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Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

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7 April 2017 – A Day of Infamy

Along with 7.5 billion other humans on this planet, I was dumbfounded  when the newsflash came over Radio New Zealand that the US had launched cruise missiles against Syria, nearly obliterating a military airfield at Shayrat airbase;

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Only an hour and a half earlier, Trump has been “considering retaliatory action” over the Syrian government’s alleged use of sarin gas at  Khan Shaykhun, in the Idlib Governorate.

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That was fast work. A cynic might suggest that the attack had been planned well in advance.

Despite my many reservations about Trump’s fitness to be the leader of the most powerful nation on the planet; despite his gullibility in listening to dubious “news” sources; despite his slavishness toward Israel;  despite his racist diatribes against ethnic groups; despite his stated intention to squander billions on the military; despite gagging aspects of family planning services; and despite his covert right-wing agenda to pare-back healthcare, environmental protections, and slash critical government services for the poor – there was one thing about him that stuck in my mind. His willingness to “do deals” to overcome problems;

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Trump made no discernible attempt to deal with  the Russians – Syria’s main sponsor –  to determine who had launched the poison gas attack on Khan Shaykhun. There was no “deal making” in evidence as Trump gave the order to unleash the destructive  firepower of 59 American ‘Tomahawk’ cruise missiles.

In fact, Trump’s decision to attack Shayrat airbase contradicts his own warning from 12 November last year when he cautioned;

“…if the US attacks Assad, “we end up fighting Russia, fighting Syria.”

So it is hardly surprising that  Australian  Green Party senator, Scott Ludlum, spoke for many when he admonished Trump’s cowboy adventurism;

“The horror of the chemical weapons attack in Syria this week requires a credible, independent investigation, not a random barrage of missiles ordered by a clueless President.”

It’s OK when our ‘side’ does it

Despite a previous poison gas attack in Ghouta, Syria in 2013 – for which the Assad regime was implicated, but not proven – there is  little actual firm evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for the gassing at Khan Sheikhoun on 7 April. Whilst it is known that Syria does (or did) indeed posses sarin gas – so does Israel. (Though Israel has signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, to date it has not ratified it.)

It is, however, not unknown for middle east despots to use poison gas to suppress rebel groups, as Saddam Hussein did in March, 1988, in Halabja. Saddam’s target at the time were Kurdish rebels fighting for independence. Some 6,800 men, women, and children were killed outright, and estimates put the eventual civilian death toll at 12,000.

Iraq used poison gas in it’s war with Iran without sanction. The West continued to support Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime despite the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi villages as well as Iranian combatants;

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

Means, Motive, and Opportunity

When considering a crime and it’s possible perpetrator(s), law enforcement officials take into account motive, means, and opportunity. The Assad regime certainly has two of the criteria: means and opportunity.

Fellow blogger and political commentator, Chris Trotter, recently questioned what would motivate Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to launch an attack using banned weapons that would earn near-universal condemnation from the international community – and possibly embarrass  and alienate critical support from Moscow. Chris asked;

… “Why would Assad do such a thing?” Syria was en route to a new round of peace talks. More importantly, she was about to enter negotiations in which the usual American, British and French demands that “Assad must go!” were to be, for the first time since the Syrian Civil War broke out in earnest, quietly put to one side. Having won the war on the ground, the Assad regime was on the brink of clearing away its enemies’ unrealistic preconditions. Finally, a serious conversation about Syria’s future could begin.

And yet, we are being invited to believe that, with all this at stake, President Assad ordered the use of Sarin gas on his own citizens. Somehow, instigating a reprehensible war crime against women and children was going to strengthen his moral authority. Somehow, by revolting the entire world, he would improve his chances of being accepted as Syria’s legitimate ruler. Somehow, by embarrassing the Russian Federation, his country’s most valuable military ally, he would enhance Syria’s national security. The whole notion is absurd.

Fair questions.

Did Assad believe that he could get away with it? Did he feel that Russia’s success in East Ukraine and Crimea, and the West’s unwillingness to challenge Moscow’s flexing of  its “hard power” gave him free license to use whatever means he had at his disposal? Did Assad feel emboldened at Trump’s “close relationship” with Russia’s President Putin?

But why chemical weapons, which, in this case resulted in no appreciable military gains for Assad’s military? Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a chemical weapons adviser to NGOs (and  former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment and NATO’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion) offered one possible rationale;

The fear of chemical weapons is the real terror of war. Less than 0.5 percent of casualties during World War I were attributed to chemical weapons, yet the Great War has become synonymous with their use. The current conflict in Syria and Iraq depicts a similar picture.

ISIL employs a morbidly brilliant psychological warfare, and chemical weapons are the ultimate psychological weapon against all their enemies.

It would seem unlikely to engage in such a risky gamble. Especially for such little military advantage. It would  be a colossal mis-judgement on Assad’s part if he thought that reliance on Western inertia and Trump’s isolationistic worldview would pay off.

According to Russian government-aligned RT News, Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem;

…denied claims that the military used chemical weapons in the western city of Idlib. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Muallem said an airstrike by Syrian military had targeted an arms depot where chemical weapons stockpiles were stored by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front militants.

He said it’s impossible that the army – which has been making significant gains in almost all theaters of the Syrian war – would use banned chemical weapons against its “own people” and even terrorists.

The lack of clear motive on Assad’s part raises real doubt as to who launched the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun.

If not Assad, who?

There have been suggestions that rebel groups operating in Syria to overthrow Assad’s regime launched the gas attack as a ‘false flag’ operation to draw the U.S. into the conflict.

I have doubts on this.

Until Trump’s ascendancy to the White House, the United States has been reluctant to supply Syrian rebels – including the Free Syrian Army – for fear they could end up in the wrong hands;

In theory, the embargo aims to prevent anti-aircraft weapons getting into the hands of terrorists who might down civilian planes. Yet such weapons exist on the black market; since the US has gone out of its way to prevent the FSA from getting any – even from there – the weapons that do get snapped up end up in the hands of anyone but the FSA.

Even anti-tank weaponry supplied to certain rebel groups was closely monitored;

While warplanes and helicopters had replaced tanks as the main form of regime slaughter by mid-2012, this US embargo blocked not only anti-aircraft but also anti-tank weaponry. Thus only small arms and ammunition were allowed, in the face of a massively armed regime continually supplied by Russia and Iran.

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US pressure is clear: Only “vetted” groups get TOW [anti-tank] missiles, sometimes only three or four at a time, they have to apply for them for specific operations, and they have to return the shells to make a claim for more. Even favoured groups soon found supplies dwindling, and the program diminished by late 2014.

By December 2016, after Trump’s inauguration, the US government softened it’s policy forbidding anti-aircraft weaponry being sold to Syrian rebels;

The House voted for the first time today to explicitly authorize the incoming Donald Trump administration to arm vetted Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles.

While the language in the annual defense bill also creates restrictions on the provision of the controversial weapons, it represents a win for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., a fervent advocate of helping the rebels resist President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.

