Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bombshell Report Suggests Trump's National Security Adviser Is Dishonest and a Threat to US Policy

He also may not be very bright.

The Trump-Russia scandal has so far resided in the territory between smoke and fire. Donald Trump associates have reportedly been investigated for interactions with Russia, but the FBI has not released information on these contacts. Trump has pushed an America First policy, but he has curiously denied or downplayed the US intelligence conclusion that Vladimir Putin mounted an extensive covert campaign to subvert the 2016 election to benefit Trump and instead has cultivated an odd bromance with the Russian autocrat. A series of memos written by a former counterintelligence officer contained allegations that Russian intelligence had spent years cultivating or co-opting Trump and gathering compromising information on him and that the Trump camp had colluded with Russians, but the specifics have not been confirmed.
Yet now one piece of the Trump-Russia puzzle has been clearly depicted: Trump's national security adviser was in cahoots with Russia to undermine the US government's effort to punish Moscow for hacking the US election—and he apparently lied about it. If Trump does not fire him—and if Washington's political-media complex (including Republicans) does not go ballistic over this revelation—then the Putinization of America has taken another big step forward.
On Thursday night, after a long and wild day of Trump news (Trump attacking Sen. John McCain, Kellyanne Conway seemingly breaking the law, an appeals court ruling against Trump's Muslim travel ban, and much more), the Washington Postdropped a bomb: a thoroughly reported article with the headline "National Security Adviser Flynn Discussed Sanctions With Russian Ambassador, Despite Denials, Officials Say." It began:
National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country's ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.
Flynn's communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.
Here was Flynn working against US policy—against steps President Barack Obama had ordered in response to Putin's meddling in the US election. He was in essence telling Moscow not to fret over these sanctions and that Russia would be rewarded once Trump moved into the White House. He was explicitly aiding the enemy that had attacked US democracy.
This move was in sync with the approach taken by Trump, who has refused to criticize Russia for intervening in the election. After Trump's first call with Putin as president, the White House accounts of the call contained no indication that Trump had even raised the subject.
Moreover, the Post story—which was based on interviews with nine current or former officials at security and law enforcement agencies—suggests that Flynn is not honest and not smart.
Since the news first broke weeks ago that Flynn had talked with Kislyak in December, Flynn and the White House have denied that sanctions were discussed. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted Flynn's conversation with Kislyak was about more mundane matters, such as conveying holiday greetings and setting up a post-inauguration call between Trump and Putin. In an interview with CBS News last month, Vice President Mike Pence asserted, "They did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia." Pence noted that he had spoken to Flynn about this. If so, it would seem that Flynn lied to him.
The Post reports there is no ambiguity about Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambassador:
All of those officials said ­Flynn's references to the election-related sanctions were explicit. Two of those officials went further, saying that Flynn urged Russia not to overreact to the penalties being imposed by President Barack Obama, making clear that the two sides would be in position to review the matter after Trump was sworn in as president.
"Kislyak was left with the impression that the sanctions would be revisited at a later time," said a former official.
A third official put it more bluntly, saying that either Flynn had misled Pence or that Pence misspoke. An administration official stressed that Pence made his comments based on his conversation with Flynn. The sanctions in question have so far remained in place.
Which brings us to the not-very-smart part of this story. How do all these officials know what was really said between Flynn and the Russian? US intelligence routinely conducts surveillance aimed at Russian diplomats and monitors their communications. The Post story clearly indicates that Flynn's conversation with Kislyak was intercepted and that a transcript of it has been passed throughout the intelligence community. Flynn, of course, should have been aware that any discussion he had with the Russian ambassador was vulnerable to surveillance. After all, not too long ago he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
This is a scandal. A big scandal. Republicans and Democrats should be screaming for investigations and public hearings.
This makes Flynn's behavior dumb on two counts. First, he should not have explicitly discussed undermining US policy with Kislyak, because he ought to have realized this conversation would be picked up by US intelligence. Second, he should not have told Pence and others that sanctions had not been covered in the conversation, because he should have known there was evidence of what had actually transpired during his chat.
On Wednesday, Flynn denied to the Post that he had discussed the sanctions with Kislyak. The next day, the paper reports, "Flynn, through his spokesman, backed away from the denial. The spokesman said Flynn 'indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn't be certain that the topic never came up.'" So he has shifted from an emphatic denial to weasel words. The FBI, according to the paper, is continuing to investigate, though it's unclear if any laws were broken. The Logan Act of 1799 does prohibit US citizens from meddling in US foreign policy matters, but it has never been successfully applied.
Flynn's conversation with Kislyak, it turns out, was part of a series of contacts. And this, too, is suspicious, given Flynn's history of interactions with the Putin regime. In December 2015, he was paid by RT, the English-language propaganda arm of Moscow, to attend a gala, where he sat at a table with Putin. (Flynn has steadfastly refused to say how much he pocketed for this appearance.) The Russian ambassador told the Post that he had been communicating with Flynn since before the election, but he declined to say what they had discussed. Oddly, he would not reveal the origin of his relationship with Flynn.
Last month, Pence declared there had been no contact between the Trump campaign and Russia. "Of course not," he said. "Why would there be any contact between the campaign? This is all a distraction, and it's all part of a narrative to delegitimatize the election and to question the legitimacy of [Trump's] presidency." But when Flynn was talking to Kislyak prior to the election, he was a senior campaign aide and surrogate for Trump. Pence was peddling a falsehood. And this raises the question: Why was Trump's top national security aide talking to Russia while Moscow was attacking the US election to help Trump? What was he signaling to Moscow? What was he being told?
This is a scandal. A real scandal. A big scandal. Republicans and Democrats should be screaming for investigations and public hearings. (Yesterday, House Democrats did resort to a little-used legislative tool to force a debate on both Trump's conflicts of interest and the possible ties between his inner circle and Russia.) And Flynn should be booted. The evidence is strong that he lied and that he cozied up to Moscow while it was assaulting American democracy. Worse, for a supposed national security maven, he acted in a stupid manner and practiced awful tradecraft. Placing the nation's security in his hands of a dishonest and reckless fellow is risky business.
The Trump-Russia story has faded in recent days, amid other Trump chaos. But if this Flynn news does not cause a firestorm—and threaten Flynn's position—then something is very rotten in the nation's capital.
UPDATE: On Friday morning, the Trump administration confirmed that Flynn did speak to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions. And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee, called for Flynn's dismissal with this statement: "The allegation that General Flynn, while President Obama was still in office, secretly discussed with Russia’s ambassador ways to undermine the sanctions levied against Russia for its interference in the Presidential election on Donald Trump's behalf, raises serious questions of legality and fitness for office. If he did so, and then he and other Administration officials misled the American people, his conduct would be all the more pernicious, and he should no longer serve in this Administration or any other."

