WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s unscripted remark this week about pulling out of Syria “very soon,” while at odds with his own policy, was not a one-off: For weeks, top advisers have been fretting about an overly hasty withdrawal as the president has increasingly told them privately he wants out, U.S. officials said.
Only two months ago, Trump’s aides thought they’d persuaded him that the U.S. needed to keep its presence in Syria open-ended — not only because the Islamic State group has yet to be entirely defeated, but also because the resulting power vacuum could be filled by other extremist groups or by Iran. Trump signed off on major speech in January in which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the new strategy and declared “it is vital for the United States to remain engaged in Syria.”
But by mid-February, Trump was telling his top aides in meetings that as soon as victory can be declared against IS, he wanted American troops out of Syria, said the officials. Alarm bells went off at the State Department and the Pentagon, where officials have been planning for a gradual, methodical shift from a military-led operation to a diplomatic mission to start rebuilding basic infrastructure like roads and sewers in the war-wracked country.
In one sign that Trump is serious about reversing course and withdrawing from Syria, the White House this week put on hold some $200 million in US funding for stabilization projects in Syria, officials said. The money, to have been spent by the State Department for infrastructure projects like power, water and roads, had been announced by outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at an aid conference last month in Kuwait.
The officials said the hold, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, is not necessarily permanent and will be discussed at senior-level inter-agency meetings next week.
The officials weren’t authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity.
The State Department said it continually reviews appropriate assistance levels and how best they might be utilized. And the agency said it continues to work with the international community, members of the Coalition, and our partners on the ground to provide much needed stabilization support to vulnerable areas in Syria.
“The United States is working everyday on the ground and with the international community to help stabilize those areas liberated from ISIS and identify ways to move forward with reconstruction once there has been a peaceful political transition away from (Syrian President Bashar) Assad,” according to a statement from the State Department.
Trump’s first public suggestion he was itching to pull out came in a news conference with visiting Australian Prime Minister Alastair Campbell on Feb. 23, when Trump said the U.S. was in Syria to “get rid of ISIS and go home.” On Thursday, in a domestic policy speech in Ohio, Trump went further.
“We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon — very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump said.
The public declaration caught U.S. national security agencies off-guard and unsure whether Trump was formally announcing a new, unexpected change in policy. Inundated by inquiries from journalists and foreign officials, the Pentagon and State Department reached out to the White House’s National Security Council for clarification.
The White House’s ambiguous response, officials said: Trump’s words speak for themselves.
“The mission of the Department of Defense to defeat ISIS has not changed,” said Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman.
Still, without a clear directive from the president, planning has not started for a withdrawal from Syria, officials said, and Trump has not advocated a specific timetable.
For Trump, who campaigned on an “America First” mantra, Syria is just the latest foreign arena where his impulse has been to limit the U.S. role. Like with NATO and the United Nations, Trump has called for other governments to step up and share more of the burden so that Washington doesn’t foot the bill. His administration has been crisscrossing the globe seeking financial commitments from other countries to fund reconstruction in both Syria and Iraq, but with only limited success.
Yet it’s unclear how Trump’s impulse to pull out could be affected by recent staff shake-ups on his national security team. Tillerson and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, both advocates for keeping a U.S. presence in Syria, were recently fired, creating questions about the longevity of the plan Tillerson announced in his Stanford University speech in January. But Trump also replaced McMaster with John Bolton, a vocal advocate for U.S. intervention and aggressive use of the military overseas.
The abrupt change in the president’s thinking has drawn concern both inside and outside the United States.
Other nations that make up the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS fear that Trump’s impulse to pull out hastily would allow the notoriously resourceful IS militants to regroup, several European diplomats said. That concern has been heightened by the fact that U.S.-backed ground operations against remaining IS militants in Syria were put on hold earlier this month.
The ground operations had to be paused because Kurdish fighters who had been spearheading the campaign against IS shifted to a separate fight with Turkish forces, who began combat operations in the town of Afrin against Kurds who are considered by Ankara to be terrorists that threaten Turkey’s security.
“This is a serious and growing concern,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this month.
Beyond just defeating IS, there are other strategic U.S. objectives that could be jeopardized by a hasty withdrawal, officials said, chiefly those related to Russia and Iran.
