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TBR News May 10, 2017

May 10 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. May 10, 2017: “There is a question that never seems to have been addressed by our legislators, leaders or their captive press and that is: Who owns, and controls, WikiLeaks?

And, further, what does WikiLeaks have under its control and which of its holdings are going to be released?

It is becoming very obvious that WikiLeaks has immense troves of highly confidential, and highly embarrassing, material in its holdings.

Computer experts, at least the ones who do not work for the government, all agree that any computer system, including those used by the very top officials, can be broken into.

Who is doing this?

Is it a random searching or a planned one?

It is rumored that WikiLeaks has tapped into a particularly vicious child pornographic site in the Ukraine and has extracted the  names of certain very highly-placed American business and political leaders.

If this is true, and we believe it is, will this be exposed?

Child molesters are not popular in any civilized society and the revelation that Senator X or CEO Y like to watch this garbage would destroy their credibility with the public in short order.”

 

Table of Contents

  • Trump fires FBI Director Comey, setting off U.S. political storm
  • “Our Democracy Is in Danger”: Key Reactions to Donald Trump’s Firing of FBI Director James Comey
  • Farewell to Matt Drudge
  • Giant advanced metropolis discovered under Antarctic ice sheet!
  • The Truth About The Mysterious “Pyramid” Discovered In Antarctica
  • US to arm Syrian Kurds over Turkish opposition
  • Turkish foreign minister warns US arming of Syrian Kurds poses threat
  • After Macron win, France’s main parties fret over parliament elections
  • The American Way of War Is a Budget-Breaker
  • Fury over ‘paedophile advice’ on US Arizona radio station
  • Common painkillers may raise risk of heart attack by 100% – study
  • Journalist arrested for asking Trump cabinet member about healthcare bill
  • More than 20 US states have cracked down on protests since Donald Trump’s election
  • Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on Russia: Reason vs Propaganda

 Trump fires FBI Director Comey, setting off U.S. political storm

May 10, 2017

by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

Reuters

WASHINGTON-U.S. President Donald Trump ignited a political firestorm on Tuesday by firing FBI Director James Comey, who had been leading an investigation into the Trump 2016 presidential campaign’s possible collusion with Russia to influence the election outcome.

The Republican president said he fired Comey, the top U.S. law enforcement official, over his handling of an election-year email scandal involving then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The move stunned Washington and raised suspicions among Democrats and others that the White House was trying to blunt the FBI probe involving Russia.

Some Democrats compared Trump’s move to the “Saturday Night Massacre” of 1973, in which President Richard Nixon fired an independent special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

White House officials denied allegations that there was any political motive in the move by Trump, who took office on Jan. 20.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he spoke to Trump and told him he was “making a very big mistake” in firing Comey, adding the president did not “really answer” in response.

An independent investigation into Moscow’s role in the election “is now the only way to go to restore the American people’s faith,” Schumer said.

Though many Democrats have criticized Comey’s handling of the Clinton email probe, they said they were troubled by the timing of Trump’s firing of him.

Senator Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is overseeing its own investigation into Russian interference during the election, said in a statement he was also troubled by the timing of Comey’s termination.

“His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation,” Burr said.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a January report that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an effort to disrupt the 2016 election, with the aim of helping Trump.

CNN reported on Tuesday night that federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas to former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, seeking business records, as part of the probe into Russian interference in the election.

Trump’s firing of Comey came a day after former acting Attorney General Sally Yates told a Senate panel that she had informed the White House on Jan. 26 that Flynn was at risk of blackmail by Moscow because he had been untruthful about his discussions with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak. Trump fired Flynn 18 days later.

Russia has repeatedly denied any meddling in the election and the Trump administration denies allegations of collusion with Russia.

RESTORING ‘PUBLIC TRUST’

Trump, in a letter to Comey released by the White House, said: “It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission.”

The president told Comey in the letter that he accepted the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he could no longer provide effective leadership. Comey’s term was to run through September 2023. He was appointed director by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2013.

Sessions advised Trump’s campaign before being picked by the president to lead the Justice Department. Sessions had recused himself from involvement in the Russia investigation, after he misstated his own 2016 contacts with Russia’s ambassador to Washington.

Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe, became acting FBI director. The White House said the search for a new permanent director would begin immediately.

Pushing back against critics of the move, White House officials said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a career prosecutor who took office on April 25, assessed the situation at the FBI and concluded that Comey had lost his confidence.

Rosenstein sent his recommendation to Sessions, who concurred and they forwarded their recommendation to Trump, who accepted it on Tuesday, they said.

The White House released a memo in which Rosenstein wrote: “I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken.”

Rosenstein cited several former Justice Department officials’ comments criticizing Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, including his public statements.

But one of those he cited, Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under President H.W. Bush, questioned the purported reasons for the firing. Reached by Reuters, Ayer said in an email that the administration’s explanation was “a sham.”

Comey was traveling in Los Angeles when the news broke that he had been fired.

In an odd twist, a White House official said the letter firing him was delivered to the FBI by Keith Schiller, Trump’s longtime armed personal bodyguard who is now director of Oval Office Operations at the White House.

Trump, in the letter, said: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau.”

EMAIL CONTROVERSY

Comey, 56, had been the target of criticism from many quarters for his handling of a probe involving Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was U.S. secretary of state under Obama. As recently as Tuesday, the FBI clarified remarks that Comey made on the matter last week.

Trump had originally criticized the FBI director for not pursuing criminal charges against Clinton last July, but later lavished praise on him.

Comey had said in July the Clinton email case should be closed without prosecution, but then declared – 11 days before the Nov. 8 election – that he had reopened the investigation because of a discovery of a new trove of Clinton-related emails.

Clinton and other Democrats say they believe Comey’s decision help cost her the election.

The firing came as a shock to FBI staff, nearly all of whom had confidence in Comey despite the controversy surrounding his handling of the Clinton email situation, according to an FBI official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said there was concern among agents that the firing was a political act related to the Russian investigation.

Other current and former U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials questioned the White House explanation for Comey’s firing.

