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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

PNG Bitches - Eat it!

‘Never Trump’ national-security Republicans fear they have been blacklisted

They are some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administrations who say, if called upon by President-elect Donald Trump, they stand ready to serve their country again.

But their phones aren’t ringing. Their entreaties to Trump Tower in New York have mostly gone unanswered. In Trump world, these establishment all-stars say they are “PNG” — personae non grata.

Their transgression was signing one or both of two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, declaring they would not vote for Trump and calling his candidacy a danger to the nation.

One letter, with 122 names, was published by War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security commentary, during the primary season in March. The other, with 50 names, including some repeat signatories, was published by the New York Timesduring the general-election campaign in August.

Now, just days before Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, the letter signers fear they have been added to another document, this one private — a purported blacklist compiled by Trump’s political advisers.

Flynn says Trump administration wants 'peace through strength'

During a Jan. 10 speech at the Institute of Peace, President-elect Donald Trump's national security advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn spoke of the need for "peace through strength" and the potential to “rebaseline" global relationships. (The Washington Post)

HEADLINE: "Trump transition aides did not respond to a request for comment for this article." (You Think?)

“Before he won, the conversation was, ‘We really would love for you to change your mind and join us,’ ” Peter Feaver, a National Security Council special adviser under President George W. Bush, said of informal talks with Trump aides. Feaver, who signed both letters, added that, “Since he won . . . the conversation is, ‘There likely will be a blacklist of people who signed the letters who won’t themselves be eligible for a post.’ ”

Trump transition aides did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
The president-elect has virtually no experience in national security and foreign policy, and his transition team could presumably benefit from the broadest pool of applicants for the influential appointive positions in the State Department, Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security.

But the purportedly blacklisted figures report to their jobs at Washington law firms and think tanks in a state of indefinite limbo as their colleagues, some working in the same offices, are flirting with potential administration jobs.
Last week, the Trump transition held a private briefing for secretary-of-state nominee Rex Tillerson to prepare him for his Senate confirmation hearing. One former Bush national security official who works at a Washington think tank said that some of his younger staff assistants were invited to participate but that he was not. He assumes it was because he signed the letter.

“It’s hostile,” said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of further retribution. “It’s not just that we’re frozen out. . . . I was told they said there was an enemies list.”

Among those who signed at least one of the letters are Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, the first two secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security; two former U.S. trade ambassadors, Carla Hills and Robert Zoellick; two former heads of U.S. intelligence agencies, John Negroponte and retired Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden; a former ambassador to NATO; and several former deputy secretaries of various U.S. government agencies.

Not everyone who signed the letters wants a job, and some remain vocal critics of Trump. But many stand ready to serve or offer guidance if asked.

The letters were explicit in their denunciations of Trump’s professed support for torture of terrorism suspects, his pledge to build a wall along the border with Mexico, his anti-Muslim rhetoric and his admiration for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

The letters also attacked Trump’s character and temperament, asserting that he “lacks self-control and acts impetuously,” has demonstrated “erratic behavior” and is “fundamentally dishonest.”

Former Bush administration lawyer John Bellinger III, who organized the letter published in the Times, said that many have not given up and are trying to help from the outside.

“They’re seeing how it goes and trying to provide advice, counsel, support to our friends who go into the administration,” said Bellinger, who has served as legal counsel at the State Department and the National Security Council.

The scenario was set up by Trump’s un­or­tho­dox candidacy and then his upset victory. The threat the New York business mogul’s populist campaign posed to the establishment of his party caused some of the Republicans’ leading lights to oppose him, even after he had clinched the nomination.

The question after Election Day was how quickly Trump loyalists and the onetime GOP resistance would reconcile.

In some cases, the process has gone fairly smoothly. Congressional leaders who had been lukewarm toward Trump’s campaign have made nice with the president-elect, and they have vowed to work together on a conservative policy agenda.
In other cases, it has been painfully awkward, as with Trump’s flirtation with Mitt Romney for secretary of state. Romney had called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud” last March, but the 2012 GOP presidential nominee called to congratulate Trump on his election victory. After a courtship that included a dinner of frog legs and lamb chops in New York, Romney was passed over for Tillerson, the head of ExxonMobil.

During a national security forum last week at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, K.T. McFarland, who was named Trump’s deputy national security adviser, opened her remarks by referring to the “elephant in the room.”
“Most of the people in this room didn’t support Donald Trump — maybe not at first or maybe ever,” she said. “And I suspect most of the people in this room didn’t think he’d win. But he has.”

