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TBR News October 26, 2019

Oct 26 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. October 26, 2019:

“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

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

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

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

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

It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.

Commentary for October 26:” Washington is turning into a Lewis Carroll world with hysterical Republicans, an obviously mad President and a cast of characters, soon to be forgotten, lending their off-key voices to a loud symphony of madness. Knowing that he might very well be impeached and thrown out of his high office, Trump is resorting to crude, gangster methodology to save his skin and a shabby army of toadies is right behind him, croaking and hissing in tune with Trump’s hysteria. How this will play out no one knows but the American public is rapidly becoming disenchanted with Crazy Donald.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • S. House impeachment testimony resumes with State Department witness
  • Disorder and chaos’: Trump and Republicans mount furious impeachment fight
  • Trump frustrated as White House effort to defy impeachment inquiry fails to halt witness testimony, advisers say
  • The Final Outcome of the Multiple Syrian Wars Is Now in Sight
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • The Pash Papers
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

U.S. House impeachment testimony resumes with State Department witness

October 26, 2019

by David Morgan and Richard Cowan

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democratic-led impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump resumes with testimony from a senior State Department official on Saturday, a day after a judge buoyed the probe by dismissing a central Republican objection.

Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, is due to meet with the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight Committees behind closed doors at the U.S. Capitol.

Lawmakers and staff are holding the first weekend deposition of the investigation, after Reeker’s testimony was postponed due to memorial events this week for Representative Elijah Cummings, who had been Oversight committee chairman and played a leading role in the impeachment inquiry.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell rejected the claim that the impeachment process is illegitimate, as he ordered the Republican Trump administration to give the House Judiciary Committee secret material from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s reporting on Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Howell said the House did not have to approve a resolution formally initiating the effort for the impeachment inquiry to be valid, something Republicans have been insisting is the case.

Reeker, 54, is a career diplomat whose current portfolio includes Ukraine, the country central to the investigation of Trump. Reeker has held his position on an acting basis since March 18.

The impeachment inquiry has underscored what current and former U.S. officials describe as a campaign by Trump against career diplomats. Several have already met with congressional investigators.

Investigators are expected to ask Reeker about issues including Trump’s abrupt dismissal of Marie Yovanovitch in May as ambassador to Ukraine. According to emails given to congressional committees this month, Reeker was among diplomats who sought to intervene when Trump supporters accused Yovanovitch of being disloyal to the president.

Another career diplomat involved in those communications, George Kent, testified last week that he was told to “lie low” on Ukraine and instead defer to three of Trump’s political appointees. Yovanovitch has also testified, accusing the Trump administration of recalling her based on false claims and of eviscerating the State Department.

At the heart of the impeachment inquiry is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender to face Trump in the 2020 election, and his son Hunter, who had been a director of a Ukrainian energy company.

The Trump administration was withholding $391 million in security assistance for Ukraine when the call took place, and investigators are looking into whether Trump improperly tied the release of the aid to getting Ukraine’s help in probing the Bidens.

Trump denies wrongdoing. And, backed by his fellow Republicans in Congress, insists he is being treated unfairly.

Like other administration officials who have testified, Reeker is likely to be subpoenaed to appear. The administration has refused to hand over documents requested by the congressional committees, and sought to prevent current and former officials from giving interviews.

The committees have scheduled several depositions next week, following Reeker’s appearance on Saturday, all behind closed doors.

For Monday, they have called Charles Kupperman, a former deputy national security adviser, and on Tuesday, lawmakers expect Alexander Vindman, the White House National Security Council’s (NSC) top expert on Ukraine.

Kupperman on Friday filed a lawsuit asking a federal court judge to determine whether he can testify. His lawyer Charles Cooper said the judicial branch needs to weigh in on whether the president can block Kupperman and other White House officials from complying with Congressional subpoenas.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security, is scheduled to appear on Wednesday, and Tim Morrison, a top NSC Russia and Europe adviser, is scheduled for Thursday.

Democratic members of the three committees said they feel they have gathered a great deal of evidence and do not expect this phase of the investigation to last many more weeks, before public hearings.

“We’ve heard a lot of compelling testimony. We feel like we know a lot of what’s happened,” Representative Tom Malinowski told reporters at the House this week.

Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler and Chizu Nomiyama

 

Disorder and chaos’: Trump and Republicans mount furious impeachment fight

A hearing room is invaded, the president’s enemies are ‘scum’. A bare-knuckle scrap has begun – but will it be enough?

October 26, 2019

by David Smith in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump has shown little taste for military adventure. He avoided the draft in Vietnam. He fell out with his once-beloved generals. He stunned the world by pulling troops out of Syria and abandoning America’s Kurdish allies.

But on the political battlefield, the president has shown how he and his allies intend to fight impeachment: with a blitzkrieg aimed at deflecting, distracting and discrediting. What he lacks in coherent strategy, he makes up for in shock and awe. Trump will send in the tanks and take no prisoners.

It appears that most Republicans are still willing to march behind him, not by defending what many see as indefensible – the president’s offer of a quid pro quo to Ukraine – but by throwing sand into the gears of the impeachment process. With the help of Fox News, they are set to intensify attacks on the legitimacy of the inquiry itself, demonising its leaders and sowing doubt wherever possible.

The great unknown is whether the approach will prove as effective as their efforts to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, potentially boosting Trump in the 2020 election, or the case against him will be so compelling that he will be removed from office or defeated at the polls.

“Trump is using the same approach he did to subvert the Mueller report: undermining the legitimacy of the messenger, assigning political motives to those who testify and relying on the Fox News firewall to serve up propaganda to his base,” said Kurt Bardella, a former spokesperson and senior adviser for Republicans on the House oversight committee.

“The difference is that with Mueller we had a lot of time where we didn’t know anything. In the impeachment inquiry we are getting a steady stream of new information that is providing context.”