“Trump praised him for the work on the email investigation, so that’s not it,” said Austin Berglas, a former FBI supervisory agent on hacking cases. “I think he realized the extent of the Russia investigation under way and moved him out. To me, that’s the only logical explanation right now.”

Trump’s dismissal of Comey does not mean the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election will be disrupted or end – career FBI staffers can continue the probe even as the search for a new FBI director begins, legal experts said.

Republican Representative Justin Amash wrote on Twitter that he and his staff were reviewing the possibility of drafting legislation to create an independent commission to look into the Russian campaign meddling.

Legislation related to the appointment of a special prosecutor or independent counsel has lapsed. But Justice Department regulations provide for the appointment of a special counsel, which is selected by the attorney general, or acting attorney general in the case of recusal, the experts said.

(Additional reporting by Dustin Volz, Mark Hosenball, Joseph Menn, John Walcott, Rick Cowan, Patricia Zengerle, Amanda Becker, Nathan Layne and Lawrence Hurley.; Writing by Warren Strobel; Editing by Peter Cooney and Michael Perry)

 

“Our Democracy Is in Danger”: Key Reactions to Donald Trump’s Firing of FBI Director James Comey

May 9 2017

by Jon Schwarz, Alex Emmons

The Intercept

President Trump fired James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, on Tuesday afternoon.

According to a letter from Trump that was reportedly hand-delivered to Comey’s office by Trump’s longtime top security aide, the president acted because Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein recommended that Comey be dismissed. Comey was in Los Angeles and reportedly learned of the news from the television.

In a letter to Trump, Sessions stated that “a fresh start is needed at the leadership of the FBI” and that he concurred with the reasoning of an attached memo by Rosenstein regarding Comey.

The Rosenstein memo stated that he “cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary [Hillary] Clinton’s emails.”

“The Director was wrong,” Rosenstein wrote, “to usurp the Attorney General’s authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. … Compounding the error, the Director ignored a longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.”

That is, Trump is claiming that he fired Comey because the FBI director acted unfairly toward Clinton.

The reaction from Democrats toward Trump’s decision has been uniformly negative, with many now demanding that the Justice Department appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the ongoing counterintelligence investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., also recalled the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in 1973 when top officials at the Justice Department resigned rather than carry out President Nixon’s demand that they fire a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. Cohen stated that “our democracy is in danger” and asked Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to appoint a bipartisan commission to investigate “the Trump-Russia relationship.”

Several Republicans also appeared concerned by Trump’s actions. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting an investigation into any ties between Trump and Russia, said that “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Jim Comey’s resignation.”

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona stated that Comey’s firing “only confirms the need and the urgency” for a “special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN to defend the firing. When Anderson Cooper asked Conway why Trump fired Comey, despite having praised his treatment of the email investigation on the campaign trail, Conway responded that Cooper was “looking at the wrong set of facts.”

For its part, the Nixon Library tweeted, “FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI,” with the hashtag #notNixonian.

 

Farewell to Matt Drudge

Even he’s been co-opted

May 10, 2017

by Justin Raimondo,

AntiWar

I’ve always been a big Matt Drudge fan. That’s because I was there at the beginning, when the Drudge Report was just another web site and the Legacy Media was still the main focus of the journalism business. I remember when he was an habitué of Freerepublic.com, one of the earliest gathering places for all sorts of dissidents in the Age of Clinton. I remember how his breaking of the Monica Lewinsky story propelled him into the spotlight, and I distinctly recall the vicious attacks on him by the “mainstream” media, which resented the by-his-bootstraps way he achieved what is essentially a hegemonic position in the journalistic universe. I particularly appreciated his famous 1998 speech at the National Press Club, in which the notoriously reclusive Drudge delivered a manifesto that all us bootstrappers cheered and took to heart:

“We have entered an era vibrating with the din of small voices. Every citizen can be a reporter, can take on the powers that be. The difference between the Internet, television and radio, magazines, newspapers is the two-way communication. The Net gives as much voice to a 13-year-old computer geek like me as to a CEO or speaker of the House. We all become equal. And you would be amazed what the ordinary guy knows.

“From a little corner in my Hollywood apartment, in the company of nothing more than my 486 computer and my six – six-toed cat, I have consistently been able to break big stories, thanks to this network of ordinary guys.”

Drudge broke the monopoly of the Legacy Media, and he did it in a spectacular way. If the inventors of the Internet are the equivalent of Gutenberg, then Drudge was a modern day Peter Zenger – whom he alludes to in his speech. He took on the naysayers, the kind who resist any innovation because they think it threatens their perks and privileges. Drudge pointed out that the movie moguls and the radio networks tried to get the government to suppress television when it came out, but something else happened instead:

“No, television saved the movies. The Internet is going to save the news business. I – I envision a – a future where there’ll be 300 million reporters, where anyone from anywhere can report for any reason. It’s freedom of – freedom of participation, absolutely realized.”

The naysayers are eternal, however: they just keep popping up. One of them was – is – Hillary Clinton, who just missed becoming President of these United States. She was an early naysayer when it came to the Internet, in part, perhaps, because Drudge broke the Lewinsky story, but on a deeper level because she’s a control freak, as are all too many “progressives,” who aren’t really progressive in any meaningful sense of the term. And Drudge called her out:

“The First Lady of the United States recently addressed concerns about Internet during a Cyberspatial Millennium Project press conference just weeks after Lewinsky broke. She said,

“’We’re all going to have to rethink how we deal with the Internet. As exciting as these new developments are, there are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function.’

“I wonder who she was referring to.

“Mrs. Clinton continued,

“’Any time an individual leaps so far ahead of that balance and throws a system, whatever it might be – political, economic, technological – out of balance, you’ve got a problem. It can lead to all kinds of bad outcomes which we have seen historically.”

“Would she have said the same thing about Ben Franklin or Thomas Edison or Henry Ford or Einstein? They all leapt so far ahead out that they shook the balance. No, I say to these people, faster, not slower. Create. Let your mind flow. Let the imagination take over. And if technology has finally caught up with individual liberty, why would anyone who loves freedom want to rethink that?”

