TBR News January 18, 2017

Jan 18 2017

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. January 18, 2017: “There is much sound and fury from the defeated oligarchs and their poodles, none of it signifying anything. Frantic attempts to minimize Mr.Trump are pathetic and instead of arousing the public against him, the end result is an increasing public distrust of the print and television media and, ultimately, those who control it. Barnum and Bailey are closing down and when their ringmasters cracked the whips, the elephants obeyed. Now the circus ringmasters are silent and we can all hope the Washington whip-crackers will find better employment than they had, jamming falsehoods into the tax-paying public.”

Interested parties can submit comments or articles to use at: tbrnews@hotmail.com   ed


Table of Contents

  • Obama shortens sentence of Manning, who gave secrets to WikiLeaks
  • WikiLeaks’ impact: an unfiltered look into the world’s elite and powerful
  • Trump the Disruptor
  • Lost legacy: How Barack Obama deliberately destroyed the US-Russia relationship
  • Escalation Watch
  • China orders local forecasters to stop issuing smog alerts
  • Mein Kampf’: Murphy translation: Part 12

Obama shortens sentence of Manning, who gave secrets to WikiLeaks

January 18, 2017

by Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe


WASHINGTON-President Barack Obama on Tuesday shortened the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. military intelligence analyst who was responsible for a 2010 leak of classified materials to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the biggest such breach in U.S. history.

A White House official said there was no connection between Manning’s commutation and renewed U.S. government concern about WikiLeaks’ actions during last year’s presidential election, or a promise by founder Julian Assange to accept extradition if Manning was freed.

Manning has been a focus of a worldwide debate on government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks – a leak for which she was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison.

Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, reduced her sentence to seven years, angering some Republicans.

“This is just outrageous,” House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. Ryan, a Republican, said the decision was a “dangerous precedent” for those who leak materials about national security.

“Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” Ryan said.

Manning was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when she gave WikiLeaks a trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts that included a 2007 gunsight video of a U.S. Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people including two Reuters news staff.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton said the leak endangered troops, intelligence officers, diplomats and allies.

“We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr,” Cotton said.


Manning, formerly known as U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman. The White House said her sentence would end on May 17 this year.

Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year and has struggled to cope as a transgender woman in the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, men’s military prison, accepted responsibility for leaking the material — a factor that fed into Obama’s decision, a White House official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said Obama’s decision was rooted in Manning’s sentence being longer than sentences given to others who had committed comparable crimes. Obama, who leaves office on Friday and is scheduled to give his final news conference on Wednesday, is expected to discuss his decision then.

WikiLeaks also published emails in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 presidential election that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian intelligence agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee and the accounts of leading Democrats, part of a campaign by Moscow to influence the election.

But Obama’s decision had nothing to do with the latest WikiLeaks controversy, the White House official said.

“The president’s decision to grant clemency and offer commutation to Chelsea Manning was not influenced in any way by public comments from Assange or the WikiLeaks organization,” a White House official said on a conference call with reporters.

Assange has been holed up at Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for the investigation of allegations, which he denies, that he committed rape there in 2010. He has said he fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where there is an open criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks sent a tweet quoting Assange’s attorney, Melinda Taylor, saying he would abide by his promise to accept extradition if Manning was freed. “Everything that he has said he’s standing by,” Taylor said, according to the tweet.

Civil rights groups praised the move, calling it overdue.

“Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the U.S. government for years,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.


Obama also pardoned retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Cartwright who pleaded guilty in October to making false statements to the FBI during an investigation into leaks of classified information.

The aggressive prosecution of Cartwright, who last served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent shockwaves through the Pentagon.

He lied during questioning by the FBI over a book written by a New York Times reporter that exposed a malicious computer software program known as “Stuxnet” designed to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. Cartwright denied being the source of the leak.

Obama weighed Cartwright’s service along with his motive when making the decision, the White House official said, noting Cartwright had not divulged material that the journalist was not already aware of, and that his conversations were focused on preventing the publication of material that could hurt national security.

“It’s clear in this case … that General Cartwright’s motive was different than most people who are facing charges of leaking classified information to a journalist,” the official said.


Also on the pardon list: Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was sentenced in 1981 to 55 years in prison for his involvement with Puerto Rican militant group FALN, which claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings in the 1970s and 1980s.

Lopez Rivera — who turned down a similar offer from President Bill Clinton in 1999 — was the last remaining member of FALN still in prison.

“Mr. Lopez Rivera is now in his 70s. He has served 35 years, nearly half of his life in prison,” a White House official said. “The president determined that was sufficient amount of time to serve, although the president certainly believes that the crimes that were committed were serious.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned for the release of Lopez Rivera during his unsuccessful campaign against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Manning and Lopez Rivera were among 209 commutations granted by Obama on Tuesday and Cartwright was among 64 pardons.

In total, Obama has commuted sentences for 1,385 federal prisoners — a total greater than that of the 12 previous presidents combined — and he is expected to announce more on Thursday, the White House official said.

Most of the commutations were a part of Obama’s effort to reduce the number of people serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe; additional reporting by Phillip Stewart, Patricia Zengerle and Dustin Volz; Editing by Sandra Maler, Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker)

 WikiLeaks’ impact: an unfiltered look into the world’s elite and powerful

Once classified reports could go viral, US diplomats thought twice about what they wrote – and foreign contacts were careful with what they told diplomats

January 17, 2017

by Julian Borger

The Guardian

Washington-The release of a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables leaked by Chelsea Manning, the US army whistleblower whose 35-year sentence was commuted by President Obama on Tuesday, had a powerful impact on the practice of diplomacy around the world.

From November 2010 on, the knowledge that their classified reports might ultimately go viral online made US diplomats think twice about what they wrote back to Washington and made their foreign contacts think twice about what they told the diplomats.

The cables may even have played a part in sparking the Arab spring revolt. The colourful accounts of the opulent lifestyles of the family of Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, circulated on Twitter and Facebook, acted as an accelerant to the rage of the country’s disaffected youth.

In one of the more colourful cables of the cache, the US ambassador to Tunisia, Robert Godec, described a 2009 dinner with Ben Ali’s daughter and her husband, a wealthy businessman, Mohammad Sakher El Materi, who owned a pet tiger, fed on a constant supply of chickens, which reminded Godec of Uday Hussein’s lion in Baghdad.

“After dinner, [Materi] served ice cream and frozen yoghurt he brought in by plane from Saint Tropez, along with blueberries and raspberries and fresh fruit and chocolate cake,” the cable reported.

The report spread instantly and far around a country where it was estimated that 2 million out of 10 million people were Facebook users. It is impossible to say whether it had been read by Mohammed Bouazizi, the fruit seller who set himself on fire a few days after the Godec cable was published in protest at harassment by the municipal authorities, but it had certainly been seen by a large number of the rioters who came out to the streets in response to his suicide.

The cables were a window into how the world’s elites acted and talked behind closed doors. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was reported as having “frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons programme”, according to one cable.

