TBR News March 10, 2018

Mar 10 2018

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C. March 10, 2018:” There was a time, not too long ago (relatively speaking), that governments and the groups of elites that controlled them did not find it necessary to conscript themselves into wars of disinformation. Propaganda was relatively straightforward. The lies were much simpler. The control of information flow was easily directed. In fact, during the early Middle-Ages in most European countries commoners were not even allowed to own a Bible, nor was the Bible allowed to be interpreted from Latin to another language, let alone any other tome that might breed “dangerous ideas”. This was due in large part to the established feudal system and its hierarchy of royals and clergy. Rules were enforced with the threat of property confiscation and execution for anyone who strayed from the rigid socio-political structure. Those who had theological, metaphysical, or scientific information outside of the conventional and scripted collective world view were tortured and slaughtered. The elites kept the information to themselves, and removed its remnants from mainstream recognition, sometimes for centuries before it was rediscovered.

With the advent of anti-feudalism, and most importantly the success of the American Revolution, elites were no longer able to dominate information with the edge of a blade or the barrel of a gun. The establishment of Democracies (and Democratic Republics), with their philosophy of open government and rule by the people, compelled Aristocratic minorities to plot more subtle ways of obstructing the truth and thus maintaining their hold over the world without exposing themselves to retribution from the masses. Thus, the complex art of disinformation was born. The technique, the “magic” of the lie, was refined and perfected. The mechanics of the human mind and the human soul became an endless obsession for the elites.

The goal was malicious, but socially radical; instead of expending the impossible energy needed to dictate the very form and existence of the truth, they would allow it to drift, obscured in a fog of contrived data. They would wrap the truth in a “Gordian Knot” of misdirections and fabrications so elaborate that they felt certain the majority of people would surrender, giving up long before they ever finished unraveling the deceit. The goal was not to destroy the truth, but to hide it in plain sight.

In modern times, and with carefully engineered methods, this goal has for the most part been accomplished. However, these methods also have inherent weaknesses. Lies are fragile. They require constant attentiveness to keep them alive. The exposure of a single truth can rip through an ocean of lies, evaporating it instantly. In this article, we will examine the methods used to fertilize and promote the growth of disinformation, as well as how to identify the roots of disinformation and effectively cut them, starving out the entire system of fallacies once and for all.”


Table of Contents

  • Bombed, Booby-Trapped and Gripped by Fear: Welcome to Raqqa
  • Ivanka Trump Backed Flynn and Manafort. She Discussed Firing Comey. How Has She Evaded Mueller’s Investigation?
  • The GOP’s messages don’t seem to be working in Pennsylvania. Is that a warning sign?
  • Pedophilia in Governance
  • ‘Hollowed out’ White House: Trump is on a dangerous path toward no advisers
  • No chance of another European gas crisis, because this time EU in full control of Ukraine – analyst
  • The Rise or Decline of US Global Power? A Critical Look at Alfred McCoy’s New Book
  • Syrian army gains ground in intensified Ghouta assault


Bombed, Booby-Trapped and Gripped by Fear: Welcome to Raqqa

March 8, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

Cascades of broken concrete line the streets of Raqqa. Few people are about and those who are look crushed and dispirited. An 80-year-old woman who says her name is Islim is scrabbling in the debris looking for scraps of metal and plastic to sell. She explains that she is trying to look after the wife and daughter of one of her sons who was killed by a mine.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by US air and artillery strikes, captured Raqqa from Isis on 20 October last year after a four-month siege. The destruction is apocalyptic. Houses, hospitals, bridges, schools and factories are gone, turned into heaps of broken masonry. There is no electricity and little water.

“After the war we were at zero and we are still at zero,” says Dr Saddam al-Hawidy. He complains that foreign aid organisations come and look at the ruins of the city, but then leave and are never seen again. The final siege was only the devastating culmination of years of degradation that predates Isis rule. When the much-hated government rule collapsed there was nothing to put in its place. “My father died because the kidney dialysis unit in a local hospital was hit in a Syrian government air strike in 2015,” Dr Hawidy said.

A few districts escaped the worst of the bombing by the coalition, but none are unscathed. Inside the old walled city, we meet Ahmed Mousaqi, a middle-aged former building worker specialising in ceramics, who complains about the high price of buying a minimal amount of electricity from a private generator. He says he survived the siege, though Isis kept herding him and other civilians held as hostages from building to building.

His brother Ahmed, a motorcycle mechanic, was not so lucky. “Isis fighters took over part of his house and it was hit by an air strike,” he says. “He was killed along with five members of his family.” He adds there is little aid available for people like him because as soon as you say you are from Raqqa “they think you belong to Isis”.

Some 150,000 people have returned to Raqqa, though they are not very visible on the streets. A few shops have reopened but there not many customers and business is slow. Beside an ancient ruin called “The Ladies’ Castle”, Basil Amar as-Sawas has a shop selling doors, some of which he makes himself, while others he buys from people whose houses have been badly damaged but they have been able to salvage some of the fittings.

He says there is little money around and those who have any are reluctant to spend it while the situation remains so uncertain. Some people whose houses have survived “are selling them to businessmen because they need the money”. He has two small children below school age but for other people the absence of schools – mostly destroyed or badly damaged – is another disincentive for thinking of a return to Raqqa.

Another danger faces those whose homes were not hit in the battles: Isis was notorious for its copious use of mines and booby-traps. Its fighters specialised in placing well-concealed bombs in the homes of people known to oppose their organisation, and who had fled the city, but were likely to return when the siege was over. One member of the local council was killed when he impatiently went home before the limited demining operation had cleared his house. A reason why so little aid is distributed is the difficulty of finding distribution points for food and medicine that have been declared safe. Sarbast Hassan, an electrical technician working to restore the electricity supply, says that “we can’t even work in the city because of the mines”.

There is an extra charge of fear percolating everywhere in Raqqa that makes it different from the many other Syrian cities ravaged by war since 2011. It stems primarily from the three-and-a-half years of sadistic and pitiless Isis rule which has left everybody in the city traumatised. “Daesh is in our hearts and minds,” says Abdel Salaam, who is in charge of social affairs for the council. “Five-year-old children have seen women stoned to death and heads chopped off and put on spikes in the city centre.” Others speak of sons who killed their and fathers who did the same to their sons. Some of these atrocity stories may be exaggerated but, given the Isis cult of cruelty, many of them are likely to be all too true.

The memory of Isis terror will never go away and is accompanied by a more concrete fear that some of the movement have survived and are reorganising. Commander Masloum, one of four SDF field commanders in charge of security in Raqqa, dismisses this as an exaggerated rumour and says that there have been no recent Isis attacks in the city. He had investigated reports of “sleeper cells” but so far these had turned out to be untrue. Even so, security is tight and a curfew begins at 5 pm after which everybody must be off the streets. The roads leading to the city have checkpoints every few miles manned by locally recruited security forces.

