20 January 2018

Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show

Earlier versions of this essay appear in Counterpunch and Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity


Photo by Jim Mattis | CC by 2.0
Much has been written about our Twitterer-in-Chief and the tortured response to his presidency, particularly within the GOP.  As a recent example, Frank Bruni of the New York Times lamented the fate of Senator Lindsey Graham, who has now become one of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders on mainstream shows such as “Meet the Press”. Bruni, however, reminds us that during the presidential campaign of 2016, Graham described then candidate Trump as the “world’s biggest jackass”, even as he now praises POTUS, thereby personifying “his party’s spastic, incoherent, humiliating response to Trump across time and its fatally misguided surrender.”
Appearances to the contrary, Bruni actually has got it “bass ackwards”.  In reality, Trump is well into the process of surrendering his presidency to the GOP establishment and what one of us has termed the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex” (MICC ). It’s worth recalling that Senator Graham, along with his erstwhile colleague, John McCain, have consistently acted as leading supplicants for the Department of Defense, as well as staunch Cold Warriors who long opposed Trump’s attempts to shift US foreign policy in a more Russo-friendly direction.  They (like Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign) also reacted with horror to the views expressed by Trump during the campaign when he questioned NATO’s eastward thrust, the power transformation in the western Pacific, Syria, Iraq, the Middle East altogether.
But for all of the talk of “Russia-gate” and collusion with Putin, Trump has in fact quietly been shifting US foreign policy in a direction which if anything is becoming decidedly more hawkish and militarized than has occurred under any American presidency since the early days of the Reagan Administration. Just last December, Trump Administration officials confirmed that the State Department approved a commercial license authorizing the export of Model M107A1 Sniper Systems, ammunition, and associated parts and accessories to Ukraine. These weapons were requested as early as 2014, but were long rejected by President Obama, who saw the sale as a needless risk elevation in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. (Ironically, Trump also initially resisted the inclusion in the GOP Platform of selling said weapons to the Ukraine, and this was subsequently cited by many as further “proof” of Boss Tweet’s collusion with Russia.)
More recently, the President directed the Department of Defense to conduct a new “Nuclear Posture Review January 2018” (NPR).  The mission statement of the draft review, recently leaked to the Huffington Post, is:
[T]o ensure a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent that safeguards the homeland, assures allies, and deters adversaries. This review comes at a critical moment in our nation’s history, for America confronts an international security situation that is more complex and demanding than any since the end of the Cold War. In this environment, it is not possible to delay modernization of our nuclear forces and remain faithful sentinel s of our nation’ s security and freedom for the next generation as well as our own.
The NPR draft, then, opens the door wider for using “precision” limited nuclear options in response to conventional and cyber threats.  In effect, this NPR, if signed into policy by Trump, locks in Obama’s massive nuclear modernization program, as well as expanding it significantly by putting small “precision-guided” nuclear warheads on SLBMs, among other things.
If Boss Tweet signs the NPR, he also will be approving and entrenching the political engineering of new SLBMs and ICBMs, the new Bomber, a new missile launching nuclear submarine, a new nuclear cruise missile, a whole panoply of new nuke-hardened space-based C3ISR systems, a new family of nuclear warheads, the addition of precision guidance to the B-61 “dial-a-yield” bomb, a massive modernization of the nuclear lab infrastructure, and much more.
