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Foreign Policy Roundup – 8/3/2019

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Afghanistan

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The Trump administration was a bit two-faced this week when it came to its plans for America’s longest war. The push towards a peace deal with the Taliban continues, but we got mixed signals in terms of troop withdrawal. Trump started the week by declaring he wished to reduce American ground troops by 2020. This was countermanded by Secretary of State Pompeo, ““They got it wrong…The president has been very direct about his expectations that we will reduce our operational footprint on the ground in Afghanistan just as quickly as we can get there”.. Initial discussions between the Taliban and (negotiator) continued, resulting in a “initial draw-down” estimate of 5,000 troops. We’ll see…

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Sudan

Sudan continues to become more important in the overall geopolitical landscape of the Middle East and east Africa. With the military junta in power, even with a symbolic deal to hand power over to a civilian government in a year or two (decades more likely), regional powers are quickly putting the military rulers there to work. The UAE is using Sudan as a “transportation hub” for fighters in Yemen & Libya. Sudanese fighters are already involved in the conflict in Libya themselves. Up to 1,000 are fighting for Haftar at the moment.

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North Korea

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North Korea spent this week firing off non-threatening missiles into the Sea of Japan. Surprisingly, the US didn’t seem to mind. President Trump called them no big deal. Even John Bolton said that the missiles didn’t violate any handshake agreement between the North and the US. Weird I know. This might be sign that diplomacy is taking place on some level.

Iran

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Not much news coming from Iran this week. Another tanker taken looks to be the story heading into the new week. Trump definitely annoyed the hawks though. He declared that he would be renewing waivers to his sanctions on the Islamic Republic for all five of the P5+1 group so they can continue to work with the Iranian on their civilian nuclear program.

Syria

A conditional ceasefire with the rebels held up in Idlib is a step in the right direction here. In my video I break down the complexity of the situation in Syria and all the parties still on the chessboard.

A Bad Week for Al Qeada

An announcement came down that the son of Osama Bin Laden, Hamza bin Laden that was being groomed for leadership is dead. Sources say he may have been “killed within the last two years”. News travels slow from within a cave or basement in Pakistan. More positive developments out of Pakistan that Ayman al-Zawahiri is sick with a serious heart condition. Let’s hope the “Butcher of New York City” has a long slow road to Hell.

Content

You can find the audio version of the episode here and on ITunes, and as always the video is available:

 

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Tulsi Gabbard & The Death of Justin Raimondo

A great weekend personally had a sad shocking episode when Twitter let me know that Justin Raimondo had past away. He had been battling cancer for years now. Raimondo was a brutal force for good, hitting on all cylinders when he wrote on a topic. A great writer that I discovered during 2007. His legacy and catalog can be found on antiwar.com

The antiwar movement might have suffered a big lose, but the beginning of week was a positive one. Tulsi Gabbard used her limited time to have her own “Ron Paul moment”. She dominated the war issue at the first Democrat debate. Reasonable voters found her refreshing, she was the most Googled candidate.

She also was the poll winner on The Drudge Report, had an interview with Breibart, and called John Bolton a “chickenhawk” to the delight of conservative social media. Her ability to get American Conservative Republican voters to unite (at least support) a Democrat talking about ending wars is good to see. The reaction from the Democratic base is even more of out the ordinary. We’ll see if her message receives enough support to force the media to keep her around.

Content

You can find the audio version of the episode here and on iTunes, and as always the video is available:

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Campaign Season is Upon Us

Another presidential campaign season is in full swing. Complete with two mobs screaming at each other that the other is immoral, while the candidates they look up to keep the focus on cultural and domestic issues, putting the force of government more and more into our social fabric.

At the same time, the issue of aggressive wars and the real consequences on the people fighting them, the civilians on the ground and the overall effect on the culture that never-ending war has is completely ignored.

It’s up to the population to dictate the issues important to them, and every four years the focus is on getting their lollipops and fancy pants disgusted as epic human struggles.