Israel, America’s closest Mideast ally, and other regional nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are deeply concerned about the influence of Iran and its allies, including the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, inside Syria. The U.S. military presence in Syria has been seen as a buffer against unchecked Iranian activity, and especially against Tehran’s desire to establish a contiguous land route from Iran to the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon.
An American withdrawal would also likely cede Syria to Russia, which along with Iran has been propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and would surely fill the void left behind by the U.S. That prospect has alarmed countries like France, which has historic ties to the Levant.
In calling for a withdrawal “very soon,” Trump may be overly optimistic in his assessment of how quickly the anti-IS campaign can be wrapped up, the officials said. Although the group has been driven from basically all of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and 95 percent of its former territory in Syria, the remaining five percent is becoming increasingly difficult to clear and could take many months, the officials said.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.
MARCH 17 ,2018BY JASON HIRTHLER
Colonialism by another Name
The globalists are colonial conquerors in disguise
In a talk last summer to promote his book Washington’s Long War on Syria,
In a talk last summer to promote his book Washington’s Long War on Syria,
IMF Colonialism 46b49
In a talk last summer to promote his book Washington’s Long War on Syria, author Stephen Gowans quotes U.S. foreign policy veteran Graham Fuller, who says, “The U.S. is by its own reckoning the overwhelmingly dominant power in the globe…with the determination to impose its will by one means or another…the term ‘imperialism’ cannot be far off the mark even after the formal age of western imperialism, new forms of imperialism were introduced in the modern age, especially in the Middle East starting with the pliant rulers selected to rule the newly ‘independent’ governments of most states. Theses rulers are expected to be responsive to western needs and preferences…and the majority of Arab leaders and elsewhere pursue pro-western policies unpopular with their own populations.”
Gowans then lists countries with American military installations in them, a clue that those governments pursue pro-western policies. They include Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Djibouti, and the Philippines. What countries are left off the list? Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, Syria under Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and don’t forget Venezuela under Bolivarian rule which, although in South America, is a prominent member of OPEC. None of these countries permitted U.S. bases. None of these countries welcomed Chicago School economists into their midst or conducted neoliberal economic overhauls. Half have been overthrown and bases have since been installed and western business interests privileged. The rest are in the crosshairs of the imperial arsenal and are subject to a revolving door of illegal threats from the White House, regardless of its inhabitant. In short, all the nations alienated from the so-called ‘international community’ are those that refuse to submit themselves to what Gowans calls America’s “undeclared, informal empire.” In other words, colonialism.
Long story short: the West, led by Washington, recognized, particularly after Vietnam, that occupations and full-scale invasions were expensive, tiresome, and particularly bad for public relations. (Setting aside the butchery; never a seminal concern in D.C.) It was too easy for global opinion to be rallied against you by the image of the fearless rebel, cap in hand, rifle slung across his broad shoulders, uncombed locks and scraggly beard hiding the fearsome gaze of a revolutionary. Che. Toussaint L’Ouverture. Minh. Biko. Lumumba. Gandhi. (It seems courageous men are often lionized over equally courageous women like Emma Goldman, Claudia Jones, Arundhati Roy, and many others.) Sooner or later a tsunami of public opprobrium would cause you to decamp, beg forgiveness, and promise a new vision of mutual prosperity (even as you sought backchannels to keep the whole business alive, as occurred in South Africa as formal apartheid was ending).
But Washington understood that it didn’t have to quit colonizing countries, just that it needed to do it in a manner that afforded maximum plausible deniability. It soon realized that it could colonize and exploit nations by economic sabotage, unscrupulous mercenaries, and debilitating debt rather than napalming villages. Naturally, the bullet and the bomb were a tantalizing last resort, always being brandished as a backstop for less brutal overtures, but invasion wasn’t strictly necessary in most cases. Colonialism was fundamentally an economic action, after all. It was and is a form of looting. What was needed was an ideology of exploitation disguised as a philosophy of humanitarianism. Which is how we ended up with neoliberalism, an economic strategy that continues imperialism by other means.
