Sat, 23 Sep 2017 13:08:34 GMT Sat, 23 Sep 2017 13:08:34 GMT How World War One Still Haunts America James Bovard

This year is the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s pulling America into World War I. Many people celebrate this centenary of America’s emergence as a world power. But at a time when the Trump administration is bombing or rattling sabers at half a dozen nations and many Democrats are clamoring to bloody Russia, it is worth reviewing how World War I turned out so much worse than the experts and politicians promised.

Wilson was narrowly reelected in 1916 on the basis of a campaign slogan, “He kept us out of war.” But Wilson had massively violated neutrality by providing armaments and money to the Allied powers that had been fighting Germany since 1914. At the same time, he had no quarrel with the British blockade that was slowly starving the German people. In his April 1917 speech to Congress seeking a declaration of war against Germany, he hailed the U.S. government as “one of the champions of the rights of mankind” and proclaimed that “the world must be made safe for democracy.”

American soldiers helped turn the tide on the Western Front in late 1918. But the cost was far higher than Americans anticipated. More than 100,000 American soldiers died in the third-bloodiest war in U.S. history. Another half-million Americans perished from the Spanish Flu epidemic spurred and spread by the war. But the political damage lasted far longer.

In his speech to Congress, Wilson declared, “We have no quarrel with the German people” and feel “sympathy and friendship” towards them. But his administration speedily commenced demonizing the “Huns.” One Army recruiting poster portrayed German troops as an ape ravaging a half-naked damsel beneath an appeal to “Destroy this Mad Brute.” Wilson’s evocations of fighting for universal freedom were quickly followed by bans on sauerkraut, beer, and teaching German in public schools. Tolerance quickly became unpatriotic.

The Wilson administration sold the war as an easy win — failing to realize how close France and Russia were to either collapsing or surrendering. When fewer than 100,000 Americans volunteered for the military, Congress responded by authorizing conscripting 10 million men. Wilson proclaimed that “it is in no sense a conscription of the unwilling. It is, rather, selection from a Nation which has volunteered in mass.” But people had voted against the war. Regardless, Wilson touted the draft as a new type of freedom: “It is nothing less than the day upon which the manhood of the country shall step forward in one solid rank in defense of the ideals to which this Nation is consecrated.” It was as if Wilson was presaging George Orwell’s motto in 1984 — “Freedom is Slavery.”

Wilson acted as if the congressional declaration of war against Germany was also a declaration of war against the Constitution. Harvard professor Irving Babbitt commented in 1924, “Wilson, in the pursuit of his scheme for world service, was led to make light of the constitutional checks on his authority and to reach out almost automatically for unlimited power.” Wilson even urged Congress to set up detention camps to quarantine “alien enemies.”

Wilson unleashed ruthless censorship. Anyone who spoke publicly against military conscription was likely to get slammed with federal espionage or sedition charges. Possessing a pamphlet entitled “Long Live the Constitution of the United States” earned six months in jail for a Pennsylvania malcontent. Censorship was buttressed by fanatic propaganda campaigns led by the Committee for Public Information, a federal agency whose shameless motto was “faith in democracy … faith in fact.” The government cared so much about the American people that it could not burden them with details of government follies and fiascoes.

The government also assumed it was entitled to practically brainwash any and all conscripts. As Thomas Fleming noted in his masterpiece The Illusion of Victory: America in World War One,soldiers were subject to many hours of exhortations “to resist sexual temptation…. Spokesmen for the Committee on Training Camp Activities urged soldiers to stop thinking about sex: ‘A man who is thinking below the belt is not efficient.’” The Wilson administration strove for the creation of “‘moral and intellectual armor’ that would sustain the soldiers when they went overseas and were beyond the U.S. government’s ‘comforting and restraining and helpful hand.’” The failure of the purity campaign was best reflected in the lyrics of a 1919 hit song: “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”

To broaden support for the war, Wilson partnered with the Prohibition movement. Prohibition advocates “indignantly insisted that … any kind of opposition to prohibition was sinister and subversively pro-German,” noted William Ross, author of World War 1 and the American Constitution. Even before the 18th Amendment (which banned alcohol manufacture, sale, and transportation) was ratified, Wilson banned beer sales as a wartime measure. Prohibition itself was a public-health disaster; the rate of alcoholism tripled during the 1920s. To punish lawbreakers, the federal government added poisons to industrial alcohol that was often converted into drinkable hooch; 10,000 people were killed as a result. Deborah Blum, the author of The Poisoner’s Handbook, noted that “an official sense of higher purpose kept the poisoning program in place.” It took more than half a century for the quality of American beer to recover from Prohibition. And the effects of the booster shot that organized crime received in those years lasted even longer. Even worse, the war on alcohol paved the way for the war on drugs; many former Prohibition agents signed up to crusade against marijuana after the ban on booze ended.

Attacking speech, ruining farms

World War I exposed the cravenness and authoritarianism of progressive intellectuals. As journalist Randolph Bourne wrote, “‘Loyalty,’ or rather war orthodoxy, becomes the sole test for all professions, techniques, occupations. Particularly is this true in the sphere of the intellectual life.” Bourne lamented:
It has been a bitter experience to see the unanimity with which the American intellectuals have thrown their support to the use of war-technique in the crisis in which America found herself. Socialists, college professors, publicists, new-republicans, practitioners of literature, have vied with each other in confirming with their intellectual faith the collapse of neutrality and the riveting of the war-mind on a hundred million more of the world’s people…. Herd-instinct became herd-intellect.
Writers who failed to join the stampede found themselves banished or, in some cases, persecuted. One of the Post Office’s primary targets for suppression was magazines guilty of “high-browism.” The collapse of honest, thoughtful criticism was invaluable to Wilson’s effort to spur mass mindless obedience. Unfortunately, with the same pattern of servility repeated in subsequent wars, few intellectuals seem to recall how World War I set the model for cravenness.

As Bourne noted, “War is the health of the state.” The war provided the pretext for unprecedented federal domination of the economy — and endless debacles. In early 1918, the government “shut down all the factories in the country east of the Mississippi River for a week” to save fuel, as Fleming noted. Even Wilson’s Democratic congressional allies were aghast at the mismanagement and inefficiency. Wilson was outraged at criticism, declaring that it showed “such an ignorance of the actual conditions as to make it impossible to attach any importance” to the charge. But presidential indignation failed to straighten out the snafus from central control of production processes.

Perhaps the most dramatic economic impact fell on American farmers. Washington promised that “food will win the war” and farmers vastly increased their plantings. Price supports and government credits for foreign buyers sent crop prices and land prices skyrocketing. However, when the credits ended in 1920, prices and land values plunged, spurring massive bankruptcies across rural America. They in turn spurred perennial political discontent that helped lead to a federal takeover of agriculture by the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s. When the New Deal imposed price controls across the economy in 1933, World War I was the model that administrators touted.

Making the world safe

Before the war began, Wilson declared in April 2015, “No nation is fit to sit in judgement upon any other nation.” In his war speech to Congress in 1917, he portrayed the Kaiser as a dictator (though Germany was actually far more democratic than most parts of the British Empire). By 1919, Wilson had totally reversed his moral compass, declaring, “In the last analysis, my fellow countrymen, as we in America would be the first to claim, a people are responsible for the acts of their government.” Unfortunately, that became the lodestar for subsequent U.S. warring — including the massive civilian bombings of Germany and Japan in World War II, in North Korea in 1952, in Vietnam, and in Iraq in this century.

World War I was ended by the Treaty of Versailles, which redrew European borders willy-nilly and imposed ruinous reparations on Germany. Wilson had proclaimed 14 points to guide peace talks; instead, there were 14 separate small wars in Europe towards the end of his term — after peace had been proclaimed. The League of Nations charter was written so smarmily that the United States could have been obliged to assist Britain and France in suppressing revolts in the new colonies they garnered from the war.

The chaos and economic depression sowed by the war and the Treaty of Versailles helped open the door to some of the worst dictators in modern times, including Germany’s Adolf Hitler, Italy’s Benito Mussolini, and Russia’s N. Lenin — whom Wilson intensely disliked because “he felt the Bolshevik leader had stolen his ideas for world peace,” as historian Fleming noted.

Despite winning the war, Wilson’s Democratic Party was crushed at the polls in both 1918 and 1920. H.L. Mencken wrote on the eve of the 1920 election that Americans were sickened of Wilsonian “idealism that is oblique, confusing, dishonest, and ferocious.” Unfortunately, the recoil against bogus idealism was temporary. Starting in 2002, George W. Bush practically recycled Wilson en masse to whip up fervor for invading Iraq.

Have today’s policymakers learned anything from the debacle a century ago? Wilson continues to be invoked by politicians who believe America can achieve great things by warring abroad. The bellicosity of both Republican and Democratic leaders is a reminder that Wilson also failed to make democracy safe for the world.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Sat, 23 Sep 2017 13:08:34 GMT
The Exit Strategy of Empire Wendy McElroy
The Roman Empire never doubted that it was the defender of civilization. Its good intentions were peace, law and order. The Spanish Empire added salvation. The British Empire added the noble myth of the white man’s burden. We have added freedom and democracy.

— Garet Garrett, Rise of Empire
The first step in creating Empire is to morally justify the invasion and occupation of another nation even if it poses no credible or substantial threat. But if that’s the entering strategy, what is the exit one?

One approach to answering is to explore how Empire has arisen through history and whether the process can be reversed. Another is to conclude that no exit is possible; an Empire inevitably self-destructs under the increasing weight of what it is — a nation exercising ultimate authority over an array of satellite states. Empires are vulnerable to overreach, rebellion, war, domestic turmoil, financial exhaustion, and competition for dominance.

In his monograph Rise of Empire, the libertarian journalist Garet Garrett (1878–1954), lays out a blueprint for how Empire could possibly be reversed as well as the reason he believes reversal would not occur.  Garrett was in a unique position to comment insightfully on the American empire because he’d had a front-row seat to events that cemented its status: World War II and the Cold War. World War II America already had a history of conquest and occupation, of course, but, during the mid to late 20th century, the nation became a self-consciously and unapologetic empire with a self-granted mandate to spread its ideology around the world.

A path to reversing Empire

Garrett identifies the first five components of Empire:
the dominance of executive power: the White House reigns over Congress and the judiciary.

the subordination of domestic concerns to foreign policy: civil and economic liberties give way to military needs.

the rise of a military mentality: aggressive patriotism and obedience are exalted.

a system of satellite nations in the name of collective security;

and a zeitgeist of both zealous patriotism and fear: bellicosity is mixed with and sustained by panic.
These are not sequential stages of Empire but occur in conjunction with one another and reinforce each other. That means that an attempt to reverse Empire in the direction of a Republic can begin with weakening any of the five characteristics in any order.

Garrett did not directly address the strategy of undoing Empire but his description of its creation can be used to good advantage. The first step is to break down each component of Empire into more manageable chunks. For example, the executive branch accumulates power in various ways. They include:
By delegation — Congress transfers its constitutional powers to the president.

By reinterpretation of the Constitution by a sympathetic Supreme Court.

Through innovation by which the president assumes powers that are not constitutionally forbidden because the Framers never considered them.

By administrative agencies that issue regulations with the force of law.

Through usurpation — the president confronts Congress with a fait accompli that cannot easily be repudiated.Entanglement in foreign affairs makes presidential power swell because, both by tradition and the Constitution, foreign affairs are his authority.
Deconstructing these executive props, one by one, weakens the Empire. When all five components are deconstructing, the process presents a possible path to dissolving Empire itself.

A sixth component of Empire

But in Rise of Empire, Garet Garrett offers a chilling assessment based on his sixth component of Empire. There is no path out. A judgment that renders prevention all the more essential.

That was why Garrett does not deal with how to reverse the process of Empire. Once an empire is established, he argues, it becomes a “prisoner of history” in a trap of its own making. He writes, “A Republic may change its course, or reverse it, and that will be its own business. But the history of Empire is a world history and belongs to many people. A Republic is not obliged to act upon the world, either to change it or instruct it. Empire, on the other hand, must put forth its power.”

