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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Foreign Policy with Trump and his Generals

Trump Loves Winning, but American Generals Have Forgotten How

Andrew J. Bacevich, TRUTHDIG

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/trump_loves_winning_but_american_generals_have_forgotten_how_20161130/

Friday, December 02, 2016

The Bush - Clinton - Bush - Obama - Clinton Iraq Misery Continues

UN: Iraq Troop Deaths Soar With Mosul Invasion

Nearly 2,000 Iraqi Troops Killed in November Fighting


The first full month of Iraq’s Mosul offensive saw a precipitous rise in the already high monthly death tolls for combatants that have plagued Iraq in recent years, with the UN figures showing 1,959 Iraqi troops killed in the fighting, along with countless more wounded.
Between Iraq’s military, militias, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, some 50,000 troops invaded the area around Mosul. The Peshmerga is reporting that they lost a large chunk of fighters by themselves, with 1,600 killed and some 10,000 wounded since late October.
That of course is only a fraction of the overall death toll for the month of November, as some 2,227 ISIS fighters were also killed. Among civilians, the UN only counted 926 killed, but the figure is actually several hundred higher, with the UN continuing to exclude deaths in Anbar from their official figure.
All told, that puts the death toll at 5,719  for Iraq in November, which is roughly in line with October. the November figures show a six-fold increase in Iraqi troop deaths, with ISIS casualties on the decline.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

BIG WIN FOR ASSANGE AND WIKILEAKS: UN Rejects UK Appeal on Favorable Julian Assange Ruling


UN ruling to free WikiLeaks’ Assange to stand after British appeal rejected

A national flag flies outside the Ecuadorian Embassy  in London, Britain © Peter Nicholls
The United Nations has rejected a UK appeal against its previous ruling in favor of Julian Assange as “inadmissible," thus requiring both London and Stockholm to end the WikiLeaks founder’s "arbitrary detention."

Earlier this year, a case was concluded at the UN, in which the body instructed the UK and Sweden to take immediate steps to ensure the WikiLeaks founder’s liberty, protection and enjoyment of fundamental human rights.

The UK has appealed the ruling twice, with the UN rejecting its second appeal on Wednesday by pronouncing it “not admissible," Justice for Assange reported, adding that the decision marks the end to London's "attempt to overturn the ruling."


“Now that all appeals are exhausted, I expect that the UK and Sweden will comply with their international obligations and set me free," a statement by Assange read, with the fugitive whistleblower calling his detention "an obvious and grotesque injustice."

The recent development in the Assange case at the UN forces the UK and Sweden - which are parties to his case - "to immediately put an end to Mr. Assange’s arbitrary detention and afford him monetary compensation," Justice for Assange stated, adding that a failure to do so would undermine the UN human rights' protection system.

Julian Assange faces potential, but as yet unfiled charges over rape allegations in Stockholm that date back to 2010. The whistleblower has always denied the accusations, saying that being taken to Sweden would pave the way for a further extradition to the US, where the government has launched a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks following a 2010 diplomatic cables leak.


He has been sheltered by the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since August 2012. Earlier this month, Swedish investigators came to interview Assange inside the embassy concerning rape charges, with the whistleblower saying he has "cooperated fully" with them.

Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary - Trump Meets With Goldman’s Cohn as Dinner Set With Romney - Ross Said to Be Trump’s Pick for Commerce Secretary