Colonies of the Mind
Beginning with the Powell Memo in 1971, dozens of think tanks were established across the western world and billions of dollars were spent proselytizing the tenets of so-called free-market economics, generating a counter-revolution to the liberal rebellion of the Sixties. The neoliberal economic model of deregulation, downsizing, and privatization was preached by the Reagan-Thatcher junta, liberalized by the Clinton regime, discredited by an unhinged Bush administration, and calmly restored under the Obama brand. The ideology that underlay the model saturated academia, notably at the University of Chicago, and the mainstream media, principally at The New York Times. Since then it has trickled down to the general populace, to whom it now feels second nature. Today think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institution, Stratfor, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment, the Open Society Foundation, and the Atlantic Council, among many others, funnel millions of dollars in donations into cementing neoliberal attitudes in the American mind. The ideological assumptions, which serve to justify what you could call neocolonial tactics, are relatively clear.
In the U.S., the concept of freedom is the taproot of the neoliberal ideology. Particularly, the right of the individual to live free from the overreach of monolithic institutions like the state. As the tale goes, government interventions are almost always ill-conceived and harmful. Markets must be free and individuals must be free to act in those markets. People must be free to choose, both politically and commercially, in the voting booth and at the cash register. This conception of markets and individuals is most often formulated as “free-market democracy,” a misleading conceit that conflates individual freedom with the economic freedom of capital to exploit labor.
So when it comes to foreign relations, American and western aid would only be given on the condition that the borrowers accepted the tenets of an (highly manipulable) electoral system and vowed to establish the institutions and legal structures required to fully realize a western market economy. These demands were supplemented with notions of the individual right to be free of oppression, some fine rhetoric about women and minorities, and somewhat more quietly, a judicial understanding that corporations were people, too. Together, an unshackled economy and an unfettered populace, newly equipped with individual rights, would produce the same flourishing and nourishing demos of mid-century America that had been the envy of humanity.
This ‘Washington Consensus’ is the false promise promoted by the West. The reality is quite different. The crux of neoliberalism is to eliminate democratic government by downsizing, privatizing, and deregulating it. Proponents of neoliberalism recognize that the state is the last bulwark of protection for the common people against the predations of capital. Remove the state and they’ll be left defenseless. Deregulation eliminates the laws. Downsizing eliminates departments and their funding. Privatizing eliminates the very purpose of the state by having the private sector take over its traditional responsibilities. Ultimately, nation-states would dissolve except perhaps for armies and tax systems. A large, open-border global free market would be left, not subject to popular control but managed by a globally dispersed, transnational one percent. And the whole process of making this happen would be camouflaged beneath the altruistic stylings of a benign humanitarianism.
Pillage and Plunder
The neoliberal ideology (theory) conceals the neoliberal reality (practice). The media tirelessly rehearses the tropes of ‘western values’ and ‘free-market democracy’ embraced by the ‘international community.’ Economists reproduce neoliberal ideologues in academia and exert ideological control of Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank andIMF. Against this twofold backdrop of intellectual conditioning, the West moves against its target economies.
The most common pretexts for intervention depict the target nation as:
a) An Economic Basket Case — The country is failing economically and needs a major loan from the IMF, which will be more than happy to deliver one if only said nation will adhere to certain crushing structural adjustments (SAPs) that effectively privilege foreign investors and debilitate the country’s social safety net, but which are naturally aimed at bringing said economic basket case into the community of responsible nations (those that have never been colonized or ransacked); Greece and Argentina provide useful examples here. It is rarely admitted that the country’s economic woes are often caused by odious debt, illegal sanctions, or misguided austerity measures preached by the West. Thus, as often happens, the prescription for recovery is the very set of tactics that caused the crisis. And the western nations know this.
b) A Tyranny Oppressing its own People — The country is failing to embrace western democratic institutions and is therefore, by definition, oppressing its population. Often, accusations against socialist countries typically pivot on the vilification of leaders as ‘brutal tyrants’ who manage ‘authoritarian regimes,’ which include but are not limited to the use of vicious dungeons and gulags to torture nameless citizens, jailing political opponents and disappearing gadfly journalists, and extending a ‘brutal crackdown’ over a ‘popular’ uprising. Problem is, these so-called uprisings are usually funded, armed, and instructed by Washington and its unsavory band of ‘allies’ for the express purpose of finding a pretext for intervention; Libya, Syria, and Venezuela are instructive in this regard. Venezuela, in particular, since even the World Bank conceded the dramatic improvements the Bolivarian revolution made. In the mainstream press, however, these figures were hidden while sketches of authoritarianism titillated readership. Some accusations are usually true, as all governments tend to tyranny, but they tend to be wildly inflated and conflated with a host of unproven claims of the kind we witnessed watching the cumbersome empire move on Iraq.
