Foreign Policy

Interview: Learn How Marxist Revolutionaries Massacred Ethiopia’s Christian Monarchy

Interview: Learn How Marxist Revolutionaries Massacred Ethiopia’s Christian Monarchy

“What happened was a catastrophic revolution that really ate its own bright people. The very people who were behind the revolution were the ones who were its victims,” Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie has said on the 1974 Marxist revolution that overthrew his grandfather, Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie.

I had the rare opportunity to interview Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie, president of the Crown Council of Ethiopia, and the grandson of Ras Tafari, Emperor Haile Selassie. In my discussion, I heard a first-hand account of the mortal dangers of populations adopting a socialist revolution that we should carefully consider in our own country.

Watch my exclusive interview with Prince Ermias Sahle Selassie here:

Emperor Haile Selassie was a pivotal figure for Ethiopia and the whole of Africa. He implemented several reforms such as a written constitution and land reform to accelerate agricultural development. He was world renown for his defense of his people from Italian fascist imperialism. In 1963, his creation of the Organization of African Unity sowed the seeds for solidarity and liberation of African nations from colonial rule.

In a time in which corporate media look to act as self-appointed gatekeepers of African history, it is telling that so few young Americans are informed of Emperor Haile Selassie’s out-sized role in defeating fascism and colonialism in Africa. The answer lies in the fact that Emperor Selassie was a staunch defender of Christianity, a symbol of patriarchy, and was murdered by socialists promising democracy.

As a devout Christian emperor, Emperor Haile Selassie was a symbol of fatherhood in Africa. Just like all radical groups driven by envy and a hatred for boundaries, the Marxists who tortured and murdered an elderly Emperor Selassie in 1974 were simply living up to their global creed: kill strong fathers first, loot the rest of the people next.

This was nothing new. The Soviets who backed the overthrow of anti-colonialist Emperor Haile Selassie were operating under the same twisted religious playbook they used to gain power in their own country. Financed by western corporatists that benefited from preventing market competition at home and abroad, the Bolsheviks used the disaster of World War I as the animus to murder Tsar Nicholas II’s family—not sparing a single young child—and take over Russia. Everything the revolutionaries complained about under the monarch—lack of food, stolen land, violent prisons, police abuse—they did tenfold in their never-ending transition to utopia.

In my interview with Prince Ermias Selassie, he recounts a similar formula for the revolutionaries in Ethiopia:

They closed all the churches, executions were very rampant, and it didn’t fare well for the Marxists. I mean, they never got the support of the people.

Today, Western corporatists and their press organs continue to sell a whitewashed view of African history that diminishes the voices of African heroes like Emperor Haile Selassie. Outlets like The New York Times live up to their legacy of covering up the crimes of Marxists like the ghastly 1930s Holdomor genocide in Ukraine, resulting in 12 million deaths. They amplify voices that celebrate the same anti-market, anti-freedom, anti-family sentiments that fueled the murder of Emperor Selassie.

The coprorate press does all this under the guise of social justice. Yet the only slavery The New York Times crowd will condemn are instances that took place 200 years ago. Meanwhile, they openly campaign for a candidate like Vice President Joe Biden, who led the butchering of another independent African country, Libya, and yawn at the unleashing of a modern slave trade in that country. Indeed, The New York Times used its pages to push the public for war in Libya. As they did in Syria. Millions of people of color have been displaced, dismembered, and killed as a result.

Wherever we go in history, the problem with the corporate press and their violent revolutionary foot soldiers is that they suffer the same delusion that Jesus confronted in his own time from self-proclaimed authorities:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. So you testify against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.

Media elites act as if they care about vulnerable lives. They act as if they only care about facts and fairness. But the record of history shows they cover up the voices that get in the way of their religious devotion to socialism. Just like Jesus was sacrificed by a leader named Caiaphas who proclaimed “it is better that one man die than the whole nation perish,” socialist revolutionaries and their would-be myth-makers in the press believe it is better that Emperor Haile Selassie die, and the truth of his impact with him, than the whole global project of socialism perish. They truly believe it is okay to sacrifice some, including millions in the poor and middle class, who stand in the way of their god—the all encompassing, all seeing, all knowing, all caring, cradle-to-grave state.

In a now deleted statement of beliefs page on blacklivesmatter.com, the corporate press-lauded organization declared:

We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

To the young adults who have been drawn into America’s acute bout with revolutionary anger, I will leave them with Prince Ermias Selassie’s warning about Marxism:

I would say to them that it’s very interesting to read and understand concepts but when you live and experience it you realize how complex it is and it’s not such a black and white issue. Idealism, I think, leads to a lot of fanaticism; it’s your way or the highway. That has led to a lot of problems: a lot of blind hatred, a lot of blind murders. All about…being the sacrificial lamb to justify your right and that man is God and is in charge of his own destiny, which I don’t believe in.

The Marxists who killed Emperor Selassie failed. Ethiopia’s churches and markets are open again and healing is underway. The revolutionaries attempting to overthrow family and faith in America will fail too. The question is, will we learn from the lessons of the past and reject sacrificial revolution at its infancy or take the long, sad path of ignorant repetition?

Home for Christmas: Trump’s New Promise to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

Home for Christmas: Trump’s New Promise to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

On Wednesday, President Trump made a new comment on the pullout of Afghanistan, saying that it is now his intention to have all remaining U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas. That’s substantially sooner than previous statements on the matter.

This seems to be a very recent policy change. Just hours before Trump’s comments, the national security adviser said that there would still be 2,500 US troops left in Afghanistan by early 2021. This is roughly in line with previous comments on the matter.

Troop cuts in October and November are intended to get troop levels to around 4,500 in November, a goal that the Trump Administration has pushed for some time. With troop cuts ahead of schedule, even more cuts were possible.

Having the last troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas puts even more pressure on the Afghan government and Taliban to make good on efforts to make a deal, at least on a framework, or risk a new round of violence.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Voting: The Opiate of the Masses Ep. 132

Voting: The Opiate of the Masses Ep. 132

The Great Keith Knight joins me in this episode to talk some current events, and to lift the mask, exposing the societal delusion that voting somehow legitimizes government and its actions.

Subscribe to Keith Knight’s “Don’t Tread on Anyone” on LBRY.tv

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Show Notes:

“Against Democracy” by Jason Brennan

Jan Helfeld: The One Video Bernie Sanders DOESN’T WANT YOU TO SEE

Jan Helfeld: Pelosi’s Double Standard on the Minimum Wage

“Why Vote” by: Mark Brandly at Mises.org

Was There Foreknowledge of the Pandemic? Questions for James Corbett

Everything to know about the Melania Trump secret recordings: USA Today

Al Franken May Have Won His Senate Seat Through Voter Fraud: US News

Murray Rothbard: Anatomy of the State

How the Pentagon Looted America’s PPE Funding

How the Pentagon Looted America’s PPE Funding

After six months of state-imposed lockdown, the United States faces nationwide mask and COVID test shortages, record high unemployment rates, and over 200,000 COVID-related deaths. Since Congress passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in April, most Americans’ financial situations still haven’t recovered. Now, as Congress debates how many more trillion dollars it’s going to spend trying to mend the government-created financial crisis, one thing should be clear: the Pentagon should not receive another dime of bailout funds. 

The Department of Defense (DoD) used taxpayer money meant to address the pandemic to prop up the military-industrial complex, diverting CARES Act funds intended for medical supplies and awarding them to private defense contractors. Instead of manufacturing N95 masks, swabs, and other personal protection equipment (PPE), the funds went to projects unrelated to pandemic relief, such as making jet engine parts, body armor and uniforms, and drone technology. A third of the private companies that received Pentagon assistance already drew from another CARES Act bailout program, the Paycheck Protection Program. Defense contractors double-dipped while hospitals around the country scrounged for PPE. 

Undersecretary of Defense For Acquisition And Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters in April that 75 percent of the $1 billion fund would be spent on medical supplies and the remaining funds would go toward defense contractors. It quickly became apparent that the Defense Department had other priorities when Lord revealed in June that more money would go to defense contractors. The administration has spent three dollars on defense contracts for every dollar it spent on acquiring PPE.

Using taxpayer money intended for manufacturing PPE for anything else is reprehensible. Pentagon officials have tried to justify padding the pockets of defense contractors by pointing out that some small businesses would not have survived without the CARES Act funds. Yet, only one third of awards granted went to small businesses.

Instead, the Pentagon funneled millions of dollars to industry giants like General Electric and Rolls-Royce. The DoD awarded GE Aviation two contracts worth $75 million in June and gave $22 million to a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce to upgrade a Mississippi plant. These massive contracts did not stop GE Aviation from announcing it planned to cut 13,000 jobs in response to the economic downturn. The Pentagon should have used the money to address COVIDthe state’s justification for shutting down the economyinstead of throwing money to big businesses who rolled out massive layoffs anyways. Why is subsidizing well-established companies like Rolls-Royce and GE a priority over providing PPE to millions of Americans? 

Democrats in Congress have called for an investigation into the Pentagon’s misappropriation of the COVID relief funds. “The reported misuse by DoD of federal funds meant for the response to the deadly pandemic plaguing our country is inconsistent with the will of Congress and may be illegal,” wrote Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Ro Khanna in a letter to the Pentagon’s inspector general asking for a review of the use of the CARES Act funds. Certainly a small business grant recipient would be held accountable if it decided to use its loan for unrelated purposes. Shouldn’t the Pentagon be held to the same standards?    

The DoD already enjoys the largest discretionary expenditure in the national budget, raking in an all-time high of $723 billion for Fiscal Year 2020. The bloated DoD budget should have disqualified them from any stimulus money in the first place, but Congress still dished out $1 billion in April. Their inability to responsibly use COVID relief funds has not stopped the Pentagon from requesting an additional $11 billion from any future stimulus bill. The misapplication of COVID relief money shows taxpayers that they cannot trust the DoD to put Americans’ safety over the profits of their contractors. 

The stimulus package was flawed from the start. Rep. Thomas Massie criticized the extraneous funding in the CARES Act from the beginning, condemning the $25 million allocated to the Kennedy Center and multiple grants for the National Endowment for the Humanities and Arts. Instead of subsidizing superfluous art programs, this money could have gone to directly purchasing PPE.

As the White House restarts talks with Congress about passing further aid measures, we must remain vigilant that any future money spent goes to benefit Americans in need rather than the war machine.

Nickie Deahl is a former research intern at the Quincy Institute. She holds a master’s degree in International Security from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. You can follow her on Twitter @NickieDeahl

Are States Inevitable? Ep. 131

Are States Inevitable? Ep. 131

If the governments of the world have formed and persist in a state of anarchy, does it follow that the State is an inevitable institution? How would a libertarian anarchist society prevent being conquered by a state or prevent itself from devolving into one?

Episode 131 of the Liberty Weekly Podcast is Brought to you by:

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Become a Patron!Show Notes:

The Ethics of Liberty by Murray Rothbard

“Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable?” by: Randall G. Holcombe

“The Market for Military Defense” by: Robert P. Murphy

“But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?” by: Robert P. Murphy

We Must Prosecute American Officials For War Crimes in Yemen

We Must Prosecute American Officials For War Crimes in Yemen

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently announced that it was providing $204 million in aid for the impoverished and war-ravaged country of Yemen. That sounds generous, but it’s the Saudi royals themselves who are responsible for most of the death, destruction, starvation, and disease in Yemen, in which 80 percent of the population, some 24 million, need outside assistance.

Riyadh has spent more than five years conducting a brutal air campaign intended to restore a pliant regime to power. The claim that the Kingdom is generously helping the needy is a bit like a man murdering his parents only to throw himself on the court’s mercy since he is an orphan. If Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wanted to help the Yemeni people, he would simply end the war.

But he won’t, at least in part because the Trump administration is underwriting the Saudi government’s murderous campaign. Why is the president forcing Americans to assist the Saudi royals, who respect no political or religious liberty and kidnap, imprison, and murder their critics? President Donald Trump appears to be almost bewitched by the licentious and corrupt Saudis.

Washington sold Saudi Arabia planes and munitions used to kill thousands of Yemeni civilians. American personnel serviced and refueled the same planes, as well as providing intelligence to assist in targeting Saudi strikes. That makes U.S. officials complicit in war crimes committed day in and day out for more than five years.

Read the rest of this article at The American Conservative.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.

How the Military is Using Your Data to Fight China

How the Military is Using Your Data to Fight China

A new generation of Cold Warriors want your data to build artificial intelligence-powered weapons for their escalating conflict with China.

This has been made explicit by the U.S. National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), a relatively new and secretive government body tasked with boosting the military’s AI capabilities. The NSCAI is a who’s who of the military-tech complex, with figures such as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former deputy defense secretary Robert Work, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, and Chris Darby, who heads the CIA investment arm In-Q-Tel.

According to these people, China wants to use AI to become the next dominant world power—and they’re willing to mimic some of China’s authoritarianism to stop that from happening.

“I don’t think we’re overhyping the threat from China in AI,” Work said at a public NSCAI meeting in July. “They’ve been quite clear that they think artificial intelligence will allow them to leapfrog the U.S. and allow them to become the preeminent military power on the planet. And they’re intent on doing just that.”

Right now, the United States has a leg up on China with most AI applications. But the NSCAI worries that China’s unfettered access to all its citizens’ data will propel it past the U.S. by 2030. By tapping the centralized data of the billion-plus residents and other people around the world, the Chinese government can better train its facial- and voice-recognition technology, launch more sophisticated cyberattacks, manipulate individuals, and spy on Western countries.

To the detriment of liberty, the NSCAI has suggested that the U.S. implement similar policies to maintain its lead in the AI race. While paying lip service to “AI ethics” and insisting that the U.S. needs to stay dominant to preserve global freedom, commission members have made startling proposals such as centralizing all the country’s data for the use of Pentagon researchers, limiting U.S.-China trade relations, and developing powerful new surveillance tools.

Chairman Schmidt outlined his ambitions last week during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, where he called for “broad research exemptions” on the use of big data to boost America’s warfighting efforts.

“What I would like to see is a broad research exemption that would allow the kind of data that is being collected to be used for research with appropriate safety safeguards and privacy concerns and so forth,” he said. “One of the key things to understand about AI is it needs data. It eats data; it’s how it trains it, how it learns. And the more data, the better.”

Schmidt’s statements echo his fellow NSCAI member and Google Cloud AI director Andrew Moore, who said in an interview in May that universities should pool their AI-ready data sets for the common good.

“Rather than having every university—or, god forbid, every professor—try to build their own local data store to practice their experiments on, we need to build something where the academic United States is able to share and experiment with data at this much larger level,” he said.

Commission members haven’t publicly called for government to have direct access to tech companies’ consumer data, but they have drooled over China’s ability to do that—making statements in internal reports such as “mass surveillance is a killer application” and “having streets carpeted with cameras is good infrastructure for smart cities.” Moreover, universities and tech companies frequently partner to develop AI systems, with the tech firms forking over droves of consumer data to researchers. IBM has released millions of photos so companies can improve facial recognition technology, and Google has partnered with university hospitals to run medical data through AI programs—just to name a couple examples.

If the NSCAI has its druthers, all this data and more will be accessible to Pentagon researchers. And unfortunately, many agree with the commission that this is necessary.

The specter of a dystopian AI society dominated by China has led libertarian-leaning folks to abandon their free trade, anti-war principles because they say the world is better off with the U.S. as its leader. People like Peter Thiel and others who supported Trump for his relatively non-interventionist approach to the Middle East, for instance, support decoupling the two countries’ economies because they say their core values are inimical to each other.

But what good is it for the U.S. to win the AI race if government must sacrifice whatever remaining free market and libertarian values it has? Are Americans really prepared for another Cold War-style arms race that will undoubtedly increase the use of AI for authoritarian purposes at home and abroad?

When urging the U.S. to take a less militaristic approach to the USSR in 1947, former diplomat George Kennan perhaps said it best: “The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”

Unfortunately, Kennan’s contemporaries didn’t heed his advice, and 40-some years of Cold War ensued—spilling over to the current ongoing quagmire in Afghanistan due to the U.S. arming the mujahedeen to fight the Soviets there in the 1980s.

A new cold war with China could be even more devastating, and libertarians should do all they can to oppose the efforts of the NSCAI and others who are leading us in that direction.

Free Assange, Demand Coalition of World Leaders

Free Assange, Demand Coalition of World Leaders

A group of over 160 current and former politicians endorsed a letter that demands the United Kingdom government release WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange immediately. The publisher is currently fighting extradition to the United States at Old Bailey court in London and could face up to 175 years in prison for exposing U.S. war crimes.

The group includes heads of state, congressional members, diplomats, and lawmakers from all across the globe. Notable endorsees include the President of Argentina Alberto Fernandez, former President of Brazil Lula da Silva, former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Luis Zapatero, and UK MP Jeremy Corbyn. The only U.S. politicians on the list are former Senator Mike Gravel from Alaska and former Rep. Ron Paul from Texas.

The letter is addressed to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other UK officials and was written by the group Lawyers for Assange.

The letter demands the UK grant Assange his freedom: “We call on you to act in accordance with national and international law, human rights and the rule of law by bringing an end to the ongoing extradition proceedings and granting Mr. Assange his long overdue freedom—freedom from torture, arbitrary detention and deprivation of liberty, and political persecution.”

The group says that if Assange is extradited, he would not face a fair trial and could be subject to torture. The letter cites UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer: “Professor Nils Melzer has expressed with certainty that, if extradited to the U.S., Mr. Assange will be exposed to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison in London since April 2019. After examining Assange in Belmarsh with medical experts in May 2019, Melzer said that the publisher exhibited, “all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety, and intense psychological trauma.”

The U.S. is indicting Assange on 17 counts of espionage. The letter says these counts, “Present standard and necessary investigative journalistic practices as criminal.” Assange is also facing an indictment on conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The letter says initial indictment criminalized Assange’s efforts to protect his source’s identity, which “falls squarely under the standard journalistic practice and duty of protecting the source.”

