TBR News March 9, 2018

Mar 09 2018

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C. March 9, 2018:” Several writers, among them Charles Higham have been terribly outraged that American business actually had financial dealings with the Germans. Higham says that the figurehead General, Smedly Butler, a winner of the Medal of Honor and former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, had indeed been approached but was horrified and told Roosevelt at once. Higham also claims that the U.S. banking and major industrial interests financed a huge neo-Nazi movement in the United States, which was designed to nullify the truly wondrous programs of Mr. Roosevelt.

The President indeed had absolutely no idea of even basic economics and his cure for the Depression was to acquire enormous sums of money from a frightened Congress and buy legions of unemployed voters with it. Roosevelt detested businessmen and spent much of his reign attacking them with a series of restrictive decrees coupled with occasional threats of total governmental regulatory control.”

Table of Contents

  • Time to Get Over the Russophobia
  • Syria Braces for Dramatic Escalation Set to be ‘Bloodier Than Ghouta’
  • London moves to set Northern Ireland budget, step towards direct rule
  • God Wills It!
  • The Forging of the Casement Diaries
  • Russia-Ukraine gas dispute: Is Europe under threat?
  • Poroshenko threatens Moscow with ‘total destruction’ in gas dispute
  • Weapons of the future: Here’s the new war tech Lockheed Martin is pitching to the Pentagon
  • Long sought by North Korea, summit holds risks for Trump administration


Time to Get Over the Russophobia

March 9, 2018

by Patrick J. Buchanan


Unless there is a late surge for Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, who is running second with 7 percent, Vladimir Putin will be re-elected president of Russia for another six years on March 18.

Then we must decide whether to continue on course into a second Cold War, or engage Russia, as every president sought to do in Cold War I.

For our present conflict, Vladimir Putin is not alone at fault. His actions have often been reactions to America’s unilateral moves.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, we brought all of the Warsaw Pact members and three former republics of the USSR into our military alliance, NATO, to corral Russia. How friendly was that?

Putin responded with his military buildup in the Baltic.

George W. Bush abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that Richard Nixon had negotiated, Putin responded with a buildup of the offensive missiles he put on display last week.

The U.S. helped to instigate the Maidan Square coup that dumped over the elected pro-Russian government in Ukraine.

To prevent the loss of his Sebastopol naval base on the Black Sea, Putin countered by annexing the Crimean Peninsula.

After peaceful protests in Syria were put down by Bashar Assad, we sent arms to Syrian rebels to overthrow the Damascus regime.

Seeing his last naval base in the Med, Tartus, imperiled, Putin came to Assad’s aid and helped him win the civil war.

The Boris Yeltsin years are over.

Russia is acting again as a great power. And she sees us as a nation that slapped away her hand, extended in friendship in the 1990s, and then humiliated her by planting NATO on her front porch.

Yet, what is also clear is that Putin hoped and believed that, with the election of Trump, Russia might be able to restore respectful if not friendly relations with the United States.

Clearly, Putin wanted that, as did Trump.

Yet, with the Beltway hysteria over hacking of the DNC and John Podesta emails, and the Russophobia raging in this capital, we appear to be paralyzed when it comes to engaging with Russia.

The U.S. political system, said Putin this week, “has been eating itself up.” Is his depiction that wide of the mark?

What is the matter with us?

Three years after Nikita Khrushchev sent tanks into Budapest to drown the Hungarian revolution in blood, Eisenhower was hosting him on a 10-day visit to the USA.

Two years after the Berlin Wall went up, and eight months after Khrushchev installed missiles in Cuba, Kennedy reached out to the Soviet dictator in his widely praised American University speech.

Lyndon Johnson met with Russian President Alexei Kosygin in Glassboro, New Jersey, just weeks after we almost clashed over Moscow’s threat to intervene in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967.

Six months after Leonid Brezhnev sent tank armies to crush the Prague Spring in August 1968, an inaugurated Nixon was seeking detente.

In those years, no matter who was in the White House or Kremlin, the U.S. establishment favored engagement with Moscow. It was the right that was skeptical or hostile.

Again, what is the matter with this generation?

True, Vladimir Putin is an autocrat seeking a fourth term, like FDR.

But what Russian leader, save Yeltsin, has not been an autocrat? And Russians today enjoy freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, travel, politics, and the press that the generations before 1989 never knew.

China, not Russia, has the more repressive single-party Communist state.

Indeed, which of these U.S. allies shows greater tolerance than Putin’s Russia? The Philippines of Rodrigo Duterte, the Egypt of Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Turkey of President Erdogan, or the Saudi Arabia of Prince Mohammad bin Salman?

Russia is nowhere near the strategic or global threat the Soviet Union presented. As Putin conceded this week, with the breakup of the USSR, his nation “lost 23.8 percent of its national territory, 48.5 percent of its population, 41 percent of its gross domestic product and 44.6 percent of its military capacity.”

How would Civil War Unionists have reacted if the South had won independence and then, to secure the Confederacy against a new invasion, Dixie entered into an alliance with Great Britain, gave the Royal Navy bases in New Orleans and Charleston, and allowed battalions of British troops to deploy in Virginia?

Japan negotiates with Putin’s Russia over the southern Kuril Islands lost at the end of World War II. Bibi Netanyahu has met many times with Putin, though he is an ally of Assad, whom Bibi would like to see ousted, and has a naval and air base not far from Israel’s border.

We Americans have far more fish to fry with Russia than Bibi.

Strategic arms control. De-escalation in the Baltic, Ukraine and the Black Sea. Ending the war in Syria. North Korea. Space. Afghanistan. The Arctic. The war on terror.

Yet all we seem to hear from our elite is endless whining that Putin has not been sanctioned enough for desecrating “our democracy.”

Get over it.


Syria Braces for Dramatic Escalation Set to be ‘Bloodier Than Ghouta’

March 7, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Unz Review

In a field beside an abandoned railway station close to the Turkish border in northern Syria, Kurdish fighters are retraining to withstand Turkish air strikes. “We acted like a regular army when we were fighting Daesh [Isis] with US air support,” says Rojva, a veteran Kurdish commander of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). “But now it is us who may be under Turkish air attack and we will have to behave more like guerrillas.”

