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Trump’s Scare Tactics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 27/09/2020 - 3:26am in

Trump is trying to convince people that he can deploy the power of the government to remain in power even if we want him to leave, creating uncertainly and fear. By talking about it, he is willing that situation into existence. It is a lie, and we do not have to accept it. Continue reading

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Patton and Westy Meet in a Bar

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/09/2020 - 3:03am in

This post first appeared on TomDispatch. It’s only mid-afternoon and Army Lieutenant General Victor Constant has already had a bad day.1 Soon after he arrived at the office at 0700, the Chief2 had called. “Come see me. We need to talk.” The … Continue reading

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DHS Head Chad Wolf Adopts Language of War in Threats Against Portland Protesters

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 4:05am in

Even after three months of continuous demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd, protests in Portland, Oregon continue, as demonstrators clash with police and pro-Trump groups. With no end in sight, acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf sent a cryptic but threatening message to Black Lives Matter and other groups, telling ABC News that “all options continue to be on the table” as a response.

Since Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has attempted to undermine federal agents’ presence, it appears that Wolf is hinting at a military response, despite his pleas for an end to violence. Senator Tom Cotton has already demanded that Trump send in the troops to deal with the protests. The U.S. has a history of crushing domestic dissent with force. In 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on anti-war protesters at Kent State University, killing four. Fifteen years later, police used helicopters to drop bombs on the black activists at the MOVE compound in Philadelphia, destroying an entire block of housing.

While these are extreme events, the phrase “all options on the table” is largely used in politics as a code phrase conveying the most extreme violence imaginable, without having to explicitly state it. The phrase was famously used by President George W. Bush throughout his administration when discussing Iran and its supposed nuclear weapons program. When asked by a reporter if “all options” could mean a nuclear attack on Iran, Bush refused to answer, simply re-stating that “all options” were on the table.

Iran is a particular target of the “all options” rhetoric, whether Republicans or Democrats control the executive branch. President Obama also continually threatened Iran with a nuclear attack throughout his presidency, stating that he was prepared to strike. In 2009, he said he wished to go down the diplomatic path but “without taking other options off the table.” Three years later, Obama again insisted that “all options” were on the table, adding that he “doesn’t bluff.” Evidently, that was false, however, as the next year, he was making the same pronouncement about his options, this time alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. All of this in an attempt to stop something which experts agree Iran was not even trying to pursue.

U.S. allies have begun to adopt the same rhetoric. Last September, a Saudi ambassador announced that “all options were on the table” with Iran, after an attack on oil processing facilities — something which Riyadh immediately blamed on Iran.

As with many other issues, the Trump administration is more explicit and forthright in its rhetoric. In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech in South Korea highlighting the U.S.’ resolve to stop North Korea from obtaining atomic weaponry. “We hope to achieve this objective through peaceful means, but all options are on the table,” he stated, thereby strongly implying “all options” meant violence. Trump was less able to use coded language, threatening the D.P.R.K with “fire and fury” like they had never seen before.

And consider this exchange that Trump had with journalists in 2019. After announcing that “all options” were on the table for Venezuela, a reporter asked, “Are you considering a military option for Venezuela?” Trump replied, “We’re not considering anything but all options are on the table.” The reporter pressed him, asking, “Does that mean that you are considering a military—”, but Trump cut him off, stating firmly:

All options. Always. All options are on the table.”

Considering that the United States had already placed devastating sanctions on the country, killing an estimated 100,000 people and that the U.S. has sent troops to neighboring Colombia, a military attack is clearly a possibility, especially if U.S.-backed coups continue to fall flat.

Trump’s press secretaries have also used the “all options on the table” rhetoric in relation to Russia and Syria.

The phrase, therefore, is continually used against foreign enemies of the U.S. government as a way of threatening war or even nuclear annihilation without having to explicitly state it, letting the threat pass under the radar of many, and allowing for plausible deniability if challenged. The fact that government officials are beginning to use that same rhetoric against the domestic population in Portland is not a positive sign for the future of the city or the country.

