Friday, June 21, 2019

UPDATED: The War Party, The Russia Hoax, And The Deep State War On Trump

Trump never ceases to amaze. With the War Party almost openly gloating that Iran (at who's prodding?) had boxed Trump into a foolish war, with his supporters near despair ... Trump proceeds to pull the plug (for now) and schools the post-Christian world on classical Just War Theory, invoking "proportionality." As if to say, Here's for you voters out there who want a balanced, grounded, America First president. This guy is simply deeper than most people will grant.

Look, I can't tell you what's really behind this. Was the tanker attack a false flag, or was Iran responsible? Did Iran down the drone in international airspace in an attempt to box Trump into war with the long term in view? On balance, I suspect that's what it's about. Perhaps just as important is the big picture, extending back many decades. There definitely appears to be a deja vu element to this and, as it happens, I have at hand some materials to offer a bit of perspective on the War Party's total war against Trump--in the overall context of the Russia Hoax.

One feature of the Russia Hoax struggle, drawn out over the past three years or so, has been that prominent liberals have found themselves, seemingly against all odds, defending Trump. Think of the likes of Alan Dershowitz, Stephen Cohen, Jonathan Turley, Mark Penn, and others. I've cited their views on a semi-regular basis, because they happen to be authorities in their fields with informed opinions to offer. In common with one another, these public intellectuals share a commitment to constitutional order and the distressing perception that this commitment--once common to liberals as well as conservatives--has been abandoned by the ascendant "progressive" movement within the Democrat party and its low information followers.

Another common feature is that, while these intellectuals have been associated with liberalism and even leftism, they usually have niche concerns that have been central to their public and academic lives. For example, Dershowitz is known first and foremost as a "civil libertarian". Stephen Cohen, who has for decades been associated with the far left The Nation magazine, is a Russia expert who is particularly known for his lifelong advocacy of detente with Russia. Both men see these core concerns being trampled underfoot by "progressives."

I'm currently reading Cohen's new book, War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine To Trump And Russiagate. It offers some valuable insights, which are all the more striking in that Cohen was outspoken from the beginning of the 2016 election cycle in taking Trump's foreign policy views seriously and calling for an equally serious debate on the issues that Trump was raising. The book also offers some insights into current events, but before turning to Cohen's book it will be useful to first consider a brief article by Cohen that was picked up yesterday at Zerohedge--Washington's Dr. Strangeloves: Is plunging Russia into darkness really a good idea?

In this article Cohen comments on the New York Times story that we addressed earlier this week in Is This One Of Unknown's Black Swan Events? This had to do with the Times' claim that the U.S. has escalated online attacks on Russia’s power grid.

So, first, here is Cohen to provide context for that story--and please keep in mind recent events with Iran as you read.

First, Cohen describes the alarming nature--if true--of the American shift toward a more offensive oriented Russia strategy. Taking down, or threatening, the Russian power grid is what we nowadays refer to as an "existential threat." As Cohen notes, this would affect "everything from the country’s water supply, medical services, and transportation to control over its nuclear weapons." Small wonder that Trump reacted furiously to this story, and denounced it as "not true." By contrast, the Times' seemed complacent, even satisfied, quoting a nameless former Obama official: “We might have to risk taking some broken bones of our own from a counter response . . . . Sometimes you have to take a bloody nose to not take a bullet in the head down the road.” So, a possible nuclear war is likened to a few broken bones or a bloody nose!

Next Cohen points to what I also drew attention to--the claim that Trump had been kept in the dark about this shift in strategy, or at least shielded from the details lest he override it.

The second revelation comes midway in the Times story: “[President] Trump had not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place ‘implants’ . . . inside the Russian grid” because “he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials.”

