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TBR News July 22, 2018

Jul 22 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8

Washington, D.C. July 22, 2018: Abscam (sometimes all capitals) was a US political scandal in 1980. An FBI sting operation led to the arrest of members of Congress for accepting bribes.

The FBI set up Abdul Enterprises, Ltd. in 1978 and FBI employees posed as Middle Eastern businessmen in videotaped talks with government officials, where they offered money in return for political favors to a non-existent sheik. Much of the FBI operation was directed by the experienced Melvin Weinberg. It was the first major operation by the FBI to trap corrupt public officials; up until 1970 only ten members of Congress had ever been convicted of accepting bribes. The media dubbed the operation Abscam after the name of the company.

Of the thirty plus targeted officials, one senator, Harrison Williams, and five members of the House of Representatives (John Jenrette, Richard Kelly, Raymond Lederer, Michael Myers, Frank Thompson) were convicted of bribery and conspiracy in separate trials in 1981. Another, John M. Murphy, was convicted of a lesser charge. While most of the politicians resigned, Myers had to be expelled and Williams did not resign until the vote on his expulsion was almost due. Five other government officials were convicted, including the mayor of Camden, Angelo Errichetti.

The FBI was accused of entrapment and in 1982 the conviction of Richard Kelly was overturned. (He had been memorably videotaped jamming $25,000 into his pockets.) The FBI and the Department of Justice were also accused of having political motivations in the politicians they targetted.

The Abscam model of fake front companies and concealed recording served as the basis for a number of more local operations throughout the 1980s.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Carter Page FISA Documents Are Released by Justice Department
  • At Texas border, joy and chaos as U.S. reunites migrant families
  • How Syria and Ukraine Drove the Russia Hawks Insane
  • Russia sends Syrian refugee proposal to U.S. after Trump summit
  • Opinion    Donald Trump   
  • When the US Invaded Russia
  • ‘Do not play with lion’s tail’: Rouhani warns Trump

 

Carter Page FISA Documents Are Released by Justice Department

July 21, 2018

by Charlie Savage

New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration disclosed on Saturday a previously top-secret set of documents related to the wiretapping of Carter Page, the onetime Trump campaign adviser who was at the center of highly contentious accusations by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that the F.B.I. had abused its surveillance powers.

Democrats in February rejected the Republican claims that law enforcement officials had improperly obtained a warrant to monitor Mr. Page, accusing them of putting out misinformation to defend President Trump and sow doubts about the origin of the Russia investigation. But even as Republicans and Democrats issued dueling memos characterizing the materials underlying the surveillance of Mr. Page, the public had no access to the records.

On Saturday evening, those materials — an October 2016 application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Mr. Page, along with several renewal applications — were released to The New York Times and other news organizations that had filed Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to obtain them. Mr. Trump had declassified their existence earlier this year.

“This application targets Carter Page,” the document said. “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.” A line was then redacted, and then it picked up with “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.”

Mr. Page has denied being a Russian agent and has not been charged with a crime in the nearly two years since the initial wiretap application was filed. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

The spectacle of the release was itself noteworthy, given that wiretapping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, is normally one of the government’s closest-guarded secrets. No such application materials had apparently become public in the 40 years since Congress enacted that law to regulate the interception of phone calls and other communications on domestic soil in search of spies and terrorists, as opposed to wiretapping for ordinary criminal investigations.

The documents made public on Saturday were heavily redacted in places, and some of the substance of the applications had already become public in February, via the Republican and Democratic Intelligence Committee memos.

Visible portions showed that the F.B.I. in stark terms had told the intelligence court that Mr. Page “has established relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers”; that the bureau believed “the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with” Mr. Trump’s campaign; and that Mr. Page “has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”

The fight over the surveillance of Mr. Page centered on the fact that the F.B.I., in making the case to judges that he might be a Russian agent, had used some claims drawn from a notorious Democratic-funded dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent.

The application cited claims from the dossier that Mr. Page, while on a trip to Moscow in July 2016, had met with two senior Russian representatives and discussed matters like lifting sanctions imposed on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine and a purported file of compromising information about Mr. Trump that the Russian government had. (Mr. Page has denied those allegations, although he later contradicted his claims that he had not met any Russian government officials on that trip.)

Republicans portrayed the Steele dossier — which also contained salacious claims about Mr. Trump apparently not included in the wiretap application — as dubious, and blasted the F.B.I. for using material from it while not telling the court that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign had funded the research.

But Democrats noted that the application also contained evidence against Mr. Page unrelated to the dossier, and an unredacted portion of the application discussed efforts by Russian agents in 2013 to recruit Americans as assets. It has previously been reported that Mr. Page was one of their targets, although any discussion of Mr. Page’s interactions with them in the application is still censored.

Democrats argued in February that the F.B.I. had told the court that the research’s sponsor had the political motive of wanting to discredit Mr. Trump’s campaign. They argued that it was normal not to specifically name Americans and American organizations in such materials. The released documents show that portion of the filings, which the previously released Democratic memo had quoted.

The application shows that the F.B.I. told the court it believed that the person who hired Mr. Steele was looking for dirt to discredit Mr. Trump. But it added that based on Mr. Steele’s previous reporting history with the F.B.I., in which he had “provided reliable information,” the bureau believed his information cited in the application “to be credible.”

The applications largely avoided using names; renewal materials noted that they would continue to refer to “Candidate #1” by that description, for example, even though he “is now the president.”