Some of the “Never Trump” letters signers fear they are at the bottom of the pecking order, below those who expressed verbal opposition to Trump’s campaign but did not sign either of the letters. (You Think?)

The conflict was exacerbated shortly after the election when Eliot Cohen, a State Department counselor during the Bush administration who had helped organize the War on the Rocks letter, aired new criticism of the Trump transition. In an opinion column for The Washington Post in November, Cohen said that a friend on the transition team had asked him to provide names of potential job candidates — with the stipulation that he include no one who signed either of the letters.

Cohen wrote that he became convinced there were “pent-up resentments” among members of the Trump team, and he warned young policy experts against working for the administration. Cohen has had no further communications with the transition team.

“Believe me — my phone is not ringing,” he said in a recent interview.
Other letter signers said Cohen had misinterpreted emails from the transition official and overreacted, and some of them expressed a sense of regret.
Mary Beth Long, who served as assistant secretary of defense in the Bush administration, signed the War on the Rocks letter. But, she said, her opinion of Trump improved as he began to moderate his rhetoric and selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate.

Long attended a Pence rally in Charlotte in October, during which, she said, a local GOP official announced that a “Never Trump” letter signer in the audience had changed her mind and was now supporting Trump. The crowd cheered.
But her about-face hasn’t thawed the ice. Long said her inquiries to the Trump transition team to get clarity on some of his foreign policy positions have gone unanswered. She said that she has spoken with retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s designee for national security adviser, whom she knows from the Pentagon, but that she isn’t expecting a job.

“If I were asked to sign a letter like that again, I would be much more careful about the verbiage that related to the candidate himself,” she said.
Some letter signers said the Trump transition might be overwhelmed and could reach out more broadly in the coming weeks. Some hoped that Cabinet nominees, such as retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, Trump’s pick to head the Pentagon, could potentially have the freedom to hire them. Many jobs below the Cabinet level remain unfilled.

But others are resigned to waiting until some of Trump’s initial appointees begin leaving his administration.

Frances Townsend, a former Bush homeland security adviser who signed the War on the Rocks letter, is friendly with Flynn. A few weeks after the election, she received an email from the transition team inviting her to meet with the president-elect.

Ahead of the meeting, she thought over how to explain her past actions if Trump raised the letter — but he did not, she said.

“I took that as a sign of maturity and graciousness,” said Townsend, who has not taken a job with the administration and declined to say whether she was offered one.
“As I was leaving, I said I was privileged and humbled to come in and speak to him,” she said. “It was a veiled reference [to the letter]. Given the circumstances, I didn’t expect to be there.”

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Indict Her or Pardon Her?

Report: The Clinton Global Initiative Is Shutting Down After Hillary’s Loss

The Clinton Foundation, the controversial charitable organization founded by former President Bill Clinton and his nominal wife, Hillary, is shutting down the main New York City office of the Clinton Global Initiative, the New York Observer reports.

According to the report, the alleged charity filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice with the New York Department of Labor on January 12, announcing the “discontinuation of the Clinton Global Initiative.” The law requires employers “to provide 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.”

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), established in 2005 as a networking platform for the Clinton Foundation, previously announced a series of layoffs in September, a move the was seen as a response to criticism over the foundation’s fundraising from foreign donors, and possible conflicts of interest that would arise if Hillary Clinton was elected president.

According to the Clinton Foundation website, CGI “facilitates action by helping members connect, collaborate, and make effective and measurable Commitments to Action—plans for addressing significant global challenges,” whatever that means.

CGI hosted annual meetings at which politicians and celebrities gathered to “analyze pressing global challenges, discuss the most effective solutions, and build lasting partnerships that enable them to create positive social change.”

Shutting down CGI would appear to validate the concerns from critics that the Clinton Foundation was a merely vehicle through which foreign and corporate donors to curry favor with the Clintons. Foreign government have already begun to reduce their donations to the foundation in the wake of the election.

The Clinton Foundation, meanwhile, intends to continue doing whatever it is it supposedly does, and recently sent out an online appeal begging for money.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The CIA has no Business Interjecting Itself in US Politics - It is a Rogue Organization That Needs to be Throttled

Trump revives attack on intel community in early morning Twitter burst

By Tara Haelle01/13/17 07:12 AM EST POLITICO

President-elect Donald Trump renewed his criticism of the intelligence community Friday morning, blaming it once again for leaking an unverified report containing compromising and salacious allegations about him to the media and citing the Russian government as proof that the dossier's allegations are false.

