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Eric Margolis

No One Needs Another Korean War

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Panmunjom, the "peace village" on the incredibly tense demilitarized zone (aka DMZ) between North and South Korea, is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever visited. Tough North Korean soldiers lurk about, watched by equally tough South Korean troops in one-way sunglasses and an aggressive judo ‘warrior’ stance.

When I was filming at Panmunjom, we were warned to beware of North Koreans who could at any moment rush into the main conference room and drag us into North Korea.

It was into this crazy house that the new, jet-lagged US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was transported from turbulent Washington. After a quick look at the DMZ, Tillerson announced `no more Mr. Nice Guy.’ The US had run out of `strategic patience’ with North Korea and will go to war to end North Korea’s ‘threat’ to the US, he warned.

Tillerson, formerly CEO of EXXON, is well-versed in world affairs but the Korean peninsula’s complexities could be too much for him to quickly absorb. Immediately threatening war is no way to begin a diplomatic mission. But Tillerson was obviously reading from a script written by his boss, Donald Trump, whose knowledge of North Asian affairs makes Tillerson look like a Confucian scholar.
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More Mideast Madness as Trump Prepares to March

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We are now moving rapidly into stage II of Levantine Madness as the US boosts its intervention in the war-torn Mideast. 

Five thousand US troops are back in Iraq to bolster the shattered nation’s puppet regime that is propped up by American bayonets. New Iraqi military formations have been formed, totally equipped with modern US M1 Abrams tanks, Humvees, and fleets of trucks. More US forces are on the way.

These US-financed Iraqi units are euphemistically called ‘anti-terrorism forces’ and are supervised by US officers. In fact, what we see is the old British Imperial Raj formula of white officers commanding native mercenary troops.

These Iraqi units are now assaulting ISIS-held Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and smaller towns. Most of America’s Iraqi ‘sepoys’ (as native troops in the British Indian Raj were known) are Shia bitterly opposed to the nation’s minority Sunnis. After its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the US encouraged animosity between Shia and Sunni as a way of breaking resistance to foreign occupation – ‘divide et impera’ as the Romans used to say.
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Red Hysteria Engulfs Washington

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President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the military-industrial complex made half a century ago ring as loud and clear today. The soft coup being mounted against the Trump government by America’s "deep state" reached a new intensity this week as special interests battled for control of Washington. 

The newly named national security advisor, Lt Gen Michael Flynn, was ousted by Trump over his chats with Russia’s ambassador and what he may or may not have told Vice President Pence. The defenestration of Flynn appeared engineered by our national intelligence agencies in collaboration with the mainstream media and certain Democrats.

Flynn’s crime? Talking to the wicked Russians before and after the election. Big, big deal. That’s what security advisors are supposed to do: keep an open back channel to other major powers and allies. This is also the job of our intelligence agencies. 

There is no good or bad in international affairs. The childish concept of "good guys" and "bad guys" comes from the Bush era when simple-minded voters had to be convinced that America was somehow in grave danger from a bunch of angry Mideast goat herds.
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Trump Bull in the Mideast China Shop

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President Donald Trump is getting ready to plunge into the burning Mideast with all the zeal and arrogance of a medieval crusader. The new administration’s knowledge of the region is a thousand miles wide and two inches deep.

Reviving a truly terrible idea originated by know-nothing Congressional Republicans, Trump proposes US-run safe zones in Syria for refugees from that nation’s conflict. The president went out of his way to insist that such safe zones would spare the United States from having to shelter Syrian refugees.

He should better worry about Chicago where 762 citizens were murdered last year.

At the same time, Trump, declaiming from his new Mount Olympus of New York’s Trump Tower, vowed to impose a 30-day halt on immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen to "protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals."
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Stop Demonizing North Korea and Talk Business

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North Korea has "entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile(ICBM)." So crowed North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong-un, in his New Year’s Day message aimed at tough-talking US president-elect, Donald Trump.

In case there was any doubt about Pyongyang’s meaning, Kim warned his nation would continue to build its  ‘capability for preemptive strike’ as long as the US and its allies continued their nuclear threats and "war games they stage on our doorstep."

Trump fired back, tweeting that North Korea’s nuclear threats against the US ‘won’t happen.’ Well, not if tweets can shoot down incoming ICBM’s.

A lot of Americans dismissed Kim’s braggadocio as more hot air from a world-class producer. But one should not quickly dismiss North Korea’s claims. The US has always underestimated North Korea.