The renewal applications from 2017 told the court in boldface print that the F.B.I. had severed its relationship with Mr. Steele because he had shared some of his claims with a news organization in October 2016, contrary to the F.B.I.’s “admonishment” to speak only to law enforcement officials about the matter. But they said the bureau continued to assess his prior reporting as “reliable.”

The application cited claims from the dossier that Mr. Page, while on a trip to Moscow in July 2016, had met with two senior Russian representatives and discussed matters like lifting sanctions imposed on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine and a purported file of compromising information about Mr. Trump that the Russian government had. (Mr. Page has denied those allegations, although he later contradicted his claims that he had not met any Russian government officials on that trip.)

Republicans portrayed the Steele dossier — which also contained salacious claims about Mr. Trump apparently not included in the wiretap application — as dubious, and blasted the F.B.I. for using material from it while not telling the court that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign had funded the research.

But Democrats noted that the application also contained evidence against Mr. Page unrelated to the dossier, and an unredacted portion of the application discussed efforts by Russian agents in 2013 to recruit Americans as assets. It has previously been reported that Mr. Page was one of their targets, although any discussion of Mr. Page’s interactions with them in the application is still censored.

Democrats argued in February that the F.B.I. had told the court that the research’s sponsor had the political motive of wanting to discredit Mr. Trump’s campaign. They argued that it was normal not to specifically name Americans and American organizations in such materials. The released documents show that portion of the filings, which the previously released Democratic memo had quoted.

The application shows that the F.B.I. told the court it believed that the person who hired Mr. Steele was looking for dirt to discredit Mr. Trump. But it added that based on Mr. Steele’s previous reporting history with the F.B.I., in which he had “provided reliable information,” the bureau believed his information cited in the application “to be credible.”

The applications largely avoided using names; renewal materials noted that they would continue to refer to “Candidate #1” by that description, for example, even though he “is now the president.”

The renewal applications from 2017 told the court in boldface print that the F.B.I. had severed its relationship with Mr. Steele because he had shared some of his claims with a news organization in October 2016, contrary to the F.B.I.’s “admonishment” to speak only to law enforcement officials about the matter. But they said the bureau continued to assess his prior reporting as “reliable.”

The final two renewal applications also contained two additional pages describing a letter Mr. Page sent to the Justice Department in February 2017 accusing the Clinton campaign of spreading false information about him.

The unredacted portions of the original application and the three renewal applications are otherwise largely identical, so it is not visible whether the F.B.I. told the court that it was gaining useful intelligence from the wiretap of Mr. Page as it asked for extensions. But the length of the applications grew significantly each time, indicating that new information was being added: They were 66 pages, 79 pages, 91 pages and 101 pages, respectively.

The materials also revealed which Federal District Court judges signed off on the wiretapping of Mr. Page: Judges Rosemary Collyer, Michael Mosman, Anne C. Conway and Raymond J. Dearie. All were appointed by Republican presidents.

As has been publicly known from the February congressional fight, the application also contained a description of a Yahoo News article from September 2016 that discussed the investigation into Mr. Page’s Russia ties. It is now known that Mr. Steele was a source for that article, but the application and renewals state that the F.B.I. did not believe he “directly” provided information to Yahoo News.

Republicans at the time claimed that the F.B.I. had misleadingly used the article as corroboration for Mr. Steele’s claims, while Democrats said that was false and that it was instead included to inform the court that Mr. Page had denied the allegations.

The section of the application that describes the Yahoo News article is titled “Page’s Denial of Cooperation With the Russian Government to Influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.”

Since February, even as Mr. Trump and his allies have continued to portray the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt,” it has produced indictments of two dozen Russians and Russian government officials for efforts to covertly manipulate American social media and for hacking and releasing Democratic emails during the campaign.

Noting that the original application and its three renewals were approved by senior law enforcement officials in two administrations and by federal judges, for example, Representative Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, portrayed the threat from Russia that the F.B.I. was investigating as real and severe.

“Anyone aware of these facts would recognize that these applications were necessary and appropriate,” Mr. Nadler said. “Those who say otherwise are trying desperately to protect President Trump from a broader investigation that must be allowed to take its course without interference.”

While applications for criminal wiretap orders often become public, showing what the government’s basis was for seeking it, the government until now has refused to disclose FISA materials even when using evidence gathered through such wiretaps to prosecute people.But in February, Mr. Trump — over the objections of law enforcement professionals — took the unprecedented step of lowering the walls of secrecy around such materials to enable House Intelligence Committee Republicans, led by Representative Devin Nunes of California, to disclose their three-and-a-half-page memo, which sought to portray the surveillance of Mr. Page as scandalous.

In addition to invoking Mr. Trump’s declassification to seek disclosure of the underlying materials by filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department, The Times also petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to unseal the materials itself. The court has not responded to that request.

 

At Texas border, joy and chaos as U.S. reunites migrant families

July 20, 2018

by Yeganeh Torbati and Loren Elliott

Reuters

LOS FRESNOS, Texas (Reuters) – Luis Campos, a Dallas attorney, showed up at a Texas immigrant detention facility close to the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday morning expecting to represent a client before an immigration judge.

But his client – a mother who had been separated from her child by immigration authorities after they crossed the border illegally – was not at the Port Isabel Detention Center. For more than a day, Campos was unable to determine whether she had been released and whether she had been reunited with her child.

Campos did not fare much better with his other appointments. Of the five other clients he had been scheduled to meet with that day, four were no longer at Port Isabel, and it was unclear if they had been released or transferred to other facilities.

“We don’t know what their status is except they’re no longer in the system,” Campos said. “We don’t know where people are right now and it’s been a struggle to get information.”

