TBR News December 13, 2016

Dec 13 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  December 13, 2016:”To use an old German phrase, the shovel is full. The shovel here is the cooperation between organs of the government, major business oligarchs and the national press media. This cooperation, wherein news of a nature that displeases the controllers is never reported and propaganda in support of any, or all, of the leaders’ policies is given above-the-fold prominence. At the present time we see a clear example of this in the frantic attempts on the part of losing Democrats and their allies in the business world about their loss of the White House. Feeble attempts at recounts of votes has fallen flat, rejected by the courts, so now we see grotesque reports that the CIA claims Russia was behind the decline and fall of the liberals. There are citizens who would believe anything they read in the news media or see on the equallyu-controlled television industry but their numbers are rapidly diminishing. While it is true that there is often too much of a good thing, also it is true there is too much of a bad.”

Exclusive: Top U.S. spy agency has not embraced CIA assessment on Russia hacking – sources

December 13, 2016

by Mark Hosenball and Johnahan Landay


Washington-The overseers of the U.S. intelligence community have not embraced a CIA assessment that Russian cyber attacks were aimed at helping Republican President-elect Donald Trump win the 2016 election, three American officials said on Monday.

While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) does not dispute the CIA’s analysis of Russian hacking operations, it has not endorsed their assessment because of a lack of conclusive evidence that Moscow intended to boost Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, said the officials, who declined to be named.

The position of the ODNI, which oversees the 17 agency-strong U.S. intelligence community, could give Trump fresh ammunition to dispute the CIA assessment, which he rejected as “ridiculous” in weekend remarks, and press his assertion that no evidence implicates Russia in the cyber attacks.

Trump’s rejection of the CIA’s judgment marks the latest in a string of disputes over Russia’s international conduct that have erupted between the president-elect and the intelligence community he will soon command.

An ODNI spokesman declined to comment on the issue.

“ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can’t prove intent,” said one of the three U.S. officials. “Of course they can’t, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose evidentiary standards require it to make cases that can stand up in court, declined to accept the CIA’s analysis – a deductive assessment of the available intelligence – for the same reason, the three officials said.

The ODNI, headed by James Clapper, was established after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the recommendation of the commission that investigated the attacks. The commission, which identified major intelligence failures, recommended the office’s creation to improve coordination among U.S. intelligence agencies.

In October, the U.S. government formally accused Russia of a campaign of cyber attacks against American political organizations ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election. Democratic President Barack Obama has said he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin about consequences for the attacks.

Reports of the assessment by the CIA, which has not publicly disclosed its findings, have prompted congressional leaders to call for an investigation.

Obama last week ordered intelligence agencies to review the cyber attacks and foreign intervention in the presidential election and to deliver a report before he turns power over to Trump on Jan. 20.

The CIA assessed after the election that the attacks on political organizations were aimed at swaying the vote for Trump because the targeting of Republican organizations diminished toward the end of the summer and focused on Democratic groups, a senior U.S. official told Reuters on Friday.

Moreover, only materials filched from Democratic groups – such as emails stolen from John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman – were made public via WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization, and other outlets, U.S. officials said.


The CIA conclusion was a “judgment based on the fact that Russian entities hacked both Democrats and Republicans and only the Democratic information was leaked,” one of the three officials said on Monday.

“(It was) a thin reed upon which to base an analytical judgment,” the official added.

Republican Senator John McCain said on Monday there was “no information” that Russian hacking of American political organizations was aimed at swaying the outcome of the election.

“It’s obvious that the Russians hacked into our campaigns,” McCain said. “But there is no information that they were intending to affect the outcome of our election and that’s why we need a congressional investigation,” he told Reuters.

McCain questioned an assertion made on Sunday by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, tapped by Trump to be his White House chief of staff, that there were no hacks of computers belonging to Republican organizations.

“Actually, because Mr. Priebus said that doesn’t mean it’s true,” said McCain. “We need a thorough investigation of it, whether both (Democratic and Republican organizations) were hacked into, what the Russian intentions were. We cannot draw a conclusion yet. That’s why we need a thorough investigation.”

In an angry letter sent to ODNI chief Clapper on Monday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he was “dismayed” that the top U.S. intelligence official had not informed the panel of the CIA’s analysis and the difference between its judgment and the FBI’s assessment.

Noting that Clapper in November testified that intelligence agencies lacked strong evidence linking Russian cyber attacks to the WikiLeaks disclosures, Nunes asked that Clapper, together with CIA and FBI counterparts, brief the panel by Friday on the latest intelligence assessment of Russian hacking during the election campaign.

(Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Jonathan Oatis)

The CIA Never Ever Lies

December 12, 2016

by David Swanson


At moments like these, when every good responsible and enlightened liberal is recognizing the need to destroy the world in order to save it, by getting World War III started with Russia before Trump can move in and damage anything, I believe it is important to remember a few facts that will strengthen our resolve:

The oligarch who owns the Washington Post has CIA contracts worth at least twice what he paid to buy the Washington Post, thus making the Washington Post the most reliable authority on the CIA we have ever, ever had.

When the CIA concludes things in secret that are reported to the Washington Post by anonymous sources the reliability of the conclusions is heightened exponentially.

Phrases like “individuals with connections to the Russian government” are simply shorthand for “Vladimir Putin” because the Washington Post has too much good taste to actually print that name.

Claims to know extremely difficult things to know, like the motivations of said individuals, are essentially fact, given what we know of the CIA’s near perfect record over the decades.

Getting this wrong, much less questioning something or asking to see any evidence, would endanger us all and threaten innocent children with having false statements made about them in a Russian accent.

The fact that the group of people producing our information is referred to as “the Intelligence Community” means it is intelligent and communal, while the fact that people within that community refused to go along with its claims or allow them to become a so-called national intelligence estimate means that there are traitors right in the heart of our holy warriors’ sanctuary.

If you doubt that the CIA is always, always right you need only focus your attention on the fact that there are Republicans questioning these claims, including Republicans who are terrible people, on top of which Donald Trump is a racist, sexist pig.

Good people are loyal Democrats, and when the Democrats did the thing that we now know was revealed by Putin in order to make Trump president (namely cheating its politically and morally superior candidate out of its nomination) that was done as a generous sacrifice for us and our children.

Claims made without public evidence have never turned out to be false or exaggerated in the slightest in the past, certainly not in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Vietnam, Nicaragua, or any other part of the earth.

When I looked into every past war and discovered that they were always preceded by lies, it was because I had secret psychic information that at some future date Vladimir would reward me. I should wait patiently for his payment and then report it to the CIA/Washington Post.

Obama Must Declassify Evidence of Russian Hacking

December 12 2016

by Jeremy Scahill and Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

Here are two of political history’s great constants: first, countries meddling in the internal affairs of others (both enemies and “friends”); and, second, bogus charges from a faction in one country that foreigners are meddling in its internal affairs to help another faction.

