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TBR News November 25, 2018

Nov 25 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. November 25, 2018: “Metamucil is a fiber supplement that, under no circumstances, should be put down a drain, either in a toilet or sink.

It will form an impenetrable clog and chemical cleaners won’t dissolve Metamucil. In the worst case, the clog will have traveled into the pipes in the walls where the plug cannot be reached and it will be necessary to make a hole in the wall to locate the area of the clog.

Metamucil is an over-the-counter preparation and can be purchased in bags.

It is not an illegal substance.

A communicant familiar with the so-called ‘Deep Internet’ has encountered a somewhat entertaining project in the process of being launched by one of the many groups of Americans who have strong negative feelings towards the bizarre Donald Trump.

According to this communicant, it appears that Trump resisters plan to visit the following Trump entities and while ensconced there, to pour bags of Metamucil into various hotel room toilets and flush it down into the pipes.

Without any question, the supplement will clog up the plumbing, causing toilets and sinks to back up and spew fecal matter, used sanitary napkins, vomit and other pleasant entities back into unsuspecting hotel rooms.

In order to locate the plugs, hotel maintenance people or, more likely, outside technicians, will have to punch holes in walls and ceilings to locate the plugs and remove the foul Jello from the system.

This will not be a cheap process and it should be noted that the odors encountered will be strong enough to gag a maggot.

For more input, read Galatians 6:7

Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago)

Trump International Hotel and Tower (Honolulu)

Trump International Hotel and Tower (New York City)

Trump International Hotel and Tower (Vancouver)

Trump International Hotel Las Vegas

Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.

Trump Plazas

Trump Plaza (New York City)

Trump Plaza (New Rochelle)

Trump Plaza (Jersey City)

Trump Plaza (West Palm Beach)”

 

The Table of Contents 

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 90
  • S. judge orders former Trump campaign adviser Papadopoulos to jail
  • Trump at bay: failure looms as Democrats load ‘subpoena cannon’
  • If Trump is cornered, the judges he disdains may finally bring him down
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • US climate report warns of worsening disasters
  • The Counterinsurgency Paradigm: How U.S. Politics Have Become Paramilitarized

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 90

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Jul 15, 2018

“President Obama thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election, so when he was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn’t happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This is an inaccurate description of Obama’s thoughts and actions. While Obama has been widely faulted, including by many Democrats, for not responding more aggressively when he was informed of the Russian interference in the election, he did not say “it couldn’t happen” or that it was “no big deal.” According to a comprehensive Washington Post story, Obama and his officials delivered a series of private warnings to Russia: CIA director John Brennan warned his Russian counterpart in August 2016; “a month later, Obama confronted Putin directly during a meeting of world leaders in Hangzhou, China”; national security adviser Susan Rice summoned the Russian ambassador to the White House in October “and handed him a message to relay to Putin”; “then, on Oct. 31, the administration delivered a final pre-election message via a secure channel to Moscow originally created to avert a nuclear exchange.” Obama reportedly also sought to get Republicans and Democrats to sign on to a joint statement denouncing the Russian interference; former Obama officials have alleged that Republican leaders refused to agree to participate.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“But, in a trade sense, they (European countries) have really taken advantage of us, and many of those countries are in NATO. And they weren’t paying their bills.”

Source: Interview with CBS’s Jeff Glor

in fact: NATO countries did not have unpaid bills. Trump was referring to the fact that some European countries had not been meeting their pledge to spend 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence. But this 2 per cent figure was merely a guideline or target, not an ironclad commitment, and countries’ failure to meet it did not result in bills of any kind. (One could argue that Trump was speaking figuratively, but he has suggested on several occasions that NATO countries owe the U.S. an actual debt, so we believe he is making a literal claim that is false.)

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“Maybe the thing that’s most difficult — don’t forget, both of my parents were born in E.U. sectors, OK? I mean, my mother was Scotland. My father was Germany.”

Source: Interview with CBS’s Jeff Glor

in fact: Trump’s father was born in New York City. His grandfather was born in what is now Germany.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“We have the best employment numbers probably that we have ever had…women unemployment, lowest in 66 years.”

Source: Interview with CBS’s Jeff Glor

in fact: This was no longer even close to true at the time Trump spoke. It was almost true as of the previous month: the women’s unemployment rate for May, reported in June, was 3.6 per cent, the same as in 1953, 65 years prior. But it rose to 4 per cent in June, which was merely the lowest since 2017 — or, if you’re only counting pre-Trump years, the lowest since 2000, 18 years ago.

Trump has repeated this claim 14 times

  • Jul 16, 2018

“And he (FBI agent Peter Strzok) said originally, I guess it was the two of them. No. Then he said the next say, ‘I meant the American people.’ And even the Democrats say that doesn’t work…”

Source: Helsinki interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: Trump was not speaking clearly here, but he appeared to be referring to an August 2016 text message exchange between Strzok, a senior FBI agent involved in investigating his campaign, and Lisa Page, the FBI lawyer with whom Strzok was having an affair. Page wrote Strzok to say Trump is “not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok responded: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.” In his July testimony to Congress, Strzok claimed that this text meant that “the American population would not elect somebody” who was demonstrating behaviour as horrible as Trump’s, which included “insulting the immigrant family of a fallen war hero,” Humayun Khan. Regardless of how plausible Trump believes this explanation is, it is false that “even the Democrats” did not buy the explanation. Democrats in the room literally applauded Strzok’s testimony, and others praised him.

“Well, he (Obama) thought that Hillary Clinton was going to win, and he didn’t want to do anything to disturb it, and you know, frankly, when I won, he said this is the biggest deal. But before I won, he said this is nothing, and it can’t happen.”

Source: Helsinki interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: While Obama has been widely faulted, including by many Democrats, for not responding more aggressively when he was informed of the reported Russian interference in the 2016 election, he certainly did not say “this is nothing, and it can’t happen.” In October 2016, a month before the election, the administration issued an extraordinary statement attributing the election interference to “Russia’s senior-most officials.” According to a comprehensive Washington Post story, Obama and his officials also delivered a series of private warnings to Russia: CIA director John Brennan warned his Russian counterpart in August 2016; “a month later, Obama confronted Putin directly during a meeting of world leaders in Hangzhou, China”; national security adviser Susan Rice summoned the Russian ambassador to the White House in October “and handed him a message to relay to Putin”; “then, on Oct. 31, the administration delivered a final pre-election message via a secure channel to Moscow originally created to avert a nuclear exchange.” Obama reportedly also sought to get Republicans and Democrats to sign on to a joint statement denouncing the Russian interference; former Obama officials have alleged that Republican leaders refused to agree to participate.

Trump has repeated this claim 4 times

“We have the best unemployment numbers in the history of our country, the best…women’s numbers in history…”

Source: Helsinki interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: This claim about women was somewhat closer to true as of the previous month: the women’s unemployment rate for May, reported in June, was 3.6 per cent, the same as in 1953, 65 years prior. But it rose to 4 per cent in June, which was merely the lowest since 2017 — or, if you’re only counting pre-Trump years, the lowest since 2000, 18 years ago.

Trump has repeated this claim 14 times

“Last year, they raised $44 billion more only because — more, additional. And he said it was only because of President Trump. So I figured I’d wake up the next day and read these wonderful stories…And instead of saying that I raised $44 billion, not million, $44 billion last year for NATO, I raised — it could be over $100 billion this year and into the future…” And: “So the media was very unfair. I never thought — this was when I said, this is foolproof. I raised $44 billion and the secretary general said ‘he raised $44 billion and it was only President Trump’…”

Source: Helsinki interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the increase was $41 billion, not $44 billion: “In fact, since President Trump took office, European allies and Canada have added an additional $41 billion to their defence spending.” Stoltenberg gave Trump credit for the increase, saying “we understand that this American president is very serious about defence spending, and this is having a clear impact,” but he did not specifically say the increase was “only because of President Trump.”

Trump has repeated this claim 6 times

“On top of that, the European Union takes total advantage of us with tariffs and with trade barriers…We lost $151 billion last year.”

Source: Helsinki interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: The U.S. had a $102 billion trade deficit with the European Union in 2017. The $151 billion figure counts only trade in goods and excludes trade in services. Trump, as usual, did not say he was excluding services.

Trump has repeated this claim 29 times

“But I told people (in NATO), it’s unfair. The United States could be paying for 91 per cent, OK? Could be. So, the minimum is 70 per cent, but it’s probably 91. So, we are paying for 91 per cent of the cost of keeping Europe safe.” And: “I also said this. NATO is wonderful but it helps Europe a lot more than it helps us and yet we are paying for 90 per cent of it.”

Source: Helsinki interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: The U.S. is not paying 91 per cent or 90 per cent of the cost of NATO. According to NATO’s 2018 annual report, U.S. defence spending represented 72 per cent of alliance members’ total defence spending in 2017. Of NATO’s own organizational budget, the U.S. contributes a much smaller agreed-upon percentage: 22 per cent.

Trump has repeated this claim 14 times

“There’s been no rockets going over Japan. No missiles going over Japan. And that’s now been nine months, and the relationship is very good.”

Source: Helsinki interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: “Nine months” is an exaggeration. North Korea’s last known missile test prior to this comment was on November 28, 2017, when it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan. That was less than eight months before these remarks on July 16, 2018.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times

“And if you look at what is happening, Iran is falling apart, they have riots in all their cities…But they are having big protests all over the country, probably as big as they have ever had before. And that all happens since I terminated that deal.”

