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TBR News April 10, 2018

Apr 10 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. April 10, 2018: “There is an official file on Donald Trump floating around social Washington these days that should have been printed on asbestos it is so inflammatory.

It seems the Bureau was investigating Trump, his family and connections long before he decided to buy the presidency from Facebook so this cannot be credited to Hillary or Bernie. After all, the FBI is mandated by law to investigate certain federal crimes and that is exactly what they were doing.

Trump learned of this and as soon as he became President, he sacked the head of the FBI and threatened them with extinction if the file, or any reference to it, emerged in public.

It has, but to a limited audience.

When asked if I would like a copy, I declined.

To know what is in the report is one thing but to have it in my possession and, worse, to publish it, would hardly be wise.

But that it ought to be disseminated is without question.

Trump and his people are such that it is easy to see why the FBI would want to prosecute them and the CIA would warm to them.

One of my informants, who had read the file, said that it was like Al Capone getting into the Oval Office.

There are those who can make it public but I would much rather sit back and watch the fun.

And I just sold all my Facebook shares because I know what is coming.”

Table of Contents

  • Trump poised for clash with justice department amid fears he’ll fire Mueller
  • Trump Says Assad Will ‘pay a Price’ – But It Won’t Make a Difference
  • White House meltdown on full display
  • Trump decries ‘attack on our country’ after FBI raids his lawyer’s office
  • Trump’s homeland security adviser Bossert resigns
  • Has the War Party Hooked Trump?
  • Donald Trump’s Russian connections
  • What Happens When a Few Volunteer and the Rest Just Watch
  • Secrecy News

 

Trump poised for clash with justice department amid fears he’ll fire Mueller

After raid on office of Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, White House says president ‘believes he has the power’ to fire special counsel

March 10, 2018

by Tom McCarthy in New York and Ben Jacobs in Washington

The Guardian

With fellow Republicans urging restraint, Donald Trump remained on a collision course with his own justice department on Tuesday, a day after federal agents raided the office of his personal lawyer and longtime lieutenant, Michael Cohen.

The raid, which Trump appeared to take as an unprecedented threat against his inner circle, stoked concerns anew that the president would move to dismiss Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian election interference and alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“He certainly believes he has the power to do so,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters at the White House on Tuesday, adding: “The president has been clear that it’s gone too far.”

Mueller’s team provided information to prosecutors in New York that in part prompted them to move against Cohen, a lawyer for Cohen said.

Trump woke up on Tuesday with a full-throated condemnation of the Cohen raid, tweeting: “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” and complaining of “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!”

But a growing chorus of concern that Trump would dismiss Mueller, which would probably require the dismantling of an entire tier of justice department leadership and thereby unleash a crisis of unknown proportions, was noticeably joined on Tuesday by top elected Republicans.

“It’s still my view that Mueller should be allowed to finish his job,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told the Guardian, on Capitol Hill. “I think that’s the view of most people in Congress. And it remains my view that I don’t think he’s going to be removed from this office. He shouldn’t be removed from the office. He should be allowed to finish his job.”

The Iowa senator Charles Grassley told Fox Business Network: “It would be suicide for the president to want to talk about firing Mueller. The less the president said on this whole thing, the better off he would be.”

With fallout from the Cohen raid gaining pace, multiple crises blossomed. Trump canceled a trip to Peru and the Summit of the Americas, ostensibly in deference to escalating tensions over the Syria chemical weapons attack. Then his respected homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, followed the national security council spokesman Michael Anton in resigning, after a reported clash with the controversial new national security adviser, John Bolton.

The fired FBI director James Comey, meanwhile, is preparing to publish a book next week, potentially publicizing some of the most sensitive moments of the Trump-Russia investigation and eviscerating the president’s character.

In an Oval Office appearance with the emir of Qatar, Trump ignored shouted questions about Mueller and the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who reportedly approved the raid on Cohen’s office.

But the raid seemed to touch Trump more personally than any other pressure bearing down on the White House. His tweet about “attorney–client privilege” was in response to reports FBI agents seized documents including his correspondence with Cohen. Federal prosecutors overseeing the raid would have been careful to act in accordance with directions in the US attorneys’ manual for seizing documents from legal offices, former prosecutors said.

For more than a decade, Cohen has worked as a fixer, dealmaker and lawyer for Trump, handling matters ranging from prospective real estate deals in Russia to a $130,000 payment shortly before the 2016 election to the pornographic film actor Stormy Daniels. Daniels was preparing at the time to go public with the story of a relationship with Trump, which the president and Cohen have sought to discredit.

Documents relating to the Daniels payment were among the materials seized from Cohen’s office, according to multiple reports. Investigators may be examining whether payments to Daniels and another woman who claims to have had a sexual relationship with Trump, the former Playboy model Karen McDougal, violated campaign finance laws.

Cohen has said he personally “facilitated” the payment to Daniels and denied the payment was related to the 2016 presidential campaign.

At the White House briefing, Sanders was asked if Cohen still worked for Trump. “I’m not sure,” she said. “I’d refer you to Michael Cohen on that.”

FBI agents in July 2017 raided the home of the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Investigators have also questioned Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

In a conspiratorial diatribe delivered on Monday night at the White House, Trump declared the Cohen raid “an attack on our country in a true sense” and replied to a question about firing Mueller.

“Many people have said, ‘You should fire him’,” said the president, who has long entertained the idea and reportedly only backed down from carrying it out last summer when the White House counsel threatened to resign. “Again, they found nothing.

“One of the things they said: ‘I fired Comey.’ Well, I turned out to do the right thing, because if you look at all of the things that he’s done and the lies, and you look at what’s gone on at the FBI with the insurance policy and all of the things that happened – turned out I did the right thing.”

Mueller’s investigation has produced indictments of or pleas from 19 individuals, as well as three companies based in Russia. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and Manafort deputy Rick Gates have entered guilty pleas. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to financial charges.

The Cohen raid would have required the assent of top officials in the southern district of New York, according to analysts, as well as the assessment of a federal judge that sufficient evidence had been collected to justify a home invasion.

The former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sarah Sanders’ father, nevertheless branded the raid a “coup d’état”.

Thom Tillis, a Republican senator from North Carolina who has co-authored legislation to protect Mueller, echoed Grassley’s warning against firing the special counsel. He suggested to CNN, however, that Trump’s outburst was business as usual.

“Thematically,” Tillis said, “he has said similar things before.”

What are the dangers for Trump from the Russia investigations?

The 2020 election

The most likely price Trump would pay, if he were perceived guilty of wrongdoing, would be a 2020 re-election loss. He can’t afford to lose many supporters and expect to remain in office. Any disillusionment stemming from the Russian affair could make the difference. His average approval rating has hung in the mid-to-upper 30s. Every president to win re-election since the second world war did so with an approval rating in the 49%-50% range or better.

Congress

As long as Republicans are in charge, Trump is not likely to face impeachment proceedings or to be removed from office. A two-thirds majority in the Senate is required to remove a president from office through impeachment.

Public opinion

If public opinion swings precipitously against the president, however, his grip on power could slip. At some point, Republicans in Congress may, if their constituents will it, turn on Trump.

Criminal charges

Apart from impeachment, Trump could, perhaps, face criminal charges, which would (theoretically) play out in the court system as opposed to Congress. But it’s a matter of debate among scholars and prosecutors whether Trump, as a sitting president, may be prosecuted in this way.

Other

Robert Mueller is believed to have Trump’s tax returns, and to be looking at the Trump Organization as well as Jared Kushner’s real estate company. It’s possible that wrongdoing unrelated to the election could be uncovered and make trouble for Trump. The president, and Kushner, deny wrongdoing.