Both are poison for any country that wishes to rule itself.

So if we’re serious about being a self-governing republic, we have to demand that President Obama declassify as much intelligence as possible that Russia may have intervened in the 2016 presidential election.

Taking Donald Trump’s position — that we should just ignore the question of Russian hacking and “move on” — would be a disaster.

Relying on a hazy war of leaks from the CIA, FBI, various politicians, and their staff is an equally terrible idea.

A congressional investigation would be somewhat better, but that would take years — like the investigations of the intelligence on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction — and would be fatally compromised by the Democrats’ political timidity and GOP opposition.

The only path forward that makes sense is for Obama to order the release of as much evidence as possible underlying the reported “high confidence” of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia both intervened in the election and did so with the intention of aiding Trump’s candidacy.

Intelligence agencies hate, often with good reason, to publicly reveal how they obtain information, or even the information itself, since that can make it clear how they got it. But the government would not need to reveal its most sensitive sources and methods — e.g., which specific Vladimir Putin aides we have on our payroll — to release enough evidence to aid the public debate over interference in our election by a powerful nation state.

And if there were ever a situation in which it was crucial to lean in the direction of more rather than less disclosure, it’s now. Obama should make that clear to the intelligence agencies, and that if forced to he is willing to wield his power as president to declassify anything he deems appropriate.

The current discourse on this issue is plagued by partisan gibberish — there is a disturbing trend emerging that dictates that if you don’t believe Russia hacked the election or if you simply demand evidence for this tremendously significant allegation, you must be a Trump apologist or a Soviet agent.

The reality, however, is that Trump’s reference to the Iraq War and the debacle over weapons of mass destruction is both utterly cynical and a perfectly valid point. U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly demonstrated that they regularly both lie and get things horribly wrong. In this case they may well be correct, but they cannot expect Americans to simply take their word for it.

It’s also the case that the U.S. has a long history of interfering in other countries’ elections, and far worse: The U.S. has overthrown democratically elected governments the world over. In fact, in 2006 Hillary Clinton herself criticized the George W. Bush administration for not doing “something to determine who was going to win” in Palestinian elections. It would not be shocking in the least if Russia sought to interfere in the U.S. electoral process.

But let’s have some proof.

In his Farewell Address of 1796, George Washington wrote that, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it.” That was good advice then, and it’s good advice now. We have to force our politicians to take it seriously.

And if it comes to pass that the U.S. government refuses to back up these serious claims with evidence, then perhaps a patriotic whistleblower will do the public an important service. Here is our offer at The Intercept: If anyone has solid proof that Russia interfered with U.S. elections, send it to us via secure drop and we will verify its legitimacy and publish it.

PropOrNot Website Exposed As CIA And Ukrainian Operation

December 10, 2016

by Sean Adl-Tabatabai


An anonymous online group that calls itself PropOrNot (“Propaganda Or Not”) and presents itself as a site “exposing Russian Propaganda” has itself been exposed as a CIA-run operation that employs known Ukrainian fascists aimed at trolling independent media outlets with the aim of shutting them down.

Author Mark Ames found evidence that the mysterious group who published a list of so-called “Russian propaganda websites” (falsely naming the likes of InfoWars, ZeroHedge, YourNewsWire, and others) was actually itself a propaganda campaign instigated by the U.S. and Ukraine.

Last month, the Washington Post gave a glowing front-page boost to an anonymous online blacklist of hundreds of American websites, from marginal conspiracy sites to flagship libertarian and progressive publications. As Max Blumenthal reported for AlterNet, the anonymous website argued that all of them should be investigated by the federal government and potentially prosecuted under the Espionage Act as Russian spies, for wittingly or unwittingly spreading Russian propaganda.

My own satirical newspaper was raided and closed down by the Kremlin in 2008, on charges of “extremism”—akin to terrorism—which I took seriously enough to leave for home for good. What the Washington Post did in boosting an anonymous blacklist of American journalists accused of criminal treason is one of the sleaziest, and most disturbing (in a very familiar Kremlin way) things I’ve seen in this country since I fled for home. The WaPo is essentially an arm of the American deep state; its owner, Jeff Bezos, is one of the three richest Americans, worth $67 billion, and his cash cow, Amazon, is a major contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. In other words, this is as close to an official US government blacklist of journalists as we’ve seen—a dark ominous warning before they take the next steps.

It’s now been a few days, and the shock and disgust is turning to questions about how to fight back—and who we should be fighting against. Who were the Washington Post’s sources for their journalism blacklist?

Smearing a progressive journalism icon

The WaPo smear was authored by tech reporter Craig Timberg, a former national security editor who displayed embarrassing deference to the head of the world’s largest private surveillance operation, billionaire Eric Schmidt—in contrast to his treatment of his journalism colleagues. There’s little in Timberg’s history to suggest he’d lead one of the ugliest public smears of his colleagues in decades. Timberg’s father, a successful mainstream journalist who recently died, wrote hagiographies on his Naval Academy comrades including John McCain, the Senate’s leading Russophobic hawk, and three Iran-Contra conspirators—Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Robert McFarlane, whose crimes Timberg blames on their love of country and sacrifices in Vietnam.

WaPo’s key source was an anonymous online group calling itself PropOrNot (i.e., “Propaganda Or Not”). It was here that the blacklist of American journalists allegedly working with the Kremlin was posted. The Washington Post cited PropOrNot as a credible source, and granted them the right to anonymously accuse major American news outlets of treason, recommending that the government investigate and prosecute them under the Espionage Act for spreading Russian propaganda.

Featured alongside those anonymously accused of treason by PropOrNot, among a long list of marginal conspiracy sites and major news hubs, is Truthdig. This news and opinion site was co-founded by Zuade Kaufman and the veteran journalist Robert Scheer, who is a professor of USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and former columnist for the LA Times. It would not be the first time Scheer has come under attack from dark forces. In the mid-late 1960s, Scheer made his fame as editor and reporter for Ramparts, the fearless investigative magazine that changed American journalism. One of the biggest bombshell stories that Scheer’s magazine exposed was the CIA’s covert funding of the National Student Association, then America’s largest college student organization, which had chapters on 400 campuses and a major presence internationally.

The CIA was not pleased with Scheer’s magazine’s work, and shortly afterwards launched a top-secret and illegal domestic spying campaign against Scheer and Ramparts, believing that they must be a Russian Communist front. A secret team of CIA operatives—kept secret even from the rest of Langley, the operation was so blatantly illegal—spied on Scheer and his Ramparts colleagues, dug through Ramparts’ funders lives and harassed some of them into ditching the magazine, but in all of that they couldn’t find a single piece of evidence linking Scheer’s magazine to Kremlin agents. This secret illegal CIA investigation into Scheer’s magazine expanded its domestic spying project, code-named MH-CHAOS, that grew into a monster targeting hundreds of thousands of Americans, only to be exposed by Seymour Hersh in late 1974, leading to the creation of the Church Committee hearings and calls by Congress for the abolition of the Central Intelligence Agency.