America is The Capital from Hunger Games. The majority completely detached from perspective.

Let the games begin.

John McCain

In this episode I ramble about the death of John McCain and the cult-like reaction to it by the media, and most importantly the brainwashed Americans of every political persuasion.

Content

This episode can be found here. The full archive can be found on Podomatic and on ITunes. The Youtube version (now with video) can be found below:

 

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The Resistance Continues

In this episode, I discuss how General Mattis looks to be the voice of reason on having a war with Iran within the Trump administration, how the story of Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi is incredible, and finally the TSA’s shocking “Quiet Skies” program and how it violates all the rights.

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Free Speech

A quick rant about the banning of Alex Jones from most social media platforms and its affect on Free Speech/alternative journalism.

 

This episode can be found here. The full archive can be found on Podomatic and on ITunes.

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Aftermath of Missiles

When we last left, it was two weeks ago now and Mr. Trump had just ordered late night missile strikes that helps avert WWIII. Yes, the minor scope of the attack was a blessing to all oxygen-breathing lifeforms on Earth. Trump’s lack of interest in getting into nation building won the day, and the media went nuts all weekend.

Then, last Monday came. and the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) got closer and closer to Douma. Even with the West and the UN blocking them at every turn, the OPCW crew arrived and took samples. Nothing has been determined yet, but I haven’t heard a peep about Syria this whole week. Its not surprising, as a war was pushed on the American people with zero evidence and it was completely rejected. Only MSNBC could get part of their audience to sign on. And if FOX News isn’t involved in the war effort, what chance does it have?

The media moved the narrative back to porn-stars and crooked lawyers. Mr. Trump also helped shift the narrative, by having Pompeo make a trip to North Korea and drop a real bombshell on the world: North and South Korea are looking at peace. And even more, the North Koreans are discussing giving up their nuclear program.

In this episode, I talk about the aftermath of the Syria strikes, the incredible events in Korea and of course the never-ending tit-for-tat between Russia and the American Deep State.

The links below contain an amazing reporting job by Moon of Alabama on the media war on honest reporting on Syria.

Content

The episode link can be found here. The full episode archive can be found on Podomatic and on ITunes.

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Remembering Robert Parry

I became aware of Robert Parry’s work through listening to Scott Horton. Since that first interview I have been a continuous reader of his. The work he did at Consortium News from 1995 on was my introduction to his work. I’m still getting through his old stuff, finding articles written by him on old news topics I didn’t even know he wrote about. He really was a true journalist. As Seymour Hersh is quoted saying about Parry:

“He was widely seen over the next years as a critic of the mainstream media in America. That was not so. He was a critic of lousy reporting, be it in Pravda or The New York Times. He wanted every journalist, everywhere, to do the research and the interviewing that it takes to get beyond the accepted headline.”

If you’re not familiar with Robert Parry, he was one of the first to break the Iran-Contra scandal, battling the same forces as Gary Webb. He helped expose the Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare manual given by the CIA to the Contras in Nicaragua. His work breaking down the link between the cocaine trade and the CIA helped earn him the George Polk Award among others.

I personally think of Robert Parry for his refusal to let political views get in his way of the truth. Facts were all that mattered with him. Much like Glenn Greenwald, Parry saw no difference between a corrupt Republican or Democrat. If you are knee-deep in fighting the “Russiagate” bullshit, dive into Robert Parry’s archive work at Consortium News. He really was a beast.

I just wanted to say a word on his passing. His work has given me many enjoyable sleepless nights.

Below I have included some write-ups from others who have kind words for Mr. Parry:

His son also provides an amazing article on his father and the future on Consortium News.

EDIT: I’ve added a link over to Muckrock.com which has provided the CIA’s collection of Robert Parry’s work.

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The Voluntary Exchange Podcast: #ReleaseTheMemo

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I was going to put out an episode on the Turks invading Kurdish-Syria, but it was requested that I read the super secret FISA memo all the Trump people are going crazy about. So I went over the guy with the all the documents, Alex Jones, and grabbed the full 99 page report for which the Nunes’ memo was based on.