“He told you [Americans] to cut off the head of the snake,” said the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, according to a report on Abdullah’s meeting with US Gen David Petraeus in April 2008.

The leaks also revealed that US diplomats had been ordered to take part in an intelligence-collection operation at the United Nations targeted at the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.

Washington wanted diplomats as well as the intelligence agencies to pick up details such as credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flyer account numbers of UN figures as well as “biographic and biometric information on UN security council permanent representatives”.

The secret “national human intelligence collection directive” was sent to US missions at the UN in New York, Vienna and Rome; 33 embassies and consulates, including those in London, Paris and Moscow.

The cable raised questions about the dividing line between diplomats and spies in Washington’s eyes, and without doubt made UN and other foreign officials think very carefully about subsequent meetings with US diplomats.

US officials have asserted that the release of the material endangered the lives of US diplomats’ foreign sources. The state department legal adviser at the time, Harold Koh argued the document dump “could place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals” as well as “ongoing military operations”.

He accused WikiLeaks of endangerment “without regard to the security and the sanctity of the lives your actions endanger”.

There are no proven cases of deaths directly attributable to the release of the cables. But there was no doubt about the breadth and depth of the embarrassment.

Trump the Disruptor

He’s shaking things up – and looking out for America first

January 18, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


If the New York Times is to be believed – a problematic proposition – then it looks as if Trump Derangement Syndrome has gone international. In a front page article headlined “As Trump Era Dawns, A Sense of Uncertainty Grips the World,” we are told:

“The Germans are angry. The Chinese are downright furious. Leaders of NATO are nervous, while their counterparts at the European Union are alarmed.”

Oh heavens-to-Betsy, whatever shall we do?

So what’s the source of this latest Trumpanic? It’s an interview with Tory mandarin Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, a former editor of the German newspaper Bild, in which the President-elect reiterates what he’s been saying to the American people for the past year, and on the basis of which he won the election: US foreign policy is going to change, and in a big way.

However, to Times reporter Steve Erlanger, this all comes as a big revelation, evidence that “Trump has again focused his penchant for disruption on the rest of the world.” Oh, the poor babies! Perhaps they need to find a safe space in which to park themselves for the next four-to-eight years.

This being the Times, there’s the requisite Russia-baiting:

“No one knows where exactly he is headed – except that the one country he is not criticizing is Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin. For now. And that he is an enthusiastic cheerleader of Brexit and an unaffiliated Britain. For now.”

If this reads like a paragraph torn out of one of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s strategy memos, well then consider the source. And speaking of the source, what exactly did Trump say in this supposedly “disruptive” interview that has the Powers That Be in such a tizzy?

They ask him about Brexit, and he endorses it, as he has in the past. They ask him if he’d vote for Angela Merkel in the upcoming German elections, and he demurs: “I don’t know who she’s running against.” Besides which, isn’t it a bit unseemly for an American President-elect to endorse a candidate for office in a foreign country? It surely would be in bad taste if the situation were reversed. They press him on Merkel’s open invitation to the entire nation of Syria to emigrate to Germany: was it “insane,” as he said during the campaign? Or has he changed his mind for some reason? He reiterates his often-stated view that “it was a big mistake for Germany,” and then broadens out his answer to include an analysis of the regional chaos caused by the administration of George W. Bush, whom he doesn’t mention by name but it’s clear where he places the blame:

“Look, this whole thing should never have happened. Iraq should not have been attacked in the first place, all right? It was one of the worst decisions, possibly the worst decision ever made in the history of our country. We’ve unleashed – it’s like throwing rocks into a beehive. It’s one of the great messes of all time. I looked at something, uh, I’m not allowed to show you because it’s classified – but, I just looked at Afghanistan and you look at the Taliban – and you take a look at every, every year its more, more, more, you know they have the different colours – and you say, you know – what’s going on?”

Those pathetic Republican “foreign policy experts” who are now complaining about being on an “enemies list” kept by the Trump transition team deserve to be on that list: they, after all, were the architects of the ongoing disaster described by Trump, and he clearly doesn’t care to reward failure. This is precisely why the GOP foreign policy Establishment campaigned so hard against him: that these losers are now locked out of the administration is good news indeed.

More good news: Trump is taking direct and very public aim at their patrons, the Military-Industrial Complex that Dwight David Eisenhower so presciently warned us against. Even as he pledges to upgrade the US military, the President-elect clearly knows who his enemies are:

“Boeing and Lockheed Martin are you know big contractors for this country and we have an F-35 program that has been very, very severely over budget and behind schedule. Hundreds of billions of dollars over budget and seven years behind schedule. And, uh, they got to shape up.”

Employees of both Boeing and Lockheed-Martin gave record amounts to the Clinton campaign: indeed, the entire industry went for Hillary in a big way.

Asked about his top priority as commander-in-chief, Trump had one word to say: “ISIS.” Asked how he’d deal with ISIS, he demurred. Yet it isn’t at all hard to imagine what his strategy will be: he’s not saying we should “get along with Russia” because he’s a secret Putinite, as our crazed conspiracy theorists would have it. Clearly he means to enlist Russia’s support in what he envisions as a short but effective campaign to eliminate ISIS entirely, at least when it comes to the Syrian “Caliphate.” After all, Russia is already in Syria in a big way: and Trump’s hostility to the Obama administration’s campaign to overthrow Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad indicates he’s likely to align with both Syria and Russia to restore some sort of order to the region. As to what degree he’ll farm out this task to the Russians and the Syrians, we’ll see. We’ll also see how “quick” this joint campaign will be: history does not bode well, in any case. Yet it’s clear he wants to minimize our involvement.

This segues into what is the most controversial part of the interview:

“Q: Talking about Russia, you know that Angela Merkel understands Putin very well because he is fluent in German, she is fluent in Russian, and they have known each other for a long time – but who would you trust more, Angela Merkel or Vladimir Putin?

“Trump: Well, I start off trusting both – but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.”

Oh, how the “experts” and the political class went ballistic over that one! How dare Trump equate our “ally” Germany with our evil “adversary,” the perfidious Putin! And yet the reality is that neither Germany nor Russia is inherently either friend or foe: they are simply actors on the world stage whose relations to the US are based entirely on what is in America’s interests. As George Washington warned in his Farewell Address:

“[N]othing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated.”

Trump’s “realist” value-free characterization of our relations with the leaders of both Germany and Russia represents a return to the foreign policy of the Founders, from which we have strayed to our great detriment. It is, as Trump proclaimed so often during the campaign, a foreign policy that puts America first.

As he’s being interrogated by a Brit and a German, much of the interview deals with Europe, and specifically policy toward Russia. Asked if he can “understand why eastern Europeans fear Putin and Russia,” he says “Sure, oh sure,” and then goes very quickly into a critique of NATO, which he says is “obsolete.” It’s obvious he thinks the fears of the east Europeans are vastly overblown, as indeed they are. Trump complains that “the countries aren’t paying their fair share. So we’re supposed to protect countries but a lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States. With that being said, NATO is very important to me.”