So much for being Putin’s poodle! The implementation will certainly formalize the restart of the Cold War by adopting the precision nuclear strike mentality envisioned in the January 1988 report entitled Discriminant Deterrence, just as the Cold War was ending.  This report was  published by the Commission on Integrated Long Term Strategy, co-chaired by the noted Cold Warriors Fred IklĂ© and Albert Wohlstetter, and whose members have included, inter alia, the likes of Henry Kissinger (now apparently advising Jared Kushner after advising HRC during the 2016 campaign), Samuel Huntington, and the recently deceased Zbigniew Brezinski.
Once the political engineers are done spreading the nuke contract dollars to most, if not all, congressional districts, the whole program, currently estimated to be in excess of $1 Trillion, will be locked in for up to 50 years.  Any attempt to reverse this will be met by the usual tricks of the Pentagon: selective leaks to sympathetic journalists at the NYT & WaPo, along with threats to cut back at domestic bases, as well as the contracts themselves, which will be important sources of employment and political patronage in local Congressional districts.   If this was indeed Mr. Putin’s gambit in 2016, then he has seriously miscalculated.
About the only possible silver lining in the restart of the Cold War is that the MICC no longer needs to use the cover of the global war on terror to prop up its long term budgets. [see Domestic Roots Perpetual War]  The endless cycle of military budget one-upmanship which characterized most of the Cold War will reassert itself because both Moscow and Beijing are bound to respond, regardless of what Boss Tweet says his intentions are.
These are but a few examples of Trump’s policy reversals, along with the absurd notion that he would “drain the swamp”, introduce a “fantastic tax reform” that would largely benefit the middle class, give us a great healthcare system, and finally, develop a foreign policy that would allow the US to enjoy a closer and more collaborative relationship with Russia. Many of the very same people who once fretted about Trump and nuclear codes now applauding as he signs off on missiles and bombs and an escalation of the conflict in the Ukraine.
So to come back to Frank Bruni’s point: There is method to the apparent mad about-face by Graham and others in the GOP.  As for the so-called #TheResistance, most are still so obsessed with the Mueller investigation that they have failed to see that a soft coup has already taken place under their collective noses (indeed, with their recent approval of the FISA courts, it appears that the Democrats’ cries of alarm about the fate of our Republic are but crocodile tears). Why impeach Boss Tweet when he is so good to the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex (MICC) and the economic Oligarchs, while providing distracting entertainment to the masses and the press?  If it takes a new Cold War and a further subversion of our democracy to kneecap Donald Trump, well, one is all for it.
In short, Boss Tweet* has become the DC Swamp’s useful idiot and he will do as he is told with the help of Republicans in Congress, like Lindsey Graham (as well as many complicit Democrats – who have been sucked into the vortex of the renewed Cold War, in part by virtue of their opportunistic embrace of “Russiagate” – not to mention the corrupted intelligence community).  Trump can eat all of the Big Macs he wants, release his inner Klansman to his heart’s content, amuse himself by watching “Fox & Friends”, and enrich his family, so long as he plays ball with “his generals”, the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, Big Pharma and the rest of the One Percenters. So long as James Mattis gets to feed the big bucks to the MICC unhindered, or Charlie Koch gets a free ride by the Environmental Protection Agency, life will remain good at the White House for the First Family. There will be no impeachment or invocation of Article 25, because the president has been neutered.
No doubt, the press will continue to express abhorrence with every new obscenity or controversial tweet, lament the decline of our political parties, and the Mueller investigation will continue to act as a major distraction.  Meanwhile, the constitutional safeguards that have long been the bedroom of the republic will continue to be eviscerated.  Welcome to Versailles on the Potomac!