Lawyers and immigrant advocates working in south Texas this week reported widespread disarray as the federal government scrambled to meet a court-imposed deadline of July 26 for reunifying families separated by immigration officials under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” measures.

Half a dozen lawyers Reuters spoke to described struggles to learn of reunification plans in advance and difficulty tracking down clients who were suddenly released or transferred to family detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The lawyers said it was often difficult to get through by telephone and that when they did the government employees often knew little about their clients’ status or location.

ICE officials did not respond to questions about the reunification process in Texas and elsewhere.

A government court filing on Thursday said that 364 reunifications had taken place so far. It was unclear from the document, filed as part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging parent-child separations at the border, exactly how many more were likely.

Of more than 2,500 parents identified as potentially eligible to be reunited with their children, 848 have been interviewed and cleared for reunification, government attorneys told the court. Another 91 have been deemed ineligible because of criminal records or for other reasons.

BUSY SHELTERS

Evidence of the reunification efforts can be found throughout the Rio Grande Valley area, a border region that covers the southern tip of Texas and includes small towns like Los Fresnos.

Children arrive in vans at the Port Isabel Detention Center near Los Fresnos late into the night, lawyers said.

A sprawling church site in San Juan, around 60 miles (97 km) away, was designated as a migrant shelter after it became clear that a large number of reunited families would be released from Port Isabel.

The shelter has been housing between 200 and 300 adults and children on any given night this week, according to migrants who spent time there.

The same court order that required separated families to be reunited also ordered the government to stop separating new arrivals at the border, and some families who have crossed in recent weeks have been detained together.

But ICE has limited facilities to house parents and children together, and strict rules apply regarding how long and under what circumstances it can keep children locked up.

Claudia Franco, waiting to board a bus at a terminal in McAllen, near San Juan, said she and her daughter traveled from Guatemala and were apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol after entering the United States last week. The pair were released from custody a few days later, and Franco was given an ankle monitor during her legal fight to remain in the country.

President Donald Trump has called for an end to such swift releases, which he refers to as “catch-and-release.”

‘WILD WEST LAWYERING’

Having attorneys can make a crucial difference for Central American migrants trying to negotiate the complexities of the legal system.

Angela, a Honduran woman who declined to give her surname, had initially been found not to have a “credible fear” of returning to Honduras, something that must be established as the first step in an asylum claim.

On Monday, she appeared in immigration court with attorney Eileen Blessinger. The judge reversed that initial finding. The next day, Angela was reunited with her daughter after more than a month apart and the two will seek asylum in the Indianapolis area, she said in a phone interview from a shelter.

Lawyers said that other clients will be deprived of representation in court because of the chaotic reunification and release process.

“It’s all totally like Wild West lawyering,” said Shana Tabak, an attorney with the Tahirih Justice Center, which provides legal services to migrants. “The government is moving really quickly, without a lot of advance planning it seems.”

One urgent priority, said Tabak, was making sure immigrants who leave the area change the location of their impending proceedings to a court near their eventual destination.

But that can be difficult. On Wednesday afternoon, Campos and a colleague met with a migrant client at a shelter, and just by chance, he ran into a Honduran woman who he had met with earlier this month at Port Isabel. Unbeknownst to him, she had been released and was now with her young son. They quickly exchanged a few words.

“They were just bouncing with joy,” he said. “We agreed to talk later that day and then I couldn’t find her after that.”

Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Loren Elliott, editing by Sue Horton and Rosalba O’Brien

         

How Syria and Ukraine Drove the Russia Hawks Insane

July 20, 2018

by David Stockman

AntiWar

 

In Part 1 we referenced the infamous hysteria triggered in Salem Massachusetts by Betty Parris (age 9) and Abigail Williams (age 12).

In 1692 their prepubescent imaginations were apparently more than capable of detecting the evil doings of witches at loose in their community; and a population hopped up with Calvinist enthusiasm for the supernatural works of the Almighty apparently was also capable of lapsing into collective madness – at least for a spell.

But who would have thought that in the year 2018 the grizzled adults and racketeers who populate the Imperial City would fall prey to the same momentary outbreak of deliriums?

After all, Vladimir Putin was the very same Putin who made a mere cameo appearance in the 2012 presidential debates. He got an honorable mention when Barack Obama appropriately schooled Mitt Romney on the fact that Russia was not America’s principal national security threat.

Indeed, the MSM commentators who are shrieking about Trump’s parlay with Vlad today were knowingly furrowing their brows about Romney’s alleged gaffe back then.

So the question at hand is what changed? How did the politics as usual debating points about the status of Russia and Putin only 69 months ago turn into a veritable Salem style hysteria?

We’d suggest two pivotal events turned the Imperial City upside down. To wit, Barry lost his nerve in August 2013 on the Syrian red line and Donald Trump won the 2016 election in the red zones of Flyover America.

In between, the mainstream media completely lost its grasp on reality as the Imperial City dove headlong into it latest and greatest Indispensable Nation adventures by intervening in Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Yemen, and Iraq for the third time.

The Indispensable Nation conceit, of course, is the ultimate cover story for the work of Empire and is the polar opposite of the rudimentary America First notions on which Donald Trump rode into the White House.

As it happened, the Indispensable Nation meme flourished when the neocons and liberal interventionists became ascendant during the Clinton and early Bush 43 era; and they virtually ran the policy tables after 9/11 as the full-throated War on Terrorism cranked up a powerful head of steam.

