TBR News June 4, 2019

Jun 04 2019


The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. June 4, 2019: “Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

His latest business is to re-institute a universal draft in America.

He wants to do this to remove tens of thousands of unemployed young Americans from the streets so they won’t come together and fight him.

Commentary for June 4:”Now that our King is in England meeting his social equals and telling them how to run their country, the local MacDonald’s fast food places are going into temporary mourning. Chubby eats nothing but their kangaroo meat burgers and that by the table full. He has to sit about three feet back from the edge of the table because of his huge food bag and BigMac after BigMac vanished into his maw.  At the present moment, we learn here, Trump is telling the British hosts how to run their country in a manner pleasing to him. We also learn, from various intelligence agencies who report here, that the Brits are not amused and view Trump as if he were a South American dictator with severe psychological problems. He likes to be seen strutting around with the British queen and, I am told, would love it if she would make him a Knight of the Garter. This is not likely to happen and we learn that a huge, gross Trump balloon is floating in London’s skies and that Trump is furious. Maybe he’ll sanction the British and we won’t be able to buy Stilton cheese in the markets any more.”

The Table of Contents

  • Jared Kushner interview triggers new security fears over Russia approach
  • Do Trump’s Hawks Speak for Trump?
  • US aircraft carrier deployed over Iran remains outside Gulf
  • US offer not ‘as good as S-400’: Turkey says no turning back on missile deal with Russia
  • Pentagon’s Phony Iran ‘Evidence’: New Rationale for US Intervention?
  • The American Cult of Bombing and Endless War
  • What Connects Meghan Markle to a Philosopher of Totalitarianism? Donald Trump’s Lies.
  • Trump’s Criminal Actions
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons             
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

Jared Kushner interview triggers new security fears over Russia approach

  • Trump son-in-law said he might not alert FBI to new contact
  • ‘Kushner basically just put a for-sale sign on his forehead’

June 3, 2019

by Julian Borger in Washington

The Guardian

Jared Kushner’s interview over the weekend, in which he said he did not know if he would alert the FBI if approached privately again by Russia, has revived questions about his White House security clearance.

The admission came in an interview with Axios on HBO in which Kushner seemed unprepared for a range of questions – including several on whether his father-in-law, Donald Trump, is a racist.

The answers which drew the most attention, however, were in a section of the interview devoted to his role in a June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian Kremlin-linked lawyer promising to bring damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Asked why an approach by a hostile power did not immediately lead him to call the FBI, Kushner became defensive and suggested the question was “self-righteous”.

“Let me put you in my shoes at that time. OK, I’m running three companies, I’m helping run the campaign. I get an email that says show up at 4 instead of 3 to a meeting that I had been told about earlier that I didn’t know what the hell it was about,” Kushner said.

He claimed not to know the meeting was set up in Trump Tower in order to receive Russian-sourced information, even after it was pointed out to him that the email telling him about the meeting had the subject line: “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”

“Again, I would get about 250 emails a day, and so I literally saw show up at 4,” Kushner said. “I showed up at 4.”

Kushner also failed to explain why such a busy executive would attend a meeting in the middle of the afternoon without knowing what it was about.

In the Axios interview, Kushner was also asked: “Would you call the FBI if it happened again?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “It’s hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is, is that we were not given anything that was salacious.”

The suggestion that he might not report an approach, even though he now has (controversial) top security clearance, astonished former officials who have had to go through the stringent vetting procedures.

“This shows a lack of understanding of our legal system when it comes to Russia,” said Brett Bruen, global engagement director in the Obama White House. “Failing to report it is a clear security violation.”

Sam Vinograd, who also worked in the Obama national security council, told CNN: “Jared Kushner basically just put a for sale sign on his forehead during this interview saying on national television he may not contact the FBI if a hostile foreign power contacts him. That really sends a message to Russia and any other foreign actor that Jared Kushner may be open for business during this 2020 campaign cycle.”

Trump reportedly ordered Kushner to be provided top secret security clearance, overruling the judgment of administration officials concerned about undeclared foreign entanglements from Kushner’s business meetings.

Kushner staunchly defended the president, particularly on the charge of racism. But when asked whether “birtherism” – a groundless conspiracy theory Trump helped propagate suggesting that Obama had been born abroad – was racist, Kushner was evasive, simply repeating: “I wasn’t involved in that.”

“In retrospect, it’s clear why Jared Kushner rarely does interviews,” Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said “Politically it was a disaster. He seemed unprepared … and the answers are laughable.”

At one point towards the end of the interview, Kushner said that one of the best facets of his father-in-law was his readiness to hire people who were not “qualified” making air quotes when he said the word.

Kushner, whose experience before the White House was working in his family’s property business, has been given some of the most important and complex portfolios, including Middle East peace and immigration.

“What is astonishing is that he was put in charge of an awful lot of policy, when he was not remotely qualified,” Drezner said. “Two years on, it’s not obvious he has learnt anything.”


Do Trump’s Hawks Speak for Trump?

June 4, 2019

by Patrick J. Buchanan

For a president who won his office by denouncing the Middle East wars into which George W. Bush and Barack Obama plunged the nation, Donald Trump has assembled the most unabashedly hawkish conclave of foreign policy advisers in memory. And he himself seems to concede the point.

If foreign policy were decided by my security adviser John Bolton, the president confided recently, “We’d be in four wars by now.”

It was Bolton who ordered the Abraham Lincoln carrier group and B-52s to the Gulf and told the Pentagon to draw up plans to send 120,000 U.S. troops. It is Bolton who is charging Iran with using mines to sabotage four oil tankers outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Asked for evidence, Bolt barked back at reporters: “Who else would you think is doing it? Somebody from Nepal?”

But if Bolton is first hawk, he is not without rivals in the inner circle of the Commander in Chief.

At West Point last week, Vice President Mike Pence, after hailing the diversity of a class with the highest number of Hispanic and black women graduates ever, laid out what the future holds in store for them.

“You will fight on a battlefield for America … You will lead soldiers in combat. It will happen.

“Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence.

“Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.

“And when that day comes, I know you will move to the sound of the guns … and you will fight, and you will win.

“Put your armor on,” Pence admonished the warriors, “so that when – not if – that day comes, you’ll be able to stand your ground.”

A question: Did not candidate Trump say he would be ending wars and bringing troops home, not plunging into new conflicts in the Mideast, Asia, Europe, the Western Hemisphere and “the Indo-Pacific”?

As for war in our hemisphere, which Pence said was possible, that could come sooner than the graduating cadets expect, if Trump’s confidant Sen. Lindsey Graham has his way.

All last week, Graham beat the drums for an ultimatum to Cuba to get any and all of its troops out of Venezuela. Should Havana refuse, said Graham, Trump ought to “do in Venezuela what Reagan did in Grenada.”

In 1983, Reagan ordered an invasion of Grenada to prevent U.S. medical students from being taken hostage by Marxist thugs who had just assassinated their leader and seized power.

But Grenada is a tiny island roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C., with a population of 100,000, while Venezuela is the size of Texas, with 30 million people and an army of more soldiers than Grenada has citizens.