* "Boss Tweet" is a term of art ingeniously coined by Paul Street in this article: “An Idiot Surrounded by Clowns”: Why Trump (Still) Sits in the White House

21 December 2017

Intel Vets Tell Trump Iran Is Not Top Terror Sponsor

A group of U.S. intelligence veterans urges President Trump to stop his administration’s false claims about Iran being the leading state sponsor of terrorism when U.S. allies, such as Saudi Arabia, are clearly much guiltier.
[Reposted with permission of the Editor Consortium News]
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Is Iran the “World’s Leading Sponsor of Terrorism?”
We are concerned by recent strident and stark public statements from key members of your Administration that paint Iran in very alarmist terms. The average American, without the benefit of history, could easily be persuaded that Iran poses an imminent threat and that there is no alternative for us but military conflict.
President Donald Trump addresses the nation about his Iran policy on Oct. 13, 2017. (Screenshot from Whitehouse.gov)
We find this uncomfortably familiar territory. Ten years ago former President George W. Bush was contemplating a war with Iran when, in November of 2007, intelligence analysts issued a formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) debunking the prevailing conventional wisdom; namely, that Iran was on the verge of getting a nuclear weapon.  The NIE concluded that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003.
Recalling this moment in his memoir, Decision Points, President Bush noted that the NIE’s “eye-popping” intelligence findings stayed his hand.  He added this rhetorical question: “How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”
We believe that you are facing a similar situation today. But instead of an inaccurate claim that Iran has nuclear weapons, the new canard to justify war with Iran is the claim that Iran remains the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” This is incorrect, as we explain below.
 * * *
One of the recurring big bipartisan lies being pushed on the public with the enthusiastic help of a largely pliant media is that Iran is the prime sponsor of terrorism in the world today.
In the recent presentation of your administration’s National Security Strategy for 2018, the point is made that:
“Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has taken advantage of instability to expand its influence through partners and proxies, weapon proliferation, and funding. . . . Iran continues to perpetuate the cycle of violence in the region, causing grievous harm to civilian populations.”
Those sentiments are echoed by several other countries of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, for example, declared in October 2015 that: Iran “is the biggest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and it is working on destabilizing the region.”
The Saudi foreign minister conveniently declined to mention that 15 of the 19 terrorists who hijacked planes and attacked America on 11 September 2001 were Saudis, not Iranians.  And, while Iran was an active promoter of terrorism two decades ago, it is no longer in the forefront of global terrorism. Ironically, that dubious distinction now goes to Iran’s accusers — first and foremost, Saudi Arabia.
The depiction of Iran as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” is not supported by the facts. While Iran is guilty of having used terrorism as a national policy tool, the Iran of 2017 is not the Iran of 1981. In the early days of the Islamic Republic, Iranian operatives routinely carried out car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations of dissidents and of American citizens. That has not been the case for many years. Despite frequent claims by U.S. officials that Iran is engaged in terrorism, we simply note that the incidents recorded annually in the U.S. Department of State’s Patterns of Global Terrorism rarely identifies a terrorist incident as an act by or on behalf of Iran.
Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah also has evolved radically. In the early years of the Islamic Republic, Hezbollah was often a proxy and sub-contractor for Iran. But during the last 20 years Hezbollah has become an entity and political force in its own right. It fought Israel to a standstill in 2006 in southern Lebanon, which was a watershed moment in establishing Hezbollah’s transformation into a conventional army. In the intervening years, Hezbollah, which is now part of the Lebanese government, also has turned away from the radical, religious driven violence that is the hallmark of the Sunni extremists, like ISIS.
Iran’s Asymmetrical Response
After Iran fell under the rule of the Ayatollah in 1979 terrorism, its role in high profile terrorist attacks, such as the taking of U.S. hostages and the bombings of the U.S. Embassy and the Marine barracks in Lebanon, fed understandable U.S. animosity towards Iran.  But Iran’s actions were not driven primarily by blind hatred or radical religious views.  For Iran terrorism was a way to punch back against more powerful foes, principally the United States, which was providing military and intelligence support to Iran’s neighbor and enemy, Iraq.
Portrait of the late Ruhollah Khomeini by Mohammad Sayyid
The Iranians were also pragmatic and had direct dealings with Israel. During the early days of the Iranian revolution the Mullahs, despite publicly denouncing Israel, happily accepted secret military support from the Israelis. Israel was equally pragmatic. The Israeli leaders ignored the Mullahs and gave the support as a means of helping counter the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. A classic case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The public image of Iran as a hotbed of fanatical terrorists has been usurped since the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in east Africa by Al Qaeda and other radical Sunni entities. The U.S. Government’s own list of terrorist attacks since 2001 shows a dramatic drop in the violence carried out by Iran and an accompanying surge in horrific acts by radical Sunni Muslims who are not aligned with Iran.  The latest edition of the Global Terrorism Index, a project of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, shows that four groups accounted for 74 percent of all fatalities from terrorism in 2015 — Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS.
Thirteen of the 14 Muslim Groups identified by the U.S. intelligence community as actively hostile to the US are Sunni, not Shia, and are not supported by Iran:
– ISIS (Sunni)
– The Al-Nusra Front (Sunni)
– Al-Qa’ida Central (Sunni)
– Al-Qa’ida in Magheb (Sunni)
– Al-Qa’ida in Arabian Peninsula (Sunni)
– Boku Haram (Sunni)
– Al-Shabbab (Sunni)
– Khorassan Group (Sunni)
– Society of the Muslim Brothers (Sunni)
– Sayyaf Group in the Philippines (Sunni)
– Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan (Sunni)
– Lashgar i Taiba (Sunni)
– Jemaa Islamiya (Sunni)
– Houthis (Shia)