Nevertheless, the acolytes of Empire nearly lost their political lunch when Shock & Awe in Iraq turned into a bloody quagmire and the retaliation against the Taliban for harboring the 9/11 conspirators ended up as an endless trillion dollar war in the Hindu Kush.

That’s why the peace candidate won in 2008. And it didn’t matter that Barrack Obama was an utterly unqualified greenhorn Senator and former part-time law professor and community organizer who had no more claim to the Oval Office in his day than the Donald did this time around.

But Barry was too much the quick study by half. Rather than dismantle the rogue postwar Empire of the neocons and militarists, he sought to make it smarter and more deft. So he populated his national security team with moderate neocons like Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, David Petraeus and Victoria Nuland and a posse of liberal interventionists including Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power.

Our point here is not simply that peace never had a chance with that crowd in charge of policy; it’s that the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring in early 2011 triggered a toxic brew of interventionist enthusiasm among Barry’s foreign policy team that quickly metastasized into R2P (responsibility to protect) madness in Libya and Syria.

Needless to say, even a newly arrived Martian visitor in 2011 what have been scratching his head about Libya.

In his advancing old age, Khadafy had turned himself into a model non-proliferator and exclusively inward focused tyrant. Libya thus posed a threat to exactly no one outside its own borders; and it was just plain laughable as a matter of concern to the security of the American homeland.

But Hillary and her posse famously danced on Khadafy’s grave after NATO-enabled terrorists brought about his brutal demise. So doing, they learned a dangerously erroneous lesson.

Namely, that uncooperative dictators who purportedly threatened their citizens with genocidal repression could be clinically removed for a few billions worth of bombs, drones and aid to local rebels.

That proposition really had nothing to do with homeland security in America and was belied by the fiascoes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now the “smart” people were in charge, and both Libya and Egypt were proof they knew how to make Regime Change happen with a minimum of muss and fuss.

Yet any intelligent reading of the impossible sectarian politics of Syria put the lie to that conceit in a heartbeat.

Indeed, given the 40-year history of the Assad family business built around Baathist secularism and a protective umbrella for Syria’s numerous minority confessions – Alawite, Druse, Shiite, Christian, Jewish, Kurd etc. – the very idea of arming Sharia-spouting Sunni Arabs to overthrow the Assad regime was sheer lunacy.

So whatever the immediate origins and allegedly peaceful intentions of the anti-Assad uprising in the spring of 2011, it did not take long for these clashes to degenerate into bloody urban warfare.

And it did not take a lot of figuring to also see that arming Muslim Brotherhood sectarians was absolutely guaranteed to generate a violent response from Damascus. That’s because the Brotherhood had been the historic vanguard of Sunni religious opposition to the Baathist secularism of the Assad regime; and had been brutally suppressed by the senior Assad in the 1980s.

Beyond that, it was also a given that the Shiite polities on either side of Syria’s borders would likely come to Assad’s aid. That is, the Iranians in the east and Hezbollah across the southwest border in Lebanon – to say nothing of the regime’s longtime Russian patrons, whose only naval base in the Mediterranean was located on Syria’s tiny slice of coastline.

In any event, Obama’s neocons and R2P liberals threw every caution to the wind. In going all in for regime change and demonizing Assad as a butcher who used barrel bombs and chemical weapons against innocent civilians, they maneuvered Obama – newly feisty as the slayer of Osama bin-Laden – into drawing his famous red line on the use of chemical weapons.

Needless to say, that was catnip to the Nusra Front and ISIS jihadists who dominated the armed opposition. It did not take long for them to mount a false flag attack in Ghouta in August 2013, which horrified the social media connected world when 1300 civilians suffered gruesome deaths from what was apparently sarin gas.

Only later did rocket experts demonstrate that the sarin had been delivered by short-range projectiles launched from jihadist controlled areas outside of Damascus, not by Assad’s forces 15-20 miles away. But at the moment, the job was done: Obama was on the hot-seat of his own foolishly drawn red line – exactly where the jihadist and his own interventionists wanted him.

When he attempted to escape the trap by punting the decision to bomb Assad to Capitol Hill, however, Cool Hand Vlad saw his opening. To wit, he quickly brokered a deal with Assad to have his entire chemical weapons arsenal removed and destroyed under international supervision.

That was operationally executed by the acknowledged neutral experts at the OPCW (Organization For The Prevention of Chemical Weapons) and there is little doubt that the preponderant share of Assad’s arsenal was eliminated.

Yet for that act of constructive statesmanship, the neocons and liberal interventionists never forgave Putin. Then and there he became Bad Vlad because his action on chemical weapons but the kibosh on Washington’s excuse for regime change in Damascus.

In fact, the War Party interventionists of both stripes – neocons and R2P liberals – went on the all-out attack in September 2013, transforming Putin from the also mentioned adversary of the Obama-Romney debate one year earlier into a veritable demon. Hillary now even insisted his was a modern day Adolph Hitler.

As it happened, the duly elected President of Ukraine chose that same fall to pursue an economic bailout deal with Moscow to rescue his country’s debt-laden, corruption ridden post-Soviet economy; and he did so in lieu of the far less attractive deal that had been offered by the west through the EC, IMF and Washington.

Not surprisingly, that wholly appropriate decision by the leader of a sovereign nation became exactly the opening for the Washington interventionists to strike hard at Putin and Russia.

We have detailed elsewhere how the so-called Maidan uprising on the streets of Kiev in February was funded, organized and enabled by Washington and its cadres of operators from the CIA, NED, State and sundry NGOs; and how that divided the country to the quick politically when Washington installed and recognized a radical nationalist government that immediately moved against the Russian speaking populations of the Donbas and Crimea.

