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James George Jatras

Trump’s UN Speech: the Swamp’s Wine in an ‘America First!’ Bottle

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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.
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Three Dangerous Delusions about Korea

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They say that most of the world’s real dangers arise not because of what people don’t know but because of what they do "know" that just ain’t so.

As a case in point, consider three things about Korea that the bipartisan Washington establishment seems quite sure of but are far removed from reality:

Delusion 1: All options, including U.S. military force, are "on the table."

- Everyone knows there are no military "options" the U.S. could use against North Korea that don’t result in disaster. The prospect that a "surgical strike" could "take out" (a muscular-sounding term much loved by laptop bombardiers) Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capabilities is a fiction. Already impractical when considered against a country like Iran, no one believes a limited attack could eliminate North Korea’s ability to strike back, hard. At risk would be not only almost 30,000 U.S. troops in Korea but 25 million people in the Seoul metropolitan area, not to mention many more lives at risk in the rest of South Korea and perhaps Japan.
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Trump’s New Strategy for Afghanistan Is Neither New, nor a Strategy, nor Trump’s

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For some time it has been clear that the White House of President Donald Trump was convulsed with a struggle among various court factions vying for the Emperor’s ear. Crudely oversimplified, these are variously described as:

1. The military "Junta" (Generals McMaster, National Security Council; Mattis, Pentagon; and Kelly, White House Chief of Staff;

2. The Goldman-Sachs "Globalists" (preeminently First Daughter Ivanka and First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner);

3. The "Populist-Nationalists" ("the two Steves" Bannon and Miller); and

4. The Regular Republicans who, to their credit, in 2016 chose to join the Trump populist movement over more conventionally "conservative" GOP candidates (Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway).

It is understood that the first two factions were generally allied against the second two. Following Priebus’s ouster, the bellwether would be who got tossed out next: Bannon or McMaster. It was Bannon.

On August 18, with Bannon’s defenestration, it became clear that the Junta and the Globalists were firmly in charge. The only outliers left – besides somebody named Trump – are Conway and Miller. We’ll see how long they last. Any of them.
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If War Comes, Don’t Blame the ‘Military-Industrial Complex’ – Things Are Even Worse Than You Think

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As the drumbeat intensifies for what might turn out to be anything but a "splendid little war" against North Korea, it is appropriate to take stock of the ongoing, seemingly successful effort to strip President Donald Trump of his authority to make any foreign and national security policies that fly against the wishes of the so-called Military-Industrial Complex, or MIC. A Google search for "Military-Industrial Complex" (in quotation marks) with "Trump" yields almost 450,000 hits from all sources and almost 26,000 from just news sources.

During the 2016 campaign and into the initial weeks of his administration, Trump was sometimes described as a threat to the MIC. But over time, with the appointment to his administration of more generals and establishment figures (including some allegedly tied to George Soroswhile purging Trump loyalists, it’s no surprise that his policies increasingly seem less a departure from those of previous administrations than a continuation of them (for example, welcoming Montenegro into NATO). Some now say that Trump is the MIC’s best friend and maybe always was. 

There are those who deny that the MIC exists at all. One self-described conservative blogger writing in the pro-war, pro-intervention, and mostly neoconservative National Review refers to the very existence of the MIC as a "myth" peddled by the "conspiracy-minded." Sure, it is conceded, it was appropriate to refer to such a concept back when President Dwight Eisenhower warned against it in 1961 upon his impending departure from the White House, because back then the military consumed some 10 percent of the American GDP. But now, when the percentage is nominally just 3.2 percent, less than $600 billion per year, the term supposedly is inapplicable. (There are those who argue that the real cost annually is over $1 trillion, but why quibble.)
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Isolated Trump Flails Helplessly as He Bows to Irrational Policies on Russia and Europe Imposed by Congress

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President Donald Trump has signed the sanctions bill against Russia, North Korea, and Iran. With the near-unanimous, veto-proof margin by which the so-called "Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act" was passed by both the House and the Senate, Trump was in a lose-lose position.

