Saturday, September 23, 2017

Can US withdraw from JCPOA if it endangers American interests?
Eric R. Mandel JERUSELEM POST 9-23-17 

"The Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country” – US President Donald Trump, September 14, 2017 What if the Trump administration comes to the conclusion that the Iran agreement (JCPOA ) authored by the previous administration has destabilized the Middle East and undermined American interests? Since it was signed, Iran has actively supported the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis, while being complicit in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s genocide of his own people.

Can the US wash its hands of the agreement, or are we stuck with it? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly asked President Trump to either amend or withdraw from the 2015 agreement. There is no doubt that president Barack Obama believed that he knew better than the Israelis what was in their best interest, but now there is a new sheriff in town, who for years has made it clear that he believes the Iran agreement is a danger to America.

There are no American inspectors anywhere in Iran, or anyone else inspecting military sites, where agreement-breaking nuclear weapons development may be taking place. Can America withdraw or amend the agreement if Iran technically adheres to its commitment according to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), which refuses to confront Iranian intransigence on military inspections? Can Trump say sayonara, even if the other members of the P5+1 think it is not in their interest to leave the agreement? The answer is yes, but with a few caveats.

First, the Iran deal is not what it was presented by its authors to be. President Obama signed an agreement that betrayed his own words, promising to “end their nuclear program.” The agreement in fact guarantees an internationally accepted nuclear program in eight more years.

However, critics of withdrawal point out that despite the agreement having never having been signed, it is a commitment that was witnessed by five other major powers, and the consequences of America withdrawing would cast doubt on Western assurances in the future, undermining future negotiations.

The JCPOA is the most important American treaty of the 21st century, except that it was never submitted to the Senate for approval as a treaty.

According to Bruce Fein in The Washington Times, the JCPOA was “intended to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for a relaxation of sanctions, and must be construed as a “treaty” under Article II, section 2, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution.”

As National Review’s Andrew McCarthy explained, the Constitution “does not empower the president to make binding agreements with foreign countries all on his own.”

Even the Yale Journal of International Law, a strong supporter of the JCPOA which believes withdrawal is unwise, opines that “nothing in the JCPOA ...formally binds the United States to the Agreement.”

There is even a precedent for walking away from the agreement, set by Rahm Emanuel and the Obama administration itself.

Let us recall that president Obama disavowed the Bush-Sharon letters of 2004, which said that the “existing major Israeli population centers” were “realities on the ground” and it is unrealistic to expect Israel to return them in any final agreement, with the quid pro quo of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in the disengagement plan.

According to Ben Caspit’s book The Netanyahu Years, an illuminating exchange occurred between Israeli ambassador Michael Oren and Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

Ambassador Oren called Emanuel for a clarification and said, “You can’t repudiate former understandings... it will cause long-term damage.”

Emanuel responded emphatically, “If we think they are not effective it is our right to say so isn’t it? We can’t be committed to everything the previous administration thought.”

So the Obama administration itself created a framework for walking away from the JCPOA , a set of unsigned understandings according to the State Department. If the JCPOA is not effective in moderating Iranian ambitions, and is a glide path to a nuclear weapons program, isn’t it then the right of the new administration to cancel that agreement? Of course it is.

Non-binding agreements that are not treaties can be withdrawn from. If president Obama wanted a binding agreement for perpetuity, all he had to do was present it as a treaty to the Senate.

So what should the US do now? Work with Congress to write legislation to annul the JCPOA if Iran cooperates in any way with North Korea on nuclear or missile related technology, while imposing new sanctions. Better yet, submit the JCPOA for Senate ratification.

As for the Europeans, their latest rationale for maintaining the Iran deal is that it is the model for a resolution of the North Korean nuclear conflict. They say the Iran deal mustn’t be touched, in order to reassure the North Koreans that if they strike a diplomatic deal the West will not renege on it.

So then we should show the North Koreans that they, like Iran, can have an internationally recognized nuclear program in 10 years, free of military site inspections in the meanwhile, and free to build nuclear-armed ICBMs, with billions of dollars as a reward for signing a piece of paper it has no intent of honoring.

The Iranian-sponsored ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population in Syria and Iraq is a war crime, and has caused a catastrophic refugee exodus with profound demographic national security threats to Western European nations.

So why is Western Europe so blind to the fact that the JCPOA is a major source of resources for Iranian belligerency, a primary cause of the refugee epidemic? It seems today’s Western European leaders are so lost in political correctness that they are content to author their own suicide.

As US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “It is this unwillingness to challenge Iranian behavior for fear of damaging the nuclear agreement that gets to the heart of the threat the deal poses to our national security.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iran is “clearly in default” of the nuclear deal, and “the Trump administration is fully committed to addressing the totality of malign activities attributable to the Iran regime and its proxies.”

But is it willing to see the JCPOA as the primary driver of those malign activates? 


The author is director of MEPIN™, the Middle East Political and Information Network ™. Dr. Mandel regularly briefs members of Congress and think tanks on the Middle East. He is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post.

Friday, September 22, 2017

WHY ISRAEL MIGHT TAKE OUT NORTH KOREA'S NUKES

Lawrence Solomon September 19, 2017

http://nationalpost.com/opinion/lawrence-solomon-why-israel-might-take-out-north-koreas-nukes

North Korea, in league with Iran, poses an existential threat to Israel — with its tiny land mass, Israel could not withstand a successful nuclear attack.

North Korea’s rhetoric, like its promise earlier this year to unleash a “merciless, thousand-fold punishment” on its enemy, is familiar to us. But the target of the invective may surprise some. That particular threat was levied against Israel, and understandably so. Kim Jong-Un has reason to fear and loathe Israel.

The United States, South Korea and Japan—the three Pacific countries the Western press focuses on—haven’t been willing to kill North Koreans. Israel has. The U.S., South Korea and Japan haven’t blown up North Korean facilities. Israel has, many believe, and for good measure it also exercises control over North Korean shipping. Kim knows that Israel acts militarily and covertly to thwart his plans at home and abroad and that Israel is far likelier to take pre-emptive actions than his appeaser-neighbours. Unlike Trump, who issues loud threats of his own but is restrained in action, Israel acts and remains silent.

One of the highest profile, if initially unpublicized, military attacks in the undeclared war between North Korea and Israel occurred a decade ago, when Israeli jets destroyed a nuclear reactor that the North Koreans were building in Syria, and with it 10 North Korean officials. Three years earlier, shortly after a Mossad agent surreptitiously entered North Korea using a stolen Canadian passport, a massive explosion in a North Korean freight train carrying nuclear material killed at least a dozen Syrian nuclear scientists, and many more North Koreans. Israeli intelligence, which is thought to have played a role in the attack, reported that there was so much radioactive material onboard that the scientists were flown back to Syria in lead caskets.

Kim Jong Un has reason to fear and loathe Israel

Israel, sometimes in co-operation with the U.S., is also believed to have intercepted shipments from North Korea to Middle Eastern nations involving technology for missiles, conventional arms and chemical weapons as well as nuclear weaponry. In 2017 alone, according to a UN report leaked last month to Reuters, two North Korean arms shipments bound for the Syrian agency responsible for chemical weapons were intercepted by two unnamed governments.

North Korea’s hatred of Israel is ideological, dating back to the West vs. Communist Cold War era. It is the only non-Muslim country to have never recognized the state of Israel and the only one to have taken Israel on militarily. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli air force’s first and last dogfights in the skies over Egypt involved North Korean pilots flying Soviet MIG fighters. North Korea has trained and armed the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hamas and Hezbollah. One North Korean specialty—tunnel technology—is valued by Iran, which needs to protect its nuclear facilities against attack, and by Hamas and Hezbollah, who use it to infiltrate Israel. Iranian scientists have been special guests at North Korean nuclear bomb tests.

Israel has more than North Korea’s ideology to worry about, however. North Korea’s chief source of revenue is arms and its chief customer is Iran. It was Iran that financed the Syrian nuclear reactor—price tag estimated at U.S.$1 billion to $2 billion—and it is Iran that has been importing North Korean missile technology as well as nuclear technology. Now that North Korea has miniaturized nuclear bombs, it is able to sell Iran ready-made bombs as well.

Iran has missile technology and lacks only the nuclear warhead

Iran has missile technology and lacks only the nuclear warhead. Now it has in North Korea a willing seller, one that will be in increasing need of funds if the economic sanctions imposed by the UN take hold. Israel thus faces a nightmare scenario in which the U.S. refrains from disarming North Korea, leaving North Korea free to ship unlimited numbers of nuclear bombs to Iran, whose mullahs are bent on destroying the state of Israel.

North Korea poses a major threat to the U.S. but not an existential threat, and if U.S. intelligence agencies are correct, not an imminent one. North Korea, in league with Iran, poses an existential threat to Israel—with its tiny land mass, Israel could not withstand a successful nuclear attack.  

Israel has a history of taking pre-emptive action against mortal threats, even when opposed by the U.S. and world opinion. It will do so again if it must. If it does take out North Korea’s nuclear capability, especially if Israel is perceived to have acted alone, North Korea would have no reason to retaliate against the U.S., South Korea or Japan. A tragic carnage in the Korean peninsula would be averted.

National Post


LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com

Monday, September 18, 2017

SHE HAPPENED: IT TOOK A VILLAGE TO SEE THROUGH HER

Dov Fischer American Spectator  September 18, 2017


https://spectator.org/she-happened-it-took-a-village-to-see-through-her/?utm_source=American+Spectator+Emails&utm_campaign=eb89c486bb-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_09_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_797a38d487-eb89c486bb-104467145

As a matter of full disclosure, I have not yet read Hillary Clinton’s latest opus, What Happened. I did, however, read Shattered. As for What Happened, I will wait for the movie.

But here is the part of “[w]hat [h]appened” that the book reviewers have not all addressed. And this part is addressed to the author, offering thoughts for inclusion in the epilogue when her opus appears in paperback.

You see, Madame First Lady-U.S. Senator-Secretary of State-Perpetual Whiner (hereinafter “MFLUSSSOSPW”), no one vote alone elected Donald J. Trump the 45th President of the United States. Let us take, for example, Republican presidential voters in the great state of California. Under our electoral college system, votes for president cast by Republicans in California do not count. They count even less than do illegal votes, produced with forged drivers’ licenses, in New Hampshire. Nonetheless, California Republicans begrudgingly accept that their votes do not count because they respect the agreed-upon rules of the game, rules dating back more than 225 years. (U.S. Const. Art. II.) Under the rules of the Electoral College, the only way that a Republican presidential candidate will garner California’s electors in this era is if the other 48 states (Massachusetts does not count) vote Republican. It will take that kind of unilateral nationwide landslide for a Republican to win a majority of California’s voters in a Presidential contest. Therefore, California circa 2016 does not matter for a contemporary Republican Presidential candidate. He or she will win with current-day California only if he or she wins without it.

Alas, this reality also means that Republican presidential candidates will not expend preciously limited resources of time and money to beef-up their California votes for a November general election. It would be pointless, almost as pointless as a California Republican driving to a voting booth on Presidential election day, even if lured by a promise of free disposable plastic grocery bags. For the California Republican voter, the rhetorical question on election day has been asked eloquently once before in the presence of a United States Senate panel investigating the Benghazi disaster: What difference does it make?

So, with California explained, [w]hat exactly [h]appened? Well, it turns out that, beyond California, it took a village to elect Donald Trump President of the United States. A village comprised of the Deep South and the American heartland and a corridor running northward from Florida through Georgia and North Carolina, all the way up to Ohio. And The Village also branched east and west up north, through the Midwestern Rust Belt from Wisconsin to Michigan to Pennsylvania. It took a village.

Many wise observers of all political stripes perceived that Trump had no chance. He entered the race as an amateur. Coarse in language, brutally vicious in personal attack, impolitic beyond words, cartoonish in ways stemming from the hairstyle to the pigmentation. This guy is going to beat Senator Rubio by calling him “Little Marco”? Or defeat Sen. Cruz by mocking his magnificent wife — every public person has had photos snapped at inopportune moments — and intimating that Cruz’s dignified father somehow was associated with the murder of our 35th President? Ouch.

But the main reason that so many thought that MFLUSSSOSPW would defeat Donald Trump is that the electoral college seemed loaded for the Democrats from the get-go, as it has been for many recent years. It is they who begin each Presidential race with California (55 votes), New York (29), Illinois (20), Massachusetts (11), Washington (12), and New Jersey (14) locked up. Add after-thoughts like Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), and Vermont (3), and the Democrats begin the race with 172 electoral votes. The winning candidate needs 270 of the 538 total electors to win, so the race begins with the Democrat needing to secure only 98 of the remaining 366 to hit payday. Even if one concedes that Texas and smaller conservative states like Alabama, Mississippi, Idaho, and Montana are predetermined for the Republicans, the odds for a Democrat to win the electoral college from the remaining pot of states that legitimately remain “in play” remain overwhelming. Republicans mope with fellow conservatives over those odds every four years, viewing each approaching Presidential contest glumly. For those looking beyond the forthcoming bi-elections with 20/20 vision, it still seems unfair.

