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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Israel Joins Totalitarian States Using Coronavirus to Spy on Citizens | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 19, 2020

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/israel-joins-totalitarian-states-in-using-coronavirus-to-spy-on-its-citizens/

Iran and China, too, are turning powerful intelligence-gathering networks on their own people. Is the U.S. next?

An Israeli soldier wearing a face mask enters a train on March 16, 2020 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced emergency measures to combat COVID-19 after more than 300 Israelis tested positive. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

At 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Israel joined Iran and China in focusing the powerful intelligence gathering tools of the state on its own citizens—all in the name of containing the coronavirus outbreak.

In the dead of the night, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized advanced digital surveillance and monitoring tools to be deployed on Israeli citizens, without court order, in an effort to track coronavirus carriers.

Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, will be allowed to use personal cell phone data and information such as which cell tower a device pings to, to retroactively track the movements of carriers of the “coronavirus in order to see with whom they interacted in the days and weeks before they were tested in order to place those people in quarantine,” reportsThe Times of Israel. This means that “any person in Israel could come under surveillance” of the Shin Bet, “an organization with no public transparency requirements” that reports directly to the Prime Minister.

The decision came after Netanyahu appeared ready to close down most of the court system and deploy the measure without Knesset approval Saturday night.

“The public outcry over these measures and accusations of an effective coup by the government over the other branches led Deputy Attorney-General Raz Nizri to assure a group of journalists on Sunday night that the Shin Bet would not start its surveillance without Knesset approval,” reports The Jerusalem Post.

The government ultimately authorized the surveillance in the middle of the night between Monday and Tuesday, without Knesset approval. The program removes a 30-day limit that Netanyahu had promised, and instead authorizes surveillance to continue an additional 60 days after the government’s state of emergency ends.

“Because the pandemic is spreading at an incredibly fast pace, postponing using these tools by even an hour could cause the deaths of a very large amount of Israelis,” Netanyahu said.

“I can assure you all unequivocally: There isn’t and won’t be a ‘Big Brother’ in the State of Israel, even in the framework of an extreme event like what we are dealing with now,” wrote Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich in a tweet on Sunday.

Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashenazi called the decision “surrendering transparency” and “political thievery.”

Israel’s new citizen surveillance program builds on a 2002 counterterrorism law that gave the Shin Bet direct access to cellular data, bypassing cell phone companies.

Netanyahu’s political rival Benny Gantz was tasked with forming a government Monday afternoon, and critics argue Netanyahu’s caretaker government does not have the authority to circumvent the relevant committees and single-handedly approve the sweeping measures.

“The government approved in the dead of night, in a move of underhanded opportunism the emergency regulations, despite the fact that the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee started discussing the matter yesterday, without given the option to seriously delve into the issue and complete deliberations,” tweeted Gabi Ashkenazi, former chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

“It’s inappropriate to approve such a measure in this manner, without public and parliamentary supervision,” he continued. “I call to allow the establishment of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (which was dissolved on Monday as the new Knesset was sworn in) as soon as today in order to immediately discuss the issue, and activate the necessary supervision as stated by the law.”

Israel’s new regulations come as governments around the world adopt increasingly draconian measures. Iran rolled out an app ostensibly for the purpose of informing the public of coronavirus symptoms, but which actually spied on Iranians.  The Communist government of China has brought the full weight of its mass public surveillance and social credit system to bear, using face recognition software, apps, drones and CCTV cameras to enforce quarantines.

Domestic police forces in Europe are adopting measures that would have been unthinkable in democratic societies a few months ago. The U.K. plans to give police new authority to detain people and place them in isolation. Police in Madrid, Spain are deploying drones with cameras and loudspeakers to order people in parks and on the streets to go home.

“We will not hesitate to use all the means at our disposal to ensure your security and that of everyone,” Madrid’s Police Force tweeted. “Although some still make it difficult for us.”

Amid talks that the Trump administration is seeking location data from tech giants like Google and Facebook, democratic governments around the world are balancing citizens’ civil liberties and public health.

“Israel is a democracy — we must uphold the balance between the rights of individuals and the public needs. And we are doing this,” said Netanyahu.

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UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements Was Dead on Arrival – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on February 20, 2020

In response to the database, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened
to intensify his country’s interference in US politics. He noted that his
officials had already “promoted laws in most US states…

https://original.antiwar.com/cook/2020/02/19/un-list-of-firms-aiding-israels-settlements-was-dead-on-arrival/

After lengthy delays, the United Nations finally published a database last week of businesses that have been profiting from Israel’s illegal settlement activity in the West Bank.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, announced that 112 major companies had been identified as operating in Israeli settlements in ways that violate human rights.

Aside from major Israeli banks, transport services, cafes, supermarkets, and energy, building and telecoms firms, prominent international businesses include Airbnb, booking.com, Motorola, Trip Advisor, JCB, Expedia and General Mills.

Human Rights Watch, a global watchdog, noted in response to the list’s publication that the settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. It argued that the firms’ activities mean they have aided “in the commission of war crimes”.

The companies’ presence in the settlements has helped to blur the distinction between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. That in turn has normalized the erosion of international law and subverted a long-held international consensus on establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Work on compiling the database began four years ago. But both Israel and the United States put strong pressure on the UN in the hope of preventing the list from ever seeing the light of day.

The UN body’s belated assertiveness looks suspiciously like a rebuke to the Trump administration for releasing this month its Middle East “peace” plan. It green-lights Israel’s annexation of the settlements and the most fertile and water-rich areas of the West Bank.

In response to the database, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to intensify his country’s interference in US politics. He noted that his officials had already “promoted laws in most US states, which determine that strong action is to be taken against whoever tries to boycott Israel.”

He was backed by all Israel’s main Jewish parties. Amir Peretz, leader of the center-left Labor party, vowed to “work in every forum to repeal this decision”. And Yair Lapid, a leader of Blue and White, the main rival to Netanyahu, called Bachelet the “commissioner for terrorists’ rights”.

Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, accused the UN of “unrelenting anti-Israel bias” and of aiding the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

In fact, the UN is not taking any meaningful action against the 112 companies, nor is it encouraging others to do so. The list is intended as a shaming tool – highlighting that these firms have condoned, through their commercial activities, Israel’s land and resource theft from Palestinians.