In other Syrian cities bombed or shelled to the point of oblivion there is at least one district that has survived intact. This is the case even in Mosul in Iraq, though much of it was pounded into rubble. But in Raqqa the damage and the demoralisation are all pervasive. When something does work, such as a single traffic light, the only one to do so in the city, people express surprise.

Reminders of the grim rule of Isis are everywhere. The tops of the pointed metal railing surrounding the al-Naeem Roundabout are bent outwards because that is where severed heads were put on display. A couple of hundred yards away is what looks like a square manhole which is the entrance into an elaborate system of tunnels which Isis dug under Raqqa.

The horrendous past of the city has been succeeded by the prospect of a dangerous and uncertain future. “People here are frightened of everybody: Isis, Kurds and the Assad regime,” says a local observer. They may prefer the Kurdish-led SDF to Isis, but the choice between the Kurds and the Syrian government is more difficult to make. “They know that the Assad regime will be more merciless towards anybody who had dealings with Isis, though they may just have been selling them food or other goods,” says one frequent visitor to the city. “On the other hand, they have never liked the Kurds and at least the Assad regimeis Arab like them.” Like most Syrians, the people of Raqqa are faced with a choice of evils – and nobody knows more about what evil rulers are capable of doing than they are.”


Ivanka Trump Backed Flynn and Manafort. She Discussed Firing Comey. How Has She Evaded Mueller’s Investigation?

March 10 2018

by Hannah Seligson

The Intercept

Ivanka Trump is the ghost of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation: She is connected, either directly or tangentially, to events at the heart of the probe, yet all but invisible to the public.

But as Mueller’s investigation broadens, the so-called first daughter is becoming a long overdue part of the bigger story of alleged corruption at the Trump Organization. Last week, we learned that the FBI is looking into the financing and negotiations surrounding her involvement with Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, which is home to an Ivanka Trump-branded spa. That inquiry may be unrelated to the Russia probe, but it should draw scrutiny to Ivanka’s business dealings and how they relate to her father’s political rise.

The mainstream press frequently describes Ivanka — who recently denied any collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians — as the head of a fashion company. Yet she was also a top executive at the Trump Organization and a hard-charging, and often quite effective, dealmaker for the real estate development company. Despite her entrenched role in the West Wing and status as one of her father’s most trusted advisers and emissaries on matters as wide-ranging as G-20 and the Winter Olympics, her identity — carefully curated on social media and through her press operation — hinges on issues such as female entrepreneurship, maternal leave, and being a mother to highly Instagrammable kids. It’s a persona that renders the media establishment and broader public largely incapable of considering that she might be a key player in the Trump-Russia narrative.

The first daughter has not merely developed some of her father’s Teflon quality; sexism and gender stereotypes have also worked in her favor. After all, who would suspect an ex-model, mother of three, and public champion of working women to be pulling the levers of power, calling the shots, and working alongside people like Felix Sater, a Russian-American businessman with reputed mob ties who served jail time for stabbing a man in a bar fight?

Mueller’s probe is scrutinizing Trump’s business transactions. Although we don’t know the full scope of the investigation, Ivanka was reportedly among just a handful of people with a role in foreign projects at the Trump Organization.

She also appears to have been present, albeit briefly, at a controversial meeting aboard Air Force One on the way back from the G-20 summit in July, when Trump administration staffers and the president himself drafted a response to reporters’ questions about a meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. The statement, now exposed as a cover-up, said the meeting was focused on Russian adoption when it was really to discuss potentially damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Ivanka, according to “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff, attended the Air Force One gathering, which is now reportedly of interest to Mueller. The first daughter’s team told Wolff that she quickly left the meeting to “take a pill, and go to sleep” — a timeline that works in Ivanka’s favor, giving her what Wolff describes as a “get out of jail free card.”

At other times, however, Ivanka has indisputably been more present. She was one of three people – along with her husband, Jared Kushner, and Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller – whom the president consulted before deciding to fire then-FBI director James Comey. Their motive for encouraging Comey’s ouster, Wolff claims, was fear for their own fortunes: Ivanka and Kushner were influenced by Jared’s father Charlie Kushner’s “panic” that the “Kushner family’s dealings were getting wrapped up in the pursuit of Trump.” The couple, whom Wolff dubs “Jarvanka,” became, in his words, “co-conspirators” in the Comey firing, which is being investigated as a possible obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense.

And it was Ivanka who went to bat for Paul Manafort, the former lobbyist indicted by Mueller on 12 counts of tax evasion, foreign lobbying, and laundering $75 million in payments as part of a pro-Russian initiative in Ukraine, as well as new charges filed last month. Ivanka reportedly printed out Manafort’s pitch letter and gave it to her father because she and Kushner thought Manafort would “bring professionalism” to the campaign.

Ivanka was also a champion of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. In a 2016 meeting of the Trump transition team’s executive committee, Ivanka asked Flynn: “General, what job do you want?” “It was like Princess Ivanka had laid the sword on Flynn’s shoulders and said, ‘Rise and go forth,’” the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported. (Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian officials and is now cooperating with Mueller.)

Then there are Ivanka’s ties to Felix Sater, who has loudly and plausibly boasted of connections with senior Russian officials. Sater is now being called one of the Trump Organization’s “biggest headaches in the Russia probe” because of a letter he wrote to Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen in 2015, saying: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” Sater claimed that he had arranged financing for Trump Tower Moscow, a never-built project that was supposed to be the linchpin of the support from “Putin’s team.” The skyscraper included plans for an Ivanka-branded spa.

Ivanka was close enough with Sater that she traveled to Moscow with him in 2006. Sater claims he arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin’s office chair at the Kremlin. (Ivanka told the New York Times that she may have sat in Putin’s chair, but “she did not recall it.”) And Bayrock, the company where Sater was managing director, helped finance Trump SoHo, a lower Manhattan condo and hotel project that Ivanka oversaw. (She was close to being charged with felony fraud for inflating the building’s sales figures.)

This series of events and decisions might help explain why former Trump administration chief strategist Steve Bannon labeled Ivanka and Kushner “Russia Toxic,” according to Wolff. The author says this was Bannon’s way of warning his White House colleagues not to speak to the couple lest they jeopardize their careers by getting entangled in Mueller’s investigation.

“Why is he [Mueller] not interviewing Ivanka?” asked CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, a former prosecutor who worked for Mueller at the Justice Department. “The answer is, beats me. Either he’s just biding his time or he has obtained this evidence elsewhere and he doesn’t need her, or he appreciates the possibility of a major eruption were he to do that.”

Ivanka may have plausible deniability when it comes to events like the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer, and Akhmetshin, the lobbyist. The first daughter did not attend the meeting, though she may have run into the Russians near the elevators afterwards and exchanged what have been described as “pleasantries.” But a brief conversation with shady Russian nationals hardly proves that she colluded with the Kremlin.