Feature photo | U.S. Army Commander Col. Rafael “Pete” Pazos speaks to Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf and Sen. Martha McSally in Yuma, Arizona on January 10, 2020. Catherine Carroll | DVIDS

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Safe Space for Spying: What remains unsaid by the Signals Directorate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 3:00am in

Last week, the director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate gave a speech at ANU’s National Security College, which is one of many ‘safe spaces’ in Australia’s universities for national-security chin-strokers.

She began by referring to Germany’s use of the Enigma cipher machine to encrypt its message traffic during the Second World War, crediting ‘captured code material and the code-breaking expertise of the British’ with decrypting these messages. The reality is that an anti-Nazi German named Hans-Thilo Schmidt and a French intelligence officer named Gustave Bertrand obtained some sheets of the Enigma instruction manual and offered them to the British, who were uninterested because they believed the cipher was insoluble. Three brilliant Polish mathematicians, Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski, then constructed a theory of the machine and began reading much of the traffic by the late 1930s. Only then did British cryptographers realise the military advantages of working on Enigma. The most prominent of them, Alan Turing, was later subjected to grotesque medical procedures to ‘cure’ him of his homosexuality that eventually resulted in his suicide. You don’t need to mention all this in the NSC’s safe space, however.

The director-general emphasised repeatedly that ASD’s methods must be kept secret because if a target knew how ASD worked, it would be able to take countermeasures and prevent further penetration. This is entirely appropriate. If you accept the need for an intelligence agency such as ASD, then its operational secrecy has to be guaranteed. But much of ASD’s previous work remains unnecessarily classified. The Enigma machine was based on cryptographic rotors that implemented polyalphabetic substitution. For more than thirty years after the Second World War, countries such as Indonesia were sold reconditioned rotor encryption devices, which were then exploited by the US-led intelligence alliance to which Australia belongs. We were reading Indonesia’s communications during its invasion of East Timor and its murder of five journalists working for Australian TV stations in Balibo in 1975. ASD refuses to declassify its records of this event, using the ‘countermeasures’ argument. But rotor encryption technology was superseded by the watershed intelligence event of 1977, namely an August 1977 Scientific American article by Martin Gardner (‘A New Method of Enciphering That Would Take Millions of Years to Break’). This told the world about the RSA encryption process, which had been discovered years before by Australian-born cryptographer James Ellis at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters. Therefore, after August 1977 the rotor encryption machines became essentially obsolete thanks to modern electronics and the RSA algorithm (named after Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Len Adleman). Today, private individuals have access to publicly available cryptographic technology (for example, PGP) that exceeds the capabilities of the rotor encryption machines employed by national governments from the 1940s to the 1970s. The National Security Agency, which is the United States’ counterpart to ASD, has released information and documents relating to signals intelligence activities in the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, specifically the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. It did not bother to consult with Australia before deciding to release these materials. ASD could release its own intelligence safely if it wanted to.

The Director-General’s most newsworthy observation was that ‘not all Australians are the good guys. Some Australians are agents of a foreign power. Some Australians are terrorists. Some Australians take up weapons and point them at us and our military. Some Australians are spies who are cultivated by foreign powers and are not on our side’. Its newsworthiness has little to do with its importance; these are truisms and utterly unobjectionable. Indeed, a successful terror attack on Australian soil would be a gift to reactionary forces here. ASD—like the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation—is performing a public service in preventing such attacks. But it has to be said that our approach to terrorism involves giving greater powers to the intelligence and security agencies, not altering the policies that make terrorist threats likely in the first place. When Australian troops entered Afghanistan in October 2001, Islamic terrorists were based in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and a few pockets of rural Afghanistan. The invasion of Iraq and then the destruction of Libya resulted in a massive expansion of terrorist activity. The continuing mayhem caused by drone warfare in the Middle East and North Africa—supported through the intelligence facilities at Pine Gap—has expanded the threat of Islamist terror from a small corner of Afghanistan to a much wider area of the globe. The security of the Australian public appears to be a lower-order priority than participating in US-led operations.