The last major terrorist attack causing casualties that is linked to Iran was the July 2012 bombing of a bus with Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. That departure from Iran’s more recent policy on terrorism was retaliation for what Iran perceived to be Israel’s role in assassinating five Iranian scientists involved with Iran’s Nuclear program, between January 2010 and January 2012 (the dates and names of those attacked are appended).
One can easily imagine the outrage and lust for revenge that would sweep the U.S., if Americans believed a foreign country sent operatives into the United States who in turn murdered engineers and scientists working on sensitive U.S. defense projects.
Special Operations
There have been other terrorist attacks inside Iran bearing the handprint of support from the United States. Author Sean Naylor, Relentless Strike, which details the history of operations carried out by U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) over the past 30 years, sheds light on this uncomfortable truth:
The late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“JSOC personnel also worked with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), a militant Iranian exile group that had based itself in Iraq after falling afoul of the ayatollahs’ regime in Tehran. The State Department had placed the MEK on its list of designated terrorist organizations, but that didn’t stop JSOC from taking an attitude of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” toward the group. “They were a group of folks that could transit the border, and they were willing to help us out on what we wanted to do with Iran,” said a special operations officer.”
The MEK were classified as a terrorist group, until the United States decided that as long as the MEK would help kill Iranians rather than Americans, that they were no longer terrorists. The MEK’s history of terrorism is quite clear. Among more than a dozen examples over the last four decades these four are illustrative:
  • During the 1970s, the MEK killed U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the takeover in 1979 of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
  • In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier’s office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Iran’s President, Premier, and Chief Justice.
  • In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and installations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas.
  • In April 1999, the MEK targeted key military officers and assassinated the deputy chief of the Iranian Armed Forces General Staff.
Despite this history, a bipartisan parade of prominent U.S. political and military leaders has lobbied on behalf of MEK and has been well compensated in return.
Benighted Policy So Far
In the ultimate ironic turn, the U.S.-led 2003 war in Iraq played a critical role in Iran’s resurgence as a regional power. Saddam Hussein was replaced by Shia muslims who had received sanctuary in Iran for many years and Baathist institutions, including the Army, were taken over by Iraqis sympathetic to Tehran.
Iran has come out ahead in Iraq and, with the 2015 nuclear agreement in place, Iran’s commercial and other ties have improved with key NATO allies and the other major world players—Russia and China in particular.
Official pronouncements on critical national security matters need to be based on facts. Hyperbole in describing Iran’s terrorist activities can be counterproductive. For this reason, we call attention to Ambassador Nikki Haley’s recent statement that it is hard to find a “terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.” The truth is quite different. The majority of terrorist groups in the region are neither creatures nor puppets of Iran. ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra are three of the more prominent that come to mind.
You have presented yourself as someone willing to speak hard truths in the face of establishment pressure and not to accept the status quo. You spoke out during the campaign against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq as a historic mistake of epic proportions. You also correctly captured the mood of many Americans fatigued from constant war in far away lands. Yet the torrent of warnings from Washington about the dangers supposedly posed by Iran and the need to confront them are being widely perceived as steps toward reversing your pledge not to get embroiled in new wars.
We encourage you to reflect on the warning we raised with President George W. Bush almost 15 years ago, at a similar historic juncture:
“after watching Secretary Powell today, we are convinced that you would be well served if you widened the discussion … beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani celebrates the completion of an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program on Nov. 24, 2013, by kissing the head of the daughter of an assassinated Iranian nuclear engineer. (Iranian government photo)
  • January 12, 2010: Masoud Alimohammadi, Iranian Physicist:
  • Killed by a car bomb.  The perpetrator reportedly confessed to having been recruited by Israeli intelligence to carry out the assassination.
  • November 29, 2010: Majid Shahriari, Iranian nuclear scientist:
  • Killed by a car bomb.  According to German media, Israel was the sponsor.
  • November 29, 2010: Assassination attempt on Fereydoon Abbasi Iranian nuclear scientist:
  • Wounded by a car bomb.
  • July 23, 2011: Darioush Rezaeinejad, Iranian electrical engineer, unclear scientist
  • Killed by unknown gunmen on motorcycle.  Specialist on high-voltage switches — a key component of nuclear warheads.  Assassinated by Israeli intelligence, according to the German press.
  • January 11, 2012: Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, Iranian nuclear scientist
  • Killed at Natanz uranium enrichment facility by a magnetic bomb of the same kind used in earlier assassinations of Iranian scientists.
Richard Beske, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
William Binney, former NSA Technical Director for World Geopolitical & Military Analysis; Co-founder of NSA’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center
Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) and Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research
Bogdan Dzakovic, Former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security, (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer
Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (Ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)
John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)
Torin Nelson, former Intelligence Officer/Interrogator (GG-12) HQ, Department of the Army
Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
Greg Thielmann — Former director of the Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office of the State Department’s intelligence bureau (INR) and former senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee
Kirk Wiebe — former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA
Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), Distinguished Visiting Professor, College of William and Mary (associate VIPS)
Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (Retired)/DIA, (Retired)
Robert Wing — former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (who resigned in opposition to the war on Iraq)

