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Another Special Counsel? The right way forward to investigate the real scandal of the US Presidential election

A new Special Counsel is needed to get a proper grip on an investigation which is going nowhere

Alexander Mercouris

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Sixteen months after the Russiagate investigation was started it has produced

(1) a sloppily drafted though aggressively worded indictment against Paul Manafort and Rick Gates relating to their business dealings in Ukraine which does not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations;

(2) a cynical and in my opinion oppressive indictment against George Papadopoulos – which has resulted in his guilty plea – because he mixed up the dates of his first meeting with a Maltese professor, but which also does not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations;

(3) rumours of a third indictment against Michael Flynn because of his alleged failure to register properly his lobbying work for the Turkish government, but which apparently will also not touch on the Russiagate collusion allegations; and

(4) relentless hounding of Carter Page, whose “crime” is that he has longstanding and openly acknowledged business contacts in Russia and that he gave a public speech during the election at Moscow’s New Economic School.

By comparison we now know:

(1) that the DNC was financially dependent on Hillary Clinton who by way of a fundraising agreement with the DNC signed in August 2015 gained control – before the US Presidential election took place – of the DNC’s finances and strategy and and a say in its senior appointments.

We know this is so because no less a person than Donna Brazile – the DNC’s former chair – has now told us as much.  In her words

The agreement — signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and [Clinton campaign manager] Robby Mook with a copy to [Clinton campaign counsel] Marc Elias— specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised….

 …[Clinton’s] campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

(2) that the Hillary Clinton controlled and funded DNC paid for the Crowdstrike report into the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers, whilst refusing the FBI access to those computers; and

(3) that the Hillary Clinton controlled and funded DNC paid for the Trump Dossier, which it is now confirmed provides the frame narrative followed by the Russiagate investigation.  Moreover it seems that the Hillary Clinton campaign directly provided some of the funding for the “research” that led to the Trump Dossier;

(4) that though the broad outlines of the Russiagate allegations have been around since the start of the Russiagate investigation sixteen months ago, we know about (1) and (3) only now because up to now Hillary Clinton, the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign have concealed them.

The last four points are not speculations.  They are incontrovertible facts.

To understand their importance it is necessary to go the recent article by Joe Lauria – in my opinion the single most important article anyone has written about Russiagate, and one which the Huffington Post disgracefully has sought to suppress – and a further article by Mike Whitney, which goes over the same ground though in rather more detail, and which is based on (as it admits) on Joe Lauria’s article.

Many things that are actually said about investigations are simply not true.  By way of example, it is very rare for motive to be a good or reliable guide to establishing the perpetrator of a crime.

However “follow the money” is one of those things which is commonly said about investigations which in the great majority of cases is actually true.  In this case the money does not point either to Moscow or to Donald Trump; it points to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

The last four points also beg a host of other questions, but there is one overriding one.

This is whether the entirety of the Russiagate allegations – both the hacking allegations and the collusion allegations – are based on the DNC/Hillary Clinton funded Crowdstrike report and the DNC’Hillary Clinton funded Trump Dossier, or whether any other evidence exists, however flimsy, which purports to corroborate them.

Joe Lauria and Mike Whitney have looked into this question in detail and have basically concluded that there is none and that the Russiagate allegations are indeed based entirely on the Crowdstrike report and the Trump Dossier.

I have long since believed the same thing, though I have not delved into the matter as deeply as Joe Lauria and Mike Whitney have done.

There have been various hints at various times from the usual ‘anonymous sources’ that other ‘evidence’ that supposedly corroborates the Russian collusion allegations also exists.

There have for examples been rumours – never confirmed – of human agents supposedly employed by the secret services of one of the Baltic states and/or of Britain and/or of Ukraine and/or of some other NATO or US allies (the story  repeatedly changes) who supposedly have provided independent evidence confirming the Russiagate allegations.

However whenever actual ‘evidence’ purporting to prove the Russiagate allegations comes to light it invariably turns out after close study to originate either with the Crowdstrike report or (far more often) with the Trump Dossier.

My opinion is that the stories of human agents have been intentionally spread in order to conceal the extent to which the Russiagate collusion allegations depend in their entirety on the Trump Dossier.