In government, neither side of politics has ordered an inquiry into the Iraq War, and the most obvious question is not asked in the NSC’s safe spaces: do Australia’s expeditionary military campaigns raise or lower the threat to domestic security? If you fear the answer, better not ask the question. Just two days before a right-wing Australian terrorist murdered fifty people in Christchurch, New Zealand, the secretary of Australia’s Home Affairs department failed to mention home-grown right-wing extremists in his list of seven ‘gathering storms’ most likely to threaten national security. After the attacks, he said that white supremacists were ‘on our radar’ and would face greater scrutiny and pressure. Little has come of this bluster. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is explicitly prohibited from reviewing the operations of Australian intelligence agencies. It cannot review the privacy rules made by ministers regarding intelligence on Australian persons. Nor can it examine the intelligence-gathering priorities, operations, assessments or reports produced by Australian intelligence agencies. This is in sharp contrast to the United States, where congressional committees may examine all intelligence-related activities, including highly sensitive operational matters..

Furthermore, despite the rhetorical focus on terrorists, intelligence agencies give a very high priority to economic matters. Revelations by WikiLeaks in 2015 confirmed that the largest part of the US president’s signals intelligence brief in recent years does not deal with terrorism or even defence; it focuses on international negotiations, trade, agriculture (e.g., Japanese cherries imported by the United States) and economics. Australia participates in this US-led intelligence alliance, which targeted Japan’s cabinet office, finance ministry and trade ministry, the governor and vice governors of the Bank of Japan, the Mitsubishi Natural Gas Division, the Mitsui & Co. Petroleum Division, and other key targets with an interest in Japanese resource activity and development. You can’t acknowledge this in the NSC’s safe spaces either. We know that Australia’s espionage operation against East Timor in September 2004 occurred while Islamist terrorists were bombing the Australian embassy in Jakarta—another example of economic objectives overruling public-safety ones. Two Australians—Bernard Collaery and a former spy known as Witness K—are facing trial over the alleged disclosure of this scandal.

We are living in the golden age of signals intelligence, thanks to the global telecommunications revolution, and ASD provides the lion’s share of intelligence information used to brief decision-makers. But, as George Orwell wrote in an introduction to Animal Farm that was not published until 1972, certain things go unmentioned because of…

a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact… At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other but it is ‘not done’ to say it… Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness.

All This for a Branding Effort?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 12:58am in

The fallout from the story of Trump calling soldiers “suckers” and “losers” continues. Yesterday, Trump told reporters that military leaders don’t like him because they want to funnel work to defense contractors. Continue reading

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Heather Cox Richardson: Looking the American Soldier in the Face

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 06/09/2020 - 1:37am in

Multiple sources are confirming a story about Trump’s contempt for the military, which said, among other things, that Trump called soldiers “suckers” and dead service members “losers.” Continue reading

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Trump and the Troops

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 2:24am in

The Atlantic published a story detailing Trump’s contempt for military service and the self-sacrifice of those killed in the line of duty. Trump is reacting with panic. Continue reading

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Resistance for Real: The Moment Has Come

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/07/2020 - 4:48am in

In a morally and politically “arresting” column last week, The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg noted that unidentified federal forces were snatching protesters from Portland’s streets without warrants. “Can we call it fascism yet?” she asked, citing the historian Timothy Snyder’s warning, in his truly arresting On … Continue reading

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Trump Tries to End the Afghanistan War, Democrats Want to Keep Killing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/07/2020 - 3:00am in

What you need to know about the U.S.-Taliban peace deali - The ...

Pollsters have observed a consistent enthusiasm gap between supporters of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Any factor that dampens Democratic turnout could contribute to a second come-from-behind victory for the GOP.

            Adding to liberal voters’ ambivalence over Biden is a rarely-discussed aspect of Trump’s presidency. Trump’s skepticism of foreign military entanglements places him to the left of mainstream Democrats like Biden. His foreign policy aligns more closely to those of the progressives who are licking their wounds from the primary defeat of Bernie Sanders—and who are considering whether or not to vote at all.

            In 2016 Trump upended traditional right-wing politics by campaigning against the Iraq War—during the Republican primaries, where candidates usually compete to look tough. This year the surprise dove can take credit for extricating the U.S. from its longest war, the 18-year-old meatgrinder of Afghanistan. Not only was Trump the first post-9/11 president to hold direct talks with the Taliban, he concluded a peace deal with the insurgency that leads to a total American withdrawal by April 2021 if the Taliban uphold their commitments. Now he is even considering an accelerated timetable that would bring back the last American soldier before Election Day.

            Enter the war pigs.

            Trump’s peace initiative is under attack by an odd coalition of neoconservative Republicans including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and a group of Democratic hawks who inserted an amendment to the latest National Defense Authorization Act. The add-on denies the president funding to bring back the last 8,000 troops. In order to get the money the Defense Department would have to certify that pulling out would not increase the chances of Afghanistan ever becoming a safe haven for terrorists in the future. How could they promise that? 

            “There were elements of the progressive left and the pro-Trump right who supported these withdrawals,” Glenn Greenwald noted in The Intercept, but they lost the House fight.

            Trump is no one’s idea of a pacifist. He expanded the drone assassination program he inherited from Obama and reduced its already low transparency. He supports Saudi Arabia’s vicious proxy war in Yemen. He has engaged in old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy against China.

            Even so, many progressives find more to like in Trump’s willingness to engage with the leaders of countries like North Korea and Iran. Prior to Trump, high-level negotiations were positioned by the U.S. as rewards for improved behavior; Trump talks without preconditions. Progressives prefer diplomacy to war.

            Biden, on the other hand, voted to bomb Serbia, invade Afghanistan and Iraq. He has never apologized—so it’s reasonable to assume he’d commit the same crimes again. He sat at Obama’s side as that administration armed and funded radical jihadis in Libya and Syria, expanding regional conflicts into all-out civil wars, one of which created the vacuum filled by ISIS. American leftists support Nicolás Maduro, a socialist, in Venezuela; Biden backs Juan Guaidó, who failed to seize power in a military coup last year. These are Hillary Clinton’s politics, an approach left-leaning voters despise.

            “The liberal establishment is desperate to return a centrist to the White House in November and reestablish the country’s more stable military dominance of the world order, disrupted only briefly by Donald Trump. Joe Biden’s terrible track record on foreign policy — including his championing of war in Iraq — suggests a return to Obama-style strong military interventions abroad,” David Davison and Alex Thurston wrote recently in Jacobin.

            “Biden represents the return of the classical foreign policy establishment,” Alan Minsky, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, told The Progressive magazine. “Biden is running a campaign as a restoration candidate.”

            And while Biden has made overtures to the progressive wing of his own party on such domestic issues as healthcare and the environment, he has expressed no willingness to compromise on foreign policy.

            Last week a coalition of progressive groups wrote to Biden to demand that he appoint anti-interventionists to his cabinet and as top officials in the State Department. “Without national security and foreign policy personnel who are willing to learn from the mistakes of the past and understand the need for change this moment presents, we fear our country—and the world—risk descending into climate and economic chaos fueled by further corruption and authoritarianism. We expect a potential Biden administration to reflect the urgency of this moment in its personnel appointments,” the letter read.

I would not hold my breath.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Here’s the President’s Daily Brief

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/07/2020 - 10:59pm in

June 30, 2020 Today’s big story was the increasing spread of the coronavirus across America. Yesterday, Anne Schuchat, director of the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC) said in an interview that the virus is spreading too fast and too … Continue reading

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