It’s one of the dark ugly ironies that 50 years later, Scheer has been anonymously accused of working for Russian spies, only this time the accusers have the full cooperation of the Washington Post’s front page.

PropOrNot’s Ukrainian fascist salute

Still the question lingers: Who is behind PropOrNot? Who are they? We may have to await the defamation lawsuits that are almost certainly coming from those smeared by the Post and by PropOrNot. Their description sounds like the “About” tab on any number of Washington front groups that journalists and researchers are used to coming across:

“PropOrNot is an independent team of concerned American citizens with a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including professional experience in computer science, statistics, public policy, and national security affairs.”

The only specific clues given were an admission that at least one of its members with access to its Twitter handle is “Ukrainian-American”. They had given this away in a handful of early Ukrainian-language tweets, parroting Ukrainian ultranationalist slogans, before the group was known.

One PropOrNot tweet, dated November 17, invokes a 1940s Ukrainian fascist salute “Heroism Slava!!” to cheer a news item on Ukrainian hackers fighting Russians. The phrase means “Glory to the heroes” and it was formally introduced by the fascist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) at their March-April 1941 congress in Nazi occupied Cracow, as they prepared to serve as Nazi auxiliaries in Operation Barbarossa. As historian Grzgorz Rossoli?ski-Liebe, author of the definitive biography on Ukraine’s wartime fascist leader and Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, explained:

“the OUN-B introduced another Ukrainian fascist salute at the Second Great Congress of the Ukrainian Nationalists in Cracow in March and April 1941. This was the most popular Ukrainian fascist salute and had to be performed according to the instructions of the OUN-B leadership by raising the right arm ‘slightly to the right, slightly above the peak of the head’ while calling ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ (Slava Ukra?ni!) and responding ‘Glory to the Heroes!’ (Heroiam Slava!).”

Two months after formalizing this salute, Nazi forces allowed Bandera’s Ukrainian fascists to briefly take control of Lvov, at the time a predominantly Jewish and Polish city—whereupon the Ukrainian “patriots” murdered, tortured and raped thousand of Jews, in one of the most barbaric and bloodiest pogroms ever.

Since the 2014 Maidan Revolution brought Ukrainian neo-fascists back into the highest rungs of power, Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators and wartime fascists have been rehabilitated as heroes, with major highways and roads named after them, and public commemorations. The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Andriy Parubiy, founded Ukraine’s neo-Nazi “Social-National Party of Ukraine” and published a white supremacist manifesto, “View from the Right”  featuring the parliament speaker in full neo-Nazi uniform in front of fascist flags with the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol. Ukraine’s powerful Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, sponsors several ultranationalist and neo-Nazi militia groups like the Azov Battalion, and last month he helped appoint another neo-Nazi, Vadym Troyan, as head of Ukraine’s National Police. (Earlier this year, when Troyan was still police chief of the capital Kiev, he was widely accused of having ordered an illegal surveillance operation on investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet just before his assassination by car bomb.)

A Ukrainian intelligence service blacklist as PropOrNot’s model

Since coming to power in the 2014 Maidan Revolution, Ukraine’s US-backed regime has waged an increasingly surreal war on journalists who don’t toe the Ukrainian ultranationalist line, and against treacherous Kremlin propagandists, real and imagined. Two years ago, Ukraine established a “Ministry of Truth”. This year the war has gone from surreal paranoia to an increasingly deadly kind of “terror.”

One of the more frightening policies enacted by the current oligarch-nationalist regime in Kiev is an on-line blacklist of journalists accused of collaborating with pro-Russian “terrorists.” The website, “Myrotvorets” or “Peacemaker”—was set up by Ukrainian hackers working with state intelligence and police, all of which tend to share the same ultranationalist ideologies as Parubiy and the newly-appointed neo-Nazi chief of the National Police.

Condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists and numerous news organizations in the West and in Ukraine, the online blacklist includes the names and personal private information on some 4500 journalists, including several western journalists and Ukrainians working for western media. The website is designed to frighten and muzzle journalists from reporting anything but the pro-nationalist party line, and it has the backing of government officials, spies and police—including the SBU (Ukraine’s successor to the KGB), the powerful Interior Minister Avakov and his notorious far-right deputy, Anton Geraschenko.

Ukraine’s journalist blacklist website—operated by Ukrainian hackers working with state intelligence—led to a rash of death threats against the doxxed journalists, whose email addresses, phone numbers and other private information was posted anonymously to the website. Many of these threats came with the wartime Ukrainian fascist salute: “Slava Ukraini!” [Glory to Ukraine!] So when PropOrNot’s anonymous “researchers” reveal only their Ukrainian(s) identity, it’s hard not to think about the spy-linked hackers who posted the deadly “Myrotvorets” blacklist of “treasonous” journalists.

The DNC’s Ukrainian ultra-nationalist researcher cries treason

Because the PropOrNot blacklist of American journalist “traitors” is anonymous, and the Washington Post front-page article protects their anonymity, we can only speculate on their identity with what little information they’ve given us. And that little bit of information reveals only a Ukrainian ultranationalist thread—the salute, the same obsessively violent paranoia towards Russia, and towards journalists, who in the eyes of Ukrainian nationalists have always been dupes and stooges, if not outright collaborators, of Russian evil.

One of the key media sources who blamed the DNC hacks on Russia, ramping up fears of crypto-Putinist infiltration, is a Ukrainian-American lobbyist working for the DNC. She is Alexandra Chalupa—described as the head of the Democratic National Committee’s opposition research on Russia and on Trump, and founder and president of the Ukrainian lobby group “US United With Ukraine Coalition”, which lobbied hard to pass a 2014 bill increasing loans and military aid to Ukraine, imposing sanctions on Russians, and tightly aligning US and Ukraine geostrategic interests.

In October of this year, Yahoo News named Chalupa one of “16 People Who Shaped the 2016 Election”  for her role in pinning the DNC leaks on Russian hackers, and for making the case that the Trump campaign was under Kremlin control. “As a Democratic Party consultant and proud Ukrainian-American, Alexandra Chalupa was outraged last spring when Donald Trump named Paul Manafort as his campaign manager,” the Yahoo profile began. “As she saw it, Manafort was a key figure in advancing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s agenda inside her ancestral homeland — and she was determined to expose it.”

Chalupa worked with veteran reporter Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News to publicize her opposition research on Trump, Russia and Paul Manafort, as well as her many Ukrainian sources. In one leaked DNC email earlier this year, Chalupa boasts to DNC Communications Director Luis Miranda that she brought Isikoff to a US-government sponsored Washington event featuring 68 Ukrainian journalists, where Chalupa was invited “to speak specifically about Paul Manafort.” In turn, Isikoff named her as the key inside source “proving” that the Russians were behind the hacks, and that Trump’s campaign was under the spell of Kremlin spies and sorcerers.