“I would let the Venezuelan military know, you’ve got to choose between democracy and Maduro,” thundered Graham. “And if you choose Maduro and Cuba, we’re coming after you. This is our backyard.”

Trump may have run as anti-interventionist, but his secretary of state was apparently not closely following his campaign.

Speaking at the West Coast neocon lamasery Claremont Institute last week, Secretary Mike Pompeo said the Founding Fathers “knew peace wasn’t the norm” and “conflict is the normative experience for nations.”

He ripped into the Russians.

Thirty years after the Cold War, said Pompeo, “The Putin regime slays dissidents in cold blood and invades its neighbors,” and, along with China, conducts a foreign policy “intent on eroding American power.”

“We Americans have had too little courage to confront regimes squarely opposed to our interests and our values.”

As for “America First!” Pompeo explained Trump’s signature phrase thus:

The president “believes America is exceptional – a place and history apart from normal human experience.” This recalls Madeline Albright’s famous formulation: “We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further … into the future.”

President George Washington would approve of our policies, said Pompeo. Though the Father of our Country may have warned in his Farewell Address against “permanent alliances,” we are “banding together with the like-minded nations like Australia, India, Japan and South Korea to make sure that each Indo-Pacific nation can protect its sovereignty from coercion.”

“American exceptionalism … will remain alive and well in the 21st century,” concluded Pompeo. “What’s good for the United States is good for the world.”

One wonders: Do the hawks in his inner councils speak for Trump? For they surely do not speak for a nation whose weariness with wars put him into the White House.

On the first day of Trump’s visit to London, Pompeo, who last year issued his 12 demands on Iran, was quoted as saying the U.S. is now prepared to negotiate with Tehran with “no preconditions.”

For now, Trump’s hawks appeared contained. But for how long?


US aircraft carrier deployed over Iran remains outside Gulf

June 3, 2019

by Jon Gambrell

Associated Press

ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (AP) — A U.S. aircraft carrier ordered by the White House to rapidly deploy to the Mideast over a perceived threat from Iran remains outside of the Persian Gulf, so far avoiding any confrontation with Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces amid efforts to deescalate tensions between Tehran and Washington.

Officers aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln repeatedly told The Associated Press on Monday they could respond rapidly to any regional threat from their position, at the time some 320 kilometers (200 miles) off the eastern coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea.

However, after decades of American aircraft carriers sailing through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded at sea passes, the U.S. Navy’s decision to keep the Lincoln away is striking.

“You don’t want to inadvertently escalate something,” Capt. Putnam Browne, the commanding officer of the Lincoln, told the AP.

The White House in May deployed the Lincoln and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf. The U.S. also plans to send 900 additional troops to the Mideast and extend the stay of another 600 as tens of thousands of others also are on the ground across the region.

The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump’s withdrawal last year of the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped Iran’s uranium enrichment activities in return for lifting sanctions. Washington subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.

Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, or halt its support for militias in the Mideast.

But amid the escalation, the U.S. alleges without offering evidence that four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates were attacked with limpet mines. Meanwhile, Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have launched coordinated drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. itself has made a point to show its arsenal in the region. On Sunday, the U.S. Air Force announced a B-52 conducted a training exercise with the Lincoln that included “simulated strike operations.”

That came as Monday marked the 30th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic. Thousands in Iran commemorate Khomeini’s death by visiting his golden shrine south of Tehran. This year, Iranian military officials reportedly plan to guard it with HAWK surface-to-air missiles, the same kind the U.S. delivered to the Islamic Republic in the Iran-Contra scandal.

However, in recent days, the Trump administration has stressed it is ready to speak to the Iranians without preconditions. Iran in turn has demanded the U.S. show it respect.

Though officials repeatedly declined to discuss it, keeping the Lincoln out of the Strait of Hormuz and Persian Gulf helps to de-escalate the situation. Transits through the strait, which at its narrowest point is just 33 kilometers (21 miles) wide, often see the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard’s naval forces shadow American warships. They’ve also run snap missile launches, fired machine guns and flown drones over American carriers.

To Iran, which shares the strait with Oman, they view the American naval presence akin to Iranian forces sailing into the Gulf of Mexico. But the U.S. Navy stresses the strait is an international waterway crucial to global shipping and energy supplies.

Asked about why the Lincoln hadn’t gone through the strait, Rear Adm. John F.G. Wade, the commander of the carrier’s strike group, said that his forces could “conduct my mission wherever and whenever needed.” He declined to discuss any specifics about that mission, though he said Iran had presented “credible threats” to the region.

“They do impose a threat to our operations, but also to the safety and security of commerce and trade going through the Strait of Hormuz and that’s why we are here,” Wade said.

The Lincoln hosted journalists from the AP and other media outlets on Monday. They spent some four hours aboard the vessel after a two-hour flight from the United Arab Emirates and were greeted by camera-carrying sailors who documented every part of their time onboard.

The Lincoln famously served as the backdrop of then-President George W. Bush’s May 2003 speech declaring combat operations over in Iraq, a banner reading “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED” hanging behind him. The majority of the war’s casualties came after.

On Monday, F/A-18s flew maneuvers over the carrier. Accompanying the Lincoln to the Mideast are three destroyers — the USS Bainbridge, the USS Mason and the USS Nitze — as well as the guided-missile cruiser the USS Leyte Gulf.

Capt. William Reed, the commander of the carrier’s air wing, laughed off any notion the situation was stressful.

“It’s just another day at the office,” he said from the carrier’s hangar as airmen worked on the ship’s F/A-18 fighter jets.

Capt. Chris Follin, the commodore of the destroyer strike group traveling with the Lincoln, didn’t express any concern, either.

“I wouldn’t want to go against that,” he said, nodding toward the ship’s sailors and warplanes. “Our mission is just to keep the peace.”

Associated Press writer Fay Abuelgasim contributed to this report.


US offer not ‘as good as S-400’: Turkey says no turning back on missile deal with Russia

June 4, 2019


Turkish president Recep Erdogan has said a US consolation offer of Patriot air defense systems was no match for the offer made by Russia on its S-400. Turkey won’t step out of the deal with Moscow, despite US pressure, he added.

The White House has been threatening NATO-ally Turkey with sanctions for quite a while already, urging it to ditch the $2.5-billion S-400 accord with Moscow. The US cites security concerns and incompatibility of the Russian equipment with American systems.

“There is an agreement here and we are committed to it,” Erdogan countered, when speaking to journalists. “It is out of the question for us to take a step back.”

The president added Ankara had proposed to work with Washington on the issue and had asked the White House to offer Ankara a better deal on its military gear. However, Washington failed to do that.

As Ankara expects to receive the first S-400 batteries this month, the US is persisting in urging Ankara to drop the purchase

Turkey is not the only state that faces retaliation from Washington for military shopping in Russia. India also had to fight off American threats of sanctions for purchasing an advanced surface-to-air missile system from Moscow last year.


Pentagon’s Phony Iran ‘Evidence’: New Rationale for US Intervention?