The UN has even taken an extremely narrow view of what constitutes involvement with the settlements. For example, it excluded organizations like FIFA, the international football association, whose Israeli subsidiary includes six settlement teams.

This week it also emerged that Amazon was aiding the settlements, though it is not named on the list. The online retail giant delivers for free to addresses in West Bank settlements, while imposing large shipping charges on Palestinians living nearby.

One of the identified companies, Airbnb, announced in late 2018 that it would remove from its accommodation bookings website all settlement properties – presumably to avoid being publicly embarrassed.

But a short time later Airbnb backed down. It is hard to imagine the decision was taken on strictly commercial grounds: the firm has only 200 settlement properties on its site.

A more realistic conclusion is that Airbnb feared the backlash from Washington and was intimated by a barrage of accusations from pro-Israel groups that its new policy was anti-Semitic.

In fact, the UN’s timing could not be more tragic. The list looks more like the last gasp of those who – through their negligence over nearly three decades – have enabled the two-state solution to wither to nothing.

Trump’s so-called peace plan could afford to be so one-sided only because western powers had already allowed Israel to void any hope of Palestinian statehood through decades of unremitting settlement expansion. Today, nearly 700,000 Israeli Jews are housed on occupied Palestinian territory.

On Monday European Union foreign ministers met to respond to the plan, but predictably they agreed to postpone a decision until after Israel’s election on March 2. Tepid opposition is probably the best that can ultimately be expected.

The actions of several European states continue to speak much louder than any words.

Last Friday, Germany followed the Czech Republic in filing a petition to the International Criminal Court at The Hague siding with Israel as the court deliberates whether to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes, including over the establishment of settlements.

Germany does not appear to deny that the settlements are war crimes. Instead, it hopes to block the case on dubious technical grounds: that despite Palestine signing up to the Rome Statute, which established the Hague court, it is not yet a fully fledged state.

So far Austria, Hungary, Australia and Brazil appear to be following suit.

But if Palestine lacks the proper attributes of statehood, it is because the US and Europe, including Germany, have consistently broken promises to the Palestinians.

They not only refused to intervene to save the two-state solution, but rewarded Israel with trade deals and diplomatic and financial incentives, even as Israel eroded the institutional and territorial integrity necessary for Palestinian self-rule.

Germany’s stance, like that of the rest of Europe, is hypocritical. They have claimed opposition to Israel’s endless settlement expansion, and now to Trump’s plan, but their actions have paved the way to the annexation of the West Bank the plan condones.

Back in November the European Court of Justice finally ruled that products made in West Bank settlements – using illegally seized Palestinian resources on illegally seized Palestinian land – should not be labeled deceptively as “Made in Israel”.

And yet European countries are still postponing implementation of the decision. Instead, some of them are legislating against their citizens’ right to express support for a settlement boycott.

Similarly, Europe and North America continue to afford the Jewish National Fund, an entity that finances settlement-building, “charitable status”, giving it tax breaks as it raises funds inside their jurisdictions.

The Israeli media is full of stories of how the JNF actively assists extremist settler groups in evicting Palestinians from homes in East Jerusalem. But Britain and other states are blocking legal efforts to challenge the JNF’s special status.

Soon, it seems, Europe will no longer have to worry about its hypocrisy being so visible. Once the settlements have been annexed, as the Trump administration intends, the EU can set aside its ineffectual agonizing and treat the settlements as irrevocably Israeli – just as it has done in practice with the Israeli “neighborhoods” of occupied East Jerusalem.

Then, the UN’s list of shame can join decades’ worth of condemnatory resolutions that have been quietly gathering dust.

A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.

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American Citizens Killed and Tortured by Israel?, by Philip Giraldi – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on February 17, 2020

Much better known is the March 2003 killing of Washington State’s Rachel Corrie, who was deliberately run over by an Israeli military bulldozer when she was protesting the destruction of a Palestinian village. A month later there was an incident in which Brian Avery, a 24-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was shot in the face in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin by Israeli soldiers in an armored personnel carrier firing machine guns at protesters.

https://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/american-citizens-killed-and-tortured-by-israel/

One of the principal functions of a United States Embassy overseas is to provide citizen services, which includes coming to the assistance of Americans who are treated badly by the local government. It is a responsibility that most embassies take seriously, with the exception of the facility currently located in Jerusalem. One has to understand that that is so because the United States Embassy in Israel is like no other. In other countries, the American Embassy exists to support American travelers, businesses and a broad range of national interests. In Jerusalem the Embassy exists to support Israeli interests and to serve as an apologist every time the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes on a killing spree or does something else that is similarly outrageous, to include bombing neighboring Syria every other day.

America’s current ambassador, former Trump bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, has funded Israel’s illegal settlements, which did not in any way complicate his confirmation as nearly everyone in Congress and the White House does not believe that the Palestinians actually are human beings. Since taking up his position, Friedman has defended Israel when its army sharpshooters have shot down scores of unarmed Gazans, including children, and has both praised and endorsed out-and-out theft by the Israeli government in Jerusalem, on the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

What the U.S. Embassy under Friedman will not do is put any real pressure on the Israeli government if its security forces or rampaging settlers kill, beat, maim or torture an American citizen, especially if said citizen happens to be of Palestinian descent. Indeed, Friedman is only the latest manifestation of Israel-first-itis among U.S. Ambassadors, the rot having started inevitably with Bill Clinton, who appointed Australian citizen Martin Indyk as the first Jewish ambassador to Tel Aviv. The two most recent ambassadors, Friedman and Daniel Shapiro, both political appointees, have also been Jewish. Shapiro so enjoyed being an Israeli that he decided to remain in the country after his appointment as ambassador was completed. He now works for an Israeli government funded think tank.

The Israeli army and police have in fact killed a number of American citizens without any real pushback from the Department of State or White House. The unwillingness to confront Israel on any level stems from the formidable Jewish power in the United States, which uses money and media control to corrupt the political system at national, state and local levels. The media and the chattering political class worry about Russian interference while ignoring the implications of a Haaretz article that appeared on February 12th entitled “AIPAC Must Stop Bernie Sanders – At All Costs!” AIPAC is, of course, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely regarded as the chief U.S. lobbying arm of the Jewish state.

