TBR News April 20, 2016

Apr 20 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. April 20, 2016: “One of the best ways to understand the growing eruptions of violence around the world is to read Dr. Calhoun’s study on the overpopulation problems of rats. This can be found in the archives of the Scientific American magazine in 1962. The psychological pressures manifested in this article have an eerie resonance today. And overall, the Malthus study of population written in 1789 is also a classic. Will anyone bother to read these enlightening studies? No, probably not because the average American cannot read but he can certainly text message.”

Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.           After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversations with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.


Conversation No. 22

Date: Friday, July 5, 1996

Commenced:   1:45 PM CST

Concluded:   2:10 PM CST


GD: Did you have a safe Fourth, Robert?

RTC: Oh my, yes, Gregory. I was out in the street firing off rockets at passing police cars. And you?

GD: No, I stayed inside. Little children setting the garage on fire with Grandma tied up inside or shooting bottle rockets into gas tanker trucks on the freeway. Plastic surgeons must have loved the Glorious Fourth back when we had real firecrackers to fire off. Missing eyes, fingers and other body parts. Terrified and singed cats and dogs, not to mention grass fires and burning shake roofs. I can just see you firing off rockets into passing cop cars, Robert. With your training and previous employment, no doubt the rockets blew the occupants into bloody cat meat.

RTC: Such an outburst of rage, Gregory.

GD: I am a man of sorrows and acquainted with rage, Robert. How about the Company setting off a small A-bomb in some hitherto harmless country and blaming it on mice?

RTC: Now that’s something we never did. In fact, we prevented at least one nuclear disaster.

GD: What? A humanitarian act? Why, I am astounded, Robert. Do tell me about this.

RTC: Now, now, Gregory, sometimes we can discuss serious business. There were times when we prevented terrible catastrophes and tried to secure more peace. We had trouble, you know, with India back in the 60s when they got uppity and started work on an atomic bomb. Loud mouthed cow-lovers bragging about how clever they were and how they, too, were going to be a great power in the world. The thing is, they were getting into bed with the Russians. Of course, Pakistan was in bed with the chinks, so India had to find another bed partner. And we did not want them to have any kind of nuclear weaponry because God knows what they would have done with it. Probably strut their stuff like a Washington nigger with a brass watch. Probably nuke the Pakis. They’re all a bunch of neo-coons anyway. Oh, yes, and their head expert was fully capable of building a bomb and we knew just what he was up to. He was warned several times but what an arrogant prick that one was. Told our people to fuck off and then made it clear that no one would stop him and India from getting nuclear parity with the big boys. Loudmouths bring it all down on themselves. Do you know about any of this?

GD: Not my area of interest or expertise. Who is this joker, anyway?

RTC: Was, Gregory, let’s use the past tense, if you please. Name was Homi Bhabha.  That one was dangerous, believe me. He had an unfortunate accident. He was flying to Vienna to stir up more trouble, when his 707 had a bomb go off in the cargo hold and they all came down on a high mountain way up in the Alps. No real evidence and the world was much safer.

GD: Was Ali Baba alone on the plane?

RTC: No it was a commercial Air India flight.

GD: How many people went down with him?

RTC: Ah, who knows and frankly, who cares?

GD: I suppose if I had a relative on the flight I would care.

RTC: Did you?

GD: No.

RTC: Then don’t worry about it. We could have blown it up over Vienna but we decided the high mountains were much better for the bits and pieces to come down on. I think a possible death or two among mountain goats is much preferable than bringing down a huge plane right over a big city.

GD: I think that there were more than goats, Robert.

RTC: Well, aren’t we being a bleeding-heart today?

GD: Now, now, it’s not an observation that is unexpected. Why not send him a box of poisoned candy? Shoot him in the street? Blow up his car? I mean, why ace a whole plane full of people?

RTC: Well, I call it as it see it. At the time, it was our best shot. And we nailed Shastri  as well. Another cow-loving raghead. Gregory, you say you don’t know about these people. Believe me, they were close to getting a bomb and so what if they nuked their deadly Paki enemies? So what? Too many people in both countries. Breed like rabbits and full of snake-worshipping twits. I don’t for the life of me see what the Brits wanted in India. And then threaten us? They were in the sack with the Russians, I told you. Maybe they could nuke the Panama Canal or Los Angeles. We don’t know that for sure, but it is not impossible.

GD: Who was Shastri?

RTC: A political type who started the program in the first place. Babha was a genius and he could get things done, so we aced both of them. And we let certain people there know that there was more where that came from. We should have hit the chinks, too, while we were at it, but they were a tougher target. Did I tell you about the idea to wipe out Asia’s rice crops? We developed a disease that would have wiped rice off the map there and it’s their staple diet. The fucking rice growers here got wind of it and raised such a stink we canned the whole thing. The theory was that the disease could spread around and hurt their pocketbooks. If the Mao people invade Alaska, we can tell the rice people it’s all their fault.

GD: I suppose we might make friends with them.

RTC: With the likes of them? Not at all, Gregory. The only thing the Communists understand is brute force. India was quieter after Bhabha croaked. We could never get to Mao but at one time, the Russians and we were discussing the how and when of the project. Oh yes, sometimes we do business with the other side. Probably more than you realize.

GD: Now that I know about. High level amorality. They want secrets from us and you give them some of them in return for some of their secrets, doctored, of course. That way, both agencies get credit for being clever.

RTC: Well, you’ve been in that game, so why be so holy over a bunch of dead ragheads?

GD: Were all the passengers Indian atomic scientists?

RTC: Who cares, Gregory? We got the main man and that was all that mattered. You ought not criticize when you don’t have the whole story.

GD: Well, there were too many mountain goats running around, anyway. They might have gotten their hands on some weapons from Atwood and invaded Switzerland.

RTC: You jest but there is truth in what you say. We had such a weight on us, protecting the American people, often from themselves I admit. Many of these stories can never be written, Gregory. And if you try, you had better get your wife to start your car in the morning.

GD: How about my mother-in-law, Robert? Now do you see why Kimmel doesn’t want me talking to you? It isn’t that he’s afraid you might talk to me; I think he’s afraid I might corrupt you with my evil designs.

RTC: Tom means well but he’s dumb as a post. Most of the FBI are keyhole peepers at heart and should keep the hell out of espionage. Yes, Tom thinks I am getting senile and you are persuading me to give up state secrets. I may be old and I do forget names sometimes but I am not gaga yet, not by a long shot, and I’ve done a lot more important things than Tom ever did chasing car thieves and people dragging whores over state lines to a cheap motel.

GD: I don’t think you’re crazy, Robert and, you know, I once discussed you with him. He wanted to know what you were talking about with me and I told him we were discussing stamp collecting. He was not happy with this. I know he views me as a terrible person, but I can’t help that. He said you weren’t the person you used to be and I said who was? I asked him if he was better or worse that he had been at twenty and he got mad at me. Self-righteous, Robert, self-righteous.

RTC: Well, you certainly aren’t that, Gregory.