I took the report in blocks of 10 pages. You have to understand that the report is written by the FISA Court. A kangaroo court used to justify terrible violations of the Constitution. And this report is no exception.

The report lays out the systematic way the agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the NCTC uses data collected by the NSA under Section 702 of the Patriot Act. The review explains the past procedures in “targeting” and “minimization” for each of the above agencies, and amendments to these procedures which in most cases allows more loopholes and justification for violations of the 4th Amendment. Included throughout the document is the FISA Court stating that these procedures (even when they do not stop illegal activities by all agencies) are in line with the 4th Amendment.

The review takes place in late October of 2016. The government has been stalling the FISA court for months, requesting extension after extension which the Court approves. It is laid out that because of compliance issues at some of the agencies (FBI for example) and the government wanted to get it’s ducks in a row before going in front of FISA. Which to me is weird to read, since there is a very small chance of the FISA Court really condemning anything the intelligence community does. It was created to justify crimes carried out by the CIA and other agencies. Staying within the context of the document was a challenge.

The web of data collection goes like this. The NSA creates “targeting” procedures for its analysts. They must follow rules like not using a US Citizen as the target of a search. Or after a phone number is discovered to be that of an American, that number can not be used as a target.

From there each agency has it’s own “minimization” procedures. Which from the best I can understand is how they sort, classify and disseminate the information. The NSA does minimization prior to making the info available to other law information agencies. The report outlines how FISA agrees to more and more agencies having access to more “raw” data.

Terms like “upstream” collection are used to explain how the NSA tracks targets’ electronic communication has it happens. The texts and emails are pulled by the NSA as they are sent out. In real time. This type of collection is not provided directly to agencies like the FBI, CIA or the NCTC.

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) is not a law enforcement agency. However, this report shows the FISA court opening up the regulations on what the NCTC can review from the NSA collection database. The NCTC can now look through FBI collections of “evidence of a crime” material even though it is not doing law enforcement. The language used included saying the NCTC “may retain and disseminate” for it’s “crime reporting obligations”. This data contains material on US citizens and this is the part Rand Paul is so upset about.

This report contains the discussion about using information collected on US Persons without a warrant through the NSA as a legal way to build a domestic crime case. They use the example of emails containing discussed child abuse being forwarded on to a local domestic violence agency to rationalize this violation.

The breadcrumbs are there to be followed. The loopholes were in place and evidence is there that targeting of US persons like Trump & Flynn was common practice during the Obama administration. Included in the new procedures for all agencies, is the ability for “litigation hold”. This is the smoking gun for the Trump people. The ability for the NCTC, FBI or CIA to hold material it should have otherwise destructed for a longer length of time for present and future “litigation purposes”. Information collected on US citizens without a warrant, held for future prosecution. I think that’s blackmail and a violation of the 4th.

It is a dense read, and I go into more detail on the recording, but the Trump crowd playing this up is really not too smart. The report continues through early 2017, indicating the same procedures contained, now with the blessing of FISA oversight. We’ll see if any of Rand Paul’s and William Binney warnings are heard by the president.

Content

The episode can be found here and on ITunes. The full archive can be found on Podomatic.

The Voluntary Exchange Podcast: Imperial Dilemma

Korea

I like the way Justin Raimondo puts it in the title of his latest piece, “Peace breaking out”. The current state of affairs in Korea is really quite amazing. We have the totalitarian dictator from the north, and the liberal republican type from the south, drawing tensions down at a very quick pace, and the world liberal order is worried it might be losing its influence. Even going as far as talking about preemptive war if those damn Koreas keep getting along.

The mainstream line on the situation is that the north is simply buying time to test more nukes, that they don’t have their hearts in it. Who cares about the motivation? With the Olympics coming up, both governments agreed to march under an united flag. The announcement of a joint Women’s ice hockey team also peaks my interest. There have been agreements on reestablishing a hotline between the two leaders, along with talks about a family reunion program being created.

