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Philip Giraldi

Why Have Embassies?

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President Joe Biden’s departure from Afghanistan was the right thing to do even if it was handled disastrously. And he now has the opportunity to do some other “right things” that are in some ways related to the recently concluded fiasco in Central Asia in that the White House for too long has believed that it has the authority to intervene globally given its often cited authority as both “exceptional” and “Leader of the Free World.” One thinks immediate of the sanctions regime which is used repeatedly to punish foreign governments that do not conform to American and Western European norms on issues like homosexuality, “choice,” and even immigration. The current edition of sanctions, naming individuals, businesses and government entities, runs to hundreds of pages. It is updated and added to regularly by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

It has repeatedly been demonstrated that sanctions do not accomplish anything and they in fact disproportionately punish the most vulnerable people in the country being targeted, depriving them of food and medicine while their leaders have plenty of both. Sanctions do not compel countries to change their foreign and domestic policies and, in fact, frequently generate a measure of sympathy, producing popular support for regimes that are perceived as being unfairly attacked by the United States. Many argue that the authoritarian regime in Cuba has largely survived because many Cubans despise the extensive US imposed sanctions on their country.
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Here Come the Terrorists. Again

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President Joe Biden is being praised in some circles because he finally ended the war in Afghanistan that in all likelihood should never have begun. President George W. Bush initiated the conflict on a series of lies about 9/11 and the Taliban role in that attack and what followed. After bringing about regime change, he decided to remake the country into a western style democracy. President Barack Obama subsequently allowed a “surge” which actually increased the militarization of the conflict and made things worse. The joint effort produced no free elections but delivered instead tens of thousands of deaths and a huge hole in the US Treasury. 

Bush and Obama were followed by President Donald Trump who actually promised to end the war but lacked the conviction and political support to do so, handing the problem over to Biden, who has bungled the end game but finally done the right thing by ending the fiasco. Biden also has been right to accede to a withdrawal of the last US combat troops from Iraq by year’s end, a move that will considerably ease tension with the Baghdad government, which has been calling for such a move since last January.

But America’s war on those parts of the world that resist following its self-defined leadership is not about to go away. An interesting recent article in the foreign policy establishment The Hill written by a former senior CIA operations and staff officer Douglas London sees an Orwellian unending war against major adversaries Russia and China. Derived from his own experience, he concludes that sustained and enhanced clandestine actions should now replace conventional military forces confrontation, which has been somewhat outdated as an option due to the development of relatively cheap missile technologies that have undermined classic conventional weapons.
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Washington’s Clueless Ambassadors: Damaging American Interests Is Their Legacy

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Whenever one gets into discussions about the decline of America’s ability to positively influence developments around the world a number of issues tend to surface. First is the hubristic claim by successive presidents that the United States is somehow “exceptional” as a polity while also serving as the world’s only superpower and also the anointed Leader of the Free World, whatever that is supposed to mean. Some critics of the status quo also have been willing to look a bit deeper, recognizing that it is the policies being pursued by the White House and Congress that are out of sync with what is actually happening in Asia, Africa and Latin America, being more driven by establishing acceptable narratives than by genuine interests.

The problem starts at the top. One can hardly have a great deal of respect for presidents who appointed neocon or neoliberal ideologues Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, Mike Pompeo or current incumbent Tony Blinken as Secretaries of State, but when all is said and done the area where the US fails is most egregiously is in the personnel it actually sends overseas. It has far more non-professional ambassadors than any other country in the world.

Does the American public know, for example, that fully 44% of American Ambassadors sent overseas under Donald Trump were political appointees, whose sole distinction in many cases is that they contributed large sums of money to the Republican National Committee? Though such individuals can sometimes turn out to be surprisingly effective, many frequently know nothing of the country that they have been assigned to and do not speak the local language. To cite my own experience, in my 21 years as an intelligence officer spent mostly in Europe I did not once work for an ambassador who was a Foreign Service Officer career diplomat and few of the political appointees I knew never bothered to learn the local language.
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Washington’s Terrorist Friends: Prominent Americans Continue to Support a Murderous Cult

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One might ask if Washington’s obsession with terrorism includes supporting radical armed groups as long as they are politically useful in attacking countries that the US regards as enemies? It is widely known that the American CIA worked with Saudi Arabia to create al-Qaeda to attack the Russians in Afghanistan and the same my-enemy’s-enemy thinking appears to drive the current relationships with radical groups in Syria.
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Whither Afghanistan? Getting Out Is Harder Than Getting In

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The inability of the United States to comprehend what it was becoming involved in when, in the wake of 9/11, it declared a Global War on Terror, has to be reckoned one of the singular failures of national security policy over the past twenty years. Not only did the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq make bad situations worse, but the fact that no one is Washington was able to define “victory” and think in terms of an exit strategy has meant that the wars and instability are still with us. In their wake has been hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars spent to accomplish absolutely nothing.