20 December 2017

PODCAST: Birthing the Hog (I)

Pierre Sprey & the A-10
The Blaster Blog is full of stories lamenting the Pentagon's preference for gold-plated boondoggles that perform poorly on real battlefields at ever higher costs.  There are a few — far too few — exceptions to this pattern.  One of the most outstanding is the Air Force A-10 Warthog, affectionately known as the "Hog" — a superb combat airplane that the Army and Marine grunts love and the Air Force hates.  Readers unfamiliar with A-10 and the background issues surrounding the never ending debate to kill the Hog will find earlier postings at these links:
That the A-10 performs so well in real war is no accident.  How the A-10 came to exist is a case study in how to fix the Pentagon --  in terms of (1) understanding how the pathological culture in the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex routinely produces weapons that do not work as predicted — but always at ever higher cost; and (2) understanding what it takes to overcome that culture to produce a truly superior weapon at a lower cost.
Attached below, is a podcast where Dan Grazier, a former Marine grunt with experience in real war, interviews Pierre Sprey — one of the central figures shaping the evolution of the A-10.  Sprey describes his efforts ranging from the systematic (and unique) effort to (1) translate the hard-earned lessons of combat into design specifications; (2) then convert those specifications into an efficient, cost-conscious acquisition program — one based on the concept of disciplined engineering via trial and error experimentation at the component level to rigorous testing based on competitive prototyping at the system level, and (3) making the final prototype selection based on a competitive flyoff/shootoff, where each prototype is flown by combat-coded pilots in realistic combat conditions.

Caveat: Readers should be advised that I am biased for two reasons: First, Sprey is one of my closest friends and has been a colleague since the late 1970s. Second, I had a bit part in the A-X development program during the late 1960s as a 23-25 year old Lt/engineer in the Air Force Flight Dynamics Laboratory, where my office — which was at the opposite end of the food chain described by Sprey — was involved in performing analysis of combat data and evolving the live fire tests to reduce the A-10's vulnerability to air defense guns. 