GD: Well, you’re not crazy and I’m not wicked. I am right, aren’t I? Please tell me I’m right, Robert. I’ll cry myself to sleep if you don’t

RTC: (Laughter) You’re a truly bad person, Gregory.

GD: I know. I told Jesus that last night when we were playing poker. He keeps hiding cards in that hole in his side.

RTC: Tell that to the Pope.

GD: We don’t get along anymore since I ran over his cat.


(Concluded at 2:10 PM CST)






From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 36

April 20, 2016


Within living memory, even a passing mention of cyber weapons or U.S. offensive activities in cyberspace was deemed sufficient to justify national security classification. Now, although the Obama Administration generally neither claims nor receives credit for it, military cyberspace doctrine has become one of a number of significant policy areas in which this Administration is demonstrably “more transparent” than its predecessors.

A new US Air Force directive “provides policy guidelines for planning and conducting AF cyberspace operations to support the warfighter and achieve national security objectives.”

“The AF will execute Cyberspace Operations” — including both offensive and defensive actions — “to support joint warfighter requirements, increase effectiveness of its core missions, increase resiliency, survivability, and cybersecurity of its information and systems, and realize efficiencies through innovative IT solutions.” See Cyberspace Operations, Air Force Policy Directive AFPD 17-2, April 12, 2016.

A companion directive further specifies, for example, that “Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) will… deploy AF approved cyber weapon systems.” See Air Force Policy Directive 17-1, Information Dominance, Governance and Management, 12 April 2016.


A new report from the Congressional Research Service raises the possibility that polygraph testing of intelligence employees could be phased out in favor of “continuous evaluation” (CE), i.e. the automated monitoring of financial, criminal and other databases.

The notion was suggested in a CRS overview of selected intelligence policy issues, including budget management, the quality of analysis, big data, workforce diversity, global coverage, and transparency.

The new CRS report, written by Anne Daugherty Miles, does not make recommendations, but instead presents a series of questions for congressional consideration, such as:

**  “In light of the IC’s use of CE to continually monitor an employee’s social and financial activity, are polygraph examinations still necessary?”

**  “Are there portions of the IC budget that could be made more transparent to the American public without endangering national security?”

**  “Should the IC be expected to monitor every corner of the world every hour of the day?”

**  “What authorities are needed to enhance cooperation with outside experts?”

**  “Are the new principles of transparency sufficient? Can the DNI do more to promote transparency across the IC?” (The April 15 CRS report does not take note of the latest steps by DNI Clapper to invigorate IC implementation of the Fundamental Classification Guidance Review or to establish the IC Transparency Council.)

This particular CRS report does not address intelligence surveillance policy, whistleblower policy, or various other intelligence-related topics of current controversy or interest. See The U.S. Intelligence Community: Selected Cross-Cutting Issues, April 12, 2016.

Some other new or updated products from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Contested Presidential Nominating Conventions: Brief Background and Questions, CRS Insight, April 15, 2016

Sexual Violence at Institutions of Higher Education, updated April 15, 2016

The Federal Communications Commission: Current Structure and Its Role in the Changing Telecommunications Landscape, updated April 15, 2016

European Security and Islamist Terrorism, CRS Insight, updated April 18, 2016

Navy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)/Frigate Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 18, 2016


After big New York wins, Trump and Clinton cast themselves as inevitable

April 20, 2016

by Emily Flitter and Luciana Lopez


New York- Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton scored sweeping victories in nominating contests in their home state of New York, and immediately cited those wins to argue that they are all but unstoppable as their respective parties’ presidential nominees.

Trump’s crushing defeat of Ted Cruz in Tuesday’s primary election tilted the energy in the Republican race back to the front-runner, just as Republican National Committee members begin meeting in Florida on Wednesday to discuss their July convention, where the nominee will be chosen.

For the Democratic favorite, Clinton’s more narrow victory over Bernie Sanders snapped a string of victories by the 74-year-old democratic socialist and gave her a much-needed lift with more tough fights ahead.

The eventual victors of the Democratic and the Republican nominating campaigns will face each other in November’s general election.

Trump’s win, celebrated to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” at Trump Tower in Manhattan, marked a rebound from his Wisconsin defeat two weeks ago. It set him up for another big night on April 26, when Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maryland will hold primaries.

With a campaign staff reboot and a more focused performance, Trump has sought to improve in recent weeks as a candidate. The tone of his victory speech was in keeping with a more measured style the often-brash billionaire has adopted.

“We don’t have much of a race anymore based on what I’m seeing on television,” Trump said as television networks projected a large margin of victory for him. “Senator Cruz is just about mathematically eliminated.”

Trump, 69, predicted some “amazing weeks” ahead for his campaign.

Still, he has a long way to go to seal the nomination and begin trying to heal the wounds in his bitterly divided party. Some fence-mending may happen when he sends campaign advisers to the RNC meeting starting in Hollywood, Florida, on Wednesday.

Trump’s haul of most of New York’s 95 delegates moved him closer to the 1,237 needed to win the nomination outright. Anything short of that will lead to a contested convention when Republicans hold their national conclave July 18-21 in Cleveland.

“There’s only two issues left for Republicans: Will Trump get 50 percent of the delegates prior to Cleveland, and if not, how close will he be? New York gives him a nice boost, but it will take weeks before we know the answer,” said Ari Fleischer, who was White House press secretary under President George W. Bush.

Cruz, a 45-year-old U.S. senator from Texas, came in third in New York and gave his primary night speech in Philadelphia, where he was already focused on running in Pennsylvania. He called on Republicans to unite around his candidacy.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, 63, a long-shot candidate, is seeking to use his second-place showing in New York as proof he is emerging as Trump’s central challenger in the states that come up next on the calendar.


Clinton, a former U.S. senator from New York, former secretary of state and former first lady, got nowhere near the knockout punch she needed to finally put Sanders away.

But the broad smile on her face as she gave her victory speech spoke volumes about how important New York was to her bid to become the first female U.S. president.

“Today you proved once again there’s no place like home,” Clinton said. “This one was personal.”

The race for the Democratic nomination, she said, is now in “the home stretch, and victory is in sight.”

Clinton, 68, was to campaign in Philadelphia on Wednesday. Sanders flew home to Vermont to take a day off the campaign trail.

Clinton’s win made it nearly impossible for Sanders to overtake her commanding lead in delegates needed to win the nomination.

Dilawar Syed, a tech entrepreneur who is also the co-founder and vice chairman of the AAPI Victory Fund, a Super PAC focused on mobilizing Asian-American voters, said it looked like Clinton has the nomination.

“Clearly Senator Sanders has a lot of supporters and enthusiasm there. He also has raised a lot of good resources,” Syed said. “I think the primary will go on for some time. But just looking at the numbers, we know where this is going.”

Sanders’ campaign vowed to fight on until the Democrats’ nominating convention in Philadelphia July 25-28.

“Look, we’re going to go to the convention,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told MSNBC. He said it was extremely unlikely that either candidate would have the delegates needed to win the nomination outright.