Source: Helsinki interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity

in fact: Experts on Iran say that every part of this claim is an exaggeration. Iran’s regime is being challenged and the country has severe problems, but it is not “falling apart”; the events are more appropriately called protests than “riots”; the protests are occurring in some Iranian cities but not “all”; the protests are not even close to as big as Iran has ever had before (in Tehran, they are merely the biggest since 2012). Also, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran is one cause of the economic problems that have fuelled the protests, but not the entire cause. (Trump announced the withdrawal in May 2018; this period of protest began in December 2017. The Washington Post reported in January: “On Dec. 28, protests broke out in the northern city of Mashhad, spurred at first by concern over the country’s stunted economy and the high prices of basic goods like eggs, which saw a 40 percent jump in price.”) Jamsheed Choksy, professor and chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University, said in an email to the Star: “Withdrawing from the JCPOA (the nuclear agreement) and reintroducing sanctions certainly has upped the pressure on Iran by further slowing down its economy through stifling hydrocarbon exports and foreign investments. Withdrawing from the JCPOA was not, however, the trigger for Iran’s economic woes, which are primarily due to mismanagement, corruption, and limited diversification of industry. Sporadic protests have been ongoing in Iranian cities for all these reasons plus restrictions on civic and civil liberties. But the protests so far are not as massive, violent, and/or widespread as those after the 2009 presidential elections.”

“I — I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing; where are they?”

Source: Joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin

in fact: There is no basis for the claim that any servers connected to Imran Awan are “missing.” Awan, a former information technology employee for Democrats in the House of Representatives — who has been an American citizen since 2004 — pleaded guilty in 2018 to making false statements on a bank loan application. But in that plea agreement, the federal government issued a lengthy statement making clear that the Trump-promoted conspiracy theories about Awan and servers were baseless. Prosecutors wrote that they had conducted a “thorough” investigation, which included interviews with about 40 witnesses and an examination of computers and devices, and “uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems. Particularly, the government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House members’ offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information.”

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“Just to say it one time again — and I say it all the time — there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with.”

Source: Joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin

in fact: It would be obviously false that “there was nobody to collude with” in Russia even if Trump did not know President Vladimir Putin at all. But he did appear to know him at least a little bit before the election. Trump said in 2013: “I do have a relationship.” Trump said in 2014: “You know, I was in Moscow a couple months ago

I own the Miss Universe pageant, and they treated me so great. Putin even sent me a present, beautiful present, with a beautiful note. I spoke to all of his people.” Trump also said in 2014: “I was in Russia, I was in Moscow recently. And I spoke indirectly — and directly — with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”

“We won the Electoral College by a lot: 306 to 223, I believe.”

Source: Joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin

in fact: Hillary Clinton earned 232 electoral votes, not 223. This was not a one-time slip: it was the 11th time Trump said she got “223.”

Trump has repeated this claim 12 times

“But, as you know, the whole concept of that (Russian intervention in the election) came up perhaps a little bit before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election which, frankly, they should have been able to win, because the Electoral College is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans.”

Source: Joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin

in fact: Trump’s frequent claim about the Electoral College continues to be nonsensical. It is obviously false that the presidential election system is set up in a way that favours Democrats. Six of the last nine presidents, all of whom except for Gerald Ford had to win an Electoral College election, have been Republicans. (Also, Democrats did not invent the accusation of Russian election intervention as a post-election excuse; U.S. intelligence agencies announced during the campaign that they believed Russia was interfering, and the FBI during the campaign opened its investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia. Trump seemed to partly concede this point when he acknowledged that the issue “came up perhaps a little bit before.”)

Trump has repeated this claim 17 times

 

U.S. judge orders former Trump campaign adviser Papadopoulos to jail

November 25, 2018

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge on Sunday denied a motion by George Papadopoulos, a former aide for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, seeking to postpone his sentence pending a separate case he hoped would lead to his conviction being overturned.

Papadopoulos will report to jail on Monday to start his 14- day sentence after judge Randolph Moss dismissed his 11th hour bid to remain on bail.

Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents probing ties between the campaign and Russia, had sought to delay his sentence while a separate case challenging the legality of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment is ongoing. Moss said Papadopoulos’ motion lacked merit.

“The court, accordingly, concludes that Papadopoulos’ motion for a stay pending his appeal of this decision lacks merit,” Moss wrote in his ruling. “Plaintiff’s motion to continue bail and motion to stay his surrender date are hereby denied.”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Phil Berlowitz

 

 

Trump at bay: failure looms as Democrats load ‘subpoena cannon’

In his Florida fortress, facing a blizzard of investigations, the president acts like a man backed into a corner

November 25, 2018

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

There was sunshine, palm trees and the endless expanse of ocean. There was golf with Jack Nicklaus, the most successful player of all time. There was a dinner that included stone crab, oysters, jumbo shrimp and clams; turkey, beef tenderloin, lamb and salmon; Chilean sea bass, red snapper and braised short ribs.

But as Donald Trump spent Thanksgiving at his opulent Mar-a-Lago estate – or “the southern White House”, as he called it in a teleconference with the military – there was something else on the menu: self-congratulation, grievance and paranoia. The 72-year-old was being confronted by a glimpse of what life might look if the electorate forces him into early retirement. One long game of golf in the Florida sun.

Trump is approaching the midway point in his presidency and, some argue, a point of no return. The recent midterm elections left him wounded, House Democrats are said to be aiming a “subpoena cannon” at every aspect of his life and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation appears to be nearing its endgame.

“There’s no doubt we’re entering new territory and Donald Trump is in big trouble,” said Larry Jacobs, the director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. “The election results, no matter what he says, were devastating to him. The coalition he put together is clearly strained and he seems incapable of creating consensus.”

Just over a month ago, the landscape looked very different. Trump celebrated the confirmation of his second Supreme Court justice, a trade deal with Canada and Mexico, the release of an American pastor from prison in Turkey and the lowest unemployment rate for nearly half a century. He was chatting regularly to the media and had rapper Kanye West over to join in the fun. Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, confidently predicted to the Guardian: “Unless something terrible happens to the economy, he’ll be re-elected.”

But on 6 November, the American people delivered a reality check. Republicans held the Senate but as the final House results trickle in, Democrats lead by more than 8.6m votes: 53.1% to 45.2%. The party has a net gain of nearly 40 seats, its biggest sweep since Watergate. Ominously, they won in rust belt states that were pivotal to Trump’s victory in 2016.

In response, the president has been acting like a man cornered. The catalogue is too long to list in full but here are some of the lowlights:

  • Trump fired Jeff Sessions and hired Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, in what many see as a threat to the special counsel.
  • He tried to ban a CNN correspondent from the White House but lost in court.
  • He skipped a visit to a military cemetery in France.
  • He criticised the admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
  • He floated bizarre theories for the wildfires in California, twice referred to the destroyed city of Paradise as “Pleasure” and revelled in ignorance of climate change.
  • He referred to the Democrat Adam Schiff as “Adam Schitt”.
  • He issued a bewildering statement (633 words with eight exclamation marks) questioning the CIA’s reported conclusion that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • His daughter Ivanka was caught using a personal email account for government business.
  • He scolded the ninth circuit court of appeals, earning a rare rebuke from the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
  • It was reported that he wanted the justice department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and former FBI director James Comey.
  • He authorised troops on the US-Mexico border to use “lethal force”, despite concerns their presence is a political stunt.

The situation is only likely to darken, Jacobs predicted. “Obviously with the investigations starting soon in the House, Trump and Republicans will be able to tarnish Democrats as obstructionist, but if Democrats manage to reveal corruption, it’s going to damage Trump’s claim to drain to swamp. He’s going to look swampy.

“This is an entirely different scenario heading into 2019: the analogy is trench warfare in world war one. The bigger problem across the country is there are not enough Republicans and clearly Trump is motivating young people and independents in ways we have not seen before. He is very good at mobilising the base but the Republican base is not enough to save him in the presidential election.”

Although Trump seems to have conquered the Republican Party, Jacobs believes its members will read the runes, especially the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, noted for his ruthlessness. Jeff Flake, the retiring senator from Arizona, has called for Trump to face a primary challenge.

And another thing: the stock market tanked, raising fears of economic slowdown.

It all became so much that on Wednesday, Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, tweeted that Trump should “just shut the hell up and get on the helicopter. Give us a rest from your crazy. You don’t know the 9th circuit from a circuit breaker. It’s Thanksgiving for crying out loud. Let us be thankful for your silence. You’ve said enough this week.”

‘There is no learning curve’

Trump’s inability to stay silent suggests he has learned nothing from his election drubbing. Other presidents have suffered similar fates in the midterms, only to bounce back and win re-election. But they have done so by making changes and showing humility; when Trump was asked by Fox News to rank himself in the pantheon of great presidents, he awarded himself an A+; when he was asked by a reporter what he was grateful for on Thanksgiving, he talked about himself.

Jacobs said: “I see it getting worse on all these fronts in 2020. Is it inconceivable that [outgoing United Nations ambassador] Nikki Haley would explore a run? I think the conversation is going to move in that direction.”

It has long been speculated that Trump has something to hide: his tax returns, his business dealings, his peculiar devotion to autocrats. Now all are about to be put under the microscope by Schiff and others.

There are also signs that Mueller’s investigation could be reaching a critical phase, with Trump having submitted written answers and reports that a fresh set of indictments centred around WikiLeaks and Roger Stone is imminent. Just because Trump is paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get him.

Rick Tyler, a political analyst and Republican consultant, said: “Donald Trump seems like he’s worried about two things. First, he’s clearly worried about the Mueller report. If it was purely a question of ego and whether Russia helped him get elected, this is an overreaction. There’s something else going on.

“Second, if you analyse Saudi Arabia and the Khashoggi incident, what Trump says makes no sense. Saudi Arabia is not going to cancel contracts and only has a negligible impact on the cost of oil and gas. Yet Trump promoted the awful cover story. He’s hiding something. There’s something there. He’s not protecting the crown prince; he’s protecting himself.”