In the signing statement issued by the White House, Trump and his advisers tried to put a brave face on what can only be seen as a humiliating defeat. Despite some cosmetic changes...
...the bill remains seriously flawed – particularly because it encroaches on the executive branch’s authority to negotiate. Congress could not even negotiate a healthcare bill after seven years of talking. By limiting the Executive’s flexibility, this bill makes it harder for the United States to strike good deals for the American people, and will drive China, Russia, and North Korea much closer together. The Framers of our Constitution put foreign affairs in the hands of the President. This bill will prove the wisdom of that choice. 

Yet despite its problems, I am signing this bill for the sake of national unity. It represents the will of the American people to see Russia take steps to improve relations with the United States. We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary. 
To suggest this absurd, dangerous, and unconstitutional law can be characterized as representing a desire "to see Russia take steps to improve relations" with the US is the opposite of the truth.
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Bipartisanship! The Evil Party and Stupid Party Team Up to Cripple Trump, Subvert the Rule of Law, and Put the US on a Road to War

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The overwhelming approval by both chambers of the US Congress of a bill imposing new, permanent sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea puts President Donald Trump in an impossible position. He can either sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature, in which case he has acquiesced in the Legislative Branch’s usurpation of what is supposed to be among the Executive’s primary constitutional responsibilities, the conduct of relations with foreign states.

Or he can veto it, but with a total of only five votes against it in both the Senate and the House together, an override is almost certain. Trump would still find his authority curtailed, on top of crippling his clout during the infancy of his term.

Keep in mind that this is being inflicted on Trump mainly by members of his own party. The Republican Congressional leadership can’t manage to repeal Obamacare, reform taxes, stop voter fraud, keep dangerous people out of our country, build the Mexican Wall, or renew our national infrastructure. But they find plenty of time to hold hands with the Democrats, who are trying to unseat the constitutionally elected president in a "soft coup" over phony "Russiagate," to enact a misguided piece of legislation that is expressly intended to guarantee that Trump can’t, under any foreseeable circumstances, improve ties with the one country in the world with which we absolutely must get along, at least on some minimal level: "It’s the Russia, Stupid!"

This is bipartisanship at its worst. In case we need to be reminded, America does not have a multiplicity of parties like most other countries. Instead, we have just two: an "Evil Party" and a "Stupid Party" – and when something is really evil and stupid, we call that "bipartisan."
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Fake News Media Suppress Two Blockbuster Stories on Syria

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It has become the conventional wisdom that the information world has been forever changed by the advent of the Internet Age. Whereas in the past the established media were the only source of news and opinion, we are led to believe that now, with a virtually unlimited availability of independent voices, facts cannot be concealed and "the truth will out."

Unfortunately, that notion is far from reality, at least when issues of war and peace are concerned. While proliferation of first cable channels and then online publications means the establishment American networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, plus CNN) and newspapers (New York Times (a/k/a, the "newspaper of record"), Washington Post) have a smaller market share than in the past, they still have a near monopoly on the legitimacy and public significance of information. This means that while "alternative media" – itself a dismissive term relating to the presumed unreliability of contents – might report and document information contrary to the official line emanating from prestige media operating in symbiosis with their government sources, they can be ignored.

Despite the ubiquitous accessibility of online independent media, news and commentary about national security issues in the U.S. and Western Europe displays an almost Soviet-style façade of uniformity. Unlike the practice of the totalitarian states of the 20th century, maintaining the credibility of official media does not require the physical repression of alternatives. Instead of suppressing dissent, is it sufficient to maintain major media's role as gatekeeper and certifier of reliability. Information originating in "alternative" circles becomes reliable and publicly actionable only when picked up and disseminated by the "mainstream media" (MSM), thus validating the information and its ostensibly "alternative" source. Unless and until that happens, alternative information and opinion, especially that which runs counter to the MSM/government/corporate narrative, is ignored and relegated to "conspiracy theory," "internet chatter," or even subjected to the dread label of "denier" of some established, obligatory truth, for example the "Bosnian genocide" and Serbian guilt.
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It’s the Russia, Stupid

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It’s another week in Washington and another horror show. This time it was Attorney General Jeff Sessions being grilled by Senators on whether, when, and how he might have met with certain Russians, or any Russian, or someone who might actually know a Russian. In addition to fishing for any inconsistency that could be used to support an accusation of obstruction of justice or perjury – the usual sleazy methodology of politically motivated investigations here – the transparent aim was to further poison the well on any possible initiative to improve ties with Moscow.

