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Russia has a model for peace and stability for Afghanistan–it’s called Chechnya

One only needs to study Russia’s experience with bringing former Chechen rebels to the table, in order to learn why the Taliban must be spoken to rather than bombed into anger and alienation.

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Between 1994 and 1996, a Russian Federation weakened by internal political chaos fought the First Chechen War. The war was fought between the Russian armed forces and forces loyal to the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.

During the First Chechen War, one of the leading commanders of rebel forces was Akhmad Kadyrov. His battle field tactics helped win the war, forcing an uneasy truce with Russia.

During this time, Kadyrov’s forces were backed by foreign Mujaheddin, many of whom were battle hardened from fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. As with Afghanistan, the US supported the Mujaheddin against Russia, albeit in a more covert manner than during the 1980s.

In 1999, war flared up again in Chechnya when Islamist extremists from Chechnya invaded the neighbouring Russian Republic of Dagestan. It was at this time that Akhmad Kadyrov switched sides, pledging his loyalty to Russia.

This was motivated by several factors. First of all, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria was a self-proclaimed country of chaos, corruption and poverty, one which was ultimately in need of Russian material support, just as Afghanistan needs much the same from Pakistan today. Secondly, Kadyrov found that the Mujaheddin forces which helped win the First Chechen War were both unreliable and too extreme for his liking, their designs on the region were very different than his.

By the year 2000, the wars in both Chechnya and Dagestan were over and Kadyrov was once again on the winning side, only this time the winning side was the Russian side.

In the subsequent years, some local rebels as well as foreign Mujaheddin continued to cause problems in the region. Things came to a head when in 2004 Akhmad Kadyrov, who had become the President of the Chechen Republic, was assassinated. Chechen rebel Shamil Basayev later claimed responsibility. He was killed by the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service) in 2006.

In 2007, Akhmad’s son Ramzan Kadyrov became the Head of the Chechen Republic. Ramazan’s leadership marked Chechnya’s transformation from an uneasy hotbed of rebellion and foreign terrorism to a place that is generally stable, a loyal subject of the Russian Federation and a place with zero tolerance for trouble makers. Crucially, the region has a high degree of autonomy in which Islamic customs and local laws are integrated into the overarching laws of the Russian Federation. It is a balance that has worked far better than many could have imagined. It many ways, it is a textbook example of 21st century compromise in respect of cultural autonomy combined with sovereign loyalty to a large state.

Afghanistan requires a similar solution. Russia learned from experience what the US has failed to learn after nearly 16 years in Afghanistan: no peaceful solution can take place without the Pashtun majority having their interests accounted for. The strongest group around which many Pashtuns now rally is the Taliban and has been so for decades.

Russia who in the 1980s fought against the people who would come to support the Taliban in the 1990s, has realised that there is a time for war and a time for dialogue.

It was this approach that allowed Russia to accept Akhmad Kadyrov as a loyal subject to Russia even though he had been a supreme enemy of the state just years prior to this reconciliation. Likewise, in Afghanistan, Russia realises that the Taliban, the moderate rebels of modern Afghanistan, cannot be disregarded and nor can they be bombed into coming to the peace table, not least because many Taliban leaders have already made comparatively generous peace offers that Afghanistan’s neighbours such as Pakistan could easily work with.

Russia has let the ideological wars of the past slip into memory and Russia’s modern leaders have learned the lessons necessary to formulate a new Afghan policy. This new Russian policy of dialogue with the Taliban is in line with that of Pakistan which seeks a stable country free from American or Indian influence on its western border and it is also what China seeks as China requires a stable Pakistan and a comparatively placid Afghanistan in order to complete a crucial section of One Belt–One Road infrastructure in the region. Iran too has come to this realisation in more ways than one.

The future leader that Afghanistan needs is someone like Ramzan Kadyrov, an individual who is local, can implement Islamic law with sincerity and authority, can act pragmatically though patriotically when dealing with others, including non-Pashtun Afghans such as the Tajiks, Uzbecks and Shi’a Hazaras, and most of all, a leader who can work with the country which for all intents and purposes is Afghanistan’s lifeblood: Pakistan.