That report, which had circulated for months among government officials and media institutions, was published Tuesday evening in full by BuzzFeed, which cautioned that the information it contained was unverified and included multiple errors. BuzzFeed’s decision to publish that report, the product of a private security company paid to develop opposition research on Trump, came on the same day that CNN reported that a summary of it had been included in briefings delivered to both the president-elect and President Barack Obama.

“It now turns out that the phony allegations against me were put together by my political opponents and a failed spy afraid of being sued. Totally made up facts by sleazebag political operatives, both Democrats and Republicans - FAKE NEWS!” Trump said in a flurry of posts to Twitter Friday morning. “Russia says nothing exists. Probably released by ‘Intelligence’ even knowing there is no proof, and never will be. My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!”

The "failed spy" Trump refers to is the supposed author of the report, a former British M16 agent identified by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and other media organizations as Christopher Steele. He is the director of a London-based intelligence company named Orbis Business Intelligence.

The president-elect continued to blame the intelligence community for leaking the report despite assurances from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who took the unusual step on Wednesday of releasing a statement reading out a phone call he placed to Trump. In that readout, Clapper said he told Trump that he didn't believe the intelligence community was behind the leak, has not made a judgment about the veracity of the report published by BuzzFeed and that such leaks are “extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.”

A Russian government spokesman said Wednesday that the report amounted to “pulp fiction,” and that the Kremlin did not possess compromising information about Trump or his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. The president-elect has repeatedly cited this assertion as proof that the claims are false.

Trump has promised to initiate a cybersecurity review immediately upon taking office with a report to be delivered to him within 90 days. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a longtime supporter of Trump's who works as a security consultant for foreign governments, said Thursday that he will head up that team.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

You Can't Lie To A Liar - Inside The CIA - Don't be Naive

Trump vindicated as intelligence community undermines its credibility

The writing was on the wall, and President-elect Donald Trump was the only one able to read it: At least some members of the U.S. intelligence community are placing partisan, political interests above America's interest.

It’s unacceptable. It’s wrong. And Trump has rightfully sounded the alarm over the last few weeks.

Donald Trump’s questioning of the intelligence community was prompted by a series of leaks by “anonymous sources” concerning confidential intelligence investigations. The first “anonymous source” told The Washington Post in early December that the CIA had discerned that the motive of Russian hackers in the Democratic National Committee leak was to help Trump win the presidency.
The leak came just days before the intelligence community officially confirmed its unified opinion of Russia’s motive. At the same time, another “anonymous source” leaked to The New York Times the false information that the Republican National Committee’s computer systems had also been hacked.

As recently as this week, several news organizations had reported that the intelligence community had given Trump a two-page summary of a baseless, unsubstantiated report gathered by a private security firm on behalf of Trump’s electoral opponents. The source of this information? Once again, “unnamed sources.”

Given that these leaks all concerned confidential intelligence investigations, it is by no means a far cry for the president-elect to presume that the leakers were intelligence officials.

Moreover, the intelligence branches have a documented history of leaking.

Let’s not forget Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s remarks in 2010 during the Obama administration: "I was in a meeting yesterday with the president, and I was ashamed to have to sit there and listen to the president express his great angst about the leaking that's going on here in this town. … And particularly when it's widely quoted amorphous, anonymous senior intelligence officials, who for whatever reason get their jollies from blabbing to the media.”

But what does Trump get for merely stating his obvious suspicion of leaks originating from intelligence officials? A barrage of criticism from the left and lame accusations that he is undermining the integrity of the intelligence community.

On the contrary, Trump has repeatedly expressed his “tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women” of the intelligence community, both on Friday and again yesterday in his phone call with Clapper.

What the apoplectic left fails to understand is that Trump is not disrespecting the intelligence community: he is merely holding them accountable. After a stream of leaks — which, to be clear, is unlawful — and the intelligence community stonewalling Republicans in Congress who sought information on the Russian hacking, Trump merely called for documented evidence before he accepted the conclusion.

In truth, the outrage is misplaced. Perhaps critics ought to redirect their outrage — not at Trump’s questioning of the intelligence community but at the intelligence community itself. Not only are the leaks of high concern, also of concern is why the intelligence community chose to memorialize false, salacious rumors in an official intelligence report. The information was more suited for the front pages of a supermarket tabloid, not a certified government document.

Remarking on the unprecedented nature of this course of action, former CIA analyst Bryan Dean Wright states, “You don’t do that. We are trained never to do those kinds of things … it’s inappropriate. Until you have the verified information that this is happening … you don’t brief it. You don’t brief rumors.”