PODCAST: Pierre Sprey and the Birth of the A-10 (Part 1)
Dan Grazier, 18 December 2017
Jack Shanahan Military Fellow
Straus Military Reform Project/Center for Defense Information
Project on Government Oversight
(posted with permission)
Pierre Sprey. (Photo: Jim Stevenson )
The A-10 has proven itself to be one of the most venerable and capable aircraft in the US arsenal. It is also an aircraft most people in the Air Force never wanted and have spent years actively working to send it to the scrap yard. It is the first aircraft every designed from the very beginning to be solely dedicated to supporting ground troops. Generations of American soldiers and Marines have come to love the jet for its unique abilities to free them from jams and to help accomplish the mission. The A-10 achieved this status through a unique set of fortuitous events and a few brave and dedicated individuals who dedicated themselves to making sure the men and women fighting one the ground would receive the support they needed from the air. Pierre Sprey, one of Robert McNamara’s “whiz kids,” played a key role in the creation of the A-10 and recounts this incredible story.

Show Notes:

09 October 2017

Administrative Note

I recently upgraded my computer and a few of the embedded links on this website have gone dead.  These are being repaired.  The most serious problem discovered to date were those to the historically important interviews on the page entitled.  Maneuver Warfare: German Experiences in WWII.

These links have now been repaired. 

09 August 2017

Should Trump Privatize the Afghan War?

Attached below is an essay by Justin Raimondo dissecting an idiotic, depraved idea.  

In so doing, he echoes the conclusions of Lynn Montross's analysis of how perpetual war and moral decay led to the downfall of ancient Greece in his classic history, War Through the Ages:

" ... the extent of Greece's downfall is no more striking than its acceleration. Only 152 years separated the sturdy triumph of Marathon from the defeat of Chaeroneia. ... During this century and a half the Greek warrior declined from his high estate as citizen-soldier to that of a mercenary ...  Bribery and treachery became commonplace events. ... and the constant calls for recruits [i.e. resources, CS] drained the vitality of the leading city states."

Whether he knows it or not, Raimondo, a hard core Libertarian, is also making a moral case for trashing the all volunteer military and bringing back the draft.  One lesson of the Vietnam War was that shifting to an honest draft, based on a lottery, quickly ends a perpetual losing war by spreading its costs to all citizens, privileged as well as underprivileged. 

The game outlined below would perpetuate a losing war to reward those who profit by that war.

Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com, 8 August 2017

After sixteen years of fighting what is by now the longest war in our history, American policymakers are out of ideas when it comes to Afghanistan. The Bush administration was all about nation-building: if only we built schools so that Afghan women could be educated and “liberated,” a grateful people would abandon terrorism and the war would be won. The Obama administration – which came to power on the strength of candidate Obama’s contention that the Iraq war was “the wrong war,” and that we had neglected the Afghan front – instituted a “surge” of some 40,000 more US troops, and then declared victory in 2014. Now the Trump administration is confronted with the reality of the Taliban in charge of nearly half the country, and the dysfunctional Afghan government barely able to hold Kabul, the capital. 

What to do?

Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s top political advisor and the architect of his 2016 election victory, has been pushing for the “zero option” – the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Bannon and his fellow nationalists want out for political and ideological reasons: they want to concentrate on the President’s domestic agenda, and oppose on principle the whole nation-building scheme that has been in place since the Obama years. This is what the Trump base wants, as well, but it looks like the nationalists have lost that debate, with the President taking the “zero option” off the table.

The generals, led by National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, want to launch yet another “surge,” with at least 3,000 more US troops to be sent into the Afghan quagmire, and more taxpayer dollars pumped into the corrupt and incompetent Afghan governmental apparatus. Trump has reportedly rejected this option as well, and ordered his advisors to come up with a new plan. Meanwhile the Taliban continues to make gains on the battlefield, we continue to suffer casualties, and there is no new policy in place.

Into this policy vacuum comes Erik Prince, notorious founder of Blackwater, the world’s leading mercenary outfit: a company with a dubious history, and a CEO with a reputation to match. Reportedly the Bannon group, frustrated in their desire to get Trump to withdraw, is pushing a plan to “privatize” the Afghan war, and Prince is out there trying to drum up support for the idea. Here is Prince in an interview with Breitbart outlining his proposal. …[cont.]