c) A Security Threat to America and its Allies — The country is failing to abide by the protocols of the onerous and sovereignty-violating UNSC resolution taken against it. In the global security arena, the unspoken truth is that all independent socialist nations must be gradually disarmed, thus making regime change a fairly painless formality. The country will be pressured to accept some sort of military fettering, such as the WMD restrictions on Iraq, chemical weapons restrictions on Syria, or the civilian nuclear energy restrictions on Iran. Justifications for such restrictions are generally untenable, given that the U.S. traffics in WMDs, bioweapons, and nuclear energy itself, insisting others forsake all of these is perhaps little more than racially motivated despotry. But significant fear mongering in the international media will provide sufficient moral momentum to ram through sanctions, resolutions, and inspection regimes with little fanfare.
Once consensus is achieved among the ‘international community,’ consisting of Washington’s sickly European vassals and a couple small Malaysian islands, the intervention is staged. All of the above will be seized upon by western media as definitive proof that a) the government is illegitimate and must step aside at once; and b) that socialism has been (once again) comprehensively debunked and should never be attempted again by anyone under any circumstances. Heads of various illegitimate western governments will convene in the decorous council rooms of the discredited UN Security Council and sanction military confrontation. (If China or Russia object, the U.S. will attack anyway, claiming moral obligation.)
Cracking the Shell
These knife-edged arrows in the arsenal of the West have fairly predictable results: cultural and economic chaos, rapid impoverishment, resource extraction with its attendant ecological ruin, transfer of ownership from local hands to foreign entities, and death from a thousand causes. We are currently sanctioning around 30 nations in some fashion; dozens of countries have fallen into ‘protracted arrears’ with western creditors; and entire continents are witnessing huge outflows of capital–on the order of $100B annually–to the global north as debt service. The profiteering colonialists of the West make out like bandits. The usual suspects include Washington and its loyal lapdogs, the IMF, World Bank, EU, NATO, and other international institutions, and the energy and defense multinationals whose shareholders and executive class effectively run the show.
The numeric evidence of imperial aggression is everywhere. It is better grasped by people living outside the walls of doctrinal system. People living in the 57 countries we’ve attempted to overthrow since WWII, or in the 81 nations whose elections we’ve poisoned. People living in occupied territories, alongside the 800 military bases we’ve flung like a net across the planet. People living beneath the drone arsenals that float in the sky, or those in nations that suffered the 51,000 bombs President Obama let drop in the final two years of his presidency.
The problem is that few inside America seems to know about it. As Fuller acknowledges, the emerging nations are still under the thumb of a vast western executive, but their rule is now comfortably disguised as humanitarian aid and succor. The Eton-bred officers in khakis have been supplanted by Yale-schooled technocrats and grim-faced Security Council delegates. The White Man’s Burden and its crude assumptions of racial superiority have been rearticulated as a message of inclusivity, a policy of multicultural aid. And because of this sleight of hand, few of us really believe the West is still the savage colonizer it once was. We comfortably assume we are a more civilized people now, that we have progressed past the embarrassing chauvinism of our forbearers. But one has to wonder if that idea is just a useful narcotic swallowed by a drowsy electorate more interested in solace than gospel truth.
Jason Hirthler is a writer, strategist, and 15-year veteran of the communications industry. He has written for many political communities. He lives and works in New York City.
MARCH 12 ,2018BY PHILIP GIRALDI
FARA Registration for AIPAC and Congress Is Washington’s Interest
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
Charles Ellis Schumer (/ˈʃuːmər/; born November 23, 1950) bf937
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has just completed its annual conference in Washington. There were reportedly 18,000 attendees speakers included the Vice President, United Nations Ambassador, as well as numerous senators and congressmen. The organization is better known by its acronym AIPAC, and it has been fixture on Capitol Hill for more than sixty years. Its website proclaims “The mission of AIPAC is to strengthen, protect and promote the U.S.-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel” because “…it is in America’s best interest to help ensure that the Jewish state is safe, strong and secure.”