On the personnel matters, it’s a different story. Even a cursory Google search would have turned up Paul Manafort’s connections to some of the world’s foremost kleptocrats and his links to Russia, particularly a business relationship with and large alleged debt to aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, who was named in a U.S. diplomatic cable as “among the two to three oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis.”

As for Flynn, who would serve as Trump’s national security adviser for only 24 days, he told the transition team before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign.

Championing Manafort and Flynn does not amount to a crime, but it remains an open question why Ivanka ignored red flags about these two men. The infantilizing answer is that she simply doesn’t know enough about the inner workings of government and criminal liability to understand that Flynn and Manafort posed imminent threats to her father’s campaign, his administration, and national security. Or it could be that her judgment was disastrously poor.

In his post-mortem of the Comey firing and attempt aboard Air Force One to craft a false account of the Trump Tower meeting, Wolff concludes that “everyone on the Jarvanka side were now directly connected to actions involved in the Russia investigation or efforts to spin it, deflect, or, indeed, cover it up.” Yet reporters of all stripes have largely given Ivanka a free pass on matters Russia-related. Wolff is in a minority for zeroing in on Ivanka’s role in the Comey firing, which triggered Mueller’s appointment in the first place.

Ivanka’s absence from the nonstop coverage of the Russia investigation may be linked to her longstanding special relationship with the mainstream press, not to mention surrogates who spend hours on the phone with reporters buffering her image. Wolff claims that Josh Raffel, Jared and Ivanka’s spokesperson, “coordinated all of Kushner’s substantial leaking” and that the leaking culture at the White House is so “open and overt” that “everybody could identify everybody else’s leaks.” It stands to reason that reporters, all competing for the next scoop, would be loath to jeopardize their access to the palace intrigue that makes the Trump White House such juicy copy. That’s why, even though journalists whisper about it among themselves, no one will go on the record to say that Ivanka and her PR machine are key sources for White House gossip and more. As one senior White House staffer told Wolff, Jared and Ivanka “are so careful about their image and have crafted this whole persona — it’s like anyone who tries to pierce it or say something against it is like a big problem. They get very upset and will come after you.”

The result is that the press often spins events in Ivanka’s favor. After the white supremacist rally and subsequent violence in Charlottesville, the New York Times reported that Jared and Ivanka were urging Donald Trump to “take a more moderate stance.” After Trump announced the transgender military ban, Ivanka got the word out that she had only learned about it on Twitter, distancing herself from the discriminatory policy proposal.

As Drew Magary put it in a piece for GQ called “Michael Wolff Did What Every Other White House Reporter Is Too Cowardly To Do,” Wolff burned many of his sources, while the rest of the media, Magary writes, “are abiding by traditional wink-wink understandings that have long existed between the government and the press covering it.” While Magary notes that Wolff “represents the absolute worst of New York media-cocktail-circuit inbreeding,” mainstream reporters are equally guilty for their kid-glove treatment of Ivanka.

That gives a whole new meaning to “collusion” — one that benefits the first daughter.


The GOP’s messages don’t seem to be working in Pennsylvania. Is that a warning sign?

March 10, 2018

by Paul Kane

The Washington Post

It was months before a midterm election. The party that held the White House and both chambers of Congress poured resources into a special election in western Pennsylvania, in a district it had long held.

That party eked out the win. But this was the Democrats, and it was 2010, and they were crushed in November, losing 63 House seats and the majority.

“It was very hard to break through in 2010,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who was in the House at the time and chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Voters tuned out their best pitches that year, when the economy was weak and President Barack Obama’s approval ratings were low.

Eight years later, this time it’s Republicans who control the White House and both chambers of Congress. And now they’re trying to keep a House seat in a special election in southwestern Pennsylvania — but their messages don’t seem to be clearly resonating with voters. Even if the GOP holds onto this seat, a narrow win would be seen as a warning sign for the party in November.

Republicans and their outside allies have thrown almost everything at Conor Lamb, the 33-year-old Democrat who’s running against Rick Saccone, a Republican veteran of Pennsylvania’s state legislature. They tried to tar Lamb as a clone of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as a liberal who would raise their taxes and, lately, as a former federal prosecutor who was soft on illegal immigration.

But those messages have not done the damage Republicans had been hoping for — Lamb and Saccone are running neck and neck. It should have been a cakewalk in a House district that President Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.

Attacking Lamb on Pelosi and on taxes seemed to have promise. One poll showed 60 percent of voters in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District had an unfavorable view of Pelosi, while another pegged the figure at 65 percent, according to GOP polling shared with The Washington Post. In addition, surveys have found increasing popularity for the $1.5 trillion tax cut amid media stories about worker bonuses and salary increases.

However, Lamb’s call for a nonpartisan, results-oriented Congress with new leadership — he pledged to oppose Pelosi in future leadership races — has risen above the negative advertising coming from Washington-based GOP groups. He defined himself right away in the race as a Marine who likes to hunt with rifles who then became an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted bad guys.

Saccone has an impressive biography as well — an Air Force intelligence officer who spent 12 years in South Korea and worked on disarmament issues with the North — but he raised so little money that he has generally been defined by his conservative voting record in Harrisburg.

Some Republicans are privately bracing for defeat, and even the optimists contend that a narrow Saccone win should still send signals of how strong the head winds are going into November.

Republicans acknowledge that the tax-cut message has been slow to take hold in this largely working-class district, as the legislation was approved when the special election campaign was already underway. Lamb opposed the tax cut, but Republicans discovered that alone was not a potent message. It only became effective by airing ads accusing him of being in line with Pelosi on taxes.

Another problem with tax-cut messaging is how initially dubious voters are of any new law from Congress.

“The American public is skeptical of anything that comes out of Washington,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative group funded by the industrialist Koch brothers, which is stumping for Saccone.

Phillips has not given up. AFP is running an aggressive direct mail and field operation, knocking on doors and making telephone calls trying to turn out conservatives. The message against Lamb is simple, he said: “This guy would not have voted for tax cuts.”

Republicans cannot believe how much money they’ve spent for such little return, never landing a fatal blow on Lamb, a first-time candidate.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC supporting House GOP leaders, spent roughly $5.5 million combined on advertising, according to a Democratic estimate of week-by-week advertising. A few other groups helped push the total to well in excess of $7 million on advertising benefiting Saccone.

For most of February, Republicans had a 2-to-1 edge in TV and radio advertising. And these groups spent millions more on other parts of the campaign, such as digital advertising and get-out-the-vote operations.

Lamb has had some modest help from Washington-based groups, but mostly it’s come from within his own well-financed campaign. Lamb’s final week of TV and radio ads, worth more than $1.2 million, according to Democratic estimates, is more than Saccone raised for his entire campaign.