Trump’s Refugee Ban – Made in Israel?

Go to Original
By Allison Weir

President Trump has issued an executive order suspending entry to the U.S for people from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Yemen (the order is called “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”). These same countries were the focus of the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” under President Obama.
While reports on Trump’s ban emphasize that these are Muslim majority countries, analysts seem to have ignored another significant characteristic that these countries share.
With just a single exception, all of these countries were targeted for attack by certain top U.S. officials in 2001. In fact, that policy had roots that went back to 1996, 1991, 1980, and even the 1950s. Below, we will trace this policy back in time and examine its goals and proponents.
The fact is that Trump’s action continues policies influenced by people working on behalf of a foreign country, whose goal has been to destabilize and reshape an entire region. This kind of aggressive interventionism focused on “regime change” launches cascading effects that include escalating violence.
Already we’ve seen devastating wars, massive refugee movement that is uprooting entire peoples and reshaping parts of Europe, desperate and horrific terrorism, and now the horror that is ISIS. If this decades-long effort is not halted, it will be increasingly devastating for the region, our country, and the entire world.
2001 Policy Coup
Four-star general Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander, has described what he called a 2001 “policy coup” by a small group of people intent on destabilizing and taking over the Middle East, targeting six of the seven countries mentioned by Obama and Trump.
Clark gave the details in 2007 in an interview broadcast by Democracy Now and in a lecture at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.

Clark described a chance meeting in the Pentagon in 2001 ten days after 911 in which he learned about the plan to take down these countries.
After meeting with then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Clark went downstairs to say hello to people on the Joint Staff who had worked for him in the past. One of the generals called him in.
‘Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” He told Clark, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.”
Clark was shocked. He said, “We’re going to war against Iraq? Why?” The officer said he didn’t know. Clark asked if they had found information connecting Saddam to Al-Qaeda. The man said, “No, no, there’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.”
A few weeks later, Clark went back to the Pentagon and spoke to the general again. He asked whether the U.S. was still planning to go to war against Iraq.
The general replied: “Oh, it’s worse than that.” Clark says that the general picked up a piece of paper and said, “I just got this down from upstairs today. This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”
Clark asked, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.”
Clark said he was stunned: “I couldn’t believe it would really be true. But that’s actually what happened. These people took control of the policy of the United States.”
Clark says he then remembered a 1991 meeting he had with Paul Wolfowitz. In 2001 Wolfowitz was Deputy Secretary of Defense, and in 1991 he was Under Secretary of Defense of Policy, the number three position at the Pentagon.
Wolfowitz is a pro-Israel neoconservative who an associate has called “over the top when it comes to Israel.”
Clark describes going to Wolfowitz’s office in March of 1991. Clark said to Wolfowitz, “You must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.” Clark says Wolfowitz replied, “Not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t.”