Yes, but how important is “very important” in TrumpWorld? Europe’s welfare cases shudder as they contemplate the answer.

Gove avers that “Britain is paying,” and Trump agrees, but says: “There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much, from twenty-two.” And as Trump no doubt realizes, the costs of NATO involve more than money: we are obligated to defend twenty-two countries in case they are attacked. That’s twenty-two tripwires that could set off a major war: the price of that is incalculable. Is it worth it?

Trump clearly has his doubts, and it’s this that has the Euro-weenies in an uproar. After all, they’ve been coasting along on Uncle Sam’s dime for all these years, financing extensive welfare programs for their own citizens as well as a horde of migrants: the idea that the gravy train is going to dry up has them up in arms.

And of course the issue of NATO is really about the Russian question – is Putin really intent on annexing his “near abroad” and re-establishing the Soviet empire? This nonsensical fantasy, based on nothing but rejuvenated cold war hysteria, is clearly doubted by Trump and his advisors. So when he’s asked if he supports the continuation of European sanctions against Russia, Trump replies:

“Well, I think you know – people have to get together and people have to do what they have to do in terms of being fair. OK? They have sanctions on Russia – let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But you do have sanctions and Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.”

In short: sanctions can be ended as part of a grand bargain with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons arsenals on both sides and guarantee European security. Ambitious? – Yes. Praiseworthy? – Certainly. Can he do it? Only by overcoming the War Party’s opposition in Congress, led by Mad John McCain and joined by the now-Russophobic war-crazed Democrats out to obstruct anything and everything Trump does, even at the cost of world peace.

It’s absolutely wonderful how Trump’s offhand remarks rub the commentariat the wrong way, especially because what he says is indisputable. Asked which number he dials if he wants to talk to Europe – a riff off a remark by Henry Kissinger – he names Merkel on the grounds that “you look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was so smart in getting out.”

Zing! Poor Angela Merkel – she can’t get no respect!

Elaborating his view of the EU, Trump averred:

“People, countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity but, I do believe this, if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees, so many, with all the problems that it, you know, entails, I think that you wouldn’t have a Brexit. It probably could have worked out but, this was the final straw, this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

“I think people want, people want their own identity, so if you ask me, others, I believe others will leave.”

We can’t forget that the interviewers are Europeans who have been sucking at the American teat since the end of World War II, as one of the final questions makes all too clear:

“Your policy platform of America First implies you’re happy to see the rest of the world suffer. Do you?”

Spoken like a true dependent, and yet Trump lit right into them with the unvarnished truth:

“I don’t want it to be a disruption – I love the world, I want the world to be good but we can’t go – I mean look at what’s happening to our country – we are $20 trillion [in debt] – we don’t know what we’re doing – our military is weak – we’re in wars that never end, we’re in Afghanistan now 17 years … it’s the longest war we’ve ever been in.”

Endless wars, endless payments to feckless “allies,” endless hectoring by these ungrateful wretches who accuse us of wanting to “see the rest of the world suffer” – Trump would put an end to all this, and I have no doubt that the American people support him wholeheartedly. Shall we take a poll on the popularity of the US bearing the brunt of Europe’s “defense” against an enemy that disappeared in 1989? Shall we have a national referendum on the prospect of going to war over whether Montenegro – a nation the size of the metropolitan New York area – shall have a “pro-Western” government?

If you wonder why our “intelligence community” is waging open warfare against the forty-fifth President of these United States, you have only to look at this interview. He is challenging the “liberal” international order which has paid out liberal amounts of moolah and unearned prestige to a whole class of government contractors, thinktank poobahs, useless spooks, and their ancillary business enterprises for decades.

Without this “international order,” we’re told, the world will be plunged into “uncertainty,” if not complete chaos. This is a lie. The only uncertainty that Trump’s America First foreign policy imposes is uncertainty as to where the war profiteers’ next meal ticket is coming from. And that, dear reader, is a cause not for panic but for celebration.

Lost legacy: How Barack Obama deliberately destroyed the US-Russia relationship

January 17, 2017

by Robert Bridge


Since becoming the US Commander-in-Chief in 2008, Barack Obama charted a thinly veiled anti-Russia course that many failed to anticipate or appreciate due to the media-generated hype of “hope and change” that accompanied his rise to power.

Few modern leaders have entered the world stage with more fanfare than Barack Hussein Obama. After George W. Bush’s eight-year War on Terror tour, many were ready to believe America’s first black president would throw the US juggernaut into reverse. Indeed, so mesmerized was the global village with Obama, who never brokered so much as a used car deal, it nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize after less than two weeks in office.

To understand the source of our enchantment, we have to rewind to January 2007, shortly before Obama’s meteoric rise: The relationship between the US and Russia had just entered severe turbulence as the Bush administration, top heavy with vicious neocons, announced it would drop a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, with missile silos in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. The system, Washington explained, was to guard Europe from a rogue missile strike, ostensibly from Iran, despite the fact that such a reckless move on the part of Tehran would have meant quick US-assisted suicide.

Moscow was not fooled. This was made clear on February 12, 2007 when Vladimir Putin delivered his now famous speech at the Munich Security Conference. The Russian leader warned the stony-faced delegates assembled there: “Plans to expand certain elements of the anti-missile defense system to Europe cannot help but disturb us. Who needs the next step of what would be, in this case, an inevitable arms race? I deeply doubt that Europeans themselves do.”

Putin went on to slam the American “hyperpower” and its well-trained NATO attack dog for pursuing a “world of one master, one sovereign” that will spark an “inevitable arms race.”

Putin’s reality check came about three decades too late to break Europe’s heavy American chains, thereby proving the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ – the curious psychological condition when hostages develop a helpless attachment to their captors – can affect entire nations and even continents as well.

Suffice it to recall, later in Obama’s presidency, Europe’s muted reaction when an idealistic young American, Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor turned whistleblower, handed over thousands of classified documents detailing a US surveillance program that spanned the entire planet. Even Angela Merkel’s private cell phone was considered fair game. Yet the astonishing revelations did little to dampen Europe’s commitment to the Obama administration’s policies.

But all that was in the future. In the meantime, the world held its breath at the abyss, placing its faith in the “hope and change” snake oil an Illinois Senator named Barack Obama was peddling via teleprompter to a war-weary world that was increasingly willing to believe just about anything.

Obama’s ‘Reset’ snow job

When Barack Obama emerged victorious in America’s 2008 game of thrones, there was a promising break in the storm clouds. Experts consulted their battered almanacs and predicted brighter days ahead in the US-Russia relationship. Unfortunately, the geopolitical weathermen got it wrong. Tragically wrong. And it all began with an innocuous sounding plan – the US-Russia “reset” – rolled out by the seemingly well-intentioned Obama administration.

In March 2009, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Geneva, where Clinton presented her counterpart with a cute “reset” button to signal in the much-anticipated dawn in bilateral relations. Although the largely symbolic gesture made for a great photo-op, the reset moment was beset with glitches from the very start.