Rojva and his brigade have just returned from 45 days fighting Isis in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria and are waiting orders which may redeploy them to face the Turkish army that invaded the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on 20 January. Rojva says that “we are mainly armed with light weapons like the Kalashnikov, RPG [rocket propelled grenade launcher] and light machine guns, but we will be resisting tanks and aircraft”. He makes clear that, whatever happened, they would fight to the end.

Kurdish and allied Arab units are streaming north from the front to the east of the Euphrates, where Isis is beginning to counter-attack, in order to stop the Turkish advance. Some 1,700 Arab militia left the area for Afrin on Tuesday and Turkey is demanding that the US stop them. The invasion is now in its seventh week and Rojva and his fighters take some comfort in the fact that it is moving so slowly. But the Turkish strategy has been to take rural areas before mowing methodically to surround and besiege Afrin City and residential areas.

The big battles in Afrin are still to come and are likely to be as destructive and bloody as anything seen in Eastern Ghouta, Raqqa or East Aleppo. YPG fighters have battle experience stretching back to at least 2012, much of its gained against fanatical opponents like Isis. The likelihood is that, as in Ghouta, the Turkish generals will seek to avoid the heavy losses inevitable in street fighting and pound Afrin into ruins with air strikes and artillery fire. Civilian casualties are bound to be horrendous.

The Syrian Kurds believe they are facing an existential threat. They believe Turkey wants to eliminate not just the enclave of Afrin, but the 25 per cent of Syria that the Kurds have taken with US backing since 2015. Some think that defeat will mean the ethnic cleansing of Kurds from Afrin, which has traditionally been one of their core majority areas. They cite a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the day after the start of the invasion started, claiming that “55 per cent of Afrin is Arab, 35 per cent are the Kurds … and about 7 per cent are Turkmen. [We aim] to give Afrin back to its rightful owners.” There is a suspicion among Kurdish leaders that Erdogan plans to create a Sunni bloc of territory north and west of Aleppo which will be under direct or indirect Turkish control.

The Kurdish leaders are convinced that Erdogan is determined to destroy their de facto state in the long run, but differ about the timing and objectives of the present attack. Elham Ahmad, the co-president of the Syrian Democratic Council that helps administer the Kurdish-held area, believes that the Turkish assault on Afrin, if successful, will set “a precedent for a further Turkish military advance”.

Ahmad had just returned from Afrin where she was born and where her family still lives. “Our convoy of 150 civilian cars was hit by a Turkish air strike,” she said. “We ran away from the cars, but 30 of them were destroyed and one person killed.” She is angry that the outside world is exclusively preoccupied with the bombardment of Eastern Ghouta by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but ignores similar bombing and shelling in Afrin where, she says, 204 civilians had been killed, including 61 children, as of last weekend.

She expects that the next Turkish target, if its so-called Operation Olive Branch succeeds in Afrin, will be the Arab city of Manbij that was taken by the YPG in 2016. Strategically placed on the main road from Aleppo to the Kurdish heartlands, with a diversion where part of the highway is held by Turkish forces, it is a prosperous looking place full of shops crammed with goods and produce. Local rumour has it that one small shop recently changed hands for $1m (£720,000). It is the main supply line to the Kurdish zone, the highway crowded with oil tankers bringing crude oil from Kurdish-held oilfields far to the east to the Syrian government refinery at Homs.

If local people are nervous about the prospect of being submerged by the impending battle for northern Syria, they are not showing it. After being occupied by Isis and besieged by the YPG, they have strong nerves. They may also reflect that, if war is coming to their city and its 300,000 people, there is not a lot they can do to avert it. The main reason they might feel secure is a US pledge to defend their city against a Turkish attack, a promise backed up by regular and highly visible patrols of five or six US armoured vehicles carrying large Stars and Stripes. But the US willingness to confront its Nato partner Turkey is nuanced, particularly since Isis was defeated last year, though the movement is not entirely dead.

There is a sense of phoney war on the front line between the forces of the Manbij Military Council and the Turkish army and its allied anti-Assad militias, who are dug in three or four miles north of the city. Most of the front lines in the Syrian civil war are a depressing scene of abandoned and half-wrecked buildings, even when there is no fighting going on. The Manbij front is idyllic by comparison, though just how long it will stay that way is another question.

This is a fertile heavily populated country with a Mediterranean feel to it, its hills and small fields full of olive trees, pines, poplars and almond trees which are covered in little white flowers. There are tractors on the roads and, just behind the front, we drove through the Arab village of Dadat, whose streets full of cheerful-looking children excited by the sight of military vehicles.

A trench and rampart gauged out the hillside by bulldozers zigzags upwards through a green field to a fortified position on a hilltop. Peering through gun slits in a sandbagged post on top of an earth bank, one could see Turkish positions not far away on the far side of the Sajur river. “They have tanks and artillery on every hilltop and they fire randomly with heavy machine guns every night,” says Farhat Kobani, a local commander whose orders come from the Manbij Military Council. The Turkish army is backed up by Ahrar al-Sham, a militant Islamist movement long allied to Turkey, whose men act as auxiliaries.

These exchanges of fire do not seem very serious because everybody, at least in day time, is standing upright in easy range of the other side and Farhat says his men have not suffered any dead or wounded. Phoney war is often derided, but there is a lot to be said for it when compared to the real thing – and, unfortunately, that may not be too far away.


London moves to set Northern Ireland budget, step towards direct rule

March 8, 2018

by Ian Graham

BELFAST (Reuters) – The British government on Thursday moved to impose a budget directly on Northern Ireland in the latest step towards re-imposing direct rule of the region, a move likely to upset Irish nationalists and that may spark a diplomatic row with Dublin.

The British region has for over a year been without a devolved power-sharing executive, a central plank of a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists.

The latest round of talks between the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Irish nationalists Sinn Fein to end that stalemate broke down last month.

The government on Thursday published the outline of a budget for the financial year to April 5, 2019, which included increases in health and education budgets.

It also included 410 million pounds ($567 million) of the 1 billion pounds of funding promised as part of a deal last year by the region’s largest pro-British party, the Democratic Unionist Party, to support the Conservative Party of British Prime Minister Theresa May in parliament.