Wolfowitz declared the U.S. had an opportunity to clean up “Syria, Iran, Iraq, before the next super power came on to challenge us.”
Clark says he was shocked at Wolfowitz’s proposal that the military should initiate wars and change governments, and that Wolfowitz believed that the U.S. should invade countries whose governments it disliked. “My mind was spinning.”
Clark says Scooter Libby was at that meeting. Libby is another pro-Israel neoconservative. In 2001 He was Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, and worked closely with the Office of Special Plans, which manufactured anti-Iraq talking points.
“This country was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup,” Clark said in his 2007 lecture. “Wolfowitz, Rumsfield, Cheney, and you could name a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for a New American Century. They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control.”
(The Project for a New American Century was a think tank that operated from 1997-2006, and was replaced by the Foreign Policy Initiative.)
Clark continued: “Did they ever tell you this? Was there a national dialogue on this? Did Senators and Congressmen stand up and denounce this plan? Was there a full-fledged American debate on it? Absolutely not. And there still isn’t.”
Clark noted that Iran and Syria know about the plan. “All you have to do is read the Weekly Standard and listen to Bill Kristol, and he blabbermouths it all over the world – Richard Perle is the same way. They could hardly wait to finish Iraq so they could move into Syria.”
Clark says that Americans did not vote George Bush into office to do this. Bush, Clark pointed out, had campaigned on “a humble foreign policy, no ‘peace keeping,’ no ‘nation building.’”
Others have described this group, their responsibility for pushing the invasion of Iraq, and their pro-Israel motivation.
Neoconservatives, Israel, and Iraq
A 2003 article in Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s main newspapers, reported bluntly: “The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history.” (Ha’aretz often highlights the Jewish affiliation of important players due to its role as a top newspaper of the self-declared “Jewish State.”)
It gave what it termed “a partial list” of these neoconservatives: U.S. government officials Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Eliot Abrams, and journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. The article described them as “mutual friends who cultivate one another.”
The article included an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who was quoted as saying:
“It’s the war the neoconservatives wanted. It’s the war the neoconservatives marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11 came, and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. So this is not a war that the masses demanded. This is a war of an elite.”
The article continued:
“Friedman laughs: ‘I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.’”
Another Ha’aretz article described how some of these individuals, high American officials, gave Israeli leaders tips on how to manage American actions and influence US Congressmen, concluding: “Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests.”
Ha’aretz reported that the goal was far more than just an invasion of Iraq: “at a deeper level it is a greater war, for the shaping of a new Middle East.” The article said that the war “was being fought to consolidate a new world order.”
“The Iraq war is really the beginning of a gigantic historical experiment…”
We’re now seeing the tragic and violent result of that regime-change experiment.
American author, peace activist, and former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison discussed the neoconservatives who promoted war against Iraq in a 2002 article. She wrote: “Although much has been written about the neo-cons who dot the Bush administration, their ties to Israel have generally been treated very gingerly.”
The Bush administration, she wrote, was “peppered with people who have long records of activism on behalf of Israel in the United States, of policy advocacy in Israel, and of promoting an agenda for Israel often at odds with existing U.S. policy.”
“These people,” she wrote, “who can fairly be called Israeli loyalists, are now at all levels of government, from desk officers at the Defense Department to the deputy secretary level at both State and Defense, as well as on the National Security Council staff and in the vice president’s office.”
Author Stephen Green wrote a meticulously researched 2004 expose describing how some of these individuals, including Perle and Wolfowitz, had been investigated through the years by U.S. intelligence agencies for security “lapses” benefiting Israel.
Yet, despite a pattern of highly questionable actions suggestive of treason, they continued to procure top security clearances for themselves and cronies. The neocon agenda also became influential in Britain.
(During the recent U.S. presidential election, neoconservatives were extremely hostile to Trump, and have been perturbed to have less influence in his administration they they expected to have with Hillary Clinton. They may be relieved to see him targeting their pet punching bags in the Middle East. It’s unclear whether neoconservatives will remain outside the White House’s inner circle for long: neocon Michael Ledeen is quite close to Trump’s recently named White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And there is talk that Trump may appoint Elliott Abrams as Deputy Secretary of State.)
1996 plan against Iraq and Syria
The neocon regime-change strategy had been laid out in a 1996 document called “Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” It was written for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a study group led by Richard Perle. Although Perle and the other authors were American citizens, the “realm” in question was Israel.
Perle was chairman of the United States Defense Policy Board at that time. He had previously been U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.
The report stated that in the past, Israel’s strategy was to get the U.S. to use its money and weaponry to “lure Arabs” to negotiate. This strategy, the plan stated, “required funneling American money to repressive and aggressive regimes.”
The report recommended, however, that Israel go beyond a strategy just focused on Israel-Palestine, and address the larger region – that it “shape its strategic environment.”