The U.S. added a new superseding indictment to its case in June, which Assange’s lawyers were not given sufficient time to prepare a defense for. “The new indictment has emerged unjustifiably late in the day, is based on no new information and the testimony of two highly compromised sources,” the letter reads.

Because of the reasons listed above, the letter says that if Assange is extradited, it would “gravely endanger the free press.”

Dave DeCamp is the assistant news editor of Antiwar.com, follow him on Twitter @decampdave. This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Generals Are Bureaucrats With Extra Stars

Generals Are Bureaucrats With Extra Stars

The United States has always had a love affair with certain generals. George Washington, of course, was immensely popular, and thirteen U.S. presidents were generals before they were president.

But prior to the Second World War, generals as a group were not revered or treated with any particular veneration or respect. In fact, in the nineteenth century, full-time U.S. military officers were often treated with suspicion and contempt. While state militia officers were regarded as indispensable night watchmen who preserved order, the full-time government employees who served in the federal military were often derided as lazy and otherwise unemployable.

But now those days are long gone. In recent decades, active generals and retired generals have grown into a group of politically influential technocrats who can be regularly seen on evening news programs and are habitually feted and promoted as incorruptible patriots. They are fawned over by media organizations while being paid enormous pensions. Moreover, upon retirement they are able to turn their former government employment into lucrative positions on corporate boards and throughout the private sector.

The immense deference and trust placed in the opinions and alleged expertise of these men is far beyond what is warranted.  Like all technocrats—whether we’re talking Supreme Court justices or public health bureaucrats—the generals have their own interests and their own agendas. This was recently highlighted by the president’s new public feud with some generals. At a Labor Day press conference Trump averred: “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t, because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.” It’s always difficult to guess Trump’s motivations and earnestness when he makes statements such as this, but the statement itself isn’t wrong. The generals—retired and not— are often deeply enmeshed with weapons manufacturers and tech firms that rely on Pentagon spending.

The Generals’ Unimpressive Record

It’s difficult to see why the nation’s generals enjoy such a stellar reputation. The U.S. military establishment has lost every major military endeavor since 1945 and has been shown to be fiscally inept at a level that could only be described as criminal indifference. The Pentagon has repeatedly failed audits and has “misplaced” trillions of taxpayer dollars.

Yet in spite of this impressive record of failure and incompetence, generals continue to be held up by pundits and media organizations as the men who somehow care more about America than anyone else. Moreover, as is typical for technocrats, the generals are used by the establishment to provide intellectual and ideological cover to those who wish to forever expand US military adventurism and intervention. The alleged expertise of the generals—although apparently insufficient to actually win any wars—is said to offer us great insight into how American foreign policy ought to be conducted today.

The Generals Are Hardly Objective, Unbiased Observers

Needless to say, this view of the generals veers far from the reality. Moreover, the generals may now be morally and ideologically compromised by their deep ties to weapons manufacturers and the corporate boards on which many generals serve.

In a blistering article published at The American Conservative last week, Hunter DeRensis explains how the image of American generals as selfless public servants is long past its expiration date:

Perhaps Trump learned the hard way that the generals of the forever wars don’t measure up to the twentieth-century soldiers he adulated growing up.

For instance, when George Marshall oversaw the deployment of 8.3 million GIs across four continents in World War II, he did so with the assistance of only three other four-star generals. In retirement, Marshall refused to sit on any corporate boards, and passed on multiple lucrative book deals, lest he give the impression that he was profiting from his military record. As he told one publisher, “he had not spent his life serving the government in order to sell his life story to the Saturday Evening Post.”

Contrast that to the bloated, top-heavy military establishment of today, where an unprecedented forty-one four-star generals oversee only 1.3 million men[-] and women-at-arms. These men, selected and groomed because of their safe habits, spend years patting themselves on the back for managing wars-not-won, awaiting the day they can cash in. According to an analysis by The Boston Globe, in the mid-1990s nearly 50% of three- and four-star generals went on to work as consultants or executives for the arms industry. In 2006, at the height of the Iraq War, that number swelled to over 80% of retirees.

The examples are as endless as America’s foreign occupations: former Director of Naval Intelligence Jack Dorsett joined the board of Northrop-Grumman; he was later followed by former Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh; meanwhile, former Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright went to Raytheon; former Chairs of the Joint Chiefs—the highest ranking position in the military—William J. Crowe, John Shalikashvili, Richard Myers, and Joseph Dunford went on to work for General Dynamics, Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, and Lockheed-Martin, respectively.

Just as former presidents are able to turn their fame into multimillion dollar fortunes (as the Obamas and Clintons have done) generals are able to engage in very similar activities. DeRensis continues:

General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, in between his forced retirement from the Marine Corps and appointment as Secretary of Defense, joined the board of General Dynamics where he was paid over a million dollars in salary and benefits. Returning to public life, Mattis then spent two years cajoling President Trump into keeping the U.S. military engaged in places as disparate as Afghanistan, Syria, and Africa. “Sir, we’re doing it to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square,” Mattis told his commander-in-chief. Left unsaid was that a strategic withdrawal would also lead to a precipitous decline in Mattis’ future stock options, which he regained after he rejoined General Dynamics following his December 2018 resignation.

None of this proves generals are all amoral cynics, of course. It is quite possible to want a safe and prosperous America while also being an opportunist who’s always on the lookout for new ways to turn one’s life of living off the sweat of the taxpayer into some additional easy cash.

But what this all shows us is that it’s time to start viewing the generals for what they are: lifelong bureaucrats who upon retirement are more than happy to use their easy and vaunted experience in government as a means to fame, adulation, and easy money. After all, in the modern world, generals don’t become generals through courage on the battlefield, or even through any particularly insightful thinking or expertise. It’s not 1944, and these guys aren’t exactly George S. Patton.

Today’s generals are politicos, bureaucrats, and Washington insiders whose primary skill set lies in gaining influence in the halls of Congress and on cable TV shows. It’s very easy and rewarding work. If you can get it.

This article was originally featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is republished with permission.

The Criminal War against Iraq

The Criminal War against Iraq

I haven’t read the book yet, but I recommend this review of Robert Draper’s How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq by James North at Mondoweiss.

Indisputably, George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, based on lies and cooked “intelligence,” was the worst, most consequential foreign-policy move by an American president in recent history. The Middle East, the United States, and the rest of the world will suffer its effects for many years to come. This is not just a work of history, based on 300 interviews. North writes:

The Iraq tragedy is relevant today. On September 14, Donald Trump made up a new threat from Iran, and tweeted: “Any attack by Iran, in any form, against the United States will be met by an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude!” Trump sounds unhinged—until you recall that just this January, he provocatively ordered the assassination of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani—and got little resistance from either the mainstream U.S. press or the foreign policy establishment. Cowardly group-think didn’t end with Iraq.

 

The Criminal War against Iraq

Stephen F. Cohen: A Rare Voice of Sanity Gone

One of the saddest pieces of news is the death of Stephen F. Cohen at age 81. Cohen, who taught at Princeton and NYU, was an eminent scholar of the history and politics of Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. He spent his last years warning against the years-long bipartisan effort to prosecute a new cold war against Russia, with special attention to what has unfortunately come to be known as Russiagate, the groundless allegation, debunked by only a few heroic thinkers, that Trump is an agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who–fiction has it–is Stalin-reincarnate intent on reconstituting the Soviet Empire. (Putin has also been called, absurdly, a “new Hitler.”)

Cohen’s last book was War with Russia?, in which he warned that the new cold war could easily turn hot and even nuclear, thanks to Russiagate and U.S. imperial policy in Ukraine and Syria. His analysis is impeccable–not to mention frightening. “I think this is the most dangerous moment in American-Russian relations, at least since the Cuban missile crisis,” Cohen said.

I won’t go into detail about Cohen’s final intellectual battle because the indispensable Caitlin Johnstone has done the job admirably. I’ll close with her words: “In a world that is increasingly confusing and awash with propaganda, Cohen’s death is a blow to humanity’s desperate quest for clarity and understanding.” And, I would add, peace.

How ‘Collateral Murder’ Continues to Kill: The Tragedy of Danny Holmes

How ‘Collateral Murder’ Continues to Kill: The Tragedy of Danny Holmes

Before he killed himself in Dodge Center, Minnesota, 30-year-old Iraq veteran Danny Holmes would often sit in front of his computer screen looking at photographs in a file marked “Iraq/Graphic.” When he did this, his girlfriend relayed, his lower lip twitched. The pictures had been taken for the U.S. military’s after-action report on an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq on July 12, 2007. The attack became infamous in 2010, when Julian Assange and WikiLeaks released the helicopter video under the title “Collateral Murder.”

As Vijay Prashad wrote on CounterPunch the other day, among the crimes against the state, meaning the U.S. government, which are the real reason for Assange’s persecution, imprisonment and impending hearing in a British court, none so embarrassed war apologists as release of that video, which records in pitiless detail the attack on twelve men and two children.

Among the dead were a Reuters photographer, 22-year-old Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver and assistant, 40-year-old Saeed Chmagh. The Apache gunners would not have seen the children; they were in a van driven by a man, their father, who, with two other Good Samaritans, had tried to rescue the injured Chmagh. I call them Samaritans because there is no good reason to believe otherwise. They did not return fire and were not armed. The U.S. gunners speculated that they were insurgents, just as they had speculated that the cameras Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh carried were weapons. The after-action report determined that everything that led up to this scene of unspeakable carnage had been justified. So, as Vijay notes, did David Finkel, an embedded reporter for the Washington Post, whose account of the attack in his 2009 book, The Good Soldiers, reads like a war crime but concludes that 140 rounds from the Apache’s 30-millimeter cannon on a group of people who were taking no aggressive action is but one more reality of war that the rest of us, comfortable in our opinions, unthreatened, hopelessly out-of-context, can never understand and ought not question.

Except there is the problem of Danny Holmes.

We know his story, too, because of Finkel, who followed members of the battalion he was with once they got home, and wrote vividly about their tribulations in his 2013 book, Thank You for Your Service.

The battalion swept in after the attack, and at least one of the soldiers with Holmes took pictures to document what had happened. Such pictures are supposed to be classified, but soldiers took classified pictures home all the time from Iraq, sometimes making them into trophy reels. Finkel describes the after-action photos that fixated Danny Holmes thus:

Heads half gone, torsos ripped open, spreading blood, insides outside.

Close-ups, auto-focused, sunshine lighting, perfect color.

The war, in other words, as it was experienced by the soldiers who were in it.

The grainy black-and-white images from “Collateral Murder,” disturbing as they were, had nothing on these photographs.

Danny showed them to his 19-year-old girlfriend, Shawnee, two years before he took his life. He told her he’d killed “quite a few” people in the war and said he wasn’t bothered by it. Yet she had seen him, twitching. He didn’t talk much about the war. The story he told most often was of being in a firefight with a man who was also holding a little girl. Danny said he shot the man and the child, too; he had no choice. The story was sometimes detailed, the girl 3 years old with long dark hair, but vague as to time and location; no one in the battalion was able to confirm it. But there was Danny, waking up from another nightmare, telling Shawnee, “I see children everywhere.”

The little girl who was carried from her father’s van after the attack was 3 or 4 years old. She had glass in her eyes and hair, and had sustained a belly wound. One of the soldiers who discovered the children in the van turned around, vomited and ran, according to former Specialist Ethan McCord, who carried the girl out and then went back for her brother, who was 7 or 8 and had a head wound. McCord told the World Socialist Web Site years later that with the little girl in his arms, he thought of his own daughter. His platoon leader shouted, “Stop worrying about these motherfucking kids.” Back at the base, after cleaning the children’s blood off his uniform, McCord went to his staff sergeant, saying he needed to see someone in mental health. “Quit being a pussy,” McCord says he was told.

Many months later, when he returned to the States, McCord considered putting a bullet in his head, “but each time I thought about that, I would look at the pictures of my children and think back on that day and how the father of those children was taken away and how horrible it must be for them.”

After WikiLeaks published the video, in 2010, McCord started having nightmares again, and “the anger, the feeling of being used, it all came back.” He and another member of the company, former Specialist Josh Stieber, who had not been at the scene that day, wrote an open Letter of Reconciliation & Responsibility to the Iraqi People. In it they acknowledged their responsibility “for bringing the battle to your neighborhood” and asked for forgiveness because “We did unto you what we would not want done to us.”

Danny Holmes had a daughter with his girlfriend. After the child’s birth, according to Shawnee, he told the hallucinated story of killing a little girl in Iraq more frequently. In his second book, David Finkel scorns the “absolutes and certainties” of those who viewed the WikiLeaks video in horrified anger, and does nothing to undercut his own certainty, from the first book, that the attack was justified. Of all the damaged veterans whose stories Finkel tells, though, Danny Holmes is the only one we see staring at images of the people whose bodies were exploded by 30-millimeter cannon blasts.

Danny was 32 when he killed himself. He had declined markedly from the time Shawnee met him at a party. He would get angry, scary. He asked her to hide his knife collection. She asked him to get help, he said he would, he never did—a familiar story. On the last day of his life she had made plans to go out with friends at night. “I need to talk,” he said that morning, but she had laundry to do, then tanning; “I want to talk”…“Will you please talk to me?”…while she cleaned the house, washed the car, showered and got ready to go. She drank too much that night, got pulled over, spent the night in jail, and came home at dawn to find her man hanged on the staircase by his military-issue parachute cord.

Shawnee figured he had tied one end of the rope to the top of the staircase, looped the other end around his neck and made a running leap. The 911 operator told her to cut him down. There was a sound, “a boing,” she told Finkel, that played over and over in her head. The coroner said it probably took Danny 10 minutes to die. When she went up to their baby’s room, she found a pillow on the floor beside the crib. She wondered whether Danny had laid their before he jumped, saying goodbye to his daughter.

Shawnee, 21 by then, might have been any American on that day full of distractions, and Danny any haunted soldier. For the country at large, the distractions have multiplied many times over since then, which only partly explains why there has been no mass outcry for Chelsea Manning, who first saw and leaked the Apache videotape, and who is in jail once again for refusing to help the U.S. government prosecute Assange; and no mass outcry for Assange; and no mass movements against the wars; and no particular concern for the dead and maimed, including the 60,000 U.S. veterans who committed suicide between 2008 and 2017, according to a report last year from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

McCord and Stieber had emphasized in their open letter “that what was shown in the WikiLeaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created.” The enormity of suffering is what ate up Danny Holmes. It is the point Manning and Assange made in exposing secrets of the U.S. war machinery, risking their freedom and their lives. It is the point, actually, that Finkel makes in his books, only Finkel says he has no agenda other than to explain the realities of war to Americans. For that he was awarded a “genius grant.” The soldiers, on the other hand, unextolled, opposed “the destructive policies of our nation’s leaders” and made a plea for honoring “our common humanity.”

That was a decade ago. We are no closer to it. Assange is a public enemy.

Somehow, though, the soldiers’ letter did get to Ahlam Abdelhussein Tuman, the widow of the man who’d been driving the van in Iraq, and the mother of the children McCord had carried out. In 2010 she told the Times of London: “I can accept their apology, because they saved my children, and if it were not for them, maybe my two little children would be dead.”

She added: “I would like the American people and the whole world to understand what happened here in Iraq. We lost our country and our lives were destroyed.”

JoAnn Wypijewski is the author of What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo: Essays on Sex, Authority & the Mess of Life. This article was originally featured at Counterpunch and is republished with permission.

Israel Demands F-35s As Part Of $8 Billion Military Aid Package

Israel Demands F-35s As Part Of $8 Billion Military Aid Package

With the United States set to use the peace treaty as a chance to sell F-35 warplanes to the United Arab Emirates, Israel has been pushing for a bunch of free U.S. equipment based on pledges for a region-wide qualitative edge. On Wednesday, Israel offered its first list of demands.

The way Israel envisions this going down, they’ll get some $8 billion in equipment, mostly advanced U.S.-made aircraft. This would include an entire squadron of F-35s, the very plane that was supposedly the cause of all this.

While Israel was previously objecting to the sales to the UAE as threatening their military edge, officials are now revising it, based on the reality that they’re not going to get their way on blocking sales.

Now, Israeli officials say that the F-35 sales are expected to start a new region-wide arms race, and it is the arms race for while they need all these new arms. They did not elaborate on this, but also said that they expect leadership changes in some Gulf countries.

Israel offered nothing publicly on why they would expect an arms race, or who would be involved. The reality is that the UAE doesn’t have a lot of military rivals, especially not the sort that would be able to afford an arms race. Though Iran is the catch-all excuse, Iran would never be able to afford a slew of advanced warplanes to counter the F-35s, nor would they be likely to try, given their military doctrine is based on deterrence and retaliatory capabilities.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

President Trump Labels Generals as Pawns of the Military-Industrial Complex

President Trump Labels Generals as Pawns of the Military-Industrial Complex

Once again, the whispers of phantoms masquerading as administration officials have attempted to put Donald Trump on the defensive only two months before the fall election. And in typical fashion, the roused president has gone on an immediate rhetorical offensive.

Trump has doubled down on his affirmations towards the U.S. military and the American soldier, while simultaneously confronting the class of generals who command them. “I’m not saying the military’s in love with me—the soldiers are,” Trump said at a Labor Day press conference. “The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.” 

This is a dramatic shift in perspective from the man who spent the first two years of his presidency surrounding himself with top brass like Michael Flynn, John Kelly, H.R. McMaster, and James Mattis (along with almost being beguiled into nominating David Petraeus as Secretary of State). Perhaps Trump learned the hard way that the generals of the forever wars don’t measure up to the twentieth-century soldiers he adulated growing up. 

For instance, when George Marshall oversaw the deployment of 8.3 million GIs across four continents in World War II, he did so with the assistance of only three other four-star generals. In retirement, Marshall refused to sit on any corporate boards, and passed on multiple lucrative book deals, lest he give the impression that he was profiting from his military record. As he told one publisher, “he had not spent his life serving the government in order to sell his life story to the Saturday Evening Post.”