 

 

Trump Says Assad Will ‘pay a Price’ – But It Won’t Make a Difference

April 9, 2018

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent/UK

The crises in the Middle East are beginning to join up and cross-infect each other. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at Syria’s T4 military airbase east of Homs early on Monday, just as other Israeli jets were making attacks on Gaza. President Donald Trump must decide whether or not he will order air strikes targeting Syrian government forces as a punishment for the alleged dropping of bombs filled with chlorine gas on a rebel-held part of the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta that killed at least 40 civilians on Saturday night.

Trump will have difficulty not doing something impressive after denouncing “Animal Assad” and promising that the Syrian leader would “pay a price” for the gas attack. Trump has also denounced President Barak Obama for his timidity in his use of US military strength against President Bashar al-Assad, so the US may do something spectacular.

What is more doubtful is whether or not US air strikes will have much impact in the long term. In many respects, the political situation on the ground in Syria has gelled as Assad asserts his control over most of populated Syria. The last rebels are being evacuated from Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. Syrian troops and tanks are reported to be massing to overrun an Isis held stronghold in the south of the capital.

Syria is being divided into three zones of unequal size: Assad backed by Russia and Iran in much of the country; Sunni Arab factions backed by Turkey in Idlib, newly captured Afrin and territory north of Aleppo; and in the north and east, a large triangle of land east of the Euphrates held by the Kurds supported by 2,000 US troops able to call in massive air power. Even heavy US air strikes on a one-off basis will not significantly change this balance of power.

It remains mysterious why Assad should provoke the US and Europeans just at his moment of victory in Damascus and when the rebels are on the point of surrender or have already done so. Remarkably, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, says that Russian experts were able to enter the hospital in Douma where the chemical attack occurred – something which suggests the city has fallen – and interview eyewitnesses. He said: “Our military specialists have visited this place … and they did not find any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians.” But the US state Department has said that Syrian forces are denying entry to international inspectors.

Just because a poison gas attack at this stage would be an extremely stupid thing for the Syrian government to do, however, does not mean that they did not do it. As with many other atrocities in the Syrian war, there is always a residue of doubt about what really happened because of the lack of independent non-partisan reporting and investigation.

Trump is finding that there are limits to US power in Syria, which primarily depends on launching air strikes while the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) act as a mopping up force on the ground. But after the fall of their enclave at Afrin, the Kurds are mobilising to hold back the Turkish army and its Arab auxiliaries, many of them jihadis. In the long term, the Kurds are looking for a deal with Assad and have no intention of fighting him. In general, Trump’s instinct to get out of Syria is a sound one, and the interventionist ambitions of the Washington foreign policy establishment depend heavily on wishful thinking.

What makes the present situation potentially even more dangerous than it looks is the presence of various wild cards. Trump is clearly at odds with the Pentagon over a US military withdrawal from Syria, once Isis is finally eliminated. Nobody knows the final shape of US policy or whether it will finally take a concrete shape or remain fluid.

Washington could become more aggressive as the new national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo take office. But the swift demise of their predecessors may argue that these super-hawks will have less leeway to exert their influence than they had hope and others feared.As for Israel, the latest crisis in Syria comes as a useful diversion from the escalating crisis in Gaza, but the latter is not going to go away. The two Israeli F-15s fired their missiles at T4 airbase from inside Lebanese airspace, showing a degree of caution. As Assad becomes stronger and gains control of more and more of Syria, Israel will want to flex its military muscles but this does not necessarily mean that Israel wants to fight a war with Syria or Hezbollah, despite the belligerent rhetoric on all sides.

As we get closer to 12 May – when Trump has to decide if he will effectively pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – different crises contribute to raising the political temperature in the region. In a situation as complex as this, no country may want a wider war, but they could easily stumble into one.

 

White House meltdown on full display

March 2, 2018

by Kevin Liptak, CNN White House Producer

CNN

Washington (CNN) — The tumult of the past week has fueled a deep and seething anger within President Donald Trump — not an uncommon emotion for the insolent commander in chief — but one that allies and aides say has escalated as he faces a new gauntlet of problems, including the encroaching Russia investigation.

His soothing communications guru is leaving. His obstinate attorney general has turned openly defiant. His son-in-law and senior adviser was stripped of his security clearance at the behest of his chief of staff. His Cabinet secretaries keep spending an inordinate amount of taxpayer dollars on luxuries. His most loyal allies in Congress describe his meetings as “surreal.”

Allies of Trump’s on Capitol Hill and elsewhere describe a sense of “meltdown” at the White House as the series of unfortunate events unfold. The President, they say, wants to take action to turn the page.

Morale in the West Wing, already diminished following the domestic abuse scandal involving Trump’s former staff secretary, has taken a downward turn, people inside and outside the building say. Staff departures are being announced on a near-daily basis as aides become fed up with the constant swirl of tension.

And policy announcements that would fulfill Trump’s campaign promises — including a long-awaited decision on steel and aluminum tariffs, gun control measures and an elusive immigration fix — have been caught up in the swirl of uncertainty, leading to questions on how Trump will be able to govern amid the chaos.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, chief of staff John Kelly was taciturn but upbeat when asked about the mood inside the White House.

“I think pretty good,” he said. “Too much work, too hard. We’re all doing the Lord’s work though.”

Others are less glowing.

“The morale is terrible,” Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived former communications director, said Thursday morning on CNN. “The reason why the morale is terrible is that the rule by fear and intimidation does not work in a civilian environment.”

“People are afraid to talk to each other,” he said.

Inside the White House

Inside the White House, aides identify the scandal involving Rob Porter, the staff secretary who departed after being accused of domestic abuse allegations, as the impetus for the latest devolvement in esteem. At the time of his departure, Porter was dating Hope Hicks, the communications director who announced her resignation on Wednesday.

Hicks’ departure was weeks in the making, people familiar with the decision said. But it was nevertheless a shock announcement from the aide perhaps closest to the President.

“Trump can’t function without her. She is that important,” a source close to the White House said.

Advisers wonder now who will step into the role of presidential whisperer — a job ever more important as stumbling blocks continue to arise, including the mounting stack of indictments in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Trump continues to describe the probe as a “witch hunt,” and steams over the issue regularly. His anger is bolstered by the deep sense of uncertainty surrounding who will be caught up next. Mueller’s team has operated largely leak-free, and much of the news from his office has caught the White House off-guard.

The Porter episode also led to scrutiny over the system of security clearances and questions over accountability at top staff levels. It launched John Kelly’s crackdown on interim security clearances, which last week ensnared Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, along with dozens of other White House officials.

The move only heightened the existing friction between Kelly and Trump’s children, who have seen their access to the President restricted under a new system of rigor. Kushner has continued in his role, focusing on domestic issues like prison reform and planning for upcoming political races. Trump has told aides he wants Kushner to remain focused on the Middle East.

But the President has grown upset at the perception his son-in-law is somehow in trouble, and has complained to people around him how Kelly can’t seem to stop making enemies.

Trump-Sessions feud

Kelly isn’t the only underling in Trump’s sights. The President was fuming Wednesday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions publicly pushed back against him in a rare but pointed statement defending the Justice Department. Sessions’ pushback came after Trump called him “DISGRACEFUL” in a Twitter post.

A source familiar with his demeanor described Trump as indignant. Trump didn’t respond to shouted questions about Sessions at the White House on Thursday. Later, when she was asked whether Trump wanted to dismiss his attorney general, press secretary Sarah Sanders only said: “Not that I know of.”

The sense of an administration at odds was fueled by another Cabinet secretary coming under public scrutiny — this time Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson. Senior White House aides are furious about a series of negative stories about frivolous spending at Carson’s agency and have taken a more hands-on role in trying to stem the tide of negative news, sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN.

The decision to assert more control came a day after reports that the former chief administrative officer at HUD filed a complaint saying she was demoted after refusing to spend more than was legally allowed to redecorate Carson’s new office. HUD also spent $31,000 last year to replace a dining room set in Carson’s office, according to federal records and a whistleblower. Carson has now said he wants to cancel the order.