In reality, the security of the U.S. part is a bit of a sham as AIPAC in no way works to strengthen the United States or benefit the American people. Quite the contrary. The bilateral “special” relationship is a one-way street that has done considerable damage to the United States in terms of its international standing and national security. AIPAC is all about Israel and always has been. Its hundreds of staffers lobby Congress and the White House daily to support legislation and policies favorable to Israel and damaging to its enemies and critics. It works closely with the Israeli government to obtain maximum benefit from the U.S. Treasury and Pentagon, to the detriment of American citizens and genuine national interests.
So why isn’t AIPAC forced to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938? There has been only one serious attempt to register AIPAC, undertaken by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, shortly before he was assassinated. Since that time growing Jewish political and financial power in the United States has meant that no chief executive has dared to make any demands on Israel and its Lobby. On the contrary, Israel has significantly benefitted materially over that time period, commensurate with its ability to manipulate or coerce the media and Congress while also intimidating a series of presidents.
FARA registration of AIPAC, currently a tax exempt 501(c)4, would require the organization to open its books to make transparent its sources of revenue. It would also be unable to contribute to political campaigns, reducing its leverage over Congress. So it is Washington’s interest to have AIPAC register, if only to limit interference in government and elections by a foreign country.
FARA should rightly be understood as a tool to punish the activities of governments that Washington does not like. In 1938, it was originally directed against the German, Italian and Japanese governments, whose front organizations were forced to register. The British, who were in fact lobbying much more heavily, were ignored. In todays environment, Russian news outlets RT America and Sputnik were forced to register while the actions of the Israel lobby have been basically protected by its powerful advocates within the government.
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So yes, AIPAC should be registered under FARA. I would even suggest that FARA be further extended to include public figures like congressmen and journalists, who basically lobby for Israel. That extension of FARA might seem overreach, but there is really no difference, legally speaking, between organizations like AIPAC that promote Israeli interests and individuals who do the same.
Some recent AIPAC conference included prominent Israel-firsters, who place Israel’s interests ahead of those of the United States. Let’s start with Christian Zionist Vice President Mike Pence, who said last year that “Every freedom loving American stands with Israel because her cause is our cause, her values are our values and her fight is our fight.” Wrong Mike. Israel is a foreign theocracy that has embraced deliberate policies inclusive of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is manifestly un-American.
And then there is UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, whose speech at AIPAC this year was, uh, memorable. It is no surprise that she is being touted by neocon commander-in-chief Bill Kristol as the future GOP candidate for president. Haley, who received twelve standing ovations from the audience plus two shout-outs of “We love you Nikki!” seemingly forgot that she represents the U.S. at the U.N. She said that “There are lots of other things that we do, big and small, week after week, to fight back against the U.N.’s Israel bullying.”
Senators Ben Cardin and Chuck Schumer also received standing ovations from the audience. Schumer, who has described himself as Israel’s “shomer” or defender in the Senate, was particularly bizarre, saying “”The fact of the matter is that too many Palestinians and too many Arabs do not want any Jewish state in the Middle East. Of course, we say it’s our land, the Torah says it, but they don’t believe in the Torah. So that’s the reason there is not peace…that is why we, in America, must stand strong with Israel through thick and thin.”
So they are all promoting Israeli policies and should be compelled to register under FARA. And if you want to know what an Israeli recruited agent of influence sounds like you need go no farther than House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, who addressed the AIPAC Political Leadership Conference on December 15, 2003 and said:
“I had the privilege of leading the largest congressional delegation in history to Israel in August. This was my sixth trip to Israel, and my fifth as a member of Congress… Let me say very clearly: as a member of the Democratic leadership and a long-time supporter of Israel, it is absolutely imperative that Members of Congress…recognize the moral and strategic significance of the U.S.-Israel partnership… Israel’s safety and security is not a Jewish/non-Jewish issue. It is an American national security issue.”
Steny is flat out wrong about Israel aiding U.S. national security. It is a liability and always has been, but don’t expect him to be convinced otherwise. Maybe it’s somehow related to the $304,000 in pro-Israel PAC money he has received. One thing that is undoubtedly true is that American politics will be measurably less corrupt if AIPAC, Hoyer and the rest of the congress critters are forced to register under FARA and become responsible for the damage they continue to do to the United States and the American people.
Israel US Relations
Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests.