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James George Jatras

Britain on the Leash with the United States – But at Which End?

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The “special relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom is often assumed to be one where the once-great, sophisticated Brits are subordinate to the upstart, uncouth Yanks.

Iconic of this assumption is the mocking of former prime minister Tony Blair as George W. Bush’s “poodle” for his riding shotgun on the ill-advised American stagecoach blundering into Iraq in 2003. Blair was in good practice, having served as Bill Clinton’s dogsbody in the no less criminal NATO aggression against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999.

On the surface, the UK may seem just one more vassal state on par with Germany, Japan, South Korea, and so many other useless so-called allies. We control their intelligence services, their military commands, their think tanks, and much of their media. We can sink their financial systems and economies at will. Emblematic is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s impotent ire at discovering the Obama administration had listened in on her cell phone, about which she – did precisely nothing. Global hegemony means never having to say you’re sorry.
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Trump’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad National Security Team

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Gareth Porter paints a dismal picture. Time and again, President Donald Trump indicates he wants to do the right thing: get out Afghanistan, get out of Syria, get out of South Korea.

Every time, his national security team – the people he appointed – sends him to “the tank” and hotboxes him with all the reasons he’s wrong and why the US needs to “stay the course” in multiple wars and absurd deployments.

If the account of Bob Woodward is to be believed, Trump’s flailing against his own appointees is nothing less than pathetic, that of a pitiable Gulliver roped down by Lilliputians of his own installation. As described by Tom Engelhardt...
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Will Someone in Washington Play the Ace of Spades before November?

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With regard to American foreign and security policy, President Donald Trump presents a paradox. Aside from some harsh bluster (“fire and fury” directed towards Pyongyang in the lead-up to an unprecedented US-North Korea summit), Trump generally seems to want more peaceful ties with the rest of the world and an end to wasteful and dangerous conflicts. On the other hand, if that is his intention, he’s been unable to make much headway with an establishment that constitutionally is totally under his authority but in practice seems to be almost entirely independent of his supervision.

For example, Trump expresses his desire the get US forces out of Afghanistan but then announces that contrary to his own preferences he’s putting more troops in. He meets in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin to achieve détente but then the State and Treasury Department immediately poison the well with more sanctions and evidence-free accusations of Russian meddling in the upcoming Congressional elections. Trump announces his willingness to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions but then is immediately overruled by über-President (a/k/a Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo.

Much of this reflects the nature of his appointments. As Lawrence Wilkerson details (“The Neoconservative Comeback”), Trump’s foreign and security policy apparatus is dominated by “the reentry into critical positions in the government of … the people who gave America the 2003 invasion of Iraq, [even] those many of them who declared ‘Never Trump’” in 2016. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a single member of his top team, or even anyone identifiable in the secondary rank, who agrees with the Trump campaign vision of an “America First” national interest-based strategy that means getting along with Russia and China, versus unending, reckless, global hegemonism.
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Have You Committed Your Three Felonies Today?

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Several years ago the Commonwealth of Virginia enacted a law restricting firearms purchases to one per month. This was intended to discourage smuggling of weapons to urban areas outside Virginia with tight gun control laws and (unsurprisingly) high homicide rates. The law didn’t seem to do much good and in a rare outbreak of common sense was later repealed, though there’s recent misguided talk from Attorney General Mark Herring of reviving it.

During its short period in force, the prohibition spawned a popular saying in the Old Dominion: “Buy one gun a month – it’s the law!”

A similar attitude may be appropriate in light of an estimate that due to vague statutes and the proliferation of federal regulations – which have the force of law – we wake up in the morning, go to work, come home, eat dinner, and go to sleep  unaware we may have committed several federal crimes in the course of the day. The number varies but the average number of crimes per American seems to be about three.

The more important point is that every one of us is probably guilty of something. “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime,” retired Louisiana State University law professor John Baker told the Wall Street Journal in July 2011. “That is not an exaggeration.”
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There Will Be No American-Russian Alliance Against China

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Since 1991 and the formal end of the first Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the world has experienced an American “unipolar moment” as the bipartisan US policy establishment sought to consolidate and perpetuate its hegemonic control over the entire plant. Doomed to fail even before it received its fullest articulation in 1996 by neoconservative ideologists William Kristol and Robert Kagan (misleadingly billed as “Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy”), that misbegotten moment thankfully is coming to an end.
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When Washington Think Tanks Call for ‘Action’ in the Balkans, Expect Trouble

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Any time two prestige think tanks in Washington issue a report calling for US “action” in any region of the world, hold onto your hat – you can be sure that trouble is a-brewing. That’s doubly true if the call relates to the Balkans, the place where in the 1990s the post-Cold War pattern was set for American wars of choice and then taken on the road to Iraq, Libya, and Syria.

On May 1, the über-establishment National Committee on American Foreign Policy and the East-West Institute jointly issued a report, “Time for Action in the Western Balkans.” As stated in the summary:
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been engaged in the Western Balkans to ensure a Europe that is 'whole, free and at peace' and a reliable partner for dealing with global challenges. Our goal has been to stabilize the Balkans, and to enhance security throughout Europe, through the integration of the Western Balkans into trans-Atlantic structures. We have succeeded only in part.  Although the Western Balkans are better off now than they were in the 1990s, they are stagnating and risk instability as a result of three factors: deficient internal governance and weak economies, continuing tense relations between ethnic groups and neighboring states, and the malign influence of outside forces.
One is reminded of the famous quip by Mary McCarthy about Lillian Hellman: “every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ 

Perhaps that’s too harsh. Not every word in the summary paragraph is false. There is indeed a region in Europe known as the Balkans, and as the report notes, some countries lie in the western part of it: “Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia.” (Wait, there’s some fibbing here too. Kosovo is not a country, it’s an occupied province of Serbia. Nobody is quite sure what exactly Bosnia-Herzegovina is supposed to be. Why no Croatia, is it located in another part of Europe now?)
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Did the West Just Lose World War III by Forfeit?