It was the latest example of a spending indiscretion by one of Trump’s Cabinet officials — incidents that have enraged the President. He fired Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for excessive use of private and government air travel over the summer. But since then, the travel habits of a number of Cabinet-level officials have come into question.

Trump has vented to aides that there’s nothing he detests more than displays of wasteful spending. But firing top-level officials, he’s speculated, would only deepen the impression his administration is in chaos.

Instead, Trump is encouraging his team to develop policy announcements that could help distract from the ongoing ruckus. On Thursday he was eager to announce protectionist measures to buffer the US steel and aluminum industries from foreign imports — fulfilling a key campaign promise on which he’s fixated over the past year.

The only problem: the policy he wanted to roll out isn’t ready yet, two White House officials said. Aides were sent scrambling late Wednesday to determine what exactly Trump could announce during a meeting with industry executives that was hastily assembled for Thursday morning.

Initially the meeting was closed to the press. But Trump called in reporters at the last minute to announce he was imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum “probably” next week.

“It’s being written now,” Trump said.

CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Kaitlan Collins, Tal Kopan, Jamie Gangel, Gloria Borger and Pamela Brown contributed to this report.

 

Trump decries ‘attack on our country’ after FBI raids his lawyer’s office

Agents seize records and communication between Michael Cohen and president, prompting extraordinary scene at White House

April 10, 2018

by Tom McCarthy in New York

The Guardian

Donald Trump declared an “attack on our country in a true sense” was under way after FBI agents conducted a raid on the office of his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, on Monday.

The raid was carried out after a referral from the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to New York-based federal prosecutors, a lawyer for Cohen said. It was not clear that the raid related to Mueller’s investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Yet in an extraordinary scene inside the White House late on Monday, Trump connected those dots and more, saying the raid represented part of an ongoing attack on him engineered, he said, by “the most biased group of people” with “the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen”.

He called it “an attack on our country in a true sense. It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

Unusually affronted by the move against a member of his inner circle, it seemed, Trump described the raid as an extension of a conspiracy against him that had “started right after I won the nomination”.

“It’s a disgraceful situation, it’s a total witch-hunt, I’ve been saying it for a long time,” Trump said. Mueller’s investigation so far has produced 19 indictments or guilty pleas.

Monday’s raid led to the seizure of records including communications between Cohen and Trump, Cohen’s lawyer said in a statement.

Also seized were documents relating to a $130,000 payment Cohen has admitted making to the porn actor Stormy Daniels, according to the New York Times, which first reported the raid. Daniels is in a protracted legal battle with Trump to tell the story of their alleged relationship.

Agents also raided a home and hotel room used by Cohen, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Stephen Ryan, a lawyer for Cohen, released a statement that said: “Today the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients.” He did not name Trump.

A message left on Monday afternoon at Ryan’s firm was not returned.

Trump said the raid on Cohen “really is now in a whole new level of unfairness”, but he did not respond directly to questions of whether he would seek to have Mueller dismissed.

“I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on,” Trump said. “We’ll see what happens … Many people have said you should fire him.”

Mueller’s referral may indicate his team’s inquiry uncovered evidence of potential crimes falling outside the focus of their investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Or the referral may have been made simply because the New York prosecutors were better positioned to carry out the raid, explained Neal Katyal, a supreme court lawyer who wrote the special counsel regulations, on Twitter.

The recommendation for prosecutors in Manhattan to handle the raid – as opposed to Mueller – was made by the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation, Bloomberg reported. Rosenstein has occasionally attracted Trump’s ire for his handling of the investigation.

The president was following news coverage of the raid closely, CNN reported. Cohen is closer to Trump’s inner circle than anyone previously to have such a sharp brush with prosecutors, although Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been interviewed by Mueller’s team, and Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, has been interviewed by congressional investigators.

Cohen said the payment to Daniels was “facilitated” by him personally and was not made on behalf of the Trump campaign. A watchdog group has brought a lawsuit alleging that the payment to Daniels was in fact an illegal campaign contribution.

“The decision by the US attorney’s office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” said Ryan in his statement. He said Cohen had cooperated fully with government prosecutors.

Prosecutors connected with Mueller have previously obtained email correspondence and other documents tied to Cohen, who has worked closely with Trump for more than a decade on particularly sensitive matters.

Those matters included Trump’s alleged relationship with Daniels, in which a large payment was made on the eve of the 2016 election as she was preparing to go public with her story of an affair with Trump; and efforts to build a Trump tower in Moscow.

Cohen was interviewed privately in October 2017 by members of the House intelligence committee, which has since shuttered its investigation of the Russia affair.

The FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid of the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s Virginia home in July 2017. Manafort has been charged with multiple crimes including money laundering and bank fraud, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted two short messages: “Attorney–client privilege is dead!” and “A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!”

 

Trump’s homeland security adviser Bossert resigns

April 10, 2018

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, has resigned, the president’s spokeswoman said on Tuesday, in the latest departure from the White House of a senior adviser.

An administration official said Bossert, a former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush, had left at the request of Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, who began working in his post at the White House on Monday.

“The president is grateful for Tom’s commitment to the safety and security of our great country,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

“Tom led the White House’s efforts to protect the homeland from terrorist threats, strengthen our cyber defenses, and respond to an unprecedented series of natural disasters,” Sanders said.

Bolton’s arrival at the White House also prompted the departure of Trump’s national security council spokesman, Michael Anton.

Bossert joins a long list of other senior officials who have resigned or been fired since Trump took office in January 2017, including previous national security advisers Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, communications directors Hope Hicks and Anthony Scaramucci, economic adviser Gary Cohn and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, health Secretary Tom Price and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin have also left.

Bossert oversaw the administration’s work on cyber security issues and was considered a key voice for responding more aggressively to destructive cyber attacks launched by hostile adversaries, including Russia, Iran and North Korea.

He helped guide the administration’s decisions in recent months to blame and impose costs on each of those countries in an effort to create a more forceful cyber deterrence strategy.

Bossert was generally well respected by cyber security experts, who viewed him as a knowledgeable voice in the room.

Rob Joyce, the White House’s cyber security czar, who reported to Bossert, is still working in the administration, a White House official said.

Reporting by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton, and Dustin Volz; editing by Jonathan Oatis

 

Has the War Party Hooked Trump?

April 10, 2018

by Patrick J. Buchanan

AntiWar

With his Sunday tweet that Bashar Assad, “Animal Assad,” ordered a gas attack on Syrian civilians, and Vladimir Putin was morally complicit in the atrocity, President Donald Trump just painted himself and us into a corner.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” tweeted Trump, “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price… to pay.”

“Big price… to pay,” said the president.

Now, either Trump launches an attack that could drag us deeper into a seven-year civil war from which he promised to extricate us last week, or Trump is mocked as being a man of bluster and bluff.

For Trump Sunday accused Barack Obama of being a weakling for failing to strike Syria after an earlier chemical attack.

“If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand,” Trump tweeted, “the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!”

Trump’s credibility is now on the line and he is being goaded by the war hawks to man up. Sunday, John McCain implied that Trump’s comments about leaving Syria “very soon” actually “emboldened” Assad:

“President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria. Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women and children, this time in Douma.”

Pronouncing Assad a “war criminal,” Lindsey Graham said Sunday the entire Syrian air force should be destroyed.

So massive an attack would be an act of war against a nation that has not attacked us and does not threaten us. Hence, Congress, prior to such an attack, should pass a resolution authorizing a U.S. war on Syria.

And, as Congress does, it can debate our objectives in this new war, and how many men, casualties and years will be required to defeat the coalition of Syria, Russia, Hezbollah, Iran, and the allied Shiite militias from the Near East.

On John Bolton’s first day as national security adviser, Trump is being pushed to embrace a policy of Cold War confrontation with Russia and a U.S. war with Syria. Yet candidate Trump campaigned against both.

The War Party that was repudiated in 2016 appears to be back in the saddle. But before he makes good on that threat of a “big price… to pay,” Trump should ask his advisers what comes after the attack on Syria.

Lest we forget, there was a reason Obama did not strike Syria for a previous gas attack. Americans rose up as one and said we do not want another Middle East war.

When John Kerry went to Capitol Hill for authorization, Congress, sensing the national mood, declined to support any such attack.

Trump’s strike, a year ago, with 59 cruise missiles, on the air base that allegedly launched a sarin gas attack, was supported only because Trump was new in office and the strike was not seen as the beginning of a longer and deeper involvement in a war Americans did not want to fight.

Does Trump believe that his political base is more up for a major U.S. war in Syria today than it was then?

The folks who cheered Trump a week ago when he said we were getting out of Syria, will they cheer him if he announces that we are going deeper in?

Before any U.S. attack, Trump should make sure there is more hard evidence that Assad launched this poison gas attack than there is that Russia launched that poison gas attack in Salisbury, England.

One month after that attack, which Prime Minister Theresa May ascribed to Russia and Foreign Minister Boris Johnson laid at the feet of Putin himself, questions have arisen:

If the nerve agent used, Novichok, was of a military variety so deadly it could kill any who came near, why is no one dead from it?

Both the target, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia are recovering.

If the deadly poison was, as reported, put on the doorknob of Skripal’s home, how did he and Yulia manage to go to a restaurant after being contaminated, with neither undergoing a seizure until later on a park bench?

If Russia did it, why are the British scientists at Porton Down now admitting that they have not yet determined the source of the poison?

Why would Putin, with the prestige of hosting the World Cup in June on the line, perpetrate an atrocity that might have killed hundreds and caused nations not only to pull out of the games, but to break diplomatic relations with Russia?

U.S. foreign policy elites claim Putin wanted Trump to win the 2016 election. But if Putin indeed wanted to deal with Trump, why abort all such prospects with a poison gas murder of a has-been KGB agent in Britain, America’s foremost ally?

The sole beneficiaries of the gas attacks in Salisbury and Syria appear to be the War Party.

 

Donald Trump’s Russian connections

Отчет, представленный министру Колокольцеву

Report submitted to Minister Kolokoltsev

            Translation

The KGB had opened a file on Donald Trump in 1977, the year when Mr.Trump married Ivana Zelníčková, then a twenty-eight-year-old model from Czechoslovakia. Zelníčková was a citizen of a communist country. She was therefore of interest both to the Czech intelligence service, the StB, and to the FBI and CIA.

Zelníčková was born in Zlin, a town in Moravia. In the early 1970s she moved to Canada, first to Toronto and then to Montreal, to be with a ski instructor boyfriend. Exiting Czechoslovakia during this period was, the files said, “incredibly difficult.” Zelníčková moved to New York. In April 1977 she married Mr.Trump. Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992

According to intelligence files, both in Moscow and in Prague, Czech intelligence agents kept the Trumps under close surveillance in Manhattan. The agents who undertook this task were code-named Al Jarza and Lubos. They opened letters sent home by Ivana to her father, Milos, an engineer. Milos Zelníčková had a functional relationship with the Czech secret police, who would ask him how his daughter was doing abroad and in return permit her visits home. There was continuing surveillance of the Trump family in the United States. At her request, and by her father’s insistence, Ivana and Donald Trump, Jr., visited Milos in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic,

As was the custom, the Czechs shared their intelligence product with their counterparts in Moscow, the KGB. Mr.Trump was of interest to Soviet intelligence for several reasons. In the first instance his wife came from a country under Soviet control and secondly during the perestroika period Trump was considered to be a good potential source as he was known to be a prominent real estate leader.  In the Czech intelligence files, communications from Ivana to her father mentioned her husband’s growing interest in politics. It was at this point that it appeared that Mr.Trump might embark on a political career and, if successful, be a first class intelligence asset.

Therefore, Mr. Trump was in an active file of the KGB and regarded as a highly potential agent/informant and, possibly to become a full KGB agent.

Through the offices of his wife, Mr.Trump was encouraged to consider the Soviets as a good business connection. The relationship would be known as an important “confidential contact.” doveritelnaya svyaz. доверительные отношения  (Trust relationship)

Trump biography

Donald John Trump (June 14, 1946)

He is of German/Scottish origin. One of his German relatives was an Arnold Trumpf, b, 27 October 1892 in Gifhorn and died 7, January 1985 in Garmish-Partenkirchen. Trumpf was a member of the Nazi party number 389 920 from 1 December 1930. He was a member of the SS Race and Settlement Office as an SS-Oberführer

Trump was born and grew up in New York City. He received a degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Trump took over running his family’s real estate business in 1971, renamed it The Trump Organization, and expanded it to involve constructing and renovating skyscrapers, hotels, casinos, and golf courses. He also started various side ventures, including branding and licensing his name for real estate and luxury consumer products.

He managed the company until his 2017 inauguration as President of the United States.

Trump also gained prominence in the media and entertainment fields. He co-authored several books, and from 2003 to 2015 he was a producer and the host of The Apprentice, a reality television game show.

Trump owned the Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015. According to the American financial Forbes magazine, he was the world’s 544th richest person as of May 2017, with an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion.

In 1977, Trump married his first wife, Czech model Ivana Zelníčková. They had three children: Donald Jr. (b. 1977), Ivanka (b. 1981), and Eric (b. 1984). Ivana became a naturalized United States citizen in 1988. The couple divorced in 1992, following Trump’s affair with actress Marla Maples.

In October 1993, Maples gave birth to Trump’s daughter, who was named Tiffany after the upper-class Tiffany & Company. Maples and Trump were married two months later in December 1993. They divorced in 1999, and Tiffany was raised by Marla in California.

In 2005, Trump married his third wife, Slovenian model Melania Knauss, at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida. Her original name was Melanija Knavs, born on April 26, 1970 at Novo Mesto, SR Slovenia, SFR Yugoslavia

In 2006, Melania became a United States citizen and gave birth to a son, March 20, 2006, Barron William Trump. Melania and Barron moved to the White House on June 11, 2017,

Trump has never filed for personal bankruptcy, but his hotel and casino businesses were declared bankrupt six times between 1991 and 2009 in order to re-negotiate debt with banks and owners of stock and bonds. Because the businesses used Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they were allowed to operate while negotiations proceeded.

Mr. Trump was quoted by Newsweek magazine in 2011 saying, “I do play with the bankruptcy laws – they’re very good for me” as a tool for trimming debt.

The six bankruptcies were the result of over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City and New York: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino (1992), Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Castle Hotel and Casino (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009).

As president, Trump has frequently made false statements in public speeches and remarks. Trump uttered “at least one false or misleading claim per day on 91 of his first 99 days” in office according to The New York Times, and 1,318 total in his first 263 days in office. The Washington Post, also wrote, “President Trump is the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered… the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements means that we cannot possibly keep up.”

Mr. Trump has a history of making racially-charged statements and taking actions perceived as racially motivated.

In 1975, Mr. Trump settled a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1973 alleging housing discrimination against black renters. In 1989, he was accused of racism for insisting that a group of black and Latino teenagers were guilty of raping a white woman in the Central Park jogger case even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence.

He continued to maintain this position as late as 2016.

Mr.Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech in which he described Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.

One of Mr.Trump’s campaign managers, Paul Manafort, had worked for several years to help pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovich win the Ukrainian presidency.

Other Trump associates, including former National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn and political consultant Roger Stone, have been connected to Russian officials. Russian agents were overheard during the campaign saying they could use Manafort and Flynn to influence Trump.

Members of Mr.Trump’s campaign and later his White House staff, particularly Flynn, were in contact with Russian officials both before and after the November election In a December 29, 2016 conversation, Flynn and Kislyak discussed the recently imposed sanctions against Russia; Mr.Trump later fired Flynn for falsely claiming he had not discussed the sanctions.

Donald Trump has pursued business deals in Russia since 1987, and has sometimes traveled there to explore potential business opportunities. In 1996, Trump trademark applications were submitted for potential Russian real estate development deals. Mr.Trump’s partners and children have repeatedly visited Moscow, connecting with developers and government officials to explore joint venture opportunities. Mr.Trump was never able to successfully conclude any real estate deals in Russia. However, individual Russians have invested heavily in Trump properties, and following Mr.Trump’s bankruptcies in the 1990s he borrowed money from Russian sources. In 2008 his son Donald Trump Jr. said that Russia was an important source of money for the Trump businesses.

In 1996 Mr.Trump partnered with Liggett-Ducat, a small company, and planned to build an upscale residential development on a Liggett-Ducat property in Moscow. Trump commissioned New York architect Ted Liebman, who did the sketches.

In 1987 Mr.Trump visited Russia to investigate developing a hotel

In Russia, Mr.Trump promoted the proposal and acclaimed the Russian economic market. At a news conference reported by The Moscow Times, Mr.Trump said he hadn’t been “as impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow” in contrast to other cities had visited “all over the world.

By this time, Mr.Trump made known his desire to build in Moscow to government officials for almost ten years ranging from the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (they first met in Washington in 1987) to the military figure Alexander Lebed.

Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, showed Trump plans for a very large shopping mall to be located underground in the vicinity of the Kremlin. The mayor complimented Mr.Trump’s suggestion that this mall should have access to the Moscow Metro, and it was eventually connected to the Okhotny Ryad station. Although the 1996 residential development did not happen, Mr.Trump was by this time well known in Russia.

Between 2000–2010, Mr.Trump entered into a partnership with a development company headquartered in New York represented by a Russian immigrant, Felix Sater. During this period, they partnered for an assortment of deals that included building Trump towers internationally and Russia was included. For example, in 2005 Slater acted as an agent for building a Trump tower alongside Moscow River with letters of intent in hand and “square footage was being analyzed.”

In 2006, Mr.Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka stayed in the Hotel National, Moscow for several days, across from the Kremlin, to interview prospective partners, with the intention of formulating real estate development projects.

Sater had also traveled to Moscow with Mr. Trump, his wife Ivanka and son Donald Jr.

Mr. Trump was associated with Tevfik Arif, formerly a Soviet commerce official and founder of a development company called the Bayrock Group, of which Sater was also a partner.

Bayrock searched for deals in Russia while Trump Towers company were attempting to further expand in the United States. Mr. Sater said, “We looked at some very, very large properties in Russia,” on the scale of “…a large Vegas high-rise.”

In 2007, Bayrock organized a potential deal in Moscow between Trump International Hotel and Russian investors

During 2006–2008 Mr.Trump’s company applied for a number of trademarks in Russia with the goal of real estate developments. These trademark applications include: Trump, Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and Trump Home.

In 2008, Mr. Trump spoke at a Manhattan real estate conference, stating that he he really prefered Moscow over all cities in the world and that within 18 months he had been in Russia a half-dozen times.

Mr.Trump had received large and undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products such as wine, ties, or mattresses, which would not have been identified as coming from Russian sources in the tax returns

A secret KGB memo under date of February 1, 1984 concerned the necessity of making an expanded use of the facilities of cooperating foreign intelligence services—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German intelligence networks.

The most revealing section concerned kompromat.

The document specifically requested any compromising information about Donald Trump, including illegal acts in financial and commercial affairs, intrigues, speculation, bribes, graft … and exploitation of his position to enrich himself. Plus any other information that would compromise the subject (Trump) to his country’s authorities and the general public. Naturally the information could be used to cause him serious problems in his country if exposed.

Finally, the report mentioned that his attitude towards women was also of interest. The point of interest would be if he was the habit of having affairs with women.

Mr. Trumps’ first trip to Moscow came after he found himself seated next to the Soviet ambassador Yuri Dubinin in 1986. His original position was Soviet ambassador to the U.N. Dubinin’s mission as ambassador was to make contact with America’s business elite.

There was a luncheon held by Leonard Lauder, the son of Estée Lauder. Mr. Trump was invited to meet the Ambassador. Ambassador Dubinin spoke fluent English and during the course of the luncheon Trump spoke at length with the Ambassador who proposed that Trump build a large luxury hotel, directly across from the Kremlin, in association with the Soviet government.

Mr.Trump at once became interested in the project and expressed his willingness to cooperate on such a project.

By January 1987, Mr.Trump had become a “prominent person” status and therefore Ambassador Dubinin deemed Mr.Trump interesting enough to arrange his trip to Moscow. U.S.-based Soviet diplomat, Vitaly Churkin—the future U.N. ambassador—was of assistance in this project.

Mr. Trump first visited the Soviet Union on July 4, 1987.

Mr. Trump flew to Moscow for the first time, together with his wife Ivana and Lisa Calandra, Ivana’s Italian-American assistant. Ambassador Dubinin’s invitation to Trump to visit Moscow was a standard operation exercise by the KGB.

The Trump trip was orchestrated by the Intourist Agency which was under the control of the KGB. Its duty was to investigate and monitor all foreigners coming into the Soviet Union.

The Trumps were treated with great courtesy by Soviet officials and they were housed in Lenin’s suite at the National Hotel, at the bottom of Tverskaya Street, near Red Square.

The hotel was connected to the Intourist complex next door and was under KGB control.

The Lenin suite had been fixed for electronic surveillance.

In November of 2013, the Miss Universe pageant was held iin Moscow

It was there that  Mr. Trump — then the pageant’s owner — spent several days socializing with Russia’s business and political elite and becoming acquainted with a wealthy developer whose connections his son would later seek to capitalize on. The developer, Aras Agalarov, offered to pass on information about potential rival Mrs. Clinton from Russia’s top prosecutor to help a projected Trump presidential campaign.

The contest was held at Crocus City Hall, a venue owned by Agalarov. The event would be a family affair: Agalarov’s son, a pop singer named Emin, performed on stage and his wife was a judge.

Mr.Trump remained on good and productive terms with the Agalarov family, at one point, appearing in a music video with Emin and sending him a videotaped greeting on his 35th birthday.

During his trip to Moscow on November 9-11, 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant, Mr.Trump surrounded himself with business people and those necessary to sign a deal which would bring a Trump Tower project to Moscow. These were: Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov,Yulya (Yulia) Alferova,Herman Gref, Artem Klyushin, Vladimir Kozhin, Chuck LaBella, Rotem Rosen, Phil Ruffin, Alex Sapir, Keith Schiller, Roustam Tariko and Bob Van Ronkel.

At first, President Putin, who had planned on meeting Mr.Trump at the pageant, sent numerous individuals tied to the Russian construction sector to the event to discuss potential lucrative building plans and to ascertain Mr. Trump’s attitudes.

President Putin to establish a distance, stated he was unable to attend the pagent because of a last-minute visit from the King of the Netherlands.

Previous to this meeting, there had been no positive positions on the possibility that Mr. Trump, with Russian assistance and financing, might construct a luxury hotel in Moscow. Trump made several tweets thanking individuals in Moscow and bragging about his future plans. Then on November 12th, 2013 Trump posted a link to the Moscow Times, remarking that his organization was working on building a luxury hotel in Moscow “@AgalarovAras I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!”

