26/12/17: U.S. Wars Budgets: More Lessons Never Learned

An interesting report on the official accounts for war-related spending in the U. S. is available here: Which is, of course, a massive under-estimate of the full cost of 2001-2017 wars to the U. S. taxpayers.
It is worth remembering that war-related expenditures are outside discretionary budgetary allocations (follow links here: And you can read more here: The problem, as I repeatedly pointed out, is that no one can tell us what exactly – aside from misery, failed states, collapsed economies, piles of dead bodies etc – did these expenditures achieve, or for that matter what did all the adventurous entanglements the U. S. got into in recent year deliver? In Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Syria, in Pakistan and Sudan, in Ukraine, in Somalia and Egypt. The sole bright spot on the U. S. ‘policy horizon’ is Kurdistan. But the problem is, the U. S. has been quietly undermining its main ally in the Syria-Iraq-Turkey sub-region in recent years. In South China Seas, Beijing is fully running the show, as multi-billion U. S. hardware bobbles up and down the waves to no effect. In North Korea, a villain with a bucket of uranium is in charge, and Iran is standing strong. In its historical backyard of Latin America, the U. S. is now confronting growing Chinese influence, while losing allies.

This post was published at True Economics on Tuesday, December 26, 2017.

What Happened to Protest Art?

In September 1975, The Grateful Dead released what was to become its highest chart-topping album for the next twelve years, Blues for Allah. In an interview at the time, the group’s lyricist, Robert Hunter, described the album’s title song as ‘a requiem for King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, a progressive, democratically-inclined ruler (and incidentally a fan of the Grateful Dead) whose assassination in 1975 shocked us personally.’ Hunter went on to note proudly that the lyrics of the album, inspired as it was as much by Bach as by Eastern influences, were printed in Arabic on the back of album.
This remarkable, trance-like title track referenced Biblical prophecy, Ozymanides, and A Thousand and One Nights. But most of all, it brought attention to the death of one of the Middle East’s then-universally acknowledged enlightened rulers who disdained excess displays of wealth and who opened the first schools for female students in the country. The construction of this vast, progressive-rock tone-poem is a straight line of discursive guitar themes later superimposed by poignant, haunting vocals. It includes two sections, ‘Sand Castles and Glass Camels’ and ‘Unusual Occurrences in the Desert’, in which powerful political statements were woven into the artistry. ‘What good is spilling blood?/It will not change a thing’, observes one line; another is a plea for a resolution of Muslim/Jewish conflict: ‘Let us meet as Friends/the Flower of Islam/the Fruit of Abraham’. Prophesizing the geopolitics of the region, the song grimly warns: ‘The ships of state sail on mirage/and drown in sand.’
Such compelling protest art could have been written today in view of the interminable geopolitical situation in the Mideast. Yet, it hasn’t been, and it won’t be. We are bereft of any near equivalent; the integrating instinct of music, politics and passion nowhere present, nowhere promoted. Certainly, there is no shortage of ‘unusual occurrences in the desert’ – or anywhere else for that matter – to inspire truly creative works of radical brilliance. Yet none of that kind of meaningful protest that defined the eras of the late sixties and the entirety of the seventies is to be found in our current rock/popular music groups. Why? How have we missed this? Where were the songs to protest the 2003 invasion of Iraq? Where are the poignant ballads against the spread of terror or the failures of the so-called ‘War on Terror’? The sixteen-year occupation of Afghanistan? The high rates of American soldier-suicides? Consider the power-lyrics of Vietnam-era anti-war works by such groups as Buffalo Springfield or as found in Joan Baez’s ‘Where Are You Now, My Son?’ (‘Yours was the righteous gun/where are you now, my son?’). Why are we incapable of this? Where are the artists of impact and deep intelligence to make sense of a world in which the irrational is the new and newer normal? Must we only be satisfied with Pearl Jam performing a bland cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Master of War’? Are we just to accept that these talented groups cannot come up with meaningful statements of their own?

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on December 25, 2017.

23/12/17: Bloomberg View on Asymmetric Military Budgets: Russia v U.S.