Betty McCollum. U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 4th congressional district at a women’s roundtable at Hillary for Minnesota Headquarters in St Paul, MN. Credit: Lorie Shaull/ Flickr
Betty McCollum. U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 4th congressional district at a women’s roundtable at Hillary for Minnesota Headquarters in St Paul, MN. Credit: Lorie Shaull/ Flickr

And witness the fate of Congresswoman Betty McCollum from Minnesota, who fell afoul of the Israel Lobby when she introduced H.R.2407, legislation that prohibits American taxpayer money from being used by Israel to arrest and detain Palestinian children. She stated that “Israel’s system of military juvenile detention is state-sponsored child abuse designed to intimidate and terrorize Palestinian children and their families. It must be condemned, but it is equally outrageous that U.S. tax dollars in the form of military aid to Israel are permitted to sustain what is clearly a gross human rights violation against children.” She might have added that the estimated 10,000 Arab children who have been detained since 2000 are frequently tortured by the Israeli authorities. The bill currently has 23 cosponsors and is unlikely to attract more due to fear of the Lobby. It will never reach the House floor for a vote and will never become law.

McCollum’s courage was on display when she was viciously attacked by AIPAC, which posted Facebook ads that referenced “radicals in the Democratic party,” including a photo of McCollum, with the text stating that “It’s critical that we protect our Israeli allies especially as they face threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah ISIS and — maybe more sinister — right here in the U.S. Congress.” McCollum stood her ground against being called “more sinister” than ISIS and released a statement that describes AIPAC as a “hate group,” which of course it is, but she will find few in the Democratic party brave enough to defend her.

Israel’s willingness to kill Americans in support of what it perceives as its own interests goes back nearly to the founding of the state in 1948. The Lavon Affair of 1954 was an Israeli plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy Information Agency libraries in Alexandria and Cairo Egypt, blaming the attacks on the Egyptians to draw the United States closer to Israel. The bombs were placed by Egyptian Jews acting for Israeli intelligence. They exploded, but fortunately no one was killed.

In June 1967 Israel was at it again, attacking the intelligence gathering U.S. naval vessel the U.S.S. Liberty in international waters, killing thirty-four American sailors, Marines and civilians in a deliberate air and sea onslaught that sought to sink the intelligence gathering ship and kill all its crew. It was the worst attack ever carried out on a U.S. Naval vessel in peace time. In addition to the death toll, 171 more of the crew were wounded in the two-hour assault. The Israelis, whose planes had their Star of David markings covered up so Egypt could be blamed, attacked the ship repeatedly from the air and with gunboats from the sea. When one Israeli pilot hesitated, refusing to attack what was clearly an American ship, he was instructed to proceed anyway.

The most disgusting part of the tale relates to how U.S. warplanes sent to the Liberty’s aid from an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean were called back by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara acting under orders from President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who declared that he would rather see the ship go to the bottom of the sea than embarrass his good friend Israel. Ironically, the first ship to reach the Liberty and offer assistance was from the Soviet Union, an offer that was declined.

More recently there have been a number of killings of Americans. In a bizarre incident in August 1988, an elderly Palestinian-American with a heart condition died after being forced to climb stairs to paint over anti-Israeli graffiti on a school wall. Rebhi Barakat Kaid, 67, of Columbus, Ohio, was on the West Bank visiting relatives. He died of a heart attack after three Israeli soldiers ordered him and his 14-year-old Chicago-born grandson at gunpoint to climb the 22 steep steps that led from the house to the street above without his being allowed to take his heart medicine first.

Much better known is the March 2003 killing of Washington State’s Rachel Corrie, who was deliberately run over by an Israeli military bulldozer when she was protesting the destruction of a Palestinian village. A month later there was an incident in which Brian Avery, a 24-year-old from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was shot in the face in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin by Israeli soldiers in an armored personnel carrier firing machine guns at protesters.

(Picture taken at 4:47PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel Corrie lies on the ground fatally injured by the Israeli bulldozer driver. Rachel’s fellow activists have dug her a little out of the sand and are trying to keep her neck straight due to spinal injury. Photo by Joseph Smith. Credit: ISM Handout
(Picture taken at 4:47PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel Corrie lies on the ground fatally injured by the Israeli bulldozer driver. Rachel’s fellow activists have dug her a little out of the sand and are trying to keep her neck straight due to spinal injury. Photo by Joseph Smith. Credit: ISM Handout

In March 2009 Tristan Anderson, a 37-year-old from Oakland, California, suffered permanent brain damage when Israeli soldiers shot him in the face with a tear gas canister as he watched a protest in the West Bank village of Nilin.

Another American citizen, Furkan Doğan, an 18-year-old born in Troy, New York, was killed aboard the Turkish flagged Mavi Marmara in the Mediterranean Sea in May 2010 as a flotilla of international activists attempted to break Israel’s illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian supplies. The United Nations’ General Assembly Human Rights Council determined that Doğan had been killed by Israeli naval commandos through an “extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.” He was shot five times, including once in the face from “point blank range.”

Furkan Doğan
Furkan Doğan

The same day that Israel murdered Furkan Doğan, 21-year-old Emily Henochowicz of Potomac, Maryland, was protesting the attack on the flotilla at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem, when an Israeli soldier shot her in the face with a teargas cannister, resulting in the loss of an eye.

And then there was in October 2014 the shooting by Israeli soldiers of Orwa Hammad, a 14-year-old Palestinian-American from Louisiana. The Israeli army claimed that Hammad was throwing a Molotov cocktail at the time of his death, but witnesses stated that he was among a group of children throwing rocks at the heavily armed and armored soldiers.

And most recently, there is the case of Florida-born 16-year-old Palestinian-American Mahmoud Shaalan who was shot repeatedly at an Israeli check point on the West Bank on February 26, 2016 while he was walking to a nearby village to visit his aunt. He was still alive after the shooting, but Israeli soldiers denied him any medical treatment for three hours and he died before an ambulance was allowed to approach him.

Arrest of Palestinians and others without probable cause under “administration detention” guidelines followed by torture has also become a hallmark of Israel’s occupation of Arab land. Torture methods used by Israel include stress positions, severe beatings, sleep deprivation, emotional blackmail, threats of torture of family members and the transfer of detainees to secret prisons where torture is constant. In one case reported to a Human Rights Association “The harsh beating was committed with the intention to kill the detainee.”