Much to the apparent embarrassment of the attendees, the US State Department had misspelled the word ‘reset’ on the thingamajig in the Russian version; instead of “reset” it spelled – ominously and even prophetically – “overload.”

Lavrov and Clinton laughed off the technicality, cracked a few jokes, and pressed the plunger, thereby committing both sides to a tragic farce. Lavrov could not have predicted such a backfire, however, since it was difficult to expect nothing less than miracles from the affable black guy from Hawaii who spoke so eloquently about ridding the planet of nuclear weapons, heralding in an age of world peace, and all that.

In any case, Moscow had no other choice but to believe him.

A few months later, when Obama announced he was going to “shelve” the missile defense plans of his hawkish predecessor, it appeared the US leader was truly the real deal. The belligerent Bush years, it now appeared, was nothing but an historic anomaly, a forlorn figure in the rear-view mirror; America had conquered its aggressive neocon alter-ego after all.

Those happy sentiments lasted for about as long as it took to read that line. Yes, Obama would “shelve” Bush’s ambitious missile defense plans, but, with a sleight of hand and a lot of flip-flop, the deceptive Democrat unveiled his own jazzy surround system – the sea-based Aegis SM-3 interceptors and forward-based radar, which turned out to be – surprise, surprise – every bit as lethal as the Bush variant.

The Obama administration, however, apparently forgot that while the rest of the world played checkers, the Russians preferred chess. Robert Gates, then defense minister, acknowledged as much when he noted, “the Russians quickly concluded that the Obama plan was even worse from their perspective, as it eventually might have capabilities that could be used against Russian intercontinental missiles,” the Washington Post reported.

This admission blew the cover off of Obama’s greatest deception, the US-Russia reset hoax. So now the question was no longer: Would the United States shelve the missile defense system? But rather: Would it cooperate with Russia on the system, thus sparing Eastern Europe another arms race?

The answer to that question should have been obvious. After months of wild goose chases around negotiating tables, Moscow understood that the Obama administration was simply bluffing in order to buy time.

In November 2011, then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the formal end of missile defense talks (and the implicit beginning of an arms race). In fact, the Obama administration – the very same nice people who introduced the reset idea – refused to even provide written assurances that the system would not pose a threat to Russia’s ballistic missile force, thereby upsetting the regional strategic apple cart.

Medvedev said Russia would, among other immediate errands, deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, equip Russia’s strategic ballistic missiles with advanced warheads that are impervious to the missile defense system, and deploy offensive weapon systems able to “take out any part of the US missile defense system in Europe.”

If any of these moves on the part of Russia could be considered “aggressive,” Washington had nobody but itself to blame.

Yet, the US has talked up the mythical threat of “Russian aggression” among its NATO client states to such a feverish pitch that these governments could not refute the groundless charges without appearing to be disloyal to Washington. In other words, NATO members are not allies of the United States by mutual consent, but rather allies by arm-twisting compulsion.

This brings us to the most dangerous part of the Obama administration’s double-dealing: Moscow itself is beginning to feel threatened by what it views – and rightly, I believe – to be American aggression on anabolic steroids.

Here is what Putin had to say about the US missile defense system, which has just gone live in Romania: “They say [the missile systems] are part of their defense capability, and are not offensive, that these systems are aimed at protecting them from aggression. It’s not true,” the Russian leader said. The “great danger” is that the launchers can be used to fire US Tomahawk missiles “in a matter of hours,” Putin said.

Meanwhile, technological advances will only make the system increasingly more versatile and powerful. And exactly where the magic tipping point is, when the ‘defense’ system shifts the global strategic balance, nobody can say with certainty. Putin acknowledged this, saying “technologies are developing, and we know around what year the Americans will get a new missile, which will have a range not of 500 kilometers, but 1,000, and then even more – and from that moment they will start threatening our nuclear capability.”

This deadly threat to Russia’s national security – a threat the United States would never accept if the situation were reversed – naturally places those nations hosting the US missile defense system square in Russia’s cross-hairs. It also makes it highly unlikely that Moscow will concede to further nuclear missile cuts. Only a fool would take a dagger over a sword while his opponent reaches for a bigger shield.

Indeed, not only did the double-dealing on the missile defense system trigger another arms race, it has threatened the New START Treaty – a nuclear arms reduction agreement signed into force by Medvedev and Obama on April 8, 2010 in Prague.

Here is where the deceitful nature of Obama’s ‘reset’ is clearly revealed: At the very same time the United States was building for itself a mighty shield in Eastern Europe, capable of neutralizing Russian ballistic missiles, it was also working to have Russia dramatically reduce its nuclear ‘sword’ through New START. Obviously, the United States can’t have it both ways, but that doesn’t mean it won’t stop trying.

It is interesting to note that US President-elect Donald Trump has just suggested that he would consider the possibility of ending the sanctions regime against Russia in return for “dramatically reducing” nuclear weapons.

“They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially,” Trump told The Independent.

Trump may be many things, but a fool he is not. So he must certainly understand that those weapons are Russia’s only viable protection against the US missile defense, which, as we’ve said, could turn offensive in a matter of minutes. Moscow, it would appear, is hardly in a position to negotiate on these weapons.

What price reset?

The full implications of Barack Obama’s pure deception over the missile defense system proved that the so-called “reset” – or “overload” – had been nothing but a ploy, a smoke and mirrors diversionary tactic, in the hope of lulling Russia into believing that Washington was sincere about turning a new page in US-Russia relations. It was not.

A heavy footnote that needs mentioning is that the key architect of the US-Russia reset was Michael McFaul, whose research, according to his own webpage, focused on “Russian electoral trends, post-communist regime change, and American foreign policy.”

Little surprise, then, that Moscow expressed serious reservations when Obama broke with diplomatic protocol and named the non-career academic – the esteemed doctor of regime change, thank you very much – as US Ambassador to Russia in January 2012.

Now, Moscow is alleging US diplomats have engaged in espionage in Russia and actively participated in the rallies staged by Russian opposition forces, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed this week.

“In addition to spying, US Embassy diplomats have repeatedly been seen taking part in the rallies of opposition, anti-government forces, unauthorized rallies, including times when they wore disguise. Do the math yourselves,” Lavrov stated.

Clearly, the reset was doomed to failure from the start, not because of any lack of will, but rather because the Obama administration was committed to it never succeeding in the first place.

Overloading Europe

Fast forward to 2016, and it is no coincidence that we see more than just the US missile defense system on Russia’s border. The New Year is barely underway and already we have dozens of US tanks, equipment and thousands of US soldiers fanning out across Poland and the Baltic States for what promises to be a continuous rotation of American military force – exactly the sort of provocation US planners need to keep the entire region believing in the myth of “Russian aggression” and NATO members cracking open their wallets to buy up more US-made military hardware.

So where is that promise of cooperation Barack Obama made to Russia when he first entered office? It’s in that same state of limbo where other famous Obama promises – like shuttering Guantanamo Bay detention facility and working to bring about global peace – are located: neither here nor there. A big part of the explanation is that the neocons are still calling the shots in Washington.

