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Philip Giraldi

Punishing the World With Sanctions

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Sanctions are economic warfare, pure and simple. As an alternative to a direct military attack on a country that is deemed to be misbehaving they are certainly preferable, but no one should be under any illusions regarding what they actually represent. They are war by other means and they are also illegal unless authorized by a supra-national authority like the United Nations Security Council, which was set up after World War II to create a framework that inter alia would enable putting pressure on a rogue regime without going to war. At least that was the idea, but the sanctions regimes recently put in place unilaterally and without any international authority by the United States have had a remarkable tendency to escalate several conflicts rather than providing the type of pressure that would lead to some kind of agreement.

The most dangerous bit of theater involving sanctions initiated by the Trump administration continues to focus on Iran. Last week, the White House elevated its extreme pressure on the Iranians by engaging in a completely irrational sanctioning of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The sanctions will have no effect whatsoever and they completely contradict Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that he is seeking diplomacy to resolving the conflict with Iran. One doesn’t accomplish that by sanctioning the opposition’s Foreign Minister.

Also, the Iranians have received the message loud and clear that the threats coming from Washington have nothing to do with nuclear programs. The White House began its sanctions regime over a year ago when it withdrew from the JCPOA and they have been steadily increasing since that time even though Iran has continued to be fully compliant with the agreement. Recently, the US took the unprecedented step of sanctioning the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is part of the nation’s military.
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Quincy Who? Another New Think Tank Tests the Waters

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Think tanks sprout like weeds in Washington. The latest is the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, which is engaged in a pre-launch launch and is attracting some media coverage all across the political spectrum. The Institute is named after the sixth US President John Quincy Adams, who famously made a speech while Secretary of State in which he cautioned that while the United States of America would always be sympathetic to the attempts of other countries to fight against dominance by the imperial European powers, “she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.”

The Quincy Institute self-defines as a foundation dedicated to a responsible and restrained foreign policy with the stated intention of “mov[ing] US foreign policy away from endless war and toward vigorous diplomacy in the pursuit of international peace.” It is seeking to fund an annual budget of $5-6 million, enough to employ twenty or more staffers.

The Quincy Institute claims correctly that many of the other organizations dealing with national security and international affairs inside the Beltway are either agenda driven or neoconservative dominated, often meaning that they in practice support serial interventionism, sometimes including broad tolerance or even encouragement of war as a first option when dealing with adversaries. These are policies that are currently playing out unsuccessfully vis-à-vis Venezuela, Iran, Syria and North Korea.
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The Spy Game: It Ain’t What It Used to Be

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The Tehran government has announced the arrest of seventeen Iranian citizens caught spying for America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Some of those arrested have already been sentenced to death. It is the third major roll-up of CIA agents in Iran that I have been aware of, the first occurring in 1991 involved 20 American agents. The second episode in 2011 led to the arrest of 30 spies. The earlier arrests reportedly eliminated what were presumed to be the entire networks of American agents operating inside Iran and it is to be presumed that the recent arrests will have the same impact.
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No Accountability in Washington. The CIA Wants to Hide All Its Employees

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Government that actually serves the interests of the people who are governed has two essential characteristics: first, it must be transparent in terms of how it debates and develops policies and second, it has to be accountable when it fails in its mandate and ceases to be responsive to the needs of the electorate. Over the past twenty years one might reasonably argue that Washington has become less a “of the people, by the people and for the people” and increasingly a model of how special interests can use money to corrupt government. 

The recent story about how serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein avoided any serious punishment by virtue of his wealth and his political connections, including to both ex-president Bill Clinton and to current chief executive Donald Trump, demonstrates how even the most despicable criminals can avoid being brought to justice.

This erosion of what one might describe as republican virtue has been exacerbated by a simultaneous weakening of the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which was intended to serve as a guarantee of individual liberties while also serving as a bulwark against government overreach. In recent cases in the United States, a young man had his admission to Harvard revoked over comments posted online when he was fifteen that were considered racist, while a young woman was stripped of a beauty contest title because she refused to don a hijab at a college event and then wrote online about her experience. In both cases, freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment was ruled to be inadmissible by the relevant authorities.
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The Death of Privacy: Government Fearmongers to Read Your Mail

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It is discouraging to note just how the United States has been taking on the attributes of a police state since 9/11. Stories of police raids on people’s homes gone wrong are frequently in the news. In one recent incident, a heavily armed SWAT team was sent to a St. Louis county home. The armed officers entered the building without knocking, shot the family dog and forced the family members to kneel on the floor where they were able to watch their pet struggle and then die. The policemen then informed the family that they were there over failure to pay the gas bill. Animal rights groups report that the shooting of pets by police has become routine in many jurisdictions because the officers claim that they feel threatened.
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Goodbye Dollar, It Was Nice Knowing You!

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Over the past two years, the White House has initiated trade disputes, insulted allies and enemies alike, and withdrawn from or refused to ratify multinational treaties and agreements. It has also expanded the reach of its unilaterally imposed rules, forcing other nations to abide by its demands or face economic sanctions. While the stated Trump Administration intention has been to enter into new arrangements more favorable to the United States, the end result has been quite different, creating a broad consensus within the international community that Washington is unstable, not a reliable partner and cannot be trusted. This sentiment has, in turn, resulted in conversations among foreign governments regarding how to circumvent the American banking system, which is the primary offensive weapon apart from dropping bombs that Washington has to force compliance with its dictates.

Consequently, there has been considerable blowback from the Make America Great Again campaign, particularly as the flip side of the coin appears to be that the “greatness” will be obtained by making everyone else less great. The only country in the world that currently regards the United States favorably is Israel, which certainly has good reason to do so given the largesse that has come from the Trump Administration. Everyone else is keen to get out from under the American heel.

Well the worm has finally turned, maybe. Even the feckless Angela Merkel’s Germany now understands that national interests must prevail when the United States is demanding that it do the unspeakable. At the recently concluded G20 meeting in Tokyo Britain, France and Germany announced that the special trade mechanism that they have been working on this year is now up and running. It is called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (Instex) and it will permit companies in Europe to do business with countries like Iran, avoiding American sanctions by trading outside the SWIFT system, which is dollar denominated and de facto controlled by the US Treasury.
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June Madness Strikes Washington. Iranians, Russians and Britons Beware!

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It has been a lively June so far in light of Washington’s apparent zeal to remake the world in its own image. There is considerable buzz among those networking in ex- or current government circles that the White House is preparing to “do something” about Iran. The recent incidents involving alleged attacks on Norwegian and Japanese tankers in the Gulf of Oman were immediately attributed to Iran by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with so little regard for evidence that even the compliant American media was left gasping. In its initial coverage of the story The New York Times inevitably echoed the administration’s claims, but if one went to the readers’ comments on the story fully 90 percent of those bothering to express an opinion decided that the tale was not credible for any number of reasons.

Several commenters brought up the completely phony Gulf of Tonkin incident of 1964 that led to the escalation of American involvement in Vietnam, a view that was expressed frequently in readers’ comments both in the mainstream and alternative media. Others recalled instead the fake intelligence linking Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 conspirators as well as the bogus reports of an Iraqi secret nuclear program and huge gliders capable to delivering biological weapons across the Atlantic Ocean.

There were a number of questionable aspects to the Pompeo story, most notably the unlikelihood that Iran would attack a Japanese ship while the Japanese Prime Minister was in Tehran paying a visit. The attack itself, attributed to Iranian mines, also did not match the damage to the vessels, which was well above the water line, a detail that was noted by the Japanese ship captain among others. Crewmen on the ship also reportedly saw flying objects, which suggests missiles or other projectiles were to blame, fired by almost anyone in the area. And then there is the question of motive: the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates all want a war with Iran while the Iranians are trying to avoid a B-52 attack, so why would they do something that would virtually guarantee a devastating response from Washington?
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False Identities Become the New Weapon: War with Iran Promoted by Fake Journalists

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One of the claims made about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election was that Kremlin-controlled entities were using fake identities to create dissension and confusion on social network sites. This should surprise no one, if it is true, as intelligence operatives have been using false names since Sumerian times.

The concern over fake identities no doubt comes from the deception involved, meaning that if you are dealing with a real person you at least have some handle on making as assessment of what something means and what is likely to occur. A false persona, however, can pretend to be anything and can advocate or do something without any yardstick to measure what is actually taking place. In other words, if Mike Pompeo says something you know that he is a liar and can judge his words accordingly but if it is someone otherwise unknown named Qwert Uiop you have to wonder if he or she just might be telling the truth. You might even give them the benefit of the doubt.

A prime example of a false internet persona has recently surfaced in the form of an alleged “activist” invented by the Iranian terrorist group Mojahedin e Khalq (MEK). MEK is a curious hybrid creature in any event in that it pretends to be an alternative government option for Iran even though it is despised by nearly all Iranians. At the same time, it is greatly loved by the Washington Establishment which would like to see the Mullahs deposed and replaced by something more amenable to western and Israeli worldviews.
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Pence Goes to War: America Will Be Fighting Forever

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On May 25th Vice President Mike Pence was the featured speaker at the United States Military Academy commencement. His speech was predictably an encomium celebrating both the diversity and the success of the newly commissioned officers as well as of the system at West Point that had produced them, but it also included interesting insights into how he and the other non-veterans who dominate the policy making in the White House see the military.

Most media commentary on the speech was either shocked or pleasantly surprised by Pence’s prediction that the graduating officers would soon be at war. He said “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life. You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen. Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere. And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns and do your duty, and you will fight, and you will win. The American people expect nothing less. So, wherever you’re called, I urge you to take what you learned here and put it into practice. Put your armor on, so that when — not if — that day comes, you’ll be able to stand your ground.”

Pence may or may not have known that military academy graduates have only a five-year active duty commitment after graduation. Many do not stay in the service after that point, instead using their security clearances and resumes to obtain well paying positions with defense and national security contractors. If Pence was aware of that five-year window, he was implying that he expects multiple wars will involve the United States during his own remaining time in office, assuming that he and President Donald Trump are reelected in 2020. He might even be assuming that war is inevitable no matter who is in the driver’s seat in the White House because America’s numerous enemies, which he identified, cannot otherwise be dissuaded from their “nefarious behavior.”
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Tulsi Gabbard Pushes No War Agenda – and the Media Is Out to Kill Her Chances

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Voters looking ahead to 2020 are being bombarded with soundbites from the twenty plus Democratic would-be candidates. That Joe Biden is apparently leading the pack according to opinion polls should come as no surprise as he stands for nothing apart from being the Establishment favorite who will tirelessly work to support the status quo.

The most interesting candidate is undoubtedly Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is a fourth term Congresswoman from Hawaii, where she was born and raised. She is also the real deal on national security, having been-there and done-it through service as an officer with the Hawaiian National Guard on a combat deployment in Iraq. Though in Congress full time, she still performs her Guard duty.

Tulsi’s own military experience notwithstanding, she gives every indication of being honestly anti-war. In the speech announcing her candidacy she pledged “focus on the issue of war and peace” to “end the regime-change wars that have taken far too many lives and undermined our security by strengthening terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda.” She referred to the danger posed by blundering into a possible nuclear war and indicated her dismay over what appears to be a re-emergence of the Cold War.
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