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Do you think his assessment is accurate?

Paul Craig Roberts has been uniquely visionary in his search for reality in a “post-factual” age.

The Saker

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This article was written for the Unz Review

“Do you think his assessment is accurate?” was the subject line of an email I got from a good friend recently.  The email referred to the article by Paul Craig Roberts “One Day Tomorrow Won’t Arrive” which claimed that “the US military is now second class compared to the Russian military“.  The article then went on to list a number of Russian weapons systems which were clearly superior to their US counterparts (when those even existed).  My reply was short “Basically yes. The USA definitely has the quantitative advantage, but in terms of quality and training, Russia is way ahead. It all depends on on specific scenarios, but yes, PCR is basically spot on“.  This email exchange took place after an interesting meeting I had with a very well informed American friend who, in total contrast to PCR, insisted that the USA had total military supremacy over any other country and that the only thing keeping the USA from using this overwhelming military might was that US leaders did not believe in the “brutal, unconstrained, use of force”.  So what is going on here?  Why do otherwise very well informed people have such totally contradictory views?

First, a disclaimer.  To speak with any authority on this topic I would have to have access to a lot of classified data both on the US armed forces and on the Russian ones.  Alas, I don’t.  So what follows is entirely based on open/public sources, conversations with some personal contacts mixed in with some, shall we say, educated guesswork.  Still, I am confident that what follows is factually correct and logically analyzed.

To sum up the current state of affairs I would say that the fact that the US armed forces are in a grave state of decay is not as amazing by itself as is the fact that this almost impossible to hide fact is almost universally ignored.  So let’s separate the two into “what happened” and “why nobody seems to be aware of it”.

What happened

Let’s begin at the beginning: the US armed forces were never the invincible military force the US propaganda (including Hollywood) would have you believe they have been.  I looked into the topic of the role of the western Allies in my “Letter to my American friend” and I won’t repeat it all here.  Let’s just say that the biggest advantage the USA had over everybody else during WWII is a completely untouched industrial base which made it possible to produce fantastic numbers of weapon systems and equipment in close to ideal conditions.  Some, shall we kindly say, “patriotic” US Americans have interpreted that as a sign of the “vigor” and “superiority” of the Capitalist economic organization while, in reality, this simply was a direct result of the fact that the USA was protected by two huge oceans (the Soviets, in contrast, had to move their entire industrial base to the Urals and beyond, as for the Germans, they had to produce under a relentless bombing campaign).  The bottom line was this: US forces were better equipped (quantitatively and, sometimes, even qualitatively) than the others and they could muster firepower in amounts difficult to achieve for their enemies.  And, yes, this did give a strong advantage to US forces, but hardly made them in any way “better” by themselves.

After WWII the USA was the only major industrialized country on the planet whose industry had not been blown to smithereens and for the next couple of decades the USA enjoyed a situation to quasi total monopoly.  That, again, hugely benefited the US armed forces but it soon became clear that in Korea and Vietnam that advantage, while real, did not necessarily result in any US victory.  Following Vietnam, US politicians basically limited their aggression to much smaller countries who had no chance at all to meaningfully resist, nevermind prevail.  If we look at the list of US military aggressions after Vietnam (see here or here) we can clearly see that the US military specialized in attacking defenseless countries.

Then came the collapse of the Soviet Union, the first Gulf War and the Global War on Terror when US politicians clearly believed in their own propaganda about being the “sole superpower” or a “hyperpower” and they engaged in potentially much more complex military attacks including the full-scale invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.  These wars will go down in history as case studies of what happens when politicians believe their own propaganda.  While Dubya declared victory as soon as the invasion was completed, it soon became clear to everybody that this war was a disaster from which the USA has proved completely unable to extricate themselves (even the Soviets connected the dots and withdrew from Afghanistan faster than the US Americans!).  So what does all this tell us about the US armed forces: (in no special order)

  1. They are big, way bigger than any other
  2. They have unmatched (worldwide) power projection (mobility) capabilities
  3. They are high-tech heavy which gives them a big advantage in some type of conflicts
  4. They have the means (nukes) to wipe-off any country off the face of the earth
  5. They control the oceans and strategic chokepoints

Is that enough to win a war?

Actually, no, it is not.  All it takes to nullify these advantages is an enemy who is aware of them and who refuses to fight what I call the “American type of war” (on this concept, see here).  The recent wars in Lebanon, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq have clearly shown that well-adapted tactics mostly deny the US armed forces the advantages listed above or, at the very least, make them irrelevant.

If we accept Clausewitz’s thesis that “war is the continuation of politics by other means” then it becomes clear that the US has not won a real war in a long long time and that the list of countries willing to openly defy Uncle Sam is steadily growing (and now includes not only Iran and the DPRK, but also Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Venezuela and even Russia and China).  This means that there is an emerging consensus amongst the countries which the USA tries to threaten and bully into submission that for all the threats and propaganda the USA is not nearly as formidable enemy as some would have you believe.

Why nobody seems to be aware of it

The paradoxical thing is that while this is clearly well understood in the countries which the USA is currently trying to threaten and bully into submission, this is also completely ignored and overlooked inside the United States themselves.  Most Americans, including very well informed ones, sincerelybelieve that their armed forces are “second to none” and that the USA could crush any enemy which would dare disobey or otherwise defy the AngloZionist Empire.  Typically, when presented with evidence that the USAF, USN and NATO could not even defeat the Serbian Army Corps in Kosovo or that in Afghanistan the US military performance is very substantially inferior to what the 40th Soviet Army achieved (with mostly conscripts!), my interlocutors always reply the same thing: “yeah, maybe, but if we wanted we could nuke them!“.  This is both true and false.  Potential nuclear target countries for the USA can be subdivided into three categories:

  1. Countries who, if nuked themselves, could wipe the USA off the face of the earth completely (Russia) or, at least, inflict immense damage upon the USA (China).
  2. Those countries which the USA could nuke without fearing retaliation in kind, but which still could inflict huge conventional and asymmetric damage on the USA and its allies (Iran, DPRK).
  3. Those countries which the USA could nuke with relative impunity but which the USA could also crush with conventional forces making the use of nukes pointless (Venezuela, Cuba).

And, of course, in all these cases the first use of nukes by the USA would result in a fantastic political backlash with completely unpredictable and potentially catastrophic consequences.  For example, I personally believe that using nukes on Iran would mark the end of NATO in Europe as such an action would irreparably damage EU-US relations.  Likewise, using nukes on the DPRK would result in a huge crisis in Asia with, potentially, the closure of US bases in Korea and Japan.  Others would, no doubt, disagree 🙂

The bottom line: US nukes are only useful as a deterrent against other nuclear powers; for all other roles they are basically useless.  And since neither Russia or China would ever contemplate a first-strike against the USA, you could say that they are almost totally useless (I say almost, because in the real world the USA cannot simply rely on the mental sanity and goodwill of other nations; so, in reality, the US nuclear arsenal is truly a vital component of US national security).

Which leaves the Navy and the Army.  The USN still controls the high seas and strategic choke points, but this is becoming increasingly irrelevant, especially in the context of local wars.  Besides, the USN is still stubbornly carrier-centric, which just goes to show that strategic vision comes a distant second behind bureaucratic and institutional inertia.  As for the US Army, it has long become a kind of support force for Special Operations and Marines, something which makes sense in tiny wars (Panama, maybe Venezuela) but which is completely inadequate for medium to large wars.

What about the fact that the USA spends more of “defense” (read “wars of aggression”) than the rest of the planet combined?  Surely that counts for something?

Actually, no, it does not.  First, because most of that money is spent on greasing the pockets of an entire class of MIC-parasites which make billions of dollars in the free for all “bonanza” provided by that ridiculously bloated “defense” budget.  The never mentioned reality is that compared to the USA, even the Ukrainian military establishment looks as only “moderately corrupt”!