(In 2008, when I broke the story about the Manafort-Kremlin ties in The Nation with Ari Berman, I did not go on to to accuse him or John McCain, whose campaign was being run by Manafort’s partner, of being Manchurian Candidates under the spell of Vladimir Putin. Because they weren’t; instead, they were sleazy, corrupt, hypocritical politicians who followed money and power rather than principle. A media hack feeding frenzy turned Manafort from what he was—a sleazy scumbag—into a fantastical Kremlin mole, forcing Manafort to resign from the Trump campaign, thanks in part to kompromat material leaked by the Ukrainian SBU, successor to the KGB.)

Meanwhile, Chalupa’s Twitter feed went wild accusing Trump of treason—a crime that carries the death penalty. Along with well over 100 tweets hashtagged #TreasonousTrump Chalupa repeatedly asked powerful government officials and bodies like the Department of Justice to investigate Trump for the capital crime of treason. In the weeks since the election, Chalupa has repeatedly accused both the Trump campaign and Russia of rigging the elections, demanding further investigations. According to The Guardian, Chalupa recently sent a report to Congress proving Russian hacked into the vote count, hoping to initiate a Congressional investigation. In an interview with Gothamist, Chalupa described alleged Russian interference in the election result as “an act of war.”

To be clear, I am not arguing that Chalupa is behind PropOrNot. But it is important to provide context to the boasts by PropOrNot about its Ukrainian nationalist links—within the larger context of the Clinton campaign’s anti-Kremlin hysteria, which crossed the line into Cold War xenophobia time and time again, an anti-Russian xenophobia shared by Clinton’s Ukrainian nationalist allies. To me, it looks like a classic case of blowback: A hyper-nationalist group whose extremism happens to be useful to American geopolitical ambitions, and is therefore nurtured to create problems for our competitor. Indeed, the US has cultivated extreme Ukrainian nationalists as proxies for decades, since the Cold War began.

As investigative journalist Russ Bellant documented in his classic exposé, “Old Nazis, New Right,” Ukrainian Nazi collaborators were brought into the United States and weaponized for use against Russia during the Cold War, despite whatever role they may have played in the Holocaust and in the mass slaughter of Ukraine’s ethnic Poles. After spending so many years encouraging extreme Ukrainian nationalism, it’s no surprise that the whole policy is beginning to blow back.

WaPo’s other source: A loony, far-right eugenicist think tank

Besides PropOrNot, the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg relied on only one other source to demonstrate the influence of Russian propaganda: the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), whose “fellow” Clint Watts is cited by name, along with a report he co-authored, “Trolling for Trump: How Russia is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”

Somehow, in the pushback and outrage over the WaPo blacklist story, the FPRI has managed to fly under the radar. So much so that when Fortune’s Matthew Ingram correctly described the FPRI as “proponents of the Cold War” he was compelled to issue a clarification, changing the description to “a conservative think tank known for its hawkish stance on relations between the US and Russia.”

In fact, historically the Foreign Policy Research Institute has been one of the looniest (and spookiest) extreme-right think tanks since the early Cold War days, promoting “winnable” nuclear war, maximum confrontation with Russia, and attacking anti-colonialism as dangerously unworkable. One of the key brains behind the FPRI’s extreme-right Cold War views also happened to be a former Austrian fascist official who, upon emigrating to America, became one of this country’s leading proponents of racial eugenics and white supremacy.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute was founded by Robert Strausz-Hupé and set up on the University of Pennsylvania campus, with backing from the Vick’s chemical company, funder of numerous reactionary rightwing causes since the New Deal began. And, as the New York Times reported, the FPRI also was covertly funded by the CIA, a revelation that would lead to student protests and the FPRI removing itself from Penn’s campus in 1970.

The FPRI’s founder, Strausz-Hupe, emigrated to the US from Austria in the 1920s. In the early Cold War years, he became known as an advocate of aggressive confrontation with the Soviet Union, openly advocating total nuclear war rather than anything like surrender or cohabitation. In a 1961 treatise “A Forward Strategy for America” that Strausz-Hupe co-authored with his frequent FPRI collaborator, the former Austrian fascist official and racial eugenics advocate Stefan Possony, they wrote:

“Even at a moment when the United States faces defeat because, for example, Europe, Asia and Africa have fallen to communist domination, a sudden nuclear attack against the Soviet Union could at least avenge the disaster and deprive the opponent of the ultimate triumph. While such a reversal at the last moment almost certainly would result in severe American casualties, it might still nullify all previous Soviet conquests.”

But it was Russian propaganda that most concerned Strausz-Hupe and his FPRI. In 1959, for example, he published a three-page spread in the New York Times, headlined “Why Russia Is Ahead in Propaganda,” that has odd echoes of last month’s paranoid Washington Post article alleging a vast conspiracy of American journalists secretly poisoning the public’s mind with Russian propaganda. The article argued, as many do today, that America and the West were dangerously behind the Russians in the propaganda arms race—and dangerously disadvantaged by our open and free society, where propaganda is allegedly sniffed out by our ever-vigilant and fearless media.

The only way for America to protect itself from Russian propaganda, he wrote, was to massively increase its propaganda warfare budgets, and close the alleged “propaganda gap”—echoing again the same solutions being peddled today in Washington and London:

“[W]ithin the limitations of our society, we can take steps to expand and improve our existing programs.

“These programs have been far from generous. It has been estimated, for example, that the Communists in one single propaganda offensive—the germ-warfare campaign during the Korean conflict—spent nearly as much as the entire annual allocation to the United States Information Agency. We should increase the austere budget of the U.S.I.A. We should give our information specialists a greater voice in policy-making councils. We should attempt to coordinate more fully and effectively the propaganda programs of the Western alliance.”

A few years later, the FPRI’s Strausz-Hupe published a deranged attack in the New York Times against Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr. Strangelove, calling it “the most vicious attack to date launched by way of our mass media against the American military profession”. The FPRI’s founding director went further, accusing Kubrick of being, if not a conscious Russian agent of propaganda, then a Soviet dupe undermining American democracy and stability—the same sort of paranoid accusations that FPRI is leveling again today. As Strausz-Hupe wrote:

“Anyone who cares to scan the Soviet press and the Communist press in other lands will note that it is one of the principal Communist objectives to drive a wedge between the American people and their military leaders. Mr. Kubrick’s creation certainly serves this purpose.”