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Trump was outspoken about his reluctance to get dragged into the Syrian civil war throughout the presidential campaign. He has since picked hawkish advisers and candidates for Cabinet positions, including retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense.

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Mattis is well known in military and foreign policy circles for his aggressive determination to take on America’s foes, notably Iran, including in Syria and Iraq.

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The new provision “would require the secretary of defense and secretary of state to notify the congressional defense committees, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee should a determination be made to provide MANPADs to elements of the appropriately vetted Syrian opposition,” according to the explanatory statement accompanying the compromise bill. “The conferees expect that should such a determination be made, the requirement for the provision of such a capability and the decision to provide it would be thoroughly vetted by and receive broad support from the interagency”.

At least one US lawmaker realised the lethal consequences of allowing anti-aircraft missiles into rebel hands. Representative John Conyers (Dem-Michigan) warned;

“I am disappointed that the House of Representatives’ explicit prohibition on the transfer of these dangerous weapons into Syria was reversed — behind closed doors — by the conference committee. This brazen act shows that some in Congress still hope to further escalate the civil war in Syria. Sending these weapons would only prolong this horrific conflict — and endanger civilian airliners across the region, including in Israel.”

Writing for the Huffington Post, Charles Lister reported that the Free Syrian Army had tried – and been stopped – from purchasing anti-aircraft missiles on the black market.  One FSA leader was reported as saying;

“Somehow, the Americans found out and our purchase was blocked.”

To date, use of anti-aircraft weaponry by rebels forces has been minimal.

If  the US was wary of handing over anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry to Syrian rebel groups – from where they could disperse to who-knows-where – it is hard to believe that even more deadly weapons such as poison gas would be permitted into rebel hands.

If anti-aircraft missiles could be used by ISIS  operatives to bring down civilian passenger jets – imagine those same operatives with poison gas in subways in New York, London, Paris, Moscow.

And remember the comment made by Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, above;

“The fear of chemical weapons is the real terror of war… chemical weapons are the ultimate psychological weapon against all their enemies.”

Which suggests that the only other ‘player’ in the Syrian civil war capable of deploying chemical weapons would be a sovereign state.

If not rebels, who?

In a June 2013 story, the BBC reported on who was supplying the myriad ‘players’ in the Syrian conflict. One of the arms traffickers in the region was Saudi Arabia;

In late 2012, Riyadh is said to have financed the purchase of “thousands of rifles and hundreds of machine guns”, rocket and grenade launchers and ammunition for the FSA from a Croatian-controlled stockpile of Yugoslav weapons.

These were reportedly flown – including by Royal Saudi Air Force C-130 transporters – to Jordan and Turkey and smuggled into Syria.

Note the link: Croatian-controlled stockpile

Follow the link and it leads to a February 2013 story in the New York Times, which stated;

Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to anti-government fighters in Syria in a drive to break the bloody stalemate that has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to cling to power, according to American and Western officials familiar with the purchases.

The weapons began reaching rebels in December via shipments shuttled through Jordan, officials said, and have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army and militias loyal to Mr. Assad.

So, what sort of weapons was Croatia selling on the open market? Interrogate Google with the parameters ‘Yugoslavia Croatia chemical weapons’. It offers this April 1999 story in the UK Guardian;

After months of prevarication, Nato launches a ground war against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces in Kosovo. But no sooner do British and US troops begin to move in and threaten Serb army units than Milosevic unleashes his secret weapons – sarin nerve gas and BZ, a psychochemical incapacitant.

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According to former Yugoslav chemical weapons officers, Milosevic’s arsenal is far larger than previously thought. Besides sarin and BZ, it includes the blister agent sulphur mustard and the choking agent phosgene. And it is thanks to scientists in Britain and the US that he could use them on Nato troops.

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In total, the Serb army may have as many as 5,800 122mm sarin-filled shells and 1,000 mustard gas shells, say these sources. In addition, Serbia is also known to have been developing a multiple rocket delivery system for sarin and a bomb capable of delivering 20 litres of the nerve gas to the battlefield.

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Even the Pentagon, which is sceptical about Croatian estimates of the numbers of chemical shells and rockets in the Serb arsenal, accepts that Milosevic inherited from the JNA a programme capable of producing a deadly 3,000 rockets filled with sarin and 100 shells filled with mustard gas.

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Although the Pentagon says it has no evidence that Serbia has continued to manufacture and test chemical weapons since the break-up of the Yugoslavia federation, officials told the New York Times they were ‘concerned’ about the stockpiles.

The Pentagon would be right to be “‘concerned’ about the stockpiles“. Where would they end up?

There is no proof that amongst the weapons purchased from Croatia there was included chemical weapons such as sarin gas. But the facts are clear;

  • Former-Yugoslavia developed massive quantities of poison gas weapons, including sarin gas
  • After the break-up of Yugoslavia, Croatia sold plane-loads of weapons to Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia supports rebel forces in Syria
  • Sarin gas was used in the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun

It is all circumstantial, of course. But it seems plausible that Saudi Arabian military/intelligence agents could have transported sarin gas shells/rockets to Idlib Governorate where, under close supervision,  they were launched against a defenceless city.

The plan was simple; to provoke a politically unsophisticated, naive, and impressionable Donald Trump into  military retaliation by blaming the attack on the Syrian regime.

Clinton – Not helping!

Hillary Clinton’s remarks on the Syrian regimes alleged poison gas attack on Khan Shaykhun do her no favours;

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Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears on stage at the Women in the World Summit in New York, US, 6 April 2017. The interview took place a few hours before the attack was launched on Syria. Acknowledgement: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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“Assad has an air force, and that air force is the cause of most of these civilian deaths as we have seen over the years and as we saw again in the last few days. And I really believe that we should have and still should take out his air fields and prevent him from being able to use them to bomb innocent people and drop sarin gas on them.

I still believe we should have done a no-fly zone. We should have been more willing to confront Assad.

Her strident jingoism confirms her critic’s description of her as a warmonger.

We can excuse Trump’s political inexperience, naivete, and  unsophisticated view of the world around him. This is  a man who gets his “news” from the Republican Party-mouthpiece,  Fox News, or the far-right Brietbart website. His political development appears arrested and not to far from that of an adolescent.

Trump may blunder into WWIII but a President Hillary Clinton  would apparently have egged it on. With decades of political experience behind her, Clinton should know better. She has no excuse for her simplistic  jingoism.

She should also have deeper insights into  Middle East politics than this. Her willingness to perpetuate the Syria-Is-Guilty narrative cannot be excused as easily as Trump’s stupidity.

Which means she is manipulating current events for her own agenda.

With the planet edging closer to WWIII, whatever ‘game’ she is playing is a dangerous one.

World War III – Are we there yet?

Moscow’s unofficial mouthpiece, RT News, relayed a chilling message to Washington’s power-establishment (not Trump) to ‘back off’. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that the illegal  missile attack the Syrian airfield was putting the US  “on the verge of a military clash” with Russia.