House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is a month old. Unlike Mueller it has moved at warp speed, subpoenaing witnesses, gathering testimony and building evidence against the president some say makes it inevitable he will be impeached by the House and put on trial by the Republican-controlled Senate.

This week Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, made the most damning allegations yet about a quid pro quo in which Trump threatened to suspend military aid and the offer of a White House meeting unless Ukraine agreed to announce investigations into political rivals including former vice-president Joe Biden, a potential opponent in next year’s presidential election.

Taylor, a respected Vietnam war veteran with half a century of public service, also described an “irregular, informal policy channel” by which the Trump administration was pursuing objectives in Ukraine “running contrary to the goals of longstanding US policy”. His evidence reportedly prompted “a lot of sighs and gasps” in the hearing room.

The backlash from Trump was as swift as it was expected. Since the shadow of impeachment fell, the president has put down a daily barrage of tweets. Responding to Taylor and other members of his own party he sees as disloyal, he described “Never Trumper Republicans” as “human scum”.

On the same day, about 30 House Republicans barged into the secure facility where the impeachment depositions are being taken and ordered pizza. The testimony of a Pentagon official was postponed by more than five hours. The members complained about lack of transparency as evidence is being given behind closed doors.

It was not their only gambit. Earlier in the week Republicans attempted to censure Adam Schiff, chair of the House intelligence committee, for his handling of the impeachment inquiry, only for the Democratic majority to set the resolution aside. On Thursday Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee and a Trump loyalist, introduced a resolution condemning the inquiry as an unfair, secretive and designed to embarrass the president.

In an ominous development, the justice department stepped up its review of the origins of Mueller’s Russia investigation, giving prosecutors the ability to issue subpoenas, potentially form a grand jury and compel witnesses to give testimony and bring federal criminal charges. The move raised fears of a politically motivated ploy to burnish the overall narrative that Trump is a victim of the deep state, casting impeachment as Mueller 2.0.

But there was still little sign of a war bunker where a strategy is being coordinated. Instead it appears to be a case of a scattergun and “fire at will”, a measure of how ill-equipped the White House is for the battle to come. More than 1,000 days into Trump’s presidency, its ranks are severely depleted.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon is long gone. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham has never given a formal briefing to reporters in the west wing. Trump does not have a permanent chief of staff, only Mick Mulvaney in an acting capacity. Earlier this month Mulvaney held a disastrous briefing in which he blurted out a confession of a quid pro quo with Ukraine, only to issue a retraction later.

It means there fewer guardrails on a president who would be capricious, impulsive and mendacious even if surrounded by the best and the brightest.

Bardella added: “No matter who’s working in the White House, we already know it will be blown to hell by Trump’s tweets on any given day. You can have the best organisation in the world but it’s useless if the principal is so undisciplined.”

‘Clinton had a pretty good approach’

The lack of structure could not be more different from the last president to be impeached, Bill Clinton, who set up a dedicated “war room” while getting on with the business of governing.

Graham, now working with the White House on a better coordinated strategy but then an impeachment manager in the House, told reporters this week the Clinton example should be followed because he “had a team that was organised, that had legal minds that could understand what was being said versus the legal proceedings in question, and they were on message every day”.

The senator from South Carolina added: “President Clinton defended himself but he never stopped being president. And I think one of the reasons that he survived is that the public may not have liked what the president had done but believed that he was still able to do his job … I’m hoping that will become the model here.”

The sentiment was echoed by Chris Ruddy, a conservative media executive and friend of Trump. He told the Guardian: “Bill Clinton had a pretty good approach – better than Richard Nixon. It should be ‘business as usual’ where they’re pushing legislation on healthcare, immigration, infrastructure.”

Public opinion does not favour removing Trump from office, Ruddy argued, so the White House should avoid a politically costly battle.

“We’re in a political payback system where everyone is trying to out up each other. If you look at the poll numbers, he’s actually holding up, although there’s a hardening of people who favour impeachment and removal. He’s not actually in a bad situation.”

On Friday the Axios website reported “a de facto impeachment war room” had sprung up at the White House with the primary objective of ensuring that should the House impeach Trump, there will not be the 20 or more Republican defections required in the Senate to convict him.

“Almost every morning around 10am, there’s an impeachment ‘messaging coordination’ meeting in either the Situation Room or the Roosevelt Room” involving senior officials, the report said.

But critics argue that “messaging” is doomed from the start in this case because the facts are so devastating. Trump has openly encouraged Ukraine – and China – to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. With Taylor’s compelling evidence, it appears to be case closed. Some problems are unspinnable.

Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist and Trump critic, said the president’s exertion of pressure on the leader of Ukraine had been tantamount to blackmail and extortion.

“It was such an abuse of power. I can’t think of a president who’s done anything more impeachable or worse than that. It’s indefensible and anyone who defends it is going to face some liabilities because it’s so egregious.”

He described the Republican fightback as “lawlessness, disorder and chaos. Undermining the process and smearing the witnesses and engaging in ‘whataboutism’ is the main strategy. The question is whether they will be successful, as they were with Mueller, at discrediting the process. Democrats have to step up their game and be more transparent about what they’re doing.”

‘An exercise in table-pounding’

For all the noisy grandstanding this week, Republicans said little about the substance of the allegations. Their extraordinary invasion of the Scif [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] on Capitol Hill was fodder for TV networks and briefly stole the limelight from the damaging evidence being presented. It seemed a classic Trumpian ploy of shifting attention with a showy spectacle and earned thanks from the president for being “tough, smart, and understanding in detail the greatest Witch Hunt in American History”.

But whether it can be sustained is questionable. Democrats are gearing up for televised hearings that could begin next month and feature dramatic and damaging testimony from the likes of former national security adviser John Bolton. Republicans are hamstrung by a torrent of revelations that makes today’s deniable rumour tomorrow’s smoking gun.