In another reported case of torture, nineteen-year-old Mahmoud Zakarner’s testicles were smashed by soldiers in front of his uncle to force the man to provide the names of Palestinian resistance members. Mahmoud is now paralyzed and unable to speak as a result.

Israeli expertise in torture is in demand from authoritarian regimes worldwide, creating a growth industry for the specialized “advisers and technicians.” Many are currently working with right wing regimes in South and Central America. Several even showed up at Abu Ghraib as trainers for U.S. interrogators and were able to suggest refinements like the “Palestinian chair.”

Inside Israel torture of Palestinians is routine on the grounds of “necessity” and absurd “ticking-bomb” scenarios. The courts and the medical profession aid and abet the practice. Over 1200 complaints regarding the torture of Palestinians in Israeli prisons have not resulted in even a single indictment of the torturers.

So, killing Americans as well as many others and torturing prisoners are all in a day’s work for the Jewish state. What is disgraceful, of course, is the fact that the United States government, which has the power to do something about it, instead chooses to do nothing to stop the bleeding or even to demand inquiries to find out who is to blame. Instead, Washington lavishes money and praise on Israel, reportedly America’s best friend and closest ally, while it also avoids looking at the horrors that are evident to most of the rest of the world.

 

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Clipping the President’s War Wings – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on February 15, 2020

Ironically, the US killed the most moderate senior Iranian leader who
was in line to become the Islamic Republic’s leader. Israel has long
had the policy of assassinating Palestinian moderates, leaving only the
radicals alive. This allowed Israel to assert ‘we have no one to
negotiate with.’

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/02/eric-margolis/clipping-the-presidents-war-wings/

By

Special for LewRockwell.com

The US Senate, long the lap dog of the man who would be king, President Donald Trump, appears to have finally remembered its proper constitutional role.

Last week, the Senate voted 55/45 for a new bipartisan War Powers Act to constrain military action against Iran.  The Congress voted a similar act.  Both are designed to start returning the right to make war to Congress, as the Constitution clearly intended.  The president is not the Warlord-in-chief in spite of what he thinks.

The Senate has been supine until now, intimidated by an unholy alliance of pro-war Christian evangelists and the Israel lobby, and over $100 million given to the Republican Party by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.  Senators who dare oppose this powerful special interest risk their political futures.  The lifting of limits on political contributions has given Adelson enormous power over Trump and his friend, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Trump has been very successful in intimidating and punishing those who deviate from his party line. All he lacks so far is a KGB-style secret police to enforce his demands. The current fracas over Trump’s efforts to undermine the prosecution of his ally, political low-life Roger Stone, is yet the latest example of the steady erosion of our democratic system.

Yet even Trump went too far with the murder of senior Iranian officer, Maj. Gen Qasem Soleimani, who had been invited to visit Iraq for peace talks by its US-installed regime. Americans, besotted by too many violent TV programs, saw this as a plus, but the rest of the world was horrified by the gangster act. It appears Trump & Co. were convinced to commit this murder by Israel, which had been stalking Soleimani for years.

Ironically, the US killed the most moderate senior Iranian leader who was in line to become the Islamic Republic’s leader. Israel has long had the policy of assassinating Palestinian moderates, leaving only the radicals alive. This allowed Israel to assert ‘we have no one to negotiate with.’

Soleimani’s murder was too much for eight Republican senators. This act of war was never approved by Congress, as the Constitution mandates. Better educated senators realized that Trump was pushing the US into a bloody war with Iran which, like the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, would have only one real winner, Israel.

These senators did the right thing.  They arrested, at least temporarily, the decades-long shift to growing presidential dictatorship under the guise of war powers.

Think back to the 2003 Iraq War which was concocted by the Bush administration to justify a massive military intervention when, in fact, no real threat to the US existed.  I know this because I was there and immune to all the official lies from Washington and London.  A pack of lies, but the US still occupies Iraq.

The ‘imminent threat’ scenario used by Republicans to promote warlike acts, such as the murder of Maj. Gen. Soleimani, is bogus.  Anyone can justify war by claiming ‘intelligence sources’ and internet chatter.  Much of the intelligence the US gets from the Mideast is fake or twisted to promote other nation’s benefit.  Washington was fed a farrago of intelligence lies and half-truths by its allies Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel to help promote the 2003 war against Iraq.  Trump has used similar phony ‘intelligence’ to justify his Mideast militarism.

The founders of our United States intended Congress to be the premier arm of government.  But our once powerful Congress has been bleeding power and authority – not to mention respect – since the Vietnam era.  Serving in Congress was supposed to be a part-time job for educated landowners, not small-town lawyers from the rural Bible Belt.

But will this attempt by the Senate to restore some of its power and prestige work?  Trump will almost certainly veto this war powers act and further intimidate Congress.  Yet unless Congress makes a stand, our balanced system of government is truly at risk.  Americans should at minimum draw the lesson never to vote power to a president and Congress of the same party.

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The Inevitable Collapse of Israeli-Saudi-American Alliance ...

 

 

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Trump’s “win-win” plan hands everything to Israel | The Electronic Intifada

Posted by M. C. on January 31, 2020

Palestinians don’t go entirely empty-handed. Their overlords have granted them “statehood.” Over more than twice as much land as they currently control.

That at least is the breathless reporting that infected initial
reports on the plan’s announcement, though no one stopped to ask the
obvious: two times nothing is?

https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/omar-karmi/trumps-win-win-plan-hands-everything-israel

After much anticipation and with great ceremony, on Tuesday US President Donald Trump presented his plan for Middle East peace.

It’s “a great plan,” Trump had already said a few days ago, though he may just have been humoring his son-in-law Jared Kushner, its chief architect.

On Tuesday, he called the plan “win-win,” though to whom the second win goes is hard to say.

The first is undoubtedly Israel’s, of whom the only thing that is being asked is a four-year settlement freeze while Palestinian statehood is negotiated.

Outside this exhausting demand to do less, Israel gets: all (or near enough) its settlements, all of Jerusalem, control over borders, uncontested military control over the whole area of historic Palestine, some one-third of the West Bank and the removal of any possibility that Palestinians who were expelled in 1948 could ever claim a right of return or even compensation for the lands and homes and years that were stolen from them.

It is little wonder that a beaming Benjamin Netanyahu, the incumbent Israeli prime minister who stood next to Trump as he presented the plan, looked more smug than ever.

“For too long,” Netanyahu said in his remarks after Trump had delivered (boy, did he deliver), “the very heart of the land of Israel, where our patriarchs prayed, our prophets preached and our kings ruled has been outrageously branded as illegally occupied territory. Well today, Mr. President, you are puncturing this big lie.”

Indeed. No one could sum up better than Netanyahu how much is wrong with the plan. It has precisely nothing to do with the Palestinians, who have been reduced to the kind of bit players their status – in the eyes of those who came up with and support this plan – as second-class people restricts them to.

The other “win”

Palestinians don’t go entirely empty-handed. Their overlords have granted them “statehood.” Over more than twice as much land as they currently control.

That at least is the breathless reporting that infected initial reports on the plan’s announcement, though no one stopped to ask the obvious: two times nothing is?

According to the plan, the issue of territory was worked out “in the spirit of UN [Security Council Resolution] 242.” But that would suggest some kind of adherence to 1967 boundaries. Judging by the “conceptual maps” of the plan’s appendix, it is hard to see that the 1967 boundaries were even considered.

Indeed, the priority, as the plan makes clear, is Israel’s security. Hence Palestinians get no control over borders in and out of the West Bank…

Much of the presentation of the plan sounded like a threat against Palestinians.

Thus, the “difficulty” in creating a contiguous Palestinian state, given the spread of settlements, was used by an administration official as the reason for Palestinians to accept it.

“… [I]f we don’t do this freeze now I think that their chance to ever have a state basically goes away.”

What this official doesn’t seem to have stopped to consider is this: So what?

So what if that chance goes away. Israel still has to live with six million Palestinians.

Here is the eye-opening fact that eludes those who seem to think that power is all that matters: This is all over only when Palestinians say it is. Not a minute before.

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Five Things You Can’t Know About Israel and Its Lobby – Antiwar.com Original

Posted by M. C. on January 17, 2020

Later in 2015 Judge Chutkan seemed slightly less eager to allow any court-ordered release of thousands of files on how Israeli spies – in collaboration with Pittsburgh area US Zionist organization leaders – conducted an illegal diversion of US government-owned bomb grade nuclear material from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) in Apollo, Pennsylvania. The material wound up in Israel’s Dimona nuclear weapons production facility.

A story about “friends”.

https://original.antiwar.com/smith-grant/2020/01/16/five-things-you-cant-know-about-israel-and-its-lobby/

Since 9/11 Israel and its lobby have been hard at work narrowing U.S. policy options toward Iran down to military confrontation. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia is also in the narrowing business. After initially complying with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and releasing information about Israel’s extensive nuclear weapons program in 2015, the court of Judge Tanya S. Chutkan slowly became yet another federal cog in vast secrecy machine that thwarts release of information about Israel. That withheld information includes CIA files on the theft and diversion of US government owned weapons grade uranium into Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Top-line budget numbers for billions in secret US intelligence support to Israel. Portions of a 2012 Obama administration gag order outlawing release of US government information about Israel’s nuclear weapons program. Presidential letters promising Israel that the White House will not uphold the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Arms Export Control Act. Also retained are the identities of officials working at the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the US Department of Treasury.

It didn’t start out this way.

In 2015 Israel and its US lobby were pushing for US attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and against the Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA) which was aimed at averting such attacks. US District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan’s order that the Department of Defense had to release a 1987 study titled “Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations” about Israel’s extensive nuclear weapons production facilities, misuse of US civilian nuclear support supplied under the Atoms for Peace program, and Israel’s secret work on hydrogen bomb development helped undercut the Israeli war narrative. The report finally entering the public domain provided long missing context that Israel, not Iran, is the Middle East’s leading state sponsor of clandestine nuclear weapons development, proliferation and related foreign espionage.

The Nation Magazine featured a story on the stunning release of the report, while the now defunct neoconservative Weekly Standard deemed it a “shocking breach” that the Obama administration had dared to defy Israel and its lobby’s mandate that official US government information about the Israeli nuclear weapons program may never, ever be released to Americans.

Later in 2015 Judge Chutkan seemed slightly less eager to allow any court-ordered release of thousands of files on how Israeli spies – in collaboration with Pittsburgh area US Zionist organization leaders – conducted an illegal diversion of US government-owned bomb grade nuclear material from the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) in Apollo, Pennsylvania. The material wound up in Israel’s Dimona nuclear weapons production facility. Enough pressure was brought to bear that the CIA released classified evidence about how it had thwarted two FBI investigations into the caper by failing to share intelligence. CIA released a small number of documents from the CIA’s thousands of NUMEC files. Today the toxic site of the defunct NUMEC smuggling front is undergoing a $350 million cleanup funded by US taxpayers. Those taxpayers may never learn the full story of that sloppily run plant that CIA officials dubbed “an Israeli operation from the beginning.”

On August 20, 2019 Chutkan reversed herself after initially ruling that President Obama had officially acknowledged that the US had a secret budget for intelligence support for Israel. Such acknowledgment should have availed members of the public the right to know precisely how much more Israel receives in secret taxpayer-funded support, beyond the lion’s share of the publicly known US foreign assistance budget already going to Israel. Release of intelligence support to Israel likely would have added billions to the publicly known $282.4 billion Israel has received in foreign assistance since 1948. As a clandestine nuclear power, Israel is ineligible for any US foreign assistance under the Arms Export Control Act, absent waivers and public congressional notifications which have never taken place. Knowing the amount of secret intelligence aid would help Americans understand the total amount unlawfully leaving the US Treasury each year. But after initially “hammering the CIA on request for Israel records” Chutkan – an Obama appointee – finally wavered and then backed down on demands for release of the intelligence budget.