As I pointed out in my last column, there is a major campaign afoot to stifle the freedom that Drudge celebrated. That’s what this whole campaign against “fake news” – and the hysteria over alleged Russian attempts to “influence” our politics – is all about. Under the rubric of fighting “foreign” influences, and in the name of “national security,” the Clintonian “liberals” are pressuring their corporate and governmental allies to regulate the Internet. And the political momentum to narrow the range of acceptable opinion is tremendous – which even Matt Drudge is susceptible to.

Yes, I’ve always been a big Drudge fan, which is why I was so thrilled to see him give Antiwar.com a permanent link, right between Adweek and The Atlantic – except, as it turned out, it wasn’t permanent.

About a week before President Trump bombed Syria, the Antiwar.com link on the Drudge Report disappeared.

What a coincidence!

As a conservative columnist who was a prominent supporter of Trump put it to me: “I didn’t know Jared Kushner was running the Drudge Report!”

Drudge has been pushing Trump from the beginning, which is his right. I reported favorably on many of Trump’s earlier foreign policy pronouncements, which is probably why Drudge added us to begin with: it’s too bad President Trump walked back the best aspects of his foreign policy agenda. Yet Drudge, and some – not all – of Trump’s supporters don’t seem to care about the President’s policy reversals: they’re just defending whatever he does. And that, I believe, accounts for the deletion of Antiwar.com from the Drudge Report: forget about the news you can’t get anywhere else that is published on this site. Never mind our large audience, which spans the globe. And who cares about our unique perspective? If it doesn’t fit into the Trumpian agenda – whatever that may be at any particular moment – then Matt has no use for us.

So be it.

This isn’t the first time one of my plaster gods turned out to be a disappointment, and it likely won’t be the last. We’re all of us susceptible to partisan prejudices, and we all have our little agendas, although I have to say I expected more from Drudge. I can’t even begin to describe the sinking feeling as I logged on to the Drudge Report, looked for the Antiwar.com link, and saw that it wasn’t there. For me, that link represented the only kind of legitimacy I had ever sought: recognition from one rebel to another that Antiwar.com had accomplished something real.

But I take it from where it comes: all too often, yesterday’s rebel is today’s Establishment shill. That’s just the way it is, and always will be.

What all this this highlights is the role of Antiwar.com in the Age of Trump. I think of it in terms of walking a tightrope: the idea is to keep from falling off while balancing the rhetoric and the reality.

Trump was initially a severe critic of our interventionist foreign policy: who can forget his accusation that George W. Bush lied us into the Iraq war? His critique of NATO, his willingness to reach out to Russia – these stances attracted millions to his candidacy, and arguably put him over the top in a very close race. Now that he’s President, however, the War Party has moved into the White House: Trump is surrounded by “advisors” who spout the same old interventionist pieties, and represent the same vested interests that candidate Trump once vowed to defeat. He was going to “drain the swamp” – but instead of that, he ‘s jumped right into it.

I know we have many new readers and supporters who came to this web site during the campaign precisely because we were open to Trump as a critic of US foreign policy: after all, we were pushing an “America first” foreign policy many years before Trump decided  to run. A great many of these new readers are sorely disappointed in their candidate: unlike Drudge, and other hand-raisers, they aren’t giving their candidate a blank check now that he’s won the prize.

 

Giant advanced metropolis discovered under Antarctic ice sheet!

May 9, 2017

by Rolf Hosenbrummer, PhD

The Sneed Institute

Extensive, and very secret, excavations under the east Antarctic ice sheet by a joint expedition of Russian, American and Japanese scientists have uncovered an enormous city entombed under melting ice.

This highly sophisticated development covered over 90 acres and includes multi-level buildings, roadways with signals, sidewalks, what appear to be schools and private dwellings and an area devoted to what appears to be a highly advanced electronic control center.

No remains of the former occupants were found but scientists have measured the height of the doorways and ceilings in the rooms and have determined that the people who lived and worked in this development were at least twenty feet tall.

Also discovered in the latest dig in 2016 were a sewage treatment plant, what appears to be a sports stadium, several vehicles that investigations prove to have run on electrical currents, and were run suspended several feet off the ground.

The city, dubbed The New Atlantis, is believed to pre-date the arrival of the Cro-Magnon man by many centuries and a yet unexplored highway may well lead to other developments in the vicinity.

It has long been rumored that such a civilization existed and American Admiral Byrd was known to have made at least three secret voyages to Antarctica in search of a possible site for American military and naval bases.

A report, never released, is rumored to discuss a very large German U boat base supposedly constructed in 1938 and to which Adolf Hitler escaped in 1945.

The Pentagon is most interested in the discoveries and is planning to immediately take charge of the project and install new missile bases there as soon as the ice cap melts sufficiently to permit construction.

Fears that the Germans might wish to reclaim their abandoned U boat base are groundless, according to a Pentagon spokesperson who spoke off the record.

Archeologists have also uncovered what might be the head of an oil well and this has fueled considerable interest in the American oil industry which is constantly seeking fresh sources of badly-needed oil.

It is rumored that Shell and BP are preparing to send experts to the cleared areas to perform technical searches for possible subterranean oil fields and Halliburton people are also preparing for supplying needed equipment.

 

The Truth About The Mysterious “Pyramid” Discovered In Antarctica

November 27, 2016

by Alfredo Carpineti

iflscience

It’s a new day on the internet so there’s a new conspiracy theory: a mysterious new pyramid has been discovered in Antarctica thanks to Google Earth.

Except it’s just a mountain. And even the “new” part of the conspiracy theory is just a re-hashed version of a story that has been reported for years on pyramids in the South Pole.

So let’s discuss the first Pyramid (AKA mountain). It was discovered by the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910-1913. It was then kept secret from every other person in the world by calling it “The Pyramid” and then use that name on every single geological survey of the area.

These geologists thought they were clever with this double bluff, but they couldn’t imagine that 100 years later “truthers” would see through their ploy and discover that the Pyramid is actually a pyramid, probably created by an alien civilization, or Atlantis. Maybe. Definitely.

Now a second mountain has restarted the wheel of conspiracy theories. It can be found at the coordinates 79°58’39.25″S 81°57’32.21″W. It’s clearly a mountain.