The DUP welcomed the move, with member of parliament Sammy Wilson saying in a statement that the party “welcomes the commitment by the Government to make further key decisions relating to good administration in Northern Ireland.”

Irish nationalists Sinn Fein, who fear that their unionist rivals may effectively govern the province through their influence on May, said the budget was “disappointing” and called for the convening of a British-Irish body created under the 1998 peace deal.

“The two governments must act on their responsibilities as co-guarantors of the (1998) Good Friday Agreement which provides for a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference … as a matter of urgency,” Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, said in a statement.

“There can be no return to direct rule,” she said.

($1 = 0.7236 pounds)

Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg


God Wills It!

The War on Terror as the Launching of an American Crusade

by James Carroll


America may be sinking ever deeper into the moral morass of the Trump era, but if you think the malevolence of this period began with him, think again. The moment I still dwell on, the moment I believe ignited the vast public disorder that is now our all-American world, has been almost completely forgotten here.  And little wonder.  It was no more than a casually tossed-off cliché, a passing historical reference whose implications and consequences meant nothing to the speaker. “This crusade,” said President George W. Bush just days after the 9/11 attacks, “this war on terrorism…”

That, however, proved to be an invocation from hell, one that set the stage for so much of the horror to follow.  The Crusades were, of course, a centuries-long medieval catastrophe. Bush’s Global War on Terror, in contrast, has already wreaked comparable havoc in a paltry 17 years, leading to almost unimaginable mayhem abroad and a moral collapse at home personified by President Donald J. Trump.

Despite the threads of causality woven together as if on some malignant loom that brought about his election — the cult of reality-show celebrity, the FBI director’s last-minute campaign intervention, Russian mischief, Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability to self-defeat and misogyny, electoral college anomalies, Republican party nihilism, and a wickedly disenchanted public — the ease with which such a figure took control of the levers of power in this country should still stun us. Some deep sickness of the soul had already played havoc with our democracy’s immune system or he wouldn’t have been imaginable.  Think of him as a symptom, not the disease. After Trump finally leaves the Oval Office, we’ll still be a stricken people and the world will still be groaning under the weight of the wreckage this country has brought about. How, then, did we actually get here?  It might be worth a momentary glance back.

A Fever Dream of a War

“This is a new kind of evil.”  So said the president that September 16th, standing on the South Lawn of the White House.  “And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.” In that way, only five days after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush elevated a band of petty nihilists to the status of world-historic warriors. “And the American people must be patient,” he continued. “I’m going to be patient.”

He, of course, is long gone, but what he initiated that day is still unspooling. It could have been so different. September 11th was a tragic moment, but the initial reactions of most Americans to those collapsed towers and a damaged Pentagon were ones of empathy and patriotism.  The selflessness of first responders that day had its echo in a broad and surprising manifestation of national altruism. The usual left-right divides of politics disappeared and the flag, for once, became a true symbol of national unity. The global reaction was similar. From across the world, including from erstwhile adversaries like Russia and China, came authentic expressions of support and sympathy, of grief-struck affection.

But in every phrase the president would speak in those weeks — “this is war… with us or against us… dead or alive” — he chose to take this country on quite a different path into the future.

Two days before invoking the Crusades, for instance, he presided over a religious service, which, though officially defined as “ecumenical,” took place in the neo-Gothic National Cathedral. “Just three days removed from these events,” he said from that church’s pulpit, “Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil… This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.”

In a specifically Christian setting, that is, George W. Bush answered the criminal attacks of 9/11 not by calling on international law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to justice, but by a declaration of cosmic war aimed at nothing less than the elimination of Islamist evil. Labeling it a “crusade” only underscored the subliminal but potent message conveyed by television cameras that lingered on the cathedral’s multiple crucifixes and the bloodied figure of Jesus Christ. Held up for all to see, that sacred icon sent a signal that could not be missed. A self-avowed secular nation was now to be a crusader, ready to display the profoundly Christian character of a culture erected on triumphalist pieties from its Pilgrim roots to the nuclear apocalypticism of the Cold War.

Bush’s message was received in the Arab world just as you might expect.  There, his reference to “this crusade” was rendered as “this War of the Cross.” Even then, many Muslims knew better than to regard the president’s characterization of the conflict to come as purely accidental and of no import, just as they would later disregard the insistence of America’s leaders that their country’s violent intrusions across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa were not “religiously” inspired in any way. Today, of course, Donald Trump’s brazen denigrations of Muslims have made clear just how on target observers in the Islamic world were about what lay behind Washington’s new “global war.”

At the time of Bush’s cavalier use of crusade, I was one of the few here to take offense and say so. I feared even then that stumbling into sectarian strife, into — in the argot of the day — a “clash of civilizations,” could set in motion, as the original Crusades had, a dynamic that would far outrun anyone’s intentions, loosing forces that could destroy the very principles in whose name that “war of choice” was declared. Little did I know how far short of an accurate damage assessment my thoughts would fall.

In fact, Bush’s use of that term wasn’t a stumble, however inadvertent, but a crystal-clear declaration of purpose that would soon be aided and abetted by a fervent evangelical cohort within the U.S. military, already primed for holy war. With what Bush himself called “the distance of history,” it’s now possible to see the havoc his “crusade” is still wreaking across much of the globe: Iraq and Afghanistan are in ruins; Syria destroyed (with Russian, American, Israeli, Turkish, and Iranian warplanes testing one another in its airspace); Yemen gripped by a war-induced famine; the Turks at the throat of the Kurds; the Israeli-Palestinian peace process dead; Libya a failed state; U.S. Special Ops garrisons in Somalia, Niger, and across Africa; and Europe increasingly politically destabilized by refugee flows from these conflicts. Meanwhile, Bush’s crusade became the American disease now peaking in the fever dream of President Donald Trump.

Exercises in Apocalyptic Millennialism, Then and Now

The actual Crusades were a multi-phased series of wars waged in the name of God.  They began in 1096 and continued intermittently for almost two centuries until 1291. By the time the Crusading era drew to a close, moral values had been trashed; a nascent structure of capitalism had infused the new economy of Europe with greed; a dark inclination toward mass violence was seething in European consciousness; and the militarization of religion was taken for granted. The mayhem of modernity followed.