This second revelation is what Cohen fixes on to highlight the real significance of the Times story--which may share features with the current Iranian crisis. Cohen places the Times' story, and the obvious Deep State effort to sabotage Trump, in the larger context of his major career focus--détente. However, pay attention to the timing. The timing here, as in the Iran related events, seems to be beyond coincidence:

... Not so long ago, mainstream liberal Democrats, and the Times itself, would have been outraged by revelations that defense and intelligence officials were making such existential policy behind the back of a president. No longer, it seems. There have been no liberal, Democratic, or for the most part any other, mainstream protests, but instead a lawyerly apologia justifying the intelligence-defense operation without the president’s knowledge. 
The political significance, however, seems clear enough. The leak to the Times and the paper’s publication of the article come in the run-up to a scheduled meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 meeting in Japan on June 28–29. Both leaders had recently expressed hope for improved US-Russian relations. On May 4, Trump again tweeted his longstanding aspiration for a “good/great relationship with Russia”; and this month Putin lamented that relations “are getting worse and worse” but hoped that he and Trump could move their countries beyond “the games played by intelligence services.” 
As I have often emphasized, the long historical struggle for American-Russian (Soviet and post-Soviet) détente, or broad cooperation, has featured many acts of attempted sabotage on both sides, though most often by US intelligence and defense agencies. Readers may recall the Eisenhower-Khrushchev summit meeting that was to take place in Paris in 1960, but which was aborted by the Soviet shoot-down of a US spy plane over the Soviet Union, an intrusive flight apparently not authorized by President Eisenhower. And more recently, the 2016 plan by then President Obama and Putin for US-Russian cooperation in Syria, which was aborted by a Department of Defense attack on Russian-backed Syrian troops.

Now, recall that Trump has regularly expressed a willingness to improve relations with Iran, even while denouncing Obama administration policies. Further, at the time of the Iran attack on the Japanese owned tanker, Japan's Prime Minister Abe was actually in Tehran delivering a message from Trump. Oh.

With that in mind, I'd like to turn to Cohens War With Russia? book. The book consists, except for the introductory portions and the Afterword, of chronologically arranged, short articles that appeared from early 2016 through 2018. I've only finished with the 2016 section in detail, but I've taken advantage of the book's excellent index as well.

First, I'll present some very selective excerpts that I gleaned by using the index. My point here is to illustrate the overall cynically unhinged--but coordinated--nature of the attacks on Trump, as Cohen presents it. We all know this, but Cohen's presentation, taking us back to the beginnings, will tie in to the political sabotage narrative that we've just reviewed.

So, beginning with March 16, 2016, Cohen contrasts Trump's foreign policy ideas with those of Clinton and the War Party establishment--and their scribes in the media establishment.

Whatever Else One May Think About Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, his foreign policy views expressed, however elliptically, ... should be welcomed. They challenge the bipartisan neocon/liberal interventionist principles and practices that have guided Washington policy-making since the 1990s--with disastrous results. 
Trump seems to propose instead diplomacy ("deals") toward forming partnerships, including with Russia ... (March 23, 2016) 
Donald Trump has emerged as the only American presidential candidate to challenge the bipartisan policies that contributed so greatly to this new Cold War. Predictably, the US national security establishment has reacted to Trump with a version of the preceding Cold War's red-baiting. Thus, Hillary Clinton charged that Trump's less militarized proposals would be like "Christmas in the Kremlin." The mainstream media have taken the same approach to Trump, thereby continuing to deprive America of the foreign policy debate it urgently needs. (March 30, 2016) 
Given full coverage, including of Donald Trump's foreign-policy views, which are significantly unlike those of Clinton, especially regarding Russia, we might learn two important things. Would Trump's less hawkish positions appeal to American voters? And will those voters see through and reject establishment media cheerleading for, in effect, Washington's rogue-like flirting with war with Russia? (June 22, 2016)

Thus we see that the entire foreign policy establishment was deeply opposed to Trump from the early days of his candidacy. Rather than debate policy, they sought to dismiss Trump's ideas out of hand. The rhetoric deployed by the establishment's media mouthpieces was remarkable. By July 2016 it had descended to previously unheard of depths--open claims that Trump was an agent of a foreign power:

Many liberals and their publications have recently branded Donald Trump as Putin's "puppet" (Franklin Foer), "de facto agent" (Jeffrey Goldberg), "Kremlin client" (Timothy Snyder). New York Times columnist Paul Krugman spells out the implication that Trump "would, in office, actually follow a pro-Putin foreign policy, at the expense of America's allies and her own self-interest." ... 
... Still worse, this Kremlin-baiting of Trump is coming from the Clinton campaign, which most of the liberals involved support, as reflected in a page-one Times story headlined "A Trump-Putin Alliance." Clinton apparently intends to run against Trump-Putin. (July 27, 2016)

With the election won by Trump, the opposition remained relentless. A few months after Trump's inauguration in 2017 Cohen identifies three narratives that the establishment had embraced in its struggle to expel Trump--none based in actual evidence and some of which hid readily available evidence that pointed toward Clinton's own collusion with foreign powers. Note that Cohen, even before the appointment of Mueller, correctly focuses attention on the centrality of the "DNC hack" to the whole Russia Hoax. Over two years later we finally have some hope of getting to the bottom of that:

The US Political-Media Establishment Has Embraced three fraught narratives for which there is still no public evidence, only "Intel" allegations. One is, of course, "Russiagate," as it is being called: that Kremlin leader Putin ordered a hacking of the DNC and disseminated its emails to help put Donald Trump in the White House. The second is that Syrian President Assad, Putin's ally, ordered last week's chemical-weapons attack on Syrian civilians, including young children. A new third faith-based narrative, promoted by MSNBC in particular, now links the other two: Trump's recent missile attack on a Syrian military air base was actually a Putin-Trump plot to free the new American president from the constraints of "Russiagate" investigations and enable him to do Putin's bidding. (April 12, 2017) 
Other facts and context were missing from reports of Trump Jr's meeting with the Russian lawyer, which was initiated by an offer of "Kremlin dirt" on Hillary Clinton and thus portrayed as exceptionally sinister. But at that very time, June 2016, the Clinton campaign was already paying the former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, to collect "Kremlin dirt" on Trump--an enterprise that became known as the anti-Trump or Steele "dossier" and a foundation of Russiagate. In addition, by then a staffer at the Clinton campaign or the DNC was collecting "black" information on Trump from officials of the US-backed Ukrainian government. (July 19/August 19, 2017) 
Russiagate's core allegations ... further vilified Russian President Putin for having, it was widely asserted, personally ordered "an attack on America" during the 2016 presidential campaign. Hollywood liberals, it will be recalled, quickly omitted the question mark, declaring, "We are at war." In October 2018, the wold-be titular head of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, added her voice to this reckless allegation, flatly stating that the United States was "attacked by a foreign power" and equating it with "the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." (Afterword)

It's all too easy, amid all the craziness of public life in America these days, to overlook just how unbalanced, even insane, Clinton's falsehoods were.

In the following selections, I provide Cohen's evidence that the opposition to Trump moved past mere rhetoric to active sabotage. Of course, all this is well known at this point, as is the extensive coordination with the media. But perhaps of greater interest are the selections that recall for us that, in fall 2016, the War Party was fighting on two fronts. Not only were they resisting Trump's foreign policy ideas, but they were actively undermining and even openly rejecting and sabotaging similar tendencies by Obama.

First, presciently, all the way back in August 2016, Cohen undercuts the attack on Manafort. All of this is confirmed now, and far worse than even Cohen suspected:

August 17, 2016 
Cold-War Casualties From Kiev To The New York Times 
Meanwhile, the New York Times continues to make its own factional contributions to the new Cold War, and to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, at the expense of its own journalistic standards. Consider its recent article about Paul Manafort, ... The Times had already printed a number of neo-McCarthyite articles against Trump and his associates, labeling them Putin's "agents." 
The Manafort article is another telling example. It violates several journalistic standards. Its source for Manafort's financial corruption in Ukraine came from Kiev's "Anti-Corruption Committee," which even the IMF regards as an oxymoron and a reason the funding organization has not released billions of dollars pledged to Kiev. Even if Manafort was corrupt, the Times must known the questionable nature of the source when it received the "documents," but readers were not told.

Cohen then turns to Obama's Syria policy, and notes how drastic was the Deep State reaction, and how supine Obama's response--or lack of response. Consider, however--are these bipartisan Deep Staters who sabotaged Obama's feeble attempts at an independent policy, are they not part of the same Deep State that is currently attempting to sabotage any independent foreign policy on the part of Trump?

September 21 
Who's Making US Foreign Policy? 
The preceding 40-year Cold War witnessed many instances of high level attempts to sabotage detente policies of US and Soviet leaders. It is happening again in the new Cold War, as evidenced when American war planes unexpectedly attacked Syrian army forces. 
The attack blatantly violated preconditions of the Obama-Putin plan for a US-Russian alliance against terrorist forces in Syria. Considering that US military intelligence knew the area very well and that the Department of Defense, headed by Ashton Carter, had openly expressed opposition to the Obama-Putin plan, the attack was almost certainly not "accidental," as DOD claims and as American media similarly reports. 
If the attack was intentional, we are reminded of the power of the American war party, which is based not only in DOD but in segments of the intelligence agencies, State Department, Congress, and in the mainstream media, notably the Washington Post. Judging by Ambassador Samantha Power's tirade against Russia at the UN, not even Obama's own team fully supports his overtures to Moscow, undertaken in part perhaps to enhance his desultory foreign policy legacy. 

Not even Obama's own team ... Wait a minute--does this remind you of what Trump is going through right now?

October 6, 2016 
Slouching Toward War? 
The Syrian agreement was sabotaged not by Russia, as is alleged in Washington and by the mainstream media, but by American enemies of detente, first and foremost in the Department of Defense. DOD's opposition was so intense that one of its spokesmen told the press it might disobey an Obama presidential order to share intelligence with Moscow, as called for by the agreement. 
It was a flagrant threat to disregard the US constitution. A New York Times editorial not only failed to protest the threat but appeared to endorse it. Other major media seemed not even to notice the possibility of a constitutional crisis, another indication of how badly the new Cold War, and the demonization of Russian President Putin, has degraded the US political-media establishment. 

Finally, with the election won by Trump, Cohen, within a month, is apprehensive that Deep State forces are marshalling against the president elect, that a "witch hunt" is in preparation. Yes, Cohen uses that word, well before Trump did.

December 15, 2016 
Cold War Hysteria vs. National Security 
Judging by the public debate among Russian policy intellectuals close to the Kremlin, it is not clear that it so favored the largely unknown, inexperienced, and unpredictable Trump. But even if Putin was presented with the possibility of stealing and publicizing DNC emails, he certainly would have understood that such crude Russian interference in a US election would become known and thus work in favor of Clinton, not Trump. 
Nonetheless, these Trump-Putin allegations are inspiring an alarming Cold War hysteria in the American political-media establishment, still without facts to support them. One result is more neo-McCarthyite slurring of people who dissent from this narrative. A December 12 New York Times editorial alleged that Trump had "surrounded himself with Kremlin lackeys." And Senator John McCain ominously warned that anyone who disagreed with his longstanding political jihad against Putin "is lying." 
A kind of witch hunt may be unfolding of the kind the Washington Post tried to instigate with its now discredited "report" of scores of American websites said to be "fronts for Russian propaganda."

To conclude, and hopefully complete the contextualization, some thoughts from Thomas Lifson. Consider the odds that Trump faces, the opposition from a bipartisan Deep State that is out to destroy him. This is the Swamp he identified and promised to drain. He's surrounded on all sides by a determined and bipartisan resistance that constantly seeks to go on the offensive. And yet he remains focused on what is good for America, long term:

The shared goal of the mullahs and the Democrats was to create a no-win situation for the president: if he attacks Iran, he risks being drawn into a shooting war, a move that is not likely to be popular and could easily cost him his re-election. ... 
So long as he can avoid war, time is on Trump's side, as the sanctions are strangling Iran. He's offered the mullahs forsaking regime change as a goal, but clearly wants something in return for that offer, probably abandonment of their nuclear arsenal and a robust inspections regime to verify it. That is not something they want, but his job is to make it the better option they face.

UPDATE: As if on cue, here's a link that goes into detail regarding John Kerry, our haughty, French speaking, former Presidential candidate and Secretary of State, who has been engaging in private diplomacy with "top ranking" Iranian officials--such as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif: What role did John Kerry play in Iran’s attacks on foreign tankers and the downing of an American surveillance drone?

What about the Logan Act, you ask? What about it?

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

Looks like a good test case.


  1. Mark,

    Excellent article! Agree with everything.

    My one caveat re Trump is that while his instincts are good, they don't seem to flow from any philosophical underpinning, i.e., the man is a stone cold pragmatist--which isn't necessarily bad. It beats the hell out of foolish knee-jerk sell America out Obamian utopianism.

    So, Trump's wanting to talk with the Iranians, to see if he can negotiate a better deal with the mullahs than absurd hate America Obama got, while perhaps understandable, tells me he may not quite grasp who exactly he is dealing with.

    Twelfth Imam business, taqiya, etc. The mullahs are evil. They really do want us dead. You don't negotiate with the devil and win (cf. Obama & the dumbest man in the world, John Kerry).

