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The Kennedy Papers: no evidence of conspiracy to murder but evidence of a conspiracy to conceal huge incompetence

Papers show systemic failure by US intelligence and police agencies to protect the President

Alexander Mercouris

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Many years ago I read Conspiracy by Anthony Summers, the book which I still consider the best single book written about the assassination in 1963 of US President John F. Kennedy.

I remember that I decided after reading this book that Lee Harvey Oswald almost certainly was Kennedy’s murderer and that he most probably acted alone (Summers took a different view) and that the key to the solving the many mysteries about the murder lay with him.

I say this because I did not think then and I do not think now that the evidence patiently assembled by Summers and by so many others like him of a conspiracy to murder Kennedy by the CIA, or by a rogue group within the CIA, or by the mafia, or by the Cubans or by the Russians was in the end convincing.

I also thought the most popular theory – that Kennedy was murdered by the CIA or the US ‘Deep State’ because it was unhappy about his recently announced policy of rapprochement with Russia – rested on a fundamental error: that on foreign policy and security policy specifically on the question of relations with the USSR Kennedy was some sort of foreign policy dove.

On the contrary Kennedy was a militant anti-Communist who had been a close friend and political ally of Senator McCarthy’s. His aggressive anti-Communist, anti-Russian and anti-Cuban policies had brought the superpowers closer to a nuclear war during the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 than has ever been the case both before and since.

The entire thesis that Kennedy was some sort of foreign policy dove rests on a single speech Kennedy delivered on 10th June 1963 at American University in Washington.

This speech – obviously made in order to calm public and international fears following the Cuban Missile Crisis which Kennedy had largely provoked through his extreme belligerence – attracted far more interest in Russia than it did in the US, where it went largely unnoticed.

This by the way is a consistent feature of US-Russian relations, with the Russians always far more interested in the possibility of a lasting rapprochement between Russia and the US than the Americans ever are.

Given President Kennedy’s previous record it is doubtful that many people in the US foreign policy, intelligence and defence bureaucracy took the speech especially seriously.  It is only hindsight – formed following Kennedy’s murder – that has accorded the speech the importance popular mythology attributes to it today.

I would add in passing that I share the skepticism of those who doubt Kennedy’s long-term commitment to his October 1963 decision to begin withdrawing US troops from Vietnam – the other Kennedy decision which is sometimes taken as proof that he had become a dove.

That decision was conditional on US Defense Secretary McNamara’s and US General Maxwell Taylor’s

….judgment that the major part of the US military task can be completed by the end of 1965 …,’ [and] that ‘the long term program to replace US personnel with trained Vietnamese [could go forward] without impairment of the war effort.

(bold italics added)

Once it became clear that the “major part of the US military task” in Vietnam was not being completed by 1965 or by any other date – as would inevitably have been the case – I have no doubt that President Kennedy would have reversed his decision and would have sent US troops back to Vietnam.

In my opinion President Kennedy was no more willing to let “South Vietnam go Communist” than Lyndon Johnson was or than any other conceivable US President in the early or mid 1960s would have been.

I would add that Kennedy’s approach to the war in Vietnam in 1963 was essentially the same ‘stop-go’ approach we have seen more recently from Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump in relation to the war in Afghanistan.  This amounts to make successive announcements of “mission accomplished”, with the numbers of US troops being drawn down on the back of them, only for the decisions to be reversed and for the troops to be sent back when it turns out that the mission has not been accomplished after all.

Overall my opinion of both President Kennedy’s American University speech and of his October 1963 Vietnam withdrawal decision is that they were intended to help President Kennedy win what many expected would be a difficult election in 1964.  I doubt that they had any more significance than that or that anyone in the US government at the time thought that they did.

It follows from this that the hardliners in the CIA or the US Deep State had no reason in October 1963 to want to kill President Kennedy, and given the colossal risks involved in doing so I am sure that they had no plan to do so, and no part in his actual killing.

I would add that if hardliners in the CIA and the Deep State really had wanted to oust President Kennedy from the Presidency, nothing would have been easier, and they would have had no need to arrange his murder in order to do it.

Publication of the details of President Kennedy’s baroque sex life involving prostitutes and multiple mistresses – including a woman who was also the mistress of a Chicago gangster and a woman who was suspected of being an East German spy – together with disclosure of his chronic ill-health, would have shattered the Camelot illusion, and would have guaranteed his defeat in the 1964 election.

That nothing like that ever happened, so that the truth about Kennedy’s sex life, his ill-health and his chronic dependence on drugs only became public knowledge decades after his death despite being common knowledge within the US bureaucracy at the time shows that there was no plot within the CIA or the Deep State to get rid of him.

The same also applies to the other the three parties often assumed to have had some role in Kennedy’s death: the mafia, the Cubans and the Russians.

Whilst it is certainly true that the mafia and the Kennedy brothers were in conflict with each other at the time of Kennedy’s death, the mafia has no history in the US of murdering federal politicians (Leon Jordan – in whose 1970 killing the mafia may have had a hand – was a Representative in the Missouri House of Representatives, not a federal politician).  It beggars belief that if the mafia ever were to start killing US federal politicians that they would begin by murdering the President.  Besides it is impossible to see what advantage killing Kennedy would have conferred on the mafia anyway that would have outweighed the enormous risks for them if they had been caught.

The suspicion of mafia involvement in Kennedy’s killing seems to stem from the fact that Jack Ruby – the man who murdered Oswald – seems to have had at least some mafia connections and may at some point in his career have met with the notorious Florida mafia boss Santo Trafficante.

However the actual extent of Ruby’s dealings with the mafia are open to doubt, whilst there is no evidence that before killing Oswald Ruby had ever killed anyone.  What is known about Ruby suggests that he was never anything more than a manager of nightclubs, strip-clubs and dance halls, a fact which makes it extremely unlikely – to put it mildly – that the mafia would have chosen him to murder Oswald.  Besides it has never been made clear what the mafia could have offered Ruby in order to induce him to kill Oswald in the extremely public way that he did.

I would add that I place no credence in the claim made by an airport manager to US investigators and disclosed for the first time in the papers which have just been released that he saw Oswald and Ruby in the same group of young people who flew to Cuba together and that they therefore knew each other.  That sort of sensational story is all but certain to appear in the aftermath of a sensational murder like those of Kennedy and Oswald, and I am pretty sure the airport manager either imagined his story or made it up, and I am sure the investigators who spoke with him thought so as well.

All the facts in fact point to Ruby’s murder of Oswald being the sort of spontaneous act of an unremarkable man desperate to gain fame and attention, which are all too common in the sort of highly charged atmosphere which events like Kennedy’s murder create, and which Ruby – along with many other incoherent things – said that it was.

As for the Cubans, Lyndon Johnson and (possibly) Richard Nixon apparently believed that Fidel Castro ordered Kennedy’s killing in retaliation for the CIA’s multiple attempts – ordered by the Kennedy brothers – to kill him.

No evidence for that has however ever come to light, and all the known facts actually argue strongly against it.

Oswald does appear to have had left wing sympathies, and did visit the Cuban consulate in Mexico City shortly before he killed Kennedy.  He also seems to have had some contacts with an anti-Castro Cuban dissident group based in Mexico City during his trip there.  This group was apparently heavily infiltrated by Cuban intelligence so it is possible that some of the things he told them – which may have included a statement that he intended to kill Kennedy – might have got passed back to Havana.

However Oswald’s dealings with the Cuban officials at their consulate – from whom he sought a visa to travel to Cuba on his way back to the USSR – appear to have been heated and acrimonious, with the Cubans initially refusing him a visa but eventually granting him one only to discover that by then he had returned to the US.

Kennedy’s murder came almost exactly a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis during which Fidel Castro would have learnt the limits of Soviet support for him.  By October 1963 he would have been under no doubt that the USSR would not risk a nuclear war with the US on his and Cuba’s behalf.

It beggars belief that Fidel Castro – an extremely well-educated and highly intelligent man – knowing this would have nonetheless gone ahead and ordered the murder of the President of the United States when he would have known that the result when his role in the murder was discovered – as it was bound to be – would be a US invasion of Cuba and his own death.  It was not after all as if there were not already plenty of people in the US in 1963 who were already itching to do just that.

Needless to say if Fidel Castro had nonetheless decided to do such a crazy and reckless thing it is all but inconceivable that Cuban intelligence would have recruited someone as obviously unbalanced as Oswald – with whom the Cubans had previously had only minimal dealings – to do it.

Though the cache of papers that has just been released shows that one or two lower ranking Cuban officials were pleased when they heard the news of Kennedy’s murder (just as some lower ranking Iraqi officials were pleased when they heard the news of 9/11) reliable eyewitness accounts of Fidel Castro’s own reaction say that he was shocked when he heard of Kennedy’s murder and was filled with deep foreboding, being worried that he would be blamed for it.

This is logical, and since it is inconceivable that any Cuban official would have ordered Kennedy’s murder without first obtaining Fidel Castro’s permission, the theory of Cuban involvement in Kennedy’s murder – for which there is no evidence – is unsustainable and must be rejected.

As for the Russians, Oswald did ‘defect’ to the USSR in 1959 and did live for a time there.  He was also attempting to return to the USSR shortly before he killed Kennedy, and was bombarding Soviet diplomatic missions in Mexico City and the US with requests to be allowed to return there.

The papers which have just been released however corroborate what has been known for some time: that the Soviet authorities did not see in Oswald a genuine ideological defector but rather a highly unstable individual with a personality disorder.

They were happy to let him go when he told them he wanted to leave the USSR and go back home, and they showed no enthusiasm in 1963 when he told them that he wanted to come back.

Of claims that Oswald received some sort of special training whilst he was in the USSR there is no evidence, and again it beggars belief that if the Russians had hatched a lunatic plot to murder the President of the United States – risking a nuclear war with the US in the process – that they would have selected an erratic and melodramatic individual with a history of a public defection to the USSR like Oswald to do it for them.

It is in fact all but inconceivable that the Russians would have wanted in 1963 Kennedy killed.  Not only would the risks involved in murdering the President of the United States have been wholly out of proportion to any possible gains, but despite my own cynicism about Kennedy’s American University speech (see above) the Russians were obviously tantalised by it, with the Soviet media publishing it in full in the USSR unamended.

All the evidence points to the Russians hoping that President Kennedy’s American University speech would mark the start of a genuine rapprochement between the USSR and the US, which must in turn mean that the Russians so far from wanting Kennedy dead not wanted him alive but in 1963 but wanted him re-elected in 1964.

The papers which have just been released in fact show that the Russians were horrified and panicked by Kennedy’s murder and by the fact that Oswald, his murderer, had lived for a time in the USSR.

They seem to have genuinely feared that in the confusion and hysteria caused by the murder some paranoid US general would – Dr. Strangelove style – take it on himself to launch a nuclear attack on the USSR.

In their dismay the Russians seem to have clutched at various wild conspiracy theories of their own, with Soviet Premier Khrushchev and the KGB apparently believing that Kennedy was killed as a result of a right wing coup, with Moscow swirling with fantastic rumours – some of them apparently believed in by Premier Khrushchev himself, and passed on by the Russians to the US – including a particularly bizarre one that President Kennedy was killed as a result of a plot involving the Dallas Police Department.

These wild theories should be taken as a sign of the confusion and panic in Moscow following the murder.  They are not evidence of how the murder was actually carried out.  In 1963 the Russians would have had no means to find out the truth about a murder like the one of Kennedy which was carried out on US soil since they would have had no means to carry out an investigation of a murder carried out in the US.  Their various theories about the murder should be treated as no more than the wild guesses that they obviously were.

One particular factoid (as opposed to fact) which has come to light in the recently published papers and which is attracting a disproportionate amount of media attention is that over the course his dealings with the Soviet consulate in Mexico City in the month before the murder Oswald at some point met the Soviet consul, who was an official called Valery Kostikov.

The US papers identify Kostikov as a KGB officer working for the KGB’s “13th Department” (actually the 13th Department of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate) which supposedly was responsible for “assassinations and sabotage”.  This has inevitably led to some excited commentary about Oswald having supposedly met a “KGB assassinations expert” or even a “KGB assassin” in Mexico City a month before he killed Kennedy.

In fact Kostikov’s meeting with Oswald was simply chance, caused by Oswald’s increasingly frantic efforts to get himself a Soviet visa, which caused him to have multiple contacts with Soviet diplomatic missions both in Mexico and the US.  Since Kostikov headed the Soviet consulate in Mexico City, it is not surprising that an increasingly agitated and desperate Oswald somehow managed to meet with him.

The reason the US found out about the meeting between Kostikov and Oswald was because on 1st October 1963 – three days after the meeting supposedly took place – Oswald telephoned the consulate on an open line and demanded news about the progress of his visa application.  He seems to have mentioned his meeting with Kostikov in order to get the official who took his call to pay attention to him.

It beggars belief that if Oswald really was a Soviet agent involved in a dangerous plot to murder the President of the United States that he would have been engaging in open contacts of this sort with people like Kostikov, or that he would have been blabbing about meeting Kostikov on an open line given that both he and the Russians would have known that phone calls to the consulate were being monitored.

As it happens the Soviet government took a formal decision in 1959 to prohibit the KGB from assassinating enemies of the USSR on foreign territory (the last person to have been assassinated by the KGB on foreign territory – immediately before the prohibition was put in place – was the Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera).

It is generally acknowledged that for the rest of the Cold War the KGB abided by this prohibition, though it took some time before the West became aware of the fact. That means that whatever Kostikov was before 1959, he cannot have been an “assassinations expert” or indeed a “KGB assassin” in 1963.

If there was no conspiracy by the CIA, the mafia, the Cubans or the Russians to murder President Kennedy, was there a conspiracy by someone else?

The papers which have just been released do not provide a definite answer to that question.  Whilst such a thing is therefore possible, I have to say that I think it is unlikely.

The two things that come across to me most strongly from the papers are (1) Oswald’s unbalanced personality and (2) the widespread knowledge of him on the part of the US intelligence and security agencies.

The arc of Oswald’s life in fact bears out the Russian assessment of him as an individual suffering from a severe personality disorder.

Like many such people he seems to have suffered from delusions of grandeur, which he struggled to reconcile with the mundane reality of his existence.  The result – very common with such people – was to make him extremely angry and disruptive as his life came to centre on an increasingly desperate quest to attract attention.

Thus Oswald’s ‘defection’ to the USSR, his suicide attempt whilst he was there, his decision to return to the US, his increasingly chaotic and restless life following his return to the US, his frantic attempts to go to Cuba and to return to the USSR, and eventually – when everything else failed – his decision to kill Kennedy.

It is inherently unlikely that such a person could have carried out a complex plot to murder Kennedy along with other people.

No wholly convincing evidence for such a plot has ever come to light.

The papers which have just been published say that a newspaper in Britain received an anonymous tip-off to call the US embassy about some “big news” 25 minutes before Kennedy’s murder.  Some people will no doubt see that as proof that some sort of conspiracy existed.

Though the FBI very properly took this information extremely seriously, it seems unlikely that it actually had anything to do with Kennedy’s murder.

The suggestion that the newspaper call the US embassy suggests that (assuming the call was not a hoax call, of which newspapers receive many) the caller was giving a tip-off about other news which he or she was expecting to come out of the US but which would not make immediate headlines as the murder of the President of the United States certainly would.

If the call was about President Kennedy then one possibility must be that it was about Ellen Rometsch – the alleged East German call girl who had apparently slept with Kennedy and who was suspected of being an East German agent – who had recently been deported from the US.

There are some reasons to think that in November 1963 the scandal about Rometsch was about to break, only to be swept away by the news of President Kennedy’s death.  If so then it is possible that the tip-off to the British newspaper was about that.

It must be said however that the British newspaper in question – the Cambridge News – is a purely local paper and hardly seems an obvious newspaper for someone intent on giving an anonymous tip-off about “big news” coming out of the US to call.

The reporter who claimed to have taken the call was said to be a “sound and loyal person with no security record”.  However it must be possible that he simply made the whole story of the call up in order to give himself importance and to involve himself if only fictitiously in the gigantic news story of the moment, which was Kennedy’s murder.  That sort of reaction following an event like Kennedy’s murder is unfortunately only too common.

As for the various other claims concerning evidence of a conspiracy which have become such a staple of the literature – the eyewitness claims of a second gunman behind the grassy knoll etc – all I will say here about them is that I have never been at all convinced by them.

Taken together with what is known about Oswald’s personality, the lack of convincing evidence of a conspiracy to murder Kennedy makes me doubt that there was one, and makes me think that the official view that he acted alone is right

Unsurprisingly an individual as unbalanced and melodramatic as Oswald with his multiple contacts with the Russians and his ‘defection’ to the USSR could not fail to attract the attention of the US’s massive intelligence and security apparatus, and it seems in fact that he was being kept under continuous surveillance from at least the time of his first contacts with the Russians in 1959.

Given Oswald’s increasingly erratic behaviour and the increasingly wild threats he was making – including a threat in a handwritten letter to the FBI to blow up the FBI office in Dallas – the situation obviously called for action to put him and those he might put in danger out of harm’s way.

Instead nothing was done, with the US’s various intelligence and security agencies failing to share information about Oswald with each other, and failing to take any action to stop him before disaster struck.  It was this inactivity – which in the circumstances amounts to gross negligence – which was the single most important cause of President Kennedy’s death.

What followed was the most sinister part of the whole affair.

Instead of making a clean breast of what had happened and assisting the Warren Commission to carry out a proper investigation of the murder, the US intelligence and security community closed ranks to covered up the evidence of its own negligence.

The result was that evidence was destroyed – including Oswald’s letter in which he threatened to blow up the FBI’s Dallas office – whilst intercepts of Oswald’s communications with the Russians were not disclosed, and the extent of the US intelligence community’s knowledge of Oswald was kept from the Warren Commission and the American people.

It did not help matters that the Dallas Police Department seems also to have botched its investigation of Kennedy’s death and disregarded warnings from the FBI that Oswald needed to be kept secure.

To say that there were no conspiracies connected to Kennedy’s murder is therefore wrong.   A conspiracy did happen, though it is not the one that is most widely suspected.  It was not a conspiracy to murder Kennedy, but a conspiracy to conceal from the American people the incompetence of the intelligence and security agencies which caused his death.

It was the existence of this conspiracy which has ever since led to the theories about the others.  Coming across evidence of this conspiracy the countless numbers of researchers who have studied the murder have naturally seen in this evidence proof of a conspiracy to murder rather than a conspiracy to conceal the incompetence of the intelligence and security agencies who failed to protect him.

Along the way the researchers also discovered many ghastly truths about the many other bad things the US intelligence and security agencies had been up to, such as the CIA’s plots to murder Fidel Castro, and its attempts to enlist the help of the mafia in order to do it.  Needless to say, on the principle that people who habitually do bad things are capable of any crime, that made many people even more convinced that President Kennedy was killed because of some plot by the US’s own intelligence and security agencies.

Rumours of this plot continue to run rife to this day, and the US intelligence and security community appears to have learnt nothing from this.  Incredibly, fifty years after President Kennedy was killed, they have pressured President Trump into blocking publication of hundreds of documents relating to the murder.

It is all but inconceivable that publication of these documents today could have any national security implications.  Today these documents are purely historic.  Almost certainly their concealment reflects the continued wish of the US intelligence and security bureaucracy to hide the evidence of their own incompetence.  However by doing so they simply feed the rumours which publication of the documents was supposed to suppress.

The other consequence of the conspiracy to conceal the truth about the incompetence of the US intelligence and security community is that no senior US official was ever punished for its negligence or paid the price of losing his job.  The result was that a culture of impunity took hold which continues to this day, as has been made all too obvious by the serial leaking which has taken place over the course of the Russiagate scandal.

Meanwhile the same incompetent officials who were running the US intelligence and security agencies before President Kennedy was killed continued to do so after.  It was these people who went on to botch the US intelligence effort during the Vietnam war, which they largely authored.  Moreover since it is their direct lineal successors who run the US intelligence and security agencies to this day their malign legacy continues still and is the cause of the US’s other repeated intelligence disasters, such as 9/11 and the claims about WMD in Iraq.

The American people have paid a heavy price for this self-protection of people who supposedly work to protect them.  With hindsight it was in 1963 that the US intelligence and security community began to make itself unaccountable.  That was the key moment when the culture of impunity and lawlessness took hold which persists to this day.

In a sense it was on that day – 22nd November 1963, when President Kennedy met his death – that the US “Deep State” began.

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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Vladimir Putin visits Serbia, as NATO encircles the country it attacked in 1999 (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 171.

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Serbia.

Putin met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to further develop bilateral trade and economic relations, as well as discuss pressing regional issues including the possibility of extending the Turkish Stream gas pipeline into Serbia, and the dangerous situation around Kosovo.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin got a hero’s welcome in Belgrade. The one-day visit to the last holdout against NATO’s ambitions in the Balkans may have been somewhat short on substance, but was certainly loaded with symbolism.

Even before he landed, the Russian leader was given an honor guard by Serbian air force MiGs, a 2017 gift from Moscow to replace those destroyed by NATO during the 1999 air campaign that ended with the occupation of Serbia’s province of Kosovo. Russia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s US-backed declaration of independence, while the US and EU have insisted on it.

Upon landing, Putin began his first official trip of 2019 by paying respects to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Belgrade from Nazi occupation in 1944. While most Serbians haven’t forgotten their historical brotherhood in arms with Russia, it did not hurt to remind the West just who did the bulk of the fighting against Nazi Germany back in World War II.

After official talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Putin visited the Church of St. Sava, the grand Orthodox basilica set on the spot where the Ottoman Turks torched the remains of the first Serbian archbishop back in 1594, in an effort to maintain power.

Sava, whose brother Stefan became the “first-crowned” king of medieval Serbia, was responsible for setting up the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church exactly eight centuries ago this year. For all its own troubles, the Serbian Church has sided with Moscow in the current Orthodox schism over Ukraine.

Russian artisans have been working on the grand mosaic inside the basilica, and asked Putin to complete the design by placing the last three pieces, in the colors of the Russian flag.

Whether by sheer coincidence or by design, Putin also weighed in on Serbia’s culture war, giving interviews ahead of his visit to two daily newspapers that still publish in Serbian Cyrillic – while the majority of the press, whether controlled by the West or by Vucic, prefers the Latin variant imported from Croatia.

Western media usually refer to Serbia as a “Russian ally.” While this is true in a historical and cultural sense, there is no formal military alliance between Moscow and Belgrade. Serbia officially follows the policy of military neutrality, with its armed forces taking part in exercises alongside both Russian and NATO troops.

This is a major source of irritation for NATO, which seeks dominion over the entire Balkans region. Most recently, the alliance extended membership to Montenegro in 2017 without putting the question to a referendum. It is widely expected that “Northern Macedonia” would get an invitation to NATO as soon as its name change process is complete – and that was arranged by a deal both Macedonia and Greece seem to have been pressured into by Washington.

That would leave only Serbia outside the alliance – partly, anyway, since NATO has a massive military base in the disputed province of Kosovo, and basically enjoys special status in that quasi-state. Yet despite Belgrade’s repeated declarations of Serbia wanting to join the EU, Brussels and Washington have set recognition of Kosovo as the key precondition – and no Serbian leader has been able to deliver on that just yet, though Vucic has certainly tried.

Putin’s repeated condemnations of NATO’s 1999 attack, and Russian support for Serbia’s territorial integrity guaranteed by the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, have made him genuinely popular among the Serbs, more so than Vucic himself. Tens of thousands of people showed up in Belgrade to greet the Russian president.

While Vucic’s critics have alleged that many of them were bused in by the government – which may well be true, complete with signs showing both Vucic and Putin – there is no denying the strong pro-Russian sentiment in Serbia, no matter how hard Integrity Initiative operatives have tried.

One of the signs spotted in Belgrade reportedly said “one of 300 million,” referring to the old Serbian joke about there being “300 million of us – and Russians.” However, it is also a send-up of the slogan used by current street protesters against Vucic. For the past six weeks, every Saturday, thousands of people have marched through Belgrade, declaring themselves “1 of 5 million” after Vucic said he wouldn’t give in to their demands even if “five million showed up.”

The opposition Democrats accuse him of corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, cronyism – all the sins they themselves have plenty of experience with during their 12-year reign following Serbia’s color revolution. Yet they’ve had to struggle for control of the marches with the nationalists, who accuse Vucic of preparing to betray Kosovo and want “him to go away, but [Democrats] not come back.”

There is plenty of genuine discontent in Serbia with Vucic, who first came to power in 2012 on a nationalist-populist platform but quickly began to rule as a pro-NATO liberal. It later emerged that western PR firms had a key role in his party’s “makeover” from Radicals to Progressives. Yet his subsequent balancing act between NATO and Russia has infuriated both the NGOs and politicians in Serbia beholden to Western interests, and US diplomats charged with keeping the Balkans conquered.

Washington is busy with its own troubles these days, so there was no official comment to Putin’s visit from the State Department – only a somewhat pitiful and tone-deaf tweet by Ambassador Kyle Scott, bemoaning the lack of punishment for $1 million in damages to the US Embassy during a 2008 protest against Kosovo “independence.” Yet as far as Western media outlets are concerned, why Moscow seems to be vastly more popular than Washington on the streets of Belgrade nonetheless remains a mystery.

By Nebojsa Malic

 

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Curious Bedfellows: The Neocon And Progressive Alliance To Destroy Donald Trump

The neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via OffGuardian.com:


The Roman poet Ovid’s masterful epic The Metamorphoses includes the memorable opening line regarding the poem’s central theme of transformation. He wrote In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora, which has been translated as “Of shapes transformed to bodies strange, I purpose to entreat…”

Ovid framed his narrative around gods, heroes and quasi-historical events but if he were around today, he would no doubt be fascinated by the many transformations of the group that has defined itself as neoconservative.The movement began in a cafeteria in City College of New York in the 1930s, where a group of radical Jewish students would meet to discuss politics and developments in Europe. Many of the founders were from the far left, communists of the Trotskyite persuasion, which meant that they believed in permanent global revolution led by a vanguard party. The transformation into conservatives of a neo-persuasion took place when they were reportedly “mugged by reality” into accepting that the standard leftist formulae were not working to transform the world rapidly enough. As liberal hawks, they then hitched their wagon to the power of the United States to bring about transformation by force if necessary and began to infiltrate institutions like the Pentagon to give themselves the tools to achieve their objectives, which included promotion of regime change wars, full spectrum global dominance and unconditional support for Israel.

The neocons initially found a home with Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, but they moved on in the 1970s and 1980s to prosper under Ronald Reagan as well as under Democrat Bill Clinton. Their ability to shape policy peaked under George W. Bush, when they virtually ran the Pentagon and were heavily represented in both the national security apparatus and in the White House. They became adept at selling their mantra of “strong national defense” to whomever was buying, including to President Obama, even while simultaneously complaining about his administration’s “weakness.”

The neoconservatives lined up behind Hillary Clinton in 2016, appalled by Donald Trump’s condemnation of their centerpiece war in Iraq and even more so by his pledge to end the wars in Asia and nation-building projects while also improving relations with the Russians. They worked actively against the Republican candidate both before he was nominated and elected and did everything they could to stop him, including libeling him as a Russian agent.

When Trump was elected, it, therefore, seemed that the reign of the neocons had ended, but chameleonlike, they have changed shape and are now ensconced both in some conservative as well as in an increasing number of progressive circles in Washington and in the media. Against all odds, they have even captured key posts in the White House itself with the naming of John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Bolton’s Chief of Staff is Fred Fleitz, a leading neocon and Islamophobe while last week Trump added Iran hawk Richard Goldberg to the National Security Council as director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction. Goldberg is an alumnus of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is the leading neocon think tank calling incessantly for war with Iran.

Meanwhile, the neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint. Glenn Greenwald reports that, based on polling of party supporters, the Democrats have gone full-Hillary and are now by far more hawkish than the Republicans, unwilling to leave either Syria or Afghanistan.

The neocon survival and rejuvenation is particularly astonishing in that they have been wrong about virtually everything, most notably the catastrophic Iraq War. They have never been held accountable for anything, though one should note that accountability is not a prominent American trait, at least since Vietnam. What is important is that neocon views have been perceived by the media and punditry as being part of the Establishment consensus, which provides them with access to programming all across the political spectrum. That is why neocon standard-bearers like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have been able to move effortlessly from Fox News to MSNBC where they are fêted by the likes of Rachel Maddow. They applauded the Iraq War when the Establishment was firmly behind it and are now trying to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency because America’s elite is behind that effort.

Indeed, the largely successful swing by the neocons from right to left has in some ways become more surreal, as an increasing number of progressive spokesmen and institutions have lined up behind their perpetual warfare banner. The ease with which the transformation took place reveals, interestingly, that the neocons have no real political constituency apart from voters who feel threatened and respond by supporting perpetual war, but they do share many common interests with the so-called liberal interventionists. Neocons see a global crisis for the United States defined in terms of power while the liberals see the struggle as a moral imperative, but the end result is the same: intervention by the United States. This fusion is clearly visible in Washington, where the Clintons’ Center for American Progress (CAP) is now working on position papers with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

One of the most active groups attacking President Trump is “Republicans for the Rule of Law,” founded by Bill Kristol in January 2018, as a component of Defending Democracy Together(DDT), a 501(c)4 lobbying group that also incorporates projects called The Russia Tweets and Republicans Against Putin. Republicans Against Putin promotes the view that President Trump is not “stand[ing] up to [Vladimir] Putin” and calls for more aggressive investigation of the Russian role in the 2016 election.

DDT is a prime example of how the neoconservatives and traditional liberal interventionists have come together as it is in part funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire co-founder of eBay who has provided DDT with $600,000 in two grants through his Democracy Fund Voice, also a 501(c)4. Omidyar is a political liberal who has given millions of dollars to progressive organizations and individuals since 1999. Indeed, he is regarded as a top funder of liberal causesin the United States and even globally together with Michael Bloomberg and George Soros. His Democracy Fund awarded $9 million in grants in 2015 alone.

Last week, the Omidyar-Kristol connection may have deepened with an announcement regarding the launch of the launch of a new webzine The Bulwark, which would clearly be at least somewhat intended to take the place of the recently deceased Weekly Standard. It is promoting itself as the center of the “Never Trump Resistance” and it is being assumed that at least some of the Omidyar money is behind it.

Iranian-born Omidyar’s relationship with Kristol is clearly based on the hatred that the two share regarding Donald Trump.

Omidyar has stated that Trump is a “dangerous authoritarian demagogue… endorsing Donald Trump immediately disqualifies you from any position of public trust.”

He has tweeted that Trump suffers from “failing mental capacity” and is both “corrupt and incapacitated.”

Omidyar is what he is – a hardcore social justice warrior who supports traditional big government and globalist liberal causes, most of which are antithetical to genuine conservatives. But what is interesting about the relationship with Kristol is that it also reveals what the neoconservatives are all about. Kristol and company have never been actual conservatives on social issues, a topic that they studiously avoid, and their foreign policy is based on two principles: creating a state of perpetual war based on fearmongering about foreign enemies while also providing unlimited support for Israel. Kristol hates Trump because he threatens the war agenda while Omidyar despises the president for traditional progressive reasons. That hatred is the tie that binds and it is why Bill Kristol, a man possessing no character and values whatsoever, is willing to take Pierre Omidyar’s money while Pierre is quite happy to provide it to destroy a common enemy, the President of the United States of America.

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