‘He has real talents’

According to Gallup, Trump is the only president in the modern era whose job approval ratings have never been above 50%. Tyler said. “Say what you like about Donald Trump, he has real talents. But he has misused those talents. He could have struck a deal on a big infrastructure package, for example. But he retreated to his base, which only has the potential of shrinking. He keeps the base together by keeping them angry and humans can only stay angry for so long.”

Trump’s staunchest supporters are unmoved. Gingrich said via email: “Reagan was at 35% approval in January 1983. If President Trump goes to a base-broadening strategy, leaving the Democrats to flounder in negativity and fantasy policy ideas, he will win handily. If Trump lets the media and Democrats draw him into a negative constant fight over trivia, the election will be close.

Sebastian Gorka, a Fox News analyst and former deputy assistant to Trump, described claims that the president is in a downward spiral as “wishful thinking” and predicted victory in 2020. “Cake walk,” he wrote in a series of text messages. “With liars and loonies like Schiff and Crazy Maxine [Waters] running committees?? Even Dem voters will be driven crazy.”

Perhaps. But Democrats are spoiling for a fight. Kurt Bardella, a political columnist and former congressional spokesman, said: “We’re going to see for the first time in his presidency some substantive pushback from Congress. Democrats will no longer be passively commentating; they will be able to take tangible steps to find out what’s going on in this administration.

“Starting in January, Congress has the tools and mechanisms to push more and do more than be outraged. They can hold hearings, get documents, compel testimony. They can get access to the people around the White House and see what they think is going on: are people raising the alarm?

“I don’t think Trump fully understands how comprehensive the tools of oversight are for Congress because he’s never had to deal with it. These tentacles go far deeper and far broader than he can know. We’re going to see an entirely different level of paranoia with the president testing the limits of executive power unlike any president before as the walls close in.”

 

If Trump is cornered, the judges he disdains may finally bring him down

The president thinks justice only matters as it affects him. As his defenders fall away, he may find this all too painfully true

November 24, 2018

by Walter Shapiro

The Guardian

A rational president, who had just bludgeoned Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court, would not jeopardize the long-awaited conservative majority by picking a fight with Chief Justice John Roberts. But rationality has never been Donald Trump’s strong suit when it comes to dealing with the judiciary.

According to an estimate by the Washington Post, the Trump administration has been overruled in more than 40 federal court decisions. While correlation does not imply causation, it does suggest that Trump’s constant bleats and tweets about biased judges represent an odd strategy to tilt the scales of justice.

Many phrases might describe Roberts’ 13 years as chief justice since he was appointed by George W Bush, but “hot-headed” is not among them. It presumably took dozens of provocations before he yielded to the temptation to instruct the president that with an independent judiciary, “we do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.” Trump’s concept of justice pivots around a simple question: “Is it good for me or bad for me?”

Nothing better illustrates Trump’s solipsistic approach to crime and punishment than the recent revelation by the New York Times that last spring he talked about ordering the justice department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey.

As he pursued such thuggish fantasies, it is possible Trump was influenced by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who had imprisoned hundreds of his political foes in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. (That, of course, was the more benevolent version of Prince Mohammed, before he became closely associated with a bone saw.)

In the American version of such a dragnet, you might see Robert Mueller confined to a room next to Elizabeth Warren with a couple of dozen recalcitrant federal judges down the hall. Of course, the incarcerated would be residing in a Trump hotel – and the president would be billing the federal government at inflated rates for its use.

With his sneering contempt for the rule of law vying with his hatred for press freedoms, it is tempting to categorize Trump as a would-be authoritarian, albeit an inept one. But I tend to be skeptical, even though I shudder at a full revelation of what lurks in the depths of Trump’s psyche.

Part of Trump’s disdain for judicial independence is probably rooted in his days as a New York real estate hustler under the tutelage of the notorious judge-fixer and ultimately disbarred lawyer Roy Cohn. In Cohn’s cynical world, the questions you asked about a judge were: “What do we have on him? Who can get to him? And what does he want?” The idea that a real estate case would be tried solely on its merits was as alien to Trump’s worldview as the quaint notion that creditors and contractors need to be paid in full.

Another factor is that Trump appears incapable of handling patriotic abstractions. It is why the ceremonial aspects of the presidency, like visiting Arlington Cemetery on Veteran’s Day and bearing witness to the First World War dead in France, seem so baffling to him. The best he can do on such solemn occasions is to woodenly read someone else’s words off a teleprompter as he flashes the thumbs-up sign.

Concepts like democracy, a free press, due process, an independent judiciary and the rule of law are lost on Trump. As far as his understanding goes, the constitution might just as well be carved in cuneiform characters on stone tablets.

Up to now, many of Trump’s worst impulses have been resisted by the saner members of his entourage, like the former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who told the president he had no authority to prosecute Clinton and Comey. Other aides in The Perils of Pauline melodrama that is playing on a constant loop in the White House have intervened to save the Mueller investigation.

But as Trump’s arrogance of power grows along with his political peril from the newly elected Democratic House, we may be close to the moment when no one is left with the power or the willingness to constrain a cornered president.

The final line of defense of democratic values are judges and top law enforcement officials who answer to a higher loyalty than fealty to Trump. It would be both bracing and ironic if the president were ultimately thwarted by black-robed figures whom he denounces as “Trump judges”.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

November 25, 2018

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 publications.

Conversation No. 71

Date: Friday, February 28, 1997

Commenced:  9:50 AM CST

Concluded: 10:12  AM CST

RTC: Top of the morning to you, Gregory. How are you today?

GD: Functioning, Robert. And with you?

RTC: The usual. Listen, Gregory, I had a phone call yesterday from someone at the Agency about you. I am afraid I became annoyed with this creature and said harsh things to them.

GD: Anyone I know?

RTC: I doubt it. Aside from a few broken down academics, a blank face. Someone named Hayden Peake. Have you ever heard of him?

GD: No. Is he someone important?

RTC: No, except in his own mind. He’s one of our librarians. He whined to me that you were pure evil and I shouldn’t talk to you. He’s a friend of Critchfield who is frantically trying to shut off your comments about Mueller’s survival and, worse, work for us after the war. I don’t know whether Peake got put up to this by Jim or by Kimmel. Maybe both. At any rate, when he told me that he had proof that Mueller died in ’45, I told him he was fuller of shit than a Christmas turkey and that I knew personally, and could prove, that Mueller not only worked for the Swiss after the war but for Jim after ’48. I told him that I personally had met Mueller in the late ‘40s, here in D.C and that whatever his so-called proof consisted of he could shove it up his ass. For a denizen of P Street here, he might have enjoyed that exercise.

GD: P Street?

RTC: That’s a street much beloved by many of our leading lights here, Gregory. Leather bars, whipping salons, way-stations for muscular young servicemen wanting to make a few dollars on the side, or on their backs. You know what I mean. I asked Bill about this asshole and he did some checking and mentioned an establishment called the Fireplace. You know, the Company used to be an inspiring place to work when we got started. Hell, if the D.C. police ever raided the P Street places, half the senior people at Langley would be in custody, along, of course, with a number of top military people and not to mention certain key Congressmen. The other half of our new leadership would be in synagogues. Jews and fairies, Gregory. It’s sad. At any rate, I have had it up to here with these people.

GD: What does this Peake person do?

RTC: I said he was a librarian.

GD: Wolfe is a librarian.

RTC: A pair of scumbags, Gregory. Peake thinks he’s a great historical writer and Wolfe has dreams of glory as a fake PhD. And they all loathe and despise you. Why? Because, Gregory, you are a much better writer, and certainly a researcher, than either of them and for some unknown reason, they think their useless opinions impress me. I know you and they don’t. Kimmel is probably behind some of this and he does the same thing. You see, as I said once before, if the Jews get it into their slimy heads that the evil chief of the Gestapo worked for our CIA, they would leave shit all over the sidewalks in D.C. I know for a fact they are screeching, like the rest of the old faggots, to the Army to keep Mueller’s files closed from the likes of you. You see, you are not part of the game, Gregory. The game? They all run around in circles, bent over with their trousers down around their ankles and their noses stuck up the asshole of the one in front. A bunch of incompetent idiots. They can squeal like little pigs to each other but by God, I won’t have them squealing to me and I told Peake, and I will call up Tom with the same message which is to stop bothering me with their envy or I will be forced to take some action against them.

GD: A machinegun?

RTC: No, worse. I know enough about these whiners to destroy them and if they want some fun and games, they can just continue their feeble trashing attempts. And I am now determined to go through my files and send you a number of them. That way, if anything happens to me, you will have lots of ammunition for your gun.

GD: Oh, I doubt if they’ll shoot you.

RTC: Shoot me? No, I mean if God calls me. That’s what I mean. I am not as well as I could be, Gregory, and one day, I won’t be around. I would like to think you are provided for. I know why they are yammering at me and why odious little shits like Wolfe and bombastic frauds like Kimmel and pubcrawlers like old Peake keep whining at me. They know I am someone who knows too much and they are terrified that I am getting senile and am talking to you.

GD: Well, you’re talking to me but I doubt if you’re senile, Robert.

RTC: Well, thank you for the consideration but I am getting a little forgetful at times and it’s harder to get around these days. No, I’m not ga-ga yet but if I get any more calls from the rat brigade members, they’ll find out how senile I am. If I chose to do so, there would be bodies heaped up chest high on the Mall. Ah, well, Gregory, a bit of my Irish temper clears the air.

GD: I heard from someone that you were a terrifying person, Robert, but I never saw it.

RTC: You did once. That was when Bill wanted to get your son a job at the CIA to try to stop your publishing things they didn’t like. You remember that?

GD: Oh yes. You were not nasty to me, though.