Contrast that to the bloated, top-heavy military establishment of today, where an unprecedented forty-one four-star generals oversee only 1.3 million men and women-at-arms. These men, selected and groomed because of their safe habits, spend years patting themselves on the back for managing wars-not-won, awaiting the day they can cash in. According to an analysis by The Boston Globe, in the mid-1990s nearly 50% of three- and four-star generals went on to work as consultants or executives for the arms industry. In 2006, at the height of the Iraq War, that number swelled to over 80% of retirees.

The examples are as endless as America’s foreign occupations: former Director of Naval Intelligence Jack Dorsett joined the board of Northrop-Grumman; he was later followed by former Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh; meanwhile, former Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright went to Raytheon; former Chairs of the Joint Chiefs—the highest ranking position in the military—William J. Crowe, John Shalikashvili,, Richard Myers, and Joseph Dunford went on to work for General Dynamics, Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, and Lockheed-Martin, respectively. 

General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, in between his forced retirement from the Marine Corps and appointment as Secretary of Defense, joined the board of General Dynamics where he was paid over a million dollars in salary and benefits. Returning to public life, Mattis then spent two years cajoling President Trump into keeping the U.S. military engaged in places as disparate as Afghanistan, Syria, and Africa. “Sir, we’re doing it to prevent a bomb from going off in Times Square,” Mattis told his commander-in-chief. Left unsaid was that a strategic withdrawal would also lead to a precipitous decline in Mattis’ future stock options, which he regained after he rejoined General Dynamics following his December 2018 resignation.

That resignation might have been premature, however. It was only a matter of weeks before Trump’s announced withdrawal from Syria, the impetus for Mattis’ departure, was reversed. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers continue to illegally occupy the north-east of the country. That’s in addition to the thousands of Americans still kicking dust in Iraq and Afghanistan, contrary to the president’s “America First” pledge. 

And Trump is as guilty as any of his subordinates when it comes to coddling the military-industrial complex, gushing over billion dollar arms deals and their manufactured jobs numbers. It remains to be seen whether his latest announcement of a partial withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the month will turn out as phony as the others.

Whether meaningful or empty, Donald Trump’s words remain a significant departure from the norm. He is one of the first prominent figures in living memory—and certainly the first president, ever—to connect the controlling influence of the military-industrial complex to the actions and advice of U.S. generals. For this he has been compared to the man who first coined the term, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, although even Ike never impugned the motivations of his fellow four-stars.

Trump’s language more closely resembles that of Major General Smedley Butler, who at the time of his death was the most decorated marine in U.S. history. “The professional soldiers and sailors don’t want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms,” Butler wrote in his 1935 book War is a Racket.

To eliminate this corrupting influence, Butler advocated an egalitarian price control to prevent the arms industry—and their pet generals—from profiting off the blood of American boys. “Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our steel companies and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted—to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.”

Today that would be the equivalent of $1,733 a month, the same as a first year private in the army. It’s a far cry from the $96 million the CEOs of the Pentagon’s top five contractors—all listed above—were collectively paid in 2016. 

Let’s call it a starting point.

This article was originally featured at The American Conservative and is republished with author’s permission.

CENTCOM Commander: No Evidence For Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops

CENTCOM Commander: No Evidence For Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops

Months after The New York Times reported that Russia secretly offered bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan, a top US commander says a detailed review of all available intelligence found no corroboration of the story.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. CENTCOM, spoke with NBC News about the matter. “It just has not been proved to a level of certainty that satisfies me,” McKenzie said. “We continue to look for that evidence. I just haven’t seen it yet.”

An unnamed military intelligence official also told NBC News that after reviewing the intelligence of attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan over the past several years, none had been linked to any Russian bounty payments.

McKenzie’s comments reflect statements made by other top military officials shortly after the Times story broke. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper took the position that the Pentagon did not have “corroborating evidence” to support the Times report back in June.

In a hearing in front of the House Armed Services Committee in July, Esper said all the defense intelligence agencies have been “unable to corroborate this report.” In that same hearing, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley took the same position. Both Milley and McKenzie vowed to keep investigating the intelligence, and now, two months later, there is still no evidence to back up the claims.

Other intelligence agencies have strongly dissented from the claim that Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban, most notably the National Security Agency (NSA). The National Intelligence Council produced a memo in July that showed the NSA only gave “low” confidence to the Russian bounty intelligence.

Intelligence agencies use confidence levels to reflect the scope and quality of the intelligence they are assessing. There are three confidence levels, “high,” “moderate,” and “low.” The same memo that said the NSA gave the bounty intelligence “low” confidence also revealed the CIA gave it “moderate” confidence, which still leaves plenty of room for doubt.

Dave DeCamp is the assistant news editor of Antiwar.com. Follow him on Twitter @decampdave. This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

A 19 Year Retrospective on the War on Terror

A 19 Year Retrospective on the War on Terror

Nineteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the War on Terror is still the biggest sham of this century. President George W. Bush promised to “rid the world of evil” and instead unleashed war and carnage. American troops are now fighting in 14 nations as part of an endless crusade against “extremists.” President Obama provided massive military aid and other support to Al Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in Libya and Syria—and the Trump administration continued the Syrian idiocy and has repeatedly veered close to war with Iran. Trump talks of “ending endless wars” but he has failed to deliver on one of his most important 2016 campaign promises.

The terrorist watchlist has over a million names compiled in a process that is a parody of due process. The feds claim a right to treat every American like a terrorist suspect every time they buy an airplane ticket. The National Security Agency has ravaged Americans’ privacy but supposedly the real villains are Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

Will America ever politically recover? Politicians have perpetually exploited 9/11 to kill foreigners and to repress Americans. Will this constitutional travesty never end?

This is the 17th anniversary of the publication of Terrorism and Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace To Rid the World of Evil. The last sentence of the first chapter asked: “What are the prospects for the survival of American liberty from an endless war against an elusive, often ill-defined enemy?”

Here is a link to the transcript of my C-SPAN Booknotes interview on that book.

Here is a link to the Introduction chapter of Terrorism & Tyranny.

Here are the reviews the book spurred.

Here’s some of the epigrams from the book:

*The Patriot Act treats every citizen like a suspected terrorist and every federal agent like a proven angel.

*Most of the homeland security successes in the war on terrorism have been farces or frauds.

*Nothing happened on 9/11 that made the federal government more trustworthy.

*The worse government fails, the less privacy citizens supposedly deserve.

*The U.S. government is far more efficient at making enemies than at defending Americans.

*Killing foreigners is no substitute for protecting Americans.

*Perpetual war inevitably begets perpetual repression. It is impossible to destroy all alleged enemies of freedom everywhere without also destroying freedom in the United States.

*A lie that is accepted by a sufficient number of ignorant voters becomes a political truth.

*Citizens should distrust politicians who distrust freedom.

*In the long run, people have more to fear from governments than from terrorists. Terrorists come and go, but power-hungry politicians will always be with us.

*The word ‘terrorism’ must not become an incantation that miraculously razes all limits on government power.

***

From the Bush Betrayal (St. Martin’s, 2004)

There are no harmless political lies about a war. The more such lies citizens tolerate, the more wars they will get.


The myths of 9/11 continue to threaten American safety.

Following are some of my early attacks on the War on Terrorism:

Investor’s Business Daily October 2, 2001

Government Trust Grows Despite Its Inability to Protect

by JAMES BOVARD

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Americans’ trust in government is soaring after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The number of people who trust the government to do the right thing has doubled since last year, and now is more than three times higher than in 1994. According to a Washington Post poll released on Sept. 27, 64% of Americans now “trust the government in Washington to do what is right” either “just about always” or “most of the time.”

Ronald Brownstein, a Los Angeles Times columnist, declared on Sept. 19: “At the moment the first fireball seared the crystalline Manhattan sky last week, the entire impulse to distrust government that has become so central to U.S. politics seemed instantly anachronistic.” Brownstein’s headline – “The Government, Once Scorned, Becomes Savior” – captured much of the establishment media’s response to the attacks.

It is puzzling that trust in government would soar after the biggest intelligence/law enforcement failure since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. At least in the first weeks after the attack, the federal government’s prestige appears higher than at any time since the start of the Vietnam War.

The Post poll also revealed that the disastrous attacks of Sept. 11 greatly increased Americans’ confidence that government will protect them against terrorists. From 1995 through 1997, the results consistently showed that only between 35% and 37% of Americans had “a great deal” or “a good amount” of confidence that the feds would deter domestic attacks by terrorists. In hindsight, the public was far more prescient than were the Washington policy-makers who chose not to make defending against such attacks a high priority. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, confidence in government’s ability to deter terrorist attacks has soared – clocking in at 66%, almost double the percentage in the most recent previous Washington Post poll on this question in June 1997.

The bigger the catastrophe, the more credulous many people seem to become. The worse government failed to protect people in the past, the more certain most people become that government will protect them in the future.

Prominent liberals are capitalizing on the new mood to call for razing the restraints on government power. Wall Street Journal columnist Al Hunt says it’s “time to declare a moratorium on government-bashing…. For the foreseeable future, the federal government is going to invest or spend more, regulate more and exercise more control over our lives,” he rejoices.

“There is no real debate over expansion (of government power) in general.” Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland snipped, “Ideologues on the right saw government as an evil to be rolled back.” In a breathtaking leap of logic, he reasons: “The terror assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon … should profoundly shake the less-is-more philosophy that was the driving force for the tax-cut politics of Bush and conservative Republicans.”

But there is no evidence that Osama bin Laden targeted the U.S. because of ire over George Bush’s proposal to reduce the estate tax. Hoagland’s effort is reminiscent of liberal efforts after the assassination of John F. Kennedy to paint right-wingers everywhere as unindicted co-conspirators in Kennedy’s killing.

It is difficult to understand how the failures of the CIA, the FBI, and the Federal Aviation Administration could generate a blank check for all other federal agencies to exert more control over 270 million Americans. The success of the disastrous attacks of Sept. 11 were due far more to gross negligence and a shortage of competence than to a shortage of power. The federal government needs sufficient power to protect Americans against terrorist attacks and to harshly punish the perpetrators of the recent attacks. But such power shouldn’t place a golden crown on the head of every would-be bureaucratic dictator, from the lowest village zoning enforcer to the most deluded federal agency chieftain.

The blind glorification of government, now popular, puts almost all liberties at grave risk. At least for the time being, people have lost any interest in government’s batting average – either for actually protecting citizens or for abusing power. The best hope for the survival and defense of liberty is that enough Americans will recall the type of history lessons that public schools never teach.

At this time of national crisis, we must forget neither our political heritage nor the inherent limits of any governmental machinery. Government has a vital role in defending Americans from deadly foreign threats. But nothing that happened on Sept. 11 or since changed the fundamental nature of American government.

James Bovard is the author of “Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion & Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years”(St. Martin’s Press, 2000).

+++

In late September 2001, Reason magazine asked a handful of folks “to discuss which civil lliberties they thought were most at risk in what has been called America’s first 21st century war.” They published the responses in an article entitled, Guarding the Home Front: Will civil liberties be a casualty in the War on Terrorism?” in their December 2001 issue.

Here was my take a few weeks after 9/11:

Lessons Never Taught Jim Bovard

The blind glorification of government currently prevailing puts almost all liberties at grave risk. Most of the media and most of the politicians are stampeding behind the notion that the greatest danger is any limit on federal power. The Justice Department wish list of remedies invokes the danger of terrorism to seek sweeping new powers to be used against all classes of alleged criminals.

The determination of some members of the Bush administration to use the terrorist attacks to wage wars against a laundry list of “rogue nations” could mean that aggressive military action continues indefinitely–along with the pretext to suppress Americans’ freedom of speech and movement. And if there is another successful terrorist attack that kills many Americans, the pressure for severe crackdowns will probably be irresistible–regardless of how badly government agencies screwed up in failing to prevent the attack. At least for the time being, people have lost any interest in government’s batting average–either for actually protecting citizens or for abusing power.

The best hope for the survival of liberty is that Americans will finally learn the history lessons public schools never taught.

Jim Bovard is the author, most recently, of Feeling Your Pain: The Explosion & Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years (St.Martin’s Press).

USA TODAY, January 10, 2002

Don’t bed down with tyrants to fight terrorism

By James Bovard

President Bush recently declared: “So long as anybody’s terrorizing established governments, there needs to be a war.” Bush rightfully sought international support for the campaign to put the al-Qaeda terrorist network out of business. But the war on terrorism threatens to become a license for tyranny.

The United Nations is concerned that an expansive call for governments to crack down on terrorism — a crime that is not clearly defined — is spurring a surge of oppression around the world. Los Angeles Times writer William Orme detailed some of the ways governments are exploiting the new war to repress their citizens:

The Cuban government, as part of its war on terrorism, added a new law allowing the death penalty for anyone who uses the Internet to incite political violence.

Zimbabwe’s war on terrorism includes a proposal to criminalize any critical comment about President-dictator Robert Mugabe.

Syria bragged to the U.N. that financial support for terrorists was effectively curtailed by the absence of any private banking system or independent charities, Orme reported. In other words, a government that totally destroys freedom expects to be applauded as an anti-terrorist superstar.

Bacre Waly Ndiaye, a chief U.N. human-rights officer, recently complained: “In some countries, non-violent activities have been considered as terrorism, and excessive measures have been taken to suppress or restrict individual rights, including the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, freedom from torture, privacy rights, freedom of expression and assembly, and the right to seek asylum.”

Here at home

Many of these complaints, in fact, apply to the actions of the Bush administration. A new law decimates individual privacy by giving the FBI the de facto right to vacuum up practically anyone’s e-mail. Permanent resident aliens who publicly criticize the U.S. government’s war on terrorism can be banned from re-entering the United States. Some have floated the suggestion that permitting the torture of suspects could help avert future terrorist attacks. And Bush’s executive order for military tribunals threatens to bring unsavory aspects of Third World “justice” to American shores.

A myopic focus on private-sector criminals risks giving a green light to more dangerous government abuses. A core fallacy of the war on terrorism — as opposed to attacking and destroying al-Qaeda — is that terrorism is worse than anything else imaginable. Unfortunately, governments have committed far worse abuses than al-Qaeda or any other terrorist cabal.

Official murderers

Mass murder was the most memorable achievement of some 20th-century governments. The Black Book of Communism, a 1997 scholarly French compendium, detailed how 85 million to 100 million people came to die at the hands of communist regimes in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia and elsewhere. In Death by Government, R.J. Rummel declared that some 170 million people were killed in one of “the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners.”

By raising terrorist attacks to the pinnacle of political evil, the war on terrorism implicitly sanctifies whatever tactic governments use in the name of repressing terrorism. But, in the long run, people have far more to fear from governments than from terrorists.

Bush’s labeling of attacks on any “established government” as a justification of counterterrorism ignores the fact that some governments are little more than criminal conspiracies against their victims. The United States was created as a result of popular uprisings and attacks on an established government that was far less oppressive than many current regimes in Africa and Asia.

The Bush administration must find a way to fight terrorism without sanctifying tyranny. The word “terrorism” must not become an incantation that miraculously razes all existing limits on government power. The fact that governments such as Syria and Zimbabwe can justify their oppression by invoking the war against terrorism is an embarrassment to anyone who both opposes terrorism and favors human rights.

James Bovard is the author of Lost Rights and Freedom in Chains.

+****

Playboy April 2002

HEADLINE: Terrorizing the bill of rights.

BYLINE: BOVARD, JAMES

How do you find a needle in a haystack? Set fire to the haystack.

Following the September 11 attacks, Congress joined the largest manhunt in history by passing a 342-page bill called the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. The bill’s acronym, USA PATRIOT, revealed the depth of feeling, if not thought, that had gone into the measure. In support of the bill, House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner declared, “The first civil right of every American is to be free of domestic terrorism.”

USA PATRIOT rewrote laws that had been put in place to curb past government abuses. It gave Attorney General John Ashcroft powers that would have been unthinkable a few months before. Lawmakers claimed they were bringing the Bill of Rights up to date, allowing law enforcement to operate efficiently in the age of the cell phone and laptop.

Thanks to USA PATRIOT and the flurry of executive orders that have followed, our government now can more easily conduct secret trials, listen to privileged conversations between prisoners and their counsel, imprison people indefinitely on minor charges without even confirming they are being held, eavesdrop on any telephone that a suspect may use (including those in public places such as airports), sort through thousands of private e-mails while promising not to read “content” (a term left undefined), conduct “sneak and peak” searches for physical evidence without notifying the suspect at the time, rummage through school records of foreign students and appoint bank clerks and employers as deputy counterterrorists (with no training). The CIA and other intelligence groups have been allowed back into the domestic arena. All manner of checks and balances, of oversight, have been tossed onto the bonfire.

In some cases, agencies seeking wiretaps in criminal investigations no longer need establish probable cause. A month after Bush signed USA PATRIOT, the administration went even further. It proposed “fill-in-the-blank” wiretaps on suspects when federal agents do not know the person’s name. The Bush administration also wanted to allow agents up to 72 hours after conducting an “emergency” wiretap or search to request ex post facto permission from a judge for the intrusion.

USA PATRIOT is a classic bait and switch. Although its stated purpose is to defeat domestic terrorism, the government’s new power reaches far beyond box cutters. For starters, the law defines domestic terrorism as activities involving “acts dangerous to human life” that, among other things, may “appear to be intended to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” Perhaps the lawmakers saw only images of airliners flying into skyscrapers, but the language is broad enough to encompass many less-extreme activities. It may take only a few scuffles at a rally to transform a protest group into a terrorist entity. The new thinking would allow the government to drop the hammer on environmental extremists (even those who are not spiking trees), anti-trade fanatics (even those who don’t trash Starbucks) and anti-abortion protesters (even those who don’t attack doctors). Even if the violence at a rally is initiated by a government agent provocateur–as happened at some Sixties antiwar protests–the feds could still reap the power to treat all of a group’s members as terrorists.