In his book For A New Liberty, Murray Rothbard expands on Garrett’s point: “[The] United States, like previous empires, feel[s] itself to be ‘a prisoner of history.’ For beyond fear lies ‘collective security,’ and the playing of the supposedly destined American role upon the world stage.”

Collective security and fear are intimately connected concepts. It is no coincidence that the sixth component of Empire — imprisonment — comes directly after the two components of “a system of satellite nations” and, “a complex of vaunting and fear.”

Satellite nations

“We speak of our own satellites as allies and friends or as freedom loving nations,” Garrett wrote. “Nevertheless, satellite is the right word. The meaning of it is the hired guard.” Why hired? Although men of Empire speak of losing China [or] Europe … [how] could we lose China or Europe, since they never belonged to us? What they mean is that we … may lose a following of dependent people who act as an outer guard.”

An empire thinks that satellites are necessary for its collective security. Satellites think the empire is necessary for territorial and economic survival; but they are willing to defect if an empire with a better deal beckons. America knows this and scrambles to satisfy satellites that could become fickle. Garrett quotes Harry Truman, who created America’s modern system of satellites. “We must make sure that our friends and allies overseas continue to get the help they need to make their full contribution to security and progress for the whole free world. This means not only military aid — though that is vital — it also means real programs of economic and technical assistance.“

In contrast to a Republic, Empire is both a master and a servant because foreign pressure cements it into the military and economic support of satellite nations around the globe, all of which have their own agendas.

Garrett also emphasizes how domestic pressure imprisons Empire. One of the most powerful domestic pressures is fear. An atmosphere of fear  — real or created — drives public support of foreign policy and makes it more difficult for Empire to retreat from those policies. In his introduction to Garrett’s book Ex America, Bruce Ramsey addresses Garrett’s point. Ramsey writes, Empire has “‘less control over its own fate than a republic,’ he [Garrett] commented because it was a ‘prisoner of history’, ruled by fear. Fear of what? ‘Fear of the barbarian.’”

It does not matter whether the enemy is actually a barbarian. What matters is that citizens of Empire believe in the enemy’s savagery and support a military posture toward him. Domestic fear drives the constant politics of satellite nations, protective treaties, police actions, and war. Foreign entanglements lead to increased global involvement and deeper commitments. The two reinforce each other.

The fifth characteristic of Empire is not merely fear but also “vaunting.” Vaunting means boasting about or praising something excessively — for example, to laud and exaggerate America’s role in the world. Fear provides the emotional impetus for conquest; vaunting provides the moral justification for acting upon the fear. The moral duty is variously phrased: leadership, a balance of power, peace, democracy, the preservation of civilization, humanitarianism. From this point, it is a small leap to conclude that the ends sanctify the means. Garrett observes that “there is soon a point from which there is no turning back….The argument for going on is well known. As Woodrow Wilson once asked, ‘Shall we break the heart of the world?’ So now many are saying, ‘We cannot let the free world down’. Moral leadership of the world is not a role you step into and out of as you like.”


In this manner, Garrett believed, Empire imprisons itself in the trap of a perpetual war for peace and stability, which are always stated goals. Yet, as Garrett concluded, the reality is war and instability.

It is not clear whether he was correct that Empire could not be reversed. Whether or not he was, it is at its creation that Empire is best opposed.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Fri, 22 Sep 2017 18:35:25 GMT
Trump’s UN Speech: the Swamp’s Wine in an ‘America First!’ Bottle James George Jatras

In his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump invoked the terms “sovereign” and “sovereignty” 21 times. In a manner unimaginable coming from any other recent occupant of the White House, the President committed the United States to the principle of national sovereignty and to the truth that “the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition.” More, Trump rightly pointed out that these pertain not just to the US and the safeguarding of American sovereignty but to all countries:
In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens -- to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.

As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”
Then he took it all back.

Listening to the president, one would almost think Trump was giving two different speeches, one rhetorical and one substantive. The rhetorical speech (reportedly authored by Stephen Miller) was the most stirring advocacy one could hope for of the rule of law and of the Westphalian principle of the sovereign state as the bedrock of the international order. The substantive speech, no doubt written by someone on the National Security Council staff, abrogates the very same Westphalian principle with the unlimited prerogatives of the planet’s one government that reserves the right to violate or abolish the sovereignty of any other country – or to destroy that country altogether – for any reason political elites in Washington decide. 

Numerous commentators immediately rushed to declare that Trump had dialed back to George W. Bush’s 2002 “Axis of Evil” speech. (The phrase is attributed to then-speechwriter David Frum, now a moving figure behind the “Committee to Investigate Russia,” which in the sage opinion of Rob Reiner and Morgan Freeman claims “we are at war” with Russia already.) Trump has now laid down what amounts to declarations of war against both North Korea and Iran. On both he has left himself very little room for maneuver, or for any compromise that would be regarded as weakness or Obama-style “leading from behind.” While hostilities against both countries may not be imminent (though in the case of North Korea, they might be) we are, barring unforeseen circumstances, now approaching the point of no return.

With respect to North Korea, some people assume that because the consequences would be patently catastrophic the “military option” must be off the table and that all this war talk is just bluster. That assumption is dead wrong. The once unthinkable is not only thinkable, it is increasingly probable. As Trump said: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” This is exactly backwards. Threatening North Korea with total destruction doesn’t equate to the defense of the US (forget about our faux allies South Korea and Japan, which contribute nothing to our security), it positively increases the danger to our country and people.

The Deep State would rather risk the lives of almost 30,000 American military personnel in Korea, of hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of South Koreans, and of even more millions in North Korea – not to mention prodding Pyongyang to accelerate acquisition of a capability for a nuclear strike on the United States itself – than pry its grip off of a single square meter of our forward base against China on the northeast Asian mainland.

With respect to Iran, the relevant passages of Trump’s speech could as well have been drafted in the Israeli and Saudi foreign ministries – and perhaps they were. Paradoxically, such favoritism toward some countries and hatred for others is the exact opposite of the America First! principle on which Trump won the presidency. As stated in his Farewell Address by our first and greatest president (wait – are we still allowed to say that? George Washington was a slave-owner!), a country that allows itself to be steered not by its own interests but the interests of others negates it own freedom and becomes a slave to its foreign affections and antipathies:
The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.
Not to belabor the obvious, at least as far as foreign policy goes, the would-be Swamp-drainer has lost and the Swamp has won. We can speculate as to why. Some say Trump was always a liar and conman and had no intention of keeping his promises. (Let’s see what he does on the “Dreamers” and throwing away his wall on the Mexican border. As Ann Coulter says, “If Trump doesn’t get that wall built, and fast, his base will be done with him and feed him to Robert Mueller.”) Others say Trump meant what he said during the campaign but now surrounded by generals and globalists that dominate his administration, and with populists in the White House now about as common as passenger pigeons, he’s a virtual captive. If so, it’s a captivity of his own making.

To be fair, Trump’s populism was never based on consistent non-interventionism. In 2016 he promised more money for the Pentagon and vowed to be the most “militaristic” president ever. Still, he seemed to understand that wars of choice unrelated to vital national interests, like Bush’s in Iraq and Obama’s in Libya, were a waste of untold billions of dollars and produced only disasters.

His acceptance of the Swamp’s continuation of the war in Afghanistan was his first major stumble towards the dismal path of his predecessors. War against North Korea or Iran, or God forbid both, would wreck his presidency and his pledge to “Make America Great Again!” even more surely than Iraq ruined Bush’s.

Still unanswered: does Trump know that, does he care, and does he have the wherewithal to do anything about it? At the moment, it doesn’t look good.

Reprinted with permission from the Strategic Culture Foundation.]]> Fri, 22 Sep 2017 18:14:09 GMT
Oil, Gas, Geopolitics Guide US Hand In Playing The Rohingya Crisis Whitney Webb

In recent years, Myanmar (formerly Burma) has only rarely been in the news. The quiet treatment owed much to the assumption that the country’s fledgling democracy was in “good hands” once the U.S-backed 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi gained renewed political prominence after the 2015 elections and assumed the office of state counselor a year later. However, the tide of international public opinion has been turning sharply against Suu Kyi as human rights activists, the United Nations and several other Nobel laureates have strongly criticized her handling of what has now become known as the “Rohingya crisis.”

The crisis centers on the plight of the Rohingya, a historically persecuted Muslim minority living in Myanmar’s coastal Rakhine state (formerly Arakan state). The Rohingya are also stateless, as Myanmar’s government has long refused to recognize their centuries-long claim to the region and has asserted on several occasions that the Rohingya are not native to Myanmar but instead “illegal immigrants” from neighboring Bangladesh. Deprived of citizenship and thus of basic rights, their suffering has been compounded by Myanmar’s government, which has used the military to violently intimidate the Rohingya and force them from their lands.

This month, in particular, the corporate media — as well as several prominent human rights organizations and international bodies, such as the UN — have given unprecedented attention to the conflict. Last Monday, for example, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, accused Myanmar of undertaking “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and stated that Myanmar’s campaign against the Rohingya violated international law. In the first two weeks of September,corporate media outlets have reported extensively on the crisis. Just last week, CNN published 13 different articles about the Rohingya’s plight. Calls have mounted for Suu Kyi, as Myanmar’s leader, to intervene.

Given the recent flurry of press coverage and the spike in concern among international bodies such as the United Nations, one might assume that the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya by Myanmar’s government is a recent phenomenon. However, in reality, the conflict itself is nearly a century old and its current escalation did not begin this year, but rather in 2011, and has continued to worsen ever since. Furthermore, numerous other instances of genocide, such as the Saudis’ destruction of Yemen and Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, are hardly touched by the corporate media or mentioned in mainstream political discourse.

So why the sudden interest in Myanmar?

Oil and Gas Pipelines

Like so many other cases of ethnic cleansing, the Rohingya conflict is essentially a conflict over resources, namely oil and gas. In 2004, a massive natural gas field, named Shwe in honor of the long-time leader of Myanmar’s military junta, was discovered off the coast of Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal. In 2008, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) secured the rights to the natural gas and bestowed upon the field its honorific name. Construction began a year later on two 1,200 km overland pipelines that would cross from Myanmar’s Rakhine state – home of the Rohingya – to the Yunnan province of China.


The pipelines — one carrying gas and the other carrying oil from the Middle East and Africa, brought to Myanmar by ship — missed their targeted dates for completion. The gas pipeline became operational in 2014 and carries more than 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to China. The oil pipeline has proven more difficult to construct and is set to be completed later this year. Once completed, it will allow China easier access to oil from the Middle East and Africa and will reduce the transport time of such oil by as much as 30 percent.

Beyond the obvious boon of having increased and easier access to oil, the Shwe oil pipeline is of critical strategic importance to Chinese geopolitical interests. Currently, 80 percent of China’s imported oil passes through the straits of Malacca and disputed parts of the South China Sea. This current route would leave China vulnerable to a potential energy blockade imposed by the 6th Fleet of the U.S. Navy, were hostilities to arise between the two rival nations. Once the Shwe oil pipeline became operational, the Chinese would no longer have to worry about the possibility of the U.S. imposing a blockade on the vast majority of Chinese oil imports, a critical advantage for China during a period of rapidly decaying Sino-U.S. relations.

Since construction began, protests against the pipelines in Rakhine state and other areas of Myanmar have been constant. Residents of Rakhine state, in particular, have complained to the government and to CNPC on numerous occasions that the project had polluted rivers, destroyed private property and decimated the livelihood of local fishermen. In addition, many of the owners of properties expropriated for the project were not compensated by CNPC as promised, further stoking anti-pipeline demonstrations and unrest. Protesters have also repeatedly called for CNPC to supply the surrounding area with electricity, a basic utility still lacking there, and to offer more job opportunities for local workers.

