Tag Archive: Foreign Policy

Sep 25 2017

When All Else Fails, They Lie

The Republicans are determined to pass some form of health care bill by the end of this week when the time runs out to pass it with 51 votes. In a desperate move to get the needed votes from two of the three hold outs, Senators Lisa Murkowsky (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), revisions were …

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Dec 13 2016

Has The Extortion Already Begun?

Has possible extortion of Donald Trump by foreign governments already begun? No, not the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC e-mails and speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin is manipulating Trump with undisclosed hacked information, although that is pretty bad. This is about Turkey, China and the Philippines where Trump has extensive business interests. Last …

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Mar 10 2015

TBC: Morning Musing 3.10.15

I have 4 articles for you this morning – 3 related and the last one just an interesting one.

First, in the wake of the ill advised slap by inviting Bibi to Congress, this is what the GOP Senators did now, pretty much in violation of the Logan Act, not that they’ll be called on it:

Backstabbing Republicans Publish Open Letter To Iran Undermining Negotiations

I am once again shocked, but not surprised, at the lengths Republicans will go to to undermine the President of the United States while he is conducting negotiations with the government of a foreign country.

link to the letter

Jump!

Feb 25 2015

The Exceptional Ugly American

Back in 1958, the novel “The Ugly American” hit the best seller list and was made into a movie in 1963 starring Marlon Brando. Although the book was fiction, it was obvious that the country it was set in was based on Vietnam and some of the characters were real people.

The book describes the United States’s losing struggle against Communism-what was later to be called the battle for hearts and minds in Southeast Asia-because of innate arrogance and the failure to understand the local culture. The title is actually a double entendre, referring both to the physically unattractive hero, Homer Atkins, and to the ugly behavior of the American government employees.

In the novel, a Burmese journalist says “For some reason, the [American] people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They are loud and ostentatious.” [..]

The “Ugly American” of the book title fundamentally refers to the plain-looking engineer Atkins, who lives with the local people, who comes to understand their needs, and who offers genuinely useful assistance with small-scale projects, such as the development of a simple bicycle-powered water pump. It is argued in the book that the Communists were successful because they practiced tactics similar to those of Atkins.

According to an article published in Newsweek in May, 1959, the “real” “Ugly American” was identified as an International Cooperation Agency technician named Otto Hunerwadel, who, with his wife Helen, served in Burma from 1949 until his death in 1952. They lived in the villages, where they taught farming techniques, and helped to start home canning industries.

Another of the book’s heroes, Colonel Hillandale, appears to have been modeled on the real-life U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Edward Lansdale, who was an expert in counter-guerrilla operations.

After the book had gained wide readership, the term “Ugly American” came to be used to refer to the “loud and ostentatious” type of visitor in another country, rather than the “plain looking folks, who are not afraid to ‘get their hands dirty’ like Homer Atkins” to whom the book itself referred.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Today’s US foreign and military policies are no different than the 1950’s. Since World War 2, America has lost much of its stature mostly because of the concept that the United States is exceptional, that this country is unique because of its democratic ideals and the personal freedoms of its citizens. While that may have been true in the early 1800’s when the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville described the concept in his writings, “Democracy in America,” it no longer applies today. The US disregard for the rule of law, its own and international, spying on its own citizens and those of other countries and their leaders, waging illegal wars, killing innocent civilians with drones, torture and targeted assassinations from secret lists are just a few of the reasons the US is no longer that country of de Tocqueville’s writing.

Yet, far too many refuse to admit it. Too many of elected officials, advisers and the media glorify the “war on terror” and our interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. It has been glorified by the entertainment industry in films like Academy Award nominated “Zero Dark 30” and this year’s “American Sniper.” Both movies were mostly ignored for awards by the Academy members much to the chagrin of the right wing media. The people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and others, see Americans as the terrorists. The don’t hate the US for its freedoms, as is oft repeated by those who would perpetuate war, they hate Americans because it is killing them and destroying their homes.

Adele Barker, a professor in the Russian Department at the University of Arizona, recently spent six months teaching at Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. After she had seen “American Sniper,” she recalled something one of her students had said in an e-mail and wrote this

In Pakistan, my classes were unusually small, 10 students compared to 100 students for other professors.

Then I found out the reason why.

