The Trump Era: A New Cold War, on multiple fronts:
Not since Bush launched a propaganda war against three nations (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea) with his jingoistic “Axis of Evil” rhetoric in 2002, has a U.S. president so successfully instigated Cold War II on so many fronts.
Barely a month into his “presidency”, and Trump has achieved what no other US President has in history. Winding back international relations to pre-Perestroika days, Trump (or his operatives in the Occupied White House) has shown belligerence toward;
After Iran test-fired a missile on 31 January, the American Empire has responded with bellicose threats from the Trump-occupied White House. In a press release, National Security Advisor, Michael T. Flynn – a Trump appointee – issued this threat;
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and engages in and supports violent activities that destabilize the Middle East. This behavior seems continuous despite the very favorable deal given to Iran by the Obama Administration. These sanctions target these behaviors.
Iran’s senior leadership continues to threaten the United States and our allies. Since the Obama Administration agreed to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in 2015, Iran’s belligerent and lawless behavior has only increased. Examples include the abduction of ten of our sailors and two patrol boats in January 2016, unwarranted harassment of vessel traffic and repeated weapons tests. Just this week, Iran tested a ballistic missile, and one of its proxy terrorist groups attacked a Saudi vessel in the Red Sea.
The international community has been too tolerant of Iran’s bad behavior. The ritual of convening a United Nations Security Council in an emergency meeting and issuing a strong statement is not enough. The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests.”
The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.
At a White House press briefing, Flynn added;
“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.”
Pentagon spokesperson, Christopher Sherwood, stoked the flames;
“The U.S. military has not changed its posture in response to the Iranian test missile launch.”
Unsurprisingly, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was scathing of the militaristic knee-jerk reaction from the Trump White House;
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, rejected claims that the Iranian missile test contravened a 2015 UN resolution which prohibited tests of ballistic missiles potentially capable of carrying atomic warheads;
“We do not see any special problems in this area. We want to stress again that missile launches with the use of missile technologies are not a breach of the [Joint Comprehensive] Plan of Action and UN Security Council Resolution 2231. We have brought this position to the notice of the US side as well.”
Trump is scheduled to meet Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – a sworn enemy of Iran – at the White House on February 15. With Trump’s slavish support for Israel, this will not bode well for peace in the Middle East.
A US war with Iran, coupled with on-going civil wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, would disrupt any remaining stability in the entire Middle East and possibly spark a third world war.
Not quite two weeks after his inauguration, Trump created an international incident when he spoke with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, on 2 December.
The phone call angered the Chinese leadership in Beijing, as the UK’s Guardian explained;
The US closed its embassy in Taiwan – a democratically ruled island which Beijing considers a breakaway province – in the late 1970s following the historic rapprochement between Beijing and Washington that stemmed from Richard Nixon’s 1972 trip to China.
Since then the US has adhered to the so-called “one China” principle which officially considers the independently governed island part of the same single Chinese nation as the mainland.
It seems improbable that Trump was not briefed by the US State Department that such a phone call would raise alarm bells with the Chinese government in Beijing. But according to the Taipei Times article;
Trump reportedly agreed to the call, which was arranged by Taiwan-friendly members of his campaign staff after his aides briefed him on issues regarding Taiwan and the situation in the Taiwan Strait, sources said.
Would one of those “Taiwan-friendly members of his campaign staff” be Steve Bannon?
Steve Bannon – far-right media-blogger, political activist, and executive chairperson of far-right website, Breitbart News.
The same Steve Bannon who – one month after Trump spoke with Taiwan’s president – made this startling statement to the world’s media;
Another Trump stooge, White House media spokesperson, Sean Spicer, announced;
“The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there [in the South China Sea].”
When US “interests” are threatened, the American Empire reacts in the only way it understands: war. Especially as our American cuzzies see themselves as Hollywood-style “good guys” in international conflicts;
“Washington policymakers seem addicted to intervention and war, unable to imagine there is any international problem they cannot solve.
The claim that the United States could have provided just the right amount of assistance to just the right groups [in Syria] to yield just the right outcome is a fantasy, belied by America’s failure to get much of anything in the Middle East right.”
By December, the Chinese government had had enough, issuing this warning through it’s mouthpiece, the state-owned Global Times;
In response, the Global Times, a state-run tabloid that sometimes reflects views from within the Communist party, said on Thursday that China should rebalance its stance towards Taiwan to “make the use of force as a main option and carefully prepare for it”.
“The Chinese mainland should display its resolution to recover Taiwan by force,” the paper wrote in an editorial. If Taiwan were to declare formal independence, it went on, “the Chinese mainland can in no time punish them militarily”.
As tensions increased, in response to US demands over the South China Sea, China unequivocally told the Americans to ‘butt out’. By the end of January, Beijing’s senior Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Lu Kang,issued a more direct warning;
“There might be a difference [of opinion] over the sovereignty of these islands but it’s not for the United States. That might be between China and some other countries in this region. The South China Sea is not the United States territory or the international territory…”
“Since assuming office, Trump and his team have changed their rhetoric about China. Trump has stopped openly challenging China’s core interests, and instead showed respect to Beijing.
The change creates an impression that Trump is learning about his role in the realm of Sino-US ties. He’s now sending a new message that he does not want to be a disruptor of the Sino-US relations.”
Saner heads have seemingly prevailed somewhere within the dimly-lit coridors and back-rooms of the American Deep State.
Let’s hope that Trump learns the intricacies and dangers of international relations before he inadvertently blunders into an irretrievable crisis and triggers an atomic apocalypse.
World War I started with less.
During the presidential elections last year (and earlier), Trump made no secret of his inclination to keep the US out of “other people’s wars;
“Now we’re supposed to get involved with Syria? I would say stay out.”
In March 2016;
“I do think it’s a different world today and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore. I think it’s proven not to work. And we have a different country than we did then. You know we have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting probably on a bubble, and, you know, it’s a bubble that if it breaks is going to be very nasty. And I just think we have to rebuild our country.”
In April 2016;
“We can’t be the policeman of the world. What we do get out of it?”
In May 2016;
“I would have stayed out of Syria and wouldn’t have fought so much for Assad, against Assad because I thought that was a whole thing. You have Iran, which we made into a power. Iran now is a power. Because of us, because of some of the dumbest deals I have ever seen. So now you have Iran and you have Russia in favor of Assad. We’re supposed to fight the two of them. At the same time, we’re supposed to fight ISIS, who is fighting Assad.”
On 30 January – ten days after the world witnessed Trump’s inauguration – US Navy Seal forces mounted a raid in Yemen to attack an alleged Al Qaeda base;
Washington, DC: A US commando died and three others were wounded in a deadly dawn raid on the al-Qaeda militant group in southern Yemen, which was the first military operation authorised by US President Donald Trump.
The US military said 14 militants died in the attack on a powerful al-Qaeda branch that has been a frequent target of US drone strikes.
The gunbattle in the rural Yakla district of al-Bayda province killed a senior leader in Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch, Abdulraoof al-Dhahab, along with other militants, al-Qaeda said.
As usual, civilians were caught up in the gun-battle;
Medics at the scene, however, said around 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.
Eight-year-old Anwar al-Awlaki, the daughter of US-born Yemeni preacher and al- Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki, was among the children who died in the raid, according to her grandfather. Her father was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.
“She was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours,” Nasser al- Awlaki told Reuters. “Why kill children? This is the new (US) administration – it’s very sad, a big crime.”
US Central Command (CENTCOM) on Wednesday confirmed that a raid carried out in Yemen earlier this week “likely killed” civilians, including possibly children.
“A team designated by the operational task force commander has concluded regrettably that civilian non-combattants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen January 29. Casualties may include children,” said a statement from CENTCOM.
Noticeable, however, the story had changed from an “al-Qaeda militant group” to this;
In what was the first confirmed military raid under President Trump, commandos targeted three tribal chiefs with links to al Qaeda in the central province of Bayda.
More obscene still;
Trump on Wednesday paid a surprise visit to the family of the soldier, Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, from Illinois. Afterwards, Trump described the visit as “something very sad, very beautiful.”
Though probably not as “beautiful” as one local Yemeni’s description of the brutal violence from the US attack;
“The operation began at dawn when a drone bombed the home of Abdulraoof al- Dhahab and then helicopters flew up and unloaded paratroopers at his house and killed everyone inside,” said one resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Next, the gunmen opened fire at the US soldiers who left the area, and the helicopters bombed the gunmen and a number of homes and led to a large number of casualties.”
For a man committed not to become involved in “other people’s wars”, Trump was quick of the mark to authorise this latest adventurism in the Middle East.
Update: Former national security official for President Barack Obama, Colin Kahl, has rejected claims that the Navy Seal attack in Yemen had been planned by the previous Administration. In a series of tweets, Khal said;
“1/DoD worked up GENERAL proposal for OVERALL set of expanded authorities for these types of raids at end of Obama admin
5/And, critically, Obama made no decisions on this before leaving office, believing it represented escalation of U.S. involvement in Yemen”
Even if Trump’s White House officials were being truthful (which is dubious), and the Navy Seal mission had been planned by the Obama Administration, the obvious question remains: why did Trump permit the attack to proceed?
Short answer: because very little has changed within the Deep State of the American Empire.
The “bromance” between Trump and Russian President, Putin, is well known. There appears to be a “detente” between Putin and the Trump Administration, with the suggestion last year that the Russians could be given a “free hand” in Syria.
As far back as September 2015, then-Republican candidate, Donald Trump told Bill Reilly on Fox News that he would – in essence – be giving Putin suzerainty over Syria;
“Well, we spent $2 trillion, thousands of lives, wounded warriors all over, and Putin is now taking over what we started, and he’s going into Syria, and he frankly wants to fight ISIS, and I think that’s a wonderful thing. You know, I said that a year ago and everybody said oh, that’s terrible. If he wants to fight ISIS, let him fight ISIS. Why do we always have to do everything. But he wants to go in. He wants to fight ISIS. Now, he wants to keep, as you know, he wants to keep your leadership, your current leadership, Assad in Syria. Personally I’ve been looking at the different players, and I’ve been watching Assad, and I’ve been pretty good at this stuff over the years, cause deals are people. And I’m looking at Assad and saying, ‘Maybe he’s better than the kind of people that we’re supposed to be backing.’ Because we don’t even know who we’re backing.”
O’Reilly probed further;
“Once Putin gets in and fights ISIS on behalf of Assad, Putin runs Syria. He owns it. He’ll never get out, never.”
“Alright, okay, fine. I mean, you know, we can be in Syria. Do you want to run Syria? Do you want to own Syria? I want to rebuild our country.”
Putin took up the offer, deploying Russian naval and air-power to support Assad’s forces to retake Aleppo.
But Trump’s willingness to carve up the world, Yalta Conference-21st Century style, delineating “spheres of influence”, does not seem to extend to the Ukraine which lies on Russia’s doorstep.
On 2/3 February, Trump’s appointee as the US’s ambassador to the UN, former-Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, launched a blistering attack on Russia for it’s activities in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea;
“ I consider it unfortunate that the occasion of my first appearance here is one in which I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia. We do want to better our relations with Russia. However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.”The sudden increase in fighting in eastern Ukraine has trapped thousands of civilians and destroyed vital infrastructure and the crisis is spreading, endangering many thousands more. This escalation of violence must stop.
The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea,” said Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump’s envoy to the world body. “Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine.”
The Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko, pitched in, holding up a photo of a slain Ukrainian serviceman;
The Ukrainian Ambassador addressed the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Yelchenko, accusing;
“You killed him.”
The Russian ambassador, though, was having none of the United States’ grandstanding, but responded with noticeable restraint;
“The essence of those events is quite clear: Kiev is trying to use the armed clashes that it provoked as a pretext for a complete rejection of the February 12, 2015, Minsk agreements, sealed by the UN Security Council resolution 2202.
Any serious intensification of hostilities in Donbass miraculously coincides with foreign visits of the Ukrainian leadership. Apparently, this is how Kiev expects to keep the crisis that it had provoked on the international agenda.
And, of course, the Ukrainian leadership needs money today, that can easily wheedle out of the European Union, some European nations, the United States and international financial institutions when they pretend to be a victim of ‘aggression’.”
Later, the Russian ambassador appeared conciliatory toward Ambassador Haley;
“I think it was friendly enough, given the circumstances, and given the subject which we were discussing. We may have some differences on some individual issues from time to time, but the fact remains that she is going to play a very important role in whether or not the SC will be able to play a role as a collective international body carrying the main responsibility for international peace and security.”
It is not hard to guess why.
Putin wants to maintain the positive relationship that appeared between himself and Trump during last year’s election campaign. No doubt the Russian leadership is hoping to get Trump back “on board” with some skilled diplomacy. A few sugar-coated words from the Russian president should appeal to Trump’s ego.
Putin may have his work cut out for him as Trump has already been in contact with the Ukrainian leadership, at about the same time Ambassador Haley was busily denouncing the Russians;
President Donald J. Trump just had [5 p.m. Saturday] a very good call with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine to address a variety of topics, including Ukraine’s long-running conflict with Russia. “We will work with Ukraine, Russia, and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border,” said President Trump. Also discussed was the potential for a meeting in the near future.
The new American leadership is hyper-Nationalistic and has more in common with the Ukrainian nationalistic government than it does with Moscow.
It may be a matter of time before Putin and Trump’s “respect for each other” dissolves into acrimony. The president of Mexico and Prime Minister of Australia can testify to how fractious Trump can be when he doesn’t get his own way;
There is no way that Russia will surrender it’s interests in the Ukraine. Just as the American Empire considered Cuba to be well within it’s “sphere of influence”, and blockaded the island during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Russia will not abandon it’s influence on it’s western borders.
Like the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula, the Ukraine is a dangerous flash-point. It is one mis-calculation away from war.
— Doomsday Clock
Recognising the dangerous situation posed by a volatile Trump and the new Nationalist regime in Washington, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock forward by thirty seconds. It is now two and a half minutes to Doomsday.
Leading scientists, who are the clock’s keepers, say the world has edged closer to apocalypse in the past year amid a darkening security landscape and comments by US President Donald Trump.
In a report, the BPA said Mr Trump’s statements on climate change, expanding the US nuclear arsenal and the questioning of intelligence agencies had contributed to the heightened global risk.
It is the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1953, when the minute hand was moved to two minutes away following hydrogen bomb tests by the US and Russia.
The minute hand on the Doomsday Clock is a metaphor for how vulnerable the world is to catastrophe.
No wonder Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Executive Director, Rachel Bronson appealed to world leaders to “calm rather than stoke tensions that could lead to war”.
The last time the hands of the Doomsday Clock were so close to mid-night (Doomsday) was in 1953, when the US test-detonated it’s first Hydrogen Bomb.
We live in dangerous times.
The White House: Statement by National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn on Iran
The Jerusalem Post: Trump’s UN envoy – Israel will ‘never again’ question US support
Taipei Times: Tsai-Trump telephone call scheduled
Wikipedia: Steve Bannon
The Huffington Post: Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable
Sydney Morning Herald: US raid on al-Qaeda compound in Yemen Donald Trump’s first military engagement as president
The White House Archives: Vice President Biden Announces Dr. Colin Kahl as New National Security Advisor
Wikipedia: Yalta Conference
Complex.com: Did Donald Trump Piss Off Two of Our Biggest Allies?
Radio NZ: Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: Timeline
Fox News: Trump unveils plan to boost US military
Bowalley Road: Political Paradoxes
Brian Edwards: Profile of Leader of the Free World
Imperator Fish: The fascism of facts
Gordon Campbell on NZ’s silence over Trump’s anti-Muslim agenda
Local Bodies: Trump’s Muslim ban exposes stupidity
Mars2earth: you are the resistance
Mars2earth: the start of the peel
No Right Turn: Outright corruption in the US
The Standard: New Zealand Second?
The Standard: Postcards from the Trumpocalypse
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 February 2017.
= fs =
Trump revealed his extraordinary Executive Order on 28 January. With the flourish of a pen, he banned refugees and demanded travellers from seven predominantly muslim nations be subjected to “extreme vetting” (whatever that is). Seven countries were singled out;
Of those seven two (Iraq and Somalia) have been invaded by the American Empire; one has been the target of sanctions for supposedly working toward developing an atom bomb (Iran, not Israel); and two others are currently experiencing vicious civil wars (Syria and Yemen).
Interestingly, as others have pointed out, several countries are noticeable by their absence – chiefly Saudi Arabia.
This is ironic in the extreme as, the entire world is aware, the worst terrorist atrocity on US soil was committed by fifteen Saudi nationals, on 11 September, 2001. The late-leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, was also a Saudi citizen – a so-called “prince”. The remainder were from the United Arab Emirates (2), Egypt (1) and Lebanon (1).
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon do not appear on Trump’s “Sinful Seven”.
Also omitted from the above list: Israel – 34 Americans killed on 8 June 1967, when Israeli motor-torpedo boats and a warplane attacked the USS Liberty, whilst it lay in international waters.
Making matters worse, on a Christian TV channel, Trump threw petrol onto the bonfire he had lit by stating that there would be an exemption to the ban of refugees from Syria;
Worsening the damage, he also signalled, in an interview with a Christian television channel, that the ban would not apply to Christians. Syrian Christians, claimed Mr Trump, were “horribly treated” by his predecessor. “If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible,” he said. “I thought it was very, very unfair. So we are going to help them.” This was not merely incendiary but untrue: last year America accepted 37,521 Christian refugees and 38,901 Muslims.
It is peculiar that the worst offender, Saudi Arabia, is not on the list. Especially since Trump made specific mention of the September 11 attack in the second opening paragraph of his Executive Order;
Section 1. Purpose. The visa-issuance process plays a crucial role in detecting individuals with terrorist ties and stopping them from entering the United States. Perhaps in no instance was that more apparent than the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when State Department policy prevented consular officers from properly scrutinizing the visa applications of several of the 19 foreign nationals who went on to murder nearly 3,000 Americans. And while the visa-issuance process was reviewed and amended after the September 11 attacks to better detect would-be terrorists from receiving visas, these measures did not stop attacks by foreign nationals who were admitted to the United States.
So having referenced (albeit indirectly) the fifteen Saudi terrorists – Trump studiously ignored them.
Yet, Saudi Arabia is home to “Wahabism” – an extreme form of Islam. Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk described Saudi Arabia as;
“…a Wahhabist state whose 18th-century puritan morality defined the Taliban – which received moral and financial support from Saudis – and whose misogyny and grotesque public beheadings after unfair trials parallel the cruelty of Isis punishments.”
Fisk wrote of the relationship between the American Empire and the Saudi regime;
Under Obama, Saudi Arabia will continue to be treated as a friendly “moderate” in the Arab world, even though its royal family is founded upon the Wahhabist convictions of the Sunni Islamists in Syria and Iraq – and even though millions of its dollars are arming those same fighters. Thus does Saudi power both feed the monster in the deserts of Syria and Iraq and cosy up to the Western powers that protect it.
Bloomberg business news revealed recently that Trump has personal business dealings in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt;
According to Bloomberg’s research, Trumps business interests are;
Trump lists two companies on his FEC filing possibly related to business in Egypt: Trump Marks Egypt and Trump Marks Egypt LLC.Saudi Arabia
Trump lists companies on his FEC filing possibly related to a development project in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest city, located outside Mecca: DT Jeddah Technical Services Manager LLC, DT Jeddah Technical Services Manager Member Corp., THC Jeddah Hotel Manager LLC and THC Jeddah Hotel Manager Member Corp.
United Arab Emirates
The Trump Organization has a licensing and management deal in Dubai with Damac Properties Dubai Co. for a golf course and luxury villas currently under construction. Another Trump-branded golf course, designed by Tiger Woods, is under development with Damac nearby.
According to the same report, Trump also has interests in Israel – which may explain his closeness to that country’s rulers;
Trump lists two companies on his FEC filing possibly related to business in Israel : Trump Drinks Israel LLC, Trump Drinks Israel Member Corp.
Trump also has ‘had’ (he claims to have sold his share holdings) US$3,900,010 in oil, gas, and coal companies:
Chevron, Total Capital, Occidental Petroleum, Phillips 66, Halliburton, Exxon Mobil, EOG Resources, Schlumberger, Energy Transfer Partners
On top of Trump’s personal business interests in Saudi Arabia – the United States maintains close economic and military ties with the Saudi kingdom. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the US sold billions of dollars worth of sophisticated, lethal weaponry to the Saudis;
Saudi Arabia was the top destination for U.S. arms in 2011–2015, purchasing 9.7 percent of U.S. exports. Recent sales approved by the U.S. State Department include Black Hawk helicopters worth a total of $495 million and Patriot Missiles worth $5.4 billion, as well as a $1.3 billion sale of air-to-ground munitions meant to replenish stocks used in Yemen. That has drawn criticism from human rights groups and a couple of U.S. lawmakers, who have cited the high civilian toll of the Saudi-led air campaign. Saudi Arabia’s total arms imports increased by 275 percent over 2006–2010, according to the research organization SIPRI (PDF). The United States also helps Saudi Arabia secure its oil assets by providing training and advisers to Saudi security forces.
And US-Saudi business interests are closely intertwined;
Saudi government officials and businessmen, both royals and commoners, have deep ties to the United States. Saudi finance, economy, and petroleum ministers all have degrees from U.S. universities. Fahad al-Mubarak, the central bank governor who controls over $700 billion in reserves, mostly in U.S. Treasuries, was previously chairman of Morgan Stanley’s unit in Saudi Arabia. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the kingdom’s most famous billionaire investor, owns stakes in Citigroup and Twitter.
As the kingdom’s economy expanded over the past decade and its stock market opened up to investors in 2015, many U.S. and European banks are expanding operations in Saudi Arabia. Bank of America has been preparing for the Saudi market opening for years, and Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have shifted staff from Dubai to Riyadh. U.S. investment funds such as Providence Equity Partners and Apollo Global Management are also seeking to acquire stakes in Saudi companies.
Saudi Arabia’s influence within the US economy has recently taken a sinister turn;
There’s growing bipartisan support for a Senate bill, sponsored by Democrat Chuck Schumer and Republican John Cornyn, to allow victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks to sue the Saudi government for recompense for any involvement it may have had in the event. The bill has been motivated by the suspicion that Saudi officials or prominent citizens helped fund the attack, which was perpetrated mostly by terrorists from Saudi Arabia.
This bill is giving Saudi officials serious pause, leading the Saudi finance minister Adel al-Jubeir to warn members of Congress and Administration officials that, if the bill passes, it would be forced to sell off $750 billion worth of U.S. Treasury debt and other American assets, a move that the New York Times said could trigger “economic fallout.”
No wonder that Yemen and Somalia make it on to Trump’s List – but Saudi Arabia does not.
On 7 December 2015, on the election-trail, Trump issued his now-infamous state calling for a ban of muslims entering the United States;
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our countries representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Trump’s Executive Order on 28 January seemingly fulfills that so-called “election promise”. Trump’s supporters have justified the issuing of that Order on the premise that Trump was simply meeting his promises.
On this issue, we should refer to the lessons of history. Specifically, the rise of nazism in Germany in the 1930s, where Adolf Hitler made certain promises to the electorate;
Hitler offered something to everyone: work to the unemployed; prosperity to failed business people; profits to industry; expansion to the Army; social harmony and an end of class distinctions to idealistic young students; and restoration of German glory to those in despair. He promised to bring order amid chaos; a feeling of unity to all and the chance to belong. He would make Germany strong again; end payment of war reparations to the Allies; tear up the treaty of Versailles; stamp out corruption; keep down Marxism; and deal harshly with the Jews.
On election day September 14, 1930, the Nazis received 6,371,000 votes – over eighteen percent of the total – and were thus entitled to 107 seats in the German Reichstag.
Hitler Made many promises to the country of Germany in order to come to power. Most of the promises he made, he did not keep. After WWII Germany signed the Treaty of versailles which was the main cause of Germany’s economic problems at the time. The U.S. made loans to Germany to help with its failing economy. But when the market crashed in 1929, the U.S. could not continue to help out Germany. This helped set up Hitler perfectly. The people of Germany wee looking for someone who could help fix all of the ongoing problems they were facing in Germany. At the time they had lost faith in their governments ability to take care of its citizens. Hitler believed he could help the people in Germany and he promised them all relief. He also promised jobs for the unemployed and a market for the farmers goods. Hitler began to appeal to peoples emotions instead of their reason. The people of Germany heard what they wanted to hear and ignored the violence of the Nazi party. Hitler blamed Germany’s problems on the “corrupt” politicians, communists, and Jews. He told Germany that if they got rid of them, all of Germany’s problems would vanish and the whole country would improve. Many people in Germany protested Hitler’s ideas and reasoning.
If a candidate vilifies a minority and is subsequently elected to office by a majority, does that confer the right to attack that minority from a position of power conferred by that office? Is an abuse of political power permissable under the guise of “carrying out an election promise”? Do we confer a cloak of respectability to bigotry and racism if it is elected to office?
If the answer is ‘yes’, this must constitute a subversion of democracy and universal human rights by allowing a “tyranny of the majority” to oppress a minority.
It means no minority is safe. It means that mob rule trumps Constitutional safeguards and Declarations of Human Rights built up over the centuries.
1930s Germany offers a clear, chilling lesson where that leads.
Sometimes, the minority voice is the morally righteous one;
Questions also arise regarding political agendas here in New Zealand. National and John Key campaigned in 2014 on concluding a successful TPPA. National won the election.
If Trump has carte blanche to promote his muslim-ban; unimpeded, because it was an election promise – does that imply that New Zealanders were wrong to protest against the TPPA because National had a mandate?
The growing resistance to Trump’s increasingly fragile administration took a dramatic turn today (31 January). In a move straight out of The West Wing, Madame Secretary, or any other political drama, Attorney General, Sally Yates took a step of moral courage that is a rarity these days;
Why was Ms Yates’ refusal to carry out Trump’s Executive Order an act of heroism?
Because sometimes, the only way to stand up to an unjust law is to say, “No”.
To participate in unjust law – and taken to extremes – leads humanity down dark paths of evil, whether fascism, stalinism, apartheid, etc.
Ms Yates could have followed Trump’s orders – but would that have been the morally right thing to do? Can a human being justify injustice by asserting they were “only following orders”?
It was impossible for Eichmann to deny his role in the killing of Europe’s Jews. Servatius adopted the defense strategy that had been used at Nuremberg. Since he could not disavow the crime, he disavowed the responsibility for them. “He was just following orders” Eichmann’s defense was designed to let the SS Officer fade from the stand and replace him with the benevolent bureaucrat, a man whose actions had been misrepresented by the prosecution. He even went so far as to claim that his early actions during the period of forced emigration had been for the benefit of the Jews.
Humanity made a conscious decision in 1945-49 that “following orders” could not be a justification for perpetrating injustice.
Ms Yates believed Trump’s Executive Order to be unjust and possibly illegal, and she took the only possible step. She said “No”. Ironically, Trump’s Executive Order makes provision for just this scenario;
This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
Ms Yates was following Trump’s Executive Order – perhaps the only part of it that made sense.
History may judge Attorney General Yates, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, etc; as people who chose to follow their conscience rather than orders.
Recent events within the American Empire has moved the world closer to Doomsday, according to the planet’s leading scientists – the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BPA). The Doomsday Clock – made famous in popular culture in the 1986 Watchmen graphic novel and 2009 movie – has moved from three minutes to midnight, to two and a half minutes to midnight;
Scientists have moved the minute hand of the symbolic Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight for the first time.
Leading scientists, who are the clock’s keepers, say the world has edged closer to apocalypse in the past year amid a darkening security landscape and comments by US President Donald Trump.
The clock now says the world is 2.5 minutes from apocalypse.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BPA) chief Rachel Bronson urged world leaders to “calm rather than stoke tensions that could lead to war”.
In a report, the BPA said Mr Trump’s statements on climate change, expanding the US nuclear arsenal and the questioning of intelligence agencies had contributed to the heightened global risk.
It is the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1953, when the minute hand was moved to two minutes away following hydrogen bomb tests by the US and Russia.
The minute hand on the Doomsday Clock is a metaphor for how vulnerable the world is to catastrophe.
The Trump Administration has led humanity into uncharted waters. Looming on the dark horizon may be the inevitable;
Given the sheer danger to the Republic as well as to the Republicans, Trump’s impeachment will happen. The only question is how grave a catastrophe America faces first. – Robert Kuttner, Huffington Post, 29 January 2017
Wikipedia: Hijackers in the September 11 attacks
Wikipedia: September 11 attacks
Wikipedia: USS Liberty incident
Belfast Telegraph: War with Isis – If Saudi Arabia isn’t fuelling the militant inferno, who is?
The Independent: Iraq crisis: Sunni caliphate has been bankrolled by Saudi Arabia
The Economist: Donald Trump gets tough on refugees
Bloomberg: Tracking Trump’s Web of Conflicts
New York Times: Trump Speaks With Netanyahu, Seeking to Thaw U.S. Relations
Council for Foreign Relations: U.S.-Saudi Relations
Fortune.com: Could Saudi Arabia Trigger an American Debt Crisis?
Fortune.com: Donald Trump Wants to Stop All Muslim Immigration
The History Place: The Rise of Adolf Hitler – Germans elect Nazis
The Rise of Hitler & Nazism: Hitler’s Promises to Germany
Interest.co.nz: Election 2014 – Party Policies – Trade
Holocaust Research: The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Radio NZ: Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight
Huffington Post: The Inevitability Of Impeachment
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 February 2017.
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Trump’s campaign and presidency has been marked by a series of exaggerations, half-truths, and outright lies. One of Trump’s most recent lies is his allegation of massive voter fraud in the US 2016 presidential elections;
On 25 January, he told ABC News;
“You have people who are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states,” Trump told ABC’s David Muir. “You have people registered in two states. You have people registered in New York and New Jersey. They vote twice.”
This has been disputed, as The Intercept;explained for
For two months now, Donald Trump has appeared unable to accept the verdict of November’s election: that he is more popular than many of us wanted to believe, but less popular than Hillary Clinton.
As a result of this fixation, he is now promising “a major investigation” into the election that made him president, putting the full weight of the federal government behind his quest to prove that at least three million ballots were cast against him by “those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and even, those registered to vote who are dead.”
In an interview with David Muir of ABC News broadcast on Wednesday night, Trump tried to suggest that a 2012 Pew study on problems with people being registered in two states, or the voter rolls not being updated as soon as people die, was proof that illegal voting was taking place.
When Muir pointed out that the author of the Pew study, David Becker, had said that his work did not show any voter fraud, Trump, who clearly had not read the study, suggested, wrongly, that he had somehow retracted his research. Specifically, Trump accused Becker of “groveling”, just as he had when attacking Serge Kovaleski of The New York Times for undercutting his lie that thousands of Arab-Americans celebrated 9/11 in New Jersey.
As several observers quickly noted, members of Trump’s own family and senior White House staff are also registered in two states.
Trump’s bogus allegations have been backed up by an equally bogus “alternative news” website, “Infowars“. An article headed “Report: Three Million Votes in Presidential Election Cast by Illegal Aliens” made explosive allegations of wide-spread voter fraud in last year’s presidential election;
Three million votes in the U.S. presidential election were cast by illegal aliens, according to Greg Phillips of the VoteFraud.org organization.
If true, this would mean that Donald Trump still won the contest despite widespread vote fraud and almost certainly won the popular vote.
“We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens,” tweeted Phillips after reporting that the group had completed an analysis of a database of 180 million voter registrations.
Phillips said in another ‘;tweet’;
“Number of non-citizen votes exceeds 3 million. Consulting legal team,” he added.
On closer investigation, it appears that “Greg Phillips” has no connection to VoteFraud.org, as the organisation made clear shortly after Infowars’ “story”;
We at Votefraud.org and ElectionNightGatekeepers.com had never heard of Greg Phillips when infowars.com carried an article circa November 14, 2016 reporting that Phillips had stated in a Twitter Tweet that, — claiming to having analyzed a database of 180 million voters, — 3 million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton.
Hillary did call for registering 3 million new voters a few months before the election. While we believe that it’s a reasonable claim that the Democrats succeeded in helping millions of illegals to vote for Hillary, — which is why almost all prominent Democrats, including Hillary and Obama, oppose voter ID laws, — we can find no proof that Hillary made an overt call to register illegal immigrants, or that this actually happened.
We would urge Mr. Greg Phillips to publish how his group made this determination (and we hope he can!).
Apparently, Trump is resting his ‘case’ on fake news, from an alt.right bogus-news website, quoting a non-existent member of another organisation, to assert unsubstantiated allegations of non-existent wide-spread voter fraud.
There is nothing even remotely credible about this farce.
Pro-Republican TV broadcaster, Fox News was equally unimpressed with Trump’s latest foray into the political Twilight Zone;
When even the right-wing, pro-Republican Fox News calls “Bullshit Alert!” on one of their own, you know it’s time for a healthy dose of mama’s reality-check elixir.
If anyone is in any doubt of Trump’s delusions on this issue, note the part where he says;
“Of those votes cast, none of ’em came to me. None of ’em came to me. They would all be for the other side. None of ’em came to me.”
Which – if true – would indicate that Trump was somehow able to look at each and every vote cast in “two states and some cases maybe three states” and determine which candidate the ballot was cast for.
This would be extraordinary.
How would he know “none of ’em came to me“? Voting in the United States is supposed to be secret.
On 9 January, Trump accepted the CIA and FBI’s allegations that Russia engaged in cyber attacks during the U.S. presidential election last year. Trump, however, did not accept that the hacking interfered in the final results;
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organisations including the Democrat (sic) National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
Perhaps Trump should ask “Greg Phillips“?
“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.” – Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1995
Twitter: Donald J. Trump – “voter fraud”
Financial Times: Trump says hacking did not influence US election
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 January 2017.
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Which prompted me to send this response to the Herald’s editor;
from: Frank Macskasy <email@example.com>
to: NZ Herald <firstname.lastname@example.org>
date: Sun, Jan 15, 2017
subject: Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor
Regarding Juliet Moses’ comment in the New Zealand Herald article, that UN Resolution 2334 “was an affront to all New Zealanders” (6 Jan) – I will thank her and her fellow travellers not to assume they speak for me and others.
Last I looked, Israel has not added Aotearoa to it’s list of illegally annexed territory.
As for Moses’ assertion;
“…Israel’s Arab neighbours mounted a second unsuccessful attempt to exterminate her in 1967”
– is either woeful ignorance or wilful misrepresentation of historical fact.
Israel launched the so-called Six Day War on 5 June 1967 against it’s neighbours;
“In response to the *apparent* mobilization of its Arab neighbours, early on the morning of June 5, Israel staged a sudden preemptive air assault that destroyed more than 90 percent Egypt’s air force on the tarmac. A similar air assault incapacitated the Syrian air force.” – Encyclopedia Britannica
Arrogant and mis-informed. She most certainly does not speak on my behalf.
Encyclopedia Britannica: Six-Day War – Middle East – 1967
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It started on 23 December, when President-Elect, Donald Trump made this unexpected, alarming “tweet”;
With 115 characters, Donald Trump declared a return to a global nuclear arms race.
It started in 1949, when George Orwell’s Nineteen Eightyfour was published, an alternative reality of a world ruled by three totalitarian superpowers, constantly at war with each other;
It started in 1948, with the beginning of the “Cold War”…
The Scene is set…
Trump’s 23 December “tweet” that the US will resume a build-up of its atomic weapons arsenal should come as no surprise. On 8 September, on the campaign trail, he announced;
“History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military dominance.
I’m gonna build a military that’s gonna be much stronger than it is right now. It’s gonna be so strong, nobody’s gonna mess with us.”
The Military Times assessed Trump’s promised build-up of US forces;
Trump wants an active-duty Army with another 60,000 soldiers in the ranks, an unspecified number of additional sailors to man the 78 ships and submarines he intends to see built in coming years. He wants up to 12,000 more Marines to serve in infantry and tank battalions, and at least another 100 combat aircraft for the Air Force.
If Trump’s administration can accomplish even a portion of this, it could have sweeping effects on rank-and-file military personnel, touching everything from individual advancement opportunities to the number of U.S. troops stationed overseas and overall operational tempo. The scope of growth being suggested would require many more officers and noncommissioned officers, influencing, over the course of several years, how each service recruits, promotes and retains its workforce.
It could reshape how many American troops find themselves assigned to geopolitical hot spots, including the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. And all of this, in theory, would ease the pace at which service members are deployed or actively preparing to go overseas, which amounts to time away from their homes and families.
Curiously, none of Trump’s hyper-jingoistic election rhetoric seemed to faze Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. On the contrary, Putin remained zen-like and complimentary of the billionaire-turned-politician. In December 2015, Putin was reported in state media, Sputnik, as saying;
“He is a very bright person, talented without any doubt. It is not our business to assess his worthiness, but he is the absolute leader of the presidential race. He says he wants to move to a different level of relations — a fuller, deeper [level] — with Russia, how can we not welcome this? Of course we welcome this.”
Putin’s comments were also reported in Russian state-controlled media, RT News.
A veritable “love-fest” of compliments were exchanged between the two men. A “bro-mance” had obviously developed between the Oligarch and the Billionaire;
Trump: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”
Trump: “He is really very much of a leader. The man has very strong control over his country. Now, it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system, but certainly in that system he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”
Both Putin and leader of the far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, congratulated Trump on his presidential success.
Their relationship continued, even as Trump ‘tweeted’ on 23 December that the “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability“.
“I was a bit surprised by the statements from some representatives of the current U.S. administration who for some reason started to prove that the U.S. military was the most powerful in the world.
Nobody is arguing with that.
In the course of his election campaign he (Trump) spoke about the necessity of strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and strengthening the armed forces. There’s nothing unusual here.”
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.
We must carefully monitor any changes in the balance of power and in the political-military situation in the world, especially along Russian borders, and quickly adapt plans for neutralising threats to our country.”
So Who is the enemy?!
If, as Putin and Trump are at pains to assert, their relationship is on firm, cordial grounds – why the need for a massive modernisation and build-up of both superpower’s military force? A build-up that could cost both nations billions of dollars and rubles?
Who is the enemy?
Relations between Russia (formerly Soviet Union), China, and the US has always been a “balancing act”. The three have constantly played each other off against each other.
In Nineteen Eightyfour, Orwell took the three-superpower rivalry to its ultimate, destructive, insane conclusion;
On the sixth day of Hate Week, after the processions, the speeches, the shouting, the singing, the banners, the posters, the films, the waxworks, the rolling of drums and squealing of trumpets, the tramp of marching feet, the grinding of the caterpillars of tanks, the roar of massed planes, the booming of guns — after six days of this, when the great orgasm was quivering to its climax and the general hatred of Eurasia had boiled up into such delirium that if the crowd could have got their hands on the 2,000 Eurasian war-criminals who were to be publicly hanged on the last day of the proceedings, they would unquestionably have torn them to pieces — at just this moment it had been announced that Oceania was not after all at war with Eurasia. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally.
There was, of course, no admission that any change had taken place. Merely it became known, with extreme suddenness and everywhere at once, that Eastasia and not Eurasia was the enemy…
Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.
Our own three super-powers
In 1972, then Republican-president, Richard Nixon made his historical trip to the People’s Republic of China. As History.com portrayed the momentous event;
The American fear of a monolithic communist bloc had been modified, as a war of words—and occasional border conflicts—erupted between the Soviet Union and the PRC in the 1960s. Nixon, and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger saw a unique opportunity in these circumstances—diplomatic overtures to the PRC might make the Soviet Union more malleable to U.S. policy requests (such as pressuring the North Vietnamese to sign a peace treaty acceptable to the United States). In fact, Nixon was scheduled to travel to meet Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev shortly after completing his visit to China.
Nixon’s trip to China, therefore, was a move calculated to drive an even deeper wedge between the two most significant communist powers. The United States could use closer diplomatic relations with China as leverage in dealing with the Soviets, particularly on the issue of Vietnam. In addition, the United States might be able to make use of the Chinese as a counterweight to North Vietnam. Despite their claims of socialist solidarity, the PRC and North Vietnam were, at best, strongly suspicious allies. As historian Walter LaFeber said, “Instead of using Vietnam to contain China, Nixon concluded that he had better use China to contain Vietnam.” For its part, the PRC was desirous of another ally in its increasingly tense relationship with the Soviet Union and certainly welcomed the possibility of increased U.S.-China trade.
However, in recent times, China has flexed its military muscle and increased its presence in the South China Sea. This has set it on a collision course with other regional neighbours, as well as the United States;
Chinese expansion in the South China Sea is bringing conflict between Beijing and its neighbours – Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam – closer than it has been for decades. Vietnam has fortified several islands it controls, while Japan has been publicly rebuked by Beijing over its ‘interference’ in the sea – most of which China claims. The Philippines has called for “restraint and sobriety” as its own dispute with Beijing rumbles on.
But the South China Sea and a lesser-known spat with Japan over islands near Taiwan has not only brought talk of a regional war in the Pacific to the fore, but raised the prospect of the US being dragged into open warfare with China. Beijing’s expansionism threatens not only the interests of US allies in East Asia but also global trade, given that some 40% of all shipping passes through the disputed area of ocean.
“As horrific as a Sino-US war could be, it cannot be considered implausible,” warned the authors of the RAND Corporations August report, War with China: Thinking through the Unthinkable.
But in reality US-China relations have been strained for some time, as demonstrated by the scrutiny of Barack Obama’s visit to Hangzhou, where American reporters scuffled with Chinese security staff and Beijing was widely accused of snubbing the US president on his final international visit. Chinese hacking of US companies has been widespread, leading to America’s indictment of five senior Chinese army officers in May 2014.
Meanwhile in the South China Sea and East China Sea, Chinese expansion has come at the expense of major US allies, including Japan. Japan’s ownership of the Senkaku Islands, north of Taiwan, is enshrined in the US-Japan Treaty that was signed after the end of the Second World War. China’s increasingly hostile stance towards its neighbour over the islands risks dragging the US into a conflict between Beijing and Tokyo.
This has already resulted in confrontations between the two nuclear super-powers;
A U.S. navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Friday, drawing a warning from Chinese warships to leave the area.
The U.S. action was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, U.S. officials said.
The Chinese Defense Ministry called the move “illegal” and “provocative,” saying that two Chinese warships had warned the U.S. destroyer to leave.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur challenged “excessive maritime claims” near the Paracel Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The latest U.S. patrol, first reported by Reuters, is expected to anger Beijing and could further escalate tensions over the South China Sea. The destroyer sailed within waters claimed by China, close to but not within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits of the islands, the officials said.
The U.S. shows little sign in backing down, as Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Admiral, John Richardson, said during a trip to China in July this year;
“The U.S. Navy will continue to conduct routine and lawful operations around the world, including in the South China Sea, in order to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of sea and airspace guaranteed to all. This will not change.”
A spokesperson for the incoming Trump Administration, Sean Spicer was equally belligerent (without specifically mentioning China);
“I think it’s putting every nation on notice that the United States is going to reassert its position in the globe.”
Trump himself has made antagonistic and disparaging remarks about China;
The CNN report continued;
Trump has repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency to make its exports more competitive on the global market and has claimed that China is “killing” the U.S. on trade.
Sunday marks the first time in this campaign that Trump has used the term “rape” to refer to what he views as China’s dominance in trade with the U.S.
“We’re going to turn it around. And we have the cards, don’t forget it. We’re like the piggy bank that’s being robbed. We have the cards. We have a lot of power with China,” Trump said Sunday before referring to China’s relationship with the U.S. as rape.
Trump added that he is not “angry at China,” but with U.S. leaders whom he accused of being “grossly incompetent.”
Trump previously claimed in 2011 that “China is raping this country” as he toured a defense manufacturer in New Hampshire.
Many considered the doomed Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to be designed to contain China;
From its inception, the TPP has been considered by many as a strategic instrument to isolate or contain China. Given the country’s ambitions, its leaders are understandably concerned about the concerted effort by the U.S. and other Asia-Pacific countries to curtail its economic growth and geopolitical influence.
China’s outsider status could also be seen as an indictment of its inadequacies, such as limited intellectual property protection and a lack of government procurement standards. The exclusion of China not only has caused the country to lose face, but has also provided a painful reminder of its continued struggle to gain an equal status in the international community. Finally, the lack of TPP membership will prevent China from enjoying new tariff reduction and preferential market access. If this regional pact is to operate according to design, it will divert trade and manufacturing from China to TPP members.
Our own expert and campaigner, Jane Kelsey, also remarked on the anti-China nature of the TPPA;
“In the past month both US presidential candidates have positioned the TPP at the centre of their strategy to neutralise China’s ascendancy in what they call the ‘Pacific’ region.
New Zealand already faces the prospect of being piggy in the middle, with potentially conflicting rules and foreign policy pressures from agreements with China and the USA.
Tim Groser is kidding himself if he thinks China will sit quietly by and allow us to play both sides. This is a high-risk game and we need to have an honest debate about its long-term implications for the country.”
“And we believe China can be a partner, but we’re also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power, that we are going to have a presence there.
We are working with countries in the region to make sure, for example, that ships can pass through, that commerce continues.
And we’re organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown in the region. That’s the kind of leadership that we’ll continue to show.
As part of his populist campaigning this year, Trump publicly rejected the TPPA. This left him to devise other options to “contain China”.
The Trump Deal between Russia and US
The new-found rapprochement between Russia and the US could be based on mutual interest. With Trump’s penchant for deal-making, the U.S. and Russia would have much to gain by stitching together a secret deal.
In return for the U.S. gaining Russian support against growing Chinese influence in the South China Sea, Trump would allow Russia a free hand in supporting its ally, Syria (where U.S. interests are minimal anyway, unlike the Pacific).
This would explain why the U.S. and Russia have been ‘cosying’ up together.
More critically, it answers the perplexing question as to why Russia seems utterly unperturbed at American plans to build up its military. And why the U.S. seems to have stepped back from taking action over Syria.
Nixon went to China.
Trump may be going to Moscow.
Oceania has always been at war with
Twitter: Donald J Trump
Wikipedia: Nineteen Eightyfour
Business Insider: Here’s a look at what Trump and Putin have said about each other
Ebook: Ninetween Eightyfour
China.org.cn: Chronology of China-US Relations
International Business Times: Could the South China Sea dispute trigger a Sino-US war?
It’s Our Future: Obama casts TPP as Challenge to China
Washington Times: Inside the Ring – Obama, Romney on China
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 27 December 2016.
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On 9 December, a CIA report concluded that Russia covertly interfered in the recent US elections. The Washington Post’s , Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller wrote;
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
An un-named senior US intelligence official was blunt in blaming Russia;
“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favour one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected.”
Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, said;
“We may have crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent up on us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what has happened and to impart some lessons learned.
Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, rejected the allegations that Russia was the source of the Democratic Party email leaks/hacks;
“The Clinton camp has been able to project a neo-McCarthyist hysteria that Russia is responsible for everything. Hillary Clinton has stated multiple times, falsely, that 17 US intelligence agencies had assessed that Russia was the source of our publications. That’s false – we can say that the Russian government is not the source.”
Trump’s transition team retorted with a massive ‘burn‘ to the CIA;
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” (click here for CIA reference to Iraq’s alleged WMDs)
Oblivious to the excruciating irony of his response, Trump rejected any suggestion of a conspiracy to undermine the US election;
“I don’t believe it. Every week it’s another excuse. Nobody really knows, and hacking is very interesting. Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act you’re not going to catch them. They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place.”
Senior Republican senator and past Presidential candidate, John McCain, was more certain;
“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country. It’s clear the Russians interfered. Whether they intended to interfere to the degree that they were trying to elect a certain candidate, I think that’s a subject of investigation. But facts are stubborn things. They did hack into this campaign.”
Outgoing US Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, was happy to point to Russian cheating in the Olympics as evidence of their meddling in US politics being more than likely;
“Russia has a pretty good way of cheating. Look at what they did with athletes.”
Reid was scathing of FBI Director James Comey, who he blames for withholding explosive information (revealed in CIA report) that Russian intelligence agents gave hacked Democratic Party emails to WikiLeaks;
“The FBI had this material for a long time but Comey, who is of course a Republican, refused to divulge specific information about Russia and the presidental election.
I am so disappointed in Comey. He has let the country down for partisan purposes and that’s why I call him the new J Edgar Hoover, because I believe that.
I think he should be investigated by the Senate. He should be investigated by other agencies of the government including the security agencies because if ever there was a matter of security it’s this … I don’t think any of us understood how partisan Comey was.”
And yet another un-named ‘official’ warned about;
“…the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”
This blogger agrees. Meddling by foreign powers in other countries election processes is indeed, a threat.
Especially when it is the American Empire engaged in “unprecedented meddling … in [other countries’] election process“…
Herein is a (partial) list of United States’ meddling in other countries’ affairs. Several resulted in democratically-elected governments being ousted and replaced by military regimes sympathetic to American imperial interests:
- 1953 Iranian coup d’état (known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup) was the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom (under the name ‘Operation Boot’) and the United States (under the name TPAJAX Project). The coup saw the transition of Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi from a constitutional monarch to an authoritarian one who relied heavily on United States government support to hold on to power until his own overthrow in February 1979.
- 1954 Guatemala. In a CIA operation code named Operation PBSUCCESS, the U.S. government executed a coup d’état that was successful in overthrowing the democratically-elected government of President Jacobo Árbenz and installed the first of a line of brutal right-wing dictators in its place. The perceived success of the operation made it a model for future CIA operations because the CIA lied to the president of the United States when briefing him regarding the number of casualties.
- 1958 Lebanon crisis. The President of the United States, Eisenhower authorized Operation Blue Bat on July 15, 1958. This was the first application of the Eisenhower Doctrine under which the U.S. announced that it would intervene to protect regimes it considered threatened by international communism. The goal of the operation was to bolster the pro-Western Lebanese government of President Camille Chamoun against internal opposition and threats from Syria and Egypt.
- 1960 Congo. Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the Congo (later the Democratic Republic of the Congo), was pushed out of office by Congolese President Joseph Kasavubu amid the U.S.-supported Belgian military intervention in the country, a violent effort to maintain Belgian business interests after the country’s decolonization. But Lumumba maintained an armed opposition to the Belgian military and, after approaching the Soviet Union for supplies, was targeted by the CIA once the agency determined he was a threat to the newly installed government of Joseph Mobutu. The Church Committee, an 11-senator commission established in 1975 to provide oversight of the clandestine actions of the U.S. intelligence community, found that the CIA “continued to maintain close contact with Congolese who expressed a desire to assassinate Lumumba,” and that “CIA officers encouraged and offered to aid these Congolese in their efforts against Lumumba.” After an aborted assassination attempt against Lumumba involving a poisoned handkerchief, the CIA alerted Congolese troops to Lumumba’s location and noted roads to be blocked and potential escape routes. Lumumba was captured in late 1960 and killed in January of the following year.
- 1961 Cuba Bay of Pigs Invasion. The CIA orchestrated a force composed of CIA-trained Cuban exiles to invade Cuba with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, three months after John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency in the United States. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the invading combatants within three days.
- 1963 South Vietnam. The United States was already deeply involved in South Vietnam in 1963, and its relationship with the country’s leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, was growing increasingly strained amid Diem’s crackdown on Buddhist dissidents. According to the Pentagon Papers, on Aug. 23, 1963, South Vietnamese generals plotting a coup contacted U.S. officials about their plan. After some fits and starts plus a period of U.S. indecision, the generals seized and killed Diem on Nov. 1, 1963 with U.S. support, which by some accounts partially came in the form of $40,000 in CIA funds.“For the military coup d’etat against Ngo Dinh Diem, the U.S. must accept its full share of responsibility,” the Pentagon Papers state. “Beginning in August of 1963 we variously authorized, sanctioned and encouraged the coup efforts of the Vietnamese generals and offered full support for a successor government…. We maintained clandestine contact with them throughout the planning and execution of the coup and sought to review their operational plans and proposed new government.”
- 1964 Brazil. Fearing that the government of Brazilian President Joao Goulart would, in the words of U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon, “make Brazil the China of the 1960s,” the United States backed a 1964 coup led by Humberto Castello Branco, then chief of staff of the Brazilian army. In the days leading up to the coup, the CIA encouraged street rallies against the government and provided fuel and “arms of non-US origin” to those backing the military. “I think we ought to take every step that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to do,” President Lyndon Johnson told his advisors planning the coup, according to declassified government records obtained by the National Security Archive. The Brazilian military went on to govern the country until 1985.
- 1965 Dominican Republic. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, convinced of the defeat of the Loyalist forces and fearing the creation of “a second Cuba” on America’s doorstep, ordered U.S. forces to restore order. The decision to intervene militarily in the Dominican Republic was Lyndon Johnson’s personal decision. All civilian advisers had recommended against immediate intervention hoping that the Loyalist side could bring an end to the civil war. President Johnson took the advice of his Ambassador in Santo Domingo, W. Tapley Bennett, who suggested that the US interpose its forces between the rebels and those of the junta, thereby effecting a cease-fire. Chief of Staff General Wheeler told a subordinate: “Your unannounced mission is to prevent the Dominican Republic from going Communist.” A fleet of 41 vessels was sent to blockade the island, and an invasion was launched. Ultimately, 42,000 soldiers and marines were ordered to the Dominican Republic.
- 1973 Chilean coup d’état was the overthrow of democratically elected President Salvador Allende by the Chilean armed forces and national police. This followed an extended period of social and political unrest between the right dominated Congress of Chile and Allende, as well as economic warfare ordered by US President Richard Nixon. The regime of Augusto Pinochet that followed is notable for having, by conservative estimates, disappeared some 3200 political dissidents, imprisoned 30,000 (many of whom were tortured), and forced some 200,000 Chileans into exile. The CIA, through Project FUBELT (also known as Track II), worked to secretly engineer the conditions for the coup. The US initially denied any involvement, and though many relevant documents have been declassified in the decades since, a US president has yet to issue any apology for the incident.
- 1979-1989 Afghanistan. In what was known as “Operation Cyclone,” the U.S. government secretly provided weapons and funding for the Mujahadin Islamic guerillas of Afghanistan fighting to overthrow the Afghan government and the Soviet military forces that supported it. Supplies were channeled through the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan. Although Operation Cyclone officially ended in 1989 with the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, U.S. government funding for the Mujahadin continued through 1992.
- Destabilizing Nicaragua 1982-1989. The U.S. government attempted to topple the government of Nicaragua by secretly arming, training and funding the Contras, a terrorist group based in Honduras that was created to sabotage Nicaragua and to destabilize the Nicaraguan government. As part of the training, the CIA distributed a detailed “terror manual” entitled “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla War,” which instructed the Contras, among other things, on how to blow up public buildings, to assassinate judges, to create martyrs, and to blackmail ordinary citizens. In addition to orchestrating the Contras, the U.S. government also blew up bridges and mined Corinto harbor, causing the sinking of several civilian Nicaraguan and foreign ships and many civilian deaths. After the Boland Amendment made it illegal for the U.S. government to provide funding for Contra activities, the administration of President Reagan secretly sold arms to the Iranian government to fund a secret U.S. government apparatus that continued illegally to fund the Contras, in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair. The U.S. continued to arm and train the Contras even after the Sandanista government of Nicaragua won the elections of 1984.
- 1983 Grenada. In what the U.S. government called Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. military invaded the tiny island nation of Grenada to remove the Marxist government of Grenada that the Reagan Administration found objectionable. The United Nations General Assembly called the U.S. invasion “a flagrant violation of international law” but a similar resolution widely supported in the United Nations Security Council was vetoed by the U.S.
- 1989 Panama. In December 1989, in a military operation code-named Operation Just Cause, the U.S. invaded Panama. President George H. W. Bush launched the war ten years after the Torrijos–Carter Treaties were ratified to transfer control of the Panama Canal from the United States to Panama by the year 2000. The U.S. deposed de facto Panamanian leader, general, and dictator Manuel Noriega and brought him to the United States, president-elect Guillermo Endara was sworn into office, and the Panamanian Defense Force was dissolved.
- 1991 Haiti. Eight months after what was widely reckoned as the first honest election held in Haiti, the newly elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed by the Haitian army. The CIA “paid key members of the coup regime forces, identified as drug traffickers, for information from the mid-1980s at least until the coup.” Coup leaders Cédras and François had received military training in the United States.
- 1994-96 Iraq. The CIA launched DBACHILLES, a coup d’état operation against the Iraqi government, recruiting Ayad Allawi, who headed the Iraqi National Accord, a network of Iraqis who opposed the Saddam Hussein government, as part of the operation. The network included Iraqi military and intelligence officers but was penetrated by people loyal to the Iraqi government. Also using Ayad Allawi and his network, the CIA directed a government sabotage and bombing campaign in Baghdad between 1992 and 1995, against targets that—according to the Iraqi government at the time—killed many civilians including people in a crowded movie theater. The CIA bombing campaign may have been merely a test of the operational capacity of the CIA’s network of assets on the ground and not intended to be the launch of the coup strike itself. The coup was unsuccessful, but Ayad Allawi was later installed as prime minister of Iraq by the Iraq Interim Governing Council, which had been created by the U.S.-led coalition following the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
- 2003 Iraq. Illegal invasion based on allegations of non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
- 2005 Iran. According to U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources, beginning in 2005 the U.S. government secretly encouraged and advised a Pakistani Balochi militant group named Jundullah that is responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran. Jundullah, led by Abd el Malik Regi, sometimes known as “Regi,” was suspected of being associated with al Qaida, a charge that the group has denied. ABC News learned from tribal sources that money for Jundullah was routed to the group through Iranian exiles. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture,” according to Professor Vali Nasr. U.S. intelligence sources later claimed that the orchestration of Jundallah operations was, in actuality, an Israeli Mossad false flag operation that Israeli agents disguised to make it appear to be the work of American intelligence.
- Syria 2005-2015 Starting in 2005, the US government launched a policy of regime change against the Syrian government by funding Syrian opposition groups working to topple the Syrian government, attempting to block foreign direct investment in Syria, attempting to frustrate Syrian government efforts at economic reform and prosperity and thus legitimacy for the regime, and getting other governments diplomatically to isolate Syria. The Obama administration starting in 2009 continued such policies while taking steps toward diplomatic engagement with the Syrian government and denying that it was engaging in regime change. After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the U.S. government called on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to “step aside” and imposed an oil embargo against the Syrian government to bring it to its knees. Starting in 2013, the U.S. also provided training, weapons and cash to Syrian Islamic and secular insurgents fighting to topple the Syrian government.
- 2011 Libya. The US was part of a multi-state coalition that began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was taken in response to events during the Libyan Civil War, and military operations began, with US and British naval forces firing over 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles, the French and British Air Forces undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by Coalition forces. Air strikes against Libyan Army tanks and vehicles by French jets were since confirmed.
- 2006-2007 Palestinian Territories. In the Fatah-Hamas conflict, the U.S. government pressured the Fatah faction of the Palestinian leadership to topple the Hamas government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The Bush Administration was displeased with the government that the majority of the Palestinian people elected in the January Palestinian legislative election of 2006. The U.S. government set up a secret training and armaments program that received tens of millions of dollars in Congressional funding, but also, like in the Iran-contra scandal, a more secret Congress-circumventing source of funding for Fatah to launch a bloody war against the Haniyeh government. The war was brutal, with many casualties and with Fatah kidnapping and torturing civilian leaders of Hamas, sometimes in front of their own families, and setting fire to a university in Gaza. When the government of Saudi Arabia attempted to negotiate a truce between the sides so as to avoid a wide-scale Palestinian civil war, the U.S. government pressured Fatah to reject the Saudi plan and to continue the effort to topple the Faniyeh government. Ultimately, the Faniyeh government was prevented from ruling over all of the Palestinian territories, with Hamas retreating to the Gaza strip and Fatah retreating to the West Bank.
As J. Dana Stuster succinctly wrote in a 2013 piece for Foreignpolicy.com;
The era of CIA-supported coups dawned in dramatic fashion: An American general flies to Iran and meets with “old friends”; days later, the Shah orders Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh to step down. When the Iranian military hesitates, millions of dollars are funneled into Tehran to buy off Mossadegh’s supporters and finance street protests. The military, recognizing that the balance of power has shifted, seizes the prime minister, who will live the rest of his life under house arrest. It was, as one CIA history puts it, “an American operation from beginning to end,” and one of many U.S.-backed coups to take place around the world during the second half of the 20th century.
Several national leaders, both dictators and democratically elected figures, were caught in the middle of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War — a position that ultimately cost them their office (and, for some, their life) as the CIA tried to install “their man” as head of state. The U.S. government has since publicly acknowledged some of these covert actions; in fact, the CIA’s role in the 1953 coup was just declassified this week. In other cases, the CIA’s involvement is still only suspected.
Of course, when Washington orders intervening in another country’s internal governance, it is euphemistically referred to as “regime change”.
It is only “meddling” when someone does it back to the Americans.
This hypocrisy/irony was noted by both The Washington Post and Huffington Post. Staff writers pointed out that Russia has (allegedly) done to the US what the US has been doing for decades to other nations.
While the days of its worst behavior are long behind it, the United States does have a well-documented history of interfering and sometimes interrupting the workings of democracies elsewhere. It has occupied and intervened militarily in a whole swath of countries in the Caribbean and Latin America and fomented coups against democratically elected populists.
For decades, these actions were considered imperatives of the Cold War, part of a global struggle against the Soviet Union and its supposed leftist proxies. Its key participants included scheming diplomats like John Foster Dulles and Henry Kissinger, who advocated aggressive, covert policies to stanch the supposedly expanding threat of communism. Sometimes that agenda also explicitly converged with the interests of U.S. business: In 1954, Washington unseated Guatemala’s left-wing president, Jacobo Arbenz, who had had the temerity to challenge the vast control of the United Fruit Co., a U.S. corporation, with agrarian laws that would be fairer to Guatemalan farmers. The CIA went on to install and back a series of right-wing dictatorships that brutalized the impoverished nation for almost half a century.
When Chinese interests were alleged to have supported Democratic Party campaign financing, Tharoor pointed out;
Meanwhile, the threat of foreign meddling in U.S. elections is not restricted to fears of Russian plots. In the late 1990s, the specter of illicit Chinese funds dominated concerns about Democratic campaign financing. But some observers cautioned others not to be too indignant.
“If the Chinese indeed tried to influence the election here . . . the United States is only getting a taste of its own medicine,” Peter Kornbluh, director of the National Security Archive, which is affiliated with George Washington University, said in a 1997 interview with the New York Times. “China has done little more than emulate a long pattern of U.S. manipulation, bribery and covert operations to influence the political trajectory of countless countries around the world.”
For the Huffington Post, Ryan Grim said;
…Russia appears to be meddling in the U.S. presidential election, but for some supporters of Bernie Sanders, it’s just turnabout.
Lakewood, Colorado, delegate Kim Netherton said it’s beside the point whether agents of Russian President Vladimir Putin hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails, as reported this month. And it may come with a little poetic justice for Hillary Clinton, according to Netherton.
“Isn’t it interesting that her campaign is now experiencing the same thing that she perpetrated on other countries,” Netherton told The Huffington Post, as she awaited Sanders’ speech Monday night.
“She did this in Haiti, she did this in Honduras, and now it’s coming back on her and she’s all verklempt about it,” Netherton added. “It’s a little bit of her own medicine, but unfortunately I don’t think she’s open minded enough to see that for what it is.”
Indeed, meddling in foreign politics is a great American pastime, and one that Clinton has some familiarity with. For more than 100 years, without any significant break, the U.S. has been doing whatever it can to influence the outcome of elections ― up to and including assassinating politicians it has found unfriendly.
Grim’s ‘parting shot’;
The phenomenon is so prevalent, there’s even a running joke in Latin America that goes like this:
Q: Why has there never been a coup in the United States?
A: Because there’s no U.S. embassy in Washington.
It is unsurprising that most of the world looks upon American grievances of (alleged) Russian “meddling” with risable scorn. Whether true or not – and most probably harbour a secret hope that it is true – the Americans richly deserve what they have been meting out to other nations throughout the 20th, and first decade of, the 21st century.
They are getting a taste of what countries in Latin America, Middle East, and elsewhere have suffered. And as Ryan Grim pointed out;
“It Doesn’t Feel Good.”
The Washington Post: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House
The Independent: Russia ‘tried to help’ Donald Trump win the election, CIA concludes
Wikipedia: United States involvement in regime change
Foreignpolicy.com: Mapped – The 7 Governments the U.S. Has Overthrown
The Washington Post: The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere
Previous related blogposts
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 December 2016.
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