Not since the Cuban missile Crisis in October 1962 have the two nuclear-armed super-powers faced off, bringing the planet to the verge of atomic annihilation.

At that time, the Cold Warriors of the former USSR and USA still remembered the destruction caused by WWII. The Soviets, in particular, understood what Total War meant.

Alarmingly, though Putin has some understanding of military service, Trump has never served in the armed forces. Trump’s understanding of war most likely comes from brief news clips  and popular entertainment from Hollywood;

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Hopefully someone in his national security council is advising Trump that real war is not like ‘The Green Berets’ or ‘Hogan’s Heroes‘.

Sanders – the voice of calm sanity from a President the Americans never had

Former Democrat-candidate, Bernie Sanders, apparently accepts the official Washington narrative that the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun was orchestrated and executed by Assad’s military;

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Though hours later he issued a statement highly critical of of Trump’s unilateral use of military force against Syria. In a statement, later that day, Sanders said;

In a world of vicious dictators, Syria’s Bashar Assad tops the list as a dictator who has killed hundreds of thousands of his own citizens to protect his own power and wealth. His regime’s use of chemical weapons against the men, women and children of his country, in violation of all international conventions and moral standards, makes him a war criminal.

As the most powerful nation on earth, the United States must work with the international community to bring peace and stability to Syria, where over 400,000 people have been killed and over 6 million displaced. The horror of Syria’s civil war is almost unimaginable.

If there’s anything we should’ve learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which the lives of thousands of brave American men and women and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians have been lost and trillions of dollars spent, it’s that it’s easier to get into a war than get out of one. I’m deeply concerned that these strikes could lead to the United States once again being dragged back into the quagmire of long-term military engagement in the Middle East. If the last 15 years have shown anything, it’s that such engagements are disastrous for American security, for the American economy and for the American people.

The Trump administration must explain to the American people exactly what this military escalation in Syria is intended to achieve, and how it fits into the broader goal of a political solution, which is the only way Syria’s devastating civil war ends. Congress has a responsibility to weigh in on these issues. As the Constitution requires, the president must come to Congress to authorize any further use of force against the Assad regime.

Further, the US must work with all parties to reinforce longstanding international norms against the use of chemical weapons, to hold Russia and Syria to the 2013 deal to destroy these weapons and to see that violators are made accountable.

There appears to be mixed-messaging from Sanders on this issue.

The only positive from Sanders is that he would (apparently) “work with all parties to reinforce longstanding international norms against the use of chemical weapons“. Though naming Syria and Russia in the same breath ignores the reality that these weapons still exist in American stockpiles and Israel has refused to ratify treaties to eliminate them.

However, anything that pulls Moscow and Washington back from the brink of the abyss of WWIII must be viewed positively. At this point, Sanders appears less insanely unstable than Trump, and certainly less insanely hawkish than Clinton.

By the way, Mr Trump…

Israel also possesses atomic bombs – which seems not to concern Washington one bit. It would not be an over-statement to point out that detonating an atomic weapon over the Middle East would set the planet on fire.

Game over.

New Zealand’s Response to an Illegal Attack

Hours after the US attack, Bill English responded by explaining;

“We’ve seen the atrocities with the use of chemical weapons … We support action that is proportionate to the requirement to stop further atrocities.”

Which raises four questions and an observation;

#1 How can bombing a Syrian government airbase “stop further atrocities” when it has not been clearly established who was responsible for the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun? Is that not “jumping the gun” (excuse the inappropriate  metaphor) before guilt/innocence is proven?

#2 Considering that English refuses point-blank to initiate a Commission of Inquiry into a 2010 SAS  raid in the Tirgiran Valley, in Afghanistan  – despite a former Minister of Defence confirming that there were civilian casualities – is the National government  in a moral position to endorse a potentially illegal bombing of  Shayrat airbase?

#3 There is no firm evidence that the Assad regime is guilty of using poison gas on Khan Shaykhun – why has English  rushed to judgement and pre-determined guilt?

#4 There is evidence that the SAS may have committed war crimes in 2010 in the Tirgiran Valley – why has English rushed to judgement and pre-determined innocence?

#5 English’s “moral compass” is highly dubious, to put it politely.

Chaos in  Trump’s Administration?!

Washington’s renewed appetite for military adventurism in the Middle East (which, by the way, rarely ends well) has cloaked two recent events that the White House wanted off the nation’s front pages and lead-bulletins.

#1: Bannon

Arch far-right activist, Steve Bannon has been quietly removed from Trump’s National Security Council a day before the missile strike on Shayrat airbase.  According to a New York Times report;

…White House officials said, the ideologist who enjoyed the president’s confidence became increasingly embattled as other advisers, including Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, complained about setbacks on health care and immigration. Lately, Mr. Bannon has been conspicuously absent from some meetings. And now he has lost his seat at the national security table.

In a move that was widely seen as a sign of changing fortunes, Mr. Trump removed Mr. Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council’s cabinet-level “principals committee” on Wednesday. The shift was orchestrated by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, who insisted on purging a political adviser from the Situation Room where decisions about war and peace are made.

Bannon, though, was not taking his removal from the NSC quiety, threatening to resign if his removal went ahead.

But Bannon will still be present at certain meetings, on an “ad hoc”* basis, according to this report;

“He is off the memo as a member of the principals committee,” said the source familiar with Wednesday’s meeting, “but the president or McMaster can invite him to attend at any time.”

Asked why Bannon attended a meeting on the same day his departure was being announced, the source said, “He is one of the president’s closest and most trusted advisors.”

Asked whether Bannon would continue to regularly attend NSC meetings, the source said, “I don’t know. It’s going to be ad hoc, I think.”

(* Ad Hoccery  appears to be the defining basis upon which the Trump Administration is predicated.)

One does not have to be political scientist to realise that a power struggle is taking place in the White House – a struggle for ascendancy over a President who appears  easily influenced.

On the day of the attack on Shayrat airbase, Bannon (circled in red) was present at the National Security Council meeting held at Trump’s ad hoc “Situation Room” at his private  resort at Mar-a-Lago in Florida;

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#2: Nunes

Another event which has slipped well under the political radar is the “voluntary temporarily stepping down” (aka, removal) of Devin Nunes (Republican-Tulare), from the House Intelligence Committee.  Nunes is (was?)  Committee Chairperson until it was discovered that he had inappropriately leaked information obtained from the White House regarding an investigation into possible collusion with Russia by Trump associates during last year’s election campaign;

In short, the new chronology is this: White House officials leaked intelligence information to Nunes, who then announced them last Wednesday as fresh revelations, saying that he had received them from an unnamed source and that the White House was unaware. Nunes then made a show of going to the White House to brief President Trump on revelations that had come from his staff in the first place. The administration finally used the information to claim vindication on its still-evidence-free claims that President Obama surveilled then-candidate Trump.

Nunes blamed unnamed “left-wing activists” for his “voluntary stepping down”.

Devin Nunes is the second (third? I’ve lost count) casualty from Trump’s erratic presidency, following on from the resignation (not “voluntarily temporarily stepping down”) of national security adviser Michael Flynn on 13 February.