But there is no need to squander trillions on new anti-missile defenses based in Alaska and California that may not work as advertised. North Korea’s missiles are designed to deter a US attack.

The alleged dire threat from North Korea can be better and more swiftly resolved by intelligent diplomacy and some calm thinking.
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Another 50 Years of Mideast Strife

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One of my favorite literary expressions is the term "Parthian shaft." It refers to the favored tactic of the Parthians, a Persian people, of turning while on horseback and firing arrows while retreating.

The Roman consul Crassus, who defeated Spartacus, may have died from such a Parthian shaft after his defeat at the battle of Carrhae in 53 BC.

This week, outgoing President Barack Obama loosed his own Parthian shaft at Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, by refusing, for once, to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s ongoing expropriation of Arab land on the occupied West Bank.

There was no mention of similar expropriation and ethnic cleansing on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights which legally belong to Syria.

For the past eight years, the Obama administration has discreetly argued with Israel over its settlement building on the West Bank and Jerusalem. In public, the Obama government maintained the ludicrous but convenient fiction that fruitful talks were under way that would lead to creation of two states in historic Palestine.
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Moscow Attacks!

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A senior CIA source tells me "with a high level of certainty" that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was responsibly for Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraq. This miscreant was also behind 9/11 and ring around the collar.

Not since Dr Fu Manchu have we seen such a wicked genius bent on wrecking the West. Vlad the Bad is so nefarious that he’s managed to rig America’s voting machines and probably the Super Bowl.

Watching the mounting Red Hysteria in the US is bizarre and amusing. But most amusing is the media furor claiming that the Kremlin has "meddled" in US elections. Or even threw the vote to Manchurian Candidate, Donald Trump. If there was any foreign meddling, it came from a Mideast ally, not Russia.

All very childish.

My answer: even if true (and I don’t believe it), so what? Is great power meddling something new? That’s what great powers do.
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Japan's 'Nobility of Failure' in 1941

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Seven decades after Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor some truth is finally beginning to emerge from the miasma of propaganda that still clouds our vision of World War II.

It seems clear by now that President Franklin Roosevelt’s White House knew from deciphered codes that Japan was planning an attack on America’s key naval base in Hawaii. Shamefully, the senior US Navy and Army commanders at Pearl Harbor were not informed of the impending attack. The US Navy’s three aircraft carriers were coincidentally moved far from harm’s way before the attack, leaving only obsolescent World War I battleships in port as sitting ducks.

Roosevelt was eager to get the United States into war against Germany at all costs. But Americans wanted no part of Europe’s war, recalling how British propaganda had deceived America into World War I. The single largest ethnic group in America was of German origin. In the 1880’s, my native New York City was the third most populous German city on earth after Berlin and Hamburg.

Roosevelt, whose sympathies lay far to the left in spite of his patrician background, understood that only a surprise attack would provoke Americans into war.
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Mr Trump, Don’t Tear Down This Deal

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President-elect Donald Trump vows to either tear up or rewrite the recent international nuclear deal with Iran, calling it "disastrous," and "the worst deal ever negotiated by Washington."

Iran, which has closed important nuclear facilities, shut down half its centrifuges, and neutralized its stores of nuclear material under the international agreement, must be wondering if it’s nuclear deal was not really, really disastrous.

In his rush to condemn the Iran deal, Donald Trump seems to be forgetting that the pact was co-signed by Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the UN. Backing out of the pact will be no easy matter and sure to provoke a diplomatic storm.

The outgoing CIA director, John Brennan, calls Trump’s plan to junk the Iran deal "the height of folly." Brennan warns that doing so would further destabilize the Mideast and embolden hard-liners on all sides. He could have added that if Iran resumes nuclear enrichment, Israel’s far-right government will likely go to war with Iran in order to preserve its Mideast nuclear monopoly.
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Suez: The End of Europe's Empires

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Sixty years ago, I was home after school, sitting in our living room on New York’s Central Park West, reading a history of Rome and listening to Dvorak’s splendid cello concerto when the announcer on WQXR broke in to announced, “Israeli armored forces are thrusting deep into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.”

So began the 1956 Arab-Israeli Suez war, a conflict that is now all but forgotten though it was a major historic turning point for all concerned.

Algeria has risen up against French colonial rule. A ferocious guerilla war was raging. The Socialist government in Paris was too arrogant to admit that anyone could revolt against the glories of French rule. Instead, Paris blamed the revolt on machinations by Egypt’s nationalist strongman, Gamal Abdel Nasser. In fact, Egypt’s role was minor.
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