It called for “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria” and “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” The paper also listed Iran and Lebanon as countries to be dealt with (and Turkey and Jordan as nations to be used in the strategy).
The plan stressed that it was necessary to obtain U.S. support for the strategy, and advised that Israel use “language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war … .”
Perle, Douglas Feith (who would be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense by 2001) and the other signatories of the report framed their proposal as a new concept, but the idea for Israel to reshape the political landscape of the Middle East had been discussed for years. (Lest we be unclear, “reshape the political landscape” means to change governments, something that has never been accomplished without massive loss of life and far-reaching repercussions.)
In 1992 Israeli leaders were already working to indoctrinate the public about an alleged need to attack Iran. Israeli analyst Israel Shahak wrote in his book Open Secrets that the goal would be “to bring about Iran’s total military and political defeat.”
Shahak reported: “In one version, Israel would attack Iran alone, in another it would ‘persuade’ the West to do the job. The indoctrination campaign to this effect is gaining in intensity. It is accompanied by what could be called semi-official horror scenarios purporting to detail what Iran could do to Israel, the West and the entire world when it acquires nuclear weapons as it is expected to a few years hence.”
1982 & 1950s Israeli plans to fragment the Middle East
A document called “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” proposed by Israeli analyst Oded Yinon, was published by the World Zionist Organization in 1982.
The document, translated by Israel Shahak, called for the dissolution of existing Arab states into smaller states which would, in effect, become Israel’s satellites.
In an analysis of the plan, Shahak pointed out: “[W]hile lip service is paid to the idea of the ‘defense of the West’ from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an Imperial Israel into a world power.”
Shahak noted that Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon planned “to deceive the Americans after he has deceived all the rest.”
Shahak wrote that reshaping the Middle East on behalf of Israel had been discussed since the 1950s: “This is not a new idea, nor does it surface for the first time in Zionist strategic thinking. Indeed, fragmenting all Arab states into smaller units has been a recurrent theme.”
As Shahak pointed out, this strategy was documented in a book called Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (1980), by Livia Rokach. Drawing on the memoirs of the second Prime Minister of Israel, Rokach’s book described, among other things, a 1954 proposal to execute regime change in Lebanon.
The result
Returning to the present, let’s examine the situation in the “countries of concern” named by President Trump last week, by President Obama in 2015, and targeted by Wolfowitz et al in 2001.
Several years ago, journalist Glenn Greenwald commented on General Clark’s statement about the 2001 policy coup: “If you go down that list of seven countries that he said the neocons had planned to basically change the governments of, you pretty much see that vision… being fulfilled.”
Greenwald noted that the governments of Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon had been changed; the U.S. had escalated its proxy fighting and drone attacks in Somalia; U.S. troops were deployed in Sudan; “and the most important countries on that list, Iran and Syria, are clearly the target of all sorts of covert regime change efforts on the part of the United States and Israel.”
Below are sketches of what’s happened:
Iraq was invaded and the country destroyed. According to a 2015 NGO report, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had led to the deaths of approximately 1 million Iraqis – 5 percent of the total population of the country – by 2011. More than three million Iraqis are internally displaced, and the carnage continues. The destruction of Iraq and impoverishment of its people is at the root of much of today’s extremism and it’s been demonstrated that it led to the rise of ISIS, as admitted by former British Prime Minister and Iraq war co-perpetrator Tony Blair.
Libya was invaded in 2011 and its leader violently overthrown; in the post-Gaddafi power vacuum, a 2011 UN report revealed torture, lynchings and abuse. Five years on, the country was still torn by civil war and ISIS is reportedly expanding into the chaos. A 2016 Human Rights Watch report stated: “Libya’s political and security crisis deepened … the country edged towards a humanitarian crisis, with almost 400,000 people internally displaced.” Warring forces “continued with impunity to arbitrarily detain, torture, unlawfully kill, indiscriminately attack, abduct and disappear, and forcefully displace people from their homes. The domestic criminal justice system collapsed in most parts of the country, exacerbating the human rights crisis.” [Photos here]
Sudan: The U.S. engaged in so-called “nation-building” in Sudan, advanced the claim in 2005 that the government was perpetrating a genocide, and some U.S. players ultimately organized the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011. (Neocon Israel partisan Elliott Abrams was one of these players.) One journalist reported the result: “[A]n abyss of unspeakable misery and bloodshed … . Tens of thousands have been killed, 1.5 million have been displaced, and 5 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.”
Somalia: There have been a number of U.S. interventions in Somalia, most recently a clandestine war under Obama using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies; Somali extremists, like others, repeatedly cite Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, enabled by the U.S., as motivators of their violent extremism.
Iran: Iran has long been targeted by Israel, and Israel partisans have driven the anti-Iran campaign in the U.S. Most recently there has been a public relations effort claiming that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies and other experts do not support these accusations. Israel and the U.S. deployed a computer virus against Iran in what has been called the world’s first digital weapon.  Young Iranian nuclear physicists have been assassinated by U.S. ally Israel, and the U.S. instituted a blockade against Iran that caused food insecurity and masssuffering among the country’s civilians. (Such a blockade can be seen as an act of war.) Democratic Congressman and Israel partisan Brad Shermanadmitted the objective of the Iran sanctions: “Critics of sanctions argue that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”