Hey! Look over there!

If ever Trump needed a diversion to deflect public attention away from ongoing turmoil in his Administration, what better than a spectacular show of American military muscle in a country he had previously said the US had no interest in intervening;

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Of course, Trump gave his explanation for changing his mind;

“ Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

Trump added;

“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies… that crosses… many lines.”

Laudible and noble. What righteous person doesn’t love children?

Everyone, of course. Everyone except the vile villains who launched the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun (whoever they might be). And this person;

One man said he lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, where [Donald] Trump has a home, and there were plans to relocate Syrian refugee families there.

He asked Mr Trump if he could “look children aged five, eight, ten, in the face and tell them they can’t go to school here”.

Mr Trump did not hesitate and said he could, which brought applause from the crowd.

He said: “I can look in their faces and say ‘You can’t come’. I’ll look them in the face.”

It is a shame that Mr Trump wasn’t considering “beautiful babies” and  “children of God” during his election campaign last year.

Even Breibart ‘News  reported Trump’s comments.

Breitbart ‘News’

Meanwhile, Breibart ‘News’ has been an ongoing cheerleader supporting military action against the Assad regime, in 2012, as well as more recently. On both occasions, unsubstantiated allegations of Assad using poison gas against civilians and rebels was reported as ‘facts’ by Breitbart;

2012:

Rebel forces in Syria report that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now using chemical weapons on them. Moreover, intelligence operatives from the West have confirmed those reports as well. But there has yet to be a peep out of the Obama administration over it.

2017:

The strike was aimed at deterring another chemical weapons attack by the regime.

This is the same far-right Breitbart ‘News’ where Steve Bannon – Trump’s current Chief Strategist –  once held the position as Executive Chairperson.

Profitting from the attack on Syria

The PAC which raised money for Trump’s election campaign last year has capitalised on the attack on Shayrat airbase. As reported on the ‘Daily Beast‘ and elsewhere;

President Trump ordered a military strike on Syria Thursday night in response to a recent chemical attack. By Friday afternoon, a supportive PAC was fundraising off of the strike.

“Last night, President Trump ordered military action against Syria in response to their chemical weapons attack,” an email from the Great America PAC, first flagged by Dave Levinthal at the Center for Public Integrity, read.

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“59 United States tomahawk missiles destroyed the airfield used to store Syria’s toxic weapons and aircraft involved in the Sarin gas attack.

What are your thoughts?”

The message asks respondents to vote on whether they approve of the strike and subsequently includes a request for money. The email was signed by Ed Rollins, currently the national co-chair of the PAC who joined the group in May of 2016.

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In case the wording on the second image is too difficult to read, it says;

Thank you for your vote. President Trump sent a message to the world by striking Syria. Help us support our Commander-in-Chief by making a special contribution below.

It should come as no surprise. There has always been money to be made from war, especially in the American Empire where industries such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Bell Helicopter Textron, and many others have made billions in profits making weapons for the US military.

But it must be a novelty (or new low, depending on which way your moral compass is pointing) that a political fund-raising organisation has exploited death and destruction to raise cash for their candidate/office-holder. Especially when that death and destruction  may be predicated on a lie.

This must give even  the most ardent Trump supporter pause for thought.

Infowars Turns on Trump

…And at least one previous Trumpista has indeed paused, thought, and turned his back on the Orange One.

Infowars editor, Paul Watson recently ‘tweeted’ his defection  from the Trump Camp;

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Although this may be fake news/false flag/deception/deep-state conspiracy and the real Paul Watson is safe aboard the Mothership, along with JFK, Trotsky, Elvis, and Doris Day.

Israel – the Red Flag to Middle East Bulls

Israel has voiced it’s support for the US attack. As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – himself no stranger to aggression against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank – congratulated the US for it’s missile attack on Shayrat airbase;

“Israel supports the recent US missile attack in Syria because it is morally right and because it makes clear there is price for the use of chemical weapon. We are doing this because of moral reasons in light of the difficult images from Idlib, and also so that it will be clear that there is a price for the use of chemical weapons.”

Israel has also violated Syrian airspace to attack and destroy so-called terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. In March this year, Netanyahu stated;

“When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it. That’s how it was yesterday and that’s how we shall continue to act.”

Days later Netanyahu revealed that he had told Russian President Vladimir Putin point blank;

“We attack if we have information and the operational feasibility. This will continue.”

Israel’s arrogant sense of entitlement extends it’s military operations from Gaza and the West Bank to another sovereign state – Syria.

Syria, predictably has exercised it’s legal right to  attempt to shoot down Israeli warplanes that crossed into it’s airspace. Just as Turkey exercised it’s right to shoot down a Russian warplane that crossed into Turkish airspace in November 2015;

Vladimir Putin has called Turkey “accomplices of terrorists” and warned of “serious consequences” after a Turkish F-16 jet shot down a Russian warplane on Tuesday morning, the first time a Nato country and Moscow have been involved in direct fire over the crisis in Syria.

The Russian president, speaking before a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in Sochi, said the plane had been shot down over Syrian airspace and fell 4km inside Syria. Putin said it was “obvious” the plane posed no threat to Turkey.

The Syrian conflict is a quagmire with multiple players – both state and various armed factions.

The complexity of the conflict – coupled with information that may or may not be true – creates a potential powder-keg. In some ways, I am reminded of Europe, in 1914; an interwoven web of imperial powers jostling for supremacy; strategic alliances; revolutionary groups; unstable monarchies; and ethnic tensions.

Sound familiar?

The drums of war are beating, and they are getting louder. This time, we may have to rely on the stability of the Russian leadership to deliver us from another Sarajevo, 1914.

That stability appears dangerously lacking in Washington right now.

Postscript – The Curious Case of Peter Thiel

Writing for Mediaworks, veteran journalist and media-host, Mark Sainsbury, had this to say in February of this year;

Citizenship rightly should be prized and earned. It is not a commodity to be traded.

Which brings us to the curious case of Peter Thiel, the controversial American billionaire whose “exceptional circumstances” somehow allowed him to become a citizen of this fine country.

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He apparently had a strong desire to be a citizen of a country he hardly visited – certainly not enough to qualify for an application in normal circumstances.

So was it the fact that citizenship enabled him to bypass the Overseas Investment Office’s scrutiny when he bought his Wanaka property? You’d have to say given all his amazing qualities, that shouldn’t have been a problem anyway.

I listened to Xero boss Rod Dury – a strong supporter of Mr Thiel’s application – not surprising given Mr Thiel made a significant investment in Xero. Mr Drury accepted that many successful people like Peter Thiel want a bolt hole in case it all goes pear-shaped in the Northern Hemisphere.  And if you could afford it, why wouldn’t you?

But is that what it really comes down to?  That we are a convenience, a Hobbit-themed panic room for the super rich?

Let’s just call it for what it is: We are a haven for sale.

The great irony, of course, is that any implosion in the Northern Hemisphere could likely be triggered by another of his influential friends; the man he backed for the US presidency: Donald J Trump.

