North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, long has been called “the Hermit Kingdom,” as the ancient Korean monarchy was known. The moniker long irritated DPRK officials, though 25 years ago when I first visited it was more accurate. There weren’t many Western travelers and engaging in common American activities, such a jogging, which I did every day, garnering stares from virtually everyone—though, even more weirdly, virtually no one made eye contact. On this trip, in response to an invitation from the Institute for American Studies of the Foreign Ministry, there were few stares.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration plans to ban travel by Americans to the North as of September 1. That’s a mistake, since U.S. visitors both educate North Koreans and are educated by North Koreans. It is a process that encourages social transformation and long term change in the DPRK, which is desperately needed in a system of monarchical communism which holds an entire population in bondage.
Although more Westerners visit the North today, Beijing remains the primary entry point. You can fly in on Air Koryo, as I did, or Air China, though the latter is known to adjust its service to reflect both economics and politics. Perhaps someday American airports will display Pyongyang as a destination. But not in the near future, since it soon will be illegal for Americans to travel to the DPRK. At least, their passports will be tagged as invalid for travel there. But Pyongyang could accept them anyway. I suspect Americans will continue to visit, just as Americans routinely traveled to Cuba illicitly despite the only recently modified ban.
Amy Goodman speaks with two-time Emmy Award-winning journalist John Carlos Frey, whose new investigation in partnership with ABC’s “20/20” is titled ‘Life and Death at the Border’. (Democracy Now!)
With little policy guidance or public attention, the Donald Trumpadministration has further expanded former President Barack Obama’s use of lethal counterterrorism operations in nonbattlefield countries — namely Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. During the final 193 days of Obama’s presidency, there were 21 such operations. Over a comparable number of days under President Trump, there have been five times as many operations: at least 92 in Yemen, four in Pakistan, and six in Somalia.
The workhorse for these expanded missions is the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) — a sub-unified command of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). We know that JSOC, and not the CIA, is the lead executive authority for these operations because they are overt, rather than covert. Military officials have publicly explained the missions, and the Defense Department has even issued press releases about them. (The only operations undeclared were the reported four drone strikes in Pakistan — a country that the CIA has been bombing intermittently since the summer of 2004.) Operations in Yemen and Somalia — which fall under Title 10, the part of U.S. law that outlines the role and authority of the armed forces — are broadly acknowledged and even reported to Congress every six months.
Despite that, the public knows relatively little about the organization carrying them out. We can catch glimpses inside JSOC from anecdotal reporting or from rare histories, like Sean Naylor’s masterful Relentless Strike. But the extent of America’s understanding of the primary military command responsible for “direct action” operations is best summarized by President George W. Bush’s declaration in 2008: “Listen, JSOC is awesome.”
Through a series of discussions and interviews over the past few years, I have uncovered insights into how the command has evolved, how the congressional oversight of its lethal operations is really exercised, and what the limits are to what JSOC, however “awesome” it may be, is able to accomplish.
I already miss Anthony Scaramucci. Of course, he hasn’t officially been fired yet (checks Twitter), or committed suicide by jumping into boiling steak fat at his Gotti-esque Hunt and Fish Club restaurant in Manhattan (checks Twitter again). But it sure seems like he’s not long for this earth. Even by Trumpian standards, has any federal official had a more disastrous rollout?
The big headline this morning is that the new White House Communications Director got upset and decided to call Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker and go full-on Glengarry Glen Ross without asking for background or off-the-record privileges.
In the call, Scaramucci hounded Lizza to give up his sources, threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff, and gave what Saddam Hussein would have described as the mother of all quotes in an effort to bash fellow backstabbing Trump insider Steve Bannon:
“I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President.”
Bannon declined to comment on Scaramucci’s charge that he sucks his own cock.