To believe that killing could be holy, Christians first had to accept that God willed such violence.  So they constructed a theology in which He would ordain the bloody death not just of evil-doers (a favorite word of George W. Bush), but of His only begotten Son, whose suffering alone could “atone” for human sin. The instrument of Christ’s saving death, the cross, soon became sacred and an emblem of war against Muslims. The Crusaders would wear it proudly on their tunics and shields. This violent theology of “atonement” would sear the religious imagination of Christians forever after, making them all too ready to kill in the name of God. Long before the war on terror, whether explicitly or implicitly, such a theology had come to justify and often motivate similar American campaigns of killing, starting with King Phillip’s War, launched by Puritan colonists against the native peoples who had welcomed them to Plymouth. (God wills it!)

The Crusades themselves began with an urge to take back the holy city of Jerusalem from the Saracen infidel.  As Western civilization jelled in the crusading centuries, Europe became fixed on Islam as its existential negative-other. This fixation — what scholar Edward Said called  “Orientalism” — still undergirds the identity of the West, which is why an anti-Muslim war, fueled by anti-Muslim prejudice, turns out to fit the American Century like a mailed fist in a velvet glove.

As Said suggested, European Christian contempt for the “Orientals” of the Levant soon leached into other God-sanctioned projects, especially once the age of the Crusades had given way to the age of exploration. Recall Christopher Columbus’s three crossed-marked caravels, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María, as they set out from Spain for the New World, soon enough to be followed by the wooden vessels of other European powers.  It didn’t take long before native peoples globally began to fall victim, often genocidally so, to gun-toting European adventurers and slave traders who had learned to think of themselves as “white.” Though Donald Trump has no more idea of such roots of contempt for the Muslim world than George Bush did, he has successfully lifted the relit torch of race hatred yet higher.

The Crusades were an exercise in apocalyptic millennialism, a hot current that also runs just below the surface of twenty-first-century American martial ardor. Is it only an accident that the first Crusade and Bush’s were both keyed to the turning of a millennium? After the year 1000, a Biblical mythology attached to Jerusalem fueled frenzied End Time expectations that culminated in the never-ending war for that city and a European obsession with it ever since. The first purpose of the primordial Holy War of that era was Jerusalem’s rescue from the Muslim infidel; no one should be surprised that, 11 centuries later, the establishment of an American embassy there remains a flashpoint for the anti-Muslim crusade of the present moment.

More generally, the excesses of the American reaction to 9/11 had an edge of millennial dread from the beginning.  The endlessly replayed footage of the collapsing World Trade Center towers had the look and feel of an atomic attack on America (hence the almost instant labeling of the site as “Ground Zero,” a term previously reserved for nuclear explosions).  Those scenes plucked unconscious chords strung deep in the American psyche, ones the president promptly played on.  A few days after 9/11, he went before Congress to declare that “God is not neutral” and so claimed for his administration the mantle of being God’s purifying agent.

Almost a year later, before a throng of West Point cadets, he was still at it, insisting that “we are in a conflict between good and evil and America will call evil by its name.” In such a conflict, of course, outcomes are no longer to be measured by real consequences in the lives of actual human beings, but by the transcendent will of God (or, in his stead, the “sole superpower” of planet Earth) to whom actual human beings can naturally be sacrificed.

“For much of the last century,” Bush declared in his Crusader-style West Point address, “America’s defense relied on Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment… But new threats also require new thinking.” A hard-won twentieth-century assumption that Washington must, in the end, take the path of the lesser evil had, by then, already been summarily replaced by a determination to simply obliterate evil altogether. Deterrence and containment had saved the human species from nuclear apocalypse, but for the country’s new apocalyptic encounter with “terrorism” such modes were obviously insufficiently absolute.

And when a nation’s purpose becomes the cosmic destruction of evil, anything goes — as it has in the American Crusade. Hence the jettisoning of the Geneva Accords, the embrace of torture, the obliteration of prisoners’ rights, the abuses that live on in the unchecked intrusions of government surveillance, or in what Americans are too polite to call the concentration camp at Guantánamo that Donald Trump so devoutly desires to keep open and running.

The Crusading appetite for enemies is insatiable, which is why, in the Middle Ages, the war against Islam morphed so seamlessly into wars against, first, the Rhineland Jews in Europe’s early pogroms; then, Eastern Orthodox believers whose cities, including Constantinople, were besieged and sacked; and finally, Catholic dissenters (think “heretics”) like the Albigensians and Cathars who were brutally eliminated.

In America’s version of such enemy-creep, the war against the al-Qaeda network quickly morphed into a “war” against terror groups in more than 60 nations, starting with Afghanistan and the Taliban, and within a year and a half Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, a country and regime utterly unrelated to al-Qaeda. From there, it was on to Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Niger, the Philippines, and parts as yet unknown.

When George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address four months after 9/11, he redefined America’s main enemies as — again that word — an “axis of evil,” consisting of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.  By then, it already mattered not at all that Shiite Iran had nothing to do with the Sunni sect led by Osama bin Laden; that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11; and that North Korea had not the remotest connection to the September crisis that so traumatized the United States. Once named in this way, the leaders of Iran and North Korea, now knowing that, in American eyes, they were the fonts of (almost) all evil, could, of course, be expected to take immediate measures to brace themselves against future American aggression — and so they did with nuclear programs that still are at the heart of the aggressively militarized policies being pushed by Donald Trump and his generals today (and with a future war in either of those countries a distinct possibility).

However, the most salient echo of the medieval Crusades in contemporary U.S. military campaigns comes under the heading of failure. For all the romance associated with the knights-in-shining-armor of that era, their God-willed liberation of the Holy City in 1099 did not survive the Muslim reconquest of 1187, a Christian defeat that would make the English king, Richard the Lionheart, a mythic figure, and guarantee Jerusalem’s place in the lost-cause fantasies of Europe forever after. (It was a defeat that would not be avenged until 1917, when Field Marshal Edmund Allenby finally reclaimed Jerusalem for Christians, with catastrophic consequences for Jews and Muslims alike.) America’s failures in the Middle East, despite Pentagon rhetoric about the U.S. military’s “full spectrum dominance,” have been no less obvious and no less total on a planet that can no longer tolerate decades, no less centuries, of war.