[Sidebar: you think I am exaggerating?  Ask yourself a simple question: why does the USA need 17 intelligence agencies while the rest of the world usually need from 2 to 5?  Do you really, sincerely, believe that this has anything to do with national security?  If you do, please email me, I got a few bridges to sell to you at great prices!  Seriously, just the fact that the USA has about 5 times more “intelligence” agencies than the rest of the planet is a clear symptom of the the truly astronomical level of corruption of the US “national security state”]

Weapons system after weapons system we see cases in which the overriding number one priority is to spend as much money as possible as opposed to deliver a weapon system soldiers could actually fight with.  When these systems are engaged, they are typically engaged against adversaries which are two to three generations behind the USA, and that makes them look formidable.  Not only that, but in each case the US has a huge numerical advantage (hence the choice of small country to attack).  But I assure you that for real military specialists the case for the superiority of US weapons systems in a joke.  For example, French systems (such as the Rafale or the Leclerc MBT) are often both better and cheaper than there US equivalents, hence the need for major bribes and major “offset agreements“.

The Russian military budget is tiny, at least compared to the US one.  But, as William EngdalDmitrii Orlov and others have observed, the Russians get a much bigger bang for the buck.  Not only are Russian weapon systems designed by soldiers for soldiers (as opposed to by engineers for bureaucrats), but the Russian military is far less corrupt than the US one, at least when mega-bucks sums are concerned (for petty sums of money the Russians are still much worse than the Americans).  At the end of the day, you get the kind of F-35 vs SU-35/T-50 or, even more relevantly, the kind of mean time between failure or man-hours to flight hour ratios we have seen from the US and Russian forces over Syria recently.  Suffice to say that the Americans could not even begin to contemplate to execute the number of sorties the tiny Russian Aerospace task force in Syria achieved.  Still,  the fact remains that if the US Americans wanted it they could keep hundred of aircraft in the skies above Syria whereas the tiny Russian Russian Aerospace task never had more than 35 combat aircraft at any one time: the current state of the Russian military industry simply does not allow for the production of the number of systems Russia would need (but things are slowly getting better).

So here we have it: the Americans are hands down the leaders in quantitative terms; but in qualitative terms they are already behind the Russians and falling back faster and faster with each passing day.

Do the US military commanders know that?

Of course they do.

But remember what happened to Trump when he mentioned serious problems in the US military?  The Clinton propaganda machine instantly attacked him for being non-patriotic, for “not supporting the troops”, for not repeating the politically obligatory mantra about “we’re number one, second to none” and all the infantile nonsense the US propaganda machine feeds those who still own a TV at home.  To bluntly and honestly speak about the very real problems of the US armed forces is much more likely to be a career-ending exercise than a way to reform a hopelessly corrupt system.

There is one more thing.  Not to further dwell on my thesis that most US Americans are not educated enough to understand basic Marxist theory, but the fact is that most of them know nothing about Hegelian dialectics.  They, therefore, view things in a static way, not as processes.  For example, when they compliment themselves on having “the most powerful and capable military in the history of mankind” (they love that kind of language), they don’t even realize that this alleged superiority will inevitably generate its own contradiction and that this strength would therefore also produce its own weakness.  Well-read US American officers, and there are plenty of those, do understand that, but their influence is almost negligible when compared to the multi-billion dollar and massively corrupt superstructure they are immersed in.  Furthermore, I am absolutely convinced that this state of affairs is unsustainable and that sooner or later there will appear a military or political leader which will have the courage to address these problems frontally and try to reform a currently petrified system.  But the prerequisite for that will probably have to be a massive and immensely embarrassing military defeat for the USA.  I can easily imagine that happening in case of a US attack on Iran or the DPRK.  I can guarantee it if the US leadership grows delusional enough to try to strike at Russia or China.

But for the time being its all gonna be “red, white and blue” and Paul Craig Roberts will remain a lone voice crying in the desert.  He will be ignored, yes.  But that does not change the fact that he is right.

The Saker

PS: As for myself, I want to dedicate this song by Vladimir Vysotskii to Paul Craig Roberts and to all the other “Cassandras” who have the ability to see the future and the courage to warn us about it.  They usually end up paying a high price for their honesty and courage.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

RT

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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