Democratic strategist Jim Manley said Clinton has a delicate balancing act in trying to draw in Sanders supporters while pivoting to a general election matchup against the Republican nominee.

“She runs a risk. If she goes too far to the left (to draw in Sanders supporters), she’s going to upset independents and others that she’s going to need in the general,” Manley said.

Nationally, the race for the nominations has tightened recently for both parties, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday.

Clinton and Sanders are tied among Democrats, with each drawing about 47 percent support in the national poll. At the beginning of the year, Clinton led Sanders by nearly a 2-to-1 margin; Sanders has closed that gap over the past few months.

Among Republicans, Trump leads with 44 percent support, compared with 33 percent for Cruz and 16 percent for Kasich.

The April 15-19 poll surveyed 719 Democrats and 593 Republicans. It has a credibility interval of 4.7 percentage points.

(Additional reporting by Alana Wise and Megan Casella in Washington, Jonathan Allen in New York and Emily Stephenson in Philadelphia; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)


Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon

April 16, 2016

by Robert Parry


If there were any doubts that Hillary Clinton favors a neoconservative foreign policy, her performance at Thursday’s debate should have laid them to rest. In every meaningful sense, she is a neocon and – if she becomes President – Americans should expect more global tensions and conflicts in pursuit of the neocons’ signature goal of “regime change” in countries that get in their way.

Beyond sharing this neocon “regime change” obsession, former Secretary of State Clinton also talks like a neocon. One of their trademark skills is to use propaganda or “perception management” to demonize their targets and to romanticize their allies, what is called “gluing white hats” on their side and “gluing black hats” on the other.

So, in defending her role in the Libyan “regime change,” Clinton called the slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi “genocidal” though that is a gross exaggeration of Gaddafi’s efforts to beat back Islamic militants in 2011. But her approach fits with what the neocons do. They realize that almost no one will dare challenge such a characterization because to do so opens you to accusations of being a “Gaddafi apologist.”

Similarly, before the Iraq War, the neocons knew that they could level pretty much any charge against Saddam Hussein no matter how false or absurd, knowing that it would go uncontested in mainstream political and media circles. No one wanted to be a “Saddam apologist.”

Clinton, like the neocons, also shows selective humanitarian outrage. For instance, she laments the suffering of Israelis under crude (almost never lethal) rocket fire from Gaza but shows next to no sympathy for Palestinians being slaughtered by sophisticated (highly lethal) Israeli missiles and bombs.

She talks about the need for “safe zones” or “no-fly zones” for Syrians opposed to another demonized enemy, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, but not for the people of Gaza who face the wrath of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Yes, I do still support a no-fly zone [in Syria] because I think we need to put in safe havens for those poor Syrians who are fleeing both Assad and ISIS and have some place that they can be safe,” Clinton said. But she showed no such empathy for Palestinians defenseless against Israel’s “mowing the grass” operations against men, women and children trapped in Gaza.

In Clinton’s (and the neocons’) worldview, the Israelis are the aggrieved victims and the Palestinians the heartless aggressors. Referring to the Gaza rocket fire, she said: “I can tell you right now I have been there with Israeli officials going back more than 25 years that they do not seek this kind of attacks. They do not invite the rockets raining down on their towns and villages. They do not believe that there should be a constant incitement by Hamas aided and abetted by Iran against Israel. …

“So, I don’t know how you run a country when you are under constant threat, terrorist attack, rockets coming at you. You have a right to defend yourself.”

Ignoring History

Clinton ignored the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which dates back to the 1940s when Israeli terrorist organizations engaged in massacres to drive Palestinians from their ancestral lands and murdered British officials who were responsible for governing the territory. Israeli encroachment on Palestinian lands has continued to the present day.

But Clinton framed the conflict entirely along the propaganda lines of the Israeli government: “Remember, Israel left Gaza. They took out all the Israelis. They turned the keys over to the Palestinian people. And what happened? Hamas took over Gaza. So instead of having a thriving economy with the kind of opportunities that the children of the Palestinians deserve, we have a terrorist haven that is getting more and more rockets shipped in from Iran and elsewhere.”

So, Clinton made clear – both at the debate and in her recent AIPAC speech – that she is fully in line with the neocon reverence for Israel and eager to take out any government or group that Israel puts on its enemies list. While waxing rhapsodic about the U.S.-Israeli relationship – promising to take it “to the next level” – Clinton vows to challenge Syria, Iran, Russia and other countries that have resisted or obstructed the neocon/Israeli “wish list” for “regime change.”

In response to Clinton’s Israel-pandering, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who once worked on an Israeli kibbutz as a young man, did the unthinkable in American politics. He called out Clinton for her double standards on Israel-Palestine and suggested that Netanyahu may not be the greatest man on earth.

“You gave a major speech to AIPAC,” Sanders said, “and you barely mentioned the Palestinians. … All that I am saying is we cannot continue to be one-sided. There are two sides to the issue. … There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace, we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

But in Hillary Clinton’s mind, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is essentially one-sided. During her speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee last month, she depicted Israel as entirely an innocent victim in the Mideast conflicts.

“As we gather here, three evolving threats — Iran’s continued aggression, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability, and the growing effort to de-legitimize Israel on the world stage — are converging to make the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever,” she declared.

“The United States and Israel must be closer than ever, stronger than ever and more determined than ever to prevail against our common adversaries and to advance our shared values. … This is especially true at a time when Israel faces brutal terrorist stabbings, shootings and vehicle attacks at home. Parents worry about letting their children walk down the street. Families live in fear.”

Yet, Clinton made no reference to Palestinian parents who worry about their children walking down the street or playing on a beach and facing the possibility of sudden death from an Israeli drone or warplane. Instead, she scolded Palestinian adults. “Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists as martyrs and stop paying rewards to their families,” she said.

Then, Clinton promised to put her future administration at the service of the Israeli government. Clinton said, “One of the first things I’ll do in office is invite the Israeli prime minister to visit the White House. And I will send a delegation from the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs to Israel for early consultations. Let’s also expand our collaboration beyond security.”

Pleasing Phrases

In selling her neocon policies to the American public, Clinton puts the military aspects in pleasing phrases, like “safe zones” and “no-fly zones.” Yet, what she means by that is that as President she will invade Syria and push “regime change,” following much the same course that she used to persuade a reluctant President Obama to invade Libya in 2011.

The Libyan operation was sold as a “humanitarian” mission to protect innocent civilians though Gaddafi was targeting Islamic militants much as he claimed at the time and was not engaging in any mass slaughter of civilians. Clinton also knew that the European allies, such as France, had less than noble motives in wanting to take out Gaddafi.

As Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal explained to her, the French were concerned that Gaddafi was working to develop a pan-African currency which would have given Francophone African countries greater freedom from their former colonial master and would undermine French economic dominance of those ex-colonies.

In an April 2, 2011 email, Blumenthal informed Clinton that sources close to one of Gaddafi sons reported that Gaddafi’s government had accumulated 143 tons of gold and a similar amount of silver that “was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency” that would be an alternative to the French franc.