Yemen: The US has launched drone strikes against Yemen for years, killing numerous Yemeni civilians and even some Americans. In 2010, a few weeks after Obama won the Nobel Peace Prizehe had the military use cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. The Obama administration killed a 16-year-old American in 2011, and a few days ago U.S. forces under Trump killed the boy’s sister. In 2014 American forces attacked a wedding procession, and in 2015 the Obama administration admitted it was making war on Yemen. Today over two million Yemeni children suffer from malnutrition. The Yemeni regime that we’re attacking became politically active in 2003 as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Syria: In an email revealed by Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton wrote that the “best way to help Israel” was to overthrow the Syrian regime.
Syria seems to be a poster child for the destruction recommended by Israeli strategists. As the UK Guardian reported in 2002: “Disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.”
Half the Syrian population is displaced – 5 million have fled the country and another 6 million are internally displaced – and over 300,000 are dead from the violence. Major cities and ancient sites are in ruins and the countryside devastated. Amnesty International calls it “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.”
While the uprising against a ruthless dictator was no doubt begun by authentic Syrian rebels, others with questionable agendas flowed in, some supported by the U.S. and Israel. Israel’s military intelligence chief said Israel does not want ISIS defeated. Israel’s defense minister has admittedthat Israel has provided aid to ISIS fighters.
A major factor in Syria’s chaos and the rise of ISIS was the destruction of Iraq, as revealed by in-depth interviews with ISIS fighters by researchers for Artis International, a consortium for scientific study in the service of conflict resolution:
“Many assume that these fighters are motivated by a belief in the Islamic State… but this just doesn’t hold for the prisoners we are interviewing. They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the caliphate.”
“More pertinent than Islamic theology is that there are other, much more convincing, explanations as to why they’ve fought for the side they did.”
One interviewee said: “The Americans came. They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”
The report noted that the fighters “came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003.”
“They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe.”
The leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was imprisoned for eight months in the infamous Abu Ghraib, a U.S.-run Iraqi prison known for grotesque torture of prisoners. Photos published at that time show U.S. soldiers smiling next to piles of naked prisoners and a hooded detainee standing on a narrow box with electrical wires attached to his outstretched hands.
An Abu Ghraib interrogator later revealed that Israelis trained them in the use of techniques used against Palestinians. General Janis Karpinski (in charge of the unit that ran the prison) and others say that Israelis were involved in interrogations. It was reported that the head of the defense contracting firm implicated in the torture at Abu Ghraib prison had close ties to Israel and had visited an Israeli training camp in the West Bank.
Another major factor in the rise of anti-Western extremism is the largely unconditional support for Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians. As aUN report documented, “The scale of human loss and destruction in Gaza during the 2014 conflict was catastrophic and has … shocked and shamed the world.”
Professor John Mearsheimer of and Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard have written that U.S. policies promoted by the Israel lobby have given “extremists a powerful recruiting tool, increases the pool of potential terrorists and sympathizers, and contributes to Islamic radicalism around the world.” Osama Bin Laden cited U.S. support for Israeli crimes against Palestinians among his reasons for fighting the U.S. The U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day.
Reaction to the Trump executive order
Thousands of people across the U.S. have opposed Trump’s order for the extreme hardship it imposes on multitudes of refugees. The focus on Muslims (Trump has said that Christians might be exempted) has caused outrage at such religious discrimination and unfair profiling (the large majority of Muslims strongly oppose extremism).
Individuals across the political spectrum from Code Pink to the Koch brothers have decried the order. The Kochs issued a strong statement against it:
“We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families. The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive. Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies.”
New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who supported the Iraq War and suggests God sent him to guard Israel, choked back tears at a press conference and called the order “mean-spirited and un-American.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), known for its fervent pro-Israel advocacy (and history of smearing criticism of Israeli policy as “anti-Semitism”), has vowed a “relentless fight” against the ban.
Some are concerned that Trump’s action will stoke terrorism, rather than defend against it. Many others support the order in the belief it makes them safer from extremist violence. (As mentioned above, the Obama administration undertook a similar, though milder, action for a similar reason.)
I suggest that everyone – both those who deplore the order for humanitarian reasons, and those who defend it out of concern for Americans’ safety – examine the historic context outlined above and the U.S. policies that led to this order.
For decades, Democratic and Republican administrations have enacted largely parallel policies regarding the Middle East and Israel-Palestine. We are seeing the results, and most of us are deeply displeased.
I would submit that both for humanitarian obligations and for security necessities, it is urgent that we find a different way forward.