The Myanmar government is a major stakeholder in the pipeline, as it owns a major stake in the Shwe field’s production of natural gas and is set to earn $7 million per year in annual right-of-way fees for the pipelines once both are completed. Given that public opposition forced Myanmar to suspend China’s Myitsone Dam project in Kachin state in 2011, the government is acutely aware that unchecked local resistance to the pipelines could potentially deprive it of millions of dollars in annual revenue. Thus, Myanmar’s military has been ardently pursuing the Rohingya, citing vengeance for periodic attacks launched by regional insurgents as a pretext for the violence that has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

A manufactured insurgency financed by Saudi Arabia

The “Rohingya insurgency” in Rakhine state is hardly the organic, local response to long-standing state suppression it claims to be. The group, now known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and formerly known as Harakah al-Yakin, is led by Ataullah abu Ammar Junjuni, a Pakistani national who worked as a Wahhabi imam in Saudi Arabia prior to arriving in Myanmar. According to a Reuters report from last year, the group is financed by both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — and “a committee of 20 senior Rohingya emigres,” headquartered in Mecca, “oversees” the group.

ARSA is directly responsible for both last year’s and the current crackdown on Rohingya civilians and communities, as its attacks on Myanmar military installations and bases have precipitated the military’s violent response. ARSA has also targeted Buddhist civilians in Rakhine state, fomenting support among extremist Buddhists elsewhere in the country for the continued persecution of the Rohingya.

ARSA is also likely to have no shortage of recruits, as Saudi Arabia is spending over a billion dollars to construct 560 Wahhabi mosques in nearby Bangladesh, the nation where most Rohingya have fled to escape the violence.

Despite this, international corporate media outlets such as CNN and Al Jazeera have published sympathetic portrayals of the Wahhabist insurgency, asserting that the group “is not a terrorist group aimed at striking at the heart of Myanmar society as the government claims it is” but rather “a group of hopeless men” working to protect their people. However, Myanmar’s Muslim organizations have overwhelmingly condemned ARSA for its tactics and extremist views. The parallels to the corporate media coverage of Saudi-funded Syrian “rebels” are obvious.

What does Saudi Arabia stand to gain from funding and driving the Rohingya conflict? A large crisis in Rakhine state, particularly one that has gained the attention of the UN, has the potential to derail the completion of the Shwe oil pipeline to China, which is set to begin functioning later this year. Preventing this pipeline from being built might directly benefit Saudi Arabia to some extent, but would be far more profoundly beneficial to a major ally of the Saudis, the United States. Another U.S./Saudi ally, Israel, also stands to profit as a significant supplier of weapons to the Myanmar regime, a role that has continued unimpeded despite the conflict.

U.S.’ noncommittal response a product of its long-game cynicism

While China’s tacit support of Myanmar’s response to the Rohingya crisis was expected given its clear economic and strategic interests in the nation, some reports expressed surprise that the U.S. — the reputed, if selective, global “defender” of human rights — was “wary of involvement” in the conflict despite the outrage expressed by the UN and the corporate media. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. is concerned its involvement could “undermine the Asian country’s democratic leader,” Aung San Suu Kyi, whose rule is largely a product of Western funding.

U.S. interest in Myanmar is hardly new, as the U.S. government, along with various U.S. nongovernmental organizations, have spent millions on “democracy promotion” — specifically on funding the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Suu Kyi. In 2003, a document titled “Burma: Time for Change” by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) noted that the NLD, and its leader, “cannot survive in Burma [Myanmar] without the help of the United States and the international community.”

In the years since, the U.S. government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in order to cultivate “democratic institutions” and spur “economic development” in order to push for a new form of government in Myanmar. Between 2012 and 2014, the Obama administration gave $375 million to Myanmar for such efforts.

Furthermore, in 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was the “leading donor” in Myanmar’s 2015 election, which saw Suu Kyi and her party claim decisive victories. It also funded the creation of Myanmar’s entire voter database that year and the use of all technology used in the election and subsequent elections. Ultimately, over $18 million was spent on the election by USAID.

In addition, several nongovernmental organizations, often funded by controversial U.S.-Hungarian billionaire George Soros, have been involved in Myanmar “democracy promotion.” Two such examples are the London-based Prospect Burma and the CFR umbrella group known as the Burma Task Force, which has taken up the Rohingya’s plight as its flagship issue since 2013. Soros’ Open Society Foundations have also been involved in Myanmar for some time, specifically in attempting to pressure Indian shareholders of the Shwe natural gas pipeline into abandoning the project.

Suu Kyi’s election marked a reversal for Myanmar in several ways, particularly economically. While Suu Kyi’s predecessors had favored investment from China and South Korea, Suu Kyi’s rise to power has seen increased U.S. investment in Myanmar, partly because the U.S. waited to remove sanctions against the country until she became the nation’s leader. Soon after her election, U.S. investment increased precipitously and is expected to double its current level by 2020. As of last month, U.S. companies had invested $250 million in Myanmar following Suu Kyi’s assumption of power.

However, this new surge in investment is not as new for U.S. oil and gas companies, who have been allowed to invest in Myanmar, despite U.S. sanctions, since 2012. The Obama administration made the exception due to the fear that the U.S. “would lose out to foreign competitors” before sanctions were fully lifted, a clear allusion to the Chinese and South Korean companies which had claimed large swaths of the Shwe gas field a year prior. However, Suu Kyi’s rise to prominence led to more lucrative contracts for U.S. and Western companies, particularly Shell Oil and ConocoPhillips.

“Puppets” with ideas of their own

While the uptick in U.S. corporate investment and U.S. ties is unsurprising given the U.S.’ own massive investment in Suu Kyi and her political party, the U.S. is less than pleased with Suu Kyi’s tenure thus far. As The New York Times recently noted, Suu Kyi has maintained and even strengthened her nation’s ties with China, failing to favor the U.S. interests responsible for her rise to power.

For instance, Suu Kyi has visited Beijing twice since becoming Myanmar’s leader yet has rejected an invitation to a conference organized by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. She has expressed her feelings that China “will do everything possible to promote our peace process,” referring to China’s eagerness to end sectarian fighting in Rakhine State and other area of Burma. There are also suggestions that the Chinese are seeking to develop a naval base in the port city of Kyaukpyu, something the U.S. desperately wants to avoid.

Min Zin, executive director of the Institute for Strategy and Policy in Myanmar, told the Times that “As the United States recedes, Aung San Suu Kyi is relying more and more on China in Myanmar and on the international stage.”

Suu Kyi’s decision to keep China close is similar to the stance taken by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, who has fought to diminish the U.S.’ historically strong influence in his country and forge closer ties to both China and Russia. Interestingly, following the strengthening of ties between these two nations and China, Myanmar and the Philippines became the only Southeast Asian nations forced to battle against Saudi-funded Wahhabist insurgencies — ARSA in Myanmar and Daesh (ISIS) in the Philippines. Duterte has implicitly blamed the U.S. for the rise of Daesh in his country.

The rise of both Wahhabist groups has offered a convenient excuse for the U.S. to boost its military presence in both nations. In Myanmar, the U.S. State Department in late June removed Myanmar from its list of nations using child soldiers, despite having no valid reason for doing so, as Myanmar continues that odious practice.  The move — which conveniently ended the U.S.’ prohibition on providing U.S. military aid, training and U.S.-made weapons to Myanmar — was carried out over the objections of experts in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which typically shapes U.S. policy on the issue.

The U.S. is set to further expand its direct military ties with the nation by way of an amendment hidden within the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). If passed, the NDAA would allow for the full normalization of ties between the militaries of the U.S. and Myanmar, and would enable the U.S. to provide the same level of technical and logistical assistance as well as training it currently provides in the Philippines. It would also open the path for the U.S. to establish a military base, which would definitively end Chinese hopes for its own naval base in Myanmar. Meanwhile, Israel, a strong ally of the United States, has continuously been selling arms to Myanmar’s military.

Playing both sides: a high-stakes geopolitical protection racket

In the context of the Rohingya crisis, the U.S. is playing both sides of the conflict. On one hand, its close ally Saudi Arabia is funding and fomenting the insurgency responsible for the worst recent escalation of the crisis, while the U.S. corporate media paints this insurgency as “freedom fighters” and focuses public attention on the issue at a critical time. On the other hand, the U.S. is offering Myanmar deeper military cooperation to help combat the very insurgency problem it is helping to create, while also offering increased U.S. corporate investment in Myanmar’s economy.

With calls for Suu Kyi to take drastic action to address the issue growing by the day, the U.S. has the ability to force her hand, both covertly and overtly. If the crisis continues to worsen, the possibility that Suu Kyi will request U.S. military assistance to combat an outbreak of “terrorism” will grow. Such an outcome would greatly benefit the U.S., which would gain a new military foothold in another Chinese border nation and also secure Myanmar’s oil and gas riches for itself.

U.S. strategic interest in Myanmar is hardly limited to dominating the exploitation of the nation’s lucrative oil and gas resources. A large part of the U.S. motivation to wrest influence from the Chinese is crucial to its larger regional “China containment” strategy — one that seeks to create a united front of U.S. influence surrounding China in order to reassert U.S. dominance in the region.

This goal was notably expressed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, in a private speech in 2013, stated “we’re going to ring China with missile defense. We’re going to put more of our fleet in the area.” This policy has been put into practice with Obama’s 2011 “pivot to Asia” — resulting in a massive increase in U.S. arms sales to countries neighboring China, as well as the proliferation of Saudi-backed insurgents in nations that seek to foster closer ties with Beijing, namely the Philippines and Myanmar.

With so much to be gained in geopolitical goal-realization from a favorable veer in the current “crisis,” the U.S. is also acutely aware of what it stands to lose if the chips fall the other way. An opening of the Shwe oil pipeline to China would remove permanently the U.S.’ capacity to impose a blockade on 80 percent of China’s oil supply. Losing this massive strategic advantage would be disastrous for the U.S. were a major geopolitical conflict between the two rival powers to develop. With the U.S.threatening to remove China from the SWIFT banking system, tensions on the Korean peninsula flaring, and China touting a oil/gold/yuan alternative to the petrodollar, such a conflict is far from a remote possibility.

Thus, the U.S. interest in Myanmar is multi-faceted — a sinister union of the U.S.’ ever-growing demand for fossil fuels and its ruthless push to reassert political dominance in Asia at China’s expense. As with other recent U.S.-led efforts to control globally strategic hydrocarbon flows, the cloak is a Saudi-funded insurgency that has sparked and continues to foment a brutal crackdown against a disadvantaged minority group. The goal is simple: to force Myanmar to choose between either the United States or China as a “strategic partner.”

Ultimately, the Rohingya are the latest pawns of the United States’ desperate attempts to cling to global dominance under the guise of “humanitarianism.” If U.S. interests are successful and oust the Chinese, the Rohingya will continue to suffer all the same. The only difference will be that their tormentors will answer to different masters.

Reprinted with permission from MintPressNews.]]> Fri, 22 Sep 2017 17:02:17 GMT
Hysteria in America: Congress Filled With ‘Totalitarians’ Who Oppose ‘Free Market of Ideas’ RT

There are members of Congress who don’t want anyone on TV saying America’s foreign policy is a disaster and it costs a fortune, Daniel McAdams, executive director, Ron Paul Institute, told RT. 

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2018, which passed the US Senate earlier this week, carries some added provisions that have little in common with the military.

Indeed, American legislators have published a bill that could potentially block Russian broadcasters from being shown in the US. It could allow US content providers to break their contracts, leaving Russian channels without any legal recourse.

The plan is buried inside a tiny amendment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The part about Russia is summarized in just a few lines, between details on funding of the US military.

Amendment No 1096, which aims to“prohibit multichannel video programming distributors from being required to carry certain video content that is owned or controlled by the Government of the Russian Federation”.

RT:  Why the focus on Russia, in what's supposed to be an annual defense spending bill?