And it will not be necessary to have participated in a rowdy street demonstration to be indicted under this act. If you provide a demonstrator with a place to sleep, you could be found guilty of aiding and abetting terrorism. Likewise, if you donate to an organization that may in the future be classified as a terrorist entity–including Greenpeace, the Gun Owners of America and Operation Rescue–you could face prison. Are such concerns far-fetched? Unfortunately, no. The Philadelphia Inquirer examined terrorism prosecutions from 1997 to 2001 (before the definition of terrorism was expanded). Among the supposed acts of terror were a tenant who impersonated an FBI agent in a call to his landlord protesting an eviction, an airline passenger who got drunk on a flight from China and demanded more liquor in an unruly fashion and a guy who asked his shrink for medicine because voices were telling him to kill George W.

Many of the bill’s provisions are not bound by definitions of terrorist. New powers can be used against those suspected of breaking a criminal law, be it wearing the fur of an endangered species or being less than truthful to an IRS agent. As for the roving wiretaps and e-mail surveillance, you don’t even have to be a suspect to have your right of privacy sacrificed.

The idea that sacrificed civil rights are the price we pay for security in times of crisis is hardly new. Such thinking seeks to justify the perpetual detention of terrorist suspects and the incarceration of those who criticize homeland security or disagree with Ashcroft’s designation of certain groups as terrorists. There are historical precedents. President John Adams used sedition laws to lock up dissenting newspaper editors and the occasional congressman. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. World War I gave us the Espionage Act, which made it illegal to “willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language about the form of government of the United States.” And the list goes on. How far will we go?

The Bill of Rights does not distinguish between citizens and immigrants; it protects individual rights, not those of a privileged class. But the Attorney General now needs only to certify that he has “reasonable grounds to believe that the alien is engaged in any activity that endangers the national security” to detain an alien. But, we were proud to learn, those who are in custody still have some rights. When the Justice Department refused to disclose the names of its detainees, Ashcroft explained that the silence was necessary to protect their privacy.

Speaking before Congress, Ashcroft defended the secrecy of military tribunals thusly: “Are we supposed to read them their Miranda rights, hire a flamboyant defense lawyer, bring them back to the U. S. to create a new cable network of Osama TV or what have you, and provide a worldwide platform from which propaganda can be developed?” Well, yes. Better that than taking them into a soccer stadium and executing them without a trial, without evidence–or, worse, with secret evidence. The Bill of Rights was designed to protect individuals (not just citizens) from such overzealousness–or is it arrogance?

USA PATRIOT treats every American as a potential suspect, every federal agent as an angel. It asks us to ignore such dark episodes as the surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr., Cointelpro, the murder of Black Panther Fred Hampton and the Red files of the McCarthy era. Ashcroft scoffs at criticism and says simply, “Trust me.” But already, the definition of the enemy has changed. In the hearing before Congress, the attorney general chastised potential critics, saying, “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends.”

The Bush doctrine that “you’re with us or with the terrorists” has come home.

This article was originally featured at James Bovard’s blog and is republished with permission.

The Lie of Rwanda

The Lie of Rwanda

When Barack Obama launched his war against Libya in 2011, a war that resulted in a bloody chaos that continues to this day, Susan Rice and Samantha Power both invoked the memory of Rwanda as justification. According to them, Muammar Qaddafi was on the verge of committing genocide against the people of Benghazi, and the United States couldn’t just sit by waiting for “another Rwanda” to happen.

The conventional narrative is that between April and July of 1994, hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were victims of a genocide perpetrated by Rwanda’s Hutu government. As the official story goes, this was predictable, yet the UN and the Western powers did nothing. As a result, they say, preventative intervention in cases of imminent humanitarian crises must become the norm.

This misunderstanding stems from the common mistake of failing to account for historical context when it comes to world events. The truth of what happened during those bloody days can only be found through an understanding of the quagmire that precipitated the tragedy.

Prior to the “Scramble for Africa,” Rwanda was a feudal kingdom in which the Tutsi minority (approximately 10-20% of the population) ruled over the Hutu majority (approximately 80-90% of the population). The Tutsis were cattle herders and landowners while the Hutus were peasants and serfs living under Tutsi overlords. When German imperialists arrived in 1885, they empowered the Tutsi monarchy and used them as proxy rulers. After Germany lost World War I, Belgium took control of Rwanda but continued the same practice of empowering and ruling via the proxy of Tutsi kings.

While the preceding years of Tutsi-controlled feudalism had been bad enough for the Hutu majority, the addition of foreign imperialism only exacerbated tensions between the two groups. In 1956, with their foothold becoming tenuous due to these tensions, Belgium held democratic elections. With more than 80% of the population, the Hutus won easily and took control of Rwanda’s new government. Newly empowered, the new Hutu rulers began violently taking out their long-held, pent up frustrations against the Tutsi minority who fled en masse to neighboring countries, including Uganda and Burundi.

During the “Inyenzi Wars” of 1960-1967, Tutsi exiles launched at least seven cross-border attacks against the new Hutu-led Rwanda regime. On July 1, 1962, the UN granted independence to Rwanda, but this did little to change the situation on the ground. The cross-border attacks continued, while those Tutsis who remained in Rwanda continued to be victims of reprisal killings.

Meanwhile in Burundi, Rwanda’s southern neighbor with roughly the same demographics, a Tutsi monarchy remained in power. In 1972, to protect their rule from the Hutu majority, the Burundi army began systematically killing the literate Hutu population. In all, more than 100,000 Hutus were killed, and many of the survivors fled across the border to Rwanda.

On July 5, 1973, the Rwanda National Guard, led by General Habyarimana, overthrew the government, and took power.  Habyarimana, a Hutu, was generally supported by the Tutsi minority and the period from 1973-1990 was a time of relative peace.

The history of Uganda, Rwanda’s neighbor to the North, is also vital to understanding what happened during those infamous months in 1994. Colonized by the British in 1894, Uganda gained independence in 1962. The period between 1962 and 1986 was a time of chaos and violence as a series of governments came to power only to be quickly overthrown and replaced. The Rwandan Tutsis who had earlier fled to Uganda were treated poorly, used as pawns, and many were forced to return to Rwanda.

In 1986, Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA) came to power and Museveni took control of the country. His army largely consisted of Rwandan Tutsi exiles. Since coming to power, U.S. taxpayers have unwittingly provided his regime with more than $20 billion in development aid, vast military aid, and more than $4 billion in debt relief.

In Museveni’s 30+ (and counting) years of rule, Uganda would be more aptly described as a military dictatorship than a democracy. He controls an unofficial security force that operates solely at his discretion. It controls arsenals, overrides local legislation, and closes NGOs, newspapers, and radio stations. During elections, it is common for voting stations to be surrounded by tanks, teargas trucks, and soldiers in body armor wielding high-powered weapons. Those who speak out in opposition often wind up in prison or a body bag.

The Rwandan Tutsi exiles residing in Uganda, in large part the former ruling class and their offspring, had long sought a “right to return” to Rwanda. Unsurprisingly, the Hutu government was not eager to let that happen. When the Cold War ended, Western powers took notice of the Tutsi refugees and began pressuring Habyarimana’s government to allow them to return.  Finally, at a UNICEF meeting in New York on September 28, 1990, where Museveni was also present, Habyarimana announced that all Rwandan refugees could return, no questions asked.

The Uganda-based Tutsis weren’t satisfied. They wanted power more than they wanted passports, and they had been trained how to fight by Museveni. Two days later, a large contingent of Museveni’s army, comprised of Rwandan Tutsi exiles who called themselves the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), invaded Rwanda intent on reclaiming control of the country. This sparked a war that ultimately led to what has become known as the “Rwanda Genocide.” While Habyarimana rushed back to Rwanda, Museveni remained in New York, seemingly unconcerned with a large portion of his army having apparently gone rogue.

The RPF soon came to be led by Paul Kagame, a Rwandan Tutsi born in southern Rwanda whose family had fled to Uganda in 1959 when he was two years old. Kagame, as Chief of Military Intelligence in Museveni’s NRA, had plenty of experience in brutality. At the time, Kagame was in the U.S. studying field tactics, psyops, and propaganda techniques at the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Upon learning of the invasion, he left immediately to join the fight with no objection from the Americans. His junket to the U.S. for military training was common among Museveni’s military officers, and many of those officers ended up, like Kagame, fighting with the RPF in Rwanda.

When the RPF invaded, hundreds of thousands of Hutus fled the invaders who were conducting a scorched Earth campaign that was killing, abducting, and raping their way south. It wasn’t just the Hutus who were fearful of the RPF. Many of the Tutsis who remained in Rwanda were also quick to flee the violence, and were rightly concerned with the prospect of resultant reprisal killings. Millions of innocent Tutsis and Hutus alike were killed and displaced during the years that followed. More than a civil war, this was an invasion by a foreign army against a democratically elected government.

Ostensibly to quell the violence, the UN placed an embargo on arms shipments into Rwanda. This embargo was fiercely enforced in the case of Habyarimana’s government, but ignored almost entirely in the case of the RPF invaders. Uganda routinely shipped people, arms, and money across the border to their former military comrades. If anything, this violation of the embargo was actively encouraged. In the three and a half years following the invasion, U.S. aid to Uganda doubled. In 1991, Uganda bought more than 10 times the weapons they had bought in the previous 40 years. Many of these arms came from the U.S., and a large number of them found their way to the RPF.

The heavily enforced arms embargo against the Rwandan government made it extremely difficult for them to fight. The RPF, on the other hand, invaded with machine guns, mortars, rocket launchers, rifles, cannons, and sophisticated radio communication equipment. Their supplies were continuously re-stocked by Uganda, so there was never a shortage of the arms and equipment necessary to continue their violent campaign.

To the south in Burundi, Melchior Ndadaye became the first democratically elected Hutu president of the country in July of 1993. Three months later, members of the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army assassinated him, sparking cheers from the RPF.  Ties between the RPF and the Burundi army increased, and Habyarimana’s government found itself surrounded. After the death of their president, nearly 375,000 Burundi Hutus fled to Rwanda where they joined more than a million internally displaced Rwandans.

In the midst of the war, Western powers, not satisfied with Habyarimana’s agreement to allow Tutsi refugees to return, began to insist that he implement a system of multiparty politics to give the RPF a seat at the table. These parties were introduced in 1991, and a multi-party government was sworn in April 1992. Many of these new opposition parties, seeing which way the Western powers were leaning, established direct ties to the RPF with hopes of receiving financial & political support. Leaders of these parties, at the behest of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Herman Cohen, met with RPF leaders in Brussels during the summer of 1992. They were effectively forming a coalition with an invading army with the full support of Western powers.  Habyarimana’s regime was now facing enemies from Uganda, Burundi, and from inside its own government.

In August 1993, the United States, United Kingdom, and Uganda held the Arusha Peace Accords. At the time, the UK had no embassy or consulate in the country and had no diplomatic relations with Rwanda. Those involved with the accords decided that: Habyarimana should be stripped of his powers; a “neutral” international force should be deployed to Rwanda; the RPF should be integrated into the Rwandan military; and a RPF battalion should be deployed to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.

This neutral international force became known as the UN Aid Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) and was led by Canadian General Remeo Dallaire. Between the end of 1993 and the beginning of 1994, 2,500 international soldiers arrived in Rwanda.  The troops were to speak English despite Rwanda being a largely French speaking country. At the time, since France had a relatively good relationship with Habyarimana’s government, the French offered to act as mediators, but that overture was refused. In fact, French troops that were in the country (who supported Habyarimana) were forced to leave, while the mostly Belgian troops that were sent by the UN supported the RPF.

The first action of these UN forces was to escort six hundred RPF soldiers from Mulindi in northern Rwanda to the capital city of Kigali. Meanwhile, they trained, provided logistics to, and fed RPF soldiers. Foreign embassies began working with the RPF as if they had already seized power and told Habyarimana he had to go.

Throughout the war, Western powers and their NGOs issued human rights declarations and reports that served as propaganda to make the RPF look like the good guys.  One of the most influential was the “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations in Rwanda Since 10/1/1990,” which was issued on March 8, 1993. William Schabas, a member of this commission, began to use the word genocide in reference to Habyarimana’s government at the end of January 1993, after the commission had completed its investigation, but before they had issued their final report. The RPF used this as an excuse to launch a massive “punitive” attack in early February 1993 that resulted in thousands dead and which pushed the total number of internal refugees to over a million.

The groups sponsoring this commission were either founded by the RPF or had been infiltrated by it. One such group was the “Association rwandaise pour la défense des droits de l’Homme,” which was founded on September 30, 1990, the day before the RPF invasion. It was founded by Alphonse-Marie Nkubito, who later became Minister of Justice when the RPF took control of Rwanda’s government after winning the war in July of 1994. Because the report was constrained to a narrow timeframe, it purposely omitted the biggest crime of the whole conflict, the RPF invasion on 10/1/1990.  When asked about this, William Schabas, along with fellow commission member Andre Paradis, admitted that the timeline was chosen by the sponsoring human rights organizations.

Of the ten commission members, six admitted to knowing nothing about Rwanda prior to traveling there, and that they had to look for Rwanda on a map. None spoke Kinyarwanda. Those who wrote the report spent only two weeks in Rwanda. During those two weeks, only two hours were spent in RPF occupied territory, which, according to Schabas, was to “demonstrate our impartiality.” While Habyarmina’s government allowed the commission full freedom to investigate and interview witnesses, the RPF only allowed the commission to meet witnesses in the presence of armed soldiers.

In January 1994, General Dallaire sent a fax to UN authorities citing information from a “Jean-Pierre,” who said that Habyarimana’s government was planning to provoke a civil war by assassinating Tutsi political leaders and Belgian troops. This fax also stated that he suspected lists were being compiled of Tutsis to be killed, and that the Habyarimana government had plans and weapons ready to go. In exchange for this information, he wanted protection from the UN for him and his family. The official narrative states that the UN leadership did nothing, ignored the fax, and genocide raged.

In reality, Dallaire’s fax was based on hearsay. He never personally met with Jean-Pierre. The information was relayed to him by Faustin Twagiramungu, leader of one of the opposition parties. Jean-Pierre, whose real name was Abubakar Turatsinze, had been a driver for Habyarimana’s MRND party, but was fired in November 1993 after being suspected of peddling information. Twagiramungu, like Dallaire, never personally met with Jean-Pierre. When Twagiramungu passed this second-hand information to Dallaire, Luc Marchal, Belgian commander of UNAMIR troops in Kigali, was sent to investigate. Marchal found few weapons and no lists of Tutsis to be killed. Nevertheless, Dallaire sent his infamous fax to the UN.

Untold in the conventional narrative is that Dallaire’s fax was not to inform about an impending genocide, but instead to ask for advice as to what to do given the lack of credible information. The only advice he received back was to warn Habyarimana that such a plan for inciting a civil war (that was already in progress) was a bad idea. In the years since, Twagiramungu has stated that he thinks Jean-Pierre’s story was totally false. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped those pushing the “genocide” narrative from citing this as proof that the Western world knew what was about to come, yet sat on their hands and did nothing.

The tipping point in the conflict came on April 4, 1994, when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down on its approach to Kigali airport. The Rwandan President died, along with Cyprien Ntaryamira, President of Burundi, in what for years was only ever officially described as a “crash.” The death of President Habyarimana sparked what has become known as the Rwanda Genocide.

Prior to Habyarimana’s death, UNAMIR had shut down a runway of Kigali airport, making it so incoming planes could only approach from one direction. For anyone wanting to shoot down a plane, this action by the “neutral” international forces made it a lot easier.

Panicked Hutus, fearing a return to serfdom, chose extremism. Between April 4 and July 2, 1994, hundreds of thousands of innocent Tutsis, with no relation to or involvement with the RPF, were brutally murdered by Hutu militias. During the same period, the RPF killed tens of thousands of Hutus per month, dumping many of the bodies in rivers. There are some estimates that more Hutus were killed during this period than Tutsis.

This “genocide” came to an end on July 2, 1994 when the RPF took control of Kigali, overthrew the government, assumed power, and effectively won the war. Back in control of the country, the RPF rebranded itself as the RPA (Rwanda Patriotic Army). Paul Kagame, one of the top leaders of the RPF, became the de facto leader while serving as Vice President and Minister of Defense, and became President of Rwanda in 2000.

After their rise to power, millions of Hutus fled to refugee camps. One such camp was called Kibeko, located inside Rwanda.  The RPA attempted to close this camp in 1995, but the Hutus living there, fearing for their safety, refused to leave. In response, the RPA massacred them. Local aid workers counted 4,000 dead bodies before they were ordered to leave the area.

Other camps were set up just a few miles across the border from Rwanda in what was then known as Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Of the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, the vast majority were women and children, though approximately 30,000 were former members of the Rwandan Armed Forces and other Hutu militias who had fought against the RPF.

Between 1995 and 1996, Zaire’s President Mobutu provided these former Rwandan soldiers with arms to re-take Rwanda. Numerous “hit-and-run” attacks took place from within these refugee camps. At the same time, Mobutu allied with anti-Museveni Sudan-backed rebels to fight against Uganda. In 1996, the RPA raided the refugee camps in Zaire and herded Hutus back into Rwanda to live in camps under their control. To escape such a fate, hundreds of thousands of Hutus fled further into the jungles of Zaire.

Zaire is home to an estimated $24 trillion of cobalt, uranium, oil, gold, diamonds, coltan, chrome, and platinum. Africa is thought to contain 78% of the world’s chrome, 59% of the world’s cobalt, and 89% of the world’s platinum, and Zaire is considered the most mineral-rich country in Africa.

It is these resources that perhaps best explain Washington DC’s generosity to Yoweri Museveni. The U.S. saw Museveni as a “brilliant military strategist.” After all, his army overthrew the much stronger Ugandan national army when he came to power in 1986, and he was seen as a partner in securing access to Zaire’s plentiful resources.

Rwanda’s RPA, after raiding the Zaire-based Hutu refugee camps, chased the Hutus who had escaped their initial attack further into Zaire, as well as into Burundi, Tanzania, and elsewhere. Those they caught up with, regardless of if they were among those who had fought against the RPF during the 1990-1994 war, were dealt with brutally. The RPA routinely strangled, shot, bayoneted, bashed in skulls, and hacked to death any Hutu they were able to track down. U.S. Special Forces were actively involved in training those RPA commandos, and remain trainers of the RPA to this day.