Licensing a War Against Evil

George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq remains a marker of virtue (and vice) in contemporary American politics. Those few legislators who were against the invasion still wear their votes of opposition as badges of honor, while those in favor were permanently shamed. (And think of how that played out in the 2016 presidential campaign.)  But that’s far too convenient a way to replay our recent history.  In fact, the die had already been cast long before that vote, which meant that the invasion of Iraq followed the invasion of Afghanistan as inevitably as wakes follow warships.  After all, Operation Enduring Freedom, supposedly meant to target Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network of a few hundred fighters, began with a massive bombing campaign across large parts of Afghanistan. The blind faith of the U.S. Air Force in the long-discredited tactic of “strategic” bombing would be touching if it didn’t involve such a blindness to its effects on human bodies — and almost 17 years later, American bombers, including the latest drones and Vietnam-era B-52s, are still dropping fire on Afghani flesh as that war goes from bad to worse.

The Afghan campaign, which quite literally ignited the war on terror, was officially launched on October 7, 2001. But who remembers that everything to come — from that Afghan invasion to the deaths late last year of four U.S. Green Berets in Niger — had already been enthusiastically licensed three weeks earlier when George W. Bush stepped to that cross-shadowed pulpit of the National Cathedral to berate evil. Only hours before, the Joint Congressional Resolution on the Use of Force (“The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons…”) passed the Senate 98 to 0 and the House of Representatives 420 to 1. Those are the numbers that should live on in history, if not infamy.

The lone dissenter that day was Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat. In warning against the coming American crusade, she denounced the Joint Congressional Resolution as “a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events — anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit.” She added all too prophetically, “A rush to launch precipitous military counterattacks runs too great a risk that more innocent men, women, children will be killed.”

As they were, as they still are.  Lest one assume that responsibility for the catastrophe that followed rests solely upon Bush and his hawkish circle, remember that the administration’s responses were approved by 90% of the American public, the highest presidential approval rating ever achieved, while a full 80% of them expressly favored Bush’s open-ended war against Afghanistan. That war would eventually let loose mayhem across a dozen other nations (and it’s still spreading), leaving millions of dead, disfigured, displaced human beings in its wake. Most Americans and nearly all of their congressional representatives were complicit in what remains an unfinished global moral, economic, and political calamity that far exceeds anything the grotesque Donald Trump has so far brought about. He may yet start a nuclear war and has already undoubtedly sparked what could become a cascade of nuclear proliferation, yet for now the malign legacy of the 43rd President — that American crusade — exceeds anything the 45th one has yet imagined.

And no, God does not will it.


The Forging of the Casement Diaries

March 9, 2018

by Christian Jürs

Sir Roger David Casement was born on September 1, 1864 in Dublin County, Ireland. Although from an Ulster Protestant family, Casement was sympathetic to the cause of the Irish nationalist movement which sought to establish an Irish state free of British political and military control.

As a diplomat in the service of the British government, Casement gained great recognition for exposing the numerous atrocities practiced by the Belgians against the natives in their Congo colony, an endeavor that forced the Belgians to reform their administration. While posted to Brazil, Casement uncovered similar murderous activity by Brazilians in the Putymayo River area. This activity gained him a knighthood in 1912.

At the end of 1913, retired from the Foreign Service for health reasons, Casement became involved with the Irish nationalist movement and formed the Irish National Volunteers. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Casement went to Germany in November of that year and attempted to secure German aid for an Irish rising against the British. The Germans proved to be unwilling to participate in this venture and Casement went back to Ireland in a German submarine on April 12, 1916. It was his intention to persuade the Irish nationalists to halt their impending Easter rising but he was captured in Ireland by the British a week later, removed to London where he was imprisoned in conditions of considerable barbarity and brutally treated until such time as he was put on trial for treason, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. International attempts to secure a reprieve for Casement because of his previous humanitarian activities were nullified by the sudden release by British intelligence of diaries purporting to have been written by Casement which detailed alleged homosexual activities. Casement was duly hanged on August 3, 1916.

The Easter rising was eventually suppressed by the British Army under circumstances of singular atrocity against the participants in particular and the population of Dublin in general. Boys as young as twelve were hanged for curfew violations and unarmed civilians, including women, were shot and bayoneted in the streets by the occupying forces. One of the leaders of the rising, though dying of untreated gangrene, was dragged from his cell and tied to a stretcher before being shot by a firing squad.

This was a strikingly ugly episode in the history of a country with an official policy that resulted in countless historical examples of similar oppressive actions but noteworthy in that it was performed, not in some remote and unobserved area of Africa or India but within the borders of ostensibly civilized England and directed against white Christians.

The question of the authenticity of the diaries immediately arose and has attracted strong partisanship on both sides of the issue. In 1959, the British government released the diaries for inspection by scholars. Predictably, sympathetic British academics proclaimed them original while others held opposite views.

In February of 1965, Casement’s remains were finally returned to Ireland and given a state funeral. The funeral oration was read by Irish President Eamon de Valera.

In light of Müller’s comments on the diary forgeries still in his files, coupled with Hall’s other activities of a similar nature during his tenure as Director of Naval Intelligence, the question of the forgery of the Casement diaries would no longer seem to be in doubt.

Sources: “The Accusing Ghost: or Justice for Casement,”  Alfred Noyes, 1957; “The Black Diaries,”  Peter Singleton-Gates & Maurice Girodias, 1960; “Lusitania,” Colin Simpson, 1972; “Rebels,” Peter de Rosa, 1990.

Captain, later Rear Admiral, Reginald Hall, had been appointed Director of British Naval Intelligence in October of 1914. He was a brilliant but completely amoral intelligence officer and as the war progressed, virtually dictated British naval policy. Unscrupulous to a degree, Hall has long been suspected as being the moving force behind the forgery of the Casement diaries.


Russia-Ukraine gas dispute: Is Europe under threat?

The gas dispute between Moscow and Kyiv is entering a new round, and some fear that deliveries through Ukraine will be stopped. Which countries could be most affected, and will bilateral tensions lead to a new gas war?

March 9, 2018

by Azad Safarov, Oleksandr Holubo and Markian Ostapchuk


The new gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine is causing some concern in the EU. Brussels has offered to assist in settling the dispute, after the experience of similar conflicts in 2006 and 2009, when gas supplies through the Ukraine were stopped.