Daniel McAdams: There is an obsession on Capitol Hill and within the mainstream media with RT because RT is effective and RT is watched. But also, and this is very important because RT carries perspectives that are not available in the mainstream media. Commentators on RT that I know would say the same thing that they say on RT if they were invited by any of the mainstream media, but they won’t. The matter of fact is that John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the people who were behind this amendment, the Atlantic Council and the others are trying to silence RT. They are the totalitarians, they are the enemies of free speech; they're the enemies of the First Amendment; they don’t want anyone coming on television saying that America’s foreign policy is a disaster; it is broken; it is making us more vulnerable to attack, and it’s costing a fortune. It cannot stand competition in the area of ideas.

RT:  As we mentioned, various foreign governments fund TV channels in America, but only Russia gets a mention in this bill. Is that a case of double-standards? Should the attention just solely be on Russia?

DM: The attention should be on none of these stations. It should be viewer beware. If you’re watching RT and you know that it is funded, or its funding comes from the Russian government, you take that into consideration just as any intelligent person would do. When I watch France 24, when I watch the BBC, I know that that takes the perspectives of the British government into consideration, because it is funded by that.

This is a free market of ideas; this is what this is all about. But the people on Capitol Hill are again totalitarians – they don’t want a free market in ideas. They want to control the debate. They don’t want Americans to wake up and see that the foreign policy that they are pushing is resulting in a charred Earth and a disaster that is coming home to roost.

RT:  Does it look like this measure has been deliberately buried in a huge defense bill to avoid scrutiny? Or do you expect debate on this?

DM: This is how it’s done, absolutely. I have read a million defense spending bills in my 15 years on the Hill. This is called planting a seed – you plant this kernel, and it starts to grow. If someone objects, later on, you can say – this is already passed in the defense bill; you’ve already voted on this; this is already part of the law; this is just suggesting, clarifying, or going further. This is how they do things: you bury it in a huge bill like this; you plant a seed and you watch it grow.

I don’t know the exact language in the bill; I am sure Russia is not only the flavor of the month, it is the flavor of the year. There is the ‘Investigate Russia’committee, where a bunch of Hollywood liberals got together with a bunch of neocons and are finding reds under our beds. There is a hysteria going on in America. I still would like to believe that the average American thinks it’s absolutely nuts; I hope it stays that way. Hopefully, this will blow over at some point, and not blow up….

Hollywood was once on the receiving end of McCarthyism in the 50s, and now it looks like they want to dish out McCarthyism on everyone else.

Reprinted with permission from RT.]]> Thu, 21 Sep 2017 20:50:57 GMT
Defense Secretary Mattis: US Cannot Survive On 'Puny' Military Budget Daniel McAdams
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Juggalo Blues: Their Beef With FBI No Laughing Matter James Bovard
Photo: James Bovard

Despite being billed as a showdown of competing political protests and rallies, the only political action on the streets of Washington this past weekend were the raging clowns. They did not come to beat Nazis or chase Pro-Trumpers off the Mall, the way the mainstream media suggested on Friday. Instead, thousands of Juggalos—ardent fans of the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) duo—assembled near the Lincoln Memorial to protest their vilification by Uncle Sam. They came to defend their honor—or at least try to get their record expunged.

In 2011, a Federal Bureau of Investigation National Gang Threat Assessment labeled the Juggalos as “a loosely-organized hybrid gang, rapidly expanding into many U.S. communities” and that “many Juggalos subsets exhibit gang-like behavior and engage in criminal activity and violence.”  But there were only sporadic reports of Juggalo-related criminality at that time—and nothing remotely comparable to notorious gangs such as MS-13 or the Crips and the Bloods.

The FBI report noted that “social networking websites are a popular conveyance for Juggalo sub-culture to communicate and expand.” This may be the real source of the feds’ ire. It is understandable why the Juggalos would make law enforcement nervous. The band’s logo is the Hatchetman. The band’s lyrics radiate homicidal hatred towards rednecks, anyone displaying a Confederate flag, and plenty of other targets. The pervasive profanity in ICP’s lyrics make George Carlin sound like a choir boy.

Although the band initially scoffed at the situation, the FBI gang designation quickly produced catastrophic results for its followers who suffered “job losses, dismissal from military service, eviction, lost child custody, and constant harassment” thanks to the Hatchetman logo on their clothing, cars, or elsewhere. Shaggy 2 Dope, one of the band’s two singers, complained last month: “We have trouble booking tours now, because no one wants gang-related shit. And if you do book a tour, it’s next to impossible to get people to insure it, because it’s a gang rally.”

In 2014, the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to overturn the gang designation, noting that “the Juggalos are fighting for the basic American right to freely express who they are,” and that “branding hundreds of thousands of music fans as gang members based on the acts of a few individuals defies logic and violates our most cherished of constitutional rights.” The case was initially dismissed by a judge, revived by an appeals court, slapped down again, and is currently back before an appeals court.

ICP feels they and their fans are being unjustly censored. As Violent J (Joseph Bruce), half of the duo, told the Juggalos on Saturday with typical ICP subtlety: “Taking away someone’s opinion is no different than sewing a man’s butthole shut.” The Juggalos responded by shouting “whoop whoop!” (a trademark for the band’s supporters) and “F**k that S**t!”

ICP got a bunch of ink last week because of its outcast, working class character and frenetic denunciations of racism and discrimination. They were all but called the anti-Alt-Right’s answer to the "deplorables." A headline noted, “Juggalos have become the darlings of the left and the new face of anti-racist activism.” An excited Twitterati smacked their lips in anticipation of an Antifa-Juggalo tag team against the Trump supporters gathered for the “mother of all” free speech rallies. An Antifa crew showed up on Saturday with a banner emblazoned, “GREAT LAKES ANTIFA.” One team member held up a sign proclaiming “Nazi Lives Don’t Matter” (a tricky sentiment when Antifa sometimes equates Donald Trump supporters with Nazis). The group struck some menacing poses for photographers and then wandered off, perhaps to re-apply some face paint. But most of the Juggalo attendees I spoke with were either unaware or unsupportive of Antifa’s antics in Berkeley or Boston.

Despite their tattoos, wacky hair styles, and violent slogans, the Juggalos at the rally were much friendlier than the typical attendees at a Washington formal dinner. As I was walking a mile from the event’s nearest Metro stop I saw a burly, long-haired 20-something guy wearing an oversized shirt with the slogan, “Merry Fu**in X-mas.” I asked if he was heading to the Juggalo event and he responded warily that he was. Maybe my press pass raised his defenses. It turned out he was from the distant Virginia suburbs and that his brother lived in my old hometown. I said that the locale was originally known as “Helltown” and James replied, “It still is.” I mentioned that I hadworked in the 1970s for the Virginia highway department heaving dead deer off the road and into the bushes near where his brother now lived.

My personal background was enough to get James to open up to me. He said he was not wearing face paint because he had heard that Virginia considered it a misdemeanor. He said he had been continually hassled by the police. Last year, he was driving home from his job when a cop lurking in his suburban neighborhood pulled him over. James asked why. “I could see that he was scanning my car looking for the pretext for having pulled me over,” James said. The cop eventually noticed that James had a small Hatchet Man metal logo dangling from his rearview mirror. James said that the state of Virginia prohibits anything hanging from rearview mirrors—even though pine-scented air fresheners are understandably pervasive in much of the state. He told me about another time when he was handcuffed for no reason simply because he was suspected of gang affiliations.

Some conservative media outlets, too, have portrayed Juggalos as leftists. Not this guy: He mentioned that he had a concealed carry permit in Virginia, but would never consider packing heat in Washington, D.C. He was a big supporter of the National Rifle Association and was aware of several of the recent firearm controversies. I asked if he considered himself somewhat of a libertarian. He replied, “I am my own person. I have my own beliefs.”

James typified the nonpolitical nature of Juggalos at the event. There were also plenty of non-Juggalos in attendance who wanted to defend free speech. Alyssa—an intense 30-something woman from Muskegon, Michigan—told me she was concerned about government abuses across the board, including mandatory vaccines, GMOs in the food, and chemicals in the air. She held a placard calling for “Equality 4 All Muther F**kers.”

Will the march clear Juggalos’ names? Shaggy 2 Dope is not sanguine, explaining last month that the march is “not to get our name off the gang list, because that’s never gonna happen. It’s just for us to stand up, and put our foot down, and say, ‘Yo, we’re not cool with being labeled this.’”

But the protest march has garnered a torrent of support for the Juggalos’ cause in the media, and the feds might actually be pressured into stopping the defamation of music lovers. Regardless of the outcome, it is refreshing to see Americans converge on Washington to demand a reduction in federal idiocy.

Reprinted with permission from The American Conservative.]]> Thu, 21 Sep 2017 13:48:35 GMT
The Worst Mistake in US History Jacob G. Hornberger

The worst mistake in US history was the conversion after World War II of the US government from a constitutional, limited-government republic to a national-security state. Nothing has done more to warp and distort the conscience, principles, and values of the American people, including those who serve in the US military.

A good example of how the national-security state has adversely affected the thinking of US soldiers was reflected in an op-ed entitled “What We’re Fighting For” that appeared in the February 10, 2017, issue of the New York Times. Authored by an Iraq War veteran named Phil Klay, the article demonstrates perfectly what the national-security state has done to soldiers and others and why it is so imperative for the American people to restore a constitutional republic to our land.

Klay begins his op-ed by extolling the exploits of another US Marine, First Lt. Brian Chontosh, who, displaying great bravery, succeeded in killing approximately two dozen Iraqis in a fierce firefight during the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Klay writes:
When I was a new Marine, just entering the Corps, this story from the Iraq invasion defined heroism for me. It’s a perfect image of war for inspiring new officer candidates, right in line with youthful notions of what war is and what kind of courage it takes — physical courage, full stop.
Klay then proceeds to tell a story about an event he witnessed when he was deployed to Iraq in 2007. After doctors failed to save the life of a Marine who had been shot by an Iraqi sniper, those same doctors proceeded to treat and save the life of the sniper, who himself had been shot by US troops. Klay used the story to point out the virtuous manner in which US forces carried out their military mission in Iraq.

Well, except perhaps, Klay observes, for Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison in which Saddam Hussein’s government had tortured and abused countless Iraqis and which the US military turned into its own torture and abuse center for Iraqis captured during the 2003 US invasion of the country. Klay tells the story of a defense contractor named Eric Fair, who tortured an Iraqi prisoner into divulging information about a car-bomb factory. Encouraged by that successful use of torture, Fair proceeded to employ it against many other Iraqis, none of whom had any incriminating evidence to provide.

Klay points out that both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay were major turning points in the Iraq War because prisoner abuse at both camps became a driving force for Iraqis to join the insurgency in Iraq. Thus, while Fair may have saved lives through his successful use of torture, he and other US personnel who tortured and abused people at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay may well have cost the lives of many more US soldiers in the long term.

Klay, however, suggests that none of that was really Fair’s fault. While he might have crossed some moral lines, everything he did, Klay suggests, was in accordance with legal rules and regulations. Klay writes:
And Eric did what our nation asked of him, used techniques that were vetted and approved and passed down to intelligence operatives and contractors like himself. Lawyers at the highest levels of government had been consulted, asked to bring us to the furthest edge of what the law might allow. To do what it takes, regardless of whether such actions will secure the “attachment of all good men,” or live up to that oath we swear to support and defend the Constitution.
Klay refers to the oath that US soldiers take to support and defend the Constitution. Clearly patting himself and other members of the US military on the back, he says US soldiers fight with honor to defend a “set of principles” that are reflected in the Constitution and that define America.

It would be difficult to find a better example of a life of the lie than that of Phil Klay. He provides an absolutely perfect demonstration of what a national-security state does to soldiers’ minds and why the Founding Fathers were so opposed to that type of governmental structure.

The rights of invaders

Notice one big omission from Klay’s self-aggrandizing article: Iraq never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. Instead, it was the U.S government, operating through its troops, that was the aggressor nation in the Iraq War. Wars of aggression — i.e., attacking, invading, and occupying other countries — were among the crimes of which the defendants at Nuremburg were convicted.

