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How Obama and Hillary Clinton Weaponized the ‘Dossier’

The disclosure that the Clinton campaign, using white-shoe law firm Perkins Coie as a cutout,
financed the so-called Steele dossier confirms what we have known all along.

George Szamuely

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The Trump-Russia collusion story was a joint invention of the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign. It enabled the Obama administration to make use of the nation’s security and intelligence services to spy on Trump and his associates and to use whatever information they thereby gleaned to try to get Hillary into the White House. The failure of the scheme didn’t stop either Obama or the Clintons. Following the election debacle, an enraged Obama administration sought vengeance by disseminating the dossier as widely as possible with a view to undermining the incoming Trump administration and to ensuring that no rapprochement with Russia would be possible. In doing so, Obama and Clinton have thrown American politics into turmoil and have perhaps pushed the United States and Russia toward armed confrontation.

We have known the basic outlines of the Steele dossier story since January. The Steele dossier, we have been told, started off as a piece of opposition research prepared by Fusion GPS and financed by a Republican rival of Trump’s or perhaps a GOP NeverTrumper. Following Trump’s victory in the GOP primaries, the Democrats took over its funding. Fusion hired Christopher Steele, a former head of the Russia desk at MI6 who now ran his own corporate intelligence firm, Orbis Business Intelligence. Using the leads Steele had developed during his years at MI6, he reported back to his paymasters his shocking discovery: The Russians had been cultivating Trump for years in preparation for his run for the presidency. So shocked was Steele by this that he rushed to alert the FBI, MI6 and even select reporters.

Most of this story is pure fiction. Neither the GOP nor a primary rival of Trump’s had any involvement with the dossier. To be sure, in October 2015, the Washington Free Beacon, a neo-conservative Web site funded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, did hire Fusion to undertake opposition research on Trump. However, money for this undertaking dried up by May 2016.

The Steele-crafted Trump-Russia collusion story was from start to finish a Democratic Party operation. Its origins can be traced back to April 2016 and the leak of the Democratic National Committee e-mails. The DNC announced that it had been “hacked.” However, instead of reporting the matter to the proper authorities, the DNC turned to attorney Michael Sussmann, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm. Sussmann got in touch with cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike Inc. Now, CrowdStrike is no geeky, techno-gee-whiz firm. Its founder is Russian-born Dmitri Alperovitch, a senior fellow at the NATO-funded, intensely Russophobic Atlantic Council. “Within a day, CrowdStrike confirmed that the intrusion had originated in Russia,” the New York Times wrote. On June 14, CrowdStrike announced that the DNC hack perpetrators were two separate hacker groups employed by the Russian government.

Even though no one other than CrowdStrike had examined the DNC servers, U.S. intelligence agencies immediately declared that they were in agreement and that they had “high confidence” that the “Russian government was behind the theft of emails and documents” from the DNC.

It was at this moment that the Clinton people made the strategic decision to tie Trump to Putin and to make the centerpiece of its campaign the idea that a vote for Trump was a vote for the Kremlin. Perkins Coie—yet again—got in touch with Fusion, which, in turn, got in touch with Christopher Steele. Steele had contacts at MI6 and, perhaps more important, contacts at the FBI. He had allegedly worked with the FBI in the takedown of FIFA.

Steele, who had many contacts at the FBI, understood what was required of him. On June 20, six days after CrowdStrike’s announcement, he filed his first report. It was exactly what the Clinton campaign was looking for: lurid, unsubstantiated but nonetheless juicy allegations. Russia had supposedly been “cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least 5 years.” Trump had had hired prostitutes to “perform a ‘golden showers’ show in front of him” at Moscow’s Ritz Carlton Hotel. “Trump’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities…with enough embarrassing material…to be able to blackmail him.”

Steele’s first memo enticed the Clinton people and they eagerly turned on the money spigots. Steele followed up with a memo revealing that the Russians were behind the DNC leak, that Putin “hated and feared” Hillary Clinton and that there existed a “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between Trump and the Russians. The recently-indicted Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, managed this co-operation on behalf of Trump by using “foreign policy advisor” Carter Page as an intermediary. “In return the Trump team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise U.S./NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine.”

Carter Page, whom no one had ever heard of and who had never even met Trump, featured prominently in the Steele memos and in subsequent U.S. media coverage of the campaign. A July 19 memo from Steele had Page holding a “secret meeting” with Igor Sechin, executive chairman of Rosneft, the Russian state oil company, in which the two men discussed future bilateral energy cooperation and “an associated move to lift Ukraine-related” sanctions against Russia.

The Clinton campaign theme was set. By July 23, 2016, Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, was telling ABC News on Sunday that “experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke in to the DNC, took all these emails and now are leaking them out through these Web sites. . . . It’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” A couple of days later, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who was to lead the post-election “Trump-Russia collusion” charge in Congress, declared:

Given Donald Trump’s well-known admiration for Putin and his belittling of NATO, the Russians have both the means and the motive to engage in a hack of the D.N.C. and the dump of its emails prior to the Democratic Convention. That foreign actors may be trying to influence our election—let alone a powerful adversary like Russia—should concern all Americans of any party.

In August, it was reported, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wrote to FBI Director James Comey demanding disclosure of the contents of the dossier: “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government…The public has a right to know this information.” And, of course, Hillary Clinton famously accused Trump of being “Putin’s puppet” during their third presidential debate.

The Steele dossier was now driving the Obama administration’s scrutiny of Trump’s people as well as media coverage of the campaign. Steele, the BBC reported, “flew to Rome in August to talk to the FBI. Then in early October, he came to the US and was extensively debriefed by them, over a week. He gave the FBI the names of some of his informants, the so-called ‘key’ to the dossier.” The FBI went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court and obtained an order to “monitor the communications” of Carter Page, as “part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign.” According to the Guardian, the FISA court turned down its first application (an unusual event, if true), asking the agency to narrow its focus. Eventually, the FBI managed to convince the court that “there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.” What was the basis of this probable cause? CNN reported that the FBI based its application on the claims made in the Steele dossier. That’s very serious business. If the FBI was presenting the FISA court unverified material from the dossier as if it were verified then it was clearly deceiving the court in order to obtain a politically-motivated warrant.

By September 2016, U.S. media were reporting that Carter Page had become a person of interests for the U.S. government: “U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials—including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president.” Words straight from the dossier. The same media report had “U.S. intelligence agencies” receiving reports that Page met one Igor Diveykin, who “serves as deputy chief for internal policy and is believed by U.S. officials to have responsibility for intelligence collected by Russian agencies about the U.S. election.” This too is almost verbatim from Steele’s July 19 memo.

The U.S. government has actually made very little pretense that it didn’t make use of the dossier. FBI Director James Comey admitted to Congress that the dossier had been “one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation.” Then, on Jan. 11, 2017, following Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s meeting with Trump during which he and Comey presented the president-elect a summary of the dossier, Clapper issued a strange statement: The intelligence community “has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions. However, part of our obligation is to ensure that policymakers are provided with the fullest possible picture of any matters that might affect national security.” This was a classic non-denial denial. That he and his friends did not “rely” on the dossier doesn’t mean that they didn’t make full use of it.

Federal investigators also wiretapped Paul Manafort, both before and after the election and indeed right through to the last days of the Obama administration. According to CNN, the FBI launched an investigation of Manafort in 2014 shortly after the Feb. 22, 2014, coup d’etat in Ukraine. Manafort had worked as a political consultant work for former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. However, the “surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence.” In other words, by the time Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign in May 2016, he was no longer under FBI surveillance. The FBI resumed its surveillance at just about the time the first of Steele’s memos started arriving in Washington.

The wiretaps had nothing to do with the charges Special Counsel Robert Mueller has just brought against Manafort. Mueller’s charges involve activities that took place long before Manafort joined the Trump campaign. What the FBI was looking for was evidence that Manafort was a conduit between the Kremlin and Trump.

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also featured prominently in the dossier. He too came under Obama administration surveillance. Indeed, Obama’s people used the wiretaps in order to get him ousted from his newly-appointed position. Obama administration holdover, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, listened in on a conversation Flynn had had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, on Dec. 29, 2016, and decided that the incoming national security adviser was susceptible to blackmail from the Russians. She never really explained on what grounds the Russians could or would blackmail Flynn. Her argument seemed to be that because Flynn had discussed the possible lifting of sanctions—a policy that would run contrary to that of the Obama administration that was still in office at the time this conversation had supposedly taken place—he had violated the Logan Act, which prohibits private individuals conducting U.S. foreign policy. No one has been prosecuted under this statute for 200 years. Why the Russians would want to invoke an obscure statute to threaten Flynn, an official well-disposed toward them, with a prosecution that could never succeed and thereby to undermine the very policy they were seeking, namely, the lifting of sanctions, was never explained. Nonetheless, armed with this nonsense, Yates rushed over to the White House demanding dismissal of Flynn. He was susceptible to blackmail and was therefore a security risk. It seemed to be a joke, but for reasons that remain baffling, the White House meekly complied with Yates’s demand.

We now know that the Obama administration’s surveillance of Trump’s people reached pathological levels following the election. It is almost certain that the FBI did pay Steele to continue his work. The Washington Post reported that the bureau had “reached an agreement with [Steele] a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.” The Post claims that “Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials.” This seems highly unlikely. According to a number of news stories, the Clinton campaign stopped paying Steele sometime at the end of October. Yet Steele continued sending memos through December. Somebody had to have paid him. Steele is not the type to work pro bono.

Obama people such as Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes went on an unmasking rampage during the election and after. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has claimed that the Obama administration made “hundreds of requests during the 2016 presidential race to unmask the names of Americans in intelligence reports, including Trump transition officials.” The requests were made without specific justifications on why the information was needed. More sinister were the activities of the Obama people after the election. Trounced by Trump, they vented their fury doing everything possible to undermine the incoming administration. The New York Times reported that during the last days of the Obama administration “White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential…across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.”

A former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration official, Evelyn Farkas, revealed that she was telling her former colleagues:

Get as much information as you can, get as much intelligence as you can, before President Obama leaves the administration, because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior people that left….That the Trump folks, if they found out how we knew what we knew about their, the staff, the Trump staff’s dealing with Russians, that they would try to compromise those sources and methods, meaning we would no longer have access to that intelligence. So I became very worried, because not enough was coming out into the open, and I knew that there was more.

The full extent of the Obama administration’s campaign of surveillance, espionage and sabotage has yet to be revealed. The right-wing media have excitedly latched onto the Clinton revelations in order to put out a ridiculous story of their own. Americans are still innocent victims; Russians are still villains interfering with our gloriously pristine elections. The new victim-in-chief is Trump and the new Russian colluder-in-chief is Clinton. As ever, nothing changes in Washington.

George Szamuely, PhD, author of Bombs for Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia, is Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute of London Metropolitan University.

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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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