Wednesday, April 18, 2018

America First -- RIP

By David Stockman - April 18, 2018 at 10:52AM


When the Cold War officially ended in 1991, Washington could have pivoted back to the pre-1914 status quo ante. That is, to a national security policy of America First because there was literally no significant military threat left on the planet.

Post-Soviet Russia was an economic basket case that couldn't even meet its military payroll and was melting down and selling the Red Army's tanks and artillery for scrap. China was just emerging from the Great Helmsman's economic, political and cultural depredations and had embraced Deng Xiaoping proclamation that "to get rich is glorious."

The implications of the Red Army's fiscal demise and China's electing the path of export mercantilism and Red Capitalism were profound.

Russia couldn't invade the American homeland in a million years and China chose the route of flooding America with shoes, sheets, shirts, toys and electronics. So doing, it made the rule of the communist elites in Beijing dependent upon keeping the custom of 4,000 Wal-Marts in America, not bombing them out of existence.

In a word, god's original gift to America -- the great moats of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans -- had again become the essence of its national security.

After 1991, therefore, there was no nation on the planet that had the remotest capability to mount a conventional military assault on the US homeland; or that would not have bankrupted itself attempting to create the requisite air and sea-based power projection capabilities -- a resource drain that would be vastly larger than even the $700 billion the US currently spends on its global armada.

Indeed, in the post-cold war world the only thing the US needed was a modest conventional capacity to defend the shorelines and airspace against any possible rogue assault and a reliable nuclear deterrent against any state foolish enough to attempt nuclear blackmail.

Needless to say, those capacities had already been bought and paid for during the cold war. The triad of minutemen ICBMs, Trident SLBMs (submarines launched nuclear missiles) and long-range stealth bombers cost only a few ten billions annually for operations and maintenance and were more than adequate for the task of deterrence.

Likewise, conventional defense of the US shoreline and airspace against rogues would not require a fraction of today's 1.3 million active uniformed force -- to say nothing of the 800,000 additional reserves and national guard forces and  the 765,000 DOD civilians on top of that. Rather than funding 2.9 million personnel, the whole job of national security under a homeland-based America First concept could be done with less than 500,000 military and civilian payrollers.

In fact, much of the 475,000 US army could be eliminated and most of the Navy's carrier strike groups and power projection capabilities could be mothballed. So, too, the air force's homeland defense missions could be accomplished for well less than $50 billion per annum compared to the current $145 billion.

Overall, the constant dollar defense budget (2017$) was $610 billion in 1989 when the cold war ended and the Soviet Union disappeared from the face of the earth. Had Washington pivoted to an America First national security policy at the time, defense spending could have been downsized to perhaps $250 billion per year.

Instead, the Imperial City went in an opposite direction and ended up embracing a de facto policy of Empire First. The latter will cost $700 billion during the current year and is heading for $900 billion annually a few years down the road.

In a word, Empire First easily consumes one-half trillion dollars more in annual budgetary resources than would America First. And that giant barrel of weapons contracts, consulting and support jobs, lobbying booty and Congressional pork explains everything you need to know about why the Swamp is so deep and intractable.

Obviously, it's also why Imperial Washington has appointed itself global policeman. Functioning as the gendarme of the planet is the only possible justification for the extra $500 billion per year cost of Empire First.

For example, why does the US still deploy 90,000 US forces and their dependents in Japan and Okinawa and 30,000 in South Korea?

These two counties have a combined GDP of $7 trillion -- or 235 times more than North Korea and they are light-years ahead of the latter in technology and military capability. Also, they don't go around the world engaging in regime change, thereby spooking fear on the north side of the DMZ.

Accordingly, Japan and South Korea could more than provide for their own national security in a manner they see fit without any help whatsoever from Imperial Washington. That's especially the case because North Korea would seek a rapprochement and economic help, and their relationship with China is based on business, not military confrontation.

Indeed, sixty-five years after the unnecessary war in Korea ended, there is only one reason why the Kim family is still in power in Pyongyang and why the Fat Boy now noisily brandishes his incipient nuclear weapons and missiles. To wit, it's because the Empire still occupies the Korean peninsula and surrounds its waters with more lethal firepower than was brought to bear against the industrial might of Nazi Germany during the whole of WWII.