In 1997, the U.S.-trained RPA, together with the U.S.-supplied Ugandan army, and a Congolese rebel group known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (which had been trained and armed by Uganda and Rwanda) marched to Kinshasa, toppled Mobutu, and installed their own strongman, Laurent-Desire Kabila. It was then that Zaire became known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

With a puppet in power across the border, Museveni’s army occupied a mineral-rich swathe of the DRC, and his generals looted more than $10 billion of gold and other precious resources. Meanwhile, Museveni continued to back local Congolese rebel groups who murdered and raped local Congolese while helping themselves to the country’s resources. When, eventually, Laurent Kabila turned on his supporters and made moves toward nationalizing resources, he was assassinated. Kabila’s son Joseph took power, and Uganda’s army has remained in the country virtually unmolested ever since.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, founded in November 1994, was tasked with finding those responsible for the “genocide” as well as any other serious violations of international law. Effectively, the ICC’s tribunal for Rwanda functioned in much the same way as the Versailles Treaty following World War I. It placed all the blame on one side while exempting the other from any fault whatsoever.

Perhaps most notable is their treatment of the plane crash that killed President Habyarimana. An investigation by Michael Hourigan in 1997 found it likely that Kagame was behind the assassination and that the RPF was foreign sponsored. When Hourigan submitted his report to Louise Arbour, ICC prosecutor for this tribunal at the time, she was initially enthusiastic about the report until Madeleine Albright intervened in the matter. Hourigan’s report was subsequently killed, and he was given a gag order. Ever since, Arbour has avoided questions about the plane crash. Several high-ranking members of the RPF have since confirmed Hourigan’s investigation and have gone so far as to explain how they executed the assassination with Kagame’s assistance.

Backing up Hourigan’s findings, Charles Onana, a Cameroonian investigative journalist, published a French book in 2002 titled “Les Secrets de Genocide Rwandais.” Paul Kagame sued him, but then dropped the case when Onana was willing to go to trial. Additionally, a seven-year investigation into the matter was conducted by French anti-terrorist Judge Jean-Louise Brugiere. He found evidence that the plane crash was indeed an assassination, and that Kagame and the RPF had planned, ordered, and carried out the attack. He also found evidence of CIA involvement. That investigation has been smothered and is rarely, if ever, mentioned in any media or official channels.

Also notable are the prosecutors of the tribunal, all of whom were chosen by the U.S. government. First was Richard Goldstone, who was fed information by the CIA to form his indictments and who was quick to compliment Madeleine Albright. UN Secretary General Boutros Ghali was concerned about Goldstone’s closeness to the Americans, citing his “cocktail schedule.” These concerns led quickly to his removal and replacement with Louise Arbour who was handpicked by Albright.

Carla del Ponte, who became a prosecutor for the tribunal in 1999, actually had some independent ideas. She began criminal investigations of RPF officers, and reported that Louise Arbour had suppressed Hourigan’s investigation into Habyarimana’s plane crash. During her time as prosecutor, the Rwanda RPF government disallowed prosecution witnesses from attending, and the RPF and U.S. Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper both argued that the RPF alone should be responsible for investigating RPF war crimes.

In 2003, an “agreement” was reached in which del Ponte was relieved of all investigative authority, required to hand over all collected evidence, and removed from her post. In what could have only been coincidence, del Ponte’s removal came at the same time that President George W. Bush was planning his invasion of Iraq and was looking for international partners to sign bilateral agreements that would exempt U.S. soldiers from prosecution of any potential war crimes. Rwanda’s RPF was the first African government to become such a partner. Throughout the entire history of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which continued until December 2015, nobody from the RPF was ever prosecuted, much less indicted.

The prevailing narrative paints a simplistic picture of what happened in Rwanda in the early 90s. It serves to provide cover for the military-industrial interests that profit from war, and acts as useful propaganda for convincing the people to support inhumane wars of aggression in places like Kosovo and Libya.

A sober look at the history of Rwanda reveals that tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes had existed for centuries. Far from sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing, it was decades of Western imperialism and interventionism that exacerbated and inflamed those tensions. It wasn’t a genocide, but rather a war that was precipitated by an invasion from a foreign army armed with U.S. military equipment, led by men who had been trained at U.S. military bases. Both sides committed unspeakable atrocities, but the RPF invaders started it.

Jared Wall became convinced of and passionate about the philosophy of freedom and liberty during the Ron Paul presidential campaigns. Since then, he has focused on the issue of war and peace, especially as it relates to Central and Eastern Africa. He can be reached at jared@anarcholand.com. 

America’s War on Terror Has Displaced Millions

America’s War on Terror Has Displaced Millions

The wars the U.S. government has fought since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have forced 37 million people—and perhaps as many as 59 million—from their homes, according to a newly released report from American University and Brown University’s Costs of War Project.

Until now, no one has known how many people the wars have displaced. Indeed, most Americans are likely unaware that U.S. combat operations have taken place not only in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, but also in 21 other nations since President George W. Bush announced a global war on terror.

Neither the Pentagon, the State Department nor any other part of the U.S. government has tracked the displacement. Scholars and international organizations, such as the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, have provided some data about refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) for individual countries at war. But this data offers point-in-time counts rather than the cumulative number of people displaced since the wars started.

In the first calculation of its kind, American University’s Public Anthropology Clinic conservatively estimates that the eight most violent wars the U.S. military has launched or participated in since 2001—in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria and Yemen—have produced 8 million refugees and asylum seekers and 29 million internally displaced people.

Displaced Static Final R2 0907 703x1024The estimated 37 million displaced is more than those displaced by any war or disaster since at least 1900, except for World War II, when 30 million to 64 million or more people fled their homes. Thirty-seven million exceeds those displaced during World War I (approximately 10 million), the partition of India and Pakistan (14 million) and the U.S. war in Vietnam (13 million).

Displacing 37 million people is equivalent to removing nearly all the residents of the state of California or all the people in Texas and Virginia combined. The figure is almost as large as the population of Canada. The United States’ post-9/11 wars have played an overlooked role in fueling the near-doubling of refugees and internally displaced people globally between 2010 and 2019, from 41 million to 79.5 million.

Millions have fled air strikes, bombings, artillery fire, house raids, drone attacks, gun battles and rape. People have escaped the destruction of their homes, neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, jobs and local food and water sources. They have fled forced evictions, death threats and large-scale ethnic cleansing set off by the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in particular.

The U.S. government is not solely responsible for displacing 37 million people; the Taliban, Iraqi Sunni and Shia militias, Al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and other governments, combatants and actors also bear responsibility.

Pre-existing conditions of poverty, global warming-induced environmental change and other violence have contributed to driving people from their homes. However, the eight wars in the AU study are ones the U.S. government bears responsibility for initiating, for escalating as a major combatant or for fueling, through drone strikes, battlefield advising, logistical support, arms sales and other aid.

Specifically, the Public Anthropology Clinic estimates the displacement of:

  • 5.3 million Afghans (representing 26% of the pre-war population) since the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan in 2001;
  • 3.7 million Pakistanis (3% of the pre-war population) since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 quickly became a single war crossing the border into northwest Pakistan;
  • 1.7 million Filipinos (2%) since the U.S. military joined the Philippine government in its decades-old war with Abu Sayyaf and other insurgent groups in 2002;
  • 4.2 million Somalis (46%) since U.S. forces began supporting a UN-recognized Somali government fighting the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in 2002 and, after 2006, the ICU’s breakaway militia wing Al Shabaab;
  • 4.4 million Yemenis (24%) since the U.S. government began drone assassinations of alleged terrorists in 2002 and backed a Saudi Arabia-led war against the Houthi movement since 2015;
  • 9.2 million Iraqis (37%) since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and occupation and the post-2014 war against the Islamic State group;
  • 1.2 million Libyans (19%) since the U.S. and European governments intervened in the 2011 uprising against Moammar Gadhafi fueling an ongoing civil war;
  • 7.1 million Syrians (37%) since the U.S. government began waging war against the Islamic State in 2014.

Most refugees from the wars in the study have fled to neighboring countries in the greater Middle East, especially Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. About 1 million reached Germany; hundreds of thousands fled to other countries in Europe as well as to the United States. Most Filipinos, Libyans and Yemenis have been displaced within their own countries.

The Public Anthropology Clinic used the most reliable international data available, from the UNHCR, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Given questions about the accuracy of displacement data in war zones, the calculation methodology was a conservative one.

Statistics for refugees and asylum seekers easily could be 1.5 to 2 times higher than the findings suggest, yielding some 41 million to 45 million people displaced. The 7.1 million Syrians displaced represent only those displaced from five Syrian provinces where U.S. forces have fought and operated since 2014 and the beginning of the U.S. war against the Islamic State in Syria.

A less conservative approach would include the displaced from all of Syria’s provinces since 2014 or as early as 2013 when the U.S. government began backing Syrian rebel groups. This could take the total to between 48 million and 59 million, comparable to the scale of World War II’s displacement.

The clinic’s 37 million estimate is also conservative because it does not include millions displaced during other post-9/11 wars and conflicts involving U.S. forces.

U.S. combat troops, drones strikes and surveillance, military training, arms sales and other pro-government aid have played roles in conflicts in countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia (linked to Yemen’s war), South Sudan, Tunisia and Uganda. In Burkina Faso, for example, there were 560,000 internally displaced people by the end of 2019 amid a growing militant insurgency.

The damage inflicted by displacement has been profound across all 24 countries where U.S. troops have deployed. Losing one’s home and community, among other losses, has impoverished people not just economically but also psychologically, socially, culturally and politically. The effects of displacement extend to host communities and countries, which can face burdens hosting refugees and those who have been displaced internally, including increased societal tensions. On the other hand, host societies often benefit from the arrival of displaced people because of greater societal diversity, increased economic activity and international aid.

Of course, displacement is just one facet of war’s destruction.

In Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen alone, an estimated 755,000 to 786,000 civilians and combatants have died as a result of combat. An additional 15,000 U.S. military personnel and contractors have died in the post-9/11 wars. Total deaths on all sides in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen may reach 3–4 million or more, including those who have died as a result of disease, hunger and malnutrition caused by the wars. The number of those injured and traumatized extends into the tens of millions.

Ultimately, the harm inflicted by war, including on the 37 million to 59 million displaced, is incalculable. No number, no matter how large, can capture the immensity of the damage suffered.

Key sources: David Vine, The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State (Oakland: University of California Press, 2020); David Vine, “Lists of U.S. Military Bases Abroad, 1776-2020,” American University Digital Research Archive; Base Structure Report: Fiscal Year 2018 Baseline; A Summary of the Real Property Inventory Data (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense, 2018); Barbara Salazar Torreon and Sofia Plagakis, Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798–2018 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2018).

Note: Some bases only occupied for part of 2001–2020. At the height of U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there were over 2,000 bases abroad.

This article was originally featured at the Investigative Reporting Workshop and is republished with permission.

An American Withdrawal From Iraq Must Be More Than Words

An American Withdrawal From Iraq Must Be More Than Words

Earlier this month, while meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister, President Trump reaffirmed his intent to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq. “We were there and now we’re getting out. We’ll be leaving shortly,” the president told reporters at the time.

Although President Obama should never have sent U.S. troops back into Iraq in 2016, it is definitely well past time to remove them as quickly as possible.

Over the weekend, the administration announced it would be drawing down troops currently in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,500. That’s a good start.

One big roadblock to finally leaving Iraq alone is President Trump’s de facto Secretary of War, Mike Pompeo. Although he’s supposed to be the top U.S. diplomat, Pompeo is a bull in a china shop. He seems determined to start a war with Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, and probably a few more countries.

Unfortunately there is a pattern in this Administration where President Trump announces the withdrawal of troops from one of the seemingly endless conflicts we are involved in and an administration official—often Pompeo—“clarifies” the president’s statement to mean the opposite of what the president has just said.

When the president was questioned over the weekend about a timetable for the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, he turned to Pompeo for an answer. Pompeo’s response did not inspire much hope. “As soon as we can complete the mission,” said Pompeo. What is the mission? Does anyone know? Aside from “regime change” for Iran, that is.

At his speech accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for re-election last week, Trump declared, “unlike previous administrations, I have kept America OUT of new wars—and our troops are coming home.” That sounds good, but how can he achieve that goal if the people he hires to carry out that policy not only disagree with him but seem to be working against him?

The U.S. invasion of Iraq 17 years ago was correctly described at the time by the late NSA Director Bill Odom as “the greatest strategic disaster in American history.” After a relentless barrage of lies about former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein having “weapons of mass destruction,” the U.S. attack and destruction of Iraq did not bring the peace and prosperity promised by the neocon war promoters.

Instead, the U.S. “liberation” of Iraq killed a million Iraqis, most of whom were civilians. It destroyed Iraq’s relatively prosperous economy. It did not result in a more peaceful or stable Middle East. The U.S. had no idea how to remake Iraqi society and in picking and choosing who could participate in post-invasion Iraq the U.S. helped facilitate the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS. A secular Iraq had been turned into a sectarian incubator for terrorists and extremists. And the biggest winner in the war was Iran, who the U.S. has demonized as an enemy for over four decades.

Yes, General Odom was right. It was a strategic disaster. Turning the U.S. into a global military empire is also a strategic disaster. Trump’s promise to bring troops home from overseas wars sounds very good. But it’s time to see some real action. That might mean some people who disagree with the president need to be fired.

This article was originally featured at the Ron Paul Institute and is republished with permission.

Hezbollah Bomb Plots: The Latest In Mossad Disinformation

Hezbollah Bomb Plots: The Latest In Mossad Disinformation

This article was originally featured at The Grayzone and is republished with permission.

Israeli officials have exploited the massive explosion at the Port of Beirut this August to revive a dormant propaganda campaign that had accused the Lebanese militia and political party Hezbollah of storing ammonium nitrate in several countries to wage terror attacks on Israelis.

The Israeli intelligence apparatus had planted a series of stories from 2012 to 2019 claiming Hezbollah sought out ammonium nitrate as the explosive of choice for terrorist operations. According to the narrative, Hezbollah planned to covertly store the explosive substance in locations from Southeast Asia to Europe and the US – only to be foiled repeatedly by Mossad. In each one of those cases, however, the factual record either contradicted the Israeli claims or revealed a complete dearth of evidence.

The narrative first debuted in the Israeli press after a June 2019 story in the British pro-Israel daily The Telegraph on alleged Hezbollah storage of the explosive around London. The Times of Israel introduced for the first time the much broader theme that Hezbollah planned to use the explosive for “huge, game-changing attacks on Israeli targets globally.”

Next, “new details” appeared in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth from “unnamed Israeli intelligence officials,” disclosing how Israel had supposedly stymied ammonium nitrate-based terror plots by Hezbollah in London, Cyprus and Thailand.

Following the calamity of the Beirut explosion, the narrative story was opportunistically revived in the Israeli media, with The Times of Israel summarizing an Israeli Channel 13 report citing an “unsourced assessment” that Hezbollah “apparently planned to use the ammonium nitrate stockpile that caused a massive blast at Beirut’s port this week against Israel in a ‘Third Lebanon War’.”

A review of the supposedly open-and-shut cases in both Thailand and Cyprus, however, reveals serious questions about the evidence used to accuse Hezbollah suspects and the role of the Mossad in those cases. It also shows that an alleged Hezbollah plot involving ammonium nitrate in New York City was contrived by the FBI and Justice Department without any real evidence.

Thailand: Muddling the Issue, Bending the Law

The arrest of Hussein Atris, a dual Swedish-Lebanese citizen, in Bangkok on January 13, 2012 occurred after the Mossad received a report that a terrorist attack was due to occur in the middle of that month. The Israeli intelligence agency had given the Thai police a list of 14 or 15 suspects – all Iranian or Lebanese – to be placed under surveillance, including Atris.

But it was Atris who received the bulk of attention. After his arrest, he told police about goods he had stored in a commercial building in Bangkok. Shortly after his arrest, he was taken out of his cell to a house where he was interrogated by three Mossad agents, as was typical of Mossad operations in countries where Israel cultivated close relations with law enforcement. On January 17, Thai police visited the commercial building near Bangkok and reportedly found 4.8 tons of urea fertilizer and 40 liters (100 pounds) of ammonium nitrate.

Atris was immediately charged by the police with “possession of prohibited substances.” But in fact, the ammonium nitrate that Atris had stored in the building was not illegal; it was merely a component of frozen gel packs for sore muscles commonly bought and sold wholesale and retail all over the world.

The boxes of gel packs were stored along with electric fans, slippers and copy paper on the second floor of the building. And as Atris explained to his interrogators and to a reporter from the Swedish daily Aftonbladet who interviewed him in jail, he had been purchasing various goods in Asia and exporting them to other countries like Liberia. He had already arranged for a freighter to ship the goods he had stored there, as the chief of Bangkok metropolitan police confirmed in an interview with the New York Times.

The Mossad interrogators refused to accept the explanation by Atris and accused him of lying about his business. Further clouding the picture, police found two tons of urea fertilizer in bags labeled as cat litter on the same floor as the cold packs. But Atris told an interviewer he had never dealt with fertilizer in his business, and that he believed “it must have been placed in our storage facility by someone, probably Mossad.”

Mossad and its Thai allies were committed to the idea that Atris was a Hezbollah operative from the beginning, even though they apparently had no actual hard evidence to back it up. The claim of Hezbollah membership was nevertheless sold successfully to cooperative local and national news media. A Reuters story headlined “Thailand: Hezbollah man arrested in terror scare.” When he was brought to trial in 2013, Atris firmly denied any links to Hezbollah, and the court ultimately found that there was no evidence to support the contention by the police and Mossad that he was in any way involved with the Lebanese movement.

International press coverage of the case blurred details in a way that incorrectly suggested terrorist intent. When Atris’s case went to trial in July 2013, Agence-France Presse falsely reported that he and “unidentified accomplices” had “packed more than six tons of ammonium nitrate into bags,” thus confusing the already commercially-packaged cold packs with the urea fertilizer, which was not an illegal substance under Thai law and which he specifically denied owning. Time magazine distorted the case more seriously by referring to the bags of urea fertilizer as “chemicals being assembled into explosives…in bags labeled as kitty litter.”