“No one wanted to take your class,” my former student explained to me in an email. “You were American; we hated you. You come in here and kill our people and then call us terrorists.”

In the minds of those who live with ongoing daily violence in the Middle East and Pakistan, America has become part of the problem. We have become the terrorists we seek to eradicate. [..]

My student had put her finger on something so essential, so basic as to why we keep getting the Muslim world so wrong.

Who for people like my students are the terrorists?

Of course they are the Taliban and those responsible for sectarian and ethnic violence. But America is right there in the mix, sowing hatred as we attempt to bring peace.

You can’t have it both ways. [..]

And that is what is the matter with American Sniper. It celebrates the very values that are driving a wedge between the U.S. and the Muslim world. It celebrates hate, it celebrates Islamophobia, and it celebrates killing.

We are living in a highly charged, highly sensitive time in our relations with the Muslim world in general. [..]

As I walked out of the theater I thought of Chris Kyle’s tortured plea in the movie to a young Iraqi boy to put down the Kalashnikov rifle he has just picked up lest he have to shoot him. I remembered the 132 school boys who were gunned down in Peshawar with another 121 wounded on Dec. 16 this past year by the Taliban. [..]

The fact that it won in no major categories is irrelevant.

What is relevant is this: in the misguided belief that we can police the world we export the very hatred that incites the countries we are trying to “save” to more violence. No one wins these kinds of wars. No one wins from this kind of film.

Least of all the people we think we are saving.

Much like Homer Atkins in “The Ugly American,” Prof. Barker went to help the people in a constructive way but found out that because of the ugly behavior of the American government and Americans like Chris Kyle, she became hated.

Until Americans start electing leaders who recognize the need for a major change in foreign and military policy, its citizens will be viewed as ugly and hated by those they are trying to help.

Jun 23 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: War Profiteers Ecstatic at Middle East Mess by Justina

In 1935, US General Smedley Butler detailed in his “War is a Racket” the World War I  racket he had served.  It is now much, much worse.

Vice-President Richard Cheney and his fellow Neo-Cons originally lit the barn fires with their factually unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Bush-Cheney then torched the secular, but Sunni sect based, ruling Baathist Party and applauded the decapitation of its brutal, but anti-al Qaeda leader, Saddam Hussein.  (Saddam himself had originally been put in place by the US CIA in a coup, but thereafter fell out of favor with the US government because he dared to assert exclusive control of Iraq’s oil industry.)

Up to his ouster, Saddam had successfully kept the radical jihadists out of Iraq, which even the US intelligence agencies have admitted:

“There was no al Qaeda-Iraq connection until the war; our invasion made it so. We have known this for nearly a decade, well before the murderous ISIS even appeared. In a September 2006 New York Times article headlined “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,” reporter Mark Mazetti informed readers of a classified National Intelligence Estimate representing the consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” the analysis cited the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology: “The Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,’ said one American intelligence official.”

Now jihadis even more extreme than Al Qaeda, the ISIS, are an hour outside of Baghdad, threatening the capitol city and its Shia sect residents.  Its Sunni sect population, a minority in Baghdad, is seemingly terrified of the reaction of the Shiite majority as well as the blatantly brutal, although Sunni ISIS.  Likely everyone there is arming.  (The NRA must be delighted.)

Dec 09 2013

Whose Sarin?

Whose sarin?

by Seymour Hersh, London Review of Book

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

In his nationally televised speech about Syria on 10 September, Obama laid the blame for the nerve gas attack on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta firmly on Assad’s government, and made it clear he was prepared to back up his earlier public warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’: ‘Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people,’ he said. ‘We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.’ Obama was going to war to back up a public threat, but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August.

Obama “Cherry-Picked” Intelligence on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike



Full transcript can be read here

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh joins us to discuss his new article casting doubt on the veracity of the Obama administration’s claims that only the Assad regime could have carried out the chemical attacks in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta earlier this year. Writing in the London Review of Books, Hersh argues that the Obama administration “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.” The administration failed to disclose it knew Syrian rebels in the al-Nusra Front had the ability to produce chemical weapons. Evidence obtained in the days after the attack was also allegedly distorted to make it appear it was gathered in real time.

Sy Hersh Writing about Politicized Intelligence Again, Syria Edition

Marcy Wheeler, emptywheel

Sy Hersh has a long piece in the London Review of Books accusing the Obama Administration of cherry-picking intelligence to present its case that Bashar al-Assad launched the chemical weapons attack on August 21.