Instead of critiquing Trump’s approach to the intelligence community, commentators should be applauding his cautious approach to analyzing intelligence.

It’s undeniable that the U.S. should have been more cautious in acting on the CIA’s “slam dunk case” — in their words — that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. And how about the intelligence community’s 2007 assessment that Iran had halted its nuclear program? These were honest intelligence assessments that just got the facts wrong.

But then there was the dishonest one we learned about in early August from a congressional panel: U.S. Central Command had falsely changed reports to give President Obama “a more positive depiction” of progress against ISIS “than was warranted by facts on the ground.” This was nothing short of an egregious politicization of U.S. intelligence aimed to give Obama the ammo he needed to mislead the American public into a false sense of safety.

Like President-elect Trump, I have deep respect for the men and women in our intelligence community despite these noted flaws. In fact, I have given the intelligence community the benefit of the doubt throughout its investigation into the Russian hacks. But the most recent reported memorialization of sick gossip into a government document proves that Trump’s measured skepticism of intelligence product was merited all along.

Trump simply questioned the intelligence community, for which he was publicly flogged. But, as is so often the case, he was proven right, and the public flogging he received was yet another politicized attempt to discredit the incoming president.

Kayleigh McEnany is a CNN political commentator who recently received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and also studied politics at Oxford University.

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

John McCain passes FBI dossier alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts

Julian Borger in Washington Wednesday 11 January 2017 07.58 EST

Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey, last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself.

The material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trump’s relationship with Moscow. They were drawn up by a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant. BuzzFeed on Tuesday published the documents, which it said were “unverified and potentially unverifiable”.

The Guardian has not been able to confirm the veracity of the documents’ contents, and the Trump team has consistently denied any hidden contacts with the Russian government.

A spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Wednesday denied Russia has collected compromising information on Trump and dismissed news reports as a “complete fabrication and utter nonsense”. Dmitry Peskov insisted that the Kremlin “does not engage in collecting compromising material”.

Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but late on Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” He made no direct reference to the allegations.

An official in the US administration who spoke to the Guardian described the source who wrote the intelligence report as consistently reliable, meticulous and well-informed, with a reputation for having extensive Russian contacts.

Some of the reports – which are dated from 20 June to 20 October last year – also proved to be prescient, predicting events that happened after they were sent.

One report, dated June 2016, claims that the Kremlin has been cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years, with the aim of encouraging “splits and divisions in western alliance”.

It claims that Trump had declined “various sweetener real estate deals offered him in Russia” especially in developments linked to the 2018 World Cup finals but that “he and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.”

Most explosively, the report alleges: “FSB has compromised Trump through his activities in Moscow sufficiently to be able to blackmail him.” The president-elect has not responded to the allegations.

CNN reported on Tuesday that the FBI was still investigating the credibility of the documents but added that the intelligence chiefs had included a summary of the material in a secret briefing on Russian interference in the election delivered last week to Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

The emergence of the documents is potentially explosive, 10 days before Trump’s inauguration and on the eve of his first planned press conference since July last year.

Despite glowing references from US and foreign officials who have worked with the source, there are some errors in the reports. One describes the Moscow suburb of Barvikha as “reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates”, but although it is a very expensive neighbourhood, there are no restrictions on who can own property there. The document also misspells the name of a Russian banking corporation.

The FBI does not normally make any comment on ongoing counter-intelligence investigations but was under increasing pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to act before the inauguration, particularly because of Comey’s announcement of a continuing investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server 11 days before the election, which many of her supporters believe cost her the presidency.

The reports were initially commissioned as opposition research during the presidential campaign, but its author was sufficiently alarmed by what he discovered to send a copy to the FBI. It is unclear who within the organisation they reached and what action the bureau took. The former Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, has lambasted Comey for publicising investigations into Hillary Clinton’s private server, while allegedly sitting on “explosive” material on Trump’s ties to Russia.

Another Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, questioned Comey insistently at a Senate intelligence committee hearing on Tuesday on whether the FBI was pursuing leads on Trump campaign contacts with Russia.

“Has the FBI investigated these reported relationships?” Wyden asked.

Comey replied: “I would never comment on investigations … in a public forum.

The Guardian can confirm that the documents reached the top of the FBI by December. Senator John McCain, who was informed about the existence of the documents separately by an intermediary from a western allied state, dispatched an emissary overseas to meet the source and then decided to present the material to Comey in a one-on-one meeting on 9 December, according to a source aware of the meeting. The documents, which were first reported on last year by Mother Jones, are also in the hands of officials in the White House.