But those have been the rules for 228 years, and conservatives honor the rules. That is what conservatives do. The game starts with ground rules, and that defines how to proceed, fair and square. A hockey stick may not curve more than half an inch; if it does, any goal scored with it will be disallowed. A baseball bat may not have pine tar on it more than eighteen inches from its bottom. Rule 1.10(c). If it does, any home run hit with it may be disallowed. And it presently takes 270 electors to be chosen president of the United States.

So [w]hat [h]appened?

You, MFLUSSSOSPW, had been in public life post-Arkansas for 24 years. During that quarter century, we got to know your public persona. You truly may be a wonderful person to know privately. You may be someone who giggles softly, ruminates wisely, loves, shares, cares, devotes. But the public MFLUSSSOSPW that we of The Village cannot help but know — even without trying — is someone who is brazenly dishonest, cruel and hurtful, nasty, self-obsessed, manipulative and cunning (in the worst sense of that gerund), and someone narcissistic driven by a sincere tunnel belief, reinforced by decades of echo-chamber sycophancy, that she “deserves it” — whatever it is that she seeks at the moment — because, well, because she deserves it.

The Village does not trust you. If it had been only about The Server, you might have gotten a pass. But there had been cattle futures. Whitewater. The White House travel office. Filegate. That thing about having faced sniper fire when landing in Bosnia, even though the line of sweet little girls holding little flowers to greet you at that airport seemed impervious to Slobodan Milosevic’s perilous projectiles. That other thing about your Christian name having been conferred on you by your loving parents in honor of Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, the first confirmed climber of Mount Everest, whose achievement on May 29, 1953 came five years and seven months after you were born on October 26, 1947. The missing attorney-billing records from the Rose law firm. The Saul Alinsky bond. Sidney Blumenthal and the effort to character-assassinate Barack Obama. Your laughing over the acquittal of the child rapist you got freed. Benghazi: you telling the widows of the fallen martyrs that their loved heroes had died because of a dopey YouTube flick that no one could watch beyond three minutes, while secretly sharing with Chelsea that they actually had been murdered by Al Qaeda on the anniversary of Bin Laden’s 9/11 attacks. Those $250,000 speech honoraria for 15-minute closed-door shmoozes with Wall Street investors and Clinton donors. And stealing furniture from the White House. (C’mon, MFLUSSSOSPW: stealing furniture from the White House?)

The Village also remembered your role as a sexual predator’s full-time enabler. Maybe Gennifer Flowers had been consensual, but you publicly called her “trailer trash” and thereafter participated in hiring private investigators to dig up dirt on her. And the threats against Paula Corbin Jones. And Kathleen Willey. And Juanita Broaddrick. Sure, you told the media that you would not be like Tammy Wynette and “just stand by your man.” But, while Tammy ultimately walked out on George Jones, having stopped loving him that day, you instead shifted into battle mode. You mocked, insulted, and character-assassinated one female sexual-assault victim after another. You called Lewinsky a “nacissisic looney tune,” even though she was not the one wielding cigars.

The Village remembered. And that is why the email scandal buried you. Not because of Jim Comey. But because you had lost the public’s trust. The Village saw you as an irredeemable pathological liar. Then you started explaining that the emails you had wiped from your server — wiped like a waved dish rag, as you gesticulated to Fox’s Ed Henry — merely had been private communications about yoga classes and Chelsea’s wedding gown. The Village knew better, echoing in silent memory Ronald Reagan’s famous riposte to a more honest though equally incompetent Democrat: “There you go again!”

The problem is that, to the degree that the presidency is an encomium to be bequeathed rather than a position to be held in service to a nation, lots of other people also deserve it. Righteous people deserve it. Doctors and nurses who save lives deserve it. First responders who race into fires or face bullets amid confronting gang warfare to save innocent lives deserve it. As among politicians, John McCain also deserves it after the sacrifices he made as a war hero, absorbing torture and refusing freedom from Vietnamese incarceration without his men, and then devoting his life to national service. Mitt Romney deserves it after having lived a righteous life, not allowing his time as Governor of Massachusetts nor his status as a quarter-billionaire to divert him from personally delivering Thanksgiving dinners to the hungry nor from personally visiting people, outside of television cameras, in hospitals. Lots of people in The Village “deserve” it.

Beyond that, many of us Americans are concerned about our jobs, our national economy, taxes, our decaying infrastructure, and our porous Southern border through which illicit drugs that murder Americans permeate along with “coyotes” who smuggle undocumented human beings to their horrible deaths by suffocation, starvation, and worse. We are concerned about Iran developing nuclear weapons that can incinerate and obliterate parts of America, North Korea racing to attain the same level of criminally barbaric insanity, and Vladimir Putin outflanking freedom at every turn from the Crimea to the Ukraine to the Middle East. In other words, this is not a fun time when we blithely can hand over the Presidency to some empty-suit who imagines fancifully that his election will mark an end to the rising of the oceans (as in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean) and the healing of the planet, while one prominent magazine crowns him King Messiah, a television commentator experiences thrilling leg creep from watching him bloviate, and the character himself dances the salsa in front of a Dictator Castro while Europeans are being murdered that day by terrorists. This is not a time for someone who “deserves” the honor. It is a time for someone who potentially can do the job and can earn that trust by presenting a résumé rich with proven achievements.

During the presidential campaign, you spoke of your long public record, but your long public record condemned you. As First Lady, you inadvertently had sabotaged the Democrats’ decades-long stranglehold on the House of Representatives by leading your husband on one public policy disaster after another until the American electorate invited the then-hapless Congressional Republicans back into the majority to rein him in. HillaryCare was the straw that broke the donkey’s back, assuring the GOP a new era of House dominance beginning with Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America.” You built that. As a United States Senator, you had carpet-bagged yourself into a seat by donning a New York Yankees baseball cap, telling the starry-eyed Empire States voters that you, a child of Illinois and the wife of an Arkansas governor, always had rooted for the Bronx Bombers. Once elected, what accomplishments did you register in the upper chamber? We all remember historic legislation, even the bad enactments, by the names of the legislative greats of both parties whose visions changed America: the Carmack Amendment, the Taft-Hartley Act, the Boggs Act, the Byrd Amendment, the Mann Act, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, Sarbanes-Oxley. What did you do? You got assistance for Manhattan after 9/11? Gee, whiz! How did you ever manage to persuade the Congress to do that?

