Daily Archives: April 9th, 2017

Homeland Security Chief: Full Border Wall With Mexico ‘Unlikely’

Ron Nixon reports for The New York Times:

John F. Kelly, the homeland security secretary, said Wednesday that it was doubtful that a wall along the full border with Mexico would ever be built, despite an oft-repeated campaign promise by President Trump.

“It is unlikely that we will build a wall from sea to shining sea,” Mr. Kelly told senators on the Homeland Security Committee.

Instead, Mr. Kelly said, the department will look to build physical barriers — including fencing and concrete walls — in places that make sense. He said that the department was still studying the best places to construct such barriers, and that he could not give an estimate of the cost.

The first bids for prototypes of the border wall were due Tuesday. According to people briefed on the agency’s plan, the first new section of the wall will be built on a short strip of federally owned land in San Diego, where there is already fencing.

Congress has not yet acted on the funding request for the wall, and it faces considerable opposition from Democrats and even some Republicans.

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The Right-Wing Machine Behind the Curtain

Theo Anderson reports for In These Times:

The mood was jubilant two days after the November 2016 election at a Washington, D.C., panel co-hosted by two powerhouse conservative thinktanks—the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

In his opening remarks, Heritage president Jim DeMint rejoiced that Donald Trump’s election had “preserved our constitutional republic.” Panelist John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor best known as the architect of George W. Bush’s justification for torture, drew laughs with feigned surprise at the audience size. “I thought everyone at Heritage was working over at transition head quarters,” Yoo quipped. “I asked the taxi cab driver to take me to Trump transition headquarters, and he dropped me off here.”

Indeed, Politico reported in November that Heritage, based in D.C., had become “a crucial conduit between Trump’s orbit and the once-skeptical conservative leaders who ultimately helped get him elected.” By Heritage’s own account, “several dozen” of its staff members worked on the transition team, and Trump used its recommendations for his list of potential Supreme Court picks.

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of that transition team, has deep ties to the foundation. In 2006, Heritage co-founder Paul Weyrich, a mentor of Pence’s, said of him, “Nobody is perfect, but he comes pretty close.” In early December, Pence gave the keynote speech at a Heritage event (held at Trump’s D.C. hotel) to honor its biggest donors. He promised that the Trump administration “is now and will continue to draw on” the institution’s work.

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Sharmini Peries speaks to Theo Anderson, staff writer for In These Times, about how the Heritage Foundation’s ties to the Trump administration are very extensive and his budget proposal shows it. (The Real News)

When Humanitarianism Became Imperialism

Gregory Afinogenov writes for Jacobin:

In the 1980s Afghanistan, two world powers converged on each other, obliterating the national borders that stood in their way. The first was the Soviet state, bent on defending the precarious gains of a 1978 Communist coup d’état that it had actively tried to prevent. The second, caught in an even more painful paradox, was an uneasy alliance of foreign-funded jihadists, Western intelligence, and NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.

The way we remember the Afghan War today is as a kind of prologue. We care that the United States (along with, far more importantly, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) helped fund jihadists because those insurgents would later turn against the United States, serving as the ultimate indictment of Reaganite Cold War politics. We care that the Soviet Union failed in Afghanistan because that failure foreshadowed the Afghan quagmire of today. We care about the Afghan War because it spawned Osama bin Laden.

Timothy Nunan’s new book, Humanitarian Invasion: Global Development in Cold War Afghanistan, shows how incomplete this retrospective, US-centric view is. Though he does not venture beyond the 1990s, his argument is essential for understanding the world of imperial warfare today.

Afghanistan did not create the Islamic State, but it did serve as the laboratory in which the destruction of Third World sovereignty came to be fitted with justifications rooted both in human rights and in regime security — the recipe for modern “humanitarian interventions.”

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Adam Curtis: Donald Trump Has Become a Deep State Puppet

Jacob Sugarman recently spoke to documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis for AlterNet:

The 2016 election has made soothsayers of any number of historians, academics and philosophers, but one of the few filmmakers who saw Donald Trumpcoming was the documentarian Adam Curtis. One might even argue that Trump’s victory was the closing argument of a thesis he has been refining and developing for the last 15 years.

Since his 2002 opus, The Century of Self, Curtis has traced the myriad ways in which the left has abandoned politics in favor of a radical individualism, online and off, that has allowed reactionary forces to metastasize in the West and across the globe. As he ominously declares at the beginning of his latest film, Hypernormalisation (2016), these forces are now puncturing “the fragile surface of our carefully constructed fake world.”

Drawing from the BBC’s vast video archive, Curtis’ films are ambitious, addictive and haunting. In The Power of Nightmares (2004), he charts the eery parallels between the neoconservative and radical Islamist movements of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and the ways in which our political leaders have preyed upon our fears to maintain their grip on power. The documentary also examines the ways in which we’re still living in the shadows of the Cold War, decades after perestroika. The Trap (2007) offers a searing look at how Britain’s and the United States’ attempts to free themselves from bureaucracy have given rise to a bloodless and oppressive managerialism, while their efforts to spread democracy abroad have yielded only violent mayhem. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, released in 2011, explores how our reliance on computers to forge a stable world has produced just the opposite.

