – Is It ‘Normal’?

President Trump’s Iran Policy – Is It ‘Normal’?

It’s not often that US Government officials are honest when they talk about our foreign policy. The unprovoked 2003 attack on Iraq was called a “liberation.” The 2011 US-led destruction of Libya was a “humanitarian intervention.” And so on.

So, in a way, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was refreshingly honest last week when, speaking about newly-imposed US sanctions, he told the BBC that the Iranian leadership “has to make a decision that they want their people to eat.” It was an honest admission that new US sanctions are designed to starve Iranians unless the Iranian leadership accepts US demands.

His statement also reveals the lengths to which the neocons are willing to go to get their “regime change” in Iran. Just like then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it was “worth it” that half a million Iraqi children died because of our sanctions on that country, Pompeo is letting us know that a few million dead Iranians is also “worth it” if the government in Tehran can be overthrown.

The US Secretary of State has demanded that Iran “act like a normal country” or the US would continue its pressure until Iran’s economy crumbles. How twisted is US foreign policy that Washington considers it “normal” to impose sanctions specifically designed to make life miserable – or worse – for civilians!

Is it normal to threaten millions of people with starvation if their leaders refuse to bow down to US demands? Is the neoconservative obsession with regime change “normal” behavior? Is training and arming al-Qaeda in Syria to overthrow Assad “normal” behavior? If so, then perhaps Washington’s neocons have a point. As Iran is not imposing sanctions, is not invading its neighbors, is not threatening to starve millions of Americans unless Washington is “regime-changed,” perhaps Iran is not acting “normal.”

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Trump, Gorbachev and the fall of the American empire

Trump, Gorbachev and the fall of the American empire

Russia’s Alternative to SWIFT Already Has Market Majority in Russia

Change came swiftly

During the ruble crisis of 2014/15 Russia announced in the wake of U.S. and European sanctions over reunifying with Crimea that it would begin building a domestic electronic financial transfer system, an alternative to SWIFT.

That system, System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS), is not only now functioning in Russia, according to a report from RT it now handles the financial transfer data for more than half of Russia’s institutions.

According to Anatoly Aksakov, head of the Russian parliamentary committee on financial markets:

The number of users of our internal financial messages’ transfer system is now greater than that of those using SWIFT. We’re already holding talks with China, Iran and Turkey, along with several other countries, on linking our system with their systems,” Aksakov said.

“They need to be properly integrated with each other in order to avoid any problems with using the countries’ internal financial messaging systems.”

This is a follow up to last month’s boast by the Russians that their system was seeing a lot of international interest.  How much of this is boast and how much of it is reality remains to be seen, but the important point here is that the minute the U.S. weaponized SWIFT for use in its foreign policy, something like this was bound to occur.

China has its own internal system.  And other countries are building theirs as well.

The SWIFT Cost

A common theme on this blog is that control is an illusion.  Power is ephemeral.  The best way to exercise your power is to have it but never use it.  Because once you do use it you define for your enemies the costs of their lack of compliance to your edicts.

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MSNBC and Daily Beast Feature UAE Lobbyist David Rothkopf With No Disclosure: a Scandalous Media-Wide Practice

UAE lobbyist and consultant David Rothkopf speaks about Saudi Arabia on MSNBC on October 16, 2018.

ON THURSDAY, the Daily Beast published an article about the Saudi/US relationship by David Rothkopf, a long-time member in good standing of the U.S. Foreign Policy elite. Until last year, he was the editor-in-chief of the establishment journal Foreign Policy, named to that position in 2012 when it was owned by the Washington Post. He’s also a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. He was previously deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade policy in the Clinton administration and managing director of Kissinger Associates, the advisory firm founded by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

But, unbeknownst to Daily Beast readers consuming his commentary about Saudi Arabia, Rothkopf is something else: a paid lobbyist for the Saudi regime’s close ally, the equally despotic regime of the United Arab Emirates. Last month, Rothkopf formally registered as a foreign agent for the Emiratis.

On September 12, Rothkopf personally signed a contract with the UAE regime to be paid $50,000 every month, for a period of three years, to, among other services, “provide day-to-day advice on the development of messages”; to work on “media projects [and] outreach efforts”; and to “prepare memoranda [and] talking points” for the “Embassy of the United Arab Emirates to develop and support specific programs and initiatives within the United States.”



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The Self-Defeating US Empire

The Self-Defeating US Empire

Trump is trying to square a globalized world through a national-based American capitalism. It won’t work.

Former President Teddy Roosevelt (1901-09) described the essence of US foreign policy as “speaking softly while carrying a big stick”. Under the incumbent president, Donald Trump, it seems to be all about “speaking loudly”.

What Trump is carrying in reserve is a moot question.

The difference comes down to a question of credibility. A century ago, America was a formidable military, diplomatic and economic power. Hence, Roosevelt could afford to speak softly because there were other indisputable means at his disposal to reinforce US power.

Today, the US is still a formidable military power, that’s for sure. But as for its economy and the role of the American dollar as a global payment mechanism the evidence suggests that it has lost much of its former dominance.

President Trump seems to be trying to compensate for the decline in US power overall by way of adopting more bellicose and foghorn rhetoric for others to comply with American demands.

This week saw a record fall in the American stock market. That suggests that the supposed strength of the US economy is not what it has been cracked up to be under Trump. A major factor in the collapse of the US stock market is reported to be the uncertainty prompted by the growing US trade war with China.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin lamented the US policy of imposing sanctions against other nations and its over-reliance on the dollar as the main global currency exchange tool. Putin said the US was making a “strategic mistake” by using the dollar as a weapon with which to punish other nations to comply with Washington’s diktats.

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Marketing War: the Incessant Drumbeat of Mortal Danger

Marketing War: the Incessant Drumbeat of Mortal Danger

Photo Source The National Guard | CC BY 2.0

The claim that the national security of the United States requires that more than half the nation’s discretionary budget must be devoted to the maintenance of armies, global strategic bases and massive armaments is false. Until we can convince the majority of the public of this fiction, and surmount the wall of disinformation, nothing will change and we will continue down the road to a hellish future.

This statement of course contradicts the incessant indoctrination emanating from Washington and the corporate media that U.S. foreign policy is devoted to the maintenance of global peace and a “liberal” and just world order in the face of enemies who wish to destroy that order. The facts controvert such declarations yet to emphasize them is to be accused of disloyalty, a lack of patriotism, and conspiracy mongering.

The U.S. propaganda system relentlessly broadcasts the malevolent machinations of Russia, Iran or North Korea or Syria and China as well as of armed gangs like ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban. The drumbeat that mortal danger is on our doorstep is so ceaseless and all-encompassing that the public either accepts the claims as true or remains blind to very real dangers posed by our government’s own militarized policies that call forth various forms of opposition to those policies.

The reality is that all of the wars, assassinations, and coups carried out by Washington of the last half century have been matters of choice based not on genuine threats to our national security but on jeopardy to the profits of giant arms manufacturers and their allies- the so-called military industrial complex that extends its tentacles into every major institution in American life–Congress, the CIA, the media and universities. The complex requires at the very least the implied threat of war to ensure its existence.

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