“The pyramid-shaped structures are located in the Ellsworth Mountains, which is a range more than 400 km long, so it’s no surprise there are rocky peaks cropping out above the ice. The peaks are clearly composed of rock, and it’s a coincidence that this particular peak has that shape,” Dr Mitch Darcy, geologist at the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam, told IFLScience.

“It’s not a complicated shape, so it’s not a special coincidence either. By definition, it is a nunatak, which is simply a peak of rock sticking out above a glacier or an ice sheet. This one has the shape of a pyramid, but that doesn’t make it a human construction.”

Although it’s all very mysterious because somebody on the internet said so, pyramid-shaped peaks are very common: the Matterhorn in the Alps and Mount Bulandstindur in Iceland are notable examples.

On top of everything, there’s literally no advantage in having a secret base in Antarctica. If there were, the world governments would have already had a fight over its resources. Luckily, all the South Pole is rich in is natural diversity and scientific opportunities, and long may it stay that way.

 

US to arm Syrian Kurds over Turkish opposition

The White House has signed off on an order to arm Kurdish fighters whom Turkey classifies as terrorists. The US has doubled down on its position that Kurds provide crucial help in the fight against “Islamic State

May 9, 2017

DW

The administration of US President Donald Trump approved a measure on Tuesday supplying weapons to Kurdish fighters over the fierce objections of NATO ally Turkey. The Pentagon stressed that assisting the People’s Protection Units (YPG) was “necessary to ensure a clear victory” against the last “Islamic State” stronghold in Syria.

The YPG is an ethnic Kurdish militia tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has led an on-and-off insurgency in southeastern Turkey for three decades. It has been outlawed by Ankara as a terrorist organization.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey,” Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

Pentagon: Kurds most effective against IS

The US has argued that local Kurdish fighters are some of the most effective partners in its coalition to defeat IS terrorists. Washington hopes to use the YPG to push the jihadists from Raqqa, their last stronghold in Syria.

YPG has allied itself with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has long received backing from the US. The Pentagon said on Tuesday that “the SDF, partnered with enabling support from U.S. and coalition forces, are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

Control over Raqqa has changed hands twice during the course of Syria’s six-year civil conflict. It was first overrun by moderate rebels in 2013, before IS captured it along with vast swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria in 2014.

The supplies delivered to the YPG are expected to include small arms, machine guns, engineering equipment, armored vehicles and ammunition.

 

Turkish foreign minister warns US arming of Syrian Kurds poses threat

Turkey’s top diplomat has decried the US order to arm a Syrian Kurdish militia, saying each weapon they hold is a direct threat to Turkey. President Erdogan will travel to Washington next week to take up the issue.

May 10, 2017

DW

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned on Wednesday that arming the People’s Protection Units (YPG) Syrian Kurdish militia was no different to arming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) group fighting in Turkey.

Cavusoglu’s remarks came as the US signed off on an order to arm YPG fighters in the fight to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa, the last remaining stronghold of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) jihadist group. Turkey, however, classifies the YPG as a terrorist group.

“Both the PKK and the YPG are terrorist organizations and they are no different, apart from their names,” Cavusoglu told reporters during a visit to Montenegro. “Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey.”

Turkey’s top diplomat added that the US was well aware of Ankara’s stance and that the issue would be discussed when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets his US counterpart Donald Trump during a visit to Washington next week.

Earlier on Wednesday, quoting Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli was quoted by Turkish media of saying that the US’ order was “unacceptable” and that he hoped Washington would reverse its decision.

US: Kurdish assistance necessary in fight against IS

However, in announcing the order, the US appeared to double down on its position that Kurds provide crucial help in wiping out IS and liberating Raqqa.

“We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner, Turkey,” Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement on Tuesday. “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

The Pentagon stressed that assisting the YPG was “necessary to ensure a clear victory” against IS in Raqqa.

The US and western powers have been backing a Syrian alliance of militias, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), fighting IS. Among its groups is the Kurdish YPG.

YPG welcomes arms

The YPG militia hailed the US’ decision to provide it with arms, calling the decision “historic” and a “sign of confidence” in the group.

The move, coupled with the US’ commitment to its umbrella coalition with the SDF, would expand its operations against IS, the YPG said in a statement. The decision was a refutation of “distortions” likening the YPG to a terrorist group, it added.

 

After Macron win, France’s main parties fret over parliament elections

May 10, 2017

by Simon Carraud

Reuters

PARIS-France’s Socialist Party and the wider political Left splintered on Wednesday as centrist Emmanuel Macron’s presidential victory triggered power-struggles between moderates and hardliners ahead of June parliamentary elections.

Benoit Hamon, the unsuccessful Socialist Party candidate in the presidential contest, said he would set up a new political movement after several of his hallmark proposals during that campaign were abandoned by his own party.

Radical left-winger Jean-Luc Melenchon, also eliminated in the presidential contest, criticized his erstwhile allies in the Communist Party and vowed to campaign without them for seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.

The two-stage legislative elections on June 11 and 18 will decide whether a new party created by 39-year-old Macron, who is due formally to take power on Sunday, will win enough seats to allow him to govern effectively for the next five years.

Macron’s year-old Republic on the Move party does not have any seats in the current parliament but it hopes in June to secure a majority that will allow him to push through economic reforms for reviving an economy beset by high unemployment and sluggish growth.

The Socialists, whose term in government comes to an end in tandem with the departure of President Francois Hollande, have traditionally disputed power with the center-right for the past half century.

The main right-wing party, The Republicans, is also striving to come to terms with the new political landscape and will be working to try to cling on to its dominant role too.

Francois Baroin, head of the Republicans’ parliamentary election team, said on Tuesday they would abandon key proposals that their unsuccessful presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, stood for.

The party was due later on Wednesday to work further on what Baroin said would be a revamped program for the National Assembly election.

On both sides of the traditional divide, the signs so far are that the large parties which have long dominated are struggling to maintain leverage over Macron via the lower house of parliament without losing too many of their troops through defections to his camp.

Showing who is in charge right now, his Republic on the Move party made clear on Wednesday that even top-rank politicians from established parties were not guaranteed a slot on its list of parliamentary contenders.