Efforts to blame Iran for acts of sabotage went nowhere – but this feels way too much like 2003 all over again

June 4, 2019

by Gareth Porter


Last week a senior Pentagon official accused Iran of having sabotaged four oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on May 12 and of firing a rocket into Baghdad’s Green Zone on May 19. Iran executed these events, he said, either directly or through regional “proxies.”

But instead of creating sensational headlines, the briefing by Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, was a flop, because it was clear to reporters covering it that he could not cite a single fact to back it up.

The story got only the most cursory coverage in major news outlets, all of which buried Gilday’s accusation deep in stories about the announced deployment of 1,500 more U.S. troops to the Middle East. Relatively few readers would even have noticed Gilday’s inflammatory claims.

Nevertheless, the briefing raises a serious question whether National Security Adviser John Bolton intended to use the new accusation against Iran stoke a war crisis – much as Vice President Dick Cheney, in another era, used the argument that Iraq had purchased aluminum tubes for a covert nuclear weapons program to justify the invasion of Iraq. A careful examination of Gilday’s accusations make clear that they do not even claim to be based on any intelligence assessment.

Substituting syllogism for evidence

Gilday was apparently chosen to give a non-political patina and the authority of the US military to an accusation that clearly originated with Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In a prepared statement, Gilday declared, “In the recent past, Iranian leaders have publicly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. They have backed up those threats with actions, posturing their forces in an effort to intimidate the movement of international trade and global energy sources.”

Gilday went on to cite “[r]ecent actions by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, to include attacks against foreign tankers in Fujairah and the attempted covert deployment of modified dhows capable of launching cruise missiles,” calling them “all part of a dangerous and escalatory strategy by Iran to threaten global trade and to destabilize the region.”

During questions and answers, Gilday added that “we believe with a high degree of confidence that this stems back to the leadership of Iran at the highest levels and that all of the attacks that I mentioned have been attributed to Iran through their proxies or their forces.”

When pressed by reporters, however, Gilday simply repeated variants of the argument he had presented in his prepared statement. When a reporter pressed him for evidence to support the accusation, he responded, “So the Iranians said they were going to close the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranians struck those – those tankers. The Iranians struck the – that pipeline facility in Saudi Arabia through their proxies in Yemen. We know that they’re tied directly to the proxies in Iraq that launched the rocket [in Baghdad’s Green Zone].”

Then, when asked by a persistent reporter, “What do you have to back up your case?” Gilday repeated yet again that the Iranians “have said publicly they were going to do things. We learned more through intelligence reporting they have acted upon those threats and they’ve actually – they’ve actually attacked.”

Gilday was thus deploying a crude syllogistic argument (A is true, and B is logically related to A, so B must be true), as the entire basis for the accusation against Iran regarding these two incidents.

But his syllogism was based on a false premise. What a senior Iranian official actually said on April 22 was not that Iran intended to close the Strait of Hormuz unilaterally, but that it would do so in response to any effort to prevent Iran from using it. Alireza Tangsiri, head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps naval force, declared on April 22, “According to international law, the Strait of Hormuz is a marine passageway, and if we are barred from using it, we will shut it down.”

When another reporter challenged Gilday, the admiral finally referred to “intelligence sources that we have.” But when the reporter asked for further clarification, Gilday reverted to another version of the same syllogistic argument based on the idea that the Iranians had “said that they were going to close the Strait of Hormuz.”

Another reporter tried again, asking, “Can you provide us with anything to back this up?” Gilday responded, “I can’t reveal the sources of that reporting.” That wasn’t what he had been asked to do. His response was another obvious ducking of the reporters’ demands for any reason to believe that the US government had actual evidence of Iranian responsibility.

A reporter then tried to try come to Gilday’s assistance by giving him an example of the generic kind of evidence the press was expecting. Was it perhaps the “sophistication of the attack,” the reporter asked, or “maybe the forensics that you’ve done?” But Gilday simply refused to be drawn into such a discussion.

Stovepiping Israeli “intelligence” to strengthen Bolton’s hand

Gilday’s use of “We” in expressing “high confidence” in Iran’s culpability conveniently obscured the all-important question of who had actually decided to make the accusation last week. He was obviously not making it on his own, and he did not even hint at any analysis or assessment from the US intelligence community on the oil tanker sabotage or the rocket fired into the Green Zone. Conveniently for the those behind the Gilday briefing, moreover, no one in the press asked why no such intelligence analysis had been mentioned.

The circumstantial evidence thus points to John Bolton and his allies, notably Pompeo and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, as the unacknowledged sources of the judgment. That fact is crucial to understanding their Iran strategy, because evidence clearly indicates that those policymakers have based their decisions to escalate the conflict on information provided by a highly self-interested source – the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On May 13, the day after the sabotage of four oil tankers, including two Saudi vessels, a story in the New York Times reported that Israeli intelligence “had warned the United States in recent days of what it said was Iran’s intention to strike Saudi vessels,” citing a “senior Middle Eastern intelligence official” – the term traditionally used to refer in the press to a senior Israeli intelligence official.

That Israeli intelligence warning, moreover, was part of a broader Israeli warning to the United States on alleged Iranian plans to attack US troops and other US and allied targets in the Middle East. On May 6, leading Israeli national security correspondent Barak David reported that warning had been given to Bolton and other senior US officials in an April 15 meeting in the White House. The New York Times Jerusalem bureau reported virtually the same warning by Israeli intelligence that Iran or its proxies were planning a possible strike or strikes against American and/or Saudi targets in Iraq and elsewhere, again citing the “senior Middle Eastern intelligence official.”

Furthermore, those Israeli claims have been “stovepiped” directly through Bolton, who leads the US team of senior national security officials in regular meetings with senior Israeli officials aimed at agreement on joint strategies on issues of policy toward Iran. Those meetings began in December 2017 with agreement on an initial “Joint Work Plan,” and include “joint preparation for different escalation scenarios in the region concerning Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.”

The implications of this arrangement for the internal US politics of Iran policy are profound and dangerous. It means that intelligence analysts have been removed from the process, allowing Bolton and Pompeo to determine the validity of the intelligence warnings on Iran coming from the Israelis. That same stovepiping gives Bolton, who has long had a long reputation for cynically twisting intelligence to advance his own political aims, a crucial source of power over intelligence on Iran.

The result is a gambit that appears to be just as deceptive as the creation of the false intelligence case for the invasion of Iraq and equally intended to provide a political basis for military confrontation with Iran. This time around, corporate media outlets can’t plead ignorance of the trickery as they did in 2003. Adm. Gilday’s remarkable performance in ducking the demand for evidence revealed all too clearly that the alleged “intelligence” claimed by the Bolton’s team is simply a device to push the United States toward confrontation.