On September 30, 2019 the court ruled that the public also may not see the full, uncensored version of a gag order masquerading as a classification guideline. WNP-136 forbids all federal employees and contractors from publicly acknowledging what Americans and the world already know – that Israel has long had a nuclear weapons program. The only function of this secrecy guideline is providing cover for the White House and federal agencies skirting the laws specifically banning US foreign aid to the non-NPT nuclear state. Releasing the full text of the gag order would also help Americans understand how power really works in Washington. But Chutkan’s court ruled even though other classification guidelines are in the public domain, the key provisions in the Israel nuclear gag order should remain secret along with details about how it came into being. Rather than allow official acknowledgment by other US federal agencies that Israel is a nuclear weapons state outweigh demands for secrecy, the Chutkan court ruled that the Department of Energy or US Department of State would have had to issue their own acknowledgments for WNP-136 to be releasable. The CIA long ago classified Israel as a nuclear power but this was deemed to be irrelevant by Judge Chutkan.

On November 27, 2019 Chutkan’s court decided that certain secret presidential letters may never be released to the American public. Four US presidents under secret pressure by Israel lobbyists and Israeli government officials early in their presidential administrations each formally pledged not to uphold provisions in the Arms Export Control Act or NPT over Israel. Like WNP-136 these secret letters enabled the illegal transfer of at least $100 billion in publicly known foreign aid for which Israel was ineligible. Ordering the release of one or more of the letters would reveal how power really works, and how abidance to laws (again, the Arms Export Control Act) may be set aside if enough foreign lobbyists are able to secretly pile on the President at vulnerable moments. Most Americans cannot preemptively set aside the enforcement of laws through such suspect maneuvers. They deserve to see how premeditated lawbreaking functions when their tax dollars and laws passed by their congressional representatives are in play. The Chutkan court was unwilling to avail the American public of even a single letter. Instead, it accepted the affidavits of a highly compromised former National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) government classification bureaucrat who had moved to the National Security Council. From that perch, he issued denials as a “neutral” classification authority on letters held in NARA presidential libraries.

Americans are also not allowed to know the identities of employees at a relatively new Department of Treasury unit called the Office of Treasury and Financial Intelligence (OTFI). The creation of this unit was a success of the lobbying division (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC) of a designated Israeli foreign agent ordered to register as such by the Justice Department in 1962 (the AZC). Few Americans know AIPAC’s true origin story or about the failure of the Department of Justice to enforce FARA that allows AIPAC to operate despite continual espionage scandals.

As could be expected, the OTFI’s observable activity is almost entirely the conduct of economic warfare against Israel’s rivals from within Treasury. While claiming to work to counter nuclear proliferation, it carefully avoids sanctioning or even listing known Israeli nuclear smugglers identified by the FBI and DHS. That includes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and self-confessed Israeli spy and arms dealer Arnon Milchan, who owned the front companies used in the infamous “Project Pinto” nuclear weapons trigger smuggling operation.

The most recent in an unbroken succession of undeniably severely compromised, unfit, hard-core Israel partisans who occupied the position as OTFI chief, Sigal Mandelker (the daughter of Israeli immigrants to Pittsburgh who allegedly holds Israeli dual citizenship), is finally departing Treasury for the private sector. Such OTFI political appointees’ main qualifications seem only to be their intense devotion to advancing the interests of a foreign country from within the federal bureaucracy. The publicity and reporting surrounding the case and limited public exposure of OTFI’s curious blind spots perhaps had something to do with Mandelker’s departure. But how far down does the Israel lobby’s capture of OTFI through staffing extend? The FOIA lawsuit to find out remains in a curious state of limbo as Chutkan’s dismissal approaches its one year anniversary.

Many Americans still insist on transparency regarding the pay and position of all federal government employees. That transparency started long ago when James Madison listed his salary of $25,000 and position as “president” in the Official Register. They deserve to be given the names of OTFI employees in a timely manner. But the Chutkan court appears to be waiting for a legal designation of OTFI as intelligence or law enforcement officials (which they are not) or some other forthcoming artifice, even though such delays are not allowed after issuance of a ruling.

The Chutkan court officially ended the case by finding for the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on March 31, 2019. Chutkan’s order severely undermined the plaintiff’s right to timely appeal. That is because no memorandum of points of law substantiating the order was ever issued. Almost a year later, no explanation is forthcoming even as the OTFI personnel ratchet up economic warfare against Iran in the aftermath of the military exchange between Iran and the US the Israel lobby worked so diligently to enable.

Unfortunately, Judge Chutkan’s courtroom is not an anomaly. Since Freedom of Information Act lawsuit plaintiffs first began seeking judicial review, thousands of established precedents have all tended to narrow and make more difficult the realization of the transparency and accountability FOIA was intended to create in America.

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Imperialism 101 – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on January 11, 2020

Never in the past half-century have we seen the Arab states so pathetically feeble. Never have we seen Israel so strongly guiding US Mideast policy, including the murder of Gen. Soleimani.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/01/eric-margolis/imperialism-101/

By

Special for LewRockwell.com

What ever happened to Iraq?  Is it not an independent country with a democratic government thanks to the 2003 US invasion?  So says Washington.

The murder of senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani suddenly shone a strobe light on ‘independent’ Iraq, and what we saw was not pretty.

Welcome to the new Imperialism 101.

Iraq’s population is estimated around 39 million.  The pre-war Iraq of 2003 was broken into three parts by the US-British invasion:  the Shia majority; Kurds in the north; and Sunnis, with scatterings of other ethnicities.  Iraq remains fragmented into hostile groups.

Its Shia are confusingly allied to the US and Iran. The killing of Maj. Gen. Soleimani by the Americans has thrown this alliance of convenience into confusion. Iraqi Kurds are close to the CIA and Israel’s Mossad intelligence. The Sunnis are left adrift, without any foreign patrons except for other feeble Arab states.

The US maintains a modest garrison of 5,000 infantry in Iraq and 3-5 air bases, as well as the gigantic fortified US Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone which contains one of the world’s largest CIA bases. Angry mobs demonstrating in front of the embassy triggered off the chain of events that led to Trump’s murder of Gen. Soleimani. That an impeached president should be murdering foreign figures is a question that Congress must ask.

Before he was murdered, Osama bin Laden called this monster Baghdad embassy and its twin in Kabul, `crusader fortresses.’ That is indeed their role, and to serve as the nerve center for all Mideast operations by the US. Iraq enjoys some of the world’s largest oil reserves. Where the profit from Iraq’s mammoth oil exports go remains a closely guarded secret.