That does not of course mean that none of these human agents exist.  However given the nature of undercover intelligence work and of the sort of people who are drawn to it, if they are asked to corroborate lurid allegations of the sort which appear in the Trump Dossier they are more likely than not to do so if for no other reason than to keep their employers happy.  The debacle of the Iraqi WMD allegations in 2002 and 2003 is a perfect case study of this.

Four facts which makes me think the Trump Dossier is indeed the original source of the Russiagate collusion allegations are

(1) that its early entries appear to be the earliest written documents to have made those allegations;

(2) that it is becoming gradually clear that the Trump Dossier was the only evidence cited to support those allegations in the classified version of the 6th January 2017 ODNI report provided to President Obama and to President elect Trump;

(3) that the contents of the Trump Dossier were used to persuade the FISA court to grant at least one FISA surveillance warrant against Carter Page (see Mike Whitney’s excellent discussion of this); and

(4) that the FBI and the US intelligence community have gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the extent to which they depend on the Trump Dossier to provide them with the frame narrative for the Russiagate investigation, even though that is something which is now confirmed.

For a good illustration of (4) see the massive Washington Post article of 23rd June 2017, which obviously derives from intelligence sources, and which – as I have pointed out previously – clearly shows that the initial “evidence” of Russian meddling in the election provided by the CIA to the Obama White House in August 2016 was the early entries of the Trump Dossier.  The article is however careful to avoid naming the Trump Dossier though a simple process of deduction shows that this is the “evidence” the article is referring to.

It is impossible to avoid the impression that the reason the FBI and the US intelligence community are concealing the fact that they depend on the Trump Dossier to provide them with their frame narrative is because they do not want to admit to the fact that the whole Russiagate investigation rests upon it and is ultimately no more than a gigantic fishing expedition to try to prove it true.

Needless to say, since the allegations in the Trump Dossier are not true, this fishing expedition is catching nothing and the Russiagate investigation is going nowhere.

In my opinion all this provides compelling reasons to broaden the scope of the Russiagate investigation to look at what is the true scandal of the 2016 election: that US citizens involved in the Trump campaign – including, it is becoming increasingly clear, Donald Trump himself – were under surveillance by the FBI and the US intelligence community during the US election because of two reports – the Crowdstrike report and the Trump Dossier – paid for by the Hillary Clinton controlled and funded DNC.

Given the evidence of extreme bias on the part of the FBI and the US intelligence community in favour of Hillary Clinton that this shows, it would also be appropriate in my opinion to look into the FBI’s and the Justice Department’s extraordinary handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her private email server.

On 31st October 2016 – before the election – I touched on how extraordinarily protective of Hillary Clinton that handling appeared to be

Which brings me to the subject of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

I am not an expert on the US law in question.  However it looks to me like a standard law for the handling of classified or confidential material, of which there are many.  As is common with such laws, it is a law of what the British call “strict liability” ie. motive is irrelevant, and a crime is automatically committed if the the terms of the law are breached. 

What that means is that it is technically irrelevant whether Hillary Clinton breached the terms of the law intentionally or carelessly (as she says).  If she breached the terms of the law then she is or should be guilty of the crime set out in it.

I think it is fair to say that most people familiar with this law agree that Hillary Clinton was very fortunate not to have been prosecuted when the FBI first investigated her over the emails.  Most of these people also agree that anyone else in the same position would almost certainly have been prosecuted if they had done the same thing.

As it happens Hillary Clinton not only failed to provide any remotely satisfactory explanation of why she used a private server in breach of the terms of the law, but she has also admitted deleting tens of thousands of emails (apparently on the grounds they were “private”) and of having destroyed hard drives to make retrieval of these emails impossible.  

Again I think it is fair to say that most people who know about these things would expect in those circumstances a prosecution for obstruction of justice; and that most of these people think that Hillary Clinton is either very privileged or very lucky that no such prosecution was brought against her. 

Hillary Clinton is by all accounts a very capable lawyer.  As a lawyer she would have been required to keep clients’ information confidential as a normal part of her work.  Hillary Clinton was also one of the lawyers involved in the hearings of the Watergate scandal, in which mishandling of confidential information was a central issue.  She cannot therefore claim to be ignorant about these sort of issues.  