Reading that then, knowing how the Soviet Union eventually collapsed on itself without firing a shot—and seeing the same paranoid, sleazy lies being peddled again today, one is dumbstruck by just how stagnant our intellectual culture is. We’ve never thawed ourselves out from our Cold War pathologies; we’re still trapped in the same structures that nurture these pathologies. Too many careers and salaries depend on it…

But Strausz-Hupe was the voice of reason compared to his chief collaborator and co-author at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Stefan Possony. He too was an Austrian emigre, although Possony didn’t leave his homeland until 1938. Before then he served in the Austrofascist governments of both Dollfuss and Schuschnigg, but left after the Nazi Anschluss deposed the native fascists and installed Hitler’s puppets in their place.

Possony was a director and fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and according to historian Robert Vitalis’ recent book “White World Power” [Cornell University Press], Possony co-authored nearly all of the FPRI’s policy research material until he moved to Stanford’s Hoover Institute in 1961, where he helped align the two institutions. Possony continued publishing in the FPRI’s journal Orbis throughout the 1960s and beyond. He was also throughout this time one of the most prolific contributors to Mankind Quarterly, the leading race eugenics journal in the days before The Bell Curve—and co-author race eugenics books with white supremacist Nathaniel Weyl.

So even as he was publishing aggressive Cold War propaganda for the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Possony wrote elsewhere that the “average African Negro functions as does the European after a leucotomy [prefrontal lobotomy] operation” In other articles, Possony described the people of “the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia” as “genetically unpromising“ because they “lack the innate brain power required for mastery and operation of the tools of modern civilization[.] . . .” For this reason he and Strausz-Hupe opposed the early Cold War policy of de-colonization: “The accretion of lethal power in the hands of nation states dominated by populations incapable of rational thought could be a harbinger of total disaster.” Instead, they argued that white colonialism benefited the natives and raised them up; western critics of colonialism, they argued, were merely “fashionable” dupes who would be responsible for a “genocide” of local whites.

As late as a 1974 article in Mankind Quarterly, Possony was defending race eugenics loon William Shockley’s theories on the inferiority of dark skinned races, which he argued could prove that spending money on welfare was in fact a “waste” since there was no way to improve genetically inferior races. Around the same time, Possony emerged as the earliest and most effective advocate of the “Star Wars” anti-ballistic missile system adopted by President Reagan. The way Possony saw it, the Star Wars weapon was entirely offensive, and would give the United States sufficient first strike capability to win a nuclear war with Russia.

It was this history, and a 1967 New York Times exposé on how the Foreign Policy Research Institute had been covertly funded by the CIA, that led US Senator Fulbright in 1969 to reject Nixon’s nomination of Strausz-Hupe as ambassador to Morocco. Fulbright denounced Strausz-Hupe as a Cold War extremist and a threat to world peace: ”the very epitome of a hard-line, no compromise.” However, he gave in a couple of years later when Nixon named him to the post of ambassador in Sri Lanka.

Today, the Foreign Policy Research Institute proudly honors its founder Strausz-Hupe, and honors his legacy with blacklists of allegedly treasonous journalists and allegedly all-powerful Russian propaganda threatening our freedoms.

This is the world the Washington Post is bringing back to its front pages. And the timing is incredible—as if Bezos’ rag has taken upon itself to soften up the American media before Trump moves in for the kill. And it’s all being done in the name of fighting “fake news” …and fascism.

Reports: Gulf States supporting ultraconservative Islam branch in Germany

Gulf state religious groups are suspected of backing German Salafists with their governments’ approval. Intelligence officials found “No difference” between one group’s missionary work and its jihadist ideology.

December 13, 2016


Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have increasingly been providing support to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, German media said on Monday citing Germany’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies.

Religious organizations from those three countries have been sending preachers to Germany as well as financing the construction of mosques and schools, the German “Süddeutsche Zeitung” newspaper and public service broadcasters NDR and WDR reported. The intelligence reports were conducted on the behalf of the German government.

By upping their support of Salafist missionary activities, the religious groups intend to spread the ultraconservative version of Islam in Germany, the intelligence reports said.

There are currently 9,200 people involved in the Salafist scene in Germany, but the government has concerns that the increased missionary work could swell their ranks. Berlin is also concerned that the groups could play a role in radicalizing Sunni refugees.

Possible government ties

The German government has repeatedly called on the Saudi government to stop supporting radical Islamists in Germany. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has said its religious organizations are a “stronghold” against the so-called “Islamic State.”

Although the Riyadh insists that the religious organizations are independent, Germany’s intelligence agencies concluded that the groups “are closely linked with state posts in their countries of origin.”

The intelligence agencies did note, however, that there is a lack of evidence to suggest that the religious groups support “violent Salafist structures and networks.”

Influence in schools and real estate

The intelligence reports also specifically named three religious organizations active in Germany that are believed to be supported by the state: the “Shaykh Eid Charity Foundation” from Qatar, the “Muslim World League” from Saudi Arabia and the “Revival of Islamic Heritage Society” (RIHS) from Kuwait.

In the case of RIHS, German domestic intelligence officials found that there was “essentially no difference”  between its missionary work and the spreading of jihadist ideology.

Since 2012, the group has used a real estate firm to influence the Islamist scene in Germany, the media reports said.

The firm attempted to establish a Salafist center in the southern German town of Fellbach in 2014. The center was part of a plan to expand missionary operations in southern Germany, but the town blocked RIHS from using the building after police informed the mayor of Fellbach about the organization.

RIHS has been banned in the US since 2008 as it is suspected of supporting terrorist organizations.

The German intelligence agencies have compiled a list of known preachers and individuals who should be denied entry into Europe’s border-free Schengen zone, the media reports said.

German authorities have conducted numerous raids nationwide targeting Salafist organizations in recent weeks. In November, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced a ban on the Salafist “True Religion” group which was known for passing out a fundamentalist translation of the Koran in German city centers.

Cops of the Pacific?

The U.S. Military’s Role in Asia in the Age of Trump

December 13, 2016

by Tim Shorrock


Despite the attention being given to America’s roiling wars and conflicts in the Greater Middle East, crucial decisions about the global role of U.S. military power may be made in a region where, as yet, there are no hot wars: Asia.  Donald Trump will arrive in the Oval Office in January at a moment when Pentagon preparations for a future U.S.-Japan-South Korean triangular military alliance, long in the planning stages, may have reached a crucial make-or-break moment. Whether those plans go forward and how the president-elect responds to them could help shape our world in crucial ways into the distant future.

On November 18th, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s most conservative prime minister since the Cold War, became the first foreign head of state to meet with Donald Trump after his surprise election victory. The stakes for Abe were high. His rightist Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has run Japan for much of the last 70 years, has been one of America’s most reliable, consistent, and subservient allies. Yet during the campaign, Trump humiliated him, as well as the leaders of nearby South Korea, with bombastic threats to withdraw U.S. forces from both countries if they didn’t take further steps to defend themselves.