The American Cult of Bombing and Endless War

Ten Tenets of Air Power That I Didn’t Learn in the Air Force

June 4, 2019

by William J. Astore


From Syria to Yemen in the Middle East, Libya to Somalia in Africa, Afghanistan to Pakistan in South Asia, an American aerial curtain has descended across a huge swath of the planet. Its stated purpose: combatting terrorism. Its primary method: constant surveillance and bombing — and yet more bombing. Its political benefit: minimizing the number of U.S. “boots on the ground” and so American casualties in the never-ending war on terror, as well as any public outcry about Washington’s many conflicts. Its economic benefit: plenty of high-profit business for weapons makers for whom the president can now declare a national security emergency whenever he likes and so sell their warplanes and munitions to preferred dictatorships in the Middle East (no congressional approval required). Its reality for various foreign peoples: a steady diet of “Made in USA” bombs and missiles bursting here, there, and everywhere.

Think of all this as a cult of bombing on a global scale. America’s wars are increasingly waged from the air, not on the ground, a reality that makes the prospect of ending them ever more daunting. The question is: What’s driving this process?

For many of America’s decision-makers, air power has clearly become something of an abstraction. After all, except for the 9/11 attacks by those four hijacked commercial airliners, Americans haven’t been the target of such strikes since World War II. On Washington’s battlefields across the Greater Middle East and northern Africa, air power is always almost literally a one-way affair. There are no enemy air forces or significant air defenses. The skies are the exclusive property of the U.S. Air Force (and allied air forces), which means that we’re no longer talking about “war” in the normal sense. No wonder Washington policymakers and military officials see it as our strong suit, our asymmetrical advantage, our way of settling scores with evildoers, real and imagined.

Bombs away!

In a bizarre fashion, you might even say that, in the twenty-first century, the bomb and missile count replaced the Vietnam-era body count as a metric of (false) progress. Using data supplied by the U.S. military, the Council on Foreign Relations estimated that the U.S. dropped at least 26,172 bombs in seven countries in 2016, the bulk of them in Iraq and Syria. Against Raqqa alone, ISIS’s “capital,” the U.S. and its allies dropped more than 20,000 bombs in 2017, reducing that provincial Syrian city to literal rubble. Combined with artillery fire, the bombing of Raqqa killed more than 1,600 civilians, according to Amnesty International.

Meanwhile, since Donald Trump has become president, after claiming that he would get us out of our various never-ending wars, U.S. bombing has surged, not only against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq but in Afghanistan as well. It has driven up the civilian death toll there even as “friendly” Afghan forces are sometimes mistaken for the enemy and killed, too. Air strikes from Somalia to Yemen have also been on the rise under Trump, while civilian casualties due to U.S. bombing continue to be underreported in the American media and downplayed by the Trump administration.

U.S. air campaigns today, deadly as they are, pale in comparison to past ones like the Tokyo firebombing of 1945, which killed more than 100,000 civilians; the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that year (roughly 250,000); the death toll against German civilians in World War II (at least 600,000); or civilians in the Vietnam War. (Estimates vary, but when napalm and the long-term effects of cluster munitions and defoliants like Agent Orange are added to conventional high-explosive bombs, the death toll in Southeast Asia may well have exceeded one million.) Today’s air strikes are more limited than in those past campaigns and may be more accurate, but never confuse a 500-pound bomb with a surgeon’s scalpel, even rhetorically. When “surgical” is applied to bombing in today’s age of lasers, GPS, and other precision-guidance technologies, it only obscures the very real human carnage being produced by all these American-made bombs and missiles.

This country’s propensity for believing that its ability to rain hellfire from the sky provides a winning methodology for its wars has proven to be a fantasy of our age. Whether in Korea in the early 1950s, Vietnam in the 1960s, or more recently in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, the U.S. may control the air, but that dominance simply hasn’t led to ultimate success. In the case of Afghanistan, weapons like the Mother of All Bombs, or MOAB (the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. military’s arsenal), have been celebrated as game changers even when they change nothing. (Indeed, the Taliban only continues to grow stronger, as does the branch of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.) As is often the case when it comes to U.S. air power, such destruction leads neither to victory, nor closure of any sort; only to yet more destruction.

Such results are contrary to the rationale for air power that I absorbed in a career spent in the U.S. Air Force. (I retired in 2005.) The fundamental tenets of air power that I learned, which are still taught today, speak of decisiveness. They promise that air power, defined as “flexible and versatile,” will have “synergistic effects” with other military operations. When bombing is “concentrated,” “persistent,” and “executed” properly (meaning not micro-managed by know-nothing politicians), air power should be fundamental to ultimate victory. As we used to insist, putting bombs on target is really what it’s all about. End of story — and of thought.

Given the banality and vacuity of those official Air Force tenets, given the twenty-first-century history of air power gone to hell and back, and based on my own experience teaching such history and strategy in and outside the military, I’d like to offer some air power tenets of my own. These are the ones the Air Force didn’t teach me, but that our leaders might consider before launching their next “decisive” air campaign.

Ten Cautionary Tenets About Air Power

  1. Just because U.S. warplanes and drones can strike almost anywhere on the globe with relative impunity doesn’t mean that they should. Given the history of air power since World War II, ease of access should never be mistaken for efficacious results.
  2. Bombing alone will never be the key to victory. If that were true, the U.S. would have easily won in Korea and Vietnam, as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq. American air power pulverized both North Korea and Vietnam (not to speak of neighboring Laos and Cambodia), yet the Korean War ended in a stalemate and the Vietnam War in defeat. (It tells you the world about such thinking that air power enthusiasts, reconsidering the Vietnam debacle, tend to argue the U.S. should have bombed even more — lots more.) Despite total air supremacy, the recent Iraq War was a disaster even as the Afghan War staggers on into its 18th catastrophic year.
  3. No matter how much it’s advertised as “precise,” “discriminate,” and “measured,” bombing (or using missiles like the Tomahawk) rarely is. The deaths of innocents are guaranteed. Air power and those deaths are joined at the hip, while such killings only generate anger and blowback, thereby prolonging the wars they are meant to end.

Consider, for instance, the “decapitation” strikes launched against Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein and his top officials in the opening moments of the Bush administration’s invasion of 2003. Despite the hype about that being the beginning of the most precise air campaign in all of history, 50 of those attacks, supposedly based on the best intelligence around, failed to take out Saddam or a single one of his targeted officials. They did, however, cause “dozens” of civilian deaths. Think of it as a monstrous repeat of the precision air attacks launched on Belgrade in 1999 against Slobodan Milosevic and his regime that hit the Chinese embassy instead, killing three journalists.

Here, then, is the question of the day: Why is it that, despite all the “precision” talk about it, air power so regularly proves at best a blunt instrument of destruction? As a start, intelligence is often faulty. Then bombs and missiles, even “smart” ones, do go astray. And even when U.S. forces actually kill high-value targets (HVTs), there are always more HVTs out there. A paradox emerges from almost 18 years of the war on terror: the imprecision of air power only leads to repetitious cycles of violence and, even when air strikes prove precise, there always turn out to be fresh targets, fresh terrorists, fresh insurgents to strike.