And then you recorded a record as Secretary of State. Under your Russian Reset, the Crimea fell to Putin. Ukraine came under threat from Putin, even as the United States reneged on missile-defense security promises to Poland and the Czech Republic. You let the Iranian “Green Revolution” go to waste. You wasted the promise of the “Arab Spring,” putting the house money on the wrong horse: Mohamed Morsi and the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. You screamed on the phone for an interminably long time at the Prime Minister of Israel. (Pssst! — Israel is on our side.) You staked out the position that Israel could not build homes for Jews in the heart of Jerusalem. Your husband and you somehow ended up with huge speaking fees — nearly a billion dollars worth — in Putin territory, and somehow Putin people ended up reciprocally owning tons of American uranium, approved by your State Department, suitable for destroying the free world with nuclear weapons.

And Benghazi.

In great measure, that is [w]hat [h]appened, MFLUSSSOSPW. Your public persona cultivated and crafted over a quarter century. Your résumé of actual performance. Your profound sense of entitlement. Your remarkably transparent Hansel-and-Gretel trail of lies leading from Arkansas to Wall Street to Bosnia to the Middle East to Mount Everest to Russia and back to the furniture moving truck and the bathroom where that server was stashed.

But there was more. Of course Jim Comey did not help. And yet he did. He really did let you off the hook even though any objective analysis of your violations of federal law would have required that a grand jury at least be convened to explore. Instead, the FBI director acted ultra vires, outside his area of authority, dropping the criminal matter for you. And the Attorney General met with your husband privately at that infamous Phoenix tarmac to discuss grandchildren and golf with him. (With respect, as much as grandkids and mulligans pushed the contours of credibility beyond the perimeters, no one in The Village would have believed that Bill and Loretta had been discussing yoga classes or wedding dresses.) Tellingly, Loretta Lynch’s clandestine tête-à-tête with President Bill was so politically sinister that it was the only time in your husband’s long and distinguished public career that no one in America — not a single person in The Village — entertained the suspicion that he had leveraged thirty minutes intimately alone with another woman-not-his-wife for physical hanky-panky. All knew it was substantive, not about multi-generational progeny, and not about selecting irons or woods.

And one more thing. That “basket full of deplorables” gambit. You played “Identity Politics” so brazenly, so wantonly, that you — a lifelong New York Yankees fanatic dating back presumbly to their Highlanders days — forgot something that Maury Wills, their cross-country 1960s Dodgers rival, once told the press. Wills, a remarkably successful base-stealer of historic achievement, once was asked how he managed to be so successful in stealing second base (from first base) against left-handed pitchers. (As you know from your many decades of rooting for the Yankees, MFLUSSSOSPW, the left-handed pitcher faces the runner on first base, in contradistinction to the rightie who necessarily stands on the pitcher’s mound with his back to that runner. Therefore, it typically is understood that a runner on first base is disadvantaged when seeking to “get a jump” and trying to get a head start on running to second base when the pitcher is a southpaw, a leftie, who is staring right at him.) So the reporter asked Maury Wills: “How is it that you run so freely against left-handers, given that they can stare at you carefully as they are pitching?” And Wills answered: “Because with righties, I can see only their backs, but with lefties I can stare at them carefully, too, as they are pitching.”

MFLUSSSOSPW, you diverted your campaign from a pursuit to lead our entire country as our Chief Executive. Instead, you brazenly promoted the most divisive and hurtful of Identity Politics. You publicly pursued women. While you were staring at women voters, male voters in Pennsylvania and North Carolina were staring carefully at you, and they saw. You publicly pursued Latinos. Non-Latino voters in Ohio and Iowa stared carefully and saw. You pursued African-Americans. Non-African-Americans in Michigan and Wisconsin stared carefully and saw. As you shamelessly and brazenly divided the American People into narrow classes of ethnic, racial, religious, gender slices of political pie, the other slices in The Village stared carefully and saw. Like a two-year-old hiding from Mommy and staring through waffled fingers, you thought that you could see them, but they could not see you. But they stared and saw — and they flowed out to vote by the basketfuls and basketsful. You had Lady Gaga and Madonna, Lena Dunham and Katy Perry, Beyoncé and LeBron. And yet The Villagers came out in the droves that John McCain and Mitt Romney could not inspire. They came out despite Jim Comey refusing to refer charges against you. They came out because, when you lumped them all into a basketful of deplorables, they grasped that, to save the country from further tragedy and cultural rupture, it would not be enough to “leave it to the other person” to vote. That, to save the country from you, it would take the whole damn village.

And so it did.


And that’s [w]hat [h]appened.
Fascism comes to the United States… and his name is Robert S.Mueller III       “ With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller’s Inquiry Sets a Tone”

By SHARON LaFRANIERE, MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN 
New YORK TIMES SEPT. 18, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/us/politics/mueller-russia-investigation.html?emc=edit_ta_20170918&nl=top-stories&nlid=60863050&ref=cta&_r=0




WASHINGTON — Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.

The moves against Mr. Manafort are just a glimpse of the aggressive tactics used by Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors in the four months since taking over the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, according to lawyers, witnesses and American officials who have described the approach. Dispensing with the plodding pace typical of many white-collar investigations, Mr. Mueller’s team has used what some describe as shock-and-awe tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the inquiry.

Mr. Mueller has obtained a flurry of subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify before a grand jury, lawyers and witnesses say, sometimes before his prosecutors have taken the customary first step of interviewing them. One witness was called before the grand jury less than a month after his name surfaced in news accounts. The special counsel even took the unusual step of obtaining a subpoena for one of Mr. Manafort’s former lawyers, claiming an exception to the rule that shields attorney-client discussions from scrutiny.

“They are setting a tone. It’s important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled,” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. “You want people saying to themselves, ‘Man, I had better tell these guys the truth.’”

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined to comment. Lawyers and a spokesman for Mr. Manafort also declined to comment.

Few people can upend Washington like a federal prosecutor rooting around a presidential administration, and Mr. Mueller, a former F.B.I. director, is known to dislike meandering investigations that languish for years. At the same time, he appears to be taking a broad view of his mandate: examining not just the Russian disruption campaign and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates assisted in the effort, but also any financial entanglements with Russians going back several years. He is also investigating whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice when he fired James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director.

Mr. Manafort is under investigation for possible violations of tax laws, money-laundering prohibitions and requirements to disclose foreign lobbying. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser, is being scrutinized for foreign lobbying work as well as for conversations he had last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States. On Monday, Mr. Flynn’s siblings announced the creation of a legal-defense fund to help cover their brother’s “enormous” legal fees.

The wide-ranging nature of Mr. Mueller’s investigation could put him on a collision course with Mr. Trump, who has said publicly that Mr. Mueller should keep his investigation narrowly focused on last year’s presidential campaign. In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller would be overstepping his boundaries if he investigated his family’s finances unrelated to Russia.

For the moment, Mr. Mueller’s team has shown a measure of deference to White House officials, sparing them grand jury subpoenas and allowing them to be appear for voluntary interviews. Those sessions are expected to begin soon. Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the White House response to the inquiry, has told administration officials that he wants to avoid any subpoenas from the special prosecutor.

Staff members have been working long hours answering Mr. Mueller’s request for 13 categories of documents, including records related to Mr. Comey’s firing and Mr. Trump’s role in drafting a misleading statement about a June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and Russian-born visitors. Nonetheless, the demand for documents has provoked at least one angry confrontation between Mr. Cobb and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, over whether certain documents should be withheld to protect the president’s right to confidentiality.

But associates of both Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn have received more peremptory treatment. Instead of invitations to the prosecutor’s office, they have been presented with grand jury subpoenas, forcing them to either testify or take the Fifth Amendment and raise suspicions that they had something to hide. At least three witnesses have recently been subpoenaed to testify about Mr. Manafort: Jason Maloni, a spokesman who appeared before the grand jury for more than two hours on Friday, and the heads of two consulting firms — Mercury Public Affairs and the Podesta Group — who worked with Mr. Manafort on behalf of Viktor F. Yanukovych, the pro-Russia former president of Ukraine.

Mr. Mueller’s team also took the unusual step of issuing a subpoena to Melissa Laurenza, a specialist in lobbying law who formerly represented Mr. Manafort, according to people familiar with the subpoena. Conversations between lawyers and their clients are normally considered bound by attorney-client privilege, but there are exceptions when lawyers prepare public documents that are filed on behalf of their client.

Mr. Mueller took over the Russia investigation in May, after the F.B.I. had already spent nearly a year looking into connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russians. His team has occasionally been caught by surprise, hearing of possibly important information only when it is revealed in the news media.

This was the case in July, when Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors learned about email exchanges between Donald Trump Jr. and an emissary for a Kremlin-connected Russian oligarch only after they were disclosed in The New York Times, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, set up the Trump Tower meeting to receive what he was told would be damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

Soon after his name surfaced, one of the Russian-born participants at the meeting, Rinat Akhmetshin, was ordered to testify before the grand jury, according to one of Mr. Akhmetshin’s associates.

“They seem to be pursuing this more aggressively, taking a much harder line, than you’d expect to see in a typical white collar case,” said Jimmy Gurulé, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor. “This is more consistent with how you’d go after an organized crime syndicate.”

The tactics reflect some of the hard-charging — and polarizing — personalities of Mr. Mueller’s team, seasoned prosecutors with experience investigating financial fraud, money laundering and organized crime.

Admirers of Andrew Weissmann, one of the team’s senior prosecutors, describe him as relentless and uncompromising, while his detractors say his scorched earth tactics have backfired in some previous cases. Greg B. Andres, another one of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors, once ran an investigation into a Mafia kingpin. Zainab N. Ahmad made her name as a prosecutor pursing high-profile terrorism cases.

Some lawyers defending people who have been caught up in Mr. Mueller’s investigation privately complain that the special counsel’s team is unwilling to engage in the usual back-and-forth that precedes — or substitutes for — grand jury testimony. They argue that the team’s more aggressive tactics might end up being counterproductive, especially if some grand jury witnesses turn out to be more guarded than they would have https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/us/politics/mueller-russia-investigation.html?emc=edit_ta_20170918&nl=top-stories&nlid=60863050&ref=cta&_r=0https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/us/politics/mueller-russia-investigation.html?emc=edit_ta_20170918&nl=top-stories&nlid=60863050&ref=cta&_r=0 in a more informal setting or invoke the Fifth Amendment.

The longer Mr. Mueller’s investigation goes on, the more vulnerable he will be to allegations that he is on a fishing expedition, said Katy Harriger, a professor of politics at Wake Forest University and the author of a book on special prosecutors. Such accusations dogged the investigation of Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel whose investigation of Mr. Clinton stretched on for years.

To a degree, Mr. Mueller is in a race against three congressional committees that are interviewing some of same people who are of interest to the special prosecutor’s team. Even if the committees refuse to grant them immunity, congressional testimony that becomes public can give other witnesses a chance to line up their stories.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said committee staff members were going to great lengths not to get in Mr. Mueller’s way. But Senator Charles E. Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicated last week that his committee might subpoena witnesses to testify about the circumstances of Mr. Comey’s firing even over Mr. Mueller’s objections.

Mr. Mueller’s need to navigate this complex landscape could explain the timing of the raid on Mr. Manafort’s house, which took place in the early hours of July 26. The raid came one day after Mr. Manafort was interviewed by staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

On the day of the raid, Mr. Manafort was scheduled to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee, an interview that was eventually canceled.

It is unusual for a prosecutor to seek a search warrant against someone who, like Mr. Manafort, had already put his lawyer in contact with the Justice Department. No search warrants were executed during the investigations by Mr. Starr or Patrick J. Fitzgerald, a special counsel appointed during the George W. Bush administration to investigate the leak of the name of a C.I.A. officer.

To get the warrant, Mr. Mueller’s team had to show probable cause that Mr. Manafort’s home contained evidence of a crime. To be allowed to pick the lock and enter the home unannounced, prosecutors had to persuade a federal judge that Mr. Manafort was likely to destroy evidence.


Said Mr. Gurulé, the former federal prosecutor, “Clearly they didn’t trust him.”
The West Betrays U.S. Heroes Who Prevented Another 9/11

Giulio Meotti   September 18, 2017

http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-west-betrays-u-s-heroes-who-prevented-another-911/2017/09/18/

{Originally posted to the Gatestone Institute web site}

One of the most important chapters in the war on terror is being rewritten — with a moral inversion. Islamic terrorists who were arrested and deported have become “liberal causes célèbres“, while agents of the CIA who questioned them are not only being condemned but also financially crushed by punishment and legal bills — for having tried, legally, to save American lives.

Guantanamo Bay has supposedly become “the Gulag of our time“; the psychologists who interrogated the murderer who sawed off Daniel Pearl’s head have been charged with working “for money“; the “black sites” in the Polish and Lithuanian forests have been compared to Nazi concentration camps, and the U.S. jurists and officials who conducted the war on terror have been compared to the Germans hanged in Nuremberg.

“In just a few months, Obama had sent the CIA back to the September 10 culture of risk aversion and timidity that had contributed to the disaster of 9/11”, Bruce Thornton wrote in his book, The Wages of Appeasement. A few examples of Obama’s policy include a directive to release Justice Department memos on the process of vetting interrogation techniques for legality. The attorney general at the time, Eric Holder, appointed a special prosecutor to determine if the CIA officers involved in the interrogation program had been guilty of breaking the law.

A judicial condemnation, however, has begun only now. A federal judge in Spokane, Washington, has opened one of the most important trials in the recent U.S. history. For the first time after September 11, three American citizens involved in interrogating Islamic terrorists have been called to answer to a judge. The New York Times released the video of their testimony. The federal court in Spokane, Washington, heard Bruce Jessen, James Mitchell and Jose Rodriguez testifying on their role in the war on terror. They are among the heroes who prevented another 9/11; now they are on the bench.

“I’ll tell you a story,” Bruce Jessen testified.

“Two Christmases ago, I get a call from the CIA; my grandchildren and my daughter and son-in-law are living with us. You have 15 minutes to get out of your house because ISIS has found someone to come and kill you and your family… Now, those — that isn’t the only threat I’ve received over the years, I’ve received lots of them. And I’m not afraid, and I did my duty and I stood up and I went to war, and I’ll stand up to any of them again, but I don’t want them messing with my family… And when you stick your face in the public eye, you get people like the SSCI and [Senator Dianne] Feinstein and the ACLU and other people who accuse you of things you didn’t do, who out your name, who give them your address, who print articles that are full of crap about you, and it makes it difficult.”

Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA clandestine service, told the court what was at stake:

“George Washington did not face an enemy like Al Qaeda. These are people who want to die as martyrs and see the killing of thousands of innocent men, women, and children as justifiable to promote their cause. Making a few of the worst terrorists on the planet uncomfortable for a few days during their first month of imprisonment is worth it in order to save thousands of lives”.

John Rizzo also testified. In 2002, when George W. Bush signed the executive order in which he argued that the Geneva Convention does not apply to terrorists, Rizzo was an interim legal advisor. “No, I can’t honestly sit here today and say I should have objected to that”, Rizzo said.

Now, Judge Justin L Quackenbush of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, cleared the way for the case to move to the trial phase, rejecting the psychologists’ lawyers request for summary judgement. “This is a historic day for our clients and all who seek accountability for torture,” ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a press release. “The court’s ruling means that for the first time, individuals responsible for the brutal and unlawful CIA torture program will face meaningful legal accountability for what they did”.

These officials should have never be prosecuted in a court; they should be protected from such actions. This prosecution is a betrayal of those who worked hard to prevent more massacres and to cripple the infrastructure of jihad.

Many former CIA directors explained that the program of enhanced interrogation techniques worked extremely well:

“It led to the capture of senior al Qaeda operatives, thereby removing them from the battlefield; it led to the disruption of terrorist plots and prevented mass casualty attacks, saving American and Allied lives; it added enormously to what we knew about al Qaeda as an organization and therefore informed our approaches on how best to attack, thwart and degrade it”.

The CIA claimed the demonstrable successes of the interrogation program: the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed; the capture of José Padilla, accused of wanting to commit an attack in the United States with a dirty radiological bomb; preventing an attack on the US consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; a second wave of attacks after September 11 with a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into Library Tower in Los Angeles.

Jessen and Mitchell are not the only psychologists now in trouble for their involvement in this program. There are also the military psychologist Morgan Banks; Stephen Behnke, a former director of the American Psychological Association’s ethics office; Joseph Matarazzo, a former chairperson of the Psychologist Association, who allegedly wrote an opinion for the CIA in which the deprivation of sleep would not constitute “torture”.

One of the most important cases of rendition took place in the Italian city of Milan against Abu Omar; the verdict ended by condemning CIA agents. Robert Seldon Lady, the former head of the CIA in Milan, and involved in the Abu Omar case, was arrested and released in Panama. In a rare interview, the Wall Street Journal wrote:

“Mr. Lady, who had planned to retire and become a security consultant from a farm house he bought with his life savings in Italy’s Piedmont region, received the stiffest sentence — eight years in prison, increased to nine on appeal. Before the case went to trial, Magistrate Armando Spataro sued to seize Mr. Lady’s house and use the proceeds to pay damages to Abu Omar. Mr. Lady fled Italy in 2005 but lost his property. His 30-year marriage, he says, was another casualty”.

Sabrina De Sousa, another CIA agent involved in the Milan rendition, avoided the jail only thanks to being pardoned by the Italian authorities.

The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Macedonia for the rendition of a German citizen. The European judges also condemned Poland for hosting one of the CIA’s secret sites. Spanish judges opened a criminal file against some senior Bush administration officials, including John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee of the Justice Department, and William Haynes, a former senior Pentagon jurist. John Yoo, now a professor at University of California, Berkeley, wrote the 2003 memorandum authorizing the CIA’s interrogation techniques. The German attorney Wolfgang Kaleck filed a criminal complaint against Yoo; Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the Law School at the California University, asked to prosecute Yoo, who was also sued by José Padilla, a convicted American terrorist.

Recently, attorneys of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin, filed a criminal complaint against Gina Haspel, now the CIA’s number-two person under Director Mike Pompeo, and charged her with being involved in directing a secret CIA detention facility near Bangkok, Thailand. Will U.S. officials fear that traveling in Europe might expose them to arrest?

The Wall Street Journal wrote last year, regarding the De Sousa case:

“The threat from terrorism is worse than at any time since 9/11, even as the West has limited its capacity for self-defense… Those who work as spies know the risks from America’s enemies, but they shouldn’t have to worry about politicized retribution from its friends. Sabrina De Sousa’s abandonment by the U.S. government sends a demoralizing message to all who serve in the shadows, even as the war on terror enters a dangerous new phase.”

That is the most important lesson: our brave spies and officials involved in the war against Islamic terrorism, like those who prevented another 9/11, now fear not only the wrath of the jihadists, but also the witch hunt of a Western media and judicial system.

As James E. Mitchell said, by prosecuting what the U.S. and the West have done in the war on terror, “we will be standing on the moral high ground, looking down into a smoking hole that used to be several city blocks”.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

London bombing shows danger of Islamification in Britain and Europe. Is the US next?


By Julienne Davis Published September 16, 2017 Fox News

The terrorist bombing Friday of a train on the London Underground, which injured 30 people – including one of my very close friends – was yet more evidence of a painful truth: the Islamification of the United Kingdom and Europe is well under way, changing the very character of the continent that gave birth to Western Civilization.

To escape this disturbing transformation of Britain – a place I had come to love after spending much of my adult life there, even becoming a dual British-U.S. citizen in 2000 – my English husband and I moved back to America at the end of 2006. I felt like a bit of a coward, but I did not want to live in an England changing dramatically for the worse before my eyes.

Yet now I fear that the United States will be next in line to see our wonderful traditions of freedom, tolerance, respect for human rights and the rule of law threatened by the regressive and oppressive ideology of Islamic fundamentalism.

Friday’s terrorist attack in London brought these fears to the front of my mind, especially after my friend nearly lost her life when the bomb partially detonated in the train car she was riding in. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

My friend told me she heard the bomb go off 30 feet away, looked in the direction of the sound and saw a huge fireball coming towards her. Her skin is burned, she no longer has eyebrows and eyelashes, and her hair and clothes were singed as well. She will recover. But if the bomb had detonated properly, I would be preparing now to attend her funeral.

My husband and I saw Britain changing before our eyes. The final straw was during the 2006 Danish Embassy Muhammad cartoon protest, when hundreds of Islamists holding signs like “Behead Infidels” and “Prepare for a New Holocaust,” marched unopposed to the Danish Embassy in London.

The bombing was the fifth terrorist attack in Britain this year but the first on London’s mass transit system since bombings on three trains and a bus on July 7, 2005 that killed 52 people and wounded over 700. I remember the day clearly – people dazed, frightened and with blood on their shirts coming out of the tube.

Is this what awaits us in the U.S. five or 10 years from now? Rather than flee again, I feel the need to speak out before it is too late.

Let me be clear: In a free land, everyone should be free to follow the religion of his or her choice. But sadly, fundamentalist Islam does not allow other theologies to coexist.

Islamism, as the Brookings Institution describes it, is based on the belief that “Islamic law or Islamic values should play a central role in public life. They (Islamists) feel Islam has things to say about how politics should be conducted, how the law should be applied, and how other people – not just themselves – should conduct themselves.”

Islamification is the imposition of an Islamist social and political system onto a society – depriving individuals (particularly women) of their freedoms and making even nations where Muslims are in the minority change their way of life to be more aligned with Islamic fundamentalism.

This has nothing in common with the pluralistic and polytheist society I grew up in living in the U.S. or that I found in England years ago.

Tragically, things are only going to get worse – much worse – in Europe. The British and European Union governments are no longer looking after their people and are willfully allowing the destruction of their culture and free societies. They have utterly failed their citizens.

An English friend told me recently that her daughter’s Church of England village school was teaching what they call RE (Religious Education) to the children and spending an inordinate amount of time and positively favoring Islam over other religions. Children of all faiths are now being taught how to pray to Allah with prayer mats.

The Koran is the only book open on a stand at the back of the classroom. And at a school assembly when the prophet Muhammad was mentioned, 200 children chanted in unison:  “Peace be upon him.”

I was speechless when I heard this. But I am continually shocked at the news coming out of Britain – a country that is my second home and one I love so very much.

My husband and I saw Britain changing before our eyes. The final straw for my husband and I was during the 2006 Danish Embassy Muhammad cartoon protest, when hundreds of Islamists holding signs like “Behead Infidels” and “Prepare for a New Holocaust,” marched unopposed to the Danish Embassy in London.

The only person arrested that day was an Englishman who jeered at the Islamists. Upon seeing that, my husband turned to me and painfully admitted with tears in his eyes, “England is finished. I guess I’d rather be a stranger in a strange land, than a stranger in my own land.”  We left England when his U.S. green card came through.

Since then, we have heard about many more incidents happening in the United Kingdom from friends who live there – not just in the news.

There was the nail bomb attack at a pop concert; Islamists shouting “Allahu Akbar” as they stabbed and drove into people on deadly rampages; and the beheading of a British soldier in the streets of London in broad daylight.

In addition, many churches are being converted to mosques with minarets and are now broadcasting calls to prayer; Muslim rapists have targeted underage English girls; and the insidious Islamist indoctrination of children in schools is becoming more common.

How do you irreparably change a country? By targeting and indoctrinating its children.

On top of this, the United Kingdom’s flawed immigration policies and laws have enabling a rapid rise in the Muslim population to more than 3.5 million, equalling 5.5 percent of the nation in 2016, according to the Gatestone Institute International Policy Council.

The institute reports that a survey found that 23 percent of British Muslims advocate replacement of British law with Islamic law in areas with large Muslim populations. And the same survey estimates that “more than 100,000 British Muslims sympathize with suicide bombers.”

Many of us in the U.S. may hear of these incidences and are horrified. But we are relived that at least none of this is happening over here.

But what is going on in Britain and Europe is both a warning and a precursor to what could very well happen here if we don’t take heed. Furthermore, allowing the Islamists in America to change our laws, ethics and customs to suit or cater to only their beliefs at the expense of others is a slippery slope.

I am glad I returned to the United States. At the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country my patriotism welled up in me like a tidal wave and only grew. And I became appalled by the anti-American and pro-Islamist rhetoric that was going on in the leftist British media and among friends and acquaintances there.

Everyone who lives in the United States is lucky and blessed to be here. While we will continue to welcome people here from around the world, we need to be careful to not change the very character of our nation by opening the floodgates to people determined to recast our country into the image of another culture.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN ELITES ARE USING TRUMP TO WHITEWASH 16 YEARS OF FOREIGN-POLICY DISASTERS 
By Lee Smith THE TABLET 9-13-1t

Successive two-term administrations made a mess of the Middle East. Who will clean up?

Looking back this week on Sept. 11, it’s hard not to conclude that Osama bin Laden won a significant victory. With relatively little money and a small band of suicidal fanatics, he reconfigured the policy of a superpower in a region of vital interest for 16 years, at a high cost in American treasure and lives and global influence that may never be recaptured. From the Iraq war to Afghanistan, and from the Iran nuclear deal to the anti-ISIS campaign, our foreign policy is a bipartisan train wreck endangering passengers and bystanders alike. Bin Laden didn’t destroy America like he set out to do, he did something much worse: He set America on a path to self-destruction. The way I see it, Sept. 11 is how we got Donald Trump.

More specifically, the policies of the Bush White House, beginning with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and then the ostensibly corrective policies of the Obama administration, which culminated in the Iran Deal and the ongoing slaughter in Syria, have sucked nearly the entire American foreign-policy elite into a black hole of denial of their own shared responsibility for a self-evident geopolitical disaster that began in the destruction of the Middle East, but is unlikely to end there. That’s why both parties are in agreement on one thing: shift the blame. It’s not on us, Republicans or Democrats. Trump is the problem we can all agree on. Let’s wipe the slate clean and agree that history started in January 2017—and any effort to argue otherwise and put Trump, his policies and even personality, in some sort of historical context rather than simply regard him as a freakish anomaly is “what about-ism,” or Trumpism, or worse.

But history isn’t simply whatever “narrative” the good people of Twitter agree on to whitewash their own guilt. History is bigger than that, and it shapes the future, in ways that we are often powerless to control. In this case, history starts not long after Sept. 11, 2001, first in Afghanistan and then two years later with Iraq, a war whose aims were always unclear, and which were repeatedly re-written over time. It was because Saddam had WMD. It was to punish an Arab dictator who supported the same anti-American causes advocated by bin Laden and the Sept. 11 hijackers. It was to bring democracy to the Middle East.

I found this last rationale inspiring—I was inspired by it living in Beirut. The night of Iraq’s first parliamentary elections, I was out with Lebanese friends celebrating the Arab vote. I’d just returned from Syria where I watched Bush’s second inaugural at the home of a Syrian friend who lived in Homs and wept during the speech in gratitude for Bush’s efforts to liberate the Arabs. As a New Yorker whose city was savaged on Sept. 11 by the same people who made the Middle East a kill zone, I’d found allies. I wasn’t a cheerleader for war: I was an advocate for Arab democracy. And for a while, at least, it even looked like it was working, and why not? Saddam Hussein was a monster, the region was full of monsters. America’s role now was to stamp out bin Ladenism of every stripe and replace it with democracy, a freedom agenda backed by hundreds of billions of dollars and the most potent military machine on earth.

The empathy that many Americans, soldiers, diplomats, aid workers, civilians, and others like myself had for people who deserved our help and respect came from decent impulses, which are deeply American. Nonetheless, those impulses also erased the tragic realities of other people’s lives in a very different part of the world. It was narcissism, with profound geo-strategic consequences. Our empathy for hopeful democrats in the countries where we lived and worked involved denying a reality in which the dreams of those we empathized with were in fact impossible. Empathy got people killed—thousands of Americans, and well over a million people by now in the Middle East.

The Lebanon where I thought I saw Arab democracy blossom is now entirely controlled by a terrorist organization, Hezbollah. Homs, once a city of more than a million people from where I watched Bush wax eloquently about Arab hopes and dreams, is devastated after six and a half years of the Syrian war. The effort to reshape the Middle East was a muddle, which led to a disaster in which both American political parties now own a fully paid-up share.


Saudi Arabia, 2017, 2009, 2008 (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
No part of this stomach-turning mess can be laid at the feet of Trump—not the war in Iraq, nor Afghanistan, nor the Arab revolutions that tore apart the Middle East and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths across the region, nor the Iran nuclear deal, or the Iranian take-over of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Nor, nine months ago, did it take a genius to see that the elites of both parties were responsible—and that their “expertise” had made the world more violent and dangerous, and America less safe. To solve them, Americans tapped someone who had no political experience and rejected the “expertise” of the “experts” whose smart solutions had openly failed.

Sound familiar? Despite his lack of foreign-policy experience and rejection of the consensus wisdom of both parties, Barack Obama led a successful insurgent campaign that defied the establishment of his own party and then won the general election. The fact that he was openly different was, in fact, his main electoral virtue: His charisma and a personal story that seemed to realize mainline Protestant narratives of a historical singularity redeeming a sinful America were icing on the cake.

What mattered was that, unlike Hillary Clinton and other brand-name Democrats, like Joe Biden, Obama couldn’t be held responsible for the pressing disaster of the day—the Iraq war. Sure, I’m untested, Obama intimated, but here’s what I won’t do—risk American lives and interests to set the region on fire. And then he did.

Obama was openly contemptuous of the political class, on both sides, that backed the war, officials, lawmakers, as well as journalists and pundits, or what his deputy, the similarly contemptuous Ben Rhodes, called “the blob.” Despite their contempt for people like Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, they kept them around for political cover, in order to convince Capitol Hill and the press corps that Team Obama was solidly in the mainstream of American foreign-policy wisdom. Sure, Obama wanted to put some distance between the United States and Israel—but only because it was in the best interests of Israel, the love for which he felt in his kishkes. Obama wasn’t going to pull any fast moves, like make a deal that gave Iran a nuclear weapon. That’s crazy, crypto-racist talk. Iran will never get the bomb on Obama’s watch—and all options are on the table to keep it from happening.

By the time Democratic centrists figured out the play, they were all on the hook for helping Obama sell the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—i.e. for selling the preposterous theory that guaranteeing the eventual acquisition of man’s most destructive weapon would actually moderate leaders who send people out in to the streets to shout Death to America, Death to Israel, leaders who would be given hundreds of billions of additional dollars to spend on whatever they wanted.

The worst part is that the Iran deal wasn’t just a spectacularly bad arms agreement. It was also the instrument for realigning American regional interests—downgrading traditional allies like Israel and upgrading adversaries like Iran. By diminishing American influence while setting the Middle East on fire, the Obama camp authored a massive strategic failure as bad as—maybe worse than—Bush’s Iraq adventure—a failure that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. The only thing that could be said for it was that Obama spent a lot less American money on his disaster than Bush spent on his.

At present, Iran is rushing to complete a land bridge linking Tehran, through Baghdad and Damascus, to the eastern Mediterranean, including Israel’s border. For the first time in four decades, Russia is entrenched in the Middle East, on the border of Israel and NATO member Turkey, and even American allies have to go through Moscow for answers. That’s strategic failure on a historic scale.

Morally, Obama’s supporters are on the hook for doing nothing to stop Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran from slaughtering half a million Syrians, in a genocide whose gruesome nature and civilian death toll exceeds even the large-scale violence visited upon Iraqis by all parties—including those backed by the United States, and by Iran—over a decade of war. Obama’s U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, who literally wrote the book on how American bureaucrats justified their repeated failures to stop genocide, is only one among many who were complicit in blinking at war crimes on a historic scale. Presumably, she will take refuge in that defense, the same way the foreign-policy elites of both parties now seek to erase the catastrophic failures of successive two-term administrations—one thoroughly Republican, and the other impeccably Democratic—by pinning the blame on Donald Trump.

History will judge which administration, and which supporting camp, caused more damage to the Middle East and American interests. But in both cases, the accounting is likely to be brutal. History will also judge the size of the damage that Trump is doing to America all on his own. But partisan efforts to rewrite recent history and purge the failures of both parties by blaming Trump simply won’t wash.

So, is Trump the answer, even given all his glaringly evident flaws? Has he begun the hard work of correcting the course set by his two immediate predecessors, in response to Sept. 11?

The short answer is no. The longer answer requires a closer look at Afghanistan and the Trump administration’s plan to prolong the most corrupt and corrupting military engagement in American history.

***

Lee Smith is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. He is also the author of the recently published The Consequences of Syria.