As a result, Iraq is unstable and leans more heavily towards America’s adversary Iran than it does to Washington. The Iraqi Parliament has, in fact, asked US forces to leave the country, a request that has been ignored both by Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Trump actually threatened to freeze Iraqi bank assets to pressure the Iraqis into accepting the continued US occupation. At the same time, American troops illegally present in neighboring Syria, continue to occupy that country’s oil fields to deprive the government in Damascus of much needed resources. Neither Iraq nor Syria threatens the United States in any way.

Given that history, it should be no surprise that the withdrawal from the twenty year-long nation building project in Afghanistan, long overdue, is not quite going as smoothly as the Pentagon and White House apparently planned. US forces pulled out of their principal base in the country, Bagram Air Base, in the middle of the night without informing the incoming Afghan base commander. A frenzy of looting of the left behind equipment followed.
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Bomber Joe Biden Strikes Iraq and Syria: Retaliation Breeds More Incidents

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In less than six months in office President Joe Biden has already developed a national security policy that appears to lean strongly towards proactive use of military force in questionable circumstances, as if war is the answer to every problem. Biden should nevertheless be applauded for his persistence in withdrawing from Afghanistan after twenty years of ill-considered nation building, but even the departure from that country appears to be characterized by a lack of coordination, rather reminiscent of helicopters taking off from the embassy roof in Saigon in 1975.
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A Country That Has Lost Its Way: U.S. Government and Corporations Combine to Strip Citizens of Their Rights

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The American people have increasingly become aware that government surveillance and corporate censorship have combined to keep people ignorant and controlled. What is taking place has generated some dark humor. A friend of mine, also a former CIA officer, wrote to me recently and said tongue-in-cheek that he retains a lot of respect for the Agency because it is the only major government national security entity that does not read our mail and emails. Those jobs are the responsibility of the NSA and FBI. I responded that I would imagine that CIA does in fact read quite a lot of mail where it operates overseas but it is probably done the old-fashioned way by recruiting an underpaid mail clerk as an agent.

The whole issue of the government spying illegally on its own citizens has again made the news with the claims by conservative commentator Tucker Carlson that NSA has been spying on him, presumably because he has connections that the government regards either as subversive or, in the new reckoning, as “extremists” who are potential “domestic terrorists.” Given the reasonable assumption that anyone who voted for Donald Trump might well fall under those categories, that means that something like half the US population could be under suspicion.

Mass electronic surveillance of literally trillions of phone calls and messages worldwide without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment restrictions on searches without probable cause or a proper warrant issued by a judge has been the regular NSA authorized procedure at least since 9/11 and there is no reason to assume that it is no longer the practice. It basically is initiated by the agency involved (normally NSA or FBI) going to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court or to some other appropriate judge to get a warrant on an individual where there is some probable cause. Probable cause can consist of “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.”
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America Leader of the Free World? How to Forget US interference in Foreign Elections

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After only five months in office, President Joe Biden has already become notorious for his verbal gaffes and mis-spokes, so much so that an admittedly Republican-partisan physician has suggested that he be tested to determine his cognitive abilities. That said, however, there is one June 16th tweet that he is responsible for that is quite straightforward that outdoes everything else for sheer mendacity. It appeared shortly after the summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and was apparently intended to be rhetorical, at least insofar as Biden understands the term. It went: “How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it? What would it be like if we engaged in activities that he engaged in? It diminishes the standing of a country.”

There have been various estimates of just exactly how many elections the United States has interfered in since the Second World War, the numbers usually falling somewhere between 80 and 100, but that does not take into account the frequent interventions of various kinds that took place largely in Latin America between the Spanish-American War and 1946. One recalls how the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps Major General Smedley Butler declared that “War is a racket” in 1935. He confessed to having “…helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”
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Butting Heads With China and Russia: American Diplomats Are Outclassed

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With the exception of the impending departure of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, if it occurs, the White House seems to prefer to use aggression to deter adversaries rather than finesse. The recent exchanges between Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting in Alaska demonstrate how Beijing has a clear view of its interests which Washington seems to lack. Blinken initiated the acrimonious exchange when he cited “deep concerns with actions by China, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the United States, economic coercion toward our allies.
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The US Congress Turns on Itself: Censuring and Threats of Expulsion Proliferating

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Mark Twain once wrote that “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” Some developments over the past several weeks would certainly support that judgement if one regards a country’s legislative body as a mechanism intended to benefit the public that it is elected to serve. The hypocrisy of America’s two major parties is something to behold, with corruption at a level that is rarely attained in most third world countries.

Recently there have been some appalling cases that underline how far the American Congress has separated itself from any tangible national interest if one excludes getting rich and reelected, in whichever order one seeks to go about that. One of the best at getting rich and reelected in spite of not having two brain cells to rub together is the esteemed Maxine Waters of California, who has starred in her recent attempt to inspire an angry mob to get more “confrontational” if the murder trial of Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin were to go the wrong way through a failure to convict.

Now bear in mind that we Americans live in a no-fault no-accountability society, where no one is guilty of anything unless he or she is caught red handed and has no protectors in place to deny that anything at all happened. As Maxine has plenty of defenders because she is black, a woman and, most of all, a Democrat, it should have been expected that in her case a call to riot by a congressman would be treated as a non-event, and so it proved when the GOP made a feeble attempt to censure her for her behavior.
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