Perhaps Mr Thiel knew something we didn’t?

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References

Radio NZ:  Afternoons – US launches strikes on a target in Syria

Radio NZ: Midday News for 7 April 2017

Wikipedia: Khan Shaykhun

Wikipedia: Sarin Gas

The Guardian: ‘Global gag rule’ reinstated by Trump, curbing NGO abortion services abroad

Twitter: Donald Trump – Deals – 21 May 2015

RT News: Trump warns that by attacking Assad, US will ‘end up fighting Russia’

Sydney Morning Herald: Malcolm Turnbull ‘knew in advance’ of US strike on Syria, called for a ‘strong response’

NTI: Israel

New York Times: Halabja – America didn’t seem to mind poison gas

Al Jazeera: Remembering Halabja chemical attack

BBC: Iraq – chemical warfare

Foreign Policy: Exclusive – CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran

Al Jazeera: Remembering Halabja chemical attack

RT News: Syria denies & condemns use of chemical weapons – foreign minister

The New Arab: Anti-aircraft missiles could be a game-changer in Syria

Al-Monitor: Congress authorizes Trump to arm Syrian rebels with anti-aircraft missiles

Huffington Post:  Russia’s Intervention in Syria: Protracting an Already Endless Conflict

BBC: Who is supplying weapons to the warring sides in Syria?

The Guardian: UK link to Serb poison gas

CNN: Hillary Clinton – US should ‘take out’ Assad’s air fields

RT News: America’s Syria strike ‘on verge of military clash’ with Russia – PM Medvedev

Twitter: Bernie Sanders – Syria – 7 April 2017

Politicususa: Bernie Sanders Shows America How A President Should Handle Syria And The Middle East

Radio NZ: NZ told in advance about US Syria strike

Radio NZ: Little on SAS claims – ‘We need to know what the truth is’

Radio NZ: Afghan raid – Ex-minister accepts reports of civilian deaths

New York Times: Trump Removes Stephen Bannon From National Security Council Post

The Independent:  Steve Bannon threatened to quit if removed from National Security Council, say reports

CNBC: Bannon attended National Security Council meeting after his removal from top committee

New York Times: Who Was in the Room? These Advisers Joined Trump for the Syria Strike

Los  Angeles Times: Devin Nunes says he’s temporarily stepping aside from Russia probe

The Atlantic: The Call Was Coming From Inside the White House

Bloomberg: Trump Asked for Flynn’s Resignation After ‘Eroding’ Trust, Aide Says

Twitter: Trump – Do not attack Syria – 5 September 2013

CNBC: Trump explains why he launched missile attack on Syria

Radio NZ: Syria chemical killings ‘cross many lines’ – Trump

The Telegraph: Donald Trump – ‘I’ll look Syrian children in the face and say they can’t come’

Breitbart ‘News’: Trump – I can look into face of Syrian children and say ‘You can’t come here’

Breitbart ‘News’: Obama Yawns As Syria Uses Chemical Weapons, Crosses ‘Red Line’

Breitbart ‘News’: Trump Orders Strikes Against Syrian Regime Airbase in Response to Chemical Attack

Wikipedia: Steve Bannon

Great America PAC: Home page

The Daily Beast: Pro-Trump PAC Raising Money Off Syria Strikes

Wikipedia: List of United States defense contractors

Wikipedia: Paul Watson

Twitter: Paul Watson – Donald Trump – 7 April 2017

Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu – Israel backs US attack on Syria on ‘moral’ basis

Al Jazeera: Netanyahu – Strikes in Syria targeted Hezbollah arms

Jerusalem Post: Netanyahu – Israel clarified to Russia that IDF will continue Syria strikes

The Guardian: Putin condemns Turkey after Russian warplane downed near Syria border

BBC: Syria war – A brief guide to who’s fighting whom

Mediaworks: Mark Sainsbury – Peter Thiel’s made NZ a haven for sale

Additional

The Boston Globe: Trump and the Doomsday Clock

Other Bloggers

The Daily Blog: Gas Attack In Khan Sheikhoun! But why would Bashar al-Assad blow himself up?

Previous related blogposts

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 10April 2017.

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Trumpwatch: The Art of Deflection

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The Art of Deflection

The Right make a big thing out of  Personal Responsibility. It is core to their philosophy of the primacy of the Individual, as National’s website points out again* and again*  and again;

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With the Cult of Hyper Individualism, “taking Personal Responsibility”  is the corollary of the “Small State” and reduced government services. The Right demand Personal Responsibility from everyone. (So when an individual ‘fails’, the fault – and responsibility – must lie with  him/her, rather than the State’s tilting the playing field toward the rich and the powerful.)

The leadership of the National Party have demonstrated on numerous occassions how ‘dedicated’ they  are to their  philosophy of Personal Responsibility;

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When faced with a failing policy and worsening social and economic indicators, National automatically defaults to three standard deflections;

#1 Blame the previous Labour government

#2 Blame ‘welfare abuse’/Release a ‘welfare abuse’ story in the media

#3 Blame Global Financial Crisis or similar overseas event

If the problem is Auckland housing-related, there is a fourth default-deflection the Nats can rely on;

#4 Blame Auckland Council/RMA/both.)

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Works a treat!

Doing it  right-wing style – why take personal  responsibility when there are perfectly good scapegoats available?

The newly-elected right-wing Donald Trump administration  appears to have taken lessons from National’s strategy for blame-gaming over the last eight years;

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Trump’s three default positions appears to be;

#1 Blame the media

#2 Blame Obama/Clinton/government departments

#3 Blame the rest of the world

Blaming Hillary Clinton also appears to be a personal favourite of  some Trump’s supporters. Faced with their hero – an unstable, thin-skinned narcissist in the White House busily tweeting bizarre comments in the early hours of the morning – pointing to Clinton as a “worse alternative” is the only possible  strategy remaining to mitigate Trump’s increasingly  irrational behaviour.

Without the bogey(wo)man of a “worse alternative”, one is ultimately left with assessing Trump’s actions and utterances on it’s own merits of what is, or isn’t, acceptable behaviour.

After all, for most left-wingers and liberals in New Zealand, it can be generally agreed that our former Dear Leader, John Key, is nowhere as bad as odious characters throughout history such as Franco, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Pinochet, et al…

But,  would you still vote for him?

As with National, the Republican Party is also big on  personal responsibility;

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Taking personal responsibility – the Right-wing way.

Time for a beer…

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References

National Party: Our values

National Party: Speech to National Party Central North Island regional conference – John Key

NZ Herald: Transcript – John Key’s speech at the National Party conference

New York Post: Trump blames military for SEAL’s death

NDTV: Donald Trump Blames Oscars Fail On Show’s Political Tone

BBC: Trump blames Obama for town hall protests and security leaks

TVNZ News: Trump blames FBI for failing to stop media leak

Daily KOS: Trump Blames Jews for Anti-Semitic Attacks on Cemeteries and Elsewhere

NPR: Trump Blames Media For Downfall Of National Security Adviser Flynn

CBS News: Trump blames media for rift with intelligence community

ABC News: Donald Trump defends travel ban, blames computer glitches, protesters for airport chaos

The Australian: Trump blames fraud for popular vote

The National Herald: Trump Blames China Over North Korea Nuclear Program

The Economist: Blame Mexico!

