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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: Potential Partners – Not Allies or Even Friends

Far from being Putin’s Stooge Donald Trump is a pragmatic realist. However that is not enough for the Beltway’s insiders who have a pathological hatred of the Russian leader.

George Szamuely

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Reporters and pundits covering the presidential campaign of Donald Trump have been torn between two conflicting narratives: The first is that Trump is a reckless amateur and, as president with his finger on the nuclear button, he would bring the world to the brink of catastrophe. The second is that Trump is a cat’s paw for Russian President Vladimir Putin and, as president, he would, advertently or inadvertently, work to implement Moscow’s agenda for world domination.

The first narrative is a familiar one. Past Republican presidential candidates—Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan—have all had to fight off accusations that, if elected, they would waste no time before launching World War III. The second narrative however is somewhat unusual. It is not often that Republicans are accused of acting as witting or unwitting tools of the Kremlin—at least not by so-called liberals.

For it is liberal media outlets that are the most enthusiastic purveyors of this tale of Putin, the manipulative mastermind, and Trump, his would-be hand puppet. Most of these stories depict Trump as a buffoonish narcissist, easily susceptible to the empty flattery doled out by a predatory Putin. In a story titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Franklin Foer in Slate claimed that Putin “has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.” Foer set the Red-baiting tone by announcing that Trump’s campaign is “the moral equivalent of Henry Wallace’s communist-infiltrated campaign for president in 1948….A foreign power that wishes ill upon the United States has attached itself to a major presidential campaign.” Trump’s ambition doesn’t go beyond fulfilment of a “longtime dream of planting his name in the Moscow skyline.” Putin’s dream is far more sinister:

If Putin wanted to concoct the ideal candidate to serve his purposes, his laboratory creation would look like Donald Trump. The Republican nominee wants to shatter our military alliances in Europe; he cheers the destruction of the European Union; he favors ratcheting down tensions with Russia over Ukraine and Syria, both as a matter of foreign policy and in service of his own pecuniary interests. A Trump presidency would weaken Putin’s greatest geo-strategic competitor. By stoking racial hatred, Trump will shred the fabric of American society.

“Trump is Vladimir Putin’s stooge,” Jonathan Chait claimed in New York in a story headlined “Why Is Donald Trump a Patsy for Vladimir Putin? The New York Review of Books also chimed in: Under a Trump presidency, “American policy to [sic] Europe will be guided by Russian interests,” wrote its resident “Russia expert” Timothy Snyder. Until “the rise of Trump the idea of an American who would volunteer to be a Kremlin client would have seemed unlikely. Trump represents an unprecedented standard of American servility, and should therefore be cultivated as a future Russian client.” Putin likes “weakness, which is what Trump offers…. an American president who shuns alliances with fellow democracies, praises dictators, and prefers “deals” to the rule of law would be a very easy mark in Moscow.” For Putin, “Trump is a small man who might gain great power. The trick is to manipulate the small man and thereby neutralize the great power. In another article, Snyder claimed that the Russian elite is rooting for Trump because of “their conviction that Trump will destroy U.S. power.” 

Most media outlets however didn’t waste time hiring experts. Standard-issue political operatives sufficed. Time ran a column titled Meet the Tyrant Donald Trump Loves the Most by Elise Jordan, speechwriter to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who now serves as MSNBC’s in-house Republican, ready at the drop of a hat to express the appropriate outrage at the latest pronouncement of Donald Trump’s. The Russian leader, according to Jordan, “senses that Trump’s rise portends weakness for America. No wonder Putin is openly excited by the prospect of facing off against an ignorant reality star whom he could easily dominate in the international pecking order.” Trump’s “attacks on strong women, [echo] Putin’s pathetic attempts at machismo.” Jordan’s fact-free rant culminated in the prediction that “It’s not too far-fetched to imagine Trump going full Putin and starting a war with Mexico, like Putin’s Crimea grab, if they don’t build the wall.” (Well, actually, it is too far-fetched. Trump has explained in some detail how he would persuade Mexico to pay for the wall. He said he would threaten to cut off the flow of money immigrants send back to Mexico via remittances. He would rescind the threat if Mexico made “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” to pay for the border wall. Whatever one might think of the advisability or feasibility of this plan, it involves no threat of war.)

Another political operative who weighed in on the Putin-Trump relationship, this time at Politico, was one Evelyn Farkas, a former official in Obama’s Pentagon. Her screed, Trump and Putin: Two Liars Separated at Birth?, was notable in that she appears to hold Americans in as much contempt as she holds the Russians. The Russian people’s indifference to truth, she wrote, has enabled Putin “to secure and retain power, to run the Russian Federation as an autocratic, Mafia-style capitalist state, to pursue a neo-imperial foreign policy for its own sake.” As for Trump, “he is fostering and exploiting indifference toward truth in the service of fear, hatred and a mishmash of poor foreign and domestic policy ideas.”

Not terribly sophisticated but media outlets that make their living through clickbait were even less sophisticated. Salon, for example, has run innumerable stories suggesting a homoerotic relationship between the Russian leader and the American businessman. Donald Trump’s revealing man-crush on Vladimir Putin screamed a typical headline. The man-crush is mutual apparently. On another occasion, we were told that Putin has a “man-crush on Donald Trump.” On yet another occasion, Salon spoke of a “bromance”: “Donald Trump is a big fan of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Big fan. Huge fan.” Just in case readers still didn’t get the message, two days after the appearance of that story, Salon ran yet another  story on this theme, headlined Donald Trump’s got Putin fever. This was soon followed by yet another story telling us that Russian president Vladimir Putin has continued to sing Donald Trump’s praises.” Trump “can’t help but gush with praise at those who use violence to oppress their people,” Salon claimed more recently, “At the top of the list, of course, is Vladimir Putin, who Trump repeatedly swoons over like he’s a 12-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert.” Putin is aware that “Trump goes to sleep snuggling a photo of the Russian dictator every night, and are seeking ways to support Trump’s run, knowing that nothing would destabilise the United States and strengthen Russia’s position like a Trump win.”

Even the New York Times has picked up on the bromance” theme, running a story titled “Vladimir Putin Praises Donald Trump, Sealing a Long-Distance Bromance.” “Bromance” also featured on CNN. Many of the articles prominently feature a recently-painted mural on the wall of a bar in Vilnius, Lithuania, showing Putin and Trump locking lips.

The $1-a-word-anti-Putin-diatribe crowd would not be left out of the mix. The ubiquitous Julia Ioffe offered her usual venomous observations, this time laced with erotic suggestions: Russians were supposedly “salivating at the prospect” of a Trump presidency. There is “something Russian about Trump the man: he likes gold-plated opulence and surgically-perfected Eastern European women.” Anna Nemtsova wrote in The Daily Beast  that “The Kremlin hates everything about America except for Donald Trump.” Ivan Krastev in a New York Times op-ed titled “Why Putin Loves Trump,” explained that Putin’s “enthusiasm” for Trump was “rooted in the fact that they both live in a soap-opera world run by emotions rather than interests.”

What is remarkable about this abundance of lurid verbiage is the flimsy foundation on which it is based. Trump and Putin have in reality exchanged nothing more than a few pro forma compliments. Trump’s “man crush” is nothing more than an acknowledgment of something that even Putin’s critics don’t dispute: The Russian is a strong leader. “I’ve always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader,” he told a TV interviewer. In addition, Trump has said many times that he believed—or hoped—that he would get on well with Putin. During the second presidential debate in September 2015, Trump declared that he “would get along with Putin.” But then, he added, “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.” He returned to this theme in another presidential debate: “Wouldn’t it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia?”

It is extraordinary that a statement promising improved relations should cause so much fury. In his National Interest-hosted foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016, Trump again reiterated that the United States and Russia “are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible.”

Putin, for his part, has also not gone beyond expressions of hope that the next U.S. president would seek better relations with Russia. To be sure, Putin has expressed himself positively about Trump. In December 2015, after pledging to work with “whomever the American voters choose,” Putin described Trump as “a very lively man, talented without doubt.” Putin went on, “He’s saying he wants to go to another level of relations—closer, deeper relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.” Of course, they do. After enduring years and years of verbal abuse from U.S. politicians and pundits, particularly at election time, Russians are understandably happy to hear that there is one political candidate who appears to be free of the usual animus toward Russia. Trump responded to Putin’s words by saying that it was “a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”

In June 2016, Putin again pointed out that “We don’t back anyone, it’s not our business.” He however welcomed Trump’s promise to “restore relations with Russia.” While Russia would work with anyone the U.S. voters choose to lead them, his hope was that “this individual will want to improve relations with Russia and help build a more secure world.”

Interviewers have repeatedly baited Trump over his positive words about Russia. How could Trump not be appalled by a man who “kills journalists that don’t agree with him”? Trump responded, not unreasonably, that “our country does plenty of killing too.” This comment led to predictable spluttering and howls of outrage. Failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney tweeted: “Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants.”

The terrorists and enemy combatants to whom Romney referred evidently include members of the media. At least 16 journalists have been killed by U.S. armed forces in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Trump could have mentioned—but didn’t—the April 2003 bombing of Al Jazeera’s Baghdad headquarters that led to the killing of its correspondent Tareq Ayyoub. That same day, the United States shelled the Palestine hotel in Baghdad, home to most of the foreign correspondents in Iraq, killing two cameramen, Reuters’ Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso of Spain’s Telecinco. The Committee to Protect Journalists has listed many other such incidents: There was Mazen Dana, a Reuters cameraman, who was killed by machine gun fire from a U.S. tank on Aug. 17, 2003, while he was filming near Abu Ghraib prison. There was cameraman Ali Abdel Aziz and reporter Ali al-Khatib, both of the United Arab Emirates-based news channel Al-Arabiya, who were shot dead near a U.S. military checkpoint in Baghdad in March 2004. Then there was Asaad Kadhim, a correspondent for the U.S.-funded Al-Iraqiya TV, and his driver, Hussein Saleh, who were killed by gunfire from U.S. forces near a checkpoint close to the Iraqi city of Samara. There was also Maha Ibrahim, a news producer for Iraqi television station Baghdad TV, who was shot and killed on June 25, 2005, by U.S. forces as she drove to work with her husband, also an employee of the station. Then there was the notorious videotaped 2007 Apache helicopter attack that led to the deaths of two Reuters news correspondents. 

Moreover, in 2015, the Pentagon published a law of war manual in which it declared that “journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorised to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents.” In other words, not only are journalists to be considered legitimate military targets but, if captured, they would not be entitled to any protections under the Geneva Conventions.

To return: While Trump has promised to seek better relations with Russia, he has not yet indicated awareness of Russia’s security concerns, particularly those arising from NATO’s eastward expansion. On Ukraine, for example, Trump has not addressed the 2014 armed overthrow of the legitimate, elected government in Kiev and the role this played in the subsequent conflict in Ukraine. While Trump has eschewed the usual noisy Washington bluster that blames Putin for the spectacular failure of the policy of trying to muscle Ukraine into the Western alliance, Trump’s criticism of Washington’s Ukraine policy has not gone beyond demands that other countries take the lead: “I think maybe we should do a little following and let the neighbors take a little bit more of an active role in the Ukraine.” Americans have been the most aggressive on Ukraine, he complained in on another occasion. Why can’t others do a little more? “I never hear any other countries even mentioned and we’re fighting constantly. We’re talking about Ukraine, get out, do this, do that. And I mean, Ukraine’s very far away from us. How come the countries near the Ukraine, surrounding the Ukraine, how come they’re not opening up and they’re not at least protesting? I never hear anything from anybody except the United States.”

On the question of Ukraine’s membership of NATO, Trump has not gone beyond saying that he doesn’t care about the issue. “Whether it goes in or doesn’t go in, I wouldn’t care. If it goes in, great. If it doesn’t go in, great.” On Crimea, Trump has been non-committal, declaring it to be Europe’s, rather than America’s, problem. Trump has not been an enthusiastic about providing arms to Ukraine. Recently, the Trump campaign succeeded in making sure that the Republican platform rejected calls for sending lethal weapons to the government of Ukraine.

Trump’s approach toward Russia is in line with the general thrust of his proposed foreign policy. The only question he deems worthy of asking is: “What’s in it for us?” In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, he wrote that “Pulling back from Europe will save this country millions of dollars annually. The cost of stationing NATO troops in Europe is enormous, and these are clearly funds that can be put to better use.” These days, the gravamen of his complaints about NATO is that its members are getting a free ride. Only four NATO member-countries, besides the United States, are “spending the minimum required 2% of GDP on defence.” The United States spends “trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defence for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defence, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.”

However, there are more serious problems with NATO than other countries not pulling their weight. NATO’s reckless policies such as involvement in the war in Syria, overthrow of the legitimate government of Libya and the provision of weapons and training for the government of Ukraine, have seriously jeopardized the security of Western nations. Trump has studiously avoided asking the more fundamental question whether it is the continued existence of NATO that poses the most serious threat to world peace. 

To be sure, alone among today’s politicians, Trump has urged a reconsideration of NATO’s mission. NATO is obsolete, he has argued, unwilling to address the issues of today such as migration and Islamic terrorism. “We have the threat of terrorism and NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism,” he has  said.  “NATO’s not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn’t have the right countries in it for terrorism.” NATO needs to change. It will either be “readjusted to take care of terrorism or we’re going to have to set up a…new coalition, a new group of countries to handle terrorism because terrorism is out of control.”

Trump follows the unthinking consensus on missile defence. He has echoed the familiar neo-conservative complaint that Obama has supposedly “gutted” the program and “abandoned our missile defence plans with Poland and the Czech Republic.” Trump appears to be unaware of the components of the U.S. missile defence plans that have been implemented in recent years. In 2009, Obama announced the deployment on AEGIS warships of interceptors against short- and medium-range missiles. The following year NATO announced deployment of SM-3 missile interceptors. This land-based missile defence system became fully operational in May 2016, much to the annoyance of Moscow. NATO has already begun construction of an additional anti-missile platform in Poland. Today, NATO defensive shield includes a command-and-control center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a radar installation in Turkey and four ships capable of identifying enemy missiles and firing their own SM-3s based in Rota, Spain.

Trump, in other words, has deviated fairly mildly from Washington foreign policy orthodoxy. That is has elicited such a frenzied response illustrates the extent to which the U.S. foreign policy elite, especially its liberal wing, is committed to continuing, and even escalating, the conflict with Russia. Not only that, given the elite’s almost hysterical animus toward Putin, it is likely to be working overtime under a Clinton presidency trying to effect regime change in Moscow. Trump as a businessman has imbibed none of the pathology of the U.S. policymaking elite. Before entering politics, Trump was a builder who naturally saw Russia as an enticing source of business opportunities. As a neophyte politician, he is understandably baffled why he is expected to begin mobilising the nation to confront Russia. Trump may not have fully grasped that for U.S. policymakers the natural order of things is U.S. hegemonic rule over the entire planet. The role of the much-touted U.S. “friends and allies” is to serve as cheerleaders for U.S. rule. Russia however stands in the way. Hence, the extraordinary vitriol directed at Moscow.

As far as U.S. policymakers and their media acolytes are concerned, the goal of a liberal, rational foreign policy is to contain Russia and to sponsor opposition to its government. However, this policy, consisting as it does of NATO expansion, missile defence systems on Russia’s borders, growing NATO military presence in Eastern Europe, regime change operations in Russia isn’t terribly rational. In fact, it’s downright dangerous. Trump is one of the few politicians in the United States who has expressed concern about where this policy is leading. However, now that Trump is the official Republican presidential nominee, will he have the strength to resist the entreaties of his new Republican allies to provoke conflict with Russia?

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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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