Trump's desperate search for a 'Reichstag Fire'

Go to Original
By Hamid Dabashi

Donald Trump and his top Islamophobe nomenklatura gathered at the White House, now led by the militant crusader Stephen Bannon, are on a desperate lookout for their "Reichstag Fire" and their favourite propaganda outlet, Fox News, is franticly searching for it - even in Canada.
"Reichstag Fire" was an arson attack on the Reichstag, the German parliament, in Berlin on February 27, 1933. The incident was soon abused by Adolf Hitler and his gang to demand a suspension of civil liberties in systematic preparation for his putsch for total fascist power.
Ever since, the term "Reichstag Fire" is used metaphorically to mark a dreadful event abused by any proto-fascist movement to blame an amorphous internal enemy, to be coupled with an external enemy, and rapidly from there rapidly move towards a total control of the state apparatus by criminalising and crushing public dissent.
Given the fact of Trump's serious unpopularity with a significant portion of American society, this "Reichstag Fire" incident is increasingly a dangerous possibility.
From the historic Women's March in Washington to widespread airport rallies against his Muslim ban, Trump and his handlers know only too well his loss of the presidential popular vote by about three million nationwide is now growing into widespread public discontent, state-level gubernatorial opposition, and systematic resistance by the judiciary branch.

Fake news and Fox News

Soon after the executive order late in January banning Muslims from seven countries for 90 days to enter the United States, the Trump administration was given what it thought was its "Reichstag Fire" moment to justify its draconian measures and push for even more.
The incident presented itself when reports emerged that a gunman had attacked a Muslim centre in Quebec, Canada. Fox News, Trump's most trusted source of fake news, instantly came forward and reported the perpetrator was a Moroccan Muslim.
This, however, like most other things on Fox News, was a case of bogus reporting. The suspect of the mass murder in Quebec was, in fact, a violent "white nationalist" named Alexandre Bissonnette, who is a notorious character known to the local authorities for his racist Islamophobic views. Not only was the perpetrator of this crime no Muslim, but, in fact, Muslims were his direct targets.
None of this, however, prevented Fox News from jumping to the conclusion that the act of terror was perpetrated by a Moroccan Muslim and, on the basis of this false news, the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer instantly jumped the gun, declaring it a vindication of Trump's Muslim ban.
Demonisation and official persecution of Muslims, just as Jews were in Nazi Germany, will progress apace until he manufactures his 'Reichstag Fire'. 
But the proverbial cake in this desperate search for a "Reichstag Fire" goes to the notorious Kellyanne Conway, Trump's top chatterbox consigliere, who, in an interview soon after the Muslim ban, referred to two Iraqi refugees as "masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre" with baldfaced charlatanism.
There is no such thing as a "Bowling Green massacre." She just made it up - and the dimwitted interviewer just stared at her and did not object to this fiction. Yes, two Iraqis were arrested in that city for allegedly having ties to an explosive device used against US troops in Iraq.
But there was no "Bowling Green massacre", except in the viciously demented mind of Conway, the flowering achievement of American charlatanism.

State of emergency

Trump and his handlers are desperate to find a Muslim "Reichstag Fire" and they will use the incident to further demonise Islam in the US and push for a Muslim registry or even worse.
The illegal and unconstitutional Muslim ban is only the first salvo. Trump has a longer spectrum in mind. Demonisation and official persecution of Muslims, just as Jews were in Nazi Germany, will progress apace until he manufactures his "Reichstag Fire".
In addition to a domestic threat, Trump and his gang will need a foreign war to safeguard his presidency for this and the next terms. He never stopped campaigning after his win. He knows for a fact he is a vastly unpopular president. His entire first term will be spent campaigning for the second.
"Donald Trump needs a war," Bradley Burston correctly diagnoses and further adds, "But not just any war. He needs just the right global non-Christian, all-powerful, all-frightening, non-white, non-negotiable enemy. He needs a Holy War."
The only "Holy War" Trump can wage is of course against Muslims.
Standing next to him is one Steve Bannon, an obsessed crusader you have to go back all the way to characters such as Raynald of Chatillon or Guy of Lusignan of the Crusaders period to find the likes of him: vicious, malignant, hatred of Muslims and Jews definitive to who and what he is.
Bannon has a malignantly illiterate conception of a perpetual war between Islam and Christianity that he has picked up off some lunatic website like his own Breitbart, fully on display in a vile speech he gave via Skype to a gang of like-minded militant Christians in 2014.
At one crucial point in this speech he says: "I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam," and if you thought he means "radical Islam" and not "Islam", he immediately corrects you by adding: "If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam, I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places … It bequeathed to us the great institution that is the church of the West."
From Samuel Huntington to New Atheists to Benjamin Netanyahu to Bannon's Christian zealotry have been pointing to an all-out war with one final standing Muslim country not entirely subservient to the US Christian militarism: Iran.
Trump's National Security Adviser - and Bannon's fellow militant Islamophobe - Michael Flynn just came out putting Iran on notice.
Consistently raising public awareness and mobilising civil disobedience against Trump's policies have now become the hallmarks of a whole new generation of anti-war civil rights movement in the US.

The World According to Bannon

Steve Bannon’s vision of civilizational crisis and violent renewal has deep roots in the American political tradition.