All of this is bad for the neoconservatives, John Bolton nationalists, or the Hillary Clinton liberal internationalists. The racism of low expectations must continue to be the curtain covering the imperial nature of our role in that region of the world. The South Koreas need to need the United States. The arguments from pundits on mainstream TV describe this reopening of dialog as “driving a wedge” between the South and its imperial masters. Americans don’t know that South Koreans sometime protest the presence of US troops there.

If Trump could stay somewhat true to his campaign talk about “America First”, maybe he can see the savings that could be had by using this opportunity to take a back seat for awhile. The South has asked the US to halt military drills until the Olympics are over. Trump should agree to that publicly, see what happens.

Iran

Iran has been in the cross-hairs of the United States in someway in another for almost as long as North Korea has. After the protests last week, every hawk in Washington wanted Trump to use the opportunity to push Iran. The bet was on Trump ripping up the Nuclear Deal. Turns out they were wrong. Trump will be keeping the deal, mostly on the request of European allies. In this case, Trump’s lack of “nationalism” actually helps the American people.

At the same time, the false allegations against Iran for violations of the Nuclear Deal continue. The ability of the US to push this narrative in the face of all evidence shows the disconnect between reality and the American media consumer. Iran has threatened to leave the IAEA, a move that North Korea took on its way to a true “rogue” nuclear power.

Nick Turse & Special Operations

It might be the simple way he attacks the story, but Nick Turse is one of my favorite reports. His continued coverage of AFRICOM and overall US Special Operations policy in the world never has holes. Taking his sources directly from Freedom of Information Act results, it’s the raw stuff. He has a new article out about the coming year in Special Operations.

Trump all but promised to expand the Special Operations budget when he took office. Removing restrictions on what the military can do, and allowing lower level officers to make larger decisions, we should know where this is going. Every type of “Expendables” fantasy would be funded with little oversight. The numbers in 2017 are shocking. Operations took place in a record 149 nations in 2017, 33 of those countries were in Africa. That number is also up. I’ve written about the expansion of the drone program into Africa.

The bulk of the troops are still found in the Middle East, but the percentage is down to 54%. NATO’s war games in Eastern Europe have the European number up 10% from last year. If Trump’s eyes ever turn to Ukraine, it could go either way. If McCain is in his ear, we could have real bad news. However, I personal lean the other way on this, which is way I think the topic is left out of Trump’s view.

MSNBC: What’s Yemen?

Whenever I have a chance to embarrass MSNBC I’m going to take it. FAIR has analyzed their coverage from 2017, and focused on two very special subjects; Russia & Yemen. Now for Russia they were really looking at stupid “Trump Loves Putin” drama, and boy did they find some. There was nearly no coverage of Yemen in the 2nd half of 2017, with it only being noted once the whole year. When it was mentioned, what was left out is the story. No talk of cholera, US targeting and refueling help, the blockade on aid, civilian bombings, or the arms deals Obama made with the Saudis to fund this “war”.

In compassion, Trump & Russia was mentioned 5000% more.

Huge Rise in Civilian Deaths

survey was done by “Action of Armed Violence” looking at the civilian deaths of conflicts in the Middle East during the last year. The deaths have doubled. Doubled. Air campaigns by the US & Russia have accounted for 15 thousand deaths from airstrikes, a rise of 42%. With the warfare being focused in urban areas condensed with a large population, operations in places like Mosul & Raqqa showed shocking numbers.

Russian Base in Syria Attacked with Al Qeada’s Air Force

A Russian base in Syria was attacked in the middle of the night by 13 armed drones. The attack came from the US backed rebel forces in the country, making one wonder how out of control our policy in that country has become. Are we really training terrorists in Jordan, arming them with drones, and letting them go attack Russian bases in the middle of the night? If this isn’t our policy, our policy got us here.

Content

The episode can be found here and the full archive can be found on Podomatic or Itunes. The Youtube is below.