McCain is not thought to have made a judgment on the reliability of the documents but was sufficiently impressed by the source’s credentials to feel obliged to pass them to the FBI.

The Senate armed services committee, which Senator McCain chairs, launched an inquiry last week into Russian cyber-attacks during the election.

McCain was reluctant to get involved, according to a colleague, for fear the issue would be dismissed as a personal grudge against Trump. He pushed instead for the creation of a special Senate committee to look into connections between campaign staff and Moscow, but the proposal was blocked by the Republican leadership.

McCain told the NBC programme Meet the Press on Sunday: “I would like to see a select committee. Apparently that is not in agreement by our leadership. So we will move forward with the armed services committee and I’m sure foreign relations and intelligence committee will as well.”

But the senator added: “It is possible if enough information comes out, that that decision could be reversed. I still think it’s the best way to attack the issue.”

Asked on the same programme on whether an investigation was ongoing into campaign links to Moscow, Senator Lindsey Graham, another conservative Republican said: “I believe that it’s happening.”

According to the report passed to Comey, Russian intelligence allegedly gathered compromising material during Trump’s stay in Moscow in November 2013, when he was in the city to host the Miss Universe pageant.

Another report, dated 19 July last year said that Carter Page, a businessman named by Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers, had held a secret meeting that month with Igor Sechin, head of the Rosneft state-owned oil company and a long-serving lieutenant of Vladimir Putin. Page also allegedly met Igor Divyekin, an internal affairs official with a background in intelligence, who is said to have warned Page that Moscow had “kompromat” (compromising material) on Trump.

Two months later, allegations of Page’s meetings surfaced in the US media, attributed to intelligence sources, along with reports that he had been under FBI scrutiny.

Page, a vociferous supporter of the Kremlin line, was in Moscow in July to make a speech decrying western policy towards Russia. At the time he declined to say whether he had been in contact with Russian officials, but in September he rejected the reports as “garbage”.

The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The Fisa court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus. According to one report, the FBI was finally granted a warrant in October, but that has not been confirmed, and it is not clear whether any warrant led to a full investigation.

A month after Trump’s surprise election victory, Page was back in Moscow saying he was meeting with “business leaders and thought leaders”, dismissing the FBI investigation as a “witch-hunt” and suggesting the Russian hacking of the Democratic Party alleged by US intelligence agencies, could be a false flag operation to incriminate Moscow.

Another of the reports compiled by the former western counter-intelligence official in July said that members of Trump’s team, which was led by campaign manager Paul Manafort (a former consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine), had knowledge of the DNC hacking operation, and in return “had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/Nato defence commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine”.

A few days later, Trump raised the possibility that his administration might recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea and openly called on Moscow to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails.

In August, officials from the Trump campaign intervened in the drafting of the Republican party platform, specifically to remove a call for lethal assistance to Ukraine for its battle against Moscow-backed eastern rebels.

Manafort stepped down in August as campaign manager and the campaign steadily distanced itself from Page. However, Trump’s praise of Putin and defence of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria remained one of the few constants in his campaign talking points.

Manafort has denied secret links with Moscow calling the allegation “an outrageous smear being driven by Harry Reid and the Clinton campaign”.

Since then, Trump has consistently cast doubt on Russian culpability for hacking the Democratic National Committee, defying a consensus of 17 national intelligence agencies. After Obama deported 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for Moscow’s intervention, Trump praised Putin for not carrying out tit-for-tat deportations of US diplomats. “I always knew he was very smart,” he tweeted.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment after the CNN report.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The attempt by Saudi Arabia and Gulf oil states to achieve hegemony in the Arab and Sunni Muslim worlds has proved disastrous for almost everybody

Saudi Arabia's Dream of Domination Has Gone Up in Flames

The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection

A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media

As recently as two years ago, Saudi Arabia’s half century-long effort to establish itself as the main power among Arab and Islamic states looked as if it was succeeding. A US State Department paper sent by former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in 2014 and published by Wikileaks spoke of the Saudis and Qataris as rivals competing “to dominate the Sunni world”.

A year later in December 2015, the German foreign intelligence service BND was so worried about the growing influence of Saudi Arabia that it took the extraordinary step of producing a memo, saying that “the previous cautious diplomatic stance of older leading members of the royal family is being replaced by an impulsive policy of intervention”.