Berlin is also concerned: “It is in the interests of the EU, as well as Russia and Ukraine, that these two countries prove themselves to be reliable partners in Europe’s gas supply and that they can guarantee that the security of supply remains uninterrupted,” said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

At the end of February, the arbitration court of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce handed down a verdict in a dispute between the Ukrainian energy company, Naftogaz, and the Russian monopolist, Gazprom.

Russia reportedly transported less gas through the Ukrainian pipeline than agreed, and the Russian gas giant was ordered to pay Naftogaz compensation of $2.56 billion (€2.08 billion). The Ukrainian authorities have already started seizing Gazprom’s assets in Ukraine. Gazprom has announced its intention to appeal the verdict. The corporation had previously announced that it would begin terminating all contracts with Naftogaz. On the Ukrainian side, it was stated that Gazprom could not terminate the supply and transit of gas before the contract expires in 2019.

Germany concerned, but not at risk

German energy expert Claudia Kemfert told DW that Russia reacted very quickly to the ruling of the Stockholm arbitration court with the threat to stop gas supplies. “There are certainly also political motives here. Gas is once again being used as a political weapon. We have been seeing this for many years,” Kemfert said.

Jörg Forbrig of the German Marshall Fund of the United States emphasizes in this context that no one is interested in a further conflict between Ukraine and Russia. “Russia’s war against Ukraine has still not been resolved, despite all international efforts, including by Germany. The last thing Berlin needs now is for this conflict to spread to the energy sector and for Europe to be directly affected by it,” said Forbrig.

According to Forbrig, Russian gas is very important for Germany. However, most of it does not come through Ukrainian pipelines. The last few years have shown that most of the gas used in Germany was supplied by the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline and the Yamal-Europe pipeline that runs through Belarus and Poland.

“The pipeline that runs through Ukraine plays a marginal role, at least for German consumers and the German market,” Forbrig explained. Last year, Germany used a record 53 billion cubic meters (1871 billion cubic feet) of Russian gas, he said, which accounted for 40 percent of German consumption; Germany also covers a considerable part of its demand with deliveries from Norway and the Netherlands.

Balkans dependent on Ukraine pipeline

Thanks to the diversification of gas supplies and existing storage facilities, a halt to transit through Ukraine would not affect Germany. Earlier gas conflicts between Ukraine and Russia have shown that the Balkan countries – particularly Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia – end up being most affected.

“These countries are almost completely reliant on Russian gas supplied via Ukraine,” said Forbrig. In contrast to Germany, however, they have no other option for getting Russian gas.

Slovakia is also heavily dependent on the Ukrainian pipeline, he added. In central Europe, however, the pipelines are now well interlinked. “Slovakia and Austria can receive Russian gas, or other gas, from anywhere across the region. There are ways of splitting gas supplies.”

Experts predict high risk for Gazprom’s reputation

Ukrainian experts are convinced that a new gas war between Kyiv and Moscow would not cause any problems for the people of the EU. Only about half of Russia’s gas transit passes through Ukraine, stressed Oleksandr Chartshenko, from the Ukrainian Energy Research Center, in an interview with DW. He believes that other gas suppliers and interconnected pipelines could, for several months, save the countries of Eastern and southeastern Europe from inconvenience.

“The recent steps taken by Gazprom have shown Europeans that their efforts since 2009, to diversify gas supplies to the EU, have not been in vain,” said Chartshenko.

Mychajlo Hontschar of the Kyiv Center for Global Studies “Strategy XXI” believes that any attempt to stop the gas transit through Ukraine, despite contractual obligations, would only harm Gazprom. He says there is still not enough capacity to be able to bypass the Ukrainian pipeline. “Despite the desire to punish Naftogaz, there will be no new gas war,” Hontschar argues. Moscow knows that this would undermine Gazprom’s credibility as a reliable natural gas supplier in the eyes of European customers, he says. According to Hontschar, the Russian Energy Ministry is also aware of this fact.


Poroshenko threatens Moscow with ‘total destruction’ in gas dispute

March 9, 2018


Russia will face a total annihilation for all its alleged misdeeds and disrespect for international law, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said, amid an escalated dispute between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftogaz.

“Russia does not respect the law and does not respect the court’s decisions,” Poroshenko complained in what was described as a “late-evening interview” with the Financial Times. The Ukrainian leader apparently referred to the recent decision of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, relating to a dispute between the Russian and Ukrainian energy companies.

The Ukrainian leader went on to say that such disrespect of “international law” would result in Russia being “absolutely destroyed.” In an apparent attempt to add weight to his words, Poroshenko recalled that Kiev already filed several “complaints” against Russia to no less than the UN International Court of Justice itself. They, however, brought no consequences so far, nor anything close to the “destruction” so much anticipated by Poroshenko.

The Ukrainian leader also used his interview with the London-based business daily to once again accuse Russia of all kinds of misdeeds, ranging from the “illegal annexation” of Crimea to being an untrustworthy energy supplier. At the same time, he proclaimed Ukraine as “the most reliable supplier of gas” to Europe, adding that Kiev would not “allow” anybody to challenge that fact.

The president’s words about Ukraine being a gas “supplier” came just as the head of the national energy company Naftogaz, Andrey Kobolyev said at the CERAWeek annual energy conference in Houston, Texas, that Ukraine has not produced its own gas since at least the 1970s. The CEO also accused Ukrainian people of over-consuming gas during “select periods” when Russia’s Gazprom was supplying it.

Earlier, Poroshenko called for national unity in lowering gas consumption and enduring freezing temperatures until spring finally arrives. Despite repeated claims that the country has cut its dependency on Russian energy and was now purchasing only “reverse gas” from Europe, Ukraine had to limit its consumption after the Russian energy giant terminated its contract with the Ukrainian company as the two sides failed to come to an agreement.

Gazprom and Naftogaz have been involved in a bitter dispute since 2014. The argument concerned each side’s view on a contract signed in 2009. Gazprom demanded penalties from Naftogaz for insufficient withdrawal of gas and requested payment of the debt for those shipments that had actually been claimed. The Ukrainian company sought compensation for what it called “lost profit” from the lowered transit of Russian gas to Europe.