    That said, Trump's economic sanctions vis a vis Iran are brilliant, exactly what we should be doing. And his refusing to get suckered into a conflict with Iran is sharp, though I could have done without the tweeting.

    My view on that subject is that if Trump could have kept his hands off the Twitter button, he'd be ten points up in the polls (though otoh, it's maybe the only way he can make contact with his base and the world, given the insidious rot of MSM).

    Keep up the excellent work! You are the go to blog!!!

    1. Thanks, Titan. Trump is a lot more complicated than I expected, and I won't pretend to have him figured out. Why should I be different than the rest of the world? But here's another take on this:

      The Art of the Iranian Deal

      Recently I disagreed with someone re Trump playing good cop bad cop, using Bolton and Pompeo (probably without them understanding). Maybe I was wrong--it happens! :-( And I really do wonder whether the Iranians got some very bad advice from people who think they know Trump. Apparently they'll have to do something really bad to get Trump to attack them, and then they'd have to worry about something hugely drastic.

  2. Trump is always the Good Cop.
    Bolton is loving his Bad Cop role.

    1. I have to believe that Trump is very pleased right now.

  3. And consider this--with transportation in the region totally disrupted, how will that affect Iran? And yet Trump will get credit for his restraint.

    1. Will Trump get credit for his restraint...

      I'm not debating the point, it's simply the matter that the DNC-MSM opposes him at every turn, at ever chance, I cannot see media ever giving him credit. Am I too cynical?

      BTW--Nice write up summary on the Cohen book.

    2. The good news is that We The People don't rely on the NNC-MSM for news--that's how Trump got elected. War is an issue that meant a lot in the last election and if Trump continues to follow through on his promises I belief it will be huge.

      Re the book, thanks. News on the Russia Hoax is coming in dribs and drabs so I'm having to widen my net. So far I've resisted commenting on Weissmann getting a book deal.

  4. One follow-up comment on the NYT's report of US intrusions into Russia's electric grid--if such actions resulted in disruptions, it would be considered an act of war. That's how we would see it.

    Yet, as a veteran of the US utility industry (pre-internet), there is no reason for utility grid (electric dispatch, natgas pipelines, etc.) to be accessible via the internet. In my day (yes, yes), we had our own network, including telecom, so as to be self-sufficient.

    When you run a system that has to be on 24/7/365, and can't be taken down for any reason, you have to build in robustness, resiliency, and reliability (security).

    Unfortunately, the #1 feature of the internet is that it is wide open, and lacks security. Which tends to suggest that the now internet-based communications networks used by utilities suffer all its built-in vulnerabilities. (Every week/month another story of privacy/security breaches are reported--despite all the bolt-on hardware and software applications (firewall, anti-virus, intrusion detection, etc.) are overcome and defeated.

    Ideally, the supervisory (control & dispatch) system should be air-gapped, but I doubt it is. Convenience and flexibility is preferred over security inconveniences.

    If the Russians are running utility supervisory functions via the internet--shame on them. But if that is also true about the US grid, then we have the same vulnerability.

    1. Which is why I have nothing to do with the internet of things. Why would I want to access my refrigerator remotely?

      But the better part of two decades ago I was hearing of foreign powers getting into public utilities. At the time I wondered, why are they on the internet?

      The WSJ had an opinion article the other day on the NYT article. If you can believe it, it was by A. G. Sulzberger accusing Trump of "crossing a line" by accusing the Times of "virtual treason." Don Surber had a good blog ripping the WSJ's stance re Trump:

      WSJ pouts about The Donald

    2. Good lord. The WSJ has lost its mind--running an opinion column written by the publisher of the NYT. Wouldn't the NYT be the place for such a column?

      BTW, is that a "virtual" line Sulzberger accused Trump of crossing, or the real thing?? ;-)

    3. And today their lead editorial is "Iran Calls Trump’s Bluff".

  5. I do not look forward to a nuclear Iran, which in my view will occur no matter what deal (however improved) Trump makes with the mullahs. We can agree that going to war is a bad idea, but we should also understand that anything short of war will result in a nuclear terror state. This is not Iraq. Iran is far more dangerous and with tentacles reaching into Europe and Latin America.

    1. I'm not sure, but I tend to think that the tentacles are more dangerous than the nuclear capability. I think Trump understands that, too.