It is absolutely fascinating that that critically important point seems to escape Klay so completely. It’s as if it just doesn’t exist or just doesn’t count. His mindset simply begins with the fact that US troops are engaged in war and then it proceeds from there to focus on the courage and humanity of the troops, how their bravery in battle inspired him, and how they treated the enemy humanely. It never occurs to him to ask the vital question: Did US troops have any legal or moral right to be in Iraq and to kill anyone there, including Iraqi soldiers, insurgents, civilians, and civil servants working for the Iraqi government?

Many years ago, I posed a question about the US invasion and occupation of Iraq to a libertarian friend of mine who was a Catholic priest. I asked him, If a US soldier is placed in Iraq in a kill-or-be-killed situation, does he have a right to fire back at an Iraqi who is shooting at him?

My friend’s answer was unequivocal: Absolutely not, he responded. Since he has no legitimate right to be in Iraq, given that he is part of the aggressor force that initiated the war, under God’s laws he cannot kill anyone, not even by convincing himself that he is only acting in “self-defense.”

I responded, “Are you saying that his only choice is to run away or permit himself to be killed”? He responded, “That is precisely what I am saying. Under the laws of God, he cannot kill anyone in Iraq because he has no right to be there.”

Suppose a burglar enters a person’s home in the dead of night. The homeowner wakes up, discovers the intruder, and begins firing at him. The burglar fires back and kills the homeowner.

The burglar appears in court and explains that he never had any intention of killing the homeowner and that he was simply firing back in self-defense. He might even explain to the judge how bravely he reacted under fire and detail the clever manner in which he outmaneuvered and shot the homeowner.

The judge, however, would reject any claim of self-defense on the part of the burglar. Why? Because the burglar had no right to be in the homeowner’s house. Like the US soldier in Iraq, when the homeowner began firing the burglar had only two legal and moral options: run away or be killed.

That’s what my Catholic priest friend was pointing out about US soldiers in Iraq. They had no right to be there. They invaded a poor, Third World country whose government had never attacked the United States and they were killing, torturing, and abusing people whom they had no right to kill, torture, or abuse.

That’s what Klay as well as most other members of the US military and, for that matter, many Americans still don’t get: that the Iraqi people were the ones who wielded the right of self-defense against an illegal invasion by a foreign power and that US forces, as the aggressor power in the war, had no legal or moral right to kill any Iraqi, not even in “self-defense.”

Klay waxes eloquent about the US Constitution and the oath that soldiers take to support and defend it, but it’s really just another perfect demonstration of the life of the lie that he and so many other US soldiers live. The reality is that when US soldiers vow to support and defend the Constitution, as a practical matter they are vowing to loyally obey the orders and commands of the president, who is their military commander in chief.

There is no better example of this phenomenon than what happened in Iraq. The US. Constitution is clear: The president is prohibited from waging war without a declaration of war from Congress. No declaration, no war. Every US soldier ordered to invade Iraq knew that or should have known that.

Everyone, including the troops, also knew that Congress had not declared war on Iraq. Yet, not a single soldier supported or defended the Constitution by refusing George Bush’s order to attack and invade Iraq. Every one of them loyally obeyed his order to attack and invade, knowing full well that it would mean killing people in Iraq — killing people who had never attacked the United States. And they all convinced themselves that by following the president’s orders to invade Iraq and kill Iraqis, they were supporting and defending the Constitution.

How do US soldiers reconcile that? They convince themselves that they are supporting and defending the Constitution by obeying the orders of the president, who has been democratically elected by the citizenry. It’s not their job, they tell themselves, to determine what is constitutional and what isn’t. Their job, they believe, is simply to do what the president, operating through his subordinates, orders them to do. In their minds, they are supporting and defending the Constitution whenever they loyally and obediently carry out the orders of the president.

That means, then, that the standing army is nothing more than the president’s private army. As a practical matter, soldiers are going to do whatever they are ordered to do. If they don’t, they are quickly shot or simply replaced, which provides a good incentive for others to do as they are told. That’s why soldiers invaded Iraq, which had never attacked the United States, and killed people who were defending their country against an unlawful invasion. That’s also why soldiers and defense contractors tortured and abused people at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere. They all believed they were carrying out the orders of their superiors, from the president on down, and that they were supporting and defending the Constitution in the process.

As people throughout history have learned, that is also why a standing army constitutes such a grave threat to the freedom and well-being of the citizenry. It is the means by which a tyrant imposes and enforces his will on the citizenry. Just ask the people of Chile, where the troops of a military regime installed into power by the US national-security establishment rounded up tens of thousands of innocent people and incarcerated, tortured, raped, abused, or executed them, all without due process of law and with the support of the US government.

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, I read that some Catholic soldiers were deeply troubled by the prospect of killing people in a war that the US government was initiating. I was stunned to read that a US military chaplain told them that they had the right under God’s laws to obey the president’s order to invade Iraq and kill Iraqis. God would not hold it against them, he said, if they killed people in the process of following orders.

Really? Are God’s laws really nullified by the orders of a government’s military commander? If that were the case, don’t you think God’s commandment would have read: “Thou shalt not kill, unless your ruler orders you to do so in a war of aggression against another nation”?

To this day, there are those who claim that George W. Bush simply made an honest mistake in claiming that Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s dictator, was maintaining weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that US soldiers were justified in trusting him by loyally obeying his orders to invade and occupy Iraq to “disarm Saddam.”

They ignore three important points: it was a distinct possibility that Bush and his people were simply lying. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a president had lied in order to garner support for a war. Lyndon Johnson’s lies regarding a supposed North Vietnamese attack on US warships in the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam come to mind. Two, Bush didn’t secure the constitutionally required congressional declaration of war, most likely because he knew that congressional hearings on the issue would expose his WMD scare for the lie it was. And three, only the UN, not the US government, was entitled to enforce its resolutions regarding Iraq’s WMDs.

Moreover, the circumstantial evidence establishes that Bush was lying and that the WMD scare was entirely bogus. Many people forget that throughout the 1990s the US government was hell-bent on regime change in Iraq. That’s what the brutal sanctions were all about, which contributed to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children. When US Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright was asked on Sixty Minutes whether the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it,” she responded that such deaths were “worth it.” By “it,” she was referring to regime change.

That desire for regime change in Iraq grew with each passing year in the 1990s, both among liberals and conservatives. Demands were ever growing to get rid of Saddam. Therefore, when Bush started coming up with his WMD scare after the 9/11 attacks, everyone should have been wary because it had all the earmarks of an excuse to invade Iraq after more than 10 years of sanctions had failed to achieve the job.

The best circumstantial evidence that Bush lied about the WMD scare appeared after it was determined that there were no WMDs in Iraq. At that point, if Bush had been telling the truth, he could have said, “I’m very sorry. I have made a grave mistake and my army has killed multitudes of people as a consequence of my mistake. I am hereby ordering all US troops home and I hereby announce my resignation as president.”

Bush didn’t do that. In fact, he expressed not one iota of remorse or regret over the loss of life for what supposedly had been the result of a mistake. He knew that he had achieved what the US national-security state had been trying to achieve for more than a decade with its brutal sanctions — regime change in Iraq — and he had used the bogus WMD scare to garner support for his invasion. And significantly, the troops were kept occupying Iraq for several more years, during which they killed more tens of thousands of Iraqis.

One thing is for sure: By the time Phil Klay arrived in Iraq in 2007, he knew full well that there had been no WMDs in Iraq. He also knew that Iraq had never attacked the United States. By that time, he knew full well that the US government had invaded a country under false or, at the very least, mistaken pretenses. He knew there had been no congressional declaration of war. He knew that there was no legal or moral foundation for a military occupation that was continuing to kill people in an impoverished Third World country whose worst “crime” was simply trying to rid their country of an illegal occupier.

Yet, reinforced by people who were thanking them for “their service in Iraq,” Klay, like other US troops, convinced himself that their “service” in Iraq was a grand and glorious sacrifice for his nation, that they were defending Americans’ rights and freedoms, and that they were keeping us safe. It was a classic life of the lie because our nation, our rights and freedoms, and our safety were never threatened by anyone in Iraq, including the millions of Iraqis who were killed, maimed, injured, tortured, abused, or exiled, or whose homes, businesses, or infrastructure were destroyed by bombs, missiles, bullets, and tanks.

In fact, the entity that actually threatened the rights and freedoms of the American people was the US government, given the totalitarian-like powers that it assumed as part of its effort to keep us safe from the enemies its interventionist policies were producing. Coming to mind are the totalitarian-like power to assassinate Americans, secret mass surveillance, and the incarceration and torture of American citizens as suspected terrorists — all without due process of law and without trial by jury.

This is what a national-security state does to people — it warps, damages, or destroys their conscience, principles, and values; induces them to subscribe to false bromides; and nurtures all sorts of mental contortions to enable people to avoid confronting reality.

Many years after Brian Chontosh’s exploits in Iraq, Phil Klay was surprised to learn that Chontosh was experiencing some ambivalence about what he had done. “It’s ugly, it’s violent, it’s disgusting. I wish it wasn’t part of what we had to do,” Chontosh later wrote.

Perhaps that’s because conscience was beginning to stir within him. That’s a good sign. Maybe it will begin to stir in Phil Klay too. And other members of the military as well.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:26:15 GMT
Trump's UN Speech: A Neocon Dream? Daniel McAdams
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US Sanctions Against Venezuela Will Hurt Americans Ryan McMaken

After fifty years of imposing embargoes and other sanctions, the United States never managed to topple Cuba's communist regime. After forty years of the same in Iran, the US met with similar amounts of success. Ongoing sanctions against North Korea have not toppled to regime there. 

But, some people in Washington won't let decades of failure dissuade them.

Last week, Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) introduced new legislation to bar Americans from importing oil products from Venezuela. The Washington Examiner reports
[T]he Protecting Against Tyranny and Responsible Imports Act, or the PATRIA Act ... would target Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after he stripped the country's democratically elected national assembly of its power and authority. According to the bill, the proposed ban on imports would last until the assembly's power is fully restored.

'The goal is to change the conduct, the character of the Venezuelan government under Maduro. I think the window is closing,' Coffman told the Washington Examiner. 'They are dependent upon the export of oil really to fund their government, and without that, they can't pay their security forces.'
Experience suggests there is little reason to believe that sanctions will cause the regime to give up in Venezuela. If the regime has less oil money with which to pay the military, the regime can always steal more from the average citizen to make up the difference. In other words, ordinary Venezuelans will suffer more in response to US sanctions. 

Moreover, aggressive moves such as these against the Venezuelan regime have tended to only solidify support for the regime among its supporters. Both the current president Maduro, and his predecessor Hugo Chávez, were both successful in building support for themselves on a platform of opposing US meddling in Venezuelan political and economic institutions. 

When the US threatens to intervene in local politics, this only strengthens the resolve and support of the regime's supporters.

The US has already been acting in a reckless manner in this regard, as illustrated by President Donald Trump's recent speculations about invading Venezuela to effect regime change. As noted by Daniel Politi at Slate, American threats directed at the Venezuelan regime do nothing to help the opposition:
Throughout his power grab that has accompanied Venezuela’s descent into chaos, Maduro has long warned the United States was planning to invade the country. Trump’s words seemed to play straight into his narrative, recalling a time when Washington saw Latin America as its backyard where it could intimidate governments into doing its bidding. 'Maduro must be thrilled right now,' said Mark Feierstein, who was a senior aide on Venezuela to former president Barack Obama. 'It's hard to imagine a more damaging thing for Trump to say.'
Similarly, threatening Venezuela with more sanctions — something that may make the regime even more violent and desperate — do nothing to help the Venezuelan people in general, and only energize the regime's base.

Coffman claims the sanctions would be lifted if the Venezuelan regime were to restore the prerogatives and power of the national legislature, which has essentially been disbanded by Maduro.

In recent months, the Venezuelan regime has rapidly become more dictatorial as forces loyal to Maduro have increasingly clamped down on opposition politicians and essentially ignored the results of recent elections that have brought many opposition leaders to power in the National Assembly.