Meanwhile, the US mainstream media continues to serve up heavy helpings of fake news with regards to Russia, like this opening line from The Spectator, which says it all: “Is the Russian president really crazy enough to launch a new wave of invasions, or is it all a clever bluff?”

The intelligent, well-informed reader would immediately ask: “What Russian invasions?” After all, the only time Russia initiated a military operation against a sovereign state was in August 2008 after Georgian forces invaded Tskhinval, the capital of South Ossetia, killing 12 Russian peacekeepers that had been stationed there.

Although the Western media absolved then Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili of any wrongdoing at the time, an independent European investigation quietly concluded a year later that Georgia was indeed responsible for the instigating the five-day conflict.

Who could have predicted eight years ago that Barack Obama, the ‘peace president,’ would turn out to be many times more belligerent than the ‘war president’ George W. Bush?

The warring peace president

As Obama’s final year winds down, some incredible statistics are beginning to emerge that show how militaristic the United States has become under Obama.

“From Albania to Uruguay, Algeria to Uzbekistan, America’s most elite forces – Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets among them – were deployed to 138 countries in 2016,” according to figures supplied to TomDispatch by US Special Operations Command. That figure is a surge of 130 percent since the gung-ho days of the Bush administration.

In the very same year, the Obama administration dropped an estimated 26,171 bombs, with most of them falling on the people of Syria and Iraq. US bombs also hit targets in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. That’s seven Muslim countries by the way.

Reset or not, there is no way Russia would have just sat back and watched as the Obama administration storm-trooped its way through the Middle East and beyond.

Considering these truly disturbing figures, it is clear that the US military – and its commander-in-chief – was out of control, drunk on absolute power, and wreaking mayhem around a punch-drunk planet for the past eight years. The data also goes far at explaining Washington’s marked hostility to Russian efforts to lend its military assistance in Syria against the terrorists of Islamic State. Although it was largely due to Russia’s air campaign that places like Aleppo and Palmyra were eventually liberated, today the Obama administration pretends Russia did nothing of significance in Syria.

On the weekend, Ash soon-to-be-relieved-of-his-imperial-command Carter, US Defense Secretary, actually had the gall to say that Russia forces have achieved “virtually nothing” in Syria. Nothing that could have been considered treacherous, he could have added.

The irony of the comment is so heavy it practically drips off the page: When Russia remained on the sidelines of the Ukrainian civil war, refusing to get involved in the affairs of its neighbor, it was falsely accused in Western media of actually invading that country. On the other hand, when Russia was invited to enter the territory of Syria by its president to fight against Islamic State, which it did with stunning results, it was said by Washington to have “contributed nothing” to the Syrian efforts.

All things considered, the reasons are obvious why the US-Russia reset never worked from the beginning. It was predetermined to fail from the outset because America – due to its supreme arrogance and exceptionalism – believes it has no need of allies or partnerships.

That conceit is the fatal flaw of every dying empire.

Escalation Watch

Four Looming Flashpoints Facing President Trump

January 18, 2017

by Michael T. Klare


Within months of taking office, President Donald Trump is likely to face one or more major international crises, possibly entailing a risk of nuclear escalation. Not since the end of the Cold War has a new chief executive been confronted with as many potential flashpoints involving such a risk of explosive conflict. This proliferation of crises has been brewing for some time, but the situation appears especially ominous now given Trump’s pledge to bring American military force swiftly to bear on any threats of foreign transgression. With so much at risk, it’s none too soon to go on a permanent escalation watch, monitoring the major global hotspots for any sign of imminent flare-ups, hoping that early warnings (and the outcry that goes with them) might help avert catastrophe.

Looking at the world today, four areas appear to pose an especially high risk of sudden crisis and conflict: North Korea, the South China Sea, the Baltic Sea region, and the Middle East. Each of them has been the past site of recurring clashes, and all are primed to explode early in the Trump presidency.

Why are we seeing so many potential crises now? Is this period really different from earlier presidential transitions?

It’s true that the changeover from one presidential administration to another can be a time of global uncertainty, given America’s pivotal importance in world affairs and the natural inclination of rival powers to test the mettle of the country’s new leader. There are, however, other factors that make this moment particularly worrisome, including the changing nature of the world order, the personalities of its key leaders, and an ominous shift in military doctrine.

Just as the United States is going through a major political transition, so is the planet at large. The sole-superpower system of the post-Cold War era is finally giving way to a multipolar, if not increasingly fragmented, world in which the United States must share the limelight with other major actors, including China, Russia, India, and Iran. Political scientists remind us that transitional periods can often prove disruptive, as “status quo” powers (in this case, the United States) resist challenges to their dominance from “revisionist” states seeking to alter the global power equation. Typically, this can entail proxy wars and other kinds of sparring over contested areas, as has recently been the case in Syria, the Baltic, and the South China Sea.

This is where the personalities of key leaders enter the equation. Though President Obama oversaw constant warfare, he was temperamentally disinclined to respond with force to every overseas crisis and provocation, fearing involvement in yet more foreign wars like Iraq and Afghanistan. His critics, including Donald Trump, complained bitterly that this stance only encouraged foreign adversaries to up their game, convinced that the U.S. had lost its will to resist provocation. In a Trump administration, as The Donald indicated on the campaign trail last year, America’s adversaries should expect far tougher responses. Asked in September, for instance, about an incident in the Persian Gulf in which Iranian gunboats approached American warships in a threatening manner, he typically told reporters, “When they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and make gestures that… they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.”

Although with Russia, unlike Iran, Trump has promised to improve relations, there’s no escaping the fact that Vladimir Putin’s urge to restore some of his country’s long-lost superpower glory could lead to confrontations with NATO powers that would put the new American president in a distinctly awkward position.  Regarding Asia, Trump has often spoken of his intent to punish China for what he considers its predatory trade practices, a stance guaranteed to clash with President Xi Jinping’s goal of restoring his country’s greatness.  This should, in turn, generate additional possibilities for confrontation, especially in the contested South China Sea. Both Putin and Xi, moreover, are facing economic difficulties at home and view foreign adventurism as a way of distracting public attention from disappointing domestic performances.

These factors alone would ensure that this was a moment of potential international crisis, but something else gives it a truly dangerous edge: a growing strategic reliance in Russia and elsewhere on the early use of nuclear weapons to overcome deficiencies in “conventional” firepower.

For the United States, with its overwhelming superiority in such firepower, nuclear weapons have lost all conceivable use except as a “deterrent” against a highly unlikely first-strike attack by an enemy power. For Russia, however, lacking the means to compete on equal terms with the West in conventional weaponry, this no longer seems reasonable. So Russian strategists, feeling threatened by the way NATO has moved ever closer to its borders, are now calling for the early use of “tactical” nuclear munitions to overpower stronger enemy forces. Under Russia’s latest military doctrine, major combat units are now to be trained and equipped to employ such weapons at the first sign of impending defeat, either to blackmail enemy countries into submission or annihilate them.