  1. Using air power to send political messages about resolve or seriousness rarely works. If it did, the U.S. would have swept to victory in Vietnam. In Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, for instance, Operation Rolling Thunder (1965-1968), a graduated campaign of bombing, was meant to, but didn’t, convince the North Vietnamese to give up their goal of expelling the foreign invaders — us — from South Vietnam. Fast-forward to our era and consider recent signals sent to North Korea and Iran by the Trump administration via B-52 bomber deployments, among other military “messages.” There’s no evidence that either country modified its behavior significantly in the face of the menace of those baby-boomer-era airplanes.
  2. Air power is enormously expensive. Spending on aircraft, helicopters, and their munitions accounted for roughly half the cost of the Vietnam War. Similarly, in the present moment, making operational and then maintaining Lockheed Martin’s boondoggle of a jet fighter, the F-35, is expected to cost at least $1.45 trillion over its lifetime. The new B-21 stealth bomber will cost more than $100 billion simply to buy. Naval air wings on aircraft carriers cost billions each year to maintain and operate. These days, when the sky’s the limit for the Pentagon budget, such costs may be (barely) tolerable. When the money finally begins to run out, however, the military will likely suffer a serious hangover from its wildly extravagant spending on air power.
  3. Aerial surveillance (as with drones), while useful, can also be misleading. Command of the high ground is not synonymous with god-like “total situational awareness.” It can instead prove to be a kind of delusion, while war practiced in its spirit often becomes little more than an exercise in destruction. You simply can’t negotiate a truce or take prisoners or foster other options when you’re high above a potential battlefield and your main recourse is blowing up people and things.
  4. Air power is inherently offensive. That means it’s more consistent with imperial power projection than with national defense. As such, it fuels imperial ventures, while fostering the kind of “global reach, global power” thinking that has in these years had Air Force generals in its grip.
  5. Despite the fantasies of those sending out the planes, air power often lengthens wars rather than shortening them. Consider Vietnam again. In the early 1960s, the Air Force argued that it alone could resolve that conflict at the lowest cost (mainly in American bodies). With enough bombs, napalm, and defoliants, victory was a sure thing and U.S. ground troops a kind of afterthought. (Initially, they were sent in mainly to protect the airfields from which those planes took off.) But bombing solved nothing and then the Army and the Marines decided that, if the Air Force couldn’t win, they sure as hell could. The result was escalation and disaster that left in the dust the original vision of a war won quickly and on the cheap due to American air supremacy.
  6. Air power, even of the shock-and-awe variety, loses its impact over time. The enemy, lacking it, nonetheless learns to adapt by developing countermeasures — both active (like missiles) and passive (like camouflage and dispersion), even as those being bombed become more resilient and resolute.
  7. Pounding peasants from two miles up is not exactly an ideal way to occupy the moral high ground in war.

The Road to Perdition

If I had to reduce these tenets to a single maxim, it would be this: all the happy talk about the techno-wonders of modern air power obscures its darker facets, especially its ability to lock America into what are effectively one-way wars with dead-end results.

For this reason, precision warfare is truly an oxymoron. War isn’t precise. It’s nasty, bloody, and murderous. War’s inherent nature — its unpredictability, horrors, and tendency to outlast its original causes and goals — isn’t changed when the bombs and missiles are guided by GPS. Washington’s enemies in its war on terror, moreover, have learned to adapt to air power in a grimly Darwinian fashion and have the advantage of fighting on their own turf.

Who doesn’t know the old riddle: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Here’s a twenty-first-century air power variant on it: If foreign children die from American bombs but no U.S. media outlets report their deaths, will anyone grieve? Far too often, the answer here in the U.S. is no and so our wars go on into an endless future of global destruction.

In reality, this country might do better to simply ground its many fighter planes, bombers, and drones. Paradoxically, instead of gaining the high ground, they are keeping us on a low road to perdition


What Connects Meghan Markle to a Philosopher of Totalitarianism? Donald Trump’s Lies.

by Mehdi Hasan

June 3, 2019

The Intercept

Question: What is the connection between the American TV actress (and now princess!) Meghan Markle and the legendary German American philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt?

Answer: Donald J. Trump.

On Saturday, in an interview with the British tabloid The Sun, ahead of his three-day state visit to the United Kingdom, the president of the United States was told that Markle, who married Prince Harry in 2018, had denounced him as “misogynistic” and “divisive” during the 2016 presidential campaign.

His response? “I didn’t know that. What can I say? I didn’t know that she was nasty.”

On Sunday, after a predictable media uproar in the U.K. and beyond, Trump took to Twitter to deny he had called Markle “nasty”:


Donald J. Trump


I never called Meghan Markle “nasty.” Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold! Will @CNN, @nytimes and others apologize? Doubt it!


8:44 AM – Jun 2, 2019


He later told reporters: “I made no bad comment.”

You’ll be shocked to discover that Rupert Murdoch-owned The Sun did not fabricate a quote from the U.S. president. Neither did CNN nor the New York Times. Trump did say the word “nasty.” There is even an audio recording of it!

Yet he denied it. Flatly. Brazenly. Publicly. Proudly. Unashamedly.

We know that Trump is the gaslighter-in-chief. The Washington Post’s fact-checkers say he has made more than 10,000 “false or misleading claims” since entering the Oval Office. But he doesn’t just lie about big issues, such as the nuclear threat from North Korea, or the existence of climate change, or the contents of the Mueller report, or the laws on abortion. He lies about small issues, too: the weather on the day of his inauguration; the size of the crowd at his inauguration; a phone call from the Boy Scouts; the amount of television that he watches; the birthplace of his father … I could go on and on.

The Meghan Markle lie falls into this latter category of small lies. What is the point of it? Why does he try and get away with such blatant untruths on such trivial issues — and why should it matter so much to the rest of us?

Back in November 2016, days after the president-elect had ridiculously claimed in a tweet that he had “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” McGill University political theorist Jacob T. Levy published an essay entitled “Authoritarianism and Post-Truth Politics,” in which he offered an explanation for why Trump tells such lies, and for why they are so dangerous, by leaning on the works of “the great analysts of truth and speech under totalitarianism — George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, Vaclav Havel.”

They recognized, Levy said, that “a leader with authoritarian tendencies will lie in order to make others repeat his lie both as a way to demonstrate and strengthen his power over them.”

“Saying something obviously untrue, and making your subordinates repeat it with a straight face in their own voice, is a particularly startling display of power over them,” explained Levy. “It’s something that was endemic to totalitarianism.”

Consider: Fox News published a supportive, 10-paragraph story on its website headlined “Donald Trump says he never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty,’ calls comments about Duchess ‘fake news.’” Only in the tenth and final paragraph did it concede that “there is an audio recording circulating of President Trump saying the exact quote about Duchess Meghan that had been reported.” The @trumpwarroom Twitter account, which claims to be affiliated with the Trump 2020 reelection campaign, shared the audio recording of Trump saying the word “nasty” while denying he said it:

Reality does not matter to these people. It is irrelevant. In fact, Trump’s strategy, to quote Levy once more, is to “undermine the existence of shared belief in truth and facts.”