The working philosophy here, apparently, is that the imposition of sanctions will force the Venezuelan regime to democratize in response. One would be hard pressed to find examples of similar tactics actually working, however.

More astute observers might also ask why — if Coffman is so committed to democracy — he hasn't called for similar embargoes of Saudi Arabian oil. The Saudi regime, of course, has been a dictatorship ever since its founding, sponsors international terrorism, and tolerates no religious freedom or freedom of speech. The Saudi regime, for instance, routinely arrests critics of the regime, and the regime's spokesman has outright denied that elections should be allowed in Saudi Arabia.

If human rights are of such pressing concern to the Congressman, its unclear why Venezuela is at the top of the sanctions list. 

As with any discussion of sanctions, of course, we need not even consider the strategic futility of sanctions, or the morality of foreign regimes.

Far from being a matter only of concern to foreigners, US sanctions are built on the cornerstone of limiting the freedoms of Americans.

As I noted earlier in regards to the Cuban embargo
[S]upporting an embargo means supporting the government when it fines, prosecutes, and jails peaceful citizens who attempt to engage in truly free trade. Support for an embargo also requires support for a customs bureaucracy that spies on merchants and consumers, and the whole panoply of enforcement programs necessary to punish those who run afoul of the government’s arbitrary pronouncements on what kind of trade is acceptable, and what kind is verboten. Naturally, this is all paid for by the taxpayers...

At their heart, embargoes are nothing but a specific type of prohibition. Sometimes, the government imposes prohibitions on transactions involving certain goods, such as cannabis. Other times, the prohibition extends to all transactions with people in a certain place. The fundamentals are the same, however, in that they prohibit peaceful exchange, with heavy penalties for violators.
In the case of a new embargo against Venezuela, the effect would be to place prohibitions on American importers, and thus drive up prices for oil and energy for all Americans. Government bureaucrats would be dispatched to monitor private industry to make sure they don't violate the prohibitions. Government agents will impose fines, and make arrests if necessary. The American government will become more powerful at the expense of American consumers and American taxpayers.

Indeed, this has already been going on with smaller-scale sanctions imposed by the Trump administration against Citgo oil refineries. Thanks to the sanctions, Citgo refineries in the US, which constitute four percent of American fuel capacity, and which employ American workers, are finding it more costly to obtain the oil they need for the refineries. Both domestic and foreign suppliers must scramble to work around the new regulations in order to avoid fines and lawsuits from government regulators who oversee trade. The effect of this will be to put pressure on more marginal employees and on more marginal operations, leading to layoffs and diminished refining capacity. Ultimately, it is Americans who will pay the price.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Wed, 20 Sep 2017 13:03:35 GMT
Let Catalonia Decide

Should Catalonia be independent?

Surely Catalans, and nobody else, must answer that question. Some Catalans consider themselves Spanish and some don’t. Many Spaniards consider Catalonia part of Spain, while some don’t. But it’s clear that a significant number of Catalans feel politically conquered, and resent it. Why should they live under a Spanish government, when their history, culture, and language are not Spanish?

It’s a fair question, and one for which western democracies have no easy answer. If democratic voting is sacrosanct, are the results also sacrosanct, whatever the outcome? Do democrats really want democracy?

Ludwig von Mises summed up the problem succinctly in Liberalism1:
The situation of having to belong to a state to which one does not wish to belong is no less onerous if it is the result of an election than if one must endure it as the consequence of a military conquest.
Surely many Hillary Clinton voters in the United States feel this way today. They don’t consider Trump a legitimate president (even aside from the electoral college issue), and are not particularly interested in respecting election results or the views of Trump voters. They feel “their” government not only does not represent them, but is actively hostile toward them.

They feel, in short, like many Catalans.

Understanding any region’s local politics and history is always a dangerous proposition for outsiders. Catalonia has a messy and complex past, dating back to the late 15th century and the nascent Kingdom of Spain. Momentum for independence from Madrid gathered throughout the 20th century, culminating in a 2014 referendum which the Spanish central government attempted to block in court. Over 80 percent of voters supported independence, yet only about a third of Catalans participated in the vote. It is unclear whether a scheduled October 1st vote on a new referendum will happen, given the possibility of Spanish criminal charges against the Catalan politicians behind it.

Should Secession Be Allowed for Groups We Disagree With? 

There are also very serious questions about what an independent Catalonia would mean, not only for economically wobbly Spain but also neighboring France and the EU.

Marta Hidalgo, a Spanish financial adviser and 2017 Mises University graduate, argues that Catalonia is Spain. She questions the region’s historical claims to independence, arguing that Catalan nationalism has been fraught with propaganda from those seeking to make a political movement out of a minority sentiment. She also points out that Spain is Catalonia’s principal market, propping up the Catalan economy through duties and tariffs on (otherwise) cheaper and better imports from England or Germany. And she stresses polls showing only about 2 million out of 7.5 million Catalans support secession.

But these arguments don’t address the fundamental underlying issue of self-determination. Should Catalans be allowed to make their own decisions, even if those decisions are “bad,” and we (or Spain or the EU) disagree with them?

Yes, some people would be worse off under an independent Catalan state — assuming Ms. Hidalgo is correct. But by the same token, some Spaniards may be objectively better off as a result of becoming unyoked politically from Catalonia. It’s a complex factual question, and both sides have arguments.

But whether an independent Catalonia would be better off or worse off is highly subjective, and simply not for us to decide.

Self-Determination Is the Highest Political End

For libertarians, self-determination is the highest political end. In political terms, self-determination is liberty. In an ideal world, self-determination extends all the way to the individual, who enjoys complete political sovereignty over his or her life. The often misued term for this degree of complete self-determination is anarchy.

In an imperfect world, however, libertarians should support smaller and more decentralized governments as a pragmatic step toward greater liberty. Our goal should be to devolve political power whenever possible, making states less powerful and easier to avoid. Barcelona is less ominous than Madrid. The Legislature in a US state is less fearsome than Congress in Washington DC. Street gangs are bad, but they can be avoided in ways Uncle Sam cannot.

Ultimately, the argument in favor of Catalonian independence mirrors the argument for Scottish independence in 2014:
Some … libertarians claimed that we should oppose the referendum on the grounds that it would create a new government, and thus two states would exist in the place of one. But reducing the size and scope of any single state’s dominion is healthy for liberty, because it leads us closer to the ultimate goal of self-determination at the individual level, to granting each of us sovereignty over our lives. It’s always good to reduce the number of individuals over which any government asserts authority.

Furthermore, some conservatives argue that we should not support secession movements where the breakaway movement is likely to create a government that is more “liberal” than the one it replaces. This was the case in Scotland, where younger Scots who supported the independence referendum in greater numbers hoped to create strong ties with the EU parliament in Brussels and build a Scandinavian-style welfare state run from Holyrood (never mind that Tories in London were overjoyed at the prospect of jettisoning a huge number of Labour supporters!).

But if support for the principle of self-determination is to have any meaning whatsoever, it must allow for others to make decisions with which we disagree. Political competition can only benefit all of us. What neither progressives nor conservatives understand — or worse, maybe they do understand — is that secession provides a mechanism for real diversity, a world where we are not all yoked together. It provides a way for people with widely divergent views and interests to live peaceably as neighbors instead of suffering under one commanding central government that pits them against each other.
So let Catalonia go, if it chooses.

Reprinted with permission from the Mises Institute.]]> Wed, 20 Sep 2017 12:39:17 GMT
The US Has New Red Line in Syria — And It’s...Ridiculous! Darius Shahtahmasebi

In its latest breach of international law, the U.S. is unilaterally attempting to prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming its own territory. From Reuters:
US-backed Syrian militias will not let government forces cross the Euphrates River in their bid to recover eastern Syria, their commander said on Friday, but Russia said army units had already done so near the city of Deir al-Zor.
Reuters notes that Russia is involved in this particular part of Syria, bolstering the Syrian Arab Army and its allies with air power.

According to Reuters, an aide to Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, said the government would fight any force that comes within its path, including U.S.-backed forces. According to Deir ez-Zor military council commander Ahmed Abu Khawla, who fights under the banner of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF):
Now we have 3 km between us and the eastern riverbank, once our forces reach the area, any shot fired into that area we will consider an attack on the military council.
He added:
We have notified the regime and Russia that we are coming to the Euphrates riverbank, and they can see our forces advancing…We do not allow the regime or its militias to cross to the eastern riverbank.
The “Deir ez-Zor military council” was established under the banner of the US-backed SDF as recently as December 2016. This was arguably a poor attempt to legitimize Washington’s aspirations for the oil-rich region. In actuality, 4,000 fighters backed by foreign powers can hardly be a more legitimate force than the current Syrian government and its forces, but as is usually the case, the United States is not remotely concerned with the legality of this current strategy.

According to Reuters, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the SAA had already crossed the Euphrates, making a difficult scenario for America’s ambitions in the region. Not only is the Syrian army ignoring Washington’s directions, Russia is apparently unfazed by these developments, as well.

Unsurprisingly, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov just held aphone call to discuss Syria, presumably to try to come to some agreement about the partition of the region.

Why Russia and Syria should concede Syrian territory to the US and its allies has not been made clear given the land belongs to Syria in the first place. The corporate media’s longstanding anti-Assad narrative was undermined when the U.N. reported that 500,000 Syrians had begun returning home to areas liberated by the Syrian army in the first half of 2017 alone.

The U.S. media has also downplayed the fact that Russia is backing one side of this conflict and the US is backing another — even though this emerging conflict puts 900 US personnel directly at risk. What happens if and when the Syrian army decides it wants to defend itself from the U.S.-backed forces? Will the Russian and American air forces collide – or will the situation be successfully de-escalated?

That is a question no one seems prepared to answer — and that no one is even willing to discuss. The ‘trusted’ media outlets who do touch on the issue tend to fully support the United States’ bid to interfere further in Syria.

Reprinted with permission from The Anti-Media.]]> Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:46:23 GMT
President Trump To Unleash The CIA Drones Daniel McAdams
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Korea Solution Needs US to Sign a Peace Treaty Finian Cunningham

Germany and France have backed the stance of Russia and China for negotiations to avert the Korea crisis. South Korea and Japan also seem to be amenable to recent calls by Russian President Vladimir Putin for exclusively diplomatic efforts. Any other option in the alarming standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program portends disaster. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has endorsed the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran as a model for possible negotiations.

That puts the United States on the margin of international consensus, with its repeated threats to use military force as an option against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).

Last week, following another North Korean ballistic missile test that overflew Japan, US President Donald Trump’s top national security adviser reiterated Washington’s self-declared right to use pre-emptive military force, tacitly including the deployment of nuclear weapons.

"For those who have been commenting on a lack of a military option, there is a military option," said General HR McMaster to reporters in Washington.

While McMaster and President Trump, as well as Pentagon chief James Mattis, have said on other occasions that the US would prefer to seek a diplomatic solution to the Korea crisis, such purported preferences do not inspire confidence.

For a start, the whole doctrine of "pre-emptive" or "preventive" war is a violation of international law, if not outrightly criminal. The concept was earlier formulated by Nazi Germany as a pretext for aggression, and was duly criminalized at the Nuremberg Trials. Today, the United States stands alone as the only nation to invoke the self-declared prerogative to use military violence in "self-defense."

Also, when Washington talks about a "diplomatic solution" what it is referring to is a unilateral "denuclearization" by North Korea. There is absolutely no indication from the US that it reciprocates a responsibility to stand down its "overwhelming" military power aimed at the Korean Peninsula. Thus, what Washington means by "peace" is a one-sided surrender by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

For this reason, international calls for diplomacy and negotiations have to be underpinned by a proper foundational premise.

The proper starting point is for the US to finally sign a full peace treaty with North Korea to mark the definitive end of the Korean War. It seems almost bizarre that 64 years after the end of that war (1950-53), the US refuses to commit to a peace treaty. The matter is hardly permitted into public discourse by the US government and Western news media. Even though the issue is key to finding a peaceful solution.