In the end, Atris was convicted of “illegal possession” of ammonium nitrate, which was a banned substance under Thai law. However, the country had not intended for the provision to apply to frozen gel packs for pain relief, which are commonly traded in bulk internationally.

Despite the absence of any evidence that Atris was either a Hezbollah agent or a terrorist, the US State Department bowed to its Israeli allies and declared him to be “a member of Hezbollah’s overseas terrorist unit.”

Cyprus: The Mysterious Appearance of Ammonium Nitrate

In 2015, the Cypriot government’s prosecuted Canadian-Lebanese Hussein Bassam Abdallah for allegedly being part of a Hezbollah ammonium nitrate terrorist plot after police found 420 boxes of the fertilizer in the house where he was staying. Yet virtually no details about the case were ever released because the entire legal process took place behind closed doors. What’s more, Abdallah’s defense was never made public.

Furthermore, information from the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida, which Israelis have often used to disseminate propaganda into the Arab Middle East, raises serious questions about the origin of the ammonium nitrate found in the house where Abdallah was staying. The newspaper published a story citing a “private source” who said that Mossad agents had been tracking Abdallah, following his every movement and intercepting all his phone calls from Cyprus. The Mossad surveillance continued, according to the story, “until he obtained the materials and fertilizer, after which Cypriot authorities were informed [and] raided his place of residence and arrested him and seized two tons of [ammonium nitrate].…”

By reporting an apparent Mossad account that the ammonium nitrate was not at the house until just before Mossad tipped off the police, the Al-Jarida account obviously suggested that the timing of its appearance was not merely coincidental.

This was not the first time that Mossad-related evidence against one of its targets turned out to be highly suspect. Two Iranian men who were visiting Mombasa, Kenya in 2012 were charged with having buried 15 kg of the explosive RDX on a golf course. However, they had been interrogated – and one of them allegedly drugged – by three Mossad agents. Though Kenyan police had supposedly been carrying out constant surveillance on them for the entire length of their stay, no direct evidence of the Iranians ever possessing RDX came to light. That anomaly resulted in the case against the Iranians being thrown out by Kenya’s Court of Appeal , and suggested that Mossad itself had planted the explosive on the golf course.

In Abdallah’s case, the evidence also indicated the use of a classical prosecution tactic was employed to force him to admit to a Hezbollah ammonium nitrate terrorism plot: forcing a plea bargain on him by the threat of a much longer sentence if he refused to plead guilty.

After the first week of interrogation, a Cypriot security official told a journalist that Abdallah denied all charges against him and was not “cooperating” – meaning he was not admitting what both Israel and Cyprus wanted him to. Weeks later, however, following a trial closed to the public, Abdallah admitted to all eight charges against him. The semi-official Cyprus News Agency reported he had given the police a statement that the ammonium nitrate was to have been used for terrorist attacks against Jewish or Israeli interests in Cyprus. In return he was given a six-year sentence instead of the 14 years he would have received without the deal.

Abdallah’s defense lawyer, Savvas A. Angelides, pressed his client to accept the plea bargain, advancing the political interests of Cyprus as a close ally of Israel. For his part, Angelides had his eyes on a high-level national security posting in his country’s government. Sure enough, in early 2018, the lawyer was appointed Defense Minister of Cyprus.

The idea that Hezbollah obtained ammonium nitrate for use in New York City – another Israeli contention – was not supported by any evidence whatsoever. In this case, a Lebanese-American named Ali Kourani stood accused of hatching a Hezbollah terror plot. But the closest the US Justice Department could come to linking to ammonium nitrate was a statement in its criminal complaint against him.

It claimed that in May 2009, Kourani “entered China at an airport in Guangzhou, the location of Guangzhou Company-1, i.e., the manufacturer of the ammonium nitrate-based First Aid ice packs sized in connection with thwarted IJO attacks in Thailand and Cyprus.” The suggestion that a trip to Quangzhou somehow counted as evidence of an effort to procure ammonium nitrate for Hezbollah terrorism was patently absurd.

London and Germany: Mossad’s Phantom Hezbollah Explosives

The next apparent Israeli intel dump arrived in the form of a June 2019 story in the Telegraph UK, a right-wing Murdoch-owned daily which loyally follows Israeli propaganda lines. According to the report, in 2015, the UK MI5 intelligence service and London’s Metropolitan Police were tipped off by the Mossad about thousands of ice packs containing three tons of ammonium nitrate in warehouses in Northwest London. The Telegraph revealed that London police had arrested one man “on suspicion of plotting terrorism” but had eventually released him without charges. That detail was the giveaway that the British had come to realize that they had no evidence linking cold packs or their owner to any Hezbollah terrorist plot — contrary to the Israel narrative.

The Telegraph’s suggestion that MI5 decided not to prosecute to disrupt the threat isn’t credible, because no one was ever prosecuted. And its implication that the British government kept quiet about the episode because it was protecting the Iran nuclear deal did not apply once Trump tore up the agreement in 2018. The British government, which banned Hezbollah in February 2020, has never suggested that the Lebanese militia had been plotting to use ammonium nitrate from warehouses in the UK to carry out terrorist attacks.

According to a report this May by Israel’s Channel 12, days before Germany announced its banning of Hezbollah from the country, Mossad had gathered information on alleged Hezbollah terrorism-related activities in Germany. The supposed plotting consisted of the identification of warehouses in southern Germany where the Mossad said Hezbollah was storing ‘hundreds of kilograms” of ammonium nitrate.

After the information was presented to German intelligence and law enforcement agencies, according to the report, the German Interior Ministry announced in April 2020 that it was banning Hezbollah. It simultaneously raided four mosque associations accused of being close to Hezbollah. But German law enforcement never announced any action regarding warehouses supposedly holding ammonium nitrate, indicating that the German government found nothing that backed up the claims by Mossad.

Hoping to seize the Beirut explosion as a historic propaganda opportunity, the Israelis clearly believe they can fashion a new and more powerful narrative by knitting together false claims related to these episodes. Their objective is to achieve their longtime objective of forcing Hezbollah out of the Lebanese government by implicating it in the calamitous blast. So far, Western corporate media appears inclined to accept the baseless Israeli claims on face value. The day after the blast in Beirut, the Washington Post reported that Hezbollah “has long shown an interest in acquiring [ammonium nitrate] for use in a variety of terrorist plots.”

Are We About To See A Troop Withdrawal From Iraq?

Are We About To See A Troop Withdrawal From Iraq?

Hubris, hypocrisy, and sanctimony are all constants of U.S. foreign policy. All came together in George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Most foreign policy analysts, other than the neoconservative war enthusiasts who dominated Bush administration decision-making, recognize that America’s unjustified aggression was a horrid bungle.

The U.S. broke international law, vilified European allies, wrecked Iraq, triggered sectarian war, victimized religious minorities, and empowered Iran. The human toll was hideous: Washington’s war killed thousands of Americans, wounded tens of thousands of U.S. personnel, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, and displaced millions of Iraqis. The invasion spawned murderous al-Qaeda in Iraq, which morphed into the even more brutal Islamic State. Seventeen years later Iraqis are still dealing with their broken, sectarian government, bedeviled by powerful militias allied with Iran.

And American military forces are still occupying Iraq. Nominally there to prevent a revival of ISIS, they have been used by the Trump administration to confront Iran, the president’s myopic fixation. Although the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action limited Tehran’s nuclear opportunities and instituted an intrusive inspections regime, the administration killed the agreement and reimposed sanctions to destroy Iran’s economy. The president insisted that Tehran would soon surrender after acknowledging U.S. (and, indirectly, Israeli and Saudi) suzerainty to win financial relief.

Read the rest of this article at The American Conservative.

Matt Taibbi on the Origins of the Russiagate Hoax

Matt Taibbi on the Origins of the Russiagate Hoax

From left, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sit together in the front row before President Barack Obama spoke about National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance in this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo at the Justice Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) ** FILE **

A New Whistleblower Exposes the ‘Cambridge Four’

This interview was recorded August 13, 2020. The computer garbled the audio terribly, but at least the auto-transcriber was able to make sense of it. The following is edited for clarity and minor mess-ups.

Scott Horton:
Alright you guys, introducing Matt Taibbi, formerly at Rolling Stone and now just doing his own thing over there at Substack. And of course, he also runs a podcast with Katie Halper called Useful Idiots, which is great. I watch it semi-regularly, at least. He’s got a brand new piece, “Our Man in Cambridge,” that goes along with this companion piece by Steve Schrage called, “The Spies Who Hijacked America.” Welcome back to the show, Matt. How are you doing, sir?

Matt Taibbi:
Good, how are you?

Horton:
I’m doing great. And you know what? I’m so glad that you’re focusing again on “Untitled-gate” here. I was pretty sad when you sort of abandoned that project for other things because I am just so curious about the origins of this gigantic Russiagate hoax, which, as my friend Dave Smith says, is as big a deal as if the accusations had been true. If everything they said about Donald Trump was true, the fact that it wasn’t is as big deal as that would have been. That’s what a crime it is that the FBI and the CIA falsely accused the president of treason for three years.

Taibbi:
Yeah, it’s funny when the story first broke in, I guess it was the end of December of 2016 when it first started becoming really a big, big deal. I remember saying to another journalist, “if this is true, it’s the biggest story ever. And if it isn’t true, it’s the biggest.” Because there was no other explanation as either as to be historic setup or, you know, historic kind of espionage tale. So it looks like the former.

Horton:
Yeah, absolutely. A lot of us knew from the very beginning. If people want to check the archives, I first interviewed Jeffrey Carr, the computer security expert, in July of 2016 about how CrowdStrike and/or the FBI don’t know who hacked into servers. The only people in the world who could know who hacked them is the NSA because they have God-like omniscient power of being able to rewind the entire internet and trace every packet wherever they want. No one else can do that. And no expert examining the server can tell you for sure who had been there, because it’s too easy to fake it. In this case, the tracks they left were so obvious, where they had references to “Iron Felix” and all these Cyrillic letters dumped in there and all this stuff. Pretty obviously, you know…

Taibbi:
From from a journalistic standpoint, the idea that we identify the source of the hack by somebody writing “Felix Edmundovich” in the code, it’s pretty ridiculous. It’s as if somebody wrote “Allen Dulles” in the middle of the Stuxnet code

Horton:
(Laughs) Right.

Taibbi:
You know what I mean? It would be very silly to think that would actually happen, you know?

Horton:
So anyway, So we have the different parts of this. And I sure would like to see your very meanest work on the hacking and leaking of those emails. I know this is a subject that you have not really focused the most on. But you know, your most recent work here, of course, is about the Steele Dossier and the group of retired old spies at Cambridge University and all of this. Steele was a part of that also, involved essentially in the framing of Page and Papadopoulos. Certainly Page. I don’t know about Papadopoulos. That’s, I guess, a different question. But anyway, so you have this new whistleblower. And so I guess I want to ask you just first of all, if you can explain who is Stephen Schrage? And why is it that it took him so long to come forward and tell the story here?

Taibbi:
Yeah, so Steven Schrage. He was a former State Department official, also was the chief of staff from Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts. He was, you know, a fairly senior official in the Romney campaign in 2008, left government after he left the Brown office in the early two-thousand-tens, decided to go into academia and ended up pursuing a doctorate under Stephen Harper, who is the central figure in the old “Spygate” narrative, right? So he was the retired quasi-retired FBI-slash-CIA person who was teaching at Cambridge. And Schrage worked for Halper, and in fact is the reason that Halper met people like Carter Page, because he invited Page to a conference in circumstances that are quite humorous. We can get into that later. But to answer your question of why it took him so long to come forward, his take on this is that he didn’t know until Halper was named in the news, which I think was in May of 2018, that any of this had had any kind of like FBI significance to it. And he felt that he was a little bit conflicted, he said. He says he felt that his best shot to bring this story forward would be to go to the authorities. He did go to the Durham investigators last year, and then he came back again this year, and he decided to go public when he became concerned that perhaps that investigation was not going to end up being effective.

Horton:
I think he kind of accidentally unearthed this old audio that…

Taibbi:
Yes. So his relationship with Halper has deteriorated over the years, Halper being his doctoral advisor. And he says that with Halper’s permission, he had begun taping exchanges with with Halper as early as 2015, so that really so that he could go back and point out to him inconsistencies in his academic advice, I think is the idea. So he has lots of tape of Halper talking, and the two of them during these conversations. And after he met with the Durham people, the first time, he went back and reviewed some of those conversations, and some of them he didn’t expect to hear anything terribly interesting. But in one of them, it was two days before the big leak involving Michael Flynn. If you remember that story, the one that was written in the Washington Post involving reporting to David Ignatius, and he’s asking Halper, “Hey, do you think would be a good idea for me to go try to work for Michael Flynn who is now the National Security Advisor?” This guy had a long record of working with Republican politicians, you know, why not? And Halper says, “No, I don’t think he’s going to be around very long.”

Horton:
In fact, let’s just put that conversation here.

Horton:
So what did we just hear?

Taibbi:
Okay. Yeah. So basically this is January 10, 2017, and that’s two days before the Washington Post came out with this story that ended up having enormous consequences because the January 12 story said that Flynn had been on the phone with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak. And as a result of that leak, which incidentally was an illegal leak of telephonic surveillance, the FBI decided to re-interview Flynn. It was a result of that re-interview that they built their false statements charge and prosecuted Flynn. So the notion that somebody would know two days before that leak happened that Flynn was in deep trouble that he was not going to be around for very long, and that “if you know how these things work,” and that his opponents and so-called enemies are going to “turn up the heat” and all that stuff, it’s very suggestive of, you know, perhaps foreknowledge that something bad was going to happen to Flynn. From Schrage’s point of view, in the way he puts it was like, “I would have thought that the last person who would have job security issues in the Trump administration would be Flynn because he one of the only people who have real experience in Trump’s inner circle.” But, you know, the tapes incident suggests otherwise.

Horton:
David Ignatius, for people who aren’t familiar, he’s widely known as the CIA’s man at the Post. One of many, I guess. But when he writes, he’s always very, you know, keyed into what the intelligence community is saying, is really sort of the Mouth of Sauron for them in that way kind of, right?

Taibbi:
I can’t speak to his background. But certainly the idea that he’s very plugged into the CIA is kind of a known thing in the business.

Horton:
And we already know, right, that James Clapper, who right up until then was the Director of National Intelligence, I forget now the context of how we know that he had ordered this hit piece in the Post and said “now is the time to take the kill shot.” So from there, it seems like Ignatius, Halper and Clapper… that’s another sort of confirmation, right that Halper really knew something and wasn’t just making a wild guess here, and that then that would mean the director of the National Intelligence was in on it as well.

Taibbi:
Yeah, well, I believe the “killshot” quote came from Flynn’s second lawyer, Sidney Powell, who talked about… who theorized the leak traveled…

Horton:
Oh, I’m sorry about that if I screwed that up. I could have swore that was what I had read, that somebody had essentially caught Clapper giving that order.

Taibbi:
Yeah, so no, it came from Powell’s court filing.

Horton: For some reason I thought that that was what Clapper had told Ignatius. “You know what, pull the trigger on that article we’ve been waiting on here.”

Taibbi:
Yeah, but she just described it as Clapper. So yeah, “Powell also referenced a purported conversation between former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Washington Post reporter David Ignatius, claiming Clapper told the reporter words to the effect of ‘take the kill shot on Flynn,’ after he reportedly obtained the transcript of Flynn’s phone calls.” And then Clapper denied it.

Horton:
I gotcha.
So, what other indications do we have other than this guy…

Taibbi:
Steven Schrage.

Horton:
Okay, and what all indications do we have of, you know, other than just the way Halper sounded on that audio, that Halper was not just doing this with his friends, but was in league with the American intelligence agencies or even British MI-6?

Taibbi:
Well, he, he didn’t know that at the time. He only found out subsequently. At least that’s his story. But, you know, if you’re putting two and two together. And remember, Powell, who was Flynn’s lawyer, had theorized that the leak had gone through the Office of Net Assessment, which is a Pentagon office that was Halper’s employer. They paid Halper enormous sums of money, like over $400,000 during this period for these mysterious reports. So the theory is that the leak goes from somebody to the Office of Net Assessment to perhaps Halper. Or at least I think that’s what’s being suggested there.

Horton:
Yeah, I mean, well, you know, the Pentagon was certainly paying him all that money all that time for something. No other apparent publications by him at that time or any other thing, right, so seems pretty cut and dry.

Taibbi:
So, no, I mean, that’s a pretty that’s actually quite a funny subplot two this whole thing is how the whole Office of Net Assessment thing works. You know, it appears to be just a way to funnel money to informants and other people who are useful to the government. And essentially what they do, and I actually talked to some people who contributed to some of these reports, the ONA will pay somebody like $50,000 for a report on say China’s position in the world right now, right? And, and what the American will do is they will call up some person in a foreign country and offer them peanuts to put together basically a bunch of text around open source material, they send it back to him, he compiles it into a big document, sends it back to the Pentagon, does basically zero work and makes probably 10 times what the highest paid journalist in the world gets paid to do that same kind of stuff. So it’s pretty amazing. It’s amazing little subplot to the whole thing.

Horton:
Although, I mean, in this case, it doesn’t even seem like he was turning in those phony reports. He was getting paid. It seems like there’s a very good chance it was for this.

Taibbi:
Well, yeah, superficially, you can make the argument and there’s a whistleblower case involving this that’s coming out right now unrelated to Schrage, but there’s somebody in the Office of Net Assessment, who was claiming essentially that these payments were exactly for that kind of activity. If you’re interested in looking for this kind of thing, for instance, you can look for a document called “China: The Three Warfares,” and that’ll be online somewhere. You’ll see Halper didn’t really write anything in it, but I think he got paid something like $47,000 for this.

Horton:
What a racket.

Taibbi:
Yeah.