New York Post: Trump blames Clinton for media reports on his Russian ties

Fairfax media: Republican Party office firebombed, Donald Trump blames Hillary Clinton

The Week: Donald Trump on blaming Hillary Clinton for everything: ‘Why not?’

The Guardian: Trump blames sexual assault claims on collusion between Clinton and media

Previous related blogposts

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: “… then they came for the LGBT”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 March 2017.

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Categories: Global Tags: , ,

Trumpwatch: Fake News, Soft News, and Non-News

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One of Donald Trump’s most bitter and constant complaints is mainstream media reporting of his election campaign last year, and his first couple of months in the White House.

Any reporting of Trump which shows him in a negative light is referred by him as “fake news“. This, despite  the actual definition of fake news being closer to Wikipedia’s opening statement on the issue;

Fake news is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation, be it via the traditional news media or via social media, with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically.

Trump’s mis-use of the term “fake news” – to attack and dismiss as untrue, actual news stories – is a corruption of the term for his own purposes.

Trump’s actions, statements, tweets, and behaviour has all received media attention – and quite rightly so. Trump is no longer a private individual and his actions and words are no longer unimportant. As the elected leader of the United States, much of what  he says and does will be reported.

Often, that reporting will be highly critical.

Sometimes, it will be damaging to his reputation.

It goes with the ‘territory’.

Attacking various msm such as CNN and labelling it as “fake news” because he is thin-skinned and upset by their stories  does not make the news outlet “fake”;

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It simply makes him look petulant, unprofessional, and unable to cope with the rigours of his Office.

This, is fake news;

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So is this;

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Mostly likely this;

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And maybe even this;

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(Loving that blue dress, by the way…)

And yet, on at least two occassions, Trump has had valid justification to attack and criticise the msm over stories published.

The first, in late February. There was faux-outrage when the media reported that – SHOCK! HORROR! – Donald Trump’s senior  advisor, Kellyanne “Alternative Facts” Conway, was caught in a series of photos kneeling on a couch in the Oval Office of the White House;

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For some inexplicable reason (actually, not so inexplicable at all), this was considered “newsworthy”, and the planet’s media went nuts;

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I had no desire (or spare time) to check the remaining 309,000 results.

This was not so much “Fake” News as Non-News. There was nothing remotely informative, insightful, or politically meaningful about that (non-)event.

As many pointed out, it was not so different to former President Obama putting his feet up on the Oval Office desk, after a hard day running the American Empire;

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(Tough day at the office.)

The next instance of Non-News reporting by the msm was this incident;

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The News Corp story above (re-published in the NZ Herald) went on to describe Donald Trump’s speech at Congress;

While her father President Donald Trump spoke about saving American jobs, Ivanka stood at his State Of the Union address in the expensive frock, which costs about NZ$4238 (US$2995).

There was no mention of what Ms Trump’s father wore on the day.

Yet again, the mainstream media appeared to run out of real stories, as the ‘net filled with millions of words written about ‘that dress’;

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As referenced briefly above, it is not totally ‘inexplicable’ that the msm have gone barking mad on the two Non-News ‘stories’ above.

There is an on-going war-of-words between Trump – aided and abetted by his faithful White House minions – versus the mainstream media. The animosity has never been so bitter since the days of the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s secret list of enemies.

The Conway Shoes-on-Sofa and Ivanka Dress “scandals” were a petty attack on Trump. It was a mis-use of media power for no reason except journalists, editors, newsroom producers, et al, have a dislike of Trump.

The media need to get over themselves. Non-News stories like these only add to Trump’s hysterical fear and rage against media institutions. They also add to his narrative that the media are “out to get him”. In these two cases, that ‘paranoia’ might well be justified.

If the media are to regain the trust and credibility that has been badly dented in last year’s presidential campaign, pathetic Non-News “stories” like the ones above cannot continue.

The media are supposed to hold truth to power. Shoes on sofas and fashion critiques simply don’t cut the mustard.

We, the people deserve better.

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References

Wikipedia: Fake News

Politico: Trump calls CNN ‘fake news,’ as channel defends its reporting on intelligence briefing

Linked In: Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump

The Independent: What is Pizzagate? The Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory that led to a man opening fire in a restaurant

Global Research: U.S. Coalition Intelligence “Operations Room” Inside Syria, Destroyed by Russian Missile Attack: Thirty Israeli, American, British, Turkish, Saudi, Qatari Intelligence Officials Killed, Report

Google: Search – Kellyanne conway shoes on couch

NZ Herald: Ivanka Trump wore a $4000 off-the-shoulder dress to Congress

Google: Search – Ivanka Trump dress at father’s speech

PBS: Nixon’s Enemies List

Additional

The Guardian: What is fake news? How to spot it and what you can do to stop it

Previous related blogposts

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: “… then they came for the LGBT”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 March 2017.

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Trumpwatch: “… then they came for the LGBT”

2 March 2017 2 comments

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Context:Discrimination

By  2015, the situation of transgender students using toilets in US schools became a major contentious social issue. States such as Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi , Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas attempted to pass legislation that would have “legally required schools to ensure that children follow anatomical conventions when using gender-segregated school facilities: that children who were born boys but identify as girls use the boys’ restroom, and vice versa“, as The Atlantic pointed out in July 2015.

The original version of the “Kentucky Student Privacy Act” would have  allowed students to sue “offenders” (transgendered students using toilets assigned to opposite gendered students) in a  state court for  “damages” up to US$2,500 each.

In April last year, North Carolina passed legislation that removed protection of LGBT from discrimination based on sexual orientation and a requirement that, in public buildings and schools, transgendered people use bathrooms corresponding to their genetic gender at birth.

There was a public outcry against what was perceived as unjust discrimination against transgender students.

Companies such as PayPal, Deutsche Bank, and others  cancelled investment in the state; singer Bruce Springsteen cancelled a rock concert; and dozens of planned  conventions were withdrawn,  in protest. One hundred and thirty other companies signed a letter to North Carolina’s  lawmakers demanding they  repeal the anti-transgender law.

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Then: Obama

Last year, in a follow-up to an earlier 2014 directive, former President Obama, responded to  discrimination against  transgendered students in federally-funded schools.

Then-Attorney General, Loretta Lynch was unequivocal in condemning transphobia;

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex. ”

The directive – in the form of a letter from the Departments of Justice and Education – was sent  to all Federally-funded schools. It stated, in part;

“A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity.

A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.

As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.”

In issuing a new directive not to engage in transphobic policies, Obama said;

“What happened and what continues to happen is you have transgender kids in schools. And they get bullied. And they get ostracized. And it’s tough for them.