Blumenthal added that “this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya.” Sarkozy also wanted a greater share of Libya’s oil production and to increase French influence in North Africa, Blumenthal wrote.

But few Americans would rally to a war fought to keep North Africa under France’s thumb. So, the winning approach was to demonize Gaddafi with salacious rumors about him giving Viagra to his troops so they could rape more, a ludicrous allegation that was raised by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who also claimed that Gaddafi’s snipers were intentionally shooting children.

With Americans fed a steady diet of such crude propaganda, there was little serious debate about the wisdom of Clinton’s Libyan “regime change.” Meanwhile, other emails show that Clinton’s advisers were contemplating how to exploit Gaddafi’s overthrow as the dramatic moment to declare a “Clinton Doctrine” built on using “smart power.”

On Oct. 20, 2011, when U.S.-backed rebels captured Gaddafi, sodomized him with a knife and then murdered him, Secretary of State Clinton couldn’t contain her glee. Paraphrasing a famous Julius Caesar quote, she declared about Gaddafi, “we came, we saw, he died.”

But this U.S.-organized “regime change” quickly turned sour as old tribal rivalries, which Gaddafi had contained, were unleashed. Plus, it turned out that Gaddafi’s warnings that many of the rebels were Islamic militants turned out to be true. On Sept. 11, 2012, one extremist militia overran the U.S. consulate in Benghazi killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Soon, Libya slid into anarchy and Western nations abandoned their embassies in Tripoli. President Obama now terms the Libyan fiasco the biggest mistake of his presidency. But Clinton refuses to be chastened by the debacle, much as she appeared to learn nothing from her support for the Iraq invasion in 2003.

The Libyan Mirage

During Thursday’s debate – instead of joining Obama in recognition of the Libyan failure – Clinton acted as if she had overseen some glowing success: “Well, let me say I think we did a great deal to help the Libyan people after Gaddafi’s demise. … We helped them hold two successful elections, something that is not easy, which they did very well because they had a pent-up desire to try to chart their own future after 42 years of dictatorship. I was very proud of that. …

“We also worked to help them set up their government. We sent a lot of American experts there. We offered to help them secure their borders, to train a new military. They, at the end, when it came to security issues, … did not want troops from any other country, not just us, European or other countries, in Libya.

“And so we were caught in a very difficult position. They could not provide security on their own, which we could see and we told them that, but they didn’t want to have others helping to provide that security. And the result has been a clash between different parts of the country, terrorists taking up some locations in the country.”

But that is exactly the point. Like the earlier neocon-driven “regime change” in Iraq, the “regime change” obsession blinds the neocons from recognizing that not only are these operations violations of basic international law regarding sovereignty of other nations but the invasions unleash powerful internal rivalries that neocons, who know little about the inner workings of these countries, soon find they can’t control.

Yet, America’s neocons are so arrogant and so influential that they simply move from one catastrophe to the next like a swarm of locust spreading chaos and death around the globe. They also adapt readily to changes in the political climate.

That’s why some savvy neocons, such as the Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan, have endorsed Clinton, who The New York Times reported has become “the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes.”

Kagan told the Times, “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy. If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

Now with Clinton’s election seemingly within reach, the neocons are even more excited about how they can get back to work achieving Syrian “regime change,” overturning Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, and – what is becoming their ultimate goal – destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia and seeking “regime change” in Moscow.

After all, by helping Assad bring some stability to Syria and assisting Obama in securing the Iranian nuclear deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin has become what the neocons view as the linchpin of resistance to their “regime change” goals. Pull Putin down, the thinking goes, and the neocons can resume checking off their to-do list of Israel’s adversaries: Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.

And what could possibly go wrong by destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia and forcing some disruptive “regime change”?

By making Russia’s economy scream and instigating a Maidan-style revolt in Moscow’s Red Square, the neocons see their geopolitical path being cleared, but what they don’t take into account is that the likely successor to Putin would not be some malleable drunk like the late Russian President Boris Yeltsin but, far more likely, a hardline nationalist who might be a lot more careless with the nuclear codes than Putin.

But, hey, when has a neocon “regime change” scheme veered off into a dangerous and unanticipated direction?

A Neocon True-Believer

In Thursday’s debate, Hillary Clinton showed how much she has become a neocon true-believer. Despite the catastrophic “regime changes” in Iraq and Libya, she vowed to invade Syria, although she dresses up that reality in pretty phrases like “safe zones” and “no-fly zones.” She also revived the idea of increasing the flow of weapons to “moderate” rebels although they, in reality, mostly fight under the command umbrella of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Clinton also suggested that the Syria mess can be blamed on President Obama’s rejection of her recommendations in 2011 to authorize a more direct U.S. military intervention. “Nobody stood up to Assad and removed him,” Clinton said, “and we have had a far greater disaster in Syria than we are currently dealing with right now in Libya.”

In other words, Clinton still harbors the “regime change” goal in Syria. But the problem always was that the anti-Assad forces were penetrated by Al Qaeda and what is now called the Islamic State. The more likely result from Clinton’s goal of removing Assad would be the collapse of the Syrian security forces and a victory for Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and/or the Islamic State.

If that were to happen, the horrific situation in Syria would become cataclysmic. Millions of Syrians – Alawites, Shiites, Christians, secularists and other “infidels” – would have to flee the beheading swords of these terror groups. That might well force a full-scale U.S. and European invasion of Syria with the bloody outcome probably similar to the disastrous Iraq War.

The only reasonable hope for Syria is for the Assad regime and the less radical Sunni oppositionists to work out some power-sharing agreement, stabilize most of the country, neutralize to some degree the jihadists, and then hold elections, letting the Syrian people decide whether “Assad must go!” – not the U.S. government. But that’s not what Clinton wants.

Perhaps even more dangerous, Clinton’s bellicose rhetoric suggests that she would eagerly move into a dangerous Cold War confrontation with Russia under the upside-down propaganda theme blaming tensions in Eastern Europe on “Russian aggression,” not NATO’s expansion up to Russia’s borders and the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 which ousted an elected president and touched off a civil war.

That coup, which followed neocon fury at Putin for his helping Obama avert U.S. bombing campaigns against Syria and Iran, was largely orchestrated by neocons associated with the U.S. government, including Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (Robert Kagan’s wife), Sen. John McCain and National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman.

After the violent coup, when the people of Crimea voted by 96 percent to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, the U.S. government and Western media deemed that a “Russian invasion” and when ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine rose up in resistance to the new authorities in Kiev that became “Russian aggression.”

NATO on the Move

Though President Obama should know better – and I’m told that he does know better – he has succumbed this time to pressure to go along with what he calls the Washington “playbook” of saber-rattling and militarism. NATO is moving more and more combat troops up to the Russian border while Washington has organized punishing economic sanctions aimed at disrupting the Russian economy.