Manuel Valls, the Socialist former prime minister who has angered his own party by saying he backs Macron, was told on Wednesday that he could not count on being sponsored by the Macron camp in the June ballot.

“As of today, he does not fit the criteria that would allow the investiture committee to take him on,” Jean-Paul Delevoye, the man in charge of choosing Macron’s party’s candidates, told Europe 1 radio.

Macron, an ex-banker, served as economy minister in a Socialist government under Valls, but left to make his successful bid for president at the head of his new party on a promise to turn the page on old Left-versus-Right politics.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came fourth with a sizeable score in the presidential contest, said he hoped to gain control of the National Assembly and fight to stymie Macron thereafter.

“It’s time to turn that situation round,” he said during a BFM TV interview.

(Writing by Brian Love and Andrew Callus; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

 

The American Way of War Is a Budget-Breaker

Never Has a Society Spent More for Less

May 10, 2017

by William D. Hartung

TomDispatch

When Donald Trump wanted to “do something” about the use of chemical weapons on civilians in Syria, he had the U.S. Navy lob 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield (cost: $89 million). The strike was symbolic at best, as the Assad regime ran bombing missions from the same airfield the very next day, but it did underscore one thing: the immense costs of military action of just about any sort in our era.

While $89 million is a rounding error in the Pentagon’s $600 billion budget, it represents real money for other agencies. It’s more than twice the $38 million annual budget of the U.S. Institute of Peace and more than half the $149 million budget of the National Endowment of the Arts, both slated for elimination under Trump’s budget blueprint. If the strikes had somehow made us – or anyone – safer, perhaps they would have been worth it, but they did not.

In this century of nonstop military conflict, the American public has never fully confronted the immense costs of the wars being waged in its name. The human costs – including an estimated 370,000 deaths, more than half of them civilians, and the millions who have been uprooted from their homes and sent into flight, often across national borders – are surely the most devastating consequences of these conflicts. But the economic costs of our recent wars should not be ignored, both because they are so massive in their own right and because of the many peaceable opportunities foregone to pay for them.

Even on the rare occasions when the costs of American war preparations and war making are actually covered in the media, they never receive the sort of attention that would be commensurate with their importance. Last September, for example, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute released a paper demonstrating that, since 2001, the U.S. had racked up $4.79 trillion in current and future costs from its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria, as well as in the war at home being waged by the Department of Homeland Security. That report was certainly covered in a number of major outlets, including the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Atlantic, and U.S. News and World Report. Given its importance, however, it should have been on the front page of every newspaper in America, gone viral on social media, and been the subject of scores of editorials. Not a chance.

Yet the figures should stagger the imagination. Direct war spending accounted for “only” $1.7 trillion of that sum, or less than half of the total costs. The Pentagon disbursed those funds not through its regular budget but via a separate war account called Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). Then there were the more than $900 billion in indirect war costs paid for from the regular budget and the budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs. And don’t forget to add in the more than half-trillion dollars for the budget of the Department of Homeland Security since 2001, as well as an expected $1 trillion in future costs for taking care of the veterans of this century’s wars throughout their lifetimes. If anyone were truly paying attention, what could more effectively bring home just how perpetual Washington’s post-9/11 war policies are likely to be?

That cost, in fact, deserves special attention. The Veterans Administration has chronic problems in delivering adequate care and paying out benefits in a timely fashion. Its biggest challenge: the sheer volume of veterans generated by Washington’s recent wars. An additional two million former military personnel have entered the VA system since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began. Fully half of them have already been awarded lifetime disability benefits. More than one in seven – 327,000 – suffer from traumatic brain injury. Not surprisingly, spending for the Veterans Administration has tripled since 2001. It has now reached more than $180 billion annually and yet the VA still can’t catch up with its backlog of cases or hire doctors and nurses fast enough to meet the need.

Now imagine another 15 years of such failing, yet endless wars and the flood of veterans they will produce and then imagine what a Cost of War Project report might look like in 2032. Given all this, you would think that the long-term price tag for caring for veterans would be taken into account when a president decides whether or not to continue to pursue America’s never-ending wars in the Greater Middle East and Africa, but that, of course, is never the case.

What a Military-First World Means in Budgetary Terms

Enter Donald Trump. Even before he launches a major war of his own – if he does – he’s loosed his generals to pursue with renewed energy just about all the wars that have been started in the last 15 years. In addition, he’s made it strikingly clear that he’s ready to throw hundreds of billions (eventually, of course, trillions) of additional tax dollars at the Pentagon in the years to come. As he put it in a September 2016 interview on Meet the Press, “I’m gonna build a military that’s so strong… nobody’s gonna mess with us.” As he makes plans to hike the Pentagon budget once more, however, here’s what he seems blissfully unaware of: at roughly $600 billion per year, current Pentagon spending is already close to its post-World War II peak and higher than it was at the height of the massive 1980s military buildup initiated by President Ronald Reagan.

On the dubious theory that more is always better when it comes to Pentagon spending (even if that means less is worse elsewhere in America), Trump is requesting a $54 billion increase in military spending for 2018. No small sum, it’s roughly equal to the entire annual military budget of France, larger than the defense budgets of the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, and only $12 billion less than the entire Russian military budget of 2015.

Trump and his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, have pledged to offset this sharp increase in Pentagon funding with corresponding cuts in domestic and State Department spending. (In a military-first world, who even cares about the ancient art of diplomacy?) If the president gets his way, that will mean, for instance, a 31% cut in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and a 29% cut in the State Department’s. Eliminated would also be $8 billion worth of block grants that provide services to low-income communities, including subsidies for seniors who can’t afford to heat their homes, as well as any support for 19 separate agencies engaged in purely peaceable activities, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Legal Services, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, which invests in economic development, education, and infrastructure projects in one of the nation’s poorest regions.

Overall, as presently imagined, the Trump budget would hike the Pentagon’s cut of the pie, and related spending on veterans’ affairs, homeland security, and nuclear weapons to an astounding 68% of federal discretionary spending. And keep in mind that the discretionary budget includes virtually everything the government does outside of entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. You undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn that perpetual war and the urge to perpetuate yet more of it leaves little room for spending on the environment, diplomacy, alternative energy, housing, or other domestic investments, not to speak of infrastructure repair.

