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

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

Alexander Mercouris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(bold italics added)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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