Hillary Clinton has also served in the White House as a member of her husband’s administration, and was a US Senator before Obama appointed her US Secretary of State, when the scandal of the emails took place.  Again the handling of secret and confidential information would have been a normal part of her work.

We are therefore talking about someone who has been handling confidential and classified information all her working life, and who is or should be fully aware of the relevant rules and protocols involved in handling it, and of the legal consequences of not abiding by them. 

Speaking as someone who has also had experience of handling confidential information, I can say that after a time observing the proper protocols becomes second nature.  It is well-nigh incredible to me – and I suspect to many other people – that this was not so in Hillary Clinton’s case.

It is also well-nigh incredible to me that a lawyer as experienced as Hillary Clinton would not in the event of an FBI investigation immediately take steps to ensure that all the evidence – meaning of course all the emails – was tracked down, carefully preserved, and handed over immediately to the FBI.  That tens of thousands of emails were instead deleted, that hard drives were destroyed, and that emails should now be turning up months later in a laptop in the possession of the estranged husband of a senior aide who is being investigated on sex crime charges, would be quite literally beyond belief were it not actually happening.

All of these points have now been made – in far greater detail and at far greater length – in a brilliant dissection of the FBI’s and of the Justice Department’s extraordinary handling of the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of her private email server by Andrew McCarthy for The National Review.

Reports are now circulating that the Justice Department is considering appointing another Special Counsel to look into these issues and conceivably also into the Uranium One issue.

I sincerely hope that this is so, though I hope that the focus of this investigation will be the actions of the DNC, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Justice Department, the US intelligence community and the FBI during the election, not the Uranium One scandal, which though a tangled affair is one which is not directly related to the election, and which should therefore be investigated separately.

I would also hope that in time the two investigations – Robert Mueller’s Russiagate investigation and whatever separate investigation by the second Special Counsel is now established – before long will be merged into one.

I understand that the politics of the situation at the moment make it very difficult to sack Mueller and to close his investigation down.  However the reality is that his investigation is going nowhere but is doing huge damage along the way, whilst – as I have previously pointed out – Mueller’s own deep and longstanding connections to the FBI make it impossible to see how he can conduct the expanded investigation which now needs to take place impartial way, making it essential that he go.

I hope that in time the logic of all this will become clear, and the absurdity of two Special Counsel carrying out investigations at cross-purposes with each other will become obvious.

There is a real scandal to investigate about the 2016 election.  That scandal is not the Russiagate conspiracy theory, which it is now becoming clear rests entirely on two tawdry DNC/Clinton paid for reports: the Crowdstrike report and the Trump Dossier.

That scandal is how the vast surveillance machinery of the US state was brought to bear on behalf one Presidential candidate and against another, and how the US intelligence community – not Russia – meddled in a US election on behalf of one candidate and against another.

Previously, when I discussed this, I expressed skepticism that such an investigation of what is the real scandal of the 2016 election would ever happen

To say all this does not unfortunately mean that this scandal is going to play out the way it should, or that people will see it for what it really is.

Many powerful people in the US political system, including in the US’s Deep State, in the media and in Congress, are deeply implicated in this scandal, and they will fight tooth and nail any attempt to hold them to account, continuing to use the bogus Russia cover story to justify and protect themselves, as they have been doing successfully up to now.

Beyond that there are a great many people who have bought into the Russia story – bogus though it is – falling for the entirely wrong and repeatedly discredited psuedo-principle that there cannot be smoke without fire (there not only can be; there usually is).

Lastly, the paranoia about Russia in the US and in western Europe is now so great that it is easy to dupe many people by conjuring it.

Nonetheless, though it is far from sure that many people will be able to see the true scandal through all the smoke, the proof of the real scandal of the Presidential election of 2016 is now finally out there.  It remains to be seen whether the highly corrupt and deeply compromised US political system retains sufficient vitality and integrity to investigate it.

All these obstacles lying in the way of a proper investigation of the real scandal of the 2016 election are still there as when I wrote those words in March.  I am sorry to say that my skepticism that we will ever see a proper investigation of the real scandal of the 2016 election remains profound.  However reports of the appointment of Special Counsel may show that I am wrong.  I hope so.

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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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