Put another way, preparations for and the pursuit of war will ensure that any future America is dirtier, sicker, poorer, more rickety, and less safe.

Taking the Gloves Off When It Comes to the Costs of War

The biggest beneficiaries of Pentagon largesse will, as always, be the major defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, which received more than $36 billion in defense-related contracts in fiscal 2015 (the most recent year for which full statistics are available). To put that figure in perspective, Lockheed Martin’s federal contracts are now larger than the budgets of 22 of the 50 states. The top 100 defense contractors received $175 billion from the Pentagon in fiscal year 2015, nearly one-third of the Department of Defense’s entire budget. These numbers will only grow if Trump gets the money he wants to build more ships, planes, tanks, and nuclear weapons.

The Trump administration has yet to reveal precisely what it plans to spend all that new Pentagon money it’s requesting, but the president’s past statements offer some clues. He has called for building up the Navy from its current level of 272 ships to 350 or more. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the construction costs alone of such an effort would be $800 billion over the next three decades at an annual cost of $26.6 billion, which is 40% higher than the Navy’s present shipbuilding budget.

To put this in perspective, even before Trump’s proposed increases, the Navy was planning major expenditures on items like 12 new ballistic-missile-firing submarines at a development and building cost of more than $10 billion each. As for new surface ships, Trump wants to add two more aircraft carriers to the 10 already in active service. He made this clear in a speech on board the USS Gerald Ford, a new $13 billion carrier that, as with so much Pentagon weaponry, has been plagued with cost overruns and performance problems.

President Trump also wants to double down on the Pentagon’s preexisting program to spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years on a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, submarines, and land-based missiles. While that plan is politely referred to as a “modernization” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, it already essentially represents Washington’s bid to launch a new global arms race. So among a host of ill-considered plans for yet more expenditures, this one is a particular ringer, given that the United States already possesses massive nuclear overkill and that current nuclear delivery systems can last decades more with upgrades. To give all of this a sense of scale, two Air Force strategists determined that the United States needs just 311 nuclear warheads to dissuade any other country from ever attacking it with nuclear weapons. At 4,000 nuclear warheads, the current U.S. stockpile is already more than 13 times that figure – enough, that is, to destroy several planet Earths.

And don’t forget that Trump also wants to add tens of thousands more soldiers and Marines to the military’s ranks. By the most conservative estimate, the cost of equipping, training, paying, and deploying a single soldier annually is now close to $1 million (even leaving aside those future VA outlays), so every 10,000 additional troops means at least $10 billion more per year.

And don’t forget that the staggering potential costs already mentioned represent just the baseline for military spending – the costs President Trump will set in motion even if he doesn’t get us into a major war. Not that we’re not at war already. After all, he inherited no less than seven conflicts from Barack Obama: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Each of them involves a different mix of tools, including combat troops, trainers, Special Operations forces, conventional bombing, drone strikes, and the arming of surrogate forces – but conflicts they already are.

Based on his first 100-plus days in office, the real question isn’t whether Donald Trump will escalate these conflicts – he will – but how much more he will do. He’s already allowed his military commanders to “take the gloves off” by loosening the criteria for air attacks in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia, with an almost instant increase in civilian casualties as a result. He has also ceded to his commanders decision-making when it comes to how many troops to deploy in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, making it a reasonable probability that more U.S. personnel will be sent into action in the months and years to come.

It still seems unlikely that what must now be considered Trump’s wars will ever blow up into the kind of large-scale conflicts that the Bush administration sparked in Iraq. At the height of that disaster, more than 160,000 U.S. troops and a comparable number of U.S.-funded private contractors were deployed to Iraq (compared to 7,000 troops and more than 7,800 contractors there now). Nor does the talk of increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by 3,000 to 5,000 suggest that the 8,400 troops now there will ever be returned to the level of roughly 100,000 of the Obama “surge” era of 2010 and 2011.

But don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Given Trump’s pattern of erratic behavior so far – one week threatening a preemptive strike on North Korea and the next suggesting talks to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program – anything is possible. For example, there could still be a sharp uptick in U.S. military personnel sent into Iraq and Syria when his pledge to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS doesn’t vanquish the group.

And if we learned anything from the Iraq experience (aside from the fact that attempting to use military force to remake another country is a formula for a humanitarian and security disaster), it’s that politicians and military leaders routinely underestimate the costs of war. Before the invasion of Iraq, Bush officials were, for instance, citing figures as low as $50 billion for the entire upcoming operation, beginning to end. According to figures compiled by the Congressional Research Service, however, direct budgetary costs for the Iraq intervention have been at least 16 times larger than that – well over $800 billion – and still counting.

One decision that could drive Trump’s already expansive military spending plans through the roof would be an incident that escalated into a full-scale conflict with Iran. If the Trump team – a remarkable crew of Iranophobes – were to attack that country, there’s no telling where things might end, or how high the costs might mount. As analyst Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group has noted, a war with Iran could “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

So before Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style – in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.

 

Fury over ‘paedophile advice’ on US Arizona radio station

May 10, 2017

BBC News

An online petition has been launched by residents of the town of Benson in the US state of Arizona against a radio station which broadcast advice late at night on how to hide child pornography.

Statements aired by the station over a two-year period gave tips on how to disguise viewing such images.

The petition accuses the station of broadcasting “a sickening message”.

Cave 97.7 FM owner Paul Lotsof has publicly stated he disagrees with Arizona’s laws on child pornography.

He told News 4 Tucson that he had performed a public service by broadcasting the advice, which recently has been taken off air.

The messages urged people “always to use their external drive and hide it where nobody can find it” after watching child pornography online.

“Never keep paper pictures, tapes or films of naked juveniles where anybody else can find them,” the advice states.

Mr Lotsof argues that possession of child pornography should not be a crime.

“The difference is [that in] one case, you’re molesting children and abusing them, causing children to do things that are not natural for children to do, and [in] the other case, they’re just possessing pictures,” he told News 4 Tuscon.

“There’s no connection between those two.”