An embarrassed German government forced the BND to recant, but over the last year its fears about the destabilising impact of more aggressive Saudi policies were more than fulfilled. What it did not foresee was the speed with which Saudi Arabia would see its high ambitions defeated or frustrated on almost every front. But in the last year Saudi Arabia has seen its allies in Syrian civil war lose their last big urban centre in east Aleppo. Here, at least, Saudi intervention was indirect but in Yemen direct engagement of the vastly expensive Saudi military machine has failed to produce a victory. Instead of Iranian influence being curtailed by a more energetic Saudi policy, the exact opposite has happened. In the last OPEC meeting, the Saudis agreed to cut crude production while Iran raised output, something Riyadh had said it would always reject.

In the US, the final guarantor of the continued rule of the House of Saud, President Obama allowed himself to be quoted as complaining about the convention in Washington of treating Saudi Arabia as a friend and ally. At a popular level, there is growing hostility to Saudi Arabia reflected in the near unanimous vote in Congress to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government as bearing responsibility for the attack.

Under the mercurial guidance of Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the most powerful figure in Saudi decision making, Saudi foreign policy became more militaristic and nationalistic after his 80 year old father Salman became king on 23 January 2015. Saudi military intervention in Yemen followed, as did increased Saudi assistance to a rebel alliance in Syria in which the most powerful fighting force was Jabhat al-Nusra, formerly the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda.

Nothing has gone well for the Saudis in Yemen and Syria. The Saudis apparently expected the Houthis to be defeated swiftly by pro-Saudi forces, but after fifteen months of bombing they and their ally, former President Saleh, still hold the capital Sanaa and northern Yemen. The prolonged bombardment of the Arab world’s poorest country by the richest has produced a humanitarian catastrophe in which at least 60 per cent of the 25 million Yemeni population do not get enough to eat or drink.

The enhanced Saudi involvement in Syria in 2015 on the side of the insurgents had similarly damaging and unexpected consequences. The Saudis had succeeded Qatar as the main Arab supporter of the Syrian insurgency in 2013 in the belief that their Syrian allies could defeat President Bashar al-Assad or lure the US into doing so for them. In the event, greater military pressure on Assad served only to make him seek more help from Russia and Iran and precipitated Russian military intervention in September 2015 which the US was not prepared to oppose.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman is being blamed inside and outside the Kingdom for impulsive misjudgments that have brought failure or stalemate. On the economic front, his Vision 2030 project whereby Saudi Arabia is to become less wholly dependent on oil revenues and more like a normal non-oil state attracted scepticism mixed with derision from the beginning. It is doubtful if there will be much change in the patronage system whereby a high proportion of oil revenues are spent on employing Saudis regardless of their qualifications or willingness to work.

Protests by Saudi Arabia’s ten million-strong foreign work force, a third of the 30 million population, because they have not been paid can be ignored or crushed by floggings and imprisonment. The security of the Saudi state is not threatened.

The danger for the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf states is rather that hubris and wishful thinking have tempted them to try to do things well beyond their strength. None of this is new and the Gulf oil states have been increasing their power in the Arab and Muslim worlds since the nationalist regimes in Egypt, Syria and Jordan were defeated by Israel in 1967. They found – and Saudi Arabia is now finding the same thing – that militaristic nationalism works well to foster support for rulers under pressure so long as they can promise victory, but delegitimises them when they suffered defeat.

Previously Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states had worked through allies and proxies but this restraint ended with the popular uprisings of 2011. Qatar and later Saudi Arabia shifted towards supporting regime change. Revolutions transmuted into counter-revolutions with a strong sectarian cutting edge in countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain where there were Sunni and non-Sunni populations.

Critics of Saudi and Qatari policies often demonise them as cunning and effective, but their most striking characteristic is their extreme messiness and ignorance of real conditions on the ground. In 2011, Qatar believed that Assad could be quickly driven from power just like Muamar Gaddafi in Libya. When this did not happen they pumped in money and weapons willy-nilly while hoping that the US could be persuaded to intervene militarily to overthrow Assad as Nato had done in Libya.

Experts on in Syria argue about the extent to which the Saudis and the Qataris knowingly funded Islamic State and various al-Qaeda clones. The answer seems to be that they did not know, and often did not care, exactly who they were funding and that, in any case, it often came from wealthy individuals and not from the Saudi government or intelligence services.

The mechanism whereby Saudi money finances extreme jihadi groups was explained in an article by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times in December on how the Saudis had bankrolled the Taliban after their defeat in 2001. The article cites the former Taliban Finance Minister, Agha Jan Motasim, as explaining in an interview how he would travel to Saudi Arabia to raise large sums of money from private individuals which was then covertly transferred to Afghanistan. Afghan officials are quoted as saying that a recent offensive by 40,000 Taliban cost foreign donors $1 billion.