RTC: I said terrible things to Bill and I thought he would cry when I was done. My God, all the weird stories floating around about you. Fifteen different names, robbing banks, selling nuns to Arabs, faking official documents on an old Remington, anti-Semitism, loving the Nazis and on and on. No, Jim is absolutely livid I put him in touch with you. Jim is a shit and I understand he wrote you compromising letters that he wants back. Is that true?

GD: Oh, yes, quite true. Ink-signed. In the original envelopes as well.

RTC: A word of advice here, Gregory. Put them in a very safe place. And not in a safe deposit box either. Our people can get into those with ease. No, some really safe place. Jim wants to lay his hands on these so bad he can taste them. They don’t know what to do with you, Gregory. They can’t con you because you are way smarter than they are and, to be honest, they are all dumb as posts.

GD: And how about Trento?

RTC: Oh, God, another one. They won’t attack you to your face because not only are they third class assholes but they are also cowards and you have a reputation for ferocity equaled only by a very hungry lion. No, they sneak around, like that turd from Justice that Kimmel got to yammer at me about you. I gave you his number just after he called me. You did call him back as I recall.

GD: Oh yes, I did. He was shocked that you gave me his number and I had a conversation with him.

RTC: Now you mustn’t threaten a Justice Department man, Gregory. What did you say to him?

GD: Only that I would credit him with the writing of some awful article. I say that to many people and since I have done this from time to time, they usually get the message.

RTC: The all remind me of a bunch of old women. Just like old aunties chattering and gossiping about everyone else. Chatter, chatter and shit. People wear bullet proof vests on their backs here inside the Beltway because the standard game is to stab everyone in the back. Starting with your friends and moving outwards.

GD: And upwards?

RTC: I think the brass keeps some of these yammering turds around for the same reason that a whore keeps a pimp around. She wants someone she can look down on. Not like it used to be, Gregory. We were men then, not old gossiping queers. Oh yes, and bitter, treacherous old Jews like Wolfe and his friends. I don’t know what is worse, a treacherous and plotting Jew or a spiteful old queer. Ah well, let us go on to other things less annoying. How is the next Mueller book coming along? Did you get the file on Diem and his brother?

GD: I did. I don’t know where I can fit it in but perhaps a footnote on officially sanctioned assassinations.

RTC: And JFK has become a blessed saint in heaven. He ordered the Diems offed just like Nixon and Kissinger ordered Allende done in. Pious frauds, one and all. Now that’s what I mean by my being able to do terrible damage to them and their precious jobs. I was in the Army during the war and I would like to think that I and my friends were able to help this country, even if just a little but I found it was easier to cope with the professionals from the KGB rather than the rank amateurs we have now. Peake once wanted me to ghost write a paper on the KGB and I told him I would not. If I write something now, based on my experience and knowledge, I am not going to let some pseudo-academic try to take credit for it.

GD: Oh, the academic world is just the same. More backstabbing, gossip, innuendo and pure malice than you could imagine. And these academic papers are worthless for anything but to use as toilet paper. Bad, stilted writing and full of official lies which most of them write to impress their grandchildren and awed middle-class morons with. Robert, in my research, I have learned to totally discount any of these academic papers.

RTC: Oh yes, Peake told me breathlessly….

GD: Some sailor giving him a run for his money.

RTC: (Laughter) No, but I have been told that the great David Irving says you are a fraud. My God, what a compliment.

GD: Irving is the fraud and writes at a high school level. Historian? Gas bag. I had dealings with him once and I would never let something like that in my house other than to fix the plumbing. Or around my children, either. Peake actually used Irving as a prop?

RTC: The blind leading the blind. I’ve never read any of Irving’s material but they do tell me that he’s a lightweight.

GD: A legend in his own mind. It is said his ma was Jewish but I don’t think that’s been proven. Lower middle class oaf with delusions of grandeur and reference.

RTC: Ah, my, what a wonderful morning, full of the milk of human kindness.

GD: I think the milk has gone bad, Robert.

RTC: It’s too bad you weren’t around in the early days, I mean actually old enough to work for me. We would have gotten along wonderfully well. I would have had to warn you to be a little restrained in some areas but I think we could have worked well together.

GD: Well, I do respect you Robert, which is more than I can say for the rest of the zoo creatures I’ve encountered since I started tilting at D.C. shithouses. Oh and yes, do you know how many fairies you can get on a bar stool?

RTC: I assume this is a joke.

GD: Why of course, Robert, always the jester. If you turn it upside down, you can seat four comfortably.

RTC: (Prolonged laughter) Well, now I’m back in a good mood.

GD: Don’t pass this on to your callers. You might hurt their feelings.

(Concluded at 10:12 AM CST)

 

US climate report warns of worsening disasters

A new report has warned climate change could bring widespread hardship to the United States if nothing is done to stop it. President Donald Trump has downplayed the threat amid freezing temperatures this week.

November 24, 2018

DW

Climate change will wreak havoc on the natural environment, economy and public health in the United States unless more is done to drastically reduce carbon emissions, a US government report has warned

“Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century,” the Fourth National Climate Assessment said Friday.

The report, mandated by Congress, includes assessments by 13 federal agencies. It details how rising temperatures threaten to lower agricultural yields, increase the likelihood of flooding and wildfires, impede energy production and increase the prevalence of tropical diseases across the country.

Government action now could nevertheless mitigate the most extreme impacts, it said.

Presidential denial

The report contradicts the views of US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly denied climate change as a Chinese hoax. In 2017, the president withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord, an international effort to fight a rise in global temperatures.

On Friday, Trump wrote on Twitter: “Whatever happened to Global Warming?” in response to freezing temperatures in some parts of the country.

‘Climate change is real’

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters played down the report’s findings on Friday. She said it outlined an “extreme scenario” that wrongly assumed a dearth of technological innovation and rapid population growth in the near future.

Environmental groups have welcomed the report. Abigail Dillen, head of Earthjustice, told the Reuters news agency the report underlined that “climate change is real, it’s happening here and it’s happening now.”

The European Environment Agency has predicted similar effects of global warming in Europe.

An agency report from 2017 said rising temperatures threatened massive economic disruption and an increase in the prevalence of droughts, wildfires and flooding across the continent.

 

The Counterinsurgency Paradigm: How U.S. Politics Have Become Paramilitarized

November 25, 2018

by Jeremy Scahill

The Intercept

Donald Trump ran a campaign promising to refill the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” to “take out” the families of suspected terrorists, to ban Muslims from entering this country, and to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet these policies didn’t start with Trump: Torture, indefinite detention, extraordinary renditions, record numbers of deportations, anti-Muslim sentiment, mass foreign and domestic surveillance, and even the killing of innocent family members of suspected terrorists all have a recent historical precedent.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, continued some of the worst policies of the George W. Bush administration. He expanded the global battlefield post-9/11 into at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria. At the end of Obama’s second term, a report by Council of Foreign Relations found that in 2016, Obama dropped an average of 72 bombs a day. He used drone strikes as a liberal panacea for fighting those “terrorists” while keeping boots off the ground. But he also expanded the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan. Immigrants were deported in such record numbers under Obama that immigration activists called him the “deporter-in-chief.” And then there were the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, where Obama national security officials would order pizza and drink Coke and review the list of potential targets on their secret assassination list.

For his liberal base, Obama sanitized a morally bankrupt expansion of war, and used Predator and Reaper drones strapped with Hellfire missiles to kill suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens stripped of their due process. The Obama administration harshly prosecuted whistleblowers in a shocking attack on press freedoms. By the end of his presidency, official numbers on civilian deaths by drone were underreported; we may never know the true cost of these wars, which continue today.

Bush, before him, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, took a hatchet to civil liberties: He expanded National Security Agency surveillance on overseas communications and created a system for unprecedented levels of surveilled communications of U.S. citizens. Much of this happened with the support of leading Democrats. Mosques across the country and in New York City were spied on. The authorization for the use of military force was passed in 2001 with the full backing of every lawmaker except for Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. The bill created the justification for the forever wars that still rage on 17 years later.

And steadily, all of the counterinsurgency tactics of these foreign wars have crept back home, Bernard Harcourt argues in a recent book. Called “The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens” and it makes the argument that through NSA spying; Trump’s constant, daily distractions; and paramilitarized police forces or private security companies, the same counterinsurgency paradigm of warfare used against post-9/11 enemies has now come to U.S. soil as the effective governing strategy.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented paramilitarization of state and local law enforcement agencies in this country. Police at protests and demonstrations often look like they’re SEAL Team 6 getting ready to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound. Many agencies have received military equipment through a Defense Department program that allows police to obtain military equipment after it’s been used in foreign war zones.

In “The Counterrevolution,” America’s post-9/11 domestic reality is placed within the deeper history of modern warfare and counterinsurgency doctrine. Harcourt traces the evolution of modern warfare, or counterinsurgency, as it developed in the 1950s and ’60s to fight small rebellions, including the colonial struggles for freedom in Algeria and Indochina against France and the Viet Cong fighting against the United States in Vietnam. The lessons learned by France in fighting colonial uprisings were distilled into French war strategist David Galula’s “Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice,” which many decades later became an influential text for Gen. David Patraeus as he worked on writing the document that would come to define U.S. war strategy in the Middle East. The 2006 counterinsurgency field manual shaped the counterinsurgency strategy across Iraq and Afghanistan.