This hotel deal was finalized during Trump’s weekend stay in Moscow for his Miss Universe pageant. At the Four Seasons Hotel at Ulitsa Okhotnyy Ryad, 2, a private meeting was held between Mr. Trump and President Putin. As the President is fluent in English, no other person was present. President Putin praised the business abilities of Mr. Trump and said that he would be a “refreshing person” as President of the United States. President Putin said that his people would be pleased to support Mr. Trump and that if this support was deemed material in achieving a victory, President Putin had one request to make of Mr. Trump. President Putin said his best wish was to establish “friendly and cooperative attitudes” by both parties, firmer business contacts and an abandonment of the policy of threats to the Russian Republic. President Putin stressed that certain very right-wing groups in America had been constantly agitating against him and against the Russian Republic and he hoped that Mr. Trump, if elected, could ignore these few people and work with, not against the Russian Republic. Mr. Trump repeatedly assured the President that he woud be most eager to do just that and he agreed to work with various people in the United States who were friendly towards, and had connections with, the Russian Republic.

This most important conversation was recorded as a form of kompromat. And it is certain that a direct quid pro quo took place in November of 2013 between President Putin and Mr. Trump.

On June 16, 2015, Mr. Trump announced his candidacy for President

The methodology of Russian assistance:

The SVR has often sent intelligence officers to branches of the New York Public Library, and other public libraries, where they obtained access to the Internet, via library computers, without revealing their identity.

They placed propaganda and disinformation to educational web sites and sent e-mails to US media. It is a fact that the alternate internet site, WikiLeaks, is entirely controlled, out of Sweden, by the SVR and that they use this front to release genuine information to address issues they consider important to influence.

The articles or studies were generated by Russian experts who worked for the SVR. The purpose of these active measures was to whitewash Russian foreign policy, to create good image of Russia, to promote Anti-American feelings and “to cause dissension and unrest inside the US.

The materials used to support the candidacy of Mr. Trump were a series of emails from, and to, the Democratic National Committee which were perfectely genuine but selected to bring discredit on the campaign of Ms. Clinton. This material was part of a trove of such material obtained by an American domestic intelligence agent and sold to Russian interests.

In June of 2016, Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his presidential chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer when they were told the Russian intelligence had acquired highly damaging information concerning Mrs. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate.

Russian property developer, Aras Agalarov had arragned this meeting. Subsequently the information gleaned from this meeting was given to Aras Agalarov from Russian prosecutor-general Yuri Chaika.

Because the Trumps, both father and son, were not discreet, the American Central Intelligence Agency, who were subjecting both Trumps to surveillance, learned of some of the contacts with Russian government personnel and one of their internal memos spoke very disparingly of these contacts.

Then, on September 6, 2016, there was an arragned accident in Moscow in which an oncoming vehicle was suddenly controlled to swerve across the median and collide with a State-owned BMW used by President Putin. The driver of the Presidential car was killed instantly. As the President was known to have been in China for the G20 summet meeting, the arraigned accident was not an assassination attempt but meant as a clear warning to the President to abandon his activities in support of Presidential candidate Trump

It is known that the CIA has developed the methodology of controlling the speed and direction of a moving vehicle via its on-board computer system.

Messagings from the CIA section in the American Embassy in Moscow were intercepted and decoded by Russian intelligence that clearly indicated the reasons for the arranged accident.

Evaluation of Mr. Trump as an asset for Russian interest

Оценка г-на Трампа как актива для интересов России

Russian intelligence has had an interest in Donald Trump since the year 1977 when we received an alert from a sister unit in Prague.

He was described as impressionable young man with large ambitions and money from his family real estate business.

His marriage to a Czech woman whose father was an element in that countries’ intelligence agency brought him to our attention and we went to some lengths to ascertain his potential value for Russian interests.

The initial impression of Mr. Trump was that he was extremely self-important and egotistical to a remarkable degree.

As our first hand knowledge of him progressed it became evident that Mr. Trump fancied himself as a man to whom beautiful women were attracted.

That they were attracted to his money is more evident.

Although it is true he is a person with whom one could establish good business contacts, Mr. Trump was, and is, an overbearing and intolerant person.

He is subject to mood-swings in that what is acceptable today is not tomorrow.

He is easily led by women to whom he is initially very attentive and once he feels he had their purchased loyalty, proceeds to turn his attentions to other women.

It was our experience with Mr. Trump that by supplying him a number of beautiful Russian women, he became besotted and was willing to agree to almost any proposal presented to him.

As a businessman, Mr. Trump is erratic in the extreme. He owes very large sums of money, for example, to the Deutsche Bank, sums he somehow forgets to pay. He also owes large sums to Russian banks but in this case, he dare not neglect to pay.

Although he and President Putin got on well together, Mr. Trump’s promises ought to be taken very cautiously.

Mr. Trump is so convinced of his superiority to others and so easy to influence that promises to one person could easily be forgotten when making identical promises to another.

His current wife, Melanija Knavs, has produced a son and this boy, quite attractive, is the idol of his mother. She has stated to one of our people that she is not happy with her marriage because of her husband’s constant, and often very obnoxious, pursuit of other women and does not want her young son to associate with his father lest he hear Mr. Trump’s constant flow of foul and obscene language or see him grab at some woman’s breasts.

She planned to divorce him and take her son back to Yugoslavia but the scandal would do so much damage to Mr. Trump’s public image that she was dissuaded from divorce by the payment of a large sum of money and promises on the part of Mr. Trump to let his wife rear and be responsible for his son.

Insofar as his use to Russian interests, this is problematical due to Mr.Trump’s disturbed personality. He does recall, however, that we released unpleasant material about Mrs. Clinton and that the same sort of material could very easily be released about him.

On the one hand, he has no problem taking Russian money for his businesses but on the other, he is susceptible to pressure from American power groups such as the Christian religious sector, Jewish groups and the military which have virtual control of current American politics and governance.

 

What Happens When a Few Volunteer and the Rest Just Watch

The American Military System Dissected

April 10, 2018

by Andrew J. Bacevich

TomDispatch

The purpose of all wars, is peace. So observed St. Augustine early in the first millennium A.D. Far be it from me to disagree with the esteemed Bishop of Hippo, but his crisply formulated aphorism just might require a bit of updating.

I’m not a saint or even a bishop, merely an interested observer of this nation’s ongoing military misadventures early in the third millennium A.D. From my vantage point, I might suggest the following amendment to Augustine’s dictum: Any war failing to yield peace is purposeless and, if purposeless, both wrong and stupid.

War is evil. Large-scale, state-sanctioned violence is justified only when all other means of achieving genuinely essential objectives have been exhausted or are otherwise unavailable. A nation should go to war only when it has to — and even then, ending the conflict as expeditiously as possible should be an imperative.

Some might take issue with these propositions, President Trump’s latest national security adviser doubtless among them. Yet most observers — even, I’m guessing, most high-ranking U.S. military officers — would endorse them. How is it then that peace has essentially vanished as a U.S. policy objective? Why has war joined death and taxes in that select category of things that Americans have come to accept as unavoidable?

The United States has taken Thucydides’s famed Melian Dialogue and turned it inside out. Centuries before Augustine, the great Athenian historian wrote, “The strong do what they will, while the weak suffer what they must.” Strength confers choice; weakness restricts it. That’s the way the world works, so at least Thucydides believed. Yet the inverted Melian Dialogue that prevails in present-day Washington seemingly goes like this: strength imposes obligations and limits choice. In other words, we gotta keep doing what we’ve been doing, no matter what.

Making such a situation all the more puzzling is the might and majesty of America’s armed forces. By common consent, the United States today has the world’s best military. By some estimates, it may be the best in recorded history. It’s certainly the most expensive and hardest working on the planet.

Yet in the post-Cold War era when the relative strength of U.S. forces reached its zenith, our well-endowed, well-trained, well-equipped, and highly disciplined troops have proven unable to accomplish any of the core tasks to which they’ve been assigned. This has been especially true since 9/11.

We send the troops off to war, but they don’t achieve peace. Instead, America’s wars and skirmishes simply drag on, seemingly without end.  We just keep doing what we’ve been doing, a circumstance that both Augustine and Thucydides would undoubtedly have found baffling.