The attempt by Saudi Arabia and Gulf oil states to achieve hegemony in the Arab and Sunni Muslim worlds has proved disastrous for almost everybody. The capture of east Aleppo by the Syrian Army and the likely fall of Mosul to the Iraqi Army means defeat for that the Sunni Arabs in a great swathe of territory stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean. Largely thanks to their Gulf benefactors, they are facing permanent subjection to hostile governments.

(Reprinted from The Independent by permission of author or representative)

Monday, January 09, 2017

If you White, Get Out of Sight :: The Absurdity of Multiculturalism

University of London students demand ‘white philosophers’ like Plato, Kant be removed from syllabus


Published time: 9 Jan, 2017 10:49

University of London students are demanding that thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire, and Immanuel Kant be banned from the philosophy syllabus... because they are white.

UK media quotes students from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) as saying that “the majority of philosophers on our courses” should be from Africa and Asia.

A statement from the students’ union added that banning white philosophers should be part of a wider campaign to “decolonize” the university and “address the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism.”

“White philosophers” should be on the syllabus only “if required,” and their work should be studied from a “critical standpoint,” the statement said, as cited by British media.

“For example, acknowledging the colonial context in which so-called ‘Enlightenment’ philosophers wrote within,” it elaborated.

Many scholars have been outraged by the demand, warning that the situation could spiral out of control.

“You can’t rule out a whole area of intellectual endeavor without having investigated it, and clearly they haven’t investigated what they mean by white philosophy,” Sir Roger Scruton told The Daily Mail.

“If they think there is a colonial context from which Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason arose, I would like to hear it,” he added.

The vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, Sir Anthony Seldon, told The Daily Mail that it looks like “a real danger” of “political correctness getting out of control.”

Opinions within the university are also divided, however. The head of SOAS’s Religions and Philosophies department, Erica Hunter, was surprised by the students’ statement, calling it “rather ridiculous.”

“I would firmly resist dropping philosophers or historians just because it was fashionable,” she added, as cited by The Telegraph.

However, Pro-Director (Learning and Teaching) Dr. Deborah Johnston sees the students’ initiative to question the syllabus as positive, explaining that “informed and critical debate and discussion about the curriculum we teach” is “a healthy and proper part of the academic enterprise.”

Sunday, January 08, 2017

“CIA intelligence reporting stating that the Russian government hacked the presidential election in order to elect Donald Trump is false. It is merely a political attack against Donald Trump with the goal of delegitimizing his presidency.


Purge the CIA by -- Antiwar.com

Justin Raimondo

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified at a hearing on “Russian interference” in the election that there’s a difference between “skepticism” of the intelligence community’s assessment and “disparagement” of said community. While stopping short of asking for a “safe space,” this admitted liar used the opportunity to cry on the shoulders of Donald Trump’s assembled enemies: “We’re not perfect,” he burbled, but hey everybody makes mistakes.

Clapper’s remarks were clearly aimed at Trump, who has tweeted his contempt for the effort by the CIA and allied agencies to conjure up a Russian conspiracy to put him in the White House. Citing Julian Assange’s statement to Sean Hannity that a teenager could’ve hacked the Podesta emails, Trump’s tweets evoked the rage of the Washington Establishment – how dare he question those who failed to prevent 9/11, told us Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction,” and failed to foresee the rise of ISIS, which they (through President Obama) characterized as “the JV team”!

The hearing quickly degenerated into a “Hate Assange” session, with McCain asking Clapper "if any credibility should attached to this individual” given WikiLeaks’ “record of leaking materials that put U.S. lives in direct danger.”

"Not in my view," Clapper replied.

Only in Washington would this exchange not be followed by howls of jeering laughter. It was Clapper, after all, who lied under oath to Sen. Ron Wyden and the Senate when asked about the extent of spying on US citizens engaged in by the National Security Agency, and later was forced to apologize for it.

And of course it is a brazen lie that anything published by WikiLeaks in its decade-long history has ever resulted in a single death – except, perhaps, the death of the US government’s credibility.
What will go down in history as the John McCain-Lindsey Graham dog and pony show featured plenty of thunder and lightning. McCain pressed Clapper to declare that Russia’s alleged actions were an “act of war,” but the DNI demurred, saying it’s not the intelligence community’s job to make such judgments.  Sen. Graham opined that he’d like to start “throwing rocks” at the Russkies, whereas President Obama has been lobbing mere “pebbles.” While the spectacle of Graham trying to go all macho had its comic aspects, as far as serious additions to the intelligence community’s case went there were none. There was rhetoric aplenty, but no new facts.