14 April 2017

Gas Attack in Syria: Cui Bono?

In the attached opinion piece, Uri Avnery, Israel’s leading peace activist, brilliantly dissects the question of whether or not Syrian President Bashar Assad had any incentive to launch the recent gas attack on his own people in Idlib, Syria.  In so doing, Avnery ends up with the deeper question of whether President Trump’s recent cruise missile attack on Syria was motivated by serious strategic military objectives or was simply a spasmodic reaction triggered by a toxic concatenation of domestic political interests with yellow journalism.  
Avnery is a self taught man of letters and a sensitive observer of the intersection of contemporary Arab culture with Israeli culture.  He is now in his mid nineties, having emigrated to Israel from Germany in the 1930s.  One of the last remaining prominent advocates of the so-called “Two State Solution" to the Arab-Israeli question, Avnery has an amazing personal trajectory: In his youth, he was a member of the Israeli terrorist organization, the Irgun, he was a hero of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and has served in the Israeli parliament — the Knesset.  Since the 1948 war, sometimes at great personal risk, Avnery has worked tirelessly for peace in the Middle East.  Today he is the spiritual leader of the Gush Shalam peace movement in Israel.  Interested readers can view this video celebrating his amazing bio.

Uri Avnery, 15 April 2017
CUI BONO – "who benefits" – is the first question an experienced detective asks when investigating a crime.
Since I was a detective myself for a short time in my youth, I know the meaning. Often, the first and obvious suspicion is false. You ask yourself "cui bono", and another suspect, who you did not think about, appears.
For two weeks now, this question has been troubling my mind. It does not leave me.
In Syria, a terrible war crime has been committed. The civilian population in a rebel-held town called Idlib was hit with poison gas. Dozens of civilians, including children, died a miserable death.
Who could do such a thing? The answer was obvious: that terrible dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Who else?
And so, within a few minutes (literally) the New York Times and a host of excellent newspapers throughout the West proclaimed without hesitation: Assad did it!
No need for proof. No investigation. It was just self-evident. Of course Assad. Within minutes, everybody knew it.
A storm of indignation swept the Western world. He must be punished! Poor Donald Trump, who does not have a clue, submitted to pressure and ordered a senseless missile strike on a Syrian airfield, after preaching for years that the US must under no circumstances get involved in Syria. Suddenly he reversed himself. Just to teach that bastard a lesson. And to show the world what a he-he-he-man he, Trump, really is.
The operation was an immense success. Overnight, the despised Trump became a national hero. Even liberals kissed his feet.
BUT THROUGHOUT, that question continued to nag my mind. Why did Assad do it? What did he have to gain?
The simple answer is: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
("Assad" means "lion" in Arabic. Contrary to what Western experts and statesmen seem to believe, the emphasis is on the first syllable.)
With the help of Russia, Iran and Hizbullah, Assad is slowly winning the civil war that has been ravishing Syria for years, He already holds almost all the major cities that constitute the core of Syria. He has enough weapons to kill as many enemy civilians as his heart desires.
So why, for Allah's sake, should he use gas to kill a few dozen more? Why arouse the anger of the entire world, inviting American intervention?
There is no way to deny the conclusion: Assad had the least to gain from the dastardly deed. On the list of "cui bono", he is the very last.
Assad is a cynical dictator, perhaps cruel, but he is far from being a fool. He was raised by his father, Hafez al-Assad, who was a long-time dictator before him. Even if he were a fool, his advisors include some of the cleverest people on earth: Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah.
So who had something to gain? Well, half a dozen Syrian sects and militias who are fighting against Assad and against each other in the crazy civil war. Also their Sunni Arab allies, the Saudi and other Gulf Sheikhs. And Israel, of course. They all have an interest in arousing the civilized world against the Syrian dictator.
Simple logic.
A MILITARY act must have a political aim. As Carl von Clausewitz famously said 200 years ago: war is the continuation of politics by other means.
The two main opponents in the Syrian civil war are the Assad regime and Daesh. So what is the aim of the US? It sounds like a joke: The US wants to destroy both sides. Another joke: First it wants to destroy Daesh, therefore it bombs Assad.