The absence of a binding peace settlement means that, technically, the US and North Korea still view each other at being in a state of war. This gives profound substance to North Korea’s existential fears over the US continually conducting "war games" around the peninsula.

Former US President Jimmy Carter and former US ambassador to South Korea James Laney have both recognized the fundamental onus on Washington of now, at last, having to abide by international norms towards Korea.

The US-based Campaign to End the Korean War quotes ambassador Laney as saying: "One of the things that have bedeviled all talks until now is the unresolved status of the Korean War. A peace treaty would provide a baseline for relationships, eliminating the question of the other’s legitimacy and its right to exist. Absent such a peace treaty, every dispute presents afresh the question of the other side’s legitimacy. Only with a treaty in place will both sides be relieved of the political demand to see each move as conferring approval or not."

Nevertheless, despite these reasonable voices from within the US, the dominant position of Washington is one of strong-arming North Korea  to capitulate to American demands – or face the threat of catastrophic military force.

Such an American position is totally unacceptable to international norms. Russia, China and Europe must take a firm stand and let Washington know in no uncertain terms that its unilateralism is unacceptable, and at worst, a reckless collision course for a nuclear war.

Diplomats from Russia and China last week both condemned US threats of violence against North Korea, as well as censuring Pyongyang for its missile tests.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, pointed out that the latest UN resolution 2375 voted on September 11 explicitly calls on all parties, including the United States, to re-engage in multilateral talks. Those talks involving North Korea were abandoned during the GW Bush administration more than a decade ago. How is that dereliction of diplomacy by Washington even remotely acceptable?

But, again, the push for diplomacy and negotiations must be founded on a proper and viable premise.

This is where German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal to pursue a P5+1 formula comes unstuck. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in July 2015 between the US, Russia, China, Europe and Iran has been continually undermined by the Trump administration.

Iran committed to stringent limits on its nuclear energy program in return for sanctions relief. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has filed seven reports since January 2016 confirming Iran’s full compliance with the JCPOA.

Yet, the Trump administration is threatening to scrap its participation in the internationally binding nuclear accord with Iran. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made the wholly irrational claim that Iran’s "technical compliance" with the JCPOA is not enough. He and US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, have said that Iran "is not living up to the spirit of the deal." Absurdly, Washington is claiming that Iran’s support for the Syrian state in its war to defeat US-backed terror groups is grounds for resiling from the JCPOA.

President Trump has called it the "worst deal ever." He said that a White House review due next month may finally signal the US walking away from it. If that happens, Washington will be able to reimpose sanctions on Iran, and extend those sanctions to Europe, Russia and China for doing legitimate business with the Islamic Republic.

Clearly, the US rulers cannot be trusted. If they cannot comply with obligations under an international legal agreement, which has been ratified by the UN Security Council, then any residual trust in US diplomacy is completely shattered.

North Korea has no doubt taken note of the US bad faith over Iran. Pyongyang has already pointed to the grim fate of Iraq and Libya which were invaded and destroyed by the US when it became evident neither possessed chemical or nuclear weapons.

Western corporate news media tend to portray North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as "crazy." The reality is that Kim would be crazy if he were to somehow surrender the country’s nuclear weapons under prevailing conditions.

Washington’s hints at diplomacy are threadbare and have no credibility. Any proposed negotiations to genuinely resolve the Korean crisis must start with the US signing a peace treaty with North Korea and foreswearing the use of any military force. Any other format is bereft of confidence building, as the Iranian nuclear deal is unfortunately showing.

A declaration by the US that the Korean War is over is a bare minimum requirement in order to begin peace and security talks. Even then it still not failsafe given Washington’s perfidy.

However, anything less than a peace treaty signed by the US is not feasible to end the spiral of conflict over Korea.

Incredible as it seems, the demand on the US is to simply abide by international law and to stop using aggression as a foreign policy. How damning is that.

Reprinted with permission from the Strategic Culture Foundation.]]> Tue, 19 Sep 2017 13:18:28 GMT
Scandal: The Pentagon's $2 Billion Underground Syria Weapons Pipeline Daniel McAdams investigative report exposes the lies and illegality of the purchases and shipments; several mainstream investigations corroborate the Bulgarian report. Investigative Reporter Dilyana Gaytandzhieva joins the Liberty Report to explain her findings -- and why they got her interrogated and fired:

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America’s Slow-Motion Military Coup Stephen Kinzer

In a democracy, no one should be comforted to hear that generals have imposed discipline on an elected head of state. That was never supposed to happen in the United States. Now it has.

Among the most enduring political images of the 20th century was the military junta. It was a group of grim-faced officers — usually three — who rose to control a state. The junta would tolerate civilian institutions that agreed to remain subservient, but in the end enforced its own will. As recently as a few decades ago, military juntas ruled important countries including Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Greece.

These days the junta system is making a comeback in, of all places, Washington. Ultimate power to shape American foreign and security policy has fallen into the hands of three military men: General James Mattis, the secretary of defense; General John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff; and General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser. They do not put on their ribbons to review military parades or dispatch death squads to kill opponents, as members of old-style juntas did. Yet their emergence reflects a new stage in the erosion of our political norms and the militarization of our foreign policy. Another veil is dropping.

Given the president’s ignorance of world affairs, the emergence of a military junta in Washington may seem like welcome relief. After all, its three members are mature adults with global experience — unlike Trump and some of the wacky political operatives who surrounded him when he moved into the White House. Already they have exerted a stabilizing influence. Mattis refuses to join the rush to bomb North Korea, Kelly has imposed a measure of order on the White House staff, and McMaster pointedly distanced himself from Trump’s praise for white nationalists after the violence in Charlottesville.

Being ruled by generals seems preferable to the alternative. It isn’t.

Military officers, like all of us, are products of their background and environment. The three members of Trump’s junta have 119 years of uniformed service between them. They naturally see the world from a military perspective and conceive military solutions to its problems. That leads toward a distorted set of national priorities, with military “needs” always rated more important than domestic ones.

Fair use excerpt. Read the rest here.]]> Mon, 18 Sep 2017 13:50:02 GMT
Rand Paul's Senate Vote Rolls Back the Warfare State Ron Paul

Last week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) reminded Congress that in matters of war, they have the authority and the responsibility to speak for the American people. Most Senators were not too happy about the reminder, which came in the form of a forced vote on whether to allow a vote on his amendment to repeal the Afghanistan and Iraq war resolutions of 2001 and 2002.

It wasn’t easy. Sen. Paul had to jump through hoops just to get a vote on whether to have a vote.

That is how bad it is in Congress! Not only does Congress refuse to rein in presidents who treat Constitutional constraints on their war authority as mere suggestions rather than as the law of the land, Congress doesn’t even want to be reminded that they alone have war authority.

Congress doesn’t even want to vote on whether to vote on war!

In the end, Sen. Paul did not back down and he got his vote. Frankly, I was more than a little surprised that nearly 40 percent of the Senate voted with Rand to allow a vote on repealing authority for the two longest wars in US history. I expected less than a dozen “no” votes on tabling the amendment and was very pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Last week, Rand said, "I don't think that anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty believes that these authorizations from 16 years ago and 14 years ago ... authorized war in seven different countries."

Are more Senators starting to see the wars his way? We can only hope so. As polls continue to demonstrate, the American people have grown tired of our interventionist foreign policy, which burns through trillions of dollars while making the world a more dangerous place rather than a safer place.

Some might argue that losing the vote was a defeat. I would disagree. For the first time in years we saw US Senators on the Senate Floor debating whether the president should have authority to take the US to war anywhere he pleases. Even with just the small number of votes I thought we might have gotten on the matter, that alone would have been a great victory. But getting almost 40 percent of the Senate to vote our way? I call that a very good start!

The first step toward rebalancing the separation of powers is for Congress to re-assert its authority and responsibility for declaring war. To this point, Congress has preferred to transfer its war responsibility to the president.

The second step, once Congress understands its obligations, is to convince our representatives that war was not designed to be the first choice in foreign policy, but rather to be the last resort when we are under attack or when a direct attack is imminent!

Just because Congress decides to approve the use of force does not mean that the war is just, justified, or wise. Congress is just as susceptible to war propaganda as the rest of America and unfortunately it is dominated by the false opinion that if you are not enthusiastic about US military solutions to disputes overseas then you are not being tough enough. In fact, it takes far more strength to exercise restraint in the face of the constant war propaganda and disinformation coming from the media and the neocons.

We have achieved a small victory last week, thanks to Senator Paul. But we still have a lot of work to do! We must keep the pressure on and convert more to the cause of peace and prosperity!]]> Mon, 18 Sep 2017 12:42:43 GMT
Accused of War Crimes, Saudis Investigate Themselves and Find No Wrongdoing Carey Wedler

Amid international calls for an independent inquiry into Saudi war crimes in Yemen, the Kingdom has investigated itself and found it has done nothing wrong.

Countries including China, the Netherlands, and Canada have pushed forward with a U.N. Human Rights Council draft resolution to establish an independent investigation into Saudi war crimes against civilians in the small war-torn nation of Yemen.

This week, Human Rights Watch also accused the coalition of committing war crimes.

Though these allegations have been circulating and documented for years, little has been done to stop the Saudi attacks, and the Saudis and their U.S. and Arab allies have worked to undermine efforts to uncover wrongdoing.

“The minimal efforts made towards accountability over the past year are insufficient to respond to the gravity of the continuing and daily violations involved in this conflict,” U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said in Geneva this week.

The U.N. has documented 5,144 civilian deaths, mainly from the Saudi-led coalition.

The Saudis said they did not object to the current push for an inquiry but claimed it was bad timing. According to Abdulaziz al-Wasil, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Geneva:
We have no objection (to) the inquiry itself, we just have a discussion about the timing.Whether this is the right time to establish an international commission with the difficulties on the ground, and we knew in advance that they will face tremendous obstacles in terms of access.
In the meantime, the Saudi government has set up its own panel to investigate potential war crimes and misconduct. Reuters reported on the Saudi panel’s findings, noting it concluded that “a series of deadly air strikes largely [was] justified, citing the presence of armed militiamen at the homes, schools and clinics that were targeted.”

Reuters continued:
The Joint Incidents Assessment Team said on Tuesday it had discovered mistakes in only three of 15 incidents it reviewed, and maintained the coalition had acted in accordance with international humanitarian law. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has long been running the coalition fighting in Yemen as the country’s defense minister, a title he still retains.
The panel’s legal advisor, Mansour Ahmed al-Mansour, told journalists this week that, in one example, the Saudi coalition struck a water welling drill after mistaking it for a ballistic missile launcher.

However, the Saudis have been criticized for their longstanding pattern of targeting critical infrastructures such as agriculture, warehouses, and hospitals – in far more than just fifteen incidents. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) claimed in early 2016 that the Saudis had attacked hospitals in more than 100 incidents, ultimately scaring Yemenis away from seeking medical help. The coalition has also been implicated in the cholera epidemic that has infected over half a million people since April.

The United States and the United Kingdom are complicit in this targeting of Yemen, which the Saudis view as a proxy war against Iran as they attempt to reinstate a former ruler who was ousted by Houthi rebels, a group they are now fighting. There is minimal evidence that Iran is backing the Houthis.

In addition to arming the Saudis with billions of dollars worth of weapons, which are being used to commit the alleged war crimes in Yemen, the western nations have military officials in the Saudi command room in control of air strikes.

British officials even schemed with the Saudis to paradoxically secure the repressive regime a spot on the U.N.’s human rights council. The U.S. remains a staunch Saudi backer at the U.N., as well, expressing opposition to the independent inquiry introduced this week.

Like the Saudis, the U.S. has brushed off civilian casualties at the hands of their military. In accusing the Saudis of war crimes this week, Human Rights Watch also called on U.S. lawmakers to curb the killing. They wrote:
So far, the US government has been content to keep the weapons to Riyadh flowing so long as Saudi Arabia pretends it’s been fighting a clean war. But its empty promises have proved devastating – and deadly – for Yemeni civilians.