“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule,” wrote Arendt in her 1951 classic “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” “is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” In a later interview, she went further: “If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

Per Arendt then, Trump isn’t just bullshitting or deflecting; he isn’t just demented or defensive; he is actively and consciously borrowing from the authoritarian’s playbook. He lies because he can — and because it serves his purpose. To control, to bully, to degrade those under him and around him. To both command and demonstrate unbending loyalty from his cultish base. This is who he is — and who he has always been. “His aim is never accuracy,” observes Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of Trump’s 1987 memoir “The Art of the Deal.” As he notes, “it’s domination.”

Have we — the media, journalists, fact-checkers — fully reckoned with what Trump is doing and why he is doing it? Credit to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, who has sounded the alarm bell in his essential book on the Trump presidency, “An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics.”

“To a degree that defies comparison to other politicians,” writes Sargent, “Trump relentlessly appears to wield his dishonesty as a species of power, as an overt way of exercising maximum dominance.”

Whether big or small, the Trump lie is a power grab. A form of control and dominance. And it doesn’t matter whether the subject is North Korea or Meghan Markle. The end goal is the same.

“The brazenness and shamelessness of his lying is not just a by-product of an effort to mislead voters that Trump is merely taking to new levels,” argues Sargent. “Rather, the brazenness and shamelessness of the lying is central to his broader project of declaring for himself the power to say what reality is.”

Reality, of course, matters. Some well-meaning liberals have suggested that fact-checking Trump is a distraction; rebutting his avalanche of lies is a waste of time. Nothing could be further from the truth. “Insisting on the difference between truth and lies is itself a part of the defense of freedom,” observes Levy. Indeed, it may be all that is standing between us and a descent into full-blown fascism here in the United States.

As journalists, we cannot therefore tire of asking, again and again, the Marx Brothers question: Who you gonna believe? Trump, or your own lying eyes?


Trump’s Criminal Actions

June 4, 2019

by Christian Jürs


The rampant corruption of Donald Trump, his family, and his administration surpasses anything in our nation’s history. Since taking office, Trump has violated the Constitution by profiting off the presidency and allowing the open influence of foreign governments. He spent a third of his first year in office at his private properties. The legacy of his understaffed, unqualified government will be marked by gross displays of nepotism, cronyism, scandal, and failed promises. And as special counsel Robert Mueller delves deeper into Trump’s sordid history as a failed businessman, his past business practices, partnerships, and connections to organized crime may shed light on our president’s unsettling relationship with Russia

There have been documented cases of money laundering across numerous Trump properties:

  • Trump condo sales that show signs of money laundering total $1.5 billion.
  • In Panama, Trump convinced the investment bank Bear Stearns to issue a bond based on pre-sales of units, many of which were sold to Russian gangsters.
  • His Taj Mahal casino violated 106 anti-money laundering laws in its first year and a half of operation!

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has expressed concern over Trump’s connections to money laundering. “If the Russians were laundering money” through the Trump Organization, he said, “that would be a very powerful lever the Russians would have over the president of the United States.”

For his complicity in these financial crimes, or even his knowledge, Trump could be blackmailed. Or perhaps he already has been. His vulnerability begs the question: Who is he really working for?

There is an in-house rumor that Trump wants the CIA to start planting containers of poisoned water along the US side of the Mexican border to kill off illegal border-crossers. He is reported as saying ”If I can’t get the wall, I’ll find another way to keep the trash out of America.” Isn’t that a wonderful thing to hear from our President? What will be next? Issue baseball bats to thump on the stomachs of pregnant women?”

There is a lengthy report by the German State Attorney’s office about activities at the Deutsche Bank.

They were strongly influenced by Russian drug smugglers who used them to launder and channel illegal monies to the United States.

There is no question Trump was probably the most significant person involved in assisting these people and an FBI person told me that a major Russian heroin ring operated in his apartment complex.

I should also note that Russian intelligence was not involved in this activity but was fully aware of it and, true to form, used their information about money laundering to blackmail Trump into doing what Russian intelligence wanted.

This information is taken directly from a German law enforcement file on their investigation into illegal money laundering through the Deutsche Bank.

The file, in German, runs to about 100 pages and is very detailed. It includes specific information on money-laundering for drug dealers on the part of Donald Trump (and his associates.)

There is a recurrent rumor, rife now inside the Beltway, that Trump’s lawyers have approached the DEA people relative to informing them of Trump’s first-hand knowledge of Russian drug money laundering. This action would serve to negate growing attempts to impeach him.

Should the drug dealers get wind of this volte face, we might assume that they would be extremtly displeased and perhaps negatively motivated.



Encyclopedia of American Loons

Ray Sahelian

Ray Sahelian is an MD and relatively well-known promoter of all sorts of herbal products and supplements for which there little or no evidence for efficacy, and a rather striking scarcity of evidence for safety. Though youtube seems to be his preferred marketing channel, Sahelian has written a number of books – peer review focusing on correlations between claim and reality, or the use of data is, shall we say, rather lax for such books, as supposed to real studies – on such supplements, including Mind Boosters, The Stevia Cookbook, Kava: The miracle antianxiety herb(if you buy into claims about something marketed as “miracle” anything you almost deserve what you get). His own products include the Physician Formulas line of nutritional supplements.

Sahelian appears to like to come across as a fairly reasonable guy, but he is also critical of anyone expressing skepticism toward Big Supplement, such as Quackwatch. Now, and in his response to Quackwatch Sahelian didn’t actually blame Quackwatch for being shills outright (unlike most conspiracy theorists criticized by Quackwatch) – he did try to poison the well just a little bit by wondering why Quackwatch isn’t writing critical articles about Big Pharma; i.e. Sahelian doesn’t like that Quackwatch is calling out the supplement industry and would rather see that they were writing about something else – indeed, if we wish to play the game, it is worth observing that Sahelian is proud of the fact that he “also consults and formulates products for vitamin companies”, whereas Quackwatch’s Stephen Barrett has no ties to Big Pharma. Sahelian also claims that Quackwatch is unbalanced because Barrett “often, if not the majority of the time, seems to point out the negative outcome of studies with supplements […] and rarely mentions the benefits they provide.” Which may, of course, be because the supplements in question don’t really provide any health benefits and reality has an anti-supplement bias. To Sahelian, however, the failure to present both sides, even when there is only one, is unscientific: “A true scientist takes a fair approach,” says Sahelian. We suspect he doesn’t really have the faintest clue how science works, which would actually explain a bit of his behavior.

Moreover, according to Sahelian, Barrett’s criticism of supplements is hollow since “[d]oes he take any supplements himself to learn firsthand how they work? […] Anyone who comments about supplements and has not taken them, or has not had feedback for several years from hundreds or thousands of patients, does not have a full understanding of how they work or what benefit or side effects they have.” Or put differently: anecdotes, personal experience and motivated reasoning trump carefully conducted, controlled studies, always.

Sahelian’s website pushes more or less any herbal supplement and natural cure you could imagine – yes, Sahelian does nominally warn readers about the fallacy of appeals to nature, but those are just words; the warning has certainly had no impact on the advice he himself provides. His claims are otherwise backed up mostly by anecdotes, though there is a smattering of appeals to ancient wisdom in there as well.