Horton:
All right now, so this guy, Schrage, he coined this new term, “the Cambridge Four,” it’s not just Halper, but it’s also Richard Dearlove — and of course Dearlove, the former head of MI-6 is most famous for having compiled the Downing Street Memos about the meeting at the so-called Crawford ranch in July of 2002, about how “we’ve decided that the policy is that we’re going to war and the facts are being fixed around the policy.” That was his job there.

Taibbi:
Yeah.

Horton: So, anyway, that’s what we know about Dearlove from before. He was the head of MI-6 at the time that the British helped lie us into war. And then there’s also of course Steele, he groups into this, and so maybe that’s an opportunity to talk a little bit more about his background as well. And then there’s this other guy, Christopher Andrew, who I think is would probably be the least known of the four. And you know, in terms of the broader public in terms of his role in all of this, but you guys both make the case that these four really were kind of working together throughout 2016 to gin this thing up. I think as you put it, then something really bad happened: Trump won anyway. This was supposed to stop him. And then once Trump won, now they’re in real trouble. So do they back down? No, they double-down. Right?

Taibbi:
Exactly. Yeah. It’s funny, though a lot of people, when they look at this scandal, imagine that it was this overwhelming, devastating conspiracy that involves, you know, really intense planning and tons of resources. And I don’t really think it played out that way. I think what you have here is a group of people who had an immediate financial interest in producing research. So somebody along the line and this is the part that we don’t really know yet. Somebody got it got it into their heads in 2015 or early 2016 that the Trump campaign had some kind of untoward relationship with the Russians. And at some point, the Democrats got interested in that topic and decided that they wanted to make political hay out of it, at which point they hired Fusion GPS and instructed them essentially to really look into the Russia issue. Fusion GPS, then hires Steele who was a former officer who had been stationed in Russia and had some expertise there, ran this private investigatory firm called Orbis, but he also had a relationship with Dearlove who was at Cambridge, and Dearlove had a relationship with Halper. So the two big wings of the pre-election investigatory effort involves Steele, who is getting paid very significant sums of money to produce research suggesting that Trump had all these relations with the Russians, and then there was Halper, who was also getting paid a lot of money to do the surveillance on Trump figures. And the interesting thing here is the sort of cross-pollination between those two plotlines. One seems to be ending up confirming the other and vice-versa. Carter Page gets invited to Cambridge by Schrage, Halper and Dearlove sees him there and then a week later Carter Page appears in Steele’s reports for the first time. And nobody even knew who this guy was before that. So that’s what’s interesting about this whole thing is that a lot of the stuff that ended up in the news later on really had their roots in just a couple of characters in this British University.

Horton:
We’ll get back to Papadopoulos here in a minute, but we know now, we found out relatively recently that the FBI discounted the Papadopoulos thing right away. I think the IG report said they decided “forget the Papadopoulos, we’re going to go with this Page thing.” So they really hung the FISA warrant applications and all of that on Page and his alleged connections to the Russians. And then this ought to be the biggest scandal of all, it almost always goes unmentioned, is the CIA told the FBI, “this guy belongs to us,” and the FBI blacked that out of their FISA application and pretended to not know that. And then think about this Matt: for three years, all those leaks from all those spooks to all those newspapers and TV stations, and nobody ever leaked that “Page belongs to the agency. He’s a loyal American patriot and when he met with the Russians, he came straight to us and told us everything.” They never leaked that in three years. We only found that out this spring in the IG report, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah, absolutely. That was outrageous on multiple levels. It was outrageous that that nobody mentioned any of the news reporters that Michael Flynn had told his agency about his planned trip to the RT dinner, and seems to have done a little little bit of reporting back to the DIA during that trip. And I think what’s most outrageous is the thing that you mentioned up top, which is that in August of 2016, the FBI concluded — this is literally within weeks after they commenced this investigation — they concluded, the direct quote is, “the evidence didn’t particularly indicate that George Papadopoulos was having any kind of interactions with Russians.” So they were admitting within weeks of starting the investigation that the entire predicate for the investigation was incorrect. And was for that reason that they moved on to Page, and as you say, they suppressed the evidence that might have might have exonerated him, or or prevented the surveillance from from going forward. And there’s some stuff that Schrage has on that too, by the way. But yeah, absolutely. The scandal here is not only that they they did all that stuff, but they kept telling reporters to dig into these questions years after they’d already moved on from them.

Horton:
Right. I mean, that really goes to show how dirty it all was that they were completely over it and continued anyway. You mentioned about how it doesn’t seem like Brennan and Comey and a couple others had a big meeting and said, “Okay, we’re going to frame Trump for treason with Russia,” in this kind of over-the-top way. But the way that the conspiracy developed, essentially was that the FBI counterintelligence division and the CIA were pretending to believe this stuff, right? Like in the case of Papadopoulos , they couldn’t even pretend to believe that anymore. So they threw that out. But I know you’ve mentioned this numerous times. To me the first thing- I didn’t even finish reading the Steele Dossier when it first came out because as soon as I got to the part that said that the Russians offered Carter Page a 19% ownership stake in the Russian state government-owned oil company Rosneft, which would have been worth billions of dollars, on the successful accomplishment of him seizing control of America’s sanctions policy from the Congress and getting all the sanctions on Russia lifted, I thought that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

Taibbi:
(Laughs.)

Horton:
And I’m supposed to believe that Comey read that and was really concerned? And he had his guys go to the FISA court because of this unheard of Benedict Arnold action by this active CIA asset. And I want to be clear, not “officer.” He wasn’t a CIA officer. He was a CIA asset, literally speaking, working for the CIA, as he’s going on his regular trips to Russia to meet with business people, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah. I don’t know what the term technically would be. But yes, he was giving information to them and had been for a couple of years and was in good standing with them. So the whole thing is preposterous. Yeah, the first time I read the Steele Dossier, there were so many red flags in there, that it just read like a really ridiculous piece of fiction. To me, it reminded me a lot of the Graham Green book Our Man in Havana, which is about a vacuum cleaner salesman who becomes a spy and decides to just send pictures of giant vacuum cleaners back to the home office in London, making them think that the Cubans are building one in the jungle. And they buy it, you know, and that’s what happened here. It was a bunch of goons are sort of making up a bunch of stories, but the the irony is that, yes, it turned into a real investigation. They bought it.

Horton:
And they ruined the lives of so many people, like this lady, Svetlana Lokhova.
Have you talked to her? Tell us about that. Because I think this was one of the more harmful aspects of this. It didn’t get too much play in the media, I don’t think, but it did get played in terms of how it affected Mike Flynn in his job, or in the case against him, right?

Taibbi:
Yes. This is a very dark story and I’ve worked on this and haven’t been able to really tell all of it, but the outlines of it are as follows. In February of 2014, Michael Flynn who was then Barack Obama’s the head of the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, he visited Cambridge, and he was at an official dinner, and during that dinner he was sitting at a table where he was surrounded by two of these figures, Christopher Andrew and Richard Dearlove, and then a fourth person was this woman Svetlana Lokhova who was a doctoral candidate under Andrew. And at that dinner she showed Flynn an old postcard written by Stalin that she had uncovered during a trip to Russia to look through the old NKVD-KGB archives, and they had a conversation lasting about 10 minutes. The entire thing was supervised and surrounded by these sort of luminaries of British intelligence. And nobody said anything about it for two years. And then after all this nonsense started in the summer of 2016, suddenly Halper — who was there that night, although he wasn’t at the dinner — Dearlove, and then later also Andrew ended up sounding the alarm and saying that that Flynn had been seduced by a Russian national at that dinner. And this is something I know for a fact, which is that multiple members of the U.S. media were told by American sources that Flynn was actively having an affair with a Russian agent around that time. And if you go back and look you’ll find that at that time there were a series of news stories that started to come out in December 2016. And then in March of 2017, about Flynn’s interaction with this woman. And it all came from this idea that these these goofballs cooked up that Flynn had been seduced in that five or ten minute conversation by a Russian, because it was the only conversation with a Russian that anybody could think that he had, which is crazy.

Horton:
Yeah, and as Schrage says in his piece about this, this woman, as you just mentioned, was Andrew’s student. And he says at that time in 2014, she was a brand new mother and they just drag this woman through the mud saying that she is a spy, a honeypot, working for Vladimir Putin to suborn Mike Flynn and compromise him in all this treason. I guess you said you talked to her. This really destroyed her life to a great degree, right?

Taibbi:
Yeah, absolutely. And it was completely sociopathic on the part of all these people. And I talked to a bunch of the journalists who covered the story…

Horton:
Like who?

Taibbi:
It was all off the record. You can guess by looking at the bylines. There were only five or six major characters who covered this thing. But they all said the same thing. Basically, they were approached by Americans in late 2016. And told, you know, without any hesitation, that Flynn was having an affair with a Russian. This was this was big enough news that American reporters were flown over to London to cover it. And they dug, they tore through this woman’s personal life and they eventually put her name out there. And they never had any kind of real indication that anything had happened.

Horton:
Well, and they didn’t just pick up the phone and call DIA and say “When this guy was your boss, did you guys have any indication that he was sleeping with the enemy?” How about that for a dog that didn’t bark?

Taibbi:
Well and he had passed security clearances multiple times after that, which tells you that whatever these informants thought, they certainly didn’t raise any alarm about it for a significant period of time, for years at least. So the whole thing was was absurd on its face, and I think that a good reporter would have run run screaming in the other direction from the story because there’s just there’s no there there, you know, but they did it anyway. And what was amazing about that is that it led ultimately to the exposure of Halper because he was one of the people who alerted the FBI to this nefarious connection between Flynn and this woman. And his name eventually came out in the newspapers, but they were far more concerned about protecting the identity of Halper than they were about Svetlana Lokhova. So the whole thing was crazy.

Horton:
Yeah. And then, but, you know, it really is just like the Iraq war. You made that comparison in your writing before, where, you know, the case for the war against Iraq was about 10 or 15 points long, and every single one of them was zero.

Taibbi:
(Laughs)

Horton:
But a hawk could keep talking all day about why we have to do it. It’s just at the end of his talk, 15 times zero is still zero. None of it’s true. It’s all lies, but it’s like 15 lies. And so it’s the same kind of thing with this: people talking about, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” But it’s not smoke, it’s steam. It’s hot air. It’s all bs, but there’s so much of it, when people want to believe, there’s enough there for them to believe in. You know, we saw the way people got caught up in this. The entire cult of not the left, but the liberal sort of centrist Democratic Party types in this country, by the 10s of millions got caught up in this thing.

Taibbi:
Yeah, and I think it really speaks to, you know, kind of a problem that we have with the way we do investigative journalism in this country. There’s sort of a loophole that you can drive through with national security stories, which is if somebody from one of the spy agencies or from the FBI calls up and tells you like a shaggy dog story, but says, “Hey, I’m sorry, I got to keep my name out of this,” the newspapers will very frequently just run with that stuff anyway. So the normal fact checking process that we would go through to check all kinds of other things, we just don’t do that with this kind of story, which is one of the reasons the Iraq thing happened. Right. So it looks somebody in the military tells Judith Miller that, “Hey, we know we’ve got something just over the next hill that proves he’s got the WMDs,” but it’s a nameless, faceless source, right? That stuff ends up in the newspapers with amazing frequency. That happened over and over and over again with this Russia story. You know, they just kept driving through that loophole.

Horton:
Yep. And then of course, the other thing is, you have to have two sources. But who’s to say they’re not, you know, coming up with a list together of “here are the journalists we’re going to lie to. I’m going to call him on Tuesday. You call him on Wednesday, and we’ll have it in the paper by Thursday.”

Taibbi:
Right. Yeah, exactly. Or the classic construction of an intelligence source who tells a somebody in a congressional committee that’s like the House or Senate Intel committees. And so the congressional source tells their source to call up the reporter, and then puts the person in touch with the original source, but it’s a game of telephone. It’s not like you’re getting the story independently confirmed by another source. It’s just the same story that ran through two people. And that’s the problem that you have with these kinds of stories is that when the names aren’t made public, you can’t tell whether it’s just one narrative that’s been passed around an office, or whether it’s something that actually multiple people can confirm.

Horton:
Yeah. And we actually had the argument ad-absurdum on this sort of thing just recently with the story about the Russians paying for American scalps in Afghanistan, where the next day after the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post put out this story, on Twitter all the reporters were telling each other “my story is confirmed by his story, which is confirmed by the other story.” And yet all they say is “anonymous sources tell us.” They have no evidence and no compelling narrative whatsoever. In fact, over the next couple of weeks, as they tried to create a compelling narrative, it all completely fell apart. And no one was willing to stand by the story and so it was all dead. But Charlie Savage really thought that when Warren Strobel wrote the same thing, that “See, I’m right.” And he didn’t even know how foolish he sounded. And I pick on Charlie Savage because I used to respect him a little bit.

Taibbi:
Yeah. Actually, I often thought that he was one of the better reporters that the Times had. But you know, this is an example. That story is a prime example of how this stuff works. Who among the American press corps, is going to be able to confirm that some warlord in Afghanistan got a bag of money to go assassinate Americans? That’s an unconfirmable story. The only way we’re going to ever get to that story is, is by the Americans who actually came up with it. And it could be the same anonymous source talking to five different newspapers. So they’re not confirming each other. They’re just confirming that they heard a story.

Horton:
Yep. And in fact, one more I’m sorry, It just came to mind and is so important, I think. Although I’m not sure how much of an impact it made, but last Saturday, the New York Times in the weekend magazine ran a 10,000 word hit piece on Donald Trump, essentially by the CIA. And I gotta tell you that I bet you a third or two thirds of it is true about how completely stupid Trump is. You can’t even talk to him in pictures anymore. And all he wants to talk about is his inauguration crowd size again, and this kind of garbage. I more or less believe it. But at the same time, what the hell is going on here? Another giant hit piece with what, 15 different CIA people went and talked to this reporter for this gigantic weekend magazine expose on Trump. And all it is is CIA guys complaining about the president. Who the hell do they think they are, these people? You know?

Taibbi:
And Bernie Sanders.

Horton:
Yeah, of course.

Taibbi:
That story, right? They talked about the NIE. Yeah, and I think what bothers me is somebody who kind of grew up in this business is that there was a time period where the normal attitude of somebody who worked in the news media was to be at best distrustful of people who work for the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, to a lesser extent. It was less of a thing back then. But now it’s like these people are the biggest stars in the world, and whatever they say is like gospel. And it’s not only that they get to say whatever they want in these newspapers, basically without any pushback, that, you know, they leave these agencies and immediately get million dollar positions on television and cable news. It’s like, you know, there’s just no skepticism that’s built into the media system about about information that comes from these folks anymore. And that’s that’s really depressing.

Horton:
Yeah, well, and you can see why people believe Earth is flat, or God knows what, because the same people who told them the Earth is round are the same people who lie to them about everything. And so they don’t know where to draw the line. They don’t understand. They know that it’s not the way TV and the newspapers say. So maybe it is this Q-Anon thing. Or maybe it is Vladimir Putin. Or maybe it’s some off-the-wall explanation because whatever it is, the common narrative delivered to us daily doesn’t make sense. You know? It doesn’t hold up, and so if these are the people we have to rely on, you know, people turn their back, but then which way do they go? Next thing you know they’re having a protest burning masks, or whatever it is because they’re caught up in who knows what.

Taibbi:
Yeah. And I think you brought up a good example there with the press attitude towards the Covid coverage. We went through these amazing stages right where they they first they were they were furiously angry at anybody who went outside to protest the lockdowns. Then during the Black Lives Matter protests, these the exact same sources, the exact same op ed writers simply said that it was more important to protest than it was to worry about the pandemic. And then they went back to the first thing a few weeks after that. So what’s the ordinary news consumer supposed to think watching all this? “Should I say inside? Or if I think it’s really important, can I go outside? I have no idea.” And I think people in this business underestimate the impact of those kinds of inconsistencies.

Horton:
Well, and you know, I’m sorry, because I hate the media so much, and you’re so good at talking about that. But I wanted to touch on a couple of more details here real quick if it’s okay. The recent revelations just in the last few weeks about declassified testimony from the House and Senate hearings on this stuff, where we found out finally who Christopher Steele’s sources were after being told they were high-level Russian government employees and people who work for powerful oligarchs and all this stuff this whole time. It turns out that what now? Where did he get this stuff?

Taibbi:
From a Washington-based analysts from the Brookings Institution named Igor Danchenko, who didn’t live in-country. He did travel to Russia for the story, but in an affidavit the FBI released where they interview him, he says he didn’t have any contact with any senior intelligence or any intelligence officials, that part of his M.O. was to drink heavily with the sub-sources that he talked openly about his sub-sources trying to monetize their relationship with him. It’s absurd that anybody ever took any of this stuff seriously. And if you read the FBI’s interview with this guy, you realize he was just kind of selling wolf whistles the whole time. He was openly going around telling people they can make money by giving him information. And they guessed what he wanted and gave him some information, but it’s not reliable.

Horton:
Can you refresh my memory on when it was the FBI had created… It must have been right away, or early in the investigation, when they got the Steel Dossier in the summer of 2016, they created this big spreadsheet where they crossed everything off the list as possibly being reliable information, or found that anything in there that was true, had been published in the Washington Post two days before and so we know that that was where they got it, the little kernels of truth here and there. Because that was even before they had gone to the FISA court, or at least back the second time or something, right?

Taibbi:
I’m not sure exactly when they did that process. I know that in the IG report, the Horowitz report, they talked about doing an analysis of how much of the original reporting in the Steele reports can be trusted, and the conclusion they essentially came to is that the true stuff in here has already been publicly reported. So (laughs) I don’t think they found anything original that turned out to be right in the report.

Horton:
Now, so the part about this that is to me the most interesting is the very few sporadic reports… And somewhere in the back of my head, I think you had mentioned in this, in some of your “Untitled-gate” reporting, that some of these contacts with the informants and the Trump people went back even to 2015. I can’t remember if that involved Halper or Papadopoulos. But also I don’t know the role of the Misfud and who originally put Misfud on the case of Papadopoulos. I guess the most I know about the Papadopoulos thing is from Michael Tracy’s interview with him where he talks about how he went and got this job and how immediately they were trying to set him up and figure out a way to put pro-Russian words in his mouth or some kind of thing. But who exactly was Misfud? And what was his role in this? And beginning when? I guess are to me the biggest questions. And same for Halper. What was the very first time that they started this put-on?