The petition on Change.org accuses Cave of broadcasting “a sickening message about a huge issue that plagues this country”.

“There is no excuse for this and [the station] needs to be shut down,” it states. “We can keep this garbage out of our community.”

The advice was broadcast under the format of a Public Service Announcement (PSA) – a way in which messages in the public interest are disseminated via the media in keeping with the US tradition of upholding the freedom of speech.

Federal Communication Commission officials told News 4 Tucson that there are no rules which clearly articulate what can or cannot be broadcast in relation to PSAs.

Police in Benson say they are investigating whether the station’s PSAs are in breach of the law.

“Freedom of speech does not include telling people to commit crimes and continuing to pass on this information could lead to judicial action being taken,” a police statement said.

“We are now seeking legal advice on actions that can be taken for the content that has already been released and to ensure this kind of information is not released again.”

Arizona has some of the toughest laws in the US on child abuse and exploitation. In 2003 a high school teacher was sentenced to 200 years in prison after he was caught with thousands of images of child abuse on his computer.

 

Common painkillers may raise risk of heart attack by 100% – study

Risk of myocardial infarction is greatest in first month of taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen if dose is high, say researchers

May 9, 2017

by Haroon Siddique

AP

Commonly prescribed painkillers including ibuprofen increase the likelihood of having a heart attack within the first month of taking them if consumed in high doses, a study suggests.

All five nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) examined could raise the risk as early as the first week of use, an international team of researchers found.

They concluded that there was a greater than 90% probability that all the NSAIDs they studied were associated with a heightened risk of heart attack.

The overall odds of having a heart attack were about 20% to 50% greater if using NSAIDs compared with not using the drugs, although it varied for the individual drugs assessed, which also included naproxen, diclofenac, celecoxib and rofecoxib.

As it was an observational study, cause and effect could not be established conclusively.

Nevertheless the authors, led by Michèle Bally of the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre, write: “Given that the onset of risk of acute myocardial infarction [heart attack) occurred in the first week and appeared greatest in the first month of treatment with higher doses, prescribers should consider weighing the risks and benefits of NSAIDs before instituting treatment, particularly for higher doses.”

Previous studies had suggested NSAIDs could increase the risk of heart damage but the authors said the timing, the effect of dose, the treatment duration and the comparative risk between different types were poorly understood.

For the paper, published in the BMJ on Tuesday, the researchers analysed results on 446,763 people on healthcare databases in countries including Canada, Finland and the UK, of whom 61,460 had a heart attack.

The results suggested that the risk of heart attack associated with NSAID use was greatest with higher doses and during the first month of use. With longer treatment duration, risk did not seem to continue to increase but as the researchers did not study repeat heart attacks, they advised that it remains prudent to use NSAIDs for as short a time as possible.

They said the potential increase in risk was 75% for ibuprofen and naproxen and more than 100% for rofecoxib but that uncertainty about the extent of the increased risk was greatest for ibuprofen and naproxen.

Dr Mike Knapton, an associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the study “worryingly highlights just how quickly you become at risk of having a heart attack after starting NSAIDs”.

“Whether you are being prescribed painkillers like ibuprofen, or buying them over the counter, people must be made aware of the risk and alternative medication should be considered where appropriate,” he said.

But the lack of absolute risks of heart attack – for people using NSAIDs and those who are not – in the paper, and the fact that the researchers were unable to exclude other possible influencing factors, led some independent commentators to conclude that it was difficult to assess its significance.

Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said it was “good quality, observational research”, but added: “This study suggests that even a few days’ use is associated with an increased risk, but it may not be as clear as the authors suggest. The two main issues here are that the risks are relatively small, and for most people who are not at high risk of a heart attack, these findings have minimal implications.”

He advised that it offered “no reason to induce anxiety in most users of these drugs”.

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “These drugs can be effective in providing short-term pain relief for some patients – what is important is that any decision to prescribe is based on a patient’s individual circumstances and medical history, and is regularly reviewed.”

About 190,000 people a year go to hospital due to heart attacks in the UK, according to the British Heart Foundation.

 

Journalist arrested for asking Trump cabinet member about healthcare bill

West Virginia police said Daniel Heyman was ‘yelling’ questions at Tom Price

ACLU says arrest is a ‘blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press’

May 10, 2017

AP

Charleston, West Verginia-Police said a journalist was arrested after yelling questions at US Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price during his visit to West Virginia.

The exchange came as Price and senior white House aide Kellyanne Conway visited the state capitol in Charleston on Tuesday to learn about efforts to fight opioid addiction in a state that has the nation’s highest overdose death rate.

Capital police said in a criminal complaint that Daniel Ralph Heyman, 54, was yelling questions at the two. It says he tried to breach Secret Service security and had to be removed from a hallway at the Capitol.

He was charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, a misdemeanor, and later was released on $5,000 bond.

Heyman, who works for Public News Service, said he was arrested after asking repeatedly whether domestic violence would be considered a pre-existing condition under the proposed health care overhaul.

Heyman said he’s been a journalist for three decades and has been with Public News Service since 2009. He said he believed he was doing nothing wrong.

“I’m not sure why, but at some point, I think they decided I was just too persistent in asking this question and trying to do my job and so they arrested me,” he said during a news conference that was posted on Facebook by the West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU chapter said in a statement that Heyman’s arrest “is a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press. The charges against him are outrageous, and they must be dropped immediately.”

The statement added the ACLU “stands ready to fight any attempt by the government to infringe upon our First Amendment rights. What President Trump’s administration is forgetting, and what the Capitol Police forgot today, is that the government works for us. Today was a dark day for democracy. But the rule of law will prevail. The First Amendment will prevail.”

According to its website, Public News Service, based in Boulder, Colorado, manages independent news services in 36 states, reporting on a variety of social, community, and environmental issues. No one at the service could be reached for comment early Wednesday.

 

More than 20 US states have cracked down on protests since Donald Trump’s election

Proposals ‘severely infringe upon freedom of expression’ warns United Nations

May 9, 2017

by Harriet Agerholm

The Independent/UK

More than 20 US states have proposed bills placing new restrictions on protests in the months since Donald Trump became President.