My best interpretation of what our laws and our obligations are is that we should try to accommodate these kids so that they are not in a vulnerable situation.

We should deal with this issue the same way we would want it dealt with if it was our child and that is to try to create an environment of some dignity and kindness for these kids. 

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Then: Trump

During last year’s presidential election campaign, Trump appeared to side firmly with the LGBT community.

In June, he tweeted;

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In October, at a rally in Colorado, he borrowed a LGBT flag from a supporter in the crowd, and waved it on-stage;

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GREELEY, CO - OCTOBER 30: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a rainbow flag given to him by supporter Max Nowak during a campaign rally at the Bank of Colorado Arena on the campus of University of Northern Colorado October 30, 2016 in Greeley, Colorado. With less than nine days until Americans go to the polls, Trump is campaigning in Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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And  in November, two activists from the so-called LGBTrump group wrote glowingly of Trump’s pro-LGBT credentials.

said;

“ There are no signs that the LGBT community will be in the crosshairs of a Trump administration. In fact that evidence is just the opposite.  

In the 1980s & 1990s Trump donated heavily to charities that focused on the AIDS outbreak. When he floated a third party presidential run in 1999 he went on record saying he would consider adding sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act. Trump is also believed to be the first private club owner in Palm Beach — in this case Mar-a-Lago — to admit a gay couple. This is not the resume of an LGBT foe.

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… Trump, thus, was telling evangelicals he was with them on the issue of life — our most fundamental right — but was not willing to do battle over civil marriage. This was the surest signal to the LGBT community that Trump was not a foe, but a friend.”

And Christopher R. Barron echoed his fellow Trumpista’s sentiments;

“ Donald Trump’s announcement on “60 Minutes” Sunday night, that he supports marriage equality, shocked almost as many on the left as his stunning victory at the polls last week. If they would have been paying attention, however, neither of these events would have come as a surprise.

Despite the left’s attempts to demonize Donald Trump as a homophobe during the campaign, the truth was and is that Donald Trump is unquestionably, the Republican Party’s most pro-gay presidential nominee in history. ”

Trump’s vice-President, Mike Pence, however was less supportive of the LGBT community;

Pence’s LGBT record doesn’t get much better either. On his website in 2000 he suggested that money used to support those with HIV should be directed to organisations “which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Pence supports gay conversion therapy.

(Pence’s  comments were confirmed by Snopes.com.)

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Now: Trump

On 22 February, the Trump Administration announced  to Federally-funded schools that Obama’s instructions banning transphobic policies was to be rescinded;

By the time he left office, Barack Obama had taken several steps to support transgender people, moves that “thrilled” advocates and outraged social conservatives still stinging from a same-sex marriage loss before the Supreme Court. But the tide is now heading in a new direction, and the Trump Administration on Wednesday took what LGBT rights groups view as a big step back, one they are describing as “bullying” transgender kids.

In a joint action, the departments of Justice and Education rescinded instructions that schools nationwide must respect the gender identities of transgender students, allowing them access to bathrooms and other facilities or single-sex programs that align with their sense of self. “The prior guidance documents did not contain sufficient legal analysis or explain how the interpretation was consistent with the language of Title IX,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Wednesday. ” The Department of Education and the Department of Justice therefore have withdrawn the guidance.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a  Republican who has expressed conservative positions on various issues;

  • Voted against re-authorising the Violence Against Women Act that would have extended VAWA’s protections to lesbians, gays, immigrants, and Native Americans,
  • Voted  against marriage equality,
  • Voted against adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes,

Sessions has earned a 20% approval-rating from the ACLU, on his anti-civil rights voting record; 7% by the NAACP, revealing his anti-affirmative-action stance, and  0% by the Human Rights Campaign, for displaying an openly anti-gay-rights stance on issues.

This is the reactionary homophobe appointed by a supposedly  “LGBT-friendly Trump” as America’s Attorney General.

In a surprising development, fellow conservative Republican; businesswoman; Charter Schools proponent, and Trump appointee as the new Secretary for Education, Betsy DeVos, opposed rescinding Federal protection for transgendered students. She was over-ruled by self-declared “LGBT-friendly Trump”;

But Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off and told Mr. Trump that she was uncomfortable because of the potential harm that rescinding the protections could cause transgender students, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions.

Mr. Sessions, who has opposed expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, pushed Ms. DeVos to relent. After getting nowhere, he took his objections to the White House because he could not go forward without her consent. Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, the Republicans said, and told Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.

Ms. DeVos’s unease was evident in a strongly worded statement she released on Wednesday night, in which she said she considered it a “moral obligation” for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, denied there was a split between DeVos, Trump, and Sessions, but a ‘tweet‘ from her suggested otherwise;

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In revoking Obama’s order to  “allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity“, Trump has made life more difficult for transgendered young people. His decision to allow Jeff Sessions to impose his moralistic agenda to deny transgendered students to be in a safe environment to use bathroom facilities, puts extra stresses on people who are already facing a difficult time in their lives.

When a segment of American society yearns for a quasi-mythical, mind-numbingly simpler time of “mom, dad, and the kids”;

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– they are craving an era  inimical to anyone who was not white, heterosexual, and patriarchal. That is the vision that Trump is buying into by refusing to respect the rights of LGBT Americans.

Far from his committment to the LGBT community to “fight for them”, as he tweeted on 14 June 2016, Trump is complicit in turning his back on  transgendered students.

Muslims, Mexicans, LGBT – Trump (and his groupies in the White House) is sectioning-of American society.

Who is next?

More than ever, German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemöller’s statement  rings truer and truer every day…

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References

The Atlantic: The K-12 Binary

The Guardian: Leading businesses take stand against states’ new anti-LGBT laws

The Advocate:  Here’s All the Business N.C. Has Lost Because of Anti-LGBT Bill

Time: United States Department of Education – Office for Civil Rights – Questions and Answers on Title IX and Single-Sex Elementary and Secondary Classes and Extracurricular Activities

Reuters: Obama says transgender bathroom directive based on law

The Guardian: Obama orders public schools to allow transgender students access to restrooms

Twitter: Trump – Thank you to the LGBT Community

The Independent: Donald Trump’s running mate thought HIV funding could be better spent on gay conversion therapy – time to put the rainbow flag down

The Hill: Memo to the LGBT community – Donald Trump is not your enemy

Fox News: Donald Trump will be a friend, an ally and an advocate for the LGBT community

Snopes.com: Shock Treatment

Time: President Trump Just Rolled Back Guidelines That Protected Transgender Students

Wikipedia: Jeff Sessions

On The Issues: Jeff Sessions on Civil Rights

Wikipedia: Betsy DeVos

New York Times: Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students

The Guardian: Trump administration revokes transgender students’ bathroom protections

Twitter: Betsy DeVos

Other bloggers

The Daily Blog: Family Fist exploiting transphobia for political moralistic point scoring is far more destructive than transgender toilet use

The Spinoff: Four things you can do when hate groups like Family First attack children

Previous related blogposts

Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

The seductiveness of Trumpism

The Rise of Great Leader Trump

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: Voter fraud, Presidential delusions, and Fox News

Trumpwatch: Muslims, mandates, and moral courage

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 February 2017.