To be clear, Hersh does not say that Assad did not launch the attack. Nor does he say al-Nusra carried out the attack. Rather, he shows that:

   At some unidentified time since the beginning of the Civil War, Assad had discovered and neutralized wiretaps on his inner circle, leaving US intelligence blind to discussions happening among his top aides

   Sensors planted to detect any movement of Assad’s CW immediately had not been triggered by the August 21 attack

   By June, some intelligence entity had concluded that an Iraqi member of al-Nusra had the capability to manufacture sarin in quantity

A lot of the story serves to establish that two days after the attack, the US had yet to respond to it, presumably because it did not have any intelligence Syria had launched the attack, in part because nothing had triggered the sensors that had worked in the past. To develop its intelligence on the attack days afterwards, the NSA performed key word searches on already-collected radio communications of lower level Syrian military figures.

Hersh On Obama’s Lies About Syrian Chemical Weapons

Moon of Alabama

A month ago Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, wrote about CIA analysts who threatened to resign over the Obama administration allegations about the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Syrian government:

   With all evidence considered, the intelligence community found itself with numerous skeptics in the ranks, leading to sharp exchanges with the Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. A number of analysts threatened to resign as a group if their strong dissent was not noted in any report released to the public, forcing both Brennan and Clapper to back down.

Now Seymour Hersh writes about the case and finds that the CIA knew that Jabhat al-Nusra, a fundamentalist gang fighting the Syrian government, was capable of producing Sarin, the toxic chemical weapon that was used in a suburb of Damascus:

   In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

   …

   [I]n recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening.

MoA has maintained since the very first reports of the chemical weapon use that this attack was likely a false flag event. We also criticized allegations by the New York Times and Human Rights Watch about the origin of the rocket debris found after the attack. The new Hersh report now completely debunks those allegations.

New Yorker, Washington Post Passed On Seymour Hersh Syria Report

By Michael Calderon, Huffington Post

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh accused the Obama administration Sunday of having “cherry-picked intelligence” regarding the Aug. 21 chemical attack in Syria that served as evidence for an argument in favor of striking President Bashar Assad’s government. [..]

Hersh is a freelancer, but he’s best known these days for his work in The New Yorker, where he helped break the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004. While Hersh is not a New Yorker staff writer, it was notable that his 5,500-word investigative piece landed in the London Review of Books, a London literary and intellectual magazine, rather than the publication with which he’s most closely associated.

In an email, Hersh wrote that “there was little interest” for the story at The New Yorker.

A New Yorker spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hersh then took the story to The Washington Post. The Post intended to publish it, as BuzzFeed first reported.

Hersh told HuffPost that he went to the Post because of the paper’s reporting on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Sep 12 2013

Syria: Exceptional Drumming for War

In his speech to the nation on the possible use of military force in Syria, President Barack Obama spent most of the fifteen minutes justifying his banging the drums for war. Describing the images of people dying from exposure to an chemical weapon and citing unconfirmed casualty numbers, was a repulsive ploy to appeal to the emotions of the American people. Bombing and killing more people for humanitarian reasons is an oxymoron.

The president’s speech was a confusing mixture of claims that the action was a matter of national security but a paragraph later stating the opposite as his reason to take the issue to congress. He also made the statement that the US was the “anchor of global security” and looked upon as the enforcer of international agreements but then says “America is not the world’s policeman.” He mentions the danger of al Qaeda gaining strength in the chaos but failed to mention that the US is arming the Syrian rebels many of whom are members of al Qaeda and even more extremist Islamic groups.

After this rambling garbled message, Pres. Obama finally got around to mentioning diplomacy as an option and the Assad government’s offer to surrender its chemical weapons to international control and finally asked congress to table the resolution for the use of force.

However, it seemed as if Mr. Obama was already throwing in the towel on diplomacy through the UN before a resolution is even on the table.

In today’s New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin writes an op-ed opposing an American strike against Syria. In his plea for caution, Mr. Putin said he felt the need to speak directly to the “American people and their political leaders” citing “insufficient communication between our societies.” He noted the strong opposition worldwide and the possible consequences from the potential strike.

A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Mr. Putin went on to argue that this fight is not about democracy stating that neither side is a champion for democratic rule and that arming the Syrian rebels is also arming US designated terrorist organizations, Al Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Calling this an internal conflict  and ” one of the bloodiest in the world,” he didn’t mention that Russia was supplying the Syrian government with weapons and would continue to do so.

What have not heard from Mr. Obama, Mr. Putin, pundits or any world leaders is a plea for a cease fire. They all have bemoaned how difficult it will be to secure the stockpile of Syrian weapons during an armed conflict but no one has brokered the idea of a “white flag” while the process is taking place. Of course that would mean the rebels would have to present a unified front and there are few that believe that’s possible. Also no one is asking that the rebel forces surrender whatever chemical weapons they might have simply because the White House and the media is refusing to acknowledge even the idea that they might be in possession of them, as has been revealed by communications from Iran.

America is not a neutral actor in this conflict and neither is Russia. As Mr. Putin noted, “we must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”  Both sides need to own up to reality and stop banging the war drums. They need to learn to stop talking past each other and listen.

Sep 10 2013

Syria: UN Resolution for Control of Chemical Weapons

There are at least two resolutions are being presented to the UN Security Council to have an international agency take control of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons and their destruction.

The Russian’s have rejected the US/French resolution and called for the US to drop its threats of military force.

American, British and French diplomats were meeting at the UN in New York on Tuesday night to draw up a resolution that would set deadlines for Bashar al-Assad to give up his chemical weapons backed by the threat of force.

However, a major standoff loomed as Russia made clear it would not abandon its Syrian ally. Instead the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow would push for a security council declaration on disarmament, which would have no binding authority and would not allow the use of force against the Assad regime.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, insisted the disarmament process would work “only if the US and those who support it on this issue pledge to renounce the use of force, because it is difficult to make any country – Syria or any other country in the world – unilaterally disarm if there is military action against it under consideration”.

Russia proposes to work with the Assad regime and the UN secretariat to lay out a “workable, precise and concrete” disarmament plan with a timetable but no chapter 7 enforcement mechanism.

Syria has accepted the Russian proposal to place the chemical weapons it possesses under international control.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem earlier announced that Damascus had agreed to the Russian proposal because it would “remove the grounds for American aggression,” according to an Interfax report.

“We held a very fruitful round of talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday, and he proposed an initiative relating to chemical weapons. And in the evening we agreed to the Russian initiative,” Walid al-Moualem was quoted as telling the speaker of Russia’s lower house parliament house in Moscow.

It comes as France plans to submit a resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile to be turned over to international control, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said at a press conference in Paris on Tuesday.

Fabius said that the resolution would threaten “extremely serious” consequences if Syria violates conditions on chemical weapons.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet ina closed door session today at 4 PM EDT.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is preparing to speak this evening to press his policy for the use of military force to a very skeptical American public. In the light of the latest developments, the speech is expected to take a different direction. It does appear from statements from the White House press office that military intervention will still be an integral part of his policy towards Syria.

In the Senate, the vote on the resolution that passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week was rescheduled for Wednesday. That vote, as well, may not happen as a group of senators craft a new resolution tailored to the recent Russian proposal.

All of this is unlikely to stop the fighting or even guarantee that chemical weapons won’t be used against the Syrian civilian population since no one knows who is in possession of these weapons. What we do know is that this is a small step to use diplomacy to back away from increased hostilities.  

Sep 09 2013

Syria: Hillary Clinton’s Careful Words

In a very carefully worded statement to the press after her meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that the decision to carry out an attack on Syria hinged on three point. She welcomed the suggestion that was made by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia to place whatever chemical weapons Syria has under international control. The suggestion was also welcomed by Syria’s Walid Muallem

Sep 09 2013

Syria: Assad “Expect Every Action”

In a rare interview, Syria’s President Bashir al-Assad sat down with PBS’ Charlie Rose on Sunday in Damascus, Syria.

In an exclusive interview secured by Charlie Rose of PBS, Assad said: “There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people.” [..]

Rose said Assad “suggested that there would be, among people that are aligned with him, some kind of retaliation if a strike was made”. Assad, however, “would not even talk about the nature of the response”.

Rose said: “He had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts … that the results had not been good.”

The full interview will be aired on PBS at 9 p.m. EDT Monday. Here are some excerpts that were aired on CBS This Morning.

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