Insurgents, or the “active minority,” were aggressively sought out — often targeted for elimination via drone strike. In fact, at the center of Harcourt’s argument for how the domestication of the counterinsurgency warfare paradigm occurred is the drone strike. Heralded as “precise” or “surgical,” the drone strike won the public’s favor under Obama. Any public debate surrounding the use of drones as a legitimate replacement for boots-on-the-ground arguably ended in 2011, with the drone assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and, subsequently, the strike that killed his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman. Instead of an arrest, trial, and verdict for these U.S. citizens, an execution by strike from the sky was authorized. A Gallup poll reported in 2013 that 65 percent of the American public supported drone strikes against overseas targets even after the killing of its own citizens. Harcourt writes, “[Drones] make killing even U.S. citizens abroad far more tolerable. And this tolerance is precisely what ends up eroding the boundaries between foreign policy and domestic governance.”

We spoke to Harcourt about his latest book, what makes the Trump presidency unique, and why we aren’t talking about drones anymore on the Intercepted podcast. What follows is the audio of the edited conversation as aired and the full transcript of the unedited interview.

The interview begins at 45:32.

Jeremy Scahill: Bernard Harcourt, welcome to Intercepted.

Bernard Harcourt: Thanks, Jeremy.

JS: So, I want to start off by asking you about a phrase that you use in your latest book. You say that we now have a counterinsurgency warfare model of politics. What do you mean by that?

BH: So, what I mean by that is that basically all of the [ways] in which we govern abroad and at home is now funneled through a particular way of thinking about the world. It’s a mentality. It’s a way of thinking about society that triggers particular kinds of strategies and politics that result from that. And the way of thinking about society is this counterinsurgency paradigm of warfare.

So, counterinsurgency started in the 1950s – well, it started long before then, but it kind of crystallized with Western powers in the 1950s and 60s in Algeria, and Indochina before then, and in Vietnam for the Americans. And it was a particular way of thinking about society, the way society is structured into three groups. With, on the one hand, a small active minority who are the insurgents, and a large passive majority who can be swayed one way or the other, and then a small minority of counterinsurgents.

And that way of thinking has become internalized, second hand. Most, I would say, many in America, but certainly our political leaders are looking at the world through that lens when they look at other countries when they look domestically at their own population, and as a result of that it triggers particular kinds of counterinsurgency practices, really. And three practices particularly that I think when you look at what we’re doing both abroad and at home, you see resonances of them everywhere. The first is the idea of getting total information awareness. That’s always been the key linchpin of counterinsurgency theory, is to get total information on the total population.

And that’s what distinguishes it from just getting good intelligence. It’s that you have to get total intelligence on the total population, not just targeted to people who you suspect, but on the total population. So that you can make a distinction between or you can identify that small group of active insurgents. And you need the information on everyone so that you can make that separation, those fine distinctions between someone who is in that active minority or someone who’s just [in the] you know, passive masses. So that’s the first strategy. The second strategy is then that you have to rid of the active minority that you identified, just that small group of individuals, the insurgents, and you do that through any means possible. And then the third strategy is to win the hearts and minds of the masses, basically.

And I think that starting after 9/11. We saw that way of thinking become the dominant way of governing abroad particularly with the war in Iraq, but then more generally with the use of drones outside of war zones et cetera, use of total information through the NSA in the way in which everything was captured about everyone to the most minor detail. And then also trying to pacify the masses in Iraq through kind of some provision of services or just distribution of cash. But then eventually, when this way of thinking comes back to the United States through different forms of pacification of the masses. Particularly right now, I would say through forms of distraction, really.

JS: How does this counterinsurgency warfare model of politics apply in the Trump era?

BH: The Trump Administration is kind of a crystallization, or it seals the deal really on this on this model of governing. But what I want to emphasize though is that it wasn’t unique to Trump. And so, it goes back and it threaded through the Obama Administration and the Bush Administration.

I’ll come back to that in a second. But when you see it today, what you see predominantly is through Trump’s creation of an internal enemy. So, one of the things that drives counterinsurgency ways of thinking is having an internal enemy that, the internal enemy which is that identifiable small class of the active insurgents.

And I think that Trump [has] really rested his entire way of governing us by creating internal enemies out of whole cloth, really, in this case. It started with the Muslims and Muslim Americans and the idea that we needed a Muslim ban.

But when you listened to the rhetoric that surrounded the Muslim ban, it was this rhetoric about, “Muslims are coming into the country. We got to keep them out and even the ones who are here aren’t patriots. They don’t call the police when they have information. We need a registry for them. We need – there was talk about –

JS: Surveillance on mosques.

BH: – Well, exactly, right. All of the surveillance on the mosques and on all of the Muslim businesses, everywhere. And so, all of that was the creation of a dangerous element in this country, which were the Muslim Americans. And we saw it, of course with Mexican Americans, with talking about Mexicans as criminals, as rapists. You saw it just recently with the whole caravan episode, right. I mean, I think that the caravan episode was an effort to create an internal enemy because it was not only identifying and indexing this real group of individuals, but I think it was, through those groups of individuals, it was pointing at all of the undocumented persons who are in this country and who substantiate that threat.

JS: If that philosophy is as you say, what is the purpose then of identifying these people as you say, as sort of the insurgents?

BH: It’s a coherent strategy that not only kind of identifies the danger and then, of course, tries to eliminate the danger, right. But is doing that in part to pacify the masses to win the support of the masses to bring them on Trump’s side. And of course, that was exactly a strategy for the whole week preceding the midterm elections, right? It was to win the hearts and minds of Americans by targeting this dangerous internal enemy that was coming to the border but that also is in the country, is in the country already. It’s these undocumented residents.

So, it’s got these different prongs to it and in part, what’s always been unique about counterinsurgency theory from the 1950s is that it is focused on the population in this interesting way. So, when you read all of the text by the great counterinsurgency commanders — the French, and British, and some Americans, and texts that were written for and by the RAND Corporation on counterinsurgency — one of the central pillars of this way of thinking is that the battle is over the population. It’s over the masses.

JS: Well and this was popularized with David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal and the whole notion of COIN, the counterinsurgency doctrine.

BH: Precisely, and when that got popularized — so, when Petraeus actually publishes the new field manual for counterinsurgency, field manual 24, which is an important event, kind of crystallizing all of this thought. Petraeus — who really had his hands in the writing of the document and was overseeing a team of people trying to crystallize counterinsurgency theory — goes back to the original thinkers of counterinsurgency in the 1950s and 60s, goes back to the French counterinsurgency theorist David Galula, goes back to Thompson, the British counterinsurgency theorist. And tries to kind of crystallize and update that theory and turn it into the dominant paradigm of warfare for America in these times.

JS: We’re talking about the French in Indochina, but also in Algeria.

BH: Specifically, in Algeria. For some reason, a lot of the kind of, French crystallization of the thought happens in Algeria with different sets of commanders who took different views, slightly different theories of counterinsurgency theory and practice. And it’s those variations actually that I find most interesting historically because I think we see them replicated since 9/11 in the United States.

JS: How so?

BH: In France, for instance, you can kind of distribute the counterinsurgency theorists into two camps. There were those who were much more explicitly brutal. So, somebody like Roger Trinquier, or later the general Paul Aussaresses who essentially praised torture and very brutal forms of summary execution. So, people who openly embraced those kinds of extreme terroristic acts as a way to accomplish these ends, as a way to eliminate the small minority, but also somewhat terrorize the masses so that they didn’t get radicalized.

And so, you’ll read Aussaresses account and he’s explicit. He’s transparent. He’s plain. He’s forthright: “I tortured. That was the only way to do it. That was the best way to do it. We summarily executed. Most people wouldn’t come out of the torture chamber alive. Either they would confess quickly or it would be over for them.” You know, this is pen on paper. I mean, this is printed. These are his memoirs. That’s the way he viewed things which was a very, really brutal, brutal form of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory is always somewhat brutal but this was just extreme on the sleeve.

And then there were other commanders, particularly David Galula but some others, who acknowledged that some torture happened. They would say, “You know, well, there’s all this talk of torture. It’s not entirely accurate but yes, there are some cases of torture.” And who would feed into that mechanism? Who would deliver a prisoner to you know, some camp where they knew the person would be tortured? Or who would be involved with say, the assassination of a suspect, an FLN suspect, but then would turn to legal processes to kind of, brush it over?

And so, they understood very well that Algerian war wasn’t a declared war so if someone died, there had to be an investigation by the gendarme, and the gendarme would come and they would investigate it and of course, every time somebody had been running away or trying to escape and got shot in the back, or whatever.

But nevertheless, that camp was a little bit more legalistic and emphasized the provision of services more. In other words, to win the hearts and minds, it was not only to terrorize them through torturous methods but also providing basic water services, electricity, some education, et cetera.

So, what you end up with, and what is particularly interesting about the Algerian experience [are the] two camps, two different variations on counterinsurgency theory. And that’s, I think, what we’ve seen over the course of American history since 9/11. So, we know that counterinsurgency as a way of thinking and as a way of preceding in international affairs, but also domestically, is not new to 9/11. We were engaged in counterinsurgency in Vietnam. We also, the United States, experimented with forms of counterinsurgency domestically against the Black Panthers and with the COINTEL program, et cetera. But starting in 9/11 really there was a much more systematic turn to that way of thinking and governing.

JS: It was not only tolerated by Democrats and Republicans alike, but there was an almost entirely unified House, so to speak, where you had one example being Barbara Lee being the only member of Congress to vote against the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The PATRIOT Act — one Senator, Russ Feingold standing up and voting against it when it was initially promoted. So, it was a very effective consolidation of thinking and this bipartisan embrace of counterinsurgency as a normal part of American politics.

BH: Right, and then we saw it kind of emerge in these aberrant ways that, for some Americans felt aberrant, the use of torture to interrogate suspects. Also, the idea of indefinite detention, right. Some of these emerge in ways that were still shocking a little bit to the American sensibility because we thought that we had gotten past the willful use of waterboarding. And I think a lot of people didn’t connect the dots in part and didn’t fully understand that these were actually coherent pieces of a counterinsurgency strategy, and that’s the purpose of the book is to try and connect the dots.