Van Hollen, who now runs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said he believes that Republicans are suffering the same message problem as Democrats did in 2010, as they cannot shift the blame to anyone else.“Right now, the reality is they are in charge of everything,” Van Hollen said. “They are in charge of a dysfunctional White House, they’re in charge of a Congress that is doubling down on giveaways to powerful special interests.”

Democrats also believe that there are diminishing returns on how much the Pelosi attack line has, with the GOP groups focusing so much on the issue that it lost its punch in the last two weeks of the campaign.

Republicans still think the tax-cut bill will resonate with voters in November, but they’re watching Tuesday’s election closely. They still have almost seven months to fine-tune their message on the most significant legislative achievement in the Trump era.

“Look, it’s going to be a centerpiece — without a doubt. The law is getting more popular both in public and internal polls. Voters don’t need to take our word for it; they can see the companies announcing bonuses and perks for themselves,” said Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the NRCC.

For many Democrats, that reminds them of how they spoke in the spring of 2010, just after they passed the Affordable Care Act and claimed that it would get so popular that it would break through the noise and keep them politically afloat. It didn’t.

“All signs point to a wave in this election, the only question has been how big a wave this will be,” Van Hollen said.


Pedophilia in Governance

March 10, 2018

by Christian Jürs

It is very well known inside the Beltway (District of Columbia) that the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’ in the Ukraine was a quintessential CIA operation.

It was designed to kick out the pro-Russian elements of the Ukrainian government and replace them with CIA-friendly people.

And this, in turn, got the Ukraine, with its offshore oil and the naval base in the Crimea, firmly into the CIA orbit. But the newly minted government in the Ukraine was not very popular and a pro-Russian president was eventually elected.

The CIA could not tolerate the potential loss of the oil and the naval base so they engineered the recent ‘Kiev revolt’ against the new president, kicked him out and replaced him with a pliable new president.

In short, inside the western Ukraine, the CIA still wields considerable power through their Ukrainian front men.

One of the less pleasant operational methods of many intelligence agencies is what is known as the ‘Honey Trap.’ This is a means of using sexual attractions to lure weak-willed potential informants into their system.

And in the Ukraine today, we find no less than seven pornographic internet sites that cater to any and all aberrant sexual tastes. X-hamster is one of these but in addition to its wares, we have three really disgusting sites that cater to pedophiles of many tastes.

These sites are privately advertised as being “totally secure” and feature absolutely revolting pictures of small children of both sexes involved, often by force, in repulsive acts.

To download, store or pass along such filth is very clearly against American Federal law  which prohibits the production, distribution, reception, and possession of an image of child pornography using or affecting any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce (See 18 U.S.C. § 2251; 18 U.S.C. § 2252; 18 U.S.C. § 2252A).

Specifically, Section 2251 makes it illegal to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for purposes of producing visual depictions of that conduct.  Any individual who attempts or conspires to commit a child pornography offense is also subject to prosecution under federal law.

Of these pedophile sites, three have been set up with the funds, and are under the control of, the American CIA.

They use these sites to entrap persons of interest for the purpose of gaining support from or to blackmail the users.

While the pedophiles are under the mistaken impression that their use, in the United States, of such filth is protected at the source, they ought to realize that there is no such thing as any secure Internet site.

These sites have all been compromised in that others, beside the CIA and the users, are able to see, clearly, who are viewing and downloading illegal child pornography.

This is known outside of the circle of pedophiles involved and there exists a long listing of just which individual is looking at, and downloading, what manner of strictly prohibited perverted filth.

It is also known that a significant number of top level US Federal employees to include members of Congress of both parties, senior officials, members of Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in all of this.

The list deserves to be released to the American public so that they can see for themselves which apples have thoroughly rotten cores.

Will any of these discoveries be made public?

Count on it.


‘Hollowed out’ White House: Trump is on a dangerous path toward no advisers

There’s never been such a rapid turnover of administration personnel in modern times, and the stampede appears to be accelerating

March 10, 2018

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Like many American presidents before him, Donald Trump held court in the East Room of the White House, surrounded by chandeliers, gold curtains, mirrors and portraits of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. He had a message for the press: “You know, I read where, ‘Oh, gee, maybe people don’t want to work for Trump.’ Believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House … I could take any position in the White House, and I’ll have a choice of the 10 top people having to do with that position. Everybody wants to be there.”

That was around 3.45pm on Tuesday at a press conference. Less than two hours later, the White House that everyone wants to work for was struggling to explain its latest empty desk. Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, had decided to walk away.

Another one bites the dust. There has never been such a rapid turnover of personnel in a US administration in modern times. If anything, the stampede to the exits appears to be accelerating, raising fears of a “brain drain” that will leave key jobs unfilled and make it ever harder to recruit new talent.

“One of the problems here is the White House is getting hollowed out and the number of people capable of doing things, of doing real things whether you agree or disagree ideologically, is getting smaller and smaller,” Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, told reporters. “So the mess-ups we’ve seen this past week, I think we’re going to see over and over and over again.”

Trump, who spent a decade as host of The Apprentice, has enjoyed pulling back the curtain to allow White House meetings to be televised. But he also appears to be copying the reality TV format of eliminating a member of his administration or cabinet on a weekly basis, leaving the audience in suspense: who’s next?

Multiple reports have suggested that it could be HR McMaster, the national security adviser whose style is said to grate with Trump, or Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state who has been repeatedly marginalised.

In addition, John Kelly, the chief of staff once seen as a stabilising force, has been under pressure over his handling of allegations of domestic abuse against his close aide Rob Porter. And Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, looks especially vulnerable after his security clearance was downgraded and the Russian collusion investigation closes in.

This threatens to leave Trump in ever greater isolation, trusting his gut on policy decisions rather than a dwindling band of advisers whom he relishes setting against each other. “I like conflict,” he said at this week’s joint press conference, as the Swedish prime minister, Stefan Lofven, looked on with a poker face.

Robert Shrum, a Democratic strategist, said: “In terms of modern presidencies, this is the most untethered we’ve ever seen. We now have a situation where we’re being governed by the president’s impulses. If you disagree with him on anything you’re sent to the outer darkness. You have to find a different form of ‘yes’.”

Despite a presidential tweet insisting “There is no Chaos, only great Energy!” (echoing the famed 1979 British newspaper headline, “Crisis? What crisis?”), Shrum added: “The morale has to be rock bottom. The combination of his capriciousness and Kelly’s straitjacket hasn’t helped; it’s made matters worse.

“Most major Republicans don’t want anything to do with the place. It’s a six-months-to-a-year gig. It’s the first White House where we’ve had nothing but short terms unless you’re in the president’s family. It’s bad for the country and bad for the world.”

Some 43% of top-level White House positions have turned over since Trump was inaugurated, according to figures compiled by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington. Two years into their terms, Barack Obama’s staff turnover rate was just 24%, while former George W Bush’s was 33%.Seven of Trump’s 12 most senior advisers have resigned, been fired or been reassigned. Staff secretary Porter was forced out a month ago after the domestic abuse allegations against him became public. Communications director Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s closest confidantes dubbed his “real daughter”, announced last week that she would resign. The departure of Cohn suggests that there could now be a runaway effect.