Bill Galston, a former policy adviser in the Clinton administration, said: “If there is a White House strategy, I haven’t discerned it up to now. It’s very difficult to form a strategy that others are prepared to rely on and execute if you have reason to believe that that what is held to be true today might not be true tomorrow.

“The White House has a credibility problem and members of the president’s party don’t know what they don’t know.

“There’s a saying, ‘If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.’ The Scif incident we saw this week was an exercise in table-pounding by Republicans. What they’re doing now is a very poor substitute for a strategy.”

Trump retains two not so secret weapons to amplify his message: fiery rallies, which he is holding with greater frequency, and conservative media.

A survey published this week by the Public Religion Research Institute showed the group most loyal to the president is Republicans who watch Fox News. More than half of Republicans whose primary news source is Fox said almost nothing could change their approval of Trump. For Republicans who get their news elsewhere, the figure is considerably lower.

Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, added: “If I was in the White House now, I would send a delegation to [Fox News host] Sean Hannity and say, ‘Sir, you have more credibility with the president than anyone else. If you believe, as we do, that he needs a coherent strategy, can you make that case for us? We officially work for the president but you unofficially work for him.’

“It seems like a joke but, as I sit here and think about it, I’m falling in love with the idea.”

 

Trump frustrated as White House effort to defy impeachment inquiry fails to halt witness testimony, advisers say

October 25, 2019

by Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey

The Washington Post

After weeks of dismissing the impeachment inquiry as a hollow partisan attack, President Trump and his closest advisers now recognize that the snowballing probe poses a serious threat to the president — and that they have little power to block it, according to multiple aides and advisers.

The dawning realization comes as Democrats rapidly gather evidence from witness after witness testifying about the pressure put on Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals. The president is increasingly frustrated that his efforts to stop people from cooperating with the probe have so far collapsed under the weight of legally powerful congressional subpoenas, advisers said.

The Democratic strategy got a boost Friday from a federal judge, who ruled that the House impeachment inquiry is legal. In the coming week, House investigators are scheduled to hear testimony from five more witnesses, including on Saturday from an acting assistant secretary of state for Europe, who is expected to testify about the efforts to oust the previous U.S. ambassador.

In a sign of the growing realization of his potential jeopardy, Trump has brought back Jane and Marty Raskin, criminal defense attorneys who were part of his legal team during the Mueller investigation, to help him navigate the impeachment inquiry, along with his attorney Jay Sekulow and White House lawyers. Their return is a late acknowledgment, some White House advisers say, that the facts coming out are bad for the president and that both his White House and personal attorneys need to try to get in front of what else may emerge.

The president’s reconstituted legal team is racing to master details about the administration’s dealings with Ukraine, along with the efforts of their longtime co-counsel, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to push Ukraine officials to investigate Trump’s Democratic rivals.

Meanwhile, White House officials have begun holding regular impeachment strategy meetings, often in the Situation Room. Some advisers are discussing bringing in a veteran lawyer with impeachment experience and actively seeking a communications strategist, according to advisers and officials.The White House did not respond to requests for comment. Sekulow and the Raskins declined to comment.

The belated scramble — a month after the House formally launched its impeachment inquiry — serves as a recognition that the White House’s strategy of refusing to cooperate with the probe has failed to stymie it, according to Trump advisers and people involved in responding to House requests.

That posture was driven by Trump, who dictated much of a defiant letter sent by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to House leaders earlier this month that claimed the inquiry was constitutionally invalid, according to people familiar with his role. They, like others in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private White House conversations.

That has put administration officials called to appear on the Hill in a box. Late Friday, Charles Kupperman, who served as a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, went to court to ask a federal judge how to resolve the conflicting orders he faces: one from Congress demanding his testimony, and the other from the White House claiming he has testimonial immunity and instructing him not to appear. Kupperman, who is seeking an expedited ruling, is represented by attorney Charles Cooper, who is also serving as a lawyer for Bolton.

Although Democrats have not yet been able to secure the participation of all the witnesses they have sought, nine key figures have testified so far, including two current ambassadors and a Pentagon official.

That’s largely because attorneys for officials who have been called for depositions concluded that the White House’s legal arguments are weak compared with a congressional subpoena, according to people familiar with the conversations.

While senior White House advisers have a reason to claim they legally can ignore a congressional subpoena because of executive privilege concerns, that is not the case with career employees, legal experts said.

As a result, civil servants within the bureaucracy that Trump decries as the Deep State are giving Congress a series of damaging accounts about the extent of the effort to pressure Ukraine.

“These are civil servants who realize their duty is public service and honoring the Constitution . . . and [some] are deeply disturbed by the horrendous abuses they have witnessed,” said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit that promotes transparency in government and campaigns.

A number of outside advisers are perplexed that the White House hasn’t filed an injunction or taken some other legal step to stop the parade of officials sharing what they saw and heard.

“Many Trump allies are concerned and don’t understand the strategy of not filing an injunction,” said Jason Miller, a Trump ally. “It’s a head-scratcher. President Trump and the administration have clearly said they don’t want folks participating in this sham process and stepping all over presidential privilege.”

The success the Democrats have had in securing powerful witness testimony is a stark contrast with their efforts earlier in the year, when they sought to interview former White House advisers about Trump’s efforts to block the Russia investigation.

At the time, the White House invoked the risks to executive privilege — directing witnesses such as former White House counsel Donald McGahn and former communications director Hope Hicks that they could not share their accounts with Congress without jeopardizing confidential conversations they had with the president.

The assertion wasn’t settled law, but it worked: Despite a subpoena, McGahn declined to testify, and Hicks agreed to appear in a closed-door session accompanied by White House lawyers but then declined to answer questions about her time in the White House.

In the impeachment inquiry, the administration has sought to use that same playbook, warning witnesses that they should not participate, according to White House talking points and letters sent by top agency officials to their employees.