But what we did see was, as you were suggesting with the passage of the PATRIOT Act, total information awareness coming into place on Americans, right, with the Section 215 program and also some illicit programs as well, but not all of them were passed by Congress. As you remember from that night where [John] Ashcroft was in his hospital bed asked to sign some of those illicit programs.

JS: And there was James Comey right next to him.

BH: Exactly, right. Acting though to kind of stop that, at that time. But the use of torture, the use of indefinite detention as a way to eliminate the suspected minority, the beginnings of the use of drones as a way to kind of target and eliminate, again, suspects.

These were all pieces that fit perfectly in a counterinsurgency theory. Now, it fit perfectly in the more extreme version of counterinsurgency, particularly torture. Now, but what we saw over time with the changing of the administration was not the end of a dominant counterinsurgency mentality but a slightly different variation on the theme.

JS: You’re talking about as we transition from Bush to Obama.

BH: Yes, right. As we transition to Obama, we see for instance, yes, a repudiation of torture. Although never any kind of accountability for the tortures, with the exception of a female officer at Abu Ghraib, and [a] few underlings who get prosecuted. No one was held accountable for that. Although, there was a statement that we wouldn’t engage in torture again, OK.

JS: Quickly before you go on with that: To me, one of the most telling and under-told stories about the very point that you’re making, the Obama administration’s posture on terrorism, is that you had civil litigation brought against Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush himself, but specifically for the torture and alleged extrajudicial killings at Guantanamo.

And when either the family members of survivors or prisoners themselves filed this civil litigation seeking damages from the U.S. government, the Obama justice department repeatedly intervened in the cases and filed briefs saying that even if Rumsfeld had participated in genocide as Defense Secretary, for instance, that it would have been within the official scope of his duties. And these were papers filed by Eric Holder as the attorney general. Those cases, and it’s a little bit complicated legally, but the short of it is that that intervention removed those officials as defendants in those cases.

It was then just the individual suing the entirety of the U.S. government bureaucracy and they were all dismissed. So, it wasn’t just that Obama said “Well, we need to look forward not [backward],” or failed to take any action. His justice department actively intervened to protect the very people at the top who were authorizing torture and potentially extrajudicial killings.

BH: Which shows the kind of, the continuities and the ways in which this takes slightly different variations, has [a] different flavor, different cast, different language, different public relations, but was essentially a continuation. I’ll come back to that in a split second because I think that’s really important and relevant here. What I wanted to suggest was that with the Obama Administration, we see those departures that end up actually, as you were suggesting, protecting and immunizing. But we also see the use of very deliberate, what are counterinsurgency practices, like the drone strikes which go up dramatically once Obama takes office in Pakistan, for instance. And that of course, is a different way of eliminating and targeting the small minority. You’re not using torture. the Obama administration tried to close down Guantanamo, didn’t succeed.

But the drone strikes in outside war zones is a perfect illustration of something that is counterinsurgency theory but has a slightly different flavor. Now, part of this is you know, it’s odd to come back to all of this now that we’re in the Trump, in this nightmare with the Trump administration and presidency. It’s odd to go back to Obama or Bush when it feels so unique what’s going on today and as we worry about a kind of encroaching authoritarianism – or what is it? Is it fascism or what, exactly? Where are we headed?

My point is, that you have to do that. In other words, the groundwork was laid for this. You can’t think about Trump’s penchant for authoritarian executive power without thinking about all of the theorists during the W. Bush Administration — very well-recognized law professors at the elite schools, who were talking about unbounded executive power as a good thing. There are continuities here and that’s the main point is that the most important continuity is this mentality, I would say, of counterinsurgency theory. And insofar as the Trump Administration marks a separate moment, you have to identify it within those logics, within the logic of a way of governing that we’ve had since 9/11. We’ve had [it] for a long, long time, 17 years of this.

And what does it represent? So, then the question becomes what is unique about the Trump formulation of this? Some things are not unique. When he says on the campaign trail, he’s ready to waterboard or worse, you know, torture the family members et cetera. Well you know, it’s not that unique, right? We had that when we had water – I mean, you know, a hundred-and-eighty-three application of water on one individual under the Bush Administration. So, we had that –

JS: It’s what Cheney was referring to when he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press, you know, that we’re going to have to be doing work on the dark side. I mean he was – you know, you had Cofer Black, senior CIA official telling Congress there was a before 9/11, and an after 9/11. And after 9/11, the gloves came off. I mean what they’re talking about there is torture and so-called targeted assassination in addition to the big scale military maneuvers.

BH: Exactly, right. So, some of these aspects of the Trump era are not novel, sadly. I wish they were almost. But then so what is unique — I think that one of the things that’s unique is this creation of an internal enemy in terms of all Muslims, for instance. And the language that Trump used about Muslims — well, I would not have imagined anyone in post-Nazi Germany ever being able to use that kind of language about a religious group. I mean, if you substituted “Jews” for “Muslims” in most of the statements that he made, people would be falling off their chairs, right. So, the creation of Muslims as a group, the demonization also of the undocumented and Mexicans which the Obama Administration did not have a very enlightened policy towards deportation or towards detention at the border. Tent cities pre-date Trump et cetera, massive detention pre-dates Trump. But nevertheless, the demonization, the way in which it’s used as a way to pull the masses on his side, I think is relatively, is characteristic and has a particular flavor. And the way in which some of the kind of militarized policing has now become routine in this county are all aspects that make it somewhat unique or the variation of counterinsurgency more extreme today.

JS: Well, there’s this, Department of Homeland Security program working with DOD to transfer the weaponry and vehicles of war to local law enforcement agencies across the country, which has enhanced the progress of the para-militarization slash militarization of the police, the 1033 program.

BH: Right, exactly, right. You’re putting your finger right on the right spot which is kind of, how does this counterinsurgency theory in practice make its way back into the domestic governing context? And it’s precisely through actually, material distribution. So, the fact that all of this counterinsurgency equipment that’s basically created for Iraq and Afghanistan, all of that equipment actually comes back to ordinary police departments to become hyper-militarized. Through the brave men and women who are fighting abroad who come back into police departments and security forces and bring all of that know-how and technology back. Through the private security firms at Standing Rock, you know, TigerSwan that The Intercept exposed some of their documents, and the mentality that was in the security, in the private security there, of thinking of the water carriers as you know, Jihadists –

JS: Oh, yeah, it was straight out of the CIA targeted killing program.

BH: Yeah, it’s straight out of counterinsurgency way of thinking in the Middle East brought back into this country. And then, [this] just particular mentality, just the way of seeing the world, the way of thinking of society as being divided into these three categories of the passive masses and the counterinsurgents. All of that is how this way of thinking, and breathing, and living, and governing becomes second nature. But also, as you were suggesting with these material flows of hardware, it’s both the hardware and the software that’s coming back.

Now, what I would say is unique about the Trump Administration or the point at which we are now is that this way of governing has now become dominant. And I can talk about other parts of it kind of distracting us, distracting the masses, in a second. But it’s become dominant domestically in a time when there is no longer, there is no insurgent minority. There is no insurgency, right? These techniques were developed mostly at times of revolutions, independence movements, many communist movements in the South whether it was in Algeria or in Indochina, et cetera, when there was, in fact, a war to be fought. There were armed insurgents trying to liberate the countries.

Now, you can have a whole debate about counterinsurgency in that context. Counterinsurgency theory was actually — [it] never succeeded. All of those movements for independence, all of those anti-colonial struggles prevailed. So, you can have an independent conversation among the military strategists as to whether or not counterinsurgency is a good thing, but what’s so unique about it now is that it’s operating in this country as a mode of governing, a filter through which we govern in this country, and there’s no insurgency.

There’s no active group, I mean, there are as we see practically every week now, you know, very unstable individuals who are engaging in violent acts, and who are appealing to the most attractive ideologies now for someone who is in an extreme violent condition, and that tends to be white supremacy, on the one hand, or you know, the Islamic state, on the other. And you have these individuals, but you don’t have an insurgent minority in this country.

JS: Isn’t it the case, and I know you work on death penalty cases in the state of Alabama, but I recently have come to believe that our carceral state in this country, the prison industrial complex is perhaps the premiere form of counterinsurgency. And if you look at the economics, the housing trends after desegregation in black communities across this country, and you look at the explosion of the prison population — in Florida now, there’s going to be the re-enfranchisement of 1.4 million people who were previously imprisoned — but what would any of those people have done in their lives? This is one of the most targeted groups in the history of this country and you have record-shattering numbers of black people warehoused in prisons.

BH: Yeah.

JS: Do you buy what I’m saying or — ?

BH: You know, so I’ve spent a lot of time – because I bridge these spaces, these two worlds a lot — and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to locate mass incarceration within the paradigm of the counterinsurgency way of governing and it’s a little tricky. Here’s where I end up: Mass incarceration starts around 1973 is when we start seeing the uptick in rates of incarceration and it’s an exponential rise in the prison population. And every time I or others flash this, the graph of incarceration in this country, people’s jaws usually drop because you’re not used to exponential trends literally sky-rocketing in public policy. You’re used to it in the context of microbes or some kind of scientific experiment or something but not when we’re deciding what we’re doing.

So, it starts in 1973. It’s racialized from the beginning.

JS: And coming on the tails of the height of the civil rights movement, the black power movement.

BH: Right.

JS: The uprisings in ghettos across America. Prominent black athletes now standing up. I mean, Nixon understood the way the winds were blowing there and, in a way, this was sort of his brainchild toward the end of his time in office.

BH: It sure was. It sure was. And through Reagan and Ed Meese who really was favoring the building of prisons.

JS: And Clinton.

BH: And Clinton, as well. Rights. The New Democrats.