Even more shocking was Trump’s proposal that Japan and South Korea develop their own atomic weapons to counter North Korea’s rising power as a nuclear state. That left the governments of both countries bewildered — particularly Japan, which lost tens of thousands of lives when the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were incinerated by American atomic bombs in World War II. (Hundreds of Koreans in Japan died in those attacks as well.) Trump made these statements despite the LDP’s ardent support over the decades for American wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, and the Japanese government’s payment of around $2 billion annually to maintain a string of U.S. bases, primarily on the island of Okinawa, which host over 48,000 American soldiers.

Abe apparently got what he wanted. During an hour-long meeting at Trump Tower on New York’s Fifth Avenue, he and the president-elect agreed that their military alliance was stable and capped their discussions with a friendly exchange of golf equipment. “I am convinced Mr. Trump is a leader in whom I can have great confidence,” Abe declared to a gaggle of mostly Japanese reporters. The president-elect, he said, had established the trust “essential for the U.S.-Japanese relationship.”

That same day, a high-level delegation representing Park Guen-Hye, South Korea’s scandal-ridden president (who, three weeks later, would be impeached by the Korean parliament), was also in New York. She and her right-wing Saenuri Party had been no less disturbed than Abe by the tenor of Trump’s campaign. According to a recent analysis by the Wall Street Journal, South Korea already pays about $900 million a year, or about 40% of the costs of the network of U.S. bases it hosts.  It also has had a special relationship with the U.S. military that has no parallel elsewhere. Under the U.S.-Korean Combined Forces Command, established in 1978, should war ever break out on the peninsula, an American general will be in charge not just of the 28,000 U.S. personnel permanently stationed there, but of more than half a million South Korean troops as well.

Unlike Abe, however, Park’s delegation was shunted off to discuss its concerns with Michael Flynn, the retired general who will soon be Trump’s national security adviser. A few days earlier, Park had spoken to Trump for 10 minutes by phone. In that conversation, the president-elect reportedly stressed his admiration for Korea’s economic prowess. “I’ve bought a lot of Korean products; they’re great,” he told Park, according to a Reuters correspondent in Seoul. Flynn would also reassure the Koreans that their alliance with Washington was “vital.” So, on the surface at least, with less than six weeks to go until the Trump era officially begins, all is well and seemingly normal when it comes to U.S. relations with its allies in East Asia.

The Earth Shakes in Asia

Despite the apparent post-election softening of Trump’s positions, however, his victory continues to cause consternation. In Tokyo, Japanese politicians of every stripe expressed doubts that the alliance with the U.S. could withstand the shock of the new American president. When Trump takes power, Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister and powerful figure in the LDP, told foreign reporters, “Japan can’t just sit back and do what it’s told to do by the United States.”  On the subject of the ties between the two countries, this rare sort of public dissent was one reason outgoing Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter flew to Tokyo on December 7th to reaffirm the alliance as “unlike any other.”

The response in Seoul has been similar.  “Koreans must think seriously about their ability to defend themselves when the U.S. they have long regarded as a friend and protector becomes a mere business acquaintance,” the conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo editorialized on November 10th.  That was the day after the South Korean military held an unexpected emergency meeting to “assess the possible impact” of Trump’s presidency and then established a task force to ensure that alliance agreements were kept in the years to come.

While fears of a more nationalistic America coursed through Asia, Trump’s campaign rhetoric sent shudders through Washington as well.  Decades of carefully laid plans by the Pentagon and the foreign policy establishment for tighter military ties with Japan and South Korea suddenly seemed threatened. In challenging the importance of such alliances, Trump could not help but implicitly question the essence of post-World War II U.S. military dominance in the Pacific, and of the primacy of Japan and South Korea as forward bases for the Pentagon in the “containment” of Asia’s rising power, China.

Add one more thing to all of this: Trump’s threats to withdraw American forces from the region have undermined President Obama’s “Asian pivot” strategy, which has sparked the most significant U.S. military buildup in that region since the end of the Vietnam War. The steady, if slow, shift in military resources toward Asia remains highly dependent on the base structure that’s been built up there since World War II and the Korean War and on the nearly 100,000 U.S. personnel now stationed in Japan and Korea. The establishment’s fear that all of this might begin to unravel has been palpable in Washington since Trump’s election.

“The president-elect has said rather curious things about our allies,” lamented John Hamre, a former deputy secretary of defense who is now president and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which functions as an unofficial Pentagon think tank. Speaking at a November 21st conference on improving cooperation between the U.S. and Korean arms industries, Hamre obliquely criticized Trump for “implying we’re not in Korea to help ourselves but just to help Korea.” Not so, he insisted.  The new president needs to understand that “we feel our strategic interests are at risk in Korea” and that those “require us to stay there. We should be grateful to have such a strong ally in South Korea.”

As Hamre’s audience well understood, the U.S. bases in the region have long been considered critical to the Pentagon’s forward-based military strategy in Asia.

Nailing a Triple Alliance in Place Before Trump Takes Power

In the last few years, the Obama administration and the Pentagon have used China’s expanding military might and the never-ending standoff with nuclearizing North Korea to incorporate Japan and South Korea ever more fully into a vision of an American-dominated Pacific. One stumbling block has been the deep animosity between the two countries, given that Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945; later, during the Korean War, which devastated the peninsula, Japan profited handsomely by supplying U.S. forces with vehicles and other military supplies. In addition, Korean anger over Japan’s refusal to apologize for its use of Korean sexual slaves (“comfort women”) during World War II remains a powerful force to overcome.

Until recently, the U.S. has had the help of a compliant leader, President Park Guen-Hye who, just as the Trumpian moment begins, finds herself scrambling for her political life as the first Korean president to be legally toppled since 1960. (An interim president, Park’s conservative Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, will run the government until the Constitutional Court reviews the legality of her impeachment, a process that could take up to six months.) Despite all these problems, and while never quite publicly stating the obvious, American officials have been focused on putting in place a triangular alliance that would transform the Japanese and South Korean militaries into proxy forces capable of helping extend U.S. power and influence ever further into Asia (and also, potentially, elsewhere in the world).

On the eve of Donald Trump’s election, such arrangements were quickly reaching fruition. As 2016 draws to an end, the Pentagon appears to be rushing to make Obama’s Asian pivot and the militarization of the region that goes with it permanent before Trump can act or, for that matter, the United States can lose its Korean political allies (which could happen if Park’s conservative ruling party is replaced in next year’s elections).

Here are some recent steps taken to cement in place a U.S.-Japan-South Korean alliance:

* On November 23rd, Japan and South Korea signed their first military intelligence agreement that, according to the Korean government-owned Yonhap news agency, will allow the two countries to “better cope with evolving North Korean missile and nuclear threats despite historical animosities.” This pact, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, has long been pushed by the Pentagon as a way to solidify the three-way alliance. When negotiations between Tokyo and Seoul broke down in 2012, American officials led the successful effort to get them back on track. (North Korea, according to its official news agency, views the arrangement as a serious threat “pursuant to the U.S. strategic interests to hold hegemony in Northeast Asia.”)