Following this doctrine, Russia has developed the nuclear-capable Iskander ballistic missile (a successor to the infamous “Scud” missile used by Saddam Hussein in attacks on Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia) and forward deployed it to Kaliningrad, a small sliver of Russian territory sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. In response, NATO strategists are discussing ways to more forcefully demonstrate the West’s own capacity to use tactical nuclear arms in Europe, for example by including more nuclear-capable bombers in future NATO exercises. As a result, the “firebreak” between conventional and nuclear warfare — that theoretical barrier to escalation — seems to be narrowing, and you have a situation in which every crisis involving a nuclear state may potentially prove to be a nuclear crisis.

With that in mind, consider the four most dangerous potential flashpoints for the new Trump administration.

North Korea

North Korea’s stepped-up development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles may present the Trump administration with its first great international challenge.  In recent years, the North Koreans appear to have made substantial progress in producing such missiles and designing small nuclear warheads to fit on them.  In 2016, the country conducted two underground nuclear tests (its fourth and fifth since 2006), along with numerous tests of various missile systems.  On September 20th, it also tested a powerful rocket engine that some observers believe could be used as the first stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that might someday be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the western United States.

North Korea’s erratic leader, Kim Jong-un, has repeatedly spoken of his determination to acquire nuclear weapons and the ability to use them in attacks on his adversaries, including the U.S.  Following a series of missile tests last spring, he insisted that his country should continue to bolster its nuclear force “both in quality and quantity,” stressing “the need to get the nuclear warheads deployed for national defense always on standby so as to be fired at any moment.”  This could mean, he added, using these weapons “in a preemptive attack.”  On January 1st, Kim reiterated his commitment to future preemptive nuclear action, adding that his country would soon test-fire an ICBM.

President Obama responded by imposing increasingly tough economic sanctions and attempting — with only limited success — to persuade China, Pyongyang’s crucial ally, to use its political and economic clout to usher Kim into nuclear disarmament talks.  None of this seemed to make the slightest difference, which means President Trump will be faced with an increasingly well-armed North Korea that may be capable of fielding usable ICBMs within the coming years.

How will Trump respond to this peril? Three options seem available to him: somehow persuade China to compel Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear quest; negotiate a disarmament deal directly with Kim, possibly even on a face-to-face basis; or engage in (presumably nonnuclear) preemptive strikes aimed at destroying the North’s nuclear and missile-production capabilities.

Imposing yet more sanctions and talking with China would look suspiciously like the Obama approach, while obtaining China’s cooperation would undoubtedly mean compromising on trade or the South China Sea (either of which would undoubtedly involve humiliating concessions for a man like Trump).  Even were he to recruit Chinese President Xi as a helpmate, it’s unclear that Pyongyang would be deterred.  As for direct talks with Kim, Trump, unlike every previous president, has already indicated that he’s willing. “I would have no problem speaking to him,” he told Reuters last May. But what exactly would he offer the North in return for its nuclear arsenal? The withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea? Any such solution would leave the president looking like a patsy (inconceivable for someone whose key slogan has been “Make America Great Again”).

That leaves a preemptive strike. Trump appears to have implicitly countenanced that option, too, in a recent tweet. (“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”) In other words, he is open to the military option, rejected in the past because of the high risk of triggering an unpredictable response from the North, including a cataclysmic invasion of South Korea (and potential attacks on U.S. troops stationed there). Under the circumstances, the unpredictability not just of Kim Jong-un but also of Donald Trump leaves North Korea in the highest alert category of global crises as the new era begins.

The South China Sea

The next most dangerous flashpoint?  The ongoing dispute over control of the South China Sea, an area bounded by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the island of Borneo.  Citing ancient ties to islands in those waters, China now claims the entire region as part of its national maritime territory.  Some of the same islands are, however, also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.  Although not claiming any territory in the region itself, the U.S. has a defense treaty with the Philippines, relies on free passage through the area to move its warships from bases in the Pacific to war zones in the Middle East, and of course considers itself the preeminent Pacific power and plans to keep it that way.

In the past, China has clashed with local powers over possession of individual islands, but more recently has sought control over all of them. As part of that process, it has begun to convert low-lying islets and atolls under its control into military bases, equipping them with airstrips and missile defense systems. This has sparked protests from Vietnam and the Philippines, which claim some of those islets, and from the United States, which insists that such Chinese moves infringe on its Navy’s “freedom of navigation” through international waters.

President Obama responded to provocative Chinese moves in the South China Sea by ordering U.S. warships to patrol in close proximity to the islands being militarized.  For Trump, this has been far too minimal a response. “China’s toying with us,” he told David Sanger of the New York Times last March.  “They are when they’re building in the South China Sea.  They should not be doing that but they have no respect for our country and they have no respect for our president.” Asked if he was prepared to use military force in response to the Chinese buildup, he responded, “Maybe.”

The South China Sea may prove to be an early test of Trump’s promise to fight what he views as China’s predatory trade behavior and Beijing’s determination to resist bullying by Washington.  Last month, Chinese sailors seized an American underwater surveillance drone near one of their atolls. Many observers interpreted the move as a response to Trump’s decision to take a phone call of congratulations from the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, shortly after his election victory. That gesture, unique in recent American presidencies, was viewed in Beijing, which considers Taiwan a renegade province, as an insult to China. Any further moves by Trump to aggravate or punish China on the economic front could result in further provocations in the South China Sea, opening the possibility of a clash with U.S. air and naval forces in the region.

All this is worrisome enough, but the prospects for a clash in the South China Sea increased significantly on January 11th, thanks to comments made by Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil and presumptive secretary of state, during his confirmation hearing in Washington.  Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said, “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”  Since the Chinese are unlikely to abandon those islands — which they consider part of their sovereign territory — just because Trump and Tillerson order them to do so, the only kind of “signal” that might carry any weight would be military action.

What form would such a confrontation take and where might it lead?  At this point, no one can be sure, but once such a conflict began, room for maneuver could prove limited indeed.  A U.S. effort to deny China access to the islands could involve anything from a naval blockade to air and missile attacks on the military installations built there to the sinking of Chinese warships.  It’s hard to imagine that Beijing would refrain from taking retaliatory steps in response, and as one move tumbled onto the next, the two nuclear-armed countries might suddenly find themselves at the brink of full-scale war.  So consider this our second global high alert.

The Baltic Sea Area

If Hillary Clinton had been elected, I would have placed the region adjoining the Baltic Sea at the top of my list of potential flashpoints, as it’s where Vladimir Putin would have been most likely to channel his hostility to her in particular and the West more generally.  That’s because NATO forces have moved most deeply into the territory of the former Soviet Union in the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. Those countries are also believed to be especially vulnerable to the kind of “hybrid” warfare — involving covert operations, disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, and the like — that Russia perfected in Crimea and Ukraine.  With Donald Trump promising to improve relations with Moscow, it’s now far less likely that Putin would launch such attacks, though the Russians continue to strengthen their military assets (including their nuclear war-fighting capabilities) in the region, and so the risk of a future clash cannot be ruled out.