Cipollone’s main argument: The House impeachment inquiry was not legally “authorized” by a House vote, and so the administration was not required to participate.

“Your inquiry is constitutionally invalid and a violation of due process,” he wrote in his Oct. 8 letter to House leaders. “For the foregoing reasons, the President cannot allow your constitutionally illegitimate proceedings to distract him and those in the Executive Branch from their work on behalf of the American people.”

However, the House can make its own rules and can conduct investigations under its own terms, legal experts said. On Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington dismissed arguments by Republicans that the House must first vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry, calling the notion politically “appealing” but legally “fatally flawed.”

“No governing law requires this test — not the Constitution, not House Rules, and not [the grand jury secrecy rule], and so imposing this test would be an impermissible intrusion on the House’s constitutional authority,” Howell wrote.

White House lawyers also have argued that witnesses should not testify unless an administration lawyer is present — an argument the White House made in talking points distributed to Republicans when ousted ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was facing requests from the House.

Without a government lawyer by her side, the White House claimed, “there is serious danger that she could breach her obligations as a current employee not to reveal such information without authorization.”

The House Intelligence Committee responded with a subpoena, saying “the illegitimate order from the Trump Administration not to cooperate has no force.”

Yovanovitch complied and laid out in her testimony details about her abrupt ouster from Ukraine.

“Today, we see the State Department attacked and hollowed out from within,” she said in prepared remarks obtained by The Washington Post, warning that U.S. adversaries such as Russia stand to benefit “when bad actors in countries beyond Ukraine see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system.”

A similar effort to prevent this week’s testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper also failed. In a letter to her attorney, the Pentagon urged her not to participate in the inquiry, according to a copy obtained by The Post.

“This letter informs you and Ms. Cooper of the Administration-wide direction that Executive Branch personnel ‘cannot participate in [the impeachment] inquiry under these circumstances,’ ” Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist wrote. “In the event that the Committees issue a subpoena to compel Ms. Cooper’s appearance, you should be aware that the Supreme Court has held . . . that a person cannot be sanctioned for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena unauthorized by House Rule or Resolution.”

She nevertheless showed up to give testimony. Her interview was delayed for hours when GOP lawmakers barged into the deposition room, a tactic encouraged by Trump, according to people familiar with his role.

As the inquiry has plowed forward, Trump has expressed anger at the number of people who are testifying, asking why they can’t be stopped, according to advisers.

White House officials are discussing the need to bring in another high-level attorney, someone with the skills of former White House attorney Emmet Flood, who worked on President Bill Clinton’s impeachment team.

Earlier in the month, White House officials had said that former congressman Trey Gowdy was coming aboard to assist the legal team but later said he was unable to begin until January because of federal lobbying rules.

Meanwhile, the president has ramped up calls to lawmakers in recent days, trying to make his case individually to every Republican senator, according to a senior administration official.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who met with Trump at the White House on Thursday for lunch, said the president was defiant. “He just kept saying he did nothing wrong, he did nothing wrong,” Graham said in an interview. “He said it over and over.”

Graham said he wanted to see a more aggressive legal and communications team: “I was on the receiving end on the Clinton team. They were good. They knew what they were doing.”

“I hope we can get a more coordinated message,” Graham added. “They are working on it.”

Spencer S. Hsu and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.

 

 

The Final Outcome of the Multiple Syrian Wars Is Now in Sight

October 25, 2019

by Patrick Cockburn

The Independent

The sectarian and ethnic civil wars that have ravaged a large part of the Middle East over the past 40 years are coming to an end. Replacing them is a new type of conflict in which protests akin to popular uprisings rock kleptocratic elites that justify their power by claiming to be the defenders of communities menaced by extreme violence or extinction.

I was sitting in my hotel room in Baghdad earlier in October thinking about writing an article about the return of peace to the Iraqi capital after the defeat of Isis. It has been three years since the last big bomb had exploded in its streets killing great numbers, something that used to happen with appalling frequency.

I was about to set to work when I heard a distant “pop-pop” sound that I identified as shots, but I thought it might be people celebrating a wedding or a football match. But the ripple of gunfire seemed to go on too long for this explanation to be true and I took the lift down to the lobby with the intention of finding out what was happening in the street outside the hotel. Before I got there, a man told me that the security forces were shooting protesters in nearby Tahrir Square: “There are 10 dead already.”

The death toll was to get a great deal worse than that: the official toll is 157 dead and 6,100 wounded, but doctors told me at the time that the real number of fatalities was far higher. The protesters, initially small in numbers, had wanted jobs, an end to corruption and improved essential services such as a better water and electricity. But somebody in government security, supplemented by pro-Iranian paramilitaries, had considered these demands for social and economic justice as a threat to the political status quo to be suppressed with live rifle fire, a curfew on the seven million inhabitants of Baghdad, and a shutdown of the internet.

Repression worked briefly, but such is the depth of rage against the theft of $450bn from Iraq’s oil revenues since 2003 that the protests were bound to break out again, as they have done this week.

I thought this was exactly what was happening a couple of weeks later when, back in the UK, I switched on the TV and saw masses of protesters in what was evidently a Middle East city. But it turned out to be Beirut not Baghdad, though the motivation is similar: anger against a ruling class saturated by corruption while failing to provide the basic services to the population. Encouragingly, in both Lebanon and Iraq, the leaders of different communities are finding that their followers increasingly view them as mafiosi and ignore appeals for communal solidarity.

It is a period of transition and one should never underestimate the ability of embattled communal leaders to press the right sectarian buttons in order to divide opposition to their predatory misrule.

I first went to the region in 1975, fresh from sectarian warfare in Northern Ireland, in order to report on the beginning of the Lebanese civil war between a mosaic of communities defined by religion and ethnicity. In later years in Iraq, I watched divisions between Sunni and Shia grow and produce sectarian bloodbaths after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Popular protests in Syria in 2011 swiftly turned into a sectarian and ethnic civil war of extraordinary ferocity that may now be coming to an end.