Indeed, facts were notably absent: while Clapper declared that the intelligence community “stands ever more resolutely” behind the conclusions reached in a report issued earlier this week, he gave no indication that the many holes in that report would be filled any time soon – at least in public. And so the question that has plagued the new cold warriors – where is the evidence? – goes unanswered. But then again, evidence is something that the McCain-Democrat anti-Trump alliance has absolutely no use for: they’ve already reached their conclusion, and it is this:

Trump, in their view, is an illegitimate President: he was elected by the Russians, and is for all intents and purposes a Russian agent. That is what the McCain “hearing” was all about, and the Arizona Senator will continue to harp on this, along with his Democratic allies, until the cows come home. It is unlikely, however, that he will get much of a platform outside of his own Armed Services Committee and CNN: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there will be no select committee investigation, as McCain is demanding, and that the Senate Intelligence Committee is “quite capable” of investigating what needs to be investigated.

At one point, Graham got up on his hind legs and directly addressed Trump: “What I don’t want you to do is undermine those who are serving our nation in this area until you’re absolutely certain they need to be undermined.” These underminers certainly need to be undermined, at least as far as the President-elect is concerned. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Trump is planning a major revamp of the intelligence services:

One of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s planning said advisers also are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world. The CIA declined to comment.

“’The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world has become completely politicized,’ said the individual, who is close to the Trump transition. ‘They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.’”

That the CIA, in particular, has become a thoroughly politicized cadre of desk jockeys whose intelligence-gathering abilities have seriously atrophied is borne out by the remarks of one “Ishmael Jones,” a former CIA officer writing under a pseudonym: he is the author of The Human Element: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture. Jones writes:

“CIA intelligence reporting stating that the Russian government hacked the presidential election in order to elect Donald Trump is false. It is merely a political attack against Donald Trump with the goal of delegitimizing his presidency.

“The depth and quality of the CIA reporting is too good to be true. A December 16 NBC report states, for example: ‘Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used.’ … Such a conclusion would require access to Putin’s inner circle and knowledge of Putin’s plans and intentions. Any spy that close to Putin would be one of the best intelligence sources of all time.

“If such a source existed, he doesn’t exist any more. The leaked reporting would have put him in grave danger, and he would already have been imprisoned or executed.”

What Jones has to say about the culture of the CIA – its politics – tells us why we are seeing this remarkable public spat between an incoming President and the intelligence community he will (ostensibly) command:

“The reporting instead reflects the political opinions and agendas of bureaucrats. CIA bureaucrats are a big blue voting machine with a long record of creating information harmful to Republican presidents. The danger to Mr. Trump is ratcheted up because the recent election influenced many people at the CIA to believe that Trump is the second coming of Hitler. And to stop Hitler, anything is ethical, even treason. CIA bureaucrats have chosen to attack Mr. Trump before he even takes office.”
These are the Praetorian Guards of a decadent and corrupt empire: comfortably ensconced in the swamp Trump has vowed to drain, they long ago lost touch with their alleged mission: gathering intelligence overseas. As Jones relates:

“The CIA is meant to spy upon foreign countries. The secrets we seek are located in foreign countries. Yet the bloated CIA bureaucracy exists almost entirely within the United States. CIA bureaucrats appear to find foreign service disagreeable. They enjoy their lifestyle and will fight with aggressive passivity to keep it that way. More than 90% of CIA employees spend their careers living and working entirely within the United States….

“The incoming CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, will be astonished by how many of his senior leaders have not had an overseas assignment in decades. Brief junkets and TDY’s to foreign countries do not count. CIA boss John Brennan’s 40-plus years of CIA service have occurred almost entirely within the Headquarters building….

“Today, we have more employees working in encouraging diversity, and as of recently, more transgender employees, than we do case officers operating under cover in Russia, China, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and North Korea combined.”

As usual with these hypocrites, in claiming that Russia “interfered” with the election, they are merely projecting their own sins on to Vladimir Putin. The entire agency, as presently constituted, represents a threat to the Republic. Forget “reform” of the CIA: what’s needed is a thoroughgoing top-to-bottom purge.

President Trump must not back down from his reported plans to do just that. The alternative is having to battle these parasites for the next four years as they work to undermine his agenda in alliance with the Democrats and the hawkish wing of the GOP.
Let the purges begin!

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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