JS: But on your point about – I’m interested in how you’ve internally debated that question.

BH: Yeah, because a lot of what caused that were things like the war on crime and the war on drugs. Now, you can’t over-emphasize the war on drugs. It’s about one-quarter of the increase. Everybody debates this. We’ve rehashed it a million times but nevertheless, it contributed. But what was contributing I think, were these ideas of large-scale warfare and that’s where mass incarceration feels somewhat to me, a little bit out of joint. Now, in terms of what brought it about because counterinsurgency theory and counterinsurgency mentalities were opposed to large-scale battlefield war models. But a lot of the social policy that predated 9/11 was the result of a particular, large battlefield war model.

You can think of the New Deal as being that. You can certainly think of the war on poverty as being an effort to have a wide scale, all forces on those problems. And the way that the war on crime was implemented did have a lot of this idea of “We’re just going to put all our forces on it and we’re just going to attack this thing.” And that’s a slightly different mental structure say, than the more targeted counterinsurgency interventions. And that’s why, for me, it’s always been difficult to – the result seems very similar in the sense that what you’ve effectively done at the end, by the end, by the time you get to mass incarceration is you know, you have literally just incapacitated, you have just knocked out this whole tranche of young, black and brown men, predominantly. The numbers are really increasing for African American and Hispanic women right now. But you’ve just knocked out this tranche which is the generally, in the United States, perceived as the internal enemy.

You know, when I was speaking earlier about the internal enemy and referring to the Muslims and referring to the Mexicans, et cetera, of course, also African American protesters or #BlackLivesMatter folks fit in that category, right now, particularly with Donald Trump, being an internal enemy. So, you’ve achieved something that kind of fits with the counterinsurgency model which is to eliminate that tranche. Although, I think at the beginning at least, it was coming from a different way of thinking which was this large war on crime approach. So, I think it has fed in to the point where today, it functions in that way. You see it well in a state like Florida, as you were saying.

JS: Yeah, I mean, not to belabor the point but part of what informed my thinking on this was when we interviewed Mehrsa Baradaran who wrote an excellent book about the history of black banks. And I think you could make an argument — and maybe we’ll have you back to have a longer discussion about just this — but I think you could make an argument that from the official end of slavery through reconstruction, the entire strategy with black masses in America has been “Never allow independent financial power, never allow viable community-building and ensure that large numbers of people are just stuck in the criminal justice hamster wheel, basically.”

BH: Right.

JS: But I definitely understand the distinction that you’re drawing but I do think it can be helpful. And also talking to black activists who are really looking at this – Mariame Kaba and others – I do think it’s helpful to engage in a line of inquiry about prisons as counterinsurgency when you’re taking the full scope of that history into account.

BH: Yeah, I agree. I agree, and you know, the relations between the buildup and the hyper-incarceration and the creation of ghettos before them are I think important elements to understanding the transition to a more theorized, or a more coherent counterinsurgency mode of governing.

JS: One of the specific examples that you cite as being a particularly disturbing if not unprecedented event was back in 2016, I believe it was when the Dallas police used an anti-bomb robot strapped with explosives to blow up the Army veteran Micah Johnson. So, this was Dallas PD. There was some litigation about that against the officers. It ended up getting tossed up. But remind people of the circumstances of that and why you describe it as basically, unprecedented. What was it about it that was unprecedented? First, just sort of the context.

BH: Okay, well the context was there was a large anti-police misconduct protest going on in Dallas. It was a significant group of, you know, it was a big demonstration. And towards the tail-end of the demonstration, there was an unstable individual, Micah Johnson, who was an Army veteran, who started firing on the police, and who got cornered. So basically, I mean, he shot and killed five police officers and wounded others. So, it was a pretty dramatic situation and of course, very extreme situation, extreme danger for everyone and [a] terrible, terrible situation.

But ultimately, he got kind of cornered in a particular location and there were negotiations taking place to try and get him to surrender. And at some point, the chief of police in Dallas instead of continuing with the negotiations decided, “Look, we’re just going to take him out with a bomb.” And basically, a drone, effectively. You know, so it was an anti-bomb robot, as you were suggesting. That usually is used to diffuse bombs, but instead, they strapped a bomb to it and they sent it in the direction of Micah Johnson and then when it got close enough, they detonated the bomb and he was killed.

JS: Do we know if this was something that they kind of, thought up on their own or was this a product that is already ready-made in the hands of police departments?

BH: My understanding, but you know, I’d have to go back and double-check, my understanding is that they were inventing, that they were kind of jiggering the device. Because it wasn’t intended, it’s not intended to be a blow-up robot. And you know, these things are kind of expensive, so you know, it’s not a kind of self-destruct kind of robot. So, my understanding is that it was jiggered to have a bomb placed on it and then it was deployed. Now, so what was so unique about that was: that’s not the police function. The police function when you have a suspect is to subdue the suspect, is to try and get the suspect alive so that the person can be tried in a criminal court.

Now these were extreme circumstances for sure, but we don’t know for instance, Micah Johnson was in his right mind. We can suspect that he was not. He might’ve been suffering from delusions. He might have been in a state that we would qualify as a trial insanity. There may have been other defenses. Who knows? That’s why we have a criminal process. That’s why we would afford someone like that an attorney and we could try to figure out what happened.

JS: But this is an argument against – I mean does it matter to you if it was with a robot that was created by the police for the purpose of blowing this guy up or a sniper shooting him and taking him out?

BH: Well right, I mean in a situation like that a sniper, and there were snipers ready to try, wouldn’t be shooting to kill. That’s the point. The difference, the line of demarcation, right: There is shooting to kill versus trying to subdue and catch the suspect. That demarcation is the demarcation between the military context and the policing context. In a military context, it’s fine to shoot to kill if you’re in an engagement against a declared enemy in uniform et cetera. There are rules of war but the logic in the military context is yes, people are trying to kill each other. That’s what a war is, like it or leave it. There are going to be Geneva Conventions and other forms of regulations of what can and can’t be done but against an enemy in a conflict, in an active conflict, you shoot to kill.

That’s just not what we do in the domestic policing context and that’s the huge difference. And that’s what was unprecedented about it, really. It was transitioning from a policing context where you try to subdue suspects and bring them to court alive, flipping into this drone tactical attack that is the pristine illustration of counterinsurgency theory in warfare, right. It was that. It was that flip.

And you know a lot of people, a lot of people looked at the situation and thought “Well it’s no big deal, you know. I mean, you know, he shot five cops and what not.” It’s fine to take those kind of, you know –

JS: Well they make a similar argument about drones. “Oh, this is a more precise weapon. We don’t have to risk our soldiers.” Yes, it’s true. I mean, the missiles fired from a drone tend to be more accurate than a cruise missile launched from a ship. However, it also removes the participants in that act of mass violence further away from the process that would involve the human mind or logic. It makes it so easy to say “Oh we can just zap this person and then they disappear from the world.” That’s a big part of the problem with using these technological platforms. It’s still based on the idea that “Better we kill him than he kills any of us.” But it has this added dimension of making it so sort of, void of any moral oversight or removing it even further from any kind of human intervention, logic, compassion, all of that.

BH: Right. And it’s administering a completely different logic right. That’s what it’s doing. I mean you’re no longer there to serve and protect. You’re there to destroy, eliminate. Now, with the drones – I mean, the drone situation is particularly fraught particularly outside of the war zone. And again, there I don’t think people have sufficiently thought through all of the implications, as you were suggesting. Because when you’re not in the war zone it can only be done effectively. It can only be justified as an act of self-defense. I mean in the war zone, using a drone becomes almost an ordinary form of a ballistic attack, right. I mean, but when you’re outside of the war zone and you can’t use the logic of active military engagement. The only way in which it’s defensible is if you are in imminent need of self-defense.

JS: Define imminent.

BH: Define imminent first of all but then there become limits on self-defense when there are going to be innocent bystanders, right.

JS: Well, you recall that on that there was this Department of Justice white paper that leaked under Obama that revealed to the public — and then later this was confirmed through public release of documents — that the Obama Justice Department had radically changed the definition of the term “imminent” so that it had almost no resemblance to an ordinary person or even a very learned person’s understanding of the definition of imminent. It was basically if you’ve ever talked to anyone that we believe is a terrorist, ever, you represent an imminent threat to the United States. I mean they just threw the basic meaning of it out the window and said, “Anyone in Yemen that we say is a threat is an ‘imminent’ threat, and therefore all of this is justified.”

BH: Right. And when you start doing that then you really move away from anything that is justifiable or defensible, right. Because self-defense is a very bounded concept basically, in criminal law, jurisprudence, and it has certain limits and it’s not as if you can engage in forms of self-defense that cause death to others, to innocent others. And what happens is that you pivot at that moment. You pivot from a domestic logic to a military logic but you’re not in a military war zone. And so, what’s happening right there, those moments right there is where you begin to see the extension of counterinsurgency theory to foreign affairs more broadly. The use of drones in a place like Pakistan is no longer a military engagement. It’s foreign policy, right. Now we’re conducting our foreign policy with this counterinsurgency mentality.

Or when you bring it onto American soil and you all of a sudden use a drone to assassinate a target effectively, a suspect, you’ve domesticated this way of thinking and you’ve blurred the lines in such a way that we don’t really think about questions of self-defense anymore because now we’re thinking through a military prism. We’re thinking through a counterinsurgency prism.

JS: You wrote that “Trump ratcheted up and accelerated the counterrevolution on every front.” What do you mean by that?

BH: When you take all of the different elements that I’ve suggested: the use of torture, the use of indefinite detention. So, torture we don’t know of use of torture under the Trump Administration, but during the campaign this kind of embrace of torture worse than what was done during the Bush Administration –

JS: It is perfectly plausible that many of those programs have been reactivated particularly when you have Gina Haspel now running the CIA. We hear almost nothing about any of the tactics that are being used.