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In the fall of the year 1480, at a point not far from Moscow, two armies faced each other on the opposite banks of the Ugra River.


On the one side were the forces of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, whose ruler, Grand Prince Ivan III (known as “the Great” and the “gatherer of the Russian lands”), had recently rejected further payment of tribute to the Great Horde.

On the other were the forces of Grand Khan Ahmed bin Küchük, who had come to lay waste to Moscow and instruct the impudent Prince Ivan to mend his ways.

For weeks the two assembled hosts glared at one another, each wary of crossing the water and becoming vulnerable to attack by the other. In the end, as though heeding the same inaudible signal, both withdrew and hastily returned home.

Thus ended more than two centuries of the Tatar-Mongol yoke upon the land of the Rus’.

Was this event, which came to be known as “the great standing on the Ugra River,” a model of what happened in Syria last week?

Almost immediately upon reports of the staged chemical attack in Douma on April 7, speculation began as to the likely response from the west – which in reality meant from the United States, in turn meaning from President Donald J. Trump. Would Trump, who had repeatedly spoken harshly of his predecessors’ destructive and pointless misadventures in the Middle East, and who just days earlier had signaled his determination to withdraw the several thousand Americans (illegally) stationed in Syria, see through the obvious deception?
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Syrian Strikes are 'Legal' – But Only According to the 'Law of the Jungle'

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The full extent of the damage to international peace and security caused by the US-led Syrian strikes will take some time to become clear. But its impact on the very concept of legality in international affairs is already evident.

Simply put, the most powerful county in the world and its chief satellites, the UK and France, have thrown the rule of law into the trash can. The only "law" now is the law of the jungle. There is no going back.

Ironically, the attack itself was claimed by its perpetrators as enforcement of legality, not of its obliteration. For example, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces "a clear breach of international norms and agreements" that "calls for a collective and effective response by the international community."

Leaving aside for a moment the question of what really happened in the Syrian city of Douma, Stoltenberg knows very well what the mechanism is for a collective response by the international community.
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What Would an ‘America First!’ Security Policy Look Like?

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Republicans love to caricature Democrats as big spenders whose only approach to any problem is to throw money at it. As with most caricatures, it is made easy by the fact that it is mostly true. At least when it comes to domestic entitlement programs, nobody can top the party of FDR and JFK when it comes to doling out goodies to favored constituencies paid for by picking someone else’s pocket.

However, Republicans are hardly the zealous guardians of the public purse they would have us believe. While quick to trash their partisan opponents for making free with taxpayers’ money, they are no less happy to do the same – at least when it’s called “national defense.”

Over the next five years, the Trump administration will spend $3.6 trillion on the military. The GOP-controlled Congress’s approved, with Republicans voting overwhelmingly in the affirmative, the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018” (HR 1892) and the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018” (HR 2810). With respect to the former, the watchdog National Taxpayers Union urged a No vote:
‘An initial estimate of approximately $300 billion in new spending above the law’s caps barely scratches the surface in terms of total spending. The two-year deal also includes $155 billion in defense and non-defense Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending, $5 billion in emergency spending for defense, and more than $80 billion in disaster funding. $100 billion in proposed offsets are comprised of the same budget gimmicks taxpayers have seen used as pay-fors over and over and are unlikely to generate much of a down-payment on this new spending.’  
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) poses the question that few in Washington – and certainly few Republicans – are willing to ask: “Is our military budget too small, or is our mission too large?”
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The US-UK Deep State Empire Strikes Back: ‘It’s Russia! Russia! Russia!’

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There’s no defense like a good offense.

For weeks the unfolding story in Washington has been how a cabal of conspirators in the heart of the American federal law enforcement and intelligence apparat colluded to ensure the election of Hillary Clinton and, when that failed, to undermine the nascent presidency of Donald Trump. Agencies tainted by this corruption include not only the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) but the Obama White House, the State Department, the NSA, and the CIA, plus their British sister organizations MI6 and GCHQ, possibly along with the British Foreign Office (with the involvement of former British ambassador to Russia Andrew Wood) and even Number 10 Downing Street.

Those implicated form a regular rogue’s gallery of the Deep State: Peter Strzok (formerly Chief of the FBI’s Counterespionage Section, then Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division; busy bee Strzok is implicated not only in exonerating Hillary from her email server crimes but initiating the Russiagate investigation in the first place, securing a FISA warrant using the dodgy “Steele Dossier,” and nailing erstwhile National Security Adviser General Mike Flynn on a bogus charge of “lying to the FBI”); Lisa Page (Strzok’s paramour and a DOJ lawyer formerly assigned to the all-star Democrat lineup on the Robert Mueller Russigate inquisition); former FBI Director James Comey, former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and – let’s not forget – current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, himself implicated by having signed at least one of the dubious FISA warrant requests. Finally, there’s reason to believe that former CIA Director John O. Brennan may have been the mastermind behind the whole operation.
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