The danger there arises from geography, history, and policy. The three Baltic republics only became independent after the breakup of the USSR in 1991; today, they are members of both the European Union and NATO.  Two of them, Estonia and Latvia, share borders with Russia proper, while Lithuania and nearby Poland surround the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.  Through their NATO membership, they provide a theoretical bridgehead for a hypothetical Western invasion of Russia. By the same token, the meager forces of the three republics could easily be overwhelmed by superior Russian ones, leaving the rest of NATO to decide whether and in what fashion to confront a Russian assault on member nations.

Following Russia’s intervention in eastern Ukraine, which demonstrated both Moscow’s willingness and ability to engage in hybrid warfare against a neighboring European state, the NATO powers decided to bolster the alliance’s forward presence in the Baltic region. At a summit meeting in Warsaw in June 2016, the alliance agreed to deploy four reinforced multinational battalions in Poland and the three Baltic republics. Russia views this with alarm as a dangerous violation of promises made to Moscow in the wake of the Cold War that no NATO forces would be permanently garrisoned on the territory of the former Soviet Union. NATO has tried to deflect Russian complaints by insisting that, since the four battalions will be rotated in and out of the region, they are somehow not “permanent.” Nevertheless, from Moscow’s perspective, the NATO move represents a serious threat to Russian security and so justifies a comparable buildup of Russian forces in adjacent areas.

Adding to the obvious dangers of such a mutual build-up, NATO and Russian forces have been conducting military “exercises,” often in close proximity to each other. Last summer, for example, NATO oversaw Anaconda 2016 in Poland and Lithuania, the largest such maneuvers in the region since the end of the Cold War. As part of the exercise, NATO forces crossed from Poland to Lithuania, making clear their ability to encircle Kaliningrad, which was bound to cause deep unease in Moscow. Not that the Russians have been passive. During related NATO naval exercises in the Baltic Sea, Russian planes flew within a few feet of an American warship, the USS Donald Cook, nearly provoking a shooting incident that could have triggered a far more dangerous confrontation.

Will Putin ease up on the pressure he’s been exerting on the Baltic states once Trump is in power?  Will Trump agree to cancel or downsize the U.S. and NATO deployments there in return for Russian acquiescence on other issues?  Such questions will be on the minds of many in Eastern Europe in the coming months.  It’s reasonable to predict a period of relative calm as Putin tests Trump’s willingness to forge a new relationship with Moscow, but the underlying stresses will remain as long as the Baltic states stay in NATO and Russia views that as a threat to its security.  So chalk the region up as high alert three on a global scale.

The Middle East

The Middle East has long been a major flashpoint.  President Obama, for instance, came to office hoping to end U.S. involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet U.S. troops are still fighting in both countries today.  The question is: How might this picture change in the months ahead?

Given the convoluted history of the region and its demonstrated capacity for surprise, any predictions should be offered with caution. Trump has promised to intensify the war against ISIS, which will undoubtedly require the deployment of additional American air, sea, and ground forces in the region. As he put it during the election campaign, speaking of the Islamic State, “I would bomb the shit out of them.” So expect accelerated air strikes on ISIS-held locations, leading to more civilian casualties, desperate migrants, and heightened clashes between Shiites and Sunnis.  As ISIS loses control of physical territory and returns to guerilla-style warfare, it will surely respond by increasing terrorist attacks on “soft” civilian targets in neighboring Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey, as well as in more distant locations. No one knows how all this will play out, but don’t be surprised if terrorist violence only increases and Washington once again finds itself drawn more deeply into an endless quagmire in the Greater Middle East and northern Africa.

The overriding question, of course, is how Donald Trump will behave toward Iran. He has repeatedly affirmed his opposition to the nuclear deal signed by the United States, the European Union, Russia, and China and insisted that he would either scrap it or renegotiate it, but it’s hard to imagine how that might come to pass.  All of the other signatories are satisfied with the deal and seek to do business with Iran, so any new negotiations would have to proceed without those parties. As many U.S. strategists also see merit in the agreement, since it deprives Iran of a nuclear option for at least a decade or more, a decisive shift on the nuclear deal appears unlikely.

On the other hand, Trump could be pressured by his close associates — especially his pick for national security advisor, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, a notoriously outspoken Iranophobe — to counter the Iranians on other fronts. This could take a variety of forms, including stepped-up sanctions, increased aid to Saudi Arabia in its war against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, or attacks on Iranian proxies in the Middle East. Any of these would no doubt prompt countermoves by Tehran, and from there a cycle of escalation could lead in numerous directions, all dangerous, including military action by the U.S., Israel, or Saudi Arabia. So mark this one as flash point four and take a deep breath.

Going on Watch

Starting on January 20th, as Donald Trump takes office, the clock will already be ticking in each of these flashpoint regions.  No one knows which will be the first to erupt, or what will happen when it does, but don’t count on our escaping at least one, and possibly more, major international crises in the not-too-distant future.

Given the stakes involved, it’s essential to keep a close watch on all of them for signs of anything that might trigger a major conflagration and for indications of a prematurely violent Trumpian response (the moment to raise a hue and cry). Keeping the spotlight shining on these four potential flashpoints may not be much, but it’s the least we can do to avert Armageddon.

China orders local forecasters to stop issuing smog alerts

Chinese authorities have ordered local meteorological bureaus to cease issuing smog alerts. The move has increased fears that that the government is trying to suppress information on the country’s air pollution.

January 18, 2017


China’s Meteorological Administration notified regional forecasters late on Tuesday to “immediately stop issuing smog alerts.” The leaked notice was widely shared on popular Chinese microblog Weibo and confirmed by state media.

The government said a single department will now be responsible for issuing smog alerts to avoid mismatches between the different authorities. A representative from the China Meteorological Administration told government-backed online publication “The Paper” that “meteorological bureaus and the environmental protection administration often disagree when they issue smog-related information.”

“A joint alerting mechanism will be formulated to consult how to and who should issue alerts for smog,” the representative added.

Chinese officials use a color-coded system to issue smog alerts, topping out at red when severe pollution warnings are likely to last more than 72 hours.  The mechanism warns firms, schools and individuals of incoming smog and sets off a series of emergency measures, such has ordering cars off the road and closing highly polluting factories.

However, local and national authorities have in the past issued contradictory alerts, confusing schools and factories on whether or not to close.

Critics have accused authorities of often hesitating to issue high warning alerts over fears it would harm economic performance.

“The meteorological administration fought the environmental protection ministry and lost,” Nanjing’s local meteorological institute wrote on its official Weibo account. “Thus, early warnings about smog, a kind of meteorological calamity, cannot be issued by the meteorological administration.”

County and city authorities will continue to release fog alerts on low visibility, the notice said.

Dark clouds hang over China’s “war on pollution”

Reports of authorities suspending local and city smog alerts were met with stinging criticism, with many having long doubted the Chinese government’s official data on air pollution.

“Before, they cheated us separately, and now, they are going to cheat us together,” one person commented on Weibo, while another replied that “even though they are working on a unified alert standard, they should not stop the existing alert system.”