Congress should make clear the US is no longer willing to be complicit in Saudi war crimes.
Reprinted with permission from The Anti-Media.]]> Sat, 16 Sep 2017 14:14:22 GMT
Afghanistan - US Resolved To Repeat Failures Moon of Alabama

The US military and political leadership is so devoid of learning capability that it does not fight multiyear long wars. Instead it fights one disconnected campaign after the other on the very same battlefield. Each of these campaigns will repeat the mistakes that previous ones made and will have the same outcome.

Thus we have seen several increases in troop numbers in Afghanistan. Each time such a surge happened under Bush, under Obama and now under Trump, the result was an increase in Taliban activity and success.

We have seen the use of local militia forces fail under Obama when these were called Afghan Local Police. The 20,000 men strong ALP was supposedly "trained" to hold land against the Taliban. But the local police groups turned out to be local gangs who, thanks to their "official" status, could rob, rap and kill people without fear of retaliation. The suppressed population then turned to the Taliban for relief.

The idea to create such a local force was so bad that it is time to repeat it:
The American military has turned to the [idea of a local militia] force as a potential model for how to maintain the Afghan government’s waning control — without too high a cost — in difficult parts of Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban are resurgent. 
The size of the new force is yet to be finalized, but it could number more than 20,000, according to a senior Afghan official 
While the senior Afghan official insisted that only the conceptual framework of the force has been agreed to, and that details were still being sorted out, several Western officials said that preparations were already underway to pilot the new force in southern districts of Nangarhar Province.
We can predict with confidence that a year from now those very same districts of Nangarhar province will again staunchly support the Taliban.

In 2001 the CIA and US special forces kicking out the Taliban with the support of northern alliance war-criminals. Arial bombing based on partisan information continued for years. After their defeat the Taliban had given up on ruling the country. They offered to dissolve in exchange for amnesty and an end of the war. But the bombing, often on direction of some local wannabe strongman, continued. Many people not involved with the Taliban or any resistance were killed and maimed. Their communities called out for help. The Taliban revived and came back to fight the invaders.

For a while the indiscriminate, unaccountable bombing seemed to calm down. But the insurgency, once revived, continued. Time then to repeat and expand the scheme - if only under a different logo and in more countries:
The CIA is pushing for expanded powers to carry out covert drone strikes in Afghanistan and other active war zones, a proposal that the White House appears to favor despite the misgivings of some at the Pentagon, according to current and former intelligence and military officials.
More indiscriminate bombing will obviously lead to more resistance and more war.

An argument can be made that the US military and intelligence complex is willfully and systematically creating new enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere to justify the continuation of its campaigns.

But that argument presume that there is sufficient intellectual capacity in the Pentagon and CIA to develop and follow such a design. Arrogance, bureaucratic inertia and lack of curiosity are the simpler and maybe more likely explanations.

Reprinted with permission from the Moon of Alabama.]]> Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:20:18 GMT
Janet Reno: Saint or Tyrant? James Bovard

When former Attorney General Janet Reno died last November, the media heaped praise on her as if she had been justice incarnate. Reno had long enjoyed sainthood inside the Beltway; the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia even created a Janet Reno Torchbearer Award. But Reno’s record of deceit, brutality, and power grabs should not be forgotten by any American who cares about freedom.

Shortly after Reno became attorney general in 1993, she approved the FBI final assault on the Branch Davidians holed up in a rickety building outside of Waco, Texas. She went on Nightline the evening after 80 people died in a conflagration and announced, “I made the decision. I’m accountable. The buck stops with me.” Reno then asserted that the fiery end was all somebody else’s fault: “I don’t think anybody has ever dealt with a David Koresh, who would purposely set people afire in that number.” Nightline host Ted Koppel asked Reno why the feds used “tanks to ram the compound down.” Reno replied, “I think that what we were trying to do was to give everybody an opportunity to come out in the most unobtrusive way possible, not with a frontal assault.”

Reno masterminded a cover-up of the federal role at Waco. Americans did not learn until 1999 that the FBI had fired pyrotechnic grenades into the Davidians’ home, which could have started the fire that left 80 people dead. She also muzzled federal officials who had been involved at Waco. When she traveled to Oklahoma to hype Clinton’s crime bill in a speech in April 1994, FBI agent Bob Ricks, who had been the agency’s daily spokesman during the 51-day siege, told Reno that many people were still agitated by Waco and asked that the gag order be lifted on himself and other officials. Reno replied, “I don’t think the American people care about Waco anymore.”

The Oklahoma City bombing the following April showed otherwise. In a speech a few weeks later, Reno told federal law-enforcement agents, “There is much to be angry about when we talk about Waco — and the government’s conduct is not the reason. David Koresh is the reason.” She also revealed that the “first and foremost” reason for the tank and gas assault was that “law-enforcement agents on the ground concluded that the perimeter had become unstable and posed a risk both to them and to the surrounding homes and farms. Individuals sympathetic to Koresh were threatening to take matters into their own hands to end the stalemate, were at various times reportedly on the way.” This new “first and foremost” reason was a convenient ex post facto rationale after the Oklahoma City bombing. There was no evidence that FBI agents faced real threats from an uprising during the Waco siege. Previously, Reno had justified the final assault because she heard children were being abused.

That terrorist attack helped propel congressional hearings on Waco — the first time that Congress had seriously examined the carnage (thanks to the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 elections). Reno testified on August 1, 1995. In response to a specific question about why the FBI tanks began destroying the building before the fire, Reno responded, “I share your frustration when you have such a tragedy as this, and you try to figure out what to do in the future to avoid the recurrence of it, not in an experiment, but in a thoughtful way.”

The confidential FBI report that Reno received before approving the attack stated that the impact of the CS gas on “infants and children cannot be ignored because gas masks are not available for infants and younger children.” When Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) presented Reno with a gas mask to illustrate the point that it could not have fit children, Reno casually tossed the gas mask onto the floor and announced that “it’s not very helpful, in terms of trying to understand what happened there, to just show gas masks. We’ve got to show the people what went into the process.” And Reno continued ensuring that damning information did not come out.

The highlight of Reno’s testimony was her revelation that the 54-ton tanks that smashed through the Davidian ramshackle home should not be considered as military vehicles — instead, they were “like a good rent-a-car.” When she was challenged on this, she added, “These tanks were not armed. They were not military weapons. And I think it is important, Mr. Chairman, as you deal with this issue, not to make statements like that that can cause the confusion.” Reno later added that it would be wrong to focus on the “menacing quality” of the tanks, since “those tanks had been around. People [inside] knew about the tanks. I think they were very accustomed to the tanks, at that point.” But the Davidians were not accustomed to the tanks’ flattening their home.

Trashing free speech and privacy

In October 1993, Reno, upholding a long tradition of attorney generals in the forefront of sabotaging the Constitution, called for government censorship of television violence. In Senate testimony, she warned, “If immediate voluntary steps are not taken [by television producers] and deadlines established, government should respond and respond immediately. We must move forward to set a schedule for compliance with proper standards, or government should set those standards.” Reno did not say when she would be sending in the SWAT teams to take down Beavis and Butthead. But her intimidation tactics ensured her a tidal wave of positive press as a person who truly cared about children.

In 1996 Congress passed and Bill Clinton signed the Communications Decency Act. The measure would have effectively curtailed all sexual expression on the Internet, imposing a two-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine for anyone who engaged in speech that was “indecent” or “patently offensive” on the Internet if his words might somehow be viewed by children. A three-judge panel found the law “profoundly repugnant” to the First Amendment. Despite the setback, Reno defended the law. She declared in early 1997:
But one of the points we have to remember is, if you have an absolutely incredible technology that … provides new and incredible opportunities for learning, for communication, and for understanding, it also has incredible opportunities to put stuff on there that can be damaging, harmful, and hurtful, particularly to children. We have seen the problem that exists in this country of children who are unsupervised for many hours of the day…. We have got to design a system that can ensure the availability of this marvelous tool without damaging the children that will have access. And I think that there are ways and effective means, and I think that this will be the basis of the argument.
Reno was referring to the argument that Justice Department lawyers made before the Supreme Court to defend the law’s draconian penalties. NewsBytes summarized the government’s argument before the Supreme Court: “In the brief, the government asserts that a fear of encountering ‘indecency’ online could deter potential users from exercising their First Amendment interest in accessing the new medium.” An ACLU lawyer commented, “It is supremely ironic that the government now says it is protecting the First Amendment rights of Americans by threatening people with jail for engaging in constitutionally protected speech.” The Supreme Court trounced the Justice Department, ruling the law unconstitutional.

Reno was the chief law-enforcement officer of an administration that vastly expanded illegal government spying on private citizens. In 2000, controversy erupted over “Carnivore,” the FBI’s email wiretap software that allowed the agency to vacuum up vast amounts of private email — regardless of whether the feds had a search warrant. FBI officials “explained” the program’s ominous name by stressing that they never thought the public would learn of the program’s existence. Janet Reno took charge by announcing she would require the FBI to change Carnivore’s name.

Nonviolent machine guns

The highlight of Reno’s final year in power was an immigration raid by 130 federal agents in Miami’s Little Havana section on April 22. The raid went pretty much as planned — the agents seized six-year-old Elián Gonzalez and left shattered doors, a broken bed, roughed-up Cuban-Americans, and two NBC cameramen writhing in pain from stomach kicks or rifle-butts to the head. The only problem: Associated Press stringer Alan Diaz snapped a photo of a Border Patrol agent pointing his submachine gun towards the terrified boy being held by the fisherman who initially rescued the boy out of the Atlantic Ocean.

Reno called a press conference a few hours after the raid and, when asked about the photo, replied, “One of the beauties of television is that it shows exactly what the facts are. And as I understand it, if you look at it carefully, it shows that the gun was pointed to the side, and that the finger was not on the trigger.” Yet, the photo clearly shows a gun pointed towards the fisherman; admittedly, the muzzle of the gun was not in the boy’s mouth. The Heckler and Koch MP-5 submachine gun sprays 800 rounds a minute — and a finger a half-inch away from the trigger means nothing. The agent did not even have both hands on the machine gun: if the weapon had fired, he would have had no control over where the bullets sprayed. Two days later, during a puff-piece interview on NBC Today, Reno declared, “One of the things that is so very important is that the force was not used. It was a show of force that prevented people from getting hurt.” That would be news to the NBC cameraman who was hospitalized after the raid after being smashed in the head with a rifle-butt.

The reaction to the raid epitomized the media’s coverage of Reno’s term as Attorney General. The Washington Post ran a laudatory article on how Reno had supposedly personally ensured that not all journalists would be beaten during the raid. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in an article headlined, “Reno for President,” declared that the machine-gun photo “warmed my heart” and that it should be put “up in every visa line in every U.S. consulate around the world, with a caption that reads: ‘America is a country where the rule of law rules. This picture illustrates what happens to those who defy the rule of law and how far our government and people will go to preserve it.’” But the feds’ mandate to seize Elián and send him back to Cuba was legally shaky and they pretty much ignored the “knock and announce” rule for carrying out a search warrant.

Justice incarnate

For Reno, government was always the good guy. In a 1996 speech to government prosecutors, she declared, “All of you public lawyers are but little lower than the angels, and I salute you.” Reno showed her belief in angels in 1994 when she decreed that federal prosecutors would no longer be bound by the ethics guidelines issued by state bar associations prohibiting lawyers from contacting adverse parties directly without their lawyers’ being  present. Reno’s power grab for federal prosecutors was unanimously condemned by the Conference of Chief Justices, representing all the state supreme courts.

Reno’s greatest achievement was to teach Americans that “Justice Department” is an oxymoron. She proved that the federal government cannot be trusted to police itself. Unfortunately, that seems to be the same lesson that every attorney general teaches — and the media and most Americans ignore.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.]]> Fri, 15 Sep 2017 14:44:50 GMT