Such a leader may already exist among the more moderate rebel ranks of the Taliban. Such a leader would clearly by willing to work with Pakistan, Russia, China, possibly even Iran but certainly not with the United States. Russia understands this because Russia has the experience of Afghanistan in the 1980s from which Vladimir Putin learned that in order to bring peace and loyalty to a volatile region, one must work with locals who are willing to meet one half way. Putin learned equally from the mistakes chaotic Yeltsin regimem how to best deal with such issues within Russia, in Chechnya in particular. In return, Russia has not made extraordinary demands over the style of government in Chechnya, one which is now stable and increasingly prosperous, but very different from the kind of Russia one sees in Moscow, Crimea, Vladivostok and almost everywhere else in the Russian Federation.

This is the solution, but America is doing the opposite, because unlike Russia in respect of Chechnya, the United States is not looking for a solution in Afghanistan in the first place.

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Brendan Trainor
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Brendan Trainor

Yes I believe that Chechnya is better off now as a very conservative Muslim state in the Russian federation. However, I do not believe that respect for the Muslim social rules should extend to torture and honor killing of gays. Kadyrov said on American cable television in an interview over his love of MMA that there are no gay people in Chechnya, and if there were, he did not believe that people who act outside the law against them should be punished. Violence against anyone, including gays, should not be tolerated in Chechnya!

Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

I dont know if the people to whom you refer really do hold these emotions: “Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Gay: happily excited : merry in a “gay” mood : keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits: a bird’s “gay” spring song. 2a : bright, lively “gay” sunny meadows : brilliant in color.” I suspect you are referring to homosexual men. If so, could you do so please, and leave the lovely old English word, for which there is no substitute, to it’s proper meaning. Re the Western MSM garbage you are quoting, there appears to be no evidence to… Read more »

BobValdez
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BobValdez

Perhaps you and your boyfriend should head over to Chechnya, in your crotch-less leather pants and Village People hats, wave your rainbow flags and protest. I’m sure they’ll listen to you.

Rastislav Veľká Morava
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Rastislav Veľká Morava

Gays are less than 2% of the population in most countries. Why is this issue so important to keep glorifying and using it as a tool to apply pressure to different societies and beliefs? Enough already! There are other peoples at a much larger percentage that are discriminated against, like left-handed people, and not a peep from anyone. This so called “gay lifestyle” is proven by statistics as destructive, with much higher suicide rates, drug use, and early death, when compared with Heterosexuals. Destructive lifestyles of small minorities should not be endlessly talked about and glorified as being something normal.… Read more »

AM Hants
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AM Hants

Nice photo of both President, owing to their body language.

The US is only there to make sure the poppy harvest is harvesting well and see what they can grab with regards natural resources. Not forgetting to upset China, with the ‘One Belt and Road’ partnership with Pakistan. That is the only reason they will not leave. Saudi – 9/11 and I never knew Saudi was part of Afghanistan. Bin Laden family and Bush family, partners in Carlsle Group, even after 9/11????

Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

It is a nice photo is not it? Marked by spontaneity and natural spirits. No, America is in Afghanistan for one reason and one reason only – it suits its personal agenda of making big money from the heroin trade, moreover, it uses that heroin as a social dis-locator in target countries. It’s a major problem for Russia especially. Plus they have a “base” to try and launch a much longed for attack on Russia via the “underbelly”. The American Ruling Junta are just a criminal Mafia gang who lie to cover their actions – lies now accepted only by… Read more »

AM Hants
Member
AM Hants

I was drinking water earlier, and it must be something to do with the sun around here. It only went and turned into wine and for some reason I cannot think nice thoughts. I have no problem with the people of America and feel sorry for those that have woken up, like us over in the UK. Wish them all the best. However, I am happily in a rage, with regards the things we elect. I do believe in karma, but, sure certain powers will not mind me wishing they all suffered some serious reaction from a Bill Gate vaccine… Read more »

Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

🙂 I’ve heard about that wine. Magic Water we call it – try and do it to make a few bucks, it never works 🙂 It is – beyond pathetic – I agree. But try and remember, when it gets bad – and believe me, I know how that is, I’ve let fly and sworn at them too – that if you get into a rage and filled with hate and bad thoughts, it’s you you’re hurting. They dont feel it at all, but your inner balance and serenity which you need for good health go right out the window.… Read more »