This is not because combatants on all sides have come to see the error of their ways or that they have suddenly noticed for the first time that their leaders are for the most part criminalised plutocrats. It is rather because winners and losers have emerged in these conflicts, so those in power can no longer divert attention from their all-embracing corruption by claiming that their community is in danger of attack from merciless foes.

Victors and vanquished has long been identifiable in Lebanon and became clear in Iraq with the capture of Mosul and the defeat of Isis in 2017. The winners and losers in the Syrian civil war have become ever more apparent over the last month as Bashar al-Assad, Russia and Iran take control of almost the whole country.

The Iraqi and Syrian Kurds had been able to create and expand their own quasi-states when central governments in Baghdad and Damascus were weak and under assault by Isis. The statelets were never going to survive the defeat of the Isis caliphate: the Iraqi Kurds lost the oil province of Kirkuk to the Iraqi army in 2017 and the Syrian Kurds have just seen their quasi-state of Rojava squeezed to extinction by the Turks on one side and the Syrian government on the other after Donald Trump withdrew US military protection.

The fate of the Kurds is a tragedy but an inevitable one. Once Isis had been defeated in the siege of Raqqa in 2017 there was no way that the US was going to maintain a Kurdish statelet beset by enemies on every side. For all their accusations of American treachery, the Kurdish leaders knew this, but they did not have an alternative protector to turn to, aside from Russia and Assad, who were never going to underwrite a semi-independent Kurdish state.

A problem in explaining developments in the Middle East over the last three years is that the US foreign policy establishment supported by most of the US and European media blame all negative developments on President Trump. This is a gross over-simplification when it is not wholly misleading. His abrupt and cynical abandonment of the Kurds to Turkey may have multiplied their troubles, but extracting the small US military from eastern Syria was sensible enough because it was over-matched by four dangerous and determined opponents: Turkey, Iran, Russia and the Assad government.

The final outcome of the multiple Syrian wars is now in sight: Turkey will keep a small, unstable enclave in Syria but the rest of the Syrian-Turkish border will be policed by Russian and Syrian government troops who will oversee the YPG withdrawal 21 miles to the south. The most important question is how far the Kurdish civilian population, who have fled the fighting, will find it safe enough to return. A crucial point to emerge from

the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi last Tuesday is that Turkey is tiptoeing towards implicitly recognising the Assad government backed by Russia as the protector of its southern border against the YPG. This makes it unlikely that Ankara will do much to stop a Russian-Syrian government offensive to take, probably a slice at a time, the last stronghold of the Syrian armed opposition in Idlib.

The ingredient that made communal religious and sectarian hatreds so destructive in the past in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is that they opened the door to foreign intervention. Local factions became the proxies of outside countries pursuing their own interests which armed and financed them. For the moment at least, no foreign power has an interest in stirring the pot in this northern tier of the Middle East, the zone of war for 44 years, and there is just a fleeting chance of a durable peace.

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

October 26, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

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

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Conversation No. 69

Date:  Saturday February 22,1997

Commenced:  2:05 PM CST

Concluded: 2:40 PM CST

 

RTC: Good morning, Gregory…or rather good afternoon.

GD: It’s a bit later in the day. Am I interrupting anything?

RTC: Oh, no, not at all. I finished lunch two hours ago. How is the day going with you?

GD: It goes after a fashion. Did you, or have you, ever read C. Wright Mills’ book, ‘The Power Elite?’ Came out in ’54.

RTC: I have skimmed it before for certain. The groups that control?

GD: Yes. It’s a little dated as to specifics but quite good in the abstract. The abstract being that our society is controlled by certain groups of men with specific interests, mostly economic but often economic and political.

RTC: Well, that’s basically true, Gregory. I mean the concept is obvious and it is certainly not a domestic product by any means.

GD: No, no, I realize that. I mean that a town is not run by the city councils or selectmen but by, let’s say, a small group consisting of, well, a local judge, a real estate developer, a retired military officer. That sort of combination but there are other permutations of course.

RTC: But this is not a surprise to you, is it?

GD: No, of course not, Robert but let us say that Congress is like the local council. Only a front for the real power brokers.

RTC: I have had a close connection with such groups here for years. Yes, they fluctuate and change but in the end, small groups run everything. How does it go from my own experience? Well, let’s say there is a cocktail party out on the Hamptons. Many rich people there, a small orchestra, drinks served and groups of the rich and powerful chatting about their children, their boats or their horses or the last trip to Paris or Rome. Florence if they are cultured. And then a few of the guests, all men, drift off to the library where the door is locked and they sit around in comfortable chairs, drinks in hand or perhaps a very expensive cigar or two. And then after some casual comments about life in general, they get down to specifics about how things are supposed to happen. You spoke of Guatemala to me once. You said your uncle was in the business didn’t you?

GD: Yes and my father’s family was connected with Grace and United Fruit. Or Levi and Zentner. Yes.

RTC: And when Guzman wanted to nationalize the banana plantations and spend the money on the stupid peasants, why the business interests got together over cigars and brandy and worked out a plan. Then one of them brought it to one of us. And then we discovered a terrible Communist plot, directed from Moscow of course, to set up a Soviet Republic in Central America. The president was solemnly informed of this vile business and gave his OK for counter measures. In essence, we supplied the weapons and expertise and the unfriendly government was overthrown and replaced with a friendlier one.

GD: And the new head of state realized that the Guzman plan was very good and tried to implement it.

RTC: Yes, you’re right and so we shot him and put another and more pliable man in place there. And the United Fruit people gave money to the right people or perhaps hired a few Company relatives and another blow for freedom was stuck.