Air pollution has been an enduring source of public anger in China, as rapid economic growth has come at the cost of widespread environmental problems.

Despite the government declaring a “war on pollution” some three years ago, China’s northern provinces were engulfed by smog over New Year, while dangerous air quality readings were issued in major cities including Beijing, Tianjin and Xian. Authorities urged residents to remain indoors, while flights remained grounded and ports and schools were forced to close. Authorities said the smog was caused by increased coal use for winter heating on the back of unusually cold weather conditions.

However, while Beijing issued the highest level for fog, it only issued the second-highest for smog, leading many in the city to raise questions about the system. Many of those who took to social media to express their anger reportedly found their articles quickly deleted, only increasing frustration.

“When people are gagged, the sky will be blue,” one Weibo user commented.

‘Mein Kampf’: Murphy translation: Part 12

January 18, 2017

There have been a number of translations of Hitler’s seminal book. Most have been heavily editited so as to promulgate disinformation about Hitler’s views and remove passages that might offend the sensitive.

The Murphy translation is considered to be the most accurate and is being reprinted in toto here.

Our next publication of this work will be the unexpurgated original German edition.

German officialy- approved historians have recently released a highly doctored edition of ‘Mein Kampf’ that is selling very well in Germany.

Perhaps a free copy of the unredacted original work would do better in the same marketplace. Ed








The institution that is now erroneously called the State generally classifies people only into two groups: citizens and aliens. Citizens are all those who possess full civic rights, either by reason of their birth or by an act of naturalization. Aliens are those who enjoy the same rights in some other State. Between these two categories there are certain beings who resemble a sort of meteoric phenomena. They are people who have no citizenship in any State and consequently no civic rights anywhere.

In most cases nowadays a person acquires civic rights by being born within the frontiers of a State. The race or nationality to which he may belong plays no role whatsoever. The child of a Negro who once lived in one of the German protectorates and now takes up his residence in Germany automatically becomes a ‘German Citizen’ in the eyes of the world. In the same way the child of any Jew, Pole, African or Asian may automatically become a German Citizen.

Besides naturalization that is acquired through the fact of having been born within the confines of a State there exists another kind of naturalization which can be acquired later. This process is subject to various preliminary requirements. For example one condition is that, if possible, the applicant must not be a burglar or a common street thug.

It is required of him that his political attitude is not such as to give cause for uneasiness; in other words he must be a harmless simpleton in politics. It is required that he shall not be a burden to the State of which he wishes to become a citizen. In this realistic epoch of ours this last condition naturally only means that he must not be a financial burden. If the affairs of the candidate are such that it appears likely he will turn out to be a good taxpayer, that is a very important consideration and will help him to obtain civic rights all the more rapidly.

The question of race plays no part at all.

The whole process of acquiring civic rights is not very different from that of being admitted to membership of an automobile club, for instance. A person files his application. It is examined. It is sanctioned. And one day the man receives a card which informs him that he has become a citizen. The information is given in an amusing way. An applicant who has hitherto been a Zulu or Kaffir is told: “By these presents you are now become a German Citizen.”

The President of the State can perform this piece of magic. What God Himself could not do is achieved by some Theophrastus Paracelsus (Note 16) of a civil servant through a mere twirl of the hand. Nothing but a stroke of the pen, and a Mongolian slave is forthwith turned into a real German. Not only is no question asked regarding the race to which the new citizen belongs; even the matter of his physical health is not inquired into. His flesh may be corrupted with syphilis; but he will still be welcome in the State as it exists to-day so long as he may not become a financial burden or a political danger.

[Note 16. The last and most famous of the medieval alchemists. He was born at Basle about the year 1490 and died at Salzburg in 1541. He taught that all metals could be transmuted through the action of one primary element common to them all. This element he called ALCAHEST. If it could be found it would proveto be at once the philosopher’s stone, the universal medicine and their resistible solvent. There are many aspects of his teaching which are now looked upon as by no means so fantastic as they were considered in his own time.]

In this way, year after year, those organisms which we call States take up poisonous matter which they can hardly ever overcome.

Another point of distinction between a citizen and an alien is that the former is admitted to all public offices, that he may possibly have to do military service and that in return he is permitted to take a passive or active part at public elections. Those are his chief privileges. For in regard to personal rights and personal liberty the alien enjoys the same amount of protection as the citizen, and frequently even more.

Anyhow that is how it happens in our present German Republic.

I realize fully that nobody likes to hear these things. But it would be difficult to find anything more illogical or more insane than our contemporary laws in regard to State citizenship.

At present there exists one State which manifests at least some modest attempts that show a better appreciation of how things ought to be done in this matter. It is not, however, in our model German Republic but in the U.S.A. that efforts are made to conform at least partly to the counsels of commonsense. By refusing immigrants to enter there if they are in a bad state of health, and by excluding certain races from the right to become naturalized as citizens, they have begun to introduce principles similar to those on which we wish to ground the People’s State.

The People’s State will classify its population in three groups:

Citizens, subjects of the State, and aliens.

The principle is that birth within the confines of the State gives only the status of a subject. It does not carry with it the right to fill any position under the State or to participate in political life, such as taking an active or passive part in elections. Another principle is that the race and nationality of every subject of the State will have to be proved. A subject is at any time free to cease being a subject and to become a citizen of that country to which he belongs in virtue of his nationality. The only difference between an alien and a subject of the State is that the former is a citizen of another country.

The young boy or girl who is of German nationality and is a subject of the German State is bound to complete the period of school education which is obligatory for every German. Thereby he submits to the system of training which will make him conscious of his race and a member of the folk-community. Then he has to fulfil all those requirements laid down by the State in regard to physical training after he has left school; and finally he enters the army. The training in the army is of a general kind. It must be given to each individual German and will render him competent to fulfil the physical and mental requirements of military service. The rights of citizenship shall be conferred on every young man whose health and character have been certified as good, after having completed his period of military service. This act of inauguration in citizenship shall be a solemn ceremony. And the diploma conferring the rights of citizenship will be preserved by the young man as the most precious testimonial of his whole life. It entitles him to exercise all the rights of a citizen and to enjoy all the privileges attached thereto. For the State must draw a sharp line of distinction between those who, as members of the nation, are the foundation and the support of its existence and greatness, and those who are domiciled in the State simply as earners of their livelihood there.

On the occasion of conferring a diploma of citizenship the new citizen must take a solemn oath of loyalty to the national community and the State. This diploma must be a bond which unites together all the various classes and sections of the nation. It shall be a greater honour to be a citizen of this REICH, even as a street-sweeper, than to be the King of a foreign State.

The citizen has privileges which are not accorded to the alien. He is the master in the REICH. But this high honour has also its obligations.

Those who show themselves without personal honour or character, or common criminals, or traitors to the fatherland, can at any time be deprived of the rights of citizenship. Therewith they become merely subjects of the State.

The German girl is a subject of the State but will become a citizen when she marries. At the same time those women who earn their livelihood independently have the right to acquire citizenship if they are German subjects.






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