Indeed, enabling the Kiev coup and instantly recognizing the crony capitalists, ruffians and neo-Nazi nationalists who formed the new government was the single stupidest act of peace candidate Barry’s entire presidency.

But by then the interventionists were in high dudgeon. So there was no stopping their virtually instantaneous demonization of Russia and Putin for actions which were self-evidently driven by Russia’s vital national interests in it own backyard – not some kind of aggressive quest for territory or lebensraum.

To wit, Putin did not “seize” Crimea like it was some country in the Benelux that he coveted. To the contrary, Crimea was virtually Russian to the core after it was purchased by Catherine the Great in 1783 and thereafter when Sevastopol become the homeport for the great black sea fleet of czars and commissars alike.

For crying out loud, Crimea was never part of Ukraine until Khrushchev had the Soviet Presidium transfer it in 1954 from the Russian Soviet Republic to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic as a gift to his Ukrainian compatriots who had stood with him the bloody struggle for Stalin’s succession.

So Washington decided to declare economic war on Russia through Obama’s idiotic sanctions in order to make sure that the dead hand of the Soviet Presidium’s writ is enforced 64 years later.

Besides, Russia did conduct a referendum which was fair by all objective accounts; and under which 83% of the eligible voters elected to return to Mother Russia after what had been an historical short interlude of rule by the Ukrainian state. Among other things, the overwhelmingly Russian speaking population of Crimea as not enthusiastic about being culturally “cleansed” the Ukrainian nationalists who now ruled in Kiev.

Likewise with the Donbas and the other nearby Russian speaking provinces on the eastern border. Many of them had been put there generations earlier by Stalin to man what was the industrial maw – coal, iron, steel, chemicals and heavy engineering – of the Soviet Union.

And all of them knew of the terrors that had occurred during WWII when the Hitler’s Wehrmacht marched through the Donbas and destroyed everything and everyone in sight on its way to the siege of Stalingrad, and how it had been accompanied by legions of Ukrainian collaborators during the terror.

They also knew that the region had eventually been liberated from the Nazi terror by the Red Army as it returned through the region on its way to Berlin.

Yet the interventionist fools in Washington ignored all of this and proclaimed Putin menace to peace and the rule of law because he came to the aid of the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking population, which did not want to be ruled by the Ukrainian nationalists who had illegally sized power in Kiev.

The obvious solution all along was partition – just like happened when Washington forced Serbia to give up Kosovo; or when the artificial country of Czechoslovakia, created by backroom intrigue at Versailles in 1919 peacefully decided to separate into two sovereign countries a few year back.

In short, there is no there, there. The Ukraine/Crimea “aggression” is nothing of the kind, and Putin was in Syria because he was invited to be there by its sovereign government.

In fact, the whole demonization campaign, the sweeping economic sanctions and NATO’s provocative encroachments on Russia’s borders in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea are nothing more than retaliation for Putin’s wise rescue of Barrack Obama from his own stupid red line.

But this isn’t the end of the stupidity. In part 3 we will strip the bark off the Russian election meddling meme by laying out the simple fact that a country which is no threat to the security of the American homeland, but which has been viciously attacked by Washington, might will seek to make it’s case for a different policy.

That is to say, none of this is about espionage or stealing military secrets. It actually boils down to the obvious fact that Donald Trump had an open mind about Russia and had not been party to Obama’s cabal of neocon and R2P interventionists and their campaign of revenge against Vlad Putin.

That Putin preferred Trump was a no brainer and he admitted as such at the Helsinki Summit. But that Putin’s preference for Trump had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the election is also patently obvious.

Nevertheless, the Deep State has cooked up a massive fiction that claims Moscow made every effort to do so.

We intend to tear that Big Lie limb-for-limb in Part 3, but suffice it here to consider the take below from CIA veteran Philip Giraldi. It does remind that Salem on the Potomac is actually happening in the here and now:

Beyond what is or is not contained in the document itself, there is a clear misunderstanding regarding how a sophisticated intelligence organization, which certainly includes the GRU, operates. If there had been a large-scale Kremlin sanctioned plan to disrupt the US election, it would not be run by twelve identifiable GRU officers working with what appears to be only limited cover and resources. If the facts are correct, the activity might have been a routine probing, collecting and selective dissemination of information effort that all intelligence agencies engage in. The United States does so routinely in many countries, interfering in elections worldwide, far more than Russia with its limited resources, and even carrying out regime change.

If the Kremlin’s objective were truly to undermine American democracy, a task that is already being undertaken very ably by the GOP and Democrats, hundreds of officers would be involved, all working under deep cover and operating securely out of dispersed sites. And no one involved would be using computers connected to networks that could be penetrated to enable personal identification or discovery of the ultimate source of the activity. Everyone would be working in alias on stand-alone machines and the transmission of information would be done using cutouts to break any chain of custody. A cutout might consist of using thumb drives to transmit information from one computer to another, for example. There would be no sending or receiving of information by channels that could be identified by NSA or CIA and compromised.

So the idea that the United States government identified twelve culprits who were responsible for trying to overthrow American democracy is by any measure ludicrous, if indeed there was a major plan to disrupt the election at all. The indictment is little more than a political document seeking to undermine any effort by Donald Trump to establish rapprochement with Vladimir Putin. It will also serve to give fuel to the Democrats, who are still at a loss to understand what happened to Hillary Clinton, and Republican hawks like John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse who persist in seeking to refight the Cold War. As Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin said in their Helsinki press conference, the coming together of the leaders of the world’s two most powerful nuclear armed countries is too important an opportunity to let pass. Cold Warriors in Washington should take note.