Diagnosis: Though he likes to promote himself as “moderate”, there is little in Ray Sahelian’s advice or writings to distinguish him from Gary Null, apart from the tone and the rhetoric. We recommend maintaining a safe distance.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

June 4, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

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, on 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 the well-known Washington fix-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.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.


Conversation No. 73

Date: Wednesday,  March 26, 1997

Commenced: 9:50 AM CST

Concluded: 10:35 AM CST


RTC: Good morning, Gregory. Did you see the papers?

GD: Oh, yes, quite a story. One must read between the lines on that one.

RTC: That becomes second nature, unless, of course, we planted the story in the first place.

GD: So much for freedom of the press.

RTC: They are all under tight control.

GD: I’ll wager that if the Israeli commandos broke into an Arab day care center in Lebanon and torched fifty babies, we wouldn’t see a word of it in either the New York Times or the Washington Post.

RTC: No, not a word.

GD: They’re all a closed shop. I once had a go-around with the art market and it’s the same thing. The Jews own all the big papers and they own the major art markets. Still, I destroyed a good part of it once. Cost them all millions. Have any of my supporters ever told you about that?

RTC: No, never a word. What did you do?

GD: Well, some time ago…this is going to take some time, Robert, so if you have something better to do, let me know and I won’t bore you.

RTC: You rarely bore me, Gregory. I’ll let you know if we have a fire in the kitchen or the Swiss Embassy explodes. Do go on.

GD: A friend of mine up in Menlo Park, fellow by the name of George Schattle, was visiting his mother in Los Angeles and went to a garage sale. He bought, as I recall, four bronze statues in specially constructed wooden crates. Crates indicated the contents were looted by the Germans in Warsaw in ’39 and subsequently got into the collection of Hermann Goering. The sellers told George that their relative was with the U.S. Army at the end of the war. Of course there was no discipline and our boys stole everything they could lay their hands on. Anyway, George knew I was an expert on German subjects and brought the four pieces, in their crates, over for me to look at. I knew nothing about the artist, Auguste Rodin, but I could authenticate the labels and seals. I told him to find an expert to authenticate the statues and busts. I knew nothing about Impressionist artists and could care less. I told him that there was a university professor out at Stanford, which was just down the road from Menlo Park where George lived. I remembered seeing some reference to a huge collection of Rodin pieces being donated to Stanford by some investment banker out of LA. What was the name? Yes. B. Gerald Cantor. Anyway, George looked up the professor, one Albert Edward Elsen, and made a phone call. Yes, Elsen was interested and would look at the pieces. Next day, George rang me up, semi hysterical. It seems Elsen told him that the pieces were stolen by the evil Nazis and that he, Elsen, wanted to take possession of the pieces to be able to return them to Poland. When George refused, and he said that Elsen was a loud-mouthed bully, Elsen then told him the pieces were fake. Now how could they be stolen from some Polish collection during the war and then be fake?

RTC: Maybe this Elsen fellow wanted to con your friend out of them for his own benefit.

GD: I agree. But George told me that Elsen subsequently called up everyone and proclaimed that, on the one hand,  George was illegally in possession of wartime Nazi art loot and, on the other, trying to sell fake Rodins.

RTC: Schizophrenic.

GD: That was just the start. George showed Elsen my written commentary on the boxes and seals and Albert Edward began to attack me. I had a post office box at Stanford and the postmaster said that Elsen had come…actually barged…into his office, ordering the postmaster to give Elsen my home address. Of course the postmaster refused and Elsen started screaming that I was dealing with stolen art and that the FBI would be notified.

RTC: Why was he so upset?

GD: Well, I will get to that. I couldn’t understand any of the noise so I dug up old Chronicle stories about this Cantor Rodin gift. Eighty odd statues presented to the University museum by Cantor and, I noted with some interest, all authenticated by Elsen. Valued at three and a half million. So I drove up to Stanford with a notebook and looked the pieces on display over. I wrote down the name of the foundry, one Georges Rudier of Paris. OK. So much for that. I personally felt that Rodin was crap but I wanted to know why the screaming. Made no sense. Then, I went to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco that had a big collection of original Rodin pieces that Mrs. Alma Spreckles had bought from Rodin himself in 1916. Looked at them. I also wrote down the name of the foundry which was one Alexis Rudier of Paris. Not the same name. Also, the Frisco pieces were s different finish. I told George to take his four pieces to the director of the museum, one Thomas Carr Howe, for his opinion. George did this and Howe gave him a written authentication. When George told Howe about Elsen, Howe told him off the record that Elsen was a congenital asshole and that he, Howe, detested him. And when George mentioned the different foundry marks, Howe said that Alexis Rudier had cast up statues for Rodin and that Georges was his great nephew. He also said that Georges didn’t start casting until 1965. Since Rodin died in 1917, I thought this was strange. Note that all the eighty odd pieces given to Stanford were made after 1965.

RTC: This is beginning to sound like something Sherlock Holmes would have done. Then what?

GD: Well, George tried to sell the pieces and at once, Elsen began calling around to all the local galleries, telling them the pieces were either stolen or fake. Loud bully.

RTC: Elsen is what? French?

GD: Elsen was Jewish.

RTC: Ah, I see. And go on. What happened next?

GD: Well, here we had three million dollars worth of art that probably wasn’t worth it. I have a friend in the Judicial Police in Paris and asked him to check on this Georges Rudier. About a month later, he sent me a thick catalog from the Rodin Museum in Paris. Mrs. Goldscheider there, the director, had custody of all of Rodin’s pieces in a state museum setting and was making copies for people. The catalog showed the pieces, many of which were in the Cantor bequest. More interesting. I wrote to her and asked her about Georges and got back a signed letter stating that he had been doing all their castings, and only from 1965.

RTC: Always better when you get it in writing. Was she pulling a scam?

GD: No, she advertised these as official copies, whatever that might be, but as copies. She wasn’t pulling anything but the others certainly were. Then I made up my mind to wreck their little game. Of course I pulled s little string, which in turn led to a bigger string and then the whole rotten edifice came crashing down.

RTC: That’s how these things can go sometimes. Do continue.

GD: Well, Elsen was hard to attack because he was an important, published art historian and I was nothing. Still where there is a will, there is a way. First off, I got ahold of Jerry Jensen, an anchor for the Channel 7 news people in San Francisco. My cousin knew him. I told him what I discovered and he started digging. My God, Robert, what a hurricane of rage erupted then. Al Frankenstein, who was a senior art critic at  the Chronicle as well as a teacher at Stanford, began to raise hell with the management at Channel 7 and to threaten Jensen with legal action for slander. Jerry told me he must have hit a very raw nerve indeed. And then I got Elsen to break cover.

RTC: How?

GD: Well, I went to a mail drop and telephone answering place in Santa Clara and set up an account for a Basilisk Press. A basilisk is a mythic creature, half rooster and half snake that could allegedly kill by looking at you.

RTC: Dramatic but how many people know that?