Hillary Clinton appears fully onboard with the neocon goal of grabbing the Big Enchilada, “regime change” in Moscow. Rather than seeing the world as it is, she continues to look through the wrong end of the telescope in line with all the anti-Russian propaganda and the demonization of Putin, whom Clinton has compared to Hitler.

Supporting NATO’s military buildup on Russia’s border, Clinton said, “With Russia being more aggressive, making all kinds of intimidating moves toward the Baltic countries, we’ve seen what they’ve done in eastern Ukraine, we know how they want to rewrite the map of Europe, it is not in our interests [to reduce U.S. support for NATO]. Think of how much it would cost if Russia’s aggression were not deterred because NATO was there on the front lines making it clear they could not move forward.”

Though Clinton’s anti-Russian delusions are shared by many powerful people in Official Washington, they are no more accurate than the other claims about Iraq’s WMD, Gaddafi passing out Viagra to his troops, the humanitarian need to invade Syria, the craziness about Iran being the principal source of terrorism (when it is the Saudis, the Qataris, the Turks and other Sunni powers that have bred Al Qaeda and the Islamic State), and the notion that the Palestinians are the ones picking on the Israelis, not the other way around.

However, Clinton’s buying into the neocon propaganda about Russia may be the most dangerous – arguably existential – threat that a Clinton presidency would present to the world. Yes, she may launch U.S. military strikes against the Syrian government (which could open the gates of Damascus to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State); yes, she might push Iran into renouncing the nuclear agreement (and putting the Israeli/neocon goal to bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran back on the table); yes, she might make Obama’s progressive critics long for his more temperate presidency.

But Clinton’s potential escalation of the new Cold War with Russia could be both the most costly and conceivably the most suicidal feature of a Clinton-45 presidency. Unlike her times as Secretary of State, when Obama could block her militaristic schemes, there will be no one to stop her if she is elected President, surrounded by likeminded neocon advisers.


Ahead of Saudi Trip, Obama Wedged in Debate Over 9/11 Report Secrecy

April 19, 2016

by Andrea Mitchell, Abigale Williams and Halimal Abdullah


As he prepares for a trip to Saudi Arabia, President Obama finds himself firmly wedged in the midst of a debate over legislation that many of the families of victims of the September 11th attacks and some lawmakers say could help clear the way to hold that nation’s government responsible in court.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers have a bill before Congress that would for the first time let Americans sue foreign countries if they are found to be responsible for terror attacks on U.S. soil — all with an eye toward buttressing the 9/11 families’ efforts.

Saudi Arabia counters that if congressional efforts to hold that nation’s government liable for the attacks are successful the Saudis will sell off $750 billion in American assets. Adel al Jubeir, the current foreign minister, delivered the threat of economic retaliation on behalf of his government.

The debate reflects a big disagreement between two allies and a great deal of mutual distrust.

The situation is troubling to the Obama administration. White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday that he can’t say whether the legislation or the matter of declassifying the 28 pages of the 2002 congressional report will come up between Obama and the Saudis in the upcoming trip.

However, “the fact that it’s been in the news more recently might change that equation,” Earnest said on Thursday. He also couldn’t say whether Obama has read the pages.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is working on declassifying the report and has expressed a desire to have it done by the end of the year.

In the meantime, the administration opposes the structure of a congressional bill aimed at removing immunity for governments that sponsor terrorist acts that kill U.S. citizens on American soil.

On Monday, Earnest told reporters it was hard to imagine the president signing the bill as currently drafted echoing Secretary Kerry’s remarks before the Senate Appropriations committee in February.

“In our current form, we’d be very troubled by it because what it would do is really expose the United States of America to lawsuit and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent in its current form,” Secretary John Kerry told members of the Senate Appropriations committee in February.

At its core, the controversy centers on a long-held belief by many of the 9/11 families that Saudi Arabia played a role in the attacks: 15 of the 19 terrorists were Saudi.

The 9/11 Commission concluded that it “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the attacks. However, some critics point out that the phrasing was written in a way as to leave open the possibility of a connection.

The Saudi government has always denied any involvement and has called for the 28 pages to be released.

“It is an outrage to any sense of fairness that 28 blank pages are now considered substantial evidence to proclaim the guilt of a country that has been a true friend and partner to the United States for over 60 years,” Prince Saud Al-Faisal, who was then Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said in a statement back in 2003.

However, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — led by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas,— are pushing legislation that would make clear that foreign nation’s shouldn’t receive immunity if implicated in terrorist attacks against the U.S. This could clear the way for the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks to press forward with lawsuits against the Saudis.

Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson has been up to Capitol Hill to express the administration’s concerns about this proposed legislation with members of Congress.

These types of actions worry some of the 9/11 families.

“You have to start to ask yourself why in the world does Saudi Arabia have so much influence on our country and on the laws we’re trying to make,” said Terry Strada, whose husband Thomas, 41, was in the World Trade Center North Tower when it was hit. She was left to care for their three children and try to explain why their father died.

And a cadre of legislators, including former Sen. Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the bipartisan joint congressional inquiry into intelligence failures surrounding the attacks, has made clear that they feel the 28 pages should be declassified.

“Unless the president can come forward and give the American people some reasons to believe that our national security is in jeopardy because this country that has funded the ISIS, funded these types of terrorist groups in the past, I think we should all come clean. I don’t see any reason why those 28 pages should not be fully released,” said Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-New York.

Tension over the Saudi matter became a campaign issue when both Democratic presidential candidates former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders were asked about it Sunday on “This Week”.

Neither candidate seemed aware of the legislation and later both issued statements endorsing the Schumer/Cornyn bill — splitting from the administration. This was especially notable for Clinton, who was in essence disagreeing with Kerry, who has strongly testified against the bill.

Though the administration has supported Saudi Arabia on such efforts as the war in Yemen, relations have strained in recent years.

Tension with the White House goes back to the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the decision not to retaliate against Syrian President Bashar Assad after he had violated the President’s red line on chemical weapons and the Iran nuclear deal for Tehran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions

The administration says broader concerns — rather than just the relationship with Saudi Arabia — are at play: U.S. troops could lose their immunity if the Saudis or other countries retaliate.

“Our concern is about an important principle of international law. The whole notion of sovereign immunity is at stake,” Earnest told reporters on Monday. “It could put the United States and our tax payers at significant risk.”


Obama: ‘If we let Americans sue Saudis for 9/11, foreigners will begin suing US non-stop’

April 20, 2016


President Barack Obama has said the classified pages of the 9/11 Commission report that do not “compromise major national security interests” may “hopefully” be soon released, but argued against any potential legal action against Saudi citizens.

Obama, who flew to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, discussed in an interview with Charlie Rose his relationship with the Saudi regime and the controversially-classified 28 pages of the report, which some believe contain links between 9/11 terrorists or Al-Qaeda and Saudi officials.

The full conversation aired Tuesday night on PBS after initially airing highlights on CBS News.

Former US Senator Bob Graham, who has seen the pages as intelligence committee chair, had already told the CBS program “60 Minutes” that he believes the Saudi government helped the 9/11 hijackers.