The strategy appears to be working. The Russian Embassy in Washington confirms that for the first time since the Russian Federation’s founding the State Department did not send pro forma national day greetings. Perhaps the bureaucrats were afraid they would be tainted and themselves become targets of multiple investigations into "collusion" with the Kremlin. (Luckily, this intrepid Washington analyst has no qualms about such associations.)

Or more likely, they themselves are part of the Russophobic mob undermining the White House. It has been reported that soon after the inauguration Trump sought to open dialogue with the Kremlin and set an early summit with President Vladimir Putin. This produced a hysterical counteraction from the Deep State. As reported by conservative columnist and former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan:
The State Department was tasked with working out the details.

Instead, says Daniel Fried, the coordinator for sanctions policy, he received ‘panicky’ calls of ‘Please, my God, can you stop this?’.

Operatives at State, disloyal to the president and hostile to the Russia policy on which he had been elected, collaborated with elements in Congress to sabotage any detente. They succeeded.

‘It would have been a win-win for Moscow,’ said Tom Malinowski of State, who boasted last week of his role in blocking a rapprochement with Russia. State employees sabotaged one of the principal policies for which Americans had voted, and they substituted their own.
So much for constitutional government and the rule of law...
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Terror in Tehran, Qatar Spat, and Race for Syria-Iraq Border: the Washington ‘Swamp’ Gives Green Light for Saudi Arabia’s Jihad Agenda

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This week’s attacks in Tehran, for which the Islamic State (ISIS) promptly claimed responsibility, are at this writing the latest incidents to roil the troubled waters in an increasingly turbulent “Broader Middle East.” They will not be the last.

The terror in Tehran comes as the threats from Saudi Arabia against Qatar on the surreal charge of supporting terrorism have reached a fever pitch. Observers openly discuss the possibility of a coup against the ruling Sheikh Tamim bin Hamаd al-Thani, or even a Saudi invasion. Regarding a possible regime change, Saudi media note that Tamim’s father, Hamаd, came to power in a coup against his father; coups are not rare in Qatari history, and there’s always another al-Thani brother, cousin, or nephew who could be installed as a suitable puppet for Riyadh.

As for an invasion, keep in mind that Qatar was a part of the first and second Saudi states (defunct in 1818 and 1891, respectively) and could end up that way again. Given depressed oil prices and Qatar’s massive natural gas reserves, the Saudis would welcome a quick and lucrative diversification of their portfolio. Qatar has placed its armed forces on the highest state of alert.

Meanwhile, in Syria, on June 6, US planes for the second time put in an airstrike on pro-government forces near the al-Tanf border crossing with Iraq, near Jordan. The stated purpose was to protect U.S.-supported “moderate” jihadists in a “de-confliction zone” unilaterally declared by Washington. The US also has reportedly established a presence at al-Zkuf, another border point to the north and east, with the obvious aim of blocking any link-up of Syrian and Iraqi forces fighting against ISIS.
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Blame David Cameron for Manchester Bombing!

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Whenever you see the mainstream media in the United States take time out from trashing President Donald Trump to give him neutral or even grudgingly favorable coverage, be on your guard. It’s a sure sign he’s taken a step away from his campaign pledge to drain the Washington swamp and instead has done something to please the swamp critters.

A smug New York Times, the virulent enemy of Trump and of the deplorable people who elected him, clucked its patronizing approval of his speech to the leaders of over 50 Muslim-majority countries – pointedly excluding Iran and Syria – as a repudiation of his earlier views...
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