AM Hants
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AM Hants

That blasted water, I thought it was holy and my liver needed blessing. I don’t stay angry for long, as you say, it is a waste of energy. However, it is seriously frustrating. Like you, I no longer vote, owing to all parties in Westminster supporting the genocide in Ukraine and encouraging it. Not just Ukraine, but, that is where I switched off from UK politicians. I have just read a brilliant article by Robert Parry, over on RI. Here is a section, but, it is worth reading the whole article. Ukraine’s SBU security service also has been implicated in… Read more »

Samantharbuck
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Samantharbuck

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BettyTDominique
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BettyTDominique

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Google is paying 97$ per hour! work for few hours and have longer with friends & family!
On tuesday I got a Smart new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
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Scott Robinson
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Scott Robinson

The REAL reason the US is escalating the Afghanistan invasion….see the Jimmy Dore Show titled “Rachel Maddow Promotes Stealing Afghan Minerals & Endless War”

Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

I will, thanks for the link Scott.

Bessarabyn
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Bessarabyn

Spot on !

Isabella Jones
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Isabella Jones

Thank you Bessarabyn.

Neil
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Neil

Excellent article, Adam. Nice picture too.

Freethinking Влади́мир
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Freethinking Влади́мир

Weird article. The comparison with Chechnya is incorrect. Chechnya is a republic of Russia. Afghanistan is not part of Pakistan. This article needed to flesh this out but didn’t. A reasoning such as “something something Afghanistan depends on Pakistan” doesn’t work for me. Besides, the peace with Chechnya is a burden. They don’t bring in anything, but are only a cost. Kadyrov himself is a high maintenance. I always raise my eyebrows when I read the comments of Russia-dreamers on these blogs who never even visited my country, yet judge or interpret the actual situation here. What you need to… Read more »

Simon
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Simon

A thoughtful comment, Vladimir. But many (vast) parts of the RF are as you say ‘a burden’ – in that they cost a lot of money. But that does not mean they are not Russia. And Chechnya has form compared to other regions – so just NOT fighting a war there is itself a huge ‘benefit’ which outweighs the ‘burden’. I do agree with you about the stability and its temporary nature; also it and some of its diaspora are in criminal syndicates throughout Russia. But imperfect as it is, this strongman (Kadyrov) stability is perhaps the best way forward.… Read more »

Freethinking Влади́мир
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Freethinking Влади́мир

I don’t deny that peace is the better option, but I criticize this article for painting the current situation as too bright. This article cuts too many corners, not counting in the opinion that Afghanistan should have some kind of a dependency on Pakistan like Chechnya has on Russia. This article needs to elaborate on what that means and why the Afghani people would agree – other than assuming the people would go along with a leader comparative to Kadyrov.

Edit: also not counting in why the Pakistani would agree…

Gary Wells
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Gary Wells

Whatever the Americans do will fail. Notwithstanding the fact that Afghanistan is probably unconquerable, ten or fifteen thousand US troops are certainly not going to achieve the task. These are sufficient numbers to ensure an ongoing simmering conflict and to make certain that the opium/heroin business proceeds unimpeded. This should be obvious to everyone. I think there’s an awful lot of willful blindness about.

Jeff King
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Jeff King

Chechnya? You mean the place where they murder gays? Get a better example than that.

pogohere
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Details? Sources? TIA

ajokete
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ajokete

“…the United States is not looking for a solution in Afghanistan in the first place.” That exactly is the method in the US apparent madness.

Navneet Bhatnagar
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Navneet Bhatnagar

The writer ADAM GARRIE seems to be highly mistaken , when he recommends ” Pakistan to be the lifeblood of Afghanistan, for all intents and purposes and proposing generous peace offers for Taiban that Afghanistan’s neighbours such as Pakistan could easily work with” . At one stage, he professes for a country, which should be able to deal peacefully with all ethnicities in Afghanistan , ” including non-Pashtun Afghans such as the Tajiks, Uzbecks and Shi’a Hazaras “. While on the other hand, he seems to forget the pathetic record , which Pakistan has in maintaining a peaceful environment for… Read more »

Daisy Adler
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Daisy Adler

Latest News from Russia: Spectacular!
Watch: Russia installs Crimea bridge railway arch in unique operation. Once finished, the 19 kilometer Crimean Bridge will become one of Russia’s and Europe’s largest.
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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

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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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