When asked by Rose if he had read the pages, Obama said he “had a sense of what’s in there.”

While admitting it has been a long time since the US intelligence started evaluating the data contained in the classified pages, Obama said that “a whole bunch of stuff” needs to be “verified.”

He hinted that “hopefully this process will come to a head very soon.”

“But this has been a process which we generally deal through the intelligence community, and Jim Clapper, our director of intelligence, has been going through to make sure that whatever it is that is released, is not going to compromise some major national security interests of the United States, and my understanding is that he’s about to complete that process,” said Obama.

Rose also asked about legislation that would allow the relatives of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudis, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, but has yet to be voted on by the full body.

Obama has said that he doesn’t support the bill, due to the possibility of foreign citizens – presumably victims of US wars and drone strikes – suing the government.

“If we open up the possibility that individuals in the United States can routinely start suing other governments, then we are also opening up the United States to being continually sued by individuals in other countries,” the commander-in-chief said.

The Saudis have reportedly threatened to sell its $750 billion in US assets if Congress passes the law

Obama described the US as “the world’s singular superpower” during the full interview and said anyone who doubts his willingness to take military actions should “ask Bin Laden.”

Responding to criticism that he did not use military power against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when he stepped over the chemical weapon “red line”, Obama defended his decision saying, “Syria caved, they gave in. With the help of the Russians they acknowledge they had chemical weapons, signed up for an international treaty saying they wouldn’t have chemical weapons, and systematically removed them.”

Obama said the situation in the Ukraine has put “enormous strain on US-Russian relations” and that until the issue is resolved “tension and suspicion” between the two countries is preventing them from concentrating on the war in Syria.

Describing Russia and Ukraine as having a “deep historical link”, he compared Russia’s relationship with its western neighbor to “the same way we have an influence over Canada or Mexico.”

Rose asked both Putin last year and Obama this week whether Russia has “emerged as a global player”, but the US president rejected his premise by responding that “Russia never stopped being a global player”.

Obama then provocatively said the “former” superpower showed weakness rather than strength by sending its military to states over which they previously had control, adding his own country’s influence wasn’t “based on us killing and muscling folks” but rather “they cooperate with us because they see that their interests are best served by working with us.”

The US president commented on the phone conversation he had with Putin about Syria shortly before he recorded Monday’s interview

“My call today to him was to indicate that we’re starting to see it fray more rapidly. And if the United States and Russia are not in sync about maintaining it and getting a political track and transition moving, then we could be back in a situation we were three, four weeks ago,” Obama told Rose.

Obama said Russia is “very much committed to maintaining the structure of the Syrian state, which in theory, we don’t object to either.”

“Where we have continually butted heads, and this has been true for six years now is [Putin’s] insistence that he cannot back unilaterally the removal of [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], that that’s a decision that Assad and the Syrians have to make,” the president added.

During Rose’s marathon interview with Putin in Moscow, he asked the Russian leader if he thought Obama listened to him and whether he thought Obama considered Russia and Putin an equal.

“Well, you ask him, he’s your president,” Putin said after laughing.


Obama faces friction in Saudi Arabia over 9/11 bill and Iran relationship

A Senate bill, which he has spoken out against, looks to enable victims of the terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi government if it is found to have been involved

April 20, 2016

by Ian Black, Middle East editor, and David Smith, Washington correspondent

The Guardian

Barack Obama has arrived in Saudi Arabia to face some potentially awkward questions from his hosts – not least over a push by some of his political allies for the kingdom to be held responsible in US courts for any role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The US president landed in Riyadh on Wednesday on his final trip to the region before leaving office. He will try to smooth the ruffled the feathers of Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis who have come to resent their longstanding ally for “tilting” towards their rival Iran and pressing too hard for domestic reforms they fear will undermine the autocratic status quo.

Adding to Obama’s diplomatic headache is legislation proposed by Senate Democrats that would enable victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington to sue the Saudi government if it is found to have been involved. Fifteen of the 19 airline hijackers were Saudi citizens but the government has long denied any connection.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, each seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, both said they back the measure, but Obama has spoken out against it. Saudi Arabia has reportedly warned the White House that if the bill is enacted, it might retaliate by selling up to $750bn (£520bn) in treasury securities and other assets in the US.

“If that legislation passes without being watered down, it will pose a very serious problem for the relationship,” said Bruce Riedel, a veteran of the CIA for 30 years and now an intelligence analyst at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington. “If members of the Saudi government are taken to court, there will be retaliation from the kingdom.”

The move comes amid a renewed push to declassify a 28-page section of a 2004 US government report on the 9/11 attacks that is believed to detail possible Saudi links to the plot. Riedel added: “The simplest solution to the problem is for the administration to declassify that 28 pages, which is what the Saudis want us to do, and then let everyone see if there’s a smoking gun in there.”

But despite the negative headlines, Riedel noted that the US, UK and Canada have all struck the biggest arms deals in their histories with Saudi Arabia in the last few years. “One has to separate rhetoric and reality in this relationship,” he said. “There is an unprecedented degree of criticism of Saudi Arabia in the United States, even from the president. On the other hand the security, military and intelligence relationships are probably stronger than they’ve ever been before.”

Publicly, of course, it will be all smiles and carefully staged photo opportunities at Thursday’s regional summit: at least this time King Salman of Saudi Arabia will actually be there, having conspicuously stayed at home last year when the other Gulf Cooperation Council leaders trooped to Camp David in the nervous run-up to the landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran.

But following a recent interview in Atlantic magazine, in which Obama referred to some Gulf countries as “free riders” because of their overreliance on US military action, there is no mistaking the undercurrent of hostility. “The goals of Obama’s visit are incomprehensible,” commented the Saudi journalist Hussein Shobokshi , adding that it should at least put an end to a turbulent period in relations.

“The president will deliver a message of reassurance to mitigate some of the fallout we’ve seen,” predicted Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Foundation. Rob Malley, Obama’s top Middle East adviser, has highlighted “much greater cooperation” with the GCC. Agreements on defence, counter-terrorism and cyberwarfare will accentuate the positive.

Ashton Carter, the US defence secretary, who is accompanying the president, said he expects GCC financial help in stabilising Iraq as well as an enhanced effort to fight the jihadis of the Islamic State. Plummeting oil prices, production quotas and far-reaching Saudi economic reform plans are certain to figure in talks between the king and the president.

Accumulated US-Saudi irritations go back over a decade to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein under George Bush, the rise of Iraq’s Shias and the abandonment of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in the early days of the Arab spring. Obama’s vacillation on Syria, in Saudi eyes empowering Bashar al-Assad’s Iranian ally, angered King Abdullah.

But under the more assertive King Salman and his ambitious son, the deputy crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, tempers have frayed even more, especially over Iran, the Saudi-led war in Yemen – despite US support – the rise of al-Qaida there, and what are seen in Washington as the kingdom’s half-hearted efforts against Isis.