* The construction of a maritime-based Aegis missile defense system aimed at China and North Korea that will link Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul. Not surprisingly, this has provoked deep concerns in Beijing, while sparking a broad, if localized, South Korean movement opposed to the building of a vast naval complex considered critical to Korean participation in the system on Jeju Island. “Missile defense is the core issue of the trilateral alliance,” Choi Sung-Hee, a South Korean historian and one of the chief organizers of the protests at the Geongjang naval base, told me last spring when I visited the island.

* A historic 2015 change in Japan’s national security law that allows the government to send its “Self-Defense Forces” (SDF) into military operations overseas for the first time since World War II. In Korea, this is seen as a legal mechanism that paves the way for Japanese forces to someday be deployed on their peninsula in case a war with the North looms. As Hankyoreh put it recently, “Landing troops from the Japanese Self-Defense Force in South Korea to rescue Japanese citizens is one of Japan’s main goals, and it is a request that Japan has repeatedly made to South Korea.” Like the intelligence-sharing pact, it’s a change that has long been sought by the United States.

* An escalation of military and economic pressure on North Korea, including flights of U.S. nuclear-armed stealth B-2 bombers into Korean skies and intensified unilateral economic sanctions against dictator Kim Jong-Un and many of his top military aides. (The U.N. Security Council, with China’s support, recently endorsed some sanctions as well.) In addition, stepped-up military exercises with South Korea have included practicing both preemptive strikes on the North’s nuclear sites and the “decapitation” of that country’s leaders. In other words, to use a phrase that previously hadn’t made it out of the Greater Middle East and North Africa: regime change. Both Abe and Park have been solidly behind such developments, and Park’s government has actually been encouraging the Pentagon to do more.

* A decision by the Pentagon to permanently station a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system designed to counter incoming North Korean ballistic missiles in South Korea over the strong objections of many Korean citizens and politicians who dispute its value as a deterrent against the North. Despite its defensive nature, THAAD has also been denounced by China as a provocation.  In November, Beijing made clear that it would regard the ultimate decision about installing THAAD as a “political weather vane” in its evaluation of the Trump administration. In recent days, Japanese defense officials said that they are studying the idea of deploying U.S. THAAD batteries in Japan as well. Such a move, the Japan Times pointed out, “would enable effective THAAD operations and information-sharing to be conducted among the three allies.”

It goes without saying that such developments will greatly benefit the U.S. military industrial complex. Missile defense is a major boon for American military contractors and in particular a potential bonanza for Lockheed Martin in particular, which makes both the Aegis vessels and the THAAD system. These industrial projects would also deepen the developing trilateral alliance.

After signing a $490 million contract with South Korea and Japan to expand their Aegis missile defense fleets, Lockheed Martin noted, for instance, that the deal “comes on the heels of a successful joint-missile defense exercise… in which Aegis destroyers from the three nations shared data while detecting and tracking a simulated missile threat.” As the military newspaper Stars & Stripes noted, that exercise, which took place last June, was “aimed as much at fostering cooperation between the two Asian neighbors as preparing for a possible North Korean attack.”

Of course, none of this was discussed during the presidential campaign. But one reason Hillary Clinton received such solid support from Republican foreign policy establishment hawks like former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was her staunch support for the Asian pivot and the Pentagon’s stepped-up presence in the region. Clinton was a sure bet to extend the buildup in Asia, deepen the trilateral alliance, and continue the current hostile policy toward China and North Korea. Now, the Pentagon and U.S. military planners can only hope that Donald Trump, already in a contretemps with China over receiving phone congratulations for his election from the president of Taiwan, does the same.

In the meantime, there are two other potential holes in this strategy that will undoubtedly also come into play next year: a years-old, intense, and still growing popular opposition to the U.S. Marines’ base in Futenma, Okinawa, the Japanese island that is home to 70% of U.S. bases in that country, and the massive political protests in South Korea that have now toppled President Park and could bring an end to her pro-corporate, pro-U.S. government.

Global Cops and Robbers

When the Cold War ended in 1991, the rationale for all the American troops then based in Asia — namely, the communist threat — suddenly became less clear. U.S. officials, grimly determined not to see them go just because their raison d’être may have disappeared, began promoting the idea that a permanent presence in Asia was inevitable for the purposes of “stability.” As historian Chalmers Johnson chronicled in his 2000 masterpiece, Blowback: The Cost and Consequences of American Empire, the chief ideologists for this view were Harvard professor Joseph Nye, who had been an assistant secretary of defense during the Carter administration, and Armitage, who had held a similar position at the Pentagon in the Reagan administration. American forces in Asia, Nye wrote in 1995, ensured “the stability — the oxygen — that has helped provide for East Asian economic growth.”

More than two decades later, that vague but all-encompassing code word for American domination of the Pacific region remains the primary justification for the Asian pivot. As Pentagon chief Carter typically put it in a recent Foreign Affairs article: “Every port call, flight hour, exercise, and operation [in the pivot] has added a stitch to the fabric of the Asia-Pacific’s stability.” In other words, we’re to remain the cops of the Pacific and the world.

But as global and Pacific cops, we need help. From the early post-Cold War years until today, American officials have pressured Japan to loosen its peace constitution (imposed during the post-World War II U.S. occupation) and allow its forces to be used abroad in conjunction with the U.S. military. That campaign finally bore fruit in 2015, when Abe managed to pass the new security law.

The precipitating event: the U.S. and Japanese response to the devastating earthquake and nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima in March 2011. American military forces in Japan played an instrumental role in the subsequent rescue operations, dubbed “Operation Tomodachi [friend].” Abe then drove home lessons from this collaboration to convince the Japanese Diet of the necessity of passing a new security law that allows Japan to exercise the right of “collective self-defense” and, for the first time since World War II, allows Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to provide logistical and other support globally to U.S. and allied foreign forces. Previously, such support was limited only to areas near Japan.

As a result of this law, which went into effect in 2016, U.S. and Japanese military forces have commenced their first joint military drills and, in September, signed a new logistics agreement that allows Japan’s SDF to supply the U.S. military with fuel and ammunition anywhere in the world. These steps will further enhance U.S.-Japanese military cooperation.

As usual, in the run-up to the new legislation, Abe received a political boost from Nye and Armitage. They got the collaboration ball rolling with a 2012 study for CSIS, “The US-Japan Alliance: Anchoring Stability in Asia.” Citing the 2011 earthquake and “Operation Tomodachi,” they suggested that Japan’s “prohibition of collective self-defense” was “an impediment to the bilateral military alliance.”