Prosecuting War, Averting Peace

How to explain this paradox of a superb military that never gets the job done? Let me suggest that the problem lies with the present-day American military system, the principles to which the nation adheres in raising, organizing, supporting, and employing its armed forces. By its very existence, a military system expresses an implicit contract between the state, the people, and the military itself.

Here, as I see it, are the principles — seven in all — that define the prevailing military system of the United States.

First, we define military service as entirely voluntary. In the U.S., there is no link between citizenship and military service.  It’s up to you as an individual to decide if you want to take up arms in the service of your country.

If you choose to do so, that’s okay. If you choose otherwise, that’s okay, too. Either way, your decision is of no more significance than whether you root for the Yankees or the Mets.

Second, while non-serving citizens are encouraged to “support the troops,” we avoid stipulating how this civic function is to be performed.

In practice, there are many ways of doing so, some substantive, others merely symbolic. Most citizens opt for the latter. This means that they cheer when invited to do so. Cheering is easy and painless. It can even make you feel good about yourself.

Third, when it comes to providing the troops with actual support, we expect Congress to do the heavy lifting. Our elected representatives fulfill that role by routinely ponying up vast sums of money for what is misleadingly called a defense budget.  In some instances, Congress appropriates even more money than the Pentagon asks for, as was the case this year.

Meanwhile, under the terms of our military system, attention to how this money actually gets spent by our yet-to-be-audited Pentagon tends to be — to put the matter politely — spotty. Only rarely does the Congress insert itself forcefully into matters relating to what U.S. forces scattered around the world are actually doing.

Yes, there are periodic hearings, with questions posed and testimony offered. But unless there is some partisan advantage to be gained, oversight tends to be, at best, pro forma.  As a result, those charged with implementing national security policy — another Orwellian phrase — enjoy very considerable latitude.

Fourth, under the terms of our military system, this latitude applies in spades to the chief executive. The commander-in-chief occupies the apex of our military system. The president may bring to office very little expertise pertinent to war or the art of statecraft, yet his authority regarding such matters is essentially unlimited.

Consider, if you will, the sobering fact that our military system empowers the president to order a nuclear attack, should he see the need — or feel the impulse — to do so. He need not obtain congressional consent. He certainly doesn’t need to check with the American people.

Since Harry Truman ordered the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, presidents have not exercised this option, for which we should all be grateful. Yet on more occasions than you can count, they have ordered military actions, large and small, on their own authority or after only the most perfunctory consultation with Congress.  When Donald Trump, for instance, threatened North Korea’s Kim Jong-un with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen,” he gave no hint that he would even consider asking for prior congressional authorization to do so. Trump’s words were certainly inflammatory. Yet were he to act on those words, he would merely be exercising a prerogative enjoyed by his predecessors going back to Truman himself.

The Constitution invests in Congress the authority to declare war. The relevant language is unambiguous. In practice, as countless commentators have noted, that provision has long been a dead letter. This, too, forms an essential part of our present military system.

Fifth, under the terms of that system, there’s no need to defray the costs of military actions undertaken in our name. Supporting the troops does not require citizens to pay anything extra for what the U.S. military is doing out there wherever it may be. The troops are asked to sacrifice; for the rest of us, sacrifice is anathema.

Indeed, in recent years, presidents who take the nation to war or perpetuate wars they inherit never even consider pressing Congress to increase our taxes accordingly. On the contrary, they advocate tax cuts, especially for the wealthiest among us, which lead directly to massive deficits.

Sixth, pursuant to the terms of our military system, the armed services have been designed not to defend the country but to project military power on a global basis. For the Department of Defense actually defending the United States qualifies as an afterthought, trailing well behind other priorities such as trying to pacify Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province or jousting with militant groups in Somalia. The United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are all designed to fight elsewhere, relying on a constellation of perhaps 800 bases around the world to facilitate the conduct of military campaigns “out there,” wherever “there” may happen to be.  They are, in other words, expeditionary forces.

Reflect for a moment on the way the Pentagon divvies the world up into gigantic swathes of territory and then assigns a military command to exercise jurisdiction over each of them: European Command, Africa Command, Central Command, Southern Command, Northern Command, and Pacific Command. With the polar icecap continuing to melt, a U.S. Arctic Command is almost surely next on the docket. Nor is the Pentagon’s mania for creating new headquarters confined to terra firma. We already have U.S. Cyber Command.  Can U.S. Galactic Command be far behind?

No other nation adheres to this practice. Nor would the United States permit any nation to do so. Imagine the outcry in Washington if President Xi Jinping had the temerity to create a “PRC Latin America Command,” headed by a four-star Chinese general charged with maintaining order and stability from Mexico to Argentina.

Seventh (and last), our military system invests great confidence in something called the military profession.

The legal profession exists to implement the rule of law. We hope that the result is some approximation of justice. The medical profession exists to repair our bodily ailments. We hope that health and longevity will result. The military profession exists to master war. With military professionals in charge, it’s our hope that America’s wars will conclude quickly and successfully with peace the result.

To put it another way, we look to the military profession to avert the danger of long, costly, and inconclusive wars. History suggests that these sap the collective strength of a nation and can bring about its premature decline. We count on military professionals to forestall that prospect.

Our military system assigns the immediate direction of war to our most senior professionals, individuals who have ascended step by step to the very top of the military hierarchy. We expect three- and four-star generals and admirals to possess the skills needed to make war politically purposeful. This expectation provides the rationale for the status they enjoy and the many entitlements they are accorded.

America, the (Formerly) Indispensable

Now, the nation that has created this military system is not some “shithole country,” to use a phrase made famous by President Trump. We are, or at least claim to be, a democratic republic in which all power ultimately derives from the people. We believe in — indeed, are certain that we exemplify — freedom, even as we continually modify the meaning of that term.

In the aggregate, we are very rich. Since the latter part of the nineteenth century we have taken it for granted that the United States ought to be the richest country on the planet, notwithstanding the fact that large numbers of ordinary Americans are themselves anything but rich. Indeed, as a corollary to our military system, we count on these less affluent Americans to volunteer for military service in disproportionate numbers. Offered sufficient incentives, they do so.

Finally, since 1945 the United States has occupied the preeminent place in the global order, a position affirmed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991.  Indeed, we have come to believe that American primacy reflects the will of God or of some cosmic authority.

From the early years of the Cold War, we have come to believe that the freedom, material abundance, and primacy we cherish all depend upon the exercise of “global leadership.” In practice, that seemingly benign term has been a euphemism for unquestioned military superiority and the self-assigned right to put our military to work as we please wherever we please.  Back in the 1990s, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it best: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”

Other countries might design their military establishments to protect certain vital interests. As Albright’s remark suggests, American designs have been far more ambitious.

Here, then, is a question: How do the principles and attitudes that undergird our military system actually suit twenty-first-century America? And if they don’t, what are the implications of clinging to such a system? Finally, what alternative principles might form a more reasonable basis for raising, organizing, supporting, and employing our armed forces?

Spoiler alert: Let me acknowledge right now that I consider our present-day military system irredeemably flawed and deeply harmful. For proof we need look no further than the conduct of our post-9/11 wars, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

These myriad undertakings of the last nearly 17 years have subjected our military system to a comprehensive real-world examination. Collectively, they have rendered a judgment on that system. And the judgment is negative. Put to the test, the American military system has failed.

And the cost so far?  Trillions of dollars expended (with trillions more to come), thousands of American lives lost, tens of thousands of Americans grievously damaged, and even greater numbers of non-Americans killed, injured, and displaced.

One thing is certain: our wars have not brought about peace by even the loosest definition of the word.

A Military Report Card

There are many possible explanations for why our recent military record has been so dismal.  One crucial explanation — perhaps the most important of all — relates to those seven principles that undergird our military system.

Let me review them in reverse order.

Principle 7, the military profession: Tally up the number of three- and four-star generals who have commanded the Afghan War since 2001. It’s roughly a dozen. None of them has succeeded in bringing it to a successful conclusion. Nor does any such happy ending seem likely to be in the offing anytime soon. The senior officers we expect to master war have demonstrated no such mastery.