Go to Original
By Alexander Livingston

The chaos unleashed by President Trump’s executive order selectively barring Muslim entry into the United States has stoked an urgent debate about the man behind it, Stephen K. Bannon. Bannon, we now know, had a direct hand in both drafting the travel ban and directing the Department of Homeland Security to bar lawful residents and green card holders from entering the country.
Some commentators see the indifference to legal procedure and mass protest as evidence of Bannon’s gross incompetence; others divine incipient signs of a full-scale coup. Often overlooked, however, is the broader vision of politics informing Bannon’s new experiment with state power.
Behind the chaos he’s let loose stands a prophetic theory of civilizational crisis and violent renewal — one with deep roots in the American political tradition.

Bannon’s Vision

Bannon’s political vision finds its clearest expression in his 2010 documentary, Generation Zero. The film presents the financial meltdown and bailout as the product of a corrupt and incompetent political class beholden to global financial elites. “The party of Davos,” Bannon argues, ruthlessly plundered the wealth of the nation’s working men and women. But the documentary, of course, is no leftist polemic.

Underpinning Generation Zero’s melodramatic, right-populist discourse — which suffused President Trump’s “carnage”-filled inaugural address — is a strange theory of historical change proposed by Neil Howe and William Strauss.
Writing in the 1990s, Howe and Strauss asserted that American history could be understood as an orderly system of generational change. Every four generations constitutes a “saeculum” that passes through four predictable stages of development, each lasting approximately twenty years.
A saeculum begins in the wake of a great crisis. Conformity and self-denial reign, and energy is channeled into building and protecting stable institutions. This first generation, or “turning,” eventually gives way to a subsequent generation where the social order begins to erode. Stultifying conformity is thrown off in pursuit of spiritual discovery and individual freedom.
The second turning leads to a third, where corroding skepticism unravels stable institutions and social trust breaks down. Society atomizes and identities fracture, while speculation and elite power break free of traditional constraints. This cycle of unraveling is followed by a cataclysmic “fourth turning” into the new saeculum. The complete collapse of social institutions plunges society into chaos, and individuals are forced to embrace a common purpose in order to rebuild society. As Howe explains in Bannon’s Generation Zero, fourth turnings are tragic but necessary stages in the consolidation of national unity.
Howe and Strauss identified three great cycles of climactic crisis in American history: the revolutionary war, the Civil War, and the Second World War. In each case the nation faced existential annihilation from internal division or external dangers. And in each case, the nation emerged stronger than before because of citizens’ heroism and sacrifice.
Generation Zero positions the 2008 financial crisis as the nation’s latest fourth turning, the byproduct and successor to the counter-culture of the 1960s and ’70s.
As Bannon tells it, the socialism and black power politics of the 1960s laid siege to both the institutional stability of the 1950s and the cultural values that had traditionally sustained American free enterprise, unleashing a torrent of greed that ultimately sparked the financial crisis. Generation Zero traces the convergence of these lines of crisis back to the Clinton presidency, when crony capitalism and welfare socialism ostensibly conspired to gut the American economy and abandon “the forgotten men.”
Bannon sees the current cycle of crisis as the most perilous yet, for the United States lacks the “Judeo-Christian values” that sustained American exceptionalism in prior eras of crisis. Will the United States and its tradition of liberty and free enterprise endure the coming convulsion? Or will this “turning” be the end of American civilization as we know it? Does the zero that numbers this generation denote being first or last? All Trump’s chief adviser knows is that the Right must gird itself for a twenty-year battle to see the fourth cycle through.
Bannon’s cyclical theory of crisis sheds additional light on his heavily circulated 2014 speech at the Human Dignity Institute. Speaking before a Catholic audience at the Vatican via Skype, Bannon presented his theory of national crises in global terms.
At one time, Bannon argued, an “enlightened form of capitalism” prevailed, alongside peace and prosperity. But secularization destroyed the Judeo-Christian values that animated this order and detached the profit motive from its moral foundations.
The result? The current era of “corporate” or “state-controlled” capitalism, which funnels national wealth into the pockets of a global Davos elite and “looks to make people commodities,” further hollowing out civilizational values. The “crony capitalism” fueling the populist rage across the advanced capitalist world is a symptom of the decline of the “Judeo-Christian values” that once kept the free market in check.
For Bannon, these economic and spiritual crises are compounded by yet a third: the rise of “jihadist Islamic fascism.” Western civilization, he insists, is fracturing from within and being terrorized by “barbarians” from without.
Echoing his prophecy in Generation Zero of a fourth turning, he warned the assembled right-wing Catholics: “we’re at the very beginning stages of a global conflict, and if we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries . . . this conflict is only going to metastasize.”