And speaking of Germany, why is it that its modest $60 billion defense budget amounts to only 1.5 percent of GDP if Russia -- with a defense budget of $46 billion -- is some kind of expansionist military threat?

The Germans clearly don't believe it and see Russia as a vital market for exports and as a source of supply for natural gas, other natural resources and food stuffs. Besides, with a GDP of $4 trillion or nearly 3 times Russia's $1.6 trillion GDP, Germany could more than handle its own defenses if Russia should ever become foolish enough to threaten it.

From there you get to the even more preposterous case for the Empire's NATO outposts in eastern Europe. The history books are absolutely clear that in 1989 George H. W. Bush promised Gorbachev that NATO would not be expanded by a "single inch" in return for his acquiescence to German unification.

At the time, NATO had 16 member nations bound by the Article 5 obligation of mutual defense, but when the Soviet Union and the Red Army perished, there was nothing left to defend against. NATO should have declared "mission accomplished" and dissolved itself.

Instead, it has become a political jackhammer for Empire First policies by expanding to 29 nations -- many of them on Russia's doorstep.

Yet if your perception is not distorted by Washington's self-justifying imperial beer-goggles, the question is obvious. Exactly what is gained for the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE or Springfield MA by obtaining the defense services of the pint-sized militaries of Latvia (6,000), Croatia (14,500), Estonia (6,400), Slovenia (7,300) or Montenegro (1,950)?

Indeed, the whole post-1991 NATO expansion is so preposterous as a matter of national security that its true function as a fig-leaf for Empire First fairly screams outloud. Not one of these pint-sized nations would matter for US security if they decided to have a cozier relationship with Russia -- voluntarily or not so voluntarily.

But the point is, there is no threat in eastern Europe unless such as Montenegro, Slovenia, or Latvia became the invasion route to Russian occupation of Germany, France, the Benelux and England. And that's just plain crazy.

Yet aside from that utterly far-fetched and economically and militarily impossible scenario, there is no reason whatsoever for the US to be in a mutual defense pact with any of the new, and, for that matter, old NATO members.

And that gets us to most ridiculous NATO fig leaf of all. The patently bogus claim that Russia's self-evidently defensive actions in Crimea and the Donbass (eastern Ukraine) prove that it is an aggressive expansionist. But on that score, Washington's imperial beer goggles are utterly blind to history and geopolitical logic.

Sevastopol in Crimea has been the homeport of the Russian Naval Fleet under czars and commissars alike and was purchased from the Ottomans for good money by Catherine the Great in 1783. It is the site of one of Russia greatest patriotic events -- the defeat of the English invaders in 1854 made famous by Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade -- and is 80 percent Russian speaking.

It only technically became part of Ukraine during a Kruschev inspired shuffle in 1954 driven by his maneuvers to consolidate power in post-Stalin Soviet Union. To wit:
On April 26, 1954. The decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet transferring the Crimea Oblast from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.....Taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic and cultural ties between the Crimea Province and the Ukrainian SSR, the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet decrees:

To approve the joint presentation of the Presidium of the Russian SFSR Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Ukrainian SSR Supreme Soviet on the transfer of the Crimea Province from the Russian SFSR to the Ukrainian SSR.
That's right. The dead-hand of the Soviet presidium most be defended at all costs by Washington because the security of North Dakota depends upon it!

The fact is, only 10 percent of the Crimean population is Ukrainian speaking, and it was the coup on the streets of Kiev in February 2014 by extremist anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists and proto-fascists that caused the Russian speakers in Crimea to panic and Moscow to become alarmed about the status of its historic naval base.

In a word, 83 percent of eligible Crimeans turned out to vote and 97 percent of those approved cancelling the 1954 edict of the Soviet Presidium and rejoining mother Russia during the March 2014 referendum. There is absolutely no evidence that the 80 percent of Crimeans who thus voted to sever their historically short-lived affiliation with Ukraine were threatened or coerced by Moscow.

Indeed, what they actually feared were the anti-Russian edicts coming out of Kiev in the aftermath of the Washington funded, supported and instantly recognized overthrow of the legally elected government. And exactly the same thing is true of the overwhelmingly Russian-speaking populations of the Donbas.

After all, the good folks of that industrial heartland of the former Soviet Union had always been an integral part of its iron, steel, chemical and munitions industries, and, indeed, their grandparents had been put there by Stalin because most native Ukrainians had not cottoned to his bloody rule.

By the same token, Uncle Joe's 1930s Russian transplants forever hated the Ukrainian nationalists who rampaged though their towns and homes in the Donbas with Hitler's Wehrmacht on the way to Stalingrad.

So it boils down to this: By Washington's edict the grand-sons and grand-daughters of Stalin's industrial army in the Donbas will be ruled by the grand-sons and grand-daughters of Hitler's collaborators in Kiev, whether they like it or not.

Likewise, the 1954 edict of the Soviet Presidium is now apparently under the stewardship of Washington. So the Crimeans' short-lived marriage to Ukraine will be enforced with sanctions, threats and demonizations of Moscow -- notwithstanding an 80 percent referendum against it.

Here's the thing. You simply can't make up $500 billion worth of phony reasons for an Empire First national security policy without going off the deep-end. You have to invent missions, mandates and threats that are just plain stupid (like the purported Russian "occupation" of Crimea) or flat out lies (like Saddam's alleged WMDs).

Indeed, you must invent, nourish and enforce an entire universal narrative based on completely implausible and invalid propositions, such as the "indispensable nation" meme and the claim that global peace and stability depend overwhelmingly on Washington's leadership?

Is there not a more cruel joke than that?

Was the Washington inflicted carnage and genocide in Vietnam a case of "American leadership" and making the world more peaceful or stable?

Did the two wars against Iraq accomplish anything except destroy the tenuous peace between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurds, thereby opening up the gates of hell and the bloody rampages of ISIS?

Did the billions Washington illegally channeled into the rebel and jihadist forces in Syria do anything except destroy the country, create millions of refugees and force the Assad regime to engage in tit-for-tat brutalities, as well as call-in aid from his Iranian, Russian and Hezbollah allies.

In a word, Imperial Washington's over-arching narratives and the instances of its specific interventions alike rest on a threadbare and implausible foundation; and more often than not, they consist of arrogant fabrications and claims that are an insult to the intelligence of anyone paying even loose attention to the facts.

Then again, Imperial Washington no longer cares about facts, logic, history or truth. At the time of the Bush War on Saddam's WMD's, Karl Rove explained the Empire's new Creed without pulling any punches.
That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
There you have it. And Rove is no out-of-the-way academic scribbler inventing some high-flutin' rationalization for American global hegemony. To the contrary, he's a lifetime Swamp creature, leading beltway racketeer and the strategic brain trust of the GOP establishment.

Needless to say, Washington has yet again created its "own reality" with respect to its hideously unjustified bombing attack on Syria last Friday night. So doing, it literally took our dim-witted President captive by exploiting his macho delusions, thereby decreeing that no one -- not even the Donald -- may brook with the War Party narrative.

Yet the case for launching a spanking attack on Assad was so threadbare that it might as well have been derived from a Washington claim of full spectrum dominance over planet Earth. Or as one astute observer noted:
(Those who have) been properly following the situation in Syria for the last few years will know the truth, which is that the US and its allies have been arming, funding and supporting Islamist terrorists, and using them as proxies to topple the Syrian Government. Not 'moderate rebels,' as the dutiful stenographers in the Mainstream Media have been telling you, but fanatical head-choppers who want to see Syria turned into a Wahhabi state replete with Sharia Law.
In Part 2, we will assemble the evidence that if the Douma chlorine attack actually occurred, it was likely a false flag attack staged by the rebels. After all, the evidence for it comes from unverified social media accounts, the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS).

The latter is a tool of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, which for better or worse had been banned from Syria by Assad's father way back in the early 1980's owing to its opposition to the secularist rule of the Alawite-based coalition of nationalists, socialists, Christians and other non-Sunni minorities.

Not surprisingly, SAMS has only operated in jihadist and rebel occupied territories -- just as has been the case with the vaunted White Helmets, which have been repeatedly caught in the act of staging and fabricating false flag attacks.