“The business of America is business” – a famously unfair misquote…


When President Warren G. Harding died from a heart-related problem in 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States. 
The following year, with his popularity buoyed by a strong economy of the “Roaring Twenties”, Coolidge handily won the 1924 presidential election, using the campaign slogan “Keep Cool With Coolidge.” 
Unlike some presidents, “Silent Cal” Coolidge wasn’t known for making memorable statements. 
The most famous quote associated with him is a line about business being the business of America. 
That line is often given as “The business of America is business” or “The business of the American people is business.”
In fact, both of those versions are misquotes. 
They aren’t radically different from what he actually said, which was “the chief business of the American people is business.”
However, when this short quote or the misquote versions are cited alone, out of context, they tend to give the inaccurate impression that Coolidge was a totally one-dimensional, pro-business cheerleader. 
President Coolidge made his famous remark in an address to the Society of American Newspaper Editors on January 17, 1925 in Washington, D.C. 
The speech he gave that day was titled “The Press Under a Free Government.” It focused on the role of the press in free market democracies, like America. 
Coolidge noted that the press was far more likely to publish propaganda in autocratic or Socialist countries. 
He acknowledged concerns about whether business considerations could affect editorial positions and news reporting in a society like the US. But he pointed out the flip side, saying:
“There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise. Rather, it is probable that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences.”
Then Coolidge added his famous quote: 
“After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.”
It’s hard to dispute the notion that most Americans are concerned about the economy and personal prosperity. And, Coolidge made it clear that he didn't simply mean “greed is good.” 
“Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence,” he said. “But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well-nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it...But it calls for additional effort to avoid even the appearance of the evil of selfishness. In every worthy profession, of course, there will always be a minority who will appeal to the baser instinct. There always have been, probably always will be, some who will feel that their own temporary interest may be furthered by betraying the interest of others.”
It’s true that Coolidge was generally a pro-business, small-government type politician; sort of a Ronald Reagan without charisma.
But, in my opinion, the spin that is often put on his famous quote about the business of America is clearly overly simplistic and unfair.
*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 
Related reading…

Monday, November 28, 2016

What are Somali Refugees doing in the US & Why are we in Somalia?



On the evening of 4 December 1992, U.S. President George H. W. Bush made an address to the nation, informing them that U.S. troops would be sent to Somalia. The U.S. contribution would be known as Operation Restore Hope, which joined a multinational force and became known as the United Task Force (UNITAF). 

Here we are 20 years later with a Somali jihadi trying to kill Americans in Ohio.

NY TIMES:


In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War







Ugandan troops serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia in 2012. About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from African nations to carry out raids, senior American military officials said. Reuters 
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993.

The Somalia campaign, as it is described by American and African officials and international monitors of the Somali conflict, is partly designed to avoid repeating that debacle, which led to the deaths of 18 American soldiers. But it carries enormous risks — including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president’s stated aversion to American “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.

American officials said the White House had quietly broadened the president’s authority for the use of force in Somalia by allowing airstrikes to protect American and African troops as they combat fighters from the Shabab, a Somali-based militant group that has proclaimed allegiance to Al Qaeda.

In its public announcements, the Pentagon sometimes characterizes the operations as “self-defense strikes,” though some analysts have said this rationale has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is only because American forces are now being deployed on the front lines in Somalia that they face imminent threats from the Shabab.

America’s role in Somalia has expanded as the Shabab have become bolder and more cunning. The group has attacked police headquarters, bombed seaside restaurants, killed Somali generals and stormed heavily fortified bases used by African Uniontroops. In January, Shabab fighters killed more than 100 Kenyan troops and drove off with their trucks and weapons.

The group carried out the 2013 attack at the Westgate mall, which killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 175 in Nairobi, Kenya. More recently it has branched into more sophisticated forms of terrorism, including nearly downing a Somali airliner in February with a bomb hidden in a laptop computer.


United States Marines advancing in Mogadishu, Somalia, to quell violence in 1993, about seven months before the “Black Hawk Down” battle. Corinne Dufka/Reuters 

About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes.

The Navy’s classified SEAL Team 6 has been heavily involved in many of these operations.

Once ground operations are complete, American troops working with Somali forces often interrogate prisoners at temporary screening facilities, including one in Puntland, a state in northern Somalia, before the detainees are transferred to more permanent Somali-run prisons, American military officials said.

The Pentagon has acknowledged only a small fraction of these operations. But even the information released publicly shows a marked increase this year. The Pentagon has announced 13 ground raids and airstrikes thus far in 2016 — including three operations in September — up from five in 2015, according to data compiled by New America, a Washington think tank. The strikes have killed about 25 civilians and 200 people suspected of being militants, the group found.

The strikes have had a mixed record. In March, an American airstrike killed more than 150 Shabab fighters at what military officials called a “graduation ceremony,” one of the single deadliest American airstrikes in any country in recent years. But an airstrike last month killed more than a dozen Somali government soldiers, who were American allies against the Shabab.