Combined with Saudi Arabia – also controlled by the US – Iraq gives Washington control of the bulk of Mideast oil. The US no longer relies on oil from the Mideast, being self-sufficient – at least for now. But dominating the Mideast gives the US huge influence over China, Japan, India, and Europe, all of whom import oil from there. This is the main pillar of US world power and the supremacy of the dollar.

Returning to Iraq, Washington has imposed an air exclusivity zone there. Real control of flat, largely barren Iraq comes from the air. US war planes based there and in Qatar can blast anything that moves in Mesopotamia. Imperial Britain ruled Iraq the same way, using the RAF to smash all opposition to the British-installed puppet ruler in Baghdad. In the 1920’s Churchill even authorized the RAF to use poison gas against rebellious Iraqi Kurds (as well as Afghan Pashtun tribes).

US-ruled Iraq is not allowed to have a real air force, only a handful of light aircraft. The same ban applies to Afghanistan. Iraq’s so-called army, a mob of unruly militias of the type the Ottomans used to call ‘bashi-bazouks,’ is of little military value though partly equipped by US weapons. They are increasingly being attacked by US warplanes.

The US really runs Iraq from three large air bases that were the target of the recent bloodless Iranian missile attacks. Iraq’s current US-approved prime minister Abdul-Mahdi and its feeble parliament have voted for the ouster of all US forces from Iraq. Good luck to them. Washington will likely ignore Iraq’s supposedly ‘democratic’ government and continue to act as the sultan of Iraq.

Iraq has become the central military base and inexhaustible oil reservoir for the US that was envisaged by the Bush administration and its neocons. That is a major step in the total US domination of the Mideast and its energy resources.

Israel has achieved its long sought goal of removing Iraq from the confrontation over Palestine. With Egypt under a US-imposed dictator, that leaves only demolished Syria to stand up to Israel. The Saudis are gleefully stabbing their ‘brother’ Arabs in the back, as they always have done.

Never in the past half-century have we seen the Arab states so pathetically feeble. Never have we seen Israel so strongly guiding US Mideast policy, including the murder of Gen. Soleimani.

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VIPS MEMO: Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran – Consortiumnews

Posted by M. C. on January 8, 2020

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/01/03/vips-memo-doubling-down-into-yet-another-march-of-folly-this-time-on-iran/

“We write with a sense of urgency suggesting you avoid doubling down on catastrophe,” VIPS tells Donald Trump in its latest memo to the president.

January 3, 2020

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Doubling Down Into Another “March of Folly”?

The drone assassination in Iraq of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani evokes memory of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914, which led to World War I. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quick to warn of “severe revenge.” That Iran will retaliate at a time and place of its choosing is a near certainty. And escalation into World War III is no longer just a remote possibility, particularly given the multitude of vulnerable targets offered by our large military footprint in the region and in nearby waters.

What your advisers may have avoided telling you is that Iran has not been isolated. Quite the contrary. One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.

Cui Bono?

It is time to call a spade a spade. The country expecting to benefit most from hostilities between Iran and the U.S. is Israel (with Saudi Arabia in second place). As you no doubt are aware, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life. He continues to await from you the kind of gift that keeps giving. Likewise, it appears that you, your son-in-law, and other myopic pro-Israel advisers are as susceptible to the influence of Israeli prime ministers as was former President George W. Bush. Some commentators are citing your taking personal responsibility for providing Iran with a casus belli as unfathomable. Looking back just a decade or so, we see a readily distinguishable pattern.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon played a huge role in getting George W. Bush to destroy Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Usually taciturn, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, warned in August 2002 that “U.S. action against Iraq … could turn the whole region into a cauldron.” Bush paid no heed, prompting Scowcroft to explain in Oct. 2004 to The Financial Times that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had George W. Bush “mesmerized”; that Sharon has him “wrapped around his little finger.” (Scowcroft was promptly relieved of his duties as chair of the prestigious President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.)

In Sept. 2002, well before the attack on Iraq, Philip Zelikow, who was Executive Secretary of the 9/11 Commission, stated publicly in a moment of unusual candor, “The ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.” Zelikow did not explain how Iraq (or Iran), with zero nuclear weapons, would not be deterred from attacking Israel, which had a couple of hundred such weapons.

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Ghislaine Maxwell is reportedly a foreign spy hiding in Israel | Daily Mail Online

Posted by M. C. on January 3, 2020

I know it is the Daily Mail but…

The MOST prominent prisoner in the country is suicided while in jail. His accomplice disappears from sight. The media is oblivious…except the Mail.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7843659/Ghislaine-Maxwell-reportedly-foreign-spy-hiding-Israel.html

By Keith Griffith For Dailymail.com

  • Maxwell has remained incognito since Epstein’s arrest and death behind bars
  • New report claims both she and Epstein were ‘assets’ for a foreign government
  • Source says they funneled dirt on the rich and powerful to foreign spies
  • Now Maxwell may be hiding in a safehouse in Israel, the new report claims
  • She is a British and US citizen, and daughter of an alleged Mossad operative 

An explosive new report has asserted that deceased sex criminal Jeffery Epstein and his alleged ‘madame’ Ghislaine Maxwell were foreign intelligence ‘assets’, and that she is currently hiding in a safehouse in Israel.

‘Ghislaine is protected. She and Jeffrey were assets of sorts for multiple foreign governments. They would trade information about the powerful people caught in his net — caught at Epstein’s house,’ a unnamed source told Page Six.

Maxwell, 58, has been accused in lawsuits of procuring underage girls for Epstein to sexually traffick among his wealthy and powerful friends, and is reportedly the subject of an ongoing FBI probe.

She has always denied any wrongdoing. Her attorney did not immediately respond to an inquiry from DailyMail.com on Wednesday evening.

After Epstein’s re-arrest last year and death behind bars in August, Maxwell has remained out of sight and her whereabouts unknown…

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An End to the World as We Know It?, by Philip Giraldi – The Unz Review

Posted by M. C. on December 26, 2019

Congress and the White House compete in year-end stupidity sweepstakes.

The U.S., to be sure, has been adept at turning adversaries into enemies and disappointing friends, and it is all done with a glib assurance that doing so will somehow bring democracy and freedom to all.

https://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/an-end-to-the-world-as-we-know-it/

At the end of the nineteenth century, Lord Palmerston stated what he thought was obvious, that “England has no eternal friends, England has no perpetual enemies, England has only eternal and perpetual interests.” Palmerston was saying that national interests should drive the relationships with foreigners. A nation will have amicable relations most of the time with some countries and difficult relations with some others, but the bottom line should always be what is beneficial for one’s own country and people.