We posted a compilation of 20 such incidents from social media yesterday, but here are three which give the flavor. In the last one, for example, it is obvious that the mainstream media, which played this image over and over, was duped by chicken blood!

In the very best case for Washington, we have a case of dueling liars. Why would you believe the White Helmets, but not Halil Ajiji, a medical student who worked at the only functioning hospital in Douma?

He described the origin of the chemical victims being desperately sprayed in a hospital as follows:
'On April 8, a bomb hit a building. The upper floors were damaged and a fire broke at the lower floors. Victims of that bombing were brought to us. People from the upper floors had smoke poisoning. We treated them, based on their suffocation.'

Ajij said that a man unknown to him came and said there was a chemical attack and panic ensued. 'Relatives of the victims started dousing each other with water. Other people, who didn’t seem to have medical training, started administering anti-asthma medicine to children. We didn’t see any patient with symptoms of a chemical weapons poisoning,' he said.
The point is, before Washington turned loose the cruise missiles and bombers, it could have sent a delegation to Douma with the blessing of Putin and Assad, and interviewed Ajij and several thousand more to find out what actually happened.

Unlike all of the past "gas attack" incidents, this one happened in what is now safe government controlled territory, and any Washington delegation of investigators could have even been accompanied by CNN's own Baghdad Bob -- that is, Wolf Blitzer himself.

Perhaps the latter would have ascetained whether the chemical protection gear pictured below and found in an abandoned rebel site was just staged by the Assad government; and  also whether or not the rooms full of rockets and components also pictured below were used by the rebels strictly for killing people with good old fashioned shrapnel and percussion effects, rather than chlorine gas.

Likewise, maybe Washington could have demanded that the chief paint and plastics engineer at the Barzeh research center give international investigators who were arriving from the OPCW the next morning a tour of every room in that largely empty facility before they blew it to smithereens with 71 missiles.

After all, the man stood on the rubble within an hour or two of the attack and was not overcome with any kind of toxic agent chemical release. Thus said, Mr. Said Said:
'The building had three storeys: a basement, ground floor, and second floor,' said Said Said, an engineer who identified himself as head of the centre's paint and plastics department.

'If there were chemical weapons, we would not be able to stand here. I've been here since 5:30 am in full health -- I'm not coughing,' he added.

Said said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had visited the site in Barzeh in recent years and had declared it free of any toxic weapons.

'The OPCW used to stay in the two upper rooms, and use the labs, and we would cooperate with them completely,' he said.

'The OPCW has proven in two reports that this building and the centre as a whole are empty and do not produce any chemical weapons.'
We leave it to the French, however, to spill the beans. Their proof was surmise, and social media pictures!
On the basis of this overall assessment and on the intelligence collected by our services, and in the absence to date of chemical samples analysed by our own laboratories, France therefore considers (i) that, beyond possible doubt, a chemical attack was carried out against civilians at Douma on 7 April 2018; and (ii) that there is no plausible scenario other than that of an attack by Syrian armed forces as part of a wider offensive in the Eastern Ghouta enclave.

Non-governmental medical organizations active in Ghouta (the Syrian American Medical Society) and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations), whose information is generally reliable, publicly stated that strikes had targeted in particular local medical infrastructure on 6 and 7 April.

The French services analysed the testimonies, photos and videos that spontaneously appeared on specialized websites, in the press and on social media in the hours and days following the attack.

Testimonies obtained by theFrench services were also analysed. After examining the videos and images of victims published online, they were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated. The spontaneous circulation of these images across all social networks confirms that they were not video montages or recycled images. Lastly, some of the entities that published this information are generally considered reliable.
Say again?

"Some of the entities" that were the basis for attacking a country that has never harmed France, England or the US are "generally considered reliable."

Goodness gracious me!

Fortunately, General Mattis talked the Donald into attacking several nothing-burger sites as we will document in Part 2. Meanwhile, Cool Hand Vlad apparently took the weekend in stride, popcorn in hand.

Perhaps that was the cruelest insult of all to Imperial Washington. And perhaps the absolute bunkum of these repeated video-game bombing missions will finally alert America to the fraud that is Empire First.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman's ContraCorner. Subscribe to ContraCorner here.

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