Tenpas writes on the Brookings website: “If history is any guide, retaining senior staff members in year two will be an even more daunting task. All five of Trump’s predecessors experienced a large uptick in second-year staff turnover. Overorked and stressed out, many staff members may see the 12-month mark as the point at which one can claim White House experience and move on to lucrative, private-sector opportunities.”

She adds: “Perhaps the real story this coming year may well be the other side of the turnover coin: filling these senior staff vacancies. Year-two recruitment is more of a challenge for any administration because the post-election enthusiasm has long since faded, the ‘first string’ recruits have been tapped out, and the harsh realities of governing are in full view.”

Only a handful of the old guard are left. Golf caddie turned White House social media director Dan Scavino is the only remaining Trump aide who has been by the president’s side since he launched his election campaign in June 2015. Senior adviser Stephen Miller and White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, who joined in 2016, have both proved their survival instincts. Trump’s daughter Ivanka also has a senior position, but there has been speculation that she and her husband, Kushner, will call it a day and move back to New York.

The existing staff are stretched increasingly thin. Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project, told the Associated Press: “You have situations where people are stretched to take on more than one job.”

She offered the example of Johnny DeStefano, who oversees the White House offices of personnel, public liaison, political affairs and intergovernmental affairs. “Those are four positions that in most administrations are each headed by an assistant to the president or a deputy assistant,” Kumar said.

At first glance, the endless comings and goings appear to have little impact on ordinary Americans. But on another, personnel is policy. If tumbleweed is blowing through the West Wing, there are fewer voices to dissuade Trump from the view he expressed at the 2016 Republican national convention: “I alone can fix it.”

On Thursday he defied economics experts and the European Union to impose steep import taxes on steel and aluminium, raising the prospect of a global trade war.

The tariffs decision was criticised by congressional Republicans who, since Trump’s election, had managed to maintain a facade of unity, clinging to his conservative agenda gains and ducking questions about his incendiary tweets, pinball machine volatility and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Now that facade, too, is crumbling.

Kurt Bardella, a columnist for HuffPost and contributor for USA Today, said: “Year one was as controlled as Trump would allow. Now the safeguards are gone. The training wheels are off and he’s going to be on his own. The concern about the mental state of the president will begin to take shape. I liken him to a toddler who is prone to lashing out: this is a president who is not guided by ideology or policy but by emotion.”

In this “unstable environment” and “unparalleled chaos”, Bardella added, staff will leave and become increasingly hard to replace. “As the situation gets worse, people will be looking for escape hatches. Are there people always wanting to work in the White House and to suck up to power? Of course there are. Are they highly qualified people? Absolutely not.”


No chance of another European gas crisis, because this time EU in full control of Ukraine – analyst

March 10, 2018


Brussels will not allow a repeat of the January 2006 gas crisis, when Ukraine allegedly siphoned deliveries destined for Europe, predicts TeleTrade analyst, Petr Pushkarev.

That is because the current Ukrainian government is completely dependent on the EU, both financially and politically, he told RT.

“Europe has all the levers of influence on Ukraine, something not seen in 2006 or in 2009. And of course, Europe will not weaken pressure on Ukraine on the gas issue, where it directly relates to the interests of the EU itself. Therefore, Gazprom, severing the contract with Ukraine’s Naftogaz, knows what it is doing, and does not take any risks,” Pushkarev said.

Last week, Russia’s Gazprom said it would cancel its contract with Ukraine’s Naftogaz for the supply and transit of natural gas to the country. The announcement came after the Stockholm Arbitration ordered Naftogaz to pay Gazprom $2 billion, while ordering the Russian company to compensate Naftogaz to the tune of $4.67 billion.

The countries signed the contract for the supply of gas from Russia to Ukraine in January 2009, running until the end of 2019. Under the agreement, Kiev was to buy 40 billion cubic meters of gas per year. From 2010, the volume rose to 52 billion cubic meters annually. However, since 2012, Naftogaz has ceased buying the contracted volume, and stopped buying Russian gas entirely in November 2015, replacing it with reverse gas supplies from Europe

With Ukraine cut of from Russian gas supplies, there are concerns about a repeat of the gas crisis in 2006. Parts of Europe were left without heat during one of the coldest winters on record after Ukraine began to siphon gas sent to the European market. The current contract expires in December 2019 and has not yet been extended.

“Europe needs this gas more than Gazprom needs to sell it. So, the gas-transit contract will be signed on more preferable terms for Gazprom. After this situation, Europe will only accelerate the introduction of the Nord Stream 2 (a second Russian pipeline which bypasses Ukraine), and will take more gas from the Turkish Stream (pipeline),” Pushkarev said.

He says that, when the current transit contract runs out, Gazprom may refuse to send the gas through Ukraine itself, and instead sell gas to Europe at the Russian border. This means that Europe will have to sign a transit contract with Ukraine, and there will be no gas agreement between Moscow and Kiev.

According to the analyst, while Ukraine enjoys the decision of the Stockholm court for now, Kiev will definitely lose out in terms of transit volumes in the future. Moreover, the $2.6 billion compensation to Naftogaz will probably not be paid, because Ukraine owes Russia $3 billion plus interest on Eurobonds, which Kiev has refused to pay.


The Rise or Decline of US Global Power? A Critical Look at Alfred McCoy’s New Book

March 2, 2018

by Mike Byrne


American power. No two words seem to fit better in the modern political lexicon. America is associated with power like peanut butter and jelly, and there really are no deviations from this fundamental axiom in mainstream discourse. That said, American power is also taken for granted, mainly because Americans possess only a cursory level of knowledge when it comes to world history. Gore Vidal once referred to the this country as “The United States of Amnesia”, and while that certainly describes the short term memory of many Americans in regards to their history, America has sort of a collective amnesia that disconnects them from the rest of humanity. This amnesia makes Americans forget that when it comes to history, great powers rise and fall, so not even Empires are exempt from simple laws of gravity. Alfred McCoy’s new book ‘In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power’ does not take American power for granted. McCoy’s book takes a critical look at American empire by fitting it within a theoretical framework that presents a model for the rise and collapse of Empire. What we will see from a critical examination of McCoy’s framework and model, is that America is not exempt from these historical laws.

McCoy in many ways is equipped to write such a tour de force, being a historian that specializes in Southeast Asian studies. Once you consider that the genesis of America’s overseas Empire began in the Asia-Pacific region with the “opening” (read invasion) of Japan, as well as the brutal occupation of the Philippines, it makes sense to begin in that region when talking about US global power. McCoy’s research also took him all around the globe, particularly to Southeast Asia, and in the process came into the crosshairs of the clandestine drug trade that, thanks to the CIA, was permeating in the region, particularly Vietnam. McCoy is also a frequent contributor to Tom Dispatch, a subsidiary of The Nation Institute founded by journalist Tom Engelhardt, and you can read his many essays here.