Saudi statements about deploying troops and aircraft to Syria and Iraq have been more about PR than real deployments, while the creation of an Islamic anti-terrorist alliance has a Sunni sectarian feel to it and seems mainly designed to challenge Tehran and its Shia proxies in Lebanon, Syria and the Gulf. Saudis often admit that they feel more hostile to Iran than to Assad.

After the Atlantic interview, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, retorted that Obama was being “petulant” and “adding insult to injury” in equating “the kingdom’s 80 years of constant friendship with America” with an irresponsible Iran.

Saudis counter that the answer to Obama’s criticism is the “Salman doctrine” – a demonstration that they are now willing to lead, as in Yemen, and take initiatives, but still demanding that the US remains a loyal ally that provides logistical and intelligence support when needed. The results so far, though, are patchy to say the least.

If mutual annoyance is unmistakable, reports of the death of the relationship between Riyadh and Washington are premature. “We may get angry and reproach one another,” wrote the commentator Jamal Khashoggi, “but we cannot do without each other.” Another prominent Saudi intellectual quipped that the only thing worse than Obama would be having Donald Trump in the White House.

“For years we’ve been telling the Americans, ‘OK you don’t want to remove Assad but at least set up a no-fly zone because his barrel bombs are producing radicalisation,” said one analyst. “And then he drew the ‘red line’ over chemical weapons and backed down when Assad used them. Obama doesn’t have a doctrine, let alone a policy. Yes, the Saudi-US relationship has been damaged but it has survived. And it isn’t just about summits and meetings. It’s institutional: there is still defence cooperation and intelligence sharing on a massive scale.”

Carnegie’s Perry Cammack said: “The end of the Obama administration can’t come quickly enough for some of these leaders. But the real question is what comes with the next administration. And their hope of course is that, with a new presidency, things will revert back to, to how they’ve been for decades. I’m not so sure that’s the case. There have been some deeper structural changes in the relationship which we’ll have to wait and see what those look like over the next couple of years.”


Obama Went From Condemning Saudis for Abuses to Arming Them to the Teeth

April 19, 2016

by Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons

The Intercept

In the 2002 speech against the Iraq War that helped propel him to the presidency, then-state Sen. Barack Obama denounced not just the looming invasion of Iraq, but also human rights abuses by our “so-called allies” in Saudi Arabia:

Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

And he spoke out against the U.S.’ role as weapons supplier to the world:

Let’s fight to make sure … that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

Thirteen years later, Obama is making his fourth trip to Riyadh, having presided over record-breaking U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia while offering only muted criticism of the kingdom’s human rights violations.

And don’t expect the president to speak up while he’s there. Obama last traveled to Saudi Arabia in January 2015, cutting short his trip to India after the passing of the former Saudi king, Abdullah ibn-Abdulaziz al-Saud. During that visit, Obama was criticized for not speaking out against the flogging of prominent Saudi blogger and dissident Raif Badawi. In 2014, Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” and “going beyond the realm of obedience,” with the first flogging session taking place weeks before Obama arrived.

In January, after a record-setting year for Saudi beheadings, Saudi authorities set off protests by executing Shia cleric and regime critic Nimr al-Nimr. U.S. response was muted. The State Department merely said the execution “risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced” — and then fell silent on the repression of the following protests.

Last year, amazingly enough, Saudi Arabia became the head of the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council. When a State Department spokesperson was asked for his reaction, he responded: “Frankly, we would welcome it. We’re close allies.”Obama administration officials have not offered on-the-record explanations for why Saudi human rights abuses don’t play a greater role in U.S. policy. But in the trove of documents released from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, Clinton acknowledges that the U.S. government holds the Saudis to a different standard.

In one email chain, dated June 22, 2011, aide Cheryl Mills forwarded Clinton a New York Times opinion column in which Maureen Dowd mused that it would “have been thrilling” if Clinton, on a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, had “smacked around the barbaric Saudi men who force women to huddle under a suffocating black tarp.” Clinton asked Mills what she thought about the column and Mills remarked that “we/DOS/USG may have different standards we apply when it is pushing Saudi.” “No doubt about that!” Clinton responded:

Obama’s visit this week will be taking place in the shadow of an ongoing U.S.-supplied, Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, where Saudi airstrikes have killed thousands of civilians.

Since the Saudi coalition began its campaign last March, it has relied on U.S.-produced aircraft, “smart bombs,” guided missiles, and internationally banned cluster bombs. A recent report from Human Rights Watch, for instance, found evidence that the coalition used American bombs in a March 15 attack on a market in northwestern Yemen where nearly a hundred civilians were killed. As Iona Craig reported in November, Yemen’s architectural history is also being destroyed by bombs sold to Saudi Arabia by the United States.

According to a new poll released earlier this month, 82 percent of Yemenis between the ages of 18 and 24 now view the United States as an enemy.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a bill blocking arms transfers unless the State Department certifies that the Saudi military is taking every “feasible precaution to reduce the risk of harm to civilians.”

But arms sales in general — and specifically to Saudi Arabia — have been a consistent element of Obama’s tenure.

“Many Americans would be surprised to learn that his administration has brokered more arms deals than any administration of the past 70 years, Republican or Democratic,” said William Hartung, a senior adviser to Secure Assistance Monitor, a progressive group that tracks arms sales.

The primary vehicle for international arms transfers is the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program; in 2015, the FMS program hit a record high of $46.6 billion.

The Saudis have been major clients. “During the first six years of the Obama administration, the United States entered into agreements to sell over $190 billion in weapons and training to Saudi Arabia. And in 2015, the administration announced its intention to sell another $22 billion to the kingdom, parts of which have yet to be embedded in formal agreements,” Hartung said.

To put that in context, in his first five years as president, Obama sold $30 billion more in weapons than President Bush did during his entire eight years as commander in chief.

Saudi Arabia maintains a huge network of D.C. lobbyists, public relations experts, and a subsidized think tank to promote its cozy relationship with Washington. And as Lee Fang reported in December, it launched a particularly massive new charm offensive shortly after beginning its air and ground assault in Yemen.

Murphy expressed hopes that Obama would press the Saudi king on his conduct in Yemen. “Right now, the Saudis’ focus on Yemen is distracting them from the war against violent extremists,” Murphy said in a statement emailed to The Intercept. “And personally, I hope President Obama takes this opportunity to have a frank discussion with Saudi Arabia about their continued backing for religious and educational institutions around the world that promote sectarianism and intolerance.”

But many activists are losing hope that the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia will change.

“The reality is the U.S. foreign policy establishment, including the State Department and Pentagon, are happy with the Saudi relationship,” said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy. “In order to change course, meaningfully, it would take real leadership and investment in doing so, and President Obama — although his instincts might be that the Saudis are problematic in a number of ways — he hasn’t shown any serious desire to bring about a change of policy.”