The generals who followed one another in presiding over that war are undoubtedly estimable, well-intentioned men, but they have not accomplished the job for which they were hired. Imagine if you contracted with a dozen different plumbers — each highly regarded — to fix a leaking sink in your kitchen and you ended up with a flooded basement. You might begin to think that there’s something amiss in the way that plumbers are trained and licensed.  Similarly, perhaps it’s time to reexamine our approach to identifying and developing very senior military officers.

Or alternatively, consider this possibility: Perhaps our theory of war as an enterprise where superior generalship determines the outcome is flawed. Perhaps war cannot be fully mastered, by generals or anyone else.

It might just be that war is inherently unmanageable. Take it from Winston Churchill, America’s favorite confronter of evil. “The statesman who yields to war fever,” Churchill wrote, “must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.”

If Churchill is right, perhaps our expectations that senior military professionals will tame war — control the uncontrollable — are misplaced.  Perhaps our military system should put greater emphasis on avoiding war altogether or at least classifying it as an option to be exercised with great trepidation, rather than as the political equivalent of a handy-dandy, multi-functional Swiss Army knife.

Principle 6, organizing our forces to emphasize global power projection: Reflect for a moment on the emerging security issues of our time.  The rise of China is one example. A petulant and over-armed Russia offers a second. Throw in climate change and mushrooming cyber-threats and you have a daunting set of problems. It’s by no means impertinent to wonder about the relevance of the current military establishment to these challenges.

Every year the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain and enhance the lethality of a force configured for conventional power projection and to sustain the global network of bases that goes with it. For almost two decades, that force has been engaged in a futile war of attrition with radical Islamists that has now spread across much of the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa.

I don’t know about you, but I worry more about the implications of China’s rise and Russian misbehavior than I do about Islamic terrorism. And I worry more about changing weather patterns here in New England or somebody shutting down the electrical grid in my home town than I do about what Beijing and Moscow may be cooking up. Bluntly put, our existing military system finds us focused on the wrong problem set.

We need a military system that accurately prioritizes actual and emerging threats. The existing system does not. This suggests the need for radically reconfigured armed services, with the hallowed traditions of George Patton, John Paul Jones, Billy Mitchell, and Chesty Puller honorably but permanently retired.

Principle 5, paying — or not paying — for America’s wars: If you want it, you should be willing to pay for it. That hoary axiom ought to guide our military system as much as it should our personal lives.  Saddling Millennials or members of Generation Z with the cost of paying for wars mostly conceived and mismanaged by my fellow Baby Boomers strikes me as downright unseemly.

One might expect the young to raise quite a ruckus over such an obvious injustice. In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed their righteous anger over the absence of effective gun controls in this country. That they aren’t comparably incensed about the misuse of guns by their own contemporaries deployed to distant lands represents a real puzzle, especially since they’re the ones who will ultimately be stuck with the bill.

Principles 4 and 3, the role of Congress and the authority of the commander-in-chief: Whatever rationale may once have existed for allowing the commander-in-chief to circumvent the Constitution’s plainly specified allocation of war powers to Congress should long since have lapsed. Well before Donald Trump became president, a responsible Congress would have reasserted its authority to declare war. That Trump sits in the Oval Office and now takes advice from the likes of John Bolton invests this matter with great urgency.

Surely President Trump’s bellicose volatility drives home the point that it’s past time for Congress to assert itself in providing responsible oversight regarding all aspects of U.S. military policy. Were it to do so, the chances of fixing the defects permeating our present military system would improve appreciably.

Of course, the likelihood of that happening is nil until the money changers are expelled from the temple.  And that won’t occur until Americans who are not beholden to the military-industrial complex and its various subsidiaries rise up, purge the Congress of its own set of complexes, and install in office people willing to do their duty. And that brings us back to…

Principles 2 and 1, the existing relationship between the American people and their military and our reliance on a so-called all-volunteer force: Here we come to the heart of the matter.

I submit that the relationship between the American people and their military is shot through with hypocrisy. It is, in fact, nothing short of fraudulent. Worse still, most of us know it, even if we are loath to fess up. In practice, the informal mandate to “support the troops” has produced an elaborate charade. It’s theater, as phony as Donald Trump’s professed love for DACA recipients.

If Americans were genuinely committed to supporting the troops, they would pay a great deal more attention to what President Trump and his twenty-first-century predecessors have tasked those troops to accomplish — with what results and at what cost. Of course, that would imply doing more than cheering and waving the flag on cue. Ultimately, the existence of the all-volunteer force obviates any need for such an effort. It provides Americans with an ample excuse for ignoring our endless wars and allowing our flawed military system to escape serious scrutiny.

Having outsourced responsibility for defending the country to people few of us actually know, we’ve ended up with a military system that is unfair, undemocratic, hugely expensive, and largely ineffective, not to mention increasingly irrelevant to the threats coming our way. The perpetuation of that system finds us mired in precisely the sort of long, costly, inconclusive wars that sap the collective strength of a nation and may bring about its premature decline.

The root cause of our predicament is the all-volunteer force. Only when we ordinary citizens conclude that we have an obligation to contribute to the country’s defense will it become possible to devise a set of principles for raising, organizing, supporting, and employing U.S. forces that align with our professed values and our actual security requirements.

If Stormy Daniels can figure out when an existing contract has outlived its purpose, so can the rest of us.

 

Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 25

April 10, 2018

AN AIRBORNE DEFENSE AGAINST NORTH KOREAN ICBMS?

Could an airborne network of drone-based interceptors effectively defend against the launch of North Korean ballistic missiles? A recent assessment by physicists Richard L. Garwin and Theodore A. Postol concludes that it could.

“All of the technologies needed to implement the proposed system are proven and no new technologies are needed to realize the system,” they wrote.

Their concept envisions the deployment of a number of Predator B drones loitering outside of North Korean airspace each bearing two boost-phase intercept missiles.

“The baseline system could technically be deployed in 2020, and would be designed to handle up to 5 simultaneous ICBM launches.”

“The potential value of this system could be to quickly create an incentive for North Korea to take diplomatic negotiations seriously and to destroy North Korean ICBMs if they are launched at the continental United States.”

See Airborne Patrol to Destroy DPRK ICBMs in Powered Flight by R.L. Garwin and T.A. Postol, November 26, 2017.

The asserted role of such a system in promoting diplomatic negotiations rests on certain assumptions about how it would be perceived and evaluated by North Korea that are not addressed by the authors here.

PROMPT GLOBAL STRIKE WEAPONS, & MORE FROM CRS

The U.S. military is accelerating the development of prompt global strike weapons that are intended to allow the U.S. to hit targets anywhere on Earth on short notice using conventional weapons.

The Department of Defense has requested increased funding in FY 2019 for prompt global strike weapons — $278 million, up from $201 million in FY 2018 — with further increases anticipated for the next five years.

“This shows the growing priority placed on the program in the Pentagon and the growing interest in Congress in moving the program forward toward deployment,” according to a newly updated report on such weapons from the Congressional Research Service.See Conventional Prompt Global Strike and Long-Range Ballistic Missiles: Background and Issues by Amy F. Woolf, April 6, 2018.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Options to Cease Implementing the Iran Nuclear Agreement, updated April 5, 2018

Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress, CRS Insight, April 6, 2018

When the City Goes Broke: Pensions, Retirees, and Municipal Bankruptcies, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 10, 2018

Sexual Harassment and Title VII: Selected Legal Issues, April 9, 2018

Commerce Department Announces Citizenship Question on 2020 Census and Lawsuits Filed, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 6, 2018

Lame Duck Sessions of Congress, 1935-2016 (74th-114th Congresses), April 6, 2018

Statutory Interpretation: Theories, Tools, and Trends, April 5, 2018

 

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