GD: I did and that’s what mattered. Letterheads and I made up a fake book publication notice. A book called ‘Rodin:The Anatomy of a Fraud’ and I listed a lot of very true information on that piece of paper. I mailed that out to hundreds of newspapers, to many major art dealers and certainly to Elsen and Frankenstein. Sweet Jesus, what a reaction. The people at the answering service said that a few days after the brochure was delivered, Elsen barged into their office, ordering them to tell him where the people who owned the press lived. They told him to get his loud ass out of the building and he threatened them with the Attorney General and the FBI. They called the police and had him physically removed from the building. Then, knowing that one of Elsen’s prize pupils was art critic on the staff of the Palo Alto Times, I rang her up, told her I was an official at the Basilisk Press and said that Mr. Jensen from Channel 7 was going to expose the art fraud at Stanford. Worked wonderfully. Within days, Elsen wrote a vicious and very actionable letter to Jensen, calling George a criminal and fraud. Jensen sent me the letter and I, in turn, took the letter and George to a very good San Jose lawyer. Because Filthy Al wrote the letter on University stationary, the lawyer filed a suit naming Elsen and Stanford as party defendants.

RTC: As I recall, Stanford is a rich school.

GD: Oh, yes they are. Wonderfully deep pockets. And much screaming and so on. Finally, I decided to up the ante and I went for an interview at the Chronicle with old Frankenstein. That was really something. He had a little office right off the city room and you could hear us two blocks away. I had done my homework on Alfred and when he accused me of being a liar, I said he was a crook. I mentioned a bust of Cosimo D’Medici that he has persuaded a rich Jewish benefactor to buy for the De Young. Big money because Alfred said it was by Cellini. It was a small copy of a bronze original I saw at the Bargello in Florence. Cellini never worked in marble but Alceo Dossena, a nineteenth century art forger did. Alfred stopped yelling when I mentioned this unpleasant fact but I got my wind and they told Jerry Jensen later they could have heard me in Oakland with the windows closed. When I left, I noted that the entire city desk people were standing in a circle around the open door of Alfred’s cubicle and one started applauding me. Such an honor. And Alfred, who looked rather peaked when I last saw him, had a sudden heart attack that night and passed away.

RTC: You sent a wreath no doubt?

GD: Piss on him. Another loudmouth. Still, I saw I was up against acknowledged art experts so I did some further digging and made a major discovery. So simple yet so deadly and with ripples still spreading. It’s just this. You can make a mold of a bronze and duplicate it exactly but the result will, are you ready for this one, will always be 5% smaller. Why, you ask? Because, Robert, cooling metal shrinks and that is a fact. Oh, yes, and since known originals of Rodin’s work were all over the place, taking measurements was not a problem. I got the people at the Legion of Honor to send me a full list of the exact measurements of all their original pieces. And Albert learned of this and threatened the staff at the museum. Wonderful man, making friends wherever he went. And then, Albert enlisted the aid of his co-conspirator, Cantor. You see, Cantor went to the Rodin Museum in Paris and ordered the eighty pieces. He paid eighty thousand dollars for them, brought them over to the States, got his co-religionist and crime partner, Elsen,  to claim they were original and worth over three million dollars and guess what?

RTC: Not a tax write-off?

GD: You got it. A huge tax write-off. Still more fun on my part. I wrote and had typeset, a story from the so-called Ardeth Times about a local bigwig that had been to California and bought four original Rodin’s that once had been the property of Hermann Goering. I printed this on newsprint, glued it onto a piece of paper and mailed it to Elsen at his office. Jesus H. Christ, what a huge uproar. Albert, insane with rage, went to the local FBI, called the office of the Attorney General and about every other law enforcement agency he could find. The result? The FBI got interested and of course the AG wouldn’t talk to him. An agent talked with me and I gave him copies of my papers. The result? The IRS got involved and flew out a specialist from DC to talk with me. He had never heard of the fatal shrinkage factor and we had a wonderful chat. The upshot was that the IRS said one could not take a tax write-off for more than was paid for the art. By the way, there was no town named Ardeth anywhere in the United States. Big Al the Mouth, as empty of brains as a ladle, suffered from mental constipation and verbal diarrhea

RTC: That must have tied a few tails.

GD: Oh, yes it did. The entire market in Rodins, fake and original, collapsed, Cantor’s gift was not allowed as a write-off  and I got about ten letters from various law firms in Los Angeles threatening me with enormous lawsuits for making false statements about the wonderful B. Gerald. And, George’s lawsuit was successful and both Stanford and Elsen had to pay George a lot of money.

RTC: What happened to the statues?

GD: Are you sitting down? George got nine million for them. But that’s not the end of the story.

I wrote the whole thing up, more or less along the lines I have been telling you but in greater detail and sent it to a friend on the staff of the Getty in Los Angeles. He loathed Elsen and asked me if he could forward it. I said he certainly could. The man mailed it out on a February first and Elsen must have gotten it a few days later because on the fifth, he had a massive heart attack in his office and died on the spot.

RTC: I imagine that was the end of the matter. Did you make anything out of this?

GD: Enormous satisfaction.

RTC: You must have done months of work, Gregory. Not a penny?

GD: When I read in the Examiner that old Albert had bought the farm, I was paid in full.

RTC: What entertainment. And you are formidable indeed.

GD: Oh not so. Why Mueller, who knew me better than you do, used to call me ‘Mr. Sunshine.’ Isn’t that touching?

RTC: I suspect he was being cynical, Gregory and you know it. But I would agree with him. Such a kind person. You bagged two, count them, two nasty Jews and, from your account, ruined a very profitable number of scams they were involved in. I take it most of the dealers were Jews?

GD: Oh they were. For a time, it sounded like a chorus of sick hyenas.

RTC: Before or after the time the lion pounced on them?

GD: Depended. I nailed more than Albert, believe me but enough is enough. And then I got started on all the fake Frederic Remington’s’ floating around and did even more damage. I do like my fun, Robert, I do like it.

RTC: Others obviously do not. Did you go after these creeps because they were Jewish or in spite of it? Just curious.

GD: Robert, I had no idea about all of this when I got started and for quite some time, I thought Elsen was French. I didn’t wreak my havoc out of anti-Semitism but because I initially started out to help a friend authenticate some old statues. There was nothing more. The squalling uproar spilled over very quickly into attacks on me by Elsen and his vicious co-religionists so I merely obliged them by responding. I didn’t shout and slander but I dealt with facts and quite thoroughly ruined their very lucrative operations. I would have done the same if the perps were Episcopalians or Baptists. Of course, once I could see who, and what, I was dealing with, it was easy to ruin them. Shallow bombast coupled with criminal greed is a hallmark and I can play on such creeps like a piano. Strike this key and an Elsen howls to the press. Strike that one and a Frankenstein writes a hit piece in the Chronicle. Strike a strong chord and they all explode and die. No, Robert, I got into this only to help a friend and nothing else. I spent several years on this, not months, and learned both the business of bronze casting and the modern art world from one end to the other. The cabal lost hundreds of millions of dollars, much reputation painstakingly gained and finally, bitter defeat and well-deserved, oh very well-deserved,  death.


(Concluded at  10:35 CST)


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