When approaching the topic of Empire, McCoy lays the groundwork by delving into a subject that too few political analysts seem to understand, which is the study of Geopolitics. The term geopolitics itself was coined by a 19th century Swede named Kjellen defining it as “the theory of the state as a geographical organism or phenomenon in space”. McCoy begins his analysis elsewhere, with the work of British imperialist and founder of modern Geopolitics Sir Halford Mackinder. Mackinder is known mostly for his work “The Geographical Pivot of History.” laying out his theory of Geopolitics. Mackinder’s theory is interesting considering that from the perspective of a British imperialist, his theory involves looking at Europe as the periphery and concentrating on the massive continent of Eurasia as the center of Geopolitical power.

McCoy writes of Mackinder’s theory(quoted at length for importance):

Mackinder argued that the future of global power lay not, as most British then imagined, in controlling the global sea lanes, but in controlling a vast land mass he called “Euro-Asia.” By turning the globe away from America to place central Asia at the planet’s epicenter, and then tilting the Earth’s axis northward just a bit beyond Mercator’s equatorial projection, Mackinder redrew and thus reconceptualized the world map.

His new map showed Africa, Asia, and Europe not as three separate continents, but as a unitary land mass, a veritable “world island.” Its broad, deep “heartland” — 4,000 miles from the Persian Gulf to the Siberian Sea — was so enormous that it could only be controlled from its “rimlands” in Eastern Europe or what he called its maritime “marginal” in the surrounding seas.

To illustrate how this geopolitical reality has played out, McCoy uses the historical example of the nineteenth century battle between the British Empire and Russia over what is referred to as the “Heartland” of the “world Island”.

McCoy ties this into his Geopolitical framework noting:

From this geopolitical perspective, the nineteenth century was, at heart, a strategic rivalry, often called “the Great Game,” between Russia “in command of nearly the whole of the Heartland… knocking at the landward gates of the Indies,” and Britain “advancing inland from the sea gates of India to meet the menace from the northwest.” In other words, Mackinder concluded, “the final Geographical Realities” of the modern age were sea power versus land power or “the World-Island and the Heartland.”

To see how this ties into American Empire, we have to circle yet again back to Mackinder, who noted that the future of the world would come down to a balancing of power between sea powers operating on what is called the “maritime marginal” and “expansive internal forces” within the Eurasian heartland. McCoy quotes imperial historian John Darwin, who wrote in his book ‘After Tamerlane’, that the United States achieved its “colossal imperium…on an unprecedented scale”. This was accomplished through controlling what are called “the strategic axial points” on both sides of Eurasia. America maintains this axial domination through strategic alliances with Pacific powers such as Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, while enforcing the axial point in Europe through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). A cursory look at this Empire shows American primacy when it comes to dominance of land, sea, air, cyber, space, institutional, economic, and clandestine. The aforementioned institutional supremacy through defensive alliances like NATO and bilateral treaties with strategic nations in the Pacific allow America to surround the “world island” with military bases and naval fleets, allowing for easier power projection into the heartland. Over the years, that power projection has evolved from messy deployments of high numbers of ground troops, to the use of mechanized unmanned vehicles called drones. These drones are becoming so commonplace that, McCoy notes “they emerged from the war on terror as one of America’s wonder weapons for preserving its global power.”

Drones of course are used within the command of the armed forces, but they are also used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), making them a tool of clandestine operations. McCoy refers to this as the “Netherworld” where American power is projected behind a veil of secrecy. The clandestine realm played a major role in the development of American power, as covert operations became the preferred method of fomenting discord in countries the US deemed hostile. This evolution of power projection came during a very tumultuous period in history, with the rise of US power coinciding with the collapse of the British Empire, and with that the shift from Britain’s traditional sea dominance to a new kind of dominance that is only seen from the shadows. Clandestine power projection from the early days of the CIA was mostly used for fomenting coups, overthrowing elected governments, and even assassination. Over time, this evolved into a much more sophisticated network that combined your typical covert operations with a sort of underworld diplomacy that focused on preserving alliances with some less than savory characters. McCoy in particular brings attention to US involvement with the Contra’s in Nicaragua and the Mujahadeen rebels in Afghanistan during the 1980’s. This upswing in Clandestine power projection also coincided with the rise of the largest surveillance dragnet in the history of the world. The US intelligence community, primarily through the National Security Agency (NSA) has the ability to monitor all telephone communications that pass through US cell towers, as well as the ability to monitor the internet traffic of all Americans. The NSA also has the ability to monitor the activities of foreign leaders, whether they are “allies” or “hostile”. The NSA also has a strange alliance with the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world called “The Five Eyes” which consists of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. These five nations openly share any collected intelligence amongst themselves and the alliance itself can be traced back to the founding of the UKUSA Agreement of 1946, in which the US and the UK agreed to share intelligence with one another. The US also utilized the realms of cyberspace and outer space to project power and influence, attacking Iran’s nuclear reactors with the Stuxnet virus, which was the first case of weaponized cyber warfare (that we know of). Much of Washington’s space warfare strategy remains classified, but we know that the National Geospacial Intelligence Agency is crucial in the collection of intelligence, analyzing all video captured by surveillance drones and spy satellites circling the globe.

It is important to examine all the layers of what makes the US such a unique imperial power, because without such context, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding US foreign policy. Alfred McCoy illustrates this best when discussing what he calls “The Grandmasters of the Great Game”. McCoy developed his fundamental model of geopolitics in order to give us a picture of how imperial policymakers conduct policy. From that model, McCoy states that in the history of our nation, only three figures were effective at playing “the great game”. Those three men were Elihu Root, Zbignew Brzezinski, and Barack Obama. Some people (especially those on the right) may have a conniption at the thought of Obama being on the list considering his mistaken reputation as a foreign policy dove. In the context of McCoy’s framework, it makes perfect sense, whereas it makes sense to leave someone like Henry Kissinger, who McCoy sees as reckless and someone who damaged American credibility, off the list.