 

Russia sends Syrian refugee proposal to U.S. after Trump summit

July 20, 2018

Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Defence Ministry said on Friday it had sent a proposal to Washington to jointly organise the return home of Syrian refugees after agreements reached by President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, Russian agencies said.

Trump and Putin met at a summit in Helsinki on Monday, although it is not known what they discussed at a one-on-one meeting there.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said it had sent Washington a proposal for drawing up a joint action plan to bring Syrian refugees back to the places they lived before the war broke out in 2011.

“The active advancement in this direction has been helped by the agreements reached by the presidents of Russia and the United States during the summit in Helsinki …,” Mikhail Mizintsev, a ministry official, was quoted as saying by TASS.

The United States and Russia’s militaries have a communications link in Syria to avoid accidental clashes and joint work on refugees would represent greater cooperation.

“The proposals presented by Russia are currently being worked out by the U.S. side,” the ministry said.

It said the proposals include setting up a Russian-U.S.-Jordanian monitoring group in Amman and a similar group in Lebanon. It said over 1.7 million Syrian refugees would be able to return to Syria in the near future.

Mizintsev said preliminary assessments indicated 890,000 refugees could return to Syria from Lebanon in the near future, 300,000 from Turkey and 200,000 from European Union countries.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Alison Williams

Opinion    Donald Trump   

  • As a conservative, I despair at Republicans’ support for Trump. His vision is not conservatism
  • It is hard to refute those who say Trumpism is a product of conservatism but refute them we must. We are better than this

July 22, 2018

by Charles J Sykes

The Guardian

As Donald Trump extends his control over the Republican party, American conservatism has entered a pseudo-Orwellian stage where weakness is strength, appeasement is toughness, lies are truth, and “America first” means “blame America first”.

The fiasco in Helsinki, where the president openly sided with Vladimir Putin over his own country’s intelligence agencies, was not a one-off for this president but rather an exclamation point on what has happened to the American right.

For me, as an outspoken conservative for the last four decades, the experience has been vertiginous. On one issue after another – from Russia and free trade to corruption and the rule of law – Republicans have adjusted their principles to conform with Trumpism, which often means with Trump’s latest glandular impulse.

I came of age watching Ronald Reagan call on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”, as he reasserted America’s role as leader of the free world. Last week we saw Trump insult our allies, undermine our friends and truckle to the Russian autocrat.

Given a chance to hold Russia accountable for its attacks on the American election, its annexation of Crimea, its aggression in Ukraine, its role as an enabler of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, or the murder of journalists and political opponents, Trump chose instead to blame “both sides”:

Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible.

I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish …

And I think we’re all to blame.

It is impossible to imagine Reagan or, frankly, any other US president, giving that answer, and it is easy to imagine the outrage among conservatives if Barack Obama had uttered those words. This was not an errant tweet, or one of Trump’s random insults, outrages or assaults on the truth. Trump’s behavior risked undermining the global world order, alienating our friends and emboldening our enemies.

Many Republicans have rationalized their support for Trump by pointing to tax cuts, rollbacks in regulation and Trump’s appointments of conservative judges. But last week reminded us how many of their values they have been willing to surrender. Moral relativism and its cousin, moral equivalency, are not bugs of the Trump presidency; they are central to its diplomatic philosophy. Unfortunately, polls suggest that many conservatives are OK with that, despite the betrayal of what were once deeply held beliefs.

For years, Republicans derided what they saw as Obama’s fecklessness on the world stage, including what they called his “apology tour”. Trump, we were told, would change all of that by projecting strength and standing up for American values. Instead, we got last week’s parade of sycophancy and abasement.

This ought to have been a clarifying moment. Trump was supposed to be the Man on the White Horse who promised that he alone could solve all of our problems. Instead, he looked like Putin’s caddy.

The problem is that many conservatives have confused the swagger of the schoolyard bully with actual strength; we saw how Trump behaves when he’s confronted by an even bigger bully. He groveled, and then hedged, then tried to walk it all back with the absurdly laughable claim that he confused the word “would” for “wouldn’t”. Depressingly, that was good enough for some Republicans, including the Ohio senator Rob Portman, who said he was willing to take Trump at his word.

But we’ve seen this movie before, as Republicans react to Trump’s outrages by wringing their hands, only to fall back into line.

Understandably, this feeds the impression that we should regard Trumpism as a logical and organic outgrowth of conservatism rather than an existential threat to that tradition. That is, of course, the view from the (Sean) Hannitized right, which insists that opposition to Trump among so-called Never Trumpers is a form of apostasy.

But a similar argument is advanced by a chorus on the left. “Donald Trump Was the Inevitable Result of Republicanism”, declared a recent headline in Esquire. With every passing week, as outrage piles on outrage, that argument admittedly becomes more difficult to refute.

But a few points need to be made about the attempt to equate Trumpism with traditional conservatism. The first is the most obvious: if Trump was the inevitable and predictable outcome of the conservative movement, why did none of those critics predict his coming?

They also need to explain why Trump is more an “authentic” expression of conservatism than previous GOP nominees, like George HW Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. Distinctions are important here: it is unhealthy and intellectually sloppy to gloss over the fundamental differences between the conservatism of a Milton Friedman and the raw nationalist nativism of a Steve Bannon, just as it is intellectually dishonest to confuse the progressivism of Adlai Stevenson with Che Guevera. Nuance matters.

Obviously, Trump has deftly exploited many of the grievances and attitudes that have festered for decades on the right. But that’s not the whole story. Trump has more in common with populist demagogues like the “Know Nothings”, Father Charles Coughlin, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan than with conservatives like George Will or Ronald Reagan. Until the last election, conservatives had the good taste, sound judgment and wisdom to reject and even marginalize those uglier voices on the right. In that sense, Trump is the exception, rather than the rule.

Perhaps the best way to think about Trump’s nativism and isolationism is to see them as recessive genes in conservatism that had been kept in check for generations. That also suggests another tradition exists, even if it is now in eclipse.

While it’s easy (and tempting) to define a political movement by its worst aspects, it bears noting that modern conservatism also gave rise to Charles Krauthammer, Ross Douthat, Peter Wehner, Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake. In other words, it didn’t have to be this way, and it doesn’t have to continue in the future.

The real danger, however, in seeing Trump as the logical, organic product of conservatism is that it normalizes him. Discounting the peculiarity of his rise ignores the uniqueness of the danger he poses and the urgent need to confront the damage he is doing to the body politic and our political culture. If he is merely another Republican, there no cause for more than the usual alarm.

But last week reminded us that there is nothing normal about Donald Trump or the existential threat he represents. It is long past time for conservatives and Republicans to recognize that.

Charles J Sykes is a contributing editor for the Weekly Standard and the author of How the Right Lost Its Mind.

 

When the US Invaded Russia

Amidst the backdrop of increased U.S.-Russian tensions and even talk of war, long forgotten is the time the U.S. actually invaded,

July 18, 2018

by Jeff Klein

Consortium News

Amid the bi-partisan mania over the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki, fevered, anti-Russian rhetoric in the United States makes conceivable what until recently seemed inconcievable: that dangerous tensions between Russia and the U.S. could lead to military conflict. It has happened before.

In September 1959, during a brief thaw in the Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev made his famous visit to the United States. In Los Angeles, the Soviet leader was invited to a luncheon at Twentieth Century-Fox Studios in Hollywood and during a long and rambling exchange he had this to say:

“Your armed intervention in Russia was the most unpleasant thing that ever occurred in the relations between our two countries, for we had never waged war against America until then; our troops have never set foot on American soil, while your troops have set foot on Soviet soil.”

These remarks by Khrushchev were little noted in the U.S. press at the time – especially compared to his widely-reported complaint about not being allowed to visit Disneyland.  But even if Americans read about Khrushchev’s comments it is likely that few of them would have had any idea what the Soviet Premier was talking about.

But Soviet – and now Russian — memory is much more persistent.  The wounds of foreign invasions, from Napoleon to the Nazis, were still fresh in Russian public consciousness in 1959 — and even in Russia today — in a way most Americans could not imagine.  Among other things, that is why the Russians reacted with so much outrage to the expansion of NATO to its borders in the 1990’s, despite U.S. promises not to do so during the negotiations for the unification of Germany.

The U.S. invasion Khrushchev referred to took place a century ago, after the October Revolution and during the civil war that followed between Bolshevik and anti-Bolshevik forces, the Red Army against White Russians.  While the Germans and Austrians were occupying parts of Western and Southern Russia, the Allies launched their own armed interventions in the Russian North and the Far East in 1918.

The Allied nations, including Britain, France, Italy, Japan and the U.S., cited various justifications for sending their troops into Russia: to “rescue” the Czech Legion that had been recruited to fight against the Central Powers; to protect allied military stores and keep them out of the hands of the Germans; to preserve communications via the Trans-Siberian Railway; and possibly to re-open an Eastern Front in the war.  But the real goal – rarely admitted publicly at first—was to reverse the events of October and install a more “acceptable” Russian government. As Winston Churchill later put it, the aim was to “strangle the Bolshevik infant in its cradle.”

In addition to Siberia, the U.S. joined British and French troops to invade at Archangel, in the north of Russia, on September 4, 1918.

In July 1918, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had personally typed the “Aide Memoire” on American military action in Russia that was hand-delivered by the Secretary of War at the beginning of August to General William Graves, the designated commander of the U.S. troops en route to Siberia. Wilson’s document was curiously ambivalent and contradictory. It began by asserting that foreign interference in Russia’s internal affairs was “impermissible,” and eventually concluded that the dispatch of U.S. troops to Siberia was not to be considered a “military intervention.”

The Non-Intervention Intervention

But the American intervention began when U.S. soldiers disembarked at Vladivostok on August 16, 1918.  These were the 27th and 31st infantry regiments, regular army units that had been involved in pacification of U.S.-occupied Philippines.  Eventually there were to be about 8,000 U.S. troops in Siberia.

Judging from his memoires, General Graves was puzzled by how different things looked on the ground in Siberia than his vague instructions seemed to suggest.  For one thing, the Czechs hardly needed rescuing.  By the Summer of 1918 they had easily taken control of Vladivostok and a thousand miles of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

For the next year and a half, General Graves, by all appearances an honest and non-political professional soldier, struggled to understand and carry out his mandate in Siberia.  He seems to have driven the U.S. State Department and his fellow allied commanders to distraction by clinging stubbornly to a literal interpretation of Wilson’s Aide Memoire as mandating strict non-intervention in Russian affairs. The general seemed incapable of noticing the broad “wink” with which everyone else understood these instructions.

Graves strove to maintain “neutrality” among the various Russian factions battling for control of Siberia and to focus on his mission to guard the railroad and protect Allied military supplies.  But he was also indiscrete enough to report “White” atrocities as well as “Red” ones, to express his distaste for the various Japanese-supported warlords in Eastern Siberia and, later, to have a skeptical (and correct) assessment of the low popular support, incompetence and poor prospects of the anti-Bolshevik forces.

For his troubles, it was hinted, absurdly, that the General may have been a Bolshevik sympathizer, a charge that in part motivated the publication of his memoirs.

In the face of hectoring by State Department officials and other Allied commanders to be more active in support of the “right” people in Russia, Graves repeatedly inquired of his superiors in Washington whether his original instructions of political non-intervention were to be modified. No one, of course, was willing to put any different policy in writing and the general struggled to maintain his “neutrality.”

By the Spring and Summer of 1919, however, the U.S. had joined the other Allies in providing overt military support to “Supreme Leader,” Admiral Alexander Kolchak’s White regime, based in the Western Siberian city of Omsk.  At first this was carried out discretely through the Red Cross, but later it took the form of direct shipments of military supplies, including boxcars of rifles whose safe delivery Graves was directed to oversee.

Domestic Intervention

But the prospects for a victory by Kolchak soon faded and the Whites in Siberia revealed themselves to be a lost cause.  The decision to remove the US troops was made late in 1919 and General Graves, with the last of his staff, departed from Vladivostok on 1 April 1920.

In all, 174 American soldiers were killed during the invasion of Russia. (The Soviet Union was formed on Dec. 28, 1922.)

Interestingly, pressure to withdraw the U.S. troops from Siberia came from fed-up soldiers and home-front opinion opposing the continued deployment of military units abroad long after the conclusion of the war in Europe. It is notable that during a Congressional debate on the Russian intervention one Senator read excerpts from the letters of American soldiers to support the case for bringing them home.

Then, as in later U.S. foreign interventions, the soldiers had a low opinion of the people they were supposed to be liberating.  One of them wrote home on July 28, 1919 from his base in Verkhne-Udinsk, now Ulan Ude, on the southern shore of Lake Baikal:

Life in Siberia may sound exciting but it isn’t.  It’s all right for a few months but I’m ready to go home now. . .  You want to know how I like the people?  Well I’ll tell you, one couldn’t hardly call them people but they are some kind of animal.  They are the most ignorant things I ever saw.  Oh, I can get a word of their lingo if they aren’t sore when they talk.  They sure do rattle off their lingo when they get  sore. These people have only one ambition and that is to drink more vodka than the next person.”

Outside of the State Department and some elite opinion, U.S. intervention had never been very popular.  By now it was widely understood, as one historian noted, that there may have been “many reasons why the doughboys came to Russia, but there was only one reason why they stayed: to intervene in a civil war to see who would govern the country.”

After 1920, the memory of “America’s Siberian Adventure,” as General Graves termed it, soon faded into obscurity.  The American public is notorious for its historic amnesia, even as similar military adventures were repeated again and again over the years since then.

It seems that we may need to be reminded every generation or so of the perils of foreign military intervention and the simple truth asserted by General Graves:

“. . .there isn’t a nation on earth that would not resent foreigners sending troops into their country, for the purpose of putting this or that faction in charge.  The result is not only an injury to the prestige of the foreigner intervening, but is a great handicap to the faction the foreigner is trying to assist.”

General Graves was writing about Siberia in 1918, but it could just as well have been Vietnam in the 1960s or Afghanistan and Syria now. Or a warning today about 30,000 NATO troops on Russia’s borders.

 

‘Do not play with lion’s tail’: Rouhani warns Trump

Iranian president says US cannot prevent Iran from exporting oil, warns a confrontation would be ‘mother of all wars’.

July 22, 2018

Al Jazeera

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned United States President Donald Trump not to escalate tensions with his country, saying a confrontation with the Islamic republic would be the “mother of all wars”.

“Do not play with the lion’s tail or else you will regret it,” Rouhani said on Sunday, reiterating that the US cannot prevent it from exporting its crude oil to the international market.

“Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars,” he said in a televised speech in Tehran.

Earlier this month, Rouhani hinted that Tehran may block regional oil exports if its own sales are halted following the US’ withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal signed with world powers.

The suggestion, which did not mention the strategic Strait of Hormuz, was in reaction to looming US sanctions and efforts by the Trump administration to prevent countries from purchasing Iranian oil.

The narrow strategic passageway is located between Iran and Oman, through which at least 18.5m barrels of oil moved every day in 2016, according to a US energy department report.

The strait is also used by Gulf countries who rely on safe passage through the narrow chokepoint to export their oil and gas.

“Is it possible that everyone in the region sells their oil and we stand idly by and watch?” Rouhani said.

“Do not forget that we have maintained the security of this waterway [Strait of Hormuz] throughout history. We have historically secured the route of oil transit. Do not forget it,” he added.

Washington has recently attempted to capitalise on internal public discontent in Iran by launching social media campaigns in a bid to increase dissent against the Iranian government.

“You cannot provoke the Iranian people against their own security and interests,” Rouhani further said in his speech

Trump has previously suggested that Iranian leaders are going to request a new deal, but Iran has rejected talks on several occasions.

Under the landmark deal signed in Vienna, six world powers – the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union – offered Iran more than $110bn a year in sanctions relief and a return to the global economy in exchange for halting its drive for nuclear weapons.

Following the US’ pullout from the nuclear agreement earlier this year, Iran noted it was interested in keeping the deal alive, but only if the remaining powers can guarantee that Iran will not face economic isolation under the sanctions that the US has started to revive.

Europe opposes the US’ decision to leave the agreement and has vowed to find ways of maintaining its trade ties with Iran.

 

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