Taibbi: We don’t really know. My theory about how this began early-on was was based on some things that I heard a couple of years ago that I haven’t been able to really suss out since. We know for sure that by late July of 2016, that people were actively trying to approach both Papadopoulos and Page. Schrage’s account, you know, this is the guy that I’m talking to now, in his telling basically, they don’t start getting interested in Page until the second week of July 2016. And that’s basically when Dearlove runs into Page at this conference at Cambridge. And suddenly it seems like everybody’s interested in Page and any other Trump contacts. But the question of Misfud is really still one of the outstanding mysteries of this whole thing. Like where is this guy? Who is he? It’s pretty clear that the even the FBI didn’t believe that he was actually a Russian agent. He was in the U.S. briefly. I believe it was January of 2017 and released, interviewed and let go. So he couldn’t possibly have ever really been a suspected Russian spy. And yet they constructed the entire investigation based on the idea that he was one. So the whole thing doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it seems like it was much ado about nothing from the start.

Horton:
And, you know, this is not concrete. But I think the timeline is pretty indicative of a set-up here where Assange announced on I think June 14, that “Yeah, we’ve got some Hillary emails coming out here soon,” this kind of thing. And that gave the CIA three days heads up to come up with this Guccifer crap to try to sort of insinuate, you know, Russian, I guess, Cyrillic letters as part of it from from Guccifer’s thing. Wikileaks never published that stuff, but it’s sort of like with the Flynn accusations with this woman. “Well, it could be true… Men and women do have sex sometimes,” or something. So yes, it could be true that these emails all come from the same source, it sort of seems that way. And then that was right around the same time, the beginning of summer 2016. Seems like they decided “Whatever we can do to bring up the word Russia in the context of Trump, we’re going to try to do that, and blame them for the sabotage of Hillary Clinton.”

Taibbi: Yeah. The other time was really interesting. I have to admit that that’s part of the story that I haven’t looked at a whole lot. To be honest, the reason I haven’t is because my technical chops are not so hot in terms of being able to assess who is and who could have and who maybe didn’t try to hack the DNC, but certainly the all the release testimony that came out, suggests they had, they never had anything like a concrete indication that there was any kind of relationship between the Russians, this hack, Guccifer and Julian Assange. They never concretely established any of that. It was all a series of pretty thin assumptions. Obviously, the other amazing thing about that is that they never interviewed Assange about it, which tells you that they weren’t interested in the answer or, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know what that means.

Horton:
Yeah, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the language in the Muller report where some lawyer somewhere said “No, we have to go ahead and admit that we have nothing here.” And so they say they believe the Russians did the hack, but they don’t demonstrate that. And then they admit they can’t demonstrate a chain of custody to WikiLeaks. You know, after three years of “the Russians gave it to WikiLeaks,” Robert Mueller admitted that he had no causal chain, sorry.

Taibbi:
Yeah, there’s just mountains of testimony and investigation of the question of you know, whether or not there was foreknowledge or whether or not there was a relationship there, but they’ve never actually come up with anything that proves any of that story. And also, that was all going on independently of these of these other two prongs of the story with Steele and the spying. Like, I don’t know, to what degree that they might have been connected. But, you know, either way, it was all seemingly pretty absurd.

Horton: Yeah. You know, the whole thing about the Logan Act, we’re now and this is where Joe Biden comes in, is that Biden apparently was the one who brought up “Hey, maybe we can use the Logan Act as an excuse against Flynn here.” And Sally Yates at DOJ also said, “Oh, yeah, when I read the transcripts of the conversation between Flynn and Kislyak, and then I knew what he had said to the FBI, I thought ‘Oh, no! Now the Russians have compromised him because he’s breaking the Logan Act and lying about it, and so now they’ll have this over him.'” Even though the Logan Act might as well not even exist at all. And in this context, we’re not talking about a businessman from Houston making a separate deal with the UAE or something like that. We’re talking about the designated incoming national security adviser of the president elect of the United States, not in the summer, we’re talking about after the election, after the Electoral College has voted. This guy is the designated national security adviser. I mean, they might as well bring up child abuse or whatever. They’re just pretending to have a legal pretext at that point, right?

Taibbi: Yeah, especially in the context of all the other stuff that was going on with that investigation. The fact that they investigated Flynn for all these other things. They have this whole absurd Crossfire Razor sub-investigation that had come up dry. They were recommending, the people on that case were recommending that they give it up. And, you know, some folks didn’t want to, and they decided to hold on to the idea of of dirtying Flynn through this preposterous interpretation of this call to Kislyak. And the crime here, the idea that the Logan Act was violated is far less serious crime than the actual one, leaking the telephonic communication which is a felony, and that definitely happened. And you’re absolutely right that the Logan Act, even if it was something that we were ever going to prosecute, and we never have, it was not intended to cover the incoming national security adviser who was weeks away from taking power and essentially was telling the Russian ambassador, “Hey, you know, don’t overreact. Chill out.”
Like, that’s really what happened. So the whole thing was absurd.

Horton: Yeah, I mean, that is such an important point too. What was the secret big deal communication here is he was saying, “Don’t overreact in a tit for tat over Obama’s new sanctions, because after all, he’s on his way out. And we want to strike a better note.” And, you know, this goes back to what you’re saying about Flynn at DIA. This was a three star general, who was the head of the DIA and had this whole, you know, years-long liaison relationship with the Russian military. Not that he was a traitor supported by them. He was an American three star General, who had a pretty good relationship with some powerful people in the Russian military, which is the kind of thing that all other things being equal, and no Russiagate hoax involved, is the kind of thing that all Americans ought to celebrate. And think of it, probably the best thing about this kook, Mike Flynn, who after all, is sort of a Michael Ledeen co-author, Iran hawk, nutball, who said a couple good things about Syria one time. He said a couple of good things about Russia, but is otherwise a pretty dangerous character. And yet, he gets along with the Russian military. That ought to be a bright spot in the mind of all 7 billion people in the world. Isn’t that what we want, for America and Russia to get along, no matter what?

Taibbi: Absolutely, and I think a lot of the genesis of the Democratic Party frustration and the Obama administration frustration with Flynn was that he had had an open disagreement with that administration about some pretty serious strategic questions that among other things involved the Russians. Flynn was the subject of some reporting by Sy Hersh. And essentially was going public with this idea that the Obama administration was making a mistake by trying to make allies of so called moderates in Syria, who was saying we’re not really moderates, they were more like al Qaeda, and that the preferable way to go was to team up with the Russians to to combat those kinds of extremists. And, you know, there was disagreement about that. But I could understand both the arguments for both sides of that. But the notion that he was doing something that was treasonous is crazy. It was a strategic idea that he had that you could agree with or disagree with it, but it’s certainly not outside the pale of normal behavior.

Horton: And Susan Rice pretended — again going along with this narrative that it must be treason. She said that she had a conversation with Flynn, where he should’ve just humored her. What an idiot this guy. But instead he decided to get in an argument with her about how, “Nah, Russia’s fine. Russia’s no big deal. It’s China that we’ve got to worry about.” And then Rice said, “When I heard that I thought, ‘Oh no, it must be true. He really is a traitor under the control of some foreign power, because how could any American think that?'” Actually, a lot of people think that. I’m not one of them. But that’s a point of view. In fact, Trump said, “I went and talked with Henry Kissinger. And I said, ‘Henry, I think we ought to get along with Russia because the real enemy is China.’ And Henry Kissinger told me ‘You’re right, Trump go with that.'” So he’s supposed to be the longest gray beard of all. This is a strategic question: Which side of the Sino-Russian split are you on? We’re all Richard Nixon playing Risk here. Only when Trump and Flynn do it, it’s high treason.

Taibbi: Yeah, it’s amazing. I think some of that comes from Americans not having a real clue about what Russia is, you know, Russia is a geographically massive country with a pretty big military. But economically, it’s like somewhere between Italy and South Korea. It’s not a major power, it’s got very, very serious internal problems. It’s nowhere near the level of geopolitical rival that the Chinese are. Now you could say that they have a terrible government. And you could say that Putin is not a good leader. And I certainly have been very critical of him in the past. But I wouldn’t put Russia in the same category as, say, China in terms of the size of the rivalry there.

Horton: I know you lived there for many years and that kind of thing. For most of us, Russia is a place in our imagination. We don’t really know anything about it. And on one hand our government, say John McCain for example, who said “Oh, come on, Russia is a gas station with a border. It’s not even a country at all.” Obama ridiculed them and said, “Russia is a regional power at best.” But then they turn around and say, “Actually Russia’s intelligence agencies are responsible for the election results of every country everywhere in a world where we don’t like how they turn out. And they’re about to take over and conquer all of Eastern Europe again, like back in the bad old days.”

Taibbi: Right. I mean, in 2012, Obama was essentially saying the Russia “is the gnat on the bottom of an elephant,” which I thought was a pretty good description, having lived there. The old description of the Soviet Union, that I think Henry Kissinger said, was that “Russia is Upper Volta with rockets.” You know, it’s a country with a big military, it’s powerful in that sense. It certainly exerts a lot of influence on the countries that are on its borders, but internationally, it’s just not this chaotic juggernaut that they’re making it out to be in the press. And it doesn’t have anywhere near the economic power of China.

Horton: Alright, so then one last thing here is about the effect of this have on Trump. Say, for example, if they had never cooked up this Russiagate thing in the first place. And the President had been free to pursue this Russia policy in the same way that any other president would have been. I mean, for that matter, Reagan negotiated with Gorbachev, when he was the, you know, Supreme Leader of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party, and all of these things. And so, nevermind the opportunity costs of just what could have been in terms of progress, but just think of how backwards everything is going. You know, I interviewed Branco Marcetic from Jacobin magazine last week about all the anti-Russia positions that Trump has taken over and over again, and to a great degree, even in his own words, to protect himself from these attacks. “They keep accusing me of being soft on Russia. Well I’m not soft on Russia. I’ve done this, this and this.” Including he’s pulling troops out of Germany, but he’s moving them to Poland, which is even worse. And, you know, I’m sure you’ve got something to say about what might have been here if we, if our government was not caught up in this crazy narrative that they themselves have generated about Russia here.

Taibbi: Yeah. You know, I was not a fan of Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him. I don’t think I’ll be voting for him again, but the the degree to which all of this handicapped his presidency and all the things that happened, particularly during the transition period, when there are all these leaks, was about Flynn or about the pee tape, or handing Trump the Steele report. He entered the presidency basically from day one facing a DEFCON 5 emergency. And you know, I would argue that this is a person who, under the best circumstances would have had a difficult time doing a great job because he probably, you know, he doesn’t have the experience and it would have been a rough ride anyway. But with this going on, I think it was inexcusable. What the press and all these these creatures in the intelligence services did to handicap the presidency — I get not liking Donald Trump, but this is also the country you know, that suffered when all this took up all of our time for three years. You know, it was was really ridiculous. And so yeah, you’re right on that.

Horton: There’s got to be some kind of accountability. I can’t imagine someone publishing Jane Mayer again, for example, or David Corn. We’re going to continue to use people who, you know went so far out on the limb with this garbage? — and boy there’s exhaustive list of them. I guess I should say exhausting.

Taibbi: There’s a long history of failing upward in the journalism business, right? Like the people who were the most wrong on Iraq tended to get promoted upward. I mean, look at who’s editing The Atlantic magazine right now. You know, people like Jonathan Chait and the editorial page editor of the Washington Post who got so much wrong. I mean, basically Judy Miller was the only one who paid. Everybody else kind of got away with it. And that’s another thing. We talked about this earlier, that’s the thing: that the public sees the stuff. You know, people in journalism think that the audiences aren’t paying attention, but they do pay attention. When we screw things up there has to be some kind of reckoning, or else we lose our credibility.

Horton:
Although, you know, what you talk about in your book, about all the different “silos” of information, you can see that there are huge swathes of the liberal side who still believe in this stuff because they were never made to confront the failure of the story when it all came out. They kind of had a narrative that “well, Bob Muller gave an old man rambling testimony to the Senate,” but they didn’t break down here’s what the report actually said about all that stuff that we said. They just let it go. And so you see on Twitter, of course, but really everywhere you see Democrats still believe that, in the words of recent rando I saw that, “Vladimir Putin sure got his money’s worth with Trump.” As Nancy Pelosi said, just in the recent Afghanistan scalp story, that “all roads lead back to Putin.” She said the same thing during the impeachment. They really still believe this stuff.

Taibbi: I know. You know, there was a woman who recently resigned from MSNBC, Ariana Pekary, and she wrote a note publicly saying part of the reason she she quit is because she had come to the conclusion or she quoted one of her co-workers basically saying that, “we’re not in the business of informing, we’re in the business of comforting our audiences.” So, you know, they believe the Russia thing, and there’s news that comes out that contradicts it, they just don’t put it out there because they know it’s going to upset their audiences. So they just allow them to kind of wallow in their ignorance, which is, I think a disservice.

Horton: Alright, well, listen. Thank you so much for coming back on the show, Matt. It’s always great talking to you and reading your great journalism.

Taibbi: Thanks Scott.

Horton: The book is Hate Inc., and you’ve got to subscribe at Substack — which, by the way, can I ask you a favor? Is there a way that I can get you to turn off the paywall on “Our Man in Cambridge,” for a couple of days so we can link to it at Antiwar.com?

Taibbi: (Laughs.) I’ll try, yeah. I’ll ask the Substack guys to do that.

Horton: We ran “The Spies Who Hijacked America” by Steven Schrage there as our Spotlight the other day and I’d like to Spotlight “Our Man in Cambridge” as well.

Taibbi: Okay.

Horton: But you gotta subscribe. He’s independent from Rolling Stone, now at Substack.com. And of course you can follow him on Twitter and all those great things. And again, his show is called Useful Idiots with Katie Halper. And thank you again. Appreciate it.

Taibbi: Alright, thanks. Take care.

Scott Horton is editorial director of Antiwar.com, director of the Libertarian Institute, host of Antiwar Radio on Pacifica, 90.7 FM KPFK in Los Angeles, California and podcasts the Scott Horton Show from ScottHorton.org. He’s the author of the 2017 book, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and editor of the 2019 book, The Great Ron Paul: The Scott Horton Show Interviews 2004–2019. He’s conducted more than 5,000 interviews since 2003.

Scott’s Twitter, YouTube, Patreon.

The Criminal War against Iraq

Thaddeus Russell Interviews Danny Sjursen

Below is a link to my latest appearance on the Unregistered podcast with host Thaddeus Russell:
Check out my particularly interesting conversation with Thad, a great historian, former Columbia professor, and author of A Renegade History of the U.S.
From the show notes: The ongoing U.S. wars are as far from the news as ever, which is why I brought combat veteran and antiwar journalist Danny Sjursen onto the show. We discussed his road from a working-class Staten Island family of right-wing cops and firefighters to West Point and then leading scout platoons with Armored Cavalry regiments in neighborhoods across Baghdad and in the especially volatile Kandahar Valley in Afghanistan.
The War Party Aims For Regime Change in Belarus

The War Party Aims For Regime Change in Belarus

It seems that whoever wins the presidency, United States foreign policy will keep chugging away at intervening across the world, including via “regime change” efforts. Over the last couple decades, targets for U.S.-government-supported overthrow have included Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Venezuela. Belarus also appears to be in the U.S. government’s crosshairs. If its government holds back through January the effort seeking to topple it, Belarus looks sure to remain a U.S. target for regime change during either a second term of President Donald Trump or a first term of President Joe Biden.

On Monday, as revolutionaries in Belarus capital Minsk attempted to oust the Belarus government, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden issued interchangeable statements regarding Belarus and U.S. policy toward it. Both Pompeo’s statement and Biden’s statement condemned the government of Belarus, called fraudulent the country’s recent national election in which President Aleksander Lukashenko won reelection by a wide margin, and made demands upon the Belarus government.

The statements of Pompeo and Biden may not seem so threatening if you imagine them coming from the government of a country of average population, economic strength, military power, and tendency to intervene in other countries. The comments could then just be understood as politicians spouting off or being relatively harmless buttinskis.

It is different when the pronouncements are made by a top foreign affairs official of the US and the potential next president of the U.S. The U.S. presides over a large population country with major economic resources. The U.S. has military bases and ships, as well as covert operatives, across the world. The U.S. has a long and ongoing history of pursuing, and often achieving, the overthrow of governments through actions including invasions, assassinations, sanctions, election meddling, and the financing and coordinating of coups and revolutions.

In 2015, during the Barack Obama administration in the U.S. and after another wide-margin reelection win by Lukashenko in Belarus, Ron Paul Institute Executive Director Daniel McAdams discussed the U.S. government’s disdain for Lukashenko and the Belarus government. McAdams wrote in part:

Lukashenko has been a favorite punching bag of the U.S. and western neocons for a number of years because he has not shown the required level of deference to his would-be western overlords compared to, say, the Baltics. He routinely wins re-election even as the U.S. government has funneled millions of dollars into the political opposition in hopes of somehow fomenting a regime change.

Don’t believe the sanctimonious comments, whether from the Trump administration or the Biden campaign, about the U.S. seeking to promote democracy and human rights in Belarus. This is about power. The U.S. has let slide and continues to let slide democratic and human rights shortcomings of countries across the world where benefit can be obtained. Dictatorship? No problem. The expression of concern about democracy and human rights is propaganda selectively applied to stir up support for, or at least quell opposition to, U.S. intervention abroad.

Pompeo and Biden’s statements regarding Belarus help make clear that overthrowing governments appears set to remain a feature of U.S. foreign policy no matter if Trump wins a second term or Biden defeats him in the upcoming November presidential election.

Adam Dick is a Senior Fellow at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He previously worked as a legislative aide to Rep. Ron Paul from 2003 to 2013. This article was originally featured at the Ron Paul Institute and is republished with permission.

News Roundup

News Roundup 11/20/20

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Pete Quinones on the Mob, the State, and Magic

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