The War Against the World

Washington finds enemies everywhere

April 19, 2016

by Philip Giraldi

UNZ Review

Secretary of War Ash Carter is concerned about America’s posture. No, it’s not about sitting with your back straight up and your knees placed primly together. It all has to do with how many enemies there are out there threatening the United States and what we have to do, globally speaking, to make them cry uncle. Ash outlined his views at a “posture hearing” before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17th, part of a process intended to give still more money to the Pentagon, $582.7 billion to be exact for fiscal year 2017.

I respect Ash at least a bit because he once studied Medieval History at Yale, though he apparently has forgotten about the Hundred Years War and the War of the Roses. Both devastated winners and losers alike, a salutary lesson for those who are concerned about what the United States has been up to for the past fifteen years. Yet Ash, who is characteristically no veteran and for whom war is an abstraction that must be supported by counting and piling up sufficient beans, thinks that more is always better when it comes to having fancy new toys to play with. Since his proposed budget will be giving the Navy a few tens of billions worth of Ohio class subs the Air Force will have to get its own strategic bombers so no one will feel cheated. Just wait until the bill from the Army comes in.

Ash justified all the needless spending by telling the Senators that there are five “security challenges” confronting the United States – terrorism, North Korea, China, Russia and Iran – before lapsing into Pentagon-speak about why more money is always better than less money. He attacked any attempt at sequestration, which would require budget cuts across the board, because it risks the “funding of critical investments.”

If you thought that investments were something financial services guys do you would be wrong. The War Department also knows all about it and also can generate “new posture in some regions” with all that extra cash. Why? To “protect the homeland,” of course, and to “have the ability to ensure that anyone who starts a conflict with us will regret doing so.”

Ash possibly could have benefited from having his historian hat on during his testimony as he might thereby recall that the last “anyone” to initiate a war with the U.S. was the Empire of Japan in 1941. Every other conflict since that time was started by the United States.

Carter also elaborated to the Senators on his enemies list. No one would dispute that North Korea poses a regional and possibly even greater threat if it does indeed possess the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons that it claims to have and the ability to deliver them, which can be challenged. Its unbalanced leader Kim Jong-un, who reminds one of Dick Cheney, appears capable of just about anything and steps taken in coordination with Japan, South Korea and China to minimize the threat are undeniably welcome. But even in a worst case scenario, Pyongyang does not threaten the United States.

Terrorism also is a transnational security issue but the actual threat that it represents for Europeans and Americans has been greatly exaggerated. It cannot do serious damage to the U.S. In fact, the United States would be less endangered by ISIS and al-Qaeda if its soldiers were not “over there” destabilizing existing governments and creating power vacuums that militants are able to exploit. The Middle East and South Asia would be better off today if the United States had never intervened in the first place but Ash seems to embrace a standardized official U.S. government vision of a menacing status quo that extends well beyond the near future (“over the horizon threats” being a favorite Pentagon phrase when you run out of things to say).

And then there are China and Russia, which, per Ash, are developing and continuing to “advance military systems that seek to threaten U.S. advantages in specific areas.” Which means that Washington must always be superior to everyone everywhere and in every way. It is a formula that previous empires more realistically did not aspire to and is a sure road to financial ruin for the American taxpayer.

Ash favors a “strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression” while also citing a China that is “behaving aggressively.” And there is always Iran, which is demonstrating “reckless and destabilizing behavior” manifesting as aggression, as well as “malign” influence and threatening Washington’s upholding its “ironclad commitments” to Israel.

That Russia, China and Iran are portrayed as serious threats to the United States because of what they are doing in Eastern Europe, the South China Sea and in the Persian Gulf region is ridiculous, but it unfortunately passes for foreign policy consensus in Washington both for neoconservatives and for democracy promoting interventionists like Carter. In reality Russia reacted to American interference in Ukraine, China is involved in regional disputes that have been playing out since the end of the Vietnam War and a non-nuclear Iran is surrounded by enemies. None of them threatens the U.S.

Unfortunately, Ash Carter is not alone in his blustering. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine General Joseph Dunford, often described as an intellectual officer, supported his boss at the briefing, asserting that Congress must adequately fund “a bow wave of procurement requirements.” More ships, more planes, more high tech wizardry for the Army. All in spite of the fact that the U.S. military capabilities already exceed the resources of all potential adversaries combined.

NATO’s top military commander U.S. Air Force general Philip Breedlove also briefed Congress last month, telling the Senate committee that Russia is a long term threat to the United States. It is “eager to exert unquestioned influence over neighboring countries,” having used military force to violate the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, Georgia and others like Moldova.”

How exactly does that threaten the United States even if it were true, which is debatable? Breedlove, a pilot who has never experienced combat, explains “Russia seeks to re-establish a leading role on the world stage” but adds reassuringly that he is working hard with NATO allies, “deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary.”

One can be excused if a slip of the tongue sometimes confuses Breedlove with Strangelove. With airheads like Breedlove in charge every American can no doubt sleep better tonight, but one has to wonder what motivates officers like him to go in search of enemies where no enemies exist. Russia is not capable either economically or militarily to revert to being the Soviet Union. There is absolutely no evidence that Moscow is seeking to invade any of its Eastern European neighbors and its belief that NATO is aimed at it and is a threat is all too real, as Breedlove reveals. And Russia’s intervention in Syria against ISIS was positive, most observers would agree. Everyone seems to understand all of that but Breedlove and, more importantly, the folks in Washington and NATO who want to keep the cash flowing. To accomplish that an enemy is needed and as enemies go the bigger the better.

Readers of this piece have no doubt noted that I have been referring to the Department of War rather than the post-World War 2 euphemism “Defense.” That is because what the United States actually does globally through its African, European, Pacific and Southern “Commands” has little to do with what anyone would plausibly define as defense. If we are waging war on much of the world ostensibly based on a whole bundle of poorly conceived interests but mostly just to prove that we can it is perhaps beyond time to be frank about what we call it.


America as a Terrorist Target

by Harry von Johnston PhD


When the Syrian Palmyra was liberated from the fanatic Sunni Moslem IS people, a Russian GRU unit searched for, and found, considerable IS documents that were most revealing and informative. One set of documents set forth a series of targets in the United States that IS is planning to attack. It is a long list so it is my intention to publish various segments of this particular document for the edification of the public.

One of the plans would be to release BW material near water reservoirs and another would be to put Claymore mines in suitcases on crowded bus, rail or airport locations. Their remote-controlled explosions would spray deadly shrapnel into the crowds.

Penetration of the United States would not be difficult. Both the Canadian and Mexican borders are very porous and the sea coasts are virtually without any observation or protection from small boats, fishing craft or commercial shipping.

In Utah, a specific target is the Tabernacle Square in Salt Lake City, a Mormon religious center. Here, personnel bombs should, the documents say, be placed and detonated after Sunday services.

And in Skokie, Illinois, a target is Bnai Emunah Synagogue because Hillary Clinton’s Jewish family are members.

And also in Illinois, the main terminal at O’Hare International Airport, preferably during the major holiday seasons of Thanksgiving or Christman. Again, personnel bombs are recommended for maximum damage.


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