Outraged Somali officials said the Americans had been duped by clan rivals and fed bad intelligence, laying bare the complexities of waging a shadow war in Somalia. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said the Pentagon was investigating the strike.

Some experts point out that with the administration’s expanded self-defense justification for airstrikes, a greater American presence in Somalia would inevitably lead to an escalation of the air campaign.

“It is clear that U.S. on-the-ground support to Somali security forces and African Union peacekeepers has been stepped up this year,” said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. “That increases the likelihood that U.S. advisers will periodically be in positions where Al Shabab is about to launch an attack.”

Peter Cook, the Department of Defense spokesman, wrote in an email, “The DoD has a strong partnership with the Somali National Army and AMISOM forces from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi operating in Somalia. They have made steady progress pressuring Al Shabab.”

The escalation of the war can be seen in the bureaucratic language of the semiannual notifications that Mr. Obama sends to Congress about American conflicts overseas.


The ruins of the Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu last year. The Shabab claimed responsibility for the fatal bombing. Feisal Omar/Reuters 

The Somalia passage in the June 2015 notification is terse, saying American troops “have worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab.”
In June, however, the president told Congress that the United States had become engaged in a more expansive mission.

Besides hunting members of Al Qaeda and the Shabab, the notification said, American troops are in Somalia “to provide advice and assistance to regional counterterrorism forces, including the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.”

American airstrikes, it said, were carried out in defense of the African troops and in one instance because Shabab fighters “posed an imminent threat to U.S. and AMISOM forces.”

At an old Russian fighter jet base in Baledogle, about 70 miles from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, American Marines and private contractors are working to build up a Somali military unit designed to combat the Shabab throughout the country.

Soldiers for the military unit, called Danab, which means lightning in Somali, are recruited by employees of Bancroft Global Development, a Washington-based company that for years has worked with the State Department to train African Union troops and embed with them on military operations inside Somalia.
Michael Stock, the company’s founder, said the Danab recruits received initial training at a facility in Mogadishu before they were sent to Baledogle, where they go through months of training by the Marines. Bancroft advisers then accompany the Somali fighters on missions.

Mr. Stock said the goal was to create a small Somali military unit capable of battling the Shabab without repeating the mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the United States spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to build up large armies.

Still, American commanders and their international partners are considering a significant expansion of the training effort to potentially include thousands of Somali troops who would protect the country when African Union forces eventually left the country.

Maj. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag, the commander of the American military’s task force in Djibouti, the only permanent American base in Africa, said the proposed training plan would increase and enhance the Somali national security forces, including the army, national guard and national police.

“The specific numbers of forces required is currently being assessed,” General Sonntag said. He added that it must be large enough to protect the Somali people but “affordable and sustainable over time, in terms of Somalia’s national budget.”
Independent experts and aid organizations say the Somali Army is still largely untrained, poorly paid and poorly equipped, and years away from coalescing regional militias into a unified army.

American policy makers tried to avoid direct involvement in Somalia for years after the Black Hawk Down episode. But in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Special Operations troops and the Central Intelligence Agency began paying Somali warlords to hunt down Qaeda operatives in the country.

In 2006, the United States gave clandestine support to Ethiopian troops invading the country to overthrow an Islamist movement that had taken control of Mogadishu. But the brutal urban warfare tactics of the Ethiopian troops created support for an insurgent movement that called itself Al Shabab, which means “The Youth.”

American involvement in Somalia was intermittent for several years afterward, until the Westgate attack refocused Washington’s attention on the threat the Shabab posed beyond Somalia.

The Shabab still control thousands of square miles of territory across Somalia. A Somali university student who travels in and out of Shabab areas said the group’s fighters were becoming increasingly suspicious, even paranoid, checking the phones, cameras, computers and documents of anyone passing through their territory, constantly on guard for another American attack. He said Shabab fighters were becoming younger, with a vast majority under 25 and many as young as 10.

American law enforcement officials think that the bomb that nearly brought down the commercial jet in February was most likely made by a Yemeni who is believed to have constructed other laptop bombs in Somalia. Pictures from an airport X-ray machine show the explosive packed into the corner of the laptop, next to a nine-volt battery. Several aviation experts said that the bomb was obvious and that airport security officials in Mogadishu might have intentionally allowed it through.