BH: Right.

JS: I’m not even sure that Trump outside of saying “Well, let’s pull some fingernails out,” has any sort of involvement in the tick-tock of counter-terrorist policy, whereas Obama was like babysitting the whole thing, you know, and was getting briefings on every aspect of it.

It does seem like Trump is very hands-off and is letting the most unsavory players within the intelligence community run the show. So, I just want to point out we have no idea what tactics have been reauthorized or newly authorized under this administration. Zero idea.

 

BH: Yeah and let me just emphasize that that is a product, I would argue, of the ratcheted-up heart and minds work that’s being done right now through distraction. So, you were saying, you know, Trump has ratcheted up all these elements, you can go through each one of them: indefinite detention, the idea of we’re going to fill Guantanamo again. Not only are we going to fill Guantanamo again but we’re going we’re going to fill it with American citizens too, right.

JS: And he’s suggested it a few times like when you had the West Side highway.

BH: Right.

JS: He suggested that that suspect should be sent to Guantanamo.

BH: Right, right, right. So, you’ve got all of these different aspects. Increased use of drones, so we’ve seen a spike since the Trump Administration [came] into power, but — and this is the key point here — we don’t even talk about the increase in drones anymore. We don’t even talk about drones anymore. Not just because this Administration has stopped the flow of information, and not because we’re used to drones, but because of the distraction techniques that Trump is so agile at that preoccupy us with other things. So, it’s almost as if there isn’t any air space to debate drones, to even write about drones, or to draw our attention to this escalating problem with drones because all of our time, and attention, and energy is being distracted with you know, “who got fired?” These distraction techniques of which Trump is a master, right? Day after the midterm, right, a midterm where he loses the House, Democrats gained the House, you know, it was pretty eventful: Bam! Sessions gets fired.

JS: Well Sessions gets fired and then the whole thing with Jim Acosta and CNN, and then Trump right now is basically going after every black White House correspondent calling them either a racist or stupid, right.

BH: Right, exactly. And that, those forms of distraction that he is so masterful at is, I believe, our newest way of winning hearts and minds. Our hearts and minds are not so much one as they are pacified because we are glued to our devices figuring out what happened next. You know, this acting Attorney General Whitaker. You know, what’s he going to do next? What did he say? He already said how to close down the Mueller investigation. You know it’s such a – before President Trump was inaugurated, I believe he told his team, you know, “I want my presidency to be like a reality TV show with one episode a day where I conquer my enemies,” right? That’s the way in which we are now being, I would say, most pacified under this counterinsurgency form of governing because we can’t even pay attention to the important things anymore.

We can’t even pay attention, for instance, to how many drones we’ve used in the last month and how many civilians have been killed as a result. It’s nowhere. You won’t find that anywhere in the news, right, or in the conversation because we just don’t have time for that.

JS: As we wrap up here – one of the main reasons I wanted to talk to you is that I think a discussion that we’re not having in this society, and I think it’s a real problem that we’re not having it, is what do these trends that you’re describing – and that we cover a lot on the show – what do those trends look like if you remove Trump from the equation and it was another term of Obama? What is there that we should be focused on, concerned about trying to confront versus what is new with Trump? And it seems from listening to you, that you are identifying some real differences that Trump presents in policy, and style, and tactic from Obama but that the core strategy, that you document the history of it in your book, is in place whether you have a third term of Obama or a first term of Trump.

BH: Yeah, I think that that’s right. I mean one of the – it’s hard to say this – one of the downsides of Trump is, in part, this distraction that doesn’t allow us to see the continuities. It’s a confusing statement, I know –

JS: No, I know exactly what you’re saying.

BH: It’s that all of sudden we’re talking about — we’re now facing an Administration that is what would people call it, some people call it fascist, some people call it authoritarian, some people call it some kind of right populism, some people call it alt-right. I mean [there] are lots of different ways of describing this and some are more accurate than others. But what that hides were the continuities that came before and that we would still be facing today.

When I really conceptualize this, when I came to see that what we face is [a] counterinsurgency mode of governing, I was pretty convinced that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected president of the United States and that it would take a different form. I didn’t think – we weren’t going to stop drone strikes pretty clearly and there would have been different ways in which — and it’s not clear what the continuation of deportations and what our immigration policies, where they would have gone, right.

But the radicality of Trump masks all of those continuities which is one of the troubling aspects here. Because in part, we need to address the radical dimension of Trump the way in which our political discourse has shifted so dramatically to the right and that people feel emboldened to say things that they would never have been willing to say before. And all of the kind of signals and indexing to what [is] effectively, you know, white nationalist language, with the “globalists” and you know, which substitutes in for anti-Semitic, basically, language et cetera. So, all of that needs to be addressed.

And yet we also need to address the fact that we’ve been on this course since 9/11, and that those practices continue that, and that way of thinking continues today so that the counterinsurgency mode of governing, the militarized police forces that we see across this country that continues, and it becomes second nature. And it’s almost masked by the extraordinarily radical language and actions of the president.

JS: Right. And I mean, just parenthetically it also has had the consequence of lionizing the FBI, the CIA, the intelligence community for certainly one whole television network MSNBC which is just filled with these people on their airwaves. But I mean, I think if I were one of the sort of evil plotters of you know, within the CIA paramilitary division or propaganda ops, I would be loving this moment. Because on the one hand, you have Trump who is totally hands off, just get the torture done. It’s fine. I don’t need to know the details. And then on the other hand, you have John Brennan, the drone lord who is you know, on CNN constantly. He now has the audacity to say that he’s against you know the continued involvement of the U.S. military in Yemen. He started it. You have James Clapper, a known perjurer, who’s now a hero. James Comey. They have Go Fund Me campaigns for all these people. The Trump era is really — I’ve been saying this for quite some time. It’s like a new golden era for the worst parts of the so-called national security apparatus in this country.

BH: Right. I mean that is what is so striking is the way in which you know, the way in which the NSA, or the CIA has become the savior.

JS: They’re protecting us from Trump.

BH: Right, and I mean and that just goes to show – so when we talk about like how has counterinsurgency changed over time and how has this mode of governing change over time from the Bush, to the Obama, to the Trump Administration. I think it really does show how extreme the Trump form of kind of counterinsurgency management becomes when those tranches of our government become not sufficiently embracing of a counterinsurgency mentality, right. Not sufficiently embracing of the fear of the caravan, or all of these other kind of, Trumped up fears. Not sufficiently embracing a repression of Muslim Americans, right. All of a sudden, those entities no longer can serve the function of a counterinsurgency approach. Entities that were at the core of a counterinsurgency approach. I mean, the FBI and COINTELPRO, that was the beginning, the seeds, the first experiments with a domestication of counterinsurgency approach. Those agencies are no longer even kind of, have fallen off the chart of the kinds of you know, people, and associations, and agencies that will fulfill this vision of a counter-revolution.

JS: Final question, what would a large-scale terrorist attack on U.S. soil look like under Trump?

BH: Oh, don’t. Please don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.

JS: Well, I mean, I’m –

BH: No, no, no, no, no. I mean, I mean you have to understand that is the greatest danger for this country. Had those pipe bombs not been white supremacist pipe bombs, but some kind of other unstable individual claiming Islamic fundamentalism. I am — I do not know where we would be in this country. My greatest worry is a true terrorist attack that would afford this administration the opportunity to put in place emergency measures or state of emergency that would centralize power further.

Now, the one kind of saving grace now, I think, was the midterm elections that turned the House Democratic. But before I mean, I think at this point now, there is potentially a political counterweight in our government that will be able possibly at least to to serve as a as a counterweight.

But prior to that with the Senate in Republican hands and the House in Republican hands and Trump – my greatest fear prior to those midterm results was some kind of credible terrorist attack from someone who delusionally claims Islamic fundamentalism of some sort triggering a kind of state of exception.

JS: Or someone advocating for the rights of immigrants, particularly undocumented.  I mean, it could be Islamic terrorists. It could also be that it’s immigrant groups. It’s Antifa that’s doing this.

BH: Right.

JS: The one thing that would push you on though is I think that Bush and Cheney could have could have gone much further than they did in that open space right after 9/11. I think they obviously they got a lot and with a lot of Democratic support. I think they could have even pushed it further on a domestic level and they would have lost Democrats, but not all of them. And I think that when you look at the key programs you describe in your book, and you look at the U.S. military you look at the intelligence budget, you look at surveillance capabilities, the leadership of the Democratic Party is consistently backing Trump in expanding all of these things despite the fact that they say he’s such a threat to our democratic process in this country. I mean it’s very interesting how the powerful in those Reichstag-like moments sort of do coalesce around the flag. The challenge here is that Trump is the kind of cartoonish villain that you’re describing. So, it does throw a bit of a monkey wrench. But if recent history is any indication when it comes to “We’re all Americans and we need to protect the country,” the Chuck Schumer’s of the world are going to be whipping up those votes to make sure that the military gets its record breaking budget again or that the president has these surveillance capabilities.

BH: Right, yeah, and sadly, that’s what kind of, you know, fuels this kind of the continuation of this counter-insurgency way of governing right and that sadly, there wasn’t a rupture. I mean that’s the point of the book. There wasn’t a dramatic rupture from Bush to Obama. And that’s one of the things that’s most disappointing in our contemporary politics is that there isn’t a real counterweight. And you know, it’s a situation that that keeps me up at night thinking about the potential triggering mechanisms that could that could push us further into this form of counterrevolution.

JS: We’re going to leave it there. Professor Bernard Harcourt, thank you so much for joining us.

BH: Thank you, Jeremy Scahill.

Elise Swain contributed to this story.

 

 

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