The 2011 earthquake, they argued, “demonstrated how our two forces can maximize our capabilities when necessary.” As a result, a change in the law opening the way to collective self-defense “would allow our forces to respond in full cooperation throughout the security spectrum of peacetime, tension, crisis, and war.” The first step, they added, would be for Japan to expand its legal system to encourage the protection of “other international peacekeepers, with force, if necessary” — the exact point of Abe’s 2015 law.

Lo and behold! On November 21st, three days after Abe’s meeting with Trump, the first contingent of Japan’s Self Defense Forces “authorized to use their weapons against enemy combatants while engaged in protection and rescue operations overseas” left Japan for South Sudan. There, they will take part in a U.N. peacekeeping mission. Despite the opposition of a majority of the Japanese public to the move, the dream of an American-led collective global defense, long held by Nye and Armitage, is now in place.

Abe’s LDP has also been instrumental in protecting another pillar of Washington’s strategy in the Pacific: retaining the island of Okinawa as a major forward base for the U.S. Marines. In the 1990s, following national protests against the rape and murder of an Okinawan schoolgirl by a Marine, Washington agreed to scale down its primary base in Futenma and shift the Marines there to Guam. But after protracted negotiations — and intense pressure exerted by the Bush and then Obama administrations — the drawdown agreement was linked to the right of the Marines to build a new base at Henoko Bay in the northern part of Okinawa. Almost the entire island and its elected officials, from the governor on down, fiercely oppose this idea.

Over the past year, Abe’s national police have been engaged in daily combat with citizens fighting such an expansion project, a situation that could well become critical in the early months of a Trump presidency. But so could the political situation in South Korea.

Tensions Rise

While Japan is home to 45,000 American airmen, soldiers, and sailors, South Korea is critical to Washington because it houses the only American ground forces on the Asian mainland. While the primary justification for them is the hostility of North Korea and its ominous nuclear weapons program, the U.S. military also considers its forces in Korea important for “global force projection” elsewhere in Asia.

A recent paper by the Center for a New American Security, a military think-tank founded in 2007, explained the view from the Pentagon’s perspective:

“South Korea is the only place on the Asian continent with a U.S. military foothold. The military presence on the peninsula makes South Korea an essential geopolitical ‘beachhead’ for the United States in the Asia-Pacific region. Second, the U.S.-ROK [Republic of Korea] alliance provides physical territory from which to manage the North Korea problem… The main purpose of the alliance is to deter North Korea, but the U.S.-South Korea alliance is a vital tool for both Seoul and Washington to shape Asia’s developing regional order and their respective roles within it.”

The catalyst for all such planning has, of course, been North Korea, which is now seen by many military analysts as the toughest problem facing Washington in the foreign sphere. In these years, the Obama administration has refused to engage in any kind of negotiations with that country and its leader, Kim Jong-Un, unless the North Koreans agreed in advance to dismantle the nuclear program that they now see as essential to their national survival.

Since Obama took office in 2009, the North has, in fact, steadily improved its military capabilities.  It has tested four nuclear weapons and worked to develop various kinds of missiles.  In response, the Pentagon has steadily ratcheted up its military preparedness, in part by conducting massive annual joint exercises with the South Korean military, while from time to time flying nuclear-capable warplanes in Korean skies.

These steps have only heightened tensions with the North and neighboring China, while stirring powerful opposition movements in South Korea.  If the intelligence pact with Japan, long sought by the Pentagon, was indeed the next logical step in the confrontation with the North, it has been bitterly opposed by some South Korean opposition lawmakers and much of the public, some of whom have also taken a strong stand against the THAAD anti-missile system. Now, with Park’s government teetering, the Pentagon is suddenly concerned that its favored policies will be derailed — or worse, that new presidents in both Seoul, where elections are scheduled for December 2017, and Washington this January could throw the evolving strategic triangular alliance into chaos.

Those were undoubtedly the fears that lurked behind John Hamre’s remarks in late October at the Heritage Foundation, when he cautioned against moves that could spark further controversy in South Korea. “We have to do something [so] we don’t become an issue in [Korea’s] next election,” he said. “There’s a strong strain in the left parties [there] that America is the problem.” (Ironically, Armitage may have added to that concern on December 6th, when he told a CSIS conference on the U.S.-South Korean alliance that he now favored a U.S. policy of regime change in North Korea — something that’s anathema not only to South Korean leftists but to many centrists as well.)

As December began, as if to underscore Hamre’s point, USA Today reported that the growing protests against President Park could shift the country’s priorities. “The pro-U.S. foreign policy of South Korean President Park Geun Hye is at risk now that she appears to be on her way out over a growing corruption scandal.” CNBC similarly pointed out that the opposition parties pushing for Park’s removal were firmly against the emplacement of THAAD and suggested that “South Korea’s promise to host advanced American missile defense technology on its soil may fall apart” following Park’s political demise.

Aware of the rising tide of criticism, the Pentagon has doubled down on its insistence on THAAD. When a reporter from Yonhap asked U.S. defense officials if Park’s impeachment or resignation could affect the deployment of the THAAD system, he was told that the plans “remain ongoing, and the alliance continues to move forward with that plan.”

So much for respecting Korean democracy.

Alternatives in Asia?

How Donald Trump will deal with these issues is, of course, an open question. During the campaign, he raised the possibility of talking directly to Kim Jong-Un as a way of defusing the nuclear standoff with North Korea — an idea embraced by many Korea specialists and U.S. officials who have, in the past, dealt with that country. Since winning the election, however, he and his aides have been silent on the subject. Based on what the president-elect and his national security chief have reportedly said to the Japanese and South Korean governments, it’s possible that his administration may not make any drastic moves soon to upset the three-way military alliance or undermine U.S. security policies in the region.  In the unpredictable atmosphere of a Trump Tower presidency, however, there is simply no way yet to know.

Certainly, Trump’s recent appointments of Flynn as national security adviser and retired Marine General James Mattis as secretary of defense suggest that his love for the Pentagon and for tough-guy generals may override any desire to upset the military apple cart in Asia and reverse policy developments of the last three decades hurriedly being nailed in place at this very moment. At the same time, he’s being warned in no uncertain terms by the Obama administration and former Pentagon officials that North Korea could present his administration with an “explosive” situation that might, in fact, require a military response.

Donald Trump is certainly an unpredictable figure, but at the moment it looks like the only genuine opponents of the status quo may be the democratic opposition movement in South Korea, the anti-base movement in Okinawa, and what remains of the peace movement in the United States. Unfortunately, while the Pentagon has been focused on the military situation in Asia, the American antiwar movement has largely left Asia behind in the decades since the Vietnam War ended.

As we adjust to life under Trump, it might be wise to start looking again for alternatives to our militaristic policies in Asia, for more equitable ties with Japan and South Korea, and for a shift away from confrontation with North Korea and China. Perhaps the massive demonstrations and candlelight vigils that have brought millions of people into the streets of Seoul and other Korean cities, despite the volatile security situation in East Asia, could show us the way.












No responses yet

Leave a Reply