I have written before about asymmetric conflicts and power balances in the context, among other bilateral comparatives, the U. S.-Russia military spending: And the latest budgetary appropriations from the U. S. for 2018 are suggesting that Washington has a serious problem learning any lessons – whether these are lessons from being punched around repeatedly in the Afghanistan, or being derailed in Iraq, being made irrelevant in Syria and so on.

This post was published at True Economics on Saturday, December 23, 2017.

The search for pure ideals in politics

Al Gore was pure. George W Bush was a monster. John Kerry was pure. Bush was still a monster. John McCain and Mitt Romney were monsters. Barack Obama was pure. Trump is pure. Hillary is a monster. Round and round it goes.
Reverse the labels, turn them upside down, inside out, and you arrive at the same dead-end alley at midnight: none of the big-time pols are pure. Far from it.
Yesterday I posted my article on some of the upsides and downsides of Trump. Today, let’s take just a brief small peek at Obama.
Obama was close to purity, ‘though some of his policies may have been wrong headed.’ Really?
The leftist Guardian (1/9/17): ‘In 2016, US special [military] operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.’
‘…in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.’
‘As drone-warrior-in-chief, he [Obama] spread the use of drones outside the declared battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly to Pakistan and Yemen. Obama authorized over 10 times more drone strikes than George W Bush, and automatically painted all males of military age in these regions as combatants, making them fair game for remote controlled killing.’
The champ of bombing. But ‘pure.’

This post was published at Jon Rappoport on December 18, 2017.

Abduct, Imprison, Repeat: Israel’s Brutal System of Occupation, False Imprisonment of Palestinians

By now, western audiences are familiar with shocking photos of horrific ‘routine’ torture which has taken place at various U. S. military bases and detention centers in places Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Why many westerners will express outrage over these images and condemn such practices, few have been brave enough to acknowledge that Palestinians have endured similar or worse treatment inside Israeli prisons and ‘interrogation centres’ since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Moreover, the institutionalized racism which is pervasive throughout the Israeli government and society would normally trigger outrage in the international community, but for some reason (likely its relationship with the US).
How long will moral crusaders in the west remain gagged over Israel’s treatment of the native Palestinian population?
Simply put, the levels of systematic abuse by a thuggish Israeli security apparatus is shocking…

This post was published at 21st Century Wire on DECEMBER 16, 2017.

Pakistan Air Force Ordered To Shoot Down US Military Drones

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has just been ordered to shoot down any foreign drones that violate the country’s airspaceincluding attack drones operated by the United States, Chief Marshal Sohail Aman said on Thursday.
The announcement is a complete change from the air force’s previous view, of which foreign drone strikes on its soil were condemned but the air force never threatened to shoot them out of the sky. ‘We will not allow anyone to violate our airspace. I have ordered PAF to shoot down drones, including those of the US, if they enter our airspace, violating the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,’ Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman told an audience in Islamabad.
The statement was made about two weeks after a US drone strike targeted a militant compound in Pakistan’s tribal region along the border of Afghanistan, leading to multiple casualities, The Times of India reported.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 8, 2017.

Retired CIA Agent Working With Blackwater Founder Claims H.R. McMaster Approved NSA Spy Job On Trump Family

A retired CIA officer reportedly working with Blackwater founder Erik Prince to pitch the White House on a global, private spy network which as we reported yesterday would allow the White House to circumvent and counter “deep state enemies” within U. S. intelligence agencies, is said to have made the stunning claim that National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster worked with the NSA to perform surveillance on Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump, Steve Bannon and others, according to a report in The Intercept.
Former CIA agent John R. Maguire and Blackwater founder Erik Prince
The former CIA agent, John R. Maguire – a Trump transition team member who works for intelligence contractor Amyntor Group, spent over two decades as a paramilitary officer – including tours in Central America working with the Contras. After retiring, Maguire hooked up with Blackwater founder Erik Prince in what has been a long and fruitful professional relationship.
While Maguire and Prince deny they are working together on the White House’s “private spy network,” current and former U. S. officials as well as Trump donors say otherwise, as The Intercept reports:
The former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the efforts scoffed at Prince’s denials. ‘Erik’s proposal had no company names on the slides,’ this person said, ‘but there is no doubt that Prince and Maguire were working together.’ Prince is reported to have told a top Trump fundraiser that he and Maguire are working together, and the two had been going around to Trump fundraisers to generate support for private military contracting efforts in Afghanistan until a CIA contract materialized for the project.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 6, 2017.