GD: And if the Russians did not exist, they would have to be invented. We had the evil Spanish in Cuba, the wicked Nazis who were going to invade this country and rape all the women in Peoria and then the even more evil Stalin and his gangs of liberal Jewish spies in America who also wanted to invade this country but this time planning a mass rape in New Orleans.

RTC: Cynical, Gregory, but true. Just think of how profitable such an undeclared war can be. Hundreds of millions for the CIA, unaccountable of course, and lots of very profitable contracts for military hardware that will never be used.

GD: I knew Gehlen, don’t forget, and he personally told me about his faked 1948 report about a pending Russian attack on Europe.

RTC: The opening guns of the Cold War, Gregory. And we and the military could expand and so could the economic sector. We could quietly shoot our enemies and blame it on national security while the money flowed in from patriotic taxpayers.

GD: And Mills was right.

RTC: He belabored such an obvious issue, Gregory. Of course there are power elites everywhere at all times. I’m sure there are such in every country and inside those countries, in all major businesses and domestic political machinery. Why this should surprise you astonishes me.

GD: It actually doesn’t but I wanted to use the subject to ask you who runs the show now? It’s not 1954 anymore.

RTC: And we don’t live in Kansas, either, thank God. Now? My God, it changes…is in a constant flux. At this moment, I couldn’t tell you but perhaps fifteen years ago I could have. I mean if you were to take an Uzi and snuff out a whole library of cigar smoking plotters, they would be replaced by others within a few days. You’d run out of ammunition in the end. Besides, a few clever pragmatists are easier to deal with that a Congress full of idiots and thieves. Don’t you agree?

GD: I’d say you need both.

RTC: Only at appropriations time do we need Congress to refill the empty treasure chests. The rest of the time, we depend on the power people to help out. I mean… Gregory, you could contain all the world’s really important secrets in a notebook you kept in your pocket. But we have to justify acres of offices, safes, burn centers, a vast army of experts, analysts , agents in Tasmania, code machines and the like. To get the money, we need the excuse, and the excuse is secrecy. You know, Harry Truman set us up in business because he did not trust the intelligence input from the Army. We were a small handful of experts to advise him and now we run the country the way we feel it ought to be run. The president is a nuisance to be coddled and conned. We give him the information he needs for his purposes, regardless of how silly and utterly fake it might be. It’s just a game played with spoiled children, Gregory, and nothing more.

GD: Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

RTC: Oh, no, Gregory, not nothing. Look at our budget and you won’t say nothing.

GD: And don’t forget the profit from the drugs, either.

RTC: Most uncalled for, Gregory. We are all American capitalists, and if there is a need, we fill it, even if, I must say, we have to create the need first.

GD: Money talks…

RTC: No, Gregory, in this country, as in most others, money rules and you ought not to ever forget that.

GD: I don’t. One of my grandfathers was a banker as I have told you. I can’t imagine him talking the way we do, however.

RTC: In what way is that?

GD Pragmatic cynicism.

RTC: If the shoe fits, my friend, wear it.

(Concluded at 2:40 PM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

The Pash Papers

October 26, 2019

by Christian Juers

 

Who was Boris Pash and what are the Pash papers?

Boris Theodore Pash (born Boris Fedorovich Pashkovsky) 20 June 1900 – 11 May 1995) was a United States Army military intelligence officer and high level CIA operator

He commanded the Alsos Mission during World War II and retired with the rank of colonel

Boris Theodore Pashkovsky was born in San Francisco, California, on June 20, 1900. His father was Reverend Theodore Pashkovsky (later Most Reverend Metropolitan Theophilus from 1934 to 1950), a Russian Orthodox priest who had been sent to California by the Church in 1894. His father was recalled to Russia in 1906, and the entire family returned to that country in 1912.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917, he served in the White movement navy in the Black Sea from 1918 to 1920.

Because he could speak English, he served as a translator in meetings with the British.

For his services he was awarded the Cross of St. George.

On 1 July 1920, he married Lydia Vladimirovna Ivanov, and chose to return to the United States when the Bolshevik consolidation of power became apparent. He was able to secure employment with the YMCA in Berlin, where his son Edgar Constantine Boris Pashkovsky was born on 14 June 1921.

Upon returning to the United States with his family in 1923, he attended Springfield College, in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education. It was during this time that he changed the family name from Pashkovsky to Pash.

Pash taught physical education at Hollywood High School in Los Angeles from 1924 until 1940. During this time he continued his education, receiving a Master of Science from the University of Southern California in 1939 He also joined the United States Army Reserve, and was assigned to the Infantry Intelligence Branch. As part of his training, he qualified for certification by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Pash was called to active duty with the Army in 1940, and became chief of counter-intelligence at the IX Corps Area headquarters at the Presidio of San Francisco.

In that role he became involved with the 1942 Baja Peninsula mission that investigated the possibility of the Japanese establishing a base in Mexico during World War II.

Following the end of the war in Europe, he was also the military leader of the Alsos Mission, an Allied operation established in late 1943 to determine how far the Axis had progressed toward developing nuclear weapons by seizing facilities, materiel, and scientists related to the German nuclear energy project

Post war

After the war, Pash served in various military intelligence positions. He was on the staff of  General Douglas MacArthur in Japan in 1946 and 1947, and thanks to his efforts, the Soviet attempt to gain a foothold in Japan through a local Orthodox Church failed. Instead, Pash organized for the Bishop Benjamin (Basalyga) to arrive in early January 1947 to take the reins, and thus the American Metropoly, rather than the Moscow Patriarchate, secured influence in the region. As a result of this combination, Pash had had a public clash with the Soviet General Kuzma Derevyanko.

From 1948 to 1951, he served as a military representative to the Central Intelligence Agency. During this time, and subsequently, he was in charge of a controversial CIA program called PB-7, which had been formed to handle “wet affairs” like kidnappings and assassinations.

