Category Archives: International

‘Delete-Alt-Right’ – Steve Bannon Fired

It appears that a series of interviews this week by chief White House strategist Steve Bannon displaying extreme hubris about his “power behind the throne” was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

There can only be one self-involved egomaniacal man-child in the White House, and that is Donald Trump.

New chief of staff Ret. Gen. John Kelly finally pulled the trigger and fired Steve Bannon (and more firings are rumored coming). Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon fired:

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has been fired, multiple White House officials told CNN on Friday.

Sources told CNN that Bannon’s ouster had been in the works for two weeks and a source said that while Bannon was given the option to resign, he was ultimately forced out.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Bannon’s departure, but claimed the decision for him to leave was mutual.

“White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best,” Sanders said in a statement.

Continue reading

Pandora’s Drone

By Michael Bryan

Note: This is a think piece that has been languishing in my drafts for some time. I am publishing now in order to see what, if any, feedback readers may have, not in response to any current events, although it does briefly touch upon the terrorist attack in Charlottesville in my last revision.

In a complete reversal of American norms before 2001, Americans have come to expect that our foreign, sub-state political foes will be dealt with by assassination. That might seem a shocking assertion, but the policy of targeted killings of those identified as enemies of the United States by drone can only be euphemized, not denied. Bush and Obama placed such assassinations at the heart of our military strategy against those groups and individuals seen as a terrorist threat to America, and regardless of who the President might be, that tool will not be disposed of unless its use is wholly rejected by Americans. Given that no great outcry or mass movement has yet denounced the continued use of drone assassination in our foreign policy, it seems very likely to continue. In fact, Donald Trump has re-authorized the CIA to carry out its own drone strikes, lowering accountability and reporting requirements in place under Obama, when only the military was empowered to carry out lethal drone operations.

Our desire for the perception of safety and demand of bold action by our leadership against possible terrorist threats has swamped any scruple we may once have held against merely murdering our geo-strategic enemies. We have always killed in war, but killing specific people, and all persons believed to be members of designated organizations, anywhere they may found, even in countries we are not hostile to, is a new thing entirely. But no modern politician will run the risk of being accused of not having done everything possible when the next mass casualty attack on American soil comes, as it inevitably will, therefore a tactic that began as an expedient use of a new technology in a crisis seems to have become the centerpiece our de facto anti-terrorism strategy.

Americans seem to have decided that extra-judicial state murder, even of some American citizens, is justified in our fight against terrorism. Despite the fig-leaf of “due process” of review within the executive branch that was constructed around the practice by the Obama administration, targeted drone strikes and so-called signature strikes on suspected terrorist activity are extra-judicial executions, pure and simple. We may hide behind the fiction that we are “at war” with some ill-defined terrorist organizations and thus those killed are “enemy combatants,” and any innocents killed as a result are unfortunate “collateral damage”, but this only semantics. Since we are not going invade Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, or Syria, or (re-re-re-invade?) Iraq, or any of the other failing or weak states where terrorist cells might find sanctuary, in order to end the threat of these sub-state organizations pose to our security, we are going to continue to fight these “wars” with proxies, intelligence assets, and drone strikes. We will continue to make targeted killings, i.e. murder, a key component of our foreign policy.

My point is not to suggest an alternative, or even to suggest that the policy is necessarily wrong or immoral. There may be no more effective, more politically acceptable, or more morally inoffensive alternative. My point is to question what effect this will have on the evolution American political culture, and on the normative behavior of governments visa-vis their own citizens – including our own toward us.

Continue reading

Follow the money: Probable cause Paul Manafort committed a crime

It appears that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing the lesson of Watergate: “follow the money.”

Remember how Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said that he would work for free?

Yeah, that probably didn’t happen. He appears to have been paid in ways that may involve money laundering, possibly through Russian oligarchs.

Back in May, federal investigators subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign. Feds Subpoena Records for $3.5M Mystery Mortgage on Manafort’s Home:

On August 19, 2016, Manafort left the Trump campaign amid media reports about his previous work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, including allegations he received millions of dollars in payments.