Bannon’s Predecessors

Bannon’s vision of a coming clash of civilizations is a terrifying one, particularly since he now sits on the National Security Council. But however nightmarish and bizarre, his speculative theory of civilizational decline and crisis has plenty of precedents in American political thinking.
In particular, it would have struck a chord with American intellectuals and politicians at the close of the nineteenth century.
As the historian T. J. Jackson Lears argues in his classic study of Gilded Age America, turn-of-the-century elite discourse was marked by a reactionary antimodernism that lamented civilizational decline and looked to violence and danger as experiential wellsprings of renewal.
Historian Brooks Adams, for example, predicted that the coming century would see the exhaustion of American civilization. In his 1896 book The Laws of Civilization and Decay, Adams offered a theory of history as the dissipation of energy, whereby the very forces that drive civilizational development ultimately leave it spiritually enervated and ripe for collapse and revitalization through a period of social breakdown. Adams thought that the expenditure of power required to industrialize the economy and centralize the state had rendered America “inert until supplied with fresh energetic material by the infusion of barbarian blood.”
In 1885, Josiah Strong infused national decline with millennial significance in his hugely popular Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis. Prophesying the imminent “final competition of the races” for global supremacy, the Social Gospel leader advocated global imperial expansion as the sole way to save the Anglo-Saxon race in America. Unfortunately, Strong lamented, the forces of secularization, immigration, and Mammonism had weakened the national character and left the Anglo-Saxon unfit to confront this urgent challenge. Our Country was a jeremiad calling the nation back to its Christian values, which could combat the forces of domestic corruption and “rise to a higher level of sacrifice” demanded by the coming race apocalypse.
But no figure better captured the republican melancholia of Gilded Age political thought — handwringing about civic virtue lost, criticism of corrupting greed, fear of immigration and “race contamination,” fantasies of global empire, romanticization of sacrificial renewal — than the promulgator of Big Stick diplomacy, Theodore Roosevelt.
In Roosevelt’s eyes, the United States was a global representative of Anglo-Saxon civilization. But it was threatened from abroad (by competing imperial powers and cultural contamination) and decaying from within (thanks to commercialism, immigration, “race mixing,” and humanitarian sentimentalism).
Warfare was the answer. He promoted military conflict as a training ground for American men who lacked the courage and public spirit that citizenship demanded. As he told an audience at Chicago’s Hamilton Club in the spring of 1899:
When men fear work or fear righteous war, when women fear motherhood, they tremble on the brink of doom; and when it is that they should vanish from the earth, where they are fit subjects for the scorn of all men and women who are themselves and strong and brave and high-minded.
To Roosevelt, the fate of the Anglo-Saxon civilization depended on whether “the strenuous life” of the American soldier — who was fighting to expand the nation’s “empire of liberty” across the Western Hemisphere — would be embraced.

Bannon’s War

What can we glean about Bannon’s political vision from examining his intellectual antecedents and his alleged “obsession” with Strauss and Howe?
For one, it shows that Bannon’s apocalyptic vision is indebted to what Richard Slotkin diagnosed as the American mythology of regeneration through violence: a celebration of violence as an expiating ritual that can renew both the individual and the nation.
Bannon and Breitbart News’s fixation on gore, violence, and sacrifice is well-documented. His co-writer on a hip-hop adaptation of Coriolanus set in the 1992 Los Angeles riots told the New York Times that Bannon “was drawn to Shakespeare’s Roman plays because of their heroic military violence.”
Bannon’s fascination with violence is not merely provocation. Like Roosevelt, he sees in war a transformative experience of moral regeneration that serves as a bulwark against civilizational decline. One “of the biggest open questions in this country,” Bannon declared on Breitbart Radio this past summer, is whether the United States is willing to embrace the strenuous life. “Is that grit still there, that tenacity, that we’ve seen on the battlefields . . . fighting for something greater than themselves?”
Plumbing the past also demonstrates that we have to take seriously Bannon’s insistence that the US’s corruption and decadence will be expunged through apocalyptic war. David Kaiser, who appears in Generation Zeroreports Bannon’s “alarming” fascination with the implications of great wars in Strauss and Howe’s theory. “He expected a new and even bigger war as part of the current crisis,” Kaiser said, “and he did not seem at all fazed by the prospect.”
The cycle of crisis needs military conflict — it is only the threat of total annihilation that can summon a nation back to a common purpose and inspire mutual sacrifice to confront its collective danger.
For Bannon, this war has already begun. As he explained in his Vatican lecture:
[T]here is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global. It’s going global in scale, and today’s technology, today’s media, today’s access to weapons of mass destruction, it’s going to lead to a global conflict that I believe has to be confronted today.
The war in Bannon’s mind is the war radical Islam is waging on the “West.” It involves the calling of the “church militant” to “fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”
Understood in prophetic terms, the gruesome detail with which Bannon recounts ISIS atrocities on Breitbart Radio and his warnings of a Muslim “fifth column” inside the US are not simply calls to prepare for the coming war. They’re incitations meant to accelerate the coming catastrophe, which will purge the nation and bring about the coming saeculum of order and stability.
Total war is both the challenge facing American civilization and its salvation. As Bannon announced on Breitbart Radio in 2015, “It’s war. It’s war. Every day, we put up: America at war, America’s at war. We’re at war. Note to self, beloved commander in chief: we’re at war.”
Indeed we are. With Steve Bannon.