OPC’S very secret ‘Program Branch 7’ (PB – 7) was incorporated into the CIA along with the OPC. Its job, according to CIA official E. Howard Hunt of Watergate note, was “the assassination of suspected double agents and similar low-ranking officials.”

Boris Pash, as PB 7’s director, became one of the most deadly figures in U.S. intelligence history. Pash was the security man who haunted Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer during the research and development of the atomic bomb. Pash also headed the first military mission into Germany to bring back the Nazi rocket program.

And although Pash officially denied that PB-7 ever carried out a murder, he did not deny under oath before a Congressional committee investigation,  that murder was a  major part of its charter.

Rumors about the CIA having a secret unit to kill unwanted people had circulated for years.

President Eisenhower authorized the first CIA murder attempt on a major foreign leader’s life in April 1955. The target was Red Chinese leader Chou En-lai. The plan called for an Air India plane with Chou on board to blow up en route to a non-aligned nations conference in Bandung, Indonesia. Part of the assassination attempt worked: The freelancers employed by the CIA blew up the aircraft. Fortunately for Chou En-lai, he had switched to another flight.

Undaunted by this failure, the CIA decided to try a more focused approach against Chou. A 48-hour poison developed by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb – the man who Robert Crowley said produced the poison that killed James Speyer Kronthal, a CIA agent in charge of the CIA office in Switzerland who had recruited Heinrich Mueller, once head of the German Gestapo to work for the CIA – would be placed in his rice bowl while he was attending the Bandung conference. The poison’s delayed reaction time was just long enough for Chou to travel back to China and die there. William R. Corson, the leader of the assassination team, recalled that at the very last moment the order was rescinded. According to Corson, “It was called off in the nick of time” by General Lucien Truscott to prevent embarrassment to the president. To cover his role, Dulles sent a follow-up cable to the assassination team saying that the United States does not engage in such activity.

The development of untraceable drugs to use for assassinations started in the Technical Services Division of the CIA under Archibald Roosevelt. Dr. Gottlieb worked for Roosevelt, developing everything from mind-control drugs to very efficient exotic poisons. According to the late CIA official, Miles Copeland, in 1957 Gottlieb, again with the approval of Dulles, impregnated the favorite cigarettes of Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nasser with yet another toxin. Nasser apparently never smoked the spiked cigarettes. Later, Bill Harvey told associates he always believed that Gottlieb (nicknamed “Dr. Death” by his colleagues) “enjoyed his work a little too much.”

William Harvey, a former FBI agent, set up a telephone intercept in Berlin to listen to secret Russian phone conversations but unfortunately, the Russians had been warned and their conversations were weighted with creative disinformation.

And what constitute the Pash documents?

As a  top hit man for the CIA, Pash was directly responsible for the killing of number of their enemies. These were individuals who either knew too much about CIA secret operations or were political figures the CIA decided were in the way of American expansionism.

The list is stunning and includes such diverse personalities as Josef Stalin and William Colby, once head of the CIA..

As Pash was privy to incidents whose exposure would do terrible damage to the CIA and US policy, he was fully aware of his potential danger to the CIA should he choose to reveal his activities and so he had an “insurance policy.”

This consisted of a large box filled with commands, letters,official orders etc dealing with various murders (to include a Pope) and after boxing them gave them, and some very expensive  looted art work, to Dr. Charles Burdick a retired university dean residing in the coastal town of Ferndale,California, and  another CIA employee who had been stationed in Japan after the war.

Dr.Burdick developed an inoperable cancer and did not want to leave the nasty papers or valuable paintings in his home after  he died so that Kay, his wife, would not have Pash trying to get them back. And if Boris thought she had looked at them he would have killed her on the spot. Ferndale is a nice, quiet town in northern California and he could have gotten away with it.

He gave the lot to a discreet and distant friend who later put them in a Swiss bank in 2000 and there they sit until it is decided what to do with them.

Without any question, the Pash papers are incandescent.

Somehow, the Russians have found out about the collection and keep mentioning how pleased they would be to buy them.

Poor Paisley, an expert on Soviet Russia and strongly suspected of changing sides, shooting himself in the back of the head and falling off his boat or Colby, once head of the CIA who testified against some of their activities before a Congressional committee,  going out, sans lifebelt, on  the storm-tossed Potomac at 11 PM. Poor man fell overboard and drowned.

Or Olson and Duggan doing  full gainers out of  hotel windows.

Or a Polish Pope going for a ride in the Popemobile and  being shot by a right-wing young Turkish fanatic.

Such nastiness from a good friend of both Drs Cameron and Gottleib.

And let us not forget poor Forrestal “falling out of” the 16 story Bethesda hospital window. Ah well, he was getting lunatic and starting to talk about certain naughty matters so down he went in his bathrobe. It wasn’t the fall but the sudden stop that killed him.

And JFK paying the ultimate price in Dallas for daring to fire Dulles and other top CIA leaders over the failed Cuban invasion.

Perhaps history would applaud the publishing of Pash’s savagery but the CIA would certainly not.

 

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Chuck Rogers

Chuck Rogers is an internet crank and the creator of the website Conservative Fact Check, more appropriately known as the Conservapedia of fact checking, a site “dedicated to providing a conservative alternative to enormously liberal-biased fact checking sites like snopes.com, factcheck.org, and politifact.com.” I.e.: he doesn’t like the facts other fact checkers use, so he’ll construct his own. As “definitive proof” of Politifact’s bias, Rogers added up all the times Politifact had called a political claim a “pants on fire” lie and noted that conservatives were more likely to receive that designation than liberals: “To have any semblance of fairness, PolitiFact should play it 50/50 and present an equal number of lies from both sides. They clearly are not concerned with any pretense,” said Rogers, who didn’t actually dispute any of the “pants on fire”-designations. Moreover, “[t]hey also unfairly tarnish Michele Bachmann as a liar, when anybody who follows her already understands that many of her statements aren’t meant to be truthful in the first place – she simply says what she feels.” Or, put more succinctly, it is unfair to call Bachmann a liar since she doesn’t even try to speak the truth. At least it is clear that an important motivation for Rogers and his project is not knowing what factsare.