The potential laws included legislation creating stricter penalties for protesters who are arrested, and in some states, removing liability from drivers who accidentally injure protesters on the roads.

The United Nations (UN) said some of the proposals “would severely infringe upon the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly”. The legislation was incompatible with international human rights law, it warned.

It also said the legislation was part of a “worrying pattern”, adding that the proposals could have a “domino effect” on other states and lead to a general crackdown on demonstrations across America.

Under legislation in Missouri, wearing a mask or disguise while protesting would be a crime. In Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee and Florida there are proposed bills to toughen penalties for blocking roads or trespassing.

“Some of these bills are so egregious that you don’t need a law degree to conclude they’re unconstitutional,” Lee Rowland, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNN.

The election of Mr Trump in January triggered a spate of mass protests. Hundreds of thousands of Americans joined the women’s marches and a number of anti-Trump marches have taken place since.

 

Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on Russia: Reason vs Propaganda

May 10, 2017

by Benjamin Dova

Stripped of prolix discussions of troop strengths and various German military plans for operations against Soviet Russia , Operation “Barbarossa” comes down to whether or not it was a manifestation of growing megalomania on Hitler’s part or a legitimate preventive attack on a nation preparing to invade him. The initial military planning was considered to be a study of the nature of a war with the Soviet Union should such an event prove necessary. The first studies were instituted in July 1940 after the defeat of France and the expulsion of the British military from continental Europe. Parallel with the purely military studies was Hitler’s own political analysis of the relationship between Germany and Russia.

There is no question that Stalin was exerting pressure along his western borders and increasing the number of military units in these areas. In August of 1940, Stalin had a total of 151 infantry divisions, 32 cavalry divisions and 38 mechanized brigades available to him. Of these, 96 infantry divisions, 23 cavalry divisions and 28 mechanized brigades were available for use against Germany. By June 1941, as a result of an extensive mobilization of his military, Stalin had 118 infantry divisions, 20 cavalry divisions and 40 mechanized brigades in position on the Russo-German border with an additional 27 infantry divisions, 5 1/2 cavalry divisions and 1 mechanized brigade in reserve in European Russia.

The bulk of these units was in place to the north of the Pripyat marshes and the remainder to the south of this large natural barrier of swampy forest. Although German military intelligence had difficulties in obtaining exact figures of the Soviet buildup, there could be no question that such a massive increase in military forces was in progress. German Luftwaffe reconnaissance overflights, foreign diplomatic reports and increased Soviet military radio traffic all pointed to the heavy concentration of Russian forces.

The question is whether the Soviet troop concentrations were defensive or offensive in nature. Historians have argued that no proof of Soviet intentions to invade Germany have ever surfaced and a balanced view of the troop movements could well indicate that either purpose could be valid. There is the question of the placement of Soviet artillery units along the border. The Soviets used their artillery en masse as a preliminary to a major attack and the positioning of this artillery close to the German lines would tend to support the thesis that it was to be used to open an attack, not defend against one.

The positioning of armored and mechanized infantry units behind the artillery would be reasonable if these forces were intended to spearhead an attack. A defensive posture would have the artillery towards the rear areas of the Soviet forward units to bombard an advancing enemy. A defensive posture would also prohibit the massing of armored units so close to the front lines.They would be held much further back to strike at an enemy penetration with more freedom of movement. These are merely comments, not meant to be taken as proof of anything but a more important opinion is one given by General Franz Halder, Chief of Staff of the German Army at the inception of “Barbarossa.” Halder was a bitter enemy of Hitler, who eventually fired him, and in his postwar writings disparaged the Führer as a military commander.

In his book, Hitler as Military Leader published as Hitler als Feldherr in Munich, 1949 and subsequently translated as Hitler as War Lord  and published in England in 1950, Halder devotes considerable space to the “Barbarossa” operation and deserves to be quoted at some length.

“…the horizon in the East grew steadily darker. Russia was moving with ever-growing strength into the Baltic States, which had been conceded as her sphere of interest; on the Russo-German demarcation line there stood over a million Russian soldiers in full battle order with tanks and aircraft opposite a few German security formations sparsely stretched over wide sectors of the line; in the South-East, Russia had occupied Rumanian territory in Bessarabia and Bukovina. Moreover, she was showing herself unresponsive to Hitler’s political maneuvers. The last attempt to gain her as a partner in the division of the world according to Hitler’s plans had foundered at a two-day meeting with Molotov in the middle of November 1940. Hitler the Politician has come to the end of his devices.

In December 1940, he issued his order to the three services – the “Barbarossa” Order – to make military preparations for an attack on Russia against the possibility of Russo-German relations undergoing a fundamental change. It was a prepatory measure, no decision had then been taken. One must admit the politician’s right to delay taking the final decision until the last moment. Precisely when Hitler did take it, can probably no longer be established. Statements, speeches and orders with which he prepared the machine, both materially and psychologically, in case it should be required, cannot be regarded as meaning anything with this master of duplicity. It can be assumed, however, that it was not taken until after the quick successes of the Balkan campaign, in the course of which Russia’s hostility towards Hitler had been unmistakably revealed.

The decision for the attack on Russia came anything but easily to Hitler. His mind was occupied with the warnings of his military advisers; the shadow of Napoleon, with whom he liked to hear himself compared, lay across the mysterious spaces of that country. On the other hand, he had a firm and not unfounded conviction that Russia was arming for an attack on Germany. Today we know from good sources that he was right. Russia would naturally choose a moment for the attack when Germany was in a position least favorable to herself…in other words when the West was once again ready for action. The war on two fronts, which the army general staff memorandum had forecast as long ago as 1938, would then be a fact.”

Halder certainly was in a position to know the facts, many of which were found by German units after the invasion and the rout of Soviet forces, but as a severe critic of Hitler, Halder’s comments which reflect on the necessity for military action on Hitler’s part are far more valid than some apology written by one of Hitler’s supporters.

The partisan warfare that raged behind German lines during the campaign, was savage in the extreme. Neither side showed any quarter and the Soviets specialized in invading a peaceful area, committing acts against the German rear area and leaving their fellow countrymen to bear the brunt of reprisals

 

 

 

 

 

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