That same day, Manafort created a holding company called Summerbreeze LLC. Several weeks later, a document called a UCC filed with the state of New York shows that Summerbreeze took out a $3.5 million loan on Manafort’s home in the tony beach enclave of Bridgehampton.

Manafort’s name does not appear on the UCC filing, but Summerbreeze LLC gives his Florida address as a contact, and lists his Bridgehampton home as collateral.

A review of New York state and Suffolk County records shows the loan was made by S C 3, a subsidiary of Spruce Capital, which was co-founded by Joshua Crane, who has partnered with Donald Trump on real estate deals. Spruce is also partially funded by Ukrainian-American real-estate magnate Alexander Rovt, who tried to donate $10,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign on Election Day but had all but the legal maximum of $2,700 returned.

Continue reading

Trump parrots Kim Jong-un in making nuclear threats

The United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. It is the only time that such weapons have been used in war.

Donald Trump, apparently unaware of these historically significant anniversary dates, yesterday threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” — a veiled nuclear threat — if it does not stop threatening the United States.

So now Donald Trump is making the same wild threats that Kim Jong-un and North Korea regularly make? Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ statement echoes North Korea’s own threats.

Hours later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to assuage Americans’ fears that a nuclear war with North Korea was imminent.

What is this, good cop bad cop? A return to Richard Nixon’s Madman Strategy with Tillerson reprising the role of Henry Kissinger?

The Washington Post reports, As Tillerson tries to assuage Americans’ fear, Trump highlights U.S. nuclear arsenal:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday defended President Trump’s forceful warning to North Korea to stop threatening the United States, and dismissed concerns that Guam is in any imminent danger from Pyongyang’s missiles.

“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said in an interview with two pool reporters while flying from Malaysia to a scheduled refueling stop in Guam.

“I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime that the U.S. has the unquestionable ability to defend itself, will defend itself and its allies, and I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.”

Continue reading

Gaza 2017: Incremental Genocide by an American Client State

It’s been ten years since Israel imposed its blockade on the Gaza Strip, in violation of international law.

It’s been three years since the close of Israel’s last murderous rampage in Gaza, Operation Protective Edge. In that so-called war, 1,473 Palestinian civilians, including 501 children, perished.

But those numbers only reflect the ones who died at the hands of Israeli weaponry.

Ultimately, those numbers will pale in comparison to the number of lives shattered by the ongoing blockade and the refusal of the United States, the one player on the world stage with the necessary power and influence, to end it. In all likelihood, they already do.

The casualty statistics, you see, don’t include those whose death is the indirect result of Israeli and American policy towards the people of Gaza. They don’t reflect, for example, the children who died from exposure in the unusually cold winter that followed Operation Protection Edge. They don’t include those who die from drinking dirty water. They don’t include those who die from inadequate medical facilities. The list goes on.

Unfortunately, we’ve likely not yet seen the worst of it. Continue reading

White nationalists making immigration policy in Trump White House

Donald Trump played to nativist and racist fears in the 2016 campaign by focusing heavily on illegal immigration: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.

However, Trump’s alt-right campaign advisors, Steven Bannon and Stephen Miller, are also opposed to legal immigration.

On Wednesday, Trump, GOP senators reintroduced a bill to slash legal immigration levels (this is a modified version of a bill submitted in February that went nowhere):

Trump appeared with Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) at the White House to unveil a modified version of a bill the senators first introduced in February to create a “merit-based” immigration system that would put a greater emphasis on the job skills of foreigners over their ties to family in the United States.

The legislation seeks to reduce the annual distribution of green cards awarding permanent legal residence to just over 500,000 from more than 1 million.

The bill also gives a preference to those who speak English.

The bill faces dim prospects in the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow majority and would have difficulty reaching 60 votes to fend off a filibuster. But the president’s event came as the White House sought to move past a major political defeat on repealing the Affordable Care Act by pivoting to issues that resonate with Trump’s core supporters.

White House alt-right advisor Stephen Miller attended the White House press briefing with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to explain and defend the bill, and wound up being the story with his outrageous behavior.

Continue reading