Elihu Root is a forgotten individual in US history, despite the fact that he served as Secretary of War for William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of State, Senator, and an envoy who served under several presidents. Root was at the center of power during the transition of America from a largely domestic Empire to a global Empire, and as secretary of war led efforts when it came to reforming the structure of the army, creating a centralized general staff, a modern war college, and expanding training for army officers. Root established colonial regimes in Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and dictated the constitution to an “Independent” Cuba which led to the establishment of a US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. Root was also instrumental in the formation of the Council on Foreign Relations, and through his friendship with Andrew Carnegie, helped to found the Peace Palace, where the Permanent Court of Arbitration would be set up at The Hague. Root was an early builder of American Empire, and his policies and contributions to US imperialism are still being felt today. The US is still in Guantanamo, still is occupying the Philippines, and Puerto Rico is reeling from having to recover from a disaster, a recovery which has faced many obstacles due to their status as a “territory”. Root’s policies would be essential in laying the foundation for US global power for the next century, but it wouldn’t be for another 60 years until the next imperial grandmaster used US global power for the purpose of playing “The Great Game”

Zbignew Brzezinski, a Polish emigre and professor of international relations, is perhaps the closest thing we have to an intellectual successor of Halford Mackinder. Brzezinski embraced Mackinder’s theoretical framework of Geopolitics, including Eurasia’s designation of being a “world island” and the “heartland” being the “pivot” of global power. Brzezinski believed that “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the world.” Brzezinski would apply this philosophy during his time as National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter as he set about to free Eastern Europe from the clutches of the Soviet Union. In order to accomplish that, Brzezinski spearheaded a policy culminating in “Operation Cyclone”, which involved the funneling of money, weapons, and other resources to Islamic rebels fighting the pro-Soviet government of Afghanistan, in hopes that the civil war would draw the Soviets in to defend their proxy government. The plan worked, and the long term Soviet occupation of Afghanistan drained their economy to the point of collapse, resulting in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the independence of the Baltic and Balkan states of Eastern Europe. Of course, the unintended consequences of this policy would be the creation of a super powered global army of terrorists, some of which would go on to plan and execute the 9/11 attacks, but that wasn’t a concern for Brzezinski. During a 1998 interview for a French magazine, Brzezinski was asked if he had any regrets about the operation. He responded by asking “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Union? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”. We clearly can see the fault in his logic, but this type of hubris is probably common among people who view the world as “The Grand Chessboard”, to use the title of Brzezinski’s most famous work. For now, it is important to note that while the blowback from funding terrorism has created a global situation that is nearly without precedence, the collapse of the Soviet Union left the world with one superpower, which was the United States. From there, the US would look to once again create a world order in its image, and there was no better person to do so than our next “Grandmaster of the Great Game”, a friendly face for Imperialism and Neoliberalism, Barack Obama.

In many ways, Barack Obama’s presidency was a blessing to US Empire, and this begins to make sense when you examine his presidency using McCoy’s theoretical framework. McCoy says of Empires “When their revenue shrink, empires become brittle. Consider the collapse of the Soviet sphere after its command economy imploded. Or recall the rapid dissolution of the British Empire after World War II as London faced an irresolvable conflict between “domestic recovery and its imperial commitments””. Taking this into consideration, the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a disaster for US empire. Solely from the perspective of an imperialist in McCoy’s framework, that war cost lives, credibility, and an insane amount of money that didn’t go to repairing the needs of the country. More importantly, during those years in which the US was bogged down in the Middle East, China began the next phase of its rise, using it’s massive collection of sovereign wealth funds to launch massive infrastructure development across the entire Eurasian Continent. In comes Barack Obama, a friendly face of “hope and change” who vowed to end the Iraq war, while at the same time maintaining the occupation of Afghanistan. One thing that set Obama’s foreign policy apart from his recent peers was his “pivot to Asia”. When the pivot was first announced, many pundits didn’t know how to react, with one pundit even referring to it as a “pivot to nowhere”. The pivot to Asia strategy makes sense when you look at it from the geopolitical framework given to us by McCoy, and sheds new light on the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact that the Obama administration was trying to implement. The trade pact would encompass countries that make up 40% of world trade, and China would not be included, clearly illustrating the geopolitical nature of the agreement. The reasons in which this agreement was not successful will become apparent, but the question that needs to be asked regarding such an agreement is whether it came too late. In order to answer this question, we have to take a look at how “The Great Game” has been playing out over the last couple decades and who is winning.

China’s grand strategy certainly isn’t your typical imperial grand strategy, depending moreso on economic soft power than pure power projection through military might. Nevertheless the strategy, if implemented would clearly change the geopolitical power dynamics of the world, and that obviously has some policymakers concerned in Washington. One of the main post-World War II pillars of US empire is “The Washington Consensus”, a philosophical framework of global governance that emphasizes the primacy of western financial and governance institutions in conducting global politics. Institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and WTO are products of this framework, and these institutions, along with military alliances like NATO, have served to maintain a western-centric global supremacy with the US government at the helm. China’s strategy looks to reorient the entire landscape, shifting the epicenter of global governance from a “unipolar” model, which emphasizes the need for a single powerful hegemon, to a more “multipolar” model, which emphasizes regional hegemons. Halford Mackinder once wrote that “Trans-continental railways are now transmuting the conditions of land power,” and that “…the century will not be old before all Asia is covered with railways,”. He wrote this back in 1904, and due to the damage accumulated in the wake of two world wars, it wouldn’t be until the next century that his vision was realized. China by 2030 plans on linking all of their major cities by high speed rail, while simultaneously working with surrounding states to make the effort transcontinental. Plans on constructing a “Eurasian Land Bridge” or a high speed rail line that would go from Chongqing to Leipzig, Germany in 20 days is an example of one such ambitious project. Why is this significant? China being able to ship via high speed rail allows it to circumvent shipping lanes, most of which are patrolled by either the US navy or US allies. Circumventing these shipping lanes gives the Chinese ability to get around any obstacles that may arise if any diplomatic or geopolitical tensions arise between China and the US. Chinese grand strategy also involves the construction of a vast network of pipelines for the purpose of importing oil and gas. One of the most significant deals in this realm was between the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Russian state owned Gazprom. The deal was worth $400 billion, and it came during a time where Russia was facing increased sanctions from the West due to its annexation of Crimea. Russia as a geostrategic partner is essential for China’s implementation of their grand strategy. As long as Russia is the primary boogeyman of the West, and keeping the West bogged down in a two front proxy war in Syria and Ukraine, China can simply step in strategically without getting their hands dirty while continuing to implement what some in the US media are beginning to refer to as China’s “manifest destiny”. China is also looking to end the monopoly on military alliances, security alliances, and international economic institutions through alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organizations(SCO), functioning as a Asian security alliance, and the establishment of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), built in the likeness and image of the IMF, and already has support from many countries, including US allies like the UK, Australia, and South Korea.