Rogers is also a birther: “I don’t doubt for a second that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery — many other people, including Mr. Donald Trump, have said the same thing, so the evidence is overwhelming.” So he doesn’t know what evidenceis either.

The site doesn’t seem to have made much by way of inroads, and it is hard to avoid suspecting parody (though there is quite a bit of evidence suggesting it isn’t). As for Tea Party activists spreading false voter fraud conspiracies: “We can’t blame the Tea Party for spreading these. As mentioned, many of them are politically and mathematically unsophisticated, but they make up for that with enthusiasm, and that’s what counts. By spreading these reports of voter fraud – whether true or false – they’re helping raise awareness of the voter fraud issue.” So, not only does Rogers not know what facts are; he doesn’t care either

Diagnosis: It’s hard to rule out parody, but there is quite a bit of evidence that Rogers is, in fact, completely and utterly delusional.

Samuel Rodriguez

One of the more powerful figures on the religious right, Samuel Rodriguez is a fundie pastor and founder and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC/CONEL), the largest Hispanic Christian Evangelical/Pentecostal organization in the world. As such, he is also a frequent advisor of lawmakers, wields a substantial influence on policy making, and has been a featured speaker in the White House and at Congressional meetings. Currently he also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Evangelicals, is chair of The Congress of Christian Leaders, and one of the leaders of the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

Though frequently portrayed as a political moderate – and despite his frequent self-comparisons with MLK (a cross between Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr. “with a little salsa tossed in,” according to himself) – Rodriguez is solidly wingnut. For the 2016 election he effectively endorsed Trump, for instance, claiming that his very freedom to preach the gospel would otherwise be at risk. (He has also endorsed Jared Kushner, but that’s a different story). Now, Rodriguez does indeed disagree with many fellow wingnuts on the topic of immigration when it suits him (he is on record defending Trump’s wall, however), though his professed reason is that the immigration of evangelical Christian Latinos is part of the salvation and replenishment of Christian America, which is currently under threat of secular persecution – “there is an attempt to silence the voice of Christianity, there is an attempt to silence the voice of truth, of righteousness and Biblical justice,” says Rodriguez – and a bulwark against Islam. Rodriguez was also co-founder and former vice president of the NAR-led, South Carolina-based political project The Oak Initiative, a religio-political organization with a mandate to save America from an imaginary Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic enemy, and represented the Initiative on conference calls in preparation for Lou Engle’s rally The Call, Detroit, in 2011, the purpose of which was to help cleanse the city from the demon of Islam by engaging in “spiritual warfare” (Rodriguez resigned from the organization when media started to pay attention). As part of his “nonpartisan” outreach efforts, Rodriguez has participated in numerous religious right rallies, including the 2012 prayer-and-fasting-to-beat-Obama rally “America for Jesus”, filmed an ad for GOPfaith, and appeared for instance in a Champion the Vote’s “nonpartisan” mobilization DVD “One Nation Under God” with James Dobson, David Barton and Newt Gingrich. There is a good portrait of Rodriguez and his wingnuttery here. For anyone still in denial and who doubt Rodriguez’s wingnuttery, the NHCLC has a formal agreement to make Liberty Counsel their official legislative and policy arm, and Mat Staver is a board member of and chief legal counsel to the NHCLC.

There is a good resource on Rodriguez’s involvement with the NAR here; Rodriguez has for instance asserted that Cindy Jacobs, who routinely claims that her prayers stop terror attacks, save the economy, prevent coups, heal medical conditions, cure insanity, and resurrect people, is “a legitimate prophet of God.”

Rodriguez is, of course, staunchly opposed to marriage equality and abortion, both of which he claims to be the work of demonic spirits: Jezebel, which pushes people into “sexual perversion”, and the spirit of Herod, which is responsible for abortion. He has also called marriage equality an assault on religious freedom because views he disagrees with threaten his religious freedom and are therefore unconstitutional. “This is not an issue of equality. This is an attempt to silence the church of Jesus Christ,” says Rodriguez, a claim  so dumb that it is quite superfluous to point out the laughable false dilemma on which it rests. (It is, of course, this kind of nonsense that for instance qualified him for participating on Rubio’s Religious Liberty advisory board.) “There’s a great probability that in our lifetime,” said Rodriguez, “that we may have to be imprisoned and suffer great persecution, prosecution, as a result of our commitment to biblical truth, to Jesus, to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are there, my friend,” because America is currently engaged in modern-day Baal worship. “That’s not hyperbole,” Rodriguez asserted, which is technically correct: it isn’t hyperbole; it’s pure delusional fantasy. His evidence is that “many Christians have had conversations” about this very topic, which is not evidence. Since he is deeply confused about the difference between disagreeing with him – or making policy decisions he doesn’t approve of – and violating his religious rights, it is little wonder that he feels persecuted or thinks that marriage equality will lead to anti-Christian discrimination and hate speech laws. It doesn’t make the idea less silly, however.

Rodriguez also promotes right-wing positions on economics and government regulation, and has for instance taken part in a “prayercast” to ask God to defeat the ACA, signing onto declarations that oppose progressive taxation and embraced rhetoric about people being “enslaved” by government and “uber-entitlements.” He has promoted the LIBRE Initiative, saying that it is anti-Christian and anti-American to “punish success”, and embraces a prosperity gospel view of wealth.

Rodriguez is also the author of e.g. Be Light and Agenda of the Lamb, and executive producer for the 20th Century Fox motion picture The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection.

Diagnosis: Rightwing fundie extremist. He claims to be nonpartisan and moderate, since lies for Jesus apparently don’t count. Extremely dangerous.

 

 

 

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