Curtis spoke with AlterNet last week about a range of subjects, and then a strange thing happened, as he might pronounce in one of his documentaries. The Syrian government launched a chemical weapons assault killing scores of civilians, and the U.S. responded with a missile strike of its own. Or so the dominant political-media narrative would dictate. What follows is a composite of our conversation before and after, over the phone and via email—a fragmented Q&A for a complex and possibly unknowable moment in history.

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Mark Ames on Post-Soviet Russia

Abby Martin speaks with Mark Ames, known for his work as a Moscow-based expatriate American journalist and editor. Ames founded the eXile with Matt Taibbi spent a decade reporting from Yeltsin’s and Putin’s Russia while witnessing the country’s transformation from an American “colony” to it’s “number one threat”. (The Empire Files)

Kushner and Bannon Agree to ‘Bury the Hatchet’ After White House Peace Talks

Reuters reports:

Related imageWhite House aides Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner have met and agreed to “bury the hatchet” over their differences, a senior administration official said, in a bid to stop infighting that has distracted from Donald Trump’s message.

Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, and Kushner, an influential adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, met on Friday at the request of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus who told them that if they have any policy differences, they should air them internally, the official said.

The development at the president’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, came at the end of what has been a relatively smooth week for Trump.

Trump ordered airstrikes against Syrian targets that drew praise in many parts of the world and staged an error-free summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping, complete with his wife, Melania, wearing a red dress to symbolise the Chinese flag.

Priebus’ message to Bannon and Kushner was to “stop with the palace intrigue” and focus on the president’s agenda, the official told Reuters.

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No Peace In Syria Until Assad Ousted, Says Nikki Haley

The Guardian reports:

Image result for No Peace In Syria Until Assad Ousted, Says Nikki HaleyNikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, has said that she sees regime change in Syria as one of the Trump administration’s priorities in the country wracked by civil war.

Defeating Islamic State, pushing Iranian influence out of Syria, and the ousting of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are priorities for Washington, Haley said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, which will air in full on Sunday.

“There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” Haley said, while reiterating that defeating Isis was still the number one policy goal. “If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it’s going to be hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad.”

“Regime change is something that we think is going to happen.”

The comments represented a departure from what Haley said before the United States hit a Syrian air base with 59 Tomahawk missiles on Thursday in retaliation for what it said was a chemical weapons attack by Assad’s forces on Syrian civilians.

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Could Britain Have Sold Sarin Chemicals to Assad’s Regime?

Jamie Doward reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Sarin Chemicals Assad’s RegimeEvidence that the sarin nerve agent was used in the chemical attack that killed more than 80 and injured hundreds of others in Syria’s northern province of Idlib last week has triggered awkward questions for the government over the part played by the UK in the Assad regime’s development of a chemical weapons programme.

Human rights groups and arms control campaigners have highlighted the government’s own admission that in the 80s the UK exported the chemicals necessary to make sarin to the Syrian regime. The UK also sold specialist equipment after the millennium which it now appears was diverted to the chemical weapons programme.

Allegations that the UK supplied potentially deadly chemicals to Syria were investigated by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) which in 2013 wrote to then business secretary, Vince Cable, asking him to disclose the names of companies given licence approval between 2004 and 2012 to export to Syria chemicals that could be used to manufacture chemical weapons. Cable was criticised by the committees for refusing to disclose the names of the companies.

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Chris Hedges: U.S. Media ‘Kneejerk Cheerleading’ After Syria Strike Nothing New

Anya Parampil speaks with award winning journalist Chris Hedges about the U.S. media’s selective use of facts to further their agenda. (RT America)

Five Top Papers Run 18 Opinion Pieces Praising Syria Strikes – Zero Are Critical

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

NYT: On Syria Attack, Trump's Heart Came FirstFive major US newspapers—the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and New York Daily News—offered no opinion space to anyone opposed to Donald Trump’s Thursday night airstrikes. By contrast, the five papers ran a total of 18 op-eds, columns or “news analysis” articles (dressed-up opinion pieces) that either praised the strikes or criticized them for not being harsh enough.

[…] Some, such as “The Riddle of Trump’s Syria Attack” (New York Times, 4/7/17) and “Was That Syria Attack Legal? Only Congress Can Say” (USA Today, 4/7/17) were value neutral—neither expressly in support of the attacks nor opposing them.

Cable news coverage was equally fawning. In the hours immediately following the attack, MSNBC had on a seemingly never-ending string of military brass and reporters who uncritically repeated the assertion the strikes were “proportional” and “limited.”  MSNBC didn’t give a platform to a single dissenting voice until four hours after the attacks began, when host Chris Hayes, according to his own account, had on two guests opposed to the airstrikes in the midnight slot.  MSNBC host Brian Williams got into a bit of hot water when he lovingly admired a slick video sent over by the Pentagon showing tomahawk missiles being fired from US navy vessels (FAIR.org, 4/7/17).

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