Hopefully, this brings everything full circle, and allows us to contextualize McCoy’s rationale when it comes to his selected geopolitical grandmasters, in particular Barack Obama and his “pivot to Asia” strategy. Within the framework of McCoy’s model of geopolitics, the strategies of Root, Brzezinski, and Obama seem like the perfect Imperial chess maneuvers, and it would be hard to disagree. With that being said, McCoy’s work is not a celebration of imperialist mastery, and the seeming omnipotence of this “Great Game” does not have as much power as some may like to think. McCoy dedicates much to discussing “the limits of vision” and how imperial grand strategies have one blindspot when it comes to long term implementation, which is the will of the people. When it came to the long term vision of Root’s globalism, he was unable to foresee the populist backlash post-WWI which led to Congress rejecting the League of Nations, another of Root’s imperial projects, as well as the isolationist presidency of Warren G. Harding. Zbignew Brzezinski was almost callous when it came to the blowback of “Operation Cyclone”, and despite the US coming out of the Cold War as the world’s sole superpower, has been unable to use that Super power to defeat the Frankenstein they cooked up in the laboratories of Langley. With Barack Obama, the Trans Pacific Partnership faced bipartisan backlash from a country whose economy was already wrecked by previous trade policies. Presidential candidates (including Hillary Clinton, who originally spearheaded the pivot to Asia initiative) came out against the trade pact and it eventually died when Trump came into office and ended trade talks. The lesson that McCoy is trying to get across here is perhaps unintended, but still important. The will of the people can trump (no pun intended) the power of Empire.

That last point is important in terms of illustrating the importance of understanding the Empire we live in, especially those dedicated to resisting it. For me, the one criticism I have of this book is perhaps its greatest strength. The book itself is a tour de force of US imperialism, treating the world as if it were a game of Diplomacy, or a “Grand Chessboard”. This sort of mindset fosters a callousness towards the people of this world, who are increasingly seen and used as pawns in a game being played only by wealthy and powerful people in suits isolated from the pain and suffering caused by their “ideas”. With that being said, it is essential to maintain a realistic outlook when critically examining how an imperialist sees the world, and that is the gift that this book offers. McCoy’s entire examination of the collapse of American power serves us two ways. One, it exposes the blindspots of imperialism, by demonstrating that the visions of imperial grand strategy are limited by the lack of knowledge of the imperialist towards the people they are trying to manipulate. This perhaps demonstrates that imperialism isn’t as inundated in the culture of America as we perhaps thought. Two, it offers us a look into the imperialist mindset, and gives the anti-imperialist a chance to learn more about their adversary. McCoy’s theoretical framework also proves to be highly dependable in forecasting geopolitical trends, which could serve as a useful tool when figuring out where and when future conflicts may arise. The most important lesson learned, and to reiterate what was said in the previous paragraph, is the power of the people, especially people in this country, to combat imperialism. Americans sit in the heart of the empire, and the land that we occupy allows the US empire to project its power all over the world. Without the foundation, the entire empire comes crumbling down, and the people of this country are that foundation. With enough outcry, we can combat imperialism, and with the current decline of US Global Power, there is no better time to speak out.


Syrian army gains ground in intensified Ghouta assault

March 10, 2018

by Angus McDowall


BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Syrian army intensified its onslaught in eastern Ghouta on Saturday with advances that a war monitor and state media said had splintered the enclave, though a rebel official denied this.

Syrian state television broadcast from inside Mesraba, a town lying along the road connecting the northern and southern halves of the rebel-held stronghold.

The capture of Mesraba and advances into nearby farmland brought important roads directly under fire by the army, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

That has in effect cut the large towns of Harasta and Douma off from each other and the rest of the enclave, it added.

However, Hamza Birqadar, a spokesman for Jaish al-Islam, one of the two main insurgent groups in eastern Ghouta, denied that either Harasta or Douma had been cut off.

The relentless three-week assault on the last major rebel stronghold near Damascus has captured about half its area and killed 976 people, according to the Britain-based Observatory.

State television showed a huge plume of dark smoke rising behind houses and trees in eastern Ghouta, with the sound of blasts in the background.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia, his main ally, say the campaign is needed to end rebel shelling of Damascus and end the rule of Islamist insurgents over the area’s civilians.

The offensive follows the pattern of previous assaults on rebel strongholds, deploying air power and tight sieges to force insurgents to accept “evacuation” deals.

These involve rebels surrendering territory in exchange for safe passage to opposition areas in northwest Syria, along with their families and other civilians who do not want to come back under Assad’s rule.

Late on Friday, a small number of fighters and their families from the former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the Nusra Front left eastern Ghouta under such a deal.

But the group represents only a small portion of the insurgent presence in the enclave. Jaish al-Islam and the other main eastern Ghouta rebel group Failaq al-Rahman have said they are not negotiating a similar deal for themselves.

Capturing the enclave would represent Assad’s biggest blow against the rebels since they were driven from Aleppo in December 2016.

It would seal a string of military victories for the Syrian leader since the entry of Russian jets into the war on his side in 2015 turned the course of the conflict against the insurgents.


The intensity of the government’s attack on an enclave that has been besieged since 2013 and suffers acute shortages of food and medical supplies has drawn Western condemnation and demands by U.N. aid agencies for a humanitarian halt in fighting.

State television broadcast from Mesraba showed a large group of civilians hiding in a house. People across eastern Ghouta have sheltered in basements from the ceaseless bombardment in recent weeks.

A middle-aged man interviewed by the channel shouted slogans in support of Assad and against the rebels while women and small children stood behind him as men in army uniforms looked on.

State media said the 60 civilians found in Mesraba by the army had been held by insurgents as human shields, something the rebel groups deny.

Footage taken on the streets of Mesraba showed tanks near half-collapsed buildings and walls pocked with bullet holes.

The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people are trapped in eastern Ghouta.

“Living conditions are harsh … Shop owners and traders are sending their workers to the shelters to sell food for three times the price before the offensive,” said a man in the eastern Ghouta town of Saqba who identified himself as Abu Abdo in a voice message.

Aid agencies have tried to deliver food and medicine into eastern Ghouta, but have been able only to bring in a portion of the amount they wanted.

A convoy was unable to finish unloading on Monday because of continued fighting, bringing in the remaining undelivered food parcels on Friday despite bombardment nearby.

However, U.N. agencies said most medical supplies had been stripped from the convoy by Syrian government officials and that the food supplies brought in were insufficient.

Medical charities operating in eastern Ghouta have reported several incidents in recent weeks of what they say was chlorine gas use in government bombardments, causing choking symptoms.

On Saturday, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, rejected those charges and accused the United States of orchestrating the accusations in order to support militant groups. “We did not deny a single request for investigation,” Mekdad told a news conference.

The government has opened what it says are several safe routes out of eastern Ghouta for civilians, but none are known to have left so far. Damascus and Moscow accuse the rebels of preventing people from fleeing the fighting.

Insurgent groups in eastern Ghouta deny this, saying people have not left for fear of government persecution, but a Reuters witness on Friday saw gunfire and mortar fire from inside rebel territory near one of the crossing points.

Sajjad Malik, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Syria, who went in with the convoy on Monday, said in comments published on the agency’s website that people did not feel safe to leave.

People in Douma told him they feared crossing rebel checkpoints and were uncertain whether they would be safe when they reached government-held areas, Malik said.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; Additional reporting by Kinda Makieh in Damascus; Editing by Dale Hudson and Gareth Jones

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