If Palmerston were alive today and observing the relationship of the United States of America with the rest of the world, he might well find Washington to be an exception to his rule. The U.S., to be sure, has been adept at turning adversaries into enemies and disappointing friends, and it is all done with a glib assurance that doing so will somehow bring democracy and freedom to all. Indeed, either neoliberal democracy promotion or the neoconservative version of the same have been seen as an overriding and compelling interest during the past twenty years even though the policies themselves have been disastrous and have only damaged the real interests of the American people.

The U.S. relationship with Israel is, for example, driven by a powerful and wealthy domestic lobby rather than by any common interests at all yet it is regularly falsely touted as being between two “close allies” and “best friends.” It has cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for the Jewish state and Israeli influence over U.S. policy in the Middle East region has led to catastrophic military interventions in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Mogadishu and Libya. Currently, Israel is agitating for U.S. action against the nonexistent Iranian “threat” while also unleashing its lobby in the United States to make illegal criticism of any of its war crimes, effectively curtailing freedom of speech and association for all Americans.

Far more dangerous is the continued excoriation of the Kremlin over the largely mythical Russiagate narrative. Congress has recently approved a bill that would give to Ukraine $300 million in supplementary military assistance to use against Russia. The money and authorization appear in the House of Representatives version of the national defense authorization act (NDAA) that passed last week.

The bill is a renewal of the controversial Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative that Donald Trump allegedly manipulated to bring about an investigation of Joe Biden’s son Hunter. The new version expands on the former assistance package to include coastal defense cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles as offensive weapons that are acceptable for export to Kiev. It also authorizes an additional $50 million in military assistance on top of the $250 million congress had granted in last year’s bill, “of which $100 million would be available only for lethal assistance.”

Ukraine sought the money and arms to counter Russian naval dominance in the Black Sea through its base at Sevastopol in the Crimea. One year ago the Russian navy captured three Ukrainian warships and Kiev was unable to push back against Moscow because it lacked weapons designed to attack ships. Now it will have them and presumably it will use them. How Russia will react is unknowable.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, has been in Washington lobbying for the additional military assistance. He has had considerable success, particularly as there is bipartisan support in Congress for aid to Kiev and also because the Trump Departments of Defense and State as well as the National Security Council are all on board in countering the “Russian threat” in the Black Sea. President Trump signed the NDAA last week, which completed the process.

Far more ominously, Kuleba and his interlocutors in the administration and congress have been revisiting a proposal first surfaced under Bill Clinton, that Ukraine and Georgia should be admitted to the NATO alliance. Like the $300 million in military aid, there appears to be considerable bipartisan support for such a move. NATO already has a major presence on the Black Sea with Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey all members. Adding Ukraine and Georgia would completely isolate the Russian presence and Moscow would undoubtedly see it as an existential threat.

The NDAA also provides seed money to initiate the so-called Space Force, which President Trump inaugurated by describing it as “the world’s newest war-fighting domain. Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. We’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough, but very shortly we’ll be leading by a lot. The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”

If that isn’t bad enough, the new defense budget ominously also requires the Trump administration to impose sanctions “with respect to provision of certain vessels for the construction of certain Russian energy export pipelines.” Last week the House of Representatives and Senate approved specific sanctions relating to the companies and governments that are collaborating on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will cross the Baltic Sea from Vyborg to Greifswald to connect Germany with Russian natural gas. President Trump has signed off on the legislation.

The United States has opposed the project ever since it was first mooted, claiming that it will make Europe “hostage” to Russian energy, will enrich the Russian government, and will also empower Russian President Vladimir Putin to be more aggressive. Engineering companies that will be providing services such as pipe-laying will be targeted by Washington as the Trump administration tries to halt the completion of the $10.5 billion project.

Now that the NDAA has been signed, the Trump administration has 60 days to identify companies, individuals and even foreign governments that have in some way provided services or assistance to the pipeline project. Sanctions would block individuals from travel to the United States and would freeze bank accounts and other tangible property that would be identified by the U.S. Treasury. One company that will definitely be targeted for sanctions is the Switzerland-based Allseas, which has been contracted with by Russia’s Gazprom to build the offshore section of pipeline. It has suspended work on the project while it examines the implications of the sanctions.

Bear in mind that Nord Stream 2 is a peaceful commercial project between two countries that have friendly relations, making the threats implicit in the U.S. reaction more than somewhat inappropriate. Increased U.S. sanctions against Russia itself are also believed to be a possibility and there has even been some suggestion that the German government and its energy ministry might be sanctioned. This has predictably resulted in pushback from Germany, normally a country that is inclined to go along with any and all American initiatives. Last week German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas asked Congress not to meddle in European energy policy, saying “We think this is unacceptable, because it is ultimately a move to influence autonomous decisions that are made in Europe. European energy policy is decided in Europe, not in the U.S.”

German Bundestag member Andreas Nick warned that “It’s an issue of national sovereignty, and it is potentially a liability for trans-Atlantic relations.” That Trump is needlessly alienating important countries like Germany that are genuine allies, unlike Israel and Saudi Arabia, over an issue that is not an actual American interest is unfortunate. It makes one think that the wheels have definitely come off the cart in Washington.

The point is that Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence and Mike Esper (admittedly too many Mikes) wouldn’t know a national interest if it hit them in the face. Their politicization of policy to “win in 2020” promoting apocalyptic nonsense like war in space has also reinforced an existing tunnel vision on what Russia under Vladimir Putin is all about that is extremely dangerous. Admittedly, Team Trump throws out sanctions in all directions with reckless abandon, mostly aimed at Russia, Iran, North Korea and, the current favorite, Venezuela. No one is immune. But the escalation going from sanctions to arming the Kremlin’s enemies is both reckless and pointless. Russia will definitely strike back if it is attacked, make no mistake about that, and war could easily escalate with tragic consequences for all of us. That war is perhaps becoming thinkable is in itself deplorable, with Business Insider running a recent piece on surviving a nuclear attack. New homes in target America will likely soon come equipped with bomb shelters, just like in the 1950s.

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