Being Thankful… For Empire-Ending Headlines

It’s been quite a week geopolitically. From Angela Merkel admitting she can’t form a coalition and calling for new elections to Syrian peace talks opening up in Astana. From the poppy fields of Afghanistan to the Syrian oil fields east of the Euphrates River there is a hint of fresh air in U. S. foreign policy emanating from the Oval Office.
We’re a couple of days out from Thanksgiving here in the States but a quick perusal of the headlines since then has me thinking we’ve turned a corner in Syria. On Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held a meeting with their respective military commanders to prepare for the peace talks in Sochi.
Putin and Trump held an hour-long phone call that concentrated on Syria while touching on a lot of other topics. But, we can see the outcome of that phone call in today’s headline that Trump has pledged to Turkey that we would stop arming Kurdish forces in eastern Syria.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 26, 2017.

Afghan War Intensifies: US Stealth Fighters Target Narcotics Production Facilities

16-years after the Bush administration began military operations in Afghanistan, President Trump has just launched a military campaign of his own using high-tech stealth fighters to bomb drug labs in the country.
***
The Pentagon’s playbook of nation building in the Middle East has stretched, now, to three Presidents making it the longest war in U. S. history. Ever since the U. S. started occupying the country in the early 2000s, opium production soared. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said without drugs, the war in Afghanistan ‘would have been long over.’

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 24, 2017.

Faux Outrage: Reuters Says Tillerson Violating “Child Soldier Laws”; Ignores Same Policies Under Clinton-Obama

Late last night, Reuters published an “exclusive” report which was undoubtedly intended to be a “gotcha” hit piece on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, courtesy of some disgruntled Obama/Clinton holdovers at the State Department. The report from Reuters came after they got their hands on a confidential “dissent” memo, signed by ” a dozen U. S. State Department officials” accusing Tillerson of violating the “Child Soldiers Prevention Act.” Here’s a summary from Reuters:
A group of about a dozen U. S. State Department officials have taken the unusual step of formally accusing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of violating a federal law designed to stop foreign militaries from enlisting child soldiers, according to internal government documents reviewed by Reuters.
A confidential State Department ‘dissent’ memo not previously reported said Tillerson breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan from a U. S. list of offenders in the use of child soldiers. This was despite the department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries.
Keeping the countries off the annual list makes it easier to provide them with U. S. military assistance. Iraq and Afghanistan are close allies in the fight against Islamist militants, while Myanmar is an emerging ally to offset China’s influence in Southeast Asia.
Documents reviewed by Reuters also show Tillerson’s decision was at odds with a unanimous recommendation by the heads of the State Department’s regional bureaus overseeing embassies in the Middle East and Asia, the U. S. envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the department’s human rights office and its own in-house lawyers.
‘Beyond contravening U. S. law, this decision risks marring the credibility of a broad range of State Department reports and analyses and has weakened one of the U. S. government’s primary diplomatic tools to deter governmental armed forces and government-supported armed groups from recruiting and using children in combat and support roles around the world,’ said the July 28 memo.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 21, 2017.

20/11/17: Tallying the Costs: U.S. Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan & Pakistan

The folks at Brown University have carried out the most detailed assessment of the disastrous costs of the U. S. wars fought since 9/11. The details can be found here: These are a must read! While Russia stands accused by the U. S. of triggering the humanitarian crisis through its intervention in Syria (the civil war that started with the U. S. support and blessing), here is Brown University’s conclusion about the real refugees crisis:
***
Not to say that one wrong (U. S.) makes another wrong right (Russia), but 10.1 million estimated refugees caused by the U. S. wars? This got to stand out, folks.
The U. S. has spent estimated USD5.6 trillion from 9/11 through fiscal year 2018 according to the study.

This post was published at True Economics on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.