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Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

18 February 2017 7 comments

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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;

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— Iran

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;

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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.

— China

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;

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The same Steve Bannon who is now a close advisor to Trump;

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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;

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As

“Washington policymakers seem addicted to intervention and war, unable to imagine there is any international problem they cannot solve.

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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…”

Update: On 10 February, Trump informed China that his Administration will honour the “One China” policy. The Chinese government – again through it’s organ, the Global Times – concluded;

“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.

— Yemen

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;

In April 2013, he said;

“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.”

Two days later, the US military confirmed that civilians had been killed in the attack;

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.

— Russia/Ukraine

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.”

Trump replied,

“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;

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“ 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;

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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;

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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.

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The atomic scientists say the world had edged closer to doomsday [EPA]

The atomic scientists say the world had edged closer to doomsday [EPA]

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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.

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References

BBC: Who’s who in the ‘axis of evil’

The White House: Statement by National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn on Iran

Reuters: Trump adopts aggressive posture toward Iran after missile launch

Press TV:   New US sanctions on Iran unacceptable – Russia

The Jerusalem Post: Trump’s UN envoy – Israel will ‘never again’ question US support

Taipei Times: Tsai-Trump telephone call scheduled

The Guardian: Trump’s phone call with Taiwan president risks China’s wrath

Wikipedia: Steve Bannon

The Guardian: Steve Bannon – ‘We’re going to war in the South China Sea … no doubt’

The Huffington Post: Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable

The Independent: US would go into any war with China with ‘unparalleled violence’, warn experts

The Daily Star: ‘We’re going to war with China – no doubt’ says Trump’s right-hand man

The IB Times: Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon – ‘We’re going to war in the South China

TV3 News:  Trump advisor Steve Bannon warned of war against China

BBC: Steve Bannon – Who is Trump’s key adviser?

CNBC: US-China war increasingly a ‘reality,’ Chinese army official says

Global Research:  List of countries the USA has bombed since the end of World War II

The National Interest: America Must Stay Out of Syria’s War

The Guardian: China should plan to take Taiwan by force after Trump call, state media says

ABC News: China warns Donald Trump via US media to stay out of South China Sea dispute

CNN: Why is Trump backing off his China threats?

The Economic Times: Donald Trump’s U turn on Taiwan shows he is learning – Chinese media

Newsmax: Trump – US Should Stay Out of Syria

The Nation: Donald Trump Could Be the Military-Industrial Complex’s Worst Nightmare

The Guardian: Donald Trump on North Korea going to war – ‘Good luck, enjoy yourself folks’

Politico: Trump pledges to hit Islamic State, not Assad

Sydney Morning Herald: US raid on al-Qaeda compound in Yemen Donald Trump’s first military engagement as president

DW News: US confirms Yemen raid ‘likely killed’ civilians

The White House Archives: Vice President Biden Announces Dr. Colin Kahl as New National Security Advisor

Salon: Former Obama official – Trump’s deadly Yemen raid wasn’t planned under Obama’s watch

Sputnik News: Trump on Putin Controlling Syria: ‘OK, Fine,’ Him Fighting ISIS ‘Wonderful Thing,’ ‘Very Little Downside’

The Independent: Largest Russian military deployment since Cold War passes through British waters en route to ‘crush’ Aleppo

Wikipedia: Yalta Conference

Washington Post: Trump nominates two prominent GOP women: DeVos as education secretary, Haley as U.N. ambassador

CNN: UN Ambassador Haley hits Russia hard on Ukraine

RT News: Russia’s Churkin cites US constitution after ambassador Haley’s rant at UNSC over Ukraine

The White House: Readout of the President’s Call with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine

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

Additional

Fox News: Trump unveils plan to boost US military

Other Blogs

Bowalley Road: Political Paradoxes

Brian Edwards: Profile of Leader of the Free World

Cafe Pacific: Colourful, vibrant Aotearoa rally condemns Trump’s ‘racist, Islamophobic’ bans

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: uglytrump

Mars2earth: the start of the peel

No Right Turn: Outright corruption in the US

Pundit: When Donald calls Bill… make him an offer

The Standard: New Zealand Second?

The Standard: Postcards from the Trumpocalypse

Previous related blogposts

Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

The seductiveness of Trumpism

The Rise of Great Leader Trump

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: Voter fraud, Presidential delusions, and Fox News

Trumpwatch: Muslims, mandates, and moral courage

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 February 2017.

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Trumpwatch: Muslims, mandates, and moral courage

6 February 2017 2 comments

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Muslims…

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;

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countries banned by Trump - countries that have killed americans

Acknowledgement: Martyn Bradbury, “The utter madness of Trump’s #MuslimBan”

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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;

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Source: Bloomberg

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According to Bloomberg’s research, Trumps business interests are;

Egypt

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;

Israel

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.

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Mandates…

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.

And;

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;

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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?

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Moral courage…

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;

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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”?

Again, 20th Century history offers guidance for us;

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.

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Meanwhile…

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.

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The atomic scientists say the world had edged closer to doomsday [EPA]

The atomic scientists say the world had edged closer to doomsday [EPA]

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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

 

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References

The Guardian: Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration – the full text

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: Trump’s Immigration Ban Excludes Countries With Business Ties

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

Al Jazeera: US attorney general Sally Yates fired in Muslim ban row

Holocaust Research: The Trial of Adolf Eichmann

Radio NZ:   Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight

Huffington Post: The Inevitability Of Impeachment

Additional

The Independent: Obama knows 9/11 was linked to Saudi Arabia – its massive oil reserves are behind his official visit

Other Blogs

The utter madness of Trump’s #MuslimBan

Previous related blogposts

Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

The seductiveness of Trumpism

The Rise of Great Leader Trump

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: Voter fraud, Presidential delusions, and Fox News

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 February 2017.

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Trumpwatch: Voter fraud, Presidential delusions, and Fox News

2 February 2017 1 comment

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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;

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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.”

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This has been disputed, as Robert Mackey explained for The Intercept;

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.

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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;

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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.

Postscript

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“?

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Final Word

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

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References

Twitter:

Youtube: Watch The Terrifying Way Trump Reacts When A Reporter Points Out He’s Wrong To His Face

The Intercept: Just 5 Clicks on an Internet Survey Inspired Trump’s Claim Millions Voted Illegally

Infowars: Report – Three Million Votes in Presidential Election Cast by Illegal Aliens

Youtube: Even A Fox News Anchor Just Called Out Trump’s Voter Fraud BS

Financial Times: Trump says hacking did not influence US election

Indy100: Carl Sagan’s terrifyingly accurate prediction about the future has resurfaced

Additional

Buzzfeed: Here’s A Running List Of All Of President Trump’s Lies

Previous related blogposts

Black Ops from the SIS and FBI?

The seductiveness of Trumpism

The Rise of Great Leader Trump

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

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Donald Trump voter fraud

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 January 2017.

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