The bomb exploded about 15 minutes after takeoff, punching a hole through the fuselage and killing the man suspected of carrying the bomb on board, though the pilot was able to land safely. Aviation experts said that if the bomb had exploded a few minutes later, with the cabin fully pressurized, the fuselage would have most likely blown apart, killing all of the approximately 80 people on board.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Something Has to Change and Someone Had to Change it. Let it be Trump but Let’s Make Him Perform

An ‘America First' Trump Trade Policy

Pat Buchanan
|
Posted: Nov 26, 2016 12:01 AM

 An 'America First' Trump Trade Policy
Donald Trump's election triumph is among the more astonishing in history.
Yet if he wishes to become the father of a new “America First" majority party, he must make good on his solemn promise:

To end the trade deficits that have bled our country of scores of thousands of factories, and to create millions of manufacturing jobs in the USA.

Fail here, and those slim majorities in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin disappear.

The president-elect takes credit for jawboning William Clay Ford to keep his Lincoln plant in Louisville. He is now jawboning Carrier air conditioning to stay in Indiana and not move to Mexico.

Good for him. But these are baby steps toward ending the $800 billion trade deficits in goods America runs annually, or bringing back factories and creating millions of new manufacturing jobs in the USA.

The NAFTA Republicans tell us the plants and jobs are never coming back, that we live in a globalized world, that production will now be done where it can be done cheapest -- in Mexico, China, Asia.

Yet, on Nov. 8, Americans rejected this defeatism rooted in the tracts of 19th-century British scribblers and the ideology of 20th-century globalists like Woodrow Wilson and FDR.

America responded to Trump’s call for a new nationalism rooted in the economic principles and patriotism of Hamilton and the men of Mount Rushmore: Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt.

The president-elect has declared the TPP dead, and says he and his negotiators will walk away rather than accept another NAFTA.

Again, good, but again, not good enough, not nearly.

The New International Economic Order imposed upon us for decades has to be overthrown.

For the root cause of the trade deficits bleeding us lies in U.S. tax laws and trade policies that punish companies that stay in America and reward companies that move production overseas.

Executives move plants to Mexico, Asia and China for the same reason U.S. industrialists moved plants from the Frost Belt to the Sun Belt. Given the lower wages and lighter regulations, they can produce more cheaply there.

In dealing with advanced economies like Japan, Germany, and the EU, another critical factor is at work against us.

Since the Kennedy Round of trade negotiations, 50 years ago, international trade deals have reduced tariffs to insignificance.

But our trade rivals have replaced the tariffs with value-added taxes on imports from the USA. Even to belong to the EU, a country must have a VAT of at least 15 percent.

As Kevin Kearns of the U.S. Business and Industry Council writes, Europeans have replaced tariffs on U.S. goods with a VAT on U.S. goods, while rebating the VAT on Europe’s exports to us.

Some 160 countries impose VAT taxes. Along with currency manipulation, this is how European and Asian protectionists stick it to the Americans, whose armed forces have defended them for 60 years.

We lose at trade negotiations, even before we sit down at the table, because our adversaries declare their VAT nonnegotiable. And we accept it.

Trump has to persuade Congress to deal him and our trade negotiators our own high cards, without our having to go to the WTO and asking, "Mother, may I?"
Like this writer, Kearns argues for an 18 percent VAT on all goods and services entering the United States. All tax revenue raised by the VAT -- hundreds of billions -- should be used to reduce U.S. taxes, beginning by ending the income tax on small business and reducing to the lowest rate in the advanced world the U.S. corporate income tax.

The price of foreign-made goods in U.S. stores would rise, giving a competitive advantage to goods made in America. And with a border VAT of 18 percent, every U.S. corporate executive would have to consider the higher cost of leaving the United States to produce abroad.

Every foreign manufacturer, to maintain free access to the U.S. market of $17 trillion, greatest on earth, would have to consider shifting production -- factories, technology, jobs -- to the USA.

The incentive to produce abroad would diminish and disappear. The incentive to produce here would grow correspondingly.

Inversions -- U.S. companies seeking lower tax rates by moving to places like Ireland -- would end. Foreign companies and banks would be clamoring to get into the United States.