The dispute was brought to the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. It initially ordered Naftogaz to pay more than $2 billion to Gazprom for the consumed gas. Later, however, it ordered Gazprom to compensate Naftogaz $4.6 billion, citing the changes in “market conditions” which do not allow Ukraine to withdraw and consume the agreed volumes of gas.

Gazprom CEO, Alexey Miller, called the decision “politically motivated” and refused to resolve Ukraine’s downward economic spiral at the company’s expense, announcing a withdrawal from all contracts with Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, started to seize assets belonging to Gazprom in what they called a “compliance” with the decision of the Stockholm court.


Weapons of the future: Here’s the new war tech Lockheed Martin is pitching to the Pentagon

  • Hypersonic planes, lasers that burn drones out of the sky and machines that mimic the human brain once seemed like technologies on the fringes of science fiction.
  • Yet several defense contractors are developing these engineering concepts for the U.S. military, hoping to get a piece of what is surely going to be a lucrative and lengthy contract.
  • This week, Lockheed Martin’s CEO touted investments in hypersonics, laser weapons, electronic warfare and artificial intelligence.

March 6, 2018

by Amanda Macias


Planes that can travel six times the speed of sound, lasers that burn drones right out of the sky and machines that mimic the human brain. All of these once seemed like technologies on the fringes of science fiction.Yet several defense contractors are developing these engineering concepts for the U.S. military, hoping to get a piece of what is surely going to be a lucrative and lengthy contract.

Speaking to reporters at Lockheed Martin’s media day on Monday, CEO Marillyn Hewson touted investments in hypersonics, laser weapons, electronic warfare and artificial intelligence.

“Lockheed Martin has taken a leadership role in these four technology areas, and many others, to build an enterprise that can successfully support our customers’ rapidly evolving technology needs well into the future,” Hewson said.

Here’s a look at what the defense giant is designing.


Speed is the new stealth.

And when it comes to developing a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier is playing in its home court.

In 1976, the Air Force flew Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird from New York to London in less than two hours — at speeds exceeding Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.

The Blackbird, still the second-fastest manned plane in history, flew for more than 30 years and outpaced anti-aircraft missiles lobbed at it.

Today, the defense giant is upping the ante by engineering an unmanned plane it promises will be faster.

Dubbed the “son of the Blackbird,” Lockheed Martin’s SR-72 is envisioned to operate at speeds up to Mach 6.

“This could forever change our ability to deter and respond to conflict, allowing warfighters to quickly address threats before an adversary may have time to react,” Hewson said of the hypersonic plane.

Hewson also said the development of the aircraft, which is estimated to cost $1 billion, will change the “definition of air power by giving the U.S. significant tactical and strategic advantages.”

The SR-72 design incorporates lessons learned from Lockheed’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) experimental aircraft. The unmanned HTV-2 flew at Mach 20 or 13,000 mph after being launched from a rocket. At those speeds, the aircraft could travel from New York to Los Angeles in under 15 minutes.

While the hypersonic SR-72 isn’t expected to be operational until 2030, the company sees developing a platform of this magnitude as a game changer.

“Hypersonic aircraft coupled with hypersonic missiles could penetrate denied airspace and strike at nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour,” hypersonics program manager Brad Leland said on Lockheed Martin’s website.

Laser weapons      

The Pentagon has had a long-standing desire for powerful laser weapon systems that can be mounted and modified for air, land and sea.

Lasers are invisible to the naked eye and can destroy targets at the speed of light with unmatched precision.

What’s more, these directed-energy platforms can strike repeatedly giving them a near-endless supply of ammunition or, as Lockheed says, “an unlimited magazine of bullets.”

“Lasers are the best match for high-volume, low-cost threats such as drones, which are becoming increasingly prevalent on the battlefield,” Hewson said.

Last year, Lockheed supplied the Army with a 60-kilowatt laser that was later mounted on a large modified truck. The ground-based laser weapon system was used to destroy rockets, artillery, cruise missiles and drones, as well as other ground vehicles.

The Army isn’t the only service branch incorporating “Star Wars”-style technology into its weapons platforms.

Lockheed has received a contract worth $150 million from the Navy to develop and deliver two laser weapon systems for shipboard integration by 2020. In November, the Air Force Research Lab awarded the defense contractor $26.2 million to develop a high-power fiber laser to test on a fighter jet by 2021.

Electronic warfare

Electronic warfare is the use of radio, infrared or radar signals to confuse or disable an adversary’s electronics.

These technologies take shape in jammers, early warning systems and electronic decoys designed to lure away enemy attacks.

For example, Lockheed’s AN/ALQ-210 Electronic Support Measures system installed on some of the Navy’s MH-60R helicopters gives pilots all of the aforementioned capabilities. The idea is for the ESM to act as an extra set of eyes and ears for service members in the battle space.

Taking this technology a step forward, Lockheed Martin wants to add artificial intelligence to the mix.

“We all know we have entered an era in which data is a strategic asset,” Hewson said. “Artificial intelligence can help sort through this data, recognize patterns and anomalies and provide users with actionable information about threats and options to mitigate them.”

Comment: Sources inside the Pentagon have confirmed that LDS or Laser Dazzle Sight weapons, now under manufacture in New Hampshire and Florida, have been shipped to Iraq for exclusive use by the mercenary units of Blackwater, Inc. a South Carolina-based private militia now under contract to the American government.

These weapons are designed solely to permanently blind opponents by destroying their optic nerves. First developed by the British in 1990 by the British Ministry of Defense, Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (RSRE) in conjunction with the Admiralty Research Establishment, these weapons were initially installed on ships of the Royal Navy.

They are called ‘Low energy laser weapons with an anti-eye capability,’

The United States military worked on a similar program in 1982 identified in military reports as a “battlefield antisensor close-combat laser assault weapon” called C-CLAW. This was a combination of two lasers which could operate together at three different wavelengths. One of the lasers was a 1-kilowatt pulsed CO2 device using a high pulse repetition frequency and a wavelength of 10,600 nanometers. The other was a Nd:YAG laser that could be used either at 1,060 nanometers or frequency doubled at 530 nanometers.

This program was officially cancelled in 1983 because of the high costs and excessive weight of the weapon. Information on this project had leaked to the media and the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army officially dropped the project as a result of public objections.

This project was restarted under the title STINGRAY which is an optical and electro-optical LEL weapon designed to blind the enemy forces facing it and was designed for mounting on the Bradley MW Infantry Fighting Vehicle but also was intended for mounting on attack helicopters.

The STINGRAY program is sponsored by the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command (CECOM) and is contracted by Martin Marietta Electronics Systems in Orlando, Florida.

An evaluation by the Department of Defense in 2003 states that “when the power level is increased and beam is narrowed to concentrate its energy on an enemy soldier it can do tremendous damage, and has the potential to damage, permanently, the eyes of enemy soldiers, both temporarily and permanently. It is estimated that many, if not all, of the targets can be injured in such a way that will render them legally blind for the rest of their lives.”

The U.S. Army also has another STINGRAY-related LEL designed for attack helicopters called the CAMEO BLUEJAY. This is a lighter version of STINGRAY and is designed to be mounted on an Apache attack helicopter.

Another U.S. Army laser weapon is called DAZER and is a frequency-agile LEL portable anti-eye laser weapon that uses an alexandrite laser designed as “a man-portable laser device for use by infantry to provide a soft kill against personnel.” This system is under the control of U.S. Army’s Missile Command (MICOM) and is built by the Allied Corporation’s Military Laser Products Division of Westlake, California.

Because of public knowledge, albeit highly restricted in scope, of these laser-blinding weapons, serious questions of violations of international law have arisen and the Clinton Administration officially banned their use. The weapons continued to be built and the present Administration has permitted their release for use against what are now termed “massive and dangerous armed mobs of Islamic fanatics” in occupied Iraq.

Because of potential international objections to the use of these weapons and probable legal objections, it has been determined, according to Pentagon sources, that these weapons would be issued, or “loaned pending return” to U.S. Army custody and control, to the mercenary units of the Blackwater Company.  

The phrase ‘plausible deniability’ is now being used by Pentagon sources concerning the use by mercenary units of these weapons. Members of these units who might be identified as participating in these “off-the-books” actions can be officially distanced and returned to the United States and not identified.


Long sought by North Korea, summit holds risks for Trump administration

March 8, 2018

by Josh Smith and David Brunnstrom


SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – For at least two decades, leaders in North Korea have been seeking a personal meeting with an American president.

Now, as a summit unexpectedly appears possible, analysts fear U.S. President Donald Trump’s understaffed administration may lack the expertise to successfully turn a political spectacle long sought by Pyongyang into a meaningful opportunity to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

South Korean officials said Friday Trump almost immediately agreed to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, without preconditions, by the end of May. Even proponents of a diplomatic approach towards North Korea worry the administration could be rushing into a summit with little time to prepare.

Such a summit – the first time sitting American and North Korean leaders have ever met – would typically happen after each side had made at least some concrete agreements, said Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America think tank, who has engaged North Korean officials at unofficial discussions.

“It will have to be managed carefully with a great deal of prep work,” she said on Twitter. “Otherwise, it runs the risk of being more spectacle than substance. Right now, Kim Jong Un is setting the agenda and the pace, and the Trump administration is reacting. The administration needs to move quickly to change this dynamic.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has often been publicly contradicted by the White House over North Korea, including on Thursday when just hours before the announcement of a summit he said “we are a long ways from negotiations”.

Several experienced career diplomats occupy key positions in the Trump administration’s Korea and East Asia offices, but many of them are in an acting capacity while other positions are entirely empty.

Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy in charge of negotiating with North Korea, quit last week, and Trump has yet to nominate an ambassador to South Korea.

“A Trump meeting with Kim presents both risks and opportunities,” said Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

“The U.S. side needs to be very, very well prepared and know exactly what it wants to achieve, as well as what the U.S. is willing to provide in return.”


Analysts say North Korea has been seeking a summit with American leaders as a way to secure international legitimacy, something that has prevented past U.S. administration’s from taking Pyongyang up on its invitations.

“A summit is a reward to North Korea,” said Robert Kelly, a professor at South Korea’s Pusan National University. “It extends the prestige of meeting the head of state of the world’s strongest power and leading democracy. That is why we should not do it unless we get a meaningful concession from North Korea. That is why other presidents have not done it.”

If the summit fails, the cost could be higher than in the past, observers noted, with North Korea firmly in possession of a nuclear arsenal and Trump having said military strikes may be needed to remove those weapons.

Kim Jong Un has “committed to denuclearization” and to suspending nuclear and missile tests, South Korea’s National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong told reporters at the White House on Thursday after briefing Trump. North Korea, though, has yet to provide more details.

“There hasn’t been any North Korea-U.S. summit meetings at all and having one after North Korea has already obtained nuclear weapons basically sends a signal that the U.S. is willing to deal with North Korea on that basis,” said Zhao Tong, a North Korea expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center in Beijing.

“So that achieves North Korea’s first objective, even if there’s no progress at all in terms of what they discuss at the summit,” Zhao said.

A senior administration official said Trump was elected to take a different approach from previous presidents.

That included avoiding low-level negotiations that have failed in the past in favor of talking directly to Kim as the “one person who can actually make decisions instead of repeating the… long slog of the past,” the official said.

In 2000, Marshal Jo Myong Rok, a powerful figure in the North Korean armed forces, became the first and most senior North Korean official to visit the White House and meet a U.S. president, then Bill Clinton.

Shortly after, then-U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright traveled to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, in a visit to lay the groundwork for a visit by Clinton that would only happen after he had left office.

During President Barack Obama’s administration, North Korean officials were also seeking a breakthrough with the United States, and were disappointed when American officials offered no diplomatic concessions, former U.S. director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has said.

Even observers who credit Trump’s hardline stance with setting the stage for talks said they are waiting to see if this time is different.

“North Korea has said these things before – Kim Jong Il wanted to meet with President Clinton,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of Washington’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies think-tank.

“Pyongyang has to be serious about denuclearization. In the meantime, the Trump administration should continue using the toughest sanctions to maintain maximum pressure before the summit in May.”

Additional reporting by Philip Wen in BEIJING.; Editing by Bill Tarrant





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