The destruction of Daesh is highly desirable. There are few more detestable groups in the world. But Daesh is an idea, rather than just an organization. The destruction of the Daesh state would disperse thousands of dedicated assassins all over the world.
(Interestingly enough, the original Assassins, some 900 years ago, were Muslim fanatics very similar to Daesh now.)
America's own clients in Syria are a sorry lot, almost beaten. They have no chance of winning.
Hurting Assad now just means prolonging a civil war which is now even more senseless than before.
FOR ME, a professional journalist most of my life, the most depressing aspect of this whole chapter is the influence of the American and Western media in general.
I read the New York Times and admire it. Yet it shredded all its professional standards by publishing an unproven assumption as gospel truth, with no need for verification. Perhaps Assad is to blame, after all. But where is the proof? Who investigated, and what were the results?
Worse, the "news" immediately became a world-wide truth. Many millions repeat it unthinkingly as self-evident, like sunrise in the east and sunset in the west.
No questions raised. No proof demanded or provided. Very depressing.
BACK TO the dictator. Why does Syria need a dictator? Why isn't it a beautiful US-style democracy? Why doesn't it gratefully accept US-devised "regime-change"?
The Syrian dictatorship is no accidental phenomenon. It has very concrete roots.
Syria was created by France after World War I. A part of it later split off and became Lebanon.
Both are artificial creations. I doubt whether there are even today real "Syrians" and real "Lebanese".
Lebanon is a mountainous country, ideally suited for small sects which need to defend themselves. Over the centuries, many small sects found refuge there. As a result, Lebanon is full of such sects, which distrust each other – Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims, Maronite Christians, many other Christian sects, Druze, Kurds.
Syria is much the same, with most of the same sects, and the addition of the Alawites. These, like the Shiites, are the followers of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet (hence the name). They occupy a patch of land in the North of Syria.
Both countries needed to invent a system that allowed such diverse and mutually-suspicious entities to live together. They found two different systems.
In Lebanon, with a past of many brutal civil wars, they invented a way of sharing. The President is always a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni, the commander of the army a Druze, and the Speaker of Parliament a Shiite.
When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Shiites in the south were the lowest on the ladder. They welcomed our soldiers with rice. But soon they realized that the Israelis had not come just to defeat their overbearing neighbors, but intended to stay. So the lowly Shiites started a very successful guerrilla campaign, in the course of which they became the most powerful community in Lebanon. They are led by Hizballah, the Party of Allah. But the system still holds.
The Syrians found another solution. They willingly submitted to a dictatorship, to hold the country together and assure internal peace.
The Bible tells us that when the Children of Israel decided that they needed a king, they chose a man called Saul who belonged to the smallest tribe, Binyamin. The modern Syrians did much the same: they submitted to a dictator from one of their smallest tribes: the Alawites.
The Assads are secular, anti-religious rulers – the very opposite of the fanatical, murderous Daesh. Many Muslims believe that the Alawites are not Muslims at all. Since Syria lost the Yom Kippur war against Israel, 44 years ago, the Assads have kept the peace on our border, though Israel has annexed the Syrian Golan Heights.
The civil war in Syria is still going on. Everybody is fighting against everybody. The diverse groups of "rebels", created, financed and armed by the US, are now in a bad shape. There are several competing groups of Jihadists, who all hate the Jihadist Daesh. There is a Kurdish enclave, which wants to secede. The Kurds are not Arabs, but are mainly Muslims. There are Kurdish enclaves in neighboring Turkey, Iraq and Iran, whose mutual hostility prevents them making common cause.
And there is poor, innocent Donald Trump, who has sworn not to get involved in all this mess, and who is doing just that.
A day before, Trump was despised by half the American people, including most of the media. Just by launching a few missiles, he has won general admiration as a forceful and wise leader.

What does that say about the American people, and about humanity in general?