With a zero corporate tax, minority businesses would spring up. Existing businesses would have more cash to hire. America would shove China aside as the Enterprise Zone of the world.

Most important, by having Americans buy more from each other, and rely more on each other for the necessities of life, U.S. trade and tax policies would work to create a greater interdependence among us, rather than pull us apart as they do today.

Why not write new tax and trade laws that bring us together, recreating the one nation and people we once were -- and can be again?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Sword with The Olive Branch: Trump should say “no thanks” to Romney and go with Petraeus

Gen David Petraeus opens door to Trump administration

David Petraeus says he would serve under Trump, who might improve relations with Russia
General David Petraeus, one of the United States’ most prominent military officers, has indicated he would be willing to serve in President-elect Donald Trump's administration if asked.


Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: "The only response can be: 'yes, Mr President'."

Gen Petraeus resigned as CIA director in 2012 following an extramarital affair with his biographer.

It later emerged he had shared classified material with her.
He served as a senior officer under Presidents Bush and Obama. He was the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, before retiring from the military to take the top position in the Central Intelligence Agency.
Asked if he thought Mr Trump had the correct temperament to be the US President, he said: “It's up to Americans at this point in time not only to hope that that is the case, but if they can, endeavour to help him."

He then indicated he would personally serve under Mr Trump if asked.
“If you're asked, you've got to serve - put aside any reservations based on campaign rhetoric... and figure out what's best for the country," he said.


“I've been in a position before where a president has turned to me in the Oval Office in a difficult moment, without any pleasantries, and said 'I'm asking you as your president and Commander in Chief to take command of the international security force in Afghanistan.'

"The only response can be: 'yes, Mr President,'" he continued.
NOVEMBER 22: President-elect Donald Trump walks through the lobby of the New York Times following a meeting with editors at the paperGetty Images
Mr Trump has spent most of his time in recent weeks picking his administration team
A number of media outlets have linked the retired general with positions in the new administration.

A report in The Guardian last week linked Gen Petraeus to the race for secretary of state, citing diplomatic sources.

Mr Trump has been putting together his administration made up of friends, family, and former rivals - but several key positions, including secretary of state, remain open.

General Petraeus was indirectly critical of some of Donald Trump’s rhetoric during the presidential election campaign, describing the president elect's anti-Muslim comments as toxic. 

However, he said he had heard good things from those who have been speaking with Mr Trump since the election result.
In this July 18, 2011 file photo, Gen. David Petraeus salutes during a changing of command ceremony in Kabul, AfghanistanAP
“It's interesting that those who have been talking to him have said, you know, he's very personable, very hospitable, very gracious guy, full of questions and dialogue," he said.

He also suggested that Mr Trump could forge closer ties with Russia, comparing his political position to that of President Nixon's overtures to China in the 1970s.
"Only Nixon could have gone to China. Anyone else would have been criticised from the right,” he said.

“I think that the current president would have been criticised from the right had he tried some of the kinds of outreach that, in fact, President-elect Trump may pursue." 


But he warned that any such outreach should be attempted "with your eyes wide open".

Trump Signals a US Policy Favoring Stability in the Middle East Over Chaos and Regime Change

Trump’s Syria Shift Begins as Son Meets Opposition Figure in Paris

Kassis Is Part of 'Pro-Russia' Opposition Block in Syria

Since the election, there have been talks of President-elect Donald Trump dramatically shifting US policy in Syria, moving away from supporting the rebels to focusing on fighting ISIS, with the expectation that he will align more closely to the Russian government in joint strikes on ISIS.
That appears to be happening already, with Donald Trump Jr. attending a Paris meeting with Randa Kassis, a Syrian opposition figure who has supported Russian intervention and has supported the idea of a peaceful political transition including the Assad government’s leadership.
Kassis was part of the early Syrian National Council rebel faction, but left in 2012. She participated in the Geneva peace talks earlier this year at the invitation of the Russian government, and is considered part of the “patriotic opposition” in the country, which is generally opposed to the Islamist factions.
That Kassis has been favorable to Russia and vice versa has meant by and large the Obama Administration and its allies want nothing to do with her